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SOUTH ASIA

Hurriyat Chief To Meet Obama

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Srinagar: Advocating openly for the US intervention and facilitation over the Kashmir issue for years now, moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is in the US to attend a meeting scheduled to be addressed by President Barack Obama.

Mirwaiz Umar FarooqThe Mirwaiz has been invited to the 59th National Prayer Breakfast by Congressman Jeff Miller (Republican) and Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (Democrat), co-chairs of the National Prayer Breakfast to be held on February 3.

Many prominent faces of the global political spectrum, including Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto, will participate in the meeting. Some 3,500 guests, including international invitees from over 100 countries, will be present at the breakfast. Obama will be key-note speaker on the occasion.

“We, the people of different faiths need each other to build bridges, to work together against forces that divide us. We have much more in common in our heritage to celebrate than to differ,” said the Mirwaiz, a day ahead of the breakfast during his address to the delegates.

The Mirwaiz stressed on the need for better understanding between different faiths and religions. He asked for justice to people caught in wars and conflicts. “We need to unite to bring justice to warfare, war crimes, and gruesome human rights violations, whether In Kashmir, East Timor, or elsewhere. May we dedicate our lives to work in strife-torn communities, building bridges between alienated and traumatized people, being extraordinary agents of peace and reconciliation,” said the Mirwaiz.

The Mirwaiz — who is going to be the key-note speaker at an event at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia on February 5, entitled “India-Pakistan Relations: Breaking the Deadlock Over Kashmir — told the delegates that the demand of the people of Kashmir to exercise the right to self-determination was negotiated with both India and Pakistan and endorsed by the United Nations.

“The settlement of this long-standing issue will guarantee peace and prosperity not only in Kashmir but also in the whole region of South Asia. Therefore, the world powers including United States have the moral obligation to respond to the peaceful resistance initiated by the people of Kashmir,” said the Mirwaiz.
The moderate separatist leader has been advocating a third party mediation on the Kashmir, naming the US and China in his statements in the past.

The Mirwaiz disclosed last year that he was in touch with US special Af-Pak envoy Richard Hoolbrooke, who died last year due to heart ailments. “Peace to Afghanistan has to come through Kashmir,” said the Mirwaiz in his speeches last year.

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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SOUTH ASIA

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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SOUTH ASIA

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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