Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: Abuja, Nigeria, outside a church on Christmas Day
Explosion Rips through Catholic Church in Nigeria, Killing at least 28 People
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 25, 2011 An explosion ripped through a Catholic church Sunday during Christmas Mass near Nigeria’s capital, killing at least 25 people, officials said. A radical Muslim sect waging an increasingly sophisticated sectarian fight claimed the attack and another bombing in the restive city of Jos, as explosions also struck the nation’s northeast.
The Christmas Day attacks show the growing national ambition of the sect known as Boko Haram, which is responsible for at least 491 killings this year alone, according to an Associated Press count. The assaults come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.
The first explosion on Sunday struck St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, a town about 25 miles north and west of the capital, Abuja, the authorities said. Rescue workers recovered at least 25 bodies from the church and officials continued to tally those wounded in various hospitals, said Slaku Luguard, a coordinator with Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency.
His agency has acknowledged it did not have enough ambulances immediately on hand to help the wounded. Mr. Luguard also said an angry crowd that gathered at the blast site hampered rescue efforts as they refused to allow workers inside.
“We’re trying to calm the situation,” he said. “There are some angry people around trying to cause problems.”
Witnesses told Reuters that St Theresa’s Church was filled for the Christmas service when the bomb exploded.
“I heard the blast. My house shook,” a resident, Tony Akpan, told Reuters. “I came out to the front of the church to see what was happening. I counted 19 bodies myself, many of them mutilated, and five destroyed vehicles.”
Another witness, Timothy Onyekwere, told Reuters that he was in the church with his family when the bomb exploded.
“I just ran out. Now I don’t even know where my children or my wife are. I don’t know how many were killed but there were many dead.”
Some said the blast was inside and others thought it came from just outside the church.
In Jos, a second explosion struck near a Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church, a government spokesman Pam Ayuba, said. Mr. Ayuba said gunmen later opened fire on police guarding the area, killing one officer. Two other bombs were found in a nearby building and disarmed, he said.
“The military are here on ground and have taken control over the entire place,” Mr. Ayuba said.
The city of Jos is on the dividing line between Nigeria’s predominantly Christian south and Muslim north. Thousands have died in communal clashes there over the last decade.
After the bombings, a Boko Haram spokesman claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview with The Daily Trust, the newspaper of record across Nigeria’s Muslim north. The sect has used the newspaper in the past to communicate with public.
In Rome, the Vatican quickly denounced the attacks as a sign of “cruelty and absurd, blind hatred” that shows no respect for human life. A Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Catholic church was praying for all Nigerians confronting “this terrorist violence in these days that should be filled with peace and joy.”
The United States Embassy in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja had issued a warning Friday to citizens to be “particularly vigilant” around churches, large crowds and areas where foreigners congregate.
Several days of fighting in and around the northeastern city of Damaturu between the sect and security forces already had killed at least 61 people, authorities said. On Sunday, local police commissioner Tanko Lawan said two explosions struck Damaturu, including a blast near government offices. He declined to comment further, saying police had begun an operation to attack suspected Boko Haram sect members.
In the last year, Boko Haram has carried out increasingly bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a Nov. 4 attack on Damaturu, Yobe state’s capital, that killed more than 100 people. The group also claimed the Aug. 24 suicide car bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Nigeria’s capital that killed 24 people and wounded 116 others.
The sect came to national prominence in 2009, when its members rioted and burned police stations near its base of Maiduguri, a dusty northeastern city on the cusp of the Sahara Desert. Nigeria’s military violently put down the attack, crushing the sect’s mosque into shards as its leader was arrested and died in police custody. About 700 people died during the violence.
While initially targeting enemies via hit-and-run assassinations from the back of motorbikes after the 2009 riot, violence by Boko Haram now has a new sophistication and apparent planning that includes high-profile attacks with greater casualties.
Boko Haram has splintered into three factions, with one wing increasingly willing to kill as it maintains contact with terror groups in North Africa and Somalia, diplomats and security sources say.
Sect members are scattered throughout northern Nigeria and nearby Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Islamic sheikhdom Dubai embraces Christmas
by Gerard Al-Fil
DUBAI, 2011-12-25,(Xinhua) -- As the world's 2.2 billion Christians celebrate their most important holiday, many of those who live in the cold weather opt for a vacation in the warmer regions. The Islamic sheikhdom of Dubai is one of their destinations.
Tourists from Europe, the United States, Russia and Australia are constantly surprised to see Christmas trees and holiday decorations as well as the church services in the Islamic emirate.
"In the morning when I left the house, I heard the Muezzin from the Mosque calling on Muslims to join the prayer of Christians," Igor from Russia told Xinhua. "In the shopping malls, I saw colorfully-decorated Christmas trees, and the loudspeakers filled the malls with Christmas songs."
