Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: North Africa may emerge as new ‘theatre of jihad’
India: Gujarat helped establish Islam in South East Asia
Tushar Prabhune, TNN
AHMEDABAD, Dec 27, 2011: Gujarat's flourishing trade with Southeast Asian countries in the 15th and 16th century is well known. But a lesser known fact is that the state played a pivotal role in establishing Islam in this region. The Portuguese invasion of Southeast Asia in the 17th century resulted in the decline in number of Gujaratis and their trade. Yet, there was no shrinking of their legacy.
"One of these legacies was Islam. There were influential scholars and teachers of Islam from Gujarat who, though few in number, planted the seeds of their belief in local disciples who in turn spread the word throughout the (Malay-Indonesian ) archipelago. Gujarat was also the base of Islamic scholars from the archipelago who returned home to propagate the religion," writes Leonard Andaya, a professor of Southeast Asian History at University of Hawaii at Manoa, in the book 'Gujarat and the Sea.' Two renowned Islamic teachers who served in Aceh, an important port town in Sumatra - Shaikh Muhammed Jailani and his nephew Nuruddin ar-Raniri - hailed from a community of Hadramis in Gujarat . Nuruddin later became one of the leaders of Islamic reformism in the Malay-Indonesian archipelago in the 17th century. Such was Nuruddin's influence at the court that the Dutch complained that Gujarati merchants were being favoured above all other. Moreover, several merchants, seamen and passengers on board Gujarati ships to Southeast Asia were Muslim, and hence no surprise that Gujarat played a role in the Islamisation process in southeast Asia, Andaya notes.
North Africa may emerge as new ‘theatre of jihad’
London, Dec. 26, 2011, The handful of remaining top Qaeda leaders are shifting their base from Pakistan and Afghanistan to nations like Libya, UK officials warned
North Africa could emerge as a new “theatre of jihad” with the handful of remaining top Al Qaeda leaders shifting their base from Pakistan and Afghanistan to countries like Libya, top British officials have warned.
“At least two relatively senior Al Qaeda figures have already made their way to Libya, with others intercepted en route, raising fears that north Africa could become a new “the
atre of jihad“ in coming months,“ the Guardian quoted senior officials as saying. “A group of very experienced figures from north Africa left camps in Afghanistan's (north-eastern) Kunar province where they have been based for several years and travelled back across West Asia,“ one source said. “Some got stopped but a few got through.“
The move to shift the base to Africa came after killing of senior Al Qaeda mem bers in an intense campaign of air strikes involving missiles launched from unmanned drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, an official said.
Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a US special forces raid in May in Pakistan’s Abbottabad.
Since then, many other high ranking leaders of the group have also been killed.
The paper said that senior British officials believe that a “last push” in 2012 is likely to definitively
destroy Al Qaeda's remaining “handful of the key players“. “It is unclear whether the moves from west Asia to north Africa are prompted by a desire for greater security... Or part of a strategic attempt to exploit the aftermath of the Arab Spring,“ the paper said, adding the move could be an effort to shift the centre of gravity of Al Qaeda's effort back to the homelands of the vast majority of its members. British foreign secretary William Hague recently warned that mercenaries driven out of Libya could switch allegiance to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In a recent communiqué, Zawahiri made a particular appeal to Libyan fighters not to lay down or hand in their weapons. British and US intelligence sources estimate that there are less than 100 “Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliated” militants in Afghanistan, of whom only “a handful” were seen to pose a threat to the UK or other western nations, the paper said.
Christian on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan cooks own meals for fear of poisoning
By DAMIEN GAYLE
27th December 2011
A Christian woman on death row in Pakistan after being convicted of blasphemy has told how she must cook her own meals for fear of being poisoned.
In her first interview since being condemned to hang, Asia Bibi, 46, described the miserable conditions she has suffered as she waits for an opportunity to appeal.
Since her arrest in 2009, Mrs Bibi, a mother of five, has been held in the high-security District Jail Seikhupura, 22 miles north-west of Lahore.
'I am allowed to go out for only 30 minutes every day, and allowed to meet my family for one hour every Tuesday,' she told Christian group Life For All, in an interview seen by the Daily Telegraph.
'I am given raw material to cook for myself, since the administration fears I might be poisoned, as other Christians accused of blasphemy were poisoned or killed in the jail.'
Hostility towards Christians in Pakistan is rife. Mrs Bibi told in the interview how one of her guards had tried been suspended after trying to strangle her.
Mrs Bibi, a farm worker from rural Punjab, was first detained in 2009. She is accused of defiling the name of the prophet Mohammed during an argument with Muslim co-workers.
She denies the charge, but was sentenced to death after the case went to trial. She is now waiting for her appeal to be heard at Lahore's High Court.
Danger: Salman Taseer, right, Punjab's Christian Governor and a high-profile supporter of Mrs Bib, was shot dead earlier this year
Two of Mrs Bibi's supporters have been assassinated this year, including Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, who was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards.
