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Islamic World News ( 19 Feb 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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India: SIMI-Backed Party Alarms NIA

New Age Islam News Bureau

19 Feb 2012

 Faith Ends at Temple Door: UK Rights Chief

 Outrage at UN as 56 Islamic States Slam Gays

 NYPD monitored Muslim students all over Northeast

 The deportation of Hamza Kashgari: A sad day to be Malaysians and Muslims

 Pakistan torture case shows how courts are working to claim power

 Palestinian’s Trial Shines Light on Military Justice

 Israel will make own decision on Iran: army chief

 Al-Qaida links with Southeast Asia fraying

 India's 3.5 crore Tehran lobby

 Suicide attacks hit Baghdad and Baquba

 Taliban commander held in Pakistan

 Iran 'halts oil sales to France and Britain'

 Pakistan's Punjab CM urges Ulema to work for tolerance in society

 Obama to Ali: 'You shocked the world'

 'CIA shares Intel information on Delhi blast'

 Pakistan Bar Council condemns abductions by spy agencies

 New FEMA rules may allow Pakistani investment in India

 Pakistan braces for diplomatic offensive to counter US Congress moving a resolution on Balochistan

  ‘Denmark wants stronger ties with Pakistan’

 Pakistan and Qatar clinch deal to import 500mcfeet LPG daily

 Pakistan’s failure in science

 Iran poised for big nuke jump: Report

 Syria 'disintegrating under crippling sanctions'

 First Islamic Museum in Australia inaugurated

 An insight into the Islamic craft

 Islam Reaches Out Through Telephone

 Election in U P an Indian States: Farangi Mahal issues fatwa to not vote BSP

Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: UK Rights Chief



India: SIMI-Backed Party Alarms NIA

19 FEBRUARY 2012

SIMI-backed Popular Front of India is fast becoming a major internal security headache for the Government. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is tracking the outfit, has specific information on its efforts to mobilise Muslims for seeking a “state within state” to address the community’s woes.

What has alarmed Government is the outfit’s rapid growth among Muslims and Dalits and its alliances with certain regional parties. “This could make it the biggest internal security threat by 2014 parliamentary polls if its growth is unchecked,” top NIA sources said.

The radical outfit recently shifted its headquarters from Kerala to Delhi. It has held a secret meeting recently “in a bid to garner support for its separate Muslim state agenda”.

The demand for a separate state for the community, sources said, has prompted rattled agencies to step up surveillance on the outfit’s leaders. They did not elaborate on the venue of the secret meet or the leaders who attended it. They said specifics could endanger the moles planted in the outfit’s ranks.

The possibility of PFI’s role in the Israeli diplomat terror attack case was also being looked into. Sources said NIA teams had also fanned out to Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Bhatkal and Udupi districts of Karnataka to generate leads, if any, in this regard. These two districts are considered to be hotbeds of SIMI/Indian Mujahideen radicals.

Though NIA has not been formally entrusted with the Israel diplomat terror attack case, the agency is simultaneously carrying out investigations so that it has all the evidence and leads just in case the agency is handed over the probe into the incident at a later stage.

More so, since at the National General Assembly (NGA) of PFI held between January 21 and 22 this year, the outfit had demanded scrapping all ties, including international coordination with Israel. It claimed, “It is after establishing diplomatic ties with Israel that our country has witnessed a series of mysterious terror attacks. The recent decision to open an Israeli consulate in Bangalore is another sign of growing impact of the Zionist state in our policy making.”

The NGA passed a resolution against Indo-Israel friendship claiming the same to be “a very alarming sign for the future of the country (India)”.

Using vitriolic language against Israel, a Press release issued by the outfit said, “Israel, the number one terrorist state in the world, which openly exhibits and justifies violence against Palestinians for the past six decades, is receiving red-carpet welcome in each front by the UPA Government.”

As things stand, PFI’s political ambitions too are on display. It has fielded candidates in the UP elections under the banner of Social Democratic Party of India, NIA sources said.

“The outfit overtly claims to work for empowering Muslims and other marginalized communities like the Dalits across the country but has linkages with banned Students Islamic Movement of India. It has also gained expertise in fabrication of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and organising secret camps for imparting training to its cadres in the use of sharp-edged weapons,” the sources maintained.

“Top IB officials and Kerala police officers have also raised alarm over the activities of the suspect terror group but the Centre is yet to initiate measures to ban the outfit so that its vitriolic campaign and subversive agenda against the state is arrested in time,” NIA officials pointed out.

On Batla House encounter in which young but educated terrorists were liquidated in a police encounter, the outfit said, “The Congress party itself seems to be divided on the issue of handing over the Batla House encounter case to the CBI. The Batla House fake encounter case was a horrible instance where innocent Muslim youths were killed in cold blood by the Delhi Police.”

“It (Batla House encounter) was not just an encounter but also a serious attempt of stereotyping Muslims especially the students. None of the political parties seem to be serious in providing justice to the victims and are only competing with each other in lip service. The NGA demanded the Central Government to take immediate steps for handing over the case to CBI and punish the culprits involved in this inhuman act,” the outfit said in a statement.

The NIA is also probing the chopping off of hands of a Kerala-based Christian professor by PFI cadres in 2010 for alleged blasphemy to Islam.



Faith Ends at Temple Door: UK Rights Chief

CAIRO, 18 February 2012 – The UK human rights chief is facing a storm of criticism following his comments that that faith rules should end at the door of the temple and if Christian groups seek exemptions from equality laws then Muslims should be allowed Shari’ah application in parts of Britain.  

"Trevor Phillips in the past has argued for respect for Christian conscience,” Rev Nazir-Ali told the Daily Mail on Friday, February 17.

“I am very surprised that here he seems to be saying there should be a totalitarian kind of view in which a believer's conscience should not be respected."

Phillips, chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said religious rules should end 'at the door of the temple' and give way to the 'public law' laid down by Parliament.

He said Catholic adoption agencies should drop their opposition to accepting gay couples – even if it conflicts with their religious beliefs – because they were providing a public service.

"The law stops at the door of the temple as far as I'm concerned,” Philips said at a debate in London on diverse societies.

"Once you start to provide public services that have to be run under public rules, for example child protection, then you has to go with public law.”

Christian adoption agencies and hotel owners have fought legal battles against rules requiring them to treat gay and straight people equally.

Catholic adoption agencies have objected to legislation which requires them not to discriminate between gay and straight couples when considering applications.

Phillips backed the new laws, which led to the closure of all Catholic adoption agencies in England, adding those who provide a public service must abide by the public law.

"Institutions have to make a decision whether they want to do that or they don't want to do that, but you can't say 'because we decide we're different then we need a different set of laws'," he said.

"To me there's nothing different in principle with a Catholic adoption agency, or indeed Methodist adoption agency, saying the rules in our community are different and therefore the law shouldn't apply to us.

"Why not then say Shari’ah can be apply to different parts of the country? It doesn't work."

In Islam, Shari`ah governs all issues in Muslims’ lives from daily prayers to fasting and from, marriage and inheritance to financial disputes.

The Islamic rulings, however, do not apply on non-Muslims, even if in a dispute with non-Muslims.

Sharia councils have been working in the UK for several decades with the key areas being family law, finance and business - although they have no legal powers to impose penalties.

Religion Role

Phillips’ comments were also criticized by religious figures in UK, calling his comparison "strange" and ridiculous".

“It is a strange comparison,” Dr Philip Giddings, chairman of the Church of England’s public affairs council, said, The Daily Telegraph reported on Friday.

Yet, Phillips dismissed the criticism, insisting his comments should not be seen as controversial.

“You would have to really work hard to make what I said 'inflammatory',” he said.

The comments made by the UK human rights chief threatened to add to controversy over the role of religion in Britain.

His comments came a few days after a High Court ruling outlawed formal acts of prayers before council meetings last week.

The ruling immediately pitted the Government against the courts as ministers urged councils to defy the ban.

Bideford council in Devon decided last night to appeal against the decision.

Last June 2011, Philips said that Muslims are better integrating into the British modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural community than many Christians.

Philips praised Muslim integration in the modern, multi-cultural British society, accusing Christians, particularly evangelicals, of being more militant than Muslims in complaining about discrimination.

