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Anna Calls Lok Pal ‘Worthless’

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New Delhi:  Anna Hazare has described the draft Lok Pal as “worthless and good for nothing”.

The bill is likely to come up for urgent consideration and passing in the Lok Sabha Dec 21 if it gets the cabinet nod Tuesday.

As the winter session ends Dec 22, the government may extend it for a day Dec 23 or may reconvene parliament from Dec 27-29 post-Christmas holidays to pass the Lokpal bill.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal has informed the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) about the government’s intention to extend the session. 

Both parties have also issued whips to their members to be present in parliament till Dec 22. 

Sources said an extension might be required as the draft bill has over 60 amendments and more could come from opposition members when the legislation is debated in parliament. 

Sources said keeping in mind the high number of amendments, the government is likely to bring a new bill in the Lok Sabha for clarity after withdrawing the one already introduced.

The cabinet meeting could not be held Monday after Home Minister P. Chidambaram found fault with the drafting of the bill. 

A crack team including Chidambaram, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) V. Narayanasamy – all lawyers by training – scrutinised the government draft for any loopholes in a meeting which lasted over two-and-half hours.

According to sources, the bill is likely to bring the prime minister under the ombudsman with riders. Sources said the government is not keen on bringing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) completely under the Lokpal, as being demanded by Anna Hazare. 

In a first, the bill, which will suggest a constitutional status for Lokpal, will provide for reservation for SC/ST, women and minorities in the anti-graft ombudsman. 

While the government is open to bring the 57 lakh lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal, with proper procedures, it is unlikely to bring a citizen’s charter under it. The government plans to introduce a separate bill for the purpose, said sources. 

Government sources said they hope the draft bill would be acceptable to a large number of people in the house except those who are opposed to the concept of Lokpal. 

Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar said: “The government and Congress are trying to build consensus on the Lokpal by consulting its allies and parties in opposition.”

However, sounding a word of caution, Union Minister Farooq Abdullah said parliament should keep in mind that “a super government to the government is not formed while creating the Lokpal”.

Meanwhile, in Pune Hazare termed the proposed bill as “worthless and good for nothing” and cancelled his plan to visit Delhi Monday.

”We will fill up jails in New Year,” said Hazare reiterating he would launch a new movement, ‘Jail Bharo Andolan’ (fill up jails), from Jan 1 in front of the houses of Member of Parliament (MPs) if they attempt to dilute the Lokpal bill.

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SOUTH ASIA

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

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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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