Govt quietly notifies amendment to Maharashtra RTI Rules

BY KRISHNARAJ RAO

There has been a startling breach of trust and public confidence by Government of Maharashtra. Without any public debate, the government has quietly notified an amendment to Maharashtra RTI Rules on January 16, 2012.

Shockingly, we did not even learn this from any government source such as a public notice in the dailies. Nor was it told to any RTI activist – many of whom are in regular touch with Mantralaya. We were informed by our RTI Union member Advocate Vinod Sampat, who saw this notification in the March edition of a publication he purchased outside City Civil Court. After reading it, we are left in no doubt as to the authenticity of the notification and the amendment. (Click here to read the notified amendment)

THE AMENDMENT SAYS:

  • Request for information must nor ordinarily exceed 150 words.
  • Request for information must relate to one subject matter only. If necessary, separate applications must be made if it relates to more than one.
  • Public Information Officer (PIO) must allow the person inspecting the documents to take a pencil only. All other writing instruments must be deposited with the PIO.

We may have differences of opinion about the merits or demerits of the amended rules, but there can be no differences on one point: WE, THE RTI ACTIVISTS AND RTI USERS OF MAHARASHTRA, SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSULTED. There should have a public consultation of stakeholders before changing the rules. This is as mandated by Section 4(1)(c), which says, “Every public authority shall – publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public.”

Please protest. JOIN US IN SENDING THE BELOW LETTER OF PROTEST to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. Send an email to my activist colleague G R Vora grvora1@gmail.com.

To help G R Vora compile your signatures neatly, please copy-paste and email your information to him in this five-point format:

  • Your name: E.g. Krishnaraj Rao
  • Your brief address: e.g. Borivali, Mumbai
  • Your profession: e.g. Content Writer
  • Your email id: e.g. thebravepedestrian@gmail.com
  • Your mobile: e.g. 98215 88114

Also, please change the Subject Line to: “I endorse letter to CM opposing RTI Rules Amendment”

The hard copy of the protest letter WILL BE COURIERED TO THE CHIEF MINISTER AT 2 PM ON MONDAY, 2ND APRIL, 2012, with copies to Prime Minister and also to Mrs Aruna Roy, Member of National Advisory Council (NAC). This is a time to sink all our differences and unite. Please sign in large numbers, and show your solidarity for safeguarding RTI in Maharashtra.

DRAFT OF LETTER TO CM

2 April, 2012

To

Shri Prithviraj Chavan,

Chief Minister of Maharashtra,

Mantralaya, 6th Floor,

Madame Cama Road,

Mumbai 400032

Please withdraw Maharashtra RTI Rules amendment notified in Jan 2012

Sir,

We – the community of RTI activists and users of Maharashtra — are writing this to convey shock, dismay and sense of betrayal. We feel cheated that you saw fit to notify an amendment to the Maharashtra RTI Rules on 16 Jan 2012 without taking us into confidence. And we are disappointed that we learned about this amendment post-facto from an unofficial source – a private publication sold outside Mumbai’s city civil court.

Sir, in stealthily carrying out this amendment, you have been wrongly advised. Your government DEFIED THE LEGAL MANDATE OF SECTION 4(1)(C) OF RTI ACT 2005: “Every public authority shall – publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public.”

By not holding a PUBLIC CONSULTATION, you have erred gravely. The Union government held public consultations last year for rule amendments; why not you? Why did you not take the people into confidence, as mandated by Section 4(1)(c)?

Please expect this amendment to be immediately CHALLENGED IN BOMBAY HIGH COURT on these grounds. Before this happens, it may be worthwhile withdrawing this amendment, as it is legally indefensible.

The amendment says:

(i) Request for information must nor ordinarily exceed 150 words.

(ii) Request for information must relate to one subject matter only. If necessary, separate applications must be made if it relates to more than one.

(iii) Public Information Officer (PIO) must allow the person inspecting the documents to take a pencil only. All other writing instruments must be deposited with the PIO.

The third point appears aimed at preventing RTI applicants from making permanent marks on public documents while taking inspection. On the face of it, that seems fair enough.

