Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: A Saudi man shows jewelry to a Saudi family
Young Saudis Invent Ploys to Enter Family-only Malls
By NADIA AL-FAWAZ
ABHA:Dec 30, 2011, Entering malls and shopping centers have become a real challenge for young Saudi men, who have innovated many ways and means to force themselves inside.
Under the prevailing rules, only women and families are allowed to enter malls. The young men are barred from malls because of fears that they may disturb families. The young men have considered this a challenge that they have to defeat and deal with one way or another.
Many young men dress like women in order to be allowed into the malls. Others bribe the security guard who controls the gates, while a third group pays money to young girls who will give them company to gain access to malls.
Most of these adventures take place over the weekends. Many young men gather at the gates of malls and shopping centers with the hope of being allowed to go inside. “Preventing young men from entering malls represents a real challenge that we have to overcome,” said Saeed Al-Amri, a young Saudi.
“We feel that we have been rejected by society. This feeling causes us to be more daring and challenge the authority, which has imposed this ban on us,” he added.
Al-Amri said that the lack of public entertainment places for young men made them squatter on the streets and hang around shopping malls to tease families going in or out.
“The entertainment facilities built by the private sector are too expensive, especially for unemployed young men,” he said.
Hassan Madawi, a security guard, said he was tired trying to follow young men and reveal their ploys and secret plans. “Some young men do not hesitate to tell me that their families are already inside and they want to join them,” he said.
Madawi said one girl could take about 10 young men inside the mall by accompanying them one after the other each time.
He said the guards were always quarreling with young men and would often turn them over to the security patrols, who would detain them and release them only after signing pledges never to do this again.
Khaled Mishaan, director of Saher security establishment, said some girls allowed young men to accompany them as their relatives against small bribes including prepaid mobile phone vouchers.
“Some young men wear a woman dress, while others fight with the security guards or bribe them to enter the shopping malls,” he added.
Mishaan said the young men were prevented from entering malls for fear of unethical behavior and added that about 95 percent of the malls were exclusive for women and families.
He said many men would leave their wives inside the mall and go out for their own business, because they were sure that the women would be safe and kept away from harassments by young men.
Mishaan blamed some of the young girls who wear revealing dresses for the bad behavior of young men.
“To avoid this situation, there should be time for young men in the malls. The evenings may be left for women and families, while young men may be allowed into the shopping malls during daytime,” he suggested.
Mishaan said about 95 percent of the young men came to the malls especially to harass women. “This necessitates the creation of special entertainment facilities for young men. It is the leisure time that makes young men hang around malls,” he said.
Dean of medical sciences college and head of the family and social medicine at King Khaled University Khaled Jalban said the very act of prevention consolidated the spirit of challenge with the youth.
He called for inculcating youth with good manners and for teaching them to respect regulations instead of facing them with prevention, which makes them more daring and challenging.
Jalban warned against intimidating the youth with laws and regulations and said this would unnecessarily antagonize them and make them break the laws.
He called on civil society organizations, municipalities, and the private sector to establish entertainment facilities for the youths, who represent about 60 percent of the Kingdom's population.
Church Bombings are Declaration of War, say Nigerian Christians
David Smith, guardian.co.uk,
Johannesburg, 29 December 2011, Christian leaders in Nigeria have accused Muslims of making a "declaration of war" after a series of fatal attacks, raising fears of sectarian conflict.
Islamist militants targeted churches in a series of explosions on Christmas Day, leaving more than 40 people dead and dozens wounded. On Tuesday a Christian couple and their one-year-old baby were shot dead.
Stirring tensions further, on the same day unknown attackers lobbed a crude homemade bomb into an Islamic school in Delta state, wounding seven people including six children in an Arabic class.
Nigeria is largely divided into a Muslim north and Christian south, although members of the two faiths live everywhere across the country, do business together and intermarry.
With the shadowy Islamist sect Boko Haram stepping up deadly attacks in recent months, Christian leaders have warned that they will take action to protect themselves.
At a meeting with the president, Goodluck Jonathan, on Wednesday, Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella group for all denominations, said Christians had become victims of "Islamic jihad".
"It is considered as a declaration of war on Christians and Nigeria as an entity," Oritsejafor said. He did not want to encourage acts of revenge, he said, but "Christians should protect themselves … in any way they can".
Oritsejafor criticised Muslim leaders and the government for failing to intervene. "CAN has found the responses of … Islamic bodies on this matter to be unacceptable and an abdication of their responsibilities. The Christian community is fast losing confidence in the government's ability to protect our rights," he said.
"The consensus is that the Christian community nationwide will be left with no other option than to respond appropriately if there are any further attacks on our members, churches and property."
Jonathan, a Christian, promised to do more to combat the threat of Islamists and hinted at a reshuffle in his security services.
"We will restructure … and make sure we get a team that will meet with the challenge we are facing today," he said. "I will plead with religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian leaders, to work together."
On Tuesday, Nigeria's main Muslim cleric, the sultan of Sokoto, denounced the Christmas Day attacks and called for calm. "I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity," he said.
But tensions are running high in the nation's so-called middle belt, where north and south meet. On Tuesday night in a village near the city of Jos, in Plateau state, a Christian couple and their one-year-old child were murdered in an attack blamed on Muslim herdsmen.
Last week Boko Haram was involved in heavy gun battles with government forces in the north-eastern city of Damaturu. The clashes displaced 90,000 people and the entire district of Pompomari emptied as residents fled, an official said.
Boko Haram, dubbed the Nigerian Taliban, is seeking to implement strict sharia law across Nigeria. The group has caused bloodshed two Christmases in a row and is responsible for at least 504 killings this year alone, according to a count by the Associated Press.
Boko Haram claimed three bomb attacks on churches this Christmas, including one that killed 27 worshippers in a Catholic church near the capital, Abuja, and one in Jos. Abu Qaqa, a spokesman for the group, was quoted in the local press on Wednesday as saying the bombs were revenge for attacks in Jos by Christian youths on Muslims during an Islamic holiday in August.
In Jos, Reuters reported, local Muslims are wary of a possible Christian backlash. "We are just beginning to live in peace, so we hope our Christian brothers can help us keep that peace," said Mohammed Kabir, who like many Nigerian Muslims resents being associated with violent extremism. "Boko Haram is not all Islam."
Last year the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi proposed that Nigeria be divided into two countries to avoid religious conflict. The idea was dismissed with contempt at the time: all northern states have substantial Christian minorities and up to half of Nigeria's south-western Yoruba ethnic group are thought to be Muslim.
But now Gaddafi's radical solution resonates with some Christians. Papa Jimba, 46, leader of the Christian community in a Jos neighborhood, told Reuters: "Let us divide Nigeria. The Muslims go to their side and the Christians stay on our side. Then peace can come back. I'm even praying for that."
The Rev Philip Mwelbish, head of CAN for Plateau state, said: "People thought Gaddafi was mad, but I've started to see the sense in what he said. If we can't exist together with our Muslim brothers, then they can build their houses over there, and we build ours here.
"We have a proverb in Nigeria: if you push a goat to the wall, he will bite you. They've pushed us to the wall."
Indonesia's Religious Tolerance Wanes While Dogmatic Bylaws Gain Ground: Institute
Ulma Haryanto, December 30, 2011
The Wahid Institute, a Muslim organization that promotes tolerance, warned on Thursday that the worst was yet to come for religious freedom and tolerance if the country refused to take drastic measures.
“We have been recording the state of religious freedom and tolerance since 2008, and I have to say that 2011 was the worst,” said Rumadi Ahmad, program coordinator at the institute.
