NEW DELHI, March 2 -- India’s MiG-21 fighter upgraded by Russia possesses combat capabilities identical to those of the F-16 of Pakistan’s Air Force.
An air fight between the planes of the two types occurred on the Indian-Pakistani border on February 28. At least one MiG-21 was shot down. The pilot ejected himself and was taken prisoner by Pakistan. According to the Indian Air Force, in the same clash another MiG-21 shot down Pakistan’s F-16 of US manufacture. Pakistan has not confirmed the loss of the plane so far.
"The MiG-21, upgraded by Russia has an onboard radar and a wider range of guided air-to-air missiles. By its combat capabilities and flight parameters it is an equal of the F-16 version at the disposal of Pakistan’s Air Force," the editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko said about recent clashes involving these planes. India’s MiG-21-93 fighters, eventually named MiG-21UGP Bison, were upgraded to be equipped with a new radar, wider range of weapons, modern indicators on the windshield, helmet-mounted sights and multifunctional display screens in the cockpit. The coating reduces radar visibility. The plane’s life cycle and endurance have been prolonged. On February 28, India’s NDTV broadcaster said that 24 planes of Pakistan’s Air Force and eight Indian planes, including four Sukhoi-30MKI and two MiG-21 participated in a clash over Kashmir. Korotchenko said if that was really so, the incident was evidence of the high professionalism of Indian pilots, good control of the equipment and competent air fight tactics.
India-Pakistan air clash
Tensions in relations between India and Pakistan soared when a convoy of Indian military came under attack on February 14 in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, which claimed 45 lives. The group calling itself Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility.
On February 26, India carried out an attack against a camp of this group in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. On February 27, Pakistan’s planes attacked military targets in Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi and Islamabad claimed that each other’s planes had been shot down.
NEW DELHI, February 28 -- India heavily responded to Pakistan’s ceasefire violation and attack on communities in the Jammu and Kashmir state on Thursday.
The Indian artillery responded with fire to the attack that the Pakistani military launched at about 6:00 in the morning local time (3:30 Moscow time). The artillery shootout lasted about an hour. No injuries were reported. Tensions are running high along the contact line separating Kashmir’s Indian and Pakistani zones following a terrorist attack on an Indian military convoy in the Jammu and Kashmir state on February 14. Forty-five people were killed in the attack. Jaish-e-Mohammed (The Army of Muhammad) claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Tuesday, India’s aviation bombed this group’s camp in the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. On Wednesday, the Pakistan Air Force responded with air strikes on military installations in Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi and Islamabad also stated that they downed each other’s plans in the air fight.
ISLAMABAD, February 27 -- Pakistan and India said on Wednesday they had shot down each other’s warplanes, in a dramatically escalating confrontation that has fueled concerns of an all-out conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.
Pakistan said it struck two Indian jets in its airspace, while India confirmed the loss of one of its planes and said it had shot down a Pakistani fighter jet. Four bodies were recovered from the wreckage of an Indian Air Force chopper, said officials. Pakistan initially said it captured two Indian pilots, but later its military spokesman announced there was “only one pilot” in Pakistani custody. The clash prompted Pakistan to close its airspace “until further notice”, while at least six airports were closed in India, and a vast area of airspace north of New Delhi was closed to civilian flights.
India’s foreign ministry demanded the “immediate and safe return” of the pilot, calling on Pakistan to ensure no harm comes to him. The intensifying tension between the neighbours threatens to undo recent diplomatic progress between India and China, which is a long-standing close ally and arms supplier to Pakistan.
On the sidelines of trilateral talks with Russia on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and expressed concern over the escalating conflict. Other global powers, including the United States and European Union, have also called for calm, while Malaysia issued a travel advisory for its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the affected areas.
Calling for talks with India to defuse the situation, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday warned of the potentially catastrophic consequences should “better sense” not prevail. “History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation,” Khan said during a televised broadcast to the nation. “My question is that given the weapons we have can we afford miscalculation?” He said Pakistan was “ready to cooperate”, adding: “Let’s sit together to talk to find a solution.”
