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Islamic World News ( 16 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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UK ‘To Ban’ China Imports Linked To Uighur Camps: Reports

New Age Islam News Bureau

16 January 2021


In this September. 21, 2018, photo, Uighur women use carts to transport cement for home renovations at the Unity New Village in Hotan, in western China''s Xinjiang region [Andy Wong/AP]


• Nargis Mohammad Hasan Killed an American in 2012; Why Was She Freed in the Taliban Deal?

• Pak Sikhs To Challenge Sentence Given To Nankana Sahib Assaulters

• Saudi Arabia Amends Anti-Harassment Law, To Name And Shame Offenders

• ‘Hezbollah boosted missile power as Israel intensified aggression in Syria’

• Iranian Official: Saudis Better Trust Iran Instead Of Acting As The Killing Machine Of The Zionist Regime

• 46 Killed In Suspected Daesh-Related Attack In Eastern DR Congo

• Dozens Of People On FBI Terrorist Watch List Came To D.C. The Day Of Capitol Riot


• UK ‘To Ban’ China Imports Linked To Uighur Camps: Reports

• Greece arrests suspected Syrian extremist wanted in the Netherlands


South Asia

• Nargis Mohammad Hasan Killed an American in 2012; Why Was She Freed in the Taliban Deal?

• 13 Police Officials Killed By Taliban In Afghanistan's Herat

• 12 pro-govt militiamen killed by Taliban in Afghanistan insider attack

• Roadside bomb kills two policemen in Afghanistan: Officials

• Taliban kills at least nine Afghan security personnel: Officials



• Pak Sikhs To Challenge Sentence Given To Nankana Sahib Assaulters

• FM terms UK debate on IIOJK diplomatic win for Pakistan

• NAB summons UAE firm’s MD in Khawaja Asif case

• BBC ends Sairbeen broadcast on Aaj TV alleging interference

• Pakistan reaffirms support for Afghan peace process

• Sindh Assembly makes manufacture, sale of ice drug capital offence


Arab World

• Saudi Arabia Amends Anti-Harassment Law, To Name And Shame Offenders

• ‘Hezbollah boosted missile power as Israel intensified aggression in Syria’

• EU adds Syria’s foreign minister to sanctions blacklist

• Coronavirus: Lebanon’s parliament approves law on COVID-19 vaccines

• Syrian-Russian businessmen with ties to Assad regime linked to Beirut blast: Report

• Israel frees Lebanese shepherd detained in border area: UN

• Bahrainis protest appointment of Israeli chargé d'affaires to Bahrain

• Hamas will support Syria as it confronts Israeli regime, senior leader says



• Iranian Official: Saudis Better Trust Iran Instead Of Acting As The Killing Machine Of The Zionist Regime

• Israel ‘Systematically Repressed’ Palestinians In 2020: HRW

• FM Zarif: Earth to See Better Days without Trump Team

• 1st Phase of Great Prophet 15 Drills Starts with Ballistic Missiles Mass Firing

• Turkey’s Erdogan hopes for positive steps on F-35 jet program during Biden’s term

• Palestinians to hold first elections in 15 years, presidential vote on July 31

• Yemenis protest US blacklisting of Houthis

• Israeli forces injure Palestinian protesters in occupied West Bank



• 46 Killed In Suspected Daesh-Related Attack In Eastern DR Congo

• Ethiopian refugee children at risk of exploitation, trafficking in Sudan

• Trump receives Morocco’s highest award for Middle East peace efforts: Official

• Clashes in Tunisia after police beat shepherd, spark anger

• Tunisian protesters, security forces clash after police beating of shepherd


North America

• Dozens Of People On FBI Terrorist Watch List Came To D.C. The Day Of Capitol Riot

• Pentagon Increasing Efforts To Stamp Out Extremism Among Active-Duty Troops And Veterans

• US will impose sanctions on Iran over conventional arms, metals industry: Sources

• US CENTCOM area of responsibility to include Israel after warming of Arab ties

• US troops in Afghanistan at lowest level in 19 years: Trump

• Uzbek national sentenced to over 12 years for helping aspiring ISIS fighter


Southeast Asia

• With Emergency Ordinance In Malaysia, Law Experts Say Democracy Suspended, Unlimited Power Lies With Cabinet

• Former Lord President Salleh Abas laid to rest in Terengganu

• Indira Gandhi seeks IGP’s answers on ex-husband’s probe in suit against PDRM

• Selangor Sultan, Tengku Permaisuri Selangor convey condolences to family of Salleh Abas

• Social media influencers among priority vaccine groups in Indonesia



• Gujarat Too May Enact Law Against ‘Love Jihad’

• Muslim Groups Call For Bandh On Jan 22 Over Bengaluru Riots Crackdown, Farmers' Protest And Love Jihad Law

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



UK ‘To Ban’ China Imports Linked To Uighur Camps: Reports

11 Jan 2021


In this September. 21, 2018, photo, Uighur women use carts to transport cement for home renovations at the Unity New Village in Hotan, in western China''s Xinjiang region [Andy Wong/AP]


Britain is set to announce plans outlawing the importation of goods suspected of using forced labour in China’s Xinjiang province, media reported on Monday, in a move which would further strain ties between London and Beijing.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is expected to reveal his plans, which are also set to include tougher laws on exporting goods or technology that could be used for repression, to MPs this week, according to The Sun and Guardian newspapers.

Britain and China’s relationship has grown increasingly frosty over the last two years, particularly over London’s criticism of the crackdown on democracy campaigners in Hong Kong and its offer of citizenship for its residents.

Britain has also criticised the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province, with the government calling evidence that they are being forced to produce cotton “deeply troubling”. Beijing has denied allegations of forced labour.

The British government is concerned that the textile industry is not checking carefully enough whether goods from Xinjiang, which supplies nearly a quarter of the world’s cotton, are made using forced labour.

Proposals could include fines if companies fail to show due diligence in checking their supply chains, according to The Guardian.

But Raab’s plans are expected to stop short of sanctioning Chinese officials linked to “re-education” camps and forced sterilisation programmes, according to The Sun.

“Our approach to China is rooted in our values and interests,” an official at the Foreign Office was quoted as saying.

“However, where we have concerns, we raise them and hold China to account.”

‘Growing problem’

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith – an outspoken China critic – told The Sun he welcomed the plans but said they were insufficient to “deal with the growing problem we face with China”.

China’s outgoing ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming, last week said relations between the two countries “depend on whether the UK sees China as a partner or a rival”, adding that the “ball is in the court of the UK side”.

China denies forced labour is used in its cotton industry, saying that the camps from where the pickers are drawn are “vocational training schools” and that factories are part of a poverty alleviation scheme.

British retailer Marks and Spencer said last week it would not use cotton from Xinjiang as concern grows in the fashion industry about supply chains.

Two years ago, US firm Badger Sportswear announced it would stop sourcing clothing from the Chinese apparel company Hetian Taida, over concerns it was using forced labour from internment camps in Xinjiang.

Meanwhile last month, French footballer Antoine Griezmann announced that he would “immediately terminate (his) partnership” with telecom giant Huawei, citing “strong suspicions” that it was involved in the Chinese authorities’ surveillance of the Uighur minority.

Uighurs are the principal ethnic group in Xinjiang, a huge region of China that borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to experts and human rights groups, at least one million Uighurs have been imprisoned in recent years in political re-education camps.

British MPs are increasingly turning their focus on China, and a group of Conservative backbenchers, including Duncan-Smith, are supporting calls for Britain not to strike bilateral trade deals should a British court rule Beijing is guilty of genocide.

The government has resisted the calls, arguing that international courts are the proper institutions for determining genocide.


Nargis Mohammad Hasan Killed an American in 2012; Why Was She Freed in the Taliban Deal?

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman

Jan. 15, 2021


A portrait of Nargis Mohammad Hasan hanging in her home in 2012. Ms Hasan, an Iranian woman who served as an Afghan police officer, has been in prison until this past fall. Mohammad Ismail/Reuters


KABUL, Afghanistan — Nargis Mohammad Hasan was serving as an Afghan police officer when she shot and killed an American civilian adviser on Dec. 24, 2012, in Afghanistan’s capital. It was considered the first known attack by a woman in the Afghan security forces on a coalition member since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Ms. Hasan’s possible motives for the killing have always been murky. Having emigrated from Iran, she was portrayed by internal investigations and Afghan and U.S. officials as someone who was either mentally unwell, or was an Iranian agent, or both — theories that were further clouded by the Taliban’s decision last year to call for her release even though they acknowledge that she was not a member.

Originally sentenced to death by Afghan courts, she had remained in prison. Then this past summer, she was freed as part of the United States’ peace deal with the Taliban after U.S. State Department negotiators dismissed the F.B.I. and diplomats’ opposition to her release, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

As peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban continue in Qatar, the internal debate in Washington over Ms. Hasan’s fate illustrates one of the difficult decisions that efforts to end a war can bring. To some officials, particularly those inside the F.B.I. and other national security organizations, her release by the Afghan government, under pressure from the Trump administration, was an affront to justice.

Other American officials, though they acknowledged that her crime was egregious, saw Ms. Hasan as not being the kind of high-level terrorist figure who could pose a future threat to Americans. So her release, despite her conviction, became part of the price the United States was willing to pay for the prospect of peace in Afghanistan.

The quiet acceptance of the release of people who killed Americans over the course of the long war has been a byproduct of the U.S. government’s push to accelerate its departure from Afghanistan.

Unclaimed attacks on U.S. bases in the country have gone mostly unacknowledged by the American military, most likely in an effort to prevent further scrutiny of the U.S.-Taliban deal made in February, especially of the insurgent group’s compliance with one of the deal’s core tenets: not attacking American or coalition forces as they depart.

Last month, a car bomb detonated at Camp Chapman, an important C.I.A. base since the early days of the war, according to a U.S. official. There were no American casualties, and several Afghans were wounded and at least one was killed. News of the attack was earlier reported by Foreign Policy.

Under Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. peace envoy, the American government has been willing to take dramatic steps, even in the face of opposition from the military and law enforcement, to extricate the United States from its longest war and bring about some type of peace in Afghanistan.

In addition to the large-scale prisoner releases, the Trump administration has pushed for a quick withdrawal of military forces in the country, often over the objections of the Pentagon. The U.S. military has drawn down to 2,500 troops, still stationed at roughly a dozen bases in the country, despite opposition from U.S. lawmakers.

But as President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. prepares to take office, a key question remains — whether he will keep Mr. Khalilzad in place, or, push for a veteran diplomat of his own choosing. Mr. Biden has long had a skeptical view of a sizable American presence in Afghanistan, but unlike President Trump, he has also argued for a counterterrorism force in the country.

The F.B.I., according to U.S. officials, placed Ms. Hasan on a list of people who should not be released as part of the Feb. 29 deal between the United States and the Taliban, in which the U.S. agreed to push the Afghan government to free 5,000 prisoners. Officials in Australia and France also pushed, to no avail, for a small number of the 5,000 prisoners, those who were convicted of killing their citizens, to remain locked up.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who oversaw the negotiations and guided them based on his interpretation of what Mr. Trump wanted, told foreign governments that “there was no alternative but to move forward with the prisoner releases as the parties had agreed,” according to an official who worked on the February agreement.

Internally, the State Department eventually overruled the request to keep Ms. Hasan behind bars, as well. The decision was part of a broader effort by the White House to expedite talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban before the November presidential election in the United States, the officials said.

In a statement to The Times, a State Department spokesperson said the prisoner swap was “a difficult decision for the Afghans to make” and for the United States to accept, adding that it was “not something we are happy about.”

In a visit to Kabul earlier this month, Mr. Khalizad met with several Afghan officials, though not the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, who refused to see him, according to an Afghan official. Mr. Khalizad weighed the prospect of a future interim government in Afghanistan and the further release of another roughly 7,000 Taliban prisoners on the chance that it might persuade the Taliban to agree to a nationwide cease-fire, according to Afghan officials.

The chargé d’affaires in Kabul, Ross Wilson, later said on Twitter that the United States had not “advocated” for an interim government.

For now, it’s unclear whether Ms. Hasan could be arrested and charged in the United States for the 2012 shooting of the American contractor: Joseph Griffin, 49, of Mansfield, Ga.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied that Ms. Hasan had even carried out the killing, saying she was one of a handful of women released under the deal who were “imprisoned on false charges for being members of Taliban families.” Mr. Mujahid provided no evidence explaining the assertion.

