Long stories short
- The UK sweated through its hottest night on record with temperatures due to reach an all-time high today.Â
- Russiaâ€™s Gazprom told some European buyers it cannot guarantee gas supplies (more below).
- More than 2,000 tourists were stranded in a Chinese beach resort after authorities imposed a snap lockdown due to a Covid outbreak.Â
The return of Imran Khan
Only three months ago, Imran Khan was ousted from power, abandoned by his allies and replaced by a man he had derided as a crook. The former cricketerâ€™s defenestration by a parliamentary no-confidence vote put paid to nearly four years of premiership and ended his fairy tale transition from sporting hero to prime minister. Always charismatic and always combative, he vowed a return, saying he was the victim of a foreign conspiracy. Yet for all his punchy rhetoric, his fate at the time seemed uncertain.
What a difference the intervening months have made. In local elections, Khanâ€™s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has now trounced the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party led by Shehbaz Sharif that engineered his April downfall. National elections must be held by late 2023 and Khan suddenly looks back on winning form.
Campaigning and conspiracy theories: Ever since his removal from power. Khan has cried foul. He claimed foreign powers, namely America, engineered his departure because they were angry at his refusal to bow to Washingtonâ€™s foreign policy demands. Washingtonâ€™s shadowy plot was abetted by corrupt Pakistani political traitors. Pakistanâ€™s military, which often acts as kingmaker, were out to get him even as they insisted on their political neutrality, he declared.
America has denied all this as nonsense. Khan has provided no evidence to substantiate his allegations. Diplomats give his claims no credence. Yet in rally after rally his supporters have lapped it up and turned up to support him in hefty numbers.
Fumbling government: Meanwhile, the PML-N government that replaced Khan has floundered. Sharif has long traded on his reputation for competence, but when faced with Pakistanâ€™s economic woes, his party dithered as the situation got worse. Inflation and debt are high. Foreign currency reserves are low and falling. Ministers warned the country could follow Sri Lanka into default, but they also baulked at making painful reforms in order to get an IMF bailout. Finally Sharifâ€™s government bit the bullet and cut subsidies.
By the numbers:
- The rupee slid from 186 to the dollar when Khan was ousted, to 214 to the dollar by the time he won the Punjab by-elections.
- The price of fuel leapt by nearly 60 per cent in a matter of weeks as Sharif scrapped subsidies.
- The overall inflation rate hit a 14-year high of 21.3 per cent in June. The state bank forecasts the rate hovering just under 20 per cent for the rest of the fiscal year.
PML-N leaders say they were partly punished at the ballot box because they had been forced to make painful economic decisions. Pakistanâ€™s next general election is scheduled for no later than October 2023. Khan says he wants them earlier. â€śThe only way forward from here is to hold free and transparent elections,â€ť he said. â€śAny other way will only lead to increased political uncertainty and further economic chaos.â€ť
Khan for the win?
The former cricketerâ€™s opponents can no longer dismiss his rallies and charisma as frothy populism. The Punjab polls have shown that the fervour translates into votes. What is even more remarkable is he seems to have won despite his outspoken attacks on the military, which was widely viewed as bringing him to power in 2018 before turning against him.
Asfandyar Mir, of the United States Institute of Peace, said the result was â€śa bigger political win for the PTI than their tainted 2018 win, which puts Imran Khan on track to return to power stronger than beforeâ€ť.
Sharif now faces a fight for his survival and the odds of a remarkable political comeback have shortened dramatically.
Ben Farmer has been reporting from Pakistan and Afghanistan since 2018.
CAPITALÂ ECONOMY, BUSINESS AND FINANCE
Ex-Spanish king granted appeal
The former king of Spain has been granted permission to appeal against a ruling in a case brought by his ex-lover. Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein sued Juan Carlos for personal injury, alleging that he caused her â€śgreat mental painâ€ť by harassing her. He denies wrongdoing and, in the High Court, claimed that he is entitled to immunity from the English courts as a senior member of the Spanish royal family. The judge rejected his argument because Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his son King Felipe VI in 2014. This is about more than love gone sour. As Tortoise reported last year, Juan Carlos â€śdonatedâ€ť more than â‚¬60 million to Sayn-Wittgenstein, she says, â€śout of love and gratitudeâ€ť. But he wants it back.
