Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Musharraf, Kayani knew Osama's whereabouts: Pak's ex-army chief
WASHINGTON, Dec 24, 2011: Pakistani military had harboured al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden with the knowledge of former president General Pervez Musharraf, former army chief General Ziauddin Butt has said.
An article on the Jamestown Foundation website, which cited Butt, said that despite denials, evidence is emerging that "elements within the Pakistani military harboured Osama with the knowledge of Musharraf and Kayani". Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is the current army cheif.
Ziauddin Butt, a former army chief, told a conference on Pakistani-US ties in October 2011 that according to his knowledge then director general of Intelligence Bureau, Brigadier (retd.) Ijaz Shah, had "kept Osama bin Laden in an Intelligence Bureau safe house in Abbottabad".
Osama bin Laden was gunned down May 2 by US commandos who mounted a daring operation using stealth helicopters.
The retired general said in the same address that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had helped the CIA to track Osama down and kill him.
The report said that stunning revelation was unreported for some time as some intelligence officers had asked journalists not to publish Butt's remarks.
The report said Butt told the daily Dawn Dec 11 that he fully believed that "(Brigadier) Ijaz Shah had kept this man (bin Laden in the Abbottabad compound) with the full knowledge of General Pervez Musharraf..." Butt added, "Ijaz Shah was an all-powerful official in the government of General Musharraf".
To a query on whether the present army chief knew about it, Butt said yes, but later added: "(General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani) may have known - I do not know - he might not have known."
The former army chief has, however, not been able to explain as to how Osama was not found even after Brigadier Shah and Musharraf went out of power.
Butt had been the ISI chief under then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif had promoted him as the army chief after forcibly retiring General Pervez Musharraf Oct 12, 1999, but the army's top brass then revolted.
Musharraf, who toppled Sharif and became the new chief executive of the country, stepped down in 2008.
Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani top military officials had major differences, including on Pakistan's ties with Osama bin Laden.
According to Butt, Sharif had made up his mind to cooperate with the US and track down Osama in 1999. Citing a senior advisor to the prime minister, the report said, "the general staff ousted Sharif to scuttle the 'get-Osama' plan".
Butt said that Nawaz Sharif had set up a special task force of 90 US-trained commandos to track down Osama in Afghanistan.
Maldivian president calls for moderate Islam
COLOMBO, 24 December 2011, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed has called for a “tolerant” form of Islam, his office said Saturday, amid opposition calls to usher in strict Islamic law for the island nation.
Nasheed urged the country of 330,000 Sunni Muslims, to reject religious extremism and support the “traditional form” of Islam that has been practiced in the Maldives for the past 800 years.
“I asked you to come here in support of the middle, tolerant path,” he said, addressing ruling party supporters on Friday.
Nasheed said moderate Islam was vital to preserve the tourism industry which generates more than two-thirds of the country's earnings.
“To build our economy we need foreign investments and we need to create an environment in which foreigners can invest. We can't achieve development by going backwards to the Stone Age or being ignorant,” he said.
Opposition supporters rallied hundreds on Friday, calling on the government to scrap plans for direct air links with Israel, and to ban alcohol sales in island resorts as well as shutter brothels operating as massage parlors.
The demonstrators called for the nation, which is spread over 1,200 islands, to enforce strict religious law, and end anti-Islamic activities.
“We are here to show that will not support those policies, yet we are not extremist,” Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, who heads the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), was quoted saying by the privately-run Minivan News website. “We will stay forever as an Islamic nation.”
Sit-in outside Balochistan Assembly against Hindu trader’s killing
QUETTA, Dec 24, 2011: Hindu community staged a sit-in protest in front of the Balochistan Assembly on Friday, against the killing of Hindu trader Ravi Kumar. The rally from Arya Samaj Mandir passed through different parts of the provincial capital. The atmosphere was fully charged as the protesters were holding banners and placards and chanted slogans against the rising incidents of target killings and kidnapping for ransom in the area. They demanded that the authorities concerned must resign, saying they are unable to provide security to the Hindus.
Hindu leaders Raday Sham and Dr Mhar Chand while addressing the protesters, said Hindu community have been residing in Balochistan for the past many centuries and had been targeted for the past couple of years. The kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative business and Hindu community has become a soft target for the criminals. They killed five Hindu traders that had gone unnoticed. The killings are a clear message that Hindus must pay money to criminals if they want to live here, they said, adding that the elected people and tribal elders are not playing their due role.
They said it is a conspiracy to force the Hindu community to migrate from Balochistan. “We shall give a clear message to those elements that we are the indigenous people of this region. We will not leave this land at any cost,” they added. Provincial Ministers Zamaruk Khan Achakzai and Basant Lal Gulshan came to the protesters and condemned the killing of trader Ravi Kumar.
They assured them of proper help and said that, “we will raise the voice of Hindu community on the assembly floor.” They said civil society, and tribal elders will play their due rule in this issue. They advised the Hindu community to make a committee so that they can meet the Balochistan chief minister after his return from Islamabad.
The Islamists and US: The prospects don't seem too good
By Khalid Amayreh
Gaza,(Alresalah.ps) 2011-12-24--It is probably true that many within the American political establishment would like to have good relations with Islamist movements in the Arab world.
The reason for this unlikely propensity has nothing to do with any sudden, infatuation or love affair with political Islam on Washington's part.
The U.S. consistently viewed Islamist groups in the Middle East and beyond with sullen hostility and convulsive animosity, especially after the 9/11 events in the United States.
