Thursday, June 2, 2011

Defendant Rana unlikely to testify in Mumbai attack trial

CHICAGO | Thu Jun 2, 2011 3:14am IST

(Reuters) - The Pakistani-born businessman charged with supporting a deadly 2008 Islamic militant attack on Mumbai is not likely to testify at his trial, his lawyer said on Wednesday

U.S. prosecutors were winding up their case against Tahawwur Rana, 50, a Chicago businessman with Canadian citizenship who is charged with supporting the raid, which killed 164 people.

The role played by Pakistan's government in the raid was being closely watched amid strains in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship following the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by a U.S. special forces team in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad last month.

Asked by Judge Harry Leinenweber about the defense case, Rana's lawyer Patrick Blegen said he expected to present a computer expert and possibly two other witnesses next week but was unlikely to call Rana.

The prosecution's case was largely based on the five days of testimony by David Headley, an American with a Pakistani father, who described his role scouting targets in India and Denmark for militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, an officer of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate and an al Qaeda-linked militant leader.

Headley, 50, testified he used his childhood friend Rana's immigration business as a cover story for his reconnaissance work and obtained Rana's help in other ways.

The defense has argued Rana was unaware of the attack plots and that Headley was lying to justify his plea deal.

Rana faces up to life in prison if convicted. Headley has pleaded guilty to scouting targets for the Mumbai attackers and his plea spared him the death penalty and extradition to India. He still he faces several years in a U.S. prison.

Three FBI agents testified on Wednesday about evidence taken from Headley and Rana, as did an FBI translator who worked on the case.
A student hired by Rana also testified about a conversation the two had while delivering a check and an envelope to the Pakistani consulate, an errand which prosecutors say was intended to obtain a Pakistan visa for Headley.

(Reporting by Andrew Stern; Edited by Peter Bohan and Bill Trott)

Indian schools students shine in grade 10 examinations


RIYADH/JEDDAH/DAMMAM: Most of the Indian international schools across Saudi Arabia recorded 100 percent passes in the CBSE grade 10 exams. The results were announced on Wednesday.
The International Indian School-Dammam (IISD) maintained 100 percent results for the 12th consecutive year. “Out of 836 students, 748 appeared for school-based exam while 88 students opted for the board exam. Our school secured 100 percent results with eight improvement cases,” said IISD Principal E.K. Mohammed Shaffe. “A total of 428 boys and 412 girls appeared for the exams from the school. Thirty-seven students got 9.6 grade points.
This is the second year of the grading system introduced by the New Delhi-based Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and first year of the school-based Class X annual examinations. “The board based exam students and school based exam students have performed equally good,” he said. “The effort of the school officials to train the teachers and to catch up with the new system worked well,” Shaffe added.
The International Indian School in Jubail also did extremely well having secured 100 percent result. “All 194 students who took the exams in March have been declared passed by CBSE,” said its Principal Syed Hameed. “Outstanding performance was registered by 25 students who have secured CGPA 10 (Cumulative Grade Point Average) in all the five subjects,” he said and explained that “in common man’s language it is centum i.e. hundred out of hundred.” He attributed the school’s success to the hard work put in by the students and the teaching staff. “They deserve all the praise,” he said, and thanked the teachers for their support and guidance.
International Indian School-Riyadh (IISR) Principal M.J. Siddiqui said this year the grade 10 board exam was optional, but 293 students of the school took the exam and 431 other students appeared for the school-based exam.
 “Absolutely, there is no difference between school conducted and board examination conducted by CBSE,” he said. The total number of students securing all 10 (CGPA) are 45. Twenty-two other students secured 9.8 (CGPA). Thus, 67 students are eligible for the academic excellence award this year from the school.
Thirty-two students have to appear for improvement of performance in July. Last year, he added, the school had only one student scoring all 10. With the introduction of ‘Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation’ system in scholastic and co-scholastic area, the quality of the result has been improved with 45 students securing all 10.
The International Indian School-Jeddah (IISJ) also reported 100 percent passes. In all 709 sat the exam — 345 boys and 364 girls. All of them passed including 26 supplementary. Those scoring 10 points numbered 58 (37 girls and 21 boys).
The Al Wurood International School (AWIS), Jeddah, also had 100 percent passes. Of its 53 students (29 boys and 24 girls) who appeared at the exam, five got 10 (CGPA) — Abdullah Nasir Jamal (boy), and Fabisha Parveen C.H., Thamanna Haya, Sweety Mol and Ashana Kunnathody, all girls. Eleven of its students got 9+.  They are Ibrahim Mafaz, K.M. Nabin, Sanjay Rajendran, Juveriah Farooqi, Ramya Ravishankar, Shana Siddiqui, Mubarra Mansoor, Irfanuddin, Samir Abdul Hamid, Shezin Ashraff and Alex Jerry. Eighteen others got 8+, sixteen 7+ and three 6+, according to AWIS Principal K. Rahamathullah.
The  International Indian School-Buraidah also had 100 percent results for the 11th consecutive year. In all students took the board exam. Three of them scored all 10 points — Mast Khwaja Sameen, Mojibi Zainab  and Dujana Ashraf. Fourteen students scored above 9 points, according to IISB Principal Nasreen Syed.
The continuous comprehensive evaluation (CCE) system introduced by the CBSE last year has proved to be a boon for grade 10 students, according to all the schools in the Kingdom.
CCE’s benefits have been corroborated by the impressive Class X results declared by the CBSE in which students from the Kingdom notched up an unprecedented performance. Some sat the CBSE board exam, while some others chose the school grading system.
The school principals acknowledge the improvement shown by the students. “Performance across the board, in all categories of schools, has definitely been better in comparison to last year,” one of them said.

