The Statesman – National Geographic’s famed ‘Afghan Girl’ arrested in Pakistan

Islamabad, 26 October 2016. National Geographic’s famed ‘Afghan Girl’ Sharbat Bibi was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Wednesday in Pakistan’s Peshawar city, authorities said.

Bibi was arrested from her home for forgery of a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC), FIA sources said. Bibi has dual Pakistani and Afghan nationality, and both ID cards have been recovered from her, Dawn online reported.

An FIA official said the officer who had issued the ID cards to Sharbat Bibi was now working as a deputy commissioner in customs and got bail-before-arrest to avoid arrest in the case.

Last year, National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) issued three CNICs to Sharbat Bibi and two men who claimed to be her sons. Issuance of CNICs were in violation to the rules and procedures of NADRA.

The official added that relatives present at the given address have refused to recognise two persons listed as her sons in the form.

An inquiry had been launched with NADRA officials under fire for issuing CNICs to foreign nationals without legitimate documentation, Dawn online noted.

Sharbat Bibi became famously known as the ‘Afghan Girl’ when National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry captured her photograph at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp situated on the edge of Peshawar in 1984 and identified her as Sharbat Gula.

She gained worldwide recognition when her image was featured on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic Magazine at a time when she was approximately 12-years-old.

She remained anonymous for years after her first photo made her an icon around the world and until she was discovered by National Geographic in 2002. – Despite Opposition, SGPC Unwilling to Remove Questionable Artwork from Sri Harmandr Sahib

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar, Panjab, 25 October 2016. Following a major backlash by Sikh circles across the world, the SGPC has remained quiet about the inscription of Hindu deities on the walls of Sri Harmandr Sahib.

So far, the SGPC has remained quiet despite being challenged on its position regarding the questionable artwork. Sikh24 has attempted to get an official comment from the SGPC office in Sri Amritsar, however, our efforts have been in vain.

Yesterday, a vague press statement was shared with Sikh24, in which the SGPC spokesperson Diljeet Singh Bedi mentioned that much of the art within Sri Harmandr Sahib is ancient and SGPC is only working to preserve the original designs. It had no mention of the recent work performed within Sri Harmandr Sahib.

Earlier, this month, Sikh24 reported about the inscription of Hindu deities on the walls of sanctum Sikh shrine Sri Harmandr Sahib.

Sikh24 was informed about this matter by independent SGPC member and Convener of Singh Sabha (Punjab) S. Hardeep Singh who said that the SGPC has destroyed the earlier floral artwork from the walls of central Sikh shrine under the garb of renovation.

Since then, several prominent Sikh and political leaders have come to the fore against the SGPC.

On October 23, former Cabinet Minister and senior Congress leader Inderjit Singh Zira submitted a memorandum at Sri Akal Takht Sahib secretariat seeking removal of art of Hindu Deities from the wall of sanctum sanctorum Sikh shrine Sri Harmandir Sahib.

Rotterdam – Leuven; Santre; Leuven – Mechelen – Duffel

Rotterdam – Mechelen – Leuven
Return to Belgium
1 August 2016


I changed in Mechelen for this slow train to Leuven

3 August 2016


A nice arrangement of chhote santre !

Leuven – Mechelen – Duffel
5 August 2016


Leuven NMBS station
Train to Mechelen


Mechelen – All stations train to Antwerpen


Mechelen – Duffel train



To see all my pictures:

More Belgian and Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Human Rights Without Frontiers International – Kenya: 12 killed in attack ‘by Al-Shabaab gunmen targeting Kenyan Christians’

Abigail Frymann Rouch

World Watch Monitor, 25 October 2016 Twelve people have been killed in an attack in north-east Kenya believed to have been carried out by the Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab.

Media outlets sympathetic to the group reported that the latest incident “killed Christian Kenyans” who were not from the local area.

Police in the town of Mandera, which lies on the border with Somalia, said the attackers used improvised explosive devices to break the metallic doors and enter the Bishaaro Hotel, before shooting 12 people dead in their rooms.

Ten of the victims were visiting the town to stage performances in schools relating to books on the curriculum, according to the Daily Nation newspaper.

Al-Shabaab has carried out many attacks targeting Christians in the mainly-Muslim border region. Earlier this month, militants shot dead six people in a night-time attack the group said was aimed at forcing Christians to leave the area.

