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Shanti Bhushan Ready To Concede Noida Land Allotment Plots

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Shanti Bhushan Ready To Concede Noida Land Allotment PlotsUncomfortable in the face of the demand for his resignation as co-chair of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee, following reports that two Noida plots were virtually gifted to him and his younger son, Jayant, Shanti Bhushan said on Wednesday he wouldn’t challenge it if the allotments were scrapped. But Bhushan, a former law minister who has been under the scanner since anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare proposed his name as co-chair and his elder son Prashant as a member of the committee, denied any wrongdoing. The allotment letters for two plots of 10,000 square metres each without an auction or a draw of lots were given to the Bhushans on payment of 10% of the price of Rs 3.5 crore. The rest of the amount was to be paid in 16 instalments.

Bhushan claimed no allotment had been made from any discretionary quota. “To suggest any discretionary quota is false and misleading.” He, however, conceded that in case the allotment has been arbitrary, it should be cancelled.

The group of ministers on corruption, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, is scrutinising the discretionary land allotment powers of the central and state governments, considered to be one of the major sources of corruption. Civil society activists, however, dismissed demands for the resignation of the Bhushans from the committee. Lokayukta of Karnataka and a committee member, justice Santosh Hegde questioned the motive and timing of the allegations.

“To me it appears to be a concerted attempt to break Anna Hazare’s team,” Hegde said. Asked about the acceptance of plots by the Bhushans, he said, “What is being raked up is either five years old or two years old. Those who are trying to create sensation everyday could have objected when the committee was formed and please tell me who has probed the allegations?”

Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said mere allegations against noted lawyers couldn’t be a ground for recusal. “Please point the illegality committed by them. I vouch for their integrity; simply because somebody wants them out of the panel is not a good enough reason,” he said.

The government refused to be drawn into the controversy. “It is for Hazare to decide about his team and its propriety,” said a senior minister on condition of anonymity.

The Congress and even the BJP, which came out in support of the Bhushans on Tuesday, chose to keep mum on the issue. But a BJP spokesperson lambasted former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh for questioning the Bhushans’ integrity. He said on Wednesday that the issue was between the government and civil society and Singh was not party to the whole episode. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s students wing, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, asked Hazare to disown the Bhushans.

-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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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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