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Islam Has Nothing To Fear But Muslims Will Have To “Abandon Their Boisterous Rhetoric Of Supremacy”: RSS Chief Bhagwat

New Age Islam News Bureau

11 January 2023


RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. (ANI)


• 'Why Is World Silent Over 'Tragedy' Of Muslims In India?': Oman Grand Mufti

• Shariat Court Orders Ministry of Human Rights To Set Up Transgender Protection Centre

• Charlie Hebdo Doubles Down On Iran Supreme Leader Khamenei With Fresh Cartoons

• Hezbollah Urges France To Punish Satirical Magazine Over Khamenei’s Cartoons


• After ‘Brahminical Hegemony’, ‘Islamophobia’ Charge At Kerala School Event: Govt Bans Arts Group

• Muslims students face discrimination even after a year of Karnataka hijab row: Report

• Muslim students most backward academically in Telangana residential schools for minorities: Study

• NIA court in Kerala sentences IS-inspired terrorist to 7-yr RI

• J&K govt to bear educational expenses of wards of cops killed in terror tragedies

• Terrorist-gangster nexus: NIA arrests key weapons supplier and logistics provider

• Did ex-Pakistan army chief Bajwa pursue backdoor diplomacy channels with India?


Arab World

• Saudi Arabia’s Appalling Human Rights Record Much Worse Under Bin Salman: Opposition

• OIC warns against consequences of continued assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque

• Saudi Arabia’s Ithra to roll out green carpet for ‘Shrek The Musical’ on Wednesday

• Teaching suspended for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon’s public schools

• First Syrian refugee with Turkiye citizenship to fulfil military service



• Uranium package, allegedly originated in Pakistan, seized by British police at Heathrow

• Imran Khan criticises Pakistan govt over ‘irresponsible statements’ against Taliban

• Imran warns against strikes in Afghanistan amid twin Taliban threats

• Pakistan secures over $10.5 billion in flood pledges

• During polls, Pakistan's minorities get some importance

• SC told it can’t strike down laws passed by parliament

• World Bank cuts Pakistan’s GDP growth forecast in half

• China-Pakistan joint drills strengthen ties, enhance interoperability: Pak Naval Chief



• Former UFC fighter Kevin Lee converts to Islam

• France has not ruled out declaring Iran's Guards to be a terrorist group

• Iran executions amount to ‘state sanctioned killing’: UN rights chief



• Iran sentences another protester to death amid ongoing crackdown

• Iran to ‘firmly punish’ people who violate hijab law: Report

• Israeli restrictions on Palestinian flags ‘repressive’: Amnesty

• Political division escalating in Israeli regime, officials call for arrest of Gantz, Lapid

• Iran Captures Several Mossad Agents Plotting to Assassinate Military Official

• Iran: Maximum Failure for US Only Product of Maximum Pressure Policy

• Iranian Speaker: Misunderstandings with Azerbaijan Corrected

• Iran, Syria Vow to Cooperate in Fighting Terrorism

• Israel parliament begins vote on West Bank settler law


South Asia

• Our Relations with the World are Based on Sharia Rules: Supreme Leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

• Afghanistan: Worried Muslim Countries Meet Over Taliban’s Bans On Women And Girls

• World Clerics' Delegation Seeks Education for Every Muslim

• Islamic Scholars Urged US to Free Afghanistan’s Frozen Assets

• Resistance Against the Taliban (IEA) Continues in Afghanistan


Southeast Asia

• Indonesian President Joko Widodo Says “Strongly Regrets” Past Rights Violations In Country

• Sanusi told to file defence in Anwar’s suit

• Penang official downplays sale of beer at mall concourse

• Indonesia’s transgenders fear threat posed by new law

• Indonesians celebrate lifting of age restrictions for Hajj


North America

• U.S. Counterterrorism Key Official Says US Must Not Overlook Al-Qaida, Islamic State

• Rally held for 20-year-old Muslim student killed by police near Boston

• US extends protection for ex-Trump aides from Iran threats

• US Navy intercepts vessel smuggling assault rifles from Iran to Yemen

• US urges Pakistan to ‘continue’ with reform agenda

• ‘Palestine Chose Me’: American Saves Thousands Of Gaza Children Through NGO



• First Non-Indigene Muslim, 12 Others Sworn-In As Commissioners In Cross River

• South Africa lauds Turkish president’s efforts in Russia-Ukraine peace settlement

• Türkiye opens research centre at South African university

• Uganda's court quashes part of law used to prosecute government critics

• Libya’s Dbeibeh stresses necessity of cooperation with Türkiye

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Islam Has Nothing To Fear But Muslims Will Have To “Abandon Their Boisterous Rhetoric Of Supremacy”: RSS Chief Bhagwat


RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. (ANI)


Jan 11, 2023

There is no threat to Islam in India, or to Muslims who wish to pursue their faith or seek to “return to” the faith of their ancestors, but they will have to “abandon their boisterous rhetoric of supremacy”, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat has said.

In an interview to the Organiser and the Panch Janya, both publications affiliated with the RSS, the ideological fount of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bhagwat also spoke about how population control could not happen by force, and said that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people also had a right to live and deserved social acceptance.

In the interview, Bhagwat said Hindus did not believe in compulsion but anyone who lives in India should abandon the notion of supremacy.

“The simple truth is this- Hindustan should remain Hindustan. There is no harm to the Muslims living today in Bharat. If they wish to stick to their faith, they can. If they want to return to the faith of their ancestors, they may. It is entirely their choice. There is no such stubbornness among Hindus. Islam has nothing to fear. But at the same time, Muslims must abandon their boisterous rhetoric of supremacy,” he said in the interview published this week.

The Sangh chief who spearheaded the organisation’s outreach towards minorities by visiting a madrasa and meeting representatives of the Muslim community last year, said should Hinduism disappear, “other races will start a war for supremacy”.

“We are of an exalted race; we once ruled over this land, and shall rule it again; only our path is right, rest everyone is wrong; we are different, therefore we will continue to be so; we cannot live together - they must abandon this narrative. In fact, all those who live here – whether a Hindu or a communist – must give up this logic,” he said.

In response to a question on population policy and control, an issue that the Sangh has focussed on over the years and pushed the government to come up with a national policy for, Bhagwat said, “Population is an asset, but it can be a heavy burden too. As I had mentioned in that (Dussehra) speech, it is essential that we frame a thoughtful, long-term population policy. And the same should be equally implemented by everyone. But this cannot be done forcefully; people must be educated.”

The Sangh chief blamed religious conversion for “population imbalance”. To a question on what led to the formation of Pakistan, he said India had been unified and undivided, but after the digression from “Hindu bhav”, the country faced “calamity” and Partition took place.

To a separate question on how the Sangh – perceived to be an orthodox organisation responds to contemporary discourse on gender and technology – he said on issues of gender and the environment, the world is coming to accept the Indian thought.

“Every now and then, a minor question crops up, which is blown out of proportion by the media, because the so-called neo-left finds it pioneering. Like LGBT or transgender issues. But these are not new issues; they have always been there. These people also have a right to live. Without much hullabaloo, we have found a way, with a humane approach, to provide them social acceptance, bearing in mind they are also human beings having an inalienable right to live,” he said.

The statement comes at a time when the issue of legal sanction for same-sex marriages is being examined by the Supreme Court court. This is not the first time that an RSS functionary has spoken about LGBT rights. In 2016, RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale had said that homosexuality was not a crime, and should not be considered a criminal offence.

The RSS is a non-political entity but dimensions of politics that affect “national policies, national interest and Hindu interest” matter to the Sangh. “The Sangh has always been concerned about whether the overall political direction is conducive to these issues or not… If politics takes a wrong turn, and because of that a social awakening is adversely impacted, we are concerned,” he said.

He also addressed the issue of caste discrimination that persists in society and said slogans such as Jai Shri Ram are aimed to energise people. “Shri Ram strung together all jatis and sects. But even today, people in our country are getting whipped (for) so much as mounting another’s wagon. Should this not change?” he asked.

Source: Hindustan Times

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'Why Is World Silent Over 'Tragedy' Of Muslims In India?': Oman Grand Mufti


Ahmed bin Hamad Al-Khalili, the Grand Mufti of Oman


Jan 10, 2023

Oman's Grand Mufti, Ahmed bin Hamad Al-Khalili, once again hits out at India over the 'tragedy' of its Muslim minority. In a tweet, Al-Khalili questioned the silence of human rights groups over the state of Indian Muslims. Al-Khalili even lashed out at Muslim bodies like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for its silence over the matter. Watch the video for more. Hindustan Times Videos bring you news, views and explainers about current issues in India and across the globe. We’re always excited to report the news as quickly as possible, use new technological tools to reach you better and tell stories with a 360 degree view to give you a better understanding of the world around you.

Source: Hindustan Times

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Shariat Court Orders Ministry of Human Rights To Set Up Transgender Protection Centre


Representative Photo/ Pakistan Today


January 10, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Shariat Court (FSC) on Tuesday directed the Ministry of Human Rights to establish a transgender protection centre for underage and elderly eunuchs to ensure their welfare.

A two-member bench of the court, comprising acting Chief Justice Dr Syed Muhammad Anwer and Justice Khadim Hussain Shaikh issued the directives while hearing a set of petitions challenging the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018.

In the last hearing, the FSC had directed the ministry to constitute a child protection unit for transgender children.

During the hearing today, the FSC resented that the government was “not doing enough” for the protection of the rights of transgender persons and expressed dissatisfaction at a report furnished by the ministry listing measures taken for the transgender community.

The chief justice directed the human rights ministry’s officials to hold a meeting with ministerial committee’s convener Zamurud Khan — who is also the patron-in-chief of orphanage Pakistan Sweet Homes — for immediate drafting of a report on the building and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the proposed centre.

Secretary human rights ministry informed the court that a committee under the chairmanship of Khan had already been established.

However, Khan said that the ministry had not yet provided a building for the protection centre, which was causing a delay.

“We will take care of the rest of the facilities once a building is provided for the purpose,” he told the court.

After hearing the arguments, the court ordered the ministry to expedite its measures and submit a progress report along with the SOPs at the next hearing on Jan 17.

The case

In May 2018, the National Assembly enacted the law to provide legal recognition to transgender persons and ensure that discrimination against transgender persons in various walks of life shall be punishable.

The law also enabled trans people to be recognised as they perceive themselves and register with government institutions as transgenders.

Hailed as a ‘landmark’ law that offered protection to a marginalised community, the legislation however was embroiled in litigation scrutiny since it was passed by the two houses of the parliament.

A set of petitioners challenged the law in 2021 on grounds that it was “repugnant to Islamic injunctions”. In September 2022, a fresh set of petitions were filed against the law in the FSC.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Charlie Hebdo Doubles Down On Iran Supreme Leader Khamenei With Fresh Cartoons


Photo: Farzad Fattahi/ @FattahiFarzad/ Twitter


10 January ,2023

French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo doubled down on its ridicule of Iran’s religious rulers on Tuesday, with fresh cartoons of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei despite protests from Iran and its allies.

“The mullahs aren’t happy. The caricatures of their supreme leader... do not seem to have made them laugh,” the paper’s editor, known as “Riss,” writes in the latest edition, which hits newsstands on Wednesday.

“Laughing at themselves has never been a strong point of tyrants,” he added.

The paper was hit by a cyberattack after publishing cartoons of Khamenei in last week’s special edition, which marked the anniversary of the 2015 attack on its Paris offices that left 12 dead.

“A digital attack doesn’t leave anyone dead, but it sets the tone. The mullah’s regime feels in such danger that it considers it vital to its existence to hack the website of a French newspaper,” Riss wrote.

“It is an honor in one sense, but above all proves that they feel their power is very fragile.”

There have been months of protests in Iran sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a woman arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.

Iran issued an official warning to France over the “insulting and indecent” cartoons in last week’s Charlie Hebdo.

Earlier on Tuesday, Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian movement in Lebanon, also condemned the cartoons, saying Khamenei was not just a ruler but “a religious symbol for tens of millions of believers.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Hezbollah Urges France To Punish Satirical Magazine Over Khamenei’s Cartoons


Demonstrators gather with images of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a protest against defamatory cartoons depicting him published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, outside the French embassy in Iran's capital Tehran on January 8, 2023. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)


Wassim Saif Al-Din  


Lebanese group Hezbollah on Tuesday condemned French cartoons ridiculing Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei by Charlie Hebdo magazine, calling on France to punish the satirical weekly.

In a statement, Hezbollah termed the French caricatures of the Iranian leader as an “ugly act”.

The Lebanese group called on the French government to "take decisive measures to punish those responsible for this act over their assault on the sanctities and dignity of an entire nation.” Hezbollah is a major ally of Iran.

The French weekly published a series of caricatures depicting Iran's top leader on Jan. 5, which the Iranian authorities deemed as "offensive."

Last week, Iran summoned the French ambassador in Tehran to protest the lampooning images.

The drawings were chosen in a worldwide competition announced by Charlie Hebdo last month when it called on cartoonists to send the "funniest and meanest caricatures" of Iran's top political and religious authority.

The competition came amid months-long protests in Iran sparked by the death of a 22-year-old Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, while in police custody in mid-September.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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After ‘Brahminical hegemony’, ‘Islamophobia’ charge at Kerala school event: Govt bans arts group

by Shaju Philip

January 11, 2023

A recently held school arts festival in Kozhikode, Kerala, is again at the centre of a controversy after a person in Islamic attire was portrayed as a terrorist during a performance. The Pinarayi Vijayan-led administration on Tuesday banned the performing arts society responsible from future editions of the government-held event even as the Congress demanded an apology from the chief minister.

Education Minister and CPI(M) leader V Sivankutty said the depiction of a Muslim man as a terrorist was against the stand of the Left Democratic Front (LDF). “The organisation, MATHA, or Malayalam Theatrical Heritage and Arts, which staged a show as part of the welcome song during the inauguration of the festival, will not be given any opportunity next time. The controversy will be looked into and necessary action will be taken. The reception committee viewed the programme before staging it during the inauguration. But it was not a final dress rehearsal of the show,’’ he said.

The 61st edition of the five-day Kerala School Arts Festival began on January 3. Reckoned to be the biggest such event in Kerala’s cultural calendar, the festival was held after two years because of Covid. It first hit the headlines last week over a debate on “Brahminical dominance” when several people pointed out that only vegetarian fare was served at the event because caterer Pazhayidom Mohanan Namboothiri, who has been winning the contract to make the food at the festival for the last 16 years, is a Brahmin.

The event has now run into controversy after various Muslim organisations protested against the portrayal of a Muslim as a terrorist. During a show put up by MATHA on the first day, an Indian Army man was shown detaining a terrorist who had killed a uniformed defence official. The terrorist in the show wore the keffiyeh, a traditional headdress of Arab men.

Various Muslim organisations, including Congress ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), deplored the show, saying that the government was using the festival venue to foment Islamophobia.

After the festival came to a close, CPI(M) leader and Public Works Minister Mohammed Riyas alleged that there was a Sangh Parivar agenda behind the show. CPI(M) district committee in Kozhikode on Tuesday said the criticism against the stage show was very serious and sought action. “Presenting a terrorist in Muslim attire is against the stand of the LDF government. Terrorism and extremism are not related to any particular community. It has to be examined how such a show was staged,’’ the party said in a statement.

Following the district committee’s intervention, the state education department banned MATHA from future editions of the festival.

But the Congress came down heavily on the CPI(M)-led government and said the CM should apologise to Muslims. Senior Congress leader and MP K Muraleedharan alleged that the Education Minister was present at the festival and the Tourism Minister had given a lead to everything. “So, how did such a depiction happen during the cultural event held during the festival conducted by the government? The government and the CM have a moral responsibility. The chief minister should apologise to the minority community in the state and that is the Congress’s stand on the issue.”

