Tuesday, 25 December 2018

25 Dec.ND: Controlling WhatsApp, Facebook: House stands divided on IT Act changes/ SC to hear Ram Babri Masjid title dispute on Jan. 4/ Will hold firms liable if staff offer namaz in public: Noida police


NEWS DIGEST, Afternoon 
25 Dec. 2018:17 Rabiul-II 1440: Vol: 11, No:84
INDIA
Controlling WhatsApp, Facebook: House stands divided on IT Act changes
Govt’s move to amend section 79 of IT Act, 2000 to make social media platforms more accountable has the experts divided over its need and timing. The proposed amendments are aimed at social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook or Google which would need comply with Govt’s direction in providing information and assistance within 72 hours of request made with regard to origin of any content deemed unlawful and remove it. While some see the proposed measures are an attempt by Govt to snoop on private citizens, others see them as too late and too little in terms of guaranteeing security. The ministry of electronics and IT (Meity), which is piloting a consultation process with industry stakeholders, meanwhile defended its stance stating that while it is committed to freedom of speech and expression and privacy of its citizens; instances of misuse of social media by criminals has brought new challenges which need to be tackled. Basic elements of the proposed changes are that social media platforms apart from being required to give information and assistance to any Govt  agency within 72 hours of request; will also need to trace the originator of the information on their respective platforms; the platforms will need to remove access to “unlawful acts” as ordered by an appropriate Govt  agency; and the platforms need to deploy automated tools to remove, disable access to unlawful information or content.Further, such rules will apply to social media platforms having more than 5 million users and they need to have a permanent registered office in India and appoint a nodal point of contact for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. What has raised the hackles of Internet activists and a section of technology experts is that it arms the Govt  with powers to armtwist social media platforms and curb freedom of expression.“I regard the proposed changes as intrusive and retrograde. Instead of worrying about the message, we are targeting the messenger. The approach of the Govt  is impractical and will require monitoring on a very high scale. In such situations implementation and response end up being arbitrary or selective and lacking credibility,”Mahesh Uppal, a telecom and technology analyst said.But cyber law expert, Pawan Duggal disagrees. “It’s a great step forward for enforcing Indian rules on the foreign firms like WhatsApp. State power will consolidate and force foreign entities to comply with Indian law. However, it is a retrograde step backward for common citizens of the country. It has failed to address the anomaly of not providing effective remedy to affected netizens for acts done in cyber space.” Duggal said.financialexpress
Draft IT rules to track content:Govt asks for feedback
Modi Govt Turning Indian Into 'Nanny State': Congress on Proposed IT Act Changes
New Delhi: Congress accused Modi govt of “violating” the privacy of individuals and converting India into a “nanny state” in the wake of reports of the Centre’s proposal to amend the IT Act.Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the govt should place in the public domain its draft amendments proposal that mandates online platforms to provide user information to the govt within 72 hours.He said if these amendments were cleared, there would be a tremendous expansion in the power of the “big brother” government on ordinary citizens, “reminiscent of eerie dictatorships”.PTI
'By allowing snooping into computers of citizens, India being turned into police state'
Jalandhar:Sikh group Dal Khalsa has said that by allowing agencies to snoop into computers of citizens, Modi Govt  is trying to turn India into a police state. “By taking this route the Govt is trying to legalize the illegal acts of its agencies, which they are carrying out since long with impunity,”said Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh. Terming the move as infringement of the right to privacy, he said that Govt wanted to snoop into the personal lives of people, which was totally unacceptable. “Monitoring of phones, internet or physical surveillance of citizens by agencies is a common knowledge. We are already living in dangerous times when our lives are at the mercy of security and police establishment. However by making it legal, Govt wants to snatch the right of the people to protest or move to Court of law against Govt s injustices,” he said.He said that the Govt was hell bent to strengthen the centralized structure of the country’s polity leaving no room for provincial Govts to have any independent say in legislations concerning their citizens.“Those parties, which are votary of federalism should read the writings on the wall,” Dal Khalsa leader said. TOI
SC to hear Ram Babri Masjid title dispute on Jan. 4
