Imran Khan calls for talks after India and Pakistan shoot down jets

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Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, outside Srinagar on Wednesday (AFP)
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Indian army soldiers arrive near the wreckage of an Indian aircraft after it crashed in Budgam area, outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Feb.27, 2019. (AP/Mukhtar Khan)
Updated 28 February 2019
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Imran Khan calls for talks after India and Pakistan shoot down jets

  • Imran Khan calls on India to hold talks to avert devastating war
  • Indian aircraft crash killed two pilots and a civilian

ISLAMABAD,NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan engaged in aerial hostilities along the Kashmiri Line of Control (LoC) for the first time since 1971 on Wednesday, with New Delhi claiming to have lost a pilot in action, and Islamabad losing an F-16 fighter jet, according to Indian sources.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan called for a de-escalation of the tensions and invited Indian officials to choose dialogue over force in a televised address to his nation.
The address came after Pakistani jets shot down two Indian warplanes across the LoC, the de facto border dividing Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir. One Indian pilot was reportedly captured.
Khan said the two sides could not afford a miscalculation with the weapons they had, and he was willing to sit down with his Indian neighbors and discuss ways to resolve their outstanding issues, including terrorism.
“Let’s sit together and resolve our problems through dialogue,” Khan told the Indian leadership in a televised address after chairing a high-level meeting of the National Command Authority, which oversees Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.In a statement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that Pakistan had responded to its legitimate “counter-terrorism action” against the group Jaish-e-Mohammed, suspected of carrying out an attack on an Indian military convoy last week, by “targeting military installations on the Indian side.”
The statement added that the IAF had lost one MiG-21 fighter jet, and that its pilot was missing. Efforts, it added, were underway to confirm Pakistani claims that he had been taken into custody across the border.
The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted Islamabad had attacked Indian military positions, but claimed to have only done so in self-defense. 
“The sole purpose of this action was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defense. We do not wish to escalate but are fully prepared if forced,” a spokesman said.
Earlier this month the Pakistan-based militant group JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the Pulwama district of Indian-administered Kashmir in which more than 40 paramilitary troops were killed.



 

Khan said he had “offered peace to India after what happened in Pulwama. I understood the pain of the families (who lost family members in the incident). We offered India our complete cooperation in the investigations, as this is not in Pakistan’s interest to let its soil to be used against any other country.”
He added: “But I feared that India would do a misadventure due to upcoming elections.”
Referring to the shooting down of the Indian MiG-21 aircraft, Khan said: “No sovereign country can allow violation of its sovereignty. I had told India of retaliation.“The sole purpose of our action was to convey that if you can come into our country, we can do the same.” He said Pakistan had planned to ensure that any retaliatory action caused no collateral damage or casualties.
Khan said it was of the “utmost importance” to “exercise wisdom and acumen” to avoid further conflict. “All wars are miscalculated, and no one knows where they can lead,” he added.
Addressing his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, the prime minister said: “With the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford such a miscalculation?”
Extending the offer of talks to India, Khan added: “Better sense should prevail.”
Security and defense experts have hailed Khan’s stance. Tahir Malik, an academic and analyst, told Arab News: “It is now up to India whether it engages with Pakistan for dialogue to resolve the issues peacefully, or keeps trumpeting the warmongering mantra.” 
Malik also called for an international effort to help resolve the dispute over Kashmir.
“The real challenge for both Pakistan and India now is to de-escalate and engage in a meaningful dialogue. We hope the Indian leadership will reciprocate Prime Minister Khan’s message of peace.”
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi held meetings with senior military chiefs and the heads of his nation’s intelligence services throughout Wednesday. 
New Delhi shut nine airports in the north of the country in the immediate aftermath of the Pakistani airstrike, but all have since reopened.
Indian opposition leaders, meanwhile, have condemned Modi for “the politicization of the Pulwama attack,” asking him to address the nation to explain himself.
Kashmir-based political analyst Dr. Siddiq Wahid said: “The ‘no dialogue’ approach of the Modi regime has not worked, and in fact made matters worse. It is time to talk.”

