SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Pakistani troops have mobilised to help the victims of an earthquake centred in nearby Iran that killed at least 34 people, as the United States offered help to both nations.
The epicentre of Tuesday's magnitude 7.8 quake lay in southeast Iran, but most of the deaths reported so far have been across the border in Pakistan's province of Baluchistan, where hundreds of mud-built homes suffered damage.
Iran's Mehr News Agency reported one death and five injuries as of Wednesday morning.
The powerful tremor shook the ground and caused panic as far afield as Kuwait and the Indian capital New Delhi. Thousands of people evacuated towering residential and office buildings in Dubai.
It was also felt in Abu Dhabi, the Saudi capital Riyadh and Oman.
A new aftershock early on Wednesday disturbed the locals on the Iran-Pakistan border. The US Geological Survey measured its magnitude at 5.7.
Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from the Pakistani port city of Karachi, said despite the earthquake being centred in Iran, Pakistan had borne the brunt of the impact.
Residents of the Mashkail village in Washuk district, around 3km from the border with Iran, were particularly affected by the tremor, he said.
Regular army and paramilitary forces had deployed to help the relief effort after the quake brought down homes in Pakistan's Mashkail area of Baluchistan.
Two military helicopters carrying medical teams have been sent to the area while paramilitary troops are being mobilised to supplement the relief efforts, they said.
"At least 34 people have been killed and 80 others wounded in Mashkail," a local government official told the AFP news agency.
State of emergency
At least 27 people were hurt in Iran, according to a local governor speaking to the official IRNA news agency.
Earlier reports by another Iranian news agency, ISNA, had reported an estimated 46 deaths there, however, only one death has been confirmed thus far.
IRNA said crisis management authorities had declared a state of emergency in the area.
The head of Iran's Red Crescent rescue corps, Mahmoud Mozafar, said communications to the stricken areas had been cut.
The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the quake at 7.8, and said it struck near the Iranian city of Khash, in Sistan-Baluchestan.
David Rothery, chair of Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis course at Britain's Open University, said "this morning's earthquake in Iran was strong ... but fortunately its source was quite deep".
Last week, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake also hit Iran killing at least 37 people and injuring 850 more in the country's southwest.
In December 2003, a big earthquake struck the southern city of Bam.
It killed 31,000 people - about a quarter of the population - and destroyed the city's ancient mud-built citadel.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- At least four Pakistanis have been killed in a roadside bomb attack that struck an election convoy of the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, in southwestern Balochistan Province.
The attack was carried out on Tuesday in Khuzdar district, some 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of provincial capital Quetta.
According to authorities, Sanaullah Zehri, the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N in Balochistan Province, was heading a convoy of vehicles to address an election rally in the district.
“An improvised explosive device went off as Zehri, leading a convoy of more than 20 vehicles, left his home to campaign in Khuzdar,” provincial home secretary Akbar Durrani said.
Reports say that Zehri escaped the assassination attempt but his son, brother, nephew and their guard were all killed in the attack.
On April 14, Pakistani police officials said a roadside bomb attack in the northwestern part of the country killed a local leader of the Awami National Party (ANP).
“Mukarram Shah, was travelling to Mingora when his vehicle was targeted by an IED (improvised explosive device), around 12 km northeast of Mingora city,” said Gul Afzal Afridi the district police chief.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but police officials blame pro-Taliban militants who have carried out similar assaults in the past.
On March 31, a roadside bomb attack in northwestern town of Bannu killed two people and wounded six others, including a member of the ANP identified as Adnan Wazir, who is a candidate for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly in the May 11.
Pakistan has been experiencing increasing violence as the country prepares to hold the May 11 general election and provincial polls.
Thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives in bombings and other militant attacks since October 2001, when Pakistan joined an alliance with the United States in its so-called war on terror.
Since late 2009, there has been a surge in militant attacks in Pakistan and thousands more have been displaced by the wave of violence and militancy sweeping across the country.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Pakistan's former leader Pervez Musharraf has been ordered to appear in court over treason allegations and has barred him from leaving the country.
