Based on restricted and rare access to the region, the report documents nine strikes that occurred in 2012 and 2013 in north-western Pakistan — File Photo
US Drone Strikes May Tantamount To War Crimes, Says Amnesty International Report
Award-Winning American Muslim Scholar On Allah Ruling: “We Are Laughing At You”
Kerry: Saudi Arabia would have ‘influence’ on Security Council
US Drone Operators Face Criminal Fraud Charges
American going to Pakistan planned to aid Al Qaeda: prosecutor
US policy on Kashmir unchanged
Qaeda-Linked Group Is Seen Complicating the Drive for Peace in Syria
Coordinated attack in Iraq kills 7 policemen
Syrian sectarianism becoming entrenched, says William Hague
Syria's Assad deals blow to peace initiative
Syria conflict: London to host key opposition talks
Bahrain backs Saudi decision to refuse seat
Assad re-election would extend war: Kerry
Sultan of Brunei introduces tough Islamic punishments
18,000 Indonesian workers to be repatriated from Saudi Arabia
Philippine delegates to visit KSA
JP and PPM coalitions unite in condemnation of the Maldives EC
Afghan forces 'no longer need British troops on the ground'
Maldives Presidential polls set for November 9
BNP, Jamaat men stab 9 Bagerhat AL activists
Afghan election candidates warned over phone bombs
Bangladesh lags behind most S Asian countries
Proposal of Non-party caretaker government for Elections in Bangladesh
Israeli High School to host Muslim Moroccan students
Outlawed PKK threatens new fight in Turkey
Israel troops kill Jihad militant in West Bank: army
Israel resists Iran sanctions letup
Iran hands over 38 Pakistani deportees
Modi factor drives Muslim cleric to support Congress
Ceasefire violations: Shinde visits Jammu & Kashmir to review security
Centre 'worried' over increase in infiltration: Shinde
Pakistan made record 254 infiltration bids in 9 months
Islamist militants exploiting Libya chaos, says Tunisia PM
Social Renewal in Morocco: The Responsibility of Individuals and Mosques
Mozambique peace deal unravels after attack
NATO to send security advisers to Libya
Britain urges all Syrian opposition to join peace talks
Pak militants ignored ISI peace directive
Balochistan doctors threaten en masse resignation
Pakistani doctor who helped track Osama seeks fresh probe
Punjab Police being trained on ‘modern lines’
Lal Masjid case: Musharraf, Shaukat Aziz nominated co-accused
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
US Drone Strikes May Amount To War Crimes, Says Amnesty International Report
Killing of Pakistanis in US-led drone strikes may amount to war crimes or extrajudicial executions, according to a report to be released by the London based right's group on Tuesday.
Based on restricted and rare access to the region, the report titled "'Will I be next?' US drone strikes in Pakistan" documents nine strikes that occurred in 2012 and 2013 and the deaths resulting from these in Pakistan's north-western areas, including the killing of Mamana BiBi who was a 68-year-old grandmother, and 14-year-old boy.
Mamana Bibi's grandchildren told the Amnesty International that she was killed by missile fire on Oct 24 2012, as she was collecting vegetables in a family field in the North Waziristan tribal region, a major militancy infected area near the Afghan border.
Three of Bibi's grandchildren were also wounded in the strike, as were several others who were nearby, the victims said.
An even deadlier incident noted by the report occurred in North Waziristan on July 6, 2012.
Witnesses said a volley of missiles hit a tent where a group of men had gathered for an evening meal after work, and then a second struck those who came to help the wounded, one of a number of attacks that have hit rescuers, the rights group said.
Witnesses and relatives said that total of 18 male labourers with no links to militant groups died, according to Amnesty. Pakistani intelligence officials at the time identified the dead as suspected militants.
The US did not respond to request for comment on the strike.
President Barack Obama said during a speech in May that the US does not conduct a drone strike unless there is ''near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.''
But Amnesty said the US is so secretive about the program that there is no way to tell what steps it takes to prevent civilian casualties.
They say it has ''failed to commit to conduct investigations'' into alleged deaths that have already occurred.
The report would be released jointly with another report on US drone strikes in Yemen.
Pakistan has repeatedly stated that drone attacks are a violation of its sovereignty and has termed the attacks as counter-productive and a violation of international law.
Premier Nawaz Sharif also raised the drone issue at this year's United Nations General Assembly session and sought an end to the attacks.
Moreover, Sharif who is visiting the United States had said prior to his arrival there that he would take up the issue during his meeting on Wednesday with US President Barack Obama.
The issue has been raised on several platforms and the legality of drone strikes has also been previously questioned by the UN human rights chief, Amnesty International, and other organisations.
UN chief Ban-Ki moon, during his visit to Islamabad this year, had also urged for the controversial strikes to be brought within the sphere of international law. These attacks have also been described to undermine world security, according to another UN report.
Moreover the Bureau of Investigative Journalism had launched a report aimed at keeping track of victims of drone attacks.
These groups indicated that the attacks have killed between 2,065 and 3,613 people, the report said. Between 153 and 926 were thought to be civilians.
Amnesty said it is concerned that the attacks outlined in the report and others may have resulted in unlawful killings that constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes, even though the U.S. insists the strikes are legal.
''We cannot find any justification for these killings. There are genuine threats to the USA and its allies in the region, and drone strikes may be lawful in some circumstances,'' said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International's Pakistan researcher. ''But it is hard to believe that a group of labourers, or an elderly woman surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all, let alone posing an imminent threat to the United States.''
The US on the other hand considers its drone program to be a key weapon against insurgent groups that it says stages cross-border forays into neighbouring Afghanistan.
Amnesty called on the US to comply with its obligations under international law by investigating the killings documented in the report and providing victims with ''full reparation.''
The US carried out its first drone strike in Pakistan in 2004 and has carried out nearly 350 more since then, the majority of which have been in North Waziristan.
President Barack Obama significantly ramped up attacks when he took office in 2009, and the number peaked the following year with over 100 strikes.
The frequency has steadily dropped since then, partly because of growing tension between Pakistan and the US There have only been around two dozen strikes so far this year.
Pakistani officials regularly denounce the attacks in public as a violation of the country's sovereignty, but senior members of the government and the military are known to have supported the strikes in the past.
''Amnesty International is also extremely concerned about the failure of the Pakistani authorities to protect and enforce the rights of victims of drone strikes,'' said the report. ''Pakistan has a duty to independently and impartially investigate all drone strikes in the country and ensure access to justice and reparation for victims of violations.''
Amnesty said victims they interviewed with no apparent connection to militant groups have either received no compensation or inadequate assistance from the Pakistani government.
The top political official in North Waziristan gave Bibi's family around $100 to cover medical expenses for the children injured in the strike, even though the total cost to the family, including loss of livestock and repairs to their home, was around $9,500, the rights group said.
None of the victims in the attack on the labourers received any compensation, the report added.
Award-winning American Muslim scholar on Allah ruling: “We are laughing at you”
BY ELIZABETH ZACHARIAH
OCTOBER 22, 2013
A well-known American Muslim theologian has joined a long list of critics over the recent Court of Appeal ruling on the use of the word Allah, saying it was a "political decision more than anything else".
"This notion that Malaysian Muslims need to be protected by the court because you can't think for yourself, you can't make decisions on your own. We are laughing at you," said Reza Aslan, speaking on BFM Radio's Evening Edition programme yesterday.
"That you can control people's ideas, their behaviour, their faith and their minds simply by trying to control the words that they use, is absurd. It is an embarrassment to a modern, constitutional, democratic and deeply Muslim state like Malaysia," he added.
Aslan insisted that Christians using the word Allah - which means God in Arabic - were not a threat to Islam.
"A Taliban put a bomb in the Quran and took it to a mosque in Pakistan, where Muslims were slaughtered on one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar. You want to talk about threats to Islam? That's a threat to Islam," he said, in dismissing the argument that allowing Christians to use the word in their worship was a threat to Malaysian Muslims.
He was referring to an incident during the Aidiladha holidays, in which Afghan governor Arsala Jamal was killed while scores were injured after a bomb placed in a copy of the Quran went off in a mosque during the Eid sermon.
