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India’s Top Politicians Lobbying For July 19 Presidential Polls

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   India's Top Politicians Lobbying For July 19 Presidential Polls      New Delhi/Kolkata: The Election Commission announced Tuesday that the presidential election would be held July 19, setting the ball rolling for the process to decide on who would be the next occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. All eyes are now on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi who will take the final call on the ruling UPA’s candidate.

While union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has emerged front-runner, there is no clarity on who would be the United Progressive Alliance’s choice for the post. Suspense has been mounting and there have been hectic consultations between leaders of various political parties but no names have been thrown up.
The only declared candidate is former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), who has been actively lobbying for support amongst opposition parties.
Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath said the elections would be notified June 16, be held on July 19 and the votes counted on July 22, just two days before President Pratibha Patil’s term ends.
As the tempo built up, the Congress let out little and only said that there were no differences amongst the allies. “We have repeatedly demonstrated that UPA is united and cohesive,” said party spokesperson Manish Tewari.
It is being hoped that the wait for the UPA’s ‘consensus’ candidate ends Wednesday when Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee meets Gandhi. She told reporters in Kolkata before leaving for the national capital that Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav would be present as well.
The Manmohan Singh-led government, which has for weeks been trying to balance interests of its often troublesome allies, is hoping to resolve differences with the Trinamool and SP, who have the maximum numbers and are crucial for the Congress candidate to win.
Asked to comment on speculation that Mukherjee, the government’s most senior minister and troubleshooter for all seasons, was the front-runner in becoming the Congress candidate, she said: “This is an issue for the Congress.”
She also denied that her backing for the Congress’ choice for the post was linked to a financial package for her state.
Banerjee had earlier indicated that she was not in favour of Mukherjee, who has cancelled his visit to Afghanistan fuelling conjecture that the choice would narrow down to only him.
Sources admit that if Mukherjee is indeed the chosen one, Banerjee would find it difficult to oppose him – if elected, he would be the first Bengali in the presidential palace.
SP chief Mulayam Singh has been of the same view. He told reporters Monday that he wanted the Congress to first announce its candidate. Asked about Mukherjee, he said: “I do not know who is the candidate. When a candidate is declared, we will decide.”
Another key ally, the NCP, indicated that Mukherjee could well be the man for the top post. “India’s president will be acceptable to all. He will be a seniormost person who will be congratulated by the entire country,” senior NCP leader D.P. Tripathi said. Interestingly, NCP has not backed Sangma.
If all goes well and there is consensus amongst allies in the UPA, the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will have little say. In the jockeying for power, the BJP-led NDA was believed to be pushing for its own person for the post of vice president.
Talk was that the party might choose senior leader Jaswant Singh for the job. The buzz was heightened with Jaswant Singh meeting Mulayam Singh at his residence. “All the constituents of the NDA would join their heads to decide their stand over the matter in the coming days,” Akali Dal leader and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said.
Given the uncertainty, the final name could well be a dark-horse. Either way, the government will have to reveal its choice for India’s 13th president before Saturday.

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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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