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Updated: 5 days 14 hours ago

US sends five Guantanamo inmates to Georgia, Slovakia

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 12:27

WASHINGTON: The United States has transferred five Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Europe as part of efforts to empty and close the controversial US military detention centre in Cuba, officials said Thursday.

Three Yemeni prisoners were sent to Georgia, while a fourth Yemeni and a Tunisian were transferred to Slovakia, Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins said.

The men, aged 31 to 48, arrived by plane Thursday evening, leaving behind 143 terror suspects at Guantanamo. They had been held at the prison facility for more than a decade without charge or trial.

The five men had been cleared for release by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Most of the prisoners still languishing at the US naval base are from Yemen. Of the 84 detainees from that country, 54 have been cleared for release.

Obama lifted a moratorium in May on transfers of Yemeni prisoners, but none had been released until now due to political instability in Yemen and the risk of returning to the fight.

Hasham Bin Ali Bin Amor Sliti, from Turkey, and Husayn Salim Muhammad al Mutari Yafai were sent to Slovakia.

Legal support group Reprieve said Sliti had been sold for a bounty to Pakistani soldiers in December 2001 before being handed over to US forces in January 2002 and “tortured” for four months in the Afghan city of Kandahar.

Sliti, 48, was transferred to Guantanamo in May 2002.

“This is a welcome day, if long overdue, and (Sliti) is looking forward to rebuilding his life and starting a family,” Reprieve attorney Cori Crider said in a statement.

“Let us hope that the dozens of other cleared men left in Gitmo will soon follow,” the lawyer added, referring to the prison.

The Pentagon said it was grateful to Slovakia and Georgia for their willingness to “support ongoing US efforts” to close Guantanamo Bay.

“The United States coordinated with the government of Slovakia to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Slovakia has already taken six Guantanamo prisoners, including three Uighurs.

A similar statement was released about the transfers to Georgia of Salah Mohammed Salih Al Dhabi, Abdel Ghalib Ahmad Hakim and Abdul Khaled al Baydani.

“We are grateful to the Republic of Georgia for offering our client a new home where he can begin to rebuild his life after more than a decade in Guantanamo without charge or trial,” said the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented Hakim.

CCR senior attorney Wells Dixon said his client’s resettlement serves as a reminder that “the remaining Yemeni men should be sent home or resettled without further delay.”

CCR Yemen expert Ibraham Qatabi noted that Yemen’s Ambassador Adel Alsunaini and the Embassy of Yemen had provided assistance on the Yemeni prisoners’ case, and that the country has offered to receive or resettle its nationals remaining at Guantanamo.

Human Rights First said the transfer of prisoners signaled significant progress but stressed inmates need to be released at a quicker pace.

“The administration needs to move much more quickly to transfer detainees who have been unanimously cleared,” Human Rights First’s Raha Wala said.

In early November, a military official told AFP that about 15 detainees would be transferred over the winter. Six inmates are expected to go to Uruguay, and another four could be sent back to Afghanistan.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Obama to visit India in January: White House

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 10:41

United States President Barack Obama, on the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will “travel to India in January 2015 to participate in the Indian Republic Day,” according to a statement issued by the White House.

Obama will participate in the celebration as a chief guest in New Delhi, and the visit will “mark the first time a US president will have the honour of attending” the celebration.

Further, the US president is scheduled to meet with the Indian prime minister and other Indian officials to “expand the US-India strategic partnership”.

Obama’s trip follows up on a visit to Washington in September by Modi, courted by the United States as a key partner in its attempt to rebalance US foreign policy toward Asia

Modi met Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other key US officials at the White House for a private dinner, ahead of formal talks in the Oval Office during his visit in September.

Both nations issued a joint “vision statement” promising that their “strategic partnership” would work to combat terror threats, respond to humanitarian disasters, prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, as well as “mitigate” the impact of climate change.

Indian American activists have pressed for years to rehabilitate the image of Modi, who was denied a visa to the United States in 2005 on human rights grounds over anti-Muslim riots in his home state of Gujarat.

Modi denied wrongdoing and his charge over violence that killed more than 1,000 people.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Dutch-Pakistani al Qaeda suspect re-arrested for US extradition

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 10:23

THE HAGUE: Dutch authorities have re-arrested a Dutch-Pakistani al Qaeda suspect wanted by the United States, saying on Friday that all obstacles in his long-running extradition case had been cleared.

“Sabir K was detained again last (Thursday) night on the order of the public prosecutor’s office for extradition to the United States,” the office said in a statement.

A Dutch court last year blocked the extradition of the man identified only as Sabir K to stand trial for alleged acts of terror including planning a suicide attack on a US military base in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in 2010.

