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’s government revoked disputed Kashmir’s special status with a presidential order Monday as thousands of newly deployed troops arrived and internet and phone services were cut in the restive Himalayan region where most people oppose Indian rule. Home Minister Amit Shah announced the revocation amid an uproar in India’s Parliament and while Kashmir was under a security lockdown that kept thousands of people inside their homes. The decree needs the approval of the ruling party-controlled Parliament, which was debating it on Monday. The order revokes Article 370 of India’s Constitution, eliminating the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s right to its own constitution and decision-making process for all matters except defense, communications and foreign affairs. The government’s action would also strip Kashmir of its protection from Indians from outside the state permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs and securing educational scholarships. Critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers. The announcement came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened a Cabinet meeting and the government’s top-decision making body on security matters, the Cabinet Committee on Security, which he heads. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the region in its entirety. Two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since their independence from British rule were over Kashmir. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told a Pakistani TV station on Monday from Saudi Arabia, where he is on a pilgrimage to
Voters in the turbulent former tribal zones of northwestern Pakistan went to the polls on Saturday in the first provincial elections since the region lost the semi-autonomous status it had held since the British colonial era. The former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a mountainous cluster of seven districts and six towns along the Afghan border that resisted efforts at outside control for hundreds of years, were merged into the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last May. The result of the vote for the provincial assembly is unlikely to have much direct impact on national politics or Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government in Islamabad. But the election marks a significant milestone for a region that has been a byword for unrest since before the days of the British rulers of India, who generally left tribal elders to administer their own justice in a system that continued after Pakistan gained its independence in 1947. “It is a historic day,” said Ajmal Wazir, the government’s adviser on the tribal areas. “The polling process is continuing smoothly.” The elections will see 16 seats contested by 285 candidates from all the main national parties as well as independents. But the issue of how parliamentary democracy can be brought to a region that was for centuries governed by often harsh tribal custom has added uncertainty to the process. Tens of thousands of troops and special police units have been sent to the province for polling day but there were many complaints of vote-rigging and influence peddling
After a deadly clash between troops and activists at a security post in northern Pakistan, organisers of a rights movement that has unnerved the powerful army say a campaign of intimidation against them has intensified, with many top leaders detained. The military denies a crackdown against the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), which campaigns against alleged extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of Pashtuns and other ethnic minorities, but says it is acting against lawbreakers. Manzoor Pashteen, the PTM’s charismatic figurehead, said he has seen his closest aides detained. Two lawmakers who are part of the group’s leadership have also been arrested. “In the past, they wanted to stop protests. Now they want to stop the movement,” Pashteen, who says he is the only member of the group’s core leadership not in custody, told Reuters. “They have directly arrested the leadership and begun a campaign to malign them (on social media).” The PTM’s appeal among Pakistan’s more than 35 million Pashtuns – and its unusually direct criticism of the powerful military over alleged human rights violations – has brought it into conflict with the authorities, who allege it is being bankrolled by hostile neighbouring countries. The group has been barred from parts of the country and security forces have regularly tried to stop its rallies by arresting workers. Some analysts and senior PTM members believe the latest arrests targeting leaders and aides were an attempt to isolate Pashteen within the group and provoke more hardline elements into a violent response that could
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
“The guided bomb achieved the desired range and hit the target with high precision. All the mission objectives have been met,” read a press release from the Indian military’s research and development division. It came two days after the test of the BrahMos, a cruise missile with a 300 km range.