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Suspense Continues Over Rushdie’s Jaipur Visit

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Jaipur: A mystery literary session on the Jan 24 roster of the Jaipur Literature Festival called “Midnight’s Child”, without naming the participants, kept fuelling speculation that controversial writer Salman Rushdie could descend on the pink city even as organisers Thursday said he would not be there on the first two days of the Jan 20-24 festival.
”Our stand on Salman Rushdie continues to be the same. He will not attend the festival for the first two days…beyond which we are not sure of his schedule,” Sanjoy Roy, the managing director of Teamwork Production, the organisers of the Jaipur festival, told the press here.
Roy said the festival has not rescinded the invitation to the author of “The Satanic Verses”. Roy and his teammates, writer Namita Gokhale and Nand Bhardwaj, met representatives of several minority organisations and heard their views. 
”We also presented our views,” Roy said, adding that the festival was a platform for freedom of expression – “to say, write and paint”. He refused to elaborate on the arguments put forth by the Muslim groups.
Roy clarified that “the festival has not received any request from the government to stop Salman Rushdie from coming to India”. “The festival has 208 authors and 150 performers… Salman Rushdie is a non-story that has been made into a story,” Roy said.
The festival has a glittering line-up of writers and celebrities like television host Oprah Winfrey and writers Michael Ondaatje, Ben Okri and playwright Tom Stoppard.
However, fans refused to give up hope on Rushdie’s visit. “There is a session listed on the last day of the festival, Midnights’s Child, which gives no name. Who knows… he might come to the delight of his admirers here,” Raj Gupta, a Jaipur-based student of English said.
Rushdie’s proposed visit to the festival came under cloud after several Islamic groups demanded that he should not be allowed to come to India for allegedly hurting religious sentiments of the community in his book “The Satanic Verses” – published in 1988. The book was banned in 1989 and a fatwa was issued against the author by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.
The clamour to stop his visit forced a rescheduling of Rushdie’s visit and his arrival to Jaipur Jan 20 was postponed. Rushdie’s name was also taken off the festival schedule.
Abul Qasim Nomani, vice chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, the country’s most influential Islamic seminary, said not allowing Rushdie in India was a “welcome” step. “He should apologise to the entire Muslim ummah (society) for his blasphemous remarks against Islam and the Prophet. Only then we can allow him to travel to India,” Nomani had said.
The media Thursday quoted intelligence bureau as saying, “Salman Rushdie could be a victim of a homegrown terror attack in case he decides to take part in the Jaipur Literary Festival”.
-IANS

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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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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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