• Israeli rabbi describes Islam as “ugly”
• Violence against women is not a tenet of Islam
• Pak Superme Court scraps Ordinance: Zardari in trouble
• Why are David Headley's visa papers missing?
• CHITRAL: Two Kalash girls converted to Islam
• Muslims face alarming discrimination in Europe
• Explosion kills 22 in central Pakistan
• Pakistan rebuffs US
• CIA didn't give full 26/11 info
• War crime case against Tony Blair now rock-solid
• 'Sycophant' Tony Blair used deceit to justify Iraq war, says former DPP
• Swiss ban on minarets is generating intense debate in Europe
• Who Will Save Us from Radical Islam? Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch
• ‘Kasab wanted to confess, we did not use force’
• Kashmir strike against CBI report into Shopian deaths
• 'Good job', Rana told LeT during Mumbai attack
• LeT operatives sentenced on terror charges in US
• David Headley, a double agent?
• Jail for LeT, JeM men
• Obama Administration sends its first report on Pak to Congress
• Two Pak-Americans sentenced for video terror plot
• Arrest warrant against Livni issued in Britain: Israel
• 95% militants in Kashmir are from outside: Azad
• Musharaf withdrew Swiss 'kickback' cases against Zardari:ex-AG
• Dhaka: at Christmas the sisters of Mother Teresa, close to poor Muslims and Hindus
• Osama bin Laden, a myth or reality
• Palestine is one of the top priorities of both Turkey and Egypt - Abdullah Gul
• Kerala Plans 1st Islamic Bond as Dubai May Curb Funds
• Mumbai attacks trial prosecution concludes case
• 20 killed in Orakzai air strikes
• Afghan rape victim lives in fear
Compiled By: New Age Islam News Bureau
75 Yr Old Saudi Woman: 40 Lashes
by Benjamin Joffe-Walt
December 15, 2009
Saudi Arabia is set to punish 75-year-old woman with 40 lashes, imprisonment and deportation for being in the company of a young man she once breastfed.
A 75-year-old woman is set to be given 40 lashes, imprisoned for four months and deported to Syria after Saudi religious police caught her in the company of a young man she once breastfed and who claimed to have been bringing her bread.
Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, 75, and two younger men, known only as Hadyan and Fahad, were found guilty of violating a sex-segregation law known locally as khilwa.
Sawadi has claimed that the sex segregation law should not apply as she breastfed Fahad when he was a child.
The international human rights group Amnesty International has called on Saudi Arabia to stay the sentence.
"This punishment amounts to torture and extreme human degradation," Lamri Chirouf, a Saudi Arabia researcher for Amnesty International told The Media Line. "It's in direct contrast to international human-rights standards that protect human dignity."
"These people have not done anything wrong beyond being together," he said. "This is their private life and it shouldn't constitute a crime under international law. It's as simple as that."
"Whenever they catch people together who are not immediate relatives, they punish them," Chirouf added. "The problem in Saudi Arabia is that the criminal justice system is very secretive. Cases of floggings and amputations happen all the time but they are rarely reported."
The threesome were arrested on April 21, 2008, by the Saudi religious police, known as the Mutawa'een and officially dubbed the Commission for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue.
At the trial in March, Hadyan stated that the two men were delivering bread to the elderly woman, while Fahad argued that he had not violated the khilwa sex-segregation law as Sawadi was a relative who had breastfed him when he was a child.
The elderly Sawadi, originally Syrian, was sentenced to four months imprisonment, 40 lashes and deportation to Syria. Fahad was sentenced to 40 lashes and four months' imprisonment and Hadyan to 60 lashes and six months imprisonment. The verdict was upheld by an appeals court.
After the Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Interior Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz ordered the immediate imprisonment and lashing of the threesome.
Many expect the sentence to be carried out this week, as floggings are usually held on Fridays.
"I think she'll die," Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, a Saudi businesswoman and rights advocate told The Media Line. "She's a very old woman and I don't think she can handle 40 lashes."
"She has done nothing wrong and nobody deserves this," she added. "I don't know if anybody can stop this but I wish they could."
But Eman Al Nafjan, an influential female Saudi blogger, argued that an age-based distinction should be made in cases of physical punishment.
"I think lashing and physical punishment is appropriate for people who are healthy and it won't affect them in the long term," she told The Media Line. "It frees up jail cells and we shouldn't have to pay to accommodate people for years."
"But this case is different," Al Nafjan said. "Even if they could prove that she did something wrong, I don't think a 75-year old should be physically punished."
Al Nafjan said that with the extensive gossip surrounding the case it was difficult to discern exactly what the elderly woman was accused of.
"It's just not clear at all why this woman is getting the lashes," she said. "In Islam if you breastfeed a child for more than two years they become your son, but the court said that she can't prove that she breastfed him. How can anyone prove that you breastfed someone - there are no papers."
"Also a lot of people I've been speaking to say that this woman had previous convictions, and some people say that she had a young woman in the house whom she was pimping out," Al Nafjan said. "But if that were true, why didn't they officially say that she was involved in prostitution? If they are going to give lashes to a 75 year old woman, they should say clearly what she is accused of."
Israeli rabbi describes Islam as “ugly”
Mohamed Abdel Salam
15 December 2009
CAIRO: Israel’s former top Rabbi, Shas party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, harshly criticized Islam as a religion and described it as an “ugly” faith during a speech he delivered on Saturday night for the occasion of Hanukah. The comments have left many in the Arab world questioning the role of religious leaders in the Jewish state.
The Rabbi, according to a report by Egypt’s al-Youm al-Saba’a newspaper, who quoted the statements of the Rabbi from Israel’s Ma’arev daily newspaper, reportedly said, “Islam is the worst religion and a religion that disregards the rules of marriage and divorce among Muslims,” adding that according to Islam, “a man cannot get back to his wife if he has divorced her three times, without a Mohalal; the wife has to marry another man before getting back to her ex-husband and if he divorced her for more than three times, according to the Islamic law.”
Ovadia continued to tell of marriage in Islam, saying, “the woman who commits adultery and has intercourse with another man, then gets back to her husband.”
Ma’arev said that the Rabbi, who doubles as the Spiritual Leader of the religious political party, statements will spark anger and cause a storm of attack on him by the Muslim world this year.
The editor of the newspaper Avishai Ben-Haim, said Yosef’s sermon on Saturday night, in which he explained that the conditions of marriage and divorce in Judaism has no similar concept of the one that exists in the Islamic faith in an apparent defense of the Rabbi’s statements.
Yosef was born in Basra, Iraq, in 1924 before moving to Israel early in his life. He currently resides in Jerusalem and is largely seen as one of the most conservative rabbis in the country, with especially rash opinions on Islam.
“He often says these things about Islam and it is disgusting,” said Israeli analyst Avi Cohen from Jerusalem. The analyst hopes that the Muslim world does not take the rabbi’s comments to heart, as “he doesn’t represent the mainstream view of Islam by Israelis and is largely seen as a person not to be listened to. Only the ultra-right conservatives follow what he says.”
But with Islamophobia on the rise in Europe, Muslims across the region are beginning to see these verbal attacks as a pattern that must be ended.
Nidal Mohsen, a Libyan journalist based in Cairo, told Bikya Masr that he hopes people will see what Yosef said and make a concerted effort to fight back.
“I don’t think people should go and be violent and attack Jews wherever they are, instead they need to use the same language to show how he is wrong and Islam is not an ugly religion. All religions have their problems, so when someone from another faith starts to attack another faith over some small issues, it is ridiculous because his own faith has issues that are not so glorious,” Mohsen argued.
The Israeli Embassy in Cairo was unavailable for comment.
Violence against women is not a tenet of Islam
Dec 16, 09
Listening to the radio one day, I was shocked to hear the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on widespread occurrence of rape in Afghanistan.
As a Muslim who knows that the core of her religion is about justice and mercy, I asked myself how the perpetrators of these acts could have strayed so far from the Muslim faith and from basic humane principles.
Pak Superme Court scraps Ordinance: Zardari in trouble
December 16, 2009, Islamabad
In a huge blow to President Asif Ali Zardari, a 17-judge bench of Pakistan's Supreme Court has scrapped the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) which was passed by then President Pervez Musharraf in 2007.
The NRO gave amnesty to President Zardari and many other politicians and bureaucrats from corruption charges. The Pakistan Supreme Court's verdict scrapping the NRO could lead to the end of Zardari's political career.
The NRO was an executive order that removed all the civil cases against political parties and their leadership. It's biggest beneficiaries were said to be Zardari, his wife Benazir Bhutto and their Pakistan People's Party, that remained in exile till the NRO came into play.
