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Islamic World News ( 29 Jan 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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With Muslim as Guide, Jain Monk Awarded Doctoral Degree in Jainism

Kashmiri Separatist Geelani takes on Sharia Court on Expulsion of
Christian Missionaries

Saudi Arabia Officials Assault, Strip search Christian Prisoners

Hague: Muslim party wants dog ban

Nigeria army says kills 11 Boko Haram insurgents

Boko Haram rejects Jonathan's call for dialogue

Fai pleads guilty in ISI’s Kashmir plot in Washington

Why women convert to Islam

Did Kissinger call Pakistan ‘stupid’?

Top-level India-Pakistan military contact mooted

Senior Shia cleric highlights women role in the community

UN inspectors visit Iran as nuclear tensions rise

Sudan: Chinese held by rebels in South Kordofan

26/11 probe: Pak judicial commission to arrive in Mumbai on Feb 3

Former Taliban Officials Say U.S. Talks Started

Zardari’s ‘check- up’ sparks exit rumours

Imran counts the days of Pak army

Pakistani officials, citizens laud achievements of UAE Assistance Programme for Pakistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai 'plans talks with Taliban'

Saudi exhibition window on Islamic culture

Egypt Islamists look to build on success in polls

Sharp Rise in Violence Halts Monitoring by League in Syria

Beltway Lobbyists Drop Egypt’s Government as Client

Yemen's President Saleh arrives in US for treatment

22 Indian fishermen held in Pakistan

‘Bangalore terror accused never went out of Bihar’

India: Top Muslim clerics shun Mulayam’s power show

Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Syed Ali Shah Geelani



With Muslim as Guide, Jain Monk Awarded Doctoral Degree

Bharat Yagnik, TNN

AHMEDABAD, Jan 29, 2012: Jain monk Chintan Muni, 53, will now be called Dr Chintan Muni. The monk was awarded a doctoral degree by Gujarat University on Saturday, thanks to a unique relationship he had with his Muslim guide Intaj Malek. His thesis was on 'Bhavna Shata - Treatise on 12 reflections of Jainism by Shatavdhani Ratnachandraji Maharaj'.

TOI had earlier reported on this unique relationship where a Muslim helped two Jain monks delve deeper into their own religion.

"Chintan Muni was among my first PhD students," Malek, who is assistant commissioner of commercial tax, told TOI. "But we never had a student-teacher relationship. I tried to help the two monks to the best of my ability."

Malek would even follow his on-the-move students around the country, meeting them at upashrayas. He would carry reference books and laptops for his students during these trips, which would also help in monitoring their progress.

Until they met Malek, the Jain munis of Sthanakvasi Jain Ajramar Sampraday were finding it difficult to register themselves as PhD students with Gujarat University and finding a guide. The two munis have not cleared the standard XII exam, but have bachelor's and master's degrees from Jain Vishva Bharati University in Ladnun, Rajasthan.

Malek helped them register as students. Once they came in touch, Malek was requested to become their guide since he was eligible, having done in-depth study in Jainism as well as other religions. He also holds a doctorate in 'Upanishads and Islamic mysticism'.

It was not easy for the monks as they have to be on the move constantly, but Malek found that they were always prepared. If needed, they would even study under streetlights.

"Our guide dedicated himself to ensure that I get the degree," Chintan Muni said. "It is a quality rare to find in today's world. I am inspired to study further now. " Niranjan Muni is also expected to complete his thesis soon.


Kashmiri Separatist Geelani takes on Sharia Court on Expulsion of
Christian Missionaries

By Naseer Ganai in Srinagar

HARDLINER Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has spoken out against the Sharia court order to expel four Christian missionaries from the Valley on the charges of proselytism and forced conversions.

“ We are not with the Sharia court decision banishing a few persons from the state for their alleged role in conversions.

Banishing someone is no solution. As Muslims, it is our responsibility to ensure that we reach out to our youth and create awareness about Islam,” Geelani said.

Ever since the conversion issue reared its head in the Valley, various Islamic organisations have been demanding strict action against the missionaries involved in the alleged act and the separatists watched from a distance. On January 19, the Sharia court here had ordered the expulsion of four missionaries — Fr. Jim Borst of the Dutch Catholic Mill Hill missionary, Rev. C. M. Khanna, Gayour Massi and Chandre Kanta.

Banning them for life from entering Jammu & Kashmir, the court also asked the state government to monitor the syllabus in missionary schools.

Though Christians are in small numbers in the state, the missionary schools — including the Burn Hall School, Presentation Convent School, Tyndale Biscoe School, Mallison Girls School and Saint Joseph School — have earned high repute. Some of the noteworthy students emerging from these schools are Omar Abdullah, Mirwaiz Umar and, ironically, some of the pioneers of the armed militancy — including Ashfaq Majid Wani, who was the JKLF commander in 1989.

But the criticism of these schools has not gone down well with Geelani.

“ They ( Christians) are part and parcel of our society and it is our duty to protect them. No Kashmiri can ignore the contribution of their schools in the Valley’s education system,” he pointed out.

Criticising the government- owned and controlled Wakf Board, he said: “ How many institutions have they ( Waqf Board) established?” Taking on the Sharia court and Islamic seminaries, Geelani said: “ Those raising a hue and cry about conversions have never dared raise voice against the atrocities committed on our people.” The remark was apparently aimed at Sharia court chief Mufti Bashir- u- Din, who is considered close to the government.

However, Mufti Bashir- u- Din said the court’s decision was final. “ We stand by our decision. We have not made any ruling against Christianity or Christians. We have only passed a judgment against four non- state subjects, who were involved in the amoral activity of forced conversion. Geelani may not be aware of all the facts,” he added.



Mission Society Boys School is now called Tyndale Biscoe School, named after Cecil Earle Tyndale Biscoe, a British missionary. Biscoe is attributed with founding the modern education system in Kashmir. In the 1890s, a girl’s school was started in Kashmir by one of the women from the British Church Mission.


