Eight Pakistani Children, Five Others Killed In Jordan Fire

Ali Akyuz / AFP

 

 

Thirteen Pakistanis including eight children died early Monday when a blaze tore through their corrugated metal home in a rural area of western Jordan, authorities said.

Rescue services said “13 people died and three others were injured when fire broke out in a corrugated metal house” on a farm in South Shona, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Amman.

The makeshift building was home to two Pakistani families working as agricultural labourers, they said in a statement.

Fire service spokesman Iyad al-Omari told state television channel Al-Mamlaka that eight children, four women and a man had died in the blaze at around 2:00 am, which was likely caused by an electrical fault.

Jordan is home to thousands of Pakistanis, many of them agricultural labourers.

House fires in Jordan are often caused by the use of cheap but dangerous forms of heating while the occupants are asleep.

AFP

Pakistan Becomes First Country To Launch New Typhoid Vaccine

Pakistan on the map. Credit: Google Map

 

Pakistan has become the first country in the world to introduce a new typhoid vaccine, officials said Friday, as the country grapples with an ongoing outbreak of a drug-resistant strain of the potentially fatal disease.

The vaccine, approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), will be used during a two-week immunisation campaign in southern Sindh province.

Sindh is where most of Pakistan’s 10,000 cases of typhoid have been documented since 2017.

“The two-week campaign beginning from today would target over 10 million children of nine months to 15 years of age,” Azra Pechuho, the health minister in Sindh province, said in Karachi on Friday.

The new vaccines have been provided by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to the Pakistani government free of cost.

After the two-week campaign, it will be introduced into routine immunisations in Sindh, and in other areas of Pakistan in the coming years.

Pakistan spends a meagre amount of its national resources on public health and a majority of its population remains vulnerable to contagious diseases such as typhoid.

In 2017, 63 percent of the typhoid cases documented and 70 percent of the fatalities were children, according to a joint press release from the Pakistani government, WHO and Gavi.

AFP

Hundreds Of Indian Sikhs Make Historic Pilgrimage To Pakistan

The Shrine of Baba Guru Nanak Dev at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib is seen in Pakistan’s town of Kartarpur near the Indian border on November 8, 2019. A corridor that will allow Sikhs to cross from India into Pakistan to visit one of the religion’s holiest sites is set to open on November 9, with thousands expected to make a pilgrimage interrupted by decades of conflict.
AAMIR QURESHI / AFP

 

Hundreds of Indian Sikhs made a historic pilgrimage to Pakistan on Saturday, crossing through a white gate to reach one of their religion’s holiest sites, after a landmark deal between the two countries separated by the 1947 partition of the subcontinent.

Cheering Sikhs walked joyfully along the road from Dera Baba Nanak in India towards the new immigration hall that would allow them to pass through a secure land corridor into Pakistan, in a rare example of cooperation between the nuclear-armed countries divided by decades of enmity.

Some fathers ran, carrying their children on their shoulders.

Buses were waiting on the Pakistani side to carry them along the corridor to the shrine to Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak, which lies in Kartarpur, a small town just four kilometres (2.5 miles) inside Pakistan where he is believed to have died.

“Generally people say that God is everywhere. But this walk feels like I’m going to directly seek blessings from Guru Nanak,” Surjit Singh Bajwa told AFP as he walked towards the corridor, crying as he spoke.

At 78, he is older than India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars already and nearly ignited a fourth earlier this year.

For up to 30 million Sikhs around the world, the white-domed shrine is one of their holiest sites.

However for Indian Sikhs, it has remained tantalisingly close — so close they could stand at the border and gaze at its four cupolas — but out-of-reach for decades.

When Pakistan was carved out of colonial India at the end of British rule in 1947, Kartarpur ended up on the western side of the border, while most of the region’s Sikhs remained on the other side.

Since then, the perennial state of enmity between India and Pakistan has been a constant barrier to those wanting to visit the temple, known in Sikhism as a gurdwara.

Pilgrims on both sides of the border hoped the corridor might herald a thaw in South Asian tensions.

