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Islamic World News ( 25 Sept 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Tablighi Jamaat: Bombay HC Quashes FIRs against Tablighis, Says Compelling the Applicants to Undergo the Trial Would Cause Grave Injustice

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 September 2020


"...we are of the considered view that the implication of the applicants herein for the offences punishable under Sections 188, 269, 270 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, Section 3 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1987 and Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 would be an abuse of process of law."


• Pakistan Hindus Rally In Islamabad Over India Migrant Deaths

• Saudi Dissidents, Most of Them in Exile, Rise Against Repression, Form Political Group, National Assembly Party

• Riyadh’s Pressure on Dhaka to Issue Passports to 54,000 Rohingyas and Bring Back 462 Others Is Unacceptable and Unfair

• China Is Building Vast New Detention Centres for Muslims in Xinjiang

• Canadian Muslims Urge Gov't to Act against Hate Groups

• Children, As Young as 13, Showing Interest in Extremism, The UK’s Most Senior Counter-Terrorism Officer Has Warned



• Tablighi Jamaat: Bombay HC Quashes FIRs against Tablighis, Says Compelling the Applicants to Undergo the Trial Would Cause Grave Injustice

• Centre Tightens Noose around Islamist Preacher Zakir Naik, Mulls Banning Peace TV’s Mobile App, Social Handles

• ‘There’s Total Wipe-out of Muslims from Govt in J&K, Says Farooq Abdullah

• A List of All the False Claims Made in Sudarshan TV's 'UPSC Jihad' Show

• Terrorist, CRPF ASI killed in separate incidents in Kashmir

• In two days, NIA ‘cracks’ Bengaluru riots case, arrests ‘key plotter’

• 2 LeT terrorists killed in encounter in J-K’s Anantnag district



• Pakistan Hindus Rally In Islamabad Over India Migrant Deaths

• Pakistan Sufi Organisation Transfers Sikh Manuscripts To Gurdwara

• No meetings with Pak military, Sharif warns party members

• Gilgit-Baltistan leaders divided over making it ‘5th province’ of Pakistan

• Pak announces Nov 15 as poll date for Gilgit-Baltistan assembly

• Pakistan government files money laundering case against Shahbaz Sharif, family


Arab world

• Saudi Dissidents, Most of Them in Exile, Rise Against Repression, Form Political Group, National Assembly Party

• Western Media Manufactured Narratives to Rally Support for Syria Militants: Report

• Bahrain, UAE deal with Israel an ‘important step’ for peace: Egypt’s FM

• Saudis Feel ‘Sense of Unity’ For Kingdom’s 90th National Day

• Lebanese activists rally outside UAE embassy to denounce normalization with Israel


South Asia

• Riyadh’s Pressure on Dhaka to Issue Passports to 54,000 Rohingyas and Bring Back 462 Others Is Unacceptable and Unfair

• 65 Taliban militants killed in clashes with Afghan govt. forces in Paktika province: Officials

• Taliban massacre 28 police officers in southern Afghanistan


Southeast Asia

• China Is Building Vast New Detention Centres for Muslims in Xinjiang

• Perikatan sec-gen Hamzah holds out hope for last-minute truce to avoid clashes at Sabah polls

• Analysts split over Gabungan Rakyat Sabah and what it means for national politics


North America

• Canadian Muslims Urge Gov't to Act against Hate Groups

• US envoy says new Iran sanctions are coming

• Turkey's interest in Middle East 'legitimate': US



• Children, As Young as 13, Showing Interest In Extremism, The UK’s Most Senior Counter-Terrorism Officer Has Warned

• Islamic State: Relatives of British hostage braced for coming trial

• France, Spain deny US claim that Hezbollah is storing explosives in Europe

• German court ends ban on call to prayer at local mosque



• Iran's UN Envoy: Saudi Wahhabi Ideology Inspiration for Notorious Terrorist Groups

• Iran Unveils New Home-Made Semiconductor Radar

• Fatah, Hamas agree to hold Palestinian elections ‘within six months’

• Open for business: How UAE-Israel peace is driving deals at breakneck speed

• Netanyahu endorses construction of over 5,000 new settler units in occupied West Bank

• Yemen’s al-Masirah TV publishes documents disclosing US interference in Arab country



• Libyan Premier Asks Haftar Allies to Reconsider Stances

• Kazakhstan suspends three airlines for breaching UN arms embargo on Libya

• Tanker to enter Libya's Hariga port, load 1 million barrels of oil

• At UN, Libyan premier urges rebels to lay down arms, respect ceasefire

• Eastern Libyan forces say they killed Islamic State leader

• Nigeria troops claim killing top Boko Haram members

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Tablighi Jamaat: Bombay HC Quashes FIRs against Tablighis, Says Compelling the Applicants to Undergo the Trial Would Cause Grave Injustice

24 Sep 2020


"...we are of the considered view that the implication of the applicants herein for the offences punishable under Sections 188, 269, 270 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, Section 3 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1987 and Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 would be an abuse of process of law."


On September 21, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court quashed FIR and charge sheet filed against 8 Myanmar nationals who were booked for being part of Tablighi Jamaat and its activities.

The application for quashing FIR was heard by a two judge bench comprising Justices VM Deshpande and Amit Borkar and the judgment was authored by Justice Borkar.

The Myanmar nationals landed in Kolkata on March 2 and continued their journey to Nagaur by train where they informed the nearby police station of their entire schedule and also submitted the Foreigner Regional Registration Office mandated form to the police station. After the Junta curfew was announced on March 22, they were moved to Markaz Centre at Mominpura, Nagpur; the information of which was provided to the police. A doctor also visited the Markaz centre and the members were put in institutional quarantine where they underwent Covid-19 test for which they all tested negative. After a quite uneventful stay until then, on April 5, the applicants were informed that the F.I.R. has been registered against them under the provisions of the Foreigners Act, the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and were put under arrest.

The counsel appearing for the applicants, JH Aloni contended that the police were monitoring the activities of the applicants and therefore, there was no question of disobedience of the order issued under Section 144 of the CrPC. There was also no question of spreading infection as contemplated in Sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code since they all tested negative for the virus. Further, there are no restrictions on foreigners from attending religious gatherings in India under the conditions of Tourist Visa and therefore, there is no violation of Section 14 of the Foreigners Act.

The public prosecutor stated that, relying upon some witnesses it was clear that the applicants had engaged themselves in Tabligh work and preaching religious ideology, making speeches in religious places.

The court’s observations

The court held that to prosecute a person for a contravention of section 14 of the Foreigners Act, it is necessary to show that the person has done any act in violation of the condition of the valid visa issued to him for his entry and stayed in India or any part thereunder. The charge sheet had alleged that the applicants had breached condition nos. 1.25 and 19.8 of the Visa Manual which deal with “Restriction on engaging in Tabligh activities” and “Foreigners visiting for Tabligh work”, respectively.

The court deduced from the witnesses’ statements that the applicants studied Quran and Hadis and offered Namaz and acquainted themselves with Indian Muslim culture. The court held that the prosecution did not produce any material “to prove that the applicants were engaged in Tabligh work and they were involved in preaching religious ideology or making speeches in religious places.”

The court observed that under section 195 of CrPC a court cannot take cognizance of offence under section 188 of IPC except on the complaint in writing by a public servant. “In the present case, there is no complaint in writing by the public servant concerned or by some other public servant to whom he is administratively subordinate…Hence, registration of an F.I.R. for an offence under Section 188 of Indian Penal Code is not permitted in law at the instance of Police,” observed the court.

The court’s findings

“There is no material produced by the prosecution in the charge-sheet which even prima-facie proves contravention of condition no. 1.25 or 19.8 of the Visa Manual. On the contrary, from the statements of the witnesses mentioned in the charge-sheet, it is clear that the applicants are not conversant with local language and they studied the Quran and Hadis in their language,” held the court.

While considering the charges under section 269 and 270 of IPC which are concerned with spread of infectious disease, the court held, “There is no material on record to prove that applicants had indulged in any act which was likely to spread infection of Covid -19. Therefore, from the material produced in the charge-sheet, there is no evidence to substantiate the fulfilment of ingredients of Sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code.”

The court held that the police acted without jurisdiction by filing the FIR under section 188 of IPC on their own accord.

“we are of the opinion that allowing the prosecution to continue would be nothing but an abuse of the process of the Court in as much as there was an express legal bar against the institution of F.I.R. against an accused based on the police report,” held the court

While deciding that the FIR and the charge sheet against the 8 applicants be quashed, the court held that, “Compelling the applicants to undergo the trial would cause grave injustice.”

In August, the Aurangabad Bench of Bombay High Court had quashed the FIR against 29 foreign nationals and 6 Indians while also calling out blatant communalism and the way the entire incident was handled by the government, the police and the media. The judge, Justice TV Nalawade, even pointed towards the malic behind blaming the spread of Covid-19 upon Tablighi Jamaat calling it a propaganda against Muslims. It seems like a Pandora’s Box is opening up as it is largely being observed that majority of Tablighi Jamaat members were only mechanically arrested and booked due to orders from their politician bosses without application of mind thus resulting in detention of hundreds of person belonging to Muslim faith from various countries, causing them mental trauma. Although, the Nagpur bench’s order does not comment on the way the police handled the matter or the trauma that the applicants must have gone through in the past 7 months, the quashing of the FIR is testimony to the fact the Tablighi members were merely incarcerated to fulfil some bigger agenda of hatred and communal divide.


Pakistan Hindus Rally In Islamabad Over India Migrant Deaths


September 25, 2020


Members of the Pakistani Hindu community arrive to join a sit-in protest near the Indian High Commission, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AP


ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s minority Hindus rallied late on Thursday in Islamabad, briefly clashing with the police, to protest the deaths of 11 members of a Hindu migrant family who died in India last month under mysterious circumstances.

Since then, the dead migrants' relatives have held small rallies in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province but this was the first time they had taken their demonstration to the country’s capital, vowing to stage a sit-in near the Indian Embassy.

The protesters accuse India’s secret service of poisoning the 11 Hindus, who were found dead at a farmhouse in India’s Jodhpur district in Rajasthan state. The demonstrators arrived in Islamabad around midnight, chanting, “We want justice." They briefly skirmished with officers who prevented them from reaching the embassy site.

After the Aug. 9 deaths, Indian media reports suggested the Hindu family members, originally from Pakistan, had taken their own lives. Official Islamabad says New Delhi had not shared any reports of the case.

Thursday's rally was an unusual move for Pakistan’s Hindus, who have mostly lived without conflict with the country's predominantly Muslim majority. Earlier this year under pressure from radical Muslims, Pakistani authorities halted construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad.

Ramesh Kumar, a top leader of the Hindu community who led Thursday's protest, met on Wednesday with Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, seeking his help in pressuring India to release results of the initial police probe into the case.

Pakistan has also asked for access to a Hindu worker who was at the Jodhpur farm at the time of the deaths, according to government officials.

In his meeting with Qureshi, Kumar said Shrimati Mukhi, the daughter of the head of the family that died, had levelled the poisoning accusations. She earlier this month told local media that India allegedly pressured the family to issue a statement denouncing Pakistan's government. There was no official comment from India on the allegations.

Last week, Pakistan summoned an Indian diplomat to convey concerns over the “Jodhpur incident.” A subsequent ministry statement said India had “failed to share any substantive details regarding the cause and circumstances of the deaths" of the Hindus and asked for a comprehensive investigation.

Nuclear armed rivals Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations. Pakistan’s military said Wednesday that two of its soldiers were killed by Indian fire in a cease-fire violation in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. The region is split between the two countries but claimed by both in its entirety. India and Pakistan have fought two out of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence in 1947.


Saudi Dissidents, Most of Them In Exile, Rise Against Repression, Form Political Group, National Assembly Party

23 September 2020


A number of Saudi dissidents, most of them in exile, have formed a political party to call for reforms in the kingdom amid ‘increasing repression.’


A number of Saudi dissidents, most of them in exile, have formed a political party to call for reforms in the kingdom amid ‘increasing repression.’

The National Assembly Party (NAAS) made a declaration on Wednesday, calling for an elected parliament and constitutional safeguards to ensure separation of the legislative, judicial and executive branches of the government.

"The scope for politics has become blocked in all directions," the NAAS said, urging peaceful change to combat state "violence and repression."

Party member and academic Madawi al-Rasheed told Reuters, "The timing is very important ... the climate of repression is only increasing."

NAAS would work with international organizations such as the United Nations and human rights groups, without agitating for demonstrations in the Persian Gulf Arab country, he added.

Saudi authorities have arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents ever since Mohammed bin Salman became Crown Prince in 2017, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international censure.

The image of the MbS, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, was tarnished by the gruesome killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

The kingdom, which is dominated by Wahhabism, an exceptionally intolerant ideology, is also accused of exercising radically-discriminatory policies against its Shia minority.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime.

The NAAS members include Yahya Assiri, head of UK-based Saudi rights group ALQST, Abdullah al-Awdah, son of jailed dissident Muslim cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, prominent scholar Saeed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi and Shia activist Ahmed al-Mshikhs.

Abdullah al-Awdah told Reuters the political group planned to create a national movement by working with "everybody from inside and outside the royal family."

Earlier this year, bin Salman launched a new campaign of arrests against royals over an alleged coup attempt to unseat him and his father King Salman.

In 2017, he rounded up hundreds of wealthy princes and businessmen at Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

He demanded that they turn over large sums of their wealth as part of an alleged “anti-corruption campaign,” which observers said was meant to consolidate bin Salman's grip on power and silence his critics.


Riyadh’s Pressure on Dhaka to Issue Passports to 54,000 Rohingyas and Bring Back 462 Others Is Unacceptable and Unfair

Porimol Palma

September 25, 2020

The Saudi Arabian pressure on Bangladesh to issue passports to 54,000 Rohingyas and bring back 462 others is unacceptable and unfair, analysts and Rohingya activists have said.

