US pressing Pak to take sustained irreversible actions against terrorists

first_imgWashington: The Trump administration is now focused on pressing Pakistan to take “sustained and irreversible” actions against terrorist groups operating from its soil, a senior American diplomat has said. Recently, tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district in February 14. A senior State Department official said Friday that the US stood “publicly and resolutely” with India in its response to the attack. Also Read – Squadrons which participated in Balakot air strike awarded citations on IAF Day “Now we are focused on pressing Pakistan to take sustained, irreversible action on terrorist groups operating on its soil, and we are working with others in the international community to achieve this goal,” the official said. “The United States stood publicly and resolutely with India in its response to the attack, as you saw in our statements, while joining the international community in encouraging both sides to avoid military escalation, de-escalate tensions and communicate directly,” he said. Also Read – Don’t use ‘lynching’ to defame India: Bhagwat In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, the United States has not only supported India’s right to self-defence, but also has been building sustained pressure on Pakistan to take action against terrorist groups. Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that Pakistan has to stop harbouring terrorists. “We saw what happened with India, the conflict that arose there as a result of terrorists that departed from Pakistan. We need Pakistanis to step up. They need to stop harbouring terrorists,” he said. Pompeo had played a key role in de-escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan after Indian jets carried out air strikes at terrorist training camps of JeM in Balakot. Senior officials who are part of the de-escalation efforts in South Asia believe that this is only possible as long as there is no terrorist attack inside India coming from Pakistan. The recent talks between India and Pakistan on Kartarpur corridor is considered as a positive development in the US. The US officials believe that both Islamabad and New Delhi have shown seriousness in de-escalating the tensions. At the same time, they believe that the onus for this largely lies on Pakistan. If Pakistan continues with its age-old policy of supporting terrorist groups, the Trump administration may look into other options which could range from selective visa ban, revoking its non-NATO ally status and even cutting civilian aid to Pakistan. Since January 2018, US President Donald Trump has stopped all security assistance to Pakistan. It is understood that the focus for the Trump administration is not on any punitive action against Pakistan, but to convince its leadership including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa that it is in their interest to take sustained and irreversible actions against terrorist groups, the official said. The focus right now is to convince Pakistan that it is not in its interest to be isolated from the international community and it is in its interest to maintaining stable relationship with India, he said. Post Balakot, Pakistan has been told time and again that the reason that the situation is fragile in South Asia because of cross border terrorism, he said. In the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, India launched a major diplomatic offensive against Pakistan, holding briefing for envoys of 25 countries, including those from the five permanent UNSC members — the US, China, Russia, the UK and France — to highlight Islamabad’s role in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.last_img read more

AAP hits out at Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri for his antiDelhi

first_imgNew Delhi: Hitting out at Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri for his “anti-Delhi” policies, the Aam Aadmi Party Wednesday said a person who has nothing worthwhile to show in his performance as a minister is now venturing into the arena of electoral political analysis. Challenging Puri for an open debate, the AAP said it we will expose the “real face” of BJP and the Union Minister as well as question his anti-Delhi policies in the next seven days. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murder The comments by the AAP comes a day after Puri reportedly slammed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for becoming “desperate” for an alliance. AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said Puri need not worry about the Aam Aadmi Party, but rather tell the people of Delhi about his “anti-Delhi approach”. “For next seven days, we will expose the real face of BJP and Mr Puri and question his anti-Delhi policies. We challenge him for a open debate. New political wisdom has dawned on BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh Hardeep Singh Puri, who was made a minister of state in the Narendra Modi government, 18 months back. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings “Puri, who has nothing worthwhile to show in his performance as a minister, is now venturing into the new arena of electoral political analysis,” Bharadwaj said in a statement. Bharadwaj said it is beyond “any reasonable understanding in which capacity Puri is giving his expert comments on the political situation of Delhi, and why is he so worried about the AAP?” The AAP also asked Puri why did the BJP central government’s nominees on the Delhi Metro Board support the “unjustified” Metro fare hike? “What were the instructions of your ministry to the central government nominees on the Metro Board about the Metro fare hike? Why has the Narendra Modi government stalled approval to three routes of Delhi Metro Phase-IV?” he said.last_img read more