Aslan, who wrote the international bestseller No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, said he was mystified by the court ruling on October 14, stressing that the word Allah was merely an Arabic term for God, "any God".
"Allah is construction of the the word al-Ilah. That's what the word is," he explained.
"Al-Ilah means 'The God'. Allah is not the name of God. Frankly, anyone who thinks that Allah is the name of God, is not just incorrect, but is going against the Quran itself. It is almost a blasphemous thought to think that Allah has a name.
"And this is not an interpretation. It is a historical fact," Reza added.
In its judgment, the Court of Appeal's three-man panel ruled that word Allah "was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice and that such usage if allowed, will inevitably cause confusion within the community".
The decision sparked a debate among local clerics and scholars, while several editorials in Muslim countries expressed their surprise over the issue.
Pakistan's Daily Times questioned the ruling, asking why Malaysia would deny people of other faiths to "own God in all His attributes". The United Arab Emirates's The National called the court ruling "wrong", and said the word Allah was never exclusive to Islam but used by both Christians and Jews to refer to God even before the advent of Islam.
Aslan poured scorn on the court verdict, asking, "How can you read that and not laugh?"
Soon after the court ruling last week, he had taken to Twitter and remarked, "How stupid has Malaysia just become? In honor of Malaysia banning the word Allah by non-Muslims I suggest US ban the word 'twerking' by anyone over age of 17," he said, referring to a type of sexually provocative dance.
Much of Aslan's interview yesterday was made available on Podcast.
In it, he slammed those who argue that the faith of Malaysian Muslims can be undermined if Christians use the word Allah.
"This idea that not only should Christians not be able to use this word, but that using the word is somehow a threat to Islam... that Malaysian (Muslims) are so stupid if they hear a Christian use the word Allah, they will accidentally become Christians. I mean, the idiocy of that statement speaks for itself," he said.
Echoing many other Muslim scholars and writers, Aslan said Christians and Jews in the Arabian Peninsula since before the time of the Prophet Muhammad had been referring to God as Allah.
"Why? Because they spoke Arabic... that's why. Not because Allah meant a specific God but because that it is nothing more than the Arabic word for God. It is not an opinion. It is a fact," he pointed out.
"Any Imam that tells you God has a name, is blasphemous. It is as simple as that. Allah is not God's name. Muslims do not own the word itself," said the 41-year-old Iranian-American, who is Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa. - October 22, 2013.
22 October 2013
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that Saudi Arabia would have had more influence taking a seat at the U.N. Security Council.
Kerry held talks in Paris with Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal discussing Saudi Arabia’s rejection of a U.N. Security Council seat, Agence France-Presse reported.
“Secretary Kerry conveyed that while it is Saudi Arabia's decision to make, the U.S. values Saudi Arabia's leadership in the region and the international community, and a seat on the UNSC affords member states the opportunity to engage directly on these issues,” a senior State Department official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Kerry and Faisal have also discussed the Syrian conflict and Saudi Arabia’s concerns over signs of a tentative reconciliation between the U.S. and Iran, in addition to other regional questions during a two-hour lunch in Paris, where Kerry was meeting with Arab League officials, AFP reported. On Friday, Saudi Arabia turned down a two-year seat at the Security Council citing the body’s “double standards” and its inaction over Syria’s conflict. While the Saudi stance won praise from its Gulf Arab allies and Egypt, Arab states at the United Nations urged Riyadh on Saturday to reconsider its decision.
PHOENIX: Nearly two dozen current and former members of the Arizona Air National Guard responsible for remotely operating drones to support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been indicted on charges including theft and money laundering in a $1.4 million scam to defraud the US government, authorities announced Monday.
The eight officers and 13 enlisted men and women, including the colonel and former commander of the 214 Reconnaissance Group, falsified their records and used fake home addresses in order to receive money meant for those traveling outside of their home regions for duty assignments, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said.
Between November 2007 and September 2010, authorities said some of the defendants took home salaries that were up to five times the amount they should have been receiving. Some of the suspects defrauded the government of more than $100,000 each, Horne said.
''In this case, all of these people lived in Tucson and put down fraudulent homes of record in other states'' to qualify for the extra pay, Horne added.
The indictment announced Monday comes after an 18-month investigation by state and federal agencies. Only eight of those charged remain members of the National Guard, said Brig Gen Michael T McGuire, adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard.
The suspects haven't been arrested, but instead were sent summons to appear in court for arraignment Friday in Tucson. The indictment will be unsealed then.
The suspects worked out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and were part of an elite military unit tasked with flying drones over Iraq and Afghanistan aimed at providing vital information to troops on the ground.
The charges include conspiracy, conducting an illegal enterprise, fraud, theft and money laundering. Authorities said, if convicted, some of the defendants could be sentenced to up to 12 1/2 years in prison with the commander facing more serious charges for using his position of power to help facilitate the scam.
LOS ANGELES: A 24-year-old American charged with trying to join Al Qaeda was intercepted by the FBI after using the Internet and Facebook to connect with the terrorist group, a prosecutor said Monday.
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen confessed to federal agents that he had planned to offer himself as a trainer of some 30 Al Qaeda forces to ambush troops in Syria, where he had already spent five months fighting with rebels, Assistant United States (US) Attorney Judith Heinz said.
US District Judge John Walter expressed skepticism with some of the evidence and questioned whether the want-to-be terrorist had any special skills to offer Al Qaeda.
Nguyen has pleaded not guilty to two charges of making a false statement on a passport and attempting to provide material support and resources to a terrorist organization.
Heinz said a confidential informant and an undercover FBI agent posing as an Al Qaeda recruiter gathered evidence against Nguyen after he reached out on the Internet and on his Facebook page to join the terrorist group.
He was arrested Oct. 11 at a Santa Ana bus station as he prepared to board a bus for Mexico with plane tickets to Pakistan, authorities said.
The undercover agent escorted him to the bus and told him they would be meeting ''his sheikh'' in Peshawar, the prosecutor said.
When agents arrested him, Nguyen exclaimed, '''How did you guys find out?''' Heinz relayed.
The prosecutor said Nguyen had a fake passport, $1,850 in Syrian currency and a pamphlet with extensive instructions on shooting and setting up battle plans.
Three swords, two large axes, two hatchets and a copy of the famous tome, ''The Art of War,'' were found in the Garden Grove home where he lived with his parents.
Heinz said Nguyen planned to train Al Qaeda forces in shooting.
The judge noted that Nguyen was never a member of the US armed forces, having been rejected because of a hearing problem.
''I don't see evidence that this defendant had any particular skill in firearms,'' he said, ''or that he had the ability to procure or deliver weapons to these 25-30 individuals. This is the part of the case that escapes me.''
The judge was also dismissive of the prosecution's pointing out that Nguyen owned two guns and went target shooting, saying he sometimes went target shooting himself.
Nguyen made no comment during the hearing and was ordered to be held without bail.
Walter set a Dec. 3 trial date and urged the government to quickly analyze the content of eight computers and four cellphones taken from Nguyen's home.
When the judge pressed Heinz for more information, she said Nguyen waived his Miranda rights shortly after his arrest, confessing within 90 minutes, then going on for 50 hours of tape recorded interviews, much of it detailing his experiences in Syria.
The Miranda rights, named after the plaintiff in a Supreme Court case, requires police to advise people in custody that they have the right to remain silent and the right to consult with an attorney before being questioned.
''He confessed on the 50 hours of interviews,'' the prosecutor said, relating Nguyen's plan to go to Pakistan, fake his own death and assume a new identity ''to be a soldier for jihad.''
Prosecutors intended to present excerpts from the interviews during trial, Heinz said, along with Facebook posts where Nguyen reportedly says he killed someone in battle during the five months he spent in Syria last year.
The FBI operative told Nguyen that getting a fake passport would be a lot easier than faking his death, and offered help.
The prosecutor said Nguyen filled out the passport request with a new name, Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, and gave it to the agent, who then sent it to the US government, which issued the passport.
The judge then asked Heinz again to identify the resources Nguyen was providing to Al Qaeda.
''He was providing himself,'' she said.