It was believed to have been brokered by the Americans as a way to facilitate the return of Benazir to Pakistan. But with today's verdict, Zardari faces the prospect of losing his job.
Old corruption cases will get reopened against him, which could lead to his impeachment. But there is some talk that if Zardari gives up many of his key powers as President - like the power to sack the elected government - former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N), could still let him stay on.
All the cases of corruption shown as terminated against Zardari under the NRO were initiated during the tenure of Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister and former President Farooq Leghari.
The NRO was promulgated on October 5, 2007, and lapsed on October 2009. Petitions to declare it unconstitutional were filed by several people and daily hearings began in December 2008.
Why are David Headley's visa papers missing?
December 16, 2009
How did terror suspect David Headley get a visa to India? What documents did he provide to establish his identity?
Uncovering this will be tough since it's now official that Headley's papers have gone missing from the Indian Consulate in Chicago which granted Headley his visa. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has written to the Consulate asking for an explanation.
The missing papers are the latest in a mystery that tends to get deeper and darker everyday. At the heart of India's concerns are suspicions that Headley was originally a CIA agent who switched sides and then planned the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).
Headley, a US national who left Pakistan with his mother as a teenager, was arrested in Chicago by the FBI in October.
NDTV has reported extensively on whether Headley started out working for the Americans. These reports have been brought up in Parliament, with CPM MP Brinda Karat asking why America is not allowing India access to Headley. In a Chicago court, US prosecutors have charged Headley with plotting the 26/11 attacks as an undercover agent of the LeT.
Headley made multiple trips to India before 26/11. He allegedly took photographs and videos of the four sites that would later come under siege by Pakistani terrorists.
Indian sources are unhappy that despite these charges, Indian officials have not been allowed to meet Headley. America has also said that it's "too premature" to discuss Headley's possible extradition to India after his US trial is completed.
What's more worrying for India is that America's surveillance of Headley began in September last year, before the 26/11 attacks. Yet, no information on him was shared with India. America clearly had specific intelligence reports about the possibility of Mumbai hotels being targeted by terrorists - the Taj was mentioned in the warning passed onto India. But Headley did not figure in this alert.
Worse, India was not told about Headley even when he visited the country in March this year, supposedly to plan a new round of terror attacks. Instead, America waited till after Headley's arrest to share intelligence on him.
Sources say India suspects that Headley was enrolled as a spy after he was arrested for smuggling heroin in 1988. Did America then use him to infiltrate Pakistan's narcotics underworld? And did Headley use that as a cover to start working for Pakistani terrorists against India? Questions that now have India questioning whether America has shared everything it knows about a man named Daood Gilani who morphed into David Coleman Headley.
CHITRAL: Two Kalash girls converted to Islam
by G. H. Farooqu
December 15, 2009
Two Kalash girls embraced Islam at Bumborate village of Kalash valley.
CHITRAL: Two Kalash girls were converted to Islam at Bumborate (Kalash valley). According to Nazim Union council Ayun (Kalash valley) Rahmat Elahi and Wazir Zadar Chairperson Human rights Monitoring committee Kalash valley Shahzia daughter of Mir Jinnah of Brone village was converted to Islam. She is a student of 2nd Year. And Aasti Gul daughter of Noorshali resident of Drazlown converted to Islam. Elites and elders of Kalash community considered it a thread toward Kalash culture while the Muslims community highly hailed and welcome their act regarding embracing Islam. While on the other hand elders of Kalash community are in the opinion that conversion of Kalash people to Islam is a high thread toward this unique culture and community having thousands of year old history.
Muslims face alarming discrimination in Europe
LONDON—Effective and sustainable measures are urgently needed at the city, national and European levels to tackle religious discrimination, according to a report released Tuesday by the Open Society Institute’s At Home in Europe Project.
Europe needs to live up to its promise of an inclusive, open society, said Nazia Hussein, Director of the At Home in Europe project at the launching of the report at the City Hall.
Switzerland’s recent ban on minarets is a clear sign that anti-Muslim sentiment is a real problem in Europe. Too many Europeans believe that religious identity is somehow a barrier to integration, yet the majority of Muslims surveyed identify strongly with the city and country where they live. The role of the city is crucial in tackling discrimination but also in paving the way for inclusion of different people.
She said Europe’s treatment of its Muslim residents will test the Region’s commitment to equal rights.
“Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities” is the culmination of over 2000 one-on-one in-depth interviews and more than 60 focus groups with Muslim residents as well as interviews with local government officials, Muslim leaders, academics, journalists, and activists in select neighbourhoods in seven countries.
The selected cities included Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Leicester ,London, Marseille, Paris, and Stockholm.
The 11 city-specific reports, to be released in early 2010, highlight positive examples of change at the local level and analyze how authorities are addressing challenges related to integration in sectors such as education, employment, health and the media.
About 20 million Muslims live within the European Union, mostly in capital cities and large industrial towns. They are a diverse and growing population of citizens as well as newly arrived migrants.
Though the majority of Muslims are a long-standing and integral part of the fabric of their cities, many still experience discrimination and suspicion.
This complex situation presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges on how to effectively ensure equal rights and social cohesion in a climate of political and social tension, global economic recession, and rapidly expanding diversity.
“There is very little official data available on Europe’s Muslim and minority populations. What does exist is either anecdotal or extrapolated and contributes to an inaccurate picture of Muslim communities and minorities in Europe and a lack of understanding of the experiences.—Agencies
Explosion kills 22 in central Pakistan
A car bombing outside a politician's home in central Pakistan has killed 22 people and wounded 70 others. Tuesday's attack in Dera Ghazi Khan town in Punjab province is the latest in a series to hit Pakistan in recent months.
Islamist militants are blamed in the attacks. Rescue official Natiq Hayat says the explosion left a large crater outside the house of Zulfikhar Khosa, the senior adviser to the chief minister of Punjab province.
No one in the house is believed to have been killed.
Pakistan rebuffs US
EYE ON FUTURE Refuses to take on Haqqani Taliban whom it may use to counter India's influence in Afghanistan
Demands by the United States for Pakistan to crack down on the strongest Taliban warrior in Afghanistan, Siraj Haqqani, whose fighters pose the biggest threat to U.S.
forces, have been rebuffed, according to Pakistani military officials and diplomats.
The Obama administration wants Pakistan to turn on Haqqani, a longtime asset of Pakistan's spy agency who uses the tribal area of North Waziristan as his sanctuary.
But Pakistan views the entreaties as contrary to its interests in Afghanistan beyond the timetable of President Barack Obama's surge, which envisions drawing down U.S.
forces beginning in mid-2011.
The demands, first made by senior U.S. officials before Obama's Afghanistan speech and repeated many times since, were renewed in a written demarche delivered in recent days by the U.S. Embassy to the head of the Pakistani military, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Pakistan has scant faith in the Obama surge, and sees a need to position itself for a major regional realignment in Afghanistan once U.S. forces begin to leave.
It considers Haqqani and his control of large areas of Afghan territory vital to Pakistan in the jostling for influence that will pit Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran in the post-American Afghan arena, the Pakistani officials said.
Pakistan is eager to counter the growing influence of its archenemy, India, which is pouring $1.2 billion in aid into Afghanistan. Indian agents helping terror group?
An unheard militant group, Zarqawi, has reportedly claimed that it is being provided arms, ammunitions and finance to carry out terror strikes inside Pakistan, particularly Peshawar, by Indian agents in the guise of Sikhs. Minister denies Pak role in Mumbai attacks Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has denied Islamabad's role in last year's Mumbai terror attacks, but claimed that his government has evidence to prove Indian involvement in the terror activities in Pakistan. Court extends US nationals' custody Lahore court granted police another 10 days to question five Americans held on suspi cion of links to Islamist mili tants. meanwhile, U.S.
termed the court's decision against deportation as a "rea sonable judicial procedure".
CIA didn't give full 26/11 info
NAMRATA BIJI AHUJA
FBI said Lashkar planned to target Gujarat's Somnath temple, Bollywood stars and Shiv Sena leaders with the help of Headley and Rana
Indian investigating agencies are growing increasingly suspicious that America's FBI and CIA knew about the 26/11 terror plot in detail but did not share "complete" information about the terrorist attack, which left 166 people dead in Mumbai. Top government sources said the Central Intelligence Agency knew of the 26/11 plot as early as September 2008 since it had warned India about a possible "seaborne" terror strike on Mumbai's Taj Mahal Hotel by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT).
