Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blast near MQM office kills four, injures ten in Karachi

At least four people were killed and ten others injured when a blast ripped through an election office of a political party in Karachi on Thursday night, DawnNews reported. Initial reports suggest the bomb was placed in a motorcycle near the election office of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Karachi’s Nusrat Bhutto Colony. The explosion damaged nearby buildings and vehicles. Police and security agencies have cordoned off the area and an initial investigation is underway.

BANGLADESH: Massive building collapse in Savar

WE are hugely jolted by utter shock and grief at the tragedy that befell the occupants of the nine-storey building which collapsed Wednesday morning at Savar. The death toll has risen above 100, while over 600 are reported to have been injured. It is feared that that the casualty figure may rise further. What saddens us still is that the lives of several hundred others are hanging in balance as they remain trapped in the collapsed structure. The rescue operation carried out by the army, Rab, fire-fighters and civil defence units is being severely constrained in absence of appropriate equipment in their hands. They are racing against time to save as many of those trapped people as feasible with their limited capacity. This is a wake-up call for the authorities concerned to have adequate measures in place to improve the existing infrastructure of the agencies responsible for meeting such tragedies. It is worthwhile to note that the misfortune was not completely out of the blue, since experts had already issued warning about a possible disaster after cracks were detected in the building’s walls. Accordingly, the garment factories and the bank had been closed since Tuesday. What puzzles us is why the predictable collapse of the Savar building should have been associated with such enormous human tragedy? Why those who fell victim to the tragedy were allowed to enter a building that was already declared hazard-prone? Why had the local administration and those in charge of managing the building not sealed it off beforehand? Clearly, the avoidable human tragedy has been due to unpardonable callousness on the part of those who were supposed to keep the building closed to workers and visitors. Reports have it those employees were compelled join work at the garment units in the tragedy-stricken building. If that is the case, then the culpability of victims’ employers becomes more serious. The dreadful memory of a similar building collapse in 2005 in which some 70 workers of Spectrum Garments lost their lives has not yet been wiped off the memory. How many more such disasters with incalculable loss of human lives will be necessary to make all those concerned to be more respectful towards human lives? The government should mount a survey to identify the other such defective buildings in and around the city and take measures to retrofit them, if only to save similar misfortunes in the future.

Bangladesh: Death toll shoots to 250

The death toll from Savar building collapse reached 250 Thursday as the rescuers continued their frantic effort to save those trapped inside the rubble of the building. Wali Ashraf Khan, an inspector of Detective Branch of police who has been acting as the in-charge of corpse management control room, confirmed the rise in death toll. A total of 101 bodies were pulled out of the debris of the sandwiched building till 5:50pm Thursday. During Wednesday’s rescue operation till 2:30am 142 bodies were retrieved. Of the recovered bodies, 199 have been handed over to the victim’s relatives so far. In a total of 1500 injured people — trapped inside the debris — were rescued and admitted to different hospitals till 3:30pm Thursday, Abdul Wazed, director general of the Department of Disaster Management told The Daily Star. “We do not have the exact account of those injured victims who went to their homes with the help of their relatives,” Wazed said. All the bodies were recovered from the 3rd, 4th and 5th floors of the building. Visiting the place around 9:50am, State Minister for LGRD and Cooperatives Jahangir Kabir Nanok asked the authorities concerned to take all necessary steps to rescue the trapped ones. The country is observing a national mourning day on Thursday in memory of the Savar victims. Rana Plaza, a nine-storey building, housing five garment factories, a shopping complex and a branch of Brac Bank collapsed Wednesday morning, trapping inside a huge number of people. Army, police, Rapid Action Battalion personnel, fire brigade workers and volunteers were found digging through the debris in a frantic search for survivors. Thursday morning three people were pulled out of the debris alive, reported our correspondent covering the event. Earlier, more than 1,200 injured people were rescued. Rescuers located 25 people alive trapped inside the sandwiched building in the eastern part. Four people including a woman were also spotted alive at the fifth floor of the building. They were trapped under a pillar. One of the trapped people termed Babul, a rescuer, as his father and urged him to rescue him, if necessary, cutting his legs which were trapped under pillar. The rescuers could also hear the screams of trapped people coming out from the gap of the shattered building. They are shouting for help and some for oxygen. Nobody can actually say how many are trapped. The rescue operation is now turning into a race against time. The entire nine-storey is sandwiched into a two-storey height. How to reach the bottom without upsetting the structure now poses the main challenge. Thousands of people thronged the scene after the disaster. Many of them were in tears without having any clue whereto look for their loved ones. The ill-fated building had no approval from Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) that authorises the construction of buildings.
The country is observing a national mourning day Thursday in memory of the victims of the Savar tragedy. Special prayers are being offered in mosques, temples, pagodas and other places of worship for the salvation of their departed souls.
The government on Wednesday donated Tk 55 lakh to the victims. The family of each deceased would get Tk 20,000 while every injured person would receive Tk 5,000.
On Tuesday morning, some cracks developed on some pillars and a few floors of the building following a jolt, causing panic among the people working there. They rushed out of the building and some even got injured in the process, said a number of garment workers and locals. The industrial police visited the building that day and asked them [the building authorities] not to open the building. But the warnings and instructions were ignored. Workers of at least two garment factories at Rana Plaza were forced to join their workplaces following a false assurance on the building’s safety from a local engineer, relatives of the victims alleged. Five factories housed in the building employed a total of 3,122 workers, according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Group urges Afghanistan to protect female police