The real reason for the developing but still fledgling relations between Washington and Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, stems from considerations of pragmatism and real politik.
The Islamists are becoming the leading ideological and political force in several Arab countries. This fact can't be ignored as American geo-political interests in the Arab region would suffer immensely if Washington viewed the "Arab Spring" with indifference.
Needless to say, the United States has always been hostile to Islamic political movements that stand for freedom, human rights and civil liberties. In fact, the US has been especially inimical to some of the most democratic Islamist movements, such as Hamas, for daring to fight Israel.
The U.S. continues to consider Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Liberation movement, which was democratically elected in 2006, as a terrorist organization, mainly for exercising the inalienable legal and moral right of resisting the Nazi-like Israeli occupation of Palestine..
Now, it will be quite interesting to see how America's perceptions and attitudes toward the Islamist movements will evolve if these groups maintain a solid and uncompromising stance vis-à-vis Israel.
None the less, it is hard to be hopeful about the prospects of relations between Islamist-led Arab regimes and the U.S. whose politics and policies are controlled and determined to a large extent by an American Congress that accords Israeli interests much more importance than it does American interests.
There are many reasons for this pessimism. First of all, the U.S. government will not be free to show any significant amount of good will toward the Islamists. The powerful Jewish lobby would overrule any meaningful American effort to that effect.
.Hence, it is unlikely that the U.S. government will be able, even if willing, to offer the Islamists any meaningful inducements that would lead to the creation of fruitful working relations with Islamist-led regimes. Besides, an arrogant Congress that is accustomed to issuing orders and ultimatums to rulers as well as states is unlikely to easily swallow the fact that a new breed of rulers has appeared in the Arab world, rulers who won't be intimidated by sticks or induced be carrots and who won't be at America's beck and call.
Apart from that, it is imperative to point out that the Islamists themselves, especially in Egypt, have their own pressing restraints. Any Islamist party, including the Muslim Brotherhood, would suffer immensely in terms of their popularity and public standing if they showed any slackness with regard to the principled Islamist stance on Israel.
A few days ago, the Egyptian Salafist Nour Party was forced to deny reports alleging that some of its members had met with Israeli representatives. A spokesperson of the conservative Islamist group emphasized that the party's position on Israel was very clear and well known, namely that the Zionist entity was and would remain an illegitimate state that wouldn't be recognized by Muslims.
The strong defensive reaction was prompted by the negative fallouts from the initial report about the alleged Salafist willingness to have contacts with the Israeli state.
.In light, it is likely that any Islamist group, however popular it may be now, will suffer an ultimate political disaster if not suicide if it was seen edging toward any accommodation with Israel, even under American pressure.
Having said that, one ought to point out though that the Islamists are unlikely to refuse and reject out of hand any solicitations from the Washington.
Like Washington, the Islamists will have to accord the American factor a lot of attention, which they will have to do wisely and smartly.
However, the Islamists, who are answerable to the people, at least the people who have elected them, will make it abundantly clear to the Americans that America's relations with them won't be "business as usual" especially if America continues to embrace Israeli Nazism.
As we all know, the US succeeded for decades in maintaining its arguably criminal connections with Israel while preserving its vital geopolitical interests in the Arab world. Hence, Israel, with active American support and backing, pursued her Nazi-like policies against the Palestinians, including stealing their land and narrowing their horizons, with vital American interests throughout the Arab world remaining effectively intact.
This equation, which reflected America's hegemony on the one hand and the ignominious subservience of defunct Arab regimes on the other, will have to be rectified, possibly in a radical manner.
But since America won't be free to backtrack on its umbilical connection with Israel even one centimeter, thanks to the powerful Jewish lobby, it would be similarly hard for the Islamists to appear as submitting to American pressure or blackmail especially on Israel-related issues, thanks to the highly vigilant and politicized public which would send the Islamists home when elections are held next time..
There are those who might argue though that the right thing to do is to pursue a pragmatic approach toward Washington irrespective of the Palestinian issue. But this would be the most lethal advice that one could offer the Islamists.
Forgetting, ignoring or even not giving the Palestinian issue the paramount attention it deserves, would harm the Islamists' image for years to come. The irreparable damage would be too colossal to contain and too indelible to rectify.
Don't allow yourselves to fall into the trap
Iran's Supreme Leader’s advisor calls on to highlight Islamic awakening
TEHRAN, 24 December 2011 -- The Supreme Leader’s advisor on international affairs has asked organizers of the Fajr International Film Festival to underline the Islamic awakening through holding various meetings on the issue during the event, which will take place in February 2012.
“The meetings should discuss what the ideology of a Muslim is and the differences between that ideology and Western ideology,” Ali-Akbar Velayati said during a meeting with the festival secretary, Mohammad Khazaii, on Thursday.
“Over 200 years has passed since the French Revolution. A number of Islamic countries have tried to walk on the same path, but, today, there are no countries among the 57 Islamic nations to be considered as B-or-C-list countries from the point of view of progress by moving on the path of liberal democracy,” he added.
“Unfortunately, many countries even changed their costumes, alphabets and languages. For example, Turkey is no longer able to make a connection with other Turks. They have deprived themselves of the ancient Turkish alphabet and cultural heritage, but have never reached Europe at all,” he explained.
Velayati held the position of the foreign minister of Iran from 1981 to 1997.
Istanbul Int’l conference calls for gender equality in Muslim societies
TODAY’S ZAMAN, ISTANBUL, 23 December 2011, Friday marked a welcome discussion on the rights of women in Muslim societies with a conference called “Change in Muslim Societies and the Role of Women,” hosted by the international Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at Istanbul's Ceylan Intercontinental Hotel.
