• Lebanese Priest: Unlike Arab States, Iran Sees Christians Equal with Muslims
• Citizenship Act: Where Will Pakistani Non-Muslims Go, To Italy? Asks Minister
• IFSB Issues Joint IFSB-AMF Working Paper on Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Risks In Islamic Banking
• Conflicting Reports Over a Taliban Truce Offer Afghans The First Chance For A Glimpse Of Peace Since A 2018 Cease-Fire
• Anti-Islamic Slogans Daubed On Building Close To Mosque and Cultural Centre In South London
• ‘Mein Ne Jaan Allah Ko Deni Hai’: Opp Launches Scathing Attack On Shehryar Afridi
• Malaysian Muslim Students Hold Protest against Chinese Education Group over Jawi Writing
Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau
• Turkish Islamists react to Turkey-Iran religious protocol
• Ayatollah Noori Hamadani condemns US attack on Hashd al-Shaabi forces in Iraq
• Imam Khamenei: U.S. taking revenge on Hashd al-Sha’abi for defeating ISIS
• EC Secretary Blasts FATF for Meddling with Iran's Sovereignty Rights
• Navy Commander Reveals US Attempts to Disrupt Iran, China, Russia's Joint Drills
• Official: Lives of Iranian MPS Patients at Stake under US Sanctions
• American Elites Strongly Slam Trump's Defeated Policy on Iran
• Envoy: US Claims against Tehran Meant to Distract Attention
• Aligarh Muslim University Extends Winter Vacation Indefinitely
• Majority Prisoners in Indian Jails Are Dalits, Muslims
• India to Investigate Radical Muslim Body for Allegedly Stoking Violence during Citizenship Stir
• PM Modi greets neighbourhood leaders on New Year, skips Pakistan
• How GCC Countries Are Forging a Food-Secure Future
• ‘A Different World’: Meet the Vloggers Sharing Their Adventures In A Fast-Changing Saudi Arabia
• Saudi justice minister launches custody support initiative
• Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Calls for Istisqa Prayer Tomorrow
• Pakistan ambassador to Riyadh praises ‘Makkah Route’ initiative
• Taliban attacks kill more than 20 Afghan security forces
• Ban on Bangladesh telecom networks along India border suspended
• MTN has bribed Taliban to safeguard their ‘transmission towers’ in Afghanistan
• 11 hurt as cops, JCD men clash
• Govt firm to implement single digit interest rate: Finance minister
• A Japanese saint among the sinners of the Afghan war
• Young Muslims Get Up Early To Clear Up Britain's Rubbish-Strewn Streets after New Year's Eve Celebrations
• Blackburn Northern Soul Mecca's Roof To Be Rescued
• Islamic school in Kidderminster 'requires improvement', says Ofsted
• Chilling moment 'Islamic terrorists' kill two policemen in New Year's knife frenzy
• Brixton mosque targetted with anti-Islamic graffiti
• Muslim Group Cleans Up Huddersfield Town Centre and Gives Food To Homeless On New Year’s Day
• Pakistan government approves amendment to Army Act
• Pakistan, Iran Vow Effective Measures To Curb Terrorism Along Border
• PM vows to turn dream of welfare state into reality
• NAB recovered Rs150bn last year: chairman
• Govt charges PPP over Rs400, 000 for ‘damages’ in Liaquat Bagh
• Cops to call in Muslim student group soon for unsanctioned anti-Dong Zong rally
• Philippines threatens worker ban in Kuwait
• Another US senator banned from Philippines
• Gun Control Advocates Urging Quebec to Tighten Rules as Mosque Shooting Anniversary Approaches
• ‘Not A Warning, It Is A Threat’: US President Donald Trump
• Zamfara to Spend N1bn on Mosques, Cemeteries
• 2020: Islamic Group Sends Message To Nigerians, Speaks On Buhari Stealing Nigeria’s Money
• Islamic Education Trust sponsors 100 orphans
• Fleeing war, poverty, African migrants face racism in Egypt
Lebanese Priest: Unlike Arab States, Iran Sees Christians Equal with Muslims
Jan 1, 2020
Beirut, Jan 1, IRNA – A Lebanese priest Antoine Dhoey said on Wednesday Iran sees Christians equal with Muslims, but other countries think that Christians must be deprived of civil rights.
Antoine Dhoey made the remarks in a meeting with the Iranian cultural attaché in Beirut.
He said that the Arab countries do not respect equality of Christians with Muslims.
Dhoey said that he repeatedly visited Iran, adding that the first time he visited Iran he saw a warm flexible society, but people of many other countries don't know it.
He said that Iran and Christians should adopt a new approach to communicate with people of the world. Iran could establish a big civilization after advent of Islam.
Reverend Dhoey, who has many articles about Islamic figures, said that he talks with the tourists about Imam Ali (AS), the first Imam of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) Infallible Household; Imam Hussein (AS), the third Imam of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) Household and Fatimah bint Mohammad (AS), the Great Prophet's daughter.
He said that because he is a Christian, his words are more effective about Islamic figures than Muslims', adding he urges Christians to read and research about Imam Ali and Imam Hussein.
He said that the eastern Christians have a deep sentiments toward Ahl al-Bayt (the Household of Prophet Mohammad).
"Nahj al-Balagha is our book too."
Nahj al-Balagha is part of sermons, letters, and narrations of Imam Ali (AS).
He said that when he visited the Shah's "beautiful" palaces in Tehran, he felt he doesn’t belong there, but when he visited Imam Khomeini's residence in Jamaran, northern Tehran, he felt that he was in Jesus Christ's house in Nazareth, Occupied Palestine.
"I felt that I am close to Imam Khomeini and that he was the leader of the deprived and the poor people of the world."
He added that Christians support the relations between Iran and Lebanon. Unfortunately, Islamophobia is stirred up but our duty is to defend Islam. More than one fourth of the world are Muslims. If Islam is annihilated, we will be annihilated as well; we will be dissolved in the materialist world.
Iran's cultural attaché in Lebanon, Abbas Khameyar, said in the meeting that the presence of Christians has further beautified the Middle East, and that the peaceful coexistence should be preserved.
Khameyar added that Iran hosted Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Cardinal Peter Turkson a while ago, as a part of dialog between religions. He also said that he has invited Cardinal Boutros al-Rahit to Tehran to see how Christians live in Iran.
He said the Iranian constitution has given equal rights as Muslims to Christians.
Khameyar gave the book "Christianity in Iran" and" the Night of Decree in Christianity" to Reverend Dhoey.
Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Decree, is, in Islamic belief, the night when the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Citizenship Act: Where will Pakistani non-Muslims go, to Italy? asks Minister
JANUARY 02, 2020
Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy said that India has a “moral responsibility” to Hindu and other minority communities of Pakistan
Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy on Wednesday asserted that it is the “moral responsibility” of India to give shelter and citizenship to Hindus and other minority communities of Pakistan, which has been persecuting them persistently.
“It’s our moral responsibility to give citizenship to the minorities (from the three neighbouring Muslim countries). If they don’t come to India, where will they go? To Italy?” he asked.
“Italy will not accept Hindus or Sikhs as they are poor people,” he said.
Stating that owing to persistent persecution of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Jains in Pakistan, the population of the minorities there has come down drastically from its earlier 30%-level, the minister said it’s the moral responsibility of India to give shelter and citizenship to non-Muslims from the three neighbouring country.
The minister also claimed that former Congress president Rahul Gandhi knows no difference between the the CAA and GST and that is why he says the recent changes in the citizenship law would lead to an increase in the tax.
The “immature statement” of Rahul Gandhi shows he “cannot distinguish between CAA and GST” as he says the GST will further increase due to CAA.
“I want to tell Rahul Gandhi that if he does not know the difference (between CAA and GST), he should take tuition from a better tutor in the matter,” said the minister.
“It seems he doesn’t have any idea about NPR and NRC either,” he said.
The minister also accused the opposition of playing “cheap politics”, saying that it is instigating people to protest against the recent changes in the citizenship law by misleading them. He rued that the opposition was instigating violence instead of appealing them to resort to peaceful protests.
IFSB issues joint IFSB-AMF working paper on money laundering and financing of terrorism risks in Islamic banking
26 DEC 2019
26 December 2019, Kuala Lumpur - The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) is pleased to announce the issuance of a joint paper titled ‘Joint Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) - Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) Working Paper on Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (ML/FT) Risks in Islamic Banking’ (WP-12).
The IFSB and AMF collaboration aimed to examine ML/FT methods, trends and typologies as specifically related to Islamic banking, and attempted to address whether there is any evidence that ML/FT risks in Islamic banking are indeed different from those that arise in conventional banking. From that perspective, this Working Paper (WP-12) explored the diverse risks of ML/FT activities in the banking system to identify if they vary between conventional and Islamic banking.
On the issuance of this paper, Secretary General of the IFSB, Dr. Bello Lawal Danbatta stated: “This paper is a timely response of the IFSB to the comments that the Islamic financial services industry (IFSI) may be highly prone to the issues of ML/TF risks which might emanate from the intrinsic characteristics of instruments and arrangements used in Islamic banking, or from the nature of the contractual relationship between Islamic banks and their customers.” He further noted, “The paper would enhance the understanding and awareness among the stakeholders of the IFSI regarding the ML/TF risks in Islamic banking and would constitute the basis for further research works.”
The paper discusses survey responses received from banking regulatory and supervisory authorities (RSAs) on ML/FT. Overall, the paper does not find any significant difference in the ML/FT risks between conventional and Islamic banking. Moreover, the concerns often raised regarding the potential for Islamic social finance platforms such as zakah, waqf, sadaqah, etc., to be used to mobilise, store and disburse funds for ML/FT is unfounded based on the research findings. In addition, most respondent RSAs view that there is no merit in introducing specific regulations or preventive measures to address the ML/FT risks in Islamic banking. Since risk levels are largely similar in both conventional and Islamic banking, Islamic banks should adhere to their own country regulations and the Financial Action Task Force standards to combat ML/FT.
The working paper is available for download from the IFSB website: www.ifsb.org.
Conflicting reports over a Taliban truce offer Afghans the first chance for a glimpse of peace since a 2018 cease-fire
By Pamela Constable
KABUL — For three miraculous days in June 2018, the Afghan war came to a halt. Under a brief cease-fire agreement, Taliban fighters appeared in towns and cities, mingling with civilians and uniformed troops, praying in community mosques and getting a taste of peace.
The fighting quickly resumed, and in the 18 months since, thousands more Afghan civilians and security forces have been killed, as well as over 40 American troops. Peace talks between Taliban and U.S. officials dragged on for a year and were abruptly canceled in September by President Trump.
But suddenly, in the past week, rumors of a possible new truce have flooded the news, striking a rare spark of hope among the war-weary citizenry. International media outlets have reported that a cease-fire is imminent, citing unnamed sources after Taliban leaders held several meetings in Pakistan.
The prospect of a truce, seen as the first step toward a U.S.-Taliban peace deal that would soon be followed by negotiations between Taliban and Afghan leaders, has also sparked a flurry of political activity and controversy over who would lead and participate in such talks.
Spokesmen for the insurgents have adamantly denied the reports of a nationwide truce deal. But they have held open the possibility of accepting a narrower, more vaguely defined period of lessened conflict, with the time frame and territory still in dispute.
[Afghans welcome Trump’s cancellation of Taliban peace talks]
“The Islamic Emirate has no intention of declaring a cease-fire,” Zabiullah Mujahid, the main Taliban spokesman, said in a statement, using the group’s name for a religious government. “The United States has asked for a reduction in the scale and intensity of violence, and discussions being held by the Islamic Emirate are revolving solely around this specific issue.”
American officials have said nothing about the conflicting reports; even the main U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, usually a fount of upbeat tweets, has fallen silent since returning to Washington this week after meeting with Taliban and Pakistani officials.
Afghan officials said they have received no word from either side. The Taliban have refused to recognize Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, but he appears to have narrowly won reelection in a September poll and has asserted that the final results will confirm that, giving him a mandate to lead the peace effort.
“We have not heard anything that raises our hopes for a truce,” said Javid Faisal, an aide to Ghani. “We want it to happen, because it will be an important step forward toward negotiations among Afghans. But it has to be a real truce, a complete truce that is guaranteed and assured.”
In the absence of facts, a wave of confusion and commentary has swept media and political circles here. One common theory is that Taliban leaders in Pakistan agreed to a truce but that some field commanders still oppose it, believing they can win the 18-year war and return the country to full-fledged religious rule.
The momentum has also been slowed by the likelihood that Trump may soon reduce the 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to about 8,600. Previously, U.S. officials insisted that the insurgents had to sign a peace agreement before any major troop cuts would take place.
Other points of contention include whether the fighting pause would last one week or longer, whether it would be confined to certain cities or include rural areas, and whether it would be called a formal truce or a more subjective reduction in violence.
On Wednesday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a new wave of attacks in northern Afghanistan, targeting members of the country’s security forces that killed at least 26, the Associated Press reported, citing local officials.
[Trump says he canceled secret meeting with Afghan president, Taliban at Camp David]
An Afghan man sells chew tobacco on a cart in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Monday. (Muhammad Sadiq/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
“The Taliban are under pressure from Pakistan and the U.S. to sign a deal, and they may be putting on an appeasing face to buy time, but their past behavior shows they are difficult to trust,” said Haroun Mir, an analyst in Kabul who helped found Afghanistan’s Center for Research and Policy Studies. If the insurgents agree to a brief truce during a cold winter, when fighting always slows, he said, “it will mean nothing.”
On Tuesday, comments from Taliban and Afghan officials suggested that mistrust and intransigence remain high on all sides. One Taliban military commander insisted that as long as U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, there can be no truce. A member of the government’s High Peace Council said both Ghani and the insurgents are being too stubborn; the president, in turn, announced plans to dissolve the entire council.
Since preliminary election results showed Ghani winning reelection by about 10,000 votes, his opponents have filed thousands of fraud complaints that may take months to investigate. But Ghani is racing to form a delegation to negotiate with the Taliban, even as an array of rivals have objected that they are being left out.
