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Saturday, 14 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 14 Mar 09

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Lt Col of Indian Army shoots self

13 Mar 2009, 2211 hrs IST, TNN

KANPUR: A 40-year-old serving Lieutenant Colonel of the Indian Army committed suicide by shooting himself in the head at his Defence Colony residence in Jajmau under the Chakeri police station here on Friday morning. Marital discord is being stated to be the reason for the extreme step.

According to police, the incident took place at 9 am when the Army officer Ramendra Bajpai- presently posted in Guwahati- shot himself with his father's licensed .315 bore rifle and died on the spot.

At the time of the incident, his father Shivdas Bajpai (a retired Squadron Leader from Air Force), his mother Kusumlata, his two children Adam and Ambuj and a domestic help were present in the house.

His wife Aparna was at her parents house in Juhi Safed Colony, where she had been staying for the past seven months. The officer had returned from Guwahati on the night of February 10 to celebrate Holi with his family. "He came back and had expressed his wish to celebrate the festival with his two sons and wife," her mother Kusumlata said.

The relatives told reporters that he was a very calm person but had become a little short-tempered recently following some bitterness with his wife Aparna. ASP, Dharmendra Yadav said "sour relations" between Bajpai and his wife could have prompted the officer to take the extreme step.

"His parents informed us that the officer had some differences with his wife and the couple had had an argument on Friday morning when he had called her on her mobile around 8.15 am. It could probably be one of the reasons for the suicide," a senior police official said.

"He was reportedly disturbed for the past couple of days and showed signs of depression due to loneliness," his father stated. "We have not recovered any suicide note from the spot. A team of forensic experts is scrutinising the incident site," said an investigating officer of the Chakeri police station.

Bajpai and his family had been staying at his father's Defence colony residence in Jajamau for the past few years. Ramendra got married to Aparna of Juhi Safed Colony about 11 years ago.,prtpage-1.cms

US Drone Attack Kills 24 Militants in Pakistan

A suspected US missile attack on a Taliban hideout in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 24 people, security officials and residents said Friday.

More than 40 people were injured in the attack late Thursday in Barjo village of the Kurram tribal district, which borders the Afghan province of Khost.

"Four missiles targeted a house where dozens of militants were residing," a security official said, requesting anonymity. "Two US pilotless aircraft were seen flying in the area during the strike."

"Taliban cordoned off the area and retrieved 15 bodies and 41 injured after hours-long rescue efforts last night," the official added. Nine more bodies were pulled out of the rubble on Friday morning, taking the death toll to 24.

Most of the killed were believed to be locals, Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda-linked foreign fighters.

A local resident, Nooruz Zaman, said the heavily guarded building was used by the Taliban as an ammunition depot and training centre. "There were also reports that Taliban had some hostages here," he said in a telephone interview.

The camp, located about 20 km from the Afghan border, was destroyed in the attack.

A local Taliban commander, Fazal Saeed, who headed the training facility, was present in the building when the attack took place; however, it was not clear whether he was killed, said a local intelligence official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Thursday's attack was the second US drone strike on Kurram, where the Taliban have set up dozens of sanctuaries to launch cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.

In mid-February, 30 people, most of them Islamist insurgents, died in a similar drone attack in Kurram.

US forces, who said they are running out of patience over Pakistan's failure to eliminate militant hideouts, have carried out about 36 air raids in the past four months, killing dozens of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Pakistan, a key US ally in the international fight against terrorism, has repeatedly protested the strikes, saying they violate the country's sovereignty and fuel public anger.

Defence service exam result out

New Delhi, March 13
A total of 311 candidates have qualified in the Combined Defence Service Examination 2008, the final results of which has been announced by UPSC. Of these candidates, 254 have qualified for admission to the Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai, for 89th Short Service Commission Course for men and third Short Service Commission Women (non-technical) course commencing in April, said a release.

