NEW DELHI (AP) — The Latest on Kashmir (all times local):
In Iran’s capital, the leader of Friday prayers cautioned India over its sudden downgrading of Indian-administered Kashmir, the Hindu-majority nation’s only Muslim-majority region.
Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader and Tehran’s Friday prayer leader, told hundreds of worshippers that India’s revocation of disputed Kashmir’s special autonomous status was “an ugly move.”
The semiofficial Fars News Agency said he cautioned India not to provoke a confrontation with Muslims.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and is claimed by both. India’s actions have inflamed tensions with Pakistan.
Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim News Agency quoted a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry as saying that Iran expects India and Pakistan to opt for peaceful methods and dialogue in dealing with the dispute.
About 8,000 supporters of a Pakistani Islamist party are marching toward the Indian embassy in Islamabad to denounce New Delhi’s actions to change the special status of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
The supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party vowed to protest in front of the embassy.
Authorities say they will not allow them to approach the embassy and deployed about 2,000 police and security forces.
Members of the group have clashed with police during previous rallies in Islamabad.
Hundreds of activists from Pakistan political parties on Friday held peaceful rallies across the country against the decision by India to downgrade Muslim-majority Kashmir’s status from a state to a federal territory.
Kashmir is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both it in its entirety.
Pakistan says it is suspending the Thar Express, its last remaining train link with India, in response to revocation of disputed Kashmir’s special status by New Delhi.
Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad made the announcement Friday at a news conference.
The move comes a day after Pakistan suspended the key Samjhauta Express, or Friendship Express, train service which links India from the city of Lahore. The Thar Express runs between the port city of Karachi and India’s town of Munabao.
Pakistan earlier expelled the Indian ambassador and suspended trade with New Delhi.
Pakistanis are also holding nationwide rallies to express support for people living in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir.
Both Pakistan and India claim all of Kashmir. Tensions have soared this week after India downgraded the Muslim-majority region’s status from statehood to a territory.
Thousands of villagers living along the heavily militarized Line of Control dividing Pakistani and Indian-controlled Kashmir have migrated to safer places in fear of artillery fire exchanges between the rivals.
Earlier this month, Pakistan accused Indian of using cluster munitions that killed a 4-year-old boy and a woman.
Authorities say an estimated 20,000 people left their homes in the past week when Indian artillery spread panic in the Neelum Valley.
Pakistan says the use of such ammunition is in violation of the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law.
On Friday, a villager Mohammad Khursheed says he was among thousands of people who left their homes in panic after cluster bombs struck the civilian population.
Tensions soared after India this week revoked disputed Kashmir’s special status from statehood to a territory.
The police chief in Indian-controlled Kashmir say the strict curfew in the Muslim-majority region will be eased for Friday prayers.
The region’s police chief, Dilbagh Singh, told The Associated Press, “People will be allowed to go to the area-specific mosques for the prayers in most parts of the Srinagar city.”
India-controlled Kashmir has been under an unprecedented security lockdown since Sunday to prevent unrest as India’s Hindu nationalist-led government announced it was revoking its special constitutional status and stripping of it of its statehood.
Thousands of people have been forced indoors, shops and even most health clinics remain shuttered. All communications and the internet have been cut off. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said late Thursday the situation in the region would return to normal gradually.
Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, although both countries only control parts of it. Rebels have been fighting Indian rule for decades in the portion it administers.
Pakistan’s foreign minister is visiting China as part of efforts to pressure India to reverse its decision revoking the special status of the disputed region of Kashmir.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi will meet with Chinese leaders Friday.
Before leaving for Beijing, Qureshi said he will apprise Islamabad’s “trusted friend” about the situation after New Delhi downgraded its portion of Kashmir from statehood to a territory, limited its decision-making power and eliminated its right to its own constitution.
India-controlled Kashmir has been under an unprecedented security lockdown to prevent unrest as the decisions were announced. The Himalayan region is claimed in full by both Pakistan and India and divided between them.
Pakistan says it is considering a proposal to approach the International Court of Justice over India’s action.