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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia (Agencies): President Barack Obama defended the US government’s willingness to cooperate closely with Saudi Arabia on national security despite deep concerns over human rights abuses, as he led an array of current and former American statesmen in paying respects Tuesday following the death of King Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia’s status as one of Washington’s most important Arab allies has at times appeared to trump US concerns about the terrorist funding that flows from the kingdom and about human rights abuses. But Obama said he has found it most effective to apply steady pressure over human rights “even as we are getting business done that needs to get done.” “Sometimes we need to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns we have in terms of counterterrorism or dealing with regional stability,” Obama said in a CNN interview that aired in advance of Obama’s arrival.

New King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman formally greeted Obama and the US delegation at the Erga Palace on the outskirts of Riyadh, where dozens of Saudi officials filed through a marble-walled room to greet the Americans under massive crystal chandeliers.

After a short dinner, Obama and Salman sat down for their first formal meeting without making any comments to reporters covering the visit. Ahead of his arrival, Obama suggested that he would not be raising US concerns about Saudi Arabia’s flogging of blogger Raif Badawi, who was convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.

His first flogging took place in early January in front of dozens of people in the Red Sea city of Jiddah, though a second round has been postponed after a doctor said his wounds from the first lashes had not yet healed. “On this visit, obviously a lot of this is just paying respects to King Abdullah, who in his own fashion presented some modest reform efforts within the kingdom,” Obama said. Stepping off the plane earlier in Riyadh, the president and First Lady Michelle Obama were greeted by Salman and a military band playing both countries’ national anthems.

Some of the all-male Saudi delegation shook hands with Mrs Obama while others gave her a nod as they passed by Mrs Obama wore full-length clothing but no headscarf, as is typical for many Western women in Saudi Arabia, despite the strict dress code for Saudi women appearing in public. Obama cut short the final day of his trip to India to make the four-hour stop in Riyadh. Further underscoring the key role Saudi Arabia has long played in US foreign policy in the Middle East was the extensive delegation that joined Obama for the visit. Secretary of State John Kerry was joining Obama in Riyadh, along with former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and James Baker III, both of whom served Republican presidents.

Former White House national security advisers Brent Scowcroft, Sandy Berger and Stephen Hadley also made the trip, as did Sen John McCain, the Arizona republican who is a frequent critic of Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East. CIA Director John Brennan and Gen Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command, which overseas military activity in the Middle East, were also taking part in Tuesday’s meetings with the Saudis. “It meets the threshold of being bipartisan, high-level and people who worked very closely with Saudi Arabia over many years,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. Despite vast differences of opinions on many issues, the US and Saudi Arabia have worked in close coordination to address evolving security concerns in the tumultuous region.

Most recently, Saudi Arabia became one of a handful of Arab nations that have joined the US in launching airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. In his initial days on the throne, the 79- year-old Salman has given little indication that he plans to bring fundamental changes to his country’s policies. In a nationally televised address shortly after his half brother’s death, Salman vowed to hew to “the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment.” Obama acknowledged that the US willingness to pursue close ties with Saudi Arabia despite human rights abuses often makes America’s allies uncomfortable. “The trend-line is one that I will sustain throughout the rest of my presidency,” Obama said, “and that is to make the case to our friends and allies that if they want a society that is able to sustain itself in this day and age, then they’re going to have to change how they do business.” Obama’s presidency has also been marked by occasional strains with the Saudi royal family. Abdullah, the 90-yearold monarch who died Friday, had pressed the US to take more aggressive action to force Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

The royal family is also deeply skeptical of Obama’s diplomacy with rival Iran. Salman is a veteran of the country’s top leadership and well-versed in diplomacy from nearly 50 years as the governor of the capital Riyadh. He is known as a mediator of disputes within the sprawling royal family who increasingly took on the duties of the king as the ailing Abdullah became more incapacitated.

