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Jewish and Muslim Historic Interfaith Partnership Will Bring Together Rabbis and Imams and Their Synagogues and Mosque

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 Oct 2019

Jewish And Muslim Historic Interfaith Partnership


Jewish and Muslim Historic Interfaith Partnership Will Bring Together Rabbis and Imams and Their Synagogues and Mosque

US Seeks 'Roadmap' To Political and Economic Normalcy in Kashmir

Al-Qaeda-Linked Group HUJI-B Attempts to Regroup in Bangladesh

Islamic State’s TikTok Posts Include Beheading Videos

Kurds Welcome German Plan for International Force in Syria

France Reopens Disputed Ancient Tomb in Jerusalem

Promotion of Sufi Teachings, Vital To Protect Youth from Cultural Onslaught: Pakistan PM

Mosque Officials with Political Agenda Must Resign, Says Sultan Nazrin

Branded 'Child Trafficking Centres' in 2014, Kerala Muslim Orphanages Given Clean Chit by CBI

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




North America

NATO chief warns 'fight against IS is not over'

US advises patience on Afghan election results

US agrees to refurbish used warship sold to Bahrain

US senator urges defeat of Trump Syria-censure motion

US will not allow Daesh take Syria oil fields: Trump



South Asia

Bangladesh Sentences 16 to Death For Killing Nusrat Jahan, 18

At least 50 militants killed as Afghan forces fully clear Darqad district of Taliban

Afghan forces recapture Dahan-e Ghori district from Taliban militants after 3 years

4 special force members dead in N. Afghan attack

Unknown gunmen assassinate the police chief of Badghis in Kabul city

Supporting Afghan forces is the best thing NATO can do to create conditions for peace: Stoltenberg

Car bomb destroyed, 2 suicide bombers killed in Balkh airstrike



Arab World

Lebanon’s President Aoun Refuses to Step Down, Blames Corruption For Crisis

Lebanese president invites protesters to talk, hints at govt. reshuffle

Saudi Arabia arrests, hands down jail terms to three dissident Muslim preachers

‘Loyal’ Tripoli turns its back on Lebanon’s Hariri

Desperate Pleas to Free Women, Children from ISIS Camps in Syria

Six Iraqi Police Officers Killed

Syrian Army Deploys Forces in Several Villages in Hasaka Province

Syrian Army Sends Heavy Military Equipment to Southern Idlib

Roads still blocked on ninth day of protests in Lebanon

US to send ‘additional military assets’ to protect Syrian oil

Iraqi PM warns against violence ahead of planned anti-government protests

Iraqis gather in Baghdad ahead of planned mass protests

Lebanon enters second week of protests as President Aoun blames corruption

Syria’s Assad gets a prize with US withdrawal, Russia deal




Denmark passes law to strip Daesh fighters of nationality

UK says Lebanese people expressed their ‘legitimate anger,’ calls for reforms

West's hacking allegations aimed at 'driving a wedge' between Iran, Russia: Moscow

Russian military police patrol Turkish-Syrian border

British YPG/PKK member found guilty of terrorism

'No call for NATO mission in northeastern Syria'

Germany tolerating activities of YPG/PKK terror group




Pak Govt Empowers Provinces for Appropriate Action against Ansar-ul-Islam, A Subordinate Organisation of Jamiat Ulema Islam Fazl

Govt Notifies Ban on JUI-F’s ‘Militant Wing’

No possibility of minus-Imran, Gen Bajwa tells Maulana Fazl

Kartarpur Corridor: First group of pilgrims from India expected to come on November 9, says Pakistan's Mohammed Faisal

Nawaz Sharif diagnosed with acute immune disorder; brother of jailed ex-PM files bail plea for him on medical grounds

Prosecution team in Musharraf treason case fired, court told

‘Imran Khan has as much say in govt as I have in PML-N,’ Shehbaz mocks PM

Mufti Rafi Usmani urges seminary students to avoid rallies, processions

Nawaz diagnosed with immune system disorder

US State Dept expresses concern over alleged detention of Gulalai Ismail's father

Directorate to regulate seminaries set up

Achakzai supports JUI-F march

Imran tells aides not to comment on Nawaz’s health

Sending Nawaz abroad for treatment not in PM’s hands: spokesperson

Imran elated over WB’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 report



Southeast Asia

Malaysia’s Mahathir Dares Trade War with India Over Kashmir

3 Indonesian Maids Who Were Working In Singapore for Years Charged With Funding Terrorism

Malaysia's Home Ministry to seize pro-China comic book

Daesh threat in Indonesia rises with Turkey’s incursion

Maldives police arrest recruiter for Daesh

Activist in ‘dehijabing’ forum says summoned by Jais for allegedly insulting Islam

Thai Muslims mark 15 years since Tak Bai 'massacre'

Anwar says unaffected by labels, doesn’t care about being called a political Islamist

Repatriation of Rohingya refugees should begin immediately, says foreign minister




US Congress Hearing on J&K: India Says Criticism ‘Regrettable’, Should Have Focussed On Cross-Border Terror

India, Pakistan ink pact to allow visa-free Kartarpur access

‘Pakistan move to take diplomats to PoK naked propaganda’

Terrorists kill 2 non-local truckers in Shopian

Palm oil import boycott: India asks Malaysia leadership to do ‘serious introspection’

Pakistan troops shell Kashmir’s Tangdhar, one civilian killed

Indian Muslim group backs Turkey’s operation in Syria




Lawmakers Accuse Twitter of Allowing Content from Hamas and Hezbollah, Violating Law

Hamas warns of Israel’s ‘three dangerous plans’ for the al-Aqsa Mosque

Bahrain’s King Hamad, Israeli PM Hold secret meeting in Hungary: Report

Albanian police say Iranian 'terror cell' planned to attack exiles

Russia says Kurds have begun withdrawing forces near Syria-Turkey border: Ifax

Israeli security forces arrest 13 Palestinians: Israeli army spokesman

Time to shut down Tehran regime embassies, Iranian resistance urge European countries

Israel, Jordan mark 25 years of imperfect peace




Nigerian President Vows Crackdown On Abusive Islamic Schools

Nigeria: Troops Capture Boko Haram Top Commanders, 16 Others in Sting Operation

Alleged Somali pirates accused of kidnapping hit with terrorism charges

Extremist attacks intensify at Mali, Burkina Faso border

Somalia hands over two al-Shabaab militants to Kenya


Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Jewish and Muslim Historic Interfaith Partnership Will Bring Together Rabbis And Imams And Their Synagogues And Mosque

October 23, 2019


NEW YORK – As the first anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting approaches, The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) and the Muslim World League announced an historic partnership for an innovative Season of Twinning program that will bring together rabbis and imams and their synagogues and mosques.

For a decade, the FFEU’s Season of Twinning has brought together thousands of Muslims and Jews in an effort to create more opportunities for interfaith dialogue. This year, more than 50 events will take place in 35 countries, on five continents. Events will be held between November 2019 and January 2020. Programs include pulpit exchanges among rabbis and imams, and events geared toward Muslim and Jewish student groups, young leadership bodies, families and children. Events focus on celebrating commonalities in the two faith traditions. Together, they show their support in combatting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism by performing acts of social service together in recognition of the common moral imperative in both Islam and Judaism to help those in need.

“As Muslims and Jews, we share a common faith and a common fate, and it is our single destiny to strengthen our bond and to stand up for one another as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia continue to increase around the world, especially here in the United States,” said FFEU President Rabbi Marc Schneier. “As the first anniversary of the Pittsburgh shooting approaches, we are reminded of how important this partnership is and appreciate the Muslim community’s support after the massacre took place last year.”

“Whether it was the attacks on Jews in Pittsburgh or in Germany, Muslims in New Zealand, or on Christians in Sri Lanka, we have seen our houses of worship targeted, the sanctity of our communities violated, and the basis of peaceful and collaborative coexistence threatened,” said Muslim World League Secretary General Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa. “To defeat hate, we must speak and listen to one another, learn from one another and unite with one another.”

“We must take this tragedy and create something positive out of it and so, together with Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa and the Muslim World League, we’re partnering with 50 organizations around the world to create program for further fortify this close bond between Muslims and Jews,” added Schneier.

Founded in 1989, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is the global address for Muslim-Jewish relations. FFEU President Rabbi Marc Schneier co-authored Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues That Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims. For more information, visit

The Muslim World League, based in the Holy City of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is a non-governmental organization based in the Holy City of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that is committed to articulating the true and moderate Islam. Dr. Al-Issa, whose interfaith efforts include historic agreements with the Vatican and evangelical Christian organizations, will meet the senior leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints next month in Salt Lake City. He also plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January. For more information, visit



US seeks 'roadmap' to political and economic normalcy in Kashmir

Oct 25, 2019

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday sought from India a "roadmap" to political and economic normalcy in Kashmir and immediate release of all political detainees as it asked Pakistan to take "sustained and irreversible" steps against militants and terrorists in its territory.

Most of the top level and second rung separatist politicians of Jammu and Kashmir have been taken into preventive custody while mainstream leaders, including two former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — have been either detained or placed under house arrest in view of the Centre's decision to revoke special status to Jammu and Kashmir and splitting the state into two Union Territories.

"We continue to press for the release of detainees for the full restoration of everyday services, but most importantly, for roadmap to the restoration of political and economic normalcy," said acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells.

The US remains "deeply concerned" about the situation in the Valley where daily life of nearly eight million residents has been severely impacted since the decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir's special status and to "detain without charge" political leaders and restrict communications, Wells said in an interaction with reporters at Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.

"We've seen progress for example four million postpaid mobile phone users have had service restored, but SMS and internet is restricted," she said.

Internet services across all platforms continued to be snapped in the Valley since the night of August 4, hours before the Centre announced its decision to abrogate Article 370 provisions that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and split the state into two UTs, officials in Srinagar said.

The internet services were snapped along with mobile and landline telephone services. While the landline telephone services were restored gradually first, the postpaid mobile services were restored only last week. The prepaid services continued to remain barred.

Noting that journalists have extensively covered developments in Kashmir, Wells said the role of some of the international reporters have been particularly important, but journalists continue to face challenges in access while reporting due to the security restrictions.

Wells said terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen "obviously are the problem".

"In this vein, we welcome (Pakistan) Prime Minister (Imran) Khan's unambiguous statement in September that anyone who crosses from Pakistan to carry out violence in Kashmir are enemies of both Pakistan and the Kashmiri people," she said.

"The constructive dialogue that we'd like to see between India and Pakistan must be based on Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists in its territory," Wells said.

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have met and spoken with their Indian and Pakistani counterparts multiple times and all sides have the responsibility to create the conditions in Kashmir for dialogue including avoiding heated and unhelpful rhetoric, she said.



Al-Qaeda-Linked Group HUJI-B Attempts to Regroup in Bangladesh

By: Animesh Roul

October 23, 2019

Bangladesh’s Islamist landscape unexpectedly expanded with a reported resurgence of al-Qaeda-linked Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami-Bangladesh (HUJI-B—Movement of Islamic Holy War-Bangladesh) terrorist group, which has been lying dormant for over a decade. On October 2, Dhaka police arrested three senior HuJI-B operatives from the Khilgaon area of the capital city who were reportedly engaged in reviving HuJI-B’s operations in Bangladesh. The arrested were identified as Mohammad Atikullah, who is in charge of HuJI-B’s international relations, Nazim Uddin, secretary of HuJI-B’s Dhaka operation and Mohammad Borhanuddin, who is in charge of the HuJI-B’s Feni unit in Chittagong. The investigating agencies have initiated a countrywide search and sweep operation for an additional 30 or more HuJI-B members and sympathizers that came in contact with Mohammed Atikullah, who seems to be the leading financier. According to police, at least five of them are presently hiding in the capital Dhaka and the rest are in the Chittagong area.

Initial interrogation reports revealed that all three arrested operatives have combat experience from the Afghan-Soviet war, fighting alongside Taliban and al-Qaeda jihadist elements. Among these three arrestees, Mohammad Atikullah had multiple meetings with jihadist leaders in Afghanistan during the late 1990s. Atikullah, who is originally from Feni, Chittagong, reportedly returned to Bangladesh in 1998 after meeting Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and began working in different Quami madrasas to spread HuJI-B’s grassroot network in Bangladesh. He was involved in establishing an Islamist charity named al-Ansar-Welfare Foundation before he fled to Dubai in 2006. He remained in Dubai for several years and returned to Bangladesh in March 2019. Upon his return Atikullah and two of his associates started meeting former HuJI-B’s underground cadres and the family members of imprisoned HuJI-B operatives, attempting to reorganize and revive HuJI-B’s operations in Bangladesh (Daily Star, October 3; Daily Star, October 5).

In early March, Dhaka metropolitan police stumbled upon criminal cases, like robbery, that exposed HuJI’s fundraising and gun running activities in the country. Despite the decade-long dormancy of HuJI-B, there have been signs of its covert existence in the country. The arrests of two HuJI leaders identified as Hafiz Ibrahim Ghazi and Mamunur Rashid, along with 12 members of a robbery gang in the capital’s Jatrabari and Rampura areas, exposed this resurgence to the public (BDNews24, March 5; BSS News, March 5).

HuJI-B’s Violent Past

Bangladesh’s history is replete with HuJI-B’s violent campaigns against the pro-democratic and secular Awami League (AL) political party and other civil society members. The leaders who have spearheaded the Sunni (Hanafi-Deobandi) militant movement in Bangladesh, such as Mufti Hannan, Sheikh Farid, and Maulana Abdus Salam guided both covert and overt actions of the group in Bangladesh and beyond, especially in neighboring Myanmar, where the HuJI-Arakan (named after present day Rakhine state, Myanmar) chapter was active for several years.

HuJI-B was blamed for a number of violent attacks primarily targeting AL political rallies and conspiracies to assassinate its leader Sheikh Hasina between 1999 and 2004. Under the  leadership of Mufti Abdul Hannan, the HUJI-B on August 21, 2004 launched a grenade attack on Sheikh Hasina’s rally in Dhaka that claimed the lives of 24 AL party workers, including a senior women affairs secretary Ivy Rahman (Daily Star, August 22, 2004). Exactly three months before, on May 21, 2004, HuJI-B attempted to assassinate British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury at Hazrat Shahjalal Shrine in Sylhet. Though Choudhury escaped with minor injuries, at least three people were killed in the grenade blast at the historic shrine (Daily Star, May 22, 2004).

HuJI-B conducted two other major attacks, including a bombing in Ramna Batamul, Dhaka, in mid-April 2001 that targeted a Bengali New Year celebration, and an attack in March 1999 on a cultural function of Udichi in Jessore. The masterminds of these violent attacks were Mufti Abdul Hannan—then chief of HuJI-B—and his accomplices Sharif Alam Bipul and Delwar Hossain. They were executed in April 2017 (Dhaka Tribune, April 13, 2017).

Jihadist Lineage

HuJI-B was banned by the Bangladesh government in October 2005 and remains one of the most violent jihadist groups in Bangladesh’s history. HuJI-B is an independent affiliate of Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI), an early jihadist group with roots in Pakistan and Afghanistan. HUJI-B came into existence in April 1992 by war returnees of the Bangladeshi ‘Volunteer Mujahedeen Corps’ which took part in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Infamously known as “Bengali Taliban”, HuJI-B is largely inspired by and follows the hardline Islamist ideology of al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Its original objective was to establish Islamic rule in Bangladesh by waging jihad and killing pro-democratic forces and secular intellectuals. In fact, one of the widely known HuJI-B slogans  explains its precise aim: “Amra Sobai Hobo Taliban, Bangla Hobe Afghanistan (We will all become Taliban and we will turn Bangladesh into Afghanistan). Much before HuJI-B was banned in Bangladesh, it morphed into Islami Dawat-e-Kafela in March 1999 to evade scrutiny. Again in 2004, HuJI-B changed its name to Islami Gan Andolon Bangladesh (IGA-B). HuJI-B, in all its formations, was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in February 2008 by the U.S. State Department. [1]

Rescuing Rohingyas?

The recent arrests also signaled HuJI-B’s outreach towards Rohingya refugees. Without divulging details, the investigators revealed that the three arrested HuJI-B leaders have been trying to establish a network in the Rohingya camps using two charities as a front. The funding for these charities were allegedly coming from networks in the Middle East, including Dubai and Saudi Arabia (The Independent, October 4).

Evidently, the arrested HuJI-B leader Atikullah has been an ardent Rohingya sympathizer who reportedly went to Myanmar for training and participation in subversive activities. According to available media reports, he joined Rohingya groups in the early 1990s and is well-versed with the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh. With strongholds and training centers in and around Cox’s Bazar—now the location of the largest Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh—and Chittagong, HuJI-B worked closely with Rohingya solidarity groups such as Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) in the past. The organization also shared operational space with other like-minded homegrown terror groups, such as Jamm’atul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB), which is  sympathetic toward Rohingyas as well. Evidently, HuJI-B worked in tandem with the HuJI’s-Arakan chapter and the now-defunct Rohingya Solidarity Organization, a Rohingya Muslim group based in Bangladesh.


HuJI-B’s expatriate leaders have tried several times in the past to revive the first jihadist group of Bangladesh with transnational linkages. In 2007 and 2010, Bangladesh-born UK citizen Golam Mostafa, also HuJI-B’s UK unit chief, unsuccessfully tried to reorganize the fledgling group in Bangladesh.

The latest attempt by Mohammed Atikullah and his cohorts can be seen as a fresh revival attempt by the existing jihadist network of the HuJI-B. This attempt to reorganize one of the first Islamist groups in Bangladesh surfaced at a time when the country is struggling to cope with a fresh wave of Islamic State (IS)-inspired threats and violence in the country that started again in late April 2019. Any resurgence of old and dormant militant groups such as HuJI-B in Bangladesh is likely to overburden the already hard-pressed security apparatus and change the jihadist progression in Bangladesh.



Islamic State’s TikTok Posts Include Beheading Videos

By Georgia Wells

Oct. 23, 2019

Islamic State militants, who have been posting propaganda videos to TikTok, the social-media network known for lighthearted content popular with teenagers, have also been posting execution and torture videos to the site.

The videos, identified by social-media intelligence company Storyful, show balaclava-wearing militants grabbing captives, pushing them to the ground and beheading them with machetes. In another video, an assailant fires a gun at people at close range. The video is edited to show a burst of colorful confetti...



Kurds welcome German plan for international force in Syria

24 October 2019

The top commander of Syria’s Kurdish force on Thursday welcomed a German proposal for an international force to establish a security zone in the north of the country.

“We demand and agree to this,” Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces – the moribund autonomous Kurdish region’s de facto army – told reporters.

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has said she would raise the plan with her counterparts at an ongoing NATO meeting in Brussels.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the German proposal would need UN approval to be implemented and therefore “needs to be discussed more in detail before any decision can be made.”

The withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria earlier this month was followed by a string of rapid changes on the ground, with a Turkish invasion and Russian and Syrian government forces also rushing to fill the vacuum.

Moscow and Ankara signed a deal requiring all Kurdish forces to pull back from the border to behind a line 30 kilometers inside Syria, meaning they lost control over a huge slice of the Kurdish heartland.

Abdi has thanked Russia for its new role as the guarantor of a buffer between his forces and those of the Kurds’ archfoe Ankara, but added he had “reservations” because Kurdish people in that zone would be left unprotected.

The German initiative was embraced by the United States but has so far struggled to gain traction, and few details are yet available.

Abdi said he had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron but admitted that the plan was still embryonic and needed an endorsement from Russia, the dominant foreign broker on the Syrian conflict.



France reopens disputed ancient tomb in Jerusalem

24 October 2019

An ancient tomb in Jerusalem prized for its archaeological and religious importance was reopened for visits Thursday by France, which owns it, after a dispute over access scuttled an earlier attempt.

The site known as the Tomb of the Kings in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem can now be visited during set hours twice per week, but visitors must pre-register online and pay a 10-shekel fee ($3, 2.50 euros), the French consulate said.

Around 30 people -- the most allowed at one time due to the sensitivity of the site -- visited when the gates opened on Thursday morning, mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews who wanted to pray inside.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews describe the tomb as a holy burial site of ancient ancestors.

France had attempted to open the site to visitors in June after having kept it closed since 2010, initially due to renovations but later because attempts to contest its ownership complicated its reopening.

It however immediately re-closed the site after a group of more than a dozen ultra-Orthodox tried to enter and pray despite not having signed up as requested, shoving toward the gate.

The site is a remarkable example of a Roman-era tomb, considered among the largest in the region.

Archaeological sites in east Jerusalem are often freighted with religious significance and questions linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There had been a challenge at Israel’s rabbinical court -- which rules on matters related to Jewish law and holy sites -- over access to the tomb and France’s ownership.

Before reopening the site, France sought guarantees from Israel it would not face legal challenges as well as commitments on how visits would be managed.



Promotion Of Sufi Teachings, Vital To Protect Youth From Cultural Onslaught: Pakistan PM

Mohammad Ali

October 2019

ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 24th Oct, 2019 ) :Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday said that in this hi-tech era, the promotion of national identity and teachings of great Sufi saints were inevitable to protect the youth from cultural onslaught and acquaint them with islam and indigenous values.

In a meeting with a delegation of renowned religious scholars here, the prime minister said the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a role model for all the humans which could guarantee their success in all the spheres of life, a PM Office statement said.

He said every aspect of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)'s life had been well recorded in the history which could help resolve the issues, confronting the followers in their lives.

He told the delegation that the objective behind establishing Seerat Chairs in the universities was to promote comprehensive research and acquaint the students and youth about Holy Prophet's life as well as Islam.

He said practicing the model of State of Madina was essential for the Muslims to gain a prominence among the comity of nations.

The prime minister said development of Pakistan on the model of Riasat-e-Madina was his ultimate mission which he revealed after assuming the government to get it executed.

