New Age Islam
Sun Oct 01 2023, 04:55 PM

Islamic World News ( 26 Apr 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Mullah Power in Secular India: Deoband heat ‘forces’ university to scrap Rushdie Paper

New Age Islam News Bureau

26 Apr 2012

 Indian Mullahs see Islamic Sharia in danger again: Conspiracy theories galore as usual

 Spanish Parliament Accepts Pakistani Ex-Muslim’s Petition to Ban the Quran for Consideration

 Syria: Massive explosion in Hama 'kills 70'

 Taliban kill four police, abduct 16: Afghan official
•  Pakistan PM convicted in contempt case, given 30-second symbolic punishment
•  Philadelphia Muslims offer $20,000 reward to find criminals wearing Islamic garb
•  Centre wades into Barelvi-Wahhabi duel in Kashmir?
•  New Delhi: Objective Studies Seminar urges Muslims to fix priorities adopting collective wisdom
•  Pakistan comedian abducted for poking fun at militants
•  Rights groups see politics behind rise in Muslim hate crimes
•  Saudi Clerics Out-Tweet Liberals Forcing King to Balance
•  Malaysia PM: Muslims must be seen to be moderate to counter Islamophobia
•  Saeed rejects Pakistan 'request' to stay out of public eye
•  Breivik: Insanity diagnosis based on 'fabrications'
  ‘Curb anti-India terror for bilateral ties to progress’

 Terror attacks claimed 458 lives in Mumbai since 2000

•  State Bank of India prepares to open branches in Pakistan
•  Reagan envoy found Pakistan 'superb liar' on nukes: US memos
•  Chechnya's first lady unveils Islamic fashion collection
•  Sri Lankan Muslims strike over Dambulla mosque
•  Kenyans allege British involvement in rendition and torture in Uganda
•  3 Afghan Women Killed in Mortar Strike
•  Indian Muslims cautioned to remain vigilant to safeguard Islamic Sharia
•  CID quizzes Muslim cleric over inciting violence
•  Egypt Islamic body backs Brotherhood candidate
•  With Yemen’s Saleh gone, attention turns to problem of Chewing on qat
•  For those escaping Syria bloodshed, the horror remains
•  Blasts hit two Nigerian newspaper offices
•  US issues alert for its citizens in Pakistan
•  After bin Laden, US-Pakistan relations at new low
•  Bin Laden killing anniversary a political tightrope
' Osama wanted shoe bombers to follow up on 9/11 attacks'

 Pakistan ‘not bound’ to act on Hafiz bounty
•  Khar says US not listening: 'Drone strikes must stop'
•  Pak military's grip on foreign policy easing: Hina Rabbani Khar
•  Pak authorities to soon provide identity cards to all Hindus
•  Pakistani nationals apply for citizenship
•  Army uses bullets, and classrooms to fight militancy
•  Kurdish rebels kill four Iran Guards: report
•  Syrian security forces kill at least 12 in rocket attack
•  Malaysian Students Seek Full Political Rights
•  Sadique hints at 'manipulation', says same panel issued SC certificate in 2006
•  Ajmer blast trail leads NIA team to Dhanbad
•  FBI chief in Yemen as drone kills Al-Qaeda leader
•  JEDDAH: Dad, stepmom held for child's murder
•  Israeli Army Chief Says He Believes Iran Won’t Build Bomb
•  Israel backtracks on demolition of illegal West Bank settlement
•  Russia says Iran, West 'interested' in nuclear offer
•  Sudan troops say they are not aggressors
•  Activists: Syrian forces resume shelling
•  Annan calls Syria situation 'bleak'
Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: Darululoom-Deoband

Mullah Power in Secular India: Deoband heat ‘forces’ university to scrap Rushdie paper
By Piyush Srivastava
 Apr 26, 2012
CHAUDHARY Charan Singh University ( CCSU) in Meerut has cancelled the post- doctoral fellowship of Prabha Parmar, who was awarded research work on the novels of three authors, including controversial writer Salman Rushdie.
Darul Uloom Deoband had opposed any study on Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses , which is banned in the country, though Parmer’s ambit of research reportedly did not cover the novel.
But in an official communication dated April 23, 2012, sent to her, Prof. Arun Kumar, department of English, ( CCSU), gave another reason for cancelling her fellowship: That she is on maternity leave and is yet to start the research work sanctioned by the UGC this January.
“ This has reference to the UGC letter dated January 23, 2012, on the subject of the award for fellowship for the year 2011- 2012 ( Category OBC) for your topic Use of Magic Realism in the Major Novels of Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh and Vikram Seth in the subject of English. You joined the department on February 13, 2012, and on the next day asked for maternity leave for three months till May 13, 2012,” the letter read. “ You have technically not started your research work, which was approved by the UGC on January 23, 2012. Please be informed that the department of English will not be able to provide any facilities for your fellowship,” it stated.
Not ready to speak on the issue, Parmar merely confirmed the receipt of the letter on Wednesday.
But a source close to her said that the department had not raised any objection before some members of the university tried to create a controversy.
Ashraf Usmani, chairman of Darul Ifta, fatwa department of Darul Uloom, Deoband, had said on Monday they were preparing to oppose the fellowship. “ The CCSU had allowed a student to do research on a book ( The Satanic Verses ) which was banned in India. This means that the ban on the book is mere eyewash and the government supports a student to read it and do research on it,” he had said. Expressing his satisfaction over the fresh decision, Usmani said: “ They stand corrected.
We are happy about it.”
Mail Today

Indian Mullahs see Islamic Sharia in danger again: Conspiracy theories galore as usual
 Apr 26, 2012
Mumbai: The Indian Muslim community has been cautioned to remain vigilant to safeguard the Islamic Sharia as the conditions that prevailed 40 years ago which forced to form a board to protect the Muslim personal laws have not abated and will continue to raise their heads from time to time.
Fresh dangers are looming large as the government of the day seems to usurp the Sharia laws and if the community does not pay necessary heed to safeguard it then harm may be caused in performing their religious rituals and following their rights and duties as a Muslim in a country like India dominated by non-Muslims.
As such Muslims should keep a constant eye on the situation and the developments that take place therein so that the community is always able to avail its religious freedom as guaranteed by the Indian constitution and there is no curb on it. This is necessary because they are in the minority and their identity as a Muslim is maintained unscathed. There is a possibility that the bogey of Uniform Civil Code which occurred in some people’s minds can crop up again while it is well known that the Indian Constitution has given country’s every religion the right to practice it according to their established norms and run their institutions.
The above views were expressed by Maulana Syed Mohammad Rabey Hasani Nadvi, president of All India Muslim Personal Board, (AIMPLB), while delivering his presidential speech in the three-day 22nd convention of AIMPLB here at Hajj House on Saturday. Over 400 delegates from all over the country are participating in the convention.
Maulana Rabey said there is a constant need to keep this freedom of religious right intact as there is a likelihood that it may be tampered with or the situation may be created for the government of the day to take it under its control. Recently many Acts have been passed wherein certain provisions of these Acts are found to be harmful to the religious freedom of minorities and the AIMPLB is doing all its best to rectify them. It seems that the government, through different Acts and bills, was trying to interfere in Muslim laws, he added.
Meanwhile, Maulana Syed Nizamuddin, general secretary of AIMPLB, presented the report. The report dealt in detail the AIMPLB’s efforts to contest the lacunae in different Acts like RTE, Direct Tax Code Bill, Wakf Amendment Act 2010 along with positions of court cases of the Babri Masjid, Talaq (Divorce), Inheritance etc.
Dr. Maulana Syed Kalbe Sadiq and Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umari, both AIMPLB vice presidents, also spoke on the occasion. Mr. Abdus Sattar Yousuf Sheikh, president of the Reception Committee who is also senior secretary of AIMPLB, delivered the welcome address. Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, AIMPLB secretary, conducted the proceedings.
At the outset Maulana Mohammad Fazlurrahim Mujaddidi recited verses from the Holy Qur’an. A number of books related to Islamic Sharia and Muslims were released on the occasion. In the beginning obituary references to number of AIMPLB members and their well-wishers who passed away in the last two years since the last Board’s convention held in March 2010 at Lucknow.

Spanish Parliament Accepts Pakistani Ex-Muslim’s Petition to Ban the Quran for Consideration
M. A. Khan
 Apr 26, 2012
Recent we reported courageous Pakistani Ex-Muslim Imran Firasat's petition to the Spanish government to ban the Quran. Many Muslims then called Imran stupid, and said the Government of Spain is not going to entertain your petition and that they will tear and throw your petition. Reader Muslim and Proud on website commented: "I think the government of Spain will take this muppet very seriously and they will ban the Holy Qur'an.........not."
But the skeptics and Islamic zealots were wrong. There's fantastic news for those, battling Islamic fascism. The Spain Parliament has officially admitted Imran's petition to ban the Quran. A letter from the Parliament of Spain informed Imran that they have admitted the petition and sent to the "Constitutional Commission" of the Parliament for deliberation on it.
Although we have to wait for the ultimate outcome of the petition, and an outright ban on the Quran is uncertain at this point, acceptance of the petition for consideration by the Spanish Parliament itself is a big step forward for those involved in the battle against Islamic fascism. Not many people would today believe that a parliament in a European country would even accept such a petition for consideration.
An outright ban of the Quran may not be on the card as yet. But acceptance of the petition for consideration takes us to the next level, a big leap forward, toward condemnation of the violent Quran. And credits for this would go to the Spanish parliament as much as it would go to Imran Firasat.
Information about this news-story can be found on these Spanish news sites:

Syria: Massive explosion in Hama 'kills 70'
 Apr 26 2012
Up to 70 people have been killed in an attack on a house in Hama, according to Syrian activists.
They said several houses in the Masha at-Tayyar district in southern Hama were destroyed by a big explosion.
State media said 16 people died in the blast in a house used as a bomb factory by "armed terrorist groups".
The violence comes despite a UN-brokered ceasefire - part of a peace plan proposed by the joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Scud attack?
Following the blast in Hama, activists posted video on the internet showing a scene of devastation, with bodies being pulled from the rubble.
One report said 13 children and 15 women were among the dead.
They said the blast was caused by government shelling or even a Scud missile attack.
The opposition Syrian National Council has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting "so that it can issue a resolution to protect civilians".
It says nearly 100 people have been killed in Hama in recent days.
The level of devastation seen would have been difficult to achieve by conventional shelling, the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says.
State television showed pictures of injured children in hospital and says that a group using the house to make bombs detonated them accidentally.
The reports cannot be independently verified owing to government restrictions on foreign media.
Meanwhile, a video has emerged which purportedly shows a man being buried alive by security forces, allegedly for sending material to TV stations.
Its authenticity could not be confirmed.
The unnamed man, who is said to be a media activist, is seen pleading for his life as earth is shovelled over his head. He then goes silent.
What appear to be members of the security forces are then heard cursing him for receiving money for sending material to Arabic satellite TV stations.
The video was leaked by sympathisers.
Continuing violence has been reported across Syria since a ceasefire was introduced earlier this month - including in towns where UN observers are present.
France now says the Security Council should consider the use of force in Syria if Mr Annan's peace plan fails to stop the violence.
The plan calls on Damascus to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from cities.
"Totally unacceptable"
Mr Annan told the Security Council on Tuesday that the Syrian military had not withdrawn from population centres.
He condemned as "totally unacceptable and reprehensible", reports that troops entered Hama after UN observers departed on Monday, and carried out summary executions as punishment for having spoken to them.
Two observers have now returned to Hama. They form part of a small advance team, ahead of a team of 300 that the UN would like to deploy.
The US permanent representative to the UN, Susan Rice, told reporters on Tuesday that all Security Council members wanted the observers to be deployed quickly.
Ms Rice said that it was hoped 100 observers would be in Syria within a month, but said Syria had made clear it would not admit UN staff from any country in the "Friends of Democratic Syria" group.
The UN says about 9,000 people have died since pro-democracy protests began in March 2011. In February, the Syrian government put the death toll at 3,838 - 2,493 civilians and 1,345 security forces personnel.

Taliban kill four police, abduct 16: Afghan official
 Apr 26, 2012
KABUL: A provincial official says a group of Taliban fighters have attacked a police post in northeast Afghanistan, killing four officers and abducting 16.
Badakhshan province Deputy Gov Shams ul-Rahman said on Thursday that police reinforcements have been sent to secure the post, which sits on a key highway passing through Fayz Abad district.
Ul Rahman says the Taliban carried out the attack on Wednesday night and that they were helped by militants from other Central Asian countries.
Badakhshan province is in Afghanistan’s far northeast and borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China.
Ul Rahman says that two police officers were also wounded in the hours-long attack.

Pakistan PM convicted in contempt case, given 30-second symbolic punishment
symbolic punishment
 Apr 26, 2012
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Supreme Court has convicted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the contempt of court case for failing to act on its directives to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
However, the court did give him a jail term and instead gave him a symbolic punishment of sentence for '30 seconds', according to TV reports.
Gilani, surrounded by his supporters, walked out of the court smiling.
According to Pak media, after the judgement Gilani stands disqualified as member of parliament.
Earlier on Tuesday, a seven-judge bench headed by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk had reserved its judgement in the case after the completion of arguments by the defence and the prosecution.
Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk had asked Gilani's counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan, to ensure that the premier is present in court when the verdict is announced on Thursday.
The Supreme Court had been pressuring the government to revive cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Gilani refused to act, saying the President enjoyed immunity within Pakistan and abroad. Gilani had appeared in the apex court twice before and had decided to fight the case.
Even after he was formally charged with contempt of court on February 13, Gilani insisted that he would rather be jailed than approach the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases against the president.
The premier has said throughout the proceedings in the apex court that he had done nothing against the government's rules of business.

Philadelphia Muslims offer $20,000 reward to find criminals wearing Islamic garb
By Jim Gold
Apr 26, 2012
Philadelphia-area Muslims are offering a $20,000 reward to find criminals cloaking their identities beneath Islamic women's clothing, saying the crooks are feeding mistrust of their faith.
Members of Majlis Ash Shura, a group representing 71 mosques and congregations in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said they have zero tolerance for the tactic, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“Whatever happened to the mask?” Imam Asim Abdul-Rashid of the Masajid of the Delaware Valley said, referring to ski masks often seen worn by bank robbers, the Inquirer reported.
Officials say perpetrators have worn Muslim garb in five Philadelphia bank robberies since December. Also, Sharif Wynn, charged with an April 18 killing in an Upper Darby barber shop, allegedly wore a woman's robe as part of a robbery ruse that turned out to be a love triangle gone bad.
“These types of bizarre incidents feed into that cottage industry of Muslim bashers,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the national Council on American-Islamic Relations, told “These types of incidents demonize Islam and American Muslims.”
They also make it difficult for Muslim women to get service in banks, Hooper said.
Amara Chaudhry, civil rights director at CAIR’s Philadelphia chapter, told that one community member, who went to a bank to deposit the paycheck of her son in the military, was not allowed to enter the branch before first removing her hijab, making her feel as naked as removing her blouse and bra.
“She couldn’t even serve her son who is serving our country,” Chaudhry said.
Islamic leaders said at a news conference Tuesday they're concerned the crimes could make Muslim women the targets of mistrust or even violence.
Watch US News crime videos on
Williams appealed for the public's help.
“We are seeing cowards dressed in the outer garb of Muslim women,” he said, according to the Inquirer. “We will do all that we can to make sure [Muslim] women aren’t degraded in this way.”
“I would like to ask the perpetrators if they have a mother, a daughter, or an aunt, and if they’d put them in jeopardy with this act,” said Alia Walker, executive director of Earth’s Keepers in Philadelphia, the Inquirer reported.
“We are human beings. To have my peers look at me in some kind of way because of this crime ... it really hurts my heart,” Walker said.

