Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Friday, 4 April 2014

From Today's Papers - 04 Apr 2014

Musharraf escapes assassination bid
Ex-president unhurt as blast targets his convoy
Islamabad, April 3
Pakistan's former military dictator Pervez Musharraf, facing a treason trial, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when a powerful bomb went off near his farmhouse here on Thursday minutes after his convoy had passed.

The blast took place between Faizabad and Rawal Dam Chowk 20-25 minutes after Musharraf's convoy passed through the route around 3 am. He was being shifted to his heavily-guarded farmhouse from Rawalpindi’s Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology where he has been admitted for the last three months. He was unhurt, but officials said the blast caused about a foot deep hole in the ground.

The police claimed the 70-year-old former president was the target. "The blast took place about 20 minutes after Musharraf reached the farmhouse. By God's grace, he is safe," Aasia Ishaque, spokesperson of Musharraf's APML party, told PTI.

She said it was the government’s responsibility to provide security to the former army chief who remains on the hit-list of various terror groups. Islamabad police confirmed to PTI that the blast took place after Musharraf had taken the route. "The blast took place 25 minutes after Musharraf drove past," a source said.

A bomb disposal squad was called in at the blast site 3 km from Musharraf's sprawling Chak Shehzad farmhouse on the outskirts of the city. The bomb was planted in a drainage pipe adjacent to the footpath. TV footage showed a small crater adjacent to the footpath. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

While initially the traffic was stopped, it was resumed soon after. A case has been registered against unknown persons in the Secretariat Police Station.

Since Musharraf is under threat from terror groups, heavy security has been given to him and all his routes are thoroughly checked before he gets out. Reacting to the blast, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said the Islamabad police was not aware of his movement and that an investigation has been ordered into the incident.

Musharraf is facing five counts of high treason that potentially carry death penalty or life imprisonment. Since his return to Pakistan from self-exile in March last year, Musharraf has faced prosecution in four major cases, including for his alleged involvement in the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti in 2006. — Agencies
India, US enhance joint capabilities to fight terror
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

 New Delhi, April 3
Despite strains in bilateral ties, India and the US have not allowed counter-terror cooperation to suffer.

Outgoing American Ambassador to India Nancy Powell today handed over explosive incident counter-measures equipment worth $300,000 to the Mumbai Police to aid the fight against terrorism.

Speaking on the occasion, Powell referred to the strategic nature of the India-US strategic partnership and underlined that counter-terror cooperation would continue to grow between the two countries.

