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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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Non-NC governments in J&K weakened State’s Special Status: Omar

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Beerwah, Jan 16 : Jammu and Kashmir National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah on Wednesday said that state’s special status was tampered with whenever NC remains away from the power corridors of the state.

While speaking to a gathering of party workers at a one day party convention in Beerwah constituency he said that non-NC governments in J&K have proved detrimental to the special status of state. “The basic structure of the state was entirely obliterated by the opportunistic forces that got a field day because of our absence. From 1953 to 1974, 37 amendments were made to the state constitution making a pale shadow of what it used to be before 1953,” he said.

Omar said the very identity of our state is facing an onslaught from all sides and the severity of the situation demands a strong mandated government of National Conference that will put up a strong front for safeguarding our special position. “Prime Minister Narender Modi insulted Late Mufti Syed in an open public platform. This would have impossible in a scenario if PDP had the numbers to run the government on its own. We have never seen such a thing happening in other states, where a sitting chief minister was publically humiliated,” he said adding that primary reason for that was a fractured mandate compounded with the fact that other alliance partners are always bound by central whip of party, which severely affects the working and maneuverability of government.

 

Omar said, “Coalition governments in J&K has proved detrimental to state’s interests and that the need of the hour is to have a strong nucleus to carry forward the agenda of peace, development and reconciliation.”

Among others Political Adviser to Omar Abdullah Tanvir Sadiq, Prof Abdul Majeed Mattoo, Muhammad Ibrahim Mir, Mirwaiz Central Kashmir Molvi Lateefullah, and Muhammad Amin Banday were also present on the occasion.

Omar asserted that National Conference is the only party with a clear road map to address internal and external dimensions of J&K.

Later Omar Abdullah visited many areas of the constituency amidst heavy snowfall. He made stopovers at various places where people apprised him about the issues concerning the constituency. He gave them a patient hearing and promised all possible help.

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Governor’s statement on Operation All Out far from reality: Joint Hurriyat

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Srinagar, Jan 16:Joint Hurriyat  comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik has termed the recent assertions of Governor Satya Pal Malik that “there was nothing like Operation All-Out” as far from reality and truth and stated that Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat have time and again claimed that anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir were being carried out under “Operation All-Out.”

The leadership in a statement issued  asked, “If it isn’t Operation All Out then what term would Governor like to give to daily cordon and search operations (CASO) conducted in South, North and Central Kashmir even in such harsh winter when youth are chased and killed while homes are blown up, booking any Kashmiri including youth activists leaders under draconian PSAs and shifting them to jails in and outside the state, confining resistance leaders to homes or jails arbitrarily at will and curbing their space and to connect with people especially those that are killed. Even Kashmiri students studying outside are harassed and targeted”.

Joint Hurriyat said that there are footprints of Indian army and other forces in every nook and corner of the Valley and genuine dissent and people’s voice regarding their sentiment is muzzled forcibly while every peaceful political space and activity is barred or foiled by the state through its military might.

 

They said that resistance leadership is confined to their homes for months and years together and that the “ultimate repression” is on full display across Kashmir, especially since past three years. “In fact, an all-out assault has been launched on all fronts including the judiciary to quell people’s aspirations and challenge our very existence as a nation,” they said.

“Militarization of the valley and unbridled powers given to forces under black laws especially AFSPA is the main reason behind the worst form of state aggression in Kashmir,” the leaders said.

The leadership said that Rajnath Singh and General Bipin Rawats claim that 200 armed youth are active in Kashmir; seven lakh Indian soldiers are present here. “What justification is there to keep over seven lakh forces in Kashmir to fight this minuscule number, except exert control over people by force?”

Joint Hurriyat said as per the figures available with the resistance camp, 2018 witnessed worst ever rights violations in Kashmir in recent past as 355 armed youth and 161 civilians were killed. “If this isn’t that operation all-out, then what is it?” they asked.

The leadership said that in last year, 4524 civilians especially youth were injured with lethal pellets while as the eyesight of 724 youth was snatched as pellets ruptured their eyes. “How can GoI justify this all?” the leadership questioned.

It said that the GoI’s targeting of the state subject law and article 35-A in a series of petitions lodged in Supreme Court in a bid to change the disputed status of the State is another form of this operation.

Meanwhile, the leadership said that as the hearing in 35-A is slated for January in the Supreme Court, the JRL is in constant touch with various sections of society that includes civil society, traders, academics religious groups, political parties, employees and other sections and a joint program will be announced as the date for hearing is announced.

The leadership said that entire Kashmir in unison will fight every single bid aimed at changing the disputed nature and the demography of the Muslim majority state

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To protect JK’s identity, we have to remain united: Farooq Abdullah

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Srinagar, Jan 16: Jammu and Kashmir National Conference President Dr. Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday asserted that the choice of the people in the forth coming elections will decide their future.

While addressing a meet of party functionaries, workers at Barthana, Batamallo he said, “The state is faced with a critical situation. We are caught between devil and deep sea. And at this time the choice of the people will act as a pointer towards their future,” adding, “We have to show unity amongst ourselves to illustrate how passionate we are about our identity,” he said.

Asserting that there is no substitute to democracy and that in a democracy each life matters, he said, “People are yearning for development and peace. I am sure that with Omar in the forefront of the government, the state will be bequeathed with much needed peace and stability,” adding that safeguarding the interests of the state and its people forms the core of National Conference.

 

Dr Farooq also paid obeisance at the shrine of Shah Wali Sahab (RA). He prayed for peace and prosperity of the state.

General Secretary Haji Ali Muhammad Sagar, senior leader Choudhary Muhammad Ramzan, Central Secretary Irfan Ahmad Shah, District president Peer Afaq, Provincial Secretary Showkat Mir and Advisor to Dr Farooq Mushtaq Guroo were also present on the occasion.

Dr Farooq while addressing the workers, who had gathered there braving the chill and incessant snowfall said, “Sher-e-Kashmir always wanted India and Pakistan to live in bonhomie, and that they always wanted all the traditional road connections to be resumed for the benefit of divided families,” adding that National Conference has always been the votary of peace between India and Pakistan.

Dr Farooq sought support of people for ex MLA Batamaloo Irfan Shah. “Service and sacrifice has been the motto of our party and I believe the Irfan shah including our other party functionaries will continue to work for the people keeping in view with the legacy of the party and its founding members,” he said.

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