Two developments originating from Pakistan after the explosion in the German Bakery of Pune on February 13, 2009, call for comments.
The first is the claim reportedly made by an individual to Ms Nirupama Subramanian, the Islamabad-based correspondent of “The Hindu”, the daily newspaper published from Chennai, claiming responsibility for the explosion on behalf of an organisation called the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)-Al Alami meaning international.
To quote from the paper (February 17): ” Identifying himself as a spokesperson of a group calling itself the LeT-Al Alami, an individual using the code name Abu Jindal said the bombing was carried out because of India’s refusal to discuss the Kashmir issue in the coming talks with Pakistan. Abu Jindal said he was calling from Miramshah in North Waziristan and the telephone number used to make the call carried an area code common to the Waziristan tribal area and Bannu, the adjoining district in the
North-West Frontier Province. When The Hindu tried calling back, though, a recorded voice message said the number was temporarily not in use. No past communique was issued by the LeT-Al Alami and terrorism experts in New Delhi told The Hindu that no such group was known to exist.”
The expression “Al Alami” meaning “International” had been used in the past by Pakistan-based terrorist organisations, which claim to have an international presence. Two examples are the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), which is a founding member of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People and the Jamiatul-Mujahideen. After 9/11, there were some terrorist strikes in Pakistani territory directed against the US and other foreign targets—such as the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the reporter of the “Wall Street Journal”, the murder of the wife and daughter of a US diplomat with a hand grenade in an Islamabad church, a suicide attack outside the US consulate in Karachi etc. Pakistani investigators attributed these attacks as well as an unsuccessful attempt to kill Gen Pervez Musharraf in Karachi to an organisation called the HUM-Al Alami.
As a continuation of its minority appeasement policy and votebank politics, the UPA is contemplating introduction of ‘Islamic Banking’ in the guise of attracting investments from Gulf countries to the tune of $ 1 trillion. The Centre had silently formed a committee, headed by the Cabinet Secretary, comprising secretaries of other ministries, including finance, as its members. This submitted its report to the government recommending introduction of Islamic Banks, as if they are highly productive. Based on this report, the RBI and Finance Ministry are believed to be working jointly on necessary legislative changes for implementation of Islamic Banking in India.
K Rahman Khan, Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha, and patron of ‘Indo-Arab Economic Co-operation Forum’ is organising an “Indo-Arab Economic Summit” on Feb 3 & 4 in New Delhi, confirmed the government’s move and said investments from Arab countries would be attracted by opening up channels like ‘venture capital’ and ‘mutual fund’ which would be ‘Sharia compliant’! He confirmed such Sharia compliant initiatives being implemented in UTI and SBI.
Leading international banks such as HSBC and Standard & Chartered have exclusive Islamic banking windows. The ‘Raghuram Rajan Committee’ set up by the Planning Commission in 2008 to recommend various ways to take the country’s financial sector reforms forward, also recommended certain principles of Islamic Banking.
Islamic banking can be defined as a system of banking or banking activity consistent with the principles of Islamic law (Sharia) and its practical application through the development of Islamic economics. The important aspect in this system is that Sharia prohibits the payment or acceptance of interest fees for the lending and accepting of money respectively, (Riba, usury) for specific terms, as well as investing in businesses that provide goods or
services considered contrary to its principles (Haraam, forbidden).
While these principles were used as the basis for a flourishing economy in earlier times (8th-12th centuries), it is only in the late 20th century that a number of Islamic banks were formed to apply these principles to private or semi-private commercial institutions within the Muslim community.
Started in 1963 in Egypt, Modern Islamic Banking is growing at a rate of 10 per cent to 15 per cent with more than 300 institutions spread over 51 countries, including the United States. The “World Islamic Banking Conference”, held annually in Bahrain since 1994, is internationally recognized as the largest and most significant gathering of Islamic banking and finance leaders in the world. Interestingly, the Vatican has also put forward the idea that “the principles of Islamic finance may represent a possible cure for ailing markets”!
