Malaysia to Relax Foreign Bank Ownership, Issue More Permits

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 24 December 2011 | Posted in , ,

By Elffie Chew and Manirajan Ramasamy

Malaysia will allow foreign banks to own bigger stakes in local lenders, grant more licenses and ease short-selling rules as it seeks to triple the size of its finance sector by the end of the decade, the central bank said.

The Southeast Asian country will also let companies manage foreign currency fluctuations and allow non-residents to trade onshore interest-rate derivatives as it seeks to develop its money market under a 10-year plan announced by Prime Minister Najib Razak in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

“The gradual removal of barriers for overseas investors will result in a level playing field and make the local financial market more competitive,” Abdul Jalil Abdul Rasheed, who helps manage $3 billion as chief executive officer at Kuala Lumpur-based Aberdeen Islamic Asset Management Sdn., said in an interview yesterday. “We have reached the stage where a lot of the local banks are already strong and can give foreign banks a run for their money.”

Bank of China Ltd., BNP Paribas SA and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. are among foreign lenders that have set up operations in Malaysia, attracted by its emergence as Southeast Asia’s biggest debt securities market and world’s largest issuer of Islamic bonds. The country accounts for 63 percent of Shariah-compliant debt sales globally, the Finance Ministry said in October.

‘Significant Opportunities’

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., Southeast Asia’s second- largest lender by assets, plans to expand traditional financial services as well as Islamic banking operations in Malaysia, its second-largest market by profit and assets.

“The further liberalization of the country’s banking rules is therefore positive news for us,” Jeffrey Chew, chief executive officer and director of Singapore-based OCBC’s Malaysian unit, said in an e-mailed response to questions today. “This new set of blueprints will give OCBC significant opportunities in the areas of wealth management, online and mobile banking services and payments, Islamic finance, branch network and non-branch delivery channels.”

Financing that complies with Islam’s ban on interest may account for 40 percent of the total by 2020, up from 29 percent in 2010, the central bank said. Malaysia’s debt securities market has almost tripled over the past decade to 867 billion ringgit ($273 billion), it said in yesterday’s report.

Under Malaysia’s first 10-year Financial Sector Master Plan published in 2001, local banks and brokerages were encouraged to merge as rules were gradually eased and more licenses granted.

More Consolidation

Consolidation is continuing as foreign competition is set to increase. RHB Capital Bhd., Malaysia’s fifth-biggest lender, is in talks to buy the investment banking operations of OSK Holdings Bhd., the country’s fourth-biggest stockbroker. K&N Kenanga Holdings Bhd., a brokerage part-owned by Deutsche Bank AG, is in talks to buy the investment banking and brokerage operations of local rival ECM Libra Financial Group Bhd., two people familiar with the matter said on Dec. 1.

Malaysia’s financial system, including outstanding bonds, loans and equity-market capitalization, may grow this decade at an annual pace of 8 percent to 11 percent, or six times the rate of expansion of its gross domestic product, Bank Negara Malaysia forecast. That compares with an average 7.3 percent growth since 2001, and would give the nation a financial sector valued at as much as 9.1 trillion ringgit by 2020, it said.

Licenses will be granted to banks and insurers with specialized expertise, including Islamic finance, the report said. Existing foreign banks in Malaysia will be allowed greater flexibility in locating branches.

Strengthening Malaysia’s position as an international Islamic financial center is a pillar of the plan, yesterday’s report said. The central bank said it plans to develop new products and expand the range of globally-accepted hedging instruments.

Ownership Cap

Bank Negara left a 30 percent cap on foreign ownership of banks unchanged in yesterday’s report. Exemptions may be granted depending on the financial profile of the investor and whether it’s in the interests of the country, it said.

“The presence of strong and well-managed domestic banking groups that will account for a significant share of resident deposits will remain important for the orderly growth and development of the financial sector and the Malaysian economy,” central bank Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz said in a speech in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Raising Stakes

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. holds 23.8 percent of AMMB Holdings Bhd., while Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia Ltd. owns 23.5 percent of Affin Holdings Bhd., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Bank Negara maintained that selective ownership relaxation can be considered on a case-by-case basis, which keeps our hopes alive that foreign institutions would eventually raise their stakes in AMMB and Alliance Financial Group,” Vincent Khoo, an analyst at Singapore-based UOB-Kay Hian Holdings Ltd. said in a report today.

The central bank last eased foreign ownership limits at non-commercial banks in 2009 when the country went into a recession. It increased the maximum amount overseas investors could hold in insurers, Islamic banks, investment banks and sellers of Shariah-compliant insurance to 70 percent from 49 percent at that time.

Sovereign Bonds

To develop Malaysia’s money markets, the government could issue more benchmark securities and hold larger treasury-bill auctions in the coming decade, the central bank said.

Principal dealers undertaking short-selling may provide further flexibility, and non-principal dealers could be allowed to borrow and lend securities, it said.

Mahathir Mohamad fixed the ringgit at 3.80 a dollar in September 1998 during his tenure as prime minister amid the Asian financial crisis, blaming speculators including George Soros for a 34 percent plunge in the currency. A ban on offshore trading remains in force since, though the dollar peg was removed in 2005 and most other capital controls have been lifted.

Malaysia isn’t ready to free trade in the ringgit because of “instability in the foreign exchange market,” Najib told reporters yesterday.

