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Holi at Dargah: Hindus, Muslims Play Holi at Sufi Haji Waris Ali Shah Shrine Dewa Sharif in UP

New Age Islam News Bureau

10 March 2023


Holi at Sufi shrine Dewa Sharif


• Imran Khan Booked For Murder, Terrorism in Lahore, 80th Case against Ousted PM

• Governor of Balkh, Known for Fighting Against Islamic State Jihadists, Killed In Suicide Attack, Claimed By IS

• Republican and Democrat alike Back Iran Protests to Topple Mullahs’ Government

• Germany Church Shooting: Rise of Neo-Nazi & Islamist Extremism in Country Explained



• Muslim Man, Naseeb Qureshi, Lynched in Bihar, After Village Sarpanch Accused Him of Carrying Beef

• BJP’s Muslim Outreach For 2024: ‘1 Nation, 1 DNA’ In Muzaffarnagar, Selfie Scheme, G20 Sufi Nights

• Tendency of categorisation of terrorism based on motivations behind terrorist acts is 'dangerous': India

• Modi, Hasina to launch pipeline to export diesel to Bangladesh

• Bihar: Minor Girls Raped By 2 Including Son Of Ex-Sarpanch In Begusarai



• 'Pakistan 'very close' to signing IMF staff level agreement'

• Ties with army no different under new brass: Imran

• Punjab police hunting men who brought slain PTI activist to hospital

• Military restores ex-army officer’s properties ‘seized’ by Musharraf govt

• Libya boat wreck: six more bodies reach Pakistan

• Quetta judicial magistrate issues arrest warrants for Imran

• Three more terrorists killed in NW operation: ISPR

• Pakistan urges world to continue humanitarian aid to Afghanistan


South Asia

• China, Russia, Pakistan Back Taliban, Urge West To Lift Freeze on Afghanistan Assets

• Iran Calls for Formation of Inclusive Government in Afghanistan

• Canada to Allow Aid Organization to Operate in Afghanistan

• OIC Representative Meets FM Muttaqi, Discusses Afghanistan

• Taliban takes advantage of Pakistan economic crisis to boost Afghanistan's coffers



• Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu Flies to Rome as Meloni Condemns Swastika

• Nuclear Iran would change history, Netanyahu tells TV labelled ‘terrorist’ by Tehran

• Tel Aviv Attack: 3 Injured; Calls for De-escalation ahead of Passover, Ramadan Ignored

• Iran's Intelligence Ministry: Root Causes of Some Schoolgirl Poisonings Incidents Discovered

• Hamas gunman wounds three in Tel Aviv attack before police kill him

• Israel’s president says government should abandon proposed judiciary overhaul

• Italy minister backs Israeli call to recognize Jerusalem as capital

• Israeli reservist colonel dismissed over judicial reform protest



• William and Kate Visit Muslim Centre and Praise Fundraising By ‘Amazing’ Community

• Manchester Mosque Attended By Suicide Bomber Salman Abedi Investigated By Charity Watchdog

• Swedish parliament postpones new anti-terror bill to May



• Boko Haram Kills 26 in Surprise Attacks in Nigeria’s Northeast

• Insightful Comments: Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs Wades In, Asks Security Agencies to Be Decisive

• Muslim Groups Congratulate President-Elect, Tinubu

• Tunisia’s President Saied scraps post-revolution city councils

• Facing uproar, Tunisian president denies he’s stoking racism

• 14 dead, 54 rescued off Tunisia in migrant boat sinking

• Kenya’s opposition leader declares nationwide protests against President Ruto


North America

• US Targets ‘Shadow Banking’ Network Helping Iran Evade Sanctions

• Pentagon Chief Holds Talks Overshadowed By Violence, Protests

• Pentagon chief pushes Netanyahu to reduce anti-Palestinian violence

• US says diplomacy 'won't be our last resort' if Iran reluctant to negotiate over its nuclear program

• US defense secretary praises Egypt's role in easing Israeli-Palestinian tension

• US House votes against resolution to pull American troops out of Syria

• US Senate committee votes to end authorization for war on Iraq

• US sanctions 'China-based network helping Iran procure drones'

• US sanctions 39 entities facilitating Iran’s oil-related banking operations


Arab World

• Nasrallah: End of Israel Close; Resistance Ready for Main Battle

• Saudi Judiciary Undergoing Rapid Modernization, Says Board of Grievances Head

• Saudi Arabia ready to facilitate dialogue between Russia, Ukraine: FM

• No Loudspeakers, Iftar Inside Mosques: Saudi Arabia Imposes Restrictions on Ramadan Practices This Year

• Culture Ministry to Organize Ramadan Season Activities To Revive Cultural Heritage Of Holy Month

• Muslim World League chief meets with Archbishop of Canterbury

• Permits for Umrah Visits during Ramadan Available Through Nusuk App

• Islamic State kills three, steals sheep in central Syria


Southeast Asia

• Muhyiddin Yassin: Ex-Malaysia PM charged with corruption over Covid spending

• Penang Islamic council refutes Zainul Asri’s mosque allegations

• Malaysia's parliament approves 2023 budget at policy stage

• Indonesia unveils construction site of new capital city

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Holi at Dargah: Hindus, Muslims Play Holi at Sufi Haji Waris Ali Shah Shrine Dewa Sharif in UP


Holi at Sufi shrine Dewa Sharif


Mar 9, 2023

BARABANKI: In line with the age-old tradition, Holi was celebrated at the Dargah of 19th century Sufi saint Haji Waris Ali Shah in Dewa town of Barabanki district, 25 kilometres from state capital Lucknow, by scores of Hindus of Muslims who showered each other with flower petals, abeer and gulal, on Wednesday.

The only Sufi shrine in the country where Holi is played, Dewa Sharif is known for its Hindu-Muslim unity with the priests here wearing traditional Hindu yellow robes (pitambar).

It is not recorded as to when this tradition started here, but it should be over a century old.

Wamiq Warsi, head of Halqai Fuqrai Warsi Astana Aliya Dewa Sharif, a committee of Sufi saints, said, “Dewa Sharif is a place of universal brotherhood and peace. The message of Paigham-e-Mohabbat that goes from here since the time of Haji Waris Ali Shah is very clear and poignant – that the one who loves us is ours. And today, on the basis of that, thousands of people come to Dewa Sharif to celebrate Holi and then pay their respects to the holy deity. This tradition has been going on since the time of our ancestors. In today’s time, this Holi celebration of Dewa Sharif sets a great example of unity and brotherhood in the country.”

The Holi juloos (procession) commences in the morning from the Qaumi Ekta Dwar in Dewa with flowers. It circles the town and then reaches the mausoleum around noon. By this time, gathers on the premises and Holi is played with rose petals, gulaal and abeer.

Anurag Tiwari, a local who has played Holi at the shrine for many years, said, “Devotion and love are parts of all faiths. Here at the dargah of Haji sa’ab (as the sufi saint is referred to), we profess our love for a kind elderly who has watched our back for over a century. We share our joys, fears and grief with him.”

Source: Times Of India

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Imran Khan Booked For Murder, Terrorism In Lahore, 80th Case Against Ousted PM


Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan (REUTERS)


Mar 10, 2023

LAHORE: The police in Lahore on Thursday booked Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan and 400 others on charges of murder and terrorism during their clash with police personnel during the party's rally that left one activist dead and scores injured. This is the 80th case against ousted PM Khan registered by the PML-N-led coalition government during its 11 months of rule.

Police on Wednesday allegedly killed PTI activist Ali Bilal and injured over a dozen during a crackdown outside Khan's residence from where they were to take out a pro-judiciary rally. Over 100 PTI workers were also arrested. The FIR said 11 police officials were injured in the clash with PTI workers who hurled stones at them. The FIR said six PTI workers also suffered injuries.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said instead of registering an FIR against the policemen for killing the PTI worker on the complaint of his family, the police have booked Khan and 400 others in his murder.

Khan uploaded the torture of PTI workers on social media and said: "This is what the corrupt and murderous cabal of crooks have wrought on the nation. They have violated our constitution, fundamental rights, and rule of law. Innocent, unarmed PTI workers, including women, were targets of police violence and brutality..."

PTI had announced that it would register a murder case against Punjab caretaker CM Mohsin Naqvi, interior minister Rana Sanaullah, Punjab IGP Usman Anwar, and Lahore police chief Bilal Saddique Kamyana. Meanwhile, the Punjab IGP has formed a two-member committee to conduct an inquiry into the police clash with PTI workers.

Police on Wednesday fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse PTI activists. The party claimed its "peaceful" workers were arrested after reports that the provincial capital had been placed under Section 144, banning public gatherings. After the clashes, Khan called off the rally from his residence to Data Darbar.

Source: Times Of India

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Governor of Balkh, Known for Fighting Against Islamic State Jihadists, Killed In Suicide Attack, Claimed By IS


Taliban security personnel block a road in Mazar-i-Sharif on Thursday after the suicide attack at the office of the provincial governor. Photograph: Atif Aryan/AFP/Getty Images


Mar 9, 2023

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan: The Taliban governor of Afghanistan's Balkh province, known for fighting against Islamic State jihadists, was killed in a suicide attack at his office on Thursday, officials said.

The killing, a day after he met top government officials visiting from Kabul, makes Mohammad Dawood Muzammil one of the highest-ranking figures slain since the Taliban stormed back to power in 2021.

Violence across Afghanistan has dramatically dropped since the Taliban seized control, but the security situation has again deteriorated with IS claiming several deadly attacks.

"Two people, including Mohammad Dawood Muzammil, the governor of Balkh, have been killed in an explosion this morning," local police spokesman Asif Waziri told AFP, adding that the blast happened on the second floor of his office, in the provincial capital Mazar-i-Sharif.

"It was a suicide attack. We don't have information as to how the suicide bomber reached the office of the governor," he said, adding that two people were also wounded.

Authorities deployed extra security at the governorate, who forbade journalists from taking photos, an AFP correspondent reported from near the site of the blast.

Muzammil was "martyred in an explosion by the enemies of Islam", tweeted government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Muzammil was initially appointed governor of the eastern province of Nangarhar, where he led the fight against IS jihadists, before being moved to Balkh last year.

On Wednesday, he met two deputy prime ministers and other senior officials visiting Balkh to review a major irrigation project in northern Afghanistan, according to a government statement.

IS has emerged as the biggest security challenge to the Taliban government since last year, carrying out attacks against Afghan civilians as well as foreigners and foreign interests.

Several attacks have rocked Balkh, including in Mazar-i-Sharif last year, some claimed by IS.

In January, a suicide bomber killed at least 10 people when he blew himself up near the foreign ministry in Kabul, in an attack claimed by IS.

The Taliban and IS share an austere Sunni Islamist ideology, but the latter are fighting to establish a global "caliphate" instead of the Taliban's more inward-looking goal of ruling an independent Afghanistan.

At least five Chinese nationals were wounded in December when gunmen stormed a hotel popular with businesspeople in Kabul.

That raid was claimed by IS, as was an attack on Pakistan's embassy in Kabul in December that Islamabad denounced as an "assassination attempt" against its ambassador.

Two Russian embassy staff members were killed in a suicide bombing outside their mission in September in another attack claimed by IS.

Source: Times Of India

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Republican and Democrat alike Back Iran Protests to Topple Mullahs’ Government


Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) sponsors House Resolution 100 — along with 145 Republican and 76 Democratic colleagues.

Organization of Iranian American Communities


By Josh Christenson

March 9, 2023

A bipartisan House majority signed on to a resolution Thursday condemning decades of human rights violations and state-sponsored terrorism by Iran, while also expressing support for ongoing protests aimed at toppling the Tehran government.

“Two hundred twenty-two members of the 435-member House, Republican and Democrat alike, now stand side-by-side with the people of Iran who struggle to rid themselves of the theocratic thugs who have oppressed them for far too long,” said Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who sponsors House Resolution 100 — along with 145 Republican and 76 Democratic colleagues.

“The Iranian people have had enough of the human rights abuses, the utter incompetence of the mullahs, and the thuggery of their IRGC,” McClintock told supporters at a congressional press conference, referring to the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. “Their message is clear: we have had enough, and we will take no more. We don’t have to live under the thumb of dictators but can instead take our rightful place among the free people of the world, and enjoy the human rights, human dignities, human liberties and prosperity that is the hallmark of free societies.”

The resolution expresses support for opposition leader Maryam Rajavi’s 10-point plan for Iran, which would usher in a series of democratic reforms, as well as provide for religious, ethnic, and gender-based equality. It also calls for an investigation into the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

The announcement comes months after protests erupted in the Gulf state over the September 2022 killing of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who allegedly broke strict hijab rules and was apparently beaten to death by the regime’s so-called “morality police.”

In the months since, the Iranian government has killed more than 500 of its own citizens — nearly 100 of whom were women and children. International backlash to the regime’s harsh crackdown on protesters led Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to say he would “offer amnesty and reduce the sentences” for “tens of thousands” more who had been jailed, according to state-backed media.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, who first revealed the existence of secret Iranian nuclear sites in 2002, told The Post the resolution was “unprecedented” and has “angered” both Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the Ayatollah himself.

“It sends a strong message to the Iranian regime that no matter what Tehran does, Congress is on the side of the people of Iran,” he said.

“We must continue applying pressure on the Iranian regime,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) told The Post. “H. Res. 100 adds our voice to the international condemnation of the ruling Mullahs. It is an important step towards promoting freedom and democracy in Iran.”

The congressional coalition issued the strongest US support to date for Iranian protesters, as President Biden vowed his administration would “free Iran” in November, only to have those remarks walked back days later by White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“The president was expressing our solidarity with the protesters as he has been doing from the very onset,” she told reporters aboard Air Force One.

A bipartisan letter led by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) two months before had pushed the Treasury Department to preserve internet access for Iranian demonstrators.

Mitra Samani, who spent almost five years as an Iranian political prisoner in the 1980s, told The Post that social media has especially helped lead the calls for regime change.

“Whatever happened forty years ago inside Iranian prisons, it’s happening again,” she said. “It’s been forty-plus years that Iranian women are at the forefront of this fight. But at the time that I was in prison, there was no social media. Everything happened behind those tall walls in prison … Now because of the technology, because of the cell phones, because of social media the whole world knows in one second.”

Source: New York Post

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Germany Church Shooting: Rise of Neo-Nazi & Islamist Extremism in Country Explained


A view of a police tape at the scene following a deadly shooting, in Hamburg, Germany, March 10, 2023. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch


MARCH 10, 2023

Several people have been killed in a shooting at a Jehovah’s Witness centre in Hamburg, with the gunman believed to be among the dead, German police said Thursday. Police have not given a death toll, but multiple local media outlets reported that the shooting had left seven dead and eight seriously injured. “At the moment there is no reliable information on the motive of the crime," police said, urging people not to speculate.

An alarm for “extreme danger" in the area had been sounded using a catastrophe warning app, but Germany’s Federal Office for Civil Protection lifted it shortly after 3 am local time.

In the non-descript, three-storey building, police said an event had been taking place on Thursday evening. Jehovah’s Witnesses had gathered for a weekly Bible study meeting, according to local daily Hamburger Abendblatt.

There are about 175,000 people in Germany, including 3,800 in Hamburg, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, a US Christian movement set up in the late 19th century that preaches non-violence and is known for door-to-door evangelism.

Rise Of Extremism In Germany

Germany has been rocked by several attacks in recent years, both by jihadists and far-right extremists. Among the deadliest committed by Islamist extremists was a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12 people, AFP reported. The Tunisian attacker, a failed asylum seeker, was a supporter of the Islamic State jihadist group. Europe’s most populous nation remains a target for jihadist groups in particular because of its participation in the anti-Islamic State coalition in Iraq and Syria.

According to a report by TRT World, rights groups noted record-breaking numbers of far-right attacks against “ethnic and religious minorities in 2020. As per government statistics, the report says, 23,000 far-right extremist attacks were recorded in 2020 – nearly 20 percent more than the year before.

Between 2013 and 2021, the number of Islamists considered dangerous in the country had multiplied by five to 615, according to interior ministry data. But Germany has also been hit by several far-right assaults in recent years, sparking accusations that the government was not doing enough to stamp out neo-Nazi violence.

In February 2020, a far-right extremist shot dead 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau. And in 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

‘Violent Coup Fantasies’

A few months, the country had grappled with a plan to overthrow the German government and authorities had arrested 25 people for planning the radical right-wing coup. Federal prosecutors said some 3,000 officers conducted searches at 130 sites in 11 of Germany’s 16 states against adherents of the so-called Reich Citizens movement. Some movement members reject Germany’s postwar constitution and have called for bringing down the government.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann described the raids as an “anti-terrorism operation,” adding that the suspects may have planned an armed attack on institutions of the state.

Germany’s top security official said the group was “driven by violent coup fantasies and conspiracy ideologies.”


Lukas Hermsmeir, writing for the New York Times on the rise of right-wing extremism in Germany, has called the rise of the AfD, a sign of a ‘problem in Germany’. The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is a German far-right populist party, founded in 2013.

As per a report by Al Jazeera, the AfD began as an anti-euro party. “This is a very important moment in German history… They are trying to exploit people’s fears and make them bigger," Julian Gopffarth, researcher at the London School of Economics’ European Institute was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

As per the report, the party had formed in response to the European debt crisis which marked the years preceding its launch, were against German-backed bailouts of Europe’s struggling southern economies, like Greece.

A number of Eurosceptic academics endorsed their manifesto, and had supported the party’s manifesto, which called for the dissolution of the euro currency and ‘less centralisation of power in Brussels,’ the report says.

In 2017, the party failed to win the needed five percent of votes to gain representation in the German parliament, but made a mark by winning 4.7 per cent votes.

Hermsmeir writes that AfD has developed into an ‘even more extremist and antidemocratic force’. He says the party is led by people such as Bjorn Hocke, who can be described legally as a fascist as per a court ruling.

He says the party has its strongholds in eastern states like Thuringia and Saxony, “regions where unemployment is higher than in the west, public infrastructure has been dismantled, and young people move away when they get the chance."

According to him, after the dissolution of the Germany Democratic Republic in 1990, the “economic abandonment" that hit eastern Germany was an entirely different picture from what was promised by former chancellor Helmut Kohl. He calls it a major factor in AfD’s popularity.

A Right-Wing Rise In Military Too

The rise of right-wing conspiracy and feeling has also been reported in the German military. Berlin-based journalist Peter Kuras told NPR,We’ve seen, you know, for ages not only that there have been these sort of series of serious conspiracies within the German military. We’ve also seen that the - exactly the organizations and agencies that should be responsible for observing them have been failing to do so and failing to act against them."

“And while part of that is certainly that these are complex issues and not easy investigations to carry out, it’s also hard to avoid the feeling that there’s some real complicity or some real sympathy with these figures within many parts of the military and police establishment in Germany," he says.

Source: News18

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Muslim Man, Naseeb Qureshi, Lynched in Bihar, After Village Sarpanch Accused Him of Carrying Beef

New Delhi: A Muslim man in Bihar’s Saran district was reportedly lynched by a mob on Tuesday after being accused of carrying beef.

Naseeb Qureshi’s nephew Firoz Ahmed Qureshi told The Telegraph that the Sarpanch of Jogia village told people in the area “we were carrying meat and asked them to beat us”. By meat the sarpanch was alluding to beef, Firoz added, the sale and consumption of which is illegal in Bihar.

“While entering the village, we saw the sarpanch and a few youths with him. He (the sarpanch) told them we were carrying meat and asked them to beat us,” Firoz said. “Our vehicle (a moped) had slowed down. I jumped off and escaped. Some of the youths chased me.”

An FIR had been registered under IPC Sections 302 (murder), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) and 379 (theft – because some money Naseeb was carrying is missing). The sarpanch, Sushil Singh, and two others – Ravi Sah and Ujwal Sharma – have been arrested.

According to NDTV, Naseeb (the channel has said his name is Naseem) and Firoz were on their way to meet some acquaintances when they were accosted by the mob. While Firoz managed to escape, Naseeb was beaten with wooden sticks. After beating him, the police said, the mob handed Naseeb over to the police in Rasulpur village.

He was then taken to hospital, police said, but died during treatment.

Firoz, The Telegraph reported, has alleged that the police did not act swiftly enough on Tuesday morning. After he escaped, he made his way to the Rasulpur police station by foot. There, he was told that the police had already gone to Jogia, and taken Naseeb to Daraunda police station in Siwan, in whose area the victim’s village of Hasanpura falls.

“(At Rasulpur police station), a person claiming to be the mukhiya of Rasulpur said my uncle was feeling unwell and had been taken to Daraunda,” Firoz said. Why he was taken to another police station instead of a hospital is a question that remains.

“When I started arguing, the man claiming to be the mukhiya asked me to shut up and said he had saved my uncle despite his act of carrying beef,” Firoz said, according to The Telegraph. “The police personnel present were not helping me, either. I moved out because I did not feel safe there. I went to Daraunda police station.”

At Daraunda, Firoz was told that his uncle had been taken to a nearby hospital. When he went there, he found out that his uncle had been sent to Siwan Sadar Hospital, about 20 km away. “The doctors at Siwan Sadar Hospital referred him to Patna. He died on the way,” Firoz said.

Source: The Wire

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BJP’s Muslim outreach for 2024: ‘1 Nation, 1 DNA’ in Muzaffarnagar, selfie scheme, G20 Sufi nights


10 March, 2023

New Delhi: Nearly a decade after the deadly communal riots in western Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to salve Hindu-Muslim divides in the region by hosting a “sneh sammelan” (gathering of love) titled Ek Desh, Ek DNA (One Country, One DNA). To be held next month, this will be the first of 12 such events that the party plans to host in predominantly Muslim constituencies ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

“We are hosting the first such meeting in a Muslim-dominated area so that our message is loud and clear,” Kunwar Basit Ali, the president of the UP BJP Minority Morcha, told ThePrint.

“Muzaffarnagar was also chosen because it is the land of Chaudhary Charan Singh, who experimented with the idea of Jat-Muslim unity, but which was later hijacked by the Congress and Samajwadi Party. The party wants to restore unity among Muslims who view the BJP as an enemy, and heal divisions created by opposition parties,” he added.

These lofty goals apart, election arithmetic is also a factor, said state BJP leaders.

“The BJP faced stiff resistance from the SP-RLD (Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal) combine in the last Lok Sabha and assembly elections. They drew support from the RLD’s Jat base and the SP’s Muslim base. The BJP now has to break the unity of the SP-RLD and woo Muslim voters towards the party,” said a BJP leader from western UP.

While the BJP swept all 14 Lok Sabha seats from western UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, its tally reduced in 2019 as the SP-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance won six constituencies. The BSP won the Nagina, Amroha, Bijnor, and Saharanpur seats, and the SP bagged Moradabad and Sambhal.

Similarly, while the BJP had won 100 of the 126 seats across the 24 districts of western UP in the 2017 assembly election, its tally dropped to 85 in the 2022 state polls. The RLD — now led by Jayant Chaudhary, the grandson of Chaudhary Charan Singh — alone had won eight seats.

In addition to sneh sammelans, the BJP’s Muslim outreach efforts include identifying Modi mitras (friends of Modi) among minority communities and organising Sufi music performances in constituencies as well as for G20 delegates.

“Very few Muslims generally vote for the BJP, but the Rampur election shows that a section of the community did come out to support the party,” said a Muslim BJP leader from UP. “By continuous outreach, we can at least weaken Muslim consolidation towards any other party and also increase our share of the votes.”

Last December, the BJP candidate won an assembly byelection in Rampur — a Muslim-majority constituency and the stronghold of SP leader Azam Khan — by over 34,000 votes. The byelection was necessitated by Khan’s disqualification due to a hate speech conviction.

Jat-Muslim ‘brotherhood’ in western UP

Choosing Muzaffarnagar as the venue of the first sneh sammelan seems to be a well-though-out move. The district falls in what is known as the sugarcane belt of UP and has a significant population of Muslim and Jat farmers.

So far, the BJP’s poll rhetoric in the region has often harked back to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and been geared towards polarisation. But with the SP and RLD gaining ground, this time the BJP seems to be trying a new strategy to make greater inroads.

“Muslims and Hindus, including the Jat, Rajput, Gujjar, and Tyagi communities, have lived together in western Uttar Pradesh for centuries. So, why is there still division along the lines of caste and community? Our DNA is the same, and we should accept leaders like Yogi Adityanath, Rajnath Singh, and Sanjeev Balyan regardless of their caste or community,” said Ali.

According to him, there are 80,000 Muslim Rajputs and 1 lakh Muslim Jats in Muzaffarnagar. In the adjoining Saharanpur and Shamli districts, he claimed, there are 1.8 lakh Muslim Rajputs and 1 lakh Muslim Gujjars respectively.

“The government recognises all religions as equal, and when the prime minister of our country says that Muslims are our brothers and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) emphasises that our DNA is the same, divisions among communities should come to an end,” he added.

Among the leaders invited to the Muzaffarnagar sneh sammelan are Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP state president Chaudhary Bhupendra Singh, and Muzaffarnagar MP and Minister of State Sanjeev Balyan. A BJP leader who is involved in preparations for the event said that prominent Muslim leaders are expected to be a part of the proceedings.

Sufi push, selfies from ‘Modi mitras’

At the BJP national executive meet in January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged party leaders to organise ‘Sufi nights’ as a way of reaching out to Muslims. This idea is now being implemented.

The BJP Minority Morcha is not only planning Sufi sammelans (gatherings) but is also preparing to host musical nights for G20 delegates at different venues.

On 15 March, minority leaders of the party will meet in Delhi to create an organisational structure for Sufi outreach.

Jamal Siddiqui, national president of the BJP Minority Morcha, told ThePrint: “In this meeting, we will discuss the organising of Sufi sammelans, Sufi nights, and nukkad (street corner) meetings. We will also recruit in-charges for these events across the country and involve Sufi leaders.”

Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam that seeks a direct personal relationship with God through spiritual practices, including devotional songs.

According to Siddiqui, the BJP Minority Morcha has already identified in-charges for the “Modi mitra programme” in 65 constituencies.

“In the Modi mitra programme, we will select people from minority communities who have received benefits from government welfare programmes as well as those who support PM Modi. We are identifying these beneficiaries from various Lok Sabha constituencies (with a sizeable minority population) and we will start a programme for them to post their selfies (on social media),” Siddiqui explained.

So far, the BJP has identified 65 Lok Sabha constituencies in 10 states and Union territories where religious minorities comprise more than 30 per cent of the population.

Among the seats identified, there are 13 each from UP and West Bengal, six each from Kerala and Assam, five from Jammu, four from Bihar, three from Madhya Pradesh, two each from Telangana and Haryana, and one each from Maharashtra and Lakshadweep.

The UP constituencies include include Bijnor, Amroha, Kairana, Nagina, Sambhal, Muzaffarnagar, and Rampur.

BJP Minority Morcha sources said that 5,000 minority beneficiaries or Modi supporters will be selected from each of these constituencies to post their selfies and will likely be encouraged to participate in a May rally in Delhi that will be addressed by the PM.

‘Speeches alone won’t suffice’

These outreach measures follow close on the heels of Modi telling BJP leaders at the party national executive meet that they should connect with Bohras, Pasmanda Muslims (depressed classes), and others in the community without expecting votes in return.

Then, at a Dawoodi Bohra event in Mumbai last month, Modi announced that he was there as a “family member” rather than a prime minister and extolled the “unprecedented atmosphere of trust” that had been built up over the last few years.

Echoing Modi, BJP Minority Morcha national general secretary Sabir Ali told ThePrint that just giving speeches will not be enough to warm Muslims towards the party.

“A lack of education is contributing to a sense of alienation in the community. Merely giving speeches will not be enough to end animosity towards the BJP. We must reach out to these communities at their doorsteps with open arms and engage them in conversation,” he said.

Source: The Print

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Tendency of categorisation of terrorism based on motivations behind terrorist acts is 'dangerous': India

Mar 10, 2023

UNITED NATIONS: India has said that the tendency to categorise terrorism on the basis of motivations behind terrorist acts is “dangerous” and asserted that all kinds of terror attacks, whether motivated by Islamophobia, anti-Sikh, anti-Buddhist or anti-Hindu prejudices, are condemnable.

India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said on Thursday that the international community needs to stand guard against new terminologies and false priorities that can dilute its focus of combatting the scourge of terrorism.

“The tendency of categorisation of terrorism based on the motivations behind terrorist acts is dangerous and goes against the accepted principles that 'terrorism in all its forms and manifestations should be condemned and there cannot be any justification for any act of terrorism, whatsoever',” she said at the First Reading of the Draft Resolution on 8th Review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GCTS).

Underlining that there cannot be good or bad terrorists, Kamboj said such an approach “will only take us back to the pre-9/11 era of labelling terrorists as ‘Your Terrorists' and ‘My Terrorists' and erase the collective gains the international community has made over the last two decades.

“Moreover, some of the terminologies such as right or right-wing extremism, or far right or far left extremism opens the gate for misuse of these terms by vested interests. We, therefore, need to be wary of providing a variety of classifications, which may militate against the concept of democracy itself,” she said.

India also asserted that states that provide shelter to terrorists should be called out and held accountable for their deeds, a veiled reference to Pakistan.

The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is a "unique global instrument” to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter-terrorism. Through its adoption by consensus in 2006, all UN member states agreed for the first time to a common strategic and operational approach to fighting terrorism.

“The Strategy does not only send a clear message that terrorism is unacceptable in all its forms and manifestations but it also resolves to take practical steps, individually and collectively, to prevent and combat terrorism," according to the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism.

The UN General Assembly reviews the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy every two years, "making it a living document attuned to Member States' counter-terrorism priorities”.

Kamboj stressed that it is important to protect the secular nature of the strategy. She said India strongly condemns all kinds of terrorist attacks irrespective of religion, belief, culture, race or ethnicity.

“We strongly condemn terrorist attacks motivated by Islamophobia, Christianphobia, Anti-Semitism, Anti-Sikh, Anti-Buddhist, Anti-Hindu prejudices,” she said.

She noted that the 7th Review of the strategy took into account attacks motivated by Islamophobia, Christianphobia and anti-Semitism only while failing to address the rest.

“A more sagacious approach would be to keep this reference broad, abandoning thereby a list-based approach in the current Review,” she said.

The UNGA resolution adopted in June 2021 on the 7th Review had recognized "with deep concern the overall rise in instances of discrimination, intolerance and violence, regardless of the actors, directed against members of religious and other communities in various parts of the world, including cases motivated by Islamophobia, antisemitism, Christianophobia and prejudice against persons of any other religion or belief.”

Kamboj expressed concern that the threat of terrorism is persistent and rising, in particular, in Africa and Asia.

“As if we had less on our plate, the online space has become another frontier for terrorist groups to achieve their nefarious goals. The easy accessibility, affordability, anonymity, untraceability, and universal reach offered by new and emerging communications, financial, and other technologies, have played out as an exogenous multiplier factor exacerbating the terrorist threat manyfold,” she said.

She also noted that the Special Meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, held in India in October last year and the Delhi Declaration adopted on countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes has highlighted this threat and also the need for a holistic approach to address this threat.

Kamboj appealed that "we may preserve the unity of unequivocal support to the strategy and not surrender the “consensus” to exclusivist and narrow approaches. A unified, multilateral action against terrorism has never been so inevitable as it is today."

The global strategy is composed of four pillars- addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; measures to prevent and combat terrorism; measures to build states' capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and strengthen the role of the United Nations system in that regard; and measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.

Kamboj said it is important to preserve the balance among all pillars and attempts to dilute the language of the second and third pillars will be a “self-defeating goal”, she said.

Source: Times Of India

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Modi, Hasina to launch pipeline to export diesel to Bangladesh

Mar 10, 2023

NEW DELHI: PM Modi and Sheikh Hasina will virtually inaugurate the cross-border India-Bangladesh friendship pipeline, through which India will export diesel to the neighbouring country on March 18, Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen announced on Thursday.

Source: Times Of India

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Bihar: Minor Girls Raped By 2 Including Son Of Ex-Sarpanch In Begusarai

9th March 2023

Begusarai district of Bihar was tensed after reports emerged that two girls, aged 6 and 7 years were allegedly raped by the son of a former Sarpanch while others were playing Holi.

According to the press release, the girls belong to another community, while the accused is a Hindu.

According to Begusarai police, the minors were playing in a school near Panchdir Chowk when they were approached by the accused Rajkumar alias Chhotu Mahato and his friend. Both of them were drunk. They raped the two girls and left.

When the villagers learned of the incident, tension gripped the village. Many angry Muslims, including family members of the victims, demanded the two accused to be arrested immediately.

On information, a team of Begusarai police officials reached the spot and tried to calm the angry villagers down. They promised to conduct a speedy and just inquiry.

Meanwhile, the girls have been admitted to the Sadar Hospital for treatment. Reports suggest that they are in critical condition.

Source: Siasat Daily

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'Pakistan 'very close' to signing IMF staff level agreement'

Mar 9, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Thursday his country was "very close" to signing a staff level agreement with the International Monetary Fund, a critical lifeline for taming a balance of payment crisis."We seem to be very close to signing the staff level agreement, hopefully, God willing, in the next few days," Dar said at a seminar in Islamabad.

