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Irom Sharmila Vows To Continue Decade-old Hunger Strike

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An extremely frail 38-year-old woman dubbed “The Iron Lady” marked 10 years without voluntarily taking food or water on Thursday – a hunger strike launched to protest an anti-terror law that grants Indian soldiers sweeping powers to crack down on rebels.

Irom Sharmila Vows To Continue Decade Hunger StrikeIrom Sharmila had her last voluntary meal on November 4, 2000, in Imphal, capital of Manipur, one of several northeastern states facing armed rebellions against Indian rule. She was arrested three days later and has been force-fed through her nose ever since. Sharmila has been refusing to eat to demand the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives the military powers such as the right to arrest suspected militants without a warrant and to shoot anyone suspected of being a rebel.

The act became law across India in 1958 but was not specifically enforced in Manipur until the 1980s in order to quell a three-decade rebellion.

Bordering Myanmar, Manipur is one of northeastern country’s hottest insurgency theaters, with some 17 active militant groups operating in the state of 2 million people. Some 10,000 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence in the past decade. Sharmila’s hunger strike has attracted tens of thousands of supporters who have dubbed her as “The Iron Lady” and triggered public protests that moved a government committee in 2006 to recommend repeal of the act.

“Irom Sharmila has become a rallying point for Manipuris seeking the withdrawal of the draconian law that has failed to control the insurgency despite being in force for the past 25 years,” said local activist Babloo Loitongbom, head of the Human Rights Alert group.

In recent months, New Delhi has said that the act should be softened, but no action has been taken.

Sharmila, a locally published poet, began her hunger strike after paramilitary soldiers gunned down 10 civilians near a bus stop in Imphal, saying they suspected militants were in the area after separatist rebels had ambushed troops two days earlier. She had long been a sympathizer with human rights causes, attending activist rallies and meetings after high school, according to her brother, Irom Singhajit. Three volumes of Sharmila’s poetry, which focus on peace and hopelessness, are being translated from her local Meitei language into English.

Sharmila has vowed from her hospital bed in the state capital Imphal to carry on, her brother said. In September, she was awarded the Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize by one of the country’s elite business schools.

“She has been rightly named ‘The Iron Lady’ after completing a decade of a hunger strike,” Singhajit said from Imphal. “She told us she would not give up until the government concedes her demand.”

-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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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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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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