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Pope John Paul II and pedophile priests becomes Poland’s top political issue.



WARSAW — War? Inflation? Corruption? Nope, the big subject dominating Poland’s politics ahead of this fall’s parliamentary election is the legacy of John Paul II.

Although the canonized Polish pontiff has been dead since 2005, he’s become the hottest subject in Poland following an explosive documentary aired by the U.S.-owned broadcaster TVN, alleging that when he was a cardinal in his home city of Kraków, he protected priests accused of sexually molesting children.

That caused a collective meltdown in the ranks of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which is closely allied with the powerful Roman Catholic Church.

U.S. Ambassador Mark Brzezinski was even summoned (later toned down to “invited”) to appear at the foreign ministry.


In a statement, the ministry said it “recognizes that the potential outcome of these activities is in line with the goals of a hybrid war aimed at causing divisions and tensions within Polish society.”

PiS also pushed through a parliamentary resolution “in defense of the good name of Pope John Paul II.”

“The [parliament] strongly condemns the shameful campaign conducted by the media … against the Great Pope St. John Paul II, the greatest Pole in history,” the resolution said.

The government and its affiliated media have launched a wide-ranging campaign about John Paul II. A gigantic picture of the pope was projected on the façade of the presidential palace in Warsaw. Public broadcaster TVP is now airing a daily papal sermon.

Papal politics

It’s all a political play, as PiS has found what it hopes will be electoral rocket fuel ahead of the election, said Ben Stanley, an associate professor at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw.

“Defending John Paul II offers PiS an opportunity to show they’re on what they claim is the right side of a dispute that poses authentic Polish values against something inauthentic and suspicious,” Stanley said.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki over the weekend accused the opposition of  “being ashamed of the most important countryman in the history of the republic.”


For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

The party has a track record of finding wedge issues ahead of elections.

In 2015, during the refugee crisis, the party’s leader accused migrants of importing “all sorts of parasites and protozoa” into Europe.

In 2020, PiS-supported President Andrzej Duda helped galvanize his reelection campaign by launching attacks on LGBTQ+ activists as supporting an ideology that was inimical to Polish values.

In recent months, state-backed media has latched on to climate concerns from opposition politicians by accusing them of aiming to force Poles to drop their beloved pork cutlets and replace them with edible insects.

“You will notice that the debate about eating insects and living in 15-minute cities has all but disappeared now. John Paul II has a lot more potential,” Stanley said.

Although Poland is secularizing, with a steady fall in new priests, a decline in people attending Sunday mass, and large numbers of pupils abandoning religious education, the country is still one of the most Catholic in Europe. The Church still has an outsized influence among the elderly and those in smaller towns and villages — PiS’s electoral strongholds.

The JP2 gambit caught the opposition flat-footed; many of their supporters tend to be more secular, but the parties can’t risk offending religious voters if they hope to win power this fall.

Powerful pontiff

The late pope is often credited with helping cause the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe; his pilgrimages to his home country were seen as a key factor in the rise of the Solidarity labor union in 1980. He remains a revered figure across the country.

Civic Platform, Poland’s biggest opposition party, sat out the vote on the papal defense resolution. The party accused PiS of playing politics with the issue.

“You don’t want to defend John Paul II, you want to sign him up to PiS!” Paweł Kowal, an MP for Civic Platform, said during the parliamentary debate on the resolution.

While the opposition dithered, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the head of the country’s conference of bishops, denounced the reports on John Paul II as “shocking attempts to discredit his person and work, made under the guise of concern for the truth and good.”

Uncomfortably for the Polish church, Pope Francis put out a pretty lukewarm defense of his predecessor | Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

It’s not just TVN accusing John Paul II of turning a blind eye to clerical pedophiles.

Similar allegations are made in a new book by Dutch journalist Ekke Overbeek, “Maxima Culpa: John Paul II Knew,” which says when he was a bishop, John Paul II moved pedophile priests from parish to parish to keep them from being discovered.

Both the book and the TVN documentary are being attacked for relying on communist-era secret policy archives.

TVN, owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, responded by saying: “The role of free and reliable media is to report the facts, even if they are painful and difficult to accept.” It also stressed that the author of the documentary didn’t only rely on archived files, but also contacted people who had been abused by priests.

Uncomfortably for the Polish church, Pope Francis put out a pretty lukewarm defense of his predecessor.

“It is necessary to place things in their time …  at that time, everything was covered up,” he told Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper.

With several months to go before the vote, PiS will now watch to see if John Paul II is gaining traction as an issue, Stanley said.

“Pushing it too hard is potentially risky because it’s no longer the early 2000s and it’s not so clear this time if that many people, especially the young people, will spring to John Paul II’s defense,” he said.


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What does Trump’s indictment mean for American politics?




Donald Trump is expected to become the first former or sitting US president to face criminal charges.

Donald Trump is expected to appear before a New York court on Tuesday, where he will become the first former or sitting US president to face criminal charges.

The charges have not been revealed yet, but a grand jury has been investigating a payment of $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an extramarital affair with Trump which he has always denied.


