Violence on rise in India-occupied Kashmir after Yasin Malik’s sentencing

SRINAGAR: Indian forces killed six fighters in occupied Kashmir over the past 24 hours while the fighters shot dead a female TV performer and a police officer, officials said on Thursday, following the conviction of the region’s best-known leader.

A New Delhi court on Wednesday ordered life in jail for Yasin Malik for funding “terrorist” activities and on several other counts. The sentencing prompted warnings from politicians that it would promote alienation in the Muslim-majority region.

Shops and businesses in India-held Kashmir remained closed for a second day of protests against the verdict, while police detained 10 people for throwing stones and for sloganeering outside Yasin Malik’s residence.

“Three militants each of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba were killed in two separate gun battles in [occupied] Kashmir since yesterday,” Kashmir police chief Vijay Kumar said, referring to the two organisations. “We have also lost a cop in one of the operations.”

Kumar said Kashmiri fighters had shot dead 35-year-old television and social-media performer Amreen Bhat on Wednesday evening. They have allegedly killed at least 12 people, mostly police, in occupied Kashmir this year. One of the dead was a Kashmiri Hindu government employee, worrying the disputed region’s tiny minority community.

More than 3,400 Hindus from occupied Kashmir have been given government jobs there in recent years, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government tries to lure them back into the region after attacks forced them to flee during the 1990s. But Hindus have been holding street protests demanding relocation out of held Kashmir.

“We are not secure here,” Amit, a protesting Hindu government emplo­yee, said. “Our colleague was shot dead in his office. Our demand is relocation outside Kashmir, because every so often there is a targeted killing.”

Indian forces have already stepped up their operations, killing 78 fighters this year, according to the administration of held Kashmir. For the whole of last year, 193 were killed, while 232 were shot dead in 2020.

Meanwhile, representatives of Pakistan and India got into a fresh verbal duel in the UN Security Council on Wednesday after Pakistan’s Ambassador Munir Akram castigated New Delhi’s continued oppression in occupied Kashmir, drawing attention to the life sentence awarded to Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik by an Indian court.

Qasim Aziz Butt, who represented Pakistan, rejected India’s claim about Jammu and Kashmir being its integral part, saying it was a disputed territory, as per all United Nations maps and official documents.

The Pakistani representative accused India of being one of the world’s largest purveyors of state terrorism, notably against each of its neighbours, including Pakistan. At home, state-directed terrorism is being unleashed against all minorities, he said.—Agencies

Our Staff Correspondent in Muzaffarabad adds: Business community members across Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) kept their shutters down on Wednesday and joined people from other walks of life in staging rallies and demonstrations to condemn the illegal sentencing of incarcerated JKLF chairman Yasin Malik by an Indian court.

JKLF activists took out a rally from Burhan Wani Chowk which culminated at the UN Military Observers Mission office where the party leaders handed over a memorandum calling for the UN secretary general’s immediate intervention to save the life of the popular Kashmiri leader.

Traders, political workers, students and other citizens took out a rally from Upper Adda to Bank Road to express solidarity with Yasin Malik.

Entrepreneur Tanzila Khan wins Amal Clooney Women’s Empowerment Award at The Prince’s Trust Awards 2022

Pakistani activist and entrepreneur Tanzila Khan has been awarded the Amal Clooney Women’s Empowerment Award winner at The Prince’s Trust Awards 2022 for her work on increasing women’s access to menstrual, pregnancy and reproductive health products.

Human rights attorney Amal Clooney joined Prince Charles to present the award to her. Khan, who uses a wheelchair, made headlines earlier for her travel adventures to Egypt with a group of other women in wheelchairs.

Khan received the award for her company Girlythings through which she works to increase women’s access to menstrual, pregnancy and reproductive health products. Her company delivers menstrual and other products to your doorstep.

The activist took to Instagram and shared photos from the event where she met Clooney and the British royal.

She wrote that the award hopes to “lay foundation for future young changemakers in years to come” and that the ceremony will air on 8:30pm on ITV where people can watch her and others receive their awards.

Khan had told Images that she is an activist and entrepreneur from Punjab who is on a mission to help improve women’s health. “I run Girlythings, a service that delivers menstrual health products to women across Pakistan. I am the writer, producer and actor behind Pakistan’s first short comedy on disability called Fruit Chaat. I’m also a public speaker and do many other ventures on disability and empowerment.”

