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Islamic World News ( 1 March 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Ahl-e-Hadees: Taliban, LeT Maligning Islam

New Age Islam News Bureau

1 March 2012

 Christian leader becomes Intellectual Patron of Baloch group

 Deadly violence rocks China's restive Xinjiang, 20 killed

 Abducted and forced into a Muslim marriage in Pakistan

 What if India, Pakistan freeze Kashmir issue?

 Maldives president blocked from opening Parliament

 NA body for zero tolerance on rights violation in Balochistan

 UN humanitarian aid chief denied entry into Syria

 Two Christians abducted in Pakistan

 Saudi women push for the right to play sports

 Iraqi Islamist Party Cleric Invited to Tunisia

 Soldiers visit with Islamic center’s members as cultural lesson

 E-mail threatens outspoken Muslim politician Mohammed Islam and Cardiff

 Christian families fleeing from Kashmir valley

 Islam doesn’t allow killing of mankind: Pakistani scholar

 Hope and reality of India-Pakistan relations

 Syria crisis: Opposition sets up military bureau

 NATO has urged Afghanistan to sign US deal: Karzai

 UN chief condemns Kohistan massacre

 Foiled Delhi blast: Homegrown jihadis Lashkar's latest weapon

 NATO: 2 coalition troops killed by gunmen, one of whom believed to be Afghan


 More Than 1,000 Chadian Migrants Flee Fighting in Nigeria

 Australian players cry foul over FIFA Hijab ban

 Bomb kills women, child in Pakistan: officials

 Chairman of Hurriyat Conference Geelani visits World Book Fair in New Delhi

 Pakistan SC issues notice to former ISI chief, defence ministry

 Pakistan to normalise trade with India by year end

 Pakistan established special cell to deal prisoners issues abroad

 UN report says Pakistan's half population would to be urbanized by 2025

 Arrested LeT terrorists were trained in Pakistan: Police

 Pakistan to switch to negative list for trade with India

 Iran offers Pakistan 80,000 barrels per day of oil: official

 Interpol warrant for Musharraf

 UAE, Pakistan to boost economic, commercial relations

 Confusion prevails over Cairo arrest

 US officer pays price for posting Obama photo on Facebook

 NATO says two soldiers shot dead in Afghanistan

 Egypt arrests man mistakenly thought to be Qaeda chief

 Afghans Voice Strong Support for Global March to Jerusalem

 Pakistan ready to support to Azerbaijan in military sphere

 Pakistan: The killing of Shias, Military Intervention is hard to refute

 Iran court jails Ahmadinejad aide ahead of vote

 Iran denies Parchin nuclear activity as accusations mount

 Dubai Bank Says It Cut Ties With Iranian Institutions

 Egypt presidential election set for May 23-24

 Iran Nuclear Dispute Enters New Phase

 Man indicted on terror charges in NYC bomb case

 Only Sharia law can fully destroy Mubarak regime, says Al-Qaeda leader

 Syrian forces attack Baba Amro

 Philanthropist Al-Rajhi to receive Faisal prize

 Former SIMI activists found guilty of promoting communal strife

Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: China's restive Xinjiang




Indian Ahl-e-Hadees: Taliban, LeT Maligning Islam

By DNA Correspondent , Agency: DNA

New Delhi , Mar 1, 2012,  Islamic scholars of Ahle Hadees faith here on Wednesday accused their Pakistani counterpart representing the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and its parent body Markaz Dawa-al-Irshad of being part of a global conspiracy to malign Islam.

The Markazi Jamiat Ahle-e-Hadees, which is hosting the Imam of Holy shrine of Islam in Makkah, Dr Saud Bin Ibrahim Al Shoraim, here on March 2-3, said their faith even does not recognise street protests, and strongly denounces hijacking, bombing, or suicide missions.

The main feature of two conferences of Markazi Jamiat Ahle-e-Hadees would be the presence of Imam-e-Kaaba Dr Alsharami. The Saudi Islamic scholar is also travelling to world famous Islamic seminary Deoband on Saturday.

The organisers are expecting Shankaracharia Swami Adokshanand and some Buddhist leaders also to join the Imam of Kaaba at the Ramlila grounds on Friday.

Often labeled as ‘Wahabis’ and accused of promoting radical brand of Islam, secretary general of the host organisation Maulana Asghar Ali Imam Mahdi Salfi said suicide bombing and terrorism has done a great harm to Islam. “Even logically if a Palestinian bomber kills four or five Israeli Jews, the cost of retaliation is too heavy. Israelis in retaliation kills many more or arrest hundreds of Palestinians. There is no incentive. Even against oppression, there is need to continue peaceful struggle and create international awareness,” said the Maulana.

“We believe Hafiz Mohamamd Sayeed, the chief of LeT, is a Khawarij (seceder or the rebel) and needs to be punished under the book,” he said. The Ahle Hadees sect often comes under attack in India for sharing ideology with the LeT or Dawa al Irshad headed by Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed.

Clarifying his stance, Maulana Salfi said both Hafiz Sayeed and Taliban were part of an international conspiracy. He called these groups marauders and said their struggle was nowhere near ‘jihad’. He pointed out how America promoted these very groups when they were aligning with it to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Claiming that a majority of Ahle Hadees followers in Pakistan were also up in arms against Hafiz Sayeed for taking over their mosques and establishments, Maulana said Islam does not believe taking extreme lines.


 Christian leader becomes Intellectual Patron of Baloch group

Washington DC: February 27, 2012. (Ahmar Mustikhan) A reknowned human rights activist and an international voice for the minorities in Pakistan, Dr. Nazir S. Bhatti, have consented to become an Intellectual Patron of a premier Baloch freedom group in Washington DC.

The American Friends of Balochistan announced Sunday with "joy and pride" that Dr. Bhatti will be guiding the Baloch group that believes in secular democracy in Balochistan.

Dr. Bhatti continuously receives hate mails and death threats from Pakistanis but has steadfastly supported the Balochistan struggle for self-determination.

The A.F.B. plans to induct more Intellectual Patrons, from left, right and center, in the coming days.

The A.F.B. was launched after the assassination of Baloch statesman, former governor and chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. 79. Bugti was killed on the orders of Pakistan cou leader, Gen. (Ret) Pervez Musharraf, son of a famous female dancer from Lucknow, India.

The A.F.B. has long pleaded with U.S. lawmakers to take up the issue of Balochistan's right to self-determination.

Meanwhile, a staunch advocate of a federal Iran Dr. M. Hossein Bor convened a meeting of Baloch activists from different parties, including the ruling Pakistan People's Party, at his house in Virginia Sunday evening.

Dr. Bor was said to have been selected by Cardiff-based Baloch tribal leader Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Daud Ahmadzai, to make a presentation at the Oversight and Investigations sub-committee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee February 8.

However, Dr. Bor in his written submission before the House of Representatives said the Baloch in Pakistan want federalism, while the majority of the Baloch say they have gone past that bloody station longtime back.

Dr. Bor's paper also mentioned the Sunni and Shia differences much to the chagrin of Baloch leaders who have worked hard to prove their movement is totally secular and there is no room for sectarianism in Balochistan politics.

Both Dr. M. Hossein Bor and his London-based brother M. Hassan Bor were said to be diehard supporters of dead Jondullah leader Abdolmalek Regi, who was seen on youtube cutting the throat of his brother-in-law like a sheep. In an interview, Dr. Bor described Regi as martyr.

In the past Dr. Bor had avoided speaking at any major meetings related to Pakistani-occupied Balochistan as he said the law firm he works for has a client base in Pakistan. However, in a recent talk with this correspondent he said the situation has changed now.

Those who attended the meeting at Dr. Bor's house included P.P.P. leader from Panjgur "Chaudhry" Mohammad Ali Baloch, who now lives in Philadelphia and USAID sub-contractor in Pakistan, Hakim Baloch.

(Ahmarmustikhan is based in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, and is a Stringer for Allvoices)



Deadly violence rocks China's restive Xinjiang, 20 killed

Thursday, March 01, 2012       

BEIJING: The Chinese government on Tuesday said attackers wielding knives killed 13 people in China's Xinjiang region before police shot seven of them dead. These were the latest attacks in the ethnically divided northwestern area.

The Xinjiang government said the killings on Tuesday night occurred on a busy pedestrian street in Yecheng County near Kashgar, a city in the south of Xinjiang that has been beset by tension between the mainly Muslim Uighur people and Han Chinese. "Nine violent terrorists suddenly surged into the crowd and stabbed to death innocent people with their knives, causing 13 innocent people to die and injuring many," the government said in a statement on official news portal "Police rushed to the scene, handled the situation with resolution and shot dead seven violent terrorists, capturing two," it added.

The regional government did not identify any of the attackers or give their ethnicity. Nor did it identify the ethnicity of their victims. Yecheng, also known by its Uighur name of Kargilik, is close to the disputed region of Kashmir, which is partly controlled by India and partly by Pakistan. China has blamed earlier incidents of violence on religious hardliners who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan. Some Chinese officials have also blamed attacks on Muslim militants trained in Pakistan.

But exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say China overstates the threat posed by militants in Xinjiang, which sits astride south and central Asia. "China's demonstrated lack of transparency when it comes to unrest in East Turkestan necessitates deep speculation of official Chinese claims," Uyghur American Association president Alim Seytoff said in an emailed statement.

"In the absence of compelling evidence, international observers should be extremely careful when hearing Chinese claims about 'rioters' and 'terrorists'." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Yecheng incident should not be overblown.

"The overall situation in Xinjiang is good," Hong told a daily news briefing. "We firmly oppose a small group of violent terrorists and separatists destroying this kind of peaceful development and the calm ... conditions." Security expert Li Wei was quoted as saying in a separate Xinjiang government statement that such incidents did not mean China was in danger of losing control. "There are still some unfavourable facts affecting Xinjiang's stability which have not been eliminated, so occasional incidents are hard to avoid," Li said. "Xinjiang's stability is firm."

Uighurs account for just over 40 percent of the region's 21 million people. But they are the majority in Kashgar and other parts of the region's south and many are against the government controls on their culture and religion. The Global Times, a tabloid published by Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, cited experts as saying that Yecheng was in the front line of China's campaign against militancy because of its location. "Over recent years it has had rather a large number of bad incidents and is an important area for maintaining stability in Xinjiang," Tuerwenjiang Tuerxun of the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences said in a report on the paper's website. "It is close to the border, has been quote shut-off and remote for a long time, and is also quite a sensitive place," he added. reuters\03\01\story_1-3-2012_pg7_32



Abducted and forced into a Muslim marriage in Pakistan

KARACHI - Sixteen-year-old Ameena Ahmed (not her real name), now living in the town of Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab, does not always respond when her mother-in-law calls out to her.

“Even after a year of ‘marriage’ I am not used to my new name. I was called Radha before,” she told IRIN on a rare occasion when she was allowed to go to the corner shop on her own to buy vegetables.

Ameena, or Radha as she still calls herself, was abducted from Karachi about 13 months ago by a group of young men who offered her ice-cream and a ride in their car. Before she knew what was happening, she was dragged into a larger van, and driven to an area she did not know.

She was then pressured into signing forms which she later found meant she was married to Ahmed Salim, 25; she was converted to a Muslim after being asked to recite some verses in front of a cleric. She was obliged to wear a veil. Seven months ago, Ameena, who has not seen her parents or three siblings since then and “misses them a lot”, moved with her new family to southern Punjab.

“The abduction and kidnapping of Hindu girls is becoming more and more common,” Amarnath Motumal, a lawyer and leader of Karachi’s Hindu community, told IRIN. “This trend has been growing over the past four or five years, and it is getting worse day by day.”

He said there are at least 15-20 forced abductions and conversions of young girls from Karachi each month, mainly from the multi-ethnic Lyari area. The fact that more and more people are moving to Karachi from interior Sindh added to the dangers, as there are now more Hindus in Karachi, he said.

“They come to search for better schooling, for work and to escape growing extremism,” said Motumal who believes Muslim religious schools are involved in the conversion business.

“Hindus are non-believers. They believe in many gods, not one, and are heretics. So they should be converted,” said Abdul Mannan, 20, a Muslim student. He said he would be willing to marry a Hindu girl, if asked to by his teachers, “because conversions bring big rewards from Allah. But later I will marry a ‘real’ Muslim girl as my second wife,” he said.

According to local law, a Muslim man can take more than one wife, but rights activists argue that the law infringes the rights of women and needs to be altered.

Motumal says Hindu organisations are concerned only with the “forced conversion” of girls under 18. “Adult women are of course free to choose,” he said.

‘LURED AWAY’: Sunil Sushmat, 40, who lives in a village close to Mirpurkhas in central Sindh, said his 14-year-old daughter was “lured away” by an older neighbour and, her parents believe, forcibly converted after marriage to a Muslim. “She was a child. What choice did she have?” her father asked. He said her mother still cries for her “almost daily” a year after the event.

Sushmat is also concerned about how his daughter is being treated. “We know many converts are treated like slaves, not wives,” he said.

According to official figures, Hindus based mainly in Sindh make up 2 percent of Pakistan’s total population of 165 million. “We believe this figure could be higher,” Motumal said.

According to media reports, a growing number of Hindus have been fleeing Pakistan, mainly for neighbouring India. The kidnapping of girls and other forms of persecution is a factor in this, according to those who have decided not to stay in the country any longer.

“My family has lived in Sindh for generations,” Parvati Devi, 70, told IRIN. “But now I worry for the future of my granddaughters and their children. Maybe we too should leave,” she said. “The entire family is seriously considering this.”

Why forced marriage is un-Islamic: Forced marriage is and has been a problem in all cultures and religions. From the fundamentalist Christian polygamist sects of the American west, to Israeli cult leaders, to the sale of child brides from Hindu families in India, religion has been used as a justification to enslave and control girls and women in marriages against their will. However, most of the recent stories of forced marriage and child brides in the news have centred on Islamic countries and cultures. So is forced marriage supported by Islam, or is it “un-Islamic?” The recent case of a 12-year-old Yemini girl who bled to death after being forced to marry a man (and subsequently raped by him) has brought the spotlight to shine squarely upon the issue of child brides in Muslim countries. Some scholars and humanitarians have claimed that the serious, almost obsessive valuing of female chastity until marriage in many Muslim countries and communities leads families to “preserve” girl children’s virtue by forcing them to marry before they develop an interest in sex. Others have claimed that the lack of political freedom and economic equality of women in Muslim countries contributes to the problem. Regardless of the cause and even though forced marriage is far from a uniquely Muslim problem, it seems to be rampant in Muslim countries. Tariq Ramadan, a world-renowned Swiss Islamic scholar, says that despite that pattern, forced marriage violates the basic tenets of Islam, and it’s time Muslim religious leaders began to speak out against it. Ramadan points out that Muslim religious texts, traditions, and social mores are interpreted by human beings – just like those of every world religion. Traditions and values change over time as human beings learn more about the world around them. Practices which were once acceptable to people of faith (slavery, child abuse, racism) should no longer be tolerated by religious tradition. And forced or child marriage is one of these “traditional” practices which needs to evolve with the growing importance of basic human rights for women around the world. Islam, Ramadan says, just needs to evolve its traditions into the 21st century. In addition to the Muslim scholars who have spoken out against forced marriage, the texts on which Islam is based clearly state that consent from both parties is crucial to having a marriage blessed by God. The Quran, like the Bible, the Talmud, and other religious texts, is full of statements supporting human rights for women and condemning actions like rape and forcing people into servitude. But if forced marriage is so clearly un-Islamic, then why do Muslim religious leaders sanction forced marriages of children to much older men, and why do communities of good, devout Muslims tolerate the practice? I imagine it’s for much of the same reason fundamentalist Christians bomb abortion clinics and wave neo-Nazi flags: the power of culture. The Bible, as a religious text, is pretty clear about the position Christians should have when it comes to violence and hate crimes: just say no and turn the other cheek. But in the US, some cultures have developed which value, say, being a white person above all else. So they use the Bible to support the very things the text condemns: violence and hate. In Yemen, Iran and other Muslim countries, the same dynamic plays out around forced marriage. The biggest difference is, of course, the amount of political power the extremist groups hold. As a religion, Islam doesn’t support forced marriage any more than any other major religion. That means that the forces supporting forced marriage are political and cultural, as opposed to religious. Sure, it may seem like a minute distinction, but it actually makes a huge difference, because politics and culture evolve much more readily than religion does, and people are much less willing to die for the former than the latter. It’s the difference, perhaps, between a velvet revolution and the next round of the crusades. AMANDA KLOER FOR CHANGE.