The 27-year-old Sabir K said that the US played a role in what he said was his torture in Pakistan following his arrest more than four years ago.

The Dutch court in its verdict last year in July said that “certain questions were raised about the role played by the United States in Sabir K’s arrest in Pakistan.”

Without proof that the US was not involved in his alleged torture, extradition would be illegal, the court said.

Dutch authorities however said on Friday they received a letter from the US Department of Justice last month which denies any involvement in Sabir K’s detention in Pakistan.

“According to the (Dutch) Security and Justice Minister (Ivo Opstelten) this hurdle to prevent extradition has been removed,” the public prosecutor’s statement said.

“The decision was taken once additional information was sent from the US,” public prosecutor spokesperson Wim de Bruin told AFP, adding that an actual date for the extradition had not been set.

Sabir K’s lawyer Andre Seebregts said he would file an urgent request to have his client freed and to stop the extradition.

“There are no legal grounds to extradite him,” Seebregts told AFP.

He also complained about what he termed the “heavy-handed approach” by an armed police team who arrested Sabir K in The Hague, where he has been living for months.

Arrested in Pakistan, Sabir K was brought back in April 2011 to the Netherlands, where a string of court rulings have accepted and then rejected his extradition.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Pakistan lodges protest with India over LoC firing

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 08:27

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday lodged a protest with India over unprovoked firing and mortar shelling by the its forces in Pandu Sector on the Line of Control, Radio Pakistan reported.

On Thursday night, Indian Border Security Force resorted to unprovoked firing killing a Pakistan Army soldier.

The soldier identified as Sepoy Zahid Ali was killed due to multiple mortar splinter injuries.

Condemning the incident, Pakistan called upon India to restrain its security forces from unprovoked firing and shelling across the LoC and the working boundary.

The government also extended condolences to the bereaved family of the soldier.

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Fears grow about Hindu 'Modi-fication' of education

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 06:28

NEW DELHI: Indians were flying aeroplanes, carrying out stem cell research and may even have been using cosmic weapons 5,000 years ago, according to the chairperson of India’s leading historical organisation.

Professor Y Sudershan Rao, the head of the Indian Council of Historical Research, has been criticised by fellow historians for comments that Hindu epics are adequate to understand the ancient world, rather than relying on evidence or research.

The Hindu nationalist government appointed Rao to the prestigious academic post soon after winning the biggest landslide in three decades, fuelling concerns of a push to teach the superiority of Hindu values and mythology at the cost of academic rigour, and cutting against the grain of secularism that runs through multi-faith modern India.

“We have so many proofs that these events happened,” Rao, 69, said in an interview, describing events in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epics about love and war, truth and deceit, that feature characters using inextinguishable fire and weapons with the destructive power of a nuclear arsenal.

Similar views have won support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and in part reflect a belief that India’s history books are beholden to colonial powers, foreign invaders and Marxists.

While there is debate over the exact age of the Hindu epics, historians say they were probably written at least two millennia ago. Rao says this in itself is proof the texts are factual because humans did not develop the art of fiction writing until a few centuries back.

Many academics are horrified by such views, and describe his appointment as a blow for the history organisation set up four decades ago to guide research and hand out grants. They point to signs of a broader plan to bring more Hinduism to the classroom through changes to the curriculum.

Two states run by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have recruited controversial Hindu nationalist Dinanath Batra to advise on writing textbooks.

In June, thousands of schools in Gujarat were given textbooks by Batra that claimed cars were invented in ancient India and told children to draw an enlarged nation to include countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Teachers at Batra’s organisation say they want the books to be in every school.

“The lessons from today’s history books are that Indians are nothing and good for nothing,” said Atul Kothari, secretary of Batra’s Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, or Save the Education Movement. “The truth is that historically we have been a far superior race.”

Education Minister Smriti Irani, a former soap actress, declined to comment on what revisions will be included in a review of the curriculum planned next year.

The last time the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was in power a decade ago it began to rewrite school books in line with Hindu-nationalist orthodoxy.

When the rival Congress party came back to power it rewrote the books again. Academics say the loser in all this are confused, and sometimes ill-informed, school children.

Modi is the first prime minister to publicly back the view that holy texts show many discoveries of modern science were made by ancient Indians. He told an audience of doctors last month that the Hindu god Ganesh’s head was evidence of ancient plastic surgery. A warrior the Mahabharata describes as born outside his mother’s womb was a test-tube baby, Modi said.

“These claims can be interpreted as signs of an inferiority complex,” said Romila Thapar, a leading scholar on ancient India. “The most disturbing thing is that many people accept this without questioning it,” said Thapar, whose books one BJP leader has said should be burned.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Nigerian village buries 45 after Boko Haram "slaughter"

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 06:21

MAIDUGURI: At least 45 people were killed in a Boko Haram reprisal attack on a village in northeastern Nigeria, the epicentre of the militants’ five-year insurgency, the head of the local government and a military source said on Friday.

