- - Thursday, May 24, 2012


SRINAGAR — India should rethink the harsh military laws imposed on Kashmir if it wants to defuse tensions in its portion of the disputed, divided Himalayan region, a panel of Indian-appointed mediators advised Thursday.

But the panel rejected the idea that Kashmir should be autonomous, despite decades of separatist unrest and rival claims to the territory by neighboring Pakistan.

Instead, their report - which is not legally binding - reaffirmed Kashmir’s “dual character” within India.

The mediators said granting more autonomy, as the territory had before 1953, “would create a dangerous constitutional vacuum in the center-state relationship. The clock cannot be set back.”

Separatists rejected the report as redundant. They have objected for decades to Kashmir’s special constitutional status as an Indian effort to placate international critics, and they said Thursday’s report represented another attempt to subjugate the region under a false sense of democracy.


Power-cut protesters clash with police

YANGON — Demonstrators protesting electricity outages in Myanmar clashed with police Thursday, and several were arrested.

The spreading protests are a test of the tolerance of a reformist civilian government after decades of military rule.

Parliament member Win Myint said demonstrators in his constituency resisted when they thought police were going to arrest their leaders, and the six people detained were released later. He represents Pyay, 160 miles northwest of Yangon.

“The police tried to take some leaders, and people tried to stop them,” said one witness in Pyay. “The police beat the protesters with rubber and bamboo sticks to disperse them. They beat them on their heads, backs and legs. But no one was seriously injured.”

The witness asked not to be named so as not to attract the attention of the authorities.

Protests over chronic power outages began Sunday in the central city Mandalay and have spread to at least four other locations, challenging the new government of President Thein Sein, who has promised political reform.


Premier gets boost from speaker

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s parliament speaker says she has decided that a conviction for contempt against Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani doesn’t mean he has to step down.

Thursday’s remarks by Speaker Fehmida Mirza are a boost for Mr. Gilani, though they were not surprising since the two are political allies.

Mr. Gilani was convicted April 16 for refusing to open a dormant corruption probe against his boss, President Asif Ali Zardari.

The case has heightened political conflict in Pakistan as tensions mount with the United States over the future of the Afghan war.

In Pakistan, the parliament speaker decides whether a lawmaker - in this case the prime minister - must resign if there is a conviction against him.

Mr. Mirza’s decision could yet be subject to legal challenge.


Court rejects delay on constitution

KATMANDU — Nepal’s highest court has ordered that the government finish the country’s long-awaited new constitution by the Sunday deadline.

The decision could force new elections if a political deadlock is not broken.

The Supreme Court rejected the administration’s proposal for a three-month extension for the Constituent Assembly charged with writing the constitution.

Judge Khila Raj Regmi issued the order Thursday in response to three writs filed against the government’s plan to extend the assembly. It was elected in 2008 with a two-year term, which already has been extended four times.

The assembly is unlikely to finish the constitution by Sunday. The political parties are deadlocked on thorny issues such as marking and naming the proposed federal states.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports