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Islamic World News ( 22 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Afghanistan Government to Rebuild Temples and Gurudwaras: Afghan Ministry of Finance Has Unveiled a 650,000 Dollar-Budget Plan

New Age Islam News Bureau

22 Feb 2020

The Afghan ministry of finance has unveiled a 650,000 dollar-budget plan — to revamp Hindu and Sikh religious sites.


• Another Sex Worker of Daulatia Brothel Gets Islamic Funeral In Bangladesh

• Shaheen Bagh: Protesters OK With Opposite Carriageway Opening

• Lal Masjid’s Shuhada Foundation Moves IHC to Reopen Mosque

• Trump Plans to Raise Issue Of Religious Freedom With Indian PM Modi

• Hanau Shooting: 'This Would Be A Top News Story If The Shooter Was Muslim'

• Global Watchdog FATF Places Iran On Terrorism Financing Blacklist

• Libyan National Army’s Haftar Says Ready for Ceasefire with Conditions

• UN Says Fears ‘Bloodbath’ In Syria, Urges Halt To Fighting


South Asia

• Afghanistan Government to Rebuild Temples and Gurudwaras:  Afghan Ministry of Finance Has Unveiled a 650,000 Dollar-Budget Plan

• Another Sex Worker Of Daulatia Brothel Gets Islamic Funeral In Bangladesh

• US, Taliban to Sign Peace Deal In Doha On 29th

• UNAMA welcomes reduction in violence by Taliban

• NATO welcomes the announcement of ‘violence reduction’ in Afghanistan



• Shaheen Bagh: Protesters OK With Opposite Carriageway Opening

• Narrow, Divisive Cultural Nationalism No Patriotism: Catholic Bishops

• Kartarpur Has Potential… You Send Somebody In Morning, By Evening He Is Trained Terrorist: Punjab DGP

• Pakistan must crack down on terrorists for successful dialogue with India: White House

• Two LeT terrorists killed in Kashmir encounter

• Jaish terrorist, 3 indoctrinated youths arrested in Kashmir

• Pakistan violates ceasefire in Poonch, some houses damaged in shelling

• FIR against AIMIM leader Waris Pathan over '15 crore Muslims...' remark



• Lal Masjid’s Shuhada Foundation Moves IHC to Reopen Mosque

• Pakistan condemns ‘Islamophobic’ terror attack in Germany

• Pakistan stays on FATF terrorism financing ‘gray list’

• Pakistan has come out of economic crisis: Imran

• CTD kills five terrorists in Peshawar operation

• Bilawal asks govt to quit if ‘judges’ surveillance’ reports proved true

• China commends Pakistan's enormous efforts after FATF retains it in grey list

• Pakistan: Mangos, nerve gas, projectile killed Ziaulhaq

• Soybean dust theory a ‘cover-up’, says Senator Pervaiz Rasheed

• JI leader says PTI has failed to deliver

• Move to clip Pakistan president’s power to promulgate ordinances


North America

• Trump Plans to Raise Issue Of Religious Freedom With Indian PM Modi

• Wisconsin Prison Warden Who Posted Anti-Muslim Memes Fired

• Muslim-American advocates protest upcoming Army War College speaker

• Pak must crack down on terrorists for successful dialogue with India: White House

• Pompeo commends FATF’s call to place Iran on terror financing blacklist

• 110 US troops suffered concussion, brain injury in Iranian strike: Pentagon

• US' Pompeo, Saudi crown prince discuss Iran 'threat'

• US lawmakers urge Pompeo to pressure Assad, Russia

• US official confirms Turkey asked for Patriot missiles



• Hanau Shooting: 'This Would Be A Top News Story If The Shooter Was Muslim'

• After Hanau Attack, Germany Steps Up Protection of Muslims

• Germany ups police presence at mosques over 'very high' security threat

• London stabbing attack rattles British Muslims

• Turkish president condemns far-right terror attack in Germany

• Martyrdom of Turkish soldiers in Idlib ‘appalling’: UK



• Global Watchdog FATF Places Iran On Terrorism Financing Blacklist

• Houthi attacks show they’re not serious about a solution in Yemen: Saudi FM

• Iran slams FATF's politically-motivated move to place Iran on terrorism financing blacklist

• Iran says two more deaths among 13 new cases of coronavirus

• Turkey: Global students offered religious scholarships

• Who is Abu Fadak ‘the uncle’ al-Mohammadawi, the new head of PMU militias?

• Voting ends Iran parliamentary elections after several extensions

• Tortured Iranian activist advised by HRW researcher to stay quiet: Family member

• US sanctions five Iranian officials for obstructing ‘free and fair’ elections

• US fears democracy in Iran, will have to learn to respect it: Foreign Ministry

• Yemeni forces hit Aramco oil facilities in western Saudi Arabia: Military spokesman



• Libyan National Army’s Haftar Says Ready for Ceasefire with Conditions

• Joint Nigerien, French operation kills 120 terrorists in southwest Niger: Official

• South Sudan rebel leader to be appointed vice president

• Turkey confirms presence of allied Syria mercenaries in Libya

• Sudan to investigate violence against protesters in capital

• Jordanians voice anger at Mideast peace plan

• Sudan PM forms group to probe protest violence

• Al Shabaab Suspects Torch Security Officer's House


Arab World

• UN Says Fears ‘Bloodbath’ In Syria, Urges Halt To Fighting

• US Secretary of State Pompeo meets Oman’s new leader Sultan Haitham bin Tariq

• Saudi FM condemns terrorist attack which killed nine in Germany’s Hanau

• Former police officer kills colonel, injures comrades in western Saudi Arabia: Report

• Turkey won’t abandon observation points in Syria

• Lebanon confirms first case of coronavirus, 2 more suspected


Southeast Asia

• Muslim Lawyers Urge Judicial Review Of AG’s Decision to Drop LTTE Cases

• 'Festival Kebhinekaan': Religious Tolerance in Millennial-Friendly Packaging

• Malaysia aims for Olympic gold... with ready-to-eat halal meals

• Report: Suhakam inquiry told religious authorities had investigated missing activist Joshua Hilmy

• Respect PH consensus on transition, says Anwar after group vows street protests

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




Afghanistan Government to Rebuild Temples and Gurudwaras:  Afghan Ministry of Finance Has Unveiled a 650,000 Dollar-Budget Plan

February 22, 2020

...The Afghan ministry of finance has unveiled a 650,000 dollar-budget plan — to revamp Hindu and Sikh religious sites.

650,000 US dollars — a decent figure compared to Afghanistan's annual budget this year which stands at 5.5 billion dollars.

This money will be used to rebuild temples and gurudwaras in consultation with local chieftains — or what you call clan leaders.

But not many religious sites remain in this country. There are close to 10 gurudwaras and temples left in Afghanistan today. Most of them are located in the capital Kabul.

The provinces of Nangarhar, Paktia and Ghazni also have temples which are centuries old. Minorities have left this country because of religious persecution. According to Afghanistan's state media — the Sikh and Hindu population stood at 220,000 in the 1980s.

Then the mujahideen came to power — and this number dropped to 15,000 in the 1990s. In just a decade — close to 200,000 minorities fled Afghanistan and this was followed by years of neglect by successive governments.

The result — there is no census data available today. Estimating the exact numbers is impossible. One headline is on your screens — it says 99% of Sikhs and Hindus have left Afghanistan.

And it's not a far-fetched claim. Community members themselves will tell you that there are no more than a few Hindus and Sikhs left in Afghanistan today.

Some reports say not more than 1500. The Afghan government wishes to undo this injustice meted out to its minorities for decades...



Another Sex Worker Of Daulatia Brothel Gets Islamic Funeral In Bangladesh

February 21st, 2020

After the Janaza, Rina Begum was buried in a graveyard adjacent to the brothel around 9pm on Thursday

Another sex worker in Daulatdia village of Goalanda upazila in Rajbari district has been given a proper Islamic funeral.

Imam Md Abu Bakkar Siddiqi of Goalanda ghat mosque on Thursday conducted the Janaza [funeral rites] of 65-year-old Rina Begum, who died of old age complications.

After the Janaza, Rina Begum was buried in a graveyard adjacent to the brothel she had worked in around 9pm.

The ceremony was attended by Rajbari Superintendent of Police Md Mizanur Rahman, Zila Parishad Chairman Freedom fighter Fakir Abdul Jabbar, Goalanda Upazila Assistant  Commissioner (land) Abdullah Al Mamun, Daulatia Union Parishad Chairman Md Abdur Rahman and many co-workers of the deceased.

Rajbari Superintendent of Police Md Mizanur Rahman, who attended the funeral ceremony of sex worker Rina Begum said: "We are taking care of the humanitarian aspects of the sex workers of Daulatia brothel under the direction of Dhaka Range DIG Habibur Rahman. From now on, every sex worker will receive a proper Janaza and burial."

Jhumur Begum, president of a coalition of sex workers of Daulatia brothel, said: "Those who have been living in the brothel are also human. They have a right to proper respect."

Earlier, on February 2, Hamida Begum  became the first sex worker of the country's authorized brothel to receive an Islamic funeral and burial, breaking a longstanding taboo in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

However, imam Golam Mostafa, who conducted the funeral prayers for Hamida Begum, refused to perform Janaza for any other sex worker as he faced huge criticism from a group of conservatives in the village .



Shaheen Bagh: Protesters OK with opposite carriageway opening

Feb 22, 2020

NEW DELHI: The possibility of opening one of the carriageways, which is not occupied by the protesters at Shaheen Bagh, brightened on Friday with the police assuring them adequate security. Though the protesters remained adamant that they won’t move from their present spot, they also insisted that it was the police which had closed the carriageway on the other side, thereby giving the SC-appointed mediators a window of opportunity. This carriageway brings the traffic from the Noida side into Delhi.

During the interaction which started late in the evening, the mediators — Sadhana Ramachandran and Sanjay Hegde — took serious note of the fact that the road from Noida had been briefly opened on Friday morning. Following their dialogue with the protesters, they visited the spot and subsequently suggested that the route could be opened. The two senior lawyers observed that a lot of what the protesters had said was true. “They opened the road and shut it. Whether it was Delhi Police or Noida Police, we don't know, but it was indeed a sign that it can be opened. We will have to tell SC… Whoever did it is answerable to SC,” they said.

“Who has occupied the other carriageway? We need clarity from you,” the mediators asked the crowd. The unanimous response was: “Police has occupied.” Ramachandran probed further: “Are you saying that you are sitting here and the other side has been shut by Delhi Police and you are okay with it as you feel you’re safe that way?” A protester responded, “Delhi Police has shut the other side.”

Hegde then asked if there was anyone from the police on the spot. The SHO of Shaheen Bagh police station stepped forward and gave the assurance that the police were willing to provide the protesters adequate security if they agreed to cooperate. He said they had made the requeste earlier too and proposed to put a barricade on the divider. “Hamari taraf se jo security hai woh poori denge (We will provide adequate security),” he said.

The crowd was unanimous in asking the police to give in writing that they would keep their promise, and in case of any untoward incident, the entire heirarchy — from the commissioner to the beat constable — should face the consequences. Some doubts remained. “It was Delhi Police that beat up Jamia students and one of them lost an eye. Female students were marched out of the campus with their hands raised in the air even as they were being abused verbally,” said a woman, expressing her apprehensions.

Hegde had earlier reminded the gathering that it was Mahashivratri on Friday and his mother used to say that on this day even somebody’s curse turned into a blessing. He tried to convince the protesters that it was essential for them to realise that there was hope and their right to protest was not being taken away in case they decided to clear the road.



Lal Masjid’s Shuhada Foundation moves IHC to reopen mosque

February 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Shuhada Foundation, which handles the legal affairs of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday for reopening of the mosque.

The petition submitted by the foundation’s spokesperson Hafiz Ehtesham requests the authorities in the federal capital to reopen the mosque to enable people to perform their religious obligations.

The petition further prays upon the court to refrain law enforcement agencies from carrying out any security operation against the mosque and its administration.

Earlier in February, the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration reached an agreement with deposed Lal Masjid Khateeb Maulana Abdul Aziz after three days of negotiations, allowing him to stay in the mosque as long he did not deliver sermons.

On February 7, the cleric had occupied the mosque and laid out his demands. Authorities in the federal capital had laid siege to the mosque and started negotiating with him.

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat confirmed that an agreement had been reached with Aziz and said its details would be announced soon.

The firebrand cleric told BBC Urdu that he had reached a verbal agreement with the authorities and a written pact would be prepared within three days.

“The Islamabad administration would not object to my stay in Lal Masjid and we will be handed over Rs35 million that we spent on Jamia Hafsa,” he said.

“Otherwise, the issue of the Jamia Hafsa building being constructed in Sector H-11 of Islamabad will remain controversial,” he added.

The issue of a disputed 20-kanal plot allotted to Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad is pending in the Supreme Court.

Aziz’s demands included the reconstruction of the old building of Jamia Hafsa adjacent to Lal Masjid. It was demolished as it was illegally constructed on government property.



Trump Plans To Raise Issue Of Religious Freedom With Indian PM Modi

Feb 22, 2020

WASHINGTON: - U.S. President Donald Trump will raise the issue of religious freedom in India during his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week, a senior administration official said, a sensitive subject for the Indian government.

Modi's government has faced large scale-protests at home and criticism abroad for enacting a citizenship law that is seen as discriminating against Muslims and has deepened concerns his administration in undermining India's secular traditions.

That measure came months after the Indian government withdrew the special autonomy given to the Muslim-majority territory of Kashmir, tightening its hold. It also jailed dozens of political opponents and separatists and imposed a communications blackout.

Trump, who is due in India on Monday, will talk about the two countries' shared traditions of democracy and religious freedom, the senior administration official said in a conference call on Friday ahead of the two-trip.

"He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration," the official said.

Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party denies any bias against the country's 180 million Muslims.

It has strongly rebuffed foreign criticism, saying the changes in Kashmir and the new citizenship law were internal matters. In recent months, New Delhi has clashed with Muslim-majority countries such as Turkey and Malaysia after they criticized the government's policies.

Modi, who has built a personal rapport with Trump, is pulling out all the stops for the visit, which will kick off in his political hometown of Ahmedabad with a massive public reception.

Soon after winning a second term in office last year, Modi had spoken about his government's priority of inclusive growth for everyone, including religious minorities, the administration official said.

"And I think that the President will talk about these issues in his meetings with Prime Minister Modi and note that the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions, respect for religious minorities," the official said.

Trump has faced criticism at home for imposing a travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries, a move he has argued is necessary to guard against terrorism.

Four U.S. senators wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this month, saying Modi's steps in Kashmir and the citizenship laws were troubling and "threaten the rights of certain religious minorities and the secular character of the state."

The bipartisan group of Senators Lindsey Graham, Todd Young, Chris Van Hollen and Dick Durbin asked the State Department for information in 30 days about the number of political detainees in Kashmir, restrictions on the internet and cell phone service, and access for foreign diplomats, journalists and observers.

They also expressed concern over the crackdown on protesters opposing the citizenship law, which lays out a path to Indian nationality for six religious groups from neighbouring countries including Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, but not Muslims.



Hanau Shooting: 'This Would Be A Top News Story If The Shooter Was Muslim'

February 22, 2020

A deadly shooting in the German city of Hanau on Wednesday by a far-right gunman has sent shock waves around the world.

At least nine people were killed in two attacks targeting customers at shisha bars, many of whom had migrant backgrounds.