We object to point (i) because a majority of Maharashtra’s people – less educated people living in slums and villages – may lack the verbal skills for drafting an RTI application within a word limit of 150 words. By what process was the 150 word-limit arrived at? Why not 250 words? Unless it is based on study and judicious reasoning, this rule is arbitrary and capricious. If we accept such an arbitrary rule today, the government may pass another amendment tomorrow imposing a limit of 10 words. It is therefore unacceptable to the community of RTI activists and users.

And finally, coming to point (ii), WE STRENUOUSLY OBJECT TO THIS “SINGLE SUBJECT MATTER” RULE, AS IT GIVES THE PIO UNNECESSARY DISCRETIONARY POWERS. There is a large subjective element involved in deciding what is a “single subject matter”; where does one draw the line between two subject matters?

FOR EXAMPLE: An RTI applicant asks the Municipal Commissioner’s office for copies of complaints, and the papers showing action taken on them, relating to impure water supply in A, B and C wards. An uncooperative PIO can argue that this RTI application has three subject matters, as each ward is a separate “subject matter”. Another man in his position can argue that complaints are one subject matter, and the actions taken on complaints are a different subject matter. Sir, based on our common experiences, we anticipate that the PIOs and appellate authorities will be drawn into such hair-splitting disputes, diverting their attention from the intent of the RTI Act. This will end up hurting the inexperienced first-time RTI applicants the most.

OUR EARNEST PLEA TO YOU:

1. Sir, IMMEDIATELY WITHDRAW THESE AMENDMENTS to regain the faith of the people of Maharashtra.

2. If amendment to rules is felt necessary, PLEASE SOLICIT FEEDBACK AND HOLD PUBLIC CONSULTATION WITH VARIOUS STAKEHOLDERS, including RTI activists and users, PIOs, first and second appellate authorities. Only after considering all the feedback should you amend the rules. This may be time consuming and difficult, but there can be no short-cuts.

3. Before you even consider any such amendments, it is urgent for you to TRANSPARENTLY SELECT AND APPOINT AT LEAST FIVE STATE INFORMATION COMMISSIONERS, AND GIVE THEM ADEQUATE STAFF AND BUDGETS. Please do this by due process i.e. declaring selection criteria, inviting applications from aspirants, and proper screening procedures. In the absence of sufficient numbers of Information Commissioners, many benches of the State Information Commission are lying vacant, numbers of pending Second Appeals are mounting to 30,000, and the time-interval before getting hearings is exceeding 18 to 24 months. Many public authorities in the state are increasingly delaying or denying RTI applications, as the Second Appeal is fast losing its potency.

Sir, we urge you to take immediate action to safeguard good governance and transparent administration in the state.

Yours Sincerely,

(Your signature, name, address, phone number)

Copy to:

1. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

2. Mrs Aruna Roy, Member, National Advisory Council (NAC).

(Krishnaraj Rao is an RTI activist. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap.)

Why did AAI officials not deposit Kingfisher’s cheques earlier?

BY KRISHNARAJ RAO

Are you afraid of bouncing a cheque? Most of us are afraid of arrest and prosecution under the Negotiable Instruments Act. But Dr Vijay Mallya and his executives at Kingfisher Airlines are not, evidently. In August and October 2011, Kingfisher gave Airport Authority of India (AAI) five cheques totaling Rs 121 crore. All of them bounced. And, so far as we can see, AAI has not taken any legal action.

But that’s not all. Many questions arise from information received by Pune-based RTI activist Sanjay Shirodkar last week from AAI. The dates of their issue, and the dates on which they were deposited are underlined in red on the document (Click here to read the RTI reply).

The papers reveal a story of collusion. One cheque for Rs 15 crore issued in mid-October 2011 was promptly deposited, and it bounced. The Economic Times reported this.

But in August, two months earlier, Kingfisher had given four cheques totaling Rs 106 crore and AAI did not deposit them until the 6-month validity period nearly expired in February. These cheques were presented over a 12-day period, and they bounced one by one. These cheques were drawn on Axis Bank and ICICI Bank, Mumbai.

Why did AAI officials not deposit the cheques earlier?

Were the officials following orders to hold on to these cheques? Orders from the Ministry of Aviation, maybe? Or were they just following friendly advice from the accounts department of Kingfisher Airlines? What could have been the reason?