WASHINGTON: The United States has refused to endorse Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s call for internationalising the Kashmir dispute and has urged him to stay engaged with India for resolving this issue.
Previewing Mr Sharif’s meeting with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday, senior administration officials acknowledged that the United States and Pakistan had, and would continue to, discuss the drone strikes in Fata but only as part of a larger security issue.
“On Kashmir, our policy has not changed an iota,” said one of the officials while briefing the media.
Reiterating America’s traditional position on Kashmir, the official said it was for India and Pakistan to determine the “pace, scope and character of their dialogue on Kashmir”.
During a stopover in London on Sunday, Mr Sharif sought US intervention in resolving the Kashmir dispute.
The official said the Obama-Sharif meeting would focus on bilateral relationship, including energy, economy and extremism, Pakistan’s relations with India and Afghanistan would also figure in the talks.
“We would continue to support a strong sovereign Afghanistan. There will be discussion how Pakistan sees the post-2014 Afghanistan,” the official said.
“We will continue to show our interest in a strong sovereign Afghanistan, which is prosperous, given that we have to conclude the combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of next year.”
The United States, he said, was keen to learn how Pakistan viewed the recent developments in Afghanistan and “what they would like it to be a post-2014 presence of Nato in Afghanistan”.
Pakistan’s relations with India, he said, would also come up at some point. “We have been very encouraged by steps that both India and Pakistan have taken.”
The US administration, he said, was encouraged by the steps the two countries had taken to resolve issues on trade.
“We anticipate that Prime Minister Sharif is likely to raise our efforts against terrorist networks. I think this will be part of what has been an ongoing strategic dialogue with Pakistan — the issue of security and counter-terrorism co-operation.
“We need to work together to address this difference. We continue to work closely with Pakistan… to make sure that they have the support and capacity to conduct counter-terrorism operation.
“It is clear that both countries have a common enemy and a common cause in the problem of violent extremists. Pakistan has suffered at the hands of terrorists. We need to have a concerted and coordinated effort to deal with this problem.”
About the question of how it (militancy) is seen differently, there were obvious differences in the perspective between United States’ traditional concerns, historically US’s concern on Al Qaeda, Kabul’s concerns on the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, Islamabad’s concerns on the Pakistani Taliban, separatists coming into Balochistan.
“So across that border there is clearly different perspective, even with the cross-border militant issue on that border alone, not to mention the issues with India.
“So I think, the idea is to, when we say cross border militancy, that the problem exists in many directions from both sides and to approach it from that different perspective.”
Funding of JuD
“We want to hear from him, what his priorities are and much of this would be a dialogue."
“On this issue in particular our position has been quite clear for many years now — the US is helping Pakistan to address its energy issues in a variety of ways.”
Talks with TTP
“This is an internal matter for Pakistan. We look forward to hearing from prime minister on what their plans are, the negotiations that are occurring in what time frame, but that is part of the overall critical shared discussion that we have on countering and ending terrorism and helping Pakistan achieve a more stable and prosperous role.
Senior Obama officials said that besides focusing on countering violent extremism, the US was equally interested in Pakistan’s economic growth.
“We remain committed to growth in the private sector — this would be the core area of the relationship, economic and energy progress outside of the traditional area,” he said.
The official said that the US viewed its relationship with Pakistan as “a very realistic and pragmatic partnership, one that would remain focused on people’s interest”.
Pakistan’s economic growth would be a core area of discussion between US and Pakistani teams, the official said.
“The fact that the visit would focus on many areas of economic and energy progress, outside the security area of discussion, is important in itself,” he added.
By MICHAEL R. GORDON and BEN HUBBARD
October 21, 2013
PARIS — Even as planning intensifies for a Geneva peace conference on the war in Syria, the emergence of a group affiliated with Al Qaeda has undermined the chances of negotiating an end to the conflict, a senior State Department official said on Monday.
By challenging moderate Syrian rebels, the group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has forced them to fight on two fronts and divert resources from their battle with the government of President Bashar al-Assad, the official said.
Michael R. Gordon reported from Paris, and Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon.
BAGHDAD: A coordinated attack Monday against police headquarters in a former Al-Qaeda stronghold in central Iraq killed seven policemen, officials said.
The attack in the city of Fallujah, 65 km west of Baghdad, involved at least two suicide bombers and several gunmen, a police official said.
One bomber detonated his explosives-laden belt at the main checkpoint outside the Fallujah police headquarters, while the second blew himself up near the building gates as security forces engaged in a shootout with other gunmen, the official said.
Later, the gunmen fled to an electricity department building nearby, taking two policemen and two guards hostage, he added. That prompted sporadic clashes with security forces. A few hours later, the four were freed, two militants were killed and three attackers were arrested.
Full report at:
Sectarianism in Syria will become entrenched as extremist forces tighten their grip if the conflict is allowed to continue, William Hague has warned.
The British foreign secretary, who is convening talks in London on Tuesday to persuade Syrian opposition forces to join peace negotiations in Geneva, said the conflict has reached an impasse in which neither side can win.
Hague told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: "The longer the conflict this goes on, the more sectarian it becomes, the more extremists are able to take hold. That is why we are making this renewed effort to get a Geneva peace process going."
The foreign secretary was speaking shortly before the opening of talks in London, to be attended by 11 foreign ministers from the Friends of Syria group, which aim to persuade the Syrian National Council to join the Geneva II peace talks.
President Bashar al-Assad's regime has been invited to the Geneva talks, which will be convened by the US and Russia. The umbrella Syrian National Coalition has agreed to attend the Geneva talks but the National Council refuses to engage with the Assad regime.
Assad dismissed the opposition groups and the chances of any progress at the Geneva talks, which are meant to open by the middle of next month. No firm date has been settled.
Assad told Lebanon's Aal-Mayadeen television station: "Who are the groups that will participate? What is their relation with the Syrian people? Do they represent the Syrian people or they represent the country that made them?"
The Assad regime alleges that the opposition groups are agents of western and Arab powers. "There are many questions about the conference," he said.
But Hague said it was important to press ahead with the talks to encourage mainstream groups in the face of the threat posed by extremist groups as the Syrian conflict enters an impasse.
DAMASCUS: Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has dealt a blow to efforts for a peace conference, saying factors are not in place for it to succeed, as Western and Arab powers prepare to meet Tuesday with the country's opposition.
“No time has been set, and the factors are not yet in place if we want (the US-Russian initiative dubbed Geneva 2) to succeed,” Assad told Lebanese television channel Al-Mayadeen on Monday.
“Which forces are taking part? What relation do these forces have with the Syrian people? Do these forces represent the Syrian people, or do they represent the states that invented them?” Assad asked in typically defiant fashion.
In the lengthy interview, Assad also said he was willing to run for re-election in 2014, in remarks that came soon after US Secretary of State John Kerry said that if he were to win, it would extend Syria's civil war.
“Personally, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't run in the next election,” Assad declared.
Kerry's comments came before a “Friends of Syria” meeting in London with Syrian opposition leaders, whom the US top diplomat said would never agree to Assad staying in power.
“He has bombed and gassed people in his country.... How can that man claim to rule under any legitimacy in the future?”, Kerry said after talks with Arab League officials in Paris.
Assad accused Saudi Arabia of conducting the work of the United States in Syria and also demanded that the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, stick to his mandate and not follow orders from other countries.
Brahimi is currently on a tour of the Middle East to drum up support for the peace conference.
On Monday in Baghdad the envoy told reporters that all countries “with interests and influence in the Syrian affair must participate” in the Geneva conference.
The veteran troubleshooter has said he will also travel to Qatar, Turkey, Iran, Syria and then Geneva for talks with Russian and US representatives.
A pro-regime daily in Syria said Brahimi was expected this week in Damascus, where he came under heavy criticism from the regime for suggesting a transitional government after his last visit in 2012.
Arab and Western foreign ministers are to meet Syrian opposition officials in London in an effort to persuade them to attend the next round of peace talks.
A key group in Syria's main opposition alliance is threatening to boycott the talks, expected next month in Geneva.
It says any deal must see President Bashar al-Assad step down, while Damascus says that is not on the table.
But the ministers will say opposition unity is vital if peace talks are to have any chance of success.
