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LIVE! India challenges Pak to hand over Dawood, Salahudeen

15:25  Hand over Dawood to show sincerity in tackling terror: India to Pak :  

If Pakistan was sincere in tackling terror, then it should at least hand over to India Dawood Ibrahim, Sayeed Salahudeen and other terrorists who are Indian citizens and residing in that country, government sources said on Saturday.

   

They said Pakistan has failed to take any credible action against Jaish-e-Mohammed and other terror groups even after the dastardly Pulwama attack.

If Pakistan really wants to send a message that it was serious about addressing India’s concerns over terrorism, then it should hand over Dawood, Salahudeen and other terrorists who are Indians, the sources said.

 

Referring to actions by Pakistan such as holding ceratin terrorists in preventive custody, the sources said India considered them to be cosmetic.

 

Cosmetic action will not cut any ice.

 

India has been asking Pakistan to hand over Dawood, Salahudeen and several other terrorists who are wanted in India in connection with a series of terror attacks.

 

The sources said India has shared various key details such as coordinates of terror groups operating from Pakistan soil to Islamabad which can be verified by a third country.

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14:44  PM trying to rake up old issues to divert public attention from failures: BSP:  

Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati Saturday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of trying to rake up old issues to divert people’s attention from their failures ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

   

“In order to divert people’s attention from the failures of its government and prevent poverty and unemployment for becoming real election issues, BJP and Prime Minister Modi are trying to rake up all kind of dead issues,” Mayawati said in a tweet in Hindi.

 

“This is most condemnable… people should remain cautious,” she added.

 

In another tweet, she alleged that the Prime Minister mostly remained busy in laying foundation stones and spent Rs 3,044 crore in publicity.

 

“This government money could have been used for making available education and hospital facility in every village of a backward state like Uttar Pradesh, but for the BJP, publicity is more important and not education and public interest,” she added. — PTI 

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14:41  Manohar Parrikar’s health is stable: Goa CMO:  

The condition of ailing Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar is stable, the chief minister’s office said on Saturday amidst reports that the chief minister’s health is deteriorating.

With respect to some reports in media, it is hereby stated that Honble Chief Ministers health parameters continue to remain stable, said the CMO.

Furthermore, former MLA Sidharth Kuncalienker, who visited Parrikar today, said the former defence minister’s health is stable, adding that regular medical check-ups are underway.

“His (Parrikar’s) health condition is stable now. His regular medical check-up is underway,” he told ANI.

On March 4,Goa cabinet Minister Vijay Sardesai had announced that Parrikar is suffering from “advanced-stage cancer”, but he is still working for the people of the state

The visibly frail-looking chief minister, who was diagnosed with a pancreatic ailment last year, had made a few public appearances in the past few months on a wheelchair with a tube in his nose and a urinary sheath connected to him. — ANI


14:15  BRICS to focus on counter-terror cooperation as priority area:  

BRICS, a bloc of five leading nations including India and China, will discuss counter-terror cooperation as one of its priority areas during its annual summit later this year.

 

The external affairs ministry said the issue figured at a BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) Sherpa meeting held in Brazilian city of Curitiba between March 14 and 15.

Brazil is the current chair of the grouping which represents over 3.6 billion people, or half of the world population and they have a combined nominal GDP of USD 16.6 trillion.

“It is worth mentioning that Brazil has identified countering terrorism as one of its priority areas for BRICS under its presidency. Brazil’s priorities for its presidency includes inter-alia science, technology, and innovation, digital economy, New Development Bank and BRICS Business Council as well as countering transnational crime and terrorism,” the MEA said.

The Indian delegation at the meeting was led by T S Tirumurti, secretary (economic relations) in the ministry of external affairs.

After the February 14 Pulwama attack, India has mounted a diplomatic offensive to corner Pakistan on the issue of terrorism.

“India conveyed its support for the priority areas set out by Brazil, particularly to take forward BRICS cooperation on counter terrorism in a meaningful and concrete manner with BRICS member countries,” the MEA said.

