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Islamic World News ( 4 March 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Rawalpindi Police Book Transgender Person for Leading Prayers in Mosque

New Age Islam News Bureau

04 March 2023


Photo: BNN Network


• Political Correctness Allowed Islamist Extremism to Go Unchecked In UK, British Home Secretary Says

• RSS' Muslim Outreach Continues, Holds Meeting With Islamic Intellectuals Discussing Their Issues

• In Malaysia’s Terengganu State, Politicians Banned From Giving Religious Talks in Mosques and Prayer Halls

• With West Bank in Turmoil from Israeli Interference, New Palestinian Militants Emerge



• Journalist Syed Fawad Ali Shah Found Jailed In Pakistan after Going Missing In Malaysia

• Bilawal to chair ‘Women in Islam’ moot during New York visit

• PM consults Zardari, Fazl on Punjab poll strategy

• Pakistan receives $500m from China’s ICBC, Dar confirms

• SHC sets aside life term of two in minor girl’s rape, murder case

• Imran calls for Bajwa’s court-martial over Ukraine policy criticism

• Pak Ambassador at Large for Kartarpur rues ‘lukewarm’ Indian pilgrims’ response to corridor



• Schools Minister Condemns 'Death Threats' Over Kettlethorpe High School Quran Damage

• Manchester Arena Inquiry: Didsbury Mosque receives demolition and deportation threats

• European delegation visits Palestinian towns following violence by Israeli settlers

• MI5, media and far-right owe Didsbury Mosque and Manchester Muslims an apology

• Didsbury Mosque welcomes Manchester Inquiry conclusion it didn’t radicalise Salman Abedi

• Bosnian students write comfort letters to their Turkish quake victim peers

• German traveler walks from Vienna to Istanbul to collect money for earthquake victims in Türkiye



• India Hails Saudi Support in the G20 as FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Attends G20 Meetings

• Muslim Community Elders and Imams Tell Youth Not To Do Bike Stunts On Shab-E-Barat Night

• Ayodhya Development Authority Clears Supreme Court -Mandated Mosque

• Muslim Community Recognises Uddhav Thackeray as Leader of the Real Shiv Sena, Says Sanjay Raut 

• Right-Wing Outfits Protest ‘Land Jihad’, Demand Govt to Remove Encroachments from Forts of Maharashtra

• NIA attaches Hizb commander’s property in J&K's Sopore

• NIA attaches property of Pakistan-based terrorist in Baramulla

• Karnataka Hijab row: SC assures petitioner to constitute bench, hearing expected after Holi vacation

• Allocate 6% of GDP to education, says Students' Islamic Organisation of India, Karnataka


Southeast Asia

• In Johor, mosques in flood areas to open as temporary flood relief centres

• Seniman lodges police report over ‘Mentega Terbang’ movie that allegedly insulted Islam



• Palestinians accuse Israeli government of complicity as Hawara arson suspects are freed

• Iran: Israeli Regime Continuing Violation of Int'l Law, UN Charter

• Israel minister inciting violence with Palestinian town statement: UN rights chief

• FM: No Peaceful Protesters Arrested in Iran's Recent Unrests

• Head of UN nuclear watchdog arrives in Iran to discuss cooperation

• Turkey’s opposition alliance splits over election candidate

• Iran Using Execution as Tactic to Repress Ethnic Minorities, Amnesty Warns

• World condemns Israeli minister’s ‘racist’ Palestine comments


Arab World

• Pakistani Pilgrim Saved after His Heart Stopped for 10 Minutes at Prophet’s Mosque

• Saudi Arabia condemns Israeli minister’s call to ‘erase’ West Bank town of Huwara

• Earthquakes caused $5.1 bln in damage in Syria, World Bank estimates

• Turkey, United Arab Emirates sign trade agreement

• Saudi project cleared 4,811 explosive devices from Yemen in February

• Education key to Saudi vision of future, experts say

• Human Rights Council president holds meeting with Qatari assistant Foreign Minister in Geneva

• 'Sky is the limit' in economic ties with Türkiye, says UAE trade minister


North America

• Can The US Keep The Lid On The Fiery Region Before Ramadan?

• Pentagon chief’s trip to Middle East to focus on Iran threats: Official

• Israel tells top US general it sees need to cooperate against Iran

• Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have a critical role in climate change battle, says US envoy

• US with Türkiye for ‘long haul’ in recovery from earthquakes, says senior diplomat


South Asia

• Islamic Emirate Leader, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, Meets With Ministers, Clerics

• Homes of Ahmadiya community set ablaze in Bangladesh, 1 killed, 50 injured

• Ban on Women’s Work Causes ‘Food and Medicine’ Shortage in Afghanistan: Blinken

• Afghanistan denies harbouring ‘Pakistani Taliban', what next?

• Bangladesh’s hajj package twice as costly as those of India, Pakistan



• Saudi Arabia Welcomes Sudan’s Cooperation with International Human Rights Mechanisms

• Nigeria’s top court rules old currency notes still legal tender amid cash shortage

• South Sudan's president sacks defence, interior ministers

• Türkiye advanced in agriculture, irrigation, says Gambian minister

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Rawalpindi Police Book Transgender Person for Leading Prayers in Mosque


Photo: BNN Network


Israr Ahmad

March 04, 2023

Rawalpindi         -        police have booked a transgender person on charges of leading prayers as imam in the mosque in a village for more than 18 months by hiding his gender, informed sources on Friday.

The case was registered with Rawat police Station under section 419 of ppC and The Punjab Vagrancy Ordinance 1958- 9 against the accused identified as Muhammad Khan son of Gul Jahan, hails from Mianwali, on complaint of Raja Muhammad Shafique, they said. However, no arrest was made so far by the investigators, sources said. according to sources, Raja Muhammad Shafique, resident of dhaki Village, lodged a complaint with pS Rawat stating the mosque committee had floated an advertisement for hiring an imam for the mosque in the village.

He added a person namely Muhammad Khan son of Gul Jahan approached the committee members and told during interview that he could lead prayers and teach Quran to children in the mosque. after consulting with other members of committee, Muhammad Khan was hired as imam who had led prayers and funerals for more than one and half year, the applicant said. He said the imam also arranged marriages of scores of people as nikkah Khwan adding that Khan Muhammad informed the mosque committee that he wanted to resign and go to Saudia for work.

The applicant told that the locals arranged a farewell in honour of the imam. He said that he along with other villagers spotted a beggar in the village later identified as Muhammad Khan, the former imam, he said adding that it was disclosed that Khan was a transgender and had committed a crime by leading prayers. Raja Muhammad Shafique asked police to register case against the accused and to arrest him. Police filed a case against the accused and began investigation.

Source: Nation Pakistan

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Political Correctness Allowed Islamist Extremism to Go Unchecked In UK, British Home Secretary Says


Suella Braverman also said not enough had been done to clamp down on a “highly coordinated” Islamic extremist network in the UK. (Reuters/File Photo)


March 02, 2023

LONDON: Political correctness in the UK had created a “blind spot” in its national security regarding Islamist extremism, the British home secretary said on Wednesday.

Suella Braverman also said not enough had been done to clamp down on a “highly coordinated” Islamic extremist network in the UK.

Her comments came after a review of the UK’s counter-extremism program, Prevent, which concluded that not enough had been done to tackle radicalization within Britain’s Muslim community.

The review, which was commissioned in 2019 and carried out by William Shawcross, ruled that extremist Islamic ideology was often “misinterpreted, misunderstood or even overlooked” by a government focusing too heavily on far-right extremism.

The review called for a renewed focus on Islamist extremism, even when candidates for referral to Prevent failed to meet the terrorism threshold.

“We have a blind spot in the system,” Braverman said. “It has allowed certain Islamist groups to operate under our radar. There can be no place for political correctness in our national security. In fact, I’d like to banish it altogether,” she added.

In the speech, a copy of which The Times obtained, Braverman also accused Muslim groups of pursuing “dishonest narratives” in criticizing the Prevent program.

“Groups like Mend (Muslim Engagement and Development) and Cage have persistently pursued harmful and dishonest narratives, which until now have gone largely unchallenged,” she said.

“Their members have repeatedly been involved in the demonization of Muslims who co-operate in counter-extremism efforts,” she added.

Braverman said that a new program to counter disinformation will now be included in the existing Prevent strategy and announced that an independent standards and compliance unit will be created for community leaders and members to report concerns to ensure the government tackles issues in the appropriate manner.

“Extremism is not only dangerous because it can lead to violence. It is dangerous in its own right,” she said. “And unless we deal with it comprehensively, we should not be surprised when it continues to endure and grow — with disastrous consequences for our shared norms, values, basic rights and freedoms,” she added.

Anas Mustapha, head of Cage’s public advocacy, said Braverman’s comments were “inciting and exploiting societal prejudices,” and said the group would continue its opposition to the Prevent program and the “rise of the authoritarian surveillance state.”

Source: Arab News

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RSS' Muslim Outreach Continues, Holds Meeting With Islamic Intellectuals Discussing Their Issues


RSS leader Indresh Kumar meets Muslim scholars. India News Photo


By: Raju Kumar

March 03, 2023

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)'s Muslim outreach continues as its senior leaders Indresh Kumar, Krishna Gopal and Ram Lal, on March 1, held a meeting with Muslim intellectuals discussing their issues. Prominent doctors and professors from the Muslim community were among the delegation that participated in the meeting.

Jamaat-e-Islami-RSS talks in Kerala

Kerala ruling CPI (M) continued to target the Jamaat-e-Islami over its recent talks with the RSS and urged it to explain to the public benefits of the parleys, even as the opposition Congress termed as "nonsense' Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's charges connecting the party-led UDF with the meeting.

'Those whose ancestors were Hindu are Hindus': RSS

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale said those whose ancestors were Hindu are Hindus. While speaking at the Birla Auditorium, Jaipur on the topic 'Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow' organised by the Ekatm Manavdarshan Anusandhan Evam Vikas Pratishthan on Wednesday, Hosabale said we can't shut doors for those who consumed beef out of compulsion.

RSS neither right wing nor left wing, we are nationals: RSS

Hosabale said the organisation works in the interest of the nation without any political inclination.

"We are neither right wing nor left wing. We are nationalist. The Sangh is only going to work in the interest of the nation," Hosabale said. He said all the people living in India are Hindus because their forefathers were Hindus and their methods of worship may be different, but they all have the same DNA. He said India can lead the world by becoming a 'Vishwa Guru' only with collective efforts of all. "The Sangh considers all religions and sects of India as one. People can do organisation's work while retaining their sect. The Sangh is not rigid. It is flexible," he added.

He also spoke on the Constitution and said even a good Constitution cannot do anything if those in charge of implementing are bad. Hosabale said the RSS played a role in the establishment of democracy in the country which finds mention in the write-ups of foreign journalists.

Source: India TV News

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In Malaysia’s Terengganu State, Politicians Banned From Giving Religious Talks In Mosques And Prayer Halls


A view of the At-Taqwa Mosque in Batu Enam, Terengganu. (Photo: CNA/Try Sutrisno Foo)


Najmi Syahiran Mamat

03 Mar 202

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian East Coast state of Terengganu has banned politicians from delivering religious talks and sermons in mosques and surau (small prayer halls), according to an order by its state ruler Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin.

This follows a similar edict in the southern state of Johor earlier in January, when its Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim ordered that political discussions be kept out of its mosques and prayer halls.

Terengganu’s Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIDAM) on Thursday (Mar 2) announced Sultan Mizan’s orders, saying that the state ruler was upset that there were some politicians who had given religious lectures and classes without the council’s approval.

Some had also led Friday prayers without its prior approval, MAIDAM said on Thursday, without naming who the politicians are or which parties they belong to.

Terengganu is currently ruled by the Islamist party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS).

“Sultan Mizan has expressed his disappointment that some politicians had given religious lectures or classes, and led Friday prayers without MAIDAM’s approval.

“Therefore, MAIDAM has decided to disallow all state assemblymen, Members of Parliament (MPs), and senators from delivering any religious lectures in mosques and surau in Terengganu,” said MAIDAM president Shaikh Harun Shaikh Ismail.

He added that all political leaders and activists are also not allowed to lead and deliver the Friday sermon in mosques as well as deliver religious talks without the council's permission.

Mr Shaikh Harun stressed that speakers, lecturers and teachers as well as imams who lead the Friday prayers in Terengganu must have the necessary accreditation issued by MAIDAM.

To ensure these instructions are complied with, Mr Shaikh Harun said that the Terengganu religious affairs department has been tasked to monitor such activities.

MAIDAM stressed on Thursday that mosques and surau should never be misused to create anxiety, restlessness or discord among the community. And this includes activities or programmes that have an element of politics, the council said.

It stressed that mosques and surau that function well can bring a positive impact to the local Muslim community.

On Jan 18, Johor’s Crown Prince Tunku Ismail - who is the chairman of the state’s Islamic Religious Council - ordered that besides the ban on religious talks in mosques, all activities involving religious discourse as well as the speakers involved must first be approved by the relevant religious bodies.

In other states, religious speakers have also been banned from or given stern warnings against preaching political messages in mosques.

According to Free Malaysia Today, the Kelantan Islamic and Malay Customs Council reminded mosque officials not to be involved in any political activities during the 15th General Elections (GE15) late last year.

In Selangor, the state Islamic Religious Council in 2021 revoked the Islamic teaching certificate of political activists for fear that their certificate would be misused to benefit political parties.

News portal Malaysiakini reported that in 2019, Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak called on religious preachers and accredited mosque committee members to relinquish their posts if they have any political agendas and ambitions, adding that such agendas would violate the sanctity of mosques as religious sites.

Source: Channel News Asia

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With West Bank In Turmoil From Israeli Interference, New Palestinian Militants Emerge


Palestinians run as they clash with Israeli forces during a raid in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West bank, February 22, 2023. (File photo: Reuters)


03 March, 2023

The stuttering blasts of M-16s shattered the quiet in a West Bank village, surrounded by barley fields and olive groves. Young Palestinian men in Jaba once wanted to farm, residents say, but now, more and more want to fight.

Last week, dozens of them, wearing balaclavas and brandishing rifles with photos of their dead comrades plastered on the clips, burst into a school playground — showcasing Jaba’s new militant group and paying tribute to its founder and another gunman who were killed in an Israeli military raid last month.

“I’d hate to make my parents cry,” said 28-year-old Yousef Hosni Hammour, a close friend of Ezzeddin Hamamrah, the group’s late founder. “But I’m ready to die a martyr.”

Similar scenes are playing out across the West Bank. From the northern Jenin refugee camp to the southern city of Hebron, small groups of disillusioned young Palestinians are taking up guns against Israel’s open-ended occupation, defying Palestinian political leaders whom they scorn as collaborators with Israel.

With fluid and overlapping affiliations, these groups have no clear ideology and operate independently of traditional chains of command — even if they receive support from established militant groups. Fighters from Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other organizations attended last week’s ceremony in Jaba.

In near-daily arrest raids over the past year, Israel has sought to crush the fledgling militias, leading to a surge of deaths and unrest unseen in nearly two decades.

While Israel maintains the escalated raids are meant to prevent future attacks, Palestinians say the intensified violence has helped radicalize men too young to remember the brutal Israeli crackdown on the second Palestinian uprising two decades ago, which served as a deterrent to older Palestinians.

This new generation has grown up uniquely stymied, in a territory riven by infighting and fragmented by barriers and checkpoints.

More than 60 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem since the start of 2023, after Israel’s most right-wing government in history took office. About half were militants killed in fighting with Israel, according to an Associated Press tally, though the dead have also included stone-throwers and bystanders uninvolved in violence.

At least 15 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks in that time, including two Israelis shot Sunday in the town of Hawara, just south of Jaba. In response, Israeli settlers torched dozens of buildings — a rampage that also left one Palestinian dead.

“It’s like the new government released the hands of soldiers and settlers, said now they can do whatever they want,” said Jamal Khalili, a member of Jaba’s local council.

At the recent memorial service, children with black militant bands on their foreheads gathered around the gunmen, eager for a glimpse of their heroes.

“The outcome is what you see here,” Khalili added.

Last week, an Israeli military raid in the northern city of Nablus sparked a shootout with Palestinian militants that killed 10 people. The raid targeted the most prominent of the emerging armed groups, the Lion’s Den. Israeli security officials claim the military has crippled the Nablus-based Lion’s Den over the past few months, killing or arresting most of its key members. But they acknowledge its gunmen, who roam the Old City of Nablus and pump out slick Telegram videos with a carefully honed message of heroic resistance, now inspire new attacks across the territory.

“The Lion’s Den is beginning to become an idea that we see all around,” said an Israeli military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence assessment. Instead of hurling stones or firebombs, militants now mainly open fire, he said, using M-16s often smuggled from Jordan or stolen from Israeli military bases.

The official said the army was monitoring the Jaba group and others in the northern cities of Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarem. But he acknowledged the army has difficulty gathering intelligence on the small, loosely organized militant groups.

The Palestinian self-rule government administers parts of the West Bank, and works closely with the Israeli military against its domestic rivals, particularly the militant Hamas group, which runs the Gaza Strip.