But the shooting was recorded by at least one surveillance camera, according to U.S. military documents detailing the attack. Mr. Griffin’s death came at the end of a watershed year when such attacks by Afghan security forces accounted for 15 percent of coalition troops who were killed or wounded, threatening to derail the war effort.

American military, Afghan intelligence service and court documents paint a conflicting picture of Ms. Hasan and her motivations for killing Mr. Griffin. In one account outlined in investigation documents, Ms. Hasan, a uniformed police officer who is also known as Narges Rezaeimomenabad, according to her Iranian passport, was trying to kill herself after a fight with her husband and said she had fired on Mr. Griffin so she herself would be killed by security forces.

In another theory, she was trying to secure an Iranian visa for her family. To do so, according to the documents, she was directed by an Iranian employee at the embassy in Kabul to kill a high-profile Afghan official or foreign adviser.

But it is unclear whether Ms. Hasan has any ties to Iranian intelligence operatives. Some American intelligence officials are deeply skeptical that she is an agent of Tehran, or was at the time of the shooting, according to American officials.

Iran’s involvement in the Afghan war has shifted since 2001, underscoring the changing geopolitical currents over the war’s duration. On one hand, Tehran’s official line has denounced the return of the Taliban as a direct threat to Iran. But on the other, Iranian operatives have made quiet overtures to the insurgent group, offering weapons and other equipment, in Afghanistan’s southwest, Afghan officials say.


Pak Sikhs to challenge sentence given to Nankana Sahib assaulters

Jan 15, 2021

AMRITSAR: The Sikh community in Pakistan has decided to challenge the sentence given to three Muslim men for attacking the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib.

The accused, meanwhile, have decided to file a petition for the abolition of their sentence.

On Friday, the Sikh leadership of Pakistan held a meeting at Nankana Sahib in which it decided to file a petition seeking an increase in the sentence of the culprits.

In January 2020, a violent mob had attacked the gurdwara where the first Guru of Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev, was born. The mob pelted stones and threatened to destroy the gurdwara to build an Islamic shrine there.

"These miscreants had stormed our most revered place. They can’t get away with meagre punishments," said Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) president Satwant Singh.

An anti-terrorism court had on Tuesday sentenced Muhammad Imran for two years of imprisonment while his younger brother Salman and cousin Muhammad Ahmad Raza were six months of imprisonment each for the attack on Nankana Sahib.

The court had set free four other accused Zulfiqar, Irfan Adil Javed and Muhammad Aslam.

All of them were accused of attacking Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in January 2020.

“We will seek a minimum of ten years imprisonment for everyone. Their crime is outrageous, highly disgraceful and inexcusable” said Singh.

On the other hand, Mohammad Sultan Sheikh, counsel for the accused said his clients would be filing a petition for overturning the sentence.

“We are preparing the petition and will file in the court by tomorrow,” he said.


Saudi Arabia amends anti-harassment law, to name and shame offenders

Ismaeel Naar

16 January 2021

Saudi Arabia has recently amended its anti-harassment laws to include the naming and shaming of those found guilty by forcing them to publish their sentences in local media at their own expense.

The changes to the rules came in a statement from Saudi Arabia’s cabinet late last week which added a new paragraph to Article 6 of the Kingdom’s Anti-Harassment Law, stating that the judgment may be summarized in local newspapers at the expense of the convicted person.

“It is permissible to include the sentence issued determining the penalties referred to in this article and to publish its summary at the expense of the convicted person in one or more local newspapers, or in any other appropriate means, according to the gravity of the crime and its impact on society,” read the new amended article to the law, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The amendment also includes clauses against those who file false harassment claims.

Many in the Kingdom have welcomed the news, saying it was long overdue.

“The new defamation clause against the harasser is long overdue and now transforms the stigma from the victim to the harasser and this represents one of the paradigm shifts in perceptions in our society now in Saudi Arabia,” said Areej al-Jahani, an academic and writer who first called for the law more than two years ago on Al Arabiya.

The Kingdom’s Anti-Harassment law which came into effect in 2018 stipulates severe penalties, including imprisonment for up to 5 years and heavy fines on convicted persons, but did not include at the time articles that allow for the naming and shaming of harassers under any circumstances.

According to Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission, the new changes to the law allows for the publishing of sentences against convicted harassers in one or more local newspapers, or in any other means.


‘Hezbollah boosted missile power as Israel intensified aggression in Syria’

16 January 2021

A new article published in Israeli media says Lebanon’s Hezbollah has in recent years been strengthening its missile power while the Israeli regime has been intensifying its aggression against Syria.

Titled “Is Israel ignoring the biggest strategic threat it faces?” the opinion piece is written by Alon Ben-David, a military commentator of Israel’s Channel 13 TV.

Israel is intensifying its acts of aggression against Syria, but they have not stopped Hezbollah's efforts to establish an independent capability of producing and manufacturing accurate missiles on Lebanese territory, the article read.

“The main strategic threat facing Israel is not located in Syria, but in Lebanon, and as it stands, Israel is avoiding dealing with it,” it added.

“Several estimations indicate that the organization has managed to accumulate a few hundred mid to long range accurate missiles by now. It seems that the organization does not yet have complete manufacturing capabilities of such missiles but it continues its efforts of converting "dumb" missiles into accurate ones.”

Lebanon fought off two Israeli wars in 2000 and 2006. On both occasions, battleground contribution by Hezbollah proved an indispensable asset, forcing the Israeli military into a retreat and shattering the myth of Israel’s invincibility.

Lebanon and the occupying entity are technically at war since the latter has kept the Arab country’s Shebaa Farms under occupation since 1967.

“In the past, the IDF (the Israeli military) defined the threat of accurate missiles from Lebanon as a strategic threat on Israel. When Hezbollah is able to make it rain missiles on the Kirya in Tel Aviv - not somewhere around it, between Kaplan Street and King Shaul Avenue, but exactly on the IDF's headquarters located at the heart of the base - that would be a capability that can shut down complete strategic arrays crucial to Israel,” the article read.

“In the years that followed the retreat from southern Lebanon, the IDF watched as Hezbollah was hastening its efforts to arm itself and told itself that "the rockets will rust in warehouses." But then, in 2006, those non-rusty missiles dropped on us in the thousands, and took us by surprise. Hezbollah then owned about 14,000 rockets. Today it has about 70,000 rockets and missiles.”

'Resistance not futile'

Another article released by the American CounterPunch magazine on Friday said Hezbollah’s successes, both on the battlefield and on the electoral field, demonstrate that resistance against imperialism has not been futile.

“From its birth as an armed resistance to Israeli attacks on Lebanon over 35 years ago, Hezbollah developed into an institution that provided health and education services to the country’s neediest. After defeating the Zionist … in successive conflicts, it rode great mass support into the electoral sphere and now constitutes the key political force in Lebanon,” it underlined.

Hezbollah was established following the 1982 Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon. Since then, the popular resistance group has grown into a powerful military force.

The article also noted that Hezbollah has forged close ties with Syria through their battle against Wahhabi contras—such as Daesh or al-Qaeda—largely funded by Sunni extremists in Saudi Arabia.

“Through meticulous planning, battlefield tactics, courage in combat, and surprising intelligence and communications capabilities, Hezbollah soundly defeated the Zionist army and established a heroic stature for the Resistance, not just among Shias in Lebanon or Iran, but throughout the Muslim world and beyond,” it added.

“The IDF’s veneer of invincibility was shattered, and by extension the myth of US military might—the US had contributed $2.3 billion in military aid to Israel in 2006 alone, and over $100 billion since 1967.”

Hezbollah also contributed to Lebanon’s reconstruction after the 2006 war and founded a network of commercial and social organizations, the article emphasized, saying, “In the diminutive nation of Lebanon, which contains less than seven million inhabitants, the Resistance organized and defeated the military might of Israel and their US and European backers, and of Wahhabi and Salafist terrorists.”

It further quoted Beirut-based political analyst Laith Marouf as saying that Hezbollah enjoys public support in Lebanon.

“The majority of Lebanese support Hezbollah and its resistance to the Israeli occupation and plans to dominate Lebanon,” he said. “Hezbollah symbolizes sovereignty to the majority of Lebanese, no matter what their sect is.”

Marouf explained, “One of the most important things that Hezbollah did, beyond the liberation of Lebanon in 2000 from the Israeli occupation, and from Wahhabi contras’ occupation—what they call the second liberation, in 2016—is the network of social services it provides, not only to the Shia communities and their ghettos, towns and villages, but to a majority of the working class, because it offers all these services to anybody no matter what their sect it. That’s a huge achievement. Hezbollah created a parallel economy outside the control of the Americans… Remember that the central bank of Lebanon is basically controlled by the United States.”

“Some of the social services, beyond health, education and housing, that Hezbollah provides are banking, with zero interest loans for working class people, and even gas stations,” he added.

“In the last few years, the gas prices went up, under pressure from the United States and the collapse of the Lebanese lira. But it was Hezbollah’s network of gas stations that continued to provide gasoline.”


Iranian Official: Saudis Better Trust Iran Instead Of Acting As The Killing Machine Of The Zionist Regime


"Riyadh had better trust the Islamic Republic of Iran that has helped regional stability and global security," Amir Abdollahian said, warning the Saudis against acting as the killing machine of the Zionist regime.

He made the remarks in response to the Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan’s recent baseless accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and said, "Riyadh must end the war against the oppressed people of Yemen and killing the Yemeni women and children."

"Riyadh’s overt and covert support for terrorists and the ISIL terrorism in the region has been clearly proven in many years, especially in Iraq and Syria," Amir Abdollahian said.

He advised Riyadh to have constructive conduct and friendship with neighbors and the regional countries, stressing that the Saudi leaders would better stop waging wars and breeding terrorism.

The Saudi regime’s Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan on Thursday said that Iran is ‘wreaking havoc’ in West Asia with its ‘interventions’. He made the remarks at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.


46 killed in suspected Daesh-related attack in eastern DR Congo

15 January 2021

Armed rebels, with suspected links to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, have killed dozens of civilians in an attack in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a senior provincial official says.

The fatalities took place in the village of Abembi in eastern DR Congo's Ituri province on Thursday and local security forces were dispatched to the site to investigate the massacre, according to provincial Interior Minister Adjio Gidi.

“The death toll as of this afternoon is reported to be 46,” Gidi said, adding that the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which was driven out of Uganda and moved into the DR Congo in the late 1990s, were behind the raid.

United Nations figures show the Ugandan armed rebel group has carried out a string of massacres in the eastern DR Congo since the start of 2019, claiming the lives of more than 1,000 civilians.

Many of the attacks attributed to the ADF have been claimed by Daesh, although UN experts have not been able to confirm any direct link between the two groups.

DR Congo’s eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are home to an assortment of more than 100 different rebel groups, many remnants of its brutal civil wars that officially ended in 2003.

Moreover, the DR Congo has one of the highest rates of internal displacement in the world, according to the UN.

Over five million people within the country's borders have been uprooted by insecurity, while nearly a million more have sought safety in neighboring countries as refugees.

The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, previously active in Iraq and Syria, has established strongholds across the African continent despite the presence of French forces to contain the violence.


Dozens of people on FBI terrorist watch list came to D.C. the day of Capitol riot

By Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Marissa J. Lang

Jan. 15, 2021

Dozens of people on a terrorist watch list were in Washington for pro-Trump events Jan. 6, a day that ended in a chaotic crime rampage when a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, according to people familiar with evidence gathered in the FBI’s investigation.

The majority of the watch-listed individuals in Washington that day are suspected white supremacists whose past conduct so alarmed investigators that their names had been previously entered into the national Terrorist Screening Database, or TSDB, a massive set of names flagged as potential security risks, these people said. The watch list is larger and separate from the “no-fly” list the government maintains to prevent terrorism suspects from boarding airplanes, and those listed are not automatically barred from any public or commercial spaces, current and former officials said.

The presence of so many watch-listed individuals in one place — without more robust security measures to protect the public — is another example of the intelligence failures preceding last week’s fatal assault that sent lawmakers running for their lives, some current and former law enforcement officials argued. The revelation follows a Washington Post report earlier this week detailing the FBI’s failure to act aggressively on an internal intelligence report of Internet discussions about plans to attack Congress, smash windows, break down doors and “get violent ... go there ready for war.