New Delhi: A division bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will hear a batch of petitions in Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case on Jan.4.The bench, also comprising Justice SK Kaul, is likely to constitute a separate 3-judge bench that will fix the date of hearing and decide on the timeline to as many as 14 appeals filed against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, which ruled that the 2.77 acre land be partitioned equally among 3 parties.Days after taking over as the new CJI in Oct, Justice Gogoi rejected the UP Govt’s plea for an early hearing and ordered the listing of these appeals in the first week of Jan. “We have our own priorities. Whether hearing would take place in Jan., March or April would be decided by an appropriate bench,”CJI said. He also clarified that appeals would come up in Jan.before a bench “not for hearing but for fixing the date of hearing”.This had led to a clamour from various Hindutva parties for a law that would allow construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya without waiting for the court’s verdict ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls. UP CM Yogi Adityanath had expressed disappointment over the SC order, saying, “sometimes, justice delayed is equivalent to injustice”, and urged that the issue be resolved at the earliest. Sangh Parivar outfit VHP had urged that Central Govt bring in a legislation in the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament for building Ram temple. RSS too has called for such a law, with Sah Sarkaryawah Manmohan Vaidya saying that Ram temple was an issue of national self-respect and honour. BJP ally Shiv Sena too has taken potshots at saffron party for not making its position clear on the demand for law.On Monday, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar made it clear that BJP was of the view that the SC should hear the case on a daily basis to deliver an early judgment. indianexpress
Govt for fast-tracking hearing of Ayodhya title suit
Lucknow:Union law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said he wanted fast-tracking of the hearing of Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid dispute before the Supreme Court.Prasad pitched for an early hearing of Ayodhya title suit, now pending in the SC for 8 years. HT
Will hold firms liable if staff offer namaz in public: Noida police
Noida:In a move that has triggered concern in Noida’s industrial hub, UP Police has ordered offices and establishments to direct their Muslim employees to stop offering Friday prayers in open areas such as parks. According to a notice issued last week by police stations in Noida, including at the Sector 58 industrial hub, companies will be held liable if their employees are found violating the directive.It is learnt that companies in the area have sought a meeting with senior Noida police officers for clarification on the matter, particularly on the clause that threatens to hold them liable for violations of the order by employees.Executives of some of the companies who have been served the notices said there is widespread concern among units in sectors other than where the notices have already been served. It has also sparked worries that the ambit of the directive could be widened to include other areas in the NCR township. Sector 58 is predominantly an IT and services hub.Noida Police has defended the move citing concerns that communal harmony could be disturbed, especially in the run-up to the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in 2019. “Yes, we have sent notices to many companies in our area after several complaints regarding a large number of people offering Namaz in the afternoon especially on Fridays. Since most people offering prayers are employees in companies nearby, we have sent notices to those companies to ask their employees to either offer Namaz in a Masjid, Eidgah or within the office compound on the roof etc,” said Pankaj Rai, SHO of the Sector 58 police station, from where the initial round of notices were issued. The notice states: “We want to inform you that there is no permission from the administration to conduct any kind of religious activity including Namaz offered on Friday in Authority park in Sector 58. It has been often seen that Muslim workers of your company assemble in the park to offer Namaz and I, SHO, have told the group to not hold prayers in the park. Also, their plea to the city magistrate has not received any permission to do so.”“Thus, it is expected from you that you at your level inform your Muslim employees to not come to the park to offer Namaz. If employees of your company come to the park,it will be assumed that you have not informed your employees and your company will be held liable.”“While companies can’t do anything about private matters, we expect companies to inform their employees that the company has received a notice regarding the issue and they need to offer Namaz either in Masjids, Eidgahs or within their office premises,” he said.The companies that have offices in Noida include HCL Technologies, Alstom Systems, Xansa, Interra, Polaris, R Systems, RMSI, Cadence, Adobe international, TCS, ST Microelectronics, Samsung and Minda Huf.Indian express
India takes over operations of Iran’s strategic Chabahar Port, can bypass Pak on way to Afghanistan
