New Age Islam
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Islamic World News ( 19 Dec 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

675 Pakistan 'honour killing' Victims in First Nine Months of 2011

Troubled Pakistanis turn to exorcism for help

“I cannot speak against music. I cannot stand against cheerfulness”: Maldivian President

For sketch in Urdu text, J&K school board chief faces sedition charge

The revolution's sheikh, killed at 52 in Tahrir Square

Russian court suspends Bhagwad Gita verdict until December 28

Bhagwad Gita controversy: Russia expresses sadness

India had advance notice of 'ban Gita' move in Russia

Arrest Order for Sunni Leader in Iraq Opens New Rift

Hajj is an opportunity to disseminate Islamic ideology: Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei

Leaders from India, Pakistan called for empowering women with education and economic independence

No chance of martial law in Pakistan: Gilani

Pakistan’s Army Muddies Waters

Plot to burn Egypt parliament: Military

Maids from Indonesia to Malaysia by end-February

Party Romance –Youth of Pakistan Watch Out

Sack ISI chief, says petition in Pakistan court

Balochistan at point of no return: Ataullah Khan Mengal

15 found alive near Indonesia after migrant boat capsizes

Two Yemen soldiers, 13 Islamists killed in clashes

Man kills wife for alleged disloyalty

New political role of women in Islamic world to be raised in Istanbul on 21-25 December

NATO defiant on Afghan night raids

Karzai wants immediate halt to Nato night raids

US asks Iran to free man who 'confessed' to CIA plot

Iran Admits Western Sanctions Are Inflicting Damage

Iran to host 10th OIC Culture Ministers Conference

Syria unrest: Dozens of army deserters 'gunned down'

In Protests, Syrians Find the Spark of Creativity

Rajasthan clerk held for spying for Pakistan

No peace in South Asia until Kashmir problem resolved: Azad Kashmir PM

Teesta deal at earliest possible time: Advisor to Bangladesh PM

Taliban is not the US's enemy: US Vice President

Pakistan embassy in US issued 7,000 visas to Americans without security clearance: Petitioner

Pakistan sends liaison officers to border centres: NATO

Official: Pakistan sees lull in US drone strikes

Plea against deportation to Pakistan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/675-pakistan--honour-killing--victims-in-first-nine-months-of-2011/d/6186

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675 Pakistan 'honour killing' victims in first nine months of 2011

AFP December 20, 2011

AT least 675 Pakistani women and girls were murdered during the first nine months of the year for allegedly defaming their family's honour, a leading human rights group says.

The statistics highlight the scale of violence suffered by many women in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where they are frequently treated as second-class citizens and there is no law against domestic violence.

Despite some progress on better protecting women's rights, activists say the government needs to do far more to prosecute murderers in cases largely dismissed by police as private, family affairs.

"A total of 675 women and girls were killed in the name of honour across Pakistan from January to September," a senior official in the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told AFP today.

They included at least 71 victims under the age of 18.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said figures were still being compiled from October to December, and that a full report would be released in February.

The Commission reported 791 honour killings in 2010 and there was no discernible decrease this year, the official added.

Around 450 of the women killed from January to September were accused of having "illicit relations" and 129 of marrying without permission.

Some victims were raped or gang raped before being killed, he said. At least 19 were killed by their sons, 49 by their fathers and 169 by their husbands.

Rights groups say the government should do more to ensure that women subject to violence, harassment and discrimination have effective access to justice.

Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, told AFP that the state's inability to enforce rule of law, leaving matters in the hands of tribesmen and local elders, was a major factor.

"We have a system in Pakistan where the state and judicial recourse are absent and the vacuum is filled by local elders," he said.

"A combination of legal reforms, exercise of administrative authority and social awareness can greatly help check the honour killings," he added.

Earlier this month, a Belgian court sentenced four members of a Pakistani family to prison for the murder of their daughter and sister, who defied them by living with a Belgian man and refusing an arranged marriage.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/pakistan-honour-killing-victims/story-e6frf7jx-1226227061762

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Troubled Pakistanis turn to exorcism for help

By Rebecca Conway

KARACH IDec 20, 2011,  - A girl in a long black shirt screams incoherently, banging her head against a wall at a Sufi shrine in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Sania Haneef's family says she is possessed by a demon.

Doctors could not help, so they brought the college student, kicking and screaming, to be exorcised by the spirit of a saint.

The West mostly associates Pakistan with Taliban militants who force women to cover from head to toe, blow up girls' schools and carry out suicide bombings. But Islam in the South Asian nation of 180 million is far more diverse.

Many flock to shrines like the one where Haneef's relatives seek solace in the Sufi strand of Islam abhorred by militants and considered more liberal in its philosophy than other branches followed by Shi'ites and Sunnis.

"Sania has been possessed since she was six years old," her brother, Mohammed, said, describing how an evil spirit, known as a jinn, would speak through her in a man's voice.

"The shrine has captured the spirit. Sania will be cured soon. None of us is leaving until that happens."

Pakistanis are beset by problems -- violence, crippling power cuts, poverty and dilapidated hospitals are but a few.

The government, seen as inept and corrupt, offers little relief.

Many people think their suffering is inflicted by evil spirits intent on destroying marriage prospects, businesses and health, and that only Sufi saints can help.

But that's a risky belief in Pakistan. Militants, including the al Qaeda-linked Taliban, have over the years bombed Sufi shrines which they consider heretical.

During an annual celebration this year at one in the central Pakistani town of Dera Ghazi Khan, the Taliban dispatched suicide bombers who killed 41 people.

A double suicide bombing in 2010 at Pakistan's most important Sufi shrine, in the city of Lahore, killed about 42 people.

But fears of possession, and life's many challenges, keep driving people back to the shrines. Sufism is a mystical form of Islam which adheres closely to the traditions of Islam but also reflects secularism and universalism in spiritual matters.

It is especially strong in Sindh province, where Pakistan's biggest city and commercial hub of Karachi is located.

"JINNS HAVE SEX WITH US"

"The whole concept of jinns, which previously would have been a belief in some other kind of spirit, has been converted into Islamic parlance," said Ali Khan, an anthropologist at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

Self-proclaimed exorcists thrive on these beliefs. They claim special powers from God which enable them to help people cope with everything, from domestic disturbances to infertility and impotence. Some even say they can help people find love.

In a dimly lit shack just outside a shrine, Syed Aliuddin, wearing a white robe and silk cap set with a green stone resembling an emerald, listens to people lament.

One man, an electrician, complains his wife is disobedient. In a carefully rehearsed ritual, the exorcist with a white beard writes prayers on strips of paper and douses them in water.

Customers then drink it, believing his promise that it only takes 10 minutes to take effect.

Aliuddin says he can fight 18,000 types of evil spirits made from fire. Like others in his trade, he is keeping pace with the information age, running his own website and offering consultations by email and mobile phone.

"Some possess bodies out of jealousy, others out of love, some have other motives," said Aliuddin, who charges between 50 rupees (55 cents) and 250 rupees a session, which last up to 30 minutes.

"Jinns swim inside us when they possess us, feed on us, have sex with each other and with us."

The more serious the issue, the more radical the cure.

Jamila Bibi turned to the Abdullah Shah Ashabi shrine in the ancient, dusty town of Thatta in Sindh province.

Her son, Muhammed, began having violent fits four months ago. The 18-year-old is chained by his ankle to a wall. He sits silently, staring at others who are chained or are praying.

