In another explosive development in the Antilia bomb scare case, suspended Mumbai Police assistant inspector Sachin Vaze attempted to submit before the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Wednesday a letter with grave corruption allegations against former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, state transport minister Anil Parab and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.
Vaze, who is being probed by the NIA in the Antilia bomb scare-Mansukh Hiren murder cases, was produced by the agency for further custody when he attempted to submit this letter. The court, however, told him to follow the due process and did not accept it.
Vindicating the allegations of former Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh that Vaze was asked by Deshmukh to collect money from bars in the city, Vaze mentions this aspect in his letter. He says he was called in January 2021 to the minister’s residence Dnyaneshwari. “The minister sir told me that there are approximately 1650 bars and restaurants in Mumbai and told me to collect Rs 3-3.5 lakh each from these for him,” the letter stated. It mentioned that the minister’s PA Kundan was present.
He further says in his letter that he had told the minister he would not be able to collect the money and that it would be beyond his capabilities. Immediately after coming out of the cabin, he says, PA Kundan advised him that he must comply with the minister’s instructions if he wished to keep his job and post intact. Vaze says he had informed the CP about this, and expressed his apprehension that in the future, he may be embroiled in a false controversy. “The honourable CP encouraged me and categorically instructed me not to involve in any such illegal collection of money from anyone and for anyone,” the letter stated.
Another instance mentioned in the letter of Deshmukh engaging in corruption is when Vaze was reinstated in service last year. The letter states that Sharad Pawar had ordered that he be suspended and that Deshmukh had informed this to him on phone from Nagpur and then asked him to pay Rs 2 crore and assured that he will convince Pawar. He said he had expressed his inability to pay such a huge amount and that Deshmukh had told him he could pay later.
Making allegations of corruption on Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, the letter says that in November last year, he was approached by one Darshan Ghodawat who was very close to Pawar. The letter read, “He explained about illegal gutka and tobacco trade in Maharashtra and gave me phone numbers. The said Mr Godhawat insisted that I should collect a monthly amount of Rs 100 crore from these illegal gutka sellers. I denied to do such an illegal act and the person warned me that I may lose my post again.” The letter went on to state that since the first day of 2021, he started all-out efforts against illegal gutka sellers and crores-worth illegal gutka was seized and action was initiated against the owners of factories too.
“On such action, Mr Ghodawat came to my office and conveyed displeasure expressed by Hon Dy CM Sir to him regarding initiation of action against these manufacturers and insisted on me to ask these manufacturers to meet either him or directly the honourable deputy CM sir.” Vaze said he refused to comply with the directions.
The letter further contains allegations against minister Anil Parab. It said he was called by Parab to his official bungalow in July or August 2020. “At the meeting, the minister Sir asked me to look into the SBUT complaint which was under preliminary enquiry and asked me to bring the trustees of the SBUT to him for negotiation about the enquiry. He also insisted to initiate primary talks to get Rs 50 crore from the SBUT in order to close the said enquiry,” the letter said, adding that again, he had expressed his inability to do this as he did not know anyone from SBUT nor he had control over the inquiry. It added that in January this year, Parab again called him to his official bungalow and asked him to look into fraudulent contractors listed in the BMC and asked him to collect at least Rs 2 crore from 50 such contractors. He said further that the inquiry was upon an anonymous complaint and until his transfer from the Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) nothing incriminating was found.
The letter dated 3 April ended stating, “Your honour, I am putting these facts before your honour to get justice for me.”
On Vaze’s allegations, minister Anil Parab said, “So many days have passed, but to malign the image of Uddhav Thackeray, he has made allegations now. Since the past few days, the BJP has been saying they are going to attack one more minister which means this seems to be planned…the BJP already knows about this.”
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MACRON CALLS BENNETT ON ALLEGATIONS OF SNOOPING
JERUSALEM: According to a media report, French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken to Israeli PM Naftali Bennett regarding reports that Morocco’s security forces may have used the Pegasus spyware to snoop on his cellphones,.
A global media consortium last week reported that 50,000 cellphone numbers were being spied on using the Pegasus malware, which has been developed by Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group. The mobile phones of French President Macron and 15 members of his government may have been among potential targets, according to a member of the media consortium.
Macron called Bennett on Thursday and asked him to ensure that “the issue was being taken seriously”, Israel’s Channel 12 reported on Saturday evening. The Israeli PM said that the allegations are from a period when he had not assumed office but assured that the required conclusions on the matter will be reached upon. Macron had called an urgent national security meeting on Thursday to discuss the Pegasus spyware after reports about its misuse in France emerged.
IN A FIRST, SAUDI WOMEN STAND GUARD IN MECCA
MECCA: Dozens of female soldiers have become a part of the security services that monitor pilgrims in Mecca and Medina, the birthplaces of Islam. This is a significant stride towards women empowerment.
For the first time, Saudi female soldiers are standing guard in Mecca as thousands of Muslim pilgrims take part in this year’s Hajj, as per Deutsche Welle report.
Women dressed in military khaki uniforms were seen monitoring the security situation in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Along with khaki, they were sporting a hip-length jacket, loose trousers, and a black beret over a veil covering their hair. While adhering to Covid-19 protocols, thousands of vaccinated Muslim pilgrims gathered at Mecca to perform Hajj.
According to Al Jazeera, 10,000 vaccinated Muslim pilgrims circled Islam’s holiest site in Mecca last Sunday, but remained socially distanced and wore masks as the Coronavirus takes its toll on the Hajj for a second year running.
63 dead, 5 missing in China’s flood-hit Henan
HENAN: The death toll from the heavy rains and floods that hit China’s central province of Henan has risen to 63, while five people remain missing as of Sunday.
More than 852,000 people were relocated. Some 876.6 thousand hectares of crops were affected and 24,474 houses collapsed, reported Global Times. Torrential rains have battered Henan province since last weekend. Several videos surfaced on social media showing the severity of the flooding.
Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of 12 million people, is one of the worst-hit areas.
Zhengzhou’s meteorological station has described the level of rainfall as “once in a thousand years.”
Henan’s water resources department, meanwhile, has called rain levels in parts of the province “once in 5,000 years.”
XI JINPING MEETS TOP MILITARY OFFICIALS IN LHASA
Chinese President Xi Jinping, 68, made his first official visit to Tibet from Wednesday to Friday. But his important visit was kept under wraps by China’s official media till the end of the tour on Friday due to the sensitivities of the trip.
Xi underlined the importance of long-term stability and prosperity in Tibet during a meeting with top military officials in Lhasa, the state media reported on Saturday, a day after he made aunannounced visit to the strategically important region, including to Nyingchi, a town close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh.
Xi, who is also General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, met top officials of the Tibet Military Command of the People’s Liberation Army, guarding China’s border with India in Arunachal Pradesh, and also called for “fully strengthening the work of training soldiers and war preparation,” as per the CPC-run tabloid Global Times report.
As part of his trip, he first went to Nyingchi, a strategically located town close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh. On Thursday, Xi went to Nyingchi Railway Station. It was the first time in recent years, a top Chinese leader visited the Tibetan border town. From there he went to the provincial capital Lhasa by the recently launched high-speed train.
He wound up his visit to the politically sensitive Himalayan region on Friday by meeting “representatives of troops stationed in Tibet”.
“Xi met with representatives of troops stationed in Tibet, calling for efforts to strengthen military training and preparedness in all aspects and make contributions to the lasting stability, prosperity and development of Tibet,” as per the state-run Xinhua news agency report.
However, the Global Times said that Xi, in his meeting with the PLA representatives, stressed “the local troops should fully strengthen the work of training soldiers and war preparation and contribute positive strength to promote the long-term stability and prosperity of Tibet”.
Xi’s first visit to Tibet took place amidst the current India-China military tensions in eastern Ladakh.
According to Xinhua, Xi visited the Tibet Autonomous Region in connection with the 70th anniversary of Tibet’s “peaceful liberation the first time in the history of the Party and the country.”
He extended congratulations to the 70th anniversary of Tibet’s peaceful liberation, visited officials and ordinary people of various ethnic groups and conveyed the CPC Central Committee’s care to them, the report said.
CHINA DISMANTLING PEACE IN AFGHAN BY COLLUDING WITH PAK, TALIBAN: COLUMNIST
New Delhi: A columnist from Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Ganderbali, on Sunday, blamed China for dismantling peace in Afghanistan by collaborating with Pakistan and supporting the Taliban. Ganderbali tweeted,“China is trying to dismantle peace in the region by collaborating With Pakistan and supporting Taliban, all this at a time when peace and civilian rule of democracy was getting restored in the great nation of Afghanistan. The adventures of Pak-China will kill stability for Afghan.” He often writes in a Pakistani Newspaper Pakistan Christian Post highlighting the plights of the Christian minority in the country. Ganderbali is also the founder of Peace and Justice Forum.
With the US troops’ drawdown from Afghanistan on the verge of completion, a new terror axis is emerging in the Afghan-Pak geopolitical theatre with the convergence of interests between Pakistan and China. Amid the Taliban’s increasing grip over Afghanistan, Pakistan has dropped all pretensions of being an ally of the US led-western countries despite the much-needed American safety net on key issues that have a direct impact on its economy, wrote Fabien Baussart in The Times of Israel.
“We will no longer allow China’s Uyghur separatist fighters (from Xinjiang),” Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a widely circulated interview. Taliban spokesperson admitted that some Uyghur had previously sought refuge in Afghanistan. He, however, promised not to host them.
According to Baussart, the Taliban can be as duplicitous as their patrons. “Well, China may hope to leverage its money power against any likelihood of a breach in the promise by the Taliban; such a hope, even after its Pakistan experience, exposes its inability not to look beyond the nose.” From all accounts, he stated that China seeks to fill the unfolding void in Afghanistan. “It is ready with cash and weapons that the Taliban may need in case the nationalist forces try to checkmate its expansion within the country.”
INDIA AND PAKISTAN NEED TO WORK TOGETHER TO RESOLVE BILATERAL ISSUES: US
WASHINGTON: The United States has said that India and Pakistan need to work with each other to resolve their bilateral issues, observing that it had always encouraged the two neighbours to build a more stable relationship going forward. “With regard to India-Pakistan, I would just note that we strongly believe that India and Pakistan’s issues are ones for them to work out between themselves,” .
During a conference call on Friday, Dean Thompson, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs told reporters, “We are pleased to see that the ceasefire that went into place earlier this year is — has remained intact, and we certainly always encourage them to continue their efforts to find ways to build a more stable relationship going forward.” Thompson said this in response to a question. —Correspondent
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