According to some estimates total population of Christians is around 400 families in Kashmir.

According to reports published by local newspapers including the Honour , a monthly English magazine published from Srinagar, over 20,000 Kashmiri Muslims have been converted to Christianity.


Saudi Arabia Officials Assault, Strip search Christian Prisoners

Washington, January 24, 2012: ICC Urges Saudi Arabia to Release the Prisoners. International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Saudi Arabian official’s strip searched 29 Christian women and assaulted six Christian men after arresting them for holding a prayer meeting at a private home in Jeddah. The prisoners are currently being held at Briman prison in Jeddah.

“We feel humiliated because the security officials stripped searched us.

They used the same glove to search several of us at the same time. Some of my friends are suffering from physical pain to their private parts due to the unsanitary condition of the strip search. We haven’t committed any crime. We are imprisoned for worshipping the God of heaven and earth,” said one of the female prisoners during an interview with ICC.

Speaking to ICC, another prisoner said, “A high-ranking security official insulted us saying ‘you are non-believers and animals.’ He also said, ‘You are pro-Jews and supporters of America.’ We then responded, ‘We love everyone. Our God tells us to love everyone.’”

In a message for Christians around the world, the prisoner said, “We want you to help us to get out of prison in every way you can, including prayer.

Please tell your governments about our plight, contact human rights organizations and others and inform them about us.”

ICC’s Jonathan Racho said, “The Saudi Arabian officials are committing serious violations of human rights by detaining and mistreating the Christians. It is outrageous that the officials indefinitely incarcerate innocents for practicing their faith. We urge the Saudi officials to release the prisoners and respect their religious freedom.”


Hague: Muslim party wants dog ban

via Spitsnieuws (Dutch):

Hasan Küçük, Hague councilor for the Islam Democrats, says dogs should be banned as pets in the city, reports De Telegraaf. The Muslim party says that the animals belong in nature, not inside the house. Küçük says that keeping dogs is animal abuse and should therefore be criminalized.

He responded sharply during a council debate last Thursday, when the Party for Animals suggested more consideration for dogs.

Paul ter Linden (PVV councillor) responded saying that pets are the norm in the Netherlands, and whoever disagrees should move to another country.


Nigeria army says kills 11 Boko Haram insurgents


MAIDUGURI, Nigeria  Jan 28, 2012- Nigeria's army killed 11 suspected Boko Haram insurgents during a gun battle at a checkpoint in the Islamist sect's heartland of Maiduguri on Saturday, the field operations officer in the remote northeastern city said.

Nigerian forces are reeling from a sharp uptick of increasingly sophisticated and coordinated attacks by Boko Haram. Human Rights Watch says it has killed hundreds of people since launching an uprising against the government in 2009, including an attack on the city of Kano that killed 186.

"Eleven BH (Boko Haram) members have been shot dead by the JTF (joint military taskforce) in Maiduguri today, following a shootout with the sect members at a checkpoint in a stop and search operation," field operations officer Colonel Victor Ebhamelehe said told Reuters.

"One member of the sect who was wounded is receiving treatment at the hospital."

Boko Haram began as a clerical movement opposed to western cultural influences in Maiduguri, a dusty town in the northeast region bordering Chad, Niger and Cameroon, on the cusp of the Sahara. It has since spread to much of Nigeria's north and has become the top security threat in Africa's biggest oil producer.

Suspected sect members attacked a police station in Mandwari, in north Nigeria's Kano state, on Friday, police and witnesses said, leading to more than an hour of running gun battles that fatally wounded one policeman.

"We lost one of our men in the attack in Mandwari inside the city. He is a corporal and he died on the way to hospital. The gunmen were repelled," Kano police commissioner Ibrahim Idris told Reuters on Saturday.

In an audio tape posted on the Internet on Thursday, the purported leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, threatened to kill more security personnel and kidnap their families, and accused U.S. President Barack Obama of waging war on Islam, in an apparent effort to strike a chord with global jihadists.

He denied that the group, which is loosely modeled on the Taliban, had been responsible for most of the civilian casualties in last Friday's attack on Kano. Police say most of those casualities were shot dead by sect members.

(Reporting by Ibrahim Mshelizza; Additional reporting by Mike Oboh in Kano; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Alison Williams)


Boko Haram rejects Jonathan's call for dialogue


Paul Ohia Abuja, Jan 29,2012,  Threatening a fresh bout of violence, Nigeria's dreaded militant group Boko Haram has rejected President Goodluck Jonathan's call for a dialogue, days after it carried out a bloody attack in Kano, killing 185 people. Boko Haram has threatened to attack northern city of Sokoto even as Jonathan demanded that they put forward their requests for possible dialogue. Boko Haram's spokesman, Abu Qaqa said the President's call was "insincere" and rather said his men would attack the city known as the bastion of Islam in the country with a sultanate who has encompassing authority over other Muslims. In a message broadcast to journalists in the sect's enclave of Maiduguri through a conference call, the sect said the dialogue is not possible under the situation at hand. He said the attacks planned for Sokoto would be similar one carried out on January 20 in Kano where more than 85 people were killed. The sect leader, Abubakar Shekau had claimed he ordered the attacks in Kano because members were detained and tortured by Nigerian security agencies and Qaqa said similar situation in Sokoto would lead to the attacks. On Saturday, Nigerian troops claimed they have killed 11 fighters for the Islamic group during a shootout in Maiduguri. The military spokesman for a task force sent to the region, Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed said his force known as Joint Task Force (JTF) did not suffer any casualties during their taid. Bombs numbering up to twenty killed not less than 85 injuring many others in Kano metropolis recently. Boko Haram sect has been waging a bloody conflict to install an Islamic government and Sharia rule in the country. The 150-million Nigeria has both Muslim and Christian population, with Muslims predominant in the north while Christians mostly live in the South.


