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Congress, BJP Trade Accusations Over Lok Pal Bill

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New Delhi: Stung by BJP’s “obstructive tactics” on the Lokpal issue and attempts to target the Prime Minister, Congress has hit back at the opposition party saying the “assassin” is trying to accuse the victim of murdering democracy.

Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said BJP was “true murderer of democracy” as regards recent developments on the Lokpal bill in the Rajya Sabha were concerned. He told reporters that the BJP was “too clever by half” by trying to obstruct the legislation on the anti-corruption ombudsman by pretending to put conditionalities. Alleging that the BJP doesn’t want a strong anti- corruption law, he said this was clear from the fact that in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh there are “extremely weak” Lokayuktas and while there is no Lokayukta for six months in Karnataka and for several years in Gujarat.

 

When told that the BJP was targeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the issue, he remarked, “The assassin is trying to accuse the victim of murder of democracy.” “We can not prevent the BJP from doing negative politics. But it will get a fitting slap on the face in the near future,” Singhvi said adding that the Lokpal issue has shown “duplicitous face, hypocritical approach and double-forked tongue” of the BJP.

The Congress spokesman, who is also chairman of the Parliamentary Committee that went into the Lokpal Bill, also had a dig at Team Anna saying its members should use bifocal lenses so that they could see “some drawbacks and defects” of BJP than the “unifocal anti-Congress vision” they have at present.

In the meanwhile, BJP denies all charges. Vowing to “expose” the government on the Lokpal Bill issue, the BJP demanded that it should quit and hold fresh elections as it had “lost” majority in both Houses of Parliament.

”The government has lost a majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha… This government should quit and hold fresh elections,” BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said, a day after the Rajya Sabha failed to pass the Lokpal Bill.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley said, “the BJP core group would be meeting later today to decide what it will do on the road (on the Lokpal issue). We will expose the government on the road and make the public aware in the wake of these developments. We will take up this Bill in the next session and expose the government there also.”

Jaitley said, “The government has lost its political equilibrium. The balance of this government has also been disturbed.”

Terming the events as unfortunate, Jaitley said, “This was an act of political suicide with respect to the government’s own credibility.

”A government which runs away from voting, has no political or moral right to stay in power.”

Swaraj, on the other hand, said, “It is a defeat of an arrogant government… It should do some introspection… The government wants to dump the 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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