Bush opens arsenal for friend Pak
Links to Kandahar hijack
Scandal scent around top cop
Calcutta Weather

Washington, Sept. 23: 
The Pressler Amendment, the centrepiece of US sanctions against Pakistan for more than a decade, is dead. The waiver of the Pressler Amendment, which prohibited arms sales or transfers of military equipment to Islamabad, by President George W. Bush last night has once again enabled America to arm Pakistan.

The door has also been reopened for large-scale US government assistance to Pakistan, which had been barred under the Amendment. Washington�s rationale in withdrawing the Pressler sanctions is that they were designed to prevent Pakistan from going nuclear. It argues that with the Chagai nuclear tests in 1998, these sanctions have become redundant.

What should worry India, however, is that with the Pressler Amendment withdrawn, the situation could go back to the time since the 1960s when the US armed the Pakistanis to the teeth.

Restrictions on US military sales to India, too, have been lifted.

As a reward for its support to America, there is talk here of a huge aid line to Pakistan and help through the World Bank and the IMF for a rescue package.

India will benefit from the lifting of restrictions on the export of certain items of dual � military and civilian � use. The US may now return to India the flight control system for its light combat aircraft, impounded after the nuclear tests. India is also hopeful that licences may be granted to US companies to export engines for its advanced light helicopter.

Permission may also come for the sale of US weapon-locating radars. In the Kargil conflict, these radars played a key role and since supplies from the US could not be obtained, New Delhi had to rush to Ukraine.

The navy�s Sea King helicopters have been grounded for some years now because of non-availability of spare parts. Although the spare parts are of British origin, the UK government had succumbed to American pressure and denied equipment to India.

The waiver has opened the possibility that India may now purchase arms from the US in a big way. This would be a historic departure from its policy for half a century of looking to Russia and Europe.

The US will no longer vote against loans by international lending institutions for India and Pakistan. After the nuclear tests, America has supported loans for basic human needs and favoured other loans only on a case-by-case basis.

�Pakistan welcomes the decision to lift sanctions imposed in 1990 and others imposed in 1998 following nuclear tests by India and Pakistan,� foreign minister Abdul Sattar said. He noted that Bush�s order did not include sanctions relating to the coup that brought Pervez Musharraf to power.

India said the move had little more than token significance.


London, Sept. 23: 
One of the hijackers of the Indian Airlines plane that was taken to Kandahar on the Christmas eve of 1999 is suspected of being involved in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. British police are also searching for the 27-year-old British terrorist, Ahmed Omar Sheikh, who was released along with two others in exchange for hostages after the hijacking.

Sheikh, a talented mathematician and former student of the London School of Economics, came into prominence in 1994 when he kidnapped three Britons and an American in Delhi and held them hostage. He was arrested by Indian police but his release was sought by the militant outfit Harkat Mujahideen as the price for releasing the plane hostages.

British officials have now asked India for legal assistance in seeking information on the whereabouts of Sheikh, whose family still lives in Wanstead in South London. British security services confirmed this weekend to The Sunday Times that they wanted Sheikh for questioning. Since the hostage exchange in 1999, Sheikh disappeared, though he is believed to have returned to Kashmir where he began his terrorist career.

Sheikh is thought to be closely linked to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida group. Like many of the World Trade Centre bombers, he is highly educated, articulate and committed to his cause.

He comes from a well-off Pakistani family, who sent him to private school in east London from where he passed with excellent grades. He then secured a place at the LSE. For the first year he pursued his course with dedication but in 1993, during the height of the war in Bosnia, Sheikh decided to join a charity mission to help fellow Muslims in Bosnia.

The desolation, stories of rapes and murders of Muslims affected him profoundly. He returned to Britain, but disenchanted with his studies went to Afghanistan to train as a guerrilla fighter under the aegis of bin Laden. From there he joined Harkat-ul-Ansar, now renamed Harkat Mujahideen, one the most dangerous militant groups in Kashmir.

That Sheikh is a key member of the Harkat has been confirmed by Indian officials. How directly he is linked with the US attacks remains to be seen.


Calcutta, Sept. 23: 
Inspector-general of police, Railway Protection Force, Rachpal Singh has been removed from a panel which selects sub-inspectors after the discovery of �malpractices in recruitment process� of police personnel in Eastern Railway.

In an unparalleled move, the railway authorities decided to go against the norm of retaining the RPF chief on the panel that interviews railway police candidates. Four senior commandants replaced Singh, and chairman of the railway recruitment board D.K. Malik was asked to oversee the Eastern Railway recruitment process.

Reacting to the decision, Singh said: �The decision to exclude me from the recruitment panel of sub-inspectors is a deliberate move. Once I am not in a position to dictate terms, certain people can have their way. That is the very reason they even stopped the constable recruitment process a few weeks ago.�

The railway board had stalled the recruitment of constables for Eastern Railway a few weeks ago after allegations of �malpractice� and �hefty kickbacks�.

The chief vigilance officer and senior deputy general manager, S.R. Thakur, wrote to Eastern Railway divisional railway managers on September 11 that �all process regarding recruitment of constables for Eastern Railway has been pended (sic) owing to alleged malpractice in the process�.

In view of several allegations against the officer, it is believed that railway minister Nitish Kumar has taken up the issue of repatriating Singh to West Bengal. The RPF inspector-general is on a one-year extension after being deputed to the railways three years ago.

�This is part of a sinister plan to remove me from the railways. The present authorities will have their way once I am gone. This is a well-planned conspiracy to malign me,� said Singh.

The RPF chief has three vigilance cases pending against him and is now facing a departmental probe for allegedly putting officers of his choice in �plum positions�.

�The standing order clearly states the tenure of postings of senior officers and inspectors with independent charge should be at least for four years. But at least three officers were shuttled around within a year,� a railway official connected with the probe said.

Bhagwat Pratap Singh, posted with the Criminal Intelligence Branch, Dhanbad, was transferred as divisional inspector, Dhanbad, and brought to his present position within a span of seven months. He is facing two CBI cases and has served time in Patna jail in connection with a bribery case.

Complaints against Singh had reached Mamata Banerjee when she was railway minister. Dara Singh Chowhan and Prabhunath Singh, both MPs, had written in 1999 to Mamata, seeking �immediate inquiries� against the officer.

In a letter (dated 21/10/1999) to Mamata, Chowhan said: �Taking into consideration the volume of corruption cases pending against Rachpal Singh, I request you to immediately remove him from the present post and replace him with an honest officer to bolster faith of the people in the railways.�

In his letter ( dated 28/10/1999), Prabhunath Singh urged her to �order a high level inquiry against Singh and take stern action�.

Mamata�s junior, Digvijay Singh, replied to Chowhan on October 31, 1999 and promised an immediate inquiry into the matter.




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