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Archive for March 2011

Bollywood actor Shiney Ahuja given 7 years for rape

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MUMBAI: Award-winning Bollywood actor Shiney Ahuja was sentenced to seven years in prison ofor raping his maid, his lawyer said, in a case that shocked the world’s largest film industry.

The 37-year-old actor will appeal against the sentence in the Mumbai High Court.

Ahuja was granted bail in October 2009 and ordered by the court to leave Mumbai, the home of Bollywood, three months after he was arrested on charges of rape, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement of his maid, who is now 20 years old.

The 37-year-old actor will appeal against the sentence in the Mumbai High Court, lawyer Srikant Shivade told Reuters. The trial court was closed to reporters.

Ahuja won a slew of awards for his 2003 debut in the critically acclaimed “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi”. He has maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process.

In the more than 18 months between arrest and sentencing, Ahuja had been working on a new film.

“Shiney finished shooting for ‘The Accident’ a while back. But we haven’t decided when to release it. That’s a marketing and business decision,” Ramkamal Mukherjee, head of corporate communications at Pritish Nandy Communications, told Reuters.

Another film featuring Ahuja, which has been ready for release for more than two years, has also not come out.

Ahuja is married and has a young daughter.

The sentencing of a movie star in India is rare. Sanjay Dutt was sent to prison in 2007 under India’s tough anti-terrorist laws for possessing a powerful firearm, while Salman Khan was found guilty in 2006 of shooting an endangered species of antelope.

The Mohali Maelstorm

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By: Rohit Kumar

–‘The Times of India reports that India has asked its envoy in Pakistan to reach out to Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, which “could open up new possibilities of deepening Indo-Pak engagement” (ToI). India’s and Pakistan’s home secretaries, the top civil servants in charge of security issues, have begun talks in New Delhi ahead of this week’s semifinal match-up between India and Pakistan in the cricket World Cup, their first formal peace talks since the 2008 Mumbai attacks (Dawn, AFP/Reuters). Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the match with him, and also invited Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari (Dawn).’—

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The Mohali Maelstorm

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By: Rohit Kumar

–‘The Times of India reports that India has asked its envoy in Pakistan to reach out to Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, which “could open up new possibilities of deepening Indo-Pak engagement” (ToI). India’s and Pakistan’s home secretaries, the top civil servants in charge of security issues, have begun talks in New Delhi ahead of this week’s semifinal match-up between India and Pakistan in the cricket World Cup, their first formal peace talks since the 2008 Mumbai attacks (Dawn, AFP/Reuters). Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the match with him, and also invited Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari (Dawn).’—

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India Threat Warning

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Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere at any time in India with little or no warning. We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in India at this time because of the high risk of terrorist activity by militant groups. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

We continue to receive reporting that terrorists plan to attack public places, including hotels and tourist locations, in New Delhi, Mumbai and other major cities. Terrorists may be planning attacks against Indian political and security interests. Terrorist attacks in India sometimes involve multiple, consecutive explosions. Many past attacks in Indian cities have been indiscriminate rather than directed against a particular target.

Following recent media reports of terrorist threats to the Cricket World Cup, Indian authorities have issued a general alert, advising security forces to remain vigilant and maintain a high state of security. The Indian authorities have put in place special security arrangements at all World Cup venues.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible targets include tourist sites (such as the Red Fort), commercial areas, public spaces and diplomatic premises, events and places known to be frequented by foreigners, restaurants and cafes, entertainment and recreation venues, prominent government buildings (such as the Parliament), offices of political parties, places of worship, markets and shopping malls, international hotels, hotels, guest houses, public transport networks including airports, trains and railway stations, schools, religious sites, including temples (such as the Lotus and Kalkaji Temples), pilgrimages and festivals. Attacks have included explosions at market places, sporting events, local courts, a cinema and local transport networks. These risks apply in all of India’s cities and tourist centres.