What if India, Pakistan freeze Kashmir issue?

29 FEB, 2012

SRINAGAR: Have India and Pakistan decided to freeze the Kashmir dispute for 10 years and move ahead on improving relations with each other? A hot debate is doing the rounds in Jammu and Kashmir these days, with the common man saying peace and the unique Kashmiri identity should be prime considerations in any such move.

Media reports carried in some local and national newspapers recently suggest that through backchannel diplomacy the two countries have decided to freeze the contentious Kashmir issue for a decade.

Even the separatist camp is agog with rumours that there could be some truth in these reports.

"How can the dispute be relegated to the backburner? It is the main dispute between India and Pakistan since its causes are rooted in history. Forward movement would always be dicey unless the political aspirations of Kashmiris are met," said a senior separatist leader who did not want to be named.

Hardline senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has reacted to news reports saying, "India has always believed in delaying tactics while dealing with the reality of Kashmir."

Most mainstream politicians have reacted on expected lines.

"Once relations and confidence levels between the two countries improve, a solution to the Kashmir problem would automatically filter out. As long as the Kashmir problem holds India-Pakistan relations hostage, there would be no solution," said a senior leader of the ruling National Conference.

India maintains that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of its territory, but Pakistan disputes the claim. India has for years accused Pakistan of fomenting insurgency in the state. The two countries have fought two wars over Kashmir and came to the brink of another in 1999 in Kargil.

The common man, however, wants peace guarantees for any bilateral understanding between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.

"The most important thing is guaranteeing peace in Kashmir till the two countries agree on a negotiated settlement. We must not continue to stew in our own soup while India and Pakistan decide on trade and commerce," said Nazir Ahmad Mir, 42, a resident of north Kashmir's Ganderbal district.

People in Srinagar city, especially those living in the old city areas, react more emotionally to the prospect of the Kashmir problem being frozen for a while.



Maldives president blocked from opening Parliament

Associated Press, Male | Thu, 03/01/2012

Maldives president: (AP)

Supporters of Maldives' former president prevented the country's new leader from opening Parliament on Thursday, three weeks after he took office in a contentious power transfer.

Backers of former President Mohamed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party blocked roads leading to Parliament and clashed with police, who attempted to push them aside with their shields. At least three policemen were injured and a dozen protesters were arrested.

The protesters then removed the seats reserved for the president and the speaker in Parliament, preventing President Mohammed Waheed Hassan from making an inaugural speech.

According to the constitution, the president must speak to the lawmakers and officially open a new parliamentary session after a change in leadership.

Hassan then went to a waiting room in Parliament hoping that the opposition lawmakers would end their protest, spokesman Masood Imad said.

"He is determined to speak but the situation is still not conducive," Imad said.

Nasheed resigned last month after weeks of public protests and loss of support from the military and police. He later said he was ousted in a coup and was forced to resign at gunpoint.

A political stalemate has followed, with Nasheed calling Hassan's government illegitimate and campaigning for early elections. Hassan, Nasheed's former deputy, says the transfer was constitutional.

Maldives, a nation of 300,000 people, introduced democratic elections after 30 years of autocratic rule ended in 2008.



NA body for zero tolerance on rights violation in Balochistan

By Tanveer Ahmed

Thursday, March 01, 2012

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee on Defence said on Wednesday there should be zero tolerance on human rights violation in Balochistan.

An in-camera session of the committee was held at the Parliament House to discuss the country’s security situation, particularly in Balochistan. MNA Dr Azra Afzal Pehchuho presided over the meeting.

The committee said the movement of foreigners and their activities in Balochistan should be regularised and monitored properly. “A close interaction between intelligence agencies and the government of Balochistan may be ensured to improving the law and order situation in the province,” it said.

Officials from intelligences agencies and the provincial Home Department apprised the committee of the history of unrest and involvement of foreign hands in the violence in Balochistan.

Briefing the committee, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) director general proposed talks with separatists in Balochistan to resolve the issues of the province.

According to sources, the IB chief said the situation in Balochistan was “dangerous” due to the interference of internal and external forces.

The committee was told that different groups are involved in kidnapping incidents in the province. The officials denied the involvement of Pakistan Army in the kidnapping and killing of Baloch people.

The committee recommended that the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package should be immediately implemented in its letter and spirit. It said that a quarterly report on implementation of the package should be shared with parliamentarians.

The NA defence body also directed law enforcement agencies not to overstep their domain and mandate to maintain law and order in the province. It said more efforts should be made for the recovery of missing persons.

The committee condemned Tuesday’s brutal killing of Shias in Kohistan and offered fateha for the departed souls.

Gunmen disguised in military uniform hauled 18 Shias off buses on Tuesday and shot them dead in cold blood in the usually quiet Kohistan region. Police said the attackers flagged down buses, climbed on board asking passengers for their identities, then dragged out the Shias and shot them. The committee also expressed its anger over the absence of chiefs of two prime intelligence agencies – the Military Intelligence (MI) and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) – in the meeting.

The meeting was attended by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Nawab Abdul Ghani Talpur, Shagufta Sadiq, Begum Ishrar Ashraf, Talat Mahesar, Syed Haider Ali Shah, Sardar Talib Hassan Nakai, Jawad Hussain, Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan, Capt (r) Rai Ghulam Mujtaba Khural and Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan.

Additional secretaries of the Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Division; National Crisis Management Cell director general, Balochistan home secretary and A1G (Sihdh) were also present.\03\01\story_1-3-2012_pg7_2



UN humanitarian aid chief denied entry into Syria


Published: Feb 29, 2012

UNITED NATIONS: UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos said on Wednesday she was “deeply disappointed” that Syria has refused to allow her to the visit the country, where she had hoped to assess the need for emergency relief in besieged towns.

Amos said in a statement that the refusal came “despite my repeated requests to meet Syrian officials at the highest level to discuss the humanitarian situation and the need for unhindered access to the people affected by the violence.”



Two Christians abducted in Pakistan

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Islamabad: Unidentified gunmen abducted two Pakistani Christians working for a hospital run by a South Korean charity in the southern port city of Karachi today, police said.

Four armed men stopped a car taking the two persons to work in Orangi area and took them away in a different vehicle, police said.

The abductors reportedly asked the occupants of the car if any of them were Koreans.

The two kidnapped persons worked as a computer operator and an administration assistant at the hospital operated by the South Korean charity.

No foreigners were in the vehicle that was stopped by the abductors.

Kidnappings for ransom by criminal groups and militant groups are common in several parts of Pakistan, including in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces.

At least five foreign aid and development workers have been kidnapped in Pakistan since last year.



Saudi women push for the right to play sports

Published on Wed, Feb 29, 2012

By Asma Alsharif

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - The image of 24-year-old Nour Fitiany resting courtside as the pounding of basketballs and thumping of feet reverberated around her wouldn't merit a second glance in most countries.

But in Saudi Arabia, where girls are banned from sports in state schools, powerful clerics castigate women for exercising and female gyms must adhere to strict regulations, Fitiany's ambition to play basketball - let alone represent her country in international tournaments - is a bold political statement.

"I hope that when they see that there are girls who really want to play, and who do play regardless of the obstacles that lie in their path, they realise that they have to do something," she said, dressed in a baby blue t-shirt and grey jogging pants, spinning a basketball on her index finger.

Female participation in sports has long been a controversial issue in the conservative Islamic kingdom, which on February 15 was lambasted by Human Rights Watch for never having sent a woman athlete to the Olympics.

The stance of the official Supreme Council of Religious Scholars is represented by Sheikh Abdullah al-Maneea, who said in 2009 that the excessive "movement and jumping" needed in football and basketball might cause girls to tear their hymens and lose their virginity.

After King Abdullah moved last year to bring women into the country's political process, however, there have been some signs authorities may allow sportswomen to compete internationally and make it easier for girls to exercise.

The HRW report said the National Olympic committee had "indicated" it would not stop women athletes taking part in the Games if they were invited, and speculation has been rife that the government will send equestrian Dalma Malhas to compete in this years Olympics in London.

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority told Reuters earlier this year there are plans to introduce after-hours physical education classes for both girls and boys.

The kingdom's official sporting body, the Saudi General Presidency of Youth Welfare, did not respond to Reuters questions on the issue.


Sports in the patriarchal society of Saudi Arabia has long been reserved as an activity for men. Even stadiums for watching sports prohibit females to be present.

Women are able to play in the privacy of their homes or in private schools but as soon as they step beyond that to play professionally or in organized teams in public competitions they are publicly slammed for going against their natural role.

Newspaper articles that refer to such women as "shameless" when they play sports are a cause of great embarrassment for the women and their families. Some have even received text messages advising them to stay at home and tend to their household duties as mothers and wives.

"If there is no support from the family we can not get into these types of activities ... some people are extremist or extra conservative," said Hadeer Sadagah, 17, who plays with Fitiany on their basketball team, Jeddah United.

Jeddah United was set up in 2003 to promote women's fitness; Malhas, who specialises in show jumping, trained privately and has competed in international tournaments since she was young.

A group of Saudi women is also planning a hiking expedition to Everest base camp this summer as part of a charity fundraising exercise to promote a healthy lifestyle for breast cancer patients.

Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the king who is known to be a supporter of women's rights, has included women in his Kingdom Equestrian Team, part of his company Kingdom Holding, which has allowed Saudi women to compete in international competitions since 2007.

Liberal Saudis consider women who participate in sports to be pioneers and encourage the women to play regardless of the obstacles.

"We have a very famous Arabic saying that goes, 'a healthy brain needs a healthy body' so from that I believe that people who are against women's sports are actually against women," Jeddah resident Hashim Larry, 27, told Reuters.

"They come from the same group of 'don't allow women to work and drive'."


The pressure against women in sports is intense and comes from senior figures in a clerical establishment that is closely allied to the ruling al-Saud family.

In 2010 Sheikh Abdulkareem al-Khudair, who also sits on the Supreme Council for Religious Scholars, renewed a religious edict banning sports for women, which he said "will lead to following in the footsteps of the devil".

He said it is not permitted to request that the government introduce sports in schools for girls because such activity is forbidden in Islam. Such comments from a high ranking cleric have immense influence in the monarchy, which rules in alliance with the conservative clerics.

When Jeddah United returned from a tournament in which they played the Jordanian national team, in 2009, a local newspaper published their photograph under the headline: "Shameless girls".

The religious pressure is so great that even female gyms have to wear a non-sporting fig leaf, masquerading as "health centres" that are regulated not by a national sports body but by the Health Ministry.

Fees are so high, at a minimum of 1,000 riyals a month, that only the affluent can afford membership.

In 2009 a clampdown on unlicensed female gyms gave rise to a women's rights campaign in newspapers and blogs, with the sarcastic slogan "Let her get fat!"

"As a nation we need to focus on preventative measures that include healthy lifestyle, specifically nutrition and fitness and early detection (of women's illnesses)," said Princess Reema al-Saud, who is leading the climb to Everest base camp.

"The inspiration to climb Everest base camp came from the basic idea that a healthy lifestyle and healthy body can fight illness better," she added.


The lack of facilities for women is a significant barrier in a country where gender segregation is strictly enforced.

While girls' state schools are barred from teaching physical education and consequently have no sports facilities, some private schools and private universities are very well equipped.

Jeddah United practices in one of the few courts available for women, surrounded by 5-meter (16-foot) concrete walls, which it rents for 7,000 to 10,000 riyals a month. Members get training and the opportunity to play three times a week for a monthly fee of 600 riyals.

"We believe that (Jeddah United) is a pressure group to promote a healthy lifestyle on a local level and on an international level," said the team's founder, Lina al-Maeena.

"We play a role of sport diplomacy by building bridges and breaking stereotypes of Saudi women I hope that we are paving the way."

Malhas, the equestrian who might yet be selected to represent the kingdom in London, trained in exclusively private facilities in Saudi Arabia.

She has already competed in international tournaments, which she travelled to by herself, financed not by the state but by her own family.

In the Singapore Youth Olympics in 2010 she stood on the podium to receive a bronze medal, although she was not officially delegated to represent the kingdom.

"I think women playing sports should ignore the criticisms they get from society," Fitiany said.

"That is a kind of struggle, standing strong and not caring what people say."



Iraqi Islamist Party Cleric Invited to Tunisia

Charles Baeder

29 February 2012

Ammar Hakim, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) – one of Iraq’s largest and most powerful political parties, has been invited to visit Tunisia as a delegate in an upcoming conference regarding the role of Islam in development. The moderate Shiite cleric was personally invited by Khaled Chawket, secretary general of Tunisian political party the Free Patriotic Union (UPL), to provide his insight as an Islamist leader in a country that has also undergone tremendous political change in recent years.

According to UPL Press Attaché Walid Majri, Hakim’s invitation has been sent, but the party has not yet received confirmation of the Shiite cleric’s intention to attend the event. Majri explained that the upcoming summit – the Arab Conference for Islam and Development – will host a number of esteemed scholars representing a variety of schools of moderate Islamic thought.

“The purpose of this conference is to explore the application of Islam in the service of development – both political and social,” Majri explained.

According to Majri, the UPL is striving to lead the country toward a new national dialogue by being the first organization to hold a conference of this nature in Tunisia. “We have invited Sunni, Shiia, and Sufi delegates – individuals representing a wide spectrum of Islamic thought. We wish to break from the trend, for which Ennahda bears some responsibility, of inviting individuals representing a narrow range of religious perspective,” Majri said.

Furthermore, Majri clarified that the summit will attempt to mend the rifts that have opened in Tunisian society as a consequence of the decision to host controversial figures and events. “We organized this conference to make progress following the setbacks caused by the Friends of Syria summit and Wajdi Ghoneim’s visit,” Majri stated.

