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Pakistan plans to bring 30,000 madrasas under government control

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Pakistan plans to bring 30,000 madrasas under government control

Madrasas

Modernising madrasa education is a thorny issue in Pakistan, a deeply conservative Muslim nation where religious schools are often blamed for radicalisation of youngsters but are the only education available to millions of poor children.

Pakistan’s new government, facing pressure from global powers to act against militant groups, carrying out attacks in India and Afghanistan, has vowed major reforms.

Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has promised the South Asian nation will no longer tolerate such outfits operating on its territory.

Critics of the madrasa education system said children, who attend such schools, where they spend most of the day memorising the holy Qur’an, are often ill-equipped for the modern world and some madrasas act as breeding grounds for militant outfits.

“The Government of Pakistan has decided that these madrasas will be mainstreamed,’’ spokesman Gen. Asif Ghafoor said at military headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

“An Islamic education will continue to be provided but there will be no hate speech,’’ Ghafoor added.

He said that religious schools would come under the purview of the ministry of educations and incorporate other subjects into their syllabus.

Ghafoor said Pakistan would pay for the madrasas by diverting cash to education from the cost of anti-terrorism security operations, which are less necessary because militant attacks have sharply declined in recent years.

Pakistan has been eager to show that it has severed links with militant groups that have in the past carried out attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan and India.

In March, the government announced it had taken control of 182 religious schools and detained more than 100 people as part of its biggest push against banned groups.

Security services have kept a close eye on madrasas associated with radicalising youths and feeding recruits to militant outfits that have killed tens of thousands of people in the South Asian country since 2000.

“The benefit will be that when children grow and leave these institutions they will have the same career opportunities that those coming from a private school have,’’ Ghafoor said.

“We want to end violent extremism in Pakistan and that will only happen when our children have the same education and opportunities.’’

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India’s CBI raids human rights watchdog amnesty international’s offices

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday raided the premises of Amnesty International in Bengaluru over alleged irregularities in foreign funding.

India’s federal Home Ministry had revoked the watchdog’s license under the Foreign Currency Regulation Act in 2010.

The U.S.-based human rights watchdog, is critical of India’s federal nationalist government for alleged violations of citizens’ rights, has come to the attention of another national probe.

In September, the federal economic intelligence agency, Enforcement Directorate had issued notices to Amnesty for alleged contraventions of the foreign exchange act.

The organisation however denied the charges.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday raided the premises of Amnesty International in Bengaluru over alleged irregularities in foreign funding.

India’s federal Home Ministry had revoked the watchdog’s license under the Foreign Currency Regulation Act in 2010.

The U.S.-based human rights watchdog, is critical of India’s federal nationalist government for alleged violations of citizens’ rights, has come to the attention of another national probe.

In September, the federal economic intelligence agency, Enforcement Directorate had issued notices to Amnesty for alleged contraventions of the foreign exchange act.

The organisation however denied the charges.

Amnesty International has been critical of several policies of the Indian federal government over alleged human rights violations.

Following New Delhi’s decision to strip the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the non-profit body had alleged that the government detained activists and politicians, without any charge or trial.

The federal Home Ministry has cancelled the licenses of about 1,300 volunteer organisations under the foreign funding regulations.

This included Greenpeace India, the Ford Foundation, several evangelist associations, right-wing charitable organisations, and educational institutes.

The action followed the failure of these organisations to file annual returns as mandated by law. (Sputnik/NAN)

Edited by Hadiza Mohammed/Ali Baba-Inuwa

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Ousted ambassador says she felt threatened by Trump

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Ousted U.S ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies to Congress that she felt threatened by President, Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about her in a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

She also describes how she was recalled from Kiev in  the middle of the night after being told by U.S officials they were no longer able to protect me, apparently under directions from the White House.

“It was terrible, it was not the way I wanted my career to end,’’ she says.

When asked if she felt threatened by Trump telling Zelensky that  she’s going to go through some things,’’ she says clearly: `I did.’

Asked for further reaction, she says she was shocked, appalled, devastated that the president of the U.S would talk about any ambassador like that to a foreign head of state.

“And it was me. I couldn’t believe it.’’

Edited by Halima Sheji

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Explosion at ammunition depot in Ukraine kills two sappers – General Staff

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The spokesman for the Ukrainian General Staff Bogdan Senik on Friday confirmed that two sappers were killed in an explosion at an ammunition depot in Ukraine.

Senik said several people were injured in the explosion which happened during the liquidation of an ammunition depot in the city of Balakliya in eastern Ukraine.

“As a result of an explosion, four people, two servicemen and two armed forces’ employees have received injuries.’’

According to him, the injured received burns to soft body parts, and one of them has suffered a bone fracture. The victims have been hospitalised.

The General Staff reported earlier that about 20 explosions had occurred at the depot in the city of Balakliya during the liquidation of the ammunition. (Sputnik/NAN)

Edited by Hadiza Mohammed

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5 Saudi officials handed prison terms for corruption, bribery

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Five Saudi officials have been sentenced to jail after they were convicted of bribery, wasting public funds, misusing power and acquiring illicit wealth, a statement said on Friday.

The five received sentences adding up to a total of up to 32 years.

The public prosecutors had gathered more than 300 pieces of evidence against the defendants and presented them to the court, the statement, published by the Saudi Press Agency, said.

They were also ordered to pay fines of more than nine million riyals (around 2.4 million dollars). The court also ordered the confiscation of funds in their personal bank accounts.

