Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing
Taliban Bomb Kills 35 in Revenge Attacks in Pakistan
By Lehaz Ali (AFP)
PESHAWAR, Pakistan January 10 2012 — A remote-controlled bomb blast killed 35 people and wounded more than 60 others on Tuesday in the deadliest attack in months in the Taliban-hit tribal region of northwest Pakistan.
The explosion took place in a market in Jamrud, one of the towns of the troubled Khyber tribal region, which also used to serve as the main supply route for NATO forces operating in Afghanistan.
"The total number of deaths in the blast is 35 while 69 people were wounded, and of them the condition of 11 is critical," a senior administration official, Shakeel Khan Umarzai, told AFP.
Another top official in Khyber, Mutahir Zeb, said the target of the attack was not immediately clear.
"According to initial information, it was a remote controlled device planted in a passenger pickup van," he said.
Pakistan's remote and lawless northwestern region is a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives and other Islamist militants opposed to the government.
Insurgents largely based in the tribal border lands have carried out bomb and gun attacks killing more than 4,700 people across Pakistan since July 2007.
But the market attack was the first major Islamist militant attack in Pakistan since a suicide bomber killed 46 people, targeting anti-Taliban militia at a funeral in the northwestern district of Lower Dir on September 15.
Pakistan has battled a homegrown insurgency for years, with more than 3,000 soldiers killed in the battle against militancy.
On Monday Pakistani authorities recovered the bodies of 10 soldiers in an exchange of bodies with Taliban militants following a clash two weeks ago in the tribal belt.
An official with the military's media wing said the soldiers had been missing in Orakzai district since December 21 when rebels attacked a checkpost and killed 13 others.
That exchange came four days after the corpses of 15 members of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Constabulary were found in the northwestern town of Shawa, in North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border, almost two weeks after they were kidnapped.
There were about 120 bomb attacks in Pakistan in 2011 and the same number in 2010 according to an AFP tally -- an increase from 2009, but far below the violence of 2009 when there were more than 200 bomb blasts.
The latest attack comes as the northwest border crossing for NATO supplies remains closed to trucks bound for foreign troops fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan following a crash in US-Pakistan relations in the wake of deadly NATO airstrikes on November 26 that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Pakistan rejected the results of the military coalition's investigation into the incident and said the strikes had been a deliberate act of aggression, leaving relations floundering between the uneasy anti-terror allies.
Islam was never in danger in the Maldives
By Minivan News January 8th, 2012
Islam was never in danger in Maldives, but what should alarm the people was the way the opposition political parties used this occasion not only to politicise the whole issue but also to whip up frenzy to accuse the Government of trying to wipe out the “Islamic faith of the people” by subterfuge, writes S Chandrasekharan for the Eurasia Review.
But what we saw in Maldives on the 23rd was that the Government need not look beyond Maldivian shores for “extremist preaching” and that they have sufficient otherwise sensible people to whip up religious frenzy to further their own political objectives. As I had said before time and again that the politicians are trying to use religion as a political tool and that it would have disastrous consequences. My paper 4459 of 1st May 2011 and the earlier one 3894 dated 27 June 2010 may be referred to.
There were media reports to indicate that the rally was financed by Pakistan and it could as well be by Saudis too as many of the NGOs do get their money from abroad.
It is regrettable that one person who should have stopped this unfortunate development, instead took a leading role in getting the rally organised and getting his statement read out in the rally as the “star event.”
This was the former president Gayoom – he said in the statement that was read out -”Maldivians are not forced to be Muslims but they chose to believe in Islam and allowing a religion other than Islam in Maldives will create division among the society. Maldivians should have the right to defend the religion of Islam. I call upon the government to stop its efforts to weaken the Islamic faith.” No one least of all the government was trying to introduce any other religion!
Is it not an irony that a person who claims to have brought in democracy in Maldives should go to such low levels to whip up frenzy only in the hope of getting elected once again as President in 2013?
In this he was joined by Dr Hassan Saeed, the former Attorney General who had felt the taste of extremism in Maldives when his book on Apostasy was banned in Maldives.
Look at the irony of the presence of Gasim Ibrahim the multimillionaire and head of Jumhorree party, who is making profits by sale of alcohol and resort “spas” that are alleged in the media to have shady activities? Even the Minister for Islamic Affairs Mohammed Abdul Majeed Bari is said to have stakes in the resort business!
Egypt’s Women Find Power Still Hinges on Men
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
CAIRO, January 9, 2012 — At first Samira Ibrahim was afraid to tell her father that Egyptian soldiers had detained her in Tahrir Square in Cairo, stripped off her clothes, and watched as she was forcibly subjected to a “virginity test.”
But when her father, a religious conservative, saw electric prod marks on her body, they revived memories of his own detention and torture under President Hosni Mubarak’s government. “History is repeating itself,” he told her, and together they vowed to file a court case against the military rulers, to claim “my rights,” as Ms. Ibrahim later recalled.
That case has proved successful so far. For the first time last month, an administrative court challenged the authority of the military council and banned such “tests.” Ms. Ibrahim will ask a military court on Sunday to hold the officers accountable.
But nearly a year after Mr. Mubarak’s ouster, Ms. Ibrahim’s story in many ways illustrates the paradoxical position of women in the new Egypt. Emboldened by the revolution to claim a new voice in public life, many are finding that they are still dependent on the protection of men, and that their greatest power is not as direct actors but as symbols of the military government’s repression. It is not a place where Egyptian feminists had hoped women would be, back in the heady days of the revolution, when they played an active role, side by side with men, to bring down a dictator.
Changing the patriarchal culture is not so easy,” said Mozn Hassan, 32, executive director of the seven-year-old group Nazra for Feminist Studies.
Female demonstrators have suffered sexual assaults at the hands of Egyptian soldiers protected by military courts. Human rights groups say they have documented the cases of at least 100 women who were sexually assaulted by soldiers or the security police during the time of military rule — including Ms. Ibrahim’s experience in March and the anonymous woman recorded on video last month as she was beaten and stripped, exposing a blue bra, by soldiers clearing Tahrir Square after fresh protests. The vast majority of cases have come during the three-month crackdown on demonstrations that has taken more than 80 lives since the beginning of October.
Even when women have pushed back, as they did late last month in a historic march by thousands through downtown Cairo — many carrying pictures of the “blue bra girl” — they have done so only with the protection of men. Men encircled the marchers and at times those male guardians seemed to direct the crowd or lead its chants; many chants led by women called for more “gallantry” from Egyptian men.
Famous mainly as silent victims, women like the “blue bra girl” risk becoming mascots of the male-dominated uprising, said Ms. Hassan, one of several Egyptian feminists who said they were thrilled by the size of the march — but winced at its dependence on men.
“If you are calling for men to protect you, that is bad, because then they define you and they stick to the traditional roles,” Ms. Hassan said. (Even among feminist groups, there were few all-women organizations in Egypt, and of the 13 founders of Ms. Hassan’s organization, 6 were men.)
At the same time, the revolution has opened the door for the ascendance of conservative Islamist parties, including religious extremists who want to roll back some of the rights women do have. The mainstream Muslim Brotherhood is poised to win nearly half of the seats in Parliament, when voting is completed this week, while the more extreme Salafis are on track to win more than 20 percent.
While Brotherhood leaders talk of encouraging traditional roles but respecting women’s career choices, many Salafis oppose allowing women to play leadership roles and favor regulating issues like women’s dress to impose Islamic standards of modesty. “We have major concerns because what they are proposing is very oppressive,” said Ghada Shabandar, a veteran human rights activist.
Even now, however, women have almost no leadership roles in the various activists groups that formed out of the original protests that ousted Mr. Mubarak and so far women have fewer than 10 of the roughly 500 seats in Parliament. The electoral debates have featured scant mention of women’s issues — from the pervasiveness of genital cutting to legally sanctioned employment discrimination, despite official statistics showing that a third of Egyptian households depend on female earners.
