Signal of Fernandes return to ministry
Assets frozen, but Jaish appears in new avatar
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Oct. 12: 
Samata Party leader George Fernandes, who was forced to step down as defence minister following the Tehelka revelations, is poised to stage a comeback.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is likely to induct him back into the Cabinet on Monday. External affairs minister Jaswant Singh had taken over from Fernandes.

Asked if he would expand the ministry, Vajpayee told PTI: �Yes, I will. I will make one or two additions.�

�I cannot say anything on this,� he said in response to a question if Fernandes will return. Vajpayee also indicated that he may carry out some changes in portfolios.

Singh is already overworked with hectic diplomatic parleys triggered by the September 11 terror strikes in the US. He has had little time to devote to defence, which needs a full-fledged minister at this crucial time when the strikes on Afghanistan are under way.

But Fernandes� return has little to do with all this. Analysts say he is being brought in because he poses many more problems to the government from outside the Cabinet than within. The Prime Minister, who often in the past has used Fernandes as a trouble-shooter, is said to have long wanted his return to the fold. But many of the NDA allies were opposed to his rehabilitation.

The appointment of disgraced BJP president Bangaru Laxman on Tuesday as the chairman of the Rajya Sabha House Committee was an indication that Vajpayee is now set to put the Tehelka controversy behind him.

Laxman was handpicked by Vajpayee as party president. Six months ago he was caught on camera accepting Rs 1 lakh in donation to party funds by the Tehelka team. If Laxman is being given a reprieve, there is no reason Fernandes should not return to the Cabinet.

The Prime Minister is said to have gone into an active mode in the last few weeks, taking decisions and asserting himself. Appointing Laxman was a clear indication. In his current mood, he is unlikely to pay heed to the carping of his NDA partners over Fernandes� induction. Vajpayee is not willing to wait for the findings of the Venkataswami commission looking into the Tehelka disclosures.

The Samata Party leader has been getting restive and had crossed swords with the BJP over the recent crisis in Manipur where the two allies found themselves on opposing sides.

He has also been grumbling about some of the government�s economic policies. Those close to Vajpayee say Fernandes� return was never in doubt. The speculation was over its timing.


Washington, Oct. 12: 
As expected, on the eve of US secretary of state Colin Powell�s travel to South Asia, the Bush administration today took steps to freeze the assets of Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist group, which claimed responsibility for this month�s attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly that killed nearly 40 people.

The administration�s new list of 39 individuals and organisations, whose assets are under siege, includes Rabita Trust, a Pakistani �charitable� body with questionable links to suspected terrorists.

�We are determined to deny terrorists the resources to carry out their acts of evil,� treasury secretary Paul O�Neill told reporters after signing the freeze order.

Pakistani sources, however, said that, anticipating the crackdown, Jaish had rechristened itself Tehrik al Furqan, withdrawn money from its bank accounts in Pakistan and deposited the funds in new accounts in the names of its network of ordinary members.

Pakistani sources said a respected cleric, Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, has been named the head of the new incarnation of Jaish to give it respectability.

Describing today�s order as �the next step in this financial war�, O�Neill said he had worked together with Powell in drawing up the new list.

President George W. Bush said last night that �the first shot in the war (on terrorists) was when we started cutting off their money, because an al Qaida organisation cannot function without money. And we are continuing our efforts to reach out to willing nations to disrupt and seize assets of the al Qaida organisation�.

On September 24, Bush froze the assets of 27 individuals and organisations allegedly engaged in terrorist activities.

This week, he named FBI�s 22 �most wanted� list of terrorists whose assets stand blocked as well.

O�Neill said the order blocking the assets had been coordinated �with our allies around the world, and many of them instituted blocking orders today as well�. Britain was one.

He claimed that together with the state department, the administration had built an international coalition to disrupt the terrorist financing network.

�This list will continue to grow as we share information between nations and develop an increasingly clear understanding of the complex network of terrorist financing.�

Bush said in his news conference last night � the first by a President during prime television time in six years � something that India wanted to hear just before Powell�s arrival in New Delhi.

�Our focus is on Afghanistan, and the terrorist network hiding in Afghanistan, right now. But... not only will we seek out and bring to justice individual terrorists who cause harm to people, to murder people, we will also bring to justice the host governments that sponsor them, that house them and feed them.�

In an obvious reference to countries like Pakistan, Syria and Iran, Bush was asked why he was now cooperating with states which sponsored terrorism.

Bush replied: �We are sending a signal to the world as we speak that if you harbour a terrorist, there will be a price to pay. And there are nations in the world that have expressed a desire to help... we take that seriously and we will give them an opportunity to do so.�




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Light to moderate rain, accompanied by thunder, in some areas
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