The fact that such "specific" information was available with US agencies has raised eyebrows among Indian investigators probing US citizen David Headley's involvement in the Mumbai attacks. "We believe that Headley had told the CIA about the terror plot being hatched in Mumbai. In such a case, the US agencies had more information about the Mumbai plot which was notshared with India," a top government official said. Indian agencies are also questioning the US agencies for granting smooth passage to Headley to travel to India in March 2009, months after the 26/11 terror strike. "It is surprising that the FBI knew of Headley's involvement in the 26/11 attack and yet allowed him to travel to India in March this year," the official said. What has angered Indian investigators more is that the FBI has told the Indian agencies that "Headley does not want to be questioned by Indian agencies".
The Indian agencies are probing a "bigger plot" angle according to which Headley was working as a "double agent" -- for the CIA as well as the LeT. Another challenge for Indian investigators is Pakistan's refusal to share the "voice samples" of the five suspected LeT terrorists arrested by the Pakistani authorities after 26/11. "Two or three names (of LeT terrorists) given by the Pakistani authorities don't exist, which is why Pakistan is sharing the voice samples with us," a top government official said.
The Indian agencies have photographs of Headley as well as his handlers. The official pointed out that Headley has named the top brass of the LeT, including its founder Hafiz Saeed, operational commanders Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Yusuf Muzammil and Sajid Mir, and a serving Pakistani Army officer, Major Iqbal, as being part of the 26/11 plot.
"Headley and Kasab had never met but they had the same handlers," the official said.
During multiple visits to India, Headley spent several lakhs of rupees, including fake Indian currency believed to have been brought from Pakistan. Headley used credit cards issued by American banks. Indian investigators are trying to find out who paid the credit card bills in the American banks. About Headley's accomplice, Pakistani Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana, the sources said Rana had done an extensive recce of shopping malls in Mumbai. "During his visit to Mumbai he did lots of shopping -sarees, pants, shirts -- but left behind everything at his sister's residence. We believe that he was surveying the malls," an official who is part of the investigation said. The FBI, in a footnote to the fresh evidence and chargesheet submitted against Rana in a US court, said Rana "knew well in advance" that LeT terrorists would be striking Mumbai in November 2008. In one of their conversations on September 7, 2009, "Headley discussed four targets with Rana -- Somnath Temple (Gujarat coast), Denmark, Bollywood and Shiv Sena," the FBI said in a fresh 10-page affidavit without identifying the individuals by name. The FBI also refuted Rana's claims that he believed in non-violence and that his beliefs are akin to those of Mahatma Gandhi. "Elsewhere in the conversation Rana asked Headley to pass Rana's compliments directly to the specific LeT member they both knew who had coordinated the attacks," the FBI document said. It claimed Rana had met Abdur Rahman Hashim Syed, a retired Pakistani brigadier known as "Pasha", in Dubai days before the Mumbai attacks.
"Pasha" was allegedly Headley's direct link to Ilyas Kashmiri, one of Pakistan's most wanted terrorists who is also linked to Al Qaeda.
Indian investigators now have their eyes set on the proceedings against Headley in a Chicago court where he will face murder charges for the killing of six US citizens in the 26/11 attack. "He could be awarded the death sentence or life imprisonment. But if he (Headley) is let off with less punishment, then India would have reasonable ground to believe that Headley was a US agent who was also working for the LeT," an official said. It could also add credence to the belief that there was a plea bargain between Headley and the US agencies. Government sources said if Headley gets a jail term of just two to four years then India will press for his extradition after he serves his sentence.
War crime case against Tony Blair now rock-solid
By Neil Clark
DECEMBER 14, 2009
Neil Clark: A trial would be warmly welcomed by millions – so what happens next?
Tony Blair's extraordinary admission on Sunday to the BBC's Fern Britton - that he would have gone to war to topple Saddam Hussein regardless of the issue of Iraq's alleged WMDs - is sure to give fresh impetus to moves to prosecute our former prime minister for war crimes.
The case against Blair, strong enough before this latest comment, now appears rock solid. Going to war to change another country's regime is prohibited by international law, while the Nuremburg judgment of 1946 laid down that "to initiate a war of aggression", as Blair and Bush clearly did against Iraq, "is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole".
Blair's admission, that he "would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam]" regardless of the WMD issue, is also an acknowledgement that he lied to the House of Commons on February 25, 2003, when he told MPs: "I detest his [Saddam's] regime. But even now he [Saddam] can save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully. I do not want war... But disarmament peacefully can only happen with Saddam's active co-operation."
The view that Blair is a war criminal is now mainstream: when comedian Sandi Toksvig, host of Radio Four's News Quiz, called him one on air, the BBC, according to the Mail on Sunday, did not receive a single complaint.
But while it is easy to label Blair a war criminal, what are the chances of him actually standing trial - and how could it be achieved? Various initiatives have already been launched.
The Blair War Crimes Foundation, set up by retired orthopaedic surgeon David Halpin, has organised an online petition, addressed to the President of the UN General Assembly and the UK Attorney General, which lists 14 specific complaints relating to the Iraq war, including "deceit and conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war" and violations of the Geneva Conventions by the occupying powers.
The campaigning journalist George Monbiot, who attempted a citizen's arrest of the former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, for his role in the Iraq war, said at the Hay Literary festival in 2008 that he would put up the first £100 of a bounty payable to the first person to attempt a non-violent citizen's arrest of Blair.
Monbiot has also called for the setting up of national arrest committees in countries which, unlike Britain, have incorporated the 'Crime of Aggression' into their domestic law. These committees would exchange information with one another and make sure that Blair "would have no hiding place".
If Blair is to face an international trial, then the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague - to which Britain is a signatory - would be the likeliest forum. While the ICC has said that it will not conduct prosecutions for the Crime of Aggression until it has been defined by its own working group, the court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, told the Sunday Telegraph in 2007 that he would be willing to launch an inquiry into US/UK war crimes in Iraq. Charges could also be brought against Blair at the ICC for failing to prosecute the war in a "proportionate manner".
From Iraq itself, there are also moves to bring Blair to book. It has been reported that lawyers acting for Tariq Aziz, the former deputy leader of the country, now held in captivity, have written to Britain's top legal adviser asking permission to prosecute Blair for
Lawyers acting for Tariq Aziz have written to Britain's top legal adviser asking permission to prosecute Blair for war-crimes
war-crimes, in the light of his latest comments.
Whichever way it comes about, if Blair is forced to stand trial, there can be no underestimating the event's significance. Up to now, the only political leaders who have faced war crimes trials since World War Two are those who fell foul of the west - and in particular the United States of America. But the notion of international justice will never be taken seriously if western politicians are deemed to be exempt from the same rules that leaders in Africa and elsewhere are supposed to adhere to.
The prospect of Teflon Tony finally having to answer for his crimes in a court of law, would be warmly welcomed by millions of people throughout the world, not least all those who marched for peace through central London in February 2003, one month before the Iraq invasion.
There is widespread contempt for a man who has made millions while Iraqis die in their hundreds of thousands due to the havoc unleashed by the illegal invasion, and who, with breathtaking arrogance, seems to regard himself as above the rules of international law.
The next decade will tell us whether that is indeed the case.
'Sycophant' Tony Blair used deceit to justify Iraq war, says former DPP
Sir Ken Macdonald, director of public prosecutions between 2003 and 2008, says Blair misled and cajoled the British people into a war they didn't want
George Bush presents Tony Blair with a presidential medal of freedom
Macdonald said that Blair's fundamental flaw was his 'sycophancy towards power' and that he could not resist the 'glamour' he attracted in Washington. Photograph: Ron Edmonds/AP
Tony Blair used "deceit" to persuade parliament and the British people to support war in Iraq, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, said today.
In an article in the Times, Macdonald attacked Blair for engaging in "alarming subterfuge", for displaying "sycophancy" towards George Bush and for refusing to accept that his decisions were wrong.
Macdonald's comments about Blair's decision to go to war are more critical than anything that has been said so far by any of the senior civil servants who worked in Whitehall when Blair was prime minister.
Macdonald was DPP from 2003 until 2008 and he now practises law from Matrix Chambers, where Blair's barrister wife, Cherie, is also based.
In his article Macdonald highlighted a remark Blair made in an interview broadcast yesterday about supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein regardless of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction to explain why he thought the former prime minister was guilty of deceit.
But Macdonald also expressed concerns about the Iraq inquiry, suggesting that some of its questioning so far had been "unchallenging" and that Sir John Chilcot and his team would be held in "contempt" if they failed to uncover the truth about the war.
Macdonald wrote: "The degree of deceit involved in our decision to go to war on Iraq becomes steadily clearer. This was a foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions, and playing footsie on Sunday morning television does nothing to repair the damage.