Cong distances itself from senior ministers receiving Ramdev

Updated on Wednesday, June 01, 2011, 23:58

New Delhi: Congress on Wednesday distanced itself from the government's unprecedented step of sending four senior ministers to the airport to receive Baba Ramdev in a bid to persuade him not to go ahead with the protest from June 4 saying it was "unnecessary" and the party has "nothing to do" with it. 

"The party is not at all related to this entire exercise from here to the airport (ministers going to the airport to receive the Yoga Guru)," top sources in Congress said commenting on the government's move, which indicated the unease in the party over the issue.
The sources also suggested that Congress President Sonia Gandhi was not in the loop over the decision. "The party has nothing to do with it. It is not involved in this airport exercise," they said. 

Party General Secretary Digvijay Singh said, "We are also interested in the issue of corruption and black money but hunger strike won't check corruption or help in bringing back black money. He (Baba Ramdev) should agree to the request made by the Prime Minister and other ministers."

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee accompanied by Kapil Sibal, Pawan Kumar Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahay held talks for over two hours at the airport with Ramdev, who arrived by a chartered jet from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh this afternoon. 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already gone the extra mile to urge Ramdev not to go ahead with his hunger strike, promising him to find a "practical and pragmatic" solution to tackle the issue of corruption. 

Singh has written a letter to Ramdev, "welcoming his constructive suggestions to improve governance." 


Pressure mounts on Maran to explain his 2G role

Meetu Jain , CNN-IB
Updated Jun 02, 2011 at 12:12am IST

New Delhi: Troubles mount for Union Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran as, sources say, the CBI will investigate the alleged links between Maran family-owned Sun TV and Maxis Group.

As the CBI tightens its noose in the 2G scam, a worried Maran on Wednesday defended himself for the first time since the controversy erupted.

In damage control, Dayanidhi Maran, after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, met Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and denied any wrong doing.

In a statement he said, "No Telecom Company has invested directly or indirectly in companies owned by my brother when I was the telecom minister. I had resigned as minister when Ms Astro invested in Sun Direct in December 2007."

The statement however doesn't answer key questions like - why did Maxis invest over Rs 700 crore in Sun DTH and SUN FM within months of getting a licence for 14 circles?

Maran said he wasn't a minister when Maxis invested in Sun DTH, but Maran was silent over fact that he was the minister when Maxis acquired Aircel.

The question also remains, how did Sun TV's net worth rise from over Rs 300 crore in 2006 to over Rs 1200 crore a year later?

But the CBI dragnet is tightening around Maran. The CBI could record Shiva Group Chairman C Sivasankaran's statement under section 161 of the CrPC next week. Sivasankaran has already deposed before the CBI over the Aircel-Maxis Sun Direct TV deal.

Meanwhile, the political clamour for Maran's resignation rose with the CPM's Prakash Karat meeting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha and the two demanding the Prime Minister ask him to step down.

"The Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) should ask for Dayanidhi Maran's resignation from the Cabinet. I am sure the Prime Minister will do it if he has already not done it," Jayalalithaa said in Chennai.

"I think it requires a serious investigation. And I hope that the Prime Minister will immediately get it investigated," said Prakash Karat.

Meanwhile, senior lawyer and Lokpal Bill Drafting Committee member Prashant Bhushan, in an affidavit before the Supreme Court, has demanded the CBI probe whether Aircel was arm-twisted by Maran to sell out to Maxis. He also demanded CBI investigation against DMK chief Karunanidhi's wives Dayalu Ammal and Rajathi Ammal.

