Four Killed In Pakistan Suicide Blast Near Afghan Border – Police

Pakistan map

 

Four Pakistani paramilitary guards were killed Sunday when a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in the southwestern city of Quetta, police said.

The bomber targeted Frontier Constabulary guards in the Mian Ghundi neighbourhood of the city — around 140 kilometers (87 miles) from the frontier with Afghanistan — where Hazara Shiite merchants were trading vegetables.

Three died immediately in the blast, with another officer dying later of his wounds, said Azhar Akram, a deputy inspector general of police.

Akram told AFP that 17 guards and two civilians were wounded in the blast. Three are in a critical condition, he said.

A spokesman for the police’s Counter-Terrorism Department confirmed the attack.

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Quetta is home to approximately 500,000 Hazaras, who mostly live in an ethnic enclave on the edge of the city.

The community has long been targeted by the Islamic State and other militant Sunni groups, who see them as a heretical sect.

A series of bombings carried out by a Pakistani sectarian militant group in 2013 killed over 200 Hazaras in the city.

Frontier guards have also been targeted by Baloch insurgents, who have been waging a simmering insurgency for greater autonomy.

AFP

Factory Fire Kills 16 In Pakistan’s Karachi

At least 16 people were killed in a fire that erupted in a chemical factory in the Mehran Town Korangi area of Karachi on Friday.

 

 

At least 16 workers died and more were missing after a factory fire in Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi on Friday, police said.

More than 25 labourers were inside the small factory in a residential area of the port city when the blaze broke out, causing it to fill with thick smoke.

“We have recovered 16 bodies so far,” senior police officer Shahjehan Khan told AFP.

“We are trying to recover more stranded people but I fear they might not make it out,” Khan said, adding the factory had no proper fire exits.

“The stairs leading to the roof were locked, otherwise the labourers could have survived by running to the rooftop,” Khan said.

Karachi city administrator Murtaza Wahab also said there was no safe exit for the workers.

Poor industrial laws and building codes in Pakistan mean factory blazes are frequent.

In 2012 at least 250 labourers for a garment factory died in Baldia Town in western Karachi when a fire engulfed the facility and there was no fire escape.

China Calls For Probe Into Pakistan Bus ‘Bombing’ Killing Its Nationals

People stand next to a wreck after a bus plunged into a ravine following a bomb attack, which killed 12 people including 9 Chinese workers, in Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on July 14, 2021.
AFP

 

Beijing said nine Chinese workers were among 12 people killed Wednesday by a bomb attack on a bus in northwestern Pakistan and called for severe punishment, but Islamabad blamed the explosion on a “gas leak”.

The bus was carrying around 40 Chinese engineers, surveyors and mechanical staff to a hydropower dam construction site in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Islamabad is Beijing’s closest regional ally, but the security of Chinese workers has long been of concern in Pakistan.

Large numbers of them are based in the country to supervise and build infrastructure projects.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry in a statement said the bus “plunged into a ravine after a mechanical failure, resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast”.

Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian expressed his “shock and condemnation over the bombing”.

He urged Pakistan to “severely punish” those responsible and “earnestly protect” Chinese nationals and projects.

The Chinese embassy in Islamabad also earlier said its nationals had come under “attack”.

Both countries said nine Chinese workers and three Pakistanis had died in the disaster which happened at around 7 am.

Arif Khan Yousafzai, a senior government official in Kohistan district where the blast happened, said around 28 people were also injured.

They were airlifted to hospital by the military, officials said.

Pakistan authorities said an investigation was under way.

Construction of the Dasu dam on the Indus River began in 2017 and was scheduled to be built within five years, according to the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority.

In April, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide blast at a luxury hotel hosting the Chinese ambassador, who was unhurt, in southwest Balochistan.

The group has recently claimed a string of attacks — not only in Pakistan’s restive tribal areas along the Afghanistan border, but also in the country’s cities, including the capital, Islamabad.

Beijing has poured billions of dollars into Pakistan in recent years to boost the country’s infrastructure.

But Chinese-funded projects have sparked resentment, particularly among separatist groups, who say locals see little benefit, with most jobs going to outsiders.

