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Structured Indo-Pak engagement key to build edifice of durable peace: Pak envoy

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Apr 14: Pakistan has said it was hoping for “re-engagement” with India after the Lok Sabha polls, noting that structured dialogue would enable the two countries to understand mutual concerns, resolve outstanding disputes and build the edifice of durable peace and security in the region.

In an interview to PTI, Pakistan’s outgoing High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood said diplomacy and dialogue are indispensable to improve ties between the two neighbours.
“We hope for re-engagement after the elections in India. Diplomacy and dialogue are indispensable,” he said.

Tensions between the two countries worsened after the Pulwama terror attack and both the countries were almost on the brink of a war after India’s military planes struck a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26 and Pakistan carried out a counter-offensive the next day.

 

Mahmood, who has been appointed as Pakistan’s next Foreign Secretary said dialogue between India and Pakistan was the only option to understand mutual concerns and ensure peace, prosperity and security in the region.

“Sustained engagement and structured dialogue would enable the two countries to understand mutual concerns and differences resolve outstanding disputes and build the edifice of durable peace, security and prosperity in the region,” Mahmood said.

He also said there was a need to review the narrative about Pakistan in India. “A narrative is needed that captures the reality in Pakistan objectively and more fully. A narrative that also helps recognise opportunities for peaceful, cooperative and good neighbourly relations,” he said.

“We must strive for stable peace, equal security and shared prosperity for ourselves and the region,” the envoy added.

In signs of easing tensions, Pakistan around two weeks ago announced that it was releasing 360 Indian prisoners, mostly fishermen as a “goodwill gesture”.

The initiative was followed by Pakistan High Commission here granting visas to 2,200 Sikh pilgrims from India to facilitate their participation in the annual Baisakhi celebrations in Pakistan.
Over two weeks after the Balakot strike, India and Pakistan held talks to finalise the modalities for setting up a corridor linking the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Gurdaspur district in Punjab.

Asked about the Kartarpur corridor project, the Pakistani High Commissioner said Islamabad was committed to completing the physical infrastructure on its side.
“The government of Pakistan is proceeding in full measures to complete the physical infrastructure on its side and it is hopeful that the modalities will be mutually agreed between the two sides in good time before November 2019,” he said.

Last November, both India and Pakistan agreed to set up the Kartarpur corridor to link the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib—the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev—to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur.

Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.
The relations between India and Pakistan remained tense since 2016. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had travelled to Delhi to attend Modi’s oath-taking ceremony and the Indian premier had in December 2015 made a stopover in Lahore to greet his counterpart on his birthday.

However, the ties nose-dived following a string of cross-border terror attacks in 2016 and India’s subsequent surgical strikes. The sentencing of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a military court in April 2017 further deteriorated bilateral ties.


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LOK SABHA ELECTIONS: 13.6% turnout in Anantnag district

Segment-wise %age: Bijbehara 2.04, Anantnag 3.47, Dooru 17.28, Kokernag 19.50, Shangus 15.10, Pahalgam 20.37

Syed Nashir Ali Gillani

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Srinagar, Apr 23: The Anantnag district Tuesday witnessed a low voter turnout of 13.6 per cent in the third phase of the parliamentary elections.

Tuesday witnessed the first phase of the 3-phased polls for Anantnag Parliamentary seat, which also comprises of Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts.

Once considered PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s bastion, the Bijbehara segment recorded the lowest poll percentage of 2.04%. Pahalgam recorded the highest turnout at 20.37%.

 

Addressing media persons, Chief Electoral Officer, J&K Shailendra Kumar said that polling took place “without any untoward incident”.

Divulging segment wise details of the district, the CEO informed that the percentage of the total votes polled in Anantnag segment  was 3.47 per cent, Dooru 17.28, Kokernag 19.50, Shangus 15.10, Bijbehara 2.04 and Pahalgam 20.37 %.

Kumar said that out of 5.27 lakh voters (2.69 lakh males) and (2.57 females), 71777 voters cast their vote.

He said that 54,663 voters were to cast their vote for the first time, adding that 44,536 voters were in the age group of 18 -21 years.

In Kokernag as per Kumar, 18312 votes were polled with a polling percentage of 19.36% and in Shangus 13354 votes were polled with a poll percentage of 15.09%.

In Bijbehara, 1905 votes were polled with a polling percentage of 2.04% and in Pahalgam 17649 votes  were polled with a polling percentage of 20.37%.  

Kumar said that “total poll percentage of three phases held so far stands at 48.87%.”