Mrs Bibi said she was praying for her freedom to see her family again, adding: 'I am given raw material to cook for myself, since the administration fears I might be poisoned, as other Christians accused of blasphemy were poisoned or killed in the jail.'
Pakistan Proposes Removing Heavy Guns From LOC
By Tom Wright, DECEMBER 27, 2011
Pakistan has proposed the removal of heavy artillery from the de facto border in Kashmir, the latest in small gestures that both sides are hoping will facilitate broader moves forward in peace talks during 2012.
Pakistan made the proposal Monday during talks on conventional weapons between Indian and Pakistan foreign ministry officials and experts in Islamabad. The talks move on to discuss nuclear weapons Tuesday.
The talks are a resumption of regular discussions on armaments and nuclear weapons that were put on hold after the Mumbai attacks in 2008, during which 10 Pakistan gunmen killed more than 160 people, mostly Indians.
Pakistan suggested that artillery of greater than 120 millimeters be moved 30 kilometers from the Line of Control, the cease-fire line that divides the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. Although heavy artillery attacks over the frontier are rare, there are regular small-arms firing incidents over the LOC, and both sides regularly claim deaths of soldiers due to shooting from the other side of the frontier.
Hopefully, removing the guns would help to reduce deaths in the future, says Abdul Basit, a Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman. An Indian response on the proposal was not immediately available.
Such gestures are unlikely, though, to lead to much forward motion on the issue of Kashmir, which has bedeviled relations between the two countries since 1947. India complains that militants trained by Pakistan’s army continue to foment trouble in Indian-administered Kashmir, although they concede the number of foreign militants has sharply reduced in recent years.
India also is furious with Pakistan for its failure to push ahead with the trials of seven militants convicted for their alleged role in the Mumbai attacks. Until this is done, there’s little hope for real progress in peace talks between the countries, which resumed in February after a suspension following Mumbai.
More broadly, neither side seems any nearer a comprehensive vision of how to end the Kashmir problem, which is the key to regional peace. Both sides administer a part of the territory but claim it in its entirety. Efforts in the past to get India and Pakistan to accept the LOC as a formal frontier but make it less relevant through cross-border trade initiatives have come to naught.
Still, meetings such as the one ongoing in Islamabad have helped to foster a sense of limited progress, where for three years since Mumbai there had been none. Mid-level bureaucrats and technical experts have pushed forward discussions on trade, visas, health and now armaments, mostly out of the public eye since February. Track-two diplomacy – between groups of ex-officials, journalists and other opinion-formers from India and Pakistan- is also helping to increase contacts between the two sides.
It’s hard to say where all this will lead but government officials on both sides say that the current baby steps are better than the stasis that existed before.
'China increasing presence in Pakistani Kashmir'
JAMMU, 27 DEC, 2011: Causing concern in the Indian Army, China has increased the presence of its military engineers in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a senior army officer said.
Although the exact number of Peoples Liberation Army men and engineers engaged in building infrastructure across the Line of Control is not known, their number has increased in recent months, the senior commander said.
The LoC divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
"Our intelligence reports about the presence of PLA (men and engineers) have been authenticated now, and their number is on the rise," Maj. Gen. K.H. Singh told reporters in Rajouri, a border town 160 km north of Jammu, Monday evening. He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function.
The Indian army had the knowledge of the deepening Chinese presence in Pakistan- administered Kashmir, especially after the 2005 quake, when many construction works were given to Chinese companies. New York Times had published a report of the presence of 15,000 Chinese troops in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, including Gilgit and Baltistan.
Gen. Singh said the Indian army was trying to ascertain the motive of such heavy presence of Chinese troops and engineers in the territory under the control of Pakistan.
Fai funds trail to J&K militants being probed
NEW DELHI, DEC. 26, 2011, The intel agencies are sifting through transactions where funds were transferred to suspect accounts
Acting on specific information that controversial ISI operative Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai was giving financial assistance to militant outfits in Kashmir, Indian intelligence agencies have launched a massive probe to unearth the financial trail. Fai, a covert ISI operative, was arrested by America’s FBI some time back and is now in a US jail.
Highly-placed intelligence sources said there was credible information that Pakistan’s InterServices Intelligence was not just using Fai to discredit India on the Kashmir issue in global forums, but also funding militant out
fits through him. The intelligence agencies are sifting through a series of complex financial transactions between India and the United States over the past decade where large amounts of funds were transferred to “suspect accounts”.
It is suspected that most of this money came in over the past 10 years and went
to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Hizbul Mujahideen.
A source said the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency, had established that Fai, at the ISI’s behest, used both banking channels and the hawala route to pump money into Kashmir militancy. The bank accounts, sources said, were opened with fake identities and operated by “overground” activists of militant outfits.
It is learnt that Fai, before leaving India, had worked for the Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir, and continued to keep links with various Kashmir contacts even after floating his Kashmiri American Council in the United States.
