Pakistan lodges formal complaint to UN over forest damage by Indian air strike

A man takes a photo with his mobile as he stands amidst damaged trees in Jaba village, Balakot, Pakistan February 28, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Pakistan lodges formal complaint to UN over forest damage by Indian air strike

  • The air strike in the Massar Jabba Forest Reserve had damaged a forest ecosystem which “could take up to a century to recover”

NAIROBI: Pakistan has lodged an official complaint with the United Nations over damage caused to a protected forest reserve during an air strike by India last month, Pakistan’s climate change minister Malik Amin Aslam Khan said on Monday.
The air strike in the Massar Jabba Forest Reserve had damaged a forest ecosystem which “could take up to a century to recover,” said Khan, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s adviser for climate change.
Khan said he handed over a dossier detailing the damage at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, calling on the global body to condemn India and seek compensation.
“We think what happened was a strike on nature — it was a strike on the Massar Jabba Forest Reserve which is a protected ecosystem and a globally important carbon sink,” Khan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
“We are speaking for the voiceless trees of the Massar Jabba forest reserve which became a target of this operation.”
India and Pakistan are amidst their biggest stand-off in years, with the United States and other global powers mediating to de-escalate tensions between arch-foes who have fought three wars since independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Indian warplanes on Feb. 26 bombed the hilly forest area near the northern Pakistani town of Balakot, about 40 km (25 miles) from India’s border in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
India said it destroyed a militant training camp, adding Pakistan’s accusation of environmental damage was “misguided.”
“It is unfortunate that the Pakistan delegation has misused this forum and wasted the time on matters not relevant,” Rahul Chhabra, Permanent Representative to UN Environment told the world’s environment ministers at the UNEA last week.
“The air strike by India in Balakot in Pakistan was a precision and accurate strike directed at terrorists located in a terrorist training camp and the strike was not aimed at any environmental damage.”
Pakistan denies there were any such camps in the area.
The Jabba Massar Reserve Forest is located in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and was established as a protected area in 2015 as part of the “Billion Trees Afforestation Project” which promotes forest regeneration.
A report by Pakistan after the air strike found damage to an area of 1.2 acres which included 19 pine trees valued at 2.7 million Pakistani rupees ($20,000) and soil erosion.
“The recovery of biomass lost due to this destructive action will take about a century to recover,” said the report, produced by a team of experts, including staff from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and World Wide Fund for Nature.
Khan said India had violated international rules such as a UN resolution which states “destruction of the environment, not justified by military necessity and carried out wantonly, is clearly contrary to existing international law.”
The damage contravened International Humanitarian Law, with additional protocols to the Geneva Convention prohibiting warfare which is intended to cause “long-term” and “severe” environmental damage, he added.
“In terms of the extent of damage, I mean, the whole forest did not go up in flames — but the fact is that the only victim of this atrocity was the environment,” said Khan.
“Nature paid a price for somebody’s madness. We want compensation, retribution and condemnation of this act.”


India’s Supreme Court chief justice denies sexually harassing assistant

Updated 20 April 2019
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India’s Supreme Court chief justice denies sexually harassing assistant

  • “This is unbelievable,” Gogoi, India’s most powerful judge said
  • The allegations, dating from October, were carried in full by a number of major Indian online publications

MUMBAI: The chief justice of India’s Supreme Court, Ranjan Gogoi, on Saturday denied allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward a junior court assistant who worked in an office at his home and that she was subsequently victimized.
“This is unbelievable,” Gogoi, India’s most powerful judge, told a special hearing of the court he called on Saturday so that the allegations could be addressed. “I should not stoop low even in denying it.”
Gogoi said the events showed that India’s judiciary was under “serious threat” and was being destabilized by a larger conspiracy, without elaborating.
“There is some bigger force behind the woman,” he said.
The allegations, dating from October, were carried in full by a number of major Indian online publications on Saturday.
The 35-year-old woman, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, wrote a letter to all 22 of the Supreme Court judges along with an affidavit detailing her allegations on Friday.
Those included a series of allegations that the woman and her family were victimized by a series of related actions by the authorities, including the termination of her employment, and the suspension of her husband and his brother, who worked in the Delhi police force.
She also says another brother of her husband’s had his Supreme Court job terminated and she also faced a “false and frivolous” bribery complaint, leading to her arrest and subsequent bail.
“Me and my family’s victimization is a consequence of my not agreeing to the sexual advances made by the Chief Justice of India, Justice Rangan Gogoi,” she said in the letter to the judges.
Justice Arun Mishra, who joined Gogoi on the bench for the special hearing, said the allegations were “wild and baseless.”
The court asked the media to show restraint in covering the case to avoid undermining the reputation and independence of the judiciary, though it decided not to issue a gag order.