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Black money issue to figure prominently in budget session

NEW DELHI, Mar 10: The issue of bringing back Indian black money stashed abroad is likely to figure prominently in the Budget session of Parliament beginning Monday with BJP leader ...more

Taliban threaten Pak
woman activist

ISLAMABAD, Mar 10: Just days after she was conferred an international award for courage, well-known Pakistani women's rights activist Shad Begum has been threatened by the Taliban for speaking out against the militants in their former stronghold of Swat.....more

Situation in Hisar remains tense as Jats stick to their demand

HISAR, Mar 10: Tension prevailed in the district today as the standoff continued between the protesting Jats and the state government over release of those arrested during the agitation to press for reservation under OBC category.....more

Pak panel to quiz officials in Mumbai from Mar 17: Prosecutors

ISLAMABAD, Mar 10: A Pakistani judicial panel will travel to India and interview key officials during March 17-20 as part of the probe into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, prosecutors said today.....more

Akhilesh Yadav - the SP's modern face

LUCKNOW, Mar 10: Akhilesh Yadav, who scripted the Samajwadi Party's spectacular victory in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, is seen as its modern face who gave it an image makeover.....more

Paradigm shift in attitude towards India in Pakistan: Scholar

NEW DELHI, Mar 10: There is a paradigm shift in the way relations with India are seen in her country, and it was high time that India understood this change, Member of a leading Pakistan think tank said here today.....more

Akhilesh Yadav to be new CM of Uttar Pradesh

LUCKNOW, Mar 10: Akhilesh Yadav, who scripted spectacular success in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections with an image makeover for Samajwadi Party, will be the new and youngest Chief Minister of the state, representing a generational shift in its politics....more

FM asks private banks to focus on improving customer service

NEW DELHI, Mar 10: Concerned over large complaints against private sector and foreign banks, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today asked them to focus on improving customer service....more



Akhilesh Yadav to be new UP CM....

Jet Airways asked to pay dues of Rs 69 crore...

JuD warns India and US of backlash....

New ISI chief shares tenuous link with SRK...

 

Black money issue to figure prominently in budget session

NEW DELHI, Mar 10: The issue of bringing back Indian black money stashed abroad is likely to figure prominently in the Budget session of Parliament beginning Monday with BJP leader L K Advani today saying that the Opposition was eager to know how the Government had tackled the matter.

Recalling Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's assurance to Parliament during the Winter session that a "white paper" (authoritative document) would be brought on black money, Advani said it was an "important issue" and the opposition looked forward to it with great expectation.

"I do not know if the Finance Minister's promise in the last session of a white paper on black money is going to be presented in the first part or after the recess. That is an issue we look forward to with great expectation...That it will not be just a formal thing," he told reporters here.

"The issue itself is important and we would like to know from the white paper how the Government has tackled it till now or proposes to get back the enornmous wealth, which has been very often illicitly earned...," he said.

During the discussion on the adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha, Mukherjee had assured that the government will bring a "White Paper" on black money.

Replying to a spirited debate on Adjournment Motion on Blackmoney moved by Advani, which was later defeated by voice vote, Mukherjee had rejected Opposition demand for making public the information received, saying it would violate the agreement with foreign countries and also "dry up our source of information".

Asked about Lokpal Bill, which could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha during the Winter session, Advani said the legislation should be brought in the House.

"Lokpal Bill should be brought," he said.

The Rajya Sabha had witnessed a mid-night drama after the government said on expiry of the extended time period of the Winter session that there was no time left for voting and passage of the Lokpal Bill.

An angry Opposition had accused the Government of being in a "hopeless" minority and running away from Parliament.

Without referring to the Centre's proposal to implement National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Advani also said the Opposition would demand a discussion on its "concern on encroachments into the state's authority".

He said Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had expressed the Opposition's concern on encroachments into the state's authority and dilution of the country's federal structure when she met Speaker Meira Kumar.

