Lahore: PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif on Monday said he will invite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan for his oath-taking ceremony as the new prime minister.
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I remember a senior Congressman from Andhra Pradesh who was depressed when YS Rajasekhara Reddy was chosen to head the government in Andhra Pradesh in 2004. The Congressman said it would destroy whatever little reputation Andhra Pradesh had gained as a state seeking to move on from its laid back and unprofessional past. YSR’s son is now in prison for corruption and a big example of how not to raise children, especially in the Congress party. If Siddaramaiah is chosen to head the Karnataka government, he might need a crash course in new think.
Hegde and his team in the office of the Lokayukta brought into the public domain the full extent of politician-bureaucrat-businessmen corruption in Karnataka. The BJP did not recover after this. Yet, the man who most influenced Karnataka politics over the past four years was barely even mentioned in the election campaigns. Hegde would be a fine choice. Allow him to clean up, and he will. Guha has much to say about the state of education. He has a Padma award for services in the education sector. Ask him to reform things, and he should.
Premji is a forward-looking Muslim corporate titan, which is rare. He ought to have a great sense of life as a Muslim and as a businessman. Allow him to modernise the minorities, and he ought to. Gopinath should by now know exactly how corporate affairs need to be reformed. Task him with it, and he must. Narayana Murthy has a keen sense of governance. Task him with administrative and police reform, and he will. And so on. A clear and irreversible message must go that the Congress means business and that Karnataka comes above all else.
Else, Karnataka will remain a quaint, conservative state that seems to like alcohol, computers and corruption. Remember: Karnataka is the only state whose chief minister died of drinking – JH Patel, of liver cirrhosis. PS: I haven’t mentioned women because I couldn’t think of any. Readers, please tell us who we’ve missed.
The average asset per MLA in the 2013 Karnataka Assembly elections is Rs 23.54 crore, a nearly 135% increase compared to the previous 2008 poll, when it was Rs 10.02 crore, according to an NGO.
Karnataka Election Watch (KEW) also said on Friday that 93% or 203 MLAs of the total 218 analysed are crorepatis.
In 2008, only 63% MLAs were crorepatis.
It said 92 re-elected MLAs have been analysed. Their average asset in 2008 was Rs 17.53 crore, which has gone up to Rs 30.15 crore, a growth of 72%.
The biggest growth in assets in the last five years has been for DK Shivakumar (Congress), who has declared an increase of Rs 175.9 crore – from Rs 75.5 crore in 2008 to Rs 251 crore in 2013.
Assets of Priyakrishna (Congress) has increased by Rs 143.36 crore – from Rs 767.6 crore to Rs 910.9 crore and that of Santhosh Lad (Congress) by Rs 124.8 crore – from Rs 61.5 crore to Rs 186.4 crore
11 MLAs have declared that they have been charged under Prevention of Corruption Act.
Analysis and coverage: Congress sweeps to power in Karnataka
Out of 218 MLAs, five (two%) are women in the new Karnataka Assembly, compared to three in 2008.
New Delhi: The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has sought a detailed report from the CBI over the Centre’s interference in its investigation into the coal blocks allocation scam.
The CBI has also been asked to submit its latest status report on the case to the Commission, official sources said today, adding the CVC has taken cognizance of reports citing interference in CBI’s probe in the coal blocks allocation case.
The move came after it came to light that certain changes were made in the agency’s draft status report on the case submitted to the Supreme Court. CBI is probing irregularities in allocation of coal mine blocks on the direction of CVC.
The apex court had yesterday rapped the CBI, Prime Minister’s Office and Coal Ministry officials for changing the “heart” of the coal scam probe report.
The CVC, which exercises superintendence over the CBI in matters related to corruption, has expressed unhappiness over the whole issue of interference by a political functionary and government officials in vetting of the agency’s draft status report, the sources said.
“The Commission will soon hold a meeting with CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to take stock of the agency’s probe in the matter,” the sources added.
The CBI Director has admitted before the SC that its status report on the coal blocks probe was shared with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and two joint secretaries, Shatrughna Singh and A K Bhalla, in the PMO and Coal Ministry respectively.