Israel says no to talks if Hamas is represented
Jerusalem, Dec. 26, 20111, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would refuse to hold peace talks with the Palestinian Authority if it includes Hamas representatives, according to Israeli public radio.
Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal last week met in Cairo with Palestinian President and Fatah chief Mahmud Abbas to discuss the reorganisation of Palestinian decision-making bodies to include Hamas. “Netanyahu said that if Hamas joins the Pales-tinian government, he would refuse to conduct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority,” Israeli radio said. Israel condemns Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Mr
Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev, asked to confirm the comments, said Netanyahu had been speaking to Israeli ambassadors behind closed doors.
Hamas and Fatah, which respectively control Gaza and the West Bank, have long been political rivals.
Tensions spilled over into deadly violence in 2007 when Hamas forced Fatah out of Gaza and took control of the strip. In April, Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement, though it has been largely unenforced. Meanwhile, an Israeli parliamentary committee held a landmark discussion on recognising genocide in Armenia on Monday, a move likely to further strain already tense relations with Turkey.
During the discussion on the “Jewish people’s recognition of the Armenian genocide,” as defined by the committee, legislators, historians and members of the local Armenian community stressed Israel’s moral obligation to officially recognise the Armenian tragedy as a genocide.
Maldives Minister of Islamic Affairs requests Parliament to forbid all Israeli ties
By Eleanor Johnstone
December 26th, 2011
Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari has requested the parliament to endorse a resolution forbidding the government to establish ties with Israel.
The Islamic Minister made his request during discussions with the parliament’s national security committee, which is currently debating whether to permit Israeli airlines to land in Maldives.
Expressing his views on the issue, Dr. Bari told the MPs he “personally does not support the Israel airline to operate in the Maldives”.
Speaking to Minivan News, Dr. Bari said that he made the request because he believes “Israel has committed several human rights violations”.
Dr. Bari noted that Maldives should not stand with Israel as it commits atrocities against the Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine.
“Maldives cut off ties with Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi’s government when he was killing, violating fundamental rights of his people. Similarly, Maldives should follow the same standard by isolating Israel for the atrocities committed against Muslims,” Dr.Bari said.
He also alleged that Israel is attempting to “gain sympathy” because the country is geographically isolated from non-Muslim countries.
Israel’s relationship with Palestine has raised concern in the Maldives, however the government has tried to maintain diplomatic relations.
Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson and former State Islamic Minister Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said “we are afraid that the security level in the Maldives is too low.” He noted that the Indian army was asked to intervene during a 1983 coup attempt by Sri Lankan terrorist groups.
Shaheem said allowing Israelis into the country would raise the threat level to themselves as well as to Maldivians.
“I don’t want to bring harm to Israelis or Maldivians. There are terrorist groups in other countries, like Afghanistan, and these people might come to the Maldives when they see the security level is weak in order to attack locals or the Israelis,” he explained.
The Transport Ministry granted a license to Israeli flag carrier El Al to begin operations to Maldives in September, following a formal application to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to begin flying to the Maldives starting in December.
Full Report at:
Israel gender segregation row protest planned
27 December 2011
Demonstrations are planned in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, against the way some ultra-Orthodox Jews treat women.
There have been clashes in the town between members of the conservative Jewish community and police.
Some ultra-Orthodox men have been demanding strict gender segregation and "modest" dress for women.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to end attempts to enforce segregation of the sexes.
He has said that harassment and discrimination have no place in a liberal democracy.
The rally is expected to be attended by some ultra-Orthodox Jews seeking to distance themselves from those they call "extremists".
On Monday, one police officer was slightly hurt and a number of Orthodox Jews were detained after a group of some 300 ultra-Orthodox residents pelted police with stones and eggs.
Full Report at:
Indian F M discusses Bhagavad Gita row with Russian ambassador
NEW DELHI, Dec 27, 2011, External affairs minister S M Krishna today conveyed to Russian Ambassador Alexander Kadakin the country's concern over the "sensitive" issue of a Siberain court hearing a petition seeking a ban on Bhagavad Gita.
Ahead of the court hearing tomorrow, Krishna called Kadakin and told him that the Russian government should provide all possible help to resolve the issue.
Taking up the issue, which has created a uproar in India, strongly with the Russian Ambassador, Krishna conveyed the sensitivities involved in the issue of seeking a ban on the religious scripture, sources said.
During the meeting at Hyderabad House, Kadakin assured Krishna that the Russian government will do all it can within its powers.
"The external affairs minister conveyed the concerns of the Parliament of India and the people of India on the issue. The Russian side has been saying that it is a judicial process and that it will take all steps it can within its power (to resolve the issue)," a source said.
The Siberian court in Tomsk city will hear tomorrow petition from a group connected to the Christian Orthodox Church, seeking to declare the Gita an "extremist text."
This is the second time in four days that the Russian envoy has been called by the Ministry of External Affairs to convey the country's concerns on the issue. Foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai had met Kadakin last week in this regard.
After the meeting, the Russian envoy told reporters that the Russian government will do everything it can within in the realm of its powers.
