Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bofors case: CBI refuses to reveal informaton on Quattrocchi under RTI

NEW DELHI: The CBI, which has decided to close the case against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, has refused to reveal information about him relating to Bofors payoff case under the RTI Act on the ground that it will "impede" the prosecution of the accused.

The disclosure "would impede the process of apprehension and prosecution of accused," the investigating agency said in reply to a plea under the Right to Information Act.

CBI said as the criminal case against Quattrocchi was still pending in the trial court and that various other petitions relating to the case were yet to be disposed of in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, the documents and the information can neither be provided nor allowed to be inspected.

The CBI's reply came on the RTI application filed by advocate Ajay Agrawal seeking all documents, notings and files pertaining to defreezing of Quattrocchi and his wife's accounts at London.

The lawyer, who has opposed closure of case against Quattrocchi in the apex court and trial court, had also sought all information including advices, opinions and notings of law officers as well as CBI's officers who allegedly favoured him, leading to withdrawal of the Red Corner Notice against him in November 2008. 

Five killed, 50 injured as three blasts rock Assam

GUWAHATI: Three serial explosions went off in Nalbari district of Assam on Sunday morning, killing five people and leaving more than 50 injured, police said.

The explosions went off in a span of 40 minutes.

The first bomb was kept on a parked bicycle near a police station and exploded around 10 am.

The second went off 20 metres away from the police station, while the third was near a market.

Police suspect that militants of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) could be behind the blasts.

Nalbari district is about 70 km west of Assam's main city of Guwahati.

Army to unveil war memorial on Nov 24

The Army will dedicate Balidan Sthambh, a war memorial, to the people of the state on November 24. The Army has constructed this unique memorial at Bahu Wali Rakh in Jammu.

“Since Independence, the state has witnessed many wars fought by the country. The history of the state is replete with a saga of extraordinary valour, enduring courage and supreme sacrifice made by the countrymen in upholding the sanctity of its borders and the sovereignty of the nation,” a defence spokesperson said.

The Balidan Sthambh comprises an imposing 60-m high tower with an external flame at its base. The tower is encircled by a wall wherein on one side battle accounts of each war fought in the state have been inscribed, while on the other side carries the names of martyrs.

From Pak :- 1971: The Lessons We Did Not Learn

(Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of posts - from different perspectives - we will carry on the events of 1971 and their relevance to Pakistan today.)
Today, is November 21.

November 21, 1971, was a day of infamy for Pakistan. On this day that Indian Air Force planes crossed the international borders in East Pakistan and attacked PAF planes flying ground support missions well inside the Pakistani territory. While Indian ground forces had been covertly supporting Mukti Bahini, this was the first act of aggression across international boundaries that was the actual beginning of hostilities between India and Pakistan. On November 21, 1971, what had been an internal conflict within Pakistan territory became an international conflict when India attacked Pakistan.

The saga of East Pakistan Air Force during the 1971 war written by the Air Office Commanding EPAF can be read at the blog Planet Earth. In this post, I wish to look at what we in Pakistan can learn today from the events of 1971. With all the bloodshed and mayhem going on in Pakistan, it may seem inappropriate to talk about the subject of the 1971 war. Still I think there are many lessons that we can take from that part of our history and hopefully not make the same mistakes twice.

First, let me be clear that the root cause of Pakistan’s breakup in 1971 was a lack of implementation of democracy and majority rule. While seeds of dissension had been sown considerably earlier, it was when Mr. Bhutto threatened to “break the legs” of any politician who dared to go to East Pakistan and form alliances with Awami League, that the die was cast of the eventual breakup. Afterall, the Awami League had won the majority in the fairest elections ever held in Pakistan.

When President Gen.Yahya decided not to hand over the power to Mr. Mujibur Rehman, who was the elected leader of the majority of people of Pakistan, the West Pakistani leadership failed to live up to its constitutional obligations. Based on this alone the East Pakistanis had the right to demand that West Pakistan change its name to something else. West Pakistanis had decided not to follow Quaid e Azam’s emphasis on Unity. The problems of FATA today are in many ways are also linked to lack of democracy and civil institutions. We have only belatedly held elections in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a step in the right direction. It needs to be followed up by similar elections in all the other areas still not enjoying the right to vote.