He said that for the smooth polling, the ECI had setup 714 polling stations in the district. The ECI had also established 21 model polling stations, 12 all women model polling stations.

He complemented all those involved in the poll process including political parties and election staff.

The polling took place in 714 polling stations including 21 migrant polling stations and 71 model polling stations.

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Bleak turnout may hit PDP

‘My father’s workers will ensure my victory’

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Srinagar, Apr 23: With the overall voter turnout in the first of the three-phase polling in Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency settling below 10 per cent till 1 p.m. on Tuesday, the fate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti hangs precariously in the balance in what was till recently her party’s bastion.

The bad news for Mufti is that voters in her ancestral town Bijbehara and the neighbouring Anantnag showed very little interest to come out and join the poll process.

Mufti won this Lok Sabha seat in 2014 and resigned in 2016 to become the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir following the death of her father, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.

 

She later won the 2016 bypoll for the Anantnag Assembly seat to get elected to the 87-member state legislative Assembly. Anantnag Assembly seat fell vacant due to Mufti Senior’s death in 2016.

In contrast to the less than 3 per cent voter turnout in Bijbehara and Anantnag segments that have traditionally been PDP strongholds, the turnout was better in Dooru, Kokernag and Shangus segments where her Congress rival, Ghulam Ahmad Mir has strong voter support.

The voter turnout has also been good in the Pahalgam segment, but it is believed that the PDP and the National Conference (NC) would cut almost equally here, again giving an edge to the Congress candidate.

Voting will be held in Kulgam district of the constituency on April 29 and in Shopian and Pulwama districts on May 6 and the voter turnout in these remaining districts may make or mar the electoral prospects of the PDP President.

Meanwhile, Mehbooba Mufti Tuesday said that the workers of her father Mufti Sayeed will ensure her victory in the Lok Sabha polls.

After casting her vote in Bijbehara area of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, Mehbooba said that “this time my father Late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed is not with me but his workers who have worked for him are still there.”

“I hope the workers of my father will ensure my victory in this election,” Mehbooba told reporters.

Asked about low voter turnout in her hometown Bijbehara, Mehbooba said, “I am hopeful of good results.”

Mehbooba is among the 18 candidates who are in fray for South Kashmir Lok Sabha constituency.

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‘Mehbooba disowned her birth place; we just returned the favour today’

Firdous Hassan

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Bijbehara, Apr 23: Barely 100 meters away from the ancestral home of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) founder Late Mufti Sayeed, in Baba Mohalla Bijbehara, a group of seven elderly men were Tuesday drawing comparison between the ongoing and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Sitting on a pavement close to late Mufti’s ancestral house, they lamented the party’s downfall in the town particularly after the death of the PDP founder, which was followed by her daughter Mehbooba Mufti taking over the party in 2015.

As their arguments grew louder, a number of youth, who were sitting near the shrine of Baba Naseem-ud-din Gazi (RA), too joined in. They all justified the town’s “total boycott” of the Lok Sabha elections this year.

 

By noon, only 78 votes had been polled in the town which has 6,756 electorates.

Only 27 votes were polled in three polling booths closest to Mehbooba’s ancestral home.

All these men and youth were seemingly unhappy with the PDP chief for “disowning” her home town soon after taking over as the Member of Parliament (MP) and later Chief Minister of the state.

A man in his 60s said that Mehbooba during her speech soon after being elected as MP in 2014 claimed that she belonged to the nearby Akhran village.

“Her father Mufti Sayeed sahab lived here and she too managed to garner people’s support from here in 2014. How could she later claim that she never belonged to the town? The same day we started losing our hopes in her,” he said.

Abdul Salam, another elderly person, said that Muftis “have now even changed their graveyard from Baba Mohalla to Dara Shikoh Park.”

“People are very angry with them. Mufti Sahab could have been buried in his ancestral graveyard, which the family didn’t prefer. In 2014, we saw a large number of voters coming out of their homes to support the party, which is not happening now,” he said.

Regretting the loss the area faced with the death of Mufti Sayeed, the locals claimed Mehbooba “ignored the people of her town. That was the reason why people were showing their backs to PDP”.

“Mufti Sahab would visit to the town every now and then. But we haven’t seen Mehbooba ji after she won her elections in 2014. So people this time preferred to boycott the election,” said a youth supported by others.

One of the locals questioned the PDP’s approach towards the town by pointing towards a street, which was littered with garbage.

“Do you expect streets in a chief minister’s town looking like this?” he questioned, while pointing towards the street.

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