“The relationship between the United States and India, which are the two oldest and the largest democracies in the world, is very strategic,” said Powell, who resigned earlier this week.
3000 acre meadow apart, Army in possession of 6400 kanals of
Srinagar, Apr 3: In a revelation with far-reaching consequences, it has come to the fore that Army has acquired 6400 kanals of forestland in the peripheries of Tosa Maidan, the controversial meadow in central Kashmir’s Budgam well before 90’s.
 According to a 1986 presidential decree, 16202 Kanals 5 Malras of state/forestland in J&K were transferred to the Army at a cumulative cost of Rs 15.34 crore including the cost of trees. The average cost as per these rates works out to Rs 9467 per kanal.
 The land is in addition to the 3000 acres meadow that is being sought afresh by the army for the next 20 years to be used a firing range. Their current lease expires on April 18, 2014.
 Official documents in possession of Greater Kashmir reveal that following the presidential decree in 1986 for acquiring land in Budgam forests, Army took over possession of the notified land three years later in 1989.
 The Union Defence Ministry vide letter No: 204/05/ACQ/NC/DE/6312/D(Lands) dated: 27-10-86 conveyed the presidential sanction to the Chief of the Army staff for acquiring 16202 Kanals of land in Kashmir which includes 6400 Kanals in Lasipora and Arizal area of Budgam district.
 “I am directed to convey the presidential sanction of the President of India to the transfer of 16202 Kanals 5 Malras of state/forestland in J&K State at a total estimated cost of Rs 153400000 (Rupees fifteen crores and thirty four lakhs only) including the cost of trees as intimated by the State Government,” the letter reads.
 According to the documents, the forestland in question is spread over four compartments of Sukhnag Range of Peer Panchal forests.
 “We, the undersigned have this day, the 15 November 1989 handed/taken over the formal possession of land measuring 6405 Kanals comprising forest compartment NOs: S-9, S-20, S-21 and S-22 of Peer Panchal division, situated at Khundlasipora/Arizal/ Drang in tehsil Beerwah of district Budgam,” the handover/ takeover certificate reads.
 “The notional possession of the said land has already been taken over on 6 November 1986 by the Army,” it reads.
 The certificate is signed by the representatives of Army, Defence Estates Officer and the Forest Department.
 Of the 6400 Kanals, 1000 fall in compartment number S-19, 1375 in compartment number S-20, 2430 in compartment number S-22 and 1600 Kanals in S-22.
 Curiously, the demarcation certificate of the land too has been signed by the officials from the civil administration and Army on November 15, 1989.
 The revelation has come to fore at a time when Tosa-Maidan issue has generated a lot of heat, prompting the State Government to constitute a high-level panel headed by Chief Secretary for resolution of the issue.
 In its formal request made to the Jammu and Kashmir government, the Army is pushing for re-notifying the meadow as a firing range for 20 years starting April 19, 2014.
 The existing notification of the state government for using Tosa Maidan as a firing range by the Army is expiring on April 18.
 Army’s demand for re-notification of Tosa Maidan as firing range has snowballed into a major controversy in Kashmir. Locals affected by the artillery exercises are up in arms against extension of lease, asserting that the area has been turned into a “killing field” due to
its conversion into the firing range.
 Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has admitted that 63 deaths have occurred in the area due to unexploded ordinance (UXO) till date. “Since 1965 till date, 63 persons have lost their lives and 41 received injuries due to unexploded shells in Tosa-Maidan,” Omar had informed the Legislative Council last year.
 National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) has also taken cognizance of a complaint against the extension of Tosa Maidan lease to Army, seeking a detailed report on the matter from Ministry of Defence.
Army man held in fake currency racket ‘commits suicide’ in police station
An army man, who was a prime accused in a fake currency racket unearthed in Jammu and Kashmir last month, committed suicide during the intervening night inside a police station in summer capital Srinagar, the police said on Thursday.

Muneer Ahmad Manhas, 31, who worked with the Territorial Army, committed suicide inside the Ram Munshi Bagh police station, the police said. 

 “Today in the wee hours Manhas who is prime accused in the fake currency racket was found hanging,” the police said.

 “He had used pair of socks to hang himself by tying them with one another. The deceased was working in Territorial Army,” the police said further. Sources said Manhas was a trooper with 16 battalion of the Indian Territorial Army-- an organization of volunteers who receive military training for a few days in a year so that in case of an emergency they can be mobilized for the defence.

 Sources in police station said he was booked under case FIR No. 29/2014 U/S 489/ABC, 420 RPC. They maintained that Manhas 'strangulated himself with his socks'.

 A top administrative officer of the district has probe into the hanging. “His body has been sent for post-mortem and Principal Medical College has constituted a team of doctors for conducting post-mortem in presence of a Magistrate,” the police said.

 A police officer privy to the developments told Kashmir Dispatch that Manhas had been booked in the fake currency scandal that was unearthed in March, this year.

Police had on March 11 had claimed to have busted a fake currency racket and arrested twelve people. Police also recovered Rs 885000 fake currency notes from the arrested men.

Superintendent of Police, East Srinagar, Harmeet Singh had said after receiving information about a fake currency racket being operated in Srinagar City, they zeroed in on one of the key operators Arshad Ahmed Kaloo, a resident of Nehru Park.
India's National Investigation Agency had recently sought details from the state police about the fake currency racket.
Though police are tight lipped about the incident, but sources confirm that he was found dead in the bathroom of the police station.