New Delhi:India has formally took over operations at Chabahar port in Iran, giving a major boost to the country’s efforts to support war-torn Afghanistan, people familiar with developments said.New Delhi’s efforts to develop the port, which allows India to ship supplies to Afghanistan while bypassing Pakistan, received a fillip recently when Washington exempted Chabahar from Iran-related sanctions in Nov.Iran formally handed over the port to India during a first meeting of follow-up committee for the implementation of the Chabahar deal between Iran, Afghanistan, and India in the port city Tehran.Indian side at the meeting was led by joint secretary (Pak-Afghanistan-Iran) Deepak Mittal of the external affairs ministry, while the Iranian team was led by Mohammad Ali Hassanzadeh, deputy head of Ports and Maritime Organisation, people said.“This is a major step forward in India’s efforts to support Afghanistan and also for regional cooperation,” an official in New Delhi said.Behrouz Aqaei, DG of Sistan-Baluchestan Ports and Maritime Organisation, was quoted by Irna news agency as saying that India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) has “officially started to run Shahid Beheshti port in Chabahar” and the company’s major tasks include loading and unloading operations, procurement and marketing. Meeting discussed matters such customs tariffs, promoting customs transactions and rail transit, and the transportation process, Aqaei said. Meeting also discussed finalising the protocol to harmonise transit, roads, customs and consular matters for making the port attractive and to decrease logistic costs.In a separate development, a senior official of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization (TPO) said on Monday that Iran and India are on the verge of finalising a “preferential trade” agreement that will come into force in the near future.Mojtaba Mousavian, head of the Asia and Oceania Trade Office in TPO, said talks between the two sides regarding the agreement have been fruitful and the pact is set to be implemented within the next month, Mehr news agency reported.HT
US withdrawal from Afghan will have implications in Kashmir: Ex- J&K DGP
Pune: Asserting that India should adopt a "clear-cut roadmap" to tackle the Kashmir issue, former DGP of Jammu & Kashmir K Rajendra Kumar has said the US pulling out troops from Afghanistan will have implications in the Valley and terrorist outfits may feel emboldened. During his speech, Kumar also said that there is a need to send a stern message to Pakistan for its support to militancy."A stern message needs to be sent to Pakistan in terms of retaliation. We need to make it more costly for Pakistan because today Pakistan is not feeling the pinch it should feel," said Kumar.He said India should deal strongly with Pakistan as far as training camps and terrorist launchpads are concerned."Now USA is existing Afghanistan. It has its implications in Kashmir. It is a matter of time that we will be feeling its implications in the Valley. After US withdrawal, terrorists organisations would feel pumped up, emboldened," he said.Seeing America's withdrawal as a "sign of victory", terrorist outfits can feel that New Delhi can also be defeated, so there is an urgent need for India to adopt a "clear-cut roadmap" to deal with terrorism in Kashmir, he asserted.US is planning to withdraw 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. The American troops contribute to training and advising local forces fighting the Taliban and the Islamic State group.He said militancy in Kashmir started with local terrorist organisations but now it is tilting towards Islamic extremism. "Valley has a rich history of Sufism but over the years it has moved towards Wahabism," he said, adding that efforts should be made to take Kashmir back to Sufism. PTI
Rafale shadow: 2 senior MoD finance officers shifted out
New Delhi: Amid a distant Rafale deal shadow, two senior bureaucrats handling finance in defence ministry have been posted out, months after being appointed by Govt. The replacement for the top position of the financial advisor (defence services), or FADS, is an officer from the rival audit and accounts service, something that has sent the Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS) cadre into a shock.Madhulika Sukul, who took over as the FADS in August, has been moved as secretary to the Central Information Commission (CIC), while her husband Prashant has been posted to National Commission for Minorities (NCM). They are the senior-most officers of IDAS and have earlier held appointments in various ministries.Gargi Kaul, an Indian Audit and Accounts Service officer of the 1984 batch, will now head finance at the defence ministry.Several officers of the IDAS, who spoke with ET, were surprised that an ‘outsider’ had been appointed to the senior-most position. Traditionally, this post is reserved for the Services. Sukuls did not comment on their transfer, but said they were “extremely satisfied” with the postings. While Madhulika will join the CIC in the next few days, Prashant will move to the NCM in Feb.economictimes
AP: Chandrababu Naidu meets AIMLB members, assures support against triple talaq bill
Amaravati (AP): AP CM N Chandrababu Naidu on Monday met a delegation of All India Muslim Law Board (AIMLB) members and assured them all support in their fight against the proposed Muslim Women Bill (Triple Talaq) 2018 in the Parliament. Muslim delegation complained that the Govt  led by PM  Narendra Modi is trying to get political mileage by changing the Muslim marriage system which has been in practice for the past 1400 years.The delegation members claimed that a majority of political parties are opposing the proposed Muslim Women Bill 2018. They said that the proposed Bill, which paves the way for punishing Muslim husbands in case of triple talaq, is a violation of human rights and is also against the principles of the Constitution.The delegation comprised of Moulana Khalid Saifullah, Jaffer Jilani, Umrain Mahepuj, women's wing chief organiser Dr Asma Zahera, Moulana Abdul Basit, Moulana Asif Nadvi, Muft Md Farooqi Khasmi and Saida Ayesha. They urged Naidu to protect the interests of Indian Muslims by opposing the proposed Muslim Women Bill 2018 coming before Parliament on Dec.27.ANI