“When it comes to government-to-government relations, it is all hate and when it comes to people-to-people ties, it’s all love,” one of the Sikh pilgrims, who did not give his name, told Pakistani state TV as he crossed.

Among the first pilgrims was former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who told Pakistani state media that it was a “big moment”.

The opening even inspired a singular message of gratitude from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan for “respecting the sentiments of India”.

For his part, Khan said a day would come “when our relations with India will improve”.

“I am hopeful that this the beginning,” he told the pilgrims at the shrine.

– Sacred land –
For years India had been asking Pakistan to grant Sikhs access to the shrine.

Many believe it has happened now because of the friendship between Khan, a World Cup winning cricketer-turned politician, and India’s Navjot Singh Sidhu — another cricketer-turned-politician.

“When Sidhu asked me to open the border, I kept it in my mind,” Khan told devotees Saturday.

He compared the situation to Muslims being able to see holy sites in Medina, but never visit.

The opening comes just days ahead of the Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday on November 12 — an anniversary of huge significance for the global Sikh community, and which may also have played a role in the timing.

Sikhs from around the world have been arriving in Pakistan ahead of the celebrations for days already.

An estimated 7,000 were at the shrine to hear Khan’s speech, though it was not clear how many had come via the corridor and how many had arrived from elsewhere. Indian officials said just 700 were expected to cross through the corridor Saturday.

Many were emotional, some in tears. Others posed for selfies before a giant gold- and silver-coloured kirpan, the dagger which Sikhs must carry with them at all times as an article of their faith.

The Sikh faith began in the 15th century in Punjab, a region including Kartarpur which is split today between India and Pakistan, when Guru Nanak began teaching a faith that preached equality.

There are an estimated 20,000 Sikhs left in Pakistan after millions fled to India following the bloody religious violence ignited by partition, which sparked the largest mass migration in human history and led to the death of at least one million people.

“Life is short,” said one of the Indian pilgrims, Davinder Singh Wadah.

“Everyone has to go… so why not enjoy life and make this world a heaven, and I think this initiative is the beginning of it.”

Pakistan Mourners Bury Victims Of Train Fire

 

Distraught relatives gathered Friday for the funerals of some of the 74 people killed when fire ripped through a crowded train in Pakistan, with many of the victims residents of a single town.

Sobbing family members crowded a government building in Mirpurkhas overnight as the first bodies covered in white cloth began arriving by ambulance from the scene of the disaster.

After morning prayers, with women watching from nearby rooftops, more than a hundred men attended the first funeral — of a car mechanic named Mohammad Saleem, who was in his late 40s.

It was held at the Bismillah Mosque, from which at least 42 pilgrims had left to board the train one day earlier, bound for a religious festival near Lahore.

According to officials, as some of the passengers cooked breakfast around dawn on Thursday two of their gas cylinders exploded, sending flames racing through three carriages as the train passed near Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab province.

At least 74 people died, some after jumping through windows on the still-moving train to escape the blaze.

Rescue officials found bodies and some injured passengers along a two-kilometre stretch of track, Dawn newspaper reported.

The train was a daily express service that runs between the southern port city of Karachi and Rawalpindi, adjacent to Islamabad.

Trains on that route can reportedly hit speeds of up to 110 kilometres (68 miles) per hour. Local media said that the speed may have helped fan the flames.

Journalists were allowed inside the interior of the carriages early Friday. The fire appeared to have burned them entirely, with virtually no space visible that was not blackened and charred.

One of them — Wagon No.12 — was carrying mainly people from Mirpurkhas, the town’s deputy commissioner, Attaullah Shah, told AFP.

“There was never such a tragic incident to happen to Mirpurkhas,” he said.

Mirpurkhas commissioner Abdul Waheed Sheikh said ten of the bodies had been confirmed as being residents of the town so far.

Twenty-four Mirpurkhas residents were among the injured.

But at least another 45 are still missing, he said.

Officials in Rahim Yar Khan have said many of the bodies are charred beyond recognition and will have to be identified through DNA testing — a process that could take up to one month.

Shah said the government was arranging to send families of the missing from Mirpurkhas to the hospital in Rahim Yar Khan where the bodies have been taken.

