The Hindustan Times – AIADMK crisis: Trust vote won but Palaniswami government in Tamil Nadu faces trust deficit

K V Lakshmana

Chennai, 19 February 2017. Jailed AIADMK chief VK Sasikala’s proxy Edapaddi Palaniswami may have won the trust vote in Tamil Nadu but his government’s legitimacy and longevity is in doubt, political observers say.

Picked as the CM candidate after Sasikala’s march to the top job was cut short by the Supreme Court which found her guilty in a corruption case, Palaniswami is legally on a sound footing but faces a trust deficit and a crisis of credibility.

The ugly scenes in the state assembly on Sunday and the days of political drama before it have done little to inspire confidence among the people of Tamil Nadu.

“For how long the government stays stable, it remains to be seen,” political analyst Sumanth C Raman told HT.

The Sasikala camp, for now, has managed to keep its flock together.

“Legally, it (the government) is going to stand. It has got 122 votes and no one has disputed the number. It is legally right but not morally,” he said.

In 234-member Tamil Nadu House, 118 is the majority mark.

The government would have had more legitimacy if the Opposition was not thrown out of the House during the trust vote, which was shrouded in secrecy. Media was not allowed to watch the proceedings and even the audio feed, as is the practice in the southern state, was not available.

“Even before the trust vote, the Edapaddi government had little credibility. The presence of Opposition would have given more legitimacy to the trust vote,” said Professor Ramu Manivannan of Madras University.

All the 88 DMK members were evicted while eight of the Congress and one of the IUML walked out.

Edapaddi, in fact, should thank rival O Panneerselvam for staying on and voting.

“Had OPS (Panneerselvam) walked out and ensured that the entire Opposition stayed out and the verdict was 122-0, the message would have been far more damaging,” Manivannan said.

Panneerselvam, who rose in revolt against Sasikala, could have formed a larger political alliance. “But then, his mentors have told him what to do but not how to do,” said Manivannan.

Opinion is divided over the future of Panneerselvam, who turned a hero in public eye for his opposition to Sasikala taking over the government and the party after chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5.

He has a tough job at hand, to turn public support into a potent political force.

“It will depend on him, how best can he salvage the situation with the public support but we also have to see how long this support lasts,” Raman said.

But, all is not lost for the former caretaker chief minister. The election commission is looking into complaints against Sasikala’s election as the AIADMK general secretary.

If the order goes against Sasikala, all party appointments made by her would be scrapped. It will give a big boost to the Panneerselvam faction in the party.

As far as the government goes, said Raman, its initial days would be of an uneasy stability.

It would be a big achievement if the government would last for more than two years, said Manivannan, adding Tamil Nadu could face elections sooner than 2021, when the term of the current assembly ends.

Advertisements – Sikh employee granted permission to wear kirpan at work in London

Sikh Council UK

London, UK, 19 February 2017. A Sikh employee has been permitted to wear the Kirpan in the workplace of an international telecommunications company based in the City in London following initially being refused to right to wear it on ostensible security grounds.

The individual had taken the momentous decision to become an Amritdhari (an initiated) Sikh and as such he was following the mandatory Sikh code of conduct requiring him to carry the five articles of Sikh faith on his person at all times.

He informed his employer of the circumstances following which his employer initially refused consent.

Sikh Council UK along with other member organisations intervened and provided details concerning Sikh articles of faith following which the employer conceded and has since adopted a policy permitting the individual to wear his kirpan in the workplace.

This is the second such case recently where the Sikh Council UK has successfully intervened in connection with the wearing the kirpan in the workplace.

The other case involved two Sikhs employees initially being stopped for wearing kirpans at a large international airport based in the South-east.

The airport has now adopted a policy around the wearing of the kirpan by employees in the workplace in consultation with the Sikh Council UK.

Jagtar Singh, Secretary General Elect of Sikh Council UK, said: “It is unfortunate that cases such as these still occur too often for our liking, especially in large multi-national organisations. However, we are pleased with the outcomes in these cases, which has meant these Sikhs are now able to practice their faith whilst at work”.

He added “Casework like this is a regular feature of the work of Sikh Council UK and we frequently receive queries seeking our assistance in such matters.

Subject to capacity we of course seek to assist any Sikh who faces any issues at work or elsewhere in connection with their articles of faith. If any Sikh is facing any such problems they are requested to get in touch with us without delay”.


20 January 2017


Tram 4 to UZ


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Pakistan Today – Merger of Gilgit-Baltistan would amount of stabbing Kashmiris in the back

Wise or unwise?

Ashiq Hussain Bhat

Lahore, 19 Feberuary 2017. Recent news reports from Pakistan suggest that the Nawaz government is mulling the merger of Gilgit-Baltistan with the federation of Pakistan. Such a measure on part of Islamabad would have serious consequences for the rest of Kashmir because it would set a precedent for India to merge Kashmir in a similar manner with the Indian Union.