Other current and former officials said the presence of those individuals is an unsurprising consequence of having thousands of fervent Trump supporters gathered for what was billed as a final chance to voice opposition to Joe Biden’s certification as the next president. Still, the revelation underscores the limitations of such watch lists. Although they are meant to improve information-gathering and -sharing among investigative agencies, they are far from a foolproof means of detecting threats ahead of time.

Since its creation, the terrorist watch list, which is maintained by the FBI, has grown to include hundreds of thousands of names. Placing someone’s name on the watch list does not mean they will be watched all of the time, or even much of the time, for reasons of both practicality and fairness, but it can alert different parts of the government, such as border agents or state police, to look more closely at certain individuals they encounter.

It’s unclear whether any of the dozens of individuals already arrested for alleged crimes at the Capitol are on the terrorist watch list.

“The U.S. Government is committed to protecting the United States from terrorist threats and attacks and seeks to do this in a manner that protects the freedoms, privacy and civil rights and liberties of U.S. persons and other individuals with rights under U.S. law,” a U.S. official said, adding that because of security concerns, the government has a policy of neither confirming nor denying a person’s watch list status. The official, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The FBI declined to comment.

The riot’s political aftershocks led the House of Representatives on Wednesday to impeach President Trump for allegedly inciting the violence — his second impeachment in a single four-year term — and may have significant consequences within law enforcement and national security agencies.

Inside the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, officials are grappling with thorny questions about race, terrorism and free-speech rights, as some investigators question whether more could have been done to prevent last week’s violence.

While some federal officials think the government should more aggressively investigate domestic terrorism and extremists, others are concerned the FBI, DHS and other agencies may overreact to the recent violence by going too far in surveilling First Amendment activity such as online discussions.

Several law enforcement officials said they are shocked by the backgrounds of some individuals under investigation in connection with the Capitol riot, a pool of suspects that includes current and former law enforcement and military personnel as well as senior business executives and middle-aged business owners.

“I can’t believe some of the people I’m seeing,” one official said.

The TSDB, often referred to within government as simply “the watch list,” is overseen by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, which was created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. The watch list can be used as both an investigative and early-warning tool, but its primary purpose is to help various government agencies keep abreast of what individuals seen as potential risks are doing and where they travel, according to people familiar with the work.

Often that can be done as a “silent hit,” meaning if someone on the watch list is stopped for speeding, that information is typically entered into the database without the individual or even the officer who wrote the ticket ever knowing, one person said.

After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, for instance, the FBI quickly searched a similar database to see which people on it had recently traveled to that city or raised other suspicions about possible involvement.

Before the Jan. 6 gathering of pro-Trump protesters, FBI agents visited a number of suspected extremists and advised them against traveling to the nation’s capital. Many complied, but according to people familiar with the sprawling investigation, dozens of others whose names appear in the terrorist watch list apparently attended, based on information reviewed by the FBI.

Separately, while the FBI is hunting hundreds of rioting suspects who have dispersed back to their hometowns, federal agents are increasingly focused on alleged leaders, members and supporters of the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist group with ties to white nationalism, these people said.

Proud Boys members participated in last week’s protests, and FBI agents are taking a close look at what roles, if any, the group’s adherents may have had in organizing, directing or carrying out violence, according to people familiar with the matter.

The group’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio, had planned to attend Trump’s Jan. 6 rally but was arrested when he arrived in D.C. and charged with misdemeanor destruction of property in connection with the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a Black church during an earlier protest in Washington. He is also accused of felony possession of two extended gun magazines.

Tarrio told The Post on Wednesday that his group did not organize the Capitol siege.

“If they think we were organizing going into the Capitol, they’re going to be sadly mistaken,” he said. “Our plan was to stay together as a group and just enjoy the day. We weren’t going to do a night march, anything like that. That’s it as far as our day.”

Tarrio said he’s actively discouraging members from attending planned armed marches scheduled Sunday, and the Million Militia March next week when Biden is inaugurated. Proud Boys, he said, are on a “rally freeze and will not be organizing any events for the next month or so.”

It is unclear how many Proud Boys devotees will abide by the freeze, or if such a shutdown might lessen the FBI’s interest in the group. Even before the Jan. 6 riot, federal and local investigators were working to understand the group’s plans, goals and activities. Privately, some federal law enforcement officials have described the group as roughly equivalent to a nascent street gang that has garnered an unusual degree of national attention, in part because Trump mentioned them specifically during one of his televised debates with Biden during the campaign. Other officials have expressed concern that the group may be growing rapidly into something more dangerous and directed.

The FBI has already arrested dozens of accused rioters, and officials have pledged that in cases of the most egregious conduct, they will seek to file tough, rarely used charges such as seditious conspiracy, which carries a potential 20-year prison sentence.

The bureau continues to face blowback over its handling of a Jan. 5 internal report warning of discussions of violence at Congress the next day. Steven M. D’Antuono, the head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, claimed in the days after the riot that the bureau did not have intelligence ahead of time indicating the rally would be anything other than a peaceful demonstration.

The Jan. 5 FBI report, written by the bureau’s office in Norfolk, and reviewed by The Post, shows that was not the case, and the Justice Department took other steps indicating officials were at least somewhat concerned about possible violence the next day. The Bureau of Prisons sent 100 officers to D.C. to supplement security at the Justice Department building, an unusual move similar to what the department did in June to respond to civil unrest stemming from racial-justice protests.

Mindful of the criticism that law enforcement took a heavy-handed, all-hands-on-deck approach to Black Lives Matters protests in D.C. in the spring and summer, Justice Department officials deferred to the Capitol Police to defend their building and lawmakers. Some former officials have questioned whether the FBI and Justice Department should have done more.

“It would not have been enough for the bureau simply to share information, if it did so, with state and local law enforcement or federal partner agencies,” said David Laufman, a former Justice Department national security official. “It was the bureau’s responsibility to quarterback a coordinated federal response as the crisis was unfolding and in the days thereafter. And it’s presently not clear to what extent the FBI asserted itself in that fashion during the exigencies of January 6 and in the immediate aftermath.”





Greece arrests suspected Syrian extremist wanted in the Netherlands

15 January 2021

Greek authorities have arrested a 37-year-old Syrian asylum seeker wanted in the Netherlands for suspected terrorism offenses, a police official said on Friday.

The man arrived on the island of Samos from Turkey on Oct. 4, 2018, and was later transferred to a migrant facility near Thessaloniki where he was arrested on Wednesday under an international arrest warrant issued by Dutch authorities, according to the official.

Two earlier applications for asylum in Greece had been rejected, he added.

The unnamed man was suspected of terrorist offenses and being a member of the al-Nusra Front, a Syrian group affiliated with al Qaeda as well as migrant trafficking. Extradition procedures were underway.

Tens of thousands of migrants have arrived in Greece in recent years, many fleeing the civil war in Syria.



South Asia


13 Police Officials Killed By Taliban In Afghanistan's Herat

16 January, 2021

Herat [Afghanistan], January 16 (ANI): Thirteen members of Afghan Local Police were killed in an attack by Taliban "infiltrators" in their outpost in Ghorian district of Herat province on Friday night, Security officials in Herat said on Saturday.

"At least 13 members of Afghan local police were killed in an attack by Taliban "infiltrators" in Ghorian district, Herat province, on Friday night, Herat police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walidaza said," tweeted TOLO News.

The attack comes hours after the United States announced that it has reduced the number of its troops to 2,500 in Afghanistan as per the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha last year in February.

Meanwhile, an explosion happened near an Afghan forces facility in Daman district, Kandahar province, on Saturday morning.

At least 14 members of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces were killed in Taliban attacks in Kunduz and Kandahar over the last 24 hours, sources and provincial council members said.

In the last few months, Afghanistan has witnessed a surge in violence despite the ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks to resolve the conflict in the country.

Taliban continues to carry out attacks on Afghan government targets, make territorial gains, and target Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) bases. (ANI)


12 pro-govt militiamen killed by Taliban in Afghanistan insider attack

JAN 16, 2021

Two Taliban fighters who had infiltrated a base of pro-government Afghan militiamen killed 12 of them, officials and the insurgent group said Saturday.

The night-time attack at a post manned by the militiamen occurred in the district of Ghorian in the western Herat province late on Friday, the governor for the district Farhad Khademi told AFP.

"Twelve pro-government militiamen were killed in the Taliban attack in Ghorian district last night," he said.

Herat provincial council member Mohammad Sardar Bahaduri confirmed the attack and said it was carried out by two Taliban fighters who had infiltrated the base.

"The militiamen were dining when the attack happened," he said.

The Taliban also said two of its fighters had carried out the attack and then returned.

In a separate incident, a vehicle carrying policemen was struck by a roadside bomb in the centre of the Afghan capital Kabul, police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz told reporters.

Two policemen were killed and one wounded in the attack, he said.

Violence has surged across Afghanistan in recent months, especially in Kabul, which has been rocked by a new trend of targeted killings.

The bloodshed comes even as the Taliban and government negotiators engage in peace talks to end the nearly two-decades-long war in the country.

Representatives from two warring sides are currently in the Qatari capital Doha discussing the agenda for the talks.


Roadside bomb kills two policemen in Afghanistan: Officials

16 January 2021

A roadside bomb targeting a police vehicle in the Afghan capital killed two policemen Saturday, officials said, as violence continues unabated in Afghanistan despite peace talks between the Taliban and government.

The vehicle carrying the policemen was struck by the bomb in the centre of the capital on the road to the prestigious Kabul University, police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said.

Two policemen were killed and one wounded, Faramarz said.

Violence has surged across the country in recent months, especially in Kabul which is also rocked by a new trend of targeted killings that has sown fear in the city.

The bloodshed comes even as the Taliban and government negotiators engage in peace talks to end the nearly two decade war in the country.

The two warring sides are currently in the Qatari capital Doha discussing the agenda items of the talks.


Taliban kills at least nine Afghan security personnel: Officials

15 January 2021

At least nine Afghan security personnel were killed when Taliban militants attacked two police checkpoints overnight in restive northern Kunduz province, officials said Friday.

The militants launched simultaneous raids on the checkpoints in Kunduz, a region bordering Tajikistan that has seen regular clashes between the insurgents and government forces.

The fighting left nine Afghan security personnel dead, Kunduz governor Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal told AFP.

Kunduz provincial council member Khaluddin Hakimi said 10 security personnel were killed in the fighting while 10 others were wounded.

The Taliban did not offer any immediate comment.

The insurgents have regularly attacked security forces in the province, often attempting to enter Kunduz city, which has briefly fallen twice to the militants in recent years.

In recent months, violence has surged across several provinces of Afghanistan even as the Taliban and government engage in peace talks to end the war.





FM terms UK debate on IIOJK diplomatic win for Pakistan

January 15, 2021


Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday hailed Thursday’s debate in British parliament on the worsening situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), terming it “another diplomatic victory" of Pakistan against India.

In a statement, the foreign minister emphasised that India was propagating that IIOJK was its internal issue but the British parliamentarians made it clear that it was a global issue on which many United Nations Security Council resolutions had been passed.

“This is not an internal matter of India at all,” Qureshi said, adding that India had been giving the impression to the world that the situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir has returned to normal but the British parliamentarians exposed India’s false claims.

In an unprecedented development, Britain’s House of Commons debated the “critical situation” in IIOJK on Thursday and rejected the “argument that Kashmir is an internal matter of India”. The debate proposed by Labour MP Sarah Owen, saw all parliamentarians in agreement “to hold the Indian government accountable for its abusive behaviour, especially in the Kashmir Valley”.

They also hoped that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is due to visit India at some point, will raise the IIOJK issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and seek his reassurance that “all is being done to seek a permanent solution to the Kashmir dispute”.

Qureshi termed the development a “success of Pakistan’s diplomatic approach” and a “source of encouragement” for the Kashmiris. “Pakistan has been exposing the Indian atrocities in IIOJK for long and now these are being raised in the British Parliament, endorsing Pakistan’s stance,” he said.

He added that the life in IIOJK was marked by the extrajudicial killings, illegal arrest of Kashmiri youth, abuse of women, communication blockade and denial of access to independent observers and international media to the occupied territories.

Incoming US administration

About the next US administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who is due to take office on January 20, the foreign minister said that many Congressmen were familiar with the region and the atrocities perpetrated against the Kashmiris.

