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Day 21, Rs.300 Crore Losses – Air India Crisis Continues

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         Day 21, Rs.300 Crore Losses - Air India Crisis ContinuesNew Delhi: The strike by pilots of national carrier Air India continued for the 21st day Monday, mounting losses to more than Rs.300 crore (about $55 mn). “Current losses are more than Rs.300 crore. The losses are on accounts of ticket cancellations, unused labour and bulk of Boeing-777 fleet being grounded,” a senior Air India official said, adding, “Bookings on our international flight have stabilised and we have placed maximum number of seats in the lowest price bracket… that has also helped bookings in the domestic sector as well in the current contingency plan.”

The airline had decided last week to reduce fares by placing a large chunk of seats under the lowest fare category to augment its share in the domestic and international sector.
The airline had the fourth-largest market share in April at 17.6 percent, preceded by SpiceJet at 17.7, Jet Airways at 21.4 percent and IndiGo at 23.8 percent.
Apart from the new fare scheme, the airline will shift to a truncated interim schedule for June 1, whereby it will drop seven international destinations, which include Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul and Toronto, from its regular routine. The airline will then operate only 38 services instead of the regular 45.
Currently, the carrier is operating through a contingency plan under which a bare minimum number of flights are maintained by clubbing operations to various destinations in Europe and the United States.
Air India has maintained that it has enough executive pilots to operate long-haul destinations in the US and Europe.
The development comes even as the Air India’s board met here to consider several proposals to normalise the airline’s international operations that have been crippled by the 21-day ongoing pilots’ strike.
Among the several proposals being mooted to restore the passenger carriers’ includes wet leasing aircraft from other airlines. The proposal, according to officials, will include renting of aircraft with pilots and cabin crew. “There is a proposal to wet lease at least five aircraft with pilots and crew. We require pilots and crews to maintain operations to key destinations in Europe, US and south east Asian destinations like Hong Kong.”
The board is also expected to decide on the induction date of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner into the carrier’s fleet and a voluntary retirement scheme (VSR) for employees.

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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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