 ‘Mistake’ 

Mirpurkhas, a town of some half a million people surrounded by farms and mango orchards, was largely shut down Friday as businesses closed in mourning.

“These were such people that we can not ever forget them,” Mohammad Anwar, the 57-year-old headmaster of a government school, told AFP at the Bismillah Mosque.

He said that among the missing was his nephew, as well as the mosque’s imam. Most of those who left from the mosque had known one another or lived nearby.

Mahmood Iqbal wept outside his home as he told AFP how his two sons were missing, one son-in-law was killed, and one brother-in-law was wounded.

When he looks at his grandsons, he said, he “can’t hold my tears”.

“I am praying to Allah, that they might come back from nowhere. I am waiting for a miracle,” he said.

Yawar Hussain came to the deputy commissioner’s office overnight in the hope of finding his brother Mohsin, 20.

Clutching a photograph of his brother posing in a starched beige shalwar kameez and sunglasses, the 23-year-old described rushing home after hearing of the accident.

“I consoled my father, and my mother and sisters were crying,” he said.

Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment.

Gas cylinders are supposedly banned on trains. Pakistan’s railways minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said Thursday it had been a “mistake” to allow the cylinders on board, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered an inquiry.

But criticism, particularly of Ahmed, was growing as observers said there have been more than 70 railway accidents in the past year, including several major fatal ones.

Sabir Hussain Kaimkhani, a member of the National Assembly’s railways committee, told AFP the accident rate has increased “due to negligence”.

Kaimkhani said that alarm systems and emergency brakes in many trains are missing or broken, and that passenger carriages do not carry fire extinguishers.

Ahmed, who has refused to step down, denies the allegations and says the train in Thursday’s tragedy stopped when someone pulled an emergency brake.

AFP

Over 30 Pakistani Migrants Found In Lorry In France

 

More than 30 migrants from Pakistan have been found hidden in a lorry in southern France, prosecutors said Saturday.

They said the driver, who was also from Pakistan, was detained.

The discovery came after 39 people, all believed to be Vietnamese nationals, were found dead in a refrigerated truck in Britain last month, laying bare again the risks of illegal migrant routes to Europe.

The group of 31 Pakistani migrants was discovered during a routine check on a motorway near the Italian border on Friday, French prosecutors said.

The migrants, who included three teenagers, were handed over to the Italian authorities in accordance with immigration procedures.

“We will try and establish if we can trace it back to a network and backers as we always do in this type of case,” the prosecutors’ office in the southeastern city of Nice said.

AFP

At Least 74 Killed In Pakistan Train Fire

In this handout picture taken and release by Punjab Emergency Service Rescue 1122 on October 31, 2019, residents gather beside the burnt-out train carriages after a passenger train caught on fire near Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province on October 31, 2019.  AFP

 

At least 74 people were killed and dozens injured after cooking gas cylinders exploded on a train packed with pilgrims in Pakistan on Thursday, some dying after leaping from carriages to escape the inferno, authorities said.

Television footage showed flames pouring out of three carriages as people could be heard crying during the incident, in a rural area of central Punjab province.

Some of the passengers — many of whom were pilgrims travelling to one of Pakistan’s biggest religious gatherings — had been cooking breakfast when two of their gas cylinders exploded, Ali Nawaz, a senior Pakistan Railways official, told AFP.

Many Pakistanis carry food on long train journeys, but gas cylinders are supposedly banned. Pakistan’s railways minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed later told reporters that it had been a “mistake” to allow the cylinders on board.

Dozens of people crowded along the tracks staring at the burning carriages, which had been disconnected from the rest of the train, television images showed.

Firefighters rushed to the scene near Rahim Yar Khan district. Rescue workers and soldiers could also be seen, as bodies were carried away covered in white sheets.

“A cylinder exploded and I don’t know how, fire erupted everywhere,” one survivor, Muhammad Imran, told AFP from a hospital in Rahim Yar Khan.

“I jumped out of the train to save my life. There was a whole line of people behind me, they pushed,” he said.