He also warned that people of faith in general were “under siege” from atheists.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2 million who have taken full brunt of anti-terror laws since the 7/7 attacks.



Outrage at UN as 56 Islamic States Slam Gays

for "Abnormal Sexual Behaviour,"

Warning UN to Ignore Anti-Gay Violence

Rights group urges Hillary Clinton to speak out


Tel: +41 22 734 1472

GENEVA, Feb. 17 – A Pakistani spokesman for the UN's Islamic bloc sparked outrage today after telling the UN's top rights body that its 56 member states would ignore a scheduled UN rights panel on anti-gay violence, saying they were “disturbed" at the "attempted focus on certain persons" on the grounds of their "abnormal sexual behaviour,” which "have nothing to do with fundamental human rights."

The Islamic announcement, obtained by the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch and posted on its website, is provoking sharp reactions from human rights activists.

UN Watch director Hillel Neuer today called on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to condemn the "scandalous assault on the right of gays not to be put to death in countries like Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Human rights are universal and there is no religious exemption for barbaric violence against innocent human beings anywhere." Neuer lauded Clinton for her previous leadership on this issue at the UN.

Diplomatic sources have also reported to UN Watch that the Islamic states are considering a walk-out during the March 7th panel.

The letter by Pakistan's Geneva envoy Zamir Akram on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—comprised of 56 Islamic UN member states and the Palestinian Authority—was sent on Valentine's Day to UN Human Rights Council president Laura Dupuy Lasserre and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.  Click here for letter.

The OIC declared its unequivocal opposition to the upcoming March 7th panel discussion concerning a new UN report on discriminatory laws and practices and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The OIC will “will not accept its considerations and recommendations.”

The unprecedented panel and report were mandated by the council's historic June 2011 resolution, which passed by a slim majority of 23 to 19, with 3 abstentions.

The OIC letter said the panel on anti-gay violence addresses "controversial notions” that have “no legal foundation in any international human rights instrument," “misinterpreting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

The OIC warned the debate would “seriously jeopardize the entire international human rights framework," and “shift the focus from the real issues that deserve the attention of the Council.”

“The Panel will discuss issues that relate to personal behavior and preferences, and have nothing to do with fundamental human rights,” said the OIC.

To justify its position, the OIC cited UN language, seemingly giving exemptions to universal rights laws, that “historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind. From this perspective, the issue of sexual orientation is unacceptable to the OIC.”

The OIC letter comes on the heels of Wednesday's Libyan speech to the UN this week accusing gays of threatening the continuation of the human race.



NYPD monitored Muslim students all over Northeast


The Associated Press

NEW YORK, February 19, 2012 — The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students far more broadly than previously known, at schools far beyond the city limits, including the Ivy League colleges of Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, The Associated Press have learned.

Police talked with local authorities about professors 300 miles away in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a white-water rafting trip, where he recorded students' names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.

Detectives trawled Muslim student websites every day and, although professors and students had not been accused of any wrongdoing, their names were recorded in reports prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Asked about the monitoring, police spokesman Paul Browne provided a list of 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the United States and abroad who had once been members of Muslim student associations, which the NYPD referred to as MSAs. Jesse Morton, who this month pleaded guilty to posting online threats against the creators of "South Park," had once tried to recruit followers at Stony Brook University on Long Island, Browne said.

"As a result, the NYPD deemed it prudent to get a better handle on what was occurring at MSAs," Browne said in an email. He said police monitored student websites and collected publicly available information, but did so only between 2006 and 2007.

"I see a violation of civil rights here," said Tanweer Haq, chaplain of the Muslim Student Association at Syracuse. "Nobody wants to be on the list of the FBI or the NYPD or whatever. Muslim students want to have their own lives, their own privacy and enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that everybody else has."

In recent months, the AP has revealed secret programs the NYPD, built with help from the CIA, to monitor Muslims at the places where they eat, shop and worship. The AP also published details about how police placed undercover officers at Muslim student associations in colleges within the city limits; this revelation has outraged faculty and student groups.

Though the NYPD says it follows the same rules as the FBI, some of the NYPD's activities go beyond what the FBI is allowed to do.

Kelly and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg repeatedly have said that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity.

But the latest documents mention no wrongdoing by any students.

In one report, an undercover officer describes accompanying 18 Muslim students from the City College of New York on a white-water rafting trip in upstate New York on April 21, 2008. The officer noted the names of attendees who were officers of the Muslim Student Association.

"In addition to the regularly scheduled events (Rafting), the group prayed at least four times a day, and much of the conversation was spent discussing Islam and was religious in nature," the report says.

Praying five times a day is one of the core traditions of Islam.

Jawwad Rasul, one of the students on the trip, said he was stunned that his name was included in the police report.

"It forces me to look around wherever I am now," Rasul said.

But another student, Ali Ahmed, whom the NYPD said appeared to be in charge of the trip, said he understood the police department's concern.

"I can't blame them for doing their job," Ahmed said. "There's lots of Muslims doing some bad things and it gives a bad name to all of us, so they have to take their due diligence."

City College criticized the surveillance and said it was unaware the NYPD was watching students.

"The City College of New York does not accept or condone any investigation of any student organization based on the political or religious content of its ideas," the college said in a written statement. "Absent specific evidence linking a member of the City College community to criminal activity, we do not condone this kind of investigation."

Browne said undercover officers go wherever people they're investigating go. There is no indication that, in the nearly four years since the report, the NYPD brought charges connecting City College students to terrorism.

Student groups were of particular interest to the NYPD because they attract young Muslim men, a demographic that terrorist groups frequently draw from. Police worried about which Muslim scholars were influencing these students and feared that extracurricular activities such as paintball outings could be used as terrorist training.

The AP first reported in October that the NYPD had placed informants or undercover officers in the Muslim Student Associations at City College, Brooklyn College, Baruch College, Hunter College, City College of New York, Queens College, La Guardia Community College and St. John's University. All of those colleges are within the New York City limits.

A person familiar with the program, who like others insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it, said the NYPD also had a student informant at Syracuse.

Police also were interested in the Muslim student group at Rutgers, in New Brunswick, N.J. In 2009, undercover NYPD officers had a safe house in an apartment not far from campus. The operation was blown when the building superintendent stumbled upon the safe house and, thinking it was some sort of a terrorist cell, called 911.

The FBI responded and determined that monitoring Rutgers students was one of the operation's objectives, current and former federal officials said.

The Rutgers police chief at the time, Rhonda Harris, would not discuss the fallout. In a written statement, university spokesman E.J. Miranda said: "The university was not aware of this at the time and we have nothing to add on this matter."

Another NYPD intelligence report from Jan. 2, 2009, described a trip by three NYPD officers to Buffalo, where they met with a high-ranking member of the Erie County Sheriff's Department and agreed "to develop assets jointly in the Buffalo area, to act as listening posts within the ethnic Somalian community."

The sheriff's department official noted "that there are some Somali Professors and students at SUNY-Buffalo and it would be worthwhile to further analyze that population," the report says.

Browne said the NYPD did not follow that recommendation. A spokesman for the university, John DellaContrada, said the NYPD never contacted the administration. Sheriff's Departments spokeswoman Mary Murray could not immediately confirm the meeting or say whether the proposal went any further.

Another report, entitled "Weekly MSA Report" and dated Nov. 22, 2006, explained that officers from the NYPD's Cyber Intelligence unit visited the websites, blogs and forums of Muslim student associations as a "daily routine."

The universities included Yale; Columbia; the University of Pennsylvania; Syracuse; New York University; Clarkson University; the Newark and New Brunswick campuses of Rutgers; and the State University of New York campuses in Buffalo, Albany, Stony Brook and Potsdam, N.Y.; Queens College, Baruch College, Brooklyn College and La Guardia Community College.

"Students who advertised events or sent emails about regular events should not be worried about a 'terrorism file' being kept on them. NYPD only investigated persons who we had reasonable suspicion to believe might be involved in unlawful activities," Browne said.

But such assurances seem to offer little comfort to some former students.

One University at Buffalo student, Adeela Khan, did end up in a police report after receiving an email on Nov. 9, 2006, announcing an upcoming Islamic conference in Toronto. The email said "highly respected scholars" would be attending, but did not say who or give any details of the program. Khan says she clicked "forward," sent it to a Yahoo chat group of fellow Muslims and promptly forgot about it.

