India’s removal of Kashmir special status may face legal challenges — lawyers

India's security personnel stop people during restrictions in Srinagar on Monday, August 5 - Reuters
Updated 06 August 2019

India’s removal of Kashmir special status may face legal challenges — lawyers

  • New Delhi says the changes were agreed to by the state government, though Kashmir has been under presidential rule for the past year
  • Legal experts say they expect several petitions challenging India’s changes to Article 370

NEW DELHI: India’s move on Monday to strip Kashmir of special rights is likely to face legal challenges, constitutional experts and Supreme Court lawyers said, with some questioning the legality of the route used to make the change.
New Delhi’s action also provoked condemnation in Pakistan, which has disputed sovereignty over Kashmir with India for decades. India’s revocation of the Himalayan territory’s special status is a bid to fully integrate its only Muslim-majority state with the rest of the country.
Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said the government would scrap the constitution’s Article 370 that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir state and allows permanent residents rights to property, state government jobs and college places.
To do so, it used a provision under Article 370 of the constitution that allows the law to be tweaked by a presidential order — provided there is consensus in the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir.
One problem, though, is that the constituent assembly of the state was dissolved in 1956.
The government has tweaked another constitutional article so that a reference in Article 370 to “constituent assembly of the state” becomes “legislative assembly of the state.” The legality of that move, the lawyers said, could be questioned in court.
Furthermore, New Delhi said all the changes were agreed to by the state government. And that, some lawyers say, could be another issue for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as there currently is no government in Jammu and Kashmir.
For the past year the state has been under presidential rule, after Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled away from an alliance with a local Kashmiri party and dissolved the state assembly.
“If there is president’s rule, then how does that work? Does it fulfill the requirement?” said senior Supreme Court advocate Akhil Sibal. “That to my mind would be the legal faultline.”
Malavika Prasad, a constitutional lawyer, said: “How did the government of Jammu and Kashmir concur with the changes if the state has been under presidential rule for a year now?“
Shah said earlier on Monday that the changes would pass “every legal scrutiny.” But lawyers said they expect several petitions challenging India’s changes to Article 370. One group of lawyers in New Delhi is already working on a possible petition, an attorney said.
India’s Supreme Court is the likely venue for petitions against the government’s revoking of the state’s special rights, they said.
There could also be legal objections to related government legislation concerning the division of Jammu and Kashmir into two entities, including a separate Buddhist-majority but sparsely-populated mountainous territory, Ladakh. That law will rely on the constitutional changes made on Monday.
Critics of Modi’s government and the BJP have accused it of changing the constitution to shift Jammu and Kashmir’s demographics — it is currently majority Muslim — as well as to pander to many in its Hindu nationalist base that have long demanded the right to own property in Kashmir.

Russian minister in Islamabad to offer investment in heavy industry

Updated 10 December 2019

Russian minister in Islamabad to offer investment in heavy industry

  • Russians are interested in Pakistan’s energy, oil and gas, defense and steel sectors
  • Russian delegation is in Islamabad to attend Inter-Governmental Commission meeting

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia have agreed to expand business and trade ties, with investment in the energy, oil and gas and defense, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar told Arab News in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

A delegation of 64 Russian officials, led by Trade and Industries Minister Denis Manturov, discussed the plans with Pakistani stakeholders at a meeting of the Pakistan-Russia Joint Working Group (JWG) on Energy in Islamabad on Monday.

“The Russian delegation is here to expand ties with Pakistan and engage in trade and business worth billions of dollars. They are interested in three major sectors – energy, oil and gas, and defense,” Babar said.

“In its first phase, Pakistan is going to auction 12 blocks of E&P (exploration and production) this month. Russians are very much interested in this auction,” he added.

“They have representatives of oil and gas companies with them in this delegation, who discussed different projects and showed interest in bidding for these blocks. We are very hopeful that they will take a few blocks in this auction which would be a first as they have never operated in Pakistan before,” he said.

Russian companies are also interested to build a gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore, Babar said. “We hope to sign an agreement on this in the next two months as both sides have agreed on many things. We have many meetings on this and after this visit, we hope all remaining issues will be solved.”

He said Pakistan and Russia have also discussed an agreement, which was signed earlier, for the laying of more than 1,500 kilometers of an offshore gas pipeline that would transport natural gas from Russia to Pakistan.

Babar said Russia has also shown interest in the rehabilitation and upgrading of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and wants to invest $1 billion. He added, however, that “other countries are also interested in Steel Mills.”

Sergey Vasiliev, director of Russia-Pakistan Business Forum who is in the delegation, told Arab News the visit will be good for removing trade and investment obstacles between the two countries, and for improving business to business contacts.

As Pakistan’s image has lately improved in Russia, “Russian businessmen are more interested in the oil and gas and energy sectors,” he said.

“We are discussing collaboration with Pakistan Steel Mills, so new technology from Russia can enhance its production. We are also ready to provide support in the field of agriculture, especially in increasing storage capacity for local food items and fruits.”

A major breakthrough in Pakistan-Russia relations was the signing of an agreement in Moscow on Dec. 4 by Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak and Pakistani Ambassador Qazi Khalilullah, whereby Pakistan will repay its $93.5 million debt to Russia, he said.

On Wednesday, the delegation is scheduled to attend an inter-governmental commission meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.