Aside from the increasing incidents of religious violence and intolerance — 276, up from 198 last year — the Wahid Institute also highlighted the steady growth of religious bylaws.
The institute reported that 36 regulations had been drafted or implemented that banned religious practices that were deemed as deviant from Islam, including the Ahmadiyah, required dress, respect toward holy days and obligation to pay alms.
In 2011, West Java and its districts issued 10 religious bylaws, more than any other region including Aceh, which partially adopts Shariah law.
West Java also ranked first in the number of religious violence and intolerance incidents with 160 recorded incidents this year, according to the institute.
“It is not as much as in 2004-2005 when we recorded that there were around 57 religious bylaws issued in that period. However, West Java was still the region with the most bylaws issued,” Rumadi said.
According to the program coordinator, the strong historical presence of Darul Islam and the Islamic Troops of Indonesia, which launched a widespread rebellion during the 1950s in a failed attempt to establish a Muslim theocracy, has made West Java a breeding ground for religious intolerance.
Maldives Tourism Ministry issues circular to close spas and massage parlors
By Ahmed Nazeer
December 29th, 2011
After thousands of protesters gathered last Friday and demanded the government “close the spas and massage parlors and such places where prostitution is conducted”, the Tourism Ministry has today published a circular asking all the resorts to shut down their spas and massage parlors.
Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair today confirmed to Minivan News that the Tourism Ministry had issued the circular.
The circular informs that the government has decided to shut down all the spas and massage parlors in accordance with demands made by the general public during last Friday’s protest to “defend Islam.”
Speaking at a press conference held yesterday, Zuhair said the protesters did not specify where exactly the prostitution was conducted but mentioned that prostitution was conducted inside spas and massage parlors.
He said the government does not know how to differentiate between the spas and massage parlors that are complicit with prostitution and those which are not.
Therefore, Zuhair said the government has decided to shut down all such locales because Maldivians, including high-profile individuals, have been visiting tourist resorts and having spa treatments.
He said the government does not want those high-profile individuals’ good names being damaged by visiting places accused of such crimes.
Zuhair added that some of the individuals making these demands last Friday also conduct business in the tourism industry. Therefore, the government believes that, given their insider understanding of the resort and spa industry, their accusations are well-founded and there is not much to investigate.
This week, five spas run in five resorts owned by opposition Jumhoory Party (JP) Leader ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim were asked by the Tourism Ministry to shut down operations over similar allegations.
The company subsequently sued the government. Meanwhile, the Civil Court issued a warrant permitting those spas to continue operations until the suit has reached a verdict.
Tourism Minister Dr Maryam Zulfa was unavailable for a comment.
Syria troops 'clash with Damascus activists'
30 December 2011
Syrian forces and activists have clashed during after-prayer protests in Damascus, as Arab observers continue their mission in the country.
Activists said troops fired nail bombs to disperse protesters who retaliated with stones in the suburb of Douma.
Protest organisers had called for mass demonstrations, saying up to 40 people were killed by troops on Thursday while awaiting a visit from the Arab team.
Correspondents say the presence of the monitors has emboldened the protesters.
Syrian opposition groups said the bodies of eight people had been recovered on Friday, although such figures are difficult to verify. At least 5,000 are believed to have died since the revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began in March.
On Friday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 20 protesters were hurt when troops fired "nail bombs" and tear gas to disperse as many as 70,000 protesters who were marching towards the city hall, where Arab League monitors were believed to be based.
Major protests were also reported in Hama, Homs and around the northern city of Idlib, where the group said at least 250,000 people had taken to the streets in 74 separate protests.
Activists had called for massive protests after prayers on Friday - the traditional day of demonstration.
"On Friday we will march to the squares of freedom, bare-chested," said the Syria Revolution 2011 Facebook group.
"We will march as we did in Homs and Hama where we carried olive branches only to be confronted by [President Bashar al-Assad's] gangs who struck us with artillery and machinegun fire."
The Arab League peace plan calls for a complete halt to the violence, the withdrawal of all armed forces and the release of all detainees.
The Arab mission has faced criticism for being led by Sudan's Gen Mustafa al-Dabi, who Amnesty International has accused of carrying out human rights violations in his own country.
But the League says Gen Dabi has full support, and the US has urged detractors to allow the team to finish its work.
Russia's foreign ministry says the first comments from the observers showed the situation in Syria was "reassuring".
The comments came in an interview Gen Dabi gave on Thursday after a visit to Homs.
"Some places looked a bit of a mess but there was nothing frightening," he told Reuters.
But the Local Coordination Committees, a Syrian activist group that documents and organises protests, said that 130 people had been killed since the Arab League monitors arrived in the country earlier this week.
The anti-government Free Syrian Army says it has requested a meeting with the observers but received no response.
"We haven't been given any of the (phone) numbers for the monitors, which we have requested. No one has contacted us either," said Col Riad al-Asaad, who heads a force claiming to be 10,000-strong, many of whom defected from the Syrian army during the uprising.
The rebel commander told Reuters his forces had been ordered to stop all attacks on government troops since the arrival of the observers in the country.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the Arab League's initiative was "the only ray of light" for Syrians.
"The presence of the observers in Homs broke the barrier of fear," he told AFP.
Despite the presence of the Arab monitors - who are being escorted around the country by state security officials - there has been little let-up in the ferocity of the response to protests, correspondents say.
The US State Department and UK foreign office have expressed concern about the continuing violence.
Casualty figures and other information are hard to verify as most foreign media are barred from Syria.
Pakistani girl brought to US for treatment 'disfigured by her own nation's military'
By Rob Crilly,
Islamabad, 29 Dec 2011, Little Shakira bears the tragic scars of the war on terror. Her face has been disfigured by burns and her skin is stretched tight.
Medical missionaries discovered her two years ago in a bin in the Pakistani region of Swat and, believing her to have been injured by a secret CIA drone strike, took her to the US for surgery which is due to begin next month.
But now hawkish commentators in the US are questioning the story, pointing out there have never been any drone strikes in the Swat valley. Instead, the attacks focus on the border areas closest to Afghanistan.
"What is more likely is that Shakira was horrifically disfigured by her own nation's military, and not by US drones," writes Bill Roggio on The Long War Journal blog.
"Beginning in May 2009, the Pakistani Army launched an offensive in Swat to oust Mullah Fazlullah's branch of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which ruled the Swat Valley for more than two years prior.
Drone campaigners plan UK prosecutions 18 Jul 2011
"The Pakistani military used brutal tactics, including indiscriminate air and artillery strikes, against the Taliban and civilians alike." The Swat Valley was once described as Pakistan's Switzerland, a favourite destination for walkers in summer and skiers in winter.
But in 2009 it was overrun by Taliban militants.
Shakira, now four, was found by a doctor on a medical mission with Texas-based House of Charity, who was told the baby had been injured by a drone.
She was initially cared for in a hospital in Lahore but her relatives were never traced before she was taken to the US earlier this month.
Earlier this year the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that 385 civilians, nearly half of them children, had been killed the covert US drone programme in Pakistan – a figure dismissed by American officials.
"There is a strain of thought that pins all the blame for Pakistan's ills on the Americans," said a Pakistani journalist who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. "Again with this baby it seems as if it is easier to assume it was drones than something closer to home."
Imam behind 'Ground Zero Mosque' calls for peaceful pilgrimage to Israel
If Muslims 'felt free to come here for part of their pilgrimage, you would have easily tens of millions of people coming to Jerusalem,' Feisal Abdul Rauf tells Haaretz.