“The whole country is keenly interested in peace, but the ground is not being prepared for it,” said Ehsanullah Zia, Afghan director of the nonprofit U.S. Institute of Peace. Even with people dying every day, he said, some Afghans are demanding “red lines for peace. We don’t have the luxury of setting red lines. People need to suppress their personal ambitions for the sake of the country.”
Aides to Ghani insist that the list of peace delegates, kept secret so far, will represent all sectors of society. In April, when Kabul tried to choose a group to meet with insurgent leaders in Qatar, it became so unwieldy that the insurgents canceled the talks.
“These talks will be very inclusive,” said Faisal. “All sides that matter will be included. If the Taliban don’t accept it this time, the blame will go to them.”
Anti-Islamic Slogans Daubed On Building Close To Mosque And Cultural Centre In South London
1 JANUARY 2020
Anti-Islamic slogans have been painted on a building close to a mosque and cultural centre in south London, Scotland Yard said.
Officers were called at around 11am on Wednesday to near the North Brixton Islamic Cultural Centre on Brixton Road following reports that "anti-Islamic slogans" had been spray painted on a building.
The force said it was working alongside Lambeth Council to remove the "offensive remarks" as soon as possible.
Inquiries are ongoing at this time as part of a full investigation, the force added.
Sadiq Khan said he was "disgusted" by the graffiti, which comes just days after anti-Semitic symbols were daubed across several shop fronts and a synagogue in north London.
The London mayor tweeted: "Disgusted to hear that Islamophobic slogans have been spray painted near the North Brixton Islamic Centre.
"@metpoliceuk are working with Lambeth Council to have them removed, but let me be clear: all prejudice is cowardly and criminals will face the full force of the law."
‘Mein Ne Jaan Allah Ko Deni Hai’: Opp Launches Scathing Attack On Shehryar Afridi
The first session of the National Assembly on Wednesday was particularly harsh for Minister of State for Narcotics Control Shehryar Afridi as opposition members launched a scathing attack on him over the matter of the heroin recovery case against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Rana Sanaullah Khan.
The opposition members repeatedly called Afridi a “liar” and mocked his oft repeated sentence “Mein ne jaan Allah ko deni hai” when the minister got up from his seat to respond to a query regarding the development work being undertaken in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
PML-N MNA Shahnawaz Ranjha said that Afridi was his friend but “inhon ne jaan Allah ko deni hai”.
The opposition’s criticism angered Afridi who responded by saying that some people would give their soul to Allah like Hazrat Imam Hussain (AS), while some people would face God’s wrath like “Shimar and Firon”.
He said that he would prove all allegations against him wrong if he was granted some time.
Interestingly, no person from the PTI or its coalition partners came to Afridi’s defence.
Later, while speaking on the development in erstwhile FATA, Afridi informed the House that the budget for the merged tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been enhanced from Rs58 billion to Rs162bn.
Afridi said that Rs62bn had been allocated to the KP government for the “recurrent and development budget” for erstwhile FATA.
He said that Rs48bn had further been earmarked by the federal government according to its share of the National Finance Commission Award and released to KP, adding that the federal government had also released Rs10bn for the previous financial year 2018-19 to the KP government.
“Rs11bn have been released for the temporarily dislocated persons of erstwhile FATA,” he said.
The minister said that the KP government had also earmarked Rs11bn according to its calculated share in the NFC for the current financial year. In addition to this, Afridi said the federal government had approved Rs1.1bn of the federal budget for extending the Prime Minister’s National Health Program for poor families in erstwhile FATA.
He said that Rs1.63bn has been provided to the KP government in lieu of the stopped political expenditure in erstwhile FATA.
Malaysian Muslim students hold protest against Chinese education group over Jawi writing
JAN 1, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR - Some 300 Muslim students gathered on Wednesday (Jan 1) to protest against Chinese educationist group Dong Zong for opposing a Malaysian government's plan to introduce Jawi writing in Chinese and Tamil schools.
The peaceful gathering, organised by the Malaysian Muslim Students Coalition (Gamis), was held despite a warning by the police on Tuesday (Dec 31) that the organiser failed to obtained a permit from Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the police for the march.
Police did not interfere with the protest held outside a popular mall in downtown Kuala Lumur. The college students held up placards and banners while listening to speeches by several speakers.
One large banner in Jawi, complete with a clenched fist painted in red, read, 'People, rise to defend Jawi'. A placard read: 'Undergraduates rise to defend Jawi'.
Earlier, some 150 students had assembled at the historic Masjid Jamek Kuala Lumpur mosque and were planning to march to the mall nearby. But they were advised against doing so by Gamis president Saifullah Baiduri, MalayMail online news reported, because holding a march without a proper permit is forbidden by a local law.
Ethnic tensions rose last week after Chinese education groups - the United Chinese Schools Teachers' Association (Jiao Zong) and the United Chinese School Committees' Association (Dong Zong) - planned to hold a protest congress against Jawi's introduction.
There are more than 1,200 Chinese and 523 Tamil primary schools in Malaysia that use either Mandarin or Tamil as the medium of instruction.
In August, the ministry surprised most people by saying it would include Jawi writing in the Year 4 (Primary 4) syllabus of Bahasa Melayu in the vernacular schools, raising concerns over creeping Islamisation.
These vernacular schools are run independently of national schools, and where the students, mainly Malays, are taught Jawi writing as part of Islamic studies.
The police obtained a court order to stop the congress planned by the Chinese education groups, but allowed a National Jawi Congress to proceed on Sunday.
The organisers of Sunday's congress that included prominent political activists urged the government to put on hold the teaching of a Jawi calligraphy module in the vernacular schools.
Turkish Islamists react to Turkey-Iran religious protocol
Jan 01 2020
Turkish Islamists took to Twitter to respond to a religious cooperation agreement between Turkey and Iran, HalkTV reported on Tuesday.
Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, and Iran's The Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, Iran's primary organisation for implementing and leading cultural outreach outside of the country, have signed a protocol to increase collaboration in religious matters, such as organising symposiums, joint religious training programmes and translation of religious texts.
Following the announcement, Islamist social media users began using the hashtag #BizŞiaDeğiliz (WeAreNotShia), with many lashing out at the followers of Shia Islam and the head of Diyanet, Ali Erbaş, on social media.
Both countries designate themselves as playing a leading role in the Muslim world, albeit the different sects of Sunni and Shia Islam. Recently, Ankara and Tehran have been increasing cooperation in several fields, especially in Syria and trade, despite many obstacles, such as competing for influence in Central Asia’s Muslim republics.
Ayatollah Noori Hamadani condemns US attack on Hashd al-Shaabi forces in Iraq
January 1, 2020
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Condemning the American attack on the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, Ayatollah Noori- Hamadani emphasized that Iraqis don’t allow foreigners to interfere in their country’s affairs.
Speaking at the beginning of his lesson in Islamic jurisprudence at Qom’s Grand Mosque of Qom on December 31, Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Noori Hamadani condemned the attack by the United States on the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq and prayed for the martyrs of this attack to be forgiving and be given a lofty status.
The revered source of emulation considered the Iraqi people as a people of culture and independence who will not allow anyone to interfere in their affairs and have always protected and will continue to protect their dignity and independence.
He described the Popular Mobilization Forces as a popular force in Iraq and condemned the criminal act of the United States which has always been an arrogant power which interferes in the affairs other countries.
On Sunday December 29th, American forces conducted drone strikes on a number of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces bases in the western al-Anbar province, killing at least 25 individuals and leaving another 51 injured.
Following the strikes, the Pentagon issued a statement saying that it had targeted three locations of the Popular Mobilization Forces forces in Iraq and two in Syria in response to alleged attacks targeting American forces.
Imam Khamenei: U.S. taking revenge on Hashd al-Sha’abi for defeating ISIS
January 1, 2020
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): On the occasion of the auspicious birth of Lady Zeinab al-Kubra (p.b.u.h.), thousands of nurses from across the country met with Imam Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic revolution, today January 1st, in the Husayniyah of Imam Khomeini.
The following are the statements his eminence made at this meeting:
"Look at what the US is doing in Iraq and Syria. They’re taking revenge on Hashd al-Sha’bi for defeating ISIS. Since Hashd al-Sha’bi crippled and destroyed ISIS—which the U.S. had created—they’re taking revenge. The Iranian government the Iranian nation and I strongly condemn the US’s malice."
"That guy[Donald Trump] has tweeted that we see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad and we will respond to Iran. firstly, You can’t do anything and secondly, If you were logical —which you’re not— you’d see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan… have made nations hate you."
"If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge and fight, it will do so unequivocally. We’re not after wars, but we strongly defend the Iranian nation’s interests, dignity and glory. If anyone threatens that, we will unhesitatingly confront and strike them."
"People have economic demands, mostly rightful ones. In the events of Nov, people had demands but the enemy had prepared agents to cause sedition. It used the opportunity to harm the country. With their insight and astuteness, people withdrew and the seditionists were left alone."
"Those who abuse people’s demands, attack fuel and wheat warehouses to set them on fire and destroy infrastructures, which belong to the people, some of them may do this based on emotions. But, the main orchestrators are linked to foreign intelligence services."
"A senior official of the country said a foreign politician said during the recent riots he had heard the stupid U.S. officials in Washington say happily, “Iran is done this time!”
He said when the events had finished, the Americans were very upset that it hadn’t worked again."
"The US has committed many crimes. They plunder nations’ interests & humiliate them. A US official enters a country to visit a US base & asks the country’s president to meet him there. Small guy! That’s someone else’s home! When the US acts like this, it’s natural nations hate it"
EC Secretary Blasts FATF for Meddling with Iran's Sovereignty Rights
Wed Jan 01, 2020
TEHRAN (FNA)- Secretary of Iran's Expediency Council (EC) Mohsen Rezayee lashed out at the Financial Action Task Force for insisting Tehran to approve and join Palermo and CFT conventions, saying that the FATF request is a case of interference in Iran's sovereignty and internal affairs.
"The recent action by the FATF assembly is suspicious as it has been persistently requesting Iran to approve these two (conventions) out of the 30 requirements that have not been done yet," Rezayee said, addressing a ceremony in Tehran on Wednesday.
"Isn't it interference of a foreign group in Iran's internal affairs? The EC is doing its job; then why does an international group interfere (with this national affair)?" he asked.
The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, a global anti-money laundering body, has given Iran a final deadline of February 2020 to implement a set of four bills to meet the standards set by the watchdog.
Last October, Iran's Parliament passed the four bills, but only two of them have so far gone into effect.
The Expediency Council is in charge of deciding the fate of the two other bills, namely one on Iran’s accession to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, commonly known in Iran as ‘Palermo’, and the other one a bill amending Iran’s Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) law.
Those against the endorsement of the FATF-related bills say the move would impose further restrictions on Iran’s economic relations while the country is under US severe sanctions.
Navy Commander Reveals US Attempts to Disrupt Iran, China, Russia's Joint Drills
Wed Jan 01, 2020
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said that the US and its allies tried to disturb the recent naval wargames jointly staged by Iran, Russia and China in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman.
"When the joint naval drills of Iran, Russia and China were underway, the Americans and their allies held an extraordinary meeting whose aim was disturbing our wargames with our two allies, but we foiled their plot by deception operations," Rear Admiral Khanzadi said in an interview with the state radio on Wednesday.
He added that the only thing that the Americans could do during the joint drills was standing away from the wargames zone and monitoring the drills with spy drones.
Rear Admiral Khanzadi also said that similar drills will be held next year too.
Iran, Russia and China held the 3-day joint "Marine Security Belt" drills in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman area this weekend.
The event was the first such cooperation with Iran since the 1979 victory of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
It came amid US efforts to woo countries into a maritime coalition for patrols in the Persian Gulf, which have received lukewarm welcome from its allies.
The General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces announced that the recent joint naval drills of Tehran, Moscow and Beijing in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean was meant to reassure that regional allies are capable of safeguarding security in the region and to warn foreigners, particularly Americans, that they are adding nothing but insecurity to the region.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the drills on Sunday, Head of Naval Operations Department at the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Ebrahim Dehqani said that Iran and its allies can maintain regional security without any need to foreign forces.
The drills kicked off on Friday and covered 17,000 square kilometers consisting of various tactical exercises, such as target practice and rescuing ships from assaults and fires.
“Our friends will be assured (through these drills) that the maritime security can be established by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its allies and there is no need to the presence of foreign forces, particularly Americans, in the region,” the commander said.
“The presence of Americans only creates insecurity in the region.”
American forces, the commander added, have left the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman for the northern part of the Indian ocean, “which proves that they are well aware of their incapability in ensuring their own security.”
The Iranian commander said the message of the drills to enemies is that their slightest mistake will face a crushing response from the Armed Forces of Iran, adding, “Joint drills will be certainly held in coming years and we will even hold similar drills with other countries in the region.”
Official: Lives of Iranian MPS Patients at Stake Under US Sanctions
Wed Jan 01, 2020
TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Iranian medical official warned on Wednesday that the size of the pharmaceutical reserves needed by the MPS (Mucopolysaccharidosis) patients in Iran has shrunk to dangerous levels due to the US sanctions.
"The drugs for the MPS patients were due to be supplied by the American company which produces the medicine but the US has directly sanctioned the Iranian MPS patients and they did not export it to us," Spokesman for Iran's Food and Drug Administration Kianoush Jahanpour wrote on his twitter page on Wednesday.
He warned that Iran's "MPS patients' drugs stockpile will possibly zero in the next few days".
Jahanpour said that the Iranian officials had already issued alert, and that the health minister had in a letter to the WHO president criticized the inhumane behavior of Washington towards the Iranian MPS patients.
"We have no way to access these drugs. The US has targeted the life of MPS patients," he said.
In relevant remarks on Monday, Head of the Health Ministry's management center for transplantation and special diseases Mehdi Shadnoush had also warned that hundreds of Iranian MPS patients were facing acute shortage of vital drugs due to the US banking sanctions against the country.
"The needed foreign currency has been allocated (by the Iranian government) to purchase these drugs (for MPS patients) but the companies which are the exclusive producers of medicine for MPS patients, including the US and South Korean companies, refrain from exports of such drugs to Iran under the pretext that their banks cannot transfer money (from Iran) to the companies," Shadnoush said.
He warned that the life of at least 335 Iranian MPS patients is in serious danger.