“We expect them to raise voice in the US Congress to save the unarmed Kashmiris from Indian tyranny and the prolonged military siege,” he said. He stressed the need for the visit of delegations from the US Congress, British Parliament and European Parliament to IIOJK.

Regarding Afghanistan, the foreign minister said that Pakistan would continue to play its conciliatory role in this peace process. “India is playing the role of a spoiler in peace efforts in Afghanistan, by making a vicious attempt to use Afghan territory against Pakistan,” Qureshi said. “We have informed the Afghan authorities about this situation and are continuing to present this evidence to the world.”

PDM protest

Qureshi said that disappointment had spread within the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the opposition alliance was holding rallies only to prevent a sense of frustration among its workers. “We are aware of the PDM’s internal turmoil,” he said.

“[There are] differences among them [PDM leadership] on the issue of resignations,” Qureshi said, adding that difference between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leaderships were visible to everyone.

He stressed that the Supreme Court had taken a clear stand on the sit-ins, whereas the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had also given its opinion on the inconvenience caused to the people due to sit-ins. Talking about the law and order situation in the region, Qureshi said that Pakistan was satisfied that the world had supported the country’s narrative of the past two years.


NAB summons UAE firm’s MD in Khawaja Asif case

Zulqernain Tahir

January 16, 2021

LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has summoned the managing director of a United Arab Emirates-based company in which parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Khawaja Muhammad Asif worked for 14 years as a legal adviser, seeking the foreigner’s statement for his (Asif’s) prosecution in the court in the income beyond means case.

The anti-graft body arrested the former foreign minister in this case last month and he is currently under its custody at the Thokar Niazbaig office here on physical remand.

In a call-up notice to Elias Salloum, managing director of International Mechanical and Electrical Company (IMECO), Abu Dhabi, UAE, NAB said: “During inquiry proceedings accused Khawaja Muhammad Asif has claimed that he was Iqama (work permit) holder in UAE from 2004 to 2018 and remained an employee of your company (IMECO) as legal advisor/consultant. Asif has further claimed Rs136million as salary income from said employment. He also submitted a photocopy letter issued by you showing your willingness to appear before any forum regarding his claim of employment.”

NAB asked Mr Salloum to appear before a combined investigation team at its Lahore office on Jan 28. “You are requested to bring the following record — M/S IMECO’s incorporation/registration documents with UAE authorities, certified financial statements from 2004 to 2019 filed with the UAE authorities, attested copies of claimed job/Iqama agreement of Khawaja Asif from 2004 to 2017, including documents containing termination of Iqama and a brief job description and tasks accomplished by Asif while working with IMECO.”

NAB said as per the claimed Iqama agreement, the employee had to work for the company (IMECO) within the UAE and there would be one-day rest in a week. However, in this case the employee (Asif) did not join office on a regular basis in violation of Iqama agreement, but claimed receipt of salary. “You (Salloum) are required to provide an explanation of this violation of Iqama agreement, mode of payment of salary to Asif. Also provide IMECO’s bank account statements, bank vouchers/cheques showing payment of salary to him.”

NAB’s preliminary investigation has also revealed that Khawaja Asif made transactions of millions of shares with 10 companies during the last 10 years. “Accused Asif was confronted with the record provided by JS Global Limited, a private brokerage firm. The accused replied that he was not able to provide details of investments, how payments were made and amount of investment made by him.

“Before assuming the public office in 1991, the total worth of Khawaja Asif’s assets was Rs5.1 million which increased to Rs221m in 2018 after serving on different posts which do not match with his known sources of income,” NAB said and also alleged that Khawaja Asif was also running a benami firm “Tariq Mir and Company” which was registered in the name of his employee. It said that an amount of Rs400m was deposited in the account of Tariq Mir and no sources of this huge amount were disclosed.

PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz had strongly reacted to the arrest of Khawaja Asif and declared that her party would not accept this and hold protest demonstrations in this regard. The 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) had also announced holding protests outside NAB offices, but it is yet to materialise its warning.


BBC ends Sairbeen broadcast on Aaj TV alleging interference

January 16, 2021

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Friday said it would no longer broadcast bulletins of its famed news and current affairs programme – Sairbeen – on Aaj TV owing to "interference" with its bulletins.

The move means the programme will not be available anymore for television viewers in Pakistan.

BBC World Service Director Jamie Angus said the BBC had experienced "interference in our news bulletins since October 2020" and that the organisation had given "ample time" to Aaj TV to resolve the issue.

"[We] gave Aaj TV ample time for their efforts to facilitate returning the programme to air. Since this interference continued, despite efforts in good faith on both sides, the BBC had no alternative but to end the partnership with immediate effect. We regret any disruption to our loyal audiences in Pakistan."

He said viewers could continue to access the BBC Urdu's programme through their website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

"Any interference in our programmes represents a serious breach of trust with our audiences, which the BBC cannot allow," the director said in his message.

According to a report by BBC Urdu, the BBC World Service had started broadcasting the programme on Aaj TV under a partnership agreement in 2014.

"According to the agreement, which is based on similar policies as the BBC's arrangements with several countries, the BBC structures the programme according to its independent editorial policy and in accordance with the local language and local audience, and the local TV channel [then] broadcasts that programme," the report stated.

The BBC has inked such agreements with private channels in several countries but the editorial policy remains under the control of the BBC, it added.

In 2019, BBC Urdu had ended radio broadcasts of Sairbeen, saying its priority going forward would be digital media platforms and television.

The decision to end the media outlet's shortwave broadcasts was taken "to better serve the BBC's listeners, readers and viewers in Pakistan and to achieve the objective of proper utilisation of our resources", a BBC Urdu report had said at the time.

According to that report, a BBC public survey in 2018 revealed that the number of listeners of radio on shortwave had vastly fallen in Pakistan due to rapidly increasing TV audiences and widespread access to digital media.


Pakistan reaffirms support for Afghan peace process

January 16, 2021

PESHAWAR: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that Pakistan would continue supporting the ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue as peace in the neighbouring country means peace in Pakistan.

Talking to officers here at Corps Headquarters on Friday, Gen Bajwa highlighted the dividend of border control measures.

According to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement, the army chief was given an update at Corps Head­quarters on the security situation, border management including fencing, capacity enhancement of Frontier Corps and police in merged districts as a result of transition to stability.

Praising officers and men of Peshawar Corps, the COAS lauded efforts of law enforcement agencies, including FC and police, for bringing stability to the tribal districts.

Hailing sacrifices of local populace for peace and their earnest support to the armed forces in the war against terrorism, Gen Bajwa said that ongoing consolidation efforts shall take hard-earned gains towards enduring peace and stability.

On arrival at Peshawar, the COAS was received by Corps Commander Lt Gen Nauman Mahmood.


Sindh Assembly makes manufacture, sale of ice drug capital offence

Tahir Siddiqui

January 16, 2021

KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Friday unanimously passed the Control of Narcotic Substances (Sindh Amendment) Bill, 2021, making the manufacturing, selling and dispatching of methamphetamine drug, commonly known as ice or crystal, a punishable offence as a person involved in the heinous crime could get death penalty.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of the government bill, the culprits are given no punishment in trial courts as neurotoxic synthetic drugs including ice, crystal and meth were not defined in the laws. 

“Punishment for drug-related crimes in the law are also assigned as per quantity whereas severity of addiction and harm is not considered and drugs like heroin and cannabis are treated in same category,” it added.

It also said that rigorousness of punishment may vary with respect of quantity, that’s why it was very difficult for police to prove the heinousness of the crime and get desired conviction.

“No person shall extract, prepare, process, manufacture, sell, purchase, deliver on any terms whatsoever, transport or dispatch the drug”, the bill said, adding that the people found involved in violating the law could be given death penalty, or imprisonment of three years to life term, depending upon the quantity of drugs.

As per the bill, a person could be given capital punishment, or life imprisonment, if the drug’s quantity exceeded to 10 kilograms. The fine up to Rs1 million may also be imposed on the law violators.

PTI, GDA boycott proceedings; TLP questions why Bhutto’s shrine is open when all other mazars are closed

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla, who moved the bill after the standing committee on law presented its report, said that the legislation was the need of the hour.

He said that there was no law for punishing the people involved in manufacturing and sale of recreational drugs. 

“It [the bill] is for the betterment of our new generation,” he added.

 PA passes succession certificate law

The house also unanimously passed the Letter of Administration and Succession Certificate (LASC) Bill, 2021 that would enable people to obtain the document directly from the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), bringing an end to the lengthy process of obtaining it from courts.

Currently, LASCs are being issued under the Succession Act 1925 by the courts having jurisdiction. 

The parliamentary affairs minister, who presented the bill in a very thinly attended house, said that obtaining the LASCs from the courts had been a lengthy process and the new law was enacted to make it easy and speedy to curtail fraud and forgery.

He said that it was also a time-consuming procedure, adding that the provincial government decided to enact the law keeping in view miseries of the citizens.

“Under the law the heirs of a deceased person could be able to apply directly in Nadra for obtaining a succession certificate,” he added.

The minister said that the people could approach the court if Nadra failed to issue them certificates on time.

MPAs’ lack of interest in legislation

Only 18 lawmakers were present during the legislative proceedings.

While the Pakistan Peoples Party-led provincial government claims to have carried out the legislation in larger interest of the people of Sindh, only 13 party legislators were present in the house and hardly five other PPP MPAs took part in the voting through a video link for passage of the bills. 

The PPP’s strength in the house is 96 as three of its MPAs had died.

The opposition parties also showed a lack of interest in the lawmaking as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Grand Democratic Alliance boycotted the proceedings against adoption of an adjournment motion of PPP member Nida Khuhro on the federal government’s ‘intention’ to alter the 18th Amendment.

Members belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal distanced themselves from legislation and seemed less bothered in the proceedings.

Earlier, GDA and PTI lawmakers boycotted the proceedings as they were not allowed to speak on Ms Khuhro’s adjournment motion that was admitted for discussion.

TLP slams shrines’ closure

In his calling-attention notice, Mufti Mohammad Qasim Fakhri of the TLP criticised the provincial government for closing the shrines under the garb of Covid-19. 

“Why is Bhutto’s (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) mausoleum open while shrines are closed across the province?” he asked.

Mufti Qasim thought that the coronavirus would not spread through shrines but public gatherings of the Pakistan Democratic Movement.

Parliamentary Secretary for Auqaf Heer Soho said that it was very unfortunate that the government had to close the shrines, adding that the decision was taken by the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC). 

“The shrines are closed for public till January 31 and hopefully, they would be opened after that,” she added.

Later, the proceedings were adjourned till Monday.



Arab World


EU adds Syria’s foreign minister to sanctions blacklist

15 January 2021

The European Union has added recently-appointed Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to its sanctions blacklist, as Damascus has repeatedly said the Western restrictions come in clear disregard of international law and the UN Charter.

On Friday, the European Council in a statement announced its decision, which includes a travel ban and asset freeze, against the top Syrian diplomat who became foreign minister in November, shortly after his predecessor Walid al-Muallem passed away.

The EU has imposed several rounds of sanctions against the Arab country, the first of which came in May 2011. They include travel bans, asset freezes, and measures targeting operations like oil imports, certain investments as well as technology transfer.

The sanctions are subject to annual review.

The European body has since October imposed sanctions against more than a dozen Syrian ministers. The restrictive measures ban the ministers from traveling to Europe and will see their assets frozen.

The latest decision by the EU on Friday against Damascus brings to 289 the total number of Syrian individuals targeted by a travel ban and an asset freeze. Seventy entities in the Arab country are also subject to an asset freeze by the European body.

The US, for its part, has imposed rounds of crippling sanctions against Syria. Parts of the sanctions have been imposed under the so-called Caesar Act, an American piece of legislation that alleges to support the Syrian people by protecting them against the Syrian administration’s way of governance.

Damascus has time and again said that the US and its allies have defied calls from the UN chief and the UN human rights council for the lifting of such restrictive measures, particularly at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Coronavirus: Lebanon’s parliament approves law on COVID-19 vaccines

16 January 2021

Lebanon’s parliament on Friday approved a law that paves the way for the government to sign deals for coronavirus vaccines as it battles a steep increase in infections.

Lebanon said in mid-December it was expecting to sign a deal for supplies of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and hoped to receive the first batch eight weeks after that.