The list of the 89th Short Service Commission Course for men also includes the names of candidates recommended earlier on the basis of the result of the same examination for admission to the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, Naval Academy, Goa, course and Air Force Academy, Hyderabad, the release said.

However, it said result of medical examination of candidates has not been taken into account in preparing the merit list. — PTI

Zardari Gets 24-Hour Deadline, Kayani Meets President

A volatile situation existed in Pakistan where authorities Friday continued their crackdown on agitating lawyers staging a 'long march' amidst reports that President Asif Ali Zardari had been set an internationally-backed, 24-hour deadline by the army to end the stir.

Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was reported to have got into the act Friday, meeting Zardari for the first time since the president returned home Wednesday from a regional meeting in Tehran.

A spokesperson for the presidency only said regional issues, the political situation prevailing in the country and professional issues were discussed during the meeting.

The 24-hour deadline was set under a new deal "backed by Washington, London and the army establishment", A Pakistan News, an independent website run by media professionals, said. There was no official confirmation of the report.

As part of the deal, the website quoted sources as saying, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has been asked to "immediately convince" Zardari to "demonstrate the flexibility required" to break the deadlock before the thousands-strong lawyers' march reaches Islamabad.

On their part, the lawyers reaffirmed their resolve to continue their stir.

"I am not aware of any invitation (for talks on ending the stir)," Aitzaz Ahsan, a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, was quoted as saying.

Thousands of lawyers Thursday simultaneously began their 'long march' from Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab and will converge here March 16 for a sit-in before parliament to demand the reinstatement of the Supreme Court and high court judges then president Pervez Musharraf had sacked after imposing an emergency in November 2007.

The law-enforcement authorities have taken more than 750 people into custody in a bid to end the stir. A similar stir a year ago ended in Musharraf's exit.

According to the news website, Zardari was also "asked to go" by the army and Gilani "if he does not accept a new deal hatched by them in consultation with foreign powers".

"The new political deal, backed by Washington, London and the army establishment, has quietly been conveyed to Gilani to bring down the political temperature in Pakistan," it quoted unnamed sources as saying.

"The ball is now firmly in the court of Zardari, who has to take a decision swiftly on endorsing the agreement brokered by powerful international actors."

Kayani, the report said, had met Gilani in Islamabad Wednesday and during the 90 minute meeting, asked him to set the deal in motion.

According to the same report, if Zardari does not accept the new deal, the president's office "will be completely marginalised, Zardari will be removed", Gilani will "take over" after power "will be restored" to the prime minister's office.

Musharraf had transferred these powers to the presidency through the controversial 17th constitution amendment in December 2003. They relate to the appointment of military commanders and the right to dismiss the federal and provincial governments.

As part of the deal, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will join the federal cabinet and deposed Supreme Court chief justice Iftikar Mohammad Chaudhary will be reappointed, the report added.

It, however, was silent on Zardari's future if he is removed from office.

In other developments Friday, Sharif said he was ready for "face-to-face" talks with Zardari to resolve the impasse.

"There is no need for back channels. We can and should talk face-to-face," Sharif told Geo TV in an interview.

Sharif, whose PML-N has jumped onto the march bandwagon, is also upset over a Supreme Court judgement barring him and his brother from contesting elections.

The verdict led to the fall of Shahbaz Sharif's government in Punjab and Governor's Rule being imposed in the province.

Nawaz Sharif has accused Zardari of engineering the court judgement.

As speculation mounted over the political crisis in the country, a top US military official said Kayani was not in favour of a military coup.

In an interview to a US TV channel, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Kayani was a stanch supporter of democracy and did not want military coup in the country.

Pak forces block major highways leading to Islamabad

Rezaul H Laskar / PTI / Islamabad March 13, 2009, 12:40 IST

Continuing their tough stance against activists and lawyers, Pakistani authorities today blocked all major highways leading to the capital to prevent a protest march demanding reinstatement of sacked judges from reaching here.