The suspect, identified as Tobias R, a 43-year-old white male, was found dead at his apartment along with his mother, according to officials.

Germany's federal prosecutor said the suspected perpetrator's 24-page manifesto and video messages pointed to "deeply racist views".

Despite strong reactions from world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, some social media users pointed out that the response to the story was somewhat muted - suggesting it would have gained more traction had the attacker been a Muslim.

Zainab Mohsini for Congress


This is incredibly tragic 💔💔

This would be a top news story if the shooter was Muslim.

At least eight killed in two shootings in Hanau, Germany …

At least eight killed in two shootings in Hanau, Germany


10:33 PM - Feb 20, 2020

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Omar Suleiman


Another white supremacist terrorist murders at least 10 in Germany, yet people won’t flinch because he didn’t shout Allahu Akbar …

Forensic experts work around a damaged car after a shooting in Hanau near Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday.

Germany Shootings Leave at Least 11 People Dead, Including Gunman

The body of the suspected attacker was found hours after several people died in shootings at two hookah bars in the central city of Hanau.


9:22 PM - Feb 20, 2020

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Others questioned why some news outlets had chosen to simply refer to the assailant as a "deranged gunman" and not a "terrorist" - or refused to describe the incident as a case of "Islamophobia".

nazir afzal


So a white supremacist, islamaphobe, eugenicist, incel kills mainly Kurdish Muslims in a Shisha Bar in #Hanau Germany & guess what, he’s a “deranged gunman”

No, he’s a Far Right TERRORIST

His enablers & radicalisers please note


6:04 PM - Feb 20, 2020

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Steve Brookstein


Try imagine an attack in Germany on the Jewish community and the BBC not mention the faith of the victims or "antisemitism"?

A far right gunman (terrorist) has just attacked Shisha bars popular with Muslims. This is islamophobia and terrorism. Don't be shy BBC.


3:28 PM - Feb 20, 2020

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Vikas Shah MBE


Hello @DailyMailUK - I can't think why this individual has been described as a gunman not a terrorist....  I just can't put my brown finger on it?

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3:40 PM - Feb 20, 2020

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United States President Donald Trump, who is quick to condemn attacks by people of Muslim background, was yet to comment on the incident at the time of publication.

'Hated non-whites'

Peter R Neumann, a professor at King's College London, analysed the suspect's 24-page manifesto in which he revealed that "he hated foreigners and non-whites".

"Although he doesn't emphasise Islam, he calls for the extermination of various countries in North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia (which all happen to be majority Muslim)."

Peter R. Neumann


THREAD: What the #Hanau attacker's manifesto reveals about his motivation. @ICSR_Centre ... (Thanks to @BILD + @jreichelt for sharing the document with me.)


1:32 PM - Feb 20, 2020

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There have been several far-right attacks in recent years in Germany, with violence rising sharply in 2015 when the country took in more than one million migrants.

The German domestic intelligence agency estimated that the number of violent crimes with far-right elements rose by 3 percent in 2018, although attacks on centres for asylum seekers fell after a spike in 2015 and 2016.

Srećko Horvat


What happened in #Hanau is not just a tragedy. It is a consequence of the normalization of right-wing extremism. Had a Muslim killed 11 people, the EU establishment - including you - would already have called it #terrorism. But when it's white terrorism it's just a tragedy? …

Ursula von der Leyen


I am deeply shocked by the tragedy that took place last night in Hanau. My thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims, to whom I want to extend my sincerest condolences. We mourn with you today.


4:10 PM - Feb 20, 2020

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Global watchdog FATF places Iran on terrorism financing blacklist

21 February 2020

The global dirty money watchdog placed Iran on its blacklist on Friday after it failed to comply with international anti-terrorism financing norms, a move that will deepen the country’s isolation from financial markets.

The decision came after more than three years of warnings from the Paris-based Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) urging the Islamic Republic to either enact terrorist financing conventions or see its reprieve from the blacklist lifted and some counter-measures imposed.

“Given Iran’s failure to enact the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions in line with the FATF Standards, the FATF fully lifts the suspension of counter-measures and calls on its members and urges all jurisdictions to apply effective counter-measures,” the group’s 39 members said in a statement after a week-long plenary session.

These would entail more scrutiny of transactions with Iran, tougher external auditing of financing firms operating in the country and extra pressure on the few foreign banks and businesses still dealing with Iran.

“The consequence of (Iran’s) inaction is higher costs of borrowing and isolation from the financial system,” a Western diplomat told Reuters.

The United States commended the task force’s action after what it said was Tehran’s failure to adhere to FATF’s standards.

Iran “must face consequences for its continued failure to abide by international norms,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.



Libyan National Army’s Haftar says ready for ceasefire with conditions

21 February 2020

Libyan National Army (LNA) Commander Khalifa Haftar said he would be ready for a ceasefire if Turkish and Syrian mercenaries left the country and Ankara stopped supplying weapons to Libya’s UN-recognized government in Tripoli, RIA reported.

The UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj, on Tuesday suspended talks hosted by the United Nations to halt warfare over Tripoli after the LNA shelled the capital’s port, killing three people and almost hitting a highly explosive gas tanker.

“A ceasefire (would be) the result of a number of conditions being fulfilled ...the withdrawal of Syrian and Turkish mercenaries, and an end to Turkish arms supplies to Tripoli and the liquidation of terrorist groups (in Tripoli),” Haftar told Russia’s RIA news agency in an interview.

“Erdogan and al-Sarraj’s gangs and mercenaries continue to violate agreements, and our patience has begun to run out,” he said.

The commander also said the LNA does not mind having EU countries patrol the frontlines to observe the ceasefire.

“We support the presence of naval European patrols preventing Turkey from continuing to transport arms and mercenaries to Tripoli,” he added.

General Haftar launched an offensive to capture the Libyan capital of Tripoli in April vowing to end the rule of militias that include hardline groups linked to al-Qaeda and others. General Haftar has reportedly received support from international allies opposed to extremism and the Muslim Brotherhood.



UN says fears ‘bloodbath’ in Syria, urges halt to fighting

21 February 2020

The United Nations reiterated its appeal on Friday for a halt to hostilities in northwest Syria, saying it feared that the violence “may end in a bloodbath.”

Some 60 percent of the 900,000 people who have fled but are trapped in a shrinking space are children, OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told a Geneva news briefing. The “relentless violence” must stop before it degenerates into “what we fear may end in a bloodbath”, he said.



South Asia


US, Taliban to sign peace deal in Doha on 29th

February 22, 2020

KABUL: The US and the Taliban are set to sign a historic agreement that would pave the way to ending Ame­rica’s longest war, the bitter foes announced on Fri­day, hours after Kabul said a week-long partial truce across Afghanistan would kick off this weekend.

If that so-called “reduction in violence” holds, it would mark a major turning point in the gruelling conflict and set the conditions for a deal that could, ultimately, pull US troops out after more than 18 years and launch Afghanistan into an uncertain future.

Both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban issued statements saying they had agreed to sign the accord on Feb 29 in Doha, following the one-week partial truce.

“Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the US-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward,” Pompeo said, adding that negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government would “start soon thereafter”.

Afghanistan’s National Security Council spokesman Javed Faisal and Taliban sources had earlier said the “reduction in violence” between US, Taliban and Afghan security forces would begin on Saturday.

Pakistan welcomed the announcements and expressed the hope that the parties concerned would seize the opportunity and work out an inclusive political settlement for durable peace in Afghanistan.

The United States has been in talks with the Taliban for more than a year to secure a deal in which it would pull out thousands of troops in return for Taliban security guarantees and a promise to hold peace talks with the government in Kabul.

A reduction in violence would show the Taliban can control their forces and demonstrate good faith ahead of any signing, which would see the Pentagon withdraw about half of the 12,000-13,000 troops currently in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the partial truce was to start at midnight on Friday-Saturday.

“Our next steps on the peace process will depend on the evaluation of the week of the reduction in violence,” Ghani, who this week secured a second term in office, said in a televised address.

“The Afghan security forces will remain on active defence status during the week.”

In their statement, the Taliban said warring parties would “create a suitable security situation” ahead of a deal signing.

The Taliban’s political spo­k­esman, Suhail Shah­een, separately tweeted that the agreement would see “all” foreign forces leave Afghanistan.

But a senior US administration official stressed that any withdrawal would be “conditions-based”. And for now at least, the Pentagon wants to leave troops in Afgha­nistan on a counter-terrorism mission to fight elements such as those from the militant Islamic State group.

The reduction of US forces “is very much tied to delivery on the commitments that (the Taliban) have made,” the US official told reporters.

One Taliban source said that if an agreement was signed on Feb 29, talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, needed to cement a broader peace deal, would be slated to start on March 10.

Stand down

In southern Kandahar province, which is seen as the Taliban’s heartland, one militant said he had received orders to stand down.

But another Taliban commander based in Kandahar, Hafiz Saeed Hedayat, said he had only been ordered to refrain from attacking major cities and highways.

“This means maybe the violence will continue in the districts,” Hedayat said.

The US and the Taliban have been tantalisingly close to a deal before, only to see President Donald Trump nix it at the eleventh hour in September.

Any truce comes fraught with danger, and the attempt to stem Afghanistan’s bloodshed is laced with complications. Warring parties could also exploit a lull to reconfigure their forces and secure a battlefield advantage.

The reduction in violence is “still just the first step”, Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, said. “Those talks will be a tough road of their own, but are the best avenue to peaceful settlement to Afghanistan’s conflict.”

On Thursday, the deputy leader of the Taliban said the insurgents were “fully committed” to a deal with Washington.

“That we stuck with such turbulent talks with the enemy we have fought bitterly for two decades, even as death rained from the sky, testifies to our commitment to ending the hostilities,” Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times. Haqqani is also head of the Haqqani network, a US-designated terrorist group that is one of the most dangerous factions fighting Afghan and US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The international community hailed the announcements, with Nato saying the deal could make way for “sustainable peace” in Afghanistan, while Russia labelled it an “important event” for ending the war.

Islamabad’s stance

“Pakistan has consistently supported direct negotiations between the US and Taliban. From the outset, Pakistan has facilitated this process and contributed to its progress thus far,” said a statement by the Foreign Office spokesperson in Islamabad.

“We look forward to the signing of the agreement on 29 February, 2020.”

She said Pakistan believed the signing of the agreement would pave the way for the next step of intra-Afghan negotiations. “We hope the Afghan parties would now seize this historic opportunity and work out a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” she said.

She reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours.

“We are also looking forward to the international community playing its part in reinforcing the efforts for the establishment of sustainable peace in Afghanistan and helping to create conditions inside Afghanistan to enable the return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan to their homeland with dignity and honour,” the spokesperson added.



UNAMA welcomes reduction in violence by Taliban

21 Feb 2020

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) published a statement late Friday evening, welcoming the reduction in violence by the Taliban.

‘The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) welcomes the announced start of a seven-day period of reduced violence, which represents an unparalleled opportunity that can lead toward a durable and lasting peace”, UNAMA said in a statement.

The statement added, “The United Nations remains committed to working with all parties to support an inclusive Afghan-led process that includes women, minorities, and youth; upholds the human rights of all citizens; and leads to sustainable peace in Afghanistan.”

“The United Nations urges all parties to seek additional ways to reduce levels of violence, especially the violence that harms civilians, on the way to a permanent ceasefire and a lasting political settlement”, the statement added.

According to the negotiations between the United States and Taliban delegation in Qatar, a 7-day brief ‘ceasefire’ has been agreed between both parties before the signing of a deal.

The ‘reduction in violence’ will start at 12:00 am on Saturday morning, the 22nd of February.

Full report at:



NATO welcomes the announcement of ‘violence reduction’ in Afghanistan

21 Feb 2020

NATO welcomed the announcement of ‘violence reduction’ in Afghanistan which will start from the 12:00 am on Saturday and will last for 7 days as negotiated between the U.S and Taliban delegation.

I welcome today’s announcement that an understanding has been reached on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan. Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General for NATO said in a statement on Friday.

This is a critical test of the Taliban’s willingness and ability to reduce violence, and contribute to peace in good faith, said Stoltenberg.

This could pave the way for negotiations among Afghans, sustainable peace, and ensuring the country is never again a safe haven for terrorists, he added.

Full report at:





Narrow, divisive cultural nationalism no patriotism: Catholic bishops

February 20, 2020

By C V Joseph

Bengaluru, Feb 19, 2020: India’s Catholic bishops on February 19 concluded their 34 biennial plenary, asserting that none has the right to question patriotism of any citizen on subjective grounds.

“We believe that patriotism is different from narrow and divisive cultural nationalism, which is radically different from Constitutional nationalism,” stated 192 members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) after their February 13-19 assembly at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bengaluru, capital of Karnataka state.

The bishops’ assertion came in the backdrop of a raging controversy over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) enacted on December 15, 2019. The amendment aims to provide citizenship to migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, barring Muslims.

However, many groups, including non-Muslims such as the Maharashtra unit of the Justice Coalition of Religious, comprising Catholic priests and nuns, find the CAA as the first instance of religion being overtly used as criterion for citizenship under Indian nationality laws and therefore fundamentally discriminatory and divisive in nature.

They also say the CAA is “at odds with secular principles enshrined in the Constitution and contradicts Articles 13, 14, 15, 16 and 21, which guarantee to every citizen the right to equality, equality before the law, and non-discriminatory treatment by the State.”

The bishops, who deliberated on “Dialogue: The Path to Truth and Charity,” say they join the “framers of the Constitution” to affirm that religion should not become the criterion to determine one’s citizenship.

They want the authorities to come forward “with sincere and effective means to erase the sense of fear, anxiety and uncertainty spreading in the nation, especially among the religious minorities.”

The Catholic prelates hail pluralism as Indian society’s hallmark. “From ancient times, India has been a mosaic of many religions, cultures and languages with a strong Indian identity,” explains their four-page final statement.

The prelates, prompted by their “fidelity to Jesus Christ and unflinching loyalty to our beloved motherland,” assert that what unites India is stronger and deeper that what divides them.

“We are proud of our Constitution that envisions a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic which resolved to secure for all its citizens Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as enshrined in the Preamble,” they say.

The bishop say justice is social, economic and political, while liberty upholds freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. Equality assures equal status and opportunity.

“These Constitutional values form the ethos of Indian identity that promotes fraternity, dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation. Every citizen must be ever vigilant against all attempts to undermine the ennobling human vision of the Constitution so that our beloved country ever remains united,” the Catholic prelate cautions.

The bishops voice concern over “false nationalistic ideologies that instigate contempt for cultures other than the majoritarian dominant culture.” Such ideologies perpetrate atrocities, they warn and stress the need to clarify “the essential difference between patriotism and pseudo nationalism.”

Patriotism, they say, builds up the nation while pseudo nationalism destroys the integrity, unity and harmony of the nation. Nationalism, particularly in its most radical and extreme forms, is thus the antithesis of true patriotism.

The bishops’ statement appeals to state authorities to take steps to contain pseudo nationalism lest it breeds new forms of totalitarianism.

In an indirect reference to the nationwide protests over CAA as well as the National Population Register (NPR), National Register of Citizens (NRC), bishop urge the authorities not to misconstrue dissent as un-patriotism.

Asserting that democracy cannot be built on monologue, the bishops call on state authorities to dialogue with those protesting against CAA-NPR-NCR.

