Saudi Arabia announces free extension of iqamas, visas of expats stranded outside

News Network
September 11, 2021

Riyadh, Sept 11: The Saudi General Directorate of Passports announced it has started the automatic extension of the validity of residence permits (Iqama) for stranded expatriates outside the Kingdom in addition to extending the validity of visit visas and exit and re-entry visas without fees or charges for all expats until 30/11/2021, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA)reported.

The move comes in implementation of the directives of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

The decision, which was approved by the Minister of Finance, comes in line with ongoing efforts being made by the Kingdom’s government to deal with the effects and repercussions of COVID-19 pandemic.

It also falls within precautionary measures that guarantee the safety of citizens and residents and contribute to mitigating financial and economic impacts.

The Directorate indicated that the extension will be carried out electronically in cooperation with the National Information Centre without the need to visit the departments of passports. The extension process is as follows:

First: Extending the validity of residence permits as well as exit and re-entry visas for residents who are in countries from which entry is suspended as a result of Coronavirus until 30/11/2021.

Second: Extending the validity of visit visas for visitors who are in the countries from which entry is suspended as a result of the Coronavirus until 30/11/2021.

Currently, the countries facing the travel ban are India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

Last month, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior has issued directives to allow direct entry of fully vaccinated expatriates from countries facing travel ban.

The decision was applied only to those foreigners who have a valid residency permit (iqama) and left the Kingdom on exit and re-entry visa after taking two doses of vaccine against coronavirus from Saudi Arabia.

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News Network
September 2,2021

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The patriarch of separatist politics in the Valley and Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, passed away at his residence in Srinagar late Wednesday night. A former elected legislator, the ailing 92-year-old had been under house detention for more than a decade. 

His death comes when both his and the moderate factions of the Hurriyat are in disarray in the wake of a crackdown by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the abrogation of Article 370 and the downgrade of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

Apprehensive that his funeral may attract large crowds, the security establishment has imposed restrictions across the Valley, including Internet suspension. Police sources say curfew would be imposed.

“With shock and grief, we inform (you) that the father of revolution Syed Ali Geelani passed away tonight,” tweeted Geelani’s Pakistan-based representative Abdullah Geelani. “As per his will, he would be buried at the martyrs’ cemetery in Srinagar. The timing of the funeral would be announced later.”

However, it is unlikely that the government will allow Geelani to be buried at this cemetery.

Geelani’s legacy will be that of the hardliner who stood up to New Delhi, seeking resolution of the Kashmir dispute under the aegis of the United Nations. In fact, he was the only separatist leader to oppose Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf when the latter climbed down on Islamabad’s traditional stand on Kashmir and proposed a four-point formula to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Born on September 29, 1929, at Zurmanz, a village on the banks of the Wular lake in Bandipore, Geelani rose to become the face of separatist politics.

A school teacher, he started his political career under the tutelage of Maulana Mohammad Sayeed Masoodi, a senior National Conference (NC) leader, but soon moved to Jamat-e-Islami. The socio-religious organisation stood up to the NC leadership and saw Kashmir as an “unfinished agenda” of Partition.

Geelani’s electoral career started from Sopore, a traditional separatist and Jamat stronghold. He first contested the Assembly elections in 1972, and represented Sopore in the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Assembly for three terms. The last term ended abruptly in 1987 when militancy erupted in Kashmir.

Geelani had been one of the four candidates of the Muslim United Front (MUF) — an alliance of political, social and religious organisations — who won in the widely rigged 1987 elections that brought the NC-Congress combine to power and set off militancy in the Valley.

An ardent supporter of armed struggle for resolution of the Kashmir issue, Geelani was among the seven executive members of the Hurriyat Conference when it was formed in 1993. But his support for militancy and unwavering ideology on Kashmir sowed the seeds of discord between him and his colleagues in the Hurriyat Conference, finally culminating in a split in 2003.

In 2004, Geelani also parted ways from Jamat-e-Islami when it distanced itself from militancy, and formed his own political outfit, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.

