India releases ‘Pakistani spy’ pigeon

India releases ‘Pakistani spy’ pigeon
In this file photo, a Pakistani caretaker releases racing pigeons from their cage on the final day of the pigeon race national championship in Islamabad on May 31, 2016. (AFP)
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Updated 30 May 2020

India releases ‘Pakistani spy’ pigeon

India releases ‘Pakistani spy’ pigeon
  • Indian police not sure if the bird flew back to Pakistan or traveled deep inside their country
  • Pakistani owner of the bird says he is happy his pigeon is no longer being interrogated by Indian authorities

NEW DELHI / KARACHI: The government of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir freed a pigeon on Thursday, that had been captured by locals on suspicion of being a “Pakistani spy.”

On Monday, villagers in the Manyari area located on the Indian side of the Working Boundary with Pakistan in the Kathua district of Jammu caught the pigeon, that had been painted pink, with a ring on its left leg that had a “coded” number inscribed on it.

“We set the pigeon free on Thursday from the same spot where it was found,” Kathua’s senior police superintendent, Shailendra Mishra, told Arab News on Friday.

“On Monday, the villagers caught a pigeon who had a ring on one of its legs with a number written on it. The villagers found the pigeon suspicious and informed the police. We took the pigeon to a veterinarian, and then set it free,” Mishra added.

He blamed the media for creating over-inflating the story.

“The media created hype by calling it a spy pigeon,” the police chief said. “I don’t know whether the pigeon went back to Pakistan or traveled deep inside India. However, we released it from the same spot where we had found it.”

Local journalist and Manyari resident, Saravjit Shunty, said such incidents were not new.

“The Manyari area is close to the international border and the villagers have a habit of reporting every incident to the Border Security Force. Since the pigeon was colored and it had a suspicious looking ring with a number inscribed on it, the villagers reported the matter to the force after catching the bird,” Shunty explained.

“I informed the local police chief that a video from the Sakkargarh area from across the border had emerged in which a person was claiming to be the owner of the pigeon,” he said. “The police chief then told us that he had verified all the details and the bird would soon be released.

“Such episodes show the paranoia that defines the relationship between India and Pakistan. It’s really funny that a bird which cannot be confined within traditional international boundaries can become an object of suspicion,” Shunty continued.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani owner of the bird, named Habibullah, told Arab News he was happy that his pigeon was no longer in Indian custody.

“I am very excited that my bird has been released by India. But I will be happier once it flies back and I get to see it. I am also thankful to those who spoke up in my favor,” he said.

Habibullah said that he had released the bird on Eid Al-Fitr, hoping that it would fly around a little before returning to its loft.

However, he inscribed his contact number on the ring around the bird’s leg to make sure that it did not go missing.

“When two days went by and the bird did not return, I knew it was captured by someone who did not want to return it to me,” he told Arab News from his village of Bagga-Shakargarh, located on the Working Boundary with India.

He added that his precautionary measure had worked in the past and his pigeons had been returned each time. However, it was shocking for him to discover that his bird was held by Indians on the other side of the border who were “trying to debrief him as a Pakistani spy.”

Commenting on the development, Dr. Hasan Askari, a Lahore-based security analyst, described the Indian claim as “a very childish act of a narrow-minded ideological government.”

“There is an ultra-nationalist government in place in India which is driven by a narrow-minded ideology,” he said. “Such governments manage to find conspiracy theories in everything.”

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries
Updated 15 January 2021

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries
  • Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine
  • There will be “a significant increase” in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised

BERLIN: A global coronavirus vaccine rollout suffered a major blow Friday as Pfizer said it would delay shipments of the jabs in the next three to four weeks due to works at its key plant in Belgium.
Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine developed with Germany’s BioNTech.
There will be “a significant increase” in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised. The European Commission also confirmed that promised doses for the first quarter will arrive within the period.
But European Union nations, which are desperately waiting for more doses to immunize their populations against the virus that has already claimed almost two million lives worldwide, expressed frustration.
Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, voiced regret over the “last minute and unexpected” delay.
It urged the European Commission — which undertook joint procurement for the bloc — to “seek clarity and certainty” for upcoming shipments.
Six northern EU nations also warned in a letter to the Commission that the “unacceptable” situation “decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”
The letter signed by ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden further asked the Commission to “demand a public explanation of the situation” from the pharmaceutical companies.
Across the Atlantic, Canada also said it was impacted by the delays, calling it “unfortunate.”
“However, such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” said Canada’s Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which was developed at record-breaking speed, became the first to be approved for general use by a Western country on December 2 when Britain gave it the go ahead.
After Britain rolled out its immunization drive, the EU followed from December 27.
The latest shipment delay will likely add fuel to anger over the bloc’s vaccination campaign, which has already been criticized for being too slow compared to the United States or former EU member Britain.
The European Commission has also been accused of not securing enough doses early enough.
Just last week, the EU struck a deal to double its supply of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine to 600 million doses.
The urgency of immunizing the population has grown over fears of virus variants first seen in South Africa and Britain, which officials warn are more infectious.
But vaccine makers had repeatedly warned that production capacity was limited.
While Pfizer is augmenting capacity at Puurs, its partner BioNTech on Friday secured authorization to begin production at Germany’s Marburg.
The challenges of getting millions of vaccines around the world are also huge as the BioNTech/Pfizer jabs must be stored at ultra-low temperatures of about minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit) before being shipped to distribution centers in specially-designed cool boxes filled with dry ice.
Once out of ultra-cold storage, the vaccine must be kept at two Celsius to eight Celsius to remain effective for up to five days.