By Raphael Ahren
A prominent American-Muslim cleric is calling for the institution of a "sacred month" during which Muslims, Jews and Christians cease all hostilities and pilgrim to Israel.
In an exclusive interview with Anglo File in Jerusalem this week, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf - known for his controversial plan to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York - said the idea takes its cue from the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca.
"During the annual pilgrimage to Mecca - the hajj - the Arabs always used to be hostile towards each other," said the Kuwaiti-born cleric, listed by Time Magazine in 2011 as one of the "most influential people in the world."
"During the time of pilgrimage there were three sacred months during which all hostilities stopped," he said. "This allowed the pilgrims to travel safely. It would also allow trade to occur and for people to get together in a good way," he said.
Rauf, 62, called this week on religious leaders to "bring this idea back."
"I'd like us religious leaders to call for a sacred month that that will allow people to go on pilgrimage," he said. If Muslims - including Iranians, who are often keen pilgrims - "felt free to come here for part of their pilgrimage, you would have easily tens of millions of people coming to Jerusalem," Rauf said.
Rauf suggests that such a move "would be one step that would perhaps open the door" to reconciliation and peace.
"The pilgrimage to Mecca has always been an occasion for Muslims to get to know Muslims from other parts of the world," Rauf noted. "If Muslims could come here, you could create some activity on the sidelines between Muslims and Jews."
The chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, an organization dedicated to improving interfaith relations, Rauf is not without controversy. His plan to build an Islamic cultural center near the former site of the World Trade Center - often called the "Ground Zero Mosque" - faced severe criticism. Pundits attacked him for accusing the United States of being an "accessory" to 9/11 and alleged secret sympathies for Hamas.
But this week, Rauf emphatically condemned religious radicalism. "We have to strengthen the voice of the moderates," he said. "The problem is the moderates are not media attractive. Breaking news is always the actions of the extremists."
"This is where we moderates are on the defense," Rauf said. "Yes, the extremists are winning the game, but I believe they are winning more in the perception than in the reality."
The real battlefront, he said, is not between Muslims and Jews, but between moderates and extremists.
Rauf, who is in Israel for a conference of the Jerusalem-based Elijah Interfaith Institute, visited holy sites revered by both Islam and Judaism during a tour led this week by U.S.-born Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein, head of the institute. On Monday the two prayed at the Tomb of Samuel, also known as Nebi Samwil, which houses both a mosque and synagogue.
"When we came out, I said, 'This is really beautiful; here we are praying together as Jews and Muslims,'" said Goshen-Gottstein. "Feisal said, 'Yes Alon, but we also have to go beyond these labels: Jews, Christians and Muslims. There is also a place we meet beyond that."
After their visit to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where Jews and Muslims are kept separate, Goshen-Gottstein lamented, "The sad truth is that in many of these places, we of different religions don't think about the other."
"The point of purposeful pilgrimage," he explained, "is that even if we carry out pilgrimage in different ways - I go into my space and you go into yours - I maintain you in my awareness. I include you in my prayers and you include me in yours."
Rauf insists that even in turbulent times, peace still remains an achievable goal. "Time creates irreversible change," he said. As people become more multicultural, "the world is moving towards a unity." If 50 years after World War II the world can have a united Europe, the same can happen in the Middle East, he said. "If there were peace in this region, within a generation all the countries in the Middle East would have a common market, possibly a common currency."
While many worry about Israel's security in the wake of the Arab Spring, Rauf senses it could spark the end of the Arab-Israel conflict. "Perhaps we [moderates] can begin something that would have the elements of a peace movement that would ... force political leaders to actually consider a shift in their policies," he said.
Quoting a passage from the Koran passage in which Jews are described as the chosen people, Rauf maintains that Israel has a special duty to bring peace to the world.
"Part of the responsibility and the burden of the Jewish State of Israel is to really reach into its deepest identity as Jews," he said. "The little Yiddish that I learned is 'Zei a yid' ['Be a Jew']. It means be a mensch, be a real human being in the highest sense of the word. If I could say one thing to the Israeli leadership it would be: 'Zei a Yid.' If Israel can express the highest standards of what it means to be a Jew, it will win the respect of the whole Muslim world."
Rauf added that Israel must express its Jewish identity "not from a demographic sense, but from what being a Jew really means - to be the chosen people of God."
"In this small piece of land, God wants us to make it," Rauf said. "If we can figure it out here, it will have an impact globally."
Iran-U.S. war of words escalates
DUBAI, December 29, 2011, The war of words between Iran and the United States escalated sharply on Thursday with a top military commander of Iran dismissing the warning from Washington not to close the Strait of Hormuz — the principal gateway through which the world's oil supplies pass.
Hossein Salami, deputy chief of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), announced on state-run Press TV that the “Islamic Republic of Iran asks for no other country's permission for the implementation of its defence strategies.” He was responding to a Pentagon statement which asserted that Tehran's interference “with the transit or passage of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated”.
Tensions have heightened after the U.S. began to prepare for sanctions that would cripple Iran's oil exports — the lifeline of the country's economy.
With these sanctions possibly kicking in next month, Iran's First Vice President had on Tuesday threatened to block oil supplies flowing out of Gulf terminals from the Strait of Hormuz. A day later, Iran's naval chief, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said his country would find it “very easy” to close the Strait the Hormuz — a prospect which can cause oil prices to zoom and undermine the fledgling recovery of the ailing western economies.
The back-and-forth between the Iranians and the Americans have acquired a sharper edge as both sides are backing their threats with large deployments of warships in an area east of the Strait of Hormuz.
Full Report at:
Bahrain King emphasises religious tolerance
By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Manama:December 29, 2011, King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa has emphasised the significance of promoting interfaith dialogue, tolerant understanding and peaceful co-existence.
Bolstering the values of tolerance and moderation to bolster welfare, consolidate security and boost stability to enable people to prosper should also be emphasised, King Hamad said as he received Rabbi Marc Schneier, the founder and head of the US Ethnic Understanding Foundation, an organisation advocating racial harmony.
"Islam is a tolerant and peace-loving religion which abhors all forms of violence and terror and advocates good advice, serene dialogue and respect of other faiths," King Hamad said, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.
The Bahraini monarch also pointed out the peace and amity prevailing in the country, saying that this lofty mindset was the basis for the relations between all citizens. "The Kingdom of Bahrain will remain an oasis of security, serenity and constructive co-existence between sects, religions, civilisations and cultures", he said.
Bahrain is home to a community of around 50 Jews, mainly from families that migrated from Iraq to Bahrain and thrived in the business sector.
The community was represented in the upper chamber of the bicameral parliament by Ebrahim Daoud Nonoo. In 2005, he was replaced by his niece, Houda Ezra Nonoo, a businesswoman who manages Gulf Computers Services and who had made history by becoming the first non-Muslim woman to head a human rights society and the first Jewish woman Member of Parliament in Bahrain.
Houda again made history in 2008 when she became the first Jewish ambassador from an Arab country appointed to the US.
The Jewish community in Bahrain is today represented by Nancy Khadhori in the 40-seat Shura Council (upper chamber)
The community began to settle in Bahrain in the early 1900s and most of its members were traders from Iraq, Iran and India looking for a peaceful place.
Despite the waves of anti-Israel protests since the creation of Israel in the Arab world, no Jewish business has ever been vandalised or destroyed and no shop sign was ever taken down or marred.
The Jewish cemetery in Manama, well kept for over 100 years, is next to the Christian cemetery, and across the street from the Shiite graveyard.