“India also underlined the need to take forward inter-alia people-to-people cooperation, cooperation in science and technology and innovation, and also in health and traditional medicine,” it added. — PTI 

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13:27  JD-S general secretary Danish Ali joins BSP:  

Danish Ali, general secretary of HD Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal-Secular, joined former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party in Lucknow today. 

He was welcomed in the party by senior BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra. 

Talking about his move to quit JD-S, Ali said that the party that rules in Karnataka didn’t have a large organisational structure in Uttar Pradesh, which sends most lawmakers to parliament in the country.

“The JD-S doesn’t have a large organisational structure in UP. Despite all my efforts I could not have raised it (JDS) in my ‘janmabhoomi, my ‘karmabhoomi’….The way in which there is a threat to constitution today, it has become essential to use our energy with a strong leadership,” he said in a statement.

He further said,” I never asked for anything even when I was in the JD-S, it was upto HD Deve Gowda to decide what work to assign me. I have come here after taking the blessings and permission of Deve Gowda. I will work wherever Behenji assigns me.”

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13:22  Indian engineer goes missing after NZ mosque attack, family clueless :  

The parents of an Indian-origin software engineer who went missing after the shooting during Friday prayers at a mosque in Christchurch in New Zealand are still clueless about his whereabouts even after a day.

   

At least 49 worshippers were killed in attacks on the Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch and the Linwood Mosque in the city’s suburb, seen as one of the worst attacks on Muslims in that country.

 

The engineer, Farhaj Ahsan, has been working in New Zealand for the past seven years. He is married and has two children.

 

“We are yet to get information about my son. We are concerned about him,” Ahsan’s mother Fatima told PTI Saturday.

Hyderabad MP and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted on Friday, “Farhaj Ahsan, a person of Indian origin, was also reported to have gone to the same mosque and is currently missing. His family is in Hyderabad, I request immediate assistance to his family as well.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed Iqbal Jahangir, another Indian from Hyderabad, who was shot at in the same incident is recovering in hospital in New Zealand, his brother Khursheed Jahangir said.

 

“I thank the government for helping me get a visa to New Zealand. I am leaving today to see my brother. He is out of danger and recovering,” Khursheed said.

 

Iqbal Jahangir was shot in the chest, he said.

 

According to unofficial reports, nine Indians are missing since the attack, a source said that due to certain processes involved, official confirmation about Indian casualties may take a while to come in. — PTI 

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13:16  2 maoists killed in encounter with police in AP:  

Two maoists were killed in an exchange of fire with the police in Agency area of Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam district early Saturday.

 

According to Visakhapatnam Rural police, 20 maoists were moving around in Buradamamidi village in the Agency area around 1 am and they opened fire at police personnel engaged in combing operations.

Police personnel opened fire in retaliation in which two maoists were killed, the other ultras escaped under the cover darkness, an official said.

Pedabayalu area committee member Sudhir headed the  team of ultras, police said adding they were yet to identify the deceased.

One CRPF jawan was injured in the exchange of fire, police said. — PTI 


13:11  Assam BJP MP Ram Prasad Sarmah quits party:  

In a jolt to the Bharatiya Jnaata Party in Assam, its sitting MP from Tezpur Ram Prasad Sarmah Saturday announced that he quit the saffron fold and alleged neglect of old workers by “new intruders in the party”

 

Sarmah said he was resigning from the primary membership of the BJP after serving the RSS and VHP for 15 years and the BJP for 29 years.

“I have left BJP today. I really feel pained in my heart for those old BJP workers of Assam who are most neglected in the party by the new intruders in the party,” he said in a Facebook post.

Sarmah’s name was not included in the party’s panel of probable candidate for Tezpur Lok Sabha seat. It only had the name of Assam minister and NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma.

The list has been sent to Delhi and the names of the candidates for the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam is scheduled to be announced Saturday.

“I felt greatly insulted when my name, a sitting MP and the President of Assam Gorkha Sammelan, did not find place in panel sent up by the state BJP committee,” Sarmah in another post on the social media platform.

He, however, said that he would continue to serve the people of Assam and his constituency “till the end of his life”.

Sarmah alleged that “old guards” of the party who had toiled for decades and brought the BJP to power were now “most neglected and ill treated”.

