Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pakistani journalist found dead after reported arrest by intelligence agency

Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, shown in a Nov. 28, 2006 file photo, was found dead Tuesday.
Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, shown in a Nov. 28, 2006 file photo, was found dead Tuesday.

By Rick WestheadSouth Asia Bureau

NEW DELHI — The deadliest country to be a journalist in just got deadlier.
Pakistan is reeling after news late Tuesday that journalist Saleem Shahzad’s body was discovered near his abandoned car in Islamabad.
Shahzad, 40, went missing Sunday night, his family said, after he left his home heading for a local TV station.
Almost immediately after his disappearance, Human Rights Watch issued a release saying it had reason to believe Shahzad had been arrested by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. His body was found with signs that he had been tortured, according to local news reports.
“Shahzad went for scoops and must have annoyed someone in the process,” said Zafar Hilaly, a former aide to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Shahzad’s murder is certain to highlight schisms within Pakistan’s government, which is torn between its allegiance to the U.S. and other western governments, who provide aid that keeps the government afloat, and Islamic militants, who reportedly have winnowed their way into the ranks of Pakistan’s officer corps.
Osama bin Laden was killed earlier this month by U.S. special forces in a hideout close to Islamabad. His presence so close to the capital prompted speculation that he must have been under the protection of at least some senior military officers.
When Shahzad went missing, many locals feared the worst. Operating as an objective, honest journalist in Pakistan is like navigating a minefield.
Reporters Without Borders has noted news media freedom in Pakistan has plunged in recent years and it is now among the world’s most dangerous places to report from. Last year, 11 journalists were killed in Pakistan, the organization said.
Shahzad, who was married with two sons, 14 and seven, and a 12-year- old daughter, was certainly known to Pakistan’s ISI.
He vanished two days after he wrote a story for Asia Times Online that said Al Qaeda attacked a naval base in Karachi on May 22 because its negotiations with the Pakistan navy had collapsed. Shahzad wrote Al Qaeda orchestrated the attack as retribution for the arrest of naval officers who were suspected to have ties to Al Qaeda.
Human Rights Watch was told Shahzad would be returned home by Monday evening.
“The relevant people were informed that his telephone would be switched on first, enabling him to communicate with his family,” a Human Rights Watch official told Time magazine. “They were told that he would return home soon after.”
A Human Rights Watch researcher on Twitter released an email that Shahzad had forwarded him Oct. 18, 2010. The human-rights organization had instructions to release it if Shahzad disappeared.
Shahzad told Human Rights Watch he had been summoned to the ISI’s headquarters on Oct. 17, 2010, a day after he published another controversial story. He met with two ISI officials: Rear Admiral Adnan Nawaz and Commodore Khalid Pervaiz.
Pervaiz has just been appointed head of the naval base in Karachi that was just attacked, Timereported.
Shahzad’s October story for Asia Times Online alleged Pakistan had released the Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Baradar from custody.
Baradar was Mullah Omar’s deputy and Shahzad reported he’d been freed to negotiate with the Pakistan army.
The Oct. 18 email, purportedly from the ISI to Shahzad, was labelled “For future reference.”
“I must give you a favour,” the ISI officer wrote to Shahzad. “We have recently arrested a terrorist and recovered a lot of data, diaries and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know.”
Journalists expressed horror at Shahzad’s murder.
“Shock, anger and grief are now our daily routine,” Feisel Naqvi, a lawyer and part-time journalist, wrote on Twitter.
A commentator in Lahore wrote on his blog, Kala Kawa, which he maintains anonymously, that “The ethos ingrained in our security high command is not ‘protect your people’, it’s ‘you can get away with anything’. And if getting away with something requires the murder of the citizens you have sworn to protect, so be it. Few things could be more repulsive.”
Not surprisingly, not everyone believes the ISI is to blame for Shahzad’s demise.
Imtiaz Gul, author of The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan’s Lawless Frontier, called Pakistan “a society torn between various narratives, from hatred and dislike of the west to adoration by many of Al Qaeda ideology.”
Gul said in an email that Al Qaeda and its related terror groups “are apparently exploiting this flux of situation to stage false flag events such as Shehzad’s murder. It’s too obvious an act to believe ISI killed him, beyond my comprehension to be honest.”