With polls coming Gurugram police cracks down on drugs illegal liquor

first_imgGurugram: Gurugram police are cracking down on drug mafia and illegal liquor cartels as the election nears. According to law enforcement officials, the mafia involving in this form of illegal trade becomes active as they can make big profits during this time. The millennium city is apparently witnessing a rise in the illegal trade of marijuana with the police have seized 60 kgs of the banned substance worth around Rs 80 lakh in March. “We have registered 19 FIRs linked to the trade and transportation of contraband. Of this, 17 are linked to marijuana export”, said a senior police official from Gurugram police. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderThe law and order challenge posed by drug mafia posed in Haryana can be gauged from the fact that in 2017 over 2,000 criminals involved in the crime of drug trafficking were arrested. Being the richest district of the state the drug mafia along with illegal liquor trade is now posing a major law and order challenge to law enforcement officials. On Tuesday there were seven drug traffickers that were arrested. In one of the incident, a person was arrested with 35 kgs of the sulpha drug. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchingsNot only are the officials from Gurugram police but now even the special task force (STF) has become involved in curbing the drug mafia in the city. According to sources most of the big criminal gangs that are operating in the city are now shifting their focus from illegal land deals, extortion to transportation and supply of drugs. While Synthetic drugs like Ganja, Sulfa are in high demand other forms like charas, Opium and heroin are also gaining popularity. In the recent arrest made by Gurugram police, seven people have been arrested for trafficking methadone drug that is believed to be the new addition.last_img read more

At the whim of a powerful nation

first_imgWhen US President Donald Trump tweeted their full recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights, “a current of surprise and expectation sizzled through the state department press corps”, as a BBC correspondent on a Jerusalem tour following US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it. It is said that the welcome surprise to Netanyahu was more in the timing than in substance. The intention that came to highlight through the tweet had been under consideration for quite some time, only the Israelis now pushed it with greater vigour. Of critical security and strategic importance, the Golan Heights is pivotal to stability in the region. For decades, most of the world (and previous US establishments) have rejected Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights which was seized from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. According to the UN charter, essentially, you can’t keep land that you capture, you have to negotiate its fate. Trump’s tweeted announcement has overturned this convention. This very grave move has implications that go beyond the bilateral dynamics of USA and Israel. Endorsing capture of a territory is potentially setting a dangerous trend to exercise military arbitration by a more powerful state. The regions that promptly come to mind at this are: on the global stage, Russia’s annexation of Crimea; in the Asian context, Tibet; and regarding India, PoK, given that Pakistan was USA’s baby not too long ago. Trump’s special mention of strategic and security reasons point out only too clearly to Iran, coming in the wake of the understanding that Iran is using Syria as a base to target Israel and the Golan Heights being the front line. Also, given that Israel already has a tight grip on the region militarily, the articulation of the status and a formal declaration of it make little difference on the ground. Hence, the next most obvious reason for this move has to be the election in Israel due on April 9, and something to count for Netanyahu, who will be making a visit to White House in the coming week. The situation is such that Israel strikes routinely at Iranian targets in Syria, carefully negotiating the situation with Russia, which provides crucial military backing to the Syrian state, a delicate balance indeed. With a civil war-wrecked Syria and a US sanctions-crippled Iran, Israel is in a position to assert claims over the region additionally with the support from White House. This is clearly a mechanism to violate territorial integrity and institutionalise regional instability. European leaders have not taken very kindly to this bilateral bonhomie at the cost of a suffering region. And rightly so. If recognition was so easy to give away, such arbitration raises very pertinent questions about Tibet, Kashmir, and Crimea. All it takes is the whim of a powerful nation.last_img read more