"You understand that it is a court case but the Russian government can do one thing. It can ask the people to express our love and admiration for the Gita. That (assurance) you can get from anyone in Russia," he said.
Kadakin said that he had himself read Gita and that any human being can have only one opinion on the scripture -- Gita is a great scripture and it is a scripture of the world.
The Russian ambassador said his attitude on the issue remains the same that "no holy scripture, whether it is Bible, Quran or Gita cannot be brought to a court."
"I am of the opinion that no religious scripture can be judged in a court," the envoy said.
During the meeting, Krishna and Kadakan also discussed the recent visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Russia and other issues.
On the delivery of Nerpa nuclear submarine to India, Kadakin said it is on its way.
Pak pm: Kayani removal is talk of idiots
SLAMABAD, DEC. 26, 2011, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani are “seriously contemplating” the removal of powerful Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani despite publicly reconciling with the general, official sources said.
“The government is seriously contemplating removal of Gen.
Kayani and ISI chief Lt.
Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha in one swift stroke,” a senior government official privy to the developments said, adding, “The PPP government wants to make sure their political government is in charge and not the Army or ISI.” [However, Mr Gilani late on Monday night dismissed reports that his government was planning to remove Gen. Kayani and Lt. Gen. Pasha, saying he had personally ensured that both generals were given extensions in service, PTI reports. “I want to tell you these rumours that the government wants to possibly remove the director-general of the ISI and Gen. Kayani is the talk of idiots. It is very wrong for some opportunistic people to present such views among the people.”] The last time a political government (led by Mr Nawaz Sharif) tried to sack an Army Chief (in 1999), it resulted in a military coup.
The government’s unhappiness with the two officers is now an open secret. Not only are they being held responsible for forcing Islamabad to adopt an extremely harsh stance towards Washington after the Salala massacre, the two adopted an opposing stance to that of the government in the memo affair.
Embattled Pakistani president says country must foil anti-democratic conspiracies
By Associated Press,
ISLAMABAD, December 27, 2011 — Pakistan’s president is urging his countrymen to guard against what he called anti-democratic conspiracies, in apparent reference to the strains between his government and the military.
President Asif Ali Zardari said Tuesday that doing so would be a fitting tribute to his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, on the fourth anniversary of her assassination by militants.
His government is at odds with the army over a secret memo he allegedly backed that asked for Washington’s help in stopping a supposed military coup in the wake of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Zardari has denied involvement.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. has already resigned amid the scandal over the memo, which was sent in May.
Will India-Pakistan relations improve?
Stephen Cohen/ Forbes India
Dec 27, 2011
Pakistan is in turmoil. Its troubles in the tribal areas show little sign of abating; the economy too has taken a dive. The impending withdrawal of the USA from Afghanistan and the sudden acrimony in Pakistan-USA relations has also complicated the situation for India
Over the past decade, the South Asian security complex has expanded in four directions. To the north, China has re-asserted itself as a major player in Central Asia, through the Shanghai Co-operation Agreement, and Nepal. To the east, China and India compete for influence in Myanmar. To the south, there is a competitive three-way race for influence in the Indian Ocean. Perhaps most importantly, to the west, we have seen the renewed geopolitical importance of Afghanistan.
The core strategic conundrum that permeates all issues in South Asia, from security to trade to co-operation, however, remains that between India and Pakistan whose rivalry continues to evoke international attention, if not necessarily intervention. Despite superficial cordiality and new personalities, such as the charming Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, the normalisation process between the two seems to be stagnant. But Pakistan agreeing to begin dialogue to grant India the most-favoured nation (MFN) status holds out a glimmer of hope. It was delightfully surprising that the Pakistan army decided that trade with India is in its interest. It is still unclear why the military allowed the civilians to go ahead with the dialogue but two factors could have been and could continue to influence its decisions, one way or the other.
Some people argue that the military has an interest in trade with India because of economic investments. My own view is more strategic — Pakistan military, which has its own confrontation with the US, wants to normalise to some degree its relationship with India. It does not want to fight wars on two fronts. Yet, how this will evolve is still uncertain and the deal may not be consummated. There have been many agreements in the past that really amounted to nothing. We can only hope that this will lead to something.
It is clear that India is very concerned about Pakistan’s integrity as a nation state and would like to normalise relations with it but unclear whether Pakistan wants a deeper normalisation. Even if the military has allowed the trade dialogue to happen, it still regards India as a strategic problem.
The second factor in the military’s calculations seems to be finance. Pakistan military argues that the country is not destitute and has many assets. It has large quantities of payments coming in, from the Gulf in particular, and it also believes that it can count on China for assistance. It might naively think that a linkage with the Indian economy could help if American aid diminishes.
The country’s economy is structurally in deep trouble. The real problem is agriculture where it still does not have any significant reforms in place. The Indian connection is hardly likely to help. Furthermore, there will be groups in both countries that will stress the negative side of trade. It’s hard to be optimistic that trade normalisation will take place rapidly or comprehensively.