"We want him to be close to the spirit of the saint. We have had to chain him so he doesn't hit other people," she said.

In a country where a heavy stigma is attached to mental illness, and the state spends little on health, many see spiritual healing as the only option.

"This is more about a lack of education and awareness, rather than access to medical facilities. It's a desperate attempt to seek hope," said psychologist Rizwan Taj.

Nearby, Rahim Yar, who suffers from memory loss and extreme physical weakness, starts screaming.

He has been at the shrine, which has marble floors and surrounds a domed tomb of a Sufi saint, for four years.

"The jinn inside me says he needs to take me to India, to a temple where people are sacrificed," Rahim said.

"He says he will not leave me and I must be sacrificed."

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/20/us-pakistan-exorcism-idUSTRE7BJ0GZ20111220

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“I cannot speak against music. I cannot stand against cheerfulness”: Maldivian President

By Minivan News

December 20th, 2011

The following is a translation of a speech given by President Mohamed Nasheed on December 17.

“When I spoke in Maafannu [on December 15], I said that we have been somewhat contemplating on what everyone is talking about in the Maldives today. This party or the government is, in no way, worried about the instigation of a mega protest [on December 23].

However, if any of the citizens spread fatwa, or talk about beheading or killing other citizens, I see it as a severe disruption of our social stature.

We all have been accustomed and have accepted moderate policies for our daily lives. I see that it is time for all those who support our traditional methods and believe that those methods are not wrong, to come out for its defense.

Lately some people, including political parties and NGOs, have been very vocal about the implementation of specific verdicts. Those that they identify include harsh religious verdicts which we don’t practice today, such as half-buried stoning, beheading and killing.

From the beginning, this government has been seeking and following the advice of religious scholars.

Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari is the Minister of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the institution responsible for disclosing and implementing the government’s religious policies. Dr Majeed would agree that the government has always respected their decisions on religious matters, and has in no way attempted any reservations or objections on such decisions, even in my own capacity.

And Dr Majeed clearly knows that, quite often, I accept his word as the final word on certain type of matters, even at Cabinet discussions.

We have been able to hold our religious identity and its values at a par, for hundreds and hundreds of years. I don’t see a reason for us to get ourselves drenched arguing over different sectarian perspectives and intricate religious vocabulary today. Since ancient times we have been living in a harmonious Islamic culture, unlike those Islamic nations who are known for defending specific religious perspectives. I would rather stand up and show Maldives’ Islam as an example for them to follow.

We Maldivians are a nice lot. And we love Islam. Not this government, nor the people, nor myself, would allow room for the spread of another religion in the Maldives.

We or the government have never – never – endorsed for such. If some are of the view that the current religious situation is not better than before, I wonder where are all the scholars who were in the cells that surrounded mine?

They are here: because they pray; because they preach; because they clarify religious matters. Today, our people have the blessings of God, for all scholars to speak their will, and guide the public, within the rightful boundaries of religion.

Using [religion] to deceive as such, I believe, could be very perilous to the people. It could be very perilous to the Maldives.

While harsh religious policies are being defended; in reality, they can only be implemented through the Constitution.

To conduct half-buried stoning, cutting off limbs, beheading, flogging or to implement any other such verdict, it can only be done when it is deemed so in the Penal Code. Those responsible for doing this are the parliament members.

I always prefer to seek religious advice from religious scholars. They need to clarify it plainly to the public. What is it that they are so vocal about? What is it that they are seeking? Is it the same as what we have been practicing so far? I feel that we need to speak about these matters very clearly. All political parties need to spell out clearly what they prefer to include in the Penal Code.

What verdicts do they want to include? We also have many other not-so-clear matters in addition to these verdicts. And many other matters of dispute among the people. One such dispute would be about music. Many of us has a passion for music. Many of us Maldivians listen to music and like to play too. When some start to preach against it, we the people, need to know what the actual truth is.

Traditionally, Maldivian women have strongly participated equally both at work and at home, similar to its male counterpart, in raising children, in social and economic activities. We need to know what the social role of women is. Are we asking to change what we have been practicing for so long? Or are we only hearing from the loudest? Is this from the opposition’s TV and radio channels, trying all that they can to promote anti-government sentiment, in the heated political atmosphere? I believe that the public needs to have clarity.

We are the leaders of the people. We are elected by the people. According to this political system embedded in our constitution, we cannot part away from the people. We brought in this system, because we wanted to execute it. By God’s virtue, we are doing it. While we are at this, most political leaders would be swindling to comment or not to comment on my words here tonight, basically without expressing their perspectives at all, and remain deceitful to the public. They need to express, to the public, very clearly and specifically their views and perspectives on relevant matters. If the public don’t agree, it is their right to seek other leaders. We will continue to conduct free and fair elections.

I will say, I have been raised by my parents on the principles of Islam since childhood. I dearly believe the principles of Islam. I shall not let my conscience be affected by the worldly waves, or breach my own ways: the ways my teachers and my parents taught me.

I don’t see why some people should disapprove me for this reason. We all should be able to live together. We have spelt out the constitution for different circumstances.

Some people raised concern about the monuments placed by the SAARC countries in the city and the atoll, when Addu transferred into a city. We find a lot of commemorative monuments in Maldives. Male also has such monuments. This time, when it was requested to send in their country’s monument, the specifics had probably been subject to miscommunication.

I don’t think, under any circumstances, any of us intended to place an idol of worship, when it was placed there. It was only a commemorative monument sent in by the leaders of SAARC countries, placed by the mayor with the workmen from the islands. I only saw it when I was told that it had been vandalised.

This is not a government who will try to do anything that hasn’t been done before as far as religion goes. What we are trying to change are the social standards, economic policies and political philosophies.

We shall never denounce the religious policies and standards accepted by the people. We shall neither provide space for such a spirit to infiltrate into Maldives. But I shall repeat, I cannot speak against music. I cannot stand against cheerfulness. We require them as part of our daily needs, to sooth and calm our souls. I am sure; our youth population is not tiny. We cannot let them be demoralised or leave them to become useless. We need to provide them with modes of entertainment and other activities to fill their time, for if not, the outcome would be devastating.

When we rolled over in 2008, I myself was witness to the youth in street corners, being victims of strong addictive drugs. Some would say that I don’t see them now because I am not out there on the streets. I am actually looking for them now. We are implementing and managing different activities. We are taking care of them. When we took over the government, not a single month passed when there had not been a fire attack in a jail or vandalising of property. However, today they know they have the opportunity to come out on parole with an effort on their side. They know that this government is working on it. That is the society we want to establish. To find a way to bring them back in to their families and the society as productive good citizens.

We need shelter. We all know the obstacles we face in the Maldives. We know them now. I still remember around one and half years ago, what someone had told after some calculations. That if we were to build the number of flats that we promised, we were to erect a specific number of flats per minute. And that is exactly what we do: we erect a number of flats per minute. The waiting time, planning time, designing time is sometimes not considered as part of the project implementation time. During my visits some would ask when the physical implementation work would start. Physical work is considered only that from which you sweat. Or which can be physically seen on site. With God’s grace, we shall deliver our ‘shelter’ campaign pledge. We shall deliver our ‘health’ pledge. We shall deliver our ‘anti-drugs’ pledge.