A number of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars will be invited to attend the event, along with speakers belonging primarily to reformist and enlightenment movements within the Muslim community. Notable guests invited to the event include: Sadok Abderahman el-Mahdi – a Sudanese politician, scholar, leader of the Ummah party, and former prime minister; Dr. Abdel Ilah Balkis – a Morrocan Professor of philosophy at the University of Hassan II; Michel Kilou, a Syrian scholar; Mohamed Ben Brika Abouzidi el-Housseini – Algerian Sufi Scholar; and Ammar Hakim.

Hakim became the leader of the ISIC – the dominant party in Iraq’s Council of Representatives – following the death of his father, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, in 2007. In July 2004 he established the Al-Hakim Foundation, a non-profit organization advocating for the promotion of humanitarian relief work, human rights, development, and inter-religious dialogue. With over 80 offices in Iraq, it is one of the largest civil society institutions in the country, and has been granted consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at the United Nations.

“He will not only be a guest of the UPL but of all Tunisia…As soon as we get his confirmation we will contact the Ministries of the Interior and Foreign Affairs to begin the necessary preparations for his arrival,” Majri stated.



Soldiers visit with Islamic center’s members as cultural lesson

Troops learn how to be special-operations liaisons between troops, public overseas

By Josh Jarman

The Columbus Dispatch Monday February 27, 2012

They arrived in Humvees and military fatigues.

They left carrying free copies of the Quran.

If their mission was successful, the 30 or so Army Reserve soldiers from B Company, 412th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), also left the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Hilliard yesterday with a greater understanding of Islam and experience interacting with people from other cultures.

The soldiers spent about three hours at the center eating traditional Indian and Middle Eastern foods and talking in small groups with members of the mosque, many of whom were born overseas.

Capt. Patrick Seaman said it was his idea to take the troops to the center because no amount of training can replace real-world experience talking to, and gaining the trust of, people from different cultural backgrounds.

Seaman said the soldiers who took part are paratroopers with special-operations training. But their missions aren’t about blowing up bridges or capturing strategic locations; they serve as cultural liaisons between fellow soldiers and residents, he said.

“Our job is to win the hearts and minds,” Seaman said. “I don’t want the first time they are talking to someone from another country or faith to be (while deployed).”

Asim Haque, a member of the center’s board of directors, said the event was as good for the members of the mosque as it was for the soldiers.

Part of the center’s mission, Haque said, is to be a clearinghouse for information on Islam in the Columbus area.

Haque said the center has a duty to help U.S. troops become more comfortable interacting with Muslims and people born in countries where the troops could be deployed.

“There’s a lot we can offer,” he said. “If we don’t help with this in Columbus, Ohio, who will?"

Spc. Curtis Hale said the event helped both the soldiers and the mosque members to break down stereotypes and cultural barriers. Being able to sit down and strike up an hour-long conversation really shows the groups’ commonalities instead of the differences, Hale said.

He said he gained a new appreciation of world affairs after talking with a man who grew up in Syria and is concerned about unrest there. It’s easy to see events on the news and not be affected, but “getting his views about what was going on over there really brings it to life,” Hale said.

Mohammad Naiyer, a 15-year-old high-school sophomore, took advantage of yesterday’s event to corner a sergeant major and quiz him about military-career options.

Naiyer, who wants to be a doctor, asked about medical training and how joining the military could help pay for college.

He was impressed that the soldiers would take the time to visit the center. “When you want to learn about something, it’s best to go to the source,” Naiyer said. “I think it’s a good thing for the Army to come to a mosque.”



E-mail threatens outspoken Muslim politician Mohammed Islam and Cardiff

By Martin Shipton,

South Wales Echo Feb 27 2012, TERROR threats made against a councillor and the city of Cardiff have been passed to police.

It is understood the threats, the exact details of which have not been revealed, were made in an e-mail sent to Cardiff council late last week.

The subject of the threats – apparently from Islamic extremists – was Plaid Cymru councillor Mohammed-Sarul Islam, who represents the Riverside ward and has been outspoken in his condemnation of Islamic extremism in the wake of recent convictions.

He has already received a menacing letter, as reported by the Echo.

Earlier this month, three young Muslim men from Cardiff were jailed for 16, 12 and 10 years respectively after admitting their part in a plan to bomb the Stock Exchange.

In a separate case, another young Muslim who threatened to shoot police officers who broke up a meeting they feared had been organised by a banned group was last week jailed for eight months.

Coun Islam, himself a practising Muslim, said: “I am appalled at the threats made against me and also against the city I love. Of course, these latest threats made are a worry to me and my family but I’m determined to carry on my life as normally as possible.

“The small numbers of extremists involved in these sorts of activities do not speak for Muslims and I know the ordinary Muslim would condemn them, as I do.

“I also believe their views unfortunately can impact negatively on the attitude of some non-Muslims to Islam.”

Coun Neil McEvoy, leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Cardiff council and deputy leader of the authority, said: “I was shocked to hear of the latest threats made against Coun Islam. They are totally unacceptable. These militants must not be allowed to succeed in their desire to spread fear to our communities. We are all part of the same community and we will support him.”

South Wales Police was unable to comment.



Christian families fleeing from Kashmir valley

Mumbai: February 26, 2012. (PCP) The religious cleansing complete and now Kashmir valley will be 100% Muslim after fleeing of Christian when Hindu Pundits and Sikhs were also forced to flee decades ago.

It was disclosed in a press conference at Mumbai Press Club by Mr. Joseph Dias, Secretary General of CSF, Adv. Iftikhar Bazmi, India Representative, IRDC (Washington DC) and Justice Michael Saldanha, ex Judge of Bombay & Karnataka High Courts that Christians faced torture, persecution, en masse massacre and violation of human rights which forced them to flee from Kashir valley.

Indian Christians, unable to bear the wrath of radical "Islamists" have fled Kashmir and live scattered throughout the country. The tales of woe faced by clergymen, community leaders and their families were narrated by the victims and others at a meet organized by The Catholic-Christian Secular Forum, (CSF) a Mumbai based activist NGO, advocating their cause and working to rehabilitate the affected.

Justice Michael Saldanha, a retired judge from the Bombay and Karnataka High Courts said that it was unfortunate that the state government could not guarantee the safety and security of its citizens. "There was no question of there being a "Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet" issuing fatwas and the state government looking the other way. The Sharia is not applicable to non-Muslims and must be restricted to the community. The Christians in Kashmir were facing the same fate as that of the Hindu Pundits and even worse because they are miniscule in number and are commanded by their faith, not to retaliate", he added.

Advocate Iftikhar Bazmi, who was also summoned by the Shariet Court, said he did not go because those at the helm of affairs behaved in an un-Islamic manner. He called upon the Jammu and Kashmir government to protect minorities and ensure rule of law, as such fundamentalism would only prove to be disastrous for the country. He also pointed out that while India had amended its Constitution to include the words "secular democracy", the J & K Constitution was not amended. Advocate Bazmi is India representative on the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, headquartered in Washington DC and is also secretary of the Poonch Bar Association in J & K.

Joseph Dias, The CSF general secretary urged the prime minister to grant a special package from the PM's Relief Fund to take care of the victims, who were no less refugees in their own land. He appealed to the union government to intervene and resolve the issue, which concerned Indian Christians, who were being treated worse than second class citizens and were at least entitled to fundamental human rights. The CSF released its report, after a team went to J & K recently to find out and document the persecution, which was no different to those experienced in extremist countries.

Victims describe what Kashmiri Christian families are facing

1. Burnt with live coals and left to die

2. Homeless in the snow, with no money

3. No freedom of religion or right to choose

4. Brutally injured, with suffering wives and children

5. Maulvi Committees and Special Investigation Teams

6. Fanatics claim Police, Judiciary and Government with them

7. Socio-Economic boycott leaves the Christians impoverished

8. Demonizing and profiling Christians to religiously cleanse them

9. Islamic finance pouring in and being used to finance the war on Christians

10. Danger of extremists and anti-national forces jumping on the bandwagon

11. Fanatics falsely claim 20,000 Muslims converted to Christianity since 1990s

12. Many districts are affected by persecution, where Christians are hounded out

23 year ago: 19, January, 1990 - Pundits & Christians of Pundit Origin hounded. This is exactly what is happening to the 200 odd Christians in the Kashmir valley

• Christian children die, wives separated to be given to others and property taken.

• Christian families are near-death because of attacks and total boycott, forsaken by all.

• Christians must revert or leave Kashmir. Else face the consequences that few want to.

• Christian institutions/NGOs face being taken over and the community becoming extinct.

• Churches or Christians can do nothing but become martyrs for they cannot take up arms.

Ground Zero realities: Christian Victims of “Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet”

1. Hate campaigns, frenzied zealots, loot..

2. Hostile legal and official state machinery

3. Christian schools & institutions targeted

4. Christians are soft targets with no support

5. Muslims well organized to protect the faith

6. Persecution history of death, churches burnt & mayhem

7. Hundred Percent Muslim Kashmir – Christian dilemma in J & K

Democracy, Federalism, Secularism, Harmony & Minority Rights at Stake

The CSF Urgent Recommendations

1. The union government must intervene forthwith put an end to the persecution caused by the Islamic fundamentalists, under the garb of Shariet law and the enquiries being conducted by the Special Investigation Team, appointed by the state government, which is targeting Christians.

2. The union & state governments must ensures the safety of Rev. CM Khanna, Fr. Jim Borst, missionaries and dozen converted families, whose lives and property are in danger. All secular-minded citizens feel that there is grave threat and Christians live in fear and constant danger.

3. The affected Kashmiri Christians, living worse than refugees must be rehabilitated in a camp at Jammu or any suitable place, given property and facilities, government jobs and loans, free-ships and grants, besides other facilities to rebuild their lives and survive elsewhere in J & K.

4. If the union and state governments can’t take care of even the basic needs of the Kashmiri Christians, which is security and freedom of religion, then the government should declare them as “refugees” or “internally displaced persons”, which will enable them get relief from elsewhere.

5. The “Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet in J & K”, is an extra-constitutional authority, with no legal sanction and Fatwas or complaints by / against believers of any faiths is unhealthy for secularism & is to be avoided. The communal harmony and rule of law needs to be restored.

6. Efforts must be made to stop the rumor-mongering and baseless allegations, being made in Kashmir and stereotyping / profiling the Christian community, as converting with allurements, such as providing neo-converts with money, alcohol, women, passports, immoral lifestyle, etc.

7. The civil society, human rights activists, mass media and patriots must rise to the occasion and express solidarity with the Christians in Kashmir and ensure that their constitutional rights and freedoms are safeguarded – as in such a hostile environment, they are defenceless.

8. The police under pressure from the "Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet", has registered false cases trumped-up under sections 153A and 295A, for spreading hatred between communities, etc. These cases have been forged upon the missionaries and Christians without a shred of evidence. We therefore urge that they be squashed by the government.

9. The state government needs to consider extending the National Minorities Commission Act and other such human rights and Indian Constitutional safeguards legislation or enact such laws for application in J & K, to ensure that the fundamental guarantees to citizens are available, as available in all other parts of the country.

Some of those affected by persecution

Fr. Jim Borst - Serving J & K for 50 years

Rev. CM Khanna – Serving as priest for 35 years

Juan Marcos Troia, an Argentinian football coach

Rev. Gayur Massih and Family – 22 years in ministry

Rev. S. Neethirajan and Family – 20 years in ministry

Mr. Predhuman Joseph Dhar – Bible scholar of Pundit origin



Islam doesn’t allow killing of mankind: Pakistani scholar

February 29, 2012

By Madhusree Chatterjee

New Delhi, (IANS) The message of peace and moderation sets former Pakistan-based politician, activist and motivational speaker Shaykh-ul-Islam Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri apart from other Islamic scholars. He says Islam stands for love and not the killing of mankind.

“I have tried to bring up the true teachings of the Quran so that I may stop the means of distortion of the teachings…the extremists are using religion as a tool to achieve ulterior motives. All people belonging to all religions – their lives and places of worship – should be protected,” the author of the popular book “Fatwa on Terrorism”, told IANS in an interview.

“I have quoted from the main juristic schools of Islam or ‘Hadith’ taught by the great Imams like the hanafis, Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanbali and from the prophet’s Sunnah to prove that Islam stands for love, peace, forbearance, mercy and human dignity.”

“I have cited hundreds of references to show that not a single school of Islamic law in the history of faith has allowed the killing of mankind in the way it is carried out now,” Qadri said.

He condemns “terrorism” and campaigns against “armed jihad” on the ground that the Quran prohibits the killing of human beings – to the embarrassment of Islamic terrorists.

“I won’t comment on Salman Rushdie (the recent episode where he was not allowed to come to an Indian literary festival), but I believe in balance and moderation in anything,” Tahir-ul-Qadri, who has written nearly 600 books, told IANS here.

“Any act, may be intellectual or academic, or any act like drama, film or any other act…I am in favour of moderation and balance. I believe in freedom of expression, but there should be certain checks and balances in freedom of expression too.”

“I should not express my views in a way that may hurt other communities. We should respect religions. Freedom of expression should be responsible. If the whole of mankind is hurt, upset and frustrated with hatred, then who will build bridges and bring the people closer? I believe in tolerance, love and respect,” Qadri said.

The scholar said no purpose was served by criticising the sacred texts and the gods.

Founder of socio-political and education platform Minhaj-ul-Qur’an, he was in the country to launch the Indian edition of his book, “Fatwa on Terrorism”. He addressed gatherings in Mumbai and Gujarat. His organisation which was set up in Lahore in 1981 now works in more than 90 countries.

Qadri has been an “opposition leader” in Pakistan between 1989 to 1993, pointing out the government’s mistakes and suggesting ways to improve the situation in the political, educational and economical fields.

What is the Quranic commandment on the subject of extremism, terrorism and suicide bombing? The cleric asks. And he replies, “The killing of mankind irrespective of religion, race and colour – unless a court of law requires a proper legal punishment or in self-defence – taking up arms and killing people on their own are totally prohibited under the Quran.”

A translation of a Quranic verse says the “killing of a single man amounts to killing of a whole mankind”.

Qadri said he has brought the Islamic wisdom and the message of compassion from 1,400 years of texts that he has studied personally in his book to issue his “fatwa on terrorism”.

Qadri said “not a single scholar or extremist organisation” has refuted his claim of “Islam being a faith of peace, freedom and humanity”.

Terrorism is grounded in politics, the scholar said.

“International political issues are not being properly addressed or sorted out. There are some local socio-political problems in different countries which become the cause of irritation and frustration,” Qadri said.



Hope and reality of India-Pakistan relations

New Delhi, Wed, 29 Feb 2012ANI

New Delhi, Feb.29 (ANI): Old shibboleths and half truths take a long time to wither away. Pakistan still likes to believe or, at least its leadership does, that India is determined to undo the partition and grab Pakistan.

It is essential that Pakistan be convinced through force of logic and reality, and not by hopeful pacification bordering on appeasement, that India is simply not interested no matter what state Pakistan is in.

his is more so, when it is in the present state of economic destitution and political isolation, because of its own international misdemeanours. As soon as Pakistani leaders understand this, as soon as its military jihadi complex that has made hate India its USP, understands this, the sooner peace will break out.