"Manhas was part of the network involved in the distribution of fake currency not only in Srinagar but in New Delhi as well and the network has some members active outside India," an official probing the fake racket said.
Enroll defence personnel at place of posting
In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India has held that defence personnel can vote at the place of their posting, if they have been deployed at that place since January 1, 2014; and directed the Election Commission (EC) to enroll all those who qualify the above criterion. This applies to their families as well.

This brings us to the moot point as to why the political class and the successive election commissioners have violated the Representation of the People Act 1950-51 (Act hereafter) so blatantly and for so long.

When cornered finally, the Election Commission made a last-ditch effort and ruled that for the defence personnel to qualify to vote at the place of posting, they should have been in that location for a minimum of three years.

How disconnected is the Election Commission with the situation in the Indian Army, where no one can possibly stay at the same station for that long.

Even when the case came up before the Supreme Court, the EC continued to plead that "as per rules", a soldier should have been staying in that location for a minimum of three years.

There is no such rule or stipulation in the Act; and this three-year clause is the EC's own untenable ploy to, somehow or the other, deny the soldier his most fundamental right.

Postal ballots tedious process

The Act does have a provision for the EC to extend postal ballot facility in certain very special cases but this provision cannot be applied to soldiers, as they are covered under a specific provision of the Act.

Postal ballot is applicable to Indians residing or posted abroad, besides those under prevention detention. Earlier, the EC had tried to introduce proxy voting for soldiers.

Introducing proxy voting for 15-lakh voters will result in reducing adult franchise to the voting system of a limited company. Moreover, the proxy for national elections requires authentication by a magistrate or an oath commissioner and the EC does not seem to have visualized difficulties the defence personnel will face in complying with such a tedious process.

In short, the ECs, past and present, have tried every possible trick to ensure that the soldier is denied this basic right. Civil employees, by and large, vote at the place of their posting.

The practice of postal ballot by soldiers has been a complete failure. The procedure requires the electoral registration officer (ERO) to dispatch the electoral roll of a soldier to his record office, which in turn sends it to the soldier's unit and from there it has to be despatched back to the ERO.

This circuit is difficult to complete in the available time, so a vast majority of ballot papers never reaches in time.

Contradiction in EC stands

The Supreme Court pointed out that on the one hand, the EC would want maximum number to cast their vote, and on the other hand, it has been making this deliberate and sustained attempt to ensure that a vast majority (of soldiers) is deprived of this fundamental right.

The Supreme Court was constrained to criticise the EC for robbing the defence personnel of their valuable right.

The three-year clause has no logic and only shows the EC determination to deny, by hook or by crook, soldier's right to vote.

Even in disturbed areas where troops are deployed for decades, they have a stake in peace and development of the area and have the right to vote for who in their view is the right candidate.

Postal ballot, where put into operation already, needs to be ignored and the registering of serving personnel at the place of posting for the coming general elections undertaken on priority and as a special case.

Prejudice of political class

This denial of voting right to a soldier, as defined in the Act, is not just the doing of the successive ECs alone, but the result of prejudice of the political class and to it has been added the "willing" babu's bias.

After all, only those bureaucrats who play ball with the politicians in power get re-employment: some, again and again. There is a point of view gaining credence that for unbiased and fair inputs and decisions from the bureaucrats, their re-employment and extension of service should be stopped.

Once this "carrot" is taken away, we'll see more bureaucrats go by their honest and independent views, in the best national interest and not toe the politician's line. This one step will bring about good governance and cut out the unholy politico-bureaucratic nexus.
Armed forces upset as defence ministry fails to delegate greater financial powers
NEW DELHI: This is another deadline that defence minister A K Antony has missed. The armed forces are fuming that the much-promised delegation of greater financial powers to them for revenue expenditure in the new financial year has not materialized.

