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India

Will Qamar Bajwa’s extension escalate action on Line Of Control

Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa got a three-year extension beyond November. Though the order carried signature of Prime Minister Imran Khan, anyone who understands the affairs of Pakistan knows how much say a Prime Minister has in that country to decide on matters related to the all-powerful Army chief.

Bajwa, who was appointed as the Chief of Army Staff in November 2016, was to retire three months from now but his extension was, significantly, announced at a time when Pakistan is reeling under the shock of India”s decision to end special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

In the context of Pakistan, it is widely believed that an Army Chief himself decides on whether he should get an extension or should retire on completion of his term. In the case of Bajwa, this fact is more pronounced, since Khan is seen as someone who was “selected” as the Prime Minister by the army.

The order, by which the extension of the 58-year-old officer was announced, said the decision “has been taken in view of regional security environment”. It did not elaborate but the reference was obviously to the tensions being escalated by Pakistan with India after the special status of J&K under Article 370 was abolished on August 7.

Ever since the Modi government took the swift decision, the stunned Imran Khan regime and Pakistani military have been struggling to deal with the situation, amidst questions being raised within that country as to why they could not anticipate the move.

Facing a credibility crisis, Bajwa last week said the Pakistan army “shall go to any extent to fulfill our obligations” with regard to Kashmir.

As Army Chief, Bajwa had succeeded General Raheel Sharif who did not opt for extension unlike his predecessor General Parvez Kayani.

Interestingly, Bajwa”s appointment as COAS in 2016, when Nawaz Sharif was the Prime Minister, had come just two months after India carried out a surgical strike across the Line of Control (LOC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in retaliation to terror attack on army camp in Uri in Kashmir.

While the surgical strike took place during the tenure of General Raheel Sharif as COAS, Bajwa”s tenure saw India carrying out a more audacious attack in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan, with IAF fighter jets bombing a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror camp on February 26 in retaliation to the terror attack in Pulwama in Kashmir 12 days earlier.

In the initial part of its tenure, Bajwa spoke about peace with India, but there has been anything but tranquility on the Line of Control (LoC), which continues to be volatile because of the repeated ceasefire violations by the Pakistan army.

There has also been no let up in Pakistan army”s attempts to push terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir to create havoc. Efforts by Pakistan”s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to fuel unrest in Kashmir valley also continue.

One big terror strike plotted under Bajwa”s watch was the suicide attack carried out on a CRPF convoy on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway in Pulwama district of Kashmir on February 14. The bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the convoy, killing 40 personnel of CRPF. Pakistan-based JeM owned the attack, escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.

Perhaps, Bajwa and his country did not expect but India hit back just 12 days later, sending fighter jets deep inside Pakistan to bomb a major JeM training camp in Balakot area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Although there have been disputed versions about casualties at Balakot, the fact that Indian fighter planes crossed the border and carried out bombings inside Pakistan was the first such development since the 1971 war. The Indian attack was a huge loss of face for the Pakistani military, particularly since all the fighter planes returned home without any damage.

Although the next day, Pakistan sent its fighter planes to bomb India in retaliation, they were really unable to penetrate much beyond the Line of Control (LoC) as the Indian Air Force jets scrambled and chased them away.

In the process, however, the IAF lost one MiG fighter and its pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured by the Pakistani forces. However, as India activated its international connections, Pakistan was forced to release Abhinandan in two days.

Now, with the Modi government ending special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistani political leadership and military has been rabble rousing, mainly to cater to the domestic audience and to scare the world community in an effort to bring the issue into an international arena.

Against this backdrop, Bajwa is likely to raise temperature at the LoC and create a pretext for some countries, particularly the US, to intervene and push India to have talks with Pakistan. India has refused to have dialogue with Pakistan till it ends cross-border terrorism.

Significantly, Pakistan has not found any significant support from the world community even as it created hue and cry over Article 370. Except for its “all-weather friend” China, which got the matter discussed informally at the UN Security Council, no major country, including the Gulf nations, have supported Pakistan”s viewpoint and have held that the decision of the Modi government was an internal matter of India.

Now, one has to see what Bajwa does to save the face of the Pakistan army. How much can he escalate the military tensions, particularly when Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has made it clear that maintaining New Delhi”s ”no first use” on nuclear weapons would depend on the future circumstances?

(IANS)

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India

Kashmir Valley calm so far, gun duel on Line of Control

There are no reports of violence in the Valley ever since the withdrawal of special status to Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation but the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) since the decision, according to a security assessment.