Fai pleads guilty in ISI’s Kashmir plot in Washington


US- BASED Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai on Wednesday pleaded guilty to federal charges of spying for the Pakistani spy agency, the ISI, and illegally lobbying the Congress to influence the American policy on Kashmir.

Fai, 62, also acknowledged secretly receiving money from the ISI through clandestine routes and causing revenue losses to the US government to the tune of $ 200,000 to 400,000.

Pleading before the US Eastern District Court of Virginia, Fai, head of the Kashmiri American Council ( KAC) pleaded guilty and agreed to the charges of federal prosecutors that he received at least $ 3.5 million from the ISI between 1990 to 2011.

His sentencing is scheduled for March 9. Fai agreed before the court that he was in direct contact with the ISI officials, including the head of its security directorate. The guilty plea was announced by Neil MacBride, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. He conceded receiving talking points from the ISI regarding what to say and write. He agreed that he received directions from the ISI with regard to which specific individuals to invite for KAC conferences.

Fai has consented to forfeit all four bank accounts in his name or in the name of KAC totalling about $ 140,000. He also agreed before the court that he had send the annual budget of the KAC to ISI for approval. “ For the last 20 years, Fai secretly took millions of dollars from Pakistani intelligence and lied about it to the US government,” said US Attorney MacBride.

“ As a paid operative of the ISI, he did the bidding of his handlers in Pakistan while he met with US elected officials, funded high- profile conferences, and promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision- makers in Washington. Syed Fai today ( Wednesday) admitted his role in a decades- long scheme to conceal the fact that the government of Pakistan was secretly funding his efforts to influence US policy on Kashmir,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.

Fai continues to be under house arrest till the time of his sentencing. He was arrested on spying charges on July 19 and then put under house arrest. A resident of Fairfax Virginia, an affluent suburb of Washington DC, Fai is the head KAC and claimed to lobby on behalf of the people of Kashmir.

The FBI had arrested Fai for allegedly collaborating with ISI by clandestinely funnelling hundreds and thousands of dollars to change the view of American lawmakers on Kashmir.

The Tax Division is committed to prosecuting any individual who illegally uses the tax- exempt status of charitable entities to promote or conceal federal crimes, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General DiCiccio said in a statement.

To prevent the Justice Department, FBI, Department of Treasury and the IRS from learning the source of the money he received from officials employed by the government of Pakistan and the ISI, Fai made a series of false statements and representations, according to court documents.

For example, Fai told FBI agents in March 2007 that he had never met anyone who identified himself as being affiliated with the ISI and, in May 2009, he falsely denied to the IRS on a tax return for the KAC that the council had received any money from foreign sources in 2008.


Why women convert to Islam


January 28, 2012

A landmark project exploring why women convert to Islam wraps up at England's prestigious University of Cambridge this weekend.

Organizers say that one of the main reasons for hosting Narratives of Conversion to Islam in Britain is “a general sense of frustration” with the media's "one-dimensional portrayals of female conversion."

They say that these focus on women who marry into the faith, and suggest that they do so at the expense of their independence and liberty.

“Judging by what the media tends to write about Islam, you would expect liberal-minded, intellectually-engaged women from non-Muslim backgrounds to give it a wide berth,” Prof. Yasir Suleiman, the project’s leader, says on the university's site.

“It seems to be a religion that clashes with our ideas about modernity. Yet, the paradox is that there is a noticeable number of well-educated, intellectually-engaged women with high-flying careers who are choosing to become Muslims. So the question is, how do we explain this?”

The project team says that despite the myriad reasons for women converting to Islam – which, contrary to popular belief, often do not involve marriage – a consistent, emerging theme is that many stressed a strong sense of continuity with the past. Although outsiders view conversion as a break with a previous life, and in extreme cases apparently “racialize” white converts as if they have somehow become non-white by joining the faith, the women who make the change retain many of their fundamental beliefs and relationships.

The organizers say they will share their findings in a report to be published in spring.

“(It) will attempt to describe and explain the journeys converts take in full,” Suleiman says. “The stories are very different, but the women who tell them have consistently stressed that they don’t see conversion to Islam as a break from the past, but part of one greater, continuing journey as a whole.”


Did Kissinger call Pakistan ‘stupid’?

January 29, 2012

KARACHI: Refusal to comment on his reported New Delhi statement that he did not think Pakistan would be so “stupid” as to enter into an alliance with China, and the defence of military pacts were the hottest issues raised during Mr Henry Alfred Kissinger’s 60-minute meeting with Press correspondents at the State Guest House here yesterday — his first day in Pakistan.

One of the first questions put to the Harvard professor was whether he made the statement or not. He replied: “It was widely reported; so let the statement stand at that.” After a moment’s pause, he added: “I don’t want to get into a discussion on how correctly or incorrectly I was reported.”

Then he said he was willing to give his views on the “extremely hypothetical” question of an alliance between Pakistan and China. “There is no evidence that Pakistan is contemplating an alliance with China. I do believe that military alliance with China is inconsistent with military alliance with USA. It cannot be in the interest of either India or Pakistan to bring outside Communists into the deep tensions that exist in the Subcontinent.”

What if Pakistan tries to improve relations with China? “That is entirely a matter between the Governments of Pakistan and China,” he said.

FOOTNOTE: Shortly after the conclusion of the news conference, a “clarification” was sent on behalf of Mr Kissinger which stated: “I do not remember having used the word ‘stupid’. It would be bad taste to hide now behind a charge of having been misquoted.”


Top-level India-Pakistan military contact mooted


ISLAMABAD, January 29, 2012, “Interaction between intelligence agencies needed to counter terrorism”

Sensing a strategic shift in the thinking among important stakeholders in both India and Pakistan, an India-Pakistan dialogue this week advocated military contact at the highest level to remove the distrust that has bogged down bilateral relations for over six decades.

Participants at the two-day dialogue organised by BALUSA— a joint initiative to improve bilateral relations— in collaboration with the Delhi-based Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation noted an attempt in both countries to shift from the animosity and mistrust of the past towards peace and friendship.

