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Former Diplomats Flag “Strong Pakistani Imprint” On New Afghan Government – dot newz



Taliban has unveiled a hardline interim government led by Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund

New Delhi:

Terming the new interim government in Afghanistan as “old wine in a new bottle”, former Indian diplomats today said the cabinet formed in Kabul has dispelled “myths” of Taliban 2.0, and asserted that it has a strong Pakistani imprint on it which is a “cause of concern” for India.

The Taliban yesterday unveiled a hardline interim government led by Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, with key roles being shared by high-profile members of the insurgent group, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, a designated global terrorist of the dreaded Haqqani Network with a USD 10 million US bounty on his head, as the interior minister.

Though there are some voices in the government such as Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, named as the deputy to the foreign minister, who has spoken of having friendly ties with India but they are much lower in the pecking order.

Former external affairs minister K Natwar Singh, ex-diplomats Meera Shankar, Anil Wadhwa and Vishnu Prakash noted that the new government had extremist elements and India must continue with its “wait and watch” approach going forward.

Rakesh Sood, a former Indian envoy to Afghanistan, said the interim government announced in Kabul dispels any myth about a Taliban 2.0.”This is clearly the same as Taliban 1.0 with ISI fingerprints all over it,” he asserted.

Ms Shankar, who served as India’s Ambassador to the United States between 2009 and 2011, said one would have to wait and see what the development means for India in terms of the policies that the Taliban adopt.

“But it does not appear promising and indeed there is cause for concern because it seems to be old wine in a new bottle because many of the players who have been appointed are the same (that were there in the previous Taliban regime),” she told PTI.

The appointment of Sirajuddin Haqqani to head the interior ministry is a cause of worry and the Doha group which presented the moderate face of the Taliban seems to have been marginalised to a considerable extent, she noted.

Noting that it was a setback for India, she stressed that instead of looking at it in terms of India-Pakistan, what was more important was that it will be a setback for the people of Afghanistan.

She also noted that the presence of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General (DG) Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed while the cabinet formation was being discussed, clearly showed that there was an “overt” Pakistani interference and not a subtle one anymore.

Mr Wadhwa, who served as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs before retiring in 2017, said it was quite expected that the government will not be an “inclusive” government as people expected it to be.

“The Taliban factions have found their own balance and the extremist elements are prevalent there; the others are sidelined, so basically the Doha faction has been sidelined. To have expected an inclusive government for an outfit like this especially when Pakistan is playing a very strong hand was not really up to reality,” he told PTI.

“What has happened is along the expected lines and it is of course a setback for countries like India, the US and the West in general. But I have a feeling that since these countries (West) are far away from the action in Afghanistan, they will gradually over time come to live with it. But the country that will face the brunt of it would be possibly India, perhaps later on countries like Iran and Russia, but not so much China,” Mr Wadhwa said.

He asserted that the new government had the imprint of Pakistan’s ISI and pointed out that the Haqqani faction holding the Interior ministry speaks volumes.

Agreeing that it was rhetorically a case of “old wine in a new bottle”, he said, “right now, yes we are not going to recognise this kind of government but I don’t see why we should not have a channel of communication with them.”

Echoing similar views on keeping a channel of communication open, Mr Prakash, who has been India’s envoy to Canada and South Korea, said that does not mean recognition or endorsement but it just means “we are having a channel of communication” so that Pakistan does not get a “free run”.

Mr Prakash said what was surprising was that even the Doha group had been eased out because they were not considered to be hardline enough, and asserted that “Rawalpindi (a reference to Pakistani Army) was calling the shots”.

“I would say that the bottle is old and the wine is old when you have people like Mullah Hasan Akhund, who was the person who ordered the destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas, or you have Sirajuddin Haqqani who was instrumental in attacking the Indian embassy, these are the people who know only one language and that is the language of the gun,” he asserted.

Talking about Pakistan’s influence on Afghanistan now, Mr Prakash said he does not think that anyone in the know of things had any doubt that Pakistan was “holding all the aces”.

Pakistan has put its own nation at risk by cultivating the Taliban, supporting them, and the entire fight was masterminded by Rawalpindi, he said.

“Pakistan’s imprint was writ large. You have to be in denial to state that Pakistan’s role was limited. It is a different matter whether the Taliban, once it consolidates itself, will carve out an independent course only time will tell,” he said.

Mr Singh, who was the foreign minister in UPA-I and also served as India’s Ambassador to Pakistan besides holding other senior diplomatic positions, said the one responsible for the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas is part of the government and pointed out that there were extreme Islamists who were part of it.

“I think for a couple of months we must just wait and watch as we do not know what actions will follow. One does not know what their priorities are,” Mr Singh said.

He also said Pakistan financed and armed the Taliban but could face a problem as they could turn against Islamabad going forward.

“We would like to have good relations with them but at the moment it doesn’t seem that they are interested,” he said.

Former External Affairs minister Yashwant Sinha yesterday said India cannot and should not do business with the government formed in Afghanistan.

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Tax Officials To Reply On Newslaundry Plea Over Leak Of Seized Material – dot newz




The court orally observed leaking of data is “ethically, morally and legally” wrong. (File)

New Delhi:

The Delhi High Court Friday sought Income Tax Department’s stand on a plea by online news portal Newslaundry and its co-founder Abhinandan Sekhri to restrain any leakage of the material seized during a survey operation held earlier this month.

A bench of Justices Manmohan and Navin Chawla granted time to the department’s counsel to seek instructions on giving an undertaking against any leak and asked that the concerned officer join the proceedings on the next date of hearing i.e. September 21.

“Ask your client (to join proceedings) so that we can close it then and there. Let him be by your side..If he gives a statement, we can put a quietus to the matter,” said the bench to the lawyer who asserted that the fear of leak was a “bald apprehension”.

Data of thousands of assessees is in safe custody of the department and it can be used only in accordance with law, said counsel for the department Ajit Shamra.

During the course of the hearing, the bench orally observed, “Normally, no one’s data should be leaked” as it is “ethically, morally and legally” wrong.

“We have seen it on channels, people’s data that has been seized is being displayed… It should not happen,” it remarked.

Senior counsel Siddharth Dave, appearing for the petitioners, said that four notices under the Income Tax Act were issued to his client and a survey was held in the news portal’s premises on September 10, during which several devices, including a mobile phone and a laptop belonging to the petitioner co-founder, were seized by the IT authorities, which contained several information which were of no relevance to any income tax proceedings.

The data may contain personal photos and information pertaining to investigative stories, he said.

The senior lawyer argued that any data breach would be in violation of right to privacy and therefore a direction should be passed to the IT authorities to not leak any data and delete whatever is of no relevance to the proceedings.

It was also contended that any seizure during a survey operation was beyond the scope of survey and that no “hash value” of the seized data was given.

“Please direct them not to leak seized data collected in this purported garb of a survey and allow me to delete (non I-T related) data,” the senior lawyer submitted.

In the petition filed through advocate Nipun Katyal, the petitioners have said that the income tax officers and authorities do not have any power to interrupt the ordinary peaceful citizens of the country in any manner they like by utilizing the large powers given to them, without keeping strictly within the four corners of those large powers.

“The Petitioners are heading a news organization, the Petitioners herein have sources, contacts and other information on the digital machines. It is the fiduciary duty of the Petitioners to protect them and keep it confidential.

“It is further submitted that the legal communication regarding existing cases is present in the personal laptop and phone of the Petitioners. If in any circumstances, the leaks are committed, it shall be a clear breach of the attorney client privilege as well as whistleblowers confidentiality,” the plea says.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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1 Crore Jabs Till 1:30 PM. On PM’s Birthday, Government Aims At Record – dot newz




The vaccination campaign is key to BJP’s three-week celebrations to mark PM’s birthday.

New Delhi:

As the government raced to deliver a vaccination record on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday today, the country clocked over 42,000 vaccinations a minute, a senior health official said. Vaccinations crossed one crore in the afternoon – for the fourth time in less than a month – setting up a milestone by the end of the day.

Aiming at 2 crore vaccinations as PM Modi turns 71, the government added a ticker to track Covid shots being given across the country.

“Celebrating the relentless efforts of India’s vaccinators against COVID-19, we have added a ticker to show vaccinations happening in near real-time. We are currently clocking over 42,000 vaccinations/minute or 700/second,” tweeted National Health Authority chief RS Sharma, sharing the new feature.

The vaccination campaign is key to the BJP’s three-week celebrations to mark the Prime Minister’s birthday.

“Let’s do #VaccineSeva and give him (PM Modi) birthday gift by getting vaccinated those who have not taken the dose so far,” Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya had tweeted yesterday, urging people to get the shots.

To achieve its target, the BJP had prepped health volunteers “to ensure that the maximum number of people get their COVID-19 vaccines on the day”.

In recent days, India has reported more than one crore Covid shots in a day more than once.

Senior BJP leaders say the party wants to see the day “recorded in history” as one that saw a record number of Covid vaccines given.

By noon, over 94,00,000 vaccinations had been achieved. PM Modi’s home state Gujarat had crossed five lakh doses, more than the daily doses in the last seven days.

By afternoon, Bihar had given Covid shots to 7.3 lakh people, three times more than the average of the last three days. Madhya Pradesh was at more than 5 lakh doses – 75 per cent of the last two days’ average.

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Under-Construction Flyover Collapses In Mumbai’s Bandra, 14 Injured – dot newz




The under-construction flyover collapsed at about 4.40am.

At least 14 people were injured after a portion of an under-construction flyover collapsed in Bandra Kurla Complex in Maharashtra’s Mumbai today. The injured were taken to the VN Desai Hospital and their condition is stable, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said.

The flyover collapsed at about 4.40am.

Visuals shared by news agency ANI showed police personnel and fire departments on the spot as the rescue work is underway.

There has been no loss of life and no person is missing due to the collapse, Deputy Commissioner Of Police Manjunath Singe told news agency ANI.

The flyover is located at MTNL junction in suburban Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) and will connect the complex’s main road and Santa Cruz- Chembur link road. The construction work of the flyover is being undertaken by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).

Further details related to the flyover’s collapse are awaited.

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