Dawn – Four dead, including attacker, in UK parliament ‘terror’ assault

London, 22 March 2017. At least three people were killed and 20 injured in a “terrorist” attack in the heart of London Wednesday when a man mowed down pedestrians on a bridge, then stabbed a police officer outside parliament before being shot dead.

Police guarding the iconic House of Commons building shot the man but several people were left with “catastrophic” injuries on Westminster Bridge, a busy traffic junction popular with tourists with views of Big Ben.

The car crashed into the railings outside the heavily guarded parliament building and witnesses described a man leaping out of the vehicle into the grounds of parliament and stabbing a police officer.

The incident comes with Europe on high alert after a series of deadly militant attacks and exactly a year after militants killed 32 people in a bomb attack in Brussels.

The parliament building was immediately sealed off and MPs and staff ordered to remain inside.

“We are treating this as a terrorist incident,” police said in a statement.

Those dead included the police officer and the attacker, authorities said.

David Lidington, the British minister responsible for arranging government business, told MPs: “It seems that a police officer has been stabbed, that the alleged assailant was shot by armed police.”

Prime Minister Theresa May is safe, her Downing Street office said, and was preparing to chair a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergencies committee.

She was seen being driven away from parliament.

Police cordoned off a large area in Westminster and tourists on the London Eye, a popular tourist attraction, were stuck 135 metres in the air for around an hour during the incident.

The local Underground station at Westminster was also closed off.

One fatality confirmed

At least 10 patients were treated on Westminster Bridge and several hospitals were on alert, London Ambulance Service said.

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed that several French students were hurt in the attack.

US President Donald Trump said he had been briefed on the incident, describing it as “big news” and French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed their condolences.

The Port of London Authority confirmed that a seriously injured woman was recovered from the River Thames, having jumped or fallen from Westminster Bridge.

“A female member of the public was recovered alive from the water, but with serious injuries,” said spokesman Martin Garside.

“She has been brought ashore and is undergoing urgent medical treatment.”

Polish former foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski was in a taxi on the bridge and said a car “mowed down at least five people… one of them bleeding profusely.”

Attack at parliament gates

Pictures of what happened next showed two people being attended to on the ground inside the vehicle entrance gates of parliament.

Three shots were heard on video footage.

A staff member in parliament, who did not want to be named, told AFP: “I saw someone in dark clothing go down.”

Jason Groves, the Daily Mail newspaper’s political editor, said he witnessed a man coming through the vehicle entrance wielding something, heading towards a police officer, who then fell to the ground.

Another officer then shot the man from around 10 metres away “with a handgun, and then gets closer to him and shoots him again from over him and he doesn’t get up”.

Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood was pictured helping to give first aid to an injured police officer.
Armed police walk past emergency services attending to injured people on the floor outside the Houses of Parliament.

In Edinburgh, Scotland’s parliament suspended a crucial debate and vote on whether to hold a new referendum on independence.

“The fact that our sister parliament had a serious incident is effecting this particular debate,” the Edinburgh assembly’s presiding officer Ken Macintosh said.

In July 2005, four British suicide bombers inspired by Al-Qaeda attacked London’s transport system during rush hour, killing 52 people.

Airline security change

The incident came a day after Britain announced it planned to follow the United States and introduce a ban on electronic devices in cabins on flights from some Middle Eastern and North African countries.

Affected airlines have until Saturday to implement the measure.

US officials warned that terrorists are seeking “innovative” ways to attack airliners with smaller explosive devices hidden in consumer electronics larger than smartphones.

On Saturday, a man who had been investigated for links to radical Islam was shot dead at Paris’s Orly airport after attacking a soldier on patrol and grabbing her rifle.


Dawn – Bill for extension of military courts presented in National Assembly

Muhammad Bilal

Islamabad, 21 March 2016. The constitution amendment bill for the extension of military courts was presented in the National Assembly on Monday with lawmakers debating on the subject and criticising the government.

The bill was presented by Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid and the final vote on the amendment is expected to take place on Tuesday.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Awami Muslim League (AML) leader Shaikh Rasheed criticised the federal government over, what they said, was its failure to curb terrorism in the country without seeking the military’s assistance.

“Has the country reaped any benefits from the establishment of the military courts in the last two years?” Achakzai asked.

“You cannot govern a country in this manner,” he added.

Rasheed said if justice is not served then people will be forced to take matters in their own hands.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s Naveed Qamar, also the former defence minister of Pakistan, lamented the state of affairs in the country, saying he does not believe things will improve in the next two years even if the military courts are revived.