TECHNOLOGYÂ AI, SCIENCE AND NEW THINGS
Thai activists hacked
The Thai government is suspected of using Pegasus spyware technology to spy on at least 30 pro-democracy activists since October 2020. A report by researchers at Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto â€śdiscovered an extensive espionage campaign targeting Thai pro-democracy protesters, and activists calling for reforms to the monarchy.â€ť Many of these protestors repeatedly faced arrest, harassment and physical attacks by Thai authorities. Pegasus is arguably the most powerful spyware ever developed. Once installed on a phone, it can monitor a userâ€™s every move and even record video footage through their phone camera. It is developed, marketed and licensed to governments around the world by the Israeli company NSO Group, which was placed on US blacklist last year. The NSO Group has repeatedly denied claims that its spyware has been used to target human rights activists.
The 100-year lifeÂ health, education AND GOVERNMENT
Marburg virus in Ghana
Two people in Ghana have died after catching the Marburg virus, a highly infectious hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola that can be transmitted through direct contact with infected people and contact with their bodily fluids. This is the first time Marburg has been detected in Ghana and so far the outbreak is contained to the Ashanti region in the south. The country has introduced infection control measures and a contact tracing system â€“ no new cases have yet been detected since the deaths but 98 close contacts are under observation. Like Ebola, Marburg is a â€śspilloverâ€ť disease that has spread to humans through close contact with bat colonies and other infected animal populations. The WHO says that some virulent strains are up to 88 per cent fatal and there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments, but the risk of the infection spreading beyond Ghana is low. The deadliest Marburg outbreak happened in Angola in 2005, when more than 200 people died.Â
Our planetÂ CLIMATE AND geopolitics
Europe hunts for gas
Russiaâ€™s state gas company Gazprom has told customers in Europe that it cannot guarantee gas supplies because of â€śextraordinaryâ€ť circumstances, in the latest hint that Moscow may abruptly shut off the pipes. In a letter seen by Reuters, Gazprom declared â€śforce majeureâ€ť on supplies from June 14. Known as an â€śact of Godâ€ť clause, â€śforce majeureâ€ť would release Gazprom from legal responsibilities if it breaks the terms of its contract. Gazprom had no immediate comment on the letter. It adds to concerns that the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline might not resume gas flows after a ten-day maintenance shutdown ends on Thursday. Yesterday, the EU signed a new gas deal with Azerbaijan to double gas exports by 2027, with supply increasing this year to an expected 12 billion cubic metres. But itâ€™s not enough. A full halt of Russian supplies could reduce the EUâ€™s GDP by up to 1.5 per cent if the winter is cold unless the region starts saving energy, according to Bloomberg.
CULTURE soCIETY, IDENTITY AND BELONGING
Under-12s in England will be banned from heading in football in a trial announced by the Football Association (FA). Itâ€™s the latest step aimed at increasing player safety following concerns about links between heading and neurodegenerative illness â€“ guidance already advises against heading for primary school children and recommends a weekly limit of ten headers for adults (adjusted to ten â€śhigh-forceâ€ť headers in the professional game). Research by the University of Glasgow in 2019 found that former professional footballers were 3.5 times more likely to die from dementia, with half of Englandâ€™s 1966 World Cup-winning team diagnosed with the disease. Fewer hits to the head might help the next generation of players â€“ if the trial is successful, the FA will apply to the International Football Association Board to ban heading for all children 12 and under from the 2023-24 season onwards.
Thanks for reading. Please share this around and tell us what you think. Email: email@example.com.
Additional reporting by Paul Caruana Galizia, Ella Hill, James Wilson and Sebastian Hervas-Jones.
Photographs Getty Images
in the tortoise app today
The end of cheap chicken
Chicken is the UKâ€™s favourite meat and thatâ€™s partly because itâ€™s cheap. Per kilo it costs less than a pint of lager. But it looks unlikely that prices can stay that low. Why is the cost of chicken rising?