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Marathoner Fauja Singh Unruffled By Guinness Snub

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Chandigarh: His marathons at the ripe old age of 100 may not have been recognised by Guinness World Records on technical grounds, but Punjab-born British citizen Fauja Singh says the only thing he cares about is to keep running.

In fact Fauja, who will turn 101 April 1 this year, says he has not even heard of Guinness.

”Mainu taan Guinness book da naam vi nahin pata, taan main uhdi fikar kyon karaan (I don’t even know the name of Guinness book, so why should I bother about it),” Fauja Singh asked during an interview with IANS here.

The marathoner is currently in India on a visit to his village Beas Pind, near Jalandhar, and other places in Punjab.

”My job is to run and I will continue to do that. Recognition by any book or agency will not affect my spirit towards running.

”For the record though, you can check my British passport that states my year of birth as 1911. Even the Queen (Elizabeth) sent me a congratulatory telegram April 1 last year (2011) on my completing 100 years,” the Punjabi-speaking Fauja Singh, who is illiterate, said.

Guinness had refused to recognise Fauja Singh as the world’s oldest marathoner in October last year after he successfully completed the Toronto Marathon (42.195 km) in just over eight hours. Though Guinness officials came to witness his feat in Toronto, they refused to acknowledge him as the oldest man running marathons as he could not produce a birth certificate.

Chandigarh-based author Khushwant Singh, who wrote Fauja Singh’s biography, “Turbaned Tornado” last year, says Guinness not recognizing Fauja Singh as the oldest marathoner showed a definite bias.

”In 1911, when Fauja Singh was born in a Punjab village, there was nothing like birth certificates. I feel that rules of Guinness book and other agencies in western countries are quite biased towards achievers from Asian countries. Would they question the British government, which ruled India at that time (1911), why it didn’t have birth certificates at that time,” Khushwant asked.

Guinness had recognized Dimitrion Yordanidis, 98, from Greece as the oldest marathon runner in 1976. However, there is little evidence to prove that Yordanidis, born in 1878 in Greece, had produced his birth certificate.

Fauja Singh moved to London in 1992. Before that, he used to go to there occasionally.

The death of his son Kuldip and earlier of his wife forced Fauja to search for a worthwhile alternative in life.

At 89 years, he took seriously to running and ended up in international marathon events in London, Glasgow and Toronto.

When he first turned up for training at Redbridge-Essex with coach Harmandar Singh, he was dressed in a three-piece suit. Fauja ran his first race, the London Marathon, in 2000. Before that, his early memory of being a runner was, at best, limited to participating in village sporting competitions before World War-II.

He was well-known in his village, where he was a simple farmer, for running “from one place to another”.

Fauja has also rubbed shoulders with the likes of football star David Beckham and other sport celebrities as brand ambassador and poster-boy of leading footwear company Adidas for their international campaign.

Billboards featuring him once used to be prominently displayed on busy London streets.

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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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