"I and my team are absolutely committed to complete this program to the best of our ability," he said, adding: "We have been in the review and I think it has taken longer than it should have in my opinion."

An agreement would release $1.1 billion to the cash-strapped South Asian economy.

Islamabad has been hosting an IMF mission since early February to negotiate the terms of a deal, including the adoption of policy measures to manage its fiscal deficit ahead of annual budget due around June. The funds are part of a $6.5 billion bailout package the IMF approved in 2019, which analysts say is critical if Pakistan is to avoid defaulting on external debt obligations.

The deal would unlock other bilateral and multilateral financing avenues for Pakistan to shore up its foreign exchange reserves, which have fallen to a lowly four weeks worth of import cover.

Islamabad has met most of the lender's demands to clear the review. The last one yet to be fulfilled on the list is an assurance on external financing to fund its balance of payment gap for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

Long-time ally China is the only country that has announced refinancing of a $2 billion loan, and Pakistan's central bank has already received $1.2 billion of that amount.

Source: Times Of India

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Ties with army no different under new brass: Imran

Mansoor Malik

March 10, 2023

LAHORE: Soon after Lahore police booked him in a case under anti-terrorism law and a Quetta court issued non-bailable warrants for him, PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday ruled out talks with “looters of national wealth”, but offered conditional negotiations with anyone amongst the powers that be.

However, when asked if anything has changed for him after the change of command in the army, he said nothing had changed, rather the “excesses” against him and his party were increasing.

“My political rivals want to play the match with PTI after removing its captain, considering it will improve their chances to win the match,” he told BBC Urdu.

Referring to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Mr Khan said, “We fear that the government is planning for some high-profile murder to move out of the election process”.

In separate engagements on Thursday, the former prime minister elaborated that as a politician, he could go into parleys “but only for the purpose of holding the general elections across the country in one go as polls for the two provinces have already been announced”.

Mr Khan said he doesn’t need to talk to anyone because he does not need any “crutches” as the people of Pakistan stood by his party against all odds.

Explaining his original stance on meeting the army chief, Mr Khan said elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were already on the cards. “There is no other issue that I want to discuss with any political force or the establishment except the free and fair elections to drive the country out of current political and economic crises,” he emphasised.

Chiding the PDM and interim governments in the Centre and Punjab over the violence perpetrated against PTI workers, he said the incumbent rulers were running away from elections and that was why they imposed Section 144 and banned their election rally hours before it was scheduled.

When asked who will lead the party in case of his arrest, Mr Khan said Shah Mehmood Qureshi had the mandate to run the party, adding there was a proper hierarchy system in PTI that would function automatically.

In a televised address on Thursday, Mr Khan said, “The Sicilian mafia is trying to create division in the top court”. They were planning to launch a campaign against the Chief Justice of Pakistan. “We will not let this plan of the government be successful,” he asserted.

The PTI chief asked the nation that they must continue their fight against the tyranny, even if he was not there to lead them.

In his meeting with journalists, the PTI chief said the March 8 attack was a sequel of last year’s May 25 “state barbarism”.

Case against PTI leaders

Meanwhile, Lahore police registered an FIR against more than 400 PTI leaders and workers, including Imran Khan, Fawad Chaudhry, Farrukh Habib, Hammad Azhar, Mahmood Rasheed and Ijaz Chaudhry under various sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act and PPC for critically injuring 13 police personnel and damaging public property.

The case was registered at the Race Course police station on the complaint of ‘injured’ DSP Sabir Ali, who alleged that a charged mob of 400 PTI workers turned violent and carried out multiple attacks on the police on Wednesday at the behest of party chairman and other senior leaders. As a result, the official said, several PTI workers were also injured due to violent attacks of their own fellows from PTI.

Police also mentioned the ‘death’ of PTI worker Ali Bilal in the FIR, minimising chances of lodging a separate case for his murder as was being demanded by his father and the PTI leadership.

Separately, in Quetta, the court of Judicial Magistrate-1 Bashir Ahmed Bazai issued non-bilabial warrants for the PTI chairman in a case of hate speech against state institutions and officers.

Police approached the judicial magistrate and sought warrants for Mr Khan on the basis of an FIR registered against him in the Bijli Road police station on March 6 on the complaint of a citizen, Abdul Khali Kakar, a resident of Nawan Killi.

Source: Dawn

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Punjab police hunting men who brought slain PTI activist to hospital

Asif Chaudhry

March 10, 2023

LAHORE: PTI worker Ali Bilal, also known as Zille Shah, was laid to rest on Thursday as a high-powered fact-finding committee constituted to probe his death remained on the hunt for the two suspects who brought him to Services Hospital.

Headed by Punjab Police Elite Force DIG Sadiq Ali, the committee visited the hospital, reviewed CCTV footage and questioned medics and other staff from the hospital’s emergency department who tended to Bilal.

CCTV footage revealed that two persons brought a badly-injured Bilal to the hospital in a private 4x4 vehicle, but they subsequently disappeared after he was pronounced dead. A police source said the committee would enlist the help of the Punjab Excise and Taxation Department to get ownership details of the vehicle used by the suspects.

The postmortem report of the slain PTI worker also suggests that he was subjected to “massive blunt trauma”, while a fracture to his skull and subsequent bleeding has been cited as the cause of death. The report also noted damage to his liver, spleen and testes, which led to profuse bleeding.

According to provincial police chief Dr Usman Anwar, they would be focusing on tracking down the car and the two suspects who shifted Ali Bilal to the hospital and that safe city cameras would be used for this purpose.

Talking to Dawn, the inspector general said that a clip of Bilal in a prison van, which has been doing the rounds on social media, was an old video. However, he said that police were looking into that angle nevertheless.

“I have also directed the committee to investigate the excessive abuse of power by the police, if any,” Dr Usman said, referring to the clashes between law enforcers and PTI workers on Canal Road on Wednesday.

However, when asked to comment on another video shared by a journalist, which claims to show Bilal in a police van parked near Zaman Park on Wednesday, a police source said that they were still looking into the authenticity of the fresh clip and could not say anything for certain.

According to its ToRs, the committee is supposed to find the answers to some key questions, including what were the circumstances that led to Bilal’s death; was deceased in police custody and who took him to hospital.

The committee has also been directed to investigate the circumstances that led to the gathering of political workers near Zaman Park, the legal status of the PTI assembly, and the circumstances led to clashes between police and workers of the political party.


Funeral prayers for the slain Bilal were held at Baba Ground People House, Islampura, attended by a large number of PTI leaders and workers.

In addition, in absentia funeral prayers were also offered for the departed in various cities and towns across the country, on the call of PTI chief Imran Khan.

In Lahore, the funeral was attended by senators Ejaz Chaudhry, Waleed Iqbal and Azam Swati, as well as party’s senior leaders Omer Sarfraz Cheema, Shafqat Mahmood, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Mahmoodur Rasheed, Hammad Azhar and others.

PTI Central Punjab president Dr Yasmin Rashid and other women leaders also visited the slain worker’s residence to condole with his family.

In Islamabad, PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the innocent and unarmed Bilal was “our hero” and vowed that his sacrifice would not be in vain.


Separately, Bilal’s father Liaqat Ali has filed an application with Race Course police to lodge a murder case.

In the complaint, Bilal’s father has nominated Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, IG Dr Usman Anwar, Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Bilal Siddique Kamyana and two inspectors, besides 40 police personnel, holding them responsible for the alleged murder of his son.

In the complaint, Mr Ali alleged that police arrested his son and brutally tortured him, which led to his death.

Interestingly, Bilal’s death is also mentioned in the FIR filed against Imran Khan and other PTI leaders and workers.

Source: Dawn

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Military restores ex-army officer’s properties ‘seized’ by Musharraf govt

Malik Asad

March 10, 2023

RAWALPINDI: The military restored the properties of a retired major general confiscated by the government of former president Pervez Musharraf after a lawyer informed the Lahore High Court on Thursday that his client and the General Headquarters had “resolved the issue amicably”.

Subsequently, the LHC’s Rawalpindi bench disposed of the petition of Ahsan Ahmed, who had served as Sindh’s health minister in 2002.

The petition was pending in the LHC since 2015.

Retired Maj Gen Ahmed said in his petition that since he had opposed the referendum held by Gen Musharraf in 2002, the former president turned “vindictive” and deprived him of all his retirement benefits by cancelling the allotment of a 50-acre piece of land in Bahawalnagar, as well as plots in Karachi and Rawalpindi DHAs.

The petitioner cited the federation of Pakistan, through the defence secretary, the Adjutant General of Pakistan Army, and the GHQ as respondents.

Ahsan Ahmed said he had joi­n­­ed the Army Medical Corps in 1965 and retired on Sept 13, 1999. He was allotted 50 acres of agricultural land in Bahawal­na­gar and residential plots in Ra­­w­alpindi and Karachi under rules of the Army’s housing scheme.

After retirement from the Army, Mr Ahmed was appointed as director general in the federal health ministry in Oct 1999.

The petitioner was inducted into the Sindh cabinet as health minister in 2002.

He developed differences with Pervez Musharraf after declining his request for deputing a large number of employees of his ministry for duty in the Oct 2002 elections so that the former president could execute his plan to carry out “large-scale rigging”.

“Pressure was put on me through then governor of Sindh and secret agencies to cooperate with Gen Musharraf in his plan to prevent the Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N from gaining majority in the National Assembly,” Mr Ahmed said.

“I considered it an anti-state move and refused to play any sub­versive role in the 2002 elections.”

Days after the elections, the petitioner tendered his resignation as provincial minister, but instead of accepting or rejecting the resignation, the Sindh government issued a notification stating that since Ahsan Ahmed “has not discharged his duties in accordance with the rules, he has been removed from the cabinet with immediate effect”.

The allotments of agricultural land in Bahawalnagar and the two residential plots were cancelled by the authorities concerned in 2003.

“But the former dictator’s vengeance never ended and secret agencies started giving me death threats. This left me with no choice but to leave the country for the United Kingdom on Nov 29, 2003,” the petitioner said.

Source: Dawn

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Libya boat wreck: six more bodies reach Pakistan

March 10, 2023

GUJRAT: Six more bodies of victims of Libya boat wreck were brought to their native areas on Thursday.

Four of them belonged to Gujrat and two to Bhimbher district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The bodies were received by the heirs at the Lahore airport and then driven to their hometowns by ambulances.

Earlier, four bodies belonging to Gujrat and one each to Gujjar Khan town of Rawalpindi and Muridke town of Sheikhupura reached their destinations a couple of days ago.

The Federal Investigation Agency’s Gujrat circle has so far registered 10 cases against human traffickers involved in sending the victims illegally to Italy via Dubai and Libya. Four of them have been arrested.

The bodies of Husnain Mian of Gegian (Bareela Sharif), Hafiz Zain Ali of Bajo, Mudassar Iqbal of Kharian Khurd and Shaban Ali of Bhangranwala were driven to their natives areas in Gujrat district whereas the bodies of Muneeb and Ali Hasham of Barehng village of Bhimbher also reached their native locations.

Sources in the families of victims said that the bodies were flown to Lahore from Saudi Arabia.

Gujrat FIA deputy director Ghulam Sarwar Warraich told Dawn that traffickers Adnan of Kharian, Zahid Suniara of Gujrat, Raja Raheel of Kotla and Sufian Mazhar of Fatehpur had been arrested.

He said three of the suspects had been detained at FIA’s Gujrat lockup on physical remand whereas Zahid Suniara was sent to the district jail on judicial remand.

He said main traffickers Hamza of Gujrat city and Afaq of Mararrian village were settled somewhere abroad and efforts were on trace them.

Sources in the FIA said some of the cases were lodged on the complaints of the heirs while a few were registered on the complaint of an FIA official after their families declined to join legal proceedings against the human traffickers.

As per the cases lodged with the FIA, the human traffickers had reportedly received Rs 1.5mn to 2 million from each client.

Sources in families of victims said that most of the human traffickers had gone under ground and were not in their contact since the tragic incident occurred in Libya.

According to a Foreign Office briefing in Islamabad on Thursday, 15 Pakistanis had been confirmed dead.

The FO spokesperson said four deaths were confirmed in Italy while two were still missing.

“I will not combine them because these were two different boat incidents,” the spokesperson said.

Source: Dawn

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Quetta judicial magistrate issues arrest warrants for Imran

Ghalib Nihad

March 9, 2023

A Quetta judicial magistrate on Thursday issued non-bailable arrest warrants for PTI Chairman Imran Khan in a case related to alleged remarks against state institutions and their offices, and spreading hatred against them.

The warrant dated March 9, a copy of which is available with, instructed the police to arrest Imran and present him before the court.

On March 6, a first information report (FIR) was registered against the former prime minister at the Bijli Road police station in Quetta by citizen Abdul Khalil Kakar.

In the FIR, which has seen, Kakar said that Imran addressed the public from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore on March 5, in which he levelled “baseless allegations against the state institutions”.

He alleged that the ex-premier’s statement was tantamount to “destroying public peace and order”. Imran has harmed the credibility of the institutions, the complainant claimed.

The complaint invoked sections 124-A (sedition), 153-A (giving provocation with intent to cause a riot if rioting is committed; if not committed) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

It also included Section 20 (Offences against the dignity of a natural person) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016.

Imran’s speech

On March 5, an Islamabad police team sent to Lahore to arrest Imran for skipping proceedings in the Toshakhana case returned empty-handed after the PTI chairman evaded the arrest.

Shortly after the police returned, the PTI chief addressed his supporters at his Zaman Park residence where the contingent supported by the Lahore police had arrived to take him to the federal capital.

Eventually, the team decided to call off the “operation” since PTI leader Shibli Faraz, who is also Imran’s chief of staff, informed that the PTI chairman was “not available”.

Addressing party leaders and workers on the lawn of his residence, the PTI chief said his lawyers would write a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan explaining that he was facing life threats.

“I am being called to appear before the courts in ‘farcical’ cases like a terrorism case with regard to a protest outside the Election Commission of Pakistan office while I was at my home,” Imran said.

“I appeared before the Lahore High Court and courts in Islamabad but no security was provided to me,” he complained.

Referring to the Toshakhana case, the former premier said proceedings should be televised. “If proceedings of the Toshakhana case are aired on TV, people will know that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari are the real dacoits, and the only person who did not do anything against the law will turn out to be Imran Khan,” he claimed.

The PTI chief said he feared attempts on his life until Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and the spy agency officer dubbed as ‘Dirty Harry’ remained in power.

He even called ‘Dirty Harry’ a psychopath for his alleged torture of PTI leaders, including Senator Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill. “Besides these three, there is one more person who is involved in attempts on my life,” he hinted, without naming anyone.

The PTI chairman said the PDM government was out to create fear in his party through arrests and torture but they defused all such tactics by courting arrests.

He claimed that he was about to give a call for the court arrest movement across the country but the Supreme Court ruling which paved the way for general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stopped him from doing so.

Imran said that Shehbaz Sharif was about to be sentenced in an Rs16 billion FIA case and Rs8 billion NAB case but he was “made the prime minister through a regime change conspiracy”.

Source: Dawn

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Three more terrorists killed in NW operation: ISPR

March 9, 2023

RAWALPINDI: Three more terrorists were gunned down by security forces in a clearance operation following an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in general area of Datta Khel in North Waziristan a day earlier.

According to ISPR press release, an intelligence-based operation (IBO) – conducted in general area Datta Khel of North Waziristan District – was followed by a sanitisation of the area by security forces.

“During intense exchange of fire, three more terrorists were killed,” the ISPR said, taking the total death count in ongoing clearance operation to nine.

The ISPR said area locals “appreciated the security forces response and expressed their full support to eliminate menace of terrorism from the area”.

A day earlier, the security forces killed six terrorists in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in North Waziristan’s Datakhel area.

The exchange of fire comes amid a surge in terrorist activities across the country since the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ended its ceasefire with the government in November 2022.

Last week, security forces gunned down one terrorist during an Intelligence-Based Operation (IBO) in the general area of Mir Ali, North Waziristan district.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Pakistan urges world to continue humanitarian aid to Afghanistan

March 9, 2023

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has warned against reducing or ending humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, which would cause harm to the millions of people currently living in poverty.

Speaking at the UN Security Council, Ambassador Munir Akram stressed the importance of providing ongoing assistance to support the human rights of the Afghan people. He also expressed concern over the recent restrictions placed on women and girls’ rights and called for the Taliban government to find a solution in line with Islamic principles.