State BJP president K Surendran hit out at the CPI(M), saying that the ruling party claims to stand for freedom of expression but gave in to religious extremists. “The government has proved that it is with fundamentalists,” he said. “The stage show was depicting the selfless service of the Indian defence forces. Now, V Sivankutty and Mohammed Riyas say that depicting the service of the Indian Army was a crime. It is a sheer anti-national approach.”

MATHA’s art director Kanakadas said the controversy was unfortunate. “There was no politics behind the show and our artists belong to all political parties. We presented shows for several government events. After the stage show at the school festival, Minister Riyas congratulated us. Then, nobody raised any complaints against the show,’’ he said.
Source: Indian Express

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Muslims students face discrimination even after a year of Karnataka hijab row: Report

10th January 2023

Even a year after the hijab debate, Muslim girls and women still experience harassment, according to a report produced by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties – Karnataka (PUCL-K).

In order to conduct interviews with students, teachers, and district officials, a PUCL-K team travelled to Raichur, Udupi, Hassan, Shivamogga, and Dakshina Kannada in the state.

According to the article “Closing the Gates of Education: Violations of Rights of Muslim Women Students,” many students have been forced to transfer from government to minority colleges because they claim they continue to experience harassment from college administrators.

“Students from marginalised communities, religious minorities, and Adivasis have repeatedly shared their experiences of discrimination in classrooms and how it adversely affects their self-confidence, and inhibits their aspirations for higher studies and sense of freedom. A divided and discriminatory educational space directly galvanises the establishment of a further divided society,” the report stated.

The report said that the judgment by the Karnataka High Court “did not include, in its ambit, a directive to any educational institution to impose a hijab ban with immediate effect.”

It further said that as the judgment and the interim order came at the time of end-of-year examinations, it had far-reaching consequences.

“Despite there being no compulsion or directive to impose a ban, educational institutions across Karnataka, at one stroke, prohibited the hijab. With complete disregard to protocols and due process and the rights of Muslim women students, schools, PU colleges and degree colleges imposed the sweeping ban,” the report stated.

The report further advised the Department of Collegiate Education and Department of Public Instruction to issue a directive clarifying that the Karnataka High Court judgement does not mandate a ban to all schools and colleges in order to prevent the erroneous imposition of an all-encompassing hijab ban in educational institutions.

“Based on the documentation of all testimonies, the team analysed the testimonies and identified the fundamental rights of students that were violated. The team also observed that the testimonies of the district administration, college authorities and police revealed how they violated the Constitutional mandate of their offices,” the report stated.

“I left my college and searched for other colleges that allowed girls to wear hijab. There was free education in government colleges but in my new college, the travel expense is high. I wanted to pursue MSc, which is not possible now. It feels that my dreams are now shattered,” a student who was interviewed said.

The report further stated that in rural Udupi, a student said that since there was a sudden change in the attitude of their neighbours and friends and many Muslim women sought support from within their community

Source: Siasat Daliy

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Muslim students most backward academically in Telangana residential schools for minorities: Study

by Esha Roy

January 10, 2023

Muslim students, especially those who have studied in Urdu medium schools or madrasas, are educationally more backward than those from other minority communities in Telangana, a recent study carried out by the state government on minority pupils studying in its residential schools has found.

The study, carried out by the Council for Social Development on behalf of the Telangana Planning Department, has looked at the Telangana Minority Residential Educational Institutions Society (TMREIS) which the state government set up in 2016-17, barely two years after receiving statehood. TMREIS was a part of the state’s Bangaru Telangana (Golden Telangana) project aiming at providing free education to economically backward communities – focusing on minorities, and Muslims in particular.

The study looks at 25 such minority residential schools in urban, semi-urban, and rural areas in Telangana. There are 204 such schools in the state.

“The Telangana government had identified that the position of minority students academically in the state was very low. In order to bridge the gap between the general students and minority students, it started this programme. We have seen that over the years, the enrolment in these schools has increased, indicating that more minority parents, who were earlier resistant to education, support education more now,” says the study’s author Ramshim Rahiman.

The study says that a child’s educational aspirations are “affected by class, caste, religion, gender, geographical location, region, family and parental attitude toward education”.

Among the communities that remain deprived of higher education, Muslims are the most deprived, it says adding that according to the 2011 census—despite being 14.2 per cent of the population—literacy levels among Muslims was 59.1 per cent, which is significantly lower than the national average of 64.8 per cent.

The earlier assumption about the Muslim community that it is a homogenous community, is not correct, points out Rahiman, saying that there are large regional differences and cultural groups among Muslims, which also influences the education level amongst the children in the community.

According to the Sachar report, 25 per cent of Muslim children aged 6-14 years have either not attended school or have dropped out. Children are usually forced to drop out due to poverty; 4 per cent of Muslims have completed graduation; only 2 per cent of Muslims have completed post-graduation. In many regions, especially urban India, Muslim education is far behind even Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe communities, the Sachar committee had said.

In Telangana, Muslims account for 12.68 per cent of the population (2011 census) and the literacy rate is 76.9 per cent.

“Enrolment of Muslim children in schools in Telangana is increasing, but we will need more data on this for us to unambiguously say this. Nevertheless, in Telangana the Muslim community registered the highest dropout and lowest performance in education,” says Rahiman.

According to the 2014 AISHE report, SC students comprised 13.4 per cent of higher education institutions, ST students 4.8 per cent and Other Backward Class (OBC) students 32.9 per cent. Muslim students were at the bottom of the ladder with 4.4 per cent of them in higher education institutions belonging to the community.

In Hyderabad, less than 2 per cent of Muslims comprise the economic elite, says the report, and 63 per cent belong to BPL families.

The 2017 Telangana Social Development Report finds that nearly half the Muslim population in the state lives in Hyderabad and whereas 32.6 per cent of Hindus live in urban areas, 74.6 per cent of Muslims live in urban areas. The monthly per capita expenditure in Hyderabad was the lowest among Muslims.

“We found that parents of 95 per cent of Muslim students come from poor backgrounds with parents who are either daily wagers or self-employed. These parents are unable to guide their children on matters of higher education which in turn affected the child’s pursuit of higher education. One of the most important factors that we have found in the study is that parental and family influence is vital for a child’s academic performance as well as longevity,” says Rahiman.

Rahiman adds that when the programme was started, teachers of these schools carried out a door-to-door campaign, but were met with hostility from the parents, and were often mistreated. The schools then reached out to the Muslim community through NGOs, madrasas, and mosques to increase enrolment.

The assessment has further found that while the schools have students from all minority backgrounds, and even from the general category, it was the Muslim students who were most educationally backward, especially in their initial years.

The study has also said that most of these students were either from madrasas or from Urdu medium schools. Studying in these schools till Class 5, most children did not have even a basic knowledge of English or Maths, says the report. Most Muslim students were also first-generation learners.

Source: Indian Express

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NIA court in Kerala sentences IS-inspired terrorist to 7-yr RI

Jan 11, 2023

NEW DELHI: A member of an IS-inspired module that had conspired to carry out terror attacks in south India, and who had also tried to enter Turkey via Georgia to physically join the Islamic State, was sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment with fine by a special NIA court in Ernakulam, Kerala, on Monday.

Muhammad Polakanni, resident of Kozhikode in Kerala, was convicted under Section 120 B of IPC (criminal conspiracy) and other sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He is the ninth accused to be convicted in the case.

The case, registered suo motu by NIA on October 1, 2016, relates to the conspiracy and consequent formation of the IS/Daish-inspired terrorist module Ansarul Khilafa-Kerala in early 2016 by some youths.

NIA said the accused from Kanakamala in Kannur, Kerala, had assembled for preparations to carry out terrorist attacks in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, targeting of prominent persons, including judges, cops and politicians as also at places of tourist importance.

Source: Times Of India

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J&K govt to bear educational expenses of wards of cops killed in terror tragedies

Jan 11, 2023

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir administration, in an order to all educational institutions this week, has announced that it would bear the educational expenses — monthly school fees, transportation charges and annual uniform charges — of the first two children of police personnel who have lost their lives in the line of duty in terror-related tragedies.

The government will reimburse the expenditure towards monthly fees and transportation costs up to Rs 3,000 per child every month. It will also pay an annual uniform charge of up to Rs 10,000 per child, besides a yearly amount for textbooks as prescribed by the respective boards of education, if any, up to class 12 in any school — both government and private — within the territorial jurisdiction of J&K. “The schools would require being duly recognized by the government and affiliated with the J&K Board of School Education or Central Board of School Education or any other registered Board in India,” read the order.

Authorities have asked the management of private schools to allocate the kin/ward of martyred personnel under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota for admission. “The reimbursement shall be made for the first two children and in case the second one is a twin then both twins shall be entitled to reimbursement under this arrangement,” the order stated.

The reimbursement for monthly fees and transportation shall be done quarterly by the district superintendent of police whereas the amount for uniform and textbook expenditure would be reimbursed every April subject to the expense cap and conditions. “The payment shall be made to the legal guardian… on production of valid proof of guardianship,” it said.

In case of a dispute, such as the children of a particular martyr having different guardians — for example, one child living with the mother and the other with his family — the reimbursement shall be made to both guardians on an actual basis on the production of separate guardianship certificate to be issued by the concerned school authority. “The children shall be eligible for reimbursement of education expenses even if the widow of the martyr remarries,” the order clarified.

Source: Times Of India

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Terrorist-gangster nexus: NIA arrests key weapons supplier and logistics provider

Jan 10, 2023

NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday arrested a key logistics provider in the cases relating to terrorist-gangster nexus — wherein criminal gangs, mostly operating out of Punjab and Haryana, were allegedly carrying out killings and other criminal activities to terrorise the people and extorting money to fund their criminal syndicates and activities — from Sirsa, Haryana.

Chhotu Ram Bhaat r/o Chautala Village in Sirsa was acting as a weapons supplier for these criminal gangs and also providing the Bambiha gang members with hideouts ahead of and after committing the crime, said NIA.

NIA had on December 21, 2022 carried out searches at two locations in Sirsa, Haryana (including the house of Chhotu Bhaat in Chautala Village) to dismantle and disrupt the emerging nexus between terrorists, gangsters and weapons suppliers based in India and abroad.

An NIA statement on Tuesday said a few gang leaders and their associates based in India and abroad, who are spearheading and carrying out such terror and criminal activities, were identified and booked in two cases — RC-38/2022/NIA/DLI and RC-39/2022/NIA/DLI — registered by the NIA in August, 2022. The cases relate to the involvement of gangs in different kinds of criminal activities, including killings, to terrorise the people to extort money for running and promoting their criminal syndicates and activities. These gangs — based in India and abroad and allegedly conspiring to carry out terrorist acts in Delhi and other parts of the country — were raising funds to carry out criminal activities through smuggling of guns and weapons.

Bhaat’s arrest, NIA said on Tuesday, is aimed at dismantling the illegal arms support infrastructure, apart from the hideouts of absconders of Bambiha led terror-criminal syndicate. The gangs were taking advantage of the border location of their hideout with Punjab. Further, investigations will continue to dismantle such terror networks as well as their funding and support infrastructure.

Source: Times Of India

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Did ex-Pakistan army chief Bajwa pursue backdoor diplomacy channels with India?

Jan 10, 2023

NEW DELHI: Senior Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir has made startling revelations about the existence of backdoor diplomacy channels between New Delhi and Islamabad during Qamar Javed Bajwa's tenure as Pakistan army chief.

In his article in the Pakistani daily Jang, Mir claimed that Bajwa kept the then Imran Khan-led government in the dark even as the military establishment held secret talks with India.

The journalist gave several examples to illustrate how the former Pakistan army chief kept the backdoor channels open with India.

ISI chief replacement

Mir alleged that in June 2019, Pakistan replaced then ISI chief Syed Asim Munir suddenly since he was disliked by Imran Khan and was unsuitable for Bajwa’s backdoor channel with India.

Mir also said that the opening of Kartarpur corridor for Sikh devotees was part of General Bajwa’s backdoor diplomacy with India.

In his column, Mir said that Pakistan chose to ignore UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on Kashmir (which was roundly rejected and slammed by India) and went ahead with the opening of the visa-free corridor linking the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, with India's Gurdaspur.

Ceasefire in 2021

The Pakistani journalist further claimed that the surprise announcement of ceasefire along LoC by Indian and Pakistani armies in February 2021 was also a result of backdoor diplomacy. He added that the Pakistan foreign office was not aware of the development.

"On March 23, 2021, Narendra Modi wrote a letter to Imran Khan on Pakistan Day. These developments took foreign office by surprise. It was only then that Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to the US, revealed that secret talks between Faiz Hameed and Ajit Doval in Dubai have gone ahead," Mir wrote.

PM Modi was to visit Pakistan?

Mir also claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to visit Pakistan in April 2021 in an effort to reset ties between the neighbours.

He claimed that during the visit, India was set to announce the opening of trade ties with Pakistan while both countries would mutually set aside the Kashmir issue for 20 years.

Notably, nobody from the Indian side has ever claimed or even acknowledged the existence of such a visit.

Mir added that PM Modi's purported visit was called off after then Pakistan PM Imran Khan backed out of it and "refused to let go of the Kashmir issue".

The journalist claimed then foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who allegedly had a hawkish stand on ties with India, warned Imran against PM Modi's purported visit.

"We have to go to election too, we will be accused of selling Kashmir," Shah is said to have told Imran, as per Mir. Elections were held in Pakistan occupied Kashmir later that year.

India had strongly rejected the elections, saying that the polls were an attempt to camouflage Pakistan’s illegal occupation of the region.

Withdrawal of J&K's special status

In his column, Mir also claimed that Bajwa was furious after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

"He [Bajwa] complained to Khan Sahib [Imran] that whatever we [Pak army] did, we did it by asking you. Khan sahib told him to go slowly and let the opposition in," Mir wrote.

He added that Qureshi told Bajwa that Pakistan will not restore ties with India unless the latter revokes its decision on Article 370.

Imran's speech at UN

In another interesting revelation, Mir said that Imran's fiery speech at the UN General Assembly in which the then Pakistan PM targeted India scuttled the backdoor talks between the neighbours.

The speech, Mir claimed, sparked tensions between Imran - once army's favourite - and then Pak army chief Bajwa.

Source: Times Of India

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Arab World


Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record much worse under bin Salman: Opposition

10 January 2023

A prominent Saudi opposition figure says the scale of human rights violations in the Persian Gulf kingdom has dramatically risen up ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) took the helm of state affairs in 2017, and the vicious crackdown against dissidents now expands to their families and close relatives.

Hamza al-Shakhouri, a leader of the Arabian Peninsula Opposition bloc, said the Riyadh regime has long been violating human rights and has an abysmal record of arbitrary detentions, unlawful imprisonment, various forms of physical and mental torture, discrimination, illegal executions and sham trials.

“The judiciary has no independence whatsoever in Saudi Arabia, and the House of Saud exerts absolute control over the system of courts. The monarch has the final say on anything that the executive branch and the legislature come up with. Historically, this has always been the case since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932,” he told IRNA.

Shakhouri added, “The trend has, however, become much worse at present. Previously, Saudi authorities would not repress the families and relatives of political opponents and dissidents. But, repression now applies to the wives, children, parents, brothers and sisters of opposition figures.”

“After King Salman assumed the throne on January 23, 2015 and bin Salman became heir to the throne two years later, the extent of crackdown has considerably widened and affected all regions of the country, all tribes, religions, and strata of the society.”

“Oppression and illegal, inhumane and immoral actions have taken heavy tolls on most people, and the situation is getting worse day by day. The sweeping campaign of repression against independent dissidents and activists has reached the point, where one may risk his life by writing a sentence, publishing a post on Twitter, or re-posting someone else’s tweet deemed critical of the government,” the Saudi opposition leader said.

‘Al Saud surprises world every time with mass executions’

Shakhouri pointed to the high number of executions in Saudi Arabia, stating that nearly 200 activists, dissidents and religious scholars have been put to death in the kingdom over the last 7 years.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Saudi dissident said that a great proportion of Saudi society is fiercely opposed to the much-touted social reform agenda led by MbS, as the society remains socially and religiously conservative.