With young Palestinians increasingly viewing the Palestinian Authority as an arm of the Israeli security forces rather than the foundation for a future state, Palestinian security forces are loathe to intervene against the budding militias. Palestinian forces now rarely venture into militant strongholds like the Old City of Nablus and the Jenin refugee camp, according to residents and the Israeli military.

Jaba militants said the Palestinian security forces have not cracked down on them. Residents said the group, founded last September, has rapidly grown to some 40-to-50 militants.

Hammour described Palestinian leaders as corrupt and out of touch with regular Palestinians. But, he said, “Our goals are much bigger than creating problems with the Palestinian Authority.”

With the popularity of the PA plummeting, experts say it cannot risk inflaming tensions by arresting widely admired fighters.

The PA “is experiencing a crisis of legitimacy,” said Tahani Mustafa, Palestinian analyst at the International Crisis Group. “There’s a huge disconnect between elites at the top and the groups on the ground.”

Palestinian officials acknowledge their grip is slipping.

“We fear any of our actions against (these groups) will create a reaction in the street,” said a Palestinian intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

With the Israeli military stepping up raids, the West Bank’s power structure faltering and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government expanding settlements on occupied land, frustrated Palestinians say they are not in pursuit of any political agenda — they simply want to defend their towns and resist Israel’s 55-year-old occupation.

For 28-year-old Mohammed Alawneh, whose two brothers were killed in confrontations with Israeli forces, two decades apart, the Jaba group is a “reaction.” He said he could support peace if it meant the end of the occupation and the formation of a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. For now, he said, it’s clear Israel doesn’t want peace.

Hamamrah, the Jaba group’s late commander, threw stones at the Israeli army as a teen and later joined an armed offshoot of Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to his mother, Lamia. After 10 agonizing months in Israeli prison, he became religious and withdrawn. He spoke of taking revenge.

After his death, Lamia discovered he had helped form the Jaba group and that Islamic Jihad had supplied them with weapons, including the gun Hamamrah fired at Israeli troops on January 14.

The army chased him into Jaba, killing Hamamrah along with another gunman, Amjad Khleleyah. Their crushed and bloodstained car now sits in the center of Jaba like a macabre monument.

At his funeral, Lamia said Hamamrah’s friends urged her to show pride in a son who became a fighter and inspired the whole village.

But Lamia wept and wept. Her 14-year-old daughter, Malak, now wants to die a martyr, too.

“I’m just a mother who lost her son,” she said. “I want this all to stop.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Journalist Syed Fawad Ali Shah found jailed in Pakistan after going missing in Malaysia

March 3, 2023

Shah had lived in Malaysia as a registered refugee since 2011, according to his wife Syeda, who spoke with CPJ.

Syeda, who asked to be identified by her first name, said that Shah fled Pakistan after he was abducted by agents of the country’s military intelligence agency, the ISI, who held him for three and a half months while beating and threatening him in retaliation for his reporting that unfavorably portrayed Pakistan’s security forces during the U.S. war on terror.

In January 2023, Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said in a press conference that Shah had been deported in late August at the request of Pakistani authorities, who alleged that he was a police officer subject to disciplinary proceedings.

Syeda told CPJ that Shah never worked as a police officer, and she believed the ISI worked with Malaysian authorities to repatriate him in retaliation for his journalism. While in exile, Shah wrote about politics and alleged corruption in Pakistan, particularly within law enforcement agencies. He also wrote about refugee issues in Malaysia.

On February 8, 2023, Syeda learned that Shah was being held at the Adiala Jail in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, and visited him there the following day. Shah told her that authorities had held him for five months in an underground cell in Islamabad, where they abused him, she said.

In a petition filed at an Islamabad magistrate and dated February 7, 2023, which CPJ reviewed, the Cyber Crime Circle of the Islamabad division of the Federal Investigation Agency claimed that Shah was arrested on January 26, 2023, in relation to an investigation opened the previous January for alleged offenses under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, and three sections of the penal code pertaining to defamation, criminal intimidation, and obstruction of a public servant. CPJ has repeatedly documented how the PECA has been used to detain, investigate, and harass journalists in retaliation for their work.

The first information report in that case, which opened the investigation, accuses Shah of disseminating “false, frivolous and fake” information about Pakistani civil servants, including Interior Ministry official Naqeeb Arshad, through a Malaysian WhatsApp account and unspecified posts on the Twitter account Bureaucracy, according to CPJ’s review of the report.

The Bureaucracy account, which has around 3,200 followers and covers politics and alleged corruption in Pakistan, posted allegations in January 2022 that Arshad had solicited bribes in exchange for visa extensions. CPJ called Arshad’s office and emailed the Interior Ministry for comment, but did not receive any replies.

Syeda denied that Shah operated that profile, which most recently posted on October 10, 2022, after his disappearance.

Syeda and Imaan Mazari-Hazir, Shah’s lawyer, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, said that Shah’s legal team filed a bail application in that case in mid-February, and then on February 18 authorities transferred Shah from the Adiala Jail to the Peshawar Central Jail, in northwest Pakistan, without informing his family or lawyers.

Shah was transferred as part of a separate investigation opened in December 2020, which accused him of spreading “false, fallacious and malicious contents” about police officials using an anonymous profile on a WhatsApp group also named Bureaucracy, according to Mazari-Hazir and CPJ’s review of the first information report in that case. CPJ was unable to review the content of that WhatsApp group.

The journalist’s wife and lawyer told CPJ that police have not presented in court any specific examples of content by the Bureaucracy Twitter account or the anonymous WhatsApp account that they allege Shah wrote, or any evidence that would show he operated the Twitter account.

Syeda told CPJ that she deeply fears for the safety of herself, her family, and her husband. While traveling to Malaysia in December, she received numerous calls from unknown individuals she suspected were ISI officers, who warned her to stop searching for her husband, she said. Since returning to her home outside Peshawar in January, ISI officials have repeatedly visited her home, warning her to stay silent regarding her husband’s disappearance and not to get involved in the matter, she told CPJ.

CPJ emailed the Malaysian Home Ministry, the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency, and the High Commission of Pakistan in Malaysia for comment, but did not receive any replies.

CPJ also contacted Amma Baloch, Pakistan’s ambassador to Malaysia, and Marriyum Aurangzeb, Pakistan’s information minister, via messaging app, but did not receive any replies. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations, the military’s media wing, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment submitted through its website.

Source: CPJ

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Bilawal to chair ‘Women in Islam’ moot during New York visit

MARCH 4, 2023

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, arrives in New York next week for a hectic, 4-day visit during which he will preside over a conference on ‘Women in Islam’ to be held on the sidelines of the 67th Session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Hosted by Pakistan in its capacity as the chair of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), the one-day conference will take place in the Economic and Social Council’s chamber at UN headquarters on March 8, a day after the foreign minister arrives.

On March 7, FM Bilawal is also expected to participate in a high-level UN Security Council debate on ‘Women, Peace and Security’, sponsored by Mozambique in its capacity as the Council’s President for March.

Meanwhile, the stated objective of the conference, convened by Pakistan, is to bridge the perception-reality gap on the rights of women in Islam and celebrate the experiences and successes of iconic Muslim women. It is aimed at establishing an annual policy dialogue to address challenges and explore opportunities to advance the role of women role in OIC countries.

Titled “Women in Islam: Understanding the Rights and Identity of Women in the Islamic World”, FM Bilawal will open the high-level segment of the conference with an address. He will be followed by the UN General Assembly President, Csaba Korosi; OIC Secretary General, Hissein Braham Taha; Executive Director of UN-Women, Sima Bahous; Chairperson of 67th CSW, South African Ambassador Mathu Joyini; dignitaries and representatives of OIC Member States.

Also participating in the conference will be non-OIC states and representatives of UN Agencies.

The outcome document will be a chair’s summary of the deliberations.

Later, in pursuit of the General Assembly landmark resolution 76/254 designating 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, the General Assembly president and the foreign minister will be co-convening a special high-level event to commemorate the day on March 10.

The 193-member Assembly’s resolution followed the OIC Foreign Ministers’ resolution of 2020 designating 15 March as an international day to combat Islamophobia.

Source: Daily Times

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PM consults Zardari, Fazl on Punjab poll strategy

March 4, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Hours after President Dr Arif Alvi announced April 30 as the date for the general elections in Punjab in line with the Supreme Court’s verdict, the heads of three major ruling coalition parties met at the Prime Minister House to discuss the political options available to them.

“Former president Asif Zardari and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif here on Friday. In the meeting, political situation in the country came under discussion,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported without providing further details.

There was no official word from any of the three political parties — PML-N, JUI-F and PPP — about the meeting and some of the senior PPP leaders, when contacted, even expressed their ignorance about taking place of any such meeting.

However, sources in the government claimed that during the meeting, Mr Zardari suggested that the ruling coalition should go for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as they had no other option available after the Supreme Court’s judgement in the suo motu case.

They said there was a general consensus that since the government had left with no other option to further delay the polls in the two provinces after the SC verdict, they should direct their party workers to make preparations for the elections.

However, the sources said, there had been no decision yet whether the parties in the ruling coalition would contest the elections individually or from a single platform. The leaders agreed to hold more consultations and involve other coalition partners in the process as well before coming out with a final strategy.

The sources said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was also contacted during the meeting through a telephonic link.

A senior government functionary, while talking to Dawn on condition of anonymity, said delaying the elections in Punjab and KP would amount to contempt of the court and could also cause further political damage to the ruling coalition.

In his opinion, now only the Supreme Court could delay the elections on some pretext and the government had no such choice.

Some TV channels, on the other hand, aired contradictory reports claiming that there was a difference of opinion among the top coalition leaders as both Maulana Fazl and Mr Sharif did not agree to Mr Zardari’s proposal to go into the elections as they believed that it was not an appropriate time for them to face the PTI in the electoral field due to the prevailing economic crunch in the country.

Source: Dawn

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Pakistan receives $500m from China’s ICBC, Dar confirms

March 4, 2023

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd on Friday approved a rollover of a $1.3 billion loan for cash-strapped Pakistan, which will help shore up its depleting foreign exchange reserves, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said.

The facility will be disbursed in three instalments. The first one of $500 million has been received by the State Bank of Pakistan, Dar said in a tweet. “It will increase forex reserves,” he said.

The money, which Dar said has been repaid by Pakistan to the ICBC in recent months, is crucial for the country’s economy, which is facing a balance of payment crisis, with its central bank foreign exchange reserves dropping to levels barely able to cover three weeks of imports.

Earlier in the day, Dar had in a press conference, said Pakistan was expecting financing from ICBC.

Pakistan has already received a $700 million loan from China to help boost its forex reserves.

Dar said the total $2bn is in effect Pakistan borrowing back the debt repayments it has paid to Beijing for previously agreed loans.

He said Pakistan will need $5bn external financing to close its financing gap this fiscal year, which ends in June.

More external financing will be coming to Pakistan only after Islamabad signs a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which the minister said should be done by next week.

The lender has been negotiating the deal with Pakistan since early last month to clear its ninth review, which if approved by its board will issue over $1bn tranche of $6.5bn bailout agreed in 2019.

Source: Dawn

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SHC sets aside life term of two in minor girl’s rape, murder case

Ishaq Tanoli

March 4, 2023

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has set aside life imprisonment handed down to two men by a sessions court on charges of rape and murder of a five-year-old girl.

A single-judge SHC bench comprising Justice Omar Sial acquitted the appellants Ghulam Haider and Muhammad Salah by extending them benefit of the doubt.

A sessions court had in November 2017 sentenced Ghulam Haider and Muhammad Salah to life in prison in November 2017 for murdering the girl after subjecting her to rape in October 2010 in a Gulistan-i-Jauhar locality.

According to the prosecution, both the accused persons were employees of the victim’s father who was associated with cattle business.

The appellants, through their counsel, had challenged the conviction order of the trial court before the SHC and after hearing both sides and examining the record and proceedings of the case the bench allowed their appeals.

The bench in its judgement observed that the case of prosecution was mainly based on evidence of two witnesses, who said to have seen the appellants with the victim before the incident. However, the bench noted that it seemed to be a coincidence that both eyewitnesses had seen the victim in the company of the appellants and had gone to Larkana soon after. Later, they returned the same day and informed the complainant about what they had seen.

It further observed that both the witnesses did not sound credible as one claimed he was going to his native village when he saw the girl with the accused while the other said that though he lived and worked in Larkana, he was in Karachi for his day off and saw the girl with the appellants.

They were both chance witnesses and the absence of any witness from the neighbourhood who might have seen the girl and the accused together meant that the testimony of the two witnesses needed to be treated with great care and caution, it added.

About the medical evidence, the bench further noted that initially, police had recorded that death was a consequence of drowning and did not explain before the trial court as to how it was determined that the victim had been raped and murdered when the body was brought to the doctor while medico-legal officer (MLO) had noticed that the body was in an advanced stage of decomposition, but that there were no obvious marks of injury.

“The MLO also opined that she was not in a position to ascertain the cause of death while she also did not conclude that the deceased had been raped prior to death and in essence, the medical report did not conclusively support the prosecution case,” it added.

“She seems to have based her findings on the DNA report that showed that the DNA had matched the DNA of the accused. As mentioned above, that finding in itself does not appear clear of doubt,” the bench stated.

Source: Dawn

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Imran calls for Bajwa’s court-martial over Ukraine policy criticism

March 3, 2023

LAHORE: Former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan Friday demanded former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa be put on trial for violating his government’s foreign policy and delivering a speech critical of Russia following the beginning of the military crisis in Ukraine in February of last year.

Addressing a group of journalists in Lahore, Khan also said the military establishment lacks understanding of political dynamics. and asserted that Bajwa had “stabbed me in the back” by criticizing Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.

The former prime minister was referring to a speech Bajwa delivered at the Islamabad Security Dialogue in April of last year. In his keynote address, the now-retired general had demanded that the crisis in the eastern European country must be “stopped immediately”.

“Despite legitimate security concerns of Russia, its aggression against a smaller country cannot be condoned,” he had remarked.

President Vladimir Putin believes that Ukraine is an integral part of Russian history and that it currently has a puppet regime controlled by foreign powers, a reference to the 2019 presidential election which resulted in comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy being elected as president of Ukraine.

Defense analysts suggest that a possible solution to the conflict is for Ukraine to become a neutral state in world politics. This would involve Kyiv agreeing to stand neutral between NATO and Russia, undertaking no formal alliances or non-defensive military cooperation with either side, and defending its borders against any invader. In return, Russia and NATO would agree not to interfere with Ukraine’s neutrality and to respect its sovereignty.

Khan has been highly critical of Bajwa since he was ousted from power in April last year, accusing him of being responsible for the country’s current predicament.

Imran has claimed that Bajwa used to call the shots, while he, as the prime minister, was at the receiving end of all the criticism. “He was a super king. He was above everyone. He was controlling NAB [National Accountability Bureau] and no one could be held accountable without Bajwa’s nod.”

“I was the punching bag while they [the establishment] had the absolute power. Bajwa took credit for all good things, while we were blamed for everything that went wrong,” he said.

“The money laundering case against [Prime Minister] Shehbaz Sharif could not proceed because Bajwa did not want it to,” he said.

Referring to a recent article based on the former army chief’s interview, Imran had said everyone already knew that the former army chief had toppled his government but “I did not expect that he would have admitted to this”.

‘Ready to talk to new army chief’

Imran during the media interaction also stated that he was ready to talk with the current army chief, General Syed Asim Munir, for the betterment of the country but only if some officials be removed. However, Khan added that it seemed that Munir considered him an ‘enemy’.

“I have no rifts with the establishment. If someone thinks that I will kneel down then it will not happen. No one is willing to talk so what should I do?” he was quoted as saying.

Speaking about a slew of cases against him, Imran dared the government to prove a single corruption charge against him and his wife Bushra Bibi. Imran said that the general elections should be held across the country simultaneously to cut poll expenditure.

He also vowed to win all elections despite “PDM umpires” and added that overseas Pakistanis also support the PTI. Reiterating his claim of life threats to his life, the former premier said that he has recorded a video message regarding the threats to his life which is present in a foreign country.

Imran also revealed that he decided against travelling to Islamabad by plane for court hearings as he was informed that the government wanted to arrest him from the airport and take him to Balochistan.

“I am facing threat from those who are supposed to protect me,” he alleged.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Pak Ambassador at Large for Kartarpur rues ‘lukewarm’ Indian pilgrims’ response to corridor

by Divya Goyal

March 4, 2023

THE KARTARPUR corridor, perhaps the biggest gesture of peace between India and Pakistan, now has an “Ambassador At Large”. In a recent order, Pakistan named Ramesh Singh Arora, a Sikh legislator from its Punjab province, to the post, with Arora saying his biggest hope is to boost the number of pilgrims from India using the corridor.

The 48-year-old belongs to Narowal, the district in Punjab where the Gurdwara Shri Kartarpur Sahib, one of Sikhism’s holiest shrines, is located, and is a two-time Member of its Provincial Assembly (MPA).

The new initiative on Kartarpur comes at a time when former CM of Pakistan Punjab Shehbaz Sharif is the Prime Minister of the country, and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) is ruling both at the Centre and in the state. Arora is a member of the PML-N.

