Eighteen people were killed when a small military plane crashed into a residential area in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi early Tuesday, officials told AFP.
The plane crashed into a poor village near an upscale neighbourhood in the garrison city that is home to the army’s headquarters, creating a fireball that lit up the night sky and terrified residents.
“We have taken 18 dead bodies to hospital… that included 13 civilians and five crew members,” said local rescue spokesman Farooq Butt, adding that a further 12 people had been injured in the accident near the capital Islamabad.
“All the bodies are badly burned, so DNA tests are required for identification,” he added.
One resident told AFP that the crash happened around 2 am.
“I woke to the sound of a huge explosion. I stepped out of my house and saw huge flames and we rushed to the site,” said Mohammad Sadiq.
“People were screaming. We tried to help them but the flames were too high and the fire too intense,” he said, adding he believed seven members of one family were among the dead.
Another resident Ghulam Khan said he heard the plane as it buzzed over his house, adding the aircraft appeared to be on fire before it crashed.
“The sound was so scary,” he added.
The military’s information wing said the plane was on a routine training mission when the accident occurred, adding that rescue officials had extinguished the fire caused by the crash and moved the injured to a local hospital.
An AFP reporter at the scene said smoke was still rising from the wreckage and destroyed homes, while pieces of the plane were visible on a nearby roof.
Hours after the crash rescue workers could be seen combing through the smouldering site, gathering debris and inspecting the scene while ambulances swarmed the area.
Military officials had also cordoned off the crash site while a crowd of residents stood nearby, some of them sobbing.
Prime Minister Imran Khan offered his condolences to the affected families and wished a “quick recovery for the injured”, according to a tweet by the Pakistani government.
Pakistan has a chequered aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.
In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while travelling from remote northern Pakistan to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.
The deadliest air disaster on Pakistani soil was in 2010, when an Airbus 321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into the hills outside Islamabad while coming in to land, killing all 152 on board.
Pregnant, desperate, and poor, Pakistani mother Zameena faced a stark choice: risk her life by having a secret abortion, or risk her life bearing her husband a sixth child.
In the end, she opted for the former, one of more than two million women a year to do so in a country where religious leaders are critical of family planning measures and there is a lack of sex education and access to contraception.
Almost half of all pregnancies in Pakistan — around 4.2 million each year — are unplanned and around 54 percent of those end in termination, according to a report by US research firm Guttmacher Institute.
“Three years ago, when my daughter was born, the doctor told me that I should stop having babies because it would be bad for my health,” said Zameena, using an assumed name, from her home in the northwest city of Peshawar.
“But whenever I say that to my husband, he tells me to trust God,” the 35-year-old added. “My husband is a religious man… he wants to have a line of sons.”
Decades ago, a family planning campaign with the slogan “do bache hi ache” or “two children is good” was rejected by religious leaders as well as nationalists who wanted a bigger population to rival the 1.2 billion people in neighbouring India.
Today with a population of around 207 million, Pakistan’s baby boom is stretching resources beyond capacity and experts warn of trouble ahead.
Zameena said she frequently suggested to her husband that they practice family planning, but he refused.
“My mother-in-law had nine kids,” said Zameena. “When I complain to my husband that I can’t have more babies, he answers: ‘If my mother didn’t die, you should also stay alive’.”
Abortion is allowed in Pakistan if the health of the mother is in danger. But many doctors invoke their Muslim faith and refuse to carry them out.
As a result, some women abort illegally and authorities largely turn a blind eye to the situation.
The preferred method is by ingesting Misoprostol, an over-the-counter drug used to treat ulcers, which causes the expulsion of the embryo. It can also cause serious complications for the mother.
NGO Aware Girls counsels those who call its hotline on how such drugs should be used safely and when to seek emergency or professional treatment at a clinic.
“Most of us know women who have died of an abortion,” said Aware Girls co-founder Gulalai Ismail.
‘Willing to do anything’
Zameena was one of the lucky ones — she knew where to go for help once she decided to terminate her latest pregnancy.