Islamic Banks operate in accordance with the rules of Sharia, known as Fiqh al-Muamalat (Islamic rules on transactions). The basic principle of Islamic banking is the sharing of profit and loss and the prohibition of riba (usury). In an Islamic mortgage transaction, the bank doesn’t give loans to the buyer. Instead, the bank itself buys the item from the seller, and re-sells it to the buyer at a higher-than-market price keeping a huge profit margin, while allowing the buyer to pay in installments. To safeguard itself against default by the buyer, the bank asks for strict collateral. So, the profit margin acts as the ‘interest’ through backdoor!
Even while the Centre was considering the idea of introducing Islamic Banking, the Kerala state government took a fast decision in mid-August and approved a project report prepared by Ernst & Young. In its order dated 14 Oct., the Kerala government accorded sanction for registration of an Islamic finance serving company by Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, to provide financial service as per Sharia laws. Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, the designated agency for the formation of the bank, would have 11 per cent stake in the proposed banking company and it would be initially registered as a non-banking finance company and later get transformed into a full-fledged Sharia-compliant bank. The government had planned to complete all registration formalities in 2009, so that the NBFC could become operational in 2010.
In a reply (CHN/RIA/09/985/22 dated 10.11.2009) to the application of one Mr TG Mohandas under ‘RTI Act’ of 2005, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation represented by its Managing Director stated that: KSIDC is taking steps to promote Islamic Financial Institution; it is a company promoted by the Private Promoters and KSIDC; the proposed institution will not collect interest or charge interest for financing. It will function with full compliance of SHARIA PRINCIPLES. Advertisements for filling up vacancies for the positions of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Company Secretary and so on have been placed in the website ( http://ksidc.org/) and in the terms of reference for CEO, it is stated that he will report to the Sharia Advisory Board.
The activities of the institution would be monitored by a Sharia Advisory Board, which would include independent scholars on Sharia and Banking business.
This move of the Kerala Government was challenged by former Union Minister and Janata Party President Dr. Subramanian Swamy in the state High Court. Though his petition cited the above facts, the High Court pointed out that he had not produced documents confirming the constitution of the board and posted the matter for 5 January, as Dr Swamy sought time to produce the documents. (http://www.zeenews.com/news585754.html).
Dr Swamy contended that an Islamic bank, or even NBFC, that operates in India, would violate the laws, rules and regulations such as
1) Partnership Act (1932), which stipulates a maximum of 20 partners, since KSIDC says it will be an open partnership between it and private investors without limit.
2) Wagering (not permitted under Sharia) as per Section 30 of Indian Contract Act (1872).
3) Sections 5(b) & (c), 9 and 21 of Banking Regulation Act (1949) on prohibition of profit-sharing, buying and selling property, and for not charging interest.
4) RBI Act (1934)
5) Negotiable Instruments Act (1881) and
6) Co-operative Societies Act (1961).
In his PIL, Dr Swamy contended that public money was being appropriated to favour a particular religion in a secular country, as KSIDC has 11 per cent stake in the multi-crore bank. He said, “The government’s participation is clear instance of state favouring a particular religion. The Sharia is the canon law of Muslims. A financial services company set up with government participation
which would follow the canon law of a particular religion is a clear instance of the state favouring a particular religion. This is violative of Article 14 and 25 of Constitution which promises equality before law and right to freedom of religion. A 7-judge bench of the SC had ordered that no public money should be used for promoting institutions of a particular religion.”
