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Islamic World News ( 25 Feb 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Man Forced To Chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ For Supporting Pak Cricket Team in a Pak-New Zealand Match

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 February 2023




• Pakistan Central Apex Body ‘Decides To Launch Crackdown on Sensationalism, Fake News on Social Media’

• Al-Qaeda-Iran Tactical Alliance Laid Bare By UN Report On Terror Group’s ‘De-Facto Leader’ Saif Al-Adel

• Chinese Loans to Pakistan, Sri Lanka May Be Used For Coercive Leverage: US

• Pakistan Delegation Warn IEA Authorities for not Taking Actions against TTP: Sources



• Protesters Block Nuh-Alwar Highway Seeking Arrest in Killing Of 2 Muslim Men By Alleged Cow Vigilantes of Bajrang Dal

• BJP, NCP Spar over 'Bring Muslim Voters from Dubai' Remark of A NCP Ex-Corporator

• One injured after terrorists open fire outside mosque in Kashmir's Anantnag

• How SRK’s Pathaan broke the stereotype of Muslim representation in Bollywood

• Bengaluru: A BJP Complaint May Disenfranchise Thousands of Dalits, Muslims

• DRDO Officer in Odisha Held for Leaking Defence Info to ISI’s Woman ‘Agent’

• Bihar: Mob lynches 3 Muslim men suspecting theft; 1 dead, 2 injured



• If Pakistan has to rise like an 'economic tiger', lawmakers must rise above personal likes and dislikes: PM Sharif

• Pakistan abstains from voting on Ukraine resolution

• ‘Tepid response’ as only five PTI leaders court arrest in Pindi

• Khawaja Asif holds Bajwa, Faiz responsible for Nawaz’s ouster, rise in terrorism

• Govt asks citizens to pay Haj fees in dollars to avail ‘special discount’: report

• NAB team visits Imran’s residence to confirm receipt of summons



• IRGC Commander Says Iran Seeks To Kill Trump, Pompeo, Others as Revenge for Soleimani

• Israeli Settlers In Occupied West Bank ‘Sing And Dance’ After Outpost Recognized

• Financer of Iran-backed Hezbollah arrested, to be extradited to US

• Palestinian youth dies a day after clash with Israeli troops: Hospital source

• Turkish forces killed alleged mastermind behind Istanbul street bombing

• Netanyahu discusses military action on Iran with top Israeli officials: Report

• New settlement powers for Israeli extremist Smotrich cause outrage among Palestinians


North America

• Paraguay: Muslim Brotherhood Is Declared a Terrorist Organization

• G-7 nations express 'profound sympathy' for Türkiye, Syria earthquake victims

• Ex-US senator: Washington started the wars in Iraq, Ukraine


South Asia

• Afghan Taliban Want Pakistan to ‘Bear Cost’ Of Disarming TTP

• Do Not Blindly Obey Anyone, Says Acting Afghan Defence Minister

• Iran to handover Afghan Embassy in Tehran to Taliban

• Afghanistan-Pakistan Torkham Gate Reopens Conditionally after Negotiations

• Taliban closes shops accepting Pakistani rupees in Uruzgan province


Arab World

• UAE Adds Three Men, Company to Local Terror List for Links to Iran-Backed Hezbollah

• Drone Strike in Syria Kills 2 Al-Qaeda-Linked Operatives

• Saudi Arabia emerges as ‘new destination’ for Indian travellers

• Saudi Shoura Council speaker leads team at Iraq talks

• OIC chief meets Turkish economic officials

• Tehran, Baghdad stepping up security cooperation as Iran FM visits Iraq

• Over 4,200 Saudi medics volunteer to aid Turkey, Syria earthquake survivors

• KSRelief signs 2 agreements to boost medical services to Syrians



• Nigeria: Muslim, Christian Clerics Warn Against Voting On Tribal, Religious Sentiments

• Nigeria Decides 2023: Shehu Sani reveals what happened in mosque on Friday

• Tunisia opposition says it will hold new protest over arrests on March 5



• Navy SEAL Who Killed Bin Laden Challenges Military Chiefs On Victory In Ukraine: ‘What Is Winning?’

• Georgia always ready to support Türkiye in these difficult days, says Georgian premier

• Türkiye, Syria earthquake aid appeal to air on 29 UK channels

• EU maintains sanctions on PKK in terrorist list update


Southeast Asia

• In Budget 2023 Speech, PM Anwar Reminds Malaysians To Stop Emphasising Racial Differences

• Jais: Ustaz Azhar Idrus not certified to teach Islam in S’gor

• Malaysia’s new Vatican envoy to promote interfaith dialogue

• Divyadarshini’s recitation of surah amazes Muslims

• Cabinet ministers laud Budget 2023 for being progressive towards developing Malaysia Madani

• Dismantling race-based rent-seeking will take more than usual discourse, forum told

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Man Forced To Chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ For Supporting Pak Cricket Team in a Pak-New Zealand Match




25th February 2023

Panaji: A shop owner at Calangute in Goa was forced to publicly apologise and raise ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ slogan after a video, in which he expressed support for the Pakistan cricket team, went viral on social media.

A group of men forced him to apologise and raise the slogan on Thursday.

This took place in the wake of an undated video released by a travel vlogger, in which the shop owner at Calangute in North Goa could be seen saying that he was supporting the Pakistan cricket team because it was a Muslim area.

The neighbouring country was apparently playing against New Zealand when the video was shot.

The video shows the vlogger having a brief conversation with the man. The vlogger asks the shop owner, “Who is playing? Are you cheering for New Zealand?” The man replies, “For Pakistan.” The vlogger then asks him why, to which the man responds saying, “This is Muslim area.”

After this video went viral, a group of people approached the shop owner on Thursday and questioned him for supporting Pakistan.

A video of the group forcing the shop owner to apologise also went viral on social media.

The video shows a member of the group telling the man, “This entire village is Calangute. There is no Muslim lane or any other lane. Don’t divide the country based on religion.”

He is then asked to kneel down and apologise to the countrymen. After initial reluctance, the shop owner is seen in the video tendering an apology by kneeling down and holding his ears. The video also shows the group making him raise the ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ slogan.

When contacted, a local police official said no complaint has been filed in connection with the incident.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Pakistan Central Apex Body ‘Decides To Launch Crackdown on Sensationalism, Fake News on Social Media’


Photo: National Herald


Syed Irfan Raza | Baqir Sajjad Syed

February 25, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The country’s top civil and military leadership have forged a consensus that terrorism, economic revival and political stability are interconnected and without political stability and economic progress, there can be no peace.

A meeting of the Central Apex Committee was held on Friday, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The committee — which comprises top civil and military leadership — met against the backdrop of the Feb 17 attack on police headquarters in Karachi and the Jan 30 attack on Peshawar’s Police Lines mosque.

The moot was attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir, federal ministers, chief ministers of all four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan, the AJK prime minister and other senior officials.

PM offers Imran chance to sit together ‘for the sake of future generations’

According to a handout issued after the meeting, the participants vowed to safeguard national security as they stressed the need for national harmony on both economic and security matters.

The meeting, held at the Prime Minister’s House, also called for building ‘national consensus’ on critical issues like terrorism as it mulled options for addressing growing instability before it boils over.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Sharif once again extended an olive branch to the PTI to sit together to find solutions to the current crisis.

A source privy to the meeting said that it was also decided to launch a crackdown against those creating undue sensationalism and fear through social media.

Security officials briefed the participants about the overall security situation, progress in the investigation into high-profile attacks and the operations against terrorists.

During the meeting, the attacks in Peshawar and Karachi were reviewed in detail.

The Sindh police chief informed the participants about the attack.

The meeting also decided to issue funds approved in the past for Karachi police and directed that initiatives to build the capacity of the police, CTD and other security agencies should be expedited.

The federal government would extend full cooperation and assistance to the provinces to maintain peace and security, the handout added.

The participants hailed the law enforcement agencies including the army, Rangers, Frontier Corps, Counter Terrorism Department and police for showing exemplary bravery and courage in the face of terrorism and paid tribute to the martyred officers and jawans.

The participants also reviewed the implementation of the National Action Plan and the progress on criminal justice reforms for making investigation, prosecution and punishment more effective, the handout said.

Role of social media

The meeting also took cognisance of the role played by social media, especially during ongoing terrorist attacks.

The participants were briefed that during live operations, critical information was spread through social media which ended up benefiting terrorists and their facilitators.

This imperils the lives of soldiers and security officials participating in the operation.

It was suggested that an SOP should be devised on this issue, taking guidance from regulations regarding the use of cyberspaces at times of terror attacks in other countries.

A consultation should be held with media houses and all relevant stakeholders for devising suitable SOPs to follow during emergencies.

The participants also agreed that in case of an attack, a focal person should be appointed to release facts to the media and public.

The prime minister said Pakistan was facing economic challenges and expressed hope that the situation would improve after matters with the International Monetary Fund were finalised in near future.

He added that the government was compelled to accept strict IMF conditions and the coalition parties “had put their political interests at stake” for the sake of the country.

He said cooperation from friendly countries was no less than Allah’s blessing, but the foremost priority should be to put our own house. “Otherwise, no one would come to help us.”

Olive branch to PTI

While the post-meeting handout emphasised consensus, the prime minister in his opening remarks criticised the PTI for opting out of a key meeting held after the Peshawar attack.

“A political party did not accept the invitation for the meeting,” the PM said, adding that the group “wanted matters to be decided on the roads”.

“It will be beneficial for us if we sense the gravity of the situation so that our next generation will realise that the national leadership, with its collective efforts, took the country out of the crisis,” the PM said.

He urged all political forces to set aside personal likes and dislikes and forge national unity to alleviate poverty and make Pakistan “an economic tiger”.

The prime minister said after the attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School in 2014, the national leadership had formulated a National Action Plan.

He said the then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif had also invited all the national leaders.

PM Shehbaz added security agencies were making utmost efforts to ensure the security of citizens.

“We must realise the sensitivity of this situation for the security of our future generations.”

He recalled that Pakistan had sacrificed around 83,000 lives to restore “peace for the world.”

After the apex committee’s meeting, the prime minster and the army chief also held a one-on-one meeting .

Source: Dawn

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Al-Qaeda-Iran Tactical Alliance Laid Bare By UN Report On Terror Group’s ‘De-Facto Leader’ Saif Al-Adel


This combo image shows an FBI photo of Saif Al-Adel, who is wanted in connection with the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya (top left), Al-Adel at an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 2000 (above), and the terror suspect photographed in Tehran in 2012 (lower left). (Supplied, Getty Images)


Oubai Shahbandar

February 24, 2023

WASHINGTON: For two decades, the entire world was under threat from an insidious group, which at its peak claimed the lives of thousands through a series of bombings and attacks, including the events of Sept. 11, 2001, which to this day remains the deadliest terror attack in history.

Al-Qaeda, once among the top terror threats in the world, has largely faded from relevance in recent years, with the last attack for which it claimed responsibility being a 2019 shooting at a naval air station in Florida that killed three and injured eight.

With its founder and leader Osama bin Laden shot to death in a US raid in Pakistan in 2011, his successor Ayman Al-Zawahiri killed by a US drone strike in Afghanistan last year, and multiple other senior leaders hunted down and arrested or slain, it seemed there was nowhere left for the group to hide.

However, this presumption changed with a UN report published earlier this week. Prepared by the UN’s experts, it concluded that Saif Al-Adel, a former colonel in the Egyptian special forces and one of the last surviving lieutenants of bin Laden, is now the “de-facto leader” of the international terror group.

The report’s significance, however, was not limited to its identification of Al-Qaeda’s new leader. It revealed one of the reasons Al-Adel has managed to stay alive for so long: Shelter given to him by the Iranian government in Tehran.

Al-Adel was one of the terror group’s earliest members, having left Egypt for Afghanistan in 1988. There, he joined Maktab Al-Khidamat, an Al-Qaeda forerunner that was founded by bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri, among others. Having been an expert in explosives in the Egyptian military, Al-Adel trained members of the Taliban after the end of the Soviet-Afghan war.

There, he regularly conferred with bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a man called “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks” by the 9/11 Commission Report.

Al-Adel would eventually flee Afghanistan in late 2001 and set up shop in neighboring Iran following US military intervention in the former. Reports suggest that though he was officially under house arrest in Tehran, he was given relative freedom to travel to Pakistan and convene with high-ranking Al-Qaeda members since about 2010.

The UN report, based on member state intelligence, helps shed additional light on Al-Adel’s whereabouts. His presence in Iran, a country that technically claims it is adamantly opposed to Al-Qaeda and its offshoots, has helped the terror organization avoid total eradication.

“It is very significant that Saif Al-Adel — now the head of Al-Qaeda — lives and operates out of Tehran. The Iranian government has made a shrewd calculation that by hosting and enabling Al-Qaeda, it can both control the group and supercharge their efforts to attack Iran’s enemies,” former senior State Department official Gabriel Noronha told Arab News.

Al-Adel had a direct role in a number of deadly bomb plots, including planning the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi that killed more than 200 people. US and Saudi intelligence maintain that Al-Adel, while based in Tehran, provided instructions for the 2003 terror attack against three separate residential compounds in the Saudi capital Riyadh that killed 39 people.

Now believed to be the high commander of Al-Qaeda, Al-Adel is using the relative safety of his base of operations in Iran to keep the terror group viable at a time when it has lost sanctuaries in other parts of the world.

“The State Department disclosed in January 2021 that Iran had provided Al-Adel and Al-Qaeda with a base of operations and logistical support, such as providing passports, to help facilitate Al-Qaeda’s terror plots. If they are left on their own, they will absolutely start conducting more terror attacks around the world. For now, they are regrouping, building more resources, recruits and capabilities,” Noronha said.

In 2020, a close associate of Al-Adel, Abu Muhammad Al-Masri, was reportedly eliminated by Israeli agents in Tehran. Al-Adel, however, remains at large.