“The need to re-establish military courts in the country is evidence of how the federal government has failed,” said Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi during the NA session.

“Was the government not aware that the mandate over military courts will expire after two years?” the PTI leader asked. However, he said that there is consensus that military courts will not be made a permanent part of the Constitution.

Military courts were disbanded on 7 January after a sunset clause included in the legal provisions under which the tribunals were established expired.

The government and the opposition had struggled to reach a consensus on reviving the courts despite frequent discussions.

The primary concern of critics was the mystery surrounding military court trials: no one knows who the convicts are, what charges have been brought against them, or what the accused’s defence is against the allegations levelled.

Proponents say the courts act as an “effective deterrent” for those considering violent acts.


Dawn – Hindu ‘radical’ nominated chief minister of India’s most populous state

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday named Hindu radical Yogi Adityanath as the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, reported the Hindustan Times.

Adityanath is known for his hardline Hindutva ideology and for making anti-Muslim statements. He is popular among his supporters for his fiery speeches against minorities.

The chief minister-designate also runs an extremist organisation, Hindu Yuva Vahini, which has been accused of instigating communal tension, said The Hindu.

He describes himself as a “religious missionary and social worker” on his Lok Sabha profile.

During the recent elections in the highly-polarised state, he had stirred controversy by making claims of discrimination against Hindus and stoked anti-Muslim sentiments.

He had alleged discrimination in the supply of power to Hindu and Muslim festivals and also in the allocation of land for graveyards and crematoriums.

Adityanath has also been accused of spearheading a forced conversion initiative, called Ghar Wapsi, which targeted Muslims and Christians.

During the recent deterioration of relations between India and Pakistan, he passed statements against Bollywood actors who supported the continuation of cultural ties between the two countries.

“Shah Rukh Khan should remember that if people would boycott his films, he would also have to wander in the streets like a normal Muslim … These people are speaking in the language of terrorists. I think there is no difference between the language of Shah Rukh Khan and Hafiz Saeed,” he was quoted as saying.

The chief minister-designate will be sworn in on Sunday, according to Indian media.

The BJP won a three-fourths majority in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly and is returning to power after 14 years.

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state of India, with a population of more than 200 million. Muslims form around 19pc of the population.


Dawn – Troubled waters: India fast-tracks hydro projects in held Kashmir

Jammu & Kashmir, 16 March 2017. India has fast-tracked hydropower projects worth $15 billion in India-held Kashmir in recent months, three federal and state officials said, ignoring warnings from Islamabad that power stations on rivers flowing into Pakistan will disrupt water supplies.

The swift approval of projects that had languished for years came after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested last year that sharing the waterways could be conditional on Pakistan clamping down on anti-India militants that New Delhi says it shelters.

Pakistan has opposed some of these projects before, saying they violate a World Bank-mediated treaty on the sharing of the Indus river and its tributaries upon which 80pc of its irrigated agriculture depends.

The schemes, the largest of which is the 1,856-megawatt (MW) Sawalkote plant, will take years to complete, but their approval could prove a flashpoint between the nuclear-armed neighbors at a time when relations are at a low ebb.

“I say the way you look at these projects, it is not purely a hydro project. Broaden it to a strategic water management, border management problem, and then you put in money,” said Pradeep Kumar Pujari, a top ranking official in India’s power ministry.

Pakistan denies any involvement in the 28-year armed insurgency in held Kashmir and has repeatedly urged New Delhi to hold talks to decide the future of the region.

Foreign ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said he would confer with the Ministry of Water and Power on the proposed Indian projects, saying it was a technical matter.

He noted, however, that India would be attending a regular meeting of the Indus Commission later this month in Lahore, even though the broader peace dialogue was on hold.

“It seems that finally India has realised the importance of this mechanism under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) for resolving water disputes related to the Indus water and its tributaries.”

Triple power

Six hydro projects in India-held Kashmir either cleared viability tests or the more advanced environment and forest expert approvals in the last three months, two officials in India’s Water Resources Ministry and the Central Electricity Authority said separately.

Together these projects on the Chenab river, a tributary of the Indus, would triple hydropower generation in Jammu and Kashmir from the current level of 3,000MW, the biggest jump in decades, added the officials, declining to be named because the approvals had not yet been made public.

“We have developed barely one-sixth of the hydropower capacity potential in the state in the last 50 years,” the senior official at the Indian Water Resources Ministry said.

“Then one fine morning, you see we cleared six to seven projects in three months; it definitely raises concern in Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s water supply is dwindling because of climate change, outdated farming techniques and a fast-growing population.