Citing (Ramana D Shetty v International Airport Authority of India, AIR 1979 SC 1628: (1979) 3 SCC 489), SR Bommai v Union of India (1994) 3 SCC 1, 233) and M.P Gopalakrishnan Nair v State of Kerala, (2005) 11 SCC 45) Dr Swamy prayed for the following:
- A) Call for records leading to the case and issue a writ of certiorari or any other appropriate writ, order or direction, quashing the Government Order;
- B) Issue such other appropriate writ, order or direction which this Hon’ble Court may deem fit in the circumstances of the case
- C) Award costs
When the case came up for hearing on 5 January, the division bench of the Kerala High Court stayed all further moves by the state-owned Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) to set up the Islamic bank in the state. The division bench accepted Dr Swamy’s petition and issued notices to the Union government and KSIDC.
Even while silently watching the Kerala High Court’s proceedings, the Congress-led UPA has been going ahead with its scheme to introduce Islamic Banks in India. Anticipating strong opposition to this blatant appeasement, the government seems to be thinking of giving a ‘secular’ colour by naming it ‘Participative Banking’ rather than ‘Islamic Banking’. This reminds us of Rural Development Minister CP Joshi’s outrageous proposal of automatic inclusion of Muslims in the BPL list along with Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, wherein he suggested the word ‘minority’ in place of ‘Muslims’ to preempt opposition.
At this juncture, it would be appropriate to recall UPA’s Muslim-appeasement politics. It began with the repeal of POTA and Sonia’s call for a Muslim headcount in the Armed Forces. It continued with the unwarranted constitution of Justice Banerjee Committee to inquire the Godhra train carnage, Prime Minister’s rousing announcement that Muslims had the first claim on resources, constitution of the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission. And now the Rural Development Ministry’s suggestion to include Muslims automatically in the BPL list and the proposal to introduce Islamic Banks!
Dr Swamy is right in questioning the silence of the Congress in Kerala: “The Congress does not want to annoy rich Dubai-based industrialists and hawala operators. Moreover, since the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary TKA Nair is the Chairman of the KSIDC, and Dr Manmohan Singh believes that Muslims must get first charge on our resources, the party is keeping silence, much as Bhishma and Drona kept quiet when Draupadi was disrobed. Hence, patriots in Kerala must rise and protest to save Kerala from fast-creeping Islamisation. And rest of India must help”.
Though Islamic Banking has spread across 51 countries including Europe and America, “Islam Watchers” and “Security Experts” are skeptical about the sudden surge of this new system. “CBN News” reports that, the Sharia Finance is a distortion of Koranic teachings and not widely practiced by Muslims themselves until the 1960s; it is being promoted as a weapon against western countries. They term it “Financial Jihad” or “Jihad with Money”. They feel that Sharia Advisory Boards would comprise ‘fundamentalist’ clerics and the money would be used for waging jihad as per the scriptures, to destroy constitutional form of governance.
This kind of system may hold good for Islamic nations, but certainly not for a secular country like India, which has Hindus constituting 85 per cent of the population. At a time when there is an urgent and necessary need for a united India, it is condemnable that the UPA government is consistently following the policies of appeasement, divide & rule and votebank politics. Because of this the Muslim community is getting more and more alienated from the rest of the country, and it is unfortunate that Muslims do not realise this sad fact! The sooner they do the better for our country.
By BR Haran
On different occasions, Pakistani police officers gave different accounts of its background. Sometimes, they described it as the international wing of the HUM. Some other times, they described it as the wing of the HUM which represents it in the IIF. On other occasions, they described it as a spinter group of the HUM, which had split from it due to differences. They also said that the the HUM itself had started functioning under the name HUM-Al Alami after it was declared a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the US in 1997 because of its involvement in the kidnapping of some Western tourists in Jammu and Kashmir under the name Al Faran in 1995.
The HUM had never made a secret of its extensive presence abroad outside India, including in Southern Philippines, the Central Asian Republics, the Gulf countries, and Chechnya. In fact, it used to brag about it in interviews to Pakistani media. Next to the HUM, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the LeT have a presence abroad outside India. While the HUJI’s presence is confined to Bangladesh, the Arakan area of Myanmar, Southern Thailand, the Central Asian Republics, the Gulf countries and Chechnya, the LeT is the only Pakistani organisation, which has a presence not only in Indonesia, Singapore and the Gulf countries, but also in the US and West Europe.
