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Indian PM Quiet on Malaysian Indians’ Discrimination Claims

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The Human Rights Party, a political group representing disaffected Malaysian Indians, posted a message to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on its website to remind that their community faces “state-sponsored racial and religious segregation” in Malaysia from “womb to tomb.”

Indian PM Quiet on Malaysian Indians' Discrimination ClaimsAccording to the 2002 High-Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora, Malaysia had the world’s second-largest Indian diaspora, numbering nearly 1.7 million. Though they are disproportionately represented in fields like medicine and law, they are the poorest of the three main ethnic groups of Malaysia.

The HRP is the new avatar of the Hindu Rights Action Forum, a political rights groups that accused the Malaysian government of discrimination against Indian Malaysians. The forum was banned in 2007 and their founder, P. Uthayakumar, was jailed for 17 months.

The HRP had requested but did not receive an audience with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Asked about Malaysia’s discriminatory policies, Singh diplomatically said he had faith that Malaysia, “a multicultural, multireligious democracy,” had the “flexibility” to handle such issues.

Singh and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on Wednesday inaugurated an urban  renewal project for an Indian area of Kuala Lumpur, Brickfield, that was renamed Little India. Some 3,000 Malaysian Indians waited for as long as three hours to see the inauguration ceremony, but they were kept at a distance by barricades and their view of the official dias blocked by stands and equipment. Indian officials admitted they weren’t certain if Singh even knew the audience was there.

Indian media people who asked local about the political climate in Malaysia were repeatedly told “no comment.” The few who were brave enough to be slightly critical of the government, hastily withdrew their comments.

The HRP was critical, calling Little India of being “propaganda” and the area designed to “camouflage the real ground reality” of the Malaysian Indian.

Political disaffection among the community has been evident in Malaysia. Following the Hindu Rights Action Forum campaign, the government – allied Malaysian Indian Congress, was badly defeated in August 2008 elections, winning only three out of nine seats they contested. The array of local Indian leaders, including the head of the Malaysian Indian Congress, who welcomed Singh received no applause from the Little India crowd when their names were read out.

A key HRP demand has been that the present preferential treatment for Malays for university student slots be abolished. It requested that Singh consider providing them seats in Indian higher education institutes.

-HT

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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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