China mulls to buy Russias Su57 stealth fighter jet

first_imgBeijing: China is weighing options to buy Russia’s new Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet as Moscow has identified China and India as potential customers to acquire its advanced warplane, according to a media report. Described by Russian President Vladimir Putin as “the world’s best military plane”, the Su-57 is a fifth-generation multi-role fighter jet capable of both aerial combat and hitting ground and naval targets. Viktor Kladov, director of international cooperation and regional policy at Russia’s Rostec defence industrial holding company at a briefing at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia identified India and China as potential buyers, state-run Global Times reported on Monday. The Chinese air force, which currently has a range of home grown new aircraft including the stealth fighter J-20, besides Russia’s Su 35s, is keeping a close eye on India’s acquisition of France’s Rafale plane adding a new strategic dimension to its air assets. While China has been developing its own new generation military aircraft, it is still heavily reliant on Russian engines for the planes as it is yet to produce a reliant engine of its own. Both China and Pakistan rely on Russian engines for their jointly produced JF-17 Thunder. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USChinese defence analyst Wang Ya’nan, the chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge, said the Russia’s offer to sell SU-57 is more attractive to India as China has its stealth fighter. Unlike China, India does not have a fifth-generation fighter, so the Su-57 is an attractive warplane to India, he told Global Times. Wang said although he is convinced of the Su-57’s capabilities, he is less keen to see China buy it because China has already developed its own fifth-generation fighter jet J-20. Kladov said Su-57E, an export version of the Su-57, is expected to receive export approval from Putin in a few weeks. Naming China as a potential customer, he said, “China has recently taken delivery of 24 Su-35 aircraft, and in the next two years will make a decision to either procure additional Su-35s, build the Su-35 in China, or buy a fifth-generation fighter aircraft, which could be another opportunity for the Su-57E.”last_img read more

Walking is top choice of fitness enthusiasts in India

first_imgWalking, jogging and running surpass yoga and gym training as the the top choices of most fitness enthusiasts in India, according to a new survey on April 7, 2019. Zumba is also gaining prominence as a fitness form especially among women, with 18 per cent respondents enjoying it in 2019, up from 11 per cent in 2017, showed the survey launched on the occasion of World Health Day. Over half the respondents (53 per cent) confirmed that they have at least five activities included in their fitness regime, with walking (84 per cent), jogging (64 per cent), running (63 per cent), yoga (56 per cent) and gym training (53 per cent) emerging as the top choices. The results showed that millennials in the country are increasingly opting towards a healthier lifestyle, with 95 per cent respondents indulging in at least one fitness activity – running, jogging or walking. For the study, over 2,200 men and women, between the age group of 18-35 years, were surveyed across nine cities in the country. Among all, Kolkata scored the highest score in fitness. While Kolkata is closely followed by Delhi-NCR, Pune dropped from number 1 position in 2017 to the eighth on this year’s list. This year’s survey revealed an increase in women undertaking self-defence activities, with 45 per cent respondents including it as part of their fitness regime. Strength workouts have also gained popularity among women in the last couple of years.last_img read more

