Full airspace closure for India, ban on land routes for Indo-Afghan trade under consideration

Updated 28 Aug 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan presided over a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. — PID/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan presided over a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. — PID/File

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday announced that the federal cabinet was considering restoration of a complete ban on the use of Pakistani airspace for Indian flights.

Taking to Twitter, the minister revealed that a blanket ban on the use of Pakistani land routes for India's trade with Afghanistan was also suggested during today's cabinet meeting.

He said the legal formalities for these decisions to take effect were under consideration.

"Modi has started we'll finish!" the minister wrote, in a reference to the Indian prime minister's move to revoke occupied Kashmir's special autonomy earlier this month.

The minister's tweet comes a day after Prime Minister Imran took the nation into confidence on the government's strategy regarding Indian-occupied Kashmir through a national address, vowing that Pakistan "will go to any lengths" to support the cause of the oppressed Kashmiri people.

On Tuesday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan told a press conference that the prime minister during the cabinet meeting reiterated Pakistan's support for Kashmiris.

On August 5, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped Kashmiris of the constitutional rights they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order. An indefinite curfew was imposed in occupied Kashmir and elected leaders were put under house arrest.

By repealing Article 370 of the constitution, people from the rest of India will now have the right to acquire property in Kashmir and settle there permanently. Kashmiris as well as critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.

Furthermore, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, who is also president of the BJP, moved a bill — passed by the Indian parliament — to bifurcate the state into two union territories to be directly ruled by New Delhi.

Pakistan angrily slammed the decision, expelling India's ambassador, suspending bilateral trade, and taking the matter to the United Nations Security Council.

The country observed a 'Black Day' on Aug 15 to coincide with India's independence day celebrations, in solidarity with the people of occupied Kashmir.

Prime Minister Imran, meanwhile, has pledged to take up the responsibility of raising voice of the Kashmiri people at every forum of the world. “I will be the ambassador of your cause across the globe,” he said earlier this month.

Other matters discussed by cabinet

Awan said that during the cabinet meeting, PM Khan directed the concerned quarters to bring in legislation to make death sentence a punishment for those involved in child rape. She added that the cabinet also decided to formulate a national policy to empower transgenders.

The cabinet also approved Amended Criminal Ordinance 2019 under which jail terms will be granted against theft of electricity, she said.

The SAPM said that Railways Minister Shaikh Rashid told the cabinet that the 'free ticket policy' for senior citizens has been changed and now only up to four free tickets each year would be given to people aged 75 years or more.

In her media briefing, Awan dismissed the impression that Nadeem Afzal Chan, the prime minister's spokesperson, has resigned from his position.