Centre wades into Barelvi-Wahhabi duel in Kashmir?
Randeep Singh Nandal
 Apr 26, 2012
SRINAGAR: Chances are that Pir Jalaluddin, head of the Batmaloo Sahib shrine in Srinagar, never heard the two bullets that hit him on the night of March 17. But for many in Kashmir, these were echoes of a sectarian war in the making in the Valley. The Pir belonged to a new aggressive group of the Barelvi sect of Islam in Kashmir, a grouping that in the past six months has lost no opportunity to rally its large following in the state.
Shrine-going Barelvis constitute about 70% of J&K's Muslims - an overwhelming majority in the Valley. However, the past 20 years have seen the more puritanical Wahabis like Ahle Hadith make rapid inroads in the state - a spread that is often ascribed to vast inflow of foreign funds to these organisations from Saudi Arabia. Thanks to their resources, Wahabi groups have ensured easy availability of Wahabi literature.
"When I was about to pass out of college, I too turned a Wahabi for a few years, unlike my shrine-going family," said an unlikely young professional who didn't want to be identified. Going further, he said, "The evening sermon was followed by tea and snacks. The mosque was large and airy and had reading material like books and pamphlets. Go to any roadside bookseller and he will have dozens of magazines and books to choose from on Wahabism."
But the picture is changing now. With their righteous slogan of "Custodians of Kashmiriyat" and "Inclusive Islam", the Barelvis are upping the ante to counter the spread of Wahabi organisations. There are several signs of this: the attack on Pir Jalaluddin, the recent attack on policemen at Hazratbal shrine, then another shooting at Dastgeer Sahib, but overtly people pretend there is no sectarian strife. It's only in private they talk about it. And what's more, it seems the state and its agencies are not neutral in the strife.
There's a tactical understanding that the "Good Barelvis" are better than the "Dangerous Wahabi". The genesis of the belief lies in the summer unrest of 2010 when the "Conflict Generation" of Kashmir, boys born post-1990, took the lead in agitations. A subsequent survey by the Union home ministry found that almost 60% of young people spent a considerable time listening to religious discourses on the net or on CDs.
The overwhelming majority of this material was of the Wahabi school. It was here that the idea of "Good Barelvis" and "Dangerous Wahabis" took root.
By the fall of 2011, the strategy is said to have been fleshed out. When the Kashmir Sufi movement page opened on Facebook in October, the battle for ideas was joined. Starting with a massive rally on February 12 this year, it has been a Barelvi spring awakening for Kashmir. Not a day goes by without a function in some part of the Valley by organisations like the Karvan-e-Islam. Central agencies ensure these functions are given wide coverage by "sympathetic" newspapers. Senior government officials are prominent guests at these religious gatherings.
Almost in tandem, many religious shrines are being renovated across J&K to accommodate larger flocks. There's been a sudden inflow of funds which has raised eyebrows. It's at this level the tactical push begins to walk on thin ice. For, on the ground where the mosques are mushrooming, it is the Army which is present in any meaningful way. And the Army that prides itself on being secular, appears to have been convinced to throw their lot to push this sectarian caravan.
Army units are keeping a close watch on the construction of new mosques in their operational areas with orders to observe the Wahabis. Many have sprung up recently. For example, in Pulwama, which has some 202 large mosques, 2011 alone saw 43 new ones coming up. In Budgam, close to Srinagar, some 66 new mosques will be completed this year. Early in April, a Rashtriya Rifles unit on the outskirts of Srinagar organised a day's langar at the Urs of a local Shrine. The devout also benefited from a road built to the shrine with Army funds made just weeks earlier.
Some officers are uncomfortable with such involvement of the forces. "Nobody here has ever accused us of being a Hindu army or of sectarian bias. This tarnishes us. We are also influencing our officers and men subconsciously. If these are the good chaps then, by definition, a Jamaat, Deoband or an Ahle Hadith person is dangerous because of the way he practices his religion. Can you really judge a man by the TV channel he watches?" asked an officer, referring to the Wahabi-supported Peace TV.
State support to some sect or the other, often fickle and thinly thought out, isn't new in Kashmir. What's new is the Army's role. Gen S K Sinha as governor and Congress CM Ghulam Nabi Azad, for instance, had ensured in 2008 the clearance for an Ahle Hadith's proposal to set up an Islamic university in Kashmir. What's 'good' and what's 'bad', in other words, has kept changing.
The militancy years saw a meteoric rise in Ahle Hadith's following. It's said it quickly rustled up around 15 lakh followers in the Valley who visited a claimed number of 814 mosques. And remarkably, the state flirted with it. In 1990, the proposal of an Islamic Shariah University was floated, without any work on the ground. Then in 2008, in a flurry of activity, 50,000 metres of land was transferred to it and a bill passed in the assembly. The only change was a slightly more acceptable name: it was now called the Transworld Muslim University.
The Transworld Muslim University was the pet project of a venerable Ahle Hadith leader, Maulvi Showkat, whose murder created an outrage in the Valley. Before his death, the Maulvi was seen by some as being close to the establishment - an impression that grew when he passed a fatwa against stone pelting at the height of the 2010 unrest. If this was a calculated experiment in sharpening sectarian fault lines, it came to a bloody end when Showkat was killed by hit squad of his own organisation in April 2011.
The police chargesheet of the accused says the killers were unhappy with Showkat's peace-oriented line. Suddenly, there was a rethink. The Transworld Muslim University was seen as being against the principles of Kashmiriyat. The university bill was allowed to lapse, some allege by the deliberate inaction of Congress MLAs. Simultaneously, the proposal of a Sheikh Ul Alam research university, dedicated to Sufi studies, entered the fray.
"In a state where lakhs of boys are unemployed, where the prime minister's office is encouraging big companies to start vocational training so that local boys get employment outside the state, where was the need for such Sufi research universities? Now, instead of one, we will get two. Will that solve the unemployment and political problems of the state?" said a commentator. This experiment, he said, has been tried before in Punjab, where Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was helped by a section of the Congress to undercut the religious appeal of the Akalis - with disastrous results.
Will it turn out to be as dangerous a gamble in Kashmir? Hear this senior Hurriyat leader, who is reputed to have his ears to the ground: "This won't give the Indian state any advantage. Nor will it dilute the alienation among Kashmiris. It will only accentuate sectarianism. In every ideology or religion, there are good and bad people. Every Wahabi is not a radical and every Barelvi isn't a Sufi. The man who murdered Salman Taseer (Pakistan's Punjab governor) wasn't a brainwashed Al Qaeda agent. He was a shrine going Barelvi Muslim."
There's possibly a nugget of wisdom in that which hasn't visited New Delhi yet.

New Delhi: Muslims urged to fix priorities adopting collective wisdom
  Apr 26, 2012
New Delhi: The three-day 14th International conference organised by the well-known think tank Institute of Objective Studies, (IOS), on “Minority Rights and Identities: Challenges and Prospects in an Unfolding Global Scenario” here at the Constitutional Club of India concluded on Sunday last concluded with the consensus that in the Indian Constitution and the laws framed in the light of this grant rights to the minorities in all respects.
However, the ground reality is that in day to day life of the minorities, specially Muslim community, these rights granted by the Constitution remain a far cry and are not available to the Muslims, who feel cheated and are left high and dry. This not only leads to frustration in minorities but violation of the Constitution and the laws enacted therein also takes place.
Hence, it was felt it is utmost necessary that a law be framed that can be used against those responsible officials who in case do not comply and implement in letter and spirit the government’s decisions and policies for minorities formulated in the light of Indian Constitution and the existing laws and rules. Then only the minorities and other marginalised persons will be able to enjoy the fruits of development as other citizens of India.
Meanwhile, delivering the valedictory address at the end of the three-day conference K. Rahman Khan, Rajya Sabha member, requested IOS to dedicate the next 25 years after the silver jubilee celebrations as to what the Muslim community has to achieve priority wise through collective wisdom. The roadmap has also to be defined as to what will be the community’s role and contribution in India’s development. To attain this through collective wisdom first the community will have to sort out its differences by working within.
Rahman Khan lamented that the Muslim community has not done its job of what it should it get, what are its priorities and what is the roadmap of future. This job the government of the day cannot do for the community but it should be the collective wisdom of the community to do it.
“We are ourselves divided in views be it political, religious or social leadership. We are divided due to ego problem as no one is ready to sacrifice it”, he moaned.
Presiding over the valedictory function Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, chairman of IOS who is devoted, dedicated and dignified personality, in his concluding remarks appealed Rahman Khan and Zafaryab Jilani, Additional Advocate General of Uttar Pradesh, to convey to the powers that be the hurt and painful feelings of the Muslim community about the illegal arrests of their innocent youths over trumped up terrorism charges and atrocities of police on them. He urged them to use their good offices to provide succour to the affected families in getting their wards released and end their woes.
Dr. Alam announced the formation of “Foundation for Education” by IOS for the poor, who have been deprived of education, on the occasion with an appeal to all and sundry to make contributions of minimum Rs.5 per month so as to create funds for the noble cause.
A 10-point resolution was adopted by voice vote during the valedictory function. The resolutions are: 1. A special committee may be constituted to draw future plan of actions based on carrying out the resolutions adopted in Silver Jubilee celebrations’ conferences and achieving basic objectives of creating synergy for security and welfare of marginalised sections in general and Muslims in particular; 2. There should be a special drive to involve regional chapters of the IOS to study regional aspirations and adopt correct methodology for redressal of grievances at regional and national level; 3. The IOS in consultation with all concerned should evolve a comprehensive blue-print for minority welfare in India in coming ten years with special reference to globalisation process; 4. A committee of experts may be constituted to suggest measures for publicizing the understanding of Indian political and economic systems so that the Muslims are aware of all such processes including the electoral strategies; 5. The IOS should take necessary steps to evaluate various commissions/committees’ report and suggest measures for their implementation; 6. The IOS should constitute a specialised expert committee to suggest means to draw the attention of corporate sectors to minority potential, heritage and role in development; 7. It is pertinent to reiterate and reinvigorate the need to have links of IOS with other institutions and organizations to push the agenda forward. The issues of research and survey should form the priority sectors of the policies and prgrammes; 8. It is urgently needed to go for establishing legal aid cells to promote legal aid through spreading awareness among all sections of society and providing necessary relief to victims, if possible. The innocent Muslim youth, who are charge-sheeted must be tried on day to day basis; 9. The IOS should coordinate with agencies concerning Muslim’s affairs in areas of awqaf properties in India. This sector needs urgent attention & 10. It is felt that along with other measures, the recommendations of Sachar Committee and the Rangnath Mishra Committee’s reports should be evaluated and monitored from the point of view of their implementation and impact.
Earlier, Salman Khurshid, Union Minister for Law & Minorities Affairs, speaking after the special lecture of Dr. Abusaleh Shariff, president, Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy, New Delhi, on “Post-Sachar Report: An Appraisal” said not only the proposal of Equal Opportunities Commission but there are many other issues on which there is no consensus in the whole country or Muslim community. So, it is necessary that first there should be consensus on any issue. As far as Equal Opportunities Commission is concerned its formation is possible but the Muslim community should first collectively agree over the proposal.
Khurshid said that he is in total agreement with the view of a section of the society that in a country like India there is no need at all for the Ministry of Minorities Affairs. This ministry in fact is Ministry of Coordination. The problems of minorities or Muslims cannot be solved alone by the Ministry of Minorities Affairs but for this departments of various ministries have to be involved, he explained.
He said that reservation of 4.5 per cent given to minorities under OBC quota does not mean that they would not get under other provisions. He pointed out that in nine and ten states of the country minorities have been given reservation under sub-category as such they have been given this 4.5 per cent reservation under this sub-category. This is half of 8.44 per cent, he added.
Dr. Abusaleh Shariff, who is also chief economist, National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi, while making a Power Point presentation on “Five Years After Sachar Report 2004-05 to 2009-10” said the report has 14 chapters of which many chapters have not been debated and analysed.
Dr. Shariff said there exists a very wrong general perception about Sachar Committee Report that it has been prepared keeping in mind only the state of affairs of Muslims and their problems. However, the truth is that the report has been prepared while comparing position of Muslims with other religious communities and groups. So, it is better not to call the report of any particular community but term it as a “Relative Report”. He candidly said that India can become an eminent nation only when every citizen of the country is given equal opportunity.
Meanwhile, Dr. Arshi Khan, Associate Professor of Political Science & the Director of the Centre for the Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India, AMU, Aligarh, spoke on redefining Minority Rights in India as the constitutional provisions like Article 29 and 30 are only meant for cultural and educational rights whereas these rights have proved to be inapplicable due to the enabling factors like political safeguards.
Dr. Arshi said that India is a plural society where democracy is not limited to merely elections and majority rule but the test of democracy rests with the ability of the government and the State to protect the interests of minorities. Muslims minority is a cultural and religious community and its culture is not the basis of political culture of India or the basis of the State. Merely existence of minority in numbers do not qualify a country to claim democracy but how far this largest minority feels to be the part of the State is the most important aspect.
He said that there are scores of violence, incidents, discriminations, violations of human rights and character assassination of the members of the Muslim community in the country which have not been even partially addressed by the successive governments in the last 60 years. There is a need for the recognition of the fact that Muslims have equal political rights but the enforcement agencies and political elite including many civil societies have not treated them as equal citizens. Therefore, there is a need to view such matters seriously and to take corrective measures to make India a vibrant country in the world, he emphasized.

Pakistan comedian abducted for poking fun at militants
Apr 26, 2012
ISLAMABAD: A comedian who poked fun at the Taliban's practice of apprehending thieves and meting out summary punishment to them was kidnapped from Peshawar in Pakistan while he was entertaining guests at a wedding, according to a media report on Wednesday.
Nisar Khan had recently written a comic song about thieves being caught and punished by the militants with lyrics like: "Shave my head, paint my face black; Mount me on a donkey and make fun of me" .
Khan was entertaining guests at a wedding at Matani, a suburb of Peshawar, on Monday when around 20 militants entered the guesthouse where he was performing and abducted him.
The militants told the gathering they "needed an entertainer urgently" . "They told people not to panic and that Nisar is being taken away only for a few days. They said he will not be harmed," an unnamed person said.
Residents said, Khan often makes militants the butt of his jokes. They said they believed this was the reason why he had been picked up by the militants. Khan had been kidnapped by militants last year and released a week later.