Al-Adel’s tactical prowess and expertise helped to propel Al-Qaeda into the international spotlight as one of the world’s most dangerous terror entities, and his presence in Iran would not be possible without authorization at the highest levels.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, have used the presence of Al-Qaeda in the region — as well as that of Daesh, a splinter group from Al-Qaeda’s Iraq and Syria branch — as justification for the expansion of Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

However, experts say that this is a clear exercise in hypocrisy by Iran. Iranian officials have often carried out paramilitary campaigns and efforts to dominate governance in Iraq and Syria under the guise of fighting Al-Qaeda and Daesh.

“The Iranians constantly accuse the US, absurdly, of having created Daesh to attack them and of continuing to support Daesh, Fred Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told Arab News. “This even though the Iranians themselves have benefited from the extensive US counterterrorism operations without which Daesh would still have a large and powerful territorial caliphate.

“The hypocrisy of the Islamic Republic really stands out, as it becomes more and more clear that Tehran has been harboring a very senior Al-Qaeda leader for many years.”

According to Western intelligence officials, another way in which Iran was able to play both sides in attempting to portray the IRGC and its proxies as fighting terror, while in reality enabling the expansion and activities of Al-Qaeda, was through Tehran’s facilitation of the transit of a number of key high-profile Al-Qaeda operatives from South Asia into Syria.

A 2012 press release from the Department of the Treasury stated that the then-leader of Al-Qaeda’s Iran network, Muhsin Al-Fadlhi, ran “a core pipeline” of funding and fighters that were sent to Syria. David S. Cohen, the US undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the time, confirmed what he called “Iran’s ongoing complicity in this network’s operation.”

Al-Fadhli himself was killed in a US airstrike in Syria’s Idlib governorate in 2015. The recent UN report has re-ignited the public conversation on just how deeply embedded Iran’s relationship with Al-Qaeda could have been for years.

A report by nonprofit group United Against a Nuclear Iran stated: “An intercepted letter reportedly sent to the IRGC in 2008 by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s current leader, revealed an even deeper relationship between Iran and Al-Qaeda than previously thought.”

Iran’s motive seems to be broader in scope. For a time, Al-Qaeda posed a serious threat to Arab Gulf States, the Levant and North Africa, and was able to establish various “franchises” in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran wants to weaken and divide Sunni governments. What better way to do that than by empowering the most radical Sunni factions so they can undermine governments from within?” Noronha said.

In comments to the Voice of America’s news website, Edmund Fitton-Brown, a former senior UN counterterrorism official who is now an adviser to the nonprofit Counter Extremism Project, said: “The presence of Al-Qaeda in Iran is a sort of a chip that the Iranians have. They’re not entirely sure how or when they might play it but . . . it was something that they considered to have potential value.”

Unsurprisingly, Iran continues to deny its relationship with Al-Qaeda. Rejecting the UN report, the country’s permanent mission to the UN in New York said on Feb. 13: “It is worth noting that the address for the so-called newly appointed Al-Qaeda leader is incorrect.” Dismissing the findings as “misinformation,” the Iranians said they could “potentially hinder efforts to combat terrorism.”

Of course, publicly revealing the extent of support provided by Iran’s extraterritorial unconventional warfare and military intelligence arm, Quds Force, to a group that has killed thousands of Sunni and Shiite Muslims throughout the world, would be politically embarrassing, exposing a cynical streak in the regime’s driving ideology.

The UN report is a reminder that at a time when Al-Qaeda is facing irrelevance with its top leadership dwindling, a sanctuary in Tehran has thrown it a welcoming lifeline.

Source: Arab News

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Chinese Loans To Pakistan, Sri Lanka May Be Used For Coercive Leverage: US


Photo: The Times of India


Feb 25, 2023

WASHINGTON: Donald Lu, United States assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs, said on Friday that they have concerns that loans being given by China to countries in India's 'immediate' neighbourhood 'may be used for coercive leverage.'

Lu made the statements while addressing a press briefing on Secretary Antony Blinken's upcoming travel to India, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan. The top American diplomat is travelling to New Delhi on a three-day official visit from March 1 to 3 to participate in the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

Reacting to Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar's announcement that the Board of China Development Bank (CDB) has approved a USD 700 million credit facility to the country, Lu said that there has been a serious conversation between India and the US on the issue of China.

"Concerning Chinese loans to countries in India's immediate neighbourhood, we are deeply concerned that loans may be used for coercive leverage. And we are talking to India, talking to countries of the region about how we help countries to make their own decisions and not decisions that might be compelled by any outside partner, including China," Lu replied to a question on Chinese loans to Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

"We have had serious conversations about China, both before the latest scandal over this surveillance balloon but in the aftermath. So, I fully expect those conversations will continue," he said.

Lu said that Russia is globally facing a difficult time fulfilling orders for military contracts and that might affect India's millitary relationship with Russia.

"We see plenty of evidence of that around the world. And if you look at press reporting, I think you can see the Indians are also wondering whether Russia will be able to provide for its defenses," Lu said.

Lu quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister S. Jaishankar when asked if India avoids using the word 'war' in context with Russia's invasion in Ukraine.

"India uses the word 'war' all the time. You heard Prime Minister Modi say, in August, now is not the era for war. You heard External Affairs Minister Jaishankar say in September, at the UN, that we need this war to end through diplomatic means and along the principles of the UN Charter, reinforcing territorial integrity and sovereignty," he said.

"And then, in November you heard the Indian Defense Minister say the threat to use nuclear weapons by Russia is totally unacceptable and at odds with the basic tenets of humanity. So, I don't particularly see a reluctance to use the word 'war.' I think they use it all the time," Lu said.

Lu insisted that Quad is not a military alliance. "The Quad is not, in fact, an organisation that is against any single country or group of countries. The Quad stands for trying to promote activities and values that support the Indo-Pacific - free and open Indo-Pacific, but Indo-Pacific that's prosperous and supports the values that we as these four countries represent," he said.

The G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting will focus on strengthening multilateralism and deepening cooperation on food and energy security, sustainable development, counter-narcotics, global health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, gender equality and women's empowerment.

"The Secretary will be meeting, while in New Delhi, with his counterpart, the Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankar. They'll talk about our strategic partner partnership but really focus on how we're working together in the Asian Quad, in the G20, what we're doing on defense cooperation, and the Initiative for Critical and Emerging Technologies that is being run out of the White House and the prime minister's office," Lu added.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan Delegation Warn IEA Authorities for not Taking Actions Against TTP: Sources


Pakistan Delegation traveled to Kabul in an announced visit on Wednesday, and warned the Taliban authorities, says a top Pakistani security official, according to Anadolu News Agency. 


By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 25, 2023

Pakistan Delegation traveled to Kabul in an announced visit on Wednesday, and warned the Taliban authorities, says a top Pakistani security official, according to Anadolu News Agency. 

According to the Turkish news outlet, Khawaja Asif, the Defense Minister of Pakistan in his visit to Kabul had met with Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradarm, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Taliban, and said if the Afghan leadership does not take action against the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Islamabad will operate inside Afghanistan.

“We showed evidence to the Afghan Taliban on how TTP had planned and launched recent attacks in Bannu and Peshawar from Afghanistan and warned them that further attacks would lead to a tough response from Pakistan, the source quotes from the top Islamabad-based security official.

“Our delegation clearly asked the Afghan Taliban leadership to prevent military activities of the TTP militants based in Afghanistan,” he said. The Turkish news agency did not name the identity of the top security official.

If decisive actions are not taken to prevent TTP attacks, Pakistan does not have any other option to target its hideouts other than conducting military operations in border areas inside Afghanistan. 

In response to the Pakistani delegation’s claims, Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradar has rejected the presence of TTP militants in Afghanistan and said the Afghan interim regime will not allow any terror group to pose threats to the security of other counties in the region and beyond.

On this travel, Pakistan’s Defense Minister was accompanied by the Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence, General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq, and Ambassador to Afghanistan Ubaidur Rehman Nizamani.

Source: Khaama Press

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Protesters Block Nuh-Alwar Highway Seeking Arrest in Killing Of 2 Muslim Men By Alleged Cow Vigilantes of Bajrang Dal

February 24, 2023

Nuh (Haryana): Hundreds of people descended on Nuh-Alwar highway in Firozpur Jhirka here on Friday demanding the arrest of killers of two Muslim men from Rajasthan.

The protesters accused Haryana Police of negligence in the matter.

The protest led to a massive jam on the highway for around an hour but at length, police managed to control the situation and got the road cleared.

Earlier, some social organisations headed by former minister Azad Mohammad also submitted a memorandum to the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Firozpur Jhirka through Naib Tehsildar and demanded the arrest of the accused and a judicial inquiry into the incident.

Mohammad alleged that the incident was not an isolated one.

"The car which was found registered in the name of Panchayat Department Haryana has been used in the heinous murder of Nasir and Junaid," alleged the former minister.

'Cow vigilantes' are raising hell in the name of cow protection in the Mewat area, a few Congress MLAs from the Mewat area had alleged on Wednesday while speaking in the state assembly.

Nasir and Junaid, both residents of Ghatmeeka village in the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, were allegedly abducted by cow vigilantes on February 15 and their bodies were found in a charred car in Loharu in Haryana's Bhiwani the next day. Their families had named five men allegedly linked to the Bajrang Dal in their complaint to the police.

After handing over the memorandum, the protesters shouted slogans against Bajrang Dal and Gau Raksha Dal Task Force and went to Ambedkar Chowk and completely blocked Delhi-Nuh-Alwar Road.

Source: ND TV

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BJP, NCP Spar over 'Bring Muslim Voters from Dubai' Remark of A NCP Ex-Corporator

Ritvick Arun Bhalekar

Feb 25, 2023

A row erupted after a video clip of a NCP ex-corporator, Usman Hiroli, from Kasba Peth Assembly constituency, was heard making an appeal to bring voters from Dubai to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP in Pune by-polls.

The Muslim leader during the election campaigning said, "Bring Muslim voters from Dubai and Saudi Arabia to defeat PM Modi. Not only that, but also bring the ones who are dead to exercise their voting rights."

Retorting to the appeal made to seek votes in the Pune bypolls, Maharashtra BJP vice president Madhav Bhandari has now appealed to Hindu voters to unite and show strength in Kasba assembly constituency. Madhav Bhandari in a tweet made an appeal to all Hindus to unite and show their strength.

"Election commission and administration should take serious note of it and act," the BJP chief demanded.

The BJP has alleged that the NCP was banking on the votes of the minority community to defeat it. Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis condemned the remark made by the Muslim leader, saying that it was made in the presence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Fadnavis stated that now the fight is not between local candidates but is between nationalists and anti-nationalists.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has already issued a notice to Maharashtra BJP Spokesperson Keshav Upadhyay and an editor of a regional channel for dragging Sharad Pawar in the matter.

Replying to Fadnavis's remark, Sharad Pawar said, "BJP gives a communal colour to the political discourse when it is not confident of winning. It is not new for the BJP to divert attention towards communal issues if it is not confident of a victory."

"Whenever there is doubt about success, at that time, caste, class and creed are being used for campaigning. It is not the first time the BJP has used such tactics. However, I don’t give much importance to what he (Fadnavis) has said," retorted Pawar.

Bypolls to the Kasba Peth and Chinchwad constituencies, scheduled to be held on February 26, were necessitated following the death of BJP legislators Mukta Tilak and Laxman Jagtap respectively. The counting of votes will be held on March 2.

Amid the controversy, Usman Hiroli, a former corporator, in an exclusive interview with Mumbai Tak, said, "The fight is between secular forces- RSS vs BJP. There is nothing new about it. In any election, one is needed to give a hundred percent and hence I, appealed to each and everyone to vote without excuses."

"Also, there is no chance of bogus voting these days as every voter is provided with a voting card and an identity card is compulsory," Hiroli argued.

Source: India Today

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One injured after terrorists open fire outside mosque in Kashmir's Anantnag

Feb 24, 2023

Son of a martyred head constable was injured in a firing by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag on Friday. The firing took place outside a mosque in Bijbehara's Hasanpora Tavela area, the Kashmir Police said in a tweet.

The man has been indentified as Asif Ganai, the son of late Ali Mohd Ganai; he is currently being treated at a hospital.

The area where the firing took place has been cordoned off and a hunt launched to nab the attackers, the police further said.

Source: Hindustan Times

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How SRK’s Pathaan broke the stereotype of Muslim representation in Bollywood

Lachmi Deb Roy

February 24, 2023

YRF’s Pathaan gave a new life to the Muslim identity portraying Shah Rukh Khan who plays the titular role as a person who is patriotic and is willing to give his life for the country. That was the big plus point of Pathaan movie and the audience simply lapped it up. Pathaan brought about a historic change and an evolution of Muslim representation in Hindi cinema for the first time.

Pathaan was written in a very different way Hindi cinema has visualised Muslim characters in the past. The character Pathaan played by SRK doesn’t hide his Muslim identity and calls himself ‘son of India’. That is what touched the hearts of the audiences and still even after so many weeks of its release, people can’t stop dancing to Jhoome Joh Pathaan. Pathaan (SRK) doesn’t ask what his country can do for him, rather he asks what he can do for his country unlike Jim played by John Abraham.

Such is the popularity of Pathaan that recently we saw a video featuring professors and students of a Delhi college grooving to the beats of the song ‘Jhoome Jo Pathaan’. Other than a few like Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milega Dobara Farhan Akhtar plays the role of Imran where the character is head to toe Muslim and the same with Pathaan where no stress is given on the religious identity and yet the character is unapologetically Muslim Indian.

Source: Firstpost

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Bengaluru: A BJP Complaint May Disenfranchise Thousands of Dalits, Muslims

Dhanya Rajendran and Shivani Kava

Hundreds of voters, particularly Muslims and Dalits, in Bengaluru’s Shivajinagar constituency could lose their spot on the voters’ list with the Election Commission initiating action against them on the basis of a contentious complaint by activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The complaint, which the opposition has described as malicious and communally motivated, was filed in October last year and alleged that 26,000 fake voters had been identified as either shifted out or dead in the constituency. Election authorities sprang to action in January this year even as the final voters’ list was being prepared, and started issuing notices to 9,159 voters. The move is being seen as a violation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) laid down by the Election Commission of India on September 13 2021, which said that suo motu deletions cannot be made in the six months prior to the term of an Assembly ending. (Karnataka assembly term ends in the last week of May).