ISLAMABAD, February 27 -- Pakistan’s authorities on Wednesday closed its airspace against the backdrop of an aggravation of relations with India, as follows from a statement by the international system of notifications for air personnel.
According to the NOTAM notification, the air space will stay closed till 02:59 of February 28. A similar notification has been issued by Karachi international airport. On Tuesday, India declared it had delivered an airstrike against a camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed group in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. Pakistan’s Air Force on Wednesday said in response that it had rocketed military facilities in India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi and Islamabad added that each other’s fighter planes had been shot down. The airspace over northern India has been temporarily closed for security reasons. Many civil flights are canceled.
NEW DELHI, February 27 -- Pakistan shot down two Indian Air Force planes in its airspace in Kashmir.
A military spokesman said that one Indian pilot had been captured. “PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace,” tweeted military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, adding that one aircraft had fallen in Pakistani-held Kashmir, while the other crashed on the Indian side.
“One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area,” he said without elaborating further. News agency ANI reported that India also shot down a Pakistan air force F-16 fighter jet. The fighter jet was shot down in Indian retaliatory fire 3km within Pakistan territory in Lam valley, Nowshera sector.
Islamabad said it had struck across the Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan, from “within Pakistani airspace”. “This was not a retaliation to continued Indian belligerence. Pakistan has therefore, taken strikes at non-military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage. Sole purpose being to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defence,” Islamabad said in a statement. CNN-IBN reported that commercial air traffic had been shut down in Chandigarh, Leh and the whole of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, with some flights to Jammu and Srinagar returning to their cities of origin.
India and Pakistan exchanged fire along their contested border in Kashmir on Wednesday (Feb 27), a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a war in 1971, while leading powers urged the nuclear armed rivals to show restraint. Tensions have been elevated since a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on Feb 14, but the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Tuesday when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base. The attack targeted the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group that claimed credit for the suicide attack. But while India said a large number of JeM fighters had been killed, Pakistani officials said the Indian air strike was a failure and inflicted no casualties.
On Tuesday evening, Pakistan began shelling using heavy calibre weapons in 12 to 15 places along the de facto border in Kashmir, known as the Line of Control (LoC), a spokesman for the Indian defence forces said on Wednesday.
ISLAMABAD, February 26 -- Indian fighter jets on Tuesday crossed into Pakistani territory, conducting what the foreign ministry termed a "non-military pre-emptive action" against armed group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
This after dramatically escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors weeks after a suicide attack in the disputed Kashmir region. Pakistan first reported the Indian airspace incursion, with Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor saying Pakistani air force jets were scrambling to respond, forcing the Indian aircraft to "release [their] payload in haste while escaping".
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, however, asserted that the jets had hit their target, and that "a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated." "The government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism," he told reporters in New Delhi. "Hence this non-military pre-emptive action was specifically targeted at the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp."
C Uday Bhaskar, the director of the Society for Policy Studies based in New Delhi said: "India has sent a very firm signal." "The fact that air power has been used for the first time against a terrorist target to my mind signaled to Pakistan that India is demonstrating resolve in terms of using military power particularly air power," he said. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with his top government officials in New Delhi where he was briefed about the predawn air attacks. Reports from New Delhi, said that the Indian government has been under a lot of pressure to act in the wake of the Kashmir attack. "This attack was expected and one of the reasons it was delayed was the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the region," Jamil said. "But everyone did expect that this would somehow happen sometime soon especially with [general] elections coming up in April."
"Christian woman free to leave after petition against her acquittal on blasphemy charges dismissed by Supreme Court"
ISLAMABAD, January 29 -- Pakistan's Supreme Court has upheld the acquittal of a Christian woman charged with blasphemy, standing by its earlier verdict that sparked days of protests, death threats and nationwide chaos.
