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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Police, army turn terror on Jaffna University students

Police, army turn terror on Jaffna University students

11/29/2012 Students wearing black bands were staging the protest rally opposite the university main entrance around 11 am when hundreds of police and military personnel attacked them with poles, wires and cables, seriously wounding at least seven of them.
Two Jaffna journalists who were covering the rally were also attacked, while four students were taken into to military custody during the clash.

Academic sources of the Jaffna University told the JDS that the students were “engaged in a peaceful rally to protest the military raid on the ladies hostels on Heores’ Day when the police, military and state intelligence officials unleashed their terror campaign opposite the University entrance”.

“The soldiers involved in the hostel raid on Tuesday were intimidating our students and at lease two female hostel inmates were threatened at gun-point not to commemorate the Heroes’ Day. That’s why our students organised this peaceful protest to condemn their act of terror,” he told JDS over the phone from the University complex.

'A retaliation for remembering'

“The soldiers were angry that students have somehow commemorated their heroes and lit the commemoration lamp despite many threats and intimidation. Today’s attack was nothing but a violent retaliation on the students for remembering their own sisters and brothers. This simply shows that we don’t have freedom even to cry silently in the North-East,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, Editor of the Jaffna Uthayan newspaper J. Premananth and Jaffna district MP E. Saravanabavan were attacked by the military intelligence personnel on Tuesday while covering the military raid on the university hostels on Tuesday. Speaking to press in Jaffna he confirmed that they were attacked by military intelligence personnel.
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Casting doubts: Afghan Taliban reject Kabul Ulema moot

Casting doubts: Afghan Taliban reject Kabul Ulema moot

The Afghan Taliban have rejected an upcoming conference of religious scholars, proposed during the Afghan peace envoy’s Islamabad visit last month, maintaining it was nothing short of ‘clear American intrigue’.
“While it appears that this gathering has been convened by the Kabul administration, the real players behind it are the Americans,” read a Taliban policy statement on Thursday.
“They want to survey Afghan religious scholars’ opinion regarding the 11-year jihad,” the statement maintained, adding, “This is clear American intrigue… they want to use the Ulema to clear their own ‘black picture’ and at the same time create mistrust among Mujahidin, paving a way for the US to perpetually control Afghanistan.”
The Taliban urged all religious scholars across the world, particularly those from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to boycott what they termed a ‘fraudulent gathering’.
“Participation in this gathering at a time of defeat shows not only your (Ulema’s) support for the US, but also your unfaithfulness towards the Mujahidin, who are your spiritual offspring… You are intellectually and religiously obligated to support your Mujahidin brothers, who follow the footsteps of the companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh),” the statement said, while addressing the Ulema.

While the Afghan government has started preparations for the conference, the Taliban’s statement raises concerns regarding the attendance of Pakistani religious scholars.
In a veiled reference to the Afghan Taliban, Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S), said the ‘main part to the conflict’ should also be invited to the conference.
“There are many Ulema in Afghanistan… If you invite scholars from the whole world but do not accommodate the Afghan Ulema’s opinion, then the conference will not produce any result,” Haq said while talking to The Express Tribune. He stressed, however, that religious scholars can play an important role in resolving the Afghan problem.
According to Afghan sources, a delegation of Afghan religious scholars is scheduled to visit Pakistan for a meeting with their Pakistani counterparts to extend an invitation to the conference and discuss other matters. They added the visit will be announced once Islamabad gives it a green signal.
Meanwhile, the Afghan ambassador in Islamabad, Umar Daudzai, recently met Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) to discuss the conference, a JUI-F leader told The Express Tribune. According to him, Rehman told the envoy that he would discuss the subject with his party. The JUI-F chief is believed to weild considerable influence on the Afghan Taliban.
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Pakistan puts MFN status for India on backburner

Pakistan puts MFN status for India on backburner

Pakistan is set to miss the target of granting India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status by December 31, 2012 due to vested interests, officials alleged.
The next possible cabinet meeting will be held on January 2, 2013 and the issue of granting MFN status to India is not on the agenda, the officials conceded. They further added that Pakistan has also missed the deadline of December 15, 2012 to abolish the negative list.

However, officials believe that right wing groups, backed by the agriculturist lobby, were opposing the MFN status to India. If the process is delayed by another month, there was delay of another six months due to elections and the settling down of the new government, the officials added.

