Govt bars India’s opposition from visiting Kashmir

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Kashmiris living in Bangalore protest on Aug. 24, 2019 to seek an end to the communication blockade in Indian-controlled Kashmir. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
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Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard near a temporary checkpoint during lockdown in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (AP)
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A security personnel stands guard in front of closed shops in Srinagar on August 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 25 August 2019

Govt bars India’s opposition from visiting Kashmir

  • The local administration had warned the opposition leaders on Friday evening not to come, as it might raise tensions
  • Communication blockades continue and people of the region are still cut off from the rest of the world

NEW DELHI: A delegation of senior opposition leaders, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, were detained at Srinagar Airport and sent back to New Delhi on Saturday, when they tried to visit the Kashmir Valley.

The 11-member delegation representing eight parties had planned to visit various parts of Kashmir to get a sense of the situation in the area.

The local administration had warned the opposition leaders on Friday evening not to come, as it might raise tensions.

As soon as Gandhi and other opposition leaders landed, security forces surrounded them and did not allow them to leave the airport.

There are reports that members of the media were manhandled when they tried to follow the politicians.

“We wanted to get a sense of what people are going through, but we weren’t allowed beyond the airport,” Gandhi said.

“People with us were mishandled, beaten. It’s clear that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir isn’t normal,” Gandhi told the media after returning from Srinagar.

The Communist Party of India in a statement said: “The denial of entry to well-known leaders of recognized political parties is an outright attack on the rights of political parties to meet and address their constituents.”

It added that the plan of the delegation was “to visit various parts of the state over the next few days, talking to various people and sections of the populace and shades of political opinion to ascertain the situation existing on the ground and the difficulties that they are encountering as a result of the shutdown in the Kashmir Valley.”

Kashmir has been under security lockdown since Aug. 5, the day when the Indian government rescinded Article 370 that gave a special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian constitution. 

Jammu and Kashmir Gov. Satyapal Malik doubted the opposition’s intentions and said that they wanted to “aggravate the situation” through their visit.

“If Rahul Gandhi wants to aggravate the situation and come here to repeat the lie he told in Delhi, it is not good,” Malik told the media in Srinagar.

The situation remains tense even three weeks after the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Schools, colleges and businesses remain shut despite a government’s order to reopen them.

Communication blockades continue and people of the region are still cut off from the rest of the world.

Traffic movement has increased on major roads but round the clock vigilance by security personnel continues with paramilitaries manning key strategic points across Srinagar.

“In south Kashmir — be it Pulwama, Shopian or Anantnag — life is at a standstill. People are living in fear because of the random arrests by the security forces,” Manzoor Ul Hassan, a Srinagar-based journalist said.

A government official in Srinagar told Arab News: “We have asked people to start resuming normal life but that is not happening.”


US opens first round of resurrected peace talks with Taliban

Updated 07 December 2019

US opens first round of resurrected peace talks with Taliban

  • The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence
  • Permanent cease-fire would be the eventual goal, said a US statement

KABUL: US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held on Saturday the first official talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban since President Donald Trump declared a near-certain peace deal with the insurgents dead in September.
The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal, said a US statement. Khalilzad is also trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict.
The meetings being held in the Middle eastern State of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, follow several days of talks in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, where Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
The Taliban have so far refused direct talks with Ghani calling him a US puppet.
Ghani leads the Afghan government with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in a power-sharing agreement brokered by the United States after the presidential elections in 2014 were so deeply mired in corruption that a clear winner could not be determined.
To head off a conflict Washington stepped in and forced the two leading candidates __ Ghani and Abdullah __ to share power in a so-called Unity Government that has been largely paralyzed because of the relentless bickering between the two leaders.
The Afghan government is now embroiled in a fresh elections standoff. Presidential polls on Sept. 28 again ended in accusations of misconduct and corruption, with no results yet announced.
Repeat leading contender Abdullah has challenged the recounting of several hundred thousand ballots, accusing his opponent Ghani of trying to manipulate the tally.
Meanwhile, Khalilzad’s return to his peace mission followed Trump’s surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to Afghanistan in which he said talks with the Taliban were back on.
While Khalilzad is talking to the Taliban about reducing violence, the US military in its daily report said overnight on Saturday US airstrikes killed 37 Taliban and operations by the Afghan National Security Forces killed another 22 of the militants.
The insurgents have continued to carry put near daily strikes against military outposts throughout the country. They now hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan.
Trump has expressed frustration with America’s longest war repeatedly saying he wants to bring the estimated 12,000 US soldiers home and calling on Afghanistan’s own police and military to step up. The Afghan government has also been criticized for its relentless corruption.