At the other end of the Aware Girls hotline, counsellor Ayeesha reassured and advised her on what medicines to take and in which dosage.
They insist that women must never be alone when they attempt such procedures.
“My work saves women’s lives. When they call, they are willing to do anything to have an abortion,” explained the 26-year-old.
Ayeesha estimated that she fields around 350 calls a month. Most women who contact the NGO know very little about contraception. Access to condoms, the most well known option, is limited and even when they can be bought, it requires the man to agree.
According to official statistics, only around 35 percent of Pakistani women use any form of non-abortive birth control despite them being inexpensive.
Birth control pills cost just 20 rupees (0.12 euro), for example, while an IUD is available for 400 rupees (2.5 euros).
But population control is a controversial issue in Pakistan, where large families are prized.
“Authorities have not been able to make this issue an emergency for Pakistan. It is all rhetoric and political gibberish,” says Dr Haroon Ibrahim of the family planning NGO Greenstar,
Zeba Sathar, a demographer in charge of another NGO, the Population Council, branded the nation’s negative attitude to contraception a “systemic failure”.
‘Women are dying’
Prime Minister Imran Khan in December acknowledged the lack of political will on the issue and promised pro-contraception campaigns using the media, cell phones, schools and mosques.
“The mullahs have a key role to play,” he insisted.
But the Council of Pakistani Islamic Ideology, a religious body which advises the government, says otherwise, insisting that family planning is against Islam.
“The birth control campaign at the government level should be immediately stopped and the birth control program should be removed from the economic planning,” the council told AFP.
The charity Marie Stopes, whose clinics provide post-abortion care, has profiled a typical client in Pakistan: aged in her thirties, married at 18, she is poor, uneducated and already has three children.
Such women approach the agency when backstreet abortions go wrong.
“Women are just dying… for the lack of knowledge,” said Xaher Gul, an executive at Marie Stopes.
In 2012, the year of their last study, the Guttmacher Institute estimated there were 2.25 million abortions in Pakistan with 623,000 women treated for post-abortion complications.
“We have failed women in this country,” warned Hassan Mohtashami, former head of the United Nations Development Programme in Pakistan.
He added: “Abortion is not a family planning method.”
A Pakistani TV channel has put the country’s first transgender news anchor on the air, a watershed cultural moment for the marginalised community in the deeply conservative country.
Marvia Malik, a former model who appeared on the Lahore-based private broadcaster Kohenoor for the first time last Friday, told AFP she has received “unprecedented love and support” since landing the job.
“My family never accepted or owned me,” she said, adding that the rift drove her to seek a better future in Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital.
“Here I received unprecedented love and support from everyone that I never got from my own family,” she said, adding that the positive response only escalated once she went on air for the daily broadcast.
Transgenders — also known in Pakistan as “khawajasiras”, an umbrella term denoting a third sex that includes transsexuals, transvestites and eunuchs — have long fought for their rights in the patriarchal Islamic country.
In 2009 Pakistan became one of the first countries in the world to legally recognise a third sex. Last year the first transgender passport was issued, while several have also run in elections.
But they live daily as pariahs, often reduced to begging and prostitution, subjected to extortion and discrimination or targeted for violence.
Malik, who declined to confirm her age to AFP but is reportedly around 21, said she hoped to use her platform to urge people to treat one another as human beings first, without discrimination.
A journalism graduate from Punjab University, she said she hopes eventually to enter politics herself or form a non-governmental organisation aimed at promoting gender rights.
If she becomes “financially sound”, she added, she may even seek to establish her own TV channel.
Many transgenders in Pakistan earn their living as dancers at weddings or parties and, sometimes, in more clandestine ways.
Her employers at Kohenoor admitted that Malik had stunned them while interviewing for the job by turning a question around on them.
“She asked, ‘Would you want to see me a beggar, a sex worker or dancing at the cultural festivals or give me a respectable job in your channel?'” news director Bilal Ashraf told AFP.
“Her question stunned us really, and we had no reply.”
