Men in black villains in Asian drama sequel
VHP roars to break temple lull
Apolitical head for minority cell
Pervez shifts frontline to UN
Calcutta Weather

Gwangju, June 22: 
The issue of World Cup refereeing is fast becoming a major scandal. Spain is the latest whinger, having had three goals disallowed on its way to a shootout defeat by South Korea.

Portugal cursed its first-round exit on a referee-assisted defeat by the Koreans. Italy blamed its defeats by both Croatia and also the Koreans on the referees. Now Spain is joining in as it heads home, while the Koreans prepare to make history against Germany on Tuesday as the first Asian nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals.

Spain manager Jose Antonio Camacho even had to protect the Egyptian referee, Gamal Ghandour, from his own furious players after the defeat in Gwangju today. Veteran Korean skipper Hong Myung Bo fired the decisive last spotkick past keeper Iker Casillas as a sort of signal to the other Spanish players to descend en masse on Ghandour and his Ugandan and Trinidadian assistants.

While the Koreans celebrated on one side of the halfway line, the Spaniards fought among themselves on the other — some like Ivan Helguera trying to get to the referee, others like Carles Puyol trying to keep them away. In the end, Camacho put his bulk between the referee and his players whom he ushered back to the touchline and then onto the dressing rooms.

The first key moment of a tight quarter-final came in the 43rd minute when centre- forward Fernando Morientes headed home just as referee Ghandour was blowing his whistle for offside against Enrique Romero, who had provided the cross.

Four minutes after half-time, Ghandour disallowed another headed goal, steered home by Helguera for a mysterious shirt pull. Then, one minute into golden goal extra time, Joaquin wriggled around the Korean defence on the right, went to the byline and crossed for Morientes, once more, to head into the net.

Referee Ghandour disallowed the goal because his assistant had flagged that the ball crossed the byline — which the Spaniards denied though the Koreans appeared to have stop playing, waiting for the whistle. Video replays appeared to support the Spanish case.

Poor Joaquin. It wasn’t his day. He was also the one Spaniard to see his spotkick saved in the shootout by Korean keeper Lee Woon Jae.

The wilder fantasies flying around suggest that the South Koreans have been assisted into the semi-finals to suit the interests of a major Asian betting ring. Frankly, I think the answer is much simpler: Fifa’s system of preparing and appointing officials as referees and assistants for the World Cup is utterly incapable of serving up officials worthy of the occasion and the status.

Now the system of refereeing appointments is subject to the control of Fifa’s referees committee, which is one of the most politically-riddled institutions within the world governing body. You can almost match up the nationalities of the referees retained for the closing stages of the World Cup with the nationalities of the members of the referees committee.

Refereeing appointments need to be removed from any contact with Fifa’s controversial committee system. An executive officer should be handed full responsibility to run the show himself. Then he can take ultimate responsibility — and stand up and be counted — for who referees Korea vs Germany on Tuesday in Seoul and Brazil vs Turkey (again!) in Saitama on Wednesday.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter says he thinks the problem is mainly with assistants, or linesmen as we used to call them. He has suggested that Fifa, in future, employ only the best referees for the World Cup finals and scrap the concept of sharing out the honour and experience among officials from all six confederations.

Use the best referees? That’s a novel idea. Why didn’t anyone else think of that?


New Delhi, June 22: 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad today sprang back to its hawkish ways after lying low for three months, dumping the undertaking it had given to Atal Bihari Vajpayee that it would abide by the court verdict on the Ram temple.

At the two-day meeting of its central advisory board at Hardwar, the outfit also accused the BJP of appeasing the minorities and demanded a change in leadership.

In a volte-face, the VHP said the temple issue was “non-negotiable” as the judiciary could not decide on “matters of faith”. The outfit wrote to Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, who led the peace drive, to take back its written undertaking to maintain status quo in Ayodhya.

The VHP also demanded an immediate ban on madarsas spreading “terrorism”.

The shrill militancy that characterised the proceedings was, however, marred by the boycott of the meeting by 14 akhadas (religious schools), which alleged that the VHP was “misusing religious leaders to serve their vested interests”.

The VHP said both the Prime Minister and home minister L.K. Advani had lost the trust of the majority community for not espousing the cause of the temple. Senior leader Ashok Singhal went further, warning Muslims that “if they continue to take the country towards partition”, they would have to stay in refugee camps like the ones in Gujarat.

A veiled warning was also issued, indicating that if the BJP did not support the temple cause, the VHP could float a new party.

Madhawacharya Vishwesh Theerth of Udupi, considered a moderate and close to Vajpayee, called for a campaign to polarise the country into those wanting the temple and those opposed to it. A resolution on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue slammed the Centre for “its unpardonable suppression of the March 15 shila daan programme”.

“We condemn the inhuman manner in which the government enforced strict restriction on movement of transport, created terror by deploying 20,000 security personnel and instilled fear psychosis across the country through the media,” the resolution said. The only penance for it, VHP leaders said, was the return of the 43-acre land acquired by the government to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas.

The BJP played down the hardline stand. Party sources said the VHP, which has been out of the news for sometime, was raising the pitch in view of elections in 10 states next year.


New Delhi, June 22: 
Maulana Mohammed Rabey Hasani Nadvi was today appointed president of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, a move that is set to restore the focus of this apex Muslim body on “reforms from within” and religious activities rather than politics.

Nadvi’s style of functioning is different from his predecessor, the late Qazi Mujahid-ul-Islam, who was all for dialogue and “ijtehad” (initiative). He is more in the mould of his mentor, the late Maulana Ali Mian, who steered clear of controversies and kept a low profile during his long tenure as chief of the board.