The orders were issued on Monday after the country's Supreme Court heard applications from lawyers that the former military ruler was to face a treason trial for imposing emergency rule and arresting judges in November 2007.
"It is necessary to issue notice to the respondents in these petitions. The office shall ensure service of notice to the respondents for tomorrow," Justice Jawad Khawaja told the court, referring to Musharraf and the state.
Government officials should "ensure that the respondent [Musharraf] does not leave the jurisdiction of Pakistan", he added.
Khawaja, part of a two-member bench of the top court, heard the petition against Musharraf on Monday after Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry recused himself from the initially formed three-member bench.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan on March 24 after four years of exile to run for parliament in the May 11 general election, a move he said was intended to "save" the troubled nuclear-armed state.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Thousands of Shia Muslims have staged a demonstration in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi to condemn the Shia killings in the South Asian country.
On Friday, the demonstrators shouted slogans against the government and criticized Pakistan’s security forces for failing to provide security to the country’s Shia Muslims.
They also denounced the Saudi Arabian policy of funding extremist groups that commit acts of violence against Muslims in Pakistan.
In addition, the protesters called on the government to take immediate action against the forces involved in the sectarian killings and said more demonstrations would be staged if justice is not served.
The protest march was organized by the All Pakistan Shia Action Committee.
Violence against the Pakistani Shia Muslims has been on the rise in recent months.
On March 3, a car bomb attack killed at least 48 people and wounded 150 others in a Shia neighborhood in Karachi.
Following the incident, former Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the anti-Shia terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi carried out the Karachi bombing.
On February 16, a bomb attack targeting Shia Muslims in the main bazaar of the southwestern city of Quetta killed at least 90 people, including women and children, and injured 200 others. According to the police, most of the victims were Hazara Shias.
On January 10, a twin bomb attack at a crowded billiard hall killed more than 90 people, mostly Shia Muslims, in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the two bombings in Quetta.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – In a newly-released video, the pro-Taliban militants have threatened to kill former President Pervez Musharraf upon his arrival in Pakistan.
On Saturday, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Ehsanullah Ehsan said in the video that the militant group had prepared a "death squad" to kill Musharraf.
This comes as the former leader prepares to fly home after nearly five years of self-imposed exile. The warning has come only a day ahead of Musharraf’s flight from Dubai to the port city of Karachi.
The former army chief-turned-president recently announced that he would return to Pakistan to attend the May general elections.
A court in Karachi secured Musharraf’s freedom two days ago by granting him 14 days’ bail.
The decision removed the last obstacle to his return. The 70-year-old Musharraf has been charged with several offences, including involvement in the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister, Benezir Bhutto.
Musharraf, who assumed power in a bloodless coup in 1999, was forced to step down and leave Pakistan in 2008. He’s been living in the UK and the UAE since then.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- A separatist group fighting the Pakistani government for years has deployed a new weapon in its arsenal, police said: child bombers.
Police in the southwestern Balochistan province say they have arrested a group of children as young as 8 that the United Baloch Army has been using to carry out attacks.
"All the children belong to extremely poor and down-trodden families," officer Zubair Mehmood told a crowded news conference Wednesday.
The militant group paid them $25 to $50 to drop off packages carrying bombs with timers, he said.
Police said the militant group used children because they seldom arouse suspicion.
Largest but poorest
For years, militants in Balochistan, a province rich in natural gas, have been fighting for self-rule.
They complain that the government has paid little attention to them and their economic needs.
While it's the largest province in Pakistan, it's the poorest in per capita income.
And for needy families, $25 to $50 (2,450 to 4,900 rupees) can go a long way.
'The children have confessed'
Authorities rounded up 11 children, as young as 8 and no older than 15, during a raid near the provincial capital, Quetta.
Eight adult members of the group fled during the raid.
"The children have confessed to more than a dozen bombings," Mehmood said.
One of the suspects confessed to a January 10 blast that left 11 people dead and 67 wounded.