"It is now very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Tony Blair engaged in an alarming subterfuge with his partner, George Bush, and went on to mislead and cajole the British people into a deadly war they had made perfectly clear they didn't want, and on a basis that it's increasingly hard to believe even he found truly credible."
Macdonald said that Blair's fundamental flaw was his "sycophancy towards power" and that he could not resist the "glamour" he attracted in Washington.
"In this sense he was weak and, as we can see, he remains so," Macdonald went on.
"Since those sorry days we have frequently heard him repeating the self-regarding mantra that 'hand on heart, I only did what I thought was right'. But this is a narcissist's defence, and self-belief is no answer to misjudgment: it is certainly no answer to death."
Macdonald said that, with the exceptions of some of the interventions from Sir Roderic Lyne, the questions asked when the Chilcot inquiry has been taking evidence from witnesses have been tame.
"If this is born of a belief that it creates an atmosphere more conducive to truth, it seems naive. The truth doesn't always glide out so compliantly; sometimes it struggles to be heard," Macdonald said.
Many commentators have criticised the fact that all members of the Chilcot team are establishment figures – Chilcot himself is a former permanent secretary – and Macdonald said the inquiry needed to prove its independence.
"In British public life, loyalty and service to power can sometimes count for more to insiders than any tricky questions of wider reputation. It's the regard you are held in by your peers that really counts, so that steadfastness in the face of attack and threatened exposure brings its own rich hierarchy of honour and reward.
"Disloyalty, on the other hand, means a terrible casting out, a rocky and barren Roman exile that few have the courage to endure."
Macdonald said Chilcot and his team needed to tell the truth without fear of offending the Whitehall establishment.
"If Chilcot fails to reveal the truth without fear in this Middle Eastern story of violence and destruction, the inquiry will be held in deserved and withering contempt," Macdonald said.
Yesterday, in an interview with Fern Britton broadcast on BBC1, Blair said he would have backed an attack on Iraq even if he had known that Saddam had no WMD.
"If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?" Blair was asked.
He replied: "I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]".
Blair added: "I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat."
Swiss ban on minarets is generating intense debate in Europe
The German magazine Der Spiegel writes that a recent Swiss vote to ban the building of minarets "is generating intense debate: Just how much of Islam is predominantly Christian Europe prepared to accept?" Good question, but another question may be even better: "How much of Christian Europe is militant Islam prepared to accept?" The answer is: "Not much" or even: "Not any."
It's one of our illusions that we all inhabit the same world. In a sense we do, but in many essentials, we don't. We may be standing next to each other on the same escalator or subway platform, but some of us have our feet firmly planted in the 12th century. It complicates matters that the 21st century itself may be in the process of flipping numbers and reverting to the 12th century.
Not a good idea. Even without weapons of mass destruction, the High Middle Ages were pretty grim. With weapons of mass destruction they could be calamitous.
People who sincerely believe that tolerance is a virtue share the planet with people who just as sincerely believe that it's a sin. While Christian Europe frets that it may be insufficiently tolerant, militant Islam worries that it hasn't placated Allah enough through istishhad (martyrdom.)
Before there was Osama bin Laden, there was Dr. Abdullah Azzam. An icon in Islamist circles, the author of Defence Of Muslim Lands, a Fatwa in four chapters, is known only to a handful of scholars, war correspondents and intelligence analysts in the West. Steve Emerson describes him in Abdullah Azzam: The Man Before Osama Bin Laden as "more responsible than any Arab figure in modern history for galvanizing the Muslim masses to wage an international holy war against all infidels and non-believers until the enemies of Islam were defeated."
"One hour in the path of jihad is worth more than 70 years of praying at home," said Dr. Azzam, and he meant it. The godfather of jihad wasn't in the habit of speaking lightly. He also said (in Join The Caravan) "Jihad and rifle alone. No negotiations. No conferences and no dialogue."
Dr. Azzam's encyclopedia entry has him sounding like Pol Pot on a productive day: "History does not write its lines except with blood. Glory does not build its lofty edifice except with skulls; honour and respect cannot be established except on a foundation of cripples and corpses."
Chances are Dr. Azzam said these very things to his disciples while standing on a subway platform waiting for his train to Brooklyn. In fact, he probably did, back in the 1980s, during one of his many da'wah (propaganda) tours in the United States, encouraged by the Reagan administration to radicalize and recruit Muslim youth against the Soviet invader in Afghanistan. One can't blame the Reagan administration for this --at least, I don't --because in the 1980s, the big threat still seemed to come from Moscow rather than Mecca, even if the Ayatollah Khomeini's handwriting had already appeared on the wall in Tehran.
For Dr. Azzam, the jihad started in Afghanistan against the Soviets, but it didn't end there. A Palestinian by birth, he found the presence of Jews in Palestine just as sacrilegious as the presence of Russians in Afghanistan. Strictly speaking, the presence of unbelievers seemed to him a sacrilege anywhere in the world, except perhaps as payers of tribute to believers. As he wrote: "It is not permitted to include a condition in the treaty that relinquishes even a hand span of Muslim land to the kuffar (unbeliever) ... With reference to the Russians, it is not permitted to negotiate with them until they retreat from every hand span of Afghan territory. With the Jews in Palestine, likewise."
But what about the kuffar's own lands, such as Christian Europe? Dr. Azzim had no qualms. It's the duty of the Imam to recruit and send an army "at least once a year to terrorize the enemies of Allah." Bin Laden's comrade-in-arms quoted the scholars who expressed the view that "jihad (struggle) is daw'ah (propaganda) with a force, and is obligatory to perform with all available capabilities, until there remains only Muslims or people who submit to Islam."
Tolerance may be at the heart of modernity, but it appears senseless to pre-enlightenment minds. A medieval person reasons, logically enough, that if he believes his religion to be true, all other religions must be false by definition, and tolerance for falsity in sacred matters has to be sinful. It can't be anything else.
Inviting a 12th-century believer to be tolerant of another person's religion is like inviting an environmental activist to be tolerant of global warming. Islam's very name means "submission." It's a believer's duty to be intolerant of an unbeliever's failure to submit to the true faith. Dr. Azzam certainly did what he perceived as his duty until the day someone blew him up in 1989.
What about contemporary Western liberal societies whose "religion" is tolerance, asks Der Spiegel. Will they be tolerant of intolerance, too?
Some, yes, no doubt. The Swiss, not so much.
Who Will Save Us from Radical Islam? Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch
2009 December 15
by Paul Cooper
It is Sesame Street verses Jihad Street. Tickle Me Elmo takes on Terrorist Elmo. With a US Government that is weak on terror – it is surprising to see the Obama administration is now funding a battle for the minds of Palestinian youth with the help of Muppets. I thought we were against setting up puppet governments, but this might actually work.
Like me, most readers of NewsReal probably grew up with Sesame Street. My four year old daughter loves the show and watches it almost daily. While the lessons she learns from the show are how to use words like “glockenspiel” and “camouflage” to expand her vocabulary, there is a middle eastern version of the show with even higher goals in mind.
A Palestinian version of Sesame Street (called Shara’a Simsim) has been showing in parts of Israel for about 15 years. However, until now the show was not seen in Gaza on Palestinian TV. Instead, Palestinian children have been watching a very different kind of kid’s show run by Hamas. That program is called Tomorrow’s Pioneers and has used a Mickey Mouse lookalike and other puppets to teach little ones to not only like vegetables but also to hate (and possibly kill) Jews. For more on that show (including clips) go here.
Shara’a Simsim will now give children in Palestine a very different lesson than the one on violence they get from Tomorrow’s Pioneers. Fox News reports a nice summary of the story.
‘Kasab wanted to confess, we did not use force’
Chief Investigating Officer deposes in 26/11 case
Mumbai: Marking the near-closure of the prosecutions case in the 26/11 trial, Ramesh Mahale, Chief Investigating Officer (IO) of the Mumbai terror attacks, deposed before the special sessions court on Tuesday.
The 26/11 incident is divided into 12 cases, with each case being investigated by an investigation officer. Mr. Mahale was appointed chief IO on November 27, 2008, to supervise the investigations.
Mr. Mahale gave the court details of the written communication he sent to various authorities, namely the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), personnel from the Arthur Road jail, police officers and magistrates.
It comprised requests for holding identification parades, seeking sanctions from governmental departments to prosecute the accused for waging war and for offences committed outside India and proposals to obtain evidence from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.
Mr. Mahale told the court that he first interrogated terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab’ on November 27, 2008, and last on the midnight of February 16 this year.