The only one we would question would be the ‘price’ pledge, understanding exactly how much we can reduce the prices. Prices will reduce somewhat on January 1. However, we should consider giving serious thought as to whether it is possible to reduce the prices to match the levels that we initially wanted.

We shall not stop. We shall try all possible methods. We shall twist and tweak all possible economic options to find a balance. With God’s blessing, we are trying to achieve our goals of a ‘neater’ life, beautiful and happy: without serious worries; not having to beg for medical assistance or text books for school children; not having to worry about red notices. We are seeking to get beyond these. All the same, I would like to tell you, I shall not let go of any of these beliefs for any political reasons, and I will not keep quiet about them.

I believe that our citizens are very much aware. Misconceptions shall dissolve. And they know how things are moving ahead. What is being spoken about on a regular basis would be clear to all. However, some of us are concerned, that there are those citizens who only believe what they are made to hear and see by specific radio and TV stations. Not me. I know they are not misguided. I am leading a people that I know about. They are not strangers to me.

Most time, I would know. Those issues that aren’t rectified for you, are not unknown and not left without attendance. It is the current situation that is not allowing us to get in it on the right track. I believe we have achieved several objectives during the past three years.

Before I end my words, I would like to stress that, on December 23, as many of citizens as possible should come out to express themselves and to take a stand. This is the purpose of rallies under a democracy. To express your view and to show which views you stand by.

Some keep asking me why we should stand up.

We have to. Let me tell you this. On that day, when you happen to see a group of people on Male’ streets, who keeps a certain look, dresses in a certain way, and calls for certain calling, you will ask me where I was, if I wouldn’t be there. By God’s grace, I shan’t be lost. I shall be there where I should be.

My prayer is that we are blessed with a better tomorrow.”

http://minivannews.com/politics/i-cannot-speak-against-music-i-cannot-stand-against-cheerfulness-president-nasheed-29659

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For sketch in Urdu text, J&K school board chief faces sedition charge

Bashaarat Masood

Srinagar: Dec 20 2011, In a bizarre move, the Jammu and Kashmir police have booked the chairman of J&K State Board of School Education and five officials for sedition for publishing an illustration of a “tyrant” who resembles a “policeman” in an Urdu primer the board published for Class 1 students.

The image is an illustration of a man in cap and uniform — resembling that of a policeman — holding a bamboo stick and described as “zalim” (tyrant). The book has been in circulation for a year, but it was only today that the police registered a case against board chairman Sheikh Bashir Ahmad.

“There are many reasons for registration of this case,” said Srinagar senior superintendent of police Ashiq Bukhari. “This picture is one of them.” Asked what the “other reasons” were, Bukhari declined to comment.

On page 51 of the book — which teaches the Urdu alphabet — are words that begin with the Urdu letter Zoi: zaroof (utensils), zahir (visible), zareef (humorist) and zalim (tyrant).

Only ‘zalim’ has a corresponding picture: of a man in uniform, sporting a moustache with a bamboo stick in his hand.

“The picture doesn’t identify anybody... It doesn’t resemble any person from the (security) force, it’s only a graphic”, said board chairman Ahmad. “In fact, when the police first informed us about this picture, we recalled all the books. We sent special teams to schools to put a black seal on the picture because we don’t want to hurt anybody’s sentiments.”

“There is misrepresentation of facts in the book,” said investigating officer Shailendra Mishra. “We have registered cases against six people including the board chairman.”

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/for-sketch-in-urdu-text-j&k-school-board-chief-faces-sedition-charge/889889/2

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The revolution's sheikh, killed at 52 in Tahrir Square

Rana Khazbak, Dec 19, 2011

Sheikh Emad Effat, who was killed at the age of 52 on Friday by military police with a gunshot to his heart, was a revolutionary Islamic scholar who affected the lives of hundreds of students he tutored and taught at Al-Azhar Mosque and Dar al-Iftaa, the Muslim world’s premier institution for legal research.

Effat was killed in Tahrir Square when military police violently cracked down on a sit-in by the cabinet building. His family and students suspect that he may have been targeted because of his criticism of the ruling military council and, most importantly, due to his last fatwa, which forbade voting for parliamentary candidates associated with the Mubarak regime and former members of the dissolved National Democratic Party. Effat based that edict on the fact that regime remnants seek to subvert Egypt’s future through bribery and patronage following the revolution.

News of his death fell like a lightning bolt on hearts of his family members and students. However, they hope that his murder will further the cause of the revolution.

“Our heart is bleeding from the departure of Effat. We plan to pursue all avenues, not only to hold his killers accountable, but also to achieve all that he wanted when he went down to Tahrir, and that is to reclaim the nation for its people and to free it from its enemies,” his family said in a statement released on Saturday.

“We won’t rest until these supreme goals are met, for which his blood and that of other martyrs was shed.” 

Full Report at:

http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/558361

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Russian court suspends Bhagwad Gita verdict until December 28

By Aditya Kaul, Agency: DNA

New Delhi, Dec 20, 2011,  India on Monday said it would decided on future course of action only after the Siberian court passes an order on a petition seeking a ban on the Russian translation of Bhagwad Gita written by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

“Some misdirected, perhaps non-religious or even fundamentalist elements have sought a ban on a Russian translation of the Gita. We will take appropriate steps, if required, after we get the Siberian courts verdict,” a government source said.

Earlier, a court in Tomsk city of Siberia suspended its verdict till December 28 on the demand for banning Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, which a group linked to the Christian Orthodox Church has described as ‘extremist’.

“The ruling has been postponed as the lawyer of the local chapter of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) requested the court to seek opinion of Russian ombudsman and experts from Moscow and St Petersburg — the main centres of Indology in Russia”, Sadhu Priya Das of Iskcon said. The petition seeking a ban was filed in June.Earlier, Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin in his statement had declared that “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” written by Swami Prabhupada, the founder of Iskcon, is a globally respected book, and it was unacceptable to seek a ban on it in Russia.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_russian-court-suspends-bhagwat-gita-verdict-until-december-28_1627893

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Bhagwad Gita controversy: Russia expresses sadness

PTI

NEW DELHI:  Dec 20, 2011, In the wake of an uproar over a move to ban Bhagwad Gita in Siberia, Russia has expressed sadness over the development, saying it is "inadmissible" that a holy scripture is taken to court.

"It is strange that such events are unfolding in the beautiful university city in Siberia, as Tomsk which is famous for its secularism and religious tolerance," Alexander M Kadakin, Russian ambassador in India said in a statement here.

"Well, it seems that even the lovely city of Tomsk has its own neighbourhood madmen. It is sad indeed.

"I consider it categorically inadmissible when any holy scripture is taken to the courts. For all believers these texts are sacred," the ambassador said.

Kadakin said, "It is not normal either when religious books are sent for examination to ignorant people. Their academic scrutiny should be done at scientists' fora, congresses, seminars, etc. but not in courts."

A Russian court had yesterday suspended its verdict till December 28 on the demand for banning Bhagvad Gita, which a group linked to the Christian Orthodox Church has described as 'extremist'.

The move had triggered strong protests by members of Parliament who wanted India to take up the matter strongly with Russia.