A 2011 report by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said New Delhi could use these projects as a way to control Pakistan’s supplies from the Indus, seen as its jugular vein.

“The cumulative effect of these projects could give India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the growing season,” it said.

India says the projects are “run-of-the-river” schemes that use the river’s flow and elevation to generate electricity rather than large reservoirs, and do not contravene the treaty.

Environmental groups have questioned whether the government has followed proper procedures in fast-tracking projects located in a highly seismic area.

Blood and water

Modi told a meeting of government officials on the Indus treaty last year that “blood and water cannot flow together”, soon after India blamed Pakistan-based militants for a deadly attack on its troops in held Kashmir.

Modi’s message was two-fold, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said. Terrorism had to stop and India must fully utilise the economic potential available to it within the Indus treaty.

The projects that have won technical approvals in recent months are Sawalkote, Kwar, Pakal Dul, Bursar and Kirthai I and II.

Most of the projects have been held up for at least a decade awaiting multiple clearances. Sawalkote, which was cleared by a government-constituted environment committee in January, was first given techno-economic approval in 1991.

It is now up for forest clearance from the state authorities, after which the Indian government will finalize financing and begin construction.

Some projects like Pakal Dul were stuck in litigation, but that has been resolved, India-held Kashmir’s Power Minister Nirmal Singh told Reuters in Srinagar. “Things are now in a position of take-off,” he said.

In January, India’s senior federal officials made a presentation on energy security to Modi in which they proposed interest subsidies and long-term loans for hydro projects above 100MW, according to the document seen by Reuters.

But Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, said some projects had been cleared without impact assessment studies and public consultation.

“It’s on one river, the Chenab, where you are doing so many projects. This is a very vulnerable region. It’s landslide-prone, it’s flash flood-prone, earthquake-prone,” Thakkar said.


Dawn – Nawaz’s Holi message: ‘Islam gives people freedom to choose their religion’

Karachi, 15 March 2017. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday delivered a progressive and inclusive message to minorities in the country, saying “no one can force others to adopt a certain religion”.

Nawaz began his speech with a message of inclusiveness, saying his foremost duty as a ruler is to serve followers of all religions and not one in particular.

“God will not ask a ruler what he did for followers of a certain religion,” said Nawaz. “He will ask people such as me: what did we do for God’s creation?”

“Some people wear a turban. Some wear a chogha. Others wear a suit and tie, and some wear shalwar kameez.”

“These are all creations of God,” the premier added. “And that’s fine. This is a freedom given to us by God. Who are we to take it away?”

He also quoted Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and said, “If a place of worship of a non-Muslim is damaged in an Islamic country, Islamic government… I will fight their case myself on the Day of Judgment.”

“I am a follower of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), if there is anyone in unjustly treated, it is my duty to stand by them,” said the prime minister.

He said if people were to see a “prosperous Pakistan”, they have to “think as a Pakistani”.

“On the one hand, there are people who want to see the country prosper; on the other, there are people who want to create divisions,” Nawaz said, warning the people to watch our for the latter.

“All religions in the world teach respect for humanity. Islam teaches respect for all religions,” said Nawaz while reiterating his message of tolerance and inclusiveness.

“And it is a matter of great satisfaction that the Pakistani nation has always rejected politics of hate,” the premier added.

“No matter what religion or beliefs you follow, or what part of the country you belong to, you must be provided equal access to progress and development,” said the prime minister while addressing the gathering.

“Pakistan was not made so one religion can dominate over others.”

“Religion does not force anyone to do anything, let alone forcing anyone to adopt a certain religion,” said the prime minister.

“Forced conversions are considered a criminal practice according to our religious teachings,” he added.

Nawaz, reiterating his message, paused his address and asked audience members to try and carefully understand what he is saying. “These are important things,” he said.

Speaking on the law and order situation in Karachi, the prime minister said that things have greatly improved since 2013, particularly in reference to the decrease in reports of abduction of members from the Hindu community, many of whom were business owners.

The prime minister, who appeared to be in a celebratory and jovial mood, made the address at a hotel in Karachi on the occasion of Holi, the spring festival celebrated by the Hindu community.

“I am so happy to be here. The energy, the passion, the fervour is amazing in this hall,” the premier remarked. “Happy Holi!” he wished the gathering as the crowd cheered him on.

The prime minister’s remarks come at a time when the Sindh Assembly passed a landmark bill criminalising forced conversion of minority community members. The Sindh governor is yet to sign the legislation.