Associated Press
Human Rights Watch has urged Afghanistan's government to force police stations to build restrooms for female officers to protect them from sexual harassment. The group said Thursday that only a handful of provincial police stations have separate, safe and lockable toilets or changing rooms for women officers, leaving them at risk in a nation where some have reportedly been raped by male colleagues. The report said the provinces have repeatedly ignored previous orders to provide women officers with such facilities in a nation where females make up only 1.4 percent of the nation's 157,000 police officers. Sidiq Sidiqi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Afghan police, said that while women do have their own facilities at major police stations they often are lacking in the provinces.

Pervez Musharraf formally arrested in Benazir murder case

The Express Tribune News
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) formally arrested former president Pervez Musharraf in relation to the Benazir Bhutto murder case on Thursday, reported Express News. FIA’s joint investigation team recorded Musharraf’s statement at his farmhouse in Chak Shahzad, which is currently serving as a sub-jail for the ex-president in the judges arrest case. In his statement, Musharraf denied involvement in the Bhutto murder case and said that he was being falsely implicated. The FIA held an emergency meeting in which it unanimously decided that his statement was not satisfactory and ordered his arrest. The ex-president will appear in an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi tomorrow. Earlier during the day, the ATC issued orders for Musharraf’s arrest in the case and granted permission to the FIA to investigate him. On April 17, the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench had granted Musharraf pre-arrest interim bail in the murder case till April 24 against two surety bonds of Rs 5 million each. Musharraf is accused of conspiracy to murder Bhutto, who died in a gun and suicide attack in December 2007. It is one of three cases he is fighting in the courts since returning home last month after four years in self-imposed exile. His arrest and disqualification from contesting elections on May 11 have been a humiliating blow for the former ruler of nuclear-armed Pakistan, previously a key ally of US president George W Bush in the war on terror.

Punjab government should have used funds on energy projects not metro bus: Imran

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman, Imran Khan said Thursday that if the Punjab government would have used funds on energy and not the metro bus, there would not be loadshedding for 18 hours in the province. “Eliminating the energy crisis and corruption was the responsibility of the Punjab government not Zardari.” Addressing an election rally here, Khan said Nawaz Sharif was afraid to face him because he would be “bowled out on the first ball.” Khan added that Nawaz Sharif had supported President Asif Ali Zardari during all difficult times and was now scaring people into not voting for the PPP. The PTI chairman promised to bring an end to corruption adding that this was the reason behind unemployment and inflation in the country.