“Against the attempts at creating cultural isolation in our beloved country, dialogue will make the elements that are seemingly a barrier or a wall, a bridge of relationship,” the bishops say.

They quote Pope Francis to assert that identity and dialogue are not enemies. “Our own cultural identity is strengthened and enriched as a result of dialogue with those unlike ourselves. Nor is our authentic identity preserved by an impoverished isolation,” the Pope had said in his exhortation after the Amazon Synod.

The bishops point out that every community in India possesses separate and rich cultural identity that should be respected at any cost. “Attempts to homogenize and impose a mono-cultural pattern pose serious threats to the cultural patrimony of our country,” the prelates warn.

The bishops also assert that no culture or religion should dominate over other cultures and religions in India. “Subduing certain cultures by the dominant culture will destroy the brotherhood and harmony existing in the country,” they warn.



Kartarpur has potential… you send somebody in morning, by evening he is trained terrorist: Punjab DGP

February 22, 2020

Raising questions over Pakistan’s intent in agreeing to throw open the Kartarpur Corridor, the Punjab Police chief, Dinkar Gupta, Friday said the visa-free passage cleared for Sikh pilgrims was “a huge security challenge from terrorism point of view”. Claiming that there were reasons why the Corridor was not opened all these years, Director General of Punjab Police said that some elements based in the neighbouring country were “trying to woo the pilgrims and making overtures to them”.

“Kartarpur offers a potential that you send somebody in the morning as an ordinary chap and by evening he comes back as trained terrorist actually. You are there for six hours, you can be taken to a firing range, you can be taught to make an IED,” Gupta said.

The Corridor, connecting Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, was thrown open on November 9, three days ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of the Sikhism founder. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the portion of the Corridor falling on the Indian side while his counterpart Imran Khan inaugurated the part on the Pakistani side.

“It is a huge concern…that is why it was not opened for all these years. I was in Intelligence Bureau for eight years…I used to handle it over there. The feeling was that it (the Corridor) will be a huge security challenge. But after that as the community wanted it, the disapora wanted it, it was decided why cannot this dream be realised. So all those security concerns were put on the backburner. And we also gave our go ahead,” the DGP said.

Gupta said that he was in Delhi last week where there was brainstorming session on Kartarpur Corridor. “They (Pakistan based elements and agencies) have already tried to find potential (people for radicalisation). People who are going there, they are trying to woo them, making overtures to them. We are also concerned about the phones, which are going there. Earlier the traffic to Pakistan was only a few jathas at Baisakhi and gurpurab. (now) The footfall, the numbers are huge. This is huge potential. So, it is a security challenge,” Gupta added replying to a query on whether Pakistan’s offer to do away with passport combined with Referendum 2020 posed a security challenge.

Asked about India getting an ingress as well through Kartarpur Corridor, Gupta said, “We are a very benign State…It is a security concern for both the countries”.

The DGP’s views echoed sentiments expressed by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who in the past had maintained that while he was extremely happy, as a Sikh, at the opening of the Corridor, “the threat it posed to our country could not be ignored”.

Amarinder had repeatedly warned that Pakistan was trying to win the sympathies of Sikhs by opening the Corridor to further the Referendum 2020 agenda, an ISI-backed campaign by the foreign-based organisation Sikhs for Justice for a separate Sikh state. SFJ has been banned by Indian government.

Responding to another question, Gupta said, “We were able to contain terrorism to a large extent in Punjab in 1993. After that there were sporadic incidents. Pakistan is always looking for foot soldiers to carry out terrorist incidents”.

Gupta also expressed concern over the use of drones to drop weapons and drugs into the Indian side from across the border. He said that Army Naik Rahul Chauhan, who was among the three arrested for using drones for smuggling in arms and drugs last month, had done “courses in the army on drones”.

“We recently caught Army Naik Rahul Chauhan who is from Karnal. He was posted at the Jat Regimental Centre in Bareilly. He was earlier posted in Nowshera in Jammu & Kashmir. He had done courses in the army on drones. And he was instructor of drones to other army chaps as well. He says he got calls from Pakistan while he was in Nowshera. He was posted for couple of years in J&K. There he got plugged into the drug smugglers’ network.”

The DGP further said that Punjab Police were looking for anti-drone technology on the lines of Israel, United States and Australia. “We have scheduled presentations and demos in the border area in March,” he said, adding that the BSF and the Air Force were also looking at the technology. “We are looking at how to deploy it (drones) across 553 km border on flat land. It is a huge challenge”.

Gupta said since operating drones needed a clear line of sight, the Punjab Police were also looking at “having some vegetation…some tall trees to break the line of sight.”

To a question on cyber crimes, the DGP said, “We are building capacity for cyber crime investigation. We also trying to build capacity to extract information from mobile phones”.

On gangsters and criminals operating from jails, Gupta said the prisons “are a problem area”.

“This problem has increased partly because of huge number of under-trials,” he said, attributing the problem areas in jails to under-staffing, and big prisons housing upto 3,200 inmates.

Full report at:



Pakistan must crack down on terrorists for successful dialogue with India: White House

Feb 22, 2020

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, the White House said on Friday, emphasising that any successful dialogue between the two neighbours would be possible only if Pakistan cracks down on terrorists and extremists on its territory.

"I think what you'll hear from the President is very much encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences," a senior administration official said, when asked whether Trump would offer to mediate on the Kashmir issue again during his upcoming Indian visit.

Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will lead a 12-member American delegation to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi on February 24 and 25.

"We continue to believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two (Indian and Pakistan) is based on continued momentum in Pakistan's efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory. So we continue to look for that," the official said.

"But I think the president will urge both countries to seek to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control (LoC) and refrain from actions or statements that could increase tensions in the region," said the official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

Responding to a question on the Afghanistan peace process, the official said the United States would just encourage India, as it does with regional countries, to do whatever it can to support this peace process so that it can be successful and can potentially end 19 years of military, diplomatic, economic engagement.

Full report at:



Two LeT terrorists killed in Kashmir encounter

Feb 22, 2020

SRINAGAR: Two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists have been killed in a joint operation by Jammu and Kashmir Police, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) & Army at Sangam Bijbehara in south Kashmir on Saturday.

According to the police, arms and ammunition have been recovered from them. The two killed were local militants.

They have been identified as Naveed Bhat alias Furqan, resident of Qaimoh and Aaqib Yaseen Bhat, also a resident of Qaimoh.

Sources said the security forces had a specific input about the presence of the militants that triggered the encounter.

A joint team of police and army conducted cordon and search operation (CASO) after which encounter between the terrorists and the security forces broke out.

This is the second major encounter this week.

Full report at:



Jaish terrorist, 3 indoctrinated youths arrested in Kashmir

Feb 21, 2020

SRINAGAR: Security forces arrested three indoctrinated youths who were about to join Hizbul Mujahideen from J&K’s Shopian district and a Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist from J&K’s Budgam district on Friday. A sizeable amount of arms and ammunition and other incriminating evidence were recovered from them, officials said.

The three youths from Shopian’s Heff village — all in their early 20s — were apprehended by a joint team of Army’s 44 RR and CRPF’s 178 Bn from an orchard. “During interrogation, the trio revealed they were about to join Hizbul Mujahideen in a day or two. An AK-47 rifle, one pistol, some magazines of AK-47 and INSAS rifles, a round of AK-47 and several pouches were recovered from their possession,” said an official. Their parents thanked the security forces for preventing their sons from taking up arms.

In central Kashmir’s Budgam district, police arrested a Jaish terrorist identified as Saqib Ahmad Lone. A resident of Khansahib’s Wager area, Lone was intercepted at a checkpoint set up in Khansahib based on intelligence inputs. Incriminating material was also recovered from him, said a police spokesperson.

Full report at:



Pakistan violates ceasefire in Poonch, some houses damaged in shelling

Feb 21, 2020

JAMMU: Pakistan on Friday violated ceasefire and resorted to unprovoked shelling and heavy firing along the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K’s Poonch district. Some houses in Qasaba and Dokra areas near the border were damaged in the shelling, sources said.

“Around 1.30pm, Pakistan initiated firing of small arms and shelled mortars on forward posts and civilian areas along the LoC in Poonch’s Shahpur sector, to which Indian troops effectively retaliated. The exchange of fire continued for a few hours,” said an official source. Security forces didn’t suffer any casualty or injury in the ceasefire violation.

Poonch deputy commissioner Rahul Yadav confirmed the breach of truce.

Full report at:



FIR against AIMIM leader Waris Pathan over '15 crore Muslims...' remark

Nagarjun Dwarakanath


February 22, 2020

An FIR has been filed against AIMIM leader Waris Pathan for his statement that 15 crore Muslims are more than a match for the country's 100 crore Hindus.

The FIR has been filed in Karnataka's Kalaburagi. Pathan has been booked under sections 117 (abetting commission of an offence by the public), 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code.

The FIR was filed on a complaint by a private lawyer.

Pathan has been widely condemned for reportedly stating that "15 crore hain lekin 100 crore pe bhari hain".

"We have to move together. We have to take Azadi (freedom), things that we don't get by asking, we have to take it by force, remember it...(We maybe) 15 crore, but are heavy on 100 (crore), remember it," Pathan can be heard purportedly saying in a video of his speech that has gone viral.



#WATCH AIMIM leader Waris Pathan: ...They tell us that we've kept our women in the front - only the lionesses have come out&you're already sweating. You can understand what would happen if all of us come together. 15 cr hain magar 100 ke upar bhaari hain, ye yaad rakh lena.(15.2)

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He purportedly made these comments while addressing an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act rally in Kalaburagi in north Karnataka on February 16. The AIMIM leader has claimed he was quoted out of context.

The All India Majlis-e- Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) said that it will seek an explanation from its leader Waris Pathan over his alleged remarks.

AIMIM's Maharashtra unit chief and Aurangabad MP Imtiyaz Jaleel said, "Our party does not support the statement made by Waris Pathan. The party will seek an explanation from him over the remarks."

Full report at:





Pakistan condemns ‘Islamophobic’ terror attack in Germany

February 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday condemned the attack in the German city of Hanau — where a far-right terrorist killed nine people at a sheesha bar and a cafe filled with Muslims — and said it remains “deeply concerned at the rising tide of Islamophobia, xenophobia and racial hatred sweeping across many parts of the world”.

A press release issued by the Foreign Office (FO) said Pakistan stood with the government and the people of Germany. Offering condolences to the families of the victims and to the Turkish government for the Turkish who lost their lives, the FO wished the injured a speedy recovery.

“The attacks once more underscore that violent extremism knows no race, religion or nationality,” the press release added.

“We reiterate our call for concerted efforts to root out ideologies of hate, as well as address the underlying causes of hate crimes.”

The FO said Pakistan was ready to partner with Germany and other “like-minded states” in an effort to “confront and counter Islamophobia and to promote greater inter-religious and inter-civilizational harmony, amity and understanding”.

Thousands of people took part in vigils across Germany on Thursday after the shooting.

Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the “poison” of racism, as anger mixed with grief over the latest and deadliest attack linked to Germany’s extreme right in recent months.

The suspect, 43-year-old German terrorist Tobias R, was found dead at his home after the rampage along with his 72-year-old mother in what appeared to be a murder-suicide.

Hundreds of people, many carrying candles or a white rose, gathered in silence in Hanau in the evening to show solidarity with the victims.

Large crowds also gathered in Frankfurt and at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, some carrying signs that read “Take racism personally” or “Never Again!”, in scenes replicated across dozens of German cities.



Pakistan stays on FATF terrorism financing ‘gray list’


February 21, 2020

KARACHI: The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money-laundering and terror financing watchdog, on Friday gave Pakistan until June 2020 to improve its anti-terrorism financing measures.

“The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by June 2020,” the global body said in a statement issued at a plenary meeting in Paris.

This is the second four-month extension given to Pakistan to implement the agreed action plan.

The global watchdog decided to keep Pakistan on its gray list until the country’s next progress review in June.

The FATF said it would “take action” if Pakistan failed to make progress in prosecuting and penalizing terrorism financing.

In response to the FATF decision, the Pakistani government reiterated its commitment to taking all necessary action required.

“A strategy in this regard has been formulated and is being implemented,” Pakistan’s Ministry of Finance said in a statement.

“(The) FATF reviewed progress made by Pakistan toward implementation of the Action Plan, while acknowledging the steps taken by Pakistan toward implementation of the Action Plan and welcoming its high level political commitment,” the statement read.

The ministry said that during the last reporting period, Pakistan had made “significant progress” in the implementation of the 27-point FATF plan, which was demonstrated by the completion of nine additional action items.

While noting the improvements, the FATF expressed concerns over Pakistan’s failure to complete the action plan in line with the agreed timelines and “in light of the TF (terrorism financing) risks emanating from the jurisdiction.”

“Pakistan was required to completely ban terror outfits, take measures to control cash flows, and make laws to curb money laundering,” Muzamil Aslam, a Pakistani economist, told Arab News. “Now it is political will to take measures by June 2020 to get the country out of gray list.”

Ahead of the FATF meeting, Pakistan sentenced Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed to five and a half years in prison on terrorism financing charges. The move was seen as a demonstration of compliance with FATF recommendations.

Pakistan managed to avoid the FATF’s balcklisting thanks to support from friendly countries, including Malaysia, Turkey and especially China.

Full report at:



Pakistan has come out of economic crisis: Imran

Malik Tahseen Raza | Fareedullah Chaudhry

February 22, 2020

LAYYAH / MUZAFFARGARH: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday launched the ‘Ehsaas Aamdan’ programme by distributing assets such as agricultural equipment, retail shop inputs and livestock worth Rs60,000 among 10 beneficiaries selected on the basis of poverty cards here at the sports complex.

While addressing a simple ceremony, the prime minister announced that Pakistan was on the brink of default when the PTI government took over but the country had finally come out of the economic crisis as the current account deficit had been minimised and the rupee value was sound in the market. He added that he was also keeping a check on the price hike.

He said his government was trying hard to make Pakistan a welfare state as no country could develop if the rich became richer and the poor turned poorer. Citing the example of China where 700 million people living below the poverty line had been uplifted, he said the Ehsaas Aamdan programme would create opportunities for the poorest of the poor to earn and increase their income in a respectable manner.

PM Khan announced that the government was going to make history by providing interest-free loans to 80,000 people every month and scholarships to 50,000 deserving students every year.

He said 600,000 more families would get health cards in Punjab while 500,000 health insurance cards had already been distributed among deserving people who were entitled to Rs720,000 medical care. He said the government was also encouraging the private sector to establish new hospitals by facilitating import of duty-free hospital equipment.

About education reforms, PM Khan said it was a mammoth task to bring uniformity in school syllabus so that every student could get state-of-the-art education. He warned that the teachers frequently found absent from schools would be fired.

Earlier, the PM was received by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar along with member of the national and provincial assemblies and senior officials of the area.

On the occasion, the chief minister said that Punjab would also launch Ehsaas programme with Rs12 billion. Sixty per cent beneficiaries of the programme would comprise women, he added.

According to Ehsaas programme chairperson Dr Sania Nishter, Layyah was among 23 districts selected where over 200,000 families would be provided assets of worth Rs60,000 each under the Aamdan programme. She said the beneficiaries, including 60pc women and 30pc youngsters, would be provided livestock, loader-rickshaw, cotton hailing machines and luggage for their shops. She said Ehsaas had started registration in 15 districts so that people in different categories and from different areas could benefit from the programme.