A second lesson from the 1971 experience is that the use of defense forces to quell civil unrest is excessive, which in the total analysis is far more detrimental to the resolution of root causes. In 1971 the Pakistani government should have used civil defense forces to stop the Mukti Bahini, and not military forces. Use of heavy guns, armor and air power actually played into their hands, as these blunt weapons invariably cause excessive civil casualties. Armies are trained to fight brutal battles where no holds are barred. Even the most precisely dropped bombs by airplanes result in widespread damage to life and property. It appears that we have not learnt this lesson. By not adequately training the civil defense forces and providing them the tools necessary to quell internal aggression, we have ended up using massive force in Swat and now in Waziristan.

There is something uniquely empowering when people who hold powerful offices are held accountable to public. When countries try members of their defense forces for war crimes, it actually strengthens their institutions and rule of law. If there are claims of war crimes alleged by Bangladesh government and conversely allegations of atrocities by Mukti Bahini, let us have joint war crime trials and let justice be served. After all they were all Pakistanis then. In the life of nations, thirty years are just a blink of the eye. The bitter truth is that we in West Pakistan are guilty of the greater fault in the breakup; we should therefore go further in rebuilding genuine relations with Bangladesh.

No country worth anything should ever abandon its citizens. Pakistanis of Bihari origin (’stranded Pakistanis’) were loyal to Pakistan and they bore the brunt of the military loss in East Pakistan. There are still nearly a quarter million Pakistanis who have a refugee status and living in camps in Bangladesh. If Pakistan could essentially assimilate three million Afghan refugees, it is very difficult to justify allowing our most fervently loyal Pakistanis to continue living in squalor in Bangladesh. We must find a way to repatriate our brethren from Bangladesh.

History must never be forgotten, no matter whether it is flattering to you or not. It is well know than each nation tells its people the lies it chooses. We in Pakistan have done this too, including on the events on 1971. And so have the Indians. Recently, for example, the Indian Foreign Minister made the comment on Fareed Zakaria’s television show in USA, that Pakistan started all the wars with India. One hopes the Indian Foreign Minister will eventually make peace with the facts of November 21. And so must we in Pakistan.

This means accepting the mistakes we made - like all the ones I have listed above - but it also means honoring the valour of those who made sacrifices. Maybe it was the trauma of loosing a big part of the country, that we never really celebrated amazing acts of valor by members of our defense forces. Amongst the mistakes made by the defense forces, there were also great acts of heroism. One that stands out like a shining beacon is the heroic stand taken by airmen of PAF. Which country asks its airmen to take one squadron of aged sub sonic planes to fight eleven squadrons of considerable modern and supersonic planes. This is exactly what we asked PAF airmen to do in East Pakistan. They held off IAF for two days before the runway got cratered to an extent that they could not launch any fighters. IAF with over one hundred fighters and bombers at its disposal should have rendered the solitary airbase dysfunctional in a matter of hours. PAF pilots braved taking off when under attack, fighting an enemy with ten to one ratio and landing under attack. The PAF airmen turned the aircrafts around with bombs dropping all around them. I cannot think of anyone more worthy of Nishan e Haiders than the East PAF airmen in general and pilots in particular.

