August 6, 2019 / 12:29 PM / 18 days ago

Pakistan mulls increasing pressure on India over Kashmir

ISLAMABAD/MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan said on Tuesday it was considering further diplomatic and military pressure on India after the Hindu-majority nation stripped its portion of contested Kashmir of special status.

People chant slogans during a rally expressing solidarity with the people of Kashmir, in Peshawar, Pakistan August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz

India on Monday dropped a constitutional provision for the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has long been a flashpoint in ties with neighbouring Pakistan, to make its own laws.

Nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan both claim Muslim-majority Kashmir in full but rule it in part. They have fought two wars over the territory and came close to a third this year after a car bomb set off by a Pakistan-based militant group killed dozens of Indian paramilitary police.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday India’s removal of special status for Kashmir, which included prohibiting outsiders from owning property, was an attempt to alter the demographics of the region and was illegal under international law.

“We will fight it at every forum. We’re thinking how we can take it to International Court (of Justice)... to the United Nations Security Council,” Khan said in an address to Pakistan’s parliament.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi wrote to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday, accusing India of violating Security Council resolutions on Kashmir.

Qureshi is returning early from the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia as a result of the crisis, the foreign ministry said.

India maintains its actions in Kashmir are legal both under domestic and international law.

Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistan’s army chief said the country’s military will “go to any extent” to support people in the region.

“Pakistan Army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end,” said General Qamar Javed Bajwa after meeting with top commanders in Rawalpindi.

“We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfil our obligations in this regard,” he added, without elaborating further.

BUSINESS SHUTDOWN

In Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir around 45km (28 miles) from the contested border between the neighbours, protests continued for a second day with hundreds of people including children shouting anti-India slogans.

In the Neelum Valley, which sits on the border and has seen heavy shelling between the two countries in recent weeks, there was a shutdown of shops and businesses in protest at India’s decision.

Many people in Kashmir have relatives on both sides of the border, but people on the Pakistani side say they have been unable to contact those in India for several days after New Delhi restricted internet and phone access.

Tanveer-ul-Islam migrated from India to Muzaffarabad in 1990. His family, including his elderly mother and siblings, live in the Badgam district of Indian Kashmir, but he said he has been unable to contact them for two days.

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“My day does not begin until I speak to my mother, but I have not been able to talk to her (since) Aug 4. You can’t even imagine my pain,” he said. “We do not know about the well being of anyone across the divide”.

His wife Haleema Akhtar, whose family is in Magam in Indian-administered Kashmir, said she was also unable to contact them.

“I called my daughter and son-in-law in the US to try to contact them, but they too expressed helplessness in the face of the clampdown on communication,” she said.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Abu Arqam Naqash in Muzaffarabad, additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations,; Writing by Alasdair Pal, editing by Ed Osmond

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