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UK police asked to probe Indian officials’ alleged war crimes in occupied Kashmir

A London-based law firm filed an application with British police on Tuesday seeking the arrest of India’s army chief and a senior Indian government official over their alleged roles in war crimes in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK).

Law firm Stoke White said it submitted extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit documenting how Indian forces headed by Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah were responsible for the torture, kidnapping, and killing of activists, journalists, and civilians.

The law firm’s report was based on over 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021. It also accused eight unnamed senior Indian military officials of direct involvement in war crimes and torture in IoK.

India’s Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of the report and refused to comment. The Ministry of Home Affairs also did not comment.

“There is strong reason to believe that Indian authorities are conducting war crimes and other violence against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report states, referring to territory that is part of the Himalayan region.

The request to London police was made under the principle of “universal jurisdiction” which gives countries the authority to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

The international law firm in London said it believes its application is the first time that legal action has been taken abroad against Indian authorities over alleged war crimes in IoK.

Hakan Camuz, director of international law at Stoke White, said he hoped the report would convince British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the UK. Some of the Indian officials have financial assets and other links to Britain.

“We are asking the UK government to do their duty and investigate and arrest them for what they did based on the evidence we supplied to them. We want them to be held accountable,” Camuz said.

The police application was made on behalf of the family of Zia Mustafa, a jailed Pakistani freedom fighter whom Camuz said was the victim of an extrajudicial killing by Indian authorities in 2021, and on the behalf of human rights campaigner Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who was allegedly tortured before his arrest last week.

Kashmiris and international rights groups have long accused Indian troops of carrying out systematic abuse and arrests of those who oppose rule from New Delhi. Rights groups have also criticised the conduct of freedom groups, accusing them of carrying out human rights violations against civilians.

In 2018, the UN human rights chief called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in Kashmir, alleging “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces”.

India’s government has denied the alleged rights violations and claims such claims are “separatist propaganda” meant to demonize Indian troops in the region.

The law firm’s investigation suggested that the abuse has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.

Its report also included details about the arrest of Khurram Parvez, the region’s most prominent rights activist, by India’s counterterrorism authorities last year.

Parvez, 42, worked for the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, which has written extensive reports about Indian troops’ use of violence and torture.

Other accounts in the report discuss journalist Sajad Gul, who was arrested earlier this month after he posted a video of family members and relatives protesting the killing of a freedom commander.

Human rights lawyers have increasingly used the universal jurisdiction principle to seek justice for people who were unable to file criminal complaints in their home countries or with the International Criminal Court, located in The Hague.

Last week, a German court convicted a former Syrian secret police officer of crimes against humanity for overseeing the abuse of thousands of detainees at a jail near Damascus a decade ago.

Camuz said he hoped the request to British police seeking the arrest of Indian officials will be followed by other legal actions also focusing on IoK.

“We are sure this is not going to be the last one, there will probably be many more applications,” he said.

Govt extends olive branch to opposition amid uproar over bills

ISLAMABAD: Following an uproar over the passage of controversial bills in the National Assembly, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday appeared to extend an olive branch to the opposition, inviting it to sit down and discuss all matters of national importance.

“We want to engage the opposition on important national issues like electoral and judicial reforms and the appointment of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman,” Informa­tion and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry told a press conference after a meeting of the federal cabinet.

Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar also attended the press conference. Mr Chaudhry said he, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar and the prime minister himself had invited the opposition to negotiate on these three issues.

However, he said the opposition was only interested in hatching conspiracies and trying to topple the government, despite constant efforts to engage them on the government’s reform agenda.

Fawad says govt willing to talk to opposition on issues such as electoral, judicial reforms, appointment of NAB chief

Interestingly, the opposition had shown its willingness to sit down with the government, provided the prime minister himself participated in the negotiations. However, Mr Chaudhry categorically said on Tuesday that PM Khan would not sit with any opposition leader, including Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif.

SBP bill

During the press briefing, the ministers also spoke about the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021 — one of the two contentious pieces of legislation that are necessary to ensure that Pakistan’s sixth review of the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility gets cleared by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) executive board.

The bill was passed last week by the National Assembly during a session that lasted nearly until midnight, amid fierce objections from the opposition benches.

