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Gulf Widens Between U.S. and a More Volatile Karzai

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 March 2012  

 Young Hindu Girl Kidnapped and Forced to Convert Once Again

 Mighty opponents, Iran, in a hijab

 Libya: Protesters supporting self-rule attacked

 The secrets of Saif Gaddafi's jail: chef, satellite TV and a basketball court for just one

 Discrimination Haunts Burma Muslims

 Pakistan parliament aims to reset its meaningful relationship with US

 Muslim MPs in Sri Lanka ask Indians not to discriminate against Muslim IDPs

 Salman Rushdie spots 'Gaddafi' in Pakistan, Imran Khan fumes

 Hague condemns Tehran for blocking Foreign Office website

 Dozens of bullet-ridden bodies found in Pakistan

 Pak President slams militants for exploiting religion

 Militants may make a comeback in Kashmir

 Eight terrorists killed in Orakzai Agency

 Three alleged bombers killed in Zakhakhel, Pakistan

 US teacher 'shot dead' in Yemen's second city of Taiz

 Afghan terrorists arrested in Muslim Bagh

 Stolen NATO army kits on sale in Pakistan!

 Coptic Pope Dies in Egypt Amid Church’s Struggles

 Thousands mourn Egypt's Coptic Pope Shenouda III

 India: Shillong Muslim Union organizing its history since inception

Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Hamid Karzai



 Gulf Widens Between U.S. and a More Volatile Karzai


KABUL, Afghanistan, March 17, 2012 — The Americans in Afghanistan are “demons.”

They claim they burned Korans by mistake, but really those were “Satanic acts that will never be forgiven by apologies.”

The massacre of 16 Afghan children, women and men by an American soldier “was not the first incident, indeed it was the 100th, the 200th and 500th incident.”

Such harsh talk may sound as if it comes from the Taliban, but those are all remarks either made personally by the United States’ increasingly hostile ally here, President Hamid Karzai, or issued by his office in recent days and weeks.

The strongest such outburst came Friday. “Let’s pray for God to rescue us from these two demons,” Mr. Karzai said, apparently holding back tears at a meeting with relatives of the massacre victims, and clearly referring to the United States and the Taliban in the same breath. “There are two demons in our country now.”

Ever since the Koran-burning episode on Feb. 20 and its violent aftermath, the relationship between the two governments has lurched from one crisis to another. American officials have scrambled to run damage control, with President Obama expressing a personal apology for the Koran burning, as well as regrets about the massacre, while calling Mr. Karzai twice in the past week.

The White House went to lengths last week to depict Mr. Karzai’s call for Americans to hand over control a year earlier, by 2013, as no change in policy — only to have Mr. Karzai pointedly insist the next day that it was. The Americans fret that Mr. Karzai is making a difficult job almost impossible, with demands they often see as unreasonable; Mr. Karzai worries that the Americans seek to undermine him, and may yet abandon his country and him, once again, to their fate.

The Koran burnings brought these differences into sharp relief, and led to a rupture in trust some view as irreparable. After an American unit at Bagram Air Base inadvertently burned Korans, embassy officials were deeply worried about an investigation conducted by the country’s Ulema Council, its highest religious body.

The council’s pronouncements, however, are closely controlled by Mr. Karzai’s office — they are even issued by the presidential palace — and American officials were assured by senior members on the president’s staff that the council’s report would be tough but not incendiary.

“We were ready to get knocked a bit,” said an American official who asked not to be identified to preserve his relationship with Afghan officials. “We messed up pretty badly.”

The original draft, in fact, was relatively moderate, American and Afghan officials said. But at the last minute more hard-line elements of Mr. Karzai’s staff weighed in, and the joint statement finally issued by the Ulema Council and the palace used language like “Satanic act” and “unforgivable, wild and inhuman” about the book burnings, and “justifiable emotion” in regard to the violent reaction, which claimed the lives of at least 29 Afghans and 6 Americans.

Western diplomats have often viewed Mr. Karzai’s outbursts as playing to the galleries, meant for consumption by his own people only, not as serious statements of policy. But the galleries also include the public in the United States and its NATO allies, where majorities in nearly every country oppose remaining in Afghanistan, and every new contretemps risks further eroding an already tenuous support.

“I think this is very serious because Mr. Karzai has always had a very ambivalent attitude toward the West and toward the war — he has never really believed violence is the answer,” said Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador to Afghanistan from 2007 through 2009. “He is also very conscious and very resentful that his political survival and even perhaps his personal safety depend on the Americans.”

The current American ambassador, the veteran diplomat Ryan C. Crocker, was brought out of semiretirement by President Obama last July at least in part because he had known Mr. Karzai since the beginning: Mr. Crocker was the first envoy to Afghanistan after the invasion that defeated the Taliban, when Mr. Karzai was appointed interim leader here.

Like many of his predecessors, Mr. Crocker began his latest tour on an optimistic note. “President Karzai has the toughest job in the world, and he has been doing it for the last 10 years,” Mr. Crocker said early on, and has repeated often since. “You have to give him credit.”

While the two men still have a working relationship and meet often, according to aides to both, there are many signs that the warmth has gone out of that relationship once again.

Mr. Crocker insisted in an interview with PBS on Friday that this was not the case.

“I think he is a committed Afghan nationalist, that at the end of the day he seeks the same goals we do,” the ambassador said. “And sometimes the rhetoric gets a little heated. Sometimes my rhetoric has been known to get a little bit heated in a few of these meetings, and then I go sit under a tree and think about the larger equities at stake, and we move on.”

From Mr. Karzai’s point of view, the Americans have repeatedly defied his demands to end commando night raids, and one civilian casualty after another has put him in the position of either criticizing the Americans and angering them, or not criticizing them and angering Afghans.