Among those convicted is an official who was arrested while taking a bribe to approve some irregular measures, besides participating in the falsification of documents.

He was sentenced to 12 years in jail and ordered to pay a fine of one million Royal.

Some commercial entities were also fined and banned from making deals with any public body for a certain period, the statement said.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has vowed to crack down on corruption, as the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to diversify the country’s economy and make it less dependant on oil.

Mohammed was seen as spearheading what Riyadh described as an anti-corruption drive in 2017 to 2018, when dozens of high-profile royals and former state officials were detained for three months.

Many reached financial settlements with the authorities, which the kingdom said were worth more than 100 billion dollars.

Edited by Halima Sheji/Maharazu Ahmed

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UN agency says extreme poverty, inequality remain Africa’s top challenges

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The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said on Friday that Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing existing inequality have remained the African continent’s biggest challenges.

Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division at the ECA made this known while addressing a high-level continental meeting of the committee on gender, poverty and social policy, in Addis Ababa.

“Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality remain some of Africa’s biggest challenges,  which the ECA is trying to help member States tackle through various policy recommendations and actions,” Ruzvidzo told the meeting.

The policy which aimed at looking into the core role of the ECA’s newly-formed Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division that was reformulated to address gender, poverty and social policy as key African priorities.

“Inspite of  strides the continent has made in reducing the incidence of poverty, under the current trajectory, it is unlikely that extreme poverty will be eradicated by 2030,’’ the ECA director said.

“Global extreme poverty is predominantly concentrated in Africa, and is declining much slower in the region compared to the rest of the world,’’ she added.

“In Africa, this megatrend has largely not been translated into diversification of the economy, structural transformation, and the creation of productive jobs away from substance agriculture, in manufacturing and modern services,’’ she said.

Figures from the ECA show that more than 50 per cent of urban residents in Africa live informally, increasing by 4.5 million annually and an estimated 210 million live under conditions of poverty in urban slums, excluding North Africa, a figure which is projected to rise to 256.4 million in 2020.

In half of African countries, less than 35 per cent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities, less than 76 per cent has access to potable water, and the urban housing deficit stands at 20 billion U.S. dollars to 25 billion U.S. dollars, according to the ECA.

“These figures suggest that extreme poverty in Africa is moving from rural to urban areas,’’ the ECA said in a statement issued on the margins of the meeting, adding the situation is equally challenging in terms of inequality in the region.

“The interaction between poverty and inequality requires urgent attention in order to resolve human ill-being, fulfill everyone’s human rights, and achieve collective peace, prosperity, and genuine democracy,’’ Ruzvidzo said.

“Poverty and inequality do not only mean human deprivation, they often lead to social unrest and uprisings, growing radicalisation, worsening of polarisation within countries and communities, risks, and sometimes actual conflicts and wars,’’ she added.

According to the ECA, particularly relevant to the new priorities of the newly-formed Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division is urbanisation.

The reformulated division is said to be home to sub-programs that seek to address emerging issues impacting the lives of African women and girls, promote and support African countries in their work to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

It also envisaged contributing to Africa achieving inclusive and equitable sustainable human and social development, it was noted.

“The principal rationale for its recent reform was to re-affirm that the Commission was re-oriented to effectively implement its mandate, including effectively supporting the implementation of, and follow-up to, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063,’’ Ruzvidzo said.

The ECA noting existing “uncertain and volatile global environment, slower growth in the region, and rising inequality, had to embark on reforms to ensure it remained in touch with Africa’s development efforts,’’ Ruzvidzo said.

The ECA’s new strategic direction, which focuses particularly on 23 African countries, aspires to increase its ability to make impactful interventions and remain forward-looking, it was noted.

Experts in the fields of urbanisation, planning, social policy and gender, research institutes, UN specialised agencies and civil society are attending the two-day meeting to evaluate the core role of the ECA’s newly-formed division.

Which envisaged addressing gender, poverty and social policy as key African priorities.(Xinhua/NAN)

Edited by Halima Sheji/ Sadiya Hamza

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AU refutes report of China spying on its headquarters

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A senior official of the African Union (AU) on Friday rejected media reports that China has been spying on its headquarters and transferring data from servers in the building.

Victor Harison, the AU commissioner for economic affairs, said he had respect for the response of the chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who refuted a report the French newspaper Le Monde.

The French paper had earlier claimed that China had bugged the AU conference centre it had built and gifted to the AU in 2012.

Harison said, “I think the chairperson of the African Union has responded in this issue. I respect the response of my hierarchy chairperson.’’

Mahamat told the press in China that they were totally false allegations, reiterating that ties between China and the AU are unwavering, and such reports could not damage their relations.

According to a recent report by Reuters, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios has criticised countries that open their arms to Chinese 5G networks and artificial intelligence technologies.

Citing the Le Monde report in 2018 that Beijing had transferred data from the AU headquarters to China for five years using Huawei IT equipment.

Reuters also recalled that the AU had previously rejected claims that Huawei was involved in any cyber security breach.

Harison said that the AU and China are enjoying fruitful cooperation, with the AU office complex and conference centre a tangible example in this regard.

“This building is the fruit of collaboration between AU and China,’’ he said.

Refuting the rumour, Liu Yuxi, head of the Chinese Mission to the AU, told reporters on his part that the relationship between China and the AU is based on mutual respect and benefits. (Xinhua/NAN)

(Edited by Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim)

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