Ambassador Akram called for full funding of the UN Secretary-General’s $4.2 billion recovery plan for Afghanistan, and emphasized the need for a more comprehensive international effort to revive the Afghan economy and financial sector.

He expressed concern over the terrorist attacks emanating from Afghanistan and urged the Afghan interim government to fulfil its assurances that Afghanistan’s territory would not be used for terrorism against neighbouring countries, including Pakistan.

Despite the challenges, Ambassador Akram stressed the importance of continuing engagement with the Afghan interim government to achieve the international community’s objectives for human rights, inclusive governance, and an end to terrorism.

He emphasized the need for Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours to work together to restore normalcy and stability in the country, with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) playing a vital role in the effort.

Source: Pakistan Today

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South Asia


China, Russia, Pakistan back Taliban, urge West to lift freeze on Afghanistan assets

Ajeyo Basu

March 09, 2023

Tashkent (Uzbekistan): China and Pakistan joined Russia and two other nations in asking the West to lift the freeze on the assets owned by Afghanistan’s central bank.

These three countries were joined by Tajikistan and Turkmenistan for a summit in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent to discuss a host of issues facing Afghanistan.

“The representatives of these countries emphasised that the return of the money of the Central Bank of Afghanistan should be used primarily to pay the salaries of… school teachers and doctors, and at the same time to support the part of the population which is in a difficult situation,” Uzbek special representative Ismatilla Ergashev was quoted as saying by Dawn.

“They also emphasised that nearly 25 million people in Afghanistan are starving and deprived of food,” he added.

Representatives from the Taliban regime of Afghanistan were reportedly not present at the meeting.

Source: Firstpost

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Iran Calls for Formation of Inclusive Government in Afghanistan

By Fidel Rahmati

March 9, 2023

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stated that while Tehran does not recognize the Afghan interim administration, it will continue cooperating with Afghanistan.

The foreign minister of Iran, Abdollahian, at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, called for the formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

“We do not recognize (it), and we hope to have negotiations with the officials of the Islamic Emirate and see the formation of an inclusive government soon,” ToloNews quoted Abdollahian as saying.

Earlier, the Taliban government advised its neighbours to refrain from interfering in Afghanistan’s domestic matters to maintain good relations with all of them, said Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman of the Taliban administration.

However, with the fall of the Afghan government and the Taliban’s return to power in August of last year, the situation for human rights in Afghanistan has worsened.

A recent report by United Nations stated that the Afghanistan situation is a severe matter of concern regarding women’s rights.

It also added that half of the population in Afghanistan is confined to their homes amid a severe humanitarian and economic crisis.

The Taliban government was urged in the statement to immediately revoke all decrees about women’s employment and education to serve the Afghan people’s needs.

Source: Khaama Press

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Canada to Allow Aid Organization to Operate in Afghanistan

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 10, 2023

The Canadian government on Thursday announced that ‘terrorism financing laws’ will be amended to allow Canadian humanitarian aid organizations to help needy families in Afghanistan, following pressure from aid agencies.

Currently, Canadian aid organizations have ceased operations in Afghanistan due to some legal constraints which are in conflict with the established laws in Canada.

Over the past year and a half, humanitarian aid organizations have repeatedly complained about the Canadian government’s strict regulations. According to the aid organizations will have to pay taxes to the Taliban authorities while operating in Afghanistan.

Since Canada considers the Taliban as a de facto regime that forcefully seized power, operating under the group’s regime, will cause legal issues for aid agencies, as per the terrorism financing laws. To amend the laws, the government sent a bill to the parliament on Thursday.

As per the suggested bill, in order to operate in Afghanistan, humanitarian organizations will have to apply for an exemption from anti-terrorist laws, according to CBC news. After a thorough assessment, the Minister of Public Safety of Canada will either accept or reject the application.

Therefore, Canadian organizations will not have the full freedom to operate in Afghanistan.

Marco E. L. Mendicino, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety said that amending the laws does not mean engaging with the Taliban, and as per the Canadian laws, the group will remain a de facto regime, not a legitimate government to represent Afghanistan.

Mr. Mendicino further added the Taliban have demonstrated that they do not value human rights and have committed “massive violations” against people, especially Afghan women and girls.

Source: Khaama Press

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OIC Representative Meets FM Muttaqi, Discusses Afghanistan

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 9, 2023

The special representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Tarig Ali Bakheet met with the Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Amir Khan Muttaqi on Wednesday in Kandahar and discussed women’s status. 

During the meeting, the OIC Ambassador discussed the follow-up on the implementation of the resolution of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan. Mr. Bakheet also shed light on the organization’s support towards the people of Afghanistan, with particular emphasis on reviewing the decisions restricting the rights of women and girls to education and work.

The foreign ministry of Afghanistan in a statement said the meeting also focused on the expansion of political, economic, and social relations between OIC and the Afghan interim government. 

Furthermore, OIC Ambassador assured minister Muttaqi of the Islamic organization’s long-lasting support for Afghanistan across different areas, be it humanitarian aid, education, healthcare, and more.

“A special delegation of OIC will visit Afghanistan in the near future to assess the needs in different sectors and to provide more humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan during these difficult times,” Mr. Bakheet said.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in a conference at the UN headquarters in New York expressed his concern and that of the OIC regarding Afghan women and girls who have been deprived of their basic rights to education and work.

“Pakistan and other Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries express their deep disappointment at the restrictions imposed on the human rights of women and girls, especially their right to education and work, in Afghanistan,” Minister Bilawal said.

Source: Khaama Press

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Taliban takes advantage of Pakistan economic crisis to boost Afghanistan's coffers

Ajeyo Basu

March 10, 2023

Kabul: Even as neighbouring Pakistan struggles with an economic crisis, Afghanistan seems to be doing relatively well on the economy front despite being embroiled in a humanitarian crisis.

With the Taliban collecting tax from businesses across Afghanistan and trucks carrying goods across the Durand Line – the de facto border with Pakistan – the current Afghan regime in Kabul is doing well as far as revenue is concerned.

According to media reports, around 60 percent of the revenue being collected by the Taliban regime in Kabul is from trucks carrying goods across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Even as Afghanistan remains frozen deep in a second winter of humanitarian turmoil since the Taliban seized Kabul in August 2021, cash is changing hands at a surprising pace.

The Taliban rulers of Afghanistan have proved to be adept at collecting tax and – if reports are to be believed – apparently without the corruption associated with the previous administration in Kabul.

Last month, the World Bank had reported that the Taliban had collected revenue amounting to 136 billion Afghani ($1.5 billion) from across Afghanistan during the first nine months of 2022. This is almost equal to tax collection during the final full year of the US-backed regime in Kabul.

“It has been reported quite consistently that they’re doing quite well on revenue, and that too is happening when economic activity is quite subdued,” an official with a foreign organisation in Afghanistan was quoted as saying by news agency AFP.

“It was a shock.”

However, with the United Nations (UN) warning that half the population of Afghanistan facing severe hunger, the figures related to tax collection by the Taliban have raised many questions.

Taliban taking advantage of Pakistan economic crisis

According to the World Bank, around 60 per cent of the Taliban revenue is funded by custom duty from trucks plying between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This revenue is raised at dusty, tumbledown checkpoints such as Torkham in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where truckers pay cash for rubber-stamped official paperwork.

Freight coming to Afghanistan is mostly food — oranges, potatoes and World Food Programme (WFP) flour — but the trucks going into Pakistan are loaded with chromite and coal.

Pakistan has been badly hit by the global energy crisis caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine at a time when a severe economic crisis has decimated the country’s foreign exchange reserves. The Taliban have been quick to take advantage of Pakistan’s economic woes.

According to a 2022 report by research group XCEPT, with Pakistan brokering a deal to pay for Afghan coal in rupees — cutting out usual suppliers in South Africa and Indonesia – Afghanistan’s coal exports to Pakistan have likely doubled under the Taliban government. This has earned the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan $160 million in tax which is thrice what the previous administration in Kabul was capable of.

But the mining industry relies heavily on child labour, with punishingly low pay and the barest safety measures.

“This has been their strategy from day one — to increase revenue no matter what,” former deputy commerce and industry minister Sulaiman Bin Shah told AFP.

The Taliban’s lodestar has always been law and order — albeit on their ultra-conservative terms — and there are signs Kabul’s coffers have benefitted from a crackdown on corruption which leeched the US-backed government for 20 years.

Afghanistan climbed 24 places up Transparency International’s corruption perception ranking last year, a rare case of a metric improving for the country.

“Afghanistan has that capacity, which now we are collecting,” said finance ministry spokesman Ahmad Wali Haqmal. “The main problem was the corruption.”

But analyst Torek Farhadi sees it another way.

“They are more effective because people are scared of them,” he said. “The Taliban have an iron grip on the administration. They have the guns, and nobody can steal any money.”

Taliban transforming from insurgents to bureaucrats

The Taliban’s transition from insurgents to bureaucrats is not entirely surprising.

During their 20-year guerilla war, they established a shadow government in many areas they controlled, including courts, regional governors and a tax system to fill their war chest.

Afghanistan’s customs director Abdul Matin Saeed once ran shadow toll booths for the insurgency in Farah province, bordering Iran, and Balkh, bordering Uzbekistan, roving the territory on raspy motorbikes to evade capture.

“We didn’t have complete control over the roads … but still we were meeting our ends,” he told AFP.

This experience was “very handy” when the republic fell and he took office in Kabul, he says.

The government’s ability to raise revenue has far-reaching implications.

The international community has pressured the regime over restrictions on women’s rights with financial sanctions, but their ability to raise domestic revenue grants them greater independence.

It also presents a dilemma for donors — does providing humanitarian support free up the Taliban administration to pursue discretionary aims such as quashing dissent?

But perhaps the most glaring issue is the lack of clarity over how all this cash is spent.

Last year, the Taliban government issued an annual budget outlining 231 billion Afghanis of spending, but scant further detail.

Source: Firstpost

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Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu flies to Rome as Meloni condemns swastika

09 March ,2023

Far-right Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni condemned antisemitic graffiti directed at her main rival on Thursday, ahead of a visit to Italy by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his first since Meloni’s victory last year.

The graffiti, which included a swastika, appeared on a wall in the city of Viterbo and was directed at Elly Schlein, the new leader of the opposition Democratic Party. Schlein, whose American father is Jewish, has been the target of antisemitic attacks throughout her political career.

In a statement, Meloni expressed solidarity with Schlein, calling her a victim of a “shameful and indecent act,” and saying the “offensive” graffiti “is to be condemned with absolute firmness.”

Her office issued the statement as Netanyahu was heading to Italy on Thursday to meet with Meloni, hoping to leave behind one of Israel’s worst domestic political crises but facing the potential for protests in Rome as well.

Netanyahu’s planned overhaul of the judiciary has sparked two months of nationwide protests, with opposition surging and business leaders saying the overhaul will be ruinous for the country.

Netanyahu and his allies say the powers of the country's unelected judiciary must be curbed. His opponents say the changes will destroy the country's system of checks and balances and push it toward authoritarianism. They also say Netanyahu, on trial on corruption charges, has a conflict of interest.

The Israeli leader was forced to travel by helicopter to the Tel Aviv airport Thursday to catch his flight to Rome after protesters blocked his route to the airport. After arriving in Rome, he is to visit the Jewish Museum in Rome’s ghetto and meet with the city’s Jewish community.

In a brief statement before taking off, Netanyahu said rallying international pressure against Iran's nuclear program was the main goal of his meeting with Meloni. He also expressed hope that that a compromise could be reached with his domestic opponents on the judicial overhaul.

Protests against his judicial overhaul were planned for Friday in Rome, according to the Saving Israeli Democracy group.

Pro-Palestinian protesters also planned a demonstration Thursday to denounce recent Israeli operations against Palestinians that have amounted to the worst violence in the occupied West Bank in years.

In an interview published Thursday in Rome daily La Repubblica, Netanyahu said the protests were evidence of the strength of Israel’s democracy.

He said that during his visit he hoped to improve relations with Italy, including on the economic front, and suggested Israel could provide Italy with natural gas as Italy seeks to diversify its energy imports to reduce reliance on Russia.

Asked about the neo-fascist roots of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, Netanyahu said he paid attention to whether such political forces “have learned the lessons of history.”

“I have no doubt that Meloni and other leaders of her party have learned it, as they clearly condemn antisemitism and anti-Zionism. This is fundamental,” he said.

Meloni, whose right-wing coalition won national elections in September, has made several gestures reaching out to the Jewish community amid questions about her party, which has its roots in the post-World War II neo-fascist Italian Social Movement. She has repeatedly spoken out against antisemitism and met with members of the Jewish community.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Nuclear Iran would change history, Netanyahu tells TV labelled ‘terrorist’ by Tehran

10 March ,2023

“History will change” if Iran becomes a nuclear-armed state, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in an interview with a Persian-language TV network that Tehran has labelled a “terrorist organization.”

In an interview Iran International TV aired on Thursday, Netanyahu said that that the prospect of a regime “committed to the destruction” of his country possessing nuclear weapons was unthinkable.

“Imagine if they have the weapons of the greatest terror, nuclear weapons with which they can hold the entire world hostage. So I say to Western leaders, to world leaders: history will change if Iran [gets] nuclear weapons,” he said.

In November, Iran’s Intelligence Minister described Iran International as a “terrorist organization.” The station announced last month that it would relocate from London to Washington on the advice of UK police, citing alleged threats from Iran.

“The imperative now is to free the Iranian people, both for their own sake but also for our common security,” the Israeli leader said. “We cannot let this radical Islamic terrorist regime that oppresses its people [and] terrorizes everyone else have the weapons of mass death. This will change history and we have to stop it before it happens.”

Netanyahu called for “crippling sanctions” against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and for a “credible military response and a military threat against the potential development of nuclear weapons” by Iran.

He warned that if the Islamic Republic acquired nuclear weapons, it would feel “invulnerable” and seek to “buy immunity” from being overthrown.

“Once they have nuclear weapons … they’ll feel that they’re there forever. And one of the things that they want through the acquisition of nuclear weapons is … to be able to be free from the threat of being deposed. They think they’ll buy immunity,” he said.

This week, the US, Britain, France and Germany expressed concern over Iran’s production of uranium enriched to 84 percent purity, just under the 90 percent needed to produce a nuclear bomb, and called for an explanation from Iran.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and that it has not attempted to enrich uranium beyond 60 percent purity.

Diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which Netanyahu opposes, have stalled since last year.

The 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Netanyahu believes the deal is too generous to Tehran.

Former US President Donald Trump, who also thought the deal was too soft on Iran, withdrew Washington from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions on Tehran.

Iran responded by expanding its nuclear program, breaching most of the deal’s restrictions.

Grossi comments ‘totally wrong’

Netanyahu criticized comments made by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi, who during a visit to Tehran earlier this month said that any military attack on nuclear facilities would be considered illegal.

“(Grossi) said something totally wrong and inappropriate. There is nothing more legitimate than preventing a regime that openly calls for your destruction from having the weapons to achieve that goal,” said Netanyahu.

“We will maintain our right to defend ourselves and in so doing defend many others, including the people of Iran,” he added.

He said that whether there will be a direct military conflict between Israel and Iran depends on Tehran.

Netanyahu added that the recent protest movement in Iran had “unmasked the true nature” of the Iranian regime, which he described as the “common enemy” of Iranians and Israelis. He expressed the hope that a different government in Tehran would lead to a friendship between Israel and Iran “surpass[ing] anything that we can imagine.”

Iran experienced months of protests following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who died on September 16 shortly after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress rules for women.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Tel Aviv Attack: 3 Injured; Calls for De-escalation ahead of Passover, Ramadan Ignored

MARCH 10, 2023

Three people were shot and wounded in Tel Aviv on Thursday in an attack carried out by a member of the armed wing of the Palestinian group Hamas, Israeli police said.

The shooting took place at about 8:40 pm (1840 GMT) on Dizengoff Avenue, a popular nightlife spot in the centre of Tel Aviv, where a Palestinian attack killed three people in April 2022.

“The three victims of today’s attack in Tel Aviv are still alive, correcting the earlier statement that one of them had been declared dead," Israeli police spokesman Dean Elsdunne told AFP.

In a statement, Hamas said the attack had been carried out by a member of its armed wing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on an official visit to Rome, wished “a speedy recovery to the injured" in a brief televised statement.

Israeli police said a suspect had shot at a pedestrian before being neutralised by officers.

“I heard gunshots and saw people running away. I immediately loaded my gun and ran towards" the scene, David Friedmann, a police officer who helped shoot the assailant, told AFP.

At one point, “I fired three rounds at him, [a colleague] also fired three rounds, and when he fell, he was shot again so he wouldn’t get up again," he added.