It is true that that there many sane voices in Pakistan today who speak of the need to normalize relations with India and feel confident in their own nationality that they can be true Pakistanis without hating their neighbour. Their numbers are small, their voice limited largely to the English speaking class, and the Pakistani middle class, the country's ruling class and the feudal, who control the levers of power are dependent upon the Army for their survival and even prosperity.

he voice of reason is unfortunately drowned in the voice of hatred and fear; bolstered by an education system that inculcates obscurantism and hatred for non-believers. Worrying that this may be, it should be equally worrying that our text books too are rewriting history that is sectarian.

In our dealings with Pakistan, our first step should be to stop treating Pakistan exclusively as a Muslim nation. They believed in the two-nation theory, we did not and do not. That is why they became two in 1971 and we have continued as we were - perhaps a little muddled and disorganised, but still together.

There is therefore, no need to be obsessive about Pakistan's religion which forces us to be reflexive about our own Muslims. We do not treat the US, the UK or France on the basis of these countries major religion. There are no Christian republics in the world and if Pakistan wants to maintain itself as an Islamic republic it is its choice.

There is no need for us to keep assuming that we have to make electoral promises in India, concede anything or have to be friendly with Pakistan simply because this would affect vote banks of political parties.

This is not only faulty reasoning but in this day and age doubts the integrity and loyalty of our Muslims. Indian Muslims have the same problems as the rest of us, sometimes a little more, granted but they have the same hopes and aspirations as the rest of the country.

Everyone realises that Pakistan has killed more Muslims in the name of religion than any other country in modern history. It lost its claim to being the home for the subcontinent's Muslims in 1971 and has today become a safe haven for radical Islamic terrorists out to destroy the world.

Religion was never a basis for nationality or nations. Had that been so we would have had only half a dozen major countries in the world. Christians have fought Christians in the two of the bloodiest wars of the last century and for hundreds of years before that. Muslims are fighting Muslims all over today. Neither peace nor wars, prosperity or destitution are determined by or are dependent upon religion. These are false choices political and religious leaders sometimes force on their people.

That being so, we should treat Pakistan as just another nation on our borders with whom relations remain difficult and may not improve very much very quickly. We should not be reading too much into vague signals from Pakistan, we have bitten too often in the past and so many other interests are still at work in that country. We should wait for Pakistanis to sort out Pakistan before showing a misplaced eagerness to do business with them in the name of CBMs without matching CBMs from them.

We have to wait for the day when Pakistan does a genuine cost benefit analysis to understand that it stands to gain enormously by trading with India and allowing investment in Pakistan. Its leaders must decide whether its people should pay the heavy price of underdevelopment and economic ruin for continued hostility with India.

Of course this will not be easy or immediate but Pakistan must make the first move on this. It is Pakistan that must evaluate whether it will be gain economically if India had transit rights across Pakistan to Afghanistan; whether it will gain from a peaceful Afghanistan or an unstable Afghanistan at war with itself and with Pakistan.

As the smaller country and economy dealing with the bigger country and bigger economy it is the former that usually stands to derive the greater benefit.

Nations of this century will stand or wither away depending upon how much good governance their governments provide, how much prosperity they can bring to their people and how much security they can provide to the average man woman and child. Religious exultation is hardly likely to provide any of these three but if allowed to propagate its obscurantism, then it threatens to engulf the majority or those who hold moderate beliefs.

A great deal will depend upon how the military business establishment sees its future; whether items a greater benefit from the war dividend or from the peace dividend. No one but the Pakistanis can convince their rulers about this. Till then, we should temper our hopes with some realism.(ANI)

Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Vikram Sood, former Secretary, R and AW, Government of India.



Syria crisis: Opposition sets up military bureau


The BBC's Jim Muir says footage from Wednesday shows tanks and soldiers on the edge of Baba Amr

Syria's main political opposition group has formed a military bureau to unify armed resistance to the government.

The Syrian National Council (SNC) said the bureau would bring armed groups under a central command and control the flow of weapons to avoid "chaos".

The government launched a ground assault in the city of Homs this week after weeks of shelling.

The UN's rights council has passed a resolution condemning "systematic violations" against civilians.

The motion, supported by 37 nations, called for the regime to allow access for aid agencies, and demanded an immediate halt to the violence.

China and Russia, which have both vetoed UN resolutions on Syria, voted against the proposal. Cuba also rejected the motion.

The vote carries no legal weight, but analysts say it may embolden diplomats to take a tougher line in UN Security Council debates.

I can't really compare Homs to any other war zone I have worked in - apart, perhaps, from Chechnya.

I was based in a makeshift operating theatre. Everyone is too scared to go to the state-run hospital - they are terrified of having a limb amputated, or of being kidnapped. Only the Syrian army soldiers go there now.

I operated on 90 people. We couldn't help those who had been injured in the chest and the head, only those with wounds to the abdomen and below.

The people there are convinced that they will win. They are very brave but they are also desperate at having been bombarded for so long. They think they have been abandoned.

'I worked in Homs hospital'

SNC leader Burhan Ghalioun announced the new military bureau at a news conference in Paris.

He said the uprising had begun as a non-violent movement, but the council had to "shoulder its responsibilities in light of this new reality".

Mr Ghalioun said the bureau would function like a defence ministry and would be staffed by soldiers from the main armed group, the Free Syrian Army, as well as civilians.

He said it would control the supply of arms, track and organise armed groups and manage funding and seek guidance from foreign experts.

He insisted that the function of the bureau was only to protect peaceful protesters and said the Free Syrian Army had agreed to the new organisation.

In other developments:

Foreign ministers of the six Gulf Arab states have said they will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov next week to "express disappointment with the Russian stance", according to the AFP news agency

UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan has called for unity behind a single mediation effort

Britain has confirmed it is withdrawing its remaining diplomatic staff from Damascus because of security concerns

Syria has responded to criticism that it refused to allow UN rights official Valerie Amos into the country, saying she had requested "an unsuitable time", and promising to continue consultations.

'Just miserable'

The Baba Amr district, where many opposition fighters are believed to be sheltering, has been under bombardment for almost a month.

Kofi Annan: "It is when the international community speaks with one voice that its voice is powerful"

Many of the area's estimated 100,000 residents have fled to escape the siege, and it is unclear how many are still trapped.

Ground troops moved into the besieged quarter earlier this week, and state TV broadcast footage of smashed and empty streets with the sound of gunfire reverberating.

Communication with the area has been largely cut off, and people are struggling to get in or out.

Government officials claimed to have taken control of Baba Amr late on Wednesday, and said troops were now "mopping up" pockets of resistance.

But opposition activists strongly denied those claims, saying fighters from the Free Syrian Army had managed to push back regime forces.

"They've been trying to enter the neighbourhood of Baba Amr but the Free Syrian Army is fighting back," one activist said.

"It's just miserable here in Baba Amr."

Witnesses in Homs said the city had been blanketed in snow, which has slowed the military assault.

But the cold weather is making life difficult for residents, many of whom are without power and running low on basic supplies.

One resident told the BBC how people were trying to melt snow because they had no water.

Several Western journalists trapped in the latest bombardment in Homs have managed to escape to neighbouring Lebanon in recent days.

But two French journalists, Edith Bouvier, who is seriously wounded, and William Daniels, remain unaccounted for.

Activists say more than 7,500 people have died since the uprising against Mr Assad's government began last March.

The government, however, says at least 1,345 members of the security forces have been killed combating "armed gangs and terrorists", and puts the number of civilians killed at 2,493.



NATO has urged Afghanistan to sign US deal: Karzai

Thursday, March 01, 2012

KABUL: NATO has urged Afghanistan to accelerate the signing of a strategic partnership deal with the US in the wake of deadly protests over the burning of the holy Quran, President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the appeal in a telephone call to Karzai in which he expressed regret over the deaths of dozens of demonstrators in anti-US protests, Karzai's office said. In response, the Afghan president said he was willing to sign the long-term agreement but reiterated that it would only be done under certain conditions. These include a respect for Afghan national sovereignty, an end to night raids by international forces and the handing over of the Bagram prison – known as Afghanistan’s Guantanamo Bay – to Afghan control, Karzai said in a statement. Rasmussen had said the signing of the partnership deal, which covers relations with the US after it withdraws its combat troops in 2014, would make a "good impact" on the Chicago conference on Afghanistan in May. The NATO chief insisted in a statement on Tuesday that trust had not broken down between alliance-led troops and Afghan security forces, despite incidents in which Afghans turned their weapons on their American partners. Two US military advisers were gunned down in the interior ministry in Kabul on Saturday, days after two American troops were killed by an Afghan soldier in the east, prompting NATO to pull its advisers out of Afghan government ministries. Popular outrage erupted after Afghans learned that copies of the holy Quran were thrown into an incinerator pit at the US-run Bagram airbase, leading US President Barack Obama to apologise for what he described as an error. afp\03\01\story_1-3-2012_pg7_28



UN chief condemns Kohistan massacre

Thursday, March 01, 2012

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned Tuesday's attack in Kohistan in which gunmen killed 18 shias after ordering them off a bus on the Islamabad-Gilgit route. The secretary general extended his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the 'abhorrent attack,' as well as to the government of Pakistan, according to a statement issued by his spokesperson. "The United Nations stands by Pakistan in its efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism and extremism, which continues to claim the lives of so many Pakistanis," the statement added. Concerning another incident, the Pakistani government on Wednesday condemned in strongest terms the killing of a Chinese national in Peshawar. "We condole with the family of the deceased. Every effort will be made to investigate this crime and bring the perpetrators to justice," said a Foreign Office statement. The Foreign Office spokesperson said the government of Pakistan attaches high importance to the security and safety of Chinese nationals in Pakistan. app\03\01\story_1-3-2012_pg7_18



Foiled Delhi blast: Homegrown jihadis Lashkar's latest weapon

Neeraj Chauhan

TNN | Mar 1, 2012

NEW DELHI: Since early Nineties, Lashkar has been pushing terrorists into India from jihad launch pads in Pakistan. Earlier, its focus was Kashmir. Later, it became the arm of Islamabad's state-sponsored terrorism. From Red Fort attack in 2000 and Parliament strike in 2001 to Mumbai attacks in 2008, all bore the imprint of Lashkar-e-Taiba. But there's been a strategic shift in Lashkar's tactics after 26/11 - when it sent 10 terrorists to attack India's financial capital. The outfit has successfully nurtured indigenous jihadis and is sending solitary bombers on terror missions after training in Pakistan. And this has sent alarm bells ringing in the country's security establishment.

The arrest of two Kashmiri youths, Ahtesham and Shafaqat, who were giving shape to the bloody strike on Wednesday, has confirmed the new trend. Senior officials said Lashkar has lured educated youths from Kashmir and north India into its fold. Though they are sent to Pakistan for training, they are not sent in batches to unleash mayhem. They are dispatched in ones and twos after specific training in hi-tech equipment and bomb-making.

During questioning, Ahtesham, a graduate, told police that after his training in Muzzafarabad from December 2011 to January 2012, he entered India. He went to his mother's house at Giridih in Jharkhand and met few contacts there. Later, he came to Delhi with Shafaqat and rented an accommodation in Tughlaqabad area in south-east Delhi.

"He had with him all ingredients for making a powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED). He was also carrying detonators and two memory sticks, including the one in which he is being taught to make a bomb. He used this video to construct the explosive. It was our luck that we arrested him hours before the blast. We have information about the twin blasts at Chandni Chowk in Delhi and Srinagar. Lashkar also had plans to carry more attacks in Delhi's markets before Holi," a police officer said.

Earlier, Lashkar took help of sleeper cells for logistical support. "But, Ahtesham did everything on his own. This ensured that only the attacker knew about the mission," said the official. Intelligence agencies had busted several Lashkar modules in the past and this may have triggered a strategy change.

Ahtesham, who was reporting to Lashkar commander in Kashmir, Abu Hamza, had joined the organization recently. Officials say he may not have been involved in earlier blasts.

Sleuths are also trying to find out why Hurriyat leader SAS Geelani had referred Ahtesham's name for a visa. His name was given to a top ISI leader in Pakistan who got it cleared. Investigators are also trying to find out the number of men recently recruited by Lashkar from different states for training in Pakistan. Intelligence Bureau claims Lashkar is planning a big strike soon.



NATO: 2 coalition troops killed by gunmen, one of whom believed to be Afghan soldier

KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO says two service members were shot dead in southern Afghanistan when two men, one of whom was believed to be an Afghan soldier, turned their weapons against international troops.

Thursday’s shooting is the latest case of Afghan policemen or soldiers — or militants disguised in their uniforms — killing NATO troops.

Six NATO service members have been killed this way in less than two weeks. NATO says one of the gunmen was wearing civilian clothing and the other was believed to be a member of the Afghan army.

Two U.S. military advisers were shot and killed Feb. 25 inside their office at the Afghan Interior Ministry. Days before that, an Afghan solider shot and killed two other U.S. troops during a protest over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base.



More Than 1,000 Chadian Migrants Flee Fighting in Nigeria

February 29, 2012

Lisa Schlein | Geneva

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports more than 1,000 Chadian migrants including, unaccompanied children, have fled from violence in Nigeria to a remote area along the Chad-Nigerian border.

A joint IOM Chadian assessment team traveled to the area a couple of days ago and discovered the group living in deplorable conditions and in desperate need of help. 

The International Organization for Migration says the migrants told the aid workers who found them they had fled from violent clashes between the extremist Boko Haram Islamic group and the Nigerian military.

The migrants said they had traveled across Lake Chad by boat from the Nigerian villages of Douri and Maday.  And, from there, they said it took them about a week to walk to the village of Ngouboua, about 30 kilometers from the Nigerian border.

The migrants are completely destitute, said Qasim Sufi, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Chad.

“So, everybody was running for their lives, " said Sufi. "The villages have been burned down, nothing remains. People are exhausted.  They are hot.  They ran away from everything they had.  They are dehydrated.  They do not have food.  They do not have anything.”  

The returnees are finding shelter along Chad’s Lake region, which is experiencing food shortages.  Sufi said the migrants are surviving on handouts from local inhabitants and a team that was in the area saw several children begging for food.

Some people are sleeping in makeshift huts, he said.  Others are living in the open without warm clothing to protect them from the night cold, and others have left the area to join their families. 

Sufi said the vast majority, a group of more than 800 people, remain.  The group includes a large number of unaccompanied children aged between 6 and 14, he said.

“Normally, Chadians have the habit to send their children to Nigeria for Koranic, for religious education.  And, also, there are people from the southern part of Chad who are Christians and Animists and who have gone there for work, for cultivation.  They are farmers,” said Sufi.

The migrants say the Nigerian military went through their villages looking for Boko Haram rebels, Sufi said. And he said they claimed the military burned down their villages and that several people died.  Sufi could not confirm this.

More people are arriving from Nigeria every day and Sufi adds he does not know how this crisis will evolve.  There are plans to set up a small monitoring unit to help transport people who are exhausted from their journey to a place where they can be assisted.

IOM is appealing for international help.  Agency officials say the migrants need food, water, shelter, and medical care.  They need everything.



