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Mamata Suspects Sabotage In Kolkata’s Hatibagan Market Blaze

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 Mamata Suspects Sabotage In Kolkata's Hatibagan Market BlazeKolkata: A major portion of Kolkata’s age-old Hatibagan market was gutted in a devastating blaze that started early Thursday. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hinting at probable sabotage has ordered a probe into the fire. “”More than 80 percent of the market has been destroyed in the fire. Thirty fire tenders were pressed into service and the fire has been doused,” Fire Services and Disaster Management Minister Javed Khan said.

Banerjee who was the last of the ministers to visit the fire ravaged market lost no time to order a probe, hinting at a sabotage. “The local councillors have complained to me that for the last few days some suspicious people have been roaming around the market collecting information. Whether it is a case of deliberate fire or an accidental is a matter to be probed which will be done by the police, the fire department and the disaster management group,” Banerjee said.
Some of the owners whose shops were completely gutted also suspected foul play.
“Promoters have been eyeing the market for long to set up shopping malls here. Who knows may be the fire was caused by them to get the area on which our shops were located,” said a shopkeeper in a view echoed by others.
City mayor Sovan Chattopadhaya blamed the unplanned market for the fire, while Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim pointed neglect in putting in place fire safety measures. A team of forensic experts visited the spot and will return there Friday.
While the fire which took over eleven hours to extinguish did not claim any life, the shop owners who have lost all their belonging are staring at an uncertain future.
“I have lost everything to the fire. I don’t know how will I feed my family now,” said Tapas Biswas, who vended cosmetics in a make shift stall.
The fire-ravaged traders however can look up to their chief minister who has promised rehabilitation. “Although it is a nongovernmental market, there are many small traders who are poor and have lost everything in the fire. I have asked the (municipal) corporation to look into the matter and work towards their rehabilitation,” said Banerjee.
She was, however, critical of the spreading hawking stalls and said it not only caused inconvenience to the public at large but also resulted in congestion, hindering the fire brigade services.
Thursday’s fire was the third major such incident in Bengal over the last two days. On Wednesday, at least four people were injured in a fire at two hospitals. In December last year, a pre-dawn blaze at Kolkata’s AMRI hospital left 94 people dead. Most of them were patients who choked to death due to toxic smoke.
-IANS

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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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