Rohit Kumar's Views

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Archive for August 2010

BlackBerry to offer India access from Sept 1: govt source

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BlackBerry maker Research in Motion will give the Indian government access to encrypted data from Sept. 1, while the Indian home ministry wants BlackBerry, Google and Skype to set up servers in India, a government source familiar with the matter said Monday.

India says it wants to fully track and read BlackBerry’s secure email and instant messaging services that officials fear could be misused by militants.

Indian officials have also expressed concerns over security threats emerging from Internet-based messaging services from providers like Google and Skype.

“They have given some access, which we will operationalise from Sept. 1,” the person said, referring to RIM.

“They will have to provide full access to all communications that go through India. They will have to set up a server in India,” the person said.

‘Ground Zero mosque’ Imam thanks U.S. Jews for support

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By: Natasha Mozgovaya

ADL says plan to build mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is ‘counterproductive’; Jstreet collects over 10,000 signatures in support of plan.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the main force behind a plan to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero in New York, thanked on Tuesday the American Jewish supporters who backed the proposed center amid a widespread contoversy.

“I express my heartfelt appreciation for the gestures of goodwill and support from our Jewish friends and colleagues”, he said. “Your support is a reflection of the great history of mutual cooperation and understanding that Jewish and Muslim civilizations have shared in the past, and remains a testament to the enduring success of our continuing dialogue and dedication to upholding religious freedom, tolerance and cooperation among us all as Americans.”

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, executive director of the Cordoba Initiative

Tempers have been heating up in the New York City area over the plans by the American Society for Muslim Advancement and another Islamic group known as the Cordoba Initiative to build a $100 million, 13-story, Islamic cultural center and mosque just two blocks from Ground Zero.

Other provocative aspects include the fact that the majority of the money will allegedly come from the Saudis and the Ford Foundation, as well as the plan to inaugurate the new center on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

On Saturday, the Anti Defamation League condoned the plan, calling it “counterproductive.”

The Cordoba Initiative N.Y.C project, which became known as the “ground zero mosque”, stirred heated national debate in the US, which shifted since the last Wednesday to the Jewish organizations, following the statement on the controversial project.

The ADL stressed its commitment to the freedom of religion and rejection of bigotry – but, regarding the sensitivity of the site chosen for the new Islamic center, ADL defined the insistence of the Cordoba initiative to build the 13 storey Islamic community center, including the mosque, two blocks away from the 9/11 attacks site as “counterproductive,” adding that “proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam”, said a statement.

Yet, the liberal Jews were quick to slash the ADL on its “hypocrisy” and the harm the latest decision caused to their declared mission. The pro-Israeli lobby JStreet collected over 10,000 signatures in support of the center that were delivered to the Landmarks Preservation Commission ahead of its vote on the Cordoba House (the commission unanimously voted Tuesday to deny landmark designation to the site).

“Appalled by the opposition to plans by American Muslims to build a community center in lower Manhattan modeled after Jewish Community Centers all over the country, J Street is collecting petitions in support of religious freedom and against anti-Muslim bigotry”, J street announced on their website.

Liberal “Tikkun” magazine editor Rabbi Michael Lerner called ADL’s decision a “shame,” adding that “ADL leader Abe Foxman presented the position of this organization that claims to oppose discrimination by reading a formal statement that seemed to be a perfect example of shooting and crying.”

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the founder of The Shalom Center, supported the center along with about 30 rabbis and Jewish leaders, and asked the supporters to contact Foxman’s office to make him change his organization’s position.

AJC also declared Tuesday that the Cordoba Islamic Center “has a right to be built – but urged the founders of the center “to address concerns about funding and support for terrorism”.

The Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman called to impose some conditions on the center construction – basically, to stop the project “until there is further evaluation of its impact on the families and friends of victims of the 9-11 attacks, the intention of the center’s sponsors, and their sources of funding”.

Sharif el-Gamal, lead developer of the Park 51 project and member of the Jewish community center in upper Manhattan told Haaretz he did not expect the attention they have been receiving as he had been trying to buy the building for five years with this intention to build the center. “I’ve been looking for almost 10 years within this vicinity. It’s not easy to find real estate in New-York.”

El-Gamal, who has a Jewish sister-in-law, added that “the mosque will be a small component of a larger facility and it will be run as a separate non-profit. There will be a gym, a pool, restaurant. A spa, multi-use facilities, and also a September 11 memorial space to honor the victims.”

