South Asia Stay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.. Sat, 31 Jan 2015 15:55:52 +0000 SRA Framework 2.0 en-gb Sri Lanka appoints minority Tamil as top judge imageCOLOMBO: Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday appointed a Tamil judge as the country's chief justice, the first member of the minority community to hold the post in more than two decades.

Kanagasabapathy Sripavan, 62, was sworn in on Friday, ending a crisis in the Supreme Court triggered by the sacking of former chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake two years ago.

Sripavan becomes the first Tamil to occupy the top judicial position in 24 years as Sri Lanka's new leaders seek to mend ties with the country's largest ethnic minority after a bloody 37-year war.

"Justice Sripavan was sworn in before President Sirisena," the presidential secretariat said in a statement.

The appointment comes two days after Sirisena declared the controversial impeachment of Bandaranayake by the previous regime illegal, fulfilling one of the pledges he made before his surprise win of this month's election.

Bandaranayake stepped down on Thursday, a day after being formally restored to the post, which she lost in January 2013 after angering former president Mahinda Rajapakse with her judgements against his regime.

Bandaranayake's sacking was widely criticised, with the UN Human Rights Council calling it an assault on judicial independence.

The supreme court had been accused of political bias since she was replaced by Mohan Peiris.

The government of Sirisena, a member of the majority Sinhalese community, has vowed reconciliation with Tamils six years after the end of separatist war that claimed at least 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.

The last Tamil chief justice was Herbert Thambiah, who left the position in 1991.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South Asia Fri, 30 Jan 2015 19:00:36 +0000
Suicide attack on Afghanistan funeral kills at least 8: officials imageKABUL: At least eight people were killed Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated himself at a funeral for the victims of a roadside bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan, provincial officials said.

A local official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said at least eight people were left dead in the attack in Mehtarlam, in the eastern Laghman province.

Laghman governor spokesman Sarhadi Zwak placed the death toll at 16, with another 39 wounded.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack but suicide bombings are a hallmark of the Taliban's war against foreign and Afghan security forces, now in its fourteenth year.

The insurgents are able to mount regular attacks across swathes of the country, particularly southern and eastern provinces.

Thursday's funeral was being held for a police commander and three other people who were killed in a roadside bomb blast, according to Zwak.

Afghanistan saw a surge in violence last year as international forces wound down their combat mission, which began in 2001. It has now been downgraded to support and training duties to help the Afghan army and police.

About 17,000 foreign soldiers, most of them from the US, will remain in Afghanistan as part of the new mission.

But US troop numbers are set to halve within 12 months and fall to almost nothing in two years.

Civilian casualties rose 19 percent from the previous year to a record high in 2014, with nearly 3,200 civilians killed and over 6,400 injured, according to a UN report released in December.

Casualties among children had jumped a third and among women by 12 percent by the end of November, in the deadliest year for non-combatants, said the report.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:16:37 +0000
India wields club on golfing bureaucrats: report imageNEW DELHI: India's right-wing government has scrapped membership of Delhi's prestigious golf club for bureaucrats as part of a crackdown on its notoriously work-shy civil servants, a report said Thursday.

The memberships had been awarded to a select group of serving and retired bureaucrats by the previous left-leaning Congress government, the Hindustan Times daily said.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has now scrapped the perk, cancelling memberships for 27 civil servants teeing off from the club's plush greens and mulling the future of another 30.

The newspaper said the quota scheme organised by the urban development ministry, which oversees the club's land, was ended after it was found to be in "contravention of rules and regulations," without elaborating.

After his landslide election victory last May, Modi cracked the whip on India's civil servants, who are notorious for arriving late, taking long lunches and whiling away afternoons on the golf course.

Modi said he was shocked by what he saw in the corridors of power after moving to Delhi.

The Delhi Golf Club, which dates back to 1930, is spread over 200 acres (80 hectares) in the heart of the city with sprawling greens interspersed by Mughal-era ruins.

Ministry officials could not be contacted for comment, while the club said it had no comment to make.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:38:57 +0000
Sri Lanka probes political links to drug kingpin imageCOLOMBO: Sri Lanka's police said Tuesday they were investigating whether a man who confessed to smuggling over 1,000 kilos of heroin to the island over three years had political protection.

