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General Election 2024: Pakistan Goes To The Polls In A Climate Of Violence And Extreme Political Division

General Election 2024: Pakistan Goes To The Polls

In this mega-election year, marked by the possible movement of chips on a large part of the geopolitical chessboard, one of the countries going to the polls is Pakistan. The nuclear-armed nation and the fifth most populated country in the world with some 250+ million inhabitants is holding a general election on February 8, which will determine the composition of the parliament that will be responsible for electing the next prime minister. The scenario, in short, is turbulent. The campaign has been marked by the judicial persecution of Imran Khan — the winner of the previous elections, who has been disqualified as a candidate and jailed — and the return of the self-exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, reinstated to candidacy having been previously banned from holding public office, as the probable winner. In the background, a growing spiral of violence. On the eve of the polls, two explosions outside political offices in the volatile region of Baluchistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, left at least 29 dead and more than 50 wounded. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Another attack in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which also borders Afghanistan, injured another five people.

The political atmosphere is tense and polarized in one of the most tempestuous countries in the world. Around 700,000 troops and security personnel are expected to be deployed. The border crossings with Iran and Afghanistan will remain closed, according to Reuters. More than half of the polling stations in the country, which will also elect regional legislative assemblies, have been declared at risk of attacks, reports the EFE news agency; the figure rises to up to 80% in Baluchistan, a key province for China’s growing interests in the country — it is a transit area for the New Silk Road, Beijing’s infrastructure megaproject — where militia activity has intensified in recent times. In January, a missile exchange between Iran and Pakistan against insurgents in these borderlands threatened to export the Middle East crisis to Asia.

The nearly 128 million citizens called to the polls have a choice between options that carry with them a troubled legacy of political turmoil, corruption allegations, and convictions. The nation, which also has border disputes with India, albeit recently quelled, remains mired in a post-pandemic economic crisis with galloping inflation and, while China’s presence is increasing, is in the process of redefining ties with the United States following the departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

The likely winner of the vote is Sharif, 74, a Pakistan Muslim League candidate who has been elected prime minister three times but has never managed to finish a term. He resigned from office for the last time in 2017, hemmed in by corruption investigations that ended in prison sentences and political disqualification for life. After fleeing Pakistan and spending four years in self-imposed exile, he returned last October, where the political tables had turned and the winds had become favorable. He appealed his convictions, which were overturned in December, and shortly thereafter filed his candidacy for the National Assembly in Thursday’s elections.

Explosives experts examine the site of one of Wednesday's attacks in Balochistan.Explosives experts examine the site of one of Wednesday’s attacks in Balochistan. NASEER AHMED (REUTERS)

The imprisoned candidate

The second party in the race, the Pakistan Movement for Justice (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, or PTI), is a shadow of its former self. Its leader, the former prime minister and national cricketing star Imran Khan, 71, is in prison and convictions continue to pile up against him. Numerous PTI candidates have also been imprisoned in criminal or terrorism cases, which they claim are politically motivated. Those who are running are doing so as independents, after the Electoral Commission banned the party from using its emblematic symbol, a cricket bat (the image is key in a country with a high illiteracy rate). The rallies they hold are dispersed by the police.

A PTI victory would be quite a surprise. The grouping has been fading since the elections it won in 2018, although Khan remains a valued politician, especially among the younger population, and his influence is projected onto the polls.

With the leader behind bars, the party has used a groundbreaking formula to spread its message: campaign videos in which Khan speaks from prison, using a voice cloned by artificial intelligence. “Our party is not allowed to hold public rallies,” he denounces in a message picked up by Reuters. “Our people are being kidnapped, and their families are being harassed.”

Among the other formations in the fray is the Pakistan People’s Party, heir to a political dynasty. It is led by Bilawal Bhutto, 35, son of Benazir Bhutto — the country’s first female prime minister, who was assassinated in 2007 — and grandson of former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

The elections are partly reminiscent of those of 2018, but in reverse. Then, with Sharif pursued by justice and on the run abroad, Khan won at the polls after having managed to engage a good part of the electorate, especially young people and the educated sectors of Pakistani society. But, once in charge, he came into conflict with the country’s powerful military, whose influence continues to be decisive. He was removed from power in a parliamentary no-confidence motion in 2022 and replaced by the brother of the former prime minister, Shahbaz Sharif, paving the way for the return of the self-exiled Nawaz. In his downfall Khan claimed there was an alleged military plot to overthrow him, with the blessing of the United States. A wave of protests broke out, leading to riots and thousands of arrests. He was jailed in 2023 and has been sentenced for corruption, violating the official secrets act, and illegal marriage. He has been convicted three times in the last week alone, and still has several cases pending before the courts.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed its concern about the elections. The agency’s spokesperson Liz Throssell on Tuesday denounced at least 24 attacks by armed groups against members of political parties in the run-up to the elections. She said OHCHR was “disturbed” about “the pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions of leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) party and their supporters,” as well as the multiple court cases against Khan. “We expect the higher courts will carefully review these conclusions in line with applicable due process and fair trial rights,” she said.