The SOP is prescribed in order to avoid last minute chaos in the lead up to voting, as such confusion could erode voters’ faith in the legitimacy of the exercise. But in the case of Shivajinagar, the ECI has sought to justify its actions by invoking a clause which said that deletions can be done under ‘special circumstances’. “How is a complaint filed by a political party, that too with enmasse names, a special circumstance?” asked M.G. Devasahayam, retired IAS officer and chairman of the NGO, People-First.

Shivajinagar, which is in the heart of Bengaluru, has around 1.91 lakh voters, 40% of whom are Muslims. The constituency has been represented by a Congress MLA since 2008. The controversy started with a private complaint filed by BJP sympathisers in October 2022 listing out 26,000 voters. How a private group came into possession of this list is still a mystery.

A month after the complaint was filed, on November 16, 2022, TNM published an investigation that a private agency named Chilume, with links to the BJP, had been collecting voter data illegally from many constituencies including Shivajinagar. Following TNM’s expose, which created a major political storm, the ECI ordered a 100% check of all deletions and additions to the electoral rolls in Shivajinagar by December 24, 2022. The findings of our investigation have also led observers to suspect that the list of 26,000 names forwarded to the ECI was compiled by Chilume.

The final electoral roll for the Shivajinagar constituency was published on January 15, 2023. This is when the BJP directly got into the Shivajinagar slugfest. Eight days after the electoral roll was published, the BJP went to the Election Commission demanding that the 26,000 names mentioned in the private complaint should be removed. The party followed it up with a writ petition in the Karnataka high court on February 1. The Congress immediately accused the party of trying to vitiate the atmosphere by choosing to take these actions well after the final electoral rolls were published.

Chief electoral officer of Karnataka Manoj Kumar Meena told TNM that election officials cross-checked all 26,000 names and found that 9,159 had either shifted out of their old homes or died. Accordingly, two notices were issued to hundreds of people between January 10 and February 15 asking them to appear before the election authorities. The notices said that if they don’t appear before the Electoral Registration Office on the given date and time, their names will be deleted from the electoral list.

The timeline of this exercise throws up several questions, including whether a complaint filed at the last minute by any party can vitiate an election process.

“Why were these notices sent after the final rolls were published? The complaint was filed in October 2022; if the CEO wanted to take action, why was it not done before? Rules mandate that Form 7 has to be filled if anyone wants to raise an objection and delete a name in the existing electoral roll. Did the BJP fill 26,000 Form 7s? If they didn’t, why did the CEO’s office accept their complaint? Anyone can raise a complaint like this,” M.G. Devasahayam, retired IAS officer told TNM. Incidentally, he is a co-petitioner in the Supreme Court in a PIL challenging the rule that allows the deletion of voters without intimation.

The Electoral Registration Office confirmed that the BJP did not fill any Form 7. Despite this, both the CEO and elections officials at the BBMP maintain that the complaint by the BJP makes out a ‘special circumstance’. “We cannot ignore the complaint,” said Meena.

A ground visit by TNM revealed gaping holes in the Election Commission’s narrative that all 9,159 names were verified by Booth Level Officers.

S. Rajan, a Dalit resident of the Makaan compound in Shivajinagar, received a call from ERO’s office asking him to establish his residency, to which he confirmed that he still lived at the same address. “I have lived here in this house all my life but now they are saying that I have shifted somewhere else. My family has been living at the same address for the past 80 years and suddenly the BBMP’s list states that I along with two other members of my family have shifted to another address,” he said.

Another resident told TNM that despite living in the same house since birth, she received a notice asking her to verify her address, or her name would be deleted. “I went to the ERO’s office to reverify but I don’t understand why only I received the notice from my family and have to verify my address despite living here all my life,” said Rabbiya Fathima.

Anwar Basha and his wife recently acquired their voter IDs after the tedious application process but were disappointed when Congress volunteers told them that they had been marked on ‘address shifted’. The couple said they have neither got any notices from the Election Commission in their old or new address, nor received any calls. “I got the voter ID just six months ago. After following the process of applying for the voter ID, my wife and I got the voter ID and now we found out that we may not be included in the voters’ list,” said Basha.

“Voters are getting harassed. Many people replied to the first notice, despite that they have been issued a second notice asking to appear. This process is to tire people out. I don’t know why Shivajinagar was chosen for this experiment. Maybe because this is a safe seat for the Congress, the BJP wants to see if deletion will help them win,” said Congress MLA Rizwan Arshad.

Source: The Wire

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DRDO Officer in Odisha Held for Leaking Defence Info to ISI’s Woman ‘Agent’

Feb 25, 2023

A technical officer of DRDO’s Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Odisha’s Balasore district was arrested Friday for allegedly leaking defence secrets to a Pakistani woman suspected to be working for ISI after falling for her charms on social media, reports Debabrata Mohapatra.

Baburam Dey, 51, was part of the facility’s telemetry department and had access to classified information about testing of missiles, rockets and cluster bombs by DRDO and other defence agencies, police said. Besides information about future testing, he stands accused of sharing with the Pakistani woman pictures of prohibited areas within the test range and the equipment kept there.

Source: Times Of India

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Bihar: Mob lynches 3 Muslim men suspecting theft; 1 dead, 2 injured

24th February 2023

Three Muslim men were lynched in Gaya’s Diha village early Thursday morning allegedly under the suspicion of theft, leaving one dead and two others critical. The police have formed a special investigation team (SIT) to look into the murder in the alleged case of mob lynching in Bihar.

Police have so far filed two different FIRs in the case, and while they have said that no communal angle has arisen in their investigations, family members of the victims have described it as a “targeted killing.”

According to one version of events presented by Diha locals, they spotted a vehicle with six persons inside travelling through the village late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning.

Senior superintendent of police (SSP), Ashish Bharti said the SIT is being led by an ASP rank officer. “We are probing all angles,” he said.

Villagers informed police that they stopped the group to verify their identity when they were reportedly shot upon. While three were apprehended the other three escaped.

The three injured were transferred to Gaya’s Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College, where Mohammed Babar, 28, was proclaimed dead and two others, Ruknuddin Alam, 32, and Mohammad Sajid, 28, were badly injured. They have now been transferred to PMCH in Patna.

The police have alleged that they discovered, explosives, ammunition and a knife from their vehicle. They also stated that two of the theft accused, Alam and Sajid, have criminal cases against them however Babar has none, reported Hindustan Times.

These claims of the villagers have been denied by the families of the accused. the families state that the three worked in a Kolkata factory and went to Diha hamlet to recruit labourers. The incident, according to the families, occurred outside the village where the victims had stepped out to relieve themselves.

The three are from Kurisarai village, which is around six kilometres from Diha.

According to SSP Gaya Ashish Bharti, the police filed two different FIRs on Friday. One is against the victims for theft and sections of the arms act, while, another is against 17 named and 25 unidentified persons based on the complaint of Sajid’s father Sabir Ali.

Local politicians and victims’ families blocked the Gaya-Patna road in Belaganj for hours on Thursday to demand the arrest of the culprits, as well as Rs 25 lakh in compensation and a government post for Babar’s family. The barrier was removed as the police declared an SIT.

Source: Siasat Daily

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If Pakistan has to rise like an 'economic tiger', lawmakers must rise above personal likes and dislikes: PM Sharif

Feb 24, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday said that if the country has to rise like an "economic tiger", lawmakers must rise above personal likes and dislikes, as he chaired a high-level National Apex Committee meeting to formulate a strategy to deal with the rising incidents of terror attacks.

The meeting was attended by a raft of high-profile members from the political and military establishment.

Prime Minister Sharif criticised Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party for skipping an apex committee meeting held last month.

“After the Peshawar incident, I invited all political stakeholders… but they [PTI] did not consider it appropriate to participate in the huddle and they are still trying to resolve matters on the streets,” he said.

On January 30, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up during the afternoon prayers in a mosque in Peshawar, killing 101 people and injuring more than 200 others.

The suicide bomber disguised himself in a police uniform to sneak into the high-security zone and was riding a motorcycle with a helmet and mask on, police said.

“For the sake of prosperity, we must sit down and resolve the matter amicably but unfortunately one segment is still trying to sabotage the matters, which is condemnable,” Sharif said.

“If we want to make Pakistan an economic tiger then we must rise above personal likes and dislikes,” he added.

Speaking on the precarious security situation in the country, Prime Minister Sharif said NACTA has become a "dormant institution," and the time was ripe to replace it with the National Action Plan (NAP).

The NAP was devised by the then governors of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)following the heinous Army Public School attack in Peshawar in 2014, in which over 130 students were killed.

The attack was orchestrated by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Friday's meeting comes after Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and the Director General of the country's spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt. General Nadeem Anjum met the top brass of the Afghanistan Taliban regime in Kabul to discuss the rise in terror attacks in Pakistan masterminded by the TTP.

Pakistan has been hit by a wave of terrorism, mostly in the country's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, but also in Balochistan, the Punjab town of Mianwali, which borders the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and also in the Sindh province.

During the Apex Committee meeting held last month, Pakistan's civil and military leadership decided to seek Afghan Taliban chief Haibuttallah Akhundzada's intervention to control the TTP.

In November last year, the TTP called off an indefinite ceasefire agreed with the government in June 2022 and ordered its militants to carry out attacks on the security forces.

Pakistan hoped that the Afghan Taliban after coming to power would stop the use of their soil against Pakistan by expelling the TTP operatives but they have apparently refused to do so at the cost of straining ties with Islamabad.

The TTP, set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007, called off a ceasefire with the federal government and ordered its militants to stage terrorist attacks across the country.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan abstains from voting on Ukraine resolution

Anwar Iqbal

February 25, 2023

UNITED NATIONS: Pakis­tan is among the 32 countries that abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly on Thursday on a resolution that rejected the forcible acquisition of land, and called for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine.

More than 60 countries, including the United States and major European powers, moved the resolution in the General Assembly’s 11th emergency session on Thursday, a day before the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The resolution, which stressed that the Russian invasion violated the principles of the UN Charter, received 141 votes in favour, seven against, and was adopted by the assembly.

“Pakistan has abstained on the draft resolution,” said the country’s UN ambassador Munir Akram while explaining the move. But Islamabad “fully supports” the resolution’s “call for respect for the principle of the sovereignty, sovereign equality and territorial integrity of states and non-acquisition of territory by the threat or use of force,” he added.

Both Delhi, Islamabad have refrained from voting on UN resolutions, the former due to past ties, latter out of ‘future concerns’

The Pakistani envoy endorsed the resolution’s spirit that “states cannot be torn apart by the use of force” but noted that “these principles have not been universally applied and respected”. He pointed out that in the situation of foreign occupation and “the ongoing attempt at the illegal and forcible annexation of Jammu and Kashmir”, these principles were not applied.

“While my delegation agrees with and endorses the principles and general provisions contained in the draft resolution, there are some provisions which are not consistent with Pakistan’s principled position on some of the elements covered in the resolution,” he added.

Ambassador Akram said that as a country that had seen and suffered the consequences of prolonged conflict in its neighbourhood, “Pakistan attaches highest priority to the immediate cessation of hostilities and the resumption of a dialogue to achieve a just and durable solution — through direct or indirect negotiations, mediation or other peaceful means”.

The Pakistani envoy called on the secretary general, inter alia under Chapter VI and VIII of the UN Charter, to play his role for efforts aimed at de-escalation, renewed negotiations, and sustained dialogue for a peaceful diplomatic solution of the Ukrainian issue.

Pakistan, he said, also hoped for the resumption of a dialogue for durable resolution of the conflict based on the principles of the UN Charter and past agreements, and bearing in mind the legitimate security interests of all states“.

Consistent with its position on the draft resolution in the document, Pakistan had also abstained on the amendments proposed to the resolution by Belarus, which sought to “water down” the resolution.

Seven countries — Belarus, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, North Korea, Eritrea and Mali — voted against the resolution. All have close military and political ties with Russia.

So far, both India and Pakistan have refrained from voting on UN resolutions on Ukraine; India because of past ties and Pakistan out of future concerns.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said countries such as India and South Africa were expected on a trajectory away from alignment with Moscow, but that process would not happen “in one fell swoop”.

“There are countries that have long-standing, decades-long relationships with Russia, with the Soviet Union before, that are challenging to break off in one fell swoop. It’s not flipping a light switch, it’s moving an aircraft carrier,” Mr Blinken said in an interview with The Atlantic, marking the one-year anniversary of the war.In Washington, the abstentions are seen as reflecting national and regional concerns and, in some cases, as availing an opportunity to express their grievances against the West.

The Washington Post, while commenting on the abstentions, reported that “conversations with people in South Africa, Kenya and India suggest a deeply ambivalent view of the conflict, informed less by the question of whether Russia was wrong to invade than by current and historical grievances against the West”.

In some circles in Washington, Pakistan’s abstention is also explained in a similar fashion. Those aware of Pakistan’s paralysing energy shortage, argue that the country’s effort to seek subsidised oil from Russia is preventing it from taking a stronger stance on the Ukrainian issue.

Source: Dawn

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‘Tepid response’ as only five PTI leaders court arrest in Pindi

Aamir Yasin

February 25, 2023

RAWALPINDI: After Lahore and Peshawar, PTI’s Jail Bharo Tehreek (court arrest movement) moved to Rawalpindi on Friday, but an ‘unimpressive’ show resulted in only five leaders courting arrest.

The leaders along with 42 party workers, who voluntarily presented themselves for arrest, were booked for one month under the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance, 1960, Rawalpindi division RPO Syed Khurram Ali has confirmed.

The PTI — which won six National Assembly and 12 Punjab Assembly seats from the city — could only manage to find five leaders who were willing to court arrest.

These included former MNA Sadaqat Abbasi; former MPAs Fayazul Hasan Chohan, Latasub Satti and Ijaz Khan Jazi; and Zulfi Bukhari.

The party’s local chapter had announced a list of 10 leaders for the court arrest movement including Amir Kiani, Wasiq Qayum, Sadaqat Abbasi, Arif Abbasi, Umer Tanvir Butt, Rashid Hafeez, Ijaz Khan Jazi, Fayazul Hasan Chohan, Chaudhry Adnan and Sajid.