The military source said the militants stormed the village in Wednesday’s attack to avenge four of their members who had wandered into the market but were identified and killed by soldiers in a gun fight.

“The Boko Haram militants mobilised and came on a reprisal,” the source told Reuters in the Borno state capital Maiduguri.

The attack on Azaya Kura village occurred on a busy market day, Shettima Lawan, chairman of Mafa district council said by telephone.

“They slaughtered 45 people. They’ve been buried,” Lawan said.

Mafa district and Azaya Kura are located in an area near the Nigerian border with Cameroon which is mostly under the control of the Boko Haram, which is seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.

The group has stepped up attacks in the northeast of Nigeria in recent weeks since it rejected a ceasefire announced by the government.

A resident of the village who has fled to Maiduguri because of the violence, Bakura Moh’d, said a family member told him the insurgents came around noon and rounded up people to kill them.

“They tied peoples’ hands behind their backs and slit their throats like animals,” Moh’d said.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Spain wakes up to 'homegrown' extremist threat

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 06:13

MADRID: Spain is fighting a new wave of “homegrown” extremism, raiding cells and hunting radicals on the internet as scores of Spaniards join fighters in Syria and Iraq.

Ten years after al Qaeda-inspired bombings on Madrid commuter trains killed 191 people in March 2004, Spanish authorities are tackling a new wave of extremists.

“We are seeing the hatching of homegrown militancy,” said Fernando Reinares, one of Spain’s top terrorism experts, at a gathering of specialists in Madrid this week.

“This is not new in Britain and France, but it is new in Spain and Italy.”

Reinares estimates that about 60 fighters have travelled from Spain to join extremists in Syria and Iraq in the past three years.

Spain’s ambassador in Iraq, Jose Maria Ferre de la Pena, this week said about 100 Spaniards had joined “militias” in conflict zones.

That is fewer than the hundreds from Britain, France and Germany who are thought to have gone to Syria to join the violent group calling itself Islamic State (IS).

But the relatively sudden emergence of the phenomenon has shocked Spanish authorities, who have arrested dozens of suspects accused of planning to join IS.

The group controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria and has killed several western hostages.

The latest video it has released showed extremists beheading 18 Syrian prisoners and a US aid worker, Peter Kassig. Two Frenchmen were identified among the IS members.

That video “must make us more alert than ever, because the globalisation of this group is an undeniable threat”, Spain’s junior security minister Francisco Martinez said this week.

Among the suspects arrested in Spain is a 14-year-old Spanish girl who was detained in August as she tried to enter Morocco allegedly en route to join IS, judicial sources said.

Spanish authorities have also identified hundreds of online profiles of radicals who support the group and who mentioned Spain in their messages, said Martinez.

In the latest case, the government said police on Wednesday arrested a Moroccan in Spain’s southeastern Murcia region accused of “notable extremist activity on the internet” and of trying to travel to Syria to join a “terrorist group” there.

Martinez said a wave of arrests of online suspects over the summer had prompted the government in September to intensify its level of vigilance for attacks.

Spain’s military is currently helping train Iraq soldiers to fight IS, making the country a potential target for revenge attacks by extremists, the government warns.

A study by the Royal Elcano international studies institute found that the proportion of Spanish-born suspects among those detained in Spain for suspected jihadist crimes rose “exponentially” last year.

Seventy percent of such suspects arrested since 2013 were Spanish nationals, and of those nine out of 10 were born in Spain, said Reinares, co-author of the report.

He said “the vast majority” of suspected fighters arrested in Spain in recent years were from Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish territories on the northern shore of Morocco.

In these small fenced-off cities, Spanish police guard Europe’s only borders with Africa. Security officials have voiced concern about the presence of extremist cells in neighbouring Morocco.

Jose Antonio Vazquez, a chief inspector in the Spanish national police, warned that “extremists could move relatively easily between north Africa and our country” via Ceuta and Melilla.

“It is an unusual national border compared to the rest of the European Union,” with lots of people from Morocco crossing back and forth each day to trade in the Spanish territories, he told AFP.

Compared to some of its European neighbours who have suffered attacks, Spain has been “late” in adapting its laws to prosecute the latest terrorist cells, Reinares said.

In 2010 Spain broadened its anti-terrorism legislation to cover what were seen as new extremist threats such as recruitment and indoctrination.

Martinez said it is now planning a new penal reform and a new anti-radicalisation strategy to crack down on “passive training and indoctrination” which spawns “lone wolf” extremists, particularly online.

