Friday, May 10, 2013

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Blast kills two ANP leaders in KP’s Swabi district

Two local leaders of Awami National Party (ANP) were killed in an explosion outside their polls office in Swabi area of the troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Friday night. According to police, explosives were planted in a car parked outside an election office of ANP in Swabi district’s Yar Hussain town. Dr Farman and Arab Ali Jan, local leaders of ANP, who were present in the office, were killed on the spot while another party activist Murad Ali sustained injuries in the bombing. Nearby shops and houses were also damaged in the blast. An investigation by the Bomb disposal Squad is underway.

Pakistan goes to the polls today

Radio Pakistan
The nation goes to poll tomorrow to elect members of the National and 4 Provincial Assemblies for the next 5 years. This would be for first time that transfer of power to next elected government would take place after completion of tenure of one democratically elected government. The polling will begin at 08:00 in the morning and continue uninterrupted up to 05:00 p.m. However‚ those in the premises of the polling stations at the deadline would be allowed to cast their votes. Production of National Identity Card is a must for issuance of ballot paper to the voters and expired cards are also valid for the purpose. Green Ballot papers are meant for national assembly while white will be for the provincial assemblies' seats. There are over 86.1 million registered voters in the country including over 48.6 million male and 37.5 million female voters. Out of two hundred and seventy two general seats of the national assembly elections are to take place in 271 constituencies as electoral process in NA-254 Karachi-XVI was terminated due to death of one of the candidates. 296 general seats of the Punjab Assembly are up for contest as electoral process in PP-217 Khanewal-VI was terminated due to death of a candidate. There are 99 general seats of the provincial assembly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where elections would be held. In Sindh elections are being held on 129 general seats as electoral process stands terminated for PS-64 Mirpur Khas-I due to death of a candidate. For Balochistan Assembly elections would be held for 50 general seats as electoral process was terminated in PB-32 Jhal Magsi due to death of a candidate. The Election Commission in collaboration with federal and provincial governments‚ Pakistan army and law enforcement agencies has made elaborate arrangements to conduct polls in a smooth and peaceful atmosphere.

Bangladesh: Reshma third longest collapse survivor

Available data suggests Reshma is the third in the list of the longest survivors under the rubbles in the world. According to a BBC report, Naqsha Bibi survived on rotten food and water for 63 days in what had been her kitchen after 2005 Pakistan quake. After 27 days of the 2010 Haiti tremor, rescuers had pulled out Evans Monsignac alive from beneath the rubble. Monsignac survived drinking sewage water. Reshma was retrieved from the rubble 16 days after Rana plaza at Savar crumbled in a heap of rubble. Rescuers quoting her said she had access to leftover food for the first two weeks, but in the last two days she had run out of stock. After 16 days of the South Korea supermarket collapse in 1995, Park Seung Hyun was pulled out alive. Hyun survived drinking rainwater. Pedrito Dy spent 14 days in the ruins of a hotel after the 1990 Philippines tremor. Dy drank water and urine. The miraculous rescue of Reshma raised the question in the public domain as to how long one can survive under the debris. The United Nations usually decides to call off search and rescue attempts between five and seven days after a disaster, once no-one has been saved for a day or two - but people have been known to survive for much longer.ulie Ryan, a co-ordinator with UK-based International Rescue Committee (IRC), says that survival largely depends on what happens the moment the quake first hits. “The ideal situation is to become trapped and entombed but have some sort of oxygen supply from the outside world, not injured and also have some sort of access to water,” she told the BBC. “You have usually managed to get yourselves into some sort of void where you are enclosed by the building but it doesn't injure you.” She said an IRC team rescued three boys who had been buried in the ruins of their school for five days after the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005. Doctors say after being trapped people lose their mobility and that reduces their chance of survival. Being unable to move or having injuries to limbs can lead to crush syndrome whereby blood flow to the limbs is disrupted. When the crush is removed, a build-up of toxins floods the body and it is unable to cope. It causes kidney damage and shock, people are in agony with the pain and have a high risk of developing renal failure if they do not get urgent medical care. The BBC reported that being trapped in a confined space also means a rising temperature and an increase in carbon dioxide, which, if it reaches too high a level, leads to suffocation. Search teams monitor for rising levels of CO2 in a building - a rise means someone is trapped inside and breathing. When CO2 levels stop rising, the search is no longer needed. Graham Payne, Chairman and founder of rescue charity Rapid, told the BBC trapped people could go quiet for hours at a time if they passed out or fell asleep but teams never gave up on them. “You think you've lost them but you carry on. It might be another eight hours, then they start making noise again. “But if they're trapped and we can hear, then we get them out, we don't give up.” The rescuers say they did not find major injuries when Reshma was rescued. She said she had found a safe place and had some air and light.