The two sides were also of the view that high-level contact between the intelligence agencies of the two countries would help counter terrorism. Advocating a bilateral dialogue on Afghanistan and related issues, the joint communiqué issued at the end of the interface noted that a visit to Pakistan by the Indian Prime Minister was long overdue and should be undertaken at the earliest. “In fact, frequent meetings between the Prime Ministers of both countries are necessary to foster better understanding and promote good relations. Such visits are the best CBMs [Confidence Building Measures] between the two countries.”

Pakistan's decision to grant the Most Favoured Nation status to India was welcomed, while New Delhi was asked to take early steps to remove non-tariff barriers. Other recommendations included liberalising the restrictive visa regime by doing away with city-specific and police reporting visas, and expanding economic interaction with primary focus on trade and investment to set the pace for unifying the region economically. In this regard, provision of transit facility was mooted to improve infrastructure.

Given that Kashmir is the biggest stumbling block to normalisation of relations, participants said that there should be a sustained discussion on Kashmir and all appropriate means for carrying the discussion forward should be utilised.


Senior Shia cleric highlights women role in the community

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency)2012/01/29 - Head of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri pointed to the document of women's rights and responsibilities which have been prepared by the women affair office of the organization and underlined,” this document illustrates how men and women should cooperate to accomplish Islamic goals.”

Ayatollah Taskhiri underlined,” Ahlalbayt lifestyle [household of holy prophet] can be a good paradigm for Muslims especially women.”

“Following the lifestyle of Ahlalbayt has momentous effect on Muslim countries, and in spite of what is often claimed, by the enemies of Islam, this religion does not circumscribe women,” the senior cleric mentioned.

The plots hatched by enemies of Islam led some women to mistakenly think that Islam downgrades the role of women.

In other parts of his speech, the grand Ayatollah pointed up the necessity of unity among Muslims and in the Islamic world.

“The commonalities among Muslims from different Islamic schools of Thought are more than their differences,” said the senior cleric stating that through putting stress on those commonalities Muslims can keep their unity against the enemies.

“Islam stipulates a frame work for all denominations, and in the case of any disagreement, this framework should be considered,” Ayatollah Taskhiri underlined.

“We should be wary about extremism and do our best to settle our problems through logic and negotiation,” head of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought mentioned.


UN inspectors visit Iran as nuclear tensions rise

29 January 2012

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have begun a three-day visit to Iran, to try to determine the purpose of the country's nuclear programme.

The visit comes at a time of escalating tension between Tehran and the West over Iran's nuclear activities.

The director general of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, says Iran needs to engage and answer the agency's questions.

Iran denies that it is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.

The head of the IAEA team said they hoped to "resolve all the outstanding issues with Iran" over its nuclear programme.

"In particular we hope that Iran will engage with us on our concerns regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme," IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts said before leaving for Iran from Vienna's airport.

Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asgar Soltaniyeh, said the inspection was aimed at foiling enemy plots and will prove the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear work.

The dispute over Iran's nuclear activities has intensified since an IAEA report in November expressed serious concerns about the possible military dimensions of the programme.

The agency said it had information suggesting Iran had carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device".

Since then the European Union and the United States have introduced a series of sanctions against Iran, including measures targeting the country's lucrative oil industry.

The EU sanctions prohibit the import, purchase and transport of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products as well as related finance and insurance.

All existing contracts will have to be phased out by 1 July.

That timing was intended to give some EU countries time to switch to alternative sources of oil, but Iranian lawmakers are now considering stopping exports to Europe within days, a move likely to drive up fuel prices.

Iran has also threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf, through which more than 20% of the world's traded oil passes.

The United States has said it will use force if necessary to keep the shipping lane open, raising the prospect of a confrontation with Iran.


Sudan: Chinese held by rebels in South Kordofan

29 January 2012

Rebels in Sudan's volatile South Kordofan region say they are holding 29 Chinese workers who became caught up in a battle with the Sudanese army.

The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) said the workers are safe and "in good health".

China's foreign ministry confirmed that some of their nationals were missing, but did not specify how many.

South Kordofan is one of three areas hit by conflict since South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July.

Abyei and Blue Nile along with South Kordofan lie along the loosely demarcated border between Sudan and South Sudan.

The Chinese nationals are reported to have been working on road construction projects in the area.

"Yes, we have captured them," Arnu Ngutulu Lodi of the SPLM-N told the AFP news agency. "I want to assure you right now they are in safe hands."

He said they were captured - along with nine Sudanese soldiers - after the SPLM-N attacked and destroyed a Sudanese military convoy in the area.

Sudan's army said the rebels had attacked the compound of a Chinese construction company and captured 70 civilians.

"Most of them are Chinese. They are targeting civilians," army spokesman Sawarmi Khalid Saad told Reuters news agency.

He said the army had launched an operation to rescue them.


26/11 probe: Pak judicial commission to arrive in Mumbai on Feb 3


MUMBAI, Jan 29, 2012: A Pakistani judicial commission will arrive here on February 3 to record the statements of key persons involved in Mumbai attack probe.

Official sources said that officers of the crime branch have been asked to provide assistance to the Pakistani commission during their visit here for which the Bombay high court had recently given a go-ahead.

The commission will be recording the statement of Ramesh Mahale, the 26/11 case investigating officer and R V Sawant-Waghul, the magistrate who recorded the confessional statement of lone surviving Pakistani gunman Ajmal Kasab. The statements of a few doctors of J J Hospital who treated Kasab will also be recorded, the sources said.

All the statements would be recorded at Esplanade court in south Mumbai, they said.

Pakistan has already issued a gazette notification on the formation of the judicial commission and has listed the members who will represent the Pakistan government.

The delegation will include Khalid Qureshi, the head of the Federal Investigation Agency's Special Investigation Group, and Muhammad Azhar Chaudhry and Chaudhry Zulifqar-- the two main prosecutors.