Igor is on a trip to Dubai for the holidays with his wife Aleksa and their two daughters.
"We came to Dubai mainly because of the good weather. In Russia, it can easily get minus 20 degrees. But at the Gulf, it's 20 degrees and we can play in the pool with our kids," Aleksa said.
The Middle Eastern metropolis Dubai belongs to the seven emirates comprising United Arab Emirates (UAE), a Gulf Arab state, which has been Islamic for centuries.
Since its foundation in 1971, the UAE, thanks to its oil wealth, has been blessed with an influx of foreign workers from all over the world. Nine tenths of its 8.5 million population are foreigners, according to Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing ( DTCM), the agency that promotes the sheikhdom as a tourist destination.
Without religious census, some 60 churches across the country have been built and are testimony to the immense size of the Christian community in the country. St. Mary's Catholic Church in Oud Metha district is among the best-known in Dubai.
Commencing service in 1967, St. Mary's Catholic Church has the capacity to host 1,700 worshippers. Its services are delivered in English, Arabic, Tagalog (a Philippine dialect), Hindu and Urdu.
"I go there with my friends for the service every Friday morning," said Agnes, a young saleswoman from the Philippines. " But Christmas celebrations are certainly the most important events in the year, as they mark the birth of Jesus Christ and remind people of how important world peace is."
The local Emirati population have no issues with the celebration of the Christians' holy day. "We are proud to welcome people of every faith to Dubai," said Kareem, a 32-year-old Emirati engineer.
"The UAE has an open and tolerant society. As a Muslim, I am invited by Arabs of Christian faith to some feasts. I have no problems with that," he said, "as long as no alcohol is served."
As in the West, Christmas is also a prime business time for Dubai's shops, hotels and restaurants. Tourists storm supermarkets to grab Santa Claus chocolates from Switzerland.
Jumeirah Hotels, the state-owned hospitality group which runs the iconic seven-star only-suites hotel Burj Al Arab, lures tourists with festive packages to spend the holidays with their families in Dubai until the New Year's eve.
Islamic vigilantes defend Christmas in Indonesia
December 23, 2011 Indonesia’s "Islamic Defenders Front" vows to protect Christmas celebrations
"Let the Christians believe that their religion is the absolute truth and let Muslims believe that Islam is the absolute truth."
So says the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front, according to the Jakarta Post. The group is offering to help protect the sanctity of upcoming Christmas celebrations in Muslim-majority Indonesia.
What is the Front? A vigilante network whose members have trashed nightclubs, chased down prostitutes and attacked Christian churchgoers. (Video of their attacks obtained by Global Post is here.)
The group is committed to vanquishing all that is not pious. Its leadership has offered similarly conciliatory messages in the past despite its tendency to drive out "bad influences," which range from boozers to rival Islamic sects to anyone eating while the sun is out during Ramadan.
Still, their leader, Habib Rizieq Shihab, warns that insulting other religions is "haram" or forbidden. Perhaps his warning will prevent his followers from trashing any Nativity scenes.
Maldivian Capital witnesses rival rallies
R. K. RADHAKRISHNAN
COLOMBO, December 24, 2011, The Maldivian Capital Male witnessed rival rallies on Friday, one to promote the Maldivian brand of tolerant Islam as practised since independence, and another, seeking to protect Islam from corrupting influences.
Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed addressed the rally that sought to promote the brand of tolerant Islam and called upon his countrymen not to be led astray by those preaching one thing and practicing another. This was the time for people to make up their minds on the path that Maldives took as a nation, and he wanted them to fight to help continue the Maldivian way of life and religion.
Soon after his rally ended, those claiming that Islam in Maldives had been corrupted, organised a rally, addressed by opposition politicians and religious leaders. Apparently, this rally, which was billed as a turning point in Maldivian politics, could not muster the numbers that it had promised to attract to Male.
The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said: “The opposition said one lakh people would attend their rally but less than 5000 showed up. This is because their rallying call was based on a lie: that Islam is under threat in the Maldives. It also proves that most Maldivians are for tolerance and not the introduction of extreme punishments such as stoning, amputations or genital mutilation of girls,” he said.
For now, it seems that the government is holding firm on its commitment to a democratic society, based on the values of equality for all. But the call of Islamic radicals is getting louder by the day.
Sarawak Islamic Council: Consent of Muslim convert’s family sought before exhumation of body for reburial
By VANES DEVINDRAN
KUCHING, December 25, 2011: Sarawak Islamic Council (MIS) had sought the consent from the family of Gamun Sandok before exhuming her body for reburial in a Muslim cemetery.
Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Islamic Affairs) Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman felt it was important to stress this so the case would not offend others.