"These are the matters of concern, how we discuss it, whether we discuss it in the first part-before the recess or the second part-all these are things to be decided," Advani said. (PTI)

Taliban threaten Pak woman activist

ISLAMABAD, Mar 10: Just days after she was conferred an international award for courage, well-known Pakistani women's rights activist Shad Begum has been threatened by the Taliban for speaking out against the militants in their former stronghold of Swat.

Apart from Begum, who was among 10 women presented the International Women of Courage Award by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington earlier this week, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan threatened 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, the first recipient of Pakistan's new National Peace Prize.

Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said both of them were on the militants' "hit list".

Begum is a social worker from Lower Dir district, located a short distance from Islamabad. The area was overrun by the Taliban in 2009 before the army launched an offensive to flush out the militants.

Yousufzai is a resident of the Swat Valley and came to prominence with her blog that detailed the atrocities of the Taliban.

Ehsan said Begum and Yousufzai had backed the "imposition of secular" governance in Swat.

"These women have been working for the vested interest of the West and have supported the imposition of secular rule in Swat Valley," he told the media in Pakistan's northwest. (PTI)

Situation in Hisar remains tense as Jats stick
to their demand

HISAR, Mar 10: Tension prevailed in the district today as the standoff continued between the protesting Jats and the state government over release of those arrested during the agitation to press for reservation under OBC category.

"We are not going to hold any talk with the state government till the time our demand (of releasing those arrested) is met. There will also be no talks with the Khap leaders, who are only acting on behalf of the state government," All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti leader, Suresh Koth said here.

The Jats have blocked several roads, including Hisar-Delhi and Hisar-Chandigarh national highways. Rail links to Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan also continued to remain paralysed.

Meanwhile, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda urged the Jats to exercise restraint and cremate the body of the youth, killed in alleged police firing.

Body of Sandeep, killed in clashes between police and protesters on March 6, continues to be placed beside the railway tracks as the Jats remained adamant demanding unconditional release of all those arrested.

Koth said the youth will not be cremated till their demand is met.

Meanwhile, 26 trains were cancelled on Hisar-Rewari route and the loss to railways has crossed Rs 3 crore so far, Hisar station master K L Chaudhry said.

The Jats blocked all roads to Sirsa, Chandigarh, Delhi, Rajgarh, Tosham and other destinations.

They, however, allowed media persons, ambulances, newly weds and Jat leaders to cross the blockades which have been put up at various points by the agitators.

There were reports that the protesters have pelted stones at police in Fatehabad as the forces tried to clear a blocked road. (PTI)

Pak panel to quiz officials in Mumbai from Mar 17: Prosecutors

ISLAMABAD, Mar 10: A Pakistani judicial panel will travel to India and interview key officials during March 17-20 as part of the probe into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, prosecutors said today.

The Pakistani prosecutors gave anti-terrorism court Judge Shahid Rafique details of the commission's visit to India beginning on March 14, sources told.

The panel will travel from Lahore to Delhi, where its members will be briefed by Indian authorities. The next day, the commission will travel to Mumbai.

The panel will record the statements of key Indian officials in Mumbai during March 17-20 before returning to Pakistan, the prosecutors told the court during proceedings held behind closed doors at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.

The anti-terrorism court is conducting the trial of seven suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who have been charged with planning, financing and executing the terror attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people in November 2008.

The judge also disposed of an application from defence lawyers seeking the report of the chief investigation officer in Mumbai and adjourned the case till March 17.

The defence lawyers lodged a protest with the court for not providing them with copies of the itinerary of the visit to India.

"Despite the court's direction, the coordinator of the commission is not providing us the itinerary," defence lawyer Riaz Cheema told.

The court has appointed Fazal Majid, a Deputy Director in the Interior Ministry, as the coordinator of the commission.

Cheema said: "We have been told that the coordinator will provide us the itinerary on Monday".

He claimed the chief prosecutor had not confirmed whether visas had been issued to the commission's members by India.