India Needs Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Development
Islamic finance has emerged as a viable alternative world over after the financial meltdown of the west. It is growing at the rate of more than 15%. Not only Muslim countries but modern, secular and industrialised countries like UK, France, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong have become hub of Islamic finance and banking. Even World Bank considers it as a priority area.
Addressing a press conference organised by Indian Centre for Islamic Finance (ICIF) at Press Club of India on Dec 7, Mr Muddassir Siddiqui, an international expert on Islamic Finance and Shari’ah head of SNR Denton, Dubai said: “Our country needs US$ 1 trillion to upgrade its infrastructure in order to achieve its target of an annual growth of 9.0% – 9.5%, almost double in the 12th Five-year plan than the 11th year plan.”
Standard &Poor’s document released on Oct 13, 2011 – “Will Islamic finance play a key role in funding Asia’s huge infrastructure task?” – mentions that conventional lending markets being jittery the world is now looking towards alternatives to conventional finance and Islamic finance is one such alternative.
In a report published in the Economist – Economist intelligence unit, Report – GCC trade and investments are flowing towards emerging markets like China and India instead of US and Europe.
Mr Siddiqui also talked of the Prospects of Islamic Finance and said that “an estimated $1.5-trillion funds sloshing around the Middle East, largely from higher oil prices which is going to increase by about 7 Trillion by 2020. Our country is emerging as a global economic power. As per the Planning Commission report, there is a huge gap of US 300 billion (30% funding Gap) to meet the financial requirement of infrastructure sector up to 2017. Islamic financial products are ideally suitable for the much needed funding for the long term investment in various sectors including infrastructure sector.”
Introducing the theme of the press conference, ICIF General Secretary H Abdur Raqeeb said: “Even after forty years of nationalization of the banks, 60% of the people so not have access to formal banking services and only 5.2% of the villages have bank branches. Marginal farmers, petty traders, landless labours, self employed and unorganised sector enterprise, ethnic minority and women – Aam Aadmi of the country continue to form ‘the financially excluded class’.”
India asks Pakistan to declare its nuclear doctrine, join Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty
NEW DELHI: 29 DEC, 2011, With Pakistan's nuclear arsenal a matter of growing global concern, India has pressed Pakistan to enunciate its nuclear doctrine and asked it to join global efforts for concluding the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).
At the expert-level talks in Islamabad earlier this week on nuclear Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), New Delhi politely spurned Pakistan's proposal for bilateral cooperation on nuclear safety and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, saying it will have to wait till there is adequate trust and confidence between the two countries.
The Indian side was led at the talks on nuclear CBMs by Venkatesh Varma, joint secretary (Disarmament) in the external affairs ministry, and the Pakistani delegation was headed by Munawar Saeed Bhatti, Additional Secretary in the Pakistan's Foreign Office.
Reliable sources said India pointed out at the meeting that it was cooperating in the area of nuclear safety at the multilateral level at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the global atomic watchdog, and suggested that New Delhi could cooperate with Islamabad also within the IAEA framework.
Voicing concern over Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, New Delhi pressed Islamabad to enunciate its nuclear doctrine, including the command and control structure of its nuclear assets, and said the declaration of the doctrine could be a major CBM.
Against the backdrop of widespread global concern about Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists, Indian officials conveyed to their Pakistani counterparts that it was a matter of concern not only for India but for the entire international community that Pakistan was yet to publicly state its nuclear policy.
India, on the contrary, has articulated its nuclear doctrine which includes, among other key principles, credible minimum deterrence and no-first use of nuclear weapons.
India also asked Pakistan to join global efforts to conclude the FMCT at the Conference on Disarmament and underlined that it could be an important step in building trust between the two countries.
Pakistan has consistently refused to participate in the FMCT negotiations. India has backed an early conclusion of negotiations on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and verifiable FMCT.
In an important move, the two sides have agreed to recommend to their foreign secretaries to extend the validity of the agreement on reducing the risk from accidents relating to nuclear weapons for another five years.
The talks on conventional CBMs was led from the Indian side by Y. K. Sinha, joint secretary (Pakistan) in the external affairs ministry. Sources said the talks, held after a gap of four years, were conducted in an extremely cordial and constructive atmosphere with both sides candidly exchanging views on additional CBMs.
At the talks, the Pakistan side proposed relocation of heavy artillery along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB), but the idea did not find favour with India.
New Delhi made it clear that the proposal could be considered only if peace and tranquility was maintained along the border and ceasefire violations and infiltration stopped completely.
Sources said that there has been progress during the second round of the resumed dialogue process with Pakistan.
The home secretaries, water resources secretaries, defence secretaries and other senior officials of the two countries dealing with contentious subjects like Sir Creek and Siachen would be meeting in the coming days before the talks between the foreign secretaries, who will review the issues relating to peace and security and Jammu and Kashmir.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna is expected to visit Islamabad around the middle of the next year to review the progress achieved in the second round of the revived dialogue process.
Hearts of Palestinians are fired with longing for freedom
December 30, 2011
ISLAMABAD witnessed a beautiful evening on Wednesday when a select gathering of ambassadors, mostly from Islamic World lit new hopes and dreams in the long struggle of Palestinians for freedom at Palestine House.
A jolly and highly educated Hazem Hussein Abu Shanab, ambassador of State of Palestine to Pakistan and his hospitable spouse were in the central stage to greet their guests to observe Revolution Day of Palestine and a great success in becoming a member of UNESCO, the prestigious body of the United Nations.
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and ambassadors including ambassador of Oman Mohamed Bin Said Bin Mohamed Al Lawati, ambassador of Bosnia Herzegovina Armin Limo, ambassador of Japan Hiroshi Oe, ambassador of CubaJezus Zenen Buergo Concepcion, ambassador of UAE Essa Abdullah Al Basha Al Noaimi, ambassador of Belgium Kint Hans Christian, ambassadors of Egypt, Syria and other countries graced the occasion.
The hearts of Palestinians are fired by lust for freedom and so the illuminated Palestine House in the presence of elites which gave a festive look in chilly atmosphere of the capital. The guests enjoyed company of the ambassador, who is a spontaneous witty person and hospitality of his spouse and also talented children who were always ready and responsive to serve their guests.
The tasteful traditional Arabic food in a cozy atmosphere of the House left memorable imprints. The light discussion on Pakistani politics and Palestinian long struggle and their unprecedented sacrifices were part of the interaction which further ignited the atmosphere of the House.
In his brief speech, the Palestinian ambassador while thanking Pakistan for supporting the struggle said Pakistan was also a key player in seeking the membership of UNESCO by Palestine as sovereign state. Demanding the implementation of the UN resolutions, he said Palestine will make a major thrust in the UN to get its due recognition next year. Since Palestine earned overwhelming support in getting UNESCO membership, he hoped it will also be able to garner a major backing to get its legitimate right.
The long struggle of Palestinians against Israel’s expansionist designs demonstrates that their spirit of freedom is still lighted up to get their legitimate right of an independent state. Days are not far off when they will achieve their cherished goals, he said.
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir in his brief remarks on the occasion assured that Pakistan will continue to support Palestinian cause. Their struggle is just and their cause is being recognised world over. Days are not far off when they will have their sovereign state on the map of the world.
Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan, MNA and former Minister said Pakistani people are always in the forefront to support Palestinians. Their struggle will bear fruit, he said.
Palestinian cause was always close to the hearts of Pakistanis as streets and roads of big cities in Pakistan are witnessed to long processions taken out in support of Palestinian brethren in 50s, 60s, 70s and so on. The Founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was champion of cause of Palestine as his speeches before and after creation of Pakistan were indicative of this fact. Besides political and diplomatic support, Pakistan also worked with UNESCO Staff in getting the important membership, a breakthrough in the long struggle of Palestinian people.
