Pakistan PM says India planning military action in Azad Kashmir

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses Kashmir's Legislative Assembly on the occasion of Pakistan's Independence Day, in Muzaffarabad, capital of Azad Kashmir, Wednesday, August 14, 2019. (Photo Credit: Reuters)
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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses Kashmir's Legislative Assembly on the occasion of Pakistan's Independence Day, in Muzaffarabad, capital of Azad Kashmir, Wednesday, August 14, 2019. (Photo Credit: PID)
Updated 15 August 2019

Pakistan PM says India planning military action in Azad Kashmir

  • “Strategic blunder” by Indian PM to revoke special status of Jammu and Kashmir, impose lockdown, Khan says
  • Warns Modi will pay “heavy price” for his actions against Kashmiris, Pakistan army “fully aware” of Indian plans

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday India was planning military action in Azad Kashmir, referring to the portion of the Himalayan region administered by Pakistan, adding that the international community and multilateral organizations like the United Nations would be responsible for any Indian misadventures in Pakistan. 
India revoked the special status of its portion of Kashmir on August 5 and moved to quell widespread unrest by shutting down communications and clamping down on freedom of movement. Islamabad has retaliated by suspending bilateral trade and all public transport links with India, as well as expelling New Delhi’s top envoy to Islamabad.
On Wednesday as Pakistan celebrated its 73rd Independence Day, Khan traveled to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir, in his first visit to the region since becoming Pakistan’s leader in 2018. 
Khan said India planned more extensive action against Pakistan than in February this year when its fighter jets struck inside Pakistan, following a dramatic escalation in tensions.
“They have made a more horrendous plan to divert world attention from their move-in Kashmir, they plan action in Azad Kashmir,” Khan said in his speech to parliament in Muzaffarabad. “The Pakistani army is fully aware that they (India) have made a plan of taking action in Azad Kashmir.”
The PM added that the international community would be responsible for any misadventure against Pakistan by India as Islamabad had repeatedly brought the matter to its notice: “It is now their [international community and United Nations] trial … over a billion Muslims of the world are looking toward the UN for the right to self-determination of Kashmiris and plebiscite in the territory.”
India rules the populous Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-dominated region around Jammu city, while Pakistan controls Azad Kashmir, a wedge of territory in the west. China holds a thinly populated high-altitude area in the north.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from colonial power Great Britain in 1947, They came close to another one in February after a deadly attack on Indian police by a Pakistan-based militant group resulted in airstrikes by both countries. Pakistan denies state complicity in the attack and has since launched a widespread crackdown against violent and banned organizations within its borders. 
India’s revocation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir blocks the state’s right to frame its own laws and allows non-residents to buy property there. Modi’s government argues that the old laws prohibiting people from outside Kashmir from buying property, settling there and taking up government jobs had hindered its development.
Restrictions were lifted in five districts of Jammu and nine districts of Kashmir on Monday, India’s home ministry said, adding that security would be heightened for both countries’ Independence Day celebrations and Muslim Friday prayers.
In Islamabad, posters urged residents to express solidarity with Kashmiris and roadside vendors sold Azad Kashmir flags as well as the Pakistan flag commonly displayed on August 14.
Khan called India’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and impose a subsequent lockdown on the Kashmiri people a “strategic blunder.”
“Narendra Modi has made a strategic blunder,” the PM said. “He has played his final card, and Modi will now have to pay a heavy price for it. Modi has internationalized the Kashmir issue [through his actions], and now the world’s eyes are on it,” Khan added, vowing to become “an ambassador for Kashmir to raise the voice [of the oppressed].”
Khan also repeated earlier comments comparing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, to the German Nazi Party.
“We are faced with a terrifying ideology – the Hindu nationalist RSS party’s ideology, which Modi has been a member of from childhood,” Khan said. “In this ideology, like Hitler’s Nazi Party, they [BJP] believe in the racial superiority of Hindus and believe in taking revenge from Muslims who ruled them for 600 years.”
“The time has come that we will now teach you [India] a lesson,” Khan said. “Don’t remain in an illusion … you have played your last card and Kashmir will now move toward freedom.”
Representatives of India’s armed forces and its foreign ministry have not responded to Khan’s remarks.


Schools shut in Lahore as city chokes in toxic smog

Updated 55 min 44 sec ago

Schools shut in Lahore as city chokes in toxic smog

  • Punjab government says it is taking necessary measures to deal with the situation
  • Amnesty International calls official response inadequate, saying authorities were downplaying the crisis

LAHORE: Schools across Pakistan’s second largest city Lahore closed for the second time in a month on Friday, with the city blanketed in a toxic smog that experts say is putting residents at risk.
Every November, a combination of industrial pollution, burning waste and farm fires in neighboring India fouls the air in Pakistan’s cultural capital, making it one of the world’s most polluted cities.
The Punjab state government has already ordered the closure of thousands of primitive brick kilns that dot the state in order to ease pollution.
But on Friday the Air Quality Index from a monitoring station at the United States’ consulate hit a year-high 451 out of a possible 500, a level considered “hazardous” and where even healthy people are advised to stay indoors.
Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas told Reuters the government was taking necessary measures, including the school holiday. Rights group Amnesty International, however, called the government’s response inadequate, saying Pakistani authorities were playing down the crisis.
According to a 2015 report published by the medical journal Lancet, nearly 22 percent of annual deaths in Pakistan – or more than 310,000 each year — are caused by pollution, most due to air contamination.
“I am personally suffering an eye infection and skin allergies due to smog,” said Zainab Khan, a university student in the city of more than 11 million.
“My classmates also suffered bronchitis, lung infections and other smog related diseases. The government must show seriousness to resolve this problem.”
Sahibzad Khan, Lahore’s chief meteorologist, told Reuters the smog will continue until mid-December.