In the first week of December last, the officer realised that ‘Kasab’ wanted to confess. Accordingly, the police made an application before the magistrate to record his confession under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC), the chief IO told the court.
He said the Mumbai Crime Branch sought information from the FBI on 12 counts. They asked the agency to provide details about five CallPhonex numbers, Yamaha engine, Global Positioning System (GPS) sets, eight life jackets, satellite phones, hand grenades, AK 47s, the origin of an email to a television channel, the ship Al-Husseini, voices of handlers extracted from three chat records and information on the nine deceased accused if available in their database. The FBI got back with information on five of the 12 components.
The 26/11 investigation took the police to Srinagar, Bangalore and Hyderabad and Delhi. In Srinagar, the probe pertained to a SIM card, while in the two southern cities it was regarding the fake college identity cards used by the terrorists. One particular SIM card seized at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel belonged to a fictitious person named Suresh Prasad from Delhi.
Five SIM cards seized
Mr. Mahale said that in the investigation, the police seized five SIM cards. No mobile was seized from ‘Kasab’ and his slain partner Abu Ismail.
During his cross-examination by defence lawyer K.P. Pawar, Mr. Mahale said he was not present at the encounter site of Girgaum Chowpatty. He denied the suggestion that ‘Kasab’ was forced to confess. Mr. Mahale also said that Suresh Prasad had not been listed as wanted accused in the 26/11 case.
Kashmir strike against CBI report into Shopian deaths
15 December 2009
SRINAGAR: Police on Tuesday used teargas and batons to disperse stone- pelting mobs in Srinagar protesting against the report of the CBI probe
into the deaths of two women in Shopian. Life in the Kashmir Valley was paralysed in view of a strike called to protest the report.
The shutdown has been called by the Shopian Majlis Mushawarat against the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report into the Shopian alleged rape-murder of the women in May that had triggered massive protests in the valley. The strike is being supported by both the groups of the Hurriyat Conference.
The country's premier investigation agency submitted its 66-page report to the division bench of the state high court here Monday in which it concluded that Asiya Jan, 17, and her sister-in-law Neelofar Jan, 22, had died due to drowning in the village stream near Shopian town, 65 km from here.
The Shopian Majlis Mushawarat, a religious-political body that spearheaded the 47-day-long agitation earlier, rejected the report and called for a strike across Kashmir on Tuesday.
Shops and other commercial establishments in the summer capital Srinagar and other towns remained shut and public transport was off the roads.
However, skeletal private transport was plying in the capital city where the authorities have made tight security arrangements to maintain law and order.
Reports from other towns said life was affected due to Tuesday's strike.
The authorities placed senior leaders of the moderate Hurriyat Conference, including chairman Mirwaiz Moulvi Umer Farooq, Shabir Shah and Naeem Khan, under house arrest early on Tuesday.
Police used tear smoke to disperse stone throwing mobs in parts of the capital city.
'Good job', Rana told LeT during Mumbai attack
15 December 2009
CHICAGO: Terror suspect Tahawwur Hussain Rana complimented members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, saying they did a "good job" during the terror attacks in
Mumbai last year, US prosecutors have alleged. ( Watch Video )
According to a 10-page memo filed by US prosecutors in a court here on Monday, Rana asked co-conspirator David Coleman Headley to "pass along a message for me" to LeT Member A, whom Rana had given the name 'Khalid bin waleed'. ( Watch Video )
"In the world, if there had been...a medal for command, top class," the documents quote as Rana saying. It further adds that Headley then interrupts Rana and informs him that he already had passed that message and "I (Headley) took your (Rana's) name when I said it". Rana responded "there is no doubt, it is a very befitting name for him. Very good. Good job".
Headley then explained that while LeT Member A briefed the attackers on the targets, Headley identified a different LeT member by name as the trainer of the attackers--"Training was by Abu Qahafa....this Jamaat (group) prepares people really well".
Rana responded that "whatever mixture you guys have made, whichever person did it...yeah, there they stood their ground".
Prosecutors added that "far from advocating non-violence, Rana's own statements reveal his support for the brutal killing of 170 people...It is quite clear that Rana is no Gandhi".
Headley has been charged with conspiring in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Rana, through his lawyer Patrick Blegen, has denied that he was involved in the attacks that killed 167 people. Blegen was not available immediately for comment on the prosecutors' charges.
The documents filed by federal prosecutors also allege that Rana praised the terror outfit LeT when Headley mentioned that an LeT member would be used to carry out an attack on the National Defence College in India.
"After Headley states that 'we' would use LeT Member A to carry out the attack on the Defense College, Rana again offered praise for Let Member A and LeT: "They should be really commended. I appreciate them from my heart", Rana said in a secretly recorded conversation with Headley.
Headley last week pleaded not guilty to charges he faces in connection with the Denmark and India plots. Rana, a Pakistani native and Canadian citizen, is charged with providing material support to a conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack overseas.
LeT operatives sentenced on terror charges in US
15 December 2009
WASHINGTON: Two American nationals linked to Pakistan-based LeT and JeM were today sentenced to 13 and 17 years in prison respectively by a US
court for supporting terror groups and providing them with material aid for attacks in the United States and abroad.
US district judge William Duffey Jr of federal court in Atlanta sentenced Pakistan-origin Syed Haris Ahmed (25) of Atlanta and Bangladesh-American Ehsanul Islam Sadequee (23) of Roswell, Georgia, following their convictions earlier this year in separate but related criminal trials.
Like David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana - the two arrested and charge sheeted by the FBI for being involved in the Mumbai terrorist attack -- Sadequee and Ahmed too were in contacts with the leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
However unlike Headley, who sent video footage and photographs of possible LeT targets in India, Sadeequee and Ahmed sent video clips of possible LeT targets in the US.
Judge Duffey Jr. sentenced Sadequee to a term of 17 years in prison, to be followed by 30 years of supervised release. He sentenced Ahmed to 13 years in prison, also to be followed by 30 years of supervised release.
"This is not about your faith," Judge Duffey Jr. told them. "This is about your conduct. This is about the rule of law in this country that you have decided does not apply to you."
David Headley, a double agent?
NEW DELHI: Pakistani-origin American, David Coleman Headley, who is at the centre of a global terrorism investigation for his alleged role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, may well have been a “double agent” working for U.S. agencies as well as Pakistani terror organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Headley travelled to India in March 2009, four months after 26/11, but the U.S. agencies, including the FBI, did not alert or inform their Indian counterparts because it could have led to his arrest here, top officials of the Union Home Ministry said on Tuesday.
Investigations also pointed to the fact that Headley could have travelled to India with his wife last March.
The officials said there was a “strong suspicion,” based on nation-wide investigations, that the CIA knew about Headley’s links with the LeT one year prior to 26/11 but did not inform Indian agencies as it could have blown the lid off Headley’s activities.
He was arrested on October 3 by the FBI in Chicago for his alleged role in the Mumbai attacks.
Highly placed government sources said if he was given lesser punishment in a U.S. court, it would only strengthen India’s suspicion that he was a “double agent.”
Such a punishment could also be given through the process of “plea bargain” before the court between him and the U.S. agencie
Jail for LeT, JeM men
Washington: Two American nationals linked to Pakistan-based LeT and JeM were on Tuesday sentenced to 13 and 17 years in prison respectively by a U.S. court for supporting terror groups and providing them with material aid for attacks in the U.S. and abroad.
District Judge William Duffey Jr of federal court in Atlanta sentenced Pakistan-origin Syed Haris Ahmed (25) of Atlanta and Bangladesh-American Ehsanul Islam Sadequee (23) of Roswell, Georgia, following their convictions earlier this year in separate but related criminal trials. Like David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana, Sadequee and Ahmed too were in contact with the LeT and the JeM.
However unlike Headley, who sent video footage and photographs of possible LeT targets in India, Sadeequee and Ahmed sent video clips of possible LeT targets in the US.
“This is not about your faith,” Judge Duffey Jr. told them. “This is about your conduct. This is about the rule of law in this country that you have decided does not apply to you.” — PTI
Obama Administration sends its first report on Pak to Congress
The Obama Administration has sent to the U.S. Congress its first report on its aid to Pakistan as mandated by the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act.
Under the Kerry Lugar Berman Act, Pakistan will receive $7.5 billion in the next five years.
The report sent to the Congress summarises the U.S. assistance to Pakistan.
“The objectives of our assistance are to improve the Government of Pakistan’s capacity to address the country’s most critical infrastructure needs with an initial focus on energy and agriculture, to help the Pakistani Government improve economic opportunities in areas most vulnerable to extremism, including the Northwest Frontier provinces and FATA regions,” the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, P.J. Crowley, said.
