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Kashmir issue: Pakistan closes Samjhuta Express, bans Indian movies

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has suspended train service to India and banned Indian films as it kept up the diplomatic pressure on New Delhi against revoking the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir.

Advisor to Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan announced that no Indian cinema will be screened in any Pakistani cinema. Drama, films and Indian content of this kind will be completely banned in Pakistan, she added.

The statement came as Minister of Railways Sheikh Rasheed announced the government’s decision “to shut down Samjhauta Express”, referring to the train running to India’s capital, New Delhi, from the Pakistani city of Lahore.

On Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government withdrew the Muslim-majority state’s right to frame its own laws and allowed people from outside the region to buy property there.

Kashmir remained under a communications blackout on Thursday with mobile networks and internet services suspended and at least 300 politicians and separatists in detention to prevent protests, according to police, the media and political leaders.

India and Pakistan both claim the region in full but have ruled it in part since independence from Britain in 1947. The nuclear-armed neighbours fought two of their three wars over the contested territory. And Indian forces have been engaged in a 30-year conflict with rebels in Indian-administered Kashmir who want independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Pakistan said on Wednesday it would expel India’s ambassador in Islamabad and its envoy, who was to start his assignment soon, would not move to New Delhi. Islamabad also suspended bilateral trade, in the latest spike in tensions between the nuclear rivals.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad that Pakistan “is looking at political, diplomatic and legal options”, ruling out a new military conflict.

“We’re not looking at the military option. We’re not,” he said.

India said changing the status of Kashmir was an internal affair and aimed at developing the region. It urged Pakistan to reconsider its decision to downgrade diplomatic ties, striking a conciliatory tone.

“The Government of India regrets the steps announced by Pakistan yesterday and would urge that country to review them so that normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved,” the foreign ministry said.