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Counter-terror Centre Gets The Green Signal

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New Delhi: An ambitious plan of Home Minister P. Chidambaram to set up an intelligence hub that will integrate and analyse inputs on terror threats in India was finally accorded government approval Thursday after hanging fire for almost two years.

”The government has granted in principle approval for the MHA’s (ministry of home affairs) proposal to set up (the National Counter-Terrorism Centre),” Chidambaram told reporters here. 

The plan to set up the terror-related intelligence hub, which had been opposed by many ministries, was given the go-ahead in a Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here.

The agency, worked out on the model of the US’s National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), is aimed at combating terrorism by collecting and analysing threats, sharing the inputs and information with other agencies and converting these into actionable data.

The counter-terrorism agency will be a separate body under the control of the ministry of home affairs.

Chidambaram said the government will soon appoint its head, an additional director general-level police officer, and other officials who will form the core team of the agency. The NCTC will report to the union home secretary.

The full NCTC team consisting of officers drawn from intelligence, security agencies and state police would be formed after getting clearance for funds, the home ministry said. 

He said the NCTC would be the nodal agency for all counter-terrorism activities of the government and the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) of the Intelligence Bureau will be subsumed into it.

It would have to coordinate with agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and state intelligence agencies, the sources said.

Chidambaram had floated the idea to set up the NCTC after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in 2008.

Intelligence agencies and state police had complained in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks that sharing of information among them was one of the biggest worries.

Despite intelligence inputs given prior to the attack, the Mumbai police had said the information was not good enough for them to act upon.

In the wake of this complaint and also because there was no agency to integrate the inputs, the home minister had proposed a centre aimed at putting the intelligence in the right place at the right time.

The main job of this agency would be to warn and also pre-empt terror strikes after all other agencies dealing with counter-terror measures provide their information to the NCTC.

A panel of experts at the centre would then analyse the inputs with the help of a data base about suspected terrorists and terror outfits.

The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), approved by the government in June last year with a data bank of nearly 20 types of database, will work separately. But it will also provide terror inputs to the NCTC.

The agency will be set up through an executive order to be issued soon.

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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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