Nepal Today

Monday, April 22, 2013

DISEASED BIRDS CULLED IN CHITWAN Kathmandu, 23 April: Fowls, chicken feeds and eggs in two poultry firms detected with bird flu epidemic in Chitwan were culled on Monday night,RSS reports from Chitwan.. Some 2,876 fowls and six tons of chicken feeds stored in a poultry firm of Chitra Raj Shrestha at Bharatpur municipality-9 were destroyed after detecting bird flu . Likewise, total 3,175 chickens and 300 eggs found in a firm of Ram Babu Thapaliya at Mangalpur VDC, Ward No. 5 were also destroyed during the whole night, said Chief of the District Livestock Service Office, Chitwan, Ram Kumar Karki. Bird flu has been so far detected in five places in Chitwan in the recent time. High alert has been placed to prevent the outbreak of epidemic. nnnn ARMY CHIEF LOBBIES FOR MAINTAINING CURRENT ARMY STRENGTH Kathmandu, 23 April: Chief of Army Staff Gen Gaurav SJB Rana on Monday suggested that the current size of the Nepal Army be retained and organisational adjustments be made to meet the changing security needs, {haniondra Dahal writes in The Kathmandu Post.. In an interaction with the Chief of the Interim Election Government, Khil Raj Regmi, at the Army Headquarters, Gen Rana stressed on the need to redesign and rebalance the current structure. With the removal of the restrictions on purchasing weapons, the Army chief said the resource crunch should be addressed as “only a well equipped Army can fulfill the national needs.” Gen Rana, however, made no mention of two key commitments of the 2006 peace agreement—democratisation and the ‘right-sizing’ of the Army—in his briefing. In response, the executive head lauded the Army’s leadership for its attempt to make the institution ‘flexible’ and its contribution to safeguarding national sovereignty. He said the government will provide the resources, as required, for the modernisation of the Army. He was, however, silent on reforms in the 96,000-strong military. Monday’s interaction indicates that major stakeholders are no longer concerned about the key commitments made in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2006, said a retired two-star general of the Nepal Army . With deepening political uncertainties, he claimed that the agenda of democratisation and ‘right sizing’ of the Army will further be marginlised. “All the parties have concluded that the Nepal Army is the ultimate source of power and they cannot continue their regime without the backing of the Army,” said the retired Army official. “With yesterday’s rebel party, the UCPN (Maoist), coming to a conclusion that all is going well with the Nepal Army , no stakeholders want to take any position that will antangonise the Army leadership.” The Interim Constitution 2007 commits to determining the appropriate strength of the NA and give it a democratic and inclusive structure by formulating an action plan of democratisation. Another peace process commitment—integration of former Maoist combatants—was executed last year, but there has been no progress in ‘right sizing.’ Army Spokesperson Brig Gen Suresh Sharma said ‘right sizing’ of the Army is a long-term plan and it can begin only after the national security policy, defence policy and military strategy are introduced by the government. “In the short term, we have suggested that the existing strength of the Army be retained in a way that it would not burden the national economy,” he said. The Army’s strength was 58,000 before it was mobilised to fight during the Maoist insurgency in 2001. With an agreement to create 4,171 vacancies for integration of around 1,400 Maoist combatants, the approved ceiling is all set to touch 100,000 from the 95,753 that was in existence before 2006. The defence budget, which was Rs 10.905 billion in 2005/06, has increased to Rs 21.437 billion in 2012/2013. Major party leaders still reaffirm their lip service for democratisation of the Army and complain that the prolonged political transition delayed the process. Maoist Spokesman Agni Sapkota said his party wanted both integration and democratisation of the Nepal Army to go hand in hand, but had to compromise to offer a way out of the political crisis. “The peace process is yet not complete. We are yet to form a truth and reconciliation commission and complete the democratisation in the Nepal Army ,” he said. “We had to compromise the agenda to give a way out to other serious political problems.” In December 2009, a Cabinet committee led by the then Defence Minister, Bidhya Bhandari, was formed to draft an action plan, but the panel had no representative from the UCPN (Maoist). The report of the panel which stressed on greater civilian oversight and transparency and accountability within the Army is gathering dust at Singha Durbar. Nepali Congress leader Minendra Rijal, a member of the Bhandai-led panel, said his party contributed to the democratisation plan when it was in the Madhav Kumar Nepal led government in 2009-2010. “Our party is not in government since a long time. We did what we could do when we were in Cabinet,” he said. “The process is stuck because the subsequent governments paid no attention to the issue.” Nnnn POLICEMAN POSTED AT TIA SENTENCED AND JAILED FOR RAPE Kathmandu, 23 