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Australia blocks Pak cargo on WMD concerns

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* GBC wanted to sell two atomic absorption spectrophotometers to Pak company

SYDNEY: Australia has blocked a shipment of scientific equipment to Pakistan over fears it could be used to help build weapons of mass destruction (WMD), a spokesman for Defence Minister John Faulkner said on Tuesday.

The government used the 1995 Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act to stop an Australian company exporting instruments and accessories to a Pakistani firm, he said. “The minister forms the view, based on advice from the Department of Defense supported by other agencies, that there are unacceptable risks associated with the provision of these goods,” the spokesman told AFP.

It is the fourth time the minister has used the little-known act to block a shipment going overseas. On previous occasions, the goods had been destined for Iran or countries deemed at risk of passing them on to Iran. The government refused to name either the Australian or Pakistani companies involved in the transaction, but Australian newspapers said the domestic firm was GBC Scientific Equipment. It said GBC wanted to sell two atomic absorption spectrophotometers worth $115,000, which analyses liquid samples, to a Pakistani engineering firm but had been unable to convince the government at Canberra that they could not be used to analyse metals used for centrifuges and missiles.

“They’re destroying my company and, more to the point, they’ve basically moved my thoughts to forget about Australia,” the company’s managing director Ron Grey told the paper.


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April 7, 2010 at 6:18 am

Indian tennis’s Mirza to wed Pakistani cricketer Malik

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Indian tennis star Sania Mirza is to marry Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, the family of India’s most successful woman tennis player confirmed.

Sania Mirza is ranked 92 in world women’s tennis

Mirza’s father said Malik, the former cricket captain of Pakistan, and his daughter would move to Dubai after the marriage, expected next month.

He added that she planned to continue playing tennis once she had recovered fully from a wrist injury.

Reports say the wedding celebrations will be held in both countries.

Receptions are expected in the Indian city of Hyderabad, where Mirza lives, and the Pakistani city of Lahore.

Broken engagement

Mirza, 23, said she hoped to be fully fit to represent India in the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.

Malik is serving a ban on playing cricket for Pakistan

In a career often hit by injuries, Mirza touched a high of 34 in world rankings and is currently placed at 92.

Malik, 28, is among seven leading Pakistani players who are serving a one-year ban imposed by the Pakistan Cricket Board on various charges during a recent tour of Australia.

Pakistan lost all three Tests, five ODIs and the only Twenty20 match on the tour which ended in February.

Earlier his month, the Pakistan Cricket Board gave permission to Malik to play in a domestic Twenty20 league in Bangladesh.

Mirza was officially betrothed to a family friend, Sohrab Mirza, last July in a lavish ceremony but broke off the engagement in January, saying that they had “found ourselves incompatible”.

Just before that betrothal, two men allegedly tried to barge into Mirza’s home, demanding that she marry them.

Both allegedly claimed to be smitten by her beauty and said they had fallen in love with her.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

March 30, 2010 at 9:51 am

Obama’s Asia trip more about influence than policy

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By Julie Pace

President Barack Obama’s second trip to Asia since taking office is unlikely to result in tangible accomplishments, but the two-country sojourn could be an important step in restoring US influence in the region.

President Barack Obama’s second trip to Asia since taking office is unlikely to result in tangible accomplishments, but the two-country sojourn could be an important step in restoring US influence in the region.

The economy, terrorism and climate change all figure to play prominently in Obama’s stops in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and Australia, a key US ally and supporter of American military efforts in Afghanistan. Obama is the first US

president in at least a decade to travel to Southeast Asia for anything other than a regional summit, a move administration officials say reflects his efforts to strengthen relationships with smaller, emerging nations. “There are a number of important middle powers, countries like Australia and Indonesia who are significant players,” said Jeff Bader, the president’s senior adviser for Asia. As the president prepares to undertake his first international trip of the year, scheduled for Sunday, domestic politics have threatened to overshadow his foreign policy goals. The ongoing debate on health care reform forced Obama to push back his original

Thursday departure by three days so he could stay in Washington and help Democrats in Congress rally last-minute votes for his overhaul plan. The change in itinerary also meant first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha would no longer accompany the president abroad, despite the fact that the trip had been scheduled to coincide with the girls’ spring break from school. Obama had hoped to show his family his boyhood haunts in Indonesia, where he spent four years after his mother married an Indonesian man. A bronze statue of a 10-year-old Obama was recently erected at the elementary school he attended.