Ahmediyya Muslims gather at Wagah Border for annual congregation

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

Wagah: Thousands of Ahmediyya Muslims gathered at the Wagah Border post for their annual community congregation beginning from December 26 in the town of Qadian in Gurdaspur District of Punjab.

Though, Ahmediyyas regard themselves to be part of the Muslim faith, they have been branded as "non-Muslims" by the Government of Pakistan as per the 1974 Constitutional amendment which declared them as "heretical".

The Ahmediyya Muslim sect considers its leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, as the last Prophet which is opposed by mainstream Muslims who consider it blasphemous.
While Ahmediyyas deny considering their leader as the last Prophet, radical Muslims are against them, wanting them to be declared un-Islamic.

Mohammad Ahmed Zafar, an Ahmediyya Muslim from Pakistan said that he was extremely happy to be in India and thanked the Indian government for being lenient with the visas.

"We have come here for the annual conference to be held in Qadian which will start from the 26th of this month. By the grace of god, we are thankful to the government of India for granting visas to so many of us. The preparations and facilities here are very good. I am really thankful to you all," said Zafar.

Nawab Ahmed, a volunteer for the annual conference, also thanked the India government for granting so many visas for the Ahmediyya Muslims coming from Pakistan.

"Our function is a yearly event and happens in Qadian. This is the 120th one. Every year people from over 200 countries come here to take part in this conference. This year many people have come through the Wagah Border. 5734 Visas were granted to Pakistani citizens by the Indian government. This is a very good gesture from the government of India and we really thank them," said Nawab.

Several human rights groups have highlighted the persecution faced by the Ahmediyyas in Pakistan.

(Courtesy: NewsTrackIndia.com)

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights condemns Dec 23 explosions in Damascus

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

IMO News Service

“In the morning of Friday 23rd December 2011 the Syrian capital Damascus witnessed two explosions. The blasts appeared to be coordinated as they happened within a few moments of each other at 10:15 am local time in the district of Kafr Souse. The 2 targets were the General Intelligence Agency HQ and the Military Intelligence Branch. Approximately 40 minutes later Syrian state run TV channels broadcasted news of the explosion and accused the international terrorist organization Al Qaida for the attack. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights condemns this act of terrorism regardless of the perpetrator and their ideology,” said a press release sent by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) to IndianMuslimObserver.com.

The press release stated: “Reports from our members seem to give a very disturbing picture. The Observatory has and continues to receive statements from both officials and local activists on the findings. Syrian officials have declared that the number of those killed stands at over 40 and the number of those wounded is around 100. The observatory has not received detailed information from the Syrian officials on either the exact numbers or the personal information of the victims other than one report that one of the men killed by the explosion was a retired Brigadier General.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is keen to understand the facts however it is extremely concerned by the official explanations given by officials of the Syrian regime for the following reasons:

1) Friday is a non working day in Syria. Such an attack on a government building would be designed to kill civilians as most government personnel would be not be at work.

2) There is an element of bizarre coincidence as this is an unprecedented event and for it to coincide with the arrival of the Arab League delegation of observers is at the very least interesting.

3) Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Maqdisi has stated that Lebanese authorities warned the Syrian regime that Al Qaeda forces had infiltrated Syria via Lebanon 2 days ago. It is not convincing to think that given such degree of intelligence and the fact that there are numerous intelligence organizations in Syria for such an infiltration to go on freely and organize and execute such an attack within 48 hours.

4) There is an element of precedence from previous cases were external elements organized assassination attacks on key Palestinian figures. The regime treated these events as serious matters of national security and fire brigade vehicles were sent to wash away the scene and prevent journalists from visiting or going into any detail. In this case it is mysterious as to why the regime has acted differently and by getting the deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad to take the journalists and observers on a “tour” of the scene.

5) The Observatory would expect the regime to act in line with most advanced of nations where security and intelligence is gathered via sophisticated methods in order to arrive at a reliable set of evidence and identify the culprit. It is worrying to see that a conclusion on the identifying the culprit seems to have already been reached. This is even more surprising by the fact that Syria does not have a documented history of Al Qaeda presence.

6) The Observatory is aware of the location of the intelligence force building and the fact that there is a big concrete fence surrounding at a substantial distance from the building itself. It is unclear as to how the building could have caught fire when the blast happened outside the fence. It is also unclear as to how the car could reach the gates in the first place as the perimeter of the building and the road leading to it is under constant guard by military and intelligence personnel.

Finally; The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights condemns this act of terrorism regardless of the perpetrator and their ideology and calls upon its members and the international community to undertake a full investigation to identify the culprit behind this act and bring them forward to face justice in a court of law.

Arvind & Asif dazzle in 3rd round of Gulf Dirt Track National Championship at Bhopal

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: Dare-devil riders from Bangalore swept most of the prizes that were at stake in the 3rd round of the Gulf Dirt Track National Championship, which is a round of Federation of Motor Sports Club of India (FMSCI) Championship 2011, held on BHEL Dussehra ground here on Friday (December 23, 2011).

The Bangalore riders in all annexed 16 spots with Arvind K. P. of TVS racing team stealing limelight as he scaled the victory stands in four events. Arvind finished first in three categories and stood second in one. He was rich by Rs. 14,700/- which was his total prize money apart from mementos and certificates.

Arvind riding TVS 250 FX came up with a brilliant display to win the glamour event, most attractive and the fastest of all - foreign motorcycles up to 260 cc class. On Friday his superb riding makes him a favourite for Saturday’s ultimate 4th round. Second & third spot was won by his team mates HK Pradeep & Pramod Joshua of TVS racing team.

