Modi’s party vows to strip Kashmir of special rights ahead of Indian election

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is widely expected to retain power after the general election, though with a much smaller mandate. (AFP)
Updated 08 April 2019

Modi’s party vows to strip Kashmir of special rights ahead of Indian election

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is widely expected to retain power after the general election
  • The BJP has consistently advocated an end to Kashmir’s special constitutional status

NEW DELHI: India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party vowed on Monday to strip decades-old special rights from the people of Jammu and Kashmir, making an election promise that provoked warnings of a backlash in the country’s only Muslim-majority state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to retain power after a general election that starts on Thursday, though with a much smaller mandate, hit by concerns over a shortage of jobs and weak farm prices.
It pledged to spend 100 trillion rupees ($1.44 trillion) on infrastructure in the next five years, to help create jobs for the millions entering the workforce each year.
Pollsters say the BJP’s re-election bid got a boost from recent hostilities with arch-rival Pakistan, after a militant group based there claimed a February suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian security forces in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
“Nationalism is our inspiration, economic development of the poor and backward sections our philosophy, and good governance our mantra,” Modi said after releasing the election manifesto at BJP headquarters in New Delhi, as supporters chanted “Modi, Modi.”
The BJP has consistently advocated an end to Kashmir’s special constitutional status, which prevents outsiders from buying property there, arguing that such laws have hindered its integration with the rest of India.
“In the last five years, we have made all necessary efforts to ensure peace in Jammu and Kashmir through decisive actions and a firm policy,” it said in the manifesto.
“We are committed to overcome all obstacles in the way of development and provide adequate financial resources to all the regions of the state.”
The party also reiterated its long-held desire to abolish Kashmir’s autonomous status.
BJP supporters have sought the removal, expressing anger at many Kashmiris’ resistance to rule by India, which, for three decades, has battled an armed insurgency in the region also claimed by Pakistan.
“The BJP’s campaign is largely around nationalism, national security and this is what is getting echoed in their manifesto,” said Sanjay Kumar, director of thinktank the Center for the Study of Developing Societies.
Repeal would bring widespread unrest, Kashmiri political leaders warned.
“Let them do it and it will pave the way for our azadi,” Farooq Abdullah, president of Kashmir’s National Conference party, told an election rally, referring to freedom for the region. “They are wrong. We will fight against it.”
Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, the leader of a left party in Kashmir, warned of “disastrous and unimaginable repercussions.”
Voting in the general election begins on Thursday, but with about 900 million eligible voters, will be spread across several weeks, with ballots counted on May 23.
In its manifesto last week, the main opposition Congress party pledged to create more jobs, hand money to India’s poorest and change a law on special powers for troops in Kashmir.
It dismissed the BJP manifesto as anti-farmer, despite its pledge of a pension scheme for small and marginal farmers who make up more than 80 percent of India’s estimated 263 million farmers, with landholdings smaller than 2 hectares (5 acres).
“Remember the good old days before 2014 when Indians had jobs and a PM that didn’t lie to them,” Congress said on Twitter, with a hashtag calling the BJP manifesto a gimmick.
The BJP pledged to simplify the goods and services tax, which disrupted businesses and hurt growth when Modi introduced it in 2017. It will also work to cut tax and boost credit to small businesses to 1 trillion rupees ($14.4 billion) by 2024.


US lawsuit against Qatari emir’s brother to be re-filed in Massachusetts court

Updated 28 January 2020

US lawsuit against Qatari emir’s brother to be re-filed in Massachusetts court

  • The move was intended to force Sheikh Khaled, who had been avoiding being served, to acknowledge and accept legal service
  • Two former contractors alleged they were denied wages and threatened by Sheikh Khaled after they refused his orders to kill two people

The attorney for two former contractors suing Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani, the brother of the Emir of Qatar, has asked a Florida Federal Court judge to dismiss their lawsuit so they can re-file the claims before a different Federal court in Massachusetts.

The former contractors alleged they were denied wages and threatened by Sheikh Khaled after they refused his orders to kill two people. The original lawsuit had Sheikh Khaled as the principle defendant but on Nov. 5, 2019 it was expanded to include race car company Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, which Sheikh Khaled owns.

The move was intended to force Sheikh Khaled, who had been avoiding being served, to acknowledge and accept legal service.

Failing to serve a defendant or a defendant’s business assets can result in the lawsuit being thrown out by a judge in the American judicial system.

The expansion of the lawsuit worked. After ignoring the lawsuit for more than seven months, lawyers for both Sheikh Khaled and Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, filed responses. They asked the Federal Court on Jan. 2 this year to dismiss the Pittard/Allende lawsuit, arguing Florida lacked Federal jurisdiction over the case.

According to Bloomberg Markets, Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, is based in Duxbury, Massachusetts, although it has an office in Florida.

“After the Pittard case complaint was amended, several individuals bravely stepped forward to share their stories and experiences with the defendants in the Pittard case,” said Rebecca Castaneda, the attorney for security professional Matthew Pittard and paramedic Matthew Allende, who are seeking $33 million in damages.

“In light of the information that they have provided, and the new plaintiffs’ claims and causes of actions against the defendants and others, we have requested that the Pittard case be dismissed from the Middle District of Florida.

“The cases of Matthew Pittard and Matthew Allende will be supplemented with additional legal claims and information that has been obtained and re-filed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the District of Massachusetts.”

Sheikh Khaled’s attorney, Alejandro Soto, of the Florida law firm Fridman Fels and Soto, PLLC, argued in their motion to dismiss in January that Sheikh Khaled had no legal presence in Florida and that Florida’s Federal courts had no jurisdiction over his actions.

“While the amended complaint invokes Florida law, it otherwise fails to allege any facts supporting Sheikh Khaled’s contacts with the state,” Soto said in his Jan. 2 dismissal demand.

“By all accounts — including plaintiffs’— Sheikh Khaled is a citizen of the state of Qatar whose domicile and primary residence — both during the time period alleged in the amended complaint and now — have always been in Qatar.

“Moreover, the amended complaint does not allege a single fact suggesting that any of the alleged conduct giving rise to this case occurred in or arose from Sheikh Khaled’s contacts with Florida. Indeed, the only alleged connection that Florida has with this case is plaintiff Matthew Pittard’s alleged residence in it.”

Attorneys for Al-Anabi Racing LLC, Armando Rosquete and Javier A. Reyes of the Bell Rosquete Reyes Esteban, PLLC law firm, argued that Sheikh Khaled was not employed by Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC and claimed Florida lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

“Contrary to this settled jurisdictional jurisprudence, plaintiffs failed to plead any facts to establish personal jurisdiction or even provide a factual framework under which this court could analyse personal jurisdiction,” Reyes and Rosquete said in their Jan. 2 dismissal demand.

“Indeed, other than an unsupported conclusory allegation in a single paragraph, plaintiffs include no jurisdictional facts that connect Al-Anabi to Florida. Plaintiffs do not allege that they were injured in Florida, nor do they allege any facts regarding Al-Anabi’s contacts with the state.

“The amended complaint is devoid of facts that could — even when analysed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs — show that the purported injury or other conduct alleged even occurred in Florida,” Reyes and Rosquete added.

Attorneys Reyes, Rosquete and Soto all failed to respond to repeated inquiries for comment on their dismissal filings.

Pittard and Allende alleged in the lawsuit, originally filed on July 23, 2019 before Federal Judge Thomas P. Barber, that Sheikh Khaled ordered them to kill two individuals who posted negative and embarrassing comments about the sheikh on social media.

According to Castaneda, Sheikh Khaled ordered the killing of a Los Angeles-based drug dealer who was trying to blackmail the sheikh with claims he had compromising photos and videos of the sheikh.

“We don’t know the veracity of the drug dealer’s claims, but the sheikh took them seriously and he wanted Pittard and Allende to kill the blackmailer,” Castaneda said.

In another case, Castaneda said Sheikh Khaled allegedly ordered the two security contractors to murder a Moroccan woman who was a friend of the sheikh’s wife. Castaneda said Sheikh Khaled feared the woman was feeding embarrassing information about him to a Saudi national at a time when his brother, Emir Al-Thani, and Qatar were in an international row with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries.

Pittard and Allende allege they were threatened at gunpoint by an angry Sheikh Khaled when they refused his orders in September 2017 to murder the two individuals he suspected had sullied his social reputation. The lawsuit claims Sheikh Khaled's threats against Pittard and Allende continued to escalate.