Pakistan ready for referendum in Kashmir – PM Khan

In this file photo, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan speaks during the Climate Action Summit 2019 in the United Nations General Assembly Hall September 23, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2020

Pakistan ready for referendum in Kashmir – PM Khan

  • Khan criticized the Indian government for being influenced by RSS
  • Commercial interests prevent Western countries from stopping the lockdown of India-administered Kashmir, he told Deutsche Welle

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is ready for a referendum in Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran Khan in a Thursday interview with a German broadcaster.
“Let the people of Kashmir decide what they want. Pakistan is ready for a referendum or a plebiscite. Let them decide whether they want to remain with Pakistan or to be independent,” Khan told Deutsche Welle.
He said that Azad Kashmir – the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmiri territory – holds free and fair elections and, unlike the Indian-administered part, it is open for observers. “Let us invite observers from all over the world. I assure you that they can go to the Pakistan side of Kashmir but won’t be allowed on the Indian side.”
To resolve differences between Pakistan and India, the premier said, he had made an effort to talk to his counterpart Narendra Modi, but there was no positive response.
“In my first speech as prime minister (in 2018), I said that if India moved one step forward, we would take two steps toward them to resolve our differences. But I soon came to know that India did not respond well to my offer because of the RSS’ ideology,” Khan said, referring to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a nationalist Hindu paramilitary organization.
“It is a tragedy for India – and for its neighbors – that the country has been taken over by the RSS, an organization which also assassinated the great Mahatma Gandhi. A nuclear-armed country is being run by extremists, and Kashmir has been under siege for over five months,” he said.
In reference to India's lockdown of Kashmiri territory, Khan added that “unfortunately, commercial interests are more important for Western countries. India is a big market and that is the reason behind the lukewarm response to what is happening to some 8 million people in Kashmir, as well as to minorities in India.”
Meanwhile, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is in Washington, briefed US senators on the situation's implications for regional security.
“Peace and stability in South Asia would remain elusive until the Kashmir dispute was resolved in accordance with international law and the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” the Foreign Office quoted Qureshi in a statement released on Friday.


Beat stress with self-discipline, meditation during lockdown — Experts

Updated 04 April 2020

Beat stress with self-discipline, meditation during lockdown — Experts

  • Self-isolation and social distancing may lead to tremendous mental pressure among many
  • Experts say building physical and mental immunity can relieve anxiety and stress

RAWALPINDI: While experts warn that self-isolation and social distancing during long virus lockdowns could trigger symptoms of anxiety and depression among people, they list a number of practices to beat stress out of life. 
Building “mental immunity,” at a time when physical immunity has taken center stage is critical to one’s well-being, said Islamabad-based psychotherapist, Nida Maqbool.
“What most people do not realize is that our mental immunity and physical immunity are interlinked,” Maqbool told Arab News over the phone. “If we are not mentally fit, we also feel physical repercussions.”
Another Islamabad-based counselor, Farah Rehman, who operates out of Therapy Works in the nation’s capital said, “Building physical and mental immunity can give quite a relief to anxiety whether it’s working on your fitness or writing down what you are grateful for. Another great tool is meditation.”
A few weeks ago, Pakistanis began following the World Health Organization’s guidelines of social distancing and self-isolation in order to help combat the spread of coronavirus, a hard adjustment to normal practice.
Provinces in Pakistan announced lockdowns, shops other than pharmacies and grocery stores were shuttered and, while all of this was done to keep Pakistanis safe, the situation triggered anxiety, stress and depression among many in the absence of usual social interactions.
“Humans are not meant to be completely isolated,” Omar Bazza, a clinical therapist practicing in Toronto, told Arab News over the phone. “Distancing and social isolation can indeed trigger a lot of anxiety and depression symptoms.”
In addition to forgoing social interactions, even those as simple as bumping into friends somewhere, there is the added stress of lost jobs, bills piling up, uncertainty of the future and the desire to keep the family safe.
“These concerns can easily trigger or even create anxiety. We are starting to see depression and anxiety in people who previously never experienced issues with their mental health,” said Bazza to Arab News.
“I have seen some of my depression make a comeback,” said Roshaan Amber, an Islamabad-based telecom worker, about being stuck at home. “Previously, I went for therapy to deal with anxiety and my depression was under control. But being at home all the time has once again stimulated it.”
Anousheh Azra works with the banking sector, one of the few areas of economy that have been deemed essential and therefore keeping people like her out of home. Yet, she is required to practice social distancing which, she believes, is making her life immensely difficult.
“I feel constantly exhausted, no matter how well rested I am,” she told Arab News. “I feel anxious.”
Maqbool suggests that “We all need to realize that we are going through trauma at a global level.” “We need to give ourselves the space to feel this.”
She recommends setting strict boundaries to exercise self-discipline like the one she has for herself where only a small portion of the day is dedicated to reading the news and where friends and family have been told that if they want to have a chat they need to discuss something other than the coronavirus. “If I am not in a good mental space myself, I cannot help my clients who are looking to me as a source of peace and safety.”
Maqbool has joined many people across the globe by using the Internet and digital platforms to reach her clients. She brings 80 percent of her clients to work with her online and sees 20 percent of them in person at her home, though “we keep a distance of five feet and meet in my lawn.”
Rehman said that “helping the underprivileged while staying within one’s capacity” can also tend to ease anxiety and depression. Another healthy indulgence is helping family members or friends passing through a tough time in isolation by “staying in touch virtually whether it’s a phone call or video chat and of course through social media,” said added.
Online resources for stress inoculation are available as well, though one should be cautioned to make sure the source of the website is legitimate and attached to medical or mental health professionals.