India defends blocking politicians from visiting Kashmir

Rahul Gandhi’s visit came days after Governor Satya Pal Malik ‘invited’ him to the state via Twitter. (Express Photo/File)
Updated 25 August 2019
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India defends blocking politicians from visiting Kashmir

  • If everything is normal, asks opposition’s Rahul Gandhi, why are Congress leaders not allowed in Jammu and Kashmir
  • Hurriyat Conference has released its first official comment since the clampdown, calling for locals to resist New Delhi’s move 

NEW DELHI: Authorities on Sunday defended blocking opposition Indian politicians from visiting Muslim-majority Kashmir, saying it was to “avoid controversy” weeks after stripping the restive region of its autonomy and imposing a major clampdown.
India’s Hindu-nationalist government has been criticized by the main opposition Congress party over the contentious move on August 5 that brings Kashmir — which has waged an armed rebellion against Indian control since 1989 — under its direct rule.
The region remains under strict lockdown with movement limited and many phone and Internet services cut, although authorities say they have been easing restrictions gradually.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, still a key figure in India as a scion of the powerful Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, was earlier invited by local governor Satya Pal Malik to visit Kashmir.
But a video released by Congress showed Gandhi questioning officials about why he was stopped from entering Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar at the airport on Saturday.
“The governor has said I’m invited. He has invited me so I have come but you’re saying I can’t go,” he said.
“And the government is saying everything is OK, everything is normal. So if everything is normal, why are we not allowed out? It is a bit surprising.”
Regional police chief Dilbagh Singh told AFP police supported the decision.
“In an environment that is getting to normalcy, we didn’t want any controversial statement from anyone. That’s why they were asked to return from the airport itself,” Singh said.
Malik told the ANI news agency he invited Gandhi out of goodwill but that he then politicized the issue.
The controversy came as key separatist group Hurriyat Conference, a coalition of local political parties, released its first official comments since the clampdown and called for locals to “resist at this critical juncture” New Delhi’s move.
“Each and every person must face the naked Indian brutality with courage ... People should organize peaceful protests and demonstrations in their areas of residence,” top separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani said in a statement obtained by AFP.
The Hurriyat Conference, which supports Kashmir’s right to choose whether it wants to be part of India or Pakistan, added that Pakistan and the wider Muslim community should “come forward to ... help the besieged people.”
The call came as India’s home affairs ministry refuted a report by India’s News18 television on Sunday that the region was running out of lifesaving medicines, saying supplies were “slightly higher than the monthly average.”
 


UAE citizens in Pakistan cast votes as balloting begins for Federal National Council

Updated 22 September 2019
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UAE citizens in Pakistan cast votes as balloting begins for Federal National Council

  • More than 200 UAE citizens in Pakistan are expected to cast their vote
  • Half of the council this year is expected to be women: UAE envoy

ISLAMABAD: The UAE envoy to Pakistan was the first to cast his vote on Sunday at the UAE embassy, as balloting began for the country’s citizens residing or working abroad to elect a political candidate to represent them in the Federal National Council (FNC), a parliamentary body for the seven emirates that make up the UAE.
According to UAE officials, more than 200 of the country’s citizens live in Pakistan including over 60 residing in the capital, Islamabad.
“This is the fourth election for the Federal (National) Council in UAE, and we are really proud of this democracy process in UAE,” Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salem Al-Zaabi, UAE Ambassador to Pakistan said while speaking to Arab News during the balloting session at the embassy in Islamabad.
The UAE has more than 118 diplomatic missions around the world which have set up polling booths for citizens to cast their votes, Al-Zaabi said.
“The (polling for the FNC) election in Pakistan will be held in Islamabad and at the consulate in Karachi on September 22 and 23. The big election in UAE will be held between October 2 to 4, followed by results... announced on October 5,” the UAE Ambassador said.
FNC, as per the provision of the UAE Constitution, was established in 1971 and comprises of 40 members representing the Arab peninsula’s seven Emirates; with Abu Dhabi and Dubai having the most number of seats followed by Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, and less populated Fujairah, Ajman, and Umm al Quwain with the least.
In the past, all members were appointed by the emirates’ respective rulers, but in 2006 the method was revised to introduce a partial form of democracy that allows the people of UAE to elect 20 FNC members through an electoral process.
“We started in 2006 and now we are in 2019 and this year it is totally different because half of this council will be women. UAE and its leadership support women empowerment and encourages females to be part of the country’s legislative decisions,” Al-Zaabi said.
The Ambassador, widely known for his philanthropic activities in Pakistan and his continued efforts to strengthen fraternal ties between the two countries said: “We have reached our goals to support democracy and encourage the people in UAE to be part of this democratic process.”