More than 40 PTI workers booked for 30 days under MPO

Some notable leaders said they decided not to court arrests due to the directives from the party’s higher-ups.

Sheikh Rashid Shafique, former MNA and nephew of former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, told Dawn that he was stopped by PTI divisional head Amir Kiani from courting arrest.

“I, along with Rashid Hafeez, Wasiq Qayum and a few other leaders, were directed by PTI divisional head Amir Kiani to not surrender,” Mr Shafique told Dawn.

He explained that Mr Khan would arrive on February 27 to appear before the Islamabad High Court and they had been tasked with mobilising workers for his welcome.

Disillusioned workers

Although workers and supporters gathered at the Committee Chowk on Murree Road, they opted not to present themselves for the arrest.

According to sources, several PTI workers had ‘symbolically’ courted arrests but those who wished not to go to jail were later released.

A senior party leader told Dawn that local representatives were tasked with bringing at least 100 workers and supporters each from their constituencies but the turnout “was lower than expected”.

He said that at a divisional meeting three days ago, the leaders expressed their reservations and informed the local leadership of difficulties in convincing people to court arrest.

The workers were assured that a team of lawyers had been formed which would get them freed within a day or two of arrest, the leader said, adding that workers “refused to buy the story.”

The PTI official said workers were miffed at local leaders, who, they claimed, did nothing for their welfare while being in power for almost four years.

“After I saw that former health minister Amir Kiani did not surrender, I also went back home,” the PTI leader told Dawn.

“Why should I court arrest if central leaders were not interested in obeying the directives of Imran Khan,” he said.

Mr Shafique said that he led a rally of over 200 people from Lal Haveli to Committee Chowk.

Source: Dawn

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Khawaja Asif holds Bajwa, Faiz responsible for Nawaz’s ouster, rise in terrorism

Amir Wasim

February 25, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Defence Minis­ter Khawaja Asif on Friday held the judiciary and the military establishment directly responsible for bringing the country to a “grinding halt” due to prevailing economic and constitutional crises and called for setting up a full Supreme Court bench, not only to hear the suo motu case regarding the dates for the elections in the two provinces, but also to revisit all recent controversial decisions, starting from the verdict in the 2017 Panama Papers case.

Speaking in the National Assembly, the firebrand PML-N stalwart accused the judiciary of “trespassing” on the parliament’s jurisdiction and expressed resentment over the apex court’s recent rulings, particularly the controversial interpretations of Article 63-A of the Constitution, which deals with the disqualification of members of parliament.

The minister also blamed ex-army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and former head of the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) Faiz Hamid for playing a role in the ouster of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as the renewed surge in terrorism.

“Instead of nine judges, the issue needs to be taken up by a full court. The whole SC should sit together and find a solution,” the minister suggested.

• Calls for full court bench to hear suo motu in NA speech, asks judiciary to revisit Panama Papers case verdict • Holds Bajwa, Faiz responsible for Nawaz’s ouster, rise in terrorism

While he was making his speech in the National Assembly, in the adjacent SC building, a nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial was conducting suo motu proceedings over the delay in the announcement of a date for polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“I do not want to criticise if there are some [judges] in the bench whose characters have a question mark on them, but if the entire court sits for the matter, I think there can be redressal for the things that have happened in the past eight months,” Mr Asif remarked.

“When those [SC judges] … intrude into our territory, we have the right to raise our voice,” the minister reasoned, asking the judiciary to introspect and ascertain the reasons “why some of the judges are criticised and some are not.”

He then went on to name ‘good’ and ‘bad’ judges.

“Why Justice Munir is criticised and Justice Cornelius is not criticised? Why it is so that Justice Irshad Hassan and Justice Riaz Sheikh are criticised and Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui and Nazim Siddiqui are not [criticised]?” he asked.

While mentioning the SC bench that disqualified Nawaz Sharif in the Panama case in 2017, the defence minister said Saqib Nisar and Asif Khosa were criticised whereas Nasirul Mulk and Tassaduq Jilani were praised. He then called for action against all those “culprits” who were involved in the ouster of Mr Sharif, stating that “confessional statements” of judges and people in the military establishment, even PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, had already come to the surface.

He regretted life-time disqualification of Mr Sharif by the judiciary, stating that there was no such precedent or law under which an elected representative belonging to one institution had been barred from representing the people for lifetime by another institution.

The “first constitutional accident” in the country, he said, took place when a judge declared the military takeover valid through “doctrine of necessity”.

“The first political martyrdom happened when [former PM] Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by the judiciary. Nawaz Sharif was the first constitutional martyr [when he was disqualified in Panama case] and that too at the hands of the judiciary,” he said amid desk-thumping and slogans of “shame, shame” by the treasury and the opposition members.

‘Offer martyrdom’

“Now is the time for the judiciary to offer martyrdom to save its respect and prestige and correct its lapses and provide a foundation on which the structure of a strong state can be laid,” the minister went on saying.

“Do not generate controversies. Do not re-write Article 63-A, rather reverse it as it is against the fundamental human rights to disqualify someone for lifetime from representing the people. If it is allowed to continue, then God forbid, there can be an accident,” he said.

Mr Asif asked the SC why it did not proceed against President Arif Alvi under Article 6 of the Constitution when he dissolved the National Assembly in April 2022 to avoid a vote of no confidence against the then prime minister Imran Khan.

Moreover, the minister regretted the SC’s ruling regarding the counting of votes under Article 63-A during the election of Punjab chief minister, resulting in the dismissal of the PML-N’s government in the province.

The PML-N stalwart also lashed out at the judiciary for what he called discriminatory treatment with PTI Chairman Imran Khan, stating that on one hand, the opposition members under the PTI government were denied bails and sent to prisons, and on the other hand, the courts had been inviting Mr Khan to come to the court to seek bail before arrest.

The minister said that former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi had told him about the wedding of the son of a bureaucrat in which Rs1.2 billion had been collected. Without naming anyone, he said that bureaucrat was still in service and “no one is there to hold him accountable”.

“The country cannot afford this crisis. The time has come to resolve it. This is a duty and an obligation on the superior judiciary to find out the solution to the situation which it had made complicated in the last eight months…..this is an opportunity to correct it,” he said.

Rise in terrorism

Recalling a parliamentary briefing during the PTI government time, the minister said that former army chief Qamar Bajwa and ex-ISI DG Faiz Hameed had told the parliament that the Taliban had become good people and that they would live peacefully in the country.

“What happened then? Is there anyone to hold them accountable?” he asked.

“As many as 86,000 people lost their lives due to terrorism, but the two people compromised [with the terrorists],” he alleged.

Source: Dawn

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Govt asks citizens to pay Haj fees in dollars to avail ‘special discount’: report

February 25, 2023

The government will incentivise citizens who would pay their dues for the upcoming Haj in US dollars, SAMAA TV reported.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has also allocated a 25 per cent special quota for pilgrims who will deposit the amount in dollars, according to APP.

The move comes as the government scrambles to shore up fast-dwindling foreign reserves. The pilgrims who would pay the application fees and other charges in US dollars will get a special discount, SAMAA reported on Friday.

Source: Dawn

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NAB team visits Imran’s residence to confirm receipt of summons

Zulqernain Tahir

February 25, 2023

LAHORE: A team of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials from Rawalpindi office on Friday visited Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence to take the receiving of summons from him in Tosha­khana gifts investigation.

The NAB recently called Mr Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, on March 9 to record their statements in the Toshakhana gifts case. Mr Khan’s lawyer reportedly received the summons.

The NAB’s call-up notice, signed by its additional director Mohammad Faisal Qureshi, earlier sent to Mr Khan’s Banigala residence in Islamabad, was issued on Feb 17 — five days before NAB chairman Aftab Sultan resigned claiming that he was being pressured to file cases against some and favour some accused.

The notice said: “The competent authority has taken cognisance of an offence allegedly committed by the accused persons under the provisions of NAO, 1999.

“In this regard, the inquiry proceedings have revealed that during your tenure in office you retained some state gifts presented to you by various foreign dignitaries including the following luxury items — five Rolex wristwatches; one iPhone presented by Chief of Staff, Qatar Armed Forces, dated 14.11.2018; (No. E67574V3), a pair of cufflinks, one ring; unstitched cloth from Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia dated 18.09.2020; Graff gift set containing one Graff wristwatch Master Graff Special Edition Mecca timepiece, one 18K gold and diamond Graff pen and a ring and pair of cufflinks with micro-painting of Mecca.”

The couple has been asked to join the inquiry proceedings before the Combined Investigation Team (CIT), NAB (Rawalpindi/Islamabad).

Source: Dawn

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IRGC Commander Says Iran Seeks To Kill Trump, Pompeo, Others as Revenge for Soleimani

25 February, 2023

A top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander said on Friday that Iran seeks to kill former senior US officials, including former President Donald Trump, for their involvement in the 2020 killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

“God willing, we will be able to kill Trump… [Former secretary of state Mike] Pompeo, [former head of US Central Command General Kenneth] McKenzie and those military commanders that gave the order [to kill Soleimani] must be killed,” Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC’s aerospace unit, said on state TV.

Hajizadeh made these comments while discussing Iran’s missile attack on the Ain al-Assad air base, which hosts American troops in western Iraq, on January 8, 2020, five days after Soleimani’s killing. No US troops were killed in the attack.

Soleimani, who led the Quds Force, the overseas arm of the IRGC, was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq ordered by Trump.

Iranian officials have repeatedly pledged to avenge Soleimani’s death, as the attack on Ain al-Assad was seen as insufficient retaliation.

Last month, President Ebrahim Raisi, speaking on the third anniversary of Soleimani’s killing, said that revenge for Soleimani was “certain.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israeli settlers in occupied West Bank ‘sing and dance’ after outpost recognized

24 February ,2023

Drama therapist Yael Drori left bustling Jerusalem 16 years ago to live in an unrecognized outpost in the Israeli occupied West Bank. As a youth, she was active in the Israeli settler movement supporting new communities in the West Bank and protesting against Israeli disengagement from Jewish communities in Gaza.

She moved to the West Bank out of ideology, but what she found was a sense of community. As the mother of a severely disabled child, she teared up explaining that her neighbors had become her “family.”

Last week, Drori, 38, celebrated when the settlement of Givat Harel became one of nine to be recognized retroactively by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

“I thought it was something they promised but it would never happen,” she said. “It was a good surprise that made me joyful.”

Violence has surged in the West Bank in the past year with frequent clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinians. Authorization of the settlements, which the government said was a response to Palestinian attacks, sparked UN denunciation.

Along with Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Palestinians seek the occupied West Bank for a state. Most world powers view settlements as illegally built on land Israel captured in a 1967 war with Arab powers.

Israel disputes that and cites biblical, historical and political links to the West Bank, as well as security interests.

The first to publish the decisions by Netanyahu’s security cabinet were two pro-settler politicians whose inclusion in the coalition he built after a Nov. 1 election had already signaled a hard-right tack.

In a sharp move, the UN Security Council issued a formal statement on Monday expressing “deep concern” about the Feb. 12 retroactive outpost recognition, saying the decision was “dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines.”

The statement was the first action the United States, with veto powers, has allowed the body to take against its ally Israel in six years.

Dream come true

According to Peace Now, an NGO which monitors settlement expansion, 132 settlements have been established in the West Bank with another 147 outposts not considered legal under Israeli law. In recent years, settlers have erected scores of outposts without government permission. Some have been razed by police, others authorized retroactively.

While Western powers found the authorization unsettling, residents say it simply shows Israeli policy is catching up with facts on the ground which are changing, one structure at a time.

Givat Harel, established in 1998, is now home to some 90 families. Rocky terrain peaks out between patches of grass in the majestic hills. Winding high above the green valley below, the road up to the outpost is flanked by crops and signs advertising the community’s winery.

An hour outside Jerusalem, the lack of cars on the highway leaves a void filled with clean air and the sound of chirping birds echoing between the mountains. For the residents, Israeli authorization was nothing short of a dream come true.

“We didn’t think it would happen so quickly,” said resident Morya Tassan Michaeli. “When we suddenly realized, it was 10 or 11 o’clock at night and the excitement and elation emerged and the next day we gathered and danced and sang.”

Power outages and basic infrastructure gaps are part of life in a settlement built without government approval. Drori says she’s excited at the prospect of having an official postal address and paved sidewalks.

The streets of this community remain quiet during the day, most parents commute daily for work and high school children are often sent to boarding schools. Residents are now hopeful the recognition will lead to official bus routes, easier access and the ability to build and grow.

Palestinians say recognition and normalization of settlements will hinder US and Arab state peace efforts and lead to more tension and escalation.

‘This is our home’

Shirat Yulis, an architect and resident of Givat Harel, designs homes both in recognized and unrecognized communities where she says homeowners worry more about building something new. Recognition means prospective residents can take out a mortgage from a national bank.

“There’s no happier person than me today,” Yulis said. “I know that now people can enjoy their homes.”

In another triumph for the settler movement, a far-right Israeli cabinet minister formally gained responsibilities over Jewish settlements in the West Bank on Thursday that he said included bringing their legal status closer to that of communities within Israel.

Under the new division of powers, “legislation on all (settlement) civilian matters will be brought into line with Israeli law,” as opposed to being classified under the military.

Critics and human rights organizations say this normalizes the status of settlements. In practice for residents, it removes the need to go through military bureaucracy on matters of infrastructure and construction.

The clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli military won’t deter residents like Michaeli. She said there had been waves of violence her entire life.

“Fear doesn’t govern our lives,” Michaeli said. “This is our life and this is our home.”

“If they approve a few more settlements, I don’t think that will change anything in the calculation or thinking of the Palestinians,” said Bracha Kaplan, a social worker who moved to Givat Harel 10 years ago.

“The question is whether one needs to ask for recognition from the outside or believe in what one is doing.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Financer of Iran-backed Hezbollah arrested, to be extradited to US

25 February ,2023

A Lebanese and Belgian citizen considered a key financier of the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah was arrested Friday in Bucharest, Romania’s capital, and is to be extradited to the US, federal authorities said.

Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, 58, who was labeled a “global terrorist” by the United States in 2018 when $10 million was offered for information about his whereabouts, has funneled millions of dollars to Hezbollah over the years, authorities said.

US Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn said the extradition of Bazzi and Lebanese citizen Talal Chahine, 78, was sought on charges contained in an indictment returned last month in Brooklyn federal court.

“As alleged, Mohammad Bazzi thought that he could secretly move hundreds of thousands of dollars from the United States to Lebanon without detection by law enforcement. Today’s arrest proves that Bazzi was wrong,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Our office is committed to ensuring that sanctions imposed by the US government are respected and that terrorism financiers are starved of funds.”

Romanian law enforcement authorities took Bazzi into custody after he arrived in Bucharest on Friday, according to the release announcing his arrest.

DEA Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Kafafian added: “The defendants in this case attempted to provide continued financial assistance to Hizballah, a foreign terrorist organization responsible for death and destruction.”

“The men and women of DEA are committed to working with our law enforcement and foreign counterparts to disrupt and dismantle the operations of these organizations and those who choose to support them financially.”

In May 2018, the United States Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Bazzi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for assisting in, sponsoring, and providing financial, material, and technological support and financial services to Hezbollah.

According to the OFAC designation, Bazzi is a key Hezbollah financier who has provided millions of dollars to Hezbollah over the years, generated from his business activities in Belgium, Lebanon, Iraq and throughout West Africa.

As a result of the designation, all US persons were generally prohibited from transacting business with, or for the benefit of, Bazzi.

As alleged, following Bazzi’s designation, Bazzi and Chahine conspired to force or induce an individual located in the United States to liquidate their interests in certain real estate assets located in Michigan and covertly transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds of the liquidation out of the United States to Bazzi and Chahine in Lebanon.

During recorded communications, Bazzi and Chahine proposed numerous methods to conceal from OFAC and law enforcement officials that Bazzi was both the source and destination of the proceeds of the sale and to create the false appearance that their accomplice in the US was conducting legitimate arms-length transactions unrelated to Bazzi and Chahine.

For example, Bazzi and Chahine proposed that the funds be transferred through a third party in China as part of a fictitious purchase of restaurant equipment from a Chinese manufacturer and a third party in Lebanon as part of a fictitious real estate purchase.

They also attempted to funnel money via Chahine’s family members in Kuwait as part of fictitious intra-family loans and as part of a fictitious franchising agreement as payment for the rights to operate a Lebanese-based restaurant chain throughout the US.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Palestinian youth dies a day after clash with Israeli troops: Hospital source

24 February ,2023

A Palestinian died Friday after being wounded a day earlier in clashes with Israeli forces in the south of the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian hospital official said.

Mohammed Ismail Jawabreh, 22, died after being shot in the head on Thursday “during clashes with occupation forces” in Al-Aroub camp north of Hebron, said the official at the city’s Al-Ahly hospital, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

An Israeli army spokesman said soldiers had pursued “masked suspects” who had been throwing rocks towards civilian vehicles on the West Bank’s main north-south road.

“During the pursuit, a violent riot was instigated, in which the masked suspects hurled rocks and stone blocks from rooftops at the soldiers, endangering their lives,” the spokesman added.

“The soldiers responded with riot dispersal means and 22 caliber rounds,” he said, adding one of the suspects was hit.

Separately, the Palestinian health ministry said “two Palestinians were seriously wounded by settler gunfire” on Friday in the Palestinian town of Qusra, in the north of the West Bank.

Palestinian news agency Wafa said Israeli “settlers attacked the homes of civilians in the south of the town, prompting residents to defend themselves,” adding that the two Palestinians were wounded in an exchange of fire.

A military spokesman told AFP that after reports of a “violent confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis adjacent to the town of Qusra... soldiers arrived to the scene and responded with riot dispersal means.”

“We are aware of reports regarding Palestinians who were evacuated to a hospital as a result of gunshot wounds,” the spokesman added.

Since the start of this year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 62 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Turkish forces killed alleged mastermind behind Istanbul street bombing

24 February ,2023

Turkish forces have killed the alleged mastermind behind a deadly Istanbul street bombing in an operation in northern Syria, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported.

The man, identified as Halil Menci, was “neutralized” in an operation by Turkish intelligence agents, the agency said, without providing further details. HaberTurk television said the operation took place on February 22 in the town of Qamishli.

The November 13 bomb attack in Istanbul’s bustling Istiklal Avenue left six people dead, including two children. More than 80 others were wounded.

Turkish authorities blamed the attack on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as Syrian Kurdish groups affiliated with it. The Kurdish militants have denied involvement.

At least 17 suspects have been jailed pending trial in connection with the attack, including a Syrian woman who is accused of leaving the TNT-laden bomb on Istiklal Avenue. Officials said at the time that the attack’s planner had fled Turkey for Syria.

The PKK has fought an armed insurgency in Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Netanyahu discusses military action on Iran with top Israeli officials: Report

24 February ,2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held a number of secret meetings with senior Israeli military officials discussing plans for a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israel’s Channel 12 reported this week.

According to the report, Netanyahu met five times in recent weeks with top military officials including the defense minister, head of the Israel Defense Forces, head of the Mossad and head of the military intelligence to discuss preparations for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear program.

The report was unsourced and short on details, and “may itself be designed to telegraph the seriousness of Israeli threats to resort to military action in order to shut down Iran’s suspected drive toward a nuclear weapon,” the Times of Israel noted.

The report said that the outcome of the meetings was that Israel will act alone against Iran if the international community does not intervene. The outcome of the meetings was shared with senior US officials as well as French President Emmanuel Macron, it added.

The reported meetings come amid heightened tensions between Iran and Israel.

Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran was behind an attack on a tanker in the Arabian Sea linked to Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

Source: Al Arabiya

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New settlement powers for Israeli extremist Smotrich cause outrage among Palestinians


February 25, 2023

RAMALLAH: Palestinians have expressed concern and outrage after a far-right Israeli cabinet minister was formally handed political responsibility for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which he has said he will use to bring their legal status into line with communities in Israel.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was given a supervisory role in the Defense Ministry in matters relating to settlers, as part of his coalition deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A 14-point statement issued by Smotrich, after he agreed on a division of responsibilities with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, included an assertion that “legislation on all civilian (settlement) matters will be brought into line with Israeli law.”

The agreement means Smotrich has the power to expand settlements, legalize outposts and demolish Palestinian homes.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “All settlement is illegal and any attempt by Israel to legalize or annex these settlements is rejected and is a violation of international resolutions.”

Mustafa Barghouti, secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, told Arab News: “Appointing Smotrich to this position, with these powers, means Israel annexing the West Bank and letting the settlers do whatever they want against Palestinians."

He said that Smotrich and another right-wing extremist politician, Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, are now responsible for all the political mechanisms that affect the lives and property of Palestinians, including civil administration, internal security, settlement financing, control of Al-Aqsa Mosque, border guards, and Israeli prisons.

“This means declaring war on the Palestinians,” he added.

Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization, told Arab News: “We have always said that Israel was annexing the West Bank, and now the official announcement of this annexation has come.”

More than 650,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and there are plans to increase the number to 1 million by 2030. Smotrich himself owns a house in the Kedumim settlement, east of Qalqilya. The Israeli settlements are concentrated in Area C, which constitutes about 60 percent of the West Bank.

Palestinians consider the settlements an existential threat because settlers often seize their land, livestock pastures and water resources by force. The spread of settlements along the length and breadth of the West Bank also undermines the 56-year dream of Palestinians for an independent and geographically contiguous state.

Palestinian political sources told Arab News that Israeli settlers, emboldened by Smotrich’s appointment, have escalated their attacks on Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank.

On Wednesday, the Israeli Higher Planning Council approved the construction of 1,000 settlement units in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, south of Bethlehem. On Friday, settlers uprooted 70 olive tree seedlings in Al-Khader, south of Bethlehem. They also destroyed agricultural infrastructure and uprooted fruit trees.

Also on Friday, Palestinians matching in protest against acts of terrorism by settlers were attacked by Israeli forces in the village of Ramon, east of Ramallah. One Palestinian was injured by a rubber bullet.

Source: Arab News

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North America


Paraguay: Muslim Brotherhood is declared a terrorist organization

February 24, 2023

The Permanent Commission of the Paraguayan Congress has approved a resolution by Senator Lilian Samaniego, declaring the "Muslim Brotherhood" organization a terrorist association.

The group, founded in Egypt in 1928, "ideologically supports those who use violence and threaten stability and security in the East and West," the congresswoman said.

Source: Rio Times Online

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G-7 nations express 'profound sympathy' for Türkiye, Syria earthquake victims

Michael Hernandez  



The Group of 7 (G-7) major industrialized nations expressed on Friday their "profound sympathy" for all those impacted by devastating earthquakes that ravaged broad swathes of Türkiye and Syria.

"We stand in solidarity with the people of Türkiye and Syria and pledge our continued support to tackling the consequences of this catastrophe," the leaders of the G-7, which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.

"It is vital that humanitarian aid reaches all those who require it as efficiently as possible. We welcome the expansion of cross-border aid for an initial period of three months, and underscore that the humanitarian needs of those in northwest Syria should continue to be met," they added.

The leaders also welcomed EU-led donor conference in March to support the Turkish and Syrian people.

On Feb. 6, two powerful quakes struck southern Türkiye.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 tremors were centered in Kahramanmaras and rocked 10 other provinces – Hatay, Gaziantep, Adiyaman, Malatya, Adana, Diyarbakir, Kilis, Osmaniye, Sanliurfa, and Elazig. Some 13.5 million people have been affected by the devastating quakes.

Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, also felt the trembles that struck in less than 10 hours.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Ex-US senator: Washington started the wars in Iraq, Ukraine

24 February 2023

The United States is to blame for constantly meddling in the internal affairs of independent countries and starting both the wars in Iraq and Ukraine, a former US state senator says.

In an interview with RT published on Friday, ex-state Senator from Virginia, Richard Black said that the US overthrew the governments of both of these countries to turn them into puppets, stressing that Washington is the “source of both” Iraq and Ukraine conflicts.

Black also pointed out that while most Americans do not want to be involved in the conflicts, the US “foreign policy establishment” pursues its own separate agenda.

Black insisted that the US “overthrew Iraq with military force, coming in from across the globe,” and has “gone in and overthrown Ukraine with military force from the other side of the globe.”

The Ukraine conflict broke out when the CIA “staged a violent, bloody coup” in Kiev in 2014 and helped remove the legitimately elected president, Viktor Yanukovich, from power, the former state senator said.

Washington replaced Yanukovich with a “revolutionary junta” and began flooding Kiev with “advanced weapons” with the aim of building up a “very formidable” military force, Black added.

Ukraine's current president is nothing more than a “puppet” of Washington, who “does what he is told, when he is told,” Black clarified.

Black said that the White House views post-Saddam Iraq, which the US occupied in 2003, as a “colonial state.”

He claimed that in his viewpoint the “occupation of Iraq will continue indefinitely,” and that America’s endgame is to wield influence over the entire Middle East from its “hardened command and control center” in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

According to the former senator, while most of the American population does not agree with the US interventionist foreign policies, a group of so-called Washington elites, as well as “oligarchs” and the weapons-manufacturing military-industrial complex, pursue their own interests, irrespective of others.

Black further stated the conflict in Ukraine could be resolved if the country becomes “neutral” and “demilitarized,” similar to Austria during the Cold War.

Source: Press TV

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South Asia


Afghan Taliban want Pakistan to ‘bear cost’ of disarming TTP

Kamran Yousaf

February 24, 2023

The Afghan Taliban have expressed their willingness to disarm the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and relocate its members from the Pak-Afghan border but with a condition that Islamabad will bear the cost of the proposed plan.

This was revealed at the meeting of the Central Apex Committee, which met on Friday to discuss the recent surge in terrorist attacks in the country and other security matters.

The meeting was presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and attended by chief ministers of the four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan, the AJK PM, senior cabinet ministers, the army chief, DG ISI and other relevant officials.

Sources familiar with the meeting told The Express Tribune that the issue of banned TTP and its sanctuaries across the border was one of the main issues on the agenda.

A high-powered delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif visited Kabul this week to share "irrefutable evidence" with the Afghan Taliban about the presence of TTP in the neighbouring country.

The sources said the apex committee was informed that the Afghan interim government proposed a plan to control the banned outfit. The proposal envisages disarming the TTP fighters and their relocation from the Pak-Afghan border areas. However, the Afghan government asked Pakistan to fund the proposal and bear the cost of rehabilitation of the TTP.

The meeting was informed that the Afghan Taliban made a similar proposal to China to address its concerns on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

However, Pakistan has yet to respond to the Afghan Taliban’s idea as there is skepticism that it might not work.

Nevertheless, it was for the first time that the Afghan Taliban came up with the idea to disarm the TTP.

Earlier, the interim Afghan government encouraged Pakistan to negotiate a peace deal with the TTP, something that backfired.

There are between 8,000 to 12,000 TTP fighters in Afghanistan and the number goes to 30,000 if their family members are also included, according to some estimates.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the PM Office said the meeting agreed that “the elimination of terrorism, economic recovery and political stability are interlinked”.

"Pakistan cannot afford internal instability. National unity, unity and collective struggle is the need of the hour. In order to achieve these goals, a national consensus should be created and obstacles should be removed," the statement read.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif lamented that despite efforts, PTI Chairman Imran Khan was not ready to sit and evolve a consensus on key national issues.

He said that Pakistan and the IMF were close to signing a deal but made it clear that the release of the next tranche would not end the country's economic woes.

He then referred to the provision of the much-needed loan from a friendly country without waiting for the IMF programme’s revival. Though he didn't name that country, it was China, which provided $700 million to cash-strapped Pakistan.

Meanwhile, in the apex committee meeting, the incidents of terrorism, especially the incidents of terrorism that took place at the Peshawar Police Lines mosque on Jan 30 and at the Karachi Police Office on Feb 19 and the subsequent situation, were reviewed in detail.

Representatives of sensitive institutions briefed the participants on the overall security situation and operations against terrorists.

The Sindh inspector general of police informed the meeting about the attack on Karachi Police Office and the facts that emerged so far.

