Category Archives: WORLD

US expresses ‘concern’ over Kashmir violence

UNITED NATIONS: Pak­istan’s effort to stay focused on Indian atrocities in held Kashmir is resonating at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, as US Secretary of State John Kerry also expressed “strong concern” over recent violence in the occupied Valley.

But a stronger reaction came from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) contact group at the United Nations, which met on the sidelines of the General Assembly session and urged India to peacefully resolve the 69-year-old dispute.

“We call for an immediate cessation of Indian oppression and atrocities and urge the government of India for peaceful settlement of the dispute, in accordance with wishes of Kashmiri people and the UN Security Council resolutions,” said OIC Sec­retary General Iyad Ameen Madani. “The Indian occupation forces can physically blind the Kashmiri people by their pellet guns, but they cannot block their vision for the realisation of their right to self-determination.”

Secretary Kerry’s reaction was brief and also inc­luded a reference to Sunday’s militant attack in Uri.

“The prime minister and Secretary Kerry expressed strong concern with recent violence in Kashmir — particularly the army base attack — and the need for all sides to reduce tensions,” said a statement issued by his office.

OIC calls upon India to stop oppression in the Valley and to work for a settlement in line with the wishes of Kashmiris

Secretary Kerry met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday but the State Department issued its version of the meeting on Tuesday, which significantly differed from the official statement Pakistan had issued after the meeting.

The State Department made it a point to underline the issues missing from the Pakistani statement, such as the need for nuclear res­traint and preventing cross-border terrorist attacks.

“The secretary reiterated the need for Pakistan to prevent all terrorists from using Pakistani territory as safe havens, while commending recent efforts by Pakistani security forces to counter extremist violence,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby while outlining the issues discussed in the Sharif-Kerry meeting.

“They also spoke about regional issues, including recent developments with regard to Afghanistan. The prime minister and Secre­tary Kerry also stressed the need for restraint in nuclear weapons programmes,” he said.

However, Mr Kerry praised Pakistan for hosting Afghan refugees for over 40 years and highlighted the importance of continued respect for humanitarian principles, he added.

The two leaders also emphasised the need to continue a “strong, long-term bilateral partnership and to build upon the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue,” said the US statement.

The secretary praised the prime minister for restoring macroeconomic stability to Pakistan over the last three years and expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s cooperation on climate change priorities, it added.

At a briefing for Pakistani journalists, Foreign Secre­tary Aizaz Chaudhry and Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, said that while Mr Sharif discussed other issues in his meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, he was focused on one particular issue: Kashmir.

“The prime minister has come to the UN General Assembly with only one agenda, to highlight Indian atrocities and the indigenous and peaceful nature of the Kashmiri struggle,” Mr. Chaudhry said.

Dr Lodhi said that linking Kashmir to other issues was “other people’s agenda. The PM has come with Pakistan’s agenda, which is drawing the world’s attention to the atrocities of Indian occupation forces”.

The prime minister was here “on mission Kashmir. We are focused. There will be other occasions for other issues,” she said.

Asked if the attack on the Indian military base in Uri could lead to an armed confrontation between India and Pakistan, the foreign secretary said that India was playing up the attack to hide its atrocities in the valley.

“The Indian reaction is regrettable. They blamed Pakistan even before knowing the details. India will have to think how to resolve the Kashmir dispute, blaming Pakistan will not help,” Mr Chaudhry said.

Dr Lodhi said that the uprising in the occupied valley was an “indigenous movement and nothing can stop that movement. The sooner India realises it, the better it is for all.”

She said that the ground situation in Kashmir was moving in a certain way and India could not ignore the wishes of the Kashmiri people for long.

Muslim Teenager Proposes ‘Hijabi’ Emojis for greater inclusion

BERLIN: When 15-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi scrolled through the extensive Emoji library on her smartphone keyboard, she could not decide on one which would best represent her or others like her who chose to wear a head scarf or hijab in their daily lives.

Instead of just selecting another feminine symbol, the teenager decided to take matters in her own hands.

Her initial decision was to write to Apple regarding her disappointment before deciding to directly contact Unicode Consortium — a non-profit corporation that oversees standards for symbols on keyboards. Alhumedhi designed and has forwarded a proposal to add symbols representing Muslim women wearing Hijab to the consortium, New York times reports.

While there are several humanoid emoji’s available for both the genders ─ in many different skin colors, facial expressions and actions ─ there are none which are sporting a head scarf or a ‘hijab’.

Both android and iOS have made an effort in recent years to be more inclusive in the emoji options they provide to users but Alhumedhi and her peers feel left out.

“In the age of digitalization, pictures prove to be a crucial element in communication,” the proposal says.

“Roughly 550 million Muslim women on this earth pride themselves on wearing the hijab. With this enormous number of people, not a single space on the keyboard is reserved for them.”

Alhumedhi was born in Saudi Arabia but now resides in Germany and has worn a hijab in accordance to her spiritual beliefs since she was 13 years old. She feels the clothing gives her more freedom of choice in deciding how much she wants to cover up and she fiercely debates against the idea that the hijab is a symbol of oppression for Muslim females.