Police and Paramilitary forces today blocked another group of activists marching from Balochistan's capital Quetta to Sukkur in Sindh and arrested the Supreme Court Bar Association President Ali Ahmed Kurd along with some others.

The police action followed yesterday's incident when authorities arrested dozens of lawyers and political activists when they stopped a motorcade on way to Sukkur from Karachi.

But an undeterred Kurd, who staged a sit-in whole of the last night before his arrest, said "we have told our supporters to reach Islamabad by other routes in smaller groups."

"We are determined to go ahead with our mass protest outside the National Assembly. The march by lawyers and opposition leaders was to support reinstatement of sacked judges, but has mushroomed into a wider protest against the Government," Kurd said.

Showing no signs of reconciliation despite pressure from the US, authorities today extended the ban on rallies to all major cities of NWFP, including provincial capital Peshawar.

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif told a local TV channel that the march was not to destabilise the government but to appeal again to President Asif Ali Zardari to reinstate judges sacked during 2007 emergency.

"By resisting the popular will", Sharif charged, Zardari was only shortening his political career. "I don't think he will be able to complete his 5-year tenure."

Before the marchers from Quetta were arrested, they chanted slogans "Zardari is a traitor. Down with Zardari"

Naeem Qureshi, Secretary-General of the Karachi Bar Association, said there is no difference between this Government and a Martial Law regime

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik has warned that authorities will allow protesters to gather in a park close to the capital and has vowed to keep them away from massing outside Parliament or in Islamabad proper.

Police also conducted raids on the homes of prominent political leaders and lawyers.

The NWFP government had earlier said it would not oppose the protest. Reports said dozens of people, including leaders and workers of the main opposition PML-N, Imran Khan's Tehrik-e-Insaf party and Jamaat-e-Islami, were either detained or put under house arrest.
PML-N secretary general Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, a close aide of party chief Nawaz Sharif, went into hiding after police raided his home in Peshawar.

Lawyers and political parties have said authorities have arrested over 1,000 people since Tuesday to prevent the "long march" called by the lawyers' movement.

Hundreds of people, most of them PML-N workers, have been detained in Multan, Okara, Sialkot, Sheikhupura, Toba Tek Singh, Gujranwala, Gujrat and Faisalabad.

Meanwhile, US has stepped up efforts to mediate between the warring political parties -- PML-N and PPP, which threaten to undermine its efforts to bolster the 'war on terror', specially in the volatile Pak-Afghan border.

But there appears no sign of a breakthrough in resolving the political impasse in Pakistan as media reports say that the present agitation appears increasingly to win popular support and is becoming like the unrest which ousted Pervez Musharraf.

Kayani not in favour of 'coup' in Pakistan, says Mullen

PTI | March 13, 2009 | 18:43 IST

The United States has ruled out a military coup in Pakistan in the wake of the political chaos saying Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani is a staunch supporter of democracy and doesn't want to take over like his predecessor Pervez Musharraf did in 1999.

The Chairman of the U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen however suggested he tried to calm Kayani quite a number of times when the army chief reportedly expressed anger over the way Pakistan's political establishment was behaving.

"I have had 10 interactions with Kayani. He wants to do the right thing for Pakistan. But he is in a very tough spot," Mullen said in an interview with PBS news.

"There is not a high probability right now the political crisis will provoke Pakistani military to intervene," Mullen said, adding "Kayani is committed to a civilian government and doesnt wish to stage a coup as done by his predecessor general Pervez Musharraf in 1999."

Expressing serious concerns over the turn of events in Pakistan, Mullen said the US officials were keeping a close eye on opposition protests in Pakistan.

"The situation continues to deteriorate very slowly under a political leadership which is very challenged because of the totality of the crisis," Mullen said

Fighting gender bias, Indian Army lady officers demand equal service, perks

NEW DELHI, March 13 (KUNA) -- A group of Indian female army officers are fighting a legal battle in the Delhi High Court, alleging that they are treated as "un-equals" vis-a-vis their male counterparts.