“In any relationship there are things that one party does that the other party doesn’t particularly care for, and that goes both ways,” said James Cunningham, the deputy ambassador to Afghanistan. “The question is not just whether President Karzai is a partner; we’re discussing and putting into place a partnership that is going to look forward a decade or so, and that’s a partnership with Afghanistan and its leaders, whoever they are.”

The relationship is so frayed, however, that Mr. Karzai often is quick to view everything through the prism of presumed American perfidy.

When American diplomats meet with his political opponents, he sees it as a sign that they are out to topple him from power — something that has reportedly obsessed him ever since the presidential election in 2009, which the international community saw as widely fraudulent. American officials pressured him into agreeing to a runoff, which in the end his opponents refused.

“We don’t have to be here running Afghanistan, and that is what people are afraid of,” Mr. Cunningham said. “We are not running Afghanistan, we are easing our way out, and I think that’s what feeds this whole dynamic. The notion that somehow we hold the upper hand, that’s not the right way to look at what we are trying to arrange. We are really, actually trying to arrange a partnership in which Afghans run their affairs,” he said.

The Taliban routinely deride Mr. Karzai as nothing more than an American puppet, but that is certainly not the view of his purported puppet masters. “Never in history has any superpower spent so much money, sent so many troops to a country, and had so little influence over what its president says and does,” one European diplomat marveled.

Americans have, however, wielded influence on many occasions, and President Karzai is still smarting from many of them. When an aide to Mr. Karzai was arrested by an American-backed corruption task force, the president intervened to secure his release, and then eviscerated the anticorruption body, the Major Crimes Task Force. But from Mr. Karzai’s point of view, the Americans never gave him the courtesy of warning that they planned to arrest a top official.

Bette Dam, a Dutch author who interviewed Mr. Karzai extensively for her book, “Expedition Uruzgan: Hamid Karzai’s Journey Into the Palace,” says that what the Americans saw as corruption, Mr. Karzai and his family saw as simply patronage. Because the government was weak, with the Americans providing all the muscle, patronage was the only thing Mr. Karzai had to maintain his power base.

“Then you have President Obama, who says we have to do it differently. But the only thing that changed was Obama criticizing Karzai, making his government transparent, setting up task forces openly attacking his corruption,” she said. “It was not likely something would change; Karzai’s patronage system that was built up was too strong, and he himself too proud.”

The inquiry over the apparent embezzlement of nearly a billion dollars from Kabul Bank, which implicated Mr. Karzai’s brother and the brother of his first vice president, was deeply embarrassing, and he blamed American officials for leaking it to the press — and then using the threat of aid cuts to force him to dismember the bank.

From the point of view of the United States and its Western allies, they have only been trying to push Mr. Karzai to do the right thing. The Kabul Bank swindle was so notorious that it risked chasing away foreign aid donors.

From either perspective, it is a less-than-ideal situation — but the Americans have no alternative to Mr. Karzai, and Mr. Karzai has no alternative to the American-led coalition supporting him.

“The Americans are prepared to walk away,” said a senior Western official in Kabul. “And you’ve got an Afghan political establishment that is heavily dependent on the international presence. It’s a dynamic that is very unfortunate.”

“Karzai wants revenge on the U.S. because of the systematic insults he has suffered, that he feels his family suffered, because of Kabul Bank,” said a former Afghan government official. “The culture in the U.S. is about policy, it is about mutually rational interests. Revenge is at times more important in this part of the world, more important than any political or economic interest.”



Young Hindu Girl Kidnapped and Forced to Convert Once Again

March 18th, 2012

In Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, a Hindu girl was kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. This led President Asif Ali Zardari to investigate the matter further.

The Hindu girl was kidnapped from Mirpur Mathelo in Ghotki district.

Once the president was informed of the issue he requested that a report be made by the government in addition to transparent and expeditious investigations. He requested that action be taken in accordance with the law regardless of any influences that try to deter the direction of the investigation. Anyone involved in any way to the criminal activity was to be interrogated.

Sindh has a minority Hindu population. Hindu minorities are the largest group of minorities in Pakistan and make up of about 5 percent of the total population of the country.

Studies have indicated that at least 25 Hindu girls are kidnapped by extremists every month in Pakistan, with little to know help by authorities.


Mighty opponents, Iran, in a hijab

Dhamini Ratnam, TNN | Mar 18, 2012,

How challenging is it to play a close contact sport, dressed head-to-toe? Ask the women's Iranian kabaddi team, says Dhamini Ratnam.

Earlier this month, the finals of the first Kabaddi World Cup Championship for women saw India defeat Iran, 25-19. The Patna crowd cheered raucously, as team India pulled, tugged and tackled team Iran to a nail-biting finish. Yet, what remains entrenched in memory is the sight of seven Iranian women, covered from head to toe, headscarves tied tight to prevent stray strands of hair from caressing their foreheads, indulging in what can only be called a very close contact sport.

That sight made several spectators, sitting inside the Patliputra Sports Complex on March 4, question their perception of the roles women play, both in India, and Iran.

Puneet Chandhok, a third-generation Punjabi born and brought up in Iran, and an ardent supporter of the sport back in the conservative Islamic nation, puts this down to ignorance.

Chandhok is an honorary advisor to Teheranbased Kabaddi Federation of Iran, and claims to be associated with the sport for close to a decade. He was there, for instance, when Iran sent its first international women's team to Hyderabad in 2005 to play the Asian Women's Kabaddi Championship. (The team stood fifth, in what was their worst international performance. Since then, they have been winning the silver at almost every tournament.) Three years later, Chandhok accompanied team Iran to Madurai for the third Asian Women's championship, where they made it to the finals, but lost to India. In 2010, he patted their backs - figuratively - when they lost by a single point to India at the Guangzhou Asian Games.

