War swallows silent spectators
Atal prescribes ayurveda
Tokyo ‘tall talk’ wipes off cheer from sanctions repeal
War still to begin, warns Omar
Indians stranded in terror zone
Policemen killed in Ulfa ambush
Old stars join Cong post hunt
Abu Salem cover-up slur on CBI
Calcutta Weather

 
 
WAR SWALLOWS SILENT SPECTATORS 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR AND REUTERS
 
Bahawalpur (Pakistan), Oct. 28: 
Sixteen Christians lay in pools of blood in a church after masked gunmen on motorcycles drew up, killed a police guard and sprayed the Sunday congregation with Kalashnikov fire.

Pakistan’s first massacre inside a church lived out the worst nightmare of Christians who have long expressed fears that they could become targets if resentment spiralled over American attacks on neighbouring Afghanistan’s Taliban.

As around 70 Christians in central Bahawalpur, a sleepy town south of Punjab province, gathered for a regular Sunday morning service, six men on three motorcycles rode up to Saint Dominic’s Church and pulled AK-47 assault rifles out of their bags, a witness said.

“They were carrying the bags and when they came they took out guns,” the witness said. Shouting “Graveyard of Christians — Pakistan and Afghanistan,” and “this is just a start”, they raced up to the church, killing one of the sleeping guards.

Four gunmen entered the church chanting “Allah-u-Akbar” while two waited outside to shoot anyone who tried to flee, another witness said. Police have been posted at churches in Pakistan since the September 11 attacks on the US. Christians account for about one per cent of Pakistan’s population of 120 million.

“The method used and the inhuman tactics clearly indicate involvement of trained terrorists,” President Pervez Musharraf said in statement expressing shock and sorrow. “I would...like to assure everyone that we will track down the culprits and bring them to justice,” he said.

“Islam provides full security to the minorities and no Muslim can commit this crime. I shall not comment on the identity of the terrorists or organisations bent upon creating discord and disharmony in Pakistan,” the President added.

Pope John Paul condemned the massacre as “an evil act” and said he was praying for the victims and their families. In a separate statement, the pope also called for innocent people to be spared in Afghanistan and said the international community should send aid swiftly to help Afghan refugees.

“It is a security failure,” Pakistan’s minister for minorities affairs, S.K. Tressler, told Reuters, adding that the Christians of the area had been receiving threats for the past few days. “They (the administration) should have properly reacted to these threats,” Tressler, a Christian, said.

Lying sprawled on the floor of the church, its walls scarred with bullet holes, were the bodies of seven women, two children aged three and five, and the pastor, Father Emmanual.

Saint Dominic’s is a Catholic church but a Protestant service was being held at the time of the attack. Sister Eina, the principal of a school, said as there was only one church in the area, it was being shared by both the denominations. “Last week, we had changed the schedule and asked Protestants to offer service till 9 am.”

The gunmen, who fled, killed 13 in the church and three died later in hospital. Five were wounded. Thirteen of the victims were from the same family. “We have nothing to do with what’s going on in Afghanistan. We are innocent people,” cried a woman.

On the wall above the bodies, a biblical inscription was painted in red: “We want peace, order and harmony.”

“This is terrorism related to Afghanistan,” said Sharif Azhar, a member of the church’s organising committee.

Christians from about 100 villages blocked a main road in protest against the attack. “We are not supporting attacks on Afghanistan. We have always supported the Muslims of Pakistan in their causes. We have nothing to do with Afghanistan. Why are we being targeted?” asked Piyarey Lal, a member of the congregation.

In 1997, rioters in southern Punjab sacked 13 churches and a school and burned and looted hundreds of houses, saying some Christians had committed blasphemy by throwing torn pages of the Quran into a mosque.

   

 
 
ATAL PRESCRIBES AYURVEDA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Oct. 28: 
Ayurveda could go where astrology could not.

Undeterred by the storm of controversy the proposal to introduce astrology kicked up recently, the government is now planning to teach what it calls the Indian system of medicine in medical colleges.

Indication of such a move gathering momentum came today from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself. Vajpayee said he favoured inclusion of the Indian system of medicine in the MBBS course itself. Under health minister C.P. Thakur’s charge, a section is working in the ministry on a project to introduce the Indian system as a branch of study.

It is too early to say if a course on Indian medicine will make its debut as part of MBBS teaching or in some other form.

Thakur has been keen on the proposal and had called a news conference recently to lay out his plans, but got completely sidetracked into answering questions on the anthrax scare raging across the world.