Muhammad Nadeem Zia, a medical superintendent at the hospital in Liaquatpur, the nearest town, told AFP some of the victims were killed by head injuries sustained as they leapt from the moving train. He said at least 44 people had been injured.

Those hurt were being rushed to hospitals in the nearby city of Bahawalpur and elsewhere in Rahim Yar Khan district. Officials said many of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “deeply saddened” by the tragedy and had ordered an urgent inquiry.

 Religious pilgrimage 

Khan said the train was the Tezgam, one of Pakistan’s oldest and most popular rail services, which runs between the southern port city of Karachi to the garrison city of Rawalpindi, neighbouring Islamabad.

It had been diverted to facilitate the religious pilgrims travelling to Lahore.

Passengers were travelling to attend the annual Tablighi Ijtema, one of Pakistan’s biggest religious gatherings, which each year sees up to 400,000 people descend on a tented village outside Lahore for several days to sleep, pray and eat together.

The majority of those killed were pilgrims from southern Sindh province, Nawaz said.

The Tablighi Ijtema, which begins Thursday and concludes on Sunday, was founded by religious scholars more than five decades ago and focuses exclusively on preaching Islam.

It usually sees hundreds of camps and sub-camps set up on the dusty site outside Lahore to accommodate people from across Pakistan, giving the gathering a festival feel.

Stalls sell cooked food, raw chicken and meat, vegetables and fruit, and even electrical appliances and batteries for mobile phones at a subsidised rate.

Railways minister Ahmed said it had been “tradition” for authorities to allow people travelling to the festival to board trains carrying cooking cylinders.

“I admit our mistake… this will not happen in the future,” he told journalists in televised comments from the nearby city of Multan.

“A tragedy that could have been avoided but ever since I can recall while travelling by train no baggage check or restrictions enforced,” human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeted.

‘Could have been avoided’ 

Nawaz said two of the carriages were economy coaches, while one was business class, and that up to 88 passengers can fit into each.

Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment.

In July, at least 23 people were killed in the same district when a passenger train coming from the eastern city of Lahore rammed into a goods train that had stopped at a crossing.

Accidents often happen at unmanned crossings, which frequently lack barriers and sometimes signals.

AFP

Over 65 Persons Killed After Gas Cylinder Explodes On Train

Rescue workers gather beside the burnt-out train carriages after a passenger train caught fire near Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province on October 31, 2019. At least 65 people were killed and dozens wounded after a passenger train erupted in flames in central Pakistan on October 31, a provincial minister said. PHOTO: RAHIM YAR KHAN, PAKISTAN/AFP

 

At least 65 people were killed and dozens injured after cooking gas cylinders exploded on a train packed with pilgrims in Pakistan on Thursday, some dying after leaping from carriages to escape the inferno, authorities said.

Television footage showed flames pouring out of three carriages as people could be heard crying during the incident, in a rural area of central Punjab province.

Some of the passengers — many of whom were pilgrims travelling to one of Pakistan’s biggest annual religious gatherings — had been cooking breakfast when two of their gas cylinders exploded, Ali Nawaz, a senior Pakistan Railways official, told AFP.

Many Pakistanis carry food on long train journeys, but gas cylinders are banned, and Nawaz said an inquiry had been ordered.

Dozens of people crowded along the tracks staring at the burning carriages, which had been disconnected from the rest of the train, television images showed.

Firefighters later rushed to the scene near Rahim Yar Khan district, extinguishing the blaze. Rescue workers and the army could also be seen, as bodies were carried away covered in white sheets.

“According to information reaching us from the site of the accident, more than 65 people were killed and over 40 injured,” provincial health minister Yasmin Rashid told AFP.

Muhammad Nadeem Zia told AFP that some of the dead were killed by head injuries sustained as they leap from the moving train.

The wounded were being rushed to hospitals in the nearby city of Bahawalpur and elsewhere in Rahim Yar Khan district. Officials said many of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.

“Deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy… My condolences go to the victim’s families & prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured,” tweeted Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“I have ordered an immediate inquiry to be completed on an urgent basis.”