"Saluting all the law enforcement agencies, including Pakistan Army, Rangers, FC, CTD and the police, for showing unprecedented courage and bravery against terrorism across the country, tributes were paid to the martyred officers and soldiers," the statement said.

The meeting deliberated on the issue of non-availability of funds sanctioned in the past for Karachi police and security and directed that obstacles in the way of completion of all projects related to police, CTD and security should be removed without delay.

The meeting considered the role of media, especially social media, during terrorist incidents and operations of security forces.

The meeting was briefed that during the operation of the security forces, the information is also broadcast on media from which the terrorists and their facilitators can take advantage and there can also be an impact on the security operation, thereby endangering the lives of the officers and men conducting the operation.

It was suggested to follow 'SOPs' and regulations on cyberspace and terrorism prevalent in other countries of the world.

In this context, in consultation with the media houses and all relevant stakeholders, appropriate procedures should be formulated so that in emergency situations, rumours, misleading information and creating fear among the public will not create problems for the security operatives.

The meeting also decided that a focal person should be assigned the responsibility to provide facts to the media and public in an emergency situation.

The meeting reviewed the progress on the implementation of the National Action Plan and the decisions made in the previous meeting.

The committee headed by the federal minister for law and justice informed about the progress on measures to make the stages of investigation, prosecution and punishment effective against terrorists.

The prime minister said the government has to unwillingly accept the strict conditions of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide a lifeline for an economy in turmoil.

"We have to accept unwillingly the strict conditions of the IMF deal," he said, adding that an accord was still a "week, 10 days" away.

Pakistani authorities have been negotiating with the IMF since early February over policy framework issues and are hoping to sign a staff-level agreement that will pave the way for more inflows from other bilateral and multilateral lenders. Once the deal is signed, the lender will disburse a tranche of more than $1 billion from the $6.5 billion bailout agreed to in 2019.

Pakistan has already taken a string of measures, including adopting a market-based exchange rate; a hike in fuel and power tariffs; the withdrawal of subsidies, and more taxation to generate revenue to bridge the fiscal deficit.

Source: Tribune Pakistan

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Do Not Blindly Obey Anyone, Says Acting Afghan Defence Minister

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 25, 2023

The Acting Defense Minister of the Afghan Interim Regime Mullah Yaqoob Mujahid called on the Taliban members to avoid blindly obeying anyone.

While addressing the graduation ceremony of police officers, the Defense Minister said, “Almighty God has granted us wisdom and reasoning power, and obliged us not to blindly obey anyone, even if it is me.”

Referring to the orders of the Taliban senior leadership, Yaqoob said, it should be recognized who orders a decree, what has the person done, and what ambitions he has for the country and people. 

He further added in his remarks that Taliban members should be able to differentiate “right and wrong” and act accordingly.

This is not the first time the Defense Minister highlights the intergroup differences among the Taliban senior leadership. High-ranking Taliban officials have criticized the group’s leadership in the recent past. 

Prior to this, Mullah Yaqoob had called on the Taliban leadership to keep away pride and arrogance and respect the legitimate demands of the people of Afghanistan.

Furthermore, the Taliban’s Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani criticized the monopoly of power by the Taliban leadership and stated that such a situation is not acceptable.

Zabiullah Mujahid, Taliban’s chief spokesperson has repeatedly rejected claims regarding intergroup differences among the group’s leadership and has called the group’s members to obey the orders of the supreme leader, and not criticize him publically.

Source: Khaama Press

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Iran to handover Afghan Embassy in Tehran to Taliban

24 February, 2023

Kabul [Afghanistan], February 24 (ANI): The Iranian Foreign Ministry is set to hand over the Afghan Embassy in Tehran to the Taliban, citing unofficial sources reported Khaama Press.

Iran will officially hand over the embassy to the Taliban in the coming days according to an Afghan diplomat who has been in contact with the officials of the Iranian foreign ministry.

This comes after the Taliban-run foreign ministry stated in a letter that it had appointed Mohammad Afzal Haqqani as designated ambassador to Tehran, reported Khaama Press.

The letter noted that Haqqani, as the first secretary of the embassy, will be in charge of the diplomatic mission in Iran.

Initially, Haqqani had travelled from Tehran to Kabul and then returned with his letter of appointment as head of the Afghan Embassy in Tehran. However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry had not accepted Haqqani as the new ambassador to Tehran, reported Khaama Press.

Now, a serious decision has been taken in this regard the Afghan diplomat said.

The Taliban-run administration has neither internal legitimacy nor international recognition. So far, no single country in the world has recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

Iran is the third country to join Pakistan and Russia which handed over the Afghan embassies to the group a few months ago.

Meanwhile, Taliban has called on the international community to recognise the “Islamic Emirate” of Afghanistan, claiming that if recognised, the concerns and complaints of the world community will be addressed in a better way, Afghanistan-based Tolo News reported.

“The Islamic Emirate will be paying more attention to its responsibilities and the complaints we have among ourselves or from other countries will be addressed in a good way. Because one side will feel itself responsible regarding the laws and regulation,” Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said, as quoted by Tolo News.

According to analysts, forming an inclusive government, countering terrorism, not allowing the use of Afghan soil against other countries, and ensuring human rights, especially the rights of women and girls, will pave the ground for recognition of the Islamic Emirate.

“To earn recognition, the Taliban should refer to the people first. They should observe law, politics and governance. They should recognize the rights of the people,” said Sayed Jawad Sijadi, a political analyst, according to Tolo News.

Source: The Print

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Afghanistan-Pakistan Torkham Gate Reopens Conditionally after Negotiations

By Fidel Rahmati

February 24, 2023

On Friday, a Media centre in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province posted on Twitter that “The Torkham gate has been reopened conditionally after negotiations between the Afghan-Pakistani officials”.

The statement added, “Only Afghan travellers will be allowed to enter the country from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Pakistani travellers will be allowed from Afghanistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”.

The implication from the remark is that transit and other travellers are not affected by the conditional reopening.

“Negotiations are going on to allow passengers and transit on both sides; however, Afghan citizens are advised to refrain from going to Torkham until further notification,” read the statement.

On Thursday, Pakistani officials closed the border crossing with Afghanistan and added that Pakistan could not make the border crossing “completely functioning due to administrative issues”.

Earlier this week, the Taliban administration in Afghanistan closed the Torkham gate between Afghanistan and Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of breaching its commitments.

The closure of the crossing border came after an exchange of fire occurred on Monday, a day after the Pakistani troops did not allow the movement of Afghan patients for medical treatment while pledging to allow them without valid travel documents.

Following the incident, on February 22, a high Pakistani delegation visited Kabul to discuss security issues, particularly ISSI and TTP militants and strengthen cooperation between the two sides.

In the meeting, the Pakistani delegation was informed that it was Pakistan’s responsibility to provide all “necessary facilities” for travellers at Torkham and another crossing farther south, Spin Boldak, as well as unique facilities for the transportation of patients in need of emergency medical care.

Recently, the relations between the Afghan Taliban-led government and Pakistan have deteriorated due to the deterioration of security in Pakistan.

Source: Khaama Press

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Taliban closes shops accepting Pakistani rupees in Uruzgan province

25 February, 2023

Kabul [Afghanistan], February 24 (ANI): Taliban has shut down shops that were accepting Pakistani rupees as the mode of payment in Uruzgan province, reported Tolo News.

Officials of the committee for Afghani Promotion said that the usage of foreign currency has been banned in this province and will deal legally with violators.

“We will keep this process going until people in this province use afghanis completely,” said Yosif, a member of the committee for Afghani Promotion.

Uruzgan has used Pakistani rupees for many years, but recent efforts to popularize Afghan currency have increased, reported Tolo News.

Meanwhile, some residents in the province welcomed the decision and called for the lack of Afghan banknotes in the markets to be addressed.

“People come to our shop and use rupees for their daily shopping, if we ask for Afghani they go to another shop,” said Ihsanullah, a shopkeeper.

“People even don’t know the afghani, they don’t know the difference between 20 afghani and 100 Afghani,” said Rahmatullah, a shopkeeper, reported Tolo News.

“We call on the government to not force people into this, and they will know our national Identity slowly,” said Sher Mohammad, another resident.

Earlier in October 2022, the Taliban banned the use of Pakistani Rupees in Afghanistan.

It said the Taliban Intelligence Agency declared that the use of Pakistani Rupees in financial transactions in Afghanistan has been “completely banned.”

This order was conveyed by the Taliban agency’s anti-money laundering branch to the money exchange association. According to this order, all financial transactions, including but not limited to transfers, trade, and currency exchange, are disallowed.

The report said money exchange dealers are banned from conducting transactions totalling more than 500,000 Rupees. If more than the specified amount is discovered, the dealers could face legal action.

The Khaama report said this move comes at a time when some locals and traders in Afghanistan use Pakistani Rupees for everyday spending and food purchases.

Source: The Print

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Arab World


UAE adds three men, company to local terror list for links to Iran-backed Hezbollah

24 February ,2023

The UAE has designated a man, his two sons, and their company known for links to the Iran-backed Hezbollah, the state-run Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Friday.

“The resolution underscores the UAE’s commitment to target and dismantle networks that finance terrorism and its related activities,” WAM said.

As a result of their designation, local authorities will monitor and identify individuals or entities affiliated with or associated with any financial, commercial or technical relationship with the listed company and take legal action.

The three individuals added to the local terrorist list were Hassan Moukalled and his sons, Rani and Rayyan. Their company CTEX Exchange was also added to the list.

Last month, the US Treasury Department sanctioned the three men and CTEX, accusing them of funneling money to Hezbollah.

The father reportedly play a “key role” in enabling Hezbollah to “exploit and “exacerbate” Lebanon’s economic crisis, the US Treasury Department previously said.

Moukalled is accused of dealing with a sanctioned senior Hezbollah financial official, Muhammad Qasir, including business deals with Russia.

The US and Western countries have blacklisted Hezbollah for decades, and several Gulf countries have followed suit in recent years.

The Treasury Department said Moukalled’s money service business, CTEX Exchange, was established in 2022 as a financial front in Beirut for Hezbollah.

The company received a license from Lebanon’s Central Bank to transfer money within Lebanon and abroad, and “within a year, the company had obtained significant market share within Lebanon’s currency transfer sector and was reportedly collecting millions of US dollars for the Central Bank of Lebanon.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Drone strike in Syria kills 2 al-Qaeda-linked operatives

24 February ,2023

A drone strike believed to have been carried out by the US-led coalition in northwestern Syria on Friday killed two operatives with an al-Qaeda-linked group, Syrian opposition activists said.

The two militants were killed while riding a motorcycle near the northern village of Qah, close to the Turkish border, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, and several other activist collectives.

There was no immediate comment from the US military. The strike was the latest in a series of attacks over the past years targeting al-Qaeda-linked militants in northwestern Syria.

The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, said its members extinguished a fire caused by the drone strike, adding that two “unknown persons” were killed.

The Observatory said the two were members of Horas al-Din, which is Arabic for “Guardians of Religion.” The group includes hardcore al-Qaeda members who broke away from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the strongest insurgent group in Idlib province. Idlib is the last major rebel enclave in war-torn Syria.

The Observatory also said that one of the two killed men was an Iraqi citizen.

In June last year, a drone strike by the US-led coalition in Idlib province killed Abu Hamzah al Yemeni. a senior member of Horas al-Din.

In 2017, a US airstrike killed a former aide to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s second in command in Syria, Abu al-Kheir al-Masri.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi Arabia emerges as ‘new destination’ for Indian travellers


February 24, 2023

NEW DELHI: Major players in India’s tourism industry believe Saudi Arabia will become a big new destination for Indian travelers, with visitor numbers from the South Asian country expected to double in 2023.

Over the past two years, India has emerged as Saudi Arabia’s key tourism source market, and the Saudi Tourism Authority expects it to become the largest in the next few years, as travel destinations in the Kingdom develop as part of Vision 2030.

Throughout February, the STA held a series of promotion programs in India, including a successful roadshow and participation in travel and trade events across the country. It also signed a partnership agreement with the Indian Premier League — the world’s most-watched T20 cricket franchise — to tap into the nation’s strong sports fanbase.

As the STA’s February campaign concluded this week, it announced it was seeking to “welcome more than 2 million Indian visitors” in 2023.

“India is a key source market for Saudi,” the STA said in a statement.

“As part of Saudi’s ambition to achieve 100 million visits annually by 2030, India represents immense potential as it is expected to be one of Saudi’s largest tourism source markets by then.”

The Travel Agents Association of India, which, with 2,500 members, is one of the largest industry groups in the country, signed cooperation agreements with the STA to increase the number of Indian travelers. “Saudi is a safe destination, a beautiful destination to go to ... We will be boosting Saudi tourism,” TAAI President Jyoti Mayal told Arab News on Friday.

She said that the ongoing creation of new destinations for travelers will help the mission succeed.

“Everyone is looking at new destinations and experiences,” Mayal added. “People are always looking to explore new destinations. Tourism is all about experiences. You need to create new experiences and Saudis are doing this.”

Rajeev Saxena, president of the Tourism Guild of Agra, welcomed the promotion of Saudi Arabia in India as a “positive development” for the hospitality sector.

“More and more Indians like to go there,” he said. “Indians are looking at new destinations ... They are interested in exploring places and spending quality time with family members.”

Abbas Moiz, national general secretary of the Travel Agents Federation of India, was also convinced about the attractiveness of Saudi tourism.

“We are very optimistic about what Saudi Arabia has to offer. They have great tourist destinations,” he said. “They do have a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty, scenery even the new modern cities that they are making actually will be a very big hit among the Indian traveling population.”

Many more tourist attractions are set to emerge in the coming years. Besides UNESCO World Heritage Site AlUla, huge tourism developments are underway in the mountains of the south-western Aseer region and along the Red Sea coast, where visitors will experience not only luxury but also technological innovations that make tourism sustainable and environmentally friendly.

“The way (the) Saudis are promoting tourism and marketing it, I get a sense that they want to create a new Dubai in Saudi Arabia. If the visa regime is liberal and hospitality is good, then I feel that, in the future, I will try to send tourists to Saudi Arabia,” said Abhishek Sharma, a travel agent based in Agra, who earlier this month visited the Saudi pavilion at the South Asia Tourism and Travel Exchange — Asia’s biggest tourism exhibition.