Israel’s Internal Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir congratulated “the police officer who, in a courageous act, eliminated the heinous terrorist and saved many lives".

The Magen David Adom emergency response service said the three wounded had been rushed to hospital.

“We evacuated the three with gunshot wounds, one of them in critical condition, one seriously wounded, and one lightly wounded," Magen David Adom director Eli Bin told Israel’s Kan television.


On Thursday, three armed Palestinians were killed in an Israeli military operation in the northern part of the occupied West Bank.

Several Palestinian armed groups had called on Tuesday for revenge for the recent deaths of six Palestinians in an Israeli army raid in the northern West Bank.

During a brief visit to Tel Aviv on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for “the need to de-escalate, to lower tensions and to restore calm, especially before the holidays of Passover and Ramadan."

In Beitar Illit, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank southwest of Jerusalem, the army said bomb disposal experts had detonated a suspicious package found on a bus Thursday evening.

Source: News18

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Iran's Intelligence Ministry: Root Causes of Some Schoolgirl Poisonings Incidents Discovered


The ministry of intelligence issued a statement on Wednesday night, assuring the Iranian nation that it will make all-out efforts to complete the ongoing probe into recent health problems of schoolgirls.

The statement emphasized that the intelligence ministry will provide the Iranian people with the results of investigations on different issues.

"On the health problems of some schoolgirls at some schools throughout Iran in recent weeks, the officers of the ministry kicked off investigating on the issue from the beginning in Qom city and the investigations have been used by other related entities," the statement read.

"However, the root causes of certain previous incidents were discovered, but the results cannot be generalized to all other cases; so, an interval is needed to reach precise results," it added.

Following the strong decree by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei on the follow-up of the school incidents, as well as President Ebrahim Rayeesi’s presence in the intelligence ministry, the country's forces assure that they will use all equipment and technical capabilities in order to finalize the probe into the incidents, according to the statement.

The intelligence agents have been facing several challenges and complicated cases so far, and they made all-out efforts and sacrifices to stand against insecurity,it said.

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry also urged the Iranian people, especially parents of the students not to pay attention to foreign media hype and propaganda, which try to disturb tranquility of the Iranian society, it added.

The Iranian Interior Minister has reported that the country's security agents have detained several individuals in connection with the mysterious poisonings of female students.

Hundreds of cases of respiratory distress have been reported in the past months among Iranian schoolgirls in several cities, with some needing hospital treatment. In most cases, students suffered respiratory problems, nausea, fatigue and dizziness.

Mohammad Hassan Asafari, a member of the parliamentary fact-finding committee, has confirmed that around 230 schools in 25 out of Iran’s 31 provinces have been affected, and that more than 5,000 schoolgirls and boys have been poisoned.

On Monday, Ayatollah Khamenei called on Iranian officials to seriously investigate the case, and urged authorities to hand the perpetrators behind the heinous crime the severest punishment possible.

The Leader described the poison attacks affecting hundreds of girls at schools across several cities in Iran as "a major and unforgivable crime".

"If it is proved that the students were poisoned, the perpetrators of this crime should be severely punished," he underlined.

The Supreme Leader underscored that “no amnesty” will be offered to such people.

Denouncing the mysterious poisoning cases across Iran as a "crime and an inhumane act" committed by the enemies, President Rayeesi has also called for accurate and timely information on the incidents.

Iran's president warned on Sunday that the act is “another link in the chain of the enemy’s plots” which has been carried out to create chaos in the country, manipulate public opinion, and instill fear among the students.

The chief executive said the enemy, as part of a psychological war, is “seeking to create stress and anxiety among students and parents so that chaos is formed”.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Hamas gunman wounds three in Tel Aviv attack before police kill him

09 March ,2023

A Palestinian gunman opened fire in Tel Aviv on Thursday, wounding three people before being killed by police in what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labelled a “terror attack” amid rising unrest in the West Bank.

The militant group Hamas claimed the shooter, a 23-year-old from the occupied West Bank, as a member.

Police cordoned off a corner of Dizengoff street in the city center where the attack took place. A restaurant was empty after customers apparently fled mid-meal, Reuters footage showed.

Medics treated the wounded on the sidewalk nearby.

The shooting followed a spate of attacks by Palestinians around Jerusalem and in the West Bank that have killed 13 Israelis and a Ukrainian woman since late January.

Over the past year, Israeli forces have made thousands of arrests in the West Bank and killed more than 200 Palestinians, including both fighters and civilians. More than 40 Israelis have died in attacks by Palestinians over the same period.

“There has been another terror attack in the heart of Tel Aviv tonight,” Netanyahu said after being updated on events during a visit to Italy.

“We strengthen the security forces and the police who are fighting terrorists this night and every night.”

West Bank gunbattle

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli forces killed three gunmen from the militant Islamic Jihad group in a gunbattle in the West Bank. Hamas said the Tel Aviv shooting was a response to that.

“The heroic operation is a natural response to the crimes conducted by the occupation,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said.

The three hurt by the Tel Aviv shooting were rushed to hospital, one in serious condition. Police officers killed the assailant, according to Israel's national security minister.

The attack came hours after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ended a brief visit to Israel where he called on all sides to de-escalate the violence.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israel’s president says government should abandon proposed judiciary overhaul

09 March ,2023

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government should abandon proposed legislation to overhaul the country’s judiciary in favor of a model with broad national support.

The government’s proposal has sparked mass protests across Israel and Herzog has been mediating between the sides.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Italy minister backs Israeli call to recognize Jerusalem as capital

09 March ,2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he would ask Italy to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the country, obtaining immediate support from Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.

Netanyahu, who is facing protests at home against his government’s plan to overhaul the Israeli judiciary, arrives in Italy on Thursday for a three-day visit. He will meet Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Friday.

“I believe the time has come for Rome to recognize Jerusalem as the ancestral capital of the Jewish people for three thousand years, as the United States did with a gesture of great friendship,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Italy’s la Repubblica newspaper.

Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital but it is not recognized as such by most countries and its status under international law is disputed pending a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Salvini, who leads the rightist ruling League party, immediately backed Netanyahu’s call. “I firmly say yes to Jerusalem capital of Israel, in the name of peace, history and truth,” he posted on Twitter.

In an interview with Reuters in August last year, before she became prime minister, Meloni was more cautious, saying she had no plans to follow the US decision to shift its embassy to Jerusalem.

“It is a diplomatic matter and should be evaluated together with the Foreign Ministry,” Meloni said.

The Israeli parliament passed a law in 1980 declaring the “complete and united” city of Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. The United Nations regards East Jerusalem as occupied, and the city’s status as disputed until resolved by negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israeli reservist colonel dismissed over judicial reform protest

09 March ,2023

The Israeli air force said on Thursday that it had dismissed a reservist officer in the military for trying to orchestrate group walkouts from training flights as part of a spreading protest at judicial reforms planned by the government.

In its first disciplinary measure during the political crisis roiling Israel, the military said in a statement that the colonel, whose name as not been published, “behaved ... in a manner unbecoming of his officer’s rank and station.”

Separately, air force chief Major-General Tomer Bar said the colonel “took upon himself inappropriate authority in his contact with the IAF pilots. Unionizing to synchronize absence from service, though coming from good intentions, is forbidden.”

Thirty-seven reservist pilots and navigators from an F-15 squadron said on Sunday they would skip a training day to “devote our time to dialogue and reflection for the sake of democracy and national unity.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition plans changes to the judiciary that would include curbing Supreme Court powers. Netanyahu says this will restore balance between branches of government but critics see it as an effort to hollow out judicial independence.

Source: Al Arabiya

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William and Kate visit Muslim centre and praise fundraising by ‘amazing’ community

By Victoria Ward

9 March 2023

The Prince and Princess of Wales have praised an “amazing” community that raised £30,000 for families left homeless after the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

The couple visited a Muslim centre in Hayes, west London, to meet aid workers recently returned from the disaster zone and thank those involved in the fundraising effort.

Lead fundraiser, Zia Rehman, said they had broken their own 30-year fundraising record.

“Within two hours we were able to raise £18,000,” he said.

“Normally it is anything between £10,000 and £12,000. But this time the community came forward amazingly. Altogether we have raised £30,000 for Turkey and Syria.”

Prince William was so impressed that he joked he would like to recruit them himself, telling Mr Rehman: “It is amazing. About £100 million has been raised in the first two weeks.”

He asked: “When you do this community fundraising, what are you saying to the community? A lot of people have got relatives in some of these areas?”

Mr Rehman told him: “We have a mixed community. When we fundraise, it is not only for the Muslims. When we have a cause, the community will just come forward.”

The Princess, who wore an Alexander McQueen black pleated dress and a black and white headscarf, said: “It shows the strength of the community when you are coming together and supporting each other.”

In a lighter moment, the couple joined two schoolgirls who made hundreds of origami cranes to raise funds for the appeal – and guided the royals as they created the birds from paper.

Dila Haya, 14, and Lina Alkutubi, 15, made 700 cranes - a symbol of hope - as part of a fundraising effort by Waldegrave School in Twickenham which raised £10,000.

Dila told the Prince and Princess: “It is really important to fold cranes together, because it means that the more people fold one crane together, the more power they have.”

Source: Telegraph UK

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Manchester Mosque Attended By Suicide Bomber Salman Abedi Investigated By Charity Watchdog

By Jack Hardy

9 March 2023

The mosque attended by the Manchester Arena bomber is to be investigated by the charity watchdog.

The public inquiry into the atrocity last week concluded that Didsbury Mosque had played down its links to Salman Abedi and showed a “wilful blindness” to support within its congregation for the conflict in Libya.

Sir John Saunders also found that the evidence of Fawzi Haffar, the mosque’s chairman, was “unreliable” and that the mosque suffered from “weak leadership”.

The Charity Commission has now announced it is “actively considering” the findings of the inquiry and has “opened a regulatory compliance case to assess concerns raised” about Didsbury Mosque.

A spokesman said the watchdog had previously met with trustees at the mosque and consequently issued “advice and guidance”, as well as an action plan to improve its management and administration, with which it complied.

Sir John’s third and final report into the suicide bombing, which left 22 dead in May 2017, examined Abedi’s links within the local community and attendance at two mosques in Manchester.

While it found that the Al-Furqan Mosque “played no part in the radicalisation” of Abedi or his brother Hashem, the picture at Didsbury was “more complicated” and there were areas for improvement.

The report said that Mohammed El-Saeti, a former imam, was “generally truthful and reliable” but that Fawzi Haffar, the mosque’s chairman, was “unreliable and, at some points, his evidence lacked credibility”.

Sir John noted: “My impression was of a man who was describing what he wished the position had been, rather than what it in fact was.”

Mr Haffar had claimed that Abedi had rarely attended the mosque since he was a child and only discovered after the attack that the attacker’s father had previously held a call to prayer at the mosque.

However, Sir John said that Mr Haffar had “tended to downplay the strength of the links between the Abedi family and Didsbury Mosque in the years leading up to the attack” and that he was satisfied the Abedi brothers had attended the mosque for a “lengthy period”.

Sir John said that he accepted evidence Abedi gave El-Saeti a “hateful look” following a sermon criticising the Islamic State and al Qaeda in Libya.

His family had joined a campaign for the imam to be sacked, which the inquiry said “demonstrates the strength of connection between the Abedis and the mosque” and how the political situation in Libya was “a prominent issue within its premises”.

A video from July 2015 of a meeting in the mosque, later seized by police, showed Abedi’s father Ramadan playing a “prominent role”, but Mr Haffar said he could not identify the person involved.

“This footage represents strong evidence linking the Abedi family to Didsbury Mosque,” the inquiry said.

“Even if it is the case that in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the leadership of Didsbury Mosque did not have an understanding of the strength of the Abedi family’s links to the mosque, in the course of engaging with the Inquiry the leadership should have investigated matters more thoroughly and provided a more complete and accurate account of the Abedis’ connection.”

Following the report’s publication, the mosque said in the statement it did not agree with many of the inquiry’s conclusions.

Source: Telegraph UK

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Swedish parliament postpones new anti-terror bill to May

Atila Altuntas, Mehmet Solmaz 


An anti-terror legislation that was scheduled to pass in the Swedish parliament on Thursday has been postponed till May 3. The government initially planned the law to go into force on June 1.

According to Swedish media, the new counterterrorism bill will target the financing, aiding and propagation of terrorist groups. Traveling abroad to join or assist a terrorist group will also be penalized if the law goes into effect.

Speaking to Anadolu, Swedish parliament's press secretary Carina Larrson said the legislation is being seen by the Justice Committee.

Commenting on the government’s previous announcements that the law will be voted on March 7, and then on March 9 with a two-day delay, Carina said the government plans do not always match with the working schedule of the parliament.

Speaking to reporters following a meeting with the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Stockholm, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Sweden would fulfill its commitments towards Türkiye once the bill passes the parliament.

In order to approve its NATO membership bid, Ankara demands the Nordic country to take concrete actions to combat terrorist groups PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup attempt in Türkiye.

Sweden passed an anti-terror law last November, hoping that Ankara would approve Stockholm’s bid to join the transatlantic alliance. Türkiye says that the adopted laws were not sufficient enough and nothing much had been done to stop the activities of the terrorist groups.

While Türkiye was unsatisfied with the vague approach of Sweden, Ankara postponed a trilateral meeting after Swedish authorities allowed a Danish far-right politician to burn a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on Jan. 21.

The talks then restarted with a foreign ministerial-level meeting in Brussels on Thursday. Stockholm reiterated its determination to take the steps required under a trilateral memorandum signed in June by Sweden, Finland, and Türkiye during a NATO Summit held in Madrid.

In the face of criticism, Sweden's chief negotiator for NATO accession Oscar Stenstrom recently told Anadolu that their stance on terrorism is no longer the same.

"Yes, we have changed. And we have realized better the security concerns of Türkiye. This will also improve the security of Sweden.

"Sweden should and will never be a safe haven for any terrorist, and that's why we're also increasing our cooperation between our security services. We're dedicating more funds to these services and defense. We will be happy to cooperate together in NATO," Stenstrom said.

Türkiye has provided a list of wanted individuals to Sweden and is expecting the Scandinavian nation to take swift action to show that its demands are being truly realized. However, none of the convicts had been handed over to Türkiye yet.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently said he acknowledges Sweden made changes to its laws on terrorism and is also pledging to pass a new bill, but what Türkiye demands is a concrete action.

"There are pledges (by Sweden and Finland) to NATO membership. It is not possible for us to say 'yes' to Sweden's NATO membership without seeing these steps. Everyone should see clearly that Sweden, particularly, is not fulfilling its obligations. That's the reason why we said 'yes' for the meeting to be held in Brussels,” Cavusoglu said.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Boko Haram kills 26 in surprise attacks in Nigeria’s northeast

Olanrewaju Kola 



At least 26 people have been killed in surprise attacks by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria’s volatile northeastern state of Borno, police said Thursday.

Borno Police Commissioner Abdu Umar told reporters the terrorists carried out separate attacks on a police base in the town of Magumeri and on dozens of fishermen in the town of Dikwa in Borno, which was once captured by Boko Haram.

"In Dikwa, Boko Haram killed 25 fishermen. One person was also injured," said Umar.

He said a large number of terrorists attacked a police special team in Magumeri, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the scene of the first incident.

"Boko Haram attacked our location. They were in large number. We exchanged fire with them. We lost one of our men, but the attack was repelled," he said.

He said a police patrol vehicle stolen by the terrorists was recovered through the intervention of the military forces in the area.

The fishermen in Dikwa were scavenging for metal and iron from houses destroyed in previous attacks by terrorists in remote villages in the area for fishing tools when Boko Haram ambushed them.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Insightful Comments: Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs Wades In, Asks Security Agencies to Be Decisive

By Waliat Musa

10 March 2023

The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), under the leadership of its President-General and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, has advised Nigerians to refrain from inciteful comments and threats to life over the just concluded 2023 presidential elections.

In a statement, yesterday, by Deputy Secretary-General and Director of Administration of the group, Prof. Salisu Shehu and Zubairu Haruna Usman-Ugwu, he warned those making inflaming comments to desist, stressing that Nigeria remains an indivisible nation.

The group commended the leadership and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for professionalism in the conduct of the elections. It noted innovations introduced by the Commission, especially use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), though there were daunting challenges experienced.

According to the group, the display of professionalism has not only improved the electoral process but also added to credibility of the results. It said there has been outpouring of commendations by members of the public, including non-governmental organisations and international bodies.

According to the statement, the level of unwarranted provocation and unnecessary heating up of the polity is worrisome and capable of creating disunity and threatening the security of the nation. It appealed to all Nigerians to exercise decorum, be peaceful, prayerful and law-abiding in the face of current unwarranted provocations.

