New Delhi: Sonia Gandhi Thursday chaired the first meeting of the Congress after her surgery in the US, providing visible relief to a party battling an aggressive opposition and Team Anna.
The 64-year-old presided over the Central Election Committee (CEC) for about an hour at her 10 Janpath residence, the meeting attended by senior leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukheree and her son Rahul Gandhi. The meeting was called to finalize the party’s candidates for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Congress sources said Gandhi looked healthy and cheerful although doctors, worried about her health, have told her not to exert herself. Gandhi made it a point both to receive and send off the prime minister as has been her practise, the sources said.
Party leaders admitted that her first official engagement had come earlier than expected. “We are very happy that she took part in the meeting. We pray she recovers fully,” said Congress spokesman Raashid Alvi. Party general secretary Digvijay Singh said Gandhi “fully participated” in the deliberations. “She was very happy… It was not apparent that she had undergone a surgery,” he said, adding her participation had enthused party workers.
Another party leader who did not wish to be identified by name or designation admitted that the Congress was relieved that she was back in action.
Gandhi was away from India for almost six weeks. She underwent surgery for an undisclosed ailment in the US. She returned Sep 8. Neither the Congress nor her family has disclosed her medical problem.
The Anna Hazare campaign against corruption that almost paralyzed the government happened during her absence. And with a string of corruption scandals plaguing the government, the opposition had also become aggressive during this period, forcing many in the Congress to rue her absence. “We are all relieved and thrilled. Her absence had caused a lot of concern. We wish and pray for her long life,” a party leader functioning from the Congress headquarters said.
Party sources said that Gandhi had not been meeting party leaders — except Rahul Gandhi — since her return but went through documents sent to her. Former party secretary Ranji Thomas said Congress workers feel that her return would bring greater vigour in their work. Yet another Congress leader added: “The party appeared directionless in her absence.”
Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin
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.
Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told
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.
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.
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.