Senior Indian officials said Pakistani authorities were in touch with the Indian High Commission for processing the visas for the nine members of the commission.

Besides two prosecutors and the coordinator, the commission includes five defence lawyers and an official of the Foreign Ministry.

The commission is scheduled to record the statements of the magistrate who recorded the confession of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving attacker, the police officer who led the investigation in Mumbai and two doctors who conducted the autopsies of the terrorists and victims.

The commission can only record the statements of these persons and it cannot conduct any cross-examination, Indian officials said.

The trial of the seven Pakistani suspects has stalled due to various technical issues for the past year. Pakistani prosecutors have said the commission's visit to India is necessary to take forward the trial. (PTI)

Akhilesh Yadav - the SP's modern face

LUCKNOW, Mar 10: Akhilesh Yadav, who scripted the Samajwadi Party's spectacular victory in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, is seen as its modern face who gave it an image makeover.

Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav was always seen as a party of the old mindset in a state whose politics is dominated by caste and religious issues.

With his father said to be not in the best of health, Akhilesh, 38, took on the role of the party's chief campaigner and gave it a new dynamism talking of development and eschewing personal attacks against rivals.

One of the important accomplishments of his was that he played a leading role in shedding SP's image of being anti-English and anti-computers and also in denying tickets to candidates with criminal antecedents.

Born on July 1, 1973, Akhilesh studied at the Military School in Dholpur, Rajasthan, and then acquired a degree in civil environment engineering from the Mysore University.

Akhilesh finished Masters in environmental engineering from the University of Sydney, Australia, in 1998 and was contemplating taking up water pollution projects when his father and three times Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav drafted him into politics. He cut his teeth early in politics.

He had faith in the party's gritty electoral fight to remove the BSP from power; personally that translated into a 10,000-km yatra, 800 rallies in UP over the last six months and a systematic attempt at an image makeover for his Samajwadi Party, all of which paid off.

Akhilesh has been high on visibility in these elections. The red Gandhi cap, white kurta pyjama and black sleeveless jacket have been ubiquitous as he dashed to every corner of the state.

He was 27 when he entered the Lok Sabha first, winning from Kannauj in 2000, when his father vacated the seat having won two - Mainpuri and Kannauj. He has been the Kannauj MP since.

In this assembly polls, from ticket distribution to managing party campaigns, Akhilesh was seen in decisive position indicating his future role since the start of electioneering.

After he denied entry to DP Yadav in the party, he appeared at a meeting in Rampur with senior party leader Mohammad Azam Khan when his father gave the message that Akhilesh's decision is final.

The credit of SP getting majority on 224 seats in the House of 403 was given by the party to Akhilesh, who trusted youths to create a network to oust BSP.

As chief Minister, Akhilesh's skill would be under test in fulfilling promises made in the party manifesto which is not going to be an easy task.

It would be seen how he manages to provide tablets and laptops to high school and intermediate passouts, doling out un-employment allowance which would cause excessive burden to the state exchequer.

The party has for long had an image of being lax in tackling lawlessness and Akhilesh has a tough task on hand in dealing with the issue given the background of the militant image of SP workers, especially at a time when violent incidents, which have broken out after the party came to power, were attributed to them.

He has started with an assurance that the party government would not tolerate lawlessness and will tackle it with an iron hand.

Despite being aware of the power he wields in SP, Akhilesh always presented himself as a modest young man.One of the challenges he faces will be in his dealings with the party seniors who maybe upset at the sudden transition taking place in it.

From 2009 onwards, Mulayam had started giving signals that he was grooming Akhilesh when he was made in charge of shortlisting party candidates for the 2012 assembly polls.

All those who approached Mulayam were referred to Akhilesh with their documents. Leaders like Ram Gopal and Shivpal were systematically kept out of the exercise.

By early 2010, SP had announced its first list of candidates for the assembly polls.