Late on Wednesday evening, Pakistan violated the ceasefire, firing small arms and mortar shells from across the LoC in Sunderbani sector in Rajouri district. The firing began around 10.15 p.m., following which the Indian Army retaliated.

Prior to this, a cease-fire violation was reported on the night of August 5 from the Machil sector of J&K’s Kupwara district when an infiltration bid by five to six armed militants was foiled and a soldier was also injured. On the other hand, the number of cease-fire violations at the LoC had peaked in the month of July.

The spurt in firing in July coincided with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington. The month saw 272 ceasefire violations, the highest in 2019.

According to defence officials, the hinterland of J&K has witnessed no major incident of violence over the past three days while the LoC too has remained mostly calm, apart from these two incidents.

“There are no directions as of now for deployment of additional forces in the Valley. Situation across the Valley has been peaceful over the past three days with no violence reported from the hinterland or cease-fire violations at the border,” a senior army official said.

On the intervening night of July 31 and August 1, at least five to seven special services personnel of Pakistan’s Border Action Team (BAT) were gunned down by alert troops in the Keran sector of Kupwara during an infiltration bid.

“Four bodies were sighted on the Indian side of the border. Pakistan was informed about it. However, they are yet to claim the dead bodies which are still lying near a forward post of the sector,” added the official.

The Indian armed forces suffered six casualties during cease-fire violations by Pakistan between January and August 7. The second highest number of cease-fire violations in the year was recorded in March when both countries were in a conflict over the Pulawama incident and the subsequent air strikes carried out by the IAF in Balakot.

There were 267 cease-fire violations in March while the two preceding months of the year had recorded 203 and 215 incidents, respectively. The corresponding figures for the months of April, May and June, respectively, stand at 234, 221 and 181.

(IANS)

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India

Rich and powerful want to control court; SC on CJI matter

The Supreme Court on Thursday said some rich and powerful people want to control its functioning, as it heard for the third time the matter related to allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

The court said these “fixers” must go.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said “people with money power are trying to run the registry of the top court…this is a really serious matter…people can be killed or maligned if truth is brought forth…”

Justice Mishra said after learning about the alleged network that is trying to manipulate the Supreme Court, “we are in anguish”.

He also added that the bench has come to know these fixers are usually represented by senior advocates in the Supreme Court.

“We want to tell the rich and powerful of this country that they cannot run the Supreme Court,” said an agitated Justice Mishra.

Advocate Utsav Bains, who has alleged a conspiracy against the Chief Justice after a former Supreme Court staffer alleged sexual harassment, submitted a fresh affidavit in the court.

The observations from the bench came after going through this affidavit.

Meanwhile, senior advocate Indira Jaising protested that the bench is heavily consumed in probing the defence of the Chief Justice who is facing allegations of sexual harassment.

She contended that such influence on the investigation would prejudice the complaint by the former top court staffer against the Chief Justice.

The bench assured her that both investigation are independent, and complainant in the sexual harassment case would be prejudiced.

Jaisingh also asked the court to probe the credentials of Utsav Bains, saying people who come to court, must come with clean hands.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta intervened by recommending the formation of SIT, but Jaisingh protested and requested the court to conduct a judicial inquiry.

As per the Solicitor General’s suggestion regarding the formation of SIT into the matter, the bench said we can look into this aspect of investigation. The court also clarified that this probe would not prejudice the complaint made by the woman against the Chief Justice.

The bench told Mehta that this is a very serious matter, and “we want to get to the root of this bench fixing issue, and the issue is so serious that we cannot divulge the details.”

The bench observed that some fixer who claims to be a relative of the woman, who leveled sexual harassment charges against the Chief Justice, approached Utsav Bains for removal of the Chief Justice.

“We don’t know the identity of this person….we need to find out the truth,” said the bench.

IANS

Categories
Science & Technology

Court grants Microsoft control of 99 hacking websites

A US court has granted Microsoft control of 99 websites widely associated with an Iranian group that were used to conduct hacking operations globally.

The court authorised Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) to take control of the websites belonging to the group called Phosphorus (also known as APT 35, Charming Kitten and Ajax Security Team) so that these can no longer be used to execute cyber attacks.

“Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) and the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) have been tracking Phosphorus since 2013,” said Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft in a blog post late Wednesday.

Its activity is usually designed to gain access to the computer systems of businesses and government agencies and steal sensitive information.