"Russia, as it is known to anyone, is a secular and democratic country where all religions enjoy equal respect. Even more applicable it is to the holy scriptures of various faiths - whether it is the Bible, the Holy Quran, Torah, Avesta and, of course, Bhagavad-Gita -- the great source of wisdom for the people of India and the world," the ambassador said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Bhagwad-Gita-controversy-Russia-expresses-sadness/articleshow/11177487.cms

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India had advance notice of 'ban Gita' move in Russia

IANS

 New Delhi, Dec 20, 2011, The Indian government had advance notice of a move in a Russian court to ban Bhagvad Gita as an extremist text in the form of a letter to Prime Minister's Office (PMO) dispatched as early as November 1. But little action appeared forthcoming.

In the letter addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterji, Krishna devotees appealed to the government to use some high-level ministerial visits to Moscow, ahead of Manmohan Singh's own trip, to ensure the sacred Hindu text was not banned.

But the hearing in the Siberian court is virtually over and verdict is expected on December 28.

"We are very sorry to inform you that on June 30, 2011, the state prosecutor's office in Tomsk, Russia, has filed a court case asking the court to ban Bhagwat Gita in Russia, translated by Iskcon's founder A.C. Bhaktived Swami Prabhupada," the letter said.

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"As a reason the affidavit quoted an assessment by a panel of expert stating that Krishna is evil and not compatible with Christian views," said the letter, written by Iskcon's governing body commissioner Gopal Krishna Goswami.

The letter, also marked to United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, also mentioned bilateral visits by some top Indian ministers and sought a diplomatic intervention in the case.

The letter wanted Bhagvad Gita to be spared the ignominy of being declared a literature instigating ‘social strife and discord’ and said it was shocking that one arm of the Russian state was against the cornerstones of India's shared spiritual heritage with that country.

"We fear this unprecedented attack will trigger rampant bigotry and would unwittingly make it difficult for the Indian government to be seen fostering security, defence, political and economic ties with an intolerant and oppressive society."

The letter, a copy of which was marked to Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, also referred to Sonia Gandhi's consistent support to secularism, multi-culturalism and religious tolerance, and her commitment to protect culture.

Since the letter was written, India has had six of its ministers and top officials visit Russia, culminating in Manmohan Singh's own visit on December 15 to 17 for a bilateral summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Those in Russia ahead of the prime minister's visit included Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Commerce Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma, Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

Officials in PMO confirmed receipt of the letter to this IANS journalist in Moscow, while being part of the prime minister's media delegation, and said the Indian Embassy was asked to raise the issue with the Russian side.

Requesting anonymity, some officials in the Indian embassy in Moscow said the case was being followed and discussions were held with the Russian authorities on the matter.

http://www.asianage.com/international/india-had-advance-notice-ban-gita-move-russia-576

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Arrest Order for Sunni Leader in Iraq Opens New Rift

BAGHDAD, Dec 19, 2011 — A day after the United States withdrew its last combat troops, Iraq faced a dangerous political crisis Monday as the Shiite-dominated government ordered the arrest of the Sunni vice president, accusing him of running a death squad that assassinated police officers and government officials.

The sensational charges drew a worried response from Washington and brought Iraq’s tenuous partnership government to the edge of collapse. A major Sunni-backed political coalition said its ministers would walk off their jobs, leaving adrift agencies that handle Iraq’s finances, schools and agriculture.

The accusations against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi also underlined fears that Iraq’s leaders may now be using the very institutions America has spent millions of dollars trying to strengthen — the police, the courts, the media — as a cudgel to batter their political enemies and consolidate power.

On Monday night, Mr. Hashimi was in the northern semiautonomous region of Kurdistan, beyond the reach of security forces controlled by Baghdad. It was unclear when — or if — he would return to Baghdad.

In Washington, where officials have been quietly celebrating the end of the war, Obama administration officials sounded alarmed about the arrest order for Mr. Hashimi. “We are talking to all of the parties and expressed our concern regarding these developments,” said Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council spokesman. “We are urging all sides to work to resolve differences peacefully and through dialogue, in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the democratic political process.”

The breakdown in relations between Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and Mr. Hashimi and his Iraqiya Party arrived at an inopportune moment for the administration, coming so close to the troop withdrawal. American officials have spent years trying to urge Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government to work with the country’s Sunni minority, and are wary of having things fall apart now.

Mr. Obama said last week, in remarks welcoming troops back to Fort Bragg, N.C., that Iraq’s future would now be “in the hands of the Iraqi people.” But having removed its combat troops, it was unclear whether the United States retained enough influence to limit sectarian tensions that some analysts say could drag the country back into the chaos and violence of past years and even split it along geographical lines.

The government made its case against Mr. Hashimi in a half-hour television broadcast that was as aggressively promoted as a prime-time special. In grainy video confessions, three men said they had committed murders on Mr. Hashimi’s behalf. They said they had blown up cars, attacked convoys with silenced pistols and were rewarded with envelopes containing $3,000 in American bills.

Full Report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/world/middleeast/iraqi-government-accuses-top-official-in-assassinations.html?ref=global-home

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Hajj is an opportunity to disseminate Islamic ideology: Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei

TEHRAN Dec 20, 2011– Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has described the hajj as an ideal opportunity to disseminate Islamic thoughts.

The Leader made the remarks at a meeting with hajj officials in Tehran on Monday, held days after the annual gathering of Muslims in Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, which began in late October and culminated in November according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

In the meeting, Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized the inseparability of religion and politics and the practice of religion in life. 

http://tehrantimes.com/politics/93703-hajj-is-an-opportunity-to-disseminate-islamic-ideology-leader

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Leaders from India, Pakistan called for empowering women with education and economic independence

New Delhi: Dec 20, 2011, Prominent leaders from India and Pakistan today called for empowering women with education and economic independence to encourage entrepreneurship in south Asia and pulling the masses out of poverty, illiteracy, disease and crime.

Providing them networking platforms is also essential in the current globalised world, said member of Parliament Najma Heptullah while addressing a seminar organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

The seminar titled ‘Fostering Women Entrepreneurship – The Way Forward for South Asia’ was held ahead of the ASSOCHAM delegation of business leaders visiting Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi from January 9 to 14, 2012.

National Youth Congress leader Alka Lamba said both countries have many commonalities and traditional linkages. Business leaders should unleash entrepreneurial urge and forge ahead with economic partnerships between the neighbouring nations to promote core values of unity and peace.

s Harbeen Arora, founder and chief executive officer of Creative Living Organisation, said formation of women associations and support groups should be encouraged to provide them bandwidth for both critical thinking and also critical mass. “There is need more than ever for having more examples of successful entrepreneurship by women and inspiring role models.”

Pakistan’s minister of social welfare Nargis Khan said women can play an important role in developing societies and nations. “The country is exploring new channels to promote entrepreneurship with micro loans. Pakistani women are more empowered now after a prolonged dictatorship in a male-dominated society.”

Ms Qadim Moosarat, executive director of Paiman Trust in Pakistan, said space for women in economic and political spheres is essential for equitable development and peace in south Asia. India and Pakistan should divorce legacies of the past to repel prejudices and discriminations.

Mr Tajuddin Khan, general secretary of Pakistan’s Awami National Party, called for putting an end to atrocities on women and gender discrimination. He said liberal visa regimes in India and Pakistan will promote friendly relations and bilateral trade.

http://www.orissadiary.com/ShowBussinessNews.asp?id=30919

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No chance of martial law in Pakistan: Gilani

IANS

ISLAMABAD: Dec 20, 2011, There would be no martial law in the country, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in an apparent bid to dispel rumours of a military takeover.