The country's top court in the capital, Islamabad, on Tuesday, dismissed the review petition against Aasia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy before being released last October. The three-judge panel said arguments of the lawyer acting on behalf of the petitioners did not satisfy the judges. "On merit, this petition is dismissed," Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in court. She is now free to leave the country. Unconfirmed Pakistani media reports said her two daughters have already gone to Canada, where they've been granted asylum. Bibi is currently under guard at a secret location in Pakistan for her own safety. "I am really gratefully to everybody. Now after nine years it is confirmed that I am free and I will be going to hug my daughters," a friend quoted Bibi as saying to The Associated Press, on condition of anonymity fearing for his own safety. Her lawyer, Saiful Malook, who returned to Islamabad after fleeing the country amid death threats, called the decision a victory for Pakistan's constitution and rule of law.
KABUL, January 22-- At least 65 people were killed in a Taliban-claimed attack on an Afghan intelligence base, security sources said, raising the toll substantially from 12 announced previously.
Militants detonated a vehicle packed with explosives at the training facility before gunmen arrived in a car and opened fire. "We took about 65 bodies out of the rubble yesterday," Mohammad Sardar Bakhyari, deputy head of the provincial council in Wardak province, where the attack occurred on Jan. 21 in the latest blow to beleaguered security forces. Bakhyari's announcement came after nearly a day of confusion surrounding the toll. On Jan. 21, provincial officials told AFP just 12 people had been killed in the attack. Figures given by officials to other media ranged from 12 dead to more than 100 killed.
The attack was on a training facility for the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence agency, meaning that any toll will likely be difficult to confirm. It saw militants ram a Humvee filled with explosives into the NDS base in Maidan Shahr, the capital of Wardak, which lies about 50 kilometers south of Kabul. The attack caused the roof to partially collapse, images from the scene show. "Then at least three other attackers in a Toyota car who were following the Humvee entered the compound," Wardak provincial council member Abdul Wahid Akbarzai told AFP on Jan. 22. The attackers were killed quickly, he said, but most of the casualties were caused by the roof collapse. "It is a big loss," council head Akhtar Mohammad Tahiri said. "The NDS forces are better trained and equipped than the Afghan police and army soldiers who have been dying in record numbers." He added the militants were dressed in uniforms used by Afghan special forces. The attack comes days after a Taliban suicide bomber targeted the convoy of Logar province's governor, killing at least seven security guards. Fights between security forces and Taliban fighters have continued to intensify across the country during the freezing Afghan winter, which traditionally experiences a reduction in combat.
The recent skirmishes come as the Taliban announced a resumption of talks with U.S. officials in Qatar as the two sides discuss a possible peace deal that could pave the way for the insurgents participation in the next government. Washington has not confirmed their claim that the talks are continuing.
U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has headed a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent months seeking to bring the Taliban to the table for talks. However the insurgents threatened to suspend the fledgling process last week. The Taliban - who have been waging a 17-year war against the Western-backed Afghan government - later claimed responsibility for the assault.
ISLAMABAD, November 8 -- Pakistani Christian woman Aasia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy, has been freed from jail, her lawyer said.
"She has been freed. I've been told that she is on a plane but nobody knows where she will land," her lawyer Saif-ul-Malook said in a message to AFP news agency on Wednesday. Bibi, 53, was flown on Wednesday night to a facility in the capital, Islamabad, from an undisclosed location for security reasons, two senior government officials told the Associated Press.
Last week, Pakistan's Supreme Court overturned Bibi's conviction and ordered her release, but she remained imprisoned as the government agreed to allow a review following right-wing protests over the bitterly divisive case. A release order arrived on Wednesday at the prison in the central city of Multan, where Bibi was held, a prison official told AFP. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, had appealed for Britain or the United States to grant the family asylum, while Malook fled to the Netherlands. Bibi's acquittal triggered massive protests by right-wing parties, mainly the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), in the Muslim-majority nation.