 


Emotional Muslims return to Christchurch mosque as New Zealand works to move on

Updated 23 March 2019
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Emotional Muslims return to Christchurch mosque as New Zealand works to move on

  • Al Noor was handed back to the local Muslim community on Saturday and began allowing small groups onto its grounds around midday
  • “We are allowing 15 people at a time, just to get some normality,” said Saiyad Hassen, a volunteer at Al Noor

CHRISTCHURCH: Muslims held emotional prayers inside Christchurch’s main mosque on Saturday for the first time since a white supremacist massacred worshippers there, as New Zealand sought to return to normality after the tragedy.
The Al Noor mosque had been taken over by police for investigations and security reasons after alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant gunned down Muslims gathered there and at a smaller mosque for Friday prayers on March 15, killing 50 people.
Al Noor was handed back to the local Muslim community on Saturday and began allowing small groups onto its grounds around midday.
“We are allowing 15 people at a time, just to get some normality,” said Saiyad Hassen, a volunteer at Al Noor, adding that there were no plans yet to fully reopen.
Among the first to enter was massacre survivor Vohra Mohammad Huzef, who said two of his roommates were killed and that he managed to live only by hiding under bodies.
“I could feel the bullets hitting the people and I could feel the blood coming down on me from the people who were shot,” said Huzef, a Christchurch civil engineer originally from India.
“Everyone wants to get back in again to give praise and to catch up. This is the central point of our community.”
The attacks shocked a country of 4.5 million that is known for its tolerance and prompted global horror, heightened by Tarrant’s cold-blooded livestreaming of the massacre.
New Zealand came to a standstill on Friday to mark one week since the bloodshed, with the Muslim call to prayer broadcast across the country followed by two minutes of silence.
The ceremonies saw poignant scenes of Maoris performing the traditional haka war dance, and non-Muslim New Zealand women donning makeshift Islamic headscarves in solidarity.
A day earlier, the country outlawed the military-style rifles used in the assault with immediate effect.
But one of four concert sites at a music festival in the capital Wellington was evacuated on Saturday night just before a planned minute of silence for Christchurch, underlining lingering apprehensions.
Police cited unspecified “concerns about a person,” but later called it an “innocent misunderstanding” and the concert was slated to proceed.
In Christchurch, police also handed back Linwood Mosque, the second killing zone several kilometers away from Al Noor, but no plans to allow visitors were announced.
An armed police presence will remain at both mosques, as well as others around New Zealand.
Workers have rushed to repair the mosques’ bullet-pocked walls and clean blood-spattered floors.
At Al Noor, visitors knelt at a garden tap to wash their feet and faces in ritual pre-prayer ablutions.
Some wept quietly inside the mosque, where bright sunlight streamed through windows and the air smelled of fresh paint. No bullet holes were seen.
Men and women then knelt and prayed on a padded carpet underlay taped to the floor, still awaiting replacements for the mosque’s blood-stained rugs.
Several members of Christchurch semi-professional football club Western A.F.C. arrived in team colors to honor three victims who were known to the team due to their interest in the sport. The players left a bouquet of flowers outside the entrance to the mosque’s grounds.
The victims included 14-year-old Sayyad Milne, who dreamed of playing in goal for Manchester United, according to his father.
“We all love playing football and the best thing we can do is just to go out and enjoy it really, and obviously play for those guys that have been lost and think about them while we are doing it,” said team member Aaron McDonald, 20.
The mosque’s imam Gamal Fouda arrived draped in a New Zealand flag.
The day before, Fouda delivered an impassioned memorial service at a park next to the mosque that was watched globally and in which he praised “unbreakable” New Zealand for uniting in the tragedy’s wake.
Around 2,000 people gathered Saturday at the same park to join a “March for Love” procession through Christchurch.
Officials and police said two relatives of victims had died, with New Zealand identifying one as 65-year-old Suad Adwan, who had arrived from Jordan for the burial of her son Kamel Darwish, 38.
The grief-stricken mother was found Saturday morning having apparently died in her sleep, just hours after her son’s burial, of what police called a “medical event.”
No other details on the deaths were given.
But normality slowly returned to Christchurch as children played cricket near Al Noor and a previously scheduled 100-kilometer (62-mile) cycling race went ahead as planned.
New Zealand, which has already charged two people for distributing the gruesome livestreamed video of the attack, has now also made it a crime to share the alleged killer’s “manifesto,” local media reported.
In the document, Tarrant says the killings were in response to what he termed a Muslim “invasion” of Western countries.
“Others have referred to this publication as a ‘manifesto’, but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism,” Chief Censor David Shanks was quoted as saying.