“We have no feminist movement now,” said Hala Mustafa, editor of Democracy, a state-run journal.
Feminists say that for decades Egyptian security forces have kidnapped or sexually abused women as a way to pressure the men in their families. In a celebrated case from 2005, a journalist, Nawal Ali, sought to press charges against the government-aligned thugs who had beaten and stripped her in an attack. It is not all bleak, though. Some argue that the revolution is helping to revitalize the dormant women’s movement, if only by opening up politics so Ms. Ibrahim could have her day in court or thousands could march for the woman stripped to her bra.
“That is the difference the Egyptian revolution has made,” Ms. Shabandar said. “The wall of fear is gone, and now when we march for the ‘blue bra girl,’ we march for Nawal Ali.”
A few younger feminists, though, say that philosophy keeps women in the back seat. “That is the same thing women were told after the revolution,” said Masa Amir, 24, recalling when the military council picked an all-male panel of jurists to draft a temporary constitution. But the result was a document implying that the president could only be a man — perhaps because no one at the table raised the issue.
But the stigma attached to victims of sexual abuse continues to force many to remain silent.
Six other women were subjected to “virginity tests” by the soldiers that night in March when Ms. Ibrahim was assaulted. The humiliation was so great, Ms. Ibrahim said, that she initially hoped to die. “I kept telling myself, ‘People get heart attacks, why don’t I get a heart attack and just die like them?’ ”
Her mother’s advice was to keep silent, if she ever hoped to marry, or even lead a dignified life in their village in rural Upper Egypt, Ms. Ibrahim said in an interview.
When she did speak out, Egyptian new media shunned her, she said, and only the international news media would cover her story. She received telephone calls at all hours threatening rape or death. But with the support of her father — an Islamist activist who was detained and tortured two decades ago — she persevered, and next week will go back to military court in an attempt to hold the perpetrators accountable as well.
When she saw the video of the “blue bra girl” being beaten, it redoubled her resolve. “I felt I had to avenge her,” she said.
Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.
Libya quiet as Gaddafi deadline looms
By Mary Ann Jolley,
January 10, 2012, An International Criminal Court deadline looms for the new regime in Libya to announce how it plans to deal with prized captive Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.
The court says it has received no information about the health or status of Saif al-Islam, despite its request to Libyan authorities.
Moamar Gaddafi's most prominent son was captured in southern Libya in November and is being held in a town in the western mountains of the country.
The ICC has requested access to Saif al-Islam as it wants to know about his physical and mental health and crucially whether his jailers intend to hand him over to the Hague. So far the court says its received no official answer.
If the information is not forthcoming by the end of Tuesday, the ICC could refer Libya to the UN Security Council.
Under the UN Security Council resolution that brought the ICC into Libya, the ruling National Transition Council (NTC) is obliged to hand Saif al-Islam over to the ICC unless it can convince the ICC judges he will get a fair trial inside the country.
Moamar Gaddafi's presumed successor is being held by a local militia in Zintan, south-west of Tripoli.
During a recent and rare visit, Saif al-Islam told a representative of Human Rights Watch, New York-based Libya expert Fred Abrahams, that he was being treated well but that he has had no access to a lawyer or seen the charges levelled against him by Libya's new rulers.
"His physical conditions were quite good. He had no complaints about physical abuse, maltreatment or torture," Mr Abrahams said.
"He was getting enough food he said and he was seeing a doctor, that included an operation on his injured right hand.
"He said his hand had been injured in a NATO attack on his convoy that killed 26 members of his entourage.
"His main complaint was about access to a lawyer because he's facing very serious charges."
Mr Abrahams says Libya has huge challenges ahead of it.
"This is a country for four decades that had politicised core; the judiciary, as a system - it's weak, is not used to functioning independently and just on a very practical level will Saif al-Islam be able to hire a lawyer? Because a person representing him could be under a lot of intimidation and threats," he said.
"Those are big questions. They have to prove to the ICC judges that they really can do it and will do it."
Libya's ambassador to Washington, Ali Aujali, says his country can do it and Saif al-Islam will be treated justly.
"We'll show that he will be granted all that he does need by law," he said, adding the government must show it is different to Moamar Gaddafi's regime.
A hated man
But Mr Aujali does acknowledge there is widespread hatred of Saif al-Islam.
"If you ask anybody in Libya I think they will tell you simply that he's a criminal. He criminalised himself. He's terrorised the Libyans," he said.
However, he says ensuring a fair trial after this history will not be difficult.
"Why should it be difficult? We'll prove that Gaddafi, he's innocent or guilty," Mr Aujali said.
The visit to Libya in the last few days by Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir is seen by many in the international community as a snub to the ICC.
Bashir is wanted by the ICC for war crimes and genocide.
Human Rights Watch's Fred Abrahams says it does not bode well for how Libya is going to deal with the case of Saif al-Islam.
Mr Aujali says the Sudanese president's visit has nothing to do with Libya's attitude to the ICC.
"This bilateral relation at the present time, I think this is very important for the security of Libya," he said.
"It doesn't mean that we have violated any principles."
Norway killer permitted to receive visitors from Tuesday
By Richard Orange,
Malmo, 09 Jan 2012, The decision will open the way for Mr Breivik to give his first interviews with the media since he killed 77 people last July, and potentially to receive visits from those sharing his extreme anti-Islamic ideology.
Odd Gron, a lawyer at Lippestad, the firm representing Mr Breivik, said his client had received several letters from supporters requesting a visit.
"There have been requests from fans," he confirmed. "There are letters from people giving him support, there are people who want to tell him that they don't want to give him support, and also letters from journalists requesting arrangements."
Breivik, 32, has confessed to setting off a bomb that ripped through Oslo's government district on July 22, killing eight people, then opening fire at the summer camp of the governing Labour Party's youth wing, killing another sixty-nine.
But in a manifesto he released on the day of the attack, he argued that the killings were "atrocious" but "necessary" to alert white Norwegians to the threat of a creeping takeover by Islam.
Mr Gron said that the requested meetings will only go ahead if and when Breivik makes an application to the authorities at Ila prison, where he is being held in detention in the run-up to his trial in April.
"We have forwarded these requests to Mr Breivik, and so far he has not made any conclusion on any of them," he said. "He has not yet decided if he wants to take visits, who he wants to take visits from, and when."
The ban on visits expires on January 9 under the terms of the extension to Breivik's time in custody until February 6, which was decided by the Oslo court back in November. A similar ban on Breivik receiving letters and newspapers expired on 12 December.
The prison authorities still have the right to refuse Breivik a visit for safety reasons. The prison's four psychiatrists stoked controversy last week when it was revealed that they had seen no evidence that Breivik was psychotic, contradicting the conclusion of the official assessment requested by the Olso court.
Pakistan, Teaching Intolerance And Violence
January 09, 2012, The U.S. may have no more difficult relationship than the one it has with Pakistan. This supposed ally plays a double game in Afghanistan, mixes an unstable political system and weak civilian government with nuclear weapons, and acts as an incubator for religious intolerance. Obviously, Islamabad has its own, sometimes well-founded complaints against America. But there may be no more dangerous nation today than Pakistan.
An important cause of conflict in that divided society is the educational system. All too often, both public schools and private madrassas promote intolerance and extremism. These attitudes have encouraged increasing violence which threatens to consume the entire country with deadly effect.
In November the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom published a report written by Ashar Hussain (International Center for Religion and Diplomacy), Ahmad Salim (Sustainable Development Policy Institute), and Arif Naveed (also SDPI).
Pakistan’s birth was bloody, featuring violent conflict between and mass movement of Hindus and Muslims within the areas which became India and Pakistan. Although Pakistan’s Islamic character was clear, founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah declared: “Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion or faith of any kind will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship.”
Pakistan would be a much better place if these sentiments continued to reflect that nation’s reality. However, much has changed over the last six decades. For instance, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq promoted Muslim fundamentalism to win public support for his military rule. Rising Islamic currents around the world created greater receptivity to extremism. Most recently, American military operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan generated widespread antagonism.