Had these cheques been deposited immediately in August 2011, they might have been honoured. It is unlikely that the accountants at Kingfisher wrote these cheques without sufficient balance (This hypothesis can be verified from KFA’s account statements). If so, then the AAI officials responsible for the 6-month delay in depositing the cheques should be facing departmental action, if not criminal charges.

By waiting until Kingfisher’s coffers were empty, these AAI officials defrauded AAI and the Government of India of six months interest on Rs 106 crore and probably much more.

Are AAI officials usually slack in depositing cheques? No. Such delays in depositing cheques are only seen in one out of over 100 instances (Refer “Pic Charges” on page 6, where the cheque is of a few hundred rupees).

Why hasn’t Dr Vijay Mallya been prosecuted?

Let us see what the Section 141 of Negotiable Instruments Act, says:

“Offences by companies. –(1) If the person committing an offence under Section 138 is a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly: Provided that nothing contained in this sub-section shall render any person liable to punishment if he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge, or that he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence.”

No due diligence is evident; five cheques of such magnitude don’t bounce because somebody goofed up. In fact, deliberately giving bad cheques was probably Kingfisher’s way of buying time. So, Chairman and Managing Director Dr Vijay Mallya, who is responsible for the conduct of its business, is liable under Section 141 of the Act. Also, the signatory of the cheque is liable.

If Dr Mallya, his CEO Sanjay Aggarwal and others are not facing legal consequences, we need to ask why.

Many other airlines have also bounced cheques

These are circled in red on pages 4, 5 and 6 of the RTI reply file (Click here to read the RTI reply).

  • Garuda Aviation Pvt Ltd – Rs 12 lakh in November 2011
  • Qatar Airways – Rs 2.8 lakhs in October 2008
  • Jet Airways – Rs 17 lakhs in July 2009
  • Jet Lite Airways – Rs 16 lakhs in April 2010
  • Emirates Airlines – Rs 6.7 lakhs in October 2009
  • Spice Jet – Rs 67 lakh in January 2008
  • Indigo Airlnes – Rs 7 lakh in April 2008
  • Go Air – Rs 34 lakh in May 2008

Totaled up, these are not even one-hundredth of Kingfisher. Still, one wonders how AAI officials generally deal with all these Airlines, hospitality firms, duty-free shops and other defaulters. Do they smile kindly and remark, “Boys will be boys”? If so, then we hope that other government departments are not punishing the common man when he makes the same mistake. Mr Prime Minister, Sir, is the Government of India treating the common man in the same way as the King of Good Times?

(Krishnaraj Rao is an RTI activist. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap)

Army Chief’s crusade against corruption deserves recognition

BY ARUN AGRAWAL

It should be clear by now to every moron who went on defending the government in the tussle between the Army Chief and the Defence Minister that it was the General who is upright and honest. And that he was made to pay the price for his honesty in trying to clean up the system.

Fighting corruption in the army is not easy. It means war on three different fronts. The politician who is above you, corrupt colleagues who are with you and the moneybags of the arms mafia. Fighting your own is very different from fighting the enemy.

And here we had the most comical situation of an honest General working under an honest Minister. It is a rarity. However, the clash of two honest personalities can be very dangerous, more so if one is manipulated by the corrupt.

Relations had not soured between the two when the General reported the bribing incident to his Minister. Yet all that the Minister did was beat his forehead (for lack of a better phrase). Both admit to the reaction. The Minister counseled that such people should be kept out and the General did not want to pursue the matter further.

While the General’s reaction in being reluctant to take on senior colleagues is understandable, the reaction of the Minister is not.

Defence purchase falls within his domain. In the age of internet it was not difficult for anyone to know that Vectra of UK was not the producer of Tatra trucks but was a middleman. It was also not difficult to know that Tatra was a Czech company, the original manufacturer. It was also not difficult to know the price at which the trucks were being sold by Czeck company Tatra and the price paid by India.

All this information was with the General and that is why he did not sign on the purchase order and wanted to purchase the trucks directly. He knew that India had been procuring the trucks at more than twice the price sold by the parent company.