They said if the kingdom was really to send back the Rohingyas, they should mount pressure on Myanmar. They questioned as to why Bangladesh, which had taken in over a million Rohingyas, should take the 54,000 more.

The observation came after the foreign ministry revealed that Saudi Arabia has recently renewed its pressure on Dhaka over the Rohingya issue.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said the Saudi authorities have declared that there were 54,000 Rohingyas, who had no passports, and that they do not allow stateless people in their country.

"They [Saudi Arabia] are not saying that they will send the 54,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh, but they should be provided with Bangladeshi passports," Momen told reporters at the ministry yesterday.

He said Dhaka has informed Riyadh that Bangladesh could consider the Saudi request only if the Rohingyas had any prior passports or other documents.

Riyadh also asked Bangladesh to take back 462 Rohingyas, now in jail for various crimes.

"We said we can bring back those who have Bangladeshi passports," Momen said.

A foreign ministry official said Riyadh indicated that the labour market for the Bangladeshis in KSA may be affected if Dhaka did not respond the way Riyadh wanted.

There are over 2 million Bangladeshis in the kingdom.

Momen said in the 1970s and 80s, when the Rohingyas were persecuted in Myanmar, the then Saudi Badsha had welcomed and sheltered them. The Rohongyas now have children and grandchildren who speak Arabic and are used to Saudi culture. They don't speak Bangla and do not know Bangladesh.

Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University's international relations department said it was understood that the KSA economy was under pressure due to a decline in oil price and the war in Yemen. Bangladesh and Turkey have good relations too. Turkey-Saudi relations are not ideal at the moment.

"However, that should in no way be linked to the Rohingya issue," Prof Imtiaz told The Daily Star.

If Saudi Arabia really wants to send back the Rohingyas, it should pressure Myanmar because Myanmar at the ICJ did not say that they were Bangladeshi citizens but that Rohingyas were the Muslims of Arakan, he said.

Rohingyas are facing genocide and Saudi Arabia, as a leader of the Muslim Ummah, should stand beside them and help them have justice instead of doing injustice to them, he said.

"I also think that our mission in Saudi Arabia should create more awareness about the Rohingya genocide among the Saudi people and the government."

The International Criminal Court is investigating crimes against the Rohingyas and the International Court of Justice is holding a genocide trial against Myanmar.

Nay San Lwin, co-founder of Free Rohingya Coalition, an alliance of Rohingya worldwide, said as the genocide against Rohingya began in 1970s, thousands of Rohingyas fled the country. They had no choice but to hold the passports arranged by smugglers.

Saudi kings had sympathy for them and had given them residency permits. Most of them do not have a passport.

"They all belong to Myanmar. They are Myanmar citizens although Myanmar hasn't considered them as citizens. Pressuring Bangladesh to issue Bangladeshi passports is not right.

"The Saudi government must pressure the Myanmar embassy in Riyadh to issue them Myanmar passports instead of pressuring the Bangladesh government," he said.

"The genocide against the Rohingyas is ongoing and they cannot be sent back to Myanmar at this moment. They must not be sent back to Bangladesh as Bangladesh is not their country," Lwin said from Germany.

The Saudi government should mount pressure on Myanmar through all the 57 OIC members to issue passports to the Rohingyas, instead of threatening Bangladesh, he said.

Ending genocide should be the priority. All countries, including Saudi Arabia, should work hard to end the ongoing genocide against the Rohingyas, Lwin added.

"Once it ends, the Rohingya in exile will have a chance to go back to their homeland in Myanmar."

They should not be expelled from the country where they take refuge with a huge hope for survival, he said.

A Rohingya activist in Bangladesh said it was very disappointing that Saudi Arabia was showing inhumane attitude towards a small country like Bangladesh, which is sheltering about a million persecuted Rohingya, including some 750,000 who faced brutal military campaign in 2017.

As a leading and rich Muslim country, KSA should be more supportive to Bangladesh and work with other global powers to establish Rohingya rights, she said preferring anonymity.

"Saudi pressure on Bangladesh is illogical and unfair," she said.


China Is Building Vast New Detention Centres for Muslims in Xinjiang

By Anna Fifield

September 24, 2020

KASHGAR, China — A huge Brutalist entrance gate, topped with the red national flag, stands before archetypal Chinese government buildings. There is no sign identifying the complex, only an inscription bearing an exhortation from Communist Party founding father Mao Zedong: "Stay true to our founding mission and aspirations."

But the 45-foot-high walls and guard towers indicate that this massive compound — next to a vocational training school and a logistics center south of Kashgar — is not just another bureaucratic outpost in western China, where authorities have waged sweeping campaigns of repression against the mostly Muslim Uighur minority.

It is a new detention camp spanning some 60 acres, opened as recently as January. With 13 five-story residential buildings, it can accommodate more than 10,000 people.

The Kashgar site is among dozens of prisonlike detention centers that Chinese authorities have built across the Xinjiang region, according to the Xinjiang Data Project, an initiative of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), despite Beijing’s claims that it is winding down its internationally denounced effort to “reeducate” the Uighur population after deeming the campaign a success.

A recent visit to Xinjiang by The Washington Post and evidence compiled by ASPI, a ­Canberra-based think tank, suggest international pressure and outrage have done little to slow China’s crackdown, which appears to be entering an ominous new phase.

For the past year, the Chinese government has said that almost all the people in its “vocational training program” in Xinjiang, ostensibly aimed at “deradicalizing” the region’s mostly Muslim population, had “graduated” and been released into the community.

“This shows that the statements made by the government are patently false,” said ASPI researcher Nathan Ruser, adding that there had merely been a “shift in style of detention.”

'Prisons by another name'

The new compound, one of at least 60 facilities either built from scratch or expanded over the past year, has floodlights and five layers of tall barbed-wire fences in addition to the towering walls.

Satellite imagery reveals a tunnel for sending detainees from a processing center into the facility, and a large courtyard like those seen in other camps where detainees have been forced to pledge allegiance to the Chinese flag.

“This is a much more concerted effort to detain and physically remove people from society,” Ruser said. “There aren’t any sort of rehabilitative features in these higher-security detention centers. They seem to rather just be prisons by another name.”

Some prison-style facilities like the one outside Kashgar are new. Other, existing sites have been expanded with higher-security areas. New buildings added to Xinjiang’s largest camp, in Dabancheng, near Urumqi, last year stretched to almost a mile in length, Ruser said.

Some 14 facilities are still being built across Xinjiang, the satellite imagery shows.

The findings support recent reporting from BuzzFeed News that China has built massive new high-security prison camps to create a vast and permanent infrastructure for mass detention.

These detention camps are the backdrop to all Chinese government efforts to control the population in Xinjiang, said James Millward, a professor of inter-

societal history at Georgetown University who has been tracking the plight of the Uighurs.

“They exist as a threat,” Millward said. “[The authorities] can go to people and say: We want you to move 600 miles and work in a factory, or your father better not object to this marriage that’s been set up for you by the party committee, otherwise you’ll be seen as an extremist.”

Blocked by security

When a Post reporter tried to visit the detention center half an hour’s drive south of Kashgar this month, her vehicle was quickly surrounded by at least eight cars that had previously been tailing at some distance. This site was clearly sensitive.

When The Post’s reporter and two European journalists headed toward another new camp in Akto, south of Kashgar, they were stopped repeatedly, made to register their passports and drive behind police cars, only to be turned around at a county border. Coronavirus precautions were given as the reason.

Conversely, when they visited several compounds that previously held local Uighurs, authorities didn’t bother much with trying to obstruct the reporters.

Those facilities appeared empty. Windows swung open at one former “vocational training” center. Bunk beds lay in piles in the yard at another. Litter rolled past ping-pong tables and over lonely soccer fields.

About eight camps appear to have been decommissioned, and 70 more, almost all of them lower-security facilities, have had their internal fencing or perimeter walls removed, according to ASPI’s database. But there are no signs of soccer fields, factories or vocational facilities at the new compound south of Kashgar that would indicate a rehabilitative purpose.

Many Uighurs and people of other ethnic minority groups who have been sent to reeducation camps have subsequently disappeared into prisons. Mayila Yakufu, a Mandarin-speaking insurance company worker, was released this month after two years and three months of detention without trial. She had previously been put into a “vocational training” internment camp for 10 months.

When the scale of the human rights abuses in Xinjiang came to light in 2017 and 2018, China categorically denied their existence. But as satellite imagery and testimony from survivors and relatives became incontrovertible, and United Nations experts estimated that 1 million people or more had been incarcerated, Beijing tried to explain away the camps as a necessary program to deal with terrorists.

The region, which was conquered during the Qing dynasty in the 1700s and given a name meaning “new frontier” in Chinese, is home to Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims whose culture and language are distinct from that of China’s dominant Han people.

For more than two centuries, people here have protested, sometimes violently, against Chinese repression. Some 200 people were killed in riots in the provincial capital, Urumqi, 11 years ago.

In recent years, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, Beijing has used these protests as a reason to carry out what many human rights advocates have labeled cultural genocide.

People who have been interned in the camps have described being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol; to renounce their religion and pledge allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party; and to undergo what they have described as systematic brainwashing. Women have been forcibly sterilized and the Uighur birthrate has plummeted.

Xinjiang authorities did not respond to repeated requests for an interview about the development of the detention system.

But Xinjiang government chairman Shohrat Zakir, the top Uighur official in the party structure in the region, has said that the “reeducation camps” were needed to combat violent religious extremism and that the “graduates” now faced brighter futures.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said this month that suggestions that China was persecuting ­Uighurs had been “concocted by some anti-China forces” and were “another farce designed to smear and discredit China.”

A chilling shift

The shift is part of a chilling new reality here in Kashgar, the traditional capital of Uighur culture, which has been under strict Communist Party controls for three years coinciding with the reeducation campaign.

With the population cowed, authorities recently appear to have let up a bit, secure in their control of Kashgar.

The “convenience” police stations that used to monitor movements at every major intersection have gone. Airport-style security checks at markets and in underpasses have largely disappeared, with only metal detectors in use.

Around Kashgar, Uighurs were palpably afraid to talk to foreign visitors, waving away reporters before they could ask questions.

The Old City, once an atmospheric oasis on the Silk Road, has been turned into a theme park for Han Chinese tourists, complete with light displays featuring Mandarin Chinese characters and kitschy settings that are perfect for selfies.

 But closer observation reveals that none of the men in this Muslim city have beards and none of the women wear the hijab. The men chopping fruit and meat in the bazaar use knives that are chained to their stalls.

Many of the historic buildings remain, but an alarming number have padlocked doors and bear signs reading: “Empty house.”

There are no working mosques — they have been turned into cafes or museums or closed entirely — and the landmark ­yellow-tiled Id Kah Mosque stands as a lonely monument to the reeducation campaign.

The Post reporter who visited the mosque on a day its doors were opened for tourists had to register her passport number to be allowed in and was then accompanied through the courtyard, empty but for banks of facial recognition cameras and the smell of bleach.

The prayer hall was locked; a guide told one reporter that prayers were at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. — times that did not adhere to the Islamic schedule — and another reporter that they had been canceled because of the coronavirus.

Opposite the mosque, a large red banner in Chinese characters thanked President Xi for his loving care.


Canadian Muslims urge gov't to act against hate groups

Barry Ellsworth 



Following the murder of a caretaker at a Toronto mosque earlier this week, the head of a Muslim organization called Thursday for the government to do more to “eradicate this scourge” of white supremacism in Canada.

Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was stabbed to death Sept. 19 and a suspect is in custody.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his condolences and said it was concerning the incident was tied to Neo-Nazism and Islamophobia, words must be followed by action, said National Council for Canadian Muslims (NCCM) Mustafa Farooq in an email to Anadolu Agency.

“We can all stand together and raise our collective voices to demand action,” he said. “We will not stand by as white supremacist groups organize to attack us. I ask you today to join us in demanding that our government do more to eradicate this scourge from our country.”

Zafis, 58, was outside the door of the International Muslim Organization of Toronto Mosque, keeping tabs on the number of worshippers entering in accord with health regulations concerning the coronavirus pandemic, when he was stabbed.

A man who endorsed the views of an online neo-Nazi group has been charged with first-degree murder.

“They (the group) worship Hitler as a god figure,” said Evan Balgord, the head of an anti-hate organization that monitors and fights hate groups.

Farooq said the murder has rekindled fear in the Muslim community following similar events like the 2017 attack on a Quebec mosque that killed six and injured 19. It was one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history.

“(P)erhaps what has been more difficult to see is the fear that is freshly reverberating in our communities across the country these past few days as the sanctity of our place of worship has been violated,” he said.

Farooq urged the government to ban the hundreds of white supremacist groups in Canada, stop organizations from using social media to mobilize and crack down on white supremacists’ violence.

He also said political parties should “enshrine taking action on white supremacist violence as part of their platforms.”


Children, As Young as 13, Showing Interest In Extremism, The UK’s Most Senior Counter-Terrorism Officer Has Warned

23 Sep 2020

Children as young as 13 are talking about committing acts of terrorism, against a backdrop of rising extremism during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism officer has warned.

Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Neil Basu told MPs on the home affairs select committee that counter-terrorism networks had not recorded a rise in terrorism-related material during the coronavirus outbreak, but interest in extremism was on the rise.

The head of counter-terrorism policing said his “greatest single fear” was the ability of rising extremism to incite vulnerable people towards terrorism.

He said: “What I am seeing – particularly in the rightwing terrorism space, and this is anecdotal, so it’s not academic – is an increase in lots of young people being attracted to this.

“So we are seeing people as young as 13 starting to talk about committing terrorist acts.”