The commission will also have representatives of the defence lawyers. Accordingly, five counsel of seven Pakistani suspects charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks had informed the anti-terrorism court that they were prepared to go to India.

The commission was announced by Pakistan in response to a directive from the anti-terrorism court that is conducting the trial of seven Pakistani suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, who have been charged with planning and financing the attacks in 2008 that killed 166 people.

The five lawyers were Lakhvi's counsel Khwaja Sultan, Riaz Cheema, Asam bin Haris and Fakhar-e-Hayat. The defence team submitted the passports and other documents of the five lawyers to the court.

During the home secretary-level talks held in New Delhi in March last year, India had agreed to the Pakistani proposal to host the judicial commission of that country as Islamabad maintained that it was necessary to send the panel to India as part of the judicial process in Pakistan.

Pakistan's contention is that the charges against seven LeT operatives, including its 'operation commander' Lakhvi, lodged in a jail there, are based on Kasab's statement in Mumbai and hence the magistrate and the IO's statements are necessary to submit before the anti-terror court.

The trial in the Rawalpindi court has been going on at a snail's pace and Indian officials are not very optimistic that the guilty will be punished any time soon. Curiously, four judges of the court have been changed ever since the trial began in early 2009. Shahid Rafique is the fifth judge to hear the case.


Former Taliban Officials Say U.S. Talks Started


KABUL, Afghanistan, January 28, 2012 — Several Taliban negotiators have begun meeting with American officials in Qatar, where they are discussing preliminary trust-building measures, including a possible prisoner transfer, several former Taliban officials said Saturday.

The former officials said that four to eight Taliban representatives had traveled to Qatar from Pakistan to set up a political office for the exiled Afghan insurgent group.

The comments suggested that the Taliban, who have not publicly said they would engage in peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan, were gearing up for preliminary discussions.

American officials would not deny that meetings had taken place, and the discussions seemed to have at least the tacit approval of Pakistan, which has thwarted previous efforts by the Taliban to engage in talks.

The Afghan government, which was initially angry that it had been left out, has accepted the talks in principle but is not directly involved, a potential snag in what could be a historic development.

The former Taliban officials, interviewed Saturday in Kabul, were careful not to call the discussions peace talks.

“Currently there are no peace talks going on,” said Maulavi Qalamuddin, the former minister of vice and virtue for the Taliban who is now a member of the High Peace Council here. “The only thing is the negotiations over release of Taliban prisoners from Guantánamo, which is still under discussion between both sides in Qatar. We also want to strengthen the talks so we can create an environment of trust for further talks in the future.”

The State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has said only that Marc Grossman, the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, had “a number of meetings” related to Afghanistan when he visited Qatar last week.

The Taliban’s announcement this month that they would open an office in Qatar, which could allow for direct negotiations, drew fire from some Afghan factions as well as some American policy makers, who fear the insurgents would use negotiations as a ploy to gain legitimacy and then continue their efforts to reimpose an extremist Islamic state in Afghanistan.

Full Report at:


Zardari’s ‘check- up’ sparks exit rumours

By Badar Alam in Karachi

THE authorities in Pakistan have strongly denied reports that President Asif Ali Zardari has resigned and left Pakistan for Dubai. But even the denial, analysts say, shows that the ouster of his Pakistan People’s Party ( PPP) government is not improbable, even if it is not happening immediately.

Zardari, hospitalised in Dubai, is in “ stable” condition, an official statement quoted his physician Colonel Salman as saying.

“ Routine evaluation of the President’s condition is being carried out. Investigations carried out so far are essentially within normal range and the President’s condition is stable,” the statement added. Salman said Zardari had to be hospitalised after showing “ symptoms related to his preexisting heart condition”. Analysts, however, say the resignation rumours betray symptoms of the political weakness that has haunted Zardari from the start of his stint in office and may cost him his government sooner rather than later.

“ The military is angry with him and his government over the socalled memo scandal ( allegedly written on Zardari’s behalf to Washington to cut the Pakistan Army to size and involving Pakistan’s former envoy to the US Husain Haqqani).

The deadly cross- border attack by the Nato forces on a Pakistani checkpost in November increased the tensions between the two sides,” an Islamabadbased analyst says.

“ The Opposition is mounting pressure through public agitation and the Supreme Court has never missed any chance to put the government on the mat. Also, for the first time in the past four years, there are reports that some PPP members may part ways with him as former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has already done,” the analyst says, adding that such a combination in the past has sufficed to overthrow governments in Pakistan. “ Zardari and his government are competing against history to survive.” Leading to and from the resignation report were a series of incidents that seemed to support speculation about Zardari’s resignation.

Full Report at:


Imran counts the days of Pak army


PAKISTAN’S PM- aspirant Imran Khan, who is drawing massive crowds in his country, has declared that the army’s days are over in Pakistan and vowed to have best relations with India.

“ The army’s days are over. You will soon see a true democracy in Pakistan,” the cricketer- turned- politician said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum ( WEF) summit in Davos on Saturday.

“ Let me assure you that democracy is set to take off in Pakistan. You just wait till the elections. The time has come for a true democracy,” Khan, who also attended the India reception party in Davos on Friday night, said.

Khan saw nothing wrong in taking groups like the outlawed Jamat- ud- Dawah ( JuD) along in his political journey.

Asked about his association with such extremist group, which has acted as a front of the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba ( LeT) that carried out the Mumbai attacks in 2008, Khan drew attention to the US support to the Taliban during the era of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

“ Is taking along different groups of people with an aim to bring them to the mainstream wrong? What you should understand is that you have to talk to various kinds of people in politics. If I try to bring them ( extremists) back to the mainstream, there is nothing wrong in it,” he said.

