Indo-Pak secy level talks in Islamabad

Indo-Pak secy level talks in Islamabad
Bhavna Vij-Aurora
New Delhi, November 24, 2008

Armed with a detailed report on investigations into Samjhauta Express blast last year in which 68 people – mostly Pakistani nationals – were killed, Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta has left for Islamabad on Monday.

He will be holding talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Federal Secretary Interior, Syed Kamal Shah on Tuesday. Sources said that though there is not a very rigid agenda for the fifth round of home secretary level talks between the two countries, India is expecting Pakistan to raise the issue.

“Pakistan has raised this issue several times with India during talks at various levels. So far, we did not have anything concrete to tell them. Even now, though things are not very concrete, at least some headway has been made,” disclosed a senior home ministry official.

However, it is also somewhat embarrassing for the Indian side since the needle of suspicion is now on Hindu terrorists, and not the Muslim ones as the investigating agencies had suspected. “We have told them each time that it is probably Bangladesh-based HuJI and Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba. Now it will be a complete U-turn,” the official added.

The talks are part of the on-going composite dialogue process between the two countries. The last home secretary level talks between India and Pakistan were held in July 2007 in New Delhi.

Home Ministry’s Additional Director General (Media & Communications) Onkar Kedia said that these talks will be held in the backdrop of recently initiated cross-LoC trade, which is a big step towards bringing people closer. “The talks seek to intensify efforts on the part of both the countries to discuss issues relating to terrorism, counterfeit currency, drug trafficking, exchange of prisoners and visa regime,” he said.


Heavy voter turnout sharpens urban-rural divide in Kashmir

Heavy voter turnout sharpens urban-rural divide in Kashmir

Ganderbal (J-K) (PTI): The heavy turnout in the first two phases of elections in Jammu and Kashmir has sharpened the urban-rural divide in the Kashmir Valley with both sides blaming each other for the “political mess” in the state.

In the urban areas, people have boycotted the polls in “response” to calls of the separatist forces and blamed the villagers for the “ills” in their locality, while country folks in large numbers supported the mainstream political parties and voted in their favour saying the state should not be allowed to be in turmoil forever.

During the second phase of elections in this newly created district on Sunday, people from rural areas of the district turned out in large numbers to exercise their franchise while only committed party workers in the urban areas mustered courage to enter the polling stations and cast their votes.

Yesterday’s voting was almost the repeat of the first phase of polls held on November 17 in Bandipora district where large number of villagers came out to vote.

“We have come to vote … please do not ask me the reasons but one thing is sure that we cannot continue with strikes, stone-pelting and killing of youth forever. There has to be an end to all this,” Mushtaq Ahmad, a youth from Kangan area in Ganderbal district, told PTI.

Ahmad said although he was all for the boycott call of the separatists when the Amarnath Land Transfer row erupted in June this year, he changed his mind after the treatment meted out to them by the city people on July 13 at the graveyard of the 1931 martyrs.

“The martyrs of 1931 laid down their lives for an end to the aristocracy of the Maharajahs and nobody, mainstream or separatist, should be prevented from paying homage to them,” Ahmad said.

J&K set for elections amid tight security

J&K set for elections amid tight security

Srinagar/Jammu (IANS): Jammu and Kashmir goes to the polls Monday to elect a new assembly amid boycott calls by separatists, with the 10 constituencies in the first of seven-phase elections spread over the Kashmir Valley, the Hindu-majority Jammu region and the mainly Buddhist Ladakh.

With a world keenly watching the outcome of the electoral battle, the authorities have deployed tens of thousands of security personnel to ensure peaceful polling following boycott calls by separatists.

But defiance of the militant groups is already in some evidence. In the fray are a record 102 candidates, including 22 in Sonawari and 19 in Bandipora constituencies in the Kashmir Valley, the hub of the separatist movement that has claimed thousands of lives since 1989.

But officials and political pundits have warned that the boycott call could hit turnout in the valley although polling is expected to be high in Ladakh and Jammu’s Poonch district.

Vying for power are the Congress, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Also in the fray are the Panthers Party as well as a slew of independents.

The Congress and PDP had together ruled the state since 2002 but the government of Congress chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad collapsed after the PDP withdrew its legislative support this year.

The 10 of 87 constituencies going to the polls Monday are Gurez, Bandipora and Sonawari (Kashmir Valley), Leh, Nobra, Zanskar and Kargil (Ladakh) and Surankote, Mendhar and Poonch-Haveli (Jammu region).

There are six candidates in Gurez, Poonch-Haveli has 13, Mendhar 12, Surankote 11, and there are five each in Kargil, Leh and Zanskar and four in Nobra.

