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Saturday, 31 August 2013

From Today's Papers - 31 Aug 2013
Bhatkal admits to ISI link; remanded in NIA custody
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung/TNS

New Delhi, August 30
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was today allowed 12-day custody of Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and his associate Asadulla Akhtar by a Delhi court.

Before being flown to Delhi, NIA officials interrogated Bhatkal and Asadulla in Patna where the top IM operative reportedly confessed to his links with Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), a TV channel reported. He also told his interrogators he had been living in Nepal for six months and had readied around 100 hardcore associates who could do anything at his bidding.

In Delhi, the NIA sought 14-day custody of both Bhatkal and Asadulla.

“Both are required for custodial interrogation in the instant case (pertaining to the activities of the IM), to unearth the larger conspiracy to effect recoveries related to the case and getting leads for the arrest of other absconding co-accused (10). The two accused are also required to be taken to various places in and outside Delhi for the recovery of material evidence in the case,” read the NIA application.

The agency brought Yasin and Asadulla to the Special NIA court of District and Sessions Judge I S Mehta. Heavy security arrangements were put in place for the in-camera proceedings.

“The accused have been produced before the court on the issuance of non-bailable warrants (NBW) on July 18. In the present application (filed by the NIA), it is stated that Mohammed Ahmed Siddibappa is Yasin Bhatkal and he is the same person against whom the NBWs were issued. In these circumstances, and looking into the contents of the application, I grant police custody to the NIA for 12 days for further investigation,” ordered Judge Mehta.

Besides Yasin and Asadulla, the court had also issued NBWs against 10 more suspected IM terrorists on July 18 this year.

SP leader stirs controvery

New Delhi: Samjawadi Party leader Kamaal Farooqi today kicked up a controversy over the arrest of Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal, asking whether it is based on grounds of crime or religion. Congress and BJP slammed Farooqi for his comment, calling it “ridiculous” and “regrettable” — PTI
India launches its first defence satellite
Shubhadeep Choudhury/TNS

Bangalore, August 30
India’s maiden dedicated defence satellite was launched by an European rocket early today, giving a boost to Navy’s modernisation push to improve space-based communications and intelligence gathering over a wide oceanic region including the country’s landmass.

Custom-made for the Navy by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the advanced multi-band, state-of-the-art GSAT-7 was successfully lofted into space by European space consortium Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket at 2 am from Kourou spaceport, French Guiana.

In an impressive launch telecast live by Doordarshan, Ariane 5 precisely placed the Rs 185-crore home-built communication spacecraft into the intended Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) after a flight of 34 minutes 25 seconds duration.

The Navy will be the user of the multi-band home-built communication satellite that is expected to become operational by September end. The unique nature of Indian Navy’s work, that includes visiting foreign ports and stationing itself in waters of foreign nations to protect the host nation’s maritime interests and carrying out hydrographic surveys on their behalf and above all protecting Indian interest in the Indian Ocean, has made the Navy the natural choice for becoming the first recipient of the execusive satellite-based communication service.

ISRO’s Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka started acquiring signals from the satellite five minutes prior to its separation from the launch vehicle. The solar panels of the satellite have been deployed and they are generating power.

Between August 31 and September 4, three orbit-raising operations will be performed by ISRO to place the satellite into the geostationary orbit. By September 14, GSAT-7 is slated to be positioned in its final orbital slot of 74 deg east longitude and subsequently the satellite’s communication transponders will be switched on.

Asset for maritime security

    Expected to be operational by September-end, the country's first exclusive satellite for military applications would give a major push to the maritime security
    GSAT-7 would provide a wide range of service spectrum from low bit rate voice to high bit rate data communication
    Its payload is designed to provide communication capabilities to users over a wide oceanic region, including the Indian land-mass
Boost for Navy
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, August 30
The launch of the indigenous satellite exclusively for the use of Navy will provide a cutting edge in maintaining naval supremacy in the strategically vital Indian Ocean region.

Besides aiding in India’s long-term strategic and military interests, the satellite will be an asset in ensuring that the important trade routes carrying some half of the global trade, including crude oil-laden vessels, and passing near India, are safe and secure from pirates.