The Indian Government has in the past issued public alert warnings about possible terrorist attacks. You should take such alert warnings seriously and avoid any areas identified as a possible target of attack. Most recently, on 28 December 2010, the Indian Government issued a nationwide security alert warning of possible terrorist activity in major Indian cities over the Christmas/New Year holiday period.

Major secular and religious holidays and periods of religious significance, such as Ramadan, Eid Diwali, Christmas and New Year’s Eve could provide terrorist groups an opportunity or pretext to stage an attack. You should also be vigilant in the lead up to and on days of national significance, such as Republic Day (26 January) and Independence Day (15 August), and other notable anniversaries as militants have in the past marked such occasions with attacks.

Terrorists are active in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly during the summer months. In the past, tourist buses and groups have been targeted. The annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath Shrine, conducted from June to August, has been the target of terrorist attack in the past. See also Civil Unrest/Political Tension (below).

Maoist insurgents (or ‘Naxalites’) are primarily active in Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Orissa, primarily targeting the Indian Government and security forces, infrastructure and government buildings. Civilians have been killed and injured in suspected Naxalite attacks. Naxals may also call strikes in local areas affecting rail and road transport networks. On 6 April 2010 Maoist insurgents reportedly killed 76 members of the security forces in an ambush in Chhattisgarh state. On 29 June 2010 a further 26 members of the security forces were reportedly killed by insurgents in the same area. Naxals were thought to be responsible for derailing a train in West Bengal on 28 May 2010 that killed 150 people and injured a number of others. Visitors to these areas should monitor the local media and remain vigilant.

Terrorist attacks have also occurred in the state of Rajasthan; in Ahmedabad in Gujarat; outside a market in Alipurdar, West Bengal; and in Chhattisgarh.

Recent incidents of terrorism include:

On 19 September 2010, two foreign nationals were injured in a shooting incident at the Jama Masjid Mosque in New Delhi.

On 17 April 2010 two explosions outside a cricket stadium immediately prior to the commencement of an Indian Premier League match in Bangalore injured eight members of the security forces.

On 13 February 2010, a bomb exploded at the German Bakery in the Koregaon Park area of Pune, 100km south-east of Mumbai. Sixteen people, including three foreigners, were killed and 70 were injured. The bakery is well-known and popular with Westerners.

In November 2008 more than 170 people, including two Australians, were killed in a series of coordinated attacks targeting places frequented by foreigners in Mumbai. The targets included two luxury hotels, the Oberoi-Trident and the Taj Mahal Palace; a Jewish centre; the Victoria Terminus railway station; a hospital and a cafe.

In October 2008, a series of explosions occurred in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, including Guwahati. Over 70 people were killed and hundreds injured.
In September 2008 five explosions occurred in New Delhi, killing 24 people and injuring almost 100.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.

Civil Unrest/Political Tension

Violent protests and demonstrations occur frequently throughout India. Communal violence has in the past claimed a significant number of lives, Australians could be caught up in attacks directed at others. You should avoid locations where protests and demonstrations are being held while in India as they may become violent. You should be aware that international events, political developments in the region and local events can trigger demonstrations in India.

Australians are urged to monitor international and local media for information concerning your safety and security and to follow the instructions of local authorities. You should obey any curfews imposed by the authorities in response to civil unrest.

There have been violent protests in the State of Andhra Pradesh in relation to the proposed formation of a separate state of ‘Telangana’. Further protests are possible. Australians are urged to avoid any protests, to monitor developments in the state through international and local media, and to follow any instructions given by authorities.

Outbreaks of anti-Christian violence have taken place in India. Religious missionary activity may attract some resentment. In January 1999, an Australian missionary and his two young sons were murdered in the eastern state of Orissa.

Jammu and Kashmir: We advise you not to travel to the state of Jammu and Kashmir (north India), other than to the Ladakh region via Manali, or by air to the region’s main city of Leh, due to frequent armed clashes, terrorist activities and violent demonstrations. Attacks have targeted tourists and tourist buses. Foreigners have been kidnapped in Kashmir. See under Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate for information on recent flash floods in the Ladakh region.

