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Islamic World News ( 15 Dec 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Rock Music Fans Shaved and Shamed in Indonesia

'Pakistan spy chief had got nod to sack Zardari'

U.S. Officially Ends Its Mission in Iraq

Muslim Journalists Urged to Apply Prophet's Principles

KARACHI: 75 suspects arrested, torture cell recovered

In mountain camps, Pakistan Taliban train for death

Ijtema disperses with dua for world peace

Syria 'authorised forces to shoot to kill' in crackdown

Obama to Sign Bill Freezing Aid to Pakistan: White House

Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers to convene its 7th session

Egypt’s liberal and secular groups scrambling to balance out growing Islamist influence

Support for Salafists among Dagestani Youth Reaches Record Level

Time to side with India to cut off ISI: US Senator

USA/Islam: Muslim club aims to break misjudgments

Gaddafi's daughter demands ICC probe into father's death

Pakistan decides to REVISE ties with United States

You would be responsible if we fail in war on terror: Pakistan to US

'Pakistan Took Bold Decisions After NATO Attack'

Pakistan to fight war on terror on its own terms: Khar

Pakistan criticises 'wrong' US aid Freeze

Islamists consolidate lead in second round of Egyptian polls

US' relationship with Pak has been a difficult one: Clinton

Militants kill two Lashkar men, khasadar goes missing in Bara

Pakistan and India need People-centric policies

Pakistan blames Afghan refugees for Rabbani murder

Pakistan needs gender policy framework

Panetta Says security gains a 'turning point' in Afghanistan War

US targets Pakistan aid, Iran sanctions

BC opponents slam gov't ban on veils at citizenship ceremonies

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau



Rock Music Fans Shaved and Shamed in Indonesia

REPORTING FROM SEOUL -- Dec 14, 2011,  Canadian singer Neil Young might croon a rebellious anthem that “Hey hey, my my, rock 'n’ roll will never die,” but in Indonesia’s Aceh province, the musical art form’s lifestyle is under serious attack.

In this strict Islamic corner of the world’s most-populous Muslim nation, authorities rounded up 65 male and female punk-rock fans after a recent concert for a bit of “reeducation.”

That meant having their mohawks and dreadlocks shaved, their clothes destroyed and their piercings yanked out before they were paraded around like crime suspects.

The punkers have cried harassment. Authorities say they’ve done nothing wrong.

“We're not torturing anyone. We're not violating human rights,” a provincial police chief was quoted as saying in London’s Daily Mail. “We're just trying to put them back on the right moral path.”

In 2005, after years of armed rebellion, residents of secular Aceh province on the island of Sumatra were granted permission to impose strict sharia, or Islamic law, to better promote moral values at a level not required of the rest of the nation.

In the now-semiautonomous province, bands of religious police wander a region where adultery is punishable by stoning and homosexuals have been jailed or lashed in public with canes. Rights groups complain that women are told they must wear head scarves and cannot dress in tight pants.

On Saturday night, police moved in with batons to break up a concert, scattering scores of young people. Many were loaded into vans and taken to a police detention center, where officers removed the youths’ “disgusting clothes” and handed each detainee a toothbrush.

They were then forced to sit in a muddy pool for what police called “spiritual cleansing.”

Officials said the youths’ lifestyle was a threat to Islamic values. Many of the youths were held in cages. One young girl wept as a woman in an Islamic head scarf shaved her head.

“Why? Why my hair?!” called out a 20-year-old man named Fauzanas he pointed to his clean-shaven head, according to the Daily Mail story. “We didn't hurt anyone. This is how we've chosen to express ourselves. Why are they treating us like criminals?”

The youths will be kept for 10 days and then returned to their families.


'Pakistan spy chief had got nod to sack Zardari'


Islamabad: December 15, 2011, Pakistan's powerful spy agency chief General Shuja Pasha, had sought and got permission from senior Arab leaders to oust President Asif Ali Zardari, said Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz while confirming the claim in a blog in a British daily.

Omar Waraich in his blog on The Independent claimed that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Gen Shuja Pasha had sought and "received permission from senior Arab leaders to sack Z" (President Zardari), reported Geo News.

The blog said: "'I was just informed by senior US intel,' Ijaz writes in a message on May 10, 'that GD-SII Mr P asked for, and received permission, from senior Arab leaders a few days ago to sack Z. For what its worth'." GD-SII was an anagram for DG-ISI.

Mansoor Ijaz, who had revealed the secret memo to Washington that said Zardari had feared a military coup after US commandos killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad May 2, told Geo News: "This information has been on the record now for the better part of six weeks."

Ijaz said Pakistan's then envoy to US Hussain Haqqani had approached him May 9 and he then decided to check the veracity of what Haqqani told him.

Mansoor Ijaz claimed that General Pasha had travelled throughout the Arab world and other countries after the May 2 raid.

"In many places he (ISI chief), in fact, explained that there was a lot of stress in the system because people could not understand who the blame should be pinned on for the fact that (Osama) bin Laden was on their soil," said Mansoor Ijaz.

The secret memo to Washington had stunned Pakistan. The abrupt departure of President Zardari over a heart condition to Dubai Dec 6 had sparked coup rumours. There have been conflicting reports of his health, with one saying he suffered a minor attack and another that he had a stroke that caused bleeding in the brain and facial paralysis.

The president has been discharged from the Dubai hospital and shifted to his residence, authorities said Wednesday night.


U.S. Officially Ends Its Mission in Iraq


BAGHDAD — December 15, 2011, The United States military officially declared an end to its mission in Iraq on Thursday even as violence continues to plague the country and the Muslim world remains distrustful of American power.

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta was accompanied in Baghdad by Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq on Thursday.

In a fortified concrete courtyard at the airport in Baghdad, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta thanked the more than one million American service members who have served in Iraq for “the remarkable progress” made over the past nine years but acknowledged the severe challenges that face the struggling democracy.

“Let me be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead — by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself,” Mr. Panetta said. “Challenges remain, but the U.S. will be there to stand by the Iraqi people as they navigate those challenges to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.”

The tenor of the farewell ceremony, officially called "Casing the Colors,” was likely to sound an uncertain trumpet for a war that was launched to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction it did not have and now ends without the sizable, enduring American military presence for which many officers had hoped. The tone of the string of ceremonies culminating with the final withdrawal event on Thursday has been understated in keeping with an administration that campaigned to end an unpopular war it inherited. Although the ceremony on Thursday marked the end of the war, the military still has two bases in Iraq and roughly 4,000 troops, including several hundred that attended the ceremony. At the height of the war in 2007 there were 505 bases and over 150,000 troops.