In the attack, a bomb was left near a busy market.
Some attacks have targeted other populated areas while others have targeted routes used by security forces.
In some cases, the bombs were placed inside trash containers on deserted roads -- possibly as a scare tactic, police say.
Not without precedent
In 2009, Pakistani and U.S. officials alleged that a top Taliban leader in Pakistan was buying and selling children for suicide bombings.
Pakistan's military released a video showing children going through exercises in training for their attacks.
Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud then sold the children to other Taliban officials for $6,000 to $12,000, Pakistani military officials said.
Mehsud was killed in an apparent U.S. drone strike in August 2009.
Since then, there have been other sporadic cases.
In 2011, a 9-year-old girl who says she was kidnapped by militants in Pakistan and told to be a suicide bomber.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Malala Yousafzai was glad to hear that her long ordeal of surgeries will soon be over. Just two more to go, doctors in Britain say. Hopefully.
She will receive a titanium plate in the coming days, to cover an opening in her skull, and an inner ear implant.
A gunman shot the teenage activist in the head and neck in October as she rode home from school in Pakistan's Swat Valley.
Islamist extremists from Tehrik-e-Taliban intended to kill her for taking a stand for the right of girls to get an education. The terrorists have said they will target her again.
The 15-year-old's brain swelled dangerously days after the shooting, so doctors in Pakistan extracted a section of her skull about the size of a hand. Otherwise, the pressure in her cranium would have caused severe brain damage, likely killing her.
"There is no doubt that the surgery performed in Pakistan was life-saving," Dr. Dave Rosser, medical director of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK, said Wednesday at a news conference.
Malala has made impressive strides and faced her medical treatment with bravery, Rosser said.
"She's very lively. She's got a great sense of humor," he said. She is aware of her high profile in the world and what that could mean for her safety.
"She remains incredibly cheerful, incredibly determined and incredibly determined to speak for her cause," Rosser said.
With the patch of skull missing, Malala is limited in what she can do. Her brain is vulnerable to injury, if she bumps her head in the wrong way. Only her skin and soft cranial tissues stand between the outside world and her brain, and that's not enough.
Doctors could have covered the breach with the original piece of her skull, which she has carried under her skin since October, where a surgeon in Pakistan implanted it for safe keeping.
That's a common procedure to preserve bone fragments for later use, Rosser said.
Girls + education: Your story
But her own skull section would have no longer fit properly without the addition of some titanium parts, as her head and the bone fragment have changed.
Titanium also has a low incidence of infection and can be handcrafted to near perfection, doctors told her.
"It was Malala's final decision," Rosser said. She picked the titanium plate.
She will also receive a cochlear implant to restore hearing to her left ear, in which she is currently deaf. The gunfire broke the delicate bones that help turn sound into sensory impulses to the brain.
The device will not allow her to hear completely naturally but will restore enough function to the damaged ear to allow her to hear in three dimensions, which is important for safety. It will allow her, for example, to hear an approaching car, Rosser said.
Watch 'Girl Rising': 9 girls' quest for education
Malala also recently had surgery to reroute a facial nerve that was damaged in the attempt on her life, leaving part the left side of her mouth listless.
"There is a very good chance after this procedure that within a year to 18 months, this will completely recover," Rosser said.
She will then hopefully regain her old smile.
To make the titanium plate, prosthesis maker Stefan Edmondson had the section of Malala's skull with the gap in it reproduced by an object printer.
Then he patched the hole with wax and carved it to fit the shape of her head, Edmondson said, and he used the wax section to give the titanium its form.
As for the skull fragment she has carried inside her since that emergency surgery in Pakistan:
"The bone will be removed from under the skin in her stomach and cleaned up and sterilized and given to Malala," Rosser said.
She wants to keep it as a remembrance.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Deadly skirmishes in the disputed region of Kashmir this month set India and Pakistan back at each other's throats.
Five soldiers were killed in the worst crisis in relations since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But already, tensions are easing as the nuclear neighbours consider the bigger peace process.