Arvind, like in the previous rounds in Jodhpur and Nashik, did TVS Racing proud by sweeping the Indian Expert Class Group B up to 260cc 2 & 4 stroke class.
Sister Rezi, the principal of local Carmel Convent Senior Secondary School, flagged off this much awaited event. The event is sponsored by Gulf Oil Corporation and organised by Sportscraft, Mumbai. Riders from all over the country participated in the event. The goodly crowd that turned up on a chilly morning was left in awe as riders went through the motions in the event.

It was A. Anand of Coimbatore who excelled in the other glamour event, the Private Expert Class group B 260cc 2 & 4 stroke. Race 2 of this race was won by Suhail Ahmed.

There was huge cheering when the Novice class was run. Adnaan Ahmed gave fans lots to shout about as he challenged in the 130 cc & 165cc 4 stoke class all the way. He was placed ahead of Dinu Devasia and Shaikh Ismail, who were second and third respectively. N. Vinoth Kumar won the other races in the Novice championship class two stroke.

Meanwhile, Syed Asif Ali of Bhopal riding his TVS Apache had his name inscribed amongst the winners to step on to the victory stand in four events wherein he collected total Rs. 10,200/-, along with certificates and mementos. He won in Private Expert Class group B Motorcycles up to 260cc 2 & 4 stroke race 1 & 2 coming second in both events. While in two other events viz. in Local Class Motorcycles up to 165 cc, 4 stroke & 2 stroke Asif emerged first and second respectively.

Muzaffar Ali also of Bhopal riding Yamaha won the Madhya Pradesh Local Class Motorcycles up to 165 cc, 2 stroke of 2 stroke garnering Rs. 3000/- as first prize. He was followed by Syed Asif Ali and Shujaat Khan.

While the crowd that turned up was appreciative of the event, the riders too were all praise for Sportscraft’s conduct of the event, which saw the races being gone through with precision efficiency. Surely there will be a bigger crowd to watch the 4th round of the championship on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Gulf Oil has over the years spared no effort in giving two-wheeler riders an opportunity to test their skills under a safe environment with events like Dirt Track Racing and the Monsoon Scooter Rally. Friday’s s event in Bhopal was no less challenging, as the course laid out by Sportscraft was really tough. In addition to the sharp bends there was also loose gravel and water-logged areas to negotiate, which made riding a dicey proposition. However, all riders, first timers included, displayed excellent skills to come through this test of man and machine in flying colors.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

Jamia Millia Islamia confers Doctor of Letters on Prof. Amartya Sen

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 23 December 2011 | Posted in , , , ,

A tribute to Amartya Sen, an honour for Jamia Millia Islamia

By Manzar Imam

New Delhi: It was a rare moment for Jamia Millia Islamia. The university’s Ansari Auditorium was full with dignitaries, mostly academicians to have a close look of the 1998 Nobel laureate and listen to him. The occasion was the Special Convocation to confer the degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) on Professor Amartya Sen on 16 December 2011.

The programme began with the recitation of the Holy Quran followed by its translation. Registrar S.M. Sajid then announced the convocation open. It followed by the welcome address of Vice-Chancellor Najeeb Jung.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor S.M. Rashid read the citation acknowledging the contributions of Prof. Sen to “welfare economies” and “social choice theory”.

In his introductory remark Vice-Chancellor Najeeb Jung called Sen “a rare public intellectual”. Jung highlighted “the importance of being Amartya Sen in these polarized times” and added that “the lesson of his remarkable life for all of us in the university is fourfold”. That subject categories are meant to be enabling, not stifling. That the life of the mind is most meaningful when it harnesses curiosity to the cause of humanity. That good policy has to be derived from clear principles. That there is no contradiction between being a grounded Indian and a citizen of the world, said the VC.

The citation read that Professor Sen’s engagements with foundational issues related to welfare economies, social choice theory, inequalities and poverty, on the one hand, and national, tolerant and democratic social choice, on the other hand, enabled him to argue for inclusive development with systematic political broadening and social enlargement.
It further said, “In honouring Professor Sen, Jamia Millia Islamia, an institution established to encourage innovative thought and champion the cause of India’s Freedom, acknowledges his seminal contribution to the domain of knowledge, scholarship and critical thought.”

I am proud to be associated with the university, said Dr. Sen. In the brief address Sen said that convocations were fine occasions to highlight the importance of the pursuit of knowledge and also to question the nature of education in general and role of higher education in particular. He went on stating that there was a close connection between knowledge and doubting.

While posing the question whether higher education made any big difference, Prof. Amartya Sen cited the names of Mahatma Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev,, Karl Marx, Nelson Mandela, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad among others to highlight the importance of higher education in providing the foundation for their success in their respective field of operation.

The VC presented the Honour to Dr. Amartya Sen. The Nobel laureate expressed happiness for being associated with Jamia Millia Islamia, calling it a powerful academic institution. He said that Jamia represented a confluence of different cultures and was committed to the pursuit of knowledge. He ended declaring his firm belief in the secular notion of India based on the secular notions of 17th century Mughar Emperor, Akbar.

