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Pak summons Indian envoy, suspends cross-LoC bus service

ISLAMABAD/JAMMU: Pakistan's Foreign Office today called in Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal to lodge a protest over the death of a Pakistani soldier in an incident of firing along the Line of Control (LoC), which has witnessed a string of clashes since the weekend.

Officials in the Foreign Office told PTI that Sabharwal was served a demarche by foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani over Thursday's incident in Battal sector of the LoC, which the Pakistan Army said had resulted in the death of a soldier.

There have been three violations of the nine-year-old ceasefire along the LoC in the past five days.

The Indian Army said two of its soldiers were killed in a cross-border raid by Pakistani troops on Tuesday, while another Pakistani soldier died on Sunday.

The clashes were among the most serious violations of the truce that was put in place in late 2003.

Pakistan's Foreign Office had earlier called in Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gopal Baglay on January 7 to protest the incident that occurred a day earlier.

The External Affairs Ministry had summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir earlier this week to protest the killing of the two Indian soldiers.

Sources said the Foreign Office's decision to call in the Indian High Commissioner to be given a demarche by the Foreign Secretary marked an escalation in the tit-for-tat responses.

Hours before Thursday's incident in Battal sector of the LoC, pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had sought to play down the impact of the recent clashes.

She said Pakistan did not see the recent violations of the LoC ceasefire derailing or setting back the peace process with India.

Khar said the government and people of Pakistan were committed to normalising relations with India and referred to recent breakthroughs in bilateral ties, including steps to normalise trade relations and a new visa agreement. 

Meanwhile, Pakistan on Friday decided to suspend ‘Paigam-e-Aman’ bus service between Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Jammu and Kashmir. 

There would be no bus service on Monday. 

“Pakistan has suspended the cross-LoC bus service between Chakan-Da-Bagh (J&K) and Rawalakote (PoK) for the time being,” Trade Facilitation Officer (TFO), Poonch, Abdul Hamid Sheikh told PTI. 

“There would be no cross-LoC bus service on Monday,” the TFO said, adding, “No time frame was conveyed to us for re-starting the cross-LoC trade and bus service.” 

Sheikh said that he contacted Director General, Trade and Travel, PoK for clarifying the situation on LoC and he conveyed that firing going on in the Loc and in this situation, no travel can be carried out till further orders. 

The Pakistan Army had on Wednesday refused to open the gates for allowing cross-LoC trade in Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing point in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir. Twenty-five trucks carrying goods, mostly vegetables, for traders in the PoK were stranded at the checkpoint. — PTIBack






Will take every step to protect interests of our soldiers: Antony

NEW DELHI: India is closely monitoring the entire border with Pakistan and ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir are a cause for serious concern, Defence Minister AK Antony said on Friday.

"We are closely monitoring the whole development and our people are on alert. Ceasefire violations are a cause for serious concern and we are taking it seriously," Antony told reporters here.

He said that the Director General Military Operations (DGMO) had been directed to be in touch with his Pakistani counterpart, and the government was awaiting the outcome of their talk.

"We will take every step to protect our interests and of our soldiers and the prestige of the Indian armed forces," he said.

The minister's statement came three days after Pakistani troops killed and beheaded two Indian soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir after breaching the Line of Control that divides the region between the two countries.

The beheading of the soldiers — one of the heads was taken away by the raiders — has caused outrage in India. — IANSBack






Tension prevails along Indo-Pak border

JAMMU: Tension on Friday prevailed along the Indo-Pak border in Jammu and Kashmir where Army was on alert after repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops.

“The borderline with Pakistan is tense. But the situation is under control (along Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir)”, an Army official said on Friday.

The level of tension has increased after Pakistani troops violated ceasefire continuously and also closed the gates for cross-LoC trade on Thursday.

The Army is maintaining utmost vigilance along the borderline with Pakistan, he said, adding troops have been asked to remain alert round-the-clock.

“There was no ceasefire violation along Indo-Pak border this morning,” Defence spokesman Col R.K. Palta said.