"Islam doesn't prohibit women playing sports. But the (sportswoman's) body has to be covered," says Chandhok. Which explains why firebrand Ghazal Khalaj, the 21-year-old captain of team Iran, and top scorer in the India-Iran finals, made sure the white headgear remained in place even as she launched aggressive raids and counter attacks during the 40-minute game. Team member Zahra Masoumabadi, clad like the rest in track pants, and a long-sleeved jersey, stunned opponents with her side-kicks that seemed to materialise out of nowhere.

For a country that allowed women to visit stadium football matches only as recently as 2006 (after the '79 revolution, women were barred from attending matches of what is undoubtedly, the most beloved game in the country), an aggressive women's kabaddi team needn't be cause for wonder. Kabaddi, unlike volleyball, is an indigenous sport in the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is popular among young boys and girls as Zou in Golestan, as Do-Do in Gilan, and as Ti-Ti in Khuzestan. The culture of kabaddi isn't restricted to rural outposts either.

Irani Kabaddi Leagues are held with men and women's teams, informs Chandhok. A woman player earns anywhere between $800 and $1,5000 per season. (Male players earn $3,500 to $5,000.) For international wins such as the World Cup, a gold medal fetches each team member 25 gold coins, and a silver medal fetches them 15. A win at the Asian Games, however, would fetch them 100 gold coins for a gold medal, and 50 gold coins for a silver.

Yet, the strictures placed on Iranian sportswomen is no secret.

Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the vice president of the Iranian Olympic Committee announced a set of rules on how athletes should dress and behave. No male coach was allowed to train or travel abroad with a women's team. Alcohol consumption was strictly prohibited, as was any physical interaction with men.

This World Cup, Khalaj and Co. were accompanied by a government observer - a woman named Tahereh Tangestanizadeh - to make sure they stuck to the rules. Which begs the question, for the hijab-clad fighters, is it only the gold that remains elusive?

Touch them not At a Taekwondo competition held in Macau in 2007, a male referee raised the arm of a female Iranian player, who had won a tournament. Referring to that incident, the then vice president of the Iranian Olympic Committee, Abdolreza Savar, said that Iran's sportswomen would not be allowed to participate in any discipline in the Olympics, where there was a chance of physical contact with a male referee. In December 2007, he issued a memorandum to all sporting federations, to regulate the behaviour of sportspersons, male, and female.



Libya: Protesters supporting self-rule attacked

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) March 17 03 12 — Thousands of Libyan protesters rallying Friday in an eastern city to press for an autonomous region were attacked by armed men wielding rifles and knifes, witnesses said. One person was killed.

One of the protesters, Bashar al-Denali, said armed assailants charged into the crowd and opened fire. Protesters panicked and fled the square which was then occupied by the armed men, he said.

Another protester Omar al-Mesmari said assailants attacked an office of a local Libyan television station, Libya Al-Ahrar, to prevent it from covering and broadcasting the demonstration.

Benghazi militia fighters, who are responsible for security in the city, deployed forces and chased the attackers, witnesses said.

An official at the hospital in Benghazi, Youssef al-Sayati, said one person was killed and six others injured, two critically.

The demonstrators were showing their support for a declaration by tribal leaders and militia commanders in the oil-rich eastern Barqa state to create an autonomous region. Barqa makes up almost half of Libya.

Supporters say the step is necessary to end the marginalization their region suffered for decades under Moammar Gadhafi's rule, toppled in October at the hands of citizens-turned-fighters after an eight month uprising.

The former dictator focused development and largesse on the western part of the country, allowing infrastructure to decline in the east, an area that was a constant source of opposition to his regime.

But the move to create an autonomous region has created a strong backlash among opponents who fear it will eventually lead to the disintegration of the country.

Protesters in the rally denounced what they called attempts by those in western Libya to control the eastern part of the country.



The secrets of Saif Gaddafi's jail: chef, satellite TV and a basketball court for just one

Muammar Gaddafi's eldest son is due to be taken to a prison within a prison in the suburbs of Tripoli to await trial

Chris Stephen

The Observer, 18 March 2012, The new exercise yard in Saif Gaddafi's prison within a prison in Tripoli. Photograph: Irina Kalashnikova for the Observer

Behind a grey forbidding wall on the outskirts of the Libyan capital sits a secret prison constructed to hold just one prisoner – Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The heir apparent to Libya's late dictator Muammar Gaddafi will be moved here from custody in the mountain town of Zintan in the coming weeks to face a controversial war crimes trial that will pitch Libya against the International Criminal Court.

Libya's ruling National Transitional Council is taking no chances: to house this one man, they have emptied Tripoli's biggest jail, Al Ahdath, and built a prison-within-a-prison to accommodate him. The Observer was last week granted exclusive access to the jail, which sits amid warehouses and sprawling countryside in the suburb of Tajura.

Entry is through an imposing gate guarded by militia jeeps sporting anti-aircraft machine guns. A quarter-mile drive up a tree-lined avenue ends at the buildings that previously held more than a thousand women and juveniles. Beyond that, hidden behind a 50ft grey wall, is Saif's compound, a place so secret it does not yet have a name.

Home will be a specially built blockhouse which sits on one side of a courtyard. Inside, there are two exercise yards, each covered with sturdy steel mesh designed to combat the chance of a helicopter rescue attempt.

His cell is still being fitted out, and sits behind a plain grey door secured by a single bolt and padlock, the paint freshly applied. The blockhouse is designed so that he need never leave it, with a warren of corridors and locked doors allowing him to move between his cell and the exercise yards. Across the yard is an indoor football and basketball court, housed in a handsome beige building with tinted green windows and white columns at the entrance, looking more a luxury villa than a prison gym.