Sources explained that the Navy’s capacity to “see around” in the Indian Ocean will be enhanced greatly. The satellite will cover a swathe of almost 2,000 km and can zero-in onto specified targets and locations to provide a real-time picture.
Armed Forces Tribunal sets aside promotion of Brigadier
Saurabh Malik/TNS

Chandigarh, August 30
Indicating that manipulations of promotions at the highest levels of the Army would not be tolerated, the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has set aside the promotion of a Brigadier to the rank of Major General in the Judge Advocate General’s department (JAG), the legal-cum-judicial branch of the Army.

Alleging manipulation in the selection board proceedings, Brig Dinkar Adeeb and Brig PK Sharma, Deputy JAG of Eastern and Northern Commands, respectively, had alleged glaring irregularities in the board proceedings.

They had averred that their junior, Brig T Parshad, was granted out-of-turn relief by expunging some of his ACRs hastily on the eve of the selection board. His name was then considered with a changed improved profile resulting in his empanelment and supersession of seniors.

The officers had alleged that the board was scheduled for October 18, 2012, and then suddenly Brig Parshad was granted relief on the eve of the board. It was again postponed by a day, wherein his changed improved profile was considered and he was promoted. It was pointed out that according to the policy, no officer could be granted out-of-turn relief and that profiles of officers were to be frozen five days prior to the selection board and changes could not be introduced just prior to the board which affected inter-se merit.

The Army, however, submitted that it was not practically possible to follow the five-day freeze policy and also that there were file notings made on October 12, last year, which reflected that Brig Parshad was to be granted relief.

Junking the argument, the AFT, comprising Justice VK Ahuja and Lt Gen HS Panag, held that file notings have no value till an order in the name of the President is passed. Also, it was mandatory to follow the laid down cut-off date to eliminate arbitrariness as was also held by the Supreme Court.

The AFT also decried the statement of the Army that Brig Parshad may have made it to the next rank even without the relief in his ACRs, reminding the Army that it was only the selection board which could assess the same. The AFT also directed a fresh board without taking into account the improved profile of Brig Parshad.

This is not the first case when manipulations in JAG promotions have come to light. The Chandigarh Bench had earlier stayed the promotion board to the rank of Brigadier on which the government then itself took corrective action and re-convened the board. The Delhi HC had earlier this year quashed the promotion of an officer to the rank of Lt Gen in the Remount and Veterinary Corps.

The charge

Brig Dinkar Adeeb and Brig PK Sharma, Deputy JAG of Eastern and Northern Commands, respectively, had alleged glaring irregularities in the selection board proceedings

They had averred that their junior, Brig T Parshad, was granted out-of-turn relief by expunging some of his ACRs hastily on the eve of the selection board
Top legal appointment in Army quashed
The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has quashed the elevation of Brigadier T. Prashad as head of the Judge Advocate General (JAG), top appointment in the Army’s judicial and legal wing, on the ground that there were serious irregularities in the Selection Board (SB) held last August that approved the officer’s promotion to Major General.

The AFT set aside the promotion board that approved Brigadier Prashad’s elevation as Major General, after it was proved that new inputs on the service record of the officer were included much after the time line given for such inclusion in selection boards.

The new input for Brigadier Prashad related to relief granted by the Ministry of Defence to his statutory complaint on adverse annual confidential reports (ACRs) of previous years that were expunged. According to rules in force, all records pertaining to the officers being considered for selection to higher ranks are frozen five days prior to the date of meeting of the SB.

In the case of Brigadier Prashad, the order expunging his adverse ACRs was of October 16, 2012 and the SB, which considered the case of four brigadiers for promotion, was scheduled to meet on October 18. The proceedings were postponed by a day and when it met, the Board, after taking into consideration the relief granted to Brigadier Prashad on his adverse ACRs, approved his promotion to the next rank.

