Philippines, MILF relaunch peace talks

The head of the implementing panel on the peace process, Irene Santiago (2nd L), shakes hands with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal prior to their meeting on peace talks at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. (AFP / MOHD RASFAN)
Updated 13 August 2016

Philippines, MILF relaunch peace talks

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: The Philippines on Saturday restarted peace talks with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the first under President Rodrigo Duterte aimed at ending decades of violence that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Negotiators for the two sides said the weekend talks in Malaysia would discuss details of Duterte’s peace road map.
“They will discuss the road map to clarify certain issues. But let me warn everyone, it is not an easy task. It is very complicated,” Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur without elaborating.
The 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has waged a bloody insurgency in the mainly Muslim southern Philippines since the 1970s but an accord signed in 2014 had raised hopes of a lasting peace.
Under the accord, the rebels would have only given up their arms after a law was passed creating an autonomous homeland in Mindanao and a regional government was elected.
The vote was meant to take place alongside the May 2016 general election.
However, a bungled raid into MILF territory that killed 44 police commandos in 2015 helped derail the passage of the law and stalled the peace process with the rebels.
Dureza described the relaunching of the talks in Malaysia, the first formal sit-down between the two sides since Duterte took office, as a “big milestone for peace in Mindanao.”
MILF chief Murad Ebrahim said he welcomed fellow Muslim rebel Nur Misuari, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), to join the transition commission to establish the “Bangsamoro” autonomous region in the south.
“For the inclusion of brother Nur Misuari, the MILF welcomes him joining because we believe there has to be inclusivity in finding a solution to the problem in the Bangsamoro homeland. We need all the players to be onboard,” he said.
While there were some people in the southern Philippines inspired by the Daesh terrorists, Ebrahim said “if the peace process was successful, they (IS) will not garner the people’s support.”
The Philippine Muslim separatists comprise three main groups — the MNLF and breakaway factions the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group.
Armed Muslim groups have been fighting since the 1970s for an independent Islamic state or autonomous rule in the south, which they regard as their ancestral home, and the conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives.
The conflict has condemned millions of people across Mindanao to brutal poverty and created fertile conditions for Islamic extremism, with the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and other hard-line militants making remote areas their strongholds.


Pakistan PM Khan slams ‘oppressor’ India on Kashmir anniversary

Updated 05 August 2020

Pakistan PM Khan slams ‘oppressor’ India on Kashmir anniversary

  • Solidarity marches were held in all major Pakistani cities to mark the anniversary of New Delhi stripping Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status
  • Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan territory, has been split since 1947 between India and Pakistan, both of which claim it in full and have fought wars over it

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan branded India an “oppressor and aggressor” on Wednesday, a year after New Delhi imposed direct rule on Indian-administered Kashmir.
Solidarity marches were held in all major Pakistani cities to mark the anniversary of New Delhi stripping Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status, a move that outraged Islamabad.
Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan territory, has been split since 1947 between India and Pakistan, both of which claim it in full and have fought wars over it.
“India stands exposed before the world, yet again, as an oppressor and aggressor,” Khan said in a statement.
“Its so-called secular and democratic credentials stand fully discredited,” he added, calling India’s action last year a “crime against humanity.”
Khan led a march through Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, before addressing the region’s legislative assembly.
Across the city, more than 2,000 people turned out at a series of anti-India protests.
“We ask the world to give Kashmiris their right of self-determination, otherwise we will cross the Line of Control and help our brothers on the other side with arms,,” Arslan Ahmad, a refugee who fled Indian-administered Kashmir, told AFP.
“Half of my family is under siege in Indian-occupied Kashmir, my mother is dying to meet her sister, this dispute has left our generations torn apart,” 31-year old Usman Mir added.
Police were enforcing tight restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, where religious and political groups had called on residents to observe a “black day.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government had promised the move would bring peace and prosperity to Indian Kashmir after three decades of violence sparked by an anti-India uprising.
Pakistan, however, has alleged it is a violation of the rights of Kashmiri people.
Khan accused India of trying to turn Kashmir’s Muslim majority into a minority by ending restrictions on outsiders buying up property “in blatant violation of... UN Security Council Resolutions and international laws.”
The change in rules has sparked fears that the Modi government is pursuing an Israel-style “settler” project.
A referendum in Kashmir mandated by a UN resolution in 1948 has never taken place.
“India has learned from Israel how to change the demography (of Kashmir),” President Arif Alvi told a rally in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, which observed a one-minute silence.
Hundreds of billboards and banners displayed graphic images purportedly of human rights violations by Indian authorities in Kashmir.
On Tuesday, Pakistan released a new official map showing all of Kashmir as its territory.
The Pakistan military, meanwhile, said Indian troops had fired a shell across the de-facto border, killing a young woman and wounding six other people.
Such exchanges are common along the Kashmir demarcation line, with shells blasted in both directions.