These factors alone would have created a tough environment in which to protect the human life and dignity of religious, ethnic, and political minorities. However, the education system for a growing youth population has created an equally serious barrier. As the Commission observed: “education plays a critical role in the fabric of Pakistani life, with the potential of bringing the society together or tearing it apart.” Today, unfortunately, education, so-called, is far too often doing the latter.
For years schooling in Pakistan was largely secular, but the public system failed to educate most students. Gen. Zia increased the money going to education, but simultaneously “infused the education system with rigid Islamic content,” explained the USCIRF. Before dying in a suspicious plane crash in 1988, the dictatorial Zia changed curriculum and textbooks for the worse.
His government stated that “The highest priority would be given to the revision of the curricula with a view to reorganizing the entire content around Islamic thought and giving education an ideological orientation so that Islamic ideology permeates the thinking of the young generation.” The problem was not that the system emphasized Islam, but instead promoted intolerant fundamentalism. Dr. Nasim Ashraf of the Middle East Institute said the Zia years were “the turning point for Pakistan’s educational system,” creating “the bedrock on which militant extremism was founded.”
The most obvious impact is that many religious minorities suffer through an education which directly attacks their faith. Noted the Commission, minority students “are forced to study from textbooks and curricula that are biased against them and routinely face discrimination and intimidation from Muslim students and teachers.” So much for Article 22 of the 1973 Pakistani constitution, which states that “No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.”
Even worse, though, warned the Commission, the educational system “presents a challenge to the full implementation of protections for religious minorities, and in some cases has even been linked to physical violence against them.” And not just against non-Muslims. In effect, the Pakistani government now is training those who are determined to kill even Muslims to get their way. Last year Islamic extremists murdered a liberal Muslim governor as well as a Christian government minister. The killers came from the generation which studied under the Zia educational “reforms.”
Egypt businessman Naguib Sawiris faces blasphemy trial
9 January 2012
One of Egypt's richest men is to face trial for blasphemy after tweeting cartoons of Mickey and Minnie Mouse wearing conservative Muslim attire.
Telecoms mogul and Coptic Christian Naguib Sawiris re-posted the images on Twitter last June. He subsequently apologised, saying he meant no offence.
But a formal complaint against him has now been referred to court.
Tensions between Egypt's Muslims and minority Christian community have worsened in recent months.
"It's a decision showing that there is justice in Egypt," Mamduh Ismail, one of a group of lawyers who filed a legal complaint against Mr Sawiris, told Reuters.
The tweeted images showed Mickey Mouse wearing a traditional Islamic robe with a full beard, while Minnie Mouse is wearing a niqab - a full-face veil - with just her eyes showing.
She was identifiable by her large ears and trademark pink hair ribbon.
After an angry reaction from people who said they were offended, he later tweeted: "I apologise for those who don't take this as a joke, I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry."
But tens of thousands of people joined groups on Facebook and other social media condemning him.
Conservative Muslim groups also called for boycotts of Mr Sawiris's companies, including mobile phone provider Mobinil.
Mr Sawiris, whose father is the richest man in Egypt, is a champion of secularism and has spoken out against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country, including the increasing number of women wearing full-face veils.
The Salafists' election wins have surprised many Egyptians
After the anti-government protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power last February, he founded a liberal political party, the Free Egyptians.
The party struggled to make gains in recent elections for the lower house of parliament, which were mainly a contest between the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist al-Nour party.
Salafists are Muslims who take their inspiration from the early generations of Muslims who were close to the Prophet Muhammad and his message.
The Free Egytians Party has announced in a statement that it will be boycotting upcoming elections for the upper house of parliament because violations in polls for the lower house had not been properly dealt with.
Many Egyptian Christians and liberals have been worried by the growing influence of conservative Islam in the country, in particular the strong showing of al-Nour in the elections.
A string of anti-Christian attacks after the overthrow of President Mubarak also led some Christians to accuse the governing military council of being too lenient on the perpetrators.
In October, 24 protesters - most of them Christians - were killed by security forces during protests in central Cairo over the issue.
US Muslim to march in protest of growing Islamophobia
SEATTLE (Washington, USA),JANUARY 9, 2012(IINA)-Hundreds of Washington State Muslims are planning to march together to the Capitol Building, meet state lawmakers in their offices and urge their legislators to speak out against Islamophobic rhetoric and hate crimes.
“This event will provide an opportunity for Muslims from the majority of our state’s legislative districts to learn more about the political process and to meet their elected representatives,” said CAIR-WA Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari.
“Legislators should take action during this crucial year to allocate funds to preserve critical services for the most vulnerable in our society.”
At the march, planned as part of the annual event, “Washington State Muslims Day at the Capitol,” some 400 Washington state Muslims are scheduled to meet with dozens of their elected representatives.
Organized by the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the event, to be held January 16, is one of the largest of its kind in the nation.
It is designed to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his defense of civil rights through positive civic engagement.
Muslim voters attending the event will represent 33 of the 49 state legislative districts.
Participants will urge legislators to take action on other issues, including preserving critical public programs and having a balanced approach to the state budget.
They will present legislators and their staff with a copy of the English translation of the Quran, Islam’s holy text.
US Muslims, estimated at between six to eight million, have been sensing a growing hostility following a hearing presented by Republican representative Peter King on what he described as “radicalization” of US Muslims.
Recently, a Republican Missouri lawmaker described Islam as a disease like polio while another Alaska Rep. branded Muslims as ‘occupiers’ of American neighborhoods.
Lawmakers in at least 15 states have introduced proposals forbidding local judges from considering Sharia when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.
Marching to the Capitol, Muslims will provide information about recent anti-Muslim incidents, urging their legislators to speak out against Islamophobic rhetoric and hate crimes.
“We have witnessed 10 anti-Muslim hate crimes in the Northwest in just the past year, which should be serious cause for concern and corrective action,” Bukhari stated.
“Muslim constituents will work to make lawmakers aware of the growing problem of Islamophobia and of the veiled and camouflaged manner in which it is being promoted.”
He added the increase in Islamophobic rhetoric and an accompanying spike in bias incidents is another issue of great concern to the state’s Muslim community.
“It is imperative that local and national leaders speak out and condemn the growing level of anti-Muslim prejudice and work with their Muslim constituents and their allies to oppose this promotion of bigotry against minorities, whatever the source.”
A recent report by CAIR, the University of California and Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.
Indonesia: Celebrated for Pluralism, but Marred by Rights Abuses
Calvin Michel Sidjaja
January 10, 2012: 2011 was not a good year for human rights in Indonesia. Starting with the persecution faced by the Ahmadiyah sect and continuing with the closure of the GKI Yasmin church in Bogor, the ongoing Papuan crisis and, at the end of the year, news of the Mesuji massacre, the year seemed perfectly designed to give way to a 2012 in which a child was charged for stealing a pair of a policeman’s sandals.
The wave of human right violations has caused no little public insecurity. Most of the cases have in common the fact that the victims are mostly from defenseless minorities.
The ignorant crimes of religious violence have been worsened by the fact that the Religious Affairs Ministry has been traditionally slanted to favor Muslims. The Religious Affairs Minister openly stated his preference for disbanding Ahmadiyah in August 2010. While the statement was made two years ago, it is a reminder that Indonesian public officials are capable of making irresponsible comments that are not subject to consequences of any sort.
The pluralism that has been long heralded by the government and praised by other countries is questionable. The absence of conflict does not mean our nation is peaceful; it is, in fact, a negative peace. Conflict is still likely in this nation of ours where oppression still continues.
Religious discrimination will exist due to systematic discrimination in Indonesian citizenship administration. It is still compulsory for all Indonesians to specify, in matters of citizenship, their adherence to one of six officially recognized religions. This creates problems as the religions of the world are not limited to these six. There are many world religions and faith systems such as Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Paganism and countless indigenous religions that remain unrecognized by the government. Atheism and agnosticism are not allowed, either. To be irreligious or secularist is to be an infidel.
