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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

From Today's Papers - 23 Dec 2014

Pak fails to challenge Lakhvi’s bail
The Pakistan Government today failed to file a plea challenging bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi even as the key planner of the 2008 Mumbai attack filed a petition in the high court here against a court’s decision to make a judicial panel’s record a part of evidence in the 26/11 case.

The prosecution, which was supposed to challenge Islamabad Anti-Terrorism Court’s decision to grant bail to Lakhvi in the high court, could not do so as it failed to get a copy of the ATC’s order.

“We are facing problems in getting the ATC’s order copy. I cannot say whether we will be able to file the appeal tomorrow as it is subject to getting the court’s order. After going through the court’s order we need time to prepare the petition,” said Prosecution Chief Chaudhry Azhar.

ATC Islamabad Judge Kausar Abbas Zaidi on December 18 had granted bail to Lakhvi citing lack of evidence against him, but before he could be released from the jail, the government detained him for three more months under Public Maintenance Order in Adiala Jail where trial is being held.

The decision to grant bail to Lakhvi (54) drew sharp criticism from India and surprised many for its timing, just days after Taliban massacred 148 people, mostly schoolchildren, in Peshawar.

Lakhvi’s lawyer, on the other hand, filed a petition in the high court here challenging a trial court’s decision to make the Pakistan Judicial Commission’s record a part of evidence in the Mumbai terror attack case.

“We have challenged the trial court’s decision in the Islamabad High Court to make the Pakistan Judicial Commission’s record a part of the evidence in the case,” said Lakhvi’s counsel Raja Rizwan Abbasi.

The Islamabad High Court has constituted a two-member bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Noorullah to hear Lakhvi’s petition.

“The court office will fix the date of hearing,” Abbasi said.

The Pakistani Judicial Commission had visited India twice for cross examination of witnesses. The prosecution had prepared the commission’s report which Lakhvi objected, saying “it cannot be made a part of the evidence in the case.”

Lakhvi and six other accused - Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum - were allegedly involved in planning and executing the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008, that left 166 persons dead.

The trial has been underway since 2009.
Brigadier indicted for funds misuse

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 22
A court of inquiry (COI), convened by the Army to investigate allegations of corruption levelled against a Brigadier commanding a key missile brigade, has reportedly indicted the officer for several counts of professional misdemeanour.

The inquiry had been convened after the brigade’s Deputy Commander Colonel S Ramalingam submitted a written complaint, supported by documents, to senior officers.

Among allegations levelled by the Colonel are misappropriation of the brigade’s regimental funds, unauthorised purchases and expenditure without original bills, irregular sanction of repair and maintenance works, non-compliance of observations of audit reports.

Sources said the findings of the COI had been sent to the General Officer Commanding 21 Corps, a strike formation, for further directions a few days ago. The review of the COI’s proceedings would determine the next course of action.

The Army had appointed Brig Rakesh Raina, Deputy General Officer Commanding of an infantry division, the COI’s presiding officer. Other members of the COI were Brig Manoj Kumar and Brig Saif-ul-Islam, both commanding different brigades.

Though a COI against a Brigadier would normally be presided over by an officer of the rank of Major General, the COI’s convening authority has certified that no Major General was available to conduct the inquiry due to service exigencies.
Spy agencies’ failure led to 26/11: Report
The 26/11 Mumbai attacks happened as a result of one of the “most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft” in which the US, British and Indian spy agencies failed to pull together all the strands gathered by their high-tech surveillance to thwart the assault on India’s financial capital, according to an investigative report said.

A detailed report by the New York Times, ProPublica and the PBS series ‘Frontline’ titled ‘In 2008 Mumbai Killings, Piles of Spy Data, but an Uncompleted Puzzle’ said “that hidden history of the Mumbai attacks reveals the vulnerability as well as the strengths of computer surveillance and intercepts as a counter-terrorism weapon.”

“What happened next may rank among the most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft,” said the report.

Citing classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, it said although electronic eavesdropping often yields valuable data, even “tantalizing” clues can be missed if the technology is not closely monitored.

In one of the most glaring intelligence failures, the report said Indian and British intelligence agencies monitored online activities of a key 26/11 planner Zarrar Shah, the technology chief of Pakistan-based LeT terror group, “but couldn’t connect the dots” before the attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

In the fall of 2008, Shah “roamed from outposts in the northern mountains of Pakistan to safe houses near the Arabian Sea, plotting mayhem in Mumbai, India’s commercial gem.”