According to military officials, the remaining troops are still being attacked on a daily basis, mainly by indirect fire attacks on the bases and road side bomb explosions against convoys heading south through Iraq to bases in Kuwait

Even after the last two bases are closed and the final American combat troops withdraw from Iraq by Dec. 31 under rules of an agreement with the Baghdad government, a few hundred military personnel and Pentagon civilians will remain, working within the American Embassy as part of an Office of Security Cooperation to assist in arms sales and training.

But negotiations could resume next year on whether additional American military personnel can return to further assist their Iraqi counterparts. Senior American military officers have made no secret that they see key gaps in Iraq's ability to defend its sovereign soil and even to secure its oil platforms offshore in the Persian Gulf. Air defenses are seen as a critical gap in Iraqi capabilities, but American military officers also see significant shortcomings in Iraq's ability to sustain a military, whether moving food and fuel or servicing the armored vehicles it is inheriting from Americans or the jet-fighters it is buying, and has shortfalls in military engineers, artillery and intelligence, as well. The tenuous security atmosphere in Iraq was underscored by helicopters that hovered over the ceremony, scanning the ground for rocket attacks. Although there is far less violence across Iraq than at the height of the sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007, but there are bombings on a nearly daily basis and Americans remain a target of Shiite militants.

During a 45-minute ceremony that ended the military mission, Mr. Panetta acknowledged that “the cost was high — in blood and treasure of the United States, and also for the Iraqi people. But those lives have not been lost in vain — they gave birth to an independent, free and sovereign Iraq.”

The war was launched by the Bush administration in March 2003 on arguments that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and had ties to Al Qaeda that might grow to an alliance threatening the United States with a mass-casualty terror attack.


Muslim Journalists Urged to Apply Prophet's Principles



JAKARTA: Dec 14, 2011, Veteran Indonesian journalist Parni Hadi urged Muslim journalists to apply principles set out by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in their work to enhance their credibility.

Addressing the International Islamic Media Conference in Jakarta on Wednesday, the former chief of Antara news agency also called for the establishment of an international Muslim media development center in Indonesia.

Hadi, who has 40 years experience in journalism, spelled out the four principles set out by the Prophet (PBUH) as truthfulness, dissemination of the truth, reliability and trustworthiness.

He said Muslim journalists of today have much to learn from the Prophet who had practiced what he had professed.

“It must be admitted that many leaders, preachers and media professionals in the Muslim world have not yet implemented what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had said and done. They talk too much with less action and their actions are often contrary to what they say,” he said.

Hadi said freedom of expression, independence and objectivity are prerequisites for Prophetic journalism to give optimal results. He emphasized that Muslim journalists should work for world peace, justice, and economic and social well being as well as to create an atmosphere for people to achieve mental peace.

Spelling out his experience in the field, he said democracy is a basic requirement for journalism to thrive. He said while he was working for Antara he had faced a lot of difficulties from governments of different countries.

“We should enhance people-to-people contact to progress in the media,” he said while talking about the growing influence of the social media.

Hadi also spoke about Republika, the largest circulating Islamic newspaper in Indonesia. It was established by the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association in 1993 and he was its first publisher and editor in chief. He asked Indonesians why Republika is not the No.1 newspaper.

“We want to be No. 1. The secular media are dominant because of several reasons such as quality, professionalism and public acceptance due to ideological and political perceptions," he pointed out.

As a social activist Hadi has been successful in combining his Islamic propagation work (dawa) with humanitarian activities. He set up Dompet Dhuafa Republika Foundation, better known as DD, which literally means Purse for the Poor in 1993. DD’s funds are disbursed for three main empowerment programs: interest-free revolving funds for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), free health care and free education for the poor.

“The success of DD is not just in the steady increase of collected funds, but also in an ever increasing awareness of Muslims in paying Zakat and the public trust in Muslim fundraising foundations, which are professionally managed with a high standard of accountability,” he said. In addition to 65,000 fixed donors, DD is now backed by corporate social responsibility funds of domestic and international firms.

Hadi urged Muslim governments and officials to be friendly with the media and extend their helping hand to change the situation in the Muslim world for the better. He also urged participants to involve themselves in the production of information as journalists, writers, contributors, speakers and publishers.

Several resource persons also figured in the conference, including Abdul Rahman Al-Shebaily, a prominent Saudi writer and former member of the Shoura Council, who presented a paper on “Media in the Muslim Community in the Changing World;” Muhammad Sallam, director general of Iqraa Channels, “Successful Satellite Islamic Channels & Websites;” and Prof. Malek Al-Ahmad of King Saud University, “Taking Advantage of Technological Means in Serving Islamic Media.”

Other speakers of the day were: Dr. Ali Shummo, former minister of information in Sudan; Dr. Nasser Bu Ali of Sharjah University; Dr. Hemdi Aboelenen, vice president of International University, Egypt; Prof. Azyumardi Azra of State Islamic University Jakarta; Mohamed Arafa, member of the Egyptian Journalism Association; and Mohammed Harrath, CEO of Islam Channel London.

A number of Indonesian Muslim women actively participated in the conference, asking questions, making proposals and interacting with speakers and other delegates. Labibah Zain, a social activist and blogger, protested the absence of women speakers in the conference and requested the organizers to include women in future media conferences.

Soraya Fadhal, a lecturer at UAI, Jakarta called on the Muslim media to present Islam in an appealing manner, focusing on its humanistic and environment-friendly teachings.


KARACHI: 75 suspects arrested, torture cell recovered

Staff Report

KARACHI: Dec 15, 2011,  At least 70 suspects were arrested and a torture cell was recovered during separate overnight search operation in different vicinities of the metropolis on Wednesday.

The search operation was carried out by the law enforcement agencies in Pak Colony, Bahadurabad and North Nazimabad from where the police apprehended about 70 suspects and shifted them to undisclosed locations. According to sources, few of the detainees were later released after initial course of interrogation. The gangsters belonging to the notorious Arshad Pappu group of Lyari were also among the detainees.

The first operation was launched at Pak Colony’s different localities, including Jehanabad, Old Golimar, Bhutta Village and Ghulam Mohammad Village.\12\15\story_15-12-2011_pg7_24


In mountain camps, Pakistan Taliban train for death


LADDA: Dec 15, 2011,  Pakistan’s Taliban say they have started peace talks, but in a mountain camp young recruits learn how to mount ambushes, raid military facilities and undertake the most coveted missions —suicide bombings.