Mr. Crowley also said: “is also to strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to pursue economic and political reforms that have reinforced stability and as consistent with best practices over time, we will be looking to channel more of this assistance directly through a broad range of Government of Pakistan institutions as well as local non-governmental institutions.”
Mr. Crowley said, “The report also highlights that we will be working with the Government of Pakistan to address some of its most vexing macroeconomic and social policies, including the need for better revenue collection.”
Two Pak-Americans sentenced for video terror plot
S Rajagopalan | Washington
A US court has sentenced two Pakistani-Americans to 17 and 13 years in prison for plotting to aid terror groups by videotaping Washington landmarks and sending the videos overseas.
Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 23, and Syed Haris Ahmed, 24, both residents of Georgia, were sentenced to 17 and 13 years respectively. Sadequee was found guilty of four terror-related charges. Ahmed, a former student at Georgia Tech University, was found guilty of conspiring to provide material support for terrorism in the US.
The two men took the stand that their online discussions about jihad was just empty talk. Prosecutors, while conceding that they did not pose an imminent threat to the US, said they nonetheless took concrete steps by sending the video clips of landmarks that included US Capitol and the World Bank building to suspected terrorists. They also travelled abroad to meet with contacts.
Reports from Atlanta said that US District Judge William Duffey employed sharp words while pronouncing the sentence. He told Sadequee: “This is a day of reckoning for you, Mr Sadequee. This is to deter you and to deter others from this conduct.”
Although he was allowed 45 minutes to have his say, Sadequee dwelt on his religious beliefs instead of making the case for a lighter sentence. “I have not and I will not request any sentence. It does not matter to me. I submit to no one’s authority but to the authority of God,” he said.
That prompted the judge to retort: “I’ll say this, our Gods are very different.”
He was also unsparing on Ahmed, saying he could have received a lighter sentence if he had repented. “You and others have distorted the values of your faith. You are a myopic, self-interested person,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani military has rebuffed the US’s demands for a crackdown on Taliban warrior Siraj Haqqani, whose fighters pose the biggest threat to American forces in Afghanistan, according to a report in the New York Times from Islamabad.
A long-time asset of Pakistan’s ISI, Haqqani is said to use the tribal area of North Waziristan as his sanctuary. According to the report, the Pakistani military has taken the stand that acting against Haqqani will be against Pakistani interests beyond mid-2011 when Obama has proposed the start of the US pullout from Afghanistan.
The US’s demands, voiced by top American officials repeatedly, have been accompanied by strong suggestions that if the Pakistanis cannot take care of the problem, the Americans will by resorting to broader and more frequent drone strikes in Pakistan, but to little avail thus far.
Arrest warrant against Livni issued in Britain: Israel
Israel said on Tuesday that an arrest warrant was issued in Britain against former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and warned that attempts to pursue war crimes charges against Israeli leaders in British courts threatens to harm relations between the two countries.
Israel urged Britain to change the law, which has allowed Palestinians to pursue charges against non-citizens for alleged crimes committed outside its borders. The threat already has caused several Israeli officials and retired military commanders to call off trips to Britain.
Livni, a onetime lead negotiator with the Palestinians, enjoys a dovish reputation in much of the West. But as Foreign Minister, she staunchly defended Israel’s devastating military offensive in Gaza early this year. Her support for that operation, meant to end years of rocket fire by Gaza militants against Israel, has remained strong, despite widespread international criticism of the hundreds of civilian casualties.
Livni stepped down after February parliamentary elections and is now Israel’s opposition leader.
95% militants in Kashmir are from outside: Azad
Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday said 95 per cent of the militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir are not from the state.
"Twenty years ago the ratio was 95 per cent from the state and five per cent from outside. Now it is just the reverse because the people have understood that justice can be done only through dialogue," Azad told reporters here.
About five-six years ago, the people of Jammu and Kashmir realised that the state's economy had come to tatters following violence, he said.
"But had they understood this 20 years ago, there wouldn't have been any bloodshed," he said.
Reaching out to the ultra-left wing extremism in Jharkhand, he called upon the naxalites to shun the path of violence.
"Drop your guns. Come forward for talks and you will get justice and solutions to all problems. Violence is not good for anybody," he said.
Musharaf withdrew Swiss 'kickback' cases against Zardari:ex-AG
Dec 16, 2009
Islamabad : Several cases registered in Switzerland against President Asif Ali Zardari for allegedly using Swiss bank accounts to stash away millions of dollars in kickbacks were withdrawn on the orders of former Pak military ruler Pervez Musharraf, a former legal official said today.
Former Attorney General Malik Qayyum made the remarks while appearing before a 17-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry that is hearing challenges to the immunity granted to Zardari and over 8,000 others in graft cases.
Qayyum said Zardari submitted an appeal in Sindh High Court under the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a law issued by Musharraf, to repeal all corruption cases against him in February last year.
The court then abolished these cases. Acting on the directives of then President Musharraf, Qayyum wrote a letter to the Swiss courts to withdraw cases against Zardari.
Qayyum said he had also travelled to Switzerland to apprise courts there about the NRO.
The apex court had summoned Qayyum to explain why he wrote to Swiss authorities to withdraw the cases Zardari. Acting Attorney General Shah Khawar too was asked to name the individual who authorised the withdrawal of the cases
in Swiss courts. Chief Justice Chaudhry said the individual found responsible for withdrawing the cases will be sent to jail or asked to repay to the government the Rs 2 billion spent on pursuing the cases in Switzerland.
The Acting Attorney General also presented to the apex court the National Accountability Bureau¿s report on the Swiss bank accounts allegedly operated by Zardari and others.
According to the report, Zardari has accounts in seven banks with total deposits of Rs 59 million. The list includes the names of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto and her mother Nusrat Bhutto.
In a related development, government lawyer Kamal Azfar informed the apex court that he wished to withdraw his controversial remarks that the Central Intelligence Agency and the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army posed a threat to the democratic government.
He had created a flutter with his remarks during yesterday¿s hearing of the case. During today¿s proceedings, Azfar said the Taliban represented the actual threat to Pakistan's democracy.
The government has already said it will not defend the National Reconciliation Ordinance, the law that granted immunity to over 8,000 people accused of corruption, including Zardari.
Legal experts believe the beleaguered President could face more problems if the apex court declares the NRO unconstitutional and challenges Zardari¿s eligibility for the post of President.
Zardari has dismissed the corruption charges against him. During today¿s hearing, Acting Attorney General Khawar indicated that the apex court should ensure that the case does not lead to any political upheaval.
The bench then observed that stemming crimes does not pave the way for upheaval.
Chief Justice Chaudhry praised Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for his statement that the government would comply with the court¿s verdict in the NRO case.
"If the government wants to save President Zardari, it should ask the apex court openly," said Justice Jawwad S Khwaja, a member of the bench.
The court later adjourned the matter till tomorrow.
The proceedings in the apex court have dominated bulletins on all TV new channels and the front pages of newspapers for the past few days.
Dhaka: at Christmas the sisters of Mother Teresa, close to poor Muslims and Hindus
by William Gomes
Thanks to the work of the Missionaries of Charity, the Siamese twins Trishna and Krishna were operated on in a specialized centre in Australia. A Muslim woman prays to give birth to a female. Hindu faithful: it is the only place where they help you without asking anything in return.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) - The faithful of different religions, the poor with no food or work, seriously ill patients seeking assistance including Trishna and Krishna, the conjoined twins successfully operated on in Australia. Many people come to the sisters of Mother Teresa in Bangladesh in search of solace or a grace, such as a young Muslim mother, who for Christmas is asking to get pregnant with a female child.
Bangladesh is a nation of 143 million inhabitants with a large majority of Muslims (90% of the population). Christians are only 0.3% of the total, but the work of the Missionaries of Charity is recognized and appreciated by many.
Sister Mary Olivet, the regional superior of the MC, still remembers the story of Trishna and Krishna, the conjoined twins abandoned by their parents. "We welcomed them and treated them with love – she says - because it is our duty in the apostolate, following in the footsteps of Mother Teresa." The girls were operated on successfully in Australia and are now undergoing a slow phase of hospitalization. The nun follows their progress, still in critical stage, "regularly" and prays that "everything goes well”.
