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Awantipora teacher killed in police custody

Torture marks on body; city DM orders inquiry; police says deceased was ‘suspect in militancy case’

Syed Nashir Ali Gillani

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Srinagar, Mar 19: A youth from Awantipora town in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district was killed in police custody in Srinagar during the intervening night of March 18 and 19.
The deceased was identified as 28-year-old Rizwan Assad Pandith, M.Sc in Chemistry, who worked as Principal at Sabir Abdullah, a local private school, and also ran a tuition institute.
He was arrested from his home on Sunday, March 17 by a Police party led by a DSP rank officer, his brother Zulkarnain said.
“Yesterday (Monday), we went to the police station where we were told that my brother was in the custody of Cargo guys,” Zulkarnain said.
‘Cargo’ is a counter-insurgency police camp located in Srinagar.
He added that on Tuesday morning the family came to know that Rizwan was “killed in cargo.”
“It is a cold-blooded custodial murder,” Zulkarnain alleged.
“My brother was innocent. He was running a tuition center and was working as a Principal of a local private school. We fail to understand what his crime was and why was he killed?” he said.
Zulkarnain added that his brother was not affiliated with any militant organisation.
“He was associated with Jamaat-e-Islami. Is that a crime? My father too is a member of Jamaat,” he said.
The family, later in the day, refused to take back the body from Police Control Room Srinagar amid protests and clashes in Awantipora.
Mubashir, Rizwan’s elder sibling, told The Kashmir Monitor over the phone that the family was asked to receive the body from Police Control Room, Srinagar, however, they refused telling the police that they should themselves bring the body back.
“Finally the Awantipora police handed over the body along with other documentation. We will perform the jinazah by 9 pm (Tuesday),” Mubashir said.
He added that Rizwan was arrested on “frivolous” charges, slapped with Public Safety Act (PSA) on 26 August 2018, and shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu, where he was kept for five months.
The PSA, he added, was eventually quashed by a local court in Pulwama but the police kept detaining Rizwan and released him on January 6, around 20 days after the court order.
“Since then, he was busy with his routine work and was living a normal life,” he said.
Mubashir said that Rizwan’s body carried clear torture marks.
“His left eye had completely blackened, his nose was still bleeding and there were several torture marks on his body. His stomach had swollen a lot. It clearly shows he died of torture,” he said.
A police spokesperson said that Rizwan was a “suspect” in a militancy case investigation.
“He died in police custody. In this matter, while following the procedure laid down in section 176 of CRPC, a magisterial inquiry is underway. Separately police investigation has also been initiated in the jurisdictional area of the incident,” police said.
Unconfirmed reports had linked Rizwan’s detention with recent NIA raids, however, a spokesperson of NIA denied their link with the case.
“Emphatically deny reports linking NIA with Rizwan Ahmad of Awantipora. He was neither called for questioning nor was he examined at any other location in connection with cases being investigated by NIA,” the NIA spokesperson said in a statement.
In the evening, District Magistrate Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, told a local news agency that they have started proceedings into the case under the magisterial probe.
“The inquiry will be conducted by the Additional Commissioner Srinagar. We will complete the probe soon and submit the report to the government,” news agency Kashmir News Service quoted Choudhary saying.
Soon after the news about the killing was shared, youth came out protesting in parts of south Kashmir and Srinagar.
The authorities at Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) in Awantipora had already closed the varsity as a precautionary measure.
In Srinagar, shopkeepers at Maisuma and downtown areas including Nowhatta and Rajouri Kadal downed the shutters in protest.

NIA denies involvement

Srinagar, Mar 19: Amid outrage over the death of an Awantipora resident in police custody, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday said the deceased was not examined by the probe agency.
“NIA emphatically denies reports linking NIA with Rizwan Ahmed resident of Awantipora,” the probe agency said, in a statement, issued on Tuesday.
“He was neither called for questioning nor was he examined at any other location in connection with cases being investigated by NIA.”
Rizwan Assad Pandith (28) died in the custody at CARGO camp in Srinagar last night, triggering widespread condemnations and protests in Kashmir.
Separatists have called shutdown in Kashmir tomorrow to protests his custodial death.
Earlier, reports had said that Pandith was detained by the NIA few days ago.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said on Twitter that Rizwan was, as per sources, picked up by NIA few days ago and was lodged in CARGO camp.