Basu said the ideology could be mixed or hard to define but “they’re just interested in violence”.

“When you’ve been locked down, with social media having such an influence on every single one of us in our daily lives, and you’re able to sit there and just take all that in on a permanent basis with no other form of distraction or protective factor around you, and I’m thinking schooling, employment, other friends, family members who are not influenced or potentially extremist themselves, that is a concern.

“That is definitely an effect of Covid-19 we are worried about.”

Basu also repeated warnings about leaving the European Union without a deal at the end of the transition period, adding: “We would not be as safe as we are today.”

He told the committee: “My biggest concern at the moment is where extremism affects malleable, vulnerable people of all kinds, age groups, societal backgrounds, there is no one route to a terrorist path. The amplification of extremism and its ability to incite a vulnerable section of the population towards terrorism is probably my greatest single fear.”

Basu said Covid-19 had amplified hateful extremism.

“The outcome of all of that we have yet to see. I don’t know how that is going to influence the next generation,” he said.

Basu said counter-terrorism operations had about 800 live investigations, 10% of which related to rightwing terrorism.

Earlier the committee heard from Sara Khan, head of the commission for countering extremism, who said she believed there was a gap in legislation preventing extremists from being prosecuted for their hateful behaviour. A review launched by the commission and led by former counter-terrorism chief Sir Mark Rowley is examining potential gaps in the law.





Centre tightens noose around Islamist preacher Zakir Naik, mulls banning Peace TV’s mobile App, social handles

Manish Shukla

Sep 24, 2020

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi-led NDA government is going to further tighten its noose around controversial Islamic scholar Zakir Naik, who is absconding and believed to be living in Malaysia.

Reports on Thursday said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is mulling to impose a ban on Naik’s Peace TV channel, mobile App and its YouTube channel for allegedly spreading hatred and inciting religious sentiments through its network.

In its report to the Home Ministry, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has mentioned that Naik’s organisation, Peace TV and its social handles are engaged in recruiting and radicalising innocent Muslim youths and alleged anti-India activities.

The IB report further stated that Naik’s outfit and its network has close links with the Jihadi groups and gets regular funding from the Arab countries for executing the jihadi propaganda in India.

During a recent meeting of top officials of the IB, NIA and other intelligence agency at the Home Ministry office in New Delhi, Zakir Naik’s alleged hate speech videos that posed a grave threat to the communal harmony in the country were thoroughly discussed.

Zakir Naik, who is already under the government scanner over his alleged anti-India activities, recently posted a controversial video on YouTube in which he said that there are less than 60 percent Hindus in India, so all Muslims should unite and elect their leaders and vote for those parties which favour their cause.

Top officials monitoring the development had told Zee Media that MeITY (Ministry of Electronics and information technology) is going to take strict and appropriate action against Naik and his network.

Peace TV and Peace TV Urdu, the television channels owned by the controversial Islamic preacher, were slapped with a fine of Rs 2.75 crore or GBP 300,000 in the United Kingdom. The fine was levied by UK media watchdog, Ofcom, for broadcasting hate speech and repeatedly inciting murder through the channels.

According to a report, nearly two years after the government banned the broadcasting of the controversial Peace TV channel of Zakir Naik, wanted in India for money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches, the controversial content continues to reach millions worldwide.

Taking advantage of loopholes in laws, Zakir Naik, who features in the National Investigation Agency's 'most-wanted list', had launched a mobile application last year.

With over a lakh downloads on Google Play Store, the free Peace TV app broadcasts in four languages- English, Urdu, Bangla, and Chinese. The 24-hour live feed offers different programmes for each channel.

Through this application, an uninterrupted 24x7 live telecast of Naik's TV channel is available across India. Despite being banned in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for its hateful content, the app has an age rating of 3+.

The Islamic televangelist who is wanted in both India and Bangladesh on financial and terror-related charges has sought refuge in Malaysia.

He has been accused by authorities there of trying to break the harmony and spreading against the local communities there. India has formally requested the Malaysian government to extradite fugitive Zakir Naik and government is taking it up with Malaysia at the highest level.


‘There’s Total Wipe-out of Muslims from Govt in J&K, Says Farooq Abdullah

25th September 2020

After the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, there has been a ‘total wipeout’ of Muslims from bureaucracy in Kashmir and all important posts are held by Hindus, said National Conference chief and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah in conversation with Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express and author and senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai in TNIE Expressions, a series of live webcasts with people who matter.

What was your seven months in detention like? What was it like seeing your state relegated to the status of a Union Territory?

What gave me strength was the holy Quran. What hurt me the most is that Union Territories get converted into states while in this case, the crown of India was mutilated. This hurt us all — every one of us. We were and are a Muslim majority state. We joined knowing fully well that it is a Hindu majority India. The tallest leader of that time, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, was the one who introduced Article 370 when (Jawaharlal) Nehru was away in America and he assured the Muslim majority that their dignity will be held high. Where is that gone?

Do you feel this is something that is absolutely irrevocable? Or do you sense that they are willing to reconsider it?

They did not even allow me to speak in Parliament. You can imagine their intention. On the very first day, we asked for time to discuss what we have gained and what we have lost by doing this in Kashmir. Others like the Congress joined me in seeking this discussion, but there was no discussion.

BJP says the demographic nature of Kashmir has changed. Earlier, it had Kashmiri Pandits, too, and now it just has Kashmiri Muslims.

We have never said they (Kashmiri Pandits) are not part of Kashmir. There were other forces that made the Pandits leave, not Kashmiris.

Do you feel it is being done to change the demographic nature of Kashmir?

Every day we see it.

What is the evidence of it?

When we were in power — be my father, I, my son, Mufti Sahab or others — Hindus and Muslims were equally distributed in the bureaucracy. Today, you have the L-G who is Hindu, the DG and the two IGs are Hindus. We had representation from both communities…Today, that balance is not there. There is a total wipeout.

Do you think only one community has the brains and the other community does not have any brains at all?

What about the internet connection? The rest of the country has 4G and will soon have 5G. Why deny that to our children and our businessmen? What about the tall promises that were made that everything will be hunky dory once Article 370 is gone? They say three families looted J&K. How do we then have the hospitals, institutions, schools in Kashmir? How is it that no farmer has committed suicide?

What is your advice to people in the Valley who look to you for hope?

How can I advise them? People call me New Delhi’s puppet. They say, I sing bhajans and say ‘Bharat mata ki jai’. They (the government) have left me no room…Some call me Pakistani and some call me kafir.


A List of All the False Claims Made in Sudarshan TV's 'UPSC Jihad' Show

Pooja Chaudhuri

September 25, 2020

On September 11, Sudarshan News broadcast its controversial show on Muslim ‘infiltration’ in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination after the Supreme Court overturned a Delhi high court order staying the programme.

The SC refused a pre-broadcast ban on the show. A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud is now hearing a plea against the provocative show and on September 16, 2020, the top court temporarily restricted the channel from airing the remaining episodes. “The Supreme Court staying something is like a nuclear missile. But we had to step in because nobody was taking any action,” Justice Chandrachud said.

Sudarshan News editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke hailed the show as ‘investigative journalism’ bringing the truth about ‘anti-national’ activities to viewers, but the one-hour long episode used misinformation to legitimise dangerous conspiracy theories.

Chavhanke attempted to show that Muslim aspirants are favoured in the exam as the government offers them benefits to the disadvantage of Hindu candidates.

False claim 1: Sudden increase in Muslim aspirants

Chavhanke’s entire show was based on the premise that a greater number of Muslim aspirants are taking the UPSC exam, thus suggesting an organised ‘infiltration’ in Indian bureaucracy. The final result of 2019 UPSC exam was declared on August 4, 2020. Out of the 829 qualifying candidates, 42 were Muslims which is 5%. Only one Muslim candidate was in the top 100.

Data from the last five years collated from the UPSC website does not show a ‘sudden’ rise in Muslim qualifiers but the percentage varies between 3% to 5%. Since the recruitment number is not constant every year, the graph below shows the percentage of Muslim candidates out of the total number of qualifiers in 2015-2019.

In 2015, 36 Muslims made the cut out of 1078 qualifiers. In 2016, this number rose to 50 with an increase in recruitment to 1099. Out of the 990 qualifiers in 2017, 52 were Muslims and in 2018, the number fell to 28 as recruitment plunged to 759.

Data from the last five years collated from the UPSC website does not show a ‘sudden’ rise in Muslim qualifiers but the percentage varies between 3% to 5%. Since the recruitment number is not constant every year, the graph below shows the percentage of Muslim candidates out of the total number of qualifiers in 2015-2019.

In 2015, 36 Muslims made the cut out of 1078 qualifiers. In 2016, this number rose to 50 with an increase in recruitment to 1099. Out of the 990 qualifiers in 2017, 52 were Muslims and in 2018, the number fell to 28 as recruitment plunged to 759.

Therefore, only in 2017 a little over 5% Muslim candidates qualified in civil service examination. At about 20:15 minutes into the show, the channel conveniently skipped 2018 in its data which would’ve shown a decrease in Muslim qualifiers compared to the previous year.

False Claim 2: Age relaxation for Muslim candidates

Sudarshan News claimed that the age-limit for Hindu candidates is 32 and the same for OBC Muslims is 35.

In a notification issued by the Union Public Service Commission on February 12, 2020, the lower age limit for all candidates is 21 years.

The upper age limit is 32 as on August 1, 2020, which is relaxed for various categories of individuals. The upper limit is relaxable for up to a maximum of five years for candidates belonging to a Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) and up to a maximum of three years for those belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBC).

The age limit is also relaxed for other groups such as those in defence services, commissioned officers, people with disabilities, etc. The notification further states, “Candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes who are also covered under any other clauses of Rule 6(b) above [which provides upper-age limit relaxable for certain categories]” will be eligible for grant of cumulative age relaxation under both the categories.

Backward classes among Muslims are eligible for the upper age-limit relaxation granted to OBC. However, Muslims are not the only minorities in OBC which also includes Hindus. To suggest that Muslims solely reap the benefits of OBC quota is erroneous.

It is noteworthy that the community does not make the cut in the SC or ST category. Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 states, “Notwithstanding anything contained in paragraph 2, no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu [the Sikh or the Buddhist] religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.”

Earlier in January, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde “called the social exclusion of Christians and Muslims SC and ST backgrounds a pertinent issue that requires the Supreme Court’s consideration.”

He made the observation after the National Council of Dalit Christians’ (NCDC) petitioned that religion should not be a consideration for the SC/ST status. Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians, descendants of Hindu ‘untouchables’, have been demanding their inclusion in the SC category which continues to be opposed by Dalit Hindus.

Throughout the show, Sudarshan News compared general category Hindus with OBC Muslims misleading viewers that the latter is favoured in the exams. Four out of the six claims fact-checked in this report are based on the same premise. However, both Hindus and Muslims belong to general and OBC categories and the comparison cannot be across groups where every class of people is given the same benefits.

False claim 3: Benefit of ‘more attempts’ to Muslims

The channel also claimed that Muslims are given the advantage of more attempts to take the exam. Hindus can take the exam six times while Muslims get nine attempts, as per Sudarshan News.

The UPSC notification does not give a religion-based restriction on the number of attempts. It merely states that every candidate shall be permitted six attempts except persons belonging to OBC, SC and ST categories and those with disabilities will be given nine attempts. It is also noteworthy that the six-attempt rule is applicable to general category Muslims.

False claim 4: Qualifying marks lower for Muslims

At about 45:30 minutes into the show, Chavhanke claimed that cut-off marks are also set lower for Muslims. He compared the minimum qualifying marks in 2009 (for reasons best known to him) for Muslims and Hindus as if no ‘non-Muslim’ belongs to the SC/ST and OBC category.

The UPSC releases cut-off marks for both prelims and mains every year. Below is the minimum qualifying standards/marks secured by the last recommended candidate in various categories in the Civil Services Examination 2019. Again, the cut-off marks are not based on religion but social and economic discrimination, i.e., for SC, ST and OBC groups.


Terrorist, CRPF ASI killed in separate incidents in Kashmir

Sep 24, 2020

SRINAGAR: Even as security forces gunned down an Al-Badr terrorist at Tral in Pulwama district, an assistant sub-inspector of CRPF was killed by unknown terrorists in Keisarmulla area of Chadoora in Budgam district of J&K on Thursday.

A senior police officer said that terrorists attacked a CRPF party in Keisarmulla, injuring ASI NU Badole. Before escaping, the terrorists snatch away Badole’s AK-47 rifle and a magazine. Badole was shifted to 92 base hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

In the Tral incident, Al-Badr terrorist Irfan Ahmad Dar was killed in an encounter after a joint team of police and Army's 42 RR conducted an anti-terror operation in Machoma Tral, the police officer said. Dar, a resident of Gadikal, had joined the outfit on August 20 this year.

At first, the joint team launched a cordon-and-search-operation in Machoma Tral and encircled the suspected spot from where hiding terrorists fired upon them. The fire was retaliated, triggering an encounter, leading to the death of Dar.


In two days, NIA ‘cracks’ Bengaluru riots case, arrests ‘key plotter’

Sep 25, 2020

NEW DELHI: Two days after it took over the probe into the mob violence that rocked Bengaluru on August 11, 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted searches at 30 different locations in the city and arrested a key conspirator, Sayed Saddiq Ali.

NIA sources said the links of Saddiq , a recovery agent with a bank and allegedly a member of Congress, with hardline outfits State Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and Popular Front of India (PFI) are being investigated.

The locations searched on Thursday were essentially residences of arrested accused, absconding accused and suspects in the two cases relating to the mob attacks. Among the recoveries made by NIA were airgun, pellets, sharp weapons, iron rods, digital devices, DVRs and many SDPI and PFI-related “incriminating” documents and material.