Many in India, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, believe that normalising relations with Pakistan is in India’s interest for several reasons, including reducing the influence of China. India would like to see Pakistan strong enough to hold together but not so strong as to challenge it. But Pakistan has found ways of challenging India by using destabilising proxies and terrorism at relatively low cost. The greater danger may be Pakistan losing control over its own state. There are large swaths of Pakistan that are no-go areas for the state, and there are important social sectors that defy the state, and are now attacking it.
With Pakistan having put a foot forward with the MFN concession, it is now up to India to respond, perhaps on some issue such as Siachen or Sir Creek; this may not happen, but if it does, then will Pakistan in turn reciprocate, leading to a genuine peace process? I’m both hopeful and sceptical at the same time.
(As told to Dinesh Narayanan)
US urges Pakistan to share border-post map
WASHINGTON: Dec 27, 2011, The head of the US Central Command is urging Pakistan to share a map of its facilities and installations near the Afghan border to help avert episodes like the one that killed 24 Pakistani forces last month.
US Marine Corps General James Mattis, the commander, said in a statement on Monday that the strike's chief lesson was that "we must improve border coordination and this requires a foundational level of trust on both sides of the border."
Mattis told the allied commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, to take steps to prevent "friendly fire" incidents and share them with Pakistan's military "if possible," an apparent reference to continuing strains.
Mattis directed Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, to seek full disclosure of all facilities and installations on both sides of the frontier as soon as possible.
This should include "systematic updates based on a common data base and map, and incorporating periodic reciprocal coordination visits," he said. (Reuters)
Qaeda leadership in Pakistan ‘wiped out’, UK believes
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: Dec 27, 2011, Senior British officials believe that a “last push” in 2012 is likely to definitively destroy al Qaeda’s remaining senior leadership in Pakistan, opening a new phase in the battle against terrorism.
So many senior members of the organisation have been killed in an intense campaign of airstrikes involving missiles launched from unmanned drones that “only a handful of the key players” remain alive, one official said.
However, well-informed sources outside government and close to the militant groups in North Africa said at least two relatively senior al Qaeda figures have already made their way to Libya, with others intercepted en route, raising fears that North Africa could become a new “battle ground for jihad” in coming months or years.
“A group of very experienced figures from North Africa left camps in Afghanistan’s Kunar province where they have been based for several years and travelled back across the Middle East,” one source said. “Some got stopped but a few got through.”
Pak: Terrorists attack Surkamar FC fort
TANK: Dec 27, 2011, Unidentified terrorists opened fire at Surkamar Frontier Constabulary Fort in Surkamar area, 40 kilometre west from Tank, however, no loss of life was reported, intelligence sources said on Monday. As per sources, the terrorists fired rounds at Surkamar FC Fort in the wee hours of Monday. FC personnel manning the fort retaliated with small and heavy weapons, forcing the attackers to flee from the scene, the sources added. No loss of life was reported in the attack.
Taliban fighters had attacked Mulazai FC Fort three days back, which led to the killing of one FC man and kidnapping of 16 others by terrorists. The kidnapped men are yet to be recovered.
Three police checkposts were subsequently vacated due to security concerns while security has been beefed up at all the sensitive places to tackle any attack of terrorists in future. inp
Three Indonesian maids Murder charges unproven, freed in Saudia
The Jakarta Post,
Jakarta, 12/27/2011, Three Indonesian maids who faced the death penalty for murder allegations are scheduled to return home in the next several days from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi prosecutors could not prove the charges and the maids' employers had accepted their apologies, Jumhur Hidayat, the head of the National Board for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI), said as reported by antaranews.com reported.
The women, housemaids all, were identified as Bayanah binti Banhawi, Jamilah Binti Abidin Rofi'i and Neneng Sunengsih binti Mamih.
Bayanah, 29, left for Riyadh on Jan.29, 2006. After two months, she was imprisoned on allegations that she murdered her employer’s four-year-old son.
Jamilah was accused of murdering her 80-year-old employer, while Neneng, 34, was charged with murdering her employer’s four-month-old baby.
The women will be returned home with the aid of the Foreign Ministry and the Task Force for Indonesian Migrant Workers who Face Death Penalty.
Syrian tanks leave 23 dead in Homs
ERIKA SOLOMON, Reuters
BEIRUT, DEC. 26,2011, At least 23 people were killed as Syrian tank forces battled opponents of President Bashar alAssad in Homs on Monday, residents said, ahead of a planned visit by Arab League monitors to verify whether he is ending a violent crackdown on unrest.
A day before observers were to have their first look at the city at the heart of a nine-month-old revolt, there was no sign of Mr Assad carrying out a plan agreed with the League to halt an offensive against protests and start talks with the Opposition.
Amateur video posted to the Internet by activists showed three tanks in the streets next to apartment blocks.