Speaking to The Indian Express on the phone from Pakistan, Arora said it was “unfortunate” that more than three years after the Kartarpur Corridor was thrown open in November 2019 to facilitate pilgrims from the Indian side to pay obeisance at the Kartarpur gurdwara — the final resting place of Guru Nanak — the response has been “lukewarm”.

“As per the MoU signed between India and Pakistan, we have made arrangements for at least 5,000 pilgrims daily at Kartarpur, including langar etc, but there is hardly a day when the number of pilgrims arriving from India crosses even 1,000. On most days, it is just 200-500 on an average. We can only appeal to the Sikh sangat in India to make full use of this corridor as the only reason to open it was the demand from Indian Sikhs,” said Arora.

The Sikh leader said he had also suggested to PM Sharif that the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib be kept open 24 hours, seven days a week, so that Indian pilgrims could visit as per their convenience. “We will do everything possible from our side to encourage as many people as we can to visit Kartarpur… Currently, the gurdwara is open dawn to dusk for Indians. But since it is a two-way process, we have to work out the modalities with the Indian authorities,” Arora said.

He added that discussions were also being held on how underprivileged pilgrims who cannot afford to pay fees or don’t have a passport (which is needed for travel) can be accommodated.

Arora became the first member of the Sikh community to be elected an MPA in Pakistan Punjab in 2013, and was re-elected in 2020.

He is credited with the implementation of the Sikh Marriage Registration Act in the country. He introduced it as a private member’s Bill, which was unanimously passed by the Assembly in March 2018, allowing Sikhs to register their weddings under their own Act. Earlier, such marriages had no legal sanctity.

Arora admitted there was some religious persecution of minorities in Pakistan, but added that there are such problems everywhere. “Every country has its own issues. However, Sikhs and Hindus currently living in Pakistan enjoy every basic, fundamental right, and those who violate human rights are punished.”

With the latest Census data for Pakistan still to be released by the government, Arora claimed there are “at least 10 million Hindus and 25,000 Sikhs in Pakistan”.

A report by the Centre for Peace and Justice Pakistan released in June 2022 had put the numbers at 22.10 lakh for Hindus, comprising 1.18 cent of the country’s population.

Arora said they were doing their best to ensure that the Census data was available at the earliest.

Arora’s own family opted to stay back in Pakistan at the time of Partition. “I was born in Nankana Sahib but later we moved to Narowal. My grandfather chose to stay back on the insistence of a dear friend. Just for the sake of friendship, he did not move to India,” Arora said.

A postgraduate in entrepreneurship and SME management from Government College University, Lahore, Arora worked for the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Programme in Pakistan before joining politics. In 2008, he founded the Mojaz Foundation, an organisation working for the underprivileged and destitute.

He has also served as a member of the National Commission for Minorities, and has been raising issues regarding the rights of minorities to practise their faith and protection of their places of worship. In 2016, the President of Pakistan awarded him the National Human Rights Award in the category of Minorities’ Rights.

Arora said he joined politics on the urging of Ahsan Iqbal Chaudhary, a senior PML (N) leader, who told him that “it was important to have a person from the Sikh minority community in the Punjab assembly of Pakistan”.

Arora last visited India in December 2014 to attend an NRI Sammelan on the invitation of former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. “We have close ties with Sukhbir Badal and former Punjab speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal. They invited me to India and gave a lot of respect to me and my family,” Arora said.

Source: Indian Express

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Schools minister condemns 'death threats' over Kettlethorpe High School Quran damage

3 March 2023

A government minister says he is working with a school in West Yorkshire after four students were suspended for allegedly damaging a copy of the Quran.

The students at Kettlethorpe High School, in Wakefield, were removed after a copy of the Islamic text was partially torn and left scuffed after it was brought in by a Year 10 pupil reportedly as part of a dare last week.

Headteacher Tudor Griffiths said the book remained "fully intact" but the students' actions were "unacceptable".

The suspensions have caused controversy and widespread debate on social media.

Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb, said he would write to the headteacher and local authority "to offer my support" following the incident.

"Our guidance for schools on how to manage suspensions is clear, stating that all decisions should be reasonable, fair, and proportionate," he said.

"In circumstances where parents feel discipline has not met these standards, they can follow the school's complaints procedure and raise the issue with the school's governors or the local authority."

The minister condemned reported death threats against the pupils as "totally unacceptable".

Mr Gibb said: "My first priority is always the wellbeing of our children and young people.

"The death threats reportedly issued against the pupils are totally unacceptable."

He added: "There is no blasphemy law in this country and schools should be promoting the fundamental British values of the respect for rule of law, individual liberty and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs."

Mr Griffiths said the students were suspended to ensure "they understand why their actions were unacceptable" after he became aware of the incident on 23 February.

Mr Griffiths said: "We would like to reassure all our community that the holy book remains fully intact and that our initial inquiries indicate there was no malicious intent by those involved.

"However, we have made it very clear that their actions did not treat the Quran with the respect it should have, so those involved have been suspended and we will be working with them to ensure they understand why their actions were unacceptable."

He said that the school is "inclusive" and a place where all should "feel safe and secure."

He added: "Understanding and respecting each other is a fundamental part of who we are and we are coming together and learning from this.

A meeting was held with school bosses, local Muslim community leaders, councillors and police last week.

Cllr Akef Akbar, an independent councillor for Wakefield East, said on Facebook that he has since met with the parents of some of the children that were suspended from school.

He said: "I am actively working with them to have them reinstated as soon as possible. I spoke with the school this morning.

Source: I TV

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Manchester Arena Inquiry: Didsbury Mosque receives demolition and deportation threats

By Areeb Ullah

3 March 2023

A mosque in Manchester has received a wave of violent threats, with some calling for its "demolition" and the "deportation" of its followers, after an inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena attack named the place of worship in its report.

Published on Thursday, the Manchester Arena Inquiry concluded that the Manchester Islamic Centre, also known as Didsbury Mosque, had played no part in the radicalisation of bomber Salman Abedi or his brother, Hashem Abedi.

But it said that the chair of the mosque had “tended to downplay the strength of the links between the Abedi family and Didsbury Mosque in the years leading up to the attack”.

Twenty-two people were killed when Abedi, a 22-year-old British-Libyan man, detonated a bomb in a rucksack, also killing himself.

Sir John Saunders, the chair of the inquiry, said the mosque had displayed "weak leadership" in failing to address what an expert witness to the inquiry described as a "very toxic political environment" fuelled by conflict and unrest in Libya.

“On any view, in the years leading up to the attack, the leadership of the mosque did not pay sufficient attention to what went on at its premises and did not have policies in place that were robust enough to prevent the politicisation of its premises,” said Saunders.

Since the report's release, the Manchester Islamic Centre has been on alert, with police patrolling the area to protect the community from any possible attack.

Tracey Pook, the Didsbury Mosque's community engagement coordinator, has been monitoring the number of threats the centre has received and said they had been growing by the hour.

"Having compiled the threats and attacks, I've seen people say the mosque should be demolished, that extremists live here, and that the centre is somehow responsible for the murder of children," Pook told Middle East Eye.

"I have been coming to the mosque for the last 20 years. It's where I became a Muslim, and the community here has been nothing but friendly. These comments and threats are hurtful because what happened [in the Manchester Arena] is not what Islam is about," she added.

"The mosque has been at the heart of the community since 1967 and helped them when they needed it the most - like Covid."

Pook said the most alarming comments she had seen online referenced far-right activist Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, claiming "he was right" when he attempted to confront leaders from the mosque in 2017.

Fawzi Haffar, Manchester Islamic Centre’s chair of trustees, said the mosque had previously had to deal with the attention of the far right due to the media coverage it received in the aftermath of the bombing.

The mosque was also the target of an arson attack in September 2021. Haffar said the mosque had consulted with local police before the report’s release and had put security arrangements in place because of concerns that far-right activists could again target it.

Source: Middle East Eye

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European delegation visits Palestinian towns following violence by Israeli settlers

Qais Abu Samra 


A delegation of European ambassadors and consuls on Friday visited Palestinian towns in the occupied West Bank that were subjected to violence by Israeli settlers on Sunday.

EU representative Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff headed the delegation comprising about 20 ambassadors and consuls.

The delegations visited the towns of Huwara, Zatara and Burin in Nablus.

The delegation offered condolences to the family of Palestinian, Sameh Aktash, who was killed during acts of violence carried out by the settlers.

Speaking to reporters, Kuhn von Burgsdorff demanded that all those who committed these crimes be held accountable.

Dozens of Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian town of Huwara on Sunday and set fire to several Palestinian homes and vehicles. A Palestinian was killed in the attack.

The violence followed the killing of two Israeli settlers in a shooting in the town.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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MI5, media and far-right owe Didsbury Mosque and Manchester Muslims an apology

3rd March 2023

Manchester resident Shabnam Kulsoom says that following the exoneration of Didsbury Mosque by the Manchester Arena Inquiry over the radicalisation of Salman Abedi, MI5, the media and Tommy Robinson owe the Manchester Muslim community a huge apology.

On May 22, 2017, my brother – one of the heads of the da’wah department at Didsbury Mosque – was coming home from the mosque after his usual evening of voluntary work there.

But this particular evening he asked to be picked up by another family member due to an emergency situation of chaos and confusion that had occurred at Victoria Tram Station. Salman Abedi had attacked the MEN arena only minutes away from the station, and overspill was happening at the tram station because of terrified crowds running for their lives.

When I learned that the incident was confirmed as a terrorist attack, my immediate gut instinct told me: “They’re somehow going to blame Dids”- our nickname for Didsbury Mosque.

I relayed my feelings to my brother and said that they were based on the fact that it was a very popular mosque for Muslims, new-Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Its work in the community (thanks to volunteers in the da’wah department) was an example for other mosques to follow. Its outreach work varied from regular open days for non-Muslims to be educated on Islam to community outreach programmes.

Unfortunately, the da’wah department is now a shell of its former glory as a direct consequence of the negative focus on the mosque since the attack. Many of the ex-volunteers who grew the da’wah department to the success it became are still, to this day, hurting from it.

We saw the immediate vilification of the mosque by mass mainstream media from all over the world who converged on it within a day or so of it being named as THE mosque. We (the volunteers and regular attendees) were all deemed guilty by association.

The journalists’ faces said it all as they pitched themselves outside. Despite regular offerings of water and snacks as per Islamic hospitality, the tension from the media was in the air. They behaved like hyenas and unjustly attempted to defame the mosque in its entirety, based on a snippet of information that Abedi had attended the masjid less than a handful of times, and only for prayers.

With the media’s eyes fixed firmly on the outside of the mosque, we were inside calming the elderly sisters down who were in tears at having the finger of blame pointed at the community and attendees. They, nor we, could make any sense of the fact that this mosque that was our home from home, was being portrayed as a terrorist hotbed.

Tommy Robinson and his friends had also made their intentions to visit the mosque, and this was clearly frightening attendees as to the consequences and potential attacks on them and indeed the masjid.

If my memory serves me correct, Robinson came to the mosque at around Fajr time to put a projection onto the exterior when young children were in their classes, upsetting them in the process while playing the amateur, self-proclaimed investigative journalist. His sole purpose and intentions were to stoke up hate towards Manchester’s Muslims. In that respect, he failed, and with yestrday’s announcement, Tommy Robinson owes Manchester’s Muslims a firm apology.

Defamation of Manchester’s Muslims

In the days following the attack, myself and other sisters felt compelled to go out into St Anne’s Square to show a visible Muslim presence. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was walking on eggshells in my own city. We fed and consoled visitors at the vigil site that was strewn with bouquets of flowers and teddy bears. We felt we had to tell them how sorry we were for the heinous acts of one deranged individual, whose only link to us was that he happened to share our faith.

We stood outside the mosque in a show of solidarity in front of the world’s media, but some of us point-blank refused to hold up “I Love Mcr” placards at the request of the trustees. I was born and brought up in a small, white, working-class industrial town called Radcliffe in Manchester. Why was I being told that I had to publicly declare my love for Manchester when I am more Manc than a Manchester worker bee? We discarded those placards in front of them. “We’re absolutely NOT doing it.”

The image of Didsbury Mosque and that of Manchester’s Muslims was defamed for a number of years following the attack. Yesterday’s conclusion that MI5 – an agency of the government that is supposed to protect us and take preventative measures to prevent attacks – failed massively demonstrates sheer incompetence.

The finger of blame should have always been pointed at their failings first by virtue of being our so-called protectors. Instead, they were content for the narrative to be peddled in the direction of Muslims as a collective group. Let us also not forget, it is these goverment agencies that facilitated British Libyans and those of Libyan-heritage born in the UK to travel back and forth in order to topple Colonel Gaddafi.

So when it suited their objective they seemingly knew how to turn a blind eye. If Abedi was on their watch list as they say, why didn’t they throw everything they had into preventing him from carrying out the attack? Why wait until after the event? Surely prevention is better than cure?

We will always stand with the victims of this criminality, and send our condolences to the families over what seems an ongoing trauma to get to the truth. However, let us not forget that Muslims are also the victims in all of this – guilty by association.

Source: 5pillars UK

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Didsbury Mosque welcomes Manchester Inquiry conclusion it didn’t radicalise Salman Abedi

3rd March 2023

Didsbury Mosque has welcomed the Manchester Arena Inquiry’s conclusion that the bomber Salman Abedi was not radicalised there, but has disputed the finding that it was “wilfully blind” to a political debate raging about the Libya conflict.

Here is the mosque’s statement in full:

First and foremost, Didsbury Mosque wishes to recognise the bravery and dignity shown by the victims and the families of victims during the course of the Inquiry and the evidence heard.

The anguish felt by the victims cannot accurately be put into words and Didsbury Mosque wishes to offer its unwavering support to all those affected and hopes that the conclusion of this Inquiry can provide a pathway to obtaining some justice and closure.

The Mosque will do all it can to ensure that it is a place of peace, calm, and safety for all those who come to worship or visit and recognises and understands how dangerous the scourge of extremism/terrorism can be. It will not be tolerated under any circumstances whatsoever.

Didsbury Mosque also wishes to thank the Chair for overseeing a long and difficult Inquiry.

After considering the final report issued on 2nd March 2023, Didsbury Mosque agrees with the conclusion that the Mosque was not involved in the radicalisation of Salman and Hashim Abedi.

However, some of the findings of the report are disputed by Didsbury Mosque and in the interests of transparency we wish to respond to said findings.

The trustees were invited voluntarily to give evidence to the Inquiry; they were never a core participant. Didsbury Mosque provided written evidence and responses on numerous occasions and our chair also gave oral evidence. It is vital that the public understand that we attended and cooperated with the hearing on a voluntary basis, purely to assist with the Inquiry and Didsbury Mosque is of the opinion more could have been done to highlight this fact.

The Chair has made comments on evidence heard from Mr. Haffar and Mr. Saeiti and has stated that the evidence of Mr. Saeiti was preferred. It should be noted that Mr. Haffar was subjected to vigorous cross-examination whereas Mr. Saeiti, was not. The opinion of Didsbury Mosque is that had Mr. Saeiti been cross-examined and had his evidence been tested, he would have been found lacking in credibility and his evidence widely dismissed.

Didsbury Mosque also notes that a previous longstanding Imam Mr. Graff was not invited to give evidence at the Inquiry. We will stand corrected if an invite was sent to him. Mr. Graff voluntarily provided his own statement to the Inquiry and Didsbury Mosque feels that more consideration should have been given to this statement as Mr. Graff was an Imam who served for a long period of time and had a deep understanding of the issues raised by Mr. Saeiti.

Didsbury Mosque does not agree with the assertion that it was “wilfully blind.” The trustees do not manage the activities at the mosque on a day-to-day basis, the staff do. There were no meetings of radical Libyan groups at the mosque. Evidence was provided to the Inquiry that proved there is a longstanding policy of not allowing overseas politics at the mosque. Like many mosques the meeting room was hired for humanitarian aid work in Libya and for other countries, this is not evidence of extremism. An allegation was made against two individuals who had held meetings on the day Mr. Haffar gave evidence. Those individuals subsequently submitted statements to the Chairman that they were not extremists but holding a lawful registered charity/social meeting. Those statements have not been commented upon by the Inquiry.

Didsbury Mosque asked trustees and staff what they knew about the Abedi family and any sightings. They were asked to put their response into an email. Those emails included that of both Imams. Copies were provided to the Inquiry. If any former member of staff now claims other information, we would ask why that information was withheld and was not put in the email or provided to the police in the first place and question the motive. We provided details of Ismail Abedi his mother and his sister working at the mosque to the Inquiry. They have not been charged with anything to do with this attack and were DBS cleared. There was no other information we had to give. Mr. Haffar the Chair has never met anyone from the Abedi family and answered at a personal level which is the truth. Other trustees and staff confirmed what they knew to the Inquiry.

Didsbury Mosque had been a place where Ramadan Abedi and their sons prayed until 2006 when they moved to a mosque in another part of the city, after which they went to Libya and then the children returned. They were not known to the mosque as adults (except Ismail), and this was not their local mosque. Our staff reported a visual sighting of Salman on a few occasions at Friday prayers. He is said to have prayed and left. No contact or conversations were reported to have taken place. Ramadan Abedi attended Ismail’s Islamic marriage contract as the witness and father, in the prayer hall. We were shown a recording of this only on the day of our public hearing. It was presented on the day as if it was evidence of an extremist circle at the mosque. The trustees were not made aware of this beforehand. Thousands of marriage contracts have been performed at this mosque the staff cannot be expected to recall them all and the trustees are not aware of them. Does this mean we are linked to everyone who has a marriage at this mosque from any ethnic origin?