15-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi proposed her own designed Emojis after being disappointed by choices available ─ Courtesy PropPakistani
15-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi proposed her own designed Emojis after being disappointed by choices available ─ Courtesy PropPakistani

Her proposal has found support in the tech community, where there is already a movement underway to improve female inclusion in the industry.

Along with immediate, high-visibility issues like sexism at work and the significant gender wage-gap, people are also starting to raise their voice against alienation of women in more subtle ways like a lack of professional female symbols in the most popular communication medium of the 21st century.

Jennifer 8. Lee, a former New York Times reporter and a member of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, helped the teenager draft her proposal. Now a co-author of the document, Lee encouraged Alhumedhi to discuss the history and importance of the hijab in her proposal.

The Hijab emojis are not just fighting for female visibility. They are also a step towards inclusion and representation for the average Muslim in the mainstream media.

With the recent debates against the ‘burkini’ swimsuit bans by France and the hostility faced by immigrants in Europe (where the women are often singled out by their head scarfs), ‘Hijabi’ emojis could provide a way for young Muslim girls to feel like they belong in the digital world.

Alhumedhi will be flying to the Bay Area in California to present a final version of her proposal to Unicode’s full technical committee in November.

In the mean time she is gathering support for her proposal from the internet community. On Sep 13, she engaged with users of popular siteReddit, answering questions about wearing the Hijab and challenging critics who oppose the article on grounds of female oppression.

“The head scarf allows for people to see past a woman’s beauty and see her for her knowledge.”

Syrian army declares ceasefire over, blames rebels

DAMASCUS: Syria’s armed forces said on Monday that a week-long ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia was over, blaming rebels for the failure of the truce.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said meanwhile that the terms had not been met for a key aspect of the deal — US-Russia cooperation against jihadists in Syria.

In a statement carried by state news agency SANA, Syria’s army said a freeze on fighting it had announced last week had ended, blaming rebel groups it said “did not commit to a single element” of the truce deal.

“Syria’s army announces the end of the freeze on fighting that began at 7:00 pm on September 12, 2016 in accordance with the US-Russia agreement,” the statement said.

The truce backed by world powers aimed to help end Syria’s brutal five-year conflict, which has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced millions.

But after several days of relative calm, fighting escalated across major battlefronts, culminating in a deadly US-led air raid at the weekend on a Syrian army position and fresh strikes on Aleppo.

“The truce was supposed to be a real chance to stop the bloodshed, but the armed terrorist groups flouted this agreement,” Monday’s army statement said.

Syria’s armed forces “exercised the highest degree of self-restraint while facing violations by terrorist groups,” it said.

Kerry — who brokered the deal along with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov — said in New York that Russia had failed to meet its side of a deal to enforce the truce, but that Washington was willing to keep working on it.

Under the terms of an agreement, the US military would set up a joint cell with Russian forces to target Syrian jihadists if the ceasefire held.

Kerry had earlier insisted the ceasefire was “holding but fragile”.

He told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly that American officials were “meeting now with the Russians in Geneva. That process is continuing and we’ll see where we are in the course of the day.”

Rebels didn’t respect it

However, Russia’s defence ministry appeared to bury hopes that the truce would last past Monday night.

“Considering that the conditions of the ceasefire are not being respected by the rebels, we consider it pointless for the Syrian government forces to respect it unilaterally,” Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoy said in a televised briefing.

He said “the main issue” was that non-jihadist rebels had not been separated from Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate on the ground.

Violence increased across the country on Monday, with fierce clashes reported east of Damascus and one child killed in regime shelling on the edges of Aleppo.

Since September 12, 27 civilians, including nine children, have been killed in areas where the truce had been set to take hold, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The bloodiest day for civilians was Sunday, when a barrel bomb attack killed 10 in a southern rebel-held town and one woman died in the first raids on Aleppo since the truce started.

The ceasefire came under additional strain after a US-led coalition strike hit a Syrian army post Saturday near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where government forces are battling the Islamic State jihadist group.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Monday the coalition raid showed world powers support “terrorist organisations” like IS.

“The latest example of this is the flagrant American aggression on one of the Syrian army’s positions in Deir Ezzor,” he said.

Air raid was ‘intentional’

Senior government adviser Buthaina Shaaban told AFP Sunday that Damascus believed the raid, which killed at least 62 Syrian soldiers, had been “intentional”.

Loyalist forces backed by Russian and Syrian warplanes were fighting to roll back IS’s advance there, a military source told AFP on Monday.

Under the US-Russia agreement, fighting was to have halted across Syria and humanitarian aid would reach civilians suffering increasingly dire humanitarian conditions.

On Monday, convoys of food and medical aid reached two hard-to-reach areas, according to David Swanson, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Aid was delivered to tens of thousands in rebel-held Talbisseh, where at least two people were killed by shelling during the truce.

