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Tens of thousands attend pro-democracy rally in Poland

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WARSAW — Tens of thousands of Poles have rallied across the country to protest the country’s new right-wing government and its tightening grip on power.

The central rally in Warsaw was interrupted early due to a bomb threat.

Former presidents Bronislaw Komorowski and Aleksander Kwasniewski led the crowd — of around 50,000 people according to protesters or 10,000 according to police — as they chanted “Freedom! Equality! Democracy!” and waved EU and Polish flags.

“I’m against this government. I didn’t vote for it. I believe they’re breaking laws,” said Dorota Leszkowicz, a 61-year-old retired psychologist who turned up dressed in the EU member state’s red and white colours.

Poles also massed in several other cities to mark the semi-free elections on June 4, 1989 — Poland’s first dose of democracy that heralded the peaceful demise of communist rule.

The rallies were organised by the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), a movement that sprung up in opposition to the policies adopted by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that came into power in November.

The reforms, which give the Government more control over the media and other institutions while weakening the constitutional court, have alarmed critics at home and abroad.

“Basically, it’s the PiS takeover of everything,” said Bethann Hubert, a 52-year-old American living in Warsaw and a member of the KOD expat group.

“It’s scary to watch.”

The Government reforms have also drawn concern from the European Union, which on Wednesday issued an unprecedented warning to the ruling party to roll back its overhaul of the top Polish court or risk sanctions.

Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski downplayed the EU warning, calling it “a suggestion, which doesn’t oblige us to do anything”.

PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told a party congress on Saturday that “Poles have a right to change”.

“They have the right to build [the country] anew and make it better, more advantageous for the clear majority of Poles,” he said.

In January the European Commission, the EU executive arm, launched a probe into whether Poland’s reforms violate EU democracy rules and merit punitive measures according to the “rule of law” mechanism Brussels introduced in 2014.

AFP

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Bakar-Eid being celebrated

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POKHARA — The Muslim people people are celebrating their grand festival, Bakar Eid, with much fanfare today.

The festival which is to be continued for three days from today is also known as ‘Eid-Ul-Juha’. The Muslim community considers this as a festival of devotion.

Ali Miya Literary Foundation, Pokhara Chairperson and religious preacher Hanif Miya informed that the festival marked the beginning with the recitation of Islam scripture Nawaz at Idgaha of Pokhara in the early morning today.

The Muslim people who are almost 10,000 in number in Pokhara alone are marking the festival with much excitement, he added.

The Muslims visit the mosques, offer prayers to Allah, perform the Namaj prayers and exchange greetings each others on the occasion.

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