He was, however, unaware that by September, the British were spying on many of his online activities, tracking his Internet searches and messages, the report said. “They were not the only spies watching. Shah drew similar scrutiny from an Indian intelligence agency,” it said. While the US was unaware of the two agencies’ efforts, it had picked up signs of a plot through other sources.
CRPF to battle Maoists with new strategies
New Delhi, December 22

The CRPF, the country’s largest paramilitary force, will unleash new strategies to combat Maoist guerrillas, new CRPF chief Prakash Mishra said on Monday.

IPS officer Mishra, who took charge as DG of the CRPF on Monday, said: “We will adopt new counter strategies to combat Maoism. CRPF personnel will be trained accordingly.” He said his focus would be on curbing the growing Maoist threat along the borders of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. — IANS
Army objects to state government’s move to transfer ownership of residential quarters to them
HYDERABAD: In a setback to the kin of former soldiers of the erstwhile Nizam Army, local military authorities have raised objections over transfer of ownership of residential quarters located at Mohammadi Lines and Asifnagar Lines to them.

The Army wants the Hyderabad district administration to stop transfer of ownership and directed its units to protect the property from "illegal sale". However, the district administration, quoting revenue records, claims the properties belong to non-Indian security force.

In a letter sent to the Hyderabad collector recently, the Army has requested "to ensure that no properties of ministry of defence (Army) are transferred to Nizam followers (sic) without approval from MoD".

Copies of the letter, one of which is available with TOI, were sent to the chief commissioner of land administration (CCLA) to stop this "illegal sale of MoD properties", other defence units, including HQ 54 Inf Div (Q) and HQ 47 Inf Bde (Q) "to ensure that defence land and the property on defence land is protected".

After nearly a decade-long fight with the state government, the families were assured ownership of residential quarters that they have been occupying for decades at Banjara Darwaza (old stables, Golconda Fort), Band Lines (Fateh Maidan, Nampally), Mohammadi Lines (2nd Lancer, Shaikpet), Masab Lines (Asifnagar) and Saifabad Lines (AC Guards, Asifnagar).

The Hyderabad district administration started transferring ownership of these quarters recently based on orders issued by the united Andhra Pradesh government.

Responding to the article 'Kin of Nizam soldiers get own homes in Hyderabad' in these columns, Colonel 'Q' for General Officer Commanding (GOC), Andhra Sub Area, Ajay Kathoch, shot off a letter to Hyderabad collector Mukesh Kumar Meena stating, "Follower (sic) quarters at Mohammedi Lines and Asifnagar continue to be on A-1 defence land under the management of local military authorities (LMA). No sanction of Ministry of Defence (MoD) for exchange of these properties with state government land has been received by this Headquarters (HQ, Andhra Sub Area)."

"Soon after receiving the communique, the Hyderabad collector has directed the revenue authorities to stop the transfer process. We will give a reply soon. As per revenue records available with the Hyderabad district administration, the properties and the land located in four areas belong to non-Indian security force and it is not defence land," Hyderabad district revenue officer and convenor of the regulairisation committee, Ashok Kumar told TOI.

According to him, the district administration had received 527 applications seeking regularisation of quarters (title transfer). "Till date, we have issued regularisation deeds to 117 applicants (kin of former Nizam soldiers) and 366 are pending with us," he added.

Regarding quarters over which the Army raised objections, the collectorate sources said of 117 quarters at Mohammadi Lines, nearly 60 deeds were already issued, while at Masab Lines of 87 quarters, 50 deeds were issued and the remaining were being processed.

For the families of former soldiers, it is back to square one as they have to continue the battle to get their homes.
Panel paints grim picture of India’s combat readiness

Painting a grim picture of India’s combat readiness, a Parlimanetary panel on Monday flagged concerns about India’s depleting military capability in the context of tackling a two-front challenge – euphemism for a combined threat from China and Pakistan. In a series of reports tabled in Parliament, the Standing Committee on Defence slammed the government for its failure to modernise the armed forces and asked it to take prompt measures to plug crucial gaps.

The panel noted crippling deficiencies in military equipment was fast-eroding India’s capability vis-à-vis its neighbours. The reports enumerated challenges being faced by the military ranging from inadequate number of fighter planes, shortfall of warships, missiles, tanks and even bullet proof jackets.

India requires 45 fighter squadrons to counter a “two-front collusive threat,” but the panel found that the air force has only 25 active fighter units. “Moreover, 14 of these squadrons are equipped with MiG-21 and MiG – 27 which will retire between 2015- 2024. Thus the strength will be reduced to just 11 squadrons by 2024… our capability has already come down,” the panel said.

It also noted that the navy had inducted only one submarine during the last 15 years, while it had retired five. “It’s high time that adequate budgetary provisions are made so that deficiencies are mitigated and the country is capable to take on two front challenges,” the panel said.

