America under attack in Pak
Partners set up reforms first test for Buddha
Captain courage for futile battle
Beer bottles outgun sensors
Knighthood awaits Britain’s curry king
Cause, not result, drives Sehgal
Sonia plays development card in Gujarat
Amar attacks father figure
Laloo springs wrestler
Calcutta Weather

 
 
AMERICA UNDER ATTACK IN PAK 
 
 
IDREES BAKHTIAR AND AGENCIES
 
Karachi, June 14: 
Nine months after September 11, America again came under attack — at the home of its most prized ally in the war against terror, Pervez Musharraf.

Delivering their most audacious strike yet on the Musharraf-George W. Bush alliance, extremists today ignited a car bomb on the doorstep of the US consulate in Karachi and killed at least 11 Pakistanis.

The attack, less than a day after US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld left the country, sent shock waves through US diplomatic circles as it breached one of the most fortified buildings in the city.

A spokesman for the American embassy in Islamabad said no foreigners or staff at the consulate were killed, though a US marine and five Pakistani employees sustained minor injuries when struck by flying debris.

Immediately after the attack, which occurred around 11.15 am local time, the US embassy and the American Center in Islamabad were closed to the public. The embassy and all US consulates in Pakistan will remain shut through the weekend, a state department spokeswoman told Reuters.

Twenty people outside the consulate were wounded by the blast, which left a crater several feet deep, destroyed a guard post and part of a concrete wall surrounding the building. It also blew in the windows of the consulate and surrounding buildings, including the upmarket Marriott Hotel next door, destroyed around 20 cars and scattered body parts 100-200 metres down the road.

A previously unknown group calling itself “Al-Qanoon” claimed responsibility for the explosion. In a message to media offices in Pakistan, it said the bomb was the start of a “jihad” against America and Pakistan’s rulers. “America, its allies and its slave Pakistani rulers should be prepared for more attacks,” the message said.

In Houston, Bush reacted with outrage. “These people, if they think they are going to intimidate the United States, they don’t understand the United States of America,” he said. “They claim they’re religious people and they blow up Muslims. They have no regard for individual life.”

The target may have been America, but the immediate fallout could be on Musharraf. The blast will strengthen the hands of the President’s critics who have been claiming that he is losing control.

The Wall Street Journal referred to possible threats to Musharraf from within the army ranks and militant groups that view the military regime’s “turnaround” on insurgency in Kashmir as “abject betrayal”. “Of course it’s a backlash,” Hamid Haroon, publisher of Dawn newspaper, told a TV channel.

India joined the rest of the world in condemning the bombing. “It is a very sad and a very regrettable incident that we condemn fully,” foreign minister Jaswant Singh said.

Police said the blast looked similar to the May 8 attack outside another nearby hotel in Karachi that killed 11 French engineers and two Pakistanis. A police official said Karachi police had received a tip-off a week ago that another suicide blast was imminent. Today’s blast is the fourth attack this year apparently aimed at foreigners.

Police cordoned off the area and later closed all roads leading to the consulate and the Marriott Hotel.

“Parts of two bodies are still at the place of the incident,” a police official said. “We believe one of the two, whose parts are still there, is a suicide bomber.”

Police said they believed the bomb was in a white high-roofed Suzuki van, which was being driven past the consulate at the time of th e attack. The van was blown to pieces and the bonnet and engine catapulted six or seven metres away into a tree.

Kario, a cyclist who suffered injuries, remembered smelling smoke all around him before falling unconscious. “I felt like a mountain had fallen on me,” he said.

   

 
 
PARTNERS SET UP REFORMS FIRST TEST FOR BUDDHA 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, June 14: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s smaller partners and an adrift Opposition today put up the first public hurdle to the Bengal reforms, targeting agriculture and labour policy initiatives conceived on the advice of global consultant McKinsey.

In tune with the experience of governments engaged in economic reconstruction the world over, the Bhattacharjee team witnessed the coming together of conflicting forces in and outside the Assembly in an attempt to block the reforms.

The overriding theme of the reform sceptics — spearheaded by Left Front partner Forward Bloc — was opposition to a clause that will reportedly allow contract farming, a dirty word in the constituencies of the front partners.

“Who is this McKinsey? What is the need for bringing in McKinsey?” screamed RSP legislator Tapan Hore. “After what Bengal has achieved in terms of land reforms, all states look up to us as a model. Now we hear that McKinsey will educate us about better land use.”