Martinez also warned of so-called “foreign fighters” – radicals who travel to conflict zones from other countries to train with violent groups and who authorities fear may then head to Europe.

“Spain is not so worried about the 60 or 70 fighters that have travelled from Spain to conflict zones,” said Francisco Jose Vazquez, head of the international terrorism unit in Spain’s military police, the Guardia Civil.

“We are more worried about the four or five thousand foreign fighters who instead of going back to their home countries, could end up in Spain.”

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Earthquake tremors felt in Islamabad, parts of K-P

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 05:50

ISLAMABAD: Earthquake tremors were felt in Islamabad and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Friday, Express News reported.

The earthquake measured 5.2 on the richter scale, according to the US Geological Survey. The epicenter of the earthquake was the border area between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

People rushed out of their homes and offices in panic as the earthquake tremors struck.

Tremors were felt as far asPeshawar, Swat, Mansehra, Chitral, Malakand, Fata and Bajaur Agency.

No casualties have been reported.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Obama vows 'more fair and just' immigration to US

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 04:33

WASHINGTON: Pledging to fix America’s “broken” immigration system, President Barack Obama offered five million undocumented migrants protection from deportation Thursday, allowing families to emerge from the shadows and seek work permits.

In a move that infuriated his Republican critics and drew unspecified pledges to counter it, Obama said nearly all undocumented people living in the country for more than five years and who have a child who is a US citizen or legal permanent resident can apply for a three-year work authorisation.

The president also broadened the program he launched in 2012 that provides temporary residency to young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16.

“There are actions I have the legal authority to take as president — the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me — that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just,” Obama said in a 15-minute speech broadcast from the White House.

The order will affect about 44% of the 11.3 million people — mostly from Mexico and Central America — living in the United States illegally and doing menial jobs that most Americans snub.

“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?” he asked.

But he quickly stressed that the sweeping order, the most comprehensive immigration step in years, “does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive.

“Only Congress can do that,” he added. “All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.”

Obama’s executive order shifts US policy from a dragnet approach to all illegal immigrants to a focus on deporting convicted felons and those who pose a danger to society.

People living and working illegally in the country and who meet the criteria can apply for deferred deportation from next spring, the White House said.

For much of this year, Republicans have warned that unilateral action on immigration would be an illegal and unconstitutional amnesty of millions of undocumented people.

But Obama shot back, saying he was taking needed action while congressional Republicans dithered.

“Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character,” Obama said.

The president invoked the centuries-old history of America as a compassionate nation of immigrants and described his plan as “commonsense” accountability.

But in his words lay a warning, and a message to lawmakers that he would stand tough on immigration law.

“If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the US illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up,” he said.

Since 1986, when then-Republican president Ronald Reagan granted a sweeping amnesty, all attempts at major reform of the country’s immigration system have failed.

Faced with congressional stalemate, Obama – who made immigration a top priority on taking office in 2009 – has decided, with two years left in the White House, to take the matter into his own hands.

Under the new rules, those applying for deferred action must have a clean criminal record, pass a background check, and pay taxes.

The plan expands the program allowing temporary residency cards for minors to include those of all ages, provided they arrived in country prior to January 1, 2010 and were 16 or younger when they entered.

And it also eases legal immigration rules for high-tech workers and students in “STEM” fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A new immigration law did pass the then-Democratically controlled Senate last year, but the Republican House of Representatives blocked it and failed to agree on its own alternative proposal.

Republicans, who will control both House and Senate in January after a huge win in this month’s midterm elections, say Obama is going too far.

Incoming Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Thursday that the new Congress will exact political retribution.

“If President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes his will on the country, Congress will act,” he said.

Obama will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada on Friday to further explain his immigration orders. The state is home to many undocumented Latinos.

The Republican National Committee derided the president’s action as an outright amnesty ordered unconstitutionally by a “one-man legislature.”

It urged party supporters who oppose the reform to contribute money to the party to help fight the order.

The political firestorm unleashed by Obama does not bode well for relations between Congress and the White House in the coming months.

Republicans cannot halt a presidential decree, but they can make Obama’s last two years extremely difficult – by blocking his choices for ambassadorial and administration posts, as well as judgeships.

But with the 2016 presidential election on the horizon, the debate within the Republican Party on immigration will be lively, as it can ill afford to offend Hispanic voters, 70% of whom voted for Obama in 2012.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Pakistan arrests 61 Indian fisherman

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 02:35

KARACHI: The Pakistan Maritime Security Agency arrested 61 Indian fishermen who were caught fishing in Pakistani waters in 11 boats.

The fishermen were fishing in Pakistani waters when Maritime Security Agency arrested them and handed them over to the police at the Docks Police Station in Kemari, Karachi.

