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Jayalalithaa Sacks Her Own Inner Coterie

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Chennai: In a sweeping move, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa sacked from the AIADMK long-time confidant V.K. Sasikala and 13 others who were known to wield enormous clout in the party.

Acting a week after she had first indicated that there were problems between her and Sasikala, the chief minister gave no reason for the ouster of the lot that included Sasikala’s husband M. Natarajan.

A morning statement named Sasikala and 11 others. A later statement added two more names.

Most of them were known to be related to Sasikala, who over the past two decades had emerged as a close companion of Jayalalithaa and was also seen by many as a parallel power centre.

In a brief statement, the AIADMK chief, who took power in May, asked party members not to have any dealing with those booted out.

There was no reaction from Sasikala, who used to live with the chief minister and was frequently seen in her company both at private and public events.

The others expelled from the AIADMK are V. Baskaran, T.T.V. Dinakaran, Diwakar, V.N. Sudhakaran, S. Venkatesh, M. Ramachandran, Ravanan, Mohan, Kulothungan, Rajarajan, V. Mahadevan and V. Thangamani.

Jayalalithaa gave no reasons why she was taking this step. But party sources said this could be due to widespread charges of interference by Sasikala and her associates in the running of the administration.

It was a week ago that Jayalalithaa had indicated to some of her ministers that it would be good if they distanced themselves from Sasikala. 

It is rumoured that the Sasikala group was keen on bringing the AIADMK under their control fearing Jayalalithaa could be convicted in the disproportionate assets case now being heard in Bangalore.

”Sasikala had emerged so powerful that few people could reach the chief minister without her (Sasikala’s) knowledge and permission,” said a senior government official who did not want to be identified.

The sacking comes ahead of AIADMK’s executive and general council meetings slated for Dec 30 here.

Calling Jayalalithaa’s move a bold one, political commentator Gnani told IANS: “The chief minister should explain the reasons behind the sudden expulsion.”

According to him, the sacking would not impact the party as “Jayalalithaa is the vote catcher and the mass leader”.

”The dismissed people may not be able to break the party. On the other hand, party cadres would be really happy to hear this news,” he said.

Another AIADMK leader told IANS that Jayalalithaa had a strong hold on the party and there was no threat to her leadership.

As the news became known, party members gathered outside Jayalaltihaa’s residence and shouted slogans hailing the “revolutionary leaders” – as the chief minister is addressed by admirers.

This is the second time Jayalaltihaa has ousted Sasikala from AIADMK. She was expelled the first time after the AIADMK’s defeat in 1996. But the two later reconciled their differences.

It was in 80s that Sasikala came into contact with Jayalalithaa, who was then the AIADMK propaganda secretary. Sasikala later ran a video library, and her friendship with Jayalalithaa slowly grew.

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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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