If the RSP member articulated the concern expressed by the Bloc and the CPI during the day, the CPM — secure in the knowledge that it has the numbers to push through any policy initiative — showed no sign of a rethink on the planned reforms.

However, the government was embarrassed as the three constituents appropriated the role of the Opposition – a weak force of 88 in the 294-member House. The chant “McKinsey-driven reforms”, too, kept recurring, adding a new phrase to Bengal’s voluminous political lexicon.

Each opponent of the reforms addressed the concerns of individual support bases. “If what we hear about contract farming is true, that will be the end of poor and marginal farmers in the state,” Debaprasad Sarkar of the SUCI said.

“When Benoy Chowdhury was land reforms minister, he had said that agriculture land along EM Bypass would not be transferred into plots. But after Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee took over, the definition of rational use of land has changed and the government is yielding to international pressure,” added the Trinamul Congress’ Dipak Ghosh.

The Bloc — whose leader and state agriculture minister Kamal Guha will place an alternative draft policy before the Cabinet on June 26 — shaped the attack on the government. Others took the cue from the Bloc legislators and criticised the government and McKinsey.

At its state secretariat meeting this afternoon, the Bloc decided to write to the government, asking it not to raise the proposal for contract farming at the state Cabinet meeting on June 26. It will also seek a full-fledged discussion in the front on the issue.

Guha said the party would also write to all other front partners to mount a campaign against the government’s attempt to implement the “McKinsey-recommended” agriculture reforms in Bengal.

The CPI is meeting on the issue on June 19. The party’s labour arm, the Aituc, came down heavily on law law reforms suggested by McKinsey.

   

 
 
CAPTAIN COURAGE FOR FUTILE BATTLE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 14: 
The Left Front today fielded Lakshmi Sehgal, former captain in the Indian National Army, as their candidate for the presidential elections, a contest which seems to be over even before it began.

She is the first woman to contest the presidenial poll.

Sehgal, 88, who led “Rani of Jhansi” — the first women’s regiment in Subhas Chandra Bose’s INA — shares a close relationship with the Left, particularly the CPM, and has been actively involved in the trade union and women’s movements in Kanpur. A doctor by profession, Sehgal treated patients all through her political career. Her daughter, Subhashini Ali, was the CPM’s Lok Sabha MP from Kanpur.

Following the Congress pullout from the presidential elections yesterday, the Left decided on its candidate unanimously, given that it required no further consensus from any ally.

All it took was a nod from the former INA captain. Having obtained that, the Left leaders held a press conference and said Sehgal has impeccable credentials befitting a presidential candidate.

“We want the contest to be political,” said CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet.

According to insiders, when Left leaders contacted Sehgal, her first response was: “Why me?” However, she agreed after the leaders explained to her that it was a political battle.

Sehgal is expected to reach Delhi from Kanpur this evening. It was a foregone conclusion that none other than a member of the Left would agree to participate in a contest which in all probability would end in defeat.

When informed of the party decision to go ahead and contest, former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu candidly observed that only a Communist Party “cardholder” would now agree to stick his or her neck out.

The Left has 85,000 votes in the 11-lakh-strong presidential electoral college. It, however, plans to raise its share of votes to a respectable one lakh.

“There are other Left parties which are expected to support us,” said CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan. The Left will be able to save its 50,000-deposit only if it manages to get one-sixth of the votes necessary for getting elected.

   

 
 
BEER BOTTLES OUTGUN SENSORS 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
June 14: 
Along the Line of Control in Jammu, June 14: The major with the regulation ‘patka’ and bullet-proof jacket is here atop a strategic, commanding height that allows the Indian Army to dominate the region. It is exactly a month after militants gunned their way through the Kaluchak army camp, killing the wives and children of those who man the posts here.

In the interim, the Indian and Pakistani armies have come closest to an all-out war. Here, on the LoC, where it is already war by any other name, such pat solutions to the stand-off as American “ground sensors” — proposed by Rumsfeld and now all but accepted by India — simply do not wash.

Why?

“You see there, that ‘V’ in that ridgeline?” The major is pointing to the left and the untrained eye has to make an extra effort to distinguish the feature. “That’s where the Line of Control begins in my area,” he hands over a pair of binoculars. His index finger cuts an arc through the air as he explains. “It comes up to that house, there, goes down an incline a little farther to the west where it skirts a grove, curves towards us to the nearer hill and then passes by that yellow house, turns right next to an Indian Army post, moves away to a Pakistani army post 80 metres away and vanishes north towards the Pir Panjal.”