Saddiq, aged 44 years and a resident of Bengaluru, NIA said, was directly involved in the August 11 attack on KG Halli police station in Bengaluru, which resulted in huge damage and destruction of public and government property, including to the police station building and vehicles parked there and in nearby areas.

Saddiq had been absconding since the mob attacks that day. He was named as an accused in the original FIR registered by the Bengaluru Police, after eyewitness accounts indicated that he was at the front of the violent mob and an active participant in the attack. After taking over the case, NIA served summons to Saddiq at his residence and he responded by presenting himself before the agency’s investigating team. He was arrested after a round of questioning.

“Saddiq’s suspected links with the SDPI and PFI (whose leaders and members are believed to have instigated the mob to unleash violence in protest against the allegedly derogatory Facebook post by nephew of Congress MLA from Pulakeshi Nagar, Akhanda Srinivas Murthy) are a subject matter of investigation,” an officer told TOI.

The cases taken over by NIA on Tuesday pertain to mob violence, allegedly against a “derogatory” social media remark that was seen as insulting the religious sentiments of Muslims, by Naveen, nephew of Congress MLA Srinivas Akhanda Murthy. The State SDPI Secretary, Muzamil Pasha and other members of SDPI/PFI, NIA said, had assembled the mob at the houses of Naveen, Akhanda Srinivas Murthy and at the premises of DJ Halli and KG Halli police stations. The mob then vandalised the premises and resorted to arson, creating fear and panic among the people.


2 LeT terrorists killed in encounter in J-K’s Anantnag district

Edited by Prashasti Singh

Sep 25, 2020

Two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists were killed in an overnight encounter with security forces in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Two LeT terrorists have been killed. Incriminating material, including arms and ammunition, has been recovered. Search is going on. More details are awaited,” Kashmir Zone Police said.

Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Anantnag district’s Sirhama area after receiving a tip-off about the presence of terrorists there. The search operation turned into an encounter after the militants fired upon the forces, who retaliated, police said.

“A tight cordon was maintained throughout the night to stop the militants from escaping,” they added.





Pakistan Sufi organisation transfers Sikh manuscripts to gurdwara

Sep 24, 2020

After 90 years of safekeeping, a Pakistani Sufi organisation has transferred 110-year old copies of rare manuscripts of the Guru Granth Sahib to a gurdwara in Sialkot, the media reported on Thursday.

According to the Mitr Sanjh Punjab organisation's head Iftikhar Warraich Kalravi, the two manuscripts had long been in the safekeeping of Pir Syed Munir Naqshbandi, a revered Sufi elder from Kalra Dewan Singhwala in Gujrat district, reports The Express Tribune.

Known to be an advocate for interfaith harmony, Naqshbandi had offered asylum at his residence to a few Sikh families trying to escape ethnic violence before partition.

"Apart from sheltering the family, he had also salvaged some of their religious scriptures and kept them from being desecrated. Among them were the two manuscripts of Guru Granth Sahib. When the Sufi elder passed away in 1950, he had left the scriptures in the safekeeping of his children and since then they have remained with the family," Kakravi told The Express Tribune.

Kalravi said that Naqshbandi had always campaigned for Muslim-Sikh brotherhood and also for interfaith harmony in general.

"He was known for his kindness and this what led to the revered Sikh manuscripts coming into his possession. After over 90 years of safekeeping within the Pir's family, we have now decided that the manuscripts should now be rightfully transferred to the Gurdwara Baba Di Beri.

"This is a great example of Muslim-Sikh friendship and will help further strengthen our relationships," he told the newspaper.


No meetings with Pak military, Sharif warns party members

Sep 25, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former PM and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif on Thursday banned his party members from holding any private meetings with the country’s military leadership. The move came a day after the Pakistan’s main opposition party found itself in an embarrassing position following army spokesperson Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar’s confirmation that senior PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair had held two meetings with army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss the future of Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.

Interestingly, a conference of all mainstream opposition parties on Sunday had accused the military establishment of interfering in Pakistan’s politics and elections.

If necessitated by national security or constitutional requirements, such meetings in the future will be approved by the party’s leadership and will be made public, Sharif wrote on Twitter. “I am instructing my party that no member in private, individual or collective capacity will meet any representative of army or intelligence agencies,” he said.


Gilgit-Baltistan leaders divided over making it ‘5th province’ of Pakistan

Sep 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan’s civil-military leadership has agreed to make Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) the ‘fifth province’ of the country, local leaders there stand divided with some demanding more autonomy while others pitching for the Himalayan region – which is a part of Pak-occupied Kashmir -- to be merged as a full-fledged province of Pakistan.

Recently, the news of a secret meeting of Pakistan’s opposition leaders with army and ISI chiefs on September 16 had surfaced in which the opposition parties had agreed in principle to support the move to make GB the ‘fifth province’ of the country. During the meeting, it was also agreed, on opposition’s insistence, to take up the issue for discussion and legislation after the election for GB’s ‘legislative assembly’, which Pakistan has scheduled on November 15.

Since GB is a disputed region, some political observers believe that Islamabad needs to seek consent of the local population before any decision on their future. “They should be given a choice on what they stand for. Pakistani politicians should not impose a decision on future of GB’s residents without their consent,” said analyst Nazrul Islam. “The upcoming November election is significant in this regard. It remains to be seen whether the political parties will contest election on slogans of merging the land as the fifth province of Pakistan or other issues. More important would be the reaction of people - how they respond to any such call,” Islam added.

Some local politicians from GB who are against the idea of merger argue that it will severely damage Pakistan’s Kashmir cause.

Nawaz Khan Naji, who remained a member of GB’s ‘legislative assembly’ for nine years, was one of the strongest opponents of GB’s merger with Pakistan. “For seven decades, Pakistan had considered it as a disputed territory. It is not only in Pakistan’s interest but GB’s as well to give the region more autonomy instead of making it a province,” Naji said.

He said that Pakistan was doing it on China’s behest. “The China factor has complicated the situation for Pakistan. The Sino-US animosity has made the GB issue more controversial and the scope of Islamabad’s problems in the region has been widened as it has to now sustain pressure from Beijing’s rivals too,” Naji added.

The local population is also concerned about their status after the merger. Currently, the GB region enjoys the status of a ‘tax-free zone’ and the ‘local government’ has no power to introduce taxes in the region, while the federal government subsidises wheat and petroleum products for locals. A number of GB residents that TOI spoke to opposed the idea of making their region a province of Pakistan, saying that it will end their exemption from taxes.

However, Muhammad Ali Khan, another politician from the region, is a staunch proponent of the idea of merger of GB with Pakistan. “From day one, we merged with Pakistan and now the government should declare this region a fifth province of the country,” said Khan, who has served as ‘cabinet minister’ in the region.


Pak announces Nov 15 as poll date for Gilgit-Baltistan assembly

Sep 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has announced that the once-postponed election for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan will be held on November 15, amidst India's objection to Islamabad's moves in the strategically-located region.

President Dr Arif Alvi issued an official notification on Wednesday to fix the date of the elections in Gilgit-Baltistan.

"The president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is pleased to announce Sunday, the 15th November 2020, as the poll day for the general elections to the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Legislative Assembly in terms of Section 57(1) of the Elections Act 2017,” the statement said.

India has told Pakistan that the entire union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of the country by virtue of its fully legal and irrevocable accession.

India has said the Government of Pakistan or its judiciary has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it.

The polls in Gilgit-Baltistan were to be held on August 18, but the Election Commission on July 11 postponed them due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Polling would be held on 24 general seats of the legislative assembly. The five-year term of the previous assembly had ended on June 24, bringing an end to the five-year rule of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

There are a total of 33 seats, but six are reserved for technocrats and three for women. The special seats are filled from nominations by the parties winning the polls according to their representation.

The election date has been announced amidst reported consultations to elevate Gilgit-Baltistan's status to that of a full-fledged province.

The issue was discussed in a meeting between the Opposition leaders and Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on September 16.


Pakistan government files money laundering case against Shahbaz Sharif, family

Sep 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has filed a Rs 7 billion ($41.9 million) money laundering case against the leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif and his family.

Shahbaz, 69, is the younger brother of former premier Nawaz Sharif. He served as chief minister of Punjab from 2008 to 2018.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on interior and accountability Shahzad Akbar on Wednesday said that Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) PML-N president Shahbaz and his sons Hamza and Salman were involved in money laundering through fake accounts, but he (Shahbaz) always pretended to have nothing to do with their businesses, the Dawn newspaper reported.

"The national accountability bureau (NAB) has filed a case, accusing Shahbaz Sharif and his children of money laundering to the tune of over Rs 7 billion in a Lahore NAB court," he said.

Akbar said the financial monitoring unit had detected 177 suspicious transactions of Shahbaz' family after which NAB started a probe.

He said the case comprised 55 volumes and 25,000 pages of documentary evidence against the Sharifs, including company records, bank statements and foreign remittances.

"The record was compiled after detailed investigation by NAB teams which nominated 16 accused in the case — six family members and their 10 accomplices," Akbar said, adding that four of the accused had turned approvers and disclosed their role in money laundering carried out by the Sharif family.

He said billions of rupees were laundered through employees of the companies owned by Shahbaz and his children.

Akbar accused Shahbaz and Hamza of taking kickbacks and commissions in return for party tickets and projects to favourites.

According to the case, the Sharif family was involved in fake foreign remittances and organised money laundering.

Shahbaz paid for the custom duty of an imported vehicle, two houses in defence housing authority and villas in Whispering Pines from the laundered money, Akbar alleged.

About Rs 9.5 billion was laundered through fake companies and Ramazan Sugar Mills whose employees' salaries were in thousands of rupees but billions went through their bank accounts, he said.

Akbar said that Shahbaz should explain the organised money laundering network that was run by his children between 2008 and 2018.



Arab world


Western media manufactured narratives to rally support for Syria militants: Report

24 September 2020

Western governments and their media outlets have been concocting narratives to sway public opinion in favor of militant groups operating in the Arab country, according to a report.

Citing leaked documents, the investigative journalism group Grayzone revealed in a report published on its news website on Wednesday that Western governments and their affiliated news agencies carefully organized English- and Arabic-language media coverage of the war in Syria to drum up support for the militant groups there.

“Virtually every aspect of the Syrian opposition was cultivated and marketed by Western government-backed public relations firms, from their political narratives to their branding, from what they said to where they said it,” the article said.

The group said US and European contractors trained and advised Syrian “opposition” leaders, including young media activists, at all levels and organized interviews for them on mainstream outlets such as the BBC and the UK’s Channel 4.

“Western government public relation firms not only influenced the way the media covered Syria, but as the leaked documents reveal, they produced their own propagandistic pseudo-news for broadcast on major TV networks in the Middle East, including BBC Arabic, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and Orient TV,” Grayzone said.

The UK-funded firms functioned full-time to serve the militant outfits in Syria, according to the article, with one contractor, called InCoStrat, saying it was in constant contact with a network of more than international 1,600 journalists and “influencers,” and used them to promote anti-Damascus narratives.

The leaked documents also revealed that the Western government contractor, ARK, had played a role in “popularizing” the so-called civil defense group the White Helmets in American and European media.

“ARK ran the social media accounts of the White Helmets, and helped turn the Western-backed group into a key propaganda weapon of the Syrian opposition,” the article said.

The so-called White Helmets have been implicated by Syria and its ally Russia in numerous violations, including working with Takfiri militants in the Arab country and staging false-flag gas attacks to be blamed on Damascus as an excuse for Western allies to attack Syria.

ARK also ran an anti-Damascus propaganda outlet called Moubader, which developed a huge following on social media, including more than 200,000 likes on Facebook. The Western government contractor also printed 15,000 copies per month of a “high-quality hard copy” Moubader magazine and distributed in militant-held areas of Syria.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.

Idlib, in northwestern Syria, and small parts of an adjacent area in Aleppo form the only large areas in the hands of militants after the Syrian military managed to undo militant gains across the country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.

Idlib is now held by an array of militants dominated by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) Takfiri group, which is led by members of the former al-Qaeda franchise.

The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.


Bahrain, UAE deal with Israel an ‘important step’ for peace: Egypt’s FM

24 September 2020

The agreement between Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE is an “important step” for peace, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Wednesday following a meeting with his counterparts from Jordan, France, and Germany.

During their meeting, the ministers emphasized the importance of reaching a comprehensive solution that would meet the demands of the Palestinian people, Shoukry added.

The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to establish a Palestinian state, the Egyptian foreign minister said, adding that negotiations between the two countries must resume.

During the press conference, Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi said that the ministers emphasized the importance of two-state solution to the ongoing conflict.

Achieving total peace is the most strategic choice for everyone, Safadi added.

The German and French ministers also praised the peace deal between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain and said that similar agreements should b made to resolve the conflict.


Saudis feel ‘sense of unity’ for Kingdom’s 90th National Day

Reem Krimly

24 September 2020

Saudi Arabia celebrates its National Day on Wednesday this year, with concerts and other events, while adhering to COVID-19 precautionary measures, to commemorate the Kingdom’s unification under its founder, King Abdulaziz Al Saud, 90 years ago.

Celebrations amid the coronavirus pandemic

This year, the country’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) organized a string of concerts that will take place from September 22-26 to celebrate the national holiday, in accordance with GEA guidelines that were put in place to ensure everyone’s safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The guidelines emphasize the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, reducing the duration of social contact, in addition to other preventative measures.

However, authorities in the Kingdom have reduced the number of attendees expected to attend the concerts as a precautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus, according to Rotana Music, a record label company involved in organizing the concerts.

Also happening this year, Saudi designer Omaima Kindassa is staging a fashion show in Jeddah to showcase traditional clothing from regions around the Kingdom, inspired by the traditions of the diverse tribal communities in the country.

