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Islamic World News ( 20 Oct 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Parties Have Told the Supreme Court That Its Verdict Should Reflect the Country’s Constitutional and Its Multi-Religious and Multi-Cultural Values







Indi’s Ministers Follow Hate Accounts That Made Call to Boycott Muslims a Top Twitter Trend

With Pan-Islamism and Quid Pro Quo Agenda in Mind, Turkey has Become One of Pakistan’s Strongest Allies

'Mentally Vulnerable' Youths Susceptible To Extremism, Says Bangladesh Counter-Terrorism Chief

Israeli Plan of Judaizing Al-Quds Won’t Materialize: Hamas

IMF Asks Pakistan to Carry Out Long-Delayed Structural Reforms and Strengthening Of Institutions through Legal Framework to Help Economy Be Competitive

Muslim NGOs Condemn Storming Of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Jewish Settlers

 

India

Muslim Parties Have Told the Supreme Court That Its Verdict Should Reflect the Country’s Constitutional and Its Multi-Religious and Multi-Cultural Values

Indi’s Ministers Follow Hate Accounts That Made Call to Boycott Muslims a Top Twitter Trend

6-10 Pakistani soldiers killed, terror infra hit severely: Army Chief on operation in PoK

‘Manmohan to attend Kartarpur opening as common pilgrim’

Iqbal poem row: HM suspension revoked, transfer to new school

Pact still not inked, Indian pilgrim registration for Kartarpur Corridor stalled

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Pakistan

With Pan-Islamism and Quid Pro Quo Agenda in Mind, Turkey has Become One of Pakistan’s Strongest Allies

Pak claims killing 9 Indian soldiers, says it lost one jawan and 6 civilians

Imran Khan says 'it was important for William to know how much Diana was loved in this country' as he celebrates Kate and Wills' trip to Pakistan

Country on verge of bankruptcy due to govt’s flawed policies: MPA

Stronger institutions will lead to civilian supremacy: moot

Fazl calls off talks with govt after other parties’ objection

Sindh govt’s performance in implementing human rights legislation questioned

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South Asia

'Mentally Vulnerable' Youths Susceptible To Extremism, Says Bangladesh Counter-Terrorism Chief

Bangladesh Police Say Violence over Facebook Post Killed Four

US House speaker Pelosi makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

Bangladesh to relocate Rohingya to flood-prone island in November

Postponement of presidential vote results ‘alarming and suspicious’: TEFA

Pakistani couple arrested in the restive Kunduz province of Afghanistan

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Mideast

Israeli Plan of Judaizing Al-Quds Won’t Materialize: Hamas

Erdogan says Turkey expects US to keep promises, not stall Syria truce deal

Israel will get US aid only if it ceases settlement constructions, Warren suggests

Hamas denounces Israel's participation in Bahrain security meeting

Iran rejects Turkey’s establishing of military posts in Syria

Yemeni Army regains control of Tal Al-Khadr in Taiz

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North America

IMF Asks Pakistan to Carry Out Long-Delayed Structural Reforms and Strengthening Of Institutions through Legal Framework to Help Economy Be Competitive

Esper in Afghanistan to discuss ‘next steps’ as Trump's plans fall apart

Israel Will Get US Aid Only If It Ceases Settlement Constructions, Warren Suggests

US completes troop withdrawal from Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Raqqa: Report

Trump attacks Pelosi amid her Jordan visit over Syria situation

US defense chief in Afghanistan to assess the way ahead

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Southeast Asia

Muslim NGOs Condemn Storming Of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Jewish Settlers

Mujahid: We want to build this country together

PM: Not Malaysia’s job to promote China’s geopolitics

Indonesia’s Jokowi kicks off new term at heavily guarded ceremony

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Arab World

Lebanese Protesters Issue Statement, Say Halting Protests Is ‘Up To the People’

60 Saudis Receive Conflict Management Training To Contribute In Yemen’s Development

Kurdish-led fighters fully withdraw from Syria’s Ras al-Ain

Geagea: Protests against Nasrallah prove he ‘is misreading the street’

Russia urges solution to protection of Syria prisons holding ISIS militants

Lebanon’s cabinet to meet in Baabda presidential palace: State media

US completes troop withdrawal from Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Raqqa: Report

Firebrand cleric green-lights fresh protests in Iraq

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Europe

British Special Forces In Syria Beat A Hasty Retreat Following The US Withdrawal

EU sees ‘chance for ceasefire’ in Afghanistan despite spike in violence

Let militants return home, French anti-terror magistrate urges

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Africa

Sudan Names Commission To Investigate Killings At Sit-In

S. Sudan rebel leader seeks further delay to unity government

US House Speaker Pelosi holds talks in Jordan with King Abdullah

Tunisia says extremist leader killed in anti-terror raid

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/muslim-parties-have-told-the-supreme-court-that-its-verdict-should-reflect-the-country’s-constitutional-and-its-multi-religious-and-multi-cultural-values/d/120052

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Muslim Parties Have Told the Supreme Court That Its Verdict Should Reflect the Country’s Constitutional and Its Multi-Religious and Multi-Cultural Values

Oct 21, 2019

Maintaining that its verdict will have consequences for India’s polity, Muslim parties to the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute have told the Supreme Court that its verdict should reflect the country’s constitutional values and uphold its multi-religious and multi-cultural values.

In their written submission filed in the top court, they said, “When moulding the relief, this court must also consider how future generations will view this verdict.”

“Since the judgment of this court will have far-reaching implications, it is for the court to consider the consequences of its historic judgment by moulding the relief in a fashion that will reflect the constitutional values that this great nation espouses.

“We hope that the court, in moulding the relief, upholds our multi-religious and multicultural values in resolving the issues confronting it. Moulding the relief is the responsibility of this court, which itself is the sentinel of our Constitution,” they said in their written submission filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool.

The Muslim parties — who have sought restoration of pre-demolition position, said, “The decision by this court, whichever way it goes, will impact future generations. It will also have consequences for the polity of this country. This court’s decision may impact the minds of millions who are citizens of this country and who believe in constitutional values embraced by all when India was declared a republic on January 26, 1950.”

Ram Lalla, who is one of the litigant in the party has claimed title of both the disputed and the acquired land at Ayodhya to the exclusion of all other parties.

“The small area which is the subject matter of the suit is one integral unit and is indivisible. The convenience of worshippers and devotees necessitates the entire disputed area to offer worship at Ram Janmasthan and the acquired area. Moreover, no situation should be created to give rise to perennial law and order problems,” Ram Lalla stated in His written submission filed in the court on Friday.

The written submissions have been filed in terms of the order of a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi which had — while reserving its verdict on October 16 — given then three days to spell out their respective stand on “moulding of relief”.

The Bench — which also included Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Abdul Nazeer — is to adjudicate on 14 cross-appeals against the Allahabad High Court’s September 30, 2010 judgment equally dividing the 2.77 acre disputed land between Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and Muslims.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/verdict-must-reflect-constitutional-values-say-muslim-parties/849917.html

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Indi’s Ministers Follow Hate Accounts That Made Call to Boycott Muslims a Top Twitter Trend

Naomi Barton

New Delhi: On Sunday evening, the hashtag #मुस्लिमो_का_संपूर्ण_बहिष्कार (‘Total Boycott of Muslims’) started trending on Twitter, with a large number of right-wing accounts tweeting it en masse.

The individuals using the hashtag advocated a range of discriminatory actions against Muslims.

These ranged from boycotting the buying of goods and services

(((Fearless Hindu)))

@_Hinduism_

Boycott and stop buying any goods and services from these converted 🇮🇳🇮🇳

#मुस्लिमो_का_संपूर्ण_बहिष्कार

685

7:53 PM - Oct 20, 2019

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to advocating a ban on places of religious teaching:

भव्य भारत

@Sanatan_Shasan

मदरेसों के बंद कमरों मैं ऐसी ही नफ़रत पनपती है। So much of hatred from so early in life!!! By the time he will reach to adulthood, he will be an exemplary bigot spreading filth of hatred.

There should be nationwide ban of Madrasas. #मुस्लिमो_का_संपूर्ण_बहिष्कार #KamleshTiwari

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8:48 PM - Oct 20, 2019

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Regrettably, the fact of bigoted hashtags reaching a nationwide Twitter trend is not an unusual occurrence – on October 18, the hashtags ‘#ProphetisGay’ and the translation, ‘#पै_GAY_म्बर trended, managing to be both homophobic and Islamophobic in one fell swoop, while on October the 19, the hashtag ‘#BoycottAllah’ was trending, with about 20,000 tweets.

Gaurav Singh

@sinh05

I cancelled my Zomato order because the delivery boy was a Mulla. Every time starting from today #BycottAllah. Retweet if you agree.

4,284

7:46 PM - Oct 19, 2019

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However, Sunday’s trend clearly advocates active discrimination against a group of people on the basis of religion and falls under the category of promoting enmity and hatred against a community – something that is illegal under Indian law, with section 153A of the IPC stating that:

Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.—

(1) Whoever—

(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities… shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

Given section 153A, the people using this hashtag can be held accountable for their speech if the authorities choose to take cognizance of it – something that the police is generally keen to do on matters concerning ostensible sedition, ‘anti-national’ behaviour and so forth.

However, till the time of publication, The Wire was not aware of any police department or ministry objecting to the promotion of religious enmity on Twitter and taking action, either against the individual handles or even Twitter, as an intermediary under the Information Technology Act. A recent report found the Indian government’s demands for takedowns from Twitter had propelled the country to fourth on the list of most censorious states.

It is possible the police is reluctant to act against the individuals currently promoting this hashtag with the intent of malice against Muslims since many of them are followed by prominent politicians – including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and various cabinet ministers.

The handle ‘@GovindHindu’ for example uses the hashtag to show an inflammatory picture. He is currently followed by four members of the BJP – the Prime Minister included.

The handle ‘ExSecular’ put out a tweet in a similar vein, though without the hashtag, using a photoshopped image of actor Swara Bhasker to imply that she was calling for the hanging of the people accused of Kamalesh Tiwari’s murder.

She is also followed by Modi, along with Kapil Mishra and the office of commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal.

While these two accounts were followed by a range of ministers, the Office of Piyush Goyal happens to have been following a significant amount more, including handles below. This is, however, not an unusual occurrence either – the ‘Office of Piyush Goyal’ Twitter handle was in hot water before for following inappropriate accounts, most recently the instigator of the Zomato fiasco.

#MaiBhiKamlesh

@AnuragM_Tweets

We can't live with terrorists, as simple as that. Let us live peacefully, we have given you 2 countries. Leave Hindus alone.#मुस्लिमो_का_संपूर्ण_बहिष्कार

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6:27 PM - Oct 20, 2019

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Raja babu 🚩

@RajaBabuLeaks

This is how peacefully community  teach their kids about ganga jamuni tehjeeb #मुस्लिमो_का_संपूर्ण_बहिष्कार

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2:28 PM - Oct 20, 2019

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The same video was also circulated by the journalist Abhijit Majumder (who is a verified account on Twitter), in a sardonic thread about how Muslim children are being radicalized.

Abhijit Majumder

@abhijitmajumder

Of all the Islamist murders, the murder of childhood is perhaps the most brutal and tragic. A short thread of child #jihad videos, starting with the most recent one.#MuhammadForAll

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10:15 PM - Oct 20, 2019

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However, he sarcastically used the hashtag #MuhammadForAll – which had come up in response to the hate-filled hashtag that had filled the evening and which began an hour after the original hashtag emerged.

In a positive turn of events, at the time of writing, the hashtag celebrating the religion had 42,000 tweets – over 14,000 times more than the hate-filled one vilifying it.

https://thewire.in/communalism/ministers-hate-accounts-twitter-follow-boycott-muslims

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With Pan-Islamism and Quid Pro Quo Agenda in Mind, Turkey has Become One of Pakistan’s Strongest Allies

Uday Singh Rana

October 21, 2019

New Delhi: Somewhere in Pakistan, a Turkish couple sat in a café. The woman spoke on a mobile phone, her phone cover painted in the red and white hues of the Turkish flag. Behind her on the wall hung a picture of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The man asked the waiter for the bill. The waiter went up to the manager and told him, in Urdu, that the couple who had just asked for the bill is from Turkey. The manager quietly handed him a note, which the waiter then handed over to the couple. “Our treat to Turkey,” the note read. The confused couple looked up at the Pakistani waiter who then smiled and said, “Paisay Erdogan sahib nay day diye (Mr. Erdogan has settled your bill).”