He told the National Assembly on Monday that there would be no martial law or any caretaker set-up in the country as no one, including civil society and the media, would accept it.

The abrupt departure of ailing President Asif Ali Zardari on Dec 6 to Dubai had led to speculation of a coup. Though the president returned to Pakistan late Sunday, uncertainty still persists over a secret memo to Washington that claimed he had feared a military takeover following the May 2 killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

"We should not provide such chances which can derail democracy," Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Gilani as saying.

He appreciated leader of opposition Nawaz Sharif for giving statements in support of democracy.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/No-chance-of-martial-law-in-Pakistan-Gilani/articleshow/11177352.cms

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Pakistan’s Army Muddies Waters

By Tom Wright, DECEMBER 20, 2011

Amid speculation that President Asif Ali Zardari is fighting for his political survival, Pakistan’s armed forces has issued an unusual statement that further muddies the waters.

At the center of the affair, which has gripped Pakistan for weeks, is an unsigned memo, allegedly from someone in Mr. Zardari’s government, sent to the U.S. administration and seeking its help to avert a military coup after the U.S. raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden. The army was deeply angered by the raid on its soil, of which it had no forewarning.

The Pakistani media has been full of reports of a widening rift between the civilian government and the military — in particular about the alleged content of recent meetings between the two sides — which may have prompted the army’s unusual statement, released Monday.

The statement referred to a three-hour meeting Dec. 16 between army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, a Zardari ally. Since then, Mr. Gilani has expressed the view that reports of a rift with the military over the so-called “Memogate” affair were untrue. The army’s statement supported that view by calling Mr. Gilani’s statement “comprehensive” and “unambiguous.”

At the same time, the military played down a telephone conversation between Gen. Kayani and Mr. Zardari, which occurred during Mr. Gilani’s meeting with the army chief.

Over the past three days, politicians from Mr. Zardari’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party have referenced that telephone call to show that tensions had eased. Mr. Kayani and Mr. Zardari talked when Mr. Zardari happened to call Mr. Gilani while the prime minister was meeting with the army chief.

The army statement said the conversation lasted “approximately one minute,” during which the army chief enquired only about Mr. Zardari’s health. “Hence, attributing anything more to this telephonic conversation is unfounded and unnecessary,” the statement said, in an apparent slap at the PPP politicians’ assertions.

Still, the army could be making a lot more out of Mr. Zardari’s predicament and the speculation surrounding his future if it really intended to usurp power at this time.

http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/12/20/pakistans-army-muddies-waters/?mod=google_news_blog

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Plot to burn Egypt parliament: Military

PTI

CAIRO: Dec 20, 2011, Egypt's ruling military council, which is governing the country after president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, said on Monday that there was a plot to burn down the parliament.

General Adel Omara, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), interrupted a live press conference to announce that a plot had been uncovered to burn down the parliament building on Monday evening. He claimed that a large crowd in the Tahrir Square, was plotting to implement the plan.

Numerous amateur video clips of people in plain clothes hurling stones at the parliament or shaking the iron wall around the parliament and trying to bring it down was subsequently shown to the reporters . Explaining the events of the last few days, Omara denied the army had a hand in the violence.

He said the SCAF was shouldering unbearable burdens in attempting to carryout a peaceful transition in Egypt. He stressed the main perpetrator was a third party who does not want peace to prevail. In fresh flare up, soldiers and protesters clashed for the fourth day in Tahrir Square, killing three and taking toll to 14. The clashes are said to have continued all through the night with three more deaths.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Plot-to-burn-Egypt-parliament-Military/articleshow/11175423.cms

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Maids from Indonesia to Malaysia by end-February

By JOSEPH KAOS Jr

KUALA LUMPUR: Dec 20 2011, The first batch of Indonesian maids following the lifting of the maid ban is expected to arrive here at the end of February, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

He said under the agreement between the Governments of Malaysia and Indonesia, maids must undergo an accumulated 200 hours of training before coming here.

"The first batch should be arriving around the end of February or early March, after they have completed their training," said Dr Subramaniam, after chairing a meeting here Tuesday.

Dr Subramaniam said the training syllabus was worked out between the two governments, and that the Malaysian Labour Department attache in Indonesia would monitor the training.

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2011/12/20/nation/20111220131414&sec=nation

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Party Romance –Youth of Pakistan Watch Out

Dec 20, 2011

The regular use of internet and especially social media sites provides pretty good understanding of youth’s interests likes, dislikes, passions and most all their approach on recent issues. Today, a common fact is that majority of Pakistani youth is highly concerned about country’s volatile situation and consistently expresses their rage over the created clutter on different forums. Bumped up by the coarse circumstances, they are ready to endeavor for brushing off this mess.

But the striking element that can be noted among most of them is that, somehow innocently, they have attached their hopes with one or the other political party, and in spite of all the evident unconvincing proofs, they have faith in their party for doing better than the present government.

They are kind of die hard devotees of PTI, PML-N, JI, MQM etc (probably most of them have no idea of their parties manifestos even ) and in their romance with their party, they have developed poisonous mind-set for all the rest, categorising them to be corrupt, cowards, insincere and what not.

Full Report at:

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/12/party-romance-%E2%80%93youth-of-pakistan-watch-out/

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Sack ISI chief, says petition in Pakistan court

HP News Network

Islamabad : December 20, 2011,  Pakistan’s spy agency chief, General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, should be sacked, a petition filed in the Supreme Court has demanded.

Jameel Ahmed, Communist Party of Pakistan chairman, Monday sought prompt removal of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) head, reported the daily Dawn.

The petition referred to articles in the foreign media that said General Pasha allegedly got approval from the Arab world to sack President Asif Ali Zardari.

“Till date these allegations have not been denied by both the ISI DG and the ISPR (Inter Services Public Relation),” he was quoted as saying in his petition.

Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz had revealed about a secret memo, leading to the resignation of Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani. Zardari had feared a military coup after the May 2 killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US commandos in Abbottabad and had appealed for US help, according to the memo.

Ahmed sought an interim relief in which the court should direct the government to suspend the ISI chief till his petition was dealt with.

“If whatever stated by Mansoor Ijaz about the `memogate’ is correct, then what about his opinion concerning the ISI (DG) that he got approval from the Arab world for the removal of the president,” asked Ahmed.

“This is alarming and shows involvement of the ISI DG,” he added.

Zardari’s sudden departure to Dubai Dec 6 over a heart condition had sparked coup speculations. The president returned to Pakistan late Sunday night.

http://hillpost.in/2011/12/20/sack-isi-chief-says-petition-in-pakistan-court/37908/news-2/hp_news_network

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Balochistan at point of no return: Ataullah Khan Mengal

KARACHI: Dec 20, 2011, PML-N president Nawaz Sharif held a meeting with BNP head Ataullah Khan Mengal, Geo News reported.

Speaking to the media after the meeting Mengal said they had suffered the consequences of their past mistakes and those dying in Balochistan were also human beings.

“The existing conditions have led to Balochistan reaching the point of no return,” Mengal said adding that the situation was not in his control anymore and talks would need to be held with the youth present on the mountains of the province.

The BNP head criticised the atrocities which were taking place in Balochistan and questioned why there was no action by the Army.

Nawaz Sharif said Mengal’s concerns were legitimate and atrocities were being committed in Balochistan.

