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All Quiet On The Indo-Pak Border, But…

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borderNew Delhi: India and Pakistan maintained the truce on their border Thursday as External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid declined to commit himself to talks with his Pakistani counterpart to resolve their stand-off over ceasefire violations on the LoC.

A day after India’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and his Pakistani counterpart agreed to maintain peace on the border, the Indian cabinet was Thursday briefed on the easing of tensions by Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Khurshid.

Khurshid also informed the cabinet of his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar offering to discuss the tensions at the level of foreign ministers. Khar in a late Wednesday statement had said that the two countries instead of “ratcheting up tension” should discuss all issues relating to the Line of Control (LoC) “may be at the level of the Foreign Ministers to sort out things”.

The quiet on the border comes after 10 days of ceasefire violations, that continued even after the two sides held a flag meeting at the brigadier level on Monday.

Following the killing of one of their soldiers on Jan 6 in alleged firing by Indian troops, Pakistani soldiers had brutally killed two Indian soldiers, including beheading one, on Jan 8, leading to a flare-up between the two neighbours. Pakistan said that two more of its soldiers were killed in firing by the Indian side.

The brutal beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj Singh, whose head is still missing, and the killing and mutilation of Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh, by the Pakistani forces has led to loud protests in India and calls for snapping ties with Pakistan.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, taking a tough stand, said India’s relations with Pakistan “cannot be business as usual” following the brutal killing and asked that Pakistan bring the perpetrator of the killings to book.

Antony is learnt to have informed the union cabinet of the 10 minute talk Wednesday morning between the DGMOs — India’s Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia and his Pakistani counterpart, Maj. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem.

The two DGMOs had agreed to exercise restraint and observe the ceasefire strictly. The ceasefire, agreed upon in 2003, is an important part of the confidence building measures between the two sides. India has always stressed upon the sanctity of the ceasefire along the LoC that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Khurshid has declined to commit himself to accepting Khar’s offer for bilateral talks, saying that India can not move forward for talks just on the basis of “one statement”.

In an interview to CNN-IBN channel, Khurshid also said that India’s tough message two days ago that there “cannot be business as usual” with Pakistan in the wake of the brutal killing of two Indian soldiers, had not been said “only for effect”.

Khurshid said India stands by its demands to Islamabad – asking for the perpetrator of the beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj to be brought to book.

“..we obviously stand by the content and the substance of what we believe is critical and crucial to what went wrong. And therefore obviously, addressing that will be a move towards putting it right”, he said.

India on Tuesday put on hold a liberalised visa agreement allowing senior citizens from the two countries to visit while nine Pakistani hockey players who had come to play for the India Hockey League had to return.

Khurshid, in his interview to the news channel, did not say if the Pakistani women cricketers would be allowed to play the World Cup in India. He also said he had no information in the proposed meeting between the commerce ministers of the two countries later this month had been called off.

Jammu and Kashmir’s opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said the recent events along the LoC were a “severe setback” to the peace process.

Sayeed, in a statement, regretted that Manmohan Singh “had chosen to lend his voice to the hawks in the current Indo-Pakistan problems”.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist Thursday urged the government not to call off the peace process with Pakistan despite the brutal killing of two Indian soldiers, but underlined that India “should take a firm stand and convey to the Pakistan authorities that such attacks are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated”.

The Bharatiya Janata Party however said that there is a total disconnect in what Pakistan preaches and practices and India should go by its actions on the borders.

“Pakistan is a multi-headed hydra and talks in different languages. There is a total disconnect in what it preaches and practices,” party spokesperson Balbir Punj told reporters here.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Nawaz sharif

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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