Christchurch, Mar 16: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was wearing a ‘dupatta’, Saturday visited families of Christchurch terror attack victims and her expression of solidarity with Muslims in this hour of grief was well received.
Attacks on the two Christchurch mosques left at least 49 dead Friday, with one gunman — identified as an Australian extremist — apparently livestreaming the assault that triggered the lockdown of the New Zealand city.
In what appeared to be the worst attack against Muslims in a western country, witnesses spoke of victims being shot at close range, with women and children believed to be among those killed.
A teary-eyed Ardern said she brought messages of love, support and grief on behalf of all New Zealanders to the crowd gathered at Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resources Centre.
“New Zealand is united in grief,” she said.
A few months ago, Christchurch’s Linwood Mosque proudly laid down new carpets in its halls.
On Friday, the light brown carpets were stained red after a gunman stormed the building, spraying bullets at worshippers.
“There was blood everywhere. Everything was out of control,” Ibrahim AbdelHalim, imam of Linwood Mosque, told AFP.
Like the wider Muslim community in Christchurch, Egypt-born AbdelHalim is struggling to come to terms with the violence wrought upon worshippers this week as he waits to bury the dead.
Working together with the local Islamic community, AbdelHalim had sought to refresh the mosque after a trust bought it over in early 2018.
Some of the seven worshippers who died at Linwood were among the most enthusiastic contributors, donating their personal time to help in fundraising efforts.
One woman, a local Kiwi, fell down beside his wife when she was shot dead, AbdelHalim said. His wife, Falwa El-Shazly, was shot in the arm but survived the attack.
Another man, a Fijian-Indian New Zealander who would regularly bring boxes of food from his restaurant during mosque donation drives, was also killed.
“They are dear to me, these are people who offer to us work for free,” AbdelHalim said. “It was a very bad day, not just all of us, all of New Zealand.”
At Hedley College, the main meeting centre for the survivors and victims’ families, local Muslims from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds shared wordless hugs and fought back tears as they exchanged news about their loved ones.
With Muslims making up just one percent of New Zealand’s population, some members of the close-knit community raced to the mosques when they heard about the shootings.
“I did not go to the prayer yesterday due to work… But received a call from my friends and rushed to the spot,” Mohammad Kamruzzaman, originally from Bangladesh, told AFP.
“Five of (our Bangladeshi friends) are still missing, only Allah knows where they are. We have lost… A guardian lady for our community, who taught children the Koran for free. It feels like we have lost a parent.”
Fiji-born Azan Ali, 43, who was in the Linwood Mosque with his Auckland-based father when the attack occurred, trembled when he thought back to crack of the gun shots on Friday.
“Will I see my parents, my kids, my loved ones again or not? All the people you pray with, you see beside you…” he added, his voice trailing off.
“My kids are scared, you know. You just have to work through it as a community.”
His father, Sheik Aeshad, who saw a worshipper shot in the neck, said he could not understand how such violence could take part in New Zealand, a small nation better known for its rolling, green hills and snow-capped mountains.
“We never thought in New Zealand, this could happen. New Zealand’s so friendly a place, you can leave your door open and go. But not now,” he added.
“I’m thinking what’s going to happen the next time… It could be more people targeting somewhere else.”
It was a sentiment shared by Sahra Ahmed, a New Zealander of Somali origin and a nurse active in her local community.
Sahra said the attacks showed the South Pacific island nation could not escape the global wave of right-wing extremism.
“This is a global movement, for better or worst, it’s happened in all parts of the world. And some people like to import ideas from everyone else. So we’re not immune from what’s happening,” she told AFP.
“It doesn’t matter where you go, the world is very small.”
JK Guv condemns NZ shootings
Jammu, Mar 16: Governor Satya Pal Malik strongly condemned shooting at Mosques in New Zealand.
In a message, Governor has expressed shock and anguish over the fatal shooting at two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in which innocent lives were lost, and many were injured. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand, he said.
Governor said that this heinous act is an attempt to spread fear and hatred and there can be no justification for such attacks.
Asserting that terrorism has no color, caste, creed or religion, Governor said that the whole world shall stand united in the fight against terrorism.