Spontaneous shutdown, clashes in several areas

Srinagar, Mar 19: The custodial killing of a private school teacher from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district Tuesday triggered a spontaneous shutdown at many places in Awantipora and old-city areas here.
28-year-old Rizwan Assad Pandith, a post-graduate in Chemistry, who worked as teacher at a local private school and also ran a tuition institute, was killed in police custody during the intervening night of March 18 and 19.
As soon as the news of his death went public on Tuesday, all the shops and business establishments were closed in Awantipora soon and the local youth engaged in clashes with government forces.
Police said that a probe is underway while as the separate police investigation has also been launched.
The students of Kashmir University also staged a protest against the custodial death of the youth and against summoning of Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
The students assembled in the premises of Kashmir University and raised slogans.
The students demanded investigation into the death of a youth. They also termed the summoning of Mirwaiz to National Investigation Agency (NIA) as ‘interference in religious affairs’, saying such acts must be stopped forthwith.

 

His death exposes helplessness of Kashmiris: Mirwaiz

Srinagar, Mar 19: Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Tuesday said that the custodial killing of a school teacher has once again exposed the “helplessness” of the people of Kashmir.
“Distraught at the brutal custodial killing of young Rizwan Ahmed of Awantipora. The brutal killing once again exposes the, helplessness, vulnerability and insecurity of the lives of Kashmiri’s as impunity to the authorities keeps rising. (sic),” Mirwaiz wrote on Twitter.
Earlier, both the former chief ministers of the state, National Conference’s Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti lashed out at the government of India over the custodial killing of a school teacher.
On Tuesday, a school teacher, identified as Rizwan Pandith, died in police custody at CARGO camp in Srinagar.
A resident of a resident of Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Rizwan was arrested by the police few days back from his home.
A police official said that Rizwan died during the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday.
The Jammu Kashmir Police department has asked for a magisterial inquiry.


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Big fish in anti-corruption net soon: Guv Malik

‘Wish I’d power to confiscate properties of corrupt’

Firdous Hassan

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Governor inaugurating Kargil Ladakh Tourism Festival on Sunday

Srinagar, Jul 21: Reiterating his tough stance against corruption in the state, Governor Satya Pal Malik Sunday said that in the next few months, he was expecting to corner and catch at least “two big fish” who had engaged in high-profile corruption during their time in power.  

“These big families have built their bungalows in Dubai, Delhi and London. Retired forest officers have their houses in posh locality of Vasant Kunj in New Delhi. Soon, you will see that at least two big fish (high profile corrupt people) will be caught in the coming two months. They have looted the wealth of Kashmir for decades,” Malik said.

The Governor was addressing people during the inauguration ceremony of Kargil Ladakh Tourism Festival 2019 at Khree Sultan Choo Sports Stadium in Kargil on Sunday.

 

If he had the power, the Governor said, he wished to confiscate the property of such corrupt people who had built several properties at the cost of Kashmiri people.

“I wish I had the power to confiscate their (corrupt people) properties by taking them to the court. Corruption is turning out to be the biggest problem in Jammu and Kashmir. These people build properties while we see common people living in poverty in Ladakh and even in Srinagar’s downtown,” Malik said.

He said that corruption was taking the shape of a ‘dreadful disease’ in the state, which required to be “uprooted”.

Malik said that there should be a constant public pressure on corruption and corrupt people.

Inaugurates Kargil Ladakh tourism festival

Governor Satya Pal Malik inaugurated Kargil Ladakh Tourism Festival-2019 at Khree Sultan Cho Sports Stadium Kargil here today.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor observed that the twin districts of Kargil and Leh of Ladakh Division have huge tourism potential and emphasized on organizing more events like the Tourism Festival to promote the diverse tourism opportunities available in the region.

Governor said that the expansion work of Kargil Airport for which Rs 200 crores have already been sanctioned will be taken up soon.

This will not only provide round the year connectivity but also give a new dimension to the tourism sector in the region, he added.

Governor said that the State Administration is committed for the holistic development of Ladakh division and concrete measures are underway to pursue this goal. Government is taking strict measures to bring transparency in the system and removing various bottlenecks in the path of progress and development, he added.