Thakur and human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, whose brainchild it was to introduce astrology as a course, were sitting on the dais when Vajpayee spoke today at the opening of the Iyengar yoga workshop and the foundation-laying ceremony for the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga.

The astrology proposal ran into strong political opposition with suspicions being voiced of this being a part of the BJP’s so-called agenda of saffronisation of education.

It was difficult for Joshi and his backers to defend the case since astrology could not be pushed as a branch of study of science. Ayurveda should not face political opposition of that kind because it is a system of medicine that has been practised for centuries and its healing properties have been proven.

There could, however, be academic disputes over how it should be taught — whether as part of regular medical courses or as a specialised area of study.

In a mood to entertain the gathering, the Prime Minister cracked a joke at his own expense. “I am not the best person to inaugurate a workshop on yoga, I am more of a rogi (patient) than a yogi.

   

 
 
TOKYO ‘TALL TALK’ WIPES OFF CHEER FROM SANCTIONS REPEAL 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 28: 
Delhi is not amused with Japan’s “tall claim” that it put a moratorium on nuclear tests because of the post-Pokhran sanctions and punitive measures imposed by Tokyo.

On Friday, Japan announced its decision to lift economic sanctions slapped on India and Pakistan following the 1998 nuclear tests. Far from being cause for cheer, the move rubbed India up the wrong way because of the graceless manner in which the matter was handled.

The statement from Tokyo indicated that the moratoria on nuclear tests and steps taken by India and Pakistan to ensure strict controls on nuclear and missile-related goods and technologies were because of measures imposed by Japan.

But the “unhappiness” is unlikely to creep into the interactions India will have with Japanese Prime Minister’s special envoy Yoshiro Mori, who came here today. Mori will be treated as an honoured guest of India and Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee has decided to break from protocol by hosting a private lunch for him on Tuesday.

The last time Vajpayee made such a gesture was during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin in October 2000. By repeating the gesture, the Prime Minister wants to make it clear that Mori is not only an honoured guest but also a “close friend”.

Tokyo’s statement announcing the lifting of sanctions said: “ Japan will urge India and Pakistan to make progress in the field of nuclear non-proliferation, including signing the of the CTBT. Should the situation concerning nuclear non-proliferation deteriorate in India or Pakistan, Japan will consider taking appropriate measures, including restoring of the discontinued measures.”

The “school-masterly” tone and Tokyo’s “tall claim” has made the Indian leadership unhappy. India’s moratorium on further nuclear tests came voluntarily after it was satisfied that it had the means to establish a credible, retaliatory strike capability. The controls announced by India were also part of its nuclear doctrine and without the prompting of any third country. Japan’s decision to take credit for either of these has not been received favourably.

The US, too, had imposed sanctions on India after the Pokhran tests, but did not refuse to engage with it on non-proliferation and disarmament. Japan not only went into a sulk, it also took a hard line against India in every international forum and continued to insist that the South Asian nuclear neighbours sign the test ban treaty even after all other countries gave up the demand.

With several key world players engaging with India now, Japan has realised that its hard line is isolating it more than Delhi. Besides, with Pakistan’s new-found status in the West following the Afghanistan strikeback and the US and European Union loosening their purse strings to woo Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, Japan, too, decided to jump on to the bandwagon. As lifting sanctions only on Pakistan would have invited criticism, Japan took the opportunity to discontinue them on India as well.

Pervez plea

Musharraf today said Pakistan and India should resume dialogue in line with agreements made during the Agra summit. But he claimed at a press conference with German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who reached Delhi this evening, that India was continuing to be hostile to Pakistan to raise its stock as a regional power.    

 
 
WAR STILL TO BEGIN, WARNS OMAR 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, Oct. 28: 
Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has said the “real war” against the US has not yet begun, and promised to teach the Americans “a bitter lesson”.

“We will give (the Americans) a more bitter lesson than the one we gave the Russians,” he said in an interview published in an Algerian newspaper, El Youm.

“We have not yet begun the real war against the US because of their technological superiority,” he said, adding that American troops “will not be welcomed with flowers.”

Omar alleged that the US-led war in Afghanistan was not targeted at Osama bin Laden, but was intended to destroy Afghanistan and “concretise its hegemonistic objectives in this region of the world”.

Referring to negotiations on establishing a post-Taliban government, centred around former Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah and the opposition Northern Alliance, Omar said he “categorically refused that Washington and other western countries impose on us, people who have abandoned us”.

