Thrown out by Supreme Court, Jaya springs successor surprise
Amritsar haven for envoy families
Strategy to defeat Bush aim
US loads gun, Taliban fire up faith
Jaswant heaps praise on Bush
Atal tempers support chorus
Strike brings Kashmir to a halt
Washington under fire in Jama Masjid
Calcutta Weather

 
 
THROWN OUT BY SUPREME COURT, JAYA SPRINGS SUCCESSOR SURPRISE 
 
 
BY M.R. VENKATESH AND R. VENKATARAMAN
 
Sept. 21: 
After a widely-expected Supreme Court judgment unseating her, Jayalalithaa sprang an unexpected choice as successor in O. Pannerselvam.

The Supreme Court today declared that Jayalalithaa’s appointment as chief minister of Tamil Nadu was “not legal and valid” and, therefore, “she cannot continue to function as such”.

Justice S.P. Bharucha, delivering the judgment for the five-member Constitution bench, said: “We are of the view that a person who is convicted for a criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of not less than two years cannot be appointed the chief minister of a state.”

Jayalalithaa was convicted for two years in a land scam and the Election Commission had disqualified her from contesting. This is the first instance in the history of independent India of a convicted person being sworn in and then losing her post as chief minister, making Jayalalithaa the holder of a record double.

Since the verdict was virtually a dismissal notice, she did not need to even resign and announced immediately that the ADMK would elect a new leader.

But the “election” was not as swift as the declaration of intent. For nine hours and 37 minutes, Tamil Nadu went without an elected government. The uncertainty, which began at 10.35 am when the court verdict was delivered, lasted till 8.12 pm.

The new leader turned out to be Pannerselvam, setting Tamil Nadu up for a mode of governance that will be midway between the Laloo Prasad-Rabri Devi and the Bal Thackeray model. Jayalalithaa had plucked Pannerselvam out of his backbencher status by giving a ticket in the May polls and then making him a minister.

The party’s Theni district secretary, he is believed to be proximate to one of the relatives of Sasikala, Jayalalithaa’s close friend.

“You will see what kind of control I have,” she shot back in reply to queries about the change in her status from queen to queen mother. What was seen at the Raj Bhavan Durbar Hall, where the new ministers were sworn, showed that little has changed. Most ministers-to-be fell at Jayalalithaa’s feet before proceeding to the dais and several dissolved in tears.

The ministers looked askance when asked to pose for a group photograph without Amma. Soon after the photo session, the new chief minister paid obeisance to his predecessor and Sasikala.

Today’s verdict does not overturn Jayalalithaa’s actions as chief minister. The unanimous judgment by the bench said: “All acts (of her) performed as chief minister of the state shall not be adversely affected by the reason of this order.”

Ruling on a batch of six petitions challenging Jayalalithaa’s appointment, the judges said the Governor’s decision could not be above the Constitution. Justice Brijesh Kumar, in a separate and concurring judgment, said: “The contention that the Governor is bound by the decision of the majority party is not a correct proposition.”

Justice G.B. Pattanaik, who too gave a separate but concurring judgement, said: “It would be a blatant violation of constitutional laws to allow her to continue as chief minister, howsoever short the period may be, on the theory that the majority of the members of the legislative Assembly elected her as the leader and that is the expression of the will of the people.”

Justice Pattanaik even suggested “it is high time that Parliament considered a question of bringing the conviction under the Prevention of Corruption Act as a disqualification under Section 8(1) of the Representation of the People’s Act, so that a person on being convicted of an offence punishable under PCA could be disqualified from being chosen as a member or continuing as a member of the legislative Assembly or Parliament”.

The current practice is that a sitting legislator, even if convicted under criminal laws or PCA, continues to be a member and is not disqualified from contesting elections.

The latest example is Kerala’s Balakrishna Pillai who was a minister. He was also convicted like Jayalalithaa but, being a sitting member, his conviction was automatically, as is the provision in law, stayed and he contested in the last elections. Pillai won and his appeal against the conviction is pending.

This part of the law was not challenged and the judges, pointing this out, said: “We are not passing any judgment over this provision.”

The verdict ended Jayalalithaa’s 131-day tenure. Governor C. Rangarajan, successor to Fathima Beevi who had installed Jayalalithaa, swore in a 24-member ministry in the evening. Except one, all the members are from the previous ministry..

   

 
 
AMRITSAR HAVEN FOR ENVOY FAMILIES 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Sept. 21: 
With war clouds gathering over Islamabad, western missions have begun moving families of their envoys out of the country into India.