“America, Nato and other countries could do nothing to us despite having nuclear weapons,” said Shamim Mehsud, a senior Taliban commander training the fighters who hold AK-47 assault rifles and cover their faces with white cloth.

“Our suicide bombers turn their bones into bullets, flesh into explosives and blood into petrol and bravely fight them, and they have no answer to that.”

On Saturday the deputy commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, said exploratory peace talks with the US-backed government were underway.

Pakistan’s prime minister denied this and said Pakistan would negotiate only if the group, which has been waging a four-year insurgency, laid down its arms.

There are no signs they intend to do that in the camp in South Waziristan near the Afghan border. It is in unruly tribal areas like this where the umbrella group is entrenched.

Taliban commanders escorted a small group of journalists, including a Reuters reporter, to the remote camp.

To get there without running into army checkpoints, they drove to North Waziristan, where the army has limited control, and then walked uphill for 15 hours over rugged terrain.

On the way they came across fighters from Turkmenistan, a reminder that parts of Pakistan are a global hub for militants.

What they discovered at the training ground is that the Taliban are highly disciplined and determined.

They rise at dawn for prayers and then have a simple breakfast of tea and flatbread before the training starts.

The militants jog in the high-altitude valley, and do push-ups, somersaults and jumping to hone the skills necessary for fighting in the harsh conditions on the border.

In close-quarters combat training, fighters slam each other on to the rocky ground and then spring back up and chant “God is greatest.”

In another drill, one of the fighters wears a uniform taken from a dead Pakistani soldier. Others sneak up, take him down and snatch his weapon.


Men such as these will face the Pakistani army, one of the biggest in the world, and are potential targets for US drone aircraft missile strikes.

Their rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles are no match for the firepower and technology of their enemies. But they seem unfazed by the tough odds and say they welcome death.

“It is my good fortune that I have been chosen for this holy task,” said a 22-year-old fighter who goes by the codename Commando. “I am eagerly awaiting my chance to wage war and sacrifice myself against the infidels.”

The TTP, which is allied with the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, pledged to overthrow the Pakistani government after the military started operations against militant groups in 2007.

It is blamed for many of the suicide bombings across Pakistan and has carried out audacious attacks, including one on military headquarters near the capital Islamabad in 2009. The United States has labelled the TTP a terrorist group.

When they are not training or praying, the fighters help carry supplies and ammunition to frontlines by mule and travel long distances to cities to buy food and other goods.

To relax, they play volleyball on a makeshift court and have wrestling matches where the contestants are cheered and taunted.

One wrestler was asked how he would wage war when he could not wrestle.

At night they tune in to the Pashtu services of Western radio outlets and usually don’t like what they hear.

“Why do they call us terrorists? America is the terrorist because it drops bombs on Muslims,” said a 17-year-old called Malang, or free spirit.

A DVD player that is connected to a car battery offers fighters the chance to watch TTP videos of successful operations against the military.

Sometimes the militants’ communications radios cross signals with nearby army radios. One night the reporters overheard a conversation between the enemies.

“If you are so brave come out and fight us,” said one fighter.  “Don’t worry,” a soldier replied. “We are coming.”


Ijtema disperses with dua for world peace

TNN Dec 13, 2011,

BHOPAL: A prayer for world peace and harmony was offered by over half a million faithful as the 64th Alami Tablighi Ijtema (International Islamic congregation) that ended here on Monday.

The thousands echoed 'amen' as Maulana Saad Sahab of Hazrat Nizamuddin Markaz (New Delhi) prayed for peace and harmony in the country and the world, particularly for those suffering from diseases and asked devotees to follow the path shown by Prophet Mohammad.


Syria 'authorised forces to shoot to kill' in crackdown

15 December, 2011

Syrian soldiers said their commanders told them to stop anti-government protests "by all means necessary", Human Rights Watch has said.

The group spoke to dozens of defectors who said they had understood this as authorisation to use lethal force.

Anti-government protests have continued despite President Bashar al-Assad's attempts to stifle them.

The UN believes more than 5,000 people have died in seven months of unrest, which Syria blames on armed gangs.

In the latest violence, activists say 27 members of the security forces have been killed by army deserters in the southern province of Deraa.

The London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths occurred during dawn clashes on Thursday.

Twenty-five people were said by activist groups to have been killed on Wednesday during fighting near the city of Hama.

International journalists face severe restrictions on their movements in Syria, and it is hard to verify reports.

'Answer for crimes'

Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based organisation, said about half of the 60 defectors from the Syrian army whom they interviewed had been given direct orders to open fire at protesters or bystanders.

The report, entitled By All Means Necessary!, also documents cases of torture, including soldiers using electric cattle prods, restricting detainees to confined spaces and carrying out summary executions.

"Defectors gave us names, ranks, and positions of those who gave the orders to shoot and kill, and each and every official named in this report, up to the very highest levels of the Syrian government, should answer for their crimes against the Syrian people," said HRW's Anna Neistat, one of the report's authors.

"The Security Council should ensure accountability by referring Syria to the International Criminal Court."

The report includes the case of "Amjad," a soldier deployed to Deraa who said that he received direct orders from his commander to fire on protesters on 25 April.

"He said: 'Use heavy shooting. Nobody will ask you to explain'. Normally we are supposed to save bullets, but this time he said: 'Use as many bullets as you want'."

In a recent interview, Mr Assad said he had given no orders for violence to be used against protesters and that he did not control the security forces.

He has also denied that there was ever a command "to kill or to be brutal" though he has admitted that "mistakes" have been made.

But HRW says that under international law, commanders are responsible for crimes committed by their subordinates if they knew or should have known about violations and failed to investigate or stop them.

"It is reasonable to conclude, at minimum, that Syria's senior military and civilian leadership knew about them.

"The ongoing killings, arrests, repression, and general denials of responsibility by the Syrian government also make clear that officials have failed to take any meaningful action to address these abuses," the report reads.

The United Nations Human Rights Council accused the Syrian authorities of crimes against humanity and systematic human rights violations, in a report at the end of November.

The top UN human rights official, Navi Pillay, has also said Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court.


Obama to Sign Bill Freezing Aid to Pakistan: White House


WASHINGTON DC: Dec 15, 2022, The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation to freeze some Pakistan aid, slap harsh new sanctions on Iran, and endorse indefinite imprisonment of suspected terrorists.