One was firing its machine-gun and another appeared to be firing mortar rounds. Gruesome video showed mangled bodies lying in pools of blood along a narrow street. Power lines had collapsed and cars were burnt and blasted, as if by mortar rounds.
An armed insurgency is increasingly eclipsing civilian protests. Now many fear Syria is sliding toward a sectarian war that pits the Sunni Muslim majority, the driving force of the protest movement, against minorities that have mostly stayed loyal to the government, particularly the Alewife sect to which Mr Assad belongs. Fighting in Homs has intensified since a double suicide bombing in Damascus on Friday that killed 44 people. “The Baba Amr (district) (of Homs) is being exposed to fierce shelling from heavy machine-gun
fire, armoured vehicles and mortars,” the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Right said in a statement. “The violence is definitely two-sided,” said a Homs resident who named himself only as Mohammed to protect his safety. “I’ve been seeing ambulances filled with wounded soldiers passing by my window in the past days. They’re getting shot somehow.” Parts of Homs are defended by the Free Syrian Army, made up of defectors from the regular armed forces, who say they have tried to establish no-go areas to protect civilians. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented names of those reported killed in Monday’s clashes. It also reported three people killed on the outskirts of Hama, north of Homs.
15 terrorists killed in Orakzai, Kurram
Dec 27, 2011
PESHAWAR: Security forces on Monday targeted terrorists’ positions near Afghan border areas in Orakzai and Kurram agencies, killing 15 suspected terrorists, local official sources said. Paramilitary forces shelled terrorists’ hideouts in the Mamozai and Khadizai areas of Upper Orakzai, leaving seven suspected terrorists dead. Meanwhile, in the ongoing operation against insurgents in the region, heavy shelling was also carried out on terrorists’ hideouts in the Musazai and Jogi areas of Kurram Agency. Eight suspected insurgents were reported dead in the assault. More than 200 terrorists have been killed so far in an ongoing operation in Upper Orakzai and Kurram Agency. app
Police kill two terrorists in DI Khan
Dec 27, 2011
DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Dera Ismail Khan police killed two suspected terrorists in a successful 24-hour standoff to retrieve three kidnapped government workers. Dera Ismail Khan police chief, Imtiaz Shah, said on Monday that two other terrorists blew themselves up during the standoff. Nobody else was harmed. Shah said the terrorists kidnapped three workers from a state-run insurance company on Saturday. Police followed the terrorists and surrounded them in a village shortly before they were going to take the workers to the nearby South Waziristan Agency. agencies
Gunman opens fire on NATO troops in Afghanistan
KABUL: Dec 27, 2011, A gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire on coalition troops in western Afghanistan, military authorities said on Monday. An official said several NATO troops were wounded in the shooting and the gunman was killed.
NATO and Afghan authorities were investigating the shooting, which took place Saturday at an outpost in Bala Boluk district, about 700 kilometres west of Kabul, said Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman General Muhammad Zahir Azimi.
A NATO statement said there were no fatalities among alliance soldiers, adding that it was its policy not to comment on other casualties. An official who asked not to be named because the investigation is ongoing said several coalition troops were wounded in the shooting. He said the man who opened fire was later killed by the NATO troops.
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Bilawal quietly takes over PPP
By: the nation monitoring
LONDON, December 27, 2011 - Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is still too young to sit in parliament and knows that politics killed his mother, grandfather and an uncle.But in the past month, the heir to Pakistan's most famous political dynasty, has moved centre stage at the start of a journey many believe will see him eventually become prime minister, writes The Telegraph.
The 23-year-old has discarded his low profile to chair party meetings and help formulate the government's response to Nato air strikes that killed 24 soldiers, according to a slew of official press releases and government photographs. He was pressed into action while his father, President Zardari, lay ill in a Dubai hospital, leaving no one in any doubt that the eldest son of Benazir Bhutto was being positioned as a key vote winner in elections that could come in the year ahead.
Farhatullah Babar, the president's spokesman, said he was ready to take a more active role in Pakistan's politics. "Now he has completed his education and is getting engaged in different political activities," he said.
At the same time, the rise of Imran Khan's energetic campaign – he has been known to give interviews in shorts after returning from his daily run – has left Pakistan's established political dynasties searching for a more youthful image.
U.N. and Iraq reach deal on Iranian dissidents
By Ashish Kumar Sen-The Washington Times
December 26, 2011
The United Nations and the Iraqi government have reached a deal to transfer more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents living in a camp north of Baghdad, potentially averting what international observers have warned would be a massacre.
Martin Kobler, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for Iraq, and Iraqi National Security Adviser Faleh Fayad signed the deal, which was announced late Sunday.
Under the agreement, Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf will be transferred to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near the Baghdad International Airport.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees then will determine refugee status of the dissidents, a necessary step for their resettlement outside Iraq.
The Iraqi government is “exclusively responsible for the safety and security of the residents both during their transfer and in the new location until they leave the country,” Mr. Kobler said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the deal but said it must have the full support of the dissidents, urging them to work with the U.N. to implement the plan.
