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Pakistan takes control of 182 religious schools in crackdown on militants



Pakistan takes control of 182 religious schools in crackdown on militants

“Law enforcement agencies have taken 121 people under preventive detention as of today,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that religious schools, hospitals and ambulances were taken over.

Pakistan began a crackdown on militant groups this week amid growing international pressure in the wake of a bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir by a militant group based in Pakistan.

Islamabad denies aiding militants and says its push against banned outfits is unrelated to the Indian and global pressure.

However, Pakistan on Tuesday said it had begun a crackdown on militant groups, detaining 44 members of banned organizations including close relatives of the leader of a group blamed for a deadly bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir in February.

The interior ministry said it was a move to “speed up action against all proscribed organisations.’’

Officials said it was part of a long-planned drive against militant groups, not a response to Indian anger over what New Delhi calls Islamabad’s failure to rein in militant groups operating on Pakistani soil.

Pakistan is facing pressure from global powers to act against groups carrying out attacks in India, including Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) which claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 attack that killed at least 40 paramilitary police.

The incident led to the most serious conflict in years between the nuclear-armed neighbours, with cross-border airstrikes and a brief dogfight over the skies of Kashmir.

Tension cooled when Pakistan returned a downed Indian pilot on Friday.

In a further sign that tensions were easing, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said a delegation would visit New Delhi next week to discuss an accord on Sikh pilgrims visiting holy sites in Pakistan.

On Tuesday, Pakistan placed two charities linked to Hafiz Saeed, founder of a militant organisation the U.S. and India have blamed for numerous deadly attacks, including a siege by gunmen in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166 people, on the country’s official banned list.

The Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation charities were placed on the list after the government announced the restriction in February.

The U.S., Britain and France proposed in February that the UN Security Council blacklist Azhar. The U.S. and Britain have urged Pakistan to deal with militant groups.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced a new order on Monday to update existing laws that deal with those on UN sanctions lists.


UN rights office says Israeli settlements remain unlawful



The UN human rights office said that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory remained in breach of international law, rejecting the Trump administration’s position that it now backed them.

UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said this at a news conference on Tuesday.

The U.S. on Monday abandoned its four-decade-old position that the settlements, built on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War, were inconsistent with international law.

“We continue to follow the long-standing position of the UN that Israeli settlements are in breach of international law.

“A change in the policy position of one state does not modify existing international law nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice and the Security Council,” he said.

The International Court of Justice, in an advisory opinion issued in 2004, said that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, were esablished in breach of international law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 – which both the U.S. and Israel have ratified – lays down that an occupying power shall not transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, he said.

Non-governmental activist groups also rejected the Trump administration’s new stance, announced by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“This changes nothing. President Trump can’t wipe away decades of established international law that settlements are a war crime,” Andrea Prasow, Acting Washington Director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Philippe Nassif of Amnesty International said the construction and maintenance of the settlements breached international law and amounted to war crimes.

“Today, the U.S. government announced to the rest of the world that it believes the U.S. and Israel are above the law.

“Israel can continue to violate international law and Palestinians’ human rights and the U.S. will firmly support it in doing so,” he said in a statement.

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim)

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Gulf of Guinea: Expert tasks Member States on financial commitments



Mr Tony Alonwu, Chairman for the Expert Meeting of the Gulf of Guinea Council of Ministers has urged Member States to redeem their financial commitments to effectively combat issues facing the region.

Alonwu made the call on Tuesday in Abuja during the Meeting of Experts ahead of the 11th Session of the Council of Ministers of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) holding on Wednesday in Abuja.

According to Alonwu, the financial constraints of the GGC and low level of cooperation amongst Members States were major reasons limiting the Commission from achieving its mandates.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the Gulf of Guinea Commission was established in 2001 with set objectives which includes combating maritime crimes- piracy, sea robbery, illegal bunkering.

The commission also aims to combat environmental pollution, drugs and arms trafficking, as well as illegal unreported and unregulated fishing.

Alonwu stressed the importance for Member States to Cooperate and meet their financial obligations to organization by paying the annual contributions and dues as at when due.

“For us to achieve our collective objectives, and address frontally the present security challenges at the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, there is greater need for Member States to cooperate.

“And be more committed inn honouring their financial obligations to the organization ,through payment, as at when dues, their annual statutory contribution; and attending structured meetings.

“Where decisions on the way forward of the organization are usually taken. It is only Member States of the Gulf of Guinea Commission that can build the organization into a strong

“The current situation where the secretariat is unable to finance its activities due to nonpayment of assessed contributions by majority of member states constitutes a threat to smooth functioning of the Commission”, Alonwu said.

Alonwu said that in Nov. 2017, when Nigeria successfully hosted the 4th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments, one of the major outcome of the summit was a “Revitalization Strategy”.

He explained that the Revitalization Strategy of the Gulf of Guinea Commission was aimed at transforming the orgnaisation into an effective mechanism for strengthening bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

He added that the Revitalization Strategy also seeks to build confidence among Member States to ensure peace, security and development in the region.

“With its five established committees on Peace and Security, Committee on Circulation and Movement of Persons and Goods, Committee on Oil and Environment, Fishing and Committee on Finance.

“The Revitalization Strategy, if implemented has the potential of reviving the GG to make the organization achieve its set objectives it was established in 2001.

Alonwu urged participants of the expert meetings to make meaningful contributions, explaining  that the meeting was crucial as it outcome of discussions would set the tone for the Council of Ministers Meeting.

Speaking earlier, Amb. Florentina Ukonga, Executive Secretary of the Commission said that the Expert Meeting aims to generate ideas for necessary recommendations to the Council of Ministers.

