Oct 132017

KIRKUK: Iraqi forces Friday retook positions controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters since 2014 in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk amid a bitter row with the Kurds over a vote for independence last month.

A senior Kurdish official said thousands of heavily armed fighters had been deployed to defend themselves “at any cost” against the Iraqi operation and called for international intervention.

Ethnically divided but historically Kurdish-majority Kirkuk is one of several regions that peshmerga fighters took over from the Iraqi army in 2014 when Islamic State (IS) group swept through much of northern and western Iraq.

Iraq forces in fierce Kirkuk clashes with IS

Baghdad is bitterly opposed to Kurdish ambitions to incorporate the oil-rich province in its autonomous region in the north and has voiced determination to take it back.

The Iraqi army and the peshmerga have been key allies of the US-led coalition in its fights against IS and the threat of armed clashes between them poses a major challenge for Western government.

“The Iraqi armed forces are advancing to retake their military positions that were taken over during the events of June 2014,” an army general told AFP, asking not to be identified.

Speaking from an area south of the provincial capital Kirkuk, the general said federal troops had retaken “Base 102” west of the city after peshmerga fighters withdrew during the night without a fight.

Islamic State attack on Kurdish base in Iraq kills two

The peshmerga’s Kirkuk commander, Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa, said his forces had withdrawn from areas they had recently entered during fighting against IS in the west of the province.

“We withdrew to our lines in the area around Kirkuk and we will defend the city in the event of an attack,” he said. “If the Iraqi army advances, we will fight.”

Kurdish media said the peshmerga had withdrawn from around 72 square kilometres (28 square miles) of territory.

Sheikh Mustafa said there had been an attempt to negotiate an agreed disengagement of forces through Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi but it had been overruled by field commanders.

A top aide to Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani vowed the peshmerga would defend their positions “at any cost”.

“Thousands of heavily armed peshmerga units are now completely in their positions around Kirkuk,” Hemin Hawrami said. “Their order is to defend at any cost.”

The Kurdish authorities accused the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) – paramilitary units dominated by Iran-trained militia – of massing fighters in two mainly Turkmen areas south of Kirkuk in readiness for an attack.

Gunmen kill seven relatives of Iraqi policeman

Hawrami urged the international community to intervene and call on the Iraqi prime minister to “order PMF to pull back if he can or if they listen to him”.

Iraqi Kurdish premier Nechirvan Barzani urged Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s highest religious authority, to intervene to prevent “a new war in the region” and called for dialogue with Baghdad.

A legislator close to Abadi said Iraqi special forces, police and PMF fighters were advancing “to retake control of the oil fields taken by the peshmerga when IS entered Iraq”.

It was “logical for the peshmerga to withdraw” in the face of the advance, said Jassem Jaafar.

The PMF issued no statement but it published photographs of one of its fighters making a victory sign in front of a Kurdish flag.

Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Iran-backed Badr group that is part of the PMF, called on the peshmerga to withdraw, saying it is the Iraqi army’s “duty” to retake those positions.

Iraqi army drives Islamic State from Christian region near Mosul

The surge in tensions comes two weeks after Kurdish voters overwhelmingly backed independence in a non-binding referendum that the federal government condemned as illegal.

The September 25 polls were held in the three provinces of the autonomous Kurdish region as well as several other Kurdish-held areas, including Kirkuk.

On Friday, Iraqi President Fouad Massoum, a Kurd, was in Kurdistan for talks with Kurdish officials, sources there said.

Meanwhile, a blast targeted the offices of a Kurdish mobile phone provider in Hilla, south of Baghdad, causing material damage but no casualties, a police source said.

The Kurdistan Regional Security Council said its intelligence reports suggested that Iraqi troops and armour were preparing to take over the Kurdish-held oil fields, an airport and a military base.

The Kurds export an average of 600,000 barrels of oil per day under their own auspices, of which 250,000 bpd come from the three fields they control in Kirkuk province.

Abadi has repeatedly denied any intention of ordering an assault on his own people but tensions have been high for days.

On Friday, residents in Kirkuk city queued at petrol stations with jerry cans to fill up while other civilians took up arms and deployed on the streets.

One of them, Khasro Abdallah, vowed “to defend Kirkuk to the death”.
The federal government suspended international air links in and out of Iraqi Kurdistan after the referendum.

It said there could be no negotiations on wider autonomy until Kurdish leaders annul the vote and commit to remaining part of Iraq.

The post Iraq forces retake positions from Kurds in disputed Kirkuk appeared first on The Express Tribune.

