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Kalam Opts Out Of Presidential Bid

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         Kalam Opts Out Of Presidential BidNew Delhi: Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Monday opted out of the presidential election after studying the “totality” of the situation, dealing a blow to the BJP and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee who badly wanted him to take on Pranab Mukherjee.

His decision spiked what could have been a high-profile battle between him and Finance Minister Mukherjee, who appears set to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) nominee.
The Bharatiya Janata Party refused to comment on Kalam’s decision.
With Kalam – who was the president in 2002-07, not joining the race, the BJP said it will meet again to decide whether it should back Mukherjee or support former Lok Sabha speaker Purno Sangma, the joint candidate of the AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal.
Breaking his silence since his name began doing the rounds as a possible presidential candidate, Kalam, 80, said many politicians and others wanted him to contest. “Though I have never aspired to serve another term or shown interest in contesting, Mamata Banerjee, other political parties wanted me to be their candidate,” he said in a brief statement, adding, “I am really overwhelmed… This being their wish, I respect it. I want to thank them for the trust they have in me. I have considered the totality of the matter and the present political situation and decided not to contest the presidential election.”
Informed sources said Kalam conveyed his decision first to BJP star L.K. Advani, who telephoned him twice requesting him to contest next month against Mukherjee. Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former aide to Advani, met Kalam twice Monday in a bid to persuade him to take the plunge.
But Kalam, who had also consulted close friends, eventually decided not to join the race, perhaps realizing that his chances of winning were near nil.
Unlike in 2002 when he enjoyed near universal support barring the Left, this time even some sections of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) were not eager to field him.
Political observers said the decision was embarrassing for the BJP and Mamata Banerjee as they both rooted for Kalam without even consulting him.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was also for Kalam.
In Patna, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (JD-U) said there should be a free and fair discussion in the NDA meeting. “We are in favour of consensus (on the president poll) but how will there be a consensus unless NDA itself comes up with a consensus? Efforts are on to build a consensus,” he said.
What came as a surprise was BJP MP Maneka Gandhi meeting Mukherjee. After her meet, she said she wants consensus on president.
The Congress, which wants other parties to also back Mukherjee, welcomed Kalam’s exit. “(Kalam) is a very distinguished person… I think it obviously must be an appropriate decision,” spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had earlier appeared to go with Mamata Banerjee, said in Lucknow: “The Kalam chapter (is over).”
A distinguished scientist, Kalam has been awarded the Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award.
He spearheaded the weaponization of India’s strategic missile systems, and was involved in the 1998 nuclear tests too.
The presidential election, if it takes place, will be held July 19. The results will be declared three days later.

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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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