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12:09  Steps taken by Pak against terror groups are cosmetic: India:  

India continues to work with the United Nations Security Council sanctions committee on the listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist and will show patience on the issue, official sources said Saturday, days after China blocked a proposal at the world body to ban the JeM chief.

 

They also said steps taken by Pakistan in the last few days, against terror groups are cosmetic in nature.

“India continues to work with the UNSC’s sanction committee on listing of JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist,” official sources said.

India believes “terrorism is a major issue for China. They know a number of terror groups are based in Pakistan”, sources added.

On China blocking Azhar’s listing as a global terrorist, sources said India will show patience as long as it takes.

On Beijing continuing to oppose Azhar’s listing as global terrorist, government sources said there are issues which China needs to resolve with Pakistan.

On Wednesday, China for the fourth time blocked the bid in the UN Security Council to designate the chief of the Pakistan-based terror group as a “global terrorist” by putting a technical hold on the proposal. The Chinese move was termed “disappointing” by India. — PTI

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11:16  New Zealand PM vows gun law reform after mosque massacre:  

New Zealand’s prime minister vowed on Saturday to toughen the country’s gun laws after revealing the alleged shooter behind Christchurch’s mosque attacks had legally bought the five weapons, including two semi-automatic rifles, used in the massacre.

  

The nation’s firearms laws are lax compared to neighbouring Australia, which enacted a strict gun control regime in the wake of a similar massacre in 1996.

Jacinda Ardern said 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant obtained a “Category A” gun licence in November 2017 which allowed him to purchase the weapons used to mow down worshippers in two Christchurch mosques.

Some of the guns appear to have been modified to make them more deadly, she said, adding that a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be considered.

“The mere fact… that this individual had acquired a gun licence and acquired weapons of that range, then obviously I think people will be seeking change, and I’m committing to that,” she told a press conference.

“I can tell you one thing right now — our gun laws will change.” 

Anyone over 16 can apply for a New Zealand firearms licence, valid for 10 years after completing a safety course and a police background check.

Most guns do not require registration under New Zealand’s Arms Act and police do not know “how many legally or illegally owned firearms there are in New Zealand”, police said last year.

In 2014, police estimated there were up to 1.2 million legal firearms in civilian ownership, or around one for every four members of the public — twice the per capita number of guns in Australia.

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10:49  US, France & UK in intense discussions with China on Azhar listing at UN:  

 The US, France and the UK are believed to be in intense “good faith” discussions with China to arrive at a “compromise”, including on the language on the UN designation of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, according to people familiar with the matter.

On Wednesday, China blocked for the fourth consecutive time a resolution at the UN Security Council Committee on designating Azhar, head of the JeM terror group, as a global terrorist.

The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK and the US on February 27, days after a suicide bomber of the JeM killed 44 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, leading to a flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan.

If the fresh efforts by the US, France and the UK does not end up in the formal designation of Azhar, the three permanent members are planning to soon move a resolution for his listing in the most powerful wing of the UN which would be preceded by an open debate on the issue, according to people familiar with the matter.

India had expressed disappointment over the Chinese stance and the original co-sponsors of the resolution had warned they will consider “other actions” to achieve their goal.

While the internal consultations of the Security Council committee remain private, this time several Council members, frustrated at China’s unreasonable stance to protect a terrorist, privately spoke to the media the negative role being played by Beijing.

“If China continues to block this designation, responsible member-states may be forced to pursue other actions at the Security Council. It shouldn’t have to come to that,” a Security Council diplomat said on Wednesday in an unusual tough warning to Beijing.

In the last 50 hours, it is believed that the original sponsors of the Azhar resolution are having intense “good faith” consultations with China on what many familiar with the matter describe as a “compromise”. This probably means Azhar would be designated as a global terrorist by the UN body, but the language of designation would include a language acceptable to China.

China is believed to have suggested “certain changes” in the language of the terrorist designation. The US, Britain and France are believed to be currently looking at the suggestions. It is understood that there is back-and-forth exchange of texts on the matter.  

— PTI


10:34  An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.7 on the Richter Scale hit Nicobar Islands region at 9.43 am today.