The Baduy tribe in Banten province has long advocated recognition of the local faith, the Sunda Wiwitan. Its struggle has not yet realized a happy ending. The faith, still not recognized, is a reminder of systematic discrimination.
Legally, Indonesians can leave their religion blank in their identity card, or KTP, as stipulated in a 2006 regulation stating that citizens whose religion was not yet officially recognized could leave their KTP blank but still be serviced and documented in the civil database.
Full Report at:
Nigerian president admits Islamists have secret backers in government
Monica Mark in Lagos
guardian.co.uk, 9 January 2012, The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, has confirmed for the first time that the Islamist group Boko Haram has secret backers among government and security officials.
Jonathan said Boko Haram presents Nigeria's greatest security challenge since the 1967 Biafra civil war, when a three-year campaign by the Igbo people to secede from the country's 150 other tribes left a million dead.
The organisation, whose name means "non-Islamic education is sacrilege", is fighting to impose a strict interpretation of sharia law across Africa's most populous country. A simmering low-level insurgency erupted on Christmas Day with four co-ordinated attacks that killed at least 30 people as they poured out of church services. Since then, a spree of violence at churches has claimed dozens of lives, prompting a state of emergency in the group's northern homebase states and threatening to ignite a sectarian conflict in a country split evenly between Muslims and Christians.
"During the civil war we knew and we could even predict where the enemy was coming from. But the challenge we have today is more complicated," Jonathan said.
Now, Boko Haram backers and sympathisers are "in the executive arm of the government; some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of the government, while some are even in the legislative arm. Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies," he said at a three-day literary service attended by authors Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka.
Achebe and Soyinka, both giants of the Nigerian literary scene, urged the population to refrain from retaliatory attacks amid reports of Christians fleeing the north, where Muslims are a majority, and vice-versa.
But less than a day later, they took to the streets along with tens of thousands of ordinary citizens to protest at the end to fuel subsidies in the oil-rich state – highlighting the other key challenge faced by state officials.
As a labour union strike and huge protests paralysed much of the country, analysts said Jonathan's admission was worrying given the size of the security budget, which this year was $5.7bn.
"The security angle explains why the group are often one step ahead of the government. It is also one of the reasons why members of the group have been floating around freely. The population are afraid to step forward as they think their security can't be guaranteed by security officials," said Shehu Sani, who heads the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria and maintains close contact with the group.
In December, the US Congress said the group had morphed from homegrown criminals into terrorists capable of forging international links. Members of the group claim to have travelled to Somalia to share techniques and funding with al-Shabaab militants.
Tunisia's Islamist Party Slams Anti-Semitic Chants
By BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA and PAUL SCHEMM Associated Press
TUNIS, Tunisia January 9, 2012, The head of Tunisia's moderate Islamic party condemned anti-Semitic slogans chanted Monday by a handful of ultraconservative Muslims during the arrival of a top Hamas official that have alarmed the local Jewish community.
It was the latest action by a small group of ultraconservative Muslims over the past few months to have embarrassed the government in what was once one of the more secular countries in the Arab world.
Rachid Ghannouchi reiterated the policy of his Ennahda party, which heads the country's new government, that Tunisia's Jews are "full citizens with equal rights and duties."
"Ennahda condemns these slogans which do not represent Islam's spirit or teachings, and considers those who raised them as a marginal group," Ghannouchi said in a statement.
Videos circulated online showed crowd members greeting Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Gaza government, at the airport in Tunis on Thursday chanting "Kill the Jews" and "Crush the Jews." The chants came from Salafists, ultraconservative Muslims who have been making their presence felt in Tunisia recently.
"It is worse then bad, it is catastrophic for Tunisia — particularly in regard to the repercussions that these attitudes provoke abroad," Roger Bismuth, president of Tunisia's Jewish community, told The Associated Press.
He said he was received late Monday by Ghannouchi and Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who promised to resolve the situation — possibly with an address to the nation.
Perez Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community on the island of Djerba where most live, described the slogans as "unreasonable" and said the government "could not let it pass."
After decades of being oppressed by Tunisia's secular dictators, Ennahda won elections and has been at pains to demonstrate its moderate credentials and belief in universal rights and freedoms for all Tunisians.
They have been repeatedly embarrassed by ultraconservative Islamic groups that have emerged since hard-line President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted from power last year in an uprising in Tunisia that led to revolts around the Arab world.
The groups have attacked university campuses and staged sit-ins over female students not being allowed to attend classes in the conservative face veils and have demonstrated over a variety of moral issues in cities.
Ennahda was at first slow to condemn their actions, earning the criticism of leftist and liberal groups which already regard the Islamist party with suspicion.
"I think if Ennahda doesn't come up with some way of being unequivocal in its rejection of some of these ideas and tactics it really does risk damaging its credibility with some of its coalition partners, progressive voters and international donors," said Chris Alexander, an expert on Tunisia from North Carolina's Davidson College, noting the danger of the party's slow response up until now.
"I think a lot of people will see that hesitancy as a mark of their true intentions."
At a rally in a sports complex for Haniyeh on Sunday, supporters of the banned ultraconservative Hizb al-Tahrir party called for death to Israel, but did not repeat their anti-Jewish slogans.
American Muslims Cooperation With Law Enforcement
By Sheila Musaji
Jan 9, 2012 , During Rep. Peter King’s hearings, one of the false memes about American Muslims that was consistently raised in the Islamophobic press was that Muslims have failed to come forward and tell law enforcement about criminal plans, and that in fact American Muslims are uncooperative with law enforcement.
I wrote an article Answers to Peter King’s Claims About the American Muslim Community which discussed this false claim as well as many others. Here is what I said at that time:
Actually many individuals who have been arrested for terrorist plots and activities were turned in by members of the Muslim community. These include: Craig Monteilh, Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, Times Square bomber, the Oregon jihadist, Lackawanna six, Paintball 11 in VA, Matin Siraj plot in NY , Daniel Boyd in NC, 5 Muslim men who went to Pakistan from VA, Farooque Ahmed subway plotter. Muslims have also helped by infiltrating al Qaeda. There are many American Muslims promoting non-violent solutions including people like John Muhammed Butt working with Taliban.
Los Angeles County sheriff Lee Baca said that there is nothing to support King’s view that American Muslims are being uncooperative with law enforcement. “If he has evidence of non-cooperation, he should bring it forward.”
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, stated before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee: “And every opportunity I have, I re-affirm the fact that 99.9 percent of Muslim-Americans or Sikh-Americans, Arab-Americans are every bit as patriotic as anybody else in this room, and that many of our cases are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.”
Attorney General Eric Holder said “The Muslim community…have contributed significantly to the resolution of many things that we have resolved over the course last 12 to 18 months….Tips that we have received, information that has been shared has been critical to our efforts to disrupt plots that otherwise might have occurred.” He also said: “Members of the American Muslim community have been—and continue to be—strong partners in fighting this emerging threat [of
terrorism]. They have regularly denounced terrorist acts and those who carry them out. And they have provided critical assistance to law enforcement in helping to disrupt terrorist plots and combat radicalization.”
Perhaps Rep. King is unaware of the FBI award given to Imam Yahya Hendi for community leadership, and perhaps he questions the State Dept. sending Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on a speaking tour to improve relations between the U.S. and Muslim countries? Many Muslim Imams, leaders and organizations have received awards and acknowledgements.
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Worsening law and order in Balochistan
ISLAMABAD: January 10, 2012 Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, expressing concern over the worsening law and order situation in Balochistan, on Monday observed that the number of missing persons in the province was increasing day by day.
The chief justice also hinted at hearing the Balochistan target killing matter in the Quetta Registry of the Supreme Court. He said that uncertainty prevailed in the province as bullet-riddled bodies were found every day. The chief justice observed that the personnel of the law enforcement agencies were also being targeted in such incidents.