The group called on politicians who feel aggrieved by the outcome of the elections to seek redress through appropriate legal channels, as provided for in the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, rather than resort to violence and unlawful acts.

The statement reads in part: “The Council has observed with serious concern the high level of unsubstantiated claims, threats and incitement emanating from certain quarters of the country, especially from people who ought to be preachers of peace and serve as moral compass for the society, consequent to the declaration of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the 2023 presidential election.

“The Council appeals to all Nigerians to exercise decorum, be peaceful, prayerful and law-abiding in the face of the current unwarranted provocations. It also calls on security agencies to be proactive and rise to their responsibilities by decisively dealing with unlawful utterances and actions of such elements and individuals, no matter their status, who have continued to fan the embers of disunity and discord in the country. ”

Source: Guardian Nigeria

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Muslim groups congratulate President-elect, Tinubu

By Shakirah Adunola

10 March 2023

ANSAR-UD-DEEN Society of Nigeria, The Companion (Association of Muslim men in business and professions) and the Chief Imam of Lagos State have congratulated the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu over his victory in the Presidential election.

The groups felicitated with all Nigerians on the successful conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, especially for their doggedness and resilience while the results of the polls were being awaited.

The Ansar-Ud-Deen Society, in a statement signed by ADS National Publicity Secretary, Muhammed Sola Hassan, appealed to those who were unable to win to remain calm and be conscious of the fact that we have no other country but Nigeria.

“It is not uncommon that elections do bring dissatisfaction and grievances even in advanced democracies, but such dissatisfaction and grievances are pursued within the ambits of the law and our own should not be different, so as not to breed unintended consequences, which may be detrimental to the continued survival of Nigeria,” the group stated.

It urged political stakeholders to be careful and exercise caution in their behaviours and utterances in the interest of a peaceful transition of political power.

“We equally appeal to all our politicians to extend an olive branch to their counterparts across the divide, sue for peace to allow for monumental development of the country.”

The group congratulated INEC for its efforts so far and implored it to muster courage and determination to ensure the successful completion of all the electoral processes. “We also appeal to them to continue doing everything humanly possible to improve the election processes.

“We, especially congratulate the president-elect and urge him to put machinery in motion to reconcile with all aggrieved contestants to move the country forward as there is strength in unity.

“On this note, we are of the firm belief that the most important issues confronting the country are economic and security issues. We pray that Almighty Allah will help the president-elect and his team to achieve the aspirations of all Nigerians, as we hope for a better country for us and generations yet unborn,” the group said.

A statement issued by The National Amir of Companion, Engr. Kamil Olalekan and the General Secretary, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdulkadir said Nigerians no doubt deserve commendation for resisting all diabolical attempts at aborting the country’s democratic process amidst calls for cancellation of the process by some disgruntled elements.

The Companion, however, saluted the courage mustered by the outgoing President, Muhammadu Buhari to carry out electoral reforms, which culminated in the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the bravery of the Chairman of the Independent NationalElectoral Commission (INEC) to complete the collation exercise in the face of intimidation, threats and insults.

“We advise parties dissatisfied with outcome to explore the constitutional mechanism to redress their grievances instead of resulting to self-help,” Olalekan said.

While extolling the virtues and hands of fellowship extended by Tinubu to his co-contestants Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Mr Peter Obi and Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso among others, the Muslim group enjoins them and indeed all Nigerians to rally round the president-elect in the determination to reposition the country for renewed hope for a secured and economically viable nation.

The group reiterated that since it is only Allaah that enthrones leadership, it is expedient for Tinubu to be magnanimous in victory while his co-contestants in the election concede defeat in the spirit of sportsmanship.

It said: “We urged all Nigerians from all political zones of the country to cooperate with, and support the chosen one, to engender mass determination for even national development.”

The Companion urges the president-elect to consider competence, national spread and adequate youth representation in the composition of his cabinet, while praying to Almighty Allah to grant him the strength and wisdom to actualise the ‘Renewed Hope” slogan adopted in his electioneering campaign.

The Chief Imam of Lagos State, Sheikh Sulaimon Oluwatoyin Abou-Nolla, said Tinubu’s victory was a reward for long years of hard work and consistency in pursuing a worthy goal.

According to him, Tinubu’s emergence should excite Nigerians because his presidency would impact positively the socio-economic development of the country.

Tinubu, he said, has good exposure to how to improve the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) without inconveniencing the downtrodden.

He urged Nigerians,especially the political class to join hands with him to move the country forward.

Sheikh Sulaimon beseeched Allah to grant Tinubu the wisdom, guidance, strength and courage to deliver on his promises.

The Lagos Chief Imam, however, enjoined the president-elect to select those who would work with him carefully, adding that his appointees could make or mar his administration.

Source: Guardian Nigeria

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Tunisia’s President Saied scraps post-revolution city councils

09 March ,2023

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Thursday moved to dissolve the country’s elected municipal councils, seen as a key democratic gain after the 2011 revolt that sparked the Arab Spring.

Saied sacked the government in a 2021 power grab, and has since scrapped the post-revolution constitution, neutered parliament and seized far-reaching executive powers in what opponents say is a return to autocracy.

In a video published overnight into Thursday, Saied said a bill would soon be examined to “dissolve all local council and replace them with special delegations.”

The mandate of some 350 sitting mayors and municipal councilors was to expire in late April, theoretically meaning an election would take place.

The current councils were the product of a 2018 election won by independent lists and the Ennahdha party - which has dominated Tunisian politics since the revolution and is Saied’s arch-enemy.

Many councils have since seen bitter internal power struggles and by-elections.

In the video Saied said the country would “continue to march towards victory,” before accusing his critics of “playing the victim.”

“Today they demonstrate freely and claim there is tyranny as they march under police protection,” he said, referring to recent anti-government protests during which the police was deployed.

More than 20 political figures have been arrested in the North African country in recent weeks, mainly outspoken opponents of Saied.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Facing uproar, Tunisian president denies he’s stoking racism

March 09, 2023

TUNIS: Tunisia’s president has rejected accusations that he is stoking anti-Black racism, saying that he has sub-Saharan African friends and that his comments last month targeting migrants were misinterpreted by his enemies.

President Kais Saied drew international criticism and concern with those comments, in which he ordered a crackdown on sub-Saharan African migrants and lashed out at a perceived plot to erase Tunisia’s identity. The comments fanned racist abuse targeting Black people in Tunisia, and prompted some African countries to evacuate their citizens.

On Wednesday evening, at a meeting with the president of Guinea-Bissau, Saied denounced what he called a “malicious interpretation’’ of his comments, and issued a “blatant denial’’ that he is racist.

“I am African, and proud to be so,” he said in televised comments. He said some of his family members are married to sub-Saharan Africans and that he had friends in law school who were Africans. He also described Africans as “brothers.’’

He stuck by his call for a crackdown on illegal migration, however, and did not say anything to curb racist sentiment that has surged online and in the country’s streets.

And as Tunisian authorities have stepped up arrests of migrants without residency documents in recent weeks, Saied insisted that they are just upholding the law.

Saied has consolidated power and dismantled democratic gains in Tunisia since 2021, and in recent weeks several opposition figures have been arrested.

Both the European Union and the United States have voiced their concern about Saied’s position toward migrants and said they were closely watching developments.

The World Bank earlier this week advised its staff that it was temporarily pausing its Country Partnership Framework with Tunisia — one aspect of its work with the North African country, citing its “core values of inclusion, respect and anti-racism in all shapes and forms.”

More than 100 migrants are camped outside the International Organization for Migration office in Tunisia. The UN agency said Wednesday it is working non-stop to help them.

Source: Arab News

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14 dead, 54 rescued off Tunisia in migrant boat sinking

March 10, 2023

TUNIS, Tunisia: At least 14 Africans died and 54 were rescued when a boat in which they were trying to reach Europe sank off the coast of Tunisia, the Tunisian National Guard said Thursday.

The 14 bodies were recovered overnight in the Mediterranean Sea off Tunisia’s central Sfax region, National Guard spokesperson Houssameddine Jbabli told the Associated Press. The National Guard said the migrants were from sub-Saharan Africa but did not release their nationalities.

On the same night, coast guard vessels thwarted 14 other boats carrying a total of 435 migrants attempting a similar journey from central and southern regions of Tunisia, Jbabli said.

People fleeing conflict or poverty routinely take boats from Tunisian shores toward Europe, even though the central Mediterranean is the most dangerous migration route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration. Many are from sub-Saharan Africa, but Tunisians and people of other nationalities are also among those risking the journey.

Source: Arab News

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Kenya’s opposition leader declares nationwide protests against President Ruto

Andrew Wasike 



Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga on Thursday announced the start of nationwide protests against President William Ruto.

The move comes after Odinga's 14-day ultimatum to the government to reduce the cost of living and open the 2022 presidential election servers lapsed Wednesday at midnight.

Speaking to hundreds of his supporters Thursday, Odinga launched the Movement for Defense of Democracy (MDD), an initiative he said was aimed at challenging the current regime.

“We have launched peaceful campaigns of defiance, peaceful picketing, protests, boycotts, strikes, disobedience, petitions, sit-ins and peaceful demonstrations, and it starts now,” he said.

He expressed disappointment with Ruto's administration, accusing it of failing to deliver on its election promises, thereby subjecting Kenyans to economic hardship.

The opposition leader said the planned protests would be peaceful but warned that his supporters would not be intimidated.

He declared March 20 as the date for the "mother of all protests," which is expected to bring the country to a standstill.

The announcement of the protests has caused jitters in the country, with businesses and ordinary citizens fearing for their safety.

Some have expressed concerns that the demonstrations could escalate into violence, as has been witnessed in the past.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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North America


US targets ‘shadow banking’ network helping Iran evade sanctions

10 March ,2023

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on 39 entities that Washington said facilitate Iran’s access to the global financial system, describing them as a “shadow banking” network that moves billions of dollars.

The US Treasury Department in a statement said those targeted had granted companies previously slapped with Iran-related sanctions, such as Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co (PGPICC) and Triliance Petrochemical Co Ltd, access to the international financial system and helped them hide their trade with foreign customers.

The latest US move against Iran comes as efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled, while ties between the Islamic Republic and the West have become increasingly strained as Iranians keep up anti-government protests.

Washington has targeted Chinese companies over the export of Iran’s petrochemicals as the prospects of reviving the nuclear pact have dimmed.

“Iran cultivates complex sanctions evasion networks where foreign buyers, exchange houses, and dozens of front companies cooperatively help sanctioned Iranian companies to continue to trade,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo.

He said the new measures showed the US commitment to enforcing sanctions and its “ability to disrupt Iran’s foreign financial networks, which it uses to launder funds.”

Liu Pengyu, spokesman for China’s embassy in Washington said the US actions had no basis in international law and were “typical unilateral sanctions and illegal ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ that were detrimental to Chinese interests.

“We deplore and reject this move,” he said, adding China had “actively promoted peace talks and sought a political solution” in Ukraine, while the United States “has been fanning the flame and fueling the fight with more weaponry.”

Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thursday’s move freezes any US assets of those designated and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with them also risk being hit by sanctions.

Many of the entities designated on Thursday are based in the UAE and Hong Kong, according to the Treasury website. The Treasury accused companies operating out of Hong Kong - including Foraben Trading Limited, Hongkong Well International Trading Limited, and Salita Trade Limited - of transferring millions of dollars related to petrochemical sales to China.

The Treasury Department’s top sanctions official, Brian Nelson, traveled to the UAE earlier this year, where he planned to warn officials about “poor sanctions compliance,” a department spokesperson said at the time.

Nelson also visited Turkey on the trip to warn that Washington will continue to aggressively enforce its sanctions.

Among those designated on Thursday were two Turkey-based entities, as well as Iran-based Mehr Petrochemical Company.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Pentagon chief holds talks overshadowed by violence, protests

09 Mar 2023

TEL AVIV: Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin held talks in Israel today as flaring violence killed three suspected Palestinian militants and protesters again rallied against the hard-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Thousands of Israelis opposed to the government’s controversial legal reform plans blocked roads in and around Israel’s Ben Gurion airport, forcing an 11th-hour change of venue for Austin’s talks, throwing an international spotlight on Israel’s domestic divisions.

Just hours before Austin’s arrival, three suspected Palestinian militants were shot dead by undercover agents of Israel’s border police in the occupied West Bank despite a UN call for restraint to halt the “cycle of violence” that has gripped the territory this year.

Austin’s meeting with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant was moved from the defence ministry in Tel Aviv to near Ben Gurion airport in the face of large protests at the airport and near the ministry.

Netanyahu also met the Pentagon chief at the same venue, his office said.

Their talks came ahead of Netanyahu’s planned departure for Rome later today, which protesters had sought to obstruct using their vehicles to block access roads to the airport.

One of them, Ori Gal, 18, said he was protesting against “the dictatorship emerging from the sewers” and “threatening Israeli democracy”.

Near the defence ministry in Tel Aviv, protesters on foot blocked a major thoroughfare, an AFP photographer reported.

Smaller demonstrations were taking place at various locations around the country, forcing Netanyahu to travel to the airport by helicopter instead of by car.

Nine straight weeks of protests have been held by opponents of the reform plans, which would give politicians greater power over the courts. They have drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators who regard the proposals as a threat to democracy.

Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said he had instructed police to prevent protesters from blocking roads.

“Demonstrate, yell, it’s a democracy,” he said. “But anarchy won’t be tolerated.

“I won’t have the lives of 70,000 people ruined,” he said, referring to the estimated number of passengers booked to depart from the airport on Thursday.

Dozens of travellers were seen heading to the departures area on foot with their luggage, weaving their way through the stationary lines of protesters’ cars.

Mounting West Bank violence

The mounting violence in the West Bank has coincided with the tenure of Netanyahu’s coalition government, which took office in December and is regarded as the most right-wing in Israeli history.

On Thursday morning, the Palestinian health ministry announced the “martyrdom” of three men shot by Israeli forces in Jaba, near the flashpoint northern city of Jenin.

The health ministry identified the dead men as Sufyan Fakhoury, 26, Ahmed Fashafsha, 22, and Nayef Malaysha, 25. It did not provide further details.

Israeli police said special forces accompanied by soldiers had been in Jaba to arrest suspects involved in shooting attacks against soldiers in the area, including Fakhoury and Fashafsha.

It said the pair were operatives of militant group Islamic Jihad.

“During the operation, shots were fired at the border police undercover officers from the wanted men’s car. Border police undercover officers responded with fire, and killed the three armed men in the car,” police said, adding that Malaysha was also a suspected militant.

“A number of guns and explosive devices were found in the vehicle,” the police statement said.

In a statement, Islamic Jihad condemned Israel for the “heinous assassination” in Jaba.

A Tuesday raid by the Israeli military in Jenin left seven Palestinians dead, including a member of Hamas accused of killing two Israeli settlers last month.

UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland called on both Israel and the Palestinians Wednesday “to observe calm and restraint”, saying the “cycle of violence… must be stopped immediately.”

The Palestinian health ministry identified the seventh fatality from Tuesday’s raid as Walid Nassar, 14.

Some observers fear further violence particularly around Jerusalem’s holy sites during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins in late March, and the Jewish holiday of Passover in April.

Since the start of the year, the conflict has claimed the lives of 75 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Pentagon chief pushes Netanyahu to reduce anti-Palestinian violence


March 09, 2023

RAMALLAH: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told Israeli leaders on Thursday to take steps to reduce tensions in the occupied West Bank, amid growing worries in Washington that the situation could distract the allies from their efforts to counter threats from Iran.

The Pentagon chief, who is on a regional tour, landed at Ben Gurion Airport for a visit that had been hastily rescheduled due to a surge in street protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the judiciary.

Hours earlier, Israeli forces killed three Palestinian militants in the West Bank in the latest outbreak of violence in the region.

A Pentagon statement about Austin’s meeting with Netanyahu said: “Secretary Austin called for a halt in unilateral actions that undermine the enduring goal of two states, with Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice, and dignity.”

Austin and Netanyahu’s meeting at the airport lasted for more than an hour.

“Secretary Austin is perfectly capable of having conversations about both issues [West Bank and Iran],” a senior US defense official, preferring anonymity, told Reuters.

However, the official added that Israel’s preoccupation with the West Bank “detracts from our ability to focus on what the strategic threat is right now, and that is Iran’s dangerous nuclear advances and continuing regional and global aggression.”

Palestinians in Jenin expressed outrage over the killing of three Palestinians in the village of Jaba, south of Jenin, early on Thursday.