The meeting discussed the prime minister's speech at the UN General Assembly in which he had effectively highlighted the issues of Kashmir, real concept of Islam, blasphemy and Islamophobia.

They also deliberated over the initiatives including the establishment of Seerat Chair at the universities, Al-Qadir University, Langar Khana under Ehsaas Programme, and a plan to launch a television channel to promote real image of Islam in collaboration with Turkey and Malaysia and other issues, pertaining to national development and stability.

The scholars believed that through his speech at the UN, the prime minister had represented the sentiments of not only his nation, but also the whole Muslim Ummah.

They said that the prime minister's categorical remarks that there was only one Islam, had not only opened the eyes, besides changing the perceptions of many.

The scholars said that after his UN speech, the prime minister had not only emerged as the leader of the Muslims but also brought pride to his countrymen.

The delegation comprising the religious scholars from all schools of thought also assured the prime minister of their full support in his endevour to highlight Kashmir issue, protection of Namoos-e-Risalat and for his vision for development of the country.

They also put forward their suggestions to acquaint the young generation about the teachings of the great Sufi saints.

The scholars appreciated the government's measures to improve the administration of evacuee properties, decision to utilize themfor public welfare and spend their revenue for facilitation of thepilgrims.



Mosque officials with political agenda must resign, says Sultan Nazrin

October 24, 2019

IPOH: The Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah, today urged accredited mosque committee members or religious speakers to relinquish their posts if they have political agendas and ambitions that will lead to the abuse of the sanctity of mosques.

He said the accredited individuals should be honest, sincere and honourable enough to resign from their respective posts instead of being a “thorn in the flesh”.

“It is very strange if these preachers, given the accreditation and honour to give lectures in the house of God, abuse the trust by inserting elements of insults as well as belittle and ridicule the State Islamic Religious Department and police personnel,” he said when officiating the 2019 state-level mosque committee conference at the Casuarina @ Meru Convention Centre here.

Sultan Nazrin also admonished individuals from certain political groups for using several non-political organisations and NGOs to introduce certain programmes to be conducted in or around the mosque compound to conceal the true intention.

On Oct 18, an NGO known as Gerakan Pembela Ummah (Ummah) had organised the state-level “Buy Muslim-made First” (BMF) campaign at the An-Nur Mosque, Batu 8, in Ulu Kinta.

Sultan Nazrin also said the enemies with the greatest potential to tarnish or defile the mosque and to divide the ummah were those with excessive divisive political activities.

“The truth is sacrificed because emotions supersede rationality. Slander becomes a commonplace occurrence, practised even by those who adhere to all five pillars of Islam and the spread is facilitated and promoted by social media,” Sultan Nazrin said.

In his speech, Sultan Nazrin also recalled the history behind the construction of several prominent mosques in Perak, including the Ubudiah Mosque in Kuala Kangsar, which is recognised among the five most beautiful mosques in the world; the 121-year-old Panglima Kinta Mosque; the Indian Muslim Mosque and Muhammadiah Mosque or Muslim Chinese Mosque, all located in the Ipoh city.

Accordingly, he also ordered the Perak Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council to document the history of the construction of the mosques digitally as valuable scientific materials to be used as reference for the future generations.

“This will ensure they do not take it for granted and behave like ‘kacang lupakan kulit’ (a person who has forgotten his roots), unappreciative of the hard work and sacrifices of the previous generation who took on the responsibility of building the mosques in Perak,” Sultan Nazrin said.

He said based on records, Perak has 609 mosques, 63 Friday suraus and 1,945 suraus, with each having its own identity and history behind its construction.



Branded 'Child Trafficking Centres' in 2014, Kerala Muslim Orphanages Given Clean Chit by CBI

Muhammed Sabith

Oct 25, 2019

A few days ago, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) submitted, at a CBI court in Ernakulam, its closure report on an alleged inter-state ‘child trafficking’ case, in which the agency had investigated orphanages run by a Muslim management in Kerala.

On May 24, 2014, in Kerala’s Palakkad, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) apprehended 455 children, including 226 boys and 229 girls, who were travelling by train along with more than 40 adults, including the parents of some children and employees working at orphanages in northern Kerala. All of the detainees were natives of Bihar and Jharkhand.

The group was heading towards two Muslim orphanages at Mukkam, in Kerala’s Kozhikode district. Authorities had alleged that the children were being trafficked from their villages in north India to Kerala.

After apprehending the children in Palakkad, the RPF handed them over to the local Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

Among the children, those who had an ID card from an orphanage in Kozhikode were transferred to the Kozhikode Child Welfare Committee (CWC). While some children were sent to their parents, 119 children from Jharkhand and 39 from Bihar, were sent to Godda and Patna CWCs respectively (some of them later resumed studies, while others didn’t).

A police case was registered against four persons, who were accompanying the children, under IPC 370 (5), which deals with human trafficking. Four more persons were also booked later.

It was for this case that the CBI had now submitted its final report, after four years of investigation.

Dismissing charges of ‘human trafficking’ amongst others and allegations against the accused and the orphanages, the CBI probe found something else. Its final report said:

“… it is clear from the testimony of the parents/ guardians of the minor children that there was no angle of pressure, coercion, exploitation, abduction … and in fact they had themselves sent their children to Kerala in the light of a ray of hope that their children would get quality education, good food and other facilities free of cost”.

However, this was not merely a story of an allegation and a criminal investigation.

The children’s detention and subsequent legal actions paved the way for a section of media in the state to spew venom against minorities and their institutions. The developments also shattered the dreams of several poor children and their families.

Back in 2014, when the incident occurred, a section of the media and state machinery portrayed it as an incident of illegal child trafficking. Some media outlets also quickly coloured the narrative surrounding the incident with various Islamophobic interpretations.

Additionally, all the accused in the case – either the relatives of the children or employees of the orphanages – spent nine months in jail, before being released on bail.

‘They came for good food and education’

So who were the children and why had they travelled all the way to Kerala?

The children belonged to poor families from Bihar and Jharkhand. They had heard about institutions in Kerala where both modern and religious education was offered for free, along with accommodation, food, and health care. They already had students studying there and adult members working there. The report submitted by the CBI supported all these claims. The report said:

“investigation has revealed that Mukkam Muslim Orphanage was established in 1956 and registered under Society Act … is also registered with Kerala Orphanage Board [sic] and Kerala Wakf Board … orphans, poor and needy children are provided with all facilities such as food, accommodation, dress, uniform, medical treatment, study material, etc. at free of costs. This orphanage has won two national awards from Govt. of India.”

The probe has found two minor faults on the part of the management by the orphanages: their failure to register the institutions under the Juvenile Justice Act, and their lack of effort to get an official permission to enroll children from other states.

However, the CBI team visited the children’s families and the students who had already studied in the orphanages. It also made a detailed investigation about whether the children had ever faced any kind of exploitation or harassment. The report said:

“… neither at the time of transportation/ journey of the children from Bihar and Jharkhand to Kerala nor during the stay of old inmates in the orphanage, any kind of exploitation was noticed by any witness. During investigation, this aspect has been taken care of and in spite of best efforts, no pressure/ coercion/ use of threat/ use of force/ practice of fraud or deception has been noticed/ established.”

Under the Mukkam Muslim Orphanage, there were separate orphanages for boys and girls. While the boys’ orphanage could, according to the CBI report, accommodate 500 children, the girls’ one could admit 1,000 occupants.

The institutions ran on donations, government foreign grant, such as Red Crescent of UAE. “… funds from donors were majorly contributed as part of Zakat (Zakat is an Arabic word which is meant for everyone following Islam to share a part of one’s earning every year for the up-liftmen [sic] of poor and downtrodden as per Islamic Law, Rules and Conventions),” said the CBI report, adding that these orphanages renew their registration from time to time.

Explaining its findings on how the families from far places got convinced to send their children to the orphanages in Kerala, the CBI report said,

“… the parents of children have stated that they belong to very poor families … Having come to know from fellow villagers whose children were already studying in the orphanage at Kerala, they got impressed. It was basically because of the performance of the children already studying there and free of cost education, boarding, lodging and other facilities to the children [sic]”.

Shattered dreams

Muqthar, a journalist from Kerala with the newspaper Suprabhatham, recently travelled to Bihar and reported on the current condition of many of the children. He reported that many of them no longer go to school, and are living in penury.

“The CBI closure report exposed a heinous propaganda,” Muqthar told The Wire. “I could trace around 40 students who were sent back. Among them, only four continued studying,” he said.

Muqthar reported on how poor parents in some of the backward villages had dreamt of sending their children to Kerala. These families were convinced, after seeing children from their own neighbourhood travelling to orphanages in Kerala, of positive change in their lives, Muqthar had reported.

Kerala Muslims have had a long tradition of establishing and supporting orphanages and free educational institutions, which accommodate both orphans and poor children. These institutions have produced and influenced many eminent people in the recent past, including IAS officers, and have also accommodated children from other states, including Jammu & Kashmir.

During the controversy immediately after the detention of the children in 2014, sections of the media in the state functioned as a mouthpiece for the government and abandoned its duty of independently verify serious allegations and report facts. Some went even further and used the incident to spread hate and Islamophobia, by portraying the event as part of some larger conspiracy. Some leading politicians and other public figures also joined the bandwagon and ‘condemned’ the orphanages for the ‘trafficking’ and ‘conspiracy’.


North America


NATO chief warns 'fight against IS is not over'


Author Alistair Walsh

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Wednesday that "Islamic State" could revive itself following the US withdrawal in Syria.

In a press conference setting the agenda for an upcoming, high-level NATO meeting, Stoltenberg said the fight against IS must continue.

"Ending IS was the reason NATO went in (to northeastern Syria). We have to preserve those gains," he said. "We also have to understand that the fight against IS is not over; they can come back."

Stoltenberg said NATO would continue to support the fight against IS in both Iraq and Afghanistan, especially through the training of local forces.

"The fight against ISIS is not over," says NATO SG @jensstoltenberg, but they don't control a "caliphate" anymore. The danger is still there, he warns.

He says the goal right now is to find a political solution, which will be on the table at the #DefMin starting tomorrow.

Stoltenberg repeatedly called for a political solution to the conflict between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, addressing agreements between the US, Turkey and Russia. He said he:

understood that Turkey had shouldered a great burden of terrorist attacks and hosting refugees;

felt it was too early to judge the consequences of the Sochi agreement between Russia and Turkey;

welcomed the agreement between Turkey and the US, saying reducing violence was the first step to a political solution;

welcomed the German defense minister's recent calls for an international presence in northeastern Syria as an encouraging proposal for a political solution, adding that any solution would have to involve actors on the ground.

What is the German proposition for Syria? German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, in comments to DW on Monday, called for international troops to create a "safe zone" in northeastern Syria to help resume the fight against "Islamic State," stablize the region, and rebuild civilian life. The announcement took some NATO allies by suprise, although Kramp-Karrenbauer insisted she had discussed her proposal with her French and American counterparts.

NATO defense ministers will meet for two days in Brussels, starting Thursday. A range of other issues on the table include:

5G security risks

One of the issues to be discussed at the defense ministers' meeting will be the resilience of telecommunications infrastructure of NATO member states, Stoltenberg said.

Without naming China or Huawei by name, he said the protection of 5G infrastructure was important for both civilian and military life. "Allies should conduct a thorough assessment of the risks to communications systems associated with cyber threats, as well as the consequences of foreign ownership, control or direct investment."


Stoltenberg pledged that the Taliban would never find victory through conflict in Afghanistan and that a political solution was their only option.

"The Taliban has to understand that they will never win on the battlefield. They have to sit down."

He defended the heavy presence of NATO forces in the country, saying "a strong military presence is the best way to provide the framework for a political solution."


Stoltenberg called on NATO allies to provide more support to Ukraine and reiterated NATO opposition to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

He said it would be addressed at the defense ministers meeting, but that they would further support Ukraine, particularly its naval capabilities, at an upcoming meeting in Odessa.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has criticized European partners for failing to provide adequate support for its fight against Russia.



US advises patience on Afghan election results

25 October 2019

The United States called Thursday for restraint as Afghans wait for election results, accepting the need for a delay to ensure a fair count.

Alice Wells, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said after a visit to Kabul she was pleased that all major candidates had pledged to accept results.

“I stressed the need for a transparent and credible tallying process and for the ability of Afghanistan’s electoral institutions to lead the process without pressure or interference,” she told reporters in Washington.

“At this stage, accuracy in tabulating the results is more important than speed, and I encouraged all candidates to exercise restraint and to await the official announcement of election results,” she said.

Preliminary results from the September 28 vote were expected last Saturday but the Independent Election Commission delayed the announcement, citing technical issues and the need for transparency.

The last election in 2014 was marred by allegations of rigging, with then secretary of state John Kerry resolving the crisis by brokering a power-sharing agreement between President Ashraf Ghani and his chief rival Abdullah Abdullah.

Both men ran in the latest election but Western powers have hailed improvements since then, including biometric machines meant to prevent any person from voting more than once.

The election took place under the backdrop of a Taliban campaign of violence and weeks after President Donald Trump abruptly ended talks with the insurgents under which the United States would withdraw troops and end its longest war.

Ghani had sharply criticized the draft deal. Days ahead of the election, the Trump administration cut $160 million in direct funding to Afghan authorities, citing corruption.



US agrees to refurbish used warship sold to Bahrain

Oct 24, 2019

The United States has accepted a request by Bahrain to refurbish a decommissioned warship that it sold to the Persian Gulf island earlier this year.

The US State Department approved a Foreign Military Sale for refurbishment of the former USS Robert G. Bradley frigate, according to an announcement by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Bahrain requested the refurbishment, which is estimated to cost $150 million, along with spare parts, support, training, publications, and other items of logistics and program support, the DSCA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The ship belongs to the mid-1970s Oliver Hazard Perry-class of guided missile frigates which were mainly used by the US Navy as general-purpose escort vessels.

Overall, the US Navy built 51 of the frigates to replace its World War II-era destroyers.  The last vessel in the class was decommissioned in 2015.

A total of eight frigates of this class remain in use after sale or grant to other countries, including Poland, Pakistan and Egypt.

Bahrain bought the former USS Robert G. Bradley earlier this year for $80 million. This is the Arab country’s second ship in the class, after receiving the USS Jack Williams in 1995.

The deal is expected to be approved by the US Congress when it comes up for vote later this year. The principal contractor for the refurbishment has yet to be announced.

The deal’s announcement comes as Bahrain is hosting a maritime security conference attended by representatives from more than 60 countries as well as a high-level delegation from the Israeli regime.

The event, which is being held in the absence of Iran, revolves around mysterious attacks against several tankers in the Persian Gulf region earlier this year as well as attacks by Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement against Saudi Arabia’s oil installations.

It also coincides with ongoing tensions between Iran and the United States in the Persian Gulf.

The US, under President Donald Trump, has been trying to persuade its allies into a maritime coalition purportedly seeking to boost security in the Persian Gulf, after it blamed Tehran for two separate attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in May and June, without providing any credible evidence.

The US, under President Donald Trump, has been trying to persuade its allies into a maritime coalition purportedly seeking to boost security in the Persian Gulf, after it blamed Tehran for two separate attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in May and June, without providing any credible evidence.

Iran has categorically rejected the allegations and warned regional neighbors against “false flag” operations by outsiders.

During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in late September, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani unveiled the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE), which seeks to establish long-term peace in the Persian Gulf.



US senator urges defeat of Trump Syria-censure motion

Michael Hernandez  



A Senate resolution that would censure U.S. President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw American forces from Iraq must be defeated, accordoing to Senator Rand Paul.

Paul is one of a handful of senators who have spoken positively of Trump's decision. The vast majority of lawmakers in both chambers have lambasted the move, threatening several legislative actions in retaliation for the move.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation on Tuesday censuring the president for his decision to remove troops from Syria. It further urges Trump to rescind his invitation to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit Washington Nov. 13.

"By allowing this to occur we actually have a realignment in Turkey, in Syria, that may actually lead to peace for the first time in eight years. This is exactly why we must defeat the McConnell resolution," Paul said Wednesday during an interview with Fox News.

"The McConnell resolution says that we would disallow President Trump from meeting with Erdogan. I think we need to see the world as it is. And I think it's important that the president meets with Erdogan. His conversations so far, I think, are leading to peace," he added.

McConnell's resolution has 20 co-sponsors in the 100-member chamber.

The legislation stops short of imposing sanctions on Turkey, something a competing bipartisan bill led by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chris Van Hollen seeks. The House of Representative is set to vote next week on its own sanctions bill.

Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring Oct. 9 to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara agreed with Washington on Oct. 17 to pause its operation to allow YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the planned safe zone.

In announcing the lifting of sanctions he imposed Trump said he has gotten to know Erdogan "very well," saying the Turkish leader is "a man who loves his country."

"We may be meeting in the very near future," he said.

Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, held a meeting Tuesday in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi just hours before the pause was set to expire.

Ankara and Moscow reached a deal under which PKK/YPG terrorists will pull back 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Turkey’s border with northern Syria within 150 hours and security forces from Turkey and Russia will conduct joint patrols there.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.



US will not allow Daesh take Syria oil fields: Trump

Servet Gunerigok  



U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday vowed to not allow a "reconstituted" Daesh to take over oil fields in northern Syria.

"The Oil Fields discussed in my speech on Turkey/Kurds yesterday were held by ISIS until the United States took them over with the help of the Kurds. We will NEVER let a reconstituted ISIS have those fields!" said Trump on Twitter, using another name for the Daesh terror group.

On Wednesday, Trump said Washington will keep "a small number" of U.S. troops will remain in Syria "where they have the oil."

The president did not specify where the troops would be stationed, nor how many he is considering, but said "we’re going to be protecting" the oil. "And we’ll be deciding what we’re going to do with it in the future.”

In his tweet, he said he had a conversation with the YPG/PKK's so-called commander Mazloum Abdi and signaled advance of the PKK/YPG terrorists toward the oil fields without elaborating.

"I really enjoyed my conversation with General @MazloumAbdi. He appreciates what we have done, and I appreciate what the Kurds have done. Perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the Oil Region!" Trump wrote.

On Oct. 9, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, held a meeting Tuesday in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi just hours before the pause was set to expire.

Ankara and Moscow reached a deal under which PKK/YPG terrorists will pull back 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Turkey’s border with northern Syria within 150 hours and security forces from Turkey and Russia will conduct joint patrols there.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.


South Asia


Bangladesh Sentences 16 To Death For Killing Nusrat Jahan, 18

Oct 24, 2019

DHAKA: The principal of a religious school in Bangladesh was among 16 people sentenced to death on Thursday for the murder of a teenage girl who refused to withdraw a complaint of sexual harassment against him, the public prosecutor said.

The perpetrators poured kerosene over Nusrat Jahan, 18, and set her on fire on the roof of her madrasa in April in the southeastern district of Feni. Police said in their charge-sheet the murder was carried out on the orders of the principal.

"The judgment proves that no one is above the law," public prosecutor Hafez Ahmed told reporters after the court verdict.

He said the defence lawyers had tried unsuccessfully to establish that Jahan had committed suicide.

Defence lawyer Giasuddin Nannu said all the convicts will challenge the verdict in the High Court.

Jahan's death sparked public outrage and mass demonstrations calling for her killers to be punished. She had faced pressure to withdraw a complaint to police in March accusing the school principal of attempted rape, her family said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had met her family and vowed to bring the killers to justice.

Two female classmates and two local leaders of her party were among those convicted.

After the murder, the government instructed some 27,000 educational institutions to form committees to prevent sexual assaults.

"I can't forget her for a moment. I still feel the pain that she went through," mother Shirin Akhtar said as she burst into tears at her home following the verdict.

Jahan's brother, Mahmudul Hasan Noman, demanded that the death sentences be carried out swiftly and sought protection for his family against reprisals.

"We live in fear. We were threatened even today in the courtroom," Noman said.

Bangladesh has seen a dramatic rise in the number of rape cases in recent months, with 217 women and children raped in September, the highest in any single month since 2010, according to a report published by Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, a women's rights group.

Many more cases go unreported because women fear being stigmatised. Rights activists attribute the increasing number of rapes to a lack of awareness, a culture of impunity, moral decadence, and people of influence protecting suspected rapists for political reasons.

Even when survivors file a complaint, prosecution is very rare and takes years to conclude.

"This verdict has set an example. It shows that with utmost sincerity we can ensure justice within our existing system," said the group's head, Ayesha Khanam.



At least 50 militants killed as Afghan forces fully clear Darqad district of Taliban

25 Oct 2019

The Afghan forces fully cleared the Darqad district of North-eastern Takhar province of Taliban militants killing at least 50 militants.

According to a statement released by Ministry of Defense, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces fully cleared the district earlier today during the operations which they had launched few days ago.

The statement further added that the security forces killed at least 50 militants during the operations and wounded dozens more.

The security forces also confiscated some vehicles during the operations, the Ministry of Defense added.

This comes as the Afghan forces have recaptured several districts in the northern and North-eastern parts of the country during the recent weeks and months.



Afghan forces recapture Dahan-e Ghori district from Taliban militants after 3 years

24 Oct 2019

The Afghan forces recaptured Dahan-e Ghori district of northern Baghlan province which the Taliban militants had captured around three years ago.

According to a statement released by Ministry of Defense, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces captured the district late on Wednesday night.

The statement further added that the security forces inflicted heavy casualties on Taliban militants during the operation to capture the district.

However, the defense ministry did not disclose further information on casualties number of the militants.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense said the Afghan forces will continue to their operations until they fully Baghlan of Taliban militants.



4 special force members dead in N. Afghan attack


TALUQAN, Afghanistan, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Four Afghan army special force members were killed and others wounded in a Taliban militants' ambush attack in northern Takhar province Wednesday, local police said.

"The fighting erupted after militants ambushed a unit of Afghan National Army Special Operations Corps roughly at 2:00 a.m. (local time) Wednesday in Chachak locality, Khwaja Ghar district. Several militants were also killed and wounded during the clashes," Abdul Khalil Asir from provincial police told Xinhua.