Gadkari says BJP chief is responsible for poor Assembly election results
Senior BJP leader and Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday seemed to suggest that party chief Amit Shah was responsible for the BJP’s poor show in the recent Assembly elections, reports said.“If I am the party president, and my MPs and MLAs are not doing well, then who is responsible? I am,” TOI quoted the minister as saying at the 31st IB endowment lecture in New Delhi. His remark comes days after he reportedly said the party “leadership should own up to defeat”. On Sunday though, he had accused a section of the media of quoting him out of context. The minister told IB that “tolerance is the biggest asset” of the country and that he liked Jawaharlal Nehru’s speeches, Indian Express reported. “I liked Nehru’s sayings,” he said. “India is not a nation but a population.” Gadkari invoked the former PM  while saying that people should not create problems if they cannot provide solutions.scroll.in
Gadkari launches veiled attack against Amit Shah on BJP’s election defeat in three states
Adityanath for PM hoardings pop up in Agra, removed
Lucknow: Controversial hoardings portraying UP CM Yogi Adityanath as the next prime minister and a "Kalyug ka Avtaar" (reincarnation in Kali Yuga) were removed from many public places in Agra after the municipal corporation noticed them, an official said.The hoardings put up by UP Navnirman Sena were placed under the "Yogi for PM" campaign, triggering a flutter in political circles. As the hoardings dotted the city landscape, Agra Mayor Naveen Jain ordered their immediate removal. The civic authorities have also ordered action against the advertising agency that put up the billboards.  The hoardings carry a picture of Ram and the monk-turned-politician thanking him for renaming of Faizabad district as Ayodhya. Hoardings portraying Yogi Adityanath as the future prime minister and a man of action had recently created controversy. These, too, were removed soon after they were put up. IANS
Will launch country-wide agitation: Computer Baba slams Adityanath over Hanuman comments
Self-styled godman Computer Baba Monday demanded apology from UP  CM Yogi Adityanath and his Cabinet colleagues for their remarks about "caste and creed" of Hanuman.Computer Baba alias Namdevdas Tyagi, who was accorded the Minister of State status by the erstwhile BJP Govt  in MP, fell out with the party in run-up to the assembly elections.The self-styled godman, who had held a "Sant Samagam" or conclave to mobilise support for the Congress during recently-held polls, also threatened to launch a countrywide agitation against Adityanath "if he continued making remarks about Hindu deities".UP  CM had reportedly said that Hanuman was dalit."Yogi Adityanath should apologise in public for his remark or sants and seers would launch agitations against him across the country. Yogi not only made remarks but also told his ministers to make such remarks. They said Hanuman ji was dalit, a tribal, a Muslim. I am feeling sad," Baba said. DNA
AMU joint finance officer suspended
Aligarh: AMU's joint finance officer Shakeb Arsalan has been suspended for providing wrong information about his qualifications during appointment as assistant finance officer in 2005.  Confirming the move, AMU registrar Abdul Hamid said Arsalan has been suspended for alleged violation of provisions of the AMU Act and rules. He said the decision was taken after the CBI sought permission for prosecution from AMU. He said according to a CBI official, Arsalan’s recruitment was done on the basis of wrong qualification.Arsalan, who is now joint finance officer, and Yasmeen Jalal Beg, now joint finance officer, have been charged by CBI with criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.Hamid said that the inquiry against Beg is under process and action will be taken against her,if charges are proved.TOI
Repeat vaccine drive in 200 Urdu, elite schools soon in Maharashtra
Mumbai: Nearly a month after the measles rubella vaccination campaign commenced in the city along with the rest of Maharashtra, coverage in Muslim-dominated localities has remained less than 20%. Urdu and elite private schools were also among the majority that either did not participate in the drive or saw poor turnout.The civic body now plans to carry out a repeat drive in 200-odd schools that saw low turnout from Jan. BMC statistics show that the drive could be carried out in 3,242 of the 4,056 targeted schools in the city so far. The campaign will now span out from schools to the community. Schools in 5 wards—have seen poor coverage. “Some of these wards have a predominant Muslim population. In order to allay their apprehensions, we have had meetings with community leaders and are hopeful of seeing an increase in acceptance,” said Dr Chandrasekhar Chiplunkar, BMC’s assistant health officer. The city has an estimated 29 lakh children between the age group of 9 months to 15 years, of whom around 17-18 lakh are school-going. “We have managed to cover 73% of the targeted schools so far. Overall, though, we have vaccinated a little over 40% children,” Chiplunkar said, adding several schools that had refused the drive in the beginning, are now willing to join in since the vaccination of over 12 lakh children has seen minimum adverse effects. timesofindia