Congratulations, Privacy Just Took A Great Leap Out the Window!

Your Data Is Being Used Without Your Permission And Knowledge

The Voice Of EU | In the heart of technological innovation, the collision between intellectual property rights and the development of cutting-edge AI technologies has sparked a significant legal battle. The New York Times has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. This legal maneuver aims to address concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of the Times’ content for the training of AI models, alleging copyright infringements that could potentially result in billions of dollars in damages.


This legal tussle underlines the escalating tension between technological advancements and the protection of intellectual property. The crux of the lawsuit revolves around OpenAI and Microsoft allegedly utilizing the Times’ proprietary content to advance their own AI technology, directly competing with the publication’s services. The lawsuit suggests that this unauthorized utilization threatens the Times’ ability to offer its distinctive service and impacts its AI innovation, creating a competitive landscape that challenges the publication’s proprietary content.

Amidst the growing digital landscape, media organizations like the Times are confronting a myriad of challenges. The migration of readers to online platforms has significantly impacted traditional media, and the advent of artificial intelligence technology has added another layer of complexity. The legal dispute brings to the forefront the contentious practice of AI companies scraping copyrighted information from online sources, including articles from media organizations, to train their generative AI chatbots. This strategy has attracted substantial investments, rapidly transforming the AI landscape.

Exhibit presented by the New York Times’ legal team of ChatGPT replicating a article after being prompted

The lawsuit highlights instances where OpenAI’s technology, specifically GPT-4, replicated significant portions of Times articles, including in-depth investigative reports. These outputs, alleged by the Times to contain verbatim excerpts from their content, raise concerns about the ethical and legal boundaries of using copyrighted material for AI model training without proper authorization or compensation.

The legal action taken by the Times follows attempts to engage in discussions with Microsoft and OpenAI, aiming to address concerns about the use of its intellectual property. Despite these efforts, negotiations failed to reach a resolution that would ensure fair compensation for the use of the Times’ content while promoting responsible AI development that benefits society.

In the midst of this legal battle, the broader questions surrounding the responsible and ethical utilization of copyrighted material in advancing technological innovations come to the forefront.

The dispute between the Times, OpenAI, and Microsoft serves as a significant case study in navigating the intricate intersection of technological progress and safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.

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‘The Bill Gates Problem’ – The Case Against World’s Richest Man

The Case Against World’s Richest Man

When Clinton assumed the presidency of the United States, there was eager anticipation from the Chinese, not for Clinton himself, but for Bill Gates. This was during the late 1990s, a period when the internet was still in its nascent stages, and the digital boom of the early 2000s had not yet reached its peak. The enigmatic persona that captivated the attention of the burgeoning Asian powerhouse is now portrayed in “The Bill Gates Problem” as a “domineering, brusque figure” whose demeanor is likened to “a cauldron of passions that freely erupts.” According to a former employee cited in the book, Gates was perceived as “a complete and utter jerk to people 70% of the time,” while the remaining 30% saw him as a “harmless, enjoyable, exceptionally intelligent nerd.”

The 1990s were also the decade of the conflict between Microsoft and the now defunct Netscape browser, which challenged what was already being openly described as the former’s monopolistic practices. Gates was investigated and accused in Congress for such practices; he ultimately won the battle, but the case harmed his reputation, and in 2000 he resigned as CEO of his company. From there he undertook an expansion of the foundation that he had established with his wife and to which he has dedicated his main efforts in the last two decades. In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

With a personal fortune of $100 billion and tens of billions more in his private foundation, Gates has been one of the richest men in the world for decades, and the foundation has been the most generous organization of its kind, specializing above all in health aid, education and child nutrition, with a large presence in Africa and India among other regions of what was formerly known as the Third World. Tim Schwab, a contributor to the weekly left-wing newspaper The Nation, undertook a detailed investigation to denounce something that in truth was already known: that American foundations are largely a way for billionaires to avoid taxes.