Thousands of people poured onto the streets after the court overturned Bibi's conviction last week, causing Prime Minister Imran Khan's government to sign a controversial deal with the TLP. The blasphemy charge against Bibi stemmed from an incident in 2009, when she was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields. Female Muslim labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim, she should not touch the water bowl, and reportedly a fight erupted.
A local imam then claimed Bibi insulted the Prophet Mohammed, a charge she has consistently denied.
Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unsubstantiated allegations of insulting Islam can result in death at the hands of mobs.At least 74 people have been killed in such violence since 1990.
ROTTERDAM, November 6 -- Where are the West’s solidarity marches for Asia Bibi? Where are the t-shirts? Why aren’t ‘Free Asia Bibi’ flags flying on campuses? Why haven’t student progressives elected Asia as the symbolic head of their unions, as they did with persecuted Eastern European writers in the 1970s or African liberation leaders in the 1980s?
Bibi, after all, comes across as an ideal person for those of a genuinely liberal or leftist persuasion to get behind. She’s a woman. She’s a farm labourer. She is part of a persecuted minority (Christians in Pakistan). And she has been subjected to awful punishments and deprivations merely for saying something. In a different era, Asia would have been a cause célèbre in certain Western circles. But not today. Why? Because many in the West now agree that the thing Bibi is alleged to have done, and for which she has been so severely punished, is indeed immoral – that is, mocking Muhammad.
Bibi is a Roman Catholic and a former farm worker from the Sheikhupura district of Punjab. In June 2009 she was harvesting berries with other women in Sheikhupura when she picked up a cup to take a drink of water. Some of the other women, Muslims, accused her of polluting the cup, given she is a Christian and therefore unclean, or ‘filthy’, as they branded her. And they allege that Bibi fired back with some swipes at Muhammad. Bibi has always denied this. Nonetheless, a mob visited her house and beat her up. She was then arrested, charged with blasphemy, and, in November 2010, sentenced to death by hanging.
She was sent to death row. She was attacked in prison. Other prisoners were arrested for conspiring to kill her. There were regular anti-Bibi protests by hardline Islamists waving placards saying, ‘HANG ASIA’. They wanted her execution hurried along so that the world might be rid of this poor, filthy Catholic woman who allegedly disrespected the Prophet.
Last week, however, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned Bibi’s sentence. It accused the women who made the accusations against her of lying – their story was ‘concoction incarnate’, it said – and it decreed that Bibi was ‘free to go’. Only Bibi has not been free to go. In response to the Supreme Court’s acquittal there have been massive and violent Islamist protests across Pakistan. ‘Kill Asia’, they have demanded in their thousands. They have burned rickshaws, cars and lorries. The protests are thought to have caused damage in the region of £900million.
And in response to this intolerant mob uprising, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has agreed to refuse Bibi’s right to leave the country. In the words of Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association, this is akin to ‘signing her death warrant’. Indeed, Bibi’s lawyer has already had to flee Pakistan, though he intends to continue fighting for Bibi’s full freedom once he has established asylum somewhere. Forcing Bibi to stay in a country in which many thousands of people want to kill her is cruel and inhuman treatment.
Of course there has been much disquiet in the West over the past eight years, from human-rights outfits and most notably from Christian groups. The Vatican called for clemency. Pope Francis said he felt a ‘spiritual closeness’ with Bibi. Groups such as Voices of the Martyrs, which campaigns on behalf of persecuted Christians, organised petitions for Bibi’s freedom that got up to 400,000 signatures. In Pakistan itself, brave Christians protested in Lahore and elsewhere, calling for Bibi’s release and for the abolition of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. First introduced by the British Raj in 1860, and then severely strengthened under the military rule of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, these laws forbid the insulting of religious beliefs, the desecration of a Koran (life imprisonment), and the mocking of the Prophet (death).
Yet something has been notable by its absence amid the admirable pro-Bibi efforts of Pakistani and Western Christians: the full and loud raising of the Western liberal voice.