Media reports in the US suggest the former president may face other charges, too.

Trump denies all wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a witch-hunt by the Democrats, whom he accuses of trying to derail his 2024 election campaign.

Presenter: Laura Kyle

Adolfo Franco – Republican strategist and chief counsel to the chairman of the International Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives

Claire Finkelstein – Law and philosophy professor at the University of Pennsylvania and faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law

Rina Shah – Founder of Rilax Strategies, a political and public affairs communications firm


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Ivanka Trump breaks silence on her dad’s indictment



Ivanka Trump breaks silence on her dad’s indictment

Presidential historian Tim Naftali discusses Ivanka Trump’s statement about her dad, former President Donald Trump, being indicted by a Manhattan grand jury.

Ivanka Trump has broken her silence on her father’s criminal indictment to say that she is “pained” for both her parent and her country.

Donald Trump’s daughter finally released a brief statement on Instagram just before midday ET on Friday – around 18 hours after a grand jury voted to indict the former president on criminal charges over the 2016 hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.


“I love my father and I love my country. Today I am pained for both,” she wrote.

“I appreciate the voices across the political spectrum expressing support and concern.”

On Thursday 30 March, a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Mr Trump on criminal charges over hush money payments to adult film star Ms Daniels days just before the 2016 presidential election.

The unprecedented indictment makes Mr Trump the first current or former president to ever face criminal charges in the history of the US.

It is currently unclear what the charges are but multiple reports say that Mr Trump is facing more than 30 counts related to business fraud.

Court officials have confirmed that he will appear in court in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon for his arraignment.

The indictment is said to have caught Mr Trump off guard after it was announced that the grand jury was taking a weeks-long break from hearing the case.

As soon as the news broke, Mr Trump’s adult sons Eric Trump and Don Trump Jr leaped into action raging against what they described as “third world prosecutorial misconduct”.

“This is third world prosecutorial misconduct,” tweeted Eric. “It is the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year.”

Meanwhile, Don Jr branded it a “weaponization of our Govt against their political enemies” on Twitter before railing against the indictment during a somewhat emotional appearance on his show Triggered with Don Jr that night.

“Let’s be clear, folks, this is like communist-level s***,” he said. “This is stuff that would make Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, it would make them blush.”

He later shared a tweet from another social media user which sought to claim that his father’s indictment was an attempt to distract from the school shooting which left six victims dead in Nashville earlier this week.

While Don and Eric both raged about the indictment, Ivanka – who worked as a top adviser in Mr Trump’s White House – was silent on the matter for many more hours.

Manhattan prosecutors have been investigating whether Mr Trump falsified the Trump Organization’s business records when his former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen made the payment of $130,0000 to Ms Daniels.

Prosecutors claim that the money was used to silence Ms Daniels about an alleged affair she had with Mr Trump.

Mr Trump has long denied having an affair with the adult film star.

Mr Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney Cohen was convicted of tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations related to the payments to Ms Daniels. He was sentenced to three years in prison.


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Pakistan’s political heavyweights take their street battles to the courts — as a weary nation looks on



Islamabad, Pakistan

Pakistan’s leaders and the man who wants to unseat them are engaged in high stakes political brinkmanship that is taking a toll on the collective psyche of the nation’s people – and many are exhausted.

As their politicians argue, citizens struggle with soaring inflation against an uptick in militant attacks. In major cities, residents regularly navigate police roadblocks for protests, school closures and internet shutdowns. And in the northern province of Kyber Pakhtunkhua, three people died last Thursday in a stampede to get subsidized bags of flour.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government is attempting to unlock billions of dollars in emergency financing from the International Monetary Fund, a process delayed since last November – but some people aren’t prepared to wait.

Government statistics show a surge in the number of citizens leaving Pakistan – up almost threefold in 2022 compared to previous years.


Zainab Abidi, who works in tech, left Pakistan for Dubai last August and says her “main worry” is for her family, who she “really hopes can get out.”

Others, like Fauzia Rashif, a cleaner in Islamabad, don’t have the option to leave.

“I don’t have a passport, I’ve never left the country. These days the biggest concern is the constant expenses. I worry about my children but there really isn’t anywhere to go,” she said.

Experts say the pessimism about the Pakistan’s stability in the months ahead is not misplaced, as the country’s political heavyweights tussle for power.

Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistan ambassador to the United Nations, Britain and the United States, told CNN the “prolonged and intense nature” of the confrontation between Pakistan’s government and former Prime Minister Imran Khan is “unprecedented.”

She said the only way forward is for “all sides to step aside and call for a ceasefire through interlocutors to agree on a consensus for simultaneous provincial and national elections.”

That solution, however, is not something that can easily be achieved as both sides fight in the street – and in court.

How did we get here?

The current wave of chaos can be traced back to April 2022, when Khan, a former cricket star who founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI), was ousted from office in a vote of no confidence on grounds of mismanaging the economy.

In response, Khan rallied his supporters in street protests, accusing the current government of colluding with the military and the United States in a conspiracy to remove him from office, claims both parties rejected.

