Saturday 24 August 2019

Pakistan bans all Indian films and halts train service as tensions flare

Conflict: Pakistan’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi ruled out military options. Photo: REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/File Photo
Conflict: Pakistan’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi ruled out military options. Photo: REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/File Photo

Fayaz Bukhari in Islamabad

Pakistan halted its main train service to India yesterday and banned Indian films as it exerted diplomatic pressure on New Delhi for revoking the special status of Kashmir, the region at the heart of 70 years of hostility between them.

Seeking to tighten its grip over the contested region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government this week withdrew Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir's right to frame its own laws and allowed people from outside the state to buy property there.

The federal government also broke up the state into two federal territories to allow it greater control, a move that regional leaders said was a further humiliation.

Kashmir remained under a communications blackout yesterday with mobile networks and internet services suspended and at least 300 politicians and separatists in detention to prevent protests, according to police, media and political leaders.

Kashmir's leaders have warned of a backlash and Pakistan, which also lays claims to the Himalayan territory, vowed to fight for the rights of people living there. "Pakistan is looking at political, diplomatic and legal options," Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in Islamabad, though he ruled out a new military conflict.

"We're not looking at the military option. We're not," he said. The nuclear rivals have twice gone to war over Kashmir and fought an aerial duel in February.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the two countries to refrain from any steps that could affect the special status of the disputed regions of Kashmir and Jammu.

Guterres was "concerned over reports of restrictions on Indian-side of Kashmir," and warned that such actions could "exacerbate the human rights situation in region".

Kashmiris see Modi's decision to withdraw the special status as a breach of trust and fear it will lead to an influx of people from the rest of India.

About two-thirds of the population of Jammu and Kashmir is Muslim, while India is majority Hindu.

Irish Independent

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