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Intelligence officials: ISI may have joined hands with JeM

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New Delhi: As per the intelligence sources, the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency has reportedly conjoined hands with banned Islamic militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) to “reinvigorate” the latter’s base.

The tie-up is to carry out terrorist attacks across India, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

Over the last eight months, intelligence officials had intercepted several Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls of cross-border discussion between ISI agents and their contacts in terror modules in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Sources said the Saturday fidayeen attack at the frontline Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot in northern Punjab could have been carried out by JeM militants who were being backed by ISI for several months.

“We are not very sure if the intercepted calls were to JeM militants, but the possibility is high,” the sources said.

“After LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) and SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), the ISI is now reported to be backing JeM for its revival in Kashmir and other Indian cities. ISI’s motive is to establish a large number of terror outfit modules of different militant groups in several parts of the country,” the official said.

Maulana Masood Azhar formed Jaish-e-Mohammed in March 2000, shortly after his release from prison in December 1999, in exchange for passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC 814 was taken to Kandahar, in Afghanistan.

Sources said the group, in coordination with LeT, was implicated in the 2001 attack on Indian Parliament in New Delhi. In December 2002, four JeM members were caught by Indian authorities and put on trial. All four were found guilty. One of the accused, Afzal Guru, was sentenced to death for his role in the attack.

The group was formed after a split within Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), another militant group. A majority of HUM members joined JeM.

The attack, it was said, would be carried out to avenge the death of Abu Qasim, a senior commander of LeT who was killed in an encounter with security forces. Qasim had carried out an attack on a BSF convoy in August in Udhampur, Punjab.

Intelligence officials had told the agency that the alert was based on the busting of a pan-Indian ISI-backed spying ring unearthed by Delhi Police’s Crime Branch wing in November-December last year.

Six ISI moles including a serving leading aircraftsman (LAC) Ranjith KK, a library assistant Kafaitullah Khan, a Border Security Force (BSF) head constable Abdul Rasheed, a retired Indian Army havildar Munawwar Ahmad Mir, Rifleman Farid Khan of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry and a government teacher Sabar were arrested during the Delhi Police operation.

Ranjith was sent for police remand while the other five alleged ISI moles are already in 14-day judicial custody.

Sources said that Ranjith is being questioned by the intelligence agencies and Delhi Police sleuths over the Pathankot terror attack. At least five terrorists were killed by commandos following the attack, police said.

Ranjith, who was sacked from the IAF after his link with ISI was established, was later arrested from Bathinda Air Force Station in Punjab on December 28.

He had allegedly shared information on some recent IAF exercises, movement of aircraft and deployment of various air force units with a woman, who spoke with a British accent, during a VoIP call that was intercepted by military intelligence and IAF’s liaisoning unit.

“Ranjith was fooled by a fictitious Facebook account in the name of Damini McNaught who pretended to work as an executive with a British magazine that wanted some Indian Air Force information for its next issue,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Ravindra Yadav had said earlier.

Intelligence officials are also in touch with the Kolkata special task force (STF), which has also arrested some alleged ISI operatives from the city since November 14. The task force had arrested Akhtar Khan, his brother Zafar Khan, Irshad Ansari, Asfaq Ansari and Mohammad Jahangir for providing secret information to ISI, the sources said.(IANS)

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Pakistan’s Court Summons TV Team for ‘Disrespecting’ Valentine’s Day Ban

On February 14, Geo TV’s popular Report Card show dedicated a 15-minute segment to discussing the justification of the court’s ban on Valentine’s Day coverage and celebrations

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People buy flowers to celebrate Valentine's Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 14, 2018. Pakistan's media regulatory authority, acting on a court order, has instructed all news channels, radio stations and print media to refrain from promoting Valentine's Day. VOA

A Pakistani court has summoned several TV reporters from the country’s largest private TV station over accusations of “ridiculing” last year’s ruling that barred Valentine’s Day celebrations and its media coverage across the country.

On February 14, Geo TV’s popular Report Card show dedicated a 15-minute segment to discussing the justification of the court’s ban on Valentine’s Day coverage and celebrations.

Two of the panelists in the show questioned the rationale for the ban.

Hasan Nisar, a prominent Lahore-based political analyst, declared the restrictions “illogical” and “ridiculous” for society.

“I do not even have anything to say on it, it’s funny,” Nisar said.

Echoing Nisar, Imtiaz Alam, a leading reporter and panelist of the show, said the restrictions were “useless.”

“How can the court interfere as it is against the fundamental rights of the people? Do we have Taliban regime in Pakistan?” Alam asked.

“This is a cultural martial law and curfew to enforce the extreme ideologies. This is a sick mindset, and the moral policing through PEMRA [Pakistan Electronic Media Authority] is shameless,” Alam said.

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Valentine's Day
People buy flowers to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 14, 2018. Pakistan’s media regulatory authority, acting on a court order, has instructed all news channels, radio stations and print media to refrain from promoting Valentine’s Day. VOA

Court order

Last year, on February 13, Islamabad’s High Court declared Valentine’s Day celebration un-Islamic and imposed a ban on any public or official celebrations.

The government reinstated the ban for a second consecutive year earlier this month to comply with the court’s ruling.

PEMRA also issued a fresh directive to remind its TV and radio licensees to refrain from promoting the day on their stations.

“Respondents are directed to ensure that nothing about the celebrations of Valentine’s Day and its promotion is spread on the electronic and print media,” PEMRA’s notification reads.

On charges of failing to adhere to the court’s order and PEMRA’s instruction, Islamabad court summoned the Geo TV host, two guests and the chief executive officer of the station to appear before the court next week and defend themselves in a contempt-of-court case.

“This act of the host and the participants apparently is tainted with malafide, ulterior motives, aims to undermine the authority of the court and to disrespect the order passed by the court, which clearly comes within the definition of the contempt of court,” the court said, according to local media.

The ban on Valentine’s Day celebrations and sensitivity toward it are not new in Pakistan. Some political and religious groups, such as Jamaat-i-Islami, have carried out rallies and protests against the celebration of the day, declaring it “unethical and un-Islamic.”

There have been instances in the past where local authorities prohibited the February 14 festivities in different cities across the nation.

In 2016, President Mamnoon Hussain also warned Pakistanis to stay away from celebrating Valentine’s Day, declaring it was “not a part of Muslim tradition, but of the West.”

ALSO READ: If You Are Going Single Into This Valentine’s Day Then These Tweets Will Lift Your Spirit

Valentine's Day
A couple buys flowers to celebrate Valentine’s Day, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 13, 2017. A Pakistani judge has banned Valentine’s Day celebrations in the country’s capital, saying they are against Islamic teachings. VOA

General debate

Valentine’s celebrations have increased in Pakistan over the last decade, particularly among the country’s youth.

The enforcement of the ban on its celebration and media coverage for a second consecutive year has sparked a larger debate among some of the country’s liberal and conservative circles.

A section of the society defends the celebrations and considers them harmless, though for others the day does not have any place in their religious practices or their traditions.

Pakistan, for the most part, is a conservative Muslim society. Public displays of affection are not the norm and often are viewed as unacceptable.

But some Pakistanis, like Saleema Hashmi, a Lahore-based artist, and renowned educator, believe the system is focusing on “irrelevant issues” at the expense of more important and pressing issues the country faces.

“Don’t our courts have better things to do instead of passing rulings on celebrating a mere romantic day?” she asked. “I do not understand how celebrating or denouncing Valentine’s Day can impact our religion, traditions, social or cultural norms.” (VOA)