There is an ongoing dispute between India and neighbouring Pakistan regarding Jammu and Kashmir. Serious security problems remain in the capital Srinagar and other parts of the state.

Continuing civil unrest, attacks and violent demonstrations in Jammu and Kashmir have resulted in a large number of deaths, with more than 100 people reported to have been killed since June 2010. The arrest, detention or death of those involved in protests could become catalysts for further violence. Curfews can be imposed in the Kashmir Valley at short notice, resulting in restrictions on movement, disruption to road transport and suspension of flights in and out of the area.

Borders with Pakistan: We advise you not to travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan (northern and western India), other than at the international border crossing at Atari, India and Wagah, Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan maintain a strong military presence at the border. Landmines pose a serious risk along some stretches of the India-Pakistan border.

North-eastern states of Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the north-eastern states of Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur. If you do decide to travel to these areas, you should exercise extreme caution. Armed robbery, kidnapping, extortion and terrorism occur frequently in these states. Insurgent groups have attacked civilians and bombed buildings. There is also a risk from insurgent groups in rural areas of these states.

Public transport, including buses, trains and railways, police stations and markets have been targeted in terrorist attacks in the north-east, including in Karbi Angalong and Guwahati, the largest city in Assam. On 8 and 9 November 2010, a series of attacks across Assam killed 23 people, including at markets and on an inter-district bus. In April 2009, a series of bomb attacks in Guwahati killed six people and injured over 20. In late October 2008, a series of explosions in Assam, including in Guwahati, killed more than 70 people and injured hundreds.


Women travellers, especially when alone, often receive unwanted attention and have been sexually harassed and assaulted. There have been a number of sexual offences reported against foreign women, including in Delhi and Goa. Women should avoid walking alone at night in less populous and unlit areas, including city streets, village lanes and beaches.

Travellers staying on houseboats in Kashmir have been intimidated and harassed by houseboat employees. There are persistent allegations and media reports of sexual misconduct involving religious cults and their leaders in India.

Petty theft is common in crowded areas such as markets, airports and bus and railway stations. There have been cases where property has been stolen from travellers on overnight or long-distance trains. Thieves on motorcycles commonly snatch shoulder bags and jewellery.

Travellers have been robbed and assaulted after consuming ‘spiked’ drinks or food. Incidents of tourists being robbed and assaulted while riding in taxis and rickshaws have been reported. Prepaid taxi services are generally considered the safest alternative. Taxis already carrying passengers should be avoided.

Some travellers have been intimidated or tricked into buying overpriced items after accepting unsolicited offers of assistance, particularly help with shopping for jewellery, gems and carpets.

Hikers have been attacked and have disappeared in the Kulu/Manali district in Himachal Pradesh, particularly on more remote trekking routes. Hikers are strongly urged not to hike alone and to obtain detailed information in advance about proposed hiking routes. Australians should register their presence with the local police and online with us.

In parts of India, religious missionary activity may attract some resentment. In January 1999, an Australian missionary and his two young sons were murdered in the eastern state of Orissa.

Local Travel

Touts are often found at airports, railway stations and bus stations and may use aggressive tactics to persuade travellers to buy tickets on tours. They may not have any connection to the relevant commercial service providers.

Travelling by road in India can be dangerous due to poorly maintained and congested roads. Accidents are commonplace. Roads are often shared with pedestrians, carts, cattle and other livestock and are particularly dangerous at night due to insufficient or non-existent street lighting. Local driving practices are often undisciplined and aggressive with poorly maintained vehicles. If a vehicle hits a pedestrian or cow, the occupants are at risk of being attacked or becoming victims of extortion. For further advice, see our bulletin on Overseas Road Safety.

To drive in India, you must have either a valid Indian driver’s licence or an International Driving Permit together with an Australian driving licence. An Australian licence alone is not sufficient.