"A couple people had gone the year prior and they said they had a really nice time, so I was just passing the information on forward. That's really all it was," said Khan, who has since graduated.

Khan was a board member of the Muslim Student Association at the University at Buffalo at the time. She says she never went to the conference, was not affiliated with it and had no idea who was speaking at it.

But officer Mahmood Ahmad of the NYPD's Cyber Intelligence Unit took notice and listed Khan in his weekly report for Kelly. The officer began researching the Toronto conference and found that one of the speakers, Tariq Ramadan, had his U.S. visa revoked in 2004. The U.S. government said it was because Ramadan had given money to a Palestinian group. It reinstated his visa in 2010.

The officer's report notes three other speakers. One, Siraj Wahaj, is a prominent but controversial New York imam who has attracted the attention of authorities for years. Prosecutors included his name on a 3 ½-page list of people they said "may be alleged as co-conspirators" in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, though he was never charged.

The other two are Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir, two of the nation's most prominent Muslim scholars. Both have lectured at top universities in the U.S.. Yusuf met with President George W. Bush at the White House following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The post about the academic event was enough to get Khan's name mentioned in the weekly MSA report, which was stamped "SECRET" in red letters and sent to Kelly's office.

There is no indication that the investigation went any further, or that Khan was ever implicated in anything. But she worries about being associated with the police report.

"It's just a waste of resources, if you ask me," she said. "I understand why they're doing it, but it's just kind of like a Catch-22. I'm not the one doing anything wrong."

The university said it was unaware its students were being monitored.

"UB does not conduct this kind of surveillance and if asked, UB would not voluntarily cooperate with such a request," the university said in a written statement. "As a public university, UB strongly supports the values of freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of religion, and a reasonable expectation of privacy."

The same Nov. 22, 2006, report also noted seminars announced on the websites of the Muslim student associations at New York University and Rutgers University's campus in Newark, N.J.

Browne, the police department spokesman, said intelligence analysts were interested in recruiting by the Islamic Thinkers Society, a New York-based group that wants to see the United States governed under Islamic law. Morton was a leader of the group and went to Stony Brook University's MSA to recruit students that same month.

"One thing that our open source searches were interested in determining at the time was, where do Islamic Thinkers Society go - in terms of MSAs for recruiting," Browne said.

Yale declined comment. The University of Pennsylvania did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Other colleges on the list said they worried the monitoring infringed on students' freedom of speech.

"Like New York City itself, American universities are admired across the globe as places that welcome a diversity of people and viewpoints. So we would obviously be concerned about anything that could chill our essential values of academic freedom or intrude on student privacy," Columbia University spokesman Robert Hornsby said in a written statement.

Danish Munir, an alumnus adviser for the University of Pennsylvania's Muslim Student Association, said he believes police are wasting their time by watching college students.

"What do they expect to find here?" Munir said. "These are all kids coming from rich families or good families, and they're just trying to make a living, have a good career, have a good college experience. It's a futile allocation of resources."



The deportation of Hamza Kashgari: A sad day to be Malaysians and Muslims

By Aliran, 18 February 2012

The deportation of Hamza Kashgari despite a High Court order preventing it is clearly a show of disrespect and contempt of court, says the Islamic Renaissance Front.

The Islamic Renaissance Front strongly condemns the deportation of Hamza Kashgari over his allegedly offensive tweets.

Due to the irresponsible and cowardly actions of the Malaysian government in enabling the deportation, Mr Kashragi now faces the possibility of the death penalty in his home country of Saudi Arabia for the simple act of demanding his right to practise the most basic human rights – freedom of expression and thought.

Since the Syari’ah Law that is practised in Saudi – just like any other Muslim countries that implement Syari’ah – is subject to individual interpretation by the clerics, and Saudi is known to have a very poor record in ensuring fair trials compounded by a history of denial of rights to lawyers and clients; we do not feel that Hamza Kashgari will stand a fair trial.

More importantly, Mr Kashgari has already removed the tweets and apologised for his statements. We believe no further punishment is necessary upon the trauma he had already endured being on the run for such an innocuous act what more while facing the risk of punishment by death.

In this, we wish to remind Muslims of the importance of forgiveness in Islam. The importance accorded to forgiveness in Islam is very much tied to another key value of the deen which is the freedom of speech and conscience. This can be seen clearly in verse 256 of Al-Baqarah which states that “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from [the way of] error…”

Humans were created as subjects of freedom, divinely endowed with the rational faculties needed to be able to determine what is right and wrong on their own accord without the threat or imposition of external forces. The development of character depends on our ability to make that journey towards the good on terms we can relate to and understand most.

This is the core of any ethical system whereby meaningful choices and virtuous acts find their meaning on the basis that they have been willed freely by the person. For if coercion is what is needed most to ensure good conduct, then notions of love, solidarity, genuine trust or sincerity lose their meaning.

In appealing for the humane treatment of Mr Kashgari, the Islamic Renaissance Front once again points to the values of freedom, justice and democracy in Islam.

We are also deeply disappointed with the complicity of the Malaysian government for succumbing to pressures to deport Mr Kashragi. As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Malaysia could have used this opportunity to set an example to the region, if not the entire Muslim world, of what responsible governance based on human rights could be.

Instead, with barely a pause in its conscience, the Malaysian government saw no problems deporting someone accused guilty for the supposed crime of tweeting his opinions.

The Islamic Renaissance Front adjures that the Malaysian government should just step down from the Human Rights Council so that the world would no longer be led to believe that Malaysia somehow stands for something it actually does not. The reality is that beneath the proliferation of malls and skyscrapers, we are still of an administration that does not understand basic human compassion.

This will save everyone’s time.

The deportation of Hamza Kashgari despite a High Court order preventing it is clearly a show of disrespect and a contempt of court. The Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein must be held responsible for this wicked and egregious act. Considering that Malaysia has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, the deportation is a clear insolent and uncivil act and in breach of international laws.

There is nothing to be proud of being a part of the so-called Global Movement of Moderates. It is just another superficial and manipulative evocation of democracy and rights. Today is indeed a very sad day to be Malaysians and Muslims.

Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, Ahmad Fuad Rahmat, Edry Faizal Eddy Yusuf and Muhammad Nazreen Jaafar from the Islamic Renaissance Front sent the above article.



Pakistan torture case shows how courts are working to claim power

By Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times

February 18, 2012,

Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan— Before Abdul Majeed was swept away by intelligence agents a year and a half ago, he weighed 154 pounds. Now he weighs 88.

Shuffling out of Courtroom 1 at Pakistan's Supreme Court clutching a catheterized urine bag in his hand, he sobbed as he described his secret detention. His only food every day was a small serving of boiled lentils. Lack of water left him severely dehydrated. He says he never saw a doctor, not even when his kidneys began to malfunction.

"All of these health problems happened to me while I was in custody," he said.

Majeed, 24, is one of 11 men hauled away by intelligence agents after being acquitted of charges connected to terrorist attacks on military installations. Four of the men died in custody. The remaining seven appeared in the Supreme Court last week, after Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry ordered the country's powerful spy agency to bring them in.

Pakistan's military and intelligence community, the dominant power since the country's independence in 1947, had long been above the reach of the judiciary. In recent weeks, however, the Supreme Court has staked out its claim on a more powerful role in Pakistani society, setting its sights on a civilian government widely seen as corrupt and ineffective, and also on the country's security establishment.

Still unclear is how far the court is willing to intensify its scrutiny of the military and intelligence agencies, and whether the court risks damaging blow-back from the security establishment. What is apparent, however, is the court's intent to significantly raise its profile.

"It is determined to establish itself as a player to be feared and respected," Cyril Almeida, a columnist for the English-language Pakistani newspaper Dawn, wrote last week.

For years, human rights activists have claimed that Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and other security agencies in Pakistan routinely abduct men without legal justification. Sometimes the bodies of men who had disappeared months earlier are found dumped on roadsides or in ditches.

Neither Pakistan's weak civilian government nor its judiciary had ever taken any serious steps to look into the security agencies' involvement in the disappearances. The Supreme Court's aggressive investigation of the circumstances behind the detention of the 11 men marks a radical shift that human rights leaders hope will bring scrutiny of disappearance cases that they say number in the hundreds.

