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News Watch 13 Feb 2009

HEADLINES

Determined to end terrorism: Pranab (TOI)

LEAD

Faced with unrelenting international pressure and incontrovertible evidence put together by India and US's FBI, Pakistan on Thursday, 79 days after the Mumbai attacks, was forced to acknowledge that the heinous strikes were plotted from its soil. It also acknowledged that some of the perpetrators were from Laskhar-e-Taiba, the jihadi outfit aligned with ISI. The confession surprised many because it came close on the heels of a series of red herrings which

suggested that Islamabad, rather than accepting any blame, would point its finger at terrorist organisations not active on its territory, and surpassed India's expectations. "Some part of it was planned in Pakistan," Pakistan's interior minister Rehman Malik said, as he went on to disclose that Pakistan had so far arrested six men for the crime. The FIR registered in the SIT police station in Islamabad names eight people but Malik disclosed only six names, arguing that revealing the identities of the remaining two might hamper investigations. Malik said Pakistan was sending a list of 30 questions to India as information on them would help the investigations.(TOI)

  • New Delhi: India on Thursday warned Pakistan that it would not hesitate from taking any measure to uproot terror infrastructure from the neighbouring country. Speaking on security and economic crisis at a function organised by FICCI, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee said India would spare no effort to deal with terrorists and insurgent groups operating from neighbouring countries. The reiteration of "alloptions-are-open" line came just before Pakistan, cracking under international pressure and unable to dispute irrefutable evidence, confessed that the Mumbai attacks were conceived in Pakistan. Quoting from a statement given by the PM, Mukherjee said, "We are determined to put an end to terrorism sponsored from across the border with all the means at our command." Mukherjee said India has been targeted at many fronts. "This has involved our land and sea borders, political and military establishments, industrial and oil installations, financial centres and economic assets among others," the minister said. (TOI)
  • Ahmedabad: A Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court comprising Justice Bhagwati Prasad and Justice Bankim Mehta ruled today that charges under POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) were not applicable to those arrested in connection with the attack on the Sabarmati Express in Godhra in which 59 people, mostly Hindus, were killed when the S-6 coach was torched on February 27, 2002. The incident sparked off riots across the state. The state had invoked POTA against the Godhra-accused but not in any other riots case. The judges today upheld the recommendations of the Central POTA Review Committee (CPRC) that had held in May 2005 that there was no conspiracy alleged to have been hatched in Godhra and hence POTA could not be invoked against the accused. The CPRC recommended that the Godhra-accused could be tried under provisions of the Indian Penal Code, Indian Railways Act, Prevention of Damage of Public Property Act and the Bombay Police Act. (IE)
  • New Delhi: While blaming terrorism from Pakistan for the erosion of achievements of bilateral dialogue, India called upon Islamabad on Thursday to take "decisive and credible action against all terrorist groups" that operate from its territory. "We expect Pakistan to honour the commitments made to us," President Pratibha Patil said in her address to the joint session of Parliament." "Despite solemn commitments given by Pakistan at the highest level that it would not allow its territory to be used for terrorism in any manner against India, terrorists from Pakistan have continued to attack India," she added. (IE)
  • New Delhi: A delegation of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is planning to meet HRD Minister Arjun Singh next week to demand scrapping of the Govt's proposal to set up a Central Madrasa Board, which they term an "open interference" in the religious affairs of the community. The Board has rejected the proposal, mooted by Singh last month, noting it was against the fundamental right of the minorities to establish educational institutions and run them as they want. If the HRD Minister does not heed to their demands, Board members said they would take up the matter with the PM. "We can manage our affairs well. It is our fundamental right to establish educational institutions and run them," AIMPLB secretary Abdul Rahman Qureshi told The Indian Express. "If the Govt does not pay heed to our demands, then we will be forced to launch a nation-wide agitation," he added. (IE)
  • New Delhi: A move in the Lok Sabha Privileges Committee to punish three BJP MPs in the cash-for-vote scam has met with stiff resistance from the main Opposition party. Sources said following opposition from a BJP member, a meeting of the committee convened for Thursday was called off. The panel is likely to meet next week now. The sources said at the last meeting, the BJP's Kharabela Swain strongly opposed a draft resolution seeking to punish Mahavir Bhagora, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Ashok Argal. Swain is learnt to have told the committee that the draft resolution was one-sided. (IE)
  • New Delhi: RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav's status as a UPA heavyweight is being challenged not only by LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan but even the Congress, as both the UPA partners are adamant in contesting more seats in Bihar than last time. Both LJP and Congress minced no words in justifying their demand for more seats by pointing to the RJD's dipping political graph in the state and highlighting their rising stock, sources said. Lalu's discomfiture over seat-sharing with the Congress was reflected in his remarks at a Railway function in Bihar on Tuesday with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi by his side. "We are one. Even if we develop differences we would be one after the polls," Lalu said. (IE)
  • New Delhi: Amid the tension between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party, the SP's parliamentary board member and Lok Sabha MP from Karnataka, S Bangarappa, resigned from the party as well as the Lok Sabha today and announced his plans to join the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. "I have resigned from my Lok Sabha seat (Shimoga) as well as from the SP. I submitted my resignation to the Speaker and he has accepted it," said the former Karnataka CM. (IE)