The territorial dispute between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region has claimed thousands of lives; and that death toll grew further this month. India even accused Pakistan of beheading one of its soldiers, and there was international concern that the dispute could escalate.
Now, three weeks on, people are once again crossing the border, and trade between the two sides is due to resume on Tuesday.
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between the two nuclear-powered nations, with two wars being fought because of it.
Divided by the 'Line of Control', the problem of Indian-administered Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir remains one of the most intractable of modern times.
Now all the signs are that people living in the territory are tired of the conflict, and desperately hoping for a negotiated peace.
On the diplomatic end, India agreed to resume talks with Pakistan in February 2011. Diplomatic relations had been suspended following the Mumbai attack, which India blamed on Pakistan.
In April 2012, India removed restrictions on foreign direct investment from Pakistan, something that will help ease heavily restricted trade between the two countries.
In October last year, the two sides agreed to ease visa restrictions on travel for some citizens.
And just last week, Islamabad reaffirmed its commitment to give New Delhi the Most Favoured Nation status, another step towards opening trade ties.
But despite confidence-building measures between the two countries, there is no solution in sight over Kashmir.
After the latest incident, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, was driven to say: "After this barbaric act, there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan. What happened at the Line of Control is unacceptable."
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabanni Khar responded by saying: “We see warmongering. It is deeply disturbing to hear statements which are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement.”
So, is Kashmir key to securing peace between India and Pakistan?
To discuss this, Inside Story with presenter Shiulie Ghosh is joined by guests: Commodore Uday Bhaskar, a former Indian naval officer and strategic analyst; Maria Sultan, the director of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute; and Daniel Markey, a senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A Pakistani Muslim cleric has called off a mass protest rally in the capital Islamabad after reaching a deal with the government.
On Thursday, Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri asked his supporters to end the protest on its fourth day after the government agreed to dissolve the parliament before March 16.
“We have reached an agreement… I want to congratulate you on the victory that Allah has granted you. Today is a day of victory for the people of Pakistan. It is a day of victory for all the participants of the long march...We have to end (the sit-in),” Qadri told his supporters.
Earlier this week, he called on his followers to march into the capital to demand a peaceful “revolution” and the dissolution of the parliament.
The cleric is calling for an end to corruption and sweeping reforms to tackle the country’s numerous problems.
Earlier in the day, the head of Pakistan’s anti-corruption bureau defied an order by the Supreme Court to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on corruption charges.
National Accountability Bureau Chairman Fasih Bokhari told the top court that there was not enough evidence to arrest the premier.
Bokhari, who was appointed by President Asif Ali Zardari, said that the investigating officers “were not able to bring incriminating evidence” and instead “relied on oral statements which are not warranted in the court of law.”-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Pakistan has been engulfed in violence as protests organized by a cleric demanding government resignations continue. Meanwhile villagers in the North of the country demand justice following a deadly assault on their settlement that left 15 dead.
Several thousand people took to the streets of north-western Pakistan shouting anti-army slogans and displaying the bodies of 15 local villagers who they claim they were murdered in their homes by the military in an overnight raid.
Around 3,000 protested outside the governor’s house of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Peshawar. They claim that men wearing military uniforms stormed homes and shot the villagers. The protesters called on the army to end its operations in the area. One sign read: "We are also Pakistanis. Don't kill us." The villagers were killed in a tribal region where the Pakistani military has been conducting a campaign against Islamic militants.
The rally recalled a similar protest in the city of Quetta last week where the relatives refused to bury the victims of a bomb attack for four days until the prime minister met their demands and dissolved the local government.
The rally comes as thousands of supporters of a Muslim cleric press on with their anti-government protest for a fourth day in the capital Islamabad. The man in charge of the protests, cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri addressed his supporters in a four-hour speech calling for the removal of the government and denounced the politicians as corrupt thieves, as he accused them of failing to fix severe energy and gas shortages. The cleric wants his followers to continue protesting until the government is dissolved and electoral reforms are introduced.