“My party will fight the case for Balochistan. We love Balochistan and it is an important part of Pakistan,” Sharif said.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/NewsDetail.aspx?ID=28946

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15 found alive near Indonesia after migrant boat capsizes

MANILA: Dec 20, 2011Indonesian rescuers found 15 people alive on Monday in the vicinity of a boat capsized, raising hopes of more survivors among 200 missing asylum seekers who were en route to Australia. Thirteen of the survivors found on a dinghy 100 kilometres from the capsize are receiving medical treatment.

http://epaper.hindustantimes.com/PUBLICATIONS/HT/HD/2011/12/20/ArticleHtmls/15-found-alive-near-Indonesia-after-migrant-boat-20122011019013.shtml?Mode=1

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Two Yemen soldiers, 13 Islamists killed in clashes

(AFP),20 December 2011

Fresh fighting between suspected Al Qaeda militants and army troops in Yemen’s restive Abyan province have killed two soldiers and 13 Islamists, military officials said on Tuesday.

During Monday’s clashes in southern Yemen the army fired artillery rounds on positions held by fighters of the Al Qaeda linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) group, killing 13 Islamists, the officials said.

Two soldiers were killed in the fighting on the outskirts of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province, which the army has been trying to retake control of since May.

A local official in the adjacent town of Jaar, an Al Qaeda stronghold, told AFP that the army has benefited from US logistical support which allows Yemeni forces to locate the Islamists’ hideouts.

Yemeni government forces have been backed by tribal fighters and sometimes supported by US drone strikes in their fight against the Partisans of Sharia, which has controlled most of Zinjibar since May.

Al-Qaeda has profitted from the instability caused by 11 months of protests against Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, strengthening its positions across the south of the country.

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle11.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2011/December/middleeast_December537.xml&section=middleeast

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Man kills wife for alleged disloyalty

QUETTA: Dec 20, 2011, A man killed his wife on pretext of disloyalty in Dhaddar area on Monday. According to sources, a man identified as Essa Khan Jatoi opened fire on his wife, killing her on the spot. Local people shifted her body to the nearby hospital. The killer escaped from the scene. “The cause of the killing is said to be disloyalty,” Police said, adding that they had started an investigation. staff report

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\12\20\story_20-12-2011_pg7_9

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New political role of women in Islamic world to be raised in Istanbul on 21-25 December

Baku, Fineko/abc.az. International conference "Role of women in changing Muslim society" will be held in Istanbul on 21-25 December by the Parliamentary Assembly of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) and the Ministry of Family & Social Policy of Turkey.

Azerbaijan’s Milli Majlis reports that at the conference to be opened by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan the country will be represented by MP Govhar Bakhshaliyeva.

The conference will cover national experience of formation of mechanisms of gender equality, women’s participation in politics and strengthening of democracy, women’s rights in changing Middle East and North Africa, Islam and democracy, establishment of gender equality institutions.

The foreign media report that precisely women provided victory of radical Islamic parties in the last elections in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt (in this country, the electoral process will end on 10 January). Neither the OIC nor Turkey do want to stay away and miss the implications of the political awakening of the orthodox Muslim women.

http://abc.az/eng/news/main/60696.html

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NATO defiant on Afghan night raids

KABUL: Dec 20, 2011, NATO said on Monday that US-led forces in Afghanistan will continue night raids, despite renewed objections from Afghan President Hamid Karzai after a pregnant woman was killed during an operation.

Afghan special forces will increasingly take the lead in such operations, spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson said, without giving a precise timetable.

Night-time raids are one of the most contentious issues in Afghanistan. Karzai has led public criticism, saying they endanger lives and harass local communities, and called on international forces to stop entering Afghan homes.

Karzai’s office said in a statement that during a National Security Council (NSC) meeting late Sunday, the president emphasised the need to prevent civilian casualties, saying the casualties and the night raids on homes “have created serious problems.”

Last month, Karzai convened a traditional national assembly known as a Loya Jirga that stopped short of demanding a complete end to night raids.

For Full Report:

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\12\20\story_20-12-2011_pg7_27

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Karzai wants immediate halt to Nato night raids

AFP

KABUL: Dec 20., 2011, Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday demanded an immediate halt to Nato-led night raids after the military insisted the operations will continue despite the recent death of a pregnant woman.

Karzai has led public criticism of the controversial raids, saying they endanger lives and harass local communities, and repeatedly called on US-led international forces to stop entering Afghan homes.

he latest spat comes after the pregnant wife of an anti-drugs official was killed during a raid in the eastern Paktia province in the early hours of Saturday when Nato-led forces returned gunfire coming from a compound.

Nato has defended the operations as the safest way of targeting insurgent leaders, insisting they will continue but with the increasing involvement of Afghan special forces.

“The president of Afghanistan wants an immediate halt to the night raids and house searches of Afghans,” presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said.

“He doesn’t want any foreigner to go to the homes of Afghans and search their homes.”

A loya jirga meeting of Afghan elders last month made halting the raids a condition of a strategic partnership document being negotiated with Washington.

The agreement will govern the relationship between American troops and the Afghan government after the scheduled withdrawal of combat troops in 2014.

“What Nato officials say is in total contradiction to the decisions of the loya jirga, to the demands of the Afghan people…and it is in total contradiction to what the president of Afghanistan wants,” Faizi said.

“One of the main reasons that we have not been able to agree on a strategic partnership is the problem of night raids on Afghan houses.”

He said the Afghan government would have no problem with the raids if they were “100 per cent conducted by Afghans”.

Full Report at:

http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/20/karzai-wants-immediate-halt-to-nato-night-raids.html

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US asks Iran to free man who 'confessed' to CIA plot

Dec 20, 2011

The US has asked Iran to free "without delay" a US man of Iranian descent described by Tehran as a CIA spy.

Amir Mirzai Hekmati confessed he had been sent to infiltrate Iranian intelligence services on state TV.

A spokeswoman for the State Department told the BBC the US had requested access to Mr Hekmati through the embassy of Switzerland, which serves as an intermediary between the countries.

His family denied their son was involved in espionage.

"My son is no spy. He is innocent. He's a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man," Ali Hekmat told ABC News. "These are all unfounded allegations and a bunch of lies."

A state department spokeswoman told the BBC: "The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent foreigners for political reasons."

On Sunday, the Iranian TV report said Mr Hekmati had come to the attention of Iranian agents at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, before he went to Iran.

He was shown speaking Farsi and English, describing his alleged mission to infiltrate Iran's intelligence ministry.

The report said Mr Hekmati joined the US Army in 2001 and received special training before being sent to Iran.

According to the Ali Hekmati, his son did join the US military in 2001, but served in the Marines, where he was an Arabic translator.

Iran's government has repeatedly accused the United States of carrying out covert intelligence operations in order to undermine it.

In May, Tehran claimed it had detained a network of 30 CIA operatives, saying they had been involved in espionage and sabotage.

Last week, Iran indicted 15 people on charges of spying for America and Israel but gave few other details.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16259013

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Iran Admits Western Sanctions Are Inflicting Damage

By RICK GLADSTONE

December 20, 2011

Iran’s veneer of stoicism toward the Western sanctions that have disrupted its economy showed some new strains on Monday, as the deputy oil minister acknowledged a decline in domestic petroleum production because of dwindling foreign investment, and four-year-old talks between the Iranians and Poland’s biggest natural gas developer collapsed.

