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It must enact a 27-point action plan to curb terror financing, says review group

Not enough: Protesters seeking the death penalty for Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed in Mumbai last week. At the FATF meet, Pakistan claimed that it had cracked down on terror operatives.AFPINDRANIL MUKHERJEE

The International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG) of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Tuesday recommended that Pakistan be retained on the ‘Grey List’, given its failure to completely implement the 27-point action plan to check terror financing.

The final decision would be announced on Friday, at the end of the five-day FATF Plenary session in Paris, sources aware of the proceedings said.

It is understood that most of the group members were in favour of continuing the pressure on Pakistan to execute all the measures suggested against funding to banned terror outfits and United Nations designated global terrorists operating from its soil.

Malaysia’s support

Speaking in favour of Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia said Islamabad could be taken off the ‘Grey List’ in coming June. Leaders of these two countries have already gone public on their plans to back Pakistan in the FATF.

According to the sources, Pakistan's Minister for Economic Affairs Hamad Azhar assured the group that all the objectives would be achieved as early as June 2020. He claimed that since the last FATF plenary, the country had taken all possible measures against terror financing.

Pakistan was presented with the 27-point action plan in the previous FATF meet in October last.

Mr. Azhar said Pakistan had acted against transnational terror funding operations on priority and that it had convicted an unprecedented number of persons, which includes Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed. All the shortcomings identified in the mutual evaluation report would also be addressed soon, he added.

India countered Pakistan’s claims, saying the recent action taken by Islamabad against Saeed and others was an attempt to evade further FATF sanctions.

While the LeT chief was recently convicted of terror financing, the Pakistani authorities had claimed that a large number of terrorists were arrested, the accounts of banned outfits frozen and the institutions run by them were taken over by the government.

India asserted that the terror funding operations were still on and outfits such as the LeT and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose chief Masood Azhar's location as per Pakistan is “unknown”, were having a free run in Pakistan.

In November last, when Pakistan complied with only five of the 27 action plan points, the FATF asked it to “swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2020”.

The FATF statement said: “Otherwise should significant and sustainable progress not be made across the full range of its action plan by next plenary, the FATF will take action, including urging members to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relations/transactions with Pakistan.”

Highly polluted Buddah Nullah passes through Ludhiana

The Punjab Cabinet on Tuesday approved ₹650 crore in the first phase for rejuvenation of the highly polluting Buddah Nullah — a seasonal tributary of Sutlej in Ludhiana.

“Under this ambitious plan, an additional sewage treatment plant having a capacity of 275 MLD, including associated infrastructure, would be developed which would go a long way in solving the problems of Buddah Nullah and subsequent pollution of the river Satluj,” said an official statement.

The Cabinet meeting, which was held here, also decided to levy 1% additional stamp duty on registration of sale-purchase of urban properties to finance water supply and environment improvement programmes in the urban areas of the State.

Notably, the pollution in the Buddah Nullah is a major threat to public health and environment and the main sources of pollution in the nullah are direct flow of pollutants by industries and dairies. Also, treated effluents from existing STPs, based on UASB technology, does not meet the required quality and overflow from sewer lines add to the problem.

The NGT has already directed the government to take proactive steps to immediately address the problem.

The Cabinet also approved creation of 550 posts in the Government Medical Colleges at Patiala and Amritsar with the objective of further improving and streamlining the functioning of these institutions, the statement added.

It was believed to have been formed during Neolithic age

A view of the Siva linga sighted atop a hillock in Kadapa. T. VIJAYA KUMAR

An 18-foot Siva linga has been discovered by a freelance archaeologist at the Bhairaveswara Swamy Temple atop the Mopuru hillock, in Vemula mandal of A.P.’s YSR Kadapa district.

The linga was believed to have been naturally formed (‘swayambhu’) during the Neolithic age dated back to 3,000 - 2,800 B.C.

The sighting of the Siva linga on the banks of the Mogameru rivulet, close on the heels of the discovery of stone implements such as axes and other tools used by the Megalithic civilisation by the Archaeology Department, has created further interest.

