Saarc conference: Indian home minister lands in Islamabad amid protests

Rajnath Singh flown from airport to hotel under tight security .


Our Correspondent/news Desk August 04, 2016
A senior Pakistani official greets Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday for regional security talks amid protests against atrocities by security forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Singh is in Pakistan to attend a daylong meeting of interior ministers from member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc). The conference that opens today (Thursday) will focus on security, anti-terror cooperation and joint efforts against drug trafficking.

Singh, however, is not expected to hold bilateral meetings with his Pakistani counterpart or other senior Pakistani officials.

His visit comes at a time when a fresh wave of violence in disputed Kashmir has escalated rivalry between the nuclear-armed neighbours. More than 60 people have been killed and 6,000-plus wounded since protests erupted in the Himalayan region after security forces killed popular separatist Burhan Wani last month.

Singh has blamed Pakistan for instigating the protests.

Singh landed in Islamabad Wednesday evening accompanied by a delegation comprising officials from Indian home and external affairs ministries. Owing to the protests, he was flown from the airport in a helicopter to his hotel where commandos have been deployed and barricades erected to ensure security, NDTV reported.

The hotel will also host Thursday’s Saarc meeting.

Earlier this week, India voiced concerns for Singh’s safety in Pakistan after religious groups threatened to stage protests over his arrival, demanding that Islamabad ensure security. However, Singh made no mention of any personal security concerns before leaving for Islamabad on Wednesday. Instead, he chose to highlight the importance of meaningful cooperation in the region against terrorism.

“Leaving for Islamabad to attend the Saarc HM Conference. This conference provides a platform to discuss issues pertaining to security,” Singh said in a tweet. “Looking forward to underscore the imperative of meaningful cooperation within the region against terrorism and organised crime.”

Protests

As Singh arrived in the federal capital, several scattered demonstrations were staged in the city to protest Indian atrocities in Kashmir, including one near the hotel where the Indian minister is staying. A rally organised by Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) started from Aabpara Chowk and culminated in front of Singh’s hotel.

Besides JuD, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and two other little-known organisations also staged protest demonstrations in front of the hotel. Scattered protests across the city were also staged by the JuD.

During the day, the APHC staged a demonstration at Faizabad bridge. Carrying placards and pictures of Wani, the protesters called on the global community, particularly the permanent five members of the UN Security Council, to take note of human rights abuses and get the UN resolutions on Kashmir implemented. Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin also attended the rally.

Dozens of APHC activists also blocked Islamabad Expressway for almost three hours. Meanwhile, different political parties protested against Indian atrocities in Kashmir at Azadi Chowk in Muzaffarabad. Similar protests were also held in other cities of the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2016.

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