Energy Minister Azhar said the opposition had attempted to make the bill controversial, adding that the legislation was aimed at granting autonomy to the SBP, and drew parallels between Pakistan and developed countries.

Naval golf club

Briefing the media on other decisions taken in the cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the government’s chief spokesperson also said they would comply fully with the Islamabad High Court (IHC) decision to seal and raze the naval golf course located on Margalla Hills National Park land.

He said the cabinet had discussed the issue of encroachment of protected land by naval authorities. On Jan 11, the IHC had ordered the golf course to be razed within four weeks unless an environmentally-friendly use could be found for it.

Earlier, on Jan 7, the court had ruled the navy’s sailing club and farm houses “trespassed on the land situated on the embankment of Rawal Lake” and ordered them to be razed as well.

During a hearing on Monday, an IHC bench had also sought a compliance report from the cabinet secretary on the order to place the judgement in this case before the federal cabinet.

Conflict of interest

Talking about other decisions taken in the cabinet meeting, he said the National Assembly and Senate secretariats had been asked to avoid nominating members that have a conflict of interest, to various parliamentary committees.

“It has been observed that contractors and builders became members of committees on communications, and those owning information technology firms joined the committees concerning IT,” he said.

“This means that a member associated with a certain industry should not be included in standing committees pertaining to that particular industry,” he explained.

Mr Chaudhry also said the Ministry of Industries and Production briefed the meeting about urea production and its availability in the country.

The cabinet also okayed the reconstitution of the board of directors of Railway Construction Pakistan Limited, while the annual report of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority was also presented before it. This is the first time in 24 years that the report has been presented on time.

PTA to be approached for blocking crypto portals

KARACHI: Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director-General Dr Sanaullah Abbasi on Saturday said the agency will approach the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for blocking websites dealing in cryptocurrencies to prevent fraud and possible money laundering.

He was talking to the media after holding a meeting with a team of senior officials of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) at the Cyber Crime Circle Office. “The SBP officials gave a presentation in the meeting about a regulating mechanism,” said the FIA chief.

The SBP team informed the participants of the meeting that the central bank had submitted recommendations recently under the directions of the Sindh High Court for regulating cryptocurrencies.

Mr Abbasi said legal experts would also be approached to deal with fraud and other issues arising out of cryptocurrencies. “Crypto has given a new dimension to the fraud,” remarked Mr Abbasi.

FIA chief says virtual currency has given a new dimension to fraud

Pointing out that the United States, United Kingdom and Canada have declared cryptocurrency legal but it is banned in China and other countries, the FIA DG observed that we were mainly concerned about fraud and possible money laundering aspects.

Earlier, it was pointed out in the meeting that there was no section of law available in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, Foreign Exchange Remittance Act 1947 (FERA) and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 (AMLA) regarding illegal/misuse of cryptocurrency.

“In some cases, the Cyber Crime Wing took cognisance under section-23 of FERA and AMLA.”

“There is no regulatory framework for virtual asset service providers (VASPs) in order to comply with the FATF requirements,” the meeting was informed.

It was further informed that the SBP and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan have adopted a ‘prohibited approach’ and issued various instructions on VCs (virtual currency).

“The SBP had issued an advisory to general public and banks to refrain from dealing with virtual currencies, initial coins offering, etc.”

“The FIA has taken action over complaints of the people that they have been cheated,” said Mr Abbasi. He revealed that data was being collected about possible suspects involved in this scam with the citizens.

The FIA has recently initiated a probe into the mega financial scam after 11 apps linked to popular cryptocurrency exchange Binance had stopped working, defrauding Pakistani investors of over $100 million (Rs17.7 billion).

Also, it had arrested Dr Zafar from Faisalabad five months back on the charges of defrauding people through cryptocurrency.

More than a dozen dead in coalition strikes on Yemen’s Sanaa following an attack in UAE

An airstrike killed about 14 people in a building in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, residents said on Tuesday, during strikes across the city launched by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi group.

The alliance strikes on Houthi-held Sanaa followed an attack claimed by the Iran-aligned Houthis on Monday on coalition partner the United Arab Emirates, in Abu Dhabi, in which three people, including one Pakistani, were killed.

The coalition also said it intercepted eight drones launched toward Saudi Arabia on Monday.

