Category Archives: South Asia – Pakistan

Family of Daniel Pearl to query Pakistan murder acquittals

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Lawyers for Pearl’s family have argued that Sheikh played a crucial role in organising the abduction and detention of the journalist before ordering his captors to kill him.

The family of American journalist Daniel Pearl will challenge an order by Pakistan’s top court to release a British-born militant acquitted of masterminding his kidnapping and brutal murder in 2002.

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The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the acquittal of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three other men last year, triggering outrage from the United States.

Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted and beheaded by jihadists in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants.

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“The Pearl family intends to file a review petition against the illegal and unjust majority decision,” parents Ruth and Judea Pearl said in a statement that was tweeted by the murdered journalist’s friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Asra Nomani.

They join both the federal government and Sindh provincial government of which the city of Karachi is the capital in launching a plea for the latest verdict to be reviewed.

Defence lawyers, however, say he was a scapegoat and sentenced on insufficient evidence.

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“It is beyond belief that Ahmad Omar Sheikh — who after 18 years of lies, had finally admitted in a handwritten letter to the court his role in the kidnapping for ransom of Daniel Pearl — has been given a clean slate and let loose once again upon the world to continue his international terrorist activities,” Pearl’s family said in the statement.

The four men — who have been detained under the emergency orders of Sindh government since their acquittal last year — still have multiple court challenges linked to their case.

Sheikh, a British-born jihadist who once studied at the London School of Economics and had been involved in previous kidnappings of foreigners, was arrested days after Pearl’s abduction.

He was later sentenced to death.

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US President Joe Biden’s administration was “outraged by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision”, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters last week.

The new US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, on Friday spoke with Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, pressing his “concern about the potential release of these prisoners”, a spokesman for the US Department of State said.

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#Newsworthy

Pakistani ‘killed’ during TikTok stunt.

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A young man was hit and killed by a train in Pakistan while being filmed walking along the tracks for a TikTok stunt, police and rescue officials said Saturday.

The accident happened on Friday in the Shah Khalid neighbourhood of Rawalpindi city, near the capital Islamabad.

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Hamza Naveed, 18, was walking next to the tracks while a friend filmed him, Raja Rafaqat Zaman, a spokesperson for the local rescue agency, told AFP.

“The moving train hit him while he was posing for a video and walking on the railway track,” Zaman said.

Rescue workers rushed to the site, he said, but the young man was already dead.

Friends of the young man told rescue workers he was posing for the video to post it on TikTok and his other social media accounts, Zaman said.

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A police official at the local station confirmed the accident and other details.

Taking selfies and making videos for social media is wildly popular in Pakistan, as in other countries, with many youngsters using the posts to update their Facebook, Twitter and TikTok accounts.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: Pakistan populous city bans invasive rape test

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A similar case is also underway in the southern province of Sindh with momentum growing for a nationwide ban.

Authorities in Pakistan’s most populous province on Saturday banned an outdated medical procedure in which rape victims are subjected to an invasive physical examination.

The move comes after critics of the “two-finger test” this year sued the government of Punjab province, home to about 110 million people, in a bid to stop the practice dating back to the time of British colonial rule.

Proponents of the internal examination claim it can assess a woman’s sexual promiscuity and her “honour”, and whether she had been “habituated to sexual intercourse”.

Backlash to the test has been growing in recent years, with critics saying it provides zero useful information and is traumatic for rape victims.

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Punjab health authorities in September admitted the test held “limited evidentiary value” but the practice continued.

Saturday’s ban, which takes immediate effect across Punjab, effectively preempts the ongoing court case.

Welcoming Punjab’s ban, Sidra Humayun, a case manager for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, told AFP it would be a challenge to ensure compliance by medical workers.

The mentality that still “links the reliability of a rape victim’s claims to her virtue and honour” in legal cases also must be addressed, she added.

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The World Health Organization has declared the test “unscientific, medically unnecessary and unreliable”.

Neighbouring India banned the two-finger test in 2013 and Bangladesh followed suit in 2018.

Sameer Khosa, the lawyer behind Punjab’s court petition, welcomed the ban but said other problematic practices such as virginity testing through the examination of the hymen are still being performed.

Pakistan is a deeply conservative and patriarchal nation where victims of sexual abuse often are too afraid to speak out, or where police frequently fail to investigate cases seriously.


#Newsworthy…

Pakistan convoy attack claim 14 lives.

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Violence in the northwestern districts of North Waziristan and South Waziristan, once home to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has been on the rise this year, with a series of gun attacks and bombings targeting security forces.

Unidentified gunmen killed at least 14 people in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan on Thursday after ambushing a convoy of vehicles travelling on a major highway towards the country’s largest city Karachi.

The vehicles were travelling to Karachi from the port town of Gwadar when they were ambushed near the small town of Ormara, about 250km (155 miles) west of their destination, a security source said.

The dead included security forces personnel who were accompanying the convoy, he said. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The bodies of those killed were shifted to a nearby naval base, local officials told Al Jazeera.

Zia Langove, provincial home minister in Balochistan, confirmed the details of the attack but put the death toll at 15. He added the ambush involved at least seven assailants armed “with rocket launchers and other heavy weapons”.

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“The attack was carried out by between seven and eight attackers who fired at the convoy with rocket launchers and other heavy weapons. They escaped from the area,” he said.

Langove said the convoy of vehicles was carrying employees of the state-owned Oil and Gas Development Corporation Limited. He said there were several wounded survivors but did not specify an exact figure.

The highway was temporarily shut down following the attack, as security forces launched a search operation in the area.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the incident was similar to previous assaults by armed ethnic Baloch separatist groups on convoys on the same stretch of highway.

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In April last year, at least 14 people were killed when gunmen attacked their vehicles in the same area as Thursday’s attack.

That attack was claimed by the Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an alliance of armed ethnic Baloch separatist groups who demand independence from Pakistan.

BRAS and its allies regularly carry out attacks targeting security forces and civilians across Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, the country’s largest and least developed region.

In July, at least eight soldiers were killed and five others wounded when armed ethnic Baloch gunmen attacked a security forces convoy in the Panjgur area, about 160km (99 miles) north of the site of Thursday’s attack.

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In a separate development, at least six Pakistani soldiers were killed when in improvised explosive device attack on their vehicle convoy near the northwestern town of Razmak, in North Waziristan district, on Thursday, Pakistan’s military said in a brief statement.

The military did not provide any further details on that attack.

The area was once virtually ruled by the TTP and its allies, as well as local armed groups, but a large scale Pakistani military operation launched in 2014 killed thousands of fighters and displaced the TTP’s leadership and command structure into neighbouring Afghanistan.

Since then, the military has moved in to take control of the districts, with Pakistan’s parliament passing a landmark law in 2018 to merge the erstwhile “tribal districts” with the country’s constitutional and administrative mainstream.


#Newsworthy…

Pakistan van fire: 15 Casualties.

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At least 15 people were killed when a passenger van travelling in southern Pakistan crashed and caught fire, officials said Sunday.

The van was carrying passengers from Karachi to Hyderabad city when it struck an object and careered off the road late Saturday.

“The death toll in the unfortunate accident has reached 15,” Owais Shah, the transport minister of Sindh province, told AFP.

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Five other people were injured, three of them critically, he said.

Most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, said Faisal Edhi, head of the non-profit Edhi Foundation which runs the morgue the bodies were taken to.

Investigators were looking to see if a natural gas cylinder aboard the bus had contributed to the inferno.

Such incidents occur frequently on Pakistan’s roads, where speeding, dilapidated vehicles, and badly maintained roads all contribute to the accident rate.


#Newsworthy…