This scene was a part of a Turkish TV ad in 2017, a year before Turkey went to polls. The ad also comprised of scenes from different parts of the Islamic world to emphasise to Turks how they had come to be admired by Muslims from all over the world ever since Recep Tayyip Erdogan became their leader. As Turkey’s negotiations to become part of the European Union hit a brick wall, Erdogan has turned his attention to the Islamic world. In these efforts, Pakistan emerged as a major strategic partner. With a clear wish to be a leader for all Muslims, Erdogan found in Imran Khan an ally. It is in this context that Erdogan said "eight million people are under siege" in the Kashmir Valley, which prompted India to cancel Prime Minister Narendra Modi's scheduled trip to Ankara and call off a $ 2.3 billion defense deal.

“It’s a relationship based on historical ties as well as mutual understanding on practical concerns,” said Qamar Cheema, a Pakistan-based geopolitical strategist. “Erdogan certainly sees himself as the ‘Big Brother’ of the Islamic world. He has spoken out on several instances in which Muslims have been oppressed. He spoke on Rohingyas, Palestine, and even Kashmir,” he added.

In fact, Cheema said, Turkey is Pakistan’s strongest ally in addition to China. “It is a strategic alliance between the two countries. Pakistan’s relationship with Turkey is second only to the one we share with China.”

“Pan-Islamism is the binding factor of this new Turkey-Pakistan relationship,” former Indian Diplomat Vishnu Prakash said. “Erdogan has painted himself as a kind of moderate Islamist leader who has clipped the wings of secularists in Turkey. His is a left-of-center moderate Islamist ideology. He has dreams of being a global Islamic leader now that his dreams of being part of the EU are dashed and Turkey’s honeymoon with the West is over.”

There is also a strategic, practical quid pro quo aspect to this relationship. When Pakistan’s fate hung in the balance at the Financial Task Force (FATF) this Friday, a crucial vote from Turkey neutralized Indian and American efforts to have it blacklisted. On the other hand, Pakistan was among the first countries in the world to say Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria against the Kurdish forces was a matter of “national security”.

“Turkey has legitimate security concerns (with the Kurds). Security threats will not be acceptable to any country,” Cheema said. He added, “Turkey has been a steadfast friend to Pakistan, they have even supported our position on Kashmir.”

The recent warmth and bonhomie between Khan and Erdogan, however, is not without historical context. One school of thought in Pakistan views the country’s Islamic identity as significant to its relation with the Arab world while another sees closer ties to Turkey as the answer.

“Pakistanis feel this relationship really started taking shape during the Khilafat movement of 1919. The relationship between Pakistan and Turkey has been an anti-imperialist one. Many Pakistanis feel that the Ottomans, and later the modern state of Turkey, has supported the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent more than the Arabs have. Besides, after 1947 the common denominator between Pakistan and Turkey was democracy,” Cheema added.

Imran Khan is only the latest in a long line of Pakistani leaders who have expressed their admiration for the iconic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former military dictator, positioned himself as “Pakistan’s Ataturk” – the “great modernizer”. At one point, there were even rumors that Musharraf may follow in Ataturk’s footsteps and declare his country a secular state. But the Pakistani fascination with Ataturk dates back even further.

According to Cheema, Pakistanis see Ataturk and Muhammad Ali Jinnah as reflections of each other. “Both (Jinnah and Ataturk) were progressive and democratic leaders. They were seen as true “Muslim Democrats”. In fact, the relationship between the two has never been strained.”

However, according to Prakash, there is one very crucial distinction between Jinnah and Ataturk. “Ataturk was a modernist. He aggressively neutralised Islamists in Turkey, which is something Jinnah never did in Pakistan. In fact, you could say Ataturk was closer in that sense to [Jawaharlal] Nehru than he was to Jinnah,” Prakash said.

The next phase of the Pakistan-Turkey relationship was kicked off under former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Now, under the current PM Imran Khan it has only strengthened. “The PML(N) government got many projects that started in collaboration with Turkey, including the Metro Bus project and renewable energy work. There has also been cooperation in the defence and tourism sector. Turkey has become one of the top destinations now for Pakistani tourists,” Cheema said, adding, “Imran Khan is hailed as an effective leader by the Turks and that is reflected in the relationship. You saw that recently when Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia proposed a TV channel to combat Islamophobia in western media.”

Prakash said, “Both nations even have strong military-to-military relations. There may be a certain level of admiration driving this relationship. Ataturk enshrined the role of the military clearly in the Turkish constitution. This is a model that Pakistan has wanted to emulate for a long time.”

https://www.news18.com/news/world/with-pan-islamism-and-quid-pro-quo-agenda-in-mind-turkey-has-become-one-of-pakistans-strongest-allies-2354285.html

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'Mentally Vulnerable' Youths Susceptible To Extremism, Says Bangladesh Counter-Terrorism Chief

19 Oct 2019

He made the remarks at the launch of a project titled ‘Dhaka Peace Talk’, co-funded by USAID, at the DMP’s media centre in Dhaka on Saturday.

The top anti-terror official also pointed out a significant increase in terrorist activities all over the world while vowing to eliminate the problem in Bangladesh. 

While the threat of terror attacks is lower in Bangladesh than other parts of the world, Monirul nevertheless warned against ruling out the danger.

Many youngsters in Bangladesh have left their homes to join militant groups after the Holey Artisan attack in 2016.

Since then, several terror attacks targeting police have been reported in Dhaka amid the crackdown on extremism.

“Extremism still exits and it is a big problem for us,” Monirul said.

Youths, mostly between 15-30 years of age, are reeled in by militants through extremist propaganda on social media, he added.

https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2019/10/19/mentally-vulnerable-youths-susceptible-to-extremism-says-counter-terrorism-chief

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Israeli plan of Judaizing al-Quds won’t materialize: Hamas

Oct 20, 2019

A senior leader of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement says the Israeli regime’s Judaization plans in Jerusalem al-Quds will never succeed.

“I am fully responsible for what I say — the plans to divide the Aqsa Mosque will fail, and we will never allow the occupation to implement its plots and change the character of Jerusalem even if we sacrifice ourselves,” said Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, as quoted by the Palestine Information Center on Sunday.

The top Hamas official, whose remarks were televised by the al-Aqsa satellite channel on Saturday, also emphasized the necessity for a wise and courageous national plan to confront Israeli practices in Jerusalem al-Quds, which he described as the core of the conflict with the occupying regime.

“Despite all the challenges, we are heading toward victory,” Haniyeh further said, saluting all the Palestinians in the city for standing in the face of the Israeli occupation.

Palestinians want the occupied West Bank as part of their future independent state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of their future sovereign state.

In December 2017, US President Donald Trump recognized the whole Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel. The US president also moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli-occupied city in May 2018, triggering waves of protest rallies in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip, where the Hamas is based.

Palestinians have held weekly rallies to protest the siege on Gaza and demand the right of the refugees who were forced to leave during the 1948 creation of the Israeli regime to return to their homes.

More than 310 Palestinians have so far been killed by Israeli forces ever since anti-occupation protest rallies began in Gaza on March 30, 2018. Over 16,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.

Gaza has been under the Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/20/609160/Palestine-Israel-Judaization-Jerusalem-alQuds-Haniyeh

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IMF Asks Pakistan to Carry Out Long-Delayed Structural Reforms and Strengthening Of Institutions through Legal Framework to Help Economy Be Competitive

Khaleeq Kiani

October 21, 2019

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has asked Pakistan to address its longstanding issues through structural reforms and strengthening of institutions through legal framework to help economy be competitive.

The government was also advised to strengthen cooperation at the federal and provincial levels for greater fiscal and economic calibration, said IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Region Director Jihad Azour responding to a Dawn question at a news conference.

An important track for the country was “the structural reforms that will allow Pakistan economy to be more competitive by addressing some of the longstanding issues related to the weaknesses”, he said.

Mr Azour did not directly respond to a question on the timing of the bond launch. He was asked if in his view the current zero-interest rate environment in the capital markets provided an opportunity to Pakistan to go for $3 billion to $4bn bonds, both Islamic and Eurobond.

He said Pakistan should “address some of the legacies of the past like, for example, in the energy sector and also strengthen institutions providing the right legal framework for the Central Bank for the power sector as well as other entities”.

Mr Azour said the reform agenda currently in place in Pakistan, supported by the IMF programme, was the right recipe for the country to improve macroeconomic stability, address some of the imbalances that the country saw in the past few years, allow the economy to be more competitive, and improve its creditworthiness.

He said an IMF mission would go to Islamabad by the end of the month for the first review. “So far, the progress that has been achieved goes in the right direction. It’s too early to give a full assessment. We need to wait for the mission to go there and do due diligence work on the ground,” he remarked.

“We have now a couple of months — three months almost since the beginning of the programme — it looks like things are moving in the right direction.”

The IMF director said the reform journey under this programme had two important tracks. “One is Macro-stabilisation for which there are a number of steps taken by the central bank on financial and monetary side and also by finance ministry on the fiscal side. The other and more important is the Structural Reforms to allow economy to be more competitive.”

Mr Azour said this reform agenda was important for Pakistan as this would help accelerate growth and provide the right framework for the private sector to operate.

Meanwhile, a Pakistani delegation led by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh and State Bank Governor Dr Reza Baqir told investors and creditors that Pakistan reform agenda was bearing fruits.

Dr Sheikh told US-Pakistan Business Council that Pakistan’s economy was on the right path to stabilisation and the US businesses should benefit from investment opportunities available in the country.

While talking to US-Pakistan Business Council (USPBC) members at a luncheon roundtable, the finance adviser highlighted Pakistan government’s focus on improving the ease-of-doing-business and encouraged the US companies to expand their footprint in Pakistan.

The roundtable was attended by senior executives of the USPBC member-companies including S&P Global, PepsiCo, Motorola Solutions Inc, Citi, Google, ExxonMobil and others.

AIIB offers to increase funding Later, the finance adviser along with other members of the Pakistani delegation met Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) President Jin Liqun. They discussed the AIIB portfolio in Pakistan and potential areas of project financing by the bank.

Supporting Pakistan’s development agenda, the AIIB president said the AIIB was ready to increase funding for the country’s priority development sectors. He said investment in infrastructure projects had a long-term positive impact on growth. Dr Shaikh then invited the AIIB president to visit Pakistan that the latter accepted.

Dr Shaikh and his team also met Islamic Development Bank (IDB) President Dr Bandar M.H. Hajjar and briefed him on the country’s economic situation. For providing IDB’s technical and financial support to Pakistan, the finance adviser thanked Dr Hajjar who informed him that Pakistan had been identified as one of the first countries to be supported by the bank for strengthening market competitiveness in its core sectors. For this purpose, an IDB mission is likely to visit Pakistan soon.

Meanwhile, a delegation of International Finance Corporation, a sister organisation of the World Bank and member of World Bank Group as well as the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in developing countries, met the finance adviser and his team.

IFC vice president Nena Stoiljkovic and her delegation briefed Dr Shaikh about IFC’s projects in Pakistan, particularly in the wind and solar sectors, and expressed interest in providing advisory services to the country for structuring public-private partnership transactions.

The Pakistan delegation also attended the annual plenary of the IMF and World Bank Group, which was addressed by WB President David Malpass and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1512051/imf-asks-govt-to-carry-out-long-delayed-structural-reforms

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India

 

6-10 Pakistani soldiers killed, terror infra hit severely: Army Chief on operation in PoK

by Krishn Kaushik, Adil Akhzer, Shubhajit Roy

October 21, 2019

In the first significant escalation of hostilities on the Line of Control since the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army targeted several terrorist launchpads in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. India said it was in retaliation to “unprovoked” firing by Pakistan, leaving two Indian soldiers and a civilian dead in border Kupwara district.

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said the Indian side had “caused severe damage to terrorists’ infrastructure across… Six-10 Pakistani soldiers have been killed, three camps have been destroyed”. He added that they had information that terrorists had arrived at camps in the forward areas and said that, in the last one month, with Diwali approaching, repeated infiltration attempts had been made.

Pakistan summoned Indian Acting High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia in Islamabad and lodged an official protest. Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor accused India of unprovoked ceasefire violations “in Jura, Shahkot & Nousehri Sectors deliberately targeting civilians”, and tweeted, “9 Indian soldiers killed several injured. 2 Indian bunkers destroyed.” The Indian side denied this.

The Indian Army had last targeted terrorist launch pads in February this year, after the deadly Pulwama attack, hitting a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan. Earlier, in September 2016, the Army had carried out surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the LoC. Unlike that time, Saturday night’s attacks on terrorist launch pads were conducted from within Indian territory.

The Indian Army accused Pakistan of ceasefire violation in the Tangdhar Sector at multiple places, starting around 11 pm on Saturday and continuing till the wee hours of Sunday, and said Pakistani troops were trying to give covering fire to militants trying to infiltrate. “As a result calibrated escalation of area weapons was undertaken by the Indian side in which terrorist launch pads, Pakistan Army Posts giving incidental protection to these launch pads and certain gun positions were hit… The Indian Army retains the right to respond at a time and place of its choosing in case Pakistan Army continues to assist terrorist activities.”

