Pakistan suspends NATO supply over security issue

Updated 31 July 2012

Pakistan suspends NATO supply over security issue

PESHAWAR: Pakistani officials said yesterday that a ban on NATO trucks at the main border crossing into Afghanistan will last until the government promises to safeguard security.
Officials closed the northwestern Torkham crossing, the quickest route to the Afghan capital Kabul from the port of Karachi, to NATO traffic on Thursday, just weeks after lifting a seven-month blockade on NATO trucks going into Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taleban have vowed to attack NATO supplies and last Tuesday, one of the truck drivers was shot dead in the northwestern town of Jamrud.
The suspension comes with the head of Pakistani intelligence, Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam, due to hold talks with CIA chief David Petraeus in Washington this week, the first such talks for a year.
“The security plan by the political administration, police and Frontier Corps (a paramilitary force) is being prepared and once it is finalized and approved, NATO trucks will be allowed to pass,” Bakhtiar Khan, a local administration official, told AFP.
Authorities in the northwest say they wrote to the federal government 11 days ago, asking them to finalize a security plan as soon as possible.
“But so far we have not received any response,” Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told AFP from the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Federal government officials were not immediately available to comment.
Islamabad closed its land routes to NATO convoys after US airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on Nov. 26, but on July 3 agreed to reopen them after Washington said sorry for the deaths.
At Pakistan's southwestern crossing into Afghanistan, officials said no restrictions have been placed on NATO supply trucks, but that traffic had thinned.
“Fifty-eight trucks are parked at Chaman awaiting clearance from Afghan officials,” clearing agent Ashraf Khan told AFP.
In Karachi, many truckers won't leave without security guarantees and compensation, said Akram Khan Durrani, president of the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association.
“Until that, we are not going anywhere,” he told AFP.
“It is too dangerous to take our vehicles out without solid guarantees. The situation has changed dangerously as many political and religious groups are against it and the Taleban could strike anywhere if we have no security.”

 


Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 7 min 19 sec ago

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”