Critics of the mosque have raised the fact that Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf went on record as telling CNN, right after the 9/11 attacks, “U.S. policies were an accessory to the crime that happened. We (the U.S.) have been an accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. Osama bin Laden was made in the USA.”

Responding to the critics, Abraham Foxman told “Haaretz” that his statement was distorted by “all kinds of groups and people with political agendas.”

“ADL’s position is very clear and simple – it is about location and sensitivity, it is not about religious freedom and prejudice. When the Catholic Church wanted to build a prayer center near Auschwitz, we said no and called the world to confront it,” Foxman said.

“We were labeled anti Christians, until Pope John Paul said they can build their center one mile away. And it’s been there for the last 15 years, without any conflict,” he added.

Indian forces kill 10 Kashmiris

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SRINAGAR, India – Indian troops killed nine suspected militants as they tried to cross the de facto border with Pakistan that divides the volatile region of Kashmir, the army said Monday.

An Indian policeman fires a teargas shell towards Kashmiri protestors in Srinigar

Elsewhere in Indian-controlled Kashmir fresh violence left a boy dead and 12 injured when police opened fire on anti-India protesters in separate clashes.

“The army has foiled a major infiltration attempt by killing nine militants who were trying to infiltrate into (Indian) Kashmir from across the Line of Control (LoC),” army spokesman J.S. Brar told AFP.

He said a gun battle erupted late Sunday in western Uri sector and continued throughout the night after troops noticed a group of militants trying to sneak in under the cover of darkness.

“The operation is still continuing in the dense forests,” Brar said, adding army reinforcements had been sent to the scene of the fighting.

India has in the past accused the Pakistani army of providing covering fire for infiltrating militants. Islamabad denies the charge.

India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire along the LoC in 2003 and began a peace process in 2004. Since then there have been sporadic clashes with both sides accusing each other of violating the truce.

A young Muslim boy was killed and four others injured when police opened fire to disperse stone-throwing protesters during an anti-India demonstration in southern Anantnag town Monday evening, police said.

The death brought more people out on the streets chanting slogans such as “Blood for blood!”

In Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, six people were injured when police opened fire.

Police said the incident occurred when a group of protesters hurled stones at police and shouted slogans. Residents said there were no protests when the shots were fired.

Doctors said one of the injured was in serious condition. Two of the wounded were relatives of senior separatist Yasin Malik.

The policeman who opened fire has been suspended, pending an inquiry, a police statement said.

Two more stone-hurling protesters were injured in southern Pulwama district when police opened fire at violent demonstrators, police said.

Tensions have been threatening to boil over during 11 weeks of demonstrations with 65 protesters and bystanders killed in the Muslim-majority region, where anti-India feelings run deep.

650 Indians put on Interpol’s wanted list

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NEW DELHI: The number of Indians or people of Indian origin on Interpol’s ‘wanted’ list is on the rise with 656 of them getting red-alert notices in little over five years.

The global crime monitoring organisation has issued 656 red-alert notices against Indians or people of Indian origin between January 2005 and May 2010, generally for crimes committed in countries other than India.

A highest of 150 red notices were issued last year while the number stood at 75 in the first five months of this year.

Many of these wanted people are involved in acts of terrorism or serious crimes like rape of a minor.

A red alert or red corner notice obliges immigration and police forces of all member countries to arrest the person concerned and inform the authorities in his home country, or the country where the crime was committed.

Interpol is the world’s largest international police organisation, with 188 member countries.

A total of 133 notices wee issued in 2007 while the number stood at 119 in 2006.

About 85 such notices were drawn in 2008 and 94 others in 2005, the CBI, which acts as a nodal agency for international policing in India, said in reply to an RTI query.

The countries where the largest number of offences have been reported include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, USA, Hong Kong, Russia, Belarus, Egypt, Australia and Belgium.

The offences include money laundering, tax evasion, sexual harassment, disrupting railway traffic, mail fraud and demanding dowry. At least 25 per cent of the offences relate to overspeeding and road accidents.

Exercising his Right to Information, Ashwini Shrivastava had asked for details of red alert notice issued against people of Indian origin in the past five years including the details of offences.