Australian players cry foul over FIFA hijab ban


Mar 1, 2012

SYDNEY: Assmaah Helal has broken barriers to reach football's elite, but a controversial FIFA ban on Muslim women playing in the hijab means she may never realise her dream of wearing the Australian jersey.

Helal, 25, was introduced to football by her Egyptian-born father when she was just five, and she was determined not to let gender keep her from joining her three brothers on the pitch.

It was no easy task. Members of her Muslim community in western Sydney frowned on the idea of girls playing sport at all, much less a rough and tumble game which was, at that time, still very much a male domain.

"I used to just get told I was a tomboy. In my culture, to play with the guys and to mix with guys was seen as not appropriate," Helal said.

Helal now plays in the Super League, one step below the nation's premier W-League for women, and says representing Australia in national side the Matildas would be her ultimate dream.

But devout Muslim beliefs which see her don the hijab to play every weekend mean -- for now -- such a dream is out of reach.

FIFA banned players from wearing the Islamic headscarf in 2007, claiming it is unsafe, but Helal has never once experienced or heard of a hijab-related injury and has joined growing calls for the ban to be overturned.

"I strongly believe that the ban is just outright discrimination," she said of the headscarf, which she described as "a part of a Muslim woman's identity which cannot be changed".

"At an international and an elite level, sports like taekwondo and rugby allow the headscarf to be worn during the competitive matches, and for the world game, for the universal language that is football, to ban the headscarf... it doesn't make sense."

The Asian Football Confederation is leading the charge for the sport's lawmaking body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), to lift the ban when it meets this Saturday, March 3.

It has become a pressing issue in the region, with Iran's national women's team forced to withdraw from the West Asia Olympic qualifiers last year and three players dropping out of the Jordanian side due to the ban.

AFC vice-president Moya Dodd said the safety concerns had been "fully addressed" by new designs with a velcro front-seam to prevent strangulation and it was a baseless reason to exclude "hundreds of millions" of Muslim women.

"Football, it's the fastest-growing sport in Asia, and it's important that people can play also knowing that they can compete at the top level," Dodd said.

"Sport is the field of dreams. If you take away the dream of playing in an Olympics or playing in a World Cup then it will have an effect all the way down the line."

Melissa Barbieri, captain of the Matildas and one of Australia's best-known female footballers, said she had seen great Muslim players "and it scares me to think they won't be able to play for Australia one day because of religion".

"We already have so many obstacles in the way of getting equal opportunity in the football world, mostly due to stereotypes and lack of knowledge," she said, urging FIFA to see the footballers behind the hijab.

"If you just see some of these girls' skills you would feel obliged to overturn the ban. It would send a thorough 'Football is the World Game' message," added Barbieri.

Sydney sisters Hiba and Hala Ayache, 24 and 26, have been campaigning for nine years to win acceptance of their all-female "Lakembaroos" football club in the local Muslim community and they see the ban as a slap in the face.

"You're taking it all away, all our hard work," said Hiba, who has played at state representative level and, like Helal, has international dreams.

"We all have the potential, we have the skills to play further. So it's not only the boundaries of our family and the community, it also becomes international now. It's a bit of a burden on us."

Dodd said only that she's "hopeful" of having a fair hearing over the ban at the meeting of IFAB, which comprises four members from FIFA and four from British associations.

"I'd like to see a way enabling women with particular cultural beliefs to participate, rather than see it as ground for exclusion," she said.

"The field should be a field of cultural exchange rather than conflict."



Bomb kills women, child in Pakistan: officials

February 29, 2012

PESHAWAR: Two women and a child were killed on Wednesday when a bomb ripped through their vehicle in Pakistan's Taliban and Al-Qaeda infested tribal belt on the Afghan border, officials said.

The blast took place on the outskirts of Bara, a restive town of Khyber district bordering Afghanistan, where US-led foreign and Afghan troops are fighting against a 10-year Taliban insurgency.

"At least two women and a child were killed and five others were wounded in a bomb blast," Khyber's administrator Mutahir Zeb Khan told AFP.

The bomb was planted on the roadside and detonated remotely as the pick-up vehicle carrying the passengers passed, he said. The target was unclear.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, but similar bombings in the past have been blamed on militants linked to the Taliban.

Last October, some 18,000 people fled their homes in Khyber, where Pakistani troops have been fighting Islamist militants tied to the Pakistani Taliban.

A covert US drone program routinely targets militants in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt, rife with homegrown insurgents, Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives.

Islamist bombers and gunmen have killed more than 4,800 people across Pakistan since troops raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.

(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::



Chairman of Hurriyat Conference Geelani visits World Book Fair in New Delhi

Interacts With People from Different Muslim Countries



Srinagar, Feb 29: The Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Wednesday appealed to the Muslim youth to rise above their maslaki and group differences and put in their efforts to establish just system of Islam.

 “The Muslim youth should try their best to establish the system of Islam and put across the message that Islam stands for peace, security and brotherhood,” a Hurriyat spokesman quoted Geelani as having said while interacting with the people of different Muslim countries during his visit to World Book Fair going at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.

 Interacting with people from Arab, Turki, Egypt, Pakistan and other Muslim countries, Geelani said, “The biggest challenge the Ummah is currently facing is from government paid Moulvis who divide the Muslims in the name of Shafi, Devbandi, Barailvi, Muqalid and Gair Muqalid and create hatred among them against one another.”

 Geelani purchased several books for his personal library from various stalls. He was accompanied by the in-charge Millat Publications Muhammad Afzal Lone and Dr Nayeem. “A publisher from Pakistan sought Geelani’s permission for publishing his autobiography: Wallar Ka Kinaray and second volume of Rohi Din Ka Shanasa, which he (Geelani) gave happily,” the spokesman said.

 Talking to Saudi delegation, Geelani said, “No doubt Saudi Arab is the focus of Muslims’ love and devotion but the country’s foreign affairs are in the hands of imperialistic forces and they do not want it (Saudi Arab) to play the role of centre for all Muslims in the world and become a source of strength.” He hoped that the rulers of Saudi Arab would see through the conspiracy of anti-Islamic forces and play the role of Markaz in future for the Muslims of the world.

 Geelani clarified that the ongoing struggle in Kashmir was not against any community or religion but for right of self-determination of Kashmiris. He appealed to the justice loving people of India not to be swayed by the negative propaganda and try to understand the basis of Kashmir dispute. He also appealed them to raise their voice against, what he said, the serious violations of human rights in Kashmir.\



Pakistan SC issues notice to former ISI chief, defence ministry

PTI | Feb 29, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices to former ISI chief Asad Durrani and the defence ministry as it resumed hearing a petition against the funding of politicians by the spy agency after a gap of over 12 years.

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry also sought records related to the case filed in 1996 by former air force chief Asghar Khan.

Among the documents sought by the bench were in-camera statements recorded in the past by Durrani, late Maj Gen Naseerullah Khan Babar and former army chief Gen (retired) Mirza Aslam Beg, and a report on the functioning of the ISI that was originally submitted to the apex court in 1998.

The bench said all these documents should be presented in court in sealed envelopes.

Asghar Khan, who recently announced he would merge his Tehrik-e-Istaqlal party with Imran Khan's Tehrik-e-Insaaf party, had filed the petition against Beg, Durrani and Yunus Habib, the former head of Mehran Bank.

The last hearing of the case was held 12 years and four months ago.

During Wednesday's hearing, the bench said it was necessary to go through the records as considerable time had passed since the last hearing.

The bench further said the matter could not be put off for long and decided to schedule the next hearing for March 2.

At this point, a defence lawyer pointed out that former ISI chief Durrani was abroad on a private visit and would not return till March 6.



Pakistan to normalise trade with India by year end

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will normalise trade with arch-rival India by the end of this year, the government said Wednesday, phasing out major restrictions on Indian imports.

Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said Islamabad will gradually scrap a “negative list”, which bans hundreds of items from India and places barriers on other trade, in a bid to improve ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

“Normalising trade ties with India is in the interest of Pakistan as it would not only help strengthen the national economy but boost economic activities in the region also,” Awan told reporters.

The government “decided in principle to phase out the negative list between the two countries by December 31, 2012, which will complete the trade normalisation process”, she said.

Deepening economic engagement between the two countries, which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, is seen as crucial to establishing lasting peace in the troubled South Asian region.

In 1996, India granted Pakistan “most preferred nation” status which is intended to remove discriminatory higher pricing and duty tariffs.

Pakistan agreed in principle to grant a similar status to India last year, paving the way for a radical reorganisation of trade.

At present, Pakistan maintains a list of 1,945 items allowed to run from India to Pakistan, but only 108 can be transported directly by road through the Wagah border in Punjab.

Major items of export from India to Pakistan are sugar, cotton, man-made filaments and chemicals, while its top imports from Pakistan include fruit, mineral fuels, and organic chemicals.



Pakistan established special cell to deal prisoners issues abroad


ISLAMABAD: The government has established a special cell in Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with issues and problems of Pakistani prisoners or detainees abroad.

As per information, the total number of illegal Pakistani immigrants detained in different countries is approximately 7375.

According to details, the government, realizing the problem, has adopted numerous measures for the release of Pakistani prisoners abroad which included Consular access, provision of interpreters services by the Pakistani Missions whenever required, facilitation for deportation of detainees and provision of one way air tickets to the destitute Pakistanis, being deported/repatriated to Pakistan from out of Pakistan Community Welfare & Education Fund (PCW&EF) by the Mission.

The other steps are maintaining contacts with the local authorities regarding detention/imprisonment of Pakistanis and provision of facility of contacts to the prisoners and their visiting relatives.



UN report says Pakistan's half population would to be urbanized by 2025

Islamabad, Wed, 29 Feb 2012


Islamabad, Feb 29 (ANI): Over half of Pakistan's population will settle in cities by 2025, a new UN report has claimed.

The new global UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) report said that Pakistan's 37 percent opulation is living in urban areas while nine cities already have population more than a million eople.

The report, "State of the World's Children 2012: Children in the Urban World", noted that already half of all people, including more than one billion children, lived in urban areas, with the numbers of urban dwellers steadily growing.

According to The Daily Times, the transition to a largely urban population and the emergence of mega-urban regions is viewed as an engine of growth in the Government's Framework for Economic Growth.

Meanwhile, the report highlighted the challenges that many children living in cities and towns around the world faced, and pointed out examples of good practice that could improve children's well-being.

The report said that children from disadvantaged backgrounds who live in urban areas face a host of challenges that reduce their chance to reach full potential in a productive adult work force.

These challenges include low levels of birth registration, inadequate access to sanitation and safe ater services, education and health services, the report said.

The document stressed that many children in slums also at high risk of contracting diseases due to unsanitary conditions and suffering from malnutrition.

The report also emphasised that the children are at high risk of exploitation and trafficking, as well as becoming victims of violence. (ANI)



Arrested LeT terrorists were trained in Pakistan: Police

Published: Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

The Delhi police on Wednesday said that the alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists were trained in Pakistan.

Delhi Police chief BK Gupta said memory cards showing terror training camps in Pakistan and making of IED were recovered. Both the terrorists were arrested from Tughlakabad.

The police said they were about to carry out the attack in a day or two, police sources claimed.

The arrest of 2 Lashker-e-Taiba terrorists is a good catch and the duo were planning to strike anytime, Gupta said.

At a press conference, Gupta said material for making IED, including sulphuric acid, were also recovered and that one of the terror suspect is expert in IED making.

The two terrorists, arrested by the Delhi Police for allegedly planning bomb attacks in crowded localities in the capital, were on Wednesday remanded to 10-day police custody by a court here.

Both the accused were produced by the Special Cell of the Delhi police before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Smita Garg who gave the direction during an in-chamber hearing.

The court remanded both the accused to police custody for 10-days.



Pakistan to switch to negative list for trade with India


After considerable dithering, Pakistan on Wednesday decided to switch to the negative list approach for trade with India and phase it out completely by December-end. Giving its approval to the long-pending decision, the Cabinet also cleared a 1,209-strong negative list of items in which bilateral trade is barred; thereby opening up business opportunities in an estimated 6,850 commodities against the 1,900-odd items now traded.

Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said all stakeholders, including the naysayers — Textile and Industry Ministries — were on board and the decision to normalise trade with India was unanimous.

This paves the way for granting the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India as mandated by World Trade Organisation (WTO) commitments from next year onwards; thereby removing the discriminatory trade regime that Pakistan has had for India. India granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996.

Given the sensitivities attached to the term MFN — which many here call Most Favourite (sic) Nation and in Urdu translates as sabse pasandida mulk — the Minister did not once refer to the WTO terminology except when asked a specific question.


Till earlier this week, there were apprehensions that Pakistan may once again miss the self-imposed timeline it had announced for switching over to the negative list. Earlier, Indian officials were given to understand that the switchover would be announced during Commerce Minister Anand Sharma's visit mid-February. However, that decision was deferred as all stakeholders were not on board but during the visit itself the Indian side was assured that the switchover would be announced by month-end.

Initially, the Commerce Ministry had proposed a shorter negative list of just over 600 items. However the Industry Ministry appears to have had its way by getting nearly double that number in the protective list. And, for now, the Commerce Ministry has managed to weather the demand for staggering the normalisation of trade relations with India over five years.

Cross-LoC trade

As to whether normalisation of trade with India would tantamount to a dilution in Pakistan's position on Kashmir, the Minister said the matter was discussed in the Cabinet with Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani pointing to the Cross-Line of Control trade between the two Kashmirs.

Stating that 14,000 trucks had crossed over since the Cross-LoC trade began, Mr. Gilani's contention was that when the two main stakeholders in the ‘dispute' were engaged in trade, why should the rest of Pakistan not benefit from bilateral trade.

Pakistan decided to grant MFN status to India in early November 2011 but there has been considerable resistance to the move from within and outside the business community.

While some sections of the business community fear that cheaper Indian goods would swamp the domestic market, religious right wing organisations — led by Jama'at-ud-Da'wah leader Hafiz Saeed — sought to invoke traditional suspicions about India and its intent.



Iran offers Pakistan 80,000 barrels per day of oil: official

ISLAMABAD | Wed Feb 29, 2012

(Reuters) - Iran has offered 80,000 barrels per day of oil to Pakistan on a three-month deferred payment plan, an official in Islamabad said on Wednesday, in an attempt to soften the impact of Western sanctions and ease some of Pakistan's energy needs.

Tehran's offer comes a week after Pakistani officials revealed that Iran had asked to import a million tonnes of wheat in a barter deal, with the latest Western sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program disrupting critical food imports.

"It is only an initial offer of 80,000 barrels (per day) on deferred payment at the moment," Irfan Qazi, a spokesman for Pakistan's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, told Reuters.

"We don't know about the modalities or how it can be worked out yet. A delegation from the ministry will visit Iran in the middle of March to follow up on this offer."

Pakistan would import Iranian fertilizer and iron ore under that wheat proposal.

Energy-starved Pakistan is looking to increase its fuel imports to reduce power shortages that have crippled industry, prompted riots and shaved percentage points off its GDP growth.