A Defence spokesperson said that in the Pakistani firing, two soldiers were killed, apart from the death of a civilian and injuries to three. The dead were identified as Armymen Padam Bahadur and Gamil Kumar, and Mohammad Sadiq, 55, a resident of Tangdhar. Pakistani Rangers also resorted to small arms fire and mortar shelling along the international border in Jammu’s Hiranagar Sector in Kathua district on Saturday. While one hut was damaged, the family escaped by hiding in a bunker.

DG ISPR

@OfficialDGISPR

Indian COAS’ statement claiming destruction of 3 alleged camps in AJK is disappointing as he holds a very responsible appointment. There are no camps let alone targeting those. Indian Embassy in Pakistan is welcome to take any foreign diplomat / media to ‘prove’ it on ground.1/2.

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Talking to reporters on the sidelines of an event in Delhi, General Rawat said, “An attempt was made in Tangdhar to infiltrate terrorists. We retaliated. Pakistan carried out an attack, firing at our post… It was decided that we target terror camps across (the Line of Control). We had the coordinates of these camps… Ever since the abrogation of special provisions (for Jammu and Kashmir), we are getting repeated inputs about infiltration by terrorists… So far, as per the information available with us, six-10 Pakistani soldiers have been killed and nearly as many terrorists… Three terror camps have been destroyed and on the fourth one also, we have caused severe damage.”

The Army Chief gave the location of the destroyed terror camps as Athmuqam, Kundal Shahi and Jura, and said the Army had information about damage to a camp in Leepa Valley too. “People who were supporting them, also the Pakistani posts, bore the brunt of our retaliatory action,” he said. The General claimed there was a kind of “radio silence” on the other side and “we are not even able to pick up any mobile communication… which implies that there have been casualties, damage, which the Pakistan Army does not want to highlight… as the world will know that no action had been taken (by them) to curtail acts of terrorism… But, definitely, as and when we get it, we will provide you with more evidence.”

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was briefed about the retaliatory action, the Army Chief said. Adding that they are “regularly” in touch on the issue, he said, “The political leadership and the military are working in close coordination… The political leadership is fully backing us on countering terror and no restriction has been put.”

Warning that if Pakistan persisted with such activities, the Army would not hesitate to retaliate, General Rawat said the neighbouring country was trying to stir trouble after the abrogation of Article 370. “Gradually, things are returning to normal in the Valley, but obviously somebody is working behind the scenes, at the behest of terrorists and agencies, some within and some outside Pakistan and PoK, to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere… Three days ago, we foiled an infiltration bid in the Machil Sector and recovered a rucksack and other equipment.”

A senior police officer in Tangdhar told The Indian Express that several houses were damaged in the Pakistani firing. Officials said the area had seen such heavy shelling after a long time.

Kupwara Deputy Commissioner Kupwara Anshul Garg told The Indian Express that eight other people also received injuries, including some Armymen, and over a dozen livestock were killed. A civilian told The Indian Express over the phone from Tangdhar, “There is complete panic among people here.”

Pakistan claimed that the Indian firing had resulted in death of five of its civilians. In a tweet, Major General Ghafoor said, “Indian Army raising white flag. This they should think before initiating unprovoked CFVs (ceasefire violations) and respect military norms by avoiding (targeting) innocent civilians.”

In a statement, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry said that Pakistan’s Director General (SA & SAARC) Dr Mohammad Faisal summoned the Indian Acting High Commissioner and condemned India’s “unprovoked ceasefire violations”. Pakistan, it said, categorically rejects Indian reports about “so-called launchpads”. “Pakistan has called upon the P5 (the UN Security Council’s five permanent members) to ask India to provide information about the so-called alleged ‘launchpads’ and stated its willingness to arrange a visit of the P5 diplomats to those locations to expose Indian falsehood.”

In another statement, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry criticised the “anti-Pakistan tirade” of the BJP during campaigning for the Haryana and Maharashtra Assembly elections. “In successive election rallies in recent days, Pakistan has been invoked repeatedly,” the ministry said, accusing the BJP of “regurgitating” baseless allegations of Pakistan’s support to terrorism and drug smuggling, and questioning its threats to disrupt flow of river water to Pakistan as well as its claims taking credit over the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. “… the instrumental use of Pakistan for domestic, political gains and electoral dividends must come to an end in India,” said the statement.

Since the abrogation of Article 370, tensions have been running high along the LoC, with the two armies repeatedly exchanging fire. Recently, in two separate incidents, a civilian and a soldier were killed in cease-fire violation by Pakistan in the Uri Sector in nearby Baramulla district.

Kashmir has seen four gunfights between militants and security forces since the August 5 move, with the communication blackout hampering anti-militancy operations in the Valley. (with PTI inputs and ENS, Jammu)

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/6-10-pakistani-soldiers-killed-terror-infra-hit-severely-army-chief-on-operation-in-pok-6079485/

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‘Manmohan to attend Kartarpur opening as common pilgrim’

by shameen

October 20, 2019

New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will not attend the Kartarpur corridor inauguration on the invite of Pakistan next month, “but participate in the event as a common pilgrim”, sources said on Sunday.

A senior Congress leader, who did not want to be identified, said that Manmohan Singh will not be attending the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor on November 9 on Pakistan’s invite.

The development came a day after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday claimed that the former Prime Minister has accepted his invitation to attend the scheduled opening next month of the gurdwara in Pakistan to Indian pilgrims to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

The party source said that there was “no question of the former Prime Minister going (for Pakistan’s event)”. “There is a huge difference between visiting Pakistan and going to the gurdwara through the corridor as a common pilgrim,” he said.

Manmohan Singh would be a part of Sikh Jatha delegation led by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. They will pay obeisance at the shrine and would return on the same day.

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/manmohan-attend-kartarpur-opening-common-pilgrim-1699066/

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Iqbal poem row: HM suspension revoked, transfer to new school

By Safoora

October 20, 2019

PIILBHIT: The suspension of Uttar Pradesh primary school headmaster over an Allama Muhammad Iqbal song has been temporarily revoked.

According to The Indian Express reports, the Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) or Basic Education Officer of Pilibhit district on Saturday revoked the suspension of 45-year-old Mohammad Furqan Ali on ‘humanitarian grounds.’

Ali Got Transferred

Ali got transferred to a different school, which is about 10km from his old school and will discharge duty as a teacher which means he would no longer be a headmaster.

“I have received a WhatsApp message from the (education) department asking me to report for duty as headmaster at the Bakhtawar Lal Primary School in Bisalpur. It said I was being reinstated with a strict warning,” Ali told The Telegraph.

“I want to ask the government whether it’s serious about running the Gayaspur school, which is on the verge of closure because of the students’ absence. I’m not happy with this decision. Can they bring the students back to my previous school without me?”

He added: “I’m sad about my students and am thinking of not joining the new school. If the students of Gayaspur refuse to study without me, I’m not ready to join another school, either.”

Ali Got Punished

Ali was punished after being accused by the local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang leaders for making students recite the song “Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua Banke Tamanna Meri” at the morning assembly that is a regular in many schools.

The VHP complaint led to an inquiry that revealed that the children in the school usually sang the poem during the morning assembly.

Ali- A Popular Man

Ali, who joined the school in 2011 is popular among students, parents and even some members of the local administration.

According to the Indian Express, around 30 students at the Gayaspur Primary School protested on campus and raised slogans saying, “Desh ki Raksha Kaun Karega? Hum Karenge (Who will protect the country? We will)” and “Kaise Karenge? Tann Se Karenge, Mann Se Karenge, Dhan Se Karenge (We will do it with our mind, our body and our wealth).”

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/iqbal-poem-row-hm-suspension-revoked-transfer-new-school-1698572/

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Pact still not inked, Indian pilgrim registration for Kartarpur Corridor stalled

Oct 21, 2019

Registration of Indian pilgrims intending to visit Darbar Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan’s Kartarpur couldn’t begin as planned on Sunday as the two countries were yet to sign an agreement on a cross-border corridor, people familiar with the developments said. India has serious misgivings about certain conditions in the draft final agreement provided by Pakistan, including a $20 service fee for every pilgrim, and it was not immediately clear when the two sides will sign the pact.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the Indian side of the Kartarpur Corridor, linking Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur to the shrine in Pakistan, on November 8. Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the Pakistani section of the corridor will be inaugurated on November 9.

The people cited above said that the online registration of pilgrims, which was earlier to start on October 20, could not commence as the agreement hadn’t been signed as yet. India has asked Pakistan to show flexibility and waive the service fee for pilgrims though it wasn’t clear when the two sides would be able to settle the unresolved issues.

India and Pakistan have agreed that the pilgrims will not need visas to use the corridor. Pakistan also accepted India’s request that people of all faiths should be allowed to use the facility. Both countries also agreed to build a bridge over a canal near the border but work on the Pakistani side has been slow. They also agreed that a service road would serve as the temporary crossing point.

India has completed a lot of infrastructure on its side, including a passenger terminal with 55 immigration counters, food outlets, parking lot and multi-layered security arrangements, that will be inaugurated on November 8.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/kartarpur-corridor-pact-still-not-inked-indian-pilgrim-registration-stalled/story-vN2SB52LGM7JUEvjdbt8jI.html

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Pakistan

 

Pak claims killing 9 Indian soldiers, says it lost one jawan and 6 civilians

Oct 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan army on Sunday claimed that it killed nine Indian soldiers and injured several others in a “befitting response” to ceasefire violations from across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Officials said at least one Pakistani soldier and six civilians were killed in the Indian shelling.

“In response to unprovoked ceasefire violations by India in Jura, Shahkot and Nauseri sectors, nine Indian soldiers were killed while several others were injured and two Indian bunkers were destroyed,” Major General Asif Ghafoor, chief of Inter Services Public Relations, Pakistan army’s media arm, said in an official tweet. He said a Pakistani soldier was killed and two others were injured in the exchange of fire.

In a subsequent tweet, he claimed that Indian Army was “struggling” to pick dead bodies and evacuate injured soldiers and was raising white flag. “Indian Army shall always get befitting response to CFVs (ceasefire violations). Pakistan army shall protect innocent civilians along LoC and inflict unbearable cost to the Indian Army,” he added.

Pakistan foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal summoned Indian Charge d’Affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia to his office to protest against Indian shelling from across the LoC. “The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws,” read a Foreign Office statement. The statement rejected Indian claim that its Army had targeted terrorists’ launch pads along the LoC.

The Foreign Office said Pakistan has called upon the five nations who are permanent members of UN Security Council to ask India to provide information about the “alleged launch pads”. Pakistan has also expressed willingness to arrange a visit of diplomats of these countries to “locations being targeted by Indian troops”.

The statement said the targeting of civilians is a “typical attempt by India to divert international attention from the humanitarian nightmare” in Kashmir.

Dr Faisal urged the Indian side to respect the 2003 ceasefire arrangement, investigate the incidents of CFVs and respect the ceasefire in letter and spirit and maintain peace along the LoC and the International Border.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pak-claims-killing-9-indian-soldiers-says-it-lost-one-jawan-and-6-civilians/articleshow/71677745.cms

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Imran Khan says 'it was important for William to know how much Diana was loved in this country' as he celebrates Kate and Wills' trip to Pakistan

20 October 2019

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said he felt it was 'important' for Prince William to know how much Princes Diana 'was loved' in Pakistan.

The former international cricketer was a friend of Diana, Princess of Wales - who visited a cancer hospital in Lahore as his guest just three months before her death in 1997.

Speaking in an interview with CNN, Mr Khan said he told the Duke of Cambridge that Diana's death sent shock waves through even the most rural parts of the nation.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge embarked on a five-day tour of Pakistan, following in late Diana's footsteps.

Speaking to CNN's Max Foster, Mr Khan said: 'I met Prince William after 23 years. Last time I met him he was a boy, along with Prince Harry and they came with their mother to my ex-mother in law's house.'

'I was telling Prince William that I was in the outbacks – my constituency, which is Mianwali-I, is really considered an outback and it's really quite wild there.

'I was touring my constituency when I heard of the accident and I can tell you that the impact it had on the people shocked me.

'I mean, these were rural peasants. I wouldn't have even thought they would have heard of Princess Di.

'But when they heard of accident and her death. It was just… I was amazed at how Princess Diana had penetrated, even in these rural constituencies.'

When asked how Prince William responded to this, he replied: 'I think it was important for him to know how much she was loved in this country.'

The chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party also spoke about his ambition to be Prime Minister, an aim he told the Prince about on their first meeting.

He said: 'I'd just started my political party. It's 23 years since I started my political movement and I assumed that it would be very easy, here's my party and I would go out and people would vote for me! Little did I realise what I would go through to get here!'

'I mean, God, it's a lifetime, the struggle of becoming a Prime Minister in a country, where unfortunately I had to fight two mafias.

'The political parties were not headed by what would be politicians. They were political mafias.

'The heads of both parties are now in jail! It was a very difficult fight.

'It's not a normal, like, for instance, England's parliamentary democracy would be tame compared to the sort of struggle I had to go through.'

The royal couple met Mr Khan on their first full day of engagements in the country on Tuesday. 

In 1996, Diana took William to see Mr Khan and his then wife, Jemima Goldsmith, at the Goldsmith family home in Richmond.

William recalled how everyone laughed at a gathering when the former Sussex and Worcestershire cricketer announced his political ambition to the then teenage Prince William and Diana.

Mr Khan, who was finally elected Pakistani Prime Minister in July 2018, suggested it had been as hard a slog as his earlier career as a Test cricketer.

'When I went with my mother to see a Test match my cousin was playing and he scored a century and I told my mother I wanted to be a Test cricketer,' he said.

'I never realised how difficult it was to eventually become one. Similarly, when I told you that I wanted to succeed I didn't realise it would take me 22 years.'

William, 37, replied: 'Sure. It's not so easy.'

His wife Kate, who was wearing white trousers by the Pakistani designer Maheen Khan, an emerald green tunic by Catherine Walker and a navy patterned scarf by Satrangi, another local designer, and earrings by the Pakistani firm Zeen, interjected: 'You stuck with it.'

The Prime Minister was recalling his friendship with Diana when journalists were allowed into his chamber for a few seconds to see the royal couple meeting him at his official residence in Islamabad.

They spoke about one of the places that the royal couple will visit tomorrow - the destination is currently under wraps - and Mr Khan said he thought Diana might have been there before.

Mr Khan uses the residence - known simply as The Prime Minister's House, for official entertaining but actually lives in his private house on the outskirts of the capital.

The Oxford-educated politician studied politics, philosophy, and economics at Keble College in the city of dreaming spurs between 1972 and 1975 before becoming a professional cricketer.

Full report at:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7593311/Imran-Khan-says-important-William-know-Diana-loved-country.html

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Country on verge of bankruptcy due to govt’s flawed policies: MPA

Muslim Khan Sabir

October 21, 2019

TAKHTBHAI: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker and provincial general secretary Jamshed Mohmand on Sunday said that the country was on the verge of bankruptcy due to the flawed policies of the government.

Speaking to the mediapersons here, he said the price-hike, unemployment, uncertainty, lawlessness and rise in POL prices had made life miserable for the people. He said that his party would actively participate in the Azadi March to get rid of the ‘selected’ government.

The MPA said the jobless youths were running from the pillar to post to find jobs, adding that the so-called merit-based tests were also meant to loot the jobless youths.

The lawmaker said that the poor policies had triggered the industrialists and investors to withdraw their money out of the business launched in the country.

“Despite taking heavy foreign loans the government has failed to launch any single mega project in the country.

Even the projects launched by the PML-N government were also halted,” he said. He said Pakistan was created by the Pakistan Muslim League and it was the only party which could save and protect it, adding, the ministers of the “selected” government had no plan and programme to run the

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/544208-country-on-verge-of-bankruptcy-due-to-govt-s-flawed-policies-mpa

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Stronger institutions will lead to civilian supremacy: moot

BY SHAHAB OMER

Oct 21, 2019

LAHORE: Senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal and other eminent experts on Sunday argued that the supremacy of constitution, independent media and rule of law were imperative for a strong and democratic federation.

These remarks were during a session, ‘State Discourse and Nation Building’, at Asma Jahangir Conference, which was held at Avari Hotel in Lahore.

The session that covered issues of national security and civil liberties in the age of growing censorship was moderated by senior journalist Arif Nizami and included eminent lawyer Ali Ahmed Kurd, former foreign minister Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri, PPP leader Chaudhry Manzoor, and Barrister Ali Zafar as panelists.

Nizami, who moderated the session, spoke about the prevailing crisis of identity in Pakistan. “Is Pakistan a secular state or an Islamic one or is it one based on the rule of law where all citizens, including minorities, have an equal right to live,” he raised a question.

He also spoke about the crackdown on media freedom in Pakistan, saying, “Who has the right to decide the narrative in Pakistan? Is it the people through their vote or a class associated with religion or the army? At present we are being told about the ‘officially certified truth’. Should anyone have the right to dictate to the media in a democratic country?”

In response to these questions raised by Arif Nizami, the PML-N senior leader Ahsan Iqbal started a discussion and said, “In 1991 Pakistan was the economically number one state of South Asia and today we are far behind everyone.

He said in order for the country to progress there was a need to “bring all the ethnic, racial, religious groups together according to the constitution”.

“If the citizens get equal rights, the country will surely excel. Judiciary needs to independent for controlling and condemning the constitutional abuse,” he added.

Barrister Ali Zafar talked about the 18th Amendment, saying it was a demand of the provinces which accorded more powers to provinces due to which federation felt “weak”.

“Democracy is important to us but it is equally important that majority rule should be made subject to the rule of law,” Zafar added.

Senior lawyer and activist Ali Ahmed Kurd, while speaking to Nizami about the lawyers’ movement of 2007, said, “The movement was a historic one and allowed us to assert our rights.” He also pointed out the state’s discriminatory policies towards Balochistan.

Replying to Arif Nizami’s question about the role of the opposition in nation-building, Chaudhry Manzoor said that people were being denied rights in the name of national security.

“There is a special group who decided about who would be in politics and who will be out and also decided about who is to be brought on media and who is to be kept away. There will be no national security unless the people’s rights and security are not ensured.”

Speaking about the civil liberties, Kasuri said, “Any national narrative supporting a certain group would never be successful, as rights of all needed to be acknowledged for a stronger Pakistan.”

Speaking on the issue of national security, Lt. Gen. (r) Talat Masood said, “The role of the armed forces has been crucial since the early years of independence and cannot be undermined even in the present situation.”

“There are two reasons for weak democracy in Pakistan; one reason is the dominance of the army while the other is the weakness and timidity of all other state institutions,” said the ex-general.

On concluding the session, Arif Nizami said that national security could only be strengthened when democratic institutions and the media are allowed to function without interference.

“All institutions are under threat at present. The dream of civilian control over the armed forces will be realized when all institutions, including media, become independent.”

Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, while addressing the closing ceremony said, “I am deeply concerned over what I see as the present government’s drift towards instability. The supremacy of parliament is under threat while the government has abandoned the principles of parliamentary democracy in preference of dangerous populism which will only weaken the federation.”

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/10/20/1078369/

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Fazl calls off talks with govt after other parties’ objection

Amir Wasim

October 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Following a protest by other opposition parties, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Sunday stopped his party’s delegation from meeting Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, saying a decision on talks with the government on the issue of ‘Azadi March’ of Oct 31 would now be made by the opposition’s Rehbar Committee.

The Rehbar Committee, having representation of all major opposition parties, will meet on Monday (today) at the residence of its convener and JUI-F leader Akram Khan Durrani in Islamabad to decide whe­ther or not they should hold talks with the government team constituted by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The JUI-F chief on Satur­day had given a go-ahead to his party’s secretary general and Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri to meet the Senate chairman, who as a member of the government negotiating team, had contacted him over telephone and sought a meeting.

Mr Sanjrani contacted Maulana Haideri hours after the two members of the government team made another request to the opposition to come to the negotiation table.

The JUI-F chief had earlier categorically stated that they would only talk to the government after the resignation of Prime Minister Khan, a demand which was rejected outright by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, the head of the government negotiating team.

Talking to Dawn, PPP’s secretary general and member of the Rehbar Committee Farhatullah Babar confirmed that his party leadership had contacted the JUI-F chief on Sunday after seeing reports in the media about a scheduled meeting between Maulana Haideri and the Senate chairman.

Mr Babar said they were surprised over the reports as it had been decided in one of the meetings of opposition leaders that all the decisions regarding the anti-government protest would be made either by the heads of the parties or by the Rehbar Committee, which had been constituted in June at a multi-party conference of opposition parties to devise a joint strategy for launching a decisive movement to oust the present coalition government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

On June 25, Maulana Fazl on his own announced that his party had decided to hold a long march to Islamabad in the month of October. Earlier this month, the Maulana first set Oct 27 as the date for the long march, but later deferred it till Oct 31, saying they would only bring out rallies on Oct 27 to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir who would be observing a black day all over the world against the Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir.

The other opposition parties initially objected to the unilateral announcement about the long march by the Maulana, but later extended their support to him when the JUI-F took them into confidence about its plans.

The JUI-F has so far not disclosed details of its ‘Azadi March’ and its leaders have been issuing confusing statements in response to questions about a sit-in in Islamabad.

Prime Minister Khan on Friday constituted a seven-member team under Defence Minister Pervez Khattak to engage the JUI-F and other opposition parties ahead of their planned march.

Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, Defence Minister Khattak and federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood on the one hand requested the opposition parties to come to the negotiation table and on the other warned that if the opposition parties tried to create anarchy in the country, then the law would take its course.

“The prime minister’s resignation is impossible. This will be an assault. We will not let it happen. Then there will be an action,” Mr Khattak had warned, adding: “If you don’t sit with us and talk, then we would have fulfilled our responsibility. Whatever happens afterwards, only you (the opposition parties) will be responsible for it.”

He said if the opposition attempted to create chaos in the country, then the government would be left with no option but to act and “make decisions according to the law”.

Responding to the ministers’ presser, PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal in a statement sought to remind the government that holding a protest was a right granted to the citizens by the Constitution.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1512052/fazl-calls-off-talks-with-govt-after-other-parties-objection

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Sindh govt’s performance in implementing human rights legislation questioned

Imran Ayub

October 21, 2019

KARACHI: Although the record of the Sindh province with regard to legislation pertaining to human rights — that ranges from protection from underage marriages to initiating a law against forced conversion — is much better than other provinces, the performance of the provincial government with regard to implementation came under criticism during a recent meeting, it emerged on Sunday.

Provincial lawmakers were informed by a top bureaucrat that the “attitude on part of the provincial government hinders the process of human rights work in the province” and due to various reasons several laws related to human rights “could not be implemented” as yet.

A recently compiled report of a meeting of the Sindh Assembly’s standing committee on law and parliamentary affairs and human rights painted a bleak picture of the state of affairs when it comes to the government role on human rights in Sindh.

“The provincial government has done legislation but as far as the funding is concerned, it is not equal or parallel to the tasks assigned to the department. Hence the department is not able to perform effectively and efficiently,” human rights secretary Lubna Salahuddin briefed the committee, according to the report.

“Due to financial constraints of lack of funding the department-related laws could not be implemented. The laws can always be framed but its implementation can only be guaranteed or assured through financial means and not only by mere legislation. This kind of attitude on the part of the provincial government hinders the process of human rights work in the province.”

Her strong comments over the performance of the human rights department have exposed the state of human rights affair in Sindh, which has always been a key part of the manifesto of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which has been ruling the province for a third consecutive term.

The comments of the secretary followed a detailed presentation.

“The department is facing serious financial constraints as for the current financial year [2019-20] the government has allocated only Rs3 million,” said the report. “These funds too are released on a quarterly basis by the finance department, which is totally insufficient for any kind of human rights work being done in the province of Sindh.”

The department has a [sanctioned] working strength of 48 people, but presently it had only 10 people working due to lack of funding and incentives, proper offices, vehicles, fuel for the officers to work and move, it added.

The meeting, which was chaired by its chairman Pir Mujeeb-ul-Haq, was also informed that annual funds worth Rs3 million for the year 2019-20 included the budget of all district offices, which would hardly be able to meet the requirement.

A proposal to enhance the annual funding was also sent to the finance department by the human rights secretary but she had not received any response yet, the meeting was informed.

“The department is not in a position to provide them [workers, volunteers and staff] any incentives or any kind of facilities to work, therefore, one can imagine what kind of human rights work is being done around,” the secretary of the human rights department was quoted as saying in the report.

Her briefing and presentation sent ripples in the 15-member committee having elected members from different parties.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1511963/sindh-govts-performance-in-implementing-human-rights-legislation-questioned

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South Asia

 

Bangladesh police say violence over Facebook post killed four

Oct 20, 2019

DHAKA: At least four people were killed and dozens injured Sunday after security officials in southern Bangladesh opened fire to disperse hundreds of Muslims during a protest over an alleged social media post undermining Islam's Prophet Muhammad, police said.

The violence took place in Borhanuddin in the southern district of Bhola when angry protesters demanded the punishment of a Hindu man for the alleged Facebook comment, said local police chief Sarkar Mohammad Kaisar. The man denied making the comment, saying his Facebook account had been hacked.

Kaisar said four people were killed and the injured, including about a dozen police officials, were being treated in local hospitals. Bangladesh's leading newspapers said about 100 people were injured.

Bhola is 72 miles (116 kilometers) south of the capital, Dhaka.

Local authorities held a meeting Sunday to try to defuse the tensions that began Friday as the Facebook post gained attention in the area. But the angry protesters started attacking security officials, prompting them to retaliate, Kaisar said.

He said that following a complaint by the Facebook account holder, police detained three people for allegedly hacking the account.

Communal tensions often pop up in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, with minority groups saying they face discrimination.

Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy and its legal system is based on British common law. Despite demands by hard-line Islamist groups, authorities in Bangladesh have long refused to introduce tougher Islamic laws in the South Asian nation.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/bangladesh-police-say-violence-over-facebook-post-kills-four/articleshow/71674892.cms

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US House speaker Pelosi makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

Oct 21, 2019

WASHINGTON: US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and other senior members of Congress made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Sunday, her office said. Pelosi, who travelled to Afghanistan after a stop in Jordan on Saturday, met President Ashraf Ghani and visiting US defense secretary Mark Esper as well as top US military commanders and some of their troops, according to a statement released after the conclusion of the visit by the bipartisan delegation.

The lawmakers' trip to the Middle East and South Asia occurred amid questions about the United States' commitment to its allies after President Donald Trump's sudden withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria over his long-time desire to unwind from foreign military engagements. Pelosi's relations with Trump are at a low point as she leads an impeachment inquiry against him.

Trump last month broke off negotiations with Afghan Taliban militants aimed at ending the United States' longest war, a move that critics say highlighted a confused US approach to Afghanistan.

The congressional visit coincided with one by Esper, who told reporters "the aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point, a political agreement."

Pelosi said her delegation was briefed by US diplomats on reconciliation efforts with the Taliban and also met Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and civil society leaders, including Afghan women.

She said in a statement that they also "heard more about the still-pending status of results from the Afghanistan presidential election in September, which we all hope will be available soon."

Preliminary results from the September 28 election have been delayed past their October 19 release, for at least a week, Reuters reported on October 17.

"Our delegation emphasized the central importance of combating the corruption which endangers security and undermines the Afghan people's ability achieve a stable and prosperous future," Pelosi said. "We underscored that the women of Afghanistan must be at the table for reconciliation talks."

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/us-house-speaker-pelosi-makes-unannounced-visit-to-afghanistan/articleshow/71681356.cms

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Bangladesh to relocate Rohingya to flood-prone island in November

Oct 21, 2019

DHAKA: Bangladesh will start relocating Rohingya Muslims to a flood-prone island off its coast next month as several thousand refugees have agreed to move, a government official said on Sunday. Dhaka wants to move 100,000 refugees to Bhasan Char — a Bay of Bengal island hours by boat from the mainland — to ease overcrowding in its camps at Cox’s Bazar, home to more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims who have fled neighbouring Myanmar.

“We want to start relocation by early next month,” Mahbub Alam Talukder, the Relief and Repatriation Commission chief based in Cox’s Bazar, told Reuters, adding that “the refugees will be shifted in phases”.

“Our officials are compiling the lists of the refugees who are willing to move there,” he said, adding that as many as 7,000 refugees had by Saturday agreed to shift.

Some human rights groups have expressed concern over that plan because the island is remote and prone to devastation from cyclones. Many refugees oppose the move, which some human rights experts fear could spark a new crisis. Densely populated Bangladesh has been grappling with large refugee numbers, with local communities turning hostile towards Rohingya after a second failed bid to send thousands back to Myanmar in August.

The number of refugees in Cox’s Bazar has swelled since August 2017, when a Myanmar military-led crackdown that UN investigators have said was conducted with “genocidal intent” prompted some 730,000 Rohingya to flee.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/bangladesh-to-relocate-rohingya-to-flood-prone-island-in-november/articleshow/71679810.cms

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Postponement of presidential vote results ‘alarming and suspicious’: TEFA

20 Oct 2019

The Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) has called the postponement preliminary election results as ‘alarming and suspicious’.

According to a statement released by TEFA, the Independent Election Commission had prepared plan for 9 million people to cast vote in presidential elections.

However, TEFA said the turnout of voters has been recorded at least two million people.

The statement further added that the findings of the foundation show that the vote results were delayed due to political pressures and weakness in administration of the election commission to manage its programs.

Furthermore, TEFA warned that the situation could jeopardize the final outcome of the elections, further increase doubts and uncertainty regarding the transparency of process and pave the way for the electoral teams not to accept the election result.

TEFA also added that the situation will further strengthen the distrust among the people regarding elections process.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/postponement-of-presidential-vote-results-alarming-and-suspicious-tefa-04247/

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Pakistani couple arrested in the restive Kunduz province of Afghanistan

20 Oct 2019

The Afghan forces arrested a Pakistani couple in the restive Kunduz province of Afghanistan, the defense officials said.

Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said the security forces arrested the couple in Dasht-e Arachi district of Kunduz.

Aman further added that the couple was providing healthcare to the wounded Taliban fighters in Kunduz.

Meanwhile, the Special Operations Corps said in a statement that the security forces arrested the couple during the clearance operations in Dasht-e Archi district.

The statement further added that the security forces also killed 12 Taliban militants and wounded 10 others during the same operations.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/pakistani-couple-arrested-in-the-restive-kunduz-province-of-afghanistan-04244/

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Mideast

 

Erdogan says Turkey expects US to keep promises, not stall Syria truce deal

20 October 2019

Turkey expects the United States to keep its promises and not use stalling tactics in a deal between the NATO allies for Ankara to pause its offensive into northeastern Syria while the Kurdish fighters it is targeting withdraw, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

Ankara and Washington agreed on Thursday to a five-day truce in northeastern Syria to allow the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia to withdraw from a “safe zone” that Turkey aims to establish.

Erdogan has said the offensive will resume if the withdrawal is not complete within the five days.

Speaking at an event in Istanbul, Erdogan said he had told the European Union countries and the US delegation with which he struck the deal that Turkey would resume the operation if the deal faltered.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that Turkey and Russia will discuss the removal of the Syrian Kurdish YPG forces from the northern Syrian towns of Manbij and Kobani also known as Ain al-Arab, during talks in Sochi next week

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/20/Erdogan-says-Turkey-expects-US-to-keep-promises-not-stall-Syria-truce-deal.html

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Israel will get US aid only if it ceases settlement constructions, Warren suggests

Oct 21, 2019

Democratic candidate for 2020 presidential election, Elizabeth Warren, says if Israel does not stop building illegal settlements, then "Everything is on the table."

The Massachusetts Democrat made the comment Sunday when asked about Israel’s illegal settlements and the US aid to Tel Aviv.

She asserted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s construction of the settlements is against the US official policy of the so-called “two-state solution.”

"Right now, Netanyahu says he is going to take Israel in a direction of increasing settlements, [but] that does not move us in the direction of a two-state solution," Warren said.

The Trump administration has, meanwhile, shown support for the Tel Aviv regime’s illegal land grab.

"It is the official policy of the United States of America to support a two-state solution, and if Israel is moving in the opposite direction, then everything is on the table," she said, repeating: "Everything is on the table."

Her fellow 2020 primary contender, Senator Bernie Sanders, has also censured Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians before.

"The killing of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli forces in Gaza is tragic. It is the right of all people to protest for a better future without a violent response," Sanders tweeted last year. "Meanwhile, the situation in Gaza remains a humanitarian disaster. The US must play a more positive role in ending the Gaza blockade and helping Palestinians and Israelis build a future that works for all."

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/21/609171/No-aid-to-Israel-over-settlements-Warren-suggests

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Hamas denounces Israel's participation in Bahrain security meeting

Oct 20, 2019

The Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, has strongly censured the participation of an Israeli delegation in a forthcoming US-led maritime security meeting in Bahrain, in the latest significant sign of warming ties between a number of Persian Gulf littoral states and the Tel Aviv regime after years of clandestine relations.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said in a statement on Sunday that attempts to “integrate the Israeli Occupation into the region are doomed to fail.”

He blamed the parties that “normalize relations with Israel for Israeli assaults on the Palestinian people and their holy sites.”

فلسطين الآن

@paltimes2015

أول تعقيب من حماس حول مشاركة وفد للاحتلال بمؤتمر أمني بالبحرين

             تفاصيل: https://paltimesps.ps/post/240234

 

أول تعقيب من حماس حول مشاركة وفد للاحتلال بمؤتمر أمني بالبحرين

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Israel's Channel 13 reported on Saturday that an Israeli delegation will attend the two-day summit in the Bahraini capital of Manama, which will run between October 21 and 22 and its main agenda is what its sponsors describe as “the Iranian threat in the Persian Gulf.”

The event will be a follow-up to the US-led anti-Iran conference held in the Polish capital of Warsaw in February.

Speaking in an interview with English-language The Times of Israel daily newspaper on the sidelines of the US-led economic workshop in Manama on June 26, the top Bahraini diplomat recognized Israel’s “right to existence,” saying the regime was “there to stay, of course.”

Who did we offer peace to [with] the [Arab] Peace Initiative? We offered it to … Israel … We want better relations with it, and we want peace with it,” Khalifah added.

He pointed to the so-called Arab Peace Initiative as the blueprint for normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel, terming the Tel Aviv regime’s rejection of the plan as a “missed opportunity.”

The Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, calls on Israel to agree to a two-state solution along the 1967 lines and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. The initiative has been repeatedly endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, 2007, and 2017.

The Bahraini foreign minister further encouraged Israel to approach Arab leaders about issues of concern regarding the proposal.

Come and talk to us. Talk to us about it. Say, guys, you have a good initiative, but we have one thing that worries us,” he said.

The so-called Peace to Prosperity workshop opened in Bahrain on June 25 and ran through June 26.

It apparently sought to advance the economic aspects of President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for “peace” between the Israeli regime and Palestinians, dubbed “the deal of the century.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/20/609130/Hamas-denounces-Israels-participation-in-USled-maritime-security-meeting-in-Bahrain

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Iran rejects Turkey’s establishing of military posts in Syria

October 21, 2019

DUBAI: Iran rejects Turkey’s establishing of military posts inside Syria, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday, adding that the integrity of Tehran’s key regional ally should be respected.

“We are against Ankara’s establishing of military posts in Syria ... The issues should be resolved by diplomatic means ... Syria’s integrity should be respected,” Mousavi told a weekly news conference, broadcast live on state TV.

On Thursday, Turkey agreed in talks with US Vice President Mike Pence to a five-day pause in an offensive into northeastern Syria, to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a “safe zone” Ankara aims to establish near its border with Syria.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Ankara would press on with its offensive into northeastern Syria and “crush the heads of terrorists” if a deal with Washington on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the area was not fully implemented.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1572036/middle-east

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Yemeni Army regains control of Tal Al-Khadr in Taiz

October 21, 2019

DUBAI: The Yemeni army regained Tal Al-Khadr in Yemen’s Taiz province, the country’s national military website SeptemberNet reported on Monday.

The army went through clashes with the Iranian-backed Houthi in the area which resulted in three deaths and 10 injuries to the militia.

Meanwhile, two civilians were killed and wounded from an explosive device planted by the Houthis in southern Hodeidah, state news agency SPA reported.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1571966/middle-east

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North America

 

Esper in Afghanistan to discuss ‘next steps’ as Trump's plans fall apart

Oct 20, 2019

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has traveled to Afghanistan to determine Washington’s "next steps" amid stalled peace talks with the Taliban militant group and escalating violence in the country.

The Pentagon chief was greeted by his Afghan counterpart, Assadullah Khalid, as he landed in Kabul on Sunday, on his first visit to the country since being confirmed as US Defense Secretary in July.

"I'm looking ... to get a really good feel for what's happening on the ground in Afghanistan, and to talk what the way ahead may look like as well," Esper told reporters traveling with him.

"We think a political agreement is always the best way forward with regard to next steps in Afghanistan," he added.

He met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a meeting that followed the Afghan government's decision to delay announcing the preliminary results of last month's presidential election.

Both Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, his current partner in the unity government, insist they have enough votes to win the election.

Esper’s visit comes as deep uncertainty around the fate of America's military mission in Afghanistan has complicated President Donald Trump’s promise to reduce troop levels there and ultimately end what has become the longest war in US history.

The US currently has more than 14,000 forces in Afghanistan. Trump promised last year to cut the number by at least 5,000.

Esper said that Washington could push ahead with the troops withdrawal without hurting on its alleged fight against al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorists in the country. However, he said any withdrawal should take place as part of a peace agreement with the Taliban.

Last month, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said he had reached a preliminary peace deal with the Taliban in what was viewed as a major breakthrough in the months-long talks between the two sides.

However, a surge in attacks by the Taliban and the death of an American soldier prompted Trump to cancel a secret Camp David meeting with the group’s leaders to finalize the deal.

Back then, the American head of state called the tentative agreement “dead.”

"The aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point, that's the best way forward," Esper said, without clarifying how long it may take before an agreement could be achieved.

The deal would have seen US forces begin to pull out from Afghanistan in return for various security commitments by the Taliban, including guarantees that the country would never become a platform for attacks against the US and its allies.

Khalilzad has since held informal talks with Taliban officials in Pakistan, stirring speculation that Washington is seeking to resume negotiations.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/20/609153/US-Esper-Afghanistan-visit-Taliban-Ghani

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Israel will get US aid only if it ceases settlement constructions, Warren suggests

Oct 21, 2019

Democratic candidate for 2020 presidential election, Elizabeth Warren, says if Israel does not stop building illegal settlements, then "Everything is on the table."

The Massachusetts Democrat made the comment Sunday when asked about Israel’s illegal settlements and the US aid to Tel Aviv.

She asserted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s construction of the settlements is against the US official policy of the so-called “two-state solution.”

"Right now, Netanyahu says he is going to take Israel in a direction of increasing settlements, [but] that does not move us in the direction of a two-state solution," Warren said.

The Trump administration has, meanwhile, shown support for the Tel Aviv regime’s illegal land grab.

"It is the official policy of the United States of America to support a two-state solution, and if Israel is moving in the opposite direction, then everything is on the table," she said, repeating: "Everything is on the table."

Her fellow 2020 primary contender, Senator Bernie Sanders, has also censured Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians before.

"The killing of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli forces in Gaza is tragic. It is the right of all people to protest for a better future without a violent response," Sanders tweeted last year. "Meanwhile, the situation in Gaza remains a humanitarian disaster. The US must play a more positive role in ending the Gaza blockade and helping Palestinians and Israelis build a future that works for all."

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/21/609171/No-aid-to-Israel-over-settlements-Warren-suggests

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US completes troop withdrawal from Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Raqqa: Report

Oct 21, 2019

US troops have completely withdrawn from the northern Syrian provinces of Aleppo and Raqqa, according to a report.

Informed sources speaking to the Lebanese al-Mayadeen television channel on Sunday confirmed the completion of the US withdrawal from the provinces, adding that a convoy of 60 military vehicles had left the Sarrin airfield, which lies northeast of the provincial capital of Aleppo.

Al-Mayadeen also reported that American forces had "set fire" to their documents before withdrawing from their base in Ayn al-Arab, also known as Kobani, situated in the Aleppo province near the Turkish border.

The report added that American troops, accompanied by two overflying helicopters, had entered the al-Hawl refugee camp in the northeastern Hasakah province.

The report did not specify why American troops were present at the camp. The camp is known to lodge family members of Daesh Takfiri terrorist fighters.

Other media sources reported that American forces transferred detained Deash forces from the al-Hawl camp towards Iraq.

Al-Mayadeen also reported on Sunday the withdrawal of French troops from a base north of the Hasakah province. The forces had been stationed in the region alongside US and Kurdish forces to allegedly fight Daesh.

The recent developments come after US President Donald Trump abruptly announced the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria earlier this month.

The withdrawal effectively granted Ankara a greenlight to carry out a long-planned invasion of northern Syria targeting US-allied Kurdish forces in the region.

Abandoned by Washington, Kurdish forces struck a deal with Damascus last week, leading to the deployment of Syrian troops north of the country in a bid to counter the Turkish invasion.

On Sunday, Syrian state TV broadcast images showing Syrian troops deploying in the Raqqa province.

On Thursday, Ankara agreed to pause its incursion into Syria for 120 hours while the US facilitates the withdrawal of Kurdish militants from a 20-mile safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish fighters have been reported despite the agreement. Certain aspects of the deal remain contested between different parties of the deal.

NATO task force to examine Turkish operation

Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper has reported that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has formed a specialized task force -- comprised of intelligence, military and political experts -- in a bid to examine the conduct of Ankara, a NATO member, in northern Syria.

The decision was made following a two-hour meeting last Wednesday, the paper reported.

During the meeting, Turkey pledged to inform NATO of its troop deployments and any related civilian displacements and casualties.

Since Turkey launched its invasion of northeastern Syria earlier this month, more than 300,000 Syrians have been displaced according to figures released by the United Nations.

Many humanitarian organizations have also expressed concern regarding potential humanitarian costs of the conflict.

Last week, Amnesty International accused Turkey of committing "serious" war crimes, including "summary killings" and "indiscriminate" attacks showing a "shameful disregard for civilian life".

The UN has called on Turkey to investigate the allegations.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/21/609169/US-troops-withdraw-Aleppo-Raqqa

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Trump attacks Pelosi amid her Jordan visit over Syria situation

Oct 20, 2019

US President Donald Trump has lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi amid her visit to Jordan over the situation in northern Syria.

"Pelosi is now leading a delegation of 9, including Corrupt Adam Schiff, to Jordan to check out Syria. She should find out why Obama drew The Red Line In the Sand, & then did NOTHING, losing Syria & all respect. I did something, 58 missiles. One million died under Obama’s mistake!" Trump tweeted Sunday.

He was citing false claims that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons and that President Barack Obama had vowed to use military force in response.

Pelosi and a group of US lawmakers arrived in Jordan for talks with Jordanian King Abdullah II earlier in the day.

"With the deepening crisis in Syria after Turkey's incursion, our delegation has engaged in vital discussions about the impact to regional stability, increased flow of refugees, and the dangerous opening that has been provided to ISIS, Iran and Russia," Pelosi claimed in a statement.

The Republican leadership joined Democrats this week to condemn Trump's decision to pull US forces out of northeastern Syria, consequently invaded by Turkey in an attempt to destroy or drive off Kurdish militant groups.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/20/609168/Trump-attacks-Pelosi-amid-her-Jordan-visit-over-Syria-situation

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US defense chief in Afghanistan to assess the way ahead

October 20, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan: US Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived Sunday in Afghanistan, where stalled peace talks with the Taliban and persistent violent attacks by the insurgent group and Daesh militants have complicated the Trump administration’s pledged to withdraw more than 5,000 American troops.

Esper told reporters traveling with him that he believes the US can reduce its force in Afghanistan to 8,600 without hurting the counterterrorism fight against Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group. But he said any withdrawal would happen as part of a peace agreement with the Taliban.

The US has about 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan as part of the American-led coalition. US forces are training and advising Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations against extremists. President Donald Trump had ordered a troop withdrawal in conjunction with the peace talks that would have left about 8,600 American forces in the country.

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had a preliminary peace deal with the Taliban, but a surge in Taliban violence and the death of an American soldier last month prompted Trump to cancel a secret Camp David meeting where the peace deal would have been finalized. He declared the tentative agreement dead.

“The aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point, that’s the best way forward,” said Esper, who was making his first trip to Afghanistan as defense secretary. He visited Afghanistan in his previous job as US Army secretary.

He would not say how long he believes it may be before a new peace accord could be achieved.

A month after the peace agreement collapsed, Zalmay met with Taliban in early October in Islamabad, Pakistan, but it was not clear what progress, if any, was being made.

Esper’s arrival in Kabul came as Afghan government leaders delayed the planned announcement of preliminary results of last month’s presidential election. Esper said he plans to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Both Ghani and his current partner in the unity government, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, have said they believe they had enough votes to win. The Sept. 28 vote was marred by widespread misconduct and accusations of fraud.

Officials said the announcement of preliminary results has been delayed due to problems with the transparency of the process, delays in transferring ballot papers and delays in transferring data from a biometric system into the main server.

Esper planned to meet with his top commanders in Afghanistan as the US works to determine the way ahead in the 18-year war.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1571621/world

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Southeast Asia

 

Mujahid: We want to build this country together

By Arfa Yunus

October 21, 2019

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa tells NST about the progress of reforms, the political situation and his aspirations for the country.

Question: How is Tabung Haji (TH) doing financially after the restructuring?

Answer: TH is now in its second phase. The first phase was to balance the account and we managed to do that in 2018. Now, there is no more hiding or trying to cover up or manipulating the numbers in TH. The liabilities are now balanced compared with the assets.

The second phase is to sustain, which means we must give utmost priority to the nine million depositors. Second is to ensure that TH pays a good dividend based on the performance of our businesses and investments. Third is to maintain and improve our services to the pilgrims. So I think these three come under the sustainability of TH, and of course, that comes together with trying to renegotiate (and) look into all the contracts and financial needs so that we can save on TH’s operating cost.

Q: There have been contradictions when it comes to replacing punitive syariah law with an educative approach. Does this sit well with the mufti or Muslim hardliners?

A: If you look into the concept of justice, it doesn’t only entail punishment. The other side of justice is the rehabilitative or the educative approach. Judges should have space where they are not only thinking of punishment, but also how they can pass a rehabilitative sort of judgment.

It fits well with the ideas we aspire to — the compassionate Islam policy. Some feel that a rehabilitative approach would dilute the punishments upheld in Islam. But I think we should also look into Prophet Muhammad’s way of meting out judgment. Some people went to the Prophet and confessed to the wrong things they did, but the Prophet did not punish them. Instead, he provided them with ways to correct themselves.

I think these are the things we have in the philosophy of correction and rehabilitation. We are trying to move from punitive to rehabilitative, but that doesn’t mean the punitive aspect will be gone as there are cases of repeat offenders. This is where the punitive approach is important.

Q: Do you agree with increasing the minimum age of marriage to 18, like our neighbour Indonesia?

A: We had a roundtable discussion with scholars and mufti on making 18 the minimum marriageable age and received lots of responses.

We do have some restrictions in terms of (laws in) states because they have their own jurisdiction. We can’t say “now you have to implement a minimum of 18 years old”. We can’t do that.

But in terms of policy, we believe that (imposing) the minimum age of 18 will end child marriage and we support that very much.

There is an exit clause that we have to think about. For example, if a marriage goes ahead despite the person being underage, what should the punishment be? Do we split the couple? What about the welfare of the underage person?

This is a very technical issue. But on the whole, as far as the policy is concerned, we support the minimum marriageable age of 18 years old.

Q: What is Malaysia doing to address Islamophobia?

A: Plenty. There are two (types of) extreme (actions) that we face today in terms of putting out the right narrative about Islam. The first extreme is those who radicalise the faith, thinking that by doing so, they are serving their faith. Secondly, you have those who fear Islam. They have this unnecessary fear of something named Islam so they fear that they are going to be Islamised or Arabised, and this fear is called Islamophobia.

So these two extremes pressure the government today to look at the middle ground. Where can the two meet and tell what Islam is actually about? To do so, you need a policy. That policy is now being implemented. We call it compassionate Islam, which is the middle point where we want to bring the two extremes to join us and understand Islam in a very compassionate way.

Q: On the exchange between Lim Kit Siang and Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang over the latter’s involvement in the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), do you agree with Lim’s suggestion that IUMS should be included in the White Paper on terrorism?

A: The IUMS, based in Doha, Qatar, was previously headed by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. It’s recognised as a respected body of scholars internationally, with branches worldwide. It has many publications and it states its stand on Islam-related issues. I was told that in the United States, IUMS is on a list of terror groups. I do not see any reason for such a respected organisation of Islamic scholars who have great influence via their thoughts on the Muslim world to be banned or considered a terrorist group. I will leave it to the Home Ministry to decide. But any member of parliament, like Lim Kit Siang, can give his opinion.

Q: What is your opinion on the arrests over links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), especially since it involves DAP members?

A: I’m very clear on this. Whoever is involved in any terrorist organisation, whether you join them, fund them or support their ideas, it is considered as supporting the group. This is about national security and not about whether they are from DAP or are Muslims or non-Muslims. Terrorism cuts across all races and religions. I think it’s very clear that we should combat any form of terrorism. I do not see this is as a party issue.

Q: What do you think of Pakatan Harapan leaders, such as Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy, who rebuked the prime minister on certain issues? Does it not affect the ruling party’s image of solidarity or affect its solidarity?

A: In PH, there is a philosophy that we practice — equality. Unlike the previous Barisan Nasional (government). No party is dominant over another and that is a very important philosophy. They may have a small number (of seats in the Dewan Rakyat), but they are equal in terms of their opinions and views.

We practise freedom of expression, but the fact is that whatever Ramasamy, (Defence Minister) Mohamad Sabu or (PKR president) Anwar Ibrahim said, they don’t represent the united stand of PH because we have two platforms where all these are discussed. One is in the cabinet. The second is the (PH) Presidential Council.

Q: There are allegations that some DAP leaders are giving Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad a hard time. How true is this?