[Delhi-based journalist Manzar Imam is Special Correspondent of IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be reached at manzarkhalil@gmail.com]

Federal Bargains, Retail Market

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 22 December 2011 | Posted in , ,

By Amna Mirza

The winter session of Parliament was speculated to be on fire due to debates over the Jan-Lok Pal Bill and the final outcome of Team Anna- UPA II Government duel. What emerged surprisingly was the decision to allow foreign direct investment in the retail market. The phenomena saw not only the opposition coming forward with its sacred exercise of criticizing the government but also the key allies of the UPA like Trinamool Congress and some Congress Member of Parliaments expressing displeasure over it. The government has showed its readiness to debate on the issue but the opposition is firm on its demand for vote on the move to increase the cap on FDI in multi-brand retail to 51% and allow 100% foreign ownership in single-brand stores.

In this spectrum, what was remarkable was a remarkable degree of voices of dissent from the few states in the Indian federal apparatus. Kerala emerged as the first Congress ruled state to oppose FDI in retail. Followed by the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu - Mayawati and Jayalalithaa - casting a doubt over the concealed nature of the proposed benefits tendered by FDI in retail, namely that it benefits the foreign players vis-a-vis indigenous players. Further, the iron man of Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar opposed it with his party JD (U) putting its demand for adjournment motion in Lok Sabha.

India is a parliamentary federal democracy, with a bicameral union legislature. The rapid pace of globalization has a profound impact on Federalism which seeks to manage sovereignty with the dual rule. The states within the Indian Union are heterogeneous. With the beginning of the coalition government of the multi-party system and the economic decentralisation, the states have found a new space for themselves than before. This idea of states as independent sites of growth can be captured from the imagination of the Globalisation theorist like Kenichi Ohmae, where she argues that rise of states/sub-units, in the global era needs to be seen as geographical clusters and as potential engines of huge regional economic growth.

In the Indian context, the process of liberalisation juxtaposed with rise of coalition forces has tilted the balance towards a more decentralised federalism where the states have a renewed concern for their distinct development The nucleus of power lies in New Delhi, yet a certain atmosphere has been created whereby states vie for their due space in policy matters that cast a spell on their issues. Further, one can sense that there is a certain degree of reordering of state-market relations with the independent state demands coming up.

In the ongoing debate what came forward was a mosaic of a complex idea of national interests. If the idea of containing inflation and making our retail market to catch up to international standards was pointed by the Union Government, the states debunked the notion. The differences of opinion came up when the Kerala Chief Minister Ramesh Chennithala feared how this decision will give political advantage to the Left forces to factor in small and retail players. Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu further opposed it primarily leaving no stone unturned to gain political mileage over the current regime by getting in the ‘foreign’ factor. Bihar echoed the idea of larger public interest wherein the state government did not allow Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the past and as a matter of principle agreed to stick to its policy principles and opposed the thought process of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Further amongst the political circles in New Delhi, the Left Parties debated how the executive act in a manner that is at odds with the collective responsibility of the cabinet as enshrined in a parliamentary democracy. There are factions that pointed how employment, productivity and technology are not catered to by allowing FDI in retail.

In a democracy, the differences are often irreconcilable and the idea of fully rational consensus is too tough a goal to reach. This instance showed how Federalism and globalization are leading to a movement of being away from single actor in decision making with a quest for balancing unity and diversity and calling for constant co-operation in policy making. The thrust of federal foreign affairs in India has been changing according to changing global conditions.

Innovation in negotiations and consultations are certain basic principles to be followed in the process of federal bargain. India is poised to become an economic superpower in the coming times. It is required to fine tune its national interest with that of states, thereby avoiding any unnecessary clash in articulation of ideas. The consensus achieved for negotiation was vertical amongst the executive branch, rather than horizontal. The multi-polar world needs a broad base decision making paradigm. The nation has to put forward a debate to act to correct this federal deficit in the decision making process.

[Amna Mirza is Ph. D Reserach Scholar, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. She can be contacted at amnamirza2002@gmail.com]

When will people of Kashmir learn?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

By Dr Shabir Choudhry

‘Myth’ is that people of Kashmir are very intelligent, freedom loving and tolerant. I know some people will get upset by my opening sentence; but no matter how many people get upset by this, I will call it a myth until it is proven to be true.

People who are intelligent and freedom loving do not remain occupied and oppressed for so long. People who are tolerant do not invite foreigners to attack their country and request new rulers from outside the boundaries of Kashmir; and do not become so intolerant that minorities feel unsafe in their homes and people feel frightened to express their views.

People with tunnel vision, twisted mind and loyalties outside the boundaries of Kashmir fabricate history and tell us that our slavery started with occupation of the Sikhs, as Sikhs were non Muslims and they ended Afghan (Muslim) rule in Kashmir. However, true sons of soil know, although Afghans and Mughals were Muslims, but they were also occupiers and they brutally oppressed people of Kashmir. Apart from that they did not go there to advance cause of Islam, as Kashmir was already a Muslim country; and perhaps better Muslims than Mughals who invaded Kashmir in 1586.

After the Sikh rule Maharaja Gulab Singh established State of Jammu and Kashmir which unlike other Princely States enjoyed greater autonomy - short of complete independence as the British were responsible for defence. After the end of the British Raj in India, the British Paramountcy or whatever pacts the Maharajah had with the British came to an end; and Jammu and Kashmir emerged as an independent State on 15 August 1947.

The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir concluded a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan and also offered India to have a Standstill Agreement. India wanted to discuss this matter further, but on 22 October 1947, in violation of the Standstill Agreement Pakistan launched a tribal attack on Jammu and Kashmir. This unprovoked and naked aggression resulted in death of thousands of innocent men women and children; and the Maharajah fearing fall of his summer capital Srinagar, asked India for help.

