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Pak to send back IAF pilot as ‘goodwill gesture’

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Islamabad, Feb 28: The captured Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot will be freed on Friday “as a peace gesture”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of the IAF was captured by Pakistanis on Wednesday after his MiG was shot down and fell in Pakistani territory during a dogfight.

Addressing a joint session of the National Assembly, Khan said the India-Pakistan situation should not “get out of hand” otherwise “Pakistan will have to retaliate”, the Dawn reported.

 

“Countries are ruined because of miscalculation,” said Khan. Alleging “war hysteria” in India, he said: “I’m afraid there might be a miscalculation.”War is not a solution. If India takes any action, we will have to retaliate.”

The joint session of Parliament was called to discuss the rising tensions with India.”The only purpose of our strike (on India on Wednesday) was to demonstrate our capability and will,” said the Prime Minister. “We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner.”

He said he tried to call Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the telephone on Wednesday because “escalation is not in our interests nor in India’s”.

Talking about the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India, the prime minister said that despite his government’s multiple overtures of peace, the response from New Delhi had not been encouraging.

“We realised that it was because of upcoming elections in India,” he said and added that the government decided to wait until the polls in India were over before making another offer for talks. However, he disclosed, he had “feared they (India) would do something”.

He told the Parliament that after an Indian aircraft violated Pakistan’s airspace in the wee hours of Tuesday, he had a meeting with Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa where it was decided that Pakistan will not respond straightaway.

“We realised that Pakistani people might get upset that we did not respond, but we (army chief and premier) decided that since we did not know if there were any casualties, in case of an immediate response there will be escalation.”

An official handout issued by the Pakistan National Assembly Secretariat said: “The forum unanimously expressed that they stand united against any aggression against Pakistan and will support the government and its institutions unconditionally.”

It said the participants also “expressed hope that those who want peace and stability will prevail as war is not an option but a failure of policy”.

 

Very happy he will return, says IAF
Press Trust of India
New Delhi, Feb 28: The Indian Air Force Thursday said it is very happy that captured pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is returning home but dismissed suggestions that it was a goodwill gesture, insisting it was in line with the Geneva Conventions
“We are very happy Abhinandan will be freed tomorrow and look forward to his return,” Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor, assistant chief of Air Staff, told a news conference.
Varthaman’s MiG 21 was shot and he bailed out after bringing down two Pakistani F-16 fighters during a dogfight to repel a Pakistani attack on Wednesday morning, he said. He has been in Pakistan since then.
Asked if the IAF sees it as a goodwill move, he said, “We see it as a gesture in consonance with the Geneva Conventions.”
He was addressing the media along with the representatives of the Army and the Navy, who both said the armed forces are on high alert and ready to meet any security challenge on land and sea
Kapoor said it was up to the political leadership to decide when and how to release evidence of the Balakot strike’s success.
He was responding to a question that there was some scepticism about whether IAF fighters had hit the intended targets
Kapoor said there is credible information and evidence that “we hit the intended targets” and it was premature to assess the casualties and damage.

 

Mirwaiz, Omar, Mehbooba welcome
Monitor News Bureau
Srinagar, Feb 28: The Kashmiri mainstream leaders today welcomed the Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s peace gesture to release captured Indian war pilot.
“The decision to hand over Wing Commander Abhinandan is a great gesture & shouldn’t be seen in isolation. It also comes at a time when Pak could’ve chosen to further escalate an already tensed situation. I see it as a mark of reconciliation. Our leadership should reciprocate,” Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.
In a tweet National Conference vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah said, “Very glad to know that #WingCommandarAbhinandan will be heading home. I’ll wait for him to be back on Indian soil before I welcome him back but I’m greatly relieved that PM @ImranKhanPTI has announced the imminent release of our pilot.”
“Pakistan PM Imran Khan move to release Abhinandan is a welcome move. Conflicts per se r not irresolvable. Leadership makes a conflict resolvable or irresolvable,” Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone tweeted.
The captured Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot will be released on Friday “as a peace gesture”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of the IAF was captured by Pakistanis on Wednesday after his MiG was shot down and fell in Pakistani territory during a dogfight.
Hurriyat Conference (M) Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Thursday welcomed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to release the captured IAF pilot.
“Welcome decision by Pakistan PM @ImranKhanPTI to release the captive indian pilot as a peace gesture. Hope better sense prevails the war clouds scatter and the #Kashmir dispute moves towards a peaceful resolution,” Mirwaiz tweeted.
National Conference (NC) president and former chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah today welcomed Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s peace gesture to release captured Indian pilot.
He said this step taken by Pakistan is a much needed effort for peace and this is how things will be brought closer between India and Pakistan.
“We hope India will also take such initiatives to ensure peace and stability in the region,” he added.

