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Pak suspends Lahore-Delhi ‘Dosti’ bus service

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Lahore Delhi Dosti bus service

Islamabad, Aug 10 : After the permanent suspension of the Samjhauta Express in retaliation to India’s decision to revoke Article 370 of its Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan has now suspended the Lahore-Delhi ‘Dosti’ bus service, the media reported.

The announcement of the latest suspension was made by Federal Minister for Postal Services and Communications Murad Saeed in a tweet on Friday, reports Dunya News.

“In line with the decisions of the NSC (National Security Committee), Pak-India bus service is suspended,” the Minister said in his tweet.

Friday’s development comes a day after Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced to permanently suspend the Samjhauta Express train service.

The federal minister at a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday said that passengers who have purchased advance tickets will be refunded and the bogies of the Samjhauta Express will be used to facilitate passengers on Eid.

The Samjhauta Express ran twice a week from Lahore to Attari via the Wagah railway station.

Earlier on Friday, Ahmed announced Pakistan was also shutting down the Thar Link Express, its last remaining train link with India.

Thar Link Express is the Indian part of Thar Express which runs once a week between Jodhpur and Munabao.

Passengers from Munabao then clear customs and are transported across the border to the Zero Point station from where the Thar Express takes them to Karachi.

Both the train services were stopped after the 1965 India-Pakistan war before being resumed again in 2006.

On Wednesday, following India’s decision to end special status for Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan’s NSC decided to downgrade diplomatic relations and suspend bilateral trade with India, reports Dunya News.

The decision was made during NSC meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other top ministers.

Khan has directed that all diplomatic channels be activated to “expose the brutal Indian racist regime, its design and human rights violations.

He also directed Armed Forces to continue vigilance”.

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India cancels Samjhauta Link Exp

The cross-broder Samjhauta Express arrived in the national capital last Friday with 110 passengers on board. The Samjhauta Express ran twice a week from Lahore to Attari via the Wagah railway station.

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Samjhauta Express

New Delhi, Aug 16 (IANS) Five days after the Indian Railways cancelled Samjhauta Link Express running between Delhi and Atari, the Northern Railway on Friday said it has cancelled the train till further notice.

In a statement, Northern Railway spokesperson Deepak Kumar said, “Consequent to Pakistan’s decision to cancel Samjhauta Express running between Lahore and Atari, the Link Express running between Delhi and Atari also stands cancelled till further advice.”

Last Thursday, Pakistan announced it was permanently discontinuing Samjhauta Express following New Delhi’s move to abrogate Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the state into two union territories.

The cross-broder Samjhauta Express arrived in the national capital last Friday with 110 passengers on board. The Samjhauta Express ran twice a week from Lahore to Attari via the Wagah railway station.

The train service was suspended earlier this year after military tensions escalated between the two neighbours following the Pulwama attack and Balakot air strike.

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Sri Lanka may waive off visa fee for 48 countries indefinitely

Sri Lanka implemented this policy from August 1 and it will last for six months.

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Colombo, Aug 16 (IANS) Due to an increase in the number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka with arrivals expected to hit the 3-million mark by the end of the year, the government announced on Friday that might waive off the entry visa fee 48 countries, including India, indefinitely.

Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said that last year Sri Lanka attracted over 2.3 million tourists and had set a target of over 3 million tourists this year, but arrivals had declined since the Easter Sunday suicide attacks on April 21, Xinhua news agency reported.

“But now, tourist arrivals have picked up again after the attacks, and we may see arrivals hit the 3 million mark this year,” the Minister said.

Amaratunga added that the sudden surge in tourist arrivals was partly due to waiving off the entry visa fee for the 48 countries.

Sri Lanka implemented this policy from August 1 and it will last for six months.

However Amaratunga said if more tourists arrive in the country, the government might waive off the entry visa fee for these 48 countries indefinitely.

Through the free of charge entry visa policy, travellers from the listed countries will be issued a free 30-day visa and if anyone needs an extension, they will be required to make a payment.

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Has Xi Jinping found the answer to Hong Kong?

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What started as a demonstration by 12,000 citizens against a proposed legislation for extradition of criminal undertrials to China has escalated into a daily assembly of over two million protesting against Chinese ainterference’ in Hong Kong, an examination of police brutality under the gaze of international press and a demand for full democracy. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s counter-mobilisation strategy is reduced to maintaining radio silence. Not only did Lam lose all credit amongst the pro- democracy camp having described the June 12 protest as a “riot”, she has also lost support of the pro-Beijing (dare I say anti-democracy?) section of Hong Kong having suspended the extradition bill that triggered the protests. Additionally, there have been anonymous accounts of the Hong Kong police expressing resentment at being forced to play a violent role in what should have been a political debate.