Shadnoush said that the Iranian health minister had in separate letters to the UN, WHO and UNICEF chiefs warned about the shortage of drugs for the MPS patients nearly one and a half months ago but international bodies have adopted no effective measures and kept mum on the US inhuman behavior.
Earlier this month, Managing-Director of Iran's MPS Patients Society Sara Nouri had said that nearly 1,000 people in Iran were suffering from MPS and were in dire need of drugs and medical equipment whose exports to the country have been sanctioned by the US.
"The most important medicine needed for the patients is a type of enzyme that they need to receive each week," Nouri told FNA, adding that 300 MPS patients have been identified in Iran so far but the number is expected to increase to 1,000.
She said MPS patients' access to their needed medication has decreased to 10 percent. "For instance, if a patient should receive 50 doses of drugs over a given period of time, he/she receives only 5 to 10 doses now due to the problems created by sanctions, and this will inflict serious harm on the patients' health," she warned.
Nouri said that the Association provides necessary medicine to the MPS patients but it has faced problems after the US sanctions.
"For instance some patients have told us that they had gone to laboratory for bone marrow transplantation but the lab has told them that they lack the needed laboratory kits due to sanctions," she said.
The US sanctions and restrictions on export of drugs and medical equipment to Iran have shortened the breath of patients suffering from cancer, hemophilia, epilepsy and thalassemia.
Despite the American officials' claims of not imposing sanctions on imports of drugs to Iran, it's reported that medications are hard to obtain in the country due to banking embargos that hamper money transactions which causes some Western companies to refuse to sell the necessary drugs and medical equipment to Tehran.
"The US has targeted the Iranian patients and they have planned to pressure those who are consumers of these drugs. Therefore, the vitamins and ordinary drugs are easily accessed in the market but the US is making its utmost attempts to prevent Iran from purchasing the vital medicine and those which are necessary for cancer patients," Head of the Iranian Society of Blood and Cancer of Children Hassan Abolqassemi told FNA earlier this month.
He added that the crime committed by the US against the Iranian patients is worse than its crime in Hiroshima.
Meantime, Head of Iran Thalassemia Association Yunes Arab said that 90 thalassemia patients lost their life last year due to the lack of drugs and the US sanctions, adding that 60 other young patients also died in the current year.
"They would have been breathing a normal life if it hadn't been for the US sanctions on drugs," he told FNA.
The US embargos have also left impacts on the hemophilia patients.
"Basically, what the US is doing is a type of war crime; although the Americans declared that drugs and medical equipment are not sanctioned, what we witness is harsh sanctions in the field of drugs and medical equipment," former head of Iran's Hemophilia Association Ahmad Qavidel told FNA.
Also, Dariush Nasabi Tehrani, the head of Iran's Epilepsy Association, cautioned of the shortage of medicine for the epileptic patients due to the US sanctions.
"Production of a number of medicine has been disrupted for the sanctions and the patients are forced to use the medicine produced by other companies which are highly expensive," Nasabi Tehrani told FNA.
"The embargos make these patients anxious and concerned about shortage of their drugs while they should be assured of easy accessibility to medicine due to the sensitiveness of their disease," he added.
In a Foreign Policy article earlier this year, Dr. Abbas Kebriaee Zadeh, professor of toxicology and pharmacology at Tehran University of Medical Sciences, wrote that US sanctions against Iran indirectly hamper the flow of vital medicines for cancer patients in the Islamic Republic.
The article revealed that while Washington claims its harsh sanctions against Iran would not target the flow of medicine and other humanitarian necessities into Iran, banking sanctions are in fact increasing import prices, blocking supply chains, and creating deadly drug shortages in the country.
Citing the US Census Bureau, Kebriaee Zadeh added that under the administration of US President Donald Trump during the last two years, the US’ annul exports of pharmaceutical products to Iran declined to an average of $8.6 million a year compared to $26 million annually during the Barack Obama-era sanctions.
Washington under Trump has also made it more difficult for European countries to export medicine to the Islamic Republic, Kebriaee Zadeh wrote.
“Swiss pharmaceutical exports to Iran fell 30 percent from 235 million Swiss francs ($240 million) in 2017 to 163 million francs ($167 million) last year, according to Swiss customs data. Even though sanctions were only fully re-imposed in November 2018, Swiss exports that year fell below the 173 million francs ($178 million) annual average observed from 2008 to 2015,” he said.
The report, citing figures from the Eurostat, added that in a similar manner, French pharmaceutical exports to Iran also fell 25 percent from 194 million euros ($218 million) in the Obama-era period to 146 million euros ($164 million) in 2018, slipping below the 2008 to 2015 average of 150 million euros ($168 million).
Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki said in August that Washington’s unilateral sanctions against his country which prevent medicines from being sold to Iran was a crime against humanity.
“Measures taken by the US administration in banning [access to] medicines needed by Iranian patients and pressures mounted by Washington on Iran's health sector amount to crime against humanity,” the Iranian minister said, in a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart, Jamil Jabak, in Tehran on August 5.
In relevant remarks early in December, Iran's Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Rayeesi called on the international community to take action against the US sanctions which prevent imports of the Iranian patients' much needed medication.
The US which has failed in all its plots and seditions against Iran, "has adopted other measures, including prevention of imports of drugs to Iran", Rayeesi said, addressing the judiciary officials in Tehran.
He described the US sanctions as clear instance of "economic terrorism and crime against humanity", saying, "The international community should be vigilant and know that the US violates the nations' rights wherever it can and therefore, real action is needed against the US impudence."
Also, in November, Iranian Vice-President and Head of the Management and Planning Organization (MPO) Mohammad Baqer Nobakht lashed out at Washington’s economic terrorism against his country, reminding that Tehran is facing hardships to import needed food and medication at the same time that it is banned from selling oil.
Nobakht said that the US had created obstacles for import of food and medicines, adding that they had attempted to prevent export of a single barrel of oil as well.
Meantime, early in December, Head of Iran's Food and Drug Administration (IFDA) and Deputy Health Minister Mohammadreza Shanehsaz said that Washington's sanctions and the recent warning issued by the US Treasury Department was meant to be a coup against the Iranian patients, particularly those with special needs.
"They have declared in the letter that they will provide a special line to supply drugs and medical equipment but they use policing methods to threaten the pharmaceutical companies that in case of providing Iran with medicine and medical equipment, they will not be allowed to export to the EU and the US," Shanehsaz told FNA.
He added that the US measures have created problems for Iran in supplying drugs to the special patients.
American Elites Strongly Slam Trump's Defeated Policy on Iran
Wed Jan 01, 2020
TEHRAN (FNA)- Several former and present ranking officials strongly blasted President Donald Trump for his failed Iran policies after the White House leader threatened Tehran for mass protests in front of Washington's embassy in Baghdad that came in reaction to the US deadly attacks on anti-terrorism forces in Iraq.
Ben Rhodes, a key Obama administration official who served as deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, once again mocked at Trump's moves on Iran, saying that the United States has been isolated as the Trump administration's policy on Tehran has totally failed.
"It’s hard to overstate what a total failure Trump’s Iran policy has been. Nuclear program resumed. Regional provocations escalated. US isolated," he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
It's not the first time that the former official has targeted Trump with verbal attacks. In June and just hours after the American leader met North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, Rhodes stressed that the Trump administration has totally failed in achieving any success on key issues, including encountering Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.
Tensions around Iran have been rising since Trump torpedoed the landmark 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sweeping sanctions targeting large swathes of Iran’s economy. Later, Washington raised the stakes in the standoff, sending additional military assets – including a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, and Patriot missiles – to countries bordering Iran. The latest conflict between Washington and Tehran started after an intruding American spy drone was shot down in Iranian sky.
As a reaction to the US unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018 and its subsequent sanctions on Tehran and in a response to Europe's sluggishness to save Iran's interests under the deal, Iran started modifying its nuclear deal undertakings in May. Tehran has rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the 2015 deal.
Few hours later on Tuesday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, one of the harshest critics of Trump's money-based relationship with Saudi Arabia, also took to Twitter to strongly condemn the US airstrikes on Iraqi popular forces, known as Hashd Al-Shaabi, describing the attack as an "erratic military action" which "was impulsive, short-sighted, and lacked strategic purpose".
"It has led to our embassy bing besieged and undermined our relationship with the Iraqi government and people," the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said, adding that serving the interests of Riyadh and Al-Qaeda, "Trump is taking us deeper and deeper into mid-east quagmire."
Earlier, the Hawaii representative had slammed the US president for having turned “America into the prostitute of al-Qaeda's biggest supporter: the Saudis”.
Another presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, also stated that "Trump’s reckless decisions to walk away from the Iran Deal and now to launch airstrikes in Iraq without Iraqi government consent have brought us closer to war and endangered US troops and diplomats".
"We should end the forever wars, not start new ones," she stressed.
US airstrikes hit five Kataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Syria last week, in retaliation for an attack on a US coalition base near Kirkuk. Washington blamed that attack on the Iran-allied forces, but Tehran has denied any involvement.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Iraqi protesters furious over the Washington's assault forced their way into the US embassy compound in Baghdad, calling for the expulsion of the US ambassador and American military servicemen from the Arab country.
Hours later, Trump blamed Iran for orchestrating the storming of the US Embassy in Baghdad. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stuck to the same anti-Iran line as Trump, decrying the "Iranian proxy attack" on the Kirkuk base, and accusing "Iranian backed groups" of threatening the embassy. Just hours after the US leader upped the ante and made a pointed threat against Tehran, he stated that the US is not gearing up for war with Iran, adding that he prefers peace to war.
Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi lashed out at American officials who are turning a blind eye to the fact that their recent massacre of 25 Iraqi nationals has stoked public anger in the Arab country, adding that Washington’s anti-Tehran remarks were part of a blame game to distract attentions.
On Wednesday, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei hit back at Trump’s "very big price" threat, noting that the United States "can do no damn thing".
Giving a sharp rebuke to Trump’s threat to make Iran pay for the attack on the US Embassy in the Iraqi capital, Ayatollah Khamenei noted, "The Americans should come to realize that people in the region, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, hate them for their crimes and this hatred surfaces somewhere."
"If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge and fight a country, it will do so unequivocally; but everyone should know that we strongly defend the Iranian nation’s interests, dignity, glory and progress. If anyone threatens that, we will unhesitatingly confront and strike them," he said, adding, "Unlike some who claim that war would break out, we will not push the country into war, but if others intend to impose a thing on this nation, we confront them with ultimate power."
For a second day, hundreds of Iraqi people who had gathered in front of the US embassy in Baghdad to protest at Washington's military attacks against Hashd al-Shaabi positions continued their sit-in on Wednesday, but security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades in a bid to drive them away.
Envoy: US Claims against Tehran Meant to Distract Attention
Wed Jan 01, 2020
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi said the US accusations about Tehran’s involvement in anti-Washington protests in Iraq are meant to deflect attention away from the 17-year invasion of Iraq and the carnage of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the Arab country by the US.
“The US accusations against Iran are meant to divert the public attention from Iraqi people’s indignation about the recent brutal massacre of Iraqis by Washington, and beyond that, for causing distraction from the invasion of Iraq that has over the past 17 years resulted in the death of more than 300,000 innocent Iraqis,” Takht Ravanchi said on Tuesday.
The envoy also underlined the pivotal role that the PMU has played in fight against the ISIL and the defeat of the Takfiri terrorist group in Iraq, saying the popular Iraqi volunteer forces were the most important guarantor of non-emergence of the terrorist outfit.
US forces on Sunday conducted drone strikes on a number of bases for Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is part of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, in Western Anbar province, killing at least 25 individuals and leaving another 51 injured.
The US attack prompted massive public anger in Iraq on Tuesday, with protesters storming the US Embassy in Baghdad and seizing the building after American diplomatic personnel had been forced to evacuate.
Reacting to the developments in Iraq, US President Donald Trump had said in a tweet earlier in the day that Iran would be to blame and also be held “fully responsible”.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many,” Trump tweeted. “We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the US Embassy in Iraq.”
Those casualties came in what the US described as a rocket attack targeting a military base located near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Friday.
Washington pointed the finger at Iran for that attack, an allegation vehemently rejected by Tehran.
In response to the incident, the US military launched the deadly air raids on Iraq’s PMU, which Washington and its allies claim is an ally of the Islamic Republic.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday that the US is a trans-regional player in the Middle East and benefits from destabilizing the region.
"Unlike others who embark on ‘defensive’ warmongering 1000s of miles from their own shores, Iran and Russia have cooperated for peace in Syria and are now presenting important proposals for peace in the Persian Gulf," he added, after holding meetings and a press conference in the capital city of Moscow.
In a joint presser with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the Russian capital city of Moscow on Monday, Zarif said that Washington is after forcing the world to follow the White House orders, reiterating that Tehran and Moscow are firmly against such a unilateralism and rule of dictatorship.
Also in the same presser, Zarif said, "Unlike others who embark on warmongering in our region, Iran and Russia have presented important proposals for peace in the region, which are so much similar, including Russia's proposal for talks in the Persian Gulf and Iran's proposal for Hormuz Peace."
He made a reference to US’ violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.
In a statement on Monday, the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad condemned the US’ violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, adding that such a move is intended to serve Israeli interest in the region.
The mission extended condolences to the Iraqi nation and the bereaved families, adding that such moves of Washington are the main contributor to instability and insecurity in the region.
“This move of the US was in line with Washington’s policy of interference in the internal affair of the regional countries, based on lame excuses and unsubstantiated accusations in order to safeguard the interests of the Zionist regime,” the statement underlined.
Aligarh Muslim University extends winter vacation indefinitely
02nd January 2020
LUCKNOW: With tension still prevailing on Aligarh Muslim University campus and across Uttar Pradesh in the wake of the violent anti-CAA protests and police crackdown on the stir, the university authorities on Wednesday extended the winter vacations.
The university will not reopen on January 6, as announced earlier. A university spokesperson said the decision was taken at a consultative meeting of the deans of faculties, principals of colleges and polytechnics and other functionaries of the university due to the ‘overall prevailing’.
The meeting was chaired by AMU vice-chancellor, Professor Tariq Mansoor. A detailed schedule for the reopening of the university “in a phased manner” will be notified after the review of the situation, said an official.