“I was afraid that this would turn into an issue. It is sensitive and we (MIS) will not act hastily on matters like this,” he told reporters when met at the Kampung Sinjan carnival here yesterday. He said the matter was discussed with the family of the deceased and they gave their consent for a reburial.
He said if the family was against the reburial, MIS would not have proceeded.
It was reported that Gamun, from Kampung Sibakar in Padawan, had embraced Islam in Johor several years ago.
She died two months back and was buried in accordance with the Christian faith.
Her family was in the dark over her conversion to Islam. They only found out when one of her nephews wanted to register her death three days after she died. The National Registration Department then relayed the information to the family. Gamun’s Muslim name was Anisah Abdullah.
Her body was exhumed and reburied at the Muslim cemetery in Kampung Belimbing Darul Islam on Wednesday.
Daud urged those who had converted to Islam to notify their family to avoid complications in future.
He also advised those whose conversion was done outside the state to let Jais know about it.
For this, he said, he was glad that the level of tolerance in Sarawak was high.
“This is the unique element which Sarawak has. We understand one another better and are tolerant of each other. This must never be taken for granted, and all races and religions must be respected,” he said.
Earlier at the event, Daud called on the villagers of Sinjan to nurture cooperation and tolerance to enable the village to develop smoothly.
He said it was pointless to have squabbles because they would still need to live with each other in the same village.
“There is no point harbouring ill feelings towards one another. If a person gets nominated to do a job like become the head of the village security and development committee, then support him or her. Nobody is perfect, mistakes are bound to happen.
“We need to help them and not criticise them,” he said.
He said this was also essential as a good example for the younger generation to emulate.
Daud then pledged RM50,000 to the building fund for a new community hall in Kampung Sinjan. It is learnt that the total amount needed is RM2mil.
Kayani skips dinner hosted by Zardari
Islamabad, December 24, 11: Amidst strains between the civilian government and the military, Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was conspicuous by his absence at an official dinner hosted on Saturday by President Asif Ali Zardari.
The powerful army chief stayed away from the dinner hosted by Zardari in honour of China's top diplomat, State Councillor Dai Bingguo, official sources said.
According to sources, Kayani was among those invited to the event.
Kayani and other senior officers of the army's General Headquarters did not attend another banquet hosted on Friday by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for Dai and his entourage.
However, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne and the air force and navy chiefs attended the event.
The army chief was invited to Friday's banquet but his office informed the Prime Minister's House that he would be unavailable.
The Chief of General Staff, Lt Gen Waheed Arshad, was to represent Kayani at the event but he could not travel to Islamabad from Rawalpindi as the highway connecting the two cities was blocked people protesting against a shortage of gas.
The presence or absence of the top military leadership at events organised by the civilian government is closely watched by the media and in political circles, as it is considered a reflection of the state of relations between the army and the government.
Sharp differences have emerged between the government and the army over an alleged memo that sought American help to stave off a feared coup in Pakistan after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.
The government has said President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani played no role in drafting or delivering the memo to former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen.
The chiefs of the army and Inter-Services Intelligence have said there is adequate evidence that the memo exists.
They have asked the Supreme Court, which has admitted several petitions seeking a probe into the Memogate scandal, to order an investigation.
The government has challenged the apex court's jurisdiction to hear these petitions, saying the matter is being investigated by a parliamentary panel.
On Thursday, Gilani sharply criticised the army, saying it was unacceptable for the institution to act as a "state within a state".
He also questioned the army's failure to detect bin Laden's presence in Pakistan.
In an apparent response to Gilani's remarks about conspiracies being hatched against his government, Kayani yesterday said the army will continue to support democracy.
Kayani dispelled speculation about a military takeover. His remarks were welcomed on Saturday by Gilani.
We'll join PLO to keep it true to its mission'
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Senior Hamas official: "Anyone who thinks Hamas has changed its positions is living in an illusion."
Hamas is joining the PLO not as a result of a change in its ideology but because it wants the PLO to stick to its original platform – liberating Palestine and achieving the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, Hamas leaders explained over the weekend.
The Hamas leaders’ clarifications came in response to claims that Hamas’s decision to join the PLO was a sign the Islamist movement was moving toward moderation and would abandon its radical ideology.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other radical Palestinian groups agreed on Thursday to join a provisional leadership of the PLO that would look into ways of “activating and reconstructing” the Fatah-dominated organization.
The decision was announced following a meeting of representatives of several Palestinian groups in Cairo.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are demanding the PLO reconsider its political strategy by scrapping the Oslo Accords and its recognition of the two-state solution.
Hamas’s “foreign minister” Osama Hamdan, said the decision to join the temporary PLO leadership did not mean Hamas would become part of the peace process with Israel.
