Indian man faked attack to claim insurance: Australian police


– Time of India

MELBOURNE: The Indian man, who said he was attacked and set ablaze by assailants here, had falsely reported the incident for claiming insurance, Australian police alleged today.

Jaspreet Singh, Grice Crescent, Essendon, in the city’s north, faced an out-of-sessions hearing today before a bail justice at St Kilda Road police complex charged with making a false report to police and criminal damage with a view to gaining a financial advantage, the Sky News TV said.

Singh, who is in Australia on his wife’s student visa, told police that he was doused with petrol and set alight as he parked his car near his home early on January 8.

Singh, 29, was taken to the Alfred hospital with 15 per cent burns, affecting his face, arms and hands.

Detective Senior Constable Danielle O’Keefe of the arson and explosives squad told the hearing Singh suffered the burns while trying to torch his 2003 Ford Futura.

O’Keefe said arson chemists and hospital staff had concluded the damage to the car, Singh’s clothes and his injuries were not consistent with his story.

“Police inquiries have led us to believe that Mr Singh is in some financial difficulty and that he intended to sell his car but instead stood to gain USD 9,750 from an insurance claim out of this particular incident,” she told the hearing.

The January 8 incident occurred amid growing tension between India and Australia over a spate of violence against Indian students in recent months here.

Police had obtained security footage depicting Singh buying a 15-litre opaque plastic container and 15.96 litres of petrol on the day before the attack. The container and other evidence were found at his unit when he was arrested yesterday, O’Keefe said.
However, Singh has denied all allegations. His wife had been questioned about her knowledge of the incident, she said.

Burns were still obvious on Singh’s face and neck, and he wore pressure bandages on his arms.

Through an interpreter, Singh told the hearing he and his wife planned a holiday to India, leaving on February 20 and returning in late April to visit his child and extended family.

O’Keefe said while police did not oppose bail it has been noted that Singh was a potential flight risk.

The justice, who declined to be named, granted him bail with strict conditions banning him from contacting witnesses and attending points of international departure.

He must report to police three times a week and surrender his passport. He will appear before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on March 15.

At the time, police Detective Acting Senior Sergeant Neil Smyth described the attack as “a bit strange” and said there was no evidence the attack was racially motivated.

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Merkel: Pakistan must play bigger Afghanistan role


BERLIN (Reuters) – Pakistan should be more closely involved in solving the Afghan conflict, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a newspaper interview due to be published on Sunday.

“There will be no peace in this region unless Pakistan carries its share of responsibility,” Merkel told German weekly Welt am Sonntag.

Faced with an insurgency by indigenous Taliban allied with the Afghan militants, Pakistan wants a peaceful Afghanistan. It is viewed with deep suspicion in Kabul, however, because of its ties to the Taliban, whom Pakistan backed through the 1990s.

“For a comprehensive solution, we need a much greater involvement of Afghan authorities and the inclusion of neighboring countries, in particular Pakistan,” Merkel said.

Germany has said it is committed to boosting troop levels in Afghanistan and nearly doubling civilian aid to create the conditions to start a withdrawal from next year.

But Merkel has refused to set a date for the withdrawal of troops, saying this could encourage the Taliban to lay low for a while and then launch a big attack.

“A withdrawal without reaching our goals and a unilateral German pull out would not be a handover of responsibility but an act of irresponsibility,” she said.

Polls show that a sizeable majority of Germans favor an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to NATO figures, Germany had 4,280 soldiers in Afghanistan as of December last year.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; editing by Michael Roddy)

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PCB shuts door on Pakistanis in IPL


Ijaz Butt: "We will not take the insult lying down." © AFP

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has ruled out the participation of its players in IPL 2010 and has revoked the no-objection certificates (NOCs) granted to its players.

“No Pakistani player will go to the IPL this time,” Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, told Cricinfo. “Why should we allow them to go? They didn’t pick any of the players and it was an insult to us. Why should we let one or two players go? We will not take this lying down.”

Butt’s statement seems to have shut the door on the issue, though a PCB release issued minutes earlier held out some hope.

“All NOCs issued to Pakistani players for their participation in IPL 3 stand revoked,” the PCB statement said. “In the future if any player receives an invitation for participation in IPL events, PCB will decide the matter on a case-to-case basis after consulting the relevant government authorities.”

The decision came after Pakistani players were ignored at the player auction for the third edition held in Mumbai. Of the 11 players in the IPL’s final auction list of 66, none were bought by any franchise.

That sparked outrage in Pakistan and led to statements on both sides – including one from India’s home minister – regretting the blackout of Pakistani players at the auction. There has also been a warning issued by a regional party in Mumbai warning against Pakistanis being hired by the franchises, but recent reports indicated that Pakistani players could play a role in the next IPL season.

One player, allrounder Abdul Razzaq, has also been linked to two franchises though officials of both franchises deny any specific deal has been concluded.

The participation of Pakistani players in the third IPL season has been a subject of much controversy for the past three months, with some element of confusion over rules and eligibility. It was thought, when their names were included on the auction shortlist earlier this month, that the issue had been resolved but events at the January 19 auction suggest they are taking a new turn.

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India sidelined at London Conference on Afghanistan


NEW DELHI: Finding the US not overly helpful on arming it with drones and drone technology, Pakistan has now made overtures to the Turkish army

During his recent visit to Islamabad, US defence secretary Robert Gates promised the gift of 12 drones for surveillance. But the 12 RQ-7 Shadow drones cannot send in Reaper or Hellfire missiles which would make them truly lethal and would have provoked an immediate outcry from India. However, experts believe this is dangerous stuff anyway, and it will not take much for Pakistan to reverse engineer them or tailor them for needs other than spying on the Taliban, in other words, to target India.

Needless to add, Pakistan was less than overwhelmed by the offer. Therefore, Indian sources said, Pakistan is now approaching their its friends in the Turkish army for this technology. The Turks were given drones, both attack and surveillance ones, by the Israelis as they battle the Kurds. Whether they are persuaded to part with these for the Pakistanis is another matter, and likely to involve a lot of pre-emptive Indian diplomacy.

India is finding less and less to be positive about in the Pakistan-Afghanistan theatre.

Apart from gifting surveillance drones to Pakistan, the US may be winking at a more robust reconciliation policy with the Taliban in Afghanistan. This will include a greater Pakistani role in the mediation process, which means the ISI will be able to give them greater say in what kind of Taliban gets to be in power in Kabul. This, Indian officials argue, will happen despite US and British “oversight” on Pakistani efforts.

“Their knowledge is pretty flawed, and they remain beholden to the ISI. This is likely to influence their decisions,” said sources. The Pakistani presence in the negotiations comes despite Afghan evidence that attacks like the one in Kabul last week was done by the ISI-friendly Haqqani network.

The reconciliation programme has acquired urgency in the backdrop of President Barack Obama’s withdrawal strategy for 2011. This is of greater concern to India, because it could put a huge question on India’s own participation and future in Afghanistan. Ahead of the London conference on Afghanistan starting on Thursday, foreign minister S M Krishna will try and get a sense from other leaders about the US-led western presence in Afghanistan.

A glimpse of how things may turn out was given by US general David Petraeus when he said, “The concept of reconciliation, of talks between senior Afghan officials and senior Taliban or other insurgent leaders, perhaps involving some Pakistani officials as well, is another possibility.”

Gen Stanley McCrystal, in an interview to Financial Times, said he hoped increased troop levels would weaken the Taliban enough for its leaders to accept a peace deal.

India is increasingly coming round to accepting the reality that some sort of a peace deal could be made. In recent statements, Indian officials have admitted the possibility that people who renounce violence and the Taliban as well as disarm, could be accommodated into Afghanistan’s establishment.

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Kashmiris, Nagas and Sikhs demand end to Indian Imperialism


On the occasion of India’s Republic Day, a powerful joint appeal Tuesday to the international community by key Kashmiri, Naga and Sikh leaders has highlighted the fundamental conflicts and contradictions at the heart of the Indian state, as well as the unwavering intent of their nations to secure freedom in accordance with their right to self-determination as enshrined in international law.

They issued a call to the international community to play a constructive role in dismantling India’s unlawful hold on their territories, which has been maintained purely by military means at the cost of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives since 1947, and to restore fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law in the most volatile region of the world. The leaders included Syed Ali Shah Gilani, Chair of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir, Naga leader Th. Muivah, General Secretary of the NSCN-IM and Kanwarpal Singh of Dal Khalsa in Punjab.

Their message was endorsed by leading organisations based in the respective Diaspora communities which held demonstrations outside the Indian High Commission in London and elsewhere to once again publicly reject the Indian constitution as being applicable to their territories.

Rubbishing India’s claims to be a democratic, secular, peaceable state which complies with its international obligations, they pointed to the reality of a belligerent, militaristic state which oppresses the minorities and nations under its control, which has become a serial violator of international law and human rights.

They said Indian armed forces chief Deepak Kapoor’s recent public comments about bringing both China and Pakistan to their knees within 96 hours of a war betrays the dangerous and aggressive mindset of the Indian establishment which has already conducted undeclared wars on the Naga, Sikh, Kashmiri and other nations using brutal means, systematically violating basic human rights, as routinely pointed out by the world’s leading human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international.
Pending India’s compliance with the international standards the Naga, Kashmiri and Sikh leadership urged the international community to robustly dismiss India’s pretensions to a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

“It would be the height of folly indeed to reward a serial violator of basic international norms by giving it the means to frustrate the one international body that can hold it to account,” they observed.