persian song- Gul Pari

Amnesty urges Pakistan to probe election violence

Amnesty International called on Pakistan Thursday to investigate a wave of attacks and threats against politicians and election workers that have marred the run-up to key polls next month. At least 26 people have been killed by bombers and gunmen since April 11, including 16 mown down by a suicide bomber at a rally by the Awami National Party (ANP) in Peshawar, according to an AFP tally. The Taliban have directly threatened the three main parties in the outgoing government, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the ANP and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which are often described as secular. The May 11 polls are due to mark the first democratic transition of power after a civilian government has served a full, five-year term in a country. "This has been a particularly deadly election period marked by an alarming surge in attacks and intimidation of political activists and election officials," said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty's Pakistan researcher, in an open letter. Amnesty said at least 37 people had been killed and 183 injured in attacks on election officials and party representatives and supporters countrywide. As a result of the threats, there have been few large-scale political rallies leading to a lacklustre campaign for the May 11 polls. "With these deliberate attacks, the Taliban and other armed groups have shown flagrant disregard for human rights, including the rights to life, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly," Qadri said. Amnesty said the authorities must ensure adequate protection and protect freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and the right to life. "Candidates themselves also have a responsibility not to incite violence against rivals or segments of society such as religious minorities," Qadri said. Amnesty also urged parties and candidates to make human rights a priority in their election pledges and policies.

President Zardari’s message on World Malaria Day

President Asif Ali Zardari has said the World Malaria Day has been observed as a reminder of the need to undertake concerted efforts for raising awareness among the people and to curb the disease in endemic areas of the country. The day has been observed on April 25 every year. Malaria is a preventable disease, easy to diagnose and can be treated successfully. In a message issued by Bilawal House, the president said, “Let us on this day rededicate ourselves to implement the global malaria control programme and testing every suspected malaria case followed by treatment with quality anti-malarial medicines.” He added the rapid advances in malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment during recent years have improved the situation and decreased manifold the malaria-related mortality and morbidity. However, Pakistan is still a long way from achieving the global, regional and national malaria control targets. “One of the challenges in controlling malaria is the need for adequate investment in the health sector.”

Kerry: Afghan-Pakistani Talks 'Productive'
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and senior Pakistani officials he hosted in Brussels were "productive." Speaking after the meeting, he said, "We had a very extensive and, I think everybody would agree, productive and constructive dialogue...but we have all agreed that results are what will tell the story, not statements at press conferences." Karzai, who met with the Pakistani Army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, and Foreign Secretary Jalil Jilani, called the April 24 meeting "important." The talks, which lasted around three hours, were aimed at repairing ties between Kabul and Islamabad. Kabul has grown increasingly frustrated with Pakistan, saying Islamabad is not fulfilling its promises to the reconciliation process with the Taliban. Kabul suggested Islamabad wants to keep Afghanistan unstable until foreign combat forces leave at the end of 2014. Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of providing sanctuary to Afghan insurgents on its soil. Pakistan denies this.

Pakistan: Let Pandora's box open, but...