A Palestinian ambassador, a popular and active figure is a torch bearer of cause of his nation n Pakistan who always received warm support from the government and the people of Pakistan.
S. Sudan says Sudan air raids kill 17 civilians
KHARTOUM: Dec 29, 2011, South Sudan’s armed forces accused Sudan of killing 17 southern civilians in airstrikes on Thursday, and said it had put its troops in the disputed border region on “maximum alert.”
Sudan’s military spokesman denied the accusation, saying the armed forces had not carried out any bombings in South Sudan.
South Sudan seceded in July under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between north and south, but the two have remained at loggerheads over unresolved issues including oil, the disputed Abyei region and the location of the border.
The two sides have traded accusations of backing rebels on either side of the border. Their armed forces clashed in a rare direct confrontation in a disputed region this month.
South Sudan’s military spokesman Philip Aguer said Sudanese forces continued to bomb on Thursday, in what he said was the second day of intensified airstrikes.
“Seventeen people have been reported killed” in the Western Bahr el-Ghazal state, he said. “These were cattle herders.”
“Since there are signs of ground movement by ground forces, we have alerted our forces to be on maximum alert.”
Turkish air strikes kill dozens of villagers near Iraq border
29 December 2011
The donkeys had been sent across Turkey's south-eastern border with Iraq to ferry vats of smuggled diesel and cigarettes. On Thursday when they came back it was with bodies wrapped in carpets lashed to their sides: the victims of a Turkish air raid that killed up to 35 villagers from this remote region.
In a major embarrassment for Turkey's government, it was forced on Thursday to admit that the dead, originally described by the Turkish army as Kurdish separatist fighters from the banned PKK, were civilians, misidentified by Turkish drones and then bombed on Wednesday evening as they travelled close to the Iraqi border.
A Turkish ruling party spokesman, Huseyin Celik, said the victims "were not terrorists" but smugglers, adding that officials were investigating possible intelligence failures that led to the strikes. He expressed regret for the deaths and suggested the government would compensate the victims.
Television footage shot in the aftermath of the air strike showed mourning mountain villagers, some weeping, ferrying several dozen bodies away from the scene of the attack in trucks. Other images showed a line of corpses covered by blankets on a snow-covered hillside, with a crowd of people gathered around, some with their heads in their hands, crying.
According to local accounts, a group of people from the villages of Ortasu and Gulyazi were crossing the border from northern Iraq when they were blocked by soldiers on the path and then bombed at around 9.30pm on Wednesday.
The attack, which Turkey's largest pro-Kurdish party called a "crime against humanity", sparked clashes between hundreds of stone-throwing protesters and police in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's restive mainly Kurdish south-east. Police responded by firing water cannon and teargas at the demonstrators. Seven people were detained. One police officer was hurt after being hit by a stone, witnesses said.
Full Report at:
Pakistan murder testimony doctor Baqir Shah shot dead
29 December 2011
A doctor who testified that Pakistani security forces had killed a group of unarmed foreigners has himself been shot dead.
Dr Baqir Shah was gunned down in the city of Quetta.
He had contradicted police reports earlier this year which suggested the five victims had been suicide bombers.
Dr Shah was in his car when gunmen pulled up alongside him and sprayed the vehicle with bullets.
He died soon afterwards in hospital.
It was Dr Shah who, back in May, carried out the autopsies in a controversial case.
Two men and three women of Russian and Tajik origin died at a checkpoint just outside Quetta, in the province of Balochistan.
One of the women had been heavily pregnant, but police insisted they had all been militants and that they had been carrying explosives.
Police said that they died as they detonated a bomb.
They said at the time of the attack they had hand grenades and bombs strapped to their bodies.
The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says that Dr Shah's autopsy corroborated what many witnesses said - that they had in fact died after being shot many times at a distance by the security forces.
Witnesses also said they had been unarmed.
Hours after he filed his testimony, Dr Shah was dragged out of a restaurant and beaten by a group of unidentified men. He later complained that while he was supposed to receive protection, he never got it.
30-year-old arrested in Makkah for stabbing mom, sister
By BADEA ABU AL-NAJA ARAB NEWS
MAKKAH: Dec 30, 2011, A Saudi in his 30s has been arrested in Makkah early Wednesday morning for stabbing his mother and sister several times.
Both victims survived the attack in the Kaakiya district, Makkah police confirmed on Thursday.
Police spokesman Lt. Col. Abdul Mohsen Al-Miman said the suspect was arrested and was being questioned. He said the man was suffering from mental illnesses and would be transferred to the psychiatric hospital for an examination.
Meanwhile, police confirmed that a famous Islamic preacher in Makkah had money stolen from his account.
The scholar told police that he discovered SR1.7 million missing from his account even though he did not carry out any transactions.
The spokesman said the bank employee who allegedly performed the transfers was arrested and currently under investigation.
Pakistan, China signed currency swap agreement
By Yasir Ameen
Karachi:Dec 29th, 2011, Pakistan and China have signed Currency Swap Agreement (CSA) for promoting bilateral trade and enhancing financing of direct investment between the two countries in the respective local currencies.
Yaseen Anwar, Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Thursday stated this while explaining CSA with Peoples Bank of China.
The CSA has been executed for a tenor of 3 years in respective of local al currencies, Pakistan Rupee 140 billion and Chinese Yuan 10 billion.
This is the second Currency Swap Arrangement that State Bank of Pakistan has signed, the first one being with the Central Bank of Turkey on November 1, 2011.
Governor SBP said that the principal objective of these swaps is to promote the use of regional currencies for trade settlement purposes and specifically in the case of China because the agreement will enhance the role of the Chinese Yuan in international trade and investment.
This agreement represents a significant achievement for both governments in promoting and enhancing not only bilateral trade, but also the opportunity to significantly increase investment in Pakistan in future, he added.
Since the CSA is a bilateral financial transaction, all terms and conditions apply equally to both countries and the pricing is based on standard market benchmarks which are widely acceptable in the respective domestic markets of the two countries.
Both Central Banks will have the ability to draw on the swap line any time during the tenor of the swap.
SBP can purchase Chinese Yuan (CNY) from Peoples Bank of China (PBC) against its local currency (PKR), and repurchase its local currency with the same Chinese currency on a predetermined maturity date and exchange rate.
Similarly PBC can also purchase Pakistani Rupee against Chinese currency but standard market pricing will apply on the date of utilization. Like any swap, the pricing is linked to interest rates differentials between the two currencies.
Turkey needs to do more to improve human rights
YONCA POYRAZ DOĞAN,
İSTANBUL, 29 December 2011, Various human rights groups indicated at year end that although Turkey's standing in the region is growing, its international credibility will be questioned if it fails to address its human rights problems at home.
One such evaluation was from Human Rights Watch (HRW) Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb who wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times that Turkey is viewed as the successful merger of Islam and modernization as the government has won popular support in the region, and Turkey's vibrant economy contrasts with the economic crises in Europe and the United States.
“But whatever the wisdom of a search for the best "Muslim" model for Arab countries, Turkey's international credibility should be in doubt as long as it fails to address its domestic human rights record,” she wrote.
On top of the to-do list of the HRW for Turkey comes giving more rights and freedoms to the country's Kurds.
“Two years ago the government announced a ‘democratic opening' to extend greater rights to all of Turkey's ethnic and religious minority groups, easing restrictions on broadcasts in minority languages such as Kurdish. Today the government has replaced that with an approach that bans, suppresses and jails its critics,” she wrote.