Justice Khilji Arif Hussain said that if the authorities had closed their eyes over the situation, then the court would be compelled to interfere in the matter.
Iran Imposes Death Sentence on U.S. Man Accused of Spying
By RICK GLADSTONE and HARVEY MORRIS
January 10, 2012, Iran’s judiciary on Monday sentenced to death an imprisoned American convicted of espionage for the Central Intelligence Agency. The punishment shocked his family and was imposed against a backdrop of increasingly bellicose relations with the United States over the disputed Iranian nuclear program.
The sentence against the American, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, 28, a former Marine, was likely to become a new point of contention, and possible bargaining leverage, in Iran’s struggle against the West over its nuclear program. A tightening vise of sanctions, which threaten vital oil sales and with them the nation’s economy, has left Tehran feeling besieged and pushed relations with the United States and its allies to the lowest ebb since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In retaliation, Tehran announced on Sunday that it had begun to enrich uranium at a second site, after having threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to shipping, a measure that would severely curtail oil shipments.
Western pressure on Tehran over the program seemed to deepen on Tuesday when European Union foreign ministers said they would bring forward a meeting to decide on an oil embargo, news reports said. A statement said the gathering would now be held on Jan. 23 — a week earlier than initially scheduled on the same day as a summit meeting of European Union leaders on Jan. 30.
The details of the case against Mr. Hekmati have been cloaked in secrecy since he was detained in August in Iran, to which his family said he had traveled to visit his grandparents. Official confirmation that he was even in Iranian custody was not provided until last month. The White House and the State Department, noting that Iranian prosecutors have a history of coercing confessions, denied that Mr. Hekmati was a spy and called for his immediate release. The C.I.A. declined to comment.
Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said, “We strongly condemn such a verdict and will work with our partners to convey our condemnation to the Iranian government.”
Iran has a record of arresting and convicting Americans suspected of spying, then freeing them later after bail money has been paid. But rights activists said Mr. Hekmati’s case was the first in the nearly 33-year history of estranged relations with the United States in which Iran’s Islamic authorities had ordered the execution of an American citizen.
“This whole case is very politically motivated,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, an advocacy group based in New York that has been monitoring Mr. Hekmati’s case. “There’s absolutely no evidence against him.”
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Guantanamo Closure Hopes Fade as Prison Turns 10
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)January 10, 2012, — Suleiman al-Nahdi waits with dozens of other prisoners in a seemingly permanent state of limbo five years after he was cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay.
"I wonder if the U.S. government wants to keep us here forever," the 37-year-old al-Nahdi wrote in a recent letter to his lawyers.
Open for 10 years on Wednesday, the prison seems more established than ever. The deadline set by President Barack Obama to close Guantanamo came and went two years ago. No detainee has left in a year because of restrictions on transfers, and indefinite military detention is now enshrined in U.S. law.
The 10th anniversary will be the subject of demonstrations in London and Washington. Prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba plan to mark the day with sit-ins, banners and a refusal of meals, said Ramzi Kassem, a lawyer who represents seven inmates.
"They would like to send a message that the prisoners of Guantanamo still reject the injustice of their imprisonment," said Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York.
Human rights groups and lawyers for prisoners are dismayed that Obama not only failed to overcome resistance in Congress and close the prison, but that his administration has resumed military tribunals at the base and continues to hold men like al-Nahdi who have been cleared for release.
Critics are also angry over the president's Dec. 31 signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a provision allowing indefinite military detention without trial.
"Now, we have Guantanamo forever signed into law," said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch. "Instead of pushing forward with the agenda of closure, he has accepted the idea of indefinite detention for the duration of some undefined hostilities."
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that Obama still wants to close Guantanamo because "it's the right thing to do for our national security interest," a view that he says is shared by senior members of the military. He noted President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, while running for president in 2008, also supported closing the prison.
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Attacks targeted Shias, kill 11 in Iraq, 15 Afghan pilgrims wounded
BAGHDAD: January 10, 2011, Attacks across Iraq on Monday, many of which targeted Shias, killed 11 people and wounded dozens, including 15 Afghans visiting the country for religious commemorations, officials said. The violence, included bombings in and around Baghdad against Shia worshippers walking to the shrine city of Karbala, 110 kilometres south of the capital, for Arbaeen rituals later this week. In the deadliest attack, a car bomb blast killed four people and wounded at least 25 near Husseiniyah Shia mosque in Muasalat, southwest Baghdad, at about 6:30pm, said officials from the ministries of interior and defence. About half an hour later, another car bomb explosion killed one person and wounded at least five others in Shaab, a Shia neighbourhood in the east of the capital, the officials said on condition of anonymity. And on the outskirts of the central city of Hilla, a car bomb wounded 15 Afghan pilgrims, three of them seriously, police and medics said. As part of the ceremonies, Shia pilgrims walk to Karbala from across Iraq. Devotees also descend on the city from around the world. afp
Afghanistan: Two Policemen killed in Sharan firefight
10 January 2012
Two policemen were killed when insurgents stormed a government building in south-eastern Afghanistan, officials say.
Three assailants are also said to died in the assault on the government building in Sharan, the capital of Paktika province.
The clash is said to be continuing.
"Our forces are trying to move slowly because there are civilian employees inside," said Mokhlis Afghan, a spokesman for the Paktika governor.
He said the assault on the directorate of communications in Sharan had been carried out by four men he described as "suicide attackers", and that one of the attackers was still alive and still exchanging fire with police.
Two police officers have died, police and interior ministry officials said.
A senior security official in Sharan told the BBC that the attackers "wanted to take over the building and use it as a launching pad to attack other government buildings.
"They came with enough ammunition to fight for hours."
Provincial Governor Muhibullah Samim told AFP news agency that the building the attackers wanted to target was an intelligence office close by.
Haji Baazjan, a local tribal elder who witnessed the attack told the BBC: "I was about to enter the building when attackers opened fire on the guards.
"Everyone, including myself, started running. As both sides exchanged fire, I heard an explosion and in a matter of seconds, there was heavy fighting."
Terrorists blow up NATO oil tanker
LANDI KOTAL:January 10, 2012, Terrorists blew up a NATO oil supplying tanker at village Mian Khel on Shalman Road in Khyber Agency on Monday, the official sources said. The Afghanistan-bound oil tanker was parked at Mian Khel village when the terrorists detonated explosive material planted on the tanker. No loss of life was reported, although the vehicle was completely damaged in the explosion. The blast was heard in far-flung areas. Thousands of liters of oil spread on the road causing a loss of millions of rupees. After the incident, a huge contingent of Khasadar Force rushed to the site, cordoned off the area and launched a search operation. Political administration registered a case against unidentified miscreants. app
Can democracy survive civil-military ties in Pak?
Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 09, 2012, Much is happening in Pakistan. Self-exiled Pervez Musharraf is threatening to join politics back home, Asif Zardari says he isn't under the army's pressure to quit, Nawaz Sharif's struggling to hold his own and Imran Khan going great guns in his quest for power.
Amid such political ferment and reports that terror gangs were regrouping—after Pakistan's retaliatory ban on US drones post an American air-strike that left 24 soldiers dead —the world's focus in 2012 will be on the Af-Pak region. Can democracy survive a turbulent civil-military relationship? Scheduled in 2013, will elections happen at all or be brought forward? Who shall the electorate mandate in an increasingly crowded race—the Memogate-hit PPP, the PML (Nawaz) or a third entity or political front led by Imran's Tehreek-e-Insaaf?
Imponderables these, together with the question whether Zardari's Presidency will last its term? Old timers who saw him in a TV interview this weekend could make out he wasn't in the best of health. And what's true of him is largely true of his party. "He has done to the PPP what dictators such as Zia or Musharraf couldn't," said Afzal Khan, a noted Pakistani commentator. The PPP's main bet in the polls wouldn't as much be the Bhutto magic as the World Bank-funded Income Support Programme named after Benazir. The scheme that reaches Rs 1,000 per month to disadvantaged sections helped the party win elections in PoK despite a pathetic governance record in Islamabad.
