Pakistani sentenced to death for blasphemy 'very frail': NGO
VATICAN CITY, Dec 21, 2011 — A Christian mother sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan last year is in a "very frail" physical and mental state, a human rights group that visited her in prison said in a statement Tuesday.
"Because of her solitary confinement, Asia Bibi, 46, appears considerably older, has a pale complexion, she looks very frail, even unable to stand on her own," the Masihi Foundation was quoted by Catholic news agency Fides as saying.
"During the time spent with her, her eyes were not fixed at any one place at any time, she could not understand what was happening, she was completely confused and looked astonished," the group said after the visit on Monday.
Bibi, a mother of five who is being held in a prison in Sheikpura in the Punjab region, however told her visitors that she has forgiven her accusers.
She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 after drinking water from a well reserved for Muslims and allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed. Her appeal at the High Court in Lahore is ongoing.
"She said she has not been taken seriously by anyone, she was frightened and seemed very cold and nervous. She hardly made eye contact," Masihi said.
When asked about forgiveness, Bibi was quoted by the foundation as saying: "I have already forgiven those who blamed me of blasphemy."
Pope Benedict XVI and the international community have condemned her conviction and have asked for her to be pardoned.
Iraqi PM urges Kurds to hand over VP al-Hashemi
21 December 2011
The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has urged Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq to hand over Iraq's Sunni Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi.
An arrest warrant was issued for Mr Hashemi on Monday over terror charges.
Tariq al-Hashemi is Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician. He says the allegations are "fabricated".
Mr Hashemi is currently in the region of northern Iraq controlled by Kurdish authorities. The warrant was issued a day after US troops pulled out.
The US Vice-President Joe Biden has urged Iraqi leaders to work together to avert renewed sectarian strife.
At a news conference broadcast live on Iraqi television, Mr Maliki, a Shia, said he would dismiss ministers belonging to the main Sunni political grouping, Iraqiyya, if they did not lift their boycott of parliament and cabinet.
Barely had the last American soldier stepped across the border into Kuwait than the fragile Iraqi political structure the US military left behind began to fall dangerously apart, as long-standing tensions between Shia and Sunni political leaders came to a head.
Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician, Tariq al-Hashemi, is effectively a fugitive. While he hides out under Kurdish protection in the north, the entire al-Iraqiyya political bloc to which he belongs has pulled out of both parliament and the cabinet.
That paralyses Sunni participation in the hard-won power-sharing deal that underpins a year-old national unity government which has rarely pulled together. Frantic efforts are now under way to try to hold that structure together.
The alternative, at its direst, could be the country's de facto partition, as part of a wider regional Balkanisation along sectarian lines.
Rift endangers unity government
Iraqiyya - which was already boycotting parliament in protest at Mr Maliki's alleged authoritarian manner - has suspended its ministers' participation in cabinet in response to the arrest warrant for Mr Hashemi.
The prime minister offered an invitation to all political factions to hold talks to try to resolve the crisis.
But if that did not work out he said that in the future Iraq could have a majority government which any person or bloc would be welcome to join, to "take the country forward in a positive direction".
Asked about Mr Hashemi's call for the Arab League to oversee any process against him, Mr Maliki said this was a criminal issue in Iraq. He saw no reason why the Arab League or the United Nations should intervene in an Iraqi criminal case, he said.
"We do not accept any interference in Iraqi justice," he said. "We gave Saddam a fair trial, and we will give Hashemi a fair trial too."
Mr Hashemi denies the claims that he paid his bodyguards to kill during Iraq's bloody insurgency.
On Monday evening Iraqi television showed purported confessions from his bodyguards, but the vice-president says that they were false and "politicised".
Mr Hashemi said he was ready to defend himself against accusations of terrorism
He told reporters on Tuesday: "I swear to God that I never committed a sin when it comes to Iraqi blood."
He said he would be willing to face trial in Kurdistan.
Mr Maliki's news conference came after he had spoken on the phone to Mr Biden.
The US vice-president "stressed the urgent need for the prime minister and the leaders of the other major blocs to meet and work through their differences together," the White House said.