"This is a turning point in the disappearance issue," says Amina Janjua, a human rights activist who has been championing the cause of the 11 men. Her husband disappeared in 2005 and has turned up again. "Enough is enough. Every week there are 10 or 15 new cases. It's high time."

The exact number of men abducted by Pakistani intelligence and security bodies is unknown. A report by Human Rights Watch last year chronicled the cases of 45 men who disappeared in Baluchistan, a province where the military has been grappling with Baluch nationalists for years.

In all of the cases that the New York-based group investigated, detainees had been tortured, many subjected to beatings or prolonged food and sleep deprivation. The group, which investigated disappearances mostly from 2009 and '10, estimates that hundreds of Baluch men have been abducted by security personnel since 2005.

In the case of the 11 detainees, the Supreme Court on Monday forced the ISI to bring into court the seven surviving men to assess their physical condition. Afterward, the justices ordered that the men undergo medical examinations, and demanded an explanation for the deaths of the other four.

The justices also have ordered the ISI to prove that the men were legally detained and explain what happened to them during their detention. An attorney representing the ISI, Raja Muhammad Irshad, declined to comment on the case. But the ISI previously has said the men were detained in accordance with a law that allows the military to hold terrorism suspects or anyone deemed a danger to the state. According to Pakistani state media, military officials say that the 11 men were terrorists involved in the planning of attacks on military facilities in 2007 and '08.

If the court believes the men were illegally detained or were tortured, theoretically, ISI agents involved in the detentions could be held criminally liable, said Tariq Asad, the lawyer for the detainees. The court would also release the men from custody.

Asad added, however, that criminal sanctions against the ISI were unlikely. "Nobody has ever dared to do that." Asad said he is only seeking the release of the men.

Asad was present when the men were hauled away May 29, 2010, the day they were scheduled to be released from a Rawalpindi jail. As Asad and relatives of the men watched, he said, three cars pulled up to the jail entrance. The men were brought outside, handcuffed and put into the cars.

"Where they were taken to is a mystery," Asad said. Last September, relatives were allowed to visit the men, but the family members were blindfolded en route. Relatives told Asad that the detainees were too sick to stand up.

In the case of Mohammed Amir, one of the four men who died while in custody, there was evidence of torture, Asad said. Drill holes were found in one of his knees and in his torso and back.

The body of another man who died, Abdul Saboor, was found by relatives Jan. 20 in an otherwise empty ambulance parked at a gas station in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said Abdul Baes, who is a brother of both Saboor and Majeed as well as a second surviving detainee, Abdul Basit.

On Jan. 31, Pakistani authorities allowed Baes a five-minute visit with Majeed and Basit at a hospital in Peshawar. "When I saw them, there seemed to be no flesh on their bones," Baes said. "They were in a very terrible state."

Basit, who had weighed 176 pounds before being abducted, was down to 74 pounds, Baes said. His left leg was severely weakened. When Baes asked the men about what happened during their detention, he said they pointed to what they perceived were intelligence officials at their bedsides.

Baes said Saboor, Basit and Majeed all worked at a firm that publishes editions of the Koran. They are from Kohat, a town perched on the edge of Pakistan's tribal areas that serve as a stronghold for a host of militant groups. The lawyer said the cases built against them were fabricated.

At Monday's hearing, relatives sobbed as they embraced the men. Rohaifa, the brothers' mother, stood up in court and told Chaudhry, "You can see how they have tortured my sons!"

Outside the courtroom, Basit, 26, talked about his ordeal.

"We have faced so much suffering, so many hardships," Basit said. "The mental torture was the worst. But we got through it."

On Tuesday, the brothers faced more misery, Asad said. A day after seeing her two ailing sons in court, Rohaifa died of a heart attack.,0,1970806.story



Palestinian’s Trial Shines Light on Military Justice


NABI SALEH, West Bank, February 18, 2012 — A year ago, Islam Dar Ayyoub was a sociable ninth grader and a good student, according to his father, Saleh, a Palestinian laborer in this small village near Ramallah.

Then, one night in January 2011, about 20 Israeli soldiers surrounded the dilapidated Dar Ayyoub home and pounded vigorously on the door. Islam, who was 14 at the time, said he thought they had come for his older brother. Instead, they had come for him. He was blindfolded, handcuffed and whisked away in a jeep.

From that moment, Islam’s childhood was over. Catapulted into the Israeli military justice system, an arm of Israel’s 44-year-old occupation of the West Bank, Islam became embroiled in a legal process as challenging and perplexing as the world in which he has grown up. The young man was interrogated and pressed to inform on his relatives, neighbors and friends.

The military justice system that overwhelmed Islam has come under increasing scrutiny for its often harsh, unforgiving methods. One Palestinian prisoner has been hospitalized because of a hunger strike in protest against being detained for months without trial. Human rights organizations have recently focused their criticism on the treatment of Palestinian minors, like Islam.

Now, as a grass-roots leader from Nabi Saleh stands trial, having been incriminated by Islam, troubling questions are being raised about these methods of the occupation.

It is the intimate nature of Islam’s predicament that makes this trial especially wrenching for the young man, his family and his community. Most of Nabi Saleh’s 500 residents belong to the same extended family. The leader on trial, Bassem Tamimi, 44, was Islam’s next-door neighbor. Islam was close friends with Mr. Tamimi’s son, Waed, a classmate. And Mr. Tamimi’s wife is a cousin of Islam’s mother.

“This case is legally flawed and morally tainted,” said Gaby Lasky, Islam’s Israeli lawyer. Islam is traumatized, she said, “not only because of what happened to him, but also what happened to others.”

After he was pulled from his home at night, Islam was taken to a nearby army base where, his lawyer said, he was left out in the cold for hours. In the morning, he was taken to the Israeli police for interrogation. Accused of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers inside the village, he was encouraged to identify other youths and the adult organizers of weekly protests here.

In a police videotape of Islam’s five-hour interrogation, the teenager is at times visibly exhausted. Alone and denied access to a lawyer for most of the period, he was partially cautioned three times about his rights but was never told directly that he had the right to remain silent.

Full Report at:



Israel will make own decision on Iran: army chief


JERUSALEM, Feb 19, 2012: Israel will ultimately decree on an Iranian strike on its own, its military chief of staff said in an interview broadcast Saturday, as a senior US official arrived for talks on the Islamic Republic.

"Israel is the central guarantor of its own security; this is our role as army, the State of Israel should defend itself," Lieutenant General Benny Gantz told state-owned Channel One TV.

"We must follow the developments in Iran and its nuclear project, but in a very broad manner, taking into account what the world is doing, what Iran decided, what we will do or not do," he said.

In recent weeks, there has been feverish speculation that Israel was getting closer to mounting a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear programme, though Israel has denied reaching such a decision.

Tensions between Iran and Israel have been simmering with Iranian warships entering the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal in a show of "might", a move Israel said it would closely monitor.

On Wednesday, Iran said it had installed another 3,000 centrifuges to increase its uranium enrichment abilities and was stepping up exploration and processing of uranium yellowcake.

And Israel blamed a recent wave of attacks targeting Israeli diplomats on agents of Tehran, allegations Iran denies.

US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon will on Sunday begin talks with Israeli officials on a range of issues including Iran, two weeks ahead of a Washington visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for White House talks with US President Barak Obama on the same topic.

A recent article in the Washington Post said that US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta thinks Israel may strike Iran's nuclear installations in the coming months.

According to Gantz, whose interview was conducted prior to the Saturday developments, Iran was not only an "Israeli problem", but also "a world and regional problem".

On Saturday, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak called on the world to tighten sanctions on Iran before the country enters a "zone of immunity" against a physical attack to stop its nuclear programme.

Iran has been slapped with four sets of UN sanctions and a raft of unilateral US and European Union measures over its nuclear drive, which Tehran maintains is peaceful but which much of the international community suspects masks a weapons programme.



Al-Qaida links with Southeast Asia fraying


JAKARTA: Feb 19, 2012, A top Indonesian terrorist suspect captured in the Pakistani town where Osama bin Laden was later killed insists he was unaware of the al-Qaida leader's presence there, according to the video of his interrogation obtained by The Associated Press.