Community threatens to approach Lokayukta over lack of kabrastan in Margao
Margao: Disenchanted over the “failure” of the Govt  in making any progress regarding the construction of a kabrastan in Margao, despite several assurances in that regard, the Muslim community is now bracing itself to drag the authorities to Lokayukta and the high court for what they call “brazen misuse of power”. Abdul Matin Daud Carol, who has been leading the Muslim community in their struggle for kabrastan, also took strong exception to town and country planning minister Vijai Sardesai’s recent statement alluding to Govt’s plans for kabrastan in Margao.“If they were seriously interested in constructing a kabrastan, what prevented them for going ahead with the plans all these years? They have woken up now, when elections are approaching, with an eye on the Muslim vote bank,” he said. In May 2011, Margao Municipal Council acquired 31,000 sqm of land at Sonsoddo for a kabrastan. Though the construction work was sanctioned by the state Govt in Nov.2011, at an estimated cost of Rs 2 crore, the work, for various reasons, never took off. While the South Goa Planning and Development Authority has given its approval for the project, the nod from the forest department is awaited, sources said. TOI
Civil Group Launches "Abki Baar Nafrat ki Haar" Campaign in Delhi
New Delhi: In an apparent counter to BJP’s popular 2014 Lok Sabha poll campaign Abki Baar Modi Sarkar, which ultimately dethroned Congress and installed BJP at the centre, an eminent civil group has launched “Abki baar Nafrat ki Haar” campaign in Delhi. United Against Hate’s (UAH)campaign aimed at spreading “political consciousness” around notions of justice, equality, secularism and constitutional values began here with a big public conference on Sunday.“Apart from central hall meetings, fact findings, reporting, sending of immediate response teams, legal support to survivors of hate crimes, and protest demonstrations, one of UAH's constant emphasis has been organizing mohulla-level meetings spreading political consciousness around notions of justice, equality, secularism and constitutional values,”said UAH which organized the public event in Jamia Nagar Sunday night. Despite cold waves, a huge number of people gathered to hear the speakers that included:Activists Swami Agnivesh and Ovais Sultan Khan, Journalist Arfa Khanum Sherwani, Professor Ratanlan, activists Anupam, Prashant Kanojiya and ex JNU scholar Umar Khalid.India Tomorrow
Odd-Even scheme may be back, says Kejriwal as air quality dips
New Delhi:As the air pollution in Delhi touched ‘severe’ category, CM Arvind Kejriwal said that the vehicle rationing scheme, Odd- Even, may be implemented if needed.“We’re taking a number of steps like tree plantation drives and buying 3000 buses etc. We sanctioned one of largest metro phases yesterday day. If the need arises, we’ll implement the Odd-Even scheme. Each individual has to play a role in reducing pollution,” Kejriwal was quoted by news agency ANI as saying.HT
Vidyalayas Commissioner: ‘Have proposed that govt deploy 2 full-time counsellors in each school’
New Delhi:With 49 student suicides reported over the last five years from Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas across India, the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) has proposed that the central Govt deploy 2 fulltime counsellors in each school, NVS Commissioner Bishwajit Kumar Singh said. The Commissioner said, "Student suicides in JNVs have to be understood in the context of social background and psychological make-up of the children who study here. Entering the (Navodaya) system is a big change for them. There is a world of difference between rural life and life in a Navodaya Vidyalaya. I think we need a specialised set-up to help children acclimatise.Although we have a system in place, it is not a specialised set-up. Our teachers are working hard on this front, but you have to acknowledge that one JNV teacher is responsible for 80 kids in a school. Raising even 2 children is a big challenge for parents these days. The teachers have largely succeeded (in helping students acclimatise), but there have been incidents of suicides."indianexpress
2 constables, 9 others hurt in Baghpat clash; 18 booked
Meerut:2 police constables and nine others were injured in a clash between 2 groups at Baghpat’s Ketipura locality Monday afternoon.Both groups pelted stones at each other and used sharp-edged weapons in the clash that lasted around an hour, said police, adding that 18 persons had been booked. 2 police vehicles were also damaged.Police said the violence was triggered when a group of youths got into a row with a shop owner over the price of a pack of cigarettes, and a heated verbal exchange followed as more people joined in from both sides.A police team reached spot and tried to intervene. Constables Manoj Singh and Pankaj Kumar were hit by bricks while 9 other persons also sustained injuries.“In all,18 persons have been named in FIRs lodged by both groups. No arrests have been made, so far but we are conducting raids to nab those booked,” Rakesh Kumar Singh, in-charge of Baghpat station, said.indianexpress


Maharashtra: Mob Attacks Sunday Mass In Kolhapur Village, 12 Injured
