Muslim rebel commanders transform into Philippine officials

Muslim women pray in Manila on Monday after a nationwide peace caravan from Mindanao to show support for the signing of a framework agreement. (File/Reuters)
Updated 22 February 2019

Muslim rebel commanders transform into Philippine officials

  • The Philippines and Western governments and the guerrillas see Muslim autonomy as an antidote to ease nearly half a century of Muslim secessionist violence
  • About 12,000 combatants are expected to be demobilized starting this year under the peace deal

MANILA, Philippines: Some of the fiercest Muslim rebel commanders in the southern Philippines are in Manila to be sworn in as administrators of a new Muslim autonomy region in a delicate milestone to settle one of Asia’s longest-raging rebellions.
President Rodrigo Duterte will lead a ceremony Friday to name Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Murad Embrahim and some of his top commanders as administrators of a transition government for the five-province Bangsamoro region.
About 12,000 combatants are expected to be demobilized starting this year under the peace deal.
The Philippines and Western governments and the guerrillas see Muslim autonomy as an antidote to ease nearly half a century of Muslim secessionist violence, which the Daesh group could exploit to gain a foothold.


Empty classrooms as some schools re-open in Indian Kashmir

Updated 19 August 2019

Empty classrooms as some schools re-open in Indian Kashmir

  • The authorities said they were re-opening 190 primary schools in the city yet few children could be seen
  • India on August 5 ended the special constitutional status of Muslim-majority Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Some Kashmir schools re-opened on Monday but were largely empty following weekend clashes in Srinagar, two-weeks after India removed the restive region’s autonomy and imposed a lockdown.
The authorities said they were re-opening 190 primary schools in the city yet few children could be seen at half a dozen places visited by AFP.
Pakistan meanwhile said Indian fire across their de-facto border on Sunday killed two civilians and seriously injured a child, a day after New Delhi said Pakistani fire killed an Indian soldier.
India on August 5 ended the special constitutional status of Muslim-majority Kashmir, where a 30-year-old uprising against Indian rule has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians.
Hours before its move, India severely curtailed movement and shut down phones and the Internet, bringing in tens of thousands of troops to turn the main city of Srinagar into a fortress.
Some 120,000 extra soldiers have been deployed, a security source told AFP, joining around 500,000 already in the northern Himalayan region divided with Pakistan since 1947.
At least 4,000 people have also been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows imprisonment for up to two years without charge or trial, government sources said.
“Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity,” a local magistrate told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Authorities have declined to comment on the numbers of people behind bars. Those picked up include local politicians, activists, business leaders and lawyers.
Officials said only that the “few preventive detentions” were made to avoid a “breach of the peace,” and that there was “no centralized figure” for the total number.
On Sunday family members held a wake for timber trader Sidiq Khan, 62, who relatives said had died after suffocating from tear gas fired by security forces in Srinagar.
A senior government official told AFP that a man in his mid-60s had died, and that a post-mortem “has not revealed any external or internal marks of injury.”
After some easing in previous days, authorities on Sunday reinforced heavy restrictions after eight people were injured during protests.
The Press Trust of India news agency cited unnamed officials saying there had been clashes in a dozen locations around Srinagar on Saturday.
Around 20 percent of landlines were working on Monday, an AFP reporter said. But mobile phones and the Internet were still cut off.
In Srinagar on Monday most main streets and markets were deserted, although some roads looked busier than in recent days.
Some teachers and administrative staff made it to schools but many others didn’t. PTI also reported that only a handful of children had come.
“We didn’t receive an official notification for re-opening the school from the local government but opened it after watching the news yesterday,” a senior official at Srinagar’s Burn Hall School told AFP.
Many schools stayed shut, with guards at the gate turning away any teachers or administrative staff who turned up.
“I don’t think parents will send their children to school if they can’t communicate and check on them whenever required,” a resident of the Rajbagh area of Srinagar told AFP outside the Presentation Convent School.
“I came here after watching the news yesterday but it doesn’t look like any students have come to school today. There are many other teachers who stay farther away and haven’t made it here,” one of the teachers at a local school told AFP.