Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
Pakistan Mulls Sacking Army Chief Kayani and ISI Boss Pasha: Report
ISLAMABAD: Dec 26, 2011, Pakistan government is seriously contemplating the removal of powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI head Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha against the backdrop of a standoff on a memo alleging an army plot to seize power, according to a media report on Monday.
The government's "extreme unhappiness" with Kayani, currently on a three-year extension, and Pasha, who received a one-year extension in service last year, is an "open secret", The News daily quoted its sources as saying.
The two generals have been held responsible for forcing Pakistan to adopt an "extremely harsh stance" towards the US after last month's NATO air strike, the report said.
They also "adopted a diabolically opposing stance to that of the government" on the alleged memo that sought US help to stave off a possible military coup in Pakistan in May.
The Memogate scandal could cause "extremely serious problems" for the ruling Pakistan People's Party and some top leaders in their individual capacity if it is properly investigated, the report said.
"Saner voices in the inner most circles of the President and the Prime Minister" have advocated "restraint and caution" as recent events, including the serious divergence of opinion on matters of national security, have created the impression that the entire security establishment is "under attack from its own political leadership", the report added.
Commenting on the possible response of the security establishment if the two generals were fired, a source told the daily: "Nobody knows and hopefully nobody will have to find the answer to this troubling question. In fact, were such an action to take place and even if the concerned officers accepted the decision and went home, nobody knows how the institution will react."
The source contended that serious national security issues were at stake and this "consideration can easily outweigh other priorities and restraints, regardless of future judicial or constitutional repercussions of any such forced retaliatory action" by the military.
Speculation about the possible removal of the generals began doing the rounds after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani criticised the army last week, saying it was unacceptable for the force to act as a "state within a state".
Gilani also questioned the military's failure to detect Osama bin Laden's presence in Pakistan for six years.
The report claimed key players involved in framing US foreign and military policy were playing an "active role in encouraging Islamabad into taking" the decision to sack the two generals.
Former CIA official Bruce Riedel and former National Security Advisor James Jones are among those influencing both the US intelligence and military to support Pakistan in such a move, it said.
The Pakistani political leadership had been assured by US leaders of full financial and diplomatic support by Washington were it to order the removal of the two generals, the report claimed.
Meanwhile, The Express Tribune quoted a military source as saying that if Kayani or Pasha were sacked, the army might approach the Supreme Court.
It reported that the army chief had held a series of consultations with top commanders in recent days to discuss tensions with the government and "possible options to deal with the situation if things go from bad to worse".
There was consensus in the army that there would be no direct military intervention if the government decides to sack the army and intelligence chiefs, the source said.
Instead, the military has decided to challenge such a move in the apex court, the source said.
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani could be hanged in Iran
Associated Press, guardian.co.uk,
26 December 2011
Judiciary officials exploring whether woman whose sentence to death by stoning was suspended can be hanged instead
Authorities in Iran have said they are moving ahead with plans to execute a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, but are considering whether to carry out the punishment by hanging instead.
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is serving a 10-year prison sentence for a separate conviction over the murder of her husband, but in July last year after an international outcry Iran suspended plans to carry out her death sentence.
On Sunday, a senior judiciary official said experts were studying whether the punishment of stoning could be changed to hanging.
"There is no haste. We are waiting to see whether we can carry out the execution of a person sentenced to stoning by hanging or not," said Malek Ajdar Sharifi, head of the justice department of East Azerbaijan province, where Ashtiani is jailed.
"As soon as the result [of the investigation] is obtained, we will carry out the sentence," he said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
The charge of a married woman having an illicit relationship requires a punishment of stoning, Sharifi said. He said the judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, had ordered a halt to stoning to allow Islamic experts to investigate whether the punishment could be altered in Ashtiani's case.
Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006 after the murder of her husband. She was later convicted of being an accessory to the murder.
Bangladesh Cabinet for death penalty for terrorism
Star Online Report
December 26, 2011
The cabinet gave its opinion for awarding death penalty to a person for involvement in terrorist activities as it approved in principle the draft of Anti-Terrorism Act-2011.
It also endorsed the Power of Attorney Act-2011, Disaster Management Act-2011 and Jute Policy-2011.
The approval came at a weekly cabinet meeting at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The cabinet also adopted a condolence motion on the death of Abdur Razzak, a veteran Awami League leader and one of the organisers of the country's Liberation War.
It recalled the contribution of the former water resources minister in different arena of the country including politics, government, Liberation War and in all democratic movements from 1962 to 1990.
Razzak breathed his last in a London hospital on Friday, drawing to a close his five-decade illustrious career in politics.
Pakistani woman a Murder suspect brought back by Dubai Police
DUBAI, 26 December 2011 - The Dubai Police have convinced a Pakistani woman, who allegedly killed a compatriot man in her residence, to return to Dubai and stand trial in Dubai courts.
Brigadier Khalil Ibrahim Al Mansouri, Director of General Department of Criminal Investigation, said that the woman reached Dubai on Thursday and was referred to the Dubai Public Prosecution. He also said that the police are looking for an accomplice of the woman, who allegedly helped her in the murder.
Major Ahmed Al Merri, Director of the Criminal Investigation Department, said that the incident took place in July.
The woman came to Dubai to establish some business and the murdered Pakistani national found her a room in a house, where a number of families lived. According to the neighbours in the house, the victim was a frequent visitor at the woman’s residence and one day, he was found stabbed in her room. The police found that the woman suspect had left the country for Pakistan, just one day after the arrival of a relative, who travelled with her to Pakistan the same day.
Al Mansouri said that the woman hid herself in a relative’s house in Pakistan because she was scared of the victim’s family. He said that the woman had no alternative, but to agree to stand trial in Dubai instead of getting killed in her country.
The suspect was convinced to travel back to Dubai after undercover police personnel travelled to Pakistan and managed to get the phone number of the woman, who confessed that she killed the man. She told the police that she killed her because he was continuously harassing her demanding to have sex with him in return of a Dh50,000 loan she took from him. When she refused to surrender to his demand, he filed a complaint with the police and got her arrested. However, she managed to return the money to him, after which he started to threaten her in the name of the rent cheques she gave him earlier.
She told police that she consulted her relative, who came from Pakistan, to help her get rid of him. She invited the victim to her residence and asked him to reach a settlement. But the man attacked and harassed her. So she killed him and left to Pakistan along with the relative who reached there that time, she told the police.
Al Merri said that the police officials spent weeks to convince the woman to come to Dubai. He confirmed that return of the woman is a success for the Dubai Police.
He said that the police had issued arrest warrant against the woman’s partner, despite her claim that he had no role in the murder.
Hamas PM begins tour of Arab, Islamic countries
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
For the first time since 2007, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh left the Gaza Strip Sunday on a tour that will take him to a number of Arab and Islamic countries.
On the eve of the tour, Hamas reiterated its opposition to renouncing violence and recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
Haniyeh’s tour will take him to Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, said a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip.
Unconfirmed reports said that Haniyeh will also visit Benghazi for talks with the new leaders of Libya.
Haniyeh left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing at the head of a delegation consisting of ministers and top Hamas officials.
The London-based Al- Hayat newspaper said that Sudanese President Omar Bashir sent a private plane to Cairo to pick up the Hamas prime minister.
Haniyeh’s talks with the Arab and Muslim leaders will focus on the situation in the Gaza Strip, the official said.
The Hamas leader will seek financial aid for rebuilding destroyed houses and solving the severe problem of unemployment in the Gaza Strip, the official added.
Yusef Rizka, a political adviser to Haniyeh, said this was an important visit because of the changes in the Arab world as a result of the “Arab Spring.”
Meanwhile, Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel reaffirmed his movement’s refusal to recognize Israel.
He said Hamas remained committed to the armed resistance option “until the occupiers are expelled from Palestine.”
“We won’t recognize Israel under any circumstances,” Bardaweel declared.
Deadly Nigeria bomb attacks condemned by world leaders
25 December 2011
There has been widespread condemnation in the international community of a series of Christmas Day bomb attacks in Nigeria that killed almost 40 people.
The White House said the attacks were "senseless violence" and the UK foreign secretary called them "cowardly".
Militant Islamist group Boko Haram said it carried out the attacks.
A blast outside a church near the capital Abuja claimed 35 lives, while a policeman died in the city of Jos and four people were killed in Damaturu.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the attacks were "an unwarranted affront on our collective safety and freedom", adding: "Nigerians must stand as one to condemn them."
The White House said initial investigation showed the attacks were "terrorist acts" and pledged to help Nigeria bring those responsible to justice.
There were indications these attacks were being planned. In the past week, bombs that were being prepared exploded prematurely in Yobe and Kaduna states.
Then the police raided a suspected Boko Haram hideout in Yobe. Some 60 people were killed in the ensuing gun battle.
Sunday's bomb attacks appear part of a planned offensive by the militants, who are calling for a strict Islamic state.
Full Report at:
Tunisia First free elected govt sworn in
Tunis, Dec. 25: Tunisia’s first freely elected government has been sworn in following a popular uprising earlier this year.
The new government led by moderate Islamist party Ennahda received a vote of confidence in Parliament on Friday and was sworn in on Saturday.
Tunisia threw off decades of authoritarian rule in January and held widely praised elections, but Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali warned the
country faces many challenges: high unemployment, pockets of unrest and a stagnating economy.
Tunisia’s democratic transition is being closely watched since its revolt led to a rash of similar uprisings across the Arab world.
Its new government is still only temporary, running the country until a
new Constitution is written and another round of elections held. A moderate Islamist party will run most of Tunisia’s government ministries in a new coalition Cabinet presented on Thursday, the first since the country’s first post-uprising elections.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of the long-banned Islamist party Ennahda said the 41-member government will focus on boosting the economy and fighting corruption.
Joblessness and corruption helped drive popular anger during protests a year ago that forced out hard-line President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, ending half a century of dictatorship. That uprising led to revolts around the Arab world. After weeks of negotiations with the parties who won seats on a new constituent assembly in October elections, Jebali announced the new government on Thursday.