“The fate of anyone who collaborates with (the US and Northern Alliance) will be death...and those who hope to be brought to power by US tanks will be disappointed, because we will use jihad to ensure that the Afghan people remain the sole rulers” in the country, Omar said.

He denied that there were rifts within the Taliban regime or its army, saying “our soldiers are mujahideen who have chosen the cause of their religion” and “any attempt to divert them from this will fail”.

On Friday, exiled Afghan leader Abdul Haq was executed by the Taliban as an American spy. A hero of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet Union and a leader of the dominant Pashtoon tribe, he had entered Afghanistan last week in a bid to encourage some elements of the Taliban to rebel against the leadership.

Omar also said that diplomatic relations between the Taliban and Islamabad were still intact, and praised the Pakistani people and “the people of all Muslim countries” for their support.

   

 
 
INDIANS STRANDED IN TERROR ZONE 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Amritsar, Oct. 28: 
While some looked sad, others wept openly.

Twenty-one Indian Afghans who arrived from Pakistan on the Samjhauta Express on Friday visited the Golden Temple yesterday in gratitude for having reached safely and also to pray for the well-being “of the hundreds who were not able to procure visas”.

“We are the lucky ones,” said Karta Parwan, the head granthi of Kabul gurdwara. “There are still many Sikh families in Kabul, Kandahar and Ghazni who have been unable to procure visas.”

Parwan added that the Indians in Afghanistan were living in constant terror and under “terrible conditions”.

Mehar Singh was also granted a visa by the Indian high commission in Islamabad. “As many as 112 persons had applied for the visas but only 47 have been granted travel documents so far. The government must understand the plight of Indians in Afghanistan and expedite the process,” he said.

According to those who arrived here, 62 families that had fled Afghanistan and taken refuge in Pakistan did not possess passports.

“We have submitted the lost cases to the Indian high commission and requested them to expedite their cases. It is difficult to get an Afghan passport these days,” said Manohar Singh, who hails from Kabul.

Stating that gurdwaras were not spared by the Taliban, Manohar Singh, a Kabul shopkeeper, said some Sikhs opted to stay back to guard the Guru Granth Sahib from sacrilege.

“The Taliban regime in Afghanistan is capable of doing anything. But we would like to return once things are normal,” Manohar added. He feared that many Indians who had taken the longer route to Pakistan through the mountains may have died in the air attacks.

Mehar Singh said 47 Indian families had so far decided to leave Afghanistan. Twelve families were stranded in Pakistan while 35 were still waiting to cross over from Ghazni in Afghanistan.

“We could have stayed in Pakistan but conditions there are not safe for the Indians. The Indian government must do something,” he said.

The Sikhs alleged that they were not allowed to stay for more than three days in any gurdwara in Pakistan. “There was no humanitarian aid for us. We were simply left to fend for ourselves and at the mercy of the Indian high commission,” one person said.

He said there were reports that the Taliban had asked its supporters to dress and trim their beards like the Sikhs and Hindus to escape capture by the US-led allied forces. “This spells danger for the Indians.”

Some claimed that they were forced to take part in the war being raged in Afghanistan. “We have had people owing allegiance to the Taliban asking us to take a crash course in arms training or leave the country. It is difficult for others to visualise what Indians are going through in Afghanistan these days,” said Davinder Kaur, who wore a burqa to protect her identity.

She feared that the condition of those who stayed back would worsen if the strikes continued any further.

   

 
 
POLICEMEN KILLED IN ULFA AMBUSH 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
Oct. 28: 
Five policemen were killed and four seriously injured in an ambush by suspected Ulfa militants in Lower Assam’s Dhubri district last night. Less than 12 hours later, the extremist outfit lost three of its activists in two encounters with security forces deployed in the Upper Assam district of Tinsukia.

Sources said the slain militants were carrying incriminating documents, including a sheaf of papers containing information on anthrax, its cause and cure.

The ambush in Dhubri took place at around 10.45 pm, when a team of policemen from the Paglaghat outpost near the India- Bangladesh border was returning from Kachugona village after investigating a dacoity. Havildar Hitesh Phukan (57) and constables Token Rai (30), Guneswar Basumatary (32) and Lankeshwar Kalita (28) died on the spot, while sub-inspector Develeshwar Sutradhar (50) succumbed to his injuries on way to hospital.

The injured policemen are sub-inspector Dilip Bharali and constables Sukhendu Das, Ramesh Mali and Ramakant Rai.

