Posted on

Hariri says will clarify position on Lebanese crisis on his return to Beirut

PARIS (Reuters): Lebanon’s Saad Hariri said on Saturday that he would travel to Beirut in the coming days and announce his position on the crisis in his country after holding talks with President Michel Aoun.

“With regard to the political situation in Lebanon, I will go to Beirut in the coming days, I will participate in the independence celebrations, and it is there that I will make known my position on these subjects after meeting President Aoun,” Hariri said after meeting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Hariri resigned on November 4 in Saudi Arabia, blaming threats to his life and the “grip” of the powerful Iran-backed movement Hezbollah on the country.

His failure to return home afterwards led to speculation he was being detained by Saudi Arabia, which is locked in an increasingly tense battle for influence with Iran in the Middle East.

Posted on

Egypt opens Gaza border for first time since unity deal

GAZA CITY (AFP): Egypt opened its largely sealed border with Gaza on Saturday for the first time since a reconciliation agreement saw the Palestinian Authority take control of the crossing from Hamas.

A Palestinian official at the Rafah crossing said it had opened at 0700 GMT and was expected to stay open for three days.

“Egypt will open the crossing for humanitarian cases registered with the interior ministry,” the official said, adding that civilian and security personnel on the Palestinian side were all employees of the reconciliation government headed by Rami Hamdallah.

Up to 20,000 people from Gaza have applied to enter Egypt. during the brief reopening.

Egypt´s border with the Gaza Strip had been totally sealed since August, and was largely closed for years before that.

The Egypt-brokered deal is expected to lead to more regular opening of the Rafah crossing.

The head of the Palestinian Authority´s security services Majid Faraj held talks with senior Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in Gaza on Friday.

All Palestinian factions are due to meet in Cairo next week to discuss ways to move the reconciliation deal forward.

Both Israel and Egypt have maintained blockades of Gaza for years, arguing that they are necessary to isolate Hamas.

Posted on

Zimbabweans celebrate expected fall of Mugabe on Harare streets

HARARE (Reuters): Thousands of Zimbabweans flooded the streets of Harare on Saturday, waving national flags and singing and dancing in an outpouring of elation at the expected fall of President Robert Mugabe.

“These are tears of joy,” Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, told Reuters, holding aloft the Zimbabwean flag. “I’ve been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last.”

Posted on

Operation against Faizabad protesters deferred by 24 hours

ISLAMABAD (Monitoring Desk): Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Saturday morning ordered the district administration to defer by 24 hours an operation of security forces against protestors camped out at the Faizabad Interchange.

The minister’s orders to allow the protestors more time to disperse before taking action came shortly after a heavy contingent of Islamabad Police, Frontier Corps and Rangers personnel – equipped with tear gas and shell guns – arrived at the Faizabad Interchange early on Saturday morning. Television footage had shown the security personnel dressed in riot gear.

The decision to defer the operation was made after talks were held with the protestors. The district administration was not included in the talks between the government and the participants.

It was decided that Senator Raja Zafarul Haq will head a negotiating team which is expected to hold a second round of talks with religious leaders and scholars later today. The talks were ongoing on Saturday evening.

The protesters belong to various ‘religious’ parties, including the Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST), and have been calling for the sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid and strict action against those behind the amendment to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act 2017 – which had earlier been deemed a ‘clerical error’.

On Thursday, the National Assembly had passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2017 to restore Khatm-i-Nabuwwat laws to their original form and make sections relating to it “more effective.” Sections 7B and 7C of the Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002 were also restored to their original form via the bill.

Section 7B states that the status of Ahmadis remains as stated in the Constitution of Pakistan, while section 7C states that if an enrolled voter’s belief in the finality of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood is contended, they shall have to sign a declaration reaffirming their belief, failing which their “name shall be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters in the same electoral area as non-Muslim.”

In light of Thursday’s development, Iqbal said that the religious groups’ protest – which has been on-going since November 8 – is no longer justified.

In a continuing effort to find a peaceful solution to the protest, which has disrupted life in Islamabad and Rawalpindi for over a week, Iqbal appealed to the religious leaders and asked them to call off the protest.