However, Pakistan troops had violated ceasefire and fired mortars shells and small arms on Indian posts along LoC in Krishnagati sector of Poonch district from 5 pm to 9.30 pm yesterday, the spokesman said.

Indian troops guarding the borderline effectively retaliated resulting in exchanges, he said, adding that there was no casualty or injury to any one in the firing on the Indian side.

Pakistani troops had fired at nine posts — Chatri, Atma, Helmet, Prakash, Chatyal, Khera-I, Khera-II, Roshni and Gunhill posts in the sector from its posts Kanal, Barmoch, Jungle-1, Jungle-2, Dhamas, Prench, New post, Daruchiymia, Teer, LP-1, LP-2 and LP-3. — PTIBack






Toll in Pakistan blasts rises to 122

ISLAMABAD: As many as 122 lives were lost in one of Pakistan’s bloodiest days in recent times with a series of explosions rattling two cities of the restive provinces of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, one of them a major sectarian attack by a banned outfit.

Several security personnel and media persons were also killed on a bloody day which served as a grim reminder of the serious challenges being faced by the country from militants, religious extremists and separatists ahead of the upcoming general election.

In a series of attacks, terrorists targeted a security forces vehicle and a Shia-majority neighbourhood in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, and a religious congregation in the Swat Valley of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, an erstwhile stronghold of the Taliban.

Balochistan’s capital city Quetta was rattled by three bomb blasts that claimed at least 93 lives.

The worst of these attacks was at a snooker club where a suicide bomber blew himself up. The snooker club on Alamdar Road has two Shia prayer halls and a sizeable population of Shia Hazaras.

As media teams and security forces gathered in the area, another bomb went off, media reports said.

Cameraman Imran Sheikh and reporter Saif-ur-Rehman of Samaa TV channel, two police officers and several rescue workers were among the dead.

Several reporters, cameramen and technicians of news channels were injured.

Police said 81 people were killed in the two blasts and 120 injured, including 10 Army and police personnel.

Quetta’s city police chief, Mir Zubair while confirming the death toll at 81 in the snooker club attack, said the casualties could rise as the condition of around 50 of the injured persons was critical.

“The second blast came minutes after the first one and the death toll is at 81 with around 130 injured in these blasts,” he said.

Nine policemen including a DSP and SHO were also killed in the second blast as law enforcement agencies, rescue officials and media persons reached the scene.

DIG investigation, Hamid Shakeel said that as a result of the two blasts the four—storey building which housed the snooker club had collapsed. He said four rescue workers of Edhi Trust had also died in the blasts.

Earlier in the day, a bomb placed under a car near Bacha Khan chowk, apparently targeting a security checkpost went off, killing 12 people including two security personal and a child and left around 30 injured. An estimated 20 kgs of explosives were used in the attack.

Police said the blast was caused by a timed explosive device planted under the security forces vehicle. The blast caused a large crater and destroyed about 10 cars.

While the United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for the first blast, banned Lashkar—e—Jhangvi claimed the second attack.

Hours later, 22 people were killed and nearly 70 injured in an explosion at a “tablighi markaz” (preaching centre) near Mingora, the main town in Swat Valley, last evening.

The blast occurred in the basement of the centre at Takhta Band Road.

Initial reports said the blast was caused by a gas cylinder but police subsequently confirmed the incident was an act of terrorism.

Some reports said the attack was carried out by a teenage suicide bomber though this could not be independently confirmed.

Officials at a hospital in Saidu Sharif town said the dead and injured were hit by ball bearings, which are often used in explosive devices.

They confirmed 22 deaths and said several of the injured were in a serious condition.

The Swat Valley was a stronghold of the local Taliban till the army conducted an operation to flush out militants in early 2009. Most of the top Taliban commanders of the region escaped to Afghanistan.

Pakistan is scheduled to go to the polls sometime in April or May.  — PTIBack






SC quashes Karnataka Upa Lokayukta appointment

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the appointment of Justice (Retd) Chandrashekaraiah as Upa Lokayukta of Karnataka on the ground that he was appointed by the government without consultation with the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court.

