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Ten Chinese caught spying in Kabul allowed to fly home

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, January 6: The ten Chinese nationals who were arrested for spying in Kabul last month were allowed by Afghanistan to fly back to China on Saturday in a special aircraft arranged by the Chinese authorities, the Hindustan Times reported on its website today.

The Chinese Government is reported to have put diplomatic pressure on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to procure the release of its nationals.

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) had busted a Chinese spy ring last month, but kept the case a closely-guarded secret. On Tuesday, the NDS confirmed for the first time that the security agency did detain Chinese nationals for espionage.

At least two of the 10 spies were learnt to have been in touch with the Haqqani Network, the terrorist group that is blamed for many bloody attacks and doubles as the sword arm of the Taliban. The Haqqani Network is backed by Pakistan’s spy network, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

The NDS had initially declined comment on the detentions to the media in Afghanistan.

The official confirmation about the Chinese spy ring came on Tuesday after members of Wolesi Jirga, the Afghan House of Representatives, demanded answers from the NDS Chief Ahmad Zia Saraj to the news about the Chinese spy ring’s arrest, first reported by the Hindustan Times, an Indian newspaper published from here.

Saraj confirmed that a group of Chinese nationals had been arrested on charges of espionage in Kabul, the Afghan private news channel Ariana News reported. But he declined to give any more details.

“Yes, a group of Chinese has been arrested. But, due to it being a sensitive issue, I cannot share details,” the NDS chief told the lawmakers, according to the news channel.

The official confirmation, however, comes after Afghanistan came under pressure from President Xi Jinping’s Government, and allowed the 10 Chinese nationals to leave the country on Saturday.

Diplomats and security officials in Afghanistan believe that the 10 were linked to the Chinese intelligence agency, Ministry of State Security.

President Ashraf Ghani was briefed about the detentions right in the beginning in view of the sensitivities involved. First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a former NDS chief who is credited with rebuilding the intelligence agency, was tasked to oversee the investigation and engage the Chinese.

Amrullah Saleh met the Chinese envoy to Kabul Wang Yu, and had initially conditioned their release on an official apology from Beijing.

The terms of the arrangement between the two countries are not known.

A diplomat in Kabul said President Ashraf Ghani may have been keen to wrap up the case as soon as possible before it lands in a position where Beijing’s adversaries, such as the US, use it to fire at China from his shoulders.



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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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