Pakistan observed a ‘Black Day’ on Thursday to coincide with India’s Independence Day celebrations, in protest at New Delhi’s decision to revoke special status for its portion of the contested Kashmir region. India’s decision this month, along with a communications blackout and curbs on the movement of those in Indian-administered Kashmir, caused fury in Pakistan, which cut trade and transport links and expelled India’s envoy in retaliation. Newspapers in Pakistan printed editions with black borders on Thursday and politicians, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, replaced their social media pictures with black squares. Protests are due to be held across the country, including Azad Kashmir, the wedge of territory in the west of the region that Pakistan controls. The largely symbolic move comes amid growing frustration in Islamabad at the lack of international response over the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan was isolated diplomatically and faced “a world in denial” over the situation in Kashmir, Dawn, the country’s most influential English language newspaper, said in an editorial. The 15-member United Nations Security Council could discuss the dispute as soon as Thursday, but Pakistan says it only has guaranteed support from China, which also claims part of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. Permanent security council member Russia said on Wednesday it supported India’s stance that the dispute should be resolved through bilateral means, while the United States has called India’s decision an internal matter for New Delhi. In his Independence Day speech in the Indian capital, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the decision to
India will not invite Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to the swearing-in of his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, two Indian government sources said, suggesting any early warming in ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours is unlikely. Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, and came close to a fourth in February after a suicide bomb attack by a Pakistan-based militant group killed at least 40 Indian police in the contested Kashmir region. Narendra Modi begins his second term as prime minister on Thursday after a convincing election victory which political analysts say was helped by his handling of that tension with Pakistan. The Indian government said in a statement on Monday the leaders of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, and Bhutan – all members, with India, of the little-known Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) – had been invited to the swearing-in. “This is in line with government’s focus on its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy,” a government spokesman said. The leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Mauritius have also been invited. But two sources in Indian’s foreign ministry said Pakistan will not be on the list, without providing further information. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi suggested the reason was India’s internal politics, after Modi had made “Pakistan bashing” the central theme of his election campaign. “To expect that he will get rid of his narrative and invite the entire opposition to criticise him, it was not possible,” Qureshi
Islamist protesters blocked roads in Pakistan’s major cities, opposing a Supreme Court decision to acquit Asia Bibi for blasphemy allegations. “They all three deserve to be killed,” TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri told a protest in Lahore. “Either their security, their driver, or their cook should kill them.”
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has received official pledges of a six-billion-dollar loan to his country from Saudi Arabia, whose top leadership is involved in an international crisis of credibility over possible involvement in the killing of a Saudi dissident. Saudi Arabia pledged three billion dollars in foreign currency support for a year, and a further loan worth up to another three billion dollars in deferred payments for oil imports, to Pakistan, the Pakistani government announced in a statement on Tuesday.