The commissioner of Mandera County, Fredrick Shisia, claimed Al-Shabaab is receiving funding from Kenyan businessmen.
Shisia said the government had received intelligence that the group was extorting taxes and protection money from businesses in Mandera.

However, he said that anyone making such payments would be punished, and accused them of undermining the government’s efforts to combat terrorism.

“Anyone who is in communication with members of Al-Shabaab will be arrested and charged,” he said.

Critics have accused the Kenyan government of failing to prevent the attacks and being slow to implement measures that would improve security, such as a more consistent electricity supply that could provide more consistent lighting.

The attack earlier this month, in which six people died, took place at a gated residential building, many of whose 33 residents had moved to Mandera for work.

However, it is not clear how many of the dead were Christians. According to Kenyan media, three were quarry workers, two worked for a Muslim relief agency and one was a barber. (Al-Shabaab’s own radio station had claimed at the time it had “killed six Christians”.)

The quarry workers were John Ndegwa, Martin Munene and Duncan Ndegwa and the NGO workers were Evans Araka and Lewis Mwalimu. The barber’s name was David Chege.

Evans Araka was a credit manager at Islamic Relief. His fiancée, a Nigerian named Rebecca, posted on social media that the couple, who had five children together, had been due to marry in November.

Relatives of one victim, lorry driver David Muchoki Munene, had expressed concerns about his safety. His mother said she had asked him to leave his job and move closer home, but he refused.

Al-Shabaab has been at war with Kenya ever since Kenyan troops entered Somalia in 2011 to defeat them. According to the BBC, Muslims in northern Kenya increasingly see the group’s attacks on civilians and security forces as a threat to their own interests, and are making efforts to improve relations with the Christians working there.

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Dawn – Pakistan will attend Heart of Asia conference in India, says Sartaj Aziz

Syed Sammer Abbas

Islamabad, 25 October 2016. Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Monday confirmed that Pakistan will be attending the upcoming Heart of Asia conference scheduled to be held in India.

Aziz confirmed Pakistan’s participation while talking to journalists in the federal capital.

The Heart of Asia conference will be held during the first week of December in Amritsar, India.

“We have started an effective campaign for the cause of self-determination of Kashmiri people,” said the foreign affairs adviser.

Aziz added that 56 countries condemned India’s heavy handed tactics in India-held Kashmir during a conference in Tashkent last week.

In comparison, India had pulled out of the Saarc summit in Islamabad which was scheduled to be held in November.

The announcement came amid growing tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours following the attack on an Indian army base in held Kashmir.

The Foreign Office, in its response after India’s withdrawal from the Saarc summit, termed the Indian announcement as unfortunate in an official statement released.
Soaring tensions

The Indian prime minister stepped up a drive to isolate Pakistan diplomatically after the Uri army base attack.

Hours after the attack occurred, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’. India also accused Pakistan of involvement in the attack.

The Uri attack occurred days before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was set to address the United Nations General Assembly regarding Indian human rights violations in held Kashmir.

Following the attack, India claimed to have conducted a cross-border ‘surgical strike’ against ‘launch pads of terror’ in Azad Jammu and Kashmir ─ a claim Pakistan has strongly rejected.

Pakistan maintains India is attempting to divert the world’s attention away from ‘atrocities’ committed by government forces in India-held Kashmir.

Pakistan and India have locked horns over the Kashmir issue since Indian forces stepped up a crackdown against protesters after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by government forces in July.

BBC News – India’s ‘surgical strikes’ in Kashmir: Truth or illusion?

M Ilyas Khan

Pakistan-administered Kashmir, 23 October 2016. India made headlines in late September after carrying out “surgical strikes” on militants across the de-facto border in disputed Kashmir.

Days earlier insurgents had attacked an army base in Indian-administered Kashmir, killing 18 soldiers. Tensions spiked as India blamed Pakistan.

Supporters of the Indian government said the army’s strikes had taught Pakistan a long-awaited lesson, but Islamabad dismissed the reports as an “illusion”. The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan visited the border area to find out what actually happened.

Despite the use of the term “surgical strikes”, the Indians definitely did not airdrop commandos to hit “launching pads of militants” inside Pakistani-held territory, or conduct ground assaults deep into the Pakistan-administered side.