Continuing with his argument, Khan asked: “ And if you talk about support to the extremists, did America not support the Taliban?” “ Politics requires you to talk to various groups of people and there is certainly nothing wrong if I want to bring them back to the main fold and change their mindset. For that, I would have to talk to them. I can assure you best of the relations with India and these things would never come in the way,” he added.

The Pakistan Tehreek- e- Insaaf party chief’s presence in Davos was significant because the summit allowed him a platform to promote his political ambitions.

“ The people of Pakistan are waiting for change. They want a democracy of their choice.

The democracy is bound to come. There are lots of expectations.

They have had it enough and now they desperately want their voice to be heard,” he said.


CRICKETER- turned- politician Imran Khan is scheduled to make an appearance at the Kolkata Book Fair on Monday, January 30 and participate in a book reading session.

He will participate in a discussion and share his views on the topic ‘ Captaining a Nation’. He will also be seen attending another session and speak on ‘ Cricket, Politics and Pakistan’ along with author Rahul Bhattacharya.

Organised by the Publishers and Booksellers Guild and Game Plan, the six- day fair began at Milon Mela grounds on January 26.

Imran’s visit to Kolkata had initially been threatened by a visa glitch. The issue was later resolved and Khan’s visit was facilitated.

When asked whether Imran’s visit is confirmed, the officials at Game Plan, spoke in the affirmative.

“ Yes, his visit is confirmed.

He will be coming on Monday.

Imran would be present at 4.15 pm at the book fair,” a Game Plan official said.

Soudhriti Bhabani/ Kolkata


Pakistani officials, citizens laud achievements of UAE Assistance Programme for Pakistan

WAM Swat-Pakistan, Jan 28th, 2012 (WAM)-- xxxx. Leadership. UAE Ambassador Essa Abdullah Al-Basha Al-Nuaimi hosted a reception at the Jinnah Convention Centre to mark the first anniversary celebrations of the United Arab Emirates Assistance Programme for Pakistan.

Ambassador Nuaimi assured Pakistan of UAE's continued assistance to help the victims of the calamity-affected areas. He added that his country had a rich history of bilateral cooperation with Pakistan, especially under leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who are very keen to enhance it further.

UAE envoy said, "The project is one of the pioneer humanitarian projects in South West Asia, which was launched upon the directives by the UAE President to assist Pakistanis affected by the floods".

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar, was the guest of honour at the occasion. Kausar spoke highly of the Pakistan-UAE bilateral relations, saying that he hoped that the brotherly, deep-rooted ties would continue to gain strength in the future as well.

The KPK governor, the UAE Ambassador and other diplomats cut a special cake. The national anthems of the two countries were also played on the occasion.

Paying tribute to the armed forces for their role in the rehabilitation of Swat and thanking the UAE government for its generous assistance, Kausar hoped that the both countries would improve trade, diplomatic, and cultural ties.

Major General Zahir Shah, Commander of the GOC 45th Engineers Division of the Pakistani Armed Forces, said 141 projects have been implemented by the Programme in Swat and the tribal areas, thanks to the strength of the UAE- Pak relations. He added that the achievements will further develop the local educational and health sector to contribute positively in overall national development.

Pakistani people expressed their gratitude toward the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for the UAE humanitarian programme and assistance projects to Pakistan.

Full Report at:


Afghan President Hamid Karzai 'plans talks with Taliban'

By Quentin Sommerville and Bilal Sarwary

BBC News,

Kabul, 29 January 2012, The Afghan government is planning to meet the Taliban in Saudi Arabia in an attempt to jump-start peace talks, the BBC has learned.

The landmark meeting will come in the coming weeks, before the establishment of a Taliban office in Qatar, according to Western and Afghan officials.

The Taliban have refused previously to recognise the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Senior officials in Kabul say the Taliban have agreed to the meeting.

The militant group, contacted by the BBC, refused to comment on the move.

The Taliban have so far insisted they would only talk to the US and other allies of the Kabul government.

A senior Afghan government official told the BBC: "Even if the Taliban office is established in Qatar we will obviously pursue other efforts in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey."

He continued: "Saudi Arabia has played an important role in the past. We value that and look forward to continued support and contact with Saudi Arabia in continuing the peace process."

President Karzai was angered by US and Qatari efforts to kick-start the peace process without consulting his government fully.

In December, he recalled the Afghan ambassador in Doha. A delegation from Qatar is expected to arrive in Kabul shortly in an attempt to mend fences.

As reported by the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper, a number of Taliban officials have already arrived in Qatar.

The delegation includes Sher Mohammad Stanakzai, the Taliban's former deputy foreign minister and Shabudin Dilawari, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Tayeb Agha, a close aide of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

However details for the establishment of a permanent office have still to be finalised.

There are worries that the Taliban are using the political office to raise funds, and as a ploy to buy time before foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

There is also concern in the presidential palace in Kabul that those negotiations will be primarily focused on an exchange of prisoners between the US and the Taliban.

Five senior insurgents are being held at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.

America wants the return of three of its citizens held by the Taliban and its affiliates.

They include a captured soldier, Specialist Bowe Bergdahl, and kidnapped US aid worker Warren Weinstein.

Full Report at:


Saudi exhibition window on Islamic culture


Jan 28, 2012

RIYADH: In his inaugural speech at the "The Saudi Archaeological Masterpieces through the Ages” exhibition at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin on Jan. 25, Prince Sultan bin Salman said the message of Islam is one of peace and justice for the world.

“The exhibition is an opportunity for others to get acquainted with our culture,” he said.

The Berlin visit of Prince Sultan, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), was a success.

Prince Sultan and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit had earlier in the evening jointly opened the exhibition.

During his visit, the Kingdom signed three agreements with regard to excavation. The mayor warmly welcomed Prince Sultan, hailing the opening of the Saudi exhibition at Pergamon Museum. Wowereit emphasized the fact that opening the exhibition in Germany was a practical translation of the mutual cooperation between the Kingdom and Germany with regard to supporting cultural relations between the two countries. He hoped for the continuity of cooperation for the best interests of both countries.

