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

Two Killed In Kashmir As Trump Offers To Mediate

 

A suspected militant and a policeman were killed in the first gun battle since New Delhi stripped Indian Kashmir of its autonomy, police said Wednesday after US President Donald Trump offered to mediate the “explosive” situation.

In a further sign of rising tensions, Pakistan said meanwhile that three of its civilians died in Indian gunfire from across the de-facto border in Kashmir known as the Line of Control (LoC).

The Press Trust of India news agency quoted officials as saying one Indian soldier died and four were wounded when Pakistani troops opened fire on forward posts and villages along the LoC in the Poonch district on Tuesday.

Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and the situation in Kashmir, divided between them since 1947, is further complicated by the fact that China also claims part of the Himalayan region.

READ ALSO: US Asks India To Free Detainees, Restore Rights In Kashmir

Trump — who has previously spoken of his willingness to mediate — said he would raise the situation over the weekend with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both men are expected in France for a summit of the Group of Seven industrialised nations.

“Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have Hindus and you have the Muslims and I wouldn’t say they get along so great,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“I will do the best I can to mediate,” he added.

At least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-controlled Kashmir, according to security and government sources, since early August when authorities imposed a communications blackout and restricted freedom of movement in the region.

Highlighting the growing international concern, a senior US official, who has just returned from a visit to the region, called on India Tuesday to quickly release detainees and restore basic liberties.

“We continue to be very concerned by reports of detentions, and continued restrictions on the residents of the region,” the State Department official told reporters.

“We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures and an inclusive dialogue,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Officials in France said that President Emmanuel Macron would bring up Kashmir with Modi when the two meet in Paris ahead of the G7 summit.

Johnson speaks to Modi

Earlier this year India and Pakistan again came close to all-out conflict over the region after a militant attack in Indian-held Kashmir in February was claimed by a group based in Pakistan, sparking tit-for-tat air strikes.

India has bristled at any suggestion of foreign mediation and strenuously denied a claim by Trump last month that Modi had invited him to act a peacebroker.

It was also left seething when the UN Security Council held its first formal meeting on Kashmir in nearly half a century last week, saying it would not accept “international busybodies… tell(ing) us how to run our lives.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Modi in a phone call on Tuesday that the Kashmir dispute must be resolved between India and Pakistan alone, Downing Street said.

An Indian statement said Modi had raised with Johnson the “violence and vandalism perpetrated by a large mob against the High Commission of India in London” on August 15.

Several thousand people had protested in London that day over India’s Kashmir move. Police separated them from a smaller pro-Indian counter-demonstration and made at least one arrest.

‘Terrorist’ killed

Clashes are common between Indian security forces and militants opposed to Indian rule, with tens of thousands of people killed in the past 30 years, most of them civilians, adding to public resentment towards New Delhi.

But the latest gun battle north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, reported by Kashmir police on Wednesday, since the August 5 move.

“One terrorist killed… Arms and ammunition recovered. Our colleague SPO (special police officer) Billal attained martyrdom. SI (subinspector) Amardeep Parihar injured in the incident is being treated at Army Hospital,” Kashmir Zone Police said on Twitter.

A later tweet said that the dead militant was identified as a local man “affiliated” with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

LeT is a UN-listed militant organisation based in Pakistan and is accused by India and Washington of masterminding the four-day Mumbai attacks in 2008.

12 Killed As Flooding Paralyses Pakistan’s Karachi

Pakistani residents wade through flood waters after heavy monsoon rains in Hyderabad on July 31, 2019, some 160km east of the southern port city of Karachi. AKRAM SHAHID / AFP

 

At least 12 people were killed as monsoon rains lashed Pakistan’s port city of Karachi, officials and charity groups confirmed Wednesday, while flooding also triggered power outages and overwhelmed the metropolis’s fragile infrastructure.

Authorities said the deaths occurred largely due to electrocutions caused by ill-maintained power lines even as large segments of the city suffered hours-long outages that lasted up to a day in some areas.

According to the Edhi Foundation – which oversees a vast rescue services operation in Karachi — up to 15 people were killed during the recent bout of flooding.

However, government hospitals in the city said only 12 people had died in recent days in flood-related incidents.