Khan survived an assassination attempt last November during one of his rallies and has since been beset with legal troubles spearheaded by Sharif’s government. As of March 21, Khan was facing six charges, while 84 have been registered against other PTI workers, according to the central police office in Lahore. However, Khan’s party claims that 127 cases have been lodged against him alone.

Earlier this month, attempts to arrest Khan from his residence in Lahore led to violent clashes with the police and Khan’s supporters camped outside. Khan told CNN the government was attempting to arrest him as a “pretext for them to get out of (holding) elections,” a claim rejected by information minister Mariyam Aurangzeb.

Days later, more clashes erupted when police arrived with bulldozers to clear the supporters from Khan’s home, and again outside Islamabad High Court as the former leader finally complied with an order to attend court.

Interior minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters that the police operation intended to “clear no-go areas” and “arrest miscreants hiding inside.” Human Rights Watch accused the police of using “abusive measures” and urged all sides to show restraint.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif gives a news conference in February, 2023.

What is happening with elections?

General elections are due to be held this October, but Khan has been pushing for elections months earlier. However, it’s not even clear if he’ll be able to contest the vote due to the push by the government to disqualify him.

Disqualification will mean that Khan can’t hold any parliamentary position, become involved in election campaigns, or lead his party.

Khan has already been disqualified by Pakistan’s Election Commission for making “false statements” regarding the sale of gifts sent to him while in office – an offense under the country’s constitution – but it will take the courts to cement the disqualification into law. A court date is still to be set for that hearing.

Yasser Kureshi, author of the book “Seeking Supremacy: The Pursuit of Judicial Power in Pakistan,” says Khan’s “ability to mobilize support” will “help raise the costs of any attempt to disqualify him.”

However, he said if Pakistan’s powerful military – led by government-appointed former spy chief Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir, who Khan once fired – is determined to expel the former leader, it could pressure the judiciary to rule him out, no matter how much it inflames Khan’s supporters.

Pakistan army Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir attends a ceremony in Islamabad, on November 1, 2022.

“If the military leadership is united against Khan and committed to disqualifying and purging him, the pressure from the military may compel enough judges to relent and disqualify Khan, should that be the consensus within the military top brass,” said Kureshi, a lecturer in South Asian Studies at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Qaiser Imam, president of the Islamabad Bar Association, disagreed with this statement. “Political parties, to save their politics, link themselves with certain narratives or perceptions which generally are never found correct,” he told CNN.

The Pakistan Armed Forces has often been blamed for meddling in the democratic process to maintain its authority, but in a statement last November outgoing army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, said a decision had been made in February that the military would not interfere in politics.

The army has previously rejected Khan’s claims it had anything to do with purported attempts on his life.

Legal maneuvers

Some say the government’s recent actions have added to perceptions that it’s trying to stack the legal cards against Khan.

This week, the government introduced a bill to limit the power of the Chief Justice, who had agreed to hear a claim by the PTI against a move to delay an important by-election in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populated province, and one considered a marker for the party most likely to win national leadership.

It had been due to be held on April 30, but Pakistan’s Election Commission pushed it to October 8, citing security concerns.

In a briefing to international media last Friday, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the security and economic situation had deteriorated in the past two months, and it was more cost effective to hold the vote at the same time as the general election.

The decision was immediately condemned by Khan as an act that “violated the constitution.”

Lodhi, the former ambassador, has criticized the delay, tweeting that a security threat had been “invoked to justify whatever is politically expedient.”

The PTI took the matter to the Supreme Court, where it’s still being heard.

Some have accused Khan of also trying to manipulate the court system in his favor.

Kureshi said the judiciary is fragmented, allowing Khan to “venue-shop” – taking charges against him from one judge to seek a more sympathetic hearing with another.

“At this time it seems that even the Supreme Court itself is split on how to deal with Imran Khan, which helps him maneuver within this fragmented institutional landscape,” Kureshi said.

Supporters of Imran Khan chant slogans as they protest in Lahore, Pakistan, March 14.

What happens now?

The increasing acrimony at the highest level of politics shows no sign of ending – and in fact could prolong the uncertainty for Pakistan’s long-suffering people.

Khan is adamant the current government wants him dead without offering much tangible evidence. And in comments made to local media on Sunday, Sanaullah said the government once viewed Khan as a political opponent but now sees him as the “enemy.”

“(Khan) has in a straightforward way brought this country’s politics to a point where either only one can exist, either him or us. If we feel our existence is being negated, then we will go to whatever lengths needed and, in that situation, we will not see what is democratic or undemocratic, what is right and what is wrong,” he added.

PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said the comments were “offensive” and threatened to take legal action. “The statement … goes against all norms of civilized world,” he said.

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the director the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, says Khan’s popularity gave him “the power to cripple the country,” should he push supporters to show their anger in the street.

However, Mehboob said Khan’s repeated attempts to call for an early election could create even more instability by provoking the government to impose article 232 of the constitution.

That would place the country under a state of emergency, delaying elections for a year.

And that would not be welcomed by a weary public already tired of living in uncertain times.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the former army chief.


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