In keeping with the recommendations of several committees over the years, including the latest one approved by the defence ministry in 2010, Antony had promised top military officers that the 2014-2015 fiscal would mark a new beginning with greater delegation of financial powers to ensure they could run their forces better on a day-to-day basis.

"Antony also gave this assurance in commanders' conferences last year. It meant the Army, Navy and IAF would not have to keep running to the defence ministry for approvals, which invariably face huge delays. But March 31 has come and gone without it happening," said a top military officer.

As of now, commanders-in-chief (C-in-Cs) of different commands and vice-chiefs of the three Services have financial powers to incur revenue expenditure (maintenance, transportation, stores, works, repairs and refits) for just about Rs 15-25 crore.

"The C-in-Cs, who are secretary-level officers in rank, are responsible for the operational availability of platforms like warships, aircraft and tanks under their command but they hardly have the financial powers to ensure that," said another officer.

Since the last review had taken place several years ago, the 2010 committee had recommended the delegated financial powers should "go up by two times" to keep up with inflation. It was about to be implemented, with the "draft government letter" ready for final signature, when it was stopped on the ground that the move could lead to misuse and corruption.

The case has remained on the backburner since then despite dozens of high-level meetings and reviews. The military brass argues there are "enough checks and balances in place", including a network of "integrated financial advisors" for Service HQs and commands, to ensure the enhancement of powers is not abused.

"If someone is found guilty of wrongdoing, hang him. But how can commanders run their forces efficiently with such paltry financial powers, which are often not even enough to buy spares for platforms. There is a strong case to enhance the powers to three times the existing limits now, taking inflation into account," said the officer.

The enhancement of financial powers in IAF, for instance, would usher in improved serviceability and maintainability of aircraft fleets and weapon systems. The 2010 committee, in fact, had also recommended that 10-20% of cases after the enhancement of powers could still be referred to the MoD as a safeguard against abuse.

