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Tuesday, 13 March 2018

13 March ND: No deadline for linking Aadhaar card to services - bank accounts, mobile numbers till final verdict: SC / Gujarat Govt Will Not Have to Pay to Rebuild Shrines Destroyed in Gujarat Riots



Evening NEWS DIGEST  
13 March 2018:24 Jamadiul-2 1439:Vol:9, No:141
INDIA
No deadline for linking Aadhaar card to services - bank accounts, mobile numbers till final verdict: SC
Supreme Court has extended indefinitely the deadline for linking Aadhaar with services like mobile phones, tatkal passports and bank accounts from March 31, 2018 till the 5-judge Constitution Bench led by CJI Dipak Misra pronounces its final verdict on the validity of the Aadhaar scheme.Remarking that it had enough of such “piecemeal” notifications and legislations issued by the Govt  to link one service or the other, Justice Misra said it is time the court stepped in and stopped passing interim orders extending the deadline. There should be a sense of certainty that citizens would not be harmed or their services would not be curtailed even as the very Aadhaar scheme is under the SC’s microscope.On Dec.15, 2017, Bench extended Aadhaar linkage deadline from Dec.31, 2017 to March 31, 2018. March 13 order is more or less identical to the interim order passed on Dec.15, 2017 except for the fact that March 31, 2018 continues to be the deadline for linking Aadhaar to subsidies, benefits and services prescribed under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act of 2016.Despite submissions made by senior advocate Shyam Divan and advocate Vipin Nair that the indefinite extension of the deadline should include all services, including those under Section7, the court restricted its relaxation of the deadline to services outside Section 7.Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act says that the Centre and State Govt s can insist on Aadhaar “for the purpose of establishing identity of an individual as a condition for receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service for which the expenditure is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India”.To undergo authentication to access services under Section 7, an individual has to either produce his Aadhaar card or Aadhaar enrolment application.Lawyers for the petitioners hint that the court may have excluded Section 7 benefits from the extension because it is statutorily protected by Aadhaar Act itself, whereas the other linkings like PAN, mobile phones, etc., are based on other statutes or even executive notifications.The fact that time is running out for linking Aadhaar and citizens should not be left in a state of uncertainty was highlighted by one of judges, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, on the Aadhaar Constitution Bench itself.“We are dealing with the entire financial system… We cannot let this state of uncertainty prevail… We cannot tell them, like on March 27, whether the deadline is extended or not… A banker cannot be expected to seek compliance from customers within seven days,”Justice Chandrachud addressed Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal during a hearing on March 7. thehindu
SC extends March 31 deadline of Aadhaar linking till it gives its order
Gujarat Govt Will Not Have to Pay to Rebuild Shrines Destroyed in 2002 Gujarat Riots
New Delhi: Supreme Court has refused to reconsider its decision, which had set aside the Gujarat High Court order for paying from tax payers' money to rebuild destroyed shrines during the communal riots.A bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra has dismissed the review petition filed by the Islamic Relief Committee, Gujarat (IRCG), noting there was no merit in the plea.The bench upheld the previous judgment and found no error apparent on the face of the record, requiring the top court to reconsider its view.With the dismissal, the apex court had stood firm on its view that tax payers' money cannot be used to build or rebuild any religious structure in the wake of the constitutional bar against it under Article 27. Article 27 in Constitution prohibits spending of public money for religious purposes or promotion of any religion.The object of Article 27 is to maintain secularism, the SC had noted in its Aug. 2017 judgment when it had set aside the HC order.The Court had then allowed the appeal filed by the BJP-led Gujarat Govt against the HC order directing it to pay compensation to over 500 shrines damaged during the 2002 riots.News18
Earmark separate quota for Haj aspirants aged 70 and above: SC
New Delhi; Supreme Court has directed the earmarking of an "exclusive quota" for Haj pilgrims aged 70 and above and preference being given to pilgrims in the age group of 65 to 69 years who have already applied for the pilgrimage five times or more.The bench of CJI Dipak Misra, Justice A. M. Khanwilkar and Justice D. Y. Chandrachud said that people who have crossed 70 years would get the benefit of a separate exclusive quota and those between the age group of 65 to 69 who have applied 5 times or more would also get the benefit of preferential consideration for the pilgrimage.The court order came in the course of the hearing of a plea by the Kerala Haj committee seeking more quota for the Haj pilgrimage as it has far more applicants and not many of them can be accommodated.It has contended that Bihar, which gets more quota for Haj pilgrims, is not able to utilise it as there are not many applicants there.-IANS