The army and police forces arrived and secured the area after the fighting. The bodies and the wounded were shifted to an army camp.

The province has been the scene of heavy clashes and fighting since long. Afghan security forces launched several anti-government operations in Takhar since early this month, destroying several militants' hideouts, fighting positions, attacking tunnels and weapons storage.

Fighting rages across the war-torn country and clashes between security forces and Taliban have been continuing in most of the country's 34 provinces since early April when Taliban insurgents launched a yearly rebel offensive.



Unknown gunmen assassinate the police chief of Badghis in Kabul city

24 Oct 2019

Unknown gunmen assassinated the police chief of Badghis province in Kabul city this afternoon, the interior ministry said.

Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said the gunmen assassinated Sharifullah Chamtoo, the police chief of Badghis at around 12:45 pm local time.

Rahimi further added that the gunmen shot dead Mr. Chamtoo in Ade Ghazni located in the 5th district of the city.

Chamtoo was on vacation and had visited Kabul city when unknown gunmen assassinated him, Rahimi said, adding that the security forces will soon avenge his assassination.

No individual or group including Taliban has so far claimed responsibility for the incident.



Supporting Afghan forces is the best thing NATO can do to create conditions for peace: Stoltenberg

24 Oct 2019

The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said supporting the Afghan armed forces is the best thing NATO can do to create conditions for peace in Afghanistan.

He made the remarks during a press conference ahead of the launch of NATO defense ministerial in Brussels today.

Stoltenberg said the NATO defense ministers will discuss Afghanistan during the second day of the defense ministerial on Friday.

Ge said “NATO is committed to our Resolute Support Mission, to train, assist and advice Afghan forces.”

“We strongly believe that the best thing we can do to create the conditions for a negotiated peaceful solution is to continue to support the Afghan forces, so that Taliban understands that they have to sit down at the negotiating table and make new compromises,” Stoltenberg added.

This comes as the U.S. President Donald Trump called off peace talks with Taliban last month following a series of deadly attacks in Kabul which killed many people including an American soldier.

Meanwhile, efforts are underway for the resumption of peace talks to find to a negotiated political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan.

China is expected to host the third round of intra-Afghan dialogue on peace process at the end of this month with the Taliban group confirming that a delegation of the group will participate in the talks in Beijing.



Car bomb destroyed, 2 suicide bombers killed in Balkh airstrike

24 Oct 2019

An airstrike in norhtern Balkh province destroyed a car bomb and killed two suicide bombers, the Afghan military said.

According to a statement released by 209th Shaheen Corps, the security forces conducted the airstrike in at around 2:10 pm on Wednesday in Sheikh Tash Village of Chahar Bolak district.

The statement further added that the airstrike destroyed a Humvee Armored Personnel Carrier packed with explosives and killed two suicide bombers.

The 209th Shaheen Corps also added that the militants had earlier captured the Humvee and were looking to use it in an attack on an unspecified target.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented in this regard so far.


Arab World


Lebanon’s President Aoun refuses to step down, blames corruption for crisis

24 October 2019

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun refused to step down and said on Thursday that sectarianism and corruption had destroyed the country, in his first address to the nation since the outbreak of nationwide anti-government demonstrations last week.

“I heard many calls for the change of government; government cannot be changed overnight. It must happen through constitutional reforms,” said Aoun, who blamed corruption across all political parties and sectarianism for the “destroying” the country.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he welcomed Aoun's call for the need to review the current government through existing constitutional mechanisms in a tweet on Thursday.

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said on Thursday in a tweet that the best solution out of mass protests triggered by an economic crisis is to speed up a government reshuffle as proposed by Aoun.

“I have taken Lebanon to a place of safety and stability,” claimed Aoun, after saying that “sectarianism and corruption have destroyed the country.”

Aoun pointed to corruption across all the political parties as causing the crisis.

“Politicians must return embezzled funds. The corruption has no religion or sect ... Let’s expose the corrupt and leave the matter in hands of judiciary,” says Lebanese President Michel Aoun, addressing Lebanon after a week of anti-government protests.

“All political parties are responsible for protecting public funds from being stolen,” he added.

Aoun pointed to the reforms proposed by the government under Prime Minister Saad Hariri as the solution to the crisis.

“The reforms that have been passed are the first step to saving Lebanon,” he said, listing a number of reforms including a bill which would remove political immunity from parliamentarians and government officials.

Aoun linked the reforms’ success to the Lebanese people, saying “freedom of expression is a right respected and cherished by all people,” and calling on citizens to monitor the reforms to ensure their success.

The Lebanese president ended his speech by refusing to step down and instead calling for dialogue as the solution. “Let’s initiate a constructive dialogue where practical measures are taken to reach the best results. Dialogue is the best way to solution,” he stated.

“I am ready to meet your representatives ... to hear your demands.”

Crowds gathered in Jal El Deeb Square to watch the speech on a giant screen, reported Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA).

Speech unlikely to quell protests

Along with all other major political parties, Aoun's Future Patriotic Movement (FPM) has been targeted by the protesters, many of whom have demanded the resignation of the entire government. Aoun's son-in-law Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has been a particular target of protesters' chants.

Many roads and highways across the country remain blocked, including the major highways into Beirut, according to Al Arabiya's correspondent. The army is deployed across the country, including in Nabatieh in the south, where protesters came under attack last night.

In the morning, Aoun receivied the UN Secretary-General's Representative in Beirut, Jan Kubis, who briefed him on the position of the International Support Group on the current developments, according to a tweet by the official account for the Lebanese Presidency.

After Aoun, Walid Joumblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party and a former ally of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, is set to speak. Joumblatt has previously said the country needs a new, non-sectarian law, but that he is against the resignation of the government.

The only cabinet ministers that have resigned so far are four from the Lebanese Forces party.

Speaker of Parliament and head of the Shia Amal party Nabih Berri appeared to criticize the protests, saying Lebanon cannot withstand its current state of “suspension,” Lebanese Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV reported. There have been fears that Amal and Hezbollah supporters may try and attack protesters after a showdown with the Lebanese Army on Monday.



Lebanese president invites protesters to talk, hints at govt. reshuffle

Oct 24, 2019

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has expressed his readiness for dialogue with anti-graft protesters to put an end to nationwide demonstrations and save the country from financial collapse.

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Aoun promised he would fight state corruption as demanded by thousands of angry demonstrators.

"My call to demonstrators: I am ready to meet your representatives that carry your concerns to listen to your specific demands. You will hear from us about our fears over financial collapse," he said.

"We will discuss what we can do together to achieve your objectives without causing collapse and chaos and open a constructive dialogue that can lead to a constructive result and define options that will lead to the best results."

He also left the door open to a possible cabinet reshuffle. "It has become necessary to review the current government situation so that the executive authority can pursue its responsibilities."

Positioning himself as in solidarity with protest grievances, the president pledged to back new proposals that would lift bank secrecy and scrap immunity for presidents, ministers and lawmakers.

On Monday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri presented a package of reforms, including cutting ministerial salaries, to appease protesters.

Commenting on reforms, the president said "the reform paper that was approved will be the first step to save Lebanon and remove the specter of financial and economic collapse."

 "It was your first achievement because you helped remove obstacles in front of it and it was adopted in record speed," Aoun told protesters.

The president also echoed calls on the street to stamp out graft. "Every person who stole public money should be held accountable but it is important their sect doesn't defend him blindly."

Hariri welcomes call to review government

Prime Minister Hariri said on Thursday he welcomed Aoun's call to review the situation.

"I called the president of the republic and welcomed his call for the need to review the situation of the current government through constitutional mechanisms," Hariri said in a tweet.

Protesters on Thursday took to the streets for a ninth consecutive day to voice discontent with rising inflation and living costs in Lebanon.

Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of political deadlocks and an economic crisis in recent years. Unemployment stands at more than 20 percent, according to official figures.

The Lebanese Finance Ministry says the national debt is hovering around $85 billion, which accounts for more than 150 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Successive governments have failed to address a waste management crisis or improve the electricity grid, which is plagued by daily power cuts.



Saudi Arabia arrests, hands down jail terms to three dissident Muslim preachers

Oct 24, 2019

Saudi authorities have reportedly arrested and handed down prison sentences to three dissident Muslim preachers, as a brutal crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against clerics and intellectuals widens in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The Prisoners of Conscience, an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page on Thursday that Sheikh Fahad al-Qadi has been sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “sending a secret letter of advice” to the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia back in 2016. The cleric was being kept in detention ever since he posted the letter.

Separately, Saudi forces have arrested Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman al-Mahmoud over his remarks made in an old video, in which he warns against attempts to spread corruption in the kingdom.

The Prisoners of Conscience said the detention had been demanded by Turki bin Abdulmohsen bin Abdul Latif Al Sheikh, who is an adviser at the Royal Court and the current Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA).

The GEA is reportedly responsible for the development and regulation of the kingdom's entertainment sector.

Sheikh Mahmoud is said to be kept at Dhahban Central Prison in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

Saudi officials also detained dissident cleric Sheikh Omar al-Moqbal on the same charges.

Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.

Saudi officials have also intensified crackdown in the country's Shia-populated Eastern Province.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.



‘Loyal’ Tripoli turns its back on Lebanon’s Hariri

October 24, 2019

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s sprawling northern port of Tripoli was once a government bastion, a springboard for the country’s political leadership going back decades. But in a major turnaround, the city and many of its 730,000 people have turned their backs on an increasingly isolated regime in protest at economic neglect and alleged corruption.

Large crowds protesting in the central Abdul Hamid Karami Square for the past week have surprised observers and shocked supporters of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his Future Movement alliance.

Former Lebanese Minister and current MP Faisal Karami told Arab News that Tripoli is in a state of revolt “over poverty, marginalization, underdevelopment, deprivation and false promises.” 

The city is key to the Future Movement’s political fortunes and has long been a base for Lebanon’s leaders, including Rafiq Hariri, father of the current prime minister.

Its transformation from loyalist stronghold to vocal opponent of the regime is a major turning point.  

“The protests in Tripoli are driven by the youth, who first took to the streets to vent their fury over the WhatsApp tax, but they include people of all ages, social classes and religious sects,” Karami said.

Asked if the city has abandoned its traditional leaders, he replied: “Today, no one can speak about the choices of the people of Tripoli. Only the results of the early elections will reveal that.”

Karami described the protests as “a spontaneous social explosion, the result of an accumulation of economic policies.”

The country’s leadership, “with its private jets and yachts, and multimillion-dollar wedding parties, has become a provocation to the people,” he said.

Khaldoun Al-Sherif, an adviser to former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, told Arab News that protesters on the streets of Tripoli “are the same ones who did not vote during the 2018 parliamentary elections, and they represented 50 percent of the voters.”

“The difference between Tripoli and other regions is that all politicians in the city support the civil movement,” he said.  

Khedr Taleb, editor-in-chief of Tripoli’s Al-Raqib magazine, said: “After the parliamentary elections, politicians shut their doors to the city’s people and not even a single party adopted their demands or fixed their problems.

“The city has suffered terrible economic stagnation. People in Tripoli are low-income earners. The youth unemployment rate has reached unacceptable levels. Even those who did not take to the streets support the movement, just like the protesting youth.” Maha Aziza Sultan, an art critic and professor at the Lebanese University, has remained at home, although she strongly supports the protests.

“My city surprised me a lot,” she said. “Tripoli has been neglected for more than 30 years to the point where some streets do not receive any state services, even though it has never failed to pay its taxes.”

She said: “Tripoli is a scientific and cultural city, but also home to the poor and illiterate. There are capitalists in the city and they are hated by the rest of the people.

“This week Tripoli has said that it wants the most basic human rights, and all people in the city have been making the same demands.”



Desperate Pleas to Free Women, Children from ISIS Camps in Syria

24 October, 2019

When Kamalle Dabboussy learned this month that President Donald Trump was removing troops from northeastern Syria, he pulled over in his car and wept.

For months, Daboussy has been lobbying the Australian government to remove his daughter and three grandchildren from a detention camp for relatives of ISIS militants. Now, he believes, the window to save them is closing.

“It’s tough; it’s scary,” he told his daughter, Mariam, during a recent phone call. Dabboussy tried to comfort her. “We’re still pushing,” he said.

The fate of tens of thousands of women and children in Kurdish-run detainee camps in Syria has posed a challenge for governments around the world since ISIS lost its last territory there earlier this year. But the chaos and violence that have followed the American pullback have intensified questions about what duty nations have to citizens detained abroad, even those affiliated with a brutal terrorist group.

Dabboussy has been leading a contingent of about a dozen Australian families seeking the return of more than 65 relatives, most of them children. He has traveled to al-Hol, the camp where his daughter is being held in what he describes as unbearable conditions. He has spent months writing letters, calling politicians and uniting families who had kept the dark secret of their missing loved ones.

The women and children at al-Hol, from about 50 countries, have been largely shunned by their home governments. In Australia, top leaders have cited a long list of reasons they cannot be repatriated, including security concerns.

Even if a cease-fire announced late last week holds, the Australian government has said, it is still far too risky to consider extracting the detainees. Officials said they would not put other lives in danger to save the women and children.

“Parents, mothers and fathers, have made a decision to take children into a theater of war,” the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, told reporters in Canberra, the capital, on Friday. “We’ve been very clear we’re not going to put Australian defense, foreign affairs or home affairs personnel or other agency staff at risk.” He added, “They’ve been fighting in the name of an evil organization, and there are consequences.”

The Australian government has maintained that at least some of the women joined ISIS willingly, and could pose a threat to national security. In some cases, it has even canceled the citizenship of fighters and family members it has deemed to be radicalized.

While many women from around the world joined the terrorist group of their own accord, the families of all the Australian women in al-Hol say they were coerced by husbands and other family members. Many say they are related by blood or marriage to Muhammad Zahab, a Sydney teacher turned ISIS militant, who they say delivered them to Syria.

Dabboussy says that his 28-year-old daughter, while on a vacation in Turkey, was tricked by her husband into going to the border with Syria. She was then forced to cross at gunpoint.

He and other family members of those inside al-Hol have become increasingly desperate to free them as fears have grown that Syrian government forces could displace the Kurds and take over the camp.

“That is a horrendous thought,” Dabboussy said. “Death might be the more merciful option.”

Conditions inside the camp were already miserable, with hundreds of children dying from disease and malnutrition, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Some women deemed apostates by more radicalized women have reported beatings and mutilation.

The Australian families argue that there are legal mechanisms to deal with the women, if necessary, after they return home. “We understand the rule of law,” Dabboussy said.

Lawyers representing the women argue that Australia has a constitutional duty to repatriate citizens and apply due process. These legal obligations include a duty to investigate crimes of an international nature, and to protect Australian citizens who are detained overseas, said Sarah Condon, one of the lawyers, who is based in Melbourne.

Policy experts also say that in some cases in which mothers are deemed to be radicalized, the state has a duty to take their children into its custody. Others argue that the government has a moral obligation to extract children who had no say in their parents’ journey to ISIS territory.

Some who study terrorism warn of the risks of leaving the women to potentially escape the camp amid the disarray. That, they argue, could help lead to a resurgence of ISIS.

“There are certainly threats and risks when you repatriate people, but there’s also risks to not addressing this issue,” said Lydia Khalil, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney who specializes in the Middle East and international terrorism. She said the camp and other detention sites were “already hotbeds of further radicalization.”

United Nations Security Council resolutions mandate that countries take action to have their citizens who joined ISIS brought before the law.

But while “every government calls for other countries to repatriate their citizens,” said David Malet, a political scientist at American University in Washington, “most do what they can to avoid repatriating their own.”

Both President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have urged other countries to take back their citizens. As of July, a handful had been repatriated to the United States, according to a report by the Rojava Information Center, a group that does research on the Kurdish areas of Syria.

Some countries with sizable Muslim populations have repatriated large numbers of detainees, and European countries have reportedly been looking at using the cease-fire to return women and children.

But Australia has brought home fewer than 10 children since the camp opened, mostly orphans.



Six Iraqi Police Officers Killed

23 October, 2019

Six police officers including two senior commanders were killed in northern Iraq on Tuesday when ISIS militants opened fire on them during a reconnaissance mission, security sources said.

Militant attacks on security forces are common in Iraq but the killing of senior commanders is rare.

Major General Ali al-Lami, who commands the Iraqi Federal Police's Fourth Division, and Brigadier General Mohammed Allawi from the same division were killed alongside four members of their security detail, Samara Operations Command sources said.

The generals were leading a reconnaissance mission in the Zor area north of Samara in Salahuddin. Militants opened fire on them as soon as they got there.

Helicopter gunships were firing at the bushes in that area where the militants are hiding, Iraqi army officials said.

The defense ministry issued a statement of condolences calling the fallen generals martyrs and heroes.

Four Iraqi police officers were killed and five wounded when ISIS militants attacked checkpoints in the Allas oilfields area of the northern Salahuddin province late on Monday, police said earlier.

Iraq declared victory over the hardline militants in late 2017 after pushing them out of all territory it held in the country. They have since reverted to hit-and-run insurgency tactics aimed at destabilizing the government in Baghdad.





Syrian Army Deploys Forces in Several Villages in Hasaka Province

Oct 24, 2019

Government troops have entered the villages of al-Kozaleya, Shwaish, al-Nufaliyeh, al-Mahal, al-Badran, al-Hizam, Kahfet al-Marati and al-Dubaib, al-Alqaneh, Um al-Laban and al-Wasita in North of Hasaka province, official news agency SANA reported.

Army forces deployed in an area covering 60 km in the direction of Hasaka-Aleppo international highway, West of Tel Tamar, reaching the outskirts of the administrative borders between Hasaka and Raqqa provinces.

The locals who welcomed the Damascus forces expressed comfort in the arrival of the Syrian Army in their areas, villages and towns.

Later, more convoys of the Syrian Army also entered Hasaka and Raqqa provinces to enhance buildup in Syrian al-Jazeera region.

Government forces have deployed several units to the Turkish border during the past week, and promised to reinforce their troops in the next few days.

The Kurds had struck an agreement with the Syrian government in a move to be shielded against the Turkish onslaught. The agreement envisages the dispatch of Syrian government troops to the Kurdish-held territories to receive control and block the incursion of the Turkish Army and its allied militants. The Kurdish militias have already delivered control over a number of towns and villages to the Damascus army, including Manbij, Raqqa, and Ein Al-Arab (Kobani).

On Tuesday, Russian and Turkish Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed after lengthy talks that Russian military police and Syrian servicemen will be deployed to Northeastern Syria, while Turkey’s operation ‘Peace Spring’ will continue in a limited area. Regions not affected by the Turkish military operation, will be jointly patrolled by the Turkish military and Russian military police up to 10km deep into Syrian territory.

Other parts of the Syrian border – from Kobani to Tel Abyad and from Ras al-Ayn to the Iraqi border – are set to be controlled by the Syrian military and border guards, supported by Russian military police. Kurdish militias – the prime target of Ankara military operation – must withdraw into Syrian territory beyond 30km from the Turkish border.

On Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry announced that Kurdish withdrawal from Turkish border has begun.

A source in the Russian defense ministry said on Thursday that Moscow will send 276 military police officers and some military equipment to Syria in a week.

"Two military police battalions will be transferred to Syria in a week," the source stated, adding that the hostilities have now stopped in Syria.

Citing the Russia’s Defense Ministry, the Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday that the Syrian Army will establish 15 posts along its border with Turkey, as Ankara will not be launching a new offensive against Kurdish militias in Northern Syria, following a five-day pause in hostilities and high-level talks in Moscow.

Middle East experts believe that Russian-Turkish deal on security arrangements in Northeastern Syria is a major win for Moscow’s diplomatic approach, but Washington was hardly crushed by it.

In recent days almost 1,000 American troops have fled Northeast Syria into Iraq, as Washington had declared that up to 1,000 American troops would be withdrawn from Northern part of the war-torn country because of the increasing danger posed by the fighting. Baghdad has stated that the US military have been authorized to cross into Iraq from Syria for further transportation out of the country, but have not been granted the approval to stay in the country.

Damascus has repeatedly reiterated that any foreign troops in Syria is regarded as an occupying force and the Syrian government has the right to take all the needed measures to confront it. The government of President Bashar al-Assad has for several times stressed that “every inch” of the Syrian territory will be liberated from terrorists.



Syrian Army Sends Heavy Military Equipment to Southern Idlib

Oct 24, 2019

"The Syrian army has in the past few days sent heavy military equipment to Southern Idlib, including several tanks, personnel carriers, long-range and short-range artilleries and other military equipment, to be deployed in all fronts in Southern and Southeastern Idlib," a field source was quoted as saying by the Arabic-language website of Sputnik on Thursday.

He added that the equipment were deployed in the region to keep the Syrian army prepared for any possible emergency situation, specially given the fact that the terrorist groups, including al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) and Ajnad al-Caucasus, have reinforced their positions and misused the ceasefire to transfer weapons and militants to the contact lines with the Syrian army.

Tahrir al-Sham has recently reinforced its military positions in the demilitarized zone in Idlib and its militants have been equipped with advanced weapons and military equipment despite Ankara’s claims about implementing the Sochi Agreement.

Informed sources in the city of Jisr al-Shoghour in Western Idlib said that Tahrir al-Sham terrorists have recently received state-of-the-art weapons and military equipment, including modern anti-tank missiles, communications and electronic jamming equipment as well as 200 drones.



Roads still blocked on ninth day of protests in Lebanon

25 October 2019

Roads and highways across Lebanon remain closed by protesters on Friday, as demonstrations entered their ninth day following last night's speech by Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Key roads in the country, including in Saida, Beirut, and the highway in Nahr al-Kalb, are being blocked by protesters, reported Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA) on Friday morning.

On Thursday, the Lebanese army had attempted to clear road blockades in various areas. In some locations, it backed down against the protesters, with a video of a soldier crying going viral.