During his two-day stop in Jakarta, Obama will meet with Indonesian President Susilio Bambang Yudhuyono. In a separate appearance, he’ll deliver his first address to the Muslim world since his historic speech in Cairo last year. Obama will also spend a day in Bali, a well-known tourist destination that has been struck by deadly terrorist attacks. There he will meet with civil society leaders and hold an event promoting the role civil society has played in Indonesia’s emerging democracy.

The president’s itinerary in Australia has been scaled back due to the delay in his departure. He’ll no longer visit Sydney, where his family was expected to do some sightseeing, and instead stop only in Australia’s capital, Canberra. He will meet with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, with whom he shares a close relationship on the issues of climate change and the war in Afghanistan. Obama will address Australia’s parliament and mark the 70th anniversary of relations between the US and Australia. In some parts of Asia, the most carefully watched stop of Obama’s trip will be the first, and the shortest – a speech he’ll make to US servicemembers stationed in Guam while his plane refuels before heading to Indonesia.

The tiny US Pacific territory is at the center of a growing rift between Washington and Japan. Under a post-World War II pact, the US has about 50,000 troops in Japan, most of whom are on the island of Okinawa. Both countries had agreed to close the sprawling Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and relocate 8,000 Marines to Guam. While Tokyo’s previous administration agreed to build a replacement for Futenma farther north on a less-populated part of Okinawa, Japan’s new coalition government is divided over whether a base should remain in Japan at all. The US says the transfer of Marines to Guam cannot move forward until the new site on Okinawa is finalised.

How Indonesia tackles terrorism

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By Rahimullah Yusufzai

It was during our recent stay for a conference in Jakarta that one of the most wanted Indonesian militants, Dulmatin, was killed with two of his accomplices in a dramatic police raid. His death was hailed as a big success for the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in its fight against mostly homegrown terrorists.

The Indonesian president was so happy to learn about Dulmatin’s killing that he broke the news during his speech at Parliament House in Australia, where he was on a visit. He used the word, Alhamdulillah (Thank God) to describe the success of the Indonesian police in eliminating Dulmatin. It followed the earlier killings of two other top militants, Noordin Mohammad Top and Azahari bin Husin.

With the Indonesian police providing the mug shots, Dulmatin’s pictures were splashed all over Indonesia’s large media. The balding man with a small beard and moustache was believed to be around 40 years old. Unlike in Pakistan where the authorities in most cases are unable to provide evidence, due to a host of reasons, that the targeted militants have indeed been slain, the Indonesians did a good job by providing proof to the media that Dulmatin along with Ridwan and Hasan Noer, believed to be his bodyguards, had been killed. The police also said the DNA test conducted on Dulmatin matched the DNA of his mother. The efficient cops were lucky that no bystander was killed in the high-risk, coordinated public raids, including the internet café in suburban Jakarta where Dulmatin was trapped.

The killings took place at a time when a three-day media seminar titled “Journalism at the Intersection of Politics, Religion and Culture” and focusing on conflicts in the East Asia region was taking place in Jakarta. Police raids on militants’ hideouts and killings were being reported from the Jakarta suburb and Indonesia’s western-most Aceh province just when the past and present conflicts in Maluku and South Sulawesi in Indonesia, Thailand’s Malay-populated three southern provinces, the Mindanao islands in the Philippines and, farther away in Afghanistan and Pakistan, were being discussed.

New Zealand, in cooperation with the European Union and the government of Indonesia, had brought together 57 senior journalists and media experts and academics from 16 countries to reflect on the way the media was reporting and analysing the conflicts in the region.

At times, the Indonesian media’s coverage of the events surrounding the killing of Dulmatin and his two guards was sensational. In particular, the TV channels were competing with each other to show the manhunt by the swarming policemen and were even telecasting graphic footage of dead bodies and the blood. And all this time, terrorism experts were offering comments and probably causing more confusion than clarifying things.

As happens so often in terrorism-related cases all over the world, Dulmatin had become a lot more important and dangerous in death and was being blamed for most of the terrorist attacks in Indonesia. In fact, he was being described as the mastermind of the October 2002 night-club suicide bombings in Indonesia’s Bali tourist resort in which 202 people were killed, mostly foreign tourists with the overwhelming number from Australia.

