Category Archives: Pakistan

Mild tremors felt in Delhi, NCR and Rajasthan

Massive earthquake on Tuesday rocked Pakistan parts of Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR).

According to reports, the tremors lasted for as long as 15 seconds and rattled buildings in Delhi and adjoining areas.

Reports suggest, the epicentre of the quake was in Faislabad in Pakistan. The quake measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Further details are awaited.


Pakistan violates ceasefire in Mendhar sector

Pakistani troops on Tuesday fired at Indian positions in Mendhar sector on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, in yet another violation of the bilateral ceasefire, a defence spokesman said.

“Pakistani troops fired at our positions in Mendhar sector of the LoC today (Tuesday) morning,” defence spokesman Col. R.K. Kalia told IANS.

“They used small arms, automatics and infantry mortars to target our positions. Our troops retaliated with same calibre weapons. The firing started at 8.40 a.m. and till last reports came in, exchange of fire was still going on,” he said.

Pakistan has been violating the ceasefire since Sunday in Poonch district.

A ceasefire agreement signed by the two neighbours in November 2003 had brought normalcy in the lives of thousands of people living close to the border.

India has accused Pakistan of unprovoked violation of the ceasefire agreement since the beginning of the year.

Last week, India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Pakistani prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs and national security, Sartaj Aziz, met in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and agreed to respect the LoC ceasefire agreement.

Just two days after the meet, Pakistan violated the ceasefire.

Suspected Kashmiri Rebels Kill Indian Soldiers

Four Indian army soldiers and a suspected rebel were killed in fighting in the Indian portion of Kashmir on Friday, officials said.

Lt. Col. Ankur Vashist, an army spokesman, said suspected rebels ambushed and fatally shot three soldiers who were heading for Buchoo village following intelligence that some insurgents were hiding there.

Army reinforcements rushed and searched a nearby forest area and lost another soldier in an exchange of gunfire with suspected rebels, Lt. Col. Vashist said.

Police officer Abdul Gani Mir said one suspected militant also was killed in the fighting 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Srinagar, the main city in the disputed Himalayan region.

The army was continuing its search for three more suspected militants believed to be hiding in the forest area, Lt. Col. Vashist said.

No rebel groups fighting Indian rule have issued any statement on the fighting and it was not possible to independently verify the incident.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and the two have fought two wars over its control since they won independence from Britain in 1947.

Rebel groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or merger with Pakistan since 1989. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the fighting.

While the armed rebellion has largely been suppressed by Indian forces, anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir and the resistance is now principally through street demonstrations.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the insurgents. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it gives only moral and diplomatic support to the rebels.

Pakistan election: Sharif poised to take over as PM

Nawaz Sharif appears on course to secure a majority in Pakistan’s parliament and form the next government after claiming victory in Saturday’s election.

Unofficial results suggest his Pakistan Muslim League has won easily, though he has reportedly opened talks with independents to guarantee a majority.

Pakistan election: Sharif poised to take over as PM

He has already been congratulated by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

EU observers report that incidents of violence did not deter voters.

Mr Sharif is set to become prime minister for the third time.

Former cricketer Imran Khan, whose Movement for Justice Party (PTI) is in a close fight for second place, has promised to provide genuine opposition.

Analysts say Mr Sharif, 63, is in a far stronger position than the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which led a weak coalition, often on the verge of collapse.

The PPP of late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was badly beaten in the election. It was one of several secular parties unable to campaign freely due to Taliban attacks.

Pakistani media say Mr Sharif’s PML-N has so far captured at least 125 seats with the PTI and the PPP on around 30 each.

Analysts said the PML-N was likely to win around 130 seats and should be able to make up the required majority of 137 with support from independents and small parties.

Once it achieves a majority, Mr Sharif’s party would be allocated most of 70 other parliamentary seats reserved for women and non-Muslim minorities.

An election commission spokesman said turnout had been around 60%. In 2008 it was 44%.

The EU’s election observer mission in Pakistan has issued its report, saying 64 people died on polling day itself. It said violence had distorted the electoral process in those areas affected.

But the mission added that at 90% of the 600 polling stations monitored, the conduct of the election was satisfactory or good.

On the whole, it said, there was a strong commitment by candidates and parties to the democratic process.

“The turnout in defiance of the threats against the process was an extraordinary vote of confidence in democracy itself,” European Parliament member Richard Howitt told a news conference in Islamabad.