Lebanon's President Aoun gave his first speech addressing the protests on Thursday night. He refused to step down, and blamed corruption and sectarianism for the protests.

Aoun also called for dialogue, telling protesters: “I am ready to meet your representatives ... to hear your demands.”

However, his speech was widely mocked online due to a video glitch showing it had been pre-recorded. It seems to have made little impact on the protesters.

As protests continued on Thursday night, minor scuffles between protesters and Hezbollah supporters in Riad Al Solh square in Beirut were reported. There are fears of Hezbollah and Amal supporters disrupting the protests, after men on motorbikes tried to get through to demonstrators on Monday night. Protesters have also been attacked in Nabatieh and Sour in the south of the country.

The majority of the protests have remained peaceful since Saturday and promoted a united, cross-sectarian front through informally banning any symbols or flags other than the Lebanese national flag. Protesters continue to chant for the resignation of the entire government.

Lebanon's banks will remain closed while the protests are ongoing, it was announced on Thursday.



US to send ‘additional military assets’ to protect Syrian oil

25 October 2019

The US Defense Department said Thursday it planned to beef up its presence in the northeast corner of Syria to protect oil fields from being retaken by a potentially resurgent ISIS group.

“One of the most significant gains by the US and our partners in the fight against ISIS was gaining control of oil fields in Eastern Syria – a crucial source of revenue for ISIS,” a defense official said in a statement.

“The US is committed to reinforcing our position, in coordination with our SDF partners, in northeast Syria with additional military assets to prevent those oil fields from falling back to into the hands of ISIS or other destabilizing actors,” the official said, on grounds of anonymity.

“We must deny ISIS this revenue stream to ensure there’s no resurgence.”

President Donald Trump announced last week that the US would pull all of its troops out from northern Syria, where they had served as a buffer between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), government forces and Turkish troops.

But on Wednesday Trump said a few US troops would be staying behind to protect oil fields.

“We have secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of US troops will remain in the area where they have the oil,” Trump said.



Iraqi PM warns against violence ahead of planned anti-government protests

25 October 2019

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said on Thursday people would be free to exercise their right to demonstrate at imminent anti-government protests, but warned violence would not be tolerated.

Protesters had begun to gather in public squares in Baghdad and southern provinces as Abdul Mahdi made his televised address, ahead of officially sanctioned protests on Friday.

Abdul Mahdi has struggled to address discontent since sometimes violent unrest erupted in Baghdad on October 1, spreading to southern cities. Demonstrators blame corrupt officials and political elites for failing to improve their lives.

Despite the OPEC member’s vast oil wealth, many Iraqis live in poverty, have limited access to clean water, electricity, basic healthcare or decent education as the country tries to recover from years of conflict and economic hardship.

Abdul Mahdi stressed in Thursday’s address that a government collapse would drag Iraq into further turmoil.

“The resignation of the government today without a constitutional alternative, will lead the country into chaos,” he said.

He reiterated reforms announced in the aftermath of the protests, including a cabinet reshuffle, job opportunities for unemployed youth and the establishment of a new court to try corrupt officials.

The premier also announced that government salaries, including for top officials, would be gradually halved, with funds redirected to a social security fund for the country’s poorest.

A government committee established by Abdul Mahdi reported on Monday that 149 civilians were killed because security forces used excessive force and live fire to quell protests earlier this month. The committee recommended the dismissal and trial of dozens of senior security commanders.



Iraqis gather in Baghdad ahead of planned mass protests

24 October 2019

Dozens of Iraqi protesters shouting slogans against the head of Iran’s Quds Force have been making their way toward Baghdad's iconic Tahrir Square, Al Arabiya’s correspondent reported.

It is expected that Friday will witness demonstrations in a number of Iraqi cities against the economic conditions being faced by citizens in the country.

The official spokesman of Iraq’s Ministry of Interior said in a statement that security forces would be placed on high alert ahead of planned protesters to provide the “means for citizens’ movement and the protection of public property.”

Late on Thursday, the governor of the Diyala province in Iraq said an overnight curfew would be imposed due to security situations, according to the Iraqi News Agency.

Iraq witnessed widespread protests earlier this month with civilian deaths being blamed on excessive force, according to the government's report into the protests released on Tuesday.



Lebanon enters second week of protests as President Aoun blames corruption

24 October 2019

Lebanon has entered its second week of demonstrations as President Michel Aoun is due to address the nation later on Thursday.

Protests which began a week ago have sustained momentum throughout the week, with demonstrators refusing to clear roadblocks across the country. Major protests are set for Beirut, Tripoli, and other major cities and towns.

Many roads and highways across the country remain blocked, including the major highways into Beirut, according to Al Arabiya's correspondent.

Other roads have been cleared in the south of the country, including from Bint Jbeil to Nabatieh, which witnessed intense protests on Wednesday night. The Lebanese army has increased its presence in Nabatieh in response to attacks on demonstrators last night.

Aoun gives first address since protests

President Aoun gave his first major address since the outbreak of the protests at 1:30 p.m. Beirut time (2:30 p.m. Dubai time). Aoun refused to step down and said on that sectarianism and corruption had destroyed the country, in his first address to the nation since the outbreak of nationwide anti-government demonstrations last week.

“I heard many calls for the change of government; government cannot be changed overnight. It must happen through constitutional reforms,” said Aoun, who blamed corruption across all political parties and sectarianism for the “destroying” the country.

“I have taken Lebanon to a place of safety and stability,” claimed Aoun, after saying that “sectarianism and corruption have destroyed the country.”

Aoun pointed to corruption across all the political parties as causing the crisis and praised the reforms proposed by the government under Prime Minister Saad Hariri as the solution to the crisis.

“Let’s initiate a constructive dialogue where practical measures are taken to reach the best results. Dialogue is the best way to solution,” he added, concluding “I am ready to meet your representatives ... to hear your demands.”

Aoun's response was greeted negatively by many protesters who spoke to Al Arabiya English.

The government still in place

In the morning, Aoun receivied the UN Secretary-General's Representative in Beirut, Jan Kubis, who briefed him on the position of the International Support Group on the current developments, according to a tweet by the official account for the Lebanese Presidency.

Along with all other major political parties, Aoun's Future Patriotic Movement (FPM) has been targeted by the protesters, many of whom have demanded the resignation of the entire government. Aoun's son-in-law Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has been a particular target of protesters' chants.

After Aoun, Walid Joumblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party and a former ally of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, is set to speak. Joumblatt has previously said the country needs a new, non-sectarian law, but that he is against the resignation of the government.

The only cabinet ministers that have resigned so far are four from the Lebanese Forces party.

Speaker of Parliament and head of the Shia Amal party Nabih Berri appeared to criticize the protests, saying Lebanon cannot withstand its current state of “suspension,” Lebanese Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV reported. There have been fears that Amal and Hezbollah supporters may try and attack protesters after a showdown with the Lebanese army on Monday.

Corruption charges, closed banks

Corruption and a worsening economic have been key causes of the protests.

Last night, Lebanese banks announced they would again remain closed on Thursday. Hariri managed to pass a reform package including a tax on banks on Monday, but protesters have largely ignored it.

The ratings agency Moody's said the reforms are “credit negative” for Lebanon's banking sector, amid an already struggling economy.

Lebanese prosecutors announced they were bringing corruption charges against former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday. Mikati denies accusations he receiving illicit gains from subsidized housing loans, and said that the allegations were motivated by his support for protesters and criticism of President Aoun's government.

A US White House official said the Lebanese people are “rightfully angered” and that Washington supports their call for economic reform.

The Lebanese people have “expressed their legitimate anger” and reforms must be implemented in the country, said the British Embassy in Lebanon on Thursday.



Syria’s Assad gets a prize with US withdrawal, Russia deal

24 October 2019

Once again, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has snapped up a prize from world powers that have been maneuvering in his country’s multi-front wars. Without firing a shot, his forces are returning to towns and villages in northeastern Syria where they haven’t set foot for years.

Assad was handed one victory first by US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from northeastern Syria, analysts said. Then he got another from a deal struck between Turkey and Russia, Damascus’ ally.

Abandoned by US forces and staring down the barrel of a Turkish offensive, Kurdish-led fighters had no option but to turn to Assad’s government and to Russia for protection from their No. 1 enemy.

For once, the interests of Damascus, Moscow, and Ankara came into alignment. Turkey decided it was better having Assad’s forces along the border, being helped by Russia, than to have the frontier populated by Kurdish-led fighters, whom it considers to be terrorists.

On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan struck a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin that allows Syrian troops to move back into a large part of the territory and ensure Kurdish fighters stay out.

The Kurds once hoped an alliance with Washington would strengthen their ambitions for autonomy, but now they are left hoping they can extract concessions from Moscow and Damascus to keep at least some aspects of their self-rule.

Turkey, which had backed the opposition trying to oust Assad, has now implicitly given the Syrian leader “de facto recognition,” said Lina Khatib, head of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House.

“Assad and Russia see this recognition as the beginning of international community normalization with the Assad regime, and as such an indication of their victory in the war,” she said.

It’s a method that Assad has used successfully before, positioning himself as the lesser of two evils in the eyes of those who might want him gone. Throughout Syria’s war, he has presented the conflict as a choice between him and the extremists.

Fear of the extremists watered down enthusiasm in Washington and other Western governments for fully backing the opposition.

“Assad has been benefiting from two narratives: shaping the Syrian uprising as a regional war and reminding that there is no viable alternative to his rule,” said Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington DC.

Trump’s “America First” policy, with its sometimes chaotic and impulsive shifts, has been a godsend for Assad.

Last year, Trump called Assad an “animal” following a suspected chemical weapons attack near Damascus, carrying out limited airstrikes as punishment.

But the US president has repeatedly said he’s not interested in removing Assad from power or keeping American troops involved in “endless wars” in the region’s “blood-soaked sands.” He has welcomed having Russia and Assad’s government fill the void.

Backing from Russia and Iran also has enabled Assad to simply outlast his opponents. With the help of Russian airstrikes since 2015, the Syrian military has recaptured town after town from the opposition.

Abandoned and exhausted, the insurgents have repeatedly submitted to deals with Assad that allowed them to leave their besieged enclaves with safe passage to the north.

But the Russian-Turkish agreement is not all good news for Assad.

It allows Turkey to keep control over a significant chunk of northeastern Syria, a belt of land 120 kilometers wide and 30 kilometers deep that it captured in its offensive. Turkey already holds a larger piece of the border in the northwest, captured in previous offensives.

Syrian forces will move into the rest of the border zone. But in a strip immediately at the border, Russian and Turkish forces will hold joint patrols, with only Syrian “border guards” in place, suggesting a presence in limited numbers.

Elsewhere, a large wedge of eastern Syria remains in the hands of the Kurdish-led fighters. That includes the bulk of Syria’s oil fields, depriving Damascus of control over a crucial resource and giving the Kurds a major bargaining chip. Trump has said some US troops will remain there to help Kurds “secure” the oil fields.

“Given where the regime was a few months ago, the regime is expanding its control,” Macaron said, but it has to live with its opponents’ presence on its soil and with Russia preventing any confrontation with them.

Politically, Tuesday’s images of the leaders of Turkey and Russia poring over maps and drawing up the future of northern Syria illustrated just how irrelevant Damascus is when it comes to negotiations.

Perhaps intentionally, Assad for the first time visited areas captured from the opposition in Idlib province, the last enclave they held in Syria. State TV showed Assad greeting military commanders and watching troops fire artillery. He talked of rallying “popular resistance” against Turkey “to expel the invader sooner or later.”

But the new agreement almost certainly made Syrian military action against Turkish forces impossible.

More likely, Assad will wait them out and maneuver for an opportunity to regain the rest of the land.

A political bargain that achieves that somewhere down the line is not completely far-fetched. Assad and Erdogan once had a close working relationship. In 2004, Assad became the first Syrian president to visit Ankara, helping overcome decades of animosity over territorial disputes, water resources, and Damascus’ support at the time for Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

Erdogan then switched sides and backed the opposition in Syria’s war. In recent years, however, he has been more concerned with recruiting opposition factions to fight the Kurds. Last year, Ankara signaled it would consider working with Assad once again if he won free and fair elections.

Now Turkey is entrusting the border in part to Assad. Other countries similarly have concluded they have no other choice.

Calls have increased from Arab countries to readmit Syria to the Arab League. The Sunni Muslim Gulf countries hope to curb their Shia-led foe, Iran, which saw its influence expand rapidly in Syria’s war.

“Assad will use the developments in northeast Syria to continue to pursue his strategy of presenting himself as the winning de facto authority in Syria who the international community has no choice but to cooperate with against extremist groups,” Khatib said.




Denmark passes law to strip Daesh fighters of nationality

October 24, 2019

STOCKHOLM: Denmark’s parliament on Thursday passed a controversial law allowing the government to strip dual-national suspected extremists of their citizenship to stop them from returning to Danish soil.

The law is primarily designed to target Danes fighting for the Daesh group in Syria and Iraq.

It enables the government to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals while they are abroad, even without a court ruling — which previously was a requirement.

After recent developments with Turkey’s offensive into Syria, the bill was rushed through parliament.

While a majority of parties in parliament backed the bill, it had also been the subject of much criticism, according to Danish news agency Ritzau.

Among other things critics questioned the fact that those affected would be notified electronically — potentially while they were in a conflict zone.

Before the law was passed, it was amended to allow for exemptions to the four-week period during which those affected could appeal the decision.

“It will ultimately be up to a judge to decide whether you can justify that you didn’t respond before the deadline,” Immigration and Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye told broadcaster DR on Wednesday.

The law was also amended to include a so-called “sunset clause,” meaning it would expire in July 2021 unless parliament decided otherwise.

In early September, Denmark’s justice minister said there were 36 extremists who had traveled from Denmark to fight in the Middle East.

Among them, 10 had their residency permits withdrawn and 12 have been jailed.

In March, under the previous government, Denmark adopted a law depriving children born abroad to Danish extremists the right to citizenship.



UK says Lebanese people expressed their ‘legitimate anger,’ calls for reforms

24 October 2019

The Lebanese people have “expressed their legitimate anger” and reforms must be implemented in the country, said the British Embassy in Lebanon on Thursday.

“A week after the protests began, the Lebanese people expressed their legitimate anger, which must be met. This is an important moment for Lebanon: urgent reforms must be implemented urgently,” tweeted @ukinlebanon, the official account for the British Embassy in Lebanon.

Anti-government protests entered their second week on Thursday as protesters continued to block highways while banks and schools remained closed. The government under Prime Minister Saad Hariri passed reforms on Monday, but they have been largely ignored by protesters.

“The UK will continue to support Lebanon’s fundamental pillars of security, stability, sovereignty and prosperity, including a stronger and more equitable economy, quality education opportunities for all, improved services and enhanced security,” added the Embassy.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun is due to speak later today in his first address since the outbreak of the protests.



West's hacking allegations aimed at 'driving a wedge' between Iran, Russia: Moscow

Oct 25, 2019

Russia has dismissed the West's recently made allegations that a group of its hackers used Iranian computer infrastructure to attack dozens of countries across the world, describing it as an attempt to drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran.

Citing British and American spy agencies, Reuters reported Monday that a cyber-espionage group, known as Turla, which allegedly linked with Russian intelligence agency, hijacked the tools of an Iranian group to lead attacks in more than 35 countries over the last 18 months.

The attacks were allegedly carried out against government departments, military installations and industrial organizations.

A spokesman for the Russian embassy in the UK reacted to the report, describing it as “an unsavory interpretation of a concise report of the British National Cyber Security Center [NCSC] and the American National Security Agency [NSA]."

“The security services themselves are not putting forward any accusations against Russia and Russian citizens,” he added.

He also said that the publications are aimed at driving “a wedge” between Moscow and Tehran, both of which have repeatedly denied Western allegations over hacking.

The two enjoy strong bilateral ties and have been working in a strategic partnership format on their issues of mutual interest.

Russia has been critical of Washington’s exit from a 2015 multilateral deal with Iran and the re-imposition of harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Tehran and Moscow have also been assisting Syria in its efforts to uproot the terrorist groups that have been wreaking havoc on the Arab state since 2011 with the backing of Washington and its allies.



Russian military police patrol Turkish-Syrian border

Elena Teslova  



Russian military police patrolled parts of the Turkish-Syrian border in accordance with a recent memorandum between Ankara and Moscow, the country's Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

"On October 24, a column of Russian military police patrolled a new route on the Syrian-Turkish border. The length of the patrol route from the city of Qamishli in northern Syria to the settlement of Abouda equaled more than 60 kilometers [37 miles]," said the ministry.

According to the ministry, the police also helped the removal of elements of the YPG/PKK terrorist group and their weapons to a distance of 30 km (18.6 miles) from the Syrian-Turkish border.

On Oct. 9, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held a meeting in Russia's Black Sea resort town of Sochi.

Ankara and Moscow reached a deal under which YPG/PKK terrorists will pull back 30 km south of Turkey’s border with northern Syria within 150 hours and security forces from Turkey and Russia will conduct joint patrols there.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.



British YPG/PKK member found guilty of terrorism

Asif Hussain  



A British man who had joined a terrorist group in Syria to fight against Daesh has been found guilty of terrorism offences, a court said Thursday.

Aidan James, 28, who had no previous military training joined the PKK for training in Iraq in 2017, the court was told.

The PKK is a proscribed terror organization under U.K. law.

He went on to fight with the YPG, the Syrian offshoot of PKK, in Syria against Daesh.

The case against him did not rest on his taking up arms against Daesh, but on his support for the ideological and political cause of the PKK through violence.

James was initially picked up by the U.K. Prevent program, but was then released in early 2017 before he travelled to the Middle East to carry out his intentions on joining the military struggle against Daesh. He had previously been noted to have undertaken “amateurish” training in the U.K., before joining the PKK.

His prosecution brings to an end another case of a British national travelling to take part in the conflict in Syria, and further highlights the difficulty and inconsistent nature of the U.K. government’s response to dealing with such individuals.



'No call for NATO mission in northeastern Syria'

Diyar Guldogan  


There was no call for a NATO mission in northeastern Syria, the alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

"There has been no call for NATO mission in north-east Syria," Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, where he was asked if NATO foresees a role for the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria.

"I strongly believe that what we need is an effort to support a political process, a lasting political solution and therefore also NATO strongly supports UN-led efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria," Stoltenberg added.

He said the defense ministers will discuss German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer's proposal for an "internationally controlled security zone" in northern Syria to stabilize the region.

"I think it is positive that NATO allies and in this case Germany, have proposals, have ideas on how we can move forward how we can create the conditions for a lasting and political solution," he added.



Germany tolerating activities of YPG/PKK terror group



Violent protests in recent weeks by supporters of the YPG/PKK terrorist group in various German cities have raised concerns over the country’s security.

At least 15 Turks have been injured in attacks by sympathizers or members of the terrorist group on Turkish cafes, restaurants, cultural centers and mosques during protests against Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northern Syria.

Turkey urged German authorities to take stricter measures and protect its citizens in a diplomatic note to the German Foreign Ministry, diplomats told Anadolu Agency.

But supporters of the PKK and its Syrian offshoot the YPG have threatened to continue their violent and radical protests across the country.

Germany aware of threat

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency BfV and police have repeatedly warned in recent months about the increasing tendency of YPG/PKK followers to resort to violence, fueling tensions in the society.

In a brief report the BfV published recently on its webpage, the agency underlined that the YPG/PKK-affiliated groups in Germany were prepared for more violence in the country and YPG/PKK leaders were encouraging youth groups to commit acts of violence.

Despite these warnings, local authorities have been reluctant so far to ban protests and rallies organized by pro-YPG/PKK groups in various cities since the start of Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northern Syria on Oct. 9.

Violent attacks

Last week, PKK followers burned the Turkish flag at a demonstration in the city of Dortmund and spray-painted slogans on the walls of houses in the northwestern city of Bielefeld in an attempt to provoke the Turkish community.

A mosque belonging to Turkish-Muslim umbrella group DITIB was targeted with Molotov cocktails Sunday night.

In the northwestern German city of Herne, pro-YPG/PKK protesters stormed Turkish shops and cafes and injured several people.

A Turkish citizen was also seriously injured in a knife attack during a demonstration by nearly 200 YPG/PKK followers in the city of Luedenscheid.

More than 14,000 YPG/PKK followers

Despite being banned in Germany since 1993, the YPG/PKK remains active, with nearly 14,500 followers, according to an annual report by the BfV.

In 2018, YPG/PKK followers were responsible for 1,873 criminal acts, marking an increase of more than 80% compared to the previous year, 305 of which were violent offenses.

Although the Turkish government has repeatedly called on German authorities to curb propaganda, fundraising and recruitment activities of the YPG/PKK, Berlin has been reluctant to do more to combat the terrorist group.

According to the BfV, the YPG/PKK uses the country as a platform for its fundraising activities and raised more than €15 million last year in Germany.

Turkish officials estimate that the terrorist group is raising more than €40 million a year in Germany through a range of criminal activities including extortion, drug smuggling and sales, migrant trafficking and money laundering.

PKK recruits fighters in Germany

The terrorist group has stepped up its propaganda and recruitment activities in recent years and convinced more than 250 mostly young people in 2018 to travel to northern Syria and join the YPG/PKK, according to the BfV.

The YPG/PKK opened various Facebook sites to attract young people and organized various festivals in Germany and other European countries to recruit them as fighters, German officials said in their report.

Although German authorities have arrested several leading figures of the YPG/PKK in recent years, the terrorist group continues its activities in the country, according to directives from its terrorist leaders in northern Iraq's mountainous Qandil region. The YPG/PKK leaders have divided Germany into nine regions and 31 sub-regions and assigned a leading member for each of these regions, according to German intelligence reports.

Berlin refuses to extradite YPG/PKK members

Between 2011 and 2017, German courts opened criminal cases against 387 YPG/PKK suspects on charges of terrorism.

