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Manmohan Reshuffles Cabinet, Drops 7 Ministers

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Manmohan Reshuffles Cabinet, Drops 7 Ministers In a substantive yet incomplete exercise, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday dropped seven ministers, inducted V Kishore Chandra Deo and seven other new faces, and elevated three others including Jairam Ramesh from whom Environment and Forests has been taken away. In the much-talked about revamping of his ministry, Singh did not touch the ‘big four’ — Finance, Home, Defence and External Affairs — but shifted M Veerappa Moily from Law to Corporate Affairs and brought Salman Khursheed in his place.

Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi has been elevated to the Cabinet rank and given the Railways portfolio left vacant by Mamata Banerjee after she became West Bengal Chief Minister. Beni Prasad Verma becomes a Cabinet Minister for Steel, a portfolio he earlier held as Minister of State with Independent charge.

The other new faces in the Council of Ministers are Jayanthi Natarajan who gets Environment and Forests, Dibrugarh MP Paban Singh Ghatowar (DONER), Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyaya (health and family welfare), Alwar MP Jitendra Singh (home), Milind Deora (communication and IT) and Rajiv Shukla (parliamentary affairs).

Ministers who have been dropped from the Cabinet are M S Gill (Statistics and Programme Implementation), B K Handique (DONER), Kantilal Bhuria (Tribal Affairs), Murli Deora (Corporate Affairs) and Dayanidhi Maran (Textiles). While Maran had resigned last week in the wake of his being named in the 2G scam, Deora had offered his resignation citing old age and had reportedly sought a berth for his son Milind.

The new ministers were to be sworn in at a function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan Tuesday evening after which the strength of the Council will go up by one to 68. While there were eight additions, seven have been axed. Ramesh, who was seen as a pro-active minister but often courted controversies by his handling of environmental issues, has been shifted to Rural Development in the Cabinet.

The restructuring exercise appeared incomplete with additional charge of Textiles and Water Resources being given to Anand Sharma and P K Bansal respectively. Sharma retains Commerce and Industry and Bansal retains Parliamentary Affairs. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal continues to hold additional charge of Telecom, while Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi retains additional charge of Civil Aviation. Telecom portfolio went to Sibal after DMK representative A Raja resigned on allegations in 2G spectrum allocation.

No DMK representative was inducted as yet as replacements for Raja and Maran. Apparently, some of the portfolios have been kept as additional charges so that DMK can be accommodated if it chooses to send replacements. DMK is expected to decide on the issue at its General Council meeting on July 23-24 at Coimbatore.

Veteran Parliamentarian from Andhra Pradesh V Kishore Chandra Deo makes his entry into the Cabinet for the first time, making him the second minister from the state after S Jaipal Reddy. Srikant Jena, who nursed a grudge when he was made Minister of State in 2009, has got a promotion being given Independent charge of Statistics and Programme Implementation. However, he continues to be MoS in Chemicals and Fertilisers where DMK’s M K Alagiri continues to be Cabinet minister. Jena was a Cabinet Minister in the United Front government of 1996-97.

-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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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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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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