Pakistan rules out 'military option' in Kashmir row: FM

The Indian ministry said creating an alarmist vision in the region will not work to interfere in the new jurisdiction. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 August 2019

Pakistan rules out 'military option' in Kashmir row: FM

  • Pakistan said it would suspend a rail service linking it to India, as relations with its arch rival continue to sour over the contested Kashmir region
  • It also also said it would ban the screening of Indian films in the country's cinemas. 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will not resort to military action in a row with nuclear arch-rival India over Kashmir, its foreign minister said Thursday, as tensions soared over New Delhi's decision to tighten its grip on the disputed region.
The move by Delhi Monday to strip Kashmir of its special autonomy brought the Indian-held portion of the Himalayan region under its direct rule.
The decision deepened animosity with Pakistan, which has already fought two of its three wars with India over Kashmir, and ignited days of debate within the country over how Islamabad should respond.
"Pakistan is not looking at the military option. We are rather looking at political, diplomatic, and legal options to deal with the prevailing situation," said Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a press conference in Islamabad.
"We have decided to go back to the UN security council to challenge this Indian position, which is morally incorrect," he added.
Qureshi's comments come on the heels of a decision by Islamabad to downgrade its diplomatic ties with India, suspend bilateral trade, and expel the country's envoy.

Pakistan also said on Thursday it would suspend a rail service linking it to India, as relations with its arch rival continue to sour over the contested Kashmir region.
“We have decided to shut down Samjhauta Express,” railways minister Sheikh Rasheed told a news conference on Thursday, in reference to the train running to India's capital New Delhi from the Pakistani city of Lahore.
“As long as I am railways minister, Samjhauta Express can’t operate”. 

Pakistan also said it would ban the screening of Indian films in the country's cinemas. 
"No Indian cinema will be screened in any Pakistani cinema. Drama, films and Indian content of this kind will be completely banned in Pakistan," Firdous Ashiq Awan, an adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a tweet. 
India has dismissed Pakistan's moves and said its decision to strip the restive region of its autonomy was an "internal affair".
Pakistan has vowed to "firmly" stand with Kashmiris, but earlier this week Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed exasperation with war-mongering in parliament, at one point asking rhetorically: "What do you want me to do? Attack India?"
He also warned of the global consequences of war between two nuclear-armed nations.
The Muslim-majority Kashmir region has long been a sensitive flashpoint between India and Pakistan, which have had conflicting claims to the region since independence from Britain in 1947.
Earlier this year the two sides came to dangerously close to the brink of war once more, after a deadly attack in Indian-held Kashmir was claimed by a militant group based in Pakistan, prompting tit-for-tat airstrikes igniting brief fears of a nuclear clash.


Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

Updated 04 July 2020

Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

  • Young volunteers tackle tough terrain, pandemic myths in isolated northern region

JAKARTA: A group of tech-savvy young locals in Indonesia’s northern North Halmahera regency is spreading awareness about the dangers of COVID-19 in remote corners of the archipelago at a time when bureaucracy has impeded a rapid response to the pandemic.

The Relawan Merah Putih, or Red and White Volunteers, includes a multimedia expert, university students, lecturers, civil servants and a web developer in Tobelo, the main city of North Halmahera in North Maluku province, about 2,500 km from the capital Jakarta.

The city is located on Halmahera island, part of the Maluku Islands, Indonesia’s fabled Spice Islands on the northeastern part of the sprawling archipelago.

Stevie Recaldo Karimang, a 28-year-old freelance photographer and videographer, told Arab News that he set up the group after social restrictions introduced to counter the pandemic put him out of business. 

He quickly developed a website on the pandemic and created online flyers and audiovisual materials that he and 31 other volunteers distributed on social media platforms and messaging apps to educate the public about the pandemic soon after the first cases in Indonesia were confirmed in Jakarta in early March.

“We translated the information we took from the national COVID-19 task force into the market language spoken here, which is a mixture of Indonesian and the local dialect, to make it more understandable for the locals,” Karimang said.

The group also used a drone to issue public warnings against mass gatherings.

“The drone helped to remind people not to form a crowd when social restrictions were enforced. We attached a flashlight to the device to catch the crowd’s attention, and we were able to dismiss such gatherings.”

But the volunteers shifted their efforts to rural areas after the first coronavirus case in North Maluku province was confirmed on March 23.

Jubhar Mangimbulude, a microbiology expert at Halmahera University and the group’s adviser, said the team had visited 30 isolated villages out of 196 townships in the regency, which is home to 161 million people.

“We reached one village after hours of driving over rough terrain. We have to use four-wheel-drive vehicles because along the way we may have to cross a river where the bridge is damaged,” he told Arab News.

Mangimbulude said that many villagers were unaware of the pandemic and only knew from TV that a dangerous virus was spreading quickly and infecting people. He was glad to find that no COVID-19 cases had been detected among the villagers.

But he acknowledged that misinformation was rife and said that he had to debunk myths about “how alcohol could be used to prevent the disease.”

“The villagers heard that the virus can be killed with heat in one’s body, and since drinking alcohol can warm the body, they encouraged their children and elders to drink a local alcoholic beverage made of fermented sugar palm fruit,” Mangimbulude said.

Fellow volunteer Oscar Berthomene, a local civil servant, said that the group was able to move faster than the regency administration whose bureaucracy slowed down the response to the pandemic.

“I have support from my supervisor, and we were able to help their activities with cars to allow them to move around,” he told Arab News.

The regency has about 18 percent of the 953 cases in the province, which make up about 1.5 percent of the national total of 62,142 as of Saturday.