Hospital project

Earlier during his brief visit to Muzaffargarh, PM Khan inaugurated Recep Tayyip Erdogan hospital expansion project. The chief minister was with him.

Local leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and parliamentarians of Muzaffargarh were present with their leadership during their visit to the Recep Tayyip Erdogan hospital, which was gifted by the Turkish government soon after the 2010 floods in Pakistan. The Turkish premier along with his family during a visit to Muzaffargarh had gifted the hospital to provide free treatment of charge treatment facility to the people.

The Punjab government gave the management of the facility to Indus Trustees, while only salaries were disbursed by the provincial government and all instruments and latest machinery was from Turkey. In 2017, the expansion project was founded by former chief minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif.

However, sources said, soon after the change of government, the hospital funds were seized by the provincial authorities affecting the salaries of doctors and further hiring. Later, the Punjab government not only released the funds but PM Khan also visited the hospital to inaugurate the expansion project on the request of Indus Trustees, the sources added.

Mr Khan was briefed by deputy commissioner Amjad Shoaib Tareen and administration of the Indus Trustees and hospital officials about the 250-bed block of the hospital.

Dual road

Soon after their arrival from Layyah, PM Khan along with CM Buzdar also inaugurated the dual-road Muzaffargarh-Multan project on Friday.

Full report at:



CTD kills five terrorists in Peshawar operation

February 22, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) on Friday killed five suspected terrorists during a search operation after both sides exchanged fire.

CTD said a security operation had been conducted at the Shagai area after information was received about the militants’ whereabouts.

Explosive material and weapons were recovered from militants. Three suicide vests, two pistols, two hand grenades and three SMGs were recovered.

The terrorists had arrived in the area from the Millagori district. IG Sanaullah Abbasi said police will continue to conduct operations against militants.



Bilawal asks govt to quit if ‘judges’ surveillance’ reports proved true

Amjad Mahmood

February 22, 2020

LAHORE: Expressing concerns at reports of surveillance of higher courts’ judges, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that the government should resign if such reports are true.

“Espionage of higher courts’ judges is a serious issue. The government will have to clarify it, inform the nation and the parliament why the Chief Justice of Pakistan and other judges are being spied on,” he said while talking to the media at the residence of party leader Begum Belum Hasnain here on Friday.

Qamar Zaman Kaira, Chaudhry Manzoor and others were also present.

“The fact surfaced after resignation of the attorney general and it’s like a direct assault on the independence of the judiciary,” the PPP chief said.

Referring to former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s disqualification for not writing a letter on the directive of the judiciary, he said if a prime minister could be sent home packing for not writing a letter then why cannot the one on charges of espionage of judges?

Responding to a query about Federal Minister Fawad Husain Chaudhry’s letter to the National Assembly speaker asking for return of ‘long missing’ Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif from abroad or appointing another MNA to the slot, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said going by this formula the minister should first replace the prime minister as Imran Khan was absent from the parliament for an even longer period.

Moreover, he said the issue of absence of the opposition leader better be decided by the opposition parties and the government should not interfere into the matter.

He chided the prime minister for assigning the task of probe into sugar prices scam to two premier intelligence agencies and said if the government was so much incapable that it could not even investigate price hike without the help of security agencies.

Alleging that the government misstated about tax revenue targets during negotiations with the IMF, he said the international lending agency talked to its own representatives in Pakistan (a reference to the PM’s adviser on finance Hafeez Sheikh and State Bank of Pakistan Governor Reza Baqir, who are former employees of the IMF).

He lamented that the government was ill-prepared for talks with the IMF while it remained indecisive for about a year on whether to go to the world body for a bail-out package or not.

He said the government could not protect national economic interests in the talks. He said the government might strike a deal with the IMF but not at the cost of the poor. He lamented that without fighting for the cause of the poor, the PTI government accepted all terms and conditions imposed by the IMF in return for its bail-out package.

He said the PPP government (2008-13) too had negotiated with the IMF, but it never accepted the terms that hit the poor of the country.

The PPP leader said the government released Indian pilot (Abhinandan Varthaman) involved in Balakot air strikes and (Taliban spokesperson) Ehsanullah Ehsan escaped from the custody as the government was only taking symbolic measures to drive the country out of FATF grey list and that extremism and terrorism could not be countered this way.

He criticised the PTI government for striking out 0.9 million beneficiaries from the Benazir Income Support Programme, regretting that the step was taken at a time when inflation and unemployment were at their peak in the country.

“I curse the ministers and politicians who have abandoned the destitute.”

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that the national economy was passing through difficult times as the government was facilitating the rich instead of the poor and trying to document the economy through use of force by the FIA, NAB and FBR. He said the economy could not be documented in a day, adding that it required a proper process and time.

Full report at:



China commends Pakistan's enormous efforts after FATF retains it in grey list

Feb 21, 2020

BEIJING: China on Friday praised close-ally Pakistan's "enormous efforts" in combating terror financing while playing down reports that it backed India and other countries against Islamabad at the just concluded FATF meeting in Paris that retained the country in the Grey List.

Asked about reports that China has joined India and other countries in sending a strong message to Pakistan and urging it to fulfil its commitments to fight terror financing and money laundering, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told an online media briefing, that the Financial Action Task Force meeting has decided to give Pakistan more time to implement its action plan on money laundering and terrorist financing.

"China's position on the relevant issue remains unchanged. Pakistan has made enormous efforts in improving its counter-terror financing system, which has been recognised by the vast majority of the FATF members at its latest plenary meeting concluded on February 20 in Paris," he said.

"It was decided at the meeting that Pakistan will be allowed more time to continue implementing its action plan," Geng said, a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping and they agreed to step up communication and exchanges at the highest level to strengthen Pakistan-China all-weather strategic cooperative partnership.

China said it stands ready to work with relevant parties to offer more assistance to Pakistan in its efforts against terrorism.

"China maintains that the purpose and aim of the FATF is to support countries' efforts to strengthen institutions against money laundering and terror financing and safeguard international financing system," the spokesman said.

The Paris-based FATF, which supervises effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing, during the meeting decided continuation of Pakistan in the "Grey List", sources said.

The global terror financing watchdog also warned Pakistan that stern action will be taken against it if the country fails to check the flow of money to terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) among others, the sources said.

The FATF in October decided to keep Pakistan on its Grey List for failure to curb funnelling of funds to terror groups like LeT and JeM.

If not removed off the list by April, Pakistan may move to a blacklist of countries that face severe economic sanctions, such as Iran.

The plenary noted that Pakistan addressed only a few of the 27 tasks given to it in controlling funding to terror groups like LeT, JeM and the Hizbul Mujahideen, which are responsible for a series of attacks in India.

The FATF said Pakistan has to swiftly complete its full action plan by June, the source said.

Full report at:



Pakistan: Mangos, nerve gas, projectile killed Ziaulhaq

Mehmet Ozturk



Ever since former Pakistani military ruler Gen. Muhammad Ziaulhaq was killed along with several senior military officers and U.S. envoy in a plane crash 32 years ago, conspiracy theories have held mango crates loaded in the plane guilty. However, American and Pakistani investigators over these years have repeatedly concluded that plane crash was an accident, resulting from a technical error.

Confirming that there was evidence that mango crates did carry explosives, Muhammad Ijazulhaq, former Pakistani minister and son of Ziaulhaq claimed that nerve gas was also pumped into the cabin to maim pilots. “Conspirators did not want to leave anything to chance. They used nerve gas, explosives and fired a projective also from outside, “he said.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Ijazulhaq, 67, pointed needle of suspicion to Gen. Aslam Beg, who succeeded his father as army chief and Gen. Mahmud Ali Durrani, then commander of the Multan-based armored division, besides the sleuths of Israeli and Indian intelligence agencies. Assuming the presidency in 1978, Ziaulhaq continued heading the army, till his death.

On Aug. 17, 1988, Gen. Ziaulhaq, along with five of his generals and the U.S. Ambassador Arnold Lewis Raphel died, when the C-130 plane crashed near Bahawalpur, 330 miles south of Pakistani capital Islamabad. They had gone to the desert test site to watch a demonstration of the M-1/A battle tanks, which the U.S was pressing Pakistan to buy.

Ijazulhaq, who is writing a book unveiling the coverup and fledgling investigations into the killing of his father said before the explosion pilots had lost control, because of inhaling certain gas in the cockpit. “Bringing down a four-engine plane like C-130 is not an easy task. Conspirators were working at many layers," he said.

Backed by the U.S., Ziaulhaq played a key role in the Soviet-Afghan War, systematically coordinating the Afghan mujahideen throughout the 1980s.

Lamenting at the lack of will exhibited by successive Pakistani governments to conduct a probe into his father’s death, he said that the Americans from the beginning were bent to dismiss crash as an accident. Further, as per their protocol, the FBI is mandated to take up probes within 72 hours, in case of the killing of any American citizen anywhere in the world.

“In this case, where their envoy had died, they took up the case after 11 months, when every trace of evidence was removed from the ground," he said.

President of his faction of Pakistan Muslim League, Ijazulhaq’s party office is in the garrison area of Rawalpindi. While at the entrance of the building a big portrait of his father welcomes the guests, inside walls are decorated with big and small pictures of Gen. Ziaulhaq, either in military uniform or performing duties as president.

Tests prove sabotage theory

The former minister said even those officers who tried to unveil the truth were harassed and transferred. He said that Air Commodore Zaheer Zaidi against all odds took parts of the plane to a laboratory and quietly examined debris and mango peers.

“The chemical tests found traces of antimony, phosphorous and other chemicals used in explosives. These tests had proved sabotage theory, “he said. But, the successive governments never showed stamina to probe further and pinpoint the culprits.

Ijazulhaq said that Zaidi had also confirmed the use of nerve gas. The revelation almost confirms the fears of John Gunther Dean, then U.S. ambassador in India, who also believed that VX gas might have been used to kill the Pakistani president and his colleague in Islamabad.

According to information that he had gathered in New Delhi, not many countries possessed the VX gas at that time. Patented by Ranajit Ghosh and J.F. Newman in 1952, the gas attacks a person's nervous system and prevents their body from functioning properly.

He said even as Zaidi’s account formed part of a Justice Shafi-ur-Rehman Commission report, it was never made public.

Charging Gen. Durrani, for forcing the president to attend the trial of tanks, Ijazulhaq said his father was never interested to attend the function. He said according to the register of the Army House, where his father was living, Durrani had called 16 times to convince his father to fly to Bahawalpur.

It is believed that Ziaulhaq was not enthusiastic about procuring these tanks and was much more interested in acquiring AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System).

Ijazulhaq claimed that even post mortem of the dead bodies was stopped as part of the coverup.

“He (Ziaulhaq) never wanted to make this trip. But he was forced to go there. The then Interior Minister Aslam Khattak had even warned him that there is a threat to his life and he should not be traveling,” he said.

Ijazulhaq also revealed that an air force officer Akram Awan arrested three months before the crash for espionage charges had admitted having brought the nerve gas with the help of sleuths of the Israeli spy agency Mossad and India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). He said the Mossad agent was the U.S. passport holder.

Claiming that he also received threats for pursuing investigations into his father’s death, Ijazulhaq even named the U.S. intelligence station chief in Islamabad for suggesting him to concentrate on his political career rather than hunting the truth.

Full report at:



Soybean dust theory a ‘cover-up’, says Senator Pervaiz Rasheed

February 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Senator Pervaiz Rasheed of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Friday said that the theory about soybean dust causing the recent deaths in Karachi’s Keamari neighbourhood appeared to be an attempt to protect the people actually responsible for the crime.

“Pakistan has been importing soybean for four decades and is also supplied to several other countries but something like this has never happened before,” Rasheed noted during a meeting of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Climate Change.

Fourteen people – mostly belonging to Keamari– have died and around 450 others have been hospitalised since Sunday due to what was earlier described as a poisonous gas. A research institution had claimed that the people were affected by “overexposure to soybean dust”. However, some top government doctors have ruled out that theory, claiming that a fumigant containing methyl bromide might be the actual culprit.

During the committee meeting chaired by Senator Sitara Ayaz, Rasheed regretted that even though lives were still at risk, the government had neither been unable to determine the cause of the deaths, nor registered a case.

The senator also pointed out that no minister had visited the affected families yet.

Minister of State for Climate Change Minister Zartaj Gul replied that it was the Sindh government’s responsibility to take action as environment protect fell under the provinces’ domain after the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

“It is the Sindh government’s job to present a report on the mater. If there’s an environmental hazard, then the ministry of climate change will respond to the issue and share the scientific report of the incident,” she added.

The minister said the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), the Maritime Security Agency and the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) were conducting an inquiry into the matter that would ascertain the facts.

“We are in contact with SEPA on this issue and waiting for the report to find out what caused the deaths.”

Full report at:



JI leader says PTI has failed to deliver

Ashrafuddin Pirzada

February 22, 2020

LANDIKOTAL: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) deputy head Liaqat Baloch on Friday said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had failed to deliver on its pledges.

Speaking at a public gathering in Sadukhel village of Landikotal, he said that the PTI was voted to power on the slogan of change but the government could not come up to the expectations of the people and rather it had taken the bread out of the mouth of poor citizens.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had left the country at the mercy of International Monetary Fund (IMF). He said Pakistan's economy was shrinking due to the flawed polices of the incumbent government. He said that PM Imran Khan and his cabinet members lived a luxurious life.

Liaqat Baloch asked the PTI-led government to fulfill the pledge with the tribal people and release Rs100 billion for the development of tribal districts. He said the JI would soon launch countrywide protest against the corrupt elements and price-hikes. He said the government should address grievances of the people instead of adding to their woes.

"Lawlessness, corruption, injustice and poverty have adversely affected the common people," said the JI leader, adding that those who had created flour and sugar crises were sitting in the Parliament.

Full report at:



Move to clip Pakistan president’s power to promulgate ordinances

Iftikhar A. Khan

February 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As controversy over what the opposition calls attempt by the PTI government to ‘rule through ordinances’ continues, former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani sought an amendment to the law dealing with power of the president to promulgate ordinances.

Through a private member’s bill submitted to the Senate Secretariat, Mr Rabbani has sought to add two provisos to Article 89 of the Constitution, which allows the president to promulgate ordinances when parliament is not in session and such extreme circumstances exist where legislation becomes imperative.

The bill proposes to add a proviso to sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) of clause (2) before the first proviso which reads “provided that the ordinance shall be laid in the first sitting of the National Assembly after its promulgation and shall stand repealed if not laid in that session”.

It also seeks to add a new proviso to sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (a) of clause (2) before the first proviso which reads “provided that the ordinance shall be laid in the first sitting of either House of Parliament after its promulgation and shall stand repealed if not laid in that session”.

The statement of objects and reasons says there is a long history of the misuse of the power of the president to promulgate an ordinance.

“The parliament has consciously been placing fetters on such power of the president, but unsuccessfully. In the recent past, there has been inordinate delay in laying the ordinances promulgated when parliament was not in session in contravention of Article 89, Constitution, 1973. This process has denied lawmakers of both houses from exercising their constitutional right of moving a resolution of disapproval under Article 89 of the Constitution, 1973….”.

Mr Rabbani said that attempts were being made under a preconceived plan to make parliament redundant.

Full report at:



North America


Wisconsin Prison Warden Who Posted Anti-Muslim Memes Fired

Feb. 21, 2020

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin deputy prison warden has been fired after posting Facebook memes comparing Muslim children to garbage and equating flying a gay pride rainbow flag with raising the Confederate flag.

