Killers deliver Pearl dead on video
Question mark on Punjab police
Nod for labour law reform
Bengal bang on investor door
Why did Danny die, Mumbai asks Musharraf
British bid to discipline madarsas
Calcutta Weather

 
 
KILLERS DELIVER PEARL DEAD ON VIDEO 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR AND REUTERS
 
Karachi, Feb. 22: 

Tape handed to another reporter

Daniel Pearl’s executioners slit his throat, filmed their act and delivered the videotape. Nearly a month after the American journalist was kidnapped in Pakistan, it was confirmed early this morning that he was dead.

The video was handed over on Wednesday or Thursday to the Karachi-based Pakistani reporter of a New York newspaper who had to spend another 24 hours to convince US authorities that they should view it.

A Pakistan government official said Pearl’s neck and throat were slit. His last words uttered on camera were that he was a Jew and his father was a Jew.

Pakistani interior minister Moinuddin Haider said the tape was made available to the US consul-general in Karachi and to US and Pakistani investigators who viewed it, confirming at 2 am today that the person being killed on camera was Pearl.

A representative of The Wall Street Journal, for which Pearl was working out of Mumbai as the South Asian bureau chief, also saw the tape. Only when the editor confirmed that the figure on the tape was Pearl was news of his death released.

“We are in touch with the reporter in Karachi to find out who handed over this tape to him,” Haider said.

Pakistani police were searching for up to four more suspects. The Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, which probes kidnappings in Karachi, said the police had detained over half the group suspected to be involved in the crime.

General Pervez Musharraf denounced the murder as gruesome and ordered a nationwide hunt for suspects still at large.

President George W. Bush, speaking during a visit to China, called the killing a “criminal, barbaric” act. Pearl’s family said it was a “senseless murder” that had silenced “a gentle soul”.

Musharraf called Bush to express his condolences. “The two Presidents agreed that the perpetrators of this barbaric act can neither be friend of Islam nor of Pakistan,” Haider said.

The interior minister refused to disclose the identity of the reporter who was given the tape, which showed Pearl’s neck being cut by a sharp instrument. “He knows and he has given a description of three persons, their ages and their build and we are trying to establish that these are the very persons we are looking for,” Haider added.

Pearl’s body has not been found and it is unclear exactly when and where he was executed. The US consul-general in Karachi told Pearl’s wife the news in person and informed his family in the US. Mariane Pearl, who was in Karachi, is seven months pregnant with their first child, a son.

Riffat Hussein, a defence and strategic studies analyst at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University, said the sophistication of the kidnapping pointed to the possible involvement of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network.

“If you look at the character of this case — the methodology that was used, the use of e-mail, and videotape — it suggests it may have some very significant al Qaida links,” Hussein said.

“The scene that apparently confirmed the murder of Pearl was when one person’s hand cut the US reporter’s neck with a sharp tool,” a Pakistani source said, quoting someone who had seen the tape.

The Pakistani reporter, he said, tried to contact the US consulate in Karachi over phone and left a number of messages, which were answered only after crosschecks by consulate officials. This took 24 hours.

A Pakistani official, who has not seen the tape himself but has been briefed on its contents, said he had been told it contained “gruesome scenes”. “I have also been told that the last words uttered by Pearl were: ‘Yes, I am a Jew and my father is a Jew’.”

Pearl disappeared in Karachi on January 23 as he tried to contact Islamic radical groups and investigate possible links between alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid and the al Qaida network.

The group claiming to hold Pearl, calling itself The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, accused him of being a spy — first for the CIA, then for Israeli intelligence. The outfit said it was protesting against US treatment of Taliban and al Qaida prisoners.

Police arrested British-born militant Omar Sheikh on February 12, who said in court two days later that Pearl was dead.

The Wall Street Journal publisher Peter Kann and managing editor Paul Steiger said: “We are heartbroken. His murder is an act of barbarism that makes a mockery of everything Danny’s kidnappers claimed to believe in.”

Bush said the murder would only hurt the cause of his captors. “Those who would threaten Americans, those who would engage in criminal, barbaric acts, need to know that these crimes only hurt their cause and only deepen the resolve of the United States of America to rid the world of these agents of terror.”

“From this professionally-executed act of terror, we can see that stronger action is required against these criminals and terrorists,” Haider said.

Pearl’s wife said the kidnappers may have taken his life but failed to take his spirit. “Danny is my life. They may have taken my life, but they did not take my spirit,” Mariane said in a statement.

   

 
 
QUESTION MARK ON PUNJAB POLICE 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Feb. 22: 
General Pervez Musharraf’s order this morning to “apprehend each and every member of the gang of terrorists involved in this gruesome murder” of Daniel Pearl is being viewed here as the proverbial act of locking the stables after the horses have bolted.

For the record, praise is being heaped upon Musharraf for having done his best to trace and recover the The Wall Street Journal reporter.