Inside are facilities allowing Saif to play five-a-side football and basketball, though it is unclear who he will play with. There is even a touch of grim humour in the compound, with one of the workmen due to paint the walls placing a white handprint on the wall by the cell entrance.

The luxurious conditions, which will include a private mosque, personal chef, 24-hour medical cover and satellite television, have provoked mixed reactions from the guards. "If Obama came here, or Sarkozy or Cameron, they would be very happy with the accommodation, it is luxury," said one guard in a black sweater, a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder. "It's not a prison, it's a holiday resort."

Another bearded guard working in the prison office outside the walled compound said: "There is not one thing Saif will not have here. This prison is like a castle, a castle fit for a king."

The intense security surrounding Saif's prison is testament to the power the Gaddafi family continue to hold on the minds of Libya's rulers.

When another of Gaddafi's sons, Saadi, now exiled in Niger, predicted a loyalist uprising to coincide with the anniversary of the Libyan revolution last year, thousands of militiamen took to the streets of the main cities to guard against it.

Saif, 39, whose name means "sword of Islam" was once expected to take the reins of power from his father and prior to last year's revolution was seen as a moderating force in the country. He controversially gave £1.5m to the London School of Economics after the university awarded him a disputed PhD.

But in the war he took a leading role in suppressing the rebels, fleeing the capital when it fell to militia forces last August. He was arrested last November in the Sahara desert dressed as a bedouin tribesman as he tried to flee the country. Since then he has been housed in a villa in the fortified mountain town of Zintan.

Libya's government has persuaded the Zintan militia to hand him over to federal custody, and Libya's president, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, declared last month that Saif's trial will begin once the jail is finished. "By God's will, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi will receive a fair trial."

But the decision to hold the trial on home soil has infuriated judges at the International Criminal Court, which charged Saif last year with war crimes and crimes against humanity, accusing him of masterminding a murderous campaign against Libyan civilians during the revolution.

ICC rules say a state can try its suspects only if it can demonstrate it will give a fair trial – and Hague court documents show that Tripoli has not even made an application. A blistering report accusing Libya of non-compliance has already been submitted to Hague judges from their Public Council for the Defence. The report accuses Libya of failing to give Saif access to a lawyer or allowing him to communicate with his family, and recommends the court report Libya to the UN Security Council for breaking ICC rules.

"When viewed against the lack of due process afforded to Mr Gaddafi, and the general backdrop of credible reports concerning allegations of torture and mistreatment of detainees, there is no basis for asserting that the ICC should defer the case to Libya," says the report.

Human rights groups complain that Libya's legal system is in chaos, and that the charges against Saif have yet to be announced. "So far as we know he has not yet been charged and obviously preparation for defence can only begin in earnest once formally charged," said Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International, "the whole thing being conditional on the courts and judiciary actually functioning, which does not yet appear to be the case."

Libya's authorities insist a fair trial is possible, telling the ICC last year that "the Libyan state is willing and able to try him in accordance with Libyan law".

Saif, who is fluent in English and lived in London, may also be able to answer questions about allegations in the French media last week that his father gave Nikolas Sarkozy €50m to help his 2007 election campaign.



Discrimination Haunts Burma Muslims

OnIslam & News Agencies

RANGON, 18 March 2012 – Muslims in the south-eastern Asian nation of Myanmar are complaining of catalogue of discrimination and abuses in their homeland.

Myo Win, a Burmese Muslim, said he was discriminated against since he was a young child.

"I noticed that most of the students and even the teachers at the school, they are discriminating especially for minority people," Myo told ABC News on Sunday, March 18.

"They think we are the stranger, we are foreigner, even though our forefathers were born in Burma."

Myo is not alone.

Zaw Minn Htwe also speaks of repeated abuses for no apparent reason but being Muslim.

He recalls being called by fellow students as a ‘kalar’.

"It's an insult, especially for Muslim people," he said.

"It means we are not from Burma."

Myanmar's Muslims, mainly of Rohingyas ethnic minority, number upwards of five percent of the nation's more than 50 million people.

Rohingyas have long suffered from discrimination and a catalogue of abuse at the hands of the military.

An amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 has deprived them of citizenship and made them illegal immigrants in their own home.

Beside the Rohingyas, there are the Indian-descended Muslims who live in Yangon and ethnic-Chinese Muslims, known as the Panthay.

Muslim Fears

Zaw recalls his worst moment in 2003 when his family’s tea shop was attacked by monks over the destruction of Buddhist statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban.

"They wanted to take revenge because people had destroyed a Buddhist statue in Afghanistan," he told ABC News.

"We haven't heard about Afghanistan before and we don't know anyone from Afghanistan but they target us.

"One day they came to our tea shop, we had to hide in our house and then they destroyed it.

"I was so scared, really afraid of the people.”

The attack left Zaw with the feeling that he was being treated as a second-class citizen in his homeland, which was ruled by the military since 1962 until last year.

"At that time I could not trust anyone, even our neighbor they do not protect us."



Pakistan parliament aims to reset its meaningful relationship with US

Ben Doherty, March 19, 2012

PAKISTAN has pledged to reset its "meaningful" relationship with America after a bitter 12 months, but the issue of drone attacks on Pakistani soil remains a sensitive issue.

A specially convened parliamentary session will begin in Islamabad today to decide on new parameters for the Pakistan-US relationship. The issue of drone attacks will be paramount on the agenda.

"These attacks are illegal. They amount to the violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, therefore, it is high time US stops the illegal use of drone attacks," foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said, adding that the issue had, and would again be, "forcefully" raised with the US. While Pakistan claims civilians have been killed by the unmanned aircraft, US President Barack Obama has defended their use.

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Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari addressed both houses at the weekend. "We seek to engage meaningfully with the US on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect," he said.