Richard “Sam” Schneiter, a 42-year veteran of the Department of Corrections, was fired in November, records from the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission provided to The Associated Press reveal. Schneiter appealed his firing in December but was denied. He filed a second appeal last month and has a hearing scheduled before the commission on April 2.

That hearing will serve as a type of mini-trial where both Schneiter and the Department of Corrections can present evidence and call witnesses. The ruling from the WERC chairman can be appealed in court.

The state Department of Corrections did not immediately return messages seeking comment Friday. Schneiter, 65, had said in the summer that he intended to retire soon, but on Friday said he wants to return to work.

“If I get my job back, I'm going back to work,” he said in a brief interview. Schneiter referred other questions to his attorney, Nate Cade, who said the Department of Corrections acted improperly in firing him.

“I don't think he's racist and even if he's racist he's got First Amendment rights,” Cade said.

Schneiter was fired after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in July reported on his Facebook postings. In June, he posted a meme of two black garbage bags next to a Muslim woman and child in black burkas and a caption saying the woman had three beautiful children.

He also posted a meme contrasting the LGBTQ flag with the Confederate flag, along with the message "If they have the right to fly theirs, we deserve the right to fly ours."

In a letter appealing his firing dated Jan. 12, Schneiter said the Department of Corrections failed to establish just cause for removing him. He said the department's investigation into what happened was not fair, objective or thorough.

Schneiter also claimed that he was the only prison official who agreed to fly a gay-pride rainbow flag outside the Kenosha Correctional Center in June after Gov. Tony Evers declared it “Pride Month” and said the flags could be flown at state offices and buildings.

“He's the only one who flew the damn flag,” Cade said.

In his defense, Schneiter said there was no evidence that the Facebook memes he posted represented his views. He argued they were posted to promote discussion and debate. Schneiter said he testified as part of the probe that he found the memes “objectionable and offensive.”

Over his 42-year career, “there is no evidence whatsoever” to suggest his personal views were the same as those presented in the memes, Schneiter wrote.

After the article was published, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes on Twitter criticized the meme comparing Muslims to garbage and said Schneiter is the one "who has to be taken out.” Schneiter said in his appeal that those comments amounted to a “premature conclusion” that Schneiter would be fired.

“As the second highest ranking government official in Wisconsin it is not unreasonable to believe that his comments influenced the investigators and decision-makers to a point that his comment became a prophecy fulfilled,” Schneiter wrote.

Schneiter was deputy warden for the Wisconsin Correctional Center System, a network of 14 minimum security prisons that mostly house inmates just before they are released. He has not been at work since he was fired and his appeal is pending.



Muslim-American advocates protest upcoming Army War College speaker

February 22, 2020

The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is protesting a speaker coming to the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, who has written that terrorism and extremism are intrinsic to Islam.

Raymond Ibrahim — whose books include “Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians” and “Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West" — is slated to speak at the Army War College on Feb. 26. His lecture is part of a discussion series examining “provocative military history” in the interest of academic growth, according to a spokeswoman for the Army Heritage and Education Center, which is sponsoring the event.

Those who oppose Ibrahim’s lecture state that the issue isn’t one of free speech, but instead one of fringe speakers being selected to promote discredited ideas.

Ibrahim, the son of Coptic Christian immigrants from Egypt, is a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center includes on its map of hate groups. The center is affiliated with a blog called Jihad Watch, which Ibrahim contributed to between 2014 and 2018.

“If Muhammad cannot beat the infidels on the battlefield, he’ll outbreed them — literally,” Ibrahim wrote in a February 2018 article discussing the rise of birth rates among Muslims in Europe. “Muslim women remain the primary incubators for the jihad.”

Rhetoric like that is at the heart of civil rights advocates’ complaints, according to Jacob Bender, CAIR-Philadelphia’s executive director and a Jewish man.

“This is the same type of language that was for decades aimed at the American Catholic community, whose churches were burned not four blocks from where I sit here in Philadelphia. They, like Muslims, were accused of having dual loyalty — in their case to the Vatican — and of being unable to assimilate to a democratic worldview," Bender said over the phone. “We see those same arguments recycled and now instead of Catholics, it’s Muslims.”

“It’s frankly an insult to the Muslims who have given their lives for this country," Bender added.

Ibrahim, though, said he always tries to differentiate between “Muslims” as subjective people, and “Islam” as a body of objective teachings, even if he hasn’t always drawn that distinction in every one of his writings.

“The former can believe and behave anyway they want — including as model American citizens,” Ibrahim said in an email. “The latter does, unequivocally, teach things that are ‘radical,’ including that Muslims must have ‘hate’ for non-Muslims, never be allied to them, except insincerely when needed.”

Ibrahim cited articles he has written on his website and a 2007 interview in which he drew this distinction to discourage bigotry against Muslim people. He added that he has been attacked by his own readers and Jihad Watch’s director, Robert Spencer, for insisting critics of Islam use words like “Islamist,” instead of “Muslim.”

The Army War College had a more mainstream speaker last month who CAIR-Philadelphia did not object to. John Voll, a professor emeritus of Islamic history at Georgetown University, lectured on Muslim-Christian alliances and conflicts in the modern era.

“The viewpoints cannot be considered as equal,” Bender said. “On the one hand, you have a mainstream intellectually based scholar ... on the other hand, you have a well-known bigot.”

Ibrahim maintains that the book he’ll be lecturing on is well-sourced using first-hand historical accounts translated from Arabic and Greek.

In July, the Army War College postponed a speech that Ibrahim was supposed to make after complaints were raised. Ibrahim pointed Army Times to op-eds that were written at that time defending him.

“This is deja vu — meaning I was in this same exact position last summer — and I, and others, responded," he said.

In a Washington Times piece, entitled “Global jihad’s information warfare campaign,” a retired Army officer wrote that Ibrahim’s arguments are worth hearing out.

“An important thesis of Mr. Ibrahim’s work is that the Islamic world has been in perpetual war against the West from its inception until the colonial era. And those wars were fundamentally rooted in Islamic religious dogma and drive," the op-ed reads.

A petition with roughly 4,000 signatories was submitted by the National Association of Scholars to the White House in an effort to call on the Army War College to reverse its decision to postpone Ibrahim’s speech.

The National Association of Scholars is a nonprofit that promotes free speech on college campuses. It has regularly been described as conservative, though the group disputes that label.

“Ibrahim’s disinvitation affects American national security as well as American freedom," the nonprofit’s petition reads. "America’s present and future military leadership needs to be fully informed about threats to America — and they need to know the history and religious roots of Islamist opposition to Western military forces. [The Army War College’s] deference to CAIR threatens American interests, and endangers the lives of American soldiers.”

Carol Kerr, a spokeswoman for the Army War College, denied that Ibrahim was disinvited over the summer.

“Because the original date for Raymond Ibrahim’s lecture event was ill-suited to the summer hiatus of war college classes, the event was postponed, not cancelled,” she said in an emailed statement.

Full report at:



Pak must crack down on terrorists for successful dialogue with India: White House

Feb 22, 2020

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, the White House said on Friday, emphasising that any successful dialogue between the two neighbours would be possible only if Pakistan cracks down on terrorists and extremists on its territory.

"I think what you'll hear from the President is very much encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences," a senior administration official said, when asked whether Trump would offer to mediate on the Kashmir issue again during his upcoming Indian visit.

Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will lead a 12-member American delegation to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi on February 24 and 25.

"We continue to believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two (Indian and Pakistan) is based on continued momentum in Pakistan's efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory. So we continue to look for that," the official said.

"But I think the president will urge both countries to seek to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control (LoC) and refrain from actions or statements that could increase tensions in the region," said the official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

Responding to a question on the Afghanistan peace process, the official said the United States would just encourage India, as it does with regional countries, to do whatever it can to support this peace process so that it can be successful and can potentially end 19 years of military, diplomatic, economic engagement.

Full report at:



Pompeo commends FATF’s call to place Iran on terror financing blacklist

21 February 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has commended the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s call to place Iran on its blacklist on Friday after it failed to comply with international anti-terrorism financing norms.

“The regime must face consequences for its continued failure to abide by international norms, in particular its inaction in ratifying the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions,” Pompeo said in a statement released by the US State Department.

“The regime needs to adhere to the basic standards that virtually every other country in the world agrees to. Iran must cease its reckless behavior and act like a normal nation if it wants its isolation to end,” Pompeo added.

US State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the Paris-based FATF’s decision was “the right call.”

“The Financial Action Task Force made the right call to protect the international financial system from Iran’s lax financial controls by calling on members to re-impose countermeasures,” Ortagus tweeted.

Full report at:



110 US troops suffered concussion, brain injury in Iranian strike: Pentagon

22 February 2020

The US Defense Department has yet again raised the number of troops wounded in Iran's retaliatory missile attack in Iraq last month, saying they have suffered “traumatic brain injuries.”

The Pentagon said on Friday 110 service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury following the Iran strike on January 8. The figure is higher than the last toll that was announced on February 10.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Asad, a large airbase hosting about 1,500 US troops, and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

The missile operation was in response to Washington's January 3 assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who led the IRGC’s Quds Force.

The assassination also resulted in the death of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

Speaking on the morning following Iran's reciprocal military operation, US President Donald Trump had said that "no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack".

"We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases," he added.

Full report at:



US' Pompeo, Saudi crown prince discuss Iran 'threat'

Michael Hernandez



Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman discussed the "continuing threat posed" by Iran, the State Department said Friday.

Pompeo "assured the Crown Prince that the United States stands with Saudi Arabia in the face of these threats, as reflected in our greater military presence in Saudi Arabia" during their Thursday bilateral meeting in Riyadh, department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Pompeo and bin Salman further addressed the conflict in Yemen, as well as the situations in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, Ortagus added.

Pompeo also met with Omani Sultan Haitham bin Tarik al-Said in Muscat on Friday as part of his regional travel, conveying an invitation for al-Said to visit U.S. President Donald Trump, which was accepted, Ortagus said in a separate statement.

Full report at:



US lawmakers urge Pompeo to pressure Assad, Russia

Servet Gunerigok  



Two U.S. lawmakers voiced concern Thursday over the carnage in Syria's Idlib province and urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take diplomatic action against the Syrian regime and Russia.

In a bipartisan letter to Pompeo, Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas and Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York urged the top diplomat to impose economic sanctions on those responsible for the Idlib offensive.

The province has been the scene of an ongoing offensive by forces of the Bashar al-Assad regime backed by Russia which has displaced nearly 900,000 civilians since December.

McCaul and Engel also called for continued diplomatic action to hold Assad and Russia accountable.

"We urge you to enhance diplomatic action to ensure that Russia and Assad cannot further undermine the international response to the humanitarian crisis that they created," said the lawmakers.

UN humanitarian affairs chief Mark Lowcock said Wednesday that the conflict in northwest Syria is forcing people to flee "under horrendous conditions."

Many others are on foot or on the backs of trucks in below-freezing temperatures, Lowcock said during a briefing to the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in the region.

"They are moving into increasingly crowded areas they think will be safer. But in Idlib, nowhere is safe.”

He said nearly 50,000 people are sheltering under trees or in other open spaces.

"I am getting daily reports of babies and other young children dying in the cold. Imagine the grief of a parent who escaped a warzone with their child, only to watch that child freeze to death."

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Full report at:



US official confirms Turkey asked for Patriot missiles

Kasim Ileri 



The Turkish government recently asked the U.S. to deploy Patriot air defense systems on Turkey’s southern border, a U.S. official said Thursday.

"We're aware of a request for Patriot systems but understand no decision has been made," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said the request had been made "recently."

Earlier in the day, citing a Turkish official in Ankara, Bloomberg reported that Turkey asked the U.S. to deploy two Patriot missile-defense batteries “to free it to punish any future attacks” by Syrian regime forces backed by Russia.

In the latest exchange between Turkish and Syrian regime forces Thursday, two Turkish soldiers were martyred and five injured in airstrikes on Turkish elements in Idlib, northwestern Syria, said Turkey’s National Defense Ministry.

In retaliation, Turkish forces neutralized more than 50 regime elements and destroyed five tanks, two armored personnel vehicles, two armed pickups and one howitzer, the ministry said on Twitter.

Full report at:





After Hanau Attack, Germany Steps Up Protection of Muslims


Ralf Bosen

Rarely has Horst Seehofer appeared so honest. Quiet, composed, but with a slightly raspy voice, Germany's interior minister on Friday afternoon opened his press conference with journalists concerning the shooting in Hanau. "The racist background to this act in my view is completely undisputed and cannot be relativized," he said. Seehofer noted that there was a very high "right-wing" danger in the country and for democracy, and that represents "the greatest security threat in our country."

Increased police presence at sensitive institutions

As a consequence of the attack on Wednesday afternoon, the interior minister said "sensitive institutions" such as mosques would see an increased police presence. More police are also to be deployed at train stations, airports and areas along the border, Seehofer added. He warned that copycat attacks, as well as acts of rage over the shooting in Hanau, could not be ruled out, pointing to numerous large events taking place over the coming days, including Carnival festivities. Seehofer said he had coordinated his plan with state interior ministers and had the support of the federal police.

The German government's integration commissioner, Annette Widmann-Mauz, called for more state action to combat Islamophobia. She said she wanted to speak with her concerned ministerial colleagues about whether "we are doing enough (to fight) right-wing extremism and hate crimes," she told the Essener Funke Mediengruppe. Muslims, Jews and people with an immigrant background are feeling increasingly threatened and attacked and have a justified fear of attacks. "It is now all the more important to do everything we can to protect them," Widmann-Mauz said. She proposed establishing an expert commission and trusted points of contact across the country for threatened individuals. Good prevention work must get sustainable funding, Widmann-Mauz said. "We cannot wait for the next attack."

Rethinking the debate

Zekeriya Altug, spokesman for the Cologne-based Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), backed Widmann-Mauz's proposed expert commission. He also called for rethinking the debate in German society. The problem of Islamophobia must be recognized, Altug said, stressing it must also be a part of the agenda at the German Islam Conference. The proposed expert commission should implement and support appropriate measures, he added. Mosque representatives should form the core of such a body, and the protection of mosques should be improved, Altug said.

This police work falls to Germany's federal states. On Thursday, the government of North Rhine-Westphalia strengthened their security measures for Muslims. The state's interior minister, Herbert Reuel, said that police would patrol in predominantly Muslim areas, and specifically noted 900 mosques across North Rhine-Westphalia that would see an increased presence during Friday prayers. In addition, police contacts are to offer mosque communities advice and help. In this hour, North Rhine-Westphalia stands firmly on the side of our foreign fellow citizens, especially those who have immigrated from Muslim countries, said Reul.

Threats before the attack

However, many Muslim communities view these measures as coming too late. They have long been warning of growing far-right extremism. Just a few days before the attack in Hanau, there were very concrete reasons for concern. During a police raid in North Rhine-Westphalia, 12 men suspected of belonging to a right-wing extremist terrorist cell that had planned attacks on mosques were arrested. Two days earlier, there were bomb threats against mosques in four North Rhine-Westphalia cities: Essen, Hagen, Bielefeld and Unna.

Explosives were not found there, but enough evidence was mounting that it seemed like only a question of time until Muslims became victims. Yet after these events, state governments still reacted with restraint to calls for increased security. Some states claimed that at the moment there is no specific apparent danger.

Criticism of German security authorities

It's against this background that the Central Council of Muslims in Germany issued a strong reaction to the attack in Hanau. Chairman Aiman Mazyek expressed his frustration that because of "decades of inaction" on the part of politicians and security authorities to protect German Muslims and minorities, right-wing extremist terrorists feel "emboldened to commit such murderous acts."

After Wednesday's violence, Mazyek again called on Muslims across the country to take their own "protective measures for themselves, their families, their places of worship and institutions." In this context, he criticized media reporting about Islam and migrants as "defamatory." Mazyek has often argued that mosques do not have enough security. There are always murder and attack threats, he said. "It is not an abstract danger, but a real danger."

Will mosques be protected like synagogues?

Many Muslims in Germany would thus welcome visible, sustained protection of mosques that goes beyond acute risk situations — similar to synagogues, which receive special protection in Germany due to its dark past and concrete anti-Semitic threats.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, police protection at synagogues and other Jewish institutions such as schools or retirement homes is always "high," according to the Interior Ministry. After the attack at a synagogue in Halle in October last year, Jewish institutions "were protected 24 hours per day, seven days a week."

North Rhine-Westphalia does more than just send police officers on guard duty. The state reached an official agreement with the Jewish community to spend €3 million ($3.26 million) per year to boost security at Jewish institutions, including stationing police cars outside buildings, strengthening doors, erecting surveillance cameras and building so-called panic rooms in which people can shelter themselves from danger. Whether similar concrete steps will be taken to protect Muslims and their places of worship remains to be seen.

Solidarity with Muslims

On one point, all experts are in agreement: One hundred percent protection can never be achieved. Because of the various designs of what the government estimates to be the between 2,600 and 2,700 Muslim places of worship in the country, complete security can hardly be guaranteed. Furthermore, the terrorist in Hanau did not attack a mosque, but rather two shisha bars. Nevertheless, increased protection, particularly during Friday prayers when mosques are particularly busy, could not just serve as a deterrent, it could also show that German society wants to protect its Muslims.



Germany ups police presence at mosques over 'very high' security threat

21 February 2020

Germany has increased police presence across the country, and at mosques in particular, as part of efforts to counter the "very high" security threat from far-right extremists in the wake of the recent racist attack.

"The security threat from right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism and racism is very high," German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said at a press conference in Berlin on Friday, also announcing an "increased police presence" at mosques, train stations, airports and borders.

Late on Wednesday, a gunman opened fire outside a bar in the Heumarkt district in the western German city of Hanau and then drove off to a second location in the Kesselstadt district, where he opened fire again, killing a total of nine people and injuring several others.

The victims were reported to have been young members of the country’s minority Turkish community who have been targeted due to rising Islamophobia inside Germany.

The suspect was a 43-year-old German citizen from Hanau and together with his 72-year-old mother was found dead at his home in the early hours of Thursday morning.

According to the German newspaper Bild, he left behind a letter of confession and a video claiming responsibility in which he expressed extreme right-wing views.

Condemning the “poison” of racism, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel sent her condolences to the families of the victims and said she mourned with them.

During a vigil for the victims of the deadly shootings, thousands of Germans gathered in Hanau and censured crimes perpetrated by far-right extremists in the country by shouting “Nazis out.”

Addressing the vigil, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier denounced the shooter’s “brutal act of terror,” and said he was heartened to see “thousands, maybe even tens of thousands” turning out across the country to honor the victims.

“We stand together, we want to live together and we show that over and over again. That is the strongest way to fight hatred,” he added.

Large crowds also gathered in Frankfurt and at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, some carrying signs that read “Take racism personally,” and “Never again!”

The double shootings in the western city of Hanau came just days after 12 far-right extremists were arrested on suspicion of plotting six attacks on mosques across the country.

In the wake of the incident, Muslim groups demanded the German government offer their community more protection as they have so far felt the growing threat from the far-right for several years now.

Germany has seen an increase in hate crimes in recent months, prompting it to expand a crackdown on right-wing political violence in order to repress the disturbance.

During the course of 2019, at least one mosque or a Muslim institution or a religious representative in Germany was targeted in anti-Muslim attacks every other day, according to an inquiry by Germany's Left Party, known as Die Linke in German.

The incidents come as racism-induced and anti-Muslim sentiment mainly fueled by right-wing ideology has been raging across Europe and, in fact,  the whole world.

London police arrested a man on Thursday after a stabbing at a mosque near Regents Park which injured one person.

In mid-March last year, 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist Australian national, massacred 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand, using semi-automatic weapons.

Full report at:



London stabbing attack rattles British Muslims

21 February 2020

Richard Sudan

It was time for prayer at this mosque near Regents Park. Worshipers say the Imam leading the prayer started to pray faster than usual, then people started screaming and they saw the blood and the knife.

The stabbing of a Muslim man in a prominent London mosque has shaken the community to its core, raising serious concerns about safety and the ever-growing tide of Islamphobia here in the UK.

This man reportedly ran into the mosque and stabbed the Muezzin. According to the daily mail, he was a regular at the mosque. After stabbing his victim in the neck, he was brought down by several worshipers and then arrested. The victim, who is in his 70s, is now in hospital and in stable condition. Police say another man has been arrested at the mosque on suspicion of attempted murder.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tweeted, 'I'm deeply saddened to hear of the attack at the London Central Mosque. It's so awful that this should happen, especially in a place of worship. My thoughts are with the victim and all those affected.'

Full report at:



Turkish president condemns far-right terror attack in Germany

Kaan Bozdogan and Emin Ileri  


The Turkish president on Friday condemned Wednesday night's far-right terror attack in Germany, which he said was caused by "xenophobia, discrimination and hostility to Islam."

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a joint phone call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, extended condolences for those killed during the attack, saying that he condemned the attack caused by "xenophobia, discrimination and hostility to Islam."

The attack killed at least nine people in the western town of Hanau, near Frankfurt.

The gunman, who targeted migrants at two cafe bars, was identified by security forces as 43-year-old Tobias R., German daily Bild reported.

Five Turkish citizens were among the victims, Turkish officials confirmed.

Situation in Syria’s Idlib

The aggression by the Syrian regime and its supporters in the country’s northwestern Idlib province should come to an end, Erdogan said, stressing on more support based on concrete actions to prevent humanitarian crises.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The Syrian regime, however, violated the cease-fire several times martyring 14 Turkish soldiers in three attacks in February. The last attack was on Thursday, and two Turkish troops were martyred and five injured.

The regime's advances have sent hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing towards the border with Turkey, which already hosts over 3.7 million refugees.


Erdogan also called for cooperation on Libya issue with consistent policies for peace, prosperity and stability in the country.

Full report at:



Martyrdom of Turkish soldiers in Idlib ‘appalling’: UK

Hasan Esen 



A U.K. government official said Thursday that the martyrdom of Turkish soldiers in Idlib, northwestern Syria was “appalling” and called for an end to the violence in the region.

“The humanitarian crisis in #Idlib is desperate & unacceptable,” James Cleverly, Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa and International Development, said on Twitter.

“Almost a million people have been displaced in the freezing winter by regime attacks since Dec. 1. #Ukaid is helping to save innocent people. But the violence must stop,” he said.

“It is appalling that more Turkish soldiers and Syrian civilians have been killed as the result of brutal regime attacks in #Idlib today,” he said: “I reiterate the need for the regime and its backer, Russia, to agree a ceasefire and stop this escalating humanitarian crisis.”

In the latest exchange between Turkish and Syrian regime forces Thursday, two Turkish soldiers were martyred and five injured in airstrikes on Turkish elements in Idlib, said Turkey’s National Defense Ministry.

In retaliation, Turkish forces neutralized more than 50 regime elements and destroyed five tanks, two armored personnel vehicles, two armed pickups and one howitzer, the ministry said on Twitter.

Full report at:





Houthi attacks show they’re not serious about a solution in Yemen: Saudi FM

21 February 2020

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Friday that ongoing Houthi attacks show that the militia is not serious about a solution to the Yemeni conflict.

In a press conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas, the prince added that the Iranian role in destabilizing the region’s security is “clear”.

Saudi Arabia’s Royal Air Defense Forces intercepted several ballistic missiles launched by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia from the Yemeni capital Sanaa targeting cities in the Kingdom, the Arab Coalition’s spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement said these missiles were launched “in a deliberate and systematic manner” in order to target cities and civilians in Saudi Arabia, describing the attack as a “flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.



Iran slams FATF's politically-motivated move to place Iran on terrorism financing blacklist

21 February 2020

Iran says the move by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place the country on its blacklist was a politically-motivated decision, emphasizing that the Islamic Republic can never be labeled with money laundering and financing of terrorism.

"Unfortunately, this is also part of the politicization of international mechanisms [carried out] by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the Zionist regime (Israel). Given their influence on these mechanisms, they are trying to politicize them,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Friday.

"Saudi Arabia, as the central bank of terrorism and the Zionist regime as a terrorist state, are providing terrorist groups and organizations around the world with the most support," he added.

However, they blacklist Iran which has the highest level of cooperation and transparency in the field of combating money laundering and financing of terrorists, he added.

Mousavi emphasized that Iran has been implementing all laws and regulations related to money laundering and financing of terrorism for more than two years, saying, "International mechanisms have advantages and disadvantages and placing Iran on FATF's blacklist came despite all efforts we have made inside the country and all regulations we have tried to observe."

The Iranian spokesperson made the remarks in reaction to the global dirty money watchdog's move to place Iran on its blacklist after Tehran refused to fully adopt its provisions.

“Given Iran’s failure to enact the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions in line with the FATF Standards, the FATF fully lifts the suspension of counter-measures and calls on its members and urges all jurisdictions to apply effective counter-measures,” the group’s 39 members said in a statement on Friday.

FATF blacklisting of Iran will create no problems for foreign trade, exchange rate stability: CBI

Meanwhile, Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnasser Hemmati also said on Friday that the FATF's move against the Islamic Republic would fail to create any problem for the country's foreign trade or stability of exchange rate.

"Performance of the Central Bank of Ian over the last year has assured people that such incidents will create no problem for Iran's foreign trade and stability of exchange rate," Hemmati said in an Instagram post.

In cooperation with other economic sectors, the CBI would continue to carry out its mission "in order to meet the country's trade requirements with no stop," he added.

He emphasized that the US and Israeli regime once again showed their animosity towards the Iranian nation within the framework of opposing all recommendations by the FATF's experts about "steps taken by Iran in the field of the fulfillment of its commitments vis-à-vis financing of terrorism and money laundering."

The Iranian chief banker added that such a "politically-motivated and untechnical" attitude has been pursuing towards Iran through different ways over the past three years while all the FATF statements verified the Islamic Republic's major steps to fulfill its commitments.

In October 2018, the purported global finance watchdog gave Iran four months "for the sixth and last time" to ratify bills relating to the campaign against money laundering and funding terrorism.

Out of the four bills required by the FATF, Iran has already accepted two, but the other two bills have been stalled amid worries that they may expose the country to financial spying and new sanctions on Tehran.

To address the issue, Iran has adopted a set of internal regulations to fight money laundering and funding terrorism.

The government has been urging for the ratification of the remaining FATF bills, contending that without them, Iran may not be able to conduct financial transactions with its allies such as Russia and China. It has also warned Iran’s currency might fall if the bills are not ratified.

Iranian authorities have had their reservations about the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions, saying they could be misused by governments like the United States and others to pressure Iran politically.

Full report at:



Iran says two more deaths among 13 new cases of coronavirus

21 February 2020

Iran is reporting two more deaths from the new virus that emerged in China and says the fatalities were from among 13 new confirmed cases of the virus in Iran.

The report on Friday by the semiofficial Mehr news agency came as Iranians voted in nationwide parliamentary elections. After authorities reported two earlier deaths this week, the death toll from COVID-19, the illness caused by virus, stands at four.

So far, 18 cases have been confirmed in Iran, including the four who died.

The spokesman of the health ministry, Kianoush Jahanpour, said the newly detected cases are all linked with city of Qom where the first two elderly patients died on Wednesday.

Jahanpour said the new cases were either from Qom or had visited the city recently. He said four of them are hospitalized in the capital, Tehran, and two in northern province of Gilan.

Concerns over the spread of the virus, which originated in central China, prompted authorities in Iran to close all schools and Shiite seminaries in Qom.



Turkey: Global students offered religious scholarships

Burak Dag 



A Turkish foundation has launched international scholarship programs for students to study at high schools with Islamic curriculums and at university theology faculties across Turkey.

Supported by the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) – Turkey's top religious body – and the Education Ministry, the Turkey Diyanet Foundation (TDV) Scholarship Program is taking applications through March 15 online at

Students receiving the scholarship program can study at schools in the capital Ankara as well as in Istanbul, Bursa, Kayseri, Konya, or Sivas.

The international theology license scholarship program offers study at seven universities in major Turkish cities.

The program aims to contribute to the Islamic education of the Muslim community as well as training people qualified in every aspect of Islam who will benefit their communities with their knowledge and experience, according to the Diyanet Foundation.

According to the group, over 3,000 students from 111 countries continue to study at the high school, bachelor’s, master’s and PhD levels in Turkey under the scholarship program.

Full report at:



Who is Abu Fadak ‘the uncle’ al-Mohammadawi, the new head of PMU militias?

22 February 2020

The Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militia group has named Abu Fadak al-Mohammadawi as its new leader, succeeding Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who was killed in Iraq alongside Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani last month.

Several Iraqi politicians and activities confirmed the appointment on Friday after the PMU held a board meeting recently.

Iranian state-owned Press TV quoted Abu Ali al-Bassari, a PMU official, as saying that the chief commander of the Iraqi armed forces “will sign Abu Fadak’s decree in the next couple of days.”

The new PMU leader, whose real name is Abdulaziz al-Mohammadawi, has been known to go by the nickname “al-Khal” or the uncle in English.

Al-Mohammadawi was considered as a close friend of Soleimani. An old photograph of Soleimani kissing his forehead began to resurface on social media on Friday amid reports of his impending appointment as head of the PMU.

He had previously worked with the Badr Organization in 1983. The group is considered a terrorist entity by the United States and run by Hadi al-Amiri.

Al-Mohammadawi took part in Iran’s war against Iraq and is accused of killing and torturing Iraqi prisoners.

He recently served as the secretary-general of Kata’ib Hezbollah, a hardline pro-Iran faction in Iraq’s PMU militia forces. He joined Kata’ib Hezbollah shortly after its formation in 2003.

According to Al Arabiya sources, al-Mohammadawi briefly left Kata’ib Hezbollah due to internal disagreements within the group over an issue regarding the multi-million-dollar ransom payment during the group’s kidnapping of Qatari hunters in 2015. He then returned to the group under a direct order from Soleimani after the outbreak of mass protests which erupted last October.

The reportedly new leader of the PMU also took part in the group’s fight against ISIS in Iraq, specifically in Fallujah, Qa'im, and Tal Afar.

Due to his nickname of “the uncle,” al-Mohammadawi has been linked to the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad last December as the phrase “the uncle passed through here” was found written on the embassy’s wall.

Full report at:



Voting ends Iran parliamentary elections after several extensions

22 February 2020

Polls closed Friday in Iran's general election after multiple extensions, the news agencies Tasnim and Fars reported, as the vote is expected to see conservatives tighten their grip on parliament.