 

‘India trends Welcome Back Abhinandan’
Agencies
New Delhi, Feb 28: Emotions run high in India as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan today said that Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be sent back home today.
Soon after the news of Abhinandan’s release broke, Twitter users took to the micro-blogging platform to say Welcome Back Abhinandan.
Bollywood actor Taapsee Pannu was one of the first celebrities to react to the news. The Naam Shabana actress wrote, “Now this really brought smile to my face !!! Waiting for tomorrow ….. with bated breath… This is heartening. THIS is worth celebrating.”
Musician Vishal Dadlani wrote, “Bahut khoob, @ImranKhanPTI Saab! Dil se shukriya. #SayNoToWar #WelcomeBackAbhinandan”
Twitter user Zeeshan Khan wrote, “#PeaceAmbassadorImranKhan thank you @ImranKhanPTI “Actions speak louder than words” you proved it before and done it again now by giving peace another chance. War won’t bring anything but a great loss on both side of the border. Bless you! #WelcomeBackAbhinandan”
“We can’t wait to welcome the braveheart.. #WelcomeBackAbhinandan” wrote Barun Mahapatro.
Rajeshwari Prasad wrote, “Thanks for giving our people strength & showing us what a Real Hero is made of. We celebrate your existence,your bravery & You. #WelcomeBackAbhinandan #AbhinandanVartaman #AbhinandanMyHero”
India and Pakistan had been on edge after the Indian Air Force conducted airstrikes on February 26 on Jaish-e-Mohammed training camos in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. After the IAF’s airstrikes, which were in retaliation to terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed’s February 14 suicide bombing on a CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, tensions between India and Pakistan were at an all-time high. On February 27, the Pakistani Air Force shot down an IAF MiG-21 Bison jet and took Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in custody.
Netizens from India and Pakistan took to Twitter and social media platforms to trend #SayNoToWar, #BringBackAbhinandan and #BringHimHome all through Wednesday.


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Hand and Plough to go hand-in-hand

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Jammu, Mar 20: Sealing an alliance after days of hectic parleys, the Congress and National Conference Wednesday announced they will fight two and one Lok Sabha seats respectively, while agreeing on a “friendly contest” on the rest three constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir.
In a joint press conference here, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and NC patron Farooq Abdullah told the media that while the Congress will contest on the Jammu and Udhampur seats, the National Conference will fight from Srinagar.
There will be a “friendly contest” between the two parties on the Baramulla, Anantnag and Ladakh seats, Abdullah said.
“I will contest from the Srinagar seat,” he told the press conference.
State Congress chief Gulam Ahmed Mir and AICC General Secretary Ambika Soni were also present during the presser.
The state sends six Lok Sabha MPs.
The arrangement was worked out after a four-member Congress team led by Azad visited the residence of Farooq Abdullah at Bhatandi here.
Senior National Conference leaders were present in the meeting.
Azad declared that keeping in view the stature of Farooq in the national and the state politics, the Congress will not field its candidate against him from Srinagar Lok Sabha Constituency.
He lauded the crucial role being played by senior Abdullah in the national politics in strengthening secular forces and isolating the divisive parties, which pose grave threat to India’s unity.
He said India has been hugely heeding to the advice of the National Conference leader which was greatly witnessed during the Opposition conclaves in various parts of the country including Kolkata.
Farooq advised the Congress to stich alliance with the like-minded parties elsewhere in the country in order to meeting the challenge posed by divisive and communal forces.
He said India is passing through a difficult phase and there was urgent need to unite and foil the machinations of the inimical forces.
While the Congress team comprised senior leader Ambika Soni, Pradesh Congress President Ghulam Ahmed Mir and former minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, the National Conference was represented in the meeting by senior leader Mohammed Shaffi Uri besides Provincial Presidents Devender Singh Rana and Nasir Aslam Wani.