This help was only made available when the Maharajah signed an Instrument of Accession which was provisionally accepted and had to be ratified by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Indian army reached Srinagar on the morning of 27 October and started fighting the raiders. This resulted in the first Kashmir war between India and Pakistan, in which people of Jammu and Kashmir suffered immensely and the State was forcibly divided between the two countries; and once again we lost our independence.

Important point to note here is that we lost our independence in 1586 because our stronger Muslim neighbour of the time – Akbar the Great invaded our country. After centuries of slavery, exploitation and oppression we achieved our independence on 15 October 1947. This time again, we were attacked by a stronger Muslim country – Pakistan, which resulted in ‘Provisional accession’ with India and eventual forced division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

This is not to suggest that India did not want to make Kashmir part of India, however, fact remains it was Pakistan which violated the Standstill Agreement and attacked our country and trampled our integrity and independence. In other words entry of Pakistani troops in to Jammu and Kashmir territory was against the wishes of the Kashmiri Ruler; and entry of Indian troops was on the request of the Ruler. No doubt the Indian troops have gone far beyond the terms of the treaty and are responsible for human rights abuses; but we must not twist facts to justify the initial aggression, which is source of our miseries since 22 October 1947.

Instead of blaming the aggressor for heinous crimes committed against innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir, ‘intelligent’ people of Kashmir were persuaded in name of religion to glorify the aggressor. It is unfortunate that even now in 2012, ‘intelligent’ people of Jammu and Kashmir cannot differentiate between a friend and a foe. Despite enormous ‘sacrifices’, death and destruction they are not sure what they want, as some want accession to Pakistan, some want accession to India, some want independence; and some are happy with the status quo as this serves their interests.

If there was only one occupier then we could have achieved independence a long time ago. Similarly, if Jammu and Kashmir was not multi religion and multi ethnic then it would have been easy to decide our future. Those who advocate Islamic state forget that there are followers of other faiths in Kashmir; and even within Islam there are many sects negating each other, so we cannot have practically advance religious solution unless we want create more chaos and divide the State on religious lines.

Leaving out options of becoming independent and joining India, let us see what option of joining Pakistan has to offer people of Jammu and Kashmir. First it will divide the State on religious lines, as Buddhists of Ladakh and Hindus and Sikhs of Jammu province would not like to join Pakistan, as their interests would not be protected there; and plight of non Muslims in Pakistan is a big deterrent to them.

People of Jammu and Kashmir, especially Muslims, living on the Indian side of the divide need to think that Gilgit Baltistan is directly ruled by Pakistan since 1947; and if the Pakistani rule was anything near to be being good then people of that region would not say that they are occupied and ruled by draconian laws without rights to fundamental rights. Similarly people of so called Azad Kashmir are not happy with what Pakistani government and secret agencies do to exploit and oppress them.

Leaving that aside, now let us see what Pakistan is in view of Pakistani people: Col Riaz Jafri, who was the Principal Staff Officer to late Major General Rao Farman Ali Khan – in charge Martial Law (Civil Affairs), wrote in article, ‘Fall of Dacca’:

'Not only, that the Bengalis were treated as unequals, but it is also a fact that they were the major revenue earner for Pakistan....... The highest in authority were guilty of being too greedy, power hungry and selfish. Unfortunately we all treated East Pakistan as a colony and never granted them their justly deserved status of being the major human organ of Pakistan’s body – 54 percent of the population. As power barons of the Federal government mostly hailed from West Pakistan they never shared the power willingly or happily with their Bengali brethren.' Source - http://k4kashmir.com/?p=6294

Bakhtiar Qayyum, who served the Pakistani establishment at a senior level for 30 years, writes: ‘Pakistan is passing through a very critical stage of its existence. Voices are coming from all directions that this country is very soon going to collapse. Terrorism, Talibanisation, crumbling economy and the deteriorating law and order situation are just the few indicators telling of the bleak situation….Societies and countries built on hatred cannot sustain for long. Only those which have live and brotherhood in their foundations last for ever.’ Source: Liberty International, November 2011, page 8

Murtaza Razvi, staff member of famous English daily ‘Dawn’, writes: Given our internal rifts, political, religious, sectarian, government-military related heartburns, bad governance and with foreign policy in a shambles, Pakistan is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. … Who needs external enemies when we have become self-sufficient in creating armies of enemies from within, most with a divine mission to wage jihad on one another, or running over our borders in utter desperation to raise a spectre of horror in our neighbourhood? Any news emanating from Islamabad on the global grid is expected to be bad news or ‘news of the weird’ at the very least. All this while we have a tireless ability to put out more and more of the same variety and then cry ourselves hoarse about our tumbling image abroad.’ Source: Dawn, 9 December 2011

Asian Human Right Commission writes: ‘During the year, in Karachi, capital of Sindh alone, 1800 persons were killed and political parties from ruling coalition were involved in ethnic target killings. The minister of interior says that during two years 3938 people were killed in Karachi city. In Balochistan during the year disappearances by the plain clothed persons continued and more than 100 persons were disappeared. Around 100 missing persons were extra judicially killed and the family members of the victims claim that these persons were abducted by law enforcement agencies.’ Source: http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/hrreport/2011/AHRC-SPR-008-2011/view.