‘Intl. community overlooks rights violations for sake of own interests’

Shakhouri went on to say it would not be sensible to count on the international community to defend the rights of oppressed nations, as world powers and arrogant countries do not care about anything other than their own interests.

“Nowadays, everybody knows that Saudi rulers are a bunch of thugs and autocrats, and that their political system is a dictatorial one detached from present-day principles and norms,” he said.

“Elections are not held at all in the country. All three branches of the government have no independence and are under full command and control of the king,” Shakhouri said.

The Saudi activist also referred to the dire situation of Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia, stating that members of the religious community are facing various forms of restriction, discrimination, repression and neglect, and their basic rights have been blatantly flouted over the last 30 years.

Saudi Arabia-Israel normalization

Turning to the clandestine relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv regimes, Shakhouri said they are in close contact with each other since both were established by the United Kingdom.

“Britain is the founder of both regimes. They were created in order to divide Muslim and Arab peoples, dominate the resources and facilities of the region, and prevent the progress of the nations. We believe that the downfall of the Israeli regime will lead to the collapse of the House of Saud, and vice versa,” he said.

Source: Press TV

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OIC warns against consequences of continued assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque

January 10, 2023

JEDDAH — The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned in the strongest terms the storming of the Aqsa Mosque on Jan. 3, 2023, by a minister in the Israeli Cabinet in its final communiqué following the extraordinary open-ended meeting of the OIC Executive Committee here.

The meeting was at the request of Palestine and Jordan, and in coordination with Saudi Arabia, at the OIC headquarters. The meeting reiterated that the minister’s action is a serious provocation that hurt the feelings of Muslims all over the world. The action was also a blatant violation of international law, relevant UN resolutions, existing historic and legal situation in Al-Quds and its sanctities and all relevant international norms.

The communiqué warned against the consequences of the continued assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque, including provocations, continued abuses, and daily serious attacks by the Israeli authorities in a gross violation of international law. It also cited the dangerous attempts by extremists to fuel the flames of religious conflict by imposing a temporal and spatial division of the Haram Al-Sharif, which poses a threat to international peace and security.

The communiqué demanded the United Nations Security Council, in its capacity as the guarantor of international peace and security, to assume its responsibilities and act urgently to take the necessary measures, without selectivity or double standards, to deter and stop the dangerous Israeli escalation, along with all other illegal and provocative measures.

It also called on the imposition of sanctions on the extremist minister who assaulted the sanctity of Aqsa Mosque, and anyone who deliberately does so, makes threats, or performs provocative actions against it, incites against the Palestinian people, adopts a racist discourse against it, or calls for to violence and terror.

The communiqué stressed the responsibility of the states parties to the Geneva Conventions to hold Israel accountable for all its violations of international humanitarian law, whether by its government officials, military forces, or extremists.

Source: Saudi Gazette

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Saudi Arabia’s Ithra to roll out green carpet for ‘Shrek The Musical’ on Wednesday


January 10, 2023

DHAHRAN: For the very first time in Saudi Arabia, the citizens of the Kingdom of Far Far Away will come to sing, dance and rejoice at Ithra. “Shrek The Musical’s” debut show is on Jan. 11.

Fans young and old can revisit the story of the shy green ogre named Shrek who was forced to face reality in a fairytale world. The adventures that ensue involve friendship, a princess, a talking donkey, a dragon, and finding true love.

For the past two decades, the Shrek franchise has been well-received by audiences since the first installment of the wildly popular Oscar-winning movie came out in 2001. Several other Shrek movies followed. The story is based on a picture book by American cartoonist William Steig, who published the first tale in 1990.

To celebrate the show’s debut in Saudi Arabia, Ithra will be rolling out a green carpet on the opening night of “Shrek The Musical.” Visitors have been instructed to wear green-colored outfits for the occasion. Shrek, Donkey and Princess Fiona will all be in attendance before their onward journey to Kuwait and Dubai.

Originally produced on Broadway by DreamWorks Theatricals & Neal Street Productions, the dynamic production by DreamWorks Theatricals & Broadway Entertainment Group will bring the familiar characters to life on stage. This 90-minute fun-filled musical spectacle was designed to be enjoyed by the whole family.

“We are thrilled that ‘Shrek The Musical’ will be performed in places it’s never been before,” said a spokesperson for DreamWorks Theatricals, “and for families all over the world to experience their favorite ogre and fairytale creatures live on stage.”

“Shrek The Musical” features a book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Olivier Award-winner Jeanine Tesori. The show is choreographed by Hannah Mcfarlane and directed by Nick Wilkinson. Costumes are by the Tony Award-winning designer, Tim Hatley.

The cast includes the talented 12-year-old Hermione Sparks from New Zealand who will play young Princess Fiona.

Source: Arab News

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Teaching suspended for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon’s public schools


January 10, 2023

BEIRUT: The Ministry of Education decided on Tuesday to suspend afternoon classes attended by Syrian refugee students in Lebanon’s public schools, after teachers had earlier ended morning sessions allocated to Lebanese students in such establishments.

Albert Chamoun, an adviser at the ministry, told Arab News that the decision was taken “because the administrative and educational authority cannot suspend morning classes attended by Lebanese students, while maintaining the afternoon shifts allocated to Syrian refugee students.”

He added: “Donor countries are not going to pay teachers’ wages.

“The ministry had secured some incentives in dollars last year for the teachers through previous accounts, but failed to secure these incentives this year.

“Teachers rejected a proposal by the minister of education to receive $5 for every working day, which would amount to $70 per month, but they insist on receiving $100. This is why the situation is a mess now.”

The decision to end teaching for Syrian students was announced by Imad Achkar, director general of education, who said “it was taken in accordance with the principle of equality.”

He added: “We receive everyone and our hearts are open to everybody, but it’s unacceptable for non-Lebanese children to receive an education, while our Lebanese children are deprived of it.

“Therefore, we announce the suspension of afternoon classes for non-Lebanese, pending a solution for the morning classes issue.”

Administrators and teachers of Syrian students receive their salaries in dollars from donors, according to prior agreements.

Teachers at public schools held protests throughout Lebanon on Monday. Hundreds of teachers sat out classes after they arrived at school and signed the attendance register.

They held sit-ins in school playgrounds, despite being pressured by political parties, including Hezbollah, to work.

Teachers have also ignored the will of their unions and decided to take to the streets to protest at their conditions.

High school teacher Ali Al-Dehni said: “We’ve been suffering for three years because of false promises and scarce incentives.

“Teaching has been an uphill battle and we are paying from our own money for fuel so we can drive to schools and carry out our educational duty.”

Meanwhile, Caretaker Health Minister Firass Abiad has announced that “subsidies have been completely lifted off baby formula for lack of a plan capable of controlling smuggling and selling in the market.”

Abiad said that “the subsidized quantity was enough for two countries and we were probably purchasing a quantity that suffices two countries,” in a clear reference to the issue of smuggling of the formula into Syria.

Infant and baby formula was the only type of milk still subsidized.

Joe Salloum, president of the pharmacists union, said that over the past week the milk had been missing in pharmacies and was available on the black market.

Separately, dozens of relatives of victims of the Beirut port explosion gathered in front of the Justice Palace to protest at the stalled investigation into the case.

The probe into the crime, which took place over two years ago, has been suspended for nearly 12 months as a result of complaints filed against investigating judge Tarek Bitar.

Scuffles took place between protesters and security forces deployed to protect the Justice Palace, resulting in some injuries.

The protest coincided with the arrival of European investigators in Beirut to question Riad Salameh, Lebanon’s central bank governor, and a meeting of the Supreme Judicial Council to request the appointment of judges of the Court of Cassation.

Source: Arab News

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First Syrian refugee with Turkiye citizenship to fulfil military service

January 10, 2023

ANKARA: Ahmet Hamo, 53, recently received his call-up letter for military service in Turkiye after he voluntarily applied to the authorities — becoming the first Syrian refugee with citizenship to be conscripted into the nation’s army.

Hamo came to Turkiye as a refugee amid the Syrian civil war that started in 2011. He applied for military service after becoming a citizen.

Hamo joined his unit in the central province of Amasya this weekend.

The newly conscripted soldier spent the previous weekend with his family and friends who came to bid him farewell. They placed him on their shoulders and danced to Arab songs.

“I feel respect for the Turkish nation and Turkish flag. My mother was of Turkish descent. Fortunately I will be under the protection of the Turkish flag,” he told reporters.

He became the first-ever Syrian refugee with citizenship to be called up for military service at his request. It is uncommon in Turkiye to have people called up at his age.

Military service in Turkiye is compulsory for all male citizens between 20 and 41 years of age. According to the Turkish Law of Recruitment that was amended in 2019, the conscription status of refugees with Turkish citizenship is classified based on the age at which they become citizens.

Under the same law, foreigners who become citizens are exempted from military service if they can prove that they already undertook this duty in their country of origin, or are older than 22 at the time they receive citizenship.

Metin Corabatir, president of the Ankara-based Research Center on Asylum and Migration, told Arab News that Hamo should have been exempted from military service due to his age and the fulfillment of his duty in Syria — and as a goodwill gesture because he has shown his loyalty to Turkiye.

“Those who gained Turkish citizenship have already been staying in this country for a while, far away from the war in their homeland. Therefore, it is an obligation of citizenship for males to perform military duty provided that they have already overcome (the) psychological trauma of the war they escaped from,” he added.

Now, all eyes are set on the next stage — whether Syrians will vote in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkiye this year. As of December 2022, around 223,000 Syrian nationals were given Turkish citizenship, while around 126,000 are eligible to vote.

Turkiye’s political parties will have to take into consideration the votes of Syrians-turned-citizens and adjust their electioneering accordingly because these people are trying to show that they are not a burden but an integral part of society, Corabatir said.

According to Muge Dalkiran, visiting fellow at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, recruitment of naturalized refugees into military service is an underestimated but still important topic to discuss in terms of integration policies.

“There (were) certain debates with regard to recruiting immigrants for the US army after the Second World War and citizenship was provided through military service. Also, recently there are some discussions on whether citizens with ‘migration background’ can be recruited by the German army due to the high number of ‘migration background’ (people in the) population,” she told Arab News.

“Even though this topic still seems controversial, the experts highlight the need for young people, with technical skills and different professions with special training, (to join) the army in the future since military service is no longer mandatory. It is also considered as part of integration, especially for those who were born in Germany,” Dalkiran said.

The public reaction to the news did see some criticism on social media, with some saying that Hamo should have rather defended his home country first before joining Turkiye’s army.

Dalkiran said it was also a concern that people are recruited into Turkiye’s army who may still not have fully recovered from previous traumas and violence.

“This single case should not lead to any kind of coercion for the rest of the Syrians who recently obtained citizenship,” she added.

Dalkiran also said that perhaps military service should be secondary to other societal needs. “Before these doubts are cleared, recruitment for the military service would only increase the polarization. With regard to social cohesion, I think there are other priorities to consider such as full integration into the labor market,” she said.

Source: Arab News

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Uranium package, allegedly originated in Pakistan, seized by British police at Heathrow

January 11, 2023

British police said on Tuesday they had opened an investigation into a package containing uranium that was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport.

The package was discovered by border agents during a routine search on December 29, police said.

The package had originated in Pakistan and arrived on a flight from Oman, according to The Sun, which first reported the story.

The uranium was found in a shipment of scrap metal and investigators were looking into whether it was the result of “poor handling” in Pakistan, the BBC reported.

“I want to reassure the public that the amount of contaminated material was extremely small and has been assessed by experts as posing no threat to the public,” police commander Richard Smith said in a statement to British media.

Source: Dawn

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Imran Khan criticises Pakistan govt over ‘irresponsible statements’ against Taliban

11 January, 2023

Islamabad [Pakistan], January 11 (ANI): Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz- led government’s “irresponsible statements” against the Taliban and warned that a deterioration in Afghan ties could result in a “never-ending” war against terrorism, Dawn reported.

Addressing a seminar on terrorism on Tuesday, Imran Khan spoke about the criticism levelled at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for leading peace talks with the TTP, adding that the opposition parties should not “lie to the people.”

He stated that all stakeholders were informed about the need for talks with the TTP and the plan to resettle their members.

“A military operation can be a part of the overall peace settlement but it is never successful on its own,” Dawn quoted Imran Khan as saying.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan slammed Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah for his “irresponsible” statements about Pakistan taking action against TTP hideouts in Afghanistan, as per the Dawn report.

PTI Chairman said that if the Taliban decided to stop cooperating with Pakistan, it could result in a “never-ending war” against terrorism.

Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan questioned the Shehbaz Sharif-led government on why they did not raise the issue of recent incidents at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border with the Afghan government, as per the news report.

He asserted that another war against terrorism would turn into a curse for Pakistan if ties with Afghanistan deteriorated.

He stressed that Pakistan should not seek help from the United States and warned that it would cause internal discord among locals if drone attacks were conducted. Notably, the ceasefire between Pakistan and TTP ended on November 28, 2022.

Pakistan has been witnessing terror incidents over the past few months, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, according to Dawn.

Source: The Print

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Imran warns against strikes in Afghanistan amid twin Taliban threats

January 10, 2023

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan came down hard on the imported government’s ministers for issuing irresponsible statements against the Taliban-led Afghan administration in the backdrop of rising terrorism, warning that if the new Afghan government decided to stop cooperating with Pakistan, it could lead to a “never-ending” war against terrorism.

Addressing a seminar on the resurgence of terrorism in Pakistan via video link on Tuesday, PTI Chairman said that the government of crooks was not serious in dealing with the issue of terrorism, as they were more interested in ending their corruption cases due to which terrorism was rearing its ugly head again.

The TTP, which has ideological linkages with the Afghan Taliban, executed more than 100 attacks last year, most of which happened after August when the group’s peace talks with the Pakistan government began to falter. The ceasefire was formally ended last year on Nov 28 by the TTP.

He said that all stakeholders had sat down and were informed about the need for talks with the TTP and the plan to resettle their members. “A military operation can be a part of the overall peace settlement but it is never successful on its own.”

Imran also criticised Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah’s “irresponsible” statements about Pakistan taking action against TTP hideouts in Afghanistan.

He warned that if the new Afghan government decided to stop cooperating with Pakistan, it could lead to a “never-ending” war against terrorism.

Imran also questioned why recent incidents at the Pak-Afghan border were not taken up with the Afghan government, reiterating that another war against terrorism would become a curse for the country if relations with Afghanistan deteriorated.

He said that the federal government would need to tread carefully and seek KP’s input on the overall terror situation. He said that Pakistan should not seek help from the United States as it would lead to internal discord among locals if drone attacks were carried out.

During his address, Imran — whose party is in power in KP — said it was wrong to expect the provincial police to confront the rising wave of terrorism, adding that the terrorists were much more heavily equipped.

“To expect the police to face them (terrorists) with the kind of weapons they have is not possible. Rangers are present in Karachi and terrorism there is not at the level of KP. There is no comparison between them.”

He said terrorists operating in KP were “battle-hardened” with access to the latest weaponry abandoned by the US when it pulled out of Afghanistan in 2021.

Imran said it would be wrong to assume that the KP police could confront such terrorists, at least until the federal government did not pay full attention to the matter.

The PTI chief said terrorism was a very important issue for the country and could have greater consequences if not properly addressed, “especially at a time when our economic conditions can’t bear it at all”.

The PTI chief alleged that the federal government had withheld funds for the tribal districts and did not pay attention to the resettlement of 30,000-40,000 TTP members from Afghanistan.

Imran said the time immediately after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was a “golden opportunity” to solve the TTP issue since the new Afghan government was “pro-Pakistan” and could exert influence on the TTP.

The seminar was also addressed by Chief Minister Khyber-Pakhtukhwa (KP) Mehmood Khan, PTI Senior leader Murad Saeed, Security analysts Dr. Amir Raza and Imtiaz Gull.

Speaking on the occasion, CM KP Mehmood Khan said that PTI has been in power in KP since 2013. He said that all-out efforts were made to ensure lasting peace in the volatile province.