Islamists set to quit Algerian govt, push reform
ALGIERS, 26 December 2011 - Boosted by the success of peers in the region, a leading Algerian Islamist party plans to leave the ruling coalition before April’s parliamentary election to press for constitutional reforms to limit the powers of the president.
“We are for a parliamentary system, not a presidential system as is the case now, and we will campaign to change the constitution,” Bouguera Soltani, leader of the Islamist Movement for Society of Peace (MSP), told Reuters in an interview.
“The final decision belongs to the shura (advisory council) which should take it by the end of this month. Personally I am with those who support the idea to leave the government and the majority is with me,” he said.
The MSP’s withdrawal from the coalition would not strip the government of its majority but the party has a big following among conservative Algerians - a large part of the population.
Algeria, a major gas supplier to Europe and a Western ally in the fight against al Qaeda, has managed to avoid a spillover from other Arab revolts despite riots over wages and high prices in early 2011.
Full Report at:
India, Pak meeting on nuclear and conventional CBMs begins
ISLAMABAD:Dec 26, 2011, Senior Indian and Pakistani officials today began two-day talks on nuclear and conventional confidence-building measures here as part of the peace process between the two countries.
This is the first meeting of the Joint Working Group on nuclear and conventional CBMs since October 2007 though other officials, including the two foreign secretaries, have discussed these issues in recent meetings in Islamabad and New Delhi, diplomatic sources told PTI.
Today's discussions will focus on conventional CBMs while nuclear issues will be taken up tomorrow.
Among the issues that are expected to be discussed are CBMs related to Jammu and Kashmir and missile tests and steps to boost cross-LoC trade and travel, the sources said.
In an apparent bid to strengthen its case for access to civil nuclear technology, Pakistan has been pressing the issue of civil nuclear cooperation with India, including a proposal to discuss measures to cope with a Fukushima-like situation, the sources said.
The 10-member Indian delegation includes diplomats who handle issues related to Pakistan and disarmament. D Bala Verma, Director General (disarmament and international security affairs) is leading the group on nuclear CBMs while Yashwant K Sinha, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) heads the group on conventional CBMs. The Pakistani side is led by Additional Secretary Munawar Saeed Bhatti.
This is the fifth round of expert-level talks on conventional CBMs and the sixth round on nuclear CBMs. The decision to re-convene the two groups was made when the two foreign secretaries met here in June this year.
India and Pakistan resumed their dialogue process early this year after a gap of over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which were blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Wanted Iraq V-P refuses to return to Baghdad
QALACHWALAN (IRAQ), DEC 25, 2011, Vice-president Tareq alHashemi, who is charged with running a death squad, told AFP in an interview on Sunday he would not go to Baghdad to stand trial and raised the prospect of fleeing Iraq.
Mr Hashemi, holed up at an official guesthouse of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in the country’s autonomous Kurdish region, acknowledged his guards may have carried out attacks, but he has steadfastly denied any involvement.
The warrant against Mr Hashemi, issued nearly a week ago, has been the
focus of a political row between Shia Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki and the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, which is a part of his national unity government and of which Mr Hashemi is a member.
Asked if he would return to Baghdad to face trial, Mr Hashemi told AFP: “Of course not.” He attributed
his refusal to travel to the capital to poor security and politicisation of the justice system.
He said most of his guards had been arrested and had their weapons confiscated, adding that “there is no security for the vice president. How can I come back to Baghdad if I cannot secure myself?” “The Iraqi judicial council is under the control and the influence of the Central government, and this is a big problem,” Mr Hashemi added in a one-hour interview during which he was surrounded by unarmed guards. “That is why I asked to move the case to Kurdistan. ... Justice here will not be politicised.” — AFP
17 pro-Taliban militants killed in Pakistan
Islamabad:Dec 25, 2011, Seventeen pro-Taliban militants were killed in operations by security forces in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border on Sunday, officials said.
Fifteen militants were killed when troops shelled rebel hideouts in Sadda area of Kurram tribal region.
Four hideouts were destroyed during the action, officials said.
Two militants were killed and 13 more injured in a clash between security forces and rebels at Bara in the Khyber tribal region, officials said.
China assures Pakistan of unwavering support
BEIJING:26 DEC, 2011, Amid a deterioration in US-Pak ties, China has assured Pakistan's political and military leadership of its support in maintaining sovereignty and internal stability and promised to help its 'trusted ally' play a bigger role in global and regional affairs.
The assurance was conveyed to Pakistani leaders by top Chinese diplomat Dai Bingguo to Islamabad last week in the backdrop of tensions following the November 26 cross-border NATO attack in which 24 soldiers of the country were killed and open discord between government and army over a memo alleging an army plot to seize power.
Dai who concluded a two day visit to Islamabad on December 24 has assured China's policy of support to Pakistan "will not be shaken" despite any changes in the international landscape, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Hong Lei told a media briefing here today.
"China also supports Pakistan to play a bigger role in international and regional affairs. China believes Pakistan has the wisdom and capacity to properly deal with relations with relevant countries and safeguard its own interests", he said.
Asked about the outcome of Dai's visit to Islamabad, Hong said the visit took place in connection with the closing ceremony of the 60th year of establishment of diplomatic relations and year of friendship between the two countries.
"The two sides exchanged views on China-Pakistan relations, issues relating to Afghanistan and other regional issues of common interest", Hong said.
Dai, whose official designation is a state councillor which in Chinese hierarchy is far higher than the Foreign Minister had held separate meetings President Asi Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbni Khar and Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani.
Are Egypt's Islamic Parties Planning to Nullify the Peace Treaty with Israel?
Jonathan D. Halevi
26th Dec. 2011
The prevailing optimism in media reports concerning the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist party's readiness to adhere to the peace treaty with Israel is based on general statements made by senior officials in both parties. These statements maintain that Egypt must honor the international treaties that it signed.
Yet a more rigorous examination of the two parties' stances identifies a markedly different tendency. Both seek a way to cast off the Camp David agreement in a manner that will incur minimal diplomatic and economic damage to Egypt, and restore Egypt to its leading role in the circle of states confronting Israel.
The Muslim Brotherhood has set a number of criteria for examining international agreements, including the Camp David agreement: the considerations of Islamic canon law (Sharia), the position of the Egyptian people, and the degree of Israel's compliance with the agreement from Egypt's perspective.
The strategic objective of the Egyptian Islamic movements is to transform Egypt into a prime regional force that will lead the diplomatic and military battle against Israel. This means re-examining the Camp David agreement and submitting it to the decision of the new parliament that will be controlled by the Islamic parties or to a referendum - thereby alleviating the responsibility of any future Egyptian government for cancelling the peace treaty.
These developments can be averted if the U.S. and its allies take a firm position against any initiative to undermine the Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt, and all echelons of the Egyptian establishment are made to understand the implications of any such action.
The revolution in Egypt, followed by elections to the parliament, has elevated the Islamic parties to a position of power as they enjoy an absolute parliamentary majority after the two initial stages of the parliamentary elections. The Muslim Brotherhood movement's Freedom and Justice party won 49 percent of the total seats that it contested (73 out of 150) in the first stage of the elections and the Salafist al-Nur party won about 20 percent of the seats (30 seats). In the second stage of the elections the Muslim Brotherhood won about 40 percent of the votes and al-Nur about 35 percent. The final stage of the elections will take place in January 2012. However, we can already form the distinct impression that the Egyptian parliament will be controlled by the absolute majority retained by these two extreme Islamic parties.
Full Report at:
Pakistani Hindu families seek Indian citizenship
Jatinder Kohli, Hindustan Times
Kahnor, Rohtak , December 26, 2011 Six years after they migrated from Pakistan’s Punjab to Kahnor village in the district, 150 Hindu families are waiting for Indian citizenship.
They migrated to India after being pressured and tortured to convert to Islam in Lyyia district in 2005. Initially, Hindu families settled at
Kahnor village, but after a few years most of them shifted to others areas of the state, including Fatehabad and Ratia. Three such families living at Kahnor have not been granted Indian citizenship, though they possess ration cards, electricity connections and are registered voters.
Vajeer Chand, head of a family, claimed that they constantly received threats to convert to Islam in Pakistan. While some families converted to Islam, others came to India, he added.
Chand said on the persuasion of his relatives in Rohtak, he and his kin came to India, but their visa will expire in February 2012.
He claimed that his two sons and a daughter, who were born in India, are eligible for Indian citizenship.
Chand got married his another son and daughter in the state.
Chand added that he had submitted Rs 7,000 to the district administration as fee to get citizenship for all 14 persons on December 16 after they requested the deputy commissioner to grant citizenship in September.
Another 100 Pakistani Hindu families are living in Fatehabad and Rohtak. Maintaining that he was unaware of the citizenship demand of the migrants, deputy commissioner Vikas Gupta assured to look the matter after going through records.
Yemenis denounce killing of anti-Saleh demonstrators
25 December 2011
Thousands of Yemenis have taken to the streets of Sanaa, to protest against the killing of demonstrators and demand their country's acting leader resign.
As they marched past the office of Vice-President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, the protesters called him a "tool" of outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Mr Hadi earlier called for calm, a day after nine protesters in Taiz were killed by forces loyal to Mr Saleh.
They had been demanding that Mr Saleh's immunity from prosecution be revoked.
Hours after Saturday's violence, the president said he would leave for the US to "calm the atmosphere for the unity government to hold the presidential election" in February.
But he gave no timetable for leaving and promised to return in opposition.
Mr Saleh handed over power to Mr Hadi last month after signing a Gulf Co-operation Council-brokered agreement that gave him immunity.
The deal sought to end a year of violence that has seen hundreds of protesters killed by security forces and Mr Saleh's supporters, and deadly clashes between them and pro-opposition tribal forces.
On Sunday, the state news agency, Saba, quoted Mr Hadi as telling US ambassador Gerald Feierstein that all sides had to "commit... to a truce and respect [the GCC agreement's] rules forbidding escalation".
Activists accused military units led by Mr Saleh's son Ahmed of being behind Saturday's violence. They also said dozens of people were arrested by the National Security police led by Mr Saleh's nephew.
"The situation will not stabilise, since Saleh's relatives and supporters are still holding sensitive positions in the army and government," said Fathi al-Rawdi, one activist at Sunday's protest told the Associated Press.
Iraq interior ministry hit by suicide car bomber
26 December 2011
At least seven people have been killed in a suicide car bomb attack outside Iraq's interior ministry.
At least 27 others were also injured in the attack, which officials say happened at about 04:30 GMT.
On Thursday, a series of bombings killed nearly 70 people in the capital.
The attacks follow the withdrawal of the last US combat troops from the country after nearly nine years of military engagement.
The attacker rammed his explosive-laden car through the main gate when interior ministry officials opened it to allow maintenance workers in, a ministry official was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
Ambulances could be heard rushing to the scene of the attack, as helicopters flew overhead.
"When I went outside I found my colleagues, some of them were killed, others were on the ground, many cars were burned," Zaid Raheem, a police guard, told the Reuters news agency.
The renewed violence comes as Iraq's year-old power-sharing government is in turmoil after an arrest warrant was issued for Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi on terror charges - accusations he denies.
The entire al-Iraqiyya group, the main Sunni bloc in parliament, is boycotting the assembly in protest. It accuses Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shia, of monopolising power.
Mr Hashemi is currently in Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, under the protection of the regional government, but Mr Maliki has demanded that they give him up.
US Vice-President Joe Biden on Sunday urged Iraq's leaders to work together to avoid further escalating tensions.
Mr Biden made calls to Mr Maliki and to Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani encouraging them to engage in dialogue, the White House said in a statement.
The BBC's Rafid Jaboori in Baghdad says the political crisis is of great concern to ordinary Iraqis as all attempts at mediation have so far failed to bring the opponents together.
These bombings bring yet more fear to the country at this critical moment after the US withdrawal, our correspondent adds.
US gears up for limited relationship with Pakistan
Dec 26, 2011
WASHINGTON: US officials believe the country’s relationship with Pakistan has been seriously damaged and a counter terrorism alliance can survive only in a limited form, The New York Times reported on late Sunday.
Citing unnamed US and Pakistani officials, the newspaper said officials acknowledge this deterioration will complicate the ability to launch attacks against extremists based in Pakistan and move supplies into Afghanistan.
US-Pakistani relations took a serious hit last month after a series of US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan.
A joint US-Nato investigation concluded that a disastrous spate of errors and botched communications led to the deaths.
Pakistan has rejected the findings.
The United States will be forced to restrict drone strikes, limit the number of its spies and soldiers on the ground and spend more to transport supplies through Pakistan to allied troops in Afghanistan, the report said.
United States aid to Pakistan will also be reduced sharply, the paper noted.
“We’ve closed the chapter on the post-9/11 period,” The Times quoted a senior US official as saying.
“Pakistan has told us very clearly that they are re-evaluating the entire relationship.”
American officials say the relationship will endure in some form, but that the contours will not be clear until Pakistan completes its wide-ranging review of the November incident in the coming weeks, the paper pointed out.
U.S. no longer able to disregard Pakistan’s sovereignty
by NEWS SOURCE
DECEMBER 25, 2011
The New York Times reports: With the United States facing the reality that its broad security partnership with Pakistan is over, American officials are seeking to salvage a more limited counterterrorism alliance that they acknowledge will complicate their ability to launch attacks against extremists and move supplies into Afghanistan.
The United States will be forced to restrict drone strikes, limit the number of its spies and soldiers on the ground and spend more to transport supplies through Pakistan to allied troops in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials said. United States aid to Pakistan will also be reduced sharply, they said.
“We’ve closed the chapter on the post-9/11 period,” said a senior United States official, who requested anonymity to avoid antagonizing Pakistani officials. “Pakistan has told us very clearly that they are re-evaluating the entire relationship.”
American officials say that the relationship will endure in some form, but that the contours will not be clear until Pakistan completes its wide-ranging review in the coming weeks.
The Obama administration got a taste of the new terms immediately after an American airstrike killed 26 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border last month. Pakistan closed the supply routes into Afghanistan, boycotted a conference in Germany on the future of Afghanistan and forced the United States to shut its drone operations at a base in southwestern Pakistan.
Mushahid Hussain Sayed, the secretary general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, an opposition political party, summed up the anger that he said many harbored: “We feel like the U.S. treats Pakistan like a rainy-day girlfriend.”
Whatever emerges will be a shadow of the sweeping strategic relationship that Richard C. Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, championed before his death a year ago. Officials from both countries filled more than a dozen committees to work on issues like health, the rule of law and economic development.
All of that has been abandoned and will most likely be replaced by a much narrower set of agreements on core priorities — countering terrorists, stabilizing Afghanistan and ensuring the safety of Pakistan’s arsenal of more than 100 nuclear weapons — that Pakistan will want spelled out in writing and agreed to in advance.
