Pakistan Is Learning The Price Of Working With China: Their Sovereignty!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Not aware of Pakistan’s move to exclude PoK dam from CPEC, says China

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), runs through PoK and India has raised objections to the project.

WORLD Updated: Nov 16, 2017 18:54 IST

Press Trust of India, Beijing
In this photograph taken on October 4, 2017, Pakistani naval personnel stand guard near a ship carrying containers at Gwadar Port. Remote and impoverished, Pakistan's Gwadar port at first glance seems an unlikely crown jewel in a multi-billion dollar development project. with China aiming at constructing a 21st century Silk Road.
In this photograph taken on October 4, 2017, Pakistani naval personnel stands guard near a ship carrying containers at Gwadar Port. Remote and impoverished, Pakistan’s Gwadar port at first glance seems an unlikely crown jewel in a multi-billion dollar development project. with China aiming at constructing a 21st century Silk Road.(AFP)

Amid reports of Pakistan’s move to withdraw its bid to include Diamer-Bhasha Dam in PoK from the CPEC framework, China said on Thursday it was not aware of Islamabad’s decision but the project to connect Xinjiang and Gwadar port is “progressing smoothly for the time being”.

Pakistan’s water and power development authority (Wapda) chairman Muzammil Hussain was on Wednesday quoted by the Pakistan media as saying that “Chinese conditions for financing the Diamer-Bhasha Dam were not doable and against our interests.”

“I am not aware of the information mentioned by you,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told media in Beijing when asked about Pakistan’s decision to take the dam project off the table contending that the conditions proposed by Beijing is “not doable” and goes against its interest.

“I can tell you that China and Pakistan cooperation is extensive and profound,” Geng said. “As far as I know CPEC is progressing smoothly for the time being.”

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Briefing the Public Accounts Committee on the status of the mega water and power project, Hussain had said the Chinese conditions were about taking ownership of the project, operation and maintenance cost and securitization of the Diamer-Bhasha project by pledging another operational dam.

These conditions were unacceptable, therefore, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approved a report to finance the dam from the country’s own resources, Hussain said.

Pakistan’s decision to publicise Chinese conditions came as a surprise, considering it shares close and “all weather” ties with China.

The announcement by the Pakistan government came days before the 7th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting with China, which is scheduled for November 21 in Islamabad.

The JCC is the highest decision-making body of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through which China is infusing over $50 billion cash into Pakistan financing a host of energy projects. The CPEC passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Defending the connectivity project, Geng said “as for the CPEC we follow the principle of extensive consultation and joint shared benefits to promote the building of the CPEC. It is conducive to promote connectivity of the two countries and connectivity of the whole region. As far as I know CPEC is progressing smoothly for the time being.”

Pakistan has been struggling to raise money from international institutions like the World Bank in the face of Indian opposition to the project on the Indus River in PoK.

Neither the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) nor China would finance the dam, therefore, the government decided to construct the reservoir from its own resources, Pakistan’s Express Tribune daily yesterday quoted Water Resources Secretary Shumail Khawaja as saying.

To resolve the problem in Kashmir, acknowledge the suffering of its people

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KASHMIR OBSERVER)

 

To resolve the problem in Kashmir, acknowledge the suffering of its people

If the Narendra Modi government has appointed Dineshwar Sharma to arrange the surrender of the separatist movement, nothing will happen


After a year of hammering the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir – killing more than 160 militants in targeted operations in 2017 alone and arresting at least 10 overground separatist leaders for their role in suspicious financial transactions – the Indian government is seeking to apply a balm. These are fairly standard tactics, but will they work?

The answer depends on many factors, primarily the character of the movement.

As of now, it is not clear what exactly Dineshwar Sharma’s role is in Jammu and Kashmir. Union minister Jitendra Singh pointedly said Sharma was not an interlocutor but merely “a special representative” of the government. Indeed, the October 24 notification appointing him described Sharma as a “representative of the government of India” whose task was to “carry forward the dialogue” with elected representatives, various organizations, and individuals. The day before, Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke of Sharma as a “special representative” who would “have full freedom to engage in talks with anyone he likes”.