The General had done his homework. It may be a conjecture but there is reason to believe that he informed the Minster and the reason for keeping out the supplier was over invoicing of over 100% which would have compromised their integrity. It was also the reason for the Minister beating his forehead!

The scam was not in the bribe offered to the General but in the purchase price of the equipment. Could he or his advisers not understand this simple truth.

If a product was being bought at twice the price for which it was available in the open market then it does not require a genius to derive that bribes had been paid. Not only bribes, but large bribes have been paid to lots of people because each one knows the quantum of profit being made by the middleman.

However only a small percentage of the bribe (which is large in absolute terms – Rs 14 crore in this case) was to be paid to the men in uniform, which the General refused. The large chunk of bribe was to be paid to those who were not in uniform. And all these persons were within the jurisdiction of the Minister.

Hence the matter was squarely within the domain of the Minister and it was a major omission on his part not to order investigation on defence purchase worth thousands of crores which were procured for twice the market price.

The scam has been going on for a decade and hence the unity of the political parties demanding the resignation of General VK Singh.

Contrast the ignorance of the Minister with the discovery made by the author (with no resources or staff) in two hours of net surfing. The following information which is a news report from Czech republic is most damning.

Ravinder Kumar Rishi, the chief scamster in the deal, was not only swindling the Indian government but also the Czech government. A criminal case was filed against him in the country where Tatra trucks were manufactured almost a year back for the supplies made to India. The article dated 27/4/11 on a Czeck website states:

Tatra faces tunneling and tax evasion allegations
Anonymous plaintiff accuses the major owner and management of Tatra truck maker of tunneling profits and tax evasion

The management and a major shareholder in the iconic Czech truck producer Tatra face a criminal complaint for allegedly failing to ensure proper oversight of assets. The anonymous plaintiff claims that the sale of truck parts at knock-down prices to India via an intermediary British company has damaged the company.

Václav Láska, a former high-ranking police investigator, lawyer and one-time head of the local branch of watchdog Transparency International, has lodged a criminal complaint against the management of Tatra trucks and one of the firm’s major shareholders, Indian businessman Ravinder Kumar Rishi, on behalf of plaintiffs who wish to remain anonymous due to fears of “labor persecution”, the daily Právo reported on Wednesday.

Vectra allegedly profits from Tatra’s loss

Since 2005, Tatra has supplied so-called complete knock-down kits (CKD), containing all the components of haulage  Láska claims that between 2005 and 2010 Tatra lost profits of around Kč 270 million trucks to the Indian state-owned firm BEML, which then assembles the vehicles in India. The transactions have been conducted through British-registered intermediary firm Vectra Limited, which, according to the charges, has frequently purchased the CKD kits at below production cost, thus causing losses to the Czech company running into millions of crowns.

“The Tatra company sells kits to the British company Vectra Limited without a profit margin, and even at prices lower than the cost of manufacturing. All margins from this business, i.e. all profits from these transactions, go only to the accounts of the British company,” Láska told Právo. “The fact that the representatives of Tatra allow these transactions clearly contradicts the principles of sound economic governance.”

Láska claims that between 2005 and 2010 Tatra lost around Kč 270 million in potential profit. The calculation is based on a profit margin of 10 percent per kit, which he says the management intentionally forfeited in order to sell the goods to Vectra Limited at a knock-down price. Láska also says that through the transactions the company also avoided paying tens of millions of crowns in tax.

“By transferring the considerable profits to the British company, the Tatra company reduced its income tax payments by tens of millions of crowns,” Láska said.

Alleged misuse of information

Ravinder Kumar Rishi, deputy chairman of Tatra’s supervisory board, is also the owner of Vectra Limited and thus de facto represents both Tatra and Vectra in business negotiations — and the transactions in question. According to Láska, Ravinder Kumar Rishi may have misused information in these business relations.

In 2010, Tatra supplied 600 CKD kits to the Indian company Beml — which assembles the trucks and has large orders with the Indian army — and according to Láska, Tatra has committed to deliver a further 460 kits this year. “If the criminal complaint is deemed to be justified, steps could be taken which will curtail further losses and also stop additional tax evasion,” Láska told Právo.