The Sisters of Mother Teresa draw pilgrims of all religions, seeking help, comfort or grace. Sultana Parbin, female Muslim mother of two children, tells her story; "Recently I saw a program dedicated to Christmas and a TV service on the twins, Trishna and Krishna. I decided to visit the Missionaries of Charity, because I hope to receive from God a gift for Christmas: to give birth to a female. "
Shishu Bhavan, the nun’s Mother House, is situated on Avenue Islampur, Dhaka, and is home to many orphaned or abandoned children. A delegation from India visited the facility, with Christmas gifts for children. Even spouses Cindy and John McCain, presidential candidate of the United States in 2008, at the sisters’ invitation appealed for a child of only three months who is in need of medical care. Thanks to the McCain’s interest, now Bridget is hospitalized in the United States. "She is doing very well - confirmes the superior of the Missionaries of Charity - and we pray every day for her."
Among the many people who would like to thank the nuns, there is also Shikha Rani Das, a Hindu woman. "I am very poor, my husband has no work - she explains - and 9 December my father died. I've called the Missionaries of Charity to help in the preparation for Christmas. Jesus Christ is my God too". With the help of a local priest, she found a small job and wants to spend Christmas with the sisters: "It is the only place - she stresses - that help you without asking for anything in return."
Osama bin Laden, a myth or reality
Asif Haroon Raja
It may be recalled that when the US and its allies decided to invade Afghanistan in October 2001 on a flimsy excuse of getting hold of Osama bin Laden and dismantling Al-Qaeda to avenge terrorist attacks allegedly masterminded by Osama, in that timeframe Al-Qaeda was an unknown entity. If nabbing or killing blue-eyed boy of CIA Osama and his few hundred ill-organised and ill-equipped followers from different countries was the real purpose, there was absolutely no reason for carrying out grand mobilisation and invading Afghanistan. Either proof of his involvement should have been furnished to Mullah Omar as asked by him to justify handing over his guest, or his rational suggestion of putting Osama on trial in a neutral country heeded to.
However, the US tried to kill a fly with a huge hammer, which still managed to fly away. The real purpose of invasion was to topple Taliban regime that had disagreed with unjust terms and conditions of US oil and gas tycoons wanting to pipe down energy resources from Central Asia to European and US markets via Afghanistan and Pakistan. Eager to give practical shape to its New World Order, the US wanted to convert Afghanistan into a permanent military base wherefrom it could monitor regional countries of its interest.
Having learnt that the entire Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership including Osama had taken shelter in caves and tunnels of Tora Bora mountain range, the US military should have encircled the plausible sites to prevent their escape and then a combing operation launched. Afghan-Pakistan border should have been effectively sealed. No such thing was done since US higher ups showed disinterest when they were informed about Osama’s presence in Tora Bora. The US military took the easy route of ceaseless pounding from air hoping that the inmates would be smoked out. Taking advantage of smoke screen created as a result of reckless bombing and inhibition of allied forces, the whole lot including Osama and Mulla Omar slipped out. Not a single Al-Qaeda or Taliban leader could be arrested. It was a huge intelligence and military failure but the matter was hushed up. It is widely believed the US military deliberately allowed Osama and others to escape to Pakistan to justify continued occupation of Afghanistan and to subsequently put the bridle around Pakistan. Once he escaped, he was made into a Frankenstein monster that vanished into thin air. Ever since Osama escaped from Afghanistan on 16 December 2001, the US officials are indulging in meaningless conjectures. At no stage they admitted their failure to nab him. The US Senate has come out with an unconvincing explanation that former Defence Secretary Rumsfeld rejected calls for reinforcements when Osama was within grasping reach. It is a childish excuse to cover up an oversight for which the US and Pakistan are paying dearly.
It wants to put across that the US military had the capability but was denied. Having miserably failed to perform its primary task, the US was left with no choice but to cover up its embarrassment by pressurising Pakistan to do what it could not do. Had Pakistan not helped in arresting over 600 Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives including some high profile leaders, US scorecard would have been blank. Instead of appreciating its efforts and sacrifices it rendered, the US started mistrusting Pakistan Army and the ISI and indulged in immoral blame game alleging that it was soft towards Afghan Taliban. These cheap tactics were employed to hide their failures and conceal launching of covert operations against Pakistan for the fulfilment of its multiple objectives. Endless sensational stories about whereabouts of Osama and his exploits were fed to the media to keep him alive and to keep American public distracted and placated. It was also reported that Osama was suffering from diabetes and acute kidneys problem and required frequent dialysis. Reports of his death were also circulated. The more he was demonised in the western world more he got popular in the Muslim world and attained the status of a hero. A worldwide massive manhunt backed by high-tech electronic and satellite means was launched and the earth combed from one end to the other. All mobile and line phones, internet, foot and vehicular movements were monitored and houses pierced through geo-stationery satellites but he remained untraced. Having scanned all nooks and corners of the world, the US came to the conclusion in 2008 that Osama and other top leaders of Al-Qaeda were hiding somewhere along Pak-Afghan border belt. Services of reputed Scotland Yard were hired, head money raised to $50 million and network of informers engaged to track down most wanted man.
When all efforts failed and feelings of impotent rage intensified, they found some solace in making Pakistan a convenient scapegoat and alleging that Osama was hiding somewhere in FATA. Under this plea, the US military became aggressive and repeatedly expressed its desire to move into FATA to stalk the most prized prey. The US then modified its stance and stated that FATA was the most dangerous place on earth which was a breeding ground for terrorists and suicide bombers and a launching pad for cross border terrorism into Afghanistan. A little later the story was made juicier by declaring FATA as the main base of Al-Qaeda and from where possible attack on US homeland could emanate. In search for Osama and other top leaders of Al-Qaeda, CIA accelerated drone attacks in 2009 against suspected targets. Hillary Clinton on her last visit to Pakistan blurted out that Osama and other senior Al-Qaeda leaders were present in FATA since 2002 and it was incomprehensible that Pakistan leadership didn’t know about it. Gordon Brown substantiated this claim and now Obama has stated that Al-Qaeda is present in Pakistan from where planning for another attack on US homeland is in the offing. What it amounts to is that the US and Britain suspect that Pakistan is sheltering Osama and is linked with Al-Qaeda as well as with Afghan Taliban.
Knowing his fragile medical condition, it is humanly not possible for Osama to remain in hiding for eight years in treacherous terrain of FATA that had come under the strong influence of CIA and FBI from 2002 onwards. ISI was virtually pushed into the background so that covert operations could proceed unhindered and unobserved. Tons of armaments with Indian markings hidden in tunnels and caves unearthed from Swat and South Waziristan speak volumes of involvement of foreign agencies. Under such circumstances, to expect Osama to leave the companionship of time-tested Afghan Taliban and marry up with unknown and untested Pakistani Taliban with whom former have not established any association is far-fetched. Moreover, the ISI had helped in tracing and arresting hundreds of Al-Qaeda leaders including Khalid Sheikh and Abu Faraj. There was no reason for Pakistan under Musharraf that had ditched Afghan Taliban and had put all eggs in the basket of USA to shelter Osama. One can at best laugh at the silly fabrication that has no head or tail.
The theory of Al-Qaeda safe havens in FATA has been invented to deflect attention from US failures. Osama has been kept alive to justify continued occupation of Afghanistan. Now that Gen McChrystal’s wish of additional 30,000 troops has been fulfilled, rather than feeling relieved and more confident, he has come out with another lame excuse that unless Osama is captured or killed, Al-Qaeda cannot be defeated. Knowing his nature of disease he contracted many years ago, medically his survival under adverse conditions is next to impossible.Osama is dead, so the US should stop flogging the dead horse and let his soul rest in peace.
Palestine is one of the top priorities of both Turkey and Egypt - Abdullah Gul
Palestine is one of the top priorities of both Turkey and Egypt - Abdullah Gul
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Tuesday the Palestinian problem was one of the top priorities of both Turkey and Egypt, adding that the two countries cooperated closely over the issue, Anadolu Agency reported.
Appearing at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak after their meeting at the Cankaya Presidential Residence in Ankara, Gul said Mubarak visited Turkey twice this year, which he said was a sign of the strength of relations and the importance the two country attached to consultation.
"I am confident that the level of our relations and the highest level of our cooperation in the region is an impressive picture," Gul said, adding that the two countries shared similar views in political issues.
The Turkish president said he welcomed the rapid development of trade and economic relations between the two countries, adding that the free trade agreement boosted trade volume up to 3 billion USD between Turkey and Egypt.
"Turkey and Egypt are the two important countries of the Mediterranean as well as of the Islam world. Today, we discussed specifically the Middle East peace process. We have been watching very closely Egypt's extensive efforts to that end. We have agreed that our cooperation on the Middle East issue will continue," Gul said.
The Turkish president also hosted a luncheon for Mubarak earlier in the day and the two leaders co-chaired a meeting between Turkish and Egyptian delegations.