The vote had been due to end at 1430 GMT, but it was extended at least five times and finally closed at 2030 GMT to allow a maximum number of people to cast their ballots.



Tortured Iranian activist advised by HRW researcher to stay quiet: Family member

21 February 2020

An Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW) advised families of imprisoned Iranian environmental activists against publicizing the torture they were subjected to in prison, according to a family member of one of the imprisoned activists.

Iran's judiciary sentenced eight environmental activists on Tuesday for a total of 58 years for acting against national security and collaborating with the US. Iranian lawmakers and the intelligence ministry have said there is no grounds for the arrests.

Tara Sepehri Far, an Iran researcher at HRW, “encouraged” families of the imprisoned environmentalists to “stay quiet” and not publicize the severe torture the activists were enduring in prison, tweeted Katayoun Rajabi, sister of Sam Rajabi, one of the imprisoned environmentalists.

Human Rights Watch said they were unable to comment on this issue at the time, and the researcher was not immediately available for comment.

Sepehri Far was aware the activists were subjected to torture for almost one year but did not report on it, according to Iranian journalist Niki Mahjoub.

Mahjoub also tweeted “Unfortunately, security forces severely pressured the families to remain silent, and a number of individuals claiming human rights activism unwillingly joined security forces in encouraging silence for political purposes.”

Kavous Seyed Emami, an Iranian-Canadian environmental activist and university professor who was arrested at the same time as the other activists in February 2018 by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), died under suspicious circumstances in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison two days after being arrested.

BBC Persian published a detailed report on Tuesday recounting the torture that Niloufar Bayani, one of the eight imprisoned environmentalists, had endured over the past two years.

The report, based on documents and letters Bayani managed to send out of Evin prison say she was subjected to physical and psychological torture by her interrogators to extract forced confessions from her.

Bayani’s interrogators forced her to imitate animal sounds and threatened to give her a paralyzing injection and rape, according to the report.

She was interrogated for at least 1,200 hours, the report added.

The interrogators also showed Bayani an image of Seyed Emami’s dead body and warned her that if she didn’t confess, she, her colleagues, and her family members will suffer the same fate as Seyed Emami.

The BBC report sparked a public outcry on social media.

“HRW researcher Sepehri Far had been aware of part of the abuse suffered by Bayani for a while, yet she did not report on it or encourage the Bayani family to publicize it,” Iranian journalist Shahed Alavi tweeted.

Niloufar Bayani, Hooman Jowkar, Sepideh Kashani, Taher Ghadirian, Sam Rajabi, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh and Morad Tahbaz are the environmentalists currently in prison in Iran. They are all members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a private non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of Iranian wildlife.

Full report at:



US sanctions five Iranian officials for obstructing ‘free and fair’ elections

20 February 2020

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned on Thursday five Iranian members of the Guardian Council, which oversees the parliamentary elections in the country, accusing them of abusing their power of vetting candidates’ eligibility to run and depriving the Iranian nation of a “free and fair” elections.

“The Trump Administration will not tolerate the manipulation of elections to favor the regime’s malign agenda, and this action exposes those senior regime officials responsible for preventing the Iranian people from freely choosing their leaders,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday.

The Treasury sanctioned Ahmad Jannati, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, Siamak Rahpeyk, Mohammad Hasan Sadeghi Moghadam and Mohammad Yazdi.

Full report at:



US fears democracy in Iran, will have to learn to respect it: Foreign Ministry

21 February 2020

Iran's Foreign Ministry says new American sanctions targeting members of Iran's Guardian Council and its Elections Supervision Committee show that the US "fears democracy in Iran", and will have to learn to respect it.

"Those who imposed sanctions, economic terrorism and a campaign of 'maximum pressure' on more than 83 million Iranians - yet failed to achieve their goals - have now turned to targeting Iran's electoral establishments," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Friday.

Noting that Iran has responded with "maximum resistance" against the US, Mousavi said "it is the Americans who will ultimately submit to the will of the Iranian nation and learn to engage with this honorable and enduring nation with respect".

On Thursday, the US imposed sanctions on five senior members of Iran’s Guardian Council, which is responsible for supervising the electoral process in the country, including the parliamentary elections which are held across the country.

US special representative for Iran Brian Hook - who announced the measures Thursday - accused the officials of preventing free and fair elections.

The sanctions have been ridiculed by Secretary of Iran's Guardian Council Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who was among the sanctioned officials.

"We can't go to the US for Christmas celebrations any longer," Ayatollah Jannati said on Friday.

The sanctions come as the US has imposed a robust campaign of sanctions coupled with political and military provocations targeting Tehran ever since withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.

In his Friday remarks, Mousavi said that the Iranian establishment, government and people give "no value" to Washington and its "idiotic sanctions" and will continue onward "with strength".

Full report at:



Yemeni forces hit Aramco oil facilities in western Saudi Arabia: Military spokesman

21 February 2020

Yemeni armed forces have pounded facilities belonging to the state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco as well as strategic targets inside the kingdom’s western province of Madinah, a high-ranking Yemeni military official says.

The spokesman for Yemeni armed forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, said in a press conference in the capital Sana’a that Yemeni missile operators together with air defense units launched an operation, dubbed 'The Third Balance of Deterrence Operation', on Friday and struck energy facilities in addition to sensitive sites in the Saudi port city of Yanbu, situated about 165 kilometers west of Medina.

Saree further noted that Yemeni forces used a squadron of 12 Sammad-3 (Invincible-3) combat drones as well as a volley of winged and long-range ballistic missiles to strike the important targets.

He went on to say that Yemeni armed forces reserve the right to respond to crimes being perpetrated by the Saudi-led military alliance against the Yemeni nation – the last of which took place on February 15 when more than 30 civilians were killed and many more sustained injuries in airstrikes on Yemen’s northern province of Jawf.

Saree also highlighted that the Saudi regime will suffer more painful strikes if it continues its onslaught against Yemen.

Back on September 18, 2019, the Yemeni spokesman lauded the highly disruptive drone attacks on Saudi Aramco petroleum and gas processing plants at Abqaiq and Khurais in Eastern Province as an outstanding example of the military prowess of Yemeni army troops and allied fighters from Popular Committees.

“Our forces have reached a high level of efficiency and ability. They can manufacture various types of unmanned aerial vehicles in record time. The Second Deterrent Balance Operation, which targeted Saudi oil installations, is a perfect example of the capabilities of our forces in terms of planning and implementation,” Saree said at the time.

“We assure the world that the free and steadfast Yemeni nation will not hesitate to respond to the (Saudi-led) coalition of aggression, and will use its legitimate right to target all targets deep inside the countries involved.”

“The destruction of the targeted facilities is far greater than what has been announced. Americans sought to publish fabricated pictures of the operation aftermath as part of attempts to downplay it. The blaze lasted for several hours and authorities in the state of aggression (Saudi Arabia) could not contain it.”

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing back to power the government of former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and crushing the Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past nearly five years.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have purchased billions of dollars' worth of weapons from the United States, France and the United Kingdom in the war on Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition has been widely criticized for the high civilian death toll from its bombing campaign. The alliance has carried out nearly 20,500 air raids in Yemen, according to data collected by the Yemen Data Project.

Full report at:,-sensitive-targets-in-western-Saudi-Arabia:-Spox





Joint Nigerien, French operation kills 120 terrorists in southwest Niger: Official

22 February 2020

A joint operation by Nigerien and French troops in southwest Niger killed 120 “terrorists” and seized bomb-making equipment and vehicles, the country's defense ministry said Friday.

As of February 20 “120 terrorists have been neutralized” in the operation in the vast Tillaberi region near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso, the statement said, adding there had been no losses among Nigerien or French troops.

Niger's defense minister Issoufou Katambe praised the “cooperation... in the battle against terrorism,” according to the statement.

Authorities in the restive Tillaberi region have ramped up security restrictions, closing markets and banning motorbike traffic after attacks by Takfiri terrorist groups over December and January killed 174 Nigerien soldiers.

A state of emergency has been in place in the region for the past two years.

Since 2015, Niger has struggled against a wave of Takfiri terrorist attacks near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso in the west, exacerbating needs in the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions, where nearly 78,000 people have been displaced.

France this year said it would boost its military presence in the troubled West African region by deploying 600 fresh troops to its 4,500-strong operation.



South Sudan rebel leader to be appointed vice president

21 February 2020

South Sudan President Salva Kiir will on Friday formally appoint rebel leader Riek Machar as vice president, ahead of a swearing-in ceremony on Saturday, the information minister says.

Kiir had initially said his longtime rival would be sworn-in on Friday, after the two men finally agreed to form a long-delayed unity government — a crucial step toward ending more than six years of war.

However, Information Minister Michael Makuei told AFP that the oath had been pushed back to Saturday.

"Today (Friday) his excellency the president will issue a presidential decree for the appointment of the vice presidents and the dissolution of all institutions at national and state levels," he said.

Machar is to be the first of five vice-presidents in a bloated cabinet to accommodate various warring parties.

But aside from Machar, consensus has only been reached on three other deputies.

"The vice presidents will take oath tomorrow and thereafter we will continue to process the appointments of the cabinet and appointment of the governors of the 10 states and three chief administrators of the three administrative areas," said Makuei.

Saturday is the third deadline for the formation of the unity government that was agreed upon in a September 2018 peace deal, but pushed back as crucial issues had yet to be dealt with. Key among these were the delineation of state boundaries, formation of a unified national army, and security arrangements for Machar, who has been living in exile since 2016.

A last-minute deal on the number of states was achieved, although little progress has been made on the other issues.

The leaders have come under increased pressure in recent weeks both from regional heads of state and main donor the United States to form the government.

A compromise by Kiir to cut to 10 the number of states, which he increased unilaterally to 32 after independence, was seen as key in moving toward the creation of the government.

However, the opposition remains reticent about an additional three "administrative areas" pushed through by Kiir.

Machar spokesman Manawa Peter Gatkuoth said the two men would "continue to solve the problem" after the government is formed.

"This is a major step forward, if indeed they form the government as they say," Alan Boswell, a South Sudan expert with the International Crisis Group (ICG), told AFP.

"Kiir's compromise on the states issue paved the way for the two sides to finally move forward, even if the parties have much more to work through in the coming weeks, months, and years."

Full report at:



Turkey confirms presence of allied Syria mercenaries in Libya

21 February 2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed for the first time the presence of pro-Turkish Syrian militants in Libya.

“Turkey is there with a training force. There are also people from the Syrian National Army,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul on Friday, referring to a group of anti-Damascus militants previously known as the so-called Free Syrian Army.

Libya’s internationally recognized government, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has previously sought Turkey’s support against rebels under the command of Khalifa Haftar, who receive support from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Haftar’s rebels have been fighting to seize the Libyan capital.

Since 2014, Libya has been divided between the Tripoli-based government and a camp in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar’s rebels.

Peace talks to end the fighting in Libya have failed. A shaky ceasefire has been agreed but has been routinely violated.

Earlier on Friday, Haftar said he would be ready for a ceasefire on the condition that Turkish forces leave Libya and Ankara stops providing the government with weapons. He called for “the withdrawal of Syrian and Turkish mercenaries, an end to Turkish arms supplies to Tripoli, and the liquidation of terrorist groups” in the capital.

The Turkish president hit out at Haftar and repeated allegations that Russia had dispatched 2,500 mercenaries from the Wagner, a private security company. Moscow denies the allegation.

Erdogan said Haftar was backed by “nearly 15,000 terrorists.” He also referred to mercenaries from Sudan, although a United Nations (UN) panel last month refuted the presence of Sudanese paramilitaries, saying there was no “credible evidence” on the issue.

Full report at:



Sudan to investigate violence against protesters in capital

22 February 2020

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Saturday ordered an investigation into a violent crackdown by security forces on protesters in Khartoum.

Hamdok said in a televised speech: “I decided to form an investigative committee in the events that occurred on February 20-21.”

He said Attorney General Taj-Elsir Ali would head the committee and a final report would be issued within seven days.

On Thursday, Sudanese security forces used teargas and batons to disperse thousands of protesters. They were demanding the reinstatement of army officers dismissed for refusing to crack down on demonstrations against former President Omar al-Bashir, witnesses said.

Full report at:



Jordanians voice anger at Mideast peace plan

February 22, 2020

AMMAN: Widespread protests against the US Mideast peace plan continued for a fifth Friday in Jordan with Palestinians, Jordanians and other nationals massing on Jordan’s streets to voice their support for Palestine.

Hundreds of protesters responded to a call to defeat the so-called “deal of the century” by gathering outside the US Embassy in Amman and chanting slogans, such as “Jerusalem is a red line; the deal of the century will disappear forever; Amman is the twin city of Jerusalem; and we will not mortgage ourselves to the occupation and become partners in the crime.”

Murad Adaileh, secretary-general of the Islamic Action Front, told Arab News that Jordanians traveled from around the country to join protests against US President Donald Trump’s peace deal.

“This plan and those who adopted it are against Jordan and its people. This morning Jordanians came out in their thousands for the dawn prayers to express their commitment not to give up on our holy places,” he said.

In Palestine, thousands gathered at Al-Aqsa Mosque during pre-dawn prayers to stage a seventh Friday of demonstrations.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, a member of the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem, said that protests “cemented the Palestinian identity and ensured the transfer of the sacred trust to the new generation.”

“Fear has been defeated and people are willing to bear the responsibility and result of the protests,” he added.

“These morning prayers in Naser Mosque in Nablus, the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron and in Jenin, Qalqilya and other locations show the unity of the people and their communal message of steadfastness and resistance with dignity,” he told Arab News.

In Gaza, protests were held after Friday prayers in many locations.

Talal Abu Tharifeh, a leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said the protests highlighted Palestinian unity. “These protests in which Islamic and national forces are combined reflect the unity of the people in rejecting the Trump-Netanyahu vision.”

Firas Abadi, head of the Shury Party, said that the message to the US and Israel is that “this plan will not pass.”

“The public is aware and willing to sacrifice for the Palestinian cause.”

In the northern Jordanian city of Irbid hundreds protested after the Friday prayer by chanting “This is a treasonous and shameful plan and that some countries have conspired against Jordan and Palestine,” he added.

In Jordan’s Zarqa city, protesters came out in large numbers to voice their anger at a Jordanian gas deal with Israel.

“From Zarqa, we are all willing to sacrifice for Al-Aqsa,” they chanted.

Full report at:



Sudan PM forms group to probe protest violence

Mohammed Amin



The Sudanese Transitional Government a committee to find perpetrators of violence used against pro-democracy protesters, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok said Saturday.

Hamdok said the committee led by the general prosecutor Taj Elsir Alhibir will submit its result in one week.

"You may all seen the regretted incidents that taken place last Thursday, when massive violence was used against the protesters and that is unacceptable by strongest terms, specially after the revolution” he said in a televised speech.

“The Ministry of Health said at least 53 civilians were injured Thursday in clashes between police and protesters.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said some of the injuries were caused by live ammunition and some victims are in serious condition.

Police, however, have denied using bullets in dispersing the protests.

Full report at:



Al Shabaab Suspects Torch Security Officer's House

21 February 2020

Suspected al Shabaab militants attacked Sangailu area in Garissa County and torched a police reservist's home as reported by Daily Nation on Friday, February 21.

The attack was confirmed by Regional Commissioner Nick Ndalana. The attack is reported to have happened at around 9 p.m on the night of Thursday, February 20.