“We will continue to work closely with Pakistani authorities, who had made every effort to locate and free Mr Pearl,” US state department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement.

The murder of Pearl will not alter Washington’s belief that Musharraf remains the bulwark against the Talibanisation of Pakistan.

The General lent fresh credence to that belief in the White House when he telephoned President George W. Bush in Beijing today to offer condolences.

But beneath such backslapping and attendant warmth, the Americans are coldly evaluating Musharraf’s ability to deliver a Pakistan transformed in Washington’s image.

Now that Pearl is dead, American officials are willing to privately discuss aspects of his kidnap probe, with which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was closely involved.

The picture they paint of Pakistan is a mirror image of Lebanon in the 1980s, when everyone except the Lebanese state controlled large slices of the once beautiful Mediterranean Arab country.

Almost from the beginning of the kidnap probe, the Americans were alarmed — but held back judgment — that Karachi police had to be brought into Punjab at every step to make any progress in the investigations.

The most disturbing aspect of the kidnapping, sources here say, was that Punjab police were cooperating with the effort to crack the case only in name. Although Karachi police concluded soon after Pearl disappeared that Omar Sheikh would lead them to the journalist, Punjab police did nothing to trace him.

In one case, Punjab police even arrested wrong suspects: law enforcement authorities in Karachi believe this was deliberate on the part of their counterparts in Lahore, giving valuable time for some suspects to escape.

The search for Omar started in earnest in Lahore and its neighbourhood only after policemen from Karachi were flown into Punjab: the raids on Omar’s relatives were conducted exclusively by these men from Karachi.

At the height of the probe, especially as Musharraf was trying to live down the kidnapping during his visit to the White House, tension rose so high between Punjab and Karachi police that interior minister Moinuddin Haider and the army top brass in Rawalpindi had to intervene to defuse a crisis.

Those here who know Pakistan well are worried that if Musharraf is not in control of Punjab, he may not survive in Islamabad in the long run. Being a mohajir will not help Musharraf in his attempts to control Punjab either.

Sources here also say the Pearl case once again brought out the umbilical cord which continues to link Pakistan’s security establishment with jihadi outfits.

   

 
 
NOD FOR LABOUR LAW REFORM 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Feb. 22: 
The government today cleared the way for far-reaching labour law reforms that will make it easy for companies to close down and lay off workers in economically unviable units employing up to 1,000 persons.

The decision rips the cocoon of job security workers enjoyed under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 by permitting companies to sack truculent and unproductive employees without government permission.

The amendment to the ID Act provides for retrenchment of workers in sick units employing up to 1,000 workers without permission of the government. The present legislation allows retrenchments by units employing up to 100 workers.

Some Cabinet members, including labour minister Sharad Yadav, opposed the amendment, suggesting a number between 100 and 1,000 and forcing at some point a rethink. But the opponents were won over with the argument that today’s decision was only in principle and details would be worked out only when the legislation is drafted.

According to some estimates, over 21.7 million employees (or 54.4 per cent of the workforce in registered units) would automatically stand to lose the security of job protection after today’s decision.

This appears to be the last of a string of decisions the government has taken to fulfil promises finance minister Yashwant Sinha made in the last budget.

“This will harmonise Indian labour policy with other developed countries,” said Vikram Kapur, president of the All-India Organisation of Employers.

“The amendment will allow industry to come out of sickness. There are more than 3,00,000 industrial units that are sick and an estimated Rs 20,000 crore is locked up in such units,” said Ficci president R.S. Lodha.

Industry has been pressing for the scrapping of chapter V of the Industrial Disputes Act as it trammelled its right to close down and restructure businesses. It could not be ascertained whether today’s decision would apply to central public sector undertakings as well. However, the amendment to the Contract Labour Act has not yet been cleared and has been referred to a group of ministers.

The changes to the ID Act and other labour-related reforms are likely to be introduced in the budget session, a government spokesperson said.

The group of ministers, which has cleared amendments to the ID Act, has also approved changes to the Payment of Wages Act, raising the wage ceiling of workers who get protection from Rs 1,600 to Rs 6,500 per month.

While announcing the government’s intention to bring in the amendment in his budget speech, Sinha had said that along with increasing the number from 100 to 1,000, the separation compensation would be increased from 15 days to 45 days for every completed year of service.

   

 
 
BENGAL BANG ON INVESTOR DOOR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 22: 
If Maharashtra can, so can communist Bengal.

Suitor Bengal is ready at last to roll up its sleeves and slug it out with other states to win the hearts of investors.

That means a raft of incentives, rebates, concessions —the whole works.

“Private investors will not set up their units in our state if there is no room for profit. Naturally, they will set up their units in those states where they will get maximum benefit,” said industry minister Nirupam Sen, acknowledging a fact that everyone knew but few in the CPM was bold enough to admit.