Motorcycle riders must wear helmets. If you intend to ride a motorcycle, you should check that your travel insurance policy covers motorcycle riding.

Bus services are often overcrowded and drivers may lack adequate training.

Delays in travel can be expected throughout India due to additional security measures, especially in the lead up to and on days of national significance such as Republic Day (26 January) and Independence Day (15 August).

Standards maintained by transport services and tour operators, including adventure activities, may not be comparable to those in Australia. Check operators’ credentials and safety equipment beforehand and ensure your travel insurance policy covers your planned activities.

You may need to obtain permission from the Indian authorities to visit certain parts of the country, particularly in the northeast. Permits are generally required for Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, parts of Kulu District and Spiti District of Himachal Pradesh, border areas of Jammu and Kashmir, some areas of Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal), parts of Rajasthan adjacent to the international border, the Tibetan settlements between Hunsar and Madikeri in Karnataka, Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. There are severe penalties for entering a protected or restricted area without prior permission. Indian authorities generally require four weeks to process permit applications. You should seek advice from the nearest Indian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate; or the Ministry of Home Affairs, (Foreigners Division) at Jaisalmer House, 26 Man Singh Road, New Delhi.

Travellers should exercise caution while visiting Mamallapuram (also known as Mahabalipuram) in Tamil Nadu, South India, as the restricted area surrounding the Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Centre, Kalpakkam, is nearby and may not be clearly marked.

Fog often affects northern India, particularly during December and January, and may delay air and rail travel, and may make road travel more dangerous.

Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of India. See our travel advice on travelling by sea for more information. The International Maritime Bureau issues weekly piracy reports on its website. Tourist boats and other small commercial craft may not carry life preserving/saving equipment.

Airline Safety

There are concerns about the safety and maintenance standards of commercial helicopters operating in the north-eastern states of India.

For further information, please refer to our Aviation Safety and Security travel bulletin.

Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate

Flash floods in August 2010 in the Leh area of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir caused large scale destruction. Reconstruction is ongoing and some roads remain closed. Shops, banks and other commercial establishments are operational. The main hospital in Leh is operating with limited capacity. Travellers who develop serious medical conditions in the area would be likely to require evacuation by air to Chandigarh or New Delhi. You should seek advice from local authorities on travelling conditions before entering affected areas around Leh.

Annual monsoon rains from June to October can cause extensive flooding and landslides, particularly in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the north and east, and in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in the south. In the past, floods have affected millions of people, resulting in many deaths. During these periods, fresh drinking water and food can be in short supply. The high risk of contracting a water-borne disease continues after the water recedes. Transport and communication infrastructure can also be affected. If you are travelling during the monsoon season, you should contact your tour operators to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Parts of India are in active seismic zones and are subject to earthquakes. Information on volcanic activity can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. Landslides and flooding occur in the monsoon season (from June to October) and may disrupt essential services, such as power, water and transport.

Coastal and some inland areas of India are vulnerable to cyclones which can cause coastal storm surges. You can obtain up to date advice on cyclone activity from the Indian Meteorological Department.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

In the event of a natural disaster, follow the advice of local authorities.


Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens’ advice.

Money and Valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers’ cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers’ cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers’ cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don’t carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passport.

For Parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling Parents brochure.

If you are planning on placing your children in schools or child care facilities overseas we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments. You should exercise the same precautions you would take before placing children into schools or child care facilities in Australia.

Ideas on how to select childcare providers are available from the smartraveller Children’s Issues page, Child Wise and the National Childcare Accreditation Council.

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March 14, 2011 at 8:24 am

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Who are behind Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder?

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By: Sajjad Shaukat

In wake of continued terrorist acts in Pakistan, on March 2 this year the cold-blooded murder of the country’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti has intensified the debate that as to who are behind his assassination. Although Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan, a militant group has taken the responsibility of Shabaz’s murder, yet Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies are investigating in connection with some foreign hands or the possible involvement of Xe International, (formerly Blackwater) and indian intelligence agency RAW, specifically looking into the activities of a white foreigner who is acting as a “security consultant” in Islamabad. In this regard, some high officials of Pakistan have revealed that a third hand or party might be involved in the assassination of the federal minister for minorities.