AMU had announced an extended winter break following violent protests against the CAA on the campus in which over 60 people, including 40 students, were injured. The students had alleged that police and the Rapid Action Police entered the campus and indulged in excesses.
Majority prisoners in Indian jails are Dalits, Muslims
JAN 01 2020
Two-third of prisoners in Indian jails are Dalits, tribals and from Other Backward Classes (OBCs), 19% are Muslims and 66% of 4.66 lakh inmates are either illiterate or have not studied beyond Class X, the latest statistics on prisons in the country ...
Among the states, Uttar Pradesh houses the highest number of Muslim and Dalit prisoners while Madhya Pradesh has the highest proportion of tribal inmates.
The figures are given in the Prison Statistics 2018, which was put in public domain on Wednesday, after skipping the details on religion and caste in the reports by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of 2016 and 2017.
The 2018 figures for both convicts and undertrials – 33.49% OBCs, 20.68% Scheduled Castes, 11.56% Scheduled Tribes, 18.81% Muslims – are similar to the trend witnessed in the 2015 report.
Among the 4.66 lakh inmates, Hindu prisoners account for 3.12 lakh followed by Muslims (87,673), Sikhs (16,989) and Christians (13,886).According to the latest report, Indian jails continue to remain overcrowded and is getting worse. The occupancy ra...
When it comes to Muslim prisoners, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of Muslim prisoners at 27,459 (31.31% of total Muslim prisoners in the country) followed by West Bengal (8,401). Karnataka has 2,798 such prisoners.
An analysis on the basis of caste showed that 1.56 lakh prisoners belonged to OBCs while 96,420 were Dalits and 53,916 were tribals. When it comes to educational qualifications, 66.51% were either illiterates (1.33 lakh) or those who have studied up ...
Uttar Pradesh also have the highest number of prisoners from Scheduled Caste -- 24,489 or 25.39% of such prisoners while Madhya Pradesh has 8,935 and Karnataka 2,803.
Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tribal prisoners at 15,500 followed by Chhattisgarh (6890). Karnataka has 1,254 prisoners belonging to Scheduled Tribes.
India to Investigate Radical Muslim Body for Allegedly Stoking Violence During Citizenship Stir
New Delhi (Sputnik): India witnessed large-scale protests, some violent, against a controversial citizenship law that was enacted by the federal government early in December. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh witnessed large-scale violence and arson during the demonstrations, killing at least 18 people in clashes with security forces.
Uttar Pradesh Police have found evidence of involvement of a radical Islamic organisation – the Popular Front of India (PFI) – and arrested over two dozen members of the PFI for allegedly inciting violence during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
India’s federal Home Ministry, acting on a complaint from Uttar Pradesh Police to ban the PFI, will soon initiate an investigation into the activities of the outfit.
According to officials privy to the development, the government will first gather intelligence about the outfit and will also rope in the National Investigation Agency – India’s apex agency for combatting terror.
Director General of Uttar Pradesh Police O.P. Singh indicated on Tuesday, 31 December that he had written to the federal Home Ministry to “impose a ban on Popular Front of India (PFI) as investigations found PFI’s involvement in the violent protests against Citizenship Amendment Act that took place on 19 November”.
The UP Police seized incriminating documents used by the PFI to spread misinformation about the CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens.
More than 18 people were killed during the protests in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the highest number of casualties so far to have happened during demonstrations against the new law.
The law, enacted on 12 December, allows Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians from three neighbouring Islamic countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan – if they have been living in India for “not less than five years”.
It, however, doesn't extend the same treatment to Muslims – something which many deem to be a violation of the Indian Constitution and religious discrimination.
PM Modi greets neighbourhood leaders on New Year, skips Pakistan
Jan 2, 2020
NEW DELHI: On the first day of the new year, PM Narendra Modi reiterated India’s commitment to its “neighbourhood first” policy and a “vision of shared peace and prosperity” in telephonic conversations with leaders of all countries in the region except Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The Prime Minister spelled out a commitment to prosperity and progress for all of India’s “friends and partners in the region”. Sources said the current circumstances in India-Pakistan bilateral ties didn’t lend themselves to a similar call to Khan though they didn't rule out an exchange of greetings in some form later.
The already stuttering ties with Pakistan further dipped after the abrogation of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status last August that led to Islamabad launching a diplomatic offensive. Khan attacked India+ for the “anti-Muslim” measure and spoke of nuclear conflict in an effort to attract global attention and India’s counter-offensive sent bilateral ties into a deep freeze.
One of the first leaders Modi spoke to was Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, whom he congratulated on being re-elected as president of the Awami League for the next three years. Modi also expressed his condolences on the untimely demise of former high commissioner of Bangladesh to India Syed Muazzem Ali.
“He also mentioned the upcoming birth centenary of Bangabandhu and 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh and establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties besides important milestones to further the progress in close India-Bangladesh ties, a priority of his government,” said an official statement.
The conversation is important in the context of heated politics over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act which has seen frequent references to illegal migrants from Bangladesh and the “persecution” of Hindus in that country.
In his conversation with Prime Minister K P Oli of Nepal, Modi expressed satisfaction at the progress of relations in 2019, with the completion of several projects. He specifically noted the completion of the Motihari (India)-Amlekhgunj (Nepal) petroleum product pipeline in record time. Both leaders also agreed on early inauguration of the integrated checkpost in Biratnagar and the housing reconstruction project in Nepal through video-conference. Oli later tweeted about his conversation in which he said there was mention of the need to address pending issues.
Modi also spoke to Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, PM Lotay Tshering, and Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, as also Maldives President Ibrahim Solih.
“The Prime Minister conveyed to the leaders his New Year greetings and good wishes on behalf of the people of India and on his own behalf,” added the statement. In his conversation with the Bhutan king, Modi spoke of important achievements that led to further consolidation of special ties between India and Bhutan.
"The Prime Minister fondly recalled his last visit to Bhutan and the love and affection he received from the people there. He also emphasised the need to enhance youth exchanges between the two countries. The Prime Minister also mentioned that he was looking forward to forthcoming visit of the king to India,” said the government.
Gotabaya was said to have warmly reciprocated Modi’s wishes and expressed confidence that India and Sri Lanka would further enhance friendly ties in 2020. The two leaders reiterated their commitment to closely work together towards this end.
With Mahinda, Modi reiterated India’s commitment to further expand close and extensive cooperation with Sri Lanka. PM Rajapaksa reciprocated the wishes warmly and expressed a keen desire to further enhance relations between the two countries.
How GCC countries are forging a food-secure future
January 01, 2020
DUBAI: For all their futuristic skylines, multi-lane highways and lushly landscaped public parks, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other GCC countries cannot overcome a fundamental geographical disadvantage: They all have marginal agricultural conditions.
Marginal environments are areas of the world characterized by high temperatures, poor soil quality and low annual rainfall, and regarded as most vulnerable to water scarcity, salinity and climate change.
Across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, marginal environments are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to producing food due to soil-fertility decline, salinization of soil and water resources, population growth, and climate change.
The good news is that geography is not destiny. GCC countries are pioneering and leveraging agricultural technology to overcome the handicap of their desert ecosystem and increase their domestic supplies of food.
With the increasing incorporation of technology in agriculture, the hope is that marginal environments will one day be able to produce high food yields with minimal resources.
As Mariam Almheiri, the UAE minister of state for food security, noted while addressing the Global Forum on Innovations for Marginal Environments held recently in Dubai, “Today, 1.7 billion people live in marginal environments, including 70 percent of the world’s poorest, and it is increasing.”
The conference, which brought together 250 decision-makers, scientists and experts in agriculture and food production, heard that many of the already extreme harsh conditions faced by marginal environments may become worse in the near future due to prolonged droughts and extreme temperatures linked to climate change.
“Many of these regions will experience large population growth,” Almheiri said. “But solutions to addressing this are now on the horizon. Breakthroughs in technology and bioscience in marginal environments now mean these areas can offer promise.”
According to Ayman Sejiny, general manager and CEO of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) in Saudi Arabia, poverty and food insecurity are endemic in the bank’s member states on account of socioeconomic, institutional, environmental and technical hindrances to their agricultural development.
“About a third of the 850 million food-insecure people globally are in IsDB member countries,” Sejiny said, adding that the IsDB “invested significantly in agriculture and rural development in the past — and will continue to do so.”
Since its inception in 1975, IsDB has funded about 1,000 agriculture and rural development projects, worth a combined $12bn and accounting for about 12 percent of its total investments.
“But $1.4 trillion still needs to be invested, and we recognize that the public sector will not be able to find this money on its own. So we have invested in the value chain to support food security,” Sejiny explained. “People are getting educated about what’s really needed.”
IsDB plans to launch ambitious programs to help develop national, regional and global value chains, Sejiny said, adding that global population growth calls for transformative action that can increase productivity and link farmers to sustainable markets.
“Our member countries — which include Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Pakistan and Morocco — have enormous potential for feeding the world and influencing global agricultural value chains,” he said.
“Together, these 57 countries account for 29 percent of the world’s total agricultural areas and up to 15 percent of the world’s food production, including cereals, horticulture, livestock, fishery and forestry resources.”
The IsDB’s objectives include boosting self-sufficiency by 10 percent, increasing crop yield to five tons per hectare, and improving the livelihood of more than two million farmers and their families.
“If we want to confront climate change and feed the growing world population, we must invest in science, technology and innovation (STI). Greater deployment of STI in agricultural programs for food security would require increased private-sector engagement and stronger public institutional support.”
The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai is a leader in conducting applied research to improve agricultural productivity and sustainability in marginal and saline environments.
With an estimated 2,000 hectares of farm soil lost globally every day to salt-induced degradation, the urgency of research, innovation and development in agriculture and food production in marginal environments cannot be overemphasized.
“Increasing droughts pose a serious threat to food production in marginal environments,” said Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, director general of the ICBA. “Farmers feel it much more because they are dependent on that water. What we have today as arable land will most probably change over time. Four billion people are water-scarce and this (number) will grow.”
Noting that just three crops — wheat, maize (corn) and rice — provide nearly 60 percent of total plant calories that humans consume, Elouafi said: “Globally, nine plant species account for 66 percent of total crop production. But the planet is full of plant species, of which 30,000 are edible and 6,000 are cultivated for food.”
The way forward, in her view, is a diversification of agricultural production systems.
Elouafi said that, considering that two billion children are malnourished today and 88 percent of countries face two or three forms of serious malnutrition, a diet transition is vital for the planet and for the human race.
“It is happening, but we see it much more in the north, where people are consuming quinoa and kale,” she said, adding that production of such crops needs to be scaled up and introduced in the south, “where they are needed the most.”
“We are trying to do that, by talking about other crops which are very nutritious, such as millet, quinoa and barley.”
The problems outlined by Elouafi do not, of course, comprise the entirety of the global food challenge. According to Dr. Nina Fedoroff, emeritus professor of biology at Penn State University, smarter agriculture technologies will be needed going forward as food demand is expected to double by 2050 to keep pace with population growth.
“Farm machinery increasingly does everything from planting to harvesting,” she said. “But we can only go so far with technology and we can’t grow our rain crops under glass. We need biology — and genetics — for marginal environments.”
She said that the introduction of insect-resistant crops and gene technology will be key to achieving sustainability in food production. “We don’t have the luxury of millennia to come up with the crops of the future, so we need the modern tools of genetic modification,” Fedoroff said. “Genetically modified crops have been adopted by farmers faster than any in the history of humanity — roughly 18 million farmers in 26 countries. We don’t have the luxury of time because of climate change.”
Gene editing will play a crucial role, Fedoroff said, despite people’s fears and inadequate research.
“We need all of the techniques of genetics, from domestication to plant breeding to the most modern genetic-modification techniques,” she said. “Countries must address the politics of modern molecular genetics, including public acceptance and developing an appropriate regulatory framework, which is not an easy task.”
Fedoroff said none of this can happen without seriously boosting investment in modernizing agricultural research facilities, adding: “There are extraordinary opportunities for this in Africa and the Middle East.”
In this regard, the ICBA is doing its bit by expanding its work with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad), besides the IsDB, said Elouafi.
“More areas around the world will turn marginal due to climate change and other factors,” she said. “Resources are the most vulnerable to climate change, so we have to protect them, address the challenges facing people in marginal environments, and diversify crops. But we can only do that through partnership. We need to plan and act together.
“We can’t do it with one hand, we all have to clap together and work together.”
‘A different world’: Meet the vloggers sharing their adventures in a fast-changing Saudi Arabia
January 02, 2020
JEDDAH: Video bloggers, or vloggers, sharing their travel adventures in Saudi Arabia are drawing attention to the changing face of the Kingdom — and helping to shatter some misconceptions along the way.
Since the introduction of tourist visas in September last year, more than 77,000 tourists have visited the Kingdom, Ministry of Foreign Affairs statistics show.
American vlogger Peter Santenello has created a series detailing his journey in Saudi Arabia, with the first video attracting more than 1.7 million views on YouTube.
Stepping outside his hotel room on his first day in Riyadh, he said: “It is hot, it’s a different world, and I’m super pumped.”
Santenello soon became aware of changes taking place in Saudi Arabia, catching sight of the Kingdom Tower and seeing women driving in the capital.
“After two hours on the street, I’m seeing tons of development, a lot of new businesses,” he said.
Seeing the Kingdom firsthand was “smashing a lot of preconceptions,” the vlogger added.
Santenello said that he is comfortable in Saudi company, and no longer surprised by the wide-ranging social reforms visible in the country.
On one of his explorations, he tried on a traditional Saudi thobe. “Very stately, I like it. A new look I’m gonna rock throughout Saudi,” he said as he showed off his new purchase.
Walking around in his new outfit, the American vlogger met individuals from different countries who tried to guess his nationality. “It’s super diverse; many nationalities in the region are working here in Saudi,” he said.
Santenello said that excitement at the rapid changes is obvious among young people he met on his travels.
“Even before I was a travel vlogger, I’ve always wanted to go to Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “Anyone from the West going in is a bit nervous at first, just because of what’s presented on the news, but it completely surprised me. Overall, it was a wonderful trip.”