These are only few examples of the situation, and I am sure some people can come up with similar things about India; but that is not the issue here. What we, as citizens of Jammu and Kashmir State, have to see is what is best for us. There are problems joining India and there are problems joining Pakistan. As intelligent human beings we should determine our priorities and care for our interests and not interests of our neighbours, be it in name of religion or democracy. We must not allow our neighbours and their agents to fool us anymore and opt for united and independent Jammu and Kashmir.

[Dr Shabir Choudhry is Director Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. He is also Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.He can be contacted at drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com]

Remedy of hooch tragedy: blame game and prohibition?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , ,

By Sukant Khurana and Brooks Robinson

Bengal seems to have tragedy after tragedy and Mamta has only one answer: blame the previous government. She may not have started the fire, but she certainly continues to fuel it. She may have been a verbal tigress initially, but when it came to the actual managing of the state of affairs, her stint as Chief minister has been marred with repeated failures. No, we are not trying to defend CPM or any political party in India, but only asking the political class to own up to its mistakes Almost all politicians in India shelter and help the corrupt state apparatus for that is the machine that feeds them back the cash and muscle power necessary to get elected. Who in Indian electoral politics rises above this power and money nexus? This hooch tragedy once again exposes politician’s inability to change the game in any significant way. What we are afraid of is that the situation may go from being bad to worse, by following the current prohibition example of Gujrat, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland.

India is full of repeated attempts to implement alcohol prohibition. Almost always the prohibition is lifted due to its counter-effective nature but somehow the simpleminded tendency to invoke it at time of crises always persists. Gujrat, the largest state to have prohibition, is one of the topmost states for alcohol addiction and abuse, despite, or shall we say due, to prohibition. In a single, devastating incident in 2009, 136 people died in one day in Gujrat due to the consumption of illicit alcohol. Andhra and Haryana have also gone dry in the past just to roll back the decision. In dry states, the wealthy turn to smuggled foreign alcohol that is not good for domestic industry, trade balance, and foreign reserves. The poor population on the other hand, turns to the shoddy and unsafe alcohol provided by the bootleggers. One forgets that crime skyrocketed in USA, during their prohibition era. Similarly, in India, Morarji Desai's decision to ban alcohol in the Bombay Presidency in the early 50s was the chief cause of the growth of the smuggling syndicate and the likes of Haji Mastan, Vardarajan, and Karim Lala etc., who are the founding fathers of the Mumbai underworld.

Evidence based policy-making needs to replace the simple-minded solutions that have plagued us in the past. We need to ask ourselves what really drives people to the illicit liquor. The problem for poor people is two fold: the current drinking habits mixed with the current status of alcohol availability. Social taboos against moderate social drinking are driving people to drink in isolation and in excess.

In Mediterranean European countries where alcohol is consumed in moderation and within families, there are very few cases of alcohol related crimes. No, we are not saying that alcohol does not cause problems. In fact, when consumed in excess it results in people loosing many inhibitions. Whether alcohol causes crimes or acts as a license for committing a pre-conceived crime is a different question but the bottom line is that too much alcohol brings problems. The poor are also driven to temporarily drown their problems in alcohol more so than the privileged, further losing money and status and thus exacerbating their already disenfranchised status. The social displacement of workingmen away from their families due to ever increasingly inequitable society of India is also a primary cause of the absence of true family bonds that work to curtail drinking in excess.

Alcohol and other drug-related troubles seem to be excessively high in societies where gender parity is low. When it comes to gender equality, India is consistently ranked as one of the worst countries in the world. Moderate alcohol can be moderately beneficial to grown-ups (with the exception of pregnant women or those with kidney and liver problems). Thus, those who already drink should be guided to healthy habits instead of having the more difficult and socially ineffective message of abstinence be forced upon them. No, we are not suggesting that anyone who does not drink should start, we are promoting healthy habits for those who already drink.

Another pressing matter is that consuming alcohol has different impact on different segments of the society. It is clear that the financial impact of alcohol consumption will be very different on different sections of society. This brings us to the second dimension of alcohol availability. To counter the economic impact of alcohol availability on the poor, the direct and at times indirect policy of both the central and state governments has been to increase the price of legal alcohol. This is done with the stated intent of preventing alcoholism in poor populations, while making alcohol available to the class that can afford it. This is mainly done by levying heavy taxes but also by making molasses, an ingredient in many hard types of liquor, exorbitantly more expensive than its free market price. These measures drive the poor toward illicit hooch, which is available anywhere across the country. With decades of disastrous social planning, the traditional alcohol making communities have been driven to other trades – mostly cheap labor away from their native land, so much so that one can find nausadar-spiked hooch much more easily in the land of mahua in tribal regions that have been making the mahua (alcoholic beverage from flower extracts) for millennia or hooch in regions that used to traditionally make rice wine. What is left behind is the nexus consisting of the criminal politician, police and local strong men that run the production of alcohol in all Indian states, including the dry ones.

This is an easy breeding ground for contaminated alcohol. With unscrupulous and careless businessmen in control of the alcohol trade, even methanol- contaminated batches of alcohol are allowed into circulation and the poor people have to pay the price with their lives. The poisonous methanol that causes the effects of alcohol poisoning is formed when the temperature of alcohol distillation is not controlled correctly and the high temperatures cause breakdown methanol to be formed.

People have to move away from hooch which frequently has added distilled alcohol and ammonium salts and adopt a healthy culture of socially consuming drinks with low and safe alcohol content. A rollback of all policies that make legal and safe liquor out of the reach of common folks is desperately needed.

