India’s Javed Akhtar under fire after asking victims to forgive the woman who ‘auctioned’ Muslim women online

Indian poet and screenwriter Javed Akhtar has landed himself in hot water after tweeting a suggestion that women victims can “educate” the 18-year-old alleged mastermind behind Bulli Bai — an app where Muslim women were offered for a sale — and forgive her.

The auction list on the application included the names and pictures of multiple Indian Muslim women as well as other prominent Muslim women such as Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and Akhtar’s wife Shabana Azmi.

This isn’t the first time Muslim women have been targeted in this manner — last year, the ‘Sulli Deals’ also sought to auction off Muslim women. According to Al Jazeera, both Bulli and Sulli are derogatory terms associated with Muslim women in local slang.

Akhtar’s January 5 tweet urged the women involved or “some of them” to meet the woman “and like-kind elders make her understand that why whatever she did was wrong”. He called for “compassion” and forgiveness, his reasoning being that the young woman had lost both her parents.

But his faulty reasoning was immediately called out on Twitter. One user told Akhtar to back off as he “is not a victim”

One person asked how being angry at losing her parents translated into auctioning women online.

One woman asked him to stop it. “If you can’t use your position and privilege to ask bigger questions and seek accountability, then please don’t speak at all. This is not exceptional behavior. This is majoritarian radicalization that needs attention.

One was appalled how “easy” it was for Akhtar to forgive the victim

He also got called out for not applying the same principle of forgiveness and compassion when he filed a defamation case against Bollywood actor Kangana Ranauthttps:

Another user reminded the screenwriter that the young woman seemed to have little compassion for herself.

People were angry at him for poking his nose in the matter.

It is easy for Javed Akhtar to call for forgiveness and compassion when he has no stake in the matter. The crimes were done against Indian Muslim women and they alone should be allowed to make the choice whether to forgive or not. Men like Akhtar have no place in this discussion and definitely have no right to ask the victims to forgive someone. Based on his logic, losing her parents means the young woman should be exonerated of her crimes but not all people who lose their parents become criminals and try to sell women online.

DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar addresses a press conference in Rawalpindi

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar on Wednesday said that fencing of the Pak-Afghan border will continue as planned, adding that it was being done to “protect people and not divide them”.

Maj Gen Iftikhar made these remarks in Rawalpindi during a press conference, his first of 2022, on the day the world observed Kashmiri people’s Right to Self-Determination Day.

Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar began the press conference by recalling Indian forces’ atrocities in occupied Kashmir as well as “propaganda” campaigns by their media.

“The ceasefire agreement that was signed with India … its biggest dividend was that the locals that live there, it improved their lives,” he said.

“At the same time, the blame from the Indian military leadership and false propaganda points to a specific agenda to remove attention from the atrocities in occupied Kashmir.”

The DG ISPR accused India of putting the region’s peace at stake through its defense procurement. “It will have negative effects on peace. On the Line of Control, they have committed false propaganda about infiltration,” he said.

“They recently staged a fake encounter in Neelum Valley in Kirin sector and killed an innocent Kashmiri and then blamed us. In this particular incident, the Indian media ran pictures of a terrorist named Shabbir. He is not only alive but is at his home in Sharda.

“India has killed countless innocent people. The reality is that India wants to externalize the indigenous freedom struggle of the Kashmiris. But voices are coming from everywhere that the people are being targeted and their struggle is being stamped out.”

“On January 5, 1989, the people of Kashmir were promised the right to self-determination by the UN. That promise remains unfulfilled. On this occasion, we salute their (Kashmiri people’s) bravery.”

Pak-Afghan border fencing will protect people, not divide them

The DG ISPR then discussed issues related to the Pak-Afghan border, including its fencing, which he said was being to protect people and not divide them.

“During 2021, on the western border, the security situation was challenging,” Maj Gen Babar said. “The western border management, specifically the Pak-Afghan border … there were some specific local dynamics and these are [being] addressed at the relevant level.

The DG ISPR said that the Pak-Afghan border fencing was “94 percent complete”, adding: “We are totally focused, and under the western border management regime, the work that is underway will be completed in some time.”

“The fence on the Pak-Afghan border is needed to regulate security, border crossing and trade. The purpose of this is not to divide but to protect them.”

“People can cross the border from designated points,” he explained, adding: “This process will be eased in coming months. The blood of our martyrs was spilled in fencing of the border. It is a fence of peace. It will be completed and remain.”

The DG ISPR deemed the recent uprooting of the fence by Taliban fighters as “one or two localized problems”, which he said is being discussed by the governments of both countries.

Review of armed forces’ performance in 2021

Maj Gen Babar also reviewed the armed forces’ performance during 2021, calling their work “wonderful”.

