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Maldives presidential election: Voting underway amid claims of fraud

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Male, Sep 23 : Voting was underway on Sunday in a heavily-criticised presidential election in the Maldives that has been gripped by political upheaval .

Thousands of voters queued up outside polling centres across the country that opened at 8 a.m., the country’s Election Commission (EC) said.

According to the EC, 262,135 voters are set to cast their votes, reports Xinhua news agency.

Voting will end at 4.30 p.m.

Preliminary results were expected to come out by early Monday and final results are expected to be announced on September 30.

The heavily-criticised election will be closely watched by India and China as President Abdulla Yameen has embraced Beijing, while his opponent, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, is seen as leaning towards New Delhi and the West, according to the BBC.

The European Union and US have voiced concerns about the election and have threatened to impose targeted sanctions if the democratic situation does not improve.

On Saturday, police officers searched the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party office in Male without a warrant, the party said.

A police spokesperson confirmed the raid to the BBC, without providing further details.

The opposition coalition says the Maldives election commission is working on behalf of Yameen and will not allow observers to verify individual ballot papers, which could allow “massive vote counting fraud”.

The upheaval in the archipelago worsened after the Supreme Court in February quashed the convictions of nine opposition figures, among them exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted from office in 2012.

But after President Yameen declared a state of emergency and ordered the arrest of two judges, the court reversed its decision.

Yameen has also shrugged off accusations of authoritarianism, saying during the campaign: “No-one will come to greet me and shake my hand, if there is tyranny.”

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India blaming us without probe: Pakistan

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Dr Mohammad Faisal

Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) Pakistan on Sunday told foreign envoys here that India was blaming it for a horrific suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir even without any investigation.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said this to diplomats from Africa and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states.

The Dawn newspaper quoted Janjua as saying that there was “a familiar pattern of India blaming Pakistan instantly after such incidents without any investigation”, Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal tweeted.

The Pakistan Foreign Office said a “deliberate anti-Pakistan frenzy is being spurred in India” and warned that “baseless Indian allegations and aggressive rhetoric are counterproductive and a threat to regional peace”.

Islamabad’s statement came three days after the Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy on the Srinagar-Jammu highway in Pulwama district that killed 49 troopers.

Pakistan said it had rejected India’s allegations of its complicity because they were “made within a short time from the attack and without carrying out any investigations.

“These knee-jerk and preconceived accusations were nevertheless consistent with well-rehearsed tactics from the Indian playbook after such incidents in the past,” the Foreign Office statement added.

“Bluster, belligerence and pursuit of expedient standards to suit internal political interests is both delusional and counterproductive.

“India must come out of the denial mode, end state repression against Kashmiri youth, address widespread alienation in (Jammu and Kashmir) and pursue the path of dialogue,” the statement said.

The Foreign Office also raised questions over India’s acceptance of a video released by the attacker claiming to have ties to the JeM, saying New Delhi had double standards.

“India needs to introspect and respond to questions about its security and intelligence lapses that led to this attack,” it said. “India owes an explanation on reports of (suicide bomber) Adil Ahmed Dar’s arrest and custody since 2017.”

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Counter-terrorism, energy security to top Indian agenda during Saudi Crown Prince visit

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New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) Counter-terrorism, including Pakistans role in sponsoring terrorism against India, and energy security are likely to be on top of Indias agenda for discussion during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans visit starting on Tuesday.

India is expected to take up with the Saudi Crown Prince Pakistan’s role in the Pulwama terror attack that killed at least 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Jammu and Kashmir, informed sources said.

India has already started diplomatic efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale briefing envoys of around two dozen nations including those of P-5 and South Asian nations about Pakistan’s footprint in the Pulwama attack.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to New Delhi Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saty has said that Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to India presents a “historic opportunity” to expand collaboration in all sectors.

Moammed bin Salman is on a three-nation diplomatic tour to Pakistan, India and China.

He will be on a two-day visit to India staring February 19 and will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. He is visiting Pakistan before coming to India.

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India yet to tell us about MFN status withdrawal: Pakistan

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Abdul Razak Dawood Pakistan
Abdul Razak Dawood, adviser to the Pakistan's Prime Minister

Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) Pakistan said on Sunday that it has not yet been informed by India on withdrawing the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Islamabad in the wake of a bloody suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir.

Abdul Razak Dawood, adviser to the Pakistan’s Prime Minister on Commerce, said: “We are looking into the withdrawal of MFN status by India. We can speak to India about this issue.

“Pakistan can raise this issue at different forums including the World Trade Forum,” The Nation quoted him as saying.

A day after the terror attack on Thursday, India announced it was taking back the MFN status given to Pakistan in 1995.

The status means that a country will treat all World Trade Organisation member states equally in matters of tariffs on imports.

After withdrawing the MFN status, New Delhi imposed a 200 per cent import duty on all goods originating or exported from Pakistan.

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