Religious pilgrimage

Khan said the train was the Tezgam, one of Pakistan’s oldest and most popular rail services, which runs between the southern port city of Karachi to the garrison city of Rawalpindi, next to Islamabad.

But the railways official Nawaz said it had been diverted to facilitate religious pilgrims travelling to Lahore.

They were going to attend the annual Tablighi Ijtema, one of Pakistan’s biggest religious gatherings, which sees up to 400,000 people descend on a tented village outside Lahore each year for several days to sleep, say prayers and eat together.

The majority of those killed were pilgrims from southern Sindh province, he said.

The Tablighi Ijtema was founded by religious scholars more than five decades ago and focuses exclusively on preaching Islam.

It usually sees hundreds of camps and sub-camps set up on the dusty site outside Lahore to accommodate people from across Pakistan, giving the gathering a festival feel.

Stalls sell cooked food, raw chicken and meat, vegetables and fruit, even electrical appliances and batteries for mobile phones at a subsidised rate.

 ‘Could have been avoided’

Nawaz said two of the carriages were economy coaches, while one was business class, and that up to 88 passengers can fit into each carriage.

“A tragedy that could have been avoided but ever since I can recall while travelling by train no baggage check or restrictions enforced,” human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeted.

Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment.

In July, at least 23 people were killed in the same district when a passenger train coming from the eastern city of Lahore rammed into a goods train that had stopped at a crossing.

Accidents often happen at unmanned crossings, which frequently lack barriers and sometimes signals.

Rural Punjab has witnessed several gruesome accidents over the years, including an oil tanker explosion in 2017 which killed more than 200 people.

The tanker crashed on a main highway. Minutes later it exploded, sending a fireball through crowds who had gathered to scavenge for the spilled fuel.

AFP

India To Build Solar, Wind Farms Along Pakistan Border

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he speacks during a plenary session on the occasion of the ‘World Environment day’ in New Delhi on June 5, 2018. Money SHARMA / AFP

 

India plans to build a string of renewable energy projects along its sun-baked, wind-whipped western border, officials said Monday, as New Delhi continues an ambitious programme to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Mired in an economic slowdown, the government has tripled spending over the last three years as part of its push to cut down the use of oil and coal.

“We are studying land feasibility and have identified projects worth 30 gigawatt capacity for Gujarat and 25 gigawatt capacity for Rajasthan,” Anand Kumar, new and renewable energy secretary, told AFP.

The government had zeroed in on barren desert areas in a bid to avoid using agricultural land, he said, adding the sunny and windy region was ideally suited to renewable energy facilities.

Work on the projects would begin roughly 18 months after approval from the defence ministry and following land feasibility studies, he said.

“These projects will help reduce India’s carbon footprint and adhere to promises made at the 2015 Paris agreement,” Kumar said.

India currently harnesses 23 percent of its total power from renewable sources, including solar and wind.

R.K. Singh, minister for power and renewable energy, told parliament in July that India’s capacity had crossed 80 gigawatts and was on track to reach 175 gigawatts in three years’ time, as pledged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

However, private investment in the renewable sector remains low, and the government has found securing land for projects difficult.

Renewable energy projects are not feasible in agricultural or forest lands, said Amit Bhandari of Mumbai-based think tank Gateway House.

“Since most of these western border areas are wastelands or semi-desert, they are perfect for setting up these projects,” he told AFP.

Meanwhile, investment in fossil fuel-based energy sources continues to rise in the South Asian nation, with both French energy giant Total and Saudi Arabia’s Aramco buying stakes in Indian companies.

AFP

Prince William, Wife Begin Pakistan Tour

Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge unveils the plaques as he officially opens the new graduate building, the H B Allen Centre, at Keble College, Oxford University in Oxford, central England on October 3, 2019. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / POOL / AFP

 

Prince William and his wife Kate arrived in Pakistan to a red carpet welcome late Monday for their “most complex” tour to date, with Islamabad eager to tout improved security after years of violent militancy.