On Wednesday, more than 60 military and civilian aircrafts will participate in a live show that will air on Saudi TV 1, GEA said in a tweet, adding that it will be the largest air show in the history of Saudi Arabia’s National Day celebrations.

Additionally, GEA has set up an online platform for free National Day-themed printables that includes logos, images, and illustrations that users could download and print at home to use for decorative purposes.

Sense of unity

Saudis feel “a sense of unity” every year on National Day, 30-year-old Sultan al-Osaimi from Riyadh told Al Arabiya English.

“I feel like people are united on National Day, you can feel it in the air. Everyone feels a sense of belonging, this is especially heightened on national holidays,” al-Osaimi said.

“Everybody gets excited, people dress up in green [the color of the Saudi flag].”

“I am proud to be from this country. May our country always stay safe,” al-Osaimi added.

Al Anoud bin Juma, a 23-year-old, echoed al-Osaimi’s remarks.

“Although many people will stay home due to COVID-19, I really feel like Saudis have a genuine feeling of belonging and unity, this year more than ever.”

Bin Juma, who lives in Riyadh but is a Qassim native, explained that this feeling of unity comes from the safety and security the Kingdom provides, even during a global pandemic. “I feel safe here [in Saudi] and I appreciate the efforts of the country during the coronavirus crisis.”

“Saudi Arabia always puts its citizens and residents first, and I am very thankful to be from this country,” Bin Juma said, adding that she loves to celebrate its National Day.

Previous National Day celebrations

In 2005, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz made September 23 a national holiday in the Kingdom.

Since then, the country celebrated its national day in various ways. Last year, Saudi Arabia’s 89th National Day featured over 70 entertainment events across the Kingdom, including light shows, fireworks, and music performances, organized by the country’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) for a five-day National Day Season.

In 2018, more than 900,000 fireworks lit up the sky simultaneously from over 58 sites across the Kingdom in celebration of its 88th National Day.


Lebanese activists rally outside UAE embassy to denounce normalization with Israel

24 September 2020

Dozens of Lebanese activists have gathered in front of the United Arab Emirates' embassy in Beirut to protest the country's recent signing of a normalization agreement with Israel, much to the dismay of Palestinians.

The protesters voiced their anger at the attempts by a number of Arab states to establish diplomatic relations with the Tel Aviv regime, chanting slogans against Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan – the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the UAE's de facto ruler – as well as rulers Bahrain, who followed suit, the Arabic-language al-Manar television network reported on Thursday.

The demonstrators raised Palestinian flags and shouted slogans in support of the Palestinian cause, and burnt pictures of bin Zayed alongside Israeli flags.

“This rally was staged in condemnation of Arabs’ surrender and frantic rush to normalize ties with the Zionist regime. Those who have scrambled for normalization will be eventually hurled into the dustbin of history,” the activists said in a final communiqué.

They added, “Palestine is an occupied Arab state, whose people are displaced and must return to their homeland.”

“This protest comes as some of the country's and regional politicians insist on selling themselves cheaply to [US President Donald] Trump and [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu. They seek to promote the false notion that there is a tolerant atmosphere for normalization inside Lebanon,” the communiqué pointed out.

Netanyahu signed agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani during an official ceremony hosted by Trump at the White House on September 15.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital view the deals as betrayal of their cause.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas protested the normalization deals with Israel, saying they will be fruitless as long as the United States and the Israeli regime do not recognize the rights of the Palestinian nation and refuse to resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees.

He reiterated that there will be no peace, security or stability for anyone in the region unless the Israeli regime ended its occupation of Palestinian land, and Palestinians could restore their full rights as stipulated in international resolutions.

Netanyahu, Sudan leader to meet in Uganda soon: Report

Meanwhile, Israeli i24NEWS television news network reported that Netanyahu and the head of Sudan's ruling council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, are set to hold a meeting in Uganda in the near future.

The network, citing unnamed Sudanese sources, added that the Sudanese-Israeli Friendship Association is also going to be officially inaugurated during a ceremony in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on September 26.

Sudan that has no formal relations with Israel has been cozying up to the regime over the past year.

In February, Burhan met with the Israeli prime minister in Uganda, sparking anger among politicians and public at home, where anti-Israel and pro-Palestine sentiments run high.

After the US announced the UAE-Israel normalization deal, Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Haidar Badawi Sadiq said in an interview with Sky News Arabic television news channel that “there is no reason for the hostility to continue between Sudan and Israel,” in comments that drew Netanyahu’s praise and raised speculation that Khartoum may be the next in line to establish ties with Tel Aviv.

The Sudanese official was, however, sacked shortly afterwards over “unauthorized” comments, with Sudanese acting minister of foreign affairs, Omer Ismail, saying that his ministry “didn’t discuss the possibility of relations with Israel in any way.”



South Asia


65 Taliban militants killed in clashes with Afghan govt. forces in Paktika province: Officials

24 September 2020

Afghan government forces have killed 65 members of the Taliban militant group during an intense battle in eastern Afghanistan, officials say, as fighting between the government and Taliban rages despite the ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks.

The bloody clashes occurred late Wednesday after Taliban militants raided a military headquarters building in the Waza Khwa district of Paktika province, said provincial police spokesman Shah Mohammad Arian on Thursday.

“The fighting lasted several hours and in a retaliatory attack by the Afghan forces, the Taliban suffered heavy casualties,” he said, adding that the fierce fighting left 65 Taliban militants dead and 35 others injured.

“Unfortunately, three police forces were martyred and six others wounded,” Arian further said.

Bothe the incident and the casualties were confirmed by Bakhtiar Gul Zadran, the head of Paktika provincial council.

The Taliban group, however, has yet to comment.

The deadly fighting came just a day after the militant group killed 28 Afghan paramilitary policemen in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.

The provincial governor’s spokesman, Zelgai Ebadi, said the Taliban militants had offered 28 local and national police officials a chance to go home if they surrendered. “But after taking their guns, the Taliban killed them all,” he said on Wednesday.

Since September 12, representatives of the central government in Kabul and those of Taliban have been engaged in peace talks in the Qatari capital of Doha, following months of delay over a contentious prisoner swap between the two sides.

Earlier this month, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem claimed the group had decreased the level of violence with the start of the first round of intra-Afghan talks.

The peace talks come following a deal between the Taliban and the United States signed in February.

Under the deal with Washington, the Taliban agreed to halt their attacks on US-led foreign forces in return for the US pull-out of its troops from Afghanistan and a prisoner swap with the government.

Kabul was a party neither to the negotiations nor to the deal, but it has been acting in accordance with its terms, including by agreeing to free the Taliban prisoners.

In all, Kabul released 5,000 prisoners demanded by the Taliban.

According to official data, bombings and other assaults by the Taliban have increased by 70 percent since the militant group signed the February deal.

The US invaded the Asian country and toppled the Taliban-run government in 2001 under the pretext of fighting terrorism following the September 11 attacks in New York.


Taliban massacre 28 police officers in southern Afghanistan

24 September 2020

At least 28 Afghan police officers are massacred by the Taliban militants at security checkpoints in southern Afghanistan.

The killings took place in the Gizab district of the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan late on Tuesday.

The provincial governor’s spokesman, Zelgai Ebadi, said on Wednesday that the Taliban militants had offered 28 local and national police officials a chance to go home if they surrendered. “But after taking their guns, the Taliban killed them all,” he said.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the killings, which he said were carried out after police in the area refused to surrender to them.

Another local official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, put the toll at 28-30 policemen, adding that three policemen had managed to escape.

Reinforcements were not able to get to the outposts in time, but Ebadi said Afghan security forces were later back in control of the checkpoints.

The Wednesday killings come after 24 members of Afghan security forces were killed in a Taliban attack on checkpoints in Uruzgan on Sunday.

The latest violence comes as “peace” talks are underway between the Afghan government and the Taliban militant group in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The talks started in Doha on September 12 following months of delay over a contentious prisoner swap between the two sides.

The negotiations are taking place as part of a deal between the Taliban and the United States signed in February, according to which all foreign forces would withdraw from Afghanistan by May next year.

Under the deal with the US, the Taliban agreed to stop their attacks on US-led foreign forces Afghanistan but not on Afghan security forces and civilians.

Official data shows that bombings and other assaults by the Taliban have surged by 70 percent since the militant group signed the deal with the US in February.

The Taliban have said they would not commit to a reduction in violence until the terms of a ceasefire are negotiated.

The United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled a Taliban regime in 2001. Two decades later, it has had to negotiate its way out of the Afghan war.



Southeast Asia


Perikatan sec-gen Hamzah holds out hope for last-minute truce to avoid clashes at Sabah polls

24 Sep 2020


KOTA KINABALU, Sept 24 — With just a day to go before polling, Perikatan National (PN) secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin is still hoping that an eleventh-hour consensus can be reached between Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) parties to avoid some 15 clashing seats.

Hamzah said that he has spoken to all the party presidents involved to talk to each other and come to an understanding before polling day so as to minimise the problem of a split vote.

“For the last couple of days, we have done quite a good job. And now with less than 72 hours left, we all have to focus on something to make sure that whatever it is, we have to take over the state government,” he said.

Hamzah has been trying to broker deals between the parties to unofficially pull out of the race and support each other.

On Tuesday, PBS “withdrew” its candidates from running in Tambunan and Bingkor, where Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) was fielding its candidates to defend its seats.

STAR, in return, has pledged to unofficially pull out Independent candidates from Bengkoka and Api-Api, who were said to be aligned with STAR.

Its president Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan had also said the party would not be supporting Independent candidates linked to the party.

However, it later emerged that at least one candidate — Inanam incumbent Kenny Chua — was now a member of STAR, and he has stated that he will give the seat to STAR if he wins.

Tandek Independent Anita Baranting is also said to be campaigning on a STAR platform.

When asked about them, Hamzah said that it was a surprise to him.

Later, PBS secretary-general Datuk Jahid Jahim said that PBS was committed to sticking to its word that it would pull out of the race, but when asked about STAR’s apparent breach of agreement, he said he was unaware of it.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it. Let’s see how, I have to check first.

“As far as PBS is concerned, we have promised not to campaign in Tambunan and Bingkor and that agreement still stands,” he said.

PN, PBS and Barisan Nasional are clashing in at least 15 seats, with most non-Muslim Bumiputera seats.


Analysts split over Gabungan Rakyat Sabah and what it means for national politics

24 Sep 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 — The fractious nature of politics which saw Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) component members challenge its allies in almost a quarter of the 73 seats up for grabs in the state election has led analysts to take a closer look to see if this bodes ill for the rest of the nation when the 15th general election finally arrives.

Although it is possible that Perikatan Nasional (PN), Barisan Nasional (BN) and PAS may end up fighting one another over seat allocations in the future, it is more likely that the outcome of Sabah’s state election will have minimal impact on national politics as a whole.

UiTM Prof Mazlan Ali said each GRS member has its own direction and goal, let alone national parties or coalitions like PN, BN and PAS.

“I have observed that GRS has been using Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s popularity to boost its chances at winning, given the number of posters with his face and the ‘Abah’ slogan,” he told Malay Mail.

Adding that Muhyiddin’s popularity with Sabahans is due to the policies implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic and their related incentives, nonetheless, Mazlan said the differing views between PN and BN as to who should become chief minister will prove problematic.

“The people in Sabah see PN as more stable and less problematic than the other parties allied with it. This will be a test of sorts for the 15th general election when it comes to dividing seats.

“PAS said in its muktamar in Kelantan this year that it is aiming for 40 seats in the north and east coast of the peninsula, which has been agreed to by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia but disputed by Umno,” he said, referring to PAS’ annual congress.

Mazlan said this should not be taken lightly, as Umno and BN’s string of victories in recent by-elections is a sign that it is on the road to recovery.

“Their support has returned, and Umno now believes more than ever that it can go it alone and contest without any allies or other parties.

“This sentiment is particularly prevalent among youth members and, to an extent, grassroots leaders, even as many of Umno’s top leadership still feel they need Muafakat Nasional,” he said.

The analyst named Umno as the party likely to raise tensions, adding it will refuse to surrender any seats it currently holds to Bersatu.

“Umno is a strong party with three million grassroots members, and it needs at least 80 seats in the Dewan Rakyat to control Malaysian politics. At its peak, it could gain more than that, even as many as 90 seats.

“As it barely scraped through with just over 50 seats in the last general election, Umno will be very reluctant to let go of any, not to mention its view of Bersatu as a mere splinter party. Indeed, I think PAS and Bersatu are more in sync.

Even for PAS, Mazlan said that its leadership would likely want to court MCA and MIC rather than ally solely with Umno, since the two are already contending for the same Malay-Muslim constituents.

“MCA and MIC at least stand a chance of gaining the non-Malay and non-Muslim votes, which is of immense value to PAS,” he said.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Prof Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid took a different view of things, saying that although the political squabbling in Sabah is interesting to note, ultimately, Sabah and the peninsula have different historical structures and biography.

“The bottomline in Sabah is that Sabahans want their local parties to represent them. The east and west coasts of Sabah have different views of acceptable parties compared to the peninsula, rife with factionalism that causes disagreements over candidates and seats.

“Because of the differences between Sabah and the peninsula, we cannot simply predict what happens in Sabah will also happen in the peninsula.

“In Sabah, rural development, inclusivity, the Malaysia Agreement 1963, are still the pitching lines for most politicians and Bumiputera, while the peninsula is playing a different game card altogether,” she said, noting that the Bumiputera there comprised many indigenous groups who were not all Muslim in contrast to the peninsula where the term is almost synonymous with Malays.

However, Kartini said it is obvious that tensions are already beginning to foment between Umno and Bersatu, which may surface even before the 15th general election takes place.