April: The Kathmandu District Court on Monday found Police Constable Parshu Ram Basnet guilty of raping Sita Rai (name changed) and sentenced him to five-and-a-half years in prison, Roshan Sedhai writes in The Kathmandu Post.. A single bench of Judge Bishnu Prasad Koirala also ordered that the victim be given Rs 50,000 in compensation. Basnet had raped Rai after helping officials at the Department of Immigration (DoI) at the Tribhuvan International Airport rob her of Rs 218,000 on November 21. Rai, 20, of Bhojpur, was returning from Saudi Arabia when the incident occurred. “We were expecting a more severe punishment given the nature of the crime. The perpetrator here was a government employee,” said Laxmi Rai, an advocate fighting Rai’s case. According to existing provisions under the Muluki Ain, those convicted of raping women above 20 years can face a minimum of five to seven years of imprisonment. Since the government has already provided Rs 150,000 as ‘interim relief’ to the victim, Rai’s lawyer said they were satisfied with the compensation ordered by the court. Family members of the victim could not be contacted despite several attempts. Rai is living with her family in Jarayatar, Bhojpur. Basnet, along with some DoI officials, will also face trial in the Special Court for his involvement in corruption and abuse of authority. On April 9, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) filed a charge sheet against section officers Ram Prasad Koirala and Tika Raj Pokhrel, and senior non-gazetted officer Somnath Khanal. The anti-graft body has also directed the Home Ministry to take departmental action against the then DoI Director General Suresh Adhikari and his deputy Lekhnath Pokhrel for their involvement in the robbery. On December 16, Rai filed a case at the Home Ministry and the Metropolitan Police Range Hanumandhoka, stating that she was robbed of 8,500 Saudi Riyal and subsequently raped. After DoI officials discovered that Rai was travelling with a passport of one Bimala KC of Parbat district, she was placed in detention for the night, where she was robbed and threatened with arrest if she refused to comply with their demands. Constable Basnet, on the pretext of dropping her off to the New Buspark, raped her at a local guesthouse. Basnet also seized her watch, perfume, T-shirts and the last 800 Saudi Riyal she had saved. Rai’s case ignited a huge public outrage after the Post reported her story on December 18, resulting in the Occupy Baluwatar campaign, a public movement against gender-based violence, which lasted for over 100 days. Following the campaign, the then prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai, made a public apology through the state media and formed a high-level monitoring committee under a secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office to look into cases of violence against women. The committee released an interim report after 15 days, which established the involvement of high-level immigration officials in Rai’s case. The committee’s mandate was extended for three months to review policies and legal provisions, while a final report is due to be released this week. Nnnn TWO CHARGED WITH ALLEGED AL QUIDA LINKS TO ATTACK CANADIAN TRAIN Kathmandu, 23 April: Two men were arrested and charged with plotting a terrorist attack against a Canadian passenger train with support from al-Qaida elements in Iran, police said Monday. The case bolstered allegations by some governments and experts of a relationship of convenience between Shiite-led Iran and the predominantly Sunni Arab terrorist networkm AP reports from Toronto.. Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, had "direction and guidance" from al-Qaida members in Iran, though there was no reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said. Police said the men did not get financial support from al-Qaida, but declined to provide more details. "This is the first known al-Qaida planned attack that we've experienced in Canada ," Superintendent Doug Best told a news conference. Officials in Washington and Toronto said it had no connections to last week's bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line. The arrests in Montreal and Toronto raised questions about Iran's murky relationship with the terrorist network. Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran who is now a Brookings Institution senior fellow, said al-Qaida has had a clandestine presence in Iran since at least 2001 and that neither the terror group nor Tehran speak openly about it. "The Iranian regime kept some of these elements under house arrest," he said in an email to The Associated Press. "Some probably operate covertly. AQ members often transit Iran traveling between hideouts in Pakistan and Iraq." U.S. intelligence officials have long tracked limited al-Qaida activity inside Iran. Remnants of al-Qaida's so-called management council are still there, though they are usually kept under virtual house arrest by an Iranian regime suspicious of the Sunni-/Salafi-based militant movement. There are also a small number of financiers and facilitators who help move money, and sometimes weapons and people throughout the region from their base in Iran. Last fall, the Obama administration offered up to $12 million in rewards for information leading to the capture of two al-Qaida leaders based in Iran. The U.S. State Department described them as key facilitators in sending extremists to Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Treasury Department also announced financial penalties against one of the men. Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, said the terrorist network was not operating in Iran. "Iran's position against this group is very clear and well known. (Al-Qaida) has no possibility to do any activity inside Iran or conduct any operation abroad from Iran's territory," Miryousefi said in a statement emailed to the AP late Monday. "We reject strongly and categorically any connection to this story." The investigation surrounding the planned attack was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The attack "was definitely in the planning stage but not imminent," RCMP chief superintendent Jennifer Strachan said Monday. "We are alleging that these two individuals took steps and conducted activities to initiate a terrorist attack. They watched trains and railways." Strachan said they were targeting a route, but did not say whether it was a cross border route. Best said the duo had been under investigation since last fall. Their bail hearing was scheduled in Toronto on Tuesday. Via Rail said that "at no time" were passengers or members of the public in imminent danger. Via trains_ Canada 's equivalent of Amtrak passenger trains in the U.S. —carry nearly four million passengers annually. In Washington, Amtrak president Joe Boardman said the Amtrak Police Department would continue to work with Canadian authorities to assist in the investigation. Via Rail and Amtrak jointly operate trains between Canada and the U.S. U.S. Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, said in a statement praising Canadian authorities for the arrests, that the attack was intended "to cause significant loss of human life including New Yorkers." Charges against the two men include conspiring to carry out an attack and murder people in association with a terrorist group. Police said the men are not Canadian citizens and had been in Canada a "significant amount of time," but declined to say where they were from or why they were in the country. Muhammad Robert Heft, who runs an outreach organization for Islamic converts, and Hussein Hamdani, a lawyer and longtime advocate in the Muslim community, said one of the suspects is Tunisian and the other is from the United Arab Emirates. Heft and Hamdani were part of a group of Muslim community leaders who were briefed by the RCMP ahead of Monday's announcement. Authorities were tipped off by members of the community of one of the suspects, Best said. Hamdani said they were told by police that the tip came from the Muslim community and the police said they were very thankful to Muslim community leaders for that. "It was sort of a thank you moment," Hamdani said. "This tip, this lead, came from the Muslim community. But for the Muslim community we would not be talking about an arrest today. This is evidence and proof that the Canadian Muslim community, rather than a community that should be seen as suspect, is in fact partners for peace and here is the proof of it." Hamdani said he did not know if anybody in the room for the briefing knew the suspects. He called the al-Qaida connection to the Shiite theocracy of Iran "very strange. He noted that police said al-Qaida didn't provide material support and that it was more guidance. "What does that mean exactly?" Hamdani wondered. "It could be words of support or inspiration. It could be 'Here's the idea I think you should use it.'" A spokeswoman for the University of Sherbrooke near Montreal said Esseghaier studied there in 2008-2009. More recently, he has been doing doctoral research at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, a spokeswoman at the training university confirmed. Julie Martineau, a spokeswoman at the research institute, said Esseghaier began working at the center just outside Montreal in 2010 and was pursuing a Ph.D. in nanotechnology. "We are, of course, very surprised," she said. A LinkedIn page showing a man with Esseghaier's name and academic background said he helped author a number of biology research papers, including on HIV and cancer detection. The page says he was a student in Tunisia before moving to Canada in the summer of 2008. The arrests came just a few months after two Canadians were discovered among militants killed in a terrorist siege at a gas plant in Algeria. At least 38 hostages and 29 militants were killed in the siege, including Ali Medlej and Xristos Katsiroubas, two high school friends from London, Ontario. In 2006, Canadian police foiled the so-called Toronto 18 home grown plot to set off bombs outside Toronto's Stock Exchange, a building housing Canada 's spy agency and a military base. The goal was to scare Canada into removing its troops from Afghanistan. The arrests made international headlines and heightened fears in a country where many people thought they were relatively immune from terrorist strikes. Nnnn


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