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How a young royal is driving change in Saudi Arabia

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Riyadh, June 27: The French have a saying: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (The more things change, the more they stay the same). This was the conventional wisdom in Saudi Arabia whenever there was any talk of change. This has now been turned on its head by a series of changes that have taken place over the past year.
The reforms, brought in by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, popularly known by his initials MBS, have seen the ban on cinema being lifted, women being allowed into sports stadiums, entertainment activities being openly promoted, and avenues for tourism being assiduously sought out and tapped.
Today there is a new-found enthusiasm in Saudi Arabia. Young people, who are the majority of the population, are very happy about the changes that have taken place. Those who once went abroad for education are coming back because they feel there is an atmosphere conducive to innovation.
The leadership in Saudi Arabia realises that the young must be encouraged in their entrepreneurial efforts. The crown prince is passionate about the private sector taking the lead; he has often spoken of how the most successful companies — Apple and Google, for instance — began with only two or three people and went on to become international conglomerates, creating thousands of jobs. That is part of his Vision 2030 for innovative young Saudi entrepreneurs and for making Saudi Arabia investor friendly so that corporations can come in and have a real stake in the country.
At the stroke of midnight on June 23, women were allowed to drive and Saudi Arabia was no longer the only country in the world where only men could drive.
There is a much-told story of when the late King Faisal fought to establish girls’ schools and how many people at that time, especially the religious conservatives, opposed him. Gradually, however, most families sent their daughters to school and now women are among the most educated groups in society. There are even universities that are exclusively for them. It is true too that the scholarships the Saudi government gives to students are awarded to a large number of women.
Changes have been very slow, indeed admittedly almost glacial, in Saudi Arabia. In the past year, however, we have seen that the crown prince’s new young leadership has moved quickly to introduce changes and reforms. And not only to introduce them but to see that they were implemented within a specified timeline.
For decades, there was talk of weaning the Saudi economy from its dependence on oil. Things would move slowly in that direction but every time, they seemed unable to change and the country went back to square one. Changes and reforms were talked about but were somehow never transformed into practice.
On the other hand, this time the reforms were deep-rooted and, most importantly, there was a schedule for their implementation. For example, about nine months ago, it was decided that women would be allowed to drive. It was more than a mere announcement and so a proper infrastructure was created. Driving schools were set up; universities were asked to run training courses so that women could be taught how to drive. Female driving inspectors were appointed and trained. In other words, the introduction and implementation of these reforms included precise methodologies.
The crown prince is known for his own brand of meticulous management. He believes in key performance indicators (KPIs). This is a totally new kind of management that the traditional hidebound Saudi bureaucracy was unaware of. In the past, people would wait and wait for a decision to be made, a step to be taken, or a change to be implemented. Time passed and nothing happened, so people would say that nothing would happen and that the ideas and innovations had suffered and died on the altar of bureaucracy.
If you go to any Saudi city, whether Jeddah, Riyadh or Dammam, you will see that young people are excited about the changes that are happening. By itself, the matter of women driving may not be the most important thing from the Saudi point of view, but it is surely the most symbolic for the simple reason that it is the one which can be most easily seen.
No one would or should pretend that the road is short or easy to navigate. What they would agree with is that he is moving ahead and making progress. He is absolutely sure about what he is doing. People here often quote Mahatma Gandhi who said of those at the forefront of change who have to struggle against those who are simply against any change at all. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you; then they fight you, then you win.” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is surely set to win.( Coutesy HT)


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SHO injured in Anantnag attack succumbs at AIIMS

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Srinagar, Jun 16: The Station House Officer of the police station Sadr in Anantnag succumbed on Sunday, four days after he had received critical injuries in a militant attack in the town.

The slain officer Arshad Ahmad Khan was critically injured after militants attacked a joint party of CRPF and police at a bus stand in Anantnag on June 12.

In the attack, five paramilitary troopers and a militant were killed and four other security forces personnel including the Station House Officer were injured in the attack. Besides, a girl Snober (18) daughter of Ashraf Malik of Danter also sustained a bullet wound in her leg.

 

Khan according to reports was being operated in Srinagar’s SKIMS hospital. However, he was flown to Delhi’s AIIMS hospital on Sunday where he succumbed to injuries.

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Malik instrumental in bringing JRL together: NIA

Claims Aalam revealed ‘rift between separatists on funds’

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New Delhi, Jun 16: National Investigating Agency (NIA) Sunday said that the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik was instrumental in bringing the Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani and Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq together to spearhead the 2016 agitation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Yasin Malik was instrumental in bringing together the disparate factions of Hurriyat and formed Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) which spear headed the 2016 agitation in Kashmir,” NIA said in a press statement.