The president of Egypt appreciated Turkey's efforts for the settlement of the Palestinian issue.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that Turkey's endeavors to solve the Palestinian problem were worth appreciation.
Israeli government's stance on West Bank and continuation of its blockade on Gaza jeopardized the peace process, Mubarak told a press conference.
Mubarak also said that Gul and he discussed bilateral relations, regional issues, developments in the Middle East, Iraq, Yemen and Gulf region, as well as Iran's nuclear program and the discussions this program caused in the region and in the world.
President Hosni Mubarak also met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday. The closed-door meeting at Ankara's Sheraton Hotel lasted for about 45 minutes.
State Minister & Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Health Minister Recep Akdag were also in attendance at the meeting.
Kerala Plans 1st Islamic Bond as Dubai May Curb Funds (Update1)
By Anil Varma
Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Kerala, the communist-ruled Indian state that relies on Middle East remittances for a quarter of its economy, plans to sell the nation’s first Islamic bonds next year to help pay for infrastructure projects.
“The way we see it it’s another form of venture capital,” Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said in an interview in Thiruvananthapuram, the southern state’s main city. “We need long-gestation funds to build airports, high-speed trains and expressways. Islamic finance promises unexplored potential in that context.”
Kerala’s government is helping start Al-Barakah Financial Services Ltd. to sell the rupee-denominated bonds and create investment funds that comply with Shariah law’s ban on interest, Isaac said. The venture will tap Indian Muslims and money sent home by workers living in Gulf countries even as a debt crisis in Dubai threatens to shrink the remittances, he said.
Islamic finance may help India raise the $500 billion it needs to spend on infrastructure by 2014 as it seeks to sustain the second-fastest pace of growth among major economies, according to national government estimates. Islamic bond sales almost doubled to a record $31 billion in 2007 on Arab oil earnings before plunging last year as the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. shuttered credit markets, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Crude oil will climb to $82 a barrel in the first quarter of next year from about $71 now as demand from emerging markets increases, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. forecasts.
Islamic bonds, also known as sukuk, are asset-based securities that pay a profit rate to investors to comply with Shariah’s prohibition of interest and speculation.
“India, if opened up for Islamic banking, is the big prize,” Afaq Khan, Dubai-based Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Plc’s Islamic banking unit, said in a telephone interview. “Its large Muslim population and strong growth promise excellent opportunities for releasing a lot of funds into the documented economy.”
India’s economy expanded 7.9 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 30, the second-fastest pace of expansion among major economies after China.
Muslims make up approximately a quarter of Kerala’s population and 13.4 percent of India’s 1.1 billion people, according to government data. Only Indonesia and Pakistan have more inhabitants who adhere to the religion.
Indonesia’s first sale of dollar sukuk in April drew bids for seven times the securities on offer, the head of the country’s debt management office said. Dubai, which said Dec. 14 that it got $10 billion from neighboring Abu Dhabi to help state-owned Dubai World meet its obligations, raised $1.93 billion from its first sovereign Islamic bonds in October.
Kerala will hold an 11 percent stake in Al-Barakah, which aims to start business next year with 10 billion rupees ($214 million) of capital, according to T. Balakrishnan, principal secretary at the state’s industries department. More capital will be raised from a group of investors led by Oman-based Indian businessman P. Mohammed Ali, and foreigners may be invited to buy stakes in the venture in the future, he said.
“We toyed with the idea of Islamic finance for the past few years, but it was when the recent credit crisis shook the foundations of conventional banking that we felt it’s really time to get moving with it,” Balakrishnan said in an interview. “Current rules don’t permit an Islamic bank yet but they do allow a non-banking firm. We will develop the company into a fully-fledged bank as and when regulations permit.”
India is the world’s largest recipient of migrant worker remittances, and its 4.5 million citizens living in the Gulf send home more than $10 billion each year, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.
Almost 90 percent of the 1.9 million people who migrated overseas from Kerala lived in the Gulf countries in 2007, sending home as much as $5 billion, according to the Thiruvananthapuram-based research institute Centre for Development Studies.
“It’s quite likely that Dubai will face a severe downturn in the real estate and financial sectors and that will affect jobs and remittances,” Isaac said.
A panel headed by Raghuram Rajan, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, recommended last year that India introduce interest-free banking to attract more capital into the mainstream financial services industry.
“We are creating an avenue for a lot of people who aren’t comfortable with investment opportunities that don’t comply with Shariah,” Ali, the chairman of Al-Barakah’s investors and vice- chairman of Galfar Engineering & Contracting SAOG., said in a phone interview from Muscat, Oman. “We see a lot of untapped potential to raise capital for development projects.”
Kerala, where in 1957 a communist government was voted into power for the first time, takes a “very pragmatic” approach to free enterprise instead of allowing ideas to be stymied by politics, said Balakrishnan, citing examples of a state- sponsored lottery and a privately-owned airport.
“We have a large and affluent community of Muslims who may prefer banking that’s in accord with their faith,” he said in his government office. “Given that, at a time when the ways of traditional finance are being questioned globally, why not look at alternatives?”
To contact the reporter on this story: Anil Varma in Mumbai at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: December 16, 2009 02:03 EST
Mumbai attacks trial prosecution concludes case
Soldiers wait outside the Taj Mahal hotel in the last hours of the assault
Troops battled for three days to regain control of Mumbai in November 2008
The prosecution has concluded its case in the trial of the man alleged to be the sole surviving gunman in last year's Mumbai (Bombay) attacks.
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, a Pakistani national, faces 86 charges, including waging war on India, murder and possessing explosives.
In all 610 witnesses have testified since the case began in March.
The November 2008 attacks left 174 people dead, including nine gunmen, and soured ties between India and Pakistan.
The BBC's Prachi Pinglay in the special court in Mumbai says that a verdict in the case is expected early next year.
Our correspondent says that it is not yet clear whether the defence will now call any witnesses.
'Not mentally fit'
In November the main lawyer representing Mr Qasab was removed from the case. The judge said he was wasting time.
Policeman in India
Mumbai suspect's lawyer is sacked
Advocate KP Pawar is now defending the accused man, who was arrested on the first day of the attacks.
Mr Qasab originally denied the charges against him but in July, in a dramatic outburst in court, he admitted his role and asked to be hanged. His plea was not accepted and the trial continued.
He is to be given another chance to address the court on Friday.
Mr Pawar said his client, who has been unwell recently, was not physically and mentally fit to record a statement.
But, asked by the judge if he felt well enough, Mr Qasab nodded that he did.
The prosecution has also wound up its arguments in the cases of two Indians accused of being accomplices of the 10 gunmen.
The attacks soured relations between India and Pakistan and Delhi suspended peace talks with Islamabad.
After initial denials, Pakistan acknowledged that Mr Qasab was one of its citizens and that the attacks had been partially planned on its territory.
Last month a court in Pakistan charged seven people in connection with the attacks, including the suspected mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who is alleged to head the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
20 killed in Orakzai air strikes
By Abdul Sami Paracha
Wednesday, 16 Dec, 2009
KOHAT, Dec 15: Twenty militants were killed and six others injured in air strikes in lower Orakzai Agency on Tuesday evening.
Three camps and four vehicles of the militants were destroyed.
Official sources said that military aircraft and helicopter gunships pounded Taliban hideouts in Sultanzai and Stori Khel.
Unconfirmed reports said the aircraft and helicopters had also attacked a TTP jirga in Sultanzai.
Afghan rape victim lives in fear
December 9, 2009
Two-years after she was beaten and raped by eight men, fourteen-year-old Samiya has yet to see justice.
Her story stands in contrast to Western claims that the lot of women in Afghanistan has improved since the US-led invasion.Seven of the eight men who attacked Samiya were arrested, but her family believes their daughter's rapists have powerful connections and are looking for revenge.
Samiya and he family live in fear and her father, whose story Al Jazeera reported on two years ago, has been imprisoned by a local leader after he sought justice for his daughter.
Eight years after the US-led invasion that was supposed to liberate Afghanistan, women are still living without the most basic rights, vulnerable to abuse and often deprived of education.
"Nobody cares about women," Fatana Gailini, the chairperson of Afghanistan's women's council, told Al Jazeera.
"People are not well-educated about how to go to the police, or the courts [to report abuse]. The government is full of corruption. We need strong political and economic support in Afghanistan."
She warned a lack of funds was threatening charities for women and called for greater support from the government and donors.
"So much money came to Afghanistan in the last five years, but there hasn't been a positive change to women's lives. We hope the new cabinet coming in will change that," she said.
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president who won re-election in November, is expected to announce his cabinet line up in the next few days.