In another report, the panel expressed deep concerns over “critical shortages” of artillery guns and missiles.  Dubbing missiles a “very crucial component” in any modern force “with a high deterrent value”, the committee said missiles should be made available to the army in required quantity. The panel was perturbed to learn that bullet-proof vests had not been bought by the defence ministry, “jeopardizing the lives of thousands of soldiers.”

The panel was surprised to note that the government was raising a mountain strike corps but no separate allocation had been made for it. “An amount of Rs. 5000 crore has been earmarked for it but it is not over and above the actual budget allocated and the Army has been asked to raise this Corps out of its own budget,” it said.
Supplies to UN peacekeepers delayed, blame game on
A row has erupted over delay in supply of medicines, transport items and spare parts to Indian troops serving in UN peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Lebanon. There is a blame game on between the Army, Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the government-owned enterprise Balmer Lawrie, which has handled transportation of supplies in the last two years.

Responding to queries, the Army has acknowledged that troops posted in UN missions have been “adversely” affected by late delivery. Internal correspondence accessed by The Indian Express shows that delivery of some sea containers to the Congo and South Sudan have been delayed by almost a year. Damages have been claimed from the transporter — in one instance, for the expiry of a huge consignment of medicines.

The container movement traffic for items such as stationery, water tanks, spares, machine tools, paints and medicines is estimated to be around 120 per year — containers are also hired to bring back unserviceable stores from UN missions — but it is the delayed delivery of stores being carried onward in 44 containers which has put a question mark on the entire delivery mechanism.

Letters written by the Army brass posted in the Directorate of Staff Duties state that delivery to Indian troops should be on door-to-door basis, delivered ideally within a 60-day period. Warning letters by the DG and DDG to the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Shipping went out on September 23 and September 26.

One letter stated: “There has not been any container movement during the last one year due to which no stores have been supplied to Indian troops deployed in UN missions. The same has affected the operational efficiency of troops in international environment…”

“Stores such as medicines, oils and lubricants which have already been collected and not yet transported to mission areas are about to expire because of limited shelf life. These stores, if not transported to mission area in time, will expire and would be a loss to State,” the letter stated.

Earlier, the Integrated Finance Division, in a letter to the Army dated September 17, pointed out that the onward agent hired by Balmer Lawrie had “retained containers in his own custody, thereby denying Indian troops the provisions dispatched to them by the Ministry of Defence… as the Indian troops have been without replenishment for last one year, it is requested that Ministry of Shipping be enjoined to make available vessels for shipment of defence cargo to UN mission locations at the earliest.’’

When his comments were sought, Viren Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director of Balmer Lawrie, said they had won the Army contract for shipment of defence stores to Indian troops in UN missions in December 2012. Of the 44 containers, there were minor delays in delivery of 14, and later 16, containers to the Congo, South Sudan and Lebanon, he said.

According to Sinha, this was on account of delayed delivery of Customs Duty Exemption Certificates (CDECs) and the “ongoing war-like situation” in some destinations. For instance, he said, the delivery of one container marked for Malakal (South Sudan) was stuck because the road had “disappeared”. It was only in November 2013 that permission was given to them to make the delivery in Juba, also in South Sudan, he said, adding that some reached their destination in November.

A real problem, he acknowledged, had occurred in delivery of eight containers — six were to be delivered to Indian troops posted in the Congo (Goma, Kiwanja and Riwindi) and two containers to South Sudan (Malakal).

In a statement, the company said: “Because of inordinate delay in getting the CDECs from the destination countries, we had incurred a very large amount as ground rent, port charges etc, which amounted to Rs 1 crore. We wanted clarity on the payment of these and hence, there was delay. We finally took a call to make a payment to the Mombasa Port Authorities and clear the consignment pending finalisation.”

The company also pointed out that it was presently making efforts to get a waiver from the Mombasa Port Authority for the ground rent and port charges, and that they had also filed a claim of Rs 9 lakh towards cost of medicines which were meant for Indian troops, but had run out of shelf life.

To the suggestion of the Integrated Finance Division that the Ministry of Shipping be kept in the loop, the Army spokesperson, in response to a query from The Indian Express, said “no known record of the Shipping Corporation of India handling the consignments for the UN exists”, and that they had informed the Ministry about the requirement for door-to-door delivery for the Congo mission but received no response.

On the delayed delivery of Army supplies by almost one year, the Army stated that there was a “well laid out procedure through a Board of Officers (BOO) to assess the losses and that vendor will be charged as per Defence Procurement Manual 2009 for the liquidated damage”.

“The vendor was penalised and charged for liquidated damage for delayed delivery,” the Army stated, adding that a rate contract for future supplies to be delivered to troops at UN missions was now in its final stages.

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