In London, foreign ministers from 11 countries - the so-called Friends of Syria group - will try to lay the groundwork for what is known as the Geneva II conference.
Continue reading the main story
I don't see any obstacles to being nominated to run in the next presidential elections”
Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Italy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States are also expected to reaffirm their view that the conference must be about a political transition in Syria away from the Assad regime.
Speaking ahead of the London meeting, US Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that Syria's opposition would never agree to President Assad staying in power.
"If he (Assad) thinks he's going to solve problems by running for re-election, I can say to him, I think that certainly this war will not end as long as that's the case that he's there," Mr Kerry said after talks with Arab League officials in Paris.
"I don't know anybody who believes the opposition will ever consent to Bashar al-Assad being part of the government. He has bombed and gassed people in his country... How can that man claim to rule under any legitimacy in the future?"
Meanwhile, President Assad reportedly told Lebanon's al-Mayadeen television that he saw no reason why he could not stand for re-election in 2014.
"Personally, I don't see any obstacles to being nominated to run in the next presidential elections," he was quoted as saying by the channel.
Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has backed Saudi Arabia’s decision not to accept the non-permanent seat at UN Security Council.
The ministry said the unprecedented stance by Saudi Arabia is a clear message in addressing the international double standards on issues of the Middle East, as well as a reflection of the necessity to reach an international decision to reform UN systems, particularly the UN Security Council.
October 22, 2013
PARIS - US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that any attempt by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to be re-elected would extend the country's civil war.
"If he thinks he's going to solve problems by running for re-election, I can say to him, I think that certainly this war will not end as long as that's the case that he's there," Kerry said after talks with Arab League officials in Paris. Kerry said it was hard to see how Iran could play a constructive role in planned peace talks in Geneva without backing plans for a transitional government in Syria. Speaking in Paris after talks with Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah, Kerry said Iran had already not supported the implementation of a first round of talks in Geneva.
"So it's very hard to see how Iran can be constructive in the absence of their willingness to come for the purpose of the negotiation," he told reporters. "If they accept Geneva 1, and want to be constructive in helping to set up a transitional government, that's a different issue."
Meanwhile, a senior rebel commander in southern Syria was killed in fighting with government troops in the town of Tafas on Monday, sources on both sides.
Lieutenant Colonel Yasser Abbud, "leader of the Fallujah-Houran brigade... was killed fighting against regime troops in Tafas", a spokesman for the rebel Military Council in the southern province of Daraa told AFP. Better known by his nom-de-guerre Abu Ammar, the commander "headed the operations room in Daraa province," which borders Jordan.
State television also reported the commander's death, describing him as a "criminal, treacherous... deserter".
Meanwhile, the head of an international mission to destroy Damascus's chemical arsenal arrived Monday in Syria, where the regime pressed on with deadly strikes despite a flurry of diplomatic efforts to organise peace talks.
"Today, the Special Coordinator, Ms Sigrid Kaag arrived in Damascus," to head up a joint mission of the United Nations and the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The Dutch UN official leads a team tasked with inspecting more than 20 sites by the end of the month and destroying Syria's chemical stockpiles by mid-2014 under a US-Russian deal.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the same news conference that "everyone is now convinced that (a) political and peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis is the available option" for "the interest of the Syrian people".
Oct 22, 2013
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei: The Sultan of Brunei introduced tough Sharia-law punishments on Tuesday including death by stoning for crimes such as adultery, hailing what he called a "historic" step toward Islamic orthodoxy for his sleepy country.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah — one of the world's wealthiest men — said a new Sharia penal code in the works for years was officially introduced on Tuesday in the tiny, oil-flush sultanate and would be phased in, in the next six months.
Based on individual cases, punishments could include stoning to death for adultery, severing of limbs for theft, and flogging for violations ranging from abortion to alcohol consumption, according to a copy of the code.
The code applies only to Muslims. "By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled," the sultan, 67, said in a speech.
An absolute monarch whose family has tightly controlled the languid, oil-rich country of 400,000 for six centuries, the sultan first called in 1996 for the introduction of sharia criminal punishments.
The sultan already imposes a relatively conservative brand of Islam on his subjects, compared to Brunei's Southeast Asian Muslim neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Brunei bans the sale and public consumption of alcohol and closely restricts other religions.
But Sharia has been a rare point of contention in a land where the sultan's word is unquestioned, with many Bruneians quietly grumbling that the concept is out of step with the affluent country's laid-back ethnic Malay society.
"These rights-abusing policies are a good indication of why modern democracy and the right of people to participate in their government is a much better idea than anachronistic absolute monarchy," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
The situation shows that "respect for basic civil and political rights is near zero in Brunei," he added.
The monarch himself has acknowledged concerns over Sharia in recent years as the code was being drafted.
It was not immediately clear how aggressively it would be enforced. Two years ago, the attorney-general's office promised Brunei would apply an extremely high burden of proof for Sharia cases and judges would have wide discretion in applying it, in comments apparently aimed at easing public fears.
"It seems almost incompatible with Malay culture, which is peace-loving," said Tuah Ibrahim, 57, driver of a boat taxi in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan.
He said Sharia can be acceptable if proportionate to the crime, but adds: "I can't imagine our country turning into somewhere like Saudi Arabia."
Brunei already has a dual system combining civil courts based on British law — the sultanate was a British protectorate until 1984 — and Sharia-compliant courts limited to personal and family issues such as marriage and inheritance.
Nearly 70 per cent of Brunei's people are Muslim ethnic Malays. About 15 per cent are non-Muslim ethnic Chinese, followed by indigenous tribes and other groups.
18,000 Indoniesian workers to be repatriated from Saudi Arabia
October 22 2013
Indonesia will repatriate about 18,000 more workers who have overstayed their visa in Saudi Arabia, says Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Wardhana.
Of the 18,000 workers, only 4,143 have obtained exit permits from the Saudi government. The Indonesian government will accommodate the workers on flights carrying haj pilgrims from the country. There are 7,100 seats available for workers who have overstayed their visas and plan to return to Indonesia.
"We will facilitate those who are willing to return to Indonesia at their own expense. For instance, [the workers] only have to pay US$188 for a plane ticket. We will provide a hotel room free of charge to them where they can wait until their departure," Wardhana said in Jakarta on Monday, as quoted by the Antara news agency.
Of the 7,100 seats available, only 716 have so far been filled. The Foreign Affairs Ministry's chief for legal aid and protection of Indonesians abroad, Tatang Budhie Razak, said this could be because the workers preferred to return to Indonesia after the haj season this month.
"The workers consider the haj season as a chance to earn money before returning to Indonesia," he said.
Last May, the Saudi government announced it would give migrant workers who had overstayed their visa a chance to register themselves with their respective country's representative office in the Kingdom and get a passport-like document.
The Philippine Embassy announced Monday that a Filipino trade delegation headed by the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will be visiting Saudi Arabia to bolster trade relations between the Philippines and the Kingdom.
“I am happy with the upcoming visit of the delegation since it will boost the trade relations of the two countries,” Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago told Arab News.
The 27-man delegation will be led by Market Officer Grace L. Demdam from the Bureau of Export and Trade Promotions representing DTI along with a number of representatives from 16 private Philippine companies. They will promote Filipino-made products including food items and cosmetics.
The embassy stated that this is not the first time that the Philippines has held trade talks with the Saudi government.
By Daniel Bosley
October 22nd, 2013
“The Supreme Court’s verdict very clearly says the elections commission planned and systematically attempted to commit electoral fraud,” said Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed last night.
Rasheed spoke during a joint press conference held by the three government-aligned parties still contesting in the presidential election.
Representatives of the Jumhooree Party (JP), the Adhaalath Party (AP), the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), and the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) also took turns to denounce the Elections Commission (EC).
“If the lawful punishment for these people is a jail sentence, then we will not hesitate to do that. There is no other way but resignation for them,” said JP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed.
“I call on the police, the attorney general and the prosecutor general to investigate [EC Chair] Fuwad Thowfeek and his allies and file the case at court through the prosecutor general,” he continued.
The press conference came shortly before the EC revealed the schedule to be adopted for what will be the third attempt at completing the presidential election.