He said that all institutions were destroyed in former FATA and the PTI government was leaving no stone unturned to uplift the tribal districts.

Speaking on the occasion, Murad Saeed said that the US and West were making secret documents public after every 20 years; however we never brought the fact before the masses ever.

He said that when US was leaving Afghanistan there was apprehension of eruption of civil war in Afghanistan. Murad raised question as what happened all of a sudden that friendly neighboring country turned foe.

Murad reminded that during Imran Khan-led government, neither there was any military operation nor drone strike in any part of the country.

He said that the US started blaming other when it suffered defeat, adding that it was being said that Imran Khan should have not said absolutely not because it upset the US.

Murad stated that the US and its facilitators ousted Imran Khan’ government, adding that after regime change operation, the neighbor upset and terrorism started.

Meanwhile, Khan while quoting the “media reports”, claimed that members of the joint investigation team (JIT) probing the Wazirabad attack on him were being “pressurised” to distance themselves from the findings of the probe.

The former prime minister had sustained a bullet wound to his leg on November 3 after an armed attack on his container, as he led the PTI’s ‘Haqeeqi Azadi March’ in Wazirabad.

One person had died in the incident, while several members of the PTI chairman’s close circle, including Senator Faisal Javaid, former Sindh governor Imran Ismail, Ahmad Chattha and Imran Yousaf, were injured.

The PTI chairman had alleged that three people – Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and a senior military officer, were behind the botched assassination attempt on his life.

Earlier this month, senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry had claimed that the JIT constituted to investigate the November 3 attack on Imran had found that there was a planned attempt to assassinate him.

Sharing the findings of the JIT, Fawad had said that by reducing the number of police personnel in Gujarat, an opportunity was provided for the attack and subsequently an assassination attempt was made on Imran.

“The revelations made in the JIT report will be made public soon,” the senior party leader had said, while speaking to the media. “A well-thought-out narrative was chalked out to give the assassination attempt the cover of religiously-motivated crime,” he had added.

Previously, however, contrary to PTI chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan’s claim, the JIT had found no evidence of a second attacker.

Last week, the forensic report of the attack had revealed that Imran was hit by three bullet fragments and a metal piece in the attack.

Meanwhile, the alleged attacker’s lawyer has claimed that the assassination attempt on the ousted premier was in fact a “self-scripted drama” and a “lie”.

“The JIT was formed before the FIR was even filed,” the lawyer had criticised, claiming that “the Chief Minister [Punjab] had made Ghulam Mehmood Dogar the head of the investigation as per Imran Khan’s wishes”.

He had also alleged that the JIT was “not making evidence a part of the record” and that “the video of Moazzam Gondal being shot is not part of the record” while “attempts were made to remove the police official’s statements”.

“The purpose of the JIT is to protect Imran and his guard,” he had claimed, “if they would conduct a proper investigation, Imran’s guard would turn out to be the killer”.

In a turn of events today however, the PTI chief alleged that the “JIT members [are] being pressurised to distance themselves from the findings” of the investigation.

Imran considered this to be further proof of his “conviction that powerful quarters were behind the assassination attempt”.

The Interior Ministry and the Punjab inspector general police were informed today of the differences emerging in the JIT team.

The four members of the investigating team and CCPO Lahore have disagreements over the probe.

Sources said that the CCPO has handed over the investigation to an anti-corruption officer, Anwar Shah, who is overseeing the questioning of the accused, while the JIT members are not being permitted to investigate him.

RO CTD Lahore Naseeb Ulllah Khan, RPO DG Khan Syed Khurram Ali, AIG Monitoring Punjab Ihsan Ullah Chohan and SP Potohar Division Malik Tariq Mehboob are among the dissenting JIT members

In this regard, senior leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar expressed their dismay with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as they called it out for its “bias”.

The condemnation by both leaders came hours after the ECP’s decision to issue bailable arrest warrants for PTI chief Imran Khan and other senior party leaders, Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry, for failing to appear before the commission in contempt proceedings.

The ECP had initiated contempt proceedings against Imran as well as Umar and Fawad for constantly issuing statements against the electoral body and its chief election commissioner.

In a tweet, Fawad said that “the ECP’s decision to issue a bailable warrant is an insult to the high court’s decision”.

“The case had been fixed for January 17, which was moved up to today against the rules and the case was decided,” he claimed.

Fawad went on to say that it was “yet another biased decision” by the ECP members and asserted that the PTI leaders would “pursue a contempt of court case against this decision in the high court”.

Meanwhile, Asad Umar took the opportunity to remind the electoral watchdog to focus on its primary responsibilities instead.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Pakistan secures over $10.5 billion in flood pledges

Jan 10, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has managed to secure over $ 10.5 billion in flood pledges which would be materialised in three phases -- short-term for up to one year, medium-term for up to three years and long-term for up to five to seven years period -- for the reconstruction of flood-affected areas, The News reported.

The cash-strapped nation clinched the pledges at the one-day International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva after Pak Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif launched an $8 billion flood aid appeal, aimed at helping the country overcome the devastation caused due to the cataclysmic floods.

The country, with a $350 billion economy, secured commitments worth $8.57 billion by the end of the plenary session I, while it managed to secure over $2 billion in the second session, The News reported.

There were four Strategic Recovery Objectives (SRO). SRO1 includes enhancing governance and the capacities of the state institutions to restore the lives and livelihoods of the affected people. Especially, the most vulnerable SRO1 seeks to rebuild governance-related physical infrastructure that has been destroyed and damaged by the floods, as well as restore and enable a governance structure and system that fosters efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and inclusiveness.

Source: Times Of India

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During polls, Pakistan's minorities get some importance

By Kamran Chaudhry

January 11, 2023

Pakistan practices religious segregation which puts minorities at the receiving end. With national polls around the corner in the South Asian nation, minorities are looking forward to some respite from the divide-and-rule strategy of the powerful religious and political elite.

Despite Islamization directly enshrined in the constitution, preventing equal rights for all citizens, political parties time and again have come out with pledges and action plans to end religious discrimination as polls near. However, they are seldom put into practice once a new government is cobbled together.

Former prime minister, Imran Khan, and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ruled the nation for three and a half years but kept none of the five poll promises listed in their election manifesto to empower minorities and protect their rights.

Khan, who survived an assassination attempt last year, had pledged to set up a legally empowered National Commission for Minorities (NCM), equal access to justice, laws against hate speech, minority quotas and the promotion of interfaith dialogue.

However, hardly any of them got going during his tenure from 2018 to April 2022.

As the national polls are slated for August this year, an NCM is yet again finding favor with politicians to woo minorities.

Addressing a Christmas function, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said an NCM draft had been prepared and soon it would become law.

Before the federal assembly completes its five-year term in August, minorities are hoping to see a powerful NCM replace the current toothless and ad-hoc body, which was reconstituted in May 2020.

The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), when led by former prime minister Nawas Sharif, made educational quotas for minorities a priority in two elections. But the longest-serving Pakistani prime minister never bothered to adhere to them during his nine-year stint in office. The PML-N is currently ruling Pakistan with Nawaz’s brother, Shehbaz, occupying the top job.

When it comes to wiping out discrimination under the infamous blasphemy laws that carry a potential death sentence for anyone who insults Islam, political parties in Pakistan have made tardy progress in reforming controversial colonial-era legislation.

The fate of forced conversions and protection of religious prayer houses is also the same.

Deployment of security personnel at places of worship has not prevented them from becoming targets of mob violence and courts in the country are still clueless about forced conversions due to the absence of specific laws.

When it comes to allocating five percent of government jobs to religious minorities, another poll promise, the parties often sulk. Though several interfaith events, including Christmas cake-cutting ceremonies, to promote religious tolerance are held, they lack substance to percolate down.

The number of poll promises focusing on the socio-economic welfare of minorities keeps increasing with each election, and promises keep getting widened in scope when elections are around the corner as minority voters can tilt the balance in numerous constituencies.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, there are 4.11 million registered voters belonging to minority communities such as Christians and Hindus. In the vital province of Punjab, they have 1,703,782 votes, 2,307,282 in Sindh, 48,165 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 53,532 votes in Balochistan.

Christians, numbering 2.64 million, make up 1.27 percent of Pakistan's 207.68 million population and most of them (1.88 percent) reside in the most populous province of Punjab. Muslims constitute 96.28 percent of the nation’s population.

A study — “Promises to Keep and Miles to Go” — released last week by the Lahore-based Center for Social Justice (CSJ), which works among marginalized people in Pakistan, listed the non-implementation of poll promises by seven leading political parties.

This sheds light on the lackadaisical attitude of political parties towards minorities, the study noted.

Political parties are finding core issues of religious freedom and equality too hard to digest and difficult to put into practice in the wake of rising religious intolerance, the study said.

Conspiracies portraying minorities as Western-backed saboteurs still flourish with distressingly bloody results. Often, political parties exploit such fears in the run-up to the polls.

Some of the promises like minority representation on the Evacuee Trust Property Board, a statutory minority commission, criminalizing forced conversions, reviewing curriculum, and implementing job quotas are common to all parties from time to time.

“This commonality should have helped parties to make progress on these issues.” But they did not, the study observed.

Minorities complain that non-Muslim lawmakers have proved ineffective and often end up as token representatives who are excluded from the real decision-making process.

Until 1999, non-Muslims had dual voting rights in general elections, which allowed them not only to vote for Muslim candidates in general seats but also for their own non-Muslim representatives.

Last month, Father Inayat Barnard, chaplain of Caritas Pakistan, distributed pamphlets among Christians in Lahore, the second most populous city in Pakistan after Karachi, seeking to demand the restoration of double voting rights.

As part of an awareness campaign, Movement for Identity, there have been repeated calls to restore dual voting rights for minorities for about a decade.

Against the odds, minorities are hoping for a sea change with the new government.

Peter Jacob, executive director of CSJ, said that Pakistan's new government should prioritize building an inclusive and egalitarian democracy.

“The agendas of political parties should manifest the replacement of tokenism with concrete plans for addressing the paradigm of division, discrimination and uneven citizenship on the basis of religion,” he stated.

Manifestos need to be based on concrete analysis of problems, Jacob added.

Source: UCA News

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SC told it can’t strike down laws passed by parliament

Nasir Iqbal

January 11, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The cha­l­l­enge to amendments to the accountability law by former prime minister Imran Khan “is not a case that deserves to be answ­ered”, the government’s lawyer told the Supreme Court on Tuesday, and argued that the courts should find reasons to reconcile the law with the Constitution instead of just striking it down.

A three-member Sup­reme Court bench, led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, took up the petition filed by the PTI chairman against the amendments introduced by the current government last year.

Senior counsel Makh­doom Ali Khan, representing the federal governm­ent, began his argument dur­ing a Tuesday hearing. “If I may be more courageous enough to say, there is no case to answer,” he argued.

He said that when the courts looked at a statute whose constitutionality was being challenged before it, they should put the law next to the Constitution, and if there was any disconnect, reconcile it with the Constitution instead of just striking it down.

The counsel argued that when a law was challenged, the court shifted the entire burden on the petitioner to justify that the law or any amendment was uncons­titutional and illegal.

Under Article 203(D) of the Constitution, it is only the Federal Shariat Court that, according to the counsel, could declare any statute repugnant to the injunctions of Islam after examining the same, but this power of declaring any law repugnant could not even be exercised explicitly by the Supreme Court or the high court as defined by Article 203(G).

The judiciary didn’t have any judicial power in this respect, the counsel said, adding that none of the interpretative tools worked here and therefore none of the statute could be severed.

During the hearing, Justice Bandial wondered how many members of the parliament passed the present amendments to the NAB law. To this, the counsel stated that he would inform the court about the exact number on Wednesday (today).

When the counsel compared the oath of office of the parlia­mentarians with the judges, Justice Ijazul Ahsan reminded that the oath of the member demand to exercise his functions in accordance with the Constitution but also in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan. “When a law is enacted that is not in the interest of the people of Pakistan, will it not violate the oath,” Justice Ahsan wondered.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, however, observed that the absence of words in the oath of the judges, like the well-being and prosperity of the people, was because when the court decided a case, it did not consider the prosperity of the people rather decided in accordance with the constitution.

Justice Bandial observed that the court interpreted the law in a way that it should not serve the private interest by overriding the interest of the people.

Source: Dawn

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World Bank cuts Pakistan’s GDP growth forecast in half

Khaleeq Kiani

January 11, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Warning of another global recession, the World Bank on Tuesday forecast Pakis­tan’s economic growth to slow further to two per cent during the current year — down by two percentage points from its June 2022 estimate — because of the devastating floods and slowdown in global growth rate.

The World Bank’s latest forecast also points to a “sharp, long-lasting slowdown” with global growth pegged at 1.7pc this year, compared to 3pc it predicted in June, said the bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects report, a flagship publication of the World Bank Group.

It said that global growth was slowing sharply in the face of elevated inflation, higher interest rates, reduced investment, and disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In the report, the Washington-based lending agency said Pakistan’s economic output was not only declining itself but also bringing down the regional growth rate. It forecast Pakistan’s GDP growth rate to improve to 3.2pc in 2024, but that too would be lower than the earlier estimate of 4.2pc.

“Policy uncertainty further complicates the economic outlook” of Pakistan, in addition to flood damages and the resultant increase in poverty, the bank said, explaining that an already precarious economic situation in Pakistan, with low foreign exchange reserves and large fiscal and current account deficits, was exacerbated in August last year by severe flooding, which cost many lives.

About one-third of the country’s land area was affected, damaging infrastructure, and directly affecting about 15pc of the population.

“Recovery and reconstruction needs are expected to be 1.6 times the FY2022-23 national development budget,” it said, adding that the flooding is likely to seriously damage agricultural production — which accounts for 23pc of GDP and 37pc of employment — disrupting the current and upcoming planting seasons and pushing 5.8 million at 9m people into poverty.

Pakistan, with low foreign exchange reserves and rising sovereign risk, saw its currency depreciate by 14pc between June and December and its country risk premium rise by 15 percentage points over the same period.

Pakistan’s consumer price inflation reached 24.5pc in December on an annual basis, recently coming off its highest rate since the 1970s, the World Bank said.

The South Asian region is anticipated to grow by 5.5pc and 5.8pc in 2023 and 2024, respectively — slightly 0.3pc to 0.7pc lower than earlier estimates — mainly because of supporting 6.6pc and 6.1pc GDP growth in India. “This pace reflects still robust growth in India, Maldives, and Nepal, offsetting the effects of the floods in Pakistan and the economic and political crises in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The deteriorating global environment, however, will weigh on investment in the region,” the report said.

In the region excluding India, growth in 2023 and 2024 — at 3.6pc and 4.6pc, respectively — is expected to underperform its average pre-pandemic rate. This is mainly due to weak growth in Pakistan, which is projected at 2pc in FY2022-23, half the pace that was anticipated in June last year.

Pakistan faces challenging economic conditions, including the repercussions of the recent flooding and continued policy and political uncertainty. As the country implements policy measures to stabilise macroeconomic conditions, inflationary pressures dissipate, and rebuilding begins following the floods, and growth is expected to pick up to 3.2pc in FY2023-24 — still below previous projections.

Food prices have risen rapidly in South Asia, especially in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, increasing the incidence of food insecurity in the region.

Export bans on food, also increasingly prevalent, could have unintended consequences and exacerbate increases in global food prices. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan implemented export restrictions on food in 2022, including rice, wheat and sugar.

The recent floods in Pakistan are estimated to have caused damage equivalent to about 4.8pc of GDP. Extreme weather events can exacerbate food deprivation, cut the region off essential supplies, destroy infrastructure, and directly impede agricultural production.

In some economies, the World Bank report noted, the deterioration in economic conditions has led to a substantial rise in poverty (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka). Many households are consuming less nutritious food, and rolling electricity blackouts have become common as fuel has been rationed.