But they did cross the Line of Control (LoC), in some cases by more than a kilometre, to hit nearby Pakistani border posts.

Police officials on the Pakistani side privately concede that such a ground assault did occur in the Madarpur-Titrinot region of Poonch sector, west of Srinagar, where a Pakistani post was destroyed and one soldier killed.

In Leepa valley to the north, locals said that the Indians crossed the LoC and set up their guns on ridges directly overlooking the village of Mundakali.

A Pakistani border post located at some distance east of the village was hit. Two other posts higher up in the mountains were also hit. At least four Pakistani soldiers were injured in the attack, which lasted from 05:00am until 8:00am, locals said.

A similar advance by the Indians in the Dudhnial area of Neelum valley further north was beaten back by the Pakistanis. At least one Pakistani soldier was injured, reports of a dead soldier could not be independently verified by the BBC.

The Pakistani army described the exchanges as nothing more than cross-border firing, albeit in a more co-ordinated fashion and all along the LoC.

Officials said two soldiers were killed in the attacks, one in Poonch, and one in Bhimber sector, further south. Defence minister Khwaja Asif later said a total of nine soldiers were injured in the assault.

Indian troops could not have hit a target and returned alive as the climb required was too steep, officials said. Nor could helicopters have been used to drop special forces given the difficult terrain and because Pakistan would have shot down the aircraft.

There is no conclusive evidence to prove either side’s claims, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Eyewitness: Ali Akbar, Mundakali village resident, Leepa Valley

I normally wake up at 4:30am. As usual I did my chores, and just then I heard small arms fire, about 100 rounds. I waited a few minutes and then I heard four bombs [mortars] land near the village.

We have been in a state of war for a long time, so I knew that heavy guns meant trouble and that the village might get hit. I was standing there when four more bombs came. Then four more, after a few minutes.

The first shells had landed in the forest near the village [where a border post is located] and I saw flames and smoke rising. My wife called to me to get in. We have built a bunker in the basement with 24-inch thick walls. She said everybody was inside, and wanted me to get in too.

By now they had started targeting another one of our posts higher up on the mountaintop in front. Then the next round of shells hit another post further back.

Small arms fire also continued. This was surprising for me. They had apparently crossed over from the LoC and had set up their guns at the top of the cliff. I could hear the bullets whizzing overhead, through the treetops, snapping twigs and leaves that were falling to the ground.

The firing continued until about 6am. After that, the heavy guns fell silent but small fire continued. We remained in our basement until 10 am. No one had had time to eat or drink that morning.

Later, we heard that the Indians had crossed the LoC and hit our posts from positions overlooking the valley. I don’t understand why they didn’t try to reach our post where we have the local company headquarters.

They could have done it. It’s walkable, and is easier for them because they occupy higher ground. Perhaps our people detected their movement and fired at them which pushed them back.

This is the first time since the war on the LoC began nearly 30 years ago that they have fired from this position.

How did the Pakistanis respond?

In many areas the attack came as a surprise.

Accounts of villagers gathered in Leepa suggest that Indian soldiers first opened fire in the valley at around 0500, hitting the post near Mundakali village and blowing up a mosque adjacent to it.

A soldier who was preparing for pre-dawn prayers was hit and injured, they said.

Fire was also directed at two other posts higher up in the hills, one of which served as the forward headquarters in Leepa.

Locals say bunkers at these posts were partly destroyed and their communication system was paralysed for some time. This meant that troops stationed down in the valley and at the brigade headquarters took a while to realise what was going on.

The soldier who was injured at the Mundakali post was given first aid by villagers, and then transported to the military-run hospital in Leepa on a motorbike. Nearly two dozen villagers helped put out the fire that had engulfed the mosque.

The Pakistanis did not take long to get their act together and fired back from the remaining bunkers, pushing the Indian guns back from the ridges overlooking the valley.

In Dudhnial in Neelum valley, the action took place further up in the mountains, away from the village. A few villagers were awakened by gunfire.

An official familiar with what happened that morning said the Indians had advanced well beyond the LoC when their movements were detected.

“The Pakistani fire sent them scurrying back to their bunkers,” he said.