It said that the JRL issued protest calendars leading to economic shutdown for over four months and also caused death/injuries to civilians and security forces in the valley.

 

“Yasin Malik admitted that the JRL and Hurriyat Conference Geelani Group collected funds from business community as well as certain other sources and ensured that economic shut down and violent protests continue to disrupt the daily life of common citizens in the valley,” the NIA said in the statement.

It said that Muslim League chairman Masarat Aalam Bhat revealed in the investigation that Pakistan based agents route funds through hawala operators which were transferred to the separatists including Syed Ali Geelani.

“Aalam said there are rifts in the Hurriyat regarding collection/use of funds,” it said.

The NIA said leader of Duktaran-e-Milat, Asiya Andrabi, was grilled by it about the educational expenses of her son in Malaysia incurred by Zahoor Watali, who was arrested in the alleged funding case.

“During interrogation, Asiya Andrabi admitted that she had been collecting funds and donations from foreign sources and Duktaran-e-Milat had been organising protests by Muslim women in the valley,” it claimed.

The NIA has already approached the relevant authorities for providing evidence relating to certain bank accounts used by Asiya Andrabi’s son Mohammad bin Qasim while he was in the university, it said.

Another separatist leader, Shabbir Shah, had to face some tough time when he was confronted about his businesses, including a hotel in Pahalgam which is allegedly funded through foreign funds received by him from Pakistan, the statement said.

“During the custodial interrogation, Shabir Shah was confronted with evidence relating to transfer of money by Pakistan-based agents and representatives of APHC (All Parties Hurriyat Conference) factions to parties affiliated to Hurriyat in J and K. He was also confronted about his investments in various hotels and businesses in Pahalgam, properties in Jammu, Srinagar and Anantnag,” the NIA said.

The NIA had registered a case in May, 2017 against belonging to Jammat ud Dawah, Duktaran-e-Millat, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and other separatist leaders in the state for raising, receiving and collecting funds to fuel separatist and terrorist activities and entering into a larger conspiracy for causing disruption in Kashmir Valley and for waging war against India.

The agency has so far charge-sheeted 13 accused, including leader of Jammat-ud Dawah Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, head of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin, seven separatist leaders, two hawala conduits and some stone-pelters.

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Have busted ‘Shuara-e-Zindan’ inside jails: Police

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Srinagar, Jun 16: The Jammu and Kashmir Police has busted ‘Shuara-e-Zindan’ (supreme council for jail), a term used by militants for governance inside prisons, and restored the prison manual completely, officials said here.

After the escape of Naveed Jatt, a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant, last February, the Jammu and Kashmir prison department under the leadership of Dilbagh Singh took a series of measures to “sanitise” prisons, including shifting all hardcore militants from the Srinagar Central Jail.

“A complete analysis of the prisoners was carried out and the message was loud and clear that the hold of terrorists inside the prison needs to be broken and rule of law needs to be implemented,” says Singh, who recently relinquished the post of Director General of Prisons, said.

 

However, he did not elaborate further on the measures carried out and said “we have only ensured that hardened militants and separatists are segregated from those who are first-timers and have a scope of improvement.”

However, the officials in the state prison department said after Singh took charge, raids and searches were carried out regularly and militants were shifted to other jails in Jammu and Udhampur.

Two cases were registered at Rainawari police station which includes the one where militants were operating “Shaura-e-Zindan” inside the jail which used to decide allotment of barracks and other amenities to the prisoners, the officials said.

The ‘Shaura-e-Zindan’ used to provide facilities to the prisoners based on their experience in the field of militancy, which includes food of their choice and other facilities, they said, adding Ashiq Hussain Faktoo, serving life sentence, was the supreme commander of this group.

Now, after the crackdown and repeated searches, all private kitchens operating inside the jail premises, have been shut and all inmates queue up to the common ‘langar’ where they are served food, they said.

There was a report in December 2017 that “sermons are given on Jehad…The basic tenets of religion are overlooked and emphasis is laid on radical aspects. Such religious sermons have a deep psychological impact on inmates and youths in particular who develop inclination towards joining militancy or getting recruited as overground workers (for militants).”

It said the jail, which is expected to act as a correctional facility, is “instead being used as a place of religious indoctrination and militant recruitment”.

“It is being observed that even petty criminal who spend some time in jails are today coming out as highly indoctrinated individuals with religious motivation to support or even join militant ranks,” it said. However, Singh ensured that there is a segregation of prisoners and people arrested for charges under terrorism or separatism are treated with higher degree of caution and separated from inmates arrested for petty crimes.

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