“Its targets also include activists and journalists – especially those involved in advocacy and reporting on issues related to the Middle East,” Burt added.

Phosphorus typically attempts to compromise the personal accounts of individuals through a technique known as spear-phishing, using social engineering to entice someone to click on a link, sometimes sent through fake social media accounts that appear to belong to friendly contacts.

The link contains malicious software that enables Phosphorus to access computer systems.

“Phosphorus also uses a technique, whereby it sends people an email that makes it seem as if there’s a security risk to their accounts, prompting them to enter their credentials into a web form that enables the group to capture their passwords and gain access to their systems,” Burt informed.

Websites registered and used by Phosphorus include, for example, outlook-verify.net, yahoo-verify.net, verification-live.com, and myaccount-services.net.

“The action we executed last week enabled us to take control of 99 websites and redirect traffic from infected devices to our Digital Crime Unit’s sinkhole,” said Microsoft.

IANS

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India

Heavy firing on Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir

Heavy firing exchanges took place between Indian and Pakistani troopers on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, a defence official said on Tuesday.

“The Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked ceasefire violation in Rajouri’s Sunderbani sector and Jammu’s Akhnoor sector on Monday night,” Defence Ministry spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand told the media.

Firing exchanges in the Sunderbani sector started at 10.45 p.m., but stopped soon, Anand said.

“In Akhnoor, the Pakistan Army resorted to mortar shelling and firing of small arms which continued till Tuesday morning. Our troops retaliated effectively,” the spokesman added.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

IANS

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India

Army porter injured on Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan shelling

An Army porter was injured on Friday in heavy firing exchanges between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district, police said.

Surjeet Kumar was injured in Kalal area of Nowshera sector.

The firing began between the two armies after Pakistan resorted to “unprovoked ceasefire violation” using mortar shells and small arms to target Indian positions, a police officer said.

IANS

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India

India, Pakistan exchange heavy firing on Line of Control (LoC)

Indian and Pakistani armies exchanged heavy fire across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district till early hours on Wednesday, Defence Ministry said.

The Pakistan Army used mortar shelling and small arms as they resorted to unprovoked ceasefire violation in the Sunderbani sector from around 10.30 p.m. on Tuesday.

“The firing continued till 4.30. a.m. Indian positions retaliated strongly,” Defence Ministry spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand said.

Heavy firing exchanges also took place between the two armies in Nowshera sector of Rajouri and Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch on Tuesday.

A soldier was injured in Kalal area of Rajouri in the firing.

All educational institutions continued to remain closed within 5 km distance from the LoC in both these districts.

IANS

 

 

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India

Three killed in Pakistan shelling on Line of Control

Three civilians were killed in shelling by the Pakistani army on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district, officials said on Saturday.

Police said a woman and her two children were killed in Salotri village of Jhalas area in Krishna Ghati sector of the LoC when a shell fired by Pakistan army exploded inside a house on Friday night.

“Besides, four others including two civilians and two army soldiers have been injured in Pakistani shelling and firing,” a police officer said.

Indian and Pakistani soldiers have been trading heavy fire on the LoC in Poonch and Rajouri districts since the last eight days.

Local residents have described the hostilities on the LoC as ‘war-like situation’.

Authorities have closed all educational institutions within 5 km from the LoC in these two districts and asked people to remain indoors.

IANS

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India

Pakistan claims IAF violates Line of Control (LoC)

Pakistan claimed on Tuesday that Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and returned after the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) scrambled war planes.

Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Asif Ghafoor tweeted early Tuesday and Radio Pakistan claimed that the IAF planes dropped payload in haste before leaving, which fell near Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The alleged incident took place in the Muzaffarabad sector, claimed Radio Pakistan.

It follows a suicide bombing attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama on February 14 that killed 40 troopers.

The attack was claimed by Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and prompted a spike in tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The Indian government is yet to respond to the development but multiple reports have claimed that the IAF carried out the strike at a terror camp well beyond the LoC.

Flight tracking websites spotted heightened activities along the border with an IAF early warning plane Emb 145 and mid-air refueller circling in the area early in the morning.

Reports claimed that the IAF strike was carried out by a group of Mirage 2000 fighters at around 3.30 a.m.

The strike in Balakot is significant as the location is beyond Pakistan Administered Kashmir, indicating it was not merely an LoC violation but a punitive action inside Pakistani territory.