Mr Zardari conceded it had been a "challenging year". In January last year, a CIA officer shot dead two men in Lahore who were trying to rob him.

And in May, US Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in a dawn raid without telling Pakistan. In November, Nato helicopters opened fire in a sustained assault on a Pakistani checkpoint, killing 24 troops.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said Pakistan was stable, and that the relationship could be rebuilt "in a way that meets both of our needs".

Meanwhile, reports suggest Osama bin Laden had ordered the assassinations of US President Barack Obama and General David Petraeus, then the head of international forces in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reported that documents seized during the raid on bin Laden's compound ordered Obama's death because "Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make [Vice President Joe] Biden take over the presidency.

"Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the US into a crisis. As for Petraeus, he is the man of the hour, and killing him would alter the war's path in Afghanistan."

The US did not regard the Obama-Petraeus threat as credible.

Meanwhile, a Pakistani court has ordered that Osama bin Laden's three surviving widows and their children, arrested during the US raid on the terrorist's compound, remain in custody.



Muslim MPs in Sri Lanka ask Indians not to discriminate against Muslim IDPs

 News Desk,

Mar 18, Colombo: Seventeen Muslim legislators in Sri Lanka have asked the Indian government to address the issue of discrimination against old IDPs that include a large number of Muslims evicted from the North by the LTTE.

The Muslim MPs have written a letter to Indian High Commissioner Ashok Kantha explaining that old IDPs who were displaced prior to 2008 have lost out on the assistance and relief provided to the new IDPs post 2008.

The legislators have raised the issue of the 50,000 houses being built in the North by the Indian government to be handed over to IDPs.

"While we have appreciated your valuable contribution to build 50,000 houses in Sri Lanka, we were shocked to see the criteria for housing, which categorically made differences between people displaced before and after 2008," the letter has stated.

The letter explains that hundreds of Northern Muslims who had been evicted over 20 years ago and living as refugees have started trying to return to their previous lands after the end of the war.

The Muslim legislators have pointed out that these returning Muslims have been faced with many difficulties due to the lack of assistance provided to them due to being identified as old IDPs.

The letter also sates, "we very much regret to note that the victimized Muslim population of the Northern Province being overlooked in the process through introducing criteria and following the manipulated data of agencies."

The letter was signed by Ministers A. H. M. Fowzie, Rishad Bathiyutheen, Rauf Hakeem, A. L. M. Athaullah, Deputy Ministers Abdul Cader, M. L. A. M. Hisbullah, Basheer Segudawood, Faiszer Mustapha, and parliamentarians A. H. M. Azwer, Hunais Farook, M. S. Thowfeek, Muthaliph Bawa Farook, Faizal Cassim, H. M. M. Harees, Mohamed Aslam Saleem, M. T. Hasen Ali and Kabir Hashim.

The LTTE began its systematic ethnic cleansing of the North in 1985 by forcibly occupying Muslim properties. They ordered the Muslim population in Mannar to leave in October 1989 and a year later on October 30, 1990 the LTTE evicted the entire Muslim population of about 75,000 from Jaffna giving only two hours to evacuate the city.

The forcibly evicted Muslims have been living with their relatives in the displaced camps since 1990.



Salman Rushdie spots 'Gaddafi' in Pakistan, Imran Khan fumes

New Delhi, Mar 18: The controversial writer Salman Rushdie might be the first person in spotting similarities between Pakistan minister and former Cricketer Imran Khan and the slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The writer of Satanic Verses during his speech in India Today conclave claimed, Have you noticed the physical resemblance between Imran and Qaddafi? Could cast as a slightly better-looking Qaddafi."

Meanwhile, Rushdie also claimed that Imran Khan restrained himself from the conclave as he (Imran Khan) had fears of being unable to handle his (Rushdie's) ‘bouncers’.

After the confirmation of Rushdie's presence in the conclave, Imran Khan, who was supposed to attend the India Today conclave in Delhi, decided not to attend the meeting. Khan accused Rushdie of hurting Muslims over his book - Satanic Verses.

Rushdie discussed about Khan's way of life during his (Khan's) young carefree days. The writer said, "I would place a substantial bet that he has not read it (Satanic Verses). When Imran was a playboy in London, he was called ‘Im the dim’."

"In our time, essential freedoms are in danger of society. In India also, not just egalitarian states. Public apathy is also damaging," said Rushdie while expressing view that freedom of speech and expression has been hurt in India and in other parts of the world.



Hague condemns Tehran for blocking Foreign Office website

18th March, 2012

Tehran has blocked a UK Foreign Office website in Iran as part of its "ever-tightening stranglehold of censorship", the foreign secretary has said.

William Hague said UK for Iranians was launched on March 14 to "reach out" to its citizens but access from the country was blocked on March 17.

In December, Mr Hague said Iran had blocked access to the British embassy website for people in Iran.

Britain last year closed its embassy in Tehran and expelled Iran's diplomats.

It followed an attack on the embassy building, which Iran described "unacceptable behaviour by a small number of protesters". However, British diplomats said they believed it was likely the attack had state backing.

No quarrel' with Iranians

In a statement on Sunday, Mr Hague said the UK for Iranians website had been established to explain UK policy and engage with Iranians and that the blocking of the site was "only a very small part of what Iranians endure daily".

He said Iran's government had jammed international television channels, closed film and theatre productions, rewritten traditional Persian literature and banned the publication of some books and newspapers.

"We have no quarrel with the Iranian people and regret that the Iranian authorities fear their own citizens' interaction and involvement with the outside world," Mr Hague said.

"We will continue to look for opportunities to engage with the Iranian people, confident that Iranians are outward looking and deserve the same freedoms that others enjoy around the world."

The UK, US and EU have imposed sanctions on Iran, accusing it of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.



Dozens of bullet-ridden bodies found in Pakistan

Bara, March 18, 2012: Villagers found 13 bullet-ridden bodies scattered around the Bara area of the northwestern Khyber tribal region near the Afghanistan border on Sunday, as Pakistani security forces step up military offensives against militants.

Sunday's discovery was made just two days after 12 more bodies, also bearing signs of torture and numerous bullet-wounds, were discovered in the same area, 15 km (nine miles) south of Peshawar.

"They were taken into custody by the paramilitary Frontier Corps a few days back from Sepah area after unknown people attacked the FC post and killed four soldiers," a local tribesman said, requesting anonymity because he feared for his safety.

No one has acknowledged any connection with the deaths.

An official for the Frontier Corps (FC), which has taken the lead against militants in the Khyber agency, said he knew nothing about the bodies and that the men were never in the custody of the FC.

"It is possible they have been killed earlier during the military operation and their bodies recovered now," the official said, who asked for anonymity. "The FC has been conducting military operations against the terrorists in Bara and other areas of Khyber tribal region."

Witnesses claimed one of the slain men found on Sunday was a former commander of the banned militant organization, Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI), which is fighting the government in the Khyber agency.

LeI is also fighting the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistan Taliban, in the area and frequently clashes with the larger group.

Fighting in the Bara area of Khyber, which sits astride a strategic supply route for NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan, has increased markedly in the past week, with security forces conducting a search and cordon operation since Tuesday.

A curfew was imposed, but security forces' checkposts and convoys were still being attacked by militants. Witnesses said 30 to 35 people had been killed since the operation began.

"We are investigating the incident," said assistant political agent for Khyber, Bakhtiar Mohmand. "A few people had gone missing the first few days of the operation, we cannot confirm their identities yet."

The government had asked women and children to evacuate the area and fighters to give themselves up.

This area of Bara is the hometown of militant leader Mangal Bagh who heads LeI. The Pakistan military and security forces have been conducting sporadic operations in the area since November 2011.

Bureau Report



Pak President slams militants for exploiting religion

ISLAMABAD, 18th March, 2012: President Asif Ali Zardari Saturday condemned the militants for ‘exploiting religion of Islam’ through attacking mosques, churches, schools, national assets and civilians.

Zardari told the parliament in his traditional annual address that the government of his Pakistan Peoples Party in 2008 had inherited a country at war, a divided nation, threat of terrorism and militancy, a fragile and weakened Federation and unclear roles and mandates of different institutions of the State.

The government, he said, dealt with enormous challenges and tried to meet the aspirations of the people and transform the country.

He said efforts to counter militancy and extremism in the country had begun to pay off and the situation had improved.

"Where necessary, we have used force to ensure that the writ of the state is not challenged. We will continue to show resolve on this issue," the President said, adding, “the country faced the threat of militancy and extremism and its forces, police and civilians had been attacked and martyred”.

"Our bases, police stations, pipelines, railways, hotels, schools, have been targeted. Even our mosques, churches and religious shrines have not been spared," he said.

The President regretted that the country’s image had been negatively projected and the economy has had to bear extra burden.

He said to deal with the mind-set of a small minority, the government mobilized the society and tried to generate a national consensus.

President Zardari lauded the sacrifices of the country’s armed forces, civil armed forces, police and all the innocent men and women who had suffered.

"I salute the courage and sacrifices of those who have laid down their lives to secure the future of our nation,” he said.

President Zardari vowed general election to be held in a free and fair manner during the new parliamentary year.

"We are starting a new parliamentary year. During this period, we will see free and fair election," he said.

Full Report at:



Militants may make a comeback in Kashmir

M Saleem Pandit, TNN

SRINAGAR, Mar 18, 2012: After militants groups issued fresh life threatening warning to the valley-based journalists, the security agencies believe that militant strikes may increase in coming months.

Prominent separatist leader and Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani advised militant groups not to target the journalists and said media in Kashmir was working under difficult circumstances and should not be coerced by any side.

Geelani said he was for complete freedom of press and against any sort of pressure on journalists.

"Newspapers criticize us and we not only welcome it but also accept their right to criticize, and instead of getting angry over it we try to put forth our point of view and leave it to the public to accept or reject our version," Geelani said.

Intelligence reports reveal that dozens of new locally recruited young militants are on prowl in the city to attack the prominent citizens including clergymen belonging to Barelawi school of thought.

However, director general of police Kuldeep Khoda said only a negligible number of Jammu and Kashmir's youth are now joining militant outfits while a greater number are instead helping in anti-militancy operation.

Earlier in the year, the total number of militants in the state was about 300 to 350.

Dozens of Panchs and surpanchs were killed by the militants during last several months in south and north Kashmir.

Moreover, militants made an abortive attempt to kill state minister A M Sagar in old city at Nawab Bazar in December, 2011 leaving his PSO Gulzar Ahmad dead while militants tried to target director information Farooq Renzu at the shrine of Dastigir sahib at Sariabala in Amira kadal only last Friday.

The militants with the intention to hurt one prominent peer of Batamallo called Jalal-din-din Bangroo fired upon him with pistol on Saturday evening. The peer is battling for his life at sher-e-kashmir institute of medical sciences in Srinagar.



