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SOUTH ASIA

‘Afzal Hanging Not Selective Or Political Decision’

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Afzal Guru

Afzal Guru

New Delhi: The government Monday dismissed Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s charge that the execution of Afzal Guru was selective, and said the assassination cases of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Punjab chief minister Beant Singh were different.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said at a press conference: “These cases are still under consideration before the judiciary. Hence, they are different.”

Shinde also defended the secrecy shrouding the execution and said Afzal Guru’s family was informed two days before the hanging through speed post. The post reached the family Monday, two days after he was hanged.

He rejected allegations that the hanging was a “political decision” and said the authorities acted according to rules.

The minister indicated that the government could consider a request by Afzal Guru’s family to offer prayers near the spot where he was buried in the Delhi prison.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said that Afzal Guru’s case fell in the rarest of rare category and that the president had taken the decision to reject his mercy plea in his own wisdom.

“There can never be one size that fits all. In case of capital punishment, there is a need to be responsible, need to realise the facts and circumstance of each case. According to courts also, this was a rarest of rare case,” Tewari said.

The BJP slammed Abdullah, accusing him of “provoking” sentiments in the Kashmir valley.

Abdullah, in an interview published in a newspaper Monday, said the execution of Afzal Guru may increase the “sense of alienation” in the youth in Kashmir. He also said they may “identify with Afzal Guru”.

“Saying that youth in the Kashmir Valley will identify with Afzal Guru is an insult to the youth in the valley. They do not identify with Afzal Guru. They identify with cricketer Parvez Rasool and UPSC topper Shah Faesal,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

“He (Omar Abdullah) said young man of 43 was hanged. Six of the nine killed in the parliament attack were younger than Afzal. Why isn’t Omar’s heart crying for them but sympathising with Afzal? We condemn it,” Javadekar said.

“To raise the issue of discrimination is nothing but provoking the situation in the valley. At least the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir should not do this,” he said.

The Congress too defended the hanging. “Three separate courts found him guilty. The Supreme Court upheld it,” Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit told reporters.

Shinde said he had called Abdullah Feb 8 and informed him about Afzal Guru’s hanging.

“Afzal Guru’s family was informed and the speed post was sent on the night of Feb 7. He was hanged Feb 9,” Shinde told reporters here.

“We acted according to the rules,” Shinde said and added that speed post was sent by the jail officials.

Senior postal officials in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital, said the speed post was received Saturday evening – Afzal Guru was executed at 8 a.m. Saturday – but delivered Monday as Sunday was a holiday.

Abdullah had told TV channels Sunday that the government and the judiciary will have to answer for Afzal Guru’s execution.

He had also referred to cases of convicts in the assassination cases of Beant Singh and Rajiv Gandhi and said if targeting parliament was an attack on symbol of democracy, so was the attack on a chief minister and a former prime minister.

Answering queries, Shinde said he had cleared all mercy petitions sent to him by President Pranab Mukherjee.

“All that came to me have been cleared,” he said.

Asked if Afzal Guru was a surrendered militant, Shinde said he did not go into such details while looking at his file.

“I was concerned with evidence and what happened in the Supreme Court and the high court. That was my job,” he said.

Asked about possible retaliation from terror outfits against Afzal Guru’s killing, he said the government had to assess every possibility.

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Nawaz sharif

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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SOUTH ASIA

Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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