A platform for discussion on the commitment to improving women's status in Muslim societies, implementing gender-inclusive governance reforms for promoting gender equality in public policy and devising measurements to promote a more balanced representation of men and women in decision-making bodies, the event got underway with a speech from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who attended the conference with his wife, Emine.
Other notable guests in attendance at the event included the Secretary General of the OIC Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç, the Turkish Family and Social Policy Minister Fatma Sahin as well as various dignitaries and politicians from other OIC member states.
Erdogan, who commenced his address with a greeting in Arabic, spoke at length about the struggle of women in various Muslim countries, emphasizing the importance of respecting the rights of women and adopting a zero tolerance policy towards violence against women. Having lost his own mother last month, the prime minister welled up when quoting Prophet Muhammad’s famous words “paradise is at the feet of your mother,” as an example of the importance that Islam places on respecting women.
OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu remarked in his speech on the positive role played by Muslim women in bringing about change in the Arab uprising. “What has been achieved in those countries was possible because women stood side by side with their male partners,” he said. Ihsanoglu also stressed that only through women’s increased participation in political, social and other spheres will society will find its way towards meaningful progress and development. He commented that despite the fact that there have been positive developments in the treatment of women in the past decade, there is still a long way to go.
Minister Sahin commented that women do not want charity, kindness and support but to be granted equality and to fully enjoy their right to life. Sahin underlined the importance of education as a powerful tool in the emancipation of women and said that by the year 2023 she hoped for a more democratic and free Turkey. “This is something we not only want for Turkey but for all our neighboring countries, people of all beliefs and Muslim women all over the world,” she added.
Thousands demonstrate in Maldives for and against strict Islamic law
By Associated Press,
MALE, Maldives, Dec. 24, 2011 — Thousands in the Maldives protested Friday, calling on the government to halt what they called “anti-Islamic” activities, including a plan to allow direct flights to Israel. More moderate supporters of the president rallied as well as debate swells over the future of the state’s religion.
The Indian Ocean archipelago of 300,000 Muslims prohibits practicing any other faith.
The protesters want authorities to stop the sale of alcohol in the islands, shut down brothels operating in the guise of massage parlors and demolish monuments gifted by other countries marking a South Asian summit last month because they see them as idols.
More than 3,000 people heeded a protest call by the opposition Adhaalat, or Justice, Party and several other groups that accuse President Mohammed Nasheed’s government of compromising principles of Islam and call for strict Islamic law.
“Islamic Shariah is equal to peace,” read some placards carried by protesters.
Though the country is known more for its exquisite island resorts and does not allow stoning or executions, it is under scrutiny for its absence of religious freedom and for punishments such as public flogging.
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Iraq PM faces Sunni protests
AMARRA (IRAQ), DEC. 23, 2011, Several thousand Iraqis in Sunni Muslim strongholds protested on Friday against Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, responding to his moves against two Sunni leaders and taking to the streets a day after fatal bombings hit the capital Baghdad.
Mr Maliki this week sought Sunni vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi’s arrest on terrorism charges and moved to fire a Sunni deputy, and on Thursday at least 72 peo
ple were killed in Baghdad by bombings in mainly Shia neighbourhoods.
The events threaten to splinter Iraq’s fragile sectarian and ethnic faultlines and highlight the risk of the country tumbling into the kind of bloody slaughter that a few years ago led the Opec oil-producer to the edge of civil war.
After Friday prayers, with Sunni imams warning Mr Maliki was seeking to foment sectarian divisions, protesters were on the streets of Sunni-dominated Samarra, Ramadi,
Baiji and Qaim, many waving banners in support of Mr Hashemi, and criticising the government.
The crisis could scuttle a delicate power-sharing agreement that splits posts among Shia, Sunni and Kurdish leaders just days after the last American troops withdrew nearly nine years after the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
“The charges against Hashemi were orchestrated behind closed doors.
Mr Maliki is trying to remove Sunnis from
power to get a tight grip, like as a new dictator of Iraq,” said Ahmed alAbbasi, a protester from Samarra.
An emergency session in Parliament among leaders of political blocs to debate the crisis was cancelled on Friday.
For many Sunnis who feel marginalised by the rise of Iraq’s Shia majority since the fall of Saddam, Mr Maliki’s measures have deepened worries the Shia leader is making a power grabto consolidate Shia power.
Quota for minorities is worst of slice-and-dice politics
Venky Vembu Dec 24, 2011
When all else fails, you can always count on our political class to fall back on reflexive ‘divide and rule’ politics to muddy the waters and drag us down to the lowest common denominator of our sensibilities.
The Cabinet decision on Thursday to set aside 4.5 percentage point reservation for religious minorities within the 27 percent quota for Other Backward Classes has predictably accentuated virulent social divisions and reinforced the regressive politics of identity in a way that has the potential to inflame society.
The move, which has been under discussion for years and is the subject of inquiry by several Commissions, has set off a race to the bottom among political parties and among pressure groups. It takes us further down the slippery slope of unimaginative and ruinous ‘slice-and-dice’ politics.
To unite is more difficult than to divide. Which is why politicians are resorting to cynical 'divide and rule' politics.
Provisions for reservations for religious minorities already exist in some States, but the latest move expands it to the national level, although the constitutional validity of it may be tested in the courts.