Sadhus demand probe into Baba Ramdev's assets

  | Hardwar, February 22, 2011 | Updated 09:58 IST

Baba Ramdev 's campaign against black money appears to have earned him many enemies among the political class as well as seers.

The Akhil Bhartiya Akhada Parishad, one of the leading groups of sadhus, is planning to write to the Prime Minister and the President seeking a CBI inquiry into the assets and wealth of the yoga guru.

The national spokesperson of the Akhada Parishad, Baba Hat Yogi, said: " A decade ago, Ramdev used to move on a bicycle. He even had to struggle to find money to fix his punctured cycle. Now he flies on a chopper. We demand an inquiry into the income and assets of the Ramdev ashram." Hat Yogi wasn't alone; a demand for a probe into the baba's assets also came from Trivender Panwar, president of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal that recently withdrew support from the Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank government in Uttarakhand.

" Baba Ramdev is shouting against black money to protect his own ill-gotten wealth. He is even planning to enter politics to protect his black money," Panwar alleged. " He had claimed last year that one Uttarakhand minister had asked for Rs 2-crore bribe from him for some favour. If he is so committed to weeding out corruption from India, he should disclose the name of the accused minister."

The outbursts against Ramdev come just days after a Congress MP in Arunachal Pradesh allegedly abused him when he talked about corruption at a spiritual camp at Pasighat in the East Siang district.

Many claimed that the popularity and political clout of Ramdev had made a lot of people jealous and they were now making allegations against him. But they, too, agreed that the baba should disclose his assets.

The yoga guru, however, remained unfazed. Hitting out at his critics, he told the Aaj Tak news channel: "We are ready for any inquiry. The central government has conducted such investigations twice and they are welcome to do so again. Is it a sin to speak about corruption in India?

Five crore people have donated for the development of our ashram. We will hold rallies on February 27 and March 23 in New Delhi against the failure of the Congress government to bring back to India the black money stashed away in foreign banks." His detractors dismissed his aggressive stance as mere posturing and alleged that his ashram was involved in many dubious activities. Baba Hat Yogi said: " In 2006, Mahant Shanker Dev of the Divya Yoga Mandir disappeared under mysterious circumstances. An independent inquiry should be conducted on the missing Mahant." The phenomenal rise in the wealth of the trust run by the yoga guru in the last few years has raised many eyebrows.

According to a rough estimate, the Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust has property worth more than Rs 1,000 crore in Hardwar alone.

These include a 300-bed multi specialty hospital, a yoga research centre, a university, an ayurvedic pharmacy, a food park and a cosmetics manufacturing unit.

Swami Ramdev is even reported to have acquired a Scottish isle for about £ 2 million a few years ago to set up a wellness retreat. According to unconfirmed reports, Patanjali Yogpeeth has also acquired major stakes in the Aastha TV channel.

The channel used to telecast Ramdev's daily yoga classes which helped him become an international figure.

Swami Ramdev's critics demanded to know where the funds to acquire these assets came from.

Patanjali Yogpeeth's general secretary Acharya Balkrishna insisted that the ashram's records were clean. " We maintain total transparency and keep an updated balance sheet. We have property mainly in Hardwar and land in some parts of India which are yet to be developed," he said.

" The ashram is making progress because of the support and donations from our followers. Those criticising us should ask the government to demand inquiry into the trust and organisation operated by the Gandhi family," he added.

MK’s pet projects go out of window

Last Updated : 04 Jun 2011 07:32:39 AM IST


CHENNAI:  The customary address of Governor Surjeet Singh Barnala to the 14th Assembly on Friday was on expected lines. Barnala made announcements fulfilling many more election promises of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, such as the distribution of free laptops to students of classes XI and XII and students of government and government-aided colleges, distribution of fans, grinders and mixies to women, while scrapping the pet projects of former CM M Karunanidhi — the Kalaignar Housing Scheme and the Kalaignar Insurance Scheme for Life-saving Treatments.