Source: Dawn

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China-Pakistan joint drills strengthen ties, enhance interoperability: Pak Naval Chief

January 10, 2023

BEIJING: Chief of Naval Staff of Pakistan Admiral M Amjad Khan Niazi has said that the interaction between the navies of Pakistan and China provided an opportunity to enhance interoperability, share experience to optimally utilize common sensors, iron out procedures and “further elevate our relations.”

In that regard, the Sea Guardian series of exercises serve the objectives of fostering interoperability and sharing professional experience to deal with contemporary traditional and non-traditional security threats, he said in an exclusive interview with Global Times.

Pakistan Navy plans to host the AMAN-23 multinational maritime exercise in February this year, with the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, having taken part in previous editions, are again expected to participate.

China and Pakistan have been maintaining close naval and maritime exchanges and cooperation in recent years, including joint drills.

Elaborating briefly on the upcoming exercise, Admiral Niazi said that Exercise AMAN was the premier multinational maritime exercise of Pakistan Navy which “has been conducted biennially since 2007.”

“The exercise is conducted with the aim to develop synergy between participating naval units to tackle maritime security challenges by enhancing interoperability between regional and extra regional navies at different levels of technological prowess”, he added.

He said that the eighth series of Exercise AMAN would be held in Karachi from February 10 to 14, this year. “The format of the exercise has two distinct phases: First, the harbor phase which will be held from February 10 to 12, followed by the sea phase from February 13 to 14”, he added.

During the harbor phase, various professional and social activities will be conducted to share experiences on contemporary maritime security challenges and coordinate modalities of sea exercises. The sea phase includes exercises and an international fleet review to demonstrate unified resolve against maritime terrorism, piracy, and other prevalent illicit activities at sea.

Admiral Niazi said that Pakistan Navy was expecting a wide range of participation from across the globe, as 43 countries participated in Exercise AMAN-21, despite COVID-19 restrictions.

He expressed the confidence that Exercise AMAN-23 would contribute significantly in fulfilling the common desire of participating maritime nations for regional peace and shared prosperity through such collaborative efforts.

Regarding purpose and goals for conducting the exercise, he said that there were a number of non-traditional threats that prevailed in the wider Indian Ocean region such as terrorism, piracy, drugs smuggling, and arms trafficking.

“The vastness of the oceans makes the maritime arena an attractive avenue for illegal activities and no country has the capability to single-handedly counter these challenges. Collaborative maritime security has thus evolved as an established norm and the Pakistan Navy is actively involved in international and regional efforts. Exercise AMAN is Pakistan’s humble but focused initiative in this regard.”

“The word AMAN in Urdu means ‘Peace’ and the motto of the exercise is ‘Together for Peace’ which demonstrates the importance and united resolve of all participating countries and partners in this cause”, he added.

Admiral Niazi said that the AMAN series of multinational exercises was significant in fostering regional cooperation for the maintenance of good order at sea, improving interoperability, sharing experiences, and exhibiting common resolve against terrorism and organized crimes in the maritime domain.

“Participation in this exercise has been growing at a steady pace since its inception, with the exception of AMAN-21 in view of the COVID environment. The increased participation reflects growing trust in the value of the exercise and acknowledgment of the Pakistan Navy’s efforts in promoting collaboration between regional and extra regional navies in the face of diverse non-traditional security threats”, he added.

On the importance of holding joint exercise, he said that Pakistan Navy-PLA Navy relations were a reflection of Pakistan-China strategic ties and range from training exchanges to high-level visits, port calls by ships, navy-to-navy expert-level staff talks, and the regular conducting of bilateral exercises.

During Exercise Sea Guardian-2 conducted off Shanghai from July 10 to 13, 2022, the PNS Taimur along with PLA Navy frigates Xiangtan and Shuozhou, supply ship Qiandaohu, submarine, and aviation units including early warning aircraft and fighter aircraft participated.

The evolutions at sea included joint maneuvers, anti-surface, anti-air, and anti-submarine drills which provided a useful opportunity to strengthen naval ties and enhance interoperability between the two navies, he said.

About Pakistan International Maritime Expo and Conference, or PIMEC, he said that it was an initiative of the Pakistan Navy to showcase the potential of Pakistan’s maritime sector and draw attention to the contribution that the maritime industry can make toward the development of our blue economy.

The expo aims to bring together stakeholders and companies, both international and domestic, from various maritime fields to exploit the potential offered by the blue economy.

The three-day expo will provide an opportunity for business-to-government (B2G) and business-to-business (B2B) interactions for joint ventures and investments in Pakistan’s maritime sector.

A maritime conference will also be conducted during the PIMEC where eminent speakers, experts, and representatives, both domestic and foreign, and from both the public and private sectors, will share their views on contemporary maritime issues and suggest viable options for developing countries like Pakistan to exploit the true potential of the blue economy, he added.

On China’s participation in PIMEC, he said that since PIMEC aims to bring together stakeholders and companies from diverse maritime fields, I reckon it will provide a unique opportunity for joint ventures and investments in the maritime sector.

In this regard, the Chinese maritime sector has witnessed exponential growth over the years as evidenced by being the leading manufacturer of shipping equipment.

Furthermore, China has more than 30 major ports and seven out of 10 of the world’s busiest ports are located in China.

With these maritime credentials, the participation of the Chinese maritime sector in the maiden PIMEC will provide an ideal opportunity for local as well as international companies in exploring avenues of collaboration to promote investments in the maritime sector of Pakistan, he said.

Commenting on the delivery of two frigates by China, he said that the acquisition of the Type 054A/Ps is a symbol of enduring friendship and historical affinity between China and Pakistan.

The Type 054A/P is one of the latest multi-role frigates of Chinese origin equipped with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors that include CM-302 SSM and LY-80 SAMs as well as the advanced anti-submarine warfare suite and combat management system.

These ships are equipped to operate under multi-threat scenarios. The first two ships of this class, PNS Tughril and the PNSA Taimur, were inducted into the Pakistan Navy in December 2021 and June 2022 respectively, while the remaining two ships are also on track to join the Pakistan Navy Fleet in 2023.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Former UFC fighter Kevin Lee converts to Islam

Sakina Fatima

10th January 2023

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Kevin Lee, announced his conversion to Islam, expressing his great satisfaction in life as a Muslim.

30-year-old Kevin Lee converted to Islam in 2021 and did not disclose this until Tuesday, January 10, 2023.

Kevin took to Twitter and wrote, “Since being public about my conversion as a Muslim I’ve had a lot of people reach out to give support. I see all the messages and calls I feel the love.”

Kevin expressed that, “Allah always has a plan and I’m glad I’m on the right path.”

In another tweet, Kevin wrote, “Just to clarify because I see the questions, I officially accepted Islam in my life in October 2021 I just have not come out publicly until recently. I want to start a podcast soon I can speak more in depth there.”

Kevin, who now competes in Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Eagle FC, claims to have bonded well with Muslims after close interactions with them.

He also claimed that the move was blessed by his former manager Marquel Martin, who he is still in touch with.

Source: Siasat Daily

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France has not ruled out declaring Iran's Guards to be a terrorist group

10 January ,2023

France's foreign ministry said on Tuesday it had not ruled out the idea that the European Union designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, a day after Germany said the move would be politically important and make sense.

Ties between Paris and Tehran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks, to which France is one of the parties, have stalled. Tehran has detained seven French nationals while France is critical of an ongoing violent crackdown on protesters.

With the European Union discussing a fourth round of sanctions over the crackdown and Iran's supply of weapons to Russia, some member states have called for the bloc to classify the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. Britain is expected to make the decision in the coming weeks.

France has so far been reluctant to push for the Guards' designation. But Paris has left the door ajar, following further executions of protesters this week and closer military coordination between Tehran and Moscow that has seen drones transferred to Russia in its war against Ukraine.

“Given the continuation of this repression, France is working with its European partners on new sanctions' measures, without excluding any,” Foreign ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters in a daily briefing when asked whether Paris supported designating the IRGC.

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Monday said that a new round of sanctions would not be enough.

“Listing the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization is politically important and makes sense,” she said on Twitter, adding that legal hurdles still needed to cleared before it could be done.

Designating the IRGC as a terrorist group would mean that it would become a criminal offence to belong to the group, attend its meetings, and carry its logo in public.

Set up after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shia clerical ruling system, the Guards have great sway in Iran’s political system, controlling swathes of the economy and armed forces and put in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

The IRGC's political influence in Iran's complex power structure has increased since the election of President Ebrahim Raisi, whose government includes dozens of Revolutionary Guard commanders.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran executions amount to ‘state sanctioned killing’: UN rights chief

10 January ,2023

Iran is weaponizing the death penalty to frighten the public and crush dissent, and its execution of protesters without due process amounts to state-sanctioned killing, the UN said on Tuesday.

Tehran has executed four people in connection with nearly four months of demonstrations in the country, with two more executions scheduled imminently and at least 17 other individuals reportedly sentenced to death, the United Nations Human Rights Office in Geneva said.

“Criminal proceedings and the death penalty are being weaponized by the Iranian government to punish individuals participating in protests and to strike fear into the population so as to stamp out dissent, in violation of international human rights law,” UN rights chief Volker Turk’s office said.

The Islamic Republic has been rocked by a wave of protests since the death in custody on September 16 of Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amini, 22, following her arrest for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.

“The weaponization of criminal procedures to punish people for exercising their basic rights -- such as those participating in or organizing demonstrations -- amounts to state-sanctioned killing,” Turk said.

“The government of Iran would better serve its interests and those of its people by listening to their grievances, and by undertaking the legal and policy reforms necessary to ensure respect for diversity of opinion, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and the full respect and protection of the rights of women in all areas of life.”

The UN Human Rights Office said it had received information that two further executions are imminent -- that of 19-year-old Mohammad Boroughani, and Mohammad Ghobadiou, 22.

“I reiterate once more my call to the government of Iran to respect the lives and voices of its people, to impose an immediate moratorium on the death penalty and to halt all executions,” Turk said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran sentences another protester to death amid ongoing crackdown

10 January ,2023

A court in northern Iran has sentenced another man to death for participating in protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, state media reported on Tuesday.

Javad Rouhi, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of the capital charge of “corruption on earth,” was a “leader” of protests in the city of Nowshahr where he is alleged to have committed “significant criminal actions,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency said.

Rouhi was charged with multiple offenses, including destruction of public property and committing apostasy through the burning of a Quran, according to the report.

Rouhi can appeal his death sentence, Tasnim said.

This sentencing comes days after Iran sentenced another man named Arshia Takdastan to death after accusing him of leading protests in Nowshahr as well.

Iran has already carried out the execution of four protesters, including Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini who were put to death on Saturday, and Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard who were executed the previous month.

Over a dozen other protesters have been sentenced to death, according to Iranian authorities.

The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) has reported that at least 100 Iranians detained for participating in protests are at risk of execution.

The protests, which have swept across Iran, were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Amini after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran in mid-September. The demonstrations have been demanding the overthrow of the regime, creating one of the most significant challenges to the Islamic Republic since it was founded in 1979.

The regime views the protests as “riots” that are backed by foreign powers.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran to ‘firmly punish’ people who violate hijab law: Report

10 January ,2023

Iran’s judiciary has ordered police to “firmly punish” people who violate the country’s hijab law, a news agency reported Tuesday, after nearly four months of deadly protests against the measures.

Demonstrations have swept Iran since the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurd, after her arrest in Tehran for allegedly failing to adhere to the law.

Since the outbreak of the protests, the morality police unit charged with enforcing the hijab rules has been less visible and women have taken to the streets without mandatory headscarves.

But authorities signaled less tolerance since the start of the year, with police warning that women must wear headscarves even in cars.

On Tuesday, Mehr news agency reported that the prosecutor general had issued a directive in which “police were ordered to firmly punish any hijab violations.”

“Courts must sentence the violators, as well as fine them, to additional penalties such as exile, bans on practicing certain professions and closing workplaces,” it quoted the judiciary as saying.

Iran has executed four people over the protests sparked by Amini’s death in the custody of the morality police. Another 13 have been sentenced to death, and six have been granted retrials.

Authorities say hundreds of people, including security personnel, have been killed and thousands arrested in connection with the protests, which they generally describe as “riots.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israeli restrictions on Palestinian flags ‘repressive’: Amnesty

January 10, 2023

JERUSALEM: Bolstered Israeli restrictions against flying the Palestinian flag are “a shameless attempt to legitimize racism,” rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday.

Israel’s new firebrand National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered the police commander on Sunday to authorize officers to remove Palestinian flags flying in public spaces.

“I have instructed the Israeli police to enforce the ban on flying a PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) flag in public spaces, a sign of identification with a terrorist organization,” Ben-Gvir wrote on Twitter.

“We will fight terrorism and the supporters of terrorism with all our might,” he added.

After winning November elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed a government last month with key posts taken by far-right allies.

They include Ben-Gvir of the Jewish Power party, who has a history of inflammatory remarks about Palestinians.

Amnesty called the new measures “repressive” and an “audacious attack on the rights to nationality, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,” in a statement sent to AFP.

In Israel and in annexed east Jerusalem, Israeli security forces already confiscate Palestinian flags, sometimes triggering violence.

In May last year, at the funeral of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran Al Jazeera reporter, baton-wielding Israeli police beat pallbearers carrying the coffin, which was covered by a Palestinian flag.

Although it is not illegal to fly the Palestinian flag, Israeli laws prohibit the public display of a flag of an enemy country or group hostile to Israel’s existence.

“Israeli authorities say the directive is aimed at stopping ‘incitement’ against Israel, but it comes amid a string of measures designed to silence dissent and restrict protests, including those held in defense of Palestinian rights,” Amnesty said.

Source: Arab News

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Political division escalating in Israeli regime, officials call for arrest of Gantz, Lapid

11 January 2023

Political divisions and infighting appear to be on the rise between new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet and the opposition, with Israeli media reporting exchanges of accusations and calls by incumbent officials for arrests of opposition leaders.

According to the Mafzak Live website, Knesset member Zvika Fogel called on Tuesday for the arrest of former Israeli minister of military affairs Benny Gantz and former prime minister Yair Lapid on “charges of treason.”

Gantz and Lapid had criticized the new cabinet’s policies, saying that Netanyahu would be responsible for the breakout of an internal war.

The Israeli media source said that disputes among political rivals in the Israeli regime especially escalated after thousands took to streets in Tel Aviv in the occupied territories on Saturday against Netanyahu’s extremist cabinet.

Meanwhile, Almog Cohen, another Knesset member, told Israeli channel 13 in an interview that “if Lapid and Gantz do not stop dividing, inciting, and calling for bloodshed on the streets, they will be arrested.”

In response to the statement, Gantz addressed Netanyahu directly, saying, “Israel needs broad consensus, not continued division, incitement, and rifts.”

For his turn, Lapid said, “We will not allow them to step on us.”

Last week, Gantz called on Israeli settlers to take to the streets in protest at a set of contentious changes to the Israeli judicial system that Netanyahu’s administration proposed.

On Saturday, protesters flooded the streets and denounced the so-called reforms as a vehicle for Netanyahu to circumvent the repercussions of his long-running corruption scandal.

Some protesters held up a large banner reading “crime minister,” in a reference to Netanyahu, who was indicted for receiving bribe, fraud, and breach of trust, during the twilight of his previous mandate as premier in 2019.

Others brandished signs with slogans, including “Together against fascism and apartheid.”

‘Pivotal events in Israel’

In this regard, the head of the Arab Movement for Renewal, Ahmed al-Tibi, said, “What Israel is going through are pivotal events.”

Tibi told al-Mayadeen TV channel that Netanyahu seeks to “weaken the judicial system and annul the lawsuit filed against him in court,” adding, “The demonstrations against the Netanyahu regime show the world the extent of the fascism of the Israeli government.”

Earlier this week, the regime’s new “justice” minister Yariv Levin announced a reform program, including a “derogation clause” that allows Knesset to override the decisions that are made by the Supreme Court.