The mosque has been linked to Libya and the wider political situation in the country, because of the common ethnic heritage of some of our staff and those who come to pray. Are we linked to worshippers from Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq too? We also cannot be linked with the politics and political comments of the Libyan or any community on their social media or in their private lives, simply because they come and say their prayers at our premises or hold a charity meeting or marriage here. The Inquiry and its lawyers and experts have also sometimes confused political comments and discussions about conflicts overseas with extremism that leads to terrorism. Are the Muslim community not able to discuss any politics overseas? This is a flawed approach. None of our trustees are of Libyan heritage. The breakdown of Libyan and non-Libyan staff and trustees was provided to the Inquiry at the outset. The Mosque has no links with Libya other than this.

We did not accept weak management in Libyan or other politics. There have been a few staffing/management issues to deal with which happen at every institution. The trustees have had a long-term informal policy of not allowing Imams and speakers to use the mosque for politics or expressing their personal political opinions. This predates 9/11 and has been effectively applied over decades. Two former Libyan Imams had opposing political views of the Libyan civil war, but both were against extremism and ISIS. Didsbury Mosque was aware of their differences and managed them as best and sensitively as they could. Neither were allowed to use the mosque for the promotion of their political views. Both gave sermons against extremism, and the mosque has always preached against anyone going overseas to fight. From 2011 -2017 there were 364 Friday sermons. Many had spoken against extremism. During that time two sermons strayed slightly into politics, and both were clamped down on by trustees immediately and the Imams warned not to let it happen again. A correspondence warning to both Imams was provided to the Inquiry. These two sermons and the mosque’s response to them were discussed at the Inquiry.

It has been alleged that the former Imam of the Mosque Mustafa Graf called for people to go to fight in the fundraising sermon he delivered which was widely reported in the media. That sermon was a fundraising sermon for local charities because of a chemical attack on Syrian people. The call was for striving by Maal (or giving). The police expert who examined the sermon concluded that this was not an encouragement for warfare but charity. The Mosque also commissioned an independent expert to investigate the sermon and that reached the same conclusion. Our investigation concluded: “There was no objective of encouraging people to take up arms, nor did the khutbah do so. Our main reason for saying this is: – a) there was a clear charitable purpose to khutbah. b) those verses commonly known as the ‘fighting verses’ or ‘sword verses’ are not used in the Khutbah. The fighting verses are used by most scholars or leaders of violent groups who wish to encourage taking up arms and fighting. The BBC’s own website defines Jihad and mentions types of non-violent expression as Jihad and states the key fighting verses. c) At the end of the Khutbah in English, MG makes it clear he is asking people for donations for victims in Aleppo, not just to give loose change but give more and that ‘this will be considered Jihad fi Sabeelillah (Jihad in the path of Allah).’ This is also mentioned, toward the end of the speech in Arabic ‘spend your wealth considering that your Jihad in the path of Allah.’ It is also mentioned in the last Arabic paragraph ‘seeking reward from Allah with your wealth and effort and do not be miserly and do not hesitate.’ d) The congregation understood the purpose of the Khutbah was fundraising.“

Didsbury Mosque wishes to reconfirm that it voluntarily and wilfully aided the Inquiry to the best of its ability based on the information it could gather. This has been done in the interests of transparency and justice.

Source: 5pillars UK

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Bosnian students write comfort letters to their Turkish quake victim peers

Ismail Ozdemir  


Primary school students receiving Turkish language education in Bosnia and Herzegovina made drawings and wrote comfort letters on Wednesday for the children affected by the devastating Feb. 6 earthquakes in southern Türkiye.

Students of the "My Preference is Turkish" program by the Yunus Emre Institute (YEE) wrote letters including Turkish expressions like "We are sorry for your loss, our prayers are with you," "Get well soon, my Türkiye," "We are with you our brothers and sisters."

"Brother Türkiye, although the earthquake happened in your land, it shook us deeply here. Fault fractures became like our life fractures. I wish all the wounds would be healed quickly," a student wrote.

Mehmet Akif Yaman, the director of YEE in Sarajevo, told Anadolu that donations were collected from all parts of the country for the earthquake zones in Türkiye.

He said that students donated their clothes and pocket money to support the aid. "Our students learning Turkish prepared beautiful cards and letters for their brothers and sisters and friends affected by the earthquake in Türkiye and sent them to us. We hope to alleviate the children's sadness there to some extent by delivering them to the earthquake regions."

"I hope that when our children in Türkiye see these, they will communicate with the Bosnian children here in the future when the conditions normalize and reinforce their brotherhood and friendship. We will contribute to the communication in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Yaman added.

Noting that Turkish has been taught in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2011, Yaman said: "At the moment, nearly 6,500 students are learning Turkish and there are 98 teachers in nearly 200 schools."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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German traveler walks from Vienna to Istanbul to collect money for earthquake victims in Türkiye

Muhammed Enes Calli


Twin earthquakes in southern Türkiye did not only affect Turkish people's lives and cause devastating effects on buildings but also foreigners living in the country were rocked by the disasters.

Franziska Niehus is among those foreigners who have been living in Istanbul for five years.

Born in Germany, Niehus is a big fan of Türkiye as she traveled over 81 provinces in her old yellow car, and became quite popular on Instagram.

She has over 500.000 followers on her Instagram account named "travelcomic," where she makes videos about the Turkish cities that she has visited.

After receiving news of devastating earthquakes that hit 11 cities, she felt that her heart "was heavy with pain."

She has been affected by some dramatic features from the quake zone, leading her to take immediate action to help the victims as the idea just popped into her head out of nowhere; Walking from Vienna, Austria, to Istanbul to raise donations on her way.

Niehus told Anadolu via Zoom about her activities to help victims while walking the outskirts of Vienna on the second day of her trip.

The 29-year-old traveler was in Kayseri for a ski trip when the earthquake occurred on Feb. 6.

"I woke up at 4:20 am in the morning because the building was shaking. It was the first time ever that I experienced such a strong earthquake in my life. So, I was scared. I didn't know what to do. I was running outside without shoes on," she said.

Following the earthquake, she immediately went to Elbistan of Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of the second earthquake with a 7.6 magnitude in the afternoon.

"We saw the devastating outcome of the earthquake, I realized that this is one of the biggest disasters that the modern time has probably seen and we should do something against it or for it."

"When I was in Elbistan, it was really cold. Everybody lost family or their house. But they still came up to me to offer tea because it was so cold. They might have lost everything, but they did not lose their hospitality and hope. This is why I care about this so much."

Goal to walk 2,400 kilometers across 8 countries

She will walk around 2,400 kilometers (1,490 miles) and will distribute the donations to a charitable project for the victims every 500 kilometers (310 miles).

Asked for the purpose of her trip, Niehus said that she wanted to raise awareness to collect donations for the earthquake victims.

"I was thinking by myself as to what I can personally do to help in this situation for Türkiye, which I called my home. I feel like there is something that I can do to help people. So, this is something that I can do, raise awareness with my social media platforms by raising donations for those people that need help most right now."

She already collected $3,000 on her second day of walking.

"I am overwhelmed by the support and donations that are already coming in before I even started this walk. Multiple charities will profit from this project."

On messages she received about her long trip, she stated that the reactions have been very positive.

"Of course, there are a lot of people who are also very worried about me because it's a really long way. And there are parts that are going to be extremely lonely and difficult. I am aware of this, but most of the messages were extremely sweet. People are excited about this. And I hope that with this project, I can also motivate other people to do something. Go outside and think about how I can personally help in this situation."

She plans to walk around 20 or 30 kilometers per day, which will take around five months to reach Istanbul, expecting to arrive in Istanbul in July or August, across eight countries, including Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece.

She added that she already used to walk long distances with other outdoor activities such as hiking and camping in Türkiye.

"I climbed Agri Mountain a few months ago. So, I feel well-prepared. I'm trusting in myself. I'm very confident that I will reach Istanbul."

Hatay 'special' for her

Niehus has been affected by the pictures of the cities that were hit by the massive quakes, as Hatay has a special place in her heart.

"When I saw the images of the destroyed cities, I was devastated because I remembered all the memories that I made in those cities."

"I went to Hatay, which was one of my favorite cities in Türkiye. I also have friends there. Immediately, I contacted everybody and made sure that they were okay. But the city is not recognizable anymore. I am really devastated about this. I hope that together we can build this up again. I know it takes a very long time. But one day, it will be okay."

The death toll from the devastating earthquakes that struck Türkiye has risen to 45,089, the country's disaster management agency, AFAD, said early on Wednesday.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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India Hails Saudi Support in the G20 as FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Attends G20 Meetings

Sanjay Kumar

March 04, 2023

NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister and his Indian counterpart discussed global developments on Friday, after the top diplomats of the world’s 20 biggest economies met in New Delhi.

The foreign ministers of the Group of 20, which includes the US, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Russia, China and the EU, arrived in the Indian capital for the second high-level ministerial meeting under India’s G20 presidency this year.

The talks on Thursday were dominated by tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which prevented them from finding enough common ground to deliver a joint statement at the end of the summit.

The G20 meeting was followed by Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s individual discussions with some of the participants.

In a morning meeting with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan, he said he had discussed “global developments.”

“A good conversation this morning with FM Faisal bin Farhan of Saudi Arabia,” Jaishankar said on Twitter. “Appreciate Saudi Arabia’s support in the G20. Also discussed global developments.”

During the G20 meeting’s session on promoting multilateralism, development cooperation, food and energy security, Prince Faisal “reiterated the importance of resolving conflicts and political tensions hindering effective action on facing global challenges and exacerbating economic fragmentation,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

He also “praised the efforts of the Indian government during its presidency of the G20,” as New Delhi has been trying to enhance multilateral action in light of the current global political and economic challenges.

Experts see the Saudi foreign minister’s engagements in India as bringing the two countries closer together on global political issues.

“The main point about Saudi foreign policy is that it is following an independent foreign policy based on strategic autonomy. This makes the Kingdom very close to India in its approach,” Talmiz Ahmad, former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

“The most important aspect in the message that is coming to me from G20 at the moment is the need for countries of the South to cooperate with each other. I do not believe there is any prospect in the near future of Western countries participating in any serious dialogue relating to global issues.”

Talmiz said that it was now time for countries like Saudi Arabia and India to cooperate even closer.

Muddassir Quamar, Middle East expert and fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, said that now was the right moment for New Delhi and Riyadh to broaden cooperation.

“There is immense political and diplomatic momentum in favor of strengthening the ties,” he told Arab News.

“The two sides have many mutual and shared interests when it comes to issues of the Global South, including climate change, net zero and so on, and they have been cooperating on these issues at the G20 as well as other forums.”

Mohammed Soliman, director of the Strategic Technologies and Cyber Security Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said Saudi Arabia and India were natural economic and strategic partners, both aspiring to strategic autonomy and asserting themselves as major G20 nations.

“Delhi and Riyadh aim to present a middle ground between Washington and Brussels on the one hand, and Beijing and Moscow on the other, as the G20 is evolving into the de facto global governance mechanism,” he said.

Source: Arab News

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Muslim Community Elders and Imams Tell Youth Not To Do Bike Stunts On Shab-E-Barat Night

04th March 2023

By Mohammed Yacoob

BENGALURU:  With Shab-e-Barat, a holy night for the Muslim community, falling on Tuesday,

community elders and imams have been collectively giving sermons asking the youth to save the image of the community and not to get into legal trouble by doing stunts on two-wheelers. The imams have appealed to community leaders and elders to have an eye on youth on Tuesday night as accidents and unsavoury incidents have taken place in the past.

For almost a decade now, the Bengaluru traffic police have also taken a decision to block the flyovers in the city after 9 pm. “The Shab-e-Barat is an indication of the arrival of the holy month of Ramzan. Community members have been told to come to masjids and pray. About 400-plus masjids in the city have been asked to give sermons on Friday and also make announcements on the night of Shab-e-Baarat.

Not just wheeling and bike stunts, youth and community members have been asked not to roam around that night on the streets and not to disturb other community members. Some elders and leaders in each area will keep an eye and if necessary will also call the police to ensure that peace is not disturbed,” said Maqsood Imram Rashadi, Chief Imam, Jamia Masjid City Market.

Source: New Indian Express

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Ayodhya Development Authority Clears Supreme Court -Mandated Mosque

Mar 4, 2023

AYODHYA: The Ayodhya Development Authority (ADA) on Friday gave final sanction for the construction of Ayodhya mosque mandated by the Supreme Court in Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi verdict. The construction of the mosque did not start in the last two years even though the Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation, the trust tasked with developing the Ayodhya masjid and community facilities, submitted the maps with the ADA in May 2021.

The mosque construction work got delayed due to no-objection certificates sought by ADA. Further delay was caused due to the change of land use as the allotted land was for agricultural purposes.

In its Ayodhya verdict dated November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court had ordered allotment of 5 acres of suitable land to the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board in the acquired area under the Ayodhya Act 1993 or atany appropriate, prominent place in Ayodhya.

Following the order, the Ayodhya administration had allotted the said 5 acres in Dhannipur village of Sohawal tehsil, about 25km from the Ayodhya town.

Talking to TOI, Ayodhya divisional commissioner and ADA chairman Gaurav Dayal said, “We have approved the project of Ayodhya mosque in the Board meeting held on Friday. The sanctioned maps will be handed over to Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation after a few departmental formalities, which are to be completed within a couple of days.”

Source: Times Of India

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Muslim community recognises Uddhav Thackeray as leader of the real Shiv Sena, says Sanjay Raut 

March 03, 2023

Stating that the Muslim and Dalit communities in Maharashtra had whole-heartedly recognised the Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership as the ‘true Sena’, Thackeray camp leader Sanjay Raut on Friday said that the Election Commission’s decision awarding the party name and symbol to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde faction was “merely a decision on paper” and not the people’s verdict.

Speaking during his tour of Kolhapur and Sangli districts, Mr. Raut said that the people in the State had been unhappy with the ECI’s decision to award the party name and the bow-and-arrow symbol to the ‘rebel’ Shinde faction.

“Everywhere during my tour, I saw that our Muslim brothers have wholeheartedly welcomed us with shouts of ‘Shiv Sena Zindabad’ and ‘Jai Maharashtra’. The Dalit and Muslim community recognise Mr. Thackeray as the leader of the real Shiv Sena. Moreover, the people have not liked the ECI’s decision. They are questioning as to how the party founded by Bal Thackeray can belong to someone else,” said the Rajya Sabha MP.

Remarking that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had “lost sleep” over their defeat by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) troika in the Kasba Peth Assembly by-poll in Pune, Mr. Raut said that the Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) would contest seats and win the Sangli and Kolhapur districts in the 2024 Assembly election.

“What happened in Kasba Peth will happen in Sangli and Miraj (Assembly segment in Sangli district) in the 2024 Assembly election. The BJP thought Kasba was its bastion, but they did not realise that a major part of their presence over 30 years was due to the contribution of Shiv Sena workers. At least 35,000-40,000 voters in Kasba Peth were from the Shiv Sena who expressed their anger this time at Mr. Thackeray being toppled from the CM’s post by the Shinde faction,” said Mr. Raut.

Clarifying that his recent ‘chormandal’ (legislature of thieves) remark was directed at a particular faction (Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena), Mr. Raut said he had not insulted any MLA or the State legislature by his statement.

Mr. Raut’s controversial remark had courted a breach of privilege motion from the ruling Shinde-BJP coalition.

“I accuse them [Shinde faction] of robbing the party, the Shiv Sena symbol and claiming to be ‘real’ Shiv Sena. Moreover, I have made this statement [ chormandal] outside the legislature, so it remains to be seen whether the breach of privilege against me falls under any actionable ambit,” said Mr. Raut.

Amid uproar over the remark, Deputy Chairperson of the Maharashtra Legislative Council, Neelam Gorhe on Thursday directed Mr. Raut to submit a reply within seven days to the breach of privilege notice, moved against him by the BJP.

Mr. Raut, however, said being on tour, he was yet to see the notice.

Nationalist Congress Party chief (NCP) Sharad Pawar— an ally of Mr. Raut— had expressed reservations on the composition of the committee formed to hear the breach of privilege notice against Mr. Raut.

Source: The Hindu

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Right-Wing Outfits Protest ‘Land Jihad’, Demand Govt to Remove Encroachments from Forts of Maharashtra

March 3, 2023

More than 500 members of several Right-wing outfits that voluntarily carry out conservation and restoration works in various forts of Maharashtra came together at Azad Maidan Friday afternoon to protest against encroachment at several forts in the state and labelled it as ‘Land Jihad’.

The protest in South Mumbai was organised by Maharashtra Gad-Durg Rakshan Samiti along with the Hindu-Jan-Jagruti Samiti. The Gad-Durg Rakshan Samiti is an umbrella organisation of several independent outfits that carry out conservation of forts, voluntarily. The members who participated in Friday’s rally came from several parts of the state, including, Raigad, Kolhapur and Pune.