Former Balochistan CM vows to take killers of Baloch people to ICJ
QUETTA: Dec 21 2011, Former Balochistan chief minister and Balochistan National Party (BNP) President Sardar Akhtar Mengal on Tuesday vowed to bring the killers of Baloch people to justice on priority basis. Talking to reporters on telephone, he said participating in the general elections was not the priority of his party and he would prefer to bring the killers of Baloch youth to book by knocking the doors of the International Court of Justice in the Hague regardless of whether the killers were in uniform or in civil dress. “The rulers believed that they will cow down the Baloch people by unleashing terror against them,” he said. “We will never surrender to barbarism,” he said, adding that the rulers did not consider Balochs as human beings. Without an end to killing of Baloch youth in official custody and recovery of all the missing persons, there will be no chance of any talks with the people in the hills. Even the people on the political front will not hold talks with the government leave aside the people in the hills fighting the security forces, Mengal said. The meeting between Sardar Ataullah Mengal and Nawaz Sharif was not a big political event, he said. Sardar Mengal had welcomed his honourable guest according to the Baloch traditions, he said. The Balochistan issues could not be resolved by expressing solidarity with the Baloch people by Nawaz Sharif and other politicians, he said. He said that the people of Punjab take to streets in protest against gas load shedding and not against the killing of innocent Baloch people in custody. “They had not raised their voice against brutal actions in Balochistan. staff report
Egyptian women protest abuse by military
By Sarah El Deeb-Associated Press, December 20, 2011
CAIRO (AP) — Thousands of Egyptian women marched in the streets of Cairo on Tuesday, protesting abuse by soldiers who dragged women by the hair, stomped on them and stripped one half-naked on the street while cracking down on anti-military protesters in scenes that shocked many in this conservative society.
The march was a rare protest by women, and its numbers — about 10,000 by some estimates — underlined the depth of anger over the images from the fierce crackdown over the past five days on protesters demanding the ruling military step down immediately.
Even before the protest was over, the ruling military council issued an unusual apology for what it called “violations” — a quick turnaround after days of dismissing the significance of the abuse.
The council expressed “deep regret to the great women of Egypt” and reaffirmed “its respect and total appreciation for the women of Egypt and their right to protest, effectively and positively participate in the political life on the road to the democratic transition.” It promised it was taking measures to punish those responsible for violations.
Ringed by a protective chain of male protesters, women from different social classes and religious backgrounds gathered in Tahrir Square and marched through the streets of Cairo. Many carried the pictures of soldiers attacking women — particularly one of a veiled woman whose clothes were half pulled off, baring her down to her blue bra, by soldiers who beat her and stomped on her chest.
“They say they are here to protect us, but they are stripping us naked,” the marchers chanted.
“The girl dragged around is just like my daughter. They do that and then call us thugs,” said Um Hossam, a 54-year old woman in traditional black dress and a veil. “I am a free woman, and attacking this woman or killing protesters is just like going after one of my own children.”
The attacks on the women came in fierce clashes since Friday as troops broke up protests by activists demanding the immediate end to the rule of the military, which took power after the Feb. 11 fall of President Hosni Mubarak. The clashes saw military police chasing young men and women through Tahrir Square and nearby streets, beating them with clubs and sticks. The crackdown has killed 14 protesters, mostly from gunshots.
The images of abuse drew the ire of the U.N. rights chief and unusually harsh words from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Addressing students at Georgetown University in Washington on Monday, Mrs. Clinton said the events in Egypt in recent days were shocking and accused the Egyptian security forces and extremists of specifically targeting women.
“And now women are being attacked, stripped and beaten in the streets,” she said. “This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people.”
Pakistan’s future lies with Islam: Jamaat e Islami
South Asian News Agency (SANA)
LAHORE, December 20, 2011 : Jamaat e Islami Secretary General, Liaqat Baloch, has said that the people all over the world were revolting against oppression and exploitation, colonialism and man-made systems and the future lay with Islam.
Addressing the traders and Ulema from different mosques in the city in connection with the JI sit-in on December 25, he said that after Communism, the ship of capitalism was also sinking and a true Islamic system based on justice, and ensuring peace and stability was the destiny of this country.
He counseled the intelligentsia, political leadership and the men of opinion to understand the public mood and abandon US slavery.
Liaqat Baloch said that the masses were fed up with the rulers as also the friendly opposition. The federal as well as provincial governments had failed to deliver in every sphere. He said the JI on coming to power, would establish industrial estate at district level to solve unemployment problem.
He said the JI had already launched a campaign against corrupt and incompetent leadership. He said scores of JI men had been in the assemblies in the past but all of them had a clean record and none of them was accused of corruption or misuse of power.
He urged the people to throng the JI sit in at Ichhra on December 25, in large numbers to give a message o the people of power that they no more desired their rule.
The ambitious Maulanas of Modi’s land
20 December 2011
By Sayema Sahar,
Majority of Muslims in Gujarat are suffering from a “case of Stockholm Syndrome…where the oppressed praise the oppressor.” It’s true especially in the case of the ambitious Muslim clerics and the traders.
This is the most extraordinary political phenomenon yet in the new century. One can still excuse the traders but certainly not the community leaders for embracing their perpetrators. How are we supposed to rationalize the proximity of the clerics and maulanas to the architects of 2002 carnage? Is it their lust of power or their downright fear that remains unarticulated?
Gujarat clerics suffering from Stockholm Syndrome?
The status of Muslims in India, as it is zilch beyond just being the vote bank to parties in need. This community is grossly underrepresented in position of authority as no political party could ever do anything for the uplift of this community.