In 2019, gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Balochistan overlooking a flagship Chinese-backed project — the deep-water seaport in Gwadar that gives strategic access to the Arabian Sea — killing at least eight people.

And in June 2000, Baloch insurgents targeted the Pakistan Stock Exchange, which is partly owned by Chinese companies, in the commercial capital of Karachi.

 

At Least 43 Killed In Pakistan Express Train Collision

Security personnel carry out rescue operations as belongings of trains crash victims are seen near the site of a train accident in Daharki area of the northern Sindh province on June 7, 2021, as at least 43 people were killed and dozens injured when a packed Pakistani inter-city train ploughed into another express that had derailed just minutes earlier, officials said. Shahid Saeed MIRZA / AFP

 

At least 43 people were killed and dozens injured Monday when a packed Pakistani inter-city train ploughed into another express that had derailed just minutes earlier, officials said.

Several people were trapped for hours in the mangled wreckage left by the collision near Daharki, in a remote part of rural Sindh province, before rescue workers with specialist equipment could reach them.

Huge crowds from nearby villages gathered around the carnage of the overturned Pakistan Railways carriages, with twisted and shredded metal scattered across the ground, along with piles of luggage.

On Monday evening army and civil engineers led a mass effort to clear and repair the tracks, with one official saying they hoped the line would be open by midnight.

The double accident happened around 3.30am (22:30 GMT) when most of the 1,200 passengers aboard the two trains would have been dozing.

“We tumbled upon each other, but that was not so fatal,” Akhtar Rajput, a passenger on the train that derailed, told AFP.

“Then another train hit us from nowhere, and that hit us harder. When I regained my senses, I saw passengers lying around me, some were trying to get out of the coach.”

“I was disoriented and trying to figure out what happened to us when the other train hit,” Shahid, another passenger, told AFP.

The Millat Express was heading from Karachi to Lala Musa when it derailed, its carriages strewn over the tracks as the Sir Syed Express from Rawalpindi arrived minutes later in the opposite direction, smashing into it.

Most of the dead were pulled from the derailed train, officials said.

Umar Tufail, a senior Daharki police officer, said 43 people were killed and dozens injured.

A spokesman for Pakistan Railways put the toll at 33, but communications with the crash site were difficult because its remote location.

One rescue worker described having to stand on top of his vehicle to get a phone signal.

Local farmers and villagers were the first to join passengers in trying to pull survivors from the crumpled carriages, reaching into broken windows and roof hatches.

A clip aired on a local channel showed medics giving an intravenous drip to a conscious passenger whose lower torso was trapped between crushed carriage benches.

The dead were laid out in rows on train seat benches and covered in traditional scarves.

Communication Problems

The accident happened on a raised section of track surrounded by lush farmlands.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, a former railways minister, said the track where the accident occurred was built in the 1880s and described it as “a shambles”.

Current minister Azam Swati described the section of railway as “really dangerous”, but said authorities had been waiting to upgrade the network with funding from the multi-billion dollar China–Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

“In case there is a delay (with funding), we will rebuild this track with our own money,” he said.

The Pakistan army and paramilitary rangers from nearby bases were at the site to help.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “shocked” by the accident and promised a full inquiry.

Gul Mohammad, who works with the Edhi Foundation ambulance service, said communication problems were hindering the coordination of the rescue efforts.

“I am talking to you as I stand on the rooftop of my ambulance for better signal,” he told AFP.

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

The majority of train passengers in Pakistan are working-class people who cannot afford the quicker bus journeys.

More than 300 people were killed and 700 injured in 1990 when an overloaded 16-carriage inter-city train crashed into a stationary freight train near the city of Sukkur in Sindh.

More recently, at least 75 people died when a train caught fire while travelling from Karachi to Rawalpindi in October 2019.

The rest of the transport sector does not fare much better, with two major passenger plane crashes in the past five years and thousands of road accidents.

France Advises Citizens To Leave Pakistan

Policemen detain a supporter of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party during a protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Rawalpindi on April 14, 2021.  AFP
Policemen detain a supporter of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party during a protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Rawalpindi on April 14, 2021. AFP

 

The French embassy in Pakistan on Thursday advised all French nationals and companies to temporarily leave the country, after violent anti-France protests paralysed large parts of the country this week. 