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Oct 132017

WASHINGTON: Facebook announced on Friday a new feature to make it easier for users to order meals from nearby restaurants and service providers without leaving the social network. A new “Order Food” feature rolled out for US users lets Facebook users order delivery or takeout from restaurant chains such as Papa John’s and Panera, and on-demand services including Delivery.com and DoorDash. “People already go to Facebook to figure out what to eat by reading about nearby restaurants, and seeing what their friends say about them. So, we’re making it even easier,” read a blog post by Facebook Vice President Alex Himel. Facebook launches portable VR headset “From local spots to national chains, Facebook connects you with old favourites and new discoveries in just a few taps. You can even check out what your friends have to say about a restaurant before you order your food.” Facebook has been testing this feature since last year and is rolling out the service to users in the United States on its desktop, iOS and Android applications, with new partners. The move expands Facebook’s ability to keep users on its platform, with services such as money-transfer, business services and ride-hailing available from its main application or messaging services. The world’s largest social network has more than 2 billion active users. The post Facebook now lets you Order Food too appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

Oct 132017

An Islamic faith school’s policy of segregating boys from girls is unlawful sex discrimination, leading UK judges have ruled. Three Court of Appeal judges in London overturned last year’s finding by a High Court judge that Ofsted inspectors were wrong to penalise the mixed-sex Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham on the basis of an “erroneous” view that segregation amounted to unlawful discrimination, Mail Online reported. In a test case ruling on Friday, the Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, Lady Justice Gloster, and Lord Justice Beatson unanimously allowed a challenge by Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman against Justice Jay’s decision. The ruling will affect other schools which have a segregation policy. Muslim school where library books said husbands could beat wives to be taken over by UK govt The appeal judges held that the school’s policy of complete segregation from year five caused detriment and less favourable treatment for both male and female pupils by reason of their sex, and was contrary to the 2010 Equality Act. For religious reasons the voluntary-aided school, which has pupils aged between four and 16, believes that separation of the sexes from year five onwards is obligatory. It has complete segregation of boys and girls from nine to 16 for all lessons, breaks, school clubs and trips. Full response from Birmingham City Council to Al Hijrah school court ruling: https://t.co/OgTkIy4Ak8 pic.twitter.com/A3DkE29d27 — Bham City Council (@BhamCityCouncil) October 13, 2017 Spielman said after the ruling: “I am delighted that we have won this appeal. “Ofsted’s [Read More…]

Oct 132017

Taking a dig at Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan said on Friday that it was a “miracle” that even a person like him had the audacity to speak on corruption. “He [Zardari] is the worst disease and robber in Pakistan. He and his sister [Faryal Talpur] have served me with defamation notices because I don’t respect them,” he told the participants of a PTI rally in Peshawar. “But I will continue to speak the truth. I will go to Sindh to free its people from the chains of fear and the PTI will form the next government in the province,” he added. Beware of politicians like Imran and Sharif, Zardari tells K-P people Khan said Pakistanis had to go to other countries to find jobs because $10 billion was sent abroad every year through money laundering. “People like Zardari and [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief] Nawaz Sharif steal money from Pakistanis and buy properties and build factories in other countries. Our citizens then go abroad and work at these factories,” he maintained. “If all this money is spent on building factories and universities in Pakistan, we won’t have to seek loans from the IMF and lose our dignity,” he added. The PTI chief said the government begged for IMF loans and then imposed heavy taxes on citizens to pay back their installments.   The post It’s a ‘miracle’ that even Zardari’s speaking on corruption, says Imran appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click [Read More…]

Oct 132017

A technocrat or undemocratic government cannot resolve the issues faced by Pakistan, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said. “The masses are cognisant of the incumbent government’s performance and they will make their decision [by casting their votes] in the 2018 general elections,” the premier said after inaugurating an oil and gas project in Attock on Friday. “We need to strengthen democracy because the journey on the path to development cannot continue without stable democracy.” Abbasi, who took over the PM’s office after disqualification of Nawaz Sharif from office in August, claimed PML-N’s performance during the last four years was better than the work done [by the former governments] in the last 15 years. PM Abbasi busy saving Sharif’s skin, says Imran “Initiation of 103 oil and gas projects during the aforementioned period is a sign of better future for the country,” Abbasi said. The project in Attock, other than oil and gas, he added, will offer 50 tonnes of liquid petroleum gas (LPG). The PM claimed that every sector was being provided with the facility of gas. “The government has added more than 10,000MW of electricity to the national power grid during its tenure,” he added. The post Technocrat govt can’t resolve Pakistan’s issues: PM Abbasi appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

Oct 132017

Karachi has secured a slot among the top 60 safest cities in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s The Safe Cities Index 2017, but the one at the very bottom. Pakistan financial hub ranked 60th with an overall score of 38.77. It ranked last for health security and personal security, and had the highest frequency and severity of terrorist attacks. Tokyo tops the overall ranking, scoring 89.8, with its strongest performance is in the digital security category while it has risen seven points in the health security category since 2015. However, in infrastructure security, it has fallen out of the top ten, to 12th. Singapore received a score of 89.64, and Osaka 88.87. Toronto, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Sydney, Stockholm, Hong Kong, and Zurich also made it to the top 10. Karachi up top, but not by much Yangon in Myanmar came in second last with a score of 46.47. Dhaka, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Manila, Caracas, Quito, Tehran, Cairo, and Johannesburg were also at the bottom of the list. The US performed well in digital security, but the country’s infrastructure negatively affected its rankings this year. No US city was among the top 10 – San Francisco, at 15, was the only one in the top 20. It is observed in the report that in many cities, security is falling rather than rising. With two exceptions (Madrid, which is up 13 points and Seoul, up six), cities tend to have fallen in the index since 2015 (for example, New York is down 11, Lima is down 13, Johannesburg is down nine, Ho [Read More…]