Source: Arab News

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Saudi Shoura Council speaker leads team at Iraq talks

February 25, 2023

RIYADH: Dr. Abdullah Al-Asheikh, speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council, is leading the Saudi delegation at the 34th conference of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union in Baghdad.

Heads of councils and presidents of parliaments of member states will participate with organizations and regional and international institutions in the conference, which aims to support Iraq’s stability and sovereignty.

Al-Asheikh said that under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom is keen to promote joint-Arab action to boost stability, and support all aspects of parliamentary work.

Source: Arab News

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OIC chief meets Turkish economic officials

February 25, 2023

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s secretary-general, Hussain Ibrahim Taha, met with Turkish officials on Thursday to discuss the earthquake that affected 11 cities in southern and central Turkiye.

During his meeting with Turkish Minister of Treasury and Finance Nureddin Nebati in Ankara, Taha offered his condolences to the people of Turkiye for the losses and damage suffered as a result of the earthquake, some of which he had seen when visiting Gaziantep to witness the impact the earthquake had had on residents’ lives.

Taha also reiterated that the Islamic world and the OIC stand in solidarity with the Turkish Republic.

Source: Arab News

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Tehran, Baghdad stepping up security cooperation as Iran FM visits Iraq

24 February 2023

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has discussed security cooperation with Iraqi sides during his ongoing visit to the neighboring state, stressing that this cooperation will improve the security and stability of both countries.

The Iranian minister, who is in Iraq for an official visit, held separate meetings with a number of Iraqi officials on Thursday, discussing a range of topics of mutual interests, including security cooperation.

Talking with Iraq’s National Security Advisor Qassim al-Araji, Amir-Abdollahian said he was pleased that Iran and Iraq have succeeded in forming a high-security committee to dispel some existing concerns in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

He noted that Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani is also set to travel to Iraq to sign a security cooperation agreement with Baghdad.

Describing the presence of any anti-Iranian and separatist group in the Kurdistan region as "unacceptable", he said that this will pose a threat to Iran, Iraq and even the Kurdistan region.

For his part, al-Araji described recent plots to deal a blow to the Islamic Republic of Iran as a delusion, stressing that any threat from Iraq’s soil to Iran will be "unacceptable and deplorable".

The advisor also pointed to the importance of regional cooperation, noting that if interactions among regional countries are improved, there will be no room for the presence of extra-regional countries.

The remarks come as anti-Iranian terrorist groups residing in the Iraqi Kurdistan region have increased their malign activities, especially in border areas. Responding to the activities, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has launched several rounds of airstrikes against their positions since September 24 last year, vowing to continue attacks till the groups are unarmed.

Iran has, on countless occasions, warned the Iraqi Kurdistan’s local authorities that it will not tolerate the presence and activity of terrorist groups along its northwestern borders, saying the country will give a decisive response should those areas become a hub of anti-Islamic Republic terrorists.

Amir-Abdollahian also held talks with Faleh al-Fayyad, head of Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi.

Expressing gratitude for the efforts and struggles of Hashd al-Sha’abi forces in battling Daesh and restoring stability and security to Iraq, he said stability and security in Iraq equal stability and security in Iran.

Fayyad, for his part, appreciated Iran for its unwavering support for the establishment of stability on the borders and across the entire region, stressing the need for the Iranian and Iraqi governments to keep up security cooperation.

In a separate meeting with Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council Faiq Zidane, Amir-Abdollahian thanked Baghdad's efforts to form a high-security committee between the two countries, noting that the presence of terrorist groups is a threat to all parties, including Baghdad. 

The Iranian foreign minister also called on the Iraqi judiciary official to finalize their actions regarding the case of anti-terror commanders General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Muhandis who were assassinated by US forces in January 2020.

Zidane, for his part, explained the inclusive judicial measures by the Iraqi side to issue an indictment against the perpetrators and orchestrators of the assassination, noting that Iraq is determined to put those who did the attack on trial.

Furthermore, the top Iranian diplomat held another meeting with Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Fatah (Conquest) Alliance, where the two sides discussed a range of issues of mutual interest.

Source: Press TV

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Over 4,200 Saudi medics volunteer to aid Turkey, Syria earthquake survivors


February 24, 2023

RIYADH: More than 4,200 Saudi medics have registered to help quake survivors in Turkey and Syria, the chief of Saudi aid told Arab News, as relief efforts continue in the most affected areas.

Around 50,000 people are known to have died in the Feb. 6 earthquake, which reduced dozens of towns to rubble. Hundreds of thousands more people are left with nothing and many are sleeping in tents or in the open in winter conditions.

Saudi teams were among the first foreign responders to reach the affected area hours after the tremor struck. The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center quickly established an air bridge to send plane-loads of aid to both countries.

The quake and the response dominated this week’s Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum, which was hosted by KSrelief and the UN.

KSrelief Supervisor-General Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeah announced $49 million of aid to help house survivors and provide health care. 

The Saudi teams deployed to 20 regions in Syria and Turkey are “internationally certified responders,” Al-Rabeeah said in an interview during the Riyadh forum.

They are joined by the more than 4,200 Saudi medical professionals who have volunteered, he said.

“We thank and respect those who have offered and registered their names. We would love to use them all,” he told Arab News. He added that the number of those who would be immediately sent to the field would depend on what kind of assistance was most urgent.

Six Saudi medical convoys are also being sent.

“I would expect myself that on the medical side, especially emergency medical responders, trauma doctors, orthopaedists, or bone doctors, neurosurgeons and also servers related to children will be one of the top priorities,” Al-Rabeeah said. 

“At the later stage, mental health and mental counseling will be important because of the magnitude of trauma that has happened.”

The public has also been generous in response to the disaster. In addition to official aid, an online campaign for quake victims run by KSrelief has as of Friday collected over $120 million in private donations.

Source: Arab News

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KSRelief signs 2 agreements to boost medical services to Syrians

February 24, 2023

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center signed two agreements on Thursday with the International Society for the Care of Victims of Wars and Disasters, on the sidelines of the Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum.

The first agreement initiated the launch of a mobile clinic system for those affected by the Syrian earthquake. Some 20 clinics will be stocked with medical and surgical supplies, as well as infant formula. The plan is expected to help more than 200,000 people.

The second deal calls for KSRelief and the Syrian refugee charity to provide health care as well as psychological, social, and nutritional support to 100,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Source: Arab News

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Nigeria: Muslim, Christian Clerics Warn Against Voting On Tribal, Religious Sentiments

February 24, 2023

By Khaleel Muhammad

Muslim and Christian Clerics have warned against electoral violence and voting based on tribal and religious grounds.

Malam Aminu Baba Waziri, the Chief Imam of Takur central mosque on Friday evening called on the Muslim Ummah to come out en mass to exercise their constitutional rights and vote for competent leaders.

He warned the Muslim faithful that would be asked about the decisions they made for Nigeria on the day of judgement.

Also commenting on the election, Pastor Daniel Azanah, advised people to vote for the right candidate that will help in the development of the country.

Source: Daily Post Nigeria

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Nigeria Decides 2023: Shehu Sani reveals what happened in mosque on Friday

February 25, 2023

By John Owen Nwachukwu

A former federal lawmaker, Shehu Sani has revealed what happened during worship at a mosque on Friday

It is a general belief in Nigeria that Imams try to convince their congregants to vote a particular candidate on the eve of crucial elections.

Nigeria holds its presidential and National Assembly elections today, Saturday 25th of February, 2023.

There are eighteen presidential candidates on the ballot, but the top contenders include Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP.

Shehu Sani, who represented the Kaduna Central Senatorial district in the eighth Assembly, said that the Imam in his mosque was about to announce to the people the candidate to vote but had to change his mind due to the presence of youths in the mosque.

Source: Daily Post Nigeria

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Tunisia opposition says it will hold new protest over arrests on March 5

24 February ,2023

A Tunisian protest coalition said on Friday it would not stop working to unite the opposition against President Kais Saied despite the arrest of its top leaders, and added that it would hold a demonstration on March 5.

Tunisian police have cracked down this month against prominent critics of Saied, including senior figures in the National Salvation Front, an umbrella organization that brought together political parties and protest groups.

Earlier on Friday police arrested Jawher Ben Mbarek, one of the movement’s leaders, his sister said.

“The detainees were brought to the public prosecutor’s office handcuffed and in humiliating conditions amid an intense and heavily armed presence of security agents,” the front said.

“The consultations aimed at unifying the democratic forces, for which the detainees were arrested, will not stop but will intensify,” it added.

The police and interior ministry have not made any comment on the wave of arrests this month that has targeted prominent politicians, protest leaders, media figures and others critical of Saied.

Protests against Saied have demanded that he step down and have accused him of a coup for shutting down parliament in 2021, moving to rule by decree and writing a new constitution that he passed last year in a referendum with low turnout.

Saied, who has said his actions were legal and necessary to save Tunisia from chaos, has called his critics traitors and criminals and has said some of those arrested were behind food shortages that economists have blamed on weak state finances.

Salsabil Chellali, the Tunisia director at international monitoring group Human Rights Watch, said Saied was going after his critics “with utter abandon.”

“The message in these arrests is that if you dare to speak out, the president can have you arrested and publicly denounce you while his henchmen try to build up a file against you based on remarks you made or who you met,” he said in a statement.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Navy SEAL who killed bin Laden challenges military chiefs on victory in Ukraine: ‘What is winning?’

February 24, 2023

On the one-year anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine, the man responsible for killing the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks challenged the ideas of military generals offering their expertise on helping Ukrainians win the ongoing war.

Rob O'Neill, the ex-Navy SEAL who claims to have shot Osama bin Laden, asked one simple question.

"What is winning?" he said on "Varney & Co" Friday.

While the question may seem also rudimentary, it is worth asking, as O'Neill points out several times, when the U.S. has fought for a pending victory that never came.

On "Varney & Co" Friday, two military generals offered their definition of what a win would be in Ukraine as well as how to accomplish it.

"Drive all the Russian troops out of Ukraine," Gen. Jack Keane said. "Every piece of occupied territory they are sitting on, drive them out. That is described as a military victory, not a negotiated settlement. It is a World War II-type ending."

"If you give them everything that they've requested in a timely manner, they can win this war decisively within a year. And that's just the facts in front of us," he added.

Lt. Gen. Richard Newton echoed Gen. Keane's thoughts, pulling his definition from statements from Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"Ukraine is winning. They can win this, and it's now up to the United States and the West to continue to keep the foot on the gas and provide the necessary capabilities for them not only to blunt what would be a Russian spring offensive but to also win this thing," he told host Stuart Varney. "Not win this thing in terms of what the conditions were set on February 24 of last year, but all the way back to 2014. To borrow President Zelenskyy's key points that he wants in a negotiated settlement, and that would be to return back to the Ukrainian territory, back to 2014. It's to certainly compensate Ukraine for all the again, this invasion and then also to pursue war crimes."

O'Neill, however, pushed back on the generals' confidence and their plan for achieving victory.

"Generals never seem to have an answer [to] what is winning," O'Neill said. "It's always as long as it takes. We've been pretty good at doing mission creep since after World War II. We didn't do Korea well. We lost in Vietnam. You know, we invaded a couple of different countries, and then we didn't have a reason for going to Iraq. We did for Afghanistan, but we boggled that after two decades."

"So I would ask these guys with the stars on their shoulders, what is winning?"

After a year of fighting, the war in Ukraine is still raging on with growing demands for military and financial support from the West and NATO nations. On Friday, the Biden administration announced another $2 billion aid package for Ukraine in addition to new sweeping sanctions on Russia.

"But just like anything from war to the vaccine, there's no money in the cure. There's just money in the treatment," O'Neill argued. "And they want this war to go as long as it goes, because a lot of people are making a lot of money in government contracts. And there are people on the ground amongst these people that say they need to go as long as it takes [that] have never seen the enemy up close, and they don't understand what it's like on the ground."

O'Neill even called for an audit of the Pentagon to better understand how leaders are using the department's budget and where American taxpayers' money is going.

"So why is this money that we're sending to Ukraine going where we want it? And now we're not talking defense, we're talking offense. We're giving the best tanks in the world to people that can defend with them, but then they can also go to the Red Square like they're saying," he said. "This is a very, very dangerous game they're playing."

O'Neill also argued that the U.S. is "feeding" the war "from both sides" due to our economic policies and military aid.

"You got to figure we're funding Russia and Ukraine. We're funding Russia because of our economic policies. We don't export enough oil. So people are buying it from Russia, like India, China. Some of our allies are buying Russian oil. It's a self-licking ice cream corner, and we're feeding it from both sides. And someone needs to take a sharp look at this and at least be accountable to the taxpayer. And that's what frustrates me."

While many respected generals and leaders have called for supporting Ukraine for the time necessary, the American public is more divided.

A new Fox Poll shows only 50% of Americans are willing to support Ukraine "as long as it takes to win" with 46% favoring a "limit timeframe."

Gen. Keane argued that if the American people were shown "the president wants to give the Ukrainians everything they need and try to win this year, and if not this year, certainly the beginning of next year, I think that poll changes dramatically."

O'Neill, however, challenged the lack of accountability and massive spending connected with Americans' concerns about the war. He also warned that the U.S. preoccupation with Ukraine is distracting from the growing threat of China.

Source: Fox Business

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Georgia always ready to support Türkiye in these difficult days, says Georgian premier

Burak Dağ  


Georgia’s prime minister said Friday that his country is always ready to support Türkiye and its people in difficult days.

Irakli Garibashvili visited the Georgian search and rescue team that joined efforts to save lives in quake-hit Hatay province.

“On behalf of the Georgian people, I would like to say once again that we are always with you and that we are ready to support you in these difficult days,” he said, expressing condolences for those killed.

Garibashvili and his accompanying delegation were welcomed by Türkiye’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez and the city’s Governor Rahmi Dogan at the Hatay Airport.

“I personally conveyed my condolences to him and at the same time thanked him again for accepting me and my delegation in these difficult days. I am sure that you will get through these difficult days and you will return to your old days under the leadership of your President,” he said.

During their visit to the Provincial Directorate of the country’s disaster agency, AFAD, Donmez said: “From day one, friendly and brotherly countries gave their best support regarding humanitarian aid and particularly search and rescue efforts.”

He added: “Undoubtedly, Georgia has a special place.”

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Türkiye, Syria earthquake aid appeal to air on 29 UK channels

Burak Bir



A video clip appealing for aid to support people affected by the massive earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria will air on 29 UK channels simultaneously on Friday.

The footage, featuring the devastating earthquakes on Feb. 6, is voiced by famous British actor Daniel Craig, showing viewers how they can donate to help with aid.

"Channel 4 has brought together media owners ITV, UKTV, Channel 5, Sky, STV, Warner Bros. Discovery and Ocean Outdoor to gift advertising space for a Disasters Emergency Committee Turkey-Syria earthquake appeal, voiced by Daniel Craig," said Channel 4.

The 90-second film will air at 9.55 p.m. local time across 29 British TV channels, in addition, the advert will appear on large format digital screens in 18 locations.

Channel 4 said that the advert will also be broadcast on its YouTube channel from Friday until Sunday.

More than 44,200 people have been killed in Türkiye by the two strong earthquakes that jolted the country's southern region on Feb. 6, according to officials.

The 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude quakes, centered in the Kahramanmaras province, have affected some 13.5 million people across 11 provinces, including Hatay, Gaziantep, Adiyaman, Malatya, Adana, Diyarbakir, Kilis, Osmaniye, Sanliurfa, and Elazig.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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EU maintains sanctions on PKK in terrorist list update

Agnes Szucs 



The EU on Friday maintained its sanctions on the PKK terrorist organization as it extended measures for another six months against individuals and groups involved in terrorism.

The Council of the European Union, which represents member states in the bloc, announced in a statement that it had "renewed, with no changes the so-called terrorist list."

The sanctions list targets 13 people and 21 entities or groups, including PKK and the far-left DHKP-C, another terror group.

In order to combat terrorism, the bloc freezes the funds and financial assets that listed individuals and groups hold in the EU and bans operators in the bloc from making economic resources available to them.

The EU applies a separate sanction mechanism for Al-Qaida and ISIS/Daesh.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of at least 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Source: Anadolu Agency

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Southeast Asia


In Budget 2023 speech, PM Anwar reminds Malaysians to stop emphasising racial differences

By John Bunyan

24 Feb 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today reminded Malaysians that racial differences should no longer be highlighted to preserve harmony and unity in the country.

Anwar said that the government will not allow hatred to fester until it leads to violence.

“I guarantee here that not only will the ‘perpetrators’ be arrested, but also the ‘purveyors’, who abuse the right to freedom of expression,” he said during his speech when tabling Budget 2023.

Anwar, who is also the finance minister, announced that the government had allocated a total of RM50 million to mobilise various programmes, such as Kembara Perpaduan Malaysia Madani and Ini Warisan Kita, to celebrate diversity and bridge the gap between Malaysians.

“The programmes will include various activities of unity and social integration between communities such as unity sports leagues, cultural competitions, fiestas and menu tastings,” he said.

He said the government also agreed to allocated RM20 million to implement a gotong royong programme in schools throughout Malaysia as a measure to foster unity.

Source: Malay Mail

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Jais: Ustaz Azhar Idrus not certified to teach Islam in S’gor

24-02- 2023

SHAH ALAM: The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) has confirmed that free-lance preacher Ustaz Azhar Idrus does not hold a certificate to teach Islam in Selangor.

Its director, Datuk Mohd Shahzihan Ahmad said this when commenting on the cancellation of Ustaz Azhar’s lecture that was to be held at Tengku Ampuan Jemaah Mosque, Bukit Jelutong here this Sunday.

He said the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and Jais are subject to the laws and regulations in effect in Selangor.

“All individuals who teach Islam in Selangor must comply with the laws and regulations.

“Mosque or surau authorities too, cannot invite individuals who do not possess teaching certificates issued under Section 118 of the Islamic Religious Administration Enactment (Selangor State) 2003 Amendment 2016,“ he said in the statement today.

Yesterday, Ustaz Azhar posted on his Facebook page that his lecture at Tengku Ampuan Jemaah Mosque was cancelled by Jais and conveyed his apologies to the people of Selangor.

Source: The Sun Daily

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Malaysia’s new Vatican envoy to promote interfaith dialogue

February 24, 2023

Malaysia’s newly appointed ambassador to the Holy See from Christian-majority Sarawak has termed his selection as “unique” and has vowed to work towards interfaith dialogue and the well-being of Malaysians.

“It is a bit unique, and we do not have trade and investments. What we are doing is to promote interfaith dialogue between the different faiths all over the world,” said Hendy Assan who is the third Bidayuh indigenous tribe member to be appointed to the post.

The first-ever Bidayuh ambassador was John Tenewe Nuek who has retired.

Bidayuh is a collective name used to identify several indigenous groups found in southern Sarawak, Malaysia, and northern West Kalimantan, Indonesia, on the island of Borneo, which are broadly similar in language and culture.

Assan also voiced his hope to increase socio-cultural and educational ties during his tenure to further strengthen the relationship between Malaysia and the Holy See, The Borneo Post reported on Feb. 22.

“We will try to share our experience as a progressive Muslim country because they look highly on Malaysia,” Assan said.

“At the same time, we will also look into the welfare of Malaysians who are residing or studying in Vatican City,” he added.

Assan and nine other ambassadors received their Letter of Credence from His Majesty Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, the Malaysian head-of-state on Feb 9.

Assan gave his comments to the press after paying a courtesy visit to Childhood, and Community Wellbeing Development Minister Fatimah Abdullah.

He was accompanied by another Sarawakian, Gloria Corina Peter Tiwet, who was appointed as the Malaysian ambassador to Brazil.

Ambassador Tiwet is the first and only woman among the three Bidayuh to be appointed from Sarawak.

Minister Abdullah during the meeting urged the ambassadors to highlight the inclusivity and good practices of Malaysia and Sarawak in their respective work domains.

“Don’t forget to share the good practices we have here which contribute to the unity among the people of various races and religions,” said Abdullah.

She also urged the ambassadors to share the state's implementation of its women and social support system which they have “established [for] our Sarawakian society to become an inclusive state.”

Reportedly, Assan has an illustrious career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which began with his service as an assistant director of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1995, reported the Dayak Daily newspaper.

He also served as the consul general of Malaysia in Shanghai, China between 2010 to 2014 and had diplomatic assignments to Tokyo, Japan, Rome, Italy, and Senegal.

At the ministry, Assan has also worked as the undersecretary of the East Asia Division, and undersecretary of the International Cooperation and Development Division.

Before his latest assignment as the ambassador to the Holy See, Assan served as the Malaysian ambassador to the Republic of Uzbekistan, a post he took up in 2018.

Assan is married to a Swiss national and they have two daughters aged 17 and 19.

The appointment of Assan and Tiwet from Christian-majority Sarawak is particularly relevant as Christians make up only 10 percent of Malaysia’s estimated 32 million people, according to 2018 government estimates.

Of the country’s total population Muslims make up more than 60 percent, Buddhists 20 percent, and Hindus are estimated at 6.3 percent.

Among Malaysia’s 13 states, Sarawak, and Sabah on the island of Borneo account for about two-thirds of the country’s Christians.

Sarawak is the largest state in terms of area where Christians make up the majority with 1.2 million (50.1 percent) in a population of 2.4 million. Muslims make up 800,000 (34.2 percent) and Buddhists account for about 300,000 (12.8 percent).

Protestants, mostly Anglicans, are the majority among Christian denominations.

Source: UCA News

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Divyadarshini’s recitation of surah amazes Muslims

25 Feb 2023

A VIDEO of a non-Muslim reciting Quran verses went viral on TikTok, impressing Muslim netizens.

Medical assistant M. Divyadarshini, 27, said she was also able to read Jawi aside from memorising some verses from the Quran as she was raised by a Muslim nanny, reports Harian Metro.

“Previously, only my family and close friends knew that I memorised the surah (verses).

“However, this somehow went viral after I joined a live session on TikTok with someone on the platform.

“The lady requested that I recite the prayer before eating, and she also asked me about any surah that I knew by heart. I recited Surah An-Naas, and I didn’t expect it would go viral,” she said.

Divyadarshini said her family never stopped her from learning the Quranic verses from her babysitter, who took care of her from age six to 16.

“Whenever my babysitter taught her child to recite the Quran, I would join them.

“From there, I learned how to read the Arabic letters and Jawi as well as memorise some short surahs,” she added.

> Actress Isyariana Che Azmi, 31, is scared of marriage as she is still traumatised by the divorce her parents went through, reports Utusan Malaysia.

She also admitted to having trust issues, especially with men, which led her to prefer friendships over romantic relationships.

“I have a hard time trusting people, especially men. Maybe I’ve been in a similar situation and seen my parents’ marital problems and their divorce.

“I got to know some guys, but I don’t have the desire to pursue a marriage. Not that I’m angry or disappointed, just that I’m more comfortable on my own,” she said.

Source: The Star

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Cabinet ministers laud Budget 2023 for being progressive towards developing Malaysia Madani

25 Feb 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — The government’s efforts to empower the people’s well-being in facing the current economic challenges are translated through various initiatives which were announced under Budget 2023 themed ‘Developing Malaysia Madani’ yesterday.

Cabinet Ministers expressed their hope that all development proposals and aspirations tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim can be fully and transparently implemented with the cooperation of all relevant ministries, agencies and quarters.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri viewed Budget 2023 as giving focus to empowering children’s well-being and women’s careers.

She thanked the Prime Minister’s support of the ministry’s proposal in creating a Child Development Department, adding that the ministry will work closely with central government agencies such as the Finance Ministry and the Public Service Department to set up the department as soon as possible.

Nancy said the ministry was also pleased with the announcement of the establishment of a special unit under Division D11, Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) to combat child pornography, adding that it is ready to assist the police for the safety and well-being of children.

The ministry also lauds the government’s initiative under the Social Security Organisation (Socso) to encourage women to return to the workforce after long maternity leave, she added.

International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz said Budget 2023 was expected to strengthen the country’s position as a destination of choice for investment and trade as a gateway to the Asian region.

“InsyaAllah, the MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) team and I will work hard to ensure that all the agendas and plans are carried out well,” he said.

Minister of Economy Rafizi Ramli said that his ministry would balance the focus between economic restructuring and the needs of the people concerning the cost of living and better wages through the allocation of RM750 million for the People’s Income Initiative (IPR).

He said the agriculture sector which is part of the initiative, must be a pillar for the national economy along with other strategic sectors in the future and for that purpose, a total of 800 acres of land owned by the federal government will be utilised by the B40 and extreme poor.

Meanwhile, National Unity Minister Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang in a Facebook post said Budget 2023 showed the government’s commitment to fostering unity and celebrating diversity in the country.

“A total of RM50 million is allocated for the ‘Kembara Perpaduan Malaysia Madani’ and ‘Ini Warisan Kita’ programmes. The government also agreed to provide RM20 million to implement the ‘gotong-royong’ programme in all schools throughout Malaysia,” he said adding that RM50 million is also provided for the maintenance and repair of non-Muslim houses of worship throughout the country

Source: Malay Mail

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Dismantling race-based rent-seeking will take more than usual discourse, forum told

By Shahrin Aizat Noorshahrizam

23 Feb 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — Race-based rent-seeking has become entrenched in Malaysia and will need more than the usual echo chamber to convince the country to discard the practice, speakers told the “Now Everyone Prospers (NEP): The Best of Both Worlds” forum today.

The forum’s topic was a play on the technically defunct NEP (New Economic Policy) that was introduced in the aftermath of the 1969 race riots to ostensibly tackle racial inequality in Malaysia, but has been misused for rent-seeking by the politically connected.

Iman Research co-founder Dina Zaman said all the intellectual conversations about corruption and generating deeper understanding of the topic must go beyond Klang Valley and reach the country’s heartlands to have real effect.

In part, Dina said this was because some in the ethnic Malay community did not realise that their participation in systems of rent-seeking and patronage ultimately fostered an environment that was conducive to corruption.

“You have to go out of KL and engage with the people. Now we do a lot of work on the ground, and I’ve been doing this even when I was a journalist.

“There are a lot of people out there you need to engage. There’re a lot of youth groups, you don’t have to like them but if you want to know what the heartland is about, what their needs are,” she told the forum organised by Global Institute of Tomorrow (GIFT).

Rent-seeking is when someone seeks to enrich themselves through social or political links but without generating new wealth or benefits to the larger society.

According to Dina, one justification for rent-seeking among some in the Malay community was a supposed view that they were responsible for defending their race and its religion, Islam, from the amorphous threat of progress and liberalisation.

Citing the rejection of the attempt to certify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in 2018, she said the sentiment stemmed from the same brand of Malay nationalism.

She further said that when the community began noticing the number of non-Malay ministers in the Cabinet of the Pakatan Harapan administration at the time, it whipped itself into the belief that the Malays were losing their leadership role in the government.

“But when I asked my father, he said all his bosses in government were Indian and Chinese in his time. But this current generation doesn’t realise this. They say ‘no, this is a shock to us, all these years since we were young, we always had Malay faces in government’.

“They said that was when they realised that it was a political calling for them and to get back the identity they have forgotten,” she added.

GIFT chief executive officer Chandran Nair said pervasive rent-seeking has become a chronic drain on the economy as a result of the systemic misallocation of the country’s natural, human, and financial resources.

Going forward, he said unaddressed rent-seeking would also erode Malaysia’s international business reputation, deterring global companies and investors from seeing Malaysia as a viable place to do business.

“The institutional and business damages caused by the prevailing rent-seeking economy are not isolated from Malaysian society. Rather, there are significant carryovers that result in a host of issues, including continuing political instability, economic inequality, deepening of racial divisions, and even worsening of the rural-urban and East-West divide.

“Additionally, implications can manifest on non-material measures of the health of Malaysia's social fabric, such as corrosion of public trust in government, erosion of value systems, stagnating social mobility for the marginalised communities,” he said.

The forum session explored the impact of race-based rent-seeking on Malaysia’s development.

Source: Malay Mail

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