The question to be answered is this: If a criminal complaint was filed against the company and Ravinder Kumar Rishi by the Czech republic for merely causing a loss of 10% on profits foregone due to under invoicing a year back, then what action did the defence Minister take against Vectra which as a middleman had supplied trucks at more than 100% the amount for which Tatra sold in the open market? This scam was going on for the past ten years.

Rishi cheated Czechs by 10% but the Indians by more than 100%.

I will bet top dollar that the anonymous plaintiff referred to in the article is an Indian source who had no faith in the Indian system to act and therefore chose to go through the head of Transparency International. Could it be the good General or a source close to him? Your guess is as good as mine.

It is difficult to believe that the Czech authorities did not correspond with the Indian government within the past one year. They do have an embassy in India. Where are the records of the correspondence?

The General was made to pay the price for his anti-corruption crusade in the Sukna land scam and the Adarsh Society scam, including the court marshaling of Lt. Gen. Avadesh Prakash, who was Military Secretary under General Deepak Kapoor.

It is time that Mr Antony realizes his mistake. He is surrounded by corrupt people who are using his reputation as a shield.

What is at stake is the loss of faith of the people in honest ministers. Manmohan Singh and then Mr Antony. What good is the virtue of honesty? Is there any hope of redemption left for the country?

The General will go in a blaze of glory but the Minister will not.

And for those who are aligned with the arms mafia and ask for the reason as to why the General did not take action on the Tatra scam? Against whom would he take action? Procurement of defence equipment is not under his charge. Did you expect him to take on the retired generals and ex-Chiefs who were paid off for signing the document that he refused to sign? Would there be any proof? Where would that get him? Would you take on a ex-defence Minister or a corrupt Minister in the Cabinet? Was the issue of Bofors pursued by the Army Chief?

A General is not a General if he is not a good tactician. General VK Singh proved to be a master tactician in the manner in which he took on the entire system of corruption in the Army and in the Ministry. This General showed that he had earned all his stars. The nation could give him one more.

In the end the General proved to the nation that even the most honest politician of our times is not good enough to prevent the huge corruption that infests defence deals.

(Arun Agrawal is the author of the book Reliance: The Real Natwar. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

How Panetta chummed at home with former ISI Head’s wife

Below is one of the e-mails of a series named ‘The Global Intelligence Files’, published by Wikileaks. The whistle-blower organization has published over five million e-mails from intelligence company Stratfor. The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011, Wikileaks stated. The below e-mail (reproduced verbatim) suggest how former CIA director Leon Panetta chummed at home with former ISI Head’s wife.

Date: 2011-04-12 21:16:14
From: sean.noonan@stratfor.com
To: alpha@stratfor.com

Great insight. The bit about the Pasha-Panetta discussion that is then hijacked by DoS’ involvement in the Davis case is very interesting.

On 4/12/11 1:34 PM, Kamran Bokhari wrote:

I think the details of the entire interaction (in addition to the actual conversation) provides value. Hence the context. Also, I don’t want to upset my delicate relationship with the directorate and the wider military establishment so let us not share this beyond the list.

Spoke to him over the phone on the 11th of last month. At the time he was very busy (the Raymond Davis issue hadn’t been settled and intense talks were taking place). I’m actually surprised he took my call. But then I was using my DC cell phone, which may explain him personally picking up the phone.

Given his preoccupation and my own trips to Kabul and Cairo he said let us try to meet and play it by ear. In the brief conversation I asked him what was up with him getting another extension (he hadn’t gotten it at the time) to which he replied that he is staying on in his position for quite a while. He asked me if I needed any security assistance while I was in country and I respectfully declined the offer.

Our meeting Monday of last week was organized by the military’s pr wing (the 2-star heading the dept and his chief of staff) and the ISI’s pr people (in particular a certain Colonel Zaka). The last two times I met the ISI chief, it was at his residence inside Joint Staff Headquarters at Chaklala Garrison in Rawalpindi. This time around, the meeting took place in the super secure headquarters in Islamabad.

In recent years there have many a lot of new roads constructed in the capital, especially around the ISI headquarters and then the jihadist insurgency led to the closure of the main road that ran in front of the directorate. So, it was interesting to actually get into the facility. Was directed to take a side/rear road into the complex.