September’s poll – won by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed- was later annulled by the Supreme Court which ruled that the preparations of the EC had “broadly facilitated fraud, undue influence and corruption”.
The second attempt to hold the election on October 19 failed after police withdrew their logistical support, informing EC staff that they would be prevented from moving any election-related documents out of the commission’s premises.
The decision to delay the election brought consternation from the international community as well as renewed messages of support for the EC, which has received praise from over 1000 local and international observers for its conduct in the first round.
After consulting with the government and political parties, the EC yesterday announced the decision to hold the first round on November 9, and the run-off – if needed – on November 16.
“We, the two coalitions, remain steadfast”
The police’s decision to obstruct polls – decried by both the Police Integrity Commission and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives – came after the PPM/MDA and JP/AP/DQP candidates had refused to sign the voter registry as mandated in the court’s ruling.
The allied parties yesterday called for the EC to abide by the Supreme Court’s guidelines when holding the re-vote.
“There is only one choice. If some of the points in the guidelines are difficult for them, then there is no other way but to seek to change those points,” Ilham said.
Adhaalath President Sheikh Imran Abdulla called for the EC to resign if it could not act according to the court’s guidelines.
“We, the two coalitions, remain steadfast. God willing, there will be no election in the Maldives at this time unless it is an election that follows the SC guidelines.”
During its own press conference last night, the EC announced it would continue to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines, but would seek to change them in the future.
By Ben Farmer
21 Oct 2013
Brig Rupert Jones said Afghan forces were now able to secure the province day to day, as Britain prepares to announce the withdrawal of thousands more troops.
But Brig Jones said the Afghans still needed guidance and support from international forces at the headquarters level until at least the end of next year.
His comments came after a bloody summer for the Afghan forces which has seen them take record casualties while taking the lead against the Taliban. Civilian deaths from the conflict have also risen.
Brig Jones, who led the 1st Mechanised Brigade in Helmand over the summer, said: “The reality is that the Afghans don’t need us by their side on the ground day to day and that’s given us the opportunity to accelerate the transition.”
He said: “2013 was important. The insurgents recognised that and they undoubtedly made a concerted effort through the summer of 2013, primarily against the Afghans.
"I would say they [the Afghan security forces] have overcome their nervousness throughout the summer.
"I would say that they have flourished in their own independence. I think it's been our stepping back that has allowed them to graduate onto the next level.”
Brig Jones, son of the Victoria Cross-winning Falklands hero, Lt Col 'H' Jones, said over the summer British troops had made up only 9 per cent of manpower on operations in central Helmand. In the summer of 2012 they made up two-fifths of manpower.
But he said British soldiers were not "sitting back in their bases not doing very much" and they still faced a “very significant threat”.
Last week L/Cpl James Brynin, 22, of the Intelligence Corps, was shot dead on patrol in Kakaran, north east of Lashkar Gah. Nearly British 450 troops have died in the province in more than seven years of fighting.
British troops in Afghanistan will fall to 5,200 by the end of this year and the Government is expected to announce before Christmas that thousands more will withdraw in the spring.
British forces have closed or handed over scores of checkpoints and bases in the past year and have pulled back to a presence at only Camp Bastion and four forward bases. All British combat forces will leave by the end of 2014. Around 120 trainers will remain at an officer training academy in Kabul and the Army wants to keep up to 200 advisers in Helmand after the withdrawal.
By Zaheena Rasheed
October 21st, 2013
The Elections Commission (EC) has set the first round of presidential elections for November 9, after the police forcibly brought a Supreme Court-ordered revote to a halt on October 19.
“We have decided to hold the first round of presidential elections on November 9, and if necessary, a second round on November 16,” Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek said.
The Supreme Court annulled the first round of presidential polls held on September citing electoral fraud despite unanimous domestic and international praise over a free and fair vote. The apex court delineated 16 guidelines to hold a revote by October 20.
According to the guidelines, the EC must obtain signatures from all candidates on the voter registry. However, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) refused to approve the lists and police stopped the election an hour before polling was to begin. The move has prompted widespread international concern and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests.
Thowfeek said the EC had held meetings with the President, the cabinet and political parties on the earliest possible date for a new election.
“We have said, when we get to a certain point, when a certain party doesn’t do what they must do, it should not affect the entire election. If that is the case, we will never be able to hold an election,” Thowfeek said.
“They assured us they will not allow for these kind of obstructions in the upcoming election. Ministers have given us commitment that they will find a solution and facilitate this. That is why we have started work again. If the same thing happened as before, this is not something we must do. We are starting work again because we are confident there will be an election. I am certain we will succeed this time,” he added.
During the various meetings, the government had said it would provide facilities to verify fingerprints re-registration forms – one of JP and PPM’s conditions for approving the voter registry. The EC has said the commission does not have the capacity to do so.
The EC will continue to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines, but will seek to change them in the future, Thowfeek said. In a previous interview on Television Maldives (TVM), he described the guidelines as “restrictions.”
“I hope the government considers these restrictions in the future and finds a solution. Otherwise, holding elections will become impossible and that affects the most fundamental [right] in a democracy.”
At least nine people were injured in a series of violent clashes between local activists of Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) at Kukoramara village under Bishnupur union in Sadar upazila on Sunday night.
Witnesses said, a group of activists belonging to BNP and Jamaat-e-Islam attacked a group of Awami League men and stabbed at least nine leaders and activists with sharp weapons in front of a tea stall while they were returning from town at about 7.00pm.
The injured included Bishnupur union Jubo League general secretary Mukul Sardar, vice president of Sadar upazila Sramik League Humayun Sheikh, organising secretary of union Swechchhasebok League Azizul Khan and vice president of union Chhatra League Jihad Jomaddar.
Bagerhat Sadar police sources said, the clash took place as 40-50 BNP-Jamaat men attacked the Awami League activists over a trifling local issue.
At one stage, both groups equipped with sharp weapons locked in a series of clashes for three hours till 10.00pm.
Awami League men vandalised and set afire at least five houses of BNP supporters at that time.
KABUL: Afghanistan's intelligence service on Monday warned candidates in the 2014 presidential election that mobile phones, computers and cameras given to them as gifts could contain hidden bombs.
More than 20 candidates have registered in the race to succeed President Hamid Karzai, and the April election will pose a major security challenge as insurgents try to disrupt the US-backed process.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said it had “intelligence information showing that the enemies of Afghanistan are planning to use new terrorist methods to disrupt the elections”.
“Avoid accepting gifts such as mobile phones, computers, cameras and other packages before they are checked by your security personnel,” it advised.
With 83 percent of the people having access to safe drinking water, Bangladesh is lagging behind all of its South Asian neighbours except Afghanistan, reveals an international report.
Even the global average of people’s access to safe drinking water, which is 89 percent, is higher than Bangladesh’s, though plenty of water flows down to the sea through the country’s river systems and causes flooding, says the Water for Human Development report.
The report, launched yesterday, also shows that Bangladesh has ensured only 55 percent of its people’s access to basic sanitation till 2011, while the Maldives ensured basic sanitation for 98 percent of its people and Sri Lanka for 91 percent.
Institute of Governance Studies (IGS) of Brac University organised the launching ceremony of the report published by Pakistan-based organisation Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre as part of its Human Development in South Asia 2013 series.
Slow progress in this sector would bar the country from attaining the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) about reversing environment and biodiversity losses, if half the population does not have access to safe drinking water by 2015, said speakers.
Prof Nazurl Islam, former chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), was present as chief guest, while Prof Ainun Nishat, vice chancellor of Brac University, chaired the session.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday proposed forming a non-partisan polls-time government headed by a respected person to be chosen by consensus between the ruling and opposition parties.
She suggested that the Awami League and the BNP nominate five advisers each for the 10-member advisory council from among the former advisers of the 1996 and 2001 caretaker governments.
Khaleda, leader of the opposition in parliament, came up with the proposal as a counter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent offer to form an all-party election-time government.
In her proposal, Hasina didn’t clarify who would head the all-party polls-time government, but ruling party leaders have maintained that Hasina would be at the helm of that administration.