At one level, it doesn’t really matter. “Interlocutor” was a word of convenience that fitted in the diverse collection of individuals and groups who have sought to work outside formal government structures to suggest solutions for the Kashmir problem. The way the government works, it does not really have to listen to anything such interlocutors tell it. Their role is strictly recommendatory and facilitative.

For the record, there has been no dearth of interlocutors who were interested in promoting a political solution to the issues roiling Kashmir and who had access to the highest levels of government. Some were self-appointed well-meaning folk, others informally asked to do the needful, yet others who were formally appointed and laid out their recommendations in formal reports. The Jammu and Kashmir legislature, too, added its bit by examining the issue of autonomy and sending its recommendations to Delhi in 2000, only to have them rejected peremptorily.

All had one thing in common – they were not the Government of India. At the end of the day, only the central government has the authority to take decisions on such matters. Yet, despite years and decades of reports, recommendations, cogitation, the government has not spelled out what it is willing to offer. True, there have been statements by prime ministers that the “sky is the limit” when it comes to autonomy, or that the issue needs to resolved within the ambit of insaniyat, or humanity. Most recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that Kashmir’s problems could not be resolved by bullets but “only by embracing its people”. But these are rhetorical statements that give no clues as to the Union Government’s bottom line.

Emphasise reconciliation

So what can we expect now? A great deal depends on what Modi wants. If the government has appointed Sharma to arrange the surrender of the separatist movement, nothing will happen. The Kashmiri insurgency is now nearly three decades old, having taken the lives of some 45,000 people, roughly half of them militants, 14,000 civilians and some 6,000 security personnel. The way the government sees it probably is that its policy of relentless police action and attrition has brought the militancy to its knees, and this is the best moment to step in with an offer of political dialogue. It is possible that the movement can be brought to a point of exhaustion by relentless police action. But it is like a fire where even embers can give life to a dying blaze if there is sufficient combustible material around.

Parse that another way and one could argue that having been willing to shed so much blood, Kashmiris will not accept a settlement that offers them nothing more than status quo ante as of January 1, 1990.

So, parse that another way and one could argue that has been willing to shed so much blood, Kashmiris will not accept a settlement that offers them nothing more than status quo ante as of January 1, 1990.

In the government’s reckoning, it is really unemployed youth and the internet that is causing the problem and so if jobs can be assured and the internet kept in check, things will work out. Things are not that simple. Historically, Kashmiris buttressed by geography, have had a sense of their uniqueness. The circumstances of their accession and the commitment of a plebiscite made by India and endorsed by the United Nations remain. No country in the world recognizes Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of India; all see it as disputed territory, including our big friend the United States.

Not many in India realize that the counter-insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir has been brutal. Extra-judicial killings, torture, and intimidation have been its constant features. And this for the last 30 years. So, on one hand, you have a hardened population and, on the other, an embittered one. Therefore, the political effort that you initiate must be thought through. Empty gestures are not going to mean much. Neither will they achieve the end you have in mind – the normalization of the situation.

What needs to be adopted is a perspective that emphasizes reconciliation. That’s a carefully chosen word. A brutal struggle has gone on in Kashmir for the past 30 years. To wish it away or to pretend it did not happen is to live in an imaginary world. The more honorable and pragmatic path is to accept that things happened and are happening and that there is a need to overcome them through the process of dialogue, negotiation, and compromise. The alternative is repeated cycles of violence and alienation, with fits of political intervention that will not really get you anywhere.

The Article First Appeared In Scroll.In

(Manoj Joshi is Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi).

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LoC: Line Of Control, Really? Then Us It! Kashmir-Jammu

My Philosophy On This Issue

This commentary is admittedly by a person who has never stepped foot in the region. My opinions formed are from thousands of miles away, formed by TV News slots and articles I have read. I look for only one thing, and that is peace. I look for the day that no one will ever need to defend themselves, because it is the day there is no such thing as an aggressor. I am realistic to the lack of love between segments of Pakistan and India. There has been bitter issues throughout the region for centuries, there is little love loss between many of the people who favor Islam and those who favor Hindu or even the Buddhist  Seventy years ago when India and Pakistan were formed it was a bitter and bloody divide.