Coming as it does in the run-up to a series of assembly elections, including the politically significant one in Uttar Pradesh, the sub-quota announcement is patently motivated by the cynical calculation of harvesting the Muslim vote bank. It could, in the reckoning of some analysts, emerge as the principal campaign theme and issue shaping the upcoming round of Assembly elections.
But although the decision was made with an eye on Muslim voters, it has displeased some sections of Muslims who believe that the sub-quota (within the 27 percent reservation for OBCs) works against their interests. These groups had been demanding 10 percentage point reservation exclusively for Muslims, as had been recommended by the Ranganath Mishra commission. (In addition, the Mishra commission had recommended 5 percentage point quota for other religious minorities.)
But the Mishra commission had also suggested an alternative in case that recommendation proved difficult to implement. It proposed that a 6 percentage point quota within the 27 percent quota be set aside exclusively for “backward Muslims”, and 2.4 percentage points for those from other religious groups.
Some Muslim groups argue that the provision of 4.5 percentage point reservations for the entire lot of religious minorities, without apportioning a specific share for Muslims, works to the community’s detriment.
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School blown up in Landikotal
By Sudhir Ahmad Afridi
LANDIKOTAL, Dec 24, 2011: Unidentified terrorists blew up Bacha Khan Foundation’s middle school on Thursday night in the Khuga khel area of Landikotal.
The school’s building was razed to the ground; however, no casualty was reported. Inqelab Khan, the watchman of the school, told the media that he and two other watchmen were present when unidentified armed men entered the school, held them on gunpoint and planted explosive devices in the classrooms, which exploded with a big bang. Seven classrooms were totally destroyed while partial damage was done to the rest of the structure of the building, Inqelab added. According to a neighbour, Ikramullah, doors and windows of the surrounding buildings were also smashed. On Friday, the political administration arrested the watchman of the school and his son. It is important to state here that the school was also targeted with explosive material last year.
Separately, a roadside bomb blast has injured one person in Tirah Valley, sources added.
Egypt's Embattled Christians Seek Room in America
By LUCETTE LAGNADO
MIDDLE EAST NEWSDECEMBER 24, 2011
Kirolos Andraws had every reason to be excited about the January uprising in his native Egypt, figuring democracy would bring hope for young people like him.
Then one day in February, says Mr. Andraws, a gang of thugs beat him and told him, "you deserve to die." His offense, he says: refusing to convert to Islam.
In late March, Mr. Andraws, a 23-year- old engineer, used a tourist visa to board an Egyptair flight for New York City. He let a room in a friend's apartment, hired an immigration lawyer and applied for asylum. He has survived mainly on wages and tips from jobs as a cook, cashier and delivery man.
"I have no other option," says Mr. Andraws, who found refuge at a Queens church that's become a way station for Copts arriving in New York.
Mr. Andraws is one of thousands of Coptic Christians—followers of an ancient form of Christianity with its own language and rituals—who have come to the U.S. to escape rising persecution in Egypt.
For decades Copts have suffered attacks by Islamists who view them as "kafir"—Arabic for nonbelievers. But there is now a sense among Middle East experts that they have become more vulnerable since the revolution.
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Pakistan PM welcomes army statement on coup rumours
ISLAMABAD, Dec 24, 2011 — Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Saturday welcomed a statement by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani ruling out a military takeover in the country.
Tensions between the army and government appeared to have soared in recent days over a secret memo that allegedly sought US intervention to prevent a feared coup.
"He (Kayani) strongly dispelled the speculations of any military takeover and said that these are misleading and are being used as a bogey to divert the focus from real issues," a military statement on Friday cited Kayani as saying.
This statement "is extremely well taken by democratic circles in the country", Gilani said Saturday during a televised interaction with the local media in Islamabad.
The armed forces has carried out three coups in Pakistan and is considered the chief arbiter of power in the country of 174 million.
Kayani's statement came after Pakistan's top judge also ruled out the possibility of a coup as he examined calls from the army and the opposition to probe the memo scandal.
On Thursday, Gilani delivered an unprecedented tirade against the military and accused "conspirators" -- whom he did not name -- of plotting to bring down his government.
But Kayani dismissed those concerns, saying that the army "will continue to support the democratic process in the country".
The leaked memo allegedly sought US intervention to prevent a feared military coup in exchange for overhauling Pakistan's security leadership after US troops killed Osama bin Laden near the Pakistani capital on May 2.
The existence of the document came to light when American-Pakistani businessman Mansoor Ijaz wrote in the Financial Times that President Asif Ali Zardari feared the military might overthrow his government.
Ijaz accused Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington and a close Zardari aide, of crafting the memo with the president's support.
Haqqani flatly denies the accusations but was forced to resign as ambassador last month.
Pakistan ties ‘too important’ to fail: USAFP
December 24, 2011
WASHINGTON: The United States said on Friday that it was committed to working with Pakistan and pledged support for democracy, amid friction between the war partners and a political showdown in Islamabad.
“The issues that we face – the challenges we face – are too important,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
“We desire a closer, more productive relationship with Pakistan both militarily and as well as politically. And we’re constantly working to build that closer cooperation,” he said.
Relations between the United States and Pakistan have severely deteriorated this year.
On November 26, US air strikes near the Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, leading Islamabad to halt supply routes for Nato forces.
The Pentagon on Thursday released a probe that acknowledged significant US responsibility and pinned blame on mistrust between the countries. But the investigation said that US forces responded only after coming under fire.
Pakistan denied any fire and rejected the probe.
It has pressed President Barack Obama for an apology.
Tensions have also been rising within Pakistan, with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday delivering unprecedented sharp criticism against the military and accusing “conspirators” of plotting to bring down his government.
Asked about the dispute, Toner said: “We support the democratic process in Pakistan; we support the constitution and the rule of law, as well as the will of the Pakistani people.”
But he added: “This is a matter for the Pakistani people to resolve within their own political process.”
Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, on Friday denied that the military was plotting to seize power.
The military has a long history of intervening in politics in Pakistan.
Nigeria: Five Christians Slain In Another Assault In Kaduna
By Obed Minchakpu, Compass Direct News
December 24, 2011
Local Islamists and Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked a Christian community in Kaduna state on Monday (Dec. 19), killing five people and wounding six, area sources said, just nine days after a deadly attack on a Christian community in Kukum Gida in the same local government area.
The Muslim assailants, brandishing firearms and machetes, attacked Christians in Ungwan Rami village of Kaura Local Government Area at 10 p.m. in a manner consistent with other religiously motivated assaults in the state, which saw Christians killed last month as well, the sources said.
Ungwan Rami resident Kumai Yanet told Compass that local Muslims and some Muslim Fulani herdsmen first attacked Christians stationed to keep watch over the village.
“These Muslims attacked our community members who had assembled in the house of my elder brother, Zakka Yanet,” Yanet said. “A few minutes later, they attacked my house, which is near my brother’s house. None in my house was hit by a bullet, but as you can see, there are bullet holes all over my house.”
Ungwan Rami, with about 800 residents who are all Christians, has four church denominations: Roman Catholic, Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), and Cherubim and Seraphim. The five Christians killed were members of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, as are those who were injured. The wounded, including a 3-year-old girl cut with a machete, were being treated at the Bingham University Teaching Hospital in Jos, Plateau state.
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Pak: Suicide bomber kills 9 security men in Bannu
December 24, 2011,
A suicide bomber Saturday rammed his explosive-packed vehicle into a camp of paramilitary soldiers in Bannu district, killing 9 soldiers, police said. The attack also injured 17 other security personnel, several of them registered critical. The injured were transferred to military hospital in Bannu.
Most parts of the Tochi Scouts camp razed to the ground and the security personnel, witnesses said.
Residents said they heard a powerful explosion around 6 a.m. which was followed by heavy firing.
The security personnel blocked all roads to the camp in the outskirts of the Bannu city shortly after the attack.
Sources said that nearly 300 paramilitary soldiers had been living in the camp and the compound also housed several residential barracks.
Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. A Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan called journalists to claim responsibility.
Sources said the bomber drove his vehicle upto Bannu district from the nearby North Waziristan tribal region.
It is the second attack on security forces in the country’s restive northwest in two days.
Armed militants attacked a security check post near South Waziristan tribal region early Friday and killed a paramilitary soldier and injured several others.
The gunmen had also kidnapped several soldiers and a Taliban spokesman Ihsanulah Ihsan had claimed responsibility for the attack. He later threatened to kill the kidnapped security personnel.
There has been no report about the fate of the missing personnel since they had been kidnapped. Taliban militants had also snatched arms from the soldiers.
Taliban militants once again stepped up attacks after a lull of several weeks in the wake of conflicting reports that they are engaged in talks with the government.
The army and Interior Minister had denied talks but deputy chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Maulvi Faqir Muhammad had confirmed the talks and even progress.
Pakistan on cusp of a defining moment: Daily
Islamabad, December 24, 2011: Pakistan may be on the "cusp of a defining historic moment", said a daily over the tension between the army and the government.
An editorial in the Daily Times Saturday said that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's "unusually blunt remarks the other day about moves to oust his government implied that the usual cast of suspects were once again up to their tricks".
It said this candour sent alarm bells ringing throughout the country.
"The received wisdom was that the prime minister, known for his soft demeanour and reconciliatory manner, had come out swinging against the military establishment and this inevitably meant that the latter would retaliate in customary style," it added.
Despite the alarmist prognoses, it must have come as "a bit of a dampener to learn that (army chief) General (Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani had categorically refuted all such speculations, stating that the military had no intentions of staging any intervention, direct or indirect, and that it respected democracy and the mandate of the people".
It said that scepticism can hardly be blamed, "given the dark history of the country where military domination of national life has become a seemingly irreversible fact since the late 1950s".
"However, this may not be a 1958, 1969, 1977 or 1999 moment."
The daily noted that "a tectonic shift below the surface of things, albeit still embryonic and halting, appears to be emerging".
It went on to say that "...one is tempted to venture that we may be on the cusp of a defining historic moment, one in which the legacy of military domination can no longer as confidently call upon the services of one section of the political class to topple a sitting democratically elected government".
"In the civil-military relationship, badly skewed in favour of Rawalpindi in our history, is there a shift in perception and thinking?," it asked.
And responded: "Only time will tell."
Cooperation between Pakistan, India: 'Good Friday agreement a viable security route'
DECEMBER 24, 2011
The 'Good Friday Agreement' is a viable security route to co-operation between Pakistan and India which would open the way for a durable détente and provide an enabling environment for substantive regional co-operation, said a former Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI), Dr Shireen M Mazari.
In a public talk on 'The security route to co-operation: A new blueprint for Pakistan-India relations', Dr Shireen explained that in the context of Kashmir the 'Good Friday Agreement' becomes very relevant especially its three underlying principles.
One is recognition of the right of the people to choose their own future through a referendum and the binding clause for both states involved not only to accept the result of such a referendum but also to allow the people the choice of periodic referendums, seven years apart, in case they change their minds.
Second, she said, both states recognise other's special interests in the disputed entity; and third, the principle of de-weaponisation follows implementation of the agreement rather than being a precondition.
"It is time for us to revisit the Kashmir dispute in the light of the Good Friday Agreement and begin by identifying the groups who need to be made party to the negotiations as well as asking the UN to prepare a register of Kashmiris who would be eligible to take part in the plebiscite", she said.
She said that there were also blueprints of solutions on Siachin and Sir Creek which require political will, especially on the part of India, which reneged on the original Siachin Agreement of 1989.
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26/11 attacks: NIA chargesheets Headley, 8 others
AGENCIES, 24 Dec 2011,
Two years after his role in terror activities surfaced, the National Investigation Agency on Saturday chargesheeted LeT operative David Headley, Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed and two ISI officers for plotting terror attacks in India including the 26/11 strikes.
The chargesheet was filed in a special court in Patiala House here which also names 26/11 attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Headley's accomplice and Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana and al-Qaeda operative Illyas Kashmiri for waging war against the country and other relevant sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, official sources said here.
Sajid Malik, handler of Headley, and Abdul Rehman Hashmi, former Pakistani Army officer were also named in the chargesheet besides two officers Major Iqbal and Major Samir Ali, believed to be working for Pakistan's snooping agency, the sources said.
The chargesheet was filed three days after the Centre gave sanction to prosecute all the nine after being convinced of their role in planing terror strikes in India.
The NIA had registered a case against 50-year-old Pakistani-American Headley and Rana on November 12, 2009 and later on added other names after investigation by central security agencies showed a large set of people involved in terror activities against the country.
Both Headley and Rana are at present in custody of US authorities and NIA has only got a limited access to Headley, who had entered into plea bargain with US authorities to escape harsh sentence.
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Libya independence: King Idris anniversary celebrated
By Mark Lowen, BBC News,
Tripoli, 24 December 2011, For the first time in 42 years, Libya is set to celebrate the anniversary of its independence.
The united Libyan Kingdom was formed on 24 December 1951 under King Idris.
However, after Col Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969, only the date of his coup was allowed to be marked.
Celebrations are planned in Tripoli, including lunch for several thousand, spread on what organisers say could stretch to 2km (1.6 miles) of tables along Tripoli's seafront.
Many Libyans remain unaware of the significance of 24 December due to the anniversary not being celebrated under Col Gaddafi's four-decade rule.
Libya has huge challenges ahead: building a strong national government, disarming the militias that still wield power here, and promoting reconciliation.
But for today, the party will take the priority as Libyans savour this celebration.
How to control Libya’s missiles? Buy them up
TRIPOLI, Libya — The United States is discussing with the Libyan interim government the creation of a program to purchase shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missiles from militia members and others who gathered them up during the war, American government officials said.
The talks are the latest step in a multinational effort to contain the risks posed by the thousands of portable antiaircraft weapons that are unaccounted for after rebel fighters overran government weapons depots during the battle against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces. Western security officials worry that terrorists could use this particular type of missile, which is lightweight and relatively easy to fire, to menace civilian passenger planes.
Details remain unresolved, the officials said. But in essence the United States would provide money and technical support to Libya’s government, which would purchase the missiles, and either lock them up in government arsenals or destroy them.
“We think we have come to the point where we need some sort of special program,” one official familiar with the plans said.
The missiles, believed to command premium prices on the black market, are a limited threat to modern military warplanes but pose potentially grave dangers to civilian aircraft, which rarely are equipped with the electronic countermeasures that can thwart heat-seeking warheads.
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Looking eastward after the Arab Spring
Matt Baker and Nathan Gamester,
London | Tue, 11/29/2011, On Dec. 17, 2010, the single, desperate act of a 26 year-old Tunisian entrepreneur plunged a country and ultimately an entire region into chaotic and violent protests that marked the start of a revolution.
Mohamed Bouazizi, a university educated street vendor in the Sidi Bouzid region, was accosted by police who beat him and seized his goods, thereby removing his only means to livelihood. After trying to make an official complaint but finding no one interested in his case, Mr. Bouazizi, doused himself in petrol and immolated himself on the steps of a government building. This act represented the beginning of what we now know as the Arab Spring.
Today, the question facing a region living in the shadow a revolution is, “what next?” The Arab Spring took the world by surprise and it is therefore unsurprising that detailed plans for what to do next do not exist. How do new leaders begin the long work of building the democratic foundations their citizens’ demand? To whom should they look for example and inspiration? Certainly Turkey has been held up as a model for the region by some.
Indeed in September of this year, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan visited Egypt, Tunisia and Libya in an attempt to leverage Turkey’s position in the region as a source of inspiration during their period of transition. However, while Turkey, may be to some extent, a good example of effective democratic governance among Muslim-majority countries, this is not the whole story. In other areas, notably the economy and important governance indicators, the post-Arab Spring countries could look to Indonesia and Malaysia.
Of course, there can be no single model for the region after the Arab Spring. Each country’s path to prosperity is unique. However, findings from the 2011 Legatum Prosperity Index™ show that both Malaysia and Indonesia could offer a different example than the often touted Turkey.
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“Nahj-ul-Balaqa and Human Rights” Seminar held in India
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - A seminar on “Nahj-ul-Balaqa and Human Rights” was held in Aligarh University in the presence of Aliakbar Velayati, Supreme Leader’s advisor in international affairs.
The program which was also attended by Abdul Aziz, president of Aligarh University, Hojat-ol-Islam Seyyed Kalb Javad, Friday prayer leader in Lucknow and Seyyed Mahdi Nabizadeh, Iranian ambassador to India was organized in cooperation with Mawlana Azad Library of the university.