The mind boggles. You gather simply that across a little valley to the left are villages in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, their metal roofs, reflecting the midday sun. The hills are green with grass and poplars and pine. You look hard and carefully to discern little brown patches, sometimes marked out with stones. They are the Pakistani army posts, the major says.

“Sometimes we are just 50 metres apart with the Line of Control in between. When they shell we go below to the bunkers. Here, of course, we go into bigger defences.”

The bigger defences are bigger bunkers. A cluster of them is fenced in. On either side of a little stairway leading to the top of this hill, there are minefields. Just below the summit is a big bunker surrounded by a fence. On the fence are strung bottles of beer, two at a time.

“They are an improvised alarm system,” the captain in the Jat battalion here grins. “We have to watch our backs as well.”

Fighting a war on two fronts for a dozen years now, troops here have time and again made the best of bad deal. You might think that when improvised alarm systems — such as a beer bottle fence — is what the army here has to bank on, the very suggestion of gifting “ground sensors” will have officers along the Line of Control overjoyed.

Far from it. The reason is the very lie of the land and the way the LoC runs. “At best, they will be a help, May be, by 30 to 35 per cent,” says Maj Gen Randhir Singh commanding the 25 Infantry Division. “The only foolproof system to stop infiltration is by getting Pakistan to do it.” Officer after officer echoes the sentiment.

“If there was any other way,” says Brigadier P.C. Bhardwaj at the headquarters of the 16 Corps in Nagrota, “don’t you think, we would have done it.”

Some accounts say the Indian Army’s 16 Corps with six divisions is the largest army corps in the world. It has been manning the LoC as well as carrying out counter-insurgency operations. Yet, its commander, the outspoken Lieutenant General J.B.S. Yadava, says there is no evidence to suggest that the situation is getting any better.

An American scribe put the question on sensors to Yadava today. The general was forthright. “If the US with all its sophisticated, modern equipment and has still not been able to put an end to illegal migration through its coastlines, can you legitimately expect that we, with less sophisticated means at our disposal and the harsh, uneven terrain can seal the LoC?”

   

 
 
KNIGHTHOOD AWAITS BRITAIN’S CURRY KING 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, June 14: 
The Indian businessman who put Bengali pilau rice on British supermarket shelves has been given a knighthood “for services to industry” in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, it will be announced by Buckingham Palace tomorrow.

Gulam Kaderbhoy Noon, who was born in Mumbai on January 24, 1936, and came to Britain in 1970, runs a flourishing Indian food business from two huge factories in South-West London. In one Asian rich list, he is ranked 43rd with personal wealth estimated at £48 million.

The knighthood will have special significance since it is being made in the year of the Queen’s golden jubilee.

“I am absolutely delighted,” said Noon, who is also the current President of the London Chamber of Commerce, the first Indian to hold the post.

Once he has knelt before the Queen and tapped on the shoulder with a sword at a formal investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, he will be referred to as Sir Gulam. “But my friends will not be my friends unless they go on calling me what they have always done — which is Noon,” he said modestly.

The Queen awards the honours on the basis of recommendations from the Prime Minister. But the letter from 10, Downing Street, asking whether he would accept the honour, went astray.

“Three weeks ago, Downing Street rang up and said I hadn’t replied. But all was well and they faxed over the letter,” he said.

Though he has reservations about being nicknamed Britain’s “curry king”, Noon can claim part of the credit for ensuring that Indian food now constitutes the most popular cuisine in the country. This is because reasonably priced packets of Indian meals are now available through the supermarket shelves of Sainsbury’s and Waitrose across the length and breadth of Britain.

When his company, Noon Products, was set up in 1989, “we had eight varieties of meals. Now that number is over 40 — everything from chicken tikka masala to chicken jalfrezi and chicken korma. We get through 80 tonne of boneless chicken every week — the boneless is very important”.

Massive lorries bearing his company logo can be seen thundering up and down Britain’s motorways as they ferry such delicacies as Goan fish curry and amta dal to the remotest corners of Britain. In a culinary sense, at least, the empire has truly struck back.

In recent years, the recipes have sought the authenticity of regional cuisine. Two years ago, a joint team from Noon Products and Sainsbury’s visited Kerala and Goa in search of local recipes which could be mass produced in London.