Khaleda yesterday strongly opposed the proposal for a Hasina-led all-party government, and pitched for a non-partisan head of government and advisers for running the interim administration.
Speaking at a crowded press conference at Hotel Westin in the capital, the BNP chief called upon Hasina to accept her proposal and take the initiative to form a non-partisan government through a constitutional process.
The first stage of the curriculum consists of language training before starting a curriculum designed to teach the students future leaders in their [respective] countries.
“The Eastern Mediterranean International School is to be run by the EMIS Foundation, headed by Oded Rose, the CEO of Omer-based Flow Industries, which exports drilling and other heavy industrial equipment,” added the same source.
The school draws on educational resources, to “increase the number of students from” Arab countries through a contribution from the Israeli Ministry of Education who has previously engaged with Moroccan students through Ministry of Education-sponsored summer camps that arouse great enthusiasm among Moroccans.
“We want to make sure that we can create a generation of leaders from throughout the world and from Israel, who will get a different perspective on Israel,” Oded Rose was quoted by Haaretz as saying.
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants could halt the peace process and re-enter Turkey from northern Iraq, a senior leader of the group said at Qandil Mountains, threatening to “rekindle an insurgency unless Ankara resuscitates the peace process soon,” according to Reuters.
Accusing Turkey of waging a proxy war against Kurds in Syria by backing Islamist rebels fighting them in the north, Cemil Bayık, a founding member of the PKK said they had the right to retaliate threatening to end the ongoing peace process, a round of meetings between the Turkish state and the organization’s jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan.
However, Ankara strongly denies backing any rebel faction against Kurds in Syria and has held regular talks with the head of a Syrian Kurdish group close to the PKK.
“The process has come to an end,” Bayık said in the interview, which took place on Oct. 19. “Either they accept deep and meaningful negotiations with the Kurdish movement, or there will be a civil war in Turkey.”
As prerequisites, Turkey must improve the conditions in which jailed Öcalan is being held and deal with him on equal terms, guarantee amendments to the Constitution and enlist a third party to oversee any further steps in the process, he added.
“Now we are preparing ourselves to send the withdrawn groups back to North Kurdistan if the [Turkish] government does not accept our conditions,” said Bayık. He said the direction of the process would become clear “in the coming days.”
The ongoing peace process was thrown further into doubt earlier this month when Turkish government unveiled a package of reforms Bayık described as “empty.”
“That package has nothing to do with democracy,” Bayık said, accusing Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of giving false hope. “There is no change in the mentality.”
The reform package revealed by Erdoğan on Sept. 30 stopped short of constitutional guarantees for Kurdish identity and culture, greater autonomy and native-language education, and did not touch anti-terror laws that have put thousands of political prisoners behind bars, Bayık claimed.
“We silenced our weapons so that politics could speak, but now we see that politics is in prison.”
Bayık claimed whilst the PKK had abided by the cease-fire, “Turkey had moved the frontline in its fight against the Kurds to Syria,” where civil war has raged for more than two years.
Bayık also accused Ankara and influential Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen of recruiting and training Islamist “bandit groups” to fight Kurds in Syria on their behalf.
“At a time when the Turkish government is helping the bandit groups and is waging a war on the people of West Kurdistan... it is the right of the Kurdish people to bring the fight to Turkey,” Bayık said, referring to the northeastern corner of Syria, where a Kurdish group aligned with the PKK is in control.
Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian militant from the radical Islamic Jihad movement during a gunbattle near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, an army spokesman said.
"A wanted Palestinian terrorist was killed this morning in Bilin during a gunfight with the army while he was in a cave," tweeted army spokesman Avichay Adraee in Arabic. The gunfight broke out after troops stormed an area between the villages of Bilin and Kufr Ne'meh, 10 kilometres (six miles) northwest of Ramallah, shortly before dawn. The army named the dead man as Mohammed Assi and said he was an Islamic Jihad militant responsible for a bus bombing in Tel Aviv that left 29 people injured. "Mohammad Assi involved in #TelAviv bombing last Nov. opened fire at security forces and was killed this a.m. in the exchange of fire," said the army's official spokesman Peter Lerner in a posting on Twitter that described Assi as the "planner" of the November bombing. He said troops had arrested another two people who were also involved in the bombing. Islamic Jihad confirmed Assi was one of their militants in a statement on its website which said he was "assassinated by the occupation in Kufr Ne'meh." Local witnesses told AFP the incident began at 5:00 am (0200 GMT) when Israeli troops entered Bilin then moved into an area between the village and nearby Kufr Ne'meh, sparking gunfire.
By Jeffrey Heller
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday will seek to dim the optimism after nuclear talks with Iran, cautioning that Tehran is strengthening its strategic regional position by calling the shots in Syria as President Bashar Assad’s puppet master.
In talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome Wednesday, Netanyahu is expected to argue against easing Western sanctions on Iran, which hinted at recent Geneva talks it was willing to scale back its nuclear program.
Netanyahu has long warned the West, in a message it has largely embraced, of the danger Iran would pose to the Jewish state, the Middle East and the West if it obtained nuclear arms through the program which Iran says aims to generate power.
The right-wing premier will gauge just how far the U.S. is ready to consider any letup on sanctions imposed on Iran at the meeting with Kerry.
Reinforcing his warning of the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, Netanyahu has added another twist to his argument, noting that Iran is behind Assad and supplies Shiite fighters for the civil war against Sunni rebels.
Saudi Arabia, another key U.S. ally in the Middle East, is also deeply worried about any sign of a deal between Washington and the kingdom’s arch-rival, Iran.
The double-pronged message is part of Netanyahu’s campaign to prevent any easing of sanctions until it actually dismantles atomic work that Israel is convinced aims to produce nuclear arms. Iran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes.
Six world powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – held two days of talks with Iran in Geneva last week, the first such meetings since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June.
Iran offered a three-phase plan it said could yield a breakthrough in its nuclear impasse with the West, and a second round of talks is due to be held on Nov. 7 and 8 in Geneva.
“There are a lot of countries that are waiting for a signal, just waiting for a signal, to get rid of their sanctions regimes,” Netanyahu told U.S. television station NBC Sunday.
He did not name those nations, but it is a sign of Netanyahu’s concern that he will fly to Rome to see Kerry, who is on a European visit.
QUETTA: Iranian security force handed over 38 Pakistani nationals to Levies force on Pak-Iran border in Taftan area of Chaghi district. Levies force informed on Monday that these Pakistani nationals had been arrested by Iranian security force because they were living there without valid travelling documents. The Levies force have handed over these deportees to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for further interrogation after completing initial investigation. app
Maulana Arshad Madni, the patriarch of one faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and a cleric with wide following, has urged Muslims to vote for the Congress in 2014 because they had “no alternative”, while a top Church leader, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and praised her policies, signs that minorities still view the grand old party favourably.
“This country can never survive without secularism and (Narendra) Modi is a serious threat to that. If he comes to power, a section of society that stands for secularism will be on fire. For Muslims, there is no alternative to the Congress at the national level,” Madni told HT.
Cardinal Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), met Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday and appreciated the “key role” played by her in “caring for the poor and the downtrodden”. He pledged support for the Congress-led UPA government’s welfare programmes. The cardinal is one of the eight globally picked by Pope Francis as advisers.
This is the first time that a Muslim leader has directly endorsed the Congress in the run-up to the 2014 general elections, which could boost the party’s efforts to reach out to the community.
The 80-year-old cleric’s remarks contest what his nephew Mahmood Madni had said in Jaipur last week. Mahmood had said secular parties were trying to scare Muslims by citing the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, although he did not name the Congress.
Asked to comment on his nephew’s remarks, Arshad Madni said: “Hindutva leaders have already talked about taking voting rights of Muslims away. The debate is about the ideology of the BJP.”
to their identity, as had happened in the aftermath of the Babri mosque demolition.
JAMMU: Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde arrived here on Tuesday on a day's visit to take stock of the security situation in the wake of frequent ceasefire violations by Pakistan on the international border in Jammu & Kashmir.
Shinde landed at the technical area of Jammu airport in the morning alongwith Union home secretary Anil Goswami, other senior home ministry officials and Subhash Joshi, director general (DG) of paramilitary border security force (BSF).