“Anyone who thinks Hamas has changed its positions and now accepts the PLO’s defeatist political program is living in an illusion,” Hamdan stressed. “Hamas cannot make the mistake of joining a process that has proved to be a failed one over the past 20 years.”
He was quoted by the Quds Press news agency as saying Hamas’s decision to be part of a provisional PLO leadership was aimed at “reconstructing the organization and reconsidering its political program.”
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Pope urges end to Syria bloodshed in Christmas message
25 December 2011
Pope Benedict XVI has used his traditional Christmas Day message to pray for an end to the bloodshed in Syria.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church said: "May the Lord bring an end to the violence in Syria, where much blood has already been shed."
He also urged the world to help famine victims in the Horn of Africa.
The Urbi et Orbi (English: to the city and the world) message was broadcast around the world in 65 languages.
At Christmas Mass on Saturday, the pontiff attacked the commercialisation of the Christian festival.
He urged worshippers to "see through the superficial glitter".
Speaking in Italian from a balcony above St Peter's Square, the pontiff spoke out against wars in general.
"May the Lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts which even today stain the Earth with blood," he said.
His remarks on Syria come after a year which has seen more than 5,000 deaths in anti-government unrest there.
On Saturday alone, suicide car bombings in Damascus claimed 44 lives and left more than 150 people injured.
Addressing the "Arab Spring" as a whole, he prayed for "renewed vigour for all elements of society in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East as they strive to advance the common good".
The Pope also called for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as in the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the newly created state of South Sudan. He called for dialogue in Burma, which has recently seen signs of limited reform.
Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict said, had "brought to the world a universal message of reconciliation and peace".
Remembering Africa's famine victims, he also prayed for flood sufferers in Thailand and the Philippines.
'Cloaks rolled in blood'
The Christmas Mass in Rome had been brought forward two hours from midnight (23:00) to 22:00 in order to spare the 84-year-old Pope a late night.
He urged the faithful to focus on the story of Jesus's birth, saying this would help "find true joy and true light".
Praying for those who would spend this Christmas in poverty and suffering, he attacked "oppressors" and warmongers.
"In this time of ours, in this world of ours, cause the oppressors' rods, the cloaks rolled in blood and the footgear of battle to be burned, so that your peace may triumph in this world of ours," he said.
Even if he is physically more frail now, his message was firm, the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says.
US says it committed to improving ties with Pakistan
WASHINGTON, Dec 24 (APP): The United States has said that it will continue to work with Pakistan towards improving the vitally important bilateral relationship,which saw signficiant challenges throughout the year.The State Department’s comments came amid strains on the bilateral relationship over November 26 NATO cross-border attacks on Mohmand checkposts, which resulted in death of 24 Pakistani soldiers.“We desire a closer, more productive relationship with Pakistan both militarily and as well as politically. And we’re constantly working to build that closer cooperation.
As I said, we’ve been very forthright in acknowledging that this is a relationship that needs to work,” acting spokesman Mark Toner said.
He was asked as to how confident he felt that 2012 would be better for the relationship between the two countries than the current year, which began with the killing of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Lahore, saw more tensions following the May 2 unilateral U.S. raid on al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad and is now ending with differences over findings of an American investigation into November 26 airstrikes.
“We’ve been, I think, pretty candid in saying that there have been some significant obstacles throughout this year in the relationship.
“But at each juncture, we’ve tried to address those challenges and we have recommitted ourselves to working with Pakistan. And we’re going to continue to do that because we believe we need to work with Pakistan. It’s too important.The issues that we face, the challenges we face, are too important,” Toner remarked.
Since it began a high-stakes engagement in the region a decade ago with the 2001 start of war in Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States has greatly relied on Pakistan’s support both for security on the porous Pak-Afghan border and transportation of supplies to landlocked Afghanistan.
In return, the U.S. has supported Pakistan with economic and military assistance but there have been differences on several issues related to the lingering Afghan conflict at Pakistan’s western border, which has also impacted on Pakistan’s internal security and economy.
On the findings of the Centcom report into November 26 incident, shared with the media this week, the spokesman said, Washington will continue to offer briefings to senior Pakistani officials on it.
“The report will be published, at some point go public. And we’ve been very forthright in discussing its contents. We’re going to continue to engage with them as we go forward.”
The spokesman said a briefing by head of the Central Command Gen James Mattis to Pakistani military leadership, scheduled for this week, had been postponed due to internal situation in Pakistan.
Questioned about political situation in Pakistan, the spokesman reiterated Washington’s support for democratic process in the country.
“We support the democratic process in Pakistan, we support the constitution and the rule of law, as well as the will of the Pakistani people. We want to -we believe, rather, that this is a matter for the Pakistani people to resolve within their own political process.”
Judiciary and army should work within limits: Gilani
ISLAMABAD: Dec 25, 2011, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday said all state institutions, including the judiciary and army, should work within their constitutional limits as tensions continued between the civilian government and the powerful military over the Memogate scandal.