Had to go through five layers of security to get into the place. There were five check posts each with concrete as well as delta barriers and several armed men. The first two layers had guys with plain clothes with walkie talkies and guns while the inner three had uniformed men.

Once after the main barrier, which is an iron gate you enter the courtyard of the new main building adjacent to the old ones. A really fine structure recently completed when the current army chief was heading the ISI and Musharraf was in charge – from the inside it resembles a 5-star hotel in terms of the quality of the interior finishing.

I was told by the guard at the front door to park at the rear of the building. So I parked and walked back to the front. Once in the building and making my way through the metal detector I was greeted by a plainclothes official who said I didn’t need to take out my blackberries to pass through the machine and asked me to hand them over to the guys at the reception who were also plainclothes people.

The guys didn’t look tech savvy but I would be surprised if others didn’t go through my list of contacts and emails. The official who was wearing a tie and had two devices attached to his hip with a small earpiece escorted me to the fourth floor and seated me in a waiting room which could be accessed through two wooden doors and one made of glass. I was early and turned on the tv and waited for about 15 minutes before another person in a black suit and tie came in and took me to a meeting room where a minute later DG-ISI Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha came in and greeted me warmly remarking that I had come after a long time.

We had a 30 minute conversation, which began with him asking me what was happening in Libya saying that Tripoli had asked for Islamabad’s assistance – a request that was under consideration and wanted my thoughts on a) what was happening there; b) what I thought Pakistan could do to help. He also said that the U.S. seems to have made the wrong decision to intervene militarily. I briefly gave him our assessment of the situation and suggested that sending troops to Libya or Bahrain was very risky (which he agreed) but added that perhaps Pakistan could work with Turkey since Ankara is trying to take the lead in a diplomatic solution to the crisis there but I didn’t know what kind of leverage Pakistan had with the rebels or the govt. By this time an aide had brought in tea and cookies in a really nice set of chinaware.

I then asked him what was the status of U.S.-Pakistani relations specifically CIA-ISI post Raymond Davis. He said the relationship has not really changed. Of course it hasn’t improved but it hasn’t deteriorated further below the existing levels and told me he would be in DC to discuss the issue on the 11th. He then went into the details of what had happened with the Raymod Davis matter saying that this issue could have been solved if the Americans had kept it between the CIA and the ISI.

He said he called up Panetta (who said he had a really good personal friendship with the D-CIA saying he was the only U.S. official whom he had invited to his house and introduced to his wife and son) asking him that we should sort out the issues between our two agencies. Panetta told him that he couldn’t because State was taking the lead on it. Pasha said he was disappointed at this response and knew that this was about to turn into a diplomatic row and media ruckus.

At that point he said the ISI let Punjab police handle the investigation and no one on the Pakistani side taking responsibility. The government said the matter is in the hands of the courts and the courts looking at the foreign ministry for answers about the status of Davis’ immunity. All of this he said could have been avoided if it were not for State getting involved. Ultimately he said it came back to the ISI and we were able to work out an arrangement with the CIA. He also said once it became a media issue we were really worried that Davis might be killed by people from within the police service. (Another 2-star I met said there were concerns that the Americans could have him killed and we would be in deep shit). We wanted him gone and as soon as possible and thankfully we were able to pull it off.

But he said that there are still unresolved questions about the people who Davis killed. He said they were not ISI sleuths as some suspect. Rather, low level thugs who had a lot of cash on them and in different currencies, which is.

On the domestic insurgency he said you can see things are much better. He added that in fact the situation was really good. The attacks were down and limited to a certain area.

But it would take another 10-12 years to completely get rid of the issue and a lot depends on how the Americans settle Afghanistan. On North Waziristan he said, he has been saying that we need to do an operation there for several years now going back to the days when I was Director General Military Operations and was overseeing the early days of our counter-insurgency efforts in the northwest. But the issue is one of logistics.

The only way to mount an offensive in NW is through South Waziristan, which we are trying to stabilize with the building of roads and resettlement of locals. We also needed to stabilize the tribal agencies to the north of North Waziristan, which is also a work in progress. Once we have achieved our goals of stabilizing SW, we will move into NW.