To prove this, he thoroughly looked into the accounts and procedures of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the failures and occasional successes of its philanthropic policies, and came to the conclusion that behind this facade of help to the needy hides an operation of power. He is ruthless in his criticism, although accurate in his analysis of the growing inequality in the world. Absorbed by the revolutionary rhetoric, he laments that the Gates Foundation has remained “deadly silent” regarding movements such as Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, which demand social change in the face of the “excess wealth and ‘white savior’ mentality that drives Bill Gates’ philanthropic work.” He does attribute some good intentions, but his criticism is merciless, sometimes even coarse, while the absence of solutions for the problems he denounces — other than the calls for do-goodism — is frustrating.

His abilities as an investigative journalist are thus overshadowed by a somewhat naive militancy against the creative capitalism that Gates promotes and an evident intention to discredit not only his work but, above all, him. The demands he makes for transparency and the accusations of obscurity are dulled by the author himself in the pages he dedicates to Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the famous corruptor of minors at the service of the international jet set. Gates has explained his meetings and interviews with him on countless occasions, and in no case has any type of relationship, other than their commercial relations or some confusing efforts to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, been proved. Still, Schwab raises, with no evidence whatsoever, the possibility that their relationship “could have had something to do with Epstein’s principal activities in life: sexual gratification and the exercise of power.” The book is full of this kind of opinions and speculations, to the detriment of a more serious analysis of Gates’ mistakes in the management of his foundation, the problems of shielding the intellectual property of vaccines in the hands of the pharmaceutical industries and, ultimately, the objective power that big technology companies have in global society.

He signed a collaboration agreement with the RAE to improve Microsoft’s grammar checker and was interested in the substantial unity of the Spanish language in all the countries where almost 600 million people speak it. That man was very far from the sexist, arrogant, miserable predator that Schwab portrays. Nor did we deduce — and this can be applied to the personal adventure of Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos — that his life’s goal was world domination, as suggested by this book. If they have achieved it, or may achieve it, it is due to the dynamics of digital civilization and the objective difficulties in governing it. The deregulation of financial capitalism, which has increased inequality among humankind, is due to the incompetence of obsolete political institutions and to leaders who care more about their own fates than those of their people. The criticism against “lame and wasteful government bureaucracies” might be part of the propaganda promoted by the world’s wealthy, but lately we have also heard it from small-scale farmers across Europe.

In conclusion, we found the book to be more entertaining than interesting. It provides a lot of information — we’re not sure if it’s entirely verified — and plenty of cheap ideology. Above all, one can see the personal crusade of the author, determined to prove that Bill Gates is a problem for democracy and that millionaire philanthropists are a bunch of swindlers. The world needs their money; maybe managed by party bureaucracies, that much is not clear. Bill Gates’ money, that is, but not Bill Gates himself.

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Global Affairs

Brazil’s G20 Presidency Kicks Off In Rio With Foreign Ministers Meeting | International

Foreign ministers of the Group of 20 nations were gathering Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro to discuss poverty, climate change and heightened global tensions as Brazil takes on the annual presidency of the bloc.

The ministers and other representatives of the 20 leading rich and developing nations planned to spend two days setting a roadmap for work to accomplish ahead of a Nov. 18-19 summit in Rio.

One of Brazil’s key proposals, set by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is a reform of global governance institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and multilateral banks, where he wants to push for stronger representation of developing nations.

Brazil’s ambassador to the bloc, Mauricio Lyrio, said at a news conference Tuesday that structural reforms of international institutions are urgent because of a proliferation of conflicts around the world — not just in Ukraine and Gaza, but in a total of 183 locations, according to one study, he said.

“We have practically returned to the level of conflicts seen in the Cold War period. This shows that there is a lack of governance to deal with current challenges,” said Lyrio, who is the economic affairs secretary at Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

“It is one thing to work for peace in each conflict; another thing is to have a global governance that prevents conflicts from occurring,” Lyrio said. “We’re basically putting out fires.”

After years of diplomatic isolation under former President Jair Bolsonaro, Lula has sought to reinsert Brazil on the center stage of global diplomacy since returning to power in January of 2023.

Lucas Pereira Rezende, a political scientist at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, said Lula was especially well-suited for the role, recalling that during his earlier terms as president from 2003 to 2010 he was once called “the most popular politician on Earth” by then-U.S. President Barack Obama.

The G20 “is a very important international stage, especially at a time when the world is facing two major wars, involving large states, and also at a time when multilateralism is in crisis,” Rezende told The Associated Press.

“But Lula is a very strong international actor and has a very strong multilateral role, especially when presenting himself as a leader of underdeveloped or developing countries.”

G20 finance ministers and central bank presidents are set to meet next week in Sao Paulo, and a second meeting of foreign ministers is scheduled for September.

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