"Parliament, judiciary and the army - we respect all three and we want these three institutions to work while remaining within their constitutional limits," Gilani said in televised concluding remarks at a special meeting of his cabinet in the southern port city of Karachi.
"We are with them, we fully support them and we have no intention to see the fall of any institution," he said.
Gilani further said his government was committed to working with all state institutions.
"We are the elected people of Pakistan. We should respect the judiciary, we should respect the military, we should respect parliament and we should also respect the media. There is a thin line but we will take all of them along. This is our commitment," he said.
"Sometimes governments are formed and sometimes they fall. We have fallen and risen several times. It is not a new struggle for us to be in power," Gilani added.
Gilani's remarks came against the backdrop of continuing tensions between his government and the powerful army over an alleged memo that sought US help to stave off a possible coup after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May.
There has been widespread speculation that President Asif Ali Zardari, who spent almost a fortnight in Dubai earlier this month for medical treatment, would be forced out by the military over the scandal.
Suicide Bomber Strikes Funeral in Northern Afghanistan
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG and JAWAD SUKHANYAR
KABUL, Afghanistan December 25, 2011— A suicide bomber struck a funeral in northern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least 30 people, a government spokesman said, in what appeared to be the Taliban’s latest strike against Afghans with ties to the government in Kabul.
Among those killed in the bombing in the northern province of Takhar was a member of Afghanistan’s Parliament, Abdul Mutaleb Beg, as well as member of the provincial council, the provincial government spokesman, Mohammad Tauhidi, said. A number of Afghan intelligence agents were also thought to be among the dead.
There was no word on whose funeral was attacked, and the Taliban offered no immediate comment on the bombing. But suspicion quickly fell on the insurgents, who often target Afghan government officials and people who are close to them. In September, a suicide bomber, also believed to be a Taliban insurgent, killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of Afghanistan's High Peace Council and a former president.
Sunday’s bombing took place shortly after 2 p.m. in the village of Begabad, Mr. Tauhidi said. The death toll was expected to rise.
Sudan Darfur rebel Khalil Ibrahim 'killed by army'
25 December 2011
The Sudanese army says it has killed the leader of Darfur's main rebel group, Khalil Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem).
The report of his death, in fighting in the Wad Banda area of North Kordofan, could not be independently verified.
Mr Ibrahim had returned from exile in Libya after the fall of Col Muammar Gaddafi's regime this year.
If confirmed, his death would be a major blow to the Jem, which was behind several high-profile attacks.
Sudanese army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Sad told the BBC Arabic Service that Mr Ibrahim had been killed at dawn on Sunday .
He and other rebel leaders had been trying to enter South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in July, the spokesman told Sudanese TV.
There was no immediate comment on the news from the Jem but a source close to the rebels told AFP news agency: "I'm pretty sure it's true."
Khartoum accused Jem of fighting for the late Libyan leader in his attempt to hold on to power.
Gaddafi's fall in Tripoli was a blow to the rebels as he had given them sanctuary and financial and military aid, analysts say.
Mr Ibrahim founded the Jem and made it the most powerful and most heavily armed rebel group in Darfur.
Attacks launched by the group include one on the capital, Khartoum in 2008.
More than 220 people were killed when the rebels drove across the desert to Omdurman, just across the River Nile from the presidential palace.
Government troops repulsed them after heavy fighting.
Just on Saturday, the Jem said they were planning a new advance on Khartoum.
The rebels signed a ceasefire with the Sudanese government in February 2010 but abandoned peace talks soon after, accusing Khartoum's forces of launching new raids in Darfur.
About 300,000 people have died in the conflict in Darfur since it began in 2003, the UN says.
Constitution's abrogation won't be allowed: Nawaz
Islamabad:December 25, 2011, No one will be allowed to dissolve Pakistan's parliament and abrogate the constitution, former PM Nawaz Sharif has said, urging the government to focus on the country's economic growth.
Speaking at a ceremony Saturday ahead of the 135th birth anniversary of Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Pakistan Muslim League -Nawaz president said that dictators had always ruined the country, Daily Times reported.
"When I was removed from the office of the prime minister and sent to jail, I said at that moment that injustice had been done to the country," he said, adding that Pakistan suffered in consequence.
"Thousands of people have been killed in suicide attacks while the economy sustained a loss of $7 billion," he said.
Sharif said Pakistan's economy was in dire straits, as the country's GDP growth rate stood at 2.5 percent while India's GDP was gaining momentum on a faster track.
He urged the government to focus on the country's economic growth and address the common man's problems.
Zardari talks of change through ballot, not bullet
ISLAMABAD:Dec, 25, 2011, President Asif Ali Zardari has called upon the nation to make a pledge that it will not allow any change through “force and intimidation and respect the power of ballot as an instrument of change”.