Outrage simmered in the city after a video went viral on social media showing two children who had been allegedly electrocuted by a power line that had fallen into a puddle.

“The electricity company must be held responsible for the children’s death as safety and security is its responsibility,” said Faisal Edhi, who heads the Edhi Foundation.

Dr Seemi Jamali — director of the state-run Jinnah Postgraduate Medical University — confirmed that nine people were “brought dead” to the hospital because of electrocutions.

Another three bodies, including the children from the video shared online, were taken to the city’s Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, a doctor on duty at the facility confirmed to AFP.

The megacity of some 20 million has been inundated with heavy rains since Monday, flooding residential areas and bringing large swathes of Karachi’s perennially traffic-congested streets to a halt.

“We are living without electricity and water for the past three days and no official rescue came,” said 24-year-old resident Qaiser Khan.

Hundreds have been killed across South Asia this monsoon season and tens of thousands displaced by the heavy rains.

While the annual rains are crucial to replenishing water supplies in the impoverished region, they often turn deadly.

22 Students Injured In Pakistan Accident

Pakistan on the map. Credit: Google Map

 

Twenty-two students of a religious seminary in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region were injured when the tractor-trailer they were travelling aboard overturned, officials said Sunday.

The incident happened in Kot village on the outskirts of Dargai tribal district.

“The students aged 9 to 16 years were going to a picnic when their tractor-trolley turned turtle injuring 22 students,” said Inayat-ur-Rehman, a doctor at the hospital where the students were treated.

He blamed driver negligence for the accident.

Local police confirmed the accident.

Pakistan has one of the world’s worst records for fatal traffic accidents, blamed on reckless driving, poor roads and badly maintained vehicles.

Trump Mocked For Tweet On Arrest Of Mumbai Attacks Suspect

Pakistanis on Thursday mocked US President Donald Trump’s claim that the alleged Mumbai attacks mastermind had been arrested “after a ten-year search” while he was actually in the public eye for much of the decade.

Hafiz Saeed, a firebrand cleric accused by Washington and New Delhi of being behind the 2008 attacks, was taken into custody on Wednesday, days ahead of a trip by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to Washington for his first meeting with Trump.

“After a ten-year search, the so-called ‘mastermind’ of the Mumbai terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

But Saeed, who heads the UN-designated terrorist group Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and has a $10 million US bounty on his head, has never been missing.

Instead, when he has not been in the custody of the Pakistani authorities, he has courted the limelight, giving public speeches and televised interviews and even attempting to launch a political party to contest last year’s general election.

Among the wave of social media users pointing this out to Trump were journalists highlighting the easy access they have been given to Saeed over the years.

“It’s Hafiz Saeed. Not Jason Bourne” tweeted Pakistani news anchor Amber Shamsi.

“I also interviewed Hafiz Muhammad Saeed for @AJEnglish back in 2015 at a JuD-run mosque and school in Islamabad. Did not take a lot of finding that time, either,” added Al Jazeera’s Islamabad-based correspondent Asad Hashim.

“Finding him was never an issue. He operated freely and was highly visible,” wrote Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, adding that Trump should “immediately fire whoever gave him the wrong information”.

The US Foreign Affairs Committee also hit back at the president, citing the eight times Saeed has been arrested — and released — by Pakistani authorities since 2001.

“Let’s hold the (applause) until he’s convicted,” tweeted the committee on its official account.

Saeed’s freedom to move around Pakistan has enraged India for years, with Delhi repeatedly calling for his prosecution over his alleged role in the 2008 attack that killed more than 160 people.

Many linked his latest detention to Khan’s visit with Trump. The pair are to meet in Washington on July 22.

Since taking office in 2017, Trump has frequently singled out Islamabad for failing to rein in extremists and being an unfaithful partner in the fight against militants.

“Hafiz Saeed was definitely not on the run when I met him at home in Lahore in 2013. His liberty, or lack of, is often a function of international pressure on Pakistan over its support for militancy,” tweeted New York Times correspondent Declan Walsh.

The move against Saeed also comes as Pakistan is facing a potential blacklisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — an anti-money-laundering monitor based in Paris — for failing to do enough to combat terror financing.

AFP