We are yet to see whether Modi who is talking big time about “Sadbhavana” would enshrine the Stockholm-stricken Muslims of Gujarat in legal and political institutions or not. The right answer to these questions is of course best known to the Gujarat Muslims themselves.
Modi refusing to accept the cap being offered by Sayyed Imam Shahi Sayeid
Al of us would remember what humiliation Sayyed Imam Shahi Sayeid had to go through when he went ahead to offer Modi a shawl and a cap, during Modi’s three-day Sadbhavna fast. Mr. Imam Shahi Syyed put all of us to shame by doing what he did to get in to the good books of Modi and hence the power center.
Though the refusal to accept his token of “sadbhavna” did hurt Syyed Imam Shahi as he was heard saying that he was pained that the chief minister could wear turbans and caps of every community, but refused a Muslim one. I strongly condemn what Imam Saheb did and I am sure many sane and rational Muslims would agree with me on this, but this incident definitely and for sure brings out , on the centre stage the religious intolerance of India’s most ambitious and powerful leader who dreams to get elevated to the centre! The dear and popular CM of Gujarat is out to prove the very fundamental of our secular nation, wrong.
Modi’s refusal to wear Muslim skullcap has definitely spoiled his claimed exercise for communal harmony.
Full Report at:
No takers for official PakTV minus Indian shows
Indo-Asian News Service
Islamabad, December 21, 2011, Pakistan’s official TV channel’s ratings have gone down as it cannot telecast Indian shows and news regarding Indian filmstars, admitted a top official.
PTV managing director Yousuf Baig Mirza told a special committee of the Senate on Monday that PTV cannot telecast news about any
department without confirmation from its spokesperson and “sometimes we do not get permission to telecast a news”, reported the daily Dawn.
He said PTV cannot telecast Indian shows and news regarding Indian stars, due to which ratings of PTV News have gone down. The committee expressed concerns over the plummeting ratings and viewership of PTV news.
Committee member Wasim Sajjad pointed out that all private channels spoke about the return of President Asif Ali Zardari, but PTV News was 15 minutes behind them. He said viewers continuously switched to private channels, adding the teledramas of private channels were also more attractive than those on PTV.
Another member, Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, said PTV had competent officers in the past, but majority of them now run private channels.
Lok Sabha Speaker to visit Maldives: Indian PM
Press Trust Of India
Male, November 12, 2011, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar is scheduled to visit Maldives at the invitation of her Maldivian counterpart in the "People's Majlis". Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced this during his address to the Majlis, Maldives' Parliament. He said the formation of India-Maldives
Parliamentary Friendship Groups in the People's Majlis and Indian Parliament augur well for the development of relations between the two Parliaments.
In his address to the Majlis, the first by a visiting head of the government or state in its history of 78 years, the Prime Minister said the 'People's Majlis' is a testimony to the strong faith the people of Maldives have shown in democracy.
"As a fellow democracy we take delight in your achievements," he said.
Hindus make last bid to save Bhagavad Gita from ban in Russia
Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, December 19, 2011
In a last ditch effort to save Bhagavad Gita from a ban, as reported first by IANS, aghast Hindus in Russia appealed to the Siberian court to seek the views of the nation's human rights panel on the religious text and preachings, before pronouncing its verdict.
Following their last-minute plea, represented by their advocate Mikhail Fralov, the court in Tomsk city in Siberia has given the human rights panel 24 hours to come with its deposition, following which it will deliver the verdict on Tuesday.
As reported by IANS from Moscow last week, the court -- which has been hearing the case filed by the state prosecutors since June -- was otherwise ready to deliver its judgment on Monday.
Full Report at:
Lt. Col. caught in ISI's Bangla `honeytrap'
NEW DELHI, Dec 21, 2011 An Indian Army officer of the rank of lieutenantcolonel has been “honeytrapped“ by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence in Bangladesh, and has confessed to being blackmailed. The Army has recalled the officer and ordered a court of inquiry.
Defence sources confirmed the incident, saying it had come to light “two to three months ago“.
“An Indian Army infantry officer undergoing a staff college course in Bangladesh was honeytrapped by the ISI. When they started blackmailing him, he approached the Indian high commission in Bangladesh and confessed.
He has been recalled to India,“ a defence source said. The Army suspects the ISI is using women to entrap Indian Army officers on staff courses in Bangladesh.
The court of inquiry may examine several aspects, including whether the officer had parted with any sensitive information to the ISI and whether other officers could have been compromised. Sources said the officer in question was involved in “conduct unbecoming of an officer“, which is considered an “act of loose moral conduct“ in the armed forces.
Indian and Bangladeshi Army officers regularly visit each other's country for staff college courses.
Pakistan's ISI is believed to have a formidable network in countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.
While India has close ties with the current Bangladesh government headed by Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the ISI is believed to have put in place a vast intelligence network there over the past two decades while Begum Khaleda Zia -considered by many as hostile to India -was in power. This is the second case of such misconduct by an Indian armed forces officer in recent months.