“Due to the serious threats to French interests in Pakistan, French nationals and French companies are advised to temporarily leave the country,” the embassy said in an email to French citizens.

“The departures will be carried out by existing commercial airlines.”

Anti-French sentiment has been simmering for months in Pakistan since the government of President Emmanuel Macron expressed support for a magazine’s right to republish cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed — deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.

On Wednesday, the Pakistani government moved to ban an extremist political party whose leader had called for the expulsion of the French ambassador.

Saad Rizvi, leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was detained hours after making his demands, bringing thousands of his supporters to the streets in cities across Pakistan.

Two police officers died in the clashes, which saw water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets used to hold back crowds.

The TLP are notorious for holding days-long, violent road protests over blasphemy issues, causing major disruption to the country.

But successive governments have a long history of avoiding confrontation with hardline Islamist groups, fearing any crackdown on religious parties could spark wider violence in the deeply conservative Islamic republic.

“We are in favour of protecting the Prophet’s honour, but the demand which they are seeking could have portrayed Pakistan as a radical nation worldwide,” Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a news conference on Wednesday.

Macron’s comments in September triggered anger across the Muslim world, with tens of thousands in Pakistan, neighboring Iran and other Muslim countries flooding the streets and organizing anti-French boycotts.

TLP supporters brought the capital Islamabad to a standstill at the time.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Pakistan, where laws allow for the death penalty to be used on anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures.

On Twitter, the hashtag “#FrenchLeavePakistan” was trending with 42,000 tweets as of Thursday afternoon.

Weeks after satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo republished the cartoons, its former offices in Paris were attacked by a Pakistani man who stabbed two people.

At the time, Prime Minister Imran Khan accused the French president of attacking the Muslim faith and urged Islamic countries to work together to counter what he called growing repression in Europe.

In an address to the United Nations, Khan, a populist leader who has been known to play to Pakistan’s hardline religious base, blasted Charlie Hebdo for re-publishing the cartoons, saying “wilful provocations” should be “universally outlawed”.

 

AFP

Pakistan Lifts TikTok Ban For Second Time

In this file photo illustration taken on November 21, 2019, the logo of the social media video-sharing app Tiktok is displayed on a tablet screen in Paris. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Pakistan on Thursday lifted a second ban imposed on TikTok over “immoral and unethical” content after the video-sharing app again offered to moderate uploads.

A court in the northwestern city of Peshawar last month ordered the communications regulator to block the app over videos that it deemed contrary to the deeply conservative country’s moral values.

“The app has assured us it will filter and moderate content,” Jahanzeb Mehsud, a lawyer for Pakistan Telecommunications Agency, told AFP.

The Chinese-owned platform — wildly popular among Pakistani youth, particularly in rural areas — had also agreed to moderate content after the first brief ban in October.

One of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s advisers has previously blamed it for promoting the “exploitation, objectification and sexualisation” of young girls.

TikTok welcomed the removal of the ban.

Freedom of speech advocates have long criticised the creeping government censorship and control of Pakistan’s internet and printed and electronic media.

Last year Pakistani regulators had asked YouTube to immediately block all videos they consider “objectionable” from being accessed in the country, a demand criticised by rights campaigners.

 

AFP

Pakistan PM Imran Khan Tests Positive For COVID-19

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the legislative assembly in Muzaffarabad. AFP

 

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has tested positive for Covid-19, his office said Saturday, just two days after he was vaccinated against the disease.

The diagnosis comes as the country grapples with a deadly third wave of a virus that has already killed nearly 13,800 people from more than 620,000 infections — although limited testing suggests real figures are likely much higher.

“At this point, the prime minister’s office can only confirm that the honourable prime minister has tested positive for Covid-19 and has self-isolated,” his office said.

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The 68-year-old received a shot of the Chinese-produced Sinopharm vaccine on Thursday — one of over a million doses donated to Pakistan by Beijing.

Earlier Saturday, Khan’s adviser on health said the increase in positive virus cases over the past few days was “an alarming situation”.