Prince Sultan expressed his appreciation for the warm reception he received at Berlin, for bilateral cooperation, and for the efforts of German officials toward this important cultural event that highlighted the civilization dimension of the Kingdom.

Full Report at:


Egypt Islamists look to build on success in polls


CAIRO, Jan 29, 2012 — Egyptians headed to the polls on Sunday for the election of the upper house of parliament, with Islamists looking to build on their triumph in the People's Assembly.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) with only a handful of voters in several stations, an AFP reporter said, in sharp contrast to the long lines and enthusiasm around the elections for the lower house of parliament.

The election for the Shura Council, an advisory body, takes place over two stages, after which members of both houses will choose a panel that will draft the country's new constitution.

The elections are part of a roadmap for a transition to democratic rule laid out by the ruling military council that took power after a popular uprising ousted veteran president Hosni Mubarak last year.

The first phase of voting takes place over two days in 13 provinces, including the largest cities Cairo and Alexandria, and the second in the remaining 14.

Under the complex electoral system adopted after Mubarak's ouster, two thirds of the Shura's 180 elected members will be elected via a party-list system, while one third will be elected directly.

Full Report at:


Sharp Rise in Violence Halts Monitoring by League in Syria


RANKOUS, Syria, January 28, 2012 — The Arab League suspended its monitoring mission in Syria on Saturday, saying that a harsh new government crackdown made it too dangerous to proceed and was resulting in the deaths of innocents across the country.

The head of the Arab League, Nabil al-Araby, said in a statement Saturday that after discussions with Arab foreign ministers, the 22-member body had come to its decision because of “a severe deterioration of the situation and the continued use of violence.” And he blamed the Syrian government for the bloodshed, saying that it had decided “to escalate the military option.”

A final decision about the mission is due in the coming days.

The suspension came after days of bloody civil conflict in cities across Syria, leading to criticism of the observers’ effectiveness, as they traveled to the edge of neighborhoods wracked by violence in recent days, only to be turned back.

Their hesitation outside Rankous on Saturday, a town emptied of people after five days of clashes and government shelling, seemed to encapsulate the shortcomings of a mission accused by government opponents of providing cover to President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown. Warned by army officers that insurgents could use explosives against them, a driver working with the observers refused to drive their heavily armored Mercedes into town.

Full Report at:


Beltway Lobbyists Drop Egypt’s Government as Client


WASHINGTON, January 28, 2012 — Lobbyists for the Egyptian government in Washington have ended their contracts with the country because of growing tensions after a raid by Egyptian authorities on several American nonprofit organizations.

The Egyptian government has refused to let employees of the organizations leave the country. The detained workers include Sam LaHood, son of Ray LaHood, who is the Obama administration’s secretary of transportation.

The lobbying firms include the Livingston Group, run by former Representative Robert L. Livingston, Republican of Louisiana; the Moffett Group, run by former Representative Toby Moffett, Democrat of Connecticut; and the Podesta Group, owned by Tony Podesta, one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington. Mr. Podesta has close ties to the Obama administration.

The firms were widely criticized for distributing talking points defending the Egyptian government’s raid. They shared a lobbying contract worth more $1.1 million a year to represent Egypt’s interests in Washington, according to documents filed with the Department of Justice.

Mr. Livingston confirmed in an e-mail to Politico that the three firms had dropped Egypt as a client; Politico reported the ending of the contracts late Friday.

The firms had formed a joint effort called the PLM Group to advocate on behalf of the government of President Hosni Mubarak. He stepped down early last year after more than two weeks of street protests led by youth activists. According to the filings with the Justice Department, Egypt has paid PLM more than $4 million since 2007.

The severing of the contracts by the three firms comes weeks after the Egyptian government raided the offices of three American nonprofit groups that work with local organizations on election monitoring and government transparency. The groups are the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House.

The Republican and Democratic institutes are loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic Parties. They were created by Congress and are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which was set up in 1983 to channel grants for promoting democracy in developing nations. Freedom House is a Washington-based group that promotes democracy and open elections.

Full Report at:


Yemen's President Saleh arrives in US for treatment

29 January 2012

Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has arrived in the United States to receive medical treatment for injuries sustained in an assassination attempt.

His departure from Yemen last week followed the passage of a law giving him immunity from prosecution, and a televised "farewell speech".

Hundreds of people have been killed during nearly a year of unrest against Mr Saleh's 33-year rule.

He has repeatedly stepped back from a promise to relinquish power.

Mr Saleh travelled to the US via Oman and Britain after receiving permission from Washington to make the visit.

"President Saleh arrived this evening in the USA for a short-term private medical visit," Yemeni embassy spokesman Mohammed Albasha said in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency.

The US State Department also confirmed his arrival.

The 69 year-old leader was badly injured in an attack on his presidential palace last June.

He spent several months receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia and many Yemenis believed his departure would be permanent.

However he confounded his critics by returning to the country and resuming his leadership, a move that intensified the unrest against him from protesters and armed factions opposed to his rule.

Sensitive visit

Mr Saleh handed power to his deputy in November under a deal brokered by Gulf Arab countries to end the violence.

He is staying on as a figurehead until elections are held next month to choose his successor.

The United States has urged him to stay out of Yemen until the elections are complete, but Mr Saleh has indicated that he hopes to return to his country before then.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in New York says Mr Saleh's visit is very sensitive for the US.

The Yemeni leader has been a staunch ally of Washington in the fight against terrorism, our correspondent says, but US officials do not want to be seen as harbouring an autocrat.

They have stressed that his visit is a private one and for a limited period.

Protesters in Yemen are angry that Mr Saleh has been given "full and irrevocable" immunity from prosecution.

They want him to be brought to justice for offences they say he committed, including the killings of demonstrators.

However, the law gives only limited immunity to government and military officials who served alongside Mr Saleh. They could still be prosecuted for actions deemed to be terrorism, or for corruption.