Full Report at:
Afghanistan sets ground rules for Taleban talks
(Reuters), 26 December 2011
Afghanistan will accept a Taleban office in Qatar to help peace talks but no foreign power can get involved in the process without its consent, the government’s peace council said, as efforts gather pace to find a solution to the 10-year war.
Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, in a note to foreign missions, has set out ground rules for engaging the Taleban after Kabul grew concerned that the United States and Qatar, helped by Germany, had secretly agreed with the Taleban to open an office in the Qatari capital, Doha.
It said that negotiations with the Taleban could only begin after they stopped violence against civilians, cut ties to al Qaeda, and accepted the Afghan constitution which guarantees civil rights and liberties, including rights for women.
The council, according to a copy of the 11-point note made available to Reuters, also said any peace process with the Taleban would have to have the support of Pakistan since members of the insurgent group were based there.
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is in agreement regarding the opening of an office for the armed opposition, but only to move forward the peace process and conduct negotiations,” the council said.
The government would prefer such an office in either Saudi Arabia or Turkey, both of which it is close to, but was not averse to Doha as long as the authority of the Afghan state was not eroded and the office was only established for talks, officials said.
“We are saying Saudi or Turkey are preferable, we are not saying it has to be there only. The only condition is it should be in an Islamic country,” said a government official.
President Hamid Karzai’s administration recalled its ambassador from Doha last week, apparently angry that it had been kept in the dark about the latest round of negotiations with the insurgent group.
Full Report at:
Human rights put to the test in turbulent Middle East
By dpa correspondents Dec 26, 2011
Cairo, Dec 26, 2011 - In June, a Bahraini military court sentenced activist Ali Abdulemam to 15 years in jail on charges of spreading false information and seeking to overthrow the government.
Six months later, Maikel Nabil, an Egyptian blogger, was sentenced to two years in prison for using the internet to spread 'lies about the armed forces.'
Almost a year after the death of Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi stirred up a political maelstrom across the region, human rights - one of the key demands of the Arab uprisings - are still being put to the test.
There has been some good news. Tunisia's one-time dissident Moncef Marzouki, for instance, has been elected the country's president.
But many activists are worried that the victory of the Islamist Ennahda party in the October election could yet derail the country's democratization efforts.
'Tunisians revolted to establish a new system, where human rights are at the centre of reforms, not for giving the old system a religious component,' said Tunisian rights advocate Yassin Ayyari.
According to him, Ennahda lacks an encompassing reform programme and 'instead of addressing reforms, moves the debate towards sentimental, religious problems.'
'The most jeopardized human right is the right to be different,' Ayyari told a recent panel discussion on human rights in Cairo. He said that many followers of Ennahada falsely equated criticizing the government with criticizing Islam.
The rise of Islamism in the wake of the region's uprisings has triggered fears that the tide will impede the promotion of human rights, by subtly changing the mindset of the people and leading them away from their initial struggle for a new system that respects human rights.
'The Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt focus on religion and thereby herd people away from the real issues on the ground,' Khawla Mattar, head of the United Nation Information Centre in Cairo, told dpa.
Dozens of Egyptians have been killed in 2011 in a string of clashes with army and police forces over the right to protest, she noted.
Frej Fenniche, a senior human rights officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, believes that 'human rights in Egypt have developed negatively' since the popular uprising that forced Hosny Mubarak out of office in February.
According to Fenniche, the military rulers who took over after Mubarak have failed to implement the expected legislative changes.
Worst still, they have also referred over 12,000 civilians to military trials - an average of about 50 a day - between February until August alone. Unlike in civil courts, defendants cannot appeal verdicts passed by military tribunals.
'The reality on the ground is that the Supreme Court of the Armed Forces is adopting the inhumane methods of the Mubarak regime. Over the past months, we have recorded several cases of torture and excessive violations of the right to be tried before civil courts by the (ruling) military council,' said Nehal al-Banna, of the Cairo Institute for Human Right Studies.
The situation is not much better in the Gulf region, which has also been hit by a yearning for change.
'There is no clear picture about the future in Yemen. There are realistic fears of a civil war as people increasingly distrust each other,' said Yemeni activist Hend al-Nasiri.
A November Gulf-brokered deal involving a peaceful power transfer is still not complete, with forces loyal to long-standing president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his rivals occasionally locked in bloody violence.
In Bahrain, pro-democracy protests have so far failed to topple their long-standing rulers, with the Gulf Cooperation Council accused by activists of playing a key role in quelling the protests, either by force or through political means.
'The grip of the Al-Khalifa (royal) family on power in Bahrain is still tight. They use excessive force to keep power, forcing many human rights activists into hiding,' Hussain Yousif, a coordinator from the Bahrain Press Association, told dpa.
According to Yousif, who fears detention and is in exile in Egypt, 'everyone who critically speaks out in public (in Bahrain) faces arrest and false accusations.'
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) seems to be one of the few countries to have avoided the protests that have erupted almost everywhere else in the Middle East. Yet, government opponents say they do not feel safe. The case of five political activists detained for seven months on charges of insulting the Gulf country's president, for instance, have caused a stir.
They were finally pardoned in November, one day after being sentenced to up to three years in prison, following strong pressure from international human rights groups.