The 61 offenders were then taken to a court for custody and will be transported to Malir jail.

This is not the first time that Indian fishermen have violated territorial water boundaries. On September 29, Maritime Security Agency had arrested 25 Indian fishermen and seized their boats for the same offence.

Both Indian and Pakistani fishermen are frequently arrested and detained for fishing in the neighbouring waters.

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Eavesdropping on Pakistani official led to investigation against US diplomat Robin Raphel: Report

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 02:28

WASHINGTON: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started a probe against former diplomat Robin L Raphel after American investigators intercepted a conversation this year in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat, New York Times reported.

A US State Department expert on Pakistan, Robin was stripped of her security clearance and made part of a federal counterintelligence investigation recently. The investigation that shocked diplomatic circles was conducted after months of secret surveillance on the former diplomat following the conversation.

The NYT report quotes senior American officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The officials said agents discovered classified information during an FBI raid last month at Robin’s Northwest Washington home.

Raphel is the former wife of US ambassador Arnold Raphel who was killed aboard a plane carrying Ziaul Haq in 1988 and has been a longtime South Asian expert and also worked as State Department adviser on civilian assistance for Pakistan.

Raphel has not been charged with a crime. The scope of the investigation is not known, and it is unclear exactly what the Pakistani official said in the intercepted conversation that led to suspicion about Robin, the NYT report said.

It is also not clear whether the conversation was by telephone, email or some other form of communication.

Still, the new details shed some light on the evidence that Justice Department prosecutors are weighing as they decide whether to bring charges and help explain why the investigations were carried out.

Earlier, a spokesperson for Robin said she was cooperating with investigators but has not been told the scope or nature or that she is the target of any probe.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Finding OBL in Pakistan proved war on terror was waged against wrong country: Karzai

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 01:44

NEW DELHI: Continuing with his anti-Pakistan rhetoric, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Friday said finding Osama bin Laden in Pakistan proved the war on terror was waged against ‘the wrong country’.  

Speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in India, Karzai said the death of al Qaeda founder in Pakistan shows that Nato and allied forces were wrong in entering Afghan soil.

Renowned Indian journalist Barkha Dutt, who was chairing Karzai’s talk, tweeted his statements:

Great talk with Hamid Karzai at #htsummit:"Osama in Pakistan proved that War on Terror was against the wrong country"

— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) November 21, 2014

According to an NDTV report, the former president – in an apparent dig that the war should have been waged in Pakistan instead - said US should have gone to the sanctuaries of terrorism, not Afghanistan. Karzai has been unrelenting in his criticism of Pakistan during his long rule and has continued to do so even after stepping down.

Following the September 11 attack, US-led troops intervened attacked Afghanistan to dismantle al Qaeda and remove Taliban from power in the country. The chief of the terror network, however, was killed as part of a highly secretive operation in Abbottabad in May 2011, ending the biggest manhunt in history.

“My stance against certain elements of US and Nato presence was principled,” Karzai, who has often said the war on terror should not be against Afghanistan, clarified.

“I stood up against the US because I wanted them to correct their behaviour with Afghanistan.”

Rejecting warnings by his one-time counterpart General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Karzai reiterated Afghanistan would not allow itself to become the battleground in a proxy war between India and Pakistan after the imminent departure of US-led troops.

“Afghanistan will not allow proxy war between India and Pakistan on its soil – and I’m sure India won’t do that,” Karzai said firmly, adding, “India will be there to educate our children, build dams, not to wage a proxy war against Pakistan – so I’ll give a reassurance to Musharraf that he did not worry.”

In an interview earlier this week, Musharraf warned that Pakistan would look to use ethnic Pashtuns to counter if India tries to achieve its goal of creating an “anti-Pakistan Afghanistan”. India and Pakistan have long accused each other of using proxy forces to try to gain influence in Afghanistan but the former president rejected a possibility of this.

Thanking India for participating in ‘every step’ of rebuilding Afghanistan as it suffered from invasions, foreign interferences and extremism, Karzai said, “a generation of forward-looking young Afghans have emerged and thanks a great deal to India having helped us in this regard.”

Further, commenting on Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, Karzai said, “we will engage with Pakistan as a sovereign, independent state conducting our own foreign policy and that will not be compromised.”

Karzai’s statement comes at a crucial time after the newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Pakistan and as Nato’s combat mission ends in December.

Pakistan was one of only three countries that recognised the Taliban regime that ruled in Kabul before being toppled in late 2001 after a US-led invasion in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The Taliban’s downfall led to Karzai’s installation as Afghan leader and he remained in power until stepping down as president earlier this year.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Indian troops allegedly kill 3 in Kashmir

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 01:39

Indian troops allegedly killed three people in Indian-administered Kashmir during a search operation, Radio Pakistan reported on Friday.