Rights groups see politics behind rise in Muslim hate crimes
By Carol J. Williams
 Apr 26, 2012
Amnesty International says politicians have been pandering to prejudice against Muslims in a quest for votes.
The Oslo courtroom where confessed mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is on trial offers a look at a tragic outcome of anti-Islamic hostility.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, years of war and repeated calls for violence against the West stirred worldwide fears of Muslim extremism, but many human rights analysts say they find it difficult to explain a recent surge in anti-Islamic hate crimes other than political manipulation and fears that displays of Islamic faith herald new threats from radicals.
In Europe and in North America, where incidents of Islamic extremism have been few and rarely fatal since the Sept. 11 attacks, anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased over the last two years as states enacted laws barring mosque construction and the wearing of veils, head scarves and beards meant to reflect the depth of Muslims' faith, not fanaticism.
A report this week by Amnesty International identifies widespread prejudice in Europe, where far-right political parties have gained traction with anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant fear-mongering that has served to legitimize discrimination against Muslims in the eyes of many.
Amnesty said political leaders, rather than combating fears of Islamic extremism and the equating of the devout with the radical, have been pandering to prejudice against Muslims in a quest for votes.
Recent legislative actions in France, Belgium, Spain, Turkey and Switzerland restrict the open practice of Muslims' faith. Swiss voters in 2009 passed a referendum banning construction of minarets in the alpine country, in one of the more powerful displays of anxiety about the continent's 44 million Muslims. Other European nations have acted to restrict Islamic dress in schools and offices and largely ignored employment discrimination against Muslims, Amnesty said.
The curbs aren't confined to Europe, U.S. Islamic leaders say, citing the recent battle over building an Islamic cultural center near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and the legislative campaigns in at least 20 U.S. states to bar judges from recognizing sharia, the strict Islamic legal doctrine, which has no authority in the United States because judges are sworn to uphold the Constitution.
"The bizarre bans on Islamic attire and efforts to target mosques in Europe have great similarities to what we see here in the United States," said Ibrahim Hooper, national spokesman for theCouncil on American-Islamic Relations.
Hooper recalled the emotional showdown over the $100-million Islamic cultural center renovation a few blocks from the site of the terrorist attacks in New York, and right-wing lawmakers' holding of congressional hearings on the threat of Islamic radicalization.
"It's all an effort to demonize Islam and marginalize Muslims in society," Hooper said. "Anders Breivik is the logical conclusion of the extremist views being promoted here and in Europe."
Violent extremism exists in America, the Center for American Progress said in a similar report last year, taking note of a sharp and unexplained rise in hate crimes against Muslims.
"Across the globe, there are terrorists killing in the name of Islam, but a new study from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point Military Academy shows that Al Qaeda attacks kill eight times more Muslims than non-Muslims," the Washington-based think tank said.
In its research on European attitudes toward Muslims, Amnesty pointed to the rising clout of right-wing political parties that play on citizens' fears of those openly espousing their faith and called on elected leaders to fight the portrayal of Islam as a violent theology. The Italian Northern League, Spain's Platform for Catalonia, the National Front in France and the National Union Attack of Bulgaria, a country where hundreds of thousands of Muslims have lived for centuries, have all gained political followings on anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant platforms.
"These parties have instrumentalized public sentiments of anxiety and disenchantment and have contributed to Islam being identified as the 'most significant enemy,' by promoting ideologies of ethnic nationalism and notions of a 'clash of civilizations,' " Amnesty warned.
There is general agreement among Europeans that racial discrimination is unacceptable, "but this isn't the case with discrimination due to religion, especially Islam," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty's director for Europe and Central Asia, citing United Nations and Council of Europe research on anti-discrimination laws in member states.
The rights group reported that Muslim women who apply for jobs with their heads or faces covered are routinely passed over or offered positions on condition they remove the veils.
"Employers argue that employees wearing a head scarf can make colleagues feel uncomfortable or that they don't fit into their company's image," said Marco Perolini, Amnesty's discrimination expert and co-author of the report. "Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes."
In the Center for American Progress report, analysts blamed the fears stirred about Muslims in North America on a handful of ideologues and well-heeled institutions bankrolling their propaganda. Some of the "experts" they accused of spreading false facts about the propensity for Muslims to embrace extremism were cited by Breivik in his rambling manifesto about his attacks in Norway last July that killed 77 people.
In its just-released analysis, the Southern Poverty Law Center cited FBI national crime statistics showing a jump from 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2009 to 160 in 2010, noting that the federal agency's statistics "are known to vastly understate the real level of hate crime."
The rise was the most dramatic since the first months after Sept. 11, when attacks on Muslims rose 1,600% to 481 by the end of 2001, said Mark Potok, editor of the law center's latest intelligence report.
"The anti-Muslim wave that we saw in 2010, in my opinion, has been entirely ginned up by opportunistic politicians and professional Islamophobes," Potok said.
He expects the trend to continue once hate crime statistics for last year are available, citing the rash of anti-sharia bills and fierce resistance to construction of mosques in communities including Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Sheboygan, Wis.; and Temecula, Calif.
"What public figures say really matters," Potok said. "We still have police and sheriffs inviting in hard-line Islamophobes to teach law enforcement about Muslims.",0,6897434.story

Saudi Clerics Out-Tweet Liberals Forcing King to Balance
By Glen Carey
 Apr 26, 2012
The Saudis making the biggest splash on social media aren’t the youthful, secular activists who led protest movements elsewhere in the Arab world last year. They’re religious scholars like Salman al-Oadah.
Saudi Arabia jailed al-Oadah in the 1990s, when he was advocating the kind of Islamic militancy espoused by al-Qaeda. Now, after renouncing extremism, he has more than 1 million followers on Twitter, as does Muslim scholar Ayed al-Qarnee. A third preacher, Mohammed al-Arefe, tops the national rankings with 1.4 million readers, more than the population of Bahrain. By contrast, one of the highest-profile campaigners against the religiously motivated ban on women drivers, Manal al-Sharif, has about 80,000 followers.
Their influence limits King Abdullah’s room for maneuver as he seeks to stop Arab political ferment spreading to the world’s biggest oil exporter. The king has pledged social and economic steps to reduce the swelling ranks of unemployed young Saudis and ensure they don’t join their peers in Tunisia or Egypt by seeking to topple the government. Even so, change must be acceptable to a clergy with the capacity to shape public opinion.
“To get an impression about how people are really feeling, look at the social networks,” Robert Lacey, British author of “Inside the Kingdom,” a 2009 history of Saudi Arabia, said. “There are reformers calling for Western-style democracy and human rights -- the sort of liberals that give quotes to visiting journalists -- but they don’t get much local response.
‘‘The top three tweeters in the whole of the peninsula are all conservative religious sheikhs,’’ he said.
Strict Monitoring
Under a pact between the al-Saud family and Sheikh Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab dating to 1744, Saudi Arabia adopted and promoted the austere Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, according to a Saudi government website. Conservatism permeates the country, where women are banned from driving, men and women can only mix socially under strict monitoring, and shops close during prayer times.
Some clerics have been critical of the royal family in the past, accusing it of corruption and attacking its alliance with the U.S. Al-Oadah was jailed for his role in the opposition religious movement of the 1990s known as Sahwa, or Awakening. At the time, he advocated a purge of liberals from positions in government, schools and media to make society more Islamic, according to ‘‘The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia’’ by David Commins.
Religious Police
While al-Oadah is socially traditionalist on many issues, he doesn’t advocate the extreme positions of some other Sunni clerics. When the king appointed Sheikh Abdul Latif al-Asheikh, a more liberal candidate, in January as the head of the religious police, Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Barrak, a prominent Wahhabi cleric, criticized the move as a Western plot against Islamic values and in support of gender mixing. He has also called for supporters of mixing to be killed.
Sheikh Nasser al-Omar, with 180,000 readers on Twitter, in February called for Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari’s execution for his postings on the Prophet Mohammed. Kashgari is in a Riyadh jail awaiting trial.
Al-Oadah, 55, says he turned to Twitter and Facebook after the government last year banned him from leaving the country because they felt his support for Arab revolts meant ‘‘I was representing revolution,” he said. The cleric says he’s sensitive in using social networking sites. “I don’t only lecture young people,” he said. “I stop and listen.”
‘Credible and Popular’
The cleric isn’t aggressive or extreme compared with his Saudi peers, said Bander Alnogaithan, a Riyadh-based lawyer who follows the sheikh on Twitter. “He is credible and popular among all types of people.” Al-Oadah is against women working alongside men and participating in public activities, such as sporting events.
Even more popular is al-Arefe, a conservative whose website offers video-clips of his sermons and a text-message service outlining religious duties. His Twitter postings address religious and social issues, including female employment.
“Employing a man is beneficial to him, his wife, his kids, his sisters and so on,” he wrote this month. “Employing a woman is beneficial to only her (usually). Then why is the race to hire her and deprive men from jobs? There are intentions behind this matter!”
Abdullah responded to the regional turmoil last year with a $130 billion spending spree. The main aim was job creation - a critical consideration in a country where more than a quarter of people in their 20s are unemployed. Extra cash was also channeled to the religious organizations, after they backed a ban on public demonstrations.
Arab Unrest
The kingdom has mostly escaped unrest sweeping the Arab world, though there have been clashes between security forces and protesters in the east where the oil industry is concentrated and where the Shiite Muslim minority mostly lives.
The surface calm may be misleading, said al-Oadah in his Riyadh office as he sat surrounded by piles of Islamic texts.
“The Arab Spring did affect Saudi Arabia,” said the Muslim scholar, who served Arabic coffee and dates, according to Saudi custom. “Before it was taboo to ever talk about things. Now, young people are expressing their opinions vividly, and they don’t really care about the consequences. To have someone come and just preach to them isn’t acceptable anymore.”
Twitter Investor
The Muslim scholars are joined on social media by Saudi princes, government officials and political activists, all using the 140-character messaging space allowed by Twitter to contest the country’s future. Osama Nugali, the foreign ministry’s spokesman, is a regular poster. Prince Talal, a liberal from King Abdullah’s generation of the ruling family, has 288,000 followers.
His son, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, actually owns part of Twitter Inc., after buying an undisclosed stake in December for $300 million. Alwaleed is the world’s 24th-richest man with a $20.5 billion fortune, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Among the most controversial figures on Saudi social media is Mujtahidd, who has attracted more than 300,000 followers with posts about the alleged misdeeds of royal family members, and housing and stock market corruption. The anonymous blogger said in response to e-mailed questions that the aim was to expose “those who are corrupt” and said, “I have the information and I am capable of using it in an effective manner.”
‘Abusive Remarks’
The growing domination of Saudi social networking sites by religious conservatives pushing a traditionalist agenda, and individuals criticizing the government, has sparked comment from those clerics most sympathetic to the crown.
Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheik spoke out last month against the use of social-networking sites for political criticism. The government is “constantly under attack from people who post insulting and abusive remarks,” he said.
“The mufti? No one follows him,” Waleed Abu al-Khair, a human rights activist who is also barred from leaving the kingdom, said in a phone interview. Al-Oadah, he said, is “the most revolutionary cleric in Saudi Arabia.”

Malaysia PM: Muslims must be seen to be moderate to counter Islamophobia
 Apr 26, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR: Muslims must be seen to be moderate so that they can counter Islamophobia worldwide, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
In view of the difficulties Muslims face when wanting to contribute to world economy and social justice, Najib said that he hoped the new Global Movement of Moderates Foundation would be able to play an important part in fostering tolerance and understanding.
"I am convinced that the moderation that runs through the very heart of Islam will come to stand as the enduring value of our times," he said during his keynote address at the World Congress of Muslim Philantropists on Global Donors Forum 2012 on Thursday.

Saeed rejects Pakistan 'request' to stay out of public eye
 Apr 26, 2012
ISLAMABAD: Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has turned down a 'request' from the Pakistan government to limit his public appearances and activities after the US announced a $10-million bounty for him, according to a report on Tuesday.
Government agencies had "advised" Saeed not to participate in public rallies for the time being, unnamed associates of Saeed were quoted as saying by The Express Tribune newspaper.
PML-N leader Pervez Rasheed, the spokesman for the government of Punjab province, said he was not aware of any such request made by authorities.
Saeed's aides claimed the suggestion was made as the government fears the Jamaatud-Dawah chief 's continued appearances might draw a "hostile reaction" from the US. They said Saeed was "adamant" and would not accept any such demand.
They said Saeed planned to address a rally organized by the Defa-e-Pakistan Council in Quetta later this week to mobilize people against the any government move to reopen Nato supply routes in Afghanistan.

Breivik: Insanity diagnosis based on 'fabrications'
 Apr 26, 2012
OSLO: Confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik says a psychiatric report that declared him insane was based on "evil fabrications" meant to portray him as irrational and unintelligent.
The right-wing extremist, who admitted to killing 77 people in bomb and shooting attacks, says "it is not me who is described in that report."
A second psychiatric examination found Breivik sane. The five-judge panel trying Breivik on terror charges for the July 22 attacks will consider both reports.

‘Curb anti-India terror for bilateral ties to progress’
 Apr 26, 2012
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told the Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari that firm action needs to be taken against anti-India terrorism originating from Pakistan to allow forward movement in the bilateral relationship.
Making a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha on Mr. Zardari's visit and his meeting with Dr. Singh here on April 8, External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna said it was made clear to Pakistan that India's concerns on terrorism had to be addressed if the people of the country are to support and sustain progress in bilateral relations.
Dr. Singh referred to public activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed and Mr. Zardari said the matter needed to be discussed further, Mr Krishna said.
Giving details of the 40-minute meeting between the two leaders on April 8, Mr. Krishna said both felt that “we need to move forward step-by-step and find pragmatic and mutually- acceptable solutions’’ to issues like Sir Creek, Siachen and Kashmir. They noted that there had been a steady progress in bilateral dialogue process which resumed last year and that it would continue as planned in the months to come, he said.
Dr. Singh and Mr. Zardari also discussed terrorism and the Prime Minister told the Pakistan President that "there is need to take firm action to curb terrorism to enable us to make forward movement in the bilateral relationship," Mr. Krishna said.
Mr. Krishna said Dr. Singh had conveyed to Mr. Zardari that "it was imperative to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice and prevent activities aimed against India from Pakistani soil. In this context, he also mentioned the activities of Hafiz Saeed carried out in public.
"It would be evident that our concerns on terrorism had to be addressed if the people of India are to support and sustain progress in bilateral relations," he said.
Mr. Zardari referred to judicial processes against Saeed and said the matter needed to be discussed further between the two governments, the External Affairs Minister said, adding it was noted that Home Secretaries are due to meet shortly and they would be discussing it further.
Zardari invites Manmohan
He said that during the meeting, Mr. Zardari invited the Prime Minister to visit Pakistan which was accepted with "pleasure" and that diplomatic channels would be used to work out mutually-acceptable dates and substantive preparations for that visit.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party sought to know why the Prime Minister was not making the statement on Mr. Zardari's visit and questioned his "continued and persistent absence" from the House.
The Prime Minister expressed appreciation of the fact that Pakistan has moved forward on trade-related issues and both the leaders felt that the two countries should tap the considerable potential of bilateral economic and trade ties for progress and prosperity of the two peoples.
Discussing developments in the region, the two leaders agreed to use the potential of regional cooperation for economic development of people of both countries, Mr. Krishna said.
"It was clear from the conversation that both countries consider the dialogue process and the improvement of bilateral relations as being in the mutual interest of the people of India and Pakistan," the Minister said.
The two leaders felt that priority needed to be given to issues of people-to-people contacts and in this context, they decided that a liberalised visa agreement which has been worked out should be signed during the next meeting of Home/Interior Secretaries, he said.

Terror attacks claimed 458 lives in Mumbai since 2000
Apr 26 2012
New Delhi : Altogether 458 people lost their lives in terror attacks in Mumbai in last 12 years, Rajya Sabha has been informed.
In a written reply, Minister of State for Home Jitendra Singh said yesterday that 458 lives were lost in the metropolis since 2000.
To another question, Singh said the National Investigation Agency has filed a chargesheet against Lashkar-e-Toiba operative David Coleman Headley along with nine others, including two officers of Pakistan's, in connection with the 26/11 Mumbai attack case.

State Bank of India prepares to open branches in Pakistan
 Apr 26, 2012
NEW DELHI: After 45 years of shutting its service in Karachi and Lahore, the State Bank of India is looking forward to visiting and working in Pakistan again after the two countries agreed in principle to allow banks from both sides to open branches across the borders.
On the Indian side, the Reserve Bank of India is getting ready to invite applications from interested commercial banks, following a meeting of their officials earlier this month. For Indian banks, the biggest problem seems to be the high capitalisation requirement for banks in Pakistan, which Indian lenders find steep.
Newspaper reports quoted bank officials as saying, “There were some differences on the financial parameters for eligibility of banks as the Pakistani side had kept capitalisation norms too high. But the requirement has been scaled down now and the norms have been finalized.”
The two sides have also reached an agreement on the licensing fees that banks will have to pay, reports said.
The modalities will now be circulated to banks, which will then put in applications depending on the feasibility of the proposal. The State Bank of India and Bank of India approached the State Bank of Pakistan in September 2008 seeking permission to start branches again, but high capitalisation requirements forced them to drop their interest in the scheme.
The recent meeting between officials of the two central banks followed the meeting between Indian and Pakistani commerce ministers in New Delhi on April 13, where they announced their intent to fast-track opening of bank branches to boost trade.

Reagan envoy found Pakistan 'superb liar' on nukes: US memos
Apr 26 2012
Washington : US officials concluded in the 1980s that Pakistan was lying about its nuclear program but muted criticism due to Islamabad's support against the Soviets in Afghanistan, declassified documents showed.
The memos to be released today reveal some of the behind-the-scenes drama between the United States and Pakistan during Ronald Reagan's presidency, foreshadowing current-day debates in the uneasy war partnership.
The documents included an account of a secret mission in June 1982 by a US envoy who confronted Pakistani military ruler Mohammed Zia ul-Haq with a letter from Reagan and said the United States had "incontrovertible" proof that Pakistan was seeking nuclear weapons.
The emissary, veteran US diplomat and translator Vernon Walters, said that Zia was "extraordinarily courteous, relaxed" and explained that he had no knowledge of nuclear weapons development but would check with his subordinates.
"Either he really does not know or is the most superb and patriotic liar I have ever met," Walters wrote to the State Department.
The documents, some obtained after requests under the US Freedom of Information Act, were released to the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which made them available to AFP in advance.
Pakistan tested an atomic bomb in 1998 days after its arch-rival India. The United States banned assistance to Pakistan in 1990 – soon after the Soviets left Afghanistan – after concluding that it was developing nuclear weapons.
But Reagan exempted Pakistan from a law requiring sanctions, named after then senator Larry Pressler, even though the memos said that officials knew that the country was moving toward nuclear weapons.
The US memos acknowledged that Pakistan was unlikely to comply with US pleas on its nuclear program in light of its concern over India, with which Pakistan has fought three full-fledged wars since independence in 1947.
The documents said that the United States was also urging "restraint" from India, which had strained relations with Washington during the 1980s.
Despite the criticism of its nuclear program, the United States resumed assistance to Pakistan to the tune of nearly USD 20 billion after it again offered support in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But relations have repeatedly plunged into crisis due to the presence of Osama bin Laden and other militants on Pakistani soil and Islamabad's fears that US ties will again sour once troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.

Chechnya's first lady unveils Islamic fashion collection
26 March, 2012
Medni Kadyrova, the wife of the Head of Chechen Republic, has displayed her Islamic fashion collection in Dubai.
"My designs are inspired by natural beauty and grace of Arab women, to whom I dedicate my collection," Kadyrova said.
Veiled Chechen models displayed over 70 full-covering couture dresses on Saturday evening. The show was crowned with a display of wedding dresses.
It was the first appearance of the Firdaws label outside Chechnya since its foundation in 2009. Medni Kadyrova said it was "the first step towards the organization of many others in the region," AFP reports.
The label can now only be bought in Grozny; however the fashion house plans to expand to other countries including the UAE.
The Lady Chechnya collection is a reflection of the Islamic values and dress code imposed on the Chechen Republic by its leader, 35-year old Ramzan Kadyrov. The head of Russia’s Chechen Republic came to power in 2004 and since then has been actively promoting Islamic values in the region encouraging women to wear veils and men to take multiple wives.

Sri Lankan Muslims strike over Dambulla mosque
 Apr 26 2012
A strike is in force across Muslim areas of eastern Sri Lanka, following threats against a mosque in the central town of Dambulla.
Many public services have shut down, although Muslim-led demonstrations have been halted by the military.
The prime minister ordered the mosque's relocation on Sunday, following an attack on the mosque on Friday by hardline Buddhists, including monks.
Many Buddhists regard Dambulla as a sacred Buddhist area.
Sectarian tensions have been growing over this incident.
The strike is being observed in Muslim-dominated parts of the Ampara and Batticaloa districts.
In the town of Kalmunai, with a population of more than 20,000, schools, government offices, buses and the public market were all shut after a decree from the main mosque, the BBC was told by one resident.
The Mosque Federation office in another town, Kattankudi, has been damaged in an apparent arson attack, although it is not clear who is responsible.
The strike comes after days of tension, which began with the fire-bomb attack on the mosque on Friday.
Around 2,000 Buddhists attempted to storm the mosque later that day, saying that the mosque was illegally built and demanding its demolition.
Some Buddhists have also demanded the removal of a Hindu temple in the area.
The leading Muslim religious leaders' group, the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama, has warned against violence by strikers and says Muslims should fast instead.
It says that most of the Buddhist majority in the country are peace-loving and fair-minded, and that it is vital not to hurt their feelings or insult other faiths.
Muslims make up less than 10% of the population and have generally good relations with the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, says the BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo.
But some chauvinistic Buddhists have launched a campaign against Muslims and accused them of trying to expand their activities, our correspondent adds.

Kenyans allege British involvement in rendition and torture in Uganda
 Apr 26, 2012
Claims by two Muslims accused of role in bomb attack during 2010 World Cup date from after coalition came to power
Two men facing terrorism charges in east Africa are accusing the British government and its intelligence agencies of being involved in their abduction, unlawful rendition and torture.
The allegations by Habib Suleiman Njoroge and his brother Yahya Suleiman Mbuthia closely echo those reported in the Guardian last year by a third terrorism suspect, Omar Awadh Omar.
The high court in London has given all three men permission to seek disclosure of British government documents that would support their claim that the UK was involved in their alleged mistreatment. Njoroge and Omar have also been given permission to seek documents relating to their rendition at a hearing at the high court in London this week.
During proceedings in the Ugandan courts, the men alleged British and American intelligence officers beat and punched them, hooded them, threatened them with firearms and told them they were to be flown to Guantánamo Bay. In response, the Ugandan government denied the men were mistreated, but said "the nature of the terrorist attacks necessitated joint investigations, by Ugandan police with foreign security officers, which included joint interrogations".
The trio's allegations date from August and September 2010, several months after the coalition government was formed. They come despite attempts by ministers to distance themselves from the torture and rendition scandals that dogged the previous Labour government, while also expressing clear support for the country's intelligence agencies.
Njoroge and Mbuthia were among a number of Kenyan Muslims detained in 2010 and taken to Uganda for questioning about two suicide bomb attacks on crowds of people watching World Cup football matches in July of that year. The Somali militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed 79 people and injured 70.
According to a report submitted to the United Nations security council last year, Omar, Njoroge and Mbuthia were linked by telephone records to a mobile phone that was attached to a third suicide bomb vest, which failed to explode. Kenyan media reports have claimed Omar was a leading figure in the bomb plot. All three men deny any involvement.
Omar was kidnapped in broad daylight in a Nairobi shopping centre and driven across the border to Uganda, where he says British and American interrogators were waiting for him. Omar says one of his interrogators, an Englishman who called himself Frank, became particularly angry and began stamping on his bare feet while asking him about two British Muslims who had been arrested in Nairobi.
Njoroge, a radio presenter from Mombasa, was arrested in September 2010, interrogated by Kenyan police and then allegedly driven while hooded and shackled to the Ugandan border to be handed over to that country's Rapid Response Unit (RRU), a police body whose use of torture has been documented by human rights groups.
While in RRU custody, Njoroge says he was kept naked, beaten, sexually assaulted and forced to sign a statement in which he confessed to being involved in the bombings. Among the officials interrogating him, he says, were men with American and British accents.
Mbuthia's complaint that he had been rendered from Kenya to Uganda a few days before his brother is not contested by the Ugandan authorities. He was dragged from a bus in Nairobi, hooded and handcuffed and driven to the border, where he says he was beaten and threatened with execution by RRU officers.
He says that, after being deprived of food and liquid for three days, he was interrogated by FBI officers who beat him, pointed firearms at him and threatened to shoot him if he refused to testify against Omar. During subsequent interrogation sessions, he says, the Americans were joined by a man with a Scottish accent.
The high court has concluded that there is a case to be made that the British government "would have been aware that there was evidence over many years that the RRU used illegal methods and severely mistreated those in its custody" during interrogation.
Asked about the claims, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "The UK government's policy is clear: we do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment for any purpose. We have consistently made clear our absolute opposition to such behaviour and our determination to combat it wherever and whenever it occurs. We cannot comment on ongoing legal cases."
Omar, Njoroge and Mbuthia's UK lawyers are pursuing similar arguments to those deployed on behalf of Binyam Mohamed three years ago, during litigation that exposed MI5's complicity in his torture in Pakistan and Morocco, and which resulted in one of the country's most senior judges condemning the agency's officials for their "dubious record" over those abuses.
The allegations are resulting in the sort of court cases that would be heard behind closed doors under controversial new secrecy proposals drawn up by Ken Clarke's Ministry of Justice, in consultation with MI5 and MI6.
Under those plans, ministers would be able to decide that evidence they considered too sensitive to be aired in public during civil trials – including trials in which they themselves are defendants – could be concealed from the public, the media and even the claimants.
The same green paper contains proposals to prevent claimants from making use of the legal doctrine that has been employed by lawyers representing the three men during efforts to force the government to disclose any documentary evidence that shows it was involved in their rendition and mistreatment.
After parliament's human rights committee published a damning report about the proposals, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg warned cabinet colleagues that they were unacceptable in their current form.
In a major speech last November on the work of the agencies, William Hague, the foreign secretary, said the coalition was "drawing a line under the past". Hague stressed, however, that he was obliged to grapple with "the most difficult ethical and legal questions".
East Africa has been of growing concern to US and UK intelligence agencies, who say that about 200 foreigners have travelled to Somalia to train and fight with al-Shabaab. Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, describes the US military base at Camp Lemonnier in neighbouring Djibouti as "the central location for continuing the effort against terrorism". Despite an increase in military aid to neighbouring countries, Jonathan Evans, the director general of MI5, has said he is "concerned that it is only a matter of time before we see terrorism on our streets inspired by those who are today fighting alongside al-Shabaab".
British concerns were heightened by initial reports that a young British Muslim from London had a hand in the suicide bomb attacks, although it is thought that MI5 and MI6 no longer believe this to be the case. This individual has since been reported to have been killed in Somalia. A significant number of other British Muslims are reported to have travelled to the region to join up with al-Shabaab, and many are thought to have travelled through Kenya.

3 Afghan Women Killed in Mortar Strike
 Apr 26 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A mortar fired during heavy fighting between NATO forces and the Taliban hit a house in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing three women, a local official said.
The battle began when Taliban fighters ambushed a NATO convoy traveling through Chak district in Wardak province, provincial Gov. Shahidullah Shahid said. Both sides used heavy weapons, but it was not immediately clear who fired the mortar, he said.
Four women were also wounded in the fighting, Shahid said.
Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghan war, with 3,021 killed, according to the United Nations. Taliban-affiliated militants were responsible for more than three-quarters of those deaths.
In the country's northeast, another group of Taliban fighters launched an overnight attack on a police post, killing four officers and abducting 16, Badakhshan Deputy Gov. Shams ul-Rahman said.
Police reinforcements have been sent to secure the post, which sits on a key highway passing through Fayz Abad district, he said.
He said two police officers were wounded in the hours-long attack, in which the Taliban were aided by militants from other Central Asian countries.
Badakhshan province borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China.
Also Thursday, Afghan border police killed eight insurgents who they found placing a bomb near a road in Spin Boldak district, said Gen. Abdul Razaq said, the police chief for Kandahar.

Indian Muslims cautioned to remain vigilant to safeguard Islamic Sharia
 Apr 26, 2012
Mumbai: The Indian Muslim community has been cautioned to remain vigilant to safeguard the Islamic Sharia as the conditions that prevailed 40 years ago which forced to form a board to protect the Muslim personal laws have not abated and will continue to raise their heads from time to time.
Fresh dangers are looming large as the government of the day seems to usurp the Sharia laws and if the community does not pay necessary heed to safeguard it then harm may be caused in performing their religious rituals and following their rights and duties as a Muslim in a country like India dominated by non-Muslims.
As such Muslims should keep a constant eye on the situation and the developments that take place therein so that the community is always able to avail its religious freedom as guaranteed by the Indian constitution and there is no curb on it. This is necessary because they are in the minority and their identity as a Muslim is maintained unscathed. There is a possibility that the bogey of Uniform Civil Code which occurred in some people’s minds can crop up again while it is well known that the Indian Constitution has given country’s every religion the right to practice it according to their established norms and run their institutions.
The above views were expressed by Maulana Syed Mohammad Rabey Hasani Nadvi, president of All India Muslim Personal Board, (AIMPLB), while delivering his presidential speech in the three-day 22nd convention of AIMPLB here at Hajj House on Saturday. Over 400 delegates from all over the country are participating in the convention.
Maulana Rabey said there is a constant need to keep this freedom of religious right intact as there is a likelihood that it may be tampered with or the situation may be created for the government of the day to take it under its control. Recently many Acts have been passed wherein certain provisions of these Acts are found to be harmful to the religious freedom of minorities and the AIMPLB is doing all its best to rectify them. It seems that the government, through different Acts and bills, was trying to interfere in Muslim laws, he added.
Meanwhile, Maulana Syed Nizamuddin, general secretary of AIMPLB, presented the report. The report dealt in detail the AIMPLB’s efforts to contest the lacunae in different Acts like RTE, Direct Tax Code Bill, Wakf Amendment Act 2010 along with positions of court cases of the Babri Masjid, Talaq (Divorce), Inheritance etc.
Dr. Maulana Syed Kalbe Sadiq and Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umari, both AIMPLB vice presidents, also spoke on the occasion. Mr. Abdus Sattar Yousuf Sheikh, president of the Reception Committee who is also senior secretary of AIMPLB, delivered the welcome address. Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, AIMPLB secretary, conducted the proceedings.
At the outset Maulana Mohammad Fazlurrahim Mujaddidi recited verses from the Holy Qur’an. A number of books related to Islamic Sharia and Muslims were released on the occasion. In the beginning obituary references to number of AIMPLB members and their well-wishers who passed away in the last two years since the last Board’s convention held in March 2010 at Lucknow.

CID quizzes Muslim cleric over inciting violence
By Jeff Andrew LuleAnd Simon Masaba
 Apr 26, 2012
A Muslim cleric, Sheikh Nuhu Muzata was Wednesday quizzed at the Criminal Investigative Department (CID) headquarters in Kibuli to explain his statements that the Police considered inflammatory.
Speaking during the Juma prayers at Wandegeya Mosque last Friday, Muzata allegedly urged Muslims not to participate in the coming Muslim elections, adding in vernacular that "singa okulonda kw'abasiramu tekusazibwamu, yeno ej'okuba emanduso yokukyusa gavumenti", literally meaning, if the election is not cancelled, it will be the spark off of changing the government.
Muzata, who was summoned on Monday, arrived at CID headquarters at 2.00pm in company of about 10 other Muslim friends.
He was directed to the Ag. Commissioner of Police for Media Crimes, where he was interrogated for two hours.
Police first played the video recording in which Muzata uttered the statements for him to clarify.
Muzata accepted his statements, but stressed that they were misinterpreted by Police.
He noted that the statements were religious not political as many people had allegedly interpreted them.
"These are just religious statements and I have said these same words for the past five years. My statements are directed to Mufti Shaban Mubajje, who is organizing these elections. I also refer to Mubajje's government not any other," he explained.
Muzata said they were not going to participate in the elections and only urged people not to take part.
He was later freed without recording any statement.
Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, Ibin Ssenkumbi said Muzata was only summoned to clarify on his statements.
"We received many complaints from people who felt uncomfortable with them. Many thought he intended to incite violence but we have been convinced with what he meant and that's what we wanted," he said.
He said Police wanted to know what Muzata meant by 'manduso' literally meaning a trigger, and the government he was referring to.
Ssenkumbi said Muzata  will be contacted in case police needs anything else.
Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) headed by Mubajje intends to hold elections on Friday where they will elect new representatives of the general assembly countrywide.
But the Kibuli faction headed by Supreme Mufti, Sheikh Zubiaru Kayongo shunned the elections claiming Mubajje had no moral authority and mandate to organize the elections.

Egypt Islamic body backs Brotherhood candidate
26 April 2012
A panel of fundamentalist Islamic clerics has endorsed the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood for president of Egypt, an attempt to prevent a split of the conservative Muslim voters.
In another twist, Egypt’s election commission late Wednesday reinstated a candidate, a former regime official it disqualified just a day earlier, scrambling the projected voting even more.
The ultraconservative endorsement boosted the Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, who faces competition in next month’s election from a more moderate Islamist, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, who broke ranks with the group.
Support for Morsi came from the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform, a panel of clerics mostly from the ultraconservative Salafis and new Islamist parties, but also including Brotherhood members. The decision was announced at a news conference in Cairo.
Despite the official unity, the presence of two strong Islamist candidates raised the possibility that the religious vote could be split, creating fierce competition with secular figures.
One is former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who is popular among many who fear a dominant Islamist influence.
In a surprise move, Egypt’s election commission reinstated another secular candidate who could split that sector of the vote — deposed leader Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.
Shafiq is popular among supporters of Mubarak and also Egyptians who fear the strength of the Islamists. He could compete for voters with Moussa.
Shafiq was disqualified Tuesday after the Islamist-dominated parliament passed a law barring former senior officials from the Mubarak regime from running for office.
On Wednesday, Shafiq appealed the disqualification, challenging the constitutionality of the law that banned him. Shafiq argued the law was passed after he applied to run, Egypt’s official news agency reported. The commission referred the law to the constitutional court, and then it reinstated Shafiq.
The race has already seen a series of dramatic turns, with major candidates suddenly entering and just as fast exiting the race, mostly through decisions by the commission. It has vetoed 10 candidates on technical grounds, including the two strongest Islamists and Mubarak’s one-time intelligence chief.
Islamists — the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Salafis — have emerged as important power brokers in Egypt after the ouster of Mubarak last year. Under his reign, the Brotherhood was outlawed, and the Salafis were not active politically. Together they now have a large majority in parliament and wield considerable power in the society.
The endorsement by the ultraconservative clerics Wednesday boosts Morsi’s chances by adding a strong Salafi voice to his backing from Brotherhood members.
Even so, the decision likely won’t prevent a split of the Islamist vote. Some Salafis fear the Brotherhood’s strong organization and worry about its tendencies to monopolize power. They are likely to support Abolfottoh.
The endorsement Wednesday “will improve (Morsi’s) position in the race,” said Khalil al-Anani, an Islamist groups expert. “But he will not get the majority of the Salafi votes.”
Morsi was the Brotherhood’s second choice as a candidate. Its top strategist and deputy leader, Khairat el-Shater, was disqualified by the election commission because of a past imprisonment.
Morsi was seen as a weaker candidate who may not be able to rally enough Islamists behind him.
Another influential group of clerics is expected to announce its decision on who it will endorse for the race in the coming days. The group, an even more conservative set of Salafi clerics, is more concerned with ideological purity than with politics. They have a more grass roots following, but it was unclear how many voters the Salafis will carry over from parliamentary elections, and how they will make their choices in the race for president.
The first round of elections is set for May 23-24. If no one wins a majority, a runoff will be held in June.

With Yemen’s Saleh gone, attention turns to problem of Chewing on qat
 Apr 26, 2012
Like others plastered on the walls of libraries, mosques, coffee shops and cafeterias across Yemen’s capital, a poster on the wall reads ‘Lead by Example’. ‘No more chewing in the office.’ Chewing on qat, or ‘takhzeen’ in Arabic, has been a national pastime in Yemen for centuries
With bloodshot eyes and brown-stained teeth, the suit-clad civil servant gazes at the floor, his right cheek bulging with a tennis ball-sized wad of bright green leaves.
Every day after lunch, 38-year-old Ali returns to his office at the Passport and Immigration Authority in Sanaa to spend the rest of the day with colleagues chewing qat. “It is the flower of paradise,” he says, one of four lounging on cushions on the office floor amidst a clutter of laptops, soft drinks, ashtrays and water-pipes. “As Yemenis, it runs in our blood, it’s what makes us tick.”
Like others plastered on the walls of libraries, mosques, coffee shops and cafeterias across Yemen’s capital, a poster on the wall reads “Lead by Example”. “No more chewing in the office.” Chewing on qat, or ‘takhzeen’ in Arabic, has been a national pastime in Yemen for centuries. But a few activists are determined to stamp out the practice, convinced that the chewing and production of qat, which is dominated by the country’s tribal leaders, military officers and politicians, is stifling Yemen’s potential while depleting the country of its few remaining natural resources. One in every seven working Yemeni is employed in producing and distributing qat, making it the largest single source of rural income and the second largest source of employment in the country after the agriculture and herding sector, exceeding even the public sector, according to the World Bank.
Many of Yemen’s poorest families admit to spending over half their earnings on the leaf. “Qat is the biggest market in Yemen, bigger than oil, bigger than anything,” said Abdulrahman Al-Iryani, Yemen’s former water minister and founder of ‘qat uprooting’, a charity which supports farmers in replacing qat shrubs with coffee plants. “There are rich and powerful people in the government and behind the government, who control it, who benefit from it. “From the parents who buy qat instead of paying for their kids’ education, to the men in hospital with throat and mouth infections draining the health service, to the unemployed who spend eight hours chewing every day instead of searching for work - qat is entwined in all of Yemen’s problems.”
Yemen’s ruler for three decades, Ali Abdullah Saleh, stepped down earlier this year after months of protests, part of the Arab Spring that ousted leaders in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Although some stability has returned, the state is near collapse, its economy is stagnant, al Qaeda militants are expanding their foothold in the south and Houthi rebels have taken over a chunk of the country’s north. The country’s most immediate crisis is its dwindling water supply. The capital city Sanaa is predicted to become the first in the world to run out of water, but the cultivation of qat - the least taxed, most subsidized and fastest-growing cash crop in Yemen - consumes 40 percent of irrigated farming land. One “daily bag” that can be consumed by one person in one day requires hundreds of liters of waters to produce.
Classified as a “drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence” by the World Health Organization, qat’s physical symptoms can include high blood pressure, tooth decay, constipation, hemorrhoids, hallucinations and depression. Surveys suggest that more Yemenis than ever - at least 80 percent of men, about 60 percent of women and increasing numbers of children under 10 - settle down most afternoons to chew. “Qat is to Yemenis what coffee is to Americans and tea is to the British,” said young qat merchant Faris al-Raymi. “It’s part of everyday life.”
The latest anti-qat effort was adopted by the government on April 12 after months of pressure from female activist Hind Al-Iryani who, using Twitter and Facebook, managed to push the issue on to the national agenda and marshal substantial support amongst young Yemenis in favor of a total ban. Iryani and a group of Yemeni lawyers have presented a draft law to the prime minister that would impose penalties on those expending public resources on or consuming qat in governmental offices. “If the law was passed it would send an immediate and clear message to all Yemenis that qat chewing is neither acceptable nor appropriate in the world of work,” said Iryani. “The government should start by getting their own house in order, being role models to other citizens.” 
The campaign, through state broadcasters, handouts, posters and workshops, is the first concerted effort by the state to tackle the drug’s use in more than a decade. But many Yemenis say they can’t help but feel this campaign will fail, like others before it. In 1972, then-Prime Minister Mohsin Al-Aini forbade qat-chewing by public servants during working hours and banned its cultivation on lands run by state-controlled religious trusts.
He received death threats from tribesmen and qat farm owners around Sanaa. Many Yemenis suspect his eventual dismissal from office three months later was in large part due to his push. “The reason previous attempts to curb the drug have failed is because they run up against the political establishment, many of whom have invested interests in the lucrative qat industry themselves. They preach but they refuse to practice,” said Abdullah al-Faqih, professor of politics at Sanaa University.
Like a runaway train hurtling towards a precipice, many worry that there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop qat pushing Yemen into disaster. “It’s a vicious circle,” said Mohammed Al-Saidi, an American-educated economist and former head of the country’s water authority. “As water prices go up, the competition drives more and more people toward farming qat which in turn uses up even more water. If the spread of qat farms continues like this soon all our arable land will be used to grow qat.”
Al-Iryani said government officials were too involved in the industry to be enthusiastic about stamping it out. “They don’t want to fight it, they want to encourage it,” he said. “I have never met a government official who is wholeheartedly against qat.” In the bustling qat souks tucked behind the ancient tower houses of old Sanaa, mention of the government’s latest efforts is met with guffaws. “Qat is a way of life. It determines the rhythm of the city, from the time people leave work, to the intensity of traffic jams,” said qat-seller Ahmed Zafer, flicking a rug over a mound of pink plastic bags stuffed with the leaves. “It is part of who we are as Yemenis and has been for centuries. “It is the only thing gluing Yemenis together. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old, male or female, everyone chews.\04\26\story_26-4-2012_pg4_7

For those escaping Syria bloodshed, the horror remains
 Apr 26, 2012
BEIRUT: Umm Mounir has not uttered a word for more than a month, ever since she witnessed the killing of her five children during shelling by Syrian regime forces of the flashpoint central city of Homs.
One of her children was barely an infant when he died.
After the tragedy, Umm Mounir, in her late 20s, was evacuated with hundreds of others to the outskirts of Damascus, where a journalist recently met with her as well as other refugees.
Hosted by an anti-regime activist, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, Umm Mounir sat quiet and expressionless.
“Ever since she arrived here, she hasn’t said a word,” said the activist.
“The people who brought her here told me what had happened. We took her to a psychologist for treatment. But she is still in shock.”At least one million people have been displaced inside Syria since the outbreak of the revolt against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in March last year, according to the United Nations.
A large number, mainly from Homs, have sought refuge in towns and villages around the capital.
Fleeing parts of the beleaguered country targeted by a fierce regime crackdown, they have sought refuge in areas such as Jaramana, Rukn al-Din and Qadisa where residents and activists are offering them aid and shelter.
But despite being out of harm’s way, at least for now, the horrors they have witnessed cannot be erased.
“My husband was killed and my house was destroyed,” a 25-year-old woman from the battered Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amr told AFP, speaking on condition that her name be withheld.
She said she had no choice but to flee after her home was destroyed in March during fierce shelling by government troops.
“I took my four children and ran away,” she said.
Their escape was itself fraught with difficulty.
“We had to move from house to house, hiding constantly. I was terrified we might be taken prisoner by regime forces,” the woman said.
“They were killing people in cold blood, just because they came from Baba Amr.” The rebel stronghold that was home to some 20,000 people came under nearly a month of relentless shelling by government forces in March that destroyed much of the neighbourhood and left hundreds dead, according to human rights groups.
Most of the residents fled the assault fearing for their lives.
The government argues its operation was aimed at ridding Homs of “armed terrorist groups”. But residents now living as refugees near Damascus tell a different story.
They spoke of adult males being arbitrarily detained, of women being raped by regime troops and their paramilitary supporters known as the shabiha, and of summary executions.
Refugees said water and electricity were cut off in Baba Amr throughout the government assault and many fled with simply the clothes on their backs.
Several women said they were forced to sell their jewellery to survive.
“When I first got to Damascus, I didn’t have the money to even buy bread,”said the 25-year-old mother of four who lost her husband. “I sold all my gold.
“I tried to find work, but things were bad here too,” added the woman, who looked way beyond her age.
“It was only when a group of activists started to help me that I was able to pay for the medication that my son needs.”Mounir, 24, and Majid, 30, two activists who asked that their family names be withheld, said they helped smuggle numerous families out of Homs.
They said they had witnessed young men being killed by regime forces simply because they refused to say: “There is no God but Bashar,” in reference to the president.
“We have evacuated at least 10 families with children,” said Mounir. “The journey to Damascus is tough, and we only had a little money to get us there.
“But local activists in Damascus helped us out when we arrived.”He and Majid said despite the danger, they would continue to assist families seeking to escape hot spots.
Their testimony as well as that of others cannot be independently verified as Syrian authorities have restricted access to foreign media.
But human rights organisations have accused all sides to the conflict of committing grave violations.
According to the United Nations, the 13-month revolt against Assad’s regime has killed more than 9,000 people.
The uprising began as a popular revolt but has transformed into an insurgency that many fear could lead to all-out civil war.
International efforts for a political solution to the conflict have failed so far and all hopes are focused now on a fragile ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Activists, however, have cast doubt on the chances of the two-week-old truce holding given persistent bloodshed that has seen hundreds killed since it came into effect.
And they insist that they will continue their struggle until the regime falls.
“Even if Bashar uses all his ammunition against us, we will not give up,”vowed one activist. “We are certain that victory will be ours.”

Blasts hit two Nigerian newspaper offices
 Apr 26 2012
Explosions at ThisDay offices in Abuja and Kaduna kill six people.
Six people have been killed in bomb blasts at a Nigerian newspaper's offices in the capital Abuja and in the northen city of Kaduna.
Three people were killed at the blast in Abuja, according to the Reuters news agency, while the second explosion at the ThisDay newspaper's offices in the city of Kaduna killed another three people.
The explosion in Abuja occurred around 11:30am local time on Thursday. Gbayode Somuyiwa, ThisDay's spokesman, did not immediately return calls for comment.
"Three people died, including the attacker," said a rescue official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A local emergency management spokesman in Kaduna confirmed that at least three people were killed there.
Nwakpa Nwakpa, a spokesman for the Nigeria Red Cross, said the "suicide bomber" rammed through the front gates of
the This Day office in Abuja and drove a car loaded with explosions into the newspaper's reception.
Nwakpa said others were wounded in the attack.
Police and paramilitary forces were on the scene and had surrounded the offices where the blast had taken place. An Associated Press news agency reporter who heard the explosion said it was very large.
A police spokesman told the AFP news agency earlier on Thursday, "We heard something like that happened, but we don't have the details yet."
A National Emergency Management Agency confirmed the explosion, saying it occured in the Jabi district of Abuja.
"NEMA officials are on the ground," said Yushau Shuaib. "They are trying to move those injured to the hospitals, but we don't have any information on casualties yet."
Other attacks
It was earlier reported that attackers had carried out assaults on two police stations and a bank in a northern Nigerian town.
The attackers allegedly raided the northeastern town of Bajoga in Gombe state, using guns and bombs, beginning late Wednesday and into early Thursday.
Residents reported a badly damaged regional police station, but details were sketchy. Residents and authorities were unclear about the number of casualties at the time.
"There were bombings and gun attacks on the area command and divisional police station in Bajoga town by some gunmen," said Ahmed Mohammed, a police spokesman.
"They attacked these police facilities with IEDs and assault rifles. There was a shootout between the attackers and the policemen at the facilities."
One resident said the sounds of explosives and rifles were heard during the attack, which lasted until 1:00am.
"People in the area around the police buildings fled to other parts of the town," he said. "The area has been cordoned off by security personnel."
Victims at the bank attack seemed to have been robbed as well, AFP news agency reported.
The police spokesman said it was not yet clear whether the attackers were members of the armed group Boko Haram or if they were armed robbers.
Boko Haram has carried out scores of attacks in Nigeria's north as part of an insurgency that has left more than 1,000 people dead since mid-2009, but gangs have also committed crimes under the guise of the radical group, which seeks the imposition of an interpretation of Islamic law in Nigeria.

US issues alert for its citizens in Pakistan
 Apr 26, 2012
ISLAMABAD: The US Embassy has issued an emergency message asking American citizens in Pakistan to take precautions for the next two weeks though it did not give any reasons for the alert.
"This security message from the US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan alerts US citizens to travel restrictions for US Embassy staff during the next two weeks," said the message posted on the Embassy's website.
The message said the US Embassy had restricted its employees from going to restaurants and markets in Islamabad during April 27-May 5 due to "security concerns".
It added: "We recommend that US citizens in Islamabad during this period take similar precautions."
"Also, based on the current security conditions and a significant increase in the level of sectarian violence in northern Pakistan, the US Embassy has prohibited its employees from taking personal trips to the Gilgit/Skardu area until further notice," the message said.
The US Embassy "continues to recommend that US citizens defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan," the message further said.
The mission asked Americans to refer to the US Department of State's current travel warning for Pakistan and reiterated its advice to all US citizens to "take measures for their safety and security at all times, including practicing good situational awareness, avoiding of crowds, and maintaining a low profile".
It reminded US citizens that "even peaceful protests may become violent" and advised them to avoid protests.
"US citizens should vary times and routes for all required travel. US citizens should ensure their travel documents and visas are valid at all times," it added.
Pakistan has witnessed a sharp increase in anti-American sentiments following a campaign of drone attacks in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, the unilateral military raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May and a cross-border Nato air strike that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead in November.
The two countries are currently negotiating new terms of engagement for the resumption of cooperation in key areas like counter-terrorism.

After bin Laden, US-Pakistan relations at new low
 Apr 26, 2012
After Osama bin Laden was found living in Pakistan, and 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in an airstrike along the border, Pakistan-US ties are on shaky ground. The mutual distrust resulted in a suspension of US military aid to Pakistan last year.
Word of Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of US Navy Seals last year first brought elation in the United States, but Washington quickly turned to finger pointing as officials openly wondered how the al-Qaeda leader had remained in Pakistan for so long. In Islamabad, there was anger over Washington's unilateral action on its sovereign territory as already difficult relations became even more strained.
One year on, US officials still question how Pakistani authorities could not have known his location, and how the two countries can overcome distrust to work together in future.
"Osama bin Laden lived in five houses in Pakistan, fathered four children there, kept two wives, had two children born in public hospitals and, through it all, the Pakistani government did not know one single thing about his whereabouts," Congressman Edward Royce said at a hearing this month.
US diplomatic and military officials note, however, that there is no evidence of collusion by Islamabad.
"We do find it remarkable but we still to this point do not have any evidence that suggests that the Pakistani government per se had any knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts," State Department official Daniel Benjamin said.
But it wasn't only the bin Laden raid that brought relations to a new low after years of locking horns over neighboring Afghanistan.
The January 2011 shooting of two local men by a CIA contractor in Lahore was followed by the attack on bin Laden and the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a November airstrike along the border.
On the US side, the distrust prompted a suspension of military aid to Pakistan last year.
"It's the cumulative effect of these series of events that really took this relationship into the cellar," said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Centre at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Pakistan closed all NATO supply routes through its territory, suspended cooperation and tasked parliament with setting guidelines for future ties in response to the border airstrike.
After weeks of discussions, the lawmakers proposed on April 12 to allow shipments of most supplies, but no weapons. They also made the normalization of ties conditional on an apology from the US over the border attack, and a halt to the drone strikes.
"Some of the demands that Pakistan is making, like an apology and the end of drones, appear to be a wish list," political analyst Hassan Askari said. "These demands will have to be balanced against what America expects from Pakistan."
US officials have not commented publicly, stressing that talks will be held in private, but express hope that relations can improve.
"We've been going through a fairly difficult period with Pakistan that we're now hopefully emerging from," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said last week.
"Our posture regarding this review is that we're willing to listen to the concerns and try to address them as best we can," he added.
Several variables could thwart progress, including US elections and the possibility of new elections in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Nawaz said.
"The first step really for both sides is to try to rebuild the trust before any concrete actions are taken, and look at what kinds of actions and reactions can restore it," he said.
There is also the thorny issue of drone attacks, which the US has not officially acknowledged. Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported last week that Pakistan was talking with the US about "co-ownership" of the drone campaign.
Part of the problem stems from Pakistan's reluctance to act against senior Taliban leaders who took refuge in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas after the US invasion of Afghanistan. Despite taking billion of dollars to fight the militants, Pakistan never made a determined effort to neutralize them.
Rather, its Inter-Services Intelligence agency kept close ties with the Taliban. Washington first complained and finally openly criticized Pakistan for doing little to stop cross-border raids, but it fell on deaf ears.
Frustrated by a lack of cooperation, the CIA launched the drone attacks that have killed some high-profile militants. But Pakistan opposes the airstrikes as violations of its sovereignty that also kill innocent civilians.
Askari said there are deeper problems. Reopening the supply routes would not resolve the problem of increasing mistrust and a clash of interests in Afghanistan.
"The future is going to be problematic because both distrust each other, both don't see eye to eye on a host of issues, which will continue to create strain in their future relations even after the withdrawal of America from Afghanistan," Askari said.

Bin Laden killing anniversary a political tightrope
26 April 2012
It was a triumphant moment a year ago for the United States and President Barack Obama, but now the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing presents an election-year challenge for him and his Republican opponents.
Obama is expected to acknowledge the May 1 anniversary of the daring Navy SEAL raid on bin Laden’s Pakistan compound.
But he will not overdo it, a senior White House official said, reflecting perhaps the dangers of hyping an event that speaks for itself - and is still controversial, particularly among Pakistanis who saw the U.S. attack as a violation of their country’s sovereignty.
Republicans, specially presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, must decide if the occasion is an opportunity to attack Obama’s foreign policy record - or talk about something else.
National security has not been a major theme in a 2012 campaign dominated by economic worries, but that could change - at least temporarily - in the days ahead.
On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden will use a New York speech to contrast Obama’s foreign policy record with what the president’s partisans see as Romney’s inexperienced rhetoric. Biden will inevitably recall bin Laden’s demise and other successes against al Qaeda over the last three years.
Political calculations
In a hastily called speech from the White House on May 1, Obama said U.S. special forces had killed bin Laden in his compound near Islamabad. The United States had not informed the Pakistani government before launching the raid, which took place before dawn local time on May 2.
The killing of bin Laden, who was behind the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, sent Americans into the street in late-night celebrations and revived the image of a country that would find its enemies - even if it took a decade.
For Obama, “this is a moment to be presidential and not worry so much about the campaign,” said Clyde Wilcox, a professor of government at Georgetown University. “The emphasis is that America will avenge itself, and we do take action when we are attacked. Not to be gloating, but to be strong.”
A senior White House official said that in addressing the anniversary, Obama “will give credit where credit is due,” in a nod to the work done by the administration of Republican President George W. Bush to track bin Laden down, as well as the U.S. forces who carried out the mission.
For Republicans anxious to defeat Obama in November, bin Laden’s killing has made it more difficult to attack him on foreign policy, traditionally a strong suit for the party. Obama has been even more aggressive than Bush in using unmanned drones to attack suspected militants in Pakistan and elsewhere.
Republican strategists say they have no intention of conceding the wider field of foreign policy to Obama, and they view him as vulnerable on a number of issues.
Romney has accused Obama of mishandling the stand-off with Iran over its nuclear program, trade issues with China, and the attempted reset of relations with Russia, where Vladimir Putin has been re-elected as president this year.
“Republicans still think foreign policy is really fertile ground to make the case against Obama,” said Michael Goldfarb, a former aide to Republican 2008 presidential nominee John McCain.
“I would not be surprised if they use killing of bin Laden and the anniversary to give credit where it is due ... but also use it as an opportunity to talk about all the places where there is still so much unfinished businesses, and where the president’s promises have fallen short,” Goldfarb said.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said she had no information to release about the candidate’s schedule for May 1.
Bin Laden’s killing in a compound just a few hours drive from Islamabad was a severe embarrassment to Pakistan, worsening relations with Washington and fanning anti-American sentiment in the country.
Analysts acknowledged the anniversary had an unavoidable resonance on the U.S. campaign trail, but cautioned that glorifying bin Laden’s killing may not serve American interests in Arab and Islamic countries.
“It’s a difficult minefield given Pakistani sensitivities and continued questions about al Qaeda’s Pakistani support network,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who has advised Obama on counter-terrorism issues.

'Osama wanted shoe bombers to follow up on 9/11 attacks'
 Apr 26, 2012
NEW YORK: Al-Qaida's slain leader Osama bin Laden had planned to follow up the September 11 attacks with shoe bombers to blow up American passenger planes, which would have brought the American economy to its knees, a British man convicted on terrorism charges testified in a trial here.
Saajid Badat gave his testimony on Monday through a video link in the ongoing trial in federal district court in Brooklyn of Adis Medunjanin , a Queens man accused of plotting with two of his schoolmates to blow up New York subways. "He (bin Laden ) said that the American economy is like a chain. If you break one link of the chain, the whole economy will be brought down," he testified.
Badat, 33, was convicted in London for his role in a 2001 plot to bring down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.
While Badat's testimony was not directly related to NY subway terror plot, it was used to corroborate facts about the training in Qaidarun camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a report in the New York Times said.

Pakistan ‘not bound’ to act on Hafiz bounty
26 APRIL 2012
Pakistan on Wednesday said it was not bound to act on the bounties offered by the US for Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and his brother-in-law Abdul Rahman Makki as the American administration had taken the step on its own.
Pakistan is only bound to implement any resolution or announcement of the United Nations, a law officer of the federal government said in a reply submitted to the Lahore High Court in response to a petition filed by Saeed.
Chief Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh, who is hearing the case, had on April 18 issued notices to the federal and Punjab governments to respond to Saeed’s petition.
The federal government said in its reply it was not bound to act on the bounties offered by the US for Saeed and Makki as the American administration had taken the step on its own.
Pakistan, being a signatory to the Charter of the UN, is bound to act on the resolutions or announcements of the world body, the government said in its response.
The federal government further said the issue of providing security to Saeed was a provincial subject.
The law officer of the Punjab government sought more time from the court to submit a reply.
Chief Justice Sheikh adjourned the matter till May 7.
In his petition, Saeed had asked the court to direct the government from taking any “adverse action” against him and Makki.
He also sought protection from the government in the wake of the US bounty.
The US has offered a 10-million dollar bounty for Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, under its Rewards for Justice programme.
It offered a two million dollar bounty for Makki, who is Saeed’s deputy in the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.
Saeed and Makki had contended that under Articles 4 and 9 of the Pakistani Constitution, they are free citizens and the federal and provincial governments should be stopped from taking any “adverse action” against them on the pressure of the US.
They claimed the government should provide them security after the US announcement as their “lives were not safe”.
They further asked the court to direct the federal government to ask the US to withdraw the bounties.

Khar says US not listening: 'Drone strikes must stop'
 Apr 26, 2012
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has spelt out in no uncertain terms that US drone aircraft strikes against militants inside its territory must stop, but Washington is not listening, the country’s foreign minister said.
“On drones, the language is clear: a clear cessation of drone strikes,” Hina Rabbani Khar said.
“I maintain the position that we’d told them categorically before. But they did not listen. I hope their listening will improve,” she told Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday.
The attacks by the unmanned aircraft from Afghanistan, which US officials say are highly effective against militants, fuel anti-American sentiment in Pakistan because they are seen as violations of sovereignty that inflict civilian casualties.
Khar’s sharp comments on the drone strikes came ahead of a two-day visit to Islamabad by the United States’ special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman.
Ambassador Grossman was due to hold bilateral meetings with Pakistani officials and take part in a “core group” meeting with officials from both Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the United States is hoping to revive stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
Ties between Pakistan and the United States, allies in the war on militancy, have lurched from crisis to crisis as they spar over security, assistance and the future of Afghanistan.
An unannounced raid on Pakistani soil by US Special Forces who killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden last May plunged relations to a low, and tensions were further stoked in November when a Nato attack across the border from Afghanistan killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
After a review of ties with Washington, a Pakistani parliamentary committee laid out a series of demands, including an end to US drone strikes.
Khar said other methods should be used to take out militants in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We have to look at effective tools which are mutually acceptable. The cost of using tools which are not mutually acceptable is far, far too high. We’re looking at alternatives,” she said, without elaborating.
The commander of the frontline corps in Pakistan’s northwest told Reuters last week that one alternative would be for the United States to share intelligence so that its ally’s F-16 fighter jets could target militants there.

Pak military's grip on foreign policy easing: Hina Rabbani Khar
 Apr 26 2012
Islamabad : Pakistan's military, which has dominated the country for much of its turbulent history, has less sway over foreign policy, and a new power equation is emerging within America's strategic ally, said the foreign minister.
Pakistan has been directly ruled by generals for more than half of its 64-year history and indirectly for much of the rest.
The military has largely controlled foreign and security policies, and has taken the lead in relations with Washington.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said new dynamics were now taking hold in nuclear-armed Pakistan, one of the most unstable countries in the world.
I want you to also understand that things have changed in Pakistan, she told Reuters in an interview.
I think this overbearance of the role of the military in the foreign policy of Pakistan is something which will recede as time passes.
Some may question Khar's assessment of the military's role in foreign affairs given the long dominance of the generals.
But the mere fact that she spoke openly of such change may raise eyebrows in the South Asian nation where the military is highly skilled at both mounting coups and running a business empire spanning everything from banks to bakeries.
The military lost all of the nation's wars with India, has been accused of widespread abuses by human rights groups, and has failed to break the back of al-Qaeda-linked Taliban despite several offensives.
Still, many Pakistanis have traditionally viewed it as a far more effective institution than civilian governments, which have failed to tackle a staggering array of issues, from widespread poverty and chronic power cuts to suicide bombings.
But the military's standing suffered dramatically after U.S special forces mounted a unilateral raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil in May last year.
Pakistan's generals and their all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency were humiliated, and came under rare public criticism.
Since then, civilian leaders have grown more defiant of the military, which in the past has seized power through coups or heavily influenced policy from behind the scenes.
I think all institutions in Pakistan are realising that there is a place and role for every institution, said Khar, 35, Pakistan's first woman foreign minister.
And it is best to serve Pakistan's interests that each of the institutions remains within the boundaries of the roles which are constitutionally defined. It's a new sort of equilibrium.
Khar, one of a number of rising women politicians in Pakistan, started her political career with a party affiliated with former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, and eventually rose to junior finance minister.
She since switched to the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), whose ties with the military have been strained.
U.S.-educated Khar said the current government's staying power in a country prone to coups had given it sway and room to manoeuvre, on issues ranging from ties with the United States to trade with arch-enemy India.
As far as the new equilibrium... you have consistent four years of democracy, it's the longest term a democratic governments has had in Pakistan, said Khar, who is from a political family in southern Punjab.
Khar pointed to the reaction to a NATO cross-border raid in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged relations with the United States to a low point as one sign that civilian leaders have a bigger say in policy.
A Pakistani parliamentary committee reviewed ties with Washington and demanded a halt to U.S. drone aircraft strikes, which U.S. officials see as a highly effective weapon against militants along the border with Afghanistan.
It is not the first time that foreign policy has been discussed in parliament, said Khar, in her modest Islamabad office. But is it not the first time that relations with the United States and other important countries were put on hold until the parliament gave a green signal?
Khar also said the government's approach to India suggested Pakistan's democracy was becoming more robust and the military's grip on policy had loosened.
In the face of some domestic opposition, the Islamabad government last November vowed to grant India most favoured nation status, which will end restrictions that require most products to move via a third country.
The move was hailed by India and the two countries are now focused on resolving economic issues before moving on to more intractable problems such as the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Don't underestimate the importance of what this government did with trade with India. Since 1965 there was no political or military government that could open up trade with India. And it was considered a no-go area, said Khar.
And that to me shows, one the maturity of democracy, the maturity of views, and the maturity of the decision-making exercise in Pakistan.

Pak authorities to soon provide identity cards to all Hindus
 Apr 26, 2012
Islamabad : Pakistani authorities have assured the Supreme Court that computerised national identity cards will soon be issued to all members of the minority Hindu community, including married women who were facing problems in obtaining the cards.
Following the assurance, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry yesterday disposed of a suo moto case it had taken up on problems faced by married Hindu women in obtaining CNICs.
In the absence of any law to register Hindu marriages, women are unable to provide proof of their marriage and have been denied the identity cards.
The legal director of the National Database and Registration Authority, which issues the identity cards, told the court that a meeting of the NADRA Board Authority to be held soon would consider a proposal for amending regulations governing the issuance of CNICs to members of the Hindu community.
At the last hearing on March 30, the apex court was told that a circular had been issued by NADRA conveying instructions to officials to issue CNICs on the production of an affidavit by married Hindu women.
However, the court observed that such a circular would have no legal backing and it was necessary that either some amendments should be made or a regulation should be issued by the NADRA chairman to cover the issuance of identity cards to Hindu citizens.
At yesterday's hearing, the court directed NADRA to amend its regulations in a way that the rights of Hindus are protected. The NADRA chairman was ordered to submit a copy of the amendments to the court's registrar.
The amendments should be widely circulated through newspapers for public awareness, the bench said.
The apex court had taken up the issue after a 2009 article in a newspaper described the problems faced by Prem Sari Mai, a Hindu woman from Rahim Yar Khan who was unable to obtain a passport to visit India as she did not have an identity card.
The article described other problems faced by Hindus in acquiring CNICs and passports because couples cannot get their marriages registered under the existing laws.
The article said Prem Sari, who wanted to visit India to participate in a religious festival, had to pay a huge bribe to get a passport.
When she submitted her application to NADRA, Prem Sari was shocked to learn that authorities were not treating her as a married woman and that she faced charges of having illicit relations with a man.
Hindus make up less than five per cent of Pakistan's total population of about 180 million. According to one estimate, there are around three million Hindus in the country.

Pakistani nationals apply for citizenship
Apr 26, 2012
AMRITSAR: Around two dozen Pakistani nationals living in Amritsar for past more than 8 to 10 years have approached the district administration seeking Indian citizenship in the wake of recent ease announced by the government in formalities for acquiring Indian citizenship by Pakistani nationals living before 2004.
Sharan Singh, who hails from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that he wouldn't go back to Pakistan as he feared attack by Muslim fundamentalists. He said here they had to run between Amritsar, Chandigarh and Delhi for completion of various formalities. "Be it extending visa or renewal of passports of all the family members. Twice I had to go to Pakistan for applying for new passport and procuring computerized voter card for family members," he said.
Teenaged Vidya said that she was a class VIII student when she migrated to Amritsar with other family members. "No school gave me admission in class IX here so I had to restart my studies from class V and now I am preparing to take admission in college."
Urging Indian government for granting them Indian citizenship, she said, "Today we are not Pakistanis nor Indians, I wish we all soon becomes Indians." Deputy Commissioner Rajat Aggarwal said they would do all to facilitate the deserving Pakistani nationals in acquiring Indian citizenship.
All India Hindu Shiv Sena president Surinder Kumar Billa who took the Pak nationals to the DC office appealed to the government to end the plights of these hapless Pakistanis and grant them Indian citizenship.

Army uses bullets, and classrooms to fight militancy
 Apr 26, 2012
GULIBAGH - Hazrat Gul spent two years in detention for allegedly aiding the Pakistani Taliban when they publicly flogged and beheaded people during a reign of terror in the scenic Swat Valley.
Now he wiles away his time in pristine classrooms, a Pakistani flag pin on his crisp uniform, learning about word processing, carpentry and car repairs at the Mashal de-radicalization centre run by the army.
Part of a carrot and stick approach to battling militancy in the strategic U.S. ally, the aim is to cleanse minds of extremist thoughts through vocational training, and turn men like Gul into productive citizens who support the state.
The success of the program will ultimately hinge, however, on the ability of the government, widely seen as incompetent and corrupt, to help the de-radicalization graduates find jobs. “If a sincere leadership comes to this country, that will solve the problems,” said Gul, 42, one of the Mashal students. “Today the leadership is not sincere. The same problems will be there.”
Pakistan’s military drove militants out of Swat in 2009. Mashal is in the building which used to be the headquarters of the militants from where they imposed there austere version of Islam.
Eventually, the army realized it couldn’t secure long-term peace with bullets alone. So military officers, trainers, moderate clerics and psychologists were chosen to run three-month courses designed to erase “radical thoughts” of those accused of aiding the Taliban.
Students like Mohammad Inam, 28, a former assistant engineer, give the school a good report card. “The environment is very good. Our teachers work very hard with us. They talk to us about peace, about terrorism and how that is not right,” said Inam, in the presence of a military officer. “God willing, we will go out and serve our country and our nation.”
School officials say about 1,000 people have graduated since the initiative began two years ago, and that only 10 percent were not cleared for release.
Officials concede that their “students” are not hardened militants who killed. Mostly, they provided the Taliban with water, food or shelter, or beat people. That was enough for a two-year detention, and some say abuse, in a country where the Taliban stage suicide bombings at will and have launched brazen attacks, including one on the army headquarters near the capital.
Even if the Mashal institute instills a new mindset and discipline in the students, graduates face an uncertain future.
PUBLIC BEHEADINGS: Pakistan’s military presents the Swat offensive and the campaign to root out extremism as a showcase of its success against militancy. On the surface, the valley looks far more stable than it did in the Taliban days when Fazlullah, known as FM Mullah for his fiery radio sermons, was ordering his men to take to the streets and punish the “immoral”, or anyone who disagreed with his violent philosophy.
Residents of Swat, 160 km (100 miles) from Islamabad, crowd street markets. Girls schools that were blown up by the Taliban have reopened. A ski resort burned down by the Taliban has re-opened. That is due in large part to a sense of security created by the thousands of Pakistani soldiers still stationed there. But the army’s successes have been tarnished by allegations of human rights abuses.
Human Rights Watch says it has received credible reports of extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by soldiers or police in Swat. The army counters that it takes human rights seriously and has launched an investigation into the matter. Sitting beside an officer in a classroom at the Mashal school, Gul said he was subjected to torture at prisons run by the military or its intelligence agency merely because, out of fear, he had chanted pro-Taliban slogans. “Every time they were talking to us, (they were) beating us,” said Gul, who has a masters in political science. Asked to elaborate, he said: “From A to Z, all kinds of problems.”
Minutes later, the officer, who sleeps in a room with a commanding view he said was once occupied by Fazlullah, leaned over to this reporter and said: “What do you expect in prison, massage girls?”.
The accounts of ill treatment were echoed by others. Rehman Shah, a former school teacher, says he was only detained because his son was accused of joining the Taliban.
Nine weeks into the course, he praises the de-radicalization concept but says the army made a big mistake by detaining innocent people. “When Pashtuns are treated unfairly, it never leaves their hearts and they take revenge,” Shah said of the dominant ethnic group in Swat and other parts of northwest Pakistan, where most of the military offensives against militants are mounted.
“I urge the government and security not to do this and not increase resentment and anger in the people.”
A senior Pakistani intelligence official denied abuses take place. “That’s not our strategy at all. They are our own people and we do not believe in these things,” he said.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE SCHOOL: Outside Mashal’s classroom, there are signs that not everyone is embracing the new approach. Soldiers led a hooded man into a truck while three others looked on through the barred windows of what appeared to be a cell at the compound.

Kurdish rebels kill four Iran Guards: report
 Apr 26, 2012
TEHRAN: Kurdish rebels have killed four members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards in the country’s west, a provincial official told the Mehr news agency on Wednesday.
The attack was carried out by members of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) near the town of Paveh in Iran’s Kermanshah province on Tuesday evening, Mehr reported.
“Four members of the Guards were martyred and four others wounded in the cowardly act,” Shahryar Heydari, the province’s ranking security official, told Mehr.
Heydari said PJAK rebels also suffered casualties, but did not provide any details.
The PJAK, labelled as “terrorists” by Tehran, has often clashed with Iranian forces, sparking retaliatory bombing of their rear bases in the mountainous border districts of neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan.
The report on Wednesday was the first such account of a deadly conflict between Iranian forces and the Kurdish rebels since summer last year.
In July 2010, the Islamic republic’s Guards launched a string of operations against the rebels and began shelling districts near the border with Iraq, killing dozens including the rebels’ deputy commander.
Later in September, the Guards said they had forced the rebels out of northwestern Iran and killed more than 180 of them in a summer-long offensive.

Syrian security forces kill at least 12 in rocket attack
 Apr 26, 2012
Some reports put the death toll much higher with 54 dead and dozens wounded after the attack in the city of Hama
A rocket attack by Syrian security forces has killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens more in Syria's central city of Hama, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The grassroots network Local Co-ordination Committee said the rocket hit a building, but it put the death toll much higher, at 54 dead, including several children.
Footage of the blast on YouTube showed a crowd of men pulling the bloodied body of a young girl from the rubble.
An activist who asked not to be named said the blast may have been an explosion from inside the building.
Hama, a centre of revolt in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, has a small team of UN observers, who are preparing the way for a larger UN mission, which will monitor the peace plan brokered two weeks ago by the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Separately, Syrian forces shot dead four civilians on a bus, and fighting raged near Damascus, dissidents said.
France said the UN should consider harsher measures if the international peace plan, which has been shaken by violence, ultimately collapses.
The French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, said Paris would push for a Chapter 7 UN resolution, which would mean punitive sanctions, next month if Assad's forces did not pull back.
"This cannot continue indefinitely. We want to see observers in sufficient numbers, at least 300 … deployed as quickly as possible," Juppé said.
"If that does not work, we cannot allow the regime to defy us. We would have to move to a new stage with a Chapter 7 resolution at the United Nations to take a new step to stop this tragedy."

Malaysian Students Seek Full Political Rights
 Apr 26, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR — Moves to allow Malaysian university students to join political parties have failed to satisfy student activists, who say a legal amendment approved by Parliament last week will still infringe on their right to participate fully in politics. Under a decades-old law, it is illegal for students to join political parties or take part in political campaigning and protests. Those who do risk expulsion from their university and other penalties, including fines. The law has dampened what was once a vibrant activist movement.
There have been cases where universities have issued fines and warnings to students for supporting political parties. Analysts say universities have mostly taken action against students who support the opposition.
That ban is likely to be lifted soon after lawmakers in the lower house of Parliament approved an amendment last Thursday to the Universities and University Colleges Act, or U.U.C.A. The law is expected to take effect after it has been approved by the upper house, which is dominated by the governing coalition.
But the new amendment will still impose restrictions on students, like giving universities the power to decide which organizations, with the exception of political parties, are suitable. Students, civil society groups and the political opposition say these conditions are repressive.
“There’s still a limited freedom there,” said Haziq Abdul Aziz, secretary of Students Solidarity Malaysia, a group that represents about 15 student organizations. “We want the government to give full freedom to the students to take part in politics, to join organizations.”
Since the act prohibiting students from expressing “support, sympathy or opposition” to any political party was enacted in 1971, Malaysian students have repeatedly demanded that the ban on political involvement be rescinded.
When Prime Minister Najib Razak announced last November that he planned to amend the law as part of a raft of reforms to improve civil liberties, student activists were hopeful that all restrictions would be lifted.
Many were disappointed when details of the amendment were released and have called for the law to be abolished.
“We don’t actually need such an act to control the students,” said Adam Ali, a student activist and member of Progressive Students Legacy, a student organization at Sultan Idris Education University. “Why must we control the students? They know their rights — they can practice their rights. With the current amendment of the U.U.C.A., what happens now is that they are again controlling the students.”
Under the amendment, students who hold any political post will be prohibited from conducting political party activities on campus. Students could also be prevented from joining any organization that the university’s board deemed “unsuitable to the interests and well-being of the students or the university.”
Mr. Haziq said he was concerned that universities could make arbitrary decisions about which organizations students could join.
The original amendment included a clause that would have banned students who held political posts from being elected to positions in student organizations, but lawmakers voted unanimously to remove this clause before the bill was passed. The clause had been widely criticized, including by members of the prime minister’s own party.
Parliament rejected the opposition’s attempts to remove several other clauses, including the provision that prevents students from “expressing support or sympathy” to an unlawful society or organization the university deems unsuitable. Tian Chua, vice president of the opposition People’s Justice Party, described the reforms as “half-hearted” in a Twitter post: “Where is the promised freedom for the young people?”
Mr. Najib’s pledge that students would be permitted to participate in politics came after a court ruled last October that the National University of Malaysia had breached the Constitution by taking disciplinary action against four students who took part in political campaigning during a by-election in 2010.
Before the enactment of the act, Malaysian campuses used to be home to vibrant student activism, with many of today’s leaders, including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, cutting their political teeth on campus. Mr. Haziq said that since the law was introduced, the student movement had lost its momentum, with most students now afraid to take part in politics because they were worried that they could be expelled.
“Student activists are in the minority,” he said. “The majority of students are not interested in politics because they are afraid that the universities will take action against them. The U.U.C.A. has successfully made the students fearful to criticize the government.”
Lee Hock Guan, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said the law had been a “damper” on student activism. He said although the government had changed the proposed amendment, students would still not be able to campaign for their political parties on campus during national elections.
“To open up the political space in the universities,” he said, “they need to also remove the clause banning students from political party activities on campus.”
Saifuddin Abdullah, the deputy minister of higher education, said that he was personally an advocate of allowing student political participation but that the government’s position was that political party activities would not be allowed on campus, “the reason being to maintain neutrality” of the universities.
The Malaysian Bar Council had also called for several provisions to be removed from the amendment, saying that they violated the Constitution.
“These provisions are unnecessarily restrictive, unreasonable and disproportionate barriers to a student’s freedom of association” under the Constitution, Lim Chee Wee, the council’s president, said in a statement.
He said existing laws had long prevented university students from being actively involved in a “significant aspect of the democratic process.”
“Universities, as with all institutions of higher learning, must, as one of their primary duties, embrace and espouse the development of critical thinking by their students and the encouragement of robust debate,” Mr. Lim said. “This is vital to ensure a continuous stream of thinking Malaysians who are able to advance and build our nation.”
In Kuala Lumpur last week, student activists camped out at Independence Square and marched against a government loan program that they said charged students high interest rates and left them with debt. They have not yet decided whether to hold another demonstration to protest the amendment, but they have vowed to keep fighting for their right to fully participate in political life.
“We have the right to take part in politics,” said Mr. Haziq, the Students Solidarity Malaysia secretary. “Students are just like other citizens who have the right to participate in politics, to give opinions. This is our country and we have the right to say whatever we want.”

Sadique hints at 'manipulation', says same panel issued SC certificate in 2006
 Apr 26, 2012
CHANDIGARH: The music of success in elections has not dimmed a dime for folk singer Mohammad Saddique, whose candidature as MLA is under question after the State SC Commission issued orders to cancel his SC certificate. As the popular singer and the opposition Congress gear up for a legal fight, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal is weighing its options -- if a disqualification motion can be brought into the House against Saddique.
Speaking to TOI, Saddique said he would press for action against officers in the commission who had issued him the SC certificate. Hinting at "manipulation" by the ruling government, Saddique said, "My certificate was issued in 2006 by the same SC commission which is now giving orders to cancel it. I am not the only Muslim with SC certificate, there are so many others and I am protected by provisions of law and Constitution."
While the leader of opposition, Sunil Jakhar, has already pledged to take up the matter legally, Saddique said he had Capt Amarinder Singh's confidence. "I was given an SC ticket by the Congress party and the PPCC president has assured me that these are mere legal hassles being created by those who lost the election," said Saddique. "The SAD candidate, D S Guru, whom the public rejected and elected me instead, still enjoys a great deal of clout in the government and is trying to take an advantage," he said.
SAD secretary and MLA D S Cheema said the matter only highlighted what Congress party workers have been crying foul for so long. "The distribution of party tickets, as Congress own party workers have been saying, was faulty and this is an example of just that. This is a legal matter and will have far reaching ramifications and will be settled in court," he said.
Sources in the party said that "the pressure is intense", especially in Saddiqu case, as the singer had defeated the CM's former principal secretary.
SAD legal section head H S Brar said, "The matter is sub judice and the state assembly already has a judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in Amarinder Singh disqualification case. The matter will be taken up in the election petition and dealt with legally."
In his application, Sadique had claimed that he belonged to Doom community, a Scheduled Caste, duly notified by the Punjab government. T R Sarangal, then secretary welfare, had clarified in writing to the Ludhiana deputy commissioner on March 16, 2009, that only those Doom community applicants who followed Sikhism, Hinduism or Buddhism were eligible for SC certificate.

Ajmer blast trail leads NIA team to Dhanbad
26 APRIL 2012
Investigations into 2007 Ajmer Sharif blast has brought the National Investigation Agency (NIA) team to Dhanbad, on Wednesday.
Pursuing the trail of a driving licence which was issued by the Dhanbad district transport office, a three-member NIA team reached the district transport office at 11 am to investigate the driving licence of Baban Kumar who is an accused in the case.
During their six-hour investigation the NIA team found several anomalies in issuing that said driving licence and seized several related documents from the district transport office, Sanjay Kumar, District Transport Officer, Dhanbad said.
The NIA team found that the driving licence (DL) was issued on the basis of fake documents. Besides, the photo which was on the DL of the accused, every other detail was found false, Kumar said.

FBI chief in Yemen as drone kills Al-Qaeda leader
 Apr 26, 2012
SANAA: FBI director Robert Mueller visited Yemen on Tuesday, pledging to help quell an Islamist insurgency, as security and government sources said a drone had killed a prominent Al-Qaeda leader linked to an attack on a French oil tanker.
In a meeting with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who took office earlier this year, Mueller promised the United States would support Yemen “with full force” in all respects.
“Mueller visits Yemen on an annual basis so this is not a special or secret occasion,” said Mohammed Al-Basha, Yemen’s embassy spokesman in Washington. “President Hadi emphasized that he is strongly committed to combatting extremism and working with the US to counter the mutual threat of terrorism.”
Yemen’s embassy in Washington said on Tuesday that Mohammed Saeed Al-Umda, convicted in 2005 of involvement in the 2002 attack on the Limburg oil tanker, had been killed in an air strike on his convoy in the oil-producing province of Maarib on Sunday. It did not specify whether it was a US strike.
Umda, described by the embassy as Yemen’s fourth most-wanted man, had received military training under Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and was in charge of the group’s finances, a security source said.
In Washington, US officials indicated that there had been other similar air attacks recently against militant targets in Yemen. US cooperation with Yemeni authorities on counter-terrorism issues appears to have improved somewhat since Hadi took over from long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh earlier this year.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were aware of reports of Al-Umda’s death in such an attack but did not have final confirmation. US sources indicated that the airstrike in which the Yemenis say he was killed was carried out by a missile fired from a CIA-operated drone aircraft.
The United States has repeatedly used drones to target suspected Al-Qaeda militants, who have been emboldened by a year of political upheaval in the impoverished state.
Exploiting mass protests against former president Saleh’s 33 years in office, militants linked to Al-Qaeda last year seized large swathes of territory in southern Yemen, including at least two towns.
Yemen’s army, which split into two factions during the uprising that eventually unseated Saleh, has been battling to get the upper hand against the militants.
On Tuesday, the Defense Ministry put the number of militants killed in the southern Abyan province in the past two days at 52. It said the army had seized some government offices from militants as they pushed deep inside the provincial capital of Zinjibar.
In a statement, Ansar Al-Sharia, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group, said its fighters had blocked the army’s advance and challenged the authorities to issue “just one recent photograph showing troops inside the city (Zinjibar).”
The statement did not refer to the drone attack.
Tribal sources in Abyan said up to 21 militants were killed in three separate clashes with pro-government tribesmen on Tuesday. Two tribal fighters died in the fighting, they said.
President Hadi is trying to reform the army but has run up against the vested interests of Saleh’s relatives and allies still in charge of the military and security establishment.
In a modest victory for Hadi, Mohammed Saleh Al-Ahmar, a half-brother of Saleh, left his post as air force commander on Tuesday. Earlier this month, he shut down the capital’s airport and grounded all flights to protest against his removal in a direct challenge to Hadi’s authority.
“The handover has taken place as stated in the decree issued by the president,” UN envoy Jamal Benomar told reporters in Sanaa. “It was a smooth handover with no conditions whatsoever.”
It was the first time Hadi had succeeded in removing one of Saleh’s relatives from power. Saleh’s son, nephew and other allies remain in place as heads of military units.
Benomar, who helped push through the plan under which Saleh left office after more than a year of popular unrest, persuaded the former president to lean on his half-brother to step aside, a government official said on condition of anonymity.
General Rashed Ali Nasser Al-Jund becomes head of the air force. Ahmar was appointed an assistant to the defense minister.
Hadi, who had been Saleh’s vice-president, was elected unopposed in February under a US-backed transition plan brokered by Yemen’s wealthy Gulf neighbors, anxious to halt a slide into chaos.
In a separate incident on Tuesday, a local security source said the head of political security in southern Lahej province had survived an assassination attempt that had left him with severe injuries. The source said a bomb had been attached to his car and exploded when he started the engine.

JEDDAH: Dad, stepmom held for child's murder
 Apr 26, 2012
The father and stepmother of a nine-year-old girl who died from torture-related injuries have been arrested.
Makkah police spokesman Lt. Col. Abdul Mohsen Al-Maiman said police in Aziziya has referred the case file on the victim, identified as Rouzan, to the department for handling violence at the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution for further investigation before it is filed at the local court.
“Forensic surgeons will carry out the child’s postmortem to ascertain the actual causes of the death,” he said.
An official of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) told Arab News that a staff shortage is apparently the reason for the society’s failure to follow up on the case of the expatriate victim, who had been subjected to torture and physical abuse for a long time. A team of women social experts and researchers from NSHR has contacted on Wednesday officials of the Makkah education department to inquire about the measures taken in her case.
Rouzan, who was admitted to a private hospital in Makkah with multiple wounds and bruises on her body a few days ago, succumbed to her injuries Sunday. It was discovered in medical tests that the girl sustained serious wounds on her head and other parts of body as a result of continuous torture allegedly by her father and stepmother.
In a complaint lodged with the Makkah police, Rouzan’s relatives alleged that the girl had been suffering from domestic abuse over the last five years, and the torture was intensified after the death of her mother eight months ago.
Speaking to Arab News, Maatouq Al-Sharief, member of NSHR, said the school authorities had obtained a written pledge from her father and stepmother at the end of the last academic year not to harass the child. This was after Rouzan’s teacher noticed marks on the girl’s body.
“The commission had intervened in the case at that time but nothing was heard about her until her death. This is mainly because Rouzan’s father and stepmother stopped sending her to school from the beginning of the new academic year,” he said.
Al-Sharief disclosed plans of NSHR to take up the case against the father and stepmother if they are found to be involved in her death.
Replying to questions from Arab News about the society’s failure in following up on the case of Rouzan after its intervention in the matter last year, Al-Sharief attributed this to a shortage of staff members. “In spite of this situation, cases of domestic violence, especially against children are on the rise in the Kingdom. Moreover, the society’s activities cover many other areas and issues,” he said, while underlining the need for creating more civilian organizations to tackle such problems.
He also expressed his unhappiness over the state of affairs in this regard by saying: “The Saudi National Commission for Child Welfare, which was formed in 2007, still awaits a license from the Ministry of Social Affairs."

Israeli Army Chief Says He Believes Iran Won’t Build Bomb
 Apr 26, 2012
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military chief described the Iranian government as “rational” in interviews published Wednesday and said he did not believe it would build a nuclear bomb, appearing to put some distance between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
“I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don’t think he will want to go the extra mile,” the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, told the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz, referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people,” General Gantz added. “But I agree that such a capability, in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make different calculations, is dangerous.”
The question of whether the Iranians are rational has been a critical focus of international debate over how to handle Tehran’s nuclear program, which the government insists is for civilian purposes. Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly invoked the Holocaust to describe Iranian nuclear capability as an existential threat to Israel, and he told CNN on Tuesday that he would not want to bet “the security of the world on Iran’s rational behavior,” according to The Associated Press. A “militant Islamic regime,” the A.P. quoted him as saying, “can put their ideology before their survival.”
In a Holocaust Remembrance Day speech last week, Mr. Netanyahu warned ominously that Iran was “feverishly working to develop atomic weapons,” and he told CNN on Tuesday that “the centrifuges are spinning.”
General Gantz, a former paratrooper who took the helm of the military last year, rarely gives lengthy public statements like the ones published here on Israel’s Memorial Day, a traditional period of national self-reflection.
Several analysts saw his comments as more in line with the views of Israel’s military and intelligence establishment, including the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, than with the harder line taken by the government. They were also seen as parallel to the position of his United States counterpart, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“What he said,” said George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in an Associated Press article, is “consistent with the views of the U.S. military leadership, the U.S. intelligence community. What’s interesting is why he said it out loud.”
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli expert who lives in Tel Aviv, told The Guardian newspaper that Mr. Gantz’s comments were “a welcome development” that “takes the hysterics out of Israel’s public assessment of the Iranian nuclear program.”

Israel backtracks on demolition of illegal West Bank settlement
 Apr 26, 2012
Supreme court asked to delay order to demolish five apartment buildings at Ulpana, leading to international condemnation
The Israeli government is seeking to renege on a pledge to demolish a West Bank outpost built on privately owned Palestinian land.
The move comes amid a wave of international condemnation over its retrospective authorisation this week of three other illegal outposts, strengthening Israel's hold on the West Bank and bolstering pro-settler groups, whose influence on government policy is growing.
The attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, will ask the supreme court to delay an order to evacuate and demolish five apartment buildings at Ulpana, on the edge of the Beit El settlement. The case is due to be heard before Tuesday's deadline for evacuation.
The government had earlier given a commitment to carry out the order, saying it did not approve settlement construction on private land. Most settlements in the West Bank are built on land taken over by the state of Israel during its 45-year occupation.
But vigorous lobbying – including threats to bring down the coalition – by pro-settler members of the ruling Likud party, smaller rightwing parties and government ministers led prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to seek ways to avoid confrontation on the issue.
Three outposts, which were defined "illegal" because they lacked proper authorisation when founded in the 1990s, were retrospectively "legalised" this week by a special ministerial committee. Under international law, all settlements on occupied territory are illegal.
Critics said the move was, in effect, the first official establishment of new settlements in the West Bank in more than two decades.
The decision drew criticism from the US, UK, French, German, Danish and Jordanian governments, the European Union, the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority.
The British foreign secretary, William Hague, said "designating outposts as settlements... sets a dangerous precedent" and "risks sending the message that [Israel] is not serious about its stated commitment to the goal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".
The outposts – Bruchin, Rechelim and Sansana, which are home to 830 people – are among about 100 unauthorised developments in the West Bank. Israel has repeatedly made commitments to the international community to dismantle them, though critics now fear they too could now be in line for legal protection.
Ulpana, a collection of small apartment blocks, five of which are under a demolition order, has been the subject of an intense lobbying campaign over recent weeks.
Scores of politicians, including cabinet ministers, have visited Ulpana to pledge opposition to the supreme court order. Moshe Yaalon, minister for strategic affairs, warned at the weekend: "We said we wouldn't evacuate the neighbourhood. Should this happen, the government will fall."
The occupants of the apartments, built 12 years ago, say the land was bought from its Palestinian owner, a claim rejected by the court.
They say the then Israeli government, headed by Ehud Barak, now defence minister, encouraged the development. "They gave people money to come and live here," said resident Harel Cohen. "The government supplied all the infrastructure – gas, electricity, roads. It was the agenda of the government that this neighbourhood will be built. No one here thinks we will be evacuated."
Ironically, Barak is the strongest voice in the present cabinet behind compliance with the court order, a stance which has led to calls by colleagues for him to be sacked.
The campaign over these four outposts – and another, Migron, due to be evacuated by 1 August after repeated delays – is an indication of the likely resistance to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on borders which would require the removal of tens of thousands of settlers from the land of a future Palestinian state.
About 350,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements and outposts, and a further 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The issue of settlements is seen by the Palestinians and the international community as the main impediment to a peace agreement.


Russia says Iran, West 'interested' in nuclear offer
Apr 26, 2012
MOSCOW: A Russian diplomat said that Iran and Western nations had shown interest in a Russian proposal aimed to help defuse the standoff over Tehran's nuclear programme, but suggested it had not been the focus of talks this month.
Russia has been calling for a "step-by-step" resolution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, which Western nations fear is aimed at developing nuclear weapons and Tehran says is purely peaceful.
Moscow says Iran should take measures to ease concerns about its intentions and comply with UN demands, and in return be rewarded with the gradual easing of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and Western states.
In a proposal aired in February, Russia says that as a start, Iran could freeze the number of centrifuges for uranium enrichment at current levels and place other restrictions on its centrifuge use. In return, global powers would refrain from imposing new sanctions on Tehran.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the proposal was discussed at talks in Istanbul on April 14 between Iran and six world powers - Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany - the first such meeting in over a year. A new round of talks is to be held on May 23 in Baghdad.
Ryabkov said Iran and Western powers indicated they were "interested" in the proposal, which he suggested was one of a number of ideas being discussed by the global powers as they seek to forge a common position among themselves and to find room for progress with Iran.
"We are keeping all our proposals on the negotiating table, but the work now is proceeding in a somewhat different format," said Ryabkov, Russia's representative at the talks.
"We are working in order for the (six powers) to have a consolidated position, and our ideas are given weighty consideration in this regard," he said by telephone.
Russia has not specified whether it believes agreement by Iran to the centrifuge restrictions would require the European Union to abandon plans, agreed in January, to stop all Iranian oil imports as of July.
"Many (EU) member states remain concerned about the idea of forsaking sanctions before they have even begun, and without negotiations having moved to the second stage," one Western diplomat said.
In late March, Ryabkov said some Western states involved in the diplomacy over Iran's nuclear programme were unlikely to be enthusiastic about the proposal. Iran has made little public comment about the idea.
Russia supported four rounds of sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council, where it holds veto power, but has emphasised it opposes further sanctions and repeatedly said too much pressure can be counterproductive.

Sudan troops say they are not aggressors
 Apr 26, 2012
South Sudan's President has accused his northern neighbour of declaring war but soldiers in this region scarred by recent battles say they are simply defending their borders.
“If we want to go to the South now we can... but that is not our plan,” said Zaki Al Ahmad, a fast-talking member of the Popular Defence Force (PDF), at a collection of straw huts serving as their base in this oil region about 15 km from the disputed border.
“We are just defending our property. We don't want to attack them,” said one bearded fighter, speaking four days after Sudan announced its troops forced out South Sudanese who had occupied the north's main oilfield of Heglig for 10 days.
The South, however, said its troops withdrew in a process that ended on Sunday.
“Welcome to liberated Heglig. God bless the martyrs who spilled their blood,” announced a crewman aboard an aircraft flying in journalists on a four-hour government run trip to the region which is normally off-limits to reporters.
A village near the airport has been almost completely burned to the ground.
Sudan has demanded that the South recognise the borders which existed at Sudan's independence from Britain and Egypt on January 1, 1956.
Over the frontier in South Sudan's Unity state, Sudanese warplanes left several people wounded from air strikes that continued into the early hours of Tuesday, the State's Governor Taban Deng said.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the air raids as “provocative and unacceptable”, and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir accused Sudan of declaring war.
“We don't like war,” the Sudanese armed forces commander, Kamal Marouf, said in Heglig.
A manager at the damaged main oil facility, Ibrahim Yousif Gamil, said there were actually fewer troops now than in recent days.
“The presence of the army is to the minimum now,” he said.

Activists: Syrian forces resume shelling
26 APRIL 2012
Activists said Syrian troops on Wednesday fired mortar shells and machine-guns at a Damascus suburb that was visited repeatedly by U.N. observers, prompting calls for the international mission to stay on in flashpoints to prevent regime attacks.
Activists say government troops have targeted opposition strongholds, such as the suburb of Douma, after monitors leave. They say the regime has halted shelling attacks in other areas where observers are deployed for longer periods.
Currently, 13 monitors are in Syria, but the team is to grow to 100 in a month and eventually to up to 300.
On Wednesday, regime forces pounded Douma for a second day, despite a visit by observers, said local activist Mohammed Saeed. He said regime forces fired before, during and after the visit, their third to Douma in three days.
Persistent bloodshed has tarnished efforts by observers to salvage a Syria truce that started to unravel almost as soon as it began on April 12. Despite the violence, the international community still sees the peace plan as the last chance to prevent the country from falling into civil war - in part because there are no real alternatives.
Violence in Syria erupted more than 13 months ago, triggered by a brutal regime crackdown on what began as peaceful protests but gradually turned into an armed uprising.
The truce is intended to pave the way for talks between President Bashar Assad and those trying to bring him down on Syria’s political future, but so far it appears to have only a limited impact on the violence.

Annan calls Syria situation 'bleak'
 Apr 26, 2012
United Nations : International envoy Kofi Annan has told the UN Security Council that the situation in Syria is “bleak”, expressing particular alarm at reports that government troops entered the central city of Hama firing automatic weapons, killing a number of people.
He echoed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in calling the current situation ?unacceptable” and called on the Syrian government to immediately implement his six-point peace-plan.
In his closed briefing Tuesday to the council, which was obtained by the Associated Press, he urged the government and opposition to respect the April 12 cease-fire.