The impoverished nation of 220 million has largely avoided the kind of major lockdowns seen in other countries, instead opting for “smart” containment policies which see neighbourhoods closed off for short periods.

Soon after the pandemic started Khan told the nation in an address not to panic, saying “97 per cent of patients fully recover”, but he chided citizens just months later warning: “People are not taking it seriously.”

AFP

Pakistan Blocks TikTok After Court Ban For Immoral Content

A photo taken on December 14, 2018 in Paris shows the logo of the application TikTok. - TikTok, is a Chinese short-form video-sharing app, which has proved wildly popular this year. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)
A photo taken on December 14, 2018 in Paris shows the logo of the application TikTok. – TikTok, is a Chinese short-form video-sharing app, which has proved wildly popular this year. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

 

Pakistan has blocked video sharing app TikTok for a second time, after a court ordered the platform shut down over “unethical and immoral content”.

Wildly popular among young Pakistanis, the Chinese-owned app was briefly banned last year on the same grounds by the ultra conservative Islamic country’s telecommunications agency.

“Pakistan Telecom Authority(PTA) has issued directions to the service providers to immediately block access to the TikTok app,” it said Thursday following the court order earlier in the day.

The app has previously been blamed by one of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s advisers for promoting the “exploitation, objectification & sexualization” of young girls.

Peshawar High Court, in the country’s northwest, ordered the app to be banned immediately over videos “contrary to ethical standards and moral values of Pakistan,” Sara Ali Khan, the lawyer who sought the ban, told AFP.

The app was not accessible in Pakistan on Thursday evening.

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TikTok said it had “strong safeguards in place to keep inappropriate content off the platform”.

Freedom of speech advocates have long criticised the creeping government censorship and control of Pakistan’s internet and printed and electronic media.

Last year Pakistani regulators had asked YouTube to immediately block all videos they consider “objectionable” from being accessed in the country, a demand criticised by rights campaigners.

US officials have accused TikTok of being a national security risk, but in Pakistan — a close ally of China — no privacy concerns have been raised.

Neighboring India has already banned the app, along with dozens of other Chinese mobile platforms.

AFP

Gunmen Kill Four Female Aid Workers In Pakistan

Map of Pakistan

Four female aid workers were gunned down Monday in a restive part of northwestern Pakistan, police said, as a fresh wave of extremist violence rattles the Afghan borderlands.

The aid workers were ambushed by two gunmen as they were driving through a village in North Waziristan district, according to local police chief Shafiullah Gandapur, who said just one passenger survived the assault.

“No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far but it was surely an act of terrorism,” he told AFP.

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Gandapur said the aid workers were affiliated with a programme run by a local institute to develop household skills for women.

The incident and death toll was confirmed by Rasul Khan, another local police official.

The so-called tribal areas along the Afghan border remain notorious for the availability of cheap guns, drugs, and smuggled goods.

The region was once home to a wide array of jihadist groups and was a focal point in the global war on terror.

Attacks have decreased in recent years following a series of military offensives against homegrown and foreign militants.

In 2014, the army launched a massive operation to wipe out militant bases in North Waziristan aimed at ending a near-decade-long insurgency that cost thousands of lives.

But militant groups are still able to carry out sporadic, isolated assaults.

A recent surge in attacks targeting security forces along the Afghan border has sparked fears that jihadist groups may be regrouping.

AFP

China To Donate 500,000 COVID-19 Vaccines To Pakistan

Covid-19 vaccines provided by Beijing Bio are stored in the refrigerator at Jiading Stadium, a temporary vaccination site in Shanghai on January 19, 2021. (Photo by Jessica YANG / AFP)

 

China will donate 500,000 doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan, the country’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Thursday.

It comes as the number of coronavirus cases surged to 527,146 in Pakistan, with over 11,000 deaths since the virus was first detected in February last year.

“Pakistan greatly appreciates the 500,000 doses of the vaccine gifted by China,” foreign minister Qureshi tweeted.

The news follows similar announcements from other nations in the region — the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar have all announced they were set to receive vaccine donations from Beijing.

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Qureshi had earlier told reporters: “China has assured us that the first shipment of half a million doses will be free of cost and will arrive by end of January”.