Full Report at:
Lebanon PM: no evidence of Al-Qaeda on Syria border
By ERIKA SOLOMON | REUTERS
BEIRUT: Dec 29, 2011, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said there was no evidence that Al-Qaeda militants were operating in Lebanon, countering the defense minister’s statement that the global network had sent operatives into the Lebanon-Syria border area.
Grappling with a nine-month anti-government revolt, Syria has blamed Al-Qaeda for a double car bomb attack on its capital last Friday that killed 44 people and wounded more than 100.
Lebanon has tried to distance itself from the events in Syria where the uprising started off in March as a wave of peaceful protests against President Bashar Assad but is now overshadowed by an armed insurrection.
“There is no firm evidence of an Al-Qaeda presence in (border area) Ersal,” Mikati told journalists late on Wednesday, according to Lebanon’s state National News Agency.
“The military entered Ersal after being informed there was a person in the area who was perhaps tied to an international terrorist group but there was no information about the presence of any organized groups or any particular organization.”
Assad says he is combating Islamist terrorism steered from abroad — a sensitive issue for neighboring Lebanon.
Lebanese Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn said last week that Al-Qaeda insurgents were operating on the border disguised as Syrian opposition activists.
The interior minister later spoke out against the statement, denying there was an Al-Qaeda presence in Lebanon.
In his latest remarks, Mikati shrugged off the conflicting arguments as a difference of interpretation.
“It’s not the first time there are differences of opinions inside the government,” he said. “The interior minister said he had no information. The defense minister said he had some information but not complete proof.”
Rights group says Hamas targeting Fatah members
By IBRAHIM BARZAK, AP
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Dec 29, 2011, An independent Palestinian rights group said Thursday that Hamas authorities in Gaza are targeting members of the rival Fatah, questioning them and searching their homes.
One Fatah activist quoted in the report from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said he was held for 15 days, during which Hamas officers placed a plastic bag over his head during interrogation and subjected him to loud noises.
On Monday and Tuesday alone, the report said, Hamas summoned some 50 former members of Fatah security forces, questioning them at length.
Hamas and Fatah joined in a short-lived unity government following 2006 parliamentary elections. But the following year, the alliance shattered and Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip during several days of fighting, leaving the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in charge in the West Bank. Repeated attempts at reconciliation failed, and both sides have cracked down on the other in their respective territories.
The rights center said it condemns “political arrests and accompanying methods of torture and calls for immediate release of all political prisoners detained by Palestinian security services in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
Reconciliation talks currently under way with Egyptian mediation appear to be making progress, with both Fatah and Hamas saying they hope to allow Palestinian elections to go ahead in 2012.
In a response to the report, Hamas said, “Such claims aim to poison the atmosphere of reconciliation by raising false accusations. We do not have any political prisoners in Gaza.”
Hamas also said that its activists are still being held by Fatah forces in the West Bank.
Fatah activists in Gaza were hoping to celebrate their movement’s anniversary next week, but Hamas has so far banned the celebrations in the coastal strip. Fatah has banned similar Hamas rallies in the West Bank.
Self-sponsorship move by Kuwait raises concerns
By ARAB NEWS
JEDDAH: Dec 29, 2011, Kuwait’s announcement that it may soon allow expatriates to apply for self-sponsorship, provided they keep a minimum of around $36,000 (SR1,35,000 approx.) in their bank accounts has raised concerns about financial security.
Market experts in Saudi Arabia have expressed apprehensions about some unplugged loopholes in this move that could be exploited by fraudsters. For example, they said, if a self-sponsored swindler enters into a business transaction worth millions and flees the country leaving behind no traces, there is nothing that can be done to retrieve the lost money.
In addition to the bank account stipulation, any expatriate applying for sponsorship must have been in business or a partner in a Kuwaiti company for at least two years, according to a report in The Kuwait Times.
“There are some nationals who are crooked or maybe some people will acquire visas and then commit crime. Since they are not controlled by any company owner, they can easily commit crimes and disappear. What is the assurance that erring workers can be asked to answer for their crimes?” a Kuwaiti employer was quoted as saying in the report.
A Pakistani businessman in Kuwait City, however, said the proposed selective change in the visa system will be great for business in Kuwait.
“It is good for us but most especially for Kuwait’s business sector,” he said. “You are in fact erasing our reservations to do business in Kuwait,” he added.
The amendment to the current law has been proposed by Kuwait’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour.
The proposal was first raised in 2005 as a draft law and is now being studied by the ministry.
Kuwait in May barred nationals from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan from entering the country over fears political instability in those nations could pose a risk to its security.
Zero tolerance for torture: Bahrain to try 5 cops
By ARAB NEWS
MANAMA:Dec 29, 2011 , The Bahraini authorities announced on Thursday that five police officers would face trial next month over the death by torture of two detainees linked to anti-regime protests earlier this year.
Nawaf Abdullah Hamza the Public Prosecution was quoted by the state news agency BNA that after examining allegations by the Interior Ministry of cases of torture and ill treatment, his office had decided to refer one case to the criminal court.
Five police officers have been implicated in the case, he said, adding that “two are accused of having beaten to death two of the detainees, and the three others are accused of failing to report the case.” He said the trial would start on Jan. 11.
A special commission appointed to probe the crackdown on the month-long anti-government protests that erupted in March published a report last month denouncing the “excessive and unjustified use of force” by the authorities.
Earlier on Wednesday, the government announced a policy of “zero tolerance” toward any abuse of political detainees, in line with the recommendations of the probe.
The rights of suspects would be ensured including “not be detained incommunicado; be shown a warrant upon arrest; be given prompt access to their lawyers; and allowed family visits.” The steps also include “reinstating all public sector employees by Jan. 1, 2012 charged with free speech activity,” said the statement.
Muslim Personal Law should be reformed: Women group
30 December 2011
By TCN News,
Pratapgarh (UP): India’s Muslim Personal Law (family law) should be reformed while being within the parameters of the Quran and Constitution, demanded Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) on the occasion of Minority Rights Day observed earlier this month (10th Dec.).
On the occasion, Tarun Chetna Sansthan organized a discussion under the banner of BMMA where women discussed talaq, halala, female infanticide and demanded codification of India’s Muslim Personal Law.
Uttar Pradesh convenor of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), Adv. Naish Hasan
Addressing the activists, Uttar Pradesh convenor of BMMA, Adv. Naish Hasan said the rights given by Quran to Muslim women have not found place in the Personal Law, resulting in Muslim women getting abused within their own society. While Quran has mentioned rights of women at 150 places but it is sad that Indian Muslim society is not following them, she said. Quran asks men and women to have purdah but only women are forced to do so. She said that talaq on phone or in inebriated condition is completely un-Islamic but Muslim religious and political leaders are ignoring it for their own interests.
No personal law of any religion can protect women until it is codified. India’s Muslim Personal Law is not yet codified while 13 Muslim countries like Iraq, Kuwait, Libya have codified it long ago. She said that inspired with it, BMMA has, in consultation with women, lawyers and social activists, has started codifying Muslim Personal Law while remaining within the parameters of Quran and Constitution. Along with that, BMMA will continue to work for health, education, security and employment of Muslim women, she announced.
Visiting American social activist Ms Korolin, who is conducting a study on Muslim women, said condition of Muslim women in India is more disturbing compared to other countries.
Mr Nasim Ansari of Tarun Chetna Sansthan said that in 2011 census the number of women has gone down, which is a dangerous indication for social development. If govt did not control ultrasound centres the gender ratio will further fall, which will cause more violence against women.
Does Indian PM think he can fool all the Muslims all the time?