Muslim men kicked off flight sue air carriers
TWO MUSLIM men who say they were kicked off an airplane in May after the pilot objected to their presence are suing Delta Air Lines Inc. and a regional carrier that operated the Delta Connection flight from Memphis to Charlotte, North Carolina. According to a suit filed on Monday, Masudur Rahman and Mohammed Zaghloul were travelling to Charlotte to attend a conference on anti-Muslim discrimination at the time.
The two passed through regular security screening and were waiting to board when they were subjected to a second security check, according to the suit. They were questioned about their trip and their belongings were searched before they were allowed to board. Shortly after the plane pulled away from the gate, the pilot announced the aircraft was returning to the terminal. Once there, the men were questioned and searched again, this time with a “comprehensive body pat down.“
Although they were again cleared to board, the pilot refused to allow them back on the plane, the suit claimed. -AP
Iraq V-P to fight terror charges
MOHAMAD ALI HARISSI
BAGHDAD, DEC. 20, Ready for trial in Kurdistan, calls on Arab League officials to take part in investigation
Iraq's Sunni Arab vicepresident denied terror charges against him and vowed to defend himself in a defiant news conference on Tuesday as rival leaders called for urgent talks to resolve a worsening crisis. Just days after US forces left the country and on the eve of the national unity government's first anniversary, Iraq's fragile political truce looked as if it was already unravelling.
Authorities issued a warrant for vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi's arrest on Monday, spurring his Iraqiya bloc to say it would boycott Cabinet meetings. And over the weekend, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for the sacking of deputy premier Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni who has branded the Shia-led government a “dictatorship.“ The White House voiced concern over the developments as US ambassador James Jeffrey met Iraqi leaders, although Mr Maliki’s office ruled out any mediation over the charges against Mr Hashemi.
“I swear to God that I never committed a sin when it comes to Iraqi blood,” Mr Hashemi told a news conference in the Kurdish regional capital Arbil. “I suggest transferring the case to Kurdistan.
Full Report at:
Libyan rebel leader sues Britain
LONDON, DEC. 20, A Libyan commander, who led rebel fighters against former dictator Muammar Gaddafi's forces, has launched legal action against Britain over his illegal rendition to Libya in March 2004. Rebel commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj has instructed his lawyers in the UK to launch “legal action against the UK government and the secret services“ for what he claims is their part in the illegal ren dition and barbaric treatment of him and his pregnant wife in March 2004.
Mr Belhadj lived in Beijing in 2004 with his wife Fatima Bouchar, after having led insurgency against the Gaddafi regime in the 1990s as the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Leigh Day & Co said. The couple decided to seek asylum in the UK after Ms Bouchar became pregnant. However, on trying to leave the country they were detained and deported to Malaysia, from where they
had previously travelled.
They were detained in Malaysia for a couple of weeks and were then forced to board an aircraft, which flew them to Bangkok. The
ouple were separated in Bangkok, handed over to US authorities and taken to what they believe was a US secret prison. His lawyers said that in US custody they were subjected to a barrage of barbaric treatment.
The couple were then rendered by US authorities to Libya out of Bangkok.
Evidence of the UK’s role in the couple’s rendition is detailed in a number of documents, which came to light subsequent to the fall of the Gaddafi regime, his lawyers said.
Rights group: Saif Gadhafi should get lawyer
By the CNN Wire Staff
December 21, 2011
(CNN) -- The son of Libya's former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, should have immediate access to a lawyer, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
Libyan government officials appear to be treating him well, and he "had no complaints about the physical conditions of his detention," the group said after being allowed to visit him for 30 minutes earlier this week.
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi was captured last month after the fall of his father's regime in August. He is being held in the Libyan city of Zintan.
Also on Wednesday, the European Union announced it was unfreezing all Libyan Central Bank assets held in its member states, after blocking them to put pressure on Moammar Gadhafi.
The Human Rights Watch official who visited the man once considered Moammar Gadhafi's heir apparent said Gadhafi's main concern "was the lack of access to family and to a lawyer who can help his case."
"Saif al-Islam Gadhafi says he is getting good food and medical care," said Fred Abrahams in a statement.
Full Report at:
Qaddafi Son Being Held by Rebels, Rights Group Says
By LIAM STACK
TRIPOLI, Libya, December 21, 2011. Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the son and presumed heir of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, is alive and well and being held by a rebel militia outside the Libyan capital, according to an American human rights organization that was granted rare access to him. But the group said that Mr. Qaddafi had been denied access to legal counsel as he awaited trial on charges of crimes against humanity.
Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi has been held in the mountain town of Zintan since his capture on Nov. 19.
No date has been set for his trial, nor is it clear whether he will be tried in Libya, whose justice system is in disarray, or by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The international court issued a warrant for his arrest in June, but the Libyan authorities are insisting that he be tried on Libyan soil.