President of the Hum TV Network, Sultana Siddiqui was recognised for her contribution to the entertainment industry with the Scroll of Honour award at the 5th GR8! Women Awards in Dubai on January 12.

The awards are given every year by the Indian Television Academy to celebrate the outstanding contributions made by women in various fields, including art, cinema, environment, entrepreneurship and education.

Hum TV shared the news via Twitter:

 

Sultana Siddiqui (second from right) with the other winners. – Courtesy photo
Sultana Siddiqui (second from right) with the other winners. – Courtesy photo

Holding the coveted trophy in her hand, the Zindagi Gulzar Hai director thanked the organisers for acknowledging her ‘modest efforts’.

“I think women in Pakistan have shown brilliance in different fields but most of the time, they are let down by society. All they need is encouragement and support from their families. At Hum TV Network, women hold key positions and they excel in their work."

"This award I think is not so much for me as it is women in Pakistan, particularly in the field of media,” she added.

Siddiqui, who is also a producer, has always been involved with projects directed towards bringing public awareness to social issues, such as female empowerment and promotion of female education.

Others who emerged as winners included Bollywood starlets Aliya Bhatt and Parineeti Chopra. Nimrat Kaur, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Surveen Chawla also attended the affair held at Sofitel Dubai.

WASHINGTON: After 13 years, the United States is winding down its war in Afghanistan, plagued by doubts about what was accomplished at such a high cost.

Instead of a sense of triumph at the close of the longest conflict in America's history, there is mostly regret and fatigue over a war that claimed the lives of more than 2,300 American troops and cost more than a trillion dollars.

US commanders insist the Afghan security forces will hold the line in a stalemate with the Taliban. But some officials fear a repeat of Iraq, in which an American-trained army virtually collapsed in the face of an extremist onslaught.

A large majority of Americans now say the war was not worth it, and only 23 per cent of US soldiers believe the mission has been a success, according to recent polls.

But when it began, the war enjoyed overwhelming support and victory seemed within reach.

Less than a month after Al Qaeda's attacks of September 11, 2001, president George W. Bush captured the nation's sense of righteous anger as he announced military action in Afghanistan in a televised address in October.

The goal was to “disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations,” Bush said, and to attack the Taliban regime that had hosted Al Qaeda and refused to hand over its leaders.

Toppling the Taliban

 

US objectives were met with stunning speed. Al Qaeda training camps were wiped out and Northern Alliance fighters — backed by US-led air strikes and a small number of American special forces — toppled the Taliban regime within a month.

For the United States, the war seemed all but over. But the Taliban eventually regrouped from safe havens, even as Washington's attention shifted to a new war in Iraq.

The Taliban grew into a virulent insurgency that exploited resentment of a corrupt, ineffective government in Kabul.

The United States formed the backbone of an international force that found itself in a protracted fight with insurgents.

The US-led contingent steadily expanded — while the goals of the war became increasingly ambitious as well.

Washington and its allies embraced the lofty ideals of nation-building, vowing to fight corruption, foster economic development, and forge a “stable, democratic state” in an impoverished land mired in war for decades.

The results were often disappointing. International aid helped build roads and schools, but it also was blamed for fuelling rampant corruption, with some of the money ending up with the insurgents.

Attempts to broker peace talks with the Taliban in recent years came to nothing. Critics say Washington missed a chance at cutting a deal early in the war, when the insurgents were on the retreat.

Fighting the elusive Taliban, with their homemade bombs and Pakistani sanctuaries, proved frustrating for Western troops, who struggled to grasp the language and tribal rivalries of an alien culture.

Commanders appealed for more troops. And Washington kept sending forces “in the vain hope that something might somehow improve”, wrote retired general Daniel Bolger, author of “Why We Lost".

Having reached a peak of more than 100,000 US forces, the American presence is down to about 11,000 troops, now that Nato's combat mission is over.

'Big test'

 

The balance sheet for the campaign is decidedly mixed.