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10:22  Modi urges supporters to take ‘main bhi chowkidar’ pledge:  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday urged his supporters to take the ‘main bhai chowkidar’ (I too am watchman) pledge, saying he is not alone in the fight against graft and social evils.

  

“Your Chowkidar is standing firm & serving the nation. But, I am not alone. Everyone who is fighting corruption, dirt, social evils is a Chowkidar. Everyone working hard for the progress of India is a Chowkidar. Today, every Indian is saying-#MainBhiChowkidar,” he wrote on Twitter.

He also posted a little over three minute video to drive home his message.

Modi has often described himself as a “chowkidar” who would neither allow corruption nor get corrupted himself.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been repeatedly hurling the “chowkidar chor hai”(watchman is the thief) jibe at Modi to claim irregularities and favouritism in the Rafale fighter jet deal, a charge the BJP-led government has rejected.

— PTI

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09:47  Imam of attacked New Zealand mosque says ‘we still love this country’:  

An imam who was leading prayers at a Christchurch mosque when a gunman brandishing semi-automatic weapons mowed down his congregation said on Saturday that the Muslim community’s love for New Zealand would not be shaken by the massacre.

  

“We still love this country,” said Ibrahim Abdul Halim, imam of Linwood Mosque, vowing that extremists would “never ever touch our confidence”.

Halim gave a harrowing account of the moment during Friday prayers when gunshots rang out in the mosque, replacing peaceful reflection with screaming, bloodshed and death.

“Everyone laid down on the floor, and some women started crying, some people died immediately,” he said.

But, he said, New Zealand Muslims still felt at home in the south Pacific nation.

“My children live here” he said, adding, “we are happy”.

He said the majority of New Zealanders “are very keen to support all of us, to give us full solidarity”, describing how strangers exchanged hugs with him on Saturday.

“They start to… give me big hug, and give me more solidarity. This is something very important.” 

The attacks on two mosques by a right-wing extremist left 49 people dead. 

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09:23  Shashi Tharoor’s relatives join BJP day after Vadakkan’s exit from Congress:  

The BJP welcomed Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s aunt and her husband into the party fold at a function in Kochi on Friday but faced embarrassment as they said they were already supporters of the saffron party.

The development comes a day after congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan joined the BJP.

Tharoors aunt Sobhana Sasikumar and her husband Sasikumar said they had been long time supporters of the BJP and wondered why such a function was organised to welcome them into the party.

Welcoming 14 new members from diverse backgrounds into the party, BJP’s Kerala president P S Sreedharan Pillai called them the cream of Kochi and honoured them with a party shawl in the media’s presence.

Addressing the function, Pillai hailed the historic background of Tharoor’s family in Palakkad district and said people from such backgrounds becoming part of the BJP have to be welcomed.

When reporters approached Tharoor’s relatives, the duo said they had been long time supporters of the BJP and did not know why such a function was organised to welcome them and asked the media to put the question to BJP leaders as to why it was held and left the venue.

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08:58  Trust between govt, business community eroded: Manmohan Singh:  

Slamming what he termed as the “wrath of coercive agencies” on the business community, former prime minister Manmohan Singh said trust between the government and businesses has eroded and a hostile narrative has been built that will hurt the economy.

Speaking at Hindu Business Line’s award event, Singh without taking any names said there was no room for authoritarian impositions after the country opted for a democratic path for itself.

“Of late, many negative perceptions have been manufactured about business leaders; the business community, big and small, has been made to feel the wrath of coercive agencies,” he said.

“A hostile narrative has been built; this will sap not only the confidence of our own business leaders, it will also create doubts in the mind of foreign governments and business leaders.

“Honest businessman and genuine entrepreneur must never be allowed to feel harassed by the petty revenue officials. Unfortunately, Trust between the government and the business stands eroded,” he said without elaborating.

There is a need to create an intellectual atmosphere that abets industriousness, innovation and imagination among the business community, he said, adding that the society, the government and the business stand to benefit from conditions of trust, lawfulness and fairness.

Singh noted that no change is permanent and the country has remained alive to the need for change and has progressed and prospered whenever society recognised and promoted change.

