Sunday, June 19, 2011
Pakistan is set to appoint a new commission to ascertain “full facts” about Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country and probe the unilateral U.S. raid that killed the al-Qaeda chief, as a panel constituted previously courted controversy even before it could begin its work.
Law Minister Maula Bakhsh Chandio said a new commission will soon be set to start the investigation. “Consultations are under way for the new panel,” he told Dawn News channel on Saturday evening.
A previous panel appointed by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in late May faced controversy even before it could become operational, with the head of the commission and a member dropping out on the grounds that the government had not conducted consultations before naming them.
Mr. Gilani had formed a five-member commission to be headed by Supreme Court Justice Javed Iqbal, who said the Chief Justice was not consulted before he was named the chief of the panel.
Former Supreme Court judge Fakhruddin G Ibrahim, who was made a member of the Commission, too refused to be part of the panel.
Legal experts insisted that a judge cannot be made the head of an investigation panel unless permission is sought from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Bar Association Chairperson Asma Jehangir had raised objections regarding the Commission and said the Chief Justice should have been informed prior to Iqbal’s nomination as the head of the body.
Opposition leader and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif asked the government to form an independent and powerful commission to expose all mysteries surrounding bin Laden’s presence in the country and the failure of intelligence agencies to detect the US military helicopters that participated in the raid against the al-Qaeda leader.
The unilateral US raid that killed bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2 had sparked widespread protests across the country as the air force’s radar system did ot detect the movement of the American helicopters that participated in the 40-minute operation.
Officials said the commission’s mandate includes establishing “the full facts” regarding Osama’s presence in Pakistan and details about the U.S. incursion.
The commission will determine the nature, background and causes of lapses of authorities, if any. It will also make consequential recommendations.
Mr. Obama’s campaign said in a posting on its website Friday that Mr. Obama will tweet regularly from the popular social media service and his personal tweets will be signed “—BO.” The campaign said it will now manage both Mr. Obama’s Twitter account and Facebook page.
Mr. Obama tweeted personally early Friday evening, welcoming followers to “a new (at)BarackObama. From now on, (hash)Obama2012 staff will manage this account; tweets from the President will be signed “—BO.”
The campaign said on its website that the changes “will give us new opportunities to make the most of these channels, using them not only to report what the president is doing every day but to connect to the millions of supporters who will be driving this campaign.”
Mr. Obama has more than 8.69 million followers on Twitter, making him the third most-followed account among Twitter users, according to Twitter statistics website twittercounter.com. Mr. Obama trails only entertainers Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber in followers.
Mr. Obama’s avatar, or photo accompanying his Twitter account, also changed from his official White House photo to a photo of Mr. Obama smiling, his 2012 campaign logo resting along the base of the avatar.
Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde on Sunday flayed the government’s stand to keep the Prime Minister out of the purview of Lokpal till he demits office, pointing to the possibilities of evidences being destroyed and also wriggling out by citing “error of judgement” in such cases.
“That (keeping PM out of Lokpal) will not serve the purpose of having an effective investigation because there will not be any trails of the misconduct,” Mr. Hegde, a member of the Lokpal drafting committee, told PTI in an interview.
If Lokpal were to conduct investigation after Prime Minister demitted office, there are possibilities of evidences being “swept clean” before that and there could be arguments that it was “error of judgement” (on the part of PM) and it is not a case of corruption, he said.
Mr. Hegde, a former Supreme Court judge, was responding to questions on the government making clear its opposition to bringing the post of Prime Minister within the ambit of Lokpal till he demitted office.
“Prime Minister was never out of it (Lokpal). Constitution never contemplated Prime Minister to be out of it,” Mr. Hegde said, adding that the Constitution never contemplated anybody in the country, except the President, out of the purview of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
On Saturday, Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and joint drafting committee member said, “Within the government, we feel prima facie, the Prime Minister should not be covered (under the Lokpal). But at the same time we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution.”
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Sunday offered worship at the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple here.
Ms. Jayalalithaa was welcomed with full temple honours by the priests.
The Chief Minister donated from her personal fund a battery-operated five-seater car costing Rs. 4.5 lakh to enable the sick and handicapped people go around the temple, considered to be the biggest functioning Hindu shrine in the world as it covers an area of about 156 acres.
She was presented ‘prasadams’ and the portrait of the temple deity.
Another battery-operated car with ten seat capacity and costing Rs. 5.5 lakh was donated by the state government to the temple. Ms. Jayalalithaa was in the temple for 45 minutes and ’archanas’ (poojas) were performed in her name and birth star, temple sources said.
Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Minister Shanmughanathan and Finance Minister O Panneerselvam were also present.
Earlier she was given a rousing welcome when she arrived at Tiruchirappalli airport, 15 kms from here.
Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was elected to the state assembly by a margin of over 41,000 votes from Srirangam, is on a three-day thanksgiving visit to the constituency.
The two flyovers proposed on Anna Salai with funds from the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) last year have been shelved.
The CMDA had sanctioned Rs.100 crore for the piling work of the project and the Highways Department was expected to start the work on the two facilities by August 2010.
The Highways department also conducted a traffic survey at eight traffic intersections after objections were raised over locating the elevated roads on a stretch where a Metro Rail corridor was already taking shape.
However, after repeated inter-departmental consultations, the last of which was conducted six months ago, the project has received no official go-ahead and has been dropped, a senior Highways Department official said.
One of the proposed flyovers was 1.9 km long between the P.Orr & Sons showroom and the Spencer Plaza junction.
The other flyover was proposed to be 2.9 km long, from Anna Arivalayam in Teynampet to the CIT Nagar First Main Road junction near Saidapet.
Since the flyovers were supposed to come above the underground metro rail tunnels, there was a narrow time window within which the piling work should have been completed.
Chennai Metro Rail Limited has already commenced soil testing work along Anna Salai.
Installation of the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) is under way and full-fledged underground tunnelling is expected to begin within six months.
In such a scenario, “it is too late” to implement the flyover project, a senior government official said.