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No clear verdict in Jammu & Kashmir.PDP and BJP may form an alliance

The BJP had hoped to win 44 seats — enough to take power on its own in Jammu and Kashmir. That did not happen. But a PDP-BJP coalition would give them the numbers to comfortablyvernment.

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Srinagar/Jammu:  Jammu and Kashmir got a hung assembly Tuesday, with the PDP becoming the single largest group and the BJP making history by finishing a close second in a verdict that exposed the deep divide between the largely Muslim Kashmir Valley and Hindu-majority Jammu region.

With no single party in a position to form a government on its own, the Peoples Democratic Party with 28 of the 87 seats hinted it was not averse to sailing with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which bagged all its 25 seats from Jammu region.

The National Conference of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah — who won from Beerwah but lost in Sonwar — won 15 seats, disproving critics who felt it might be wiped out. Its estranged ally Congress finished with 12 seats — five less than last time.

Seven seats went to smaller parties and independents including two bagged by the People’s Conference of Sajjad Lone, a former separatist leader. Yusuf Tarigami, a veteran Marxist, won again from the valley.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the record voter turnout in Kashmir as a sign of people’s faith in democracy, BJP president Amit Shah credited the unprecedented showing by his party in the state to the six months of good governance by Modi.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh, a Lok Sabha member from Udhampur in Kashmir, said: “This will be a turning point for BJP and for Jammu and Kashmir politics.”

The BJP, until now considered a bit player in Kashmir that too only in Jammu region, not only increased its seat tally from 11 in 2008 to 25 now, but polled the maximum votes – over 23 percent.

The BJP had hoped to win 44 seats — enough to take power on its own in Jammu and Kashmir. That did not happen. But a PDP-BJP coalition would give them the numbers to comfortablyvernment.

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti said it would take time to form a government to provide “good governance”.

Her party spokesman Samir Kaul, however, said that “an alliance with the BJP is not ruled out”.

Mehbooba added: “It is not a decisive mandate. It is not even according to our expectations. We could not get the kind of result we had expected.”

She refused to say if her party would prefer to sail with the BJP or the Congress. “We are looking for a government which is based on an agenda… The agenda of good governance.

“It will take time to find out what formulations can give good governance. We will take our time… We are not in a hurry.”

Although the final decision on forging an alliance would rest on Modi and Shah, BJP sources said opinion within was split on who the party should go with — the PDP or National Conference.

The BJP did not field any senior leader or known face in the election. Instead, the party projected Modi as the answer to Kashmir’s long-standing problems.

Modi visited the state six times to campaign and focussed mainly on issues of development. He also spoke against corruption and dynastic rule.

On his part, outgoing Chief Minister Abdullah said the best possible combination would be one involving the BJP and PDP and chided the Congress for making overtures to the PDP for the sake of tripping the BJP.

“I have accepted the people’s verdict,” he said. “But those who thought we would do badly very badly have been proved wrong.”

Riding on the Modi wave, the BJP won its 25 seats in the Jammu region, where only six Congress candidates won. But the BJP got only two percent of votes in the Kashmir Valley.

The National Conference and PDP won two seats each in Jammu region and got the rest in the valley, the epicentre of a dragging separatist campaign.

Three of the four seats in the Buddhist-dominated Ladakh region went to the Congress. The fourth seat was taken by an independent supported by the National Conference.

BJP general secretary P. Muralidhar Rao said: “More important than winning is the fact that the BJP’s acceptability has increased in the state in an exponential way.

“What will be important for us (when we decide on alliances) is how to fight terrorism and insurgency… Jammu and Kashmir is not like any other state. We need to see the options available (to us).”

Asked about possible alliances, BJP’s Jay Narayan Vyas said: “Politics is always a game of enormous possibilities.”

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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