Whereas the HUM talks openly about its international presence, neither the HUJI nor the LeT do so. The LeT, in particular, which is close to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), never talks of its activities in the West lest the ISI be embarrassed.Till today, it has not admitted that David Coleman Headley and Hussain Rana, presently facing trial in Chicago, belonged to it.
Ranchi Produces Country’s Largest Size Rose
Rose has been a symbol and messenger of love, peace, friendship, freshness, nobility, elegance and decorum for millennia. Regarded as one of the loveliest flowers on the earth, rose instantly offers beauty and delight. Besides being used as offerings to deities, bouquets to guests & celebrities, during weddings, birthdays, funerals and decorative items for homes and celebration venues, this flower is also used for preparing jam, gulkand, oil, soap, syrup, tea, wine etc in different parts of the world. Of the nearly 80,000 listed varieties of rose about 15,000 are grown commercially in one or the other corner of the world. With hybridisation and varietal development programme continuously going on across the globe, about 500-700 new fine varieties are being added every year in the listed ones.
Rose is the national flower of England but the world’s largest size rose is found in New Zealand, where blooms of several varieties are of the size of up to 8 inch diameter. wherese Bengaluru, Nasik, Hyderabad and Gurgaon are country’s major rose producing and exporting centres but few know that the largest size rose in India is produced in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. Due to suitability of soil and agro-climatic conditions, the size of many varieties grown in Ranchi ranges from 5.5-7 inch diameter which is next to only New Zealand. Of the about 2500 varieties in circulation in the country, over 1500 have been tried in Ranchi. Varieties like First Prize (pink), Peter Franken Feld (deep pink), John F Kennedy (white), Sahastradhara, Calcutta 300 (striped), Golden Medelian, Landora (yellow), Ace of Hearts, Papa Meilland, Toro (dark red), Peace, Garden Party, Princess De Monaco, Double Delight (bicolour), Paradise, Lagre Feld (mauve), Royal Highness, Command Performance, Sweet Surrender (light pink), King’s Ransom (yellow), Cary Grant, Laura (orange), Empress Farah, Colour Magic (multicolour) have blossomed exceeding well in this city during the past four decades.
Peace, the world’s most loved and cherished rose and the most famous hybrid tea of all times is best grown in Ranchi. Raised by Meilland, Cap d’Antibes, France and introduced in 1945, this golden yellow flower with pink edges was adjudged as the rose variety of twentieth century in an international poll about two decades ago. The United Nations and World Federation of Rose Societies arranged the celebrations of 60th Birth Anniversary of Rose Peace on grand scale.
Ranchi roses have dominated most of the All India Rose Conventions and Shows held annually and got top honours and awards in Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Bengaluru or Hyderabad. At the 28th All India Rose Convention held at Mumbai on 16-17 January, 2010, a Ranchi Rose was declared King of the Show. Ranchi based public sector giant Heavy Engineering Corporation’s Peter Franken Feld variety got this honour. Besides, entries from Ranchi also bagged another 19 prizes in different categories.
Ranchi roses were special centre of attraction at the Show and the curious Mumbaikars were asking where the entries from Ranchi have been displayed? Venue was Mumbai University’s Kalina Campus which has the biggest public rose garden in Mumbai. The 4th January, 1984 was a red letter day in the history of Rose Society of Ranchi (RSR) when the then Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi inaugurated its Rose Show, held at Raj Bhawan, Ranchi. Mrs Gandhi, being the daughter of Jawahar Lal Nehru, was herself a great rosarian having sound knowledge about the flower.