Their favoured destination is neither Delhi nor Mumbai but Amritsar, which, a decade ago, was the hub of terrorist activities.

Government sources said a British contingent had moved into the city. Approximately 5,000 people are expected to land, throwing hoteliers into a tizzy.

Amritsar is not exactly a tourist hotspot because apart from attracting the regular stream of pilgrims to the Golden Temple, it is a business centre. Its hotels and guesthouses are geared to meet only the demands of such people. “The hotels are not exactly the five-star variety. At best, they offer two or three-star facilities, which may or may not meet the requirements of our western guests,” said sources.

The government’s feeling was in case Amritsar did not meet their expectations, they might shift to Chandigarh, a more happening city by popular reckoning.

Government sources said Amritsar caught the fancy of western envoys for logistical reasons. “It is close to the Wagah border and is barely a couple of hours away from Lahore by road. This makes it possible for the envoys to visit their families without any difficulty over the week-end.”

The proximity, they stressed, was the more important as the US offensive threatened to be a long-drawn one. “The US government has reiterated that this war will not have a time-frame of one month or two months. It could continue indefinitely.”

On its part, the Indian government has reportedly assured the Islamabad-based missions that its borders would be hassle-free but safe as security around Wagah would be stepped up further. “But we will make sure the diplomats are not subjected to any problems.”

The Pakistan government has reportedly expressed its inability to guarantee foolproof security to the western missions. “Doubts are already being expressed on what extent Islamabad would get involved in the war, whether its support would be merely confined to offering military bases and air space or lead to a deeper role. This coupled with the surcharged atmosphere within the country makes it quite unsafe. There could be civil strife, anything in fact,” said officials.

   

 
 
STRATEGY TO DEFEAT BUSH AIM 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, Sept. 21: 
Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban are responding to America’s massive military buildup by trying to defeat President George W. Bush’s painstaking efforts to convince the Muslim world that the target of his war is terrorism and not Islam.

Dismissing Bush’s ultimatum to “hand over the terrorists or share in their fate”, Taliban’s envoy in Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, said giving up Osama bin Laden would be an “insult to Islam and shariat”.

In Islamabad, Zaeef read out the Taliban statement in Arabic, and not in the usual Pashtun, in an indication that he was trying to pull at Arab heartstrings, many of whose governments are backing the US in the crackdown on terrorism but uneasy that an Islamic country had become the target.

He said the Taliban militia was ready for a holy war, or jihad, if attacked. “This is not a problem of Osama. This is a problem of Islam and we are ready to sacrifice everything for Islam.”

In his speech to Congress, Bush had said: “The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them.”

The success or otherwise of his campaign rests on getting particularly the Muslim world behind him. The Taliban, without the military ability to respond to attacks by the US, is taking the war to a territory of its choice.

Throughout West Asia, clerics warned the US against attacking Afghanistan, urging the faithful to unite against any US reprisal.

Bush’s ultimatum angered ordinary Afghans. “We don’t like the Taliban or Osama but America’s policy… is an indication that this sole world superpower wants to fight against Islam as the Taliban claimed,” said one of them.

Nearly all of Pakistan, crucial to Bush’s campaign, shut down today in response to a strike call in support of the Taliban and bin Laden. In Karachi, at least four people were killed as protesters shouting slogans against President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to back the US clashed with police.

Demonstrations erupted in Srinagar. “Afghan warriors, we are with you,” chanted hundreds after Friday prayers. Crowds streaming down the steps of Jama Masjid in Delhi shouted: “Down with America.”

   

 
 
US LOADS GUN, TALIBAN FIRE UP FAITH 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR AND REUTERS
 
Islamabad/Washington, Sept. 21: 
The last pieces of the American war machine began falling into place within striking distance of Afghanistan a few hours after the Taliban brushed aside President George W. Bush’s ultimatum to hand over Osama bin Laden or face military action.

“The hour is coming when America will act,” Bush declared in a dramatic speech to a joint session of Congress, where he steeled America for a long campaign and laid the ground for an all-out assault on those he called enemies of freedom.

Bush addressed the rest of the world, too. “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” he told foreign governments. “From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbour or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime,” he added.

Bush asked the Taliban to hand over bin Laden’s top associates, shut down camps training terrorists and allow the US to verify their closure. “These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate,” he said.

But Afghanistan reacted defiantly to Bush’s ultimatum. “We are not ready to hand over Osama bin Laden without evidence,” Kabul’s ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, said in Islamabad.

Zaeef said if the US launched attacks, “it would be a showdown of might. We will never surrender to evil and might”.

A Gallup poll in 31 countries suggested that international public opinion was mostly opposed to Washington’s military plans. But more bombers and elite troops headed for the Mediterranean, from where strikes could be launched against Afghanistan as well as other countries, which the US feels, are harbouring terrorists.

Defence officials said KC-135 tanker aircraft had set up an “air bridge” to refuel B-1 and B-52 bombers ordered to fly from the US to the Gulf and Indian Ocean. They also confirmed that a senior air force general was now in the region to oversee any strikes.

Bush left open the possibility that the military could not only hit Afghanistan, but bases used by anti-American guerrillas elsewhere in West Asia.

Officials at US bomber bases in Louisiana, Georgia, Idaho and South Dakota refused to say whether their big planes, capable of dropping precision-guided bombs and firing long-range cruise missiles, had departed.

The bombers were expected to fly to the Gulf and the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. A total of more than 100 US warplanes were on alert to move to the region, which already has over 200 fighter aircraft.

The elite Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which could conduct attacks on guerrilla bases, said its troops had been ordered to deploy.

USS Kitty Hawk, which carries about 70 aircraft, has left Tokyo for the Indian Ocean, escorted by several Japanese destroyers. British frigate HMS Cornwall is on its way to the Gulf.

The New York Times said Lt. Gen. Charles Wald, the head of American air forces assigned to West Asia and southwest Asia, had been despatched to the Gulf early in the week.

It said he had been sent to run the air war from a sophisticated operations centre at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.

The massed air power could be used not only to attack Afghanistan, but guerrilla bases in Lebanon and elsewhere in West Asia as well as countries such as Iraq, which the US has accused of supporting terrorism.

In an ominous portent, fierce fighting was reported in Afghanistan between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance which said it is in touch with the US. The fighting coincided with a disclosure by the British foreign office that the US and its anti-terror campaign allies are looking beyond a possible military strike against the Taliban, and are already discussing the makeup of a new Afghan leadership.

   

 
 
JASWANT HEAPS PRAISE ON BUSH 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 21: 
Foreign minister Jaswant Singh today persisted with his pro-American line despite Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s assertion that the US was missing the point and failing to take into account India’s concerns in its fight against global terrorism.

Singh, who attended a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) this evening, described President George W. Bush’s address to the joint session of Congress as a “very fine statement”. It contained the “resolve of the US to combat terrorism until it is rooted out”, Singh said. “We welcome the approach outlined. We welcome the speech in its entirety.”

Home minister L.K. Advani also applauded the speech. So impressed was Advani that he told the US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, the address was “brilliant”.

The US President had urged global support for his war on terrorists, warning the world: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

The CCS discussed Bush’s address and the situation in Pakistan after pro-Afghanistan groups hit the streets today, but declined to elaborate.

The foreign minister told reporters he was scheduled to meet US secretary of state Colin Powell on October 2 to discuss mutual concerns. He also said he would meet his French counterpart and the British foreign secretary. Singh said he has already held talks with the secretary-general of the Arab League and the foreign minister of Egypt.

To persistent queries on whether the Indian government was not worried about US silence on cross-border terrorism, Singh said Indo-US ties should not be viewed through the “narrow prism” of Pakistan. Asked why Bush did not mention any possible UN role in solving the crisis, he said the address was meant for the US Congress.

Singh also said Vajpayee’s scheduled meeting with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly was off. He said no meeting would be scheduled “until the situation is completely resolved”.

Advani, who called Blackwill over to his house early this morning soon after Bush concluded his address, agreed with the US envoy that India and the US were together in the fight against terrorism.

   

 
 
ATAL TEMPERS SUPPORT CHORUS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 21: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is believed to be keen on dispelling the impression that India was ready to offer unconditional support to the US in its offensive against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

Sources close to Vajpayee said he had noted with a degree of “unhappiness” the initial reactions of some of his Cabinet colleagues to the September 11 terrorist strikes. Their reactions had suggested that India was all too willing to offer Washington any kind of support, logistical or otherwise.

In an interview yesterday, the Prime Minister had voiced his disappointment with the US for its failure to take into account India’s concerns while formulating its anti-terror strategy. Vajpayee was quoted as saying that Afghanistan was merely a “symptom of terrorism” and America would have to look beyond its boundaries “at the sanctuaries provided to terrorists, at the training camps, at the arms and money flowing into the hands of terrorists if it wants to get rid of terrorism root and branch”.

The notes of disapproval, though mild, were aimed at “correcting” the feeling that his government would give a blank cheque to the US in case the need arose, sources close to him said.

As far as coping with the post-strikes situation was concerned, Vajpayee, the sources said, was clear on two counts. One, India would not compromise its national sovereignty, whatever the compulsions. And second, the foreign policy, evolved over the last 50 years, would not be changed.

“This policy was evolved after a good deal of thinking and consensus and obviously it would not be reversed just like that,” the sources said. It is learnt that the Prime Minister assured the Opposition in as many words at the all-party meeting he convened as well as individual leaders like former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, who met him separately.

“The Congress called it non-alignment and we call it supreme national interest. Whatever the terminology, the Prime Minister is clear in his mind that the country’s interests will not be used to subserve any other interests,” the sources stressed.

The government’s mid-course revision of its responses has apparently come about for two reasons. Official sources spoke of how after the first wave of commiseration with the US —manifest in the expression “We are all Americans now” — even nations perceived to be unequivocally backing Washington had second thoughts. France was cited as an example.

Sources also hinted at the possibility of a domestic backlash in case India went overboard, not only from Islamic organisations but from constituents of the Sangh and the Opposition. “The Opposition is ready to back the government as long as it does not cross the accepted Rubicon. But one doubts if they will back any proposal of unconditional support to the US,” the sources said.

Sources also expressed concern about political ramifications in Pakistan and the Musharraf government’s stability. “We are anxious … that in case he is forced to step down for some reason, he may be replaced by some jihadi leader,” they said.

   

 
 
STRIKE BRINGS KASHMIR TO A HALT 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, Sept. 21: 
Shops and business establishments remained closed today as the strike called by three militant groups in protest against America’s “attitude” paralysed life in the Kashmir valley.

Few vehicles plied the streets of the capital city, while small groups of slogan-shouting youths were chased away in the uptown locality of Maisuma, police said.

The strike coincided with the bandh call given by various religious parties in Pakistan condemning their government’s support to America.

In a joint statement, the militant groups said: “If the US goes ahead with the attacks on Afghanistan, it would divide the world into Muslims and non-Muslims, which can prove devastating for the whole world.”

Authorities said there were no report of any untoward incident. Police and security forces are keeping strict vigil in the valley, sources said.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, which has endorsed Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s stand on supporting the US action, had opposed the strike called by the Albadar, the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and the Harkat-ul- Mujahideen. This is the first time in nearly eight years that the Hurriyat has opposed a strike called by militant outfits in Kashmir.

Buoyed by the success of the strike, the militant groups that had called it came down heavily on the Hurriyat and asked it to “keep off from the ongoing struggle in Kashmir,” adds PTI.

   

 
 
WASHINGTON UNDER FIRE IN JAMA MASJID 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 21: 
Posters calling the US a terrorist state and condemning its move to attack Afghanistan sprang up overnight in parts of south Delhi, while thousands of Muslims denounced Washington for threatening Kabul and chanted support to Osama bin Laden, after namaz on Friday at the Jama Masjid.

“Osama bin Laden is the answer to United States terror,” proclaimed a blue and white poster in the Okhla industrial area, which was also seen on many buses plying across the capital.

The poster questioned US President George W. Bush on the killings of Muslims worldwide.

“Is the blood of innocent Palestinians not blood? Is the killing of Iraqis, Bosnians and Chechens not terrorism? Just because the US is witnessing bloodshed, it is termed as terrorism. If it is a war between Christianity and Muslims, we are prepared to shed our blood,” said the posters brought out by local councillor Asif Mohammed Khan.

At the Jama Masjid, a group of Muslim women trooped out after namaz waving a banner saying “No More Killings”. Others distributed pamphlets of protest. “If there is proof (of bin Laden’s guilt), bring it before the world,” said Safiya Iqbal of the Muslim Women’s Peace Forum.

Imam Ahmed Bukhari termed the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon part of a “Jewish plot” aimed at destroying Islam as scores of policemen armed with automatic rifles stood alert as people offered prayers.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 33.7°C (+2)
Minimum: 27.6°C (+2)

Rainfall:

6.7 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 94%,
Minimum: 67%

Today

Possibility of light to moderate rain, accompanied by thunder, in some areas.
Sunrise: 5.28 am
Sunset: 5.32 pm
   
 

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