“In 2021, intelligence agencies issued 890 threat alerts, on the basis of which 70pc incidents were averted,” he said. “The masterminds and their facilitators were unmasked.”

“In tribal areas, more than 70,000 mines … were recovered and lives were saved. Many officials were injured and martyred during the process.”

“In 2021, 248 troops were martyred. We salute them and their families. [Their sacrifices] helped establish peace. More than 100,000 ammunition were also seized.”

“Under the National Action Plan (NAP), the action was taken against terrorists. We can tackle extremism by focusing on the NAP. The ulema and media have also played their part. In Pakistan, no group or person can be allowed to take the law in their hand. Only the state can exercise this power.”

“In Balochistan, attempts to sabotage CPEC (China–Pakistan Economic Corridor), etc have failed. Despite these challenges we have not allowed any disruptions to development projects.”

Looking ahead, the army official said: “2022 also marks 75 years of our independence. We have faced all challenges and we have to play our part in making the country prosperous.”

‘Propaganda against institutions has failed’

The DG ISPR spoke of a “campaign” against national institutions, which he said were hatched to create a “gulf” between the masses and the institutions and to “damage people’s trust”.

“We are aware of these efforts and their various linkages,” he said. “[Those] who spew half-truths, fake news, and false propaganda to target institutions and damage the country, have failed and will fail.”

No ceasefire with TTP currently, operations to continue

The DG ISPR said that talks with the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are “on hold” but the operations are “ongoing”.

“The ceasefire [with the TTP] ended on Dec 9. They [the ceasefire] was a confidence-building measure taken ahead of talks with these violent nonstate actors at the request of the current Afghan government.

“There was a requirement for the interim Afghan govt that TTP should not be using their soil against us so they said they would bring them to the table and make them accept what Pakistan wants. Obviously, those external conditions were yet to be settled.

“The TTP is not a monolith. They have internal differences. There were some problems … some conditions that were non-negotiable from our side so there is no ceasefire [right now]. We are continuing with operations and will continue till we get rid of this menace.”

Talk of any deal ‘baseless speculation’, says DG ISPR

During the question and answers session, when asked to comment on rumors of a deal with PML-N’s self-exiled leader Nawaz Sharif, the DG ISPR said: “I will only say that all of this is baseless speculation.

“If anyone is talking about a deal, please ask them who is doing the deal. What is the evidence of such a deal? There is no such thing.”

Nasa deploys Webb telescope’s sun shield

CAPE CANAVERAL: The US space agency (Nasa) aced the most complicated, critical job on its newly launched space telescope on Tuesday: unrolling and stretching a sunshade the size of a tennis court.

Ground controllers cheered and bumped fists once the fifth and final layer of the sunshield was tightly secured around the James Webb telescope. It took just 36 hours to tighten the ultra-thin layers using motor-driven cables, half the expected time.

The seven-ton telescope is so big that the sun-shield and the primary gold-plated mirror had to be folded for launch. The sun shield is so unwieldy that it spans 70 feet by 46 feet to keep all the infrared, heat-sensing science instruments in constant subzero shadow.

The mirrors are next up for release this weekend.

The $10 billion telescopes are more than halfway toward its destination 1.6 million kilometers away, following its Christmas Day sendoff. It is the biggest and most powerful observatory ever launched — 100 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope — enabling it to peer back to almost the beginning of time.

Considered Hubble’s successor, Webb will attempt to hunt downlight from the universe’s first stars and galaxies. “This is a really big moment,” project manager Bill Ochs told the control team in Baltimore. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but getting the sun shield out and deployed is really, really big.”

Engineers spent years redoing and tweaking the shade. At one point, dozens of fasteners fell off during a vibration test.

Thailand allows visitors back to the beach made famous by the movie

PHI LEH: Thailand has reopened Maya Bay, a white sand beach made famous by the 2000 film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, more than three years after closing it to allow its ecosystem to recover from the impact of thousands of visitors each day.

The beach, surrounded by 100-meter (328-ft) high cliffs, lies on the island of Phi Phi Leh in the Andaman Sea and is only accessible by boats from nearby spots such as the islands of Phuket or Phi Phi, or mainland Krabi.

Authorities shut the whole of Maya Bay to the public in 2018, saying coral reefs and beach areas had been damaged by constant tourist activities. But since the start of this year, some visitors have been allowed to return.

“The sharks have come back, coral reefs are regrowing, and the water is clear again,” Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said.