Full Report at:
Pakistani National Sentenced In Scheme To Illegally Export Nuclear Materials
By Newsroom America Staff
(Newsroom America) -- U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz has sentenced Nadeem Akhtar, age 46, of Silver Spring, Maryland, to 37 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release for conspiring to commit export violations and to defraud the United States in connection with a scheme to illegally export nuclear-related materials.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Special Agent in Charge Rick Shimon of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement's Washington Field Office.
“The United States regulates the export of items that can be used in nuclear facilities, requiring a purchaser to truthfully disclose the end user,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Nadeem Akhtar conspired to violate export regulations by selling controlled items while misrepresenting what they were and to whom they would be sold.”
“The fast-paced nature of this changing world has created new challenges in preventing nuclear technology from falling into the hands of those who are hostile to U.S. interests,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely. “Nowhere in the national security arena is the FBI’s alliance with private industry as important in preserving the security of this country.”
“This sentence underscores the importance of the U.S. Government’s unwavering determination to disrupt and dismantle criminal proliferation networks endangering U.S. national security” said Rick Shimon, Special Agent in Charge of the Commerce Department’s Washington Office of Export Enforcement. “Preventing sensitive U.S.-origin technology from being used in illicit nuclear programs is one of our top priorities at the Commerce Department.”
According to his plea agreement, Akhtar, a Pakistani national and lawful permanent resident of the U.S., owns Computer Communication USA (CC-USA). From October 2005 through March 11, 2010, Akhtar and his conspirators used CC-USA to obtain or attempt to obtain radiation detection devices, resins for coolant water purification, calibration and switching equipment, attenuators and surface refinishing abrasives for export to restricted entities in Pakistan.
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US think-tanks call Hillary Clinton to help protect Haqqani
WASHINGTON:10 JAN, 2012, A bipartisan group of foreign policy experts have asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to speak with Pakistani leaders and make appropriate public statements to ensure that former diplomat Husain Haqqani is not physically harmed and that due process of law is followed.
"We would urge the US government to continue to weigh in with key Pakistani leaders and to make appropriate public statements to ensure that Husain Haqqani is not physically harmed and that due process of law is followed," said a letter signed by 16 leading US-Pakistan scholars to Clinton.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Clinton has received the letter and would be responding to it.
"It has come to our attention that Ambassador Haqqani is under intense pressure in Pakistan, including possibly threats to his life, over the so-called Memogate affair," the letter said.
On Friday Nuland had urged Pakistan to ensure fair treatment to Haqqani, who served as the Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, till he resigned in the aftermath of Memogate.
According to these experts, the case against Haqqani follows an ominous trend in Pakistan.
"The assassinations of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, and journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad this past year have created a culture of intimidation and fear that is stifling efforts to promote a more tolerant and democratic society.
"Significant segments of the Pakistani media have already judged Haqqani to be guilty of treason, which could inspire religious extremists to take the law into their own hands as they did with Taseer and Bhatti," the letter said.
Signatories to the letter include Stephen P Cohen from Brookings Institution; Lisa Curtis from the Heritage Foundation; Sadanand Dhume from American Enterprise Institute; Christine Fair, from the Georgetown University; Robert M Hathaway from Woodrow Wilson International Center and Dennis Kux from Woodrow Wilson International Center.
The experts said questions have been raised about the manner in which this case is proceeding against Haqqani and whether due process of law is being followed.
"Internationally recognized human rights defender Asma Jehangir recently quit as Haqqani's lawyer, citing her lack of confidence in the judicial commission established by the Pakistani Supreme Court to investigate the case. Because of her doubts about the commission's impartiality, Jehangir refused to appear before it," the letter said.
Possible resumption of strikes, Pakistan terms drone attacks as violation of sovereignty
ISLAMABAD: In its reiteration over drone attacks, Foreign Office Monday strongly opposed any violation of its aerial space or sovereignty.
Commenting on the reports regarding resumption of US drone attacks, Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit told Online, “We have always expressed our serious reservations and concerns over drone strikes.”
The spokesman further said that Pakistan can never condone violation of its sovereignty. He made it clear that any such move would be opposed.
Almost after two months lull in the drone attacks, certain media reports, while citing US official sources, are hinting at restart of the attacks.
Since incident of November 26 when NATO forces raided two Pakistani posts and killed 24 soldiers and injured 16 others the attacks were seemed as vanished.
The last drone attack was carried out on November 17 which had killed six suspected militants in a strike near Razmak in North Waziristan. No attack has been launched over the past two months, which is likely to be the first time since 2004 that tribal areas witnessed a break in drone attacks for so a long time.
The incident of November 26 triggered countrywide reaction in Pakistan. After the raids Islamabad ordered US to vacate Shamsi base, believed to be operative stations of drones in Pakistan’s Balochistan, besides blocking supplies to NATO in Afghanistan via Pakistan.
The government had also called in an envoy conference to review its foreign policy and its relations with US and NATO. But the government says that the parliament would take final decision on such issues and the decision is in process.
Pakistani Army has authorised its local commanders deployed near the Afghan border to retaliate to any future incursions by Nato forces. What would be the reaction of Pakistan if such a situation like drone attacks is emerged in the present situation is not very much clear as condemnation or showing concerns was continuing for the last five years.
When contacted Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Major General Athar Abbas declined commenting on the reports, saying that at the moment nothing could be said in this connection.
Official sources on condition of anonymity said that unilateral action on part of US as far as drone attacks are concerned, is impossible.
So far Pakistani tribal areas have witnessed 283 drone attacks killing over 2,000 people besides injuring thousands of others and causing heavy damages to properties.
According to latest media reports, US spy drones were hovering over North Waziristan area along Afghan border. A break in drone attack was noticed but such flights over Pakistani tribal areas seldom stopped in the past two months.
Pakistan, Oman agree to strengthen cooperation in diverse areas
ISLAMABAD, Jan 9 : Pakistan and Oman have agreed to further strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation in a number of areas including trade and commerce, finance and banking, law enforcement, education and health care. This was agreed during the fourth round of Pak-Oman Annual Bilateral Political Consultations held in Muscat on Monday, a press release issued by the ministry of foreign affairs here said.
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Omani Under Secretary for Diplomatic Affairs, Ahmed bin Yousuf bin Obaid Al Harthy discussed whole range of bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Oman.
Both sides also exchanged views on regional and international situation.
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir also called on His Highness Sayyid As’ad bin Tariq Al-Said, Advisor to His Majesty the Sultan of Oman and the Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah.
Pakistan’s Ambassador in Oman, Nawabzada Aminullah Khan Raisani and Director General Middle East at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr Manzoor ul Haq also participated in the consultations.
In Pakistan, Shashi Tharoor terms himself hawkish dove
By Rohit Raj DC Kochi
January 9, 2012 ,The former Junior External Affairs Minister, Mr Shahshi Tharoor, had lost a few fans when he quit the Union Council but his fan base has grown, making him a huge hit even in Pakistan.
Followers are showering praises on Dr Tharoor on the twittersphere. Despite his blunt speak on Pakistan, Mr Shashi was received with warmth.
“Has been having a good trip2Pak! The people are wonderful, hospitality warm, sights special, politics dysfunctional & discussions lively,” he tweeted. “Great paradox of Indo-Pakistan relations: there's no country in the world where an Indian feels more welcome -- even1 with unpalatable views,” Mr Tharoor who has more than 12 lakh followers tweeted and hundreds retweeted.
When he tweeted, “Stimulating visit, esp talk & roundtable organized in Islamabad by Jinnah Institute. Spoke frankly & got some understandable pushback. Learned,2! Columnist Rakehsh Mani anticipating an article on experiences from Pakistan asked “You’ve built a reputation as a hawk on Indo-Pak. Fair?"
To this the most followed Indian in twittersphere replied: “A hawk is often only a dove with an enhanced sense of realism. I come with an open mind & a willingness to learn from experience."