Its a witch hunt Trump after Mueller report clears him of Russian

first_imgWASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s strategist warned him not to fire FBI director James Comey. His advisors told him to stop tweeting about the Russia investigation. And his lawyers encouraged him to cooperate. Trump ignored them all, and could still claim vindication Thursday after the Mueller report cleared him of collusion charges. He beat back the investigation that threatened his presidency with constant attacks on investigators and the media, a canny narrative that denied obvious facts, nonstop trolling of opponents on Twitter, and a crafty legal stall. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USIt was hugely risky, but it appears to have paid off — notwithstanding further investigations Congressional Democrats have promised into Trump’s alleged abuse of his authority. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report Thursday ruled that Trump’s campaign did not criminally conspire with Russians to skew the 2016 election, and drew no conclusion on allegations of obstruction. That allowed Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General Bill Barr to declare the president fully cleared. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls”As I have been saying all along, NO COLLUSION – NO OBSTRUCTION!” Trump tweeted in a fist-pump of victory. Trump began his campaign well before Mueller arrived, denying during 2016 that Russia was interfering in the election, even though US spy chiefs said they were. He could have just accepted it, but the claim marred his election victory. So he called it “fake news” and said the intelligence community was out to undermine him. He made things worse in May 2017 when, angered by the ongoing probe into Russian meddling, he fired Comey. The result was Mueller’s appointment to lead the Russia investigation, expanding it to include obstruction of justice. “This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked,” Trump said that day, according to Mueller’s report. But the next day, he switched gears into offense, launching a grinding public relations war guided mostly by his own instincts. “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” he tweeted. It was pure Trump style — weaving a narrative that struck a chord with his supporters and riled his opponents. The Russia allegations were a hoax, he alleged, Democrats were trying to avenge Hillary Clinton’s election defeat, and Comey and Mueller were corrupt. With Fox News, influential with the political right, echoing his claims, voters who formed Trump’s electoral base bought the story of a “witch hunt.” Trump often proved his own enemy. His staff struggled to block his orders to remove Mueller, which could have resulted in impeachment. His constant attacks on Mueller’s investigators, the Justice Department, and potential witnesses against him bolstered the allegations of obstruction. And his legal team was in constant turmoil, wrestling with a client who didn’t follow advice or tell them the truth. Early members of the team wanted to cooperate with Mueller, seeing that as the president’s best option. But for Trump, it was not about law, but image, and the best approach was guerilla warfare fought through the media and Twitter. With Mueller’s investigators closing in on the White House in early 2018, Trump churned his team, recruiting attorneys who would fight back. He hired Rudy Giuliani, a fellow New Yorker who like Trump saw the challenge as a street fight. Giuliani fed reporters tidbits behind the scenes and went on television with tactical denials and counterattacks that may have had little real substance but supported Trump’s claim that he was under political assault.last_img read more

DMK moves EC against AIADMK on cash distribution

first_imgChennai: The DMK on Saturday complained to the Election Commission that Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK was allegedly distributing money to voters in one of the four Assembly constituency where bypolls will be held on Sunday. In a complaint to the Chief Electoral Officer, the DMK said: “AIADMK party-men are illegally distributing money to the voters of Ottapidaram Assembly constituency, in a full-fledged manner, from AIADMK’s Thoothukudi district Office, situated outside the territorial limit of Ottapidaram constituency. According to the DMK, as the flying squad and surveillance teams deputed by the EC are not searching outside the constituency, AIADMK party office bearers are freely distributing money to the voters from their own office situated at Thoothukudi. The DMK urged the poll body to immediately search the AIADMK office at Thoothukudi to prevent further distribution of cash for votes and ensure that the bypoll in Ottapidaram constituency is held in a free and fair manner.last_img read more

Huge Fire Ravages Between 1517 hectares of Forest North of Agadir

Rabat – Between 15 and 17 hectares of forest have been ravaged by a fire that broke out on Saturday night around the rural town of Teqqi (120 km north of Agadir), according to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP). “Efforts are ongoing to contain the fire,” said Hamid Bensouiba, a representative of the regional office of the UN High Commission for Water and Forests and the fight against desertification, was quoted by MAP as saying. The damaged area is composed mainly of cedar, green oak, oxycèdre juniper and other shrubs, and the cause of the fire has not been determined yet. Supported by two Canadair planes, a group of 370 people, including members of the civil protection, the Royal Gendarmerie, auxiliary forces, and the local population, are working tirelessly to contain the fire. read more

Moroccan Red Crescent provides financial help to Palestinian counterpart

Rabat – The Moroccan Red Crescent (CRM) granted financial help to its Palestinian counterpart to remedy the problem of medicine scarcity in Gaza hospitals because of the Israeli assault, said on Tuesday a statement by the CRM.The medicine will partially fill the gap in Gaza health centers due to the inflow of thousands of injured Palestinians, it said, adding that a share of this aid will be used to purchase the foodstuffs needed for the city’s inhabitants.The CRM said that Princess Lalla Malika, chairwoman of CRM, takes special interest in this kind of initiatives, which are in line with the CRM’s mission and principles of supporting victims of disasters and conflicts, and sees to it personally to closely follow the developments of the humanitarian situation. This aid to the Palestinian brothers is meant to ease the sufferings and ensure social and humanitarian services, it added. read more

Morocco Key Partner in Combating Terrorism French Minister

Rabat – “Morocco is a key partner in ensuring security and combating terrorism,” said  Bernard Cazeneuve in a joint press briefing following talks with his Moroccan counterpart Mohamed Hassad.Cazeneuve, in this regards, lauded the reliability of Morocco’s intelligence services saying “Morocco’s expertise is precious and Moroccan services have shown their efficiency through the busting of several terrorist cells and their affiliates in the recent months.”Cazaneuve lauded, in this regard, the ‘professionalism’ shown by Morocco’s domestic intelligence services (DGST) with a special mention to its Director General Abdellatif Hammouchi. The French official went on to say that the role of DGST leadership is “decisive in the fight we are leading against terrorism.”Cazaneuve recalled that the French National Order of Merit with the rank of Knight was awarded to Hammouchi in 2011, adding that the Moroccan official will soon receive the Légion d’honneur order in recognition for his efforts.“We are willing to further boost this security cooperation with Morocco,” said the French official, who said that he agreed with his Moroccan counterpart to expand this cooperation to the fight against illegal immigration, organized crime and drug trafficking.It was also agreed to reinforce cooperation between the different services of the interior ministries of France and Morocco, he said.Tackling radicalization is another area of cooperation we would like to strengthen with Morocco, said the French Minister, adding that “the Kingdom has undertaken efforts in favor of promoting, within the Moroccan community abroad and in the region, an open and tolerant Islam.”In the same vein, Cazaneuve praised Morocco’s decision to train foreign Imams, an experience which he said represent a further area of collaboration.The visit to Morocco is also an opportunity to “condemn in the strongest terms” the islamophobic acts that followed the Paris attacks, he said. “Those who harm Muslims because of their religious faith are harming the republic as a whole and that is unacceptable,”Cazaneuve made it clear.“There is a lot we can do together with Morocco to face the all sorts of amalgams and openly recall that the barbaric acts perpetrated in France have nothing to do with Islam and cannot be attached to any religion or culture,” said the French Interior Minister.In the face of “a common terrorist threat, the renewal of our full cooperation was a need and a shared will,” he said, adding “this shows that in difficult moments that the Moroccan and French friendship grows stronger.”“This common willingness to fight against terrorism and to advocate the message of tolerance should be based on an environment of mutual trust,” Cazaneuve said, highlighting that the agreement signed on January 31 paves the way for a reinvigorated judicial cooperation between the two countries.In this connection, he recalled that the strength of relations between Morocco and France was highlighted during the meeting between King Mohammed VI and French President François Holland. During the meeting, he said, the two Heads of States expressed commitment to work together to counter terrorism and reinforce security cooperation.“This mutual commitment is more important than ever” as the two countries are facing the serious threat of terrorism of which France has recently been plagued, he said.This “remarkable” bilateral relations which withstands difficulties illustrates the “political willingness that is expressed at the highest level to preserve the unique partnership between our two countries,” the French Interior Minister went on to say.On this occasion, Cazaneuve expressed satisfaction regarding the longstanding ties with Morocco noting that “France is a friend of Morocco today more than ever.” read more

Two Kilos of Cocaine Seized in Marrakech Airport

Marrakech – Police services at the Marrakech-Menara airport seized, on Wednesday, two kilograms of cocaine, a security source said on Thursday.The drug was hidden in the luggage of an Uruguayan national who landed in Marrakech, coming from Lima via Sao Paulo and Casablanca, it added.The drug trafficker, aged 55, aroused suspicions of policemen who searched him carefully and found out the illegal substance, it said. The accused is remanded in custody to complete the investigation before bringing him to justice. read more

Dissident Group Raises Moroccan Flag Inside Tindouf Camps

Rabat – Kifaya, a dissident group inside the Tindouf camps, has released a video in which it shows support for the territorial integrity of Morocco.In the video posted in YouTube, the Moroccan flag is seen floating deep inside the Polisario-controlled camps.Pictures of King Mohammed VI can also be seen in the video, in addition to signs reading “Yes to autonomy” in French.