Some intelligence officials told a Pakistani newspaper that they found suspect-the activities of the foreigner who was living under the umbrella of a NGO and running an office in sector G-11 of Islamabad. They indicated, “nobody knows what he is doing in Islamabad and on what mission”, he is. The paper explained that the foreigner also met with some security officers a couple of days back posing as “security consultant” and interviewed them regarding the current security situation of Pakistan, asking them whether Pakistan could face Libya-like situation in the near future. In this respect, a Pakistan’s renowned newspaper insisted, “the fact that the foreign hand that has been creating unrest in the country for a long time now could be behind the incident cannot be ruled out…links between foreign intelligence agencies like Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad and American CIA and militants have been suspected…RAW is even known for having provided financial and military support to spread violence in Pakistan.” In another report, the paper, while quoting “well-informed sources” disclosed that in 2010, the Obama administration deployed over 400 pro-India and pro-Israel CIA agents in Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi, the country’s biggest cities.

Washington hired these contractors from private security companies like Blackwater, and leading Indian and Israeli businessmen including their secret agencies which have been clandestinely and heavily funding such companies to carry out secret operations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa as per their interests against the Islamic countries. Some reliable sources suggest that the Blackwater has hired 286 houses in different residential sectors of Islamabad for their suspicious activities. Regarding the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, the police confirmed that the terrorists used 7.62 mm-AK-47 Klashnikov, an automatic gun and sprayed 35 bullets with two guns, adding that police recovered all the 35 empties from the scene.

It is notable that the terrorists threw on the road the pamphlets with Kalma-e-Tayyaba printed on them and also the name of the holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) after killing Shahbaz Bhatti. Th fact remains that no Muslim can ever think of dropping on ground such sacred material. Nevertheless, that condemnable act might also have been committed precisely to divert the investigations away from the real terrorists which belong to RAW, CIA and Mossad.

It is mentionable that through their secret agencies, the concerned foreign countries want to fulfil their multiple-nefarious aims against Pakistan by the murder of the federal minister for minorities affairs. In this regard, firstly, they intend to divert the attention away from the issue of Raymond Davis including his companions who are agents of the American CIA and were on an anti-Pakistan mission. Especially, Davis is part of the illegal activities of the Blackwater whose employees entered Pakistan in the guise of diplomats. Secondly, these covert agents of the related intelligence agencies want to distort the image of Pakistan in the comity of nations as they have already tarnished the country’s image through various subversive activities-are now working against Pakistan by taking advantage of the country’s deteriorated law and order situation which they have themselves created through their secret forces. Notably, in this context, the rulers and leaders of the western countries have strongly condemned the murder of the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, expressing outrage and termed it as “unspeakable”, “unacceptable” and a “dastardly crime”, and also called it an attack on the values of tolerance. In this regard, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the assassination of Bhatti was “absolutely brutal and unacceptable”. He also stated that the minister’s murder showed what a huge problem we have in our world with intolerance. He further added, “I will send not only our condolences but our clearest possible message to the government and people of Pakistan that this is simply unacceptable.” US President Barack Obama pointed out that he was saddened by the “horrific” assassination. He said, “I am deeply saddened by the assassination of Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti,” and “condemn in the strongest possible terms this horrific act of violence.” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a US Senate committee, “I was shocked and outraged by the assassination of Bhatti…I think this was an attack not only on one man but on the values of tolerance and respect for people of all faiths.” German Federal Foreign Minister, Dr Guido Westerwelle, expressed his shock and dismay over the assassination of Bhatti, and said, “he was the only Christian who was passionately committed to the rights of minorities in Pakistan.” Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian leaders have also expressed similar views. However, this is what the anti-Pakistan secret agencies wanted to achieve through the murder. Thirdly, the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti was actually aimed at further creating rifts between different religious communities, accelerating sectarian violence in Pakistan. Fourthly, it is noteworthy that Pakistan is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World; hence the US, India, Israel and some western powers are determined to weaken it. Despite American cooperation with Islamabad, its main aim along with India and Israel remains to de-nuclearise our country whose geo-strategic location with the Gwadar port entailing close ties with China irks the eyes of these countries, therefore, they are in collusion to destabilise Pakistan. For this purpose, a well-established network of Indian army, RAW, Mossad and CIA which was set up in Afghanistan against Pakistan in order to support insurgency in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and separatism in Balochistan have been extended. Fifthly, the major aim of these external secret agencies is to show that Pakistan is a prejudiced country where religious extremism is running high, and where people cannot tolerate other religious communities, particularly Christians. Sixthly, by creating such an aggravated situation, these secret forces are determined to isolate Pakistan with the efforts of Indo-Jewish and American lobbies which are already working on the anti-Pakistan agenda.