Taking a stern view over the vetting of its draft report, the apex court yesterday said the CBI has become a “caged parrot” speaking in its master’s voice.
CBI has so far registered 11 FIRs in the matter.
News Rome: An appeal court in Italy’s Milan city Wednesday upheld former premier Silvio Berlusconis four-year conviction for tax fraud in connection with broadcasting rights bought by his television company.
Berlusconis was sentenced last October to four years. He was banned from public office for five for tax fraud in the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company.
However, due to a 2006 amnesty law, he will not have to serve three of the four years of his verdict.
The appeal court also upheld damages set at 10 million euros ($13 million) that Berlusconis and his co-defendants will have to pay to Italian tax authorities.
(Reuters) – The Supreme Court has dismissed Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG’s(NOVN.VX) petition seeking patent protection for its cancer drug Glivec, a serious blow to Western pharmaceutical firms which are increasingly focusing on India to drive sales.
In a landmark judgment that has the potential to change the direction of India’s pharmaceutical business, the apex court said on Monday that the drug failed to qualify for a patent according to Indian law.
Novartis has been fighting since 2006 to win an Indian patent for an amended form of Glivec. In 2009 it took its challenge against a law that bans patents on newer but not radically different forms of known drugs to the Supreme Court.
(Reuters) – Pakistan, seen as critical to efforts to stabilise Afghanistan, is finding it difficult to work with President Hamid Karzai due to mistrust and is reaching out to others to advance the peace process, senior Pakistani Foreign Ministry officials say.
Pakistan is uniquely positioned to promote reconciliation in neighbouring Afghanistan because of its long history of ties to militant groups fighting to topple Karzai.
But Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of backing the Taliban to further its aims, fearful it will try to install a pro-Islamabad government in Kabul, a charge Pakistan denies.
“Right now, Karzai is the biggest impediment to the peace process,” a top Pakistani Foreign Ministry official told Reuters. “In trying to look like a saviour, he is taking Afghanistan straight to hell.”
Karzai has said he wants peace on his own terms and could also be worried that the United States might cut a quick and risky deal with the Taliban, eager to get the bulk of its forces out of the country by the end of next year.
Either way, Pakistani officials say they are discouraged by what they call Karzai’s erratic statements and provocations, apparently designed to make him appear more decisive at home in dealing with the unpopular war, now in its 12th year.
Failure to reach an agreement between the Afghan government and insurgents would increase the chances of prolonged instability and even a push by the Taliban to seize power. The last time they did it, in 1996, it was with Pakistani help.
The stakes are also high for Pakistan, a strategic U.S. ally seen as vital to Washington’s global war on militancy. It fears turmoil in Afghanistan could spill over the border and energise homegrown militants seeking to topple the government.
“I have absolutely no doubt that there will be complete chaos in Afghanistan if a settlement is not reached by 2014,” said the Foreign Ministry official. “Afghanistan will erupt. And when that happens, Pakistan will have to pay.”
Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been suspicious of each other. A recent period of warmer relations raised hopes they could work together to lure the Taliban to negotiations.
Aziz Khan, a former Pakistan ambassador to Afghanistan, said it was not right to pin all the blame on Karzai.
“Everyone is hedging their bets at this point: the Pakistanis, the U.S., the Afghan government and the Taliban,” he said. “No one has been clear about what they want in Afghanistan.”
Although Pakistan will maintain contacts with Karzai, it is stepping up engagements with opposition figures, the Taliban, Washington and other parties to promote reconciliation, Foreign Ministry officials said.
“There is no other option but reconciliation – with or without Karzai,” said the top Foreign Ministry official. “If he continues to be this stubborn, him and his High Peace Council will naturally be sidelined.”
AFGHANS SAY KARZAI COMMITTED TO PEACE
A second senior Pakistani Foreign Ministry official cited several examples of how Karzai has blocked peace efforts. At a conference in January, for example, Karzai insisted there would be no more “back door” peace contacts.
The official also accused Karzai of delaying the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar that could be used in the reconciliation efforts. He did not say why.
Afghan officials say Karzai is fully committed to the peace process, but wants to ensure it is Afghan-driven.
Responding to the accusation that Karzai is an obstacle to peace, an Afghan government official said: “We totally reject this. It is a baseless allegation.”
Analysts say Pakistan has a long-standing fear of an Afghan government close to its old foe, India. Karzai has said “no foreign elements or entities should attempt to own Afghan peace efforts”. He also warned: “I am not going to allow other attempts to succeed.”
So far, Karzai has failed to secure direct talks with the Taliban. He has repeatedly asked for Pakistan’s support. Pakistan has helped Taliban representatives to travel to Qatar to make contacts with U.S. officials.
At the same time, Pakistan has been building bridges with the Northern Alliance, a constellation of anti-Taliban figures who have traditionally been implacable critics of Islamabad, and close to India.
But Kabul wants Pakistan to hand over top Afghan Taliban leaders which could prove useful in the peace process.
“All Taliban leadership are sitting in Pakistan. We need full cooperation of Pakistan in order for them to be allowed to travel and be allowed to talk,” Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul told a news conference in Sydney.
Karzai’s remarks during interviews and in meetings with Pakistani officials have led Islamabad to conclude he has become too inflexible. They cite Karzai’s recent accusation that the United States was colluding with the Taliban.
“What does Karzai have to show for his effort to bring insurgents to the table? We’ve released prisoners. We’ve facilitated talks,” said another senior Foreign Ministry official.
Late last year, Pakistan released more than two dozen Taliban prisoners who could help promote peace. It was the clearest signal ever that Pakistan had put its weight behind the Afghan reconciliation process.
Pakistan’s army chief has also made reconciling warring Afghan factions a priority, military sources say.
After the prisoner releases, Afghan officials said Pakistan shared Kabul’s goal of transforming the insurgency into a political movement. Such remarks signalled unprecedented optimism from Kabul.
“JOKER IN THE PACK”
But despite that, old suspicions that Pakistan uses Afghan insurgents as proxies to counter the influence of India have not been laid to rest.
Some Afghan officials believe Pakistan may still be hedging its bets and that even the prisoner releases were just a way to retain influence over the Taliban.
“The key fact here is that Pakistan has been investing in this dirty game of trying to control Afghanistan for the last thirty years through terrorist proxies,” said a senior Afghan government official.
“It is now trying to reap the harvest of its investments by waiting for what they see as the inevitable complete departure of the international community from Afghanistan and keeping their proxy assets, primarily the Taliban, for the post-2014 period.”
During talks last month at British Prime Minister David Cameron’s official country residence, Chequers, Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to consult on future Afghan Taliban prisoner releases.
But Pakistani officials now complain that Karzai does not appreciate the goodwill gestures.
Another Pakistani Foreign Ministry official said the government was incensed by an interview Karzai gave to the British press after the Chequers meeting in which he said the peace process was being impeded by “external forces acting in the name of the Taliban”, a veiled reference to Islamabad.
So exasperated was Pakistan with Karzai that at a meeting this month between Zardari, the army chief and senior officials, one top leader described Karzai as “the joker in the pack”, according to an official who attended.
(Reuters) – Two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen while on anti-piracy duty will return to India on Friday, the Italian government said, reversing a previous decision not to send them back to face trial after a home visit.
“The Italian government requested and received written assurances from the Indian authorities regarding the treatment of the marines and the protection of their fundamental rights,” the government said in a statement.
The Italian Foreign Ministry sparked fury in India earlier in March when they said the marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, would not return to India after being granted home leave to let them vote in last month’s election.
The Supreme Court subsequently ordered the Italian ambassador not to leave the country, escalating the stand-off and spurring European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to warn that India was violating international law.
The marines, part of a military security team protecting the tanker Enrica Lexie from piracy, are accused of shooting dead two fishermen in February 2012, apparently after mistaking them for pirates in waters off Kerala.
Girone and Latorre said they fired warning shots only.
They were detained in India to face trial, but the Supreme Court allowed them to go home for four weeks to vote in a parliamentary election on February 24-25, provided they returned to India by Friday.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano called Latorre to tell him and Girone that he “appreciated the sense of responsibility demonstrated in their acceptance of the government’s decision”, according to a statement.
Napolitano assured the two marines that the Italian state would be “by their side in the path that awaits them” and that he hoped for “a correct recognition of their point of view”.