On the evening of March 6 when the results were announced, Mulayam drafted Akhilesh to thank the people of UP for bringing SP to power. Barring old faithful Rajendra Chaudhury - state unit spokesperson - Akhilesh was flanked by members of his youth team. (PTI)

Paradigm shift in attitude towards
India in Pakistan: Scholar

NEW DELHI, Mar 10: There is a paradigm shift in the way relations with India are seen in her country, and it was high time that India understood this change, Member of a leading Pakistan think tank said here today.

"Relations with India are no longer seen in my country through the prism of PaK-US Relations," said Dr Huma Baqai, Joint Secretary of the Karachi Council of Foreign Relations speaking at the Asian Relations Conference.

There has dawned a whole new era of accountability in body politic with the judiciary and also the media playing their required role, and the political executive asserting its authority vis-a-vis military, said Dr Baqai, a political anlayst and expert in international relations.

There was now a questioning about everything that happened in the past, especially in relation to India, she added.

In her view the military was more mature today to attempt any coup, though in the last five years of democracy, several coups had been predicted. In this context she referred to Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's statement that his government will not tolerate any other state within state, underlining that in the past no Prime Minister could make such a statement against the military and survive for even a single day.

Earlier, every military ruler used to manipulate judiciary, but things had started changing for about six years ago. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf tried but failed.

All the political parties, even those in the rightist camp, now want improved relations with India.

It was high time that those at the helm of affairs in India should understand and take note of this change.

India should lend a helping hand to those in Pakistan who want to see the end of conflict.

Dr Baqai was of the view that peace process between the two countries should not be a hostage to the acts of terrorists with whom Pakistan itself has no control. She sought to underline that Pakistan had sufferred more at the hand of terrorism than India. (UNI)

Akhilesh Yadav to be new CM of Uttar Pradesh

LUCKNOW, Mar 10: Akhilesh Yadav, who scripted spectacular success in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections with an image makeover for Samajwadi Party, will be the new and youngest Chief Minister of the state, representing a generational shift in its politics.

The 38-year-old leader will be sworn in as chief minister around 1 PM on March 15 along with other members of the cabinet.

Ending all speculation, Akhilesh, son of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, was elected leader of the SP legislature party unanimously after senior leader Azam Khan, who is said to have had some reservations, proposed his name.

It was seconded by Mulayam's brother Shivpal Singh Yadav, who also reportedly had some misgivings initially about handing over chiefministership to the young leader who is credited in a major way with reviving the party's fortunes in the elections.

His predecessor Mayawati was 39 when she first became chief minister in 1995 in a coalition government with support from SP.

Shortly after the election at the legislature party meeting which included MPs, Akhilesh Yadav told reporters that his government would implement all the promises made in the SP manifesto without discrimination of caste and religion because people cutting across all castes and religions have given a mandate to the party.

Tackling law and order will be his government's priority, he said, adding honest officers would be appointed to deal with the issue.

In a break with the policies of the predecessor government, Akhilesh Yadva said the vacant space in the memorials built by Mayawati would be used for building medical or educational institutions.

The election of Akhilesh Yadav, who holds a masters in environmental engineering from Australia, was followed by a thunderous clapping of the assembled gathering of newly-elected MLAs and MPs of the party.

As soon as his name was approved, Akhilesh touched the feet of his 73-year-old father Mulayam Singh Yadav to take his blessings.

That Akhilesh, who toured Uttar Pradesh on his 'kranti rath yatra' on the plank of development, could be in the race for chiefministership was evident when the party got an absolute majority in the 403-member Assembly by winning 224 seats, notwithstanding the reservations of some seniors.

Akhilesh was also instrumental in the party shedding its image of being opposed to computers and English with promise of free laptops for students.

However, in the last two days Mulayam Singh reportedly worked on the seniors and persuaded them about handing over the mantle of chiefministership to his son, who now represents Kannauj in the Lok Sabha.