The intervention deprived Al Qaeda of a sanctuary, ousted the Taliban from power, eased the repression of women and created an Afghan army that could make it difficult for the insurgents to return to their once dominant role, analysts said.

But Al Qaeda — even after its leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US commandos — has spawned cells elsewhere and inspired new extremists in Syria and Iraq, while women's advances are fragile and could easily unravel.

The Taliban may no longer run ministries but they are far from defeated and could yet turn the tide against the Kabul government's army, which has suffered unsustainably high casualties and desertions.

“The Taliban have nowhere near the power they did in 2001, but they are certainly not finished,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.

US officials hope a huge investment in the Afghan security forces will pay off, but already the insurgents have clawed back control in some areas in the south where American troops have pulled out.

The newly created security force, riddled with ethnic divisions, remains “a question mark”, Felbab-Brown said.

“Next year is a big test for them,” said Carter Malkasian, author of a book on the war who worked as a US diplomat for two years in southern Helmand province.

“If they lose ground, that's an indication that this war is going to keep going,” he told AFP.

“If that happens, the Taliban are going to get bolder, because the Taliban are not going to see a reason to negotiate."

نیروبی:بالی ووڈ میں 90 کی دہائی میں اپنی بے باک اداکاری سے جانی جانے والی ممتاکلکرنی کو منشیات اسمگلنگ کے الزام میں شوہر سمیت گرفتار کرلیا گیا۔بھارتی میڈیا رپورٹس کے مطابق سابق  اداکارہ ممتا کلکرنی کو کینیا کی پولیس اور امریکی انسداد منشیات ایجنسی نے منشیات اسمگل کرنے کے الزام میں ان کے شوہر وکی گوسوامی سمیت اتوار کے روز کینیا کے شہر مومباسا سے گرفتار کیا جس کے بعد ان سے اس حوالے سے پوچھ گچھ جاری ہے۔اس سے قبل 1997 میں بھی وکی گوسوامی کو منشیات اسمگل کرنے کے جرم میں دبئی سے گرفتار کیا گیا تھا اور اس جرم میں انہیں 25 سال قید کی سزا سنائی گئی تھی تاہم بعد ازاں جیل میں ان کے اچھے رویئے کی وجہ سے ان کی سزا میں کمی کردی گئی تھی۔واضح رہے کہ ممتا کلکرنی نے اپنی بے باک اداکاری کے باعث بالی ووڈ میں خوب شہرت پائی تاہم بعد میں اداکارہ نے اچانک فلمی دنیا چھوڑ کر دبئی اور اس کے بعد کینیا میں رہائش اختیار کرلی جہاں انہوں وکی گوسوامی سے شادی بھی کی۔ممتا کلکرنی کے بارے میں بتایا جارہا ہے کہ انہوں نے گدشتہ چند ماہ قبل اسلام قبول کیا تھا اور اس وجہ سے انہوں نے فلموں سے دوری اختیار کرلی تھی

An intelligence agency is a government agency responsible for the collection, analysis, and exploitation of information and intelligence in support of law enforcement, national security, defence and foreign policy objectives. Means of information gathering are both overt and covert and may include espionage, communication interception, cryptanalysis, cooperation with other institutions, and evaluation of public sources. The assembly and propagation of this information is known as intelligence analysis or intelligence assessment.

Following are the World’s best intelligence agencies of 2014:

1. Inter service intelligence (ISI), Pakistan
Inter Services Intelligence is Pakistan’s premium intelligence agency having great record of success over the world. ISI was founded in 1948 after Indo-Pak just a year after partition. Due to their great track record in Afghanistan, Iran, Bosnia, India, USSR and America In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014, this intelligence agency is deserved at 1st number. The ISI was structured to be manned by officers from the three main military services, and to specialize in the collection, analysis and assessment of external intelligence, either military or non-military.