The vlogger described his trip as “excellent,” and said he was surprised by both the country and its people. “Meeting locals, I found them to be very open, curious and friendly,” he said.
Tourism is a fairly recent phenomenon in the country, but the people were welcoming and accepting.
“I realized it is many nations in one and there are many different ideologies,” he added. “It was surprising to hear different opinions on the country.”
Saudi Arabia’s varied landscapes, especially in southwestern areas such as Fayfa, were “different and beautiful,” he said.
Santenello’s visit began and ended in Riyadh, and included Jazan, Jeddah, Abha, Fayfa and Farsan Island. His series will include about 12 videos detailing his explorations.
South Korean vlogger Cho Won Kim, known by his YouTube channel name Chomad, visited Saudi Arabia during a tour of the Middle East.
Since there are no direct flights from South Korea to the Kingdom, Chomad spent his transit hours in Abu Dhabi learning Arabic words such as “Marhaba” (“Hello“) and “Shukran” (“Thank you“) to help him when he arrived.
For his first meal in Jeddah he went to a local favorite, Albaik, which specializes in fried chicken.
The vlogger ordered deep-fried shrimp and a chicken burger. “It’s so delicious,” he said.
“Before I arrived in Saudi Arabia, I was a little afraid of coming here. But from what I’ve experienced today, I’m already anticipating tomorrow,” he said before wishing viewers a good night.
During his trip, Chomad was fascinated by Saudi people’s discipline in maintaining their five prayers. Every time he was out, he would stop by the nearest mosque when he heard the call to prayer.
In an attempt to learn about the country and explore its religion, Chomad visited Al-Rahma, Jeddah’s floating mosque. He couldn’t believe he was finally seeing the Red Sea.
After viewing the interior of the mosque’s dome, with its beautiful chandelier and walls inscribed with intricately detailed Qur’anic verses, he said: “I honestly think the mosque is prettier than the mall.”
On his second vlog, the South Korean’s entry covers his journey through old Jeddah, shooting clips of his drive into the ancient sections of the city.
“Since I was the only Asian, I could feel all the attention on me,” Chomad said — but what he couldn’t understand was how people showered him with welcoming words.
Strolling in historic Al-Balad felt just like any other market as he checked out local produce before settling in to try a traditional beef stew at a restaurant.
“The splendid present and historical past coexist,” Chomad said when he visited Jeddah’s Urth Cafe. “I thought I could get only typical halal food in Saudi Arabia, but there are so many beautiful cafes — the vibe is entirely European,” he said.
“Saudi people are so kind,” the vlogger added. “The country is not scary at all.”
Ending his trip, Chomad stopped by the hip cafe Cup & Couch, where he met a new group of Saudi friends, some of whom even spoke a little bit of Korean.
Saudi justice minister launches custody support initiative
January 02, 2020
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Justice Walid Al-Samaani launched the “Shaml” initiative to implement custody and visitation laws on Wednesday in Riyadh.
The launch, attended by the minister of labor and social development, Ahmed bin Suleiman Al-Rajhi, followed the preparation of 19 centers across the Kingdom.
This initiative, which is part of the National Transformation Program 2020 that seeks to achieve Vision 2030, aims to protect child rights and preserve the privacy of families.
It also seeks to facilitate the implementation of rulings in cooperation with the nonprofit sector, in addition to creating job opportunities in community service.
The Ministry of Justice explained that the Shaml initiative provides an environment in which security and safety are achieved for both workers and beneficiaries, in addition to providing social and psychological support to parties to the conflict (parents and children). The goal is to achieve the highest levels in implementing these laws in terms of preparation and reducing tension and conflict while protecting the rights of children.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Calls for Istisqa Prayer Tomorrow
Riyadh, January 1, 2020, SPA -- The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has urged the people throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform Istisqa (rain-seeking) prayer tomorrow Thursday, 2/1/2019, the Royal Court said in a statement.
The statement said that in keeping with the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques called on all to pray to Allah Almighty for repentance, forgiveness and benevolence.
Pakistan ambassador to Riyadh praises ‘Makkah Route’ initiative
January 02, 2020
RIYADH: Pakistan is hoping Saudi Arabia will expand its Makkah Route initiative giving pilgrims easier access to the Kingdom, Pakistani envoy Raja Ali Ejaz said.
Ejaz told Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar that Pakistan was happy with the success of the program and hoped it could be extended to other areas of the country.
He conveyed Pakistan’s gratitude to the Kingdom for hosting more than half-a-million Pakistanis in the Riyadh region.
Ejaz said that long-standing relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia “have stood the test of time and are getting stronger with every passing day.”
The Makkah Route initiative was finalized during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s maiden visit to Pakistan in February 2019. Under the program, pilgrims are cleared for immigration and customs before departure.
Following a pilot project in Islamabad last year, plans were made to extend the facility to other airports in major Pakistani cities.
Prince Faisal said that Saudi Arabia appreciated the contributions of Pakistanis to the Kingdom’s economic development, and acknowledged the significance of Pakistan’s religious and cultural attachment with the Kingdom.
Commenting on Saudi-Pakistan relations, Ejaz told Arab News last week that bilateral relations between the two countries were strong and time-tested.
“We have around 3 million expat Pakistanis in the Kingdom,” he said. “Pakistan’s prime minister has visited Saudi Arabia four times in less than a year and the Saudi crown prince also paid a visit to Pakistan last year which shows the strength of our cordial relations.”
Taliban attacks kill more than 20 Afghan security forces
In a new wave of attacks, the Taliban targeted Afghan security forces in the country's north, killing at least 23, local officials said.
The assaults hit checkpoints in at least three northern provinces.
In Kunduz, at least 10 Afghan forces were killed and four others were wounded in an attack on a police checkpoint in the district of Dashti Archi on Tuesday night, according to Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the provincial council.
In Balkh province, the Taliban killed nine police officers in an attack on their checkpoint.
The condition of four other policemen who were at the checkpoint was unknown, said Mohammad Afzel Hadid, head of the provincial council.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed the fighters in the Balkh attack had infiltrated police ranks a while back and were waiting for a chance to strike.
In a third attack on Tuesday night, seven members of the security forces in Takhar province and 10 Taliban fighters died in a gunfight, according to Jawad Hajri, the provincial governor's spokesman.
The attack took place in Darqad district after the security forces had successfully cleared the Taliban from several other districts in the past week, said Hajri.
Fighting was still under way there on Wednesday, he added.
The Taliban has stepped up its attacks in northern Afghanistan in recent days.
It struck a pro-government militia compound in Jawzjan province before dawn on Monday, killing 14 members of the security forces.
A similar militia compound was targeted in Takhar on Sunday, when at least 17 militiamen were killed.
On Friday, at least 10 Afghan soldiers died in a Taliban attack on a checkpoint in southern Helmand province.
The latest attacks underscore the Taliban's strengthened position in an 18-year war, the US's longest conflict, even as their leadership, based in the Arab Gulf state of Qatar, has been negotiating with a US envoy.
Washington has demanded a ceasefire before any peace agreement can be signed.
The fighting has shown no signs of abating. US air strikes and operations by Afghan security forces over the past two days killed 35 Taliban fighters in offensives across the country, including an air strike in Kandahar province that killed 11 Taliban fighters, the US military said.
Several Taliban were also detained, the US military added.
Ban on Bangladesh telecom networks along India border suspended
Jan 2, 2020
DHAKA: Bangladesh authorities have lifted a ban on telecom networks along the countrys borders with India which affected about 10 million users after it was imposed earlier this week citing security reasons.
Jahurul Haque, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), on Wednesday confirmed the latest decision to reverse the restrictions, reports bdnews24.
On Monday, the four telecom operators -- Grameenphone, Teletalk, Robi, Banglalink -- had closed around 2,000 base transceiver stations after the BTRC issued a notice on the ban on Sunday.
The BTRC had said that the move was "for the sake of the country's security in the current circumstances".
The decision was taken by the government following a high-level meeting.
MTN has bribed Taliban to safeguard their ‘transmission towers’ in Afghanistan
Wednesday, 01 Jan 2020
MTN Afghanistan, a child company to the global MTN, the largest telecommunication firm in South Africa has bribed Taliban, to safeguard their ‘transmission towers’ in Afghanistan, BBC reported.
Serious complaints have been filed against MTN for bribing Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorist groups in Afghanistan.
The allegations, made in a legal complaint filed in a US federal court on Friday, said the firm violated US anti-terrorism laws.
It was filed on behalf of families of US citizens killed in attacks in Afghanistan.
Five other companies were also named in the filing.
The complaint alleges MTN paid bribes to al-Qaida and the Taliban to avoid having to invest in in expensive security for their transmission towers.
The alleged payments helped finance a Taliban-led insurgency that led to the attacks in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017, the accusations say.
It is alleged that the money helped to provide “material support to known terrorist organisations,” thus violating the anti-terrorism legislation.
MTN says it is reviewing allegations that it paid protection money to militant Islamist groups in Afghanistan.
“It remains of the view that it conducts its business in a “responsible and compliant manner in all its territories”. MTN has said.
MTN is Africa’s largest mobile operator and the eighth largest in the world, with more than 240 million subscribers.
11 hurt as cops, JCD men clash
January 02, 2020
At least 11 people, including five policemen, were injured in a clash between Chhatra Dal men and police in Bogura town’s Khokon Park area yesterday over walking on the Shaheed Minar wearing shoes.
Police detained over 20 leaders and activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) for interrogation.
Chhatra Dal leaders said several hundred JCD men gathered in Khokon Park area since 10:00am to go to the BNP office on Nawabbari Road to organise a rally, marking the 41st founding anniversary of the pro-BNP student front.
Sanatan Chakraborty, additional superintendent of Bogura police, said some 50-60 Chhatra Dal men walked on the Shaheed Minar with their shoes on around 12:30pm. As the law enforcers asked them not to walk there wearing shoes, only some of them complied.
But the others were angered at this. They carried out the attack, leaving five cops, including Sanatan, injured.
Sanatan, ASI Ashraful, constables Sifat, and Mamun took primary treatment at Bogura Police Lines Hospital.
Other injured Parvez was admitted to Bogura Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Medical College Hospital with a head injury.
Speaking to this newspaper, Bogura JCD General Secretary Nure Alam Rigan said they went to the police superintendent’s office three days ago to seek permission for holding a rally at the Titu Auditorium on the occasion of the student front’s founding anniversary. But the SP asked them to organise the event at the BNP office.
Yesterday, the JCD men gathered in Khokon Park area to go to the party office, around 100 yards off the park. Local BNP lawmakers GM Siraj and Mosharraf Hossain were also present.
At one stage, police started using batons on the Chhatra Dal men alleging that they walked on the Shaheed Minar wearing shoes.
“Police beat up Chhatra Dal leaders and activists, leaving many of them wounded. Six of them are now undergoing treatment at different clinics in the town,” Rigan added.
He claimed that police picked up over 20 JCD men.
GM Siraj MP said a few Chhatra Dal men might have walked on the Shaheed Minar wearing shoes. “We said sorry to the police for any such incident. But despite that the law enforcers beat up Chhatra Dal men.”
Bogura Sadar OC SM Badiuzzaman said they would file a case against the JCD men over attacking police and obstructing them from carrying out their duties.
Govt firm to implement single digit interest rate: Finance minister
January 01, 2020
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal today vowed to implement the single digit interest rate from April saying the government stood firm on the issue as it would boost investment in the country.
“We’ve given the bankers few months time to implement the decision (single digit interest rate) and we’ll implement it from April,” he said.
The Finance Minister was briefing reporters after chairing two separate meetings on the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs and the Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase at the Cabinet Division at Bangladesh Secretariat today.
The Economic Affairs Committee meeting today approved a proposal while the Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase approved four proposals.
The Finance Minister said initially there was a plan to implement the single digit interest rate for the manufacturing sector. But, after directives from the Prime Minister, this decision would now be implemented for all the sectors (except credit cards).
He said although the interest rate across the world is around 2 to 3 percent, but it is much high in Bangladesh hovering around 15 to 16 percent. “Then how come there will be speedy industrialization in the country? If single digit interest rate becomes much more effective, then investment will be boosted and everyone is waiting for it.”
Kamal said since the single digit interest rate is yet to become much more effective, the trend of Non Performing Loans (NPLs) is increasing while the level of investment is not up to the expected mark.
“Come what may, we’ll implement the decision (single digit interest rate), no matter even if we need to wait for few more days,” he added.
Earlier on Monday after a meeting with the leaders of Bangladesh Association of Banks (BAB) at its headquarters, Kamal said a decision has been taken to implement single-digit interest rate for not only the industrial sector, but also for all sectors except credit cards.
Banks will have to fix the interest rate for lending at 9 percent from April 1 while the banks will have to pay 6 percent interest on deposits.
Asked about his evaluation of the performance of the country’s economy in the last calendar year, the Finance Minister said he was happy as the most important thing was to remain in track given the situation of the world.
“Of course I’ll accomplish whatever I’ve said earlier,” he added.
The Finance Minister also hinted that he would hold a press conference on January 5 to brief the media on contemporary economic affairs.
Replying to a question, he said that the government would have to ensure good governance at the capital market as well as would have to bring to book those who would commit crime in this market.
Noting that the capital market is now better compared to the last one year, Kamal said, “As much as the economy of a country is strong, the capital market will be strong to that level. But, that thing is not taking place fully in our country and time will say the reason behind this.”
He also informed that the government has a plan to auction the number plates of vehicles to boost the revenue generation.
A Japanese saint among the sinners of the Afghan war
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Washington is suing for peace. When US forces invaded Afghanistan after the attacks of 9/11, Taliban leaders came up with a striking metaphor: the Americans have watches; we have time. Sure enough, the US, with all its might, has learnt, as the British did during the 19th century and the Russians more recently, that Afghanistan will not be pacified by foreign forces.
As Afghan politicians in Kabul argue about the result of the latest disputed election, US president Donald Trump has reopened talks with the Taliban leadership. Mr Trump, who a few months ago ordered US forces to abandon their Kurdish allies in northern Syria, wants to bring home the 12,000 or so US troops in Afghanistan.