Contesting their case, they allege that unlike male army officers, they are allowed to work in the Indian Army only for a maximum period of 14 years. Totaling 25 in number, these female army officers want the terms of employment and post-service perquisites to be revised.

At present, there are around 1000 lady officers in the Indian Army, and 2800 in all the three wings of India's defence.

The plaint moved to the Delhi High Court by them states, "The grievance of the women officers is that initially they were recruited on short commission and the permanent commission has been denied to them even though the period of short commission has been extended from time to time even up to as much as 14 years." It adds, "The result of the not being granted permanent commission is that they are deprived of certain benefits which would ensure to their benefit in case of grant of permanent commission like pension etc. Learned counsel appearing for the Air Force further submits that in 2004 a policy decision was taken not to extend the short commission uniformly across the board, both for men and women." Alleging gender bias in the Indian Army, a female army officer holding the rank of major at one of the sensitive border areas, and one of the plaintiffs in the case, told KUNA, "The Indian Army only allows the women to work for 14 years without extending permanent commission to them, despite the fact that the career record of the women officers is much better than their gentlemen army officers." She added that the aggrieved lady army officers had even moved the National Commission for Women (NCW), but the Commission's chairperson failed to respond and simply passed on the complaint to the Ministry of Defence.

Another lady officer who retired this month, said that there was so much gender bias against women in the Indian Army.

"Normally, the Indian Defence Forces harp about lack of good officers. Women officers work hard and with much zeal as compared to their men counterparts, but they are not allowed to work more than 14 years. The worst aspect is that after working for 14 years, we are not entitled to pension. After retirement we have nothing to do, especially during the present time of recession there are no jobs in the corporate sector," she stated, on condition of anonymity.

The lady officer who joined the Indian Army in 1995, added, "Now, in order to make a living for the rest of my life, I am doing a management course. Had the Indian Army allowed me to work for six more years, at least I would have been entitled to pension." Women were first allowed into the army in 1992.

Meanwhile, in an affidavit filed in the High Court in relation to the case, the Indian Army said, "The background of our troops who hail from rural areas with fixed concepts of women had to be considered at the time of induction of women as officers into the Army. Grant of permanent commission would result in placing women officers as Commanding Officers of units, which was considered inappropriate." Last year, the Indian government revised the rules of service of Indian women in order to give the women officers the same tenure as men. But, this applies only to new recruits and not to women already in service.

Interestingly, the women army officers' grievance has attracted sympathy from their male counterparts. A senior Army officer posted in New Delhi said on the condition of anonymity that when these army officers can serve in the Army for 14 years, and performed well in sensitive areas, "Why can't they be absorbed for long?" Official sources in the Indian Army shied away from commenting on the ongoing legal case, saying that the Government of India is the final authority to decide such policy matters. The matter next comes up for hearing in next month..

Lt. Gen. S.B. Sehajpal assumed charge as DG, Dental Services

Lieutenant General S.B. Sehajpal has taken over as Director General Dental Services in the Armed Forces on March 13,2009 . He is an alumnus of Punjab Government Dental College, Amritsar and Post Graduate from AFMC, Pune. He was the founder Director of Army College of Dental Sciences, Secunderabad. He has been Dental Adviser Navy and Director Naval Institute of Dental Sciences, Mumbai. He has also been Command Dental Adviser, Central Command and Commandant Command Military Dental Centre, Lucknow. He is the pioneer in modernization of Dental Services and has introduced automation of dental centres. As a young officer, he has been awarded Col AG Rangaraj Challenge Trophy for Best Officer in MOJC course and Lt Gen KS Master Medal for first position in SDO course and Advanced Specialist Course. The General Officer has also been a recipient of Army Commander (WC) Commendation, Army Commander (SC) Commendation, Chief of Army Staff Commendation, Vishist Seva Medal and Ati Vishist Seva Medal for his distinguished services.

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