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Beni Prasad Verma Embarrasses Congress Again

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             Beni Prasad Verma Embarrasses Congress AgainNew Delhi: Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma, already drawing flack Monday for his remark about price-rise being “beneficial” for farmers, later in the day aggravated the situation for himself and the ruling Congress by calling for foreign direct investment in multibrand retail.

Though there was no official Congress reaction, party sources said Verma’s remarks had come as an embarrassment and that he would be told to show some restraint in the future.
On Monday, Verma faced flak from the opposition parties over his remark that he was “happy” with price rise as it was beneficial for farmers. Even as the furore continued, he later said foreign equity in multibrand retail was the only way to enhance farmers’ income, safeguard the consumers and eliminate the middlemen in the food supply chain.
This is not the first time Verma has caused controversy with his remarks. In February, while campaigning in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, Verma had dared the Election Commission to take action against him after he declared that sub-quota for Muslims would be increased.
He was endorsing his colleague Law Minister Salman Khurshid’s remark that a 9 percent sub quota out of the 27.5 percent Other Backward Classes quota would be given to the Muslims if the Congress was voted to power.
Later, the steel minister was let off after he expressed his remorse and regret before the poll panel. The same month, Verma also said that by the 2014 elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be “old” to work. “He (the PM) is already 80 years old. In 2014, when the next Lok Sabha elections are to take place, he will be 82. There is a limit to keep on working,” he said in response to a question about when Rahul Gandhi would become the prime minister.
A powerful leader of the Kurmi community in Uttar Pradesh, Verma was a minister in the Samajwadi Party government in the state before he fell out with party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2007 and contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket.
He was given the steel portfolio in July last year with an eye to the 2012 assembly polls but the move did not help as the Congress could only increase its tally from 22 in 2007 to just 28 in the 403-member House.
On Monday, the Eid day, Verma once again mentioned that only the Congress was concerned about the welfare of the minorities (read Muslims) while the Samajwadi Party government only thought of its vote bank while wooing the community.

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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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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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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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