30 officials quit in Kashmir after rebel threats

Updated 23 April 2014

30 officials quit in Kashmir after rebel threats

SRINAGAR, India: At least 30 fearful local officials have resigned in Indian Kashmir after rebels killed two colleagues and issued a warning against voting this week in the country's elections, residents said Wednesday.
Hand-written notices announcing the resignations were posted in Tral area of the southern Kashmir valley where militants shot dead two officials and another man on Monday night, residents told AFP.
Notices also appeared in local newspapers, while local imams read out other resignation letters of officials from "panchayat" or village councils at mosques in Tral town, residents and local media reports said.
"We were misled that Panchayat elections are only meant for addressing local issues. It was a mistake on our part and we apologise for that," one of the resignation letters seen by AFP read.
In some of the resignation letters, council members dissociated themselves from political parties taking part in the current election as well as denying involvement in the election process.
Tensions are running high ahead of voting in the area on Thursday, after rebels issued a warning against taking part in the mammoth general election underway throughout India.
Separatists have called for a boycott of the staggered election which ends next month when hardline Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi and his party are expected to vault to power after a decade of Congress-party rule.
Rebels often target council members as part of their insurgency, with at least a dozen killed since elections were held in 2010 in the region for "panchayat" or village councils.
A dozen rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for the Muslim-majority region's independence or for merger of the territory with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, dead.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947.
Police were hunting for militants who killed one village council head in Tral area of Pulwana district on Monday. They killed another senior village official and his 24-year-old son about an hour later in the same area.
Local militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen put up posters in the area on Tuesday warning residents that "voting for tyrants will entail punishment."


Republican stalwart Rooney ‘thinking’ about impeachment

Updated 29 min 57 sec ago

Republican stalwart Rooney ‘thinking’ about impeachment

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump gave an atta-boy to Republican Rep. Francis Rooney last year on the congressman’s home turf in swing state Florida.
“I love it when he defends me,” the president said then. He might feel differently now.
The second-term Republican said publicly Friday what others in his party are not, namely that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged a quid pro quo was at work when Trump held up US aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kyiv’s investigation of Democrats and the 2016 elections. Mulvaney later claimed his comments had been misconstrued, but Rooney said he and other Republicans heard them clearly.
“He said there’s a quid pro quo,” Rooney said of Mulvaney during a telephone interview. “I just don’t think that the power and prestige of our country is supposed to be used for political things.”
Asked whether he thinks Trump’s conduct is impeachable, Rooney replied, “I’m still thinking about it.”
Anything short of a “no” on that question, even from only one of 197 Republicans in the House, is notable amid the drive by majority Democrats to impeach Trump. The president has made clear that he does more than notice what he considers acts of disloyalty; he is fond of making examples of Republicans by threatening to sink their re-election bids and following through in a few cases.
Friday night, Trump tweeted, “REPUBLICANS MUST STICK TOGETHER AND FIGHT!” That tweet was accompanied by a video targeting Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who has been critical of Trump’s handling of Turkey’s assault on Syrian Kurds.
When Rep. Justin Amash of politically critical Michigan became the first House Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment earlier this year — and quit the party — the backlash from Trump’s orbit was swift.
But that was before revelations about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine, which made his impeachment by the end of the year a real possibility. Since the release of a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president, many current and former administration officials have testified before House impeachment investigators.
Then Mulvaney spoke on Thursday. Rooney said in a telephone interview that the chief of staff’s comments marked a turning point for him from giving the president “the benefit of the doubt.” And he said GOP colleagues are newly troubled.
“They were all going around saying what the president said — that there wasn’t a quid pro quo,” Rooney said. “There were a lot of Republicans looking at that headline yesterday. I think people were concerned about it.”
Rooney said he had not received any blowback from the White House for his comments, though about half of the calls he’s getting are from constituents who are critical, including “some pretty hostile” ones from ardent Trump supporters.
Only a year ago, at a presidential rally in Estero, Trump praised Rooney as “a man who’s so great to me on television. This guy is special. He was a great businessman. Now he’s a great congressman, Francis Rooney.”
He went on: “I love him when he defends me. He’s brutal. He gets the job done, right, Francis? Thank you, man.”
Rooney, 65, is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, a solid member of the Republican establishment. Among the wealthiest members of the House, he won his second term last year with 62 percent of the vote. His foreign policy bona fides come in part from his service as ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush.
His official biography tells the story of his longtime connection to the GOP. In 1984, the family started Rooney Holdings Inc. One of the company’s subsidiaries counts among its projects the presidential libraries for both Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans football stadiums, the US Capitol Visitor’s Center, the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research and the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.
Rooney has at times been a Trump critic. He was one of 13 House Republicans to join a Democratic effort early this year to stop the president from declaring a national emergency to fund his border wall with Mexico.
On Friday, Rooney was no longer one of Trump’s defenders, on television or elsewhere.
“Whatever may have been gray and unclear before is certainly clear now,” he said on CNN.