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Congress Minister In India Raises ‘Azadi’ Call For Kashmir

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A Jammu and Kashmir Minister belonging to Congress has stoked a controversy by suggesting that Kashmir be granted “Azadi”, remarks that embarrassed his party which termed them as his personal view.

Congress Minister In India Raises 'Azadi' Call For Kashmir Addressing a rally at Bani in Kathua district on Sunday, Congress Minister for Health and Horticulture Sham Lal Sharma had raised the demand for making Jammu a separate state, giving union territory status to Ladakh and granting “Azadi” to Kashmir.

“Give freedom to Kashmir, that’s more beneficial. Give separate statehood status to Jammu and make Ladakh a union territory. If this state has to be developed, this is the only solution,” Sharma said in the presence of PCC chief Saifuddin Soz.

His remarks drew a sharp attack from state BJP which alleged they “tantamount to treason” and demanded his dismissal from the government and arrest.

In damage-control mode, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi on Monday described Sharma’s remarks as his “personal view” and said the party’s stand “is very clear–autonomy within the framework of the Indian Constitution”.

The remarks by Sham Lal Sharma had made Soz and his senior party leaders uneasy at the rally. In fact, Soz had tried to initiate damage control and expressed his party’s resolve to keep all the three regions of the state united to ensure equal and balanced development in all the regions.

“We are all answerable to AICC President Sonia Gandhi and what we say here be considered as the Congress word and we must speak along the party’s line”, Soz said.

Seeking to downplay Sharma’s view, Singhvi told reporters in Delhi that “I can only describe it as a personal opinion (of Sharma). He was having a discussion at rally in his own home state and certainly this is his personal view”.

“Some of the words which I have heard, I can either describe it as a metaphorical speak and should not be taken literally”, he said adding “in any case, we do not accept any such allegations”.

“There is no question of commenting on individuals’ views. Congress stand is clear. It is for autonomy within the constitutional framework. Let us not visit the established axioms. It is dangerous to re-visit such axioms,” party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said..

The state and Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma had said on Sunday that there should be a separate state of Jammu if there is talk of greater autonomy or self-rule for Kashmir.

“You need to come out of Kashmir-centric approach. I tell Congress that if you want autonomy or self-rule for Kashmir, then you need to separate Jammu as a state and declare Ladakh as a Union Territory,” Sharma had told a public rally in Bani in the state.

BJP National Executive Member and former Pradesh President Nirmal Singh told reporters here that “Sharma has taken oath under the Constitution and his statement tantamounts to treason and therefore an FIR should be registered against him and he should be arrested forthwith”.

After making such a statement Sharma has no locus standi to be in the ministry and he should be dismissed Singh said.

-HT

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SOUTH ASIA

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

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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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