The search operation was conducted in Pulwama district.

Earlier in November, Indian Army had shot and killed two young men when their vehicle sped past a check post without stopping when it was asked to. The army accepted its mistake and an enquiry was initiated.

In a separate incident, 17-year-old Zakir Ahmad Tantray was also critically injured in an explosion when he was collecting woods in Hafruda Kalmuna area of Kupwara district.

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Neighbourly cooperation: Kabul seeks fast-track cargo clearance

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 00:47

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has called upon Islamabad to speed up the clearance of goods at Karachi port under the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement. The appeal came during the Afghan leader’s recent visit to Pakistan.

Ghani raised the issue during discussions with the high-level team of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He claimed that goods under the said Agreement were stranded for weeks in Karachi, causing losses to the Afghan traders. He requested for speedy and prompt clearance of the goods. Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar assured Ghani that orders will be issued to accommodate the request.

Meanwhile, Ghani has also accepted the offer of Pakistan’s military chief for the training of security agencies of Afghanistan in counter insurgency and counterterrorism. Both sides will start working on the modalities soon. Both sides have also stressed during their meetings that there is a need for transparent sharing of intelligence between the two countries to make counter terrorism efforts effective.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2014.

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CIA chief weighs ambitious overhaul of spy agency

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 15:09

WASHINGTON: CIA Director John Brennan has ordered a sweeping internal review that could dramatically change how the country’s leading spy agency is organized, officials said Thursday.

In a September 24 message to employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, Brennan said it was time “we take a close and honest look at ourselves” and examine whether the spy service needed to be restructured to be more effective.

“I have mentioned several times over the past year that I have become increasingly convinced that the time has come to take a fresh look at how we are organized as an agency and at whether our current structure, and ways of doing business, need adjustment to ensure our future success,” Brennan said in the message, portions of which were provided to AFP.

Brennan in late September asked several experienced intelligence officers “to conduct an in-depth review to determine whether the agency is optimized for enduring mission effectiveness, specifically in the areas of integration, agility and resilience,” CIA spokesperson Dean Boyd said.

The review was first reported by the Washington Post. And the newspaper, citing current and former intelligence officials, said the overhaul could include dismantling separate spying and analysis divisions in the CIA to build units focused on specific geographic regions or threats.

Boyd said the officers carrying out the review are still “in the information gathering stage” and it was too soon to say what possible options might be in play.

The impetus for a potential restructuring came in part because Brennan had become frustrated with efforts to bolster US intelligence on the situation in Syria, where American warplanes are now bombing Islamic State extremists even as a complex civil war rages in the country.

But Boyd said no crisis in particular prompted the review.

“There was not a singular event or singular threat that triggered the review,” Boyd told AFP. “We’re in a time when there are an incredible number of diverse threats, ranging from cyber to threats in the Middle East, to Ukraine, and others.

“We need to periodically evaluate ourselves so we are best positioned to meet these and future challenges.”

The CIA’s performance has come under criticism in recent years, with lawmakers accusing the agency of failing to grasp the importance of Arab uprisings at their outset and for failing to anticipate the onslaught of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Some experts and former intelligence officers worry the CIA has become pre-occupied with paramilitary operations — such as drone strikes on Al-Qaeda extremists — at the expense of traditional intelligence gathering and analysis.

In his note to CIA “colleagues,” Brennan — who once worked as an intelligence officer — said he has been struck by how technological advances now enable the agency to leverage data and expertise “in a real-time fashion.”

The agency needed to take full advantage of the new technology to ensure the CIA carried out its mission “with the speed, agility, and efficacy that are expected of us,” he wrote.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

India quarantines man recovering from Ebola

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 13:01

NEW DEHLI: India has quarantined a man who was cured of Ebola in Liberia but continued to show traces of the virus in samples of his semen after arriving in the country, the Indian Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement that the Indian national had been shown to be negative for Ebola in tests conforming to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, but had been quarantined as a precautionary measure when he arrived at New Delhi airport on November 10.

Later, tests of his semen detected traces of the virus. “It is a known fact that, during convalescence from Ebola Virus Disease, persons continue to shed virus in bodily fluids for variable periods,” the ministry said.

“However, presence of virus in his semen samples may have the possibility of transmitting the disease through the sexual route up to 90 days from time of clinical cure.” India has screened thousands of passengers travelling from Ebola-hit West Africa in recent weeks.

The Indian man carried with him documents from Liberia that stated he had been cured. He will be kept in quarantine until the virus is no longer present in his body, and will undergo tests over the next 10 days or so, a senior Health Ministry official said.