The 61-year-old Qadri recently returned to Pakistan after years in Canada, quickly establishing himself as a poliical force in his homeland. His success has sparked rumors that he is lobbying the army to delay parliamentary elections later this year in favor of a military-backed caretaker government. He denies the allegations.
The government has warned the demonstrators to leave Islamabad by Thursday or else the security forces will use water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds, said Interior Ministry spokesman, Nawabish Ali Khan.
Later, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said there would be no operation against the protesters, state-run news service reported. The interior minister then withdrew the earlier threat.
The country’s opposition has demanded an immediate timetable for polls. Their leader, Nawaz Sharif, announced that the opposition would not be joining forces with Qadri.
Meanwhile, the security forces have barricaded Pakistan's Parliament with three layers of shipping containers. Qadri has issued a final ultimatum with the prospect of revolution as the failure to comply.
RT caught up with Dr Sreeram Chaulia, professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs, to discuss the meteoric rise of the cleric.
RT: In just a few short months, Dr Qadri rose from relative obscurity to political stardom. How's he managed to do that?
Sreeram Chaulia: Well he has got a lot of media coverage for sure. The media has been acting as the kind of watchdog of the people against the misgovernment and corruption of the ruling Pakistan People Party as well as the student governments which are run by the opposition, the Pakistan Muslim League. So the mainstream parties have been getting flack deservingly for failing people’s expectations both on the economic front and the wars that have been happening there. So suddenly like a meteor, he has risen up. And many people of course have the suspicion that he is being primed by the military establishment in order to further weaken all the civilian parties. That is why he is getting so much billing and being tipped as a savior and a messiah of the country who is anti-system, anti-political parties and he is upholding the common person’s grievances against the establishment.
I think, you know, his message has resonance. He is a televangelist. His brand of Islam, he is a moderate and Sufi. He is a magnetic speaker and a good communicator with the masses. All those areas matter, although frankly speaking in many ways, he is anti-democratic because he has not indicated if he himself will participate to contest the elections and has been demanding all these systemic reforms that mean possibly a delay of elections legislated for the next few months. So all these factors mean that he is a complicated figure and I do not think he should be welcomed outright.
SC: Tahir-ul-Qadri visited India last year and made some relatively pleasant statements which were well received. He talked about the need for peace between the two countries and also for diverting defense expenditure towards the developmental needs of the poor both in Pakistan and India. So he belongs to a sect of moderate Islam. The Sufi sect which also has ties with Northern India, the Barindhi School and all that. So there is a following for the brand of tolerant and open Islam that he espouses.
So in his own ideological way, he is not anti-India. What we are concerned about in India is that he might be opportunistically be riding on the coattails of the military and maybe using unelected undemocratic forces, like the judiciary and the military in order to rise to power. And we know that Pakistan’s history is full of such figures who have taken the help of the military and have later been dissolved by it. So if the military takes over, it means more tensions with India and more problems in Kashmir. There has, in fact, been an uptick in violence, ceasefire and border violations, within the past few months.
RT: Do you think that the government will yield to Qadri's demands, and let in a caretaker government?
SC: Nawaz Sharif, the main opposition leader has called Qadri’s promise of a revolution as more of a storm in a teacup. And my own feeling is that the media and some of the less democratic forces had a hand in fanning Qadri and making him look more menacing and more revolutionary than he really is. But one thing is for sure- the government is under pressure not only from the Qadri but also from the courts.
And I do not think that the courts are acting in tandem with Qadri but what has happened is that the courts had a long running with a civilian government, the existing one of President Zardari. And there it is like a pincer movement on both sides, possibly not coordinated. But what is happening is that it looks like both the mass movement that Qadri is trying to rig up as well as judiciary are seem to be taking cues from each other and timing their blows against the government almost simultaneously, which means the problem for democratic institutions in the long run. And I’m afraid it allows levy for the military to remain the ultimate king maker and the puppeteer behind the shadows, which is not great news for South Asia as a whole, because if Pakistan does not genuinely democratize, we’re in trouble-www.shfaqna.com/English