Shares rally

The election appears to have paved the way for the first transition from one elected government to another in a country prone to military takeovers.

The Karachi stock exchange hit a record high on the expectation of a Sharif-led government. He is seen as favouring the free market and deregulation.

Ishaq Dar, a senator, has been chosen to serve as finance minister in the new administration. He held the same post in Mr Sharif’s second government in 1998 and 1999 and again in 2008.

Mr Sharif – who was toppled in a military coup in 1999 and spent years in exile – held talks on Sunday on forming a government.

Imran Khan, still bedridden after a fall at a campaign rally, said the election would boost Pakistan’s young democracy.

“We are now moving towards democracy. I congratulate the nation on the numbers in which they turned out to vote,” he said.

But Mr Khan added that his party was collecting evidence of alleged vote-rigging.

‘New course’

President Obama congratulated Pakistan on successfully completing the election and said he looked forward to working with the government that emerged.

He welcomed the “historic, peaceful and transparent transfer of civilian power” but stopped short of naming Mr Sharif.

During his election campaign, Mr Sharif said he would end Pakistan’s involvement in the US-led war on terror.

However, he declined to say whether he would call a halt to military operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The Indian prime minister said he hoped for a “new course” in relations between India and Pakistan.

“PM extends his congratulations to Mr Nawaz Sharif and his party for their emphatic victory in Pakistan’s elections,” he said on his Twitter account.

He invited Mr Sharif to go to India “at a mutually convenient time”.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he hoped for co-operation to root out what he called terrorist sanctuaries.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are engaged in a long battle with Taliban Islamist militants.

The triangular relationship between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US will be tested more than ever as Nato withdraws combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of next year, says the BBC’s Mike Wooldridge in Islamabad.

At home, Nawaz Sharif’s government will be equally tested in tackling Pakistan’s severe shortages of power which damage the economy and hold back job creation, says our correspondent.

In what is seen as another sign of the acute challenges facing the new government, a bomb has gone off in the south-western city of Quetta, killing at least five people.

A suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into the wall of the official residence of the police chief of Balochistan province, Mushtaq Shukhera.

Most of those killed are reported to be police, but one child also died.

Mr Shukhera was not among the 60 injured in the explosion, which left a large crater and was heard across Quetta. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Balochistan suffers from separatist violence and sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Taliban Bomb Kills at Least 20 at a Pakistan Political Rally

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Taliban bomb ripped through a crowded political rally in Pakistan’s tribal belt on Monday, killing at least 20 people and wounding 45 in the deadliest attack so far of the campaign for next Saturday’s national election.

The attack occurred in Kurram tribal region, along the border with Afghanistan, where several thousand tribesmen had gathered at a madrasa to hear Munir Khan Orakzai, a former member of Parliament. The bomb exploded just as Mr. Orakzai finished his speech and was stepping off the stage. The candidate was not injured but the bomb caused widespread devastation; one witness told The Associated Press of a “hell-like” situation with dozens of wounded people crying for help.

Unusually for such an attack, Mr. Orakzai was a candidate for the religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, which has close links to the Taliban.

In claiming responsibility for the bombing, a Taliban spokesman said that Mr. Orakzai was targeted because he had betrayed Arab jihadists who had been detained by the Pakistani Army and later ended up in American custody.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, offered an alternative explanation: that the Taliban are attacking candidates who refuse to pay protection money to prevent attacks.

Whatever the cause, the attack brought the death toll from Taliban attacks since campaigning began on April 11 to over 80 people, and underscored the militants’ determination to shape the result of the May 11 poll.

Until now, militant violence has largely focused on candidates from two secular parties: the Awami National Party, which is based in the northwest, and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which dominates politics in the port city of Karachi.

The violence has overshadowed campaigning in what promises to be a historic election: the first time that a civilian government has served a full term, and handed power to another elected administration.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is the front-runner to form the next government, although he faces a stiff challenge in his home province of Punjab from the former cricketer Imran Khan.

Both Mr. Sharif and Mr. Khan have been measured in their criticism of the Taliban, and neither have suffered attack, although the caretaker government says they are also at risk.

In an interview with Reuters this week, Mr. Sharif said he believed that a military campaign was not the best way to defeat the Taliban insurgency. “I think guns and bullets are always not the answer to such problems,” he said.

Declan Walsh reported from Islamabad, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan. Read More