Pakistan ex-PM Khan replaced as party head

Gohar Khan, in orange sweater, visited the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s central office in Islamabad after his election as the party’s chairman. (Photo/Twitter)
Gohar Khan, in orange sweater, visited the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s central office in Islamabad after his election as the party’s chairman. (Photo/Twitter)
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Updated 02 December 2023
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Pakistan ex-PM Khan replaced as party head

Pakistan ex-PM Khan replaced as party head
  • Gohar Khan a ‘temporary arrangement,’ says PTI’s media spokesman
  • Imran Khan has been locked up since August while awaiting trial in several cases

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, currently in jail facing myriad charges he says are rigged to keep him from contesting elections next year, was replaced on Saturday as head of the party he founded, officials said.

Khan launched the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party in 1996, failing to win a single seat in an election the next year but growing rapidly to become the biggest bloc in the National Assembly following the 2018 vote, propelling him to the premiership.
He was ousted last year in a vote of no confidence brought by a coalition headed by two long-established parties that have shared power for much of Pakistan’s history, when the military hasn’t been in charge. Khan, who has been locked up since August while awaiting trial in several cases, including an allegation of leaking state documents, was replaced as party chairman by Gohar Khan, a barrister not related to Imran, a party official said.




Imran Khan. (AFP)

The change was forced after the Election Commission of Pakistan warned PTI last month they risked losing their emblem — a cricket bat — unless an internal ballot was held for party officers.
Election symbols are crucial in a country where the adult literacy rate is just 58 percent, according to World Bank data.
Khan, a former international cricketer, who captained Pakistan to World Cup victory in 1992, was barred from standing in the party poll while in prison. “This is a temporary arrangement,” said Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari, PTI’s media spokesman.
PTI is struggling against a widespread crackdown, with leading party figures either jailed or forced to leave the party.
Politicians in the South Asian country are often tangled in legal proceedings that rights monitors say are orchestrated by the powerful military, which has ruled the country directly for more than half of its history and continues to enjoy immense power.
“A PTI supporter will vote for the election symbol, for Imran Khan,” political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi said on Saturday.
“He (Khan) remains the moral leader of the PTI.”
Also on Saturday, a hearing into a graft case Khan faces at a special court inside the jail where he is held was adjourned, with his lawyers protesting that media had been barred despite another judge ordering the trial to be open.
On Wednesday, a court quashed a graft conviction against three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned from self-imposed exile in October to launch a political comeback.
Sharif is currently on bail appealing several convictions for corruption in an attempt to clear his name ahead of elections scheduled in February.
His younger brother Shehbaz Sharif came to power in the coalition that ousted Khan.

 


Massive rise in Islamophobic incidents following Gaza war leaves Muslims in fear

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators wave placards and Palestinian flags at a mass rally in support of Gaza in London. (File/AFP)
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators wave placards and Palestinian flags at a mass rally in support of Gaza in London. (File/AFP)
Updated 6 sec ago
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Massive rise in Islamophobic incidents following Gaza war leaves Muslims in fear

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators wave placards and Palestinian flags at a mass rally in support of Gaza in London. (File/AFP)
  • Islamophobia Response Unit said there was a 365 percent increase in reports of Islamophobia in October 2023, following Hamas’ attack on Israel that month

LONDON: An enormous rise in Islamophobic incidents against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war has led many Muslims to fear leaving their homes after dark, The Independent reported on Sunday.

Many of the Islamophobic incidents have involved people being targeted over their support for Palestine as the war in Gaza continues.

Muslims who spoke to The Independent said they had bricks thrown through their windows for displaying the Palestinian flag, and a 17-year-old was questioned by his teachers after he displayed a Palestinian badge on his bag at school.

Islamophobia Response Unit, a charity dedicated to supporting victims of Islamophobia, said there was a 365 percent increase in reports of Islamophobia in October 2023, following Hamas’ attack on Israel that month.

“Since October 2023, IRU has seen a sustained increase in reports to the unit,” said IRU CEO Majid Iqbal.

“It is clear that this is now developing into a long-term trend and is having a profound impact on those affected by it. IRU calls on the press and politicians to not demonize legitimate Palestinian activism and, by extension, British Muslims, to avoid feeding into the serious societal problem of Islamophobia,” he said.