Another 78,000 people living in and around Greater Orum in the north of Aleppo province would also receive flour and health supplies, Swanson said.

But convoys to rebel-held districts of Aleppo were still stuck on the border with Turkey.

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said he was “pained” that Aleppo had still not received promised aid deliveries.

Brahamdagh Bugti to seek asylum in India

NEW DELHI: The separatist Balochistan Republican Party (BRP) leader Braham­dagh Bugti on Monday said he would apply for political asylum in India.

“We have decided that we will formally file asylum papers to the Indian government. We will start work on it right away. Will go to the Indian embassy and will follow the legal process,” The Indian Express quoted Mr Bugti as saying. He said that he would call the Indian embassy for an appointment.

Read: Switzerland rejects Brahamdagh request for political asylum

Mr Bugti also said that like-minded Baloch leaders had decided to file criminal cases against Pakistan Army generals and China at the International Court of Justice.

“Will take China to the International Court of Justice with the help of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and India,” said the BRP leader who is currently living in exile in Switzerland.

Last month, Mr Bugti thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for raising the issue of the situation in Balochistan in the latter’s Independence Day speech.

Earlier there were reports, according to the Express, that India was considering granting political asylum to Baloch activists living in exile. The reports said that a decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting of BRP in Geneva on Sunday.

India last granted political asylum to the Dalai Lama in 1959.

There was no comment from any side if India was ready to grant asylum to Mr Bugti despite its apparent support to his cause. The Express did not say where and to whom Mr Bugti was speaking.

Mr Bugti is a self-proclaimed survivor of an attack on his party’s hideout in Kohlu near Quetta in 2006 launched by Pakistani Army. His grandfather Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was killed in the attack.

‘Indian attempts to deny illegal occupation of Kashmir is a travesty of history’

GENEVA: The Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Tehmina Janjua, on Saturday said India’s attempts to deny its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir is a “travesty of history”.

The Pakistani delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council also strongly rebutted India’s stance on India-held Kashmir (IHK) and also slammed the Indian state’s interference in Balochistan.

“India had introduced a bill in its own parliament seeking to penalise those who depict Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory. This was yet another pathetic effort to alter facts to conform to their own deluded sense of reality,” said Janjua.

Read: Kashmir: why talk to India?

The Pakistani delegate also drew the attention of the Council to the recent speech by a Kashmiri member of the Indian Parliament, who described the current Indian repression as “worse than that by Nazi forces”.

He had also said that if India had any respect of international law, India would end its occupation and let Kashmiris decide their own fate.

“We are not surprised by the remarks of the Indian leadership and its delegation, which would constitute open interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, especially in Balochistan,” said Pakistan representative in the UN.

She added that India’s behaviour is consistent with its record of interfering in neighbouring countries.

“The sudden Indian focus on Balochistan is consistent with their playbook of seeking to distract attention from their repression in India-occupied Kashmir.”

Janjua pointed out Pakistan had avoided commenting on India’s internal human rights situation.

“Given the persistent, irresponsible flouting of international norms governing inter-state behaviour by India, we are constrained to point out the abysmal human rights record of the Indian government,” said Janjua.

“Pakistan has restrained itself from commenting on the unrelenting repression unleashed by the Indian state in many of its areas. We, instead, only address the situation in India-occupied Kashmir, as that is an international dispute acknowledged in repeated UN resolutions,” she added.

Uptick in violence

In the worst civilian violence to hit the restive region of Indian-held Kashmir since 2010, at least 90 Kashmiri civilians have been killed and thousands more injured in Indian-held Kashmir in clashes with security forces after the killing of a prominent Kashmiri separatist leader Burhan Wani, in a military operation on July 8.

Wani, a 22-year-old commander of Kashmir’s largest pro-independence militant group Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), was killed along with two other separatists during a gun battle with Indian government forces.

Wani joined the HM group at the age of just 15, and was viewed as a hero by many in Kashmir. The state’s former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted after his death that he had become the “new icon of Kashmir’s disaffected”.

Witnesses said tens of thousands attended his funeral despite a curfew imposed by Indian authorities, chanting independence slogans.

Also read: United States to urge India for holding talks with Pakistan over Kashmir issue

Indian government troops in IHK have reportedly fired live ammunition, and used pellet guns and tear gas to control anti-government protesters.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called an emergency meeting to discuss escalating violence in India-held Kashmir amid anti-India protests.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office has also condemned the violence in Indian-held Kashmir.

HM is one of several groups that for decades have been fighting around half a million Indian troops deployed in the region, calling for independence for Kashmir or a merger with Pakistan. Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol during curfew in Srinagar.

Kashmir has been divided between rivals India and Pakistan since 1947, but both claim the territory in its entirety.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting since 1989.

Violence had sharply declined in recent years following a major crackdown by the hundreds of thousands of Indian forces deployed in the region.

But a recent uptick in militant attacks has galvanised frustrated young Kashmiris, majority of whom deeply resent the Indian military’s presence.