NEW DELHI, December 30, 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday flagged his government's achievements in protecting and advancing the rights and interests of Dalits, minorities and other marginalised sections. He cited, among other things, a slew of pro-minorities schemes launched in the wake of the Rajinder Sachar Committee's report.
Dr. Singh made a special mention of the recently-announced sub-quota of 4.5 per cent for minorities within the 27 per cent OBC reservation, saying he was happy that his government had gone ahead with this decision.
The Prime Minister was delivering the inaugural address at a seminar organised here by the Dalits and Minorities International Forum.
Referring to the persisting impression that his government set up the Sachar Committee, but was lackadaisical in implementing its recommendations, he said the reality was the opposite.
“I have often heard people comment that we have not implemented the Sachar recommendations. I want to tell you today that this is not true at all. We have not only drawn up schemes and plans based on Sachar recommendations, these initiatives have begun to impact the status of minorities,” he said.
Recruitment of minorities had increased in government jobs, security forces and the banking sector, and simultaneously priority sector lending for minorities had gone up from 9 per cent to 15 per cent. Besides, 40 lakh scholarships were awarded to minority students, and minority-specific development programmes implemented in as many as 90 minority-concentration districts.
The Prime Minister also listed the supportive measures for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the backward community of weavers; among them primacy given to Dalits in procurements made by the State and the announcement of a Rs. 3884 crore loan waiver and a special package for the handloom sector.
The seminar was organised by Ram Vilas Paswan, Lok Jan Shakti Party leader and chairman of the Forum, and attended by delegates from around the world.
World Uyghur Congress Condemns “Terrorism” Allegations after Violent Incident in Hotan Prefecture
29 December 2011
According to the state-controlled Xinhua news agency, on 28 December 2011 seven Uyghurs were shot dead in an alleged hostage rescue in Guma (Chinese: Pishan) county, Hotan Prefecture, East Turkestan, and four others were wounded and arrested. The Chinese authorities claimed a group of “violent terrorists” were responsible for the kidnapping of two people and immediately linked the kidnapping – in typical fashion – to “a surge in religious extremism.” So far, there have not been any independent witness accounts of the incident, and the WUC therefore calls on the international community to view the official account with caution.
“This incident shows that Chinese government’s policy of arbitrary killing Uyghurs continues,” said WUC president Rebiya Kadeer on Thursday. “As in the past, Chinese security forces killed the alleged perpetrators and then announced that they were “terrorists”. These kinds of incidents happen all the time. We call on the international community to view the Chinese government’s account of the incident with caution. We call on the U.S., United Nations and European Union as well as the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to raise concern with Chinese officials over the arbitrary killings and the extreme repression being carried out in East Turkestan.”
Official characterizations of such incidents as terrorism are particularly worrying since they are presented without clear and demonstrated evidence. The Chinese government regularly invokes the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism to justify repressive measures in the Uyghur region and to crack down on any form of peaceful Uyghur dissent.
The past month has been marked by an increased crackdown on peaceful religious activities in East Turkestan, including but not limited to: tight controls over the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, ban on veiling and beards, prohibition of religious publications, detention on charges of hoarding illegal religious materials, arrest of Uyghurs for attending a Koran study group, “hundred day crackdown” launched in Aksu, and continuing controls over women religious specialists. Uyghurs have long practiced a moderate form of Sunni Islam, and religious extremism has no roots in Uyghurs’ practice of Islam.
“This tightened control over the Uyghur population in East Turkestan has further increased tensions and discontent in the region, and as long as the Chinese authorities do not guarantee basic human rights to the Uyghurs, the situation on ground will remain tense,” said Rebiya Kadeer. “We believe that deaths and arrests at the hands of Chinese authorities in East Turkestan number even higher than those recently carried out by dictators in the Middle East.”
While the WUC has not yet been able to obtain detailed information on today´s incident in Guma, a predominantly Uyghur area, Uyghurs reached by phone gave unverified accounts of a higher death toll with up to nine victims. People also told the WUC that the police were confiscating mobile phones to prevent calls, messages and photos from getting out of East Turkestan, which casts serious doubts about the real nature of the incident.
The WUC therefore calls on the Chinese authorities to conduct an independent investigation into the events and to conduct fair trials for detained individuals.
The WUC also calls upon the Chinese government to adhere to its obligation to respect human rights while countering alleged terrorism, as set forth in the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and international counter-terrorism framework.
Under the global war on terror, the oppression of the Uyghur people has drastically increased, since Chinese authorities found in 9/11 the perfect excuse to attribute any spark of violence in the region to the “three evils.”
One month after the Hotan and Kashgar incidents in July 2011, the Chinese government implemented a two-month “Strike Hard” campaign in East Turkestan “in order to strengthen anti-terrorism efforts.” Such security campaigns are characterized by arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and accelerated trials, and Chinese authorities frequently use them to target peaceful expressions of Uyghur identity inside East Turkestan. According to Amnesty International (AI), under these types of “Strike Hard” campaigns, “tens of thousands of people are reported to have been detained for investigation in the region, and hundreds, possibly thousands, have been charged or sentenced under the Criminal Law; many Uyghurs are believed to have been sentenced to death and executed for alleged “separatist” or “terrorist” offences.”
In November 2011, Chinese authorities announced they were contemplating new legislation to define terrorism more precisely, raising fears among human rights groups that the government would use these new laws to increase its crackdown on Uyghurs in East Turkestan.
India: Anna with VHP, RSS in CIA log
Washington, Dec 29, 2011, Anna Hazare and his organisation, India Against Corruption, has made it into the American spy agency CIA’s World Factbook as a political pressure group in India, joining the league of the RSS, Bajrang Dal, VHP and the Hurriyat Conference. Mr Hazare finds mention under the category “Political pressure groups and leaders”.
Pakistan will take steps for credibility of its nuclear deterrence
ISLAMABAD:29 DEC, 2011, Pakistan today said it will take steps to maintain the credibility of its nuclear deterrence following India's decision to acquire a Russian nuclear attack submarine on a 10-year lease.
"We are looking at these developments very closely. Rest assured, there will be no compromise in terms of maintaining the credibility of our deterrence," Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said during a weekly news briefing.
Basit was responding to a question about Pakistan's response to India's acquisition of an Akula-II class submarine on lease from Russia and the construction of another indigenous nuclear submarine.
At the same time, Basit said Pakistan wants its dialogue process with India to be "uninterrupted and result-oriented, leading to resolution of all issues, especially the Jammu and Kashmir issue".
The Kashmir issue should be settled in line with the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and UN resolutions, he said.
"It is essential to keep the Thimphu spirit alive," Basit said in a reference to a meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of a SAARC summit held in the Bhutanese capital.
The two premiers had then decided to take steps to normalise ties that were snapped following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Basit said Indian and Pakistani officials had discussed several proposals during a meeting of the Joint Working Group on nuclear and conventional confidence-building measures earlier this week.
CPJ supports Pakistani journalists facing threats
New York, December 29, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists admires and supports the decision of Pakistani journalists Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin to make public the threats that have driven them at times to live outside their country in recent months. Sethi and Mohsin are returning to their home in Lahore and are determined to continue their independent work in the media. They, like other journalists in Pakistan in recent weeks, have opted to openly confront those making the threats, which have come from both state and non-state actors.
We encourage the many other journalists we know to be under threat in Pakistan to do the same. Journalists in countries like Pakistan play a vital role--their work not only helps inform the people of Pakistan but contributes to global understanding.
CPJ is in receipt of details of the various threats to Sethi from non-state groups, state agencies and political actors and has pledged to make these public in the event of any verbal or physical attack on his family or him in the future.
US wants to turn the page of its relationship with Pakistan
From Lalit K Jha
Washington, Dec 30,2011, (PTI) The US today said that it wants to "turn the page" of its relationship with Pakistan in the New Year, given that the difficult phase they have undergone in 2011. "I don't think anybody on any side would question that 2011 was a difficult and complex year in the US-Pakistani relationship," State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference. "Obviously, what we want to do is turn the page, redouble our efforts to cooperate against the threats that we share, and to support a strong, prosperous, democratic Pakistan in an increasingly stable, peaceful, prosperous, democratic region," Nuland said in response to a question. The United States, she said, has been investing a lot in building its relationship with Pakistan and the people of this country, but needs to redouble its efforts. "We put a huge amount of US taxpayer money every year into education programs in Pakistan, microlending programmes, flood relief, all kinds of economic opportunity programs because we believe a strong Pakistan is in our interests," she said. "So we will continue to try to give that message directly to the Pakistani people, as the secretary did herself in her town hall meeting and in her TV interviews when she was in Pakistan in October," she said. "We believe that that message needs to be conveyed strongly in Pakistan by Americans and by Pakistanis. We need each other and that we have a lot of work still to do to build the kind of neighborhood there that it is in our mutual interests," Nuland said in response to a question at her daily news conference.
Pak: Need to ‘rewrite’ our terms with U.S.
REZAUL H. LASKAR Age Correspondent
Islamabad, Dec 30, 2011, Pakistan on Thursday said its relations with the US, marked by “many ups and downs” this year, had reached a point where it had become necessary to “rewrite” the bilateral terms of engagement in order to bring ties on an even keel.
Referring to incidents like the gunning down of two Pakistani men by CIA contractor Raymo-nd Davis in Lahore in January and Novem-ber’s Nato airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said a reappraisal of bilateral ties would help the two sides focus on realistic objectives.
“Pakistan-US relations have witnessed many ups and downs. From the Raymond Davis case to the November 26 US-Nato attacks on the two Pakistani posts at Salala, things have come to a point where it is necessary to rewrite our bilateral terms of engagement,” Mr Basit said.
“This will be good for both our countries as policies based on realistic and shared objectives would be far more tenable than a relationship facing frequent strains because of opaqueness and unilateral actions,” he added.
Islamabad has struggled throughout the year to bring its relations with Washington back on an even keel.
ISI chief meets US officials in Qatar: report
Press Trust Of India
Islamabad, December 30, 2011, Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha's recent visit to Qatar, home to the US Central Command's regional headquarters, has sparked speculation about an 'intelligence back channel' between Pakistan and the US to reset troubled security cooperation. Pasha, whose
overseas trips are not officially announced, returned on Wednesday from a trip to Qatar that was "authorised" by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Dawn newspaper reported today.
A western diplomatic source told the daily that Pasha met US officials during his stay in Qatar.
Pasha's visit followed the release of the US Central Command's preliminary report on the cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26.
The attack took Pakistan-US ties to a new low.
Central Command chief Gen James Mattis initially planned to visit Islamabad this week to share with the Pakistani military authorities findings of the probe.
Mattis had to cancel the visit after his hosts expressed their inability to receive him because of the situation in Pakistan, where anti-America sentiments are running high and a parliamentary body is working to review the terms of engagement with the US, the report said.
Gilani had himself disclosed that Pasha was visiting Qatar during a media interaction earlier this week. The premier said he had approved the trip.
Gilani is set to travel to Doha next month.
The Dawn quoted diplomatic observers as saying that indications from Islamabad and Washington pointed towards an impending thaw in relations that went into a free fall after the NATO attack.
Full Report at:
US disagrees with Zardari's comment on 'tailor-made democracy'
WASHINGTON: Dec 30, 2011, The US has dismissed Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's claim that "tailor-made democracies" are coming up in the Middle East, saying that democratic movements in that region were indigenous and these people were only demanding the rights denied to them.
"I don't think anybody should question that these are grass-roots, indigenous movements by people who have long wanted more freedom than their government allowed, have wanted what Pakistanis have, which is the right to elect their government," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
Nuland was responding to questions on the statement made in this regard by Zardari on the death anniversary of his wife and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
In his speech, which was highly critical of the US, Zardari alleged that the US was propping 'tailor-made' democracies in the Arab world to show that democracy eventually would fail.
"I just haven't seen it, so I'm not in a position to comment directly on it," Nuland said but added that her remarks were in general on the democracy movements in North Africa and Middle East. P
Syrian activists plan Friday protests to draw Arab League's attention
Martin Chulov, guardian.co.uk,
Beirut, 30 December 2011, Syrian activists have called for nationwide protests as Arab League monitors prepare to spend their first Friday in the country visiting some of its most volatile cities.
The first day of the weekend in Syria has traditionally been the most violent of each week in the nine-month uprising. However, activists believe that the observer mission will prevent scores of deaths and instead provide them with their best chance yet to showcase the true face of a relentless uprising – and an ensuing crackdown.
Rallying calls have been made through all the Syrian revolution's channels and crowds are now gathering in the southern city renowned as ground zero of the revolt, Deraa, which is likely to be among the first stops of the observer mission.
"On Friday we will march to the squares of freedom, bare-chested," a post on the Syrian Revolution Facebook page said. "We will march as we did in Homs and Hama where we carried olive branches only to be confronted by Bashar's gangs who struck us with artillery and machine-gun fire."
Rallies are also planned in the restive city of Idlib, where loyalist forces have this week battled defectors, killing dozens, and in Douma, north of Damascus, which is becoming a focal point of the push to oust the regime of the president, Bashar al-Assad.
Activists and Syrian opposition officials say they have limited faith in the Arab League mission's capacity, or willingness to force the regime to comply with the terms of an agreement compelling it to withdraw troops from towns and cities and start talks with the opposition.
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Commander Terms Iran's Islamic Revolution Role Model for World Nations
29. 12. 2011
TEHRAN (FNA)- Commander of Iran's Basij (volunteer) force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi reiterated that Iran's Islamic Revolution serves as a role model for the regional and world nations in their fight against the tyranny of their rulers and arrogant powers.
"Today the great victories of the Islamic Revolution still continue unabatedly, and large communities of the world people are speedily attracted to the logic, firmness and power of the Islamic Revolution and model on us," Naqdi said, addressing people in the Northwestern city of Tabriz on Thursday.
He underlined the failure of the US, Europe and their affiliates and hirelings inside Iran to defeat the Islamic Revolution, and warned that enemies are now attempting to prevent the world countries from joining the Islamic Revolution and modeling on the path of the Iranian people.
In similar remarks in October, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei had told a gathering of local officials in the Western Kermanshah province that the growing wave of Islamic Awakening in the region reveals that the interest of the regional nations in the Islamic discourse of the Iranian nation and shows that the Islamic Republic has set a role model for these nations.
"In these sensitive conditions in which the Iranian nation has turned into a model for the regional nations, all of us should present a more beautiful, more attractive and more harmonious picture of Iran to the nations of the region in order to thwart the constant efforts of the enemies to distort the image of the Iranian nation," Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said.
The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution said that constant conspiracies of the enemies of the Iranian nation are indicative of the progressive movement of the Islamic Republic.
"The constant propaganda, political, economic and security campaigns of the camp of the arrogant powers is a testimony to the accelerated movement of the Iranian nation towards the realization of its goals and ideals because if the nation were suffering from stagnation, backwardness and weakness, the enemy would not be trying so hard."