Kolhapur: In an incident on Dec.23, reports say around 15 unidentified men attacked a group attending Sunday mass in at Kowad in Chandgad taluka in Kolhapur district, Maharashtra, leaving 12 injured.According to reports, the mass was being held at a rented room in the village when the unidentified men attack the crowd with hockey sticks, stones, iron rods and choppers.Kolhapur superintendent of police Abhinav Deshmukh told the TOI that the attack may have been orchestrated by right-wing activists. “We are looking at all the angles and the investigation is under way accordingly.”So far they have been no arrests. The police said that a case has been registered against the attackers.thewire
WORLD
Trump 'accepts Erdogan's invitation' to visit Turkey in 2019 after US shift on Syria
US President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation by his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, to visit the country, according to a spokesperson for Turkey's leader. Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday in Turkish capital, Ankara, Ibrahim Kalin said Trump wants to make the trip in 2019 but a date has not been set.White House confirmed the invitation for Trump to visit next year, adding: "While nothing definite is being planned, the president is open to a potential meeting in the future."Trump hosted Erdogan at White House in May last year.Kalin said Erdogan extended the invitation during a weekend phone call between the presidents on the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, which was announced last week by Trump.The presidential spokesperson also said that a US military delegation will visit Turkey this week to hold talks about the issue."They will discuss how to coordinate (the withdrawal) with their counterparts," Kalin said.Aljazeera
US military delegation to visit Turkey to discuss Syria withdrawal
Turkey vows no slowdown in fight against IS after US pullout from Syria: Reuters
Turkey has vowed that the fight against Islamic State would not be slowed by the US withdrawal from Syria, where Ankara-backed rebels reinforced their positions around the potential flashpoint town of Manbij.Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan dismissed concerns that the withdrawal ordered by US President would allow IS to regain territory.“As part of the global coalition to defeat ISIS, we would like to express again that we will not allow such a thing to happen on Syrian soil, Iraqi soil or Turkish soil,” Kalin told a news conference.He added that there would be no disruption or slowdown of the fight against the group.
Syria intelligence chief makes rare visit to Cairo
Syrian security head Ali Mamlouk made a rare visit to Cairo over weekend to meet with his Egyptian counterpart, state news agency SANA has reported.The surprise trip reportedly came at the invitation of Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, with the two diplomats discussing “political, security and counterterrorism issues”. Mamlouk, who is considered to be a member of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s inner circle, last visited Egypt in 2016; security relations between the two countries had persevered despite Syria facing a boycott from most other Arab nations.middleeastmonitor
Kabul attack: Gunmen storm Govt  building, kill 43
The death toll in an hours-long coordinated attack on a Govt building in the Afghan capital has risen to at least 43 people, according to health officials, making it one of the deadliest assaults on Kabul this year. Hundreds of people were trapped on Monday on a site where the Ministry of Public Works and other offices are located when gunmen stormed the building and began moving from floor to floor targeting employees.Others killed included a police officer and three of the attackers, who were shot dead by Afghan security forces, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said.Another 10 people were wounded.No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.On Thursday, an official said the US president was planning to withdraw at least 5,000 of the 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan.aljazeera
No orders received on Afghan drawdown: top US commander
Kabul:Top US commander in Afghanistan has not received orders to pull forces out of the war-torn country, NATO confirmed on Monday, days after it was revealed that President Donald Trump plans to withdraw 7,000 troops.General Scott Miller’s remarks on Sunday capped a tumultuous few days for Afghanistan as foreign diplomats and Afghan officials digested the possibility of the US exiting the 17-year war it started and is now leading efforts to end.An American official said late last week that Trump had decided to pull out “roughly half” of the 14,000 US forces in the country, but the White House has so far not confirmed the widely-publicised move.“I have no orders, so nothing has changed,” said Gen. Miller, who is also the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, during a meeting with the Governor of the eastern province of Nangarhar.The remarks were confirmed by NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Kabul. “But if I do get orders, I think it is important for you to know that we are still with the security forces. Even if I have to get a little bit smaller, we will be okay,” Gen. Miller continued. US troops make up the bulk of the Resolute Support mission to train and advise local forces fighting the Taliban and the Islamic State group. Others are part of a US-led counterterrorism mission.AFP
Pak President questions US military interventions
Karachi:In a rare move, Pakistan's president took to Twitter to publicly question the US military interventions in such countries as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Commenting on US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from civil war-wracked Syria, Arif Alvi criticized the destruction caused by the worldwide US military presence."The countries who were the testing platforms for such policies have suffered tremendously. After this admission the next step obviously could be humanitarian reparations for damage and suffering caused by these wars," Alvi tweeted.Anadolu
Bangladesh opposition alleges mass arrests ahead of general polls
Dhaka:With less than a week remaining before Bangladesh's much anticipated parliamentary elections, the main opposition Jatiya Oikya Front (National Unity Front) has accused Govt of carrying out mass arrests of its leaders and supporters.About 7,000 activists and leaders have been arrested since the election schedule was announced in November, the opposition alliance said in a press release on Monday.The alliance has alleged that they also faced violent attacks from police and the supporters of the ruling Awami League (AL). The opposition claims election campaign activities of its candidates have come under repeated attacks, making it impossible for them to gather freely in public spaces. "There hasn't ever been a situation like this before in an election in Bangladesh's history," said Jahangir Alam Mintu, a spokesperson of Jatiya Oikya Front.US-based HRW, in a report published on Dec.22, urged Bangladesh authorities to protect candidates and ensure a credible election.Terming the current political climate in Bangladesh as "repressive", the rights group said it is "undermining the credibility" of the upcoming election. The report also found that "authoritarian measures, including widespread surveillance and a crackdown on free speech, have contributed to a widely described climate of fear". BNP said on Sunday its website was shut down along with 54 other portals over purported security reasons amid accusation that Govt of PM Sheikh Hasina has been clamping down on dissent.Its main leader and ex PM Khaleda Zia has been barred from contesting the polls as she is serving a jail term for corruption. She has termed the charges politically motivated.BNP leader Shamsuzzaman Dudu said the opposition is not being allowed to carry out any public activities without risk of being attacked or arrested."We want to contest the election but the minimum freedom necessary for an election does not exist. We cannot do campaign works. We are being charged in false police cases," he said.The opposition leader accused the police of being biased towards the ruling party.aljazeera
Israel continues arrest campaigns in West Bank
Ramallah:Israeli forces rounded up 5 Palestinians in overnight raids carried out across the occupied West Bank, according to the Israeli military on Tuesday.The individuals were arrested for “suspected involvement in popular terrorist activities”, the army said in a statement, without elaborating on the nature of these activities. Israeli forces frequently carry out wide-ranging arrest campaigns across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem on the pretext of searching for “wanted” Palestinians. According to Palestinian figures, more than 6,000 Palestinians continue to languish in Israeli detention facilities, including six parliament members, 52 women and 270 minors. Anadolu Agency
US senate should insist on reshaping Saudi ties
Washington:US Senate set itself on a path that went further than condemning the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, driven by President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that the responsibility lay with the Saudi crown prince, The Washington Post Editorial Board wrote Monday.Trump has been mindful of defending the Saudis, not wanting to risk $450 billion in Saudi investments he claims are being offered, which include $110 billion in arms purchases. The actual figures are dubious, by many accounts."His preoccupation with deals raises the question of whether he has his own businesses in mind; since his election, the Saudis have been major patrons of Trump hotels," the Post said. Trump, however, was given a reminder that the Saudis would rather pursue their own interests when they attempted to increase oil prices earlier this month, despite calls by Trump to not do so.Anadolu Agency
Egypt court reduces prison term of top Muslim Brotherhood leader to 10 years
Egypt’s Court of Cassation has accepted an appeal filed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei and 36 other defendants, reducing their prison sentences in a case that dates back to the aftermath of the 2013 coup and authorities’ violent dispersal of the Rabaa protest camp.The court reduced Badei’s prison sentence from life imprisonment to 10 years in jail. The other defendants’ sentence was reduced from 15 to three years in prison.In 2017, an Egyptian criminal court handed down prison sentences to the Brotherhood’s top leader and 92 other defendants. All but 37 of the defendants were tried and sentenced in absentia.The defendants, who include former members of parliament and prominent leaders in the now-dissolved Freedom and Justice Party, were charged with setting fire to a police station, a court, a school and other public buildings in the Upper Egypt province of Beni Sweif. Prosecutors accused Badei of holding meetings with senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in which they decided to take revenge on the state for the Rabaa sit-in’s dispersal, in which more than 800 protesters were killed according to Human Rights Watch.MEMO
Egypt court delays decision on extending Sisi presidency
A Cairo court has delayed a case on allowing Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sisi to run for a 3rd term after his constitutionally-mandated time in office ends in 2022, Egyptian state media reported.After the first hearing on Sunday, a lawsuit demanding parliament convene a session on amending the constitution was postponed by the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters, led by judge Wael Abu Shadi.Sisi, a former defence minister, came to power in 2013 after a military coup he led against his predecessor Mohamed Morsi and won a second term this April, running virtually unchallenged in presidential elections after all candidates - except one who supported him - were arrested and discredited. The proposed amendment to article 140, which limits presidents to two four-year stints, would allow Sisi to extend his time in office if voters approve the amendment in a popular referendum. middleeasteye
Ex-US envoy denies accusing Tunisia’s Ennahda of exporting terrorism
Former US Ambassador to Tunisia Jacob Walles has denied media reports claiming he accused the Muslim Brotherhood of sponsoring terrorism and Tunisia’s Muslim Brotherhood group of exporting terrorism to other countries in the region.“The Tunisian press reports that I have seen do not accurately reflect my observations,” Walles said on Twitter.Tunisian media outlets quoted the ambassador as saying that “the Troika Govt  led by the Islamist Ennahda Movement after the revolution in 2011 along with extremist groups are involved in terrorism and exporting terrorists to Syria.”middleeastmonitor
US firm UPS to pay near $5 mn for discriminating against Muslims and Sikhs
An American package delivery giant will pay USD 4.9 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit that alleged the company excluded employees from certain religious groups, including Muslims and Sikhs, from opportunities of being promoted at work due to a strict appearance policy.UPS, the world's largest package delivery company, will pay USD 4.9 million and provide other relief to settle a class religious discrimination lawsuit filed by US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), federal agency said.Elizabeth Fox-Solomon, the EEOC's lead trial attorney for the case, said UPS' strict appearance policy "has operated to exclude Muslims, Sikhs, Rastafarians, and other religious groups from equal participation and advancement in the workforce for many years."EEOC said in a statement that UPS prohibits male employees in supervisory or customer contact positions, including delivery drivers, from wearing beards or growing their hair below collar length. EEOC alleged that since around Jan.2005, UPS failed to hire or promote individuals whose religious practices conflict with its appearance policy and failed to provide religious accommodations to its appearance policy at facilities throughout the US. The federal agency also alleged that UPS segregated employees who maintained beards or long hair in accordance with their religious beliefs into non-supervisory, back-of-the-facility positions without customer contact.PTI
Indonesia tsunami death toll soars to 429, thousands homeless
Death toll from the tsunami that hit Indonesian islands without warning Saturday has passed 420 with more than 1,400 people injured.Thousands of people were left homeless when the waves smashed homes on coastal areas of western Java and southern Sumatra. Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the death toll had climbed to 429 today and at least 128 were missing. Troops, Govt personnel and volunteers were searching along debris-strewn beaches. Where victims were found, body bags were laid out, and weeping relatives identified the dead. Local residents said of the moments immediately after the wave hit, describing scenes of panic and saying they were taken completely unaware. tsunami hit the Indonesian strait on Saturday almost without warning in the darkness, smashing into houses, hotels and other buildings.AlJazeera
Top Iranian cleric Shahroudi dies at 70
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a senior Iranian cleric and a former chief justice, died in Tehran on Monday after a long illness, state media reported. Shahroudi, 70, was a close ally of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and had been seen by analysts as a possible successor to him.Shahroudi had not been seen in public for several months, and there were reports last year that he underwent surgery for an unspecified cancer in Germany.A German lawmaker filed a complaint against Shahroudi during his stay, calling for him to be charged for crimes against humanity, but a judge found no grounds to hold him. Shahroudi headed Iran's conservative judiciary for a decade until 2009, but he also implemented some reforms during his tenure, including banning the death penalty by stoning, arguing the practice tarnished Iran's image. However, dozens of papers were banned under his watch and many journalists and bloggers faced long-term sentences.middleeasteye
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Compiled and edited by Anwarulhaq (Released at: 4:57 PM)

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