Early on Tuesday, the coalition said it had begun airstrikes against strongholds and camps in Sanaa belonging to the Houthi group, Saudi state media said.

The strikes appeared to be the deadliest since 2019 on Sanaa.

The strike that killed about 14 people, according to initial estimates, was on the home of a former military official.

It killed him, his wife, his 25-year-old son, other family members, and some unidentified people, a medical source and residents told Reuters.

According to a report by Al Arabiya, the strike killed Houthi leader Major General Abdullah Qassem al-Junaid.

The strikes were launched “in response to threat and military necessity”, a spokesperson for the coalition said.

Coalition strikes around the city had killed a total of about 20 people, the deputy foreign minister for the Houthi administration, which holds much of northern Yemen, said on Twitter.

Houthi-run Al Masirah TV said strikes had damaged houses, killed at least a dozen people and wounded about a dozen.

The UAE has armed and trained Yemeni forces that recently joined fighting against the Houthis in Yemen’s energy-producing regions of Shabwa and Marib.

Monday’s Houthi-claimed attack on two sites in the UAE set off explosions in fuel trucks, killed three people and ignited a blaze near Abu Dhabi airport.

In response, the UAE said it reserved the right to respond to “terrorist attacks and criminal escalation”.

Pakistan condemns terrorist attack

Pakistan has condemned the attack on UAE, saying that such attacks “violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the UAE and pose a grave threat to the regional peace and security”.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Foreign Office called for an immediate end to attacks. It also offered condolences to the families of the victims.

It emphasised that Pakistan stood in solidarity with the UAE in the “face of this wanton act of terrorism”.

Hindu monk jailed after calling for ‘genocide’ of Muslims

NEW DELHI: Indian authorities have charged a Hindu monk with inciting religious violence after he called for the genocide of India’s Muslims at a meeting of right-wing supporters, police said on Monday.

Senior police officer Swatantra Kumar said Yati Narsinghanand Giri, an outspoken supporter of far-right nationalists who also heads a Hindu monastery, was initially arrested on Saturday on allegations that he made derogatory remarks against women. He appeared the following day in a court in the town of Haridwar, where he was sent into 14 days of custody for hate speech against Muslims and calling for violence against them.

Kumar said the monk Giri, whom he described as a repeat offender, was formally charged on Monday with promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.” The charge can carry a jail term of five years.

In December, Giri and other religious leaders called on Hindus to arm themselves for genocide against Muslims during a meeting in Haridwar, a northern holy town in Uttarakhand, according to a police complaint. He is the second person to be arrested in the case after India’s Supreme Court intervened last week.

Uttarakhand state is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modis Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. The political party’s rise to power in 2014, and landslide re-election in 2019, have led to a spike in attacks against Muslims and other minorities. Muslims comprise nearly 14pc of India’s 1.4 billion people.

The three-day conference that the monk Giri helped to organize was called the Dharam Sansad, or Religious Parliament, and followed on years of rising anti-Muslim hate speech. The closed-door meetings witnessed some of the most explicit calls for violence yet.

Videos from the conference showed multiple Hindu monks, some of whom have close ties to Modi’s ruling party, saying Hindus should kill Muslims.

“If 100 of us are ready to kill two million of them, then we will win and make India a Hindu nation,” said Pooja Shakun Pandey, a Hindu nationalist leader, referring to the country’s Muslim population. Her calls for such a massacre were met with applause from the audience.

Pandey is being investigated by police for insulting religious beliefs. During the congregation, Hindu monks and other supporters, including Giri, took an oath calling for the killing of those who were perceived to be enemies of the Hindu religion.

The calls for violence were met with public outrage and drew sharp criticism from former military chiefs, retired judges, and rights activists. Many questioned the Modi government’s silence, warning hate speech against Muslims will only grow as several Indian states, including Uttarakhand, head to the polls in February.

Last week, students and faculty at the Indian Institute of Management, one of India’s most prestigious business schools, submitted a letter to Modi in which they wrote his silence emboldens hate and threatens the country’s unity and integrity.

BJP has faced fierce criticism over rising attacks against Muslims in recent years.

Opposition leaders and rights groups have accused it of encouraging violence by hardline Hindu nationalists against Muslims and other minorities. The party denies the allegation.