But the country, now struggling with a severe spike in infections that has overwhelmed hospitals, hit a legal stumbling block that has so far prevented it from finalizing the agreement.

The new law would give Pfizer-BioNtech, and other companies that provide vaccines to Lebanon, protection from any future liability claims for two years.

It includes a clause that points to the Lebanese health ministry as the only entity responsible for compensation.

Lebanon is under a three-week lockdown that ends on Feb. 1 and a strict 24-hour curfew until Jan. 25 after lax measures over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period led to a spike in cases.

Hamad Hasan, the country’s caretaker health minister, has previously said the ministry had secured about 2 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, to cover 20 percent of Lebanese nationals, but the government has yet to announce a starting date for a national vaccination program.

Hasan on Friday tweeted his thanks to the parliament for approving the law. He has been hospitalized since Wednesday with coronavirus but is in stable condition and continuing to work from his hospital bed.

Apart from the anticipated Pfizer-BioNtech deal, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun approved on Friday the transfer of 26.4 billion Lebanese pounds ($17.53 million) to COVAX to book 2.73 million vaccines, his official twitter account said.

The country had previously signed up for COVAX, the global scheme backed by the World Health Organization to provide vaccines to poorer countries.

As of Thursday, Lebanon had recorded 237,132 cases of coronavirus and 1,781 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The latest spike in infections has hit the country hard as its medical system was already reeling from a severe financial crisis that led to supply shortages, and a port explosion in August that damaged major hospitals in Beirut.


Syrian-Russian businessmen with ties to Assad regime linked to Beirut blast: Report

15 January 2021

Three Syrian-Russian dual citizens close to the Assad regime had a role in purchasing the ammonium nitrate that exploded at the Port of Beirut last August, according to a new report by a Lebanese investigative journalist.

Two of those men were sanctioned in late 2015 for their ties to the Syrian regime and “facilitating Syrian government oil purchases” from ISIS.

Mudalal Khuri, one of the three men, was sanctioned for “materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of previously designated entities and individuals including the Government of Syria, Central Bank of Syria” and others, the US Treasury Department said in 2015.

The Treasury Department went further to accuse Khuri of being an “intermediary” between a Syrian Central Bank official and a Russian firm “on an attempted procurement of ammonium nitrate in late 2013.”

That happens to be the same year that the highly-explosive material arrived in Beirut aboard the Rhosus ship.

In the report aired by the Lebanese journalist, a company named Savaro Limited purchased the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in July 2013.

Savaro was led by Khuri’s brother, Imad, and another man by the name of George Haswani, according to the report.

The US designated Imad in July 2016 for providing services in support of his brother.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Interpol issued red notices for the captain and owner of the ship that carried the chemicals.

Five months since one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts on record, big questions remain about the ammonium nitrate that detonated after being stored at the port for years.

The Interpol notices, which are not international arrest warrants, ask authorities worldwide to provisionally detain people pending possible extradition or other legal actions. Interpol issues them at the request of a member country.

Lebanese officials have faced accusations of negligence, with some port and customs employees detained in connection to the blast, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands more. Families of the victims are still waiting for the results of the investigation.

Lebanon’s public prosecution asked Interpol in October to issue arrest warrants for two people it had identified as the Russian captain and owner of the Rhosus ship, which arrived in Beirut in 2013, security and judicial sources said.


Israel frees Lebanese shepherd detained in border area: UN

15 January 2021

The Israeli army on Friday released a Lebanese shepherd it had detained this week in a border area between the two countries, the UN peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon said.

“Today, the Israel Defence Forces released a Lebanese shepherd to UNIFIL at the Ras Naqoura (border) crossing,” the mission said in a statement.

“UNIFIL in turn handed him over to the Lebanese authorities through the International Committee of the Red Cross,” it added.

The Israeli army announced the shepherd’s release in a post on Twitter.

It said he had been detained on Tuesday because he had “intentionally crossed the border from Lebanese territory to Israel”.

UNIFIL said it had launched an investigation to establish the circumstances of the incident, “including the exact location where the shepherd was apprehended”.

The Lebanese army had identified the shepherd as Hassan Qasem Zahra and said he was guarding livestock when he was “kidnapped” in the Kfarchouba area of south Lebanon.

Lebanese authorities called for the shepherd’s release in a complaint to the UN Security Council on Wednesday against repeated Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty.

Israeli military aircraft have routinely entered Lebanese airspace in recent days, sometimes flying at low altitude.

Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war and the border region is the site of sporadic incidents, including arrests in disputed areas.


Bahrainis protest appointment of Israeli chargé d'affaires to Bahrain

15 January 2021

People in Bahrain have taken to the streets to denounce the appointment of an Israeli chargé d'affaires to the country and the normalization of ties with the Tel Aviv regime.

Protesters staged rallies across Bahrain on Friday to express their support for the Palestinian people.

Banners were carried reading “Zionist occupiers, you have no place in our land!” and “We will throw you out.”

The development came after the Israeli foreign ministry said in a post on its Arabic-language Twitter account that Itay Tagner had been appointed as the Israeli chargé d'affairs to Bahrain and that he had met with Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah.

Bahrain normalized relations with the Israeli regime last year. But Tel Aviv was already believed to have been running a secret diplomatic mission in the Arab country for more than a decade through a front company listed as a commercial consulting firm.

Bahrain was the second Arab government to normalize ties with the Tel Aviv regime. The United Arab Emirates normalized its own ties earlier last year, and Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco followed suit later.

The normalization deals drew condemnation from all Palestinian factions and people, who seek an independent state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. The Palestinians say the deals ignored their rights and exposed the Arab regimes’ lies about backing the Palestinian cause against Israeli occupation.

In Bahrain, several angry street protests have been held against the normalization deal with Israel, slamming the regime in Manama for turning a deaf ear to the nation’s calls against establishing relations with the occupiers of Palestine.


Hamas will support Syria as it confronts Israeli regime, senior leader says

15 January 2021

A senior leader from the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, says his group will stand by the Syrian government in its struggle against the conspiracies and occupation of the Israeli regime.

“We are not at the stage of political, military and security prosperity, in which we can make our own choices. We are the enemies of Israel, just like Palestinian people, Lebanon, the Lebanese resistance movement [Hezbollah], Iran and Syria,” Mahmoud al-Zahar told Lebanon-based and Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network late on Thursday.

He added, “We must have good relations with the enemies of Israel. We stand with anyone who opposes Israel. We, therefore, support Syria in the face of the Israeli occupation, and any party that stands up against Israel.”

“What unites us is hostility toward Israel, and what separates us is cooperation with it,” Zahar stressed.

Throughout their long struggle against the Tel Aviv regime, Palestinian political factions have found support in Syria, often maintaining headquarters on its territory.

Syria would give Palestinian groups logistical assistance, training, and political backing to the level that no other Arab country would.

After much internal deliberation, Hamas chose to leave Syria as the foreign-sponsored militancy broke out there in March 2011.

Even though Hamas has maintained this position for more than nine years now, it feels growing pressure to change it. There are some members who already regret the movement’s decision to withdraw from Syria.

Zahar’s remarks would, therefore, mean that Hamas and Damascus are willing to change course and restore relations.

Elsewhere in his interview with al-Mayadeen, the senior Hamas official highlighted that his movement has responded to appeals for the unity of Palestinians.

“We must not repeat failed experiences that were at the expense of the Palestinian cause. We have responded to the demands and advice that Palestinian factions must be united as it strengthens the resistance (front) and eases strain on West Bank, Jerusalem al-Quds as well as besieged Gaza Strip,” Zahar pointed out.

He stated that Hamas is ready to resume talks for healing the inter-Palestinian rift with the rival Fatah movement, saying, “There is no objection to the venue of the meeting. Our decision is fixed and known, and we do not pose obstacles to choosing the place.”





Israel ‘systematically repressed’ Palestinians in 2020: HRW

15 January 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Israeli regime “systematically repressed and discriminated” against Palestinians last year.

HRW said in a report on the year 2020 that the Israeli regime’s practices “far exceeded the security justifications” it often gave.

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem al-Quds, Israeli troops killed 20 Palestinians and injured at least 2,001 as of October 5, HRW cited figures presented by the United Nations (UN) Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Israeli authorities have rarely held accountable security forces who used excessive force or settlers who attacked Palestinians,” HRW said.

It also cited the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center as saying that Israel held, as of September, the bodies of 67 Palestinians killed since 2015.

The Israeli regime said in September last year that it would use the bodies of deceased Palestinians as bargaining chips to have the bodies of Israeli soldiers purportedly held by resistance factions in Gaza released.

Gaza siege

The HRW also criticized Israel’s 13-year-old siege of the Gaza Strip and other restrictions imposed on the Palestinians in the enclave.

“These restrictions, not based on an individualized assessment of security risk, robbed with rare exceptions the 2 million Palestinians living there [the Gaza Strip] of their right to freedom of movement, limited their access to electricity and water, and devastated the economy,” the organization said.

The HRW also denounced the Israeli move to tighten the restrictions in August as “unlawful collective punishment.”

The report added that, “Egypt also sharply restricted the movement of people and goods at its Rafah crossing with Gaza.”

Settlement expansion

The New York-based group also said that the Israeli regime facilitated the further transfer of Israelis into settlements constructed in the occupied West Bank, slamming the practice as “a war crime.”

The HRW referred to a report by Peace Now in which the Israeli rights group said Israel last year approved the construction of more settler units in the West Bank — 12,159 as of October 15 — more than in any other year since the group began tracking those statistics in 2012.

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

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law as they are built on occupied land.

The HRW also cited OCHA as saying that Israel demolished 568 Palestinian houses and other structures in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem al-Quds, as of October 19, 2020, leaving 759 people displaced.

Most buildings were demolished under the pretext of lacking Israeli building permits, which are almost never given.

Referring to about 600 checkpoints and other permanent obstacles set up by Israel within the West Bank as of June, the HRW said, “Israeli forces routinely turn away or humiliate and delay Palestinians at checkpoints without explanation.”


FM Zarif: Earth to See Better Days without Trump Team


Zarif wrote on his Twitter account on Friday that the Trump regime has not yet become content with its harmful performance during the previous years as it is continuing to help extremists in its final days.

He went on to say that, labelling others as terrorists by Trump’s State Secretary Mike Pompeo has been a blatant affront against peace.

In relevant remarks on Tuesday, Mohammad Javad Zarif lashed out at the outgoing US Secretary State Mike Pompeo’s recent claims against Iran, stressing that the perpetrators of the Sep. 11 incidents were terrorists who had come from the countries that are Pompeo’s favorites.

"All the terrorists involved in 9/11 event were from Mike Pompeo’s favorite countries in West Asia, and none from Iran,” Zarif wrote on his Twitter page on Tuesday.

Zarif added that the US warmongering government is engaged in branding others as terrorists and taking famous terrorist groups out of their classifications.


1st Phase of Great Prophet 15 Drills Starts with Ballistic Missiles Mass Firing


The first stage of the Great Prophet (Payambar-e Azam) 15 drills of the IRGC kicked off on Friday morning with the codename of “Ya Fatimah al-Zahar”, during which ground-to-ground ballistic missiles were fired and offensive drone bombers operations were put into action in the general area of Iran’s Central Desert.

During the drills that began in the presence of IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami, IRGC Aerospace Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh and a number of senior commanders and officials of the Iranian Armed Forces, a new generation of ground-to-ground ballistic missiles and drones were used in compound offensive against hypothetical enemy bases, destroying all the specified targets.

During this stage of the wargames, after the attack of the IRGC Aerospace’s offensive bomber drones from all sides to the missile shield of the hypothetical enemy and complete destruction of targets, the new generation of the IRGC ballistic missiles of the classes of Zolfaqar, Zelzal and Dezful were mass fired at targets dealing fatal blows to the hypothetical enemy bases.

The missiles were Multiple Re-entry Vehicles (MRVs) with the capability of jamming and going through the enemy missile shield.

Great Prophet (Payambar-e Azam) wargames are annual missile tests and exercises conducted by Iran's IRGC. The first series of the wargames began in July 2008.

In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and systems.

The Iranian Armed Forces several times a year test their preparedness and capabilities as well as newly-manufactured weapons systems in different wargames.

The Iranian Armed Forces recently test-fire different types of newly-developed missiles and torpedoes and tested a large number of home-made weapons, tools and equipment, including submarines, military ships, artillery, choppers, aircrafts, UAVs and air defense and electronic systems, during massive military drills.