Noon’s two daughters, Zeenat and Zarmeen, work for their father. He is married to writer and film-maker Mohini Kent.

The family company, Noon Products plc, was acquired by a large food conglomerate, the W T Foods group, in 1999. But Noon was retained as chairman and managing director of Noon Products and given 10 per cent of the shares of the holding company.

Noon immediately put 10 per cent of his sale proceeds into the Noon Foundation, through which he channels his charitable donations. While confirming that he had donated £200,000 over the past three years to the Labour Party, Noon denied he had ever sought to reduce his tax liability by putting his money into offshore accounts. “I have paid my tax here over the past 30 years like any other British person,” he said. “I did not choose an offshore haven.”

The foundation has elegant and recently refurbished premises in Queen Anne’s Gate, one of the most desirable addresses in London. He has given over £2,00,000 to Tower Hamlets College, a further education institute in east London, and a similar amount through a gala dinner at the Dorchester Hotel for the Prince’s Trust, which he has served as an adviser for many years.

He has another company, Bombay Halwa, also based in west London, which specialises in Indian sweets. His Bentley registration plate and his shirts carry his initials. However, to describe Noon as simply a successful businessman does not do justice to someone who is one of the most highly regarded Indian personalities in Britain.

The editor of a Gujarati newspaper, C.B. Patel, said: “He is unique, one of the most progressive men I know. He has learnt to make money and how to spend money with responsibility.”

   

 
 
CAUSE, NOT RESULT, DRIVES SEHGAL 
 
 
FROM YOGESH VAJPEYI
 
Kanpur, June 14: 
For Left Front presidential candidate Lakshmi Sehgal, victory and defeat do not matter. “It’s the cause that has inspired me in all my political battles,” the 87-year-old social activist maintains.

A former commander of the Rani Jhansi regiment of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, Sehgal, today boarded the Delhi-bound Shatabdi Express on her way to file the nomination papers for the country’s highest designation — the first woman to do so.

“It’s not the only first to her credit,” claimed CPM activist Sreedhar Pathak, who turned up with around two dozen friends and admirers at the station to see her off. “She was the first woman to lead an Indian army regiment and the first woman minister of the provisional government of Azad Hind headed by Netaji,” he pointed out.

Sehgal herself remained nonchalant. “I respect Kalam as a man and as a scientist. My battle is not with him, but with the NDA government and its policies,” she said in a short interview at her Civil Lines residence.

“I still remember the tune of the INA song to which thousands marched from Burma to fly the flag of Azad Hindostan,” she says, her eyes misting over as she hummed the lines: “Hum Dilli Dilli jaenge, Dilli Hind banaenge, Subhash ka yeh kehana hai, Dilli ja ke rehana hai.

In a different context the tune echoed in her mind when Left leaders said she would be their candidate for the presidential election. Sehgal took some time to decide, but, by then, the party had decided to support her candidature.

Sehgal had first come to Kanpur in 1937 and later settled down in the city. A medical practitioner, she persisted with her profession and has been running a nursing home since 1954 in Arya Nagar, besides regularly attending to poor patients in labour colonies like the Jajmau area.

“This nursing home provides the facility whereby delivery of a child is possible for just Rs 10,” said Ashrafi, a mid-wife.

“For us she is like Mother Teresa. We feel proud that she has been nominated for presidential polls. Victory or defeat is immaterial but what is significant is that at least a political outfit realised her service to humanity,” said Sanjay, a tea vendor near her maternity clinic in Arya Nagar.

Even today, before leaving for Delhi, Sehgal was seen at the clinic. “Had the residents of Kanpur been voters in the presidential polls, her victory would have been a foregone conclusion,” said Manoj Tripathi, a bank employee, adding: “But we feel elated with her nomination for the highest post in the country.”

   

 
 
SONIA PLAYS DEVELOPMENT CARD IN GUJARAT 
 
 
FROM BASANT RAWAT
 
Limkheda, June 14: 
Sonia Gandhi today kick-started the Congress campaign for the Gujarat Assembly polls with a promise of “good governance” from the tribal-dominated Dahod district.

Addressing a huge rally on the Limkheda College ground, the Congress chief slammed the ruling BJP for shelving all development activities for the tribals and exhorted the people to overthrow the government which brought “a bad name to the state”, once known for its progress.