“Bargaining and negotiating for seats is a process that requires a lot of give and take. But here and there we are hearing that Umno members are unhappy with Bersatu members formerly with them, who won seats in the 14th general election.

“Not to mention there are also voters who wanted the real deal of these seats previously won by Umno to remain in its hands instead of Bersatu’s. At the end of the day, the politics of interest is superseding the idealism of a unity government, Malay-led nation, or rakyat nation,” she said.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s Prof Jeniri Amir likewise believes the Sabah state election and the disputes between allied parties will have little-to-no impact on PN and other national parties.

“It all depends on the outcome thereof, I suppose. If things go in favour of GRS during the campaigning period, things will settle on their own eventually.

“You have to bear in mind that Sabah’s politics is different from the rest of Malaysia, including Sarawak. This is in terms of demography and the issues Sabahans face, and the underlying complexities therein,” he said.

One example Jeniri cited is the existence of numerous parties within the state, each with their own proverbial big guns or warlords.

“The situation there is not necessarily reflected in the peninsula and Sarawak’s politics, where there are two or three at most major parties and coalitions dominating the landscape.

“But we should not underestimate what can well happen in Sabah. If GRS fails to allocate seats and keep most satisfied, it will affect their chances by splitting the vote and result in dwindling support among voters,” he said.

In turn, Sabahans may view GRS as not being fit to rule the state. Jeniri added that now is more important than ever to address this issue and present a united front to the public.

“So long as this is left unaddressed, it will remain problematic to convince the people of the best candidates and party to run the show and to represent voters in Sabah.

“This state election is of vital importance as Sabahans cannot afford to choose the wrong party to represent them; otherwise, history will repeat itself. Again, Sabah cannot afford to have another costly political crisis as was seen this year,” he said.

The spotlight over GRS’ cobbled together alliance comes amid a new claim by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday that he commands majority support of the Dewan Rakyat, which includes defectors from both BN and PN.

While PN has indicated its support for Muhyiddin and Parti Warisan Sabah has kept mum over its own, Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday indicated that its MPs are free to back Anwar.



North America


US envoy says new Iran sanctions are coming

24 September 2020

US Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams has said that the United States will impose new sanctions on a number of Iranian officials and entities.

"The US is committed to holding accountable those who deny freedom and justice to people of Iran and later today United States will announce sanctions on several Iranian officials and entities including the judge who sentenced Navid Afkari to death," Abrams said during a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.

Twenty-seven-year-old Afkari was executed on September 12 after being convicted of stabbing to death a government employee in the southern Fars province in 2018.

Afkari was executed “after legal procedures were carried out at the insistence of the parents and the family of the victim,” the head of the Justice Department in Fars was quoted as saying by state media.

He had stabbed Hassan Turkman, a water supply company employee, in the southern city of Shiraz during riots over fuel prices in 2018.

The United States has falsely claimed that the death sentence arose from his involvement in street protests of 2018. Iran has strongly rejected these assertions.

Earlier this week, the United States imposed new unilateral sanctions against Iran after it failed to garner support for its anti-Iran move at the United Nations.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the sanctions on Monday, a day after Washington unilaterally declared that all UN sanctions against Tehran were re-instated.

Pompeo said the new sanctions target Iran’s Defense Ministry and the country’s Atomic Energy Organization.

He also said that President Trump has issued an executive order "that is a new and powerful tool to enforce the UN arms embargo."

Later on Monday, President Donald Trump said that he was imposing sanctions on Iranians demanded enforcement by US allies, who have roundly rejected his demand.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, appearing with Pompeo, also announced separate sanctions on the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

The new sanctions came just a day after Washington unilaterally declared that all UN sanctions against Iran were re-instated under a mechanism within the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Pompeo has that all UN sanctions against Iran were "back in effect" under the “snapback” provision in the JCPOA.

The claim came 30 days after Pompeo notified the UN Security Council of what he called Iran’s “significant non-performance” with its obligations under the JCPOA – from which Trump withdrew in May 2018.

Iran has been under a series of economic sanctions imposed by the United States since 2018, when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran deal.

The Trump administration has unleashed its “toughest ever” sanctions to bring Iran's economy to its knees, but it keeps humming and is getting back on its feet.

For the first time in ten months, earlier this month a US aircraft carrier sailed through the Strait of Hormuz and entered into the waters of the Persian Gulf, after Washington threatened to illegally extend an expiring arms embargo on Iran.

The Nimitz strike group includes the USS Princeton and USS Philippine Sea, both guided-missile cruisers, and the guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett.


Turkey's interest in Middle East 'legitimate': US

Michael Gabriel Hernandez  



Turkey has "legitimate" interests in the Middle East, the State Department's top official for political affairs told lawmakers Thursday.

Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, David Hale emphasized Turkey is a NATO ally while noting the country's unique location as the nexus between Europe and the Middle East.

"Their geography means they do have legitimate interest in the Middle East, that can’t be ignored," Hale said. "But it’s important they be channeled in ways that Turkey is supporting efforts to bring peace and stability, particularly through multilateral formats in places like Libya and in Syria, support of the political process there.”

Turning to Libya, Hale said Washington continues to support UN-led efforts to end the conflict and move toward a cease-fire between the internationally-recognized Tripoli-based government and renegade Khalifa Haftar.

"These efforts will be more effective now that the recently adopted UN mandate for the Libya mission includes our proposed language to create a UN Special Envoy position to focus exclusively on negotiations while leaving management of the UN mission in Libya to a special coordinator," he said.

Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Libya's new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to the military offensive by Haftar.

On Saudi Arabia, Hale said that while US relations with the Kingdom "is rooted in robust bilateral security cooperation," Washington continues "to have frank conversations with Riyadh on human rights."

Hale singled out discussions urging Saudi officials to lift a travel ban on a Saudi-American doctor and his family who have been prevented from leaving the country since 2017, and to release two dual US-Saudi nationals who have been imprisoned.

He said all three individuals "have been unjustly detained," and their cases "undermine our otherwise strong partnership."

"We fully support the nation’s reform initiatives, as articulated in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030," he said. "But we have also consistently told the Saudi leadership that success will require protection of human and women’s rights."





Islamic State: Relatives of British hostage braced for coming trial

By Frank Gardner

23 September 2020

On 22 November this year it will be exactly eight years since the British photojournalist John Cantlie was kidnapped by the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria, along with the American journalist James Foley.

Mr Foley was murdered by his captors. So too were the British and American aid workers and journalists David Haines, Steven Sotloff, Kayla Mueller, Peter Abdurrahman Kassig and Alan Henning.

Mr Cantlie's fate is still unknown. IS forced him to appear in its propaganda videos, criticising the West in what appeared to be scripted addresses to the camera. But he has not been seen since 2016.

Two of the alleged members of the gang dubbed "The Beatles", Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, were captured in 2018. Since then, they have been in a legal limbo but recent developments in the US mean the way is now clear, in theory, for their trial to go ahead in the US.

For the first time, Mr Cantlie's sister Jessica Pocock has spoken publicly of her eight-year ordeal, telling the BBC of the enormous relief she and the other hostage families feel at finally getting their day in court.

"This" she tells me, "is the first really good thing to have come out of this whole situation".

"It's the best thing that could have happened for us," she says. "We've only ever wanted these two (Kotey and Elsheikh) to face justice."

She goes on to describe the frustration the families felt as the legal wrangles stretched on for months. "It became more and more complicated and difficult and we felt, I think, at times, absolutely desperate as to whether the legal system was ever going to be able to bring these two to justice, wherever that might be."

Is she confidant that the men will get a fair trial in the US? "I have every confidence they will, yes. All the families of all the American and British people who were taken (hostage) all need nothing less than a fair trial."

'Unbelievably difficult'

For Jessica, the long wait for justice has been every bit as hard as it has for those whose loved ones were murdered by IS.

Mr Cantlie was kidnapped twice, escaping the first time from Syria and returning briefly to Britain. While he was back home the two siblings had a long conversation.

"He felt absolutely that he had to go back to Aleppo to tell the story," she says. "He hadn't managed to tell it when he was first kidnapped and he felt that it was his duty to go back."

Mr Cantlie's last known appearance was in an IS propaganda video from Mosul, where the group was using him in an attempt to convey the impression it was still in control, despite its mounting military setbacks.

For Jessica, it was particularly tough to see her brother in such circumstances. "It was surreal," she says. "It gave us a proof of life at that moment but then five minutes later it was no longer really valid.

"It felt unbelievably difficult to see somebody that you love so much on a screen and not be able to talk to them or engage with them, and not to know if you're ever going to see them for real again."

Mr Cantlie has not been seen since that video.

Many of the other hostages were killed by their captors in 2014 when IS was at its most powerful.

Others were released in exchange for ransoms and they have spoken of a sadistic four-man gang of British jihadists who guarded them. They nicknamed them "The Beatles" because of their British accents.

Court battle

Their infamous ringleader was the former west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi, the black-masked man who appeared in IS beheading videos and known in the media as "Jihadi John".

He was killed in 2015 in Raqqa in a precision-guided US drone strike. Another gang member Aine Davis was arrested and imprisoned in Turkey.

The other two alleged members of the gang, Kotay and ElSheikh, remained at large until they were captured in 2018 by Syrian Kurds fighting IS.

The two former Londoners have admitted belonging to IS but have denied the UK and US governments' allegations of torture and murder.

America had wanted to put them on trial but was lacking crucial evidence gathered by British intelligence.

Earlier, the mother of one of the two suspects won her English court battle to prevent this evidence being transferred to the US on grounds of data protection.

The men have been in a legal limbo, held by the US military in Iraq where the US attorney general threatened to hand them over to the courts, renowned for their summary justice and executions.

Then came a breakthrough: America undertook not to carry out the death penalty if the men were convicted in a US court.

And finally, on Tuesday, England's High Court lifted the ban on evidence being passed to the US.

Counter-terrorism officers from the Metropolitan Police duly delivered that evidence in person to the US Embassy in London.


France, Spain deny US claim that Hezbollah is storing explosives in Europe

23 September 2020

By Ali Harb

European countries have denied assertions by a top US official that Lebanon's Hezbollah has moved and stored bomb-making material throughout Europe to "conduct major terror attacks whenever its masters in Tehran deem it necessary".

Speaking in his official capacity to the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on 17 September, US State Department counter-terrorism coordinator Nathan Sales said he "can reveal" that Hezbollah has moved caches of ammonium nitrate through many European states, including Greece, Italy, Belgium, France, Spain and Switzerland.

Sales's allegations about Hezbollah-linked explosives in Europe came weeks after an enormous explosion caused by tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at the Beirut port that killed more than 200 people and injured thousands.

Ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive substance often used in fertilisers. Sales said that the Lebanese group has used first aid kits with cold packs that contain the chemical compound to move it throughout the continent.

Since he delivered his remarks, France and Spain have challenged Sales's account, and according to the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, an inquiry by law enforcement agencies in Athens failed to substantiate the US official's claims.

'No tangible information'

"The Spanish authorities have no evidence to suggest that Hezbollah's armed wing has introduced or stored chemicals in Spain for the manufacture of explosives," Spain's embassy in Washington told Middle East Eye in an email earlier this week.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs also cast doubt on the American assertion.

"To our knowledge, there is currently no tangible information that would allow us to confirm such an allegation with respect to France," a spokesperson for the ministry said in a statement.

"Any illegal activity committed by a foreign organization on our soil would be met with the harshest possible sanctions by French authorities."

Similarly, Kathimerini reported that an investigation involving Greek police and intelligence services "has not turned up evidence of Greek authorities having handled or intercepted information suggesting that the militant group may be using this country to store such material".

The Athens-based newspaper cited unidentified sources as saying that the US official's remarks were aimed at pressuring European countries to blacklist Hezbollah as a terror group.

The Swiss embassy in Washington refused to confirm or deny Sales's comments against Hezbollah, saying that the country's Foreign Ministry "does not comment on allegations published in the media".

During his virtual appearance at the AJC, Sales urged Europe to impose a blanket ban on the Lebanese group. The European Union designated Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist organisation in 2013, but it does allow for political activities by the Iran-backed organisation.

Britain and Germany outlawed Hezbollah in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Last week, Sales lauded the decisions of both countries and called on the rest of Europe to follow suit, rejecting the distinction between Hezbollah's political and military branches.

"Hezbollah represents a clear and present danger to the US today," Sales said.

Maximum pressure campaign

Joe Macaron, a fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC, said the US official's claims are part of Washington's effort to push Europe to adopt a more aggressive stance against the Lebanese group.

"This approach by the Trump administration comes as France tries to mitigate tensions between the US and Iran in Lebanon and beyond," Macaron told MEE.

"It is obvious that the US maximum pressure on Iran is in full-court press mode to put Tehran on the defensive as the US-sponsored Arab-Israeli normalisation deals take effect, and they are timely, just weeks ahead of the US elections.

"The message is to France as much as it is to Iran that a deal between Washington and Tehran before the US elections is not in Trump’s electoral interests and maximum pressure will continue until then."

US President Donald Trump has ruled out talks with Iran before the elections in November as his administration has imposed additional sanctions on the Islamic Republic as part of what it calls snapback measures, which Washington's European allies have rejected.

The US administration has also been piling sanctions on Hezbollah itself, blacklisting Lebanese companies and politicians linked to the group.

There has been no credible evidence linking Hezbollah to the port explosion. The tonnes of the dangerous chemical substance held in the port came from a Russian-owned, Moldovan-flagged ship that was headed to Mozambique before it was abandoned in Lebanon in 2013.

It sat at the port for years under the supervision of successive Lebanese governments in which both Hezbollah and its Western-backed rivals were represented.