Iqbal urged the religious leaders to end their sit-in for the sake of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) so that the city may be protected from harm.

He added that it was a legal obligation on the protestors to adhere to the orders of the Islamabad High Court, which had a day earlier directed the capital administration to clear the Faizabad Interchange within 24 hours.

The deadline set by the Islamabad High Court lapsed this morning while the possibility of a showdown between the government and the protestors loomed. Tension at the Faizabad Interchange, which had remained high in the morning, appeared to have quelled a little after Iqbal’s orders were issued.

In his appeal to the religious hardliners at Faizabad Interchange, Iqbal said that the ‘strengthening’ of Khatm-i-Nabuwwat clauses by the Parliament was “historical”. He assured the protestors that the clauses “will not be changed till the Day of Judgement”.

Posted on

Pakistan receives Indian reply to offer for meeting of Jadhav with wife: FO

ISLAMABAD (APP): Pakistan said on Saturday that it has received reply from India to its offer to arrange a meeting of an Indian national, who has been awarded death penalty over spying and terrorism with his wife.

Pakistani security forces had arrested the Indian Naval officer Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav alias Hussein Mubarak Patel on March 3, 2016 in a counter-intelligence operation from Balochistan, for his alleged involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan.

In April a military court handed down death sentence to Jadhav after he was found guilty. India has approached the International Court of Justice, which has stayed the conviction until a verdict is delivered.

On November 10 the Foreign Office said it has offered to India to host a meeting of Jadhav with his wife on humanitarian grounds.

“Indian reply to Pakistan’s humanitarian offer for Commander Jadhav received & is being considered,” the Foreign Ministry Spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said on his official Twitter on Saturday.

The spokesman said last week Pakistan decided to arrange a meeting of Commander Jhadev with his wife, in Pakistan, purely on humanitarian grounds and that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, had been informed about the decision.

Pakistan insists that Jhadev, a serving Commander of the Indian Navy, working with the Indian premier intelligence agency was apprehended by Pakistan law enforcement agencies after he illegally crossed over into Pakistan.

“He confessed before a Magistrate and the Court that he was tasked by RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) to plan, coordinate and organize espionage, terrorist and sabotage activities aimed at destabilizing and waging war against Pakistan,” a Foreign Ministry statement had stated last week.

Posted on

NAB orders corruption probe into 56 companies under Punjab govt

ISLAMABAD (APP): Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal on Saturday called for an inquiry into alleged corruption and hiring based on nepotism in as many as 56 corporations working under the Punjab government.

According to NAB sources, the anti-graft body has been receiving complaints of corruption, irregularities in hiring, and misuse of resources in the companies operating under PML-N led provincial government.

The directives to scrutinize the corruption in these companies have been given in light of complaints received, sources said.

However, NAB chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal has sent a clear instruction that none of the companies should be barred from working during the investigation, the sources added.

It should be noted here that a mega corruption case of Rs80 billion in Punjab companies is already underway at the Lahore High Court (LHC).

The court has already issued notices to the executives of the companies and other respondents in the case, besides seeking a reply by the provincial government.

Posted on

MQM-P Amir Khan indicted in case of sheltering terrorists

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: Amir Khan, a senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader, who opposed the PSP-MQM-P alliance earlier this month, was indicted in case of sheltering terrorists and criminals in MQM headquarters, Nine Zero here on Saturday.

Khan, who was performing Umra when MQM-P Chief Dr Farooq Sattar and Pak Sarzameen Party Chairman Mustafa Kamal held a joint news conference here on November 9 at Karachi Press Club.

He arrived at MQM-P office at Karachi the next day when Farooq Sattar in a presser backtracking from his announcement, that had invited irk of Mr Khan and other members of the Rabitta Committee.

On Saturday, the MQM-P faced double setback when in two different cases its important leader Amir Khan and Mayor Waseem Akhter were indicted.

In first case, an anti-terrorism court indicted senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Amir Khan and activist Minhaj Qazi in a case related to providing shelter to terrorists.

The judge read out charges against the accused persons, who pleaded not guilty and opted to contest the charges.

