SATURDAY www.thestatesman.com 02 MARCH 2019 FIND US ONLINE Scan this with your smartphone twitter.com/TheStatesmanLtd facebook.com/thestatesman1875 Pages 16+4 |`5|LC KOLKATA | NEW DELHI | SILIGURI | BHUBANESWAR WEATHER Mist/shallow fog in the morning. Overcast sky conditions. Light rain/thunderstorm with possibility of lightning and hailstorm towards evening. The maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 22 and 10 degrees Celsius respectively. RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY Max.97% Min: 6.8°C (-6) SUN SETS 18:21 hrs MOON SETS 14:41 hrs TEMPERATURE THUMBNAILS United Hindu Front workers hold a protest demonstration against Delhi CM at the AAP RITIK JAIN Office, in the Capital on Friday. NC, PDP mull moving court against amendments: The National Conference and the PDP said they were mulling moving court against the Centre's decision to extend the 77th and 103rd amendments of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir in the absence of an elected government in the state. Five security personnel killed in encounter; Pak shelling on SRINAGAR, 1 MARCH ‘Good to be back home’ , says Abhinandan; Pak calls him POW, ‘handover delayed as he was told to record a statement on camera’ AGENCIES ATTARI (PUNJAB), 1 MARCH I Min. 36% Max: 24.1°C (-3) SUN RISES 06:45 hrs MOON RISES 04:44 hrs IAF pilot handed over at Wagah AF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, captured by Pakistanis two days ago after his MiG-21 crashed in Pakistani territory, returned to India on Friday night after an agonising wait for several hours. “It is good to be back in my country,” was the first reaction of IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as he set his foot back on Indian soil. This was stated by an official quotingVarthaman after he received the pilot at the Attari-Wagah border soon after his release by Pakistan. Varthaman was captured by Pakistani authorities on February 27 after an air combat between the air forces of the two countries, a day after New Delhi had conducted counter-terror operations in Pakistan's Balakot. “We are happy to have him back,” said a top IAF officer shortly afterVarthaman was handed over to Indian authorities. Reading out a brief statement, Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor, assistant chief of Air Staff, told a posse of reporters that the pilot will be taken for a detailed medical examination as he was subjected to lot of stress during his nearly three-day captivity. “He will be taken for a detailed medical checkup. The officer has had to eject from a plane which would have put his body under immense strain,” said Kapoor. The AirVice Marshal did not take any question from the media. The handing over of pilot Abhinandan Varthaman to India atWagah was delayed on Friday as he was asked to record a statement on camera by Pakistani authorities before he was allowed to cross the border, according to sources. It was not clear whether he was made to record the video under duress. The video also had several jump cuts indicating that it had been edited heavily, apparently to fit Pakistani propaganda. At 8.30 pm (local) time, the Pakistan government released the pilot's video message to the local media in which he said as to how he was captured. “Recording of his video message caused delay in his handing over,” a source said. In the video message, Varthaman said he entered Pakistan's space to “find a target” but his aircraft was shot down. ”I was in search of the target when your (Pakistan) Air Force shot me down. I had to eject the plane which had sustained damage. As soon as I ejected and when my parachute opened and I fell down, I had a pistol with me. “There were many people. I had only one way to save myself: I dropped my pistol and tried to run. “People chased me, their emo- Qureshi admits Masood Azhar is in Pakistan and says he is ‘unwell’ tions were running high. Just then, two Pakistani Army officials came and saved me. Pakistani army captains saved from the people and did not let any harm come to me. They took me to their unit where I was administered first aid and then I was taken to the hospital where I further underwent a medical exam and received more aid,” he said. “The army personnel saved me from the mob. The Pakistani army is very professional and I am impressed by it,” he said, while criticising SIDELIGHTS PRESS TRUST OF INDIA the Indian media. India has maintained thatVarthaman's plane was downed when IAF planes foiled an attempt by Pakistan Air Force to target Indian military installations in Jammu and Kashmir on February 27, a day after New Delhi had conducted counter-terror operations in Pakistan's Balakot. He bailed out of the aircraft but drifted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir where he was detained by the Pakistan Army. Although there has been no official word as to what time he was brought to the Wagah border on Friday, the sources say he reached Lahore after 4 pm. The Pakistani media reported that “his papers were being checked at theWagah immigration” that was why he was not being “immediately” handed over to the Indian authorities.Varthaman was handed over at around 9.20 pm (IST). Dressed in a blue coat, grey trousers and white shirt, he was received warmly by senior Border Security Force (BSF) officers at Zero Line that marks the India-Pakistan land border. After the Pakistan Rangers escorted him till the border gates, one BSF officer put his arm around the Indian Air Force officer and led him away, apparently for handing him over to the IAF officials. The Air Force officer looked calm as he waited for a while close to the border in Pakistani territory along with Indian High Commission officials from Islamabad and Pakistan Rangers before getting the final okay for him to cross over to India. The capture ofWg Cdr Abhinandan on Wednesday in Pakistani-administered Kash- NEW DELHI, 1 MARCH Five security personnel including a CRPF officer were killed on Friday in an encounter with militants while a civilian died in clashes near the site in Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir, where areas along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch districts were heavily shelled by Pakistan for the eighth consecutive day. The fresh violence came amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions in the aftermath of Pulwama terror attack, the subsequent anti-terror operation by India and Pakistan Air Force's attempt to target Indian military installations in Jammu and Kashmir. The encounter broke out Friday morning after the militants opened fire on the security forces during a cordon and search operation in Babagund area of Kupwara following information about PTI ultras there. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has admitted that Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar is in Pakistan and is “unwell”, but said the government can act against him only if India presents “solid” and “inalienable” evidence that can stand in a court of law. Qureshi's remarks came amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan after the February 14 terror attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Pulwama that left 40 CRPF personnel dead. India has handed over a dossier to Pakistan with “specific details of the JeM complicity in Pulwama terror attack and the presence of JeM terror camps and its leadership in Pakistan.” India also expressed regret at the denial by Pakistan's political and military leadership at the presence of ter- rorist infrastructure in territories under its control. “He is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is unwell to the extent that he can't leave his house, because he's really unwell,” Qureshi told CNN when asked about Azhar. Azhar is the chief of JeM that claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. India has been repeatedly trying to list him as a “global terrorist” by the UN. However, China, an ally of Pakistan, has blocked India's efforts by using veto. Qureshi also said that Pakistan will take action against him if presented with “evidence that can stand in a court of law”. “If they have solid, inalienable evidence that is acceptable to courts of Pakistan, share it with us so that we can convince the people and we can convince the independent judiciary of Pakistan,” Qureshi said. “We need to satisfy the legal process,” he said. Qureshi also added that the release of captured IAF pilot Wing Commander AbhinandanVarthaman is a “peace gesture” and must be seen as Pakistan's “willingness to deescalate”. Kartarpur Sahib talks on 14 March: Notwithstanding the current tensions between India and Pakistan, New Delhi has confirmed that a meeting between Indian and Pakistani officials to decide on the modalities of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on 14 March is still on. Jamaat banned: Authorities Friday imposed restrictions in parts of Srinagar as a precautionary measure in view of apprehensions of law and order after the Centre banned Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir for five years. China welcomes release of pilot: China welcomed Pakistan's decision to release the IAF pilot and encouraged the two countries to engage in more counter terrorism cooperation and dialogue for peace and stability. In a veiled attack on Pakistan, India on Friday called upon the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to use its influence with countries which provide safe havens to terrorists and force them to stop funding and sheltering terror networks. "If we want to save the humanity, then we must tell the states who provide shelter and funding to terrorists to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorists and stop providing funding and shelter to terror organisations based in their country,’’ External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said addressing the 46th session of the Council of Ministers of OIC, of which Pakistan is a founding member. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi boycotted the meeting to protest the Indian foreign Minister’s presence as the ‘Guest of India will no longer be helpless in fighting terror, says Modi at Tamil Nadu rally PRESS TRUST OF INDIA KANYAKUMARI (TN), 1 MARCH Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday declared that the country will no longer be “helpless” in the face of terror, saying a 'New India' will pay back terrorists with 'interest' and that their influence has been curtailed and will be curbed further. Modi also accused some opposition parties of doubting the armed forces and his government's fight against terrorism, saying their statements are helping Pakistan and harming the country. Telling opposition parties to stop weakening India with their statements to strengthen their own own politics, the prime minister said, “Modi will come and go, India will remain.” He did not name any party. Addressing a public meeting here, the prime minister also hailed Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, saying every Indian was proud of him. “Every Indian is proud that the brave wing commander Abhinandan belongs to Tamil Nadu,” he said after inaugurating several government projects in the Rail and Road sectors. Modi said he is proud that India's first woman Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is from Tamil Nadu. Reiterating his government's resolve against terrorism by retaliation, Modi slammed the previous Congress-led UPA government for not following such aggressive tactics and accused it of “blocking” surgical strikes post 26/11 Mumbai attacks in November 2008. The country has been facing the menace of terrorism for years “but there is a big difference now..India will no longer be helpless in the face of terror,” Modi said. “This is a New India, this is an India that will return the damage done by terrorists with interest,” he said, adding, “influence of terrorists and terrorism is curtailed and is going to be curtailed even more.” The events of the past two days, an apparent reference to IAF's air strikes on a JeM terror camp inside Pakistan and the IAF shooting down a Pakistan jet, have demonstrated yet again the strengths of the country's armed forces, he said. “It has also brought our nation closer,” the prime minister said, an obvious pointer to the outpouring of support to Varthaman and India's armed forces from the people.However, he said, it was sad that a few political parties “suspect our fight against terror.” When the