On Wednesday, the US State Department backed Sales's remarks, noting previous plots attributed to the Lebanese group in Europe, including the 2015 sentencing of a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus in connection with stockpiles of bomb-making chemicals.

"The State Department stands by the new information unveiled by Ambassador Sales during the AJC event on Hezbollah’s caching of ammonium nitrate in Europe," a State Department spokesperson told MEE.

"Hezbollah’s involvement in terrorist plotting and other activities in Europe in recent years is well documented, including its use of ammonium nitrate to fuel explosive devices."

Previous allegations

This is not the first time the Iran-backed group has been accused of storing explosives in Europe. Last year, the UK's Daily Telegraph reported that in 2015, British authorities found a warehouse in London filled with explosives linked to Hezbollah.

The British government has not corroborated that report, and no arrests linked to the alleged incident have been made public. Still, the State Department cited the incident in its statement to MEE on Wednesday.

In May, Israeli media outlets reported that a Mossad tip about large amounts of Hezbollah-linked ammonium nitrate in Germany is what led to Berlin's move to ban the Lebanese group.

Last week, during the same AJC virtual event, German State Secretary Hans-Georg Engelke confirmed that Berlin had found bomb-making material linked to Hezbollah in the southern part of the country. "It was an amount that really worried us," he said.

Hezbollah, which has deep political, financial and theological ties to Iran, says its main focus is "resistance" against Israel in Lebanon, although it has been involved in the civil war in Syria and participated in an advisory capacity in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq.

Detractors say the group has a global network, including in South America, Europe and the Arabian Peninsula.

In 2013, Bulgarian authorities accused Hezbollah of being behind a bomb attack that targeted a bus of Israeli tourists, killing six people.

The Lebanese group has denied involvement in the incident.


German court ends ban on call to prayer at local mosque

Mesut Zeyrek  



A German court in the western city of Munster on Wednesday has given permission to a local mosque to perform the call for prayer -- or adhan -- saying it is “religious freedom”.

The rule followed a prior court decision in 2018 after a Christian couple living 900 meters (2,952 feet) from the mosque made a complaint about adhan, saying it intruded on their religious freedom.

The court in Munster did not agree with the previous decision in 2018 that the call to prayer violated the religious freedom of those who heard it.

The call to prayer is not an imposition that all people need to obey, the judge said.





Iran's UN Envoy: Saudi Wahhabi Ideology Inspiration for Notorious Terrorist Groups

Sep 24, 2020

“It is well established that Saudi Arabia, as a source of instability in the region, was the main sponsor of Saddam in his eight-year aggression against Iran, during which it has committed numerous crimes, including the use of chemical weapons against Iranian and Iraqi civilians,” Takht Ravanchi said on Thursday, referring to Saudi King Salman's statement to the 75th UN General Assembly (UNGA) used to deliver a blistering attack against Iran, blaming the Islamic Republic for much of the Middle East’s instability.

He further noted that Saudi Wahhabi ideology is the main inspiration for the most dangerous terrorist groups such as ISIL and al-Qaeda in the region and the country supports them financially with oil dollars.

Takht Ravanchi also maintained that another clear example of Saudi regional destabilization is the invasion of Yemen which resulted in the killing of women and children and the destruction of houses and hospitals in the country.

In relevant remarks on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that the Saudis are engaging in such a blame game to “escape responsibility for their own war crimes against Yemeni women and children”.

“The continuous military and political defeats in Yemen have sent Saudi Arabia into a state of delirium.”

“As the birthplace and origin of the ideas of Takfiri terrorist groups and as the main financial and logistical supporter of terrorism in the region, Saudi Arabia has, for many years, been pursuing a policy of blame games and distorting the realities to escape accountability for its crimes,” Khatibzadeh said.

“The Saudi regime’s support for and alignment with the United States in keeping up the failed policy of ‘maximum pressure’ against Iran as well as [the kingdom’s] attempts to expand relations with the occupying Zionist regime and [paying] billions of dollars in bribe money to others from the pockets of the people of the country, has not only failed to bring results for them, but has turned Saudi Arabia into a humiliated entity among the Arab states.”

He also noted that the Islamic Republic, in line with its responsible regional approach, has repeatedly warned the world about “the Saudis’ miscalculations — which have inflicted heavy costs on the region — and still stresses its principled policy of strengthening diplomatic and dialog-based processes in the region and developing relations with all its neighbors.”


Iran Unveils New Home-Made Semiconductor Radar

Sep 24, 2020

Soroush radar, designed and manufactured by the self-sufficiency jihad of the Army Air Defense Force, was unveiled and joined the country's integrated air defense network on Thursday.

The radar is capable of detecting targets with low radar cross-sections at short and medium altitudes up to a range of 220 km.

Also, given the use of semiconductor technology, it is able to perform missions in any weather conditions and has a very high activity duration and high resistance to electronic warfare.

According to the commander of the Army Air Defense Force, the new radar enjoys very high mobility and has been manufactured on international standards.

Another system unveiled by the Army Air Defense Force is named Misaq, which is a smart system combining capabilities of primary and secondary radars.

In addition to receiving information about the targets from primary and main radars, the system is able to combine the information given by secondary radars and all sensors and provide them to the integrated air defense network with high precision.

This system does not require manpower and operators as it automatically takes information and provides it to the integrated air defense network.

Earlier this month, Iran had also unveiled a new 3D and phased-array radar system capable of detecting hundreds of small flying objects simultaneously.

The new radar named Kashef-99 (Discoverer) was unveiled in a ceremony participated by Commander of the Army's Khatam ol-Anbiya Air Defense Base Brigadier General Alireza Sabahi Fard.

Kashef-99 is a 3D, phased-array and mobile radar which has been designed and manufactured at the Army Air Defense’s Center for Research on New Technologies and is capable of detecting up to 300 small-size flying objects from a distance of 12km simultaneously.

In a relevant development in April, Iran unveiled two home-made strategic phased array radar systems named Khalij-e Fars (Persian Gulf) and Moraqeb (Watcher) in a ceremony participated by Army Chief Commander Major General Seyed Abdolrahim Mousavi and General Sabahi Fard.

The long-range and strategic Khalij-e Fars radar is a 3D phased array system covering a range of over 800km which can detect all conventional and radar-evading targets and ballistic missiles.

Moraqeb is also one of the pioneering precise 3D phased array systems with a range of 400km which can trace micro-size targets in low and mid altitude as well as drones and radar-evading flying objects.

In recent years, Iran has made major breakthroughs in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing important military equipment and systems.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in 2014 unveiled Qadir phased array radar system.

The radar which can detect hostile flying objects up to 300km in altitude and 1,100km in distance was tested in Payambar-e Azam (the great messenger) 6 wargames in 2011.

The powerful radar is capable of detecting flying targets, radar-evading fighter jets and drones, cruise and ballistic missiles and low-orbit satellites.

Iran has locally made radar systems with different ranges up to some 1,850 miles (3,000 kilometers).

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) General Hossein Salami announced in 2018 that Iran had developed a new type of radar with the capability to monitor satellites in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

"We have been able to build space-monitoring radars which monitor satellites in the LEO," General Salami said.

He underlined ineffectiveness of economic sanctions and boycott of science and technology against Iran, and said Iranian experts have also manufactured drones that are able to carry out operations in a flying range of 3,000km, as well as high-speed ballistic missiles which can destroy enemy warships.


Fatah, Hamas agree to hold Palestinian elections ‘within six months’

24 September 2020

Palestine’s militant group Hamas and their rivals in the West Bank, Fatah, have agreed to hold Palestinian elections after nearly 15 years, officials from both sides told AFP on Thursday.

Parliamentary and presidential polls will be scheduled within six months under a deal reached between Fatah’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh.

The last Palestinian parliamentary elections were held in 2006 when Hamas won an unexpected landslide.


Open for business: How UAE-Israel peace is driving deals at breakneck speed

Emily Judd

Sep 24, 2020

Businesses in the UAE and Israel have been taking full advantage of a historic deal between the two countries signed last week, as previously untapped markets become open for business.

The news, announced August 13, has led to a slew of deals in recent weeks, with the establishment of a business council and signing of finance, tourism, and other agreements.

In what some are calling a “new era of trade relations,” annual trade between Israel and the UAE is expected to reach $4 billion in just three to five years, Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen has previously said.

Here’s how businesses in the two countries have been reaching out and collaborating:

UAE-Israel Business Council

Prior to the announcement of the deal, relationships between businesses in the UAE and Israel could be difficult and inefficient. Right after the deal was announced, however, the UAE-Israel Business Council was established to foster economic cooperation and collaboration between the two nations.

Co-founder and deputy mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum told Al Arabiya English that thousands of people have signed up to participate in the independent business council, with about half being Emiratis.

“The council is both a platform for business connections and an active creator of joint ventures between the two countries,” Hassan-Nahoum said in an interview with Al Arabiya English on Thursday.

Emirati businessman and entrepreneur Thani AlShirawi, part of the council and an adviser to Israelis exploring business opportunities in the UAE, said that economic relations between the two countries is crucial for lasting peace.

“The council will ease normalization. With economic ties you tend to make friends faster,” said AlShirawi, who is himself the deputy-managing director of the giant Dubai-based conglomerate Al Shirawi, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

“We will convince the people who are skeptical of the relationship, in this part of the world, to be pro-peace also,” he said.

So far 250 Israeli companies are trading with UAE companies, according to the council, with interest only increasing, Hassan-Nahoum explained.

Real estate

The UAE property market, in particular Dubai, is well known as a destination for real estate investment. The UAE-Israel deal, has provided a new, geographically close, source for investors looking to profit from the emirate’s bustling market for property.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has caused the global economy to enter an unprecedented recession, interest from buyers and renters in Dubai’s property market skyrocketed, as savvy investors look to secure a deal while prices dampen, previous research has shown.

Driven Properties, a large Dubai-based real estate brokerage which focuses on helping international investors enter the Dubai market, told Al Arabiya English that it has seen a surprising amount of demand from Israeli clients.

“Immediately after we opened a few of our channels to the Israel market through some of our networks, we saw a huge demand and on the basis of that we decided to do a webinar … and that webinar has led to a surge,” said Abdulla al-Ajaji, founder of Driven Properties.

“I think we have had thousands of emails and questions, not just to us as a dealership and management, but also how they can access the Dubai real estate market, the regulatory and legal framework,” he added.

On September 24, Driven plans to hold another webinar for Israelis looking to invest in UAE real estate, following the interest in its first.

Al-Ajaji noted that Dubai is an attractive destination for property investors from Israel with its globally high yield rates and competitive pricing – especially when compared to Israel capital Tel Aviv.

“If you compare apples to apples, or prime Dubai [real estate] to prime Tel Aviv [real estate], Dubai stands at one fifth of the prices of Tel Aviv … You can buy four or five units in Dubai compared to what you can get in Tel Aviv,” al-Ajaji explained.

Although a treaty has yet to be signed that will allow Israeli investors to participate in Dubai property, al-Ajaji expects “that to happen very soon,” and should interest be high enough, Driven would open an office in Israel, joining other UAE-based businesses that have announced similar plans.

Banking & finance

The banking and finance industry, often considered the engine of economic growth, stands to see significant benefit from the peace deal.

The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on banking and finance on September 1, opening the door to agreements between institutions in both countries.

One week later, the first official Israeli trade delegation arrived in the UAE, with the CEO of Bank Hapoalim, the biggest bank in Israel, present. Bank Hapoalim went on to sign an MoU with Dubai’s largest bank, Emirates NBD during the trip.

Israel’s second largest bank, Bank Leumi, then signed an MoU on September 16 with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank to explore areas for future cooperation in the UAE, Israel and other international markets.

The same day the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, the central government hub supporting private sector investment, announced that Israel's Tel Aviv would be the location for its first ever office outside of the UAE.

In insurance, Israel’s Harel Insurance Group signed a deal with the UAE’s Dubai Insurance on September 23 to provide services in both Israel and the UAE.

Coronavirus research

A global race is currently underway between pharmaceutical and drug companies to develop treatment for the coronavirus pandemic.

The UAE has recently led efforts, with an announcement last week that it had issued emergency approval for the use of a COVID-19 vaccine that is currently undergoing testing in the Gulf country.

Even prior to the news of the peace deal between the two countries, private companies in Israel and the UAE had already announced in June that they would collaborate to develop research and technology in the fight against COVID-19.

More recently, however, higher level discussions have taken place, with UAE and Israeli health ministers discussing how to better cooperate on tackling the pandemic and “ways to strengthen cooperation in the medical field,” focusing on pharmaceutical industry and medical research, state news agency WAM reported at the time.

Earlier this year, the UAE and Israel ranked as the safest countries in the Middle East during the coronavirus pandemic, comprehensive data analysis by Hong Kong-based Deep Knowledge Group showed.

Both countries were classified within the “Tier 1” category - 20 countries that ranked highest “in terms of regional safety and stability” in the era of COVID-19.


The UAE and Israel are both popular global tourism destinations, and are committed to facilitating direct tourism between the two countries, something that the Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism Amir Halevi said, “will undoubtedly benefit the economy of both countries.”

“We are working with all the relevant bodies to both facilitate the opening of direct scheduled routes and the visa issue, to ensure fast and easy travel between our two countries,” Halevi said in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

He added that one possible tourist package that could be offered to American tourists would be a travel experience that combines trips to both countries.

Direct flights from the UAE to Israel are likely to be set up by the end of 2020, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lior Haiat told Al Arabiya English.

Israeli carrier Israir said earlier this month that it has reserved slots for commercial flights from Tel Aviv to the UAE and Israel’s Aviation Links said days after the agreement was announced that it would start selling vacation packages to Rixos hotels in the UAE.