Eight terrorists killed in Orakzai Agency

ISLAMABAD, March 18, 2012: Eight terrorists were killed and several others were injured in aerial bombing in Orakzai tribal region on Saturday, taking death toll of the terrorists to 42 in the last 24 hours, security officials said. According to sources, 23 terrorists were killed in different strikes in the areas of Samaa Bazaar, Toor Semath, Kagu Qamar, Mamuzi, Jabba, and Balaras of Orakzai Agency. They said that three bases of the terrorists in Orakzai were also destroyed, while up to 15 terrorists were killed in shelling in Kurram Agency. A security checkpost came under attack in South Waziristan, killing four civilians. Four terrorists were also killed in response by the security forces. online\03\18\story_18-3-2012_pg7_17



Three alleged bombers killed in Zakhakhel, Pakistan

LANDIKOTAL,  March 18, 2012: Volunteers of Tawheed Ul Islam – a Zakhakhel-based group – killed three persons allegedly involved in bomb blasts at Zakhakhel and Tirah areas. One of the deceased belonged to Zakhakhel’s Konjono area while the other two hailed from Zawdeen tribe, local and administration sources said on Saturday. The locals also said that the Zakhakhel based pro-government TI volunteers also busted a terrorist commander along with his three accomplices in the Bazaar Zakhakhel area. Separately, at Mundi Kas area in Bara, three women were killed in a roadside bomb explosion, while two others sustained injuries, local sources said. A local resident, Ikhtiar Badshah Afridi, said that the law and order situation had gone worse since March 13 at various areas of Bara, resulting in casualties in large number. staff report\03\18\story_18-3-2012_pg7_7



US teacher 'shot dead' in Yemen's second city of Taiz

18 March 2012

An American language teacher has been shot dead by gunmen in Yemen's second city of Taiz, officials say.

He was deputy director of a Swedish language centre in the city, a security official told the AFP news agency.

The teacher was driving his car when he was fired on by gunmen on motorbike, officials said.

Yemen had experienced nearly a year of unrest before President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down, at the end of last year, after 33 years in power.

His vice-president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, took office last month.

The unrest has enabled militant groups linked to al-Qaeda to gain footholds in provinces in the south of the country.

Taiz, some 270km (173 miles) south-west of the capital Sanaa, has been a major centre of opposition to Mr Saleh's leadership, but has not experienced the same level of militant activity as other parts of the south.

Last year, militants took control of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province, and several other towns.

A local police source told Reuters news agency that militants linked to al-Qaeda were thought to have carried out Sunday morning's attack.

But Hamoud al-Sufi, governor of Taiz province, told the Associated Press it was not clear who the killers were, adding that an investigation was under way.

A Swiss woman, also believed to be a language school teacher, was kidnapped on Wednesday in the coastal city of Hodeida, and is reportedly being held in in Shabwa province, which neighbours Abyan province.



Afghan terrorists arrested in Muslim Bagh

QUETTA, March 18, 2012: Security forces on Saturday arrested two Afghan terrorists from Muslim Bagh area. According to details, the security forces during routine patrolling stopped two persons on a motorcycle. During checking, the forces recovered one SMG, rounds, a machine gun, two walkie-talkies, a mobile phone, and Rs 108,360 from their possession. The arrested terrorists were identified as Abdul Bari and Abdul Mannan, citizens of Afghanistan. online\03\18\story_18-3-2012_pg7_8



Stolen NATO army kits on sale in Pakistan!

London, Mar 18, 2012: Stockpiles of NATO military equipment meant for use against the Taliban are being sold in Pakistan's black market, a British media report said.

Stolen military-issue knives, Kevlar bulletproof vests, tool kits, flares, first aid sets and even official stationery are on sale in Pakistan, the Daily Express reported.

According to the report, in Pakistan's Karkhano market in Peshawar city, near Afghan border, merchants display masses of camouflage clothing and military-grade insect repellent at very low prices.

A vendor confirmed, the kit came from NATO lorries plundered on the border and the US-run Baghram air base, where entire containers are illegally bought and auctioned off, One vendor confirmed.

Buyers "come from all over Pakistan, even foreigners, and are attracted because it is of good quality and is being sold very cheaply", he said.

"Much of this kit may have been stolen during hijacking of the convoys, but some is certainly being sold by Afghan National Army forces," said Patrick Mercer, a British MP.



Coptic Pope Dies in Egypt Amid Church’s Struggles


CAIRO, March 17, 2012— Pope Shenouda III, who led the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt for four decades, expanding the church’s presence around the world as he struggled, often unsuccessfully, to protect his Christian minority at home, died on Saturday after a long illness, state media reported.

His death comes at a time of rising fears for Egypt’s 10 million Coptic Christians, who have felt increasingly vulnerable since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak and amid attacks on churches by hard-line Islamists and repression by Egypt’s security forces.

The rise to power of conservative Islamist parties has also raised concerns that Egyptian national identity is becoming more closely bound to Islam.

“It’s an injection of uncertainty for Copts at a time of transition in the country,” said Michael Wahid Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation. “Whether people were fond of him or not, this will cause anxiety.”

On Saturday night, hundreds of Coptic Christians gathered at Cairo’s main cathedral to grieve.

Samir Youssef, a physician, called the pope “an intellectual, a poet — strong, charismatic.”

“On a personal level, I’m worried about the future. I think there will be a conflict, the same chaos that followed the 25th of January,” he added, referring to the start of the uprising last year.

In a statement, President Obama praised Pope Shenouda as a beloved “advocate for tolerance and religious dialogue.” Egypt’s interim rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, called on Egyptians to “come together in solidarity and be tolerant, to take Egypt toward security and stability.”

Pope Shenouda, who became patriarch in 1971, was known as a charismatic, conservative leader for Egypt’s Copts, who make up about 10 percent of the population in the majority Sunni nation.

He filled a leadership vacuum as Copts — along with most Egyptians — retreated from public life under authoritarian rule, and he expanded the church’s reach, especially in North America. At the same time, he was criticized for what were seen as his autocratic tendencies, which stifled internal church changes, and his support for Mr. Mubarak’s government, given in return for a measure of protection that Copts increasingly felt was insignificant.

The failure to distance the church from Mr. Mubarak led to greater disillusionment with the pope after the revolution, especially among younger and more secular Copts.