Acting shortly after the White House dropped a threat to veto the bill, the Republican-led chamber voted 283-136 to approve the $662 billion Defense Authorization bill, which also sets high hurdles for closing Guantanamo Bay.

The Democratic-held Senate was expected to vote on the same bill as early as Thursday.

The measure had drawn fire from civil liberties groups that denounced its de facto embrace of holding alleged extremists without charge until the end of the “war on terrorism” declared after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

US President Barack Obama, who had threatened to veto earlier versions of the yearly measure, will sign it when it reaches his desk despite lingering misgivings, spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement before the vote.

“However, if in the process of implementing this law we determine that it will negatively impact our counterterrorism professionals and undercut our commitment to the rule of law, we expect that the authors of these provisions will work quickly and tirelessly to correct these problems,” said Carney.

Full Report at:


Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers to convene its 7th session


Qatar: Dec 15, 2011,   The Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers will hold its 7th session in Algiers on 18-19 December 2011, on the theme of 'Towards Consolidating the Outcome of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures and Enhancing the Youth's Role in Building a Culture of Peace and Dialogue'.

The Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers, which will be held under the patronage of H.E. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, will bring together the Culture Ministers of the OIC Member States.

A roundtable on "the Cultural Roles of the Civil Society in the Promotion of Dialogue and Peace" will be held as part of the Conference, jointly organized by ISESCO and the OIC General Secretariat, in collaboration with the Algerian Ministry of Culture.

The Conference will look into three reports that will be submitted by ISESCO Director General, Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, on the implementation of the Cultural Strategy for the Islamic World, ISESCO's efforts in the implementation of the Strategy for Islamic Cultural Action outside the Islamic World, and on ISESCO's efforts in the follow-up of the implementation of the Strategy for ICTs Development in the Islamic World.

It will furthermore examine four draft documents prepared by ISESCO on the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for Dialogue among Followers of Religions and Cultures: Achievements and Future Prospects; the Cultural Roles of the Civil Society in the Promotion of Dialogue and Peace; Cultural Enterprises in the Member States, and on a Course in Training Journalists to Counter Stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in Western Media.

Also, the delegations participating in the Conference will submit national reports on the Member States' efforts in implementing the Cultural Strategy for the Islamic World.

The first session of the Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers was held in Dakar (1989), the second in Rabat (1998), the third in Doha (2001), the fourth in Algiers (2004), the fifth in Tripoli (2007) and the sixth in Baku (2009).


Egypt’s liberal and secular groups scrambling to balance out growing Islamist influence

By Associated Press

CAIRO — December 15,2011,  Overwhelmed by Islamists in parliamentary elections, the secular and liberal youths who were the driving force behind Egypt’s uprising are scrambling to ensure their voices are not lost as a new constitution and government take shape.

Two Islamist blocs — newly emboldened after decades of repression under Mubarak’s secular regime — won close to 70 percent of seats in the initial balloting on Nov. 28-29, while the revolutionary parties got less than 15 percent so far, according to an Associated Press tally compiled from official results. A power struggle is emerging between religious factions and the ruling military, with liberals appearing to be on the sidelines.

The second round of voting on Wednesday and Thursday and a final phase in January are not expected to alter the outcome, and Islamists may even boost their gains.

Without a doubt, the presence of the liberal youths behind the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak will be meager in parliament and Islamists will be in control. But Wael Khalil, a member of one of the alliances born out of the uprising, Revolution Continues, said the fight for the future of Egypt will also be waged outside official institutions.

“In the media, in the revolutionary spaces and in the new media,” Khalil said. “This will play an important role in steering and influencing the discussions (away from the conflict and) toward the basic issues.”

Full Report at:


Support for Salafists Among Dagestani Youth Reaches Record Level

A survey in Dagestan has found that 20 percent of the republic’s youth consider themselves moderate Salafis. Only 10 percent of the respondents referred to themselves as Sufis – traditionally the main Muslim branch in Dagestan. The most educated among those who identified themselves as moderate Salafis said they were in favor of mimicking the experience of such countries as Brunei, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman in bringing norms of sharia into governance in Dagestan. The survey also found that 12 percent of the respondents favor the radical methods of struggle adopted by the North Caucasus militants. It is especially striking that young people openly stated support for rebels in the republic. According to a Dagestani expert on Islam, Ruslan Gereyev, the survey was conducted only in cities, and support for the rebels would have been even higher had the interviews been conducted in rural areas of the republic (, December 9).

The survey was carried out in Dagestan’s largest cities – Makhachkala, Kaspiisk, Khasavyurt, Derbent, Izberbash and Kizilyurt – among 6,000 respondents, including high school teens and university students. All of those surveyed described themselves as religious believers. Gereyev told the Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) website that a widening gap between rich and poor, rampant official corruption and discrimination against Muslims leave radicalization as the only attractive option for some young people. If two years ago the insurgency consisted mainly of people aged 25 to 40, today the insurgents range in age from 18 to 30 years old, although some independent experts say the age range is from 14 to 45, Gereyev asserted. “The time has come when we need to struggle for the youth,” he said. “In essence, there is an undeclared war going on for the young generation’s minds” (, December 9). One can understand why the government is losing this battle for young people’s minds if all it is doing is trying to scare them into submission without providing career and other life opportunities.

An expert with the Russian Muftis’ council, Rinat Mukhametov, pointed to the paradox that better religious education was likely to prevent the radicalization of young people. According to Mukhametov, although there is no direct link between education and radicalization, there are no people highly educated in Islam among the militants. “If in Ryazan [in central Russia] people under duress escape into their personal inner selves, as a rule starting to drink vodka, in the Caucasus people protest, sometimes including unruly protest beyond any thinkable limits,” Mukhametov said (, December 9). In addition, increasingly there is a cultural dimension in the North Caucasus that tends to put the government at loggerheads with the people. As Moscow tries to keep the Russian Federation as unified as possible, developments on the ground and the rise of Islam contradict the central government’s efforts and a clash becomes inevitable if Moscow fails to adjust its policy.

In November 2010, the Dagestani state commission for the adaptation of militants to civilian life was created and by November 2011 it claimed to have won over 40 former militants who had surrendered (, November 18). However, one of the commission’s members, Abbas Kebedov, noted: “It needs to be understood that not a single real militant from ‘the forest’ has gone through the commission. The problem is that we do not have the necessary power [to pardon rebels]. Today we simply ask the relevant authorities to take into account that a person went through our commission. That’s it. I don’t want to take every person’s case for the commission’s consideration, because I can’t be the guarantor of his safety and legal status. If a militant comes through the commission and tomorrow is killed, who will be held responsible for his death? In a republic where even its leader says he does not know who abducts people, no one can be worry-free” (, December 11).

On December 13, the Russian National Anti-Terrorist Committee hailed the killing of a leader of the Khasavyurt rebels, 25-year-old Yusup Magomedov. He was killed along with two other rebels, 28-year-old Shamil Nutsalkhanov and 25-year-old Shamil Makhmudov, on December 12 during a counterterrorism operation near the village of Karlanyurt (, December 13). The Russian security services regularly claim that slain militants are high-ranking figures in the insurgency but rarely substantiate their claims.

A cab driver named Gabibula Shabkhanov was kidnapped by police on December 7 and remains in custody. Shabkhanov’s lawyer said his client was badly beaten up and tortured with electric shocks applied to his fingertips. According to Kavkazsky Uzel, at least 28 kidnappings took place in Dagestan alone in January-November 2011. Earlier, the prosecutor general’s office in Dagestan said the agency received 29 complaints about kidnappings in January-October 2011. Thirteen of these cases were not confirmed, but 16 others are pending (, December 11).

Given the situation in Dagestan, it sounded ironic that the Russian leadership came out in support of the Dagestani government’s application to host the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in the republic. Russia and Azerbaijan are expected to apply jointly to host the games in 2018 (, December 12). While it is still unclear whether the Sochi Olympics will take place as planned in 2014, due to project management issues and security concerns, it is hardly feasible to attract any significant international audience to Dagestan because of its persistent volatility. The government, it seems, remains intent to substitute substantive policy reforms in the North Caucasus with glistening shows in the hope of impressing the local population. However, without first doing their homework on the political and economic issues in Dagestan, the situation in that volatile republic is unlikely to improve tangibly, particularly when local support for Salafism continues to grow. It is rather ironic that more than a decade after the Russian intervention in its rebel republic of Chechnya, which was touted as an effort to subdue extremism in the North Caucasus, support for Salafist groups in neighboring Dagestan among the local population is now at an all time high and that this volatile republic is now the epicenter of a regional insurgency.


Time to side with India to cut off ISI: US Senator

Press Trust Of India

Washington, December 15, 2011,  Contending that US relationship with Pakistan had reached a dead end, an American lawmaker has said there was a sense among Congressmen that time had come to "side" with India to "cut off the ISI".

Senator Mark Kirk said at a discussion forum by prestigious Washington-based think tank,

"You know, Yogi Bear said when you reach a fork in the road, take it. I think we hit the fork in the road in August and September between the United States and Pakistan. We saw a large truck bomb assembled, lit off next to a US base, 77 US casualties," Kirk said.

In recent times US' ties with Pakistan, a key ally in the region, have plunged to an all-time low following a series of incidents over the year, including the killing of two people by a CIA contractor, the Abbottabad raid, and finally the NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

"My sense of the Senate and probably the House is we're ready to take that fork in the road. We're ready to side with India, to cut off the ISI," the Illinois Senator said.

"It appears to me the Pakistani horror story of us siding with India should now evolve. Pakistan has decided we're leaving. Pakistan has decided that they can cripple the civilian government," he said.

The United States, he said, needs a stable party in the region who has a status quo pro-civilian anti-terror interest, which is India.

"And in many ways, this is the ISI horror story, but I would say they picked this, and we should now arrange that fate for them," he said in response to a question.

Kirk urged General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to play what he called "hard ball" with Pakistan.

Full Report at:


USA/Islam: Muslim club aims to break misjudgments


CHICO (California, USA), 27 Shawwal/Sept 25 (IINA)-The religion of Islam and its Muslim followers have been negatively portrayed in the media in the past, but students at Chico State strive to break down misconceptions.

The Muslim Students Association is a club that focuses on two main goals: provide Muslim students with the opportunity to gather and gain awareness of their religion and to inform other students about the religion, club president Telha Rehman said.

The club meets at 5 p.m. every Friday and is open to all students, whether they practice the Islamic religion or not, he said.

The club wants to reach out to other people that are unaware, Rehman said.

The Islamic religion is a monotheist religion and followers believe in the same God as Jews and Christians but refer to him as Allah, said Katherine McCarthy, a religious studies professor at Chico State.

Muslims study from the Quran and are strongly against false representations of God, such as depicting God in art or, she said.

Muslims practice five pillars, which are charity, fasting during the month of Ramadan, the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, reciting the creed and praying five times a day, McCarthy said.

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Gaddafi's daughter demands ICC probe into father's death


THE HAGUE: Dec, 15, 2011, The daughter of slain Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi has asked the International Criminal Court if it will probe the killing of her father and her brother.

Aisha Gaddafi's lawyer Nick Kaufman said yesterday he had written to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asking for more information on the October 20 killing of Muammar Gaddafi and his son Muatassim Gaddafi.

"Aisha wants to know if he is investigating the murders and if not, why he is not," Kaufman told AFP.

The former dictator and his son were killed after their capture by forces loyal to the National Transitional Council.

In a letter to the prosecutor, Kaufman wrote that Muammar and Muatassim Gaddafi were captured alive at a time when they threatened no one.

They were both killed soon after and their bodies put on display.

"As you are aware, your analysis of the situation in Libya requires you to investigate the commission of alleged crimes by all parties to the conflict," Kaufman said.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Muammar Gaddafi on June 27 for crimes against humanity carried out as he tried to suppress the Libyan revolt.

Another son, Seif al-Islam, and former information minister Abdallah Al-Senoussi are subject to similar warrants. Seif al-Islam Gaddafi was arrested November 19 and there are unconfirmed reports Al-Senoussi was also captured.

ICC spokeswoman Florence Olara could not confirm if the prosecutor had received the letter.

The ICC has jurisdiction in Libya matters under a UN Security Council resolution from February 26.

Aisha, her brothers Mohamed and Hannibal, her mother Safiya and other family members were allowed to flee to Algeria for humanitarian reasons, according to Algiers.


Pakistan decides to REVISE ties with United States

Amir Mir

December 15, 2011

As Pakistan-United States relations have hit an all-time low in the wake of the November 26 NATO air strike which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, the decision-makers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi have decided to revamp the country's foreign policy by revising ties with Uncle Sam, reports Amir Mir.

As public anger against the United States ran high everywhere and feelings of bitterness brought people out on the streets in major Pakistani cities following the Mohmand air strike, the government decided to convene an unprecedented conference of Pakistani ambassadors and high commissioners, serving in key capitals of the world.

Giving their recommendations, over two dozen envoys suggested at the Islamabad conference that the government should renegotiate key agreements signed with the United States and its Western allies a decade ago in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. These recommendations are set to further jeopardise the already strained relations between the United States and Pakistan.

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You would be responsible if we fail in war on terror: Pakistan to US


ISLAMABAD: Dec 15, 2011,  Foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Thursday warned that the US would be responsible if Pakistan failed in the war on terrorism, a remark that comes in the backdrop of a move by American lawmakers to freeze aid worth $700 million to Islamabad.

The US would be responsible if Pakistan failed in the war on terrorism or if there were problems, Khar was quoted as saying by TV news channels here.

She made the remarks while briefing the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which met to discuss the issue of reviewing Pak-US ties.

Khar said Pakistan's relations with the US were "on hold" and would move forward if parliament allows it.

She provided details to the parliamentary panel of two formal agreements with the US regarding NATO supply routes and defence cooperation.

The entire gamut of political, intelligence and military cooperation with the US is being reviewed, she told the panel.

The US House of Representatives yesterday passed a legislation to freeze aid to Pakistan worth USD 700 million and the Senate is expected to vote on the measure this week.

The bill will freeze the aid pending assurances that Pakistan has taken steps to thwart militants who use improvised explosive devices against US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Following a cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last month, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said Pakistan intends to frame "new terms of engagement" for relations with the US and NATO.


'Pakistan Took Bold Decisions After NATO Attack'

Islamabad, Dec 15, 2011 (IANS): Pakistan took bold decisions after a NATO air strike left two dozen soldiers dead, said Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Malik Wednesday said in Peshawar that the government had taken bold decisions at the right time after the Nov 26 NATO strike in Mohmand Agency on two Pakistan Army checkposts and made it clear to the world that Pakistan will not compromise on its sovereignty.

The death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in the NATO attack caused outrage in the country. Islamabad cut off NATO supplies through the country, ordered the US to vacate a key airbase and boycotted an international conference that focussed on Afghanistan's future.

The interior minister said Pakistan will never compromise on its sovereignty and will protect its interest at all costs.

Malik added that following the NATO air strike, the government had taken bold and timely decisions that reflect the aspirations of the nation.


Pakistan to fight war on terror on its own terms: Khar

December 15, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will fight the war on terrorism according to its own terms and conditions and not that of the US Congress, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Thursday.

Speaking to the media outside the Parliament House after the National Security Committee meeting, Khar said that she was confident because Pakistan did the internal re-evaluation that was needed. “[It] will not only strengthen the space within the country or give us ownership of our foreign policy… but it will also strengthen the partnership that we pursue with any other country.”

The foreign minister added that the relationship between Pakistan and the US is on hold and it will be restored on a ‘clearly defined mandate’ from the parliament. “It will be a partnership which has less gray areas, which has a clear mandate of the public and parliament of Pakistan; and therefore, we will be able to pursue this partnership much more vigorously,” she added.

An envoys conference was recently held in Islamabad to review the foreign policy of the country, where the foreign minister said that Pakistan does not wish to ruin its relationship with the US or engage in any war. The recommendations formulated during the conference were put forward before the National Security Committee today.

The foreign minister also said that Pakistan should not be bothered by the cut in the US aid.

A legislation, recently passed by the US House of Representatives, froze roughly $700 million in aid to Pakistan pending assurances that Islamabad has taken steps to thwart militants who use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against US-led forces in Afghanistan.


Pakistan criticises 'wrong' US aid Freeze


ISLAMABAD: Dec 15, 2011, Pakistan on Thursday angrily criticised US moves to freeze $700 million in aid, the latest sign of the fraying alliance that has been in deep crisis since Nato fire killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

“We believe that the move in the US Congress is not based on facts and takes narrow vision of overall situation hence wrong conclusions are unavoidable,” foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters.

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the legislation, which the Senate is expected to vote on as early as Thursday.

The bill would freeze the aid, pending assurances that Islamabad has taken steps to thwart militants who use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against US-led forces in Afghanistan.

“If this legislation becomes law, we’ll work with the government of Pakistan on how we can fulfill the requirements. But, this requires us to maintain a strategic perspective,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Pakistan shut down the vital US supply line into neighbouring Afghanistan and ordered US personnel to leave the Shamsi air base, reportedly used as a hub by CIA drones, after attacks killed 24 soldiers on November 26.

Pakistan says it is reviewing terms of engagements with the United States and Nato, but parliament has so far stopped short of announcing any specific measures pending a joint session for which no date has been called.

A parliamentary committee is considering a proposal to scrap tax exemptions on Nato goods shipped to Pakistan and trucked to the Afghan border.

The powerful military, anyway, is considered the final arbiter of policy. It has bolstered its air defence systems on the Afghan border, where officials say 160,000 troops are deployed.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited American troops in Afghanistan close to the Pakistani border on Wednesday, calling on Islamabad to secure its side of the border, by cracking down on Taliban havens on its territory.

“I think the real question has to be what has been done on the Afghan side of the border,” the Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.

“Pakistan cannot be held responsible for weaknesses and loopholes on the other side of the border,” he added.


Islamists consolidate lead in second round of Egyptian polls


Cairo:  Dec 15, 2011, Islamists are poised to further consolidate their overwhelming lead in the second phase of Egyptian parliamentary polls, as millions headed to polling booths to decide the future of nine governorates, in the first landmark elections since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

Voting was relatively peaceful, with no major irregularities reported.

Egypt’s moderate Islamists — the Muslim Brotherhood — emerged as the largest force in the first round of elections with their Freedom and Justice Party winning 36 per cent of the popular vote. But the surprise showing came from the radical Salafist al Nour party that grabbed almost 25 per cent of the vote.

Islamists are set to consolidate their gains this week, with polling taking place in more rural and conservative areas, the BBC reported. But unlike the previous phase, almost all polling stations opened on time, according to the Supreme Judicial Committee for Elections.

State television did report, however, that that one polling station in Giza was closed for three hours after a shoot-out between rival candidates. No-one was killed, while seven people were detained by security forces.

Egyptians wait to vote in the second round of elections. AP

About 18 million Egyptians are eligible to vote in two days of polls and a run-off being held a week later.

“We will not rule Egypt alone. Parliament will include all the colours of the rainbow that must agree on one direction, one goal,” the Muslim Brotherhood’s General Guide, Mohammed Badie, said as he sought to reassure voters that the Islamic party wanted to form a broad coalition.

Islamist candidates are expected to build on their earlier gains, with the ultraconservative Salafist al-Nour Party forecast to do particularly well in the conservative areas, the BBC said. Al-Nour won 24.4 per cent in the first round’s party-list vote and five individual seats.

The Egyptian liberal parties managed roughly 30 per cent of the vote together. While the first round laid out a trend, the second round would decide how the future political landscape of Egypt would look like.

While the Brotherhood has tried hard to press itself as a moderate force that will not impose Islamic laws on Egypt, the radicals have made no bones of their hardline agenda.

The developments have left Egypt’s minority Christians and secular liberals worried over their future in the country.

Some are hoping the second round of polls might tilt the balance towards the liberal Egyptian bloc.

After a dismal showing in the first round, the Egypt bloc has coordinated with the “revolution continues”, a coalition of Leftist and revolutionaries parties. The coordination resulted in a unified list of independent candidates for all constituencies that poll today.

Several young activists associated with Egypt’s January 25 Revolution will feature on the coalition’s ticket, including Khaled Talima, Mohamed El-Kassas and Islam Lotfi.

The liberal electoral coalition includes the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the liberal Free Egyptians party and the leftist Tagammu Party and will compete for 30 per cent of the seats reserved for independent candidates in the second stage.

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US' relationship with Pak has been a difficult one: Clinton


WASHINGTON: Dec 15, 2011As ties between the two countries hit a new low, secretary of state Hillary Clinton said US' relationship with Pakistan has been a "difficult" one and the latter was gripped by a "weak economic leadership".

"It is a difficult relationship (with Pakistan). It has been for many, many years," Clinton told the PBS news hour at discussion on 'Innovation and the Global Marketplace: A Discussion on American Innovation, Trade, and the Next 10 Million Jobs'.

"You can go back and trace the difficulties that our country has encountered. We've gone through periods of closeness and periods of distance. Part of the reason we keep going back and working at it is because it's a very important relationship, and it's especially important with respect to our work in Afghanistan," she said.

"So it's not only the political choices that are made, it's the weak economic leadership that has gripped the country... it's a troubling set of economic conditions, as well as political ones, that we're trying to work with them on," Clinton said in response to a question.

The top American diplomat said because Pakistan is "so poor" and needs so much reform in their government and in the delivery of fundamental services that it is a "constant, vicious cycle if you can't have a decent tax base so that you can actually have schools for universal education, then you're going to have families desperate to get their sons educated, turning them over to madrasas inculcating them in extremism."

She said Pakistan will have to reform their agricultural sector, their energy sector and begin to wean their citizenry off subsidies in order to generate some kind of competitive economic environment.

"But the fact is that so few people pay taxes in Pakistan, and hardly anybody among the feudal landed elite and the rich pay taxes, so there's no base on which to build the kind of system of services that people would at least feel like, well, maybe it hasn't gotten to me yet, but my children's life will be better," Clinton said.


Militants kill two Lashkar men, khasadar goes missing in Bara

LANDIKOTAL: Dec 15, 2011, Two peace lashker volunteers killed in Bara and a khasadar is missing. Two pro-government militiamen have been killed and three others sustained bullets injuries in the fresh shootout between the militants and Khasadars along with peace lashker volunteers here in Shalober area of tehsil Bara, official and local sources said on Wednesday. The political administration official on the condition of anonymity said that at night hours fighting erupted between the militants and Khasadar force backed by peace lasker armed persons in Shalober area. Two volunteers of the peace lashker were killed while three wounded, who were shifted to health centers for medical aid, he added. He also confirmed missing of a Khasadar person in the clash. However, the local and other independent sources said that militants had kidnapped five Khasadar personnel and shifted to non-disclosed destination. The official sources also rejected the abduction of the five Khasadar personnel from Shalober area of Bara. Meanwhile a bomb blast has injured two elders of Koki Khel tribe in upper Tirrah valley at Wache wane area. staff report\12\15\story_15-12-2011_pg7_9


Pakistan and India need People-centric policies

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD - Dec 15, 2011, India and Pakistan will have to move from state-centric approaches for resolution of the Kashmir dispute to some people-centric approaches. This was observed by Dr Shaheen Akhtar, a senior research analyst, during a roundtable discussion held here at the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) on Wednesday. He was of the opinion that with the change in the regional and global realities, a military solution to Kashmir had become obsolete. He said this during a roundtable discussion at the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) on Wednesday, according to a press statement issued here. She said the economic and energy needs of India and Pakistan as well as the global redefinition of the concept of security in favour of human security had compelled the two countries to hold peace talks. She added that the pressures of increasing population and the need for economic and energy security had gradually pushed Pakistan towards normalisation of its relations with India. Dr. Akhtar said the Kashmiri leadership had also expressed its willingness towards accepting an alternative solution acceptable to India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiris, which, she said, was beyond their long-held position on right to self-determination.

She said India and Pakistan had come a long way from their stated positions on Kashmir like the “jugular vein” and “integral part” to “human security and development”. She hailed Pakistani leadership for showing the courage towards redefining Pakistani narrative on the Kashmir dispute after the resumption of the Composite Dialogue in 2004. Dr Akhtar regretted the fact that Pakistan’s bold initiatives on Kashmir during Musharraf era were not fully reciprocated in the same spirit by India. Foreign policy analyst, BA Malik, said Pakistan’s Kashmir policy was out of sync with its domestic realities, and that the decision-makers needed to have a serious rethink of its policy towards India in general and on Kashmir in particular. He suggested that Pakistan could compromise on a slow progress on the Kashmir dispute for the dividends that would ensure peace with India. He said that peace instead of Kashmir was the core issue for Pakistan.

Agreeing with Amb Malik, defence analyst, Lt Gen (retd) Saleem Haider, said India was an emerging economy in the world and that the way forward for Pakistan would be to benefit from the growth of India. Mr. John Hill, the deputy political counsellor at the US embassy, said that the US would welcome any proposals from Pakistan for a role it could play for the peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute. He cautioned, however, that in the past their role had also proved counter-productive “on some occasions”. Mr Pierre Mayaudon, the deputy head of the EU delegation in Islamabad, appreciated the progress towards normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan.