The court directed prosecution side to present its witnesses on next hearing on December 4 to record their testimonies.

Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court (SHC) issued a charge sheet to Mayor Waseem Akhtar and party leader Khawaja Izharul Hasan in a case pertaining to MQM August 22 rioting. According to reports, Qazi and Khan were presented before the ATC today.

During the hearing, police informed the court that an FIR has already been lodged against the leaders and they have been granted bail in the said case. The court was further informed that other party workers who are still at large have been declared absconders in the case.

The court asked the accused if they accept the charges against them, to which they replied in the negative. The court, while directing prosecutors to produce witnesses, adjourned the hearing till December 4.

Last year in August the Pakistan Rangers Sindh requested the Sindh High Court to annul the bail for Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Amir Khan, maintaining the accused had admitted before JIT that he was security in charge of Nine Zero, where huge quantity of arms was recovered during raid last year.

“The arms recovered from Nine Zero, where Amir Khan was security in charge, were to be used in acts of terrorism,” the Rangers’ counsel submitted in the Sindh High Court. The court after hearing the case adjourned it till 8th of the next month, asking the Rangers’ counsel to present more arguments in favor of its claim.

The Rangers’ lawyer submitted that 26 most wanted terrorists, including convicted killer of TV reporter Wali Khan Babar, were arrested from Nine Zero during the raid.

“Amir has admitted before that Joint Interrogation Team that he was security incharge and it was on the recommendation of JIT that a case of sheltering terrorists was lodged against Amir Khan,” the lawyer submitted.

On March 11, 2016, Pakistan Rangers Sindh had claimed to have recovered a large cache of the Nato’s stolen ammunitions and arrested condemned prisoners and target killers after the paramilitary forces conducted an early hour raid at the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) headquarters in Karachi’s Azizabad locality.

Rangers also took senior member Rabita Committee, Amir Khan, with them “for asking as why were hardened murderers, criminals and condemned convicts being kept at Nine Zero”.

While strongly deploring the Rangers’ raid, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Chief Altaf Hussain had lashed at the arrested workers, saying why the ‘wanted men’ faced the entire party with hardship by living in the party headquarters.

As Rangers’ operation was underway the local police were nowhere in view and no official word from the federal and provincial government was heard. Around hundreds personnel of the paramilitary force after breaking barricades leading to MQM headquarters seized the entire area from all 21 entrances and started operation inside the offices. Rangers also raided the adjacent houses and arrested a number of MQM activists and leaders.

“Pakistan Rangers Sindh has conducted a series of targeted raidsat Surrounding areas of 90 including Khursheed Memorial Hall today” stated a press release issued to Media, informing hardcore criminals have been arrested.

“Faisal Mota, Farhan Shabbir aka Mullah, Amir, Nadir and Ubaid K 2 were arrested during the raid” the paramilitary forces’ handout reads. According to Rangers spokesperson Faisal Mota was involved in murder of Wali Khan Babur and sentenced to death by ATC in the same case whereas the one Nadir was convicted and sentenced for 13 years term.

Posted on

Six killed in shooutout in held Kashmir

SRINAGAR (AFP): Five freedom fighters and an air force commando were killed during a fierce gunbattle Saturday in Indian-occupied Kashmir which also left another soldier injured, the Indian army said.

The shootout began when soldiers cordoned a neighbourhood in the northern area of Hajin after a tip-off that ‘militants’ were hiding there, said army spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia.

“Five militants have been killed in the operation,” Kalia said. “One IAF (India Air Force) soldier was martyred and another army soldier was injured.”

On Friday a ‘militant’ and a police officer were killed in the outskirts of the main city of Srinagar during a brief shootout.

Freedom fighters have for decades fought Indian soldiers and paramilitaries deployed in the disputed region, demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan.

The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.

Posted on

PPP’s Dr Asim denies of resigning from party position

KARACHI (INP): Leader of Pakistan Peoples Party and former petroleum minister, Dr Asim Hussain, on Saturday denied that he submitted resignation from his position of the party’s Karachi chapter presidency.

Asim’s statements contradicted each other as at the same time the PPP leader said he had stepped from the position as he was going out of the country for six weeks.