Woman rescued after 17 days in Bangladesh rubble

Associated Press
For 17 days, the seamstress lay trapped in a dark basement pocket beneath thousands of tons of wreckage as temperatures outside climbed into the mid-90s F. She rationed food and water. She banged a pipe to attract attention. She was fast losing hope of ever making it out alive. In the ruins of the collapsed eight-store garment factory building above her, the frantic rescue operation had long ago ended. It had turned instead into a grim search for the decaying bodies of the more than 1,000 people killed in the world's worst garment industry disaster. "No one heard me. It was so bad for me. I never dreamed I'd see the daylight again," the seamstress, Reshma Begum, told Somoy TV from her hospital bed after her astonishing rescue on Friday. The miraculous moment came when salvage workers finally heard Begum's banging. They pulled her to safety. She was in shockingly good condition, wearing a violet outfit with a large, bright pink scarf. "I heard her say, 'I am alive, please save me.' I gave her water. She was OK," said Miraj Hossain, a volunteer who crawled through the debris to help cut Begum free. The rescue was broadcast on television across Bangladesh. The prime minister rushed to the hospital, as did the woman's family to embrace a loved one they thought they'd never again see alive. On April 24, Begum was working in a factory on the second floor of Rana Plaza when the building began collapsing around her. She said she raced down a stairwell into the basement, where she became trapped near a Muslim prayer room in a wide pocket that allowed her to survive. Her long hair got stuck under the rubble, but she used sharp objects to cut her hair and free herself, said Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, the head of the local military units in charge of the disaster site. "There was some dried food around me. I ate the dried food for 15 days. The last two days I had nothing but water. I used to drink only a limited quantity of water to save it. I had some bottles of water around me," Begum told the television station, as doctors and nurses milled about, giving her saline and checking her condition. More than 2,500 people were rescued in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, but crews had gone nearly two weeks without discovering anyone alive. The last survivor had been found April 28, and even her story ended tragically. As workers tried to free Shahina Akter, a fire broke out and she died of smoke inhalation. Crews were instead engaged in the painstaking work of trying to remove bodies so the victims' families could bury their loved ones. They eventually approached the section where Begum was trapped. "I heard voices of the rescue workers for the past several days. I kept hitting the wreckage with sticks and rods just to attract their attention," Begum said. She finally got the crews' attention when she took a steel pipe and began banging it, said Abdur Razzak, a warrant officer with the military's engineering department who first spotted her in the wreckage. The rescue crews could not believe there might be a survivor. "But within minutes, we were sure that there was someone," Razzak said. The workers ran into the dark rubble, eventually getting flashlights, to free her, he said. They ordered the cranes and bulldozers to stop immediately and used handsaws and welding and drilling equipment to cut through the iron rod and debris still trapping her. They gave her water, oxygen and saline as they worked. Hundreds of people engaged in removing bodies from the site in recent days raised their hands together in prayer for her survival. "God, you are the greatest, you can do anything. Please allow us all to rescue the survivor just found," said a man on a loudspeaker leading the supplicants. "We seek apology for our sins. Please pardon us, pardon the person found alive." After 40 minutes, she was free. "When we were able to reach there, we lifted her together with our hands and brought her out to put her on a stretcher. She was baffled as rescuers outside shouted 'God is great,'" said Hossain, one of her rescuers. Soldiers and men in hard hats carried Begum on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance, which brought her to a military hospital. Her rescuers said she was in good condition, despite her ordeal. Razzak said she could even walk. "She was fine, no injuries. She was just trapped. The space was wide," said Lt. Col. Moyeen, an army official at the scene who uses only one name. Doctors at the hospital told Bangladeshi television that Begum was out of danger and that her kidney and liver function were fine. Begum survived for more than two weeks in temperatures that touched the mid-30s C (mid-90s F). "This is just a miracle, this is so pleasing!" said Razzak, the warrant officer. Begum told her rescuers there were no more survivors in her area. Workers began tearing through the nearby rubble anyway, hoping to find another person alive. "Reshma told me there were three others with her. They died. She did not see anybody else alive there," said Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, the head of the local military units. The bodies were eventually recovered from another section of the building not far from Begum, he said. Begum's sister Asma said she and her mother kept a vigil for the seamstress, who is from the rural Dinajpur district, 270 kilometers (170 miles) north of Dhaka. She said they had been losing hope amid the endless string of grim days, when scores of bodies and no survivors were removed from the rubble. "We got her back just when we had lost all our hope to find her alive," she told Somoy TV. "God is so merciful." The women rushed to the hospital to see her. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called Begum in the hospital, and the rescued woman began crying on the phone, Suhrawardy said. She told Hasina: "I am fine, please pray for me," he said. Hasina, whose government has come under criticism for its lax oversight over the powerful garment industry, raced to the hospital by helicopter to meet her and congratulated the rescuers, officials said. "This is an unbelievable feat," Hasina was quoted as saying by her assistant, Mahbubul Haque Shakil. Begum lived in a rented house in this Dhaka suburb with her sister, who worked at a different garment factory The death toll from the disaster soared past 1,000 on Friday, with officials confirming that 1,045 bodies had been recovered from the ruins of the fallen building, which had housed five garment factories employing thousands of workers. The disaster has raised alarm about the often deadly working conditions in Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry, which provides clothing for major retailers around the globe. Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder, an army official overseeing the recovery work, said the bodies being recovered were badly decomposed and identification was difficult. "We are working carefully," he said. "If we get any ID card or mobile phone with them, we can still identify them. Our sincere effort is to at least hand over the bodies to the families." Brig. Gen. Azmal Kabir, a top official of the military's engineering section, said more than half of the estimated 7,000 tons of debris have been removed from the site but he did not know when the work would be finished. Officials say the owner of Rana Plaza illegally added three floors and allowed the garment factories to install heavy machines and generators, even though the structure was not designed to support such equipment. The owner and eight other people, including the owners of the garment factories, have been detained.