The dissidents have not responded to the deal, and a spokesman for the group told The Washington Times on Monday that they are waiting to review the official document.
Camp Ashraf is home to members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which the State Department designated a terrorist group in 1997. The dissidents surrendered their weapons in 2003 as part of a cease-fire agreement with U.S. forces.
The camp has come under attack by Iraqi forces several times. In April, the Iraqi army attacked the camp and killed 36 residents, including eight women.
On Sunday, the dissidents said Camp Ashraf had come under rocket fire.
The Iraqi government has agreed to allow the U.N. to station monitors at the new camp. U.S. Embassy officials in Baghdad will visit the camp, and a liaison officer from the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights also will be involved in the process.
The MEK leadership has demanded “minimum assurances,” including round-the-clock monitoring by the U.N. and U.S. until all Camp Ashraf residents have been resettled outside Iraq.
“We hope that [the deal] would officially include the minimum assurances so that it would be acceptable to Ashraf residents,” said Shahin Ghobadi, a Paris-based spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a political coalition that includes the MEK.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government had set a Dec. 31 deadline to close Camp Ashraf. Last week, Mr. al-Maliki agreed to a six-month extension of the deadline.
Mr. Kobler said the deal respects Iraq’s sovereignty and its international humanitarian and human rights obligations, and protects the security and rights of the camp’s residents.
Syria unrest: Protest in Homs as peace monitors arrive
27 December 2011
Thousands of demonstrators have rallied in the Syrian city of Homs, activists said, as Arab League peace monitors arrived in the protest flashpoint.
The observers are verifying compliance with an Arab League peace plan that requires an end to the violent crackdown on anti-government protests.
Activist said tanks withdrew from Homs hours before the observers arrived.
The UN says more than 5,000 people have been killed since anti-government protests began in March.
Activists said at least 30 people were killed in Homs on Monday as government troops shelled parts of the city.
But they said the shelling stopped overnight and some of the tanks pulled out of the city early on Tuesday, shortly before the Arab League monitors arrived.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more tanks remained in the city, hidden inside government buildings.
The BBC's Jim Muir, in neighbouring Lebanon, says Syrian armed forces have made a show of withdrawing from protest flashpoints in the past, only to return when protests resume.
Syria's al-Dunya television, a privately-owned channel, said the Arab League observers were meeting the governor of Homs province.
As the observers arrived in Homs and tanks reportedly left some parts of the city, the Observatory said as many as 30,000 people staged a demonstration there.
Baba Amr and other parts of Homs came under heavy shellfire on Monday. Residents said many buildings had been destroyed and government snipers had made it impossible to search for survivors.
Full Report at:
Shiite cleric call for new elections in Iraq
By Rebecca Santana-Associated Press
BAGHDAD, December 26, 2011 — The political party loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called Monday for the dissolution of Iraq's parliament and new elections in another move that could escalate the country’s growing sectarian crisis.
The anti-American Sadrist bloc is a partner in the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Bahaa al-Aaraji, the head of the Sadrists’ bloc in parliament, said the elections are needed because of instability in the country and problems that threaten Iraq’s sovereignty.
“The political partners cannot find solutions for the problems that threaten to divide Iraq,” he said.
Iraq plunged into a new sectarian crisis last week, just days after the last American troops withdrew at the end of a nearly nine-year war.
The new political crisis has been accompanied by a new wave of attacks on the Iraqi capital by suspected Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaida. A suicide bomber set off a car bomb Monday at a checkpoint leading to the Interior Ministry, killing seven people and injuring 32, officials said. Police and hospital officials said the bomber struck during morning rush hour, hitting one of many security barriers set up around the ministry’s building.
Al-Maliki is in a political showdown with the country’s top Sunni political figure, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, after the government issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi on allegations his bodyguards ran hit squads targeting government officials.
The prime minister threatened to form a government without al-Hashemi’s Sunni-backed political party, Iraqiya, which is boycotting parliament and mulling whether to pull out of the ruling coalition.
Iraq was dominated by the minority Sunnis under Saddam Hussein until the U.S.-led war that began in 2003 ousted him. Majority Shiites have dominated the government ever since, though Americans pushed hard for the inclusion of Sunnis with a meaningful role in the current governing coalition.
Bitter sectarian rivalries played out in 2006-2007 in violence that took Iraq to the brink of civil war and the latest tensions have raised fears of a resurgence of Shiite-Sunni violence.
The political crisis taps into resentments that are still raw despite years of efforts to overcome them. The Sunnis fear the Shiite majority is squeezing them out of their already limited political role. Shiites suspect Sunnis of links to militants and of plotting to topple the Shiite leadership.
The Sadrists have played an important role in maintaining Shiite domination over government — their support last year catapulted al-Maliki back to the prime minister’s office for a second term.
For the proposal to dissolve parliament to gain traction, it would take the consent of at least 1/3 of parliament, the president and the prime minister or a simple majority of lawmakers. Al-Maliki, who only secured his position after nearly nine months of political wrangling after the last elections, would likely be loathe to go through the process again and risk an unfavorable outcome.
Al-Aaraji said the proposal first needs approval of the larger coalition between the Sadrists and al-Maliki’s alliance, the two most powerful Shiite parties.
A Shiite lawmaker loyal to al-Maliki, Kamal al-Saiedi, said the proposal should be studied.
“Forming the current government was not an easy issue, therefore going back in the direction of new elections would be more difficult,” he said.
Libya set to include ex-rebels in military
TRIPOLI, DEC. 26, 2011, The rebels were also invited to take up positions in the interior ministry and can also apply for civilian jobs in government
Libya will include thousands of former rebels who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in its armed forces from January, the defence minister said on Sunday, testing the government’s ability to get rebel leaders to cede command of their fighters.
Although rebels met a deadline imposed by the National Transitional Council (NTC) to withdraw this week from the capital Tripoli, militias led
by rival commanders still guard key installations and checkpoints across the city.
The lack of a fully functioning Army and police force, has given militias free rein to fight turf wars after the uprising that ended Gaddafi’s 42-year dictatorship in August.
“The programme aims at including the revolutionaries in many fields including defence,” Osama al-Juwali, interim defence minister told a press conference also attended by interim interior minister
Fawzi Abd al-All. “The idea is to inject new blood in the Army which was marginalised by the tyrant (Gaddafi),” said Juwali who was commander of the Zintan militia that captured Gaddafi’s son SaifalIslam in November. Abd al-All said the rebels were also invited to take up positions in the interior ministry which, he said, was understaffed. He said they could also apply for civilian jobs in government offices through the ministry of labour.
Lifting of the UN Security Council sanctions in December on Libya’s central bank and a subsidiary means that the
interim leaders have access to cash that could be used to offer the fighters well-paying government jobs. Juwali said that part of the plan was to train the rebels to take up highranking positions in the military.
He said it would take a month to register and allocate them to the military, police and other civilian posts, and months before they were trained to guard borders and installations, including oil fields and refineries, now held by rival militias. — Reuters
Taliban Violence changes Pakistan song book
PESHAWAR, Dec 27, 2011: He sings about peace and hope, but Gulzar Alam lives in fear. He has survived three attempts on his life and moves regularly to keep one step ahead of the Taliban.
Once inspired by romance, Alam is part of a growing number of Pakistanis changing the lexicon of the song book, writing less about affairs of the heart and more about the tragedy of suicide attacks and insurgency.
“O Peshawar, I watch helplessly when your lovers’ blood becomes rain. Helplessly, with tears in my eyes, I read their funeral prayer,” he sings in one of his greatest hits in the northwestern city on the Afghan border.
Being a singer in one of the most dangerous parts of the world can be lethal. The Taliban think music is ungodly. Music shops are bombed. Dancers have been killed and singers threatened with death.
In 2004, Alam was worried enough to move to Quetta, the then relatively peaceful capital of Baluchistan in the southwest.
But he was hit by a speeding car, critically injured and now has a rod in his right leg and uses crutches to walk.
He blamed militants and returned to Peshawar in 2008. That October, gunmen opened fire on his car on the outskirts of the city. He survived a second time.
“I can see tears in people’s eyes, when I sing and I want to create an awareness using my voice,” Alam told AFP in the dank basement flat where he lives with his wife and six children, with no name plaque on the gate.
“We have stopped giving musical shows,” he said. “I have received dozens of phone calls and SMSs threatening me to stop singing.”
Peshawar, the largest Pashtun city in the world and once a base for Osama bin Laden during the 1980s’ CIA-sponsored mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan, has been on the frontline of a Taliban insurgency for years.
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Government defends minority quota in Lokpal
NEW DELHI, Dec 27, 2011: Defending the inclusion of minority quota in the Lokpal bill, the government on Tuesday assured that the anti-graft legislation will be passed after considering the amendments proposed by opposition parties.
Ahead of a debate on the bill in the Lok Sabha, minister of state for personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V. Narayanasamy said the representation of minorities was a conscious decision for social inclusion.
"Parliament is not the place to discuss legalities. It is the place to forward aspirations of people," Narayanasamy told a TV channel.
"Minorities are also citizens of the country, they also need representation... government in its wisdom decided to include minorities... because parliament has to ensure all sections of society have to be given adequate representation," he said. "Therefore, the government took a conscious decision to include minorities," he added.
Inclusion of minority quota in the Lokpal is one of the main points of contention between the government and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP), which is set to move an amendment against it.
The minister added that parliament can sit for extra hours to get the bill passed, depending on the request of members.
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla, meanwhile, said the government was optimistic about passing the bill. "We are hopeful and optimistic... there will be some amendments... we will see them," Shukla said.
He also hit out at Team Anna, saying: "After so many years, this bill is brought... instead of welcoming it, why are they criticising it?"
He also denied that parliament was under any pressure from the activists.