In a message on the 135th birth anniversary of the Quaid-i-Azam, the president said: “The Quaid believed that any change must be brought about by ballot and rejected change by bullet.”
The tone and tenor of the text was striking given that triteness distinguishes messages on such occasions. The symbolism behind use of words like “change through force” and reference to ‘ballot’ and ‘bullet’ was unmistakable in view of the grim political scenario.
As late as Thursday, the prime minister had raised an alarm that moves were afoot to bring down his government. Although the Army chief’s remarks the next day were intended to squash speculations and rumours about any military takeover, an air of uncertainty still hangs over the nation, especially because of the standoff over the memo scandal.
Hence the allusions in the message assume a meaning of their own.
In his message the President said: “Let us pledge that we will not allow any change through force and intimidation and respect the power of ballot as an instrument of change.
“Let us pledge on this day to reclaim Quaid-i-Azam’s Pakistan and unleash creative powers of the people through freedom, justice, the rule of law and an end to terrorism and violence.”
Greeting the nation on the birth anniversary, Mr Zardari urged them “to forge unity to protect their democratic and political rights and to make Pakistan a country where egalitarianism prevails and in which every individual is allowed opportunities for the blossoming of his potential and shaping his own destiny”.
The president said: “Let us on this day rededicate ourselves to the democratic ideals and principles of the Father of the Nation as well as reiterate our resolve to defeat the forces that seek to undermine the nation’s founding principles”.
He said the Quaid had envisaged Pakistan as a democratic country dedicated to improving the lot of the common man.
Unfortunately, he added, due to dictatorships in the past welfare took a back seat and security concerns became predominant as the country faced extremism and militancy.
“We need to create conditions where the people’s welfare is the dominant concern of the state,” he said.
The president said the Quaid also stood for constitutionalism, rule of law, respect for human rights, pluralism and honouring the nation’s mandate. “We should never lose sight of our national goalpost. This indeed is our compass in a turbulent sea.”
Through another message, Asif Zardari wished Christians a merry Christmas.
“On this auspicious occasion, I also wish to reiterate the commitment of the PPP to continue to fight along with our Christian brothers and sisters for the rights of all minorities and deprived people in the country for establishing a liberal and pluralistic society in Pakistan.”
US wants closer political, military ties with Pakistan
WASHINGTON: Dec 25, 2011, The United States has said that it will continue to work with Pakistan towards improving bilateral relations, which saw significant challenges throughout the year.
The State Department’s comments came amid strained relations between the sides following the November 26 NATO cross-border attacks on Mohmand checkposts, which resulted in the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers.
“We desire a closer, more productive relationship with Pakistan both militarily and as well as politically. And we’re constantly working to build that closer cooperation. As I said, we’ve been very forthright in acknowledging that this is a relationship that needs to work,” acting spokesman Mark Toner said.
The current year began with the killing of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Lahore, before tensions flared following the May 2 unilateral US raid on Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad. The November 26 attack was the latest incident that led to heightened tensions between the sides. However, the State Department spokesman said the US was committed to working with Pakistan.
“We’ve been, I think, pretty candid in saying that there have been some significant obstacles throughout this year in the relationship,” Toner said.
“But at each juncture, we’ve tried to address those challenges and we have recommitted ourselves to working with Pakistan. And we’re going to continue to do that because we believe we need to work with Pakistan,” Toner remarked.
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Sino-Pak ties critical for regional peace and security: Zardari
ISLAMABAD: 25. 12. 11, President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday said that Pakistan-China strategic cooperative partnership was the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy and termed this partnership critical for the development, peace and security of the region and the world.
During his meeting with Dai Bingguo, Chinese President Hu Jintao’s representative and State Councilor of China, here at the Presidency, Zardari said that the government and people of Pakistan greatly value China’s support and solidarity with Pakistan in our efforts to safeguard our sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
The president said that all-weather and time-tested Sino-Pak friendship based on complete mutual trust and respect, go beyond governments and are deeply rooted in the hearts and minds of the people of the two countries. He said that Pakistan and China enjoy complete convergence of views on all bilateral, global and regional issues and a commonality of approach to advance the international agenda for peace and prosperity.
The president termed China’s gigantic development as a miracle of the modern times and said that Pakistan as China’s closest friend truly shares the sense of immense pride on her great achievements on all fronts.
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China’s top Foreign Affairs official calls on Rehman Malik
ISLAMABAD:Dec 25, 2011, Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry director general called on Interior Minister Rehman Malik and discussed matters of mutual interests and bilateral relations.
China’s former ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohui was also present on the occasion, said a press release issued on Saturday.