The United States imposed the harshest in a series of sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program on December 31, targeting institutions that deal with Iran's central bank or other blacklisted Iranian financial entities.

Countries with significant Iranian oil imports are voluntarily cutting down on such purchases to avoid penalties.

Tehran has dramatically widened its reach on international grain markets in February, using currencies other than dollars and euros as alternative trade finance, with dealers also reporting talk of barter deals involving oil and gold.

(Editing by Chris Allbritton and Anthony Barker)

This story was corrected in the headline and text to say barrels per day.



Interpol warrant for Musharraf

Imtiaz Ahmed, Hindustan Times

Islamabad, February 29, 2012

The Pakistan government will soon issue a red warrant to Interpol for the arrest of former president Pervez Musharraf on the orders of an Anti-Terrorism court, officials said on Wednesday. The warrant comes after the court order the presence of Musharraf in the assassination case of former prime

minister Benazir Bhutto.

Interior minister Rehman Malik told newsmen in Islamabad that the documentation was complete and would be forwarded. Musharraf will be placed on Interpol's most wanted list, claimed Malik.

The warrant states that Musharraf should be brought back to Pakistan in order to carry out proceedings against him in the murder probe.

The documentation submitted by the Federal Investigation Agency to the Interior Ministry include statements of intelligence and police officials into the various lapses that took place in the course of the investigations when Musharraf was president. Earlier this month,

Rehman Malik gave a special briefing to the Sindh provincial assembly, the home province of Ms Bhutto, in which he said that all evidence collected suggests that there were a serious of lapses, in all probability ordered from the top. He vowed to have Musharraf arrested.

A 10-point charge sheet has also been presented by a ruling party senator in the Senate which calls for the arrest and extradition of Musharraf.



UAE, Pakistan to boost economic, commercial relations

Muzaffar Rizvi

1 March 2012

DUBAI — Pakistan seeks the revival of a mega refinery project in Balochistan after the UAE’s concerns over its investment in Pakistani projects are settled amicably in the coming weeks, a top government official said.

The two sides expressed the desire at the 10th session of the UAE-Pakistan Joint Commission in Abu Dhabi to further strengthen economic and commercial relations. Pakistan seeks broader economic ties with the UAE and discussed various ideas to boost bilateral trade and investment.

“We hope the Khalifa Coastal Refinery project will be revived once we resolve the UAE’s concerns regarding the etisalat-PTCL deal and circular debt issue affecting the Pak Arab Refinery Limited [Parco],” Dr Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, advisor to Pakistan’s prime minister on textile, told Khaleej Times in an interview.

The proposed Khalifa Coastal Refinery at Hub has been in the doldrums since the project was approved by the government of Pakistan in 2007. The UAE holds about a 74 per cent stake in the project that envisages a capacity of 200,000 to 300,000 barrels per day. Parco will hold the remaining 26 per cent stake.

“The government of Pakistan has decided to clear all the circular debts, including that of Parco, which will pave the way for the mega refinery project,” Dr Baig said.

As per the preliminary estimates, Khalifa Coastal Refinery was expected to cost up to $5 billion and generate employment opportunities for 10,000 people during the construction phase and direct employment for 1,000 persons and indirect vacancies for 3,000 people during the operation phase. “The UAE at the joint commission meeting highlighted the impact of the circular debt on Parco. The Pakistan government will clear the circular debts by issuing a bond in the near future.” Dr Baig, who is also chairman of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or FPCCI, said Pakistan is keen to boost cooperation with the UAE in the energy sector.

“We have shown interest to collaborate with Masdar and introduce it as an investor and project developer in the renewable energy sector in Pakistan. Alternative Energy Development Board of Pakistan will update Masdar about the available wind and solar projects for its consideration,” he said.

In reply to a question, he said construction work on the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project is progressing well. “The UAE government has de-linked $100 million soft loan for the project with other issues and agreed to expedite the process to sign the deal,” he said.

Dr Baig said the UAE government will disburse $270 million grant for housing projects in the Swat and Malakand areas once it receives the revised list of proposed housing schemes from the Pakistan government. This amount was committed during the Friends of Democratic Pakistan forum and donors conference held in Tokyo in April 2009.

“About $30 million grant has already been disbursed to support the developments schemes in the area,” he said.

Dr Baig, who arrived from Brussels to join the Pak delegation for the UAE-Pakistan Joint Commission meeting, said the UAE and Pakistan also agreed to activate the MoU signed in December 2006 for the import of skilled labour from Pakistan.

He said the two sides also agreed to appoint focal persons for exchange of information regarding investment authorities, businessmen and investment opportunities in each others’ countries. “The Pakistan side has nominated commercial counsellor in Abu Dhabi and chairman of Pak-UAE Business Council, as focal persons.”

He said the Pakistan side also took up visa issues, particularly for the businessmen, and it was assured by the UAE authorities that appropriate steps will be taken to address the businessmen’s problems in this regard.

Joint Business Council

To a question about the proposed Pak-UAE Joint Business Council, he said it will be operational soon. “The proposed business council will have 10 members from each side and I have been proposed as the first chairman for a three-year term.”

“We have submitted the names of 10 members representing the leading institutions in Pakistan while the UAE side will provide their list within the next 10 days.”

He said the two sides agreed to hold the first meeting of the joint business council in Karachi by the second week of April.




Confusion prevails over Cairo arrest


Published: Mar 1, 2012

CAIRO: An Egyptian with the same name as a long-sought senior Al-Qaeda leader was arrested yesterday in Cairo, but he denied any link to the terrorist network and said it was a case of mistaken identity.

Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi was arrested on his arrival at Cairo airport from Pakistan via Dubai and was taken for questioning, security and airport officials said.

Two US officials, however, also said the arrested man appears to have been mistaken for the wanted Al-Qaeda leader. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence information that has not been publicly released.

The FBI has listed that name on its most-wanted list as an alias for the senior Al-Qaeda leader known as Saif Al-Adel, an Egyptian who has been indicted by the United States for an alleged role in the Aug. 7, 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 people. He also was linked to the 2002 killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The FBI said it was still sorting out details of the case.

“We are aware that an individual has been taken into custody and every effort is being made by the US government to verify the identity of the person in custody,” said William Carter, a spokesman at FBI headquarters. He declined to comment further.

Saif Al-Adel is a veteran figure in Al-Qaeda, believed to have been the head of its military committee. After the US-led invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, he fled to Iran, where he was reportedly held under house arrest, though it is believed he continued to be active and in recent years he was reportedly allowed to make trips to Pakistan.

Former militants who know both men have previously said they are two different people and the US identification is incorrect.

But Makkawi told reporters he was not Saif Al-Adel and that he had nothing to do with the terror group since 1989. He said he traveled to Egypt using travel documents issued by the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad.

“What has been said about me is lies. I never took part in actions against people or installations,” he said.

“I decided to come to Egypt to live in peace and because I am certain of my innocence,” he said. “I have cut no deals with Egyptian authorities,” said Makkawi, who is 57. Makkawi gave his birth date as Dec. 17, 1954. The FBI says Saif Al-Adel was born in the 1960s.

Wearing a gray Arab robe and a jacket, Makkawi looked nothing like the man in the photograph distributed by the FBI as that of Saif Al-Adel’s. Makkawi has receding silver hair and wears glasses.

Makkawi said that Saif Al-Adel’s real name was Mohammed Salah Zidan. Montasser El-Zayat, a lawyer who represented Makkawi in Egypt, also told the AP last year that Al-Adel’s real name was Mohammed Salah Zidan. Al-Adel’s FBI profile was posted in October 2001 when the FBI “Most Wanted Terrorist” list was created — just a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The name “Mohammed Salah Zidan” is not mentioned in the FBI profile.

“I challenge any security agency to prove that I am Said Al-Adel, who is a different person whose name is Mohammed Salah Zidan,” said Makkawi.

A senior Egyptian security official involved in the case supported Makkawi’s assertion of innocence. The official said Makkawi was a former army officer who left Egypt in the 1980s to join the fight against Russian forces in Afghanistan.

The official said Makkawi was wanted for questioning in Egypt in a case dating back to 1994 that involves the activities of the militant Jihad group, whose members fought the government of ousted President Hosni Mubarak in an insurgency in the early 1990s.

Noman Benotman, a Libyan who was once a member of a jihadist group linked to Al-Qaeda, says the man arrested is actually Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi and is not Saif Al-Adel.

Benotman, now an analyst at the London-based Quilliam Foundation, says he has met both Makkawi and Al-Adel.

Benotman, who said he has spoken to security officials in Egypt, said Makkawi flew to Egypt “purposely to clear his name as many former jihadists have been released since all of the political changes in Egypt.”



US officer pays price for posting Obama photo on Facebook


Published: Mar 1, 2012 02:02 Updated: Mar 1, 2012 02:02

PEORIA, Arizona: An Arizona police sergeant has been demoted and suspended for two weeks without pay for posting a photo of a bullet-riddled image of President Barack Obama on Facebook.

Officials in the Phoenix suburb said Tuesday that Pat Shearer will be demoted to the rank of officer, which means a reduction in pay.  Shearer has 10 days to appeal. The 25-year veteran had been reassigned to administrative duties during the investigation. The photo on Shearer’s Facebook profile showed seven teenagers.

Some were holding guns and one was holding what appeared to be a shot-up Obama T-shirt. The image was removed soon after it was posted. Peoria Police Chief Roy Minter Jr. said he expects employees to exercise judgment and not bring discredit to the police department.



Nato says two soldiers shot dead in Afghanistan

1 March 2012

Protests erupted in Afghanistan last week over the desecration of the Koran by US soldiers

Nato says two of its soldiers have been shot dead on a base in southern Afghanistan.

It said the shooting in Kandahar Province was carried out by an Afghan National Army service member and another attacker in civilian clothing.

But officials in Zheray district say only one man - who was on the base to teach Afghans literacy - opened fire.

Six Nato personnel have been killed since protests erupted last week over the burning of the Koran by US troops.

The Nato personnel are among more than 30 people who have died in the protests over the past week.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says it is unclear how a teacher was allowed to stay on the base and have access to a weapon.

Hours earlier the head of Nato forces in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen, told the BBC that recent violence over the burning of the Koran by US soldiers was a "setback" that would be overcome.

Gen Allen said he would be willing to walk, unarmed, into the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul, where two Nato military advisers were shot dead on Saturday.

Last Thursday, two US soldiers were shot and killed by a man wearing Afghan army uniform during protests at a Nato base in eastern Nangarhar province.

A senior Afghan general told the BBC last week: "The virus of Taliban infiltration and rogue soldiers has spread like a cancer. Curing it has not helped. You need an operation."

More than 70 Nato troops have been killed by Afghan colleagues in recent years.



Egypt arrests man mistakenly thought to be Qaeda chief

Thursday, March 01, 2012       

CAIRO: An Egyptian Islamist, mistakenly identified as a senior al Qaeda commander because he has the same name, was detained at Cairo airport on Wednesday for suspected militant activities, but said he had cut any links with al Qaeda more than two decades ago. Mohamed Ibrahim Makkawi was detained on return to Egypt from Pakistan, security sources said, but added that initial suspicions he was Saif al-Adel, an al Qaeda commander also known by the alias Mohamed Ibrahim Makkawi, were incorrect. The FBI lists Saif al-Adel as born in 1960 or 1963. As well as the Makkawi alias, he is known by the name Ibrahim al-Madani, the FBI website says. Makkawi told reporters at the airport that he had returned to Egypt to clear his name. “I decided to return to Egypt to live in peace, without making any deal with the Egyptian authorities and to confirm my innocence of all charges directed against me,” he said. reuters\03\01\story_1-3-2012_pg7_8



Afghans Voice Strong Support for Global March to Jerusalem


TEHRAN (FNA)- Different religious and cultural organizations in Afghanistan extended their all-out support for the Global March to Jerusalem.

The following is the text of a statement released by various religious and cultural organizations in Afghanistan in support of the GMJ.

In the service of our dear and faithful brothers and sisters in the "Program for the Asian Co-ordination of the Global March to Jerusalem".

May the peace and blessing of God be upon you.

The reality is that Jerusalem is the bloodied heart of the Islamic world. Jerusalem, the place which is a representative of the existence of the religion and culture of Islam, has been under the boots of despotism and occupation for more than 60 years. Our faithful brothers and sisters have been bloodthirstily sent to their deaths by the hands of Zionism and international Crusades. For six decades the people of these lands have been driven out of their homes, the conspiracies of the arrogant powers have rendered their homes demolished and their land has been usurped. Millions of refugees, who are citizens of Palestine, have been driven far from their territories and a combination of all these factors has created a major catastrophe in the Middle East. It is obvious that the clear religion of Islam, with decisive arguments from the book of God and his Prophet (PBUH), does not tolerate these terrible crimes.

It is also apparent that our dear Islam has made clear what our responsibilities are in light of the divine constitutions. 60 years of deadly silence despite the power of the Arab Middle East has been against the direction of the actions of an Islamic nation. In these 60 years the rulers and statesmen of Islamic countries have had plenty of time which has been put to waste.

However, luckily the last ten years have resulted in the emergences of a different plot, this being the result of the establishment of popular governments and the falling of those hands which were connected with colonialism. Especially the flooding by these popular revolutions of the last strongholds, or embassy (or "den of spying"), in the Islamic countries showed us that this regime is no more in a position where it can create more enemies from amongst the Muslims.

Dear brothers and sisters!

Taking into account all of the above, the Islamic circuits in Afghanistan with the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan and the Council of the Friends of Jerusalem have united in one voice and have answered positively to your call. We will not hesitate in our selflessness or cooperation to make sure the goals set out by this group are made into reality. The same way that the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan has praised and taken this reasonable step, it invites all the Muslim brothers and sisters of Afghanistan, Islamic world and other Muslims worldwide to wish good luck (to this movement) and we desire that they cooperate and assist this caravan till it has reached that which it has set out for.



Pakistan ready to support to Azerbaijan in military sphere

Wed 29 February 2012

“Pakistan is ready to give support to Azerbaijan in the military sphere”.

The statement came from deputy chairman of the Senate of Pakistan Mir Jan Muhammad Khan Jamali at the press conference in Baku, APA reports.

Jamali said chairman of Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee is in Baku.

“Pakistan is a nuclear state. We are producing our weapons, tanks, modernizing our warships. We want to say to our Azerbaijani brothers that together with Turkey we are ready to support Azerbaijan. We are one of the three states that do not recognize Armenia as a state,” he said.

Jamali underlined that there is potential for cooperation between Pakistan and Azerbaijan in the area of defense industry.

“Pakistan was the second country that recognized Azerbaijan’s independence. At the same time it is one of the 3 countries that don’t recognize Armenia officially”, said Chairman of the Pakistani Senate’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Salim Seyfulla Khan at the press conference held in Baku.

The Committee Chairman said that Pakistan had Kashmir problem and Azerbaijan had Nagorno Karabakh problem: “The UN adopted a resolution on the right of Kashmir’s population to liberty.

We struggle for this issue. We had 4 wars with India on it. We think that there is no necessity to begin the next war. The UN has resolutions on Nagorno Karabakh. Pakistan supports the peaceful settlement of this conflict. Yesterday we heard news that the French Constitutional Court adopted a decision protection Azerbaijan and Turkey’s interest”.