Khan along with Zargoona Wadood and Afshan Afridi made waves online for their adventurous vacation in Egypt as the friends posed by the pyramids.

Bush mistakenly calls Iraq invasion ‘brutal, unjustified’

Former United States President George W. Bush mistakenly described the invasion of Iraq as “brutal” and “unjustified” before correcting himself to say he meant to refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Bush made the comments in a speech during an event in Dallas on Wednesday, while he was criticising Russia’s political system.

“The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq,” Bush said, before correcting himself and shaking his head. “I mean, of Ukraine.”

He jokingly blamed the mistake on his age as the audience burst into laughter.

In 2003, when Bush was president, the United States led an invasion of Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that were never found. The prolonged conflict killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced many more.

Bush’s remarks quickly went viral on social media, gathering over three million views on Twitter alone after the clip was tweeted by a Dallas News reporter.

The former US President also compared Ukranian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy to Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill, while condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching the invasion of Ukraine in February.

Half a million Indians flee floods in northeast brought by rain

Reuters: More than 500,000 people have fled their homes in India’s northeastern state of Assam to escape heavy floods triggered by pre-monsoon rains that drowned seven, authorities said on Wednesday, as they warned the situation could worsen.

One of the world’s largest rivers, the Brahmaputra, which flows into India and neighbouring Bangladesh from Tibet, burst its banks in Assam over the last three days, inundating more than 1,500 villages.

Torrential rains lashed most of the rugged state, and the downpour continued on Wednesday, with more forecast over the next two days.

“More than 500,000 people have been affected, with the flood situation turning critical by the hour,” Assam’s water resources minister, Pijush Hazarika, told Reuters, adding that the seven drowned in separate incidents during the last three days.

Soldiers of the Indian army retrieved more than 2,000 people trapped in the district of Hojai in a rescue effort that continues, the state’s health minister, Keshab Mahanta, said.

Water levels in the Brahmaputra were expected to rise further, national authorities said.

“The situation remains extremely grave in the worst-hit Dima Hasao district, with both rail and road links snapped due to flooding and landslides,” said Assam’s revenue minister, Jogen Mohan, who is overseeing relief efforts there.

Cities elsewhere in India, notably the capital, New Delhi, are broiling in a heat wave.

Pakistan-IMF talks begin in Qatar

The government began talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday over the release of crucial funds, a process slowed by concerns about the pace of economic reforms in the country.

Pakistan has repeatedly sought international support for its economy, which has been hit by crippling national debt, galloping inflation and a plummeting rupee.

The talks are being held in the Qatari capital Doha, the Ministry of Finance said, and are expected to continue into next week.

Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, Minister of State Dr Aisha Ghous Pasha, Finance Secretary Hamed Yaqoob Shaikh, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Acting Governor Dr Murtaza Syed, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Asim Ahmad and other officials from the Finance Division are participating in the talks.

A major sticking point is likely to be over costly subsidies — notably for fuel and electricity — and the finance minister said he wants the two sides to “find a middle ground”.

“The government will try to convince the IMF that for political stability purposes it is important to keep at least some of the subsidies,” said economist Shahrukh Wani.

“The IMF will possibly, rightly, say that these are unsustainable and they should be rolled back to make the trade and budget deficit manageable,” he added.

A $6 billion IMF bailout package signed by former prime minister Imran Khan in 2019 has never been fully implemented because his government reneged on agreements to cut or end some subsidies and to improve revenue and tax collection.

Islamabad has so far received $3bn, with the programme due to end later this year.

Officials are seeking an extension to the programme through to June 2023, as well as the release of the next tranche of $1bn.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has vowed to jumpstart the moribund economy, but analysts say his fragile government has failed to take tough decisions.

In recent meetings with the new finance minister, the IMF has linked the continuation of its loan programme with the reversal of fuel subsidies, which were introduced by the previous government. However, Prime Minister Shehbaz has multiple times rejected summaries by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority and the finance ministry to increase fuel prices.

“It’s an administration that has refused to take hard political steps to bring eventual economic relief — but that’s exactly the sacrifice it must make by going to the IMF,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy South Asia director at the Wilson Centre in Washington.