A representative of Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, saw Mr. Qaddafi on Sunday in the mountain town of Zintan southwest of the capital, where he has been held since he was captured on Nov. 19. Fred Abrahams, a researcher for the group, said that he had met with Mr. Qaddafi in private for 30 minutes, and that the Zintan fighters were treating their captive “with care.” Still, Mr. Abrahams said, Mr. Qaddafi complained of “total isolation” from his family and said he wanted to see a lawyer but had so far been denied access to one.
Full Report at:
Govt committed to welfare of minorities: Gilani
ISLAMABAD, Dec 20 (APP): Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday said the government of Pakistan regards the protection of rights of the minorities as its constitutional duty and is committed to their welfare.Speaking at a Christmas Tree Lighting Up ceremony here, he said the Christian community is an essential component of the Pakistani society.Pakistan is a beautiful blend of diverse civilizations and cultures and the followers of different religions have been living here for centuries in harmonious environment characterized by love and human brotherhood, he said adding the idea of Pakistani society is incomplete without the Christian community.
He felicitated the Christian community on the occasion of birth of Jesus Christ.“The Christian community is a follower of Jesus Christ whom Allah Almighty sent as Messiah for the mankind. He brought a message of peace, love and harmony for the entire world and his teachings are a beacon of light for the humankind. The Muslims believe in the Prophethood of Jesus Christ and hold him in high esteem worthy of a Prophet,” he added.
The Prime Minister said Islam is a pluralistic and cosmopolitan religion and teaches its followers to demonstrate goodwill and respect for followers of other religions.
There is no space for either coercion or conservatism in Islam, Gilani said adding the essential message of every divine religion is peace, love and harmonious coexistence and it is constitutional right of every man to enjoy complete religious freedom.
The Prime Minister said Islam is a guarantor of religious and personal freedoms and the well being of humanity is a shared commonality among all religions.
“The misguided elements have hurt the harmonious relationship and bonds of love among the creations of Allah Almighty. At the same time, they have also brought a bad name to their respective religion. There is a dire need to remain wary of these people and exhibit unity in our ranks for preservation of way of life which propounds human values,” he added.
Full Report at:
Pakistan Most-Deadly Nation for Journalists
By Tom Wright, DECEMBER 21, 2011,
Pakistan was the most dangerous country for journalists in 2011 for the second consecutive year, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in its end of year report.
Seven journalists died in Pakistan during the year in direct relation to their work, out of a total of 43 journalist killed worldwide in the year, the report said.
There were no deaths in India, after one killing in 2010. In 2008, four Indian journalists died either while covering the conflict in Kashmir or through target killings due to their investigations of criminal activities.
In combat zones such as Libya, where five journalists died in 2011 — the joint second-highest number with Iraq – the killings tend to be random, with reporters caught in the broader fighting. But Pakistan continues to suffer largely from target killings.
These deaths occur when a reporter has unearthed details about militancy or a business deal and is targeted to stop this information getting out. Five of the seven deaths in Pakistan were targeted killings and all remain unsolved, the CPJ said.
In the past five years, 29 journalists have died carrying out their work in Pakistan. Five journalists died in India during the same period.
The best-known case in Pakistan this year involved Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for Asia Times Online, who died in May after writing a report which alleged al Qaeda had infiltrated Pakistan’s navy.
Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy group, said Mr. Shahzad before his death had complained of receiving threats from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate military spy agency. ISI officials deny the threats and any involvement in his killing. The case is unsolved.
“Long-term CPJ research shows Pakistan to be among the worst countries in the world in bringing the killers of journalists to justice,” the report said.
Five journalists also died in Iraq from both insurgent attacks and targeted killings, illustrating an entrenched level of violence there as the last U.S. forces pulled out the country at the weekend.
Three journalists died in Mexico, including the first case of a reporter killed for work on social media, the report said. Many of the dead had taken on Mexico’s powerful drug traffickers in their reports.
The Arab Spring revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa led to the first cases of journalist deaths in Syria and Tunisia since the CPJ began recording fatalities in 1992, the report said. The committee independently confirms that journalists died while covering their beats.
Pakistan terms NATO attack flagrant violation of UN charter
NEW YORK: Acting Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, Raza Bashir Tarar termed last month’s attack on Pakistan two border posts, which resulted in martyrdom of 25 soldiers, a grave incident.
Speaking in the Security Council’s debate on the report of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Monday, Acting Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, Raza Bashir Tarar termed last month’s attack on Pakistan two border posts which resulted in martyrdom of 25 soldiers a grave incident.
He added that the attack constituted a transgression of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and a flagrant violation of the UN Charter. Tarar cited UN Secretary General’s report, which rightly terms Pakistan’s bilateral relations with Afghanistan "paramount in furthering peace, reconciliation and stability". He emphasized that Pakistan is committed to peace, reconciliation and stability in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, he said, greatly values UNAMA’s role in coordinating a comprehensive international effort in Afghanistan. Pakistan hoped that the review of UNAMA’s mandate would enable the UN to make more meaningful contributions to peace and development of Afghanistan, he said.