A: The narrative to all these stories is the same, and it is that we (PH) have been pressured by one party that is Chinese-dominated and at the end of the day, they are going to take over the country.

I think this narrative aims to sow doubts about our capabilities and it goes back to (using) racial lines to create a perception that the government is not strong and that we are being dictated by DAP, which is not true.

There is no such thing about pressuring the prime minister to decide on something. I think this is just an imaginary perception that warps the narrative, that Tun is incapable, that the Malays’ position is at stake and that DAP is controlling everything. That’s what they (the opposition) want the people to believe, which I totally deny because that is not what’s happening.

Q: Do you think Parti Amanah Negara being friendly with DAP damages its image?

A: I don’t think so because if you look at history, every pact and agreement we made was not based on any party dictating to the other. It’s based on our common ground, common platform, what we aspire to, what we want to do after we win the election and what is the best way to rebuild this nation. So Amanah, DAP and PKR came together within this framework. We came together with a clear way forward that Dr Mahathir will be the prime minister and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will succeed him.

So, when people say our togetherness with DAP is damaging, I say, no it’s not. It’s the perception out there that (some people) want the people to believe. They (the opposition) are creating the perception that DAP is the sole troublemaker in PH and that Amanah is being dictated by DAP. This perception, I would say, was played up to create disharmony within PH.

Q: Some believe the Malays are not properly represented in the cabinet. During the recent Malay Dignity Congress, some speakers suggested that some ministerial posts should be held only by Malays. Do you agree?

A: I don’t, and I disagree with the whole idea of the Malay Dignity Congress in the first place. Yes, the prime minister attended it, but did you hear what he said? He didn’t agree with all these ideas. He said Malays should stand up and compete using their own capabilities. They should strive to be the best and not blame others. I do not understand why we still view things along racial lines.

If you look back at our forefathers who founded this great nation, they were already aware that this country was built on a multiracial society. Why is it that Malays are still in shock and still debating about rights and dignity? For us (PH), the New Malaysia narrative is that we do not identify our fellow Malaysians based on race. We identify each other as Malaysians who have our own rights and we want to build this country together.

I refuse to debate based on this racial line. Why should we be dictated by this congress that is not moving forward?

https://www.nst.com.my/news/exclusive/2019/10/531926/mujahid-we-want-build-country-together

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PM: Not Malaysia’s job to promote China’s geopolitics

21 Oct 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad emphasised today that it was not Malaysia’s role to promote China’s Belt-Road Initiative, amid the controversy of a propaganda comic with that aim produced by former DAP member Hew Kuan Yau.

The prime minister said the country’s rejection of foreign influence was not only limited to Western countries.

“At the moment, it is not for us to promote China’s ideas and ideologies but to find out how we can benefit from them.

“As much as we didn’t like Western influence in our strategies and schools,  we don't want other countries to have undue influence on our young people,” he said during the forum session of the Malaysian Beyond 2020 conference at Hilton Kuala Lumpur today. Last week, critics revealed that the comic titled Belt and Road Initiative for Win-Winism edited by Hew and produced by the Asia Comic Culture Museum, where he is a curator, was being distributed to secondary schools in the country.

The comic parroted the Communist Party of China’s political views and controversially described as extremists the Malays who believed in the alleged mistreatment of the Uighur Muslim minority.

After photographs emerged online of Dr Mahathir presenting the comic to China President Xi Jinping during a visit last year, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement disavowing the comic and its contents.

The Education Ministry has said the distribution of the comic to schools was unapproved while the Home Ministry has also said it will investigate.

While leaders of DAP have sought to distance themselves from former member Hew, 43 of the party’s members and lawmakers have spoken up in his defence.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/10/21/pm-not-malaysias-job-to-promote-chinas-geopolitics/1802227

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Indonesia’s Jokowi kicks off new term at heavily guarded ceremony

October 20, 2019

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo was sworn in for a second term on Sunday, as helicopters flew overhead and troops kept watch in the capital Jakarta – days after Islamist militants tried to assassinate his top security minister.

Foreign heads of state, lawmakers and political rivals looked on as Widodo, 58, and Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, 76, read an oath to start a five-year tenure leading the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.

Outside parliament, red-and-white Indonesian flags dotted parts of the city but celebrations were muted with supporters outnumbered by some 30,000 security personnel deployed amid fears of another attack.

Demonstrations were also banned on Sunday as extremist violence continues to plague Indonesia.

Several thousand supporters, many wearing T-shirts bearing the leader’s image, watched the ceremony on a big screen near Jakarta’s national monument.

“I was worried Islamic (hardliners) would take over the country if he lost,” supporter Suprihatini, who goes by one name, told AFP.

“I’m Muslim, but I don’t want that kind of movement here,” the 53-year-old added.

Widely known as Jokowi, the president said his final term would be aimed at eradicating poverty and catapulting the nation of some 260 million into a developed country with one of the world’s top five economies by 2045.

“I’m calling on ministers, public officials and bureaucrats to take these targets seriously,” he told parliament, adding that officials not committed to his goals would be sacked.

Critical times

Jokowi, a popular, heavy metal-loving former businessman from outside the political and military elite, was hailed as Indonesia’s answer to Barack Obama when he was first elected in 2014, partly on a roads-to-airports infrastructure drive.

But Sunday’s inauguration comes as his leadership has been under mounting criticism after a wave of crises that threaten to cast a shadow over his final term.

It marks a stark reversal of fortune just months after he scored a thumping re-election victory against a former military general.

Challenges facing the president range from nationwide anti-government demonstrations – in which three students died – and smog-belching forest fires that sparked diplomatic tensions with Indonesia’s neighbours, to deadly unrest in Papua province and a slowdown in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

“This is the weakest point in Jokowi’s political leadership,” said Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

“It’s a test for the president in critical times.”

Protests erupted last month across the archipelago that were among the biggest student rallies since mass demonstrations toppled the Suharto dictatorship in 1998.

Jokowi’s inauguration comes a little over a week after the country’s chief security minister was stabbed in an attack by two members of a local extremist outfit allied to the Islamic State group.

Two suspects were arrested at the scene, while dozens of suspected militants have since been detained in a country-wide dragnet following the assassination attempt on Wiranto, a former general who goes by one name.

The 72-year-old is recovering in hospital.

Jokowi’s new term also comes amid criticism that Indonesia’s two decades of democratic reforms are being eroded under the watch of a man once lauded by Time magazine as “A New Hope”.

Choosing conservative cleric Amin as vice president has also thrown Indonesia’s reputation for tolerant Islam into question.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2019/10/20/indonesias-jokowi-kicks-off-new-term-at-heavily-guarded-ceremony/

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Arab World

 

Lebanese protesters issue statement, say halting protests is ‘up to the people’

20 October 2019

Lebanese protesters confirmed in a statement on Sunday that the decision whether to halt protests across the country is up to the people.

“The leak of the reform document is not enough and we await a clear plan and the government’s resignation,” added the statement.

An earlier statement by the protesters on Sunday called for snap legislative elections and the cancellation of any additional taxes or fees in the 2019 budget amid widespread unrest that were triggered in part by a decision last week to put a levy on WhatsApp calls.

The statement also called on the resignation of current Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s cabinet and the formation of a mini-technocratic government, stressing the need for the judicial authorities to act swiftly to recover the looted money by the ruling elite.

Hariri agreed on Sunday a package of reforms with government partners to ease an economic crisis that has sparked mass protests across the Mediterranean nation.

The agreement was reached as hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded the streets in the biggest show of dissent against the establishment in decades.

A sea of people, some waving Lebanese flags, crammed roads for the fourth day, calling for revolution in protests that resembled the 2011 Arab revolts that toppled four presidents.

Hariri, who is leading a coalition government mired by sectarian and political rivalries, gave his feuding government partners a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree reforms that could ward off crisis, hinting he may otherwise resign.

Hariri accused his rivals of obstructing his reform measures that could unlock $11 billion in Western donor pledges and help avert economic collapse.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/20/Lebanese-protesters-statement-Decision-to-halt-protests-is-up-to-people.html

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60 Saudis receive conflict management training to contribute in Yemen’s development

October 20, 2019

RIYADH: Sixty Saudi nationals from government ministries have completed conflict management training after taking part in a workshop jointly organized by the Kingdom and the US, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

Participants were trained in strategies to eliminate conflict, ensure stability and contribute to the development of Yemen, said the Kingdom’s envoy to the country, Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber.

Al-Jaber, who is also the general supervisor of the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen (SDRPY), said participants were ready to contribute to the development of Yemen and were equipped with the necessary knowledge to do so, especially as it required solving complex issues that were aggravated in conflict zones.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1571746/saudi-arabia

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Kurdish-led fighters fully withdraw from Syria’s Ras al-Ain

20 October 2019

Kurdish-led forces fully withdrew on Sunday from the Turkish-besieged Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain, an AFP reporter and a war monitor said.

AFP earlier reported that a convoy carrying wounded and fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces left the Turkish-besieged Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain on Sunday.

The reporter saw at least 50 vehicles including ambulances leaving the town hospital and flames erupt from the medical facility shortly after their departure.

Dozens of fighters in military attire left on pickups, passing by checkpoints manned by Ankara-allied Syrian fighters, the reporter said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor with sources inside Syria, said the ambulances were transporting wounded civilians and fighters.

Ankara launched a cross-border attack against Syria’s Kurds on October 9 after the United States announced a military pullout from the north of the war-torn country.

A US-brokered ceasefire was announced late Thursday, giving Kurdish forces until Tuesday evening to withdraw from a long “safe zone” Ankara wants to create along its southern frontier including Ras al-Ain.

There was no immediate official confirmation of any full SDF withdrawal from the border town, which is surrounded by Turkish troops and their Syrian proxies.

But a Kurdish source said there was “plan to withdraw” from the border town.

Near the hospital, a pro-Turkey commander said he had received information about a full withdrawal of SDF fighters and the wounded.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/20/Kurdish-led-fighters-wounded-leave-besieged-Syria-town-.html

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Geagea: Protests against Nasrallah prove he ‘is misreading the street’

21 October 2019

Demontrations in key strongholds of Hezbollah in Lebanon prove that Hassan Nasrallah is "misreading the street," Samir Geagea said in an interview with the NNA news agency on Monday.

Geagea also called for the resignation of Hariri's government and the creation of a new “shock government,” adding that “an independent government seems to be the only solution to the current crisis.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/21/Geagea-Protests-against-Nasrallah-prove-he-is-misreading-the-street-.html

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Russia urges solution to protection of Syria prisons holding ISIS militants

21 October 2019

The question of protecting prison facilities holding ISIS militants needs to be urgently resolved, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday, according to the RIA news agency.

Speaking during a visit to China, Shoigu said Russia hopes its coordination with the United States and Turkey in Syria will help security and stability in the region.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/21/Russia-defense-minister-urges-solution-to-guarding-Syria-prisons-holding-ISIS-militants.html

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Lebanon’s cabinet to meet in Baabda presidential palace: State media

Reuters, BeirutMonday

21 October 2019

Lebanon’s cabinet will convene on Monday at the Baabda palace, the National News Agency said as protests grip the country in the biggest show of dissent against the ruling elite in decades.

Officials told Reuters on Sunday that Prime Minister Saad Hariri agreed a package of reforms with government partners to ease a crisis that has driven hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets for four days.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/21/Lebanon-s-cabinet-to-meet-in-Baabda-presidential-palace-Report.html

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US completes troop withdrawal from Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Raqqa: Report

Oct 21, 2019

US troops have completely withdrawn from the northern Syrian provinces of Aleppo and Raqqa, according to a report.

Informed sources speaking to the Lebanese al-Mayadeen television channel on Sunday confirmed the completion of the US withdrawal from the provinces, adding that a convoy of 60 military vehicles had left the Sarrin airfield, which lies northeast of the provincial capital of Aleppo.

Al-Mayadeen also reported that American forces had "set fire" to their documents before withdrawing from their base in Ayn al-Arab, also known as Kobani, situated in the Aleppo province near the Turkish border.

The report added that American troops, accompanied by two overflying helicopters, had entered the al-Hawl refugee camp in the northeastern Hasakah province.

The report did not specify why American troops were present at the camp. The camp is known to lodge family members of Daesh Takfiri terrorist fighters.

Other media sources reported that American forces transferred detained Deash forces from the al-Hawl camp towards Iraq.

Al-Mayadeen also reported on Sunday the withdrawal of French troops from a base north of the Hasakah province. The forces had been stationed in the region alongside US and Kurdish forces to allegedly fight Daesh.

The recent developments come after US President Donald Trump abruptly announced the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria earlier this month.

The withdrawal effectively granted Ankara a greenlight to carry out a long-planned invasion of northern Syria targeting US-allied Kurdish forces in the region.