Malik said that Pakistan gave special importance to its relations with China and both the countries were time-tested friends. He said Pakistan and China have supported each other and both would further strengthen and stabilise these bilateral ties. They also discussed the security issues of Chinese engineers and other professionals working in Pakistan. app
CIA suspends drone missile strikes in Pakistan: report
LOS ANGELES: Dec 25, 2011, The US Central Intelligence Agency has suspended drone missile strikes on gatherings of low-ranking militants in Pakistan due to tensions with that country, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Citing unnamed current and former US officials, the newspaper said late on Friday the undeclared halt in CIA attacks is aimed at reversing a sharp erosion of trust between the two countries.
US-Pakistani relations deteriorated last month after a series of US air strikes killed 24 Pakistan soldiers near the border with Afghanistan.
A joint US-NATO investigation concluded that a disastrous spate of errors and botched communications led to the deaths. Pakistan has rejected the findings.
The pause in the missile strikes comes amid an intensifying debate in the administration of President Barack Obama over the future of the CIA’s covert drone war in Pakistan, the paper said. The CIA has killed dozens of al Qaeda operatives and hundreds of low-ranking fighters there since the first Predator strike in 2004, but the programme has infuriated many Pakistanis, the report noted.
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Pak: MQM greets Christians
KARACHI: Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain has said that the MQM wanted to transform Pakistan into a country according to the ideals of the father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, where each segment of the society has access to its basic rights. In a message on the occasion of the birthday of the Quaid-e-Azam, Hussain said Jinnah wanted to make Pakistan a country free from the prejudices of caste, colour and religion and everyone in the country had equal rights. He regretted it was highly unfortunate that the feudal lords who were the agents of the British, usurped power in the country soon after independence and 98 percent people belonging to the poor and middle class were not only deprived of their basic rights but also their inalienable right to rule. He hoped that the struggle of the MQM would become successful. Meanwhile: MQM chief Hussain has felicitated the Christian community in Pakistan on the occasion of Christmas. In a message on the occasion of the Christmas on Dec 25, Hussain said that Jesus brought the message of peace, love and dignity of mankind. staff report
2 killed in Dera Bugti clash
QUETTA: Dec, 25, 11, Two people were killed and five others sustained injuries in an armed clash between pro-government peace force and unidentified persons in Loti area of Dera Bugti on Saturday. The Balochistan Levies of Loti area confirmed the incident and said that unidentified armed men attacked the peace force when it was on a routine patrol in the area. Resultantly, five people of Amn force sustained injuries. Two attackers were killed when Amn force personnel returned fire. The identities of the dead could not be ascertained. staff report
Decision to close Iran exile camp 'irreversible': Iraq PM
15 DECEMBER 2011 -
AFP - Iraq's decision to close a camp housing Iranian dissidents by year-end is "irreversible," Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told AFP on Thursday, rejecting UN calls for a delay to avoid bloodshed.
Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, houses some 3,400 Iranian refugees hostile to the regime in Tehran. It is controlled by the People's Mujahedeen, which Washington blacklists as a terrorist group.
"The decision we made is irreversible, especially because this organisation refused the visit of a UN representative to Camp Ashraf," Maliki said.
"They've rejected the UN plan, which means this is a criminal gang and we cannot permit a criminal gang to remain here," he added.
Saddam Hussein allowed the rebel People's Mujahedeen to set up the camp when his forces were at war with Iran in the 1980s.
When Saddam was overthrown in the US-led invasion of 2003, the camp came under US military protection but US forces handed over security responsiblity to the Baghdad authorities in January 2009.
The Iraqi government says the camp is a threat to its relations with neighbouring Iran and is damanding that it close by December 31.
But last week the United Nations appealed for an extension to the deadline to allow more time for a solution to be negotiated with the camp's residents who are refusing to move unless they are given UN protection.
The positions of the residents and the government "remain far apart," the UN envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, told the Security Council, appealing to the international community to find new homes for the exiles.
The camp has been in the spotlight since a controversial April raid by Iraqi security forces left at least 36 people dead and scores injured. Residents said the Iraqi forces attacked them.
No end to crackdown on journalists and media in iran
15 DECEMBER 2011.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the unremitting crackdown on journalists and the media in Iran. The Tehran monthly Chashm Andaz has been closed down and the weekly Saymareh, in Kudasht in the western province of Lorestan, has been forced to cease activity as a result of judicial pressure.
The press freedom organization has also learned that a journalist has been jailed and the life of a blogger is in danger after he went on hunger strike in prison.
On 7 December Lotfolah Meysami, the managing editor of Chashm Andaz (“Panorama” in Farsi) was told by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance that his magazine’s licence had been withdrawn as a result of an order issued by the Tehran revolutionary court on 23 November.