From Jammu airport, the home minister along with the state chief minister Omar Abdullah and the team of Union ministry officials flew in a chopper to Samba town where Shinde reviewed the situation on the international border with senior BSF officials.
The meeting was held at the Samba headquarters of the BSF.
The BSF guards the international border in Jammu & Kashmir while the army is deployed on the line of control (LoC) in the state.
The Union home minister is visiting some villages along the international border in Samba and Hira Nagar areas on Tuesday.
SAMBA: Centre is worried over the "increased infiltration" this year in Jammu & Kashmir, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said on Tuesday.
"Looking at last year's record, we are not worried. This year, however, we are worried because of the increased infiltration. I have been discussing this with my officers about the reasons behind the infiltration," Shinde said while addressing the troops in Samba.
He is visiting the Jammu area in the wake of escalation of the ceasefire violations along the International Border and the line of control (LoC).
136 ceasefire violations have been reported so far this year, the highest in the past eight years. Even on Saturday, Pakistani Rangers opened fire at 10 border posts, injuring two persons.
Because of these violations, the Union home minister will not able be go to any forward post and will have to confine himself to meeting BSF personnel in Samba district in this region.
He expressed government's "full support" for the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and said they have been granted the status of ex-servicemen like their counterparts in the defence services.
NEW DELHI: Infiltration attempts in Jammu & Kashmir this year have breached the levels witnessed during the last couple of years, with 254 instances being recorded until September 30 as against 233 during the corresponding period of last year and 247 during 2011.
Incidentally, though the infiltration attempts — facilitated by higher ceasefire violations that now stand at 200 this year as compared to 117 in 2012 — have been on the rise, the security forces have managed to contain the number of cases where the terrorists could successfully sneak into Indian territory. In 133 cases, the terrorists were made to "return" to Pakistan territory, while they successfully crossed over in 84 cases. The corresponding cases of "returned" infiltrators were 130 (2012) and 159 (2011). Successful infiltration attempts were lower at 84 until September 30, as compared to 112 cases in the corresponding period of 2012 and 52 (2011).
Tunisia’s Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said Islamist militants are exploiting anarchy in neighboring Libya to get training and smuggle weapons across North Africa’s porous borders.
His coalition government is grappling with an Islamist militant group known as Ansar al-Sharia, which is one of the most radical to emerge since Tunisia’s 2011 uprising against autocratic President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali Ben Ali.
Security is a sensitive matter for Larayedh’s ruling moderate Islamist party, Ennahda, which has agreed to step down in three weeks to end months of unrest set off by the assassination of two secular leaders by Islamist militants. As well as Ansar al-Sharia, North Africa is home to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other Islamist militants such as those led by veteran commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who claimed responsibility for the attack on Algeria’s Amenas gas plant in January, in which nearly 40 foreign workers were killed.
France’s military campaign to oust al-Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters from Mali this year prompted some to enter southern Libya, where the government in Tripoli exerts scant control.
“There is a relation between leaders of Ansar al-Sharia, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. We are coordinating with our neighbors over that,” Larayedh, who was interior minister before becoming premier, told Reuters.
“Extremists in Tunisia have profited from the situation in Libya and they get their weapons from Libya. They have benefited and they have gotten training in Libya.” Tunisia, where a series of Arab uprisings began in 2011, had been seen as a regional model, and its transition to democracy remains less violent than those in Egypt and Libya. But Islamists, who were long oppressed under Ben Ali, have gained influence, fuelling debate about the role of political Islam.
Salafi Islamists have prevented concerts and plays being staged in some cities, and attacked alcohol vendors, saying they violated Islamic principles. For secular Tunisians, Islamists want to impose strict Sharia or Islamic law, which they feel threatens liberal education and women’s rights. Ennahda itself is split between conservatives and moderates. The party won 40 percent in Tunisia’s first post-revolt election for an assembly to draft a new constitution. It formed an interim coalition government with two secular parties.
Nowadays, there is a need to revive once more the closer, warmer, more harmonious type of bonds between people vaguely attributed to past ages. Morocco will be far better as a unified nation imbued with the values of service, sharing, spiritual nourishment, and recognition of each individual’s gifts and contributions. It would be wonderful to see Moroccans stand together against an enemy that could destroy them: Poverty.
Over the last few years, Morocco has experienced many changes as new powers and new political actors have emerged, namely non-governmental organizations and multinational companies. In the meantime, challenges have also increased because of acute, large-scale, recurrent crises, which have broken out simultaneously and had an impact on the economy and finances of Moroccans.
In the context of such huge regional changes, deep transformations and major crises, it has become urgent to draw attention to the need for a “social renewal” in Morocco. By consolidating Morocco’s sense of community and promoting the opportunities for reclaiming a sense of national unity and connectedness, a genuine sense that each individual feels responsible for the other, Morocco will be a stronger nation. Moroccans have a capacity and desire to care about each other, and this is what will make Morocco strong, powerful, and victorious against an enemy that seeks the destruction of the Moroccan way of life: poverty.
In America, the government provides many programs to keep millions of people out of poverty: food stamps, Section 8 housing assistance, unemployment insurance, medicaid and children health insurance programs, student financial aid and child welfare, Earned Income Tax Credits, and a Food and Nutrition Program “WIC” for pregnant women, to name a few. In the private sector, churches provide pantries and food banks for anyone eligible for assistance. Nearly every store or supermarkets in the whole country asks customers to give one dollar to feed the hungry in America. One dollar by itself may be insignificant but collectively it adds up to a huge amount of money that will help those who need it.
In Morocco, the wealthy are stocking the banks with money while so many of their neighbors are starving. The government is sucking money out of the public coffers to bankroll Swiss banks instead of investing it in the programs that will assist communities in increasing productivity.
The Mosques in Morocco, in contrast with the Churches in the United States, do not have people with the know-how and skills to organize and facilitate philanthropic programs for the wealthy to make a difference in their communities. Mosques should not bejust big buildings for prayer,. Rather they should be also a place where the poor can get free used furniture, used toys for kids, used clothing, food, even used bicycles, motorcycles and cars.
Our prophet has directed us to stand by our neighbor in crisis, feed the hungry, and assist the needy. Mosques are supposed to fulfill that role. But first they need to gain back the trust of people. Then they need to create that strong bond between the physical and the spiritual life while encouraging the rich to practice charity in an organized way and be practical in distributing these charities. What I mean by “practical” is they have to ask those who apply for charity to provide papers and documents that prove their status. Then decide the eligibility of each case in a very truly honest way. To ensure that only the truly needy get help, the Mosque must review and investigate each particular case before granting approvals. Yes, it is hard work! Yet, we have to do it if we really want to make a difference in our communities.
22 Oct 2013
Mozambique's former rebel group Renamo says it has annulled a 1992 peace deal that ended a 16-year civil war after clashes with government forces.
A Defence Ministry spokesman said government forces had attacked a Renamo base in Sathundjira, near Gorongosa in central Mozambique, on Monday.
The operation comes after Renamo mounted attacks on police positions in the same area.
The fighting has damaged the decades old peace-deal between the Mozambique Liberation Front, also known as Frelimo, which has lead government since independence in 1975, and the Renamo movement, which is now an official opposition group.
"Today, the Frelimo-government used troops and heavy artillery to attack the residence of the Renamo president, Afonso Dhlakama, to kill him in cold blood," Fernando Mazanga said.
"The taking of President Dhlakama's base by the special forces marks the end of multiparty democracy.
"This irresponsible attitude of the commander in chief of the country's security forces [President Armando Guebuza] signals the end of the Rome Peace accord."
Karl Sousa, a Mozambican journalist, told Al Jazeera that the whereabouts of Dhlakama were not known.
NATO has said it is sending advisers to Libya to help Tripoli strengthen its security set-up amid chaos and fears of civil war two years after the armed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.
The alliance "agreed to respond positively to the request made by the Libyan prime minister for NATO to provide advice on defence institution building in Libya", Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday.
The request for help was given added urgency by Zeidan's brief kidnapping by armed rebels this month.