Iran says it has offered Pakistan and China participation in India's Chabahar project
New Delhi: In what may come as a shock to India, Iran said it offered Pakistan and China participation in the Chabahar project, a port that is being built by India for the express purpose of bypassing Pakistan.Pakistan's Dawn paper reported today that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif yesterday invited Pakistan to participate in Chabahar seaport project and in the development of its link with the Gwadar Port "as he sought to allay concerns here (in Pakistan) over Indian involvement in the Iranian port."“We offered to participate in CPEC. We have also offered Pakistan and China to participate in Chabahar,” said Zarif, who is on a 3-day visit to Pakistan, while delivering a lecture at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, said Dawn.Chabahar is said to be becoming a success story in the India-Iran relationship. First phase of the Chabahar port in south-east Iran, which India is developing, was inaugurated in December last year. The port opened a new strategic transit route between India, Iran and Afghanistan that bypassed Pakistan. It is expected to cut transport costs/time for Indian goods by a third and likely to ramp up trade among India, Afghanistan and Iran in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi for trade with the 2 countries.Given this context, India's not likely to be pleased with the Iranian foreign minister's comments. It's possible though that Zarif was merely making conciliatory remarks.That's because he went out of his way to assure Pakistan that its ties with India are not in conflict with Islamabad.Zarif drew a comparison with Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arabia and said that just like that relationship does not tarnish Islamabad's ties with Tehran, India's and Iran's relationship isn't going to affect Pakistan negatively, reported Mehr New. TOI
Gujarat: Muslim youth dies, 5 of 7 ‘Bajrang Dal members’ arrested
Ahmedabad:A 32-year-old Muslim man, Farnaz Saiyed, who was attacked by alleged Bajrang Dal members at Chhatral town of Gandhinagar district a week ago, died on Monday at a hospital here. His mother, Roshanbiwi Syed, who was also injured in the attack, is recuperating at the hospital.Meanwhile, police arrested 5 of the 7 accused . “Other 2 will be arrested soon. We are looking into the matter and probe is on,”said SP of Gandhinagar Virendra Yadav.According to family members, Farnaz and his mother were attacked by Bajrang Dal members for disobeying their diktat of remaining indoors. “The tension started on Dec.6 when Bajrang Dal led a procession through the Muslim-dominated Kasbavaas in Chhatral to mark the demolition of the Babri mosque. Both had gone to graze their cattle on March 5, when they were attacked by Bajrang Dal members. They cut my sister’s fingers and hit my nephew on his head. This is not the fist time that such an attack has taken place in our village,” said Farnaz’s uncle Ahmed Hussain Sabbir. Police admitted that incidents of communal violence have been recurring at the town. “In other cases that have happened in the recent past, we have made arrests and some matters are also in the court. We are aware of the recurring incidents and we are ensuring that there is no tension,” said the SP.Meanwhile, family members allowed postmortem of Farnaz after a daylong agitation by members of the Muslim community. They were demanding arrest of accused and compensation to the family. Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani, who visited the hospital, said, “Time and again memorandums have been given to the Collector and the SP about violence in the area, but no action has been taken.”indian express
Ishrat encounter case: DG Vanzara seeks discharge, says chargesheet ‘concocted’
Ahmedabad:Ex-IPS officer DG Vanzara, a key accused in 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter case, has filed an application before the special CBI court seeking discharge from the case, calling the CBI’s chargesheet in the case as “politically motivated”. The special court on Monday issued notice to the CBI, directing the agency to reply by March 28.In his discharge application, Vanzara has claimed that CBI’s chargesheet is “politically motivated…with a view to topple the democratically-elected (Gujarat) Govt, (and the) entire plot appears to have been deployed by the then central Govt  (led by UPA)…”  He has also claimed that PM Narendra Modi, who was then Gujarat chief minister, was “interrogated” by the police in connection with the alleged fake encounter case.indianexpress
2009 Mangaluru Pub Attack Case: All 31 Sri Ram Sene Activists Acquitted
A local court on Monday right-wing fringe outfit Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik and 31 others in the 2009 Mangaluru pub attack case for lack of evidence.Third Judicial Magistrate of First Class Court R Manjunath stated in his order, "The accused are acquitted."Sri Ram Sene activists had allegedly barged into the pub on January 24, 2009, and assaulted some women and men, claiming they were violating traditional Indian values.The incident had generated national outrage after the video clip of the attack went viral.It depicted several men allegedly dragging women at the pub by their hair, slapping and roughing them up and accusing them of "loose morals".He had also submitted that the police had falsely filed complaints against them.PTI
After 35 years, AMUSU gives life membership to a woman, felicitates Teesta Setalvad
Agra:After 35 years, AMU Students’ Union (AMUSU) bestowed “life membership” of the body upon a woman and honoured social activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been pursuing Gujarat riots cases.According to AMUSU president Mashkoor Ahmad Usmani, Mother Teresa was last woman honoured with the union's life membership in 1983. He said a total of 5 women, including Sarojini Naidu and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, had been honoured so far.“Teesta has been given the life membership of the union for her contribution in fighting against fascism and for the rights of the weak,” he said.Usmani said that over 130 people, including Dalai Lama, Jawaharlal Nehru, CV Raman, had been given life membership of AMUSU. After the ceremony, Setalvad said that she was elated to get this recognition and it’s a matter of pride for her as the earlier recipients of this award included great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Azad and others. She said, “I will have to continue my fight and work and this honour will further boost my morale.” She said the AMUSU will have to fight against the prevailing “odd situations” and they will need to involve Dalits and farmers with them.TOI
‘They Could Not Kill Me As I Had Security, So They Killed Gauri Instead’: Bhagawan
New Delhi:The next bullet after journalist Gauri Lankesh was for Professor K.S.Bhagawan as the Karnataka police probe of Hindutva gunrunner KT Naveen Kumar has now revealed. A fact confirmed by Bhagawan, with the startling revelation that he was on their target, according to all reports, “and am still alive only because Karnataka Govt provided me with security cover. Otherwise I would have been gone 6 months ago, it would have been all over.”“I have survived because of the love and affection and support I have got from all over,” he said.Professor, well known for his works questioning blind religiosity and superstition, said that Gauri Lankesh was killed as the conspirators could not get to him. He said that he had been at the receiving end of threats and abuse ever since he wrote a book on first Shankarcharya. “I have some knowledge of Sanskrit and when I examined his works I found he was a hater of mankind,” Bhagawan said, clearly undeterred by the threats that make life uncertain and vulnerable for him and his 70 year old wife. Clearly book has many readers, and as he pointed out it is running in its 19th edition and has been translated in a number of languages.Asked if he was worried or afraid, he dismissed the idea. “Not at all, a while ago my wife told reporters asking her if she was fearful that life is uncertain for everyone, one can die today or tomorrow, and it is better to have died for a cause,” he said. And then laughed with, “when I heard her say that since then I have been very courageous and have lost all fear.”thecitizen
‘Impressed’ by role in Lankesh killing, accused was given second target: Bengaluru Police
9 CRPF men killed in Maoists' ambush in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district
9 CRPF personnel were killed and two were injured in an ambush by Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on Tuesday.“Maoists targeted an MPV [Mine Protected Vehicle] carrying 10 CRPF men in Sukma today. There is a possibility of many of them being killed in that blast," D. M.Awasthi, Special DGP, Anti-Naxal Operations unit of the Chhattisgarh police, said. "Firing has stopped now."Extra forces have been sent to the spot and the Sukma DSP has also reached the spot. A statement issued by the CRPF said that the encounter took place between CRPF’s 208 CoBRA  battalion and Maoists at 8 a.m. today.“Seeing the response of 208 CoBRA, the Maoists fled away. Again, at 12.30 p.m., the Maoists targeted another team of 212 battalion of CRPF on Kistaram–Palodi road in Sukma District in which a mine protection vehicle was blown off by triggering an IED. Injured personnel are being evacuated by helicopter to Raipur,” a CRPF official said.thehindu
Chhattisgarh Maoist attack: 9 CRPF personnel killed in IED blast
​Haseeb Drabu’s removal puts question mark on BJP-PDP ties ahead of 2019 polls
