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The Commonwealth has suspended Pakistan until democracy is restored after military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf failed to meet a deadline to lift emergency rule and step down as army chief.

A committee of foreign ministers of the 53-member organization ‘has suspended Pakistan from councils of the Commonwealth pending restoration of democracy and rule of law in the country,’ secretary general Don McKinnon told journalists.

He said the group was disappointed because there had been some progress — and cited the release of detainees — but said it was concerned about the arrests of journalists and lawyers and said the Commonwealth’s conditions had not been fulfilled.

‘The state of emergency had not been lifted. The constitution and the independence of the judiciary not restored and fundamental rights and the rule of law remain curtailed,’ McKinnon said, reading a statement on behalf of the ministers.


Passengers may be spared of a hike in Railway fares even in the 2008-09 Rail Budget. Observing that Indian Railways had made a profit of Rs 20,000 crore last year despite a cut in fares, Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad indicated that the next Railway Budget would also be an ‘aam janata’ (common man’s) budget. Let KERALA be in his AMM JANATA's list!

"Lotus - eaters"

It is game over for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka.

Merely seven days after he became the first BJP chief minister in South India, B S Yeddyurappa tendered his resignation to the governor at 5 pm on Monday.

Once again, it is Janata Dal-Secular chief H D Deve Gowda who is being blamed, with Yeddyurappa dubbing it the worst betrayal in his life.

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West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's proud boast that those who had earlier evicted his party's supporters from Nandigram had been paid back in their own coin recalls Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's recourse to Newtonian law - every action has an equal and opposite reaction - to explain the anti-Muslim pogrom in the state in 2002, which followed the burning of a train coach in which his party's kar sevaks were returning from Ayodhya.

Nor are these two observations any different in their callousness from Rajiv Gandhi's comment - the ground shakes when a big tree falls - in the aftermath of the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi after Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984.

What is immediately evident about remarks of this nature is the lack of remorse on the part of the speakers - chief ministers in two cases and a prime minister in one. To them, the deaths of individuals, many of them innocent women and children, as a result of the violence unleashed by their parties against specific targets are not to be greatly regretted because the assailants were merely retaliating against earlier acts of violence by certain groups.

However, when leaders in high positions articulate this medieval 'eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth' outlook, it provides post-facto justification for the crimes committed by their supporters.

That Bhattacharya is unrepentant about his virtual endorsement of the attacks carried out by armed Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) cadres against their political opponents in Nandigram is clear from his thrice repeated 'I stick by it' comment on his earlier 'paid in their own coin' statement during a press conference.

The distinction he has drawn between 'our supporters', who had been driven out from Nandigram several months ago, and their adversaries belonging mainly to the Trinamool Congress, the Socialist Unity Centre of India, the Jamiatul-ulema-e-Hind and Naxalite organisations also showed that he was speaking as a CPI-M leader rather than as chief minister.


The United States has again asked Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to end emergency rule and take off his army uniform even as Washington's defiant key ally publicly rejected its demand. A top US diplomat visiting Islamabad was expected to reiterate demands for a return to constitutional rule, a state department official has said, though he still could not say for sure whether Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte will see Musharraf in person. But spokesman Sean McCormack would not agree if this implied that Musharraf doesn't want to meet the US envoy. "I'm just anticipating that President Musharraf would meet with him, but I'm not going to be so rude as to announce any meetings on behalf of President Musharraf." Nor did he know if Negroponte, a former US intelligence chief, will meet former premier Benazir Bhutto, who has taken an increasingly strident stand against Musharraf signalling the end of an uneasy deal brokered by Washington between the two. Asked if US would ever sign off on elections even if Musharraf kept emergency rule, McCormack said: "It's not for us necessarily to sign off on elections. First and foremost, they have to reflect the will of the Pakistani people." "I know President Musharraf has talked about the fact that he thought it was important to have the state of emergency in order to have free and fair elections.


Senior Congress leaders from Kerala maintained that it was for the congress high command to take a decision on the return of NCP leader K. Karunakaran to Congress.
Talking to reporters after attending the district Congress leadership meet here, Defence Minister and CWC member A.K. Antony said he did not wish to make the issue of Karunakaran's return to Congress a point for discussion in the state. Antony said he would air his opinion on the matter before the high command if it was sought.
Union Minister for Non-Resident Affairs, Vlayalar Ravi said no discussion on this issue had taken place in the state unit of the party. "I will give my view on the issue if such a discussion takes place in the party", he said on the side lines of the party leadership meet.

God's own country

The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala had given its ally Kerala Congress-Joseph an ultimatum to nominate a legislator in place of Kuruvilla, who resigned as public works minister.

Mons Joseph, 42, is a two-time legislator from Kaduthuruthy in Kottayam district and would be the new public works department minister.

The high power committee of the party met to decide between Surendran Pillai and Joseph. The decision was not an easy one with the five-member committee divided over the selection.

Kuruvilla replaced P.J. Joseph in September 2006 after the latter quit the cabinet over allegations that he misbehaved with a woman on board a Chennai-Kochi flight in August that year.

The party chairman was hoping against hope that he could return as minister after being exonerated in the case, which is now being probed by the Chennai police. But with the ultimatum from the LDF, Joseph succumbed to pressure and was forced to nominate a new minister in Mons Joseph.

What remains to be seen is the repercussions on the selection of Mons Joseph, as a section in the party led by Lok Sabha member P.C. Thomas had campaigned for Pillai as the next minister.

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