Pope Shenouda was born on Aug. 3, 1923, as Nazeer Gayed in the city of Asyut, Egypt, according to a biography of the patriarch posted on the church’s Web site. He attended Cairo University and became a monk in 1954.

In 1981, Pope Shenouda was sent into internal exile by President Anwar Sadat, with whom he clashed after complaining about discrimination against the Copts. Mr. Mubarak ended that exile in 1985, with an informal understanding that Pope Shenouda would be less vocal in pointing out discrimination, according to Mariz Tadros, a researcher at the University of Sussex and the author of a forthcoming book on the Copts.

That understanding was severely strained in the past decade after a series of deadly clashes between Copts and Muslims, and charges that the state, and especially its security services, stoked the sectarian divide. After 21 people were killed in a church bombing last year, some Copts criticized the pope for not confronting the government.

The Coptic Church’s own policies, including its almost total ban on divorce, have also increased tensions. Some have left the church specifically to divorce, either choosing another denomination or officially converting to Islam, then sometimes converting back after the split.

The conversions have incited rumors that have led to episodes of Muslim-Christian violence.

The next pope will face a growing desire among many Copts to expand the community’s leadership, analysts said.  Under Pope Shenouda, “the church became the de facto political representative of the Copts,” Mr. Hanna said. “That became increasingly problematic.

Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.



Thousands mourn Egypt's Coptic Pope Shenouda III

18 March 2012

Tens of thousands of Egyptian Coptic Christians have held an overnight vigil in Cairo to mourn the death of their spiritual leader, Pope Shenouda III.

Many wept as they prayed for the pope outside the city's main cathedral.

The vigil was followed by a Sunday morning Mass, with the dead pope's body sat in the papal chair dressed in ceremonial robes.

He died at the age of 88 on Saturday, after reportedly suffering from cancer. He led the Church for four decades.

Coptic Christians make up 10% of Egypt's population of 80 million, making them the Middle East's largest Christian minority.

After attacks on Coptic Christians in recent years, Pope Shenouda had urged officials to do more to address the community's concerns.


A crowd of mourners estimated to be larger than 100,000, spent the night outside St Mark's Cathedral, many weeping as they prayed for the pope.

Thousands queued to see Pope Shenouda, whose body was placed in a coffin before being seated on a ceremonial throne wearing embroidered vestments and a golden mitre, and holding a gold-topped staff.

The government has given Coptic Christians three days off work to prepare for his funeral.

The BBC's Jon Leyne, in Cairo, says there is no timetable yet for the selection of his successor, who will be elected by a conclave of senior bishops.

Tributes have come in from around the world, with Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI offering prayers and US President Barack Obama praising Pope Shenouda as an "advocate for tolerance and religious dialogue".

Egypt's military rulers expressed the hope on their Facebook page that his wish of "preserving the unity of Egypt and the unity of its social fabric" would be achieved.

And a senior Muslim cleric, the Grand Imam of the prestigious al-Azhar university, Ahmed al-Tayeb, expressed sorrow and said he "greatly remembers his vision towards Jerusalem and its history".

Pope Shenouda had returned recently to Egypt after seeking treatment abroad.

Our correspondent says he sought to protect his Christian community's position within the Muslim majority by striking a conservative tone and lending tacit support to President Mubarak's rule.

Whoever succeeds him now faces the task of reassuring the Coptic community as the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood look on the verge of sharing power in Egypt for the first time, our correspondent says.



India: Shillong Muslim Union organizing its history since inception

17 March 2012

By TCN News,

Shillong: The Shillong Muslim Union (SMU) is organizing its history since it came into existence in 1905. Many people have been attached with and contributed to SMU since its inception but it does not have records of all. The present leadership of SMU, therefore, has decided to collect information about all those – living or dead – who ever were part of the organization.

“The Shillong Muslim Union, which came into existence in the year 1905, has gone through a long history in the different phases of historical periods such as undivided India (British India) and undivided Assam chronologically till date. The Union is reputed for doing a lot of work in diverse area to all the people inhabiting in the aforesaid region and its thrust area is social sector such as education, helping the poor people and making religious homes as well as home for orphans. Now the Union is re-organising its history from the date of inception and so it has sought information about SMU members of the past,” said Sayeedullah Nongrum, MLA, and General Secretary, SMU.

“If any person whether living or departed, whom you know, was a part of the union in the early period, but not in the written record, by holding some responsible post or taking up some important task in the work of the union at any point of time or if you yourself were associated with the same in the way, you are requested to give us details of the particulars,” Sayeedullah, who is also Chairman, Meghalaya State Wakf Board, has appealed to all. The SMU will incorporate the name of such persons in its record.

Since its inception till today, SMU has been rendering noble service to the minority in particular and public in general in social, cultural, religious and humanitarian causes. “Obviously there were many benevolent persons in the past who did indispensable work either by being a part of it or by contributing directly or indirectly which are all worth counting as immense contributions. The Union, ever since, has been growing and expanding its work progressively throughout era i.e. from the British India to before partition and from undivided Assam to the present state of Meghalaya with its headquarters at Laban Shillong,” said Sayeedullah who is also President, Governing Body of Umshyrpi College, Shillong. The college is run by SMU.

The union has expanded its work. Today it has a college for the have-nots, a grandeur Eidgah, a magnificent edifice encompassing a mosque, an orphanage, an Islamic library (proposed) and a primary school which will be a part of resource to pave the way for the emergence of an Islamic heritage centre at the site. The present stakeholders in the union owe all its successes to the collective work, says Sayeedullah.

Note: The concerned persons can email their details to or send to the following address:

Sayeedullah Nongrum

General Secretary, The Shillong Muslim Union

Eidgah Complex, Laban, Shillong – 793 004

Contact Nos: 2220786, 250337 (Res.), 094361 00786 (Mobile)