The Iranians also suffered an embarrassment after prematurely announcing that a Russian oil company had committed $1 billion to help revive a dormant oil field in Iran’s southwest. Hours later, the Russian company, Tatneft, denied on its Web site that a deal had been signed. And there were signals that Saudi Arabia, which Iran had confidently predicted last week would not increase oil production to compensate for any Iranian shortfall caused by the sanctions, was becoming increasingly irritated with Iran.

Together, the developments portrayed Iran, with the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves and second-largest natural gas reserves, as struggling more than it had admitted from the effects of the Western sanctions, despite its official denunciations of them as desperate measures doomed to fail or backfire.

The sanctions, imposed to pressure Iran into ending its suspect nuclear program, were strengthened last month, with the possibility of more onerous restrictions on Iran’s central bank and oil industry looming from the United States and the European Union. Under a measure that is likely to be signed into law by President Obama, foreign entities that do business with Iran’s central bank, the conduit for Iran’s oil revenue, could face severe penalties if they do business in the United States.

Iran’s deputy oil minister, Ahmad Qalebani, appeared to have made an unusual disclosure about the effects of sanctions in an article reported by the official Iranian Students’ News Agency, which quoted him as saying Iran’s crude oil production in 2011 had declined from the year before. He said the decline was “due to lack of investment in oil field development.”

Full Report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/world/middleeast/iran-admits-western-sanctions-are-inflicting-damage.html?ref=global-home

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Iran to host 10th OIC Culture Ministers Conference

Algiers, Dec 20, IRNA – Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Islamic Countries Educational and Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) agreed here Monday with hosting of its 10th Culture Ministers Conference by Islamic Republic of Iran.

According to IRNA the participants at the 7th Conference of the Islamic Countries Culture Ministers at Algerian capital city here on Monday agreed with the hosting of their 10th conference in 2017 by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Oman would be the hosts of the said ministerial conference in the years 2012 and 2014 respectively.

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini in an interview with IRNA in Algiers announcing the news in this respect reiterated that the conference would be held in the year that Mash’had would be named as the cultural capital city of the Islamic World in the (Iranian) year 1396 (2017).

He referred to the strong presence of the Iranian delegation at Algerian conference, adding, “The coincidence of Iran’s hosting of the 10th OIC Culture Ministers Conference and the nomination of the holy Mash’had as the Cultural Capital City of the Islamic World in the year 2017 would provide a good opportunity for introduction of the rich and ancient civilization of the Islamic Iran to the other countries.

ICESCO was established in the year 1079 and is based in Rabat, the capital city of Morocco.

51 countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran are the comprising members of ICESCO.

The 7th ministerial conference of PIC was held in the presence of over 40 delegations from as many Islamic countries in Algeria’s capital city, Algiers, and ended its work on Monday night.

http://www.irna.ir/ENNewsShow.aspx?NID=30721345&SRCH=1

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Syria unrest: Dozens of army deserters 'gunned down'

20 December 2011

Dozens of army deserters have been shot dead by Syrian troops as they tried to flee their bases and join anti-government protests, reports say.

Activist groups said more than 70 defectors were gunned down in the north-western Idlib province.

They said Monday's death toll across the country could exceed 110 - which if true would make it one of the deadliest days of the uprising.

Damascus earlier agreed to an Arab League deal to allow monitors in.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the Arab League had accepted amendments demanded by Damascus.

The Arab League said an advance team of observers would go to Syria this week.

In a separate development, the UN General Assembly voted by a strong majority to condemn the Syrian authorities for the crackdown, which has left some 5,000 people dead since the protests against President Bashar al-Assad began in March.

The non-binding resolution - passed by a vote of 133 to 11, with 43 abstentions - demanded an immediate end to human rights abuses and called on Damascus to implement the Arab League plan.

Deal 'amendments'

On Monday, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a soldier who defected had reported the deaths of 60-70 army deserters by machine-gun fire in Idlib province - the main stronghold for army defectors.

"They were killed while trying to run away from their military positions on the way between the villages of Kensafra and Kefer Quaid, in Zawyia Mountain, in Idlib district," the group said.

Full Report at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16258387

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In Protests, Syrians Find the Spark of Creativity

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

BEIRUT, Lebanon, December 19, 2011 — You could call it the dance-athon to dislodge a despot.

Among protesters across the Arab world, Syrians —particularly the restive residents of Homs — have embraced an unusually musical approach to their uprising. They have expressed their demand for change through catchy tunes and collective choreography, to the extent that mourners packing a street one day this month began to dance during a protester’s funeral, a conspicuous break from the traditionally somber ritual.

“It was a combination of both a physical and a psychological reaction,” said a young actor, describing how he had cut loose at his very first demonstration in Damascus, the capital.

“Nobody told me to dance — it just started,” he added, speaking anonymously, like many Syrians, out of fear of reprisals. “It was weird, but I liked it. Something is changing in the minds of the Syrians.”

On the simplest level, the dancing signals that despite months of bloody repression, the euphoria people feel in seeking freedom cannot be suppressed, participants said.

Singing and dancing are manifestations of what many Syrians describe as a much broader cultural flowering. Some of it gets expressed through the relative safety of the Web, and much of it involves humor and satire. In a country where people often considered themselves dour and habitually too cowed by an oppressive government to mock it, this is a major cultural shift.

Full Report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/world/middleeast/in-uprising-syrians-find-spark-of-creativity.html?_r=1&smid=tw-nytimes&seid=auto

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Rajasthan clerk held for spying for Pakistan

Jaipur: Dec 20, 2011, A 25-year-old government clerk was arrested on Monday in Rajasthan's Sri Ganganagar district on charges of spying for Pakistan, police said.

Pawan Sharma, was employed as a lower divisional clerk in the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) office at Suratgarh town in the border district, some 600 km from Jaipur.

Pawan was under surveillance of state police's special operations group for a few days. He was booked under sections of the Official Secrets Act. Pawan will be presented in a court Tuesday, a police official said.

The SDM office comes under the district collector's jurisdiction. The permission for the army for carrying various war exercises in the area is granted by the collector's office.

"Pawan Sharma used to pass on strategic information about army exercises in the area. Suratgarh also has an air base," a police official told.

"He had been spying for Pakistan for about two years," he said.

He added that Pawan had a mobile SIM card issued by a telecom company in Pakistan.

He allegedly used this SIM card to give information to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. Some district areas bordering Pakistan here catch frequencies of mobile towers situated in the neighbouring country.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/rajasthan-clerk-held-for-spying-for-pakistan/213358-3.html

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No peace in South Asia until Kashmir problem resolved: Azad Kashmir PM

Hamid Golpira

ISLAMABAD, 20 December 2011 -- There can be no peace in the South Asia region until the Jammu and Kashmir problem is resolved, according to the prime minister of the Azad Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Nobody in the region can be secure if there’s a war, Choudhary Abdul Majid said in a meeting with an Iranian media delegation in Islamabad on December 15.

On Iran’s role in the region, he stated that Iran is the true brother of the people of Pakistan.

The late Imam Khomeini was a great figure for the Islamic world, he added, and expressed regret that he never met the Founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran in person.

“But I met him through his books and read his thoughts and opinions. Imam Khomeini was a unique and unforgettable figure for all Muslims.”

Commenting on the Kashmir liberation movement, he said, “The future of Kashmir has to be decided by the people of Kashmir. Every nation has to respect self-determination. Almost the majority of the Kashmiri people have decided their choice, they want to join Pakistan. We don’t want independence or an autonomous region.”

