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Pakistani Kashmiris Struggle Under Islamabad’s ‘Azad Kashmir’

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New Delhi: There is simmering discontent among Pakistani Kashmiris against Islamabad’s misrule, activists from the region said Wednesday, urging India to shun its “defensive” Kashmir policy.
”Azad Kashmir (as Islamabad terms Pakistan-administered Kashmir) is free, of course. But free for Pakistanis only,” Mumtaz Khan, a Canada-based Pakistani Kashmiri activist, said at a seminar here on the status of the area.
Khan, who heads the International Center For Peace and Democracy (ICFPD) a Canada-based NGO, alleged that no politician could talk independently about the Kashmir issue in Pakistan because it is directly under the military’s control. He said the people of the region, including Gilgit-Baltistan, had pinned their hopes on New Delhi but “India has been defensive in its Kashmir policy”.
”This has allowed Pakistan to take an aggressive stance,” he said, reminding the Indian government of a parliament resolution saying that Pakistan “must vacate the areas of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression. India has faulted. You have violated your own constitution that says Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir is a disputed territory. You have to demonstrate something practically.”
Senger Sering, another activist based in Washington and originally from Gilgit Baltistan, said people from his region wanted an independent republic and “that is why Pakistan treats us worse than enemies”.
”There is institutionalized slavery. Pakistan has been eating out our resources and this slavery has been legalized by an ordinance,” Sering said, referring to the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009.
He alleged that “target killings” were rampant in the strategically located region rich with natural resources, particularly with a great potential for hydroelectricity. 
The territory, where China has shown keen investment interest and is in fact developing many hydroelectricity projects and roads, is also a gateway to Central Asia. But the area is ridden by violent incidents that Islamabad blames of sectarian groups, both Shias and Sunnis.
But Sering denied this, saying: “Target killings are done by mercenaries hired by (Pakistani spy agency) ISI. They (killers) are coming from outside.”
He alleged that the area is hugely militarized and the Pakistan Army controls everything. “We have a bakery, the only bakery in the region. It is named Askari Bakery but is known as Military Bakery because it is run by the army,” he said.
Asking India to engage with activists from Pakistani Kashmir, he added that India should allow a symbolic representation for the region in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly. “Let some activists be allowed to represent the region in the Kashmir assembly and legislative council,” he said, adding this was possible because constitutionally, they are citizens of India.
-IANS

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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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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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