All the protestors who were present at the event were seen wearing either a saffron-coloured ribbon or a turban. Some of them were also seen displaying paper cut-outs of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Speaking at the event, Satish Kochrekar, spokesperson of the event, said the primary objective of the protest is to send a message to the current state government to remove illegal encroachments that have grown inside the forts.

“Almost all the forts in Maharashtra have been encroached today and all the encroachers belong to the Muslim community. They have taken over the entire fort premises in an illegal way, as they don’t have a single document that could prove their original ownership of that property,” Kochrekar said.

“This way they are taking over all the heritage structures that were built by Shivaji Maharaj and stern action is necessary from the state government. Therefore, we demand that strict guidelines should be issued to remove these encroachers from our forts and at the same time the government officials under whose watch these encroachments took place, should be penalised,” he said.

On Friday afternoon, a delegation of the members representing the outfit went to meet Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and handed over a letter stating that an independent committee needs to be formed which will comprise of government officials as well as members of the Gad-Durg Rakshan Samiti, that would work towards framing holistic policies towards conservation of the forts.

Ranjit Savarkar, grandnephew of Vinayak Damodar (Veer) Savarkar and chairperson of Swatantryaveer Savarkar Rashtriya Smarak, also participated in the protest gathering and said that although the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is responsible for caretaking of these forts, an independent committee is need of the hour.

“This process of encroaching our forts is a deliberate attempt of grabbing the lands and heritage properties that have been built by Shivaji Maharaj and his followers. Many of these encroachers have received subsidies for setting up their shanties and this clearly states that in a way the government is also backing them. This needs to stop and the government needs to intervene,” Savarkar said.

Source: Indian Express

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NIA attaches Hizb commander’s property in J&K's Sopore

Mar 4, 2023

SRINAGAR: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday attached a property of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Basit Reshi in Sopore area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

The move came a day after the agency attached properties of Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar alias Latram — one of the two terrorists freed along with Masood Azhar in exchange for passengers of the Indian Airlines plane hijacked to Kandahar in 1999 — in Srinagar’s Nowhatta area.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has already declared Basit Reshi — who is presently based in Pakistan as per the NIA — a designated terrorist under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a stringent law legislated to control terrorism. According to MHA, the Hizbul-affiliate was involved in coordinating targeted killings besides other subversive activities in Jammu and Kashmir. NIA claimed that Reshi planned and executed an attack on a police guard post at Tujar Sherief on August 18, 2015, in which police personnel and a civilian were killed.

Source: Times Of India

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NIA attaches property of Pakistan-based terrorist in Baramulla

Mar 3, 2023

NEW DELHI: A day after NIA attached the property of Pakistan-based terrorist Mushtaq Zargar in Srinagar, it executed a similar action in respect of agricultural land owned by another terrorist operating from Pakistani soil, Basit Ahmed Reshi, in Baramulla.

Basit is a ‘listed terrorist’ under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and is said to be involved in terror activities of Lashker e Taiba arm The Resistance Front (TRF) as well as funding of terrorist acts in the Kashmir Valley. He manages and supplies arms/ammunition as well as funds for TRF from Pakistan, NIA said in a statement on Friday.

Basit had joined the militant ranks in 2015 and was allegedly involved in the planning and execution of a terror attack at Police Guard post in Sopore, in which a constable was killed and others injured. He was associated with Hizbul Mujahideen at the time and had later exfiltrated from J&K to Pakistan.

Reshi’s agriculture land measuring 9.25 marlas was attached by NIA under the provisions of UA(P) Act, with the assistance of representatives of the J&K administration and police.

Till date, NIA has attached the properties of five designated terrorists, namely US-based pro-Khalistan activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Canada-based Sikh terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, and Pakistan based terrorists Mushtaq Zargar @ Latram, Basit Ahmad Pir and KCF (Panjwar) Paramjit Singh @Panjwar.

Source: Times Of India

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Karnataka Hijab row: SC assures petitioner to constitute bench, hearing expected after Holi vacation

Mar 3, 2023

NEW DELHI: In the Hijab row, the Supreme Court on Friday assured the petitioner that it will constitute a bench and hear the plea, seeking to allow female students to appear in the examination wearing Hijab in Karnataka.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said that it will constitute a bench and hear the matter related to the Hijab issue.

The plea was mentioned by Shariat Committee, which sought to grant permission to female students to appear in exams with wearing Hijab.

The court said that it will list the matter immediately after Holi.

The Apex court will remain closed for the Holi break from tomorrow and it will reopen on March 13.

Petitioner's counsel told the court that the exams are after five days and insisted to hear the matter urgently.

An application was moved in the top court to allow girl students to appear in examinations, beginning from March 9, in colleges in Karnataka wearing headscarves.

The top court has earlier given a split verdict on various petitions challenging the Karnataka High Court order which upheld a ban on Hijab in educational institutes. Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed the appeal while Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia allowed it. The matter was thereafter referred to the Chief Justice of India for appropriate direction due to divergent opinions.

The judgement was given by a two-judge of justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia.

The court was hearing various pleas against Karnataka HC's judgement upholding the Karnataka Govt decision to direct educational institutes to prescribe uniforms in educational institutes.

Various petitioners have approached the apex court challenging the Karnataka HC order upholding the Karnataka government's order which directs strict enforcement of schools and colleges' uniform rules.

Karnataka High Court last year held that the prescription of uniforms is a reasonable restriction that students could not object to and dismissed various petitions challenging a ban on Hijab in education institutions saying they are without merit.

The Hijab row erupted in January last year when the Government PU College in Udupi allegedly barred six girls wearing the hijab from entering. Following this, the girls sat in protest outside the college over being denied entry.

After this, boys from several colleges in Udupi started attending classes wearing saffron scarves. This protest spread to other parts of the state as well leading to protests and agitations in several places in Karnataka.

As a result, the Karnataka government said that all students must adhere to the uniform and banned both hijab and saffron scarves till an expert committee decided on the issue.

Source: Times Of India

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Allocate 6% of GDP to education, says Students' Islamic Organisation of India, Karnataka

Mar 4, 2023

BENGALURU: With state assembly elections approaching, the Students' Islamic Organisation (SIO) of India, Karnataka, has released its manifesto, asking political parties to allocate 6% of the state's gross domestic product (GDP) for education in the annual budget.

While reiterating that 50% vacancies in teaching posts in government schools should be filled up at the earliest, SIO demanded that the government should also try to reduce high school dropout rates among children of parents employed in the unorganised sector.

"Scholarships, school uniforms and basic facilities should be provided to create an ideal learning environment and ensure participation of students," the SIO manifesto said.

Source: Times Of India

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Southeast Asia


In Johor, mosques in flood areas to open as temporary flood relief centres

By Ben Tan

Friday, 03 Mar 2023

JOHOR BARU, March 3 — Main mosques in flood-affected areas in Johor are now open as temporary flood relief centres, following the sudden surge in flood victims from the state.

Johor Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid said in order to accommodate the new role, guidelines will be prepared for the mosques to continue their main function as a place of Muslim worship.

"This is a contingency plan that we have taken to accommodate the high increase in the population affected by the floods.

"The mosque is also allowed to assist in preparing food for distribution and delivery to nearby temporary flood relief centres,” Mohd Fared said in a statement posted.

On the fifth day of the floods in Johor, the number of flood victims continued to increase today.

Source: Malay Mail

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Seniman lodges police report over ‘Mentega Terbang’ movie that allegedly insulted Islam

03 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 ― Persatuan Seniman Malaysia (Seniman) has lodged a police report against an Indie film Mentega Terbang that it alleges insulted Islam and promoted seditious content in some scenes.

Seniman secretary-general Mohd Hafiz Mohd Nafiah said it was inappropriate for the film to be shown on any platform in the country and action should be taken against it.

“Seniman urges the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation against the producer, director and scriptwriter under the Sedition Act 1948 and appeals to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to investigate the matter under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

“Seniman is deeply concerned about a scene in the film that can affect racial harmony, by involving Islamic religious issues, which is protected under Clause 1, Article 3 of the Federal Constitution,” he told the media after lodging the report at the Dang Wangi district police headquarters here today.

Meanwhile, Dang Wangi district police chief, ACP Noor Delilhan Yahaya, when contacted by Bernama, said the case had been handed over to the Ampang Jaya district police for further action.

The film Mentega Terbang, which has been uploaded for free viewing on digital streaming platforms received objections from Muslims in the country for allegedly containing elements of religious pluralism.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Film Producers Association (PFM) has issued a reprimand directed at local film producers and is asking them to be more sensitive to content development especially when dealing with religious issues, race and culture in the country even with subtle attempts as depicted in the film Mentega Terbang.

PFM president Pansha said the production company, Anomalist Production and Meng Kheng Entertainment have committed an offence under the Finas Act 244 by not applying for a Filming Certificate of Licence (SPP) from Finas, and not having any licence to produce local films.

“Even though Mentega Terbang was broadcast through digital streaming and its content beyond the control of the Censorship Board (LPF) or without screening permission from Finas, its broadcast on the internet can still be controlled by MCMC," he said in a statement today.

He said the national film policy guided by the FINAS Act 244 and Film Censorship Act 2002 (Act 620) must be respected.

"An agency has been entrusted to monitor the content of a film and not a third party, like what happened with the film Pulau. PFM is urging that authorities take quick action,” he added.

Meanwhile the LPF is studying all aspects related to the film Mentega Terbang before taking further action.

The Home Affairs Ministry informed in a statement issued today that the board has taken note of the issues raised and based on the review, the film was not in the board’s censorship record and is being shown online (via an internet platform).

Source: Malay Mail

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Palestinians accuse Israeli government of complicity as Hawara arson suspects are freed


March 03, 2023

RAMALLAH: Israeli police on Friday released all of the settlers arrested in connection with the burning of homes and vehicles in the occupied West Bank town of Hawara on Feb. 26.

The Ynet news website, affiliated with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, reported that law enforcement officials said they could not find any evidence linking the settlers to the attacks, some of which were caught on video. About 100 cars and 35 houses were destroyed, and more than 40 houses were partly burned.

Israeli sources also said that two settlers placed in administrative detention on the orders of the Defense Ministry could be released at any moment.

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said the release of settlers was evidence of the “complicity of the Israeli judiciary in covering up the crime.”

Also on Friday, Israeli troops used stun grenades and tear gas to prevent busloads of Israeli peace activists from staging a solidarity rally in Hawara, protesters said. Soldiers pressed their knees into the necks and backs of demonstrators they had pushed to the ground, according to protesters.

According to Sally Abed, from the group Standing Together, at least two people were briefly detained after the army threw them to the ground, kicked and handcuffed them. In another incident, a group of soldiers reportedly violently pushed Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli parliament speaker, until he stumbled and fell.

The Israeli army said it had declared Hawara a closed military zone and so when Israeli and Palestinian activists ignored the military order, security forces used tear gas and other tactics to disperse the crowds and maintain order.

Kayed Odeh, a 42-year-old shop owner, told Arab News that about 1,500 shops in Hawara had suffered losses amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of the siege imposed on the town by the Israeli army since Sunday.

“Life is paralyzed in Hawara: No one goes to work, no student goes to school and the situation here has become like a battlefield in Ukraine,” he said.

“Did we expect the government to imprison a government?” he added, explaining that the settlers are like a law unto themselves. “Dozens of security cameras are installed along the main streets in Hawara to obtain evidence of the settlers’ involvement in terrorism against the townspeople.”

He said it would take at least four months for the town to return to normal following the attacks.

Palestinians and human rights activists condemned the release of the arson suspects.

Shawan Jabarin, director of human rights organization Al-Haq, told Arab News: “An accomplice cannot hold a criminal accountable. The Israeli police, army and intelligence are all part of the crime, whether through their failure to prevent it or their leniency with those involved in the Israeli terrorism carried out by settlers.”

He warned that growing right-wing Israeli extremism could lead to large-scale massacres of Palestinians.

“Those released settlers will become heroes in the eyes of the Israeli right and they may be rewarded, and we, as a human rights institution, are warning that what is to come will be worse and more dangerous,” Jabarin added.

Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesperson for the Palestinian government, told Arab News: “Have you heard of a criminal who arrested himself? The Israeli army and police are accomplices in the crime, so we are not surprised by their move.”

Referring to Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s recent statement in which he called on the government to wipe out the town of Hawara, Melhem said the settlers had taken that as a green light to attack the town with impunity.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Smotrich’s comments “were irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting.” He added: “And just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence.”

A delegation led by Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, the EU’s representative in Palestine, visited Hawara on Friday and said his organization “will continue to demand directly the trial and accountability of those who carried out the settler attacks on the town.” Settler violence “must stop,” he added.

While the EU representatives were in Hawara, extremist Israeli parliamentarian Tzvi Sukkot arrived in the town and tried to disrupt their conversations using a loudspeaker.

Burgsdorff said: “We made extensive contacts to stop what is happening on the ground, and unfortunately, this intervention was late.” He added that his team will continue its efforts to prevent such attacks against the Palestinian people.

He also demanded compensation for the arson victims, and said his delegation’s visit “constitutes a message of solidarity from the international community with the people of Hawara and neighboring villages.”

Hagai Elad, director general of Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, said the Israeli government was sponsoring the attacks by settlers by providing them with immunity from any repercussions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Muin Dumaidi, Hawara’s mayor, said the attacks have dealt a psychological blow to residents. He also expressed hope that protection might be provided for Hawara and neighboring villages.

Meanwhile, residents of the town have installed early-warning systems and provided whistles to alert the population in case of any further attacks by settlers. This is similar to the system used by Israelis to warn people of Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza.

Source: Arab News

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Iran: Israeli Regime Continuing Violation of Int'l Law, UN Charter


Amir Saeed Iravani warned the Zionist officials in his letter that Iran reserves its natural and legitimate right to defend itself, and that Iran's response to any adventurist and inappropriate move of that usurper regime will be quite harsh and strong, at any time and any place deemed necessary.

"The Zionist regime's February 21st, 2023, remarks about resorting to military power against Iran's vital infrastructures and peaceful nuclear facilities are not only falsely based but are also in direct contrast to the international laws and the UN Charter," wrote Iravani.

The senior Iranian diplomat elsewhere in his letter referred to the remarks of the Zionist regime defense minister's words in which threats to resort to military force against Iran's civil, vital infrastructures were a clear breach of the humanitarian international laws and the UN Charter, and that their aftermaths will be quite dangerous and destructive against both regional and international peace and stability.

It is emphasized in the letter addressed to the UN Security Council rotating chairman that the UN must pay heed to its responsibility and quite clearly condemn the warmonger remarks of the Zionist regime officials, which are seriously threatening international peace and stability.

In relevant remarks earlier this week, Iranian President Seyed Ebrahim Rayeesi said that Tehran is seeking to maintain and promote good and constructive relations with the world, but cautioned that the territory of the European states should not be the source of threats against the interests of the Iranian nation.

Rayeesi made the remarks during a telephone conversation with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Wednesday.

"The European countries' territories should not serve as a source of plot and threats against the Iranian nation's interests," the president stated.

Iran is inclined to preserve and enhance favorable and constructive relations with the rest of the world, including Europe, he added.

Iran's president, however, cautioned foreign governments, including those in the continent, to avoid coming under the influence of false information that are propagated by anti-Tehran movements.

"If a government chooses the path of confrontation under the influence of the false and misleading information [that are provided] by terrorist and mercenary movements, it stands to lose," he continued.

President Rayeesi also expressed concern about some European countries' provision of support for Islamophobic activities.

Several European countries are accused of enabling "state-sponsored" Islamophobia by contributing to systematic suppression of their Muslim communities and tolerating sacrilegious insults against the Abrahamic religion.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Israel minister inciting violence with Palestinian town statement: UN rights chief

03 March ,2023

The UN human rights chief on Friday criticized Israel’s hard-line finance minister for remarks in which he called for the Palestinian village of Huwara to be erased, describing the comments as “an unfathomable statement of incitement to violence and hostility.”

Volker Turk was addressing the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, where he formally presented a report on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Source: Al Arabiya

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FM: No Peaceful Protesters Arrested in Iran's Recent Unrests


"No one was arrested in autumn’s peaceful protests," Amir Abdollahian wrote on his Twitter account.

"But when they turned to riot, chaos & violence due to foreign & terrorist interference, trouble makers were arrested. Leader granted amnesty to all but murderers & terrorists," he added.

Commenting on the aftermath of the foreign-backed violence, Amir Abdollahian said, "When they turned to riot, chaos & violence due to foreign & terrorist interference, trouble makers were arrested."

The top Iranian diplomat also referred to the decree, reminding that the Leader's amnesty had covered "all but murderers & terrorists."

Meeting with Amir-Abdollahian on Tuesday, the United Nations General Assembly President Csaba Korosi commended the decree issued by Ayatollah Khamenei, saying the move deserved appreciation.

The riots followed the death in police custody of a young Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini.

Western governments and media seized the opportunity to allege that Amini had died as a result of grievous bodily harm inflicted on her in a police van.

The CCTV footage, however, showed the young woman collapsing after a conversation with a female police officer inside a police station.

Foreign-backed rioters brutally attacked security officers and caused massive damage to public property. Dozens of people and security personnel were killed in the process across the country, including in the capital Tehran.

