India chided for revoking overseas citizenship of British Modi critic

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at a global investors' meet in Dharmsala, India, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. The two day global meet will end Friday. (AP)
Updated 08 November 2019

India chided for revoking overseas citizenship of British Modi critic

NEW DELHI: Press freedom watchdogs rebuked the Indian government on Friday for revoking the overseas citizenship of British writer Aatish Taseer, calling it retribution for criticism of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In May, weeks before Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) overwhelmingly won election to return to power, Taseer wrote a scathing piece in TIME Magazine that appeared on its cover with a headline: “India’s Divider in Chief.”
A spokeswoman for India’s Home Ministry said late on Thursday that Taseer was ineligible for Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status — which allows foreigners of Indian ancestry to visit, work and live in the country indefinitely — because he concealed that his late father was Pakistani.
India does not grant OCIs to individuals who are or whose ancestors were citizens of arch enemy Pakistan or Bangladesh. It also does not allow dual citizenship.
Taseer — born to Indian columnist Tavleen Singh and Salman Taseer, a Pakistani politician assassinated in 2011 — said the government had “weaponized” a technicality to punish him.
“I feel that anybody in my position has been sent a chilling message,” he told Reuters on Friday, saying he now fears he may be unable to visit his mother and grandmother in India.
“What they have done is make an example of me. They are really showing that they are willing to go after writers and journalists,” added Taseer, 38, from the United States where he lives.
Taseer said his mother had always been his sole legal guardian and he did not have contact with his father until the age of 21. He added that he was unsure what nationality he had listed for his father, who was also British, on his application but stressed he had never sought to hide his Pakistani links and wrote about his father extensively in a book a decade ago.
“I’ve not been given an opportunity to explain this,” he said.
The Home Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Daniel Bastard, head of the Asia-Pacific Desk at Reporters Without Borders, said it was revenge for criticizing Modi, whom Taseer wrote had helped create “an atmosphere of poisonous religious nationalism” in India and failed to reform its economy.
“The revocation of Aatish Taseer’s Indian overseas citizenship is just another example of how the Indian government tends to intimidate every journalist who does not toe the line of the BJP’s narrative,” he told Reuters.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also urged the Indian government to withdraw any directive to strip Taseer’s overseas citizenship.


US launches first Taliban air strikes since Afghan ceasefire end

Updated 6 min 25 sec ago

US launches first Taliban air strikes since Afghan ceasefire end

  • Taliban had announced a surprise three-day Eid ceasefire with Afghan forces that ended on May 26
  • The group has argely refrained from launching major attacks on Afghan cities since the peace deal was signed

KABUL: The US launched its first air strikes against the Taliban since a rare cease-fire between the insurgents and Afghan forces ended more than a week ago, the US military said Friday.
The two assaults took place on Thursday and Friday in separate provinces in Afghanistan, US forces spokesman Sonny Leggett said on Twitter.
“These were the 1st US airstrikes against (the Taliban) since the start of the Eid cease-fire,” he wrote.
“We reiterate: All sides must reduce violence to allow the peace process to take hold,” he added.
Ten members of the Afghan forces were killed on Friday in a separate attack targeting a Humvee vehicle, the Interior Ministry said, blaming the assault on the Taliban.
There was no immediate comment from the group.
The Taliban announced a surprise three-day cease-fire with Afghan forces that ended on May 26 to mark the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.
There has since been an overall drop in violence across the country, with the Afghan government saying it is ready to start long-delayed peace talks with the insurgents.
The US negotiator with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, left Friday for the region to discuss “the practical next steps necessary for a smooth start to intra-Afghan negotiations,” the State Department said.
He will visit Kabul as well as Qatar, where he regularly meets the Taliban, as well as Pakistan, the historic ally of the insurgents.
Washington signed a landmark deal with the Taliban in February, in which the United States pledged to withdraw all its troops in return for security guarantees in a bid to pave the way for negotiations between warring Afghan sides.
The Taliban have largely refrained from launching major attacks on Afghan cities since the deal was signed, but have continued to target Afghan forces.
Under the agreement, which excluded the Afghan government, Washington and the militants said they would refrain from attacking each other.
However, the Pentagon last month said it would continue to conduct defensive strikes against the Taliban when they attack Afghan partners.
The February deal will see all US and foreign forces quit Afghanistan by mid-2021, nearly 20 years after Washington first invade.
Thousands of US troops have already gone, with a senior US defense official last month putting the number left in the country at approximately 8,500.