Nonetheless, while taking cognizance of the real aims of the external intelligence agencies in relation to the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the patriot people of Pakistan must wake up in order to apprehend the secret forces which have been trying to weaken the country. For this purpose, foreigners such as covert operatives who are running clandestine networks in the country must be captured by our intelligence agencies with the cooperation of public as quickly as possible. In this respect, a comprehensive strategy must be prepared to secure the lives of all people as well the survival of the country.

Indian supreme Court allows ‘passive euthanasia’

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NEW DELHI – India’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that life support can be legally removed for some terminally ill patients in a landmark ruling that will allow “passive euthanasia” for the first time.

A hospital ward in New Delhi. India’s Supreme Court has ruled that life support can be legally removed …

The judgement came during a hearing into the case of former nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who has been in a vegetative state in a Mumbai hospital since being raped and strangled with a chain while at work 37 years ago.

A plea by journalist and friend Pinki Virani to stop her being force-fed was rejected by India’s top court on the grounds that Virani was not eligible to make the demand on Shanbaug’s behalf.

But withdrawing life support could be allowed under exceptional circumstances, provided the request was from family and supervised by doctors and the courts, a two-judge bench in the Supreme Court said.

“We agree … that passive euthanasia should be permitted in our country in certain situations,” the court said in its ruling, adding that “we are laying down the law… until parliament makes a law on the subject”.

The ruling gives some legal clarity in India in an area that has posed legislators and judges all over the world with moral dilemmas thrown up by modern medicine which can keep alive severely injured or handicapped people.

In the case of a person in a permanent vegetative state and unable to speak for themselves, such as Shanbaug, a request to withdraw life support should come from family or a spouse, the court in New Delhi ruled.

The request should then be reviewed by the local High Court, which would rely on the opinion of a court-appointed panel of three doctors who would examine the patient and speak to hospital staff.

The supervision was required to prevent “unscrupulous” family members attempting to kill off wealthy relatives, the Supreme Court said.

“The commercialisation of our society has crossed all limits,” it said. “Hence we have to guard against the potential of misuse.”

Virani filed the case in the Supreme Court in 1999 asking for Shanbaug to be allowed to die with dignity. Both of her parents have died and other family members have not maintained contact with her, according to the petition.

Shanbaug, who is bed-ridden, blind and in a vegetative state, has spent three-and-half decades being fed mashed food and cared for by a team of doctors and nurses.

Her attacker, a ward boy at the hospital, was freed after a seven-year jail sentence.

Lawyer T. R. Andhyarujina, who was an adviser to the Supreme Court in the case, told AFP it was the first time there had been a ruling on euthanasia by the top court.

“The court has accepted the withdrawal of a life support system, but has not given the permission to inject any lethal substance,” he said.

Laws on euthanasia or assisted suicide, in which patients are helped by doctors to end their own lives, vary across the world.

In Europe, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium have legalised it under strict conditions, while in Switzerland a doctor can provide a patient who wants to die with lethal medication that the patient takes by him or herself.

In 1994, the US state of Oregon became the first in the country to legalise euthanasia for certain terminally ill patients. The state of Montana has also legalised it and the east coast state of Vermont is considering a law.

India’s Supreme Court ruled that the nurses who have cared for Shanbaug, who is now 60, at Mumbai’s KEM Hospital were the only ones who could ask for feeding to be stopped.

In the absence of any family, they were Shanbaug’s “next friend” in the eye of the law, rather than Pinki Virani, and they were in favour of keeping her alive.

“We consider it as a duty to look after her. The court has recognised our efforts,” Bhanuprita, a nurse at the hospital, was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

Indian laws do not permit euthanasia or self-starvation to the point of death, although fasting is a part of Indian culture, made famous by independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.

The only exception to the law on self-starvation is the religious practice of “santhara,” which sees elderly believers from India’s minority Jain religion give up food and water until death.

Most U.S. aid to Pakistan hasn’t gotten there yet

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By Josh Rogin

U.S. economic aid to Pakistan, which totals more than $1.5 billion a year, is a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy to strengthen the U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership. But most of the aid that was allocated for last year is still in U.S. government coffers.

Only $179.5 million out of $1.51 billion in U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan was actually disbursed in fiscal 2010, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released last month. Almost all of that was distributed as part of the Kerry-Lugar aid package passed last year.

None of the funds were spent to create the kind of water, energy and food infrastructure that Richard Holbrooke advocated for diligently when he was the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, according to the report, the Obama administration hasn’t yet set up the mechanisms to make sure the money isn’t misspent.

“The full impact of the fiscal year 2010 civilian assistance could not be determined because most of the funding had not yet been disbursed,” the report states. The GAO tracked Kerry-Lugar money sent to Pakistan by Dec. 31. “It will take some time before significant outcomes of the civilian assistance can be measured.”

Holbrooke’s office, which is now run by Marc Grossman, told The Cable that the leftover funds were due to the fact that the money was appropriated belatedly and because the first year of the program carried with it unique challenges.

“While the facts of the GAO report are accurate, it doesn’t reflect the big picture nor adequately represent what we’ve achieved with civilian assistance over the last year,” said Jessica Simon, a spokeswoman for Grossman’s office.

Experts note that the disparity between U.S. promises to Pakistan and funds delivered is a constant irritant in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

“There are always complaints, and in terms of the delays, there are pretty valid reasons on both sides,” said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. He said that Congress’s requirement that the money be tracked and accounted for is a source of contention.

“For a long time, the U.S. didn’t ask any questions about the money. And so it became a bit of a shock,” he said.

Peace Corps anniversary

The Empire State Building was lit up red, white and blue Tuesday night in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s creation of the Peace Corps.

“Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy,” Kennedy said on March 1, 1961. “But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps – who works in a foreign land – will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”

Kennedy set a goal of recruiting 500 volunteers that year. This year, the Peace Corps has 8,675 volunteers who serve in 77 countries. Its alumni include author Paul Theroux (Malawi, 1963-65); Chris Matthews (Swaziland, 1968-70); Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Dominican Republic, 1966-68); Donna Shalala, former secretary of Health and Human Services (Iran, 1962-64); Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson (Tanzania, 1965-68); Christopher R. Hill, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq (Cameroon, 1974-76); and four other members of Congress.

Tuesday’s commemoration in New York kicks off more than four months of Peace Corps events, culminating in a featured program at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, June 30 to July 11.

Congressional liaison resigns

The State Department’s top official for dealing with Congress, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Verma, will step down and return to the private sector, two State Department officials confirmed to The Cable.

The next nominee for the legislative affairs post will face a ton of scrutiny and probably at least one Senate hold.

GOP senators see the nomination as perfect bait for a hold because it is not a position that must be filled on national security grounds and because the legislative affairs office is often in control of which documents senators are given or denied.