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Spying Allegations by Pakistan against Indian High Commission Officials in Islamabad are Crude Attempts to Tarnish India’s Image: Sushma Swaraj

Pakistan named eight officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and alleged they were working for the Research and Analysis Wing or the Indian Intelligence Bureau

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Sushma Swaraj , Pakistan
Sushma Swaraj Speaks Out On India-Pak Relations, Asks Pakistan to Stop Promoting Terror. Wikimedia
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New Delhi, November 23, 2016: Spying allegations levelled by Pakistan against Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad were a “crude attempt” by the neighbouring country to tarnish India’s image, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has informed the Lok Sabha.

In a written reply, the minister also said that the naming of officials in the media, was a violation of the Vienna Convention.

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Pakistan earlier in November named eight officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and alleged they were working for the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) or the Indian Intelligence Bureau.

Pakistan’s move came on the heels of India apprehending an official of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi for allegedly indulging in anti-India activities.

[bctt tweet=”Indian government has taken a “number of initiatives” to normalise India-Pakistan relations.” username=””]

“The allegations against Indian officials represent an afterthought on the part of Government of Pakistan and constitutes a crude attempt to tarnish the image of India,” Sushma Swaraj said in the written reply.

“The manner in which their names and photographs were prominently published in Pakistani media along with baseless allegation reiterated without any corroboration by Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is against the Vienna Convention and also violates the norms of established diplomatic practice and courtesies,” she said.

The minister said the officials and their family members were brought back to India in three batches on November 8, 10 and 12.

She also said that the Indian government has taken a “number of initiatives” to normalise India-Pakistan relations.

“Government had taken a number of initiatives to normalise India-Pakistan relations, peacefully and bilaterally, in an environment free from terrorism and violence.

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“At the same time, Government is also resolutely committed to take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the nation and the safety of our citizens,” she said.

In October, Pakistan High Commission official Mehmood Akhtar was apprehended by Indian authorities for allegedly indulging in anti-India activities. He was declared persona non grata on October 28.

The Indian government had summoned the Pakistan High Commissioner on the same day and registered strong protest about the activities of Akhtar, who left India on October 29 along with his family.

On October 28, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry declared Surjeet Singh, Assistant Public Welfare Officer in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, as persona non grata without providing any justification, “except for the baseless and unsubstantiated allegation that his activities were not in keeping with diplomatic norms”. Surjeet Singh subsequently returned to India on October 29.

On November 2, Pakistan government withdrew six Pakistan High Commission officials, whose names had reportedly appeared in media as a result of the interrogation of Akhtar.

“It was Government of Pakistan’s own decision to withdraw these six officials without any prior communication to the Government of India regarding the same. They left India on November 2, along with 25 family members,” the minister said in her reply.

Pakistan withdrew another two officials on November 16.

On November 2, Pakistani media prominently carried names of eight Indian officials of the High Commission of India, Islamabad Counsellor R.K. Agnihotri, First Secretary Balbir Singh, First Secreatary (Trade) Anurag Singh, Attache Amandeep Singh Bhatti, APWO J. Senthil, and Assistants D. Sodhi, V.K. Verma and M. Nandakumar, along with their photographs.

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The Pakistan media reports alleged that these officials were involved in subversive and terrorist activities in Pakistan.

On November 3, in the weekly media briefing Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially released their names and official designations.

“The litany of baseless charges against them was repeated,” she said. (IANS)

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Lok Sabha passes Bill that criminalises triple talaq

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 was passed by a voice vote after rejecting a resolution moved by Revolutionary Socialist Party member N.K. Premachandran that the legislation is circulated for public opinion. 

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Triple talaq
Activists of various social organisations hold placards during a protest against "Triple Talaq" in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (VOA)

New Delhi, Dec 28: The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a bill that criminalises instant divorce with three years of imprisonment for Muslim husbands after the government rejected an overwhelming demand from the Opposition to refer the legislation to a Parliamentary standing committee for detailed consideration.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 was passed by a voice vote after rejecting a resolution moved by Revolutionary Socialist Party member N.K. Premachandran that the legislation is circulated for public opinion.

Various amendments moved by opposition members, including Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) and Premachandran, were negatived in divisions.

Lok Sabha cleared the Triple Talaq bill
Lok Sabha cleared the Triple Talaq bill

The government’s determination to get the Bill passed could be gauged from the fact that it was introduced in the morning and taken up for consideration in the afternoon by suspending relevant rules and then passed in the evening by sitting late beyond the scheduled close of the House.

Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who introduced the bill and later piloted it in the Lok Sabha, said history was being created today.

He said the issue was not of religion or faith but of “gender justice and gender equality” and appealed to all the parties to rise above political considerations and politics of vote bank. “Women are seeing that justice will be done to them. Let us speak in one voice that we are for gender justice and gender equity and pass the Bill unanimously,” Prasad said, winding up the discussion.

He said instances of instant triple talaq continue despite the Supreme Court ruling it as unconstitutional in August this year. The bill seeks to declare pronouncement of talaq-e-biddat (three pronouncements of talaq at one go) by Muslim husbands void and illegal in view of the Supreme Court verdict.

Prasad said while Justice Rohington Nariman and U.U. Lalit held in their judgment in August that instant divorce was unconstitutional and the government should look at bringing a law, Justice Kurian Joseph had observed that what is a sin in Islamic laws cannot be legal.

During the debate, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi accused the Congress of appeasing Muslims
During the debate, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi accused the Congress of appeasing Muslims

The Minister saw no justification in the demand for referring the Bill to a standing committee saying the affected Muslim women were crying for justice and were fully backing it. He said there was a contradiction in members wanting it to be referred to a standing committee and some arguing why it was not brought earlier.

The Bill makes the act of pronouncing talaq-e-biddat punishable offence. There is provision for subsistence allowance from the husband for the livelihood and daily supporting needs of the wife as also of the dependent children. The wife would also be entitled to the custody of minor children.

Intervening in the debate, Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar said time was now ripe for the passage of the legislation in the interest of Muslim women. He recalled an instance of a British journalist interviewing the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru after the passage of the Hindu code Bill when she asked when would the government introduce reforms in Muslim laws.

Nehru was not opposed to reforms of Muslim personal laws but merely said the time was not opportune then, Akbar said. “That time has come now.”

Though Opposition members, including from the Congress, supported the legislation, they wanted it to be referred to a parliamentary committee so that several lacunae can be removed and the provisions strengthened in favour of Muslim women. The law must ensure that subsistence allowance and maintenance to the women and the children were not stopped, they felt.

Some felt that the BJP government was in a haste to pass the Bill, not because of its concern for Muslim women but because it sees this as a first step towards bringing in a uniform civil code. They wanted the measure to be given up immediately.

During the debate, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi accused the Congress of appeasing Muslims and said there is a need for codification of Muslim personal laws in the country.

“They (Congress) always did appeasement politics for which the country has paid for 30 years and today we have this chance. If we lose this chance today we will not have another chance.,” she said.

“Codification of Islamic law is needed in this country. No one knows what is Sharia, Talaq-e-Biddat… No one knows the difference,” she added.