Gilani seeks ISI help for recovery of son

Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has the sought assistance of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for the recovery of his son, Ali Haider Gilani. Even after launching a sweeping investigation, the police have been unable to trace Ali Haider Gilani, who was kidnapped after gunmen shot and killed two of his associates at an election meeting. Ali Haider, who is contesting elections from PP-200 was snatched after addressing a corner meeting in Farrukh Town in the limits of Seetal Marri Police Station here. No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. - See more at:

President Zardari casts his vote by post

The Express Tribune
President Asif Ali Zardari has cast his vote through the postal ballot system ahead of Saturday’s landmark general election, his spokesperson confirmed. “Yes he has cast his vote through a postal ballot,” presidency spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said. The postal balloting system was introduced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure maximum participation of the voters. The voters to whom postal ballots are issued will not be entitled to vote in person at the polling stations. It is unclear if Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will vote. Babar said that the party chairman had been denied permission to avail the postal ballot facility. Party officials have said the threats against Bilawal are too serious for him to appear in public. On Thursday, the last day for electioneering, Bilawal had to resort to a pre-recorded video message to address a political gathering in Rawalpindi. Zardari’s two daughters, Aseefa and Bakhtawar, though, have been granted permission to cast their votes by post, the spokesperson said, providing no further information. The precise whereabouts of the family has not been announced.

Pakistan at mercy of terror amid elections
The threat of Taliban attacks hangs over Pakistan s historic election, but not in some parts of the financial capital Karachi, where the militants hold sway after chasing secular parties away. A little over six months ago, what should have been the headquarters of the Awami National Party (ANP), an ally of the outgoing government, in the working class district of Sohrab Goth were abandoned. "A small group of Taliban came to the ANP office and told them to leave quickly. They didn t even have to force them," a neighbour said. ANP activists complied immediately. That was well before the start of the campaign for Saturday s polls and they have not been seen since. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella militant group which has been waging a domestic insurgency for nearly six years, has launched numerous bloody attacks across the country against what it calls the "un-Islamic" polls. The ANP, which like the other secular allies of the outgoing government have been singled out for Taliban attacks, has had to close around 50 offices, some attacked in bloody strikes, in Pashtun areas of Karachi. In Sohrab Goth, a TTP stronghold in Karachi, the militants have allowed others to campaign, notably religious parties such as the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), reputedly close to the militants. "Religious parties have no problem, they can campaign. We see their supporters regularly," said Qari Ahmadullah, a trader in Sohrab Goth s Al Asif market. Mullah Karim Abid, the JUI-F candidate, was happy at how things were going. "Our campaign is good, there is interest among people. In Sohrab Goth, they vote for religious parties," he told AFP. "Taliban? What Taliban? There are no real Taliban on the ground. All these things are fabricated by authorities." Karachi is beset by ethnic tensions between Mohajirs, the Urdu-speaking core support base of the party that controls the city, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and the Pashtuns who have migrated to escape violence in the northwest. Haji Rahmatullah, a TTP cadre, will not vote on Saturday but approves of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the head of JUI-F, who is very hostile to the US. In general, Rahmatullah said: "TTP leadership support anti-US candidates." Pashtun districts are not a major electoral factor at this stage. Many of their inhabitants, who arrived in recent years from the northwest where they fled fighting between the army and the Taliban, are not even registered to vote. Others are Afghans, so cannot vote. Pashtuns are also spread out over voting districts, restricting their power to elect candidates from their own fast-growing community. "Authorities have drawn red lines around Pashtun neighbourhoods," says Abdul Latif, a preacher from Sohrab Goth. "They say they are full of criminals, and do nothing to save people from misery. The people feel rejected, and the TTP is given a chance." Tens of thousands of Pashtuns have migrated to the area in recent years, especially from the Mehsud clan of Waziristan, where the TTP is headquartered. Their arrival has helped fanned deadly ethnic and political tensions in Karachi, and seen the MQM vent about alleged Talibanisation. The authorities say the Taliban commit robberies and other crimes in Karachi to fund their attacks. "This is not an ideal situation. But government affiliates are targeted, and it helps in getting money or prisoners freed," says TTP cadre Rahmatullah. But the militants criminal activity pales in comparison to that of the main political parties and even the police, who, according to the country s supreme court, are heavily implicated in the daily crime that swamps the city. According to Karachi police, about 7,000-8,000 Pakistani Taliban are living in the city, compared to a few thousand in 2008-2009. They are also now better armed and able to deal with police in Pashtun areas. Apart from fighters themselves, the arrival of preachers from Waziristan has brought with them Islamic courts, Koran schools, and recruit young fighters. Mobile, efficient, and incorruptible, the Taliban s Islamic courts are popular in the districts. But not all Pashtuns are convinced. "Support among people is still limited because they still extort money from people and act like mafias," says Abdul Latif, the preacher. "But if they control themselves and deliver to people, they can become quite popular".