Samantha Kumara Vithanage was arrested in Pakistan earlier this month and taken back to Sri Lanka, police spokesman Ajith Rohana said.

He told detectives he had imported about 1,000 kilos (2,200 pounds) of heroin since 2012 worth a total of $75 million to Colombo, a key hub for the narcotic originating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Investigators have also found links between Vithanage and lawmaker Duminda Silva, who was attached to the defence ministry under former president Mahinda Rajapakse.

"We have information that MP Duminda Silva received large sums of money from Samantha Kumara Vithanage, alias Wele Sudha," Rohana told reporters.

"We secured a court order today to check all banks and financial institutions to track down his money."

Silva was a key financier of the former governing coalition under Rajapakse.

Rohana said millions of dollars worth of houses, apartments and vehicles have been seized from Vithanage, who is better known as Wele Sudha.

A new car taken from the suspect was shown to reporters Tuesday, along with a long list of confiscated apartments, lands and vehicles.

Rohana said the Central Bank of Sri Lanka had been asked to track down any foreign assets of Silva's in Pakistan and Dubai.

Silva, who could not be contacted for comment, cannot leave the country because his passport has already been impounded in connection with an unrelated murder case, Rohana said.

Rajapakse and his powerful family are accused of large-scale corruption during his decade in office, which ended earlier this month.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South Asia Tue, 27 Jan 2015 19:31:14 +0000
Iran warns of 'consequences' for Israeli attack imageTEHRAN: Iran has told the United States that Israel should expect consequences for an attack on the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights that killed an Iranian general, a senior official said Tuesday.

Revolutionary Guards General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi died alongside six fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah group in the January 18 attack on forces supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.

Israel has not officially acknowledged carrying out the attack, but was already warned last week of an eventual response.

"We have sent a message to the United States through diplomatic channels telling the Americans that the Zionist regime crossed Iran's red lines by this action," said Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

"In this message, we said those responsible should wait to suffer the consequences of their act," he added, in remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency.

Amir-Abdollahian was speaking on the sidelines of a memorial service for Allahdadi also attended by General Ghassem Souleimani, head of the Guards' elite Quds Force, which is responsible for operations outside Iran.

Last week, the defence minister, Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan, said "this action of Zionists will not be left without a response. The important thing is the question of the time and place of this response."

And Mohsen Rezaie, secretary of Iran's Expediency Council, added that Hezbollah would eventually retaliate against "this recent atrocity," but that the group was "prudent and has a long term plan and will not be infuriated."

Shiite Iran is Assad's main regional ally in his war against the mainly Sunni rebels seeking to overthrow him.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar television said the group's six fighters were killed on a reconnaissance mission.

But an Israeli security source said the strike was on "terrorists" who were preparing an attack on the Jewish state.

The incident came days after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened to retaliate against Israel for its repeated strikes on targets in Syria, and boasted the movement was stronger than ever.

He touted a sophisticated arsenal, including Fateh-110 missiles, which have a range of 200 kilometres (125 miles) or more and are capable of hitting much of Israel.

At least two rockets fired from the Syrian side hit the Israeli side Tuesday, prompting return artillery fire, the Israeli army said.

In 2006, Israel fought a war against Hezbollah that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South Asia Tue, 27 Jan 2015 19:18:22 +0000
United States can be India's 'best partner': Obama

imageNEW DELHI: President Barack Obama said that the United States can become India's "best partner" as he wrapped up a three-day visit to New Delhi on Tuesday.

"India and the United States are not just natural partners -- I believe that America can be India's best partner," Obama said in a speech before an audience of young people.

"Of course, only Indians can decide India's role in the world," said the US president who received a rapturous reception from the audience.

"But I'm here because I am absolutely convinced that both our peoples will have more jobs and opportunity, our nations will be more secure, and the world will be a safer and more just place when our two democracies stand together."

Obama was due to fly out later Tuesday to Saudi Arabia at the end of a visit that saw him become the first US president to attend India's Republic Day celebrations.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Tue, 27 Jan 2015 06:05:19 +0000
Modi pledges 'predictable, competitive' tax regime imageNEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised US executives Monday that he would forge a "predictable and competitive" tax regime as he sought to shake off his country's reputation as hostile to business.

Speaking alongside US President Barack Obama at a meeting of American and Indian CEOs, the right-wing premier said the business climate had already dramatically changed since he came to power and the transformation would step up pace.

"You will find an environment that is not only open but welcoming, we will guide you and work with you on your projects," said Modi whose election win last May was largely founded on a pledge to overhaul India's economy.

"You will find a climate that encourages investment and involves enterprise," added the prime minister.

"You will find a tax regime that is predictable and competitive."

Under the previous left-leaning Congress government, many foreign businesses complained about levels of bureaucracy, corruption and an arbitrary and aggressive taxation.

Modi acknowledged that the tax rules had been too harsh and that he planned to lessen the burden.

"We have removed some of the excesses of the past. We will soon address the remaining uncertainties," said the prime minister, who also promised to address concerns about intellectual property.

"It (the new business climate) will nurture innovation and protect your intellectual property."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2015

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:26:31 +0000
Indian president slams nation's failures image

NEW DELHI: President Pranab Mukherjee gave a stern assesmement of India 65 years after it declared itself a republic, criticising parliamentary dysfunction and the overuse of decrees in a message that might also resonate with his visitor, US President Barack Obama.

In a Republic Day address on the eve of the celebrations, India's largely ceremonial president was also scathing about rampant violence against women in the world's second most populous nation.

Mukherjee said the opposition should debate laws responsibily rather than disrupting the houses of parliament, and warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government against governing by decree.

He was referrring to 10 "ordinances" issued by Modi, including ones to raise the foreign investment limit in insurance, auction coal mines and ease land acquisitions.

"Enacting laws without discussion impacts the law-making role of the parliament. It breaches the trust reposed in it by the people," Mukherjee said in a televised address on Sunday.

"This is neither good for the democracy nor for the policies relating to those laws."

Modi issued most of the decrees after opposition parties prevented parliament from functioning in protest at comments against religious minorities made by members of the ruling party.

Mukherjee's message might be of interest to Obama, who was in town as chief guest for the 66th Republic Day celebrations. At home, Obama has sidestepped a fractious Congress by issuing executive orders.

Mukherjee said there can "no governance without a functioning legislature."

Elected last May, Modi has broken logjams in the economy and foreign relations.

Obama sat behind Mukherjee as he saluted soldiers at a military parade in the capital New Delhi on Monday. Obama is the first US president to attend the annual Republic Day celebrations, part of a three-day visit that aims to cement ties between the world's two largest democracies.

The ceremony featured marching contingents of women soldiers and a woman officer led the guard of honour that greeted Obama, although India has become notorious for abuses and violence against women.

In his speech, Mukherjee expressed anger that women are "fearful even in their own homes" because of widespread rape, murder, harassment on the roads, kidnapping and dowry deaths.

Copyright Reuters, 2015

]]> (Nasir Ahmed) South Asia Mon, 26 Jan 2015 10:25:04 +0000
Rain on India's parade, but Obama visit keeps spirits high imageNEW DELHI: Rain threatened to dampen the excitement around US President Barack Obama's landmark visit to India as thousands of troops prepared on Monday for a dazzling military parade where he will be the chief guest.

The first US president to attend the annual show of military might that was long associated with the anti-Americanism of the Cold War, Obama spent the first day of his visit on Sunday bonding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sealing a clutch of deals.

The two leaders announced plans to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and to deepen defence ties, steps they hope will establish an enduring strategic partnership.

Most significant was an agreement on two issues that, despite a groundbreaking 2006 pact, had stopped US companies from setting up nuclear reactors in India and had become one of the major irritants in bilateral relations.

"Mobama breaks N-deadlock," the Mail Today newspaper said on its front page, which carried a photograph of Modi and Obama hugging each other warmly.

Obama will be chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations in the capital, where tanks, troops and floats showcasing India's cultural diversity will pass along Rajpath, an elegant lawn-bordered boulevard dating from the British colonial era that connects the presidential palace to India Gate.

Despite on-off rain and overcast skies, tens of thousands were gathered along the route for the annual spectacle.

Security was tight at the parade and across the city, where tens of thousands of police and paramilitary personnel were deployed on street corners and rooftops.

Obama's presence at the parade - at Modi's personal invitation - marks the latest upturn in a roller-coaster bilateral relationship that just a year ago was in tatters.

Bickering over protectionism culminated in a fiery diplomatic spat in 2013 and the abrupt departure of the US ambassador from New Delhi, who has only just been replaced.

The United States views India as a vast market and potential counterweight in Asia to a more assertive China, but has frequently been frustrated with the slow pace of New Delhi's economic reforms and unwillingness to side with Washington in international affairs.

Elected last May, Modi has injected a new vitality into the economy and foreign relations and, to Washington's delight, has begun pushing back against China across Asia.

The two leaders emerged from their talks on Sunday with a 10-year framework for defence ties and deals on cooperation that included the joint production of drone aircraft and equipment for Lockheed Martin Corp's C-130 military transport plane.

Other deals ranged from an Obama-Modi hotline - India's first at a leadership level - to financing initiatives aimed at helping India use renewable energy to lower carbon intensity.

Obama also enjoyed a close friendship with Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh, who staked his premiership on the controversial nuclear deal that made India the sixth "legitimate" atomic power and marked a high point in Indo-US relations.

The deal failed to deliver on a promise of business for US companies because of India's reluctance to shield suppliers from liability, a deviation from international norms that reflects the memory of the Bhopal industrial disaster.

Obama will leave India slightly earlier than first scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah, skipping a planned visit to the Taj Mahal.

Copyright Reuters, 2015

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Mon, 26 Jan 2015 06:28:31 +0000
Thirty-four die in Bangladesh vote protest violence imageDHAKA: At least 34 people have died in Bangladesh and scores have been injured, most of them in firebomb attacks, amid rising political unrest fuelled by a stand-off between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the main opposition leader.

The renewed political turmoil could cause a delay in shipments by the country's $24-billion garment industry, already under pressure after a string of fatal accidents.

Begum Khaleda Zia, whose opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted the election on Jan. 5 last year, has demanded that Hasina and her government step down for a new vote under a caretaker administration.

Hasina has refused, instead tightening her grip by arresting key opposition leaders and clamping down on critical media as anti-government protests spread. The violence has worsened sharply since Jan. 5, the first anniversary of the vote.

Police said at least 25 people have died in arson attacks, including two on Friday. Eight more were killed in clashes with police, and one died following injuries from a crude bomb blast, they added.

At least 50 people were injured, some critically, after opposition activists firebombed several vehicles in the capital, Dhaka, and surrounding districts, police and witnesses said.

In Dhaka, at least 29 people suffered burns after attackers hurled petrol bombs at a bus, police said.

"Nine are in critical condition," said Mohammad Sajjat Khandakar, a doctor at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, which has been struggling to deal with growing numbers of the injured.

More than 7,000 opposition activists have been detained since the anniversary, Industry Minister Amir Hossain Amu, the head of a government law and order panel, has said.

The opposition called for another 36-hour countrywide strike from Sunday morning to protest against the arrests and "oppression" of its leaders during an indefinite transport blockade it launched.

Khaleda called the blockade after she was prevented from holding a mass rally in Dhaka on the Jan. 5 anniversary.

Legal action could be considered against Khaleda for ordering the killing of innocent people, said Health Minister Mohammed Nasim.

"They should immediately stop the killing of innocent people, children, woman, labourers," he told reporters on Saturday after visiting the burns victims.

BNP leaders were not immediately available to comment on the threat of legal action.

Hasina and Khaleda have alternated as prime minister for most of the past two decades in a fierce rivalry marked by periods of widespread political violence.

The United States, the European Union and Britain have voiced concern and urged all Bangladeshi parties to engage in dialogue.

Copyright Reuters, 2015
]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Sun, 25 Jan 2015 14:46:06 +0000