BJP

The BJP on Thursday demanded that India should recall its high commissioner to Pakistan if Islamabad does not dismantle the terror infrastructure on its soil after its admission that the Mumbai attack was planned from Pakistani territory. "If Pakistan still does not take any steps, the Indian high commissioner to the country should be called back and all diplomatic ties with Pakistan should be snapped," said party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad. He said India must take all "coercive diplomatic measures." Mr Prasad said if Pakistan fails to act then India should "seriously think" about closing diplomatic relations with the neighbouring country. "As we have stated in our (party) Nagpur Council meeting, there is no point in keeping diplomatic relations with Pakistan if it does not act," Mr Prasad said, adding that "all transport, tourism and trade relations should be snapped". Another BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said that Pakistan is known to change its stand on the Mumbai terror attacks, therefore India should wait and watch for a couple of days.(AA)

  • The BJP felt President Pratiba Patil's address to the joint session of Parliament was "dull and boring". The CPI thinks the address was "Congress way of presenting a shining India". Both the BJP and CPI echoed similar views while criticising the UPA's economic and foreign policies. "It is an attempt to present a rosy picture of the Indian economy when the reality is otherwise," CPI leader D. Raja said. Ms Sushma Swaraj said, the BJP and the NDA had several differences with the govt. (AA)

CONGRESS

Pakistan's admission to being a launchpad for 26/11 is set to strengthen the Congress hold on terrorism plank, a new acquisition in its political armoury, while leaving BJP racking its brains on how to retrieve a lost weapon it had christened The UPA-slayer. Congress is set to project the admission of guilt from across the border as a success of its coercive diplomacy which would essentially be the kicking off of Lok Sabha campaign. The first projection of its success would come on the biggest national platform, that is the floor of Parliament as early as Friday. The party, however, is unlikely to turn triumphal, as insiders believe it is time to further raise the pitch against Pakistan. India's experience with Pakistan warrants caution and foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee's reaction brought out the lingering apprehension that Pakistan could still have some tricks up its sleeve. Politically wise, the Congress's calibrated pitch a pat on the govt's back while continuing rhetoric against Pakistan suits better to dislodge BJP from the "tough-on-terror" perch. The reaction from AICC spokesman Manish Tiwari conveyed as much. "We are not satisfied. Till the terror infrastructure is dismantled and the brains behind Mumbai and other attacks are handed over to India, we will believe that Pakistan is not walking the talk," he said. (TOI)

  • New Delhi: PM Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, will jointly deliver the message of 'Development, Unity, and Future' in the pre-election hoardings that the ruling party has decided to install in every Lok Sabha constituency across the country. Many of the hoardings have already been put up in several cities. Although the aam aadmi did not find any prominence in the party's draft manifesto, the common man will be the central theme of the party's slogans and advertisements. The AICC Publicity and Publication Committee on Wednesday also decided to make logos of its flagship programmes like the NREGS, RTI, etc, to be displayed in the advertisements and hoardings. (IE)

LEFT PARTIES

If the Congress is hoping for an encore of the 2004 understanding with the Left, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat is not willing to play ball. His message is loud and clear today's political situation is very different from the one that existed five years ago. "The political situation in 2009 is not a repeat of 2004, when six years of BJP misrule and communalism had to be fought as a central goal. After five years of the Congress-led govt, the country cannot be subjected, once again, to the neo-liberal dogma and 'crony capitalism' of Congress leaders and their abandonment of the Nehruvian legacy to convert India into a junior partner of the US," he said. His comments came days after he indicated the possibility of the Left supporting a secular govt, prompting Congress leaders to ask whether any party other than theirs had the strength to lead a secular front at the national level. (IE)

I. CURRENT AFFAIRS

'No Pota in Godhra train carnage': In a blow to the Modi govt, the Gujarat HC on Thursday ruled that the Godhra train carnage was not an act of terror and hence Prevention of Terrorist Act was not applicable.(TOI)