Rejecting speculative statements, he said that such blame game should stop forthwith as it would vitiate the atmosphere and erode mutual trust.
Pakistan, he added, would contribute, as effectively as possible, in an environment free from recrimination and blame-game and would strive to build relations on the basis of mutual respect and trust. Pakistan, he said has never resorted to blame-game, even when militants from across the border attacked our troops and innocent civilians. "Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the problems and the challenges afflicting Afghanistan", he said.
US was threatening Pak after Osama raid, says ex-envoy Haqqani
ISLAMABAD: Dec 21, 2011, Describing his stint in Washington as a "thankless assignment", Pakistan's former envoy to the US Husain Haqqani on Tuesday said American officials were "intransigent and even threatening" after the May 2 raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
"Anyone tasked with the job of representing Pakistan in the United States faces a tough and thankless assignment," he made the revelations in a statement submitted to the judicial commission investigating bin Laden's presence in the country.
Pakistan's former envoy, who spent over three years in Washington, said US officials refused to apologize for violating Pakistani sovereignty during the covert operation in Abbottabad on May 2.
The former envoy was forced to resign after he was linked to an alleged memo that had sought US help to prevent a feared coup in the aftermath of the killing of bin Laden. He said in his statement that he was on his way to Islamabad via London when the US raid took place.
Haqqani said he was instructed to return to Washington and to ensure that the "US government, Congress and media do not blame Pakistan's government, armed forces or intelligence services for allowing Osama bin Laden's presence in the country".
The 55-year-old former envoy said he was also told to "protest the violation of Pakistan's sovereignty by US forces in conducting the operation" against bin Laden.
"For their part, the US officials were intransigent and even threatening in their tone, another fact that I informed Islamabad of in official communications," he said in the statement.
26/11: Pak panel may visit in Jan
New Delhi: Dec 21 2011, A Pakistani judicial commission is likely to visit India next month to interview key persons linked to the probe into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. EW DELHI A judicial commission from Pakistan is likely to visit India in January to interview key persons linked to the probe into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Pakistani authorities has informed the home ministry through diplomatic channels about the proposed visit of the Pakistan judicial commission slated in the first half of January 2012, official sources said.
The home ministry has already issued a gazette notification allowing the judicial commission from Pakistan to visit India. The commission will take the statements of additional chief metropolitan magistrate R.V. Sawant Waghule and investigating officer Ramesh Mahale, who have recorded the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist involved in the 26/11 attacks, to pursue the 26/11 case in Pakistan. It also wanted to take the statements of the two doctors who carried out the post mortem of the terrorists killed during the attack. Pakistan on its part has also issued a gazette notification on the formation of the judicial commission and has listed the members who will represent Pakistan government. The notification further said that representatives of the defence lawyers too would be part of the commission.
Accordingly, five counsel of seven Pakistani suspects charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks had informed the anti-terrorism court that they were prepared to go to India.
The five lawyers were Lakhvi’s counsel Khwaja Sultan, Riaz Cheema, Asam bin Haris and Fakhar-e-Hayat.
The defence team submitted the passports and other documents of the five lawyers to the court.
The notification was issued in response to a directive from the anti-terrorism court that is conducting the trial of seven Pakistani suspects, including LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi who have been charged with the 26/11 planning.
Rajasthan HC dismisses Dr Chishty’s acquittal plea
HT Correspondent, December 20, 2011
The Rajasthan high court on Tuesday dismissed 80-year-old Pakistani virologist Dr Khalil Chishty’s plea challenging the life imprisonment awarded to him in a murder case.
Rejecting his plea for acquittal on humanitarian grounds, a division bench comprising justice RS Rathore and justice SS
Kothari upheld his conviction by a trial court in Ajmer.
The court had held him guilty of the murder of one Idrish in a family property dispute at Ajmer on April 14, 1992. Chishty was on bail during the 19-year-long trial — during which he was not allowed to leave India — but was arrested and sent to Ajmer jail after being convicted on January 31.
Chishty’s counsel RK Mathur said he had come to India for a marriage and was staying at his father’s house in Ajmer. Some persons had trespassed and attacked some of his family members. During the scuffle, one of the trespassers was shot dead for which Chishty and his family members were prosecuted. Mathur argued Chishty had not injured the deceased.
People’s Union for Civil Liberties state general secretary Kavita Srivastava said, “As soon as the Supreme Court opens, we will file an appeal on behalf of Dr Khalil Chishty.”
In June, SC judge justice Markandey Katju (now retired) had appealed in his personal capacity to the Prime Minister for Chishty’s release on humanitarian grounds.