The number of Pakistan followers for Mr Tharoor has also increased and evidently he tweeted, “Even more amazing when I heard similar comments from young Pakistanis who had lived abroad,” as a reply to a young Indian who got placed in Igate after taking Mr Tharoor’s name as the most inspired man for the interviews.
Mr Tharoor who lost his ministership in connection with the IPL controversy did not forget to express his hopes for a top post in India.
Impressed by his performance at the TV interviews, an NRI, Mr Arora, asked, “How can we make you India Prime Minister?” A humble Mr Tharoor replied, “Thanks, but at the moment not even sub-prime!”
Kayani, Pasha Submissions illegal: Gilani
ISLAMABAD, January 10, 2012, In yet another twist to the memo scandal, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday said the replies submitted to the Supreme Court by the chiefs of the Army and the ISI were “unconstitutional and illegal,” as they were sent without the government's approval.
The responses given by Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI Director-General Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha did not have the approval of the competent authority as required under the rules of business, said Mr. Gilani.
No summary or formal proposal seeking the approval of the competent authority for these two replies was initiated by the Defence Ministry, he said during an interview with People's Daily Online of China.
Any official action by a government functionary without the prior approval of the government is “unconstitutional and illegal,” he said.
Mr. Gilani pointed out that the Supreme Court Chief Justice had observed that any act of a government functionary without the government's nod is unconstitutional and, therefore, illegal.
The Prime Minister said that in both the memo controversy and the recent NATO air strike on Pakistani military border posts, the civil and military leadership of Pakistan had held detailed meetings and taken immediate decisions.
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE
Both issues were referred to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and the government had accepted the resignation of Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's former envoy to the U.S.
After the memo issue was referred to the parliamentary committee, the Supreme Court took suo motu action, he said.
Mr. Gilani described the memo as a “letter written by one American national to another American.”
The memo, made public by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, sought the U.S. help to stave off a feared military coup after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May last.
HIV/AIDS prevalence in Pakistan shows worrying increase
By Sehrish Wasif
ISLAMABAD: January 10, 2012, The prevalence of HIV/AIDs cannot be controlled in the country unless there is legislation and strong financial funding for its prevention and control. This was stated by National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) Acting Programme Manager Dr Amir Maqbool at the inaugural session of a two-day workshop titled, ‘The state of HIV in Pakistan-2011’ held on Monday at a local hotel.
In the aftermath of the devolution of the Ministry of Health, there is no mechanism to implement the legislation; something which previously fell under the purview of the Senate Standing Committee on Health. “Devolution has rendered major donors reluctant to fund the programme,” Dr Maqbool said.
Thus, the shortage of funds has created another hurdle in controlling the spread of the disease. Failure to control it, he said, might lead to a drastic increase in the virus’s prevalence by 2020. While talking about HIV/AIDS still remains a social stigma, treatment costs for many are unaffordable, running as high as Rs100,000 per year to combat the effects of the incurable disease.
According to UNAIDS, Pakistan had an estimated 97,400 people living with HIV at the end of 2009, with 2,917 patients registered in 13 treatment and seven Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS centres across the country. Of these, 1,320 are on antiretroviral drug treatment therapy. HIV rates are increasing alarmingly among key demographics at higher risk of infection. On the other hand, they remain low among the general population, according to the national surveillance findings.
Three studies were presented as the key output of a second generation surveillance approach. These were not only focused on HIV status, but also the findings of behaviour patterns that increase the risk of infection.
The studies were conducted by NACP, the Provincial AIDS Control Programmes and the Canada-Pakistan HIV/AIDS Surveillance Project.
The virus’s prevalence among female sex workers had quadrupled since 2007. Meanwhile, it was found that since 2008, HIV among transvestite sex workers had increased from 6.4 per cent to 7.3 per cent and it tripled among male sex workers, up to 3.1 per cent. The study also highlighted that since 2008, HIV prevalence among intravenous drug users rose from 20.8 per cent to 36.7 per cent.
In the second study titled, ‘Antenatal HIV Sero-Surveillance,’ Dr Nosheen Dar, principle investigator, revealed that pregnant women are more vulnerable to HIV because of potential infection from their husbands, who may have been infected by a sex worker or other high-risk key population.
The pattern of the disease in Pakistan has shifted from low to concentrated levels. An overall prevalence is of 37.8 per cent among intravenous drug users, 7.3 per cent among transgender sex workers, 3.1 per cent in male sex workers and 0.8 per cent in female sex workers. However, information on the extent of the virus among the general population is not known. The study revealed that out of 26,510 pregnant women tested for HIV, 12 were confirmed positive, a prevalence rate of 0.05 per cent. Peshawar has the highest prevalence rate of HIV infection at was 0.22 per cent, followed by Multan with 0.07 per cent, and Karachi with 0.03 per cent.
The third study was on mine workers, a high-risk population in Balochistan, where a bio-behavioural assessment was done. According to PACP in 2007, many mine workers above the age of 18 were found to have sexually transmitted infections, and the majority of them did not use condoms. However none of them found to be HIV positive.
Breast cancer claims 400,000 lives a year in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: January 10, 2012Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer all over Asia due to which every year 40,000 women die. One out of every nine women in Pakistan faces risk of the disease while the prevalence of this deadly ailment is the highest amongst all types of cancer in the country i.e. 38.5 per cent.
This was shared by the speakers at a workshop held here on Monday to inaugurate Pink Ribbon Campaign supported by higher education commission (HEC) and Pakistan atomic energy commission (PAEC) cancer hospital to mark 2012 as `Pink Ribbon Youth Year` National coordinator, Pink Ribbon, Omer Aftab said that fortunately, breast cancer can be detected and cured at a very early stage.
Therefore, it is important to focus on prevention and diagnoses rather than cure since early diagnosis in breast cancer increases chances of survival to more than 90 per cent, he said. `The recent trends in Pakistan have shown that the breast cancer incidence is alarmingly high in young girls. On the other hand older women are also reluctant in getting them medically checked on reg-ular intervals. This issue,` he said, `can be addressed using daughters who are normally closer to the mothers and they can be used as influencers for the older generation. They can motivate their mothers for a regular breast examination and medical check-up,` said Omer.
As many as 25,000 students from 15 colleges and universities of Islamabad and 500,000 youths of nearly 500 educational institutions all over the country will be given awareness about breast cancer this year, he said.
Chairman HEC Dr Javed Laghari assured that HEC will provide assistance and full cooperation during the campaign. Additional secretary, Pakistan Post, Fazal Sattar told that 500,000 postal stamps have been introduced to give awareness regarding the disease.
Assistant Inspector General Motorway police, Dr Farooq assured that as motorway police was already taking part in polio eradication campaign, officials of the force can easily take part in the awareness campaign regarding breast cancer too.
Vice Chancellor Fatima JinnahUniversity, Samina Amin Qadir stressed that female university students can play a vital role in the campaign and they should make their families aware of the dangers of disease.
Head of the learning and innovation department, HEC, Noor Amna Malik while talking to Dawn said that unfortunately it has become a routine that we receive programmes from west and introduce them in the country. `We should first conduct research on the diseases and after finding the reasons behind them, cure them and only then should launch awareness campaigns.
`Environment, culture and lifestyle of east and west are different due to which methods of cure can also differ. One of the basic reasons of our problem is poor literacy rate. In India, just because of better literacy rate, breast cancer ratio is ten times lesser as compared to Pakistan. So government should pay attention to the education sector,` she said.
Omer Aftab informed Dawn that their teams will start visiting the universities from Tuesday (today) besides starting to organise medical camps.-Ikram Junaidi
How Pakistan came to feel snug in a Chinese pocket
January 10, 2012,China’s expanded influence in Pakistan came into prominence recently amidst the fog of verbiage surrounding the Memogate fiasco. The shorthand used for years to describe Pakistan’s political power triad namely, ‘Allah, Army and America’, now has to include China.