While observing the entries at the Show, she made Ranchi proud by declaring that that she had never seen such glorious yellow roses in the world. RSR has hosted two All India Rose Conventions in 1986 and 1991 and rosarians from all over the country attending these conventions were stunned by the sheer size of Ranchi blooms. Many delegates even from rose exporting cities misunderstood some Ranchi-grown rose varieties as other flower because of its extra large size. Rose hobbyists still remember the warmth, hospitality and the grandeur of the 1991 Ranchi convention.
Major credit for popularising rose in Chotanagpur plateau goes to Rose Society of Ranchi (RSR) founded in 1970 by rose lovers including Anglo-Indian lady Marie Palit, Swami Vedantanandji Maharaj of RK Mission TB Sanatorium, Tupudana and Dr HP Bahl, a mechanical engineer, serving with HEC. RSR is the country’s fourth oldest society formed after Delhi, Pune and Mumbai. Since there was no nursery at Ranchi that time, Marie Palit used to import roses from her English relatives while Vedantanandji used to multiply it for spreading among common rose hobbyists.
After formation of RSR, attractive institutional rose gardens were developed by HSL (now MECON), HEC, NCDC (now BCCL-CCL), R&DCI&S (SAIL), BIT, Vikas Vidyalaya. Inspired by Dr BP Pal, former Director General of ICAR and ‘Father of Roses in India’ at the All India Rose Show at Delhi in 1969, Dr Bahl was instrumental in forming the Society in Ranchi. Dr Pal, often referred as a bachelor wedded to rose, was a pioneer in rose breeding and evolved many world-class rose hybrids. Present secretary of RSR Dr HP Bahl, who has participated and judged rose shows all over the country says Ranchi roses are matchless, thanks to its extra large size. At the initiative of Dr Bahl, who also served as the national secretary of Indian Rose Federation from 1998-2002, first Asian Rose Convention was organised at Jaipur in 1999 in which 16 countries had participated. But second Asian Convention could not take place till date.
Gopal Prasad Sahu, president of Rose Society of Ranchi since 1983, who also served as the president of Indian Rose Federation from 1991-97, says Ranchi can easily capture India’s domestic rose market and emerge as country’s Rose Capital within a couple of years provided required facilities, support and expertise are made available to farmers, entrepreneurs and rosarians. “Government should provide us 4-5 acre plot for developing rose trial ground and annual grant for varietal development, maintenance of trial ground and conducting training for hobbyists and farmer entrepreneurs so that the potential can be fully tapped,” he stressed adding, “Despite having all agro-climatic and biophysical favours from the nature, Ranchi has no place in the national or international rose market.” Sahu, who maintains over 3000 rose plants of about 250 varieties at his bungalow, informed that on the invitation of the then Governor Dr AR Kidwai, the layout of Rose Garden of Raj Bhawan, Ranchi and Patna was designed, developed and promising varieties were made available by RSR which is the only Society of its kind in Bihar-Jharkhand.
Presently Delhi gets most of its requirement of roses from Agra, Chandigarh and Gurgaon, Mumbai from Nasik and Kolhapur and Kolkata from Kharagpur while Bengaluru and Hyderabad are self sufficient with large protected cultivation being practiced there. Cities like Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad and Patna are dependent on Kolkata for rose requirement. However, RSR office bearers assert that no other city can compete with Ranchi roses in domestic market because of its so glittering quality and extra large size. Through rose cultivation in poly house, net house and green house in Ranchi and neighbouring areas, farmers can easily earn Rs 2-2.5 lakhs per annum, they add.
Despite having all potentials, rose export from Ranchi appears to be a distant dream as the Jharkhand capital does not have the required infrastructure for flower export. The International Flower Exchange based at Aalsmeer (Holland) enters into agreement with only those exporters who have the capacity to supply daily plane loads of roses for at least 8-9 months a year. One plane load requires 30000-40000 blooms which are cut at 4 degree centigrade and kept in tubes.
In international market, flowers of same size, shape, brightness, freshness and colour are needed in large quantities which could be possible only under glass house cultivation in large area with controlled temperature, humidity, regulated fertigation and disease-pest-dust-weed free zone. It would require huge investments from government and corporate houses. Cool chain would be needed right from the production centre to international flower exchange.
Besides Air conditioned (AC) glass houses, AC truck, AC warehouse at airport and direct flight from Ranchi to Holland would be also be required. At present, there is no international airport in the vicinity. Of the $ 90 billion world trade of flowers, share of rose is 35-40 per cent. Despite great potentials, Indian share in world flower market is minisculeless than one per cent. On the contrary, small country like Israel exports rose worth over Rs 5000 crores during Christmas season only. Even Nigeria produces large quantities of this flower in its deserts under glass house condition.
By P Vatsal
The only occasions when the LeT had referred to its interests in overseas targets other than India were with reference to the need for a jihad against the US troops in Iraq and the need for action against the Danish newspaper and its cartoonist for publishing cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in 2005. One never found in the past any reference to an Al Alami wing of the LeT.
It will be difficult to establish the authenticity of the telephone call received by The Hindu correspondent as having really originated from a designated representative of an organisation called the LeT-Al Alami. If one presumes that such an organisation exists and that the call did originate from its spokesman, it would mark an attempt by elements based in Pakistan to project the LeT-Al Alami as part of bin Laden’s IIF unconnected with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa of Pakistan headed by Prof-Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed. It is similar to the attempt made after the 26/11 terrorist strikes to project them as having been carried out by a group of Indian Muslims called the Deccan (Southern) Mujahideen.
The second development calling for comments is the E-Mail received by the Karachi-based correspondent of “Asiatimes Online” purporting to be from Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani national, who has been indicted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) along with Headley and Rana for conspiring to launch a terrorist attack on the offices of the Danish journal which carried the cartoons. According to well-informed Pakistani journalists such as Hamid Mir, Ilyas used to be in the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army before drifting into the world of terrorism—initially in Afghanistan, then In Kashmir and now in North Waziristan.
Till some years ago, he used to be responsible for the operations of the HUJI in J&K. He has since fallen out with the HUJI and now heads as organisation called the 313 Brigade based in North Waziristan. Headley, who had met Ilyas in Norh Waziristan, was a common cut-out of the LeT and Ilyas. He was helping the LeT in its acts of terrorism in India and Ilyas in his planned attack on the Danish journal.
In the past, Ilyas had come to notice for his activities on behalf of the HUJI in J&K, but not in Indian territory outside Kashmir. But, HUJI cadres—from Pakistan as well as Bangladesh—have been active in Indian territory outside J&K for many years. In the E-mail, Ilyas has sought to intimidate intending foreign participants in the World Cup Hockey league, the IPL Cricket League and the Commonwealth Games in India in the coming months into cancelling their participation by warning them of the consequences of their participation.
Since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore last year, foreign sports teams are not prepared to participate in any events in Pakistan, which has been totally boycotted. Ilyas’ attempt to intimidate is part of a Pakistan-inspired Psywar to create similar nervousness among foreign sportsmen and sports officials about the likely dangers of participating in sports events in India.
Three prestigious sports events are to take place in India this year. The terrorists will look upon these events as providing an opportunity to publicise their cause and embarrass India. A similar attempt to intimidate sportsmen was made by the Khalistani terrorists at the time of the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1983.On getting information of their plans, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, personally monitored the security arrangements through Rajiv Gandhi and Arun Singh and requested R N Kao, former chief of the R&AW, to co-ordinate the physical security. Kao did so with the help of K Sankaran Nair, who had succeeded him as the chief of the R&AW.
Keeping in view the likely threats and the high-profile attempts at intimidation initiated by Ilyas, the Government should constitute a high-power committee of senior officials to monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis and coordinate the physical security. The matter should not be handled in a routine manner as the follow-up action on Headley’s visits to India seem to have been handled.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2gmail.com)
By B Raman