Iranian officials have always stressed that the country's military and arms programs serve defensive purposes.

Defense analysts and military observers say that Iran's wargames and its advancements in weapons production have proved as a deterrent factor.

In a relevant event, Eqtedar 99 naval wargames kicked off in Makran Coast of the Sea of Oman and the Northern Indian Ocean on Wednesday morning, as the Iranian Navy received its largest warship, Makran.

The two-day naval drills began on Wednesday in the Southeastern region of Makran Coast and the Northern Indian Ocean while a home-grown giant vessel, Makran, was delivered to the Navy.

In the first phase of the exercises, the Army's surface, subsurface and flight units were expanded to the general zone of the wargames to continue their specialized exercises according to the specified scenario.

The huge warship Makran is a domestically-manufactured helicopter carrier that can be used for logistical purposes in support of the naval forces' maritime missions.

The wargames were attended by Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, Army Commander Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi, and other senior commanders.

According to Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, Makran can carry seven helicopters and can support the Navy’s missions in high waters, such as the Northern part of the Indian Ocean, the Bab al-Mandab Strait, and the Red Sea.

On the second day of massive wargames dubbed as Eqtedar 99 on Thursday, the Iranian naval forces successfully fired several types of cruise missiles.

A variety of cruise missiles with different ranges successfully hit their targets in the Northern Indian Ocean and the exercises general zone.

In addition, the Iran-designed class of semi-heavy submarine, Fateh, shot its first-ever torpedo during the drills that successfully hit the target.

Deputy Navy Commander for Coordination and Spokesman of the Drills Rear Admiral Hamzeh Ali Kaviani told reporters on the sidelines of the drills that Iran is in possession of different naval cruise missiles, adding that their high destruction power has turned them into effective and decisive weapons in any wars in the sea.

He added that information about some of the weapons and systems used in this exercises are classified as confidential, saying that enemies should know that in case of any aggression against the maritime borders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they will be targeted by cruise missiles from the coast and sea.

Rear Admiral Kaviani said that various types of home-made drones were also used in the wargames which displayed proper performance.


Turkey’s Erdogan hopes for positive steps on F-35 jet program during Biden’s term

15 January 2021

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday he hoped positive steps will be taken on Turkey’s role in the F-35 jet program once US President-elect Joe Biden takes office, describing Ankara’s exclusion for purchasing Russian defenses as a “serious wrong”.

Last month, Washington imposed long-anticipated sanctions on Turkey’s defense industry over its acquisition of S-400 missile defense systems from Moscow, in a move Turkey called a “grave mistake”.

The United States has also removed fellow NATO member Turkey from the F-35 program over the move.

Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defense systems. Turkey rejects this, saying S-400s will not be integrated into NATO and purchasing them was a necessity as it was unable to procure air defense systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.

“No country can determine the steps we will take toward the defense industry, that fully depends on the decisions we make,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding Ankara was in talks to procure a second shipment of S-400s from Russia and would hold talks on the issue later this month.

“We don’t know what the Biden administration will say at this stage (on the S-400s),” he added. “Despite having paid a serious fee on the F-35s, the F-35s still have not been given to us. This is a serious wrong the United States did against us as a NATO ally,” he said.

“My hope is that, after we hold talks with Biden as he takes office, we will take much more positive steps and put these back on track.”

Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, replacing incumbent Donald Trump, with whom Erdogan had a close relationship.

Ankara has said it hopes for better with Washington then.


Palestinians to hold first elections in 15 years, presidential vote on July 31

15 January 2021

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced parliamentary and presidential elections on Friday, the first in 15 years, in an effort to heal long-standing internal divisions.

The move is widely seen as a response to criticism of the democratic legitimacy of Palestinian political institutions, including Abbas’s presidency.

It also comes days before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, with whom the Palestinians want to reset relations after they reached a low under President Donald Trump.

According to a decree issued by Abbas’s office, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, will hold legislative elections on May 22 and a presidential vote on July 31.

“The President instructed the election committee and all state apparatuses to launch a democratic election process in all cities of the homeland,” the decree said, referring to the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Palestinian factions have renewed reconciliation efforts to try and present a united front since Israel reached diplomatic agreements last year with four Arab countries.

Those accords, brokered by the outgoing Trump administration, dismayed Palestinians and left them increasingly isolated in a region that has seen allegiances shift to reflect shared fears of Iran by Israel and Sunni-led Gulf Arab states.

Hamas, the Islamist militant group which is Abbas’s main domestic rival, welcomed the announcement.

“We have worked in the past months to resolve all obstacles so that we can reach this day,” a Hamas statement said.

It called for fair elections, in which “electorates can express their will without restrictions or pressures, and with full justice and transparency.”

With Biden taking office on Jan. 20, “it is as if the Palestinians are telling the incoming US administration: we are ready to engage,” Gaza political analyst Hani Habib said.


Yemenis protest US blacklisting of Houthis

15 January 2021

People have taken to the streets in Yemen to denounce the US decision to designate the Houthi Ansarullah movement as a “terrorist” organization.

Yemeni people staged several protests in the northwestern province of Sa’ada after the Muslim Friday prayers to denounce the US decision.

The protesters said the decision of the outgoing administration of President Donald Trump was prompted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which is a key party to the Riyadh-led coalition waging war on Yemen.

They also described the US as “the mother of terrorism” and the main cause of all sedition and crimes in the world.

The demonstrators also denounced the continued Saudi aggression against and siege of their country, condemning the silence of the United Nations and rights groups regarding the brutal war.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that the designation would take effect on January 19 — one day before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Washington’s decision has drawn criticism from the United Nations, the European Union, and aid groups, as well as lawmakers inside the United States.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have welcomed the US administration’s decision to blacklist the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

Since late 2014, the Houthi movement has been running state affairs, after former Riyadh-back president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi resigned and fled to the Saudi capital.

Months later, the Saudi regime and a number of its allies launched the deadly war on Yemen to reinstall Hadi, but the US-backed campaign has flatly failed in the face of stiff resistance by the Yemeni armed forces, led by the Houthis and allied popular groups.


Israeli forces injure Palestinian protesters in occupied West Bank

15 January 2021

Israeli forces have injured a number of Palestinians taking part in protests against Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

On Friday, Israeli forces clashed with protesters taking part in weekly demonstrations against the Tel Aviv regime’s land grab policies in the village of Kafr Qaddum, in the the occupied West Bank.

Every Friday, Palestinians organize anti-settlement protests in a number of villages and towns in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli troops use force to disperse the protesters. Some Palestinians sustain bullet wounds, while others suffer breathing difficulties due to inhaling tear gas.

Residents of Kafr Qaddum regularly hold weekly protest rallies against the Israeli occupation.

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

The United Nations Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Emboldened by the anti-Palestine policies of US President Donald Trump, Israel has stepped up its settlement expansion activities in defiance of Security Council Resolution 2334, which pronounces settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds “a flagrant violation under international law.”

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.





Ethiopian refugee children at risk of exploitation, trafficking in Sudan

16 January 2021

Dozens of children are still waiting to be reunited with their families after crossing into Sudan alone to flee conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, aid agencies said, warning that they could be at risk of abuse, trafficking and child labor.

More than 58,000 Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan - about a third of them children - since fighting erupted in the northern region in November between federal troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said more than 100 unaccompanied minors had been reunited with their families since the beginning of the conflict, but roughly the same number were still on their own in Sudan at the end of last year.

“Children travelling alone with no protection from an adult are more exposed to exploitation, trafficking and different types of abuse,” said Vanessa Coeffe, senior child protection manager at the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Aid workers said the additional movement of refugees from transit centers to camps in Sudan had complicated ongoing tracing efforts. Since early January, the UNHCR has moved thousands of refugees to the new Tunaydbah camp.

Bakary Sogoba, child protection specialist at the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) in Sudan, said the lack of access to Tigray - where some of the children’s relatives remain - could present a further challenge to family reunification work.

In the meantime, aid workers said it was crucial to look into alternative care options for children - some of them traumatized - whose parents could still not be found.

Living conditions in the camps can protract traumatic experiences, and gender-based violence and sexual exploitation are additional risks, said Anika Krstic, country director for Plan International Sudan.

“As responders, (we need) to make sure that there is prevention, that there is awareness and that there are ways of seeking recourse and assistance,” Krstic told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We need to do more but all of the prevention measures that are usual in such emergency situations are being set up.”

Some unaccompanied and separated children have already been placed in foster care or communal centers, while child-friendly spaces and temporary learning centers have been set up in camps.

“A strong network of able social animators and social workers – when possible also within the same refugee community – is pivotal to keep the children safe from risks such as abuse or exploitation,” said Giulia Raffaelli, senior external relations officer at UNHCR in Sudan.

Still, the IRC voiced concern that the lack of services, education and safe areas for children in the new Tunaydbah camp had pushed some refugees into child labor.

Fighting is still going on in several parts of Tigray and almost 2.3 million people, or nearly half of the region’s population, need aid, a UN report said last week.


Trump receives Morocco’s highest award for Middle East peace efforts: Official

16 January 2021

US President Donald Trump on Friday received Morocco’s highest award for his work in advancing a normalization deal between Israel and Morocco, a senior administration official told Reuters.

In a private Oval Office ceremony, Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui, who is Morocco’s ambassador to the United States, gave Trump the Order of Muhammad, an award given only to heads of state. It was a gift from Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz received other awards for their work on the Israel-Morocco deal, which was reached in December.

The United States in the last five months helped broker deals between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. The agreements are aimed at normalizing relations and opening economic ties.

Trump, who leaves office on Wednesday, has drawn some criticism over the Morocco agreement because to seal the deal, he agreed that the United States would recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Western Sahara has been the site of a decades-old territorial dispute between Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory.

The Kushner team had been working on reaching more agreements between Israel and the Arab world. But time has run out and no more are expected before Trump’s departure.

Media were not allowed to witness the award ceremony. Trump has been limiting his public appearances since losing the election on Nov. 3.


Clashes in Tunisia after police beat shepherd, spark anger

15 January 2021

Tunisian police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the northern city of Siliana on Friday after a policeman beat a shepherd, witnesses said, in an incident that sparked anger, as the country celebrate the tenth anniversary of the transition to a full democracy.

Hundreds of protesters burned wheels, blocked roads, and threw stones at the police, who followed the protesters and fired gas, witnesses added.

A decade ago, massive protests against corruption, injustice and the repressive regime toppled the late President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, after a fruit seller set himself ablaze in the central town of Sidi Bouzid after an altercation with a policewoman.

The Tunisian revolution in 2011 inspired a wave of revolt in Arab countries as people rose up to demand democracy.

A video posted on social media showed a policeman scolding and pushing a shepherd whose sheep had entered the governate headquarter.

The video caused a wave of anger on social media. Activists said that it is unacceptable to harm the dignity of any citizen, a decade after Tunisians revolted against injustice and oppression.

The Public Prosecution office opened an investigation into the incident.

Despite the incident, Tunisia is an example of peaceful transition in a region struggling elsewhere with violence and upheaval, its economic and social situation worsened, and the country became on the verge of bankruptcy and the protests increased.


Tunisian protesters, security forces clash after police beating of shepherd

16 January 2021

Hundreds of protesters in northern Tunisian city of Siliana have clashed with police, burned wheels and blocked roads following the beating of a shepherd by an officer.

Officers fired tear gas to disperse rock-throwing demonstrators Friday in the city as well as in the coastal city of Sousse, where night clashes occurred between police and youths who threw stones at the security forces.

Also, smaller protest rallies took place in the Karm neighborhood of the capital Tunis where security forces detained a number of protesters, according to local media reports.

This comes after a video clip posted on social media showed a police officer scolding and pushing a shepherd whose sheep had strayed into the governorate headquarter.

The video triggered a wave of fury on social media, with activists saying it is unacceptable to harm the dignity of any citizen, a decade after the Tunisian people revolted against injustice and oppression imposed on the country by a Western-backed dictator that was toppled in January 2011.

The country’s Public Prosecution office has reportedly opened an investigation into the incident.

The protests took place as the North African nation celebrated the tenth anniversary of its popular revolution and the transition to a full democracy.