Gilgit and Baltistan were two separate entities inside the former Princely State of Kashmir. Baltistan was part of Ladakh Wazarat right upto August 1948; and Gilgit was a separate Wazarat (district) headed, as was Ladakh, by a Waziri-Wazarat (a sort of Deputy Commissioner).

In March 1935 the Maharaja of Kashmir leased it out to the British government of India. Since then the British Agent at Gilgit exercised full authority there. In fact the Agent exercised greater control than the Wazir right from 1880s when the British set up an Agency there.

When in 1947 the British decided to withdraw from the sub-continent, and transfer power to Indian hands (Muslim majority Pakistan and non-Muslim majority India) all the agreements, including the Gilgit Lease, between the Indian princes and the British rulers were to lapse, under the provisions of States Memorandum of 12 May 1946, on 15 August, the day of Transfer of Power.

Accordingly, the Maharaja deputed Ghansara Singh, Waziri-Wazarat designate, to take over the administration of Gilgit Wazarat. Ghanara arrived there on 30 July 1947. However, he found himself unwelcome in Gilgit (p.116 Kashmir A Disputed Legacy, Alastair Lamb). He found that no administrative set-up existed in Gilgit, not even in name.

And the only authority that the people of Gilgit recognised was that of the Corps of Gilgit Scouts, a militia of local men raised by Gilgit Agent in 1913, who did not want to be part of the Maharaja’s Kashmir, or part of an Indian Kashmir.

The Indian army intervention in Kashmir on 27 October 1947 prompted the Scouts to take action. Openly supported by their British Officers, Major Brown and Captain Mathieson, and by the Muslim component of 6th Battalion of State Forces, they killed the Sikh component of the State Forces that manned the Janglote outpost; and forced Ghansara to surrender (p.240 The History of Jammu Kashmir Rifles Major Brahma K. Singh).

In the coming days, led by Colonel Shahzada Mataul-Mulk, the new free army of Gilgit, which comprised the Scouts, the Muslim component of the erstwhile State Forces, and other locals, and which they named as Azad Central Forces (ACF), headed towards Baltistan.

En route they liquated the Sikh component of State Forces guarding the Tsari Pass on the left bank of Indus River while as the Muslim component guarding the Tsari Pass on the right bank of the River joined hands with them voluntarily (pp.251 & 258 The History of JK Rifles Major B. K. Singh).

They fought pitched battles in February to May 1948 in and around Skardu with the Skardu Dogra garrison and the troop reinforcements sent from Srinagar and Kargil. Finally the ACF forced the Skardu garrison to surrender on 12 August 1948 (p. 259 The History of JK Rifles Major B. K. Singh).

The ACF had already gifted Gilgit in November 1947 to Pakistan on a plate. Now they gifted them Baltistan also.

Meanwhile, the 1948 Pakistan-India war over Kashmir ended in a ceasefire courtesy of United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP).

Next year, 1949, the two countries agreed upon demarcation of a ceasefire line (LOC since 1972) which passed through the erstwhile Princely State of Kashmir thereby partitioning it into three parts with Pakistan receiving, in addition to Gilgit and Baltistan, portions of Kashmir and Jammu provinces of the State, collectively referred to as “Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK)” by Pakistan and “Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK)” by India.

The UNCIP also recommended a plebiscite for Kashmir State so that the final disposition of the State could be decided in accordance with the wishes of its people.

This ascertainment of peoples’ wishes was never effected, India accusing Pakistan of failing to withdraw its forces from State territory as laid down in the UNCIP Resolutions; and Pakistan accusing India of scuttling the process by stalling the appointment of UN-nominated plebiscite administrator.

Since then the State remained a bone of contention among Pakistan, India and Kashmiris which led to wars and internal revolts.

Since January 2016 reports started coming from Pakistan that suggested that the Nawaz Sharif government was seriously considering the issue of merger of Gilgit-Baltistan as the fifth province of the country in total disregard of the consequences this measure would have on the broader issue of Kashmir.

It was given out at that time that the Islamabad administration were concerned about the passage of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through internationally disputed Kashmir State territory of Gilgit and Baltistan. So, if they merged Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan, it would serve their economic interests better.

As of now, February 2017, such reports have again started making rounds. The most recent reports on this issue, published by Pakistani newspapers, suggest that the Nawaz government has finalised the plan to merge Gilgit-Baltistan with the endorsement of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly which was convened first time in 2009 under the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order.

Should that happen, the balloon of resistance in Kashmir Valley, nurtured by Pakistan itself, would be deflated. New Delhi administration would make merry.

Despite their long winded rhetoric that Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK belonged to India and were illegally occupied by Pakistan, and that they meant to liberate these by force, the reality seems to be that they fervently desire Islamabad administration to effect constitutional changes for merger of Gilgit-Baltistan (and also AJK) with Pakistan as provinces at par with other provinces of the federation, because this would create a precedent for them (New Delhi administration) to do likewise with the rest of the State which is under Indian administration.

They can easily obtain concurrence for required constitutional changes from the Legislative Assembly of Kashmir which is full of their own people. Probably some sort of nexus has developed on this issue between New Delhi and Islamabad, or Islamabad might not have thought of this merger.

Up until now the Kashmir resistance forces accused India of not allowing a plebiscite in the valley as laid down in the UNCIP resolutions and instead seeking its merger with the Union with the concurrence of unelected assemblies (the Constituent Assembly in 1950s and the Legislative Assembly since 1957).

Now Pakistan has set the process of merger of Kashmir State territories in motion.

They can hardly justify their action on the grounds that the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan is supportive of these measures; and that people of Gilgit-Baltistan wish to be part of Pakistan.

Should they do so, then the New Delhi administration could embark upon a similar adventure; abrogate the Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India; obtain the concurrence of the Kashmir Legislative Assembly; and thereby finally merge Kashmir with the Union of India at par with other States of the Union.

If this were to happen, the people (read Muslims) of Kashmir would have two options available: Either accept the new dispensation hands down and curse Nawaz government; or fight back with more vigour.

If they settle for the second option, it will, in turn, prompt New Delhi administration to seriously consider their options.

They can either do with Kashmiris what Sri Lanka did with Tamils, knowing well that the State of Pakistan, which previously claimed to be the traditional protectors of Kashmiris, would be looking the other way, having themselves stabbed them in the back; and/or, kick out the intransigent elements among them (Kashmiris) across the “LoC” (which would have by now been accepted by Pakistan State as International Boundary) just as they (Indians) kicked out people in 1948-49 across Sucheetgarh into Pakistan.

Dawn – Tracking the footprints: All roads lead to South Punjab

Nasir Jamal

Panjab, 19 February 2017. The year witnessed a significant de-escalation in terrorist and sectarian attacks in south Punjab as militant violence mostly shifted elsewhere, mainly to the northern cities, in the province.

Apart from a deadly attack on a gathering at the election office of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) legislator Amjad Farooq Khosa in Taunsa near DG Khan in mid-October and a suicide raid in Multan, no other significant incident of violence took place in the southern Punjab that made headlines a year earlier as the hub of nationwide militant activity, especially in Urban Pakistan.

Having said that, the ‘footprints’ the militants left behind elsewhere in the province have more often than not led the investigators back to the southern districts to hunt for suspects and their abettors. “Even of the two California shooting suspects, Tafsheen Malik had links with south Punjab,” a former Punjab counter-terrorism official sighed.

It, therefore, surprised few when police claimed to have arrested 140 suspects from south Punjab just days after a suicide bomber assassinated provincial home minister Shuja Khanzada along with several others at his election office in Attock in mid-August.

“The arrested suspects were linked to various banned faith-based militant organisations active across the province and some of them carried a bounty on their head,” a Punjab police official had said at the time.

A spokesman for Jamaatul Ahrar, a splinter group of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was carried out to avenge the killing of Malik Ishaq, the emir of the deadly Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

He went on to say that the attack was carried out with the help of a banned group active in Punjab.

Malik Ishaq’s killing on the outskirts of Muzaffargarh, again a south Punjab district, in a ‘shootout’ with his supporters who were trying to free him revved up hopes that the provincial government had finally woken up to the challenge and was ready to destroy terrorist infrastructure.

However, all hopes were lost when the government failed to initiate a comprehensive police operation.

Even though the National Action Plan (NAP) promises to take action against seminaries involved in militancy, the government has dithered on bringing them under control for fear of backlash from the religious parties as well as the militants.

Police claims having carried out intelligence-based operations throughout the province, denying the presence of a strong network and infrastructure of banned militant groups in south Punjab.

“You do not conduct large-scale operations in any area just on the basis of speculation and public perception,” a police official said, adding: “It is not feasible to undertake such an operation in cities. We’re conducting search raids across the province and not just in one particular region.”

Though the official claimed to have arrested hundreds of suspects, killed many, and recovered arms and ammunition, but was not prepared to concede that the militants still have a large network in the region.

Analysts believe that south Punjab, with thousands of seminaries and a history of having provided foot soldiers to militant and sectarian outfits for decades, now offers a promising opportunity for Islamic State (IS) to strengthen its network in the region.

“The main battle has to be fought in the tribal backyard, but the job will remain half-done unless the militant sanctuaries and support networks in the cities both in southern and northern Punjab are completely dismantled,” warned a Lahore-based security analyst.