The couple — the Duchess of Cambridge in a sea-green shalwar kameez, and the Duke in a dark suit — were greeted by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and presented with flowers after they landed in a British government plane at a military base in Rawalpindi, the garrison city adjacent to the capital Islamabad, state television images showed.

Details of the five-day visit are being kept under wraps. Security is expected to be tight for the couple’s first official trip to Pakistan, and the first visit by a British royal since William’s father Charles and his wife Camilla came in 2006.

In addition to Islamabad they are set to visit the ancient Mughal capital of Lahore, as well as the mountainous north and the region near the border with Afghanistan in the west.

Kensington Palace has called the trip “the most complex tour undertaken by The Duke and Duchess to date, given the logistical and security considerations”.

The couple are also expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was close friends with William’s mother, the late Princess Diana.

“I’ve always been struck by the warmth in Pakistan towards the Royal Family,” British High Commissioner Thomas Drew said in a video published to Twitter late Sunday.

The couple’s programme will pay respect to Britain’s historic relationship with Pakistan, once part of colonial India, he said.

“But it will focus largely on showcasing Pakistan as it is today, a dynamic, aspirational, and forward-looking nation,” Drew continued.

They are expected to see Pakistan’s efforts to combat climate change and learn about the “complex security” of the region, among other issues, a statement from Kensington Palace said earlier this month.

Pakistan has waged a long battle with militancy which has seen tens of thousands of people killed in the past 15 or so years.

Charles’ and Camilla’s 2006 trip was tainted when they were forced to pull out of a visit to Peshawar over safety concerns after the military launched an airstrike on a religious school that killed 80 people.

Diana held in ‘high esteem’ 

But security has improved dramatically since the army intensified a crackdown on militant groups in 2015, with several countries changing their travel warnings for Pakistan as a result, and Islamabad eager to promote both tourism and foreign investment.

There are promising signs, such as the British Airways return earlier this year after more than a decade, and the slow but steady revival of international cricket.

Analysts have long warned that Pakistan is not yet getting to the root causes of extremism, however, and militants retain the ability to carry out attacks, including in urban areas.

Moments before the couple’s arrival Monday, Qureshi used televised comments to invoke the memory of Diana, who charmed Pakistanis when she visited in her official capacity in 1991.

She also made several private visits in later years to help Khan — then a cricketer-turned-opposition politician married to her friend Jemima — raise money for a cancer hospital in Lahore.

“She is held in very high esteem in Pakistan… We are happy that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are now coming,” Qureshi said.

The visit showed that Pakistan has come out of “difficult times”, he added.

Pakistan was carved out of colonial India to become independent from Britain in 1947, creating an Islamic Republic for the subcontinent’s Muslims.

Britain is home to more than a million people of Pakistani origin, making it the largest Pakistani diaspora community in Europe.

Pakistan’s Khan Visits Iran As Tensions Rise In Gulf

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on October 13, 2019, shows President Hassan Rouhani (R) shaking hands with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Iranian capital Tehran. Iranian Presidency / AFP

 

 

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Iran on Sunday following a request from the United States and Saudi Arabia for him to try to defuse rising tensions in the Gulf.

Khan’s office said his visit was part of an initiative “to promote peace and security in the region”, and that he would hold talks with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

Khan landed in Tehran and was greeted at the airport by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before going into a meeting with Rouhani, an AFP correspondent reported.

READ ALSO: Turkey Assault Could Displace 400,000 In Syria, Says UN

It is his second visit this year to Iran, which shares a border of about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) with Pakistan.

Last week, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign office said Khan was also expected to travel to Saudi Arabia, without providing further details.

Khan said last month that both the United States and Saudi Arabia had asked him to mediate with Iran to calm tensions in the Gulf.

There has been a spate of still-unexplained attacks on shipping in and around the vital seaway involving Iran and Western powers, as well as drone attacks on Saudi oil installations.

Washington accused Tehran of attacking the vessels with mines and of being behind the drone assault, something it strongly denies.

Pakistan has strong relations with Saudi Arabia, with more than 2.5 million of its nationals living and working in the kingdom.

But it also maintains good relations with Iran and represents Tehran’s consular interests in the United States.