Only 11 leading members of the terrorist organization received punishments, which ranged from two years and six months to four years and six months in prison.

Turkey has requested the arrest and extradition of dozens of leading figures of the terrorist organization, but nearly all of these requests have been rejected as German authorities argued that they needed more concrete evidence.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the terrorist group.




Pak Govt Empowers Provinces for Appropriate Action against Ansar-ul-Islam, A Subordinate Organisation Of Jamiat Ulema Islam Fazl

October 25, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The federal government Thursday authorised the provinces to take appropriate actions against Ansarul Islam, a subordinate organisation of Jamiat Ulema Islam Fazl (JUI-F), saying that it is capable of functioning as an ''armed wing of the organisation''.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 2 of Private Military Organizations (Abolition and Prohibition) Act, 1974, the federal government approves the abolition of Ansar-ul-Islam in Islamabad Capital Territory with immediate effect,” says the notification.

After obtaining consent of all the provincial governments, the federal government, through the ministry of interior, entrusted the provincial governments the power to take appropriate actions against the outfit, said a notification issued here by the Ministry of Interior.

“… the Federal Government having reasons to believe that Ansar-ul-Islam (Private militia/Razakar Force of Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam in violation of the Prohibition contained in the Article 256 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” said the notification.

The government notification says the JUI-F’s subsidiary outfit “has been equipped with batons, sticks and sharp objects. The batons and sticks have been wrapped up with barbed wires.”

The government has also the apprehensions that the outfit “could be equipped with other objects, arms or ammunition, which could not be ruled out.”

The Jamiat’s subordinate organisation has posted a real, present and severe threat to the peace and tranquility of Pakistan, both in Islamabad Capital Territory and areas/parts comprising all the four provinces, according to the notification.



Govt notifies ban on JUI-F’s ‘militant wing’

Oct 25, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Interior Ministry on Thursday issued a notification announcing a ban on the “militant wing” of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).

The proscription of Ansar-ul-Islam, which the ministry referred to as a “private militia/Razakar Force” of the JUI-F, comes days before the Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led party is slated to lead an anti-government ‘Azadi March’.

According to the notification, the federal government had “reasons to believe that Ansar-ul-Islam is capable of functioning as a military organisation, in violation of the prohibition contained in Article 256 of the Constitution”.

The ban was imposed after approval by the federal government and obtaining the consent from all four provincial governments under Article 146(1) of the Constitution, which allows the federal government to delegate any of its powers to the provinces, conditionally or unconditionally, with the consent of the provincial governments.

Through the notification, the federal government through the Ministry of Interior has “entrust[ed] the provincial governments the power to take appropriate actions under Section 2 of the Private Military Organisations (Abolition and Prohibition) Act, 1974, against Ansar-ul-Islam”.

The authority will include, among others, “the power to abolish/ban the said organisation and take further steps against them on ground” in order to complete the action, the notice said.

A summary seeking a ban on Ansar-ul-Islam was approved by the federal cabinet earlier this week, sources in the cabinet division had said.



No possibility of minus-Imran, Gen Bajwa tells Maulana Fazl

Oct 25, 2019

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has reportedly made it clear to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman that “there is no possibility of a minus-Imran concept”, a TV channel has claimed in a report.

According to the channel’s anchorperson, the army chief held a meeting with Fazl ahead of the latter’s Azadi March in which he categorically told the JUI-F chief that he stood by the constitution and democracy.

“We have been doing what the constitution asks for,” the army chief reportedly said, according to the anchorperson.

The report further claimed that Gen Bajwa reminded Fazl that he was a responsible political leader and must be aware of the regional situation.

“The situation on the border with India is volatile due to the Kashmir crisis and Afghanistan’s situation is also a source of trouble,” Gen Bajwa was quoted as saying. He was further reported to have referred to the Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict and told the JUI-F chief that it was not an appropriate time for staging the protest since the economy had been brought on the right track after herculean efforts within the country and abroad.

The COAS made it clear that the army wouldn’t permit destabilisation at this moment, the anchorperson claimed. “He [Imran Khan] is a constitutional prime minister (PM) and neither I nor you can minus him,” he quoted Gen Bajwa as saying.

The anchor, who further claimed that Fazl’s meeting with the COAS was “common knowledge” and was held a few days ago, was also among the media persons who called on the premier in Islamabad on Wednesday.

Speaking to senior journalists during the meeting, PM Imran had said that he wouldn’t resign under pressure from Fazl as he has the army’s full support.

The JUI-F chief has threatened to block the federal capital with his protest against the “illegitimate” government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). His Azadi March, which is expected to have hundreds of thousands of participants — mainly religious hardliners from the JUI-F — is expected to enter Islamabad on October 31.



Kartarpur Corridor: First group of pilgrims from India expected to come on November 9, says Pakistan's Mohammed Faisal

Oct 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Hours after India and Pakistan signed the Kartarpur agreement, Pakistan foreign affairs spokesperson Mohammed Faisal on Thursday said that the first group of pilgrims from India is expected to arrive on November 9.

"The pilgrims who come through the corridor will not require a visa. They will have to carry their passports which will be scanned, but not stamped," The Dawn quoted Faisal as saying.

The corridor connects the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab's Gurdaspur with Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan.

Adding that local pilgrims will have a pass issued to them, Faisal said, "Under the agreement, the Indian authorities will provide a list of pilgrims 10 days ahead of their visit."

On Thursday, India and Pakistan signed the much-awaited agreement for operationalising the Kartarpur Corridor, paving the way for its inauguration next month ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

The two sides met on "zero line" on the border and signed the agreement. The Indian delegation was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary (Internal Security) in the Home Ministry and the Pakistani delegation by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mohammed Faisal.

The corridor will facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, which was established in 1522 by Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak Dev. Both countries will hold events to mark the opening of their sections of the corridor.

The foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor was laid down on the Indian side on November 26, 2018. Two days later the foundation stone was laid on the Pakistani side



Nawaz Sharif diagnosed with acute immune disorder; brother of jailed ex-PM files bail plea for him on medical grounds

Oct 25, 2019

Lahore: Pakistan's jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been diagnosed with acute immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), an immune disorder which leads to an abrupt and sharp drop in blood platelets, according to a medical board treating him said on Thursday.

The 69-year-old Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz supremo was rushed to the Services Hospital here from the National Accountability Bureau's Lahore office late on Monday night after a massive drop in his platelet count.

Sharif received transfusions of mega units of platelets at the hospital the next day. However, his condition deteriorated again on Wednesday evening after the platelets count fell sharply to a life-threatening level of 7,000.

Sharif's condition is improving as his platelets count increased to 20,000 from 7,000, Services Institute of Medical Sciences (SIMS) Principal Dr Mahmood Ayaz said on Thursday.

According to initial test reports, the three-time prime minister has been diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenia.

The disease causes the breakdown of the blood cells and doctors at the hospital declared thrombocytopenia a treatable disease.

"The blood disorder is easily treatable in Pakistan," a doctor on the medical board treating the ailing politician was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.

Sharif has been put on IVIG, he said, adding that he would recover in a week's time.

IVIG, or Intravenous immunoglobulin, is a treatment that combines immunoglobulins donated by different people and is given by a drip.

"He does not have aplastic anaemia and his haemoglobin and WBC count (white blood cells) are normal. Platelets are low though," said the doctor.

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a disorder that can lead to excessive or easy bruising and bleeding from unusually low levels of platelets in the blood. Platelets help blood clot.

The disorder can cause purple bruises as well as tiny reddish-purple dots that look like a rash.

Meanwhile, Sharif's younger brother Shehbaz Sharif filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court seeking bail for the former prime minister on medical grounds.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday expressed concern over Sharif's deteriorating health.

Khan said that political differences aside, his sincerest prayers are with the PML-N leader and has ensured that the former prime minister receives the best possible healthcare and medical treatment.



Prosecution team in Musharraf treason case fired, court told

Malik Asad

October 25, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The government has sacked the entire prosecution team engaged by the previous Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) government to prosecute former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in the high treason case for abrogating and subverting the Constitution by proclaiming emergency in the country on Nov 3, 2007.

When a special court seized with the case against the former military dictator resumed hearing on Thursday, it was told that the government had terminated the services of the prosecution team.

However, the court was not informed about the reason for sacking the prosecution team.

The sudden disclosure about the removal of the prosecution team surprised Dr Tariq Hassan, head of the prosecution, as he told the court that he learnt about it right now.

He, however, said the prosecution had already laid the entire evidence before the court in September 2014. He said the prosecution had submitted written arguments to the court as well and there was not much left at this stage when the trial was nearing its logical end.

Talking to Dawn, Dr Hassan said that despite all odds, the prosecution team had done a tremendous job and did not leave any loophole in the case. He said that since Gen Musharraf, despite repeated summons, had not turned up for recording his testimony under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the court might decide the case on the basis of available evidence.

The PML-N government had filed the complaint of high treason against Gen Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution in December 2013.

Gen Musharraf was indicted in this case on March 31, 2014.

He, however, left the country in March 2016 with the nod of superior courts as well as the interior ministry and since then he has been an absconder in the case.

On April 1 this year, the Supreme Court had directed the special court to proceed against Gen Musharraf as it was empowered to do so even in his absence under Section 9 of the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973.

The special court, however, allow­ed defence counsel Reza Bashir, who was appointed by the law ministry on court’s directive to assist in the case, to appear at the next hearing on Nov 19.

The court summoned the interior secretary to explain under which law the prosecution team was terminated.



‘Imran Khan has as much say in govt as I have in PML-N,’ Shehbaz mocks PM

Oct 25, 2019

LAHORE – Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif has said his party will expose the “incompetence” of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government on October 31.

Addressing a convention of party officials and ticket holders from Punjab, Shehbaz motivated those affiliated with the PML-N by motivating through as example they could personally relate to.

“You will head towards Islamabad on October 31, where the PML-N will expose the incompetence of Imran Khan. And to truly understand how much in control he is of the government, just think of the control that I have over the PML-N – the party which I’m the president of,” the former Punjab CM said.

Shehbaz also said that PM Imran enjoys overwhelming and unequivocal support of national institutions.

“If I had received only one-tenth of this support from within my own party, I would have been able to call Imran Khan undemocratic and selected with that much more conviction,” Shehbaz said.

Giving another relatable example, Shehbaz said PM Imran and his party had damaged the relations with China just they had damaged his relations with his brother.

“Our friendship used to be higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, sweeter than honey…”



Mufti Rafi Usmani urges seminary students to avoid rallies, processions

October 24, 2019

Mufti-e-Azam Pakistan Rafi Usmani urged on Thursday students of religious seminaries to distance themselves from rallies and processions.

The renowned religious figure was speaking to SAMAA TV. "Students should keep themselves distant from rallies and processions. It obstructs their education," he said.

"Their parents have handed over them to us. They entrusted us with their safety."

Mufti Usmani said they kept telling seminary students to keep themselves away from practical politics, rallies and processions.

"Study and teach in seminaries, your job is not to engage in politics," he said in his message to seminary students.

The statement from Mufti Usmani comes amid preparations of a long march by the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl, whose support base includes a huge number of faculty members and students of religious seminaries across the country.

The JUI-F has been gearing up for its ‘Azadi March’ towards Islamabad later this month, aiming to topple Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government.

The march will enter Islamabad on October 31, Fazl announced earlier this month. It will begin on October 27 as announced earlier.

Fazl has been trying to take all the opposition parties on-board with regard to the march. The Pakistan Peoples Party has so far been reluctant to join it, while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has said that it would participate in the anti-government protest in Islamabad.

However, the government has accused the JUI-F chief of using seminary students for political gains.

Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood last week urged the JUI-F chief not to "drag seminary students into politics".

Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad on October 19, Mahmood said he was worried that Fazl had been appealing to seminary students to join his march.

“I am worried about this because he wants to include children in his protest,” he remarked.



Nawaz diagnosed with immune system disorder

Zulqernain Tahir | Wajih Ahmad Sheikh

October 25, 2019

LAHORE: As doctors are optimistic that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s condition will improve in a few days, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) says going abroad (London) for treatment will only be his own (Nawaz) decision and the party will not force him in this regard.

After a struggle of three days, a six-member medical board, headed by Services Hospital Principal Ayaz Mahmood, on Thursday diagnosed the reason for Mr Sharif’s declining health. “It is acute immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a bleeding disorder, in which the immune system destroys platelets,” a board member told Dawn. He said the treatment was given to Mr Sharif in the light of his diagnosis. “We are hopeful that his condition will improve in a few days,” he added.

However, Mr Sharif’s platelet count again dropped on Thursday evening from 20,000 to 6,000. “The medical reports of the PML-N supremo have been sent to doctors abroad for their opinion,” a party leader said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed concerns over the health of Mr Sharif, saying in a tweet “political differences notwithstanding, my sincere prayers are with Nawaz Sharif for his health. I have directed all concerned to ensure provision of the best possible health care and medical treatment to him”.

In a late-night development, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar issued a video message in which he said the prime minister had directed him and the provincial government to allow Maryam Nawaz’s meeting with her father and ensure best treatment for him.

He said the government would not create any problem in Mr Sharif’s treatment “here or abroad”.

A private TV channel quoted the governor as having said that the government would create no problems for Mr Sharif’s sons and other daughter’s return to the country to see their father.

Reports suggested that Maryam was being allowed to visit her father to persuade him to leave for London for his better treatment. The PML-N said Nawaz Sharif would decide on his own about leaving the country for treatment.

Reacting to the premier’s statement, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said: “PM Khan’s tweet is a tactic to grab public sympathy. He should stop his fake empathy after sending opposition leaders to death-row cells. The so-called premier is trying to compensate his conscience over his callous actions of vengeance. He had talked about withdrawing Nawaz Sharif’s air conditioning and television in jail.”

The PML-N also lambasted the PTI government for doing politics over Mr Sharif’s health. It indirectly also blamed the apex court for not allowing him earlier to go abroad for treatment.

“It is regrettable that the superior court had rejected the doctors’ report on Nawaz Sharif’s health. Had his application (to go abroad for treatment) been accepted, his condition would not have worsened,” PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal told reporters here.

He also condemned the statements of the ministers and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders, especially Firdous Ashiq Awan, for mocking Mr Sharif’s health.

PM Khan has reportedly stopped his party leaders from issuing ‘hostile’ statements regarding the health of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz.

Khawaja Asif, a close aide to the former premier, said the party had decided not to “force” him (Nawaz) to go abroad for treatment. “Nawaz Sharif’s condition is serious. It will only be the decision of Mian sahib about going abroad for treatment. We will not push him,” he said, adding that one wished one did not have a “mean enemy”.

Pleas seeking bail for Nawaz, Maryam

In a related development, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday sought bail for his elder brother Nawaz Sharif on medical grounds in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case from the Lahore High Court. The court summoned a report from the medical board treating incarcerated Nawaz Sharif and also sought a reply from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the petition.

On another petition of Maryam Nawaz seeking her bail in the same case on merits and humanitarian grounds, a division bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem directed NAB to submit its reply.

The legal team of the Sharif family filed the petitions on Thursday with a request to be heard same day, citing urgency in the matter.

At the outset of the hearing, the bench questioned the maintainability of the petition filed by Shahbaz Sharif and asked the counsel as to why the aggrieved person (Nawaz Sharif) did not approach the court himself.

The counsel argued that Mr Sharif had been under treatment at the hospital and his health condition did not permit him to sign a power of attorney. Moreover, the counsel also cited several judgements of high courts wherein petitions by immediate family members had been entertained against detention of aggrieved persons.

The bench, however, observed that the cases referred to by the counsel were related to illegal detention and in the instant case the aggrieved person was in lawful custody of NAB.

The counsel argued that the matter pertained to life and death. He said Mr Sharif was not in reach due to regular treatment by the doctors. To a court’s query, the counsel said Prof Dr Mahmood Ayaz was leading the medical board while a senior specialist of bone marrow transplant from Karachi also joined it.

Advocate General for Punjab Ahmad Jamal Sukhera and a NAB prosecutor made their appearance on a short notice of the bench. The bench directed the advocate general to submit a report on behalf of the medical board assigned to treat Mr Sharif and also ensure presence of Dr Ayaz on Friday (today).

Shahbaz Sharif in the petition asked the court to release his brother on bail for the purpose of his treatment by a medical expert in Pakistan or abroad as per his choice.

Pleading the petition of Maryam Nawaz, Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar argued that the petitioner had a basic right to look after her hospitalised father.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court summoned the medical superintendent along with a member of the board of doctors treating Nawaz Sharif in the Services Hospital, on a petition seeking release of the former prime minister on medical grounds.

A two-judge IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani directed the two doctors to appear in person on Friday (today) along with “latest medical record and documents” related to the ailment of Mr Sharif.

The court also issued notices to the Punjab chief secretary and home secretary and federal interior secretary and adjourned the hearing on the petition filed by Shahbaz Sharif seeking suspension of the sentence awarded to Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference and his subsequent release on bail.

Maryam sent back to jail

Maryam Nawaz, who was admitted to the Services Hospital on Wednesday night after meeting her father Nawaz Sharif, was shifted back to Kot Lakhpa jail on Thursday early morning, in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

The PML-N strongly chided the PTI government’s decision to abruptly shift Ms Nawaz at 5am to the jail against doctors’ advice. She was admitted to the hospital because she was not well.

“This act shows the true colour of PM Khan and his vengeance against the Sharif family,” Marriyum Auranzeb said, adding that in order to give torture to Nawaz Sharif, his daughter was transferred to the jail against the advice of doctors.

She also slammed the PTI regime for not sharing Maryam’s medical reports with her personal physician or her family.

On Thursday night, some TV channels said Prime Minister Khan had directed the Punjab government to take steps to keep Maryam in hospital so that she could look after her father.

Meanwhile, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman spoke to Nawaz Sharif on phone in the presence of Shahbaz Sharif and they also discussed ‘Azadi March’ preparations.

Malik Asad from Islamabad also contributed to this story



US State Dept expresses concern over alleged detention of Gulalai Ismail's father

October 25, 2019

US Assistant Secretary of State Alice G. Wells, who is also the in-charge of South Asia affairs at the US State Department, on Friday expressed concern over "reports of the continued harassment" of rights activist Gulalai Ismail's family and her father's alleged detention.

"We encourage Pakistan to uphold citizens’ rights to peaceful assembly, expression, and due process," Wells said in a post shared on Twitter.

On Thursday, Ismail alleged that her father had been picked up from outside the Peshawar High Court (PHC) by "men wearing Malitia (sic) dress".

In a post shared on Twitter today, Ismail criticised the silence of the mainstream Pakistani media following her father's alleged abduction from the premises of the PHC.

"I've run out of words to condemn the criminal silence of media; it has become an ally of [the] military in imposing unannounced martial law," she said.

In September, the New York Times reported, Ismail escaped Pakistani authorities the previous month and had reached the United States, where she applied for political asylum.

She had not disclosed how she managed to leave the country. All she revealed was: "I didn’t fly out of any airport."

"I can’t tell you any more," NYT quoted her as saying during an interview. "My exit story will put many lives at risk."

According to NYT, no government officials were willing to make a public comment on the matter. Security officials had said that they had suspected Ismail had left the country.



Directorate to regulate seminaries set up

Kashif Abbasi

October 25, 2019

ISLAMABAD: As a first major step towards mainstreaming the religious seminaries, the government has established a directorate for registration and facilitation of the madaris functioning all over the country, sources told Dawn.

The notification regarding setting up of the Directorate General of Religious Education (DGRE) has been issued by Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training which has also been working on preparing a uniform curricula for all the schools and religious seminaries of the country.

According to the notification, the new directorate with its head office in Islamabad’s G-8 Sector will have 16 regional offices all over the country and the ministry has already posted officers as directors in these offices.

The services of dozens of employees from Basic Education Community Schools (BECS) and National Commission of Human Development (NCHD) have been hired to run the directorate and its regional offices.

“The posting and transfers of the officers from the BECS and the NCHD are being made on attachment basis to operationalise the DGRE Head Office in Islamabad and its 16 regional offices all over the country”, says the notification.

The federal government is yet to appoint the head of the newly-established directorate. Sources in the ministry said that joint education adviser of the National Curriculum Council Rafiq Tahir was likely to be asked to look after the affairs of the DGRE as well.

The ministry has already notified posting of over 50 officers of the NCHD and the BECS at the DGRE. The regional offices will be headed by directors.

The regional offices of the DGRE are being set up in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, Quetta, Khuzdar, Loralai, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Gilgit and Skardu.

Talking to Dawn a few days back, Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood had stated that the setting up of the DGRE would be a “landmark achievement” of the present government.

Mr Mahmood had stated the directorate would help seminaries get registered and it would also work as a facilitation centre for them. He said seminary students would also be imparted contemporary education and would appear in exams held under the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education. He had claimed religious scholars associated with Ittehad Tanzeemat-i-Madaris, an umbrella organisation of seminaries, had already announced their support to the directorate.

After holding a series of meetings with the ministry officials, Ittehad Tanzeemat-i-Madaris representatives have agreed to get all seminaries affiliated with them registered with the education ministry.

Religious scholars from various schools of thought who attended the meetings regularly included Mufti Mohammad Rafi Usmani (Mufti-i-Azam Pakistan and vice president Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia) Mufti Muneebur Rehman (Tanzeemul Madaris Ahle Sunnat Pakistan president), Maulana Hanif Jalandhari (Nazim-i-Aala, Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia), Maulana Mohammad Yasin Zafar (general secretary Wafaqul Madaris Al-Salfia), Allama Syed Qazi Niaz Hasan Naqvi (vice president Wafaqul Madaris Al-Shia) Dr Attaur Rehman (general secretary Rabtaul Madarasul Islamia) and Maulana Mohammad Afzal Haidri (general secretary Wafaqul Madaris Al Shia Pakistan) attended the meeting.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who also runs a large number of seminaries, was not part of the agreement as his party did not attend the meetings. Similarly, the madaris affiliated with Minhajul Quran of Dr Tahirul Qadri and those running under the supervision of some custodians of shrines have so far not held any meeting with the ministry on the issue.