Cong surrendered to NC’s ‘pro-separatist’ agenda: BJP
Monitor News Bureau
Srinagar, Mar 20: The Jammu and Kashmir BJP Wednesday alleged that the Congress had conceded to the National Conference’s (NC) “pro-separatist” agenda after the two parties announced a pre-poll alliance in the state.
The Congress and the NC finalised arrangements for the six Lok Sabha seats of the state earlier in the day.
“The NC-Congress alliance is an eye wash and a wakeup call for Jammu,” BJP spokesperson Brig (retd) Anil Gupta told reporters.
“The Congress has not only surrendered to the National Conference but also conceded to the pro-separatist, Kashmir-centric, communal and divisive agenda of that party,” he said.
He added that the “opportunistic” alliance was aimed at promoting “Kashmiri hegemony”.
With the NC insisting on contesting from all the three seats in Kashmir, the party’s couldn’t-care-less attitude towards Jammu is obvious, Gupta said.
The BJP spokesperson claimed the Congress, like the NC, will oppose granting citizenship to West Pakistan refugees and inheritance rights to the state’s daughters.
The Congress-NC combine will put an end to anti militancy operations and revive the over ground support network, Gupta alleged.
“They will revoke the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir and promote radicalisation in Kashmir. They will ensure that Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslims are given permanent residence so that the demography of the region is changed and Jammu also becomes insecure like the Valley,” he warned.
“People of Jammu will do a great disservice to their future generations if they vote for the communal and divisive agenda of the NC-Congress alliance,” Gupta said.
“It would not be surprising if the Peoples Democratic Party also joins hands with them to further marginalise the voice of Jammu,” he said.
While the Congress will contest on the Jammu and Udhampur seats, the NC will fight from Srinagar, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said at a joint press conference here with NC president Omar Abdullah.
There will be a “friendly contest” between the two parties on the Baramulla, Anantnag and Ladakh seats, Abdullah said.

 

Notification issued for Srinagar constituency
Monitor News Bureau
Srinagar, Mar 20: With the Election Commission issuing notification for general elections to the 2-Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency, the Returning Officer (RO) for the Constituency, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, has issued guidelines to candidates for filing of nomination papers.
The guidelines state that nominations for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat can be filed at the office of the Returning Officer from 11 am to 3 pm adding that number of proposers allowed are one for candidates of national and state parties and ten for unrecognized parties and independents.
It further states that the maximum number of persons allowed at the time of filing of nomination by a candidate are 5 including the candidate whereas the maximum number of vehicles allowed for each candidate are 3.
The candidates will also have to have separate bank accounts opened before filing their nominations.
The guidelines state that no column on the nomination form must be left blank.
The candidates have been advised to go through the latest guidelines of the ECI or approach the office of the RO for further clarifications to avoid shortcomings in the nomination papers.
ADC Srinagar KK Sidha has been appointed as the nodal officer for facilitating nomination of candidates.
Pertinently, as per the election notification for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, the last date for filing of nominations is 26 March 2019 while the scrutiny of nomination papers will be conducted on March 27.
The last date for withdrawal of nominations is March 29 whereas the polling will be held on April 18 (from 7 am to 6 pm).
The Srinagar Lok Sabha seat is spread over three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal. It has 12,90,318 voters who are eligible to cast their votes at 1,716 polling stations set up in the constituency.
The RO said that 26 polling stations will be set up for migrant voters of the Lok Sabha constituency including 21 in Jammu, 1 in Udhampur and 4 in New Delhi.