Meanwhile, Dubai conglomerate Al Habtoor Group - whose portfolio covers the hospitality, construction, education and automotive sectors - announced this week it will open a representative office in Israe

Both the UAE and Israel are home to vacation hotspots, such as Dubai and Jerusalem - cities whose hospitality industries have suffered due to travel restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The agreement will look to revive their tourism industries, though the timing is uncertain as Israel has not yet opened to foreign visitors due to a severe second coronavirus wave, while Dubai began to welcome tourists back in July.


While the diamond industry has likewise been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, respective exchanges in Dubai and Israel are hoping that an agreement will help rebound their industry.

Described as “an opportunity that can’t be missed” by Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC) Chairman and Dubai Diamond Exchange Chairman Ahmed Bin Sulayem, diamond exchanges in Dubai and Israel signed an agreement of collaboration last week that will see the establishment of reciprocal offices in each other’s country.

The Israel Diamond Exchange will open an office in Dubai and the Dubai Diamond Exchange will open an office near the city of Tel Aviv.

Both Israel and Dubai are leaders in the global diamond industry. The diamond industry in Dubai has grown rapidly, from an export trade of $3.6 billion in 2003 to $23 billion in 2019.


In anticipation of tourists from Israel, the UAE’s restaurants and hotels are exploring a new food market: kosher, a term referring to food that conforms to Jewish dietary law.

The UAE capital city Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism has sent a memo to general managers at all hotels in the capital city advising them to offer kosher food to visitors.

UAE-based businesses are also looking to get in on the action.

A recently opened homegrown kosher eatery – Elli’s Kosher Kitchen – has paired with the Habtoor Hospitality group to become the first hotel chain in the country to offer kosher food and services.

Elli’s Kosher Kitchen has seen a huge increase in demand over the last few months, according to founder Elli Kriel.

The world’s largest kosher certification agency, Orthodox Union, has also been brought in to ensure kosher food delivery, and will be involved in the planning of Dubai’s Expo 2020 – although the expo has now been delayed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Technological collaboration could surge as innovators in the two countries bring mutual experience together. One field that could see particular benefit is that of transportation.

Self-driving “robotaxis,” which could be on the streets by the end of 2022, are arguably the most innovative fruit born from the deal thus far.

Al Habtoor Group and Israel’s Mobileye launched a partnership on Wednesday to create a fleet of self-driving “robotaxis” for Dubai.

Testing of the autonomous vehicles will begin in 2021 and a pilot program is expected by the end of 2022.

Another major transportation possibility is the potential opening of a direct shipping line between the two countries.

Dubai’s DP World said on Wednesday it is partnering with an Israeli group to bid for the privatization of Haifa Port, one of Israel’s two main ports, meanwhile Danish shipping giant Maersk announced on the same day that it would begin transporting cargo between the UAE and Israel.


Netanyahu endorses construction of over 5,000 new settler units in occupied West Bank

25 September 2020

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the construction of thousands more homes in the occupied West Bank, in complete defiance of international outcry against the Tel Aviv regime’s policies of land grab and illegal settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian lands, a report says.

Palestinian Arabic-language Ma’an news agency, citing a report published by Israel’s Channel 7 media network, reported that the 70-year-old chairman of Likud political party had given the green light for plans to build over 5,000 units, after more than six months during which such construction had been frozen.

The report added that there have been contacts between settlement leaders and Netanyahu over the past few days, where Jewish extremists have called on the Israeli premier to end the freeze on settlement construction activities in the West Bank or face large-scale protests against his administration.

Israel and the UAE agreed to a US-brokered deal to normalize relations on August 13. Under the agreement, the Tel Aviv regime has supposedly agreed to "temporarily" suspend applying its own rule to further areas in the occupied West Bank and the strategic Jordan Valley that Netanyahu had pledged to annex.

While Emirati officials have described the normalization deal with the Tel Aviv regime as a successful means to stave off annexation and save the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli leaders have lined up to reject the bluff of Abu Dhabi's crown prince and de facto ruler of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that Israel's annexation plans were off the table.

The Israeli prime minister has underlined that annexation is not off the table, but has simply been delayed.

Netanyahu signed agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani during an official ceremony hosted by US President Donald Trump at the White House on September 15.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital, view the deals as betrayal of their cause.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas protested the normalization deals with Israel, saying they will be fruitless as long as the United States and the Israeli regime do not recognize the rights of the Palestinian nation and refuse to resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories in several resolutions.,000-new-settler-units-in-occupied-West-Bank-


Yemen’s al-Masirah TV publishes documents disclosing US interference in Arab country

24 September 2020

A Yemeni television network has published a number of classified and top-secret documents from the United States’ diplomatic mission in the Arab country, which reveal Washington's interference in the internal affairs of the Arab country since many years ago.

The US embassy’s documents were publicized by the al-Masirah television network before the September 21 Revolution – the 2014 popular uprising that toppled the Saudi-backed government of former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, and included directives from previous American ambassador Gerald M. Feierstein to the Presidency on transfer of the so-called “anti-terrorism units” from the Ministry of Interior to Defense Ministry.

The leaks also exposed US directives on limiting the role of the units to security forces guarding the Yemeni land and maritime borders.

Furthermore, the US embassy’s documents ordered that presidential decrees be issued immediately for the appointment of a number of military commanders in various ranks, including a new commander for the Yemeni special operations forces, his deputy, and the deputy chief of the General Staff.

The leaks also exposed US directives on limiting the role of the units to security forces guarding the Yemeni land and maritime borders.

Furthermore, the US embassy’s documents ordered that presidential decrees be issued immediately for the appointment of a number of military commanders in various ranks, including a new commander for the Yemeni special operations forces, his deputy, and the deputy chief of the General Staff.

Separately, the documents issued by Yemen’s National Security Bureau (NSB) at the time revealed the US’ leading role in and its close supervision over destruction of Yemeni air defense systems, chiefly Strela short-range and surface-to-air missile system (SAMs).

The files disclosed that the American side had directed its activities towards serving the interests of the US national security, with complete disregard for Yemen’s interests.

Earlier this year, a Yemeni security source said the United States had destroyed the country’s air defense missiles during the reign of slain Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, over allegations that the weapons would fall into al-Qaeda hands in case the then Yemeni administration was toppled.

The unnamed source told Yemen’s official Saba news agency on February 27 that an American delegation, which was comprised of Program Manager in the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) with the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Dennis F. Hadrick, liaison officer Santo Polizzi, technical expert Niels Talbot, Deputy Director of Programs in the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism at the US Department of State, Laurie Freeman,  and the military attaché at the US embassy in Sana’a, held meetings with Yemeni Ministry of Defense officials at the time to pressure them to hand over the missiles in preparation for their complete destruction. Their demands were initially turned down though.

The source added that Brigadier Ammar Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, a nephew of Saleh and then deputy director of the National Security Bureau, was then tasked with persuading Yemeni military officials to agree to the surrender and annihilation of the air defense missiles in exchange for hefty sums of money.

This document, issued previously by the United States’ diplomatic mission in Yemen and published by the Yemeni Arabic-language al-Masirah television network on September 24, 2020, purports to prove that Washington secretly interfered in the Yemeni internal affairs.





Libyan premier asks Haftar allies to reconsider stances

Mucahit Aydemir   



Libya's prime minister on Thursday called on warlord Khalifa Haftar's supporters in the UN Security Council to reconsider their positions on the conflict in the North African country.

Speaking at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly via video link, Fayez al-Sarraj urged these countries to work with the legitimate internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

Sarraj also called on the UN to investigate violations by Haftar militias in Libya's Sirte province.

For the cease-fire declared in August to be effective and permanent, the Sirte and Jufra regions under Haftar's control must be demilitarized and foreign mercenaries must leave the country, Sarraj underlined.

On Aug. 21, the Libyan government announced a truce and ordered the military to stop operations against Haftar's militias.

However, the Libyan army has since reported several breaches of the cease-fire by the militias.

Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The GNA was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement have failed due to a military offensive by forces loyal to Haftar.

The UN recognizes Fayez al-Sarraj's government as the country's legitimate authority as Tripoli has battled Haftar's militias since April 2019 in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.


Kazakhstan suspends three airlines for breaching UN arms embargo on Libya

23 September 2020

Kazakhstan has barred three air carriers from operating for violating a UN Security Council embargo covering the supply of arms to Libya, the Central Asian country’s government said Wednesday.

A statement on the website of the Kazakh industry ministry said that it had stripped the locally held licenses of Azee Air, Sigma Airlines and Jenis Air.

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The statement said that the UN Security Council had informed Kazakhstan via a letter that the trio were violating the embargo in February of this year.

Flights by the three air carriers to Libya “were carried out from third countries,” the ministry said, noting that it was not Kazakhstan’s responsibility to monitor the airlines’ activities outside of Kazakhstan.

UN officials have long warned that deliveries of foreign-made weapons to Libya are undermining peace efforts.

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on three companies – one of them Turkish – for breaching the UN arms embargo on Libya, drawing an angry reaction from Ankara.

Since 2014, it has been split, with a government controlling the capital, Tripoli, and the northwest, while military leader Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi rules the east.

Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the GNA is backed by Turkey.


Tanker to enter Libya's Hariga port, load 1 million barrels of oil

23 September 2020

The Delta Hellas tanker will enter Libya's Hariga port on Wednesday and load 1 million barrels of oil from the port's storage, the Arabian Gulf Oil Co which operates the port said in a statement.

The Unipec tanker Marlin Shikoku is also heading to Hariga according to shipping data and traders.


At UN, Libyan premier urges rebels to lay down arms, respect ceasefire

25 September 2020

The head of the Libyan government has called on rebel forces under the command of renegade general Khalifa Haftar to lay down their weapons and respect a ceasefire that aims to stop violence and help resume oil production in the conflict-ridden North African country.

In a video speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj warned against the lack of commitment to last month’s ceasefire by Haftar’s militias in eastern Libya and said the rebels would be held to account for any possible casualties due to the ceasefire violations.

"We have not yet seen cooperation from armed groups and the aggressive militias," Sarraj said in his video address.

"In fact, we have only seen hostile remarks from their spokesmen and violations by their forces. Therefore we would hold them responsible for any military confrontations and any resulting casualties and destruction,” he added.

The head of the UN-recognized government also said, "We want peace, not war," and added that the Tripoli-based administration had "welcomed" the announcement of the ceasefire and the resumption of oil production in eastern terminals controlled by Haftar’s forces.

Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and a Haftar-backed parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk agreed last month on a ceasefire and the holding of elections by next March.

Sarraj also called on Thursday for the United Nations’ support in organizing the upcoming vote and said, "Libyans have waited too long for these elections, which will end the legitimacy crisis.”

After recent talks between the two sides in Morocco, the Libyan premier said he was willing to resign as a new government comes together.

Several Libyan cities have in recent weeks been the scene of protests against deteriorating living standards, largely caused by a rebel blockade of energy exports since the beginning of the year. The blockade imposed by Haftar’s militias has cost the oil-rich African country 6.5 billion dollars in lost revenue.

Libya, which sits atop the largest oil reserves in Africa, initially plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the GNA led by Sarraj, and another group under Haftar’s command which is based in the eastern city of Tobruk and supported militarily by forces loyal to him — known as the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA).

The strongman, who is primarily supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan, launched a deadly offensive to capture the capital Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, in April last year. Despite intense fighting, he has so far failed to achieve his objective of ousting the internationally-recognized government, and the offensive has stalled outside the city.

Turkey has been of significant help to the Tripoli-based government in its defense against the LNA.

Last month, the GNA declared a ceasefire and called for an end to a blockade imposed by the rebels on oil facilities in eastern Libya

Haftar dismissed the calls, but said last Friday he would lift his blockade on oil outputs for one month,and that he had agreed with the GNA on "fair distribution" of energy revenue.

The rebels started the blockade of the oil facilities in January, when they managed to take control of oil fields and export terminals in the east.


Eastern Libyan forces say they killed Islamic State leader

SEPTEMBER 24, 2020

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Eastern Libyan forces said on Wednesday they killed the leader of the Islamic State group in North Africa during a raid in the southern desert city of Sebha earlier this month.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Ahmed al-Masmari said Abu Moaz al-Iraqi was among nine militants killed during the raid but was only identified afterwards.

Islamic State in Libya was formed by al Qaeda militants who took advantage of the chaos after the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi to seize territory and launch attacks.

The group took control of the central coastal city of Sirte in early 2015 and established a presence in the vast southern desert as well as active affiliates or cells in major cities.

However, it was driven from Sirte in late 2016 and its influence since then has been limited to occasional attacks including one on National Oil Corporation’s headquarters in 2018 and another at the Foreign Ministry in 2019, both in Tripoli.

Masmari said Abu Moaz al-Iraqi, also known as Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi, had entered Libya in 2014 and became the group’s leader in 2015 when his predecessor was killed.

Islamic State’s global threat has reduced in recent years after its self-proclaimed “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria was militarily defeated and much of its leadership killed. However, it remains capable of inspiring attacks around the world, security experts say.

The LNA controls eastern and much of southern Libya and has for years been in conflict with the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.


Nigeria troops claim killing top Boko Haram members


The Nigerian military on Thursday said its forces have killed several top commanders of the Boko Haram terrorist group in "massive clearance operations" in northeastern Borno state.

“Several top BHT [Boko Haram Terrorists]/ISWAP terrorists commanders were killed during the successful operation including Abu Usman, Alhaji Shettima, Modu Mainok, Bukar Gana, Abu Summayya, Amir Taam and Amir Kuraish, among others,” the military said in a statement.

Several terrorist camps and hideouts near Lake Chad were also destroyed, it added.

Boko Haram, and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, have been fighting the government for a decade to bring an Islamic system in Nigeria.

The violence, which has killed more than 30,000 people and displaced millions, has spread to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a military response.




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