It forced them to “devise a policy to welcome, accept and own everyone in our channel without any discrimination,” he said, adding: “We don’t bother with where our channel will stand in the ratings by doing this.”
So far the response has been positive, with Pakistanis widely heralding the move on social media.
But transgenders remain targets. Late Tuesday a transgender was shot dead along with a friend in the northwestern city of Peshawar, police told AFP.
Farzana Riaz, head of rights group TransAction, said 55 transgenders have been murdered during the past five years.
“We want protection from the government from this continued persecution,” she said.
Turkey will take about 200 “irregular” migrants from Greek islands on Wednesday, a government official said, after it intensified efforts this week to shut down a main smuggling route used by people fleeing war and poverty to reach Europe.
Turkey agreed with the European Union to take back all migrants and refugees who cross the Aegean to enter Greece illegally. The pact has been criticized by the United Nations, aid organizations and human rights groups.
Two Turkish passenger boats carrying 136 mostly Pakistani migrants arrived from the island of Lesbos in the Turkish town of Dikili on Monday, the day the deal went into effect.
A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi in Lagos State has sentenced a Pakistani, Iftikhar M. Arslan, to 18 months imprisonment for importing 25.400kg of high heroin valued at 220million Naira.
The development was revealed in a statement signed by the Head, Public Affairs of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Ofoyeju Mitchell.
The convict was charged with a one count charge of unlawful importation of 25.400kg of heroin contrary to and punishable under section 11(a) of the NDLEA Act Cap N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
Iftikhar who claimed to be a medical student, initially pleaded not guilty but changed his plea midway in the trial, pleading for leniency.
Contrarily, his argument was opposed by NDLEA Prosecutor, Mr Owens Fingere, who told the court that the value of the drugs and the fact of the case should be considered in sentencing him.
The presiding judge, Justice Chukwujewu Aneke, while noting that the convict was a first time offender who was remorseful over his action, stated that heroin was a dangerous drug that would have caused serious harm to the country.
The judge said that the court would show some leniency considering the fact that he is a student who deserves a second chance to correct his mistakes. Subsequently, he sentenced him to 18 months imprisonment on Monday.
Iftikhar was arrested by officials of the anti-drug agency at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial city, on April 5, 2014 at age 19 during the inward screening of passengers on a Qatar Airways flight on his way from Doha, Qatar.
“I am a student of Punjab College and I am in Nigeria as a tourist because my friend told me that Victoria Island and Ikoyi are beautiful tourist centres.
“Unfortunately, when I arrived at the Lagos Airport, the heroin was found in my luggage. This is my first time of coming to Nigeria and I had intended to spend a week or two,” Iftikihar reportedly told investigators during his arrest.
The brownish substance that tested positive for heroin was packed in 25 parcels hidden in a smaller bag inside his luggage.
President Jonathan has directed his officials to make arrangements towards his meeting with parents of the Chibok girls who are passing through horrifying experience following the abduction of their children over three month ago by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
This was the outcome of the meeting which President Jonathan held with Pakistani child rights activist, Malala Yousafzat, who was in the Presidential Villa on Monday.
Malala, who has been in Nigeria to join her voice in the condemnation of the abduction of the Nigerian girls, as part of activities to mark her seventeen birthday, said that she was hopeful that the girls would be released soon as promised by the President.
She decried the statistics which puts the number of out-of-school girls at over 10.5 million, and urged the international community to assist Nigeria and Africa as a whole to send their children to school. She also called on governments across the continent to increase funding for education.
She also announced a donation of the sum of 200,000 dollars from her foundation, to support education in Nigeria.
Pakistani rights activist, Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by Taliban a few years ago for campaigning for girl child education, arrived Abuja, Nigeria in the early hours of Sunday July 13, to raise her voice in the demand to release the kidnapped Chibok girls.
Malala, who will celebrate her 17th year birthday on Monday, met with relatives of the more than 200 kidnapped girls who were kidnapped by militant group, Boko Haram, from a school at Chibok in April.