As the year end nears, right wing groups have spearheaded their campaign against granting MFN status to India, and foremost among them is the Jamaatud Dawa. The leaders of this are holding protest rallies and issuing statements almost daily across the country, maintaining that ‘granting MFN status to India was not beneficial for Pakistan’. Their concerns are related to religious differences and strategic issues between the two countries.

Pakistan announced in October 2011 that it will grant MFN status to India from January 1, 2013. Meanwhile, trade relations improved significantly between the two countries.

India had granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996. However, non- tariff barriers remained intact on exports from Pakistan and both sides did not make much of progress towards trade liberalisation.

While all mainstream political parties are on board for enhanced and free trade with India, incidentally the move to delay granting MFN status to India is being spearheaded by the parliamentarians belonging to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

“Now when everything was in place for final approval, Senator Sughra Imam and MNA Noor Alam Khan both belonging to PPP have approached the top leadership of the country to delay the process,” said a senior commerce ministry official.

The agriculturalists have complained that after granting MFN status to India the local markets would be flooded with Indian goods which are cheap because of low input cost in India.

Meanwhile, experts and independent analysts have discounted concerns by both groups on the grounds that most matters have already been discussed during the past 2-3 years and also resulted in a relaxed visa regime between the two countries.

“The agriculturalists and right wingers are not being realistic – free trade is a reality of coming years,” said Dr Abid Sulehri, Executive Director, Sustainable Development Institute of Pakistan (SDIP).

He said that if Pakistan can survive after signing free trade agreement with China, than there is nothing to fear. Regarding the concerns of the right wing, he said: “They are in small numbers and have their own point of view which should not influence trade and commerce.”

However, the business community has reacted sharply to the visible delay and expressed concern.

“We have been working for more than two years continuously over the matter and huge investments have been made by both the countries in this regard – the delay is like falling back on the commitment,” said Iftikhar A Malik, Vice President Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

While objections raised by right wing groups are beyond its reach, the commerce ministry is holding meetings with the stakeholders in order to woo the agriculturalists.

“They are asking for more subsidies to make the sector competitive with India,” said Secretary Commerce Munir Qureshi.

“But we need to assess it thoroughly as there are three main branches of agriculture sector – fresh fruits and vegetables, commodities and the dairy,” he added.

It is important to note that the MFN status is to be granted by the Cabinet – the approval would be vetted by the law ministry and finally the commerce ministry will notify India in this regard.
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Saturday, 15 December 2012

India, Lanka, Maldives to cooperate on maritime security

India, Lanka, Maldives to cooperate on maritime security

India, Sri Lanka and Maldives will soon sign a trilateral agreement on maritime cooperation to pool resources and share data in the region for better control over the territorial waters, and detect suspicious movements.
Revealing this at the maritime security seminar, Galle Dialogue, here, Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives have recently been working on a trilateral agreement for cooperation in carrying out surveillance, anti piracy operations and in curbing illegal activities including maritime pollution. A key aspect of information sharing is Maritime Domain Awareness.

“Meetings have already been held at the Ministerial level and at the technical level, and we hope that the Memorandum of Understanding with regard to the trilateral cooperation between our nations will be signed in the near future. I am confident that multilateral agreements of this nature will be greatly instrumental in curbing many of the issues that the naval powers in the region face,” he said.

Noting that nearly half of the world's containerised cargo crosses the Indian Ocean every year, Mr.Gotabaya wanted better cooperation between the bigger and smaller navies in the region. “Unfortunately, it has to be admitted that there is a degree of mistrust between the major powers in the Indian Ocean region that presently limits the degree to which effective and long lasting multilateral cooperation can be achieved,” he said.

Detailing the Indian efforts in the region, Vice Chief of Naval Staff, R.K.Dhowan pointed out that piracy emanating from Somalia has been confined to an area of 700 nautical miles, largely due to effective patrolling and cooperation between navies. India too had contributed significantly to this effort, and had so far repulsed 40 pirate attacks. In addition, India had also agreements with Royal Thai and Indonesian naval forces to conduct coordinated patrolling in the east, around the region of the Malacca Straits.

India steps up presence in region

Meanwhile, in an effort to ensure better coordination and shorten response timings during a crisis, India has posted a Military Attache (MA) in the Maldives. So far, the MA based in Sri Lanka, was also in charge of Maldives. Captain RS Sunil, who was based at the Eastern Naval Command Headquarters at Visakhapatnam, took charge as MA last week at Male and is the first MA to be based in Maldives. India trains the Maldivian National Defence Forces and its police.

Only five countries – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and China – have diplomatic posts in Maldives. All the other countries either operate out of Colombo or New Delhi.
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