On February 5, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei pardoned or commuted the sentences of a large number of Iranian prisoners, who had been arrested during the riots.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Head of UN nuclear watchdog arrives in Iran to discuss cooperation

03 March ,2023

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi arrived in Iran on Friday for high-level meetings, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The visit comes amid discussions with Tehran on the origin of uranium particles enriched to up to 83.7 percent purity, very close to weapons grade, at its Fordow enrichment plant, according to a report by the nuclear watchdog seen by Reuters.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, said on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic’s production is at 60 percent, according to state media.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Turkey’s opposition alliance splits over election candidate

03 March ,2023

Turkey’s right-wing IYI Party withdrew from the main opposition alliance on Friday, rejecting its proposal to make the biggest opposition party leader their election candidate and potentially weakening the challenge to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The public split, after months of simmering discord, came after Erdogan said this week the elections would be held on May 14, despite criticism of his government’s response to last month’s devastating earthquakes.

Speaking at party headquarters in Ankara, IYI Party leader Meral Aksener said the other five parties in the alliance had put forward Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), as their presidential candidate.

She said her party, the second biggest in the alliance, would not “bow down” to pressure to accept him. Instead she proposed as candidates the Istanbul and Ankara mayors, both from the CHP, saying opinion polls showed they would win by a large margin against Erdogan.

“As of yesterday, the ‘Table of Six’ (opposition parties) has lost the ability to reflect the will of the people in its decisions,” she said, signaling her party’s exit from the alliance.

“It is no longer a platform through which potential candidates can be discussed but a table that works to rubber-stamp a single candidate,” she said.

Aksener said the nation was calling on the Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas to do “their duty” suggesting they step up as candidates.

Speaking after Aksener’s announcement, Kilicdaroglu downplayed the disagreement over the presidential candidate.

“Don’t worry, all stones will fall into place,” he said, according to broadcaster Haberturk and other media.

The “Table of Six” met on Thursday for more than five hours to agree a candidate and issued a statement, signed by all the leaders including Aksener, saying, “We have reached a common understanding concerning our joint presidential candidate.”

It had said the leaders would gather again on Monday to announce their final decision. But following that meeting, Aksener went to her party’s headquarters in Ankara and held a meeting with IYI leaders until around the early hours of the morning.

She made her announcement after a further meeting of party officials on Friday.

Doubts on Kilicdaroglu

The opposition has failed in previous national votes to pose a serious challenge to Erdogan, who has been in power for two decades. It has cooperated more closely since its success in taking control of major municipalities, including Istanbul and Ankara, from Erdogan’s ruling AK Party in 2019 local elections.

Erdogan has seen his popularity dip amid a cost-of-living crisis even before last month’s earthquakes that killed at least 45,000 people in Turkey.

But despite widespread criticism of the government’s initial response to the disaster, pollsters on Friday said Erdogan and the AK Party appeared to have largely retained its support.

In the southeastern province of Adiyaman, an AKP stronghold which suffered some of the worst earthquake destruction, some said their support for the government had waned because of its disaster response but they remained unsure about the opposition.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran using execution as tactic to repress ethnic minorities, Amnesty warns

March 03, 2023

LONDON: Iran is executing members of ethnic minorities as a “tool of repression,” Amnesty International has claimed.

In a report published alongside Iranian human rights organization the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, Amnesty said the regime had killed 14 Kurds, 13 Baluchis and an Ahwazi Arab among 94 people executed since the start of the year — and had condemned many more to death after “grossly unfair” trials.

Roya Boroumand, the executive director of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, said: “The Iranian authorities are carrying out executions on a frightening scale. Their actions amount to an assault on the right to life and a shameless attempt not only to further oppress ethnic minorities but to spread fear that dissent will be met with brute force, either in the streets or in the gallows.”

The executions, many conducted in secret, are, according to Amnesty, in violation of international law and were retaliation for the mass protests that have engulfed Iran since September 2022 following the death of a Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, at the hands of the country’s notorious morality police for improperly wearing her headscarf.

Amnesty said that the Ahwazi Arab man, Hassan Abyat, was executed on Feb. 20 in Khuzesta and that two days later a Kurd named Arash (Sarkawt) Ahmadi was executed in Kermanshah. Both men, it is claimed, were subjected to torture in order to extract confessions of guilt, both of which were subsequently broadcast on state TV.

Abyat, a witness told Amnesty, had been tied to a bed before being beaten and electrocuted after being accused of involvement in the death of a member of the Basij militia in 2011. Ahmadi, meanwhile, was tortured by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for alleged ties to an Iranian-Kurdish group. Neither man was allowed to see his family before execution.

In a significant number of cases, minorities sentenced to death have been convicted of what Amnesty called “vaguely worded” religious-based crimes, most notably “efsad-e fel arz,” or “spreading corruption on earth” and/or “moharebeh,” or “enmity against God.”

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “It is harrowing that executions routinely occur amid the systematic use of torture-tainted ‘confessions’ to convict defendants in grossly unfair trials. The world must act now to pressure the Iranian authorities to establish an official moratorium on executions, quash unfair convictions and death sentences, and drop all charges related to peaceful participation in protests.

“We also urge all states to exercise universal jurisdiction over all Iranian officials reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law and other grave violations of human rights.”

In addition to those already executed, Amnesty warned a further 12 Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi individuals face the death penalty following unfair convictions and forced confessions for “membership of illegal groups” in cases stretching back to 2017.

Six more Baluchi men were sentenced to death between December and January in relation to protests in the Sistan and Baluchestan province in September last year, one of whom suffers from a physical disability.

Source: Arab News

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World condemns Israeli minister’s ‘racist’ Palestine comments

March 03, 2023

DUBAI: The international community on Friday condemned what they say were “racist comments” by Israeli Minister of Finance, Betzalel Smotrich calling for the destruction of the Palestinian village of Huwara.

The UN human rights chief Volker Turk, speaking before the Human Rights Council in Geneva, denounced Smotrich’s original comments as “an unfathomable statement of incitement to violence and hostility.”

Turk, who formally presented a report on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories during the session, also urged an end to the violence.

On Wednesday Smotrich responded to journalists saying the village had to be demolished following the violence. He later claimed the comments were taken out of context, explaining he believed the village had become “hostile” and was turning into a terrorist haven.

A French foreign ministry statement also condemned the comments as “unacceptable, irresponsible and unworthy coming from a member of the Israeli government.”

“These comments only fuel hatred and fuel the spiral of current violence,” the statement added, appealing for calm.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) said the UAE rejected all practices that contradicted moral and human values and principles, state news agency WAM reported.

The UAE ministry underscored the need to confront hate speech and violence and said it was important to strengthen “the values of tolerance and human coexistence” in an effort to reduce instability in the region.

Qatar described Smotrich’s comments as “hateful and provocative” and said it considered them “a serious incitement to a war crime.”

Kuwait affirmed its total rejection of such irresponsible provocative statements that contradict all international laws and norms, and represent a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s Foreign Ministry condemned Smotrich’s “inflammatory” comments.

The ministry spokesperson, Ambassador Sinan Majali, said the calls for violence “portend serious consequences and represent a violation of international humanitarian law,” state news agency Petra reported.

Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned the minister’s comments in the “strongest terms”, in a statement issued on Friday.

The statement said the Israeli comments represented a “dangerous and unacceptable incitement to violence”, adding that they contradicted “all laws, customs and moral values, and lacks the responsibility that any official holding an official position should have.”

All countries said it was imperative to support all regional and international efforts to advance the Middle East Peace Process, end illegal practices that threaten the two-state solution, and establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Gulf Cooperation Council’s Secretary-General Jasem Al-Budaiwi also denounced the comments and said it was necessary to address the discourse of hatred and violence, and to promote the values of tolerance and human coexistence instead, just as part of efforts being exerted to reduce escalation and ensure stability in the region.

He also echoed calls for backing all efforts to push forward the Middle East peace process and put an end to illegal practices that put the two-state solution into jeopardy.

Washington, a staunch ally of Israel, was even more blunt in its response to Smotrich’s comments on Wednesday.

“They were irresponsible, they were repugnant, they were disgusting,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Source: Arab News

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Arab World


Pakistani pilgrim saved after his heart stopped for 10 minutes at Prophet’s Mosque

March 03, 2023

MADINAH — The rapid intervention of the rescue team in the Madinah health sector was able to save the life of a Pakistani Umrah pilgrim whose heart had stopped for more than 10 minutes at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

The medical teams received an urgent notification to deal with the case of a 70-year-old patient suffering from health problems and loss of consciousness inside the courtyards of the Prophet’s Mosque.

Ambulance services were provided immediately and the patient was diagnosed that he had suffered cardiac arrest and breathing difficulties.

The medical team instantly started CPR with electric shocks for more than 10 minutes until the heart restarted beating.

Then the patient was transferred to Al-Safiah Healthcare Center to complete the treatment plan, and he was given the necessary medications until his condition became stable and he left the center.

Source: Saudi Gazette

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Saudi Arabia condemns Israeli minister’s call to ‘erase’ West Bank town of Huwara

03 March ,2023:

Saudi Arabia on Friday condemned Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s remarks calling for “erasing” the occupied West Bank town of Huwara, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

“The Kingdom completely rejects these racist and irresponsible remarks that reflect the magnitude of violence and extremism practiced by the occupying Israeli entity toward the brotherly Palestinian people,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It also called on the international community to deter these “shameful” practices, end escalation and provide “necessary protection to civilians.”

Hundreds of settlers, some armed with knives and guns, rampaged through Hawara Sunday and torched dozens of homes and businesses after two Israeli brothers were shot and killed nearby. One Palestinian was killed in the mob assault.

A chorus of condemnations over the rampage has poured in from around the world, particularly after Smotrich’s statement.

Smotrich, whose party wants Israel to formally annex large parts of the West Bank, later backtracked on those remarks.

The United States has demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disavow Bezalel’s call for the village of Huwara to be erased.

The UN Human Rights chief Volker Turk also criticized Smotrich’s remarks as “an unfathomable statement of incitement to violence and hostility.”

On the night of the rampage, Netanyahu urged people not to take the law into their own hands, but he has not publicly addressed Smotrich’s statement or responded to the unusual criticism by Washington, a close ally.

Also on Friday, the European Union’s envoy to the Palestinians called for accountability and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice after Sunday’s rampage.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Earthquakes caused $5.1 bln in damage in Syria, World Bank estimates

03 March ,2023

The deadly earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria last month caused about $5.1 billion in direct physical damage in Syria, the World Bank said on Friday, furthering destruction in a country already devastated by years of civil war.

The current value of damaged and destroyed buildings and infrastructure is estimated at some 10 percent of Syria’s gross domestic product, the bank said in a statement after releasing what it described as a broad but preliminary damage estimate.

Damaged buildings include cultural heritage sites in historic areas of Syria, it said.

“These losses compound years of destruction, suffering and hardship the people of Syria have been enduring over the past years,” said Jean-Christophe Carret, World Bank country director for the Middle East.

“The disaster will cause a decline in economic activity that will further weigh on Syria’s growth prospects,” Carret added.

The Feb. 6 earthquakes struck a swathe of northwest Syria, a region partitioned by the 11-year-long war, including insurgent-held territory at the Turkish border and government areas controlled by President Bashar al-Assad.

The province of Aleppo, which was a major front line in the war, suffered an estimated 45 percent of total damages from the quakes, the bank said. Some 37 percent of the damage was in Idlib province, with 11 percent in the coastal Latakia province, the bank added.

Reflecting a degree of uncertainty around the preliminary assessment, estimates for total direct damages range between $2.7 billion and $7.9 billion, the bank said. Its assessment does not cover broader economic impacts and losses for the Syrian economy, it said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Turkey, United Arab Emirates sign trade agreement

03 March ,2023

The United Arab Emirates and Turkey signed an agreement in Abu Dhabi on Friday which aims to increase trade between the two countries to $40 billion in the next five years, according to UAE projections.

Speaking in Istanbul ahead of a press conference in Abu Dhabi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) will take economic and trade relations between the two countries to a new phase.

The UAE kicked off negotiations with Turkey on a bilateral trade deal last year after a warming in political relations following UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed’s visit to the country in 2021, during which the UAE set up a $10 billion investment fund.

“The $10 billion fund is attracting a lot of investments from the UAE, but at the same time this CEPA will open more doors, because there will be proper mechanisms for choosing projects and investments,” Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE minister of foreign trade told Reuters in an interview.

“Turkey has huge potential for growth. They will be one of the biggest emerging economies dominating global markets 20 years from now.”

Ratification of the deal is expected in the second quarter of 2023 with implementation to follow soon after, Al Zeyoudi said.

The CEPA is expected to focus on strategic sectors such as agritech, food security, and clean energy, as well as continued cooperation on construction and real estate projects.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi project cleared 4,811 explosive devices from Yemen in February

March 04, 2023

RIYADH: Nearly 5,000 mines and other explosive devices were cleared from Yemen in February, according to statistics released by Masam, a Saudi humanitarian landmine clearance project.

Its monthly report reveals its teams dismantled 809 anti-tank mines, 61 improvised explosive devices, 29 anti-personnel mines, and 3,912 other items of unexploded ordnance, all within an area of 789,942 square meters.

Since it was founded in 2018, Masam has removed a total of 389,706 mines and other unexploded ordnance randomly placed by the Houthis across Yemen, according to the project’s media office.

Masam carried out three main operations in February to destroy 3,670 devices, to help ensure the safety of Yemeni civilians and humanitarian teams working in the country.

Representatives from the project also participated in the third Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum on Feb. 20 and 21. Other participants at the event, which was organized by King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, included leaders, donors, workers and researchers involved in humanitarian efforts.

The aim of the forum was to highlight and discuss challenges and opportunities in the sector, with the goal of developing innovative, sustainable and effective solutions for humanitarian responses, while supporting efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The Masam family includes teams that pledged a purely humanitarian pact to meet the humanitarian call in Yemen with unlimited generosity,” Osama Al-Gosaibi, Masam’s project manager, told delegates at the forum.

Source: Arab News

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Education key to Saudi vision of future, experts say


March 03, 2023

JEDDAH: Education is central to the task of creating a vibrant society and thriving economy in line with Saudi Vision 2030, experts have said in a discussion in Jeddah.

In the event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Chapter, experts and stakeholders highlighted the effects of Vision 2030 on education and the ways it was achieving the requirements of the 21st century.

Dr. Maha Bawazir, CEO of Global Education Consultancy, said Vision 2030 had revamped the educational sector. “Within these five years, we have achieved tremendously. A lot of changes have taken place in the school's curriculum and programs,” she told the discussion at the Jeddah Hilton Hotel.

“I am really proud that we have adapted to these changes perfectly and that education in Saudi Arabia continues to gain global recognition.

“According to the Human Development Index, a report released by the UN Development Program, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has already moved from 40th place to 35th in just two years, which is amazing.

“This proves that we are on the right track and ready for the future.”

Dr. Abeer Bar, an educational consultant, said: “These kinds of events really show how Vision 2030 (promotes) expertise, knowledge and passion. People who work in different sectors can also be our educators. Passion is one of the main things that is required to develop and take the community further following the plans of Vision 2030.”

Dr. Munirah Alaboudi, education sector director of the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia, spoke about education from an investment perspective.

“It is very exciting to see the momentum that’s happening across different levels in Saudi Arabia whether it is the public, private, or non-profit sector,” she said.

“Everyone is working together and buying into the goals of Vision 2030 in accelerating Saudi Arabia being a talent hub. Schools, public and private universities are all rethinking and recalibrating their offerings.

“Also, the public and private entities are finding ways to contribute even more to human capital development.”

She highlighted some of the upcoming projects, which include college preparation programs that prepare students and give them a better chance to excel before they start in higher education.

“Even beyond that, a lot of private schools are developing exciting programs to prep the students in a better way for a future career in a field that does not exist yet,” she said.

Dr. Lina Lewis, CAO at Riyadh Schools Platform (MISK) said: “We are preparing the students to meet and exceed Vision 2030 by preparing them to be lifelong learners, and to have a sense of Saudi cultural identity, where they know Arabic language and Islamic knowledge.

“We are giving them the competency and skills through an integrated curriculum that they need to survive as lifelong learners and face the ambiguity and changes in the fourth industrial revolution.

“This curriculum is revised constantly. We hope to create a graduate learner profile that is aligned with Vision 2030 and the human development capacity successfully.”

Other panel members discussed the role of expatriate educators, the international schools model and the school transformation in regards to science, technology and mathematics.

They discussed how to identify top educational talents who can work in the Kingdom, steps taken to help them blend high-quality education from other countries with the culture and vision of Saudi Arabia, and ways the youth in the Kingdom can be prepared before going abroad to study.

Zeina Alnouri, AmCham Saudi Arabia Jeddah Chapter Coordinator said: “Education allows the Kingdom to establish a society that ensures success. The sector’s key stakeholders and change makers discussed important topics that will surely impact students’ learning and their readiness for university and beyond. Additionally, the changes will help in creating efficient teachers with excellent leadership skills.”