Salim Seyfulla Khan noted that the resolution on Khojaly genocide was adopted in the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Affairs as a result of efforts of Deputy Chairman of Pakistani Senate Jan Muhammad Khan Jamali: “12 political parties are represented in Pakistani Senate and this resolution was unanimously adopted. According to our parliamentary system the resolution adopted unanimously by any committee is considered as the Senate’s resolution”.

According to the Committee Chairman, the political relations between the two countries are at a high level: “The countries are not so close to each other from the economic point of view. We discuss these issues at our meetings. It is possible to develop the relations in economic, cultural and Mass media spheres. Mr. President gave a task for holding the meetings in this sphere”.



Pakistan: The killing of Shias Military Intervention is hard to refute

February 29, 2012

In a cold blooded attack by men in uniforms of the Pakistan Army, 18 persons from the Shiite community of Islam were targeted and killed. The incident occurred in the Khyber Pakhtunkha province close to the border of Gilgit and Baltistan, area where Shias reside almost in good numbers to the Sunni population. On February 28 passengers in four buses were going to Gilgit town the capital of the Gilgit-Baltistan from Rawalpindi, Punjab province when, in the mountainous Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkha province, men dressed in army uniforms stopped and disembarked the Shia passengers after identifying them from the rest of the 117 passengers. The Shias were put in a queue and shot down by the men.

Kohistan, which belongs to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), has a rich local history as a crossroads between Central, South and Southwestern Asia and Kohistan is used for a region that stretches from the border with Azad Kashmir in the east to Afghanistan's Nuristan province in the west. FATA served as the backyard of the security establishment's policy of attaining strategic depth. Together with the red tape, endemic to the bureaucracy, the delays in justice delivery and the ban on political activity created a vacuum in which the Islamic militant groups found it easy to run their terror activities.

Though no militant organization, who in the past were involved in killing the Shias, has claimed responsibility for the killings, the media has been accusing first one, and then another organisation in an attempt to cover up the alleged involvement of military men in the killings of members of the second largest sect of Islam. No statement of clarification has been forthcoming from the Pakistan army about the men involved in the attack despite the fact that they were in military dress. According to media it was first claimed that a notorious anti-Shia organisation, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were responsible for the killings but then, after some time it was said that Jundulla, a banned Sunni militant group was involved.

In Kohistan areas civilian movement is highly controlled and monitored by the military. The first question to be raised is as to how in such a highly military controlled and monitored area, the militants dressed in army uniforms and highly armed were able to stop the busses which were carrying mostly Shiite passengers and then shot them one by one after identifying them as Shiites.

In the recent target killings of Shias, the majority of the incidents were recorded in those areas which come under high security regions or under the control of the military and its Para-Military troops like, Balochistan, Kurram agency-close to the Afghan border and Gilgit Baltistan area close to the China border. In all those areas there are military check posts within short distances to monitor the activities of terrorists and no civilians, including the government officials, can move without their identification papers. However, on this occasion the killers and terrorists from banned organizations are free to move their convoys armed with sophisticated ammunition and stop vehicles for hours at a time to complete their nefarious designs.

It is inconceivable in this day and age of modern communications, when every person owns a cell phone that the killers were able to operate on their own without any fear that they would be stopped at a military check post. This can only mean that they were military personnel themselves. The same incidents happened in Mastung and other parts of the Balochistan province where members of the Hazara ethnic group, also from the Shia sect were targeted and killed in the same fashion. The check posts of the Frontier Corp, a Para-Military force, were not far away from the places where the incidents occurred and where the sounds of the gunshots could be heard. Three examples are self explanatory where within 15 days in three different incidents 44 persons from Hazara community were killed. The areas were not far away from the check posts. On September 19, In Mastung, Balochistan, 28 persons were disembarked from the bus in which they were going to Iran to visit holy sites. They were disembarked from the passenger bus and whole episode or target killing took some time to complete without any fear of discovery. The next day another incident took place in Quetta city, close to Mastung, where three more Hazara persons were killed. Within 15 days, on October 4, another incident of same kind occurred where four gunmen on motorbikes stopped a bus and identified Shiites from the Hazara group, made them stand in a row and then opened fire, killing 13 persons. This incident took place in the outskirts of Quetta city where nobody can travel without identifying themselves at the check posts.

Human Rights Watch says that since 2008 at least 275 Shias, mostly from Hazara Community have been killed in Balochistan province.

During the first two months of 2012 more than 100 Shias were killed in different parts of the country including the Gilgit Baltistan incident. Among them 34 in Khanpur, Punjab province, 49 in Parachinar, Khyber Pakhtunkha province and 18 in Gilgit.

Over the past three decades, violence between Sunnis and Shias has ebbed and flowed, but two things are clear. First, despite spawning banned violent sectarian outfits of their own, the Shias have largely been on the receiving end of the violence. In recent years, the violence has spread from southern Punjab and (sporadically) Karachi to Quetta in Balochistan, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on Pakistan's troubled border with Afghanistan.

After the incident of February 28, no doubt remains that the security forces were involved covertly or overtly in the sectarian target killing. No doubt has been left on the issues of target killings, the Pakistani spy agencies ISI and military intelligence (MI) has played a vital role along with the militant organisations from the rear to run the target killings.

The target killings of Shias in Gilgit shows a great failure of the law enforcement on the area, even after killing a large number of people the militants were able to escape as is common in almost all the events of target killings and the perpetrators of such organised crime remain untouched.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges that the government must immediately avail all possible efforts to bring the perpetrators of target killings of innocent Shiites to book whether they are in military uniforms or not. The government must probe the links between the banned militant organisations.

The AHRC urges the government to ensure the security of the survivors, family members and relatives of those who were killed in the target killings and immediately pay compensation and rehabilitate them.

The government should arrange proper forensic investigations of the dead bodies without involving the army in the process. The government should specify the lethal arms used on the killings and more importantly secure the source of such lethal arms used in the killings.

The government and parliament must immediately introduce a hate speech law, to punish those who offend the feelings of the religious by disturbing a religious ceremony or creating public calumny. The law should also prohibit public expression of insults of a person or a group on account of national, ethnic, racial, or religious affiliation or the lack of a religious affiliation.

The AHRC expresses the view that target killings give us a clear picture of the lack of accountability and transparency in dealing with the organised crimes done by militants organised backed by the intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies.\



Iran court jails Ahmadinejad aide ahead of vote

March 01, 2012 01:16 AM

TEHRAN: An Iranian appeal court has upheld a one-year jail sentence handed down to one of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s close aides for insulting the country’s supreme leader, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported Wednesday.

The ruling was the latest act in a high-level feud between Ahmadinejad and a group of hard-line rivals who say he is in the grip of a “deviant current” of advisers trying to undermine the role of the clergy.

The ruling was reported two days before parliamentary elections which, as most leading reformist parties have been banned, will be largely a contest between hard-line conservative factions.

“The president’s media adviser, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, has been sentenced to one year in prison and banned from engaging in political activities for five years for insulting the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,” Fars said. It gave no further details of the offense.

Ahmadinejad’s allies want to secure a majority in the assembly in Friday’s elections to bolster his chances of winning a presidential vote in 2013.

The divisions surfaced in April last year when Khamenei reinstated an intelligence minister Ahmadinejad had sacked. Since then parliament and the judiciary, run by Ahmadinejad’s rivals, have moved against the president, with lawmakers threatening to impeach him and prosecutors arresting some people on the fringes of his faction.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 01, 2012, on page 9.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::



Iran denies Parchin nuclear activity as accusations mount

March 01, 2012

An observatory at the Iranian Space Agency in Mahdasht, 60 km west of Tehran.

TEHRAN/VIENNA: Iran said Wednesday that “no nuclear activity whatsoever” has taken place at its military site of Parchin, which U.N. nuclear watchdog inspectors demanded last week to visit but were refused.

“No nuclear activity whatsoever has taken place on the Parchin site,” the head of Iran’s Nuclear Energy Organisation, Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying after a cabinet session.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said last week it “continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” following an unsuccessful visit to Tehran by a five-strong inspection team.

The inspectors, who visited February 20-21, had asked to see the Parchin military base east of Tehran but Iranian officials rejected the request.

Western diplomats Wednesday said the U.N. nuclear watchdog believes unspecified “activities” may be taking place at the Iranian military site which make its request to visit the Parchin facility more urgent.

Herman Nackaerts, head of nuclear inspections at the International Atomic Energy Agency, made the comment at a closed-door briefing for member states of the Vienna-based U.N. agency, diplomats said.

One diplomat who took part in Wednesday’s briefing quoted Nackaerts as saying there “may be some ongoing activities at Parchin which add urgency to why we want to go” there.

Nackaerts did not specify what kind of activities may be taking place or whether they may involve efforts by Iran to conceal something, the diplomats added.

Another envoy cited Nackaerts as saying the agency monitored the site via satellite images.

The IAEA asked to visit Parchin, a military complex southeast of Tehran, after issuing a report in November that suggested Iran was pursuing military nuclear technology. The report helped trigger the latest round of U.S. and EU sanctions on Iran.

The report said the IAEA had information that Iran had already built a large containment chamber at the Parchin complex to conduct high-explosives tests. There were “strong indicators of possible weapon development,” the agency said.

Suspicions about activities at the Parchin complex date back to at least 2004, when a prominent nuclear expert said satellite images showed it might be a site for research and testing relevant to nuclear weapons. U.N. inspectors did in fact visit Parchin in 2005. But they did not see the place where the IAEA now believes the explosives chamber was built.

As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty supervised by the IAEA, Iran has to submit to U.N. inspections at its declared nuclear sites.

But military sites that do not have confirmed nuclear activities are off-limits unless provided for by agreement or under the terms of an Additional Protocol to the NPT that Iran briefly adhered to but dropped in 2006.

The Iranian nuclear chief said he hoped that talks with the IAEA “will continue in the future.”

But he said that, while “we have no problem to ... explain our nuclear activities” to the IAEA, “we need to consider our rights and national interests.”

The IAEA says that, following its failed talks in Tehran last week, it has no plans for future talks with Iranian officials, citing “major differences” with Iran.

Western members of the IAEA fear that Iran has long been hiding a nuclear weapons program behind its atomic activities, and that it is getting close to the scientific threshold of being able to make a bomb. Israel, which is not part of the NPT and which has the Middle East’s sole though undeclared nuclear arsenal, has threatened to attack Iranian atomic facilities.

Tehran denies that it is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Amid the trade in accusations Iran opened Wednesday a key space facility to visiting journalists for the first time in an apparent effort to show its willingness to allow glimpses at sensitive technology. The press tour of the Alborz Space Center, about 70 kilometers west of Tehran, also sought to showcase Iran’s advances in aerospace sciences less than a month after it announced another satellite was launched into orbit.

Iran says Navid was designed to collect data on weather conditions and monitor natural disasters. Tehran has said it wants to put satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 01, 2012, on page 9.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::



Dubai Bank Says It Cut Ties With Iranian Institutions


Published: February 29, 2012

LONDON — An Islamic bank in the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that it “took pre-emptive action” to end business relationships with some Iranian banks when it learned that the United States planned to apply economic sanctions against those banks.

U.S. Sees Iran Attacks as Likely if Israel Strikes (February 29, 2012)

Iran Calls Nuclear Arms Production a ‘Great Sin’ (February 29, 2012)

The episode appeared to be related to efforts by the Obama administration to tighten economic restrictions in the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program. Western leaders suspect the program is designed to give Tehran the ability to produce nuclear weapons, but Iran insists that it is enriching uranium for civilian purposes.

The decision by the Noor Islamic Bank, based in Dubai, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which said pressure from Washington had forced the bank to close off Iran’s biggest single channel for repatriating foreign currency oil income.

Noor Islamic Bank, founded in 2007, is not a large institution; in 2010 it had assets of $4.6 billion, one five-hundredth as much as JPMorgan Chase, the largest American bank. But it is important to Iran as a conduit for receiving payments for its oil exports, handling a significant share of Iran’s $100 billion a year in oil revenue from abroad, according to IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

In a statement issued in response to the article, Noor Islamic Bank said, “As a U.A.E. bank, we comply with all U.A.E. Central Bank and U.A.E. government directives and international regulations, including those emanating from the U.N., regarding sanctions on Iran.”

“When we became aware, in December 2011, that unilateral U.S. sanctions were to be applied against a number of Iranian banks,” the statement said, “we took pre-emptive action to end our business relationships with Iranian banks licensed in the U.A.E.”

The statement did not refer specifically to American pressure.

A Treasury Department official said it was working “closely and well” with the government of the Emirates as it steps up efforts to isolate Iran financially. “The U.A.E. has expressed its support for sanctions to pressure Iran to address the international community’s concerns about its illicit nuclear activities,” the official said.

In a sign that the sanctions may be biting, the Iranian authorities said Wednesday that Tehran would, unlike most oil producers, accept payment for oil in customers’ currencies or in gold instead of the dollars that are usually demanded.

“In its trade transactions with other countries, Iran does not limit itself to the U.S. dollar, and the country can pay using its own currency,” the central bank governor, Mahmoud Bahmani, was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying. “If a country should so choose, it can pay in gold, and we would accept that without any reservation.”

Iranian officials have been taking a defiant line in public statements, insisting that Western sanctions will not be effective.

The Fars news agency quoted an Iranian deputy foreign minister as saying that the main customers for Iranian crude oil in Asia “are doing their routine business activity with Iran despite the heavy pressures exerted on them by the U.S. and E.U. to block their trade ties with the Islamic Republic.”

Seyed Abbas Araqchi, the deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, said that 70 to 80 percent of Iranian crude oil exports went to Asia. “Major customers have kept their ties with us and do not follow the U.S. unilateral sanctions,” he was quoted as saying.

Earlier, Reuters quoted Khalid al-Ghaith, the United Arab Emirates’ assistant foreign minister for economic affairs, as saying the action was limited to a single bank.

“They were just talking about Noor Islamic Bank,” he said.

He added, “We are still working with the U.S. government, and continue discussing to protect our bank sector and companies and continue this dialogue; this is what we are doing as a government.”

The Web site of Noor Islamic Bank says that its offerings are “governed by a Shariah Board, comprising leading Islamic scholars with extensive experience and expertise in legal, financial and banking-related matters,” and that it has offices in several gulf emirates and in Tunisia.



Egypt presidential election set for May 23-24

Published: Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012

Egypt's first presidential election to find a successor to ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak will be held on May 23, the chief of electoral commission said on Wednesday.

The first round of the presidential poll would be held over two days on May 23-24, while a run-off would take place on June 16-17, Farouk Sultan was quoted as saying by BBC.

The winner will be announced on June 21, he said, in accordance to a timetable set by the ruling military council to hand over power to a civilian leadership before the end of June, more than a year after an uprising in February 2011 ousted Mubarak, the country's dictator of 30 years.

He told reporters that Egyptians living abroad will be allowed to cast their absentee ballots from May 11-17.

Amid growing concern over the fairness of the landmark polls, Sultan underlined that no international monitors would be allowed to oversee the election.