Ukonga said that the meeting would avail members of the Commission and the Ministers to review the activities of the GGC as approved by the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments of Nov. 23, 2017.

She explained that criminal activities, underdevelopment and insecurity were yet to completely eliminated from Member Countries of the Gulf of Guinea.

“I hope that this meeting will generate ideas and discussions for necessary recommendations to the Council of Ministers to give full support to the activities of the GGC by funding.

“Participating in its activities at appropriate levels, defending its interest and being its advocate in all fora to enable the organization achieve its objectives.

“The agenda is short but it contains items that call for frank discussions on the way forward for the GGC and I sincerely hope that this Council of Ministers Meeting will be the catalyst that the GGC needs.

“To catapult it into higher levels of functioning, funding, operation and relevance.

“The reasons that led to the establishment of the GGC remain valid. Criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea region, which GGC is expected to focus on and encourage regional solutions are yet to be completely eliminated.

“Threats to the region’s development, to population’s well-being and effective collaboration to ensure a safe and secure environment in which business can grow, though reducing, still exist in the region.

“Our states are expected to lead the fight against all these criminal activities and not leave the initiative of the battle to other stakeholders outside the region.

“Our interest and their interest are not necessarily the same”, Ukonga said.

Ukonga pledged the commitments of the executive secretariat to ensure the GGC achieve the objectives it was created for and transform the Gulf of Guinea Region into a peaceful and secured zone.

NAN reports that Member Countries of the Gulf of Guinea Commission includes: Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo Brazzaville.

edited by Sadiya hamza

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China has over 170,000 elderly-care institutions, facilities – official



China had a total of 173,300 elderly-care service institutions and facilities at the end of June and more than 140,000 were at the community level, a Chinese official said on Tuesday/

Li Banghua, a Senior Official with China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, said this at a symposium held on coping with the ageing population.

More than half of the institutions nationwide are privately run, and in Shanghai and Beijing, privately run elderly-care institutions account for more than 80 per cent of the total, Banghua said.

China has also been working to improve the quality of elderly-care services while providing more funding.

A special campaign launched in 2017 has eliminated more than 390,000 potential hazards in the country’s nursing homes.

More than five billion yuan (about $712.26 million), in annual central government funding, has also been provided for the sector since 2016, Banghua said.

The official added that private investment from society has also been booming.

Efforts will be made to help transform the government’s role from an elderly-care service provider to a supervisor to let the market play a decisive role, according to Banghua. (Xinhua/NAN)

Edited by Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Berlin conference: Germany signs projects with Tunisia, Ghana



German Development Minister Gerd Mueller is signing several contracts relating to economic projects in Africa during a Compact with Africa conference being held in Berlin.

According to the Development Ministry, the projects include a water supply contract in Tunisia, constructing a factory for making organic chocolate in Ghana and the expansion of a textile factory, also in Ghana, for producing sustainable fabric.

The latter project will create 1,500 new jobs.

In addition, a further 50 projects aim to create 70,000 jobs and 32,000 places for trainees in Africa.

“At the last Africa summit a year ago, we announced greater support for the German and African economy and our offer is now in place,” Mueller told the conference.

Mueller is to sign reform partnerships with Senegal and Ethiopia, and an agreement with Morocco is being planned. (dpal/NAN)|

Edifed by Fatima Sule/Donald Ugwu

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Syria, Egypt, Jordan condemn U.S. reversal on Israeli settlement policy



Syria, Egypt and Jordan have condemned the announcement by Washington that it no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank inconsistent with international law.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the reversal of U.S. policy toward the controversial settlements on Monday.

This is according to a statement released by Syrian state news agency SANA on Tuesday in Amman.

A source at the Foreign Ministry said Damascus “condemns in the strongest terms the American position towards the Zionist settlements in the Palestinian territories, which are a flagrant violation of international law.”

Syria finds the U.S. position as “invalid and has no legal effect,” the statement added.

Egypt said its position adheres to the international resolutions and laws, which considers the settlements “illegal and violate international law,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said.

On Monday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi described the settlements as “an unacceptable unilateral measure” that violates international law and undermines chances for a two-state solution.

Al-Safadi also warned of “dangerous consequences” that the U.S. change of position will have on the peace process.

Pompeo said the pro-Israel move provides a chance for a negotiated peace as opposed to a continuation of a dispute over their legality.

There are now more than 600,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The UN Security Council in 2016 demanded a complete stop to the building of settlements and passed a resolution designating them as violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Edited by Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide

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Saudi court sentences 18 to jail for corruption, bribery




Riyadh, Nov. 19, 2019 A Saudi court has sentenced 18 people to jail after they were convicted of corruption and bribery, a statement said on Tuesday, the latest in the kingdom’s anti-corruption campaign.

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 dependent on oil.

A statement published by the Saudi Press Agency said the 18 received sentences adding up to a total of up to 55 years.

They also have to pay fines worth four million riyals (around 1 million dollars).

One of the defendants was described as an official who held an executive-level position.

He “took money and benefits as bribes from a businessman” and used his position to allow violations and fraud. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Officials working with him were also sentenced to jail.

A businessman was also convicted for bribing civil servants and was jailed for 16 years.

Some employees at his business were also found guilty and received prison sentences.

On Friday, prosecutors said five officials received sentences adding up to a total of up to 32 years over bribery, wasting public funds, misusing power and illicit wealth charges.

The crown prince was seen as spearheading what Riyadh described as an anti-corruption drive in 2017-18, 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 Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide

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