He alleges that Maran deliberately delayed giving licence to Aircel as long as it was owned by Siva Group and as may as 14 liscences were issued to Aircel, when it was taken over by Maxis Group.

He also alleges that Maxis Group made investments in Maran's family run business Sun Network of Rs 599.1 crore.

In addition to investment in Sun Direct, investment of Rs 111.28 crore was made by Maxis in a FM company owned by Marans.

It's clear that the congress party will stay away from this controversy and will not back any minister if it hurts the image of the government. Within the DMK too there are anti-Maran sections, which will go on the offensive. So as the CBI investigates the case, the question is - will the Textiles Minister be the next high profile casualty in the 2G scam?

Nervous UPA gives Ramdev VIP treatment

Updated Jun 01, 2011 at 10:11pm IST

New Delhi: Yoga guru Baba Ramdev appears to have the central government literally at his feet. A visit to Ramdev by four ministers, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar at the airport revealed the nervousness of the government over Ramdev's fast.

To make matters more difficult for the government, the RSS too is now backing Ramdev.

After an over two-hour long meeting with Ramdev, the government came out without getting what it wanted - Ramdev calling off his fast.

"Satyagraha from June 4 will continue as per plans. Talks have been constructive. There has been consensus on some issues and talks will continue in the future," Ramdev said after the meeting.

Sibal said that more talks would be held with the yoga guru.
"Ramdev raised serious issues impacting the country. The government will take these seriously forward," he said.

The government was proactive this time because it didn't want to be caught on a backfoot as during Hazare times.

Hazare's fast had led to a loss of face for the government, but Ramdev is seen as a greater threat because of his proximity to the RSS. The government is worried that if Ramdev's fast takes off, it may attract strong political support from the right wing.

RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav made it clear that the RSS is with Ramdev.

The Prime Minister also stepped in despite the fact that government sources say that many of many demands of the yoga guru are unreasonable and even alarming. Clearly, the government is caught in a bind as it cannot afford to ignore the demands of the civil society, yet cannot be seen as weak kneed.

BJP, Jayalalithaa want Dayanidhi Maran to quit

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI/CHENNAI: Union Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran came under increasing pressure on Wednesday, with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam demanding his resignation and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) calling for a thorough investigation into reports that alleged his family benefited from policies and decisions he made as Minister for Communications between 2004 and 2007.

BJP general secretary Jagat Prakash Nadda wanted Mr. Maran to quit following reports that alleged that an investment made by Malaysian company Maxis Communications in a direct-to-home company of the Sun TV Network owned by Mr. Maran's brother, Kalanidhi Maran, could have been a quid pro quo for Aircel getting 14 mobile telephony licences after Maxis took it over.

AIADMK general secretary and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa demanded that the Minister quit and face legal proceedings.
“I am quite sure the Prime Minister knows what should be done… The Prime Minister should ask him to quit immediately, if he has already not done so,” Ms. Jayalalithaa said at a press conference in Chennai.

CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat called for a “serious investigation” into the allocation of licences and spectrum when Mr. Maran was Communications Minister. “I hope the Prime Minister and the Central government will immediately get this [matter] investigated,” he told reporters after he called on Ms. Jayalalithaa at the Secretariat in Chennai.

Meanwhile, in a statement, Mr. Dayanidhi Maran denied any wrongdoing during his tenure in the Communications Ministry and termed the charge that he favoured a particular company in granting a Unified Access Service licence “untrue and malicious.”
FDI cap

In New Delhi, the BJP said that during Mr. Maran's tenure, the cap on foreign direct investment in this sector was raised from 26 to 74 per cent. Maxis Communications had then bought 74 per cent equity in Aircel, which initially had a licence only for Tamil Nadu.
“Mr. Maran had got benefit for the company as during his tenure the company was given 14 additional licences,” party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged on Tuesday and demanded a detailed investigation. On Wednesday, the BJP went a step further.

Mr. Nadda said the party “demands the resignation of Mr. Maran immediately and if he does not resign, the Prime Minister should sack him.” He had written to the CBI Director A.P. Singh, seeking answers to “very disturbing questions” related to Mr. Maran's stint as Communications Minister.

Mr. Nadda said that in the letter he had asked whether Aircel was given a number of licences after Maxis Communications acquired 74 per cent of its equity.
The BJP wanted to know whether 2G spectrum was allotted to the company at rates fixed in 2001.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Public Interest Litigation moved the Supreme Court, demanding a CBI investigation into charges that licences were given to Aircel by Mr. Maran on the basis of a “quid pro quo.”