Washington: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that despite India’s reluctance, Islamabad would not close doors on its efforts to promote peace in the region.
“India is reluctant, we will not close our doors,” the Minister said while addressing a news conference at the Pakistan Embassy here on Sunday.
“Hiding away from issues will not make them disappear. It will not improve the situation in Kashmir,” Dawn online quoted Qureshi as saying.
The Minister said he was unable to understand India’s refusal to participate in peace talks with Pakistan.
“Engagement, no-engagement. Coming, not coming. We desired talks as we believe the sensible way is to meet and talk. They agreed, and then disagreed.”
He pointed out that India’s response to Pakistan’s peace offer was harsh and non-diplomatic.
“We did not use a non-diplomatic language in our rejoinder. Our response was matured and measured. They adopted a new approach, and moved back.”
Qureshi said that Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s “language and tone was unbecoming of a foreign minister”, Dawn online reported.
Asked if tensions between India and Pakistan could lead to a war between the two countries, the Minister said: “Who is talking of war? Not us. We want peace, stability, employment and improving lives. You identify where is the reluctance.”
Qureshi said that Pakistan’s desire for peace should not be mistaken for a sign of weakness.
“We want peace. It does not mean, we cannot defend ourselves against aggression. We can but we do not have an aggressive mindset,” he said.
The Minister also reiterated Pakistan’s offer to open the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara corridor for allowing devotees to visit the historic gurdwara on the 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev.
Qureshi’s statement comes after India on Friday cancelled his and Sushma Swaraj’s meeting that was scheduled to be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session this week.
New Delhi blamed Pakistan for the killing of security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir and accusing it of glorifying terrorism, in terms of releasing a postage stamp featuring Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani who was killed by Indian security forces last year.
India announced its decision just 24 hours after Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in his media briefing on Thursday that New Delhi has accepted Islamabad’s request for a meeting between the two foreign ministers.
Three gunfights in north Kashmir
: 2 militants killed; JKP officer among 4 cops, 3 paratroopers, 2 civilians injured in B’la
Srinagar, Mar 21: North Kashmir Thursday witnessed three major encounters, first at Kalantra, Kreeri area of Baramulla, second in Sopore and the third one in Hajin area of Bandipora district.
While the gunfight in Baramulla ended Thursday evening, the other two were still going on at the time of filing this report.
Quoting official sources, news agency GNS said that two militants were killed and three para commandos wounded in the gunfight that started on Wednesday late evening between government forces and militants in Baramulla.
They said the gunfight began after army’s 52 RR, 29 RR, Special Operation Group of Police (SOG) and CRPF on Wednesday evening launched a search operation in Kandi area of Kalantra belt based on inputs about the presence of militants.
Additional reinforcements of 3 Para commandos were rushed to the area Thursday morning. During the course of the gunfight, two para commandos including an officer of Major rank and a soldier of 29 RR were injured. The injured were evacuated to army’s 92 base hospital Badamibagh Srinagar for treatment, where two are said to be critical.
The forces had also busted a militant hideout in the area Wednesday evening.
A senior police officer said that two militants were killed in the gunfight which ended late Thursday. “The bodies of both the militants were retrieved along with as many weapons”.
DSP Headquarter along with three policemen and an ambulance driver was among two civilians injured in day-long clashes that erupted in the area soon after the forces resumed search operation. All the injured were taken to nearby hospital for treatment.
Meanwhile, in wake of the gunfight, authorities had suspended internet service in the northern district.
Sopore encounter: A police officer was among two cops injured on Thursday in an ongoing gunfight between government forces and militants in north Kashmir’s Sopore village.
Reports said a joint team of Army’s 22 RR, special operation group of police and CRPF launched a cordon and search operation in Mir Mohalla Warpora village of Sopore on Thursday morning.
A police official said that militants fired upon outer cordon party in which a Station House Officer (SHO) and his two security guards were injured. All the injured policemen have been shifted to Srinagar for specialized treatment.
The officer further said that earlier they had brought the family of a trapped militant to the encounter site to persuade him to surrender, however it proved futile.
As per the sources one or two militants are believed to be trapped including a top commander.
Meanwhile, SSP Sopore Javid Iqbal, as per GNS, said that searches for the hiding militants are on and no contact with militants has been established as of now.
Earlier, in the day suspected militants fired UBGL towards CRPF camp located in main Chowk near SBI Bank in Sopore town.
A CRPF official said that the UBGL exploded with a bang and in the incident, no loss of life or injury were reported from the forces side.
However, reports said a passerby identified as Irshad Ahmed Mir son of Bashir Ahmed Mir resident of Checkrodey Khan area of Sopore received splinter injuries in the attack and were rushed to Sub District hospital Sopore for treatment.
BMO Sopore Dr Sami said that the youth was received by the hospital and is being operated upon. The BMO said that the condition of the youth is stated to be stable.
Meanwhile, the internet has been also suspended in the parts of Sopore for precautionary measures.
Hajin gunfight: A gunfight broke out in Hajin area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district on Thursday.
Reports said a joint team of Army’s 13RR, CRPF and SOG launched a cordon at Mir Mohalla of Hajin.
A police officer said the operation was launched following credible inputs about the presence of some militants in the area.
As the joint team of forces approached the suspected house, the hiding militants fired upon government forces, triggering an encounter.
SSP Bandipora Rahu Malik told GNS that forces had cordoned the suspected house earlier but the operation was delayed due to evacuation of civilians near the encounter site.
A police officer said members of local Auqaf committee and a magistrate were brought to the encounter site to persuade the hiding militants to release the civilian “taken hostage by them”.
According to police sources, a girl who was taken hostage was evacuated by the joint team of forces while a minor boy is still in the house. His fate is not known so far, the official said.
As per sources, two militants are believed to be trapped in the house. (With inputs from GNS)
Lok Sabha polls: BJP eyeing OBCs, Shia-dominated areas of Kashmir
Announces candidates for Kashmir constituencies
Srinagar, Mar 21: Right-wing BJP has decided to contest on all seats in upcoming polls while eyeing far-flung and Shia-dominated areas to make inroads in Kashmir.
The Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in five phases beginning April 11. The assembly polls are also expected to be held after the Parliamentary polls.
Buoyed by forming the alliance government with PDP for the first time in the state, and then winning some seats in Panchayat elections, BJP has decided to contest on all seats in the upcoming parliamentary and assembly elections in Kashmir.
On Thursday, BJP announced its candidates for Lok Sabha elections for the three Constituencies in Kashmir province.
As announced by the party on its official Twitter account, Khalid Jahangir will contest from Srinagar, Sofi Yousuf from Anantnag, and Maqbool War from Baramulla Parliamentary constituencies.
BJP leaders have held several meetings in past 10 days where they discussed the party’s strategy.
“Our main focus will be on other backward class (OBC) Muslims, Gujjars and some segments of Shia dominated areas in Kashmir,” a BJP leader told The Kashmir Monitor.
He said that Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Abbas would hold rallies in Shia dominated areas.
“By focusing on marginalised groups, BJP wants to strengthen its base in the valley. The OBCs, Gujjars are upset with valley-based political parties for ignoring their demands,” the BJP leader said.
He said that party’s main focus was not only Jammu but Kashmir as well.
“This is reason that we won’t announce the chief ministerial candidate from Jammu unlike in the past but will tell voters he could be from any region of the state,” he said.
Earlier, BJP held an OBC conference in Srinagar during which, the BJP leaders promised the participants that they would “address” their issues if they “strengthen” the party in the valley.
Sources said the BJP leaders have also been seeking list from the village heads about the problems in their respective years. They are assuring them that government would provide “all possible help” if they cast their vote in favour of its candidates.
The BJP won 25 seats in the 2014 Assembly elections in Jammu region and the highest vote share of 23 percent for the first time in the electoral history of the state and formed coalition government with the PDP.
BJP State General Secretary (Organisation) Ashok Koul said the party has started the process for the Lok Sabha polls.
He said that BJP was ready for holding both parliamentary and assembly polls in the state.
Asked if the party ran out of seats, what will be next option, he replied, “The options come out on their own at that time. Nobody had thought in 2014 that the PDP will forge an alliance with BJP.
The PDP would otherwise leave no stone unturned to put down BJP. Mayawati and Akhilseh Yadav were poles part but now they came together during election time. This is what happens. So we don’t need to worry about the options. We will have several options if there require any such need.”
He said that party will decide on the chief minister candidate. “He can either be from Jammu, Kashmir, or Ladakh but he will surely be from BJP. People from all parts will vote for us,” he added.
PDP wants Mehbooba to contest from Anantnag
Srinagar, Mar 21: The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) core group, headed by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti (Baji or elder sister as she’s called), will meet on Friday to discuss and finalise the names of its candidates for upcoming Lok Sabha polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
Sources said Mehbooba Mufti has met senior party leaders in Jammu as well as Kashmir before she finalises the names of the candidates.
“The core group meeting is likely to take place tomorrow (Friday),” PDP Chief Spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir was quoted saying by news agency Kashmir News Service.
While the party has announced former employees’ union leader Abdul Qayoom Wani as its candidate for the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, the candidates for the remaining seats will be finalised in the meeting.
Sources said Mehbooba on Monday interacted with leaders of all 37 Assembly seats in Jammu province to seek their opinion on the candidature for the two Jammu seats.
According to a party leader, though three leaders including A R Veeri and Mehboob Beg are among the probables for the Anantnag seat, the party leaders want Mehbooba Mufti to contest the election from southern Kashmir.
The restive southern Kashmir seat was last held by Mehbooba before she returned to state in 2016 and later went on to become the Chief Minister.
However, the Election Commission of India couldn’t hold the by-polls to the seat owing to “unfavorable security scenario” in the constituency which is spread over four districts.
In 2014 parliamentary polls, Mehbooba bagged the seat but after facing a tough fight from the Congress candidate Hilal Ahmed Shah, who lost with a very thin margin. Shah may get mandate for Assembly polls from Anantnag seat. In South Kashmir, considered as the bastion of PDP as most of the former legislators of the party belonged to south Kashmir districts out of its total strengthen of legislators that was 28.
However, party recently suffered a dent as majority of its prominent faces quit. Those who left include Imran Raza Ansari, Abid Ansari, Javaid Mustafa Mir, Syed Basharat Bukhari, Peer Hussain and last but not the least, Haseeb Drabu.
A senior PDP leader confirmed that the party would pitch for Mehbooba to be its candidate for south Kashmir seat. “We are sure about her win,” he said, wishing not to be named. Mehbooba has already started her public out-reach to garner peoples’ support once again.
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