Professing prohibition is like preaching abstinence to control AIDS. It does not work. One needs to evolve strategies and policies based on evidence. Exorbitant prices only drive poor to get their drinks at shoddy places. A police force reform is also needed. Despite feeling sick, victims in the recent tragedy did not report to hospital for the fear of police questioning. It is not just the Bengal police, but men in uniform across board that are known for their corruption, heavy handedness to the poor and being in cahoots with criminals. So someone should convey to the politicians in general that there exists no short cut to success. Prohibition has been a failure across the globe. Things that will work however, are gender and general socio-economic parity, education and overall development.

[Dr. Sukant Khurana, Ph. D., is a New York based scientist of Indian origin who is working on both basic and applied side of many health issues. In collaboration with Brooks Robinson, a neuroscientist working on addiction, learning and memory, Dr. Khurana is working on a book on alcohol issues of India. Their public outreach writings relevant to alcoholism are available at https://sites.google.com/site/sukantkhurana2/ and https://sites.google.com/site/sukantkhurana/alcoholism-writing-of-sukant]

Madhya Pradesh Cong Opposition Leader Ajay Singh complains against state BJP govt. to Centre

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: With Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha elections less than two years away the main Opposition Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP), have girded up their loins and are involved in a war of attrition to pin-down each other in a bid to ride to power in the 2014 state general polls.

The state Congress party being out of the corridors of power for more than eight years up till now moved a no-confidence motion in the last Vidhan Sabha winter session a month back to expose the malfunctioning of the state BJP Government. Though knowing very well that the motion would be defeated due to lack of numbers on their side in the state legislative assembly, the Congress wanted to score a point or two through long winding debates to expose the wrong doings of the state government and it did achieve its goal to some extent.

Now, taking the battle out of the state assembly the Leader of the Congress Opposition Ajay Singh, who is the son of former Union HRD Minister late Arjun Singh, has opened front against the state BJP Government at the Centre ruled by the Congress-led UPA Government.

Singh on Wednesday submitted a memoranda to three Union ministers demanding probe in the irregularities in the state. Singh, along with Congress Legislature Party (CLP) members on Wednesday. In a memorandum given to the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Singh claimed that Madhya Pradesh Police is not cooperating with Central Bureau of Investigation, (CBI), and National Intelligence Agency, (NIA), in murder cases of social and RTI activist Ms Shehla Masood, journalist Pawan Jain Vidhrohi and RSS activist Sunil Joshi.

He alleged that the Madhya Pradesh Police has tried to destroy the evidences of Ms Shehla Masood murder case as the names of several top level leaders of the ruling BJP are figuring in this case. Singh demanded high level probe into these cases.

The delegation also demanded a high-level enquiry in the arrest, amnesty on Independence Day and again arrest of a SIMI activist terming the whole episode as suspicious. The State Government has also failed to utilise the funds allocated to it for tackling Maoists menace in the State, said the delegation.

Ajay Singh in a memorandum handed over to Union Minister for Forests and Environment, Ms Jayanti Natarajan said that for the last seven years, illegal mining, felling of trees in forests is going on unabated but as the ministers in the state government and their kin are involved, no one could muster courage to raise the issue. The forest officials in their reports were terming this illegal mining as a huge scam bigger than Bellary, but as the near and dear ones of the Ministers of the State were involved no action has been initiated. It was demanded in the memorandum to check illegal mining and initiate high level probe in this matter.

Besides the delegation also called on Union Panchayat and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and informed him of the huge corruption in the funds allotted under MNREG scheme in the State. It was also claimed in the memorandum that irregularity cases have been filed against officers including IAS officers. The memorandum also took objection to the funds sent by the Centre for Prime Minister Rural Road Scheme being used for the state Chief Minister Rural Road Scheme. The memorandum has demanded a high-level probe into it.

Meanwhile, BJP state president Prabhat Jha has said that that act of Leader of Opposition in state Assembly and MLAs of the opposition meeting Union ministers, is an effort to block the flow of funds to be allotted to the state. Jha said the behavior MLAs is not only objectionable but also breach of trust with the state people. He claimed that demanding probe in state’s share even after Centre’s discrimination, is an attempt slow down the pace of state development, for which BJP will give befitting reply.

While, the chief spokesman of the BJP State unit Vijesh Lunawat in a statement here said: "The Congress leaders of the State are not able to digest the prosperity of the people of the State and are doing conspiracy of creating hurdles in the Central Government-run schemes in the State by misguiding Central Ministers".

Lunawat further said that the act of the Congress leaders was a betrayal with the people of the State. People of the State would not tolerate the anti-people conspiracy of Congress. On the one hand the people of the State were abused due to the partisan attitude and political bias of the Centre, while on the other hand the Congress leaders from the State are trying to create hurdles in the Centrally-funded schemes in the State, he added.

He said that instead of supporting Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's demands that are in the interest of the people of the State, the Congress leaders should have asked the Centre to stop power cuts in the State, ensure adequate coal supply to the State, stop discrimination in the allotment of Indira Housing Scheme and to restore the sanctioned permissions of the Prime Minister Rural Road Scheme. Seems like working against the development of the State was part of the Congress' dirty politics and the people of the State would give befitting reply to it, he added.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

Celebrating Al-Biruni

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

By Abdullahi Jamaa

Scientific developments did not come on a silver platter. It had taken men and women throughout the ages to create the innovations we benefit from today, with Muslim scientists being no less involved than others. One such renowned scholar was the great Persian scientist Aburayhan Al-Biruni.