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State polls delayed as JK sought addt’l 70k troops

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Mar 20: The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections were deferred as the state administration asked for over 70,000 paramilitary troops for conducting simultaneous polls, a demand which could not be acceded to, officials said Wednesday.
A home ministry official said the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s demand of about 717 companies of paramilitary personnel could not be met as a large number of forces would be required across the country for general elections.
A company of paramilitary comprises about 100 personnel.
The state elections may be held any time after the Parliamentary polls, the officials said.
The Home Ministry and the administration of J&K, which is currently under the President’s rule, had apprised the Election Commission of the security situation in the state when a team of the poll panel had visited there on March 4-5.
The EC team had gone there for assessing the situation and checking poll preparedness in the wake of the February 14 militant strike in Pulwama in which over 40 CRPF troopers were killed.
The J&K administration’s demand could not be met as a large number of personnel would be required for deployment across the country during the Parliamentary polls, therefore, the state elections were deferred, the official said.
The demand on behalf of the Jammu and Kashmir administration was placed by the then Addition Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Muneer Khan, who was recently appointed as State Chief Information Commission.
The National Conference, the PDP and the Congress, had sought simultaneous polls and criticised the EC decision. The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the BJP had also pitched for holding the polls together.
Higher deployment of forces may be necessitated during the polls as they have to secure the routes to be taken by the candidates for campaign, the venue of rallies, besides the security of candidates itself.
During the 2014 polls, a little more than 10,000 polling stations were set up, while the EC has announced the number will be 11,316 this time, requiring additional forces to secure them.
While 77 candidates were in the fray for the six Lok Sabha seats in 2014, 831 fought the state elections a few months later to elect 87 MLAs.
In the 2014 state assembly elections, a total of 428 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed and 47 were managed from the existing counterinsurgency grid, another official said.
During the last Parliamentary elections, the security situation had improved considerably and about 300 companies were deployed of which 126 were drawn from the counterinsurgency grid.
Before that, during the Parliamentary elections of 2009, altogether 300 companies were deployed on poll duties and 58 were again mobilised internally.
In the 2008 assembly elections, 218 companies were sought from the Centre and in addition 58 were mobilised internally by the then state government, the official said.
Another official said the large number of security personnel would be required for the Assembly elections too as Pakistan-based militant groups would make all out efforts to disrupt the process not only in the Kashmir Valley but in border districts such as Rajouri, Poonch and Doda.
During the last assembly elections, the government had provided about 100 SUVs to the candidates and requirement of such vehicles would be more this time, the official said.
The final assessment on holding the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be taken by a three-member panel set up by the Election Commission.
The governor’s rule was imposed in in the state on June 19, 2018 when the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP government was reduced to minority following withdrawal of support by the 25-member BJP.
Initially, the assembly was kept in suspended animation, but the governor on November 21 dissolved the 87-member house after the PDP, supported by the Congress and arch-rivals National Conference, tried to stake claim to form a new government.
When the governor’s rule expired on December 19, 2018, President’s rule was imposed in the state as under the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, there is no provision for extension of governor’s rule.

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Valley shuts against Rizwan’s custodial killing

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Srinagar, Mar 20: A complete shutdown was observed in Kashmir valley on Wednesday against the alleged custodial killing of Rizwan Assad Pandith, a principal of a local public school in Awantipora who was detained on Sunday.
All the business establishments were closed and public traffic was off the roads.
The shutdown was observed in all the district headquarters in the Valley.
Heavy contingent of forces were deployed in old city Srinagar to thwart any rallies and protests. Internet in various areas was slowed down.
Rizwan died in police custody after he was a suspect for questioning in militancy related case.
Reports said that the family is associated with Jamat -e- Islami and his father, Asadullah Pandit is a member of the organization.
JeI has been declared unlawful and most of their leadership has been jailed. Joint Resistance leadership called for a shutdown against what they termed as ‘custodial killing of a teacher’.
Rizwan’s body was handed over to the family late last night and thousands participated in his last rites before he was laid to rest amid massive pro freedom, pro Islam and Pro Pakistan sloganeering.
Meanwhile, authorities have suspended Train service for security reasons after receiving an advisory from divisional administration and police.
A railway official said that no train will run on Srinagar-Badgam and Baramulla in north Kashmir. Similarly, no train will also chug on Badgam-Srinagar-Anantnag-Qazigund in south Kashmir to Banihal in Jammu region.

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