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Kashmiris Ignore Separatists Call To Boycott Elections

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Kashmiris Ignore Separatists Call To Boycott Elections

Kashmiris Ignore Separatists Call To Boycott Elections

Jammu/Srinagar/New Delhi: Voters in Jammu and Kashmir defied a boycott call by separatist groups and braved inclement weather to cast their ballot in large numbers as 15 assembly constituencies voted in the first of the five-phase state polls.

State Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Umang Narula told the media in Jammu that more than 70 percent of the over one million voters cast their ballot.

Polling was peaceful and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere during the day.

Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told the media in Delhi that the constituencies had seen 64.97 percent turnout in the 2008 elections and 52.63 percent in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year.

“It is a good increase. The voting percentage seems to be on the higher side,” Zutshi said, adding that there could be an increase of about two percent after all votes cast were taken into account.

A total of 123 candidates were in the fray Tuesday. Polling started at 8 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m.

The morning cold affected the early voter turnout, but young and enthusiastic voters queued up, dressed in traditional Kashmiri attire.

A separatist boycott call in the Valley evoked no response, as men and women came out in large numbers to vote.

A 121-year-old woman also cast her ballot.

Zutshi said Noor Bi voted in Ramban district, becoming the oldest person to vote in the first phase.

Voting continued in 13 polling stations even after 4 p.m. as voters had entered the demarcated area before the scheduled end.

The CEO said 31 sorties were made by Mi-7 helicopters and 12 by smaller choppers to ferry polling staff and voting machines to and from inaccessible areas.

“The highest polling was recorded in Sonawari with 80.1 percent, while the lowest was recorded in Ganderbal with 53 percent,” Narula said.

Peaceful polling took place at all the 1,787 polling stations in seven districts.

In Ladakh region, Nubra saw 75 percent polling, Zanskar 71.07, Leh 66 and Kargil 59.82.

In the Kashmir Valley, Sonawari recorded 80.1 percent, Kangan 76.83, Bandipora 70 and Gurez 77.1, while in Jammu region, Doda saw 79.6 percent polling, Ramban 68, Bannihal 70, Kishtwar 68.8, Inderwal 72.5 and Bahderwah 70.7.

Polling was low key initially because of the winter cold, especially in the Ladakh region where temperatures were much below freezing point.

As the day progressed, balloting picked up, as voters lined up at polling booths.

People said they were voting for change and development.

“We have decided to participate in the elections to vote for change,” said 24-year-old Nisar, who was voting for the first time.

First-time voters were enthusiastic about casting their ballot.

“Yes, I have voted and I have no fear in admitting this. It’s time all youth came out to bring change which is only possible through the power of ballot,” said 25-year-old Irshad at the Inderkote polling station in Sonawari constituency.

The election commission deputed 225 micro observers, besides webcasting 159 polling stations.

Enthusiasm was palpable in Lar town of Ganderbal constituency as both the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party candidates were from this town. A poll official had to ask their supporters to remain calm at a polling booth.

Mamina, a 20-year-old student who voted at the Hariganimen polling booth in Kangan constituency in Ganderbal district, told IANS: “I will vote for somebody who will work for development of this backward area.”

Vote count will take place Dec 23 after the last of the five-phase elections ends Dec 20.

Image: F. Photos

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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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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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Temple

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