The people who think Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain's fear that a hasty trial of Pervez Musharraf in the treason case could burst open the Pandora's box stems from his personal concerns may be right. After all he and many others who are making such noises now were part of the government on November 3, 2007 when Musharraf abrogated the constitution and imposed emergency. And it's also a fact and that has been the former General's consistent position that his action followed a series of consultations with his colleagues and the then PML(Q)-led coalition government headed by Shaukat Aziz Chaudhry Shujaat was chief of the PML(Q). Given that Article 6 of the constitution also seeks treason trial of "any person aiding or abetting" in this offence, the trial of Pervez Musharraf is bound to expand its scope sucking in many more. Hence the warning of the Pandora's Box is expedient. The question is, was the November-2007 imposition of emergency by Pervez Musharraf the only Pandora's box in Pakistan? Isn't that the host of other mega financial and political scams and constitutional violations such explosive issues? Should all of the dirt be swept under the carpet? No; for the rule of law to prevail in Pakistan all such boxes should be opened. Let heavens fall and the law and constitution prevail - for, without this being done we will irretrievably move to the precipice of self-destruction. It's a bitter pill but the only remedy left to be tried to survive as an independent country and a functional polity. But having said that, it would be extremely pertinent to point out that law must take its course and justice should not only be done but also seen to have been done. Of course, there are heightened sentiments on both sides that have come to obtaining in the wake of petition seeking treason trial of Pervez Musharraf. His decision to come back was founded on an 'ill advice rendered by the sycophants' or as some say 'he was led up the garden path by the social media' that may be true. But there is also a strong possibility that he is convinced of righteousness of his moves and actions as long as he was in power and is now ready to face the courts. Let's give the devil his due, and let him have a fair and transparent trial. You cannot condemn a person of his stature and history without following due process of law and justice. That the pressures with potential to lend bias to the trial should come from the lawyers is most unfortunate and highly regrettable. One gets the feeling that the respect the black-coats earned for their movement for the independence of judiciary is being frittered away by a section of politically-motivated lawyers. Being an enlightened section of society the lawyers are expected to be pragmatic enough for reason and justice to triumph over pride and prejudice. It is patently clear that most of the lawyers have political affiliations, a common phenomenon in former British colonies. However, that consideration should outbid their professionalism is indeed disgusting. The truth is, that the treason trial of Pervez Musharraf is not of one single person, but of a person who was chief of army staff, and the President of Pakistan and now head of a registered political party. He does have a lot of haters but he has also a lot of supporters in Pakistan, some out in the open and some hidden. It would be unthinkable that a military commander who can command his soldiers to walk into the jaws of death does not enjoy the love and support of his juniors and comrade-in-arms. What can be the fallout of a hurried trial? A sample has been made available by a clutch of retired generals who have publicly warned against 'humiliating' Pervez Musharraf, saying 'the army would not tolerate if the lawyers continued pushing their former army chief to the wall'. Should Pervez Musharraf's treason trial be a hurried, hush-hush affair it would amount to witch-hunting and demoralising the rank and file of the military particularly the jawans, removing some of the shine the higher judiciary has of late come to enjoy. We expect the representative leadership of the lawyers' community, particularly at the level of the bar councils, to stand up and declare they support the cause of justice without bothering a bit about the result of this treason trial. Now that we have come so close to securing justice in this crucial case we need to ensure that its outcome is remembered not recorded by history as a latter day inquisition.