Moroccan Woman Becomes First Muslim Pilot in Europe

Rabat- Moroccan Myriam Adnani is poised to become the first Muslim female pilot in Europe. The Moroccan woman, who was born in the Netherlands, has just completed a course that allows her to become a commercial pilot.The 23-year-old shared the news with her friends on her Facebook page.“After almost two years I have completed the entire course to become a commercial pilot. From theory in Hoofddorp to flying in the U.S. and Belgium and the last course on the Boeing 737. I’m feeling so happy and blessed,” she said. Myriam was born in July 1991 in the Netherlands, where she spent her school years until she joined Amsterdam’s Oxford Aviation Academy. The young woman also enrolled in a theoretical course in Hoofddorp in the Netherlands, as well as a training course in the United States and Belgium.Myriam Adnani becomes the second Moroccan woman to enter history in this field, over sixty years after another Moroccan and Arab woman became a licensed pilot in the 1950s.In 1952 while Morocco was still under the French protectorate, Touria Chaoui became the first Moroccan and Arab woman to become a pilot. read more

Morocco Enjoys Good Reputation Among Russians Americans Study

Taroudant – A study conducted by the Reputation Institute in collaboration with the Moroccan Royal Institue for Strategic Studies (IRES) shows that Morocco enjoys reputation among Russians and Americans.Morocco obtained a score of 53.7 points on a scale of 0-100 in the general indicator of the country’s reputation “Country RepTrak® Pulse.”According to the Moroccan institute, which analyzed the country in terms of its reputation around the world based on the findings of Country RepTrak® Pulse, Morocco ranked 36 among 70 countries evaluated. Morocco’s reputation is at an intermediate level, within just 1.3 point of the global average.The North African country managed to be among the 36 countries with the best reputation, ahead of many others in the MENA region.Overall, Morocco enjoys a good reputation among G8 countries with Russia, the U.S. and the U.K, which gave a high rating to the country.Analyzing the scores given by G8 countries, Russia was the country that best perceived Morocco with a reputation of 63 points, followed by the United States with 61.1 points, and the U.K., which gave it 55.8 points.Italy was the G8 country that gave the lowest score (below 50 points) to Morocco.Among the criteria assessed, Morocco received good results in terms of “Quality of Life.” Morocco garnered high scores in four categories: Natural Environment (67.5 out of 100 points), Friendliness of residents (61.6), Leisure and entertainment (61.5), and Style of life (54.4).Conversely, Morocco received low scores in five “Development Level” categories: Education (49.8 out of 100 points), Culture (49.7), Quality of products and services (49.6), Name Brands and companies (44.9), and in Technology and innovation (44.5 points).G8 countries ranked Canada as the most admired country with the best reputation worldwide.Based on an online panel of more than 48,000 people representing the G8 countries, the survey measured 16 qualities, such as safety, beauty, friendliness of residents, progressive social and economic policies, and effectiveness of government among others. read more

Video Moroccan Man Prevents Elected Official From Using Car After 6

Rabat – A video posted on social media on Saturday shows a man in Morocco preventing an elected official from using his government car after 6:00 pm.The video, which was posted less than two hours ago and has been shared by several thousand people.The man is hear saying “it is past 6 pm, you have no right to use the care.” Some passerby tried to calm him down and allow the elected official to use his car, but the unidentified man stayed put, and kept saying “you have no right to use this car.” The incident comes amid a heated debate over the lifetime pensions Moroccan Ministers and members of the parliament earn once they serve their terms as elected officials.In line with the law regulating the use of government cars, elected officials are not allowed to use the vehicle provided by the government beyond working hours from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday.However, this rule is seldom respected by some elected officials, many of whom use government vehicles for their personal use beyond business and working hours. read more

A Congressional Divide  Moroccos Western Sahara Issue Continues to Be Misunderstood