 

2. Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, United States
Central Intelligence Agency was formed in September 18, 1947. Before 9/11 attacks CIA was ranked as best intelligence agency in the world. Currently more than 21,575(classified) employees are working in CIA. With a great success records of the time CIA ranked as 2nd best intelligence agency in the world. The CIA’s headquarters is in Langley, Virginia, a few miles west of Washington, D.C. CIA commonly operates from different locations of U.S.A.

 

3. Secret Intelligence Services/MI6, United Kingdom
Secret Intelligence Services also known as MI6 was founded in 1909. Currently they are operating from SIS Building, London, UK. At least 3,200 classified employees are providing their services in SIS. SIS responsible for protecting the UK’s internal security. Includes overview of work, history and relationship with other countries. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014 SIS ranked as 3rd most effective and successful intelligence agency. No doubt that this intelligence agency is one of the best intelligence of the world.

 

4. Ministry of State Security (MSS), China
The Ministry of State Security is the security agency of the people’s republic of China. Ministry of State Security is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and political security. Commonly MSS gather information about the enemies of Communist Party of China. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies MSS ranked as 4th best intelligence agency of the world. Geng Huichang is director of MSS and offices are located in Beijing, China.

 

5. Federal Security Services (FSB), Russia
Federal Security Services is the principal security agency of Russian Federation and its main responsibilities are within the country to gather counter-intelligence, internal and border security, counter-terrorism and surveillance as well as investigation some other types of the grave crimes. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014 FSB ranked as 5th best intelligence agency. .

 

6. The Institute For Intelligence and Special Operation (MOSAD), Israel
The Institute For Intelligence and Special Operation is responsible for intelligence collection, covert operation and counterterrorism, as well as bringing Jews to Israel from countries where official Aliyah agencies are forbidden and protecting Jewish communities. It was formed in December 13, 1949. There are more above 1,200 employees working in this intelligence. The head quartered of this intelligence agency is in Tel Aviv (City of Russia). In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014, this intelligence agency is deserved at 6th number. The performance of this intelligence is one of the best in all over the world. Its director reports directly to the Prime Minister.

 

7. Direction Generale De La Securite Exterieure (DGSE), France
Direction Generale De La Securite Exterieure was founded April 2, 1982. This is France’s external intelligence agency that is operating under the direction of the French ministry of defense. Direction Generale De La Securite Exterieure is providing intelligence and national security, notably by performing paramilitary and counterintelligence operations abroad. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014, this intelligence agency is deserved at 7th number. The agency operates under the course and administration of Ministry of Defense.

 

8. Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada
Canadian Security Intelligence Service was founded in June 21, 1984. There are more above 2449 employees are working in this intelligence service. Its headquarters is located in Ottawa, Ontario. Canadian Security Intelligence Service is responsible to parliament through the minister of Public Safety. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014, this intelligence agency is deserved at 8th number. There working performance is best and better. This intelligence is belonging from Canada.

 

9. Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India
Research and Analysis Wing founded in 21 September 1968. Its headquarters is located in New Delhi. The primary function of R&AW is collection of external intelligence and counter-terrorism. In addition, it is responsible for obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations and persons to advise Indian policymakers. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014 RAW ranked as 9th best intelligence agency in the world.

 

10. Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australia
Australian Secret Intelligence Service was founded in 13 May 1952. ASIS is responsible for collecting foreign intelligence, undertaking counter-intelligence activities and cooperation with other intelligence agencies overseas. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014, this intelligence agency is deserved at 10th number. No doubt that there working performance is one of the best and excellent.

 

 

AKSU, China: Outside a mosque in China’s restive west, a government-appointed Muslim cleric was dodging a foreign reporter’s question about why young men of the Uighur ethnic minority don’t have beards when one such youth interrupted. “Why don’t you just tell them the truth?” he shouted to the cleric under the nervous gaze of several police officers who had been tailing the reporters all day in the oasis city of Aksu. “It’s because the government doesn’t allow beards.” A plainclothes Uighur policeman swiftly rebuked the young man. “Be careful what you say,” he warned.