“It is not an Ebola case, he is an Ebola-treated patient who is negative in blood but whose body fluid is positive. He has no symptoms,” the official said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Peter Piot, a former WHO official who was one of the discoverers of the virus, has in the past expressed concerns about the disease spreading to India. There are nearly 45,000 Indian nationals living in West Africa.

Many experts say densely populated India is not adequately prepared to handle any spread of the highly infectious haemorrhagic fever among its 1.2 billion people.

Government health services are overburdened and many people in rural areas struggle to get access to even basic health services.

Hygiene standards are low, especially in smaller towns and villages, and defecating and urinating in the open are common.

The current outbreak of Ebola is the worst on record.

It has killed at least 5,177 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to the latest figures from the WHO.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Army hands over 13-year-old inadvertent LoC crosser to Indian authorities

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 12:03

Pakistan army on Tuesday evening handed over a Kashmiri boy to Indian authorities after he inadvertently crossed the Line of Control (LoC).

According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), 13-year-old Manzar Hussain inadvertently crossed the LoC in the Asal Kass Nullah of Khui Ratta sector.

A resident of Jhanagar village in Indian-administered Kashmir, Hussain was handed over to Indian authorities at Chakoti-Uri crossing point by Pakistani military officials.

According to a military source, the return of Hussain is in line with Pakistan’s policy to maintain the tenets of the ceasefire understanding of 2003 and in spirit of mutually agreed decision during DGMO-level talks held at Wagha border on 24 December, 2013 regarding early return of inadvertent line crossers.

However, the source added, Indian has rarely, maintained the sanctity of LoC nor acted upon the mutually agreed decision of DGMOs in December 2013, while citing numerous incidents of “kill or capture” strategy being employed by the Indian Army.

On June 14, 2014, India apprehended a 60-year-old civilian Chun Hussain in Jandrot sector while he was cutting grass near the LoC. The source revealed that Hussain has not been returned to date.

Thirty-seven-year-old Kala Khan, who was cutting grass near the LoC in Mendhar sector, also suffered a similar fate when he was picked up by Indian troops on August 6 this year. Later, Khan was killed under suspicious circumstances while in Indian custody. His body was returned to Pakistan on August 9, 2014.

On November 13, the Indian Army convicted seven soldiers, including two officers, and sentenced them to life imprisonment for the staged killing of three civilians in Jammu and Kashmir in 2010.

“The three young boys; Shahzad Ahmed Khan, Riyaz Ahmed Lone and Muhammad Shafi Lone were lured to the border area by the Indian Army on the pretext of giving them jobs,” said the military source, adding that the boys were later killed on the false pretext of being terrorists.

At the time of incident, Indian military authorities had made similar assertions to Pakistani military authorities, claiming the young boys were terrorists who had infiltrated the Indian side.

On 28 October this year, India killed a 70-year-old Muhammad Din in the Charikot sector. Muhammad Din was grazing goats near LoC.

A day later, on October 29, BSF had shot dead another Pakistani farmer, Tauqeer, who inadvertently crossed over the Zero Line in Shakargarh sector.

By contrast, on August 9 this year, BSF soldier Satyasheel Yadav was handed over to Indian authorities 48 hours after he had inadvertently crossed over into Pakistani territory near Bajwat-Sialkot sector.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

WHO braces for bird flu spread in European poultry, urges vigilance

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 10:00

GENEVA: A new kind of bird flu hitting European poultry farms will surely continue to spread among birds, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Tuesday, urging countries to be “vigilant”.

Whether the virus will spread to humans remains unclear, the United Nations (UN) health agency said.

“We should all be quite vigilant,” Elizabeth Mumford, a scientist with the WHO’s Global Influenza Programme, told reporters in Geneva.

Responding to questions, she said she “absolutely” expected more bird flocks to fall sick.

She stressed the importance of culling sick birds and monitoring fever in humans who have been in contact with sick birds to ensure any possible human infections are spotted.

Germany and the Netherlands have been confirmed to be dealing with the same subtype of a highly infectious strain of bird flu, called H5N8, which appears to be similar to a virus that has been infecting birds in China, Japan and South Korea since the beginning of the year, she said.

Britain has also been hit with “a highly pathogenic H5 outbreak also in poultry,” Mumford said. It was not yet confirmed, though, that it was the same H5N8 strain.

“It could be something else,” she said.

Renowned virologist and bird flu expert Ron Fouchier however told AFP Monday that British authorities had told European authorities that their virus was the same H5N8 strain as found in Germany earlier this month and now in the Netherlands.

An EU source told reporters that it is “most likely the same strain in all three places”.

Some 150,000 hens at an egg farm near Utrecht in the Netherlands were set to be culled, while 6,000 ducks on a Yorkshire farm in Britain were also to be put down, authorities said.

WHO said the virus had most likely moved from Asia to Europe with migratory wild birds.

Several hundred thousand birds, mainly ducks, have been culled over the last two months because of a South Korean outbreak.

So far, no cases of human infection have been detected, either in Asia or in Europe, Mumford said. She acknowledged though that “influenza viruses are very unpredictable, and it’s very difficult to tell what a new virus will do”.

“I must say that we really know very little about this virus, and until we get some experience with it, it’s a bit wide open.”

Since H5N8 seems to be spreading quickly among poultry, “we will probably see some human cases”, she told AFP.

But while some people may be infected by sick birds, so far it appeared unlikely that the virus would begin spreading between humans, she added.

The H5 component of the virus appeared similar to that found in the H5N1 strain of bird flu that has killed more than 400 people, mainly in southeast Asia, since first appearing in 2003, Mumford explained.

But the N-component was from a completely different virus with no human component, indicating it really prefers to attach to birds, she said.

The fact that no human cases have surfaced in Asia, where the virus has been circulating for some time, with authorities closely surveilling the situation, “is encouraging”, Mumford said.

Another positive fact, she said, was that in lab tests the virus responded to anti-virus drug Tamiflu, meaning if it did jump to humans, the medical community should have a tool to fight it.

In the meantime, WHO is urging people in Europe to avoid touching sick or dead wild birds.

People involved in culling the sick poultry should monitor themselves for fever for two weeks after coming into contact with the birds, Mumford said.

For consumers, she stressed that “poultry meat safely prepared and well-cooked is completely safe.”

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Foreign Office clarifies Sartaj Aziz statement on ties with militant groups

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 07:19

ISLAMABAD: Clarifying an earlier statement of the prime minister’s senior aide, Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Office on Tuesday said Aziz had made the statement in a “historical context.”

The statement comes a day after the adviser to the prime minister on national security and foreign affairs in an interview to BBC Urdu disapproved the conventional wisdom of indiscriminately targeting all shades of militants in the ongoing military operations in the tribal regions, arguing in favour of a more selective approach.

“Why should Pakistan target those who do not pose any threat to its security?” asked Aziz, arguing, “The enemies of [the United States of] America have become enemies of Pakistan for no reason.”

Referring to his statements, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam affirmed Pakistan’s commitment to fight all militants and said, “Pakistan has launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb and is taking action against all groups without any distinction and discrimination.”

“Pakistan’s policy and actions should be seen in the light of its commitment to fight terrorism in all forms and manifestations,” the spokesperson emphasised.


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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Indonesian police criticised over virginity tests

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 07:07

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s national police were urged Tuesday to halt virginity tests for women applying to join the force in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country with Human Rights Watch (HRW), saying the practice was harmful and humiliating.

The rights group said women applicants are required to be both unmarried and virgins, and the virginity test is still widely used despite the insistence of some senior police officials that the practice has been discontinued.

In a series of interviews with HRW, young women – including some who underwent the test as recently as this year – described the procedure as painful and traumatic.

The women told how they were forced to strip naked before female medics gave them a “two-finger test”, to see if their hymens were intact, a practice described by HRW as archaic and discredited.

“I don’t want to remember those bad experiences. It was humiliating,” said one 19-year-woman who took the test in the city of Pekanbaru, on western Sumatra island, and whose identity was not disclosed. ”Why should we take off our clothes in front of strangers? It is not necessary. I think it should be stopped.”

Nisha Varia, associate women’s rights director at HRW, described the tests as a discriminatory practice that harms and humiliates women. ”Police authorities in Jakarta need to immediately and unequivocally abolish the test, and then make certain that all police recruiting stations nationwide stop administering it.”

The tests contravene the police’s own guidelines on recruitment and violate international human rights to equality, non-discrimination and privacy, HRW said.

Police spokesperson Ronny Sompie said a “comprehensive health test” was carried out on all applicants, and officials wanted to ensure that candidates were free from sexually transmitted diseases.

He added the discovery that a woman was not a virgin did not necessarily mean she would fail the application process.

However HRW said that a posting on the police’s own website this month noted that female applicants must be virgins.

National Police High Commissioner Sri Rumiati told the rights group that colleagues had opposed her calls in 2010 to stop the tests and asked, “do we want to have prostitutes joining the police?”

Women currently make up about three percent of the 400,000-strong force, HRW said, but added the police had launched a drive to increase the number of female officers.

Society is deeply conservative in parts of Indonesia and some still value female virginity highly.

The issue hit the headlines last year, when the education chief of a city sparked outrage by suggesting that teenage schoolgirls should undergo virginity tests to enter senior high school.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

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