“We are expecting a fairly good voter turnout in the four assembly constituencies of Ladakh region and the three in Jammu region,” said one official.

The authorities have warned separatists and their supporters not to disrupt the electoral process.

But political leaders admitted that the boycott call would affect voter turnout in Bandipora and Sonawari but not Gurez, located in northern Kashmir close to the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Campaigning by political parties and others has been low key in Bandipora and Sonawari, which have strong separatist pockets of influence.

The separatist leaders have called for a march to Bandipora and Sonawari Monday.

But Inspector General of Police B. Srinivas said: “We have a strategy to isolate the separatist leaders so that they do not succeed in preventing voters from exercising their democratic right to vote. But we shall also not force an unwilling voter to vote.”

The main battle in the Muslim-majority valley is expected to be between the National Conference, PDP and influential independents. The Congress seems to have lost ground in the valley following violent protests there against the allotment of land to the Amarnath shrine board.

In Ladakh’a Kargil and Zanskar areas, which have sizeable Muslim voters, could be a safe bet for the National Conference. Nobra and Leh could throw up Buddhist candidates as likely winners. Leh, Nobra and Kargil were won by independents in 2002 while the National Conference won in Zanskar.

In Bandipora, National Conference’s Ghulam Rasool Mir is pitted against Nizamuddin Bhat of PDP and Usman Majid of Awami League. Going by the undercurrent in Bandipora, Majid, who won in 2002, has the upper hand.

In Sonawari, National Conference’s sitting legislator Muhammad Akbar Lone faces a serious challenge from Yasir Reshi of PDP and an independent Shia candidate, Abid Ansari, younger brother of Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, a Shia leader of the valley.

In Gurez, Nazir Ahmed Gurezi of the National Conference is seeking re-election. He is pitted against Fakir Muhammad of the Congress.

In Mendhar, Surankote and Poonch-Haveli, the Congress, National Conference and BJP take on one another. Mendhar and Poonch-Haveli were won by the National Conference in the last elections.

B.R. Sharma, the state chief electoral officer, said all preparations were in place for the polls.

The 10 constituencies will have 1,064 polling stations. There are 58,073 voters in Kargil, 62,533 in Leh, 20,044 in Zanskar, 11,863 in Nobra, 84,726 in Sonawari, 86,306 in Bandipora, 15,330 in Gurez, 84,969 in Surankote, 77,853 in Mendhar and 96,758 voters in Poonch-Haveli.

In Nobra, a polling station has been set up for just 14 voters (seven men and women each). Twentyfour polling staff and security men will be deployed in this centre.

Polling in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in seven phases: Nov 17, Nov 23, Nov 30 and Dec 7, Dec 13, Dec 17 and Dec 24. The counting of votes will take place Dec 28.

IFJ flays JK govt on restrictions

IFJ flays JK govt on restrictions


SRINAGAR, NOV 9: The Belgium based International Federation of Journalists and its affiliate organisation, the National Union of Journalists (India) have expressed concern over the JK government’s advisory to the media organisations, warning against the “publication of certain objectionable material”.
The media has been directed by the government to “refrain from publication of objectionable and seditious material” and failure to comply would constrain government to “take action” under rules, which also allow for the withdrawal of official advertising from non-compliant organisations.
“The use of a term such as sedition in official notifications involving the press is a matter of serious concern for all journalists,” said the IFJ Asia-Pacific in a statement.
“We urge the Jammu and Kashmir government to de-link their ad placement policy from the editorial stance of particular newspapers in the interests of genuine media freedom.”
The IFJ criticized the move to impose curbs on media.



CC Announces Anti-Election Campaign; Appeals People To Assemble At Jamia Today


Srinagar, Nov 6: Unmoved by the Government’s crackdown on pro-freedom leaders, the Coordination Committee on Thursday sought to counter the elections in the state by announcing Valley-wide shutdown and peaceful marches to headquarters of the respective constituencies on the polling days.
The Coordination Committee, an amalgam of various pro-freedom parties, traders, lawyers and members of the civil society spearheading the ongoing resistance movement, was to announce the future course of action at Jamid Masjid today. However, the authorities prevented the march by imposing undeclared curfew in the Valley. The CC has decided to announce its program at Jamia Masjid on Friday.
The chairman of Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is also the co-chairman of the Coordination Committee, said the decision on the anti-election campaign has been taken after consultation with its members and pro-freedom leaders.
“We appeal people to assemble at the district headquarters of the constituencies on the election days. There will be complete shutdown on the elections days, however transport has been exempted to facilitate people and journalists to reach the venue,” Mirwaiz, who has been placed under house arrest, told Greater Kashmir.
Mirwaiz said the Coordination Committee has given go ahead to the Lal Chowk Chalo on December 24, the day when Srinagar goes to polls.
“On the day, people will assemble at Lal Chowk and then march to the United Nations Military Observers Group at Gupkar to submit a memorandum regarding the elections and Kashmir dispute,” Mirwaiz said.
“We reject the elections as substitute to the right of self-determination of Kashmiris and will fight for it, come what may. We will foil the attempts of India to pressurize Kashmiris to vote in presence of its eight lakh troops. Kashmiris have not been offering sacrifices for elections but for plebiscite,” Mirwaiz said.
Mirwaiz said he will make important announcement regarding the campaign at Jamia Masjid on Friday.
He condemned the imposition of curfew in the Valley to stop the Jamia Chalo march. “This shows the frustration of the Government. The authorities are so shattered by the fresh revolution for freedom that they did not allow people to assemble for paying homage to the martyrs of 1947. The international community should take a note of it,” Mirwaiz said.
Coordinator of the Coordination Committee, Advocate Bashir Ahmad Bhat, asked people to visit Jamia Masjid on Friday. “We are ready to sacrifice our lives for protecting the identity of Kashmiris and the sacred cause. Curfew or any other measure can’t suppress aspirations of the Kashmiris. We hope that people will adhere to our program,” Bhat said.
Pertinently, during the calls for Lal Chowk Chalo on August 25 and October 6, the state Government imposed curfew in Kashmir. To prevent the formation of a human chain on October 27, undeclared curfew was imposed in the Valley.
Mirwaiz paid glowing tributes to the lakhs of Muslims who were killed by the Dogra soldiers and extremists in Jammu on this day in 1947.
“Kashmiris are still being killed at will and whim of the troopers. On the anniversary of Jammu martyrs, we resolve to take the ongoing freedom movement to its logical conclusion,” he added.

CRPF to deploy 388 companies

CRPF to deploy 388 companies

NEW DELHI, Nov 4: The CRPF, chief para-military force assisting the military in Jammu and Kashmir, was rushing over 200 additional companies to the State in view of apprehensions of escalated violence during the forthcoming Assembly elections.

“In all, 388 companies would be present in the State during the 7-phase Assembly elections, as we expect a rise in violence going by the poll boycott call given by Hurriyat in Jammu and Kashmir,” CRPF Director General V K Joshi told the media.

“Throwing grenades at security forces is the most likely thing to happen during this period, because it is the most economic way to cause maximum casualty and damage,” Mr Joshi noted.

“Though we have no specific input as of now about any poll disruption plot, grenade attacks are what we feel is the most likely,” he said, adding all through the State’s history, it has been seen that as elections approach, violence increases.

“We already have 72 companies stationed in the State and for the November-December polls, we are beefing up security measures with additional 216 companies,” Mr Joshi said.

On the CRPF’s elite ‘Cobra Battalion’, the DG said of the ten battalions sanctioned, two would be raised during this financial year.

“By March-April, the two battalions would be ready for deployment. The other eight would be raised in three years time,” he added.

Mr Joshi also informed that there was no response from the Government yet on its request for a separate intelligence unit despite more than two years having passed by. “That would a big force multiplier and we have not received any information from the Government on it as yet.”(UNI)

LeT welcomes Moon’s statement on Kashmir

LeT welcomes Moon’s statement on Kashmir

News Agency of Kashmir 11/2/2008 8:02:49 PM

Srinagar, Nov 2 (NAK): Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) has welcomed the statement of United Nations, Secretary General, Banki-Moon that India and Pakistan should work together for an amicable solution to the Kashmir imbroglio.

In a tele-statement to News Agency of Kashmir Spokesman of the outfit Dr Abdullah Gaznavi quoting LeT chief Abdul Wahid Kashmir told News Agency of Kashmir that Lashkar welcomes the statement of UN chief.

“The duty of UN was to stress on the Indian and Pakistani government to settled the Kashmir dispute as the same is laying in the UN assembly for the last sixty years and such any effort on the part of United Nations will help the Kashmiris to attain for what they were struggling from the last six decades” Lashkar chief Abdul Wahid kashmiri was quoted as saying by Dr. Abdullah Gaznavi in a statement.

“The Lashkar chief has further requested the UN chief to visit the valley to have an on spot assessment of the atrocities being committed on the people of Kashmir and has asked the people to make every effort to fail the so called electoral process” he said adding LeT chief condemns the attack on Nayeem Khan out side jail in Kathua by the activists of Shiv Sena. (NAK)