Saturday, 11 October 2014

MHA briefs parliamentary panel on border firing

NEW DELHI: The home ministry on Friday told a parliamentary standing committee that the escalated firing/shelling by Pakistani forces along the international border and LoC was possibly an attempt by its military leadership to internationalise the Kashmir issue after a similar attempt by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the recent United Nations General Assembly session fell flat.

MPs cutting across party lines quizzed home secretary Anil Goswami at the meeting of the standing committee, seeking to know the assessment of the Indian establishment on the possible causes of escalation in tensions along the Indo-Pak border. Opposition members, led by Congress, expressed concern over civilian deaths in border areas and displacement of villagers due to heavy shelling.

Both Goswami and BSF chief D K Pathak are believed to have highlighted how the Indian forces were giving a befitting reply to the Pakistani side, something that most MPs appreciated. At the same time, the officials assured the MPs that care was being taken to protect civilians from becoming a target in the exchange of fire along the border. The home ministry officials said the displaced families were being taken care of and provided shelter along with food and other basic facilities.

Goswami informed the MPs that there was de-escalation with the firing not stretching beyond 20 minutes on Thursday night. Stating that the forces had been told to be cautious, the home ministry officials indicated that the government would adopt a wait and watch approach before concluding if the Pakistani side was indeed scaling down tensions. Meanwhile, sources in the external intelligence agencies told TOI that the dip in firing may have been prompted due to international pressure on the Pakistani civilian leadership to prevail upon the military leadership to stop the ceasefire violations.

Among the other issues raised by the MPs, particularly those belonging to the Left, were the Burdwan blasts. CPM wanted to know why the NIA probe was ordered almost a week after the blasts. The home ministry officials explained that NIA could not have stepped in unless the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was invoked in the FIR. The state police slapped charges under UAPA on October 7, after which the Centre lost no time in handing over the probe to NIA.

The J&K floods also dominated discussions at the panel meeting. The MPs seemed agitated over the slow rehabilitation work and delay on part of the Centre in announcing a financial package for the state. However, the home ministry explained that the state government was expected to finalise its memorandum of demands at a Cabinet meeting on Friday. This memorandum is expected to reach the Centre in a day or two, after which a package will be worked out. Nations General Assembly,MHA briefs parliamentary panel on border firing,Nawaz Sharif

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