According to education ministry officials, the government will soon announce a deadline for the madaris to get themselves registered with the DGRE. After expiry of this deadline, they said, unregistered seminaries would not be allowed to operate.

“We will register all madaris of the country while we will also facilitate them,” said an official of ministry, adding that the seminaries which were found promoting hatred and sectarianism would not to be allowed to operate.

He said the ministry would also help the seminary students to appear in examinations of compulsory subjects to be conducted by the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Islamabad, so that they could also get a chance to compete with the students of other schools and colleges.



Achakzai supports JUI-F march

October 25, 2019

QUETTA: Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai has announced his party’s support for Azadi March scheduled to be held by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl.

Speaking at a press conference here on Thursday, he said that a roundtable conference should be convened in view of the political situation prevailing in the country.

Mr Achakzai termed Azadi March a movement of all democratic forces and said Maulana Fazlur Rehman had taken a bold step by launching his party’s march from Punjab.

He asked workers and supporters of his party to fully take part in Azadi March and rejected what he described as government propaganda that armed groups would join the march. He said giving more space to the incompetent prime minister would be a big blow for Pakistan and asked democratic parties to come forward to save the country from political and economic disaster.

Mr Achakzai warned the government of dire consequences if it stopped the people from taking part in the march.

He said the government was creating an impression that the march was against the state, but “there is a difference between the state and the government. People want to vent their anger against the wrong policies of the government which has failed in resolving the problems being faced by the people”.

He said the government should ensure best medical treatment of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif whether it was in Pakistan or abroad.



Imran tells aides not to comment on Nawaz’s health

Oct 25, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has barred leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from making statements on Nawaz Sharif’s health condition.

The instructions from the prime minister came after some ministers were criticised for making insensitive statements about the health of the three-time prime minister of the country, who has been serving a jail term at Kot Lakhpat Jail.

According to reports, the prime minister was of the view that the treatment of Nawaz Sharif’s ailment was available in Pakistan but the government would fully accept whatever decision is made by the court on the matter.

Lamenting the opposition’s threats to launch protests in Islamabad, he said India has improved its IMF ranking 14 points and the entire country has erupted with joy, while on the other hand, Pakistan has improved its ranking by 28 points but dharnas are the only topic of discussion in the country.

He was referring to his tweet which he sent earlier in the day, stating that Pakistan’s Ease Of Doing Banking (EODB) ranking had slipped more than 50 places.

“Now we have improved 28 places – from 136 to 108,” the prime minister said calling it the biggest improvement in country’s history in World Bank’s EODB rankings



Sending Nawaz abroad for treatment not in PM’s hands: spokesperson

Oct 25, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Thursday said it is not Prime Minister Imran Khan who would decide, but the doctors will take decision whether former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif would go abroad for medical treatment or not.

Addressing a presser, she said that the former prime minister’s cholesterol increased due to his diet, adding that the application about release of Nawaz Sharif on health grounds would be decided by the court. The government had implemented the court decisions in the past and would continue to do so, she added.

Dr Firdous said Maryam Nawaz was again sent to the jail as per jail manual as doctors declared that her reports of blood pressure, ECG and vital organs were normal.

The SAPM went on to say that the first gesture of Prime Minister Imran Khan was that Nawaz Sharif should be provided best healthcare from the hospital of his choice and his family should be taken on board about medical treatment.

She asked the opposition leaders to refrain from making political mileage out of the health condition of Nawaz Sharif.



Imran elated over WB’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 report

Oct 25, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday expressed satisfaction over the improved World Bank rating of Ease of Doing Business (EODB) by 28 notches, and said that Pakistan, by the end of 2020, would become one of the top destinations for investment.

“Another of our manifesto commitments fulfilled, this time on Ease Of Doing Business. Pakistan achieves the biggest improvement in its history in World Bank’s EODB rankings,” the prime minister said in a tweet after the report was released by the bank, lauding improvements in regulatory frameworks.

The prime minister said over the last decade Pakistan’s ranking had slipped more than 50 places and now had improved 28 places, from 136 to 108.

“I want to congratulate all the people in our government who worked hard to make this happen,” he said and stressed that there was still a long way to go.

The World Bank acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in carrying out reforms in six areas which led the country to jump from last year’s 136th spot to 108 in this year’s ‘Ease of Doing Business 2020’ report.

The WB also listed Pakistan among the top ten improvers along with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Kuwait, China, India, and Nigeria.

The report lauded the country for following an ‘ambitious reform strategy’, and for setting up a national secretariat and a Prime Minister’s reform steering committee which has been following up on the program.

The report focused on two major cities, Karachi and Lahore, and acknowledged the various reforms taken by the government in those cities.

Commending Pakistani authorities on the report, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan, Illango Patchamuthu said “this rise is significant and made possible by collective and coordinated actions of Federal Government and Provincial Governments of Sindh and Punjab over the past year.

“The accelerated reform agenda has many noteworthy features to improve the quality of regulations, reduce time and streamline processes. This momentum needs to be sustained in the coming years for Pakistan to continue to make progress,” he further said.


Southeast Asia


Malaysia’s Mahathir Dares Trade War with India Over Kashmir

October 24, 2019

By: Neeta Lal

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has refused to back away from criticism of New Delhi’s Kashmir policy at the UN General Assembly, daring a trade war that could have serious implications for his country’s economy.

In a September 28 speech to the United Nations, the 94-year-old Mahathir accused India of having “invaded and occupied” the disputed Jammu & Kashmir region.

Mahathir’s criticism has triggered an informal boycott of Malaysian palm oil, compounded by his refusal to extradite an Islamic preacher, Zakir Naik, who has stirred controversy in both countries by his incendiary speeches. That is no light undertaking. India was Malaysia’s third-largest export destination in 2018 for palm oil and palm-based products, amounting to RMB6.84 billion (US$1.63 billion). Malaysia’s exports to India totaled US$10.8bn, while imports totaled $6.4bn, according to Indian government data.

Naik, a 53-year-old radical television preacher, fled India ahead of arrest in 2016 and subsequently moved to the largely Muslim Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency—and protection by Mahathir despite general disapproval in Kuala Lumpur of his inflammatory pro-Muslim rheoric. Naik’s racially divisive remarks have created much heartburn in both countries. He is wanted by Indian authorities since 2016 for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches.

Compounded by the refusal to allow for the extradition of Naik, Mahathir’s remarks over Kashmir were called “highly regrettable” by Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar although he called attention to what he called traditionally cordial ties. “We deeply regret these comments as they are not based on facts,” he added.

Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-dominated region also claimed by Pakistan, has become a tinder box for the incumbent Narendra Modi government ever since it revoked its special status in August and imposed a communications blockade that has only partially been lifted. However, New Delhi regards the Kashmir issue as an “internal matter” and is quick to snub countries that comment.

The diplomatic fallout from Malaysia’s criticism over Kashmir has gradually spread to the economy, with Indian traders shunning Malaysian palm oil suppliers in favor of Indonesian alternatives. India’s top vegetable oil trade body – Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors’ Association of India – has asked its members to stop buying Malaysian palm oil.

“In your own interest as well as a mark of solidarity with our nation, we should avoid purchases from Malaysia for the time being. We trust you would heed our advice,” a statement issued by SEAI said. Traders also said they were not entering into new contracts.

“There is uncertainty among traders and as a precaution, we have told them not to go for new contracts till there is clarity,” B V Mehta, executive director of SEA told the media adding that the decision was in national interest.

Smaller trade associations and nationalists have added to the tension by waging a #BoycottMalaysia campaign on social media calling for a boycott of tourism and goods from the Muslim-majority country. Several suggested that the government raise import taxes. Meanwhile, Malaysian Twitter users hit back with their own #Boycott India offensive.

With Malaysia seeking peace overtures, insiders say specific measures are underway to disincentivize India’s import of palmolein from Malaysia. As the world’s largest palmolein importer, India sourced US$900 million worth of the oil in the first six months of this year alone as the second largest buyer of palmolein from Malaysia.

Despite the diplomatic and commercial ramifications a defiant Mahathir stood by his remarks on Kashmir, stating that he believes in “speaking his mind.”

“We felt that the people of Kashmir had benefited from the resolution of the United Nations, and all we are saying is that we should all abide, not just India and Pakistan, but even the United States of America and other countries. We speak out our mind, we don’t retract and change, ” Mahathir said at a media event.

He added that Malaysia would study the impact of the boycott called by the Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors’ Association of India and look at ways to address the issue. “This is not the Indian government, so we have to find out how we can communicate with these people, because trade is a two-way thing and it is bad to have what amounts to a trade war,” Mahathir said.

New Delhi has so far refused to comment but analysts say Mahathir’s Kashmir comments may cost Kuala Lumpur, as the economic gains derived from bilateral trade with India can bolster Malaysia’s domestic economy. This is in turn would benefit the political legitimacy of Mahathir’s government based on its economic performance.

Political mileage can also be gained in garnering support from the sizeable Indian community in Malaysia, especially during election time.

Apart from robust trade, India and Malaysia are also natural political and strategic allies. Both are also engaged in final negotiations for the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, which aims to create a trading bloc of 16 nations by the year’s end.

The Economic Times reported that over 150 Indian companies, including 61 joint ventures, operate in Malaysia. Even on the defense front, Indian Air Force have trained Malaysian pilots on the Sukhoi SU-30 fighters. Both countries have also institutionalized a defense secretary-level dialogue.

Over the years, New Delhi has worked to deepen its ties with Malaysia under its Look East Policy. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a strategic partnership with Malaysia in 2010, which PM Narendra Modi upgraded into an ‘Enhanced Strategic Partnership’ in 2015.

In 2018, Najib Razak, the then Malaysian PM, was among the ASEAN heads of state and government who were chief guests at the Republic Day parade. In a goodwill gesture, Modi also took a detour to drop by in Malaysia on May 31 last year just to felicitate the then newly elected PM Mahathir Mohamad.

Good relations notwithstanding, there’s little scope for complacency in bilateral relations. Malaysia faces stiff competition from rival Indonesia from which India already buys most of its oil. “India has a ready partner in Indonesia which already supplies much of our edible oil,” says Mumbai-based oil trader Prakash Kamath. “If the Malaysians act up, we have a Plan B in Indonesia. However, the same cannot be said for Malaysia.”

Ties between India and Indonesia have strengthened this year with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joko Widodo exchanging visits and both sides committing to double trade to US$50 billion in 2025.



3 Indonesian maids who were working in Singapore for years charged with funding terrorism

Amir Hussain

23 October 2019

SINGAPORE — They had been working as maids in Singapore for as long as 13 years when they became radicalised after viewing propaganda by the militant group ISIS online last year.

Over time, the trio connected with others who were like-minded and even had “online boyfriends” who shared their pro-ISIS views.

The three maids from Indonesia, who are in their 30s, galvanised support for the terrorist group via posts on several social media accounts, and allegedly contributed cash to fund terrorism-related activities.

One of the maids was even prepared to be a suicide bomber for ISIS, while another wanted to join the terrorist group in Syria.

At the State Courts on Wednesday (23 October), the trio, who have been detained under the Internal Security Act since last month, were each charged with funding terrorism.

They are accused of remitting, collecting, or handing over about $1,600 in total, knowing that the money would be used to facilitate terrorist acts.

Turmini, who goes by one name and is 31, is accused of remitting a total of 13,000,000 Indonesian rupiah, or about $1,200, to a person over five occasions between September last year and May.

Anindia Afiyantari, 33, is suspected of physically passing $20 on four occasions between February and May to Retno Hernayani, 36, and another person. Anindia allegedly also remitted $50 to another person in July.

Meanwhile, Retno is accused of collecting $100 in total from Anindia and two others on two occasions in March and April. She allegedly remitted $140 to another person over the same period.

Turmini and Retno are scheduled to return to court on 19 November for them to enter a guilty plea.

Meanwhile, Anindia’s case has been set for a pre-trial conference next week.

Radicalised online last year

The maids were detained under the Internal Security Act last month. At the point of their arrests, they had been working in Singapore for between six and 13 years, the Ministry of Home Affairs said then.

“The trio were radicalised in 2018 after they viewed online materials related to the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and became convinced that ISIS was fighting for Islam and that its use of violence against ‘infidels’ was justified,” said MHA.

“Their radicalisation deepened after they joined multiple pro-ISIS social media chat groups and channels. They were drawn to the violent visuals disseminated on these platforms, such as ISIS’s bomb attacks and beheading videos, as well as recycled propaganda on ISIS’s past victories in the battlefield,” the ministry added.

The trio were also influenced by the online sermons of radical preachers from Indonesia.

Anindia and Retno met at a social gathering in Singapore on their off-day, while Turmini got to know them on social media.

“Over time, they developed a network of pro-militant foreign online contacts, including ‘online boyfriends’, who shared their pro-ISIS ideology. All three also became strong supporters of the Indonesia-based ISIS-affiliated terrorist group, Jemaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD),” said MHA.

JAD, which was behind a number of terrorist attacks in Indonesia, has been banned in the country.

Wanted to become suicide bomber

According to MHA, Anindia and Retno wanted to join ISIS in Syria. They were also encouraged by their online contacts to join pro-ISIS groups in the southern Philippines, Afghanistan or Africa.

“Anindia was prepared to take up arms for ISIS in Syria and become a suicide bomber, while Retno aspired to live amongst ISIS fighters in Syria and participate in the conflict there,” said MHA last month.

“Retno believed that Muslims were duty-bound to travel to other conflict zones (apart from Syria), such as Palestine and Kashmir, to fight against ‘the enemies of Islam’,” the ministry added.

MHA also repatriated another maid who was aware of the trio’s radicalisation but didn’t report them to the authorities.

19 radicalised maids since 2015

The authorities have picked up 19 radicalised maids since 2015, including the trio. The first 16 radicalised maids have been repatriated after investigations were completed.

None of the 19 maids had planned to carry out terrorist acts in Singapore. Nonetheless, their radicalisation and association with terrorists overseas rendered them a security threat to Singapore, said MHA.

The ministry advises those who suspect a person of being radicalised or engaging in terrorism-related activities to promptly call the Internal Security Department’s Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline at 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).

For each of their terrorism-funding charges under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act, Turmini, Anindia and Retno can be fined up to $500,000 and also jailed for up to 10 years, if found guilty.



Malaysia's Home Ministry to seize pro-China comic book

October 25, 2019

Tension within the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition continued to escalate with Malaysia's Home Ministry yesterday announcing that it will seize copies of a pro-China comic book authored and distributed by Hew Kuan Yau, a former member of the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

The Chinese-dominated DAP is one of the four parties within the ruling PH coalition.

The comic book titled Belt And Road Initiative For Win-Winism was banned on Wednesday after a public outcry in Muslim-majority Malaysia over its contents, which describe Malays who support ethnic Uighurs in China as radicals.

Reports say more than one million Uighurs have been forced into re-education camps by the Chinese government.

"If it is still in circulation, we will definitely seize them as we have decided to ban it. This is a serious matter, which is why I need to take immediate action," Malaysia's Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

After studying its contents, Tan Sri Muhyiddin said, the ministry found there is a "strong basis" that the comic book tried to promote communism and socialism.

"The ban was not due to any sentiment or action against any other parties. It is based on its contents, especially when it was distributed to schools," he said.

The furore also led to Hew quitting as the chief executive of the Malaysia-China Business Council. He said that it was time for him to focus on his own interests.

A group of 43 grassroots DAP members have come out in support of Hew.


The controversy comes amid tensions between the DAP and the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, after two DAP lawmakers and 10 other men were arrested for allegedly supporting the defunct Sri Lanka terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The two DAP lawmakers - Seremban Jaya assemblyman Gunasekaran Palanisamy and Melaka state government minister Saminathan Ganesan - were held under anti-terror laws.

The DAP, since coming to power in last May's election as part of PH, has been accused of masterminding an agenda to undermine the special privileges of the Malay Muslim majority.

The comic book was reportedly distributed to libraries in some schools without the knowledge of the authorities, triggering criticism that some parties were bringing politics into the classroom.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Home Ministry said the publication was found to have content that could "endanger public order and security" and also "distort the mind of the public".

"The contents of this publication are deemed to be insensitive towards Malaysians of multiracial and multi-religious backgrounds, and it is a worry that it could disrupt the harmony and unity of the people in this country," the statement said.

Responding to the controversy, Tun Dr Mahathir said on Monday that the government would not allow for the ideas and ideologies of China to be taught to "young minds".

"I believe China will be a great influence in the future but for the moment, it is not for us to promote China's ideas and Chinese ideologies but to find out how we can benefit from them," the Prime Minister told reporters.

"As much as we did not like the Western influence in our set of beliefs and schools, we do not want any other country to have undue influence on our young people."

Before the Home Ministry ban, the DAP and its youth wing had sought to distance themselves from the controversy.

"The comic book's contents are the personal views of the author... Whether the views are right or wrong depend on the reader's interpretation. However, the contents do not reflect the stand of the DAP or its Socialist Youth," DAP Socialist Youth chief Howard Lee said in a statement on Monday.



Daesh threat in Indonesia rises with Turkey’s incursion

October 25, 2019

JAKARTA: Security threats posed by ex-Daesh fighters have increased following a Turkish-led invasion of northern Syria, experts in Indonesia have told Arab News, pointing to a possible regrouping of existing networks and jeopardizing counter-terrorism efforts.

US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of troops from the Syrian border earlier this month cleared the way for Turkey to attack Kurdish forces which had previously fought in a coalition with the US against Daesh in northeastern Syria since 2014.

The Turkish offensive, which started on Oct. 9, has prompted fears of ex-Daesh fighters escaping Kurdish detention.

Hundreds of Indonesian militants had reportedly ventured into Syria in recent years to join Daesh, before the group’s once-sprawling self-declared caliphate collapsed.

A spokesman for the State Intelligence Agency, Wawan Hari Purwanto, told Arab News it was unclear how many Indonesians had escaped Syria but none of them had returned.

But prisoners were likely to try and return, according to terrorism expert Al Chaidar from the University of Indonesia. He said they may be attempting to link up with local groups of Daesh-inspired militants such as Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).

Indonesia in recent years has been hit by attacks linked to JAD, including deadly suicide bombings last year in the country’s second-biggest city Surabaya.

“This will increasingly complicate the government’s handling of terrorist groups that have long been present in Indonesia,” he told Arab News. “There is the potential for increased terrorist threats at home.”

The world’s biggest Muslim-majority country has scrambled to tighten its anti-terrorism laws, leading to a sustained crackdown that netted hundreds of Daesh-inspired militants nationwide.

Those held in Syrian detention camps may be seeking to return with the help of smugglers, said the International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals’ director for Indonesia, Rakyan Adibrata.

“Another possible way is to move to other countries and pretend to be human trafficking victims and then requesting travel documents in lieu of passport at Indonesian embassies in countries outside Syria,” he told Arab News, adding that prisoners may try to flee to Egypt, Pakistan, and other countries with porous borders.

heir return to Indonesia may also pose dangers that were not immediately related to the radical and violent Daesh ideology they had espoused. Adibrata described them as “not only ISIS (Daesh) followers, but also war survivors,” many of whom were possibly suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“They always feel they are in the enemy’s area,” Adibrata said, referring to the symptoms of PTSD, as he warned that in the context of Daesh-exposed fighters and their families “the impact will be way more serious.”



Maldives police arrest recruiter for Daesh

October 24, 2019

COLOMBO: Maldives police said Thursday they had arrested a local man described by the United States as a recruiter of fighters for the Daesh group in Syria and Afghanistan.

The man, identified as Mohamed Ameen, 35, was arrested on Wednesday night under new anti-terror laws, police said adding he was suspected of spreading an “extremist ideology” in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Police did not give further details of the arrest which followed the US designating him last month as a foreign terrorist leader of Daesh-Khorasan which was reportedly active in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Local media reports said Ameen had been initially sending Maldivians to Syria, but was now recruiting them to be deployed in Afghanistan.

Ameen was identified by a Maldivian government panel last month as the leader of a local extremist outfit affiliated to Daesh.

He was also suspected of being involved in a crude explosion using a cooking gas cylinder at Sultan Park in the capital Male in September 2007 in which a dozen tourists suffered minor injuries.

In June, the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims called for international help to rehabilitate up to 160 of its nationals thought to be held in Syrian detention camps after the defeat of Daesh.

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed said during a visit to the Sri Lankan capital that they kept a close tab on citizens who had joined the militant group, but the Maldives was not ready to accept them back without an internationally supervised reintegration program. Nasheed also said the Maldivian authorities were keeping a close watch on any attempt to radicalize its population, which practices a liberal form of Islam — and relies heavily on luxury tourism.



Activist in ‘dehijabing’ forum says summoned by Jais for allegedly insulting Islam

24 Oct 2019


KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 — Activist Maryam Lee confirmed today that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) has summoned her over what she believes to be an investigation into an alleged insult to Islam.

In a statement, the writer said the case is linked to a forum on Malay women and discarding the hijab back in April, where her book Unveiling Choice was also launched.

“Though the letter does not say the reason for the investigation, I believe it is most likely related to the contents of my book, Unveiling Choice, published earlier this year,” Lee said.

“The launching of the book got the attention of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Religious Affairs, [Datuk] Mujahid Yusof Rawa, who asked for the forum at the launch to be investigated.”

Maryam said the investigation involves Section 10(a) of the Shariah Offences Enactment (Selangor) 1995, that handles those who “insults or brings into contempt the religion of Islam”.

Those found guilty can face a fine up to RM5,000, a jail term of not more than three years, or both.

Maryam also urged her readers to send their testimonies to the authorities explaining how the book is not insulting Islam, and calling for them to drop investigations against those sharing personal journeys of women taking off their hijab.

Book Launch & Forum on Malay Women & Dehijabbing with author, @mrymler , Dian Sofia and Mohani Niza. April 13, Saturday at 2 PM – 5 PM at

Maryam appeared in the forum in April with legal professional and social media commentator Dian Sofia, and journalist and women’s rights activist Mohani Niza.

The event organised by publisher and bookstore Gerakbudaya received backlash from some Muslims on social media, after positively presenting the perspectives and opinions of several Malay women who “dehijab”, or no longer cover their hair.

Mujahid later commented that Jais will take action accordingly, following public furore over the event.

The trio had explained that the three-hour discussion was an intellectual discourse based on the women’s lived realities, looking at the phenomenon from sociological and historical perspectives, along with discussions on the socio-political realities of Malaysian girls and women today.

There are differing views among Muslim scholars as to whether it is obligatory for Muslim women to cover their hair as part of the aurat, or “intimate parts”.



Thai Muslims mark 15 years since Tak Bai 'massacre'

October 25, 2019

TAK BAI, Thailand: Muslims in the conflict-blistered Thai south on Friday marked with prayers the 15th anniversary of the deaths of scores of protesters who suffocated in army trucks, an incident that galvanised an insurgency and remains an emblem of state impunity.

Known across the south as the “Tak Bai massacre“, the Oct 25, 2004 incident remains the deadliest day in the rebellion by Malay-Muslims against rule by the Thai state, which colonised the southern provinces bordering Malaysia over a century ago.

Seventy-eight people died from suffocation after they were arrested and stacked face down and hands bound behind their backs on top of each other in Thai military trucks.

Seven more were shot dead as security forces used live rounds on a large crowd of protesters who had gathered outside a police station calling for the release of several detainees.

Since then more than 7,000 people – the majority civilians, both Muslim and Buddhist – have died in near-daily shootings, ambushes and bomb blasts as rebels fight for greater autonomy from Thailand.

Despite the high death toll, the highly localised unrest garners few international headlines.

No members of the Thai security forces have been prosecuted over the Tak Bai incident, despite a government inquiry condemning the actions of security forces on the day.

Instead, Tak Bai has become synonymous with the lack of accountability in a region governed by emergency laws and flooded with army and police units – and a powerful recruiting tool for the insurgency.

“Tak Bai was a massacre and a great tragedy. However, after 15 years of armed conflict, no government officials have been charged,” Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) which works extensively on rights in the so-called “deep south“, told AFP.

“That has proved impunity in the Thai judicial system is the greater tragedy.”

Years of peace talks between the Thai state and a collage of rebel groups have fizzled and mistrust runs deep on both sides.

Malay Muslims, who have their own language and whose culture is distinct to that of Buddhist-majority Thailand, accuse security forces of routine abuses including prolonged and arbitrary detention without charge as well as extrajudicial killings.

The Thai side blames ruthless rebel cells for driving the tit-for-tat violence, which has seen scores of teachers killed as symbols of the state influence as well as bomb attacks on military patrols and raids on checkpoints.

The rebels, who operate in secretive local cells, have rarely taken their fight outside the “deep south” border zone.

But they are suspected of involvement in a series of small, symbolic bombs in Bangkok in August during Thailand’s hosting of Southeast Asian leaders at the Asean summit. - AFP



Anwar says unaffected by labels, doesn’t care about being called a political Islamist

24 Oct 2019


KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 — PKR President Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said he makes no apologies and is not afraid of being labelled a political Islamist or as a proponent of political Islam in view of the rise of Islamophobia.

He even hinted that leaders who threw around such labels against other leaders were hypocritical in their conduct.

“I’m not too worried about this phobia or Islamophobia, as one moment they expect you to be a Muslim, one so liberal that you can’t mention religion at all.

“You can be a Christian democrat, you can’t be a Muslim democrat,” he lamented.

Anwar said during an interview with The Newsmakers while in Istanbul, Turkey attending the TRT World Forum that his strong knowledge and faith in his religion should instead be seen as an advantage for Malaysians with him as a leader, adding those who are Islamophobic are mostly arrogant and ignorant of its values.

“So to my mind being a Muslim, understanding Islam is a credit to Malaysians because I am stronger in my belief for democracy, for justice for compassion, not only to the Muslims but to the non-Muslims and in contrary to their view that Islam is only promoting sectarianism or terrorism.

“I mean it completely absurd, so I make no apologies on this,” he said.

Anwar also revealed how political leaders around the world toed a narrow line when choosing to express themselves concerning issues over subjects that involve alleged religious persecution of minorities by countries other than theirs.

He said it would be better to first listen to leaders and gauge whether they have been consistent in their views, if their arguments are coherent, and if they are genuine in making comments that could reverberate and adversely affect the perception of the common man.

“I think ours is not to cast aspersions if what is said is right and just, we need to support,” he said.



Repatriation of Rohingya refugees should begin immediately, says foreign minister

24 Oct 2019

BAKU, Oct 24 — Malaysia, concerned with the Rohingya people situation, believes repatriation should begin immediately in order to resolve the crisis.

Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said Myanmar, however, was unable to do this due to the reluctance of refugees to participate in the process.

“Key to resolving the issue is to ensure that they return in a voluntary, safe and dignified manner,” he said in his remarks at the Preparatory Meeting of the 18th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit here.

Saifuddin said Rohingyas must also be consulted on their possible return and must be assured of their safety back in the Rakhine state.

“If not, how could they ever return while fearing for safety back in the Rakhine state,” said Saifuddin, who reiterated Malaysia’s stand that perpetrators of the crimes committed in the past must also be held accountable for their actions.

Saifuddin said he hoped that Myanmar, a friend of Malaysia and fellow NAM member and close partner in Asean, would join the rest in respecting and adhering to the Bandung principles and international law and humanitarian and human rights law.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed in August an agreement to facilitate the repatriation of Rohingya refugees over the next two years, but two planned repatriation arrangements came to halt after refugees were unwilling to return to Myanmar, citing security issues in the Rakhine State.

Malaysia has been one of the key nations in championing Rohingya refugees’ right.

Apart from rendering humanitarian assistance, Malaysia is operating a field hospital in Cox’s Bazar, besides hosting close to 100,000 registered Rohingya refugees, with many more unregistered.

During a high-level event on the ‘Rohingya Crisis – A Way Forward’ at the UN headquarters in New York last month, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has sounded the clarion call for the international community to put the Rohingya crisis squarely on its radar with a view to resolving it now. — Bernama




US Congress hearing on J&K: India says criticism ‘regrettable’, should have focussed on cross-border terror

by Shubhajit Roy

October 25, 2019

Days after the first US Congressional hearing on the Union government’s decision to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, New Delhi on Thursday called criticism by several US Congress members over the situation in Kashmir as “regrettable” and stressed that the comments reflect a “very limited understanding” of the country’s history and its pluralistic society.

Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that instead of criticising New Delhi, the occasion should have been used to “ascertain facts on state-sponsored cross border terrorism in Kashmir”.

“It is regrettable that a few members of the US Congress used the Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia to question the measures taken recently to safeguard life, peace and security in Kashmir,” Kumar said in response to a question at a media briefing. “These comments display a very limited understanding of India’s history, her pluralistic society, constitutionally guaranteed freedom, fundamental rights, and the robust institutions operating in the world’s largest democracy.”

He said India feels that the hearing should have been used to ascertain facts on state-sponsored cross-border terrorism afflicting Kashmir, which endangers the most fundamental of human rights — the right to life.

Kumar said India has been regularly updating departments concerned in the US government on the situation in Kashmir and sensitising them about “real concerns” over “revival” of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan. He said India has taken note of comments of Alice Wells, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, that Pakistan needs to do much more in curbing terrorism on its territory in a “credible, verifiable and irreversible” manner.

In the hearing, held Tuesday night (US EST), the Donald Trump administration had walked the diplomatic tightrope, telling the US Congress that there is a “humanitarian crisis” in J&K, and adding that its relationship with India is not one of “dictation” but that of “partnership.”

US administration officials also told the panel that American diplomats wanted to travel to J&K after August 5 but New Delhi denied permission, saying it was not the right time to go there.

On the key issue of change in status, however, US officials backed New Delhi, saying that the decision to revoke provisions of Article 370 was passed by Parliament, where Opposition members “crossed the aisle” and voted in favour of the legislation, and that the matter is under review of the Supreme Court.

Alice Wells made it clear that the US government was not taking a position on the issue of Article 370 but on the manner in which the decision was executed by New Delhi.



India, Pakistan ink pact to allow visa-free Kartarpur access

Rezaul H Laskar and Imtiaz Ahmad

Oct 25, 2019

India and Pakistan on Thursday signed an agreement for operationalising the Kartarpur Corridor that will allow Indian pilgrims visa-free access to the gurdwara built at the site in Pakistani Punjab where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, spent the last years of his life.

The signing ceremony was held at the “zero point” on the international border in the Dera Baba Nanak sector. It marked the end of what Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal described as “very difficult and tough negotiations”.

The agreement provides a formal framework for the corridor that will link Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district to Durbar Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan’s Kartarpur.

The agreement, signed by joint secretary SCL Das of India’s home ministry and Mohammad Faisal, also director general (South Asia) in Pakistan’s foreign ministry, marked a rare instance of cooperation between the two sides at a time of heightened tensions over New Delhi’s decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August.

“Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin [PIOs]...can use the corridor. The travel will be visa-free,” Das told a news conference after the pact was signed.Faisal said: “It was very, very difficult and tough negotiations with India, because of the history we have. It is never easy; it is never simple.”

India signed the agreement despite serious misgivings over Pakistan’s decision to levy a service fee of $20 on every pilgrim. People familiar with developments said the pact was signed in view of the sentiments of the Sikh community, which has for long sought easier access to the gurdwara in Kartarpur, located about four kilometres from the border.

India has consistently urged Pakistan to not levy any fee, saying this was not in consonance with the religious and spiritual sentiments of the pilgrims. The two countries decided in November last year to open the corridor in time for 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak next month.

According to the agreement, Indian pilgrims of all faiths and PIOs can use the corridor without visas. Indian pilgrims will have to carry valid passports. The persons of Indian origin will require to carry their Overseas Citizenship of India cards along with their passports. The corridor will be open from dawn to dusk.

The pilgrims will have to return the same day. The corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days informed in advance. The pilgrims will have the choice of visiting as individuals or in groups, and to travel on foot.

India will send lists of pilgrims to Pakistan 10 days ahead of the travel dates and confirmation will be sent four days before the visits. The Pakistan side will make provisions for langar (community kitchen) and prasad (devotional offerings).

Online registration of pilgrims began on Thursday on the website The pilgrims will be informed by SMS and email of the confirmation of the registration three to four days ahead of their date of travel and they will be issued an “electronic travel authorisation”, which they will have to carry along with their passports.

The pilgrims have been barred from carrying Wi-Fi and broadband devices, flags and banners challenging the territorial integrity of India or Pakistan, liquor and several other items.

Other items on the “negative list” notified by the home ministry include firearms and ammunition, explosives, and narcotics. All types of knives and blades except kirpans (one of the five distinguishing signs of the Sikhs), maps and literature with incorrect depiction of the external boundaries of India or Pakistan, literature and objects potentially damaging to communal harmony, goods that can be sold for gain or commercial use, satellite phones, gold and silver objects, pornographic materials and antiquities have also been barred.

The people cited above said despite the agreement, the Indian government will continue to urge Pakistan to reconsider its insistence on levying the service fee. India will also continue to pursue all-weather connectivity for the corridor, including the building of a bridge on the Pakistani side.



‘Pakistan move to take diplomats to PoK naked propaganda’

Oct 25, 2019

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday described Pakistan’s decision to take diplomats to LoC as “drama”, saying Islamabad should focus on first displaying irreversible and verifiable action against terrorism.

“This is drama. Pakistan has been doing this kind of naked propaganda. They had taken some diplomats (to POK). We know that whenever they take diplomats, they try to show a completely different thing,” ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a press briefing. He said it was regrettable that a few US lawmakers used a Congressional hearing to question measures to protect lives of people in J&K. Kumar added that the US congressional hearing was a reflection of lack of understanding about robust functioning of democratic institutions in India.



Terrorists kill 2 non-local truckers in Shopian

Oct 24, 2019

SRINAGAR: Continuing attacks on non-locals, mostly apple transporters, suspected Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists on Thursday gunned down two truck drivers and critically injured a helper at Chittargam Kalan village in Shopian district of south Kashmir.

One of the dead has been identified as Mohammed Illiyas, a resident of Alwar in Rajasthan. The injured helper is Jeevan from Hoshiarpur in Punjab. The identity of the other deceased is being ascertained.

Deputy commissioner M Yasin Chowdary confirmed the incident in the evening. “It’s an unfortunate incident. The apple truck drivers had ventured into interior areas without informing the security forces,” he said.

The terrorists stopped three trucks bearing registration numbers of Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab, and started indiscriminate firing at the drivers, who made an unsuccessful attempt to flee the area. The terrorists also torched two of the trucks.

Officials said police teams have been fanned out in the area to nab the terrorists.

On October 14, truck driver Sharif Khan, a native of Rajasthan, was gunned down in south Kashmir. Two days later on October 16, a brick-kiln worker, S S Sagar from Chhattisgarh, and an apple trader, Charanjit Singh from Punjab, were shot dead in the same area.



Palm oil import boycott: India asks Malaysia leadership to do ‘serious introspection’

by Shubhajit Roy

October 25, 2019

Calling Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s comments “unacceptable”, India on Thursday slammed Malaysia for raising the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and asked its leadership to do “serious introspection”.

Referring to the palm oil import boycott, Delhi said that trade cannot be “impervious” to the state of the bilateral relationship.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that “his statements are unacceptable and are not keeping with the facts and we hope Malaysia will do serious introspection on the position it has taken”.

Asked about the impact on trade between the two countries, the MEA spokesperson said that while the “decision to import any commodity or otherwise is the prerogative of the importing company”, at the “same time they are not impervious to the state of affairs between any two countries”.

Mahathir had said on Tuesday that he would not retract his criticism of New Delhi’s actions on Kashmir despite Indian traders calling for an unprecedented boycott of Malaysian palm oil.

India’s top vegetable oil trade body on Monday asked its members to stop buying Malaysian palm oil after Mahathir said at the UN General Assembly last month that India had “invaded and occupied” Kashmir, a region also claimed by Pakistan.



Pakistan troops shell Kashmir’s Tangdhar, one civilian killed

by Adil Akhzer

October 25, 2019

One woman was killed and four others were injured after Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked mortar shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in North Kashmir’s Tangdhar town on Thursday. Another four civilians were injured in shelling in Kupwara district on Thursday evening.

Police officials said that shelling started at few places around Teetwal in Tangdhar on Thursday afternoon. A woman identified as Hamida Fatima died after shells landed in Pingla Haridal village.

Tangdhar Block Medical Officer Dr Farooq Qureshi told The Indian Express that the four civilians were brought to the health facility. “All of them were females, and two were referred to a Srinagar hospital for treatment,” he said.



Indian Muslim group backs Turkey’s operation in Syria

Riyaz ul Khaliq  


An Indian Muslim group has supported Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria, to drive out terrorists and to create a safe zone for the return and rehabilitation of refugees.

In a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Muslim Political Council of India (MPCI), said the group endorses the idea of safe zone in Syria and expected that it will usher the region into a durable peace.

Describing Erdogan as “undisputed” leader of whole Muslims world, and an inspiration for third-world nations, President of MPCI Tasleem Ahmad Rehmani hailed Turkey for hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees.

“We appreciate your [Turkey’s] settlement plan [for Syrian refugees]. We also endorse the safe zone plan in northern Syria for a peaceful durable settlement of our Syrian brothers,” he said.

Turkey hosts over 3.5 million Syrian people who were forced out of their country due to war since 2011.

According to the settlement plan, Turkey aims to build housing, health, business and educational facilities, for Syrian refugees in north-eastern Syria, along its border.

Turkey launched anti-terror Operation Peace Spring to flush out YPG/PKK terrorists from the region, in order to facilitate settlement plans.

Referring to Erdogan’s address to the UN General Assembly last month, the group also appreciated his stand on the issues of Palestine, Kashmir and Rohingya.

“The entire Muslim community of the world salutes you, for your able and dynamic leadership,” added Rehmani.




Lawmakers accuse Twitter of allowing content from Hamas and Hezbollah, violating law


October 25, 2019

(October 23, 2019 / JNS) A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers accused Twitter on Tuesday of violating U.S. law in allowing content from U.S.-designated terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas, to appear on its site.

Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Max Rose (D-N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said that if Twitter can regulate such content better than the U.S. government, then the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, should testify before Congress.

In a September 2019 letter to a bipartisan group of members—Gottheimer, Reed and Fitzpatrick, Twitter stated that the platform is no place for terrorist organizations. Twitter then proceeded to outline its policy, which makes exceptions for Hamas and Hezbollah.

“Right now, Twitter, as a U.S.-based company, is bucking U.S. law by blatantly supporting foreign terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah,” said Gottheimer. “Twitter is literally, and arrogantly, disputing the U.S. government’s determination of what constitutes a terrorist organization.”

“There is simply no reason why terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah, deserve access to Twitter’s platform to promote themselves as sponsors of violent, radical, hate-filled terrorism,” he continued. “Twitter should immediately comply with U.S. law and shut down these terrorist-affiliated handles and content.”

Fitzpatrick said “terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas should not have a presence on Twitter. It is well-documented that these groups use Twitter to spread propaganda and recruit new members. Twitter’s policy dictates that they follow the direction of national and international terrorist designations when restricting content. I highly suggest they begin to follow their own policies.”

A Twitter spokesperson told JNS on Wednesday that terrorist groups have no place on the social-media platform, and that the company “draws a distinction between the political and military factions of the organizations mentioned in the letter.”

“Individuals directly representing or promoting the political factions of these organizations may use Twitter in accordance with the Twitter Rules, including those outlined above,” continued the spokesperson. “Accounts affiliated with the military wings, however, are permanently suspended. This is consistent with our long-standing approach towards groups designated on terrorist organization lists that also hold elected seats in government.”

However, Twitter “may make limited exceptions for groups that have reformed or are currently engaging in peaceful resolution processes, as well as groups with representatives who have been elected to public office through elections, as is the case with parts of Hamas and Hezbollah,” according to the spokesperson.

“It is outrageous that Twitter, a U.S.-based publicly traded company, would carve out exceptions to accommodate internationally designated terrorist organizations,” Counter Extremism Project executive director David Ibsen told JNS. “Twitter’s posture is representative of the tech industry’s absurd inconsistency, especially since Twitter removed Hamas-linked accounts back in 2016. Twitter’s latest refusal to apply standards consistently on its platform demonstrates how tech continues to apply its rules when it deems it convenient.”

“Clearly, these companies cannot be trusted to ‘self-regulate,’ ” he added. “This kind of government oversight is needed to ensure that the tech industry operates in a way that protects our national security.”



Hamas warns of Israel’s ‘three dangerous plans’ for the al-Aqsa Mosque

Oct 24, 2019

A senior leader of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement has warned that the Israeli regime is implementing “three dangerous plans” for the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem, al-Quds, saying the besieged Gaza Strip will defend the holy complex by any means necessary.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas Political Bureau Chief, made the remarks during a speech he delivered at a session of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the Palestine Information Center reported.

Hanyieh said that the first stage of the plot by the occupying regime is allowing the Israeli settlers to publicly perform Jewish rituals, which are banned in accordance with a 1967 agreement. He further added that Tel Aviv is attempting to transform the idea of tolerated non-Muslim worship into an indispensable religious right granted to the settlers. 

The al-Aqsa Mosque compound sits just above the Western Wall plaza and houses both the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hard-line Israeli legislators also regularly violate the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied city, a provocative move that infuriates Palestinians.

According to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, al-Quds, in 1967, non-Muslim worship at the compound is prohibited.

As for the second part of the plot, Haniyeh said that the Israeli regime is increasingly undermining the role of the guards at the Al-Aqsa Mosque by keeping them as far away from the complex as it can so that the settlers can freely hold guided tours there. He noted that the guards have been playing a significant role in defending the mosque from such violations.  

The top resistance official also warned of the third plot, which is changing the character of the Israeli-restricted Bab al-Rahma area of the complex. Haniyeh said that today we see Israeli settlers are allowed to enter the site but Muslims are banned from entering and saying their prayers inside the site. 

Bab al-Rahma, with a gate of the same name, consists of a large building and a courtyard that is located to the east of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The building was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 after they claimed it was being used by Palestinians for political activities. Israeli authorities renewed the restriction order annually until, in 2017, an Israeli court ordered the building closed until further notice.

Haniyeh also called on all Palestinians, both in the blockaded Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, to defend the al-Aqsa Mosque, stressing that “Gaza will not hesitate to support Al-Aqsa.”

He also noted that although that the coastal enclave is under tight Israeli siege, struggling with its own domestic problems and concerns, it definitely does what it can do to defend the holy complex and foil the Zionists’ plots.

On Sunday, Haniyeh also reiterated that Israeli regime’s Judaization plans in Jerusalem, al-Quds, would never succeed.

“I am fully responsible for what I say — the plans to divide the al-Aqsa Mosque will fail, and we will never allow the occupation to implement its plots and change the character of Jerusalem even if we sacrifice ourselves,” he said at the time.

The al-Aqsa Mosque compound is a flashpoint, highly respected by Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. The mosque is Islam’s third holiest site after Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina.



Bahrain’s King Hamad, Israeli PM hold secret meeting in Hungary: Report

Oct 24, 2019

Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah has reportedly held a secret meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu in Hungary, in the latest significant sign of warming ties between a number of Persian Gulf littoral states and the Tel Aviv regime after years of clandestine relations.

The Britain-based and Arabic-language Bahrain al-Youm news agency, citing an unnamed diplomatic source, reported that the meeting was held in April, when the 69-year-old Bahraini monarch paid a visit to the Hungarian capital city of Budapest under the guise of holding talks with President Janos Ader and strengthening bilateral relations.

The source added that the meeting was held as a preparatory event for the so-called Peace to Prosperity workshop, which opened in Bahrain on June 25 and ran through the following day.

It apparently sought to advance the economic aspects of President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for “peace” between the Israeli regime and the Palestinians, dubbed “the deal of the century.”

The Palestinian leadership boycotted the meeting, prompting critics to question the credibility of the event.

The secret meeting between the Bahraini ruler and Netanyahu was described as intimate, and took place while the Israeli prime minister was on holiday with his family. The holiday was cut short for a day. Netanyahu traveled to Budapest to meet King Hamad, and then returned the same day without any media coverage, the diplomat pointed out.

The source went on to say that the Bahraini king had expressed his great satisfaction with the meeting, stating that the relations with Israel must develop beyond diplomatic ties, and that he is looking forward to the formation of alliance in various political, security and military fields with the Tel Aviv regime against Iran.

During the meeting, King Hamad stressed that he represents Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their aspirations towards forging relations with Israel, and that the security of the Tel Aviv regime is the security of the Arab littoral states of the Persian Gulf.

Netanyahu, for his part, praised the Bahraini king and his initiatives to normalize relations Israel. The Israeli prime minister also admired Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his outright aggressive policy towards Iran, the diplomat said.

The report comes as the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, has strongly censured the participation of an Israeli delegation in a forthcoming US-led maritime security meeting in Bahrain.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said in a statement on Sunday that attempts to “integrate the Israeli Occupation into the region are doomed to fail.”

He blamed the parties that “normalize relations with Israel for Israeli assaults on the Palestinian people and their holy sites.”

Israel's Channel 13 reported on Saturday that an Israeli delegation will attend the two-day summit in the Bahraini capital of Manama, which will run on October 21-22 and its main agenda is what its sponsors describe as “the Iranian threat” in the Persian Gulf.

The event will be a follow-up to the US-led anti-Iran conference held in the Polish capital of Warsaw in February.

Speaking in an interview with the English-language The Times of Israel daily newspaper on the sidelines of the US-led economic workshop in Manama on June 26, Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah recognized Israel’s “right to existence,” saying the regime was “there to stay, of course.”

“Who did we offer peace to [with] the [Arab] Peace Initiative? We offered it to … Israel … We want better relations with it, and we want peace with it,” Khalifah added.

He pointed to the so-called Arab Peace Initiative as the blueprint for normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel, terming the Tel Aviv regime’s rejection of the plan as a “missed opportunity.”

The Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, calls on Israel to agree to a two-state solution along the 1967 lines and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. The initiative has been repeatedly endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, 2007, and 2017.

The Bahraini foreign minister further encouraged Israel to approach Arab leaders about issues of concern regarding the proposal.

“Come and talk to us. Talk to us about it. Say, guys, you have a good initiative, but we have one thing that worries us,” he said.



Albanian police say Iranian 'terror cell' planned to attack exiles

23 Oct 2019

Albanian police say they have discovered an Iranian paramilitary network that allegedly planned attacks in Albania against exiled members of an Iranian group that is seeking to overthrow the government in Tehran.

The country’s police chief, Ardi Veliu, said the foreign wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards operated an “active terrorist cell” targeting members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, in Albania.

He did not say what the alleged plot involved or whether any arrests were made.

A police statement alleged that two Iranian security officials led the cell from Tehran. It said the network was allegedly linked to organised crime groups in Turkey and used a former MEK member to collect information in Albania.

Veliu said a planned attack on the group in Albania by Iranian government agents was foiled in March.

Last year Albania expelled Iran’s ambassador and another Iranian diplomat over alleged illegal activities threatening Albania’s security.

MEK is outlawed in Iran and was listed as a terrorist organisation by the US state department until 2012. Around 2,500 of its members moved to Albania from Iraq in 2014.



Russia says Kurds have begun withdrawing forces near Syria-Turkey border: Ifax

24 October 2019

Kurdish-led forces have begun withdrawing from areas near the Turkish border in Syria, the Interfax news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin as saying on Thursday.

Moscow, a close Syrian ally, told Syrian Kurdish-led forces to withdraw from the border on Wednesday as part of an agreement struck between Moscow and Ankara that will see Syrian and Russian forces deploy to northeast Syria.

“We note with satisfaction that the agreements reached in (the southern Russian city of) Sochi are being implemented,” Vershinin was quoted as saying.

“Everything is being implemented,” he said.

Earlier RIA news agency, citing a defense ministry source, reported that Russia would send a further 276 military policemen and 33 units of military hardware to Syria in a week.

Moscow has already deployed some military police to the Turkey-Syria border area under Tuesday’s agreement reached between presidents Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan.



Israeli security forces arrest 13 Palestinians: Israeli army spokesman

24 October 2019

Israeli security forces arrested 13 Palestinians in the West Bank on Wednesday night, according to a tweet by Israel's army spokesman Avichay Adraee.

In the post, Adraee reported that Israeli forces seized four pistols and a Carlo weapon during a search for illegal weapons in Palestinian villages in the Nablus area.

Adraee alleged that the Palestinians were involved in “terrorist” activities.



Time to shut down Tehran regime embassies, Iranian resistance urge European countries

October 24, 2019

JEDDAH: Iranian exiles on Thursday urged European countries to consider closing Iranian embassies amid accusations that these were being used in a campaign to assassinate those who are calling for regime change in Tehran.

“It is time that the Iranian regime’s embassies in Europe, including the one in Albania, be shut down,” said Ali Safavi, an official of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

“They are not diplomatic centers, they direct and facilitate the regime’s terrorist operations abroad,” Safavi said a day after Albanian police announced that they had thwarted a planned attack by a Tehran-backed “terrorist cell” against opponents of the Tehran regime in the Balkan country last year.

Abanian police said the group belonged to the elite Quds force which runs foreign operations for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

This cell “had planned, among other things, a terrorist act foiled in March 2018” targeting a religious celebration of the Bektashi, a Sufi group, in Tirana, the statement said.

About 3,000 members of the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran, which is linked to the Paris-based dissident umbrella organization (NCRI, have settled in Albania since 2014 after they were attacked in Iraq. They live in a camp near Durres, the main port in Albania.

The ceremony was attended by members of the exiled Iranian opposition group the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), according to police.

Albania agreed in 2013 to take in some 3,000 members of the MEK at the request of Washington and the United Nations.

They currently live in a compound in the northwest of the country.

Albanian police chief Ardi Veli had been quoted as saying the plot was uncovered and thwarted in March, but kept secret until now while evidence was assemble.

He said the main plotters fled and are now in Turkey and Austria.

On Wednesday police published photos of three Iranians and one Turkish national allegedly involved in the “terrorist cell.”

The leader “resides in Turkey” and another “has an Austrian passport,” according to the police statement.

Police declined to confirm whether international arrest warrants had been issued.

French authorities had earlier accused Iran’s intelligence ministry of plotting to attack the NCRI’s annual rally outside Paris in June o2018. Agents linked to Iran were detained while traveling in a vehicle with bomb-making equipment.



Israel, Jordan mark 25 years of imperfect peace

October 25, 2019

NAHARAYIM PARK, Israel: The Naharayim park was established 25 years ago as a symbol of the landmark peace agreement between Israel and Jordan. Now, as the two countries mark a quarter century of official relations, the park and its “Island of Peace” are being shuttered.

It is a fitting reflection of the Israeli-Jordanian relationship — one that began with great promise, but which has been plagued by mistrust, disappointment and missed opportunities. While the peace agreement remains intact, there is a sense on both sides that it should have delivered much bigger dividends.

“I am not certain that we gave it our full attention,” said retired Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who was Israel’s chief negotiator for the peace deal.

Speaking on Israeli public radio, Rubinstein said there were things Israel could do “to lend a better atmosphere” and suggested Israel show more “respect” for its eastern neighbor. He declined to elaborate.

It is a far cry from the heady times of the peace agreement, signed at an emotional ceremony on Oct. 26, 1994, attended by Israel’s then-prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, the late King Hussein and President Bill Clinton.

Following up on a historic interim peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians a year earlier, all three leaders delivered moving speeches promising warm relations and a better future.

“This is our gift to our peoples and the generations to come,” said Hussein, who died in 1999. “It will not be simply a piece of paper ratified by those responsible, blessed by the world. It will be real, as we open our hearts and minds to each other.”

Twenty-five years later, the peace agreement remains a vital strategic asset for both countries.

The deal has brought Israel much-needed quiet and a valuable partner along its longest border, while buttressing Jordan’s position as a crucial ally of the West in one of the world’s most volatile areas.

The two countries maintain close, covert security relations. Israel, a world leader in desalination, provides large quantities of water to Jordan, one of the driest countries on earth, and has agreed to sell natural gas to Jordan as well.

But the warm relations envisioned at that signing ceremony remain elusive, and in Jordan there is little public support for the agreement.

Jordan has a long list of complaints — beginning with the deep freeze in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war. Although Jordan has renounced any claims to these territories, which the Palestinians seek as parts of a future state, it retains deep connections.

A majority of Jordan’s population is believed to have Palestinian roots, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause. Without progress on the Palestinian front, Abdullah is unable — and unwilling — to warmly embrace Israel.

Israel’s policies at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site — a hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary — have also put pressure on the king.

Jordan serves as custodian of the site’s Muslim shrines. During Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s term, visits to the compound by right-wing Jewish groups that want to alter its status have increased, igniting clashes with Muslim worshippers and straining relations with Jordan.

Jordan also remains bitter over a 2017 incident in which an Israeli guard at the Israeli Embassy in Amman shot and killed two Jordanians, saying one had tried to attack him with a screwdriver.

Netanyahu gave the guard a hero’s welcome, infuriating the Jordanians. Diplomatic relations were repaired only months later after Israel expressed “deep regret” and replaced its ambassador.

More recently, Netanyahu angered Jordan by vowing to annex the Jordan Valley — a strategic area of the West Bank along the Jordanian border.

“There is no real social and popular peace between Jordan and Israel,” said Amer Sabaileh, an independent Jordanian analyst.

He said Jordan needs “more understanding from the Israeli side” and that Israel’s approach to various issues has “put Jordan in a very difficult situation.”

Speaking at a Tel Aviv conference last month, Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Amir Weissbrod, acknowledged that relations aren’t perfect.

But he listed a long line of successes, including the water and energy cooperation, Jordan’s use of Israel’s Haifa port and an expanding program that allows hundreds of Jordanians to enter Israeli border towns to work.

Describing Jordan as a “strategic partner” and gateway to the broader Arab world, Weissbrod said: “We must try to make the utmost effort to ensure the stability and success of Jordan.”

Yet he also said there is more that Jordanian leaders could do, particularly in terms of building support among the Jordanian public.

“They can’t hide the degree of the relationship, and there are achievements to talk about,” he said.

Jordanian officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Against this backdrop, Jordan last year announced that it was ending a special lease agreement under the 1994 treaty that returned two farming areas — Naharayim and Tzofar — to Jordanian sovereignty while allowing Israel continued use of the lands. Without Jordanian objections, the leases for the areas, known in Arabic as Baqura and Ghamr, would have automatically renewed.

Naharayim, located along the Jordan River in northern Israel, has become a popular tourist site. It includes a small park and picnic area, the ruins of a historic power station and the “Island of Peace,” where Israelis can briefly enter Jordanian territory without having to show their passports.

“We regard this place as part of a normalization and relationship with our neighbors from the other side of the border,” said Idan Grinbaum, head of the local regional council. He said he has sent a letter to Abdullah asking the king to reconsider but has not heard back.

The site has a painful history. In 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire at an Israeli crowd, killing seven schoolgirls on a class trip.

After the shooting, King Hussein traveled to Israel to ask forgiveness from the girls’ families. Twenty years after his death, Hussein remains a beloved figure in Israel for what was seen as a courageous act.

With the site set to revert to full Jordanian control in early November, Grinbaum said he still hopes that leaders can find a way to preserve Naharayim as a symbol of peace.

“We still think that joint projects can happen here for both countries, for the benefit of citizens in both countries,” he said. “Unfortunately, in reality things are not that simple.”




Nigerian president vows crackdown on abusive Islamic schools

16 Oct 2019

Nigeria's president on Tuesday ordered a crackdown on abuse at Islamic schools, after a second police raid in less than a month revealed men and boys subjected to beatings, abuse and squalid conditions.

Nearly 300 had been held captive at a school in the Daura area of Katsina, the home town of President Muhammadu Buhari, where police said they discovered "inhuman and degrading treatment" following a raid on Monday to free the remaining students.

Late last month, police freed hundreds from similarly degrading conditions in neighbouring Kaduna state.

"Mr President has directed the police to disband all such centres and all the inmates be handed over to their parents," said a presidential spokesman.

"The government cannot allow centres where people, male and female, are maltreated in the name of religion," he said.

Prior to this week's raid, hundreds of captives had escaped the centre, police said on Tuesday.

The 67 inmates who were freed by Katsina police were shackled, and many were taken to hospital for treatment, Police Superintendent Isah Gambo told Reuters.

"I tell you they were in very bad condition when we met them," Gambo said.

A freed captive told Reuters on Monday that the instructors beat, raped and even killed some of the men and boys held at the facility, who ranged from seven to 40 years of age. It was not immediately possible to verify his account.

While the institution told parents it was an Islamic teaching centre that would help straighten out wayward family members, the instructors instead brutally abused them and took away any food or money sent by relatives.

Police said they had arrested the owner of the facility and two teachers, and were tracking other suspects.

The more than 200 captives who escaped were still missing, Gambo said. Police were working to reunite the others with family members.

"The inmates are actually from different parts of the country - Kano, Taraba, Adamawa and Plateau States," he said.

"Some of them are not even Nigerians. They come from Niger, Chad and even Burkina Faso and other countries."

Islamic schools, called almajiris, are common in the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria.

Muslim Rights Concern, a local organisation, estimates about 10 million children attend them.

Buhari said the government planned to ban the schools eventually, but he has not yet commented on the Katsina school.



Nigeria: Troops Capture Boko Haram Top Commanders, 16 Others in Sting Operation

23 OCTOBER 2019

By Ronald Mutum

The Nigerian Army yesterday said combined troops of 26 Task Force Brigade, 21 Special Armoured Brigade and elements of Civilian Joint Task Force, acting on intelligence, conducted a sting operation against some Boko Haram criminals hibernating around Pulka general area of Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State on Sunday.

Nigerian Army Operations Media Coordinator, Aminu Iliyasu, in a statement, said the operation led to the arrest of 16 active Boko Haram members.

He said preliminary investigation revealed that some of the arrested suspects participated in the attack on Pulka and Gwoza, including the execution of some police personnel sometime ago.

He said two of the arrested insurgents, Lawan Abubakar Umar Garliga and Bayaga Manye, had been on the Nigerian Army most wanted Boko Haram list earlier published on Serials 41 and 90.

The suspects, who were Boko Haram logistics suppliers, included Alhaji Umaru, Goni Agwala, Momodu Shetene, Hassan Audu, Usman Manye, Ali Lawan, Modu Mallum, Modu Abubakar Jugudum, Bulama Ali, Umar Usman, Mustapha Alhaji Mele, Abor Lassan, Mallum Ari and Mala Bala.



Alleged Somali pirates accused of kidnapping hit with terrorism charges

By Andrew Denney

October 23, 2019

Two alleged Somali pirates previously accused of kidnapping an American journalist and holding him for more than two and a half years were hit with fresh federal charges on Wednesday — including new allegations they were working on behalf of terrorists.

Mohamed Thalil Mohamed and Abdi Hassad were previously hit with kidnapping raps in connection with the long captivity of Michael Scott Moore.

But defense attorneys for the pair were able to convince Brooklyn federal Judge Allyne Ross to drop the charges because the alleged crimes occurred out of US jurisdiction.

So prosecutors decided to take a second swing at the case — and are now arguing that Mohamed and Hassan nabbed Moore on behalf of a terrorist group.

The terror group was not named in court papers.

Dressed in jail garb, Mohamed and Hassad, both pleaded not guilty to the charges contained in a new indictment in court Wednesday.

“The charges that have been put forward are an overreach and will be dismissed,” James Kousouros, Hassad’s lawyer, told The Post following the arraignment.

Moore was researching a book about pirates on the Somali coast in January 2012 when a group of men holding assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers surrounded his vehicle.

The feds say defendants were part of a gang of outlaws who kept Moore in captivity. Hassad, whose lawyer has said held a high-level position within the Somali government, allegedly worked the phones with Moore’s relatives to shake them down for ransom money. Mohamed was allegedly charged with guarding and transporting Moore.

In May 2012, the crew released a video showing the journalist at a mystery location with a prayer shawl over his head, surrounded by masked kidnappers pointing a machine gun at him.

During his captivity, Moore, who wrote a book entitled “Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast” about his long ordeal, was pistol-whipped and suffered head injuries.

The gang of outlaws held him at several spots around the country for two and a half years, including on a hijacked fishing ship, but he finally found freedom after his family forked over $1.6 million for his release.

Moore’s publicist said he was not available for comment on Wednesday.



Extremist attacks intensify at Mali, Burkina Faso border

By Carley Petesch

October 23, 2019

DAKAR, Senegal — Assaya Ngweba says Islamic extremists transformed his once-peaceful village in Burkina Faso, near the border with Mali, into “a place of misfortune and death.”

Now the 78-year-old is among half a million people who have fled the area this year as the extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group increase attacks and expand their range in West Africa. Concerted military actions by five regional countries, along with a French operation, have failed to stem the violence.

The border between Burkina Faso and Mali is the latest flashpoint in the vast, arid Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert. In the past week at least 19 civilians have been killed by suspected extremists in Burkina Faso’s north.

The extremists have launched deadly assaults against the regional G5 Sahel counterterror force set up in 2017 with soldiers from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The worst occurred earlier this month when al-Qaida-linked fighters attacked two army bases in central Mali, killing at least 38 soldiers and leaving more than a dozen missing.

The attack in Boulikessi “was devastating for the military in terms of morale and strategic impact because it laid bare the jihadists’ strength in that crucial border region which is a bridge to Islamist expansion further south,” said Human Rights Watch’s West Africa associate director, Corinne Dufka.

Mali’s military had been trying to repair relations with Boulikessi’s wary population after a 2018 incident in which soldiers opened fire and killed civilians, a common abuse of power in both Mali and Burkina Faso, Dufka said.

Such actions by security forces push disaffected youth into the arms of extremists, experts say. Human Rights Watch has documented at least 200 executions since 2017 by Burkina Faso’s forces of civilians suspected of supporting or harboring extremists.

“Stopping atrocities in Mali and Burkina Faso are a key place to start for the international community in rethinking the strategy in the Sahel,” Dufka said.

The United Nations Development Program has said 71% of former recruits to extremist groups interviewed across Africa for a 2017 report pointed to the arrest, detention or killing of a family member or friend as a key driver of their path to extremism.

While Burkina Faso’s security forces are accused of being heavy-handed, Mali’s government might not be taking the increase in attacks seriously enough, said Judd Devermont, Africa program director with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mali’s government should better address the drivers of instability, he said, but instead of sending more development and education resources to affected areas it prefers to focus on the more heavily populated south.

Even in the capital, Bamako, protests have emerged as people accuse the government of not doing enough to stop extremist attacks. Families of Malian soldiers protested this month as loved ones demand better equipment and training for the front lines.

Mali’s security forces leave many responsibilities in the central and northern regions to international forces including the United Nations peacekeeping mission and France’s Operation Barkhane, Devermont said, while turning a blind eye to armed militias. Extremists then exploit inter-communal conflict.

“The instability in the country is an existential threat,” he said.

Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted soldiers to overthrow the country’s president and an alliance of Tuareg separatists and Islamic fighters took over large swaths of the north. A French-led intervention pushed the extremists from their strongholds but they remain active and are now moving into Burkina Faso, where some forested areas largely protect them from military air strikes.

The most formidable of the extremist groups is Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, the Mali-based branch of al-Qaida and a multi-ethnic coalition, Devermont said.

Preaching in a variety of languages, the group is “adept at finding the divisions of communities and exploiting them,” he said. In Burkina Faso, the group waits to see how communities react to attacks before claiming responsibility.

Once-peaceful Burkina Faso experienced its first major extremist attack in 2015. The country is a gateway south into coastal West Africa, and regional leaders worry the extremists could be moving into Togo and Benin, where two abducted French tourists, an American and a South Korean were freed this year by French forces.

At the time, France’s president said the kidnappers were planning to hand over the hostages to “terrorists” in Mali.

A recent regional conference in Burkina Faso sought greater mobilization by West African states to help fight extremism. President Roch March Christian Kabore stressed that both military operations and sustainable economies are needed in the long run.

The coordinator of a civil society group, the Popular Movement for Resistance, suggested that local defense groups should form as security forces fail to stop the extremists.

“Instead of fleeing from village to village, from province to province and to Ouagadougou, we will not move anymore,” Aly Nana said.



Somalia hands over two al-Shabaab militants to Kenya

Andrew Wasike Shimanyula  



Two members of the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab militant group suspected of carrying out an Oct. 12 roadside bombing in northern Kenya that killed 11 police officers are in Kenyan custody.

Police in Kenya confirmed late Thursday that Somalia had handed over the two men following their arrest.

North Eastern Police Commander Paul Soi told local media that they were arrested with firearms and investigations are ongoing.

Kenya's local media also reported that the men -- Farah Ahmed Sanbul and Mihat Daar Khalif -- were found in possession of an AK-47 rifle that belongs to the Kenyan police which is suspected to have been stolen from one of the slain officers.

Turkey through its Foreign Ministry was the only country that extended an official message of condolence to Kenya over the roadside bombing.

In June, 12 border police officers were killed in a similar attack close to where the latest one occurred.

In recent years, more than 100 Kenyan police have been killed in a similar manner along the porous Kenya-Somali border.




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