Protests about the proposed desertion of another ally have been muted. Afghanistan is a forgotten war. Counter-terrorism operations, counter-insurgency strategies, nation building, drug eradication programmes, countless billions of dollars in financial aid — all have been tried. And the Taliban controls much of the country. Conventional wisdom now is that peace requires a political accommodation between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Waged with a lethal concoction of anger, hubris, arrogance and incompetence, the war has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and Taliban fighters and about 3,000 American and allied soldiers. Two events in recent weeks have illuminated the awful scale of the tragedy
The first was the publication by the Washington Post of a cache of documents — running to thousands of pages — laying bare the official postmortem of the conflict. The second — the untimely death in Afghanistan of a Japanese doctor by the name of Tetsu Nakamura — was a reminder of how much a little wisdom and humility can achieve even in such difficult terrain.
The Post’s account drew on hitherto secret papers from a “lessons-learned” project undertaken by a small US government agency. The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction conducted hundreds of interviews with policymakers, officials and diplomats involved in the conflict.
The interviews draw a picture of a military campaign, and accompanying political narrative, rooted in arrogance and negligence, conceit and deception — to name but a few of the adjectives that spring to mind. The most striking, and damning, revelation to emerge from the interviews, however, is the sheer weight of ignorance among those in charge.
Those directing tens of thousands of American and Nato troops — 150,000 at the high point of former president Barack Obama’s “surge” — lacked even the slightest acquaintance with Afghan history or culture. Few grasped the traditional division of power between Kabul and the tribal chieftains in the provinces. Much of the time the military commanders leading the troops had no real strategic objectives.
The original aims of the US invasion — to defeat al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban leadership — were accomplished in large part within less than a year. Ambitions then veered from creating a shiny western democracy, to stamping out the opium trade, to putting an end to the discrimination of women. To quote the Post’s terse summary, those in authority acknowledged they had “adopted fatally flawed war-fighting strategies based on misguided assumptions about a country they did not understand”.
By contrast, Dr Nakamura did understand Afghanistan. He established a clinic in the country’s Nangarhar province during the 1990s after a spell in Pakistan. Supported by Japanese non-governmental organisations, he saw that the illnesses he treated mostly could be traced to malnourishment and lack of sufficient water.
His response was to become an engineer. In the early 2000s, he began supervising the construction of a network of irrigation canals that restored life to vast tracts of desert. He borrowed the design from centuries-old canal systems in Japan. The network could be built without complicated machinery and, critically, it could be maintained by local Afghans. The water supply has transformed hundreds of thousands of lives.
Dr Nakamura eschewed politics and commentary on the war that raged around him. His goal, he insisted, was to safeguard life. He offered, though, one or two shrewd observations. Many of those fighting in Afghanistan were mercenaries — driven off the land, they needed money to support their families. The restoration of their land had significantly reduced levels of violence. Men of fighting age were busy with their crops. Simple insights, perhaps, yet apparently invisible to all the clever people in Washington directing the war.
The 73-year-old doctor died in early December when the vehicle in which he was travelling was fired on by an armed group. The attack so far is unexplained. Mourned by the Afghans with whom he had made his life, he received posthumously the Order of the Rising Sun from Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Those who have watched the Japanese television documentary about his project would surely agree his life fits the description of that of modern saint. If only the Americans had shown an ounce of his wisdom.
Young Muslims get up early to clear up Britain's rubbish-strewn streets after New Year's Eve celebrations
1 January 2020
With many Brits across the country likely to be nursing a hangover today, young Muslims up and down the UK decided to get out of bed early in order to clean up the litter-strewn streets after New Year’s Eve celebrations.
While some revellers stumbled home from a night out, more than 1,500 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) took to the streets to pick up the mess.
They said a special prayer before donning hi-visibility jackets and heading out in their local areas.
During the annual clean-up they collected hundreds of bags of rubbish in places such as London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Walsall.
Speaking to Metro, Imam Qamar Ahmed Zafar said the group runs the events in order to help to instil ‘lifestyle changes’ in young Muslims.
‘Many people will be out on the night of new year’s eve celebrating the start of the New Year. As Ahmadi Muslims, our year begins with congregational prayer, we come together and pray for the world, for all those struggling.
‘Thereafter we all get together and go out on to the streets to clean up after the celebrations have ended, this isn’t just to keep our surroundings clean, but is also done to remind our young Muslim youth about the duty they have to serve their country.
‘More than that, it is also about trying to instil lifestyle changes in the youth, we take for granted the amount of food and plastic which is wasted, and such events are a reminder of how current consumption is destroying our planet.’
The group has been cleaning up the streets for a number of years and according to the clean-up coordinator Mubashar Raja, it is looking to expand its coverage across the whole of the UK.
He said that this year the team aimed to pick up 5,000 bin bags worth of litter in the morning alone and said that the local councils and communities are also on board in some areas.
One youth who participated in the clean-up said the turnout at the events shows how a good cause can bring everyone together.
Malik Takreem Ahmed said that it was ‘amazing’ to see the smiles on the faces of the people they help and said that most of his friends celebrate the new year by being with family and friends but claimed that there is ‘much more to it’ if people can spend the time helping others.
Malik also said the group makes him feel as though he ‘belongs to something which is a positive driving force in the world.
AMYA is a national faith group which is made up of young Muslim youths. It aims to ‘nurture the physical, moral and spiritual development of its members’.
It is a subsidiary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK which has over 8,000 members.
Blackburn Northern Soul mecca's roof to be rescued
By Peter Magill
A LEGENDARY Northern Soul venue is set to be given some significant running repairs in 2020.
Generations of Blackburnians have flocked to Tony's Ballroom, in Town Hall Street, from the days of The Charleston to 'all-nighters'.
But surveyors say the venue, first opened in the 1920s, has been affected by both wet rot and dry rot.
And there are concerns that unless the problems are tackled, they could affect both tenants below and efforts to relet vacant space at street level.
Town hall bosses have now approved proposals which will help to preserve the first floor premises, which were acquired by the borough council in 2003.
In a report Cllr Andy Kay, executive member for finance and governance, said: "The building is in a poor condition and is affected by both dry rot and wet rot, due to the failure of both the flat and pitched roofs on the building.
"To ensure the building does not fall into further disrepair, the flat and pitched roofs need replacing and appropriate rot remediation works undertaken."
The costs of the scheme, which will see repairs carried out on the roof and gable wall, will be met by the authority's corporate property investment fund.
Work is expected to begin on the old ballroom later this month, with scaffolding required to be erected in Town Hall Street.
Part of the project will require the safe removal of asbestos from the roof space.
The ballroom takes its name from original owner Tony Billington, who had the idea of creating a dance hall above auctioneer Johnny Weall's shop.
Before very long Tony's was raising eyebrows with the town's watch committees but it continued to be successful beyond the Roaring Twenties, with a sprung dance floor installed between the two world wars. Later the ballroom became a destination for rock 'n' roll jivers, as the 50s gave way to the 60s and 70s.
But it was with the closure of Wigan Casino, in the 80s, that Tony's came into its element, hosting the movement's famous 'all-nighters'.
In 2018 the history attached to the ballroom attracted Martyn Ware, of the Human League and Heaven 17, who created a 'soundscape' as part of the Festival of Making.
This featured dancers Lauren Fitzpatrick and James Whitehead who took part in filming for Northern Soul, which was shot at King George's Hall.
Islamic school in Kidderminster 'requires improvement', says Ofsted
AN Islamic school in Kidderminster is no longer ‘inadequate’ following an Ofsted report, but still requires improvement.
Leaders at Madinatul Uloom Al Islamiya School in Summerfield were told to improve areas of education quality and management after an inspection in October.
The school, which educates over 200 boys, previously held an ‘inadequate’ rating since 2016 and two standard inspections have highlighted issues in teaching quality and the safeguarding of students.
In their recent inspection, Ofsted said staff at the independent boarding school have acted to address a previously unmet standard relating to bullying.
The reports reads: “They make sure that pupils are protected from bullying. They educate pupils about bullying and ensure that pupils can share any worries or concerns with school staff.”
Ofsted said pupils were part of a “happy and safe” school community and that inspectors experienced a “welcoming atmosphere”.
Leaders had also improved health and safety procedures as school buildings had undergone “considerable improvements” and were “maintained well”.
It was found that pupils at the school previously did not achieve as well as expected in subjects such as English, science and physical education.
The report said leaders improved the quality of education and pupils now made “better progress” in all subjects.
Some teachers at the school identified gaps in pupils’ learning quickly and targets were then made to close those gaps.
Ofsted noted the strength of progress in academic and vocational courses at the school’s sixth form, enabling students to pursue career pathways.
The report went on to say: “Previously, A-level options were limited so leaders have recently introduced additional courses.”
Ofsted also found that students and pupils receive high-quality careers guidance.
Inspectors said leaders had a vision for pupils to become “confident members of British society” and found that pupils valued studying both an Islamic and secular curriculum.
The report said: “Pupils take their faith studies seriously. They work hard to deepen their understanding of Islam and to memorise the Koran.
“Leaders and pupils place equal emphasis on both the faith and the secular programmes taught in the school.”
Ofsted also found that pupils “respect and understand the rights of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
The report states: “Pupils learn about a range of different faiths. They respect and appreciate the similarities and differences of faiths.
“The British values policy makes the strong links between the Islamic faith and its support for British values clear.”
While the school was rated ‘requires improvement’ overall, behaviour, attitudes and the personal development of pupils and students at the school was graded ‘good’.
The school has been approached for comment.
Chilling moment 'Islamic terrorists' kill two policemen in New Year's knife frenzy
1 JAN 2020
This is the chilling moment two alleged Islamic terrorists killed two police officers during a frenzied attack in Russia.
Mikail Miziyev, 18, and Akhmed Imagozhev, 22, launched the attack at a police checkpoint in Magan, Russia, just before midnight on New year's Eve.
The town was immediately put into lockdown and a fireworks display and concert were cancelled due to the attack.
The suspected terrorists struck one officer, dad-of-four Zelemkhan Kokorkhoev, 34, with a car and then knifed him to death.
They then attacked his colleague, Zurab Daurbekov, who was stabbed and later died in hospital.
CCTV shows the moment the men speed towards Mr Kokorkhoev before hitting him as he stands on the pavement.
The men then jump out of the car and tun towards a patrol car where they proceed to pull Mr Daurbekov out of the vehicle.
He is then stabbed on the pavement as more officers arrive and shoot at the attackers.
Miziyev is shot dead while his co-conspirator Imagozhev was also shot but remains in hospital.
Before the attack, the pair had posted a sinister picture showing them carrying knives with the message "Love and hatred based on Tawhid!”, referring to the central concept of the Islamic faith.
Imagozhev is known as a local arm-wrestling champion.
The New Year festivities were immediately cancelled in Magas, capital of the Ingushetia region of Russia, amid a heavy police and security presence on the streets.
Brixton mosque targetted with anti-Islamic graffiti
1st January 2020
Anti-Islamic slogans have been painted on a building near a mosque, the Metropolitan police have said.
Officers were called to a building near the North Brixton Islamic cultural centre on Brixton Road at 11am today, Wednesday following reports of spray-painted slogans on a building near the centre.
A statement from the Met said: “Officers were called at around 11am on 1 January to reports of anti-Islamic slogans spray-painted on a building near to the North Brixton Islamic Centre in Brixton Road. Inquiries are ongoing at this time as part of a full investigation.
“We are working alongside Lambeth Council to ensure the offensive remarks are removed as soon as possible.
“Shockingly, hate crime affects people from all walks of life and impacts on communities across London. All members of our communities have the right to go about their daily life without fear of verbal, physical or written abuse. The Met does not tolerate any form of discrimination, and we are committed to tackling offences like this as thoroughly as possible.”
Florence Eshalomi, elected Labour MP for Vauxhall on December 12, tweeted: “Disturbing to hear of a racist incident at the North Brixton Islamic cultural centre – it was reported that anti-Islamic slogans had been spray-painted on [the] building opposite the cultural centre. Anyone with any information pls contact the police via 101 quoting CAD 4725/01JAN.”
The incident comes three days after antisemitic graffiti was sprayed across a synagogue and shops in north London during the Jewish festival of Hanukah.
Muslim group cleans up Huddersfield town centre and gives food to homeless on New Years Day
1 JAN 2020
A Muslim group has spent New Years Day morning cleaning up Huddersfield town centre and delivering food to the town's homeless community.
Around 70 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association (AMA) from Huddersfield and Honley met at Market Place at 9.30am to clean the town centre streets.
The group started the day with special prayers for people less fortunate than themselves and those suffering with illness, before setting off with litter pickers and high-vis jackets provided by Kirklees Council.
Members hope their actions can "bring all communities together" and "create harmony and cohesiveness".
Fatihul-haq, from AMA Huddersfield, said: "Everyone enjoyed the event.
"We also want to make sure that our youth are taking part in positive things and become good law abiding citizens of this country, under the banner of Love for all Hatred for none which is our community motto bringing all the faiths together to promote peace and harmony and working for the common cause, respecting each other."
Pakistan government approves amendment to Army Act
Jan 1, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government in an emergency meeting on Wednesday approved amendments to the Army Act, nearly four weeks after it assured the Supreme Court of passing a legislation on the extension and reappointment of an Army chief within six months.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had extended Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa's tenure through a notification on August 19. However, on November 26, the Supreme Court suspended the government order, citing irregularities in the manner the army chief, a close confidant of the prime minister, was granted an extension.
On November 28, Bajwa got a six-month conditional extension from the apex court, ending an unprecedented legal wrangle that shook the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and pitted the powerful military against the judiciary.
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who headed a three-member bench, announced the verdict after getting an assurance from the government that Parliament will pass a legislation on the extension/reappointment of an Army chief within six months.
In Wednesday's meeting, which was presided over by Khan, the amendments made to the clauses related to the Army chief's tenure and extension were passed unanimously, the Dawn News reported.
The amended Bill will now be presented before the Parliament in order to come into effect.
Though the details regarding the amendments are not yet clear, defence minister Pervez Khattak said it include a proposal to extend the tenure of all the three services chief.
Pakistan, Iran vow effective measures to curb terrorism along border
January 02, 2020
QUETTA: The Pak-Iran joint border commission on Wednesday agreed to take effective measures to curb terrorism as it poses a serious threat to law and order and stability on both sides of the border.