Also, Tibi pointed out that “the Israeli supreme court which has become filled with extremist right wing judges will become more extreme towards the Palestinians if it approves the judicial amendments,” pointing to “Israel’s concern about the change in the international community’s view of the judicial system.”

Last week, a human rights advocacy group issued a report, asserting that the new far-right Israeli cabinet will consolidate occupation, racism and discrimination against Palestinians.

In the report, the rights group said that the agreements made among the new Israeli cabinet's parties in order to enable their coalition, promote expansion of the regime's illegal settlements across the 1967-occupied West Bank as well as Galilee and Negev regions.

The report also pointed out that the cabinet will “transfer the supervisory authority over planning and construction laws to the ministry of internal security, which will likely dramatically increase demolition orders against thousands of [Palestinian] houses...”

Source: Press TV

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Iran Captures Several Mossad Agents Plotting to Assassinate Military Official


The intelligence ministry said in a statement that security agents have dismantled two espionage and terrorist teams linked with the Mossad spy agency.

It added that 23 members of the terror network had been identified and 13 of them, who were operating on Iranian soil, had been detained.

Several pieces of operational equipment were also confiscated from the detainees, the statement read.

The ministry identified the main liaison as “Sirous” who is based in a European country and was in touch with the agents operating inside Iran.

The new development brought to six the number of the Mossad-directed cells in Iran recently, according to the statement.

It noted that the Israeli terror-spy agency has been trying to exploit the riots in Iran to murder a military official, conduct sabotage operations in major cities and smuggle explosives into Iran through the country’s southern maritime borders.

Mossad has upped its espionage activity in the past few months and has been involved in a covert war against Iran.

Iran has in recent months identified and arrested several members of spy networks affiliated to foreign secret services.

Back in July, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced that it has captured a network of Israeli Mossad agents who had entered the country to conduct terror attacks on sensitive sites.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran: Maximum Failure for US Only Product of Maximum Pressure Policy


Kana'ani said on Tuesday that the US hostile policy towards Tehran and its enmity with the Iranian nation is "nothing new", adding that the legal and international responsibility of the hostile actions of different American governments against Iran cannot be denied.

"The instruction for propaganda, political and economic 'maximum pressure' operation of the US regime against the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been on the agenda of all American presidents from [Jimmy] Carter to [Joe] Biden, resorting to the big lie of supporting human rights and democracy, but they have gained nothing more than “maximum failure,” the spokesperson wrote on Twitter.

"Why do the Americans not learn from all the disgrace that is rooted in relying on the treacherous double-crossing Zionist advisors?" the diplomat asked.

"Here is the independent and powerful Iran," Kana'ani continued.

His remarks came after Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei declared on Monday that based on a credible American institute 10 months after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Carter ordered CIA director Stansfield Turner to topple the Islamic Republic system.

"I received a newly declassified document saying Carter ordered the CIA in December 1979 to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran," Ayatollah Khamenei stated.

"This means they have had this intention since the Revolution's inception. The document mentions propaganda as the way to overthrow the Revolution," he added.

The document that Iran's Leader referred to is related to a series of 359 documents between 1979-1980. The document related to Iran is the one numbered 110.

Carter’s order was declared to the Special Coordination Committee that included Turner, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Defense Secretary Harold Brown and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.

It was based on this order that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was provoked to launch attack on Iran in September 1980.

In his order, Carter had noted he considered operation against a “foreign country” important for the American national security.

For that purpose, Carter tasked Turner or his representative to brief congressional committees on the operation and if necessary, hold briefing sessions to justify the operation.

Carter ordered propagandistic, political and economic operation against the Islamic Republic in order to establish what he called a “democratic and responsible” regime in Iran.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iranian Speaker: Misunderstandings with Azerbaijan Corrected


Qalibaf made the remarks on his arrival at Mehr Abad Airport on Tuesday after his visit to Turkey for the 13th Plenary Session of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA).

The senior lawmaker stated that the misunderstandings with the Republic of Azerbaijan have been cleared up and it was decided that he would visit Baku in the future.

On Monday, Qalibaf told his Azeri counterpart Sahiba Gafarova that Iran rejects interference by extra-regional countries and will not accept any geopolitical changes at borders.

Tehran and Baku have been at odds over the Azerbaijan Republic’s attempt to take over a key corridor, formerly controlled by Armenia, that effectively cuts Iran’s land access to European countries and limits all such land links to those through Turkey.

Iranian officials have repeatedly stressed Tehran’s opposition to geopolitical changes in the region, and reaffirmed the country is ready to use all its capacities to establish peace and stability in the Caucasus region and its growth and development.

Tehran believes that peace and stability in the region is enhanced through cooperation among the regional countries, voicing hope that the ongoing negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan over their long-running territorial dispute results in lasting peace.

Back in September, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to solve their territorial disputes through dialogue, warning that Tehran will not tolerate any change to the borders of the countries in the region.

Delivering a stern warning against any attempt aimed at changing the regional borders in the vicinity of Iran, the top military commander called on neighboring Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve their border issues peacefully.

“We have repeatedly declared that we do not tolerate any changes to the region’s borders,” Major General Baqeri said.

“We advise Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve their problems through peaceful channels. We do not tolerate any resort to clashes and war and will not sit idly by in the face of it,” he added.

Iranian officials have stressed the necessity for the settlement of the crises and problems in the region through collective cooperation among the regional states, and underscored that the presence of foreigners is harmful.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran, Syria Vow to Cooperate in Fighting Terrorism


During the meeting in Tehran on Tuesday, the senior aide to Iran's foreign minister, Ali Asqar Khaji and Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Sosan condemned the western countries for supporting terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The two sides called for further cooperation between Tehran and Damascus in their fight against terrorism.

Khaji, meantime, welcomed the promotion of stability and security in Syria, voicing Iran’s resolve to continue its support for Syria as it did during the country’s war against terrorism.

He also said that Iranian techno-engineering companies, including the private sector ones, are ready to participate in reconstruction of Syria. 

The Syrian deputy foreign minister, for his part, hailed Iran’s support for his country, asking for this support to be continued.

Since 2011, Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy, as a result of which Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and other terrorist groups emerged in the country.

Iran maintains an advisory mission in Syria at the request of Damascus with the aim of helping the war-ravaged country get rid of the foreign-backed militants who have been fighting against the democratically-elected Syrian government since 2011.

Several members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been so far martyred in battle against terrorists in the war-torn Syria.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Israel parliament begins vote on West Bank settler law

10 January ,2023

Israel’s parliament started voting overnight on reviving a law which gives settlers in the occupied West Bank access to civilian law, while their Palestinian neighbors face military courts.

The session marks the first legislative move since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office last month, at the helm of the most right-wing government in Israeli history.

“We have started to believe again in our right over the whole of the land of Israel and we are back to reinforce the settlements,” Justice Minister Yariv Levin said.

The legislation, which has been repeatedly renewed since Israel seized the Palestinian territory in the 1967 Six-Day War, hit a stumbling block in June, contributing to the previous government’s collapse.

Some members of the then coalition opted to vote against the law, which grants some 475,000 West Bank settlers the same rights as citizens living in Israel.

The opposition then led by Netanyahu went against its ideological support of settlements to defeat the legislation, as a way of destabilizing the ruling coalition.

The government subsequently dissolved parliament, a move which sparked elections while also temporarily renewing the legislation on settlers.

In their first vote on renewing the law for a further five years, 58 lawmakers voted in favour with 13 against.

The text will face a second and third reading in parliament before its final approval.

Some 2.9 million Palestinians living in the West Bank are subjected to Israeli military law.

The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned what it called the “racist” law, saying it was aimed at the “progressive, creeping and silent annexation of the occupied West Bank.”

Settlements in the territory are considered illegal under international law, a claim disputed by Israel.

Source: Al Arabiya

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South Asia


Our Relations with the World are Based on Sharia Rules: Supreme Leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan


KABUL (BNA) The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada, while visiting the 205th Al Badr Military Corps, said: Our relations with the world are only in the light of Sharia rules and Islam.

According to the Ministry of Defense’s statement, while visiting Al-Badr military corps, the Supreme Leader of the IEA met some commanders, officials and Mujahidin.

The Supreme Leader of IEA told the Mujahidin, “Our relations with the world are based on the Sharia rules and no other factor is acceptable to us. You should prepare yourselves, discipline your training, and follow the Sharia rules in your bases.”

Source: Bakhtar News

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Afghanistan: Worried Muslim countries meet over Taliban’s bans on women and girls

By Ali M Latifi

10 January 2023

As international outrage grows over the Taliban’s recent decrees banning Afghan women from universities and employment at NGOs, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

The meeting of the 57-country bloc is the third time it has come together to discuss the situation in Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.

The OIC has already made its feelings clear by swiftly condemning the Taliban’s decrees on women when they were issued late last month.

Describing the ban on Afghan women working for foreign organisations as “perplexing,” the OIC called on the Islamic Emirate “to revisit this decision for the sake of social inclusion of women and the undisrupted continuation of the much-needed international humanitarian safety net in Afghanistan”.

That was joined by similar statements from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s al-Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning.

With the Taliban claiming to be making these policies according to Islamic law, the symbolism of the world’s Muslim countries coming together in concern is certainly significant. 

“The fact that the largest organisation of Muslim states discusses and potentially condemns the outlandish interpretation of sharia in Afghanistan will be a slap in the face of the Taliban government, who always presents itself as acting in the name of Islam,” Andreas Krieg of King's College London told Middle East Eye.

Together, the condemnations and OIC meeting are examples of a “soft power blow to the Taliban and their religious authority in the country”, he added.

Since the Taliban returned to power in the summer of 2021, residents, elders and religious leaders in the country and abroad have challenged its claims that restricting education and work for women is permissible in Islam.

However, the Islamic Emirate says it does have support among Muslim scholars from other countries.

The government-run Bakhtar News Agency recently quoted a delegation of religious scholars from Libya, Egypt, Sudan and Palestine, who declared “their full support” of the Islamic Emirate after visiting several high-level government officials during a visit to the country.

According to Bakhtar, the delegation also criticised other Muslim-majority countries for failing to acknowledge the Islamic Emirate as the official government of Afghanistan.

Unlike many organisations, the OIC has maintained a presence in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over, and in November inaugurated a new office in Kabul at a ceremony attended by the Islamic Emirate’s acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the Taliban’s foreign ministry spokesman, said the Taliban commends the OIC’s commitment to Afghanistan.

“We appreciate the OIC opening their office in Afghanistan as well as creating a fund to assist the people of Afghanistan,” Balkhi told MEE, adding that the Islamic Emirate would prefer the organisation speak to it directly over Afghan matters.

“We request the OIC to hold meetings with officials of the Islamic Emirate to better grasp relevant situations prior to making statements and holding conferences. This will lead to the OIC making informed decisions when it comes to the affairs of Afghanistan instead of relying on other influences,” Balkhi said.

Taking further steps

Krieg said by its nature as a multinational organisation comprised of 57 member states, it is difficult to make any OIC decision binding. The OIC, added Krieg, is not a supranational entity.

“They have no authority to hold governments to account. It requires consensus, and sovereignty remains with the member states.”

He cites previous examples of the OIC condemning Israel, Myanmar and India “to no avail”.

Because of this, Krieg fears the Islamic Emirate will be even less likely to take any further criticisms from the group to heart. He said the only way to really get the Taliban to take the OIC seriously is for the organisation to take the harshest possible steps.

“If the OIC went as far as eventually ostracising the Islamic Emirate … it would be a massive blow to the Afghan government's standing domestically and regionally.”

Faiz Zaland, a university professor and analyst based in Kabul, also agreed that the ultimate impact of the meeting and condemnations is in the hands of the Islamic Emirate itself.

“It is the OIC’s duty to raise these issues … They are making it publicly known that they have called on the Islamic Emirate to reverse its decisions,” Zaland tells MEE.

However, Zaland said the primary issue is that the Taliban has its own vision for the kind of societal standards it wants to see put in place before all women and girls can return to school and work across the country.

Source: Middle East Eye

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World Clerics' Delegation Seeks Education for Every Muslim

By Imran Danish

A delegation of Muslim clerics, which has visited Afghanistan, on Tuesday called for ensuring the right to education for every Muslim and emphasized the need for girls’ access to education in Afghanistan.

The head of the delegation, Sheikh Mohammad Saghir, said they have discussed education for women and girls in their meetings with the officials of the caretaker government.

He said the Islamic Emirate assured that the existing problems would be removed.

“We had meetings with all leaders of the Islamic Emirate. In these meetings, we discussed the issue of education. The minister of higher education has pledged not to deprive all Afghan men and women of education,” he said.

“Education is necessary, therefore we call on the Islamic Emirate to pave the ground for the education of women as soon as possible,” said Mawlawi Hassibullah Hanafi, a cleric.

Meanwhile, a number of female students expressed their concerns over their “uncertain” future after the closure of schools and universities. They urged the Islamic Emirate to reopen universities and schools for them.

“The closure of the universities has caused concerns including the uncertain future which is awaiting for us and which caused long-term psychological pressure,” said Khadija, a student.

“We call on the Islamic Emirate to reopen schools and universities without any conditions because education is our right,” said Hassina Mutassim, a student.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation is due to hold a conference on Afghanistan on Thursday.

Source: Tolo News

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Islamic Scholars Urged US to Free Afghanistan’s Frozen Assets


KABUL (BNA) A delegation of Islamic scholars from Egypt, Sudan, Palestine and Libya who is on a visit to Afghanistan said that the US should release the frozen assets of Afghanistan.

They said during a conference, that the economic problems in the war-torn country would be reduced to some extent if the the country’s assets released.

Meanwhile, they urged saying that Islamic countries should recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Source: Bakhtar News

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Resistance Against the Taliban (IEA) Continues in Afghanistan

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

January 11, 2023

The recent gender-based decrees issued by the Supreme leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan restricting women from working for NGOs and getting university and higher education, culminated the tensions among the Afghan people.

The implementation of the ban completely erased Afghan women and girls from society, which prompted severe condemnations from the international community and the people of Afghanistan. Although some foreign governments, aid organizations, and other stakeholders called the de facto authorities to reverse the decision, nothing has changed so far.

On the contrary, these gender apartheid policies fueled the fire of hatred and resistance against the country’s ruling regime. The notion of embracing everyone to form an inclusive government where people could see them represented in the government has long died. Discrimination against women, religious minorities, and ethnicities has been witnessed since the Taliban’s return to power. The IEA authorities have been accused of monopolizing the power while giving no chance to others participating in the Islamic regime.

The integration of all these issues causes people to resist the Taliban administration on different fronts, be it through social movements (protests), military resistance, or opposing the group through spreading anti-regime propaganda.

Recently, reports about intensive fighting between the Taliban and the forces of the National Resistance Front (NRF) in the last week of December surfaced online. The NRF is one of the only groups militarily resisting the Taliban administration. Concentrated in the Andarab, the NRF forces repelled both ground and air attacks from the Taliban with both sides facing heavy casualties.

The group headed by Ahmad Massoud, the late Ahmad Shah Massoud’s son, aims to set up a federal, decentralized, and democratic government in Afghanistan. The NRF currently pushes to drain the enemy, conduct targeted strikes and liberate more regions and accumulate resources so that they could cause further threats to the Taliban in the long term.

Since the Taliban’s return to power several other armed groups have announced their presence in Afghanistan including the Afghanistan Islamic National and Liberation Movement, Soldiers of Hazaristan, Freedom Corps, the Liberation Front of Afghanistan, etc. Not much is known about their members or their presence on the ground, with their social media handles their propaganda against the Taliban regime.

Source: Khaama Press

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Southeast Asia


Indonesian President Joko Widodo Says “Strongly Regrets” Past Rights Violations In Country

January 11, 2023

Indonesian President Joko Widodo acknowledged on Wednesday a series of incidents amounting to “gross human rights violations” had taken place in his country’s past, including the bloodshed and arrests that took place in 1965 and 1966.