 

As you probably know, most of the people on the Pakistan side of the LoC are people who believe in Islam. Also, almost all of the people on the India side of the LoC are Hindu. If the LoC has any real meaning, if it has been good enough for a temporary fix, cement the foundation in concrete and use it now, mark it with a forever marker. Here in the U.S. this would not be Constitutional but maybe there? Can the two governments work out a deal where all Hindu people in Pakistan are given free, peaceful, safe passage out of Pakistan to India on the India side of the LoC. India should do exactly the same thing, all of the people who are believers in Islam and would prefer to be citizens of Pakistan should go and do so. My suggestion for the leaders of Pakistan and of India, make the LoC, the final border between the two Countries. This is a harsh thing that I suggest I guess you call this segregation but in some cases of physical hatred, safety of all must come first. Learn to grow, to become peaceful neighbors and trading partners. Or, you can just go on as is, hating and killing, you, your wife, your kids. I pray that we can all find peace, before and after we die.

 

 

Hate And Fear For Villagers Living Near The ‘Line Of Control” (LOC)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

An unending ordeal for Kashmiri villagers on ‘live’ Indo-Pak border

Villagers barely two to three kilometers away from the zero line and in the direct line of fire have witnessed maximum number of skirmishes and casualties.

INDIA Updated: Oct 05, 2017 08:10 IST

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Allah/Arnia
Villagers say the tender minds of children, getting exposed to bloodshed and deaths at a young age, are left with a permanent scar.
Villagers say the tender minds of children, getting exposed to bloodshed and deaths at a young age, are left with a permanent scar.(Nitin Kanotra/HT File Photo)

More than 45,000 people across 42 villages and the most-populated border town of Arnia on Indo-Pak border in Jammu and Kashmir see themselves as sitting ducks for Pakistani artillery.

Some of the villages in Arnia sub-sector of Jammu district that witnessed skirmishes from September 13 to September 23 are barely two to three kilometres away from the zero line and are in the line of direct fire.

Guns on either side of 198-km long Indo-Pak international border fall silent intermittently, but villagers are sceptical of the fragile peace and live in a constant fear.

The two nuclear neighbours had agreed to a ceasefire in November 2003 but that now lies in tatters, as different parts of the line of control and the International Border whistle to the sound of mortar shelling. The arc has widened but Arnia remains in the constant gaze of Pakistan.

Artillery horror

Chuni Lal, 63, a marginal farmer in Allah village, who lost his wife Ratno Devi, 50, on the intervening night of September 16 and 17 to a Pakistani mortar, recounts the spine-chilling horror.

“Pakistan was raining mortars that night. All of us… my wife, two married sons, their wives and my six grand-children had huddled inside a room. Electricity had snapped after a mortar hit transmission lines. Around 2 am I shifted to an adjoining lobby as it was hot and sultry inside the room. Around 2.30 am my wife and daughter-in-law (Rajni Devi) came to lobby and had just opened the door when a mortar exploded with a deafening sound in our verandah. My wife’s left ankle was blown away and she suffered serious injuries in her abdomen too. Rajni was also bleeding profusely.”

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Lal sought a neighbour’s help, who drove his car for nearly two hours to shift Lal, Ratno Devi and Rajni Devi to a hospital in Jammu city where Ratno died.

Besides Ratno Devi, a BSF jawan Brijendra Bahadur was killed and over a dozen villagers were injured in Arnia in Pakistani firing that began on September 13.

Lal’s two sons Om Prakash, 46, and Subhash Chander, 40, work as labourers and do petty jobs to support the family.

Traumatised children

Subhash’s wife Rajni Devi, who had suffered serious injuries, along with her two daughters Mamta, 15, Janvi, 13, and son Nitish, 9, have been living in a relative’s house in a safe village, away from Pakistan’s firing range and away from their school as well.

Pakistan had rained 82 mm and 120 mm mortars — battalion level low trajectory weapons — on hapless villagers.

“The children are traumatised from what they saw that night. They don’t want to return home and we also are apprehensive of this fragile peace. Death stalks us all the time but we don’t have any option” says Subhash.

Grim future

Forget children’s education, the people in the border belt of Arnia are deprived of a normal life, says Subhash.

In Arnia sub-sector, the state government has shut 33 government schools with a total enrolment of around 1500 students within five km radius of the border.

Read more

Fifty-year-old Gopal Dass, a small farmer in Allah village says, “Education is important, rather indispensable in present times but how could our children pursue it in such a hostile and uncertain atmosphere?”

Dass divulges another aspect of the shelling. “At very young age these children get exposed to loud explosions, bloodshed and deaths. It leaves a permanent scar on their tender minds but then who cares for the children of a lesser God?”

HT came across a group of small children aged between 5 to 12 years at Pindi Charakan village.

When asked why they weren’t in their schools, six-year-old Tannu replied, “Pakistan bomb chalata hai na. School band hain. Humko chupna padta hai. (“Pakistan bombs us. Schools are closed. We have to go into hiding during shelling).”

Farming hit hard

Another farmer Rattan Lal, 63, says, “While a family (of Chuni Lal) has been ruined, unexploded shells are still lying in the agricultural fields. The farmers are still not going to their fields because you never know when Pakistan starts firing at us. They cannot be trusted. Initially, heavy shelling destroyed our paddy crop, especially in the fields beyond barbed fence (towards Pakistani territory), and now out of fear, we are not able to irrigate whatever is left.”

Lal, like several other villagers, feels that they are caught in a Catch-22 situation. Farming, by and large, is the major source of livelihood in the border areas.

Thoru Ram, 56, informs that though there has been no firing since September 23, the BSF as a precautionary measure, was not allowing farmers to go to their fields beyond the barbed fence.

“Farmers on other side (in Pakistan) are also not coming to their fields,” he says.

7,000 people, one bunker

Allah village with a population of 7,000 has only one bunker where an optimum of 30 people can take refuge during shelling.

The villagers dubbed it a cruel joke as water seeps in and fills almost half the bunker during monsoons. “It turns into a pool of water and is of no use. The government has spent Rs 5 lakh on it but it would have been far better and practical had the government constructed individual bunkers in the houses of the villagers,” says Thoru Ram, 56.

“When mortars are being rained, how could one think of reaching one corner of the village to get into the bunker? I think government of the day should apply some mind,” he mocks.

In Rajouri district, hundred bunkers are being constructed while the state government has submitted a proposal to the Centre for constructing 621 community bunkers at a cost of Rs 6 lakh each and 8,197 individual bunkers at a cost of Rs 2.40 lakh each.

Pakistan’s arc of fire

Since May 1, when Pakistani Border Action Teams killed and beheaded two Indian soldiers — JCO Paramjit Singh and BSF head constable Prem Sagar — in Krishna Ghati (KG) sector of Poonch district, there has been no let up in Pakistani firing and shelling in Rajouri and Poonch border districts.

In Nowshera sector of Rajouri, incessant Pakistani shelling triggered migration of over 4,000 villagers to six relief camps in Nowshera town in May.

Pakistan also opened other fronts along the international border in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts from August onwards.

“It has been a pattern of the enemy (Pakistan). During summers when there is no snow on the mountains and passes, Pakistan tries to push terrorists via LoC in Poonch and Rajouri districts and in winters their focus shifts to international border in Jammu region, usually Hiranagar, RS Pura, Arnia and Ramgarh. In the process they adopt all ploys of opening unprovoked fire on our posts and then flaring up the situation by targeting villages,” says a senior Army officer.

A police officer said that Arnia, the largest border town of the state just three km from the border is a soft target for Pakistan. The town has a population of nearly 20,000.

“They (Pakistan Rangers) are known for targeting hapless villagers and they know it is thickly populated,” the officer adds.

However, defence officials say there are other reasons, which can’t be shared in public domain.

BSF kills 3 Pakistani Rangers in retaliatory fire in Jammu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

BSF kills 3 Pakistani Rangers in retaliatory fire in Jammu

The Indian border guards retaliated after the Pakistani forces resorted to unprovoked firing in two separate places along the international border, according to a BSF officer.

INDIA Updated: Aug 27, 2017 00:34 IST

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Jammu
Three Pakistan Rangers were killed in retaliatory fire by the BSF after the Pakistani forces resorted to unprovoked firing in two separate places along the international border in Jammu.
Three Pakistan Rangers were killed in retaliatory fire by the BSF after the Pakistani forces resorted to unprovoked firing in two separate places along the international border in Jammu. (HT File Photo )

The Border Security Force (BSF) killed at least three Pakistani Rangers in retaliatory firing in two separate places along the Indo-Pakistan international border on Saturday.

BSF Jammu Frontier IG Ram Awtar told Hindustan Times over phone that the BSF eliminated a ranger at an area opposite to Arnia of RS Pura sector in Jammu district, where Pakistani forces opened sniper firing on Friday, injuring constable KK Apparao.

Two Rangers were eliminated opposite Dewra village in Sunderbani in a separate retaliatory fire, the IG added.

The Pakistani Rangers sniped Apparao when he was drinking water in BOP Budhwar in RS Pura of Jammu district, said another BSF officer.

A bullet was lodged above the jawan’s ear. He was operated upon last night and his condition is stated to be stable.

The rangers resumed unprovoked firing on Saturday afternoon firing four 51mm and two 81/82 mm mortars. Two mortars exploded in Dewra village in Sunderbani.

The BSF retaliated, killing two rangers, the officer added.

He said the Pakistani forces also resorted to unprovoked firing in Pargwal area of Jammu region around 2.50pm, prompting the BSF to retaliate.

There is no de-escalation in unprovoked firing from across the border even as the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers had “committed” themselves to maintaining peace at a commandant-level flag meeting in Samba sector on July 17.

Read more

In the flag meeting, the two sides had agreed to re- energise instant communication between field commanders, whenever required, to resolve “petty matters”, a BSF official had said.

“They committed to each other to maintain peace and tranquillity at the international border,” the official had added.

Three days ago, senior army commanders of India and Pakistan also held a flag meeting on the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector in J&K and agreed to institute mechanisms for durable peace and tranquillity on the border.

There has been a sharp increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan this year.

Pakistani forces since May had stepped up ceasefire violation along the LoC at Pir Panjal range in Rajouri and Poonch districts. Now they have opened another front in Jammu district.

Till August 1, there were 285 ceasefire violations by the Pakistani army while the number was significantly less at 228 for the entire year in 2016, according to an Indian army data

Eleven people, including nine soldiers, were killed and 18 injured in ceasefire violations by Pakistani army in July alone.

There were 83 ceasefire violations, one attack on border action team (BAT) and two infiltration bids from the Pakistani side in June in which four people, including three jawans, were killed and 12 injured.

In May, there were 79 ceasefire violations, according to officials.

Minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir visited Chamliyal outpost in Ramgarh area of Samba sector on Thursday to take stock of the prevailing border security scenario.

Indo-Pak commanders meet at LoC; agree to mechanism for durable peace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘STATE TIMES’ NEWS OF JAMMU/KASHMIR)

 

Indo-Pak commanders meet at LoC; agree to mechanism for durable peace

Army Commanders from India, Pakistan exchanging gifts after the meeting at Chakan-Da-Bagh in Poonch Sector.

State Times News
JAMMU: Senior Army commanders of India and Pakistan on Wednesday held a flag meeting on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir against the backdrop of numerous ceasefire violations and agreed to institute mechanisms for durable peace and tranquility on the border.
At the meeting of Battalion Commander-level officers, the Indian side highlighted “abetment and support of the Pakistan Army to cross-border terrorism, sniping actions on the Line of Control and deliberate targeting of civil population during cease fire violations,” a defence ministry spokesman said here.
The two sides agreed to keep the channels of communication open between local commanders at the LoC, he said.
“Indian and Pakistan Army held a Battalion Commander- level flag meeting at Chakan Da Bagh in Poonch Sector at 1100 hours today, in the backdrop of numerous ceasefire violations and casualties to civilian population in the past several months,” the spokesman said
“The meeting lasted for 50 minutes in a cordial atmosphere,” he added. He said that both sides mutually agreed to the importance of exercising restraint on the LoC and keeping the channels of communication open between local commanders.
Both sides also agreed for necessity to institute mechanisms to ensure durable peace and tranquility along the Line of Control, the spokesman added.
Resumption of trade and transit through Chakan-Da-Bagh was also discussed during the flag meeting, he said.
The year 2017 has seen a sharp increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
Till August 1, there were 285 such violations by the Pakistan Army while in 2016, the number was significantly less at 228 for the entire year, according to the Army figures.
Eleven people, including nine soldiers, were killed and 18 injured in ceasefire violations by Pakistan Army in the month of July, the Army data says.
There were 83 ceasefire violations, one BAT (border action team) attack and two infiltration bids from the Pakistani side in June in which 4 people, including three jawans, were killed and 12 injured.
In May, there were 79 ceasefire violations, according to officials.

At least seven pilgrims killed in Indian administered Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

At least seven pilgrims killed in Indian administered Kashmir

A police spokesman said the bus was returning from the hard-to-reach Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath when militants and Indian police exchanged fire at Botengoo, Monday night, on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, south of the capital Srinagar.
“Terrorists fired on a police checkpoint and the fire was returned. A tourist bus was hit by bullets,” police spokesman Manoj Pandita said in a statement.
An estimated 60 to 70 pilgrims had boarded the bus at the Baltel base camp, reaching Botengoo just after sunset around 8.20 p.m. local time.
The bus was traveling after sunset — which is banned throughout the region due to security restrictions. It didn’t have the usual police escort and may not have had the correct registration paperwork, according to local authorities.
Amarnath is considered one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. Located at an altitude of 3,888 meteres (12,756 feet) and surrounded by snowy mountain peaks, the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine kicked off on June 29 and will culminate on August 7.
The last major attack on pilgrims in the area was carried out in August 2002, in which nine people were killed in Pahalgam.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack on social media, saying that “India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and evil designs of hate.”
The attack coincided with the first anniversary of the death of Burhan Wani, a 21-year-old commander of the militant separatist group Hizbul Mujaheedin.
It happened just hours after a government imposed curfew was lifted. The curfew had been placed over the weekend in anticipation of an attack to mark the anniversary.
Wani’s death in July 2016 resulted in violent clashes between between protesters and security forces, that left at least 20 people dead and more than 300 injured.

‘Trump-Modi nexus’ could spell disaster for regional peace: AJK president

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWSPAPER DAWN)

Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Mohammad Masood Khan in a statement on Tuesday warned that a “Trump-Modi nexus” could spell disaster to regional peace.

The statement follows a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the run-up to which the US State Department had designated Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist and slapped sanctions on him ─ a move slammed by the Foreign Office today as ‘completely unjustified’.

Read more: Unjust to designate supporters of Kashmiri struggle as terrorists: FO

The White House had called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries, a statement from the White House said.

Sardar Khan, who retired from the foreign service of Pakistan as a career diplomat, claimed that the US had always deceived Pakistan and its latest decision was yet another example of it.

“The US has never acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices despite the latter’s being a frontline state in the war against terrorism,” he said.

Khan questioned the justification of the US decision, claiming that the Hizbul Mujahideen had been struggling solely for freedom of India-held Kashmir (IHK), and was neither linked to any terrorist group nor had resorted to any action outside IHK.

“In fact, it’s the Indian army committing terrorism in occupied Kashmir. Ignoring the genocide of Kashmiris by Indian army and declaring freedom fighters as terrorists is a criminal departure from international humanitarian and democratic norms by the US,” he claimed.

Kashmiris protest US move

Hundreds of people from different walks of life staged a rally in the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to condemn the US administration’s decision of designating Salahuddin a terrorist.

Demonstrators started the rally from Muzaffarabad’s famous Burhan Wani Chowk, named after a Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian forces in IHK last year.

Just in front of them, a large Indian tricolour flag was also placed on the ground with two young children standing on it.

Amid loud anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, it was later torched by the demonstrators.

Representatives of separatist groups and political parties took strong exception to the decision which they termed a reprehensible attempt by the Trump administration to please India.

Speaking at the rally, Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and a former AJK minister, claimed it was the weak foreign policy of the PML-N led government in Islamabad that had encouraged the Trump administration to take this step during Modi’s visit.

“If you are serious in your avowals of extending diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris, then you should show some strength and as a first step summon the US and Indian envoys in [the] Foreign Office to lodge [a] protest over this unfair decision,” he said, addressing the federal government.

Ahmed also asked the AJK government to give a strike call on both sides of disputed Kashmir, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given for February 28, 1974, to express rejection of the US decision.

“All political parties and mujahideen groups should be taken on board to make this strike a historic one,” he said.

PPP leader Shaukat Javed Mir and several others also spoke on the occasion.

Kashmir Schools Being Closed 60% Of The Time: Causing A ‘lost’ Generation?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA NEWS 18.COM)

One of the biggest schools of Jammu and Kashmir became a venue to a fierce 16-hour gun-battle between security forces and militants early on Sunday. The encounter inside DPS Srinagar ended when security forces eliminated two terrorists.

In some time from now, security forces will finish a room-by-room search of the school and will announce the school safe. And a few days later its students, a lot of who presumably are right now curiously following the violence unfolding in their classrooms, will be asked to resume classes.

It will be tough, but DPS Srinagar’s students won’t be the only ones who would’ve felt violence unfold palpably close to them, who would’ve stayed away from each other and the school for long periods, and intermittently attended a few school classes.

Over the last one year, schools and colleges in the Valley have remained shut for six out of every 10 working days, leading to near-loss of entire academic year. Since July 8, 2016, educational institutions have stayed open on only 80 out of 197 working days, according to a report by IndiaSpend.

In April, for the first time, one saw images of young school girls flinging stones at security forces in Kashmir.

And during this period, starting from the death of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, well over 150 people have died, about 20,000 have been injured and hundreds have lost their eye-sight.

“A couple of years ago, it was okay for me and my friends to come back from school in evening. Now, we are home by early afternoon, that is, if we go to school at all,” rues Bashir, a Class 10 student from Pulwama. People in Kashmir are no stranger to the vicious cycle of conflict and violence, and children, like Bashir, are the worst-hit.

Union Home Ministry’s data shows that in 2016 as many as 2,690 incidents of stone-pelting took place. And with every such incident, the state administration’s first response has been to shut down educational institutes as a precautionary measure.

Changing Face of Classrooms

Although schools and colleges have often been used as protest venues by students, it was for the first time that they’ve turned into active battlegrounds.

In April this year, local police barged into a degree college in Pulwama and fired tear-gas shells and pellets at protesting students inside. Over 60 students were injured, most of them girls. In retaliation, for the first time in the Valley, thousands of students across schools and colleges erupted in anger. For the first time, one saw images of young school girls flinging stones at security forces in Kashmir.

Classes were suspended for weeks as educationists kept urging students to go back to schools.

As their schools remain shut most of the times, students are forming neighbourhood groups where those who can afford have hired tutors and those who can’t are helping each other.

Once schools reopened, the discussions in classrooms went beyond topics of the solar system or equations of mathematics. Children were seen huddled, discussing turbulent environment around them, either with a sense of fear or rage, said Nayeema, a teacher based in Pulwama.

“What else do you expect? Students here can’t afford to be innocent. They are deeply political as they the worst-hit. There is no way they can concentrate on academics. The Valley is deep into conflict and the first thing that happens whenever the situation snowballs is a crackdown on schools and colleges,” said Nayeema.

A feeling of being discriminated, Nayeema said, rules the minds of students.

“Forces march inside school and college campuses at their will. Will a normal student be fine with that?” asked Mir, a budding writer and Class 12 student based in Baramulla. Mir recounts the day he was sitting on the window sill of his classroom, along with a friend, when a tear-gas shell was allegedly thrown into the school playground. “We were evacuated by teachers. Many students fell unconscious due to breathlessness,” she added.

“I have lost friends. It’s not like we have seen total peace, but earlier we at least has schools to divert our attention,” said Mir.

Learning Without Schools

Bashir and Mir are among students who are struggling not to lose their grasp on academics. As their schools remain shut most of the times, students are forming neighbourhood groups where those who can afford have hired tutors and those who can’t are helping each other.

“We all try and sit together to study. There are few seniors around my home. So, I take my books and see if they can help. Rest of it is self-study,” said Bashir. His parents said even on days when schools are open, they are scared of sending their son to school.

Nayeema said internet came as a boon for students in the Valley as those who missed school could catch up through online tutorials. But that too remains shut most of the times.

Uncertain Future

Educationists fear that if schools and colleges continue to remain shut, an army of uneducated and unemployable youths will be created, further pushing Kashmir into violence and protests. Angry and directionless youths might also make for easy target of terrorist groups.

“The youth in the Valley is staring at a bleak future. There are no two ways about it. Schools and colleges are shut for most of the times. There are bans on the internet. On top of it all, even if there were community study circles, parents are scared to let their children step out of the houses,” said Mushtaq Ul Haq Sikander, a writer and researcher.

Security forces in and around campuses has become a common sight in the Valley. So is the sight of boys and girls, in their school uniforms, attacking forces with stones.

Vijay Dhar, founder of Delhi Public School, Srinagar, highlighted how the school functioned in the face of constant curbs and shutdowns. “We kept our schools open on Sundays. We conducted pre-board exams in the indoor stadium. Results of the students have been stupendous. So, it’s clearly not like the students don’t want to study. If given a chance, they want to excel,” he said.

Additionally, the school had, during the period of curbs on internet, sent out video lessons on various gadgets to the homes of its students. While Dhar could pull it off successfully, scores of other students who had no access to such lessons at home suffered.

A Fight for Rights

Security forces in and around campuses has become a common sight in the Valley. So is the sight of boys and girls, in their school uniforms, attacking forces with stones. The idea of being looked at with suspicious eyes is a trigger in itself.

“What good will the forces and the administration get by shutting our schools, and then looking at us with suspicious eyes and doing physical search whenever they feel like?” asked Mir.

But, what about those who are found indulging in stone pelting incidents? “They have no option,” said Mir. “We are finding ways to channelise our anger and the environment around us making it worse,” he added.

Dhar said, “Many of them are angry at the sight of forces all around them. But there are also many more youngsters who are furious because they don’t know a thing about their future. Their education is suffering and there are no concrete jobs. Their mindset is that of looking after themselves, and not caring about anyone else.”

“The youths need to be educated. They need to be empowered. The way things are going, Kashmir will have a big percentage of semi-literate generation,” said Mushtaq.

Army Grooms Jammu and Kashmir Kids For IIT, General Rawat Has Message

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NDTV)

As Army Grooms Jammu and Kashmir Kids For IIT, General Rawat Has Message

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As Army Grooms Jammu and Kashmir Kids For IIT, General Rawat Has Message

General Bipin Rawat met Jammu and Kashmir students coached by the Army under its ‘Super 40’ initiative.

NEW DELHI:  For young men and women picking up stones in Kashmir, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has a message: Pick up books, not stones.  And he has some inspiring stories to share – that of 35 children from Jammu and Kashmir who prepped for engineering schools under the army’s ‘Super 40’ initiative.
Nine of them have made it to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology this year. The rest have qualified for other engineering schools across India. On Tuesday, the Army Chief came face-to-face with the 35-odd students, a sharp contrast to the ones that the army usually deals with in Jammu and Kashmir.This group had quietly enrolled for coaching under the army’s initiative to give children from the state a better chance to join the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) when their friends were out on the streets..

General Rawat hoped there were more like them in Kashmir.

“They (the youth) should either have a laptop or a book. Whatever time they get they should devote to studies,” General Rawat told the young students according to Press Trust of India, his remarks aimed at the youth back home who have been turning up on the streets in Kashmir, often with stones in their hand, to target security forces.

In recent weeks, the Army Chief has come out strongly in support of army officers using innovative measures to fight what he had called was a proxy war, a “dirty war”.

At one point, he had suggested in an interview that it would have been much simpler if it had people firing weapons at them, instead of flinging stones. “Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I (want to do),” he told Press Trust of India last month in an interview that echoed the predicament of the army officers in dealing with youngsters.

On Tuesday, General Rawat also told the young students born well after militancy peaked in the 1990s that he had served in the state in 1981-82 when the “situation was good”. The situation started deteriorating during his second posting between 1991 and 1993, the Army Chief said, noting that he also had stints in J-K from 2006-2008 and then from 2010-12.

“Generations have been destroyed due to this. The fear that has set in the mind of people of Kashmir and the youth… (that) a militant or the security forces will come… So you have militants on one side and security forces on the other. How long will we stay in this atmosphere? We have to put an end to it. We wish that peace is restored there and we carry out our daily work without any problem,” Gen Rawat told the students who had broken all previous records this year.

An army statement said a record 26 boys and two girls from the state had cracked the IIT-JEE Mains Exam 2017 including nine cleared the IIT Advanced Exam. This was the first batch in which five girls from Kashmir valley were coached. A PTI report said the ‘Super 40’ students who did not clear the IIT-JEE Mains exam had made it through the state’s entrance test for engineering.

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