New clashes rock Cairo after eight killed
Cairo, December 17, 2011, New violence rocked the administrative heart of Cairo on Saturday as troops and police deployed after clashes with protesters against continued military rule left eight people dead and 299 wounded. Caretaker Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzuri further raised tensions by accusing the
protesters of being counter-revolutionaries and denying that security forces had opened fire as they broke up the sit-in launched against his nomination last month.
Troops and police moved to retake control of the area around the cabinet offices early on Saturday, erecting razor-wire barriers on access roads, an AFP correspondent reported.
But after a few hours of calm, new clashes erupted between demonstrators and security forces, overshadowing the count in the second phase of the first general election since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in February.
Protesters hurled stones and petrol bombs, the correspondent said.
Friday's fighting, which raged from dawn well into the night, was the bloodiest since five days of protests in November killed more than 40 people just ahead of the first round of the phased parliamentary election.
The violence erupted after a protester said he had been arrested by soldiers and beaten up, infuriating his comrades who began throwing stones at the soldiers, witnesses said.
Protesters threw stones and petrol bombs, and troops and military police repeatedly charged the crowd.
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Taliban commander killed in Afghanistan
Indo-Asian News Service
Kabul, December 14, 2011, Afghan and Nato-led coalition forces have killed an Afghan Taliban commander in Kandhar province, the authorities said on Wednesday.
The Tuesday afternoon operation in Zhari district led to the killing of the commander Arab, Xinhua quoted the provincial government as saying.
Arab and three of his men were killed in Kandahar city, some 450km south of Kabul.
Arab was responsible for organising attacks on security forces in Zhari district and surrounding areas.
Five Polish soldiers killed by Afghanistan bomb
21 Dec, 2011
A roadside bomb has killed five Polish soldiers in a Nato convoy in eastern Afghanistan, Poland's heaviest single loss of life since the mission began.
Polish media said the soldiers were a few miles from their base in Ghazni province when the bomb exploded.
Three soldiers died at the scene. Another two were said to have died of their wounds at a military hospital.
Poland has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan who are responsible for handling security in Ghazni.
The soldiers were part of a provincial reconstruction team, according to Polish reports, who were in an all-terrain M-ATV vehicle.
A witness in the Rawza area of Ghazni told AFP news agency that their vehicle had been completely destroyed.
The soldiers had been part of a convoy of around 30 vehicles which was heading to the opening of a mausoleum, described by Polish media as one of the projects the reconstruction team had funded.
The Taliban said it carried out the attack.
In the nine years that Polish forces have taken part in the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan, 36 have been killed. But Wednesday's attack was the bloodiest they have suffered since their arrival in March 2002.
Polish troops, in common with other Nato forces, are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Although Nato did not reveal their nationality, it confirmed that "five International Security Assistance Force service members died following an improvised explosive device attack in eastern Afghanistan".
So far this year, 532 people serving with the Nato-led forces have died.
Blast, violence kill 2 in Bangladesh
Press Trust Of India
Dhaka, December 18, 2011, Explosions rocked Bangladesh's capital Dhaka and southeastern Sylhet with the main opposition BNP activists fighting pitched battle with police leading to the death of two people, as the country marked the 40th anniversary of its independence. Blast of home-made bombs killed a youth at
Dhaka's Motijheel business district while the opposition activists reportedly also set afire five vehicles including a police van and a passenger bus as they clashed with police at different points in the capital, reports said.
The violence erupted after baton-wielding police dispersed hundreds of activists of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party trying to rally to mark the country's 40th independence anniversary.
"The device exploded with a bang apparently killing the young man immediately and critically injuring another passerby," a photojournalist who witnessed scene told PTI.
Police said they suspected the victim, 24-year old Arifuzzaman Arif, himself was carrying the explosives filled in a tin pot while they detained nearly 280 "unruly activists" from the city, 77 of them alone from the Motijheel area.
A television channel, however, quoted a younger sister of the deceased saying that Arif was not involved with any political party.
The second death was reported from northeastern Sylhet where a bus passenger was burnt to death when opposition activists set on fire to two vehicles and vandalised over a dozen others.
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Syria to allow Arab monitors, 100 dead
BEIRUT, DEC. 20, 2011 Reuters In a further sign of international pressure, the UN General Assembly voted to condemn Syria's use of force to quell protests
Syria agreed on Monday to let Arab states monitor its compliance with an Arab League peace agreement aimed at stopping violence against anti-government protesters, even as rights activists said more than 100 people had been killed during the day.
The Arab League, which has already imposed economic sanctions, had threatened to take the issue to the UN Security
Syrian Opposition leaders dismissed the agreement as a new stalling tactic by President Bashar alAssad’s government and called instead for foreign military intervention to stop Syria’s crackdown on a nine-month-old prodemocracy protest movement.
Damascus said it had been urged to sign by Russia, its long-time ally and arms supplier, which has shown signs of losing patience. Moscow praised
the deal as a chance for stability. In a further sign of international pressure, the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn Syria’s use of force to quell protests, with Russia and China abstaining. The Arab League said it was not ready to lift economic sanctions aimed at pressuring Syria to let in monitors, but that an advance delegation would reach Damascus this week.