One of the Interpol notices names Haji Ibrahim Salim for alleged involvement in a terrorist act, Shaikh Anwar for allegedly waging war against a country, Kochipeedikayil Shabeerkayil, Sabir Kochipeedikayil and Nazir Thadipeedikayil for planting an explosive, Shaja Khan for allegedly planting a bomb and Iqbal Bhatkal for his alleged involvement in unlawful activities, it said.

PPP govt defies SC again in new promotion rules

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By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has finally notified the rules for the promotion of government servants to BS-22 at a time and in a manner that perfectly suits some of the influential bureaucrats, including the principal secretary to the prime minister.

While the Supreme Court had desired the revival of the promotion rules rescinded in 1998, which set the condition of at least three years service in BS-21 to make an officer eligible for promotion to BS-22, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has reduced it to two-years, ignoring the SC directives.

It is interesting to note that the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Nargis Sethi, who too got demoted to BS-21 after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, completed her two years in BS-21 on Wednesday, August 26, 2010. The new rules were notified on August 16, only 10 days back.

The Supreme Court had handed down its decision in April this year but it took the government quite a few months to frame the new rules.

Initially, the government had given an indication of reviving the 1998 rules containing the condition of minimum three-years of service in BS-21 but later it changed its mind despite the fact that the Federal Public Service Commission chief Justice (retd) Bhagwandas, when consulted, had fully supported the condition of minimum three-years of service in BS-21.

The 2009 promotions of 54 bureaucrats to BS-22 by Prime Minister Gilani were nullified by the Supreme Court as these promotions grossly negated merit and resorted to the policy of pick and choose. While the fact remains that quite a few demoted secretaries were promoted to BS-22 within a few months of their promotion to BS-21, several demoted officers would have been ineligible even today for promotion if the 1998 promotion rules had been revived.

These include Principal Secretary to the prime minister, Nargis Sethi, who was promoted to BS-21 on August 26, 2008; Ahmad Bakhsh Lehri, promoted to BS-21 on 26-06-2008; Ghulam Ali Shah, 26-06-2008; Javed Mahmood, 02-01-2008; Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, 02-01-2008; Sami Saeed, 02-01-2008; Sohail Ahmad, 02-01-2008; Sayyed Jawed Ali Shah Bukhari, 29-05-2009; Azhar Ali Farooqui, 30-04-2008; Ghulam Muhammad Rind, 23-05-2009; Ghulam Rasool Ahpan, 28-02-2009; Ahmad Mahmood Zahid, 18-12-2007; Abdul Shafiq, 16-05-2009; Neelam S Ali, 29-12-2007; Khalid Idrees, 18-12-2007; Inamullah Khan, 18-12-2007; Taweed Akhtar, 17-11-2007; Agha Sarwar Qazilbash, 19-12-2007 and Mansoor Suhail, 15-05-2009.

But the rules notified by the government now suit most of the above officers, many of whom are holding key positions. While nullifying the promotions of 54 officers, who were elevated purely on the whims of the prime minister and in the absence of any promotion rules, the Supreme Court’s decision said: “It would be appreciated that to ensure fairness and justness, the rules rescinded on April 4, 1998 are re-enacted accordingly.”

According to the just notified promotion rules, the conditions setting the eligibility of the officer for his promotion to BS-22 include (i) Twenty-five years service in Basic Scale 17 and above, excluding the period of suspension not counted as duty and extraordinary leave, and has completed at least two years in a post in Basic Scale 21; (ii) at least three “very good” reports during the last six years; (iii) No penalty under Government Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 1973 or under the Removal from Service (Special Powers) Ordinance, 2000 (since repealed) has been imposed upon him during his tenure in BS-21; and (iv) possesses sufficient variety of experience.

Under these rules, the promotions to BS-22 would be considered by a high powered selection board comprising the prime minister, who would be the chairman of the board, and members including principal secretary to the prime minister, cabinet secretary, secretary establishment and administrative secretary concerned, who would be co-opted member.
The constitution of the board reflects one strange fact that all the permanent members of this high powered selection board are those three top secretaries, who work directly under the prime minister and do not report to any minister.

The principal secretary to the prime minister, secretary establishment and secretary cabinet are considered as the top bureaucratic aides of the chief executive. These rules shall apply to all posts in Basic Scale 22 in the All Pakistan Service or, as the case may be, civil service of the federation or posts in connection with the affairs of the Federation, including the post in BS-22 as secretary in the secretariat group or equivalent in the regularly constituted occupational groups and services.

India points to rise of Hindu ‘saffron terror’ risk

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NEW DELHI – India’s home minister warned on Wednesday that Hindu extremists posed an increasing risk to national security, dubbing the threat as “saffron terror”.

Chidambaram also warned that the government faced a lengthy battle to defeat India’s worsening Maoist insurgency

The colour saffron is associated with Hindu nationalism in India, and some right-wing groups have been linked to militant attacks in the north and west of the country.

However, most major recent attacks, including those in Mumbai in 2008 during which 166 people died, have been blamed on Islamists.

“We have recently uncovered a new phenomenon of ‘saffron terror’ and I ask you to be vigilant,” P. Chidambaram told an annual meeting of police chiefs in New Delhi.

Hardline regional parties like the Shiv Sena, which is based in Mumbai, vow to defend Hindu rights in India, but deny they are behind any violent militant activity.

Chidambaram also warned that the government faced a lengthy battle to defeat India’s worsening Maoist insurgency in eastern and central states.

Maoist attacks have risen with scores of police and soldiers killed in ambushes since Chidambaram launched a nationwide security offensive last year.

“The people of India understand that the conflict will be a long-drawn one, that patience is the key, that mistakes will be made and that the security forces need material and moral support,” he said.

India has almost doubled its homeland security budget to 405 billion rupees (nine billion dollars) since 2008-2009, he added.

The Maoist rebels say they fight against federal and state authorities on behalf of landless tribal groups and poor farmers who have been left behind by economic development.

Indian sub-continent in danger of regular floods: British weather expert

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LONDON, A British academician thinks the danger is that Pakistan, and the Indian subcontinent in general, will become the focus of much more regular catastrophic flooding with the problems this would bring for a state at the centre of the campaign against terrorism.Writing in ‘The Guardian’ Lord Julian Hunt, a visiting professor at Delft University, the largest and oldest public technical university of the Netherlands and established in 1852, and former head of the British Meteorological Office, said this is not just therefore a question of better protecting against natural hazards, but also one with profound implications for geopolitics and international security.

He wrote: “Heavy monsoon precipitation has increased in frequency in Pakistan and western India in recent years. In July 2005, Mumbai was deluged by almost 950mm of rain in just one day, and more than 1,000 people were killed in floods in the state of Maharashtra. Last year, deadly flash floods hit north-western Pakistan, and Karachi was also flooded.

This trend is fuelled both by global warming (which means extremes of rainfall are a growing worldwide trend) and potentially by any intensification and alteration of the El Niño/La Niño cycle. To understand the reasons why global warming is playing a role, one needs to look at the main climatic trends in South Asia. In addition to more extreme rainfall, there is also a reduction of ice over the Tibetan plateau and changing precipitation patterns, with less snow at higher levels, plus more rapid run-off from mountains.

How does climate change help explain this? First, the warming in temperatures leads to less snow. Second, the less stable atmosphere causes deeper convection and intense rainfall. The less stable atmosphere also leads to more airflow over mountains and less lateral deviation ­ so that the monsoon winds and precipitation can be higher in north-west India and Pakistan and weaker in the north-east.

In 2006 there was an unusually intense drought in Assam and rain in north-west India. This year with the strong rainfall in the north-west, there is no pronounced decrease in the north-east.

Recent US studies have also concluded that the mountain meteorology is changing, but as a result of the aerosols emitted from urban areas of south Asia.
The biggest question is whether the El Niño southern oscillation (Enso), that determines the 10-year oscillations of weather across the Pacific basin and into South Asia and Africa, will change.

Although there is no scientific consensus, it seems likely that if the Amazon rainforest continues to disappear, and snow/ice melt significantly increases over the Tibetan plateau, there will be significant changes in Enso climatic fluctuations as rises in temperature over land become comparable with the areas of the Pacific where the temperature fluctuates over a few degrees, which is now better monitored and computer modelled.

The reason for concern about changing Enso is that depending on its periodic strength, it greatly affects magnitudes and locations of floods, droughts and hurricanes. Until about 2020-2030, these natural fluctuations are expected to be greater than man-made changes as was pointed out by many scientists in the 1990s.

Lord Hunt said given the massive stakes, not least because of the sizable proportion of the world population affected, these issues need urgent study and also preparations on the ground by the affected countries.

Unless this happens, including better flood warning systems and water management infrastructure put in place, societies and governments in the region will be unable to respond to the devastating combination of changing environmental stresses, growing population and geopolitical instability.