A decade ago, Tunisia was beset by violence following a massive uprising – sparked after a fruit seller set himself ablaze in the central town of Sidi Bouzid following an altercation with a police officer -- that led to the downfall of long-time ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The revolt inspired other revolutions in a host of Arab dictatorships across the Middle East and North Africa. However, Tunisia was the only nation among other Arab countries in the region that maintained a smooth, peaceful transition to democracy.

The Tunisian economy, which has been crippled in recent years by high debt and declining public services, deteriorated due to the coronavirus pandemic, and a year of political instability has complicated efforts to address such issues.

Tunisia’s tourism-dependent economy shrank 21.6 percent in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the same period last year, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The country's parliament approved a new, technocratic cabinet last September - led by Prime Minister-designate Hichem Mechichi - in a bid to end months of political instability in the nation.

The formation of the latest cabinet was the third try since the country’s 2019 parliamentary polls. Lawmakers had rejected one proposed cabinet last January, and a second administration resigned in July after less than five months in office.

While previous cases of political discord in Tunisia have focused on the split between Islamic and secular forces as well as economic reforms, the current tensions appear to be more rooted in the division of powers between the president and legislators.



North America


Pentagon increasing efforts to stamp out extremism among active-duty troops and veterans

January 15, 2021

The Department of Defense is increasing its efforts to find and eliminate extremism within its ranks, particularly among those who espouse White supremacist beliefs, according to two senior defense officials who wanted to underscore the message that the military will not tolerate extremism within the services.

The effort, which started long before the riots of last week, has taken on increased urgency after a violent mob of President Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an assault that left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer. CNN has reported that the mob included veterans and Thursday's briefing comes two days after an extraordinary intervention from the country's most senior generals, who issued a statement reminding service members of their obligation to support and defend the Constitution and reject extremism.

CNN also reported Tuesday that the Army is taking additional steps to screen the National Guard contingent that's providing security at Biden's inauguration for extremism.

"We in the Department of Defense are doing everything we can to eliminate extremism in the Department of Defense," said Garry Reid, the director for defense intelligence. "DoD policy expressly prohibits military personnel from actively advocating supremacist, extremist or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or cause."

Extremist groups, including White supremacists, place a premium on recruiting current and former members of the military, a senior defense official said, while also trying to get their group's extremist members into the armed forces. The groups want the experience and expertise of the military.

"We know that some groups attempt to actively recruit our personnel into their cause, or actually encourage their members to join the military for purposes of acquiring skills and experience," the senior defense official said. "We recognize those skills are prized by some of these groups not only for the capability it offers them, but it also brings legitimacy to them in their mind for their cause."

Increasing white supremacist beliefs

The Department of Defense has observed an increase in White supremacist beliefs among active-duty service members and veterans, a senior defense official said, partly because of the growing prevalence of these beliefs in the country but also because of increased efforts to find and track extremism within the ranks.

"We clearly recognize the threat from domestic extremists, particularly those who espouse White supremacy or White nationalist ideologies," the official said.

"We cannot let these things fester within organizations and become OK. Once that happens, then your reporting does suffer. So our emphasis within all the ranks is that it is not OK," the official added.

The officials were not able to immediately provide data on the number of service members who are facing disciplinary action for supporting extremist beliefs or how many military applicants are screened out because of a connection to extremism.

The Department of Defense is also reviewing its current policies, laws and regulations regarding extremism to better prohibit and prevent service members from becoming associated with extremist ideologies. A report is due by the end of March. The review was initiated before the storming of the Capitol on January 6.

The general counsel at the Department of Defense is also working on drafting legislation that would update the Uniform Code of Military Justice to address extremism and extremist activity within the military.


US will impose sanctions on Iran over conventional arms, metals industry: Sources

15 January 2021

The United States plans to announce additional Iran sanctions on Friday related to conventional arms and to the metals industry, sources familiar with the matter said.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not provide details on the sanctions, the latest in a series that US President Donald Trump has imposed on the Iranian economy to try to force Tehran into a new negotiation on curbing its nuclear program as well as its missile and regional activities.

Trump in 2018 abandoned the Iran nuclear agreement that Tehran struck with six major powers in 2015 to rein in its nuclear program in return for relief from US and international sanctions that had crippled its economy.

When he walked away from the deal, Trump said he was open to negotiating a much wider pact that would seek more extensive constraints on Iran’s nuclear program as well as limits on its development of ballistic missiles and its sponsorship of militias in regional nations such as Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

The Republican president’s administration plans to unveil the new sanctions five days before Trump is to hand over the White House to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden. Biden has said he will return to the 2015 pact if Iran resumes strict compliance with it.

The State and Treasury Departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the announcement.


US CENTCOM area of responsibility to include Israel after warming of Arab ties

Joseph Haboush

15 January 2021

The Pentagon announced Friday that the US Central Command's area of operation- responsible for military operations and coordination in the Middle East and Central Asia - will now include Israel, in a turn of events after multiple peace treaties were signed between Tel Aviv and Arab states.

Previously, Israel was under the US European Command area of responsibility due to the animosity and tensions between Arab states and Israel.

The Pentagon said that it reviews its Unified Command Plan every two years and “reassesses all boundaries and relationship against the operational environment.”

And last September’s signing of the Abraham Accords was a factor in the recent decision to include Israel in the CENTCOM’s area of responsibility.

“The easing of tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors subsequent to the Abraham Accords has provided a strategic opportunity for the United States to align key partners against shared threats in the Middle East,” the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon said the move will open up “additional opportunities for cooperation with our US Central Command partners while maintaining strong cooperation between Israel and our European allies.”

Brokered and mediated by the US and the Trump administration, the United Arab Emirates and Israel agreed to normalize ties last year. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco also followed suit.

Despite attempts and statements by the Trump administration that Saudi Arabia would also reach an agreement with Israel, the Kingdom has not budged on its call for an independent state for Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has said the Kingdom has always envisioned that normalization with Israel would happen, but the current focus should be on bringing Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.

“We’ve always been open to full normalization with Israel, and we think Israel will take its place in the region, but in order for that to happen, and for it to be sustainable, we do need the Palestinians to get their state and we need to settle that situation,” Prince Faisal said last month.


US troops in Afghanistan at lowest level in 19 years: Trump

15 January 2021

US President Donald Trump says the number of American troops in Afghanistan has reached a 19-year low while his tenure ends next week, with thousands of boots still on the ground in the county.

Trump ordered the reduction of US troops in November, when there were about 4,000 troops in Afghanistan.

He said in a brief statement on Thursday that troop levels in Afghanistan reached a 19-year low.

“I will always be committed to stopping the endless wars,” he said.

Trump did not mention the number of remaining troops in the country, though.

There are about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan by Friday.

Acting US Defense Secretary Chris Miller also confirmed the withdrawal in a statement on Friday.

“This force reduction is an indication of the United States’ continued support towards the Afghan peace process,” he said.

The US reached a deal with the Taliban in February last year on the withdrawal of 12,000 US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban’s halting of their attacks on international forces.

Under the deal, the Trump administration promised to bring the number of US forces in Afghanistan to zero by May 2021.

Miller also said Friday that the Pentagon is planning for additional troop reductions to zero by Ma.

He said that “any such future drawdowns remain conditions based.”

The Pentagon is facing a legal prohibition on completing the drawdown.

The Congress passed a legislation two weeks ago that prohibits the Pentagon to use money from this year’s or last year’s budget on reducing the number of soldiers below 4,000.

Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, but the House and the Senate voted to override his veto.

The Pentagon could only continue withdrawal under two conditions, provided by the legislation; a presidential waiver or a report to Congress assessing the effect of a further drawdown on the US mission in Afghanistan and the risk to U.S. troops there.

As of Thursday, the Pentagon had met neither of those conditions.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 under the pretext of the so-called war on terror, overthrowing a Taliban regime.

Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, Washington has spent more than two trillion dollars waging the war on the impoverished country. Over 2,400 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed.

The US, Taliban agreement signed in the Qatari capital Doha last year, was intended to result in the reduction of bloodshed in the country, but violence continues to take a heavy toll in the country.

Earlier this month, the US accused the Taliban of carrying out a spate of attacks that targeted government officials, civil society leaders, and journalists in Afghanistan.

The Taliban denies the allegation, saying that US forces had conducted airstrikes against its members in non-military zones.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will take the office next week, is an advocate of keeping a number of forces in Afghanistan.

It is now not clear how Biden will proceed with the deal.

During his time as vice president, Washington pushed the number of its troops in Afghanistan to 100,000.


Uzbek national sentenced to over 12 years for helping aspiring ISIS fighter

January 14, 2021

An Uzbek national was sentenced Thursday in Brooklyn federal court to 12 1/2 years in prison for supporting a wannabe ISIS fighter.

Azizjon Rakhmatov, 33, of New Haven, Connecticut, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, according to Seth DuCharme, the acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

In 2015, Rakhmatov gave aspiring terrorist Akhror Saidakhmetov $400 cash to help bankroll a trip to Syria to join ISIS and to buy a gun once he arrived.

Saidakhmetov, who had pledged his allegiance to ISIS, had said if he couldn’t make it to Syria to wage jihad, he’d turn his homicidal urges on cops and FBI agents in the US, according to court papers.

Saidakhmetov flew from JFK Airport to Istanbul, Turkey, on Feb. 25, where he was picked up by authorities before he could sneak across the border. He was sentenced in 2017 to 15 years in prison.

Both men are expected to be deported once they’ve completed their sentences, prosecutors said.



Southeast Asia


With Emergency Ordinance In Malaysia, Law Experts Say Democracy Suspended, Unlimited Power Lies With Cabinet

16 Jan 2021


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 ― With the gazettement of yesterday’s Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021, law experts warned that Malaysia could be in for a rough time with unlimited and unchecked powers concentrated in the hands of the Muhyiddin Cabinet.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had announced the suspension of Parliament and all state legislative Houses as well as elections during the nationwide state of Emergency, scheduled to last till August 1.

Constitutional law expert Abdul Aziz Bari said the Ordinance has fully shielded the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration from any legal action and effectively rendered the Opposition powerless to challenge it in court ― third arm of the government ― even if there are abuses.

“We can oppose, but that’s it. The court is powerless as its the constitution itself which allows all the breaking down of barriers and limitations which were available in a non-Emergency situation,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

The problem with the Emergency Ordinance, he said, is that its powers are so wide. 

“Also it’s not subject to checks and balances, and it may remain forever unless revoked,” said the Tebing Tinggi assemblyman who is also Perak Opposition leader.

“But the revocation might be too late after the damage has been done, which again cannot be compensated,” the DAP man added.

He said this was the reason the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition is opposed to the invocation of Emergency powers just to arrest the Covid-19 pandemic.

Democracy suspended

Constitutional lawyer Lim Wei Jiet expressed similar views to Aziz. He said democracy in Malaysia is practically suspended at the moment for as long as the Emergency lasts.

He added that the Ordinance also upholds Muhyiddin’s suspension of Parliament, preventing legislators from convening and questioning the Cabinet’s decisions.

“Parliament acts as a very important check because Art 150(3) of the Constitution provides that the proclamation of Emergency shall be tabled in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, so that it can either be ratified or annulled.

“By preventing Parliament from convening, the prime minister is literally circumventing the legislature from holding the executive to account in its decision on declaring a state of Emergency,” he told Malay Mail.

He also said that with the state of Emergency declared, the prime minister and his Cabinet are insulated from any attempts for their removal from office.

Muhyiddin’s support in Dewan Rakyat had waned just prior to the Emergency announcement, as two Umno MPs ― Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub of Machang and Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz of Padang Rengas ― had openly declared they did not back him nor his PN government any more. Their withdrawal left the PM with only 109 out of 220 MPs. Two seats are vacant as their incumbents died.

Lim said that while the judiciary continues to function, what is seen today is that one of the provisions in the Ordinance effectively usurps the court’s right to hear land acquisition cases. 

“Now, the value of properties possessed by the government will be done by someone appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, no longer the courts.

“There is hence an overwhelming, almost unlimited, concentration of power in the executive,” he added. 

Asked if the Emergency Ordinance “made sense”, Lim replied that it does only if one wanted total control over the country with no accountability.

Unnecessary Emergency

Like Lim, fellow lawyer Surendra Ananth said the Emergency Ordinance 2021 has put the brakes on democratic practices in the country with Section 14 preventing Parliament from convening throughout this period.