Governor has conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of the victims and wish those injured a swift recovery.
Principal’s ‘custodial killing’: Probe officer meets family, locals
Srinagar, Mar 23: Assistant Commissioner Revenue (ACR) Pulwama Qazi Masood probing the “custodial killing” of a school principal Saturday met the victim’s family in Awantipora area of Pulwama district.
Rizwan Asad Pandit, the Principal of Sabir Abdullah Public School Tral, was picked up by the police from his home late on March 17 during a raid and was killed in police custody at the Cargo Building two days later, according to his family.
Although the police had initially admitted that Rizwan had “died” in custody and that the matter was being probed under “procedure laid down in Section 176 of CRPC,” it later filed an FIR against him for “escape or attempts to escape from custody”, lending a new twist to the case.
The magisterial inquiry that was ordered in Srinagar was also closed and a fresh probe ordered in Pulwama district and a report sought in “four weeks.”
“Government has appointed me as an inquiry officer, I assured the family that I will conduct the fair investigation into the case,” the inquiry officer Qazi Masood told GNS after meeting Rizwan’s family members and local residents.
Masood said he has sought a report from SP Awantipora on why and how Rizwan was detained and the circumstances that led to his death.
“I have also sought a postmortem report from the SP,” the officer said.
Meanwhile, reports said that soon after the inquiry officer arrived in the area and met the family members, locals held a protest demonstration demanding stern action against the guilty.
Civil society, traders, Bar demand special inquiry commission
Srinagar, Mar 23: Kashmir business community, civil society, and High Court Bar Association on Saturday asked Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Paul Malik to set-up an independent Special Commission of inquiry in the custodial killing of Awantipora school teacher Rizwan Asad Pandit.
Addressing a press conference in Srinagar, they said that there have been countless instances of inquiries being ordered in killings without any results.
“To deter future violations, we appeal to the Governor for setting up of a time-bound Independent Special Commission of Inquiry,” they said.
The members said that till the time the commission submits its report, it would serve justice if the case is treated to be one of custodial killing and all persons associated with it are put behind bars and kept away from active duty.
“Such inquiries, suffering from institutional bias and state interference, have rarely served the interests of justice,” they said.
“We have a reason to believe that this killing would also suffer the same fate and the killers would again roam free to kill, more confident in the fact that their crimes will never be brought to account,” they said.
They said that the repeated perpetration of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law needs in-depth fact-finding and investigation.
On Tuesday, Rizwan Asad Pandit, a 29-year-old school teacher, died inside the Jammu and Kashmir’s CARGO camp in Srinagar.
He was picked up for questioning from his home in Awantipora on Sunday.
The family had said that his body bore evidence of being subjected to extreme physical violence.
The press conference was jointly held by KCC&I, High Court Bar Association, KTMF, KEA, KTMF (R), FCIK(A), FCIK(M), JKSECC, KCSDS, KHARA, CCIK, All Transport Welfare Association, Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Dealers Association, Houseboat Owners Association, KHAROF, Pvt School Association, Kashmir Bakers Association, All Kashmir Chemist & Distributors Association, Hoteliers Club, All Traders & Transporters Coordination Committee, All J&K Taxi Owners Association, Association Of Kashmir Tour, Environmental Protection Group, Shehr E Khaas Coordination, Beopar Mandal S R Gunj, Rehabilitation Alliance, and Batamaloo Traders Association.
ED imposes Rs 14.4 lakh penalty on Geelani
Srinagar, Mar 22: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) Friday imposed Rs 14.4 lakh penalty, on Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani for “illegally” possessing foreign exchange of around $10,000, news agency PTI reported.
After completion of the probe and adjudication proceeding, the ED an order on Wednesday under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), levying the penalty and confiscating forex of $10,000 that was allegedly recovered from Geelani, they said.
The ED will also impose a penalty on Yasin Malik, Chairman of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and confiscate foreign exchange recovered from him. The adjudication proceedings against Malik are in progress.
On Wednesday, a Delhi court also allowed ED to quiz Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Shah and others in connection with an alleged funding case.