Assault on the ANP

By: Dr Mohammad Taqi
The ANP on its part has not only energised its ideological base but has also given the rest of Pakistan a fair warning of what is coming their way The Awami National Party (ANP) has come under a series of terrorist attacks in the last two weeks. The terror spree started with a bomb attack in Peshawar on the party’s former provincial minister Arbab Ayub Jan, who narrowly escaped. The ANP leader from Swat, Mukkaram Shah, was not that fortunate. He was assassinated in an improvised explosive device attack. And then came the carnage in Peshawar city last week when a suicide bomber targeted the ANP leaders Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour and his nephew Haroon Bilour, whose father Bashir Bilour was martyred in a similar attack in December 2012, as they were about to address an election rally. Fortunately, Haji sahib and Haroon survived the attack in which several policemen, party workers and young children died. But the ANP cadres and leaders did not buckle. The Pashtun nationalist party did not cave in ideologically or politically. The fearless Mian Iftikhar Hussain rushed to the tragic scene. Along with the late Bashir Bilour, he has been the ANP’s first-responder to many such bombings, charging in when others would flee. A knee jerk response might have been to call for boycotting the elections; Mian Iftikhar cautioned against delaying the elections even by a second. Similarly, unflinching statements came from the ANP’s senior leadership including the party chief, Asfandyar Wali Khan. But a flurry of callous remarks and loose talk by the rightwing political parties, particularly the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), blamed the ANP — the victim — for bringing it upon itself. While Nawaz Sharif has kept mum about Taliban terrorism, the PTI chief Imran Khan has reiterated that the terrorists target the parties that sided with the US in the War on Terror (WoT). Khan is also a candidate from the Peshawar National Assembly constituency where scores perished in the explosion that targeted his opponent Haji Bilour. If the ANP is being targeted for going after the terrorists, are Khan and his ilk safe because they sided with the terrorists and provided the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ideological space for over a decade portraying them as ‘nationalist freedom fighters’? Frankly, Khan’s slurs linking attacks on the ANP to the WoT are an insult to the Peshawarites who lost children and loved ones and whose vote he seeks. Another poisonous remark came from Maulana Fazlur Rehman who called the ANP a dead snake that has become politically irrelevant. Notwithstanding the disingenuousness and hate of the anti-ANP elements, they go to show that the elections, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at least, would not be decided on the basis of the ANP’s performance as the outgoing ruling party but its stance vis-à-vis the Taliban terrorists. And it is becoming increasingly clear that the bullet not the ballot may be the deciding factor. While the terrorists have failed to confine the ANP candidates and cadres to their homes, the latter continue canvassing door-to-door, imperilling their lives. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the provincial and federal caretaker governments are nowhere to be seen as if in a sinister coincidence. If anything the ECP had ordered the candidates’ security removed but later denied issuing such a directive. The relentless Taliban assault on the ANP, complete inaction of the present authorities and the Taliban apologists like Khan and Rehman going into overdrive is making the elections a lopsided affair. Cornering the ANP this way may not technically be pre-poll fraud but has most certainly rigged the scales against it. It appears that the stage is being set to either keep the ANP out of the future assemblies or worse, delay the polls to have a political dispensation ideologically aligned with the Pakistani deep state as the latter gets ready to play its final hand in Afghanistan post-2014. The Pakistani security establishment has claimed for some time that it desires peace in Afghanistan but not many are buying it. In his opening statement at the US Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing with General Joseph Dunford on the Situation in Afghanistan, the committee chair US Senator Carl Levin said last week that “the greatest challenge to Afghanistan’s security isn’t the Taliban but the Pakistan-based sanctuaries for militant extremists launching cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan has said that it supports a stable and secure Afghanistan, but its actions belie its words.” General Dunford, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in his testimony reiterated, “There have been intelligence reports that link the ISI particularly to the Haqqani network.” What was not mentioned at this testimony but is well known is that the TTP continues to use the logistic and training facilities run by the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. Of note is that several Pakistani analysts and the so-called foreign policy elite nominally condemned the attacks on ANP but for years have vociferously advocated a greater future role in Afghanistan for the Taliban and the Haqqani network. The Pakistani establishment getting its ducks in a row before a major showdown in Afghanistan is not without precedent. At the height of its proxy war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Pakistani deep state created a pliant party-less parliament in 1985. Benazir Bhutto was considered too ‘unreliable’ to be allowed at the helm in the post-Soviet withdrawal period and was shown the door in 1990 to bring in a then military-friendly Nawaz Sharif. The religious parties conglomerate, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, whose acronym MMA was dubbed ‘military-mullah alliance’ by many, was eased into power in 2002 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to provide an irritant-free sanctuary to the Taliban in the post-2001 period. The results of all these maneouvres have been utterly disastrous for the Pakistani people, especially the Pashtuns. But it seems that the deep state continues with its policy of using the Pashtun lands as a buffer zone and the Pashtuns as a sandbag against the monsters it unleashes in Afghanistan. The ANP on its part has not only energised its ideological base but has also given the rest of Pakistan a fair warning of what is coming their way. Unfortunately, barring the MQM’s Altaf Hussain and some muffled voices from the PPP, not many have heeded the ANP’s call. The beleaguered ANP has revived a slogan from the PDPA’s final phase in Afghanistan: Watan Ya Kafan (Fatherland or death/shroud). This defiant note also has a certain resignation in it that makes me deeply worried. But I also know that the death that was rained on Kabul in 1992 did not stop there and it won’t stop with Peshawar, something the Pakistani heartland does not realise yet.