Abandoned by Washington, Kurdish forces struck a deal with Damascus last week, leading to the deployment of Syrian troops north of the country in a bid to counter the Turkish invasion.

On Sunday, Syrian state TV broadcast images showing Syrian troops deploying in the Raqqa province.

On Thursday, Ankara agreed to pause its incursion into Syria for 120 hours while the US facilitates the withdrawal of Kurdish militants from a 20-mile safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish fighters have been reported despite the agreement. Certain aspects of the deal remain contested between different parties of the deal.

NATO task force to examine Turkish operation

Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper has reported that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has formed a specialized task force -- comprised of intelligence, military and political experts -- in a bid to examine the conduct of Ankara, a NATO member, in northern Syria.

The decision was made following a two-hour meeting last Wednesday, the paper reported.

During the meeting, Turkey pledged to inform NATO of its troop deployments and any related civilian displacements and casualties.

Since Turkey launched its invasion of northeastern Syria earlier this month, more than 300,000 Syrians have been displaced according to figures released by the United Nations.

Many humanitarian organizations have also expressed concern regarding potential humanitarian costs of the conflict.

Last week, Amnesty International accused Turkey of committing "serious" war crimes, including "summary killings" and "indiscriminate" attacks showing a "shameful disregard for civilian life".

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/21/609169/US-troops-withdraw-Aleppo-Raqqa

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Firebrand cleric green-lights fresh protests in Iraq

October 21, 2019

BAGHDAD: Influential Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada Al-Sadr has given his supporters the green light to resume anti-government protests, after the movement was interrupted following a deadly crackdown.

Protests shook Iraq for six days from Oct. 1, with young Iraqis denouncing corruption and demanding jobs and services before calling for the downfall of the government. The protests — notable for their spontaneity — were violently suppressed, with official counts reporting 110 people killed and 6,000 wounded, most of them demonstrators.

Calls have been made on social media for fresh rallies on Friday, the anniversary of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s government taking office.

“It’s your right to participate in protests on Oct. 25,” Al-Sadr told his followers in a Facebook post on Saturday evening.

Protesters have opposed any appropriation of their leaderless movement and the firebrand cleric was restrained on Sunday in comparison to his previous exhortations for “million-man marches.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1571826/middle-east

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Europe

 

British Special Forces in Syria beat a hasty retreat following the US withdrawal

Oct 20, 2019

British Special Forces in Syria have been forced to withdraw from their positions in the north of the country, following the sudden retreat of US forces.

The development comes in the wake of US secretary of defence, Mark Esper’s announcement yesterday that the nearly-1000 strong US force in Syria will be evacuated to Western Iraq shortly.

Earlier this month, US president Donald Trump announced that US forces will be withdrawing from their positions on the Syria-Turkey border.

Trump’s decision paved the way for a Turkish military offensive in north-eastern Syria which has completely changed the balance of power in that part of Syria.

Trump’s decision – and the resulting withdrawal of British Special Forces – has caused consternation in the higher reaches of the British armed forces.

The Independent reported on October 17 that a group of former senior commanders in the British military had “condemned” Trump’s actions in northern Syria.

The generals, most of whom reportedly served in the Middle East and Afghanistan, expressed their views directly to The Independent.

General Sir David Richards, the former head of the British military and former commander of international forces in Afghanistan, told The Independent that: “On an emotional level, and certainly from a tactical perspective, what is being done to the Kurds is plainly wrong”.

But Richards also expressed another – and perhaps far more important - reason for his disappointment. “At another level these decisions also mean that Russian and Iranian influence will grow. I really can’t see how any of this protects or enhances Western interests. It’s quite the opposite”, Richards complained. 

The view of UK military chiefs sharply contrasts with the position of British defence secretary, Ben Wallace, who told Nato delegates at a meeting in London last week that: “Turkey needs to do what it sometimes has to do to defend itself”.

According to the The Times’ defence correspondent, Lucy Fisher, the number of British Special Forces in Syria at the beginning of the month stood in the “low hundreds”.

Fisher tweeted earlier this month that British special operators in Syria rely on US forces for “resources, transport, infrastructure, ISR [Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]”.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/20/609126/UK-US-Syria-Military-Retreat

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EU sees ‘chance for ceasefire’ in Afghanistan despite spike in violence

Oct 20, 2019

The European Union (EU) says there is a chance for a ceasefire in Afghanistan, despite renewed violence in the country after the collapse of talks between the United States and the Afghan Taliban militant group.

“It’s the right moment and the right opportunity to maybe go one step beyond a simple reduction in violence and explore ways in which a ceasefire... will take place,” Roland Kobia, the EU special envoy for Afghanistan, told journalists in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Sunday.

“The idea is really to see how we can move the ceasefire idea forward instead of leaving it for later... There is an opportunity here today,” he added.

Talks collapsed between the US and Taliban on September 9 after the militant group claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack that killed 12 people, including an American soldier.

The Afghan government was already excluded from the negotiations because the Taliban “do not recognize” the administration in Kabul.

Kobia did not explain how the collapse of those talks now provided an opportunity, though he seemed to signal that the EU could now take the initiative.

The EU official said a ceasefire would help normalize future relations between the European bloc and the Taliban, which he suggested might return to power in “one form or another” within months.

“A ceasefire would be a token, a guarantee of goodwill and good preparation for the normalization of these relationships,” he said.

The Taliban has previously ruled out an immediate ceasefire.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit.

Esper was due to meet with “key leaders and receive an operational update,” said Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry.

The US’s chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met with Taliban members in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, raising the possibility that Washington is seeking to resume the talks.

Pakistan has helped facilitate the talks before.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/10/20/609146/Afghanistan-EU-chance-for-ceasefire

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Let militants return home, French anti-terror magistrate urges

October 21, 2019

PARIS: The refusal of the French government to take back Daesh militants from Syria could fuel a new militant recruitment drive in France, threatening public safety, a leading anti-terrorism investigator has told AFP.

David De Pas, coordinator of France’s 12 anti-terrorism examining magistrates, said it would be “better to know that these people are in the care of the judiciary” in France “than let them roam free.”

Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militia in northeast Syria has sparked fears that some of the 12,000 militants, including thousands of foreigners, being held in Syrian Kurdish prisons could escape.

Officials in Paris say 60 to 70 French fighters are among those held, with around 200 adults, including militants’ wives, being held in total, along with some 300 children.

France has refused to allow the adults return home, saying they must face local justice. So far Paris has only taken back a handful of children, mostly orphans.

This week, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian traveled to Iraq to try convince Baghdad to take in and try French militants being held in northern Syria. On Friday, in a rare interview, De Pas argued that instability in the region and the “porous nature” of the Syrian Kurdish prison camps risked triggering “uncontrolled migration of jihadists to Europe, with the risk of attacks by very ideological people.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1571861/middle-east

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Africa

 

Sudan names commission to investigate killings at sit-in

21 October 2019

Sudan’s prime minister named a commission on Sunday to investigate a raid on a sit-in in June in which security forces killed dozens near the Defense Ministry in Khartoum, following repeated calls for justice from protest and civilian groups.

The commission will have broad powers to summon witnesses, including officials, and will be given access to official documents, security reports and medical records, according to a report by state news agency SUNA.

The decision was issued late on Sunday, a day before a mass rally planned by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which spearheaded demonstrations leading to the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir in April and continues to call for justice for protesters who were killed or wounded.

The SPA welcomed the appointment of the commission, calling it “the first brick in the structure of a fair investigation and the revelation of the perpetrators of the crime.”

The commission will be headed by human rights lawyers Nabil Adib. It will include senior security officers as well as other lawyers.

The sit-in was the culmination of 16 weeks of protests that led to army officers turning against al-Bashir and replacing him with a military council.

Protesters stayed in the streets calling for civilian rule, until security forces moved to clear the sit-in early on June 3. Witnesses said at the time the security forces were led by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

In August, opposition groups and the military signed a three-year power-sharing deal leading to the formation of an 11-member sovereign council and the appointment of a technocratic, transitional government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The commission will be charged with identifying those responsible for breaking up the sit-in, as well as establishing the number of dead, wounded and missing, and the financial losses incurred by those affected, SUNA reported.

The number of victims has been disputed. Doctors linked to the opposition said nearly 130 people were killed in the raid and ensuing violence. Officials have acknowledged 87 deaths.

The commission is supposed to finish its work in three months, and can be granted one-month extensions provided it submits progress reports.

It can also request technical assistance from the African Union, which has played a prominent role in Sudan’s transition.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/21/Sudan-names-commission-to-investigate-killings-at-sit-in.html

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S. Sudan rebel leader seeks further delay to unity government

21 October 2019

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar said on Sunday that he wants to further postpone the formation of a power-sharing government, warning that rushing into the arrangement would lead to a disaster.

Machar, on a rare visit to Juba from exile in Khartoum for talks with his rival President Salva Kiir, met with a delegation from the UN Security Council which is visiting the country just three weeks before the unity government is to be formed on November 12.

The formation of the government has already been delayed once, in May, over crucial issues such as the formation of a unified army made up of rebel and government forces, and disagreements over state boundaries.

Machar warned that if the security issues were not addressed, the country would see a repeat of fighting in 2016, when an earlier peace deal collapsed, forcing him to flee the country on foot under a hail of gunfire, and worsening the conflict.

“Why do you want to repeat the same mistake?” Machar told the Security Council delegation, which is pushing for the government to go ahead, as South Sudan is currently home to the most expensive UN peacekeeping mission in the world.

Under the September 2018 peace deal, fighters from all sides are to be trained and deployed as an 83,000-strong unified army - a process that has been hampered by delays and lack of funding.

“If we don’t have a national army, police, security, how do you form the government? This morning president Kiir and I met the security chiefs and what we have found is that even in three months, we will not achieve that,” Machar said.

“We have critical issues that we have to resolve, the security arrangement has to be in place. If we are not there by the 12th when Kiir insists to form the government as he had threatened, don’t blame us.”

Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said she was disappointed with Machar’s remarks.

“There is an opportunity for the political leaders in South Sudan to make political compromises and move forward to the next phase of the peace process in a credible, transparent and accountable manner,” she said.

Other signatories to the peace deal are divided between those who want a further delay and those who want to push forward with the formation of the government.

Lam Akol Ajawin, the leader of another rebel group, the National Democratic Movement, said: “Why don’t we give ourselves let’s say two months in order to resolve the issues of security arrangement and the number of states rather than form the government that will collapse in two months.”

Kiir and Machar are expected to continue talks on Monday.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/21/S-Sudan-rebel-leader-seeks-further-delay-to-unity-government.html

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US House Speaker Pelosi holds talks in Jordan with King Abdullah

20 October 2019

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other senior members of Congress held talks in Jordan on Saturday with King Abdullah II and other top Jordanian officials.

Pelosi said in a statement the visit was at “a critical time for the security and stability of the region...With the deepening crisis in Syria after Turkey’s incursion, our delegation has engaged in vital discussions about the impact to regional stability, increased flow of refugees, and the dangerous opening that has been provided to ISIS, Iran and Russia.”

The US delegation included the heads of key House committees including Foreign Affairs committee chairman Eliot Engel, Homeland Security Committee chairman Bennie Thompson, Intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff and Representative Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

The delegation also met Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and other senior Jordanian officials.

“We expressed our continued appreciation for the strategic partnership between the US and Jordan and engaged in a constructive dialogue on regional stability, counter-terrorism, security cooperation, Middle East peace, economic development and other shared challenges,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called an agreement between the US and Turkey on a pause in Ankara’s offensive in northeastern Syria a “sham.”

The agreement “seriously undermines the credibility of America’s foreign policy and sends a dangerous message to our allies and adversaries alike that our word cannot be trusted. President Erdogan has given up nothing, and President Trump has given him everything,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/10/20/US-House-Speaker-Pelosi-holds-talks-in-Jordan-with-King-Abdullah.html

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Tunisia says extremist leader killed in anti-terror raid

20 October 2019

An al-Qaeda leader was killed and another wounded during an anti-terror raid in Tunisia on Sunday, according to the country’s defense ministry.

Tunisian armed forces and national guardsmen led the operation against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the mountainous Kasserine region near the Algerian border, ministry spokesman Mohamed Zekri told AFP.

“A terrorist leader from the Okba Ibn Nafaa group was killed” and another injured in the ongoing operation, he said.

Okba Ibn Nafaa is the Tunisian branch of AQIM.

Various extremist groups are active in the rugged frontier region of Kasserine, including the ISIS-affiliated Jund al-Khalifa, or “Soldiers of the Caliphate.”

Security forces regularly carry out raids in the area.

Tunisia faced a rise in extremist activity after its 2011 revolution, with attacks killing dozens of security personnel, civilians and foreign tourists.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2019/10/20/Tunisia-says-extremist-leader-killed-in-anti-terror-raid-.html

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