Meanwhile, Beijing has been content to signal its superior capability to use force (Hong Kong law allows for the administration to call upon the People’s Liberation Army in tackling issues of “public order”). Many are disconcerted by the restraint being exhibited. Particularly following the incident last week where a group of demonstrators broke into the legislative house, vandalised the official emblem of Hong Kong by blackening out the name of mainland China, it was widely believed that the PLA would be called in to quash the protests. However, this has not materialised. Why? I believe, Xi Jinping has been learning from networked mobilisations around the world. Arguably, Mubarak lost Egypt the day he let loose his militia on horseback – scattering protestors in Tahrir Square – killing a dozen people. Despite the internet shutdown, the incident was broadcast live across the world – voices against his regime grew to a din and the rest is history. While there is no threat to Jinping’s presidency, the threat of economic sanctions and perhaps a trade exile against China motivate him to avoid a modern Tiananmen.

Hong Kong 2019 – A networked movement

Much like the 2014 Occupy Protests in Hong Kong, the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street Protest in New York, Hong Kong 2019 has relied heavily on the internet for mobilisation and organisation. Such anetworked movements’ leverage platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp to achieve quick amplification and scaling, set in place informal decision making structures allowing real-time tactical moves, and organize logistics. The protesters in Hong Kong have exhibited organisational capabilities that can be traced to learnings from the failed 2014 Occupy Protests. A 20- year old student leader says, “During the Occupy protests, most of us didn’t think about protecting ourselves, we used Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to spread messages. But this year, we see that freedom of speech is getting worse in Hong Kong,”.

Since 2014, WhatsApp has introduced end-to-end encryption. Along with other P2P clients like Signal, Telegram and Firechat it afforded organisers the ability to communicate with large numbers in a more secure forum than public Facebook groups and Twitter handles. Complimentary offline measures such as using disposable cell phones, transacting in cash, purchase of single-fare tickets on public transport and even simply keeping faces covered during protests has helped prevent surveillance and thwarted counter-mobilisation efforts.

In addition, as identified by Zeynep Tufekci in her book Twitter and Tear Gas a key feature of radically networked movements is that they are often aleaderlessa¿. The informal and horizontal nature of the mobilisation means no individual(s) can claim formal leadership over the protest. Unlike the 2014 movement which was quashed through arrests of leaders, while the 2019 movement has witnessed numerous arrests of prominent figures, mobilisation hasn’t been impacted. As such, while activists and organisations such as Joshua Wong and CHRF have thrown their weight behind the cause, by design no individual has claimed leadership of the movement.

The State’s response

Early statements of the Hong Kong Administration such as a memo dated June 9 described the protests as “an example of Hong Kong people exercising their freedom of expressiona”. However, within three days, the rhetoric and force employed by the Administration radically altered. Rubber bullets were fired at protestors and Lam termed the congregation a “riot”. To date police action has resulted in four deaths, 230 injuries and over 560 arrests.

In addition to these measures on the ground, the Administration has taken steps online. Attempts have been made to individually penetrate channels of communication and intercept or corrupt information flows. On a macro level, the Administration has sought to spread misinformation amongst protestors – Lam’s announcement that the extradition bill is “dead”, while merely suspending it, is a classic example. In addition, the founder of Telegram, Pavel Durov has stated publicly that he believes recent outages were results of DDOS attacks by “a State actor”. However, I believe Beijing’s counter-mobilisation effort go deeper.

By emphasising the discolouration of the national emblem as an act of “radicalisma and a “threat to national sovereignty”, the State owned media has been instructed to whip up nationalistic fervour amongst citizens of mainland China. After an image of the Chinese flag thrown in the ocean surfaced online, the propaganda machine swung into overdrive -starting the hashtag #TheFiveStarRedFlagHas1.4BillionProtectors. The hashtag caught on – finding support from celebrities like Jackie Chan, while former Hong Kong chief executive Chun-ying announced a reward of 1 million HKD for information about the “culprit”.

Creating imagined enemies out of protestors is a tool of psychological warfare that could easily turn into an intra-ethnic conflict. And we are already seeing the first signs of this – A Chinese man assaulted pro-democracy protesters in the Hong Kong Airport. The incident was given a political spin and reported as evidence of growing radicalism in the protesters. More such reports have emerged. Perhaps the most alarming is the report from the University of Queensland in Australia, where a peaceful march in support of the movement in Hong Kong was attacked by pro-Chinese students. This was followed by an online doxxing attack against protesting students. Most tellingly, the Chinese consul-general, Xu Jie, has praised the “patriotic behaviour” of the attackers.

These are not isolated incidents. Xi is attempting to enlist the citizens of China in his attack on Hong Kong by playing on nationalism. He hopes to incite violence amongst the well organised pro- democracy protesters, giving him the moral authority to send in the PLA. Has Xi found the perfect tool to foil the surge of networked protestors or is China heading towards another Cultural Revolution? We will know soon – and it may set a precedent for counter-mobilization around the world.

(Akhil Bhardwaj is a practicing lawyer and a student of public policy at the Takshashila Institution. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

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