Khan met both Rouhani and US President Donald Trump at the United Nations General Assembly last month, shortly after he visited Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said the day before Khan’s arrival that Tehran was ready to talk with Riyadh.

“Iran has repeatedly announced that it is ready to negotiate with its neighbours including Saudi Arabia to solve any misunderstandings with our without a mediator,” Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

India Planning ‘Bloodbath’ In Kashmir, Pakistan’s Khan Tells UN

 

India is planning a “bloodbath” in Kashmir, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

The Indian-controlled part of the disputed territory has been under lockdown since New Delhi scrapped its semi-autonomous status in early August, and Khan said armed forces there would turn on the population after the curfew was lifted.

“There are 900,000 troops there, they haven’t come to, as Narendra Modi says — for the prosperity of Kashmir… These 900,000 troops, what are they going to do? When they come out? There will be a bloodbath,” he said.

Earthquake Kills 19, Injures Dozens In Pakistan

A news cameraman films a damaged road following an earthquake on the outskirts of Mirpur on September 24, 2019.  AAMIR QURESHI / AFP

 

At least 19 people have been killed and 300 wounded after a shallow earthquake rattled north-eastern Pakistan, a senior police officer said, with the tremor tearing car-sized cracks into roads and heavily damaging infrastructure.

The quake sent people in cities across the country running into the streets, as cars near the epicentre were wedged in between massive cracks that ripped apart roads while other vehicles were upended by the tremor.

The epicentre of the 5.2-magnitude quake was near the Kashmiri city of Mirpur, roughly 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Jhelum in agricultural Punjab province, according to data released by the US Geological Survey.

On one of the district’s two main roads, AFP reporters could see cracks at least four feet deep, some filling with water from a nearby canal.

Ambulances could be seen, but Pakistani troops were preventing further travel. The military deployed “aviation and medical support” teams along with troops to affected areas in Kashmir, according to its spokesman.

Television footage showed cars trapped in some of the cracks, as well as a bus and a truck lying on their sides at the road’s edge.

“At least 19 people have been killed and more than 300 wounded,” said Sardar Gulfaraz, deputy inspector general of police in Mirpur, in televised comments.

However, the chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority gave a lower toll at a press conference in Islamabad.

“I can confirm 10 deaths and the number of wounded is 100,” chairman Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal said, adding that he had received reports of a higher toll.

“Things are under control,” he said, adding that the nearby Mangla Dam, one of Pakistan’s two main water reservoirs, was unaffected by the quake.

The prime minister of Pakistani Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider Khan, told reporters that infrastructure had been “destroyed”.

Roads, mobile phone towers, and electricity poles in the area were badly damaged, Naeem Chughtai, a Mirpur resident living near the city’s main hospital, told AFP.

Witnesses Sajjad Jarral and Qazi Tahir, who spoke to AFP by telephone from Mirpur, said the quake had caused a building to collapse.

‘So anxious’

Mirpur, a city known for its palatial houses, has strong ties to Britain with the majority of its 450,000 residents carrying both British and Pakistani passports.

A spokeswoman at the British High Commission told AFP they were monitoring the reports, while the US embassy offered its sympathies to those affected via Twitter.

Tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, with the Press Trust of India reporting that panicked people rushed out of their homes and offices in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana.

“The earthquake was felt but there are no reports of any damage,” Amir Ali, from the disaster management department in Indian-administered Kashmir, told AFP.

With Indian-held Kashmir’s mobile and internet services mostly cut off after the region’s autonomy was stripped by New Delhi in early August, people used social media to express fears about not being able to get in touch with their families in the valley.

“Dear @AmitShah (Home Affairs Minister) please restore mobile services in Kashmir I do not know any update since Aug 5 about my family. We are now feeling so anxious about our family in aftermath of Earthquake,” Faizan Peer tweeted.

Pakistan straddles part of the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.

In October 2015, a 7.5-magnitude quake in Pakistan and Afghanistan killed almost 400 people, flattening buildings in rugged terrain that impeded relief efforts.

The country was also hit by a 7.6-magnitude quake on October 8, 2005, that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

AFP