Washington – While Morocco has a history going back more than a thousand years, a congressional hearing I attended on March 23 on the controversial issue of the Western Sahara’s disputed sovereignty addressed the question as if the history surrounding the territory had begun only in 1975.Congressmen Joseph Pitts and James McGovern, the co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, convened a hearing to take the testimony of four supposed experts on the status of human rights in the Sahara region. Unfortunately, the deck was stacked against Morocco from the get-go. From the Co-Chairmen’s introductory remarks all the way through to the remarks adjourning the hearing, an unbalanced view of the situation emerged, unbalanced both as to history and as to who is responsible for the conflict and accountable for the current situation of the Saharawi people.Having attended and prepared witnesses for Congressional hearings over the course of my legal career, it seems impossible from a legal perspective, to have orchestrated a more imbalanced hearing. Out of four witnesses, four evidenced a pro-Algeria/pro-Polisario view, couched in concern for the human rights of the Saharawi people. The first witness, Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, spent her entire remarks narrating a litany of human rights abuses, at times emotionally, even raising her voice to a level of a rant, reciting decades old information and facts and blaming one side of the dispute for perpetuation of inhumane conditions for residents of the Tindouf camps.Although the camps are controlled by the Algeria-backed Polisario, she laid the blame entirely at Morocco’s door. Three other witnesses were called to testify: Eric Goldstein, Deputy Director MENA Division of Human Rights Watch; Erik Hagen, Board Member of Western Sahara Resource Watch; and Francesco Bastagli, a Former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara at the United Nations.While at least two of the speakers acknowledged that the U.S. government has stated that the Moroccan proposed autonomy plan for the region is “serious, realistic, and credible,” nevertheless they dismissed it entirely. Each of the four witnesses had an anti-Morocco agenda. There was, in fact, no witness for the Moroccan side who could have provided balance at the hearing.Only Representative John Conyers, Jr., the only other Congressman present at the hearing, indicated that better ”understanding” is needed for “a more peaceful resolution of the process.”Indeed, an understanding of Morocco’s significant history — a history much older than the 41 years since the 1975 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion — is needed.Historically, Morocco became a kingdom as the result of a dramatic consolidation of indigenous Amazigh (or Berber) tribes that began in the 11th century in the Western Sahara itself and continued geographically all the way to Spain under a charismatic Berber ruler name Abdullah ibn Yassin.  This unmentioned and apparently forgotten history is vibrantly narrated and depicted in a BBC documentary entitled, “The Lost Berber Kingdom of Morocco.”In 1054, ibn Yassin, a highly educated and well-travelled nomad, named himself spiritual leader of the Amazigh and embarked on a holy war with an alliance of Amazigh tribes from the Sahara to unite the Amazigh Muslims of Northwest Africa.  He and his followers were known as the Almoravids (meaning “those bound together in the cause of God”).  Ibn Yassin’s success marked the first time in history that the entire corner of Northwest Africa bordering the Atlantic and the Mediterranean was brought together under one Muslim spiritual leader.After Ibn Yassin’s death, his successor, Youssef ibn Tashfin, turned the then fledgling kingdom into an empire. Only 20 years after ibn Yassin had left the desert and taken the city of Sijilmasa, an important trading hub for Africa located at the edge of the desert, the Amazigh Almoravids had taken Marrakech as their capital, and gone further north to Fez and Tangier, and even east all the way to Algiers, well beyond what we know today as Morocco. Soon thereafter, the Almoravids were moving up through Spain and Portugal.The origins of Morocco, as the kingdom we know today, are Amazigh-Saharawi. The Amazigh ascent to power occurred long before the Arabs arrived in Morocco from the east, resulting in the present line of the throne, through King Mohammed VI, who has direct descent from the prophet Mohamed.So why did a congressional commission hearing take such a myopic view of history and the issue of sovereignty?  Was the hearing simply grandstanding in an election year anniversary of Spain’s withdrawal as a colonial power from the territory and the original proposal for a people’s referendum, or does the hearing suggest that Congress really would like to resolve the issue?In fact, Congress appears to have a split personality on this issue. While the TLCHR hearing had the deck stacked against Morocco, in stark contrast this past week the “Congressional Morocco Caucus,” a bi-partisan group of 40 Representatives of Congress, wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.N. Chief’s actions during his visit to the region when he called it an “occupation” by Morocco were “unprecedented.”  Moreover, the Congressional Caucus Representatives acknowledged that the Western Sahara is “fundamental for Morocco and for its national security.”It is telling that the State Department declined to participate in the March 23 hearing despite several invitations to do so. The Executive branch is well aware of Morocco’s contribution to safety and security in the region, through sharing of intelligence and dismantling terrorist cells, and undoubtedly did not want to jeopardize the present good diplomatic relations with the Kingdom by appearing at a Congressional hearing so stacked against Morocco. This observation highlights the difference between the executive and legislative branches. The Executive has to deal in the real world with diplomacy and consequences.Francesco Bastagli summed it up quite correctly when he said that the “Western Sahara is a decolonization process gone awry.”  However, Morocco is not the colonial power.  Morocco’s claim to the territory goes back far beyond the Spanish colonial power to Morocco’s beginnings as a kingdom in the 11th century.  If history is not forgotten, and the dispute is put into historical perspective, perhaps better progress can be made in finding a resolution.  In any event, congressional hearings should at least have the appearance of procedural fairness in reviewing all the facts and not merely considering only one side of the issue.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission. read more