Beijing also promised to send another one million doses by end of February, he said, adding that emergency use and authorisation of the SinoPharm vaccine had been approved in Pakistan.

For years, China has focused much of its attention in Pakistan on mammoth development projects, bankrolling the construction of roads, power plants and a strategic port.

Beijing has also recently tapped Islamabad — one of its closest allies — to participate in the vaccine trials, despite the country’s chequered history with inoculation campaigns.

Pakistan Suspends Power Plant Staff After Nationwide Blackout

A technician of the private power K-Electric company repairs an electric line at a residential area a day after the country’s power blackout in the Pakistan’s port city of Karachi on January 11, 2021. – (Photo by Asif HASSAN / AFP)

 

Seven staff at one of Pakistan’s biggest power plants have been suspended after a technical fault sparked a massive grid breakdown at the weekend, plunging the entire country into darkness.

The blackout hit all of Pakistan’s major cities, including the capital Islamabad, economic hub Karachi and the second-largest city Lahore, lasting around 18 hours in most areas.

The employees at Guddu thermal power plant in Sindh province were suspended “on account of the negligence of duty”, according to the Central Power Generation Company, which operates the facility.

Guddu plant, built in the 1980s, is one of the country’s largest and generates power from furnace oil and natural gas.

The suspended staff included a manager and six junior employees.

READ ALSO: Pakistan Hit By Nationwide Power Blackout

The blackout, which started shortly before midnight on Saturday, was caused by an engineering fault which tripped the system and caused power plants across the country to shut down.

Pakistan’s electricity supply system is a complex and delicate web, and a problem in one section of the grid can lead to cascading breakdowns countrywide.

There were no reports of disruption at hospitals, however, which often rely on backup generators.

The outage marked Pakistan’s second major power breakdown in less than three years.

In May 2018, power was partially disrupted for more than nine hours, while in 2015 an apparent rebel attack on a key supply line plunged around 80 percent of the country into darkness.

Pakistan Hit By Nationwide Power Blackout

A general view shows Pakistan’s port city of Karachi during a power blackout early on January 10, 2021. (Photo by Asif HASSAN / AFP)

 

Power was gradually being restored to major cities across Pakistan Sunday after it was hit by a massive electricity blackout, officials said.

The electricity distribution system in the nation of more than 210 million people is a complex and delicate web, and a problem in one section of the grid can lead to cascading breakdowns countrywide.

The latest blackout was caused by “an engineering fault” in southern Pakistan at 11:41 pm local time on Saturday (1841 GMT), which tripped the system and caused power plants to shut down, power minister Omar Ayub Khan told a press conference in Islamabad.

“Our experts are trying to determine the exact location of the fault.”

Khan said that will take “another few hours as the area is still covered in dense fog”, but that power had been partially restored in most areas of Punjab, the most populous province, as well as the economic hub Karachi in the south.

“We hope to bring the system back to its full capacity by this evening, but it will take some time for nuclear and thermal power plants to get operational,” Khan tweeted.

People were cracking jokes and exchanging memes on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, mostly ridiculing Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government and its performance after the breakdown.

“Power breakdown in Pakistan is blackmailing Imran Khan,” tweeted Musarrat Ahmedzeb in reference to the premier’s recent statement accusing Shiite protesters of blackmailing him after killing of 10 miners.

“What a start for the new year… let us seek Allah the Almighty’s mercy,” read another tweet, while a message on WhatsApp said: “new Pakistan sleeps in a night mode”.

There were no immediate reports of disruption at hospitals, which often rely on back-up generators.

Netblocks, which monitors internet outages, said web connectivity in the country “collapsed” as a result of the blackout.

Connectivity was at “62 percent of ordinary levels”, it said in a tweet.

This was Pakistan’s second major power breakdown in less than three years. In May 2018, power was partially disrupted for more than nine hours.

In 2015, an apparent rebel attack on a key power line plunged around 80 percent of Pakistan into darkness.

That blackout, one of the worst in Pakistan’s history, caused electricity to be cut in major cities nationwide, including Islamabad, and even affected one of the country’s international airports.