Two years after the violent death of Gaddafi in an armed uprising, Libya's fragile government is crippled by infighting and unable to disarm former fighters in a country awash with weapons from his four-decade rule.
The 28-nation alliance said it would set up a "small advisory team" to help Libya.
NATO provided few details about the mission or how many advisers would be involved, however a NATO source indicated to the Reuters news agency that their role would be to advise on strengthening the security forces rather than hands-on training.
The team will be based in Brussels and will not have a permanent presence in Libya, the source said.
LONDON: British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was vital that all elements of Syria's opposition join peace talks tentatively scheduled for Geneva next month if there was to be an end to the 31-month-old conflict.
Hague was speaking before a meeting in London on Tuesday of the so-called "London 11" nations seeking to bolster the Syrian opposition and lay the groundwork for "Geneva 2".
The talks face great obstacles, including divisions within the opposition, rivalry between rebel groups and President Bashar al-Assad's reluctance to give up power. Many of the mostly Islamist rebel factions fighting on the ground do not recognise the exile opposition backed by the West.
Hague said the opposition, elements of which are loathe to negotiate with Assad's government, should attend the talks.
"If they are not part of a peace process in Syria then all the Syrian people have got left is to choose between Assad on the one hand and extremists," he told BBC Radio.
"The longer this conflict goes on the more sectarian it becomes and the more extremists are able to take hold and that is why we are making this renewed effort to get a Geneva peace process going."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters events may have moved in Assad's favour since he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced plans for the peace conference in May, but both he and Hague sought to play this down.
"Neither side is winning this conflict militarily, neither is able to conquer the other," Hague said.
"We have to see it in the longer term. Syrians on all sides now need to make the effort and the compromises necessary for a peace process to work and the appetite is there among the outside powers, in the rest of the world."
Pakistan- based terror outfits at the Laswa Mosque in Lahore on September 20, 2013. Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai 26/ 11 attack, represented the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba at this meeting.
According to the note dated October 8, 2013, based on information received from the Directorate General of Military Intelligence the agenda of the meeting was to “ plan attacks on Indian security forces and inflict maximum casualty”. “ ISI Brigadier opined that no repeat strike should be carried out due to forthcoming meeting of prime ministers of India and Pakistan. Terrorists were adamant to carry out the attacks at the earliest,” the note says.
According to the intelligence note, the meeting was rescheduled for the same evening without any representation from ISI or the Pakistan Army. “ Ter- rorists leaders agreed to send given number for cadres for carrying out suicide attacks,” the note said.
The meeting on September 20 was attended by Brigadier Javed Hussain Shah, Hafiz Saeed ( Lashkar- e- Tayyeba) Abdul Razzak ( Jaish- e- Mohammed) Fazal Sayeed Hakeeni ( Tehreq Ul Islami), Badshah Khan ( Hizbul Mujahideen) Chande Khan ( Jamait Ul Mujahideen) and Ah Marvat Zari ( Advisor).
The note further states that a group of 17 terrorists from the above terror outfits aged between 17 and 23 years infiltrated into the Samba sector on September 25 and 26 and the targets assigned were a church, Army school, Army camps and a Christian school.
On September 26, four terrorists crossed the international border and entered Jammu from Pakistan, storming a police station in Kathua and attacking an Army camp in Samba, killing 10 people.
Experts are of the opinion that terrorists overruling the Pakistan Army is an indicator of changing internal dynamics and lack of clarity as to what is happening in Pakistan.
“ Terror groups seem to have acquired their own autonomy in the set- up even though the Army remains in control. It is part of the internationalisation of terror from within Pakistan,” says Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar, former director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.
Prakash Singh, former DG, Border Security Force, says this is indicative of terrible developments waiting to take place. “ A group like the LeT is a state within the state with more than 1 lakh footsoldiers.
They have developed into a formidable force and it is difficult to contain them,” he said. G Parthasarthy, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, doesn’t agree. He says it’s difficult believe that terror groups can go against the Army, their “ boss”. Intelligence agencies meanwhile continue to worry about the information of 17 terrorists infiltrating in the Samba sector in Jammu since only four have been accounted for till now: three were killed and one managed to escape after the September 20 attack.
QUETTA: The Chairman of the Core Committee of Pakistan Medical Association, Balochistan chapter, Dr Haqdad Tareen, said on Monday that 84 doctors had moved to other cities from the province because of threats to their lives and property.
Addressing a press conference at the hunger strikers’ camp at the Civil Hospital, he threatened that doctors serving in various hospitals would resign en masse if protection was not provided to them.
He said that so far 26 doctors, including cardiologist Dr Munaf Tareen, had been kidnapped and 18 others died in targeted attacks.
“We are unsafe and the government is least concerned in providing us protection or freeing Dr Tareen who was kidnapped on September 17. Keeping in view the lukewarm attitude of the administration and police, we have decided to form a private force for security,” he added.
Dr Haqdad said that today (Monday) Dr Luqman Hakim, Dr Asmatullah Kakar, Prof Luqman Butt, Dr Behram Khan Achakzai, Dr Kaleemullah Kakar, Prof Nusrat Riaz and Prof Shafiur Rehman had observed token hunger strike from morning till afternoon in protest against the continued incidents of kidnapping of doctors and attacks on them.
Slamming the law-enforcement agencies for allegedly advising doctors to make a deal with abductors for the release of their kidnapped colleagues, Dr Haqdad said the government knew who the culprits were yet it was helpless to take action against them. “Hence it has no right to govern,” he added.
ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani doctor who allegedly helped the US to track down al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden has sought a fresh probe into his conviction in a treason case.
A tribunal in federally administered tribal areas will hear arguments from Dr Shakeel Afridi's legal counsel on October 30 to determine whether the case merits fresh probe.
"We have filed an appeal seeking a proper trial under which the witnesses would be re-examined and the doctor will have the right to defence," Samiullah Afridi, the doctor's lawyer said.
Samiullah said he has also applied for his bail as the doctor has been in jail for the last two years. "While his sentence has been set aside, the order had said he will remain in jail," Samiullah said.
Afridi, who was arrested immediately after the May 2, 2011 operation by US commandos that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, was convicted for treason over alleged ties to militant group Lashkar-e-Islam.
LAHORE - The Punjab police have launched a full-fledged programme to impart state-of-the-art training to help investigators track-down criminals by using modern technology and expertise rather than relying on typical tools.
“For this purpose, various training sessions were conducted in all districts of the Punjab province. All the policemen from the rank SP to IO (investigation officer) were given training about the latest investigation techniques,” a police spokesperson said on Monday. The training programme had been launched across the province simultaneously as per the vision of Inspector General of Police (IGP) Khan Baig. It would surely help improve the functioning of the investigation wing of the Punjab police.
The training course included how to secure crime scene, separate witnesses, scan scene, secure photographs of crime scene, search evidences, secure collective evidences, arrange DNA tests, polygraph tests, CCTV footages, and collection of evidences from the crime scene as well.
By Our CorrespondentPublished: October 22, 2013
Haroonur Rashid Ghazi, the complainant in Lal Masjid case, has nominated former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, former federal ministers Khursheed Kasuri, Aftab Khan Sherpao and Tariq Azeem among others as co-accused in the case.
Ghazi recorded his statement with Aabpara police on Monday and nominated the former premier, his ministers and the then officials of civil administration for helping Musharraf in the military operation, in 2007, that resulted in killing of his father Abdur Rashid Ghazi, his grandmother and ‘innocent seminary students’. He has asked the police to book all the accused in the murder case.
The police were, however, yet to include their names in the FIR registered against Pervez Musharraf. In his statement, former president denied all allegations. He told investigators that it was the federal government under the prime minister that took the decision to launch military operation.
He was president at that time and there was no culpable proof or written evidence that he gave the order for the operation, Musharraf told the interrogators last week.
Quoting former president’s statement before and during the military operation, Ghazi has, however, alleged in his statement that Musharraf gave direct ‘life threats’ to his father and Lal Masjid inmates.
US Drones killing of innocent seen as war crimes!
Same as Taliban’s, al Qaida and the others. That is the
reason why the US and some of it’s friendly countries are not signatories to the ICC.