He also said it is vital to prepare all stakeholders for the coming change because changes produce some disruption, some pain and considerable discomfort.

— PTI

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08:28  Modi shines in UP, Rahul Gandhi soars in Tamil Nadu, finds PSE poll:  

ore than half of voters in the bellwether state of Uttar Pradesh prefer Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a second term, but not down south in Tamil Nadu, where Congress chief Rahul Gandhi surges ahead in popularity, an India Today TV survey has found.

Rahul Gandhi is the choice of 28 per cent respondents in the latest PSE poll, up from 22 per cent five months ago.

Overall satisfaction with the central government grew to 57 per cent in March, up from 54 per cent in January and 53 per cent in October, the data showed.

The Congress president’s popularity has surged in Tamil Nadu over the past five months — from 36 per cent in October 2018, 39 per cent in January to 46 per cent in March this year.

PM Modi, on the other hand, received support of 35 per cent of the respondents in March, from 28 per cent in January and 29 per cent in October last year.

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08:03  Charged with murder, New Zealand gunman smirks in courtroom:  

A 28-year-old suspect, identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared before the court on Saturday on murder charges connected with Friday’s terror attacks in Christchurch, which left at least 49 people dead. He was remanded in custody without plea until April 5.

The terror attack suspect, who live-streamed for about 17 minutes his rampage through two mosques, is an Australian-born citizen and is a resident of Dunedin, situated around 360 km south of Christchurch.

The suspect appeared before a Christchurch court on murder charges, in white prison clothing, barefoot and handcuffed. Flanked by two police officers, he smirked when media persons photographed him during the hearing and was seen making the white power gesture, New Zealand Herald reported.

Throughout the hearing, Brenton Tarrant, who had a cut on his upper lip, remained silent and looked at the media persons in the public gallery.

In the worst ever terror attack in New Zealand, multiple gunmen carried out indiscriminate shootings at two mosques in Christchurch during the Friday prayers, leaving 49 people dead and at least 48 wounded, besides giving a scare to the Bangladesh cricket team which had a narrow escape.

Using automatic weapons, the gunmen, four of who were initially taken into custody, launched a “well-planned” attack on the mosques when devotees had assembled for the weekly prayers.

Earlier today, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed that gun laws “will change” in the wake of the worst terror attacks in the country”s history.

Condemning the terror strike, Jacinda Ardern had described it as a terror attack and said it appears to have been well planned. She asserted that New Zealand will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.

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00:57  Terror financing: Cash, properties worth crores found in J&K:  

In a major crackdown on terror financing, the Income Tax Department on Friday said it has unearthed undisclosed cash, jewellery and property papers worth several crores in Jammu and Kashmir.

Search operations were conducted at five locations in Kashmir valley and a few places in Jammu on Thursday, the department said in a statement.

“These actions are part of the Department’s continued drive against use of black money by disruptive elements in the state. The operations also send a message of deterrence and obviation to those intending to vitiate the democratic process of free and fair elections,” it said.

The tax department further said one operation was against a prominent Line of Control (LOC) trader who apparently used proxies to conduct large cross-LoC trade in the past six years.

“Large undisclosed profit earned by him has been diverted to allegedly suspect elements in the Valley.

“During the action, documents of transactions in the names of some of the proxies were found. Investigations are in progress to determine the clandestine cross-LOC trade conducted by the tax evader through the Custodian of the Trade Facilitation Centre, Srinagar,” it said.

The tax department also said the preliminary results of the search operation are extremely encouraging. In the aggregate, undisclosed cash of Rs 1.44 crore and unaccounted jewellery of Rs 2.48 crore have been seized.

The documentary evidence collected and examined so far shows undeclared property transactions of more than Rs 41 crore, primarily in the Kashmir valley and concealed financial transactions of nearly Rs 17 crore.

A number of hard disks have also been seized that prima facie corroborate the evidence found in the seized documents, the department said.

The department also covered a hotelier and a retailer of liquor in the Kashmir valley.

Evidence found in search shows that he has been earning large undisclosed profits on the sale of liquor as well as from his hotel business and he has not shown cash receipts in his books of account.  — PTI

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Source: Rediff