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The Plot Thickens in Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari is back from Dubai, where he went to seek medical treatment. His departure from the national scene set off a number of rumors. The most popular being that he will not return and will possibly resign. In response, the president went to the extent of talking about waging a war against the constitution if some action is taken against him. Neither the rumors nor the threat has materialized. There are, however, shadows of a coup in the making.
At least that is the assessment of the prime minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani. The premier, who is constitutionally powerful but a stooge to Zardari in reality, is fearing the army might pack up the government with the memogate scandal running as the central theme. The issue has been picked up by the supreme court where the government is saying the apex court does not have the jurisdiction on the matter -- a stance not favored by the judges.
It is not Gilani but Zardari who is at the center of the storm. The president, who is also the co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan's Peoples Party, has a history of constitutional violations. As discussed before, he technically has very little powers but has encroached upon the turf of Gilani, who has accommodated him.
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Crisis in Pakistan
25 December 2011
Pakistan is once again in a typical political crisis. This time around it is the elected dispensation that has crossed swords with the powerful military.
The crux of the discord is the shady memo that was supposedly written by the former ambassador to the United States, allegedly on the directives of President Asif Ali Zardari, inviting the attention of the Obama administration towards the so-called excesses that the army indulges in to belittle the elected government. Though not much is known about the salient features of the memo, it pointedly calls for acting against the army and the premier intelligence agency, the ISI. The government, which was busy hoodwinking the existence of such a memo, now says that it is a non-issue. But that hasn’t solved the problem. The Supreme Court that is seized with the matter wants a thorough probe, and seems determined the fix the responsibility on whosoever responsible behind it. The delicacy is evident from the fact that the army, perhaps for the first time in history, is looking at the apex court to nail the culprits and judicial assertiveness seems to be the way out.
Surprisingly enough, the army has kept its cool. It has vowed to respect the democratic polity and denied rumours of a coup in the offing. But a glance at Pakistan’s checkered history reveals that it is the establishment that prevails at the end of the day — and likewise the battered government of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani might face the axe. Gilani’s resolve to fight back against the reported high-handedness of the army is nothing but a political stunt, as it comes closely on the heels of too many blunders that could hardly save its skin. In this bizarreness of polarisation, the least that the people of Pakistan expect is stability. But what needs to be preserved is the fragile democratic order — even if that comes at the cost of a few ambitious individuals. Islamabad, surely, faces a crisis of confidence.
Pakistan to have Terrorism Insurance for corporate losses
By Sajid Chaudhry
ISLAMABAD: Dec 25, 2011, To provide foreign and local investors a shield against business losses due to terrorism attacks in Pakistan, corporate regulator Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) is planning to create a Terrorism Insurance Pool in Pakistan.
This Pool would help compensate the losses caused to the assets of the corporate sector in Pakistan and to improve the confidence of the foreign and local investors in Pakistan’s economy. The proposal is being developed in a mechanism to provide safeguard to the investment in Pakistan.
How insurance companies should underwrite the terrorism policies, the official sources explained that Policy issued by insurance company as an extension to their Fire Policy renewable on a yearly basis and cession of Terrorism Cover to Pool to be stated in the original wording in policy.
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Fuat Sezgin: A life devoted to understanding Islam’s golden age of science
İSTANBUL, 25 December 2011, Fuat Sezgin, a Turkish researcher and historian who has devoted his life to uncovering the roots of Islamic civilization and how big a role the Islamic world played in the emergence of today’s modern civilization, has always found it astonishing that so little is known about the scientific achievements of the Islamic world.
Known as the “conqueror of a missing treasure,” Sezgin was inspired by Helmut Ritter, a renowned 20th century German scholar of oriental studies and someone who used to teach courses on Islamic sciences and orientalism at İstanbul University.
Ritter inspired Sezgin to begin his search for the Islamic scholars’ contributions to modern science. Sezgin defines the moment he met with Ritter as “the time when I was born again.” He said Ritter told him to read at least 17 hours a day if he wanted to become a real scholar.
During one of Ritter’s courses, Sezgin asked him whether or not there was an important Islamic mathematician and was surprised by his answer: “There are as many mathematicians in the Islamic world as there are great figures in Greece and Europe,” Ritter said. The reason why Sezgin was astonished by Ritter’s answer was due to the fact that one of his teachers at primary school told him that Muslims scholars used to believe that the earth was located on the horn of an ox.
Sezgin said it was following the statements by Professor Ritter that he started to take notice of the fact that the Islamic world had made significant contributions to the history of general sciences and decided to search for what those contributions were.
From that day on, I decided to learn about the contributions of the Islamic world to science and to make a contribution to science myself if possible. Despite my young age, I assumed the responsibility of writing the ‘History of Islamic Sciences.’ I worked day and night on that book,” Sezgin said.
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