Governor, on the occasion, announced the establishment of two degree colleges for Kargil district including a Women’s Degree College. He said that a 2500 MW solar power project will be starting soon to augment power sector in Kargil.

Governor also inspected and appreciated the various stalls of local handicrafts, handloom, agricultural and horticulture products, ethnic food and ancient artifacts which had been put up by various Government departments and social groups.

 Feroz Ahmad Khan, Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor LAHDC, Kargil expressed his gratitude to the Governor on behalf of the people of Kargil district for having fulfilled the long pending demands of the people by granting divisional status to Ladakh, creation of 495 posts for Ladakh Division and allotment of equal number of directorates to both districts, sanctioning of Rs 200 crores for expansion of Kargil Airport and Rs 280 crores for completion of languishing projects.

The CEC also projected several demands and sought the intervention of the Governor for their early redressal including establishment of women’s police station and IRP Battalion in the district, early start of work on Zojila Tunnel and release of the pending dues of casual labourers.

Various multicultural music and dance performances were presented by the artists of the Purgi, Balti and Shina Dardi ethnic tribes and a polo exhibition match was also organized to mark the occasion.

 Baseer ul Haq Choudhary, Deputy Commissioner and CEO, LAHDC, Kargil gave the vote of thanks and expressed his gratitude to Governor for gracing the occasion with his presence.

Haji Anayat Ali, Chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council,  Feroz Ahmad Khan, Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor LAHDC, Kargil,  Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, Member Parliament,  Er Phunsog Tashi,  Syed Mujtaba,  Syed Abbass Razvi,  Muhammad Ali Chandan- Executive Councillors, Maj. Gen Sanjeev Dogra,  GOC 8 Mountain Division,  Prasanna Ramaswamy G, Additional Secretary, Tourism ,  Baseer ul Haq Choudhary, Deputy Commissioner and CEO, LAHDC, Kargil, Dr Vinod Kumar, Superintendent of Police Kargil,  Nissar Ahmed Wani, Director Tourism Kashmir, Councillors of LAHDC Kargil were present among other dignitaries on the occasion.

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Guv to militants: Why target innocent, why not corrupt?

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jul 21: Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Satya Pal Malik Sunday said that the militants, if they have to, should kill the corrupt people who have looted Kashmir instead of the innocent.

Inaugurating the Kargil Ladakh tourism festival 2019 at Khree Sultan Choo stadium in Kargil, he said: “Why are you (militants) killing innocents including SPOs and PSOs. What will you gain by this?

“If you have to kill, why don’t you kill the corrupt who have looted the country and Kashmir for so long.”

 

Malik said that the militants do not have the power to erode the authority of the Indian government. “Yours is a futile struggle. You are losing your lives for nothing. Guns haven’t fetched you anything, particularly in India where government doesn’t bow before guns. You should know that there was one terrorist organisation LTTE but they all got killed. One doesn’t fight with governments in this manner,” Malik said.

He said that “only 250 militants were left in the valley now.”

“100 are from Pakistan and the rest are locals who are inexperienced with no weapon,” he said.

“The local militants are being killed within two hours of operation in the state. Foreigners take two days to die,” he said.

Launching an attack on politicians of Kashmir, Governor said they have always had two different stands, one in Delhi and another in Kashmir.

“Yeh dilli main hote hain to humko darate hain aur fir yahan bachun ko bhadkate hain (when in New Delhi they threaten us and later mislead and instigate the boys here). We told them to speak only one language. I am assuring you that these politicians won’t give you autonomy,” he said.

Malik said “the religious leader were equally misleading youth of Kashmir.

“Maulvis were promising them (militants) heaven after death. I cannot question your religious belief. But, I can give you two heavens instead of the one promised to you by your ”maulvis”. I can give you Kashmir, which is a heaven on earth, and if you live like good human beings, you will get another heaven after your death.”

He expressed satisfaction over the change in the ground situation in Kashmir, saying that the people are now talking of peace.

“It is for the first time in 30 years that there was no strike on the visit of the country’s Home Minister to Kashmir,” Malik said referring to the recent visit of Amit Shah to the Valley.