“The discovery of the Siva linga has thrown light on the religious practices of Neolithic civilisations during which people used to worship idols of Gods and Goddesses in standing posture. Earlier, Megalithic burial sites have also been found on the river bank,” says freelance archaeologist Kadiyala Venkateswara Rao.

Mr. Rao, who retired as deputy director in the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh (SAAP), has discovered rock menhirs at Karempudi village in Guntur district which revealed the religious practices of megalithic civilisation.

Locals believe that the idol was not manmade, but a natural formation.

Panel, headed by PM, goes by majority opinion after Opposition leader objects

Sanjay Kothari, Secretary to the President of India, is tipped to be the next Chief Vigilance Commissioner. Former Information and Broadcasting Secretary Bimal Julka will be the Chief Information Commissioner.

Former CMD of Andhra Bank Suresh Patel has been chosen as a Vigilance Commissioner, while former member of Punjab Civil Services Commission Amita Pandove will be an Information Commissioner.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the selection committee on Tuesday. The government is yet to make a formal announcement.

The meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was attended by Home Minister Amit Shah, Congress Leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitender Singh. The decision, however, was arrived at by a majority opinion as the Opposition leader objected to the process and pointed to “certain legal infirmities”.

Mr. Chowdhury is reported to have objected to the fact that the government had neither shared the names of the short-listed candidates for the post of CIC before the meeting, as is the norm. The Opposition leader also objected to the fact that for the post of CVC, a member of the search committee was included as a short-listed candidate.

Mr. Modi is learnt to have directed the officials to ensure that norms were followed and the Opposition leader was provided with the short-listed names before such meetings.

‘Deeply flawed’

“It is regrettable that the entire process of appointment to the high offices of the CVC and the CIC was deeply flawed and violative of the constitutional guarantees, and was undertaken in a non-transparent manner,” Mr. Chowdhury said. “These fundamental flaws have vitiated the entire exercise. Sad that the government is using the flawed procedure to appoint persons to these high offices. Such arbitrary decisions will defeat the very objective of holding the government and the Executive accountable to the people of India,” he said.

A few other posts in the CIC are lying vacant and, the Commission has been working with a reduced strength of six Information Commissioners as against the sanctioned strength of 11.

Defence pacts likely during U.S. President’s visit

The deal for 24 MH-60R Multi-Role Helicopters (MRH) for the Navy, which is likely to be announced during the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump, is lined up for the final approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Wednesday, official sources said.

“The deal is before the CCS for final approval which is meeting on Wednesday. We are hopeful that it will be cleared,” a defence source told The Hindu.

All procedural requirements for the deal have been completed, he added.

Trade deal unlikely

The 24 Lockheed Martin-built helicopters, worth $2.4 billion, are being procured through the Foreign Military Sales route of the U.S. government.

Mr. Trump will visit India on February 24 and 25. With no headway in the talks for a trade deal, there are expectations that a few big-ticket defence deals will be announced.

There are several big-ticket deals in the pipeline. These include six Boeing P-8I long-range surveillance aircraft and 13 BAE Systems-built 127-mm MK-45 naval gun systems worth around $1 billion for the Navy, six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for the Army, 30 armed drones for the three services and a tactical air defence system for Delhi.

However, these are at various stages of procurement.

“Apart from the deal for MH-60R helicopters, an announcement is possible on P-8I and Apache,” a second official source said.

In the last few years, India has signed two foundational agreements: the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), which is part of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) signed long time ago.

The last agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA), is under discussion.

“BECA is some time away from conclusion,” a third official said.

Apart from defence cooperation, of particular interest will be any progress in Indo-Pacific cooperation, especially the upgrade of the 2015 U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region.

MRH shortage

The Navy is facing an acute shortage of MRH, with several warships operating with empty helicopter decks. These helicopters are being procured as replacement for 15 Sea King Anti-Submarine Warfare helicopters de-inducted in 1991 and one Sea King 42B MRH lost in accident.

The MRHs in service, Sea King 42Bs, were inducted in the 1980s and are in need of replacement.

Given the urgency, the U.S. is likely to take some MH-60R helicopters from its newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald Ford, which is undergoing upgrades.

“We are hopeful of getting four or five MH-60s from USS Gerald Ford once the deal is signed,” a Navy official said.

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