In one of the darkest periods of Indonesia’s history, some historians and activists have estimated at least 500,000 people were killed in violence that started in late 1965 after then-general Suharto and the military took power following an abortive communist coup. A million or more people were jailed, suspected of being communists.

“With a clear, genuine mind and conscience, I as a head of state acknowledge that there were gross human rights violations that did happen in many events,” he said.

“And I strongly regret that those violations occurred.”

The president, commonly known as Jokowi, cited 11 other incidents, spanning a period between 1965 and 2003 prior to his tenure as leader, including the shooting dead and abduction of students during protests against Suharto’s three-decade rule in the late 1990s.

Students leading the protests were targeted and there were also many victims during this period from the Chinese community — a minority in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country and sometimes resented for their perceived wealth.

Jokowi said that the government would seek to restore the rights of victims “fairly and wisely without negating judicial resolving”, though did not specify how.

The president also cited human rights violations in the restive region of Papua, noting his acknowledgement came after reading the results received from a team he formed in 2022 to investigate these violations.

Some activists remained sceptical and said acknowledgement and expression of regret were not sufficient without cases being legally resolved in court and perpetrators tried, noting cases had often been thrown out by the Attorney General’s Office, which is tasked with investigating rights violations.

Any expression of regret must also include a reaffirmation that “serious crimes of the past need to be resolved rightly and justly through judicial means,” said Usman Hamid of Amnesty International, adding victims needed to get reparation.

Source: Dawn

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Sanusi told to file defence in Anwar’s suit

January 11, 2023

PETALING JAYA: The Alor Setar High Court has ordered Kedah menteri besar Sanusi Nor to respond to Anwar Ibrahim’s lawsuit for allegedly insinuating that he was immoral.

Anwar’s lawyers from SN Nair & Partners said the court ordered Sanusi to file his defence statement before Feb 13 during case management today.

Anwar will then have to file a reply, if any, to Sanusi’s defence before March 13.

The court also set March 20 for the next case management.

Sanusi allegedly made the remarks in a speech ahead of the general election. A video of the speech was posted on Facebook while its contents were also reported in the media.

On Nov 17, Anwar demanded that Sanusi immediately retract his remarks. However, Sanusi said a day later he would not apologise and was ready to face Anwar in court.

The PKR president is seeking damages for slander and/or libel against Sanusi for allegedly damaging his reputation, as well as an injunction against the PAS leader from publishing or distributing the impugned remarks that are deemed defamatory.

In his statement of claim, Anwar alleged that Sanusi implied that he had abused his powers as an MP, was deceitful, a traitor, a hypocrite and not a good Muslim.

Anwar said the previous Yang di-Pertuan Agong had granted him a full pardon on June 16, 2018, for his three convictions – one for abuse of power and two for sodomy – on the basis that there was a “miscarriage of justice”.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Penang official downplays sale of beer at mall concourse

Predeep Nambiar

January 10, 2023

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang official has downplayed the sale of beer at a Perai mall’s concourse area as part of the Chinese New Year festivities following a PAS lawmaker’s objection to alcohol being openly sold.

The official said the sale of alcohol to the public required a licence issued by the state excise body, which sits thrice a year to vet applications.

The licences are valid for a year and are carefully vetted by enforcement officers, including the police, to determine the suitability of the location for the sale of the alcohol, the official said.

“The state excise board carefully reviews hundreds of applications each time. The board has denied the sale of alcohol in residential areas and other areas deemed a nuisance to others. This is done after conferring with the police, the customs department, and the city council.

“While we don’t have detailed information on this case, retail areas such as malls usually require the state excise permit to be shown before any sale of alcohol is allowed,” the official told FMT.

Meanwhile, a state government official said matters relating to alcohol sale were under the jurisdiction of the state excise board, while the consumption of alcoholic beverages fell under the licensing department of the respective city councils.

Yesterday, Permatang Pauh MP Fawwaz Md Jan claimed Muslim patrons to the mall were upset that alcohol was being sold openly.

He submitted an objection letter against the promotion of alcohol in the concourse area, adding that the sale should be conducted discreetly in an area accessible only to non-Muslims, Fawwaz’s special officer Jamsari Samad told FMT.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Indonesia’s transgenders fear threat posed by new law

January 11, 2023

JAKARTA: Transgender Indonesian woman Chika Ananda Putrie wakes every morning in her decrepit rented room in a Jakarta slum, worried for her safety because of her gender identity.

She saw some of her worst fears come true last month, when the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, and its third-largest democracy, banned people from having sex outside marriage or even living together, at the risk of prison time.

“I am scared of being jailed,” said Chika, a 28-year-old busker who commutes each day to her preferred spot in a nearby town, and fears being caught living with her partner in a country where the government does not recognise gay marriage.

When the legal changes take effect in three years, such unmarried couples, particularly in the LGBT community already under pressure from religious conservatives, will have to contend with the constant threat of being reported to police.

Even though only a spouse, parent or child may report suspected offences under the new law, experts and rights groups have warned of the risk of misuse by those looking to crush alliances they dislike.

It “will disproportionately impact LGBT people, who are more likely to be reported by families for relationships they disapprove of,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said recently.

The first openly transgender woman to hold public office in Indonesia warned that the law could foster latent homophobia or transphobia while adding risks for those who cannot get married.

“The code does not break the chain of hate,” Hendrika Mayora Victoria Kelan, who is a provincial village official, told Reuters. “The state rules over … people’s bedrooms too much.”

Government officials have said they hope police raids and finger-pointing by moral crusaders would be prevented by the limitations on who is allowed to report a possible offence.

“Other parties cannot report it, or even play judge,” Albert Aries, the spokesman for a government taskforce on the law, said last month.

“So there will be no legal process without complaints from the rightful party, or those who are directly harmed.”

Officials of the law ministry did not respond to fresh requests for comment.

Traditional views

Although homosexuality is considered taboo in Indonesia, it is not illegal, except in the ultra-conservative, autonomous province of Aceh.

Gender-fluid communities have historically been an accepted part of society. The Bugis ethnic group on Sulawesi island, for instance, traditionally recognises five genders, including one that is said to “transcend”, or combine, the female and male.

But a rising tide of conservative Islam has swelled persecution of the LGBT community.

“In the last three years there has been an increase in case data every year,” LGBT advocacy group Arus Pelangi said in December, adding that there were more than 90 such incidents last year, up 90% from the previous year.

“It’s possible that the enactment of the criminal code will add to the list of victims from the LGBT community.”

With sexual minorities already living under duress before the new rules, they stand to increase the risk of vigilantism, police raids, and abuse of the law, said Bivitri Susanti, an expert from the Indonesia Jentera school of law.

“Their lives will be more threatened because the things that were once considered immoral are now illegal,” she added.

Also fuelling concern is a provision on customary law that could lead to some sharia-inspired local laws being replicated elsewhere, reinforcing discrimination against women or LGBT groups.

Like many ‘waria’, a term combining the words for “woman” and “man” by which transgender women describe themselves, Chika has seen her share of trouble.

Her voice trembled as she told of transgender neighbours unfairly driven out of the slum years earlier, after another neighbour blamed a fire on the mere fact of their existence.

Seated on a mattress beside her partner strumming his guitar in a tenement enlivened by brightly-coloured fabrics, Chika said the implications of the new law left her feeling helpless, despite the assurances.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Indonesians celebrate lifting of age restrictions for Hajj


January 10, 2023

JAKARTA: The lifting of age restrictions for Hajj is being celebrated across Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, where many prospective pilgrims have to wait many years to embark on the religious journey.

The Hajj was restricted to domestic participants in 2020 and 2021 due to pandemic fears.

After Saudi Arabia lifted most of its COVID-19 curbs last year, precautionary measures were still in place in 2022, with an age limit of 65 for pilgrims.

But this year, the annual pilgrimage will return to pre-pandemic rules, and Saudi authorities have announced that those older than 65 will also be allowed.

“This is certainly wonderful news because firstly, many Hajj pilgrims from Indonesia are above 60 years of age, and even older than 65 years,” said Mizaj Iskandar, professor in the faculty of Shariah and Law at Ar-Raniry State Islamic University in Banda Aceh, who in 2022 was tasked with organizing the pilgrimage in Aceh province.

Last year, about 100,000 pilgrims arrived in Saudi Arabia from Indonesia during the Hajj season. This year, the quota for the world's largest Muslim-majority nation will return to its pre-pandemic figures.

Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas signed on Sunday an agreement on the 2023 quota with Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, who approved the arrival of 221,000 Indonesian pilgrims this year.

“The Hajj is a long-awaited pilgrimage … on average the wait is about 25 to 28 years in Indonesia to perform the Hajj,” Iskandar told Arab News, citing data from the Religious Affairs Ministry.

In some regions such as Aceh, South Sulawesi and South Kalimantan, the wait can be even longer than 30 years.

Now that the quota is higher and age restrictions have been lifted, it will help “accelerate the departure of Indonesian pilgrims,” Iskandar added.

Indonesians also took to social media to celebrate the lifting of restrictions for Hajj, with many writing to express their gratitude.

Indonesian officials are now gearing up to prepare for the upcoming Hajj season, as elderly pilgrims will likely require more support, including medical assistance.

“Many of our pilgrims are indeed elderly,” Indonesia’s consul-general in Jeddah, Eko Hartono, told Arab News.

Source: Arab News

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North America


U.S. Counterterrorism Key Official Says US Must Not Overlook Al-Qaida, Islamic State

Jeff Seldin

January 10, 2023


For months the gaze of U.S. counterterrorism officials has been shifting, moving from scrutiny of foreign terrorist organizations to individuals in the United States seeking out ideologies to justify their use of violence.

The most likely attackers, according to the government's most recent terrorism advisory, are lone actors or small groups motivated by a wide array of beliefs and personal grievances who pose a "persistent and lethal threat to the homeland."

But while attacks like the May 2022 mass shooting that killed 10 Black shoppers in Buffalo, New York, continue to grab headlines and the attention of officials, the top U.S. counterterrorism official cautions that jihadi groups, such as al-Qaida and Islamic State, cannot be forgotten.

"We have still got to be really vigilant about the threat posed by those organizations that are based overseas that want to conduct attacks against Americans here in the homeland," National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid said Tuesday at an event hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"The al-Qaida- and ISIS-inspired threat is still there," she said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group, which is also known as IS or Daesh.

Years of counterterrorism pressure by the U.S. and its partners have taken a toll on the two groups, whittling away each group's core leaders.

Islamic State

IS has been especially hard hit, losing two emirs over the past 12 months — Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi during a raid by U.S. special forces in northwest Syria last February and Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi during an independent operation by the Free Syrian Army this past October.

In the months between those two deaths, the U.S. and its partner forces in Syria and Iraq, as well as allies like Turkey, killed or captured another 10 senior IS leaders.

But the victories against IS appear to have done little to dampen overall enthusiasm for the group and its affiliates.

"ISIS is actually a very dynamic group that continues to be led from this core in Iraq and Syria, continues to have interest in not just their sort of territorial integrity but in the notoriety and the brand expansion and attacks against the West," Abizaid said.

"We see ISIS's expansion across the African continent. We see concerning indications of ISIS-Khorasan in Afghanistan and its ambition that might go beyond that immediate territory," she added, calling the IS Afghan affiliate the "threat actor I am most concerned about," while declining to estimate how soon it could threaten interests outside Afghanistan.


Al-Qaida, too, has been dealt some severe blows, perhaps none so important as the death of longtime leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul in August.

"Zawahiri was the center of gravity for that network," Abizaid said. "He was both symbolically important but also strategically important for what was a diverse network of affiliates."

And according to the most recent U.S. intelligence estimates, more than six months after his death, al-Zawahiri has still not been replaced.

"The question for al-Qaida, that it hasn't answered for itself, is who follows," Abizaid said. "The best candidates are Saif al-Adel and Abdul Rahman al-Maghrebi, that are sitting in Iran … What does that mean for their credibility? What does that mean for their ability to lead?"

U.S. intelligence also suggests other parts of the Afghanistan-based al-Qaida organization have been further marginalized, perhaps by design at the direction of the Taliban or the Haqqani network, with Abizaid saying the affiliate known as al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, once thought to have a few hundred fighters in the country, is now "defunct."

She warned, however, it would be dangerous to write off al-Qaida just yet.

"The al-Qaida problem there is a problem," Abizaid said of Afghanistan.


There are also concerns about al-Qaida's remnants in Syria, most notably the faction known as Hurras al-Din, a group with 1,000 to 3,000 fighters whose leaders have been targeted by U.S. airstrikes in the past.

"Their stature, some of the interconnectivity with other aspects of the al-Qaida network, I think, are important and really resonant in the Hurras al-Din presence," according to Abizaid.

And she warned that the overall environment in Syria makes it a cauldron of potential terrorist activity poised to benefit al-Qaida, IS or eventually some other group.

"You have significant population of radicalized individuals in IDP [internally displaced person] camps, in prisons scattered throughout Syria, that represents the potential of a future threat if not appropriately engaged and handled," Abizaid said.


In addition to IS and al-Qaida, Abizaid said Iran and its proxies, active across the Middle East and even in Afghanistan, have become ever more open in their willingness to conduct terrorist attacks.

"I would describe Iran's interest in conducting terrorist attacks overseas as one of the most striking developments," the NCTC director said. "What I see is a pretty brazen Iranian threat network that is willing to explore avenues for attack internationally and in the region."

While some Iranian proxies, like Lebanese Hezbollah, have been increasingly vocal, Abizaid warned, "it's not just a proxy battle."

"Iran is leveraging its own capability to threaten various actors," she said.

"That we have actual evidence of them trying to pursue that interest inside the United States is a real concern," she said, noting the Iranian plot to kill former U.S. national security adviser Ambassador John Bolton.

Source: VOA News

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Rally held for 20-year-old Muslim student killed by police near Boston

Brooke Anderson

10 January, 2023

A rally was held Monday afternoon for Sayed Arif Faisal, a 20-year-old Bangladeshi student who was allegedly shot and killed by police near Boston.

The rally was organised by the Bangladesh Association of New England (BANE) in front of Cambridge City Hall, in an effort to seek justice for the University of Massachusetts student who died from a police shooting on 4 January.

Police were called that day when Faisal was seen with a large knife after climbing out of a window and behaving erratically. He was later seen harming himself with the knife. A neighbour who witnessed the incident said she did not see Faisal instigate an attack, but heard five gunshots coming from the police, according to local news reports.

Police said they only used lethal force after they at first tried to subdue Faisal using sponge bullets.

Monday's rally was one of several that have taken place since the shooting. Others have been held at the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

"He was a very meritorious student. He was going to the University of Massachusetts. They were hoping someday he would become an engineer or a doctor but now all hope is gone," said Sayed Mujubullah, Faisal's father, through an interpreter during a demonstration at Cambridge City Hall the day after the shooting.

Last week, Faisal's family released a statement through the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Massachusetts, reading, in part, "Our only son, Sayed Arif Faisal, who we lovingly called Prince, is no longer with us nor in this world. We are completely devastated and in disbelief that our son is gone. Prince was the most wonderful, loving, caring, generous, supportive, and deeply family-oriented person."

They went on to describe their son as law-abiding and non-violent, and they said they wanted to know what had happened to him.

Source: The New Arab

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US extends protection for ex-Trump aides from Iran threats

January 11, 2023

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration has again extended government protection to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and one of his top Iran aides due to persistent threats against them from Iran.

In separate notices sent to Congress late last week, the State Department said the threats to Pompeo and Brian Hook remained “serious and credible.” Hook served as the Trump administration’s special envoy for Iran.

Along with Pompeo, Hook was the public face of the US “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran following President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Iran also blamed both men for the US assassination of Iran Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in January 2020 and vowed revenge.

The Jan. 5 notifications to Congress marked the 10th time the State Department has extended protection to Hook since he left office in January 2021 and the seventh time it has been extended to Pompeo. The discrepancy arises because Pompeo, as a former Cabinet secretary, automatically had government security for several months after leaving office.

