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Indians Missing in Iraq: Families Swing from Hope to Hopelessness

Earlier this month, Sushma Swaraj had assured Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that her ministry was making all-out efforts to trace and facilitate the return of the 39 Indians.

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Mosul, Iraq
39 Indians still remain missing from Mosul Iraq. Wikimedia
  • Iraqi Foreign Minister on Monday said that he was not sure if the missing Indians were alive or not
  •  Families of 39 Indians, mostly from Punjab, who went missing in Iraq’s Mosul town three years ago are still keeping their fingers crossed
  • A Punjab government official said that they were in touch with the External Affairs Ministry “to ensure that all efforts are made to trace the missing Indians and to get them back home safely”

Chandigarh, July 26, 2017: Families of 39 Indians, mostly from Punjab, who went missing in Iraq’s Mosul town three years ago are still keeping their fingers crossed even after Iraqi Foreign Minister on Monday said that he was not sure if the missing Indians were alive or not.

“We can only hope for the return of our loved ones. We have been going through this torture for the past over three years,” said Manjit Kaur, whose husband Dalwinder is among the missing men.

“The minister (Sushma Swaraj) told us that things are settling in Iraq and the area, where the 39 men are said to be held hostage, could be cleared in the next 2-3 months,” said Kaur, who had met her in New Delhi last week along with families of the other missing men and been assured that all efforts were being made to trace the missing men.

Visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who met Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Monday, later said: “We’re not 100 per cent sure if they’re alive or not. We don’t know, but we’ll do our best.”

ALSO READ: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Wants Canada to Rein in Radical Sikh Elements

Sushma Swaraj had, earlier this month, also assured Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that her ministry was making all-out efforts to trace and facilitate the return of the 39 Indians.

Other affected families, who all are from poor backgrounds from different parts of Punjab, say that they have nothing but to pin hopes on the government’s and the minister’s assurances.

“The families are in a bad shape with children and old parents to fend for. Their respective bread-winners, who had gone to Iraq to earn money are not safe. The families are hardly able to sustain themselves despite government help,” said Balbir Singh, friend of one of the missing persons.

Meanwhile, a Punjab government official said that they were in touch with the External Affairs Ministry “to ensure that all efforts are made to trace the missing Indians and to get them back home safely”.

A man from Punjab, Harjit Masih, who escaped from the clutches of IS terrorist organisation in June 2014 had claimed that all 39 Indian nationals who were taken hostage on June 11, 2014 in Mosul town had been killed.

However, the External Affairs Ministry had maintained that it had no information confirming that they were dead. (IANS)

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Heroin worth Rs. 100 crore seized by BSF in Punjab

22kg heroine was recovered during a combat between Pakistani smugglers and BSF troopers

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22kg heroin seized in Punjab
BSF recovers heroine worth Rs. 100 crores from Pakistani smugglers. Wikimedia Commons.

In a joint operation, Border Security Forces (BSF) troopers and the Punjab Police have recovered 22kg of heroin in Punjab’s Ferozepur sector following exchange of fire with Pakistani smugglers near the international border, a BSF officer said on Saturday.

The encounter took place late on Friday following a tip-off that smugglers were trying to send heroin consignment into India.

At least one Pakistani smuggler was injured in the exchange of fire as blood stains were found during search of the area on Saturday, BSF officer D.S. Rajpurohit said.

The BSF recovered a pistol and one Pakistani Sim card.

The BSF also arrested three Indian smugglers who were waiting close to the border fence to collect the heroin consignment.

The smugglers were trying to smuggle the heroin consignment using a plastic pipe across the border fence.

The heroin is worth nearly Rs 110 crore in the international market.

The Ferozepur border is around 275 km from here.

Punjab shares a 553-km-long barbed-wire fenced international border with Pakistan. (IANS)

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India-Pakistan Ties: India Grants Medical Visa to another Pakistani National

The action was termed "highly regrettable" by Islamabad, which said that asking for such a letter violated diplomatic norms and such a requirement had not been prescribed for any other country.

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medical visa
Sushma swaraj addressing a press conference. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : India on Friday issued a medical visa to another Pakistani national following a promise made by the Ministry of External Affairs on Independence Day.

“Amna – We have approved medical visa for your father Mr Shamim Ahmed,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted in response to a request from one Amna Shamim through the Twitter handle of Karachi’s Muhammad Talha.

Shamim also posted a reference letter dated October 9 from a doctor in Sri Ganga Ram Hospital who stated that the patient was being considered for a liver transplant.

On Independence Day, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had announced that India would provide medical visas to all bonafide Pakistani patients.

As ties between the two countries soured over various issues, the ministry had announced in May that only a letter of recommendation by then Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz would enable a Pakistani national to get a medical visa for India.

The action was termed “highly regrettable” by Islamabad, which said that asking for such a letter violated diplomatic norms and such a requirement had not been prescribed for any other country.

However, a patient from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, seeking treatment in New Delhi for liver tumour, was given a visa on July 18.

Sushma Swaraj then said that he needed no recommendation from the Pakistani government for a medical visa because the territory “is an integral part of India”.

Since August 15, however, Pakistani nationals seeking medical treatment have not been denied visas. (IANS)

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Indian Farmers reason behind Smog in Pakistan

Smog in Pakistan has affected the health of people but also caused road accidents.

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Indian Farmers causing smog in Pakistan
Indian Farmers causing smog in Pakistan. wikimedia commons
  • Pakistani officials have said that stubble burning by Indian farmers has caused a thick blanket of smog in Punjab province which led to smog in Pakistan as well.

The officials with Environment Protection Department of Punjab province told Xinhua news agency on Saturday night that the smog is causing various diseases and the provincial government is taking measures to control the situation.

The department’s minister Zakia Shah Nawaz Khan said that the smog engulfed the province for the last two weeks, and is feared to continue for the coming week.

She added that the smoke from the Indian farms moved at a velocity of 7 to 8 km per hour towards Punjab province.

Also Read: Restrictions on Freedom of Expression: Pakistani Journalists Struggle with Growing Threats from Government and Militants alike

Local experts said that the total Air Quality Index in the provincial capital of Lahore is 357 whereas the maximum limit should be around 100, adding that if the situation was not controlled, the level is feared to exceed 500 soon.

Syed Mubashir Hussain, an official of the environment department said that the provincial government has banned stubble burning across the province and violators were being arrested.

A total of 197 First Information Reports have been filed against violators and 65 people have been arrested due to stubble burning and solid waste burning.

Some 175 pollution-causing units have been stopped. About 15,718 smoke emitting vehicles have been confiscated, and a total of 43 lakh Pakistani rupees (about $43,000) fine has been imposed, Hussain told Xinhua.

Apart from this, brick kilns using substandard fuel and running their units without emission control devices like wet scrubbers, electrostatic precipitators and fly ash arrestors have also been closed, he added.

Smog in Pakistan has not only affected the health of people but also caused road accidents. According to local media reports, at least 18 people have been killed and 45 others injured in separate fog-related accidents across the province.

Air traffic was also affected due to smog-caused low visibility. Six domestic flights from various airports have been suspended due to smog in Pakistan, spokesperson of Pakistan International Airlines said in a statement.

The Met office said that smog will disappear after rains or heavy winds, but there was no possibility of any of it in the next 48 hours.( IANS)