He also spoke of the administration’s attempts to bring back the Kashmiri Pandits saying that the effort has been welcomed by Hurriyat Conference chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

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Imran Khan in US, to meet Trump today

Press Trust of India

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Washington, Jul 21: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived here Saturday afternoon on a three-day official trip to the US.

Khan, 66, is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday, July 22 during which the American leadership will press him to take “decisive and irreversible” actions against “terrorist” and militant groups operating from Pakistan and facilitate peace talks with the Taliban.

The cricketer-turned-politician arrived here abroad a commercial Qatar Airways flight and is staying at the official residence of the Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed Khan.

 

He was welcomed at the airport by his foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. A large number of Pakistani Americans also welcomed him.

Nawaz Sharif was the last Pakistani prime minister to visit the US on an official working trip in October 2015. During his stay in Washington DC, Khan, in addition to his meeting with Trump, is also scheduled to meet IMF acting chief David Lipton and World Bank President David Malpass.

He is scheduled to address a gathering of thousands of Pakistani Americans at capitol One Arena in downtown Washington DC on Sunday, July 21, and speak at the US Institute of Peace think-tank on July 23.

The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will call on him on Tuesday. Trump, in addition to a one-on-meeting in the Oval Office will host the visiting delegation over a working lunch at the White House on Monday.

He is also scheduled to meet lawmakers at the US Capitol Hill. Before becoming the prime minister, Khan used to visit the US regularly and has a sizeable support base among the Pakistani diaspora.

This is after several decades that a visiting Pakistani leader has been welcomed by members of the Pakistani diaspora in such a large number.

Meanwhile, hours before his arrival Pakistan hired the services of lobbying firm Holland & Knight.

The memorandum of understanding on this was signed between former Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds and Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Majeed Khan.

Reynolds will lead a team comprising other former members of Congress, former senior Administration officials, Capitol Hill veterans and other professional experts to lobby in the US on behalf of the Government of Pakistan.

The Embassy had no lobbyist during the past six years. Khan’s visit to the US is also marked by protests by several ethnic and religious minorities of Pakistan, including Baloch, Sindhis and Mohajirs.

The Baloch groups Saturday started a mobile billboard campaign in America’s national capital urging President Donald Trump to help end “enforced disappearances in Pakistan.

A bipartisan group of 10 influential American lawmakers Saturday asked US President Donald Trump to raise the issue of human rights abuses in the Sindh province in his meeting with the visiting Pakistan Prime Minister.

Protests have been planned in front of the White House and Capitol Hill Arena by these groups over the next few days.

Saved his country money: Omar backs Khan

Srinagar, Jul 21: As Twitterati took a dig at Imran Khan, who was reportedly not received by any official upon his arrival in the United States, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Sunday threw his weight behind the Prime Minister, saying he saved Pakistan’s money.

Quoting a tweet by Pakistan-based journalist Fawad Rehman, who posted the video of Khan’s arrival, Abdullah said that the reported absence of a state protocol to Khan “reflects badly” on the Donald Trump administration.

“He saved his country money it didn’t need to spend AND didn’t wear his ego on his sleeve like most “leaders” do. Remind me again why that’s a bad thing. This reflects badly on the American establishment rather than on @ImranKhanPTI IMO,” the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister tweeted.

Khan is currently on a three-day visit to the US. The cricketer-turned-politician, who took a commercial flight instead of a private jet to cut down on expenses, was instead received by his Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and others at the Dulles International Airport.

A video shared by PTI showed Khan deboarding the commercial flight and later being received by Qureshi and Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Asad M Khan. He also took the people mover for leaving the airport.

As Khan did not receive his due welcome, netizens used this opportunity to have a good laugh. “Pakistan didn’t do very well in the World Cup, but this seems a harsh punishment,” a Twitterer said.

In a bid to cut costs with a struggling economy back home, Khan had earlier expressed his wish to stay at the ambassador’s residence during his visit to the US capital.

Pakistani daily, The Dawn, had reported the news while adding that the US Secret Service, which is responsible for the security of all visiting dignitaries, is not “very receptive” towards the idea as it could pose security risks and cause inconvenience to the people. Local authorities, who are responsible for the smooth flow of Washington DC traffic during a foreign dignitary’s visit, have not expressed their keenness either.

Khan is expected to discuss Afghanistan and peace in the South Asian region during his upcoming meeting with Trump on July 22.

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