entire nation supports the country's armed forces, they “suspect the armed forces,” he said. “These are the same people whose statements are helping Pakistan and harming India. They are the same people whose statements are happily quoted in the Parliament of Pakistan and in the radio of Pakistan,” Modi said. “They should clarify- do they believe our armed forces or they believe those forces who support terrorism on our soil? ”I want to tell them- Modi will come and go, India will remain. Please stop weakening India to strengthen your own politics,”he said. “We are Indians first and your SEE ALSO INSIDE PAGES ‘Fight against terror is not a confrontation against religion’ STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE ISLAMABAD, 1 MARCH mir led to strong demands from New Delhi that he be handed over to India immediately and unharmed. Pakistan's Foreign Office on Friday announced the returning of IAF Wing Commander AbhinandanVarthaman to India but described him as a“prisoner of war” (POW). In a statement issued minutes after the pilot crossed over to India from the Wagah-Attari border, the FO said, “While in captivity, he was treated with dignity and in line with international law.” “The captured Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been returned to India today,” it said. Varthaman was arrested when his jet MIG21 crashed in Pakistanoccupied Kashmir after being shot down by Pakistan Air Force on February 27. The statement described the pilot as an “India POW”. Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the Indian pilot's return in Parliament on Thursday as a “goodwill gesture” aimed at de-escalating tensions. politics can wait...it is the safety of our nation that is at stake,” the prime minister said. He asserted that the entire world was supporting India in its fight against terror. Citing reports, the prime minister said though the Indian Air Force wanted to carry out surgical strikes post 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, “UPA blocked it.” “The nation expected those responsible for these acts of terror to be punished but nothing happened. 26/11 (Mumbai terror attacks) happened in India but nothing happened,” Modi said. “And today we are in an era where the news reads armed forces have full freedom to do what they want.” He rued the bomb blasts at Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune between 2004 and 2014 when the UPA was in power. “But when Uri happened, you saw what our brave soldiers did (surgical strikes), Pulwama happened, and you saw what our brave air warriors did (Balakot air strikes).’’ Honour’. This is the first time that India is attending a meeting of the 57-member OIC, a highly influential grouping of the Islamic world. Swaraj emphasised that the menace of terrorism could not be fought only through military, intelligence or diplomatic means. "It is also a battle that must be won through the strength of our values and the real message of religions. This is a task that states, societies, sages, scholars, spiritual leaders and families must pursue through personal contacts and on social media,’’ she added. Swaraj said terrorism and extremism bore different names and labels. Terrorism used diverse cause. But in each case, the menace was driven by distortion of religion and a misguided belief in its power to succeed. "The fight against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion,’’ she hastened to add. Swaraj said she had brought with her to the OIC meeting the greetings of 1.3 billion Indians, including more than 185 million Muslims. "Our Muslim brothers and sisters are a microcosm of the diversity of India itself,’’ she added. Meanwhile, Pakistan, in a statement, said it had boycotted the meeting because of its unresolved disputes with India. It said India had consistently rejected OIC resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. "Pakistan believes that with such a record, India has no legal or moral grounds to be present at the meeting,’’ the statement added. General elections will be held on time, says poll panel chief PRESS TRUST OF INDIA LUCKNOW, 1 MARCH The general elections in the country will be held on time, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said on Friday, amid tensions between India and Pakistan. The CEC is in the Uttar Pradesh capital for the past two days to review poll preparations in the state. “The election in the country will be held on time,” Arora told reporters here when asked about the poll schedule in the wake of tensions between the two countries. He said as per a new notification of the commission, candidates will have to give details of their properties abroad, besides those in the country. “The I-T department will look into it and, if any, discrepancies are found then it will be uploaded on the Election Commission (EC) website and strict action will be initiated,” the CEC said. When asked about the EC's stand on inflammatory speeches, Arora said in his review meetings, he tried to find out the status of such cases lodged during previous elections. “Whatever the EC has found, I have apprised about its intentions to the chief secretary and the DGP, who assured that strict action will be taken in such cases,” he said. The commission is committed to holding free and fair polls, and will promptly act on any complaint regarding this, the CEC said. “The C-Vigil app will be launched soon so that any citizen, whose name will be kept secret, can register his poll related complaints. Besides this, we will constitute committees to keep an eye on social media,” he said. In all the 1,63,331 polling centres, VVPAT machines will be used this time, he said. Electronic voting machines are being treated like “football”, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said Friday in the wake of political parties expressing apprehensions on the working of EVMs. The CEC is in the Uttar Pradesh capital for the past two days to review poll preparations in the state. “EVMs are being used for the past over two decades. If we take results of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls into account, the results of the Delhi Assembly polls four months after, it were different.
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