The tense exchange provided a fleeting glimpse of both the extremes of China’s restrictions on minority Uighurs and the resentment that simmers beneath the surface in their homeland. Such a mood pervades Xinjiang’s south, a vast, mainly rural region that’s become a key battleground in the ruling Communist Party’s struggle to contain escalating ethnic violence that has killed at least a few hundred people over the past 18 months.

The personal matter of facial hair has taken on heavy political overtones in the Uighur heartland. Also proscribed are certain types of women’s headscarves, veils and “jilbabs”, loose, full-length garments worn in public. Such restrictions are not new but their enforcement has intensified this year in the wake of attacks Beijing has blamed on religious extremists. In a recent sweep of Urumqi, the region’s capital, authorities last week said they seized 1,265 hijab-type headscarves, 259 jilbabs and even clothes printed with Islamic star-and-crescent symbols. Officials also “rescued” 82 children from studying the Holy Quran, the government said.

The prohibitions on Islamic attire and beards have attracted widespread criticism, with many experts saying such repression angers ordinary Uighurs and risks radicalizing them. “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s self-perpetuating. The more they crack down on it, the more people re-Islamize. This is a pattern we see all over the world,” said Joanne Smith Finley, an expert on Uighurs at Britain’s Newcastle University. “The Chinese state has created a growing terrorist threat where previously there was none. It has stimulated an Islamic renewal where there wouldn’t necessarily have been one.”

A major thrust of the yearlong crackdown on terrorism has been a campaign against religious extremism, with arrests of hundreds of people for watching videos apparently hailing terrorism or extremist ideology. But authorities also are targeting beards, veils and other symbols of religious piety in a campaign that creeps ever farther into Uighurs’ daily lives despite official claims that the government respects religious freedom.

“At the moment, we face a very serious, intense and complex situation with fighting terrorism and maintaining stability,” a party newspaper, the Xinjiang Daily, said in an edict to “frontline” minority cadres in late July. Officials, it said, must also act to control weddings without singing and dancing and funerals where there are no feasts – referring to Uighur customs the government says Islamic conservatives have barred.

Young Uighur men are discouraged from keeping beards and those who have them are stopped at checkpoints and questioned. So are women who wear Muslim headscarves and veils that obscure their faces. Some public places such as hospitals bar such individuals from entering. Earlier this month, the northern Xinjiang city of Karamay announced that young men with beards and women in burqas or hijabs would not be allowed on public buses.

In the city of Aksu, Ma Yanfeng, the director of the city’s foreign propaganda office, said the government was concerned that Uighurs were being unduly influenced by radical Islamic forces from overseas. “It’s because they have been incited by others to do so,” Ma said, noting that traditional dress of Uighur women is multicolored. “Those clothes that are all black are a sign of influence from foreigners like in Turkey and have to do with extremist thinking.”

Unlike in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or parts of South Asia, veils and abayas are relatively new to Uighurs in Xinjiang, only growing in popularity in recent decades, scholars say. Uighur historically have used “ikat” textiles with bold patterns and brilliant colors, an aesthetic they share with Uzbeks, Tajiks and other Central Asian cultures. Contemporary Uighur women, especially those in cities, dress like other urbanites though they aren’t likely to bare a lot of skin.

Uighurs have been adopting veils and beards in a shift toward more pious lives, partly as symbolic resistance to Chinese rule and partly out of a desire for the egalitarianism associated with Islam to mend social inequalities, said Smith Finley, the Newcastle expert who has studied Uighurs since 1991. The shift is also in reaction to dashed hopes for independence after bloody riots in 1997 and the ensuing crackdown, she said. Some Uighurs see their current plight as punishment from God for not being good enough Muslims. They think “if I’m a better Muslim, then the Uighurs as a whole will be better Muslims and our future, our situation, will be better,” she said.