Asim was having an informal conversation with journalists at the accountability court.

When asked if he resigned under pressure after meeting Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan chief Farooq Sattar, Asim said he had not tendered anything in written.

The PPP leader said that those who were spreading rumours should be probed. “I will do whatever my party chief Asif Zardari asks me to do,” Asim said.

Recent reports over the matter suggested Asim stepped down as the president of PPP’s Karachi chapter saying he had to travel abroad for surgery. However, Asim had said he would stay affiliated with the party as a worker. In response to the decision, it was reported, the PPP leadership had said Asim would be given new and important positions.

The resignation letter was said to be accepted by PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who said Asim had done a lot for the party despite his health issues. Bilawal had further said Asim would be given new responsibilities once he returns after surgery.

Posted on

Sad state of the Middle East

Hatice Karahan

I was recently in Doha to join a conference held by UCLA. The conference, titled “Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future” and attended by significant international participants, addressed the future of the region in various aspects. Also, within this scope, a special session on “Turkey’s role in the Middle East” was held.
Honestly, the economic future of the Middle East is challenging. We are talking about a mixed picture in terms of economic size and the level of income per capita. Considering growth performances from past to present, we see volatile development. Solving the basic problems of societies, especially young unemployment and income inequality, requires countries to display a healthy and stable economic performance. However, the present structure does not and cannot provide a solid basis for this in general.
There is an important factor in developmental volatility as much as in the differentiation of income levels: Energy sources, especially oil. Obviously, there is hardly any country that has diversified its sectors like Turkey. Data for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) reveals that a significant part of the countries in the region are oil producers and expo-rters. Trade data in MENA confirms the situation very simply: Only two product gr-oups – roughly crude oil and propane – constitutes 30 percent of the region’s exports, followed by gold and diamonds. Therefore, regional economies, especially depen-dent ones, have a lot to do in terms of production diversification and risk elimination.
And in fact, the volatile economic performance of the Middle East, since the past, has been meaningful proof of the situation caused by this dependency. Indeed, long-term data indicates that volatility is more clearly seen in oil exporters.
Breaking the curse: As I have written earlier on the resource curse, and I will not repeat it. However, building an economic future for MENA is mainly possible with breaking this curse of dependency.
Indeed, the Middle East economy has not been able to show its true potential for decades and has always been below its potential. Today, the situation is progressing in the form of a repetition of history. The prescription can be defined as carrying our investment- appetizing reforms in company with macroeconomic stability. In recent days I have also mentioned that countries that have become aware of the diagnosis and treatment of this disease, especially Saudi Arabia, are in a hurry to set a vision. Therefore, some strategies have been introduced in order to break the curse of attractive resources. However, how it will be practiced is unclear for now.
Another curse: On the other hand, making the future of the Middle East prosperous, of course, will not be possible only with reforms that break the curse of resources. The basic condition to achieve this is to get rid of the other curse – war and fighting – that has long haunted the region, and to achieve stability. At this poi-nt, it is hard to cling to hope.
Sadly, the recent Middle East situation is gradually strengthening the projection of the controversy between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the region. This struggle for power, which is also seen in Lebanon’s recent oddity and in the message that has been launched in Riyadh, is undoubtedly escalating with multiple factors such as the U.S. and Israel. Again, Qatar’s crisis, a related issue of the period, is still waiting for solution, and more precisely for intention. While Iraq cannot attain peace, Syria and Yemen are still suffering. It is becoming increasingly difficult to talk about a safe economic future in the Middle East, as this aggression, which has led countries to instability, has caused political and economic shocks. It is ugly to talk about reform and visions in such an environment where strife is persistent while struggling with terror and a refugee crises. However, agendas that will bring long-term power to governments by satisfying the people are right here.
While continuing its struggle to play a constructive role in the region, Turkey is also trying to observe sensitive balances in its relations. As President Erdogan pointed out during his visit to the Gulf this week, the most basic requirement is to resolve the crises in our region with common sense and to make peace dominant. In short, breaking two curses in the region is both challenging and necessary. Otherwise, the Middle East’s current sad state will never turn into prosperity.