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Sonia, SRK in Newsweek's list of 50 most powerful people

Dharam Shourie in New York | December 21, 2008 17:50 IST

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi [Images] and superstar Shah Rukh Khan [Images] have been ranked among the 50 most powerful people in the world by prestigious United States-based magazine Newsweek magazine, in a list topped by President-elect Barack Obama [Images].

Pakistan army [Images] chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who controls the country's nuclear weapons, is placed 20th on the list of the global 'power elite', at the beginning of 2009 in the magazine's January issue.

Obama, who scripted history by becoming the first black American to be voted to the White House, is followed by
Chinese President Hu Jintao, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Markel and powerful Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [Images].

A surprise inclusion in the list, which the magazine admits is subjective, is Osama bin Laden [Images], whom Newsweek describes as a 'global terrorist'. North Korean dictator Jim Jong II also finds a place in the list.

Placing Sonia Gandhi at the 17th spot, the magazine says though the Indian political scene is driven by factions, Congress remains the strongest national force and rules unchallenged. "In the world's largest democracy, she is the queen," it states.

The magazine describes Shah Rukh Khan, who occupies 41st spot, as the 'King of Bollywood'.

"It's not just that his (Shah Rukh Khan's) romantic flicks make gazillions  it's where those gazillions come from. Khan is huge in the Muslim world, even in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the mullahs ban his films. (The movies thrive on the black market.)

"Their main appeal is certainly the song-and-dance numbers, but Khan (a Muslim married to a Hindu) makes devoutly secular films where love trounces bigotry," the magazine says, adding that Sonia Gandhi gives Khan's DVDs to visitors, especially Muslim ones. "Here's hoping tolerance will leap from reel life to real life."

On Kayani, it says that in theory this mumbling chain-smoking Pakistan army chief answers to President Asif Ali
Zardari. But Kayani and his troops remain the dominant power in what could be the most dangerous country in the world, it adds.

"He's responsible for Pakistan's nukes; for the battle against Al Qaeda [Images] and its tribal allies along the Afghan border;
and for managing tensions with neighbour India," the magazine stresses, noting that so far, his army has kept itself out of politics and seems focused on the battle against 'jihadists'.

"In the wake of the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Kayani stood firm on Pakistan's sovereignty while also taking measures against the alleged sponsors of the outrage," it says.

About 47-year-old Obama, it says the presidency of the 'intensely charismatic' Democrat, which will be inaugurated on
January 20, will be judged on how he handles the economic crisis that now envelops the US and the world. "For Obama to be remembered as a great President, he has to do nothing less than rescue capitalism."

For bin Laden, who finds 42nd spot, the magazine says the manhunt may not have been successful, but it has driven him far underground. Once a glutton for publicity, he has not shot a new video since September 2007, and no audio message from him has been heard since May 2008, it says.




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