According to Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, their freeing was a positive step.
'But a commutation alone will not undo the government's terrible mishandling of this case,' Whitson said.
Arabs urged to monitor Syrian flashpoints
The Opposition Syrian National Council appealed on Sunday for the Arab League to immediately send observers to the besieged city of Homs and other hotspots of a bloody crackdown on dissent.
The call came a day before a first group of Arab League observers is set to arrive in Syria to begin monitoring a deal the 22member bloc agreed with the government in Damascus aimed at ending nine months of violence.
“Since early this morning, the (Homs) neighbourhood of Baba Amro has been under a tight siege and the threat of military invasion by an estimated 4,000 soldiers,” the SNC said in a statement received in Nicosia.
“This is in addition to the nonstop bombing of Homs that has been going on for days,” said the council, the main umbrella group of opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
The central city of Homs has been a focal point of the Assad government’s crackdown on anti-regime demonstrations, as well as the site of fierce clashes between the Army and mutinous soldiers.
‘Bagram drone attacks will damage Pakistan-Afghan ties’
ISLAMABAD - Dec 26, 2011, Former Afghan Defence Minister Shahnawaz Tanai said the US plans to use Afghanistan’s Bagram airport to operate drones for strikes in Pakistani could harm Pak-Afghan relations. In an exclusive telephonic interview from Kabul, he said now that the US had vacated Pakistan’s Shamsi airbase, it will use Afghanistan for drone operations will spoil ties with Islamabad.
“The use of Afghan soil against Pakistan will push the two countries to hostility,” Tanai said.
He said that the US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas had been suspended but had not been stopped. He said Afghan President Hamid Karzai had vowed to not allow anyone to use his country’s soil against a neighboring country, but the US drone incident in Iran and attack against Pakistani post’s at Salala had proven the president was too weak to stop it. “And both Iran and Pakistan urged Afghan government to take notice of using its soil for such actions,” he added.
Living in despair, Kashmir half widows hopes still alive
Srinagar: Dec 25, 2011, Today Javaid would have been celebrating his 37th birthday, if ‘security’ forces had not picked up him 21 years ago. On August 18, 1990 Javaid was taken away for never to return.
During the first years of militancy in Kashmir sixteen year old Javaid Ahmad Ahangar, class 11thcommerce student, was staying at his uncle’s house for the night when he was picked up by the ‘security’ forces and bundled into a vehicle. Till now his whereabouts are unknown.
Parveena Ahangar along with prominent human rights activists founded an organization in 1994(split into two organizations in 2006) Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons to know the whereabouts of their dear ones. Parveena told Agence India Press that, her son was taken mistakenly. “The security forces had come to arrest Javaid Ahmad Bhat, a JKLF militant in neighborhood, but instead picked up my son Javaid Ahmad Ahangar,” remembers Ahangar.
Every month she organizes a sit in protest with others like her whose dear ones are missing. Ahangar says that we are one family: “They are my family, their sufferings are mine, and we fight for same cause. The search of our dear ones,” says Ahangar.
Mothers, sisters, and wives of the disappeared have organized under the association of parents of disappeared persons (APDP) towards bringing justice.
Today they are protesting against the enforced disappearances of their relatives, and one among them is Naseema Bano. Naseema is sitting silently on a road here with a candle in her right hand and wearing black pheran (a long cloak to cover body) to mark the International human rights (December 10) day as black day. She is a ‘half widow’.
Women whose husbands have been subjected to enforced ‘disappearances’ but not yet been declared deceased are often called ‘half widows’.
By conservative estimates there are 1,500 widows in Kashmir.
Indian forces have been accused of human rights abuses against civilians since 1989. By conservative estimates, 22 years of strife have left more than 70,000 dead and more than 8,000 disappeared.
Such disappearances have been carried out by government forces—police, paramilitary, or military—or by militants. However, the number of the disappeared carried out by militants is significantly lower than government forces.
Full Report at:
Islamic study amidst Science and Geography classes The best of both worlds
Syed Mohammed, TNN
HYDERABAD:Dec 26, 2011, Last week, in a quaint corner of Gandipet an elaborate function was held for a CBSE school's inauguration. There was nothing unusual about the opening except that the event's chief guest was the All India Muslim Personal Law Board chief. The school's timetable of this school is like that of any other, just that amidst Science and Geography classes, are periods marked for Islamic study.
The school, Creekside International School, is among the 200-odd schools (of the 1,200 Muslim-managed schools) in the city that offer both modern and Islamic curriculum, a trend that has been picking up for over a decade now. At least a dozen of these schools have come up in the city over the last five years, many of them plush properties, with the management's eyes set on the expat Muslim population in Hyderabad who wish that their children get the best of both worlds.
Take for instance, Syed Mohiuddin (name changed) whose son studies in Zikra School in Somajiguda. "I want to preserve my son's religious identity. The school offers both modern and Islamic education under one roof which ensures that he doesn't become a victim of an identity crisis," he says.