Oct 132017

KARACHI: Pakistan needlessly dropped points in their second fixture of the 2017 Asia Cup as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Japan in Dhaka. A day after thrashing hosts Bangladesh 7-0, the Greenshirts were a good bet to collect another win, even more so because Japan had suffered a 5-1 spanking at the hands of India in their opening fixture. A Pakistan win seemed a forgone conclusion when Arsalan Qadir successfully converted a penalty corner in the 16th minute to put the four-time world champions 1-0 up. But Japan had other plans as they hit back soon after via Kenta Tanaka’s field goal in the 22nd minute. A minute before half-time, the script completely flipped when Heita Yoshihara gave Japan an unlikely but not undeserved lead. The experience of trailing for the first time in the tournament threw Pakistan attackers into a state of frenzy, although Japanese backline kept them at bay. This, however, changed in the final quarter when the experienced Muhammad Umar Bhutta finally found the back of the net to leave the match level at 2-2. In the final 10 minutes, both teams tried their best to edge ahead but a winner was not to be found. “We tried to play the same way we did against the hosts but made some mistakes, and Japan also played well,” Pakistan captain Muhammad Irfan told The Express Tribune. With two points dropped, Pakistan will now have to avoid defeat against arch-rivals India in Sunday’s blockbuster encounter in order [Read More…]

Oct 122017
President Donald Trump thanks Pakistan for ‘doing more’

US President Donald Trump has praised Pakistan for the safe recovery of a Canadian-American couple and their three children from Taliban’s captivity. “This is a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan. The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honouring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region,” Trump said in a statement issued by White House. A still image from a video posted by the Taliban on social media on 19 December 2016 shows American Caitlan Coleman, left, speaking next to her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their two sons. PHOTO: REUTERS The unusual praise came less than two months after Trump pilloried Pakistan for aiding and sheltering ‘agents of chaos’ – a reference to the Taliban. Islamabad shot back to the allegation, saying that it could not be made scapegoat for failures in Afghanistan. Pakistan Army recovers US-Canadian family abducted in Afghanistan in 2012 “We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations,” said President Trump. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Pakistan Army, aided by intelligence agencies, recovered the Canadian-American couple and their children on Thursday. “They were captured by terrorists from Afghanistan in 2012 and kept as hostages there,” it added. On his part, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US expresses ‘deep gratitude’ to Pakistan. With new Af-Pak policy, US downfall has begun: Senator Mushahid Hussain [Read More…]

Oct 122017

PESHAWAR: Unidentified armed men shot dead a journalist in Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa late on Thursday, with police suspecting that the incident was linked with a personal feud. “Haroon Khan was targeted at around 8:25pm outside his house by two unidentified assailants and succumbed to his injuries on the spot,” District Police Officer (DPO) Muhammad Sohaib said. According to the DPO, Haroon was engaged in a land dispute with his stepbrother, saying an official demarcation by the revenue staff pertaining to the property was scheduled for Friday morning. “We are investigating the case and the accused will be arrested soon,” Sohaib added. Police recovered seven to eight empty shells of AK-47 rifle from the scene of the crime. The assailants, they said, were on foot. The post Journalist gunned down in Swabi over ‘personal feud’ appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

Oct 122017

The Foreign Office raised on Thursday Pakistan’s concerns on India’s ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary with UN Security Council’s five permanent members. The UN Security Council permanent members include China, France, Russia, UK and US. According to a statement, the heads of P5 states were briefed by Janjua as well as the DGMO Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza in Islamabad on the surge in violations from the Indian side, particularly in the past two months. The foreign secretary underscored the need to stop the unprecedented escalation by the Indian army at the LoC. She said that the ceasefire violations in populated areas has led to the martyrdom of 45 civilians as well serious injuries to 155 in this year alone. The victims include a large number of women and children, she added. The foreign secretary said the violations were taking place in complete disregard to the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding and of International Law. Indian regime’s actions, Janjua said, were a serious threat to the maintenance of regional peace. India admits ceasefire violations under ‘Operation Arjun’ “While emphasizing the important role of the United Nations Military Observers Group (UNMOGIP) which has the mandate for maintaining peace and tranquility at the LoC and the Working Boundary,” the communique read.  “However, India is not cooperative and limits their access. ” Pakistan, it said, maintains India should permit UNMOGIP to play its mandated role in line with the UNSC resolutions to ensure peace. She said that the situation has been aggravated by [Read More…]

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