Tell MAMA, another body that records anti-Muslim hate incidents, said there were 2,010 Islamophobic incidents between Oct. 7 and Feb. 7, more than triple the 600 reported during the same period the year before. 

The figures were released in the same week that Tory MP Lee Anderson was suspended by the Conservative Party after making comments about London Mayor Sadiq Khan that have been widely condemned as Islamophobic.

Anderson told GB News on Friday that “Islamists” had “got control” of the mayor of London and the capital city.

“I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London … He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates,” the former Tory deputy chairman said. 

Of the cases reported to IRU, a 17-year-old Londoner said he was interrogated by teachers about his faith and “his understanding of Hamas” after he put a Palestinian badge on his school bag.

The Year 13 student said he felt targeted because he was Muslim, which triggered an anxiety attack and led to exam failure.

“The numerous instances of being pulled out whilst studying to remove my badge made me feel like I was targeted because I was a Muslim, which made me feel like I was doing something wrong,” the boy said. 

“This feeling of being targeted intensified following the intimidating interrogation, which I was subjected to,” he added.

A 32-year-old doctor said he has been too scared to leave his home after an attack he believes stemmed from his support for Palestine.

He was awoken on Feb. 5 after a large rock smashed through a window at his Manchester home, which displayed a Palestinian flag. He said he was unable to sleep and took two weeks off work as a result of the incident.

“This event has been extremely traumatic and has had a significant impact on my well-being,” he told The Independent.

“I am not sleeping; I just pace around until 4 or 5 a.m. because I am too scared to sleep in the property. I no longer leave the house after sunset, as I am too frightened.

“I will soon be returning to work after two weeks off sick with stress, but I am very concerned about the impact this event will have on my professional performance as a doctor. I do not know how I can work with patients whilst I am this sleep-deprived,” he added.


UK’s governing Conservatives face pressure as London mayor blasts ‘tacit endorsement’ of Islamophobia

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. (File/Reuters)
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. (File/Reuters)
Updated 25 February 2024
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UK’s governing Conservatives face pressure as London mayor blasts ‘tacit endorsement’ of Islamophobia

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. (File/Reuters)
  • Sadiq Khan says ‘enough is enough’ following MP Lee Anderson’s claim that ‘Islamists’ have ‘got control’ of mayor
  • Deputy PM defends ex-Home Secretary Suella Braverman after she echoed Anderson’s sentiments

LONDON: London’s Muslim mayor has accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of “tacit endorsement” of Islamophobia in his Conservative Party.

Sadiq Khan’s accusation came after the “belated” suspension of Conservative MP Lee Anderson, who refused to apologize for saying in a TV interview that “Islamists” had “got control” of the mayor.

“I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London,” Anderson told GB News. “He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

Khan said Muslims are considered “fair game” for prejudice by the Conservatives.

It comes amid a series of scandals for the governing party after its former leader Liz Truss attended a major conservative conference in the US where she appeared on a panel at which British far-right figure Tommy Robinson was praised, and former Home Secretary Suella Braverman penned an article for the Daily Telegraph suggesting “Islamists” are “in charge” of the UK.

Over the weekend, senior party figures failed to fully condemn Anderson despite his suspension, including Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden and Defense Secretary Grant Shapps.

Khan said: “Blatant anti-Muslim hatred is being tolerated from top to bottom of the party, with everyone from ministers to mayoral candidates failing to condemn even the most clear-cut examples of bigotry and racism.”

He added: “Anderson’s comments have poured petrol on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred … The message it sends is some forms of hatred and racism are acceptable. Enough is enough.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Sunak has “extremists” in his party acting “with impunity.”

Labour Chair Anneliese Dodds said in a letter to her Conservative counterpart Richard Holden that Anderson’s comments are “unambiguously Islamophobic, divisive and damaging.”

She cited other incidents of Islamophobia in the governing part, including London mayoral candidate Susan Hall’s suggestion that Jewish Londoners were “frightened” of Khan’s “divisive attitude” in October, and Conservative MP Nus Ghani saying she was told her “Muslimness” made “colleagues uncomfortable” by an unnamed party official in 2020.

Truss, meanwhile, has been criticized by former Chancellor Sir Sajid Javid for failing to address comments made by US conservative figure Steve Bannon at the Conservative Political Action Conference in which he called Robinson a “hero.”

Sir Sajid said: “I’d hope every MP would confront such a statement head-on … Liz should really know better.”