At this point, the ISI chief picks up the phone and asks one his aides to connect him to a certain official within the directorate (he referred to him as Director something can’t quite remember). The guy comes in with a cell phone and the chief speaks with the guy asking him if the friends had given the coordinates for south waziristan. He then asks if it is south of a particular area or north. After that he says that is all I wanted to know and hangs up and apologizes for having to make the call.

On Afghanistan, he said the Americans are stuck with the old notion that Pakistan wants to see the Taliban come to power again in Afghanistan. Anti-Pakistan and pro-India analysts and advisers in the U.S. and elsewhere continue to feed that perception. This is an outdated view because Islamabad has long given up that goal given the threat to Pakistani security. We do not wish to see the Talibs dominate Afghanistan.

On the contrary, we want to see a broad-based government that can end the civil war in that country, which has had a disastrous fallout for us. Of course the Talibs will be a key player in a post-NATO Afghanistan, which we feel is necessary for true peace to take place. But that is just an acknowledgment of a reality than a desire on our part to see Talibs rule Kabul.

Even the U.S. realizes that there will be a deal with the Talibs so why the double standards when it comes to us (especially when we will have to deal with the situation once after the U.S. leaves)? Pakistan wants to see a friendly government – one that can maintain peace in the country. Such a govt can only come about when the Karzai government can reach a negotiated settlement with the insurgents, which is not going to happen by talking to the former Talibs like Zaeef, Mutawakkil, etc.

I asked him if the Obama admin had approached Pakistan to help with the negotiations. He said no such thing happening, which he said was the problem. He added that DC and Kabul need to involve us in the process because if anyone can deliver it is us and we have an interest in doing so. Look at what happened during that incident with the meeting with the man who they thought was Mullah Mansoor but in reality he was a shopkeeper who swindled them for money and made a mockery of everyone including Petraeus who actually met the guy (laughs and smirks at this point).

At this point the guy who brought me into the room comes and in and says it is time for your next meeting. The chief says give me a few more minutes and we continue talking and he says I really appreciate the work you are doing in terms of steering clear of taking any sides. I then thank him and we begin to walk out of the room.

At this point I asked him if there was any change to his email address and Pasha says I am sorry I have not been in regular touch over email because these people were reading my messages and I had to have my pc cleaned but I am still using the old email address. I asked who was reading his emails and he replied there is only one entity in Pakistan who can do that. (I take it he meant people from within the directorate were doing so).

He walked me to the elevator from where I was escorted by another young man in black down to the lobby from where I collected my blackberries and he then escorted outside and asked me where I was parked to which I replied at the rear of the building and he then walked me to my car during which I asked him how long he had been serving in the ISI and he said for quite some time (I had hoped he would tell me the number of years). He waited until I pulled out and then waved and left and I drove out of the complex passing the same set of security layers I had encountered on my way in.

Sean Noonan
Tactical Analyst
Office: +1 512-279-9479
Mobile: +1 512-758-5967
Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
www.stratfor.com

Why Muslims decided to give Congress a drubbing?

BY SAEED NAQVI

Why is the Muslim so cross with the Congress after having been the party’s willing vote bank for six decades? Because an overwhelming sense of injustice has been accentuated by specific grievances. As he replays those sixty years in the mind’s eye in very slow motion, that period, in excess of half a century, comes across to him as a chronicle of wasted time. He would probably have continued to drift in a daze, doped and despairing, silently nursing his grievances until the Sachar Committee report in 2006 confronted him with a mirror in which he saw what had become of him in the sixty years of having been locked up in the Congress paddock. In socio-economic terms he had been reduced to the lowest of the low, to the bottom of all hierarchies.

Ofcourse, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had the heart to institute Sachar Committee. But once the report was in hand, the party closed in on them and firmly stayed their hand from implementing the Ranganath Mishra Committee prescriptions to repair the muslim condition exposed by Sachar.

Likewise, the Congress refused to dust up the Srikrishna report on the Mumbai riots on 1993 which were every bit as gruesome as the Gujarat pogrom.

Narendra Modi will never be a national leader because of Gujarat 2002. But how is Sharad Pawar exempt from all guilt? He, as Defence Minister, was in a conflictual stalemate with Chief Minister Sudhakar Naik even as the riots intensified.

