Reading the Middle Eastern and South Asian Press

Editor's Note: This roundup assembles from regional news sources a collage of headlines and viewpoints that have gone missing in action in the U.S. press.


Sheikh Issues Fatwa Over Kashmir The News International, Karachi, Pakistan, May 30

Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, the deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, has issued a fatwa -- a non-binding ruling in accordance with Islamic law -- in case of war between India and Pakistan. According to Mawlawi, it is the duty of all Muslims to support Pakistan. He said that if there is an Indo-Pak war, the reason would clearly be Kashmir, and that Kashmiris want to be attached to Pakistan, which is an Islamic country.

'Monsoon Window' Narrows for India-Pakistan War The News International, Karachi, Pakistan, May 30

The monsoon might have an impact on a war between India and Pakistan. According to Stratfor, a U.S.-based strategic forecasting organization, this year's early monsoon means that the Indian government has a four-week window to mount large-scale conventional military operations against Pakistan. The main military staging ground, Punjab, gets 12 to 18 inches of rain from July to September, which floods fields and railways. To avoid that, India could force a confrontation along the portion of the border spanning the Thar Desert. Or, India could choose to confine its operations to the mountains of Kashmir -- but the terrain there could negate some of India's technological advantages.

Musharraf's Popularity Declines Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India, May 29

President Musharraf's support within the army is slipping, according to the Pakistani paper The Times. Musharraf, who had kept the support of the military as he moved away from supporting the Taliban, is now being accused of taking a humiliating step back on Kashmir, after originally labeling attacking Indian forces "terrorists." There is also growing feeling against the United States among the Pakistani military, since the military thinks America won't come to Pakistan's support in the event of war with India.

Israeli Satellite Company May Spy for Turkey, India Albawaba.com, Amman, Jordan, May 31

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), which produced the recently launched spy satellite Ofek-5, is interested in supplying photographs taken by the satellite to defense ministries of other states on a commercial-contract basis. Initial contacts on the matter have been conducted with India and Turkey, high on IAI's list of potential customers. The Israeli paper Haaretz reported that Israel's defense ministry has to OK any transactions. Ofek-5's mission focuses on high-intensity, high-resolution photographs of Middle Eastern sites.

Saudis Urge Interpol to Crack Down on Criminals Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 30

Saudi Arabia has asked Interpol -- the international police and intelligence-sharing organization -- to arrest 750 people involved in money laundering, drug trafficking and fraud cases. The figure includes 214 Saudis. Interpol is suggesting a regional bureau be established for Arab countries to ensure better information exchange. Interpol has already adopted Arabic as one of its official languages.

Israeli Planes Spotted Over Lebanon Al-Jazeera Television, Doha, Qatar, May 27

Lebanese police confirmed the incursion of two Israeli warplanes into Lebanese airspace after the Lebanese radical group Hezbollah announced it had fired rockets at the warplanes from ground positions. The ground fire did not damage the planes. The United Nations has asked Israel several times to end these encroachments into Lebanese airspace, but Israel says the missions are necessary to prevent Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israeli settlers.

Tunnel Between Egypt, Gaza Discovered Al Jazeera Television, Doha, Qatar, May 28

One of the ways some Egyptians try to cross the border with Israel to help Palestinians in their uprising is through a long, narrow tunnel that was shown on Al-Jazeera TV. Israeli soldiers uncovered the tunnel, which would have enabled Egyptian sympathizers to smuggle arms from Sinai to Rafah city in Gaza. Many Egyptians trying to sneak across the border have been shot. A few days ago, Palestinians found the body of an Egyptian who tried to swim across the Red Sea to Gaza. Israel controls the borders between Egypt and the Gaza in compliance with Oslo Peace Agreement.

Saudis Fear Dirty Pictures on Cell Phones Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 30

Mobile phones equipped with cameras have attracted the ire of the Commission for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice in Saudi Arabia. The president of the commission fears that the phones, which are widely popular with young Saudis will be used to take photos of women secretly. Saudi Ericsson, the local company of Swedish mobile phone giant Ericsson, said their phones are approved by the Saudi Arabian Standards Organization.

Turkmenistan Pipeline Project Moves Forward The Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan, May 31

Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan signed a trilateral agreement for a multi-billion dollar 1,500-kilometer gas pipeline that would originate in the Daulatabad gas-fields in Turkmenistan, a country north of Afghanistan and Iran and bordering the Caspian Sea. The project had been held up for years because of instability in Afghanistan. By acting as a conduit for the gas, Afghanistan could earn up to $300 million. Daulatabad has 23 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.

Iranian Busted for Teaching Women to Two-Step Albawaba.com, Amman, Jordan, May 30

Iran's most famous male dancer, who lives and performs in Los Angeles, has been jailed on charges of promoting corruption among youths during a visit to his home country. Mohamad Khordadian's dance programs are widely watched by Iranian expatriates and many inside Iran on Los Angeles-based, Persian-language satellite television channels. Khordadian, who arrived in the Islamic Republic's capital in May, was detained and charged apparently with forming dance classes for women in Iran during his visits to the country.

Wedding Dress Dispute Turns Into Anti-U.S. Rally Al-Jazeera Television, Doha, Qatar, May 30

U.S. armed forces ordered several of their soldiers to leave Bahrain in the wake of recent clashes with Bahraini citizens that turned into a demonstration against the U.S. military presence in country. A recent dispute at a store over the price of a wedding dress turned ugly, involved American soldiers and resulted in several people being injured. Bahraini citizens gathered at the store chanting slogans like "no more American bases in the Muslim country of Bahrain." Bahrain hosts about 5,000 Americans. The majority of soldiers are from the American Fifth Fleet.

In Algerian Elections, Most Stay Home Albawaba.com, Amman, Jordan, May 31

Algerian authorities reported record-low turnout in legislative elections that were boycotted by key opposition parties and marred by ethnic Berber unrest. Algeria's Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni told Algerian radio that one civilian had been killed and three injured during election-day riots in the Berber homeland of Kabyle on Thursday. Zerhouni told Channel 3 radio that 48 percent of voters nationwide cast their ballots -- the lowest number since multiparty elections were established in 1991.

PNS Associate Editor Sandip Roy (sandiproy@hotmail.com) is host of "Upfront" -- the Pacific News Service weekly radio program on KALW-FM, San Francisco.
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