“We (the government) are just not in a position to stop globalisation from influencing (economic, political and societal) life in Bengal. Yes, we may try, but we must remember all the other Indian states are actively chasing private capital. If we do not compete with these states, we will have to suffer economically,” the minister told a seminar on the “impact of globalisation in Bengal”.

The seminar was organised as part of the CPM’s twentieth state conference.

If such plainspeak from a CPM ideologue was not enough to leave the hardliners red in the face, then more was to follow. The state, Sen said, would no longer be in the business of setting up new units because neither did it have the resources nor the desire to do so. Haldia Petrochemicals was its last venture — and the experience was not particularly encouraging. Nor, said Sen, would Bengal oppose the Centre’s move to close down sick public sector undertakings.

“Our powers are very limited. What can we do to prevent the Centre from closing down PSUs in our state? We can only request them not to shut down these units. Why, we don’t have that kind of money to support them. Look at Indian Iron and Steel Company…. We sacrificed, at the behest of the Centre, Rs 350 crore for the interests of thousands of workers in the factory.… We cannot take over sick PSUs, we are already in a severe debt trap.”

But to soften the blow and keep the red flag flying, Sen said the government accepted on principle the premise that privatisation has brought in its wake miseries for workers. But the ground realities precluded the state from opposing the closure of PSUs or taking over the same units at huge prices, he said.

Sen’s observations will be a blow to the lobbies that are trying to build up a movement, with support from the government, for the takeover of Jessop, the state-owned engineering firm to be sold to a private party soon.

“We did not come to power saying we would shun private capital and establish socialism in Kerala, Tripura and Bengal…. We clearly told the people that we have to run our governments within the existing capitalist system in the country,” Sen added. “But our aim will be to provide maximum opportunities to the working class within the existing set-up.”

   

 
 
WHY DID DANNY DIE, MUMBAI ASKS MUSHARRAF 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, Feb. 22: 
Why did Danny have to die? This question haunted the jolted friends and colleagues of the Wall Street Journal reporter based in Mumbai, as they railed against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for “misleading” the world on the journalist’s abduction.

“It’s terrible, absolutely terrible,” Business Week bureau chief Manjeet Kripalani, a fellow journalist, said.

Kripalani said the Pakistani President had not just misled the US, but the entire world by declaring during his visit to Washington that the journalist would be “freed within 24 hours”. Kripalani said the General clearly “traded” information on Pearl’s abduction for getting much of his country’s debt written off. “He used it to his advantage.”

What she found galling was that “the US chose to believe the Pakistani President” even after the arrested mastermind Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh told a karachi court that the journalist was dead.

Kripalani said Musharraf had a lot to answer for. “Why did Danny die? The President should tell the world. Pakistan’s government is answerable.”

In the fall of 2000, Peral arrived in Mumbai as South Asia correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. He walked the extra mile to project an India beyond its stereotypical image in the West, Kripalani said.

Khozem Merchant of the Financial Times agreed. “He was a first-rate reporter, who travelled a lot, refusing to take anything for granted.” He, too, was critical of Musharraf’s role in the episode. “When Pakistani President entered Washington, he had even gone to the extent of saying that Danny would be released in 24 hours.”

The journalist said though he had no doubts that Pearl had been kidnapped to embarrass Musharraf, the Pakistani President had kept the case close to his chest.

Pearl’s fellow-reporters had feared the worst. “When the lull happened, we knew something had gone terribly wrong. And after Omar Sheikh’s February 14 statement that Danny was dead, we did not have anything to pin our hopes on.”

Merchant said Pakistan’s government owed the world an explanation. “It is also time to find out how much Pakistani authorities knew and when. We still don’t know why Danny had to die.”

   

 
 
BRITISH BID TO DISCIPLINE MADARSAS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 22: 
British foreign office minister Ben Bradshaw today said his government was trying to bring madarsas and other religious schools in the UK under the state system and, at the same time, emphasised that Pakistan “should do more” to control cross-border terrorism in India.

Bradshaw, whose ministerial responsibilities include South Asia, international security and counter terrorism, said there were some Catholic schools and a “lot of” Muslim schools in the UK. “We feel that that the religious schools should be within the state system so that there is total control over their curriculum,” he added.

Addressing a news conference here and later speaking to The Telegraph, Bradshaw said Pakistan needed to do more to tackle cross-border terrorism. “We expect Pakistan to stop it …. It can do more, it should do more. It is unacceptable that acts of terrorism are being tacitly supported and funded by a government or elements of the state.”

He said Pakistan should emerge as a healthy democratic country rather than poisoning the atmosphere with politics.

About the UK deporting a terrorist just as Dubai did in the case of Aftab Ansari, the foreign office minister said: “Any terrorist or a person having links with any terrorist outfit wanted in India can be deported if the courts deem it fit.”

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 31.8°C (+2)
Minimum: 23.4°C (+6)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 95%,
Minimum: 36%

Sunrise: 6.08 am

Sunset: 5.32 pm

Today

Mainly clear sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 20°C
   
 

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