The notifications, obtained by The Associated Press, were signed by Acting Deputy Secretary of State John Bass.

“I hereby determine that the specific threat with respect to former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo persists,” Bass wrote. He used identical language to refer to the threat against Hook.

The AP reported in March 2022 that the State Department was paying more than $2 million per month to provide 24-hour security to Pompeo and Hook. The latest determinations did not give a dollar amount for the protection.

Even as the Biden administration has made those determinations and spent money for Pompeo and Hook’s protection, it has continued to press ahead with indirect talks with Iran aimed at salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from in 2018.

Those talks have been stalled for many months now and the administration is pessimistic they will resume anytime soon. The administration has blamed Iran for the breakdown in talks, saying it has raised demands outside the scope of the deal, which gave Tehran billions in sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

In the meantime, Iran has launched a major crackdown on antigovernment protests sparked by the death of a woman in custody who was accused of violating a law requiring women to wear headscarves in public.

Source: Arab News

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US Navy intercepts vessel smuggling assault rifles from Iran to Yemen

10 January ,2023

The US Navy seized over 2,100 assault rifles from a ship in the Gulf of Oman it believes came from Iran and were bound for Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi militia, a Navy spokesman said Tuesday. It was the latest capture of weapons allegedly heading to the Arab world’s poorest country.

The seizure last Friday happened after a team from the USS Chinook, a Cyclone-class coastal patrol boat, boarded a traditional wooden sailing vessel known as a dhow. They discovered the Kalashnikov-style rifles individually wrapped in green tarps aboard the ship, said Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for the Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet.

The Chinook, along with the patrol boat USS Monsoon and the guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans, took possession of the weapons. They resembled other assault rifles previously seized by the Navy, suspected to be from Iran and heading to Yemen.

“When we intercepted the vessel, it was on a route historically used to traffic illicit cargo to the Houthis in Yemen,” Hawkins told The Associated Press. “The Yemeni crew corroborated the origin.”

The Yemeni crew, Hawkins added, will be repatriated back to a government-controlled part of Yemen.

A United Nations arms embargo has prohibited weapons transfers to the Houthis since 2014, when Yemen’s civil war erupted.

Iran has long denied arming the Houthis even as it has been transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weaponry to the Yemeni militia using sea routes. Independent experts, Western nations and UN experts have traced components seized aboard other detained vessels back to Iran.

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

The Houthis seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 and forced the internationally recognized government into exile. Years of inconclusive fighting has pushed the Arab world’s poorest nation to the brink of famine.

A six-month ceasefire in Yemen’s war, the longest of the conflict, expired in October despite diplomatic efforts to renew it. That’s led to fears the fighting could again escalate. More than 150,000 people have been killed in Yemen during the conflict, including over 14,500 civilians.

There have been sporadic attacks since the ceasefire expired, though international negotiators are trying to find a political solution to the war.

Source: Al Arabiya

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US urges Pakistan to ‘continue’ with reform agenda

January 10, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The State Department said the United States wanted to see Pakistan “continue down the path of reform,” while answering a question about Islamabad’s request to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to relax its conditions.

Ned Price, a spokesperson of the State Department, said it was ultimately up to the IMF to decide whether to soften its stance on Pakistan’s bailout programme, which was discussed at a donors’ conference in Geneva a day earlier.

The spokesperson added the US will continue to be a partner to Pakistan on all of its priorities, including security, economics and humanitarian issues.

Price also announced that the US will provide an additional $100 million in funding for flood protection, clean energy, agriculture and infrastructure reconstruction in Pakistan, bringing the total contribution to over $200 million.

“I am pleased to share that today the United States announced an additional $100 million of recovery and reconstruction funding, bringing our total contribution to over $200 million,” he told the daily press briefing.

The funding, the spokesperson added, will be used for flood protection and governance, disease surveillance, economic growth and clean energy, climate-smart agriculture, food security, and infrastructure reconstruction.

“The funding also includes humanitarian assistance to support flood relief and recovery efforts in refugee-hosting areas,” he said.

“Our flood-related assistance complements our broader efforts to form a US-Pakistan Green Alliance that looks at the range of climate and resilience issues central to Pakistan’s reconstruction. Pakistan’s recovery and reconstruction will be a continuing process in the months and years ahead, and we will continue to support Pakistan in its efforts to build a more climate-resilient future for its people.”

International donors on Monday committed over $9 billion to help Pakistan recover from ruinous floods last year, exceeding its external financing goals and paving the way for a new model of raising funds to fight climate disasters in poorer countries.

Officials from some 40 countries as well as private donors and international financial institutions gathered at a meeting in Geneva as Islamabad sought funds to cover around half of a recovery bill amounting to $16.3 billion.

The meeting’s co-hosts, the United Nations and Pakistan’s government, said more than $9 billion had been pledged from bilateral and multilateral partners.

Source: Pakistan Today

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‘Palestine chose me’: American saves thousands of Gaza children through NGO


January 10, 2023

GAZA CITY: An American NGO chief who obtained Palestinian citizenship through marriage is saving thousands of sick children in the Gaza Strip through his work as founder of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

In 2018, Steve Sosebee, an American who married a Palestinian woman, was given a Palestinian passport and ID card. Since then, he has lived on and off in the West Bank.

“I did not choose Palestine, but Palestine chose me,” said Sosebee, 67, who was born in Kent, Ohio.

He founded PCRF — which helps Palestinian children in Gaza and the occupied West Bank receive medical treatment — in 1992.

Sosebee arrived in Palestine almost 30 years ago as part of his university studies in international relations. At the time, he visited the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the first Palestinian intifada.

He returned to Palestine years later as a journalist and met Huda Al-Masry, a social worker at the YMCA in Jerusalem. He married Al-Masry and now has two daughters, Jenna and Deema. When Al-Masry died following a battle with cancer in 2009, Sosebee’s two daughters moved to Palestine.

During his periods of work in Palestine, Sosebee has helped injured children get treatment, notably two siblings from Hebron who received free treatment in the US. “They were the first kids to ever be sent to the US for free medical care during the intifada,” he said.

PCRF, which has an annual budget of about $10 million, has taken care of 2,000 sick and injured children as well as sponsored hundreds of volunteer medical teams from around the world, helping tens of thousands of sick and injured youths in local hospitals.

Sosebee founded the first public pediatric cancer department in Beit Jala Hospital, near Bethlehem in the West Bank, in honor of his wife.

The 67-year-old later remarried Zeean Salman, a US Sudanese pediatric oncologist.

PCRF, an NGO, relies on individual donations, and has three offices in the Gaza Strip as well as six in the West Bank.

“Gaza needs help. There is an urgent need to provide health services for children there. The private sector cannot cover the needs of the population, as is the case in the West Bank,” Sosebee told Arab News

The Gaza Strip is suffering from a deteriorating health situation as a result of the 15-year Israeli blockade, in addition to Palestinian political divisions.

More than 2.3 million people live in the Gaza Strip, which has been run by Hamas since the party won elections in 2006 and took control of the area in an armed struggle in mid-2007.

Sosebee believes that the political division and the international community’s unwillingness to deal with the government in Gaza have led to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the enclave.

“We do not deal with politics, our work is humanitarian only, and this is the reason for our success,” he said.

“As Americans, we speak of freedom, but at the same time, we can’t ignore the human rights violations. There are people in Palestine who need help and assistance,” he added.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, followed by the outbreak of the first intifada in 1987, the second intifada in 2000, the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and several rounds of escalation in the Gaza Strip, have left many Palestinians, especially children, unable to access urgent treatment.

“I have faced many problems, but I learned how to work and overcome the problems. I believe in justice, I stay out of religion and politics, stay professional and work hard to serve the patients,” he said.

Source: Arab News

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First non-indigene Muslim, 12 others sworn-in as commissioners in Cross River

January 10, 2023

By Asare Asare

Alhaji Adamu Uba Musa has made history as the first Muslim faithful and non-indigene to be appointed as commissioner in Cross River State.

Musa who is now Commissioner for Inter-Governmental Affairs and 12 others were sworn-in today having been screened and cleared earlier by the Cross River State House of Assembly two weeks ago.

The governor used the occasion to announce a minor cabinet reshuffle in two ministries which led to Eric Anderson becoming the new Commissioner for Information and Orientation.

The new commissioners filled positions made vacant by their former occupants who left either to vie for elective offices or resigned following the governor’s defection to the All Progressives Congress, APC, on May 20, 2021.

The other newly sworn-in commissioners and their portfolios are Mrs Ekwele Agube (Sustainable Development), Prince Sunday Williams Awara (Social Housing), Hon. Wogor Umari (Homeland Security), Dr Hippolytus Lukputa (Water Resources), Patrick Ebam(Special Duties) and Okama Inyang (Infrastructure).

The rest are, Janet Eyo Nsang (Climate Change), Hon. Goddy Eta (Finance), Hon. Arikpo Pius Edet (Science and Technology), Bishop Ekpenyong Effiom Iso (Culture and Tourism), Associate Professor Gertrude Njar (Women Affairs).

Hon. Eric Anderson, the former Commissioner for Culture and Tourism was named the new Commissioner for Information while Oliver Orok, hitherto Commissioner for Sustainable Development, now takes charge of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Ayade urged the new commissioners to work assiduously to ensure that his administration finished strong.

“Your coming on board is not by accident; you have been carefully selected based on your integrity and competence to bring your wealth of experiences to bear on our administration.

“I, therefore, charge you to work assiduously to ensure that we finish strong as an administration. Your jobs are all cut out for you, I expect that you make our dear state proud.”

Responding on behalf of the new Commissioners, Dr Janet Ekpenyong who replaced APC’s National Woman Leader, Dr Betta Edu, as Commissioner for Health, commended the governor for finding them worthy to join his government.

Dr Ekpenyong, who was before her new position, the Director-General of Cross River Primary HealthCare, pledged that she and her colleagues would represent the governor well in their various ministries.

“We will work in line with your vision and plan for Cross River state,” the new Health Commissioner said.

Source: Daily Post Nigeria

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South Africa lauds Turkish president’s efforts in Russia-Ukraine peace settlement

Hassan Isilow 



South Africa affirmed its support Tuesday for efforts undertaken by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to encourage a peaceful settlement between Russia and Ukraine. 

“South Africa if it can and the rest of the continent would want to play a role in such a process, but we really thank his Excellency President Erdogan for the leadership he has shown in seeking to end conflict in that region,” Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, said during a joint briefing with her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in the capital Pretoria.

Pandor hosted Cavusoglu for a bilateral political consultation Tuesday where they discussed several issues.

In an earlier statement, Pandor conveyed President Cyril Ramaphosa and the government’s sincerest congratulations and best wishes to President Erdogan and the Turkish people for celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.

“Please also allow me to express my deepest condolences on behalf of the South African government to the government and people of the Republic of Türkiye on the tragic loss of life as a result of the explosion which occurred in Istanbul on 13 November 2022,” she said.

Pandor also said her country remained steadfast in condemning all forms of violence and wished to extend its sympathy to those that were directly affected by this tragedy.

South Africa’s top diplomat further said that she is encouraged by the two countries’ mutual recognition of the importance of the values of peace and stability, democracy, the rule of law and the centrality of multilateralism in sustainable development.

“I see this as the beginning of an even greater partnership between Türkiye and South Africa,” Pandor said at the joint briefing.

MOU signed

Cavusoglu said they held discussions on bilateral and international issues, including the importance of fighting the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which he said is a threat to every country, not only Türkiye or South Africa.

“We are also glad to announce that an MOU (memorandum of understanding) on scientific and technological cooperation has been signed between our relevant authorities,” he said.

The top diplomat said that granting additional flight frequencies for Turkish Airlines from Johannesburg to Cape Town will increase trade and tourism.

He said they also discussed consular issues, including visas and work permits, adding that they will hold consular meetings in Ankara possibly this year.

“We also exchanged views on global and regional affairs. Türkiye’s approach to Africa is built on equal partnership, mutual respect and a win-win strategy,” he said.

They also discussed developments in Ukraine and Ethiopia.

“We welcome the agreement between the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF,” Cavusoglu said, referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

He appreciated the role that South Africa is assuming in negotiating peace on the continent. Cavusoglu said that on the Ukraine issue, Türkiye and the UN continue to do their best to ensure the smooth operation of the Istanbul grain deal.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Türkiye opens research centre at South African university

Merve Aydogan 


Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday inaugurated the Maarif Türkiye Research Center at the University of Pretoria in South Africa’s executive capital.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Cavusoglu said the center “will become a hub of excellence in research on Türkiye” and “promote academic and policy interaction between Africa and Türkiye.”

He reaffirmed Türkiye’s commitment to enhance collaboration with South Africa in the field of education.

Türkiye views education as “the most important area” for cooperation and one where it continues to devote its efforts, the minister said.

“Currently, nearly 61,000 students from the (African) continent are studying in Türkiye, many of them through Türkiye’s scholarships,” he said.

“Among those are 223 South African students engaged in academic pursuits at different Turkish universities.”

Turning to international issues, Cavusoglu pointed out that conflicts do not have “clear borders anymore,” citing as an example the war in Ukraine and its “worldwide implications on energy markets, food security, and inflation.”

“Global challenges such as pandemics and climate change are everybody’s problem now. The solution to these problems lies in a multilateral approach,” he said.

“We cannot overcome the threat of terrorism, the challenge of irregular migration and organized crime without global solidarity and cooperation,” he emphasized.

Cavusoglu said globalization is now giving way to “the rise of protectionism,” blaming the situation on the “current global system.”

He reiterated that Türkiye believes that a “fairer world is possible” and seeks “shared prosperity and an inclusive global system.”

On ties with Africa, Cavusoglu said Türkiye has become an “African hub with a growing African diaspora of students and businesspeople” over the past 20 years.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Uganda's court quashes part of law used to prosecute government critics

Hamza Kyeyune 



Uganda’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday quashed a section of a communications law that has been used to prosecute government critics, journalists, and writers.

The law has been used over the years for the arrest and sentencing of government critics, including academic and social critic Stella Nyanzi, who was detained for insulting the president on Facebook and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Others, such as author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija who is currently in exile, have been arrested and prosecuted over offensive communication against the president and his son via Twitter.

Punishments for offenders can range from steep cash penalties to jail sentences of several years.

A panel of five justices of the Constitutional Court ruled that the law is unconstitutional.

In a ruling on a petition filed by a rights activist seeking the quashing of that section of the law, Constitutional Court Judge Kenneth Kakuru, who wrote the lead judgment on behalf of a panel of five judges, said that the section of the law "is unjustifiable as it curtails the freedom of speech in a free and democratic society.

“I find that the impugned section is unjustifiable as it curtails the freedom of speech in a free and democratic society. Secondly, Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act does not specify what conduct constitutes offensive communication. To that extent, it does not afford sufficient guidance for legal debate. Thirdly, it is vague, overly broad, and ambiguous. Therefore, I find that the impugned section is inconsistent with and/or in contravention of Article 29 of the Constitution,” Justice Kakuru said in the lead judgment.

He declared it "null and void" and banned its enforcement.

Robert Ssempala, the executive director of the Human Rights Network for Journalists, a non-profit based in the capital Kampala, told Anadolu Agency that the legislation was aimed at gagging media freedom and protecting the corrupt while penalizing demands for accountability. There was no immediate response from the government.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Libya’s Dbeibeh stresses necessity of cooperation with Türkiye

Moataz Wanis  



Head of the Tripoli-based unity government Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh has stressed the necessity of his country's cooperation with Türkiye in the economic, political, and military fields.

This came in a statement by Dbeibeh’s media office late Tuesday, after he received Türkiye's Ambassador to Libya Kenan Yilmaz and the staff of Turkish Military Attache Tevabil Menekse on the occasion of the end of Menekse's term in Libya.

According to the statement, Dbeibeh thanked Menekse for cooperation throughout his term at the Turkish Embassy in Libya.

He stressed "the need to cooperate with Türkiye in the economic, political, and military fields."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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