Balochistan Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove led the Pakistani delegation, while Mohammad Hadi Marshi, Deputy Governor General of Sistan-Baluchestan province, headed the 20-member Iranian delegation at the 23rd meeting of the commission.
Speaking at the opening session of the three-day meeting, Mr Langove said that people of both countries enjoyed deep and friendly relations.
He said the two countries should adopt effective measures to stop illegal border crossing and human and drug smuggling.
“There is a need to eliminate terrorist elements who are a serious threat to law and order and stability on both sides of the border,” he added.
Facilities for traders, common people living near border promised
The home minister said Pakistan was ready for providing maximum facilities to people related to businesses and common residents in the border areas.
Mr Langove stressed the need for starting the air travel service between Quetta and Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan.
Mr Marshi said that people of Iran and Pakistan enjoyed cordial relations which would grow stronger with the passage of time.
He appreciated the positive contribution of Pakistan to promoting bilateral trade. The Iranian government was also utilising all resources to boost economic ties with Pakistan, he added.
“Iran believes in adopting a joint strategy for resolving issues in the region,” Mr Marshi said.
Balochistan’s Additional Home Secretary Haider Ali Shikoh, Deputy Inspector General of Frontier Corps South Brigadier Rehan Aqil, Customs Collector Raza Dashti, Deputy Inspector General of Police Abdul Razzaq Cheema and other government officers also attended the meeting.
PM vows to turn dream of welfare state into reality
January 02, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said “giant” initiatives would be undertaken this year to put Pakistan on the path to realisation of the vision of a welfare state based on the principles of rule of law, meritocracy and social equality.
Addressing a ceremony held here on Wednesday to mark the ground-breaking of a campus of the Air University, he said humans are blessed with the capacity to achieve their goals, visions and dreams irrespective of the hurdles involved.
“Great people and institutions nurturing great visions always make progress,” the prime minister said.
He said he had a vision of transforming Pakistan on the pattern of state of Madina, which model was based on the creation of a humanitarian system that in turn led to the rise of a great nation.
It was in the state of Madina that an administration for the first time in history took responsibility of taking care of the weaker segments of society, including widows, orphans and the poor.
Says government considering issuing ration cards to poor families
The welfare state of Madina, Mr Khan said, had three basic principles: social security, rule of law and an emphasis on seeking knowledge.
However, the past governments did not strive to maintain high standards of education and research. During the 1960s, the degrees awarded by Pakistani institutions were recognised internationally and foreign students used to study here.
Mr Khan said the world today was moving ahead at a fast pace in terms of achievements in the fields of science and technology. The countries that understood this are making progress by leaps and bounds.
He referred to artificial intelligence, which was bringing about a revolution, and said that Pakistani institutions should benefit from the technology.
The prime minister said there should be some “out of the box strategy” relating to the education sector, as the nation was capable of excelling despite limited financial resources.
Expressing optimism about the country’s future, Mr Khan said difficult times would soon be over as the nations that underwent trials always emerged successful.
The country was facing economic problems but it had a huge human resource potential.
His government’s “basic target” was to introduce a system of meritocracy in all spheres of life, he said.
In 2019, the government succeeded in bringing about an “economic turnaround” even though in the middle of the year the country’s foreign reserves shrank, and the rupee slid downwards.
“People went through difficult times with high inflation and hike in the prices of petrol, electricity and edibles, although hoarding was one of the reasons for price increase,” he added.
The country, the premier said, had huge potential in every sector and was gifted with mineral wealth. Food security could be achieved through research and technology, besides enhancing production of food grains and dairy products.
He said the government was giving a boost to the construction industry with its low-cost housing initiative, which would benefit about 40 allied industries as well. Currently, a case is pending with the Lahore High Court over the foreclosure law.
Enumerating the steps the government planned to take for providing relief to the public, he said the poor and middle-income families would have the facility of buying items at subsidised rates from the outlets of Utility Stores Corporation.
A network of Panahgahs (shelter homes) had been established in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for the free-of-charge lodging and dining of poor people, he added.
The prime minister said the tourists’ flow in the country had doubled in the last two years due to improved security situation, the premier said. Malaysia was earning $20 billion, Turkey $40bn and Switzerland $80bn annually from the tourism sector.
Mr Khan lauded the establishment of a university campus by the Pakistan Air Force and praised its leadership for maintaining high educational standards.
NAB recovered Rs150bn last year: chairman
January 02, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) recovered Rs150 billion from corrupt elements last year by filing 206 references in different accountability courts.
Presiding over a meeting on Wednesday to review the anti-graft watchdog’s performance in 2019, NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal said that due to investigations conducted on scientific lines, the conviction rate in corruption cases was 70 per cent.
“This performance will be improved by assessing complaints and conducting inquiries and investigations under the command and investigation system,” he added.
He said corruption worth over Rs943bn had been committed in 1,262 references filed last year.
Justice Iqbal said NAB’s first priority was to bring mega corruption cases to a logical conclusion and recover the looted wealth.
Investigators, prosecutors told to probe white-collar crime cases on scientific basis
He appreciated NAB’s overall performance in 2019 and asked all directors general to verify all complaints and conduct inquiries and investigations in accordance with the law within the stipulated time of 10 months.
He said NAB’s performance was lauded by credible national and international organisations.
Justice Iqbal directed all NAB investigation officers and prosecutors to investigate white-collar crime cases on a scientific basis. “These cases should be pursued vigorously in courts so that corrupt elements could be punished according to the law.”
He said NAB had recruited officers on merit to expand the organisation’s existing workforce and enhance its capacity.
“NAB has developed an effective monitoring and evaluation system under which all complaints are entertained,” the chairman said.
According to NAB director general (operations) Zahir Shah, the bureau received 51,591 complaints in 2019 and disposed of 46,123 of them according to the law, while 13,299 complaints are currently being processed.
NAB approved verification of 1,464 complaints in 2019, out of which 1,362 were examined according to the law and investigation into 770 complaints is under way.
The anti-graft watchdog approved 574 inquiries last year, while probe into 658 complaints has been completed and 859 inquiries are in progress.
Govt charges PPP over Rs400,000 for ‘damages’ in Liaquat Bagh
January 02, 2020
RAWALPINDI: The Punjab government has charged PPP Rs451,135 for ‘damaging’ flowers , plants, pots and trees of historical Liaquat Bagh during a public meeting on Dec 27 on the occasion of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary.
For the first time in the history, any political party had to pay for damages to Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) of Rawalpindi.
In the past ruling PTI and opposition PML-N and even religious parties like Jamaat-i-Islami as well as Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan held public meetings but PHA did not claim any damages.
While giving details of damages to PPP, PHA said lightening system and fauna and flora of the garden had been destroyed by the participants of the public meeting.
It claimed Rs24,022 for damaging lights and tiles in the park, Rs366,700 and Rs60,414 for damaging trees and plants and water supply pipes respectively.
The PHA had seized the chairs, tents and stage of public gathering but gave back to PPP city chapter after the party deposited the amount in a private bank’s accounts of PHA Rawalpindi on Wednesday.
PPP City President Babar Jadoon told Dawn that it was strange that the PHA claimed damages from PPP but it never charged a single penny from religious parties and PML-N even the ruling PTI in the past for holding public meeting at the park.
“Earlier, PHA had estimated one million rupees for the damages, but we contested the claim and the matter was settled at Rs451,135,” he said. He claimed not a single tree or flower pot was damaged during the public meeting,” he said.
Mr Jadoon said the PTI government was behind the move to charge for damages after seeing successful show of PPP in Punjab.
“After being unable to pay funds to the development authority, the Punjab government is exploring every avenue to generate revenue and that is why it was claiming damages from PPP,” he said.
He said the party deposited the amount on Wednesday and lifted its goods from the park.
He said PTI had held similar public meetings during the PPP tenure in Islamabad and other parts of the country but it was not charged for any damages.
He said PPP had got permission from the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench.
He said the court not only gave permission to PPP for holding public meeting but asked the government to provide foolproof security to the meeting.
When contacted, Punjab Chief Minister’s Adviser on Horticulture Asif Mehmood, who is also chairman of PHA, admitted that damages were claimed for the first time from any political party.
He said the participants of the public meeting damaged expensive trees, pots, water supply lines, electricity panels and others.
“We charged for damages not for rent of the public meeting,” he said.
“After getting money from PPP, the PHA decided to make it compulsory to charge for damages from those who will hold public meeting in Liaquat Bagh in future. I will ensure that ruling PTI will also pay the damages if occurred in their public meeting at the venue,” he said.
He said the PHA had worked hard in the last two years to develop the park and planted expensive trees and plants.
He claimed that the government had turned the city neat and green but the PPP destroyed it by holding public meeting.
Cops to call in Muslim student group soon for unsanctioned anti-Dong Zong rally
Thursday, 02 Jan 2020
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 — The Malaysian Muslim Students Coalition (Gamis) which organised a street march against Dong Zong in the city here yesterday can expect to be questioned by the police soon.
Dang Wangi police chief Assistant Commissioner Mohd Fahmi Visuvanathan Abdullah said the organisers are being investigated for violating Section 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA).
“Yes, we will call them for questioning in the near future,” he told Malay Mail when contacted today.
Yesterday, over 300 Muslim students gathered outside Masjid Jamek to simultaneously rally public support for jawi and demand the government ban the Chinese educationist group Dong Zong for opposing the inclusion of the script in vernacular public schools.
Under Section 9 of the PAA, organisers of any assembly must formally notify the officer in charge of the relevant police district five days in advance, accompanied with the approval of the owners of the property where the event will be held.
Mohd Fahmi confirmed on the eve of the Gamis rally that police had not received the required advance notice prior to the planned protest against the Chinese education group.
The senior policeman also said both the notice and in this case, the letter of approval from the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, must be submitted for compliance under PAA.
Philippines threatens worker ban in Kuwait
January 02, 2020
MANILA: The Philippines said on Wednesday it could once again ban its citizens from working in Kuwait following the death of a 26-year old woman in the oil-rich state, allegedly at the hands of her employer’s wife.
Reports say that Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende, from South Cotabato, died of injuries after being taken to a hospital by her male employer. Manila has condemned the reported killing and demanded swift justice.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said an initial assessment showed that the death of Villavende was a violation of the agreement for the protection of Filipino workers, which the two countries signed in 2018.
“If you remember (in 2018), President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a total deployment ban in Kuwait because of the death of (Joanna) Demafelis,” Bello said, referring to a woman whose body was found stuffed in a freezer at her employers’ Kuwaiti apartment.
“Now this is another possibility, a deployment ban in Kuwait is not remote unless they can show us that they can give justice to Jeanelyn. I’m ready to do that (deployment ban),” he added, saying the country’s labor attache in Kuwait was monitoring the investigation of the Villavende case. “My instruction is very clear — we have to know the immediate cause of the death of Jeanelyn.”
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs summoned Kuwaiti Ambassador Musaed Saleh Ahmad Al-Thwaikh to convey its outrage over the “seeming lack of protection” offered to Filipino workers.
Continuing violence and abuse violates a May 2018 agreement to protect more than 250,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait, it said earlier this week.
Demafelis’ death led to a diplomatic crisis between Philippines and Kuwait, which lasted several months.
Manila imposed a ban on Filipino workers in the Gulf state, while Kuwait ordered the Philippines ambassador to leave the country and recalled its own envoy.
The rocky period ended after a deal was signed to protect overseas foreign workers and the Philippines announced the lifting of the deployment ban.
But the death of Villavende has renewed calls for the government to stop sending Filipino workers to Kuwait.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines has pushed for a deployment ban and the repatriation of overseas foreign workers already in Kuwait, as it expressed frustration over the 2018 deal, which it said was not working.
“The Philippine government has no other choice but to send a strong reaction like it did in the wake of gruesome deaths of Filipino workers there by suspending immediately the deployment of Filipino household service workers,” Raymond Mendoza, the union’s president, said in a statement issued on Tuesday evening.
Bello said he had summoned the Kuwaiti ambassador for a meeting on Thursday.
Another US senator banned from Philippines
Thursday, 02 Jan 2020
MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte has banned another United States lawmaker from entering the Philippines.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed yesterday that Duterte had banned Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts for calling for the release of Sen Leila de Lima, and for supporting the entry ban to the United States of Filipino officials believed to have had a hand in her detention.
“Yes, same reason for banning Durbin and Leahy. Truth be told, we do not have to state any ground to ban a foreign national entry in the Philippines.
“That is an exercise of sovereign right, ” Panelo told Inquirer.net in a text message.
Duterte had earlier ordered the Bureau of Immigration to deny US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy entry to the Philippines for pushing for the ban of Filipino officials who were allegedly behind de Lima’s detention.
De Lima has been detained at the custodial centre of the Philippine National Police in Quezon City since 2017 due to alleged drug charges.
In December, President Donald Trump signed into law the US government’s US$1.4 trillion (RM5.7 trillion) 2020 budget, which included a provision allowing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to bar Philippine officials from entering the United States if he had “credible information” that they were involved in the “wrongful imprisonment” of De Lima.
If the United States enforced the ban, Panelo said the Philippines would require Americans to secure visas before entering the country. — Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN
Gun control advocates urging Quebec to tighten rules as mosque shooting anniversary approaches
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
MONTREAL -- As the third anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting approaches, gun control advocates are urging the province to tighten rules around reference checks for those seeking gun permits.
Advocates have pressed for change since it was revealed that the mosque shooter, Alexandre Bissonnette, did not acknowledge when applying for a firearm permit that he had experienced periods of depression, and his family did not report it to authorities.
Suzanne Laplante-Edward, whose daughter was killed in the 1989 shooting at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique, notes that no one verified Bissonnette's statements and if they'd done so, the weapons used in the attack would have remained out of his reach.
Laplante-Edward and other family members of Montreal Massacre victims had a chance to discuss the issue with Premier Francois Legault during a recent ceremony.
She says they had a very good meeting and says the premier agrees it is imperative for the Quebec government to act quickly to fill in the gaps on background checks.
The federal government has promised a range of measures to tighten gun control rules, and Quebec says it has had discussions with Public Safety Minister Bill Blair about upcoming changes.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 1, 2010.