An alarming numbers of reports have surfaced in recent years about the forced conversion to Islam of Hindu girls by landlords in rural Sindh. Members of the Hindu community families had said they have no legal recourse for registering the crimes.

The bill, which was passed by the Sindh assembly at the end of last year, invited the ire of religious scholars who believed some of its clauses were against the teachings of Islam and contrary to the Constitution.

Nawaz Sharif is in Karachi on a two-day visit where he is expected to preside a high level security meeting.

The premier will leave for Gwadar on Wednesday, where he is scheduled to chair a high level meeting on development projects in connection with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.


Dawn – Modi promises ‘New India’ by 2022 as BJP guns for two more states

New Delhi, 12 March 2017. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party expects national elections in 2019 to deliver a bigger mandate than it did in 2014, its leaders said on Sunday, buoyed by a thumping victory in the country’s most politically important state.

As well as winning Uttar Pradesh with the biggest majority for any party since 1977, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is moving closer to forming governments in at least two more of the five states that went to polls recently.

BJP President Amit Shah said, “In coming days, BJP’s winning ways will be seen in other states too. We will get a much bigger mandate in 2019 under Modi.”

The state victories are being seen as an endorsement of Modi’s high-risk decision last November to scrap high-value banknotes, an anti-corruption measure that was unpopular which which many economists said would hamper growth.

The wins vindicated his decision to turn the campaign into a referendum on his own performance since coming to power more than two-and-a-half years ago. With expectations rising high, his biggest challenge now will be to create millions of jobs for the country’s surging population.

“We may get things wrong, but we won’t do anything with wrong intentions,” Modi said in a speech at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, broadcast live on Sunday evening.

Modi said 2022, the 75th anniversary of independence, would be marked by a “New India”.

“We have got five years … for 1.25 billion of my countrymen to take India forward,” he said, urging Indians to unite as his supporters chanted “Modi! Modi!”.

“The election results have strengthened the resolve to fulfill the dreams of the India of 2022.”

Federal Defence Minister Manohar Parikar will resign soon to lead the state government of Goa, BJP leaders told a news conference.

Many investors hope the BJP will embark on a round of new reforms to boost growth and fight endemic corruption.

The BJP won the biggest government mandate in three decades in 2014 and the prospect of a tighter grip on power is not something Modi’s critics relish.

They say his surging popularity and the lack of a strong opposition could further embolden hardline Hindu factions close to his party, and isolate Muslims and other minorities.


Dawn – Powers of FM can’t be assumed by adviser: Chief Justice

Staff Reporter

Lahore-Panjab, 10 March 2017. Lahore High Court Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on Thursday heard a petition against appointments of two advisers to the prime minister and observed that powers of a foreign minister could not be exercised by an adviser.

A citizen, Mahmood Akhtar Naqvi, challenged the appointments of Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatemi as advisers and special assistant to the prime minister, respectively, on foreign affairs.

The petitioner also questioned the appointment of Sardar Mehtab Abbasi as PM’s adviser on aviation.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that Mr Aziz and Mr Fatemi had been running the foreign ministry like ministers. The counsel pointed out that the prime minister could appoint five advisers, but an army number of advisers had been working in violation of the rules.

A deputy attorney general objected to the maintainability of the petition and asked the court to dismiss the same. He argued that the petitioner had relied upon nothing concrete but press clippings.

The chief justice observed that the courts could be petitioned on the basis of clear and reliable media reports.

The chief justice said powers/roles of ministers and advisers had been clearly defined in the laws and an adviser could not assume the powers of a minister.

Justice Shah adjourned further hearing till March 16 and sought more arguments from both sides, the petitioner and the government.

Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism court on Thursday handed down a collective imprisonment of 24 years under different sections of laws to a man for killing his wife in an acid attack.

Convict Muhammad Dilshad was present in the court when the sentenced was announced.


Dawn – Hindu woman axed to death in Nasirabad

A Correspondent

Dera Murad Jamali (ڈیرہ مراد جمالی)-Nasirabad District-Balochistan, 9 March 2017. A woman from the Hindu community was axed to death in the Baba Kot area of Nasirabad district on Wednesday.

Police said that unknown people attacked Zania Kumari in Goth Asif Ali Shah and escaped after the murder. The cause of the attack remains unclear.

Police registered a case against the killers.

Jalo Ram, Kumari’s brother, told reporters that his sister was killed for no reason by “influential people” of the area.

He appealed to the inspector general of police, Balochistan, and SSP, Nasirabad, to take action against the killers and provide security to his family.


Dawn – India, Afghanistan joining hