Annan shoulder to post-Taliban push
Pervez clears first Atal-meet hurdle
Delhi banks on rising stock for Kabul role
BJP conclave to focus on terrorism
Cong brings curtains down on Patnaik
Sonia raps Atal on Ayodhya
Delhi for foreign entry in print
Samajwadi expels MP for saffron tilt

 
 
ANNAN SHOULDER TO POST-TALIBAN PUSH 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR AND REUTERS
 
Islamabad, Oct. 20: 
One of the Taliban’s most powerful ministers has discussed the previously unthinkable with Pakistani officials — the possible make-up of an Af-ghan government should the US-led coalition succeed in driving out the hardline Islamic rulers.

Efforts to instal a post-Taliban regime received another boost after UN special envoy for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi today said he would go to the region next week to help Afghans put together a broad-based government and discuss the country’s future with its neighbours.

“We will discuss with the Afghans, with their neighbours, with all interested parties, how to help the Afghans organise themselves,” Brahimi told a news conference in Washington. “Whatever arrangements are going to be made need to be owned by the people of Afghanistan, otherwise it is not going to work…”

Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan today said Jalaluddin Haqqani, the man responsible for tribal affairs in a country divided along ethnic lines, had discussed a post-Taliban government during a visit to Islamabad this week.

“This is something that the international community and the UN has been trying to promote,” Khan said. “So these meetings and discussions are based on... the future and prospects of a broad-based government and how it might work.”

Khan lionised Haqqani as one of the key figures in the decade-long mujahideen war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, saying his contribution had helped bring about an end to the Cold War. “Commander Haqqani was affiliated... he is not Taliban, but is affiliated with the Taliban,” he said.

Asked what Haqqani had discussed, Khan said: “Yes, many Afghans are in Pakistan... and they are meeting each other. Pakistan’s interest as a neighbour is to hear their assessment, their opinions and how they look in particular at a prospect of a broad-based government emerging in Afghanistan.”

Afghan experts said the tribal elder from the majority Pashtun group may have been visiting as part of manoeuvres to ensure he has a role in a future government. “He is a moderate and he may also want to start negotiations to ensure that he has a role in any future government,” said one analyst, adding it was significant that after 13 days, US bombing raids had still not targeted camps in Khost province, which is part of Haqqani’s powerbase.

However, in interviews with local media, Haqqani gave no hint that the end of the Taliban might be near. “We will retreat to the mountains and begin a long guerrilla war to reclaim our pure land from infidels and free our country like we did against the Soviets,” he was quoted as saying in The News. “We are eagerly awaiting the American troops to land on our soil, where we will deal with them in our own way... The Americans are creatures of comfort. They will not be able to sustain the harsh conditions that await them.”

His visit to Pakistan came amid rumours of splits inside the Taliban but Haqqani said the Taliban had lost no leaders — either through the US bombing or from defections. “There is absolutely no truth in such claims,” Haqqani said.

   

 
 
PERVEZ CLEARS FIRST ATAL-MEET HURDLE 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, Oct. 20: 
United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan has invited President Pervez Musharraf for the UN General Assembly session from November 10 to 16, where efforts are likely to be made to ease tension between India and Pakistan, besides discussing the current situation in Afghanistan.

Foreign office spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan today said the President received overnight a call from Annan, asking him to visit New York. He added that in the present circumstances — a war raging in neighbouring Afghanistan — it would “take due time” for the President to decide on an overseas visit.

Indian Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee is scheduled to visit the US in the second week of November. He is expected to meet President George W. Bush in Washington a day before addressing the General Assembly on November 10.

The visit of the two leaders to the UN has assumed immense importance in view of Terror Tuesday and the consequent strikes on Afghanistan by US and British forces since October 7.

The presence of Vajpayee and Musharraf in New York about the same time offers a possible opportunity to the US, which is taking a deep interest in persuading India and Pakistan to lower regional tension and move closer to a dialogue, to push for talks between the two leaders on the sidelines.

Political analysts believe Annan’s invitation to Musharraf is crucial because mounting tension between the two south Asian neighbours could add a dangerous dimension to the volatile situation in the region and beyond.

Announcing Annan’s invitation to Musharraf, the foreign office spokesman said the visit was yet to be finalised. The visit, he said, depended on “many factors”, but declined to elaborate on the “factors”, saying there were many things involved in a situation like the one prevailing in the region.

Khan added there was no question of Pakistani forces participating in a military operation in Afghanistan. “ (There is ) No question of Pakistani forces going outside the country for any operation in the context of Afghanistan,” he said.

On the presence of US ground troops inside Afghanistan, he said US officials are suggesting that ground troops are in north Afgha-nistan. “One can attach credibility if US officials are saying this.”

Khan added that the government is looking into reports about a woman journalist, Christina Lamb, allegedly trying to get an air ticket in the name of Usama bin Ladin from a travel agency in Quetta. “Any kind of deliberate mischievous scheme to malign Pakistan is certainly despicable. This is something which should be a matter of deep concern for the media and the journalist community also,” he said.

Bomb in airport

An attempt to blow up the Islamabad international airport was foiled by the detection of an abandoned briefcase containing explosives in the VIP lounge, reports PTI. The bag was removed by bomb disposal experts to a nearby ditch where it went off.

   

 
 
DELHI BANKS ON RISING STOCK FOR KABUL ROLE 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 20: 
India feels there is growing recognition within the international community about Delhi playing an important role in post-war Afghanistan, particularly in putting in place a political structure that will select the new regime in Kabul.

This was reflected when US secretary of state Colin Powell came here and discussed, among other things, the allied military operations and the possible new regime which could replace the Taliban. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who came here a week before Powell, also sought Delhi’s views on post-war Afghanistan, particularly the composition of the proposed new regime.

The economic and rehabilitation packages for Kabul announced by India after last night’s Cabinet committee on security meeting is a clear indication that New Delhi now wants to take advantage of the situation in ensuring its views on Afghanistan are taken seriously by the world.

South Block sees Powell’s visit to New Delhi as an attempt to keep India in the loop of things that is taking place in its fight against terrorism. But India wasn’t his primary concern; it was Pakistan.

Powell visited Pakistan with three objectives. To shore up Pervez Musharraf’s domestic image, to extend economic assistance to Pakistan so that it could tide over its difficulties, and to make an assessment whether a ground operation into Afghanistan can be launched from Pakistan.

“It was a reverse journey to India, like the ones we saw to Pakistan from New Delhi during Bill Clinton’s presidency,” a senior official in South Block said. While in India, Powell’s primary objective was to stop the breast-beating among the Indian public following his Kashmir remarks.

At the same time, it was also to reassure the Vajpayee government that the US campaign against terrorism was not limited to Afghanistan, and that post-September 11 developments would not change Indo-US relations.

But the Indian leadership draws satisfaction from the US secretary of state’s attempt to find out from New Delhi what it feels should be the right political structure in post-conflict Afghanistan.

This was important since reports from Islamabad indicated that Powell agreed with Musharraf’s views that “moderate Taliban” elements could find a place in the new dispensation in Kabul.

India is opposed to the idea and has made it clear that such a move would be opposed not only by India but also by all the key players in the region such as Russia, Iran and the Central Asian republics.

India has had close links with Afghanistan for decades. It began losing touch with the Afghan people after the Soviet invasion in 1979. But the worst scenario for New Delhi emerged after the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996. Since then, Afghanistan started becoming the hotbed for Islamic fundamentalists and training ground for terrorists fighting in Kashmir.

To ensure that India did not have a role in the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan insisted that New Delhi be kept out of the Six-plus-Two formulation, which includes countries sharing a border with Afghanistan and the US and Russia.

   

 
 
BJP CONCLAVE TO FOCUS ON TERRORISM 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Oct. 20: 
The special BJP national council session here tomorrow will focus on terrorism in view of the terror attacks in the US, the American retaliation and the spurt in anti-India propaganda by jihadi groups.

The special session convened to mark 50 years of the BJP (including its earlier avatar, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh) will be attended by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, home minister L.K. Advani, party president Jana Krishnamurthi and a host of other senior leaders.

While Vajpayee will deliver the valedictory address, Advani will move a political resolution on the charged situation. The meeting will also be addressed by Krishnamurthi, former president Kushabhau Thakre, former Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and former party vice-president J.P. Mathur.

Apart from terrorism, the session will take stock of the BJP’s prospects in states where elections are due early next year and the party’s growth since it was launched on October 21, 1951, as the Bharatiya Jan Sangh. The Ayodhya temple issue is also likely to figure in the discussions.

The Jan Sangh owes its origin to RSS leader M.S. Golwalkar’s belief that the Sangh parivar, banned following Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948, needed a political platform. Senior Sangh leader Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, who resigned from Jawaharlal Nehru’s government over the refugee influx from erstwhile East Pakistan despite the Nehru-Liaqat Ali pact, later played a major role in forming the Jan Sangh.

In 1980, the Jan Sangh members walked out of the Janata Party on the issue of dual membership and on April 6, the Bharatiya Janata Party was launched under Vajpayee’s leadership.

The party’s youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) which last Sunday concluded the Swarn Jayanti Maha Adhiveshan at Agra, has decided to launch a campaign to improve the BJP’s image with an eye on the Uttar Pradesh polls.

BJYM president Shivraj Singh Chauhon said his organisation will form teams of five members each to coordinate at the booth level for the elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. The BJYM will also take out 9,000 cycle rallies in the Hindi heartland between December 12 and January 12, 2002.

Chauhon denied reports that BJYM workers had vandalised the Taj Mahal. Four days after the incident was reported, he said none of the workers was involved. He said because of the ongoing Urs, there was a large number of people in the vicinity of the Taj and it was possible that some of them might have behaved in an unruly manner.

The BJYM leader said the Prime Minister has assured that a National Youth Commission will be constituted soon and a national youth policy announced to address problems faced by the youth.

Chauhon said the BJP’s youth wing has decided to take up development projects and issues, including fighting any challenge to national security and ensuring that the government’s welfare schemes percolate to the grassroots.

   

 
 
CONG BRINGS CURTAINS DOWN ON PATNAIK 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Oct. 20: 
Veteran Congress leader Janki Ballabh Patnaik has been given marching orders as Orissa Congress chief, bringing the curtains down on a chequered career plagued with controversies.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and AICC general secretary Kamal Nath had to resist sustained pressure from the party’s old guard before ejecting Patnaik from his seat. Patnaik’s name has been synonymous with the Congress in Orissa for many decades.

Patnaik will be replaced by Sharad Patnaik, a former Orissa Youth Congress chief. Sharad Patnaik’s elevation is aimed at signaling a “generational change” in the party. Congress MP from Dhenkanal, K.P. Singh was also considered for the post but Singh has so far shown “disinclination” towards the job.

Congress sources said Sonia cleared Janki Patnaik’s removal when almost all factions of Orissa Congress convinced her that the party would not be revived in the state as long as he was at the helm of affairs.

Realising that the tide had turned against him, Janki Patnaik has resigned. To pacify the heavyweight, sources said, the Congress may include him in the Congress Working Committee.

In the last two months, dozens of delegations from Orissa Congress met Sonia and Kamal Nath with just one plea — Remove Janki Patnaik and save the Congress. They said if Janki was allowed to continue he would certain lead the party into the next Assembly polls, to be held after three and a half years.

“Are you going to continue with him and project him as the next chief minister,” Orissa Congressmen asked Sonia. The Congress chief then made up her mind to remove Janki Patnaik.

However, Patnaik’s removal was not easy. Till late tonight, the outgoing PCC chief tried hard to retain his post until firmly told by Nath that the question of his continuation was closed.

Prominent among those who were favouring Janki Patnaik’s continuation included M.L. Fotedar, Balram Jakhar, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Pranab Mukherjee.

Orissa Congress leaders were delighted with Patnaik’s ouster and were last seen rubbing their eyes in disbelief that they had succeeded in their mission. They said finally the Congress leadership had fulfilled their long standing and “just demand” of “liberating” Orissa Congress from Janki Patnaik’s iron hold.

The seasoned leader managed to bounce back each time the leadership decided to get tough with him.

   

 
 
SONIA RAPS ATAL ON AYODHYA 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Meerut, Oct. 20: 
Making a foray in Uttar Pradesh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi rapped the Vajpayee regime for its failure to take “stringent action” against VHP leaders for violating law in Ayodhya and appealed to the Uttar Pradesh electorate to pardon the Congress for its past mistakes.

Addressing a rally at Victoria Park here, the Congress chief said the BJP was “applying every trick in the trade” to win the UP polls. “Logon ko aapas mein larane ki koshish ho sakti hai, yeh unka purana auzaar hai” (They may foment communal trouble. It is their old trick) Sonia said claiming that the vandalism in Ayodhya and Agra was an indication in that direction.

Regarding the Ayodhya incident, Sonia urged Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to explain why he failed to act firmly against VHP leaders. She said for the Congress, secularism was not merely a slogan. “For us, secularism is an article of faith. Equality and social justice is our motto while development is our resolve,” the Congress president said.

Sonia said the Vajpayee regime was wavering on an international situation. “There seems to be no consistency, no continuity,” the AICC chief said adding, “the government seems to be lacking a comprehensive policy. It has failed to take a lead in the war against terrorism”.

Sonia said the government should tread cautiously in light of the prevailing international situation and see to it that innocent people were not victimised.

“The Centre should move cautiously in its fight against terrorism and should see to it that no innocent person is targeted in the name of terrorism,” Sonia said.

The AICC chief’s statement had an obvious reference to the Centre’s move to promulgate a stringent ordinance to combat terrorism in place of the scrapped Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. The Congress has decided to oppose the Tada clone in the Rajya Sabha.

With the poll battle in Uttar Pradesh drawing near, Sonia appealed to the electorate to pardon the Congress and vote for it in view of its past track record of developmental activities.

“The Congress had committed some mistakes in the past and had suffered for it. But now the Congress is committed to serve people in right direction and work for the uplift of the people irrespective of the caste and creed. Congress is regaining peoples’ confidence and faith,” she said.

Sonia also wondered as to how George Fernandes could be re- inducted into the Cabinet with his name not yet cleared by the commission probing the Tehelka incident.

   

 
 
DELHI FOR FOREIGN ENTRY IN PRINT 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 20: 
The Union Cabinet is unanimous on allowing foreign direct investment in the print media in the “non-news, non-current affairs” category, Union information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj told The Telegraph today.

But a decision has been deferred for reasons of “propriety” because a Parliamentary standing committee report is due next month.

Swaraj said the committee is examining the subject suo motu “but it is considering it on its own for the news and current affairs print media”.

The Centre, she said, felt it was important to de-link a decision on the non-news, non-current affairs category from one on the print media as a whole. Critics of the policy, including some of the biggest names in the print media industry, fear the opening up of even the non-news, non-current affairs for FDI gives its advocates a toehold.

They fear the logic could be used to prise open the door further at the cost of the domestic newspaper and newsmagazine business.

Likewise, there are others in the industry who say the business should not be protected. Both sides have been lobbying strongly.

Swaraj said a note that was put up to the Cabinet earlier this week on the subject was a follow-up to a statement she had earlier made that the issue will be examined. There were reports that the Cabinet was sharply divided. But Swaraj today made it clear that the government has a firm view. There is no debate within the ministry when it came to allowing FDI for medical, scientific and technical journals.

“I am on record in Parliament as stating — in response to K.K. Birla’s question — that the concerns of the 1955 Cabinet resolution (that debars FDI in the print media) are still valid. On that day itself I said a separate decision will have to be taken on medical, technical and scientific publications. I had said that knowledge should not be expensive. These medical and scientific journals should be made available to Indian students cheap.”

   

 
 
SAMAJWADI EXPELS MP FOR SAFFRON TILT 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Oct. 20: 
Rattled by MP Rama Kant Yadav’s decision to be the convener of a BJP-Janata Dal (United) rally at Azamgarh in eastern Uttar Pradesh on November 11, the Samajwadi Party today expelled him from the party’s primary membership on charges of anti-party activities.

“Our party has got a bad name because of such elements,” party spokesman Amar Singh said while announcing the expulsion of Rama Kant, who represents Azamgarh in the Lok Saha. Singh said his party was weeding out “anti-social elements” as this had tarnished the party’s image.

He said Rama Kant was pressurising Samajwadi leadership to give nomination to his kith and kin in the Uttar Pradesh polls and the party was not yielding to his pressure tactics.

Rama Kant had yesterday attended a meeting convened by Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav and BJP leader Ravi Shanker Prasad, both Union ministers, to discuss the strategy for state election.

   
 

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