Srinagar, Oct 8:Kashmir on Monday preferred to stay away from the polls, as only 8.3 percent of the electorate preferred to cast their vote in the first phase of Municipal elections held in the state after 13 years.
While Jammu and Kargil pushed the overall turnout of the state to 56.7 percent, Kashmir would have come up with even bleaker numbers had not the day ended with 32.3 percent polls in 18 municipal wards of district Kupwara.
Of 84,692 electorates in the valley, only 7,057 turned up at the polling booths manned by a barrage of police and paramilitary forces.
Except Kupwara (32.6 %) and Budgam (17%), the final turnout in the rest of the districts remained in single digits.
In 16 polling wards of Bandipora Municipal Committee that went to polls, the final turnout was mere 3.4 per cent.
Similarly, in Srinagar where polling was held in three wards, the Joint Hurriyat’s boycott call was mostly followed by the people as only 6.2 per cent turned up to cast their votes.
The polling booth at Bemina, Bagh-e-Mehtab and Humhama, despite well-guarded by the forces, remained deserted for a major part of the day.
Out of the 30,074 voters in three wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, 1,862 turned up at heavily-fortified polling stations.
At noon, clashes broke out between the government forces and protestors in Bagh-e-Mehtab and Machuwa area of Srinagar when the polls were underway.
A group of protesters assembled near the railway bridge in Muchwa near Baghi Mehtab Srinagar and pelted the government forces, already deployed near the bridge, with stones. However, no injuries were reported.
The government forces responded by firing teargas shells.
Fearing outrage for defying boycott call, many people who exercised their vote in these polling stations tried every means to keep their identity hidden.
At all the three polling stations of Srinagar, including Bemina, Bagh-e-Mehtab and Humhama, while women were seen covering faces with headscarves, men wore caps or pheran to be as discreet as possible while entering the polling stations.
At Bemina polling agents had kept on job their fellow voters to keep an eye on the people trying to click their photographs.
Photojournalists, too, were attacked by voters during morning hours at the polling station.
“It has happened for the first time that photojournalists were attacked by people during polling. They actually didn’t want to be photographed,” said Faizan Altaf, a photojournalist working with a local Urdu newspaper.
Anantnag witnessed a slightly higher voter turnout out as compared to Srinagar, where 7.3 per cent of the electorates came out to exercise their franchise.
Initially, the district saw five per cent voting till 1pm in all the four wards, which later dropped as only 7.3 per cent voter turnout was recorded at 4 pm.
All the roads leading to the four polling stations were sealed as heavy deployment of forces were witnessed.
As per the reports people who cast their votes too preferred not to be identified and even rejected being inked by the polling agents.
In Bandipora where minimum voter turnout was recorded in 16 wards under first phase, a woman and a BJP candidate was injured during clashes between forces and stone pelters.
Adil Ahmad Buhru, a BJP candidate who is contesting from Ward-15 received minor injuries when a group of protesters pelted him with stones. However, Buhru was soon taken to district Hospital Bandipora for the treatment where he is said to be stable now.
A woman identified as Shabeena, wife of Javid Ahmad Dar of Lankreshipora sustained pellet during clashes in the area.
Shabeena was soon rushed to Bandipora’s district hospital for the treatment, where she is said to be stable now.
Baramulla, where polls were held in 15 wards also choose to stay away from polls as only 5.1 voter turnout was recorded in the district.
While no incident of violence was recorded, those who turned to vote were highly guarded by forces on way to the polling booth.
Frontier district Kupwara, saw a least impact of boycott call by Hurriyat where people in number came out of their homes to exercise the franchise in all 18 wards.
Peoples Conference Chief, Sajjad Gani Lone, also casted his vote and took a dig at National Conference (NC) and People Democratic Party (PDP) for boycotting the Municipal Polls.
In contrast, municipal bodies in the Jammu and Leh region witnessed a healthy participation of electorates.
In Jammu division, the Jammu district in 153 wards recorded a voter turnout of 63.8 per cent, while Poonch (26 wards) and Rajouri (59 wards) recorded 73.1 per cent and 81 per cent, respectively.
Addressing a press conference in Jammu, the DC Jammu Ramesh Kumar said that ULB polls held in J&K through EVMs after 13 years ended peacefully in Jammu with minor reports of technical problems in EVMs in some areas.
“Some complaints from hypersensitive areas were also received during the day, but we had deployed adequate numbers of Jammu and Kashmir Police and Central Paramilitary forces’ personnel,” he said.
The DC Jammu said that micro observers, who were independent officers of the Central government, were also deployed at the hypersensitive and sensitive polling stations across Jammu to ensure smooth conduct of polls.
He said that the ULB polls carry huge significance for Jammu and Kashmir State as after the polls, all municipalities of the State will get proper funding from the Central Government.
The counting of votes, as per the DC will take place on October 22 with declaration of results the same day.
Kargil and Leh also responded to the polls enthusiastically, where 78.2 and 55.2 polling percentage was recorded in 13 wards each, respectively.
As many as 321 wards went for polls under first phase across the state in which 5, 86,064 electorates were supposed to exercise their franchise.
Official records suggest there were no candidate for 23 wards while only one candidate each had filed nomination for 78 wards who are thus elected unopposed.
Of 820 polling station across the state, 138 polling stations were categorized as hypersensitive in Kashmir, while 52 in Jammu division.
Separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Gilani were put under house arrest on Sunday evening while Muhamamd Yaseen Malik was also detained.
Militants also backed separatists appeal for boycott elections and have threatened for dire consequence to the candidates and voters.
Big fish in anti-corruption net soon: Guv Malik
‘Wish I’d power to confiscate properties of corrupt’
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.
Guv to militants: Why target innocent, why not corrupt?
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.
Imran Khan in US, to meet Trump today
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.