Former Actress Takes On Pakistan's Leading Islamist Cleric
She was once the darling of millions of filmgoers. Today, she begs for votes in a dusty city in northwestern Pakistan. Mussarat Shaheen is in the news for taking on the country's leading Islamist leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, whose conservative Jamiat-e Ulema Islam (Society of Muslim Clerics) wants to turn Pakistan into a Shari'a state through the ballot box. Shaheen's election pitch is to expose Rehman's alleged corruption and hypocrisy to Dera Ismail Khan's predominantly conservative voters. "Maulana Fazlur Rehman gets votes in the name of religion. But once elected, he only enjoys the perks and privileges of power," she told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal. "Now we will see how he wins." Maulana Fazlur Rehman Dera Ismail Khan, in the southern part of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, is plagued by sectarian violence and Taliban attacks. It borders the Waziristan tribal regions, where the Taliban has exerted influence for a decade. Shaheen says that she is often taunted, both because she is a woman and due to her former career. She says she has also heard that hard-line Islamists have declared that she should be killed for spreading obscenity. "I have no security because the administration only worries about protecting Maulana and other rich candidates," she says. "I will be proud if I die for the rights of the people of Dera Ismail Khan and Pakistan." Shaheen was once a leading heroine in Pakistan Pashto film industry, also known as Pollywood. She was known for her raunchy dance steps. After nearly two decades on the silver screen, she formed her own political party in the 1990s called Tehreek-e Massawat, Urdu for Movement for Equality. But her political career never took off. She ran against Rehman in the same constituency in 1997. The contest attracted a lot of media attention because of her public swipes at the bearded cleric. Both lost the contest to a third candidate. Shaheen now thinks she will win the election on May 11 because Rehman has been deceiving people in the name of religion for decades. She declared him a "flop" actor.

Pakistan: Bombs targeting election offices kill 3

Associated Press
Pakistani intelligence officials say two bombs targeting the offices of candidates running in this weekend's election have killed three people in northwest Pakistan. The officials say 15 people also were wounded in the blasts Friday in Miran Shah, the main town in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Militants have killed at least 130 people in attacks on candidates and party workers since the beginning of April in an attempt to hamper the vote. It was unclear exactly which candidates were targeted in the latest attack since several have offices in the block where the explosions occurred. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion will likely fall on the Pakistani Taliban.

Bilawal asks public to stamp the ‘arrow’

Chairman of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday appealed to the people to stamp on the ‘arrow’ on the election day.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Video Message (Multan 9... by PPPOfficial While addressing the people of constituency NA-49 Barakahu via a video link, he said that he was proud of talking to the people of federal capital on the last day of election campaign because it was the land where his mother Shaheed Benazir Bhutto dedicated her life for the revival of democracy and it was his right to ask the people to cast their votes into the favour of his party’s candidate Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar. He claimed that an ideological conspiracy was hatched to destabilise Pakistan and it was more dangerous than terrorists. “Lets come together to defeat this mindset that flourished under dictatorial regime, funded by terrorist elements in previous elections and requested them not to carry out any terrorist attack in Punjab,” Bilawal reiterated. He promised to eliminate poverty, unemployment and terrorism if PPPP returned to power adding that jobs would be provided for the local residents of federal capital in the future.

Bomb attack on PPP office injures 5 in Quetta

The Express Tribune
Five people sustained injuries when a bomb exploded outside an election office of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Quetta, Express News reported on Friday. According to initial reports, the blast occurred near the Western Bypass. Many vehicles were reportedly damaged in the attack. Police and rescue officials reached the area. A bomb disposal squad (BDS) was also summoned. Political parties have been under attack since the poll date was announced and around 100 people have lost their lives due to election violence.