The killings brought the number of Palestinians killed by Israelis since the beginning of the year to 78, including 14 children and a woman, 33 of them from the Jenin area.

Palestinian Authority officials and leaders strongly condemned Israel’s belligerence, and vowed retaliation.

Jenin Gov. Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub told Arab News that the aim of the disproportionate use of force against Jenin was to break Palestinian will and to intimidate residents in the rest of the cities so that they would not resist the occupation.

Rajoub said the Israeli military measures constituted a collective punishment for Palestinians.

He added: “The Israelis must realize that no matter how much terror they use against the Palestinian people, they will not be able to break their will.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has stressed the importance of reaching a just solution to the Palestinian cause to achieve stability in the Middle East.

During a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart in Moscow, the Saudi minister praised the Russian position on the Palestinian cause and its continued support for international resolutions and the Arab peace initiative.

He said the situation in Palestine was worrying due to the dangerous escalation by Israel, which made it imperative to search for a way to restore the path of dialogue to achieve peace.

Palestinian activists have posted a video of gunmen shooting down a Thor drone during the Jenin operation.

Palestinian fighters target Israeli drones in the West Bank, and the Thor flies at low altitudes to photograph potential target areas.

Israeli forces last October used more than 20 drones in Al-Yasmina neighborhood, in the old city of Nablus, to target the Lions’ Den group, resulting in several casualties.

Separately, an internal debate is going on among Palestinians about the effectiveness of their protests against Israel.

Abdul-Muneim Wahdan, assistant vice president of the Fatah movement, told Arab News that strikes were an ancient method of protest and no longer effective.

He said: “It is indeed important to express our anger at the fall of martyrs, but if these martyrs were alive, they would not be happy to see that we declare a strike to express our respect for them.

“When we close the city, we protest against whom? We only punish Palestinian society and add to its burdens. A strike is no longer an appropriate form of expressing our anger at the fall of the martyrs.

Source: Arab News

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US says diplomacy 'won't be our last resort' if Iran reluctant to negotiate over its nuclear program

Servet Günerigök 



The US said Thursday that diplomacy is its primary means of halting Iran's nuclear program but not the last option if Tehran remains reluctant to negotiate over it.

"Diplomacy is always going to be our first resort, but if we aren’t met with a willing partner on the other end, it won’t be our last resort," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

"So we’re always engaged in consultations with allies and partners around the world about this challenge because it is a challenge that has implications for our friends around the world," he said.

The remarks came in response to a question by Anadolu on Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant's comments during a press conference with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

"The Iranian nuclear threat requires us to be prepared for every course of action," Gallant said.

Asked whether the US shares the same assessment, Price said Washington shares the assessment that Iran’s nuclear program is an urgent challenge.

"We have a solemn commitment that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon. We are determined to make good on that commitment. We believe the most effective means by which to fulfill that commitment is through diplomacy," he added.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US defense secretary praises Egypt's role in easing Israeli-Palestinian tension

Mohammad Rajawi


US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has hailed Egypt's role in easing tensions between Israel and Palestinians.

Austin met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on Wednesday as part of a regional tour that also included Jordan. Egyptian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Mohamed Zaki attended the meeting.

During the meeting, the US defense secretary reaffirmed “the United States' commitment to the bilateral relationship and exchange views on shared regional and global security challenges,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Austin “praised Egypt's regional and global leadership, in particular thanking the President for Egypt's role mediating Israeli-Palestinian tensions,” the statement said.

According to the statement, talks between the two sides dwelt on developments regarding "Russia's unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, its global economic consequences, and the threat that this conflict poses to the rules-based international order.”

“The Secretary highlighted US solidarity with Egypt in the face of the economic hardship caused by Russia's brutal, unprovoked, and unjustified war,” it added.

Austin “emphasized the United States' enduring commitment to the region and reinforced that progress on fundamental freedoms and human rights further strengthens our bilateral relationship,” the statement said.

The Pentagon chief also met with his Egyptian counterpart during which he “praised Egypt for taking command of the Combined Maritime Forces' Task Force 153, which focuses on Red Sea security”.

Austin highlighted the “upcoming combined exercise, BRIGHT STAR 23, as a demonstration of Egypt's leadership and the strength of continued US-Egypt cooperation to improve regional security and credible deterrence.”

He also affirmed “his commitment to enhancing interoperability between US and Egyptian armed forces,” the statement said.

In Dec. 2022, Egyptian naval forces assumed new international missions in the Red Sea, including the Bab al-Mandab and the Gulf of Aden, after assuming command of Task Force 153 for the first time, which was established by the US in April 2022.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US House votes against resolution to pull American troops out of Syria

Rabia İclal Turan 


By Rabia İclal Turan

WASHINGTON (AA) - The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday against a resolution directing the Biden administration to withdraw all US troops from Syria.

The war powers resolution was submitted by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz and was rejected in a 103-321 vote, with 47 Republicans and 56 Democrats voting "Yes."

The bill cited section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, directing President Joe Biden to remove US armed forces from Syria within 180 days after the adoption of the resolution.

Among the Republicans who backed Gaetz's resolution were Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Anna Paulina Luna of Florida.

In his address to the House, Gaetz questioned how Syria has become "the great platform of great power competition in the world."

Recalling that security forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad opened fire when anti-government protests erupted in the country in 2011, he said there were "a whole lot of weapons and money being sent from the rich Gulf monarchies through Jordan into Syria."

Accusing Iran of "activating Hezbollah" and "invading Syria," he noted that Russia is also "pitching their vision of the world as a regime preservation force."

He added that Israel cut "a deal with Russia to keep Iran out of southern Syria."

"Now, all of a sudden you've got the Kurds who declare war on Syria, and it makes it a little messy that the Kurds are also in conflict with Turkey, which is a NATO ally," he continued.

Adding that the US got involved in “this mess in Syria” in 2015, he said: "And since we have been there, we have seen Americans die, we have seen tens of billions of dollars wasted."

On the fight against Daesh/ISIS, Gaetz said he would encourage his colleagues to "go read the inspector general's report of the last quarter, which indicates that ISIS is not a threat to the homeland,” also noting that Türkiye is conducting operations against Daesh/ISIS in Syria.

"I do not believe what stands between a caliphate and not a caliphate are the 900 Americans who have been sent to this hellscape with no definition of victory, no clear objective, and purely existing as a vestige to the regime-change failed foreign policies of multiple former presidents," he said.

Some 900 US troops are currently deployed in Syria, and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley visited northern Syria this weekend.

According to US media reports, reporters traveling with Milley asked if he believed the deployment of around 900 US troops to Syria was worth the risk.

“If you think that that's important, then the answer is 'Yes,’” he said.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US Senate committee votes to end authorization for war on Iraq

10 March 2023

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has voted to advance a bill that seeks to repeal two authorizations for past US invasions of Iraq, preparing the ground for a possible vote in full Senate before the 20th anniversary of the last invasion.

Voting 13-8 on Wednesday, the committee approved the bill to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs) against Iraq.

The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the next few weeks which will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

“This is about ending endless wars and reasserting Congress’ Constitutional role in matters of war, peace, and diplomacy,” Democrat Tim Kaine, one of the sponsors of the legislation, tweeted.

The bill appears to enjoy the support of Senate leadership, as Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer highlighted last week the “need to put the Iraq War behind us once and for all.”

The Biden administration claimed in December 2021 that the US combat mission in Iraq has ended. He said, however, that 2,500 troops will remain on Iraqi soil on an “advise and assist” mission.

The 2002 resolution, dubbed the “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” (AUMF), was overwhelmingly passed by the US Congress, granting the American president permission to wage military action – without the need for any Congressional approval – as laid out in the specific terms set in the legislative measure.

The resolution was used by former US president George W. Bush to invade Iraq in 2003. However, the next presidents also used that despite the war in Iraq having ended.

One of the latest instances of reference to this resolution was in early January 2020, when ex-president Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, along with the deputy chief of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

There have been several campaigns to repeal the AUMFs in the past few years.

Efforts for repealing the resolution come as there is still a wider-ranging 2001 AUMF in place which was adopted in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Also on Wednesday, Republican Senator Rand Paul proposed an amendment to repeal the 2001 authorization, which was rejected by a 20-1 vote.

“It was originally intended to go after those who attacked us on 9/11, yet presidents have, for over two decades, abused the AUMF to justify military operations in at least 22 countries and against groups that did not exist on 9/11,” Paul tweeted.

The congressional authorization has been applied entirely in Muslim-majority countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

Source: Press TV

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US sanctions 'China-based network helping Iran procure drones'

09 March 2023

The United States has imposed sanctions on an alleged China-based network over, claiming it is helping Iran procure unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) slapped the sanctions on Thursday against "a network of five companies and one individual for supporting Iran’s UAV procurement efforts," the Treasury said in a statement.

The network "is responsible for the sale and shipment of thousands of aerospace components, including components that can be used for UAV applications," it added.

In July 2021, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US was planning a sanctions campaign against Iran’s defensive drones and guided missiles program, six months after the administration of President Joe Biden was sworn in.

Citing unnamed US officials, the daily said at the time that the sanctions were aimed at disrupting the development of Iran’s weapons program, which, the Islamic Republic has invariably defined as a purely defensive program that does not pose any threat to any foreign country.

Washington targeted Iran's UAV industry last time in January, imposing sanctions against an Iranian drone manufacturer under the unsubstantiated and disproven pretext that the Islamic Republic had provided Russia with the UAVs to be used by Moscow against Ukraine.

The Islamic Republic has, on repeated occasions, roundly rejected Washington's allegations.

Last December, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani said Ukrainian officials had failed to provide any evidence for their claim that Russia was using Iranian drones in its war on Ukraine.

Source: Press TV

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US sanctions 39 entities facilitating Iran’s oil-related banking operations

09 March 2023

The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on dozens of entities accused of helping Iran evade Washington’s bans on Iran’s access to the global financial system.

The sanctions announced on Thursday covered 39 entities, including many based in the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong, according to the Treasury website.

The designated entities have been accused of granting Iranian and foreign companies involved in the trade of Iranian oil and petroleum products an access to the international banking system.

The Treasury described the entities as a “shadow banking” network that helped Iran-related companies hide their trade with foreign customers.

Iranian officials have yet to comment on the new sanctions. The Reuters news agency, which first reported on the bans, said it had not received any immediate response to a request for comment from Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York.

That comes as Iranian government has downplays the impact of US sanctions on its ability to export oil and petroleum products and to receive payments for the shipments.

Latest statement by Iranian Oil Ministry and reports by international tanker tracking services show that Iran has been shipping record amounts of oil to Asian customers since late 2022.

Sales of Iranian petroleum products and petrochemicals have also increased over the last year with customs figures showing the country has earned tens of billions of dollars from such exports.

However, US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo claimed in a Thursday statement that the new sanctions are a sign of US “ability to disrupt Iran's foreign financial networks.”

Source: Press TV

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Arab World


Nasrallah: End of Israel close; resistance ready for main battle

09 March 2023

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah says the resistance front in the region is more powerful than ever despite a myriad of challenging facing it and ready for the main battle. 

"Despite the challenges that the axis of resistance is facing today, it has become more coherent and stronger and is ready with a strong will to respond to any major aggression of the Zionist regime that targets the region," he said.

Nasrallah made the remarks in a private meeting with about 200 intellectual, political and media figures from Arab and Islamic countries in Beirut on Wednesday night, Iran's Nournews reported. 

Nasrallah said although the enemy is trying to influence the minds of the youth with a cognitive warfare, the main battle is the battle for the freedom of Palestine.

"We are fully prepared for this battle and we are waiting for the zero hour," he said.

Nasrallah touched on the political turmoil in Israel where hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in recent months to vent anger at the extremist direction of the entity.

"A big war is taking place in Occupied Palestine, and considering the scale of what the Zionist regime is facing, the end of this fake regime is so close that it may happen at this stage," he said.

Protests have taken place across the occupied territories over the past two months.

On Thursday, military forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters who had blocked traffic into the departures area at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv.

They arrested several people during "the day of resistance" protests which were timed to coincide with Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin's arrival and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip abroad.

Austin had to hastily reschedule the visit due to a surge in street protests against Netanyahu's plan to overhaul the judiciary.

On Thursday, Nasrallah said the United States has failed miserably to implement its plots in the Middle East region, referring the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq where Washington did not achieve any of its goals.

“America failed in Iraq and Afghanistan; and its project in the Middle East fell short accordingly,” he said.

Nasrallah touched on a de facto sanctions regime which the US and its allies are implementing against Lebanon, warning that the aim is to have the Lebanese people lose hope and submit to Western demands.

The so-called Caesar Act imposed by the US has hindered the Arab country’s economic cooperation with its neighbors. Meanwhile, creditors under the US influence such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have conditioned the release of billions of dollars in emergency loans to specific reforms.

"We must not give up. Don't expect us to give up. We also say to those who threaten us with murder and siege that we will not surrender with murder and our will will not be shaken in any way. We believe that there is a solution," Nasrallah said.

"We should not submit to international and regional conditions, because those who surrendered were not saved," he added.

Nasrallah recalled that the Israeli enemy sought to instill a spirit of despair and desolation among the Lebanese nation following the 1982 invasion of the Arab country.

“The Lebanese resistance front, however, started from a position of hope, and stated it could wipe out the Israeli clout. The resistance front rekindled hope among the Lebanese people, and it was the main reason behind straight victories in the fight against the Israeli enemy,” the Hezbollah chief said.

Nasrallah pointed to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000 and Israel's defeat in the 33-day military onslaught against Lebanon back in the summer of 2006 as two major achievements of such a strong belief in the Axis of Resistance.

The Hezbollah leader also made a reference to the 1985 car bombings in the western Beirut suburb of Bir al-Abed, stating that the US was behind the failed assassination attempt against Shia cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, which killed 80 people and injured 200 others.

“The US perpetrated the Bir Al-Abed massacre, in which most of the victims were civilians. Some of the fatalities included pregnant women and they were killed on the International Women’s Day,” he said.

Source: Press TV

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Saudi judiciary undergoing rapid modernization, says Board of Grievances head

March 09, 2023

RIYADH: Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Yousef, the head of Saudi Arabia’s Board of Grievances and chairman of the Saudi Administrative Judicial Council, has noted the tangible development and rapid modernization of the judiciary during the era of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Speaking at the School of Law at the Southern Methodist University in the US, Al-Yousef said judicial systems were being created and digitized, while legislation was being developed in line with the Kingdom’s commercial and cultural openness.

He also spoke of the qualitative shift that the Saudi judiciary has undergone through the digitization of all the steps of the litigation and administrative services.

Al-Yousef focused in his speech on describing creative developments undertaken by the Saudi judiciary, in terms of modernizing systems, improving outputs, and reducing litigation periods.

Source: Arab News

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Saudi Arabia ready to facilitate dialogue between Russia, Ukraine: FM

09 March ,2023

Saudi Arabia is ready to facilitate dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Thursday.

“The Kingdom is ready to mediate to resolve the crisis in Ukraine,” Prince Faisal said during a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

Prior to the conference, the Saudi foreign minister and Lavrov discussed international developments, including the war in Ukraine, bilateral ties, and the stability of oil markets.

Both ministers voiced the importance of furthering these ties, with the Saudi diplomat noting that Saudi Arabia seeks to strengthen and develop relations with Russia on all levels.

“We [also] confirm our keenness to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in all fields,” Lavrov said during the press conference.

Regarding cooperation within OPEC+, Lavrov said that they had confirmed consistent implementation of commitments, while Prince Faisal reaffirmed the Kingdom’s keenness to maintain the stability of the global oil market.

Asked about the situation in Yemen, Prince Faisal said the Kingdom seeks to launch an intra-Yemeni dialogue to end the conflict.

“We seek to reach a permanent ceasefire in Yemen and then launch a political process,” he told reporters.

Commending Saudi Arabia’s efforts to resolve conflicts, particularly in Ukraine and Yemen, Lavrov blamed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s refusal to hold dialogue with Moscow as the reason for the continuing aggression.

Source: Al Arabiya

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No Loudspeakers, Iftar Inside Mosques: Saudi Arabia Imposes Restrictions on Ramadan Practices This Year

MARCH 09, 2023

There will be no loudspeakers, no itikaf without ID, no broadcast of prayers and no iftar inside mosques as Saudi Arabia announced a set of rules and restrictions on the practice of the holy month of Ramadan this year.

Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance Sheikh Dr Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz Al-Alsheikh gave 10-point directions as Ramadan is approaching for the year 1444 AH.

The government also requested worshipers not to bring children to mosques as this would disturb the worshipers and cause them to lose their reverence.