Some of the parents broke down into tears as Malala spoke at a hotel in the capital Abuja on Sunday.
“I can see those girls as my sisters … and I’m going to speak up for them until they are released,” said Malala.
“I’m going to participate actively in the ‘bring back our girls’ campaign to make sure that they return safely and they continue their education.
“I can feel… the circumstances under which you are suffering.
“It’s quite difficult for a parent to know that their daughter is in great danger. My birthday wish this year is…bring back our girls now and alive”, Malala said.
She is scheduled to meet with the President Goodluck Jonathan to further discuss how the girls can be saved.
Malala Yousafzai became famous when she was shot by the Taliban in October 2012 after she spoke publicly about girls’ rights to education.
Her presence would hopefully put more pressure on the Nigerian Government to help bring back the girls.
A bomb went off on a bus in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi on Saturday killing six people and injuring 48, police and a hospital official said.
Pakistan’s commercial capital and biggest city has seen numerous militant attacks over the past 10 years and is also plagued by violence between rival ethnic-based factions.
The bus sustained serious damage in the explosion and a subsequent fire. While police said the bomb had been planted on the bus, provincial official Sharfud Din Memon said it was left on a motor-bike and went off as the bus passed.
Eight of the wounded were in critical condition, said Seemi Jamali, a doctor at Jinnah Hospital.
The 14 year old Pakistani activist and blogger Malala Yousufzai on Wednesday came out coma which she has been since last week.
Last week, Yousufzai was shot along with two of her classmates in retaliation for her BBC blog by the Taliban she had criticized.
The news of her attack has brought concern worldwide.
* Yousufzai flew to the United Kingdom over the weekend for further recovery after having the bullet removed from her head in Pakistan.
* The Atlantic Wire indicated that her prospects for recovery without any permanent physical damage or brain damage were good.
* She has feeling in all of her limbs, but will face rehabilitation and treatment for several months.
* The Christian Science Monitor reported that Britain’s Muslim community has held demonstrations and vigils in support of Yousufzai.
* Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari said on Tuesday that “the Taliban attack on the 14-year-old girl, who from the age of 11 was involved in the struggle for education for girls, is an attack on all girls in Pakistan, an attack on education, and on all civilized people,” as noted by Seven News.
* On Friday, the U.S. State Department said that while the U.S. had discussed offering her assistance, but that they had nothing to announce at that time.
* State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters that “we’ve seen in the past in Pakistan that when the Taliban commits truly heinous and outrageous acts like this, it galvanizes popular opinion against them not only in the cities, but also in those towns and neighborhoods where they plot and hide. So obviously, the degree to which the Pakistani people turn against them help their government to go after them. That would be, perhaps, a silver lining from this horrible tragedy.”
* Neighboring Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked that Pakistan work harder to combat extremism, according to a report from the Associated Press.
* Outrage over the shooting led to tens of thousands of Pakistanis in Karachi showing their support for Yousufzai, another AP report indicated.
The demonstration was organized by the Muttahida Quami Movement, a party that has condemned other parties for their failure to encourage others to show their support sooner.
Malala Yusufzai, the 14 year-old Pakistani girl that was shot by Taliban gunmen for pushing girls to be educated has been flown to the United Kingdom for medical treatment.
In a statement by the military spokesman says, Malala will require a prolonged care to fully recover physically and psychologically. He added that, an air ambulance transporting Malala, provided by the United Arab Emirates, had departed from Islamabad and was heading for the United Kingdom.
“The panel of doctors recommended that Malala be shifted abroad to a UK center which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injury,” said the spokesman in a statement.
Malala has become a potent symbol of resistance against the Pakistani Taliban’s efforts to deprive girls of an education.
Pakistanis have held some protests and candlelight vigils but government officials have refrained from publicly criticizing the Taliban by name over the attack, in what critics say is a lack of resolve against extremism. Opponents of Pakistan’s government and military say the shooting is another reminder of the state’s failure to tackle militancy.