Kashmiri woman arrested for stone throwing 2 years ago

Updated 23 December 2012
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Kashmiri woman arrested for stone throwing 2 years ago

SRINAGAR: Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir arrested a young woman accused of throwing stones at government forces during anti-India protests two years ago. She has been charged with attempted murder, a police officer said yesterday.
Zahida Akhtar was arrested on Friday in southern town of Anantnag and also is charged with instigating protests, said police officer Ramesh Jalla. A court freed Akhtar on bail yesterday pending trial, Jalla said.
In 2010, Kashmir witnessed some of the largest protests against Indian rule that left at least 112 people dead in firing by government forces.
Police say more than 3,000 cases involving thousands of Kashmiri people are being investigated for their participation in the protests. Some of them face severe charges ranging from unlawful assembly to attempt to murder. Adil Ahmed Dar, Akhtar’s brother, denied the police claim and said his sister was hit by a police bullet and had to drop out of school.
“I took her to the police station after police came to my shop and said she was wanted for an inquiry. When we reached there, they simply arrested her,” Dar said.
“This is even worse than jungle rule. First they (government forces) almost made her an invalid. Now, after two years they’ve arrested her,” he said. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and it is claimed by both countries.
Since 1989, an armed uprising and ensuing crackdown by Indian forces have left an estimated 68,000 people dead in the region. In recent years, the armed conflict has largely subsided, with public opposition to Indian rule now seen mostly in street protests, where government forces and rock-throwing youths regularly face off.
A separatist leader in the disputed region Saturday condemned the woman’s arrest and said India has converted Kashmir into a “police state.”
“On the other hand, they’ve not brought to book any police or soldier involved in 2010 killings,” said Syed Ali Shah Geelani in a statement.


After Afghan cease-fire gamble, prospects rise for US-Taliban talks

Updated 1 min 19 sec ago
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After Afghan cease-fire gamble, prospects rise for US-Taliban talks

  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared ready to tweak the policy when he welcomed Ghani’s 10-day extension of a cease-fire that is currently due to end on Wednesday
  • While Washington has long resisted direct talks with Taliban, the official said that recent developments indicate “the US now seems less and less averse to it”

KABUL/WASHINGTON: Prospects have risen for negotiations between the Taliban and the United States after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called a cease-fire and allowed militants to roam into cities in a gamble to encourage peace talks.
The Taliban, ousted from power in 2001 by US-led troops, insist that any negotiations with what it calls the “puppet” Afghan government on a peace plan can begin only after talks with the United States about withdrawing foreign forces.
Analysts and Western diplomats said Ghani’s offer to hold unconditional peace talks had set the stage for US officials to open backchannel negotiations with the Taliban, despite Washington’s policy that peace talks be Afghan-led.
“Ghani has done his bit,” said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank.
“It is now for the US to cut through this blockade,” he said, although that would be a departure from US policy that talks to end the 17-year-old war must be wholly Afghan-led.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared ready to tweak the policy when he welcomed Ghani’s 10-day extension of a cease-fire that is currently due to end on Wednesday. The Taliban said its cease-fire ended on Sunday.
“As President Ghani emphasised in his statement to the Afghan people, peace talks by necessity would include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces,” Pompeo said. “The United States is prepared to support, facilitate, and participate in these discussions.”
Richard Olson, former US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, described the statement as significant “in that it signals that the US is prepared to ultimately discuss the issue that is paramount to the Taliban, which is the withdrawal of foreign forces.”
A senior US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity before the start of the cease-fire, however said there were a number of issues that made direct talks between the Taliban and the United States unlikely in the short-term.
The official said there was a substantial gap in knowledge about the Taliban — for instance as to who had the authority to negotiate on the their behalf. “There is not enough intelligence or resources on this issue,” the official said.
A second official said there was still a question of what would happen with hard-line elements of the Taliban. “There are Taliban that won’t come to the table,” the official said.
Taliban call
The Taliban, in a statement marking the end of their cease-fire on Sunday, said the organization was unified and called on “the invading American party” to “sit directly for dialogue with the Islamic Emirate to find a solution for the ongoing imbroglio.”
A senior diplomat with knowledge of the negotiations leading to the cease-fire estimated the chances of eventual talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government at “50-50.”
“The Taliban want to talk to the US directly on withdrawal (of foreign forces) because they do not want to share the credit of withdrawal with the government,” the official said.
And while Washington has long resisted direct talks with Taliban, the official said that recent developments indicate “the US now seems less and less averse to it.”
In August, US President Donald Trump unveiled a more hawkish military approach to Afghanistan, including a surge in air strikes. Afghan security forces say the impact has been significant, but the Taliban roam huge areas of the country and, with foreign troop levels of about 15,600, down from 140,000 in 2014, there appears little hope of outright victory.
Ghani, never widely popular, met his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, on Sunday to secure support for peace talks. He visited a restaurant in Kabul where he met diners and took selfies with children, trying to capitalize on the unprecedented party atmosphere created by the cease-fire to mark last weekend’s Eid Al-Fitr festival.
But Amrullah Saleh, the former head of intelligence and head of a political party, said Ghani had committed a blunder by allowing insurgents to pour into government-controlled areas.
“Thousands of Taliban fighters were allowed to enter with guns and some of them could be hiding in civilian areas, planning attacks,” Saleh told Reuters.
Ghani has also come in for praise.
“Now we can say that our president is making an absolute honest attempt” for peace, said Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, the chairman of the outspoken New National Front of Afghanistan.