Itikaf is the practice in Islam where people from the community seclude themselves during the final 10 days of Ramadan in a Masjid with the intention of solely dedicating their time to the worship of Allah.

Here are 10 points from the order: 

As per the order, imams and muezzin should not be absent in the holy month of Ramadan. If necessary, they should assign the person performing the work for the period of absence and this mandate shall be with the approval of the Ministry’s branch in the region and the one on behalf has undertaken not to breach the responsibility. Absence shall not exceed the allowable period.

Adherence to Umm al-Qura Calendar, emphasis on raising the adhan “call for prayer of the Asha prayer on time in Ramadan, and the iqamah" performance of prayers according to the approved period for each prayer.

Taking into account people’s conditions in Tarawih prayers, the completion of Tahajjud’s prayers in the last 10 days of Ramadan with enough time before Fajr adhan so it won’t be hardship on worshippers.

Abiding by the Prophet’s guidance in Qunot “Duaa supplication at Tarawih Prayer and non-prolongation, and being limited to Jawame Duaa and the sahih supplications, and avoid hymns and intonation.

The importance of reading some useful books on the mosque group, according to circulars which regulates that.

Adhering to the directives issued regarding the controls for installing cameras in mosques, not using them to photograph the imam and worshipers during the performance of the prayers, and not transmitting the prayers or broadcasting them in the media of all kinds.

That the imam be responsible for authorizing the itikaaf, verifying that there are no violations from them, knowing the data of the itikaaf, and requesting the approval of the sponsor approved for non-Saudis, according to the directives notified in advance regarding the ‘tikaaf controls.

Not collecting financial donations for projects to iftar the fast (and others).

Iftar for the fasting people - if any - should be in the places prepared for that in the courtyards of the mosque, and under the responsibility of the imam and the muezzin, and that the one responsible for iftar the fast for the fasting person should clean the place immediately after finishing the iftar, and not create any temporary rooms or tents and the like to hold the iftar in them.

Source: News18

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Culture Ministry to organize Ramadan Season activities to revive cultural heritage of holy month

March 09, 2023

RIYADH — The Ministry of Culture is preparing to organize the activities of Ramadan Season 1444 AH across Saudi Arabia in order to revive the historical cultural heritage associated with the holy month.

The activities will be organized as part of a comprehensive cultural program in 14 cities distributed around 10 regions of Saudi Arabia. More than 38 locations will host lively, cultural, social and creative events throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan Season aims to celebrate the customs of Saudi society in the fasting month, introduce the authentic Saudi cuisine and present Ramadan culture in all its rich details in innovative ways, in addition to virtually sharing with the Islamic world a set of local cultural experiences.

The Season will also include a variety of activities, such as: live performances, handicrafts, riddles and competitions, sports tournaments, entertainment activities, historical exhibitions, and popular games, in addition to iftar and suhoor areas.

The Season will be celebrated with due respect to the unique character of Ramadan, based on the spatial cultural identity of the cities of Saudi Arabia. Its activities will start in Jeddah, which is considered as the gateway to the Two Holy Mosques. There will be diverse activities at Al-Balad Gate (Historic Jeddah), such as Ramadan stories, and many more.

Each event will include a range of activities including charity work, exhibitions on the history of Jeddah, restoration of historic mosques, printing of the Qur’an, popular restaurants, and others.

Source: Saudi Gazette

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Muslim World League chief meets with Archbishop of Canterbury

March 09, 2023

RIYADH: Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, met with Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, at his invitation at Lambeth Palace, London.

Saudi Arabia believes that religious harmony is the basis for coexistence, as it aims to combat hate speech in all its forms.

Following the meeting, Al-Issa tweeted: “Our views aligned on common issues. Especially, the need for religious leaders to cooperate on countering extremism and misuse of religion in politics and to promote shared values.”

Source: Arab News

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Permits for Umrah visits during Ramadan available through Nusuk app


March 09, 2023

RIYADH: Citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia and pilgrims from many other countries can now obtain permits to perform Umrah during Ramadan through the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s Nusuk app.

The ministry said the platform helps domestic and international pilgrims to find available Umrah dates during the holy month, based on the capacity of the Grand Mosque, choose the most suitable for their needs and obtain the necessary permits. The app can be downloaded from the Apple Store and Google Play.

To be eligible for a permit, pilgrims arriving from other countries must be in possession of a valid visa, the ministry said. It added that citizens and residents of the Kingdom can also obtain permits through the Tawakkalna app, provided that they do not have COVID-19 and have not been in contact with any infected persons.

The ministry urged all who wish to perform Umrah during Ramadan to ensure they obtain the required permits and stick to the specified date, to help avoid overcrowding. Pilgrims are only permitted to perform the ritual once during Ramadan.

Source: Arab News

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Islamic State kills three, steals sheep in central Syria

March 9, 2023

The Islamic State (IS) killed three people and stole hundreds of sheep in central Syria on Thursday, according to local reports.

IS attacked a group of people grazing sheep in the Salamiyah area east of the central city of Hama, shooting them with machine guns. The guerrilla group killed three people in the attack and stole more than 1,000 sheep, bringing them to the desert in eastern Syria, Syria’s official news outlet SANA.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the incident.

Why it matters: IS lost its last territory in Syria in 2019, but the group continues to carry out attacks in the country. In February, IS fighters opened fire on truffle hunters in eastern Syria, killing dozens, Agence France-Presse reported at the time.

The US-led anti-IS coalition said it arrested 198 and killed two “operatives” during missions in Syria in January, according to a press release.

Al-Monitor reported last October that IS was able to carry out more attacks against Kurdish-led forces in the northeast, in part due to lax security measures by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the area.

A March 2022 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted that IS has switched to carrying out attacks that “are not necessarily contingent on territorial control.”

“ISIS is using a pattern of tactics that are very similar to the ones they adopted prior to 2010 when they relied on traditional combat, attrition attacks and guerrilla wars,” read the report.

Source: Al Monitor

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Southeast Asia


Muhyiddin Yassin: Ex-Malaysia PM charged with corruption over Covid spending

By Frances Mao & Jonathan Head

Malaysia's former prime minister who led during the height of the pandemic has been charged with corruption - a move that ratchets up already bitter political tensions.

Muhyiddin Yassin, 75, was arrested just months after losing an election to PM Anwar Ibrahim in November.

The former PM has been accused of bribery and money laundering through his government's Covid spending fund.

He rejects the allegations, which his supporters say are politically driven.

The criminal case aimed at the leader of the conservative opposition alliance comes ahead of crucial state elections in July.

Mr Muhyiddin is now the second former Malaysian prime minister to face corruption charges, after Najib Razak was jailed to 12 years for corruption involving the state's 1MDB investment firm.

Now the leader of a Malay-ethnic, Muslim alliance, Mr Muhyiddin ran the country from 2020 to 2021 for 17 months.

He has a long-time rivalry with current PM Anwar. The two have a history of political betrayals that has fuelled a long enmity.

Multiple charges of bribery and money laundering were laid against the former leader in a Kuala Lumpur court on Friday.

Prosecutors have accused him of sourcing $51m (£42m) in bribes from companies who hoped to benefit from an emergency government spending programme. They have also alleged two instances of money laundering through the fund.

If convicted he faces 20 years in prison. Mr Muhyiddin entered a not guilty plea in court on Friday and was released on bail - although his passport was withheld.

The opposition leader was charged just a day appearing at an anti-corruption watchdog's probe into the allegations.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission launched the probe in February, freezing his party's bank accounts. Two former party leaders have also been arrested on corruption charges.

The incident further fuels tensions in Malaysian politics.

Mr Muhyiddin's conservative ethnic-Malay, Muslim alliance was most popular among the country's majority Malay voter population in November's election.

But PM Anwar Ibrahim eventually secured power with a progressive, multi-ethnic coalition - after joining up with the once all-powerful but now disgraced United Malays National Organisation party (UMNO) which has been tainted by corruption. Anwar's deputy, the current UMNO leader, is also facing corruption charges.

July's state elections are being widely seen as a test of support for the current prime minister.

That has added to the strong belief among many of Mr Muhyiddin's supporters that his prosecution is political.

The case is being viewed by many Malaysians through the prism of intense rivalries which have shaken the country's politics since the historic defeat five years ago of the once unbeatable UMNO.

Source: BBC

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Penang Islamic council refutes Zainul Asri’s mosque allegations

09 Mar 2023

GEORGE TOWN, March 9 — The Penang Islamic Religious Council (MAINPP) today strongly refuted allegations by an independent preacher, Zainul Asri Mohd Romli, that a mosque in the state has now been turned into a place of worship for non-Muslims.

MAINPP chairman, Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman, described the allegations as baseless and seen as creating misunderstandings between races and religions in the state.

He said that MAINPP had recently received a TikTok video clip featuring Zainul Asri delivering his lecture on Feb 14, when the misleading statement was issued.

“His (Zainul Asri) statement was: there is a mosque in Penang which has been turned into a temple. It used to belong to the Indian Muslim community. I don’t even know what happened; today it has become a place of worship for non-Muslims,”

“MAINPP strongly denies the wild accusation. As a matter of fact, referring to the Interim Register of the said lot, there were 20 original trustees for Kong Hock Keong Temple through the Court Order (Assignment of a Right) Volume 2, Fol. 61 on Dec 8, 1973,” he said in a statement today.

Ahmad Zakiyuddin, who is also Deputy Chief Minister 1, said that there was a change of trustees due to death, and that Lot 523 was derived from Lot 71 (2) TS. 19, Northeast district, and the land has grade one status.

“Originally, (referring to Deed Poll dated July 10, 1888), this land was owned by the trustees for Kong Hock Keong Temple, No. 30 Pitt Street, through Grant No. 2420 (1838), which is a grant from the Public Seal of the Colony, by the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Straits Settlements, Cecil C. Smith,” he said.

Source: Malay Mail

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Malaysia's parliament approves 2023 budget at policy stage

Amir Yusof

09 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s speaker of parliament declared the 2023 Budget passed at the policy stage on Thursday (Mar 9).

The budget was passed with a majority voice vote.

The 2023 budget is the first budget tabled by the government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who is also the country’s finance minister.

When the vote was called, most of the lawmakers from parties within Mr Anwar’s unity government were present. In comparison, only a handful of MPs from the opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition were seen in parliament.

PN leaders, including Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) president Muhyiddin Yassin as well as Parti Islam Se-Malaysia president Abdul Hadi Awang were not present in the  parliament when the vote was called.

In his speech wrapping up the budget debate on Thursday, Mr Anwar reiterated the government’s commitment to reduce national debt and aid those in poverty.

He also rebuffed comments by opposition MPs that some of the policies were unfair towards residents living in states controlled by PN.

“Believe me, I will ensure that the entire government machinery is focused on eradicating poverty from this year on,” said Mr Anwar.

“They (PN) were in government for three years. Look at the three budgets that they presented, the budget which I have tabled is way better than any of the budgets they put forth, including for the (opposition controlled) states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Perlis and Kedah. So to say we are evil is just not right.”

Earlier on Thursday, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) confirmed that Mr Muhyiddin had been detained after he was summoned to give his statement in connection to investigations into the Jana Wibawa programme.

It added that Mr Muhyiddin will be charged with several counts of corruption as well as money laundering on Friday.

With the budget now approved at the policy stage, debate at the committee stage will take place from next Monday to Mar 28, according to a calendar of events posted on the parliament website. During the committee stage, the budget for each ministry would be scrutinised in detail.

If passed at the committee stage, a third reading of the budget will be held in the Lower House before it goes to the Senate and is then submitted to the Malaysian king for royal assent.

The expansionary budget of RM388.1 billion (US$87.50 billion) was first tabled by Mr Anwar on Feb 24.

It is the largest in the country’s history, surpassing the RM322.1 billion that was tabled for the 2022 budget under former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration.

“This administration is taking an expansionary approach for the 2023 Budget in an effort to support economic growth so that its benefits can be enjoyed by all citizens,” said Mr Anwar in his speech during the tabling of the budget.

He outlined that out of the RM388.1 billion, RM289.1 billion will be allocated for operating expenditure and RM99 billion set aside for development expenditure - including RM2 billion reserved for contingencies.

A slew of measures aimed at lowering the cost of living amid high inflation as well as more progressive taxes were also announced by Mr Anwar.

Source: Channel News Asia

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Indonesia unveils construction site of new capital city

March 09, 2023

PENAJAM PASER UTARA, Indonesia: Orange-red ground has been broken in the jungle of East Borneo, where the Indonesian government has begun construction of its new capital city.

Officials promise a “sustainable forest city” that puts the environment at the heart of development and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2045. But the project has been plagued by criticism from environmentalists and Indigenous communities, who say it degrades the environment, further shrinks the habitat of endangered animals such as orangutans and displaces Indigenous people that rely on the land for their livelihoods.

Indonesia began construction of the new capital in mid 2022, after President Joko Widodo announced that Jakarta — the congested, polluted current capital that is prone to earthquakes and rapidly sinking into the Java Sea — would be retired from capital status.

Plans for the new capital — about twice the size of New York City — are grandeur. Officials tout the creation of a futuristic green city centered on forest, parks and food production that utilizes renewable energy resources, “smart” waste management and green buildings.

“We have to think beyond what is happening today and try to tackle (things) that are futuristic,” said Bambang Susantono, chairman of Nusantara National Capital Authority, speaking about the city’s design and ability to answer future challenges.

Digital renderings shared by the government show a city surrounded by forest, with people walking on tree-lined sidewalks and buildings with plant-covered rooftops surrounded by walking paths, ponds, clean creeks and lush forest.

Building architecture is inspired by modern urban towers combined with traditional Indonesian architecture: the presidential palace in the shape of a garuda — a mythical bird and the national symbol of Indonesia — and other buildings that give a stylistic nod to traditional architecture used by Indigenous groups around the archipelago.

In its current state, the new city is far from the tidy finish presented by its planners, but there is progress. Basuki Hadimuljono, Indonesia’s minister for public works and housing, said in February that the city’s infrastructure is 14 percent completed.

Some 7,000 construction workers are clearing, plowing and building the first phases of the site. Worker dormitories, basic roads and a helipad are already being used. Construction of key buildings — such as the presidential palace — is expected to be completed by August 2024.

Sites visited by The Associated Press in early March showed mounds of freshly turned earth with excavators and cranes around them. At least one site has a sign with a QR code that visitors can scan to see 3D visuals of what the area will look like when finished; others have printed signboards showing what’s to come.

The government has said it’s working to be considerate of the environment. Signs of a more-conscious approach to construction are visible: patches of trees remain fenced-off to protect them from machinery, a plant nursery has already started for the replanting process officials promise and industrial forest surrounds the site.

But with construction set to ramp up this year, environmentalists warn building a metropolis will speed up deforestation in one of the world’s largest and oldest stretches of tropical rainforest. Forests, called the lungs of the world, suck in planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and are home to numerous wildlife species. The island has already been compromised by palm oil plantations and coal mines.

Dwi Sawung, an infrastructure specialist at the Indonesian Forum for Living Environment, an environmental nongovernmental organization that has been monitoring the new capital project, said that the government’s plans lack consideration of the region’s unique wildlife like orangutans and sun bears. The new city cuts through an important animal corridor.

“The animals should be relocated first and then build the construction,” he said. “But since they need to hurry up, they just built the area without relocating the animals first.”

Experts have also expressed concerns about how the new capital will be powered. While the government vows the city will rely on a “smart energy” system, groups worry that some of the region’s coal-fired power plants could be used in the short term.

Indonesia has significant energy potential from solar, hydropower, geothermal, wind and other sources, but only some 12 percent of them are tapped, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. And while user-friendly public transport might keep cars off the city’s roads, there will likely be extensive air travel between the new capital and Jakarta, about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) away.

Indigenous groups that reside in the region and already lost parts of their land fear that urban sprawl from the new capital could make things even worse.

Officials have vowed to respect Indigenous rights and compensate those losing their homes. Local officials said they would verify all land claims and accept documents of proof of ownership, but much of the area is passed down through families without paperwork and not all tribal areas are formally recognized.

“We do not want to be relocated. We do not want they move our graves of our ancestors, or make changes or remove our historical site,” said Sibukdin, an Indigenous community leader, who like many in the country only uses one name and lives in Sepaku, a ward very close to the construction area.

Susantono said that Indigenous residents have “a couple of options for them to be included in the process” including compensation, relocation or share ownership of stores that will open.

“We are going to always persuade them and tell them about the future of the city,” he said. “Hopefully they will understand that this is for the sake of everybody.”

But as Indonesia continues to court investors, construction is moving forward, with the government planning to inaugurate the city on Aug. 17 next year to coincide with Indonesia’s Independence Day.

Source: Arab News

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