A distinguished Muslim medieval scientist, Al-Biruni rose to fame during the Golden Age of Islamic civilization which arguably extended between 750 CE -1258 CE.

“Al-Biruni is one the greatest scientists of all times,” Mohamed Said Abdi, a Nairobi-based high school teacher of Islamic Studies, told OnIslam.net. “He studied so many branches of science, and did a lot of practical work on a number of scientific innovations.”

Al-Biruni has had considerable influence on modern science, but none of his work was translated into western languages until the 20th century.

“His influence as a Muslim Scientist was above board. But in the study of history he wasn’t granted the kind of publicity he required, like those given to the Renaissance scientists in Europe,” says Fatuma Saman, a history teacher and a Principal at Nairobi Muslims Academy.

“This phenomenon not only affected Al-Biruni, but many Muslim medieval scientists whose ambitious and ground-breaking discoveries were hidden under the shelves only to gather dusts.”

However, historians believe that the role Al-Biruni played in scientific discoveries is by far one of remarkable achievement among not only Muslim scholars, but among scientists of all times.


Born on September 4, 973 CE in Khwarezm, Khorasan (modern-day Uzbekistan,) Al-Biruni studied science tirelessly until his death in 1052 CE.

According to scientists, among all these works, only 22 have survived, and only 13 of these works have been published.

According to many historical sources, Al-Biruni was one of the most accomplished scientists of the entire middle ages.

He became legendary for his intellect and ingenuity in producing revolutionary science, leaving an indelible mark in the studies of so many disciplines. In scholarly parlance, he is regarded as a polymath. He left nothing to chance in his unbounded ambition for advancing the scientific understanding of his day.

He had his finger in every pie, from voluminous anthropology to complex astronomy and astrology; from composite chemistry to comparative sociology; from scientific mathematics to phenomenal physics; and yet more demanding from behavioral psychology to principle philosophy.

He is on record to have said, “I have begun with geometry and proceeded to arithmetic and the science of numbers, then to the structure of the Universe, and finally to judicial astrology, for no one is worthy of the style and title of astrologer who is not thoroughly conversant with these four sciences.”

English renaissance astrologer William Lilly in his book ‘Christian Astrology’ described Al-Biruni as a man of great wisdom with unmatched desire for science during the Middle Ages.

"An excellent disputant or logician, arguing with learning and discretion, and using much eloquence in his speech, a searcher into all kinds of mysteries and learning, sharp and witty, learning almost anything without a teacher; ambitious of being exquisite in every science, desirous naturally of travel and seeing foreign parts: a man of an unwearied fancy, curious in the search of any occult knowledge; able by his own genius to produce wonders; given to divination and the more secret knowledge," Lilly wrote.

Al-Biruni is said to be the first man to carry out elaborate experiments linked to astronomical occurrence. He pragmatically experimented and described the solar eclipse on April 8, 1019 and the lunar eclipse on September 17, 1019.

In 1031, Al-Biruni concluded an all-embracing astronomical encyclopedia called Kitab al-Qanun al-Mas'udi (Latinized as “Canon Mas’udicus,”) in which he recorded his astronomical results and invented astronomical tables with logical conclusions. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Al-Biruni’s original input into astronomy and astrology is clearly noticeable in almost every chapter of the book.

“Al-Biruni drew a subtle distinction between the motion of the solar apogee and the motion of precession, and explored many other applied mathematical techniques to achieve much higher precision and ease of use of tabulated astronomical results,” Britannica states.

According to the website MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive, maintained by Professor John J. O'Connor and Edmund F. Robertson at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, Al-Biruni determined the latitude of his hometown using the maximum altitude of the Sun at the tender age of 17.

"Important contributions to geodesy and geography were also made by Al-Biruni. He introduced techniques to measure the Earth and distances on it using triangulation. He found the radius of the Earth to be 6,339.6 km, a value not obtained in the West until the 16th century,” explains the website.

146 Books

The Muslim scientist also racked his brain to expose and study gemstones and metals. Mineralogy was one among his best findings and here he put his best foot forward to precisely measure mineral densities.

He is said to have described about 100 known minerals, their varieties and rock occurrences, as well as characteristics such as color, hardness, production, and cost.

“This important reference on precious stones was quoted by many later scientists. It is the third authentic text known on mineralogy and equal precision in density measurement was not achieved in Europe until the 18th century,” wrote James Sandusky Aber, a Professor of Geology, in his work on History of Geology.

Elsewhere in anthropology, he studied the Indian community of his century, thus becoming the father of Indology. His remarkable achievements studying the history, philosophy, medicine of India earned him the title "the first anthropologist."

According to many historians, the world’s enthusiastic clinch of modern anthropology could not have come easily without the pioneering footprint of Al-Biruni.

In a nutshell, Al-Biruni's works total 146 books. These include 35 books on astronomy, 4 on astrolabes, 23 on astrology, 5 on chronology, 2 on time measurement, 9 on geography, 10 on geodesy and mapping theory, 15 on mathematics, 2 on mechanics, 2 on medicine and pharmacology, 1 on meteorology, 2 on mineralogy and gems, 4 on history, 2 on India, 3 on religion and philosophy, 16 literary works, 2 books on magic, and 9 unclassified books.

According to scientists, among all these works, only 22 have survived, and only 13 of these works have been published.

(Courtesy: OnIslam.net)

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