Qazi constantly interacted with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party and dreamt of a Muslim-backward-Dalit entente to bring about socio-economic and political change. He died a disillusioned man, but Nadvi has no illusions.

On the Ayodhya tangle, Nadvi is unlikely to take the lead in reviving negotiations with the government, the Sankaracharya of Kanchi or the Sangh parivar. As a careful and cautious man, he would rather wait for a concrete proposal and then engage almost all sections of Muslims before taking the next step.

However, given the sharp divisions within the community on the issue, it would be an uphill task to carry all factions together.

Nadvi had recently told a gathering in Lucknow that Muslims should not get involved in “political games”. Referring to the Gujarat riots, the maulana, who is a respected figure across the Islamic world, said there was a need to get the support of the majority community, which, he felt, had nothing against Muslims.

He also lauded the national media, saying it was important to project the “true image” of Islam as it is misunderstood in many parts of the world. In India, too, he said, there were two types of biases — unwitting prejudice and motivated campaigns.

According to him, most people, both in India and abroad, suffer from ignorance and unwitting bias about Islam.

Nadvi’s unanimous election as board chief in Hyderabad signifies the community’s collective desire to stand united and bury sectarian differences in the prevailing political situation.

There were, however, sharp differences among the clergy on regional lines. A powerful section wanted to promote board secretary Maulana Nizamuddin to “provide continuity”. Nizamuddin was part of the delegation that held negotiations with the Sankaracharya of Kanchi.

In Hyderabad today, Maulana Saleem Qasimi proposed Nadvi’s name, while Maulana Syed Nizamuddin and Maulana Hameeduddin Hasani Aquil seconded it.

M.A. Raheem Qureshi, convener of the board’s 16th session, said it was decided that the present executive would run its full term.


New York, June 22: 
India may have won the diplomatic battle over infiltration into Kashmir and cross-border terrorism, but the war of chanceries across the world with Pakistan is only beginning.

In six months, Pakistan will become a member of the UN Security Council. The changes made by General Pervez Musharraf this week in Pakistan’s foreign office are meant to prepare its external affairs establishment to be an effective thorn in India’s side in the following two years of council membership.

That India cannot be complacent because it has had its way with the international community in the latest crisis with Pakistan became obvious here this week when a proxy effort by Islamabad to informally bring Kashmir into the Security Council failed to take off, but only barely so.

The effort failed solely because two council members, Russia and Mauritius, threatened at India’s behest to boycott an informal meeting here at which all 15 members of the council would have informally met and discussed Kashmir with a variety of non-government organisations and “private citizens” interested in the issue.

It would not have been an official council session, but it could have prepared the ground for what Pakistan wanted to do on Kashmir once it got into the Security Council. By getting rid of foreign minister Abdul Sattar, Musharraf has ensured that he is not hamstrung by a hardline albatross around his neck in dealing with India at the policy level.

But by making up his mind on appointing Riaz Khokar as the new foreign secretary, Musharraf has signalled that at the level of implementing whatever policy he works out, the general wants to keep India on its diplomatic toes.

Khokar, who was high commissioner in India for almost five years, made his career in Pakistan’s foreign office by India-bashing. When Nawaz Sharif decided to make up with India in 1999 and invited Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore, Khokar was summarily shunted out of ambassadorship in the US. He has subsequently been rehabilitated by Musharraf and has been the blue-eyed boy of the general and hardliner Sattar throughout his current ambassadorship in China.

At the same time, a sobering influence on Khokar will be the new minister of state for foreign affairs, Inam-ul-Haq.

As foreign secretary during Musharraf’s stewardship of the government, Haq won high praise from world leaders with whom he interacted. He is widely respected within the Bush administration, which credits him with being realistic and practical.

Haq has also served in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) secretariat. The OIC is Pakistan’s biggest diplomatic constituency abroad. Haq, like Musharraf, also has strong links in Turkey, a close ally, which Islamabad fears has been drifting towards India in the last two years. Traditionally, Pakistan’s leaders have appointed ministers of state in the foreign office only when they have something up their sleeves.

Nawaz Sharif appointed Mohammed Siddique Khan Kanju to the post when he wanted to restrain another hardline foreign minister, Gohar Ayub, the son of General Ayub Khan.

Benazir Bhutto similarly made Sahibzada Nazir Sultan a minister of state when she wanted to step up her Kashmir campaign against India in the UN Human Rights Commission and other international fora.

By choosing Ashraf Jehangir Qazi as his new envoy to Washington, Musharraf has signalled that he will spare no effort to return the US to a zero sum game in South Asia and try to get Washington to have parity in its dealings with Delhi and Islamabad.

For two years, Pakistan’s journalist-turned-ambassador here, Maleeha Lodhi, has aggressively projected her country as a moderate Muslim nation cast in her own personal image.

Qazi’s primary brief will be to whine in the US that after all that Musharraf has done for George W. Bush, history is repeating itself and that Pakistan is being sidelined by thankless Americans. He will draw heavily on his personal experiences in New Delhi in doing so.

Already, Musharraf believes that he is on the right track with his diplomatic efforts in the long run.

The Pakistanis claim that a telephone conversation between Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad and Vajpayee on Thursday was the result of Islamabad’s recent diplomatic overtures in Kuala Lumpur, where former foreign secretary Najamuddin Shaikh had met Mahathir a few days ago.

Musharraf has sent former President Farooq Leghari as his personal envoy to Germany and Egypt, former army chief General Jehangir Karamat to Italy, Spain, France and Denmark, former Senate chairman Wasim Sajjad to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, and Najamuddin Sheikh to Singapore, Indonesia and Japan, in addition to Malaysia.




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5.8 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 97%,
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Intermittent light rain. One or two spells may be heavy.


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