The AFT has said, “making the selection after considering the redressal to Brigadier Prashad is inappropriate as per the policy of the MS branch.” Initially, there was only one vacancy for a Major General in the JAG branch, but in May last year, the government created an additional vacancy. The SB of October 19, therefore, met to fill two vacancies for which four brigadiers of the 1981 batch were considered on the basis of their existing record and comparative merit.

When Brigadier Prashad, most junior Brigadier was selected, he was also tipped to be the JAG by virtue of having more residual service than his peer.

The matter was taken to the AFT by Brigadier Dinkar Adeeb and Brigadier P.K. Sharma, who in their petition said the SB of October 19 was “done illegally, hastily, with a mala fide intent to grant undue advantage to one particular officer.”

Brigadier Prashad was granted “relief on the eve of the SB and that too by postponing the SB repeatedly… and shifting the goalposts,” said the petition. He was granted relief in his career profile/ACR(s) on the eve of the SB “totally out of turn in undue haste,” it added.

The SB was then postponed by a day to October 19 and Brigadier Prashad was declared empanelled for the rank of Major General. That he was “granted relief in such a clandestine post in a haste manner leaves no manner of doubt that he otherwise would have not made it to the next rank but for his changed profile,” the petition said.
5 militants killed in Valley, says Army
The Army on Friday claimed it had achieved a major breakthrough by killing five top Hizbul Mujahideen militants in central Kashmir's Ganderbal district.

The Army said all slain militants were foreigners. One among them was identified as Assadullah alias Qari Assadullah, the District commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen. The other militants have been identified as Zubair, Javid, Fazal Umar and Hilal.

Though the terror organisation usually comprises local cadres, this group was headed by Qari Assadullah, a resident of the North Western Frontier Province of Pakistan. Police sources said the operation has wiped out the group from the area.

Defence spokesman Naresh Vij told The Indian Express that a joint operation was launched by the Army's 24 Rashtriya Rifles and the Special Operation Group of the police at Najwan forest near Preng late Thursday night. "The army received a specific intelligence input about the presence of militants in the forest area, so the search operation was launched," he said.

Vij said contact with the group was first established around midnight, when two militants were gunned down by the assault parties. "The encounter lasted till morning and ended with the killing of three more militants. Five AK rifles along with other arms and ammunition were recovered from the encounter site," he said.

The Army said the group was known as the Qari Assadullah group in the area and was active since last year. The group was under surveillance by intelligence agencies since it had been planning to carry out major attacks. It was already moving around Ganderbal and Kangan areas and had established some local bases.

The bodies of the five militants were handed to the police for burial.

Last week, the Army claimed to have killed 28 militants, majority of them on the Line of Control, in North Kashmir after militants targeted an army convoy in Hyderpora, killing eight soldiers.
Congo's army occupies rebel positions in breakthrough
(Reuters) - In their biggest success in a year, government troops in Congo occupied strategic hills overlooking the eastern town of Goma on Friday after rebel fighters withdrew.

The M23 rebels, who have fought an 18-month uprising in the eastern borderlands of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said they quit the Kibati hills to allow an independent investigation into shelling that has killed civilians in Goma and the lakeside town of Gisenyi in neighboring Rwanda.

Rwanda has blamed Congo for the shelling and said it would not tolerate such "provocation", raising the risk that Congo's small but militarily powerful neighbor might openly intervene in a country where it has fought two wars in the last 20 years.

Regional diplomats said Rwandan forces were seen moving north from the capital. Local media published photos of troops in armored personnel carriers and trucks headed for the border.

Millions of people have died from violence, disease and hunger since the 1990s as foreign-backed rebel groups have fought for control of eastern Congo's rich deposits of gold, diamonds and tin, destabilizing Africa's Great Lakes region.

Congolese troops have been buoyed by the intervention of a new U.N. brigade fighting alongside them to drive back the M23 rebels. "We won!" they chanted in Kibati, until Thursday a rebel outpost on the frontline overlooking Goma. Two burned-out trucks were abandoned near the hilltop position.

"They did not leave by choice, they were confronted with the power of the army," Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Hamuli, a spokesman for Congo's armed forces, told reporters.