Secure coastline as distant as its length

One does not need to be an expert to decode that India’s vast coastline has been the weakest link in its security plan. One knew it much before 10 terrorists exploited this easy route to run amok in Mumbai, spraying innocent citizens with bullets, and killing close to 200. The metro has seen a lot of bloodshed in the last 20-odd years from the 1994 serial blasts to the 2006 explosions in local trains, but 26/11 was a watershed.
The vulnerability of the sea frontier had always been an essential component of innumerable meetings that had routinely taken place in the power corridors of Delhi on national security. Yet, when terrorists landed on Mumbai’s shore in a dinghy, they were absolutely unchecked and free to unleash mayhem.
In the defence minister’s own words, the response to one of the biggest terrorist attacks on the country was “totally uncoordinated”. Now, A K Antony does not have a habit of sounding tough. What he meant was that the security agencies not only failed to pre-empt the strike, they were also clueless about how to deal with the entailing crisis.
No sooner than the terrorist guns were silenced after that 65-hour ordeal, the security establishment was fired with several rounds of uneasy questions. What came to light was a collective failure of every government agency. Each of its wings had collapsed.
A year later, the pertinent query still does the rounds: “Has anything changed?” This, despite the government having gone into an overdrive to wipe out its past mistakes. It even ordered a complete revamp of coastal security. Three months after the Mumbai attack, the ministry of defence announced its maritime security plan in February. The highlights of this plan were: Indian navy designated as the authority responsible for overall maritime security • Joint Operation Centres (comprising navy, coast guard, state marine police and other central and state agencies) at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair • JOCs to be headed by naval commanders in chief • Buying new assets for navy and coast guard — new ships, fast patrol boats and aircraft etc • Setting up of a new specialised force called Sagar Prahari Bal for protection of naval assets • Regional Coast Guard HQ in Gujarat to deal with specific threat from Pakistan • Nine additional Coast Guard stations at Karwar, Ratnagiri, Gopalpur, Minicoy, Androth, Karaikal, Hutbay and Nizamapatnam.
Nine months after the grand announcement was made, the government’s own report card on implementing its schemes tells a story of delays, distraction and disputes:
• Equipment is still being procured for setting up 46 radars along the coasts and islands as part of the Rs 300 crore project being executed by PSU Bharat Electronics • So far, only two advanced offshore patrol vessels and two interceptor boats have been commissioned. The remaining six are expected to be inducted by next March • Five contracts for 74 ships and four Dornier aircraft have been signed. The MoD wants to ensure that their deliveries are not delayed • Eighty fast interceptor craft worth Rs 320 crore for the new Sagar Prahari Bal is still being procured • The Coast Guard will need around 3000 more personnel but their recruitment will take at least 13 more years • Regional HQ at Gandhinagar is now operational and an air squadron has been activated in Porbandar • The ministry of home affairs has made 64 coastal police stations operational but only 25 of the 97 checkposts planned are functioning right now • Only 42 out of the proposed 152 boats have been provided to these police stations and checkposts.
Clearly, the new coastal security system is still in its nascent stages. Experts say it’s not about buying new surveillance equipment or patrol boats, but some key operational issues need to be ironed out. The Navy and Coast Guard are fighting a turf war.
The government was seeking to appoint a maritime security adviser, but these disputes are holding back the appointment. The navy, meanwhile, is worried at the orientation of the state police forces. Navy and Coast Guard have carried out several exercises in the last 11 months all along the coasts to bring together various agencies entrusted with the task of securing the shores.
In July, an ‘Op Barricade’ was held along the Tamil Nadu coast where 13 agencies joined hands and local fishermen were roped in. Later, the September-October Operation Rakshak saw vigorous interrogation of merchant and fishing vessels operating in the Indian waters — for better coordination. But the navy, which is now the nodal agency, laments that other departments are not security-oriented. These departments and agencies need to be trained before they can be made part of security infrastructure. For instance, the security of ports is in the hands of the CISF, but it’s not equipped to operate in a sea environment. The navy is now training CISF to operate at sea. The government has earmarked Rs 6000 crore for revamping coastal security. But it will take years before the money will be spent to buy a new system, which is at least close to being foolproof.—

Foreigners to Kargil war outpost

Srinagar, Nov. 21: Foreign feet will again stride into the Kargil war’s last outpost where armed infiltrators had once sneaked in — but this time they are welcome.
Ten years after the 1999 incursion, the Union home ministry has opened the Turtuk area in Ladakh to foreign visitors by relaxing the Protected Area Permit Regime.
Part of Leh district, Turtuk was the war’s last outpost on the Line of Control where the infiltrators had entered more than a kilometre inside.
“It (the Union ministry’s move) will place Nubra Valley prominently on the world tourism map,” Jammu and Kashmir tourism minister Nawang Ringzin Jora said.
“The decision will go a long way in bringing the virgin locales of the region into the limelight,” Jora added.
Leh Police chief B.S. Tuti said Turtuk, part of Nubra Valley, situated 220km from Leh and 660km from Srinagar, lay along the Shyok river.
In Buddhist-majority Leh, most of Turtuk’s 3,000 inhabitants of its seven villages are Muslims and it was part of Pakistan’s Northern Areas until the 1971 war.
Some of its elderly residents were even part of the Pakistani army and had fought against Indian forces then.
Twenty-eight years later during the Kargil war, the Indian Army had a tough time reaching supplies to the area.
While other war theatres could be easily accessed from Kargil, supplies to Turtuk had to take a tortuous route through the Khardungla Pass, where the world’s highest motorable road is located at an altitude of 18,380ft.
Tourism minister Jora said earlier, domestic tourists were allowed to travel to the area in groups of four while there was complete restriction on the movement of foreign visitors.
“After the current relaxation, foreign tourists can go in twos. Permits for visiting these areas are issued by the concerned deputy commissioner,” he said. “From now on tourists will be able to travel along the banks of the Pangong Lake.”
The lake falls on the India- China border.
“A large number of foreign tourists are already visiting Nubra Valley for Bactrian camel safaris and the hot sulphur springs of Panamik,” he said.
Ladakh is a popular destination for foreign tourists who continued to flock to the cold desert when militancy-scarred Kashmir was out of bounds for most.
Foreign tourists visiting the region has touched 75,000 from the modest figure of 500 in 1974, when Ladakh was opened for tourism.
The tourist season, which used to be confined to July-August, now extends from May till the end of October.

2-day Exhibition to showcase Army

SAMBALPUR: Indian Army will organise a two-day ‘Know Your Army Exhibition, 2009’ at Veer Surendra Sai (VSS) Stadium here beginning November 24.Addressing mediapersons here today, Commandant, Army Air Defence Centre, Gopalpur, Brigadier B K Dhingra said the exhibition would showcase Indian Army’s weaponry and equipment. Besides hot air ballooning and microlite flying will also be exhibited. He also said daredevils of the Army would perform para-jumping, para-sailing and motorcycle displays showcasing their fighting prowess. Apart from this a dog show will be held on the inaugural day displaying the role of dogs in Indian Army. Informing that the exhibition is being organised for the first time outside a State capital, Dhingra said the objective is to make the people from remote areas of the State aware of Army and its accomplishments and to motivate the youths to join Army. Moreover, stalls on Ex-servicemen Compensatory Health Scheme and army placement besides a free medical camp will be put up.

French army team complete 6-day visit of Kashmir

Srinagar, Nov 21: A French army delegation comprising counter-terrorism experts completed their 6-day visit to Indian administered Kashmir during which they were briefed about the strategies by Indian army to tackle militancy in the region.

Indian army’s officiating spokesman, K S Rathi said the French Army delegation visited Indian army’s battle schools in Kashmir. “During their visit to the battle schools, the French army officials including the counter insurgency experts were briefed in detail about the various functional, training and administrative aspects of battle craft and tactical drills being imparted to the soldiers to cope up with the challenges of militancy in Kashmir,” he said.

Indian army is battling militancy in Kashmir since 1989 and has suffered heavy casualties during the 20 years of turmoil in the region, which has been declared as “nuclear flashpoint” by former US president Bill Clinton. Even on Saturday, an Indian soldier was killed in a gunfight with militants in the Indian administered Kashmir.

Rathi said the French army delegation was acquainted with methodology of conducting people friendly operations and ensuring Human Rights in the conduct of counter insurgency operations.

The French team arrived in Indian administered on November 16. “The visit was a part of the implementation plan for the defence cooperation and exchanges of army with the French counterparts,” Indian army spokesman said. Earlier in October, Australian Army chief Lt Gen Ken J Gillespie had visited Indian administered Kashmir and was briefed about the situation by senior Indian army officials. Some top US army officials have also visited Kashmir in past.

Two terrorists, soldier killed in Jammu and Kashmir Source: Two terrorists, soldier killed in Jammu and Kashmir gunbattle, indian troops, jammu and kashmir, Poonch

Jammu, Nov 22 (IANS) Two terrorists and a soldier were killed in a gunbattle after Indian [^] troops foiled an infiltration bid from across the Line of Control (LoC) – in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district late Saturday, according to reports.
The reports said that there was heavy gun fire from across the LoC Saturday evening in Mendhar sector, about 230 km north of Jammu, as a group of infiltrators tried to sneak into the Indian territory under the cover of fire.

Indian troops retaliated and killed two infiltrators, while losing one soldier.