Source: Arab News

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Human Rights Council president holds meeting with Qatari assistant Foreign Minister in Geneva

March 03, 2023

GENEVA: The President of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), Dr Hala bint Mazyad Al-Tuwaijri, met with the assistant minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Lolwah Rashid Al-Khater, on Friday.

Also at the meeting was the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN and international organizations in Geneva, Abdul Mohsen bin Khathila, Saudi Press Agency reported.

They met on the sidelines of the 52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, currently meeting in the Swiss city.

During the meeting, they reviewed the strong relations that bind the Kingdom to Qatar and also discussed a number of issues of common interest and ways to enhance bilateral relations in various fields.

Al-Tuwaijri has been president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, with the rank of minister, since September.

Source: Arab News

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'Sky is the limit' in economic ties with Türkiye, says UAE trade minister

Aysu Bicer 



Bilateral trade and relations are set for an immense boost with a new free trade agreement between Türkiye and the UAE, according to the Gulf state’s foreign trade minister.

The UAE recognizes that Türkiye’s financial sector is the “right place” for investment and “the sky is the limit” for us in that respect, Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi told Anadolu in an exclusive interview in London as the countries gear up to ink a lucrative free trade deal.

The agreement will have “a huge impact,” he asserted.

“At least 25,000 jobs are expected to be created in the UAE and more than 100,000 jobs in Türkiye,” he said.

“There is also huge potential for many sectors like food security, health, ICT (information and communications technology), the financial sector, and logistics.”

Apart from removing trade barriers and cutting tariffs, the deal is also expected to ease access to new markets for businesses in both countries and bolster their competitiveness.

Despite past political tensions, the countries have maintained strong economic ties, with Türkiye being the UAE’s sixth-largest trading partner.

“Bilateral trade saw excellent growth last year, exceeding 40% compared to 2021. We reached around $18.9 billion in our non-oil trade,” said Al Zeyoudi.

“This growth in trade, when compared to 2020, exceeded 112%, which means that we’re doubling the trade volume.”

‘Türkiye right place for investment’

The UAE has already invested more than $5 billion in Türkiye and remains keen on increasing that figure, the minister said.

In 2021, the UAE launched a $10 billion fund for investments in Türkiye, including infrastructure projects, real estate, and other sectors.

“But we are not restricting ourselves to this figure – the sky is the limit. As long as there are opportunities, we will jump in and explore,” Al Zeyoudi emphasized.

The “excellent” growth in the Turkish financial system has proven that this is “right place” for our investments, he said, pointing out that their 2022 profits were more than 40% greater than the previous year.

All of this means there are “strong economic opportunities” in Türkiye, he added.

He said the two countries are also exploring ways to help each other gain access to new markets.

“Because we have a huge interest in Türkiye’s neighborhood, especially when it comes to the eastern part of Asia, the eastern part of Europe, and we have a common shared interest within Africa as well,” he said.

The UAE has access to the Indian market and Türkiye has access to Pakistan, which is where we can complement each other, the minister said.

New trade routes

Logistics is another important area where both countries are looking to enhance cooperation.

According to Al Zeyoudi, the UAE has invested heavily in transport and logistics infrastructure in recent years, pointing to its connections to 250 ports in more than 400 cities worldwide.

“This gives us this excellent exposure when it comes to logistics and trade movements from the UAE,” he said.

He said Türkiye and the UAE have made “great progress” in logistics cooperation.

“We’re actually exploring new routes, which is going to reduce the time for shipments from Türkiye to the UAE,” he said.

“That normally takes 28 days, and now it is going to take half of that time, because the discussion is about how we’re going to go directly from Türkiye to Iran and to the UAE by sea, or from Türkiye to Iraq to the UAE.”

At the same time, the UAE is working on its logistics infrastructure, as well as engaging with Turkish companies on how to collaborate in the African market, he added.

Talks are also being held on solar and wind energy, as well green hydrogen projects, the minister said.

“There is huge interest. Not only that, we’ve already moved into the feasibility study phase. As I said earlier, the sky’s the limit in our relations,” he said.

Pouring billions into renewable energy

The UAE is “very pragmatic” in tackling climate change and has successfully managed to reduce the share of oil and gas in its gross domestic product, Al Zeyoudi said.

“Yes, it’s part of the investment. It’s part of the whole diversification,” he said.

“Transition is going to be a key issue, particularly how we address all aspects of energy along with … the growth of the nation.”

When it comes to renewable energy, he underlined, the UAE is “proud” to be one of the top global investors.

“We’re investing more than $50 billion in more than 70 countries,” he said.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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North America


Can the US keep the lid on the fiery region before Ramadan?


MARCH 3, 2023

WASHINGTON – It was a week that emphasized the fragility of the situation in the West Bank, and the limited ability of the US to stabilize it, three weeks ahead of Ramadan.

On Sunday morning, it seemed that the sides were trying to find a formula to reduce tensions, as Israeli and Palestinian officials discussed the resumption of security coordination and the brief suspension of West Bank settlement announcements during a rare meeting that Jordan’s King Abdullah hosted in Aqaba on Sunday.

The rare Aqaba summit

The rare summit took place, with Egyptian and US participation, as officials from the five governments pushed to halt the escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence and prevent an even sharper outbreak during the month of Ramadan, which begins on March 22.

A joint communique put out by the five governments after the summit stated that Israel and the PA “confirmed their joint readiness and commitment to work immediately to end unilateral measures for a period of three-to-six months.”

It added, “This includes an Israeli commitment to stop discussion of any new settlement units for four months, and to stop authorization of any outposts for six months.” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken lauded the meeting as an important step forward.

However, just a few hours later, the Palestinian shooting attack in the West Bank, which claimed the lives of two brothers during the summit, and the following rampage by settler vigilantes that left one Palestinian dead, 30 homes damaged, and dozens of cars torched, underscored the urgent need to restore calm.

Later on Sunday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the US “condemns [the] violence in the West Bank, including the terrorist attack that killed two Israelis, and settler violence, which resulted in the killing of one Palestinian, injuries to over 100 others, and the destruction of extensive property.”

The US continued to stay highly engaged with the situation throughout the week, as State Department’s special representative for Palestinian affairs, Hady Amr, visited Huwara and called for Israel to take action against vigilante attacks. US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, said that settler violence is “causing an enormous amount of pain.”

“I do not think any Israeli would be proud to see settlers burning cars and smashing windows; that doesn’t make any of us proud or happy under any circumstance,” Nides said when he spoke briefly at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

The US is increasingly vocal

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, director of Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and the Region program at the US Institute of Peace, said that “in the past couple of weeks we’ve witnessed the administration getting increasingly vocal and more diplomatically engaged on this issue, as the hope for de-escalation expressed by Secretary Blinken during his January trip has failed to materialize.

“We’ve seen rare joint statements with European allies, and at the UN, denouncing settlement decisions,” she noted. “There’s been an Aqaba meeting held in partnership with Jordan and Egypt aimed at generating Israeli and Palestinian cooperation to prevent deterioration. And in the past couple of days, in the wake of the Palestinian terrorist attack that killed 2 Israelis, and the subsequent raid of terror and destruction on the Palestinian town of Huwara by Israeli settlers, we’ve heard US officials call for legal accountability for violence committed by both sides, and a denouncement of an Israeli minister’s words as ‘repugnant incitement,’” she said.

“Along with multiple senior US administration official visits, this is not business as usual, but neither is the pace, intensity and fragility of developments on the ground,” Kurtzer-Ellenbogen emphasized. “All eyes had been trained on keeping things calm in Jerusalem as Ramadan and Passover are set to coincide in the coming weeks. But the tinder is so dry that the concern now is for preventing an explosion even earlier.”

She went on to say that “no doubt the administration is hoping that signs of its patience wearing thin with unchecked provocations will force a modicum of self-control, and that perhaps the reality of rapid deterioration will force the parties into restraint postures of their own accord. But bottom line: the best-laid plans of this administration for not getting dragged into Israeli-Palestinian mediation or de-escalation seem unrealistic.”

“Violence will always pull the US back in,” Kurtzer-Ellenbogen said. “The question now is not whether the administration will walk away, but whether its current pace and posture of diplomacy and denunciation can succeed in containing the sparks, or whether it will find itself fighting a five-alarm fire.”

ELLIOTT ABRAMS is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, DC. He served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor in the administration of President George W. Bush, where he supervised US policy in the Middle East for the White House.

He said that the Aqaba meetings “were a good effort” but “may not bring the level of violence down.”

“Israel’s policy is to strengthen the PA, but that policy has not worked for years now,” Abrams said. “The PA has little ability to stop attacks coming from individuals or gangs. The US should certainly urge Israel to punish settler violence, but if terrorist attacks increase, settler violence will likely increase too.”

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice-president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, said that “American engagement with Israel should be expected. However, finger-wagging without constructive solutions is not the way forward. Successive administrations have learned this lesson.”

“The bulk of the violence stems from a strategic decision undertaken by Hamas and its patron in Tehran to export unrest to the West Bank,” he said. “US sanctions designations of top Hamas figures involved in this activity could help. Similarly, sanctions against Iranian figures could send a good message. Apart from that, an engagement that helps spur greater functionality within the Palestinian Authority is urgently needed.

“The PA lacks both leadership and credibility,” he said. “Sending American officials to meet with Mahmoud Abbas is not enough. Credible plans for succession, fighting corruption, and bringing order to pockets of chaos are necessities. Without them, the West Bank government could collapse.”

The US should pressure both sides

According to Dennis Ross, a distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the US could quietly press each side to act on the specific steps each promised to take at Aqaba.

“The problem is that the environment has greatly deteriorated since Aqaba because of the murder of three Israelis and the actions of extremist settlers who carried out a pogrom in Huwara, killing one Palestinian and torching dozens of homes and cars,” said Ross, who previously he served two years as special assistant to President Barack Obama and National Security Council senior director for the Central Region, and a year as special adviser to secretary of state Hillary Clinton

“Now the administration has to ask itself basic questions: Can it press the Palestinians to resume security cooperation? Are PA security forces willing or even capable of acting, given the environment, especially after the settler rampage in Huwara? Is anything even possible on the Palestinian side without thoroughgoing reform to deal with the corruption and dysfunction of the PA – and give its security forces a reason to stand up for it and for the reimposition of law and order?” Ross wondered.

Source: J Post

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Pentagon chief’s trip to Middle East to focus on Iran threats: Official

04 March ,2023

The Pentagon chief is heading to the Middle East this weekend, where his primary focus will be Iran, a senior US defense official said Friday.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was previously head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), is scheduled to visit Jordan, Egypt and Israel. Sources familiar with his trip have said that Austin will also stop in Iraq, where US combat troops officially withdrew at the end of 2021.

US troops are still present in Iraq at the invitation of Baghdad on advise and assist missions.

Over 30,000 US troops are deployed across multiple bases in the Middle East.

But with Iran enriching uranium at levels close to weapons-grade, its continued support for terrorist groups and proxies across the region, and its supply of drones to Russia, Tehran has become an increasingly acute threat to Washington and its allies.

The Biden administration has long favored a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which Iran claims is for civilian purposes.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, the senior US defense official reiterated the president’s continued desire to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions via diplomacy. “Secretary Austin’s job is to ensure that should the President need other options, there are credible options from the Department of Defense available,” said the official who was speaking on condition of anonymity.

Citing senior Biden administration officials as saying that reviving the 2015 nuclear deal is not currently on the table, the official noted that the Pentagon has been working on the “full constellation” of Iranian threats.

The official pointed to Iran’s cultivation of non-state actors and proxies that threaten the US and its partners, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Tehran’s aggression at sea, cyber threats, drone threats and its ballistic missile program are several other issues the US is working to counter. “Every partner, every capital you visit in the Middle East, will talk about their concerns related to all of these threats,” the official said. “So Secretary Austin will seek to… consult with our partners on how we can most effectively push back and undermine them going forward.”

Senior Biden administration officials were recently in Riyadh, where they met with GCC counterparts for talks on Iran, counterterrorism and addressing other common threats.

That trip, last month, was also meant to signal Washington’s commitment to the Middle East at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s potential invasion of Taiwan are a main focus of the West.

Austin’s upcoming trip is meant to further signal the US commitment to the region.

“Secretary Austin will convey enduring US commitment to the Middle East and provide reassurance to our partners that the United States remains committed to supporting their defense,” the US defense official said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israel tells top US general it sees need to cooperate against Iran

03 March ,2023

Israel hosted the top US military officer, Army General Mark Milley, on Friday for discussions that it said included the need for cooperation on denying Iran nuclear weaponry.

Milley made the previously unannounced visit ahead of a trip to Israel by Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin that will also include neighboring Egypt and Jordan - US-aligned Arab states that have influence on Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

“Ongoing cooperation is required in order to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s office quoted him as telling Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Amid its long-stalled negotiations with world powers on renewing a 2015 nuclear deal, Western powers say Iran has made advances with technologies that could potentially yield it a bomb. Tehran denies having any such plan.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have a critical role in climate change battle, says US envoy


March 04, 2023

CHICAGO: John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, said on Friday that environmental threats relating to climate change and the world’s oceans persist, but he praised the work that is being being done to address them by the UN and the support it is receiving from nations in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Since 1995, the UN has organized an annual Climate Change Conference, also known as COP (short for Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), to address environmental issues. Four of these meetings have taken place in the Arab World: COP7 and COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, in 2001 and 2016; COP 18 in Doha, Qatar, in 2012; and COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in 2022.

This year, COP 28 will convene from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in Dubai, Kerry noted as he praised the important support the UN has received from oil-producing nations in the Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“Last year, the UAE held the first-ever regional conference on the climate and the issues of fossil fuels, and we had 11 countries there from the region,” he said.

“We had a joint statement that came out from it, a very forward-leaning, very strong statement about the necessity of keeping (global temperature increases within) 1.5 degrees (Celsius of pre-industrial levels), about the necessity of reducing emissions, and doing what we need to do by 2030 because if you don’t do enough by 2030 you can’t get to net-zero by 2050.

“The UAE has deployed a massive amount of renewables themselves. They are spending a very significant portion of their current efforts on (research and development) of renewables, also on carbon capture, sequestration and utilization, recognizing they have got to reduce emissions.”

Kerry added: “I know that Saudi Arabia has plans for a very large solar field that is going to produce green hydrogen. Bahrain and Kuwait and others are all figuring out exactly where they are going to go.”

The envoy painted an ominous picture of what the future might hold for the environment if climate goals are not achieved, and warned that more needs to be done. He said the efforts are helped significantly by having the oil-producing nations in the Middle East engaged and “fully committed.”

“The world is not living sustainably and if you look at history, civilizations have disappeared due to that reality,” Kerry said, adding that many nations “don’t respect” the effects they are having on climate change.

“The basics of our relationship to nature are critical ... We have lost half the species on the planet and we are not headed in the right direction. We need a treaty,” he added.

There is compelling evidence pointing to the “real possibility” that we have already passed several “tipping points” in the battle against climate change: Barents Sea ice is disappearing as the planet warms; coral reefs are dying as a result of increasing pollution and warming; the permafrost is thawing, producing massive amounts of methane gas as a result; and temperatures are rising significantly in the Arctic and Antarctic.

“The rate of melting is threatening enough that the Greenland ice sheet might disappear,” Kerry said, which could raise sea levels by 7 meters, alter dominant currents and cause massive changes in weather patterns.

“We need to heed the science carefully but we can win this battle,” he added, noting that nations have made more than 1,800 commitments, valued at more than $100 billion, focusing on six themes under the Our Ocean Conference initiative. It was introduced in 2014 by the US Department of State to draw international attention to serious threats to oceans and encourage countries to commit to taking action in support of marine conservation and sustainable development. The issues it focuses on include climate change, sustainable fishing, sustainable blue economies, maritime security, pollution, and protected marine environments.

Speaking of the importance of Arab World involvement in the discussions relating to climate change and the environment, Kerry said: “One of the virtues, conceivably, is the question does it help us to have a country that is familiar with oil and gas, and that has leverage within that community, that is committed to do these things I have just described. My view is it has the potential to be extremely important.

He said it is “emissions from fossil fuels that fall into the ocean in rainfall and raise the acidity” levels of the waters, added: “We have been, over the years, changing the chemistry of the ocean more than it has been changed in millions of years. That is a scientific conclusion by oceanographers and ocean marine biologists and others.”

Source: Arab News

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US with Türkiye for ‘long haul’ in recovery from earthquakes, says senior diplomat

Rabia Iclal Turan 



The US will continue to work through the “long haul” to support those affected by major earthquakes that struck Türkiye’s southern provinces, according to a senior US diplomat.

“When friends are in need at their darkest hour, that is when we are there for each other,” US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Erika Olson told Anadolu.

“Türkiye has been there for the United States throughout the years. And we are there for Türkiye during this time. So, we will continue to do that,” she said when asked how “earthquake diplomacy” will affect relations between the two countries.

“We will continue to work together to help support the people and appreciate the cooperation that we have with the government of Türkiye,” she said.

Olson was part of a US delegation that accompanied US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit to Türkiye late last month, where he toured earthquake-hit Hatay province, the Incirlik Air Base in Adana, and had meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara.

She served as an economic counselor for the US Mission in Türkiye between 2016 and 2019, where she spent time in southern provinces that were affected by the recent earthquakes.