The Egyptian parliament is due to hold a joint session on March 3 to select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution, the main task of the chambers.

Egypt's upper house of parliament yesterday chose an Islamist as its speaker during the inaugural session of the newly elected Shura Council. The lower house earlier chose its speaker who is a professor of microbiology.

The Muslim Brotherhood dominated the landmark parliamentary polls to emerge as the largest bloc following the ouster of Mubarak.

Brotherhood allied Freedom and Justice Party hold just under half of all seats in the 508-seat lower house and 106 of the Shura Council's 180 elected seats.

An additional 90 lawmakers are due to be appointed by the ruling generals in power since Mubarak was ousted a year ago. The ruling military council is expected to leave the appointments to the nation's next president.

Ultra-orthodox Islamists known as Salafis made a strong showings in the elections for the two Houses, finishing second behind the Freedom and Justice Party, giving parliament a distinct Islamic character.



Iran Nuclear Dispute Enters New Phase

Al Pessin | London

February 29, 2012

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, is escorted by technicians during a tour of Tehran's research reactor center in northern Tehran, February 15, 2012.

The international dispute with Iran over its nuclear program is entering a new phase, with Iran both calling cooperation and also refusing to allow U.N. inspectors into a key facility.

Iranian nuclear facilities are at the heart of the dispute. These sophisticated centrifuges enrich uranium, and if uranium is enriched to a high enough degree, it can be used in nuclear weapons.

Iran prevented inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency from visiting such a facility last week.

“Unfortunately, we could not get agreement,  so we could not get access and we could not finalize a way forward,” said Herman Nackaerts, IAEA Deputy Director General and head of the Department of Safeguards.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says countries that don't believe this have a choice.

“One way is engagement, cooperation and interaction and the other is confrontation and conflict. The Islamic Republic of Iran, confident of the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, has always insisted on the first alternative,” he said.

But the IAEA does not agree, issuing a report describing, among other things, the potential military uses of Iran’s nuclear program.

And senior Western officials note that previous talks have failed, and say Iran must make certain commitments if it wants to move toward new ones.

"Any conversation with Iran has to begin with a discussion of its nuclear program," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "And second, we must be assured that if we make a decision to go forward, we see a sustained effort by Iran to work until we have reached an outcome that has Iran coming back into compliance with their international obligations."

That would mean the kind full inspections Iran has so far refused to allow.

Iran expert Mark Fitzpatrick says the pattern of offering cooperation and then refusing to provide it reflects the trend of hard-liners in Tehran dominating more moderate elements.

“The fact that the IAEA got nothing is an indication of disputes in Tehran, with the foreign office on one hand, hard-liners on the other," he said. "And the hard-liners again won out, denied any cooperation with the IAEA.”

But former top State Department Iran official Dennis Ross told VOA’s Persian News Network international sanctions may be beginning to change the calculations of even Iran’s staunchest hard-line leaders.

“The context requires applying pressure, but it also requires leaving the Iranian leadership a way out. If they want to find a way to relieve the pressure, you have to give them the chance to do so,” he said.

That’s what western officials are preparing to do, but they are so far not convinced that Iranian officials are really ready to change their policies.



Man indicted on terror charges in NYC bomb case

NEW YORK—A man charged with building a pipe bomb to try to attack police, soldiers and other government targets has been indicted on terror charges, according to an indictment filed Wednesday in the rare state-level terror case.

It accuses Jose Pimentel of both the initial terror charges against him -- weapons possession and conspiracy as terror crimes, according to the document.

He "attempted to build explosive devices as part of his plan to use violence to influence the foreign policy of the United States government by intimidation and coercion," the indictment says.

His lawyers, Lori Cohen and Susan J. Walsh, called the case one of "police overreaching" and a self-serving informant who honed in on a broke, lonely and curious 27-year-old.

"This case, whatever it is, certainly is not terrorism," they said in a statement.

Pimentel, who is being held without bail, is scheduled to be arraigned next month. A court date that had been set for Thursday was canceled.

The Dominican Republic-born al-Qaida sympathizer and Muslim convert was busy assembling his homemade bomb when he was arrested, authorities said. He later told police that he believed Islamic law obligates all Muslims to wage war against Americans to retaliate for U.S. military action in the Middle East, police said. He also wanted to undermine support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the indictment.

Also known as Muhammad Yusuf, Pimentel maintained a website detailing his belief in jihad, or holy war, and told the informant he wanted to attack targets that included police cars and stations, post offices and soldiers returning home from abroad, authorities said.

He and the informant had discussed his violent intentions as far back as August, with Pimentel consulting bomb-building instructions he'd found online, the indictment said. After shopping trips to secure supplies, Pimentel and the informant began stripping Christmas light wires, scraping match heads, drilling pipe and otherwise preparing the weapon in November, the indictment said.

Pimentel "crossed the line from violent rhetoric on his Internet sites to building pipe bombs to be used against our citizens," District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement.

The indictment also includes attempted weapons possession as a terror crime, plus a non-terror weapons charge. If convicted, Pimentel could face life in prison.

Most terror cases are federal, but this one was brought under a state terror law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said circumstances compelled investigators to act fast using state charges, but police had apprised federal authorities of the case earlier. Two law enforcement officials, however, have said the FBI stayed out of the case because agents felt he wasn't inclined or able to act without the informant's involvement. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the case.

Kelly said in a statement Wednesday that "the indictment illustrates the fact that a dangerous plan to kill and injure soldiers returning to New York was disrupted by good police work, especially by the NYPD Intelligence Division." It has faced scrutiny recently after a series of articles by the AP detailed the Intelligence Division's efforts to monitor Muslims after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Pimentel's lawyers are emphasizing the informant's role, saying Pimentel was "prime pickings" for someone out to help himself with his own legal trouble. A person familiar with the matter has said the informant's case was a minor marijuana arrest; the person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the information hasn't been made public.

"We believe that jurors and New Yorkers in particular, who have suffered real threats and know real tragedy, are sophisticated enough to know the difference between a real threat and a manufactured one and will reject an unchecked police power that attempts to broad-brush political discourse and religious affiliation as universally threatening," Cohen and Walsh said.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers had said plea negotiations were under way last month; the defense lawyers had repeatedly waived a legal timeframe for an indictment or hearing. Cohen said Wednesday that both sides used the extra time to conduct their own evaluations of the case more than to discuss resolving it.

In another Manhattan case brought under the state terror law last year, a grand jury declined to indict two men on the most serious charge initially brought against them -- a high-level terror conspiracy count that carried the potential for life in prison without parole. But Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh were indicted on lesser state terrorism and hate crime charges, including one punishable by up to 32 years behind bars.

The two are accused of plotting to attack synagogues. Ferhani's attorneys have said the case reflects police entrapment. Mamdouh's lawyers have said the allegations against him don't meet the requirements for a conviction under the state terror law.



Only Sharia law can fully destroy Mubarak regime, says Al-Qaeda leader

 Thursday 1 Mar 2012

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman El-Zawahiri has released a video on the internet in which he says only the imposition of Islamic Sharia law can completely rid Egypt of the Mubarak regime.

El-Zawahiri, who became Al-Qaeda chief after Osama Bin Laden was assassinated last year, said Egypt must stop being at the US's beck and call and begin a new chapter by annulling the Camp David agreement with Israel.

In a 24 minute video titled, "Why did we revolt against him then?" El-Zawahiri said the recent Arab revolts had an Islamic flavour and were directed against rulers who worked as US agents.

"Egypt is not a free trade zone, a US agent, a broker for Israel or a tourism nightclub," El-Zawahiri said. "Egypt is the citadel of Islam and a fort for the Arab world. It should not be transformed into another version of Saudi Arabia which is merely a Crusader agent that applies Islamic law only on the weak."

He also congratulated Muslims for the decline of US power, which he said was revealed by President Barack Obama's reduction of the US military budget.

When Obama revealed the military budget for 2013, he said that it has been reduced for the first time since 1998, El-Zawahiri said.

"The Afghan Mujahideen inflicted the disasters on the US which forced it to shrink its military budget," El-Zawahiri he said.

”Military arrogance" only damages the US, he concluded.,-.aspx



Syrian forces attack Baba Amro


Published: Mar 1, 2012

AMMAN: Syrian troops launched a ground attack in Homs yesterday in an apparent attempt to overrun the rebel-held Baba Amro neighborhood that has endured 25 days of siege and fierce bombardment, opposition sources said.

“The army is trying to go in with infantry from the direction of Al-Bassel football field and fierce confrontations with automatic rifles and heavy machine guns are taking place there,” activist Mohammad Al-Homsi told Reuters from Homs.

He said the military had shelled Baba Amro heavily on Tuesday and overnight before the ground attack started.

Another opposition source said hundreds of Free Syrian Army rebels were holding out in the area, situated between Baba Amro and Al-Inshaat district, which is also under army siege.

Several Western journalists are trapped in the battered district, although Syrian activists escorted British photographer Paul Conroy to safety in nearby Lebanon on Tuesday in a messy escape in which some of his rescuers were killed.

Reports from Baba Amro could not immediately be verified due to tight government restrictions on media in Syria, where President Bashar Assad is struggling to repress an almost year-long uprising against his 11-year rule.

A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Hicham Hassan, could not confirm the assault but said the violence was making the humanitarian situation more difficult.

“This makes it even more important for us to repeat our call for a halt in the fighting,” he told Reuters in Geneva.

“It is essential that people who are in need of evacuation — wounded people, women and children — that we are able to offer them that with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.”

Food supplies had been delivered to Homs and Idlib on Tuesday but it was hard to distribute aid due to the conditions on the ground, he said.

Activists say hundreds of civilians have been killed in besieged opposition districts of Homs, including at least 20 on Tuesday. Shells and rockets have been crashing into Baba Amro since Feb. 4. Army snipers pick off civilians who venture out.

Syrian troops bombarded the besieged town of Rastan, 20 km north of Homs, and several people were killed when a shell hit a house, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Activists said troops and pro-Assad militiamen had also attacked the town of Helfaya, an opposition stronghold near the city of Hama, detaining people and raiding and burning houses.

YouTube footage posted by activists showed crowds of people in the nearby town of Kernaz in solidarity with Helfaya. Demonstrators danced, waved pre-Baathist era Syrian flags and chanted: “God support your oppressed subjects.”

Troops and militiamen launched a security sweep in the eastern Damascus suburb of Harasta, where telephone services have been cut off for the past month, activists said.

The United Nations says Assad’s security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt began last March.

“There are credible reports that the death toll now often exceeds 100 civilians a day, including many women and children,” UN Under-Secretary-General for political affairs Lynn Pascoe told the UN Security Council on Tuesday. “The total killed so far is certainly well over 7,500 people.”

Syria’s government said in December that “armed terrorists” had killed over 2,000 soldiers and police during the unrest.

As world dismay grew over the bloodshed, France said the Security Council was working on a new Syria resolution and urged Russia and China not to veto it, as they have previous drafts.

An outline drafted by Washington focused on humanitarian problems to try to win Chinese and Russian support and isolate Assad, Western envoys said. But they said the draft would also suggest Assad was to blame for the crisis, a stance his longtime ally Russia in particular has opposed.

International efforts to halt the violence in Syria have not been helped by disunity among Assad’s opponents. The Kuwaiti Parliament extended its own recognition on Tuesday to the exile Syrian National Council as “the representative of the Syrian people,” but other groups challenge the SNC’s legitimacy.

Meanwhile Kofi Annan, the newly appointed United Nations-Arab League envoy for Syria,  was expected to discuss the situation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and member states in New York. He will then go to Cairo for talks with Arab League head Nabil Elaraby.



Philanthropist Al-Rajhi to receive Faisal prize

Suleiman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rajhi


Published: Mar 1, 2012

Suleiman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rajhi, a prominent Saudi businessman and philanthropist, will receive the King Faisal International Prize (2012) for services to Islam during a ceremony in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Othaimeen, secretary-general of the prize, said Al-Rajhi was selected for the prize considering his great contributions to Islam and Muslims, especially his efforts to introduce Islamic banking.

“Sheikh Suleiman allocated a large portion of his wealth for a charitable endowment fund established by him to support various educational, social and humanitarian projects,” Al-Othaimeen said.

Al-Rajhi also initiated a program to create a culture of work among Saudi youth. The charitable foundation established by Al-Rajhi supports humanitarian projects, Qur’an studies and construction of mosques.

“Sheikh Suleiman has donated more than half of his wealth for charitable work,” the secretary-general said. He printed thousands of copies of the Holy Qur’an and distributed them worldwide.

Speaking about Al-Rajhi’s educational endeavors, Al-Othaimeen said the colleges established by him would be transformed into a university. He has established an institute in Riyadh for teaching Arabic to non-Arabs.

Al-Rajhi also worked for achieving food security in Saudi Arabia by engaging in massive agricultural projects abroad, and boosting the economic development of Muslim countries by investing heavily in them.

The prize is given to those who contribute their best in the service of Islam and carry out projects to promote the development of Muslim societies.

The prize in Islamic Studies went this year to Adnan bin Muhammad Al-Wazin of Saudi Arabia for his work on the topic of human rights in Islam. In the area of Arabic language and literature Egyptians Ali Hilmi Ahmad Moussa and Nabil Ali Muhammad shared the prize.

Dr. Richard Berkowitz and Dr. James Bruce Basil, both Americans, shared the prize for medicine and another American, Dr. Alexander Farzewski, won the science prize.



Former SIMI activists found guilty of promoting communal strife

TNN | Mar 1, 2012

COIMBATORE: A fast track court in the city on Wednesday found five activists of banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) guilty of publishing an article against the unity and integrity of the country in a tabloid way back in 1999 while another accused was exonerated. Though they had been sentenced to three years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000, they had to be released as they already served their prison term during the course of the trial.

The highly sensational case was charged by Coimbatore City Police in June 1999 after tabloid 'Seithi Madal' carried an article by SIMI activist SHM Moideen comparing the then social situation in Kashmir with strife torn Kosovo. The highly critical article was targeting the Indian Army and its alleged violations of human rights in the Kashmir Valley but police found the content threatened the federal structure and unity of the country. In the map carried along with the article, Kashmir was seen not part of India and a portion of Pakistan.

When controversy over the article became intense, the police started a massive hunt for the author and others who worked for the magazine. Moideen had succumbed to illness before the police could arrest him. During June last week, police arrested Abu Tahir and Shajahan, two distributors of the magazine. Tahir was a juvenile at the time of the incident.

Based on information from them, police arrested then SIMI state president S Shameem Ul Islam of Chennai and senior leader A Syed Muhammed of Tuticorin. Seithi Madal's editor Syed Abdul Raheem and lay out artist Khader Bhawa were also arrested.

Within one year of their arrest, a fast track court had pronounced them guilty and slapped three years of imprisonment. The accused appealed in the Madras High Court, which ordered a retrial in 2006 and the case was diverted back to the trial court. The retrial was completed on Wednesday and all excluding Abu Tahir were pronounced guilty under sections 124 (A) (sedition) and Section 153 (B) (promoting communal animosity) of the IPC. Abu Tahir was acquitted.