It would prepare a mission to monitor compliance with an agreement that calls for troops to withdraw from cities where protests have been
held, for political prisoners to be freed, and for a dialogue with Opposition groups, most of whom are set on following the example of Egypt and others in ending decades of one-man rule.
Insisting that Syria had not been forced into submission, foreign minister Walid al-Moualem said he had won several unspecified modifications before signing the deal, which initially allows in observers for one month.
US sanctions 10 Iran shipping firms, including India JV
Indo-Asian News Service
Washington, December 21, 2011, The United States has imposed sanctions on ten Iranian shipping firms affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), including Irano Hind, a joint venture with Shipping Corporation of India.
Announcing the sanctions, seen as part of expanded efforts to
isolate Tehran, the US department of the treasury said on Tuesday the ten sanctioned shipping and front companies and one individual based in Malta were affiliated with the IRISL.
Accusing the firms of "involvement in Iran's efforts to advance its missile programmes and transport military cargoes," the treasury said they "have increasingly relied upon multiple front companies and agents to overcome the impact of US and international sanctions and increased scrutiny of their behaviour."
"As IRISL and its subsidiaries continue their deceptive efforts to escape the grasp of US and international sanctions, we will continue to take action-as we are today-to expose the front companies, agents and managers working with IRISL and work to stop this illicit business," said under decretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David S Cohen.
The entities and individual designated on Tuesday are owned or controlled by, or acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, IRISL, Irano Hind, or ISI Maritime, it said
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Turkey’s foreign policy in free fall
Problems with four neighbors
By Ben Birnbaum-The Washington Times, December 20, 2011
Turkey’s foreign policy vision is best captured by its foreign minister’s motto: “Zero problems with neighbors.”
But with the predominantly Muslim country facing escalating crises with Syria, Iran, Iraq and Israel, Turkish opposition leaders say the rhetoric has not matched the reality.
“The claim of the government was to pursue a policy of having ‘zero problems with neighbors,’ and now we are having all sorts of problems with all our neighbors,” said Faik Oztrak, deputy chairman of Turkey’s Republican People's Party (CHP).
In recent months, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has:
• Taken a lead role in pressuring Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign, imposing sanctions on Syria and hosting refugees and opposition leaders.
• Agreed to host NATO missile defense radar installations intended to protect Europe from Iranian missiles. Iran, in response, has threatened to take out the Turkish sites if the U.S. or Israel attack its nuclear program.
• Launched airstrikes on Kurdish rebel safe havens in northern Iraq in retaliation for terrorist attacks carried out by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, inflaming Turkish border tensions with Iraq.
• Expelled the Israeli ambassador after the Jewish state refused to apologize for a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound convoy that killed nine Turkish nationals.
The conflicts are a sharp departure from last year, when Turkey’s relations with many of its neighbors were at a new high.
CHP elder statesman Faruk Logoglu, who served as Turkey’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2001 to 2005, said his country’s foreign policy has failed, adding that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu “cannot point to a single accomplishment.”
Mr. Logoglu reserved particularly harsh criticism for the Erdogan administration’s Syria policy.
“We agree with the government’s goals but not the approach,” he said, railing against sanctions that he argued hurt ordinary Syrians and Turkish businesses.
He also claimed that the government’s “unfettered support for the opposition,” including providing refuge to its leaders, is “condemning Syria to a protracted civil war.”
Mr. Davutoglu responded to criticism of the government’s Syria policy last week, saying he is still committed to the zero-problems motto.
“But we cannot remain silent if one of our neighbors oppress its people,” the foreign minister said.
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Kashmir: Chillai Kalan begins today
Srinagar, Dec 20: After a fortnight of chilly weather, the upper reaches of the valley received snowfall on Tuesday, a day before Chillai Kalan sets in. Chillai Kalan is the harshest period of the winter in Kashmir and ends January 30.
Upper reaches including tourist destinations of Gulmarg and Pahalgam received one centimetre snowfall with 3.2 and 7.6 mm rainfall respectively. Light snowfall was also witnessed in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Drass region of Ladakh received four centimetres while as tourist resort Sonamarg received 10 cm of fresh snowfall, MeT officials said.
“The minimum temperature was minus 0.3 degrees in Srinagar, minus 1.2 in Pahalgam and minus 7.0 in Gulmarg. Leh in the Ladakh region remained the coldest town in the state with a minimum temperature of minus 6.4 degrees. South Kashmir’s gateway town of Qazigund recorded a minimum of minus 0.4 degrees Celsius,” officials said.
Western disturbance was still drifting across the valley and there was more rain and snowfall likely in many places, Sonam Lotus, director MeT said.
The officials said minimum temperatures have risen because of the overcast night sky, providing relief to locals from the severe cold wave that hit the valley for more than 15 days.
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