Indian PM calls repeal of J&K’s Article 370 ‘historic’

Indians watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi address the nation in a televised speech, in an electronics store in Jammu, India, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. (AP)
Updated 08 August 2019

Indian PM calls repeal of J&K’s Article 370 ‘historic’

  • ‘It only bred militancy, separatism in the state,’ says Modi in address to nation

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status a “historic decision” in a special address to the nation on Thursday.

“It is a new beginning for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 of the constitution has not benefited the people. It has only bred militancy and separatism in the state,” said Modi in a 40-minute address.

“The new political initiatives will rid the state of militancy and extremism, and it will see a new era of development.”

Modi added that more than 42,000 people have lost their lives in Jammu and Kashmir over the last three decades.

However, his speech was not heard by people in the state, which was under curfew for the fifth consecutive day on Thursday. Telecommunication networks and basic telephone services remain unavailable to the 7 million people there.

Most of the mainstream political leaders are under house arrest, with media reports suggesting the detention of prominent activists and businessmen.

“People are angry and heartbroken,” said Shah Faesal, president of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement, a new political party.

“The tragedy of Kashmir is that our lives were destroyed due to false promises and assurances from both sides of the partition. Both want the land but neither wants the people,” said Faesal, who is one the few politicians from the state to speak to the outside world after the clampdown.

“This constitutional coup has made the political mainstream irrelevant in Kashmir. Those of us who sought a resolution to the conflict within the Indian constitution are left without an argument. The extremist constituency is feeling vindicated,” he added.

Concerned that recent developments might lead to wider geopolitical instability, Faesal said: “I am worried that Pakistan and China might join forces to counter the aggressive regional posturing by India. In that battle, I fear that Kashmir will suffer.”

On Thursday, New Delhi asked Islamabad to review its decision to downgrade diplomatic ties with India.

The request follows a dramatic development on Wednesday where Pakistan recalled its envoy from New Delhi and asked the Indian ambassador in Islamabad to leave the country. It also suspended all trade and canceled the cross-border Samjhauta Express train.

In a press statement, India’s Foreign Ministry said it “regrets the steps announced by Pakistan yesterday (Wednesday) and would urge that country to review them so that normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved.”

New Delhi blamed Pakistan for presenting “an alarming picture to the world of our bilateral ties.”

The statement said that the decision to scrap the special status was “driven by a commitment to extend to Jammu and Kashmir opportunities for development that were earlier denied by a temporary provision in the constitution. Its impact would also result in the removal of gender and socio-economic discrimination. It is also expected to result in an upswing of economic activity and improvement in the livelihood prospects of all people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

New Delhi called Pakistan’s reaction an attempt to “interfere in the sovereign matter of India,” and warned Islamabad that “an alarmist vision of the region will never succeed.”

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 1 min 28 sec ago

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.