The ambush was the second major incident in the district within 48 hours. On Friday, unidentified persons threw a grenade at a Puja pandal in Gauripur. Three persons were killed and 26 injured in the incident. The VHP has called a 24-hour Dhubri bandh tomorrow in protes tagainst the attack.

Minister of state for home Pradyut Bordoloi said last night’s ambush was clearly the handiwork of the proscribed Ulfa. Director-general of police H.K. Deka, who visited the injured at the Downtown Hospital in Guwahati, said four persons suspected of having links with the assailants had been detained.

The army has been put on alert in the whole of Dhubri district. Additional companies of paramilitary forces have fanned out to “sensitive” areas to prevent a communal flare-up. Senior officials are camping in the headquarters.

The district’s additional superintendent of police, Nitul Gogoi, said the police vehicle came under attack from both sides of the road as they neared the Paglaghat outpost. “When the officer-in-charge of the outpost noticed that the driver was seriously injured, he took over the steering and drove the vehicle for about two-and-a- half km,” he said.

   

 
 
OLD STARS JOIN CONG POST HUNT 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Oct. 28: 
Several Congress “stalwarts”, including former Union ministers and ex-Governors, are seeking Sonia Gandhi’s patronage to get “adjusted” in the party organisation but the Congress chief has her hands full.

Buta Singh, M.L. Fotedar, Romesh Bhandari, P. Shiv Shankar and Balram Jakhar are among those in the hunt but the high command has no “vacancy”. There are already seven AICC general secretaries and Sonia does not want to drop them.

However, the Congress Working Committee has four vacant slots. Going by Sonia’s insistence on reserving a third of the berths for women, there is just one slot open for the “general” category.

At least half-a-dozen leaders are vying to step into Madhavrao Scindia’s shoes as deputy-leader of the party in the Lok Sabha. Sonia is keen to appoint former Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj Patil but Narain Dutt Tiwari, K. Karunakaran, N. Janardan Reddy, S. Bangarappa, Kamal Nath, Margaret Alva, Santosh Mohan Deb, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Mani Shankar Aiyar are also eyeing the post in view of their seniority and performance in Parliament.

The leaders have their own arguments to push their cases. Buta Singh’s induction is supposed to send “positive signals” in Punjab, slated to go to polls in February-March 2002.

The Bhandari camp is promising to bring the Samajwadi Party closer to the Congress in Uttar Pradesh while Shiv Shankar and Jakhar’s “rehabilitation” is thought to bring Backward and Jat votes for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab respectively.

Fotedar is an all-time favourite to be “Madam’s” political secretary given his track record and political acumen.

Former Governors like Shiv Shankar, Khurshid Alam Khan, Karan Singh, Motilal Vora, A.R. Kidwai and Shafi Qureshi are apparently nursing ambitions to be the country’s President or Vice-President. As Sonia is personally inclined to get President K.R. Narayanan another term, many of these ex-Governors are lobbying to become AICC functionaries or head the various departments in the party.

For Sonia, the problem is different. In February, she created 156 offices “adjusting” almost everyone in the party. But many did not like their assignment, resulting in a piquant situation within the AICC.

About a third of those who figured in Sonia’s list in February last year are yet to make an appearance at the party office to take up work in areas such as environment, science and technology and khet mazdoor, the Congress publication. These leaders refused to turn up despite repeated pleas from the high command.

   

 
 
ABU SALEM COVER-UP SLUR ON CBI 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai, Oct. 28: 
State government sources today said the CBI was trying to cover up its failure by denying the detention or arrest of Abu Salem. They said the agency neither moved fast nor tried hard enough to get the gangster extradited even though Mumbai police had offered all help.

Sources said the agency apparently did “not take kindly” to deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal’s decision to go public with the gangster’s capture in Sharjah and hog the limelight.

After UAE authorities asked the Indian government to furnish evidence to establish the identity of the gangster, held with a Pakistani passport, Delhi asked the state home department to provide Salem’s fingerprints. This, the sources said, gave lie to the CBI’s claim that Salem was not detained or arrested.

As police started scouring for his fingerprints in different police stations, the state home department asked the Centre to check with the Uttar Pradesh police since the gangster came from that state.

The Maharashtra government also started looking for an Arabic translator to translate the documents.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 30.8°C (0)
Minimum: 24.7°C (+3)

Rainfall

0.7 mm

Relative Humidity

Max: 95%
Min: 65%
Sunrise: 5.44 am
Sunset: 4.58 pm

Today

Generally cloudy sky. Possibility of light rain in some areas
   
 

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