Invited by the president of the university, Mr. Velayati traveled to India to unveil a precious manuscript of Nahj-ul-Balaqa dating back to the 6th century.
He also met with Hamed Ansari, deputy of Indian president in Delhi and discussed the relations between Iran and India and recent developments and revolutions in the region.
Referring to the Islamic awareness and its consequences in the region, Velayati stressed the necessity of boosting cooperation between the two countries.
He stated that given the cultural commonalities of Iran and India, the two countries can play important roles in establishment of peace, security and development of the countries of the region.
The deputy of India’s president, for his part, urged for promotion of regional peace and stability and regarded acceptance of the Indian invitation by the Iranian representative as a positive step for the development of cultural cooperation between the two countries.
US peace deal with Taliban breaks down
WASHINGTON Dec 24, 2011: The Obama administration, as part of an accelerated push toward anendgame in Afghanistan, last month reached a tentative accord with Taliban negotiators that would have included the transfer of five Afghans from U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Taliban's public renunciation of international terrorism.
The deal called for the prisoners to be sent to house arrest in Qatar, where the Taliban planned to open an office, and additional actions by both sides, according to U.S. and European officials who would discuss the sensitive negotiations only on the condition of anonymity.
Until now, no Guantanamo detainees have left the prison as bargaining chips in a larger deal.
It was the closest that the parties have come to genuine peace negotiations after nearly a year of talks, officials said. They said the agreement ultimately collapsed after Afghan President Hamid Karzai balked at its terms. “Right now, things have stopped,“ said a senior Obama administration official. “Everybody is taking a deep breath.“ Contacts with the Taliban are expected to be reestablished early in the new year.
The negotiations reflect a marked change over the past year in what the administration believes is both acceptable and achievable in Afghanistan, apart from the core objective of eliminating al-Qaeda and the possibility that it could reestablish an Afghan presence.
Disappointment in the governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, economic and political pressures at home, and sheer fatigue with the decade-long effort have led to lowered expectations as the United States and its allies head toward the scheduled withdrawal of all foreign troops by the end of 2014.
The need to fashion a comprehensive, realistic exit strategy was also underlined in a newly completed National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan, a classified assessment produced by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Pakistani army rejects US report on airstrikes
By KATHY GANNON and SEBASTIAN ABBOT 2011-12-23
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan -- The Pakistani army on Friday rejected key findings from a U.S. investigation into American airstrikes last month that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and said the report was unlikely to repair the severely damaged relationship between the two countries.The investigation - details of which were released Thursday - concluded that mistakes on both sides led to last month's deadly attack along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan has maintained its troops did nothing wrong and the attack was a deliberate act of aggression.Pakistan refused to participate in the investigation, claiming past U.S. probes into border incidents were biased. It also retaliated against the attack by closing its border to NATO supplies meant for troops in Afghanistan and kicking the U.S. out of a base used to operate American drones. Pakistan's response, while not surprising, is likely to worry Washington since the country's support is critical for the Afghan war. Pakistan not only provides a key route for supplies, but is important for peace negotiations with the Taliban.Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas rejected the report's claim that Pakistani troops fired at American and Afghan forces first, triggering the incident. For Full Report:
Why Obama should apologise to Pakistan
December 24, 2011
C. CHRISTINE FAIR
In the wee hours of November 27, US-Nato and Afghan forces based in Afghanistan’s Kunar province engaged a Pakistani military outpost in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Momand. Little information is publically available — or likely to be — about what happened or how. What is clear is that after several Nato airstrikes, 24 Pakistani soldiers were dead and many more injured. The episode, and the US response, battered the ever-strained US-Pakistan relationship. Pakistan immediately cut off ground routes for logistical support of the US-led war in Afghanistan, and insisted that the United States vacate Shamsi, one of the airfields from which the US launched drone attacks.
In quick succession, Pakistan convened a parliamentary commission to determine whether and how Pakistan will remain engaged with the United States. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled all of its ambassadors to hold a high-level strategic discussion about how Pakistan should refashion its relations with the United States. Their recommendations will be considered by the same parliamentary commission. Pakistanis, whether civilian or military, whether in the government or on the street, want out of this relationship and deeply believe that Americans do not value Pakistani lives. They may not be wrong.
Pakistani military officials quickly denounced the attack as deliberate, unprovoked US aggression and demanded both an immediate apology and a renegotiation of military and intelligence cooperation. That Pakistani officials made such pronouncements in the complete absence of information about the attack cast aspersions on their motives. The move appeared to be another effort to wriggle free fromWashington’s poisonous embrace, abandon military operations against anti-Pakistan militants, and pursue an independent Afghan policy.
While rejecting the Pakistani military’s account, Nato and US officials declined to officially speculate about the details of the event — much less offer an apology — until a full investigation was complete. The investigation is now complete. The report has been issued, and the Pentagon released a statement on Thursday saying only that “US forces, given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self defence and with appropriate force after being fired upon.” There was, the statement said, “no intentional effort to target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani military, or to deliberately provide inaccurate location information to Pakistani officials.” Instead, “inadequate coordination by US and Pakistani military officers... resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units.” The statement expressed regret, but neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued a forthright apology. Unfortunately, neither is likely to do so given the toxic atmosphere in Washington and the looming presidential campaign.