“This is inconsistent with article 150 itself. Clause (3) makes it mandatory for any Emergency proclamation and ordinances made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to be laid before Parliament.

“To suspend Parliament throughout the Emergency would be to render that clause otiose,” said the Kuala Lumpur Bar Practice Reform Committee chairman. 

Otiose means serving no practical purpose or result.

Surendra also said the government did not have to invoke the Emergency to contain the pandemic.

“Public health is not a ground to declare an Emergency under Article 150 [of the Federal Constitution],” he said.

However, the government had cited Covid-19 as a threat to Malaysia’s economy as a reason for the Emergency.

Salim Bashir, president of the Malaysian Bar, expressed apprehension at the powers granted to the Armed Forces during this Emergency period.

“As provided under Section 7(1) of the Ordinance, as long as the Emergency is in force, the armed forces will have the authority to arrest and detain, and possess the right of a police officer under the Criminal Procedure Code, as well as the authority vested in them under the Armed Forces Act 1972.  

“We are concerned about the excessive use of powers by the armed forces when carrying out their duties,” he said in a statement last night.

He pointed out that while police officers are trained in handling civilians and day-to-day disputes, soldiers do not have that experience.

Salim said the Bar hopes the government will respect individual rights during the Emergency and in the course of implementing the Ordinance.

“The rule of law is not some kind of receding mirage, but a fountain from which the nation draws its sustenance. Emergency or not, it forms the basis of a democratic system.

“In light of the above, the Malaysian Bar calls upon the government to exercise its executive powers to only such an extent that is necessary to meet the particular needs of handling the Covid-19 pandemic, while upholding the rule of law and democratic rights of its citizens,” he added.

However, lawyer Andrew Khoo indicated there is a silver lining to public anxiety about this Emergency.

“An end date IS specified in the Proclamation. 1 August 2021. But this does not mean it can’t be ended earlier or extended,” Khoo who is also co-chair of the Bar Council Constitutional Law Committee told Malay Mail today when contacted.


Former Lord President Salleh Abas laid to rest in Terengganu

16 Jan 2021

KUALA TERENGGANU, Jan 16 ― Former Lord President Tun Mohamed Salleh Abas was buried at the Sheikh Ibrahim Muslim Cemetery in Jalan Pusara here at 10.40am today.

The body of Mohamed Salleh, 91, who died of pneumonia at 3.20am today, was taken to the cemetery at about 10.15am.

The burial process was handled by some 10 personnel from the Terengganu Health Department who were wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

However, his family members and journalists were not allowed to be at the burial ground.

His son-in-law Wan Pauzi Yahya said Mohamed Salleh, who was chairman of as-Salihin Trustee Berhad, was admitted to Hospital Sultanah Nur Zahirah (HSNZ) here on Thursday after he tested positive for Covid-19.

“After he was taken to hospital, his children and other family members could still talk to him but then he was not admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) yet. We were told he had breathing difficulty, declining blood pressure and other problems. Furthermore, he was born with only one kidney,” he told reporters after the burial.

Wan Pauzi said his father-in-law was put on a ventilator last night.

He said Mohamed Salleh was buried next to his first wife, Toh Puan Azimah Mohd Ali, who died in 2016.

Wan Pauzi said the family hoped that the relevant quarters would preserve Mohamed Salleh’s legacy by collecting the books written by him and his personal items like photographs for the benefit of future generations.

Mohamad Salleh leaves behind his wife Toh Puan Junaidah Wan Jusoh, five children and 26 grandchildren.

In 1984, Mohamed Salleh was appointed the Lord President (now known as Chief Justice), a post he held until his expulsion during the constitutional crisis in 1988.

He was also one of the drafters of the Rukun Negara in 1970.

In the 10th general election in 1999, he won the Jertih state seat in Terengganu on a PAS ticket but did not contest in the next polls in 2004 on health grounds. ― Bernama


Indira Gandhi seeks IGP’s answers on ex-husband’s probe in suit against PDRM

12 Jan 2021

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — Kindergarten teacher, M. Indira Gandhi is seeking answers from the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to 48 questions pertaining to investigations on her Muslim convert ex-husband, Muhammad Riduan Abdullah, in a suit filed against the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM).

The suit was filed pursuant to her claims that PDRM failed to execute the committal warrant to arrest Muhammad Riduan and bring back their 13-year-old daughter, who was abducted by the man, 12 years ago.

Indira filed the interrogatories application yesterday through the law firm Messrs Raj & Sach to obtain a court order for the IGP, as the first defendant, to answer the questions in written form via affidavit under Order 26 of the Rules of Court 2012.

In the application, Indira, among others, requested the IGP to answer questions pertaining to the probe, including the location of her ex-husband, formerly known as K. Patmanathan, who is alleged to be in southern Thailand.

Lawyer Rajesh Nagarajan, who is representing Indira, when contacted, said the court set January 14 for case management before Deputy High Court Registrar Idamasliza Maarof via e-review.

Indira, 46, as the plaintiff filed the suit on October 28 last year and named the IGP, PDRM, Home Ministry and the Government of Malaysia as the first to fourth defendants.

In her statement of claim, Indira claimed that the IGP had deliberately and negligently ignored the mandamus order from the Federal Court by failing to investigate or take appropriate action to return her daughter, Prasana Diksa, to her.

She claimed that all defendants had played a role in making decisions or giving orders to PDRM to execute the committal warrant against Muhammad Riduan as ordered by the Federal Court on April 29, 2016.

The plaintiff also claimed that the behaviour of all defendants had directly caused her separation from her youngest daughter to continue until today, and also caused Mohd Riduan to flee.

She is seeking general, aggravated and exemplary damages, as well as a declaration that the first defendant had committed tort of nonfeasance in public office, and the second, third and fourth defendants were also vicariously liable for the tort of nonfeasance committed by the first defendant. — Bernama


Selangor Sultan, Tengku Permaisuri Selangor convey condolences to family of Salleh Abas

16 Jan 2021

SHAH ALAM, Jan 16 — Selangor Sultan Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah and Tengku Permaisuri Selangor, Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin have conveyed their condolences to the family of former Lord President Tun Dr Mohamed Salleh Abas who died early today.

The royal couple hoped that his family would remain calm in accepting the fate and prayed that the deceased’s soul be showered with blessings from Allah and placed among the righteous and the pious,

Sultan Sharafuddin described Mohamed Salleh as a person with integrity and principles who had always placed priority on the Federal Constitution in every action that he takes.

“The late Tun Salleh was a great Malaysian jurist and a man of principle who fought for the independence of the judiciary, which safeguards the rights and privileges provided in the Constitution. He upheld the rule of law and the separation of powers under our Constitution,” according to a statement uploaded on the Selangor Royal Office official website here today.

Mohamed Salleh died of pneumonia at 3.20 am today. He was 91.

The remains of the as-Salihin Trustee Berhad chairman were laid to rest at the Sheikh Ibrahim Muslim Cemetery in Jalan Pusara, Kuala Terengganu at 10.40am today. — Bernama


Social media influencers among priority vaccine groups in Indonesia

JAN 14, 2021

Deciding who should be first in line for limited vaccine doses has been a challenge around the world, with many countries prioritizing vulnerable health care workers and the elderly. Indonesia, on the other hand, has gone down an interesting route. Among the first in the queue for coronavirus vaccines in Indonesia has been one conspicuous group – social media influencers.

As the world's fourth most populous country, Indonesia kicked off its vaccination drive Wednesday, and alongside President Joko Widodo was Indonesian television personality, Raffi Ahmad, who boasts almost 50 million followers on Instagram.

"Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God) a vaccine ... Don’t be afraid of vaccines,” the 33-year-old celebrity wrote under a video of him receiving the shot, next to a heart emoji and another emoji of Indonesia's red and white flag.

A senior health ministry official, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, said the decision to include influencers alongside almost 1.5 million health care workers in the first round of inoculations was a deliberate government communications strategy.

Although Indonesia faces the most severe coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia – with more than 869,000 cases and 25,000 deaths – there has been skepticism around the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and whether it is halal (allowed under Islam), as Indonesia is the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.

So, the decision has been made to calm the public and encourage them to get vaccinated. Indonesians are among the top global users of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The health ministry did not say how many influencers would be first in the vaccine line, but others due to receive a shot on Thursday included musicians Ariel, of the band Noah, and Risa Saraswati.

Ahyani Raksanagara, head of Bandung’s health agency, told Reuters the artists would "hopefully convey positive influence and messages” about the vaccines, and especially to young people.

A poll last month showed just 37% of Indonesians were willing to be vaccinated, while 40% would consider it, and 17% refused.

Some doctors have raised doubts over Indonesia's initial use of Chinese company Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine – with studies from Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey showing efficacies ranging from 50%-91%.

However, in another possible boost for chances of acceptance, the country's top Islamic council has deemed the vaccine halal.

Meanwhile, the decision to include social media influencers on the priority list backfired somewhat when photos of Raffi showed him partying hours after he was given the injection – which does not confer immediate immunity.

The images of him unmasked and flouting social distancing protocols with a group of friends drew criticism on social media, with calls for him to set a better example.

"It also shows the government is inconsistent in prioritizing who gets the vaccine first,” said Irma Hidayana, co-founder of pandemic data initiative LaporCOVID-19. "They should’ve done it with another health worker, maybe, not an influencer."

Health ministry official Nadia noted that "when you’re vaccinated, you still have to abide by health protocols and not be careless in enforcing them."

Zubairi Djoerban of the Indonesian Medical Association said the strategy to hire influencers could only work if "influencers are briefed about vaccine and COVID-19 so they can be agents of change."

Police said they are investigating whether Raffi broke the law, while he has offered a public apology.





Gujarat too may enact law against ‘love jihad’

January 16, 2021

The BJP-ruled Gujarat government too may bring in laws to prevent what is known in right wing parlance as ‘love jihad’, marriage of a Hindu woman to a Muslim man. BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have recently enacted laws to stop conversion of Hindu women through marriage to Muslim men.

Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel said that the Gujarat government is examining the laws recently implemented in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. He was speaking to journalists at an event by the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP), organised to launch the fundraising drive for construction of the Ram Temple.

Patel said that the laws enacted in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are meant to curb “forced religious conversions through marriage”. But, long before the laws were enacted in UP and MP, foot soldiers of VHP and Bajrang Dal in Gujarat were active in stopping what they thought to be ‘love jihad’, ever since the BJP came to power here in 1995. The government has received many representations about such marriages and forced conversions, he said.

The Gujarat Government is studying the long-term effects and legal sanctity of the laws enacted in UP and MP, said the Deputy chief minister adding that a final decision would be taken at the appropriate time.


Muslim Groups Call For Bandh On Jan 22 Over Bengaluru Riots Crackdown, Farmers' Protest And Love Jihad Law

Jan 15, 2021

New Delhi: A conglomerate of around 28 Muslim groups issued an appeal to Muslim shop owners to close their shops on January 22 in support of the “innocents” who have been jailed in the DJ Halli and KJ Halli riots case. They further said that the bandh is also in support of agitating farmers and against the love jihad law.

Demanding the release of innocent youth who were arrested after the KG Halli and DJ Halli violence the groups said that businesses and shops owned by Muslims will remain closed till 5 pm. There won’t be any meeting, rally or propaganda, said one of the groups.

Last year in August, violent clashes took place in India’s IT capital after Pulikehsinagar's Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivas Murthy's nephew Naveen posted a derogatory message on the social media.

Bandh called in support of 'innocents' jailed in DJ Halli & KJ Halli riots case

The mobs resorted to stone pelting, injured 60 policemen, and committed acts of vandalism and arson in DJ Halli, KG Halli, Pulikeshinagar and Kaval Byrasandra areas.

Four persons were killed after police opened fire on the night of August 11 to quell a mob.

The Bengaluru Central Crime Branch (CCB) has also arrested Congress party leader and former corporator, Abdul Rakeeb Zakir in connection with the Bengaluru Riot case after arresting former Bengaluru mayor and Congress leader R. Sampath Raj.

421 arrested so far

So far, 421 people have been arrested, including the Social Democratic Party of India leader Muzammil Pasha.

The NIA also seized incriminating materials relating to the SDPI and PFI besides weapons like swords, knives and iron rods during the raids, reported IANS.

In September, Congress leader Siddaramaiah had appealed to the state government to take immediate steps to release “innocents” who were arrested in connection with the Bengaluru riots.



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