The AIADMK government’s warning that it would have zero tolerance towards corruption, an assurance on maintaining smooth relations between the Centre and the State, and preparation of a Vision 2025 Document for Tamil Nadu to identify and remove bottlenecks in development are some of the highlights of the Governor’s address.

Revival of the Mono Rail Project for Chennai and other major cities, nationalisation of cable TV operations, implementation of Solar Powered Green House Scheme and Public Health Insurance Scheme instead of the existing schemes, merger of the five Anna Universities created by the DMK, extension of welfare schemes of the State government to Sri Lankan Tamils in refugee camps, ban on plastic bags made of virgin plastics or recycled plastic less than 60 microns thick and 8 x 12 inches size are the other chief aspects of the address.

Reading out the highlights, the Governor said an inquiry commission headed by a retired HC judge would be set up to inquire into the alleged irregularities in the construction of the new Secretariat, such as excess expenditure, inordinate delay and deficiency in the standard of construction. He said further works in the new Secretariat complex would be stopped to facilitate this inquiry.

Stating that the government would work towards smooth Centre-State relations, the Governor said it wanted to solve inter-State water disputes through peaceful negotiations and wherever it was not possible, the government would not hesitate to take legal recourse for such problems.
For controlling the prices of essential commodities, the Governor said the Public Distribution System would be strengthened and a Price Stabilisation Fund with a corpus of `50 crore would be constituted immediately.

Hours after the Governor’s address, the CM held a Cabinet meeting to formulate plans for the implementation of the various schemes. She also reviewed the power situation in the State.

Tamil Nadu Governor's Address to the Legislative Assembly

Governor Surjit Singh Barnala (extreme right) making his inaugural speech at the State Secretariat and Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa (left) looks on, in Chennai on Friday. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

In his customary address to the Legislative Assembly Tamil Nadu Governor S.S. Barnala spelt out the policies of the AIADMK government. Click here to read full text of the address.

Yemeni president survives blast, accuses defectors, opposition leader   2011-06-04 05:51:06

by Wang Qiuyun, Fuad Rajeh

Army soldiers stand guard as anti-government protesters shout slogans at a barrier blocking a demonstration demanding the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa June 3, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo
SANAA, June 3 (Xinhua) -- Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh delivered a speech late Friday after shells fired by gunmen of an opposition tribe hit the presidential palace, injuring him and several senior officials.
In his speech aired on Yemen Satellite TV, only voice without appearance, Saleh accused outlaws of attacking his palace, saying they are gangsters who had no relationship with the pro-change-and- freedom protests.
"What happened today was a conspiracy by defectors and (the opposition leader Hamid) al-Ahmer, but we will pursue them," said Saleh.
"The attackers are just subversives who commit sabotage, occupy public offices and make explosion in many parts of the republic. They never seek proper change, like the youths on the streets," Saleh said.
Saleh assured the Yemeni people in his speech that he is very well. Furthermore, Saleh revealed that seven people were killed in the blast and other senior officials got only light injuries.
A government official said on condition of anonymity that the president suffered an injury in the back of his head, "his injury is not that serious and not that light," said the official.
Besides Saleh, Yemeni Prime Minister Ali Mujawar, deputy Prime Minister Rashid al-Alami and Parliament Speaker Yahya al-Raiee and several other senior officials were wounded in shells hit the walls of a small mosque inside the presidential palace, while the leaders and officials were performing the Muslin weekly prayer in Sanaa on Friday, a security official told Xinhua.
Noman Duwaid, governor of capital Sanaa, had one of his hands and one of his legs cut off and deputy Prime Minister al-Alimi got serious injuries also, said the security official, adding that they are all being treated in the 48th Hospital within the Defense Ministry's compound.
"The Republican Guards and special forces were quickly responded with shelling al-Ahmar's compound in Hadda district, a few miles from Saleh's palace," added the official.
Big explosions were heard near the palace compound after the attack, with eyewitnesses saying that the houses of al-Ahmer, a prominent opposition leader, were heavily shelled.
The fresh development came as two-week long fighting between the government forces and armed tribesmen loyal to opposition tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar spread to the north, west and south of Sanaa.
Sounds of explosions and shootings were still heard in Sanaa as many civilians prepare to evacuate immediately.