Alleged bomb maker Umar Patek also describes his frustration in re-establishing militant ties in his quest to go to Afghanistan. He had to make his own arrangements to fly to Pakistan and then waited there for months before a years-old militant contact finally got back to him.

His remarks, if true, would further bolster evidence that Southeast Asia's Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist movement, responsible for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, is now largely cut off from its long-standing al-Qaida sponsorship.



India's 3.5 crore Tehran lobby


DELHI, 19 FEB, 2012: Mumbai's sea-facing Islam Gymkhana Club is no match for the expansive Azadi Square in Tehran But last week, during the 33rd anniversary celebrations of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the speeches heard at the club's auditorium could well have been relayed straight from Azadi Square Punctuated with powerful poetry - part of Shia culture since the fateful martyrdom of the Prophet's grandson Imam Hussain at Karbala, Iraq, in the 7th century - the stirring speeches hailed Iran as the answer to the "usurpers of power in the West".

Iran is home to 40% of the world's 18 crore Shias. For many Indian Muslims, especially the country's 3.5 crore Shias, Iran and its leader Ahmadinejad symbolize the David who is ready to take on Goliath. Despite years of Western sanctions, many Muslims believe that Iran alone can thwart America's hegemony in West Asia and keep Israel under control.

Often, the language used against the US and Israel by Muslim groups is vituperative, the tone strident. "An attack on Iran will be tantamount to an attack on the entire Muslim world," says senior Shia cleric Maulana Zaheer Abbas Rizvi. He adds that Muslims are not against all Jews, but only hate the Zionists who have displaced Palestinians from their own home land. A powerful speaker, Maulana Rizvi, like other Muslim clerics both Shia and Sunni, often cites the Koran to assert that even Allah is displeased with the Jews.

How might this sentiment impact India's options? Moderate Muslim scholars say New Delhi will have to walk a tightrope as the West ups the ante against Iran "India showed maturity when it did not approve of sanctions against Iran. It didn't endorse the Israeli accusation that Iran and the Hezbollah were behind the terror attack on Israeli embassy staff in Delhi. We cannot have double standards and India has certainly said it very clearly," says Akhtarul Wasey, who teaches Islamic Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia.

After the America-led war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Muslims predictably see Iran as the next target. Many even think the Delhi attack was part of an Israeli con spiracy to shore up support for an assault on Iran's nuclear installa tions. "Mossad is capable of carry ing out such attacks. They could have done it to sabotage India's friendship with Iran," says Maula na Rizvi, who is also secretary of the All India Shia Muslim Person al Law Board.

No one, of course, knows how much the Indian Shias' support for Iran will influence New Delhi's Te hran policy. "I welcome India's pru dence to keep its friendship with Iran intact despite American pres sure," says ex-MP Akhtar Hassan Rizvi, a prominent Shia leader who also heads educational institutions in Mumbai. "Iran has a right to lead a life of respect." Ahmadinejad will be happy to hear that.



Suicide attacks hit Baghdad and Baquba

19 February 2012

At least 15 people have been killed in a suicide attack in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

A bomber wearing a suicide vest blew himself up near the entrance to the Iraqi Police Academy in the east of the city. 21 were injured in the attack.

Also on Sunday, deadly attacks were reported in and around the city of Baquba, to the north of Baghdad.

Four police informants were killed by suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen in the centre of Baquba, local police told AFP.

Gunmen also attacked a checkpoint in Abu Khamis, north of Baquba, killing one policeman and two members of the Sahwa (Awakening) militia, according to AFP.

'Cars set ablaze'

The attack at the Iraqi Police Academy is the deadliest attack in the capital for weeks.

Most of the dead are believed to have been new recruits to the police force.

"I can see body parts scattered on the ground and boots and berets covered with blood," a policeman working at the academy told Reuters.

"Many cars were set ablaze," he added.

The academy has been targeted in two previous attacks, in 2005 and 2009. Al-Qaeda said it had carried out both attacks.



Taliban commander held in Pakistan

Islamabad, Feb 19, 2012, (IANS) A Taliban commander named Commander Bakht Rawan has been arrested in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region bordering Afghanistan, Geo News reported.

Swat district police Saturday arrested the Taliban leader from Namal area, police said.

Bakht Rawan is the uncle of another Taliban commander named Ibne Amin.

Acting on a tip-off, a police team led by Momin Khan raided the suspect’s hideout and arrested the wanted outlaw.



Iran 'halts oil sales to France and Britain'

19 February 2012

Iran has halted oil sales to British and French companies, the nation's oil ministry has said.

A spokesman was reported as saying on the ministry's website that Iran would "sell our oil to new customers".

European Union member states had earlier agreed to stop importing Iranian crude from 1 July.

The move is intended to pressure Tehran to stop enriching uranium, which can be used for civilian nuclear purposes but also to build warheads.



Pakistan's Punjab CM, urges Ulema to work for tolerance in society

Our correspondent

LAHORE, February 19, 2012: Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said on Saturday that Ulema were the intellectual guides of Islamic society and they should play their role for promotion of religious harmony, tolerance and Muslim brotherhood so that the country could get rid of menace of sectarianism and intolerance.

According to a handout issued here, the Punjab chief minister was talking to a delegation of Ulema who called on him at the Arfa Software Technology Park. Shahbaz Sharif asked the Ulema to promote message of religious harmony and unity through their sermons and prove to the world by their word and deeds that Islam is a religion of solidarity and peace.

Time has come that serious steps should be taken for setting up Ittehad-Bain-ul-Muslimeen and a message of brotherhood, mutual respect and tolerance be given by following a unanimous agenda so that our motherland could become the haven of peace in the real sense, he said.

Senior Adviser Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa, the secretaries of Home, Schools, Higher Education and Auqaf and Inspector General Police and the Lahore commissioner also attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, Shahbaz Sharif expressed deep anger and resentment over the US resolution on Balochistan, warning those who had prepared the resolution that Pakistan should not be considered a state of America. Rather it was a sovereign and an independent country, he said and added that explanatory statement by American Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding this resolution was not sufficient.

The chief minister said that the resolution, based on prejudice and malafide, had salted the hearts of Pakistanis who were already hurt by drone attacks. He said that problems of Balochistan and Balochis were the problems of Pakistan and we would not allow any county to challenge our sovereignty under the garb of these problems.



Obama to Ali: 'You shocked the world'


LAS VEGAS: Feb 19, 2012, Muhammad Ali turned 70 last month, but the world's most famous people are still wishing the boxer known simply as ``The Greatest'' a happy birthday.

President Barack Obama told Muhammad Ali through a video message on Saturday night that he shocked and inspired the world, and continues to do so today.

Obama's message was one of dozens celebrating the icon, delivered to 2,000 people attending a swanky dinner gala to honor Ali and raise funds for brain research.

Ali's wife, Lonnie Ali, told the crowd her husband's greatest wish has always been to inspire and help others through a life that he feels really began after he retired from the ring.

Football great Jim Brown says Ali is a great part of an American history.



'CIA shares intel information on Delhi blast'


WASHINGTON: Feb 19, 2012,The CIA is believed to have shared information with its Indian counterparts on the last week bomb attack in New Delhi on an Israeli diplomatic car, including on alleged Iranian links.

Informed sources claimed that the Indian intelligence agencies have confirmed and corroborated the intelligence information on the bombing shared by the CIA.

Told to PTI on the condition of anonymity, the sources expressed "surprise" that despite the alleged Iranian links, India has kept mum on it, which they claimed is mainly due to its diplomatic implications and its impact on India-Iran ties.

They, however, did not comment on how credible the information is.

The CIA did not respond to the e-mail sent by the PTI on this issue earlier in the day.

Lisa Curtis, a former CIA analyst and now a Senior Research Fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, says that last Monday's attack on the Israeli diplomat in New Delhi has shined an uncomfortable spotlight on Indo-Iran ties.

"If evidence revealing an Iranian hand in the attacks builds, the Indian government will have no choice but to condemn it. India would likely limit its reaction to condemnations, however, and stop short of taking other actions like expelling Iranian diplomats from the country," Curtis told PTI.

"India will find it increasingly challenging to balance its interest in maintaining cordial relations with Iran and avoiding tensions with the US over the Iranian nuclear stand-off as the situation intensifies," Curtis said, adding that there are no easy solutions for New Delhi.