“These things show that nature will heal if we give it time, and we have to work to keep it that way too.” To ensure it remains protected, authorities said only up to 375 visitors will be allowed to visit at one time and swimming will be prohibited for now. Boats will only be allowed to dock at a designated location at the back of the bay to avoid damaging coral reefs, they said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, tourism accounted for about 12pc of Thailand’s economy and was a key driver of growth, with the country attracting 40 million visitors in 2019.

But mass tourism has often come at a cost to the environment in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, with once-beautiful tropical beaches becoming polluted and strewn with garbage. “Maya Bay is beautiful, it’s a marvelous place,” said Manuele Panin, a 40-year-old tourist from Italy, who was visiting the beach.

“I think it is fine that it has been closed all this time to protect nature and allow it to restore and recover.”

PTI tried to keep a lid on foreign accounts, reveals ECP

• Report claims party under-reported Rs312m funds between 2009 and 2013
• Fawad calls report ‘inaccurate’, claims certain transactions counted twice
• PTI demands public scrutiny, open hearing of ‘identical’ cases against itself, PPP, and PML-N

ISLAMABAD: A damning report compiled by the scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has confirmed that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) received funding from foreign nationals and companies, under-reported funds, and concealed dozens of its bank accounts.

The report, also mentions a refusal by the party to divulge details of large transactions and the panel’s helplessness to get details of PTI’s foreign accounts and the funds collected abroad.

According to the report, the party under-reported an amount of Rs312 million over a four-year period, between FY2009-10 and FY2012-13. Year-wise details show that an amount of over Rs145m was under-reported in FY2012-13 alone.

“A perusal of the chartered accountant’s opinion on the accounts of PTI for this period does not indicate any deviation from the reporting principles and standards,” the report points out.

It also calls into question the certificate signed by PTI chairman Imran Khan, submitted along with the details of PTI’s audited accounts.

The report also refers to the controversy over allowing four PTI employees to receive donations in their personal accounts but says it was out of the scope of its work to probe their accounts.

The report emerged as the ECP resumed hearing of the foreign funding case against PTI on Tuesday after a gap of around nine months.

The case has been pending since Nov 14, 2014. Since then, the ECP and the Scrutiny Committee have heard the case over 150 times, with PTI seeking adjournment on 54 occasions.

The scrutiny committee was formed in March 2018 to completely scrutinize PTI accounts, but it took almost four years to present its report to the ECP, which was submitted in Dec 2021.

The last hearing took place on April 6, 2021, after which the ECP had directed the petitioner, PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar, to employ two auditors for the perusal of documents submitted by PTI.

A PTI request to keep the scrutiny committee report secret was turned down by ECP, and the next hearing in this matter will be held on Jan 18.

Ministers defend PTI

Following Tuesday’s proceedings at ECP, government ministers came out in support of the ruling party. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry termed the report “inaccurate” and called for a public comparison of all the parties’ foreign funding so people knew where they all stood.

He claimed that there were “two relevant transactions of Rs150m and Rs160m, which had been duplicated and therefore counted twice by the committee”. Referring to the matter of the underreported funds, Fawad said a transaction of Rs160m was counted twice because the party had received the money in its central account and transferred it to another.

“In the same way, Rs150m transferred from the center to the provinces from a PTI subsidiary was also counted twice.” He said these facts would be laid before the ECP during arguments in the case.

The minister said the report showed that the PTI had 26 accounts out of which eight were inactive.

“Out of the remaining 18 accounts, eight are functional and have transactions and also show funds coming in,” he added.

He said that 10 of the accounts in question did not actually belong to the PTI, while six were subsidiary accounts, while the party has distanced itself from the remaining four.

The minister claimed that it was now evident that there was “no question of foreign funding”, adding that Mr. Khan had always given a record of every single penny and his party had done the same.

The minister called on the election commission to also conduct a scrutiny of the accounts of the two other major political parties — the PPP and the PML-N. “It is important to have a comparison with the accounts of Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N as well as the PPP,” he added.

“People give $10, $25, $55 or $100,” he said, adding that people trusted Imran Khan ever since he had campaigned for and built the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.

State Minister for Information Farrukh Habib also said that scrutiny committees formed in PPP and PML-N cases were identical to the body constituted to audit the bank accounts of the ruling party.

Flanked by Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar and PTI leader Aamir Mehmood Kiani, he said the reports of the scrutiny committees for the bank accounts of the PPP and PMLN had been completed and they should also be ordered to submit these reports before the national election watchdog at the earliest.

The state minister was of the view that cases of the PTI, PML-N, and PPP were of a similar nature, adding that the scrutiny committees were formed in light of the Supreme Court’s decision which said that all parties’ bank accounts would be scrutinized in accordance with the law and without discrimination.

“We have no objection if the ECP hears all three parties’ cases in open court as PTI fully believes in transparency,” he added.