A Bench of justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Madan B. Lokur held that the consultation with the Chief Justice is mandatory before appointment of Upa Lokayukta and the Chief Minister did not hold any “meaningful” consultation with the Chief Justice.

The Bench, however, made it clear that there is nothing against Justice Chandrashekaraiah and he can be again considered by the state government for the post.

The Bench said the Chief Minister has committed error by not consulting the Chief Justice and held that the appointment of Upa Lokayukta is void ab initio (to be treated as invalid from the outset). 

The Karnataka High Court had on April 3 last year quashed the appointment of Justice Chandrashekaraiah as the Upa Lokayukta holding that the selection procedure was “not in conformity with law.”

The High Court had set aside the January 21 last year notification issued by the Karnataka government appointing Justice Chandrashekariah as the Upa Lokayukta.

The Bench had said that the selection procedure adopted by Karnataka Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda “is not in conformity with law and hence the appointment is illegal, unconstitutional and void.”

It had also urged the state government and chief minister to expeditiously start a fresh selection process as mandated by the Lokayukta Act to find a new Upa Lokayukta as the post cannot be held vacant for long.

The court had also suggested guidelines for the selection in which Chief Justice’s opinion will have primacy. — PTI






Industrial output dips to 0.1 pc

MUMBAI: India's industrial output shrank in November after a spurt the previous month denting hopes of a recovery in economic growth and strengthening the case for an interest rate cut later this month. The index of industrial production fell 0.1% annually in November data released by the Central Statistics Office showed on Friday compared with revised growth of 8.3% a month ago.

The outturn was even worse than the 0.7% growth a Reuters poll of analysts had predicted for November.

Output was depressed by weak investments as well as the Diwali holiday which was in November last year whereas in 2011 it fell in October. Diwali is one the biggest Hindu festivals in India with many factories shutting for several days.

"The correction in the November headline (industrial production) was largely priced in on passage of festive demand and manufacturers possibly drawing down on inventories rather than stepping up production towards end-2012 " said Radhika Rao economist at Forecast Pte Singapore.

Asia s third largest economy is on track to expand at its slowest pace in a decade for the fiscal year that ends in March weighed down by a combination of weak investment and consumer demand.

December trade data expected to be released later on Friday could add to the misery as exports which make up around one-fifth of the economy have fallen against year ago in the previous seven months.

GDP growth that once looked set to hit double-digits has been stuck below 6% for the past three quarters. The slowdown is worrying for the government as it prepares for a series of state elections and a general election due in 2014.

Previously pilloried for his government s inaction as the economy slowed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched a series of reforms late last year to salvage a reputation made as the architect of India s economic liberalization in 1991.

On Wednesday the government hiked railway passenger fares for the first time in nine years and it is also considering raising subsidized fuel prices.

Politicians and business folk have pleaded for the central bank to reduce interest rates that are among the highest of the major economies.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has left its policy repo rate unchanged at 8.0% since April 2011 citing stubbornly high inflation but has signalled it could cut in the January-March quarter.

Inflation numbers for both wholesale and retail prices are due to be released on Monday and should provide crucial input for the RBI s upcoming policy review on Jan. 29. "We are of the view that the Reserve Bank of India will definitely cut rates by 25 basis points maintain a dovish tone and a commitment to maintain liquidity in the comfort zone through open market operations " said Shubhada Rao Chief Economist at Yes Bank in Mumbai.

According to a Reuters poll of analysts wholesale prices probably rose an annual 7.40% in December faster than a 7.24% rise in the previous month. Consumer price inflation in the same month probably stood at 10.20% above 9.90% in November the same poll showed on Thursday.

Several analysts believe the RBI should still have leeway to cut its policy rate if the uptick in inflation in December is not more severe as inflation had been slowing in the previous two months.

Financial markets gave a muted response to the data. The benchmark 10-year bond remained flat at 7.85% while stocks retained their gains with the main NSE index up 0.3%.




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