“You will see the difference between the Congress and the BJP governments once we come to power in the state. The Congress is the only party on which people can repose full trust,” she said.

In all Congress-ruled states, she said, the governments are committed to the uplift of the poor and are implementing the party programme sincerely. Sonia reminded the people that Rajiv Gandhi had taken personal interest in implementing drought relief programmes and regretted the fact that the state government.

Gujarat had made tremendous progress under the leaderships of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi but the BJP regime derailed the development process, she said, asking the people to vote for the Congress to put it back on track.

   

 
 
AMAR ATTACKS FATHER FIGURE 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, June 14: 
The “Bhishma Pitama” has overnight become a charlatan. The presidential sweepstakes have made CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet the hate figure in the Samajwadi Party.

At a news conference today, Samajwadi general secretary Amar Singh criticised the Marxists for not supporting presidential candidate A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Surjeet, once reverentially called “Bhishma Pitama” for his manoeuvring skills with non-BJP parties, was Singh’s primary target.

Reacting to the Left’s charges that the Samajwadi had joined hands with the BJP in supporting Kalam’s candidature, Singh said those who had levelled such allegations should look at their own nationalist credentials.

Singh also questioned the CPM’s role during the freedom struggle and the Chinese aggression in 1962.

The Samajwadi secretary said Surjeet would soon realise that his party has committed another historical blunder.

Singh alleged that when the United Front was grappling with the selection of a Prime Minister, Surjeet was cooling his heels in Moscow. He added that the Left had no principle and consistency and had never reciprocated the Samajwadi’s gestures.

Singh, however, maintained that the Samajwadi was not expelled from the People’s Front but had walked out.

On his party’s stand on Left candidate Lakshmi Sahgal for the post of the President, the Samajwadi secretary said once Kalam is in the fray and the party has already announced its support to him, Sahgal’s candidature will not have much of a significance.

On Left poser about similarities between the BJP and Mulayam Singh Yadav, an angry Singh snapped: “What was common between A.B.Bardhan and the Congress during the black days of Emergency?”

The Samajwadi leader claimed that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called Mulayam over a month to discuss the presidential candidate and Yadav had suggested Kalam’s name.

Asked why Vajpayee had first called Mulayam instead of the Congress or the CPM, Singh said sarcastically: “I don’t know. I have to probe.”

“People’s Front was formed to maintain equi-distance from the Congress and the BJP but the Left took a pro-Congress line to oppose the NDA candidate for the high office. Later, the Congress, too, declared its support to Kalam,” Singh said.

   

 
 
LALOO SPRINGS WRESTLER 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, June 14: 
The infighting between two heavyweights of the Rashtriya Janata Dal has spilled onto the streets, with wrestler-turned-minister Dadan Yadav, alias Pahalwan, today leading a public demonstration against the party’s national spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari.

Pahalwan claimed that he had the support of RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav. This makes an encounter imminent, say party observers, and will pit Tiwari against a “powerful family lobby of chief minister Rabri Devi and her husband”.

Tiwari, popularly known as Laloo’s Brahmin Baba, has accused the party chief of fuelling the feud, say sources. Even party members are surprised by Laloo’s soft stand on Pahalwan. Following Ranjan Yadav’s departure, Tiwari is the third most important leader in the party. Many Dal leaders, rattled by the public display of party bickering, feel the tension could be defused given a little effort from Laloo.

But Laloo reportedly pretended helplessness during a recent meeting with Tiwari. The party chief’s alibi was that Pahalwan could not be curbed under the Dal disciplinary committee as he was not a party member. Besides, he heads the six member Independent MLAs’ club.

“What can I do about this?” Laloo is said to have reasoned with Tiwari. When the latter retorted that Pahalwan, being a minister, could be brought to book by the state, Laloo countered that with the chief minister absent, his hands were tied. He sent Tiwari away with a promise to talk informally with the junior minister.

If today’s street demonstration is any indication, that talk is yet to take place. While Pahalwan chose to stay silent, his followers lashed out at Tiwari, vowing to carry on the battle “till he was removed from the party”.

Some of them went so far as to challenge Tiwari to “come and face Pahalwan on the street”, perhaps emboldened by the backing from 50 other MLAs who have also resolved to oust the senior party member.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 33.3°C (-1)
Minimum: 27.5°C (0)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 91%,
Minimum: 73%

Sunrise: 4.54 am

Sunset: 6.19 pm

Today

One or two showers or thundershowers
   
 

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