United States Embassy in Rabat hosts 15th Annual Blood Drive

By Kainoelani LeeRabat – The United States Embassy in Rabat held its 15th annual blood drive on Wednesday.The embassy organized the blood drive as a way to give back to the local community and had scheduled the event to meet the very urgent annual need for blood donations before Ramadan begins. Ramadan marks the ninth month of the Islamic year, where strict fasting from sunrise to sunset occurs. Ramadan will begin June 5, 2016 and is scheduled to end on July 5, 2016. This blood drive is conducted annually in response to the national blood shortage in Morocco, where initially, the National Center for Blood Transfusion made an urgent request, calling on Moroccan citizens for blood donations on the need for blood in certain cities in Morocco.The U.S. Embassy of Rabat reported that nearly two thirds of its personnel participated in the blood drive and donations. Even U.S. Ambassador, Dwight L. Bush, and his wife participated in donating their blood.In total, the U.S. Embassy of Rabat was able to collect a whopping 35 liters of blood.If you haven’t donated blood recently, and would like to, the U.S. Embassy of Rabat encourages contacting the National Center for Transfusion to locate and learn about blood drives in your local community.Further contact information for the blood drives/donations:Centre national de transfusion Sanguine, Public Health DepartmentAddress: Madinat Al Irfane, Rabat, Morocco. Phone:+212 5377-74993 read more

36 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Northeast

Rabat – A 3.6-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday Night off the coast of the cities of Al Hoceima and Nador (northeast Morocco), says a press release of the National Geophysics Institute.The quake occurred at around 1:35 am (GMT+1).Shortly before, another quake of magnitude 3.2 was reported in Anougal commune (Al Haouz province), the same source adds.

EU Official Algeria to Implode PostBouteflika

Rabat – The political implosion of Algeria after the death of ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika could cause the country of 40 million to fall into a civil war similar in nature to the ones ongoing in Libya and Syria, according to Pierre Defraigne, the Honorary Director General of the European Commission.“Europe must learn from the tragedy of Aleppo,” the leader told La Libre Belgique.  “And it must do so quickly because a new crisis threatens its immediate vicinity: Algeria, 40 million inhabitants, awaits indeed the clinical death of President Bouteflika, the latter being in fact unable to reign many years.”Boutefilka has appeared in public once every few months since his stroke in 2013. Since the incident, his sons and political allies have been running Algiers in the president’s name. The country has no clear path forward after Bouteflika – aged 79 – passes. The president removed term limits from the constitution, which has allowed him to cling to power for four terms.Two years of low oil prices have forced the government to consider austerity measures, which are unpopular with citizens, who are accustomed to large food and gas subsidies.“The succession of Bouteflika will activate the fundamental conflict which has deafened in Algeria for thirty years, between the Islamists, supported by Saudi Arabia, and the soldiers, who confiscated the revolution and govern by cumulating corruption, imperialism and repression”, Defraigne said. “The risk of implosion and civil war is, alas, very serious,” he said.The honorary EU official added that Algeria’s fall would likely bring millions of immigrants to French-speaking countries in Europe, due to geographic proximity and a shared language as a result of over a century of French occupation. read more