Earlier, another Indonesian, Riduan Isamuddin, commonly known as Hambali, was mentioned as the mastermind of the Bali bombings. He is presently imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay after being delivered to the US by Thailand where he was captured in 2003. Hambali, referred to by the CIA as the “Osama bin Laden” of Southeast Asia, has now filed a petition for his release and the US authorities are conceding that they lack evidence for putting him on trial for his alleged role in the Bali bombings. Three other Indonesians, including Imam Samudra and brothers Amrozi and Mukhlas, were earlier captured and executed for their role in the Bali and other terrorist attacks. It seems the hunt for the masterminds of the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 isn’t over yet.

Dulmatin, also known as Joko Pitoni, is of interest in the so-called Af-Pak region because he allegedly trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. If that is true, he must have travelled through and stayed in Pakistan, particularly in the North-West Frontier Province and the adjoining tribal areas, because this is the route foreign militants take to cross over to Afghanistan. He should have friends and acquaintances in this area. The Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian militant group to which he belonged, is allegedly linked to Al Qaeda. Dulmatin’s death thus isn’t an isolated incident.

Dulmatin did everything that militants and undercover agents do to disguise their activities. He used fake IDs, had a number of names and undertook different trades to avoid detection and capture. From a car salesman to a livestock broker, he did businessmen that covered up his gun-running, recruitment and militant activities. He reportedly received bomb-making training in Afghanistan and then passed on his skills to militants to Moro separatists in southern Philippines and also to Indonesian militants in Aceh and Java.

As we have seen so often in Pakistan, splits in militants’ ranks prompt some of them to join more radical splinter groups. It also reportedly happened in the case of Dulmatin and his comrades as they split from Jemaah Islamiyah to form the more extremist Tanzim al-Qodat. If the Indonesian anti-terror officials and experts are to be believed, he slipped back into Indonesia more than a year ago from the Philippines, where he had been given refuge by the Abu Sayyaf separatist group. This was obviously a lapse on the part of the Indonesian police and security forces, though they managed to finally track him down on March 9 outside Jakarta after nabbing militants in Aceh and interrogating them to find Dulmatin’s whereabouts.

One praiseworthy aspect of the Indonesian strategy is the strong conviction of the country’s police and security services that they are fighting terrorists and tackling the threat of terrorism for the sake of their country, and not to win cash rewards being offered by the US or other country. At a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia’s national police chief, Gen Bambang Hendarso Damuri, played down the prospects of a reward for his cops’ slaying of Dulmatin by arguing that they didn’t carry out the mission in the hope of getting the $10 million bounty offered by the US government for his death or capture.

This was in contrast to the reported claim made by Thai authorities to the $10 million head-money offered by the US for the capture of Hambali in Thailand in 2003. It isn’t known if the reward money was paid to the Thais because a rival claim was reportedly made at the time by CIA officials operating in Thailand.

The self-respecting Indonesian stance also contrasts with Pakistan’s policy under military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf, who confessed in his book that his government pocketed monetary rewards from the US for capturing and delivering wanted militants to the Americans.

There have been reports that the practice hasn’t stopped even after his removal from power and that government officials have been making claims to reward money offered by the US for killing and capturing wanted Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. This gives one the impression that some Pakistani government functionaries are hunting down the wanted men more for monetary benefit than for ridding the country of these dangerous people.

Another interesting highlight of the visit to Indonesia was to know more about the efforts to streamline religious education and teach students not only about Islam but also science and history, English and Arabic, computer skills and the martial arts. At the Pesantren Darunnajah, the Islamic boarding school established in 1974 in southern Jakarta and now having more than 2,000 male and female students, one met young boys and girls in traditional dress confident about their work and future and proud of their Islamic heritage. The privately-run management of the model pesantren, or madrassa, said they aren’t linked to the large Muslim organisations Muhammadiyah or Nahdatul Ulema, but it was neutral and anxious to chalk out a moderate course for the teachers and students at the huge Pesantren Darunnajah.

Perhaps we in Pakistan too need such institutions, which focus on educating and producing good Muslims and proud citizens.

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahim yusufzai