They pledged to work together, along with their friends in the region and beyond, in order to promote a peaceful transition from the current unjust framework of Indian colonialism to a new order in South Asia where freedom, peace and security and justice would prevail.

The withdrawal of Indian forces from these occupied territories would be a pre-requisite for that transformation. Instead of indulging itself in Republic Day posturing, India would do better to reflect on the crimes it has committed and its own inherent contradictions.
Threatening its neighbours and inhumanly oppressing minorities may have become the raison d’etre for ‘Hindutva,’ but these policies offend the very notion of religion and will surely ultimately prove suicidal for the Indian state.

It demanded ejecting India from all the UN’s humanitarian bodies until it improves its appalling record of mistreating its religious minorities. In August 2009, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedoms put India on its ‘watch list’ of states that fail to protect such groups.

In the UK, Muhammad Ghalib, Chair of the All Party Kashmir Co-ordination Committee, Amrik Singh Sahota , President of the Council of Khalistan, and the Naga Support Centre all pledged to continue their campaign to enlist international support for the peaceable implementation of their national rights.

Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chair of ‘Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination’, the cross party group at the Westminster parliament which promotes national self-determination, endorsed these demands. Having been recently denied a visa to visit India specifically because of his support for these causes, he castigated the ongoing oppression of these freedom loving nations and urged the international community to hold India to account for its crimes. Reflecting on India’s refusal to grant him a visa, he noted the move was consistent with India’s attempts to conceal its record by denying human rights groups, UN officials and independent observers access to conflict zones.

He remarked that all this was futile with the true picture is becoming ever more apparent to the global community which will be forced to act sooner or later.

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First time in 19 years flag not hoisted at Lal Chowk


Indiatimes

SRINAGAR: The national flag was not hoisted by security forces in Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of Srinagar, on the Republic Day today for the first time in 19 years.

The usual hustle and bustle was not there in the heart of the city as people preferred to remain indoors in view of strike call given by separatists as well as tight security measures taken by the authorities.

The tricolour used to be unfurled on the clock tower, popularly known here as “Ghantaghar” in Lal Chowk on the Republic Day and Independence Day since 1991.

The first time the flag was hoisted at the clock tower was in 1991 when then BJP President Murli Manohar Joshi did it amidst rocket attacks by militants.

No official reason was cited for not hoisting the national flag in Lal Chowk, which recently saw a 22-hour terrorist siege.

The authorities last evening eased security restrictions in the city to lessen inconvenience to the people. Police and paramilitary forces remained deployed in strength but checking of vehicles and frisking of pedestrians was restricted to a few places.

“We have not lowered the guard but several steps have been taken to avoid unnecessary harassment of the people. Instead of random checking at every half a km in the city, the vehicles were searched at a few places particularly at the entry points,” officials said yesterday.

However, tight security arrangements were made today in view of terror threat to the R-day function.

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Shetty, Zinta ‘threatened into snub’


Bollywood stars Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta have added a new twist to the IPL affair by claiming that they were threatened into snubbing Pakistani cricketers at the auction. According to a report by an Australian publication ‘The Age’, Shetty told India’s ‘Mid-Day’ that threats were made against her team and any subsequent Pakistan cricketer picked by her franchise.
“You must look at it pragmatically and see that we have had these people who are constantly threatening,” Rajasthan co-owner Shetty told Indian publication Mid-Day. “It’s not something we hold against the Pakistani players.

“We completely understand the situation but as franchise owners are we willing to take that risk? If something happens to the Pakistani players, the onus lies on us and who is going to take responsibility for a situation like that?
“When we said ‘availability’, we wanted complete assurance that those players would be available in the country and that we were going to be able to provide security for them,” she added.

Preity Zinta, co-owner of Kings XI Punjab, reportedly told an Indian-language TV channel: “We would have loved to have the T20 world champions in our teams to bring real joy to the extravaganza but what can we do if we have certain threats about not [only] our own safety but the safety of the Pakistani players too, with no official quarter assuring us of foolproof security of players during the tournament?”

The report comes just as Darren Berry, former Australia first-class cricketer and a member of the Rajasthan Royals coaching staff, revealed that teenage Pakistani batsman Umar Akmal was the Royals top pick for this season’s IPL auction and was surprised at the omission. He wrote:

“After spending the past two weeks in India preparing for the Indian Premier League in March, I am staggered at the recent treatment of the Pakistan players. I agree with Shahid Afridi that he and his countrymen were humiliated in the IPL auction in Mumbai last week. …I do not have all the information – and possibly never will as this was a very delicate issue played out behind the scenes. However, I do know – due to my coaching role with the Rajasthan Royals – that a few weeks ago Umar Akmal was No. 1 priority on the Royals’ shopping list. All of a sudden he was not available. As the auction unfolded live on TV in India, it became evident that it wasn’t just Umar Akmal who was in the no-go zone, but all of the Pakistan players. The press in India asked plenty of questions but got few straight answers.”

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