Incidentally, why does nobody talk of the Ghulam Hussain report on Maliana near Meerut, India’s original Sebrenica?

Short of seeking retirement, a lesson Sonia Gandhi must learn from UP and elsewhere is fairly simple: advisers who have congealed around her and Rahul should be shown the door.

Shekhar Gupta is right. Do you really believe the voter is a “beggar” in whose extended palm you place a few bogus promises of “reservations” and you will send him away pleased? This is what Salman Khushid’s 9 percent adds upto.

How totally out of touch with the Muslim mood the Congress was became clear during the debate on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. The assumption in the Prime Minister’s office that the minorities were against it is complete nonsense.

Remember how minority groups blocked George W Bush from addressing a joint session of Parliament when he visited India? The US President picnicked at the Old Fort instead.

This was because of Muslim anger at Bush for the manner in which his war on terror painted the world’s Muslims as terrorists. It was insensitive of the leadership not to have distinguished anger with Bush from opposition to the nuclear deal.

The manner in which the Indian establishment has been infected by that war on terror has created an almost unbridgeable chasm between the establishment and the minorities.

A boy is locked up for 14 years without trial and you expect the minorities, so beholden, to rain votes on you?

A dozen acts of terror since November 2007 have been attributed to “Indian Mujahideen” a group which, experts believe does not exist. And yet hundreds, carrying the label of a non existent group are languishing in custody.

Against this record of fighting terror you have gone and picked up an honourable journalist. Memory of such incidents will not fade by 2014!

The bombing incident involving an Israeli diplomat took place in New Delhi on February 13, over two weeks before the last votes were cast in the recent state elections. But the so called suspect Saiyyid Ahmad Kazmi, an Urdu journalist working for India’s national TV, Doordarshan, as well as Iranian News Agency, was picked up by the Special police the day results were being declared.

Supposing Kazmi, a gentleman among journalists, had been arrested soon after the February 13 whodunit, would the UP election results been worse as 24X7 channels exhibit another Muslim in police trap. It is Kazmi type midnight-knock operations that have damaged the Congress infinitely more than the bogus promises about reservations Salman Khurshid thought would pull his wife, Louise, through in Farrukhabad. A pity she lost her deposit. Worse, Congress President Sonia Gandhi lost every single seat in Rae Bareli.

There is obviously a deep anti-Congress mood in the country for which the party’s first family must share considerable blame. The coterie around them did not sense this mood.

Numerous other reasons (anti-incumbency in UP, for instance) add up, but the primary reason for the Congress rout and one the pundits are underplaying, was the Muslim determination to teach the party a lesson.

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Is Sonia Gandhi one of world’s richest politicians?

UPA Chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi is one of the richest politicians with a net worth between $2-19 billion according to Business Insider, a US-based business website.

The website, which boasts of deep financial, media, tech and other industry verticals, is led by DoubleClick founders Dwight Merriman and Kevin Ryan and former top-ranked Wall Street analyst Henry Blodget.

Sonia Gandhi, who is at No 4 in the rich list, is not the only prominent politico who finds mention in the list. The website’s published list of world’s 23 richest politicians includes:

  • King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia ($21 billion)
  • Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari ($1-$4 billion)
  • Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei ($20 billion)
  • US’s Michael Bloomberg ($18.1 billion)
  • President and Emir of Abu Dhabi Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan ($18 billion)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin ($18000-$40 billion)
  • Savitri Jindal – Member of Legislative Assembly from Haryana ($13.2 billion)
  • France’s Serge Dassault – Senator and Founder of Dassault Aviation ($8 billion)
  • Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi ($7.8 billion)
  • Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein – Owner of LGT banking group ($4-$7.6 billion)

The website mentions German newspaper Die Welt’s World’s Luxury Guide section as the source for its rich list. The German paper states that its information is based on OpenSecrets.org, Forbes.com, Bloomberg.com, Wikipedia.org and Guardian.co.uk.

The Congress President was recently in news after an RTI activist’s application seeking details of her tax returns from 2000-01 to 2010-11 was declined. According to a report in Firstpost, she declined permission to release this information “saying that disclosure of such private information to a third party, even if ostensibly made under the guise of transparency in public life, amounted to unwarranted invasion in the privacy of the individual”.