Pakistan blames Afghan refugees for Rabbani murder


ISLAMABAD — Dec 15, 2022,  Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar blamed Afghan refugees for the murder of the Kabul government's peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani, officials said Wednesday.

Rabbani's assassination in September by a turban bomber who purported to be a peace envoy for the Taliban derailed efforts to talk peace with the militants and postponed any hopes of a political settlement ending 10 years of war.

Afghan officials lashed out at Islamabad over the killing, saying it was planned in Pakistan and carried out by a Pakistani suicide bomber.

But Khar told the upper house of parliament late Tuesday that Afghan refugees living in Pakistan were responsible.

"We are not responsible if Afghan refugees crossed the border and entered Kabul, stayed in a guest house and attacked Professor Rabbani," officials quoted Khar as telling the Senate.

Pakistan is under huge international pressure to take action against militants based in Pakistan but who carry out attacks in Afghanistan.

A senior Pakistani official told AFP that the presence of Afghan refugees was "an important issue for Pakistan" and "a problem for Afghanistan".

"We don't want to forcibly expel them. We are trying to resolve this issue in a negotiated manner because more than 90 percent of terrorist attacks in Pakistan trace back to Afghan refugees."

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari agreed to cooperate with an investigation into Rabbani's murder in a bid to overcome tensions and recriminations.

Millions of Afghans who fled decades of war returned home after Karzai took power, but around 1.7 million still live in Pakistan.


Pakistan needs gender policy framework

Sana Jamal

Islamabad—An essential step to help improve lives of Pakistani women is to provide platform for inter-provincial and regional dialogue which may well pave the way for a national framework on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

This point of concern was raised by women activists dedicated to the cause of women empowerment who assembled here in Islamabad at the national consultation arranged by National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), with support from Aurat Foundation’s USAID supported Gender Equity Program (GEP) and UN Women. Participants believed that women’s participation in all sectors can be a real driver of change to achieve sustainable development in Pakistan.

Participants at the conference demanded the establishment of a federal accountability mechanism to implement Pakistan’s international commitments including Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) as it remains the sole responsibility of federal government under the Ministry of Human Rights.

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Panetta Says security gains a 'turning point' in Afghanistan War

By David S. Cloud and Laura King, Los Angeles Times

December 15, 2011

Reporting from Forward Operating Base Sharana and— Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Wednesday that security gains seen in parts of Afghanistan over the last year represented a "turning point" in the decade-old conflict.

"We're moving in the right direction and we're winning this very tough conflict in Afghanistan," he told troops of the U.S. Army's 172nd Infantry Brigade at Forward Operating Base Sharana, about 30 miles from the Afghan-Pakistani border.

U.S. officials generally have not explicitly claimed to be winning the conflict, mindful of insurgent attacks that continue to exact a heavy civilian toll, the stubborn resilience of the Taliban and other militant groups, Washington's deteriorating relations with Pakistan and the political woes of the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Instead, over the last year, American commanders have cited significant progress against the insurgency, but with the caveat that the gains are fragile and potentially reversible.

A year ago, former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates also asserted on a visit to Kabul, the Afghan capital, that the war was moving in the right direction. But some of the troops listening to Panetta on Wednesday still seemed unconvinced.

One soldier asked whether the Afghan government would collapse once U.S. forces withdrew. Others asked skeptical questions about Karzai, and whether Pakistan would ever crack down on militant groups that use its territory as a springboard for attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan.

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US targets Pakistan aid, Iran sanctions

Olivier Knox

December 15, 2011, AFP

The US House of Representatives has passed legislation to freeze some Pakistan aid, slap harsh new sanctions on Iran, and endorse indefinite imprisonment of suspected terrorists.

Acting shortly after the White House dropped a threat to veto the bill, the Republican-led chamber voted 283-136 to approve the $US662 billion ($A670.01 billion) Defence Authorisation bill, which also sets high hurdles for closing Guantanamo Bay.

The Democratic-held Senate was expected to vote on the same bill as early as Thursday.

The measure had drawn fire from civil liberties groups that denounced its de facto embrace of holding alleged extremists without charge until the end of the "war on terrorism" declared after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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BC opponents slam gov't ban on veils at citizenship ceremonies

By Tom Sandborn

December 14, 2011

A B.C.-based organization for members of the South Asian diaspora that promotes secularism and democracy has attacked a recent ruling by federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney.

On Monday, Dec. 12, Minister Kenney announced that Muslim women who wear veils that obscure their faces will be required to remove them when they take the oath of Canadian citizenship. Citing complaints from citizenship judges, Kenney defended his ruling.

"It is happening pretty much every week around the country," Kenney told CBC News in a TV interview. "My view is that this is a public act of testimony in front of your fellow citizens -- it's a legal requirement -- and it's ridiculous that you should be doing so with your face covered."

Retired SFU English instructor Chin Banerjee, a long time social justice and anti-racism activist in B.C., is one of the organizers of the South Asian Network of Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD).

"This ruling is a ham-handed act of oppression against Muslim women who either choose to or are forced to wear the veil," Banerjee told The Tyee. "If the veil is her choice, it should be respected. If it has been imposed on her by men within her community, the minister's ruling again victimizes a woman who has already been victimized."

The organization issued a stinging rebuke to the minister's ruling in a statement released on Dec. 14. It read, in part:

"This coercive demand to strip a particular Muslim woman of her identity in order to make her 'freely and openly' affirm 'our' identity as a community of 'openness' and 'cohesion' is outrageous in its self-contradiction and arrogance. We deplore this in the name of secularism, democracy, and human rights, the principles on the basis of which we, South Asians living in Canada, are organized in SANSAD."

Across Canada, voices within the Muslim community spoke out against the minister's decision.

Salam Elmenyawi, head of the Muslim Council of Montreal, told the Montreal Gazette that the ban is an attempt by the Conservative government to divide Canadian Muslims. He estimated that perhaps two dozen Muslim women in Quebec, and a few hundred across Canada, wear face coverings.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations told the CBC the group was floored by the announcement.

"I thought it was absurd from beginning to end," said Julia Williams, the human rights and civil liberties officer for CAIR-Can. She said Kenney's argument that Islam does not require women to wear the niqab defies their Charter rights.

"In Canada, we also have religious freedom which is enshrined in the Charter, and so long as she is not harming someone by her actions, she should be allowed to dress as she sees fit," Williams said.