IANS

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Science & Technology

FB improves location settings, adds new privacy control on Android

Facebook is adding a new privacy control feature to its Android app that will allow users to block the app from collecting and saving their background location information.

“We’re introducing a new background location control on Facebook for Android so people can choose if they want us to collect location information when they’re not using the app,” Paul McDonald, Engineering Director, Location Infrastructure, Facebook wrote in a blog-post on Wednesday.

Until now, users using features location like “Nearby Friends” or “Check-in” on Facebook were asked to enable their “Location History” setting.

Enabling the “Location Sharing” feature shared the user location even when the app was not being used, allowing Facebook to store that history.

“With this update, you’ll have a dedicated way to choose whether or not to share your location when you aren’t using the app,” McDonald said.

Facebook is also updating the “Access Your Information” feature to include an estimate of users’ primary location at the city or postal code level.

“We’re not making any changes to the choices you’ve previously made nor are we collecting any new information as a result of this update,” McDonald added.

This update announcement came just days after Facebook’s security team had used location information to track missing interns and users deemed to be threats, The Verge reported.

For iOS users though the location setting was not such big an issue as Facebook would send an alert to users who chose to turn on the “Location History” feature so that they could check to make sure their settings are right for them.

The ‘Location Services’ setting for iOS also comes with three choices — Never, While Using and Always — for when an app could access the precise location of the users.

IANS

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Science & Technology

Just 2 companies control 50% of India’s smartphone market

The year 2018 ended with just two companies together controlling around 50 per cent share of the India smartphone market – Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi and South Korean giant Samsung, according to latest data released by International Data Corporation (IDC).

Xiaomi surpassed Samsung to become the market leader in 2018 with 28.9 per cent share in the Indian smartphone market which shipped 142.3 million units last year, according to IDC’s Asia/Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report. Samsung came second with 22.4 per cent share.

In 2017, Xiaomi had 20.9 per cent market share, compared to 24.7 per cent share of Samsung.

In 2018, Vivo (14.2 per cent), OPPO (10.2 per cent) and Transsion (6.4 per cent) were the other three brands that found a place in the list of top five smartphone brands in the country.

Except Samsung, four of the five smartphone brands are based in China.

“Amongst the big highlights of 2018 were the online-focused brands that drove the share of the online channel to an all-time high of 38.4 per cent in 2018,” Upasana Joshi, Associate Research Manager, Client Devices, IDC India, said in a statement.

Responding to the report, Xiaomi India Managing Director Manu Kumar Jain on Tuesday credited the stunning show by the company to “100 per cent team work” and love from “Mi Fans”.

“Mi Fans! Thank you for your love and support,” Jain tweeted, adding that in the fourth quarter of 2018, the company emrged as 54 per cent bigger than the second brand.

The results show that Apple, which experienced lower than expected sales of iPhones in some emerging markets in recent times, especially in China, has not been able to make much of an impact in the Indian smartphone market as well.

The premium smartphone segment (above Rs 35,000) constitutes a meagre three per cent share of the overall India smartphone market, despite outgrowing all other price segments in 2018 with 43.9 per cent year-over-year (YoY) growth, according to IDC.

“OnePlus emerged as the leader in $500-$700 segment on the back of the OnePlus 6 and the newly-launched OnePlus 6T. However, in the super premium segment of $700+, Samsung surpassed Apple for the top position with its Galaxy S9 series,” Joshi added.

With the government initiative to push local manufacturing in India, 2018 witnessed further duty hikes on mobile phone components, IDC said, adding that weakened rupee further added to the challenges of the long tail of brands outside the top five.

IANS

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India

Indian and Pakistani troops trade fire on Line of Control (LoC)

Indian and Pakistani armies on Monday traded fire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.

Defence Ministry sources said the firing exchanges started around 10.30 a.m. after the Pakistanis resorted to unprovoked firing targeting Indian positions.

“Our troops retaliated strongly and effectively after the Pakistan Army used small arms and automatics to target Indian positions in Kerni and some other sectors,” an official said.

“Intermittent firing exchanges were going on between the two sides,” the official said.

IANS

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India

Pakistan Army targets Indian posts on Line of Control (LoC)

Pakistani troops fired rockets on Indian Army positions on Tuesday on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.

Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Col Devender Anand said the Pakistan Army violated the 2003 bilateral ceasefire in Krishna Ghati sector around 10.30 a.m.

“Pakistanis … fired rockets,” the spokesman said. “No casualty or damage has been reported on our side.”

IANS