Incidentally, the delegation of financial powers is slightly higher for capital expenditure to acquire new weapon systems. The limit for the three vice-chiefs is up to Rs 150 crore, while it's Rs 500 crore for the defence minister, Rs 1,000 crore for the finance minister, and above Rs 1,000 crore for the Cabinet Committee on Security.
India has to learn how to be secure
Upholding moral responsibility following a fire accident on board submarine INS Sindhuratna, about 40 nautical miles off Mumbai, killing two officers and injuring seven sailors, Admiral D.K. Joshi resigned as the Naval Chief on February 26, 2014.
Nine days later on March 7, Commander Kuntal Wadhwa, chief engineer-designate, INS Kolkata, was killed when a valve that came lose that drenched him in carbon dioxide. “The valve that came lose to suffocate and kill Kuntal Wadhwa could be a creation of bad design, shoddy workmanship, inadequate quality assurance, unwieldy procurement methods, callous system, inordinate shipbuilding delays, unwise utilisation of funds or even downright corruption. Or it could be a combination of all these,” stated Capt. Ramesh Babu (Retd), Wadhwa’s former commanding officer. The number of other naval accidents have preceded these two.
Former Naval Chief Admiral Sushil Kumar, speaking to me, stated: “There has always been an uneasy relationship between the armed forces and the defence ministry. The crisis in the Indian Navy brought out two contrasting perspectives. On the one hand, there is the binding ethos of our armed forces, and on the other is the disconnect between the ministry of defence and the armed forces, which are its constitutional responsibility. Admiral Joshi’s decision to resign was an imperative of honour. Accepting moral responsibility for the operational mishaps that occurred during his tenure was laudable, but whether he needed to put in his papers is debatable. By accepting the Navy Chief’s resignation with surprising readiness, defence minister A.K. Antony appears to have not only distanced himself from the problems that plague the Navy, but has passed the buck down the line.”
Interacting with me, Bharat Verma, editor, Indian Defence Review, stated: “Under Antony’s leadership the primary national objective seems to be not to add military capabilities to ensure the nation’s security but to find ways to guarantee maximum kickbacks. Antony is unable to control the babus in the MoD and the result is unbridled corruption inside the ministry... The defence procurement procedure created by Antony and the babus of the MoD and often claimed by them to have been improved, continues to be a huge obstacle course in procurement.” Foreign vendors I interacted with during Defexpo 2014 expressed frustration.
Forget about sanctioning or expediting acquisitions, there was the great bogey of an attempt at a military coup. “Antony has not ordered a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate the ‘fake military coup’ that former defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma tried to create to malign the Indian Army. Responsibilities need to be fixed as to why the MoD was hell bent on demoralising its own Army,” reminded Bharat Verma.
On March 14, 2014, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a PIL seeking a court-monitored probe into the fire on board INS Sindhuratna, claiming that the officers died allegedly due to technical and maintenance failure of batteries and a compensation of `1 crore each for their next-of-kin. The petition also seeks to ascertain whether there was timely provision of batteries and other safety equipment and direction for producing the communication between the MoD and the Navy relating to maintenance of submarines, particularly Sindhuratna.
Military might and firepower levels of all three services are at an all-time low. The holdings of India Air Force (IAF) are far from sufficient to tackle the emerging China-Pakistan combo on multiple fronts. A parliamentary panel was informed that the IAF is critically deficient of trainer aircraft and simulators, fighter squadrons are depleting and some air fields do not have certain landing facilities. The IAF has 34 fighter squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons and the number is likely to reduce further to 31 during the 12th Plan period. Induction of new or upgraded aircraft has not been commensurate with the de-induction. The IAF requires 181 Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA), 85 Intermediate Jet Trainers (IJT) and 106 Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT). It does not have a Basic Trainer Aircraft as HPT-32 fleet has been grounded after a fatal accident on July 31, 2009.
The Navy’s submarine fleet is at an alarmingly low tally which not only gravely affects its underwater warfare capability, but is also taking a toll of personnel’s lives in peacetime. Over a period the Navy’s operational commitments substantially increased owing to terrorism and piracy on high seas and more so after the 26/11 Pakistani terrorist attack on Mumbai. With the extent and categories of threats India faces, an effective full-strength submarine arm is of vital importance even in peacetime.
No artillery guns have been purchased for the Army for 27 years, since the Bofors scam. Anti-aircraft guns are ancient. Around 333 infantry battalions have not been modernised and seriously lack mobility and sufficient firepower. Defects found in 5.56 INSAS rifles necessitate their replacement, as do ancient 9mm stens.
Following former Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh’s letter to the Prime Minister on critical deficiencies in equipment much concern was expressed by the parliamentary committee. In its report tabled in Parliament, the panel stated: “The committee is alarmed over the way the deficiencies have been allowed to persist leading to criticality in the Army aviation and ammunition in the country. The issue of critical gaps should be addressed without any further delay.” The report said acquisitions should be put on the fast-track mode. “There are huge gaps between the sanctioned and the existing machines with Army aviation. If the sanctioned and the existing strength is compared, there is shortage of 18 Cheetah, 76 advanced light helicopter (ALH) and 60 ALH with weapons system integrated (WSI). Tank ammunition is another critical area having shortages. Another area affecting the Army preparedness is requirement of guns for our Army. The upgradation of the Bofors guns is taking a long time. The committee disapproves of the way the deficiency of gun systems has been allowed to reach to the criticality,” the report noted. It also stated how blacklisting of certain companies like the Rhinemetals Air defence and Israel Military Industries had hit the acquisition of air defence guns and tank ammunition.
The report says, “The committee deplores the way the ministry has dealt with the issue of weight of bullet-proof jackets (BPJs) whereby it has been stated that the soldier is not required to wear the BPJs at its maximum weight under low threat levels.”
Meanwhile, for over a month government has not appointed a new naval chief.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal