Uproar in Lok Sabha over Bofors issue
NEW DELHI: The Bofors issue today led to disruption in the Lok Sabha with the BJP and Left parties demanding reopening of the graft case and a judicial probe into it.
BJP members trooped into the Well following heated exchanges with Congress members, forcing Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the House for over 90-minutes.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh said though "the correct weapon was acquired, it was acquired in a wrong manner .... You (Congress) have paid, we have paid. The nation continues to pay".
"Till you don't remove this thorn, the poison will continue to spread. ... Whatever is happening in the defence sector today is because of this episode. It is a saga of continuing corruption. In matters of corruption, there is no closure," he said, demanding setting up of a judicial commission to probe the issue.
CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia demanded reopening of the Bofors pay-offs case, institution of an independent inquiry and extradition of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi.
Admitting that the NDA had failed to get Quattrocchi extradited after his arrest in Malaysia, Singh said, "Many will say why did you not do it. You have failed, we have failed. But don't consider our failure as your success." Observing that it gave him "no delight" to raise this issue, he said, "25 years have passed but the storm of Bofors refuses to subside and the guns continue to blaze." Without naming Rajiv Gandhi, the BJP leader said, "The absence of the late Prime Minister is felt. A promising leader was taken away from our polity." The reason behind the Congress being reduced from its "historic" victory of 404 seats in Lok Sabha in 1984 to 114 in the next elections was Bofors pay-offs deal, he said.
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi were present in the House when the Opposition members raised the issue. The Lok Sabha had earlier seen brief disruption on the issue during Question Hour.
Singh posed a series of questions on the matter and asked why the Indian investigating teams which went to Sweden did not meet their Swedish counterparts probing the matter.
He claimed that Quattrocchi was "permitted through government connivance to escape from Delhi".
He sought to know why "political" donations were paid to the account of AE Services, a company owned by the Italian businessman. "How can it (donations) be political in nature when it went to a businessman. We all know he worked for Snam Progetti and what happened in it. We must know what his political purpose was," he said.
The BJP leader asked why the red corner notice against Quattrocchi was withdrawn and why an "inept and incapable" team was sent to Brazil which failed to bring him back.
Singh alleged that Quattrocchi had moved money from his London account and demanded that the account details be obtained the government. He termed as false the government statements that there were no cases against him, which led to defreezing of his accounts.
Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) asked what was the "interest" in not allowing a proper enquiry and his extradition. "What was the cover-up, who protected Quattrocchi, what interest did he have ... The Bofors scandal is not a closed chapter ... we will continue to raise this issue" till the persons responsible were brought to book.
As Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal said the Opposition leaders were "lying", Congress members sought an apology from them, provoking BJP members to troop into the Well.
Gilani convicted, Oppn demands his ouster
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was on Thursday convicted for contempt of court and awarded a symbolic sentence of about 30 seconds by the Supreme Court, prompting shrill calls from the Opposition for his ouster.
Gilani's future continues to remain clouded after his conviction and sentencing till the rising of the court with Opposition leaders quick to demand his resignation and a minister insisting that an appeal would be filed against the verdict.
The sentencing lasted for barely 30 seconds, a reprieve for the 56-year-old Prime Minister who could have been jailed for six months.
The judgment was not proper, said Gilani, whom the apex court held guilty of contempt of court for refusing to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Gilani, who was handpicked by Zardari as the Pakistan Peoples Party's choice for the prime ministerial job in the ruling coalition, told Geo News that he asked for justice and hoped that legal formalities would be met.
Legal aides will decide about appealing against the verdict, he added.
The Prime Minister waved to his supporters as he walked out of the heavily guarded Supreme Court premises.
Gilani was convicted by a seven-judge Bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, for violating an article of Pakistan's Constitution, said DawnNews.
"For reasons to be recorded later, the Prime Minister is found guilty of contempt for willfully flouting the direction of the Supreme Court," said Justice Nasirul Mulk.
Soon thereafter, federal minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the petition would be filed in the apex court for a review of the verdict.
She added that the course of action would be decided once the detailed verdict is received.
Awan said the verdict will hurt democracy in Pakistan and "the country cannot afford any adventurism".
"PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) has always been victimised," she was quoted as saying.
Gilani refused to act on the court's directives in the past to reopen corruption cases against Zardari, arguing that the President enjoys immunity under the Pakistani Constitution.
Accused of graft, Zardari had been granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007 by then President Pervez Musharraf to facilitate his return home and, primarily that of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The NRO that granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases was struck down by the Supreme Court as void in 2009.
The apex court warned the government of action if its ruling on the NRO was not implemented by January 10, 2012. It also ordered the government to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases against Zardari.
On January 16, the court issued Gilani a contempt notice for not acting against Zardari.
Gilani was indicted for contempt of court February 13.
The Opposition call for Gilani's ouster grew stronger immediately after his conviction by the court.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif said Gilani should step down from his position after being convicted by the apex court.
Nawaz Sharif told Geo News that the Prime Minister should pave way for a new elected Prime Minister.
"In light of the verdict, I think PM Gilani should resign immediately rather than prolong the issue," he was quoted as saying.
Sharif wanted the government to hold elections immediately and appoint a neutral prime minister who would write the letter to Swiss authorities.
Commenting on the verdict, Sharif said: "I fully believe the Supreme Court has the high moral ground while the government is standing on the wrong wicket."
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and former cricketer Imran Khan too said that Gilani should immediately resign.
Imran wrote on Twitter: "After SC judgement PM has lost whatever shred of legal & moral authority he had. He must resign immed & ECP must notify his 5 year disqual."
Anna Hazare lauds Raj Thackeray
MUMBAI: The institution of Lokayukta in Maharashtra should be an autonomous body like the Election Commission and free from government interference, Anna Hazare said in Mumbai on Thursday.
Hazare, who is in Mumbai to meet political leaders to muster support for a strong Lokayukta legislation in the state, was speaking to reporters after meeting Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray in Dadar.
Raj has expressed his willingness to support a strong and effective Lokayukta in the state, Hazare said.
Hazare and aide Suresh Pathare met the MNS president at his residence Krushna Kunj to seek his support for the legislation, aimed at curbing corruption.
"Corruption is on the rise. It has become difficult for the common man to survive due to price rise. Excessive money is spent on development," Hazare said.
An autonomous body like Lokayukta would help in curtailing corruption, Hazare said. "It should be an autonomous body like the Election Commission, high court, and Supreme Court and there should be no government interference," he added.
Hazare lauded Raj for initiatives like conducting examination for party candidates to contest the civic body polls, held in February.
He expressed confidence that 60-65 per cent corrupt activities would be curtailed because of the Lokayukta.
The veteran social activist also reiterated his demand for the “Right to Reject” a candidate during elections.
If people do not like a particular candidate there should be an option of “Right to Reject”, which would pave way for re-elections and purity in politics, he said.
On reports that Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has refused to meet him, Hazare said, "If he is not meeting me, it will not affect me. I am not meeting him for my selfish interest. I am meeting him as the issue (Lokayukta) is important for the state."
Contribution and support of all political parties is needed to bring in a strong Lokayukta legislation, he said.
Terming all politicians as "bad" is not justifiable, he said.
Raj said he supports a strong Lokayukta to check corruption. "I support a strong Lokayukta in the state. Otherwise, it will be difficult to stop corruption," he said.
Hazare should pay more attention in the state rather than at the national level, Raj said.
"Most parts of western Maharashtra are facing drought and therefore I asked him to pay more attention here. The situation in the state is very bad. Politicians from western Maharashtra have failed in tackling drought in their region, the MNS head said.
The Chief Minister should also be under the ambit of Lokayukta, he said.
"What is the use of meeting dacoits to reduce dacoity," Raj said, in an apparent reference to Hazare meeting other political leaders on Lokayukta.
People like social activists Abhay Bang and Prakash Amte, should join politics, Raj said.
Raj said he won't be sharing stage with Hazare during the latter's statewide tour from May 1 to create awareness on Lokayukta. — PTI