“Many people were killed in the struggle. I think the fate of Kashmir will be decided only by talks and negotiation. The United Nations resolution was passed to shape the Kashmir territory. I think if India considers itself a democratic country (it has) to respect self-determination.”

Full Report at:

http://www.tehrantimes.com/middle-east/93663-no-peace-in-south-asia-until-kashmir-problem-resolved-azad-kashmir-pm

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Teesta deal at earliest possible time: Advisor to Bangladesh PM

Star Online Report, December 20, 2011

The agreement on the long-standing Teesta water sharing between India and Bangladesh will be signed as soon as possible, Foreign Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister Gowher Rizvi said Tuesday.

"It is good for our country to sign the agreement at the earliest possible time as the time is crucial," he said while speaking at the opening session of a dialogue programme on 'Bangladesh-India Security' in a city hotel.

The premier's adviser also said the majority people of the country want an improved relationship with the neighbouring India and through signing of the treaty the bilateral bond will be improved.

Bangladesh Enterprise Institute organised the 2-day long dialogue in association with Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

He also elaborated the government's achievement in solving some key issues like border demarcation, 24-hr access through Teen Bigha Corridor and duty-free export of Bangladeshi products to India.

Some exceptional issues like water management, joint river-basin management and regional connectivity will have to be achieved to strengthen the relation between the two countries, he said.

Terming secularism and peace as the common aspirations of both the countries, he said 'there are no fundamental issues that can deteriorate the Indo-Bangla relationship'.

On the other hand, Observer Research Foundation President MK Rasgotra stressed the need for open border, sea trade and common currency between the two neighbouring countries to strengthen the bilateral relationship.

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/latest_news.php?nid=34525

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Taliban is not the US's enemy: US Vice President

WASHINGTON: Dec 20, 2011, The United States has said that Taliban is not an enemy of America, a move seen as the latest effort of the Obama administration to send an olive branch to the terrorist outfit that ruled Afghanistan before 9/11.

"Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That's critical," US Vice-President Joe Biden said in an interview to the Newsweek magazine.

"There is not a single statement that the (US) President has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens US interests," he said.

If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us. So there's a dual track here, Biden added.

"One, continue to keep the pressure on al-Qaida and continue to diminish them. Two, put the government in a position where they can be strong enough that they can negotiate with and not be overthrown by the Taliban," he said.

"And at the same time try to get the Taliban to move in the direction to see to it that they, through reconciliation, commit not to be engaged with al-Qaida or any other organization that they would harbor to do damage to us and our allies," Biden said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney, supporting Biden's statement, said the Vice-President does not regret having said this.

"We didn't invade Afghanistan. We did not send US military personnel into Afghanistan because the Taliban were in power. They had been in power. We went into Afghanistan because al-Qaida had launched an attack against the US from Afghanistan," he said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Taliban-is-not-the-USs-enemy-Biden/articleshow/11177286.cms

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Pakistan embassy in US issued 7,000 visas to Americans without security clearance: Petitioner

ISLAMABAD: 20 Dec, 2011,  A memogate scandal petitioner has alleged that the Pakistan Embassy in the US had granted over 7,000 visas to Americans from 2008 till date without getting security clearance, out of which, 450 visas were stamped in one night.

He said 1,895 official and diplomatic visas were granted between January and July 2010, and 1,445 visas were issued between July 14 and August 30, 2010, The Daily Times reports.

Pakistan's Supreme Court advocate Tariq Asad, who is a petitioner in the memo scandal case said none of the respondents had given appropriate replies on his petition's clauses.

Asad, while filing a rejoinder, also requested the court to order the respondents to file comprehensive replies instead of making mere statements.

Asad said the replies submitted by Pakistan Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Inter Services Intelligence Director General Ahmad Shuja Pasha and former ambassador to US Husain Haqqani did not coincide with the contents of the petition. He said Pakistan's Attorney General did not take interest in even reading the petition before filing replies.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/nri/visa-and-immigration/pakistan-embassy-in-us-issued-7000-visas-to-americans-without-security-clearance-petitioner/articleshow/11173148.cms

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Pakistan sends liaison officers to border centres: NATO

KARACHI: Dec 20, 2011, Nato said the Pakistan Army has sent back the liaison officers to the border coordination centres who were called back after the deadly Nato strike in Mohmand Agency that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The Army had earlier said these officers were not called back permanently in fact they were only called for consultations.

“This impression is not correct that border coordination centres were closed and Pakistan Army officers at these centres were called back permanently,” an ISPR spokesman said in a statement.

“Officers were called for consultations only and now they have gone back to the border coordination centres,” he said.

Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told reporters in Kabul, “We have seen liaison officers, Pakistani officers, return to border coordination centres. General Allen has spoken to General Kayani, so we are moving in the right direction.”

He said the return of Pakistani officials to the coordination centres was no doubt an important development and also hoped that a decision will soon be taken on restoring Nato supplies to Afghanistan as it was in favour of Nato and Pakistan.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/NewsDetail.aspx?ID=28980&title=Liaison-officers-sent-to-border-centres

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Official: Pakistan sees lull in US drone strikes

By ASIF SHAHZAD

Associated Press, 2011-12-20 

Pakistani police officers and paramilitary soldiers stand guard at the main entrance of Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. Pakistan's Supreme Court has begun investigating a secret memo sent to Washington that has sharply raised tensions between the weak civilian government and the powerful military. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

The CIA has stopped firing missiles at militants in Pakistan since last month's deadly NATO airstrikes along the Afghan border so as not to "aggravate" already strained ties with Islamabad, the chief of Pakistan's senate defense committee said Tuesday.

The 33-day pause is the longest since the program began in 2004, according to the Long War Journal, a website that tracks the strikes.

Tensions between Pakistan and the United States are at their lowest ebb in years following the Nov. 26 airstrikes at the Pakistani army border outpost that killed 24 soldiers. The Pakistani army responded by closing its border with Afghanistan to trucks carrying U.S. and NATO war supplies. It is demanding a complete review of its relationship with Washington.

Javed Ashraf Qazi, the defense committee chief, said he believed the pause in attacks was because the U.S. "does not want to aggravate the situation any further."

Still, Qazai, a former army general who gets high-level briefings because of his position on the committee, said he believed that if the United States had a "high-level" target in its sights then, "I think they would go ahead" and launch a strike . "If they do so, the results could get worse," he said.

Full Report at:

http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/etn/news_content.php?id=1792533

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Plea against deportation to Pakistan

KOCHI: Dec 20, 2011, A 65-year-old Kerala-born person, who had been employed in Karachi, approached the Kerala High Court seeking a direction to the Government to abstain from the move to deport him to Pakistan.

Kasim Haji of Kannur sought a directive to the police to refrain from arresting and detaining him. He submitted that he was born to Indian parents and was a resident of the state.

He had been employed in Karachi and Bangladesh till October 24, 2011. He had never relinquished his Indian nationality by voluntary renunciation, the petitioner submitted.

According to the petitioner, he reached India on October 25 by using the passport issued by Bangladesh and a visa issued by the Indian High Commission in Dhaka valid up to December 19.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/plea-against-deportation-to-pakistan/213575-60-116.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/675-pakistan--honour-killing--victims-in-first-nine-months-of-2011/d/6186


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