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No Magic Wand To Banish Corruption: Manmohan

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No Magic Wand To Banish Corruption: ManmohanAn assertive Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday described the Opposition’s attack on him as “clever propaganda to which some sections of the media had lent ear” for the perception that he was a lame-duck PM and his government corrupt or comatose. On the perception that crucial decisions of the government were taken by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the Prime Minister said he was not helpless but took full responsibility for “all the bad things this government has done”.

He said he was here to stay, perform and deliver — with the complete backing of the Congress party and Sonia Gandhi — on all promises and programmes of the UPA. Acknowledging that the 2G telecom and CWG scams, black money and other cases of corruption had caused genuine concern among people, Singh said, “Corruption is a big issue. It has caught the imagination of the people, and we will deal with it. But quite frankly, it is wrong for anyone to assume there is a magic wand which will lead to an instant solution of these difficult societal problems. We need systemic reforms.”

In the context of his government being described as corrupt day in and day out, Singh said, “There have been aberrations. We must punish the wrongdoers but we must not paint all civil servants as babus and contemptuously describe them as a despicable class.” Asked why he could not prevent scams like the 2G spectrum scandal, Singh said, “If a cabinet colleague tells me that he will scrupulously work by the norms of fairness and transparency, how can I conduct a post-mortem? I am not an expert on telecom matters nor can I spend so much time to look after each and every ministry.” On the dialogue with civil society, Singh said, “It is out of my respect for members of civil society that — whether it is Anna Hazare or Swami Ramdev — I myself took the trouble to interact with them.”
He said he had assured Hazare and Ramdev that the government would come with the lokpal bill in the monsoon session of Parliament and that it was not a commitment made under duress. “But then it is for Parliament to pass it or amend it and that right cannot be taken away.” During a 100-minute interaction with five editors at his official residence, a relaxed Singh fielded questions confidently on a wide range of issues. Speaking warmly about his equation with Sonia Gandhi, Singh said he had received the maximum cooperation from her. “I have never felt that she is an obstacle to things we want to do.”
Stating that the two of them meet one-on-one every week, Singh said Sonia Gandhi had done a superb job as party chief for the past 15 years. On occasional statements from Congress functionaries that Rahul Gandhi should become PM, Singh said the party and its president had entrusted him with the Prime Minister’s job and he had not heard any contrary view from the Congress high command. “Personally, if you ask me, the general proposition that younger people should take over, I think, is the right sentiment. Whenever the party makes up its mind, I will be very happy to step down, but so long as I am here, I have a job to do.” He said the action taken  by Pakistan on dealing with terror was unsatisfactory but India had to keep them engaged. On the possibility of his visiting Pakistan, Singh said they were keen about it but “there must be something solid to achieve.”

-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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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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