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High Turn-out In Critical Third Phase Of Elections

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New Delhi: Millions in India voted peacefully Thursday across 14 states and union territories in a critical third phase of the parliamentary elections to pick 91 of the 543 Lok Sabha members.It includes seven seats in the national capital whose control is considered important for any party seeking to sit in the seat of power in New Delhi.

In town after town, voter enthusiasm was high in both working and middle class areas. In a few places, brisk polling was reported even in affluent areas – where election enthusiasm used to be tepid – indicating that voting figures may touch a record high.

An estimated 50 percent of the 191 million electorate had voted in eight hours of brisk polling, with men and women of all age groups queuing up at the 140,850 voting centres from the time they opened at 7 a.m.

Officials overseeing the mammoth exercise were kept busy checking identity cards of the voters and inking their fingers.

Although the staggered nine-phase balloting began April 7, the first two rounds involved only 13 constituencies from the country’s northeast where the BJP is not a major player.

Political analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, who is with the BJP, said Thursday’s polling was important because the 91 seats were almost a sixth of the total Lok Sabha seats.

This round is also crucial because it includes three states where the Bharatiya Janata Party failed to win a single seat in 2009: Kerala, Delhi and Haryana.

For the same reason, the Congress, which won 50 more seats in 2009 over the 2004 Lok Sabha battle, has to retain its seat tally if it has to stand up to the aggressive BJP.

Thursday’s balloting is also important for the Aam Aadmi Party, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Shiv Sena, the MNS, the Left and the Janata Dal-United.

The Election Commission said the polling was peaceful everywhere barring Bihar.

In Bihar, two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed when Maoists exploded a concealed land mine in Munger district when they were on their way to neighbouring Jamui where polling was on. Maoists also blasted a school in Bihar’s Lakhisarai district.

A total of 1,414 candidates are in the fray Thursday.

The balloting covered all 20 seats in Kerala, 10 each in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra and Odisha, nine in Madhya Pradesh, all seven seats in Delhi, six in Bihar, four in Jharkhand and one each in Chhattisgarh, Jammu, Chandigarh, Lakshwadeep and Andaman and Nicobar Island.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal voted in separate polling centres in New Delhi. Former BJP president Nitin Gadkari voted in Nagpur.

A smiling Gandhi flashed her inked finger but did not speak to the media.

Congress leader Ajay Maken, who was with her, earlier claimed that voters were sure to give the Congress-led UPA another five-year term.

Kejriwal said he was confident the AAP would win all seven seats in Delhi, where he was chief minister for 49 days until Feb 14.

BJP leader Harsh Vardhan was equally confident that the BJP would crush the Congress thanks to the “Modi wave” — a reference to his party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

“Modi wave is a reality… both rural and urban voters are with us,” a BJP candidate, Meenakshi Lekhi, said.

Even as the third round continued, Modi and Congress leaders continued to campaign in other states. Kejriwal left for Punjab to campaign for the AAP candidates in the state.

Delhi Records Highest Polling

Delhi recorded poll percentage of 60.1 till 5 p.m. for the Lok Sabha elections, surpassing the 2009 polling percentage and setting stage for a record polling in the national capital. The city is witnessing a high voltage three-cornered contest for its seven seats.

Long queues formed outside several polling stations across the national capital as men and women – the elderly included – turned up in large numbers right from the time polling began at 7 a.m. Voting ends at 6 p.m at 11,763 polling stations in the capital.

“The polling percentage till 5 p.m. Was 60.1 percent,” Chief Nodal Officer, Delhi Election Commission, Ankur Garg, said.

The 2009 percentage was 51.85 percent. In 2004 it was even lower at 47.09 percent. In the Delhi asssembly elections in November, the voter turnout was 66 percent.

Delhi poll panel officials said that the highest poll percentage was recorded in North East Delhi constituency at 63 percent. It was followed by East Delhi (61.2 percent), West Delhi (61.1), Chandni Chowk (60 percent), North West Delhi (59.3), New Delhi (59.2) and South Delhi (57.2).

With the emergence of the AAP, Delhi is witnessing a triangular fight.

The Delhi battle is critical for the Congress, which won all seven Lok Sabha seats in 2009. It is significant for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has set itself a target of getting at least 272 seats in campaign led by Narendra Modi.

SOUTH ASIA

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

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Nawaz sharif

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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