Chinese authorities apparently make little distinction between these expressions of piety and the kind of extremism that poses a threat to society. In May, police in the county of Luntai raided women’s dress shops and confiscated jilbabs. A photo on the local government’s website showed four male police officers at a shop examining textiles while a woman in a black jilbab, likely a shop assistant or owner, stood in the background watching.

The rubber-stamp legislature in the southern prefecture of Turpan says on its website it is considering a law to impose fines of up to 500 yuan ($80) for wearing veils and cloaks in public. The legislature says the law would help safeguard social stability, cultural security and gender equality and even protect health – because, the proposal says, burqas deprive skin of sunlight and can cause heatstroke in summer.

Elsewhere, officials have been rounding up dozens of Uighur women to attend indoctrination sessions and to trade their jilbabs and veils for traditional Uighur silk dresses. “After today’s ideological education, I now understand that the jilbab is not our ethnic group’s traditional attire, and I recognize that veils and wearing jilbabs is incompatible with Islamic culture and is a backward and bad practice,” a woman named Ayiguli Bake was quoted by a local party-run newspaper as saying in a scripted fashion.

But on the streets of Kuqa and Aksu, many women could be seen wearing headscarves that covered their necks, though black cloaks were nowhere in sight and in most instances only elderly men had beards. Chinese officials probably are targeting outward manifestations of piety because they cannot “fundamentally alter people’s inner states,” said Gardner Bovingdon, a Xinjiang expert at Indiana University. “I can’t make you stop admiring a more rigorous, scriptural Islam, but I can make you shave off that beard, I can make you take off that scarf,” Bovingdon said.  “So that’s what I’ll do.”

The authorities’ heavy hand has reportedly sparked protests. In the rural town of Alaqagha, 40 km south of Kuqa, police fired into a crowd in May when villagers violently protested the detention of women and girls for wearing headscarves and Islamic robes, according to the US government-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia. On a recent evening in Alaqagha, rows of surveillance cameras perched atop street lights watched residents breaking their fasts at a small outdoor market. Pistol-carrying police who were trailing AP journalists kept an eye on the villagers, who included women with headscarves shopping at donkey-drawn fruit carts.

“It’s the state’s way of saying ‘we don’t trust you, we see your religion as being something that’s inherently of concern to us,’” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “‘We are going to treat it as fundamentally problematic behavior, not as the basic right that it is.’” – AP

TEHRAN: Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said it has brought down an Israeli stealth drone above the Natanz uranium enrichment site in the centre of the country.

“A spy drone of the Zionist regime (Israel) was brought down by a missile... This stealth drone was trying to approach the Natanz nuclear zone, “the corps said in a statement on its official website sepahnews.com.

“This act demonstrates a new adventurism by the Zionist regime... The Revolutionary Guard and the other armed forces reserve the right to respond to this act,” the statement added.

Natanz is Iran's main uranium enrichment site, housing more than 16,000 centrifuges. Around 3,000 more are at the Fordo plant, buried inside a mountain and hard to destroy.

Israel has often threatened to attack Iranian nuclear installations.

Iran and the P5+1 powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- reached a six-month interim agreement under which Iran suspended part of its nuclear activities in return for a partial lifting of international sanctions.

In July that deal was extended by four months until November 24 to give the two sides more time to negotiate a final accord aimed at ending 10 years of tensions over Iran's nuclear programme.

The sides remain split on how much uranium enrichment Iran should be allowed to carry out.

Washington wants Tehran to slash its programme by three-quarters, but Iran wants to expand enrichment ten-fold by 2021, chiefly to produce fuel for its Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Israel, a sworn enemy of Iran, opposes any agreement allowing Tehran to keep part of its uranium enrichment programme, saying Iran could use the material to make an atomic bomb.

Iran has consistently denied wanting to make nuclear weapons.

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