In his speech, Azam Khan, considered the Muslim face of SP, said Akhilesh was being given a big responsibility and hoped he would discharge it successfully. He rejected Mayawati's claim that Muslims shifted to SP because of the fear of BJP and said the Muslims were always with the SP from the days of Babri Masjid demolition.

"The party got more votes than it got after Babri mosque demolition", Khan added. (PTI)

FM asks private banks to focus on
improving customer service

NEW DELHI, Mar 10: Concerned over large complaints against private sector and foreign banks, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today asked them to focus on improving customer service.

"It is heartening to know that as per the latest annual report of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, the total number of customer complaints received by the Ombudsman in 2010-11 are 11 per cent less than the previous year," Mukherjee said.

"However, private sector and foreign banks which account for only 12 per cent of the rural deposits, contribute 35 per cent of the total complaints," he said.

This requires efforts on their part to redress the complaints, he said at a function here to open 100 branches of Kerala based Federal Bank simultaneously all over the country.

During 2010-11, 71,274 complaints were received under Banking Ombudsman Scheme against 79,266 in the previous fiscal.

As per the report, 6,895 complaints were against ICICI Bank and 5,590 against HDFC Bank. There were 2,144 complaints against Standard Chartered Bank, 1,865 against HSBC, 629 against Barclays Bank and 967 against Citibank N.A.

On the issue of subsidy transfer, Mukherjee said the government is in the process of implementing e-payment system for the direct credit of dues from the central government to the beneficiaries of various subsidies.

"I had announced in my Budget last year that e-payment system will bring transparency and expedite direct payment of subsidies to the targeted beneficiary of fertilisers, Kerosene and cooking gas. Banks have to gear themselves up for this path-breaking reforms," he said. (PTI)

Akhilesh Yadav to be new UP CM

LUCKNOW, Mar 10: Akhilesh Yadav, son of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, will be the new and youngest Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, representing a generational shift in a state whose politics is dominated by caste and religion.

Ending all speculation, Akhilesh, 38, was elected unanimously at a meeting of the SP legislature party in which senior leader Azam Khan, who is said to have had some reservations, proposed his name.

His predecessor Mayawati was 39 when she first became chief minister in 1995 in a coalition government with support from SP.

It was seconded by Mulayam's brother Shivpal Singh Yadav, who also reportedly had some misgivings initially about handing over chiefministership to the young leader who is credited in a major way with reviving the party's fortunes in the elections.

The election of Akhilesh Yadav, who holds a masters in environmental engineering from Australia, was followed by a thunderous clapping of the assembled gathering of newly-elected MLAs and MPs of the party.

As soon as his name was approved, Akhilesh touched the feet of his 73-year-old father Mulayam Singh Yadav to take his blessings.

That Akhilesh, who toured Uttar Pradesh on his 'kranti rath yatra' on the plank of development, could be in the race for chiefministership was evident when the party got an absolute majority in the 403-member Assembly by winning 224 seats, notwithstanding the reservations of some seniors.

Akhilesh was also instrumental in the party shedding its image of being opposed to computers and English with promise of free laptops for students.

However, in the last two days Mulayam Singh reportedly worked on the seniors and persuaded them about handing over the mantle of chiefministership to his son, who now represents Kannauj in the Lok Sabha.

In his speech, Azam Khan, considered the Muslim face of SP, said Akhilesh was being given a big responsibility and hoped he would discharge it successfully. He rejected Mayawati's claim that Muslims shifted to SP because of the fear of BJP and said the Muslims were always with the SP from the days of Babri Masjid demolition.

"The party got more votes than it got after Babri mosque demolition", Khan added. (PTI)

Jet Airways asked to pay dues of Rs 69 crore

NEW DELHI, Mar 10: After freezing the bank accounts of beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines, the service tax department has now served a notice on Jet Airways to pay up about Rs 69 crore as dues soon or face similar consequences, but the airline said it would do so by Monday.

Jet Airways has not paid a total of about Rs 69 crore worth of dues for January and February which they collected during this period, official sources said.

The amount was to have been paid by March 6, they said, adding that if they did not reply to the notice soon, "we will have to go for freezing of their accounts. We have to talk to the banks in the process of assessing the number of accounts they have."

When contacted, Jet's Senior Vice President (Finance) Mahalingam Shivkumar told PTI, "There has been some delay due to hike in oil prices and other costs. We are effecting the payments by Monday. Everything will be normal then."

There have been a major increase in costs including the hike in jet fuel prices, he said, adding "it is only a delay of about four days... It is like making a mountain out of a molehill."

Jet Airways posted a loss of Rs 101.22 crore in the third quarter ending December 31 last year, as higher fuel prices, lower fares and rupee depreciation continued to hurt the company. In the corresponding quarter the previous year, the company had posted a net profit of Rs 118.23 crore.

However, its total income increased to Rs 3,939.16 crore for the quarter as against Rs 3,473.38 crore recorded during the same quarter of the previous year.

The tax authorities have frozen a large number of bank accounts of Kingfisher squeezing its finances, even as the IATA has suspended it for non-payment of dues from three of its crucial platforms, including those connected with its ticket sales and cargo bookings. (PTI)

JuD warns India and US of backlash

LAHORE, Mar 10: Continuing his tirade against US and India, Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, has warned the two countries to stop their alleged efforts to "separate Balochistan from Pakistan" threatening a backlash.

Addressing a gathering of Defa-e-Pakistan Council, a grouping of over 40 hardline and extremist groups cobbled together by Saeed, he said, "While you are sitting in Afghanistan, you should refrain from making efforts to separate Balochistan from Pakistan by sponsoring moves there.

"So today we are giving you (India and the US) a very hard message to stop this with immediate effect or get ready to face our severe reaction."

The gathering marched from the JuD headquarters at Chauburji to the Data Darbar shrine yesterday to express solidarity with the Baloch people.

Saeed is also founder of the banned terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. (PTI)

New ISI chief shares tenuous link with SRK

ISLAMABAD, Mar 10: Pakistan's new ISI chief, Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam, is the nephew of Indian National Army hero Shah Nawaz Khan and through him, shares a tenuous link with Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan.

Islam's father served as a brigadier in the Pakistan Army and Shah Nawaz Khan, who was a major general in the INA led by Subhas Chandra Bose, was his uncle, leading Pakistani defence analyst Ikram Sehgal told.

"One son of Shah Nawaz Khan went with him at the time of Partition, while another, Mahmood Nawaz, stayed on in Pakistan and became a full colonel.

"In fact, Mahmood Nawaz went and met his father only after retirement as he could not travel to India while he was in service," Sehgal said, providing details of the new ISI chief's extended family.

Shahrukh Khan's late mother Lateef Fatima was the adopted daughter of Shah Nawaz Khan, according to the Bollywood star's biography on several websites.

Islam, who was yesterday appointed the new head of the powerful spy agency by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, comes from a military family and was born in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

It could not immediately be ascertained whether Islam had ever met Shah Nawaz Khan, who died in 1983.

Shah Nawaz Khan was himself born at Kahuta and served in the British Indian Army during World War II.

He was captured when Japanese troops overran Singapore in 1942 and then joined the INA.

He subsequently fought alongside Japanese forces against the British in Burma (now Myanmar).

Shah Nawaz Khan was captured by the British and put on trial with other INA officers in 1946.

They were convicted for treason but were discharged due to intense pressure from the public.

He later joined the Congress party and was elected to the Lok Sabha four times.

Before Islam's appointment as the ISI chief, some media reports had suggested that Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan's uncle Maj Gen Isfandyar Ali Khan Pataudi, a deputy director general in the spy agency, was in the running for the top slot.

However, sources told PTI that Pataudi was never seen as a serious contender for the post of ISI chief. (PTI)

 



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