‘Not A Warning, It Is A Threat’: US President Donald Trump
January 02, 2020
US President Donald Trump warned Tehran it would “pay a very big price” after a mob of pro-Iranian demonstrators stormed the American embassy compound in Iraq, as his government said it is sending hundreds more troops to the Middle East.
Angered by US air strikes that killed two dozen paramilitary fighters on Sunday, hundreds of protesters spilled through checkpoints in the high-security Green Zone Tuesday, demanding the removal of American troops from Iraq and voicing loyalty to a powerful Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the attack was “orchestrated by terrorists,” one of whom he named as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Muhandis has been identified as second-in-command of the Tehran-backed Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary group.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said around 750 troops from a rapid response unit of the 82nd Airborne Division are prepared to deploy over the next several days to the region.
Prior to the announcement, a US official told AFP that “up to 4,000 (troops) may ultimately be deployed”.
The US had already flown a rapid response team of Marines into Baghdad to reinforce its embassy after the attack Tuesday, which left smoke and flames rising from the embassy entrance and further heightened tension between Tehran and Washington.
Trump blamed Tehran for the embassy attack and warned that it would face punishment if Americans are killed.
“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” Trump said on Twitter.
“They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,” wrote Trump, adding “Happy New Year!”
However, Trump later told reporters that he did not foresee war with Tehran.
Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei yesterday strongly condemned the US strikes on pro-Iran forces that killed at least 25 fighters and warned his country was ready to confront threats.
Live broadcasts showed the protesters battering down the high-security doors of the embassy reception building, smashing windows, burning a sentry box and chanting “Death to America!”
By yesterday afternoon, supporters of Iraq’s pro-Iranian force Hashed al-Shaabi began leaving the encircled US embassy in Baghdad but hardliners insisted they would stay.
Zamfara to Spend N1bn on Mosques, Cemeteries
January 2, 2020
The Zamfara State Government will spend over N1 billion in the 2020 budget to build Jumu’at Mosques, Ramadan welfare package, renovation of cemeteries and other religious activities, State Commissioner of Religious Affairs, Sheikh Tukur Jangebe, has said.
Defending the 2020 budget proposal of his ministry at the State House of Assembly in Gusau on Tuesday, Jangebe disclosed that over N300 million from the N1 billion would be used for special Ramadan packages for rural dwellers during the upcoming 2020 Ramadan fast.
“You know previously in every Ramadan season, the State government established Ramadan feeding centres across the State under this ministry (sic)”
“This time, we are going to restructure the Ramadan feeding package in the State. We want to reorganise it in such a way that it will reach the target beneficiaries in the rural communities.
“We plan to provide grains, essential commodities and cash to various categories of (the) needy instead of Ramadan feeding centres”, the commissioner said.
According to him, under the 2020 budget proposal, the ministry planned to build additional Jumu’at Mosques across the 17 emirates of the state.
“We are going to establish one Islamic education centre in each of the three senatorial districts in the state.
“We noticed that most of the cemeteries in the state are dilapidated, in fact, in some communities there are no functional cemeteries.
“We are going to renovate cemeteries in all the 14 Local Government Areas of the state and establish new ones if necessary”, he said.
Jangebe added that other projects such as improvement in the salaries of Imams of Jumu’at mosques were also captured in the 2020 budget proposal of the ministry.
2020: Islamic group sends message to Nigerians, speaks on Buhari stealing Nigeria’s money
January 1, 2020
By John Owen Nwachukwu
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has sent a New Year message to Nigerians.
The Islamic organisation also thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for refraining from stealing Nigeria’s money and for steering the ship of the nation with patience, maturity and Solomonic wisdom.
This was contained in a statement and copied to DAILY POST by the director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola, on Wednesday.
According to MURIC, “Nigerians will appreciate President Buhari if they compare and contrast. The money being used presently for massive infrastructure had always been there but it was being siphoned into private pockets, foreign banks and for the acquisition of luxurious properties.
“Those leaders were acquiring jets, luxurious yachts and expansive private estates while our school buildings were collapsing, retirees were dying, our roads became notorious death traps and our hospitals became public mortuaries. Public enterprises like the Nigerian Railway Corporation and the Nigerian Airways went into oblivion.
“But today the glory of Nigeria is returning. Our roads are being macadamized by PMB, the rails are springing back to life while Second Niger Bridge which had been ignored for decades is currently undergoing speedy construction.
“Several economic empowerment programmes initiated by the Buhari administration have put smiles on the lips of millions of beneficiaries.
“Fuel queues which used to be a recurring decimal particularly in the ember months and the Christmas and New Year season in particular have become a thing of the past.
“To the chagrin of one-eyed critics and wailing wailers, President Buhari continues to retain the record of the Father of Modern Nigeria.
“Buhari deserves this appellation for having so much wealth under his control yet he did not enrich himself. Nigerians who are witnessing this transformation and uncommon transparency should consider themselves lucky for having a leader who has dedicated his life to frugal spending and austere life. Other African states are not so lucky.
“Tedodoro Nguema Mbasogo (1979 to date) of New Equatorial Guinea has a net worth of $600 million which makes him one of the richest heads of state in the world. Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola (1979 to date) has an estimated net worth of $20 billion while his daughter has a networth of $3 billion in a country where 70% of the population manage to survive on $2 per day. Those two corrupt African leaders are still in office yet the wailing wailers have not deemed it fit to appreciate their own Mr. Integrity.
“Other corrupt African leaders whose performance we need to place in perspective in order to appreciate Buhari include Idi Amin Dada of Uganda (1971 – 1979) who took so much of the country’s money for himself that the inflation rate in Uganda rose to 1,000 percent by the time he was driven out of power; Francisco Macias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (1968 – 1979) who hoarded state money; Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan (1989 – 2019) who allegedly stashed away $9 billion with the London banks and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (1987 – 2017) who stole more than $10 million in a country whose GDP per capita is $953.
“Nearer home, Sani Abacha (1993 – 1998) stole more than $4.3 billion. The Presidential Library of former President Olusegun Obasanjo continues to raise eyebrows while the $16 billion allegedly spent on the procurement of power remains a monumental scandal and a riddle waiting to be solved. Diezani Allison Madueke reportedly helped herself to more than N2 trillion naira from the treasury. She has been charged with responsibility for a whopping $20 billion missing from the petroleum agency.
“In view of the above, MURIC celebrates President Muhammadu Buhari. A Father of Modern Nigeria has emerged. Buhari is the gem among other African leaders. We call on Nigerians to look outside the country, to cast a glance round the African continent in order to appreciate what they have. Let us appreciate our own in this New Year 2020 and do less of blind opposition.
“We all have been laying the blame for Nigeria’s poor condition on bad leadership. A good leader is now on the march. Let us not close our eyes and refuse to acknowledge him until his tenure expires. He may not pass this way again. Muhammadu Buhari is enough for us as a model and standard of good governance. His record will be difficult to break.
“We call on Nigerians to show him appreciation by cooperating with his government. The Muslims among us must remember that Allah promised to increase His blessings for those who are appreciative (Glorious Qur’an 14:7).
“Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also said, ‘Whoever fails to appreciate human beings will never appreciate Allah’. Christians among us must not be like the nine lepers who failed to thank Jesus after being healed (Luke 17:11-19).
“It is when we appreciate the good things in our leaders that we will be motivated to emulate them. We therefore urge Nigerians to ignore the pessimism of cynics.
“There is hope for Nigerians in this new year 2020 and the years to come if we have faith in our country. Nigeria is a great country if only we realize it. Just because we closed the borders for three months, our parasitic neighbours: Benin, Togo and Cameroon are bending over backwards. Apart from the days of Muritala Muhammad, this is one of the best times to be a Nigerian. Let us therefore be proud of our great country, Nigeria. The future is indeed very bright.
“MURIC wishes all Nigerians a Happy New Year in the Gregorian calendar. We invite our Christian neighbours to join hands with us in making Nigeria a greater and peaceful nation. Let us come together in unity to banish corruption and all forms of criminality from our society. Our followers will change once we, the leaders, start condemning and shunning evil with one voice. There will also be peace once both the pulpit and the minbar start peaching peace and once they avoid incitement. Religious leaders cannot afford to behave like rival wives in a polygamous setting.
“In our epilogue, we thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his transparency, his sacrifices, for steering the ship of the nation with patience, maturity and Solomonic wisdom and for his many achievements for the country. We call the attention of Nigerians to the phenomenon of bad leadership among other African nations and in order to realise how the present Nigerian leader stands out in the maddening crowd.”
Islamic Education Trust sponsors 100 orphans
anuary 2, 2020
By Justina Asishana Minna
The Islamic Education Trust (IET) has disclosed that it is sponsoring over 100 orphans in different schools under its humanitarian initiative department in the country.
The Nigerian IET Director-General Nigeria, Alhaji Arzika Abubakar Rimau, disclosed this while briefing journalists as part of activities to mark its 50th anniversary.
He said that the area of assistance includes payment of medical bills, providing food-aid among others.
Rimau explained that the Islamic Education Trust has over 500 staff of both Muslims and Christians, adding that its activities have impacted every region in Nigeria, other countries in Africa and other continents.
He then said activities lined up for the golden jubilee event are the New Horizon College, NHC, Alumni Marriage Workshop, and NHC Nursery and Primary School Alumni Get-Together, Interfaith Seminar, Neighbourhood Children Funfair, and Inter-School Quiz Competition.
He further revealed that the high point of the 50th anniversary would be the presentation of various awards to 100 individuals cutting across both Muslim and Christian background in the nation.
Fleeing war, poverty, African migrants face racism in Egypt
January 02, 2020
CAIRO: Two Sudanese sisters, Seham and Ekhlas Bashir, were walking their children home from elementary school in a Cairo neighborhood when a group of Egyptian teenagers crowded around them. The boys taunted them, calling them “slave” and other slurs. Then they tried to rip off Ekhlas’ clothes.
An onlooker intervened, scolding the young harassers, and the sisters and their three children managed to escape. But they were shaken.
They had just arrived in Cairo months earlier, fleeing violence in their homeland. The harassment brought up traumatic memories of detention, torture and rape they said they experienced at the hands of militias in Sudan’s Nuba mountains.
“We have come here seeking safety,” said Ekhlas, recounting the incident that took place in November. “But the reality was very different.”
Egypt has for decades been a refuge for sub-Saharan African migrants trying to escape war or poverty. But the streets of Cairo, a metropolis of some 20 million, can bring new dangers in the form of racist harassment or even violence in ways that other significant migrant communities here, such as Libyans and Syrians, don’t face.
While other major centers of African migration like Europe have been wrestling with racist violence, Egypt has only made small starts toward addressing the issue.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration says Egypt hosts more than 6 million migrants, more than half of them from Sudan and South Sudan, where simmering conflicts continue to displace tens of thousands of people annually. For some, Egypt is a destination and a haven, the closest and easiest country for them to enter. For others, it is a point of transit before attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Europe.
In visits to several migrant communities throughout Cairo, at least two dozen sub-Saharan Africans, including four children, told The Associated Press that they have endured racist insults, sexual harassment or other abuses in the past three months.
The children said they have had rocks and trash thrown at them as they go to or from school. One woman from Ethiopia said neighbors pound on the windows of her family’s home, yelling “slaves” before disappearing into the night.
There are signs that Egypt is starting to recognize and censure racist crimes.
In November, there was a public outcry over a video that went viral showing three Egyptian teenagers bullying a schoolboy from South Sudan.
In the video, taken by mobile phone, the teenagers block the boy’s way, laughing and making fun of his appearance before trying to take his backpack. In the aftermath, police detained the teenagers for a day before their families reached a settlement with the family of the South Sudanese boy, John Manuth.
Weeks later, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi hosted Manuth at a youth forum in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and made a rare high-level acknowledgement of the problem.
“They are our guests and negative treatment is not acceptable and not allowed,” El-Sisi told the audience.
In 2018, a court sentenced to seven years in prison a man who was known to harass refugees and who beat to death a South Sudanese teacher who had worked in a community-run school for refugees in Cairo.
Refugees and rights workers say the country still has a long way to go.
Reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence against migrants has increased in recent months, according to the IOM. Women and girls are the most effected, but so are vulnerable men and young boys, said Shirley De Leon, a project development officer at the organization. She said that could in part be because of Egypt’s economic strains — “challenges remain and are exacerbated by inflation, eroded income and high youth unemployment.”
Most migrants live in crowded poorer neighborhoods, where they form insular communities in small, packed apartment buildings. The idea is to protect families and vulnerable new arrivals from abuses.
Racism has roots in Egyptian society. For centuries, Egypt was colonized by Arab, Turkish and European imperial powers. Lighter skin was identified with the elite.
Darker-complexioned Egyptians and sub-Saharan Africans have been portrayed as doormen, waiters, and cleaners in films for decades. Some Egyptians still unabashedly address people by their skin color, calling them “black,” “dark,” or “chocolate.” Historically, many have preferred to think of themselves as Arab, rather than African.
Attia Essawi, an expert on African affairs at Cairo’s Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says it will take a lot to break some societal beliefs.
“Authorities should be decisive, with more severe measures against racism and bullying,” he said.
But for many, reporting a crime is not an option.
Two South Sudanese women, who work as part-time house cleaners, told the AP they had been sexually assaulted by their employers. Neither of them reported the allegations to police, as one of them has not finalized her documents as a migrant in Egypt and the other feared reprisals from her attacker. For the same reasons, they spoke on condition of anonymity.
Now, they and others say they make sure to be home by nightfall, and only go out in groups.
El-Sisi has said in the past that his country doesn’t need camps for refugees, because it is welcoming and absorbs them so readily. Many sub-Saharan African migrants enter the country legally but overstay visas. Enforcement on those who stay illegally is lax, and a large number of them work in the huge informal economy as street vendors and house cleaners.
In a café frequented by migrants in a central Cairo neighborhood, Ethiopian refugee Ahmed el-Athiopi says that he came to the city five years ago to escape repression at home. He believes the only reason he has been able to keep a job is because he makes half that of an Egyptian.
For now, though, he says Cairo remains his best available option.
“I hope things get better in the future. Here is much better than in my home country as there is likely a zero chance to leave for Europe,” he said.
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