Full Report at:
US embassy connects Pakistani, US entrepreneurs
ISLAMABAD, Dec 23 (APP): The U.S. Embassy brought business people together on Friday at a roundtable discussion with local entrepreneurs and business students featuring two prominent Pakistani-American businessmen.The “Building Bridges Through Business” forum promoted ideas to increase Pakistan’s economic development and move the US-Pakistani relationship from aid to trade.The entrepreneurship, with its focus on boosting job creation, is an effective way to improve economic growth and business connections between Pakistanis and Americans, said the US Embassy in a press release issued here.
U.S. Embassy Mission Director of Communications Thomas Miller, speaking on the occasion, noted that the US promoted trade to help Pakistan meet its economic and social development needs.
Prominent Pakistani-American businessmen Awais Khan and Shahid Ahmed Khan shared their insights with local Pakistani entrepreneurs.
Awais Khan, President and CEO of the American Pakistan Foundation (AFP), discussed his organization’s programmes that aimed at increasing economic opportunities in Pakistan.
Shahid Ahmed Khan, a social entrepreneur and pharmaceutical consultant, said that increased economic opportunities could mobilize groups for positive social and political change in Pakistan.
Currently, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supports several projects helping Pakistanis meet their economic needs.
Working with the Pakistan Economic Growth forum, the USAID supported business entrepreneurs, promoting policy reform and strived to improve the business environment.
VULNERABLE AGAIN? Iraq Christians fearful post-US troop pullout
IRAQ'S CHRISTIANS, markedly fewer in number following attacks on their minority community, are increasingly fearful in the face of a rise in sectarian tensions after the withdrawal of US troops. Estimated to number more than one million before the US-led invasion of 2003, living primarily in Baghdad, the main northern city of Mosul, and the disputed oil hub of Kirkuk, some two-thirds of the population are estimated to have fled since, with more continuing to leave the violence-wracked country. -AFP
Iran, Qaeda liable for 9/11: NY judge
New York 23 12 11: A federal judge has signed a default judgment finding Iran, the Taliban and Al Qaeda liable in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Judge George Daniels in Manhattan signed the judgment on Thursday, a week after hearing testimony in the 10-year-old case.
The signed ruling, which he promised last week, came in a $100 billion lawsuit brought by family members of victims of the attacks.
He directed a magistrate judge to preside over remaining issues, including fixing compensatory and punitive damages.
Daniels signed findings of fact saying the plaintiffs had established that the 2001 attacks were caused by the support the defendants provided to Al Qaeda. The findings also said Iran continues to provide material support and resources to Al Qaeda by providing a safe haven for Al Qaeda leadership.
Former members of the September 11 Commission and three Iranian defectors also spoke.
Egyptians rally against army after woman beaten
CAIRO, Dec 23, 2011: Thousands of Egyptians rallied in Cairo and other cities on Friday to demand the military give up power and vent their anger after 17 people were killed in protests where troops beat and clubbed women and men even as they lay on the ground.
One image in particular from the five days of clashes that ended this week has stoked their fury: that of soldiers dragging a woman lying on the street so that her bra and torso were exposed, while clubbing and stamping on her.
"Anyone who saw her and saw her pain would come to Tahrir," Omar Adel, 27, said in Cairo's Tahrir Square. "Those who did this should be tried. We can't bear this humiliation and abuse."
Some protesters have been demanding the army bring forward a presidential vote to as early as Jan. 25, the first anniversary of the start of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, or at least much earlier than the mid-2012 handover now scheduled.
But other Egyptians fret that 10 months after Mubarak's downfall Egypt remains in disarray. They want protests to stop so order can be restored and the economy revitalised, voicing such views in a smaller protest in another part of Cairo.
The Muslim Brotherhood's party, leading in a staggered parliamentary election that runs to January and is Egypt's first free vote in six decades, said it would not join Friday's rally.
It also supports the army's schedule and says the process must be decided by balloting, not street pressure.
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Iran navy starts 10-day war-game in Strait of Hormuz
Tehran, December 24, 2011 Iran began 10 days of naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, raising concern about a possible closure of the world's most strategic oil transit channel in the event of any outbreak of military conflict between Tehran and the West.
The military drill, dubbed "Velayat-e 90", comes as the tension between the West and Iran is escalating over the Islamic state's nuclear programme.
Some analysts and diplomats believe the Islamic Republic could try to block the strait in the event of any war with the West over suspicions it is seeking atom bombs. Iran's arch-foes Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action if diplomacy and sanctions fail to rein in Iran's nuclear work.
Iran says it wants nuclear energy only for peaceful ends.
"The enforcement of the decision to close of the Strait of Hormuz is certainly within Iran's armed forces' capability, but such a decision should be made by the country's top authorities," Iranian Navy commander Habibollah Sayyari was quoted as saying by the semi-official ILNA labour news agency.
Iran has said in the past that it would respond to any attack by targeting U.S. interests in the region and Israel, as well as closing the strait, the only access channel for eight U.S.-aligned, Gulf Arab states to foreign markets.
Iranian authorities have given no indication the strait will be closed during the exercise, and it has not been shut during previous drills.
"Displaying Iran's defensive and deterrent power as well as relaying a message of peace and friendship in the Strait of Hormuz and the free waters are the main objectives of the drill," Sayyari said.
"It will also display the country's power to control the region as well as testing new missiles, torpedoes and weapons."
"Velayat" is a Persian word for "supremacy" and it is currently used as a title of deference for the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The United States, Britain and Canada announced new measures against Iran's energy and financial sectors last month and the European Union is considering a ban - already in place in the United States - on imports of Iranian oil.