"They managed to torch down one police reservist house but the attackers were repulsed immediately," Ndalana stated.

However, no casualties have been reported.

Ndalani had earlier informed that the militants had narrowed down on National Police Reservists (NPRs), believing that they were feeding information on their whereabouts to security agencies.

The attack on the police reservist is the fourth of its kind in the month of February alone.

On February 13, a group of suspected Al Shabaab militants burnt down shops and three homes owned by NPR officers in Sangailu.

Police reports indicated that the militia kidnapped a father and his son, and coerced them into identifying the home of reservists in the area. They later released the man identified as 80-year-old Mohammed Bashir Mursal, but his son is still missing.

Early February, another 80-year-old man was brutally murdered by the militia. He was killed as punishment to his son who is an NPR.

The attack comes a day after an armed Al-Shabaab suspect surrendered to security agencies in Mandera South. Salat Hajir Jimale, 23, surrendered at Elwak Police Station in Mandera South on Thursday, February 20.

Full report at:



Arab World


US Secretary of State Pompeo meets Oman’s new leader Sultan Haitham bin Tariq

21 February 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Oman’s new leader Sultan Haitham bin Tariq in Muscat on Friday, Omani state media said, during the top American diplomat’s final stop in a tour of African and Gulf states.

Pompeo is the first high-ranking US official to meet the leader since he succeeded previous sultan Qaboos, who died on January 10 at the age of 79.

Sultan Haitham discussed the “close ties” between Oman and the United States with Pompeo, the official Oman News Agency said.

Experts say Oman’s new ruler, aged 65, is likely to continue the foreign policies of his cousin’s five-decade reign.

An ally to Western countries including the United States, Qaboos cultivated Oman’s status as a neutral actor, maintaining warm ties with Washington’s arch-rival Iran.

Pompeo arrived in Oman from Riyadh, where he reassured close Western ally Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that “the United States stands with Saudi Arabia in the face of... the continuing threat posed by the Iranian regime.”

Last year the United States boosted its military presence in Saudi Arabia following a series of attacks in the Gulf that Washington and Riyadh blamed on Iran.



Saudi FM condemns terrorist attack which killed nine in Germany’s Hanau

21 February 2020

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan condemned on Friday the terrorist attack which killed nine people in the German town of Hanau in a press conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas.

A suspected right-wing extremist shot nine people dead in two shisha bars in an overnight rampage through a German city before, police believe, returning home and killing himself.

Many of the victims of the shooting in the German town of Hanau had an immigrant background, German magazine Focus said based on a report from news agency dpa that cited security sources.

German interior minister Horst Seehofer said Friday that the police presence would be increased across the country to counter the “very high” security threat from the far-right.

Full report at:



Former police officer kills colonel, injures comrades in western Saudi Arabia: Report

21 February 2020

A former police officer in Saudi Arabia’s western region of Medina has reportedly opened fire on his colleagues, killing a colonel and injuring several other policemen before being arrested and taken into custody.

Local sources, requesting not to be named, told Arabic-language al-Mards online newspaper that the ex-policeman, whose identity was not immediately known, fired shots from the window of his house in Taibah neighborhood of al-Duwaimah district on Friday, triggering a fierce exchange of gun fire.

The sources added that the cross fire resulted in the death of Colonel Abdullah bin Ahmed al-Ghamedi and the injury of an unspecified number of police officers.

Back on July 4, 2017, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister said a police officer had been killed and three others injured in an attack in the kingdom’s oil-rich and Shia-populated Qatif region in Eastern Province.

The ministry said in a statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) at the time, that Vice Sergeant Adel Faleh al-Otaibi lost his life and three of his security companions sustained injuries, when their patrol vehicle was hit by “an explosive projectile” in al-Mosara, the old quarter of the restive town of Awamiyah.

The ministry’s spokesman also said security authorities had begun an investigation into the “terrorist crime”, but gave no further details regarding the incident.

On June 11 that year, a senior Saudi policeman was killed and two members of the security forces were injured when an explosive device blew up beside their patrol vehicle in the same area, located some 390 kilometers (242 miles) northeast of the capital Riyadh.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with government forces increasing security measures across the province.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

Full report at:



Turkey won’t abandon observation points in Syria

21 February 2020

Rahshan Saglam

Turkey said that it will not leave observation points in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province despite recent events asserting that it will target any entity that threatens Turkish soldiers and positions there.

Speaking at a UN Security Council session, Turkey’s envoy to the UN Feridun Sinirlioglu denounced the Syrian army attacks on Turkish soldiers and stressed that the attacks will be met with similar actions from now on.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the military operation in Idlib is a matter of time. Erdogan also warned that Ankara will push the Syrian army and stop it from making advances.

Turkey says its forces in Idlib are mandated to stabilize the situation and preserve de-escalation, assuring that Ankara’s military presence is in line with the Sochi memorandum, based on which, Turkey is a guarantor of a ceasefire in Idlib. This is while Russia accuses Turkey of breaching the 2018 ceasefire agreement.

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Lebanon confirms first case of coronavirus, 2 more suspected

February 21, 2020

BEIRUT: Lebanon confirmed its first coronavirus case on Friday and said it was monitoring two other potential cases after a 45-year-old woman arriving from Iran on Thursday tested positive, Health Minister Hamad Hassan said.

Addressing a news conference, Hassan said the patient was taken directly to isolation from a plane arriving from the Iranian city of Qom on Thursday after exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

The patient is being quarantined at Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut and two other individuals from the Qom flight and suspected of carrying the virus would be transferred to the hospital for quarantine as well, Hassan said.

The plane, a Mahan Air flight that arrived around 7.30pm on Thursday, was carrying 125 passengers, a source at Rafic International Airport said.

A coronavirus outbreak in Iran, which has so far seen four people die, began in the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Qom, authorities in Iran said.

An Iranian health ministry official said the likely source was Chinese workers in Qom who had recently travelled to China, where the epidemic originated.

More than 2,100 people have died in China and new research suggesting the virus is more contagious than previously thought has added to the international alarm over the outbreak.

Hassan said all necessary precautions in line with World Health Organisation advice were being followed and offered Lebanese a hotline to call if they experienced any associated symptoms.

“There is no need for excessive panic at this time… The patient is in a good state,” said Hassan.

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Southeast Asia


Muslim lawyers urge judicial review of AG’s decision to drop LTTE cases

22 Feb 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 ― The Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association (PPMM) has urged today for relevant parties to file a review challenging Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas’ decision to drop terrorism charges against 12 Malaysians who purportedly had links to the now-defunct group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The group also called for Thomas to step down from his position, failing so PPMM will call on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to replace him with someone “more capable and transparent”.

“PPMM believes a court action must be done by any stakeholders to challenge the decision of the AG and as a signal to him to not wantonly use his authority without the correct legal considerations,” its president Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar said in a statement.

He said the powers of the AG are not “non-justiciable” and is therefore open to judicial review.

Zainul Rijal also claimed that a series of decision by Thomas have allegedly showed that he cannot hold the responsibility of the AG and the public prosecutor.

However, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government was forced to hold its plan to separate the function of the public prosecutor from the AG post in 2018, as it requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament to amend the Federal Constitution.

Twelve Malaysians, including two DAP state lawmakers, were charged under Section 130 of the Penal Code with supporting terrorism for their alleged links to the LTTE and have been held at the Sungai Buloh Prison since.

They are Melaka state executive councillor G. Saminathan, Negri Sembilan assemblyman P. Gunasekaran, corporate CEO S. Chandru, V. Balamurugan, S. Teran, A. Kalaimughilan, S. Arivainthan, S. Thanagaraj, M. Pumugan, R. Sundram, V. Suresh Kumar and B. Subramaniam.

Yesterday, Thomas said the decision to drop the case was made under his constitutional discretionary powers after finding insufficient evidence to back its prosecution that would lead to a “realistic prospect of conviction”.

Under the law, they could have been sentenced to jail for life (which is a maximum of 30 years), or a fine and can have any of their properties used in the offence confiscated, if trial had continued and they were convicted.

In comparison to PPMM, the Malaysian Bar had yesterday urged the AG to explain why the 12 had been arrested and charged in the first place as they had been detained and refused bail under Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, a preventive security law it described as “draconian” and an “affront to natural justice”.

The Bar added that it was disheartening for Malaysians to know they can be arrested, charged and locked up without bail for a prolonged period on charges when the prosecution’s chances of conviction were thin.



'Festival Kebhinekaan': Religious Tolerance in Millennial-Friendly Packaging


FEBRUARY 20, 2020

Jakarta. Festival Kebhinekaan, an annual festival showing off the diversity of Indonesia, kicks off in Jakarta on Friday and will run until Sunday, presenting a lineup of events designed to promote religious tolerance to millennials.

This is the third edition of the festival and will happen in three locations in Jakarta – Griya Gus Dur, Wisma Rahmat and Taman Suropati. All events are free of charge.

The initiator of the event, Ira Lathief from Khairiyah Indonesia, said, "We want to have light-hearted discussions on religious tolerance that millennials can relate to. We'll have film screenings, discussions with young religious leaders and day tours to important religious sites in Jakarta."

"My day job is working as a tour guide. I've taken many tourists to religious sites," Ira said.

The festival will also feature meditation and yoga sessions, a peace walk and a photo exhibition.

On Friday, there will be the Public Transportation for People With Disabilities tour, where participants ride trains and buses around the capital to observe the facilities, or lack thereof, for disabled people.

The Bhineka tour on Saturday will take a group on a trip from the Immanuel Church to an Indian Hare Krishna Temple. Another one on Sunday will visit a Sikh Temple, a Vihara and other temples in the city.

Discussions during the festival will feature Shiites, Ahmadis, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Catholics, Hindus and Confucians all on the same table.

"We want to provide a space where young people of different religions can interact with each other and get to know one another," Ira said.

Full report at:



Malaysia aims for Olympic gold... with ready-to-eat halal meals

February 21, 2020

Food firms from Muslim-majority country expected to be big winners from rush of Muslim travellers to Japan for Olympics, Paralympic Games

A small factory in Malaysia's capital is preparing thousands of ready-to-eat halal meals, from fried rice to chicken biryani, to be shipped off to Japan for 2020's biggest sporting event.

Food firms from Muslim-majority Malaysia, are expected to be big winners from a rush of Muslim travellers to Japan for the Olympics and Paralympic Games, from late July to September.

"It's a huge platform and opportunity for us," said Ahmad Husaini Hassan, boss of the MyChef company making the meals in Kuala Lumpur.

"Our intention is not to go in and out. We've to go in and stay for the long term," he added.

Malaysia wants to use the Games as a springboard to boost halal exports, which include food and cosmetics, by about a fifth to $12 billion this year. It exported halal goods worth $604 million to Japan in 2018, 90 per cent of it food and food ingredients. Malaysia is the only country to have reached a halal cooperation deal with Tokyo for the Games.

MyChef aims to triple its revenue to 4.5 million ringgit ($1 million) this year. It is in talks with Japanese retailer Aeon to jointly develop a line of ready-to-eat halal meals and snacks, Ahmad Husaini said.

Malaysia's halal trade has lagged behind non-Muslim nations such as the United States, China and Brazil. The value of the global halal market is projected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2023, nearly double 2017 levels, according to Dublin-based data firm Research and Markets.

'Street' food

Malaysia's government has set an ambitious target of selling as much as $300 million worth of halal food and products to Muslims and non-Muslims around the Games.

It has secured space on the sidelines to host a Malaysia Street 2020 promotion, which will offer opportunities to sell food and for firms to meet Japanese buyers and distributors.

"We have a lot to learn from Malaysian authorities and in return, Malaysian companies have more chances to expand their business," said Hideto Nakajima, economic counsellor at the Japanese embassy in Malaysia.

The number of tourists to Japan from Southeast Asia, the region with the world's biggest Muslim population, has jumped in recent years thanks to relaxed visa rules. As Japan looks to draw a record 40 million tourists this year, Malaysia estimates eight million of them will be Muslim.

For HQC Commerce, among four firms chosen to lead Malaysia's halal push in Japan, the Olympics is a "stepping stone" for bigger things.

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Report: Suhakam inquiry told religious authorities had investigated missing activist Joshua Hilmy

18 Feb 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) heard during its inquiry into the disappearance of activists Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth Hilmy that the former was the subject of an investigation by a religious authority.

According to the Malaysiakini news portal, an acquaintance of Joshua named Peter Pormannan testified that the missing activist previously informed him that he was wanted by an unnamed religious authority.

“Two years after I met Joshua, he told me that the religious authorities were looking for him.

“He said that it was related to what he believes in (faith) and about his life experience,” the 58-year-old insurance agent was quoted as saying in the Malaysiakini report.

However, he clarified that Joshua did not say he was being threatened and was simply being investigated.

He recounted that Joshua had told him he was being investigated as he wanted to alter the religious status on his MyKad from Muslim to Christian.

Joshua, a Malay Muslim who converted to Christianity, and Ruth, were last seen on November 30, 2016 and subsequently reported missing on March 6 the following year.

Previously, Suhakam also conducted an inquiry into the abductions of two other activists —

Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat — and concluded that they were the victims of “enforced disappearance”.

Suhakam concluded in its inquiry then that the police’s Special Branch was involved, based on witness testimony as well as footage of Koh’s abduction that was caught by a nearby surveillance camera.

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Respect PH consensus on transition, says Anwar after group vows street protests

Robin Augustin

February 22, 2020

BANGI: PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has called on all parties, including PKR members, to respect the consensus achieved by Pakatan Harapan on the transfer of power from Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to him.

“PKR, and other friends too, should respect the decision.

“I can instruct the party but I can only urge the others to respect the decision because our focus should be on the economy and the impact of the coronavirus.”

He said he would not allow PKR leaders to criticise the decision made by PH.

Earlier today, pro-Anwar group Otai Reformis said they would take to the streets to demand that Mahathir hand over power to the PKR president.

Otai Reformis secretary Abdul Razak Ismail told FMT they wanted Mahathir to resign and hand over power to Anwar in May and not after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in November, as stated by Mahathir.

Last night, the ruling coalition’s top leaders agreed not to fix a specific date for the handover of power, under a deal struck by Pakatan Harapan prior to the 14th general election.

“The agreement is that it is up to me when to resign,” Mahathir said after last night’s meeting.

Anwar had described the discussions as tense, though he said this was normal in a democracy.

“What is important is that no one disputed the transition,” he said after attending the Himpunan 6 Dekad Keluarga Besar Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia today.

Anwar also downplayed the reported exit of some 3,000 Tanjung Manis PKR members from the party in Sarawak over their dissatisfaction with the party’s central leadership.

“We don’t have 3,000 members there. It is just the propaganda of the other group,” he said, without naming anyone and added PKR still had 1.1 million members.

On the issue of punishments that were deemed excessive for terrorism-related offences, Anwar said there were cases which could be reviewed.

He said there were Islamic State detainees whose alleged links to the terrorist group could not be confirmed.

Anwar said while he could not compromise with terrorism, he had met people in Sungai Buloh, where he was imprisoned, who were jailed for minor offences like owning shirts linked to terrorist groups.

“I urge that this matter be reviewed and the same consideration be given as these Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) detainees.”

Yesterday, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas dropped the charges against 12 individuals accused of having links with the now-defunct group LTTE as there was “no realistic prospect” for the conviction of the 12 under any of the 34 charges brought against them. “Millions of people across the globe admire Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung or Che Guevara, and the like.

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