The US State Department, so far, has maintained that it is awaiting the results of the Indian investigations, but has observed that it would not be surprised if the attacks are traced to Iran.

"We wouldn't be surprised if the fingerprints and the trail lead back to Iran but we're not in a position to assess until the investigations of the host governments are complete," State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, had said Friday.

Notably, soon after the attack, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had blamed Iran.

"Iran is behind these attacks; it is the largest exporter of terrorism in the world," Netanyahu had said.

"The Government of Israel and the security services will continue to act together with local security forces against such acts of terrorism. We will continue to take strong and systematic, yet patient, action against the international terrorism that originates in Iran," he had said.



Pakistan Bar Council condemns abductions by spy agencies

By: Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, February 19, 2012 - The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Saturday strongly condemned the abduction of citizens by the government and the intelligence agencies and said keeping such persons missing and untraced is against the due process of law.

In a resolution, passed by the Council members in its 192nd meeting, held at Council’s Office, Supreme Court building, Islamabad, demanded of the judiciary to strictly deal with the missing persons’ issues. Earlier, the PBC members elected its new Vice-Chairman and Chairman Executive Committee. Akhtar Hussain from Karachi and Syed Ayaz Zahoor from Quetta were the two candidates for election of the Vice-Chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council for the year-2012. But Akhtar was declared successful candidate.

He secured 12 votes, while Zahoor obtained nine 9. The attorney general acted as returning officer. The Pakistan Bar Council also elected M Burhan Moaazzam as Chairman of its Executive Committee for the year-2012. The PBC also condemned callous torture committed on the missing persons who have been admittedly in the custody of intelligence agencies.

The members of the bar council hoped that Judiciary will strictly deal with the persons responsible for such torture and award exemplary punishment to these persons.

The PBC also condemned mysterious deaths and murders of the abducted persons who are found dead in various parts of Baluchistan and demands that those responsible for such murders be severely dealt with.

The Council members also resolved that Free Legal Aid Committee of the Pakistan Bar Council will afford free legal aid for conducting cases of abducted/missing persons if it is approached and provided necessary material by interested relatives of missing persons.



New FEMA rules may allow Pakistani investment in India

New Delhi— February 19, 2012, In a major step forward towards normalizing business ties, Indian government plans to bring changes in Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to allow investments from Pakistan, a senior government official said. “Commerce ministry has sent a proposal to the Finance ministry for change in FEMA rules to allow investments from Pakistan,” a senior Indian official who is accompanying Commerce & Industry Minister Anand Sharma on his official trip to Pakistan was quoted as saying by Pakistan is the only country from where investment is not allowed in India.

An Indian Commerce & Industry ministry official, who does not want to be named, said investments from Pakistan could be allowed by a change in the FEMA regulations. “It can be done by simply issuing a notification,” he was further quoted as saying. All foreign exchange transactions in India are governed by FEMA regulation, which came into force in 2000. This is a civil legislation and Reserve

Bank of India can make changes to allow Pakistani investment after taking approval from Finance ministry. Asked whether investments would be sector-specific, official said: “Our FDI policies are not country-specific. Once there is a change in FEMA regulation, they can invest in whatever sector it is allowed.”

To address security concerns, official said, once FEMA regulation is changed, all foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals from Pakistan would have to be cleared through Foreign Investment Promotion Board, a department of Finance ministry. Bilateral trade between India and Pakistan was $2.7 billion in 2010-11, but there is no two-way investment so far. Sharma said two countries were mulling an agreement to promote and protect cross border investments.

India & Pakistan, whose relations have been marred for decades by a host of issues, including Kashmir and terrorism, have announced several measures in recent months to normalize business and economic ties. The two countries agreed to normalize visa regimes and move from “positive list” to a short “negative list” trade regime by end of this month, a major step forward to ease trade norms and facilitate movements of people.

Business leaders are also enthused by recent increase in ties between two countries. “It’s a very good beginning. Things should move step by step,” said Sudhir Jalan, co-chairman Kolkata-based Rieter India Private Ltd. President Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry FICCI R.V. Kanoria said businesses of both countries would be happy to invest in cross-border business if proper policies were put in place.—NNI



Pakistan braces for diplomatic offensive to counter US Congress moving a resolution on Balochistan

Muhammad Saleh Zaafir

February 19, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Taking serious exception to the moving of a resolution about Balochistan in the US Congress, Pakistan has decided to undertake an international diplomatic offensive against the reckless move.

Pakistan’s missions in the important world capitals have been asked to establish contact with the host governments and explain Islamabad’s position and anger regarding the thoughtless act. Pakistan has already conveyed its condemnation to the United States that has expressed its indifference towards the move but the traditional friendly capitals of the world are being posted pertaining to the position Pakistan has taken on the issue. Most of the countries have responded in a sympathetic and friendly manner.

It is likely some important capitals of the world will come out in public by issuing strong rejoinders in a day or two on the subject. The response from several capitals is very encouraging as most of them have termed the move as a gross violation of international law and norms.

Well placed diplomatic sources told The News that the diplomats posted in Islamabad have mailed Pakistan’s response on the subject on an emergency basis to their respective capitals since the Foreign Office has responded to the queries by the diplomats posted here promptly and it has asked them to dispatch the view of Islamabad to their capitals on immediate basis.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, who is relinquishing his post early next month on attaining of superannuation, spent his whole day in the office on Saturday despite being a closed holiday. He personally contacted some capitals in the day. Pakistan is not interested in expressing any knee jerk reaction and it doesn’t want to demonstrate panic on this account but it will not allow its adversary to exploit the occasion for its nefarious objectives.

Well placed diplomatic sources told The News that Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to evolve a comprehensive strategy to deal with the situation. Some significant diplomatic actions would be taken very soon.

The prime minister will chair a high level meeting tomorrow (Monday) and later he will take the parliament into confidence about the development when he will give a policy statement in the Senate, the sources said.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar who has gone to Lahore has been asked to return to the federal capital to attend the high-level meeting being called by the prime minister, the sources added.

In the meanwhile, US embassy has asked its diplomats to take extra caution in their movement and avoid unnecessary movement since the tempers are high about the move in Pakistan.

The US administration has already given its view about the move made at the Capitol Hill but it has failed in pacifying the sentiments of the people of Pakistan. The view has been made clear to the US government through diplomatic channels.

Prime Minister Gilani is mulling to convene the All Parties Conference (APC) on Balochistan at the earliest and for the purpose he has already initiated consultations. Gilani had already announced to host the APC when he interacted with senior journalists in Islamabad last week.

He is extremely satisfied with the initial contacts with the political leadership of the country since all the political groups/parties are firmly supporting the national sentiments on the question, the sources said.



‘Denmark wants stronger ties with Pakistan’


KARACHI, Feb 19, 12 - The Danish government wants good and strong relations with Muslim countries, particularly Pakistan, Ambassador of Denmark in Pakistan Uffe Wolffhechel said at a recent gathering of the English Speaking Union of Pakistan (ESUP).

“We want very friendly ties with Pakistan and our international partners through the European Union which is a very strong economic block. We would be happy to work with Pakistan and contribute to various sectors including education, health and energy,” he added.

“My country has different educational programmes and Pakistani students can benefit from them and better contribute to their country’s economic prosperity and development.”

The Danish envoy said Pakistan would have to take initiatives in different sectors. “We only can help Pakistan and further its agenda at larger platform of the EU,” he remarked.

He said Pakistan has a lot of economic potential in various sectors. “Denmark has enough capability to support Pakistan in energy sector. Pakistan needs good management of available energy resources besides exploring new avenues,” he added.

Wolffhechel said Danish companies are interested in investing in Pakistan. “There is good space for increasing bilateral trade. Pakistan has great importance in the region,” he pointed out.

He emphasised that freedom of expression is very essential for strengthening of democracy in a country and also praised the active role being played by media in Pakistan.

“My country has strongly supported democratic values in the world including Pakistan. The media here is very open and even contentious issues are discussed fairly,” he added.

He said for strengthening the media in Pakistan, Denmark has initiated different training programmes for Pakistani journalists, especially female ones.

He also said his country has been contributing towards women empowerment in Pakistan. “My country has significantly contributed to the relief and rehabilitation of the people affected by the earthquake and the floods in Pakistan,” he noted.

He said that the Denmark embassy has been providing its best services to Pakistanis including the easy and timely issuance of visas.

“We are also presenting a wider and positive image of Pakistan in Denmark. We want a stable Pakistan and want to strengthen our bilateral ties further,” he added.

He informed the gathering that around 21,000 Pakistanis are living in Denmark and their first generation is integrating with the Danish society. “They are ambassadors of Pakistan and Denmark,” he added.

To a question, the ambassador said friendly ties between Pakistan and India are very important for peace and prosperity of the region. “It is highly welcoming to see India and Pakistan supporting each other’s membership in the United Nations Security Council,” he added.



Pakistan and Qatar clinch deal to import 500mcfeet LPG daily

KARACHI, February 19, 12 - Pakistan has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government of Qatar for the import of 500 million cubic feet of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) per day.

This was said by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani while inaugurating the Rs 2.55 billion LPG terminal at Port Qasim on Saturday.

“I am happy to inform you that during my recent visit to Qatar, Pakistan concluded a memorandum of understanding with the government of Qatar for the import of 500 million cubic feet of LNG per day,” the prime minister said at the inaugural ceremony.

To be imported through SSGC-LPG Terminal, the imported LNG would be provided to power houses to generate 2,500 megawatts of power, Gilani said.

Criticising the previous successive government for their failure to give due focus to the energy sector, the prime minister said key mega projects undertaken by his government to meet the energy demands included Diamer-Basha Dam, Thar Coal Power Project, TAPI project and CASA-1000 in addition to dozens of small and medium-sized dams across the country.

Pakistan was also committed to Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which would help the country overcome its energy problem to a large extent.

“The implementation of these mega projects will not only enhance overall energy supplies, provide energy diversity but also lead to a greater energy security,” he said.

Despite economic constraints imposed by natural disasters, energy deficits, global recession and the war on terrorism, the fundamentals of Pakistan’s economy were showing positive signs, he said.

The prime minister said given the size and diversity of Pakistan’s economy, the country’s total energy requirements were expected to grow substantially during the next decade.

“It is in this context that achieving self-sufficiency is a key factor to keep the engine of economy running as well as meeting the future demands of the economic growth.”

According to the PM, Pakistan was meeting 53 percent of its total energy requirements through indigenous oil and gas production, whereas other indigenous resources further meet 19 percent of the country’s energy needs.

The remaining 27 percent of the energy needs were currently being met through imports, he said. “The energy imports are likely to increase as domestic gas production and supply presently fails to meet the demand of the domestic users, the industrial sector and power generation,” he said, adding that due to their all-pervasive use by these sectors, the country’s gas reserves may be insufficient to meet the rising demand.

“Such a situation will force the country to resort to importing large volumes of gas at international prices to feed the domestic market if local production is not enhanced in relation to demand,” the PM said.



Pakistan’s failure in science

Dr Zafar Altaf

February 19, 2012

Science has failed Pakistan and not only Pakistan but the entire Islamic world. Why is it that the required scholarship is not found in the Pakistani mind? The reasons are complex but the majority of the students that were sent abroad under the WB scholarship loan scheme were not scholarly enough. Was there some kind of collusion between the persons selected and the managers that were in decision making authority? Did they have an eye for the talent that they were seeking to put forward? My crib against the selectors is and will always be that they were not suited to do the job that they undertook. My own PhD was from British University and the selection process was done by them and not by any obscure individual in Pakistan. I had the guts to go and have myself interviewed by them. Earlier the same was the case when London Business School interviewed despite the fact that they would only admit on the basis of the Princeton Business School test.

The entire exercise according to them, at the MBA and PhD was one of ethical considerations. If the ethics is right then the results would flow and they paid the highest category to persons who were involved in sports [both times as manager of the Pakistan cricket team touring England]. Then the ethical status had to be upheld. One was mindful of the requirements and the culture of sports that went forward.

Full Report at:



Iran poised for big nuke jump: Report

Vienna, February 19, 2012: Iran is poised to greatly expand uranium enrichment at a fortified underground bunker to a point that would boost how quickly it could make nuclear warheads, diplomats tell a news agency.

They said Tehran has put finishing touches for the installation of thousands of new-generation centrifuges at the cavernous facility — machines that can produce enriched uranium much more quickly and efficiently than its present machines.

While saying that the electrical circuitry, piping and supporting equipment for the new centrifuges was now in place, the diplomats emphasised that Tehran had not started installing the new machines at its Fordo facility and could not say whether it was planning to.

Still, the senior diplomats — who asked for anonymity because their information was privileged — suggested that Tehran would have little reason to prepare the ground for the better centrifuges unless it planned to operate them. They spoke in recent interviews — the last one on Saturday.

The reported work at Fordo appeared to reflect Iran's determination to forge ahead with nuclear activity that could be used to make atomic arms despite rapidly escalating international sanctions and the latent threat of an Israeli military strike on its nuclear facilities.

Fordo could be used to make fissile warhead material even without such an upgrade, the diplomats said.

They said that although older than Iran's new generation machines, the centrifuges now operating there can be reconfigured within days to make such material because they already are enriching to 20 percent — a level that can be boosted quickly to weapons-grade quality.

Their comments appeared to represent the first time anyone had quantified the time it would take to reconfigure the Fordo centrifuges into machines making weapons-grade material.

In contrast, Iran's older enrichment site at Natanz is producing uranium at 3.4 percent, a level normally used to power reactors. While that too could be turned into weapons-grade uranium, reassembling from low to weapons-grade production is complex, and retooling the thousands of centrifuges at Natanz would likely take weeks.

The diplomats' recent comments came as International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors are scheduled to visit Tehran on Sunday. Their trip — the second this month — is another attempt to break more than three years of Iranian stonewalling about allegations that Tehran has — or is — secretly working on nuclear weapons that would be armed with uranium enriched to 90 percent or more.

Diplomats accredited to the IAEA expect little from that visit. They told the agency that — as before — Iran was refusing to allow the agency experts to visit Parchin, the suspected site of explosives testing for a nuclear weapon and had turned down other key requests made by the experts.

Iranian officials deny nuclear weapons aspirations, saying the claims are based on bogus intelligence from the US and Israel.

But IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has said there are increasing indications of such activity. His concerns were outlined in 13-page summary late last year listing clandestine activities that either can be used in civilian or military nuclear programs, or "are specific to nuclear weapons”.

Among these were indications that Iran has conducted high explosives testing and detonator development to set off a nuclear charge, as well as computer modelling of a core of a nuclear warhead. The report also cited preparatory work for a nuclear weapons test and development of a nuclear payload for Iran's Shahab 3 intermediate range missile — a weapon that could reach Israel.

Full Report at:



Syria 'disintegrating under crippling sanctions'

19 February 2012

The 11-month uprising against Mr Assad has claimed thousands of lives

One of Syria's leading businessmen says its economy is being crippled by foreign sanctions and that the government is slowly disintegrating.

Faisal al-Qudsi, the son of a former Syrian president, told the BBC the military action could only last six months and then there would be "millions of people on the streets".

But he said President Bashar al-Assad's government would fight to the end.

The 11-month uprising against Mr Assad has claimed thousands of lives.

Human rights groups have put the figure at more than 7,000, while the government says at least 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed combating "armed gangs and terrorists".

The violence continued on Saturday, when Syrian troops fired on mourners during a funeral that turned into a mass demonstration in Damascus. Activists say at least one person was killed there and some 20 across the country.

Catch 22'

Speaking to the BBC's Weekend World Today programme, Mr Qudsi said the economy had been crippled by sanctions and that although Iran was sending money, it was not enough.

Mr Qudsi now chairs a London-based investment banking firm and has been heavily involved in private sector investment in Syria.

He said the uprising had destroyed tourism and the sanctions on exports of oil and other products had dramatically reduced the gross domestic product.

"So, effectively the foreign exchange reserves of the central bank have come down from $22bn (£14bn) to about $10bn and it is dwindling very rapidly," Mr Qudsi said.

He said the military phase against protesters could only last another six months "because the army is getting tired and will go nowhere".

"They will have to sit and talk or at least they have to stop killing. And the minute they stop killing, more millions of people will be on the streets. So they are in a Catch 22."

He added: "The apparatus of the government is slowly disintegrating and it's almost non-existent in trouble spots like Homs, Idlib, Deraa. Courts are not there; police are not interested in any sort of crime and it is affecting the government very, very badly."

But Mr Qudsi said Mr Assad would fight to the end because he and his supporters think there is "a universal conspiracy against the government of Syria".

Meanwhile activists say government forces continue to build around the city of Homs, with shelling of the district of Baba Amr resuming on Sunday, targeting hundreds of opposition fighters holed up there.

Our correspondent, Jim Muir, says human rights groups fear a massacre there if a full ground assault is launched.

Also on Sunday, the Sana news agency reported that gunmen had opened fire on a car carrying two key officials in the northern state of Idlib, prosecutor Nidal Ghazal and judge Mohammed Ziadeh, killing both of them and their driver.

Activists said state security forces had opened fire on the car.

Meanwhile UK Foreign Secretary William Hague again called for President Assad to step down.

Full Report at:



First Islamic Museum in Australia inaugurated

Hameed Shaheen

Islamabad— February 19, 2012,The first Islamic Museum outside Asia has been set up in Melbourne, the Australian continent, to help Aussies understand the highly humanizing contribution of Islamic civilization in crucial phases of history.

The Museum was inaugurated by the OIC Secretary General Mr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu Saturday in an impressive ceremony urging better bridging between Islamic and other global civilizations as an important milestone in forward progress in advancing tolerant values. The ceremony participated by Premier of Victoria State, Minister for Regional Development & Local Government and Special Australian Envoy to the OIC Mr Ahmed Fahour besides large number of officials,community members and representatives was formally addressed by SG Ihsanoglu.

Mr Fahour is the co-founder of Museum, says an OIC emessage to Pakistan Observer here Saturday. The Museum will symbolize Muslims’ history, culture and contributions in Australia and civilization in general. It is seen as a space to reflect, learn and assist in building cohesiveness of the multicultural community the Australian State of Victoria, particularly the city of Melbourne, is widely known for. In his remarks as the guest of honor, the Secretary General observed that Islamic civilization has generously contributed to other civilizations, its art and culture which are rich, diverse and unbiased founded on the principles of tolerance, peace and embracing mutuality.

He added that the Museum will enhance Australian’s understanding of Islam and help build bridges of intellectual communication and exchange. OIC supports this important initiative and will provide financial and cultural support through its organs at a later stage. The Museum is expected to be completed in two years, the message adds.



An insight into the Islamic craft

Sarah MacDonald

MUSCAT, Feb 19 2012 : The Muscat Festival’s International Congress on Innovation in Arts and Crafts showcases the work of 150 artists and craftsmen from 25 different countries. The task of choosing them is left primarily to one man — Nazieh Taleb Maarouf.

Maarouf is the director of the crafts development programme, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), which plans the international craft market at Qurum Park.

“We are encouraging these kinds of handicrafts. We are promoting them and supporting the craftspeople so they are getting known and their work is known. We are happy to see the results,” says Maarouf, sitting at a booth filled with Turkish carpets at the Muscat Festival.

The IRCICA, based out of an old palace in Istanbul, Turkey, is involved in studying and preserving the Islamic culture and the cultures of Muslim people all over the world. The IRCICA has organised similar festivals all over the world, including in Morocco, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.

“Each country has its own craft. Each country specialises in a different skill, but here we have a cultural village. You will see the local varieties in an international setting,” Maarouf says.

The IRCICA organised a craft fair here for the first time last year. The Muscat Festival organisers requested that he choose new artists this year so that the visitors to the festival would have more variety and be exposed to new crafts and cultures.

“Oman is trying to make this international, not just including Islamic art,” Maarouf explains. “Most of the artisans are new,” he added.

Though the IRCICA is a centre which aims at preserving and promoting Islamic arts and crafts, not all of the booths at the Muscat Festival are from countries with majority Muslim populations. For example, Spain, a country which had strong Islamic influence on it in the past but is now dominated by Catholicism, has a booth at the festival.

“We invited member countries of the IRCICA and observers. But some are from countries with Muslim minorities. The people from Ukraine are from the Crimean part, which has Muslim communities there also,” Maarouf explains.

The IRCICA approaches its member countries and invites artists to apply to be a part of the Muscat Festival craft fair. Once the organisation gets a response, it corresponds with the artists and craftspeople so it can see their work.

“Some of them are known to us, since we’re involved in the field, and others we meet for the first time. Then we decide who to include,” says Maarouf.

The ministries of culture in different countries also recommend certain artists and craftspeople whose work accurately represents each region.

“You can see the variety of work. For example, in Uzbekistan you can see excellent miniatures. In Dagestan (a region of Russia) you can see wooden work, excellent wooden work,” says Maarouf.

Because this is an international craft fair, there isn’t an Omani booth, but Maarouf says Omani craftspeople have been involved in fairs in other countries and other programs hosted by the IRCICA.

For Maarouf, coming to the Muscat Festival is also a personal pleasure, because he says he finds Oman beautiful. He says the landscape around Muscat, such as the drive to Shangri-La, is incredible.

“I like Oman! In all the regions of Islamic countries, I can say that Muscat is number one. I enjoy it!” he adds.



Islam Reaches Out Through Telephone

R Vasundara, TNN | Feb 19, 2012,

It's No Longer Necessary To Meet The Imam To Clarify Doubts About Religious And Personal Issues - They Take Calls And Answer Emails

Asma Mohammed (name changed), a third year BCom student, attends college during the day and spends her spare time reading translated interpretations of the Quran, Hadith and other sacred Islamic texts that are available on the world wide web as well as in books. "Someday I hope to read the original Arabic version," she says. "But my Arabic is poor and I must contend with English and Tamil translations." Mere translations, however, are not enough to understand the sayings of the Prophet. "My mother helps me sometimes but there are many queries that she cannot clear," says Asma. "Sometimes, I call up the publisher or the imam of our mosque to clarify certain passages. It is helpful as approaching them in person is awkward." Asma is not the only one doing so. With the advent of technology, it is no longer necessary to personally approach the imam of the local mosque to clarify doubts. Queries are often made over phone or through email. As many of them involve family issues and personal problems, the anonymity of the phone is vastly preferred to a personal tete-a-tete . This accessibility is part of the efforts of the clergy and scholars to demystify the Quran and inform Muslim society, particularly youngsters, that solutions to problems are possible without deviating from the principles of Islam and within the framework of sharia, the Islamic law.

Scholar Mufti Omar Sharif, who runs a publishing house, Dar-ul-Quda , which publishes translated religious Islamic texts, gets such calls on a regular basis. "My number is printed in all my publications," he says. "In many cases, the person seeks solutions to personal problems. If it's family problems, we ask them to come over as we also provide counselling. It wouldn't do to give such advice over the phone as it may be misunderstood."

Full Report at:



Election in U P an Indian States:  Farangi Mahal issues fatwa to not vote BSP

18 February 2012

By Faisal Fareed,,

Lucknow: On the eve of polling in Lucknow, a fatwa has been issued by Darul-Ifta, Farangi Mahal stating not to vote for parties which have desecrated the pictures of religious shrines.

The fatwa was in reference to a question asked regarding the advertisement issued by UP Tourism Department in Lucknow's Heritage Walk where pictures of Tilewali Masjid, Imambara were depicted in the footprints.

In the fatwa issued by Shaher Qazi Maulana Mufti Abul Irfan Mohammad Naimul Haleem Qadri Razzaqi Farangi Mahli on Saturday, voting for such parties who have desecrated the pictures of religious shrines is not allowed. Muslims should stay away from such parties till they seek forgiveness and guilty are punished.

Surprisingly, the fatwa even mentions Bahujan Samaj Party, Bharatiya Janata Party and RSS for pursuing divisive politics.

The fatwa dated February 18, 2012 also mentions that as per Islamic Shariah such act should be done. It even mentions that Islam respects the religious places of other religions. The fatwa also states that Muslims should not undermine the sanctity of religious months, animals who are being sacrificed and those heading for Mecca.

The cleric Farangi Mahli who issued the fatwa is different from more prominent Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli.