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Kashmiris Vote In Large Numbers, Defy Weather, Terror Threats

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Kashmiris Vote In Large Numbers, Defy Weather, Terror Threats

Kashmiris Vote In Large Numbers, Defy Weather, Terror Threats

Srinagar: Braving the freezing cold and defying a call by separatist groups to boycott assembly polls, 58 percent of voters in Jammu and Kashmir Tuesday turned up to cast their ballot in the third round of the staggered elections.

“There was incident-free polling in all 16 constituencies. Around 58 percent of voters cast their ballot. The percentage is likely to go up when the final figures arrive,” state Chief Electoral Officer Umang Narula said at a media conference.

Out of 8,441 Kashmiri Pandit voters, 55 percent exercised their franchise, he said.

The highest turnout of 82.74 percent was recorded in Chrar-i-Sharief, while the lowest of 30 percent was seen in Sopore.

Uri recorded 79 percent, Rafiabad 53, Sangrama 56.15, Baramulla 45, Gulmarg 72, Pattan 60, Chadoora 65, Badgam 70, Beerwah 74, Khansahib 73, Tral 37.68, Pampore 46.48, Pulwama 38.31, and Rajpora 47.07.

Balloting took place after a string of terror attacks Dec 5 left 21 people, including eight soldiers, dead in Kashmir.

No constituency in Jammu region figured in Tuesday’s polling.

Voters trickled out in the morning at almost all polling stations to elect their representatives for the 16 assembly segments despite the freezing cold that gripped Kashmir.

As the day progressed and the sun peeped out, more voters thronged the polling booths.

The electorate comprised 717,049 males, 650,476 females and 23 third-gender voters.

Long queues of enthusiastic voters in Kramshore village of Khansahib constituency seemed determined to choose their representatives, and completely ignored the separatist call to stay away from voting.

Of nearly 1,100 voters at this polling station, over 150, including men and women, especially first-time voters, lined up outside the polling station in the first one hour.

The mood among the voters was festive, as most of them said they were out to vote for change.

“I have come out to vote because the only thing that can now make any difference to our backward, neglected village is change. This is a chance we do not want to miss at any cost,” Muhammad Shafi, a 42-year-old voter at Kramshore polling station, said.

Over 13 lakh voters were eligible to decide the political fate of 138 candidates in the districts of Baramulla, Budgam and Pulwama at 1,781 polling stations.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Chowdhary Taj Mohiuddin, Ghulam Hassan Mir, Abdul Rahim Rather and Javaid Ahmad Dar were among the prominent candidates.

Undeterred by separatist threats and boycott calls, people stood in long queues in Badgam constituency.

Moderate to brisk voting was seen in Uri, Pattan, Sangrama and Gulmarg, while Sopore witnessed a low turnout.

In Beerwah, from where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is contesting, voters stood in long queues at booths.

Rajpora, Pulwama and Pampore also saw voters turn up in good numbers as the bright, but weak winter sun shed some warmth over the valley.

There were a few stray incidents of violence.

A grenade was hurled at Khypora police station in Gulmarg. But there were no casualties.

A group of youths attempted to dissuade voters from exercising their franchise in Palhalam town of Pattan constituency by pelting stones, but police chased them away.

The voters, however, remained unfazed.

Over 500 companies of Jammu and Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force were deployed to ensure safe and secure voting.

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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Temple

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