Rwanda has in the past justified intervening in Congo by saying it must hunt down Hutu extremists who took part in its 1994 genocide. But a complex web of local politics and regional conflicts over ethnicity, land and minerals are also at play.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told Reuters: "If a diplomatic resolution means Rwanda standing by, arms crossed, waiting for its territory to be bombed and its people killed, then diplomacy is definitely off the table."

Although heavy fighting inside Congo has eased, there was sporadic firing on Friday. Congolese tanks fired on what they said were rebel positions in the bush. A Reuters journalist heard firing to the east, which Hamuli blamed on Rwanda's army.


Rwanda has been accused by U.N. experts of backing the rebels. Kigali denies the charge but world powers have stepped up pressure on Rwanda to stay out of Congo's conflict.

Hamuli said the rebels had retreated towards Kibumba, some 10 km (6 miles) north of Kibati. "We will go to Kibumba ... we are obliged to protect the population there," he said.

A regional diplomat, who is following the situation but asked not to be named, said the rebel force appeared to have remained largely intact despite the withdrawal.

"What happens next all depends on if the Congolese are prepared to go to the negotiating table and how hard Rwanda pushes at that point," the diplomat said.

"Anything could happen at this point, we are not relaxing yet. The next 24-48 hours will be critical."

The United Nations has thrown its weight behind Congo's government, saying its peacekeepers witnessed the M23 rebels firing shells into Rwanda.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who spoke to Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Thursday, condemned what his spokesman called indiscriminate shelling by the M23 that caused deaths among the civilian population, and urged parties to pursue a political process.

The M23 rebels, named after a March 23, 2009, peace deal that ended four years of rebellion in eastern Congo, took up arms last year saying the government had failed to honor the agreement, which included integrating them into the army.

After seizing Goma in November, the rebels further demanded Congo's President Joseph Kabila hold national talks, release political prisoners and disband the electoral commission.

Speaking on French radio RFI, M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa called on Congo to resume stalled, Ugandan-hosted negotiations to end the conflict.

Congo's government spokesman, Lambert Mende, rejected any resumption of peace talks, saying the M23 must first disarm, demobilize and become a political party.

A Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed on Wednesday, the first death since the new U.N. brigade engaged rebels last week.

South Africa's military said on Friday it had received a request from the United Nations for three of its Rooivalk (Red Kestrel) attack helicopters to be sent to Congo.

(Additional reporting by Jenny Clover in Kigali; Writing by David Lewis and Bate Felix; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Alison Williams)
After 2-day gap, Pakistan Army violates ceasefire along LoC in Pallanwala Sector
After a two-day lull, Pakistan Army again violated the ceasefire by targeting forward posts along the LoC in Jammu district, drawing retaliation from Indian forces.

Brigadier, 2 jawans injured in Pak firing

"Pakistan Army opened indiscriminate and unprovoked vfiring on forward posts along the LoC in Pallanwala sub-sector in Jammu district around 11 30 PM on Thursday night", a senior Army officer said.

In Pictures: 5 Hizbul Mujahideen militants killed in encounter with security forces

Pakistan Army fired from small and automatic weapons on the forward posts along LoC.

India retaliates to 3rd ceasefire violation by Pak in 24 hours

Indian troops guarding the borderline used similar calibre weapons and strongly retaliated, triggering fierce exchanges, which continued till midnight last night, he said.

There was no loss of life or injury to any one in the fresh firing.

There was no firing or ceasefire violation by Pakistan along the LoC from 3.15 PM on August 27 to 11.30 PM on August 29.

Pakistani troops had violated the ceasefire on August 27 by firing on Indian posts along LoC in Bhimber Gali sub-sector of Poonch district.

There has been almost daily firing and mortar shelling by Pakistani Army in the Poonch-Rajouri sector since August 6 with a total of over 3O ceasefire violations recorded this month.

Six jawans have been killed and 10 injured in ceasefire violations and firing by Pakistan troops on forward posts, civilian areas and patrolling parties along the Indo-Pak border in August.

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