Down south, in Poonch, Kotli and Bhimber areas, it was more or less the same story: Indians coming forward from their positions on the LoC, taking unsuspecting Pakistani soldiers by surprise both due to the suddenness of the attack and the intensity of the fire and then pulling back once the Pakistanis had a chance to respond.

Unprepared, and having a numerical disadvantage generally, the Pakistanis made use of their firepower to the fullest, exhausting their ammunition.

Locals said that in the days following the attack, hundreds of villagers were pressed into service carrying artillery shells and other ammunition to border posts to replenish their supplies.

Were any militants hit?

Kashmir-focused militants have had a strong presence in Pakistani-administered Kashmir for years. During the 1990s they crossed the LoC in droves to ambush troops on India’s side.

Their activities became less visible after the 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan, but their proficiency in suicide raids and other attacks kept them relevant to Pakistan’s strategy in its dispute with India, despite denials from Pakistan’s military.

The militants continue to maintain safe houses in bigger cities like Muzaffarabad, located some distance from the border area.

But they now mostly set up camps near military deployments along the LoC and away from villages where there is a growing sense of fatigue among locals towards the insurgency.

Despite the claims in the Indian media, the BBC could find little evidence that militants had been hit.

There were no reports of any of the camps in the Samahni area of Bhimber or in the Poonch-Kotli area having been hit. They are mostly located behind ridges that serve as a natural barrier against direct Indian fire.

In Leepa, some five or six wooden structures housing militants between the villages of Channian and Mundakali had not been targeted. A ridge that runs along the east bank of the nearby stream covers them from military positions on the LoC.

Likewise, in Neelum, most militant camps, such as the ones at Jhambar, Dosut and in the Gurez valley area further east, are located in the valleys below, at a safe distance from the LoC.

The BBC also could not confirm an Indian media report that Lashkar-e-Taiba camps in the Khairati Bagh village of Leepa valley and the western end of Dudhnial village in Neelum valley had been hit on 29 September.

However, in Dudhnial some locals who helped carry military munitions to forward posts the weekend following the Indian strikes said they had seen one or two damaged structures close to a Pakistani post near the border.

They thought those structures might have been hit on the morning of 29 September.

But they were reluctant to discuss whether those structures had been occupied by militants, or whether five or six men had died there, as the Indian media had claimed.

The BBC asked the Pakistani military about militant activity in the area, but there was no immediate response.

What is the mood now?

Since 29 September there has been no let up in tension in the LoC area.

Locals in Leepa told the BBC that following the attack, there had been an increased influx of militants in the valley. Are they in the area to help the army in case border skirmishes with the Indians get worse? No one is sure.

In Neelum, a top official of the district administration called a meeting and advised locals earlier this month to start digging bunkers in or near their houses in case border tensions escalate.

A local school teacher who was at the meeting said the official was told that removing militants from the area would be a simpler and less costly option to protect villages from Indian shelling.

The strategy was a confidential matter, the official responded. It would be up to the government to decide.

The Tribune – SAD-BJP shielding Tytler: Phoolka

1984 anti-Sikh pogroms

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 24 October 2016. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today alleged that the SAD-BJP alliance was helping PPCC chief Captain Amarinder Singh in the upcoming Assembly elections by shielding Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in a 1984 riots case.

“The coalition has aligned with the Congress. Its biggest proof is that the CBI, under the influence of the Modi government, is giving false statements in the court to help the Congress,” AAP leader HS Phoolka told mediapersons here.

“If the BJP government arrests Tytler and throws him in jail, it will harm the Congress,” he added.

“Why is the CBI telling the court that witness Narinder Singh is untraceable? We provided the CBI with his contact information, but the agency appears to be unwilling to investigate the case,” said Phoolka.

Rotterdam Centraal Station (NL)

Rotterdam Centraal Station
Return to Belgium
1 August 2016


Intercity Doubledecker EMU to Vlissingen


Thalys TGV to Brussel and Paris Nord


Thalys TGV to Brussel and Paris Nord


Benelux Intercity to Brussel-Zuid/Midi
I will change in Mechelen for Leuven


Benelux Intercity to Brussel-Zuid/Midi
TRAXX Engine


Benelux Intercity to Brussel-Zuid/Midi

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian and Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Independent – ‘You’re gonna blow up this country’: Man charged with hate crime for attacking Sikh man ‘who looked different’

Balmeet Singh had just been phoning his 13-year-old cousin to say happy birthday when he allegedly started to receive death threats from the defendant

Rachael Revesz

New York, 25 October 2016. A man who has been charged with a hate crime for attacking a Sikh man outside a restaurant said he had a “constitutional right” to take direct action in defense of the United States.

David Hook allegedly threw liquid on Balmeet Singh on 30 September because he appeared to be of a different religion or race, according to a press release by the Kern County district attorney in California.

Mr Hook told Bakersfield Now that he had heard Mr Singh speaking on his mobile phone outside a restaurant in English and in a foreign language, and allegedly heard him “say something about a bomb”. Mr Singh wears a turban and a beard and is a member of the Sikh faith.

When asked why he did not call 911, Mr Hook said he had a “constitutional right” to take action.

“If you see something, say something,” he replied.

Mr Hook is facing two counts of misdemeanour charges and one count of interference with the exercise of a civil right and one count of battery, which fall under the hate crime category.

Mr Singh, a 30-year-old real estate agent and health clinic administrator from Ohio, said Mr Hook confronted him while he was wishing his 13-year-old cousin a happy birthday.

Mr Hook allegedly yelled at him: “You’re gonna blow up this country”, and threatened to kill him.

Mr Hook then allegedly threw a cup of soda on Mr Singh, said some racial slurs and left.

“Not a single person came up to me, and not a single person said anything to me,” said Mr Singh. He added there were at least a dozen witnesses.

In a video recorded by the Sikh Coalition, Mr Singh said he wanted to remind people to be “safe and vigilant”.

“That situation could easily have escalated, and I’m fortunate it did not,” he said.

His message, contrary to Mr Hook, was: “If you see something happening, do something, don’t just sit there, as it could be your grandfather, your grandparents, your father, your child.”

If Mr Hook is convicted of the charges, he could face up to one year in jail and a fine.

The Hindu – Shocking levels of pollution in India, China: Astronaut Kelly

Scott Kelly had a meeting with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House [italics/centre]

Washington, 22 October 2016. Astronaut Scott Kelly, who has the distinction of having spent a year in space, has said that the level of pollution in China and India is shocking.

“Seeing places like China and India, and the pollution that exists there almost all the time is quite shocking,” Mr. Kelly said in a brief media appearance with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday.

“There was one day last summer, the summer of 2015, when I was in space I saw the eastern side of China was perfectly clear. And I’d never seen that before in all of my time in space, and I’d spent well over a year in space, total, at that point,” he said.

“I could see all these cities that are, there’s like over 200 cities in that part of China, with over a million people. And it was at dusk, and I could just, for the very first time, I was able to see them, and it was quite shocking,” he added.

“I didn’t really understand it until the next day I heard that the Chinese government had turned off a lot of the coal-producing power plants, stopped the cars from running in that part of the country for this national holiday, and the sky had completely cleared,” Mr. Kelly said.

“So it’s interesting to see just how much of a negative impact we have on the environment, but also how quickly we can have a positive impact on it if we decide not to mention the atmosphere is very, very thin and scary-looking when you see it from space,” he said.

Describing him as an American hero, Mr Obama said a while back, Mr Kelly completed what was the longest period of time that any US astronaut has ever spent in space — almost a year.

“What made this so important was not just to break a record, it gave us an opportunity to learn how Scott, as an astronaut, is impacted by lengthy stay like that. And we’ve got somebody to compare him to, his twin brother Mark, also an astronaut,” he said.

“So as a consequence, what we were able to learn is how does the body adapt, what kinds of physiological impacts — psychologically, from what I understand from Scott, he was pretty good. But all this allows us to start thinking about long-term manned space flight,” he said.

Mr. Obama said the next American goal is to get to Mars.

“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do technologically to figure out how to get there, what kinds of space crafts allows us to do that most effectively,” he said.

“But if we’re going to do a manned flight, then one of the keys is making sure that our astronauts who are going out into space for that long period of time are also then able to come back — what kinds of environments do we need to create for them, what are the biological sciences, and other elements that will allow for a successful mission,” he added.

Published in: on October 26, 2016 at 4:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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