22 Indian fishermen held in Pakistan


ISLAMABAD, Jan 29, 2012: Twenty two Indian fishermen have been arrested for fishing in Pakistani territorial waters off the coast of Karachi, reports say.

The fishermen were arrested on Saturday by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported. Four of their boats were also seized.

The Indians were handed over to police for further investigation.


‘Bangalore terror accused never went out of Bihar’

By Hakeem Irfan

New Delhi Jan 29 2012 RAISING serious doubts over the police’s claims that he had recced Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore before the 2010 blast there, the family of 21- year- old Gayoor Ahmed Jamali on Wednesday pleaded his innocence, saying he had never left Bihar.

The suspected Indian Mujahideen ( IM) operative was arrested from his residence on November 24, but the local police in Madhubani had refused register an FIR against the arrest. The final- year student of almiyat at the Darul Uloom Ahmadiya Salfiya, Darbhanga, has no criminal record at the local police station.

“He has never left Bihar in his life… never been to Bangalore. The Delhi Police are trying to fabricate evidence against him,” Jamali’s 27- year- old brother, who has a professional degree and works in Delhi, said on the condition of anonymity. Jamali has seven siblings, including a sister. His father Muhammad Nasrullah Jamali ( 50), a teacher, and his elder brother are the only earning members of the family.

“ He is a regular student. All his attendance records are with us,” his brother said, adding: “ He was in touch with Qateel but didn’t know of his personal life and other activities.” The Delhi Police had arrested Qateel and five others from different parts of country, alleging that they were IM operatives working with their absconding leader Yaseen Ahmed Bhatkal alias Shahrukh. A reward of ` 15 lakh has been announced for Bhatkal’s arrest.

Qateel used to frequent the Darbhanga mosque where Jamali delivered sermons and discussed many aspects of religion with him. “ We knew that they were in touch, but there was nothing fishy about it. When we got to know of the raids at Qateel’s residence, we even cautioned Jamali about it. However, Jamali always said Qateel was just an acquaintance and he even stopped talking to him on our insistence,” a family member said.

On November 24, the family claims, some unknown persons in mufti came to their residence and bundled off Jamali and his father in a vehicle to the local police station. “ My father was set free there but Jamali was taken to an unknown place. The local police refused to even acknowledge the arrest,” the family members claimed. They later became aware of his alleged involvement in the blast through television and newspapers.

“ We just know what we learnt from the media. We cannot even afford a lawyer. I am not sure what I can do now,” Jamali’s brother said.

Seeking a high- level probe into the entire affair, the family wants the police to refrain from branding Jamali.

“They are just levelling allegations and naming him in the list of the terror attack accused. It has ruined his career,” he added.


India: Top Muslim clerics shun Mulayam’s power show

By Rajat Rai in Lucknow

SP CHIEF Mulayam Singh Yadav on Saturday tried to bring together Muslim clerics to bat for him in the UP assembly polls. But the only prominent leader who turned up for his joint press conference was the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari.

While Bukhari did appeal to Muslims to vote for the SP, the state’s other clerics — who were conspicuous by their absence — termed Mulayam’s act as a desperate attempt to prove his “ love” for the community.

Among the prominent absentees were the Imam of Lucknow Idgah and Sunni cleric Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, Shia leaders Kalbe Sadiq and Kalbe Jawad, All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board general secretary Maulana Syed Ashraf Kichhouchhvi, Deobandi leader Maulana Mahmood Madani and the SP’s Muslim face Azam Khan. Some other clerics from Deoband, however, did attend the conference.

Bukhari, rejecting the UPA’s 4.5 per cent sub- quota proposal for Muslims, said: “ The Congress has always ditched us and it is my appeal to Muslims to vote for the SP for the betterment and development of the community.” Soon after the Delhi Imam’s statement, Firangi Mahali reacted. “ We do not agree with what Bukhari ji has said and it will not affect the community. Muslims are independent voters,” he said.

A barrage of criticism was also heard from the leaders of the Shia community.

Kalbe Jawad, also a member of the Joint Ulema Council, said: “ A senior leader such as Bukhari should not have been in such haste to make a statement. It is the moral responsibility of senior Ulemas and community leaders to consult each other and issue a joint statement.” He added: Such hasty steps will confuse the Muslims and lead to division of votes.” Azam, surprisingly, had the worst words for Bukhari, even though he justified his absence by saying he was busy with the election campaign in his constituency and did not have time to reach Lucknow.

“ He is a religious leader and should not comment on issues such as reservation.

is best left to politicians,” Azam said.

Flaying the cleric, he added that the Imam had plunged into a political discussion by supporting the SP. “ Our party disapproves those characters or groups who shower praise on the Congress and BJP when they are in power,” Azam said.

The state Congress pounced upon the opportunity to condemn its rival party’s act. Unit chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi called Bukhari a “ fundamentalist” who should “ avoid issuing political fatwas”. Another party leader, Digvijaya Singh, said in Balrampur: “ Bukhari ( supported) Osama bin Laden for long.” After the alarming reactions from the clerics, the SP swung into damage control mode late on Saturday. “ We are with the Muslims and I do not think they ( Firangi Mahali and Jawad) have said anything against Bukhari. We’ll soon get their support too,” spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said, adding that the press conference was called by Bukhari.

Earlier in the day, Mulayam had promised “we won’t let Muslims lose faith in us”. In the 2007 assembly poll, both Sunni and Shia leaders had supported the SP and asked the community to vote for it.

This time, however, the clerics have not yet clarified whom they are supporting.

“ We ( the ulema of both sects) are trying to work out a joint appeal. We will soon issue a formal appeal to voters from a common platform,” Jawad said.

Other clerics who shared the dais with Bukhari and parroted his words included Noorul Huda and Mufti Arshad Farooqui of Deoband and Maulana Zaharuddin of the All India Majlis Ulema- e- Hind.