Srinagar: On Jan.1, 2015, late Mufti Sayeed during a family outing in Gulmarg assigned Haseeb Drabu the task to cobble up a political alliance with BJP. 3 years later on Monday he was sacked from J&K cabinet for referring to Kashmir as ‘social issue’.Drabu, a banker and economist was the main interlocutor between BJP and PDP. He managed to weave the alliance twice in the last three years and rose to become the finance minister of the state within a year of his formal entry into the party in 2014. J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti took the decision of sacking Drabu on Monday, after she returned from her 3-day visit to New Delhi.The mounting pressure from within the party and massive criticism from opposition and Hurriyat leaders in wake of his speech at a business function in Delhi forced Mehbooba to take the decision. During his speech at a function in Delhi titled Kashmir: The Way Forward, Drabu said, “Kashmir is not just a political issue but a social problem…I think we have been barking up the wrong tree.” Drabu refused to comment on the developments.“The decision of the party is basically asserting the core ideology of PDP. Agenda of Alliance (AoA) is a political document and if he says there is no political issue he hits at the basic idea of the party. Whatever are the contours of the issue, it has to be solved politically,” a senior PDP minister told ET. The finance and labour ministries will remain under Mehbooba.PDP will take a call on Drabu’s party membership in the next few days. He has won assembly polls from Pulwama's Rajpora constituency.TOI
Kathua rape, murder case: CM Mehbooba rejects demand for CBI probe as protests boil over
Jammu;Even as locals continued taking out rallies seeking a CBI enquiry into the alleged rape and murder of an 8-year-old Bakerwal girl in J&K’s Kathua district, CM Mehbooba Mufti has ruled out transfer of the investigation to any agency other than the crime branch. “Some people are creating misgivings about the progress in the Kathua case. There is no scope for any misunderstanding about the nature of the investigation or the process followed,’’Mufti tweeted.indianexpress
Families of missing persons stage silent protest in Srinagar against enforced disappearances
Srinagar:The association of Parents of Disappeared Persons(APDP) staged a silent sit-in at Pratap Park here on Saturday, March 10,against what it termed as state and union Govt s’ negligent approach towards tracing out their family members, subjected to enforced disappearance since 1989 across the state.The family members of the disappeared youth, mostly females, during their silent-sit in castigated the successive govts for being indifferent towards their pain and agony.Family members alleged that their dear ones have been subjected to enforced disappearances by the Indian forces and their related agencies from their homes, streets and even roads.Members carrying placards and banners reading, ‘Where are our loved ones, ‘stop crime against humanity, what lies beneath?’ And pictures of the victims sought answers from the Govt  over the enforced disappearances.TCN
RSS’ remark on Ram mandir contempt of court; court must take action: Maulana Arshad Madani
New Delhi: Expressing concern over the provocative statement made by the RSS that ‘only Ram Mandir and nothing else will be built in Ayodhya’, President Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, Maulana Syed Arshad Madani said this is contempt of court hence court itself should take notice of it and take action.Meanwhile, President Jamiat Ulama has expressed satisfaction over the preparation of Jamiat Maharashtra legal cell for the daily hearing regarding Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute which will begin from March 14.Taking stock of the situation Maulana Arshad Madani said our preparation is complete, our advocates are ready to argue in the court and we are hopeful that the court will give judgment on the basis of historical facts and available documents.He lamented that while the case is in the court some people are giving statements.siasat
60% of Modi Followers on Twitter Are Fake: Report
With 41 million followers on Twitter, PM Narendra Modi is among the most followed politicians on the micro blogging site. However, a recent analysis has revealed that Modi is on top among world leaders with fake followers.An infographic prepared by Twiplomacy and made public last month reveals the percentage of fake followers of some top world personalities.This shows that Modi has 60% fake followers on Twitter, followed by Pope Francis with 59% fake followers. US President Donald Trump has 37% fake followers.  Data about fake followers has been determined by Twitter Audit.“World Leaders and their Fake followers. Some of the most followed world leaders and their share of bot followers as determined by http://twitteraudit.com. Graphics prepared by @Saosasha @gzeromedia #DigitalDiplomacy,” tweeted Twiplomacy on 21 Feb.The revelation about fake followers of Modi has pushed his critics to come up with comments.“24.3million followers of @NarendraModi are fake, according to this study. He has the highest number of fake followers in the world, mainly manufactured in that hate-bot factory called the BJP IT Cell, and its various offshoots. So what does this tell you of his Govt?” asked Angshukanta, a Twitter user.Caravan
Hadiya denies meeting Salafi hardliner who claimed to have converted her to Islam
Kozhikode:Hadiya has denied meeting Fasal Musthafa, a hardline Salafi practitioner,and his wife Shirin Shahana, who had claimed to have converted her to Islam.“I haven’t met Fasal Musthafa in person. I haven’t even talked to him over the phone. I don’t know him. I think he is the husband of Shirin Shahana, to whom I have talked over the phone. But I severed all my ties with them when I realised that the Islam they preached to me wasn’t right. It was then I went to Sathya Sarani,” she said.But as per the statement of Musthafa, recorded in the judgment of the Kerala High Court in a writ petition filed by Hadiya’s father Asokan KN, it shows that “they were introduced to Ms. Akhila by his wife’s cousin, Sri. Shanib, that Ms. Akhila was in constant contact with his wife clearing her doubts about Islam. In 2015, Sept, his wife had called Ms. Akhila when they were at Ernakulam. Thereupon, she had come to Kaloor bus stand. It was on the said date that his wife recited the necessary verses and made her accept Islam religion. According to him, she had assumed the name ‘Aasiya’. She had travelled with him and his wife in their car and was dropped off close to her house.”In its status report submitted to the Supreme Court,NIA had claimed “Akhila aka Hadiya was converted to Islam by puritan Salafi practitioners Shirin Shahana and Fasal Musthafa, who are understood to be in Yemen now.”newindianexpress
Muslim women hold protest in Rajasthan's Sikar against triple talaq bill
Sikar:Scores of burkha-clad women held a protest march against Triple Talaq Bill in Rajasthan's Sikar, which criminalises the practice of instant divorce. The women demanded that no changes should be made to Muslim Personal Law.They covered the city raising slogans against the move.After the protest march, a delegation of Muslim women handed over a representation to additional district collector Jaiprakash Chaudhary, addressed to the President and Prime Minister.ANI /PTI
Catholic church claims attack on hospital, land owner claims removed encroachment
Bhopal:A missionary hospital in Ujjain was allegedly attack by a group of locals led by BJP activists on Monday following a dispute over a piece of land, which both sides claim belong to them.Carrying a JCB group damaged the hospital gate, a generator and disrupted electric and water supply striking fear among patients and staff, alleged PRO of Catholic Church in MP Fr Maria Stephen. He said nurses who tried to stop the attackers were harmed and beaten up. He said nearly 100 people pulled down the compound wall and put up an iron fencing inside the hospital premises.Though several police personnel passed by no one intervened and the attack continued unabated. The hospital came up in 1974 when there were no health care facilities in villages. Sisters and doctors went to nearby villages and conducted many camps and supplied free medicines.
PNB discloses $145 million additional exposure in fraud probe
PNB has told the police that it has uncovered additional exposure of about Rs.9.42 billion ($145.2 million) in connection with a massive alleged fraud, according to a court filing seen by Reuters.In what has been dubbed as the biggest fraud in India's banking history, PNB, the country's second-biggest state-run lender, said last month that it had been defrauded of about $2 billion by two jewellery groups who raised credit from overseas banks based on fraudulent guarantees issued in collusion with rogue PNB staff.In a court filing on Tuesday, police said Gitanjali group of companies controlled by jeweller Mehul Choksi allegedly defrauded PNB of Rs.70.8 billion ($1.09 billion). PNB had previously pegged its exposure to the Gitanjali companies at Rs.61.38 billion.The new disclosure takes PNB's overall exposure in the still unravelling fraud case to well over the $2 billion mark.Reuters
India still largest arms importer, spent more than $100 b in last 10 years: SIPRI
New Delhi:India continued to be the largest weapons importer in the world over the last five years and arms exports from the US to the country jumped 557% in 2013-17 as compared to 2008-12, a Stockholm-based think tank said in a report released on Monday.India’s overall imports climbed 24% in the 5-year period, accounting for nearly 12% of all global imports, reported the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), according to whose findings India has been the largest weapons importer for over a decade despite the thrust since 2014 under the Make in India mission to build indigenously.India spent more than $100 billion on buying new weapons and systems during 2008-17, with imports accounting for around 60-65% of the country’s military requirements. India has inked a raft of contracts during the last decade for fighter jets, special operations aircraft, submarine hunter planes, lightweight howitzers, artillery guns and other weapons and systems.HT
WORLD
Blast hits Palestinian PM's Rami Hamdallah convoy in Gaza
An explosion has struck the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah upon his entrance into the Gaza Strip, lightly injuring several people. The explosive device detonated shortly after Hamdallah and his convoy passed through the Israeli-controlled Erez checkpoint, known Palestinians as Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza on Tuesday. Hamdallah was unharmed and appeared on live television shortly after the incident at inauguration of a wastewater treatment facility. However, 5 others were lightly injured in the blast.Palestinian Authority intelligence chief Majed Faraj was part of the convoy."This attack is an attempt to kill all reconciliation efforts. It is a dangerous step aimed at spreading disorder and fighting among our people," said Munir al-Jaghoub, heads Fatah's information department at Office of Mobilisation and Organisation."We demand that Hamas expedites its investigation. Developments have proven that Hamas has completely failed in providing security in Gaza, just as it has failed in providing a decent life for our people in the strip," added Jaghoub. Iyad al-Buzom, Gaza's interior ministry spokesperson, said the act of placing blame "has a political dimension". "Here in Gaza, we take all the security precautions to welcome all the convoys and delegations and particularly the prime minister as he entered Gaza," he said.He added that "several suspects were arrested a short while ago," and that an investigation "to find out who was behind the explosion" is under way. Mustafa Ibrahim, a Gaza-based political analyst said, "We will hear Fatah saying that some membersof Hamas do not want reconciliation, and likewise, we will hear Hamas saying this could have been a fabricated attack by Fatah's security services."Al Jazeera
Hamas condemns attempted assassination of PM
An explosive device has targeted convoy of Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Hamadallah after it entered the Gaza Strip.Spokesman of the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza Iyad Al-Bozom confirmed that the explosion targeted Hamadallah’s convoy and stressed there were no casualties.He also reiterated that Hamdallah continued his way to the planned inauguration of a wastewater treatment facility in the north of the Gaza Strip.PA President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Hamas for this “sinful attack” against the prime minister and said he would hold an urgent meeting with his aide to study how to respond to it.On Twitter Hamas condemned “the crime of targeting Palestinian PM Rami Hamadallah, considering it part of attempt to destabilise security in Gaza and to foil efforts to achieve national unity”.At the same time Hamas condemned the “ready accusations” of PA chief.Following attack Hamadallah said:“I will return to Gaza despite what happened today and I call on Hamas to allow the Govt  to effectively control Gaza Strip. What happened today will not stop us from continuing reconciliation efforts.”MEMO
Egypt likely to oust Abbas in favour of his rival Mohamed Dahlan
Egyptian intelligence is likely seeking to oust the PA President Mahmoud Abbas in order to pave the way for his rival Mohammed Dahlan to replace him, Arab48.com reported yesterday.In an intelligence report prepared by the Chief of the PA’s Intelligence, Majed Faraj, and raised to Abbas, Faraj warned Abbas against falling into the “trap of reconciliation” brokered by Egypt.The report doubted the intentions of Egyptian intelligence officials, who are visiting the Gaza Strip and holding meetings with officials from Hamas and other Palestinian factions. The report claimed that the goal of ongoing reconciliation efforts is to pave the way for the dismissed Fatah leader Mohamed Dahlan, who is supported by UAE-Egyptian camp, to take up the PA presidency.MEMO
Paraguay, Honduras to open embassies in Jerusalem
Paraguay and Honduras have said that they are ready to open their embassies in Jerusalem, a senior Israeli diplomatic source told the Israeli army radio on Sunday.According to Quds Press the senior source said that the two countries are ready “in principle” to open embassies in Jerusalem if the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu first makes an official visit to their countries. Honduras voted against the UN resolution which condemned the US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but Paraguay abstained. US envoy to the US Niki Haley visited Honduras and commended its vote against the US decision. US threatened to cut aid to the countries which voted against its decision at the UN.middleeastmonitor
Indonesia university revokes niqab ban after criticism
Indonesia: An Indonesian university whose ban on niqab face veils made global headlines has reversed the policy following criticism that it trampled on personal choice. Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta issued the edict last week to more than 3 dozen niqab-wearing students - and warned they could be expelled for non-compliance.The school, which has about 10,000 students, had said the now-cancelled rule was aimed at countering religious extremism in world's biggest Muslim majority country."The guidance concerning students using a face veil will be revoked in order to maintain an academic climate that is conducive to fairness," said a statement issued by the university at the weekend.Backers of the new rules said wearing the full veil with a small slit for the eyes was not a religious obligation, but critics saw anti-niqab appeal as impinging on individual rights.AFP
Afghanistan stares at health crisis with 1 million female drug addicts, 100,000 children hooked
New Delhi: Afghanistan is staring at a massive public health crisis with more than three million drug addicts, a million of whom are women and 100,000 of whom are children below 10 years of age, reported the country's Tolo News.In fact, the total number of those addicted in the war-ravaged country could be a lot higher than three million, because when that number was calculated last year, public health officials had no idea that so many women were also hooked.As it is, Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of poppy opium, which is used to make heroin. And far from its production declining, the UN says that opium production in the country actually rose 87% in 2017 from 2016. The increase is attributed to a rapid expansion of territory used to cultivate poppy, no thanks to the Taliban which profits from the crop and encourages its cultivation.The women in the country more often than not pick up the habit from the men in their families. Several women told Tolo News they turned to drugs as their husbands were addicts.TOI
US picking up Taliban interest in Afghan peace talks: US Defense Secretary  Mattis
Kabul:US is picking up signs of interest from Taliban elements in exploring the possibility of talks with Kabul to end the more than 16-year-old war, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday as he made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan.“There is interest that we’ve picked up from the Taliban side,” Mattis told reporters before landing in Kabul, saying the signs dated back several months.Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered talks without preconditions with the Taliban insurgents last month, in what was seen by US officials as a major overture from Kabul.Mattis said some of his indications, which he did not detail, dated back before Ghani’s remarks.“We’ve had some groups of Taliban – small groups – who have either started to come over or expressed an interest in talking,” Mattis said.“In other words, it may not be that the whole Taliban comes over in one fell swoop. That may be a bridge too far to expect. But there are elements of the Taliban clearly interested in talking to the Afghan Govt ,” he said.US has in the past also expressed hope of “peeling off” elements of the Taliban and it was unclear how this new effort might be different.Western diplomats and officials in Kabul say contacts involving intermediaries have been underway with the aim of agreeing on ground rules and potential areas of discussion for possible talks with at least some elements in Taliban.However, insurgents, who seized a district centre in western Afghanistan earlier this week, have given no public sign of accepting Ghani’s offer, instead issuing several statements suggesting they intended to keep fighting.US has stepped up assistance to the Afghan military and greatly increased air strikes against Taliban as part of its new regional strategy announced last year, in a bid to break the stalemate and force the insurgents to the negotiating table.Mattis said the goal was to convince Taliban insurgents that they could not win, which would hopefully push them towards reconciliation. Reuters
US defence secy Jim Mattis says signs indicate Taliban open to Afghan peace talks
Trump sacks Tillerson, replaces him with Pompeo
US President Donald Trump has sacked Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo."Mike Pompeo, director of CIA, will become our new secretary of state. He will do a fantastic job," Trump tweeted on Tuesday. "Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!" the president added.According to the Washington Post, Trump asked Tillerson to leave the post last Friday. Tillerson cut short his trip to Africa on Monday and returned to Washington, DC prompting questions about his future at the State Dept.Trump said on Twitter that Deputy CIA Director Gina Hapsel will replace Pompeo as the head of the agency. He added that she is "the first woman so chosen". aljazeera
UN chief calls for an end to Syrian people's suffering
UN secretary-general urged Security Council members to "end the suffering" of residents in besieged Eastern Ghouta, as US threatened to "act if we must" as a ceasefire continues to be ignored by Syrian and Russian forces. Antonio Guterres' remarks on Monday came as Govt forces continued for a third week to launch air strikes and advance a ground offensive into the Damascus suburb that has been under rebel control since mid-2013."I am deeply disappointed by all those ... who allowed this to happen," Guterres said in his address at the UN headquarters in New York. aljazeera
Wounded in Syria's Eastern Ghouta await evacuations
UN is expecting civilian evacuations out of rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, as Syrian Govt  military continues its fierce offensive on the enclave."This day, we are expecting evacuation of civilians, including people with medical conditions," Ali al-Zatari, UN's top aid official in Syria, told Reuters at al-Wafideen crossing, without elaborating.UN has previously called for the evacuation of nearly 1,000 sick and wounded residents who need urgent medical treatment.Jaish al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta, said on Monday it had reached an agreement with the Govt 's key ally, Russia, to evacuate wounded people. No other details about the evacuation were given. Hamza Birqdar, the group's military spokesman, vowed on Tuesday that the fighters would defend the Damascus suburb till the end.Syrian state TV showed a group of civilians leaving the enclave on Tuesday morning. The evacuations have not been independently confirmed. The Syrian army's campaign of air and artillery attacks has killed more than 1,100 civilians in nearly a month, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.aljazeera
Sick and injured start leaving Syria's Ghouta:reuters
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