While Geelani has been bedridden for years now and incommunicado for the last two years, he sprang a surprise on June 30 last year when he dissociated himself from the faction of Hurriyat that he founded. He left the reins to his deputy Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, who died in custody in Jammu jail earlier this year.

And though Geelani said he wanted the resolution of the Kashmir issue as per the aspirations of the people, he himself was an ardent supporter of its merger with Pakistan. Last year, the Pakistan government awarded him with Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civilian honour of the country.

The NIA, which has till date arrested 18 separatist leaders from Kashmir including those from the Hurriyat in a case of terror funding, has alleged that they received funds from Pakistan to foment unrest in the Valley. The agency had even named Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq in the chargesheet, claiming they had been pushing for secession and fuelling unrest but had stopped short of naming them as accused.

In February, 2019 the NIA had raided Umer Farooq’s and Geelani’s son Naseem Geelani’s house among others in the case. In March 2019, the Enforcement Directorate had levied a penalty of Rs 14.40 lakh on Geelani in a 17-year-old case of alleged illegal possession of $10,000 in alleged contravention of the foreign exchange law.

Former chief minister and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti condoled Geelani’s demise, saying, “We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for his steadfastness and standing for his beliefs.”

People’s Conference leader Sajad Lone tweeted: “Heartfelt condolences to the family of Syed Ali Shah Geelani sahib. Was an esteemed colleague of my late father. May Allah grant him Jannat”.

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News Network
September 9,2021

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Mumbai, Sept 9: The Bombay High Court on Thursday dismissed the plea filed by actor Kangana Ranaut seeking quashing of the criminal defamation proceedings initiated against her by a court here based on lyricist Javed Akhtar's complaint.

High court judge, Justice Revati Mohite Dere, who had on September 1 reserved her order on the plea, said the applicant's (Ranaut's) petition "stands dismissed".

Ranaut, through her counsel Rizwan Siddiquee, had challenged the defamation proceedings that were initiated by the Andheri Metropolitan Magistrate's court earlier this year, saying that the court had failed to apply its mind to the case.

Akhtar's counsel Jay Bharadwaj, however, told the high court that the magistrate had directed for the police inquiry after going through the lyricist's complaint and excerpts of Ranaut's interview, in which she had made the alleged defamatory comments. Akhtar had filed the criminal complaint against Ranaut in November last year before the Andheri metropolitan magistrate for allegedly making defamatory and baseless comments against him in a television interview given to journalist Arnab Goswami.

In December 2020, the court directed the Juhu police to conduct an inquiry into Akhtar's complaint against Ranaut and then initiated criminal proceedings against her, and issued summons to her in February this year. 

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News Network
September 15,2021

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Mumbai, Sept 15: Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah has alleged that the government is encouraging Indian filmmakers to make propaganda films “lauding the efforts of our beloved leader”.

“They are being encouraged by the government to make pro-government films, to make films lauding the efforts of our beloved leader. They are also being financed, also promised a clean chit if they make movies which are propaganda, to put it bluntly,” Shah said in an interview.

He likened the situation to when top-class filmmakers were rounded up in Nazi Germany to make films propagating Nazi philosophy. “You will find the biggest guys giving in to this,” the actor said.

This comes days after a video of Shah went viral wherein he was condemning Indian Muslims who were celebrating the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

The 71-year-old actor told the publication that he had no proof but it was obvious, adding that while there is no outright bigotry in the industry, actors are harassed if they speak out.

“They (the Khans) are worried because of the harassment they face. They have so much to lose. It is a question of their entire establishments getting harassed,” he said.

Noting that he never felt any discrimination in the industry, Shah said the only thing that matters in the industry is the revenue you generate.

Commenting on his remarks on the Taliban, he said that ‘celebration’ may not have been the right word but he said that his comments were “perfectly reasonable”.

On those who were offended by his comments, Shah said, “There is an atmosphere of bottled hate just waiting to be released. People are waiting to take offence to anything. If they had heard my statement, they would have realised there is nothing to get their knickers in a twist about.” 

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