The schools are meeting parental expectations and even competing with each other in this segment. From offering prayer facilities and teaching Arabic vocabulary to prescribing traditional attire as the school uniform, some schools have clearly gone beyond putting just an extra period of Islamic values. "They are targeting the Gulf NRI parents who are keen on their child learning Arabic and also theology," says a keen observer of the trend.
Predictably, the schools have come up across the city. If some in the Old City offer modern and Islamic education for a modest fee structure ranging between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 per year, there are 'international' ones, albeit with an Indian syllabus, that have come up in affluent suburbs like Banjara Hills, Jubilee Hills and Toli Chowki. Here these sprawling campuses charge up to Rs 70,000 per annum, catering to a large number of children of non resident Indians.
Full Report at:
Arab women’s use of social media remains low
DUBAI, 26 December 2011 – Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, continue to serve as primary mediums for raising awareness, disseminating information and mobilising the community during the historic transformations sweeping the Arab world. However, despite their active engagement in civic and political affairs, Arab women’s use of social media remains low compared to men, according to the third Arab Social Media Report.
Generated by Dubai School of Government’s (DSG) Governance and Innovation Programme this third report of the series is in collaboration with the Gender and Public Policy Programme. It is based on a regional study that targeted men and women to explore their perceptions on Arab women’s use of social media, particularly as a tool for civic, political and economic empowerment.
According to the survey, Arab men and women increasingly view social media as an effective tool for women empowerment. However, a ‘virtual’ gender gap prevails, as only one third of Facebook users in the Arab region are women in stark contrast to women being around half of the users globally.
Fadi Salem, Director of the Governance and Innovation Programme at DSG and co-author of the report, said: “There are significantly fewer Arab women using social media. However, 70 per cent of the active social media users in the Arab world are young women and men, which points out that a critical mass of young Arabs have embraced social media with the objective to effect change. The positive views shown in our survey coupled with the shift towards using social media in activism during the Arab popular movements, suggest that social media can also play an important role in better empowering Arab women in the near future.”
Full Report at:
India: Malegaon Terror accused bitten by RTI bug
Mateen Hafeez, TNN
MUMBAI:Dec 26, 2011, Unani doctor Farog Makhdoomi, a 2006 Malegaon bomb blast suspect, had filed 702 RTI applications during his five-year imprisonment in various Maharashtra jails. Makhdoomi, now 38, was released on bail along with six others last month. He received RTI answers and references in around 50 lakh pages in the jail.
The ATS had claimed that Makhdoomi, was one of the prime conspirators. But the ATS claims fell short during the probe after Swami Aseemannd, member of a right-wing outfit, confessed his role in the blasts. Makhdoomi, medical practitioner by profession, kept filing RTI applications on issues like food in the jails, Islamic banking, Muslim reservation, Sacchar commission etc.
Makhdoomi said, "I filed first RTI application about the jail canteen's food. Food worth Rs 40 was being sold for Rs 140. When I tried exposing the corruption in the Arthur Road jail, the then superintendent had made our lives miserable."
Makhdoomi said he didn't get any reply when asked about the procedure for filling up the vacancies in the Malegaon civil hospital. Malegaon residents had been demanding that the victims of the blasts be given preference in the hospital job. Makhdoomi has also obtained the records of the detention of a co-accused "which prove that he was detained and kept in the custody illegally", he added.
In February, Makhdoomi appeared for the PET (PhD Entrance Test). Having completed his Bachelor of Unani Medicine in 1997, Makhdoomi studied MA in Urdu while in custody in 2009. He cleared the PhD entrance exam as well.
India: Congress leads race for UP Muslim vote
MUKESH RANJAN and MANISH ANAND
NEW DELHI, Dec 26, 2011, 125 seats critical BSP, SP rework tactics
With the Congress-led UPA at the Centre doling out the quota carrot for the minorities, the party appears to have taken a headstart among contenders for the around 18 per cent Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh, forcing the Samajwadi Party and the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party to rework their electoral strategy.
With over 125 Assembly constituencies in the state having a significant Muslim voteshare, Congress leaders are hoping to strike big, propelling the party to the top league.
Dismissing criticism that the decision was with an eye on the Uttar Pradesh polls, a senior Congress leader noted it was a commitment to the people during the 2009 general elections.
“We have just translated our commitment into action. It’s a mere coincidence that two commitments (another being the Food Bill) came just before the Uttar Pradesh elections were declared,” he added.
The Congress is gearing up to match the SP’s efforts to field a large number of Muslim candidates in Uttar Pradesh. More than 30 per cent of the candidates it has declared so far are Muslims.
The Congress — which has former SP leaders Rashid Masood, Salim Sherwani and former BSP leader Rashid Alvi in its ranks, as well as the RLD’s Shahid Siddiqui on the same side — is reaching out to Muslims with the message that their progress depends only on this party.
Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party is battling hard to keep itself in the reckoning with Muslim voters.
“It was the SP that protected Muslims’ interests by ensuring better jobs in police recruitment,” a senior party leader said.
The ruling Bahujan Samaj Party is banking on Ms Mayawati’s “firm” administration.
“We will tell Muslims their security was not compromised even after the Allahabad high court verdict on Ayodhya,” a senior BSP leader said.