On Saturday morning, Shapps defended Anderson’s right to “speak (his) mind.” On Sunday, Dowden refused to condemn Anderson as a racist in an interview with Sky News in which he said Anderson had used “the wrong words.”

Dowden added: “I don’t believe the language used by Suella Braverman has crossed the line whereby she should apologize for it.”


Saudi tourism sees 50% surge in Indian visitors as promotion intensifies

Saudi tourism sees 50% surge in Indian visitors as promotion intensifies
Updated 25 February 2024
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Saudi tourism sees 50% surge in Indian visitors as promotion intensifies

Saudi tourism sees 50% surge in Indian visitors as promotion intensifies
  • India expected to become Saudi Arabia’s top tourism source market by 2030
  • Promotional strategy bears fruit with Indian tourists seeking out Kingdom’s heritage sites

NEW DELHI: The number of Indians traveling to Saudi Arabia has grown by 50 percent following a series of strategic initiatives in 2023, the Kingdom’s tourism authority said, as it participated in India’s main international travel show over the weekend.

The 2024 edition of the South Asian Travel and Tourism Exchange — Asia’s leading platform for the tourism and hospitality industry — took place in Noida in the Indian capital region on Feb. 22-24.

The Saudi Tourism Authority established a huge pavilion at the venue, promoting the Kingdom’s ancient heritage sites and new tourism destinations.

“This marks Saudi Tourism Authority’s third year participating in one of the most prominent tourism trade shows in South Asia,” Alhasan Aldabbagh, STA president for Asia-Pacific markets, told Arab News.

“SATTE has been successful as it gave us the opportunity to strengthen our partnerships, share insights and grow together with our trade partners with one unified goal, which is to bring Saudi to life and make its experiences and packages bookable.”

The Saudi exhibition this year was bigger than in the fair’s previous editions, also reflecting the increasing success of its promotional strategy in India.

“We hosted over 1.5 million Indian inbound travelers in 2023, making a substantial 50 percent increase in visitation from 2022. This surge is attributed to strategic initiatives, including a successful partnership with the Indian Premier League, (and) enhanced air connectivity,” Aldabbagh said.

Alhasan Aldabbagh, STA president for Asia-Pacific markets, speaks at the South Asian Travel and Tourism Exchange on Feb. 22, 2024. (SATTE)

In February last year, the STA signed a partnership agreement with the IPL — the men’s T20 franchise that is the world’s most-watched cricket league — becoming its official sponsor and tapping into a strong sports fanbase in both countries.

Saudi and Indian airlines have also added new flights in 2023, connecting Indian cities directly to the Kingdom, while immigration procedures have been streamlined with additional visa-processing centers.

“Last year, we opened 10 VFS Tasheel offices across India, with plans to expand into tier-two cities. We launched our first-ever free 96-hour stopover visa early last year in collaboration with SAUDIA and flynas, our national carriers,” Aldabbagh said, adding that it is now “easier than ever” for Indians to visit the Kingdom.

Indians have been drawn mainly to the growing number of cultural attractions, with archaeological works in full swing and the development of leisure infrastructure.

The top destinations are currently Madinah, Riyadh, Jeddah, and AlUla — one of the Kingdom’s six UNESCO World Heritage sites.

“Saudi has been promoting its rich cultural and historical heritage through key initiatives like the restoration and preservation of heritage sites such as AlUla and Diriyah and the development of cultural festivals and events,” Aldabbagh said.

“To offer Indian travelers a plethora of accommodation options and recreational activities tailored to their preferences, we have invested heavily in developing tourism infrastructure, including hotels, resorts, and entertainment facilities, to accommodate the growing number of visitors.”

Tourism is a booming sector in Saudi Arabia under the Vision 2030 diversification plan. A key part of the vision is to position the Kingdom as a dynamic, diverse, year-round tourism destination and market that will contribute 10 percent of the gross domestic product by 2030.

In the last three years, India has emerged as a key tourism source market, and the STA expects it to become its largest in the next few years.

“By 2030, India is anticipated to become the number one inbound market for Saudi, underlining the growing importance of Indian tourists,” Aldabbagh said.

“Our aim is to welcome 7.5 million Indian visitors by 2030, aligning with our ambitious goals to enhance and diversify the tourism sector while fostering stronger connections between the two nations.”


India’s Assam scraps colonial-era Muslim marriage law

India’s Assam scraps colonial-era Muslim marriage law
Updated 25 February 2024
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India’s Assam scraps colonial-era Muslim marriage law

India’s Assam scraps colonial-era Muslim marriage law
  • Eighty-nine year law allowed marriage involving underage Muslims 
  • Leaders of India’s Muslim community decry move as discriminatory

GUWAHATI, India: India’s Assam state has scrapped an 89-year-old law that allowed marriage involving underage Muslims, against opposition from leaders of the minority community who called the plan an attempt to polarize voters on religious lines ahead of elections.

Assam, which has the highest percentage of Muslims among Indian states at 34 percent, has previously said it wants to implement uniform civil laws for marriage, divorce, adoption and inheritance, as the state of Uttarakhand did earlier this month.

Nationwide, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and other groups follow their own laws and customs or a secular code for such matters. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised a Uniform Civil Code, opposed by Muslims.

Assam repealed the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act, 1935, effective from Feb. 24, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma wrote on X on Saturday.

“This act contained provisions allowing marriage registration even if the bride and groom had not reached the legal ages of 18 and 21... This move marks another significant step toward prohibiting child marriages in Assam.”

Asked by Reuters on Sunday whether the northeastern state would implement a Uniform Civil Code before general elections due by May, Sarma said: “Not immediately.”

Many Muslims in Assam trace their roots to the neighboring Bengali-speaking and Muslim-majority country of Bangladesh. Tension often flares between the Muslims and ethnic Assamese, who are mostly Hindu.

The BJP, the governing party in Assam — and Uttarakhand — calls itself the champion of ethnic communities.

Muslim opposition leaders said repealing the colonial-era law was discriminatory.
“They want to polarize their voters by provoking Muslims, which Muslims will not let happen,” Badruddin Ajmal, a lawmaker from Assam who heads the All India United Democratic Front that mainly fights for Muslim causes, told reporters on Saturday.

“It’s a first step toward bringing a Uniform Civil Code, but this is how the BJP government will come to an end in Assam.”


Republican seeks to bar party from paying Trump’s legal bills

Republican seeks to bar party from paying Trump’s legal bills
Updated 25 February 2024
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Republican seeks to bar party from paying Trump’s legal bills

Republican seeks to bar party from paying Trump’s legal bills
  • The former president faces four criminal trials and was recently ordered to pay about $540 million in judgments in two civil cases
  • “The RNC’s job is to win elections. It’s not to pay the legal bills for any leading candidate,” says the Republican National Committee member

NEW YORK: A Republican National Committee member has submitted resolutions that would prohibit the party from paying presidential candidate Donald Trump’s legal bills, according to a draft, but the measures must get more backers soon to move forward.

Mississippi RNC committeeman Henry Barbor drafted the resolution on Trump’s legal expenses and another requiring the party committee to stay neutral in the presidential race until he receives enough delegates to secure the nomination.
“The RNC’s job is to win elections. It’s not to pay the legal bills for any leading candidate. He’s got to fight his own legal fight,” Barbor told Reuters on Saturday.
Barbor needs to get two cosponsors from 10 states to join the effort by Tuesday for the resolutions to proceed to a full vote by the RNC’s 168 committee members. That vote could come in March and would require a simple majority to pass. But Barbor predicted they would be defeated if they reach that point.
Former President Trump, who denies all wrongdoing, faces four criminal trials and was recently ordered to pay about $540 million in judgments in two civil cases.
A Trump super PAC reported paying more than $47 million in legal expenses for him in 2023.
Trump is seeking to cement his status as Republican presidential nominee and gain more control over the RNC, including by nominating daughter-in-law Lara Trump as co-chair.
Lara Trump has said it is “a big interest to people” to pay fees for her father-in-law’s criminal and civil cases.
Barbor said pro-Trump forces were “jumping the gun” by seeking to declare Trump the party’s presidential nominee while longshot challenger Nikki Haley remains in the race for the Republican nomination to face Democratic President Joe Biden in the November election. Trump is on course for another easy win in South Carolina’s primary on Saturday.
The resolutions were first reported by The Dispatch. Trump campaign co-manager Chris LaCivita, who Trump has proposed serve as the RNC’s chief operating officer, on Saturday said in a statement that it is “the RNC’s sole responsibility to defeat Joe Biden and win back the White House.”
On Friday, he said the RNC would not use raised funds to pay for Trump’s legal bills.