Over the past few years and, especially since the US raid in May 2011 to eliminate Osama bin Laden, China’s proximity to Pakistan has increasingly been on display. Examples include Sino-Pak collaboration to stall the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement, prevent the Nuclear Suppliers Group granting a waiver to India and opposition to India becoming a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council.
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Afghan govt urges Taliban for a ceasefire before negotiations
KABUL/BERLIN: January 10, 2012 Taliban insurgents must agree to a cease-fire before formal peace negotiations can begin in Qatar, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday
Presidential Spokesman Emal Faizi laid out the government’s terms, days after the Taliban’s announcement that would open a political office in Doha, Qatar, a key precursor to peace talks and the insurgents’ first public move toward a political settlement to the 10-year-long war.
“When the talks start, there should be a cease-fire and the violence against the Afghan people must stop,” Faizi said on Monday on Tolo television news.
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Bahrain unrest: policeman jailed for joining protests
9 January, 2012
A military court in Bahrain has sentenced a policeman to more than 12 years in jail for joining protests against the royal family last year.
Ali al-Ghanami, a 25-year-old junior police officer, had left his guard post and joined protesters on 17 February 2011 after security forces had cleared a major traffic circle in the capital Manama.
On that day police action against peaceful demonstrators at Pearl Roundabout left two protesters dead and more than a hundred injured.
Video footage from the day shows people being fired on with birdshot at point blank range. The footage was supplied by activists.
His brother told the BBC Mr Ghanami witnessed dead and wounded being taken to nearby Salmaniya hospital.
"He was very emotional. He stood in front of people in his uniform and said I cannot work for a killer institution."
He told the crowd he was leaving the force and joining the anti-government protests that were to convulse the tiny Gulf island kingdom for months.
For the next month, Mr Ghanami spoke openly at rallies against the government of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
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Syria's Assad blames 'foreign conspiracy'
10 January 2012
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed a foreign conspiracy for trying to destabilise Syria.
The "external conspiracy is clear to everybody", he said in his first public remarks in months.
Syria's violent crackdown on 10 months of protests against his rule has drawn international condemnation.
He said elections could be held later this year but "terrorism", which he blames for the unrest, would be met with an "iron fist".
"Regional and international sides have tried to destabilise the country," President Assad said in a speech broadcast live nationally from Damascus University.
"Our priority now is to regain [the] security [in] which we basked in for decades, and this can only be achieved by hitting the terrorists with an iron fist," he said.
"We will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders against the country."
BBC world affairs correspondent Nick Childs says the speech was a riposte to those who are asking questions about the pressure under which Mr Assad is operating.
It was a message that there will be no concessions and its main theme was that nothing is going to change as far as the Syrian response is concerned, our correspondent says.
'No order to fire'
The UN said last month that more than 5,000 civilians had been killed since protests began in March last year.
Anti-government protests have continued despite a heavy crackdown against them
Syrian authorities say they are fighting armed groups, and that about 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed so far.
In recent months army deserters have joined the opposition and targeted government forces.
A team of 165 monitors from the Arab League has been in Syria since December to monitor implementation of a peace plan that calls for an end to all violence, the removal of heavy weapons from cities and the release of all political prisoners.
Opposition groups have accused the Arab League mission of serving to cover up the crackdown on the protests, which has continued despite the presence of the observers.
Mr Assad said that there were no orders for security forces to fire on protesters.
"There is no order from any level about opening fire on any citizen. According to the law, nobody should open fire - only in self-defence or during a clash with an armed person."
No snap reforms'
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Iran confirms uranium enrichment at second underground facility
By Adrian Blomfield,
09 Jan 2012
Iranian officials and diplomats at the Vienna headquarters of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that centrifuges at the Fordow enrichment plant near the holy city of Qom had begun production.
The announcement represents a significant advance for Iran's nuclear programme and will add to the sense of foreboding in the West.
The facility at Qom, which Iran went to great lengths to hide from international inspectors for many years, is buried deep inside a mountain, making it much harder to strike from the air.
Iranian engineers began to transfer centrifuges to the Fordow plant from its main enrichment facility at Natanz last August, a move that led in part to renewed speculation at the end of last year that Israel was preparing to launch unilateral military action against Iran.
Israeli officials yesterday declined to be drawn into a response, but one said: "It is another reminder that time is running out to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power".
Although the idea of unilateral military action has deeply divided the Israeli establishment, the development will undoubtedly raise fears that the prospect is drawing closer.
According to sources close to Israeli intelligence, defence chiefs have developed a doctrine, known as the "framework of immunity", which concludes that there is a point in the development of Iran's nuclear project after which military action would no longer be considered effective.
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Egypt's Brotherhood treads carefully after victory
By HAMZA HENDAWI
CAIRO: 1/9/2012 — The Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the biggest winner in parliamentary elections, but the fundamentalist group that has long dreamed of ruling Egypt is likely to be cautious about flexing its newfound muscle.
The Brotherhood has been crushed by the military before and will likely tread carefully to avoid spooking the ruling generals or the country's western supporters, who provide generous amounts of badly needed foreign aid.
Appearing modest at its proudest moment may be the best tactic for the Brotherhood as it seeks to strike a difficult balance between translating its impressive electoral victory into political power while not appearing too keen to be alone at the helm in this turbulent nation of 85 million people.
So, already, the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice party, is insisting it has no immediate desire to push through Islamic legislation, would not form a new government after the new legislature holds its inaugural session later this month or have its own candidate in the presidential election due before the end of June.
Additionally, it has distanced itself from more militant Islamic groups — the ultraconservative Salafis have won a quarter of seats — while going to great lengths to avoid a clash with the powerful generals who took over from Hosni Mubarak 11 months ago and remain in power to this day.
"The cautious approach is rooted in part in the lessons the Muslim Brotherhood has learned from past clashes with the army for which it paid dearly," prominent columnist Abdullah al-Sinawi wrote in Monday's edition of the independent Al-Shorouk daily.
The Brotherhood has in the 84 years since its inception in 1928 as an outlawed organization. At times, it enjoyed a level of relative tolerance by authorities that allowed it to function as a religious charity and political body, running a huge network of social services and fielding parliamentary candidates as independents.
But for most of those eight decades, Brotherhood leaders and supporters have been targeted in harsh government crackdowns that saw hundreds of them jailed, tortured and convicted, often on drummed up charges.
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Egypt wrapping up free elections
By Sarah Lynch, Special for USA TODAY
CAIRO – Nearly one year after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians are concluding their first free and fair elections in decades in what analysts say is a good sign for a country wracked by poverty, injustice and at risk for religious extremism.
"The elections have given Egypt a forward momentum," said Shadi Hamid of Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. "At least now you can say there is something going on here and the process has started, even though there is a long way to go."
The third stage of the voting for the 498 seats of the lower house of parliament will end Wednesday with some run-off votes. The elections were dominated by Islamist parties long banned in Egypt and whose agendas are murky. Their newfound power will give them significant influence over the devising of a constitution in which the rights of women, religious minorities and the role of Islamic law will be enshrined.
STORY: Egyptians vote in final round of election
"This is the first democratically elected Islamist majority in Egypt that will have a say in the upcoming government, if not form the government," said Mazen Hassan, a political science lecturer at Cairo University. "That's a huge change in Egypt and in the Arab world. Now [Islamists] will be tested."
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won almost 40% of seats in the first two rounds of elections, which began Nov. 28. The Salafist Al-Noor Party, which supports full Islamic law, gained more than 20%.
Final results are likely this week. According to preliminary results from the country's election agency, the voting was similar to previous rounds with the Brotherhood taking more than one third and Al-Noor coming in second.
Election monitoring groups say they saw some minor violations at the polls that ranged from campaigning on election days to failing to check the identities of some veiled women. Overall, they say, elections went smoothly and were accepted by most Egyptians as legitimate, as opposed to elections under Mubarak, which were labeled fraudulent by election monitors and the U.S. State Department.
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