Yashwant, Munda injured in lathicharge : At least 20 people, including the former Union Minister, Yashwant Sinha, and the former Jharkhand CM, Arjun Munda, were injured on Thursday when the police lathicharged BJP volunteers who tried to gherao the Raj Bhavan during a march.(HINDU)

STATES

HARYANA

Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda asserted on Thursday that the Congress would win all the 10 Lok Sabha seats from Haryana besides the lone Chandigarh seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Talking to the media in the press gallery of the Vidhan Sabha during the ongoing Budget Session here, Mr. Hooda said that the final decision regarding allotment of tickets would be taken by the party High Command. Asked whether any Minister or MLA might be given Congress ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections, Mr. Hooda said that the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee had forwarded a panel of names but the final decision would be taken by the party High Command only.(HINDU)

J&K

The Election Commission has finalised the dates for the biennial elections to 12 seats of the state Legislative Council. The notification for elections would be issued on February 16. The last date for making nominations is February 24. Scrutiny will be on February 25 while the last date for withdrawal is February 27. Polling for all 12 seats shall be held on March 7 and counting would also be done the same day at 3 pm. The entire process of elections would be completed by March 9. Seven seats are falling vacant due to the retirement of Nassurallah of Kargil, Phuntsog Namgyal of Ladakh, Ali Mohammad Sofi of Kashmir province, Ved Prakash Gupta, Amrit Malhotra, Ch. Bashir Ahmad Naz and Lal Mohammad Sabir, all belonging to Jammu province. One seat, belonging to Kashmir province, has already been lying vacant since June 5, 2008, due to disqualification of Bilal Ahmad Khan Lodhi by the PDP Legislature Party leader. The commission has also decided to hold byelections to fill the casual vacancies in the council. This follows the resignation by Basharat Ahmad Bukhari, Nizam-ud-Din Bhat and Sakina Itoo, all from Kashmir province. Besides, another seat has fallen vacant from Jammu province due to disqualification of Ashok Kumar Sharma from the House by the Leader of the Congress Legislature party on January 22.(TRIB)

UTTAR PRADESH

The murder case in which Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Mahabir Prasad has been named an accused has an unusual detail: victim Ram Pragat's body was found in a field 7 km from his home in Ujjarpar on the morning of January 29, 2008 but the police registered a case of accidental death, saying he had been hit by a jeep the previous evening at a place 5 km away. Investigating officer Venod Kumar Barniwal said he doesn't know how the body reached the field but some people had seen Ram Pragat being hit by a jeep at Shihajijpar the previous evening. Anil Singh, who was then Station Officer of Ghaghan, said some people saw the jeep occupants lift an injured Ram Pragat after the accident. They were taking him to hospital but he died on the way, so they dumped him in the field, he said. Yet the police didn't file charges against anyone except jeep driver Ram Badan. IO Barniwal said no one else was named because the other occupants of the jeep couldn't be identified. (IE)

  • With the Congress eyeing Dalit votes in Uttar Pradesh, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has taken on the role of the protector of the upper castes. Every time Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the party's general secretary Rahul Gandhi visit their constituencies Rae Bareli and Amethi respectively they spend time with Dalit families. To counter the Congress, the BSP has now started a campaign to woo Brahmins, identifying Rahul's parliamentary constituency for its launch. At a Brahmin sammelan held on February 9, the BSP's Brahmin poster boy Satish Chandra Mishra told the audience how "the Congress party used the community like bonded labourers to meet the party's political interests". This pushed the Brahmins backwards, said Mishra, "but now, the BSP is considering the welfare of Brahmins and it is the only party that is giving due respect to the community."(IE)

II. INDIA & THE WORLD

Advancing troops killed 28 LTTE cadres in different confrontations on Thursday and seized large cache of weapons, besides an armoured van believed to have been used by the Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran within the fast-shrinking rebel terrain in the Vanni area of northeast Sri Lanka. An Army infantry division on Wednesday captured a LTTE printing press and a mortar bomb factory in the region, military spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said here. Meanwhile, the Army headquarters in Vanni on Thursday declared a new Civilian Safety Zone (CSZ), carving out a 12-km stretch along the Mullaittivu coast "to facilitate flow of humanitarian and medical supplies for the people stranded with the LTTE. International aid agencies have said close to 2,00,000 civilians are trapped but the govt says the numbers might not exceed 1,20,000. The govt had on Jan 21 declared a "No Fire Zone" and was now compelled to mark out a new CSZ because the Tigers had "discarded (the earlier one) with contempt, moving its heavy artillery batteries and mortar guns inside the safety zone, using civilians to shield against military retaliation." Despite all attempts by the Tigers to provoke the military, the troops "continued to adhere to the zero civilian casualty policy" while going all-out against the militants. (AA)
 
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