Olson said it was “heartbreaking” seeing the destruction by the earthquakes.

“And myself, personally, and the United States, we're really happy to be able to stand with the people of Türkiye and to help provide assistance as they recover from what is an incomprehensible natural disaster,” she said.

‘US with Türkiye through long haul’

Regarding US assistance in the aftermath of the quakes, Olson said Washington has been in touch with the Turkish government from the “very beginning,”

“In fact, the evening of the earthquake, I was messaging with the Turkish ambassador on a different topic when the earthquake hit,” she said.

“So, from that very moment, we have been working hand-in-hand with the Turkish Embassy here in Washington and with the Turkish government on helping to meet the immediate needs of the people on the ground,” she said. “As the secretary (Bilken) said: the United States is with Türkiye through the long haul when it comes to recovery.”

She added: “And we will take our lead from the people of Türkiye and the government of Türkiye in terms of needs.”

Building field hospital in Türkiye’s Hatay province

Noting that teams from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and urban search and rescue teams were on the ground “immediately following the earthquake” she said the US is also building a mobile hospital in Hatay to help victims.

The 100-person field hospital, which has been set up by the US military and USAID, will be handed to the Turkish Ministry of Health on March 7, she said.

The hospital focuses “on intensive care and surgery needs that will be there to support the people of the region,” according to the diplomat.

The US has announced a total of $185 million in humanitarian assistance to Türkiye and Syria following the 7.7- and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes, centered in the Kahramanmaras province, that have killed more than 45,000 in Türkiye and 6,000 in Syria, and affected millions of others.

Asked how the funds are being distributed, Olson said it is being used in “many different ways,” such as providing mobile hospitals, medical needs, food and immediate needs as well as sanitary, hygiene.

“But as the Secretary just announced the additional 100 million, how that will be used going into the future will depend on the needs and the conversations that we have with those in the ground,” she said.

Olson said the US private sector raised more than $100 million to help people affected by the quakes as she praised the efforts of ordinary Americans.

“My daughter's school did a fundraiser to be able to support the people in Türkiye. My daughter's university in Washington state held a candlelight vigil. So, it really speaks to long-term ties between the people of the United States and the people of Türkiye,” she said.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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South Asia


Islamic Emirate Leader, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, Meets With Ministers, Clerics

By Banafsha Binesh

The supreme leader of the Islamic Emirate, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, met with the heads of the interior, foreign, and defence ministries as well as religious clerics and officials of several provinces, and discussed the activities of the government departments as well as next year’s budget," a spokesman said.

The Islamic Emirate’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that Mawlawi Hibatullah met with acting Minister of Defense Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid; acting Minister of Interior, Sirajuddin Haqqani; the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and the acting Minister of Technology Information and Telecommunication.

According to Mujahid, the meeting was also attended by clerics from Kabul, Khost, Nangarhar and other provinces.

“The Emir (leader) always calls on his ministers and is monitoring them and giving them essential advice,” he said.

“The religious clerics have responsibilities regarding the nation and people. The clerics should convey the problems in front of the people to the leader,” said Abdul Qadir Qanat, a religious cleric.

But what is the real message behind the meeting of the Islamic Emirate’s supreme leader with the acting ministers?

“Security measures--because of the Daesh and Resistance Front issue and as well as the issue of female schools and universities--might have been discussed,” said Aziz Maarij, a political analyst.

“These ministers have gone to visit the leader on behalf of the cabinet,” said Faizullah Jalili, a political analyst.

Source: Tolo News

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Homes of Ahmadiya community set ablaze in Bangladesh, 1 killed, 50 injured

Sahidul Hasan Khokon

Mar 3, 2023

In Bangladesh’s northern district of Panchagarh, the Ahmadiyya community's annual jalsa turned into a massive protest site with incidents of vandalism and arson, sparking demonstrations by the local Sunni Muslim community. The jalsa was supposed to be a three-day event and today was the first day.

The Sadar police station’s office-in-charge, Abdul Latif Miah, said that the clashes began when the protesters came to the Chowrangi junction after Friday prayers.

“I heard about vandalism and arson in Ahmednagar. Fire services and civil defense personnel were rushed to the spot and they brought the fire under control,” Latif Miah said.

District Superintendent of Police, SM Sirajul Huda, told reporters that as of this evening, the situation was normal in the city and that the police are trying to control the situation.

Meanwhile, 17 platoons of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) have been deployed in the area along with additional police personnel.

According to the police and the locals, several organizations protested in the town on Thursday, demanding the jalsa be cancelled. They blocked the roads and stopped traffic in the area.

Following the Friday prayers today, people from different mosques gathered at the Chowrangi intersection in small groups and took out a joint procession.

Security was beefed up ahead of this march and police personnel were deployed to prevent any kind of law and order situation.

However, the police stopped the procession as the protesters clashed with them, Latif Miah said.

Several protesters and policemen were injured in the clashes, the police said. "The protestors went to the city's Takkamara area and set fire to the traffic police office,” they said.

“The police and BGB vehicles were also damaged in the attack. The police fired a few tear gas shells to bring the situation under control,” they added.

Eyewitnesses said that shops belonging to the Ahmadiyya community were vandalized at a market in the Panchagarh Bazar area. Later, goods were taken out of these shops and burnt on the streets.

Several shops in the city remained shut after panic spread. People’s movement in the city also reduced. The protesters set fire to tires on different roads and burnt down several houses in Ahmadiya Nagar on the outskirts of the city in the afternoon.

Senior police officers, including the Superintendent of Police, rushed to the spot to bring the situation under control.

Abdul Rahim, a local journalist, said that many people from the Ahmadiyya community live in the area and over 10 houses were vandalized and set afire. Many people have fled and taken shelter elsewhere with their families, Rahim said.


One man, identified as Arifur Rahman (28), was killed in the clashes between the police and the protesters. Rahman is a resident of the Masjidpara area of Panchagarh municipality. He was the manager of a printing press in the city. His family claimed that he was returning home after offering prayers when he was caught in the crosshair.

Source: India Today

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Ban on Women’s Work Causes ‘Food and Medicine’ Shortage in Afghanistan: Blinken

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 3, 2023

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken once again condemned the Taliban’s ban on female employees’ work, adding that gender-based restrictions will lead to a shortage of food, medicine, and other life-saving supplies, affecting vulnerable people including women and girls.

The Secretary of State in a recorded speech sent to the United Nations Human Rights Council, described the ban on the education of female students in secondary schools and universities, as part of a repressive policy towards Afghan women and girls.  

Blinken pointed out to the restrictions baring women employees to work for non-governmental aid organizations as a disruption to accessing food, medicine, and other vital requirements to vulnerable groups such as women and girls.

“For a country, with 29 million populations heavily relying on humanitarian aids, the continuation of such gender-based restrictions adds to the problem of ordinary people,” Blinken said.

This comes as Michael McCaul the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress has criticized the ‘weak reaction’ of the US Foreign Ministry against the repressive policies of the Taliban regime towards Afghan women and girls.

On Thursday, Mr. McCaul in a letter asked the US Secretary of State to issue a visa ban and tougher restrictions against the Taliban group. 

The Taliban authorities have issued a number of decrees barring girls from the right to attend secondary school and university education. Meanwhile, women are barred from working for NGOs, and they have to be accompanied by a male family member while leaving home.

Source: Khaama Press

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Afghanistan denies harbouring ‘Pakistani Taliban', what next?

03rd March 2023

By Jayanta Bhattacharya

A spurt in terror activities within its borders has led Pakistan to warn Afghanistan of military action. The latter has been accused of harbouring the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The ‘Afghan Taliban’ strongly denied such reports and claimed that ‘Pakistani Taliban’ (TTP) or its camps do not exist within its boundaries.

Ironically, the outfits that Islamabad and Rawalpindi nurtured in the long war against separate occupiers in Afghanistan have now turned their guns on its hosts.

The TTP, reports suggest, is planning to throw the Pakistan government out of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. The terror group intends to establish the law of Sharia.

An US State Department report says that “several UN- and U.S.-designated terrorist groups that focus on attacks outside the country continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2021, including the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)”.

According to the US Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2021 (February 27, 2023), “Terrorist and insurgent groups, including ISIS-K, elements of AQ (including affiliate al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent [AQIS]), and terrorist groups targeting Pakistan (such as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan), continued to use Afghanistan, especially its remote regions, as a safe haven throughout 2021.”

Northern Pakistan, particularly the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, called Tribal Areas, has always been a haven for refugees from neighbouring Afghanistan. Under the tutelage of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, able-bodied Afghans in refugee camps later took up guns and joined Islamic extremist groups.

Even today, “ISIS-K, elements of al-Qa’ida (including affiliate AQIS), and terrorist groups targeting Pakistan — such as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — continued to use the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region as a safe haven,” the State Department report added.

Pakistan shares a porous border with Afghanistan where the adjoining areas are designated ‘Tribal Agencies’. These are semi-autonomous regions, administered by an appointee of the federal government. This border has been used for the illicit and discreet movement of men and logistics. Pakistani spy agency ISI took this route to launch Mujahidin fighters across the border during Soviet occupation.

The efforts spawned a monster-out-of-control. The Mujahids grew in power along the Afghan border – from Peshawar to Quetta, and beyond. A new breed of fighters called the Taliban or ‘students’ evolved.

The US, through the CIA, channelled billions of dollars into Pakistan in covert assistance against the Soviet forces. Even after their withdrawal, Pakistani military officers continued to assist the fighters. Thus, the route lay open to cross-border transgression. With the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the US had lost interest in Afghanistan. But 9/11 made Uncle Sam march back into Afghanistan.

Today, Islamabad has little, or no control over this region. Local warlords call the shots here, and law enforcing agencies fear to tread. Meanwhile, the fighters grew and fractioned. Power tussles grew, paths got crossed.

The United States does not recognise the Taliban as the Government of Afghanistan. But before pulling its troops out of Afghanistan, it had entered into an agreement with the Taliban leadership based in Doha. It is part of this leadership which is largely governing Kabul now.

Even as a Taliban takeover seemed imminent in Kabul, there were reports that New Delhi too had made overtures at the ‘good Taliban’. Indian officials visited Doha to establish contact with the Taliban, claimed Qatar’s Special Envoy for Counterterrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution, Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani. He stated this while addressing a web-based academic conference on June 21, 2021, hinting that India may recognise the rising influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, there has been no official confirmation of this in India.

While making the statement, Qahtani clarified that he was participating in an informal discussion in a personal capacity. “I understand that there has been a quiet visit by Indian officials to speak with the Talibans,” he said then, adding, “Taliban is a key component, or should be, or is going to be a key component – of the future Afghanistan”. He said that in his view it is the reason for dialogue and reaching out to all parties in Afghanistan.

However, the Taliban is a composite rag-tag group of fighters where various leaders are engaged in a battle for supremacy. This was evident in an alleged shootout even as top leaders were discussing the formation of a government in Afghanistan and the members of the proposed cabinet after the Taliban conquered Kabul.

Thus, the Doha Taliban may not have absolute control on the ground. The Pakistani Taliban is yet another umbrella organisation of gun-toting Mujahids, while radical fundamentalist groups like the Islamic State wage its own battle – many of which are even against the Taliban.

Source: New Indian Express

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Bangladesh’s hajj package twice as costly as those of India, Pakistan

Rashidul Hasan

Mar 3, 2023

Bangladesh has surpassed neighbouring India and Pakistan in terms of costly hajj packages, with this year's being one of the most expensive ones in the country's history.

Pakistan has not officially announced their hajj package yet but according to Pakistan Today, the country's religious affairs ministry said they will announce it in early March.

The price is estimated to be around one million Pakistani rupees, which when converted to Bangladeshi currency is around Tk 4 lakh.

Meanwhile, India announced its hajj package in 2018, priced at 3.99 lakh rupees. They haven't changed the prices till 2022, according to the website of Hajj Committee of India.

Indian Ministry of Minority Affairs in a notice said this year, a subsidy of 1 lakh rupees would be given to each pilgrim. As such, an Indian would be able to perform hajj within 3 lakh rupees, which amounts to around Tk 4 lakh.

In Bangladesh, the cost of hajj package under the government and private hajj management is about Tk 7 lakh. But the actual cost will exceed Tk 8 to Tk 8.5 lakh when the cost of sacrificial animal, food and other miscellaneous costs are included.

This is set to be the most expensive in Bangladesh's history, thanks mainly to what travel agents and hajj agents termed as Biman Bangladesh Airlines' unusually high airfare.

In both India and Pakistan, the cost of airfare is not more than Tk 1 lakh to 1.2 lakh, sources in ATAB said. This year the airfare for Biman has been fixed at Tk 1.98 lakh, an increase of about Tk 60,000 over last year's airfare.

ATAB and HAAB leaders said in a bid to get rid of the monopoly business from Biman and Saudi Arabia, the government should allow other airlines like India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia to carry hajj pilgrims.

Source: The Daily Star

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Saudi Arabia welcomes Sudan’s cooperation with international human rights mechanisms

March 03, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Friday welcomed the Sudanese government’s “positive cooperation” with international human rights mechanisms, the Kingdom’s mission to the UN in Geneva said on Friday.

The Kingdom in particular welcomed its work with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in order to fulfill its obligations to achieve security and stability and improve the human rights conditions of all its citizens despite the challenges it faces.

The statement was made by the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Abdul Mohsen bin Khathila, during an interactive dialogue at the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Sudan.

Source: Arab News

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Nigeria’s top court rules old currency notes still legal tender amid cash shortage

Hassan Isilow  


KANO, Nigeria

The Nigeria Supreme Court ruled Friday that N200, N500 and N1,000 naira notes will remain in circulation until the end of 2023.

The ruling came in the suit against the federal government on the naira redesign policy.

The suit was filed by 16 states to challenge the legality of the introduction of the policy.

The 16 led by the states of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara were praying the Apex Court will void and set aside the policy on grounds that it is inflicting hardships on innocent Nigerians.

Justice John Inyang Okoro, who led a seven-judge panel, had on Feb. 22 fixed Friday for the Court to make a decision.

The governors of the states accused President Muhammadu Buhari of usurping the function of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the introduction and implementation of the policy and asked that the directive issued by Buhari be voided.

The federal government challenged the jurisdiction of the Apex Court on grounds that the CBN was not a party and that the dispute on the policy ought to be directed to the CBN so that the suit can be referred to the Federal High Court.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai from Kaduna State, his Kogi State counterpart, Yahaya Bello and Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle were in court for the ruling.

"The Nigerian economy is shrinking with new naira notes. Many people lost their money because they could not be able to take their money back to banks but this judgment is a welcome development that will boost the economy with old notes in circulation," international analyst Musa Abdullahi Sufi told Anadolu.

Abdulmumin Murtala, a trader in Kano said: “This decision by the Supreme Court will surely restore our trading business back to action. I closed my business because I don't have an account with the bank and even the money is nowhere to be found."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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South Sudan's president sacks defense, interior ministers

Benjamin Takpiny  


JUBA, South Sudan

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit dismissed the country’s defense and interior ministers on Friday.

Angelina Teny, the minister of defense, and Mahmoud Solomon, the interior minister, were sacked by presidential decree read out on state television.

No reason was cited for the president's decision.

Kiir did not name the replacement immediately after sacking the two ministers.

Teny, the wife to the First Vice President Riek Machar, was appointed as Defense and Veterans' Affairs Minister in 2020.

The ministry was under the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) under Riek Machar whereas the Ministry of Interior was under the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Government (SPLM) Party headed by Kiir.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Türkiye advanced in agriculture, irrigation, says Gambian minister

Gozde Bayar and Muhammet Tarhan  


The Gambia could benefit from Türkiye as it has a highly developed infrastructure capacity in the field of agriculture and irrigation, according to the Gambian agriculture minister.

"Türkiye is fairly advanced in terms of agriculture and irrigation… Also, they have the know-how. We are still struggling with irrigation and water engineers. This is something that Türkiye has the capacity to extend to the Gambia and we'll be looking forward to that," Demba Sabally told Anadolu.

Upon the invitation of an agricultural company in Ankara, Sabally praised the hospitality and products which could increase agricultural productivity in the Gambia.

"The Gambia is an agricultural economy," he said, adding that the country is also rich in water, including the fresh water in the Gambian River.

"We have a lot of land compared to the size of the country. The Gambia is a small country, but the arable land is like over 500,000 acres, and we are only cultivating about 200,000," he said, adding that 65% of the population is young.

Underlining that many Gambian students receive university education in Türkiye thanks to scholarships, he considers this as cooperation in agriculture between both countries.

"There is not a lot of agreement between the countries as far as agriculture is concerned. I think this is the first step and probably the step in the right direction," he said, adding that he had an invitation from his Turkish counterpart to establish an agricultural relationship.

Noting that the main cooperation between the countries is on the military, he said the Turkish army had been giving training to the Gambian military since the early 90s.

On diplomatic relations, Sabally said the Gambia has only 20 embassies around the world, including one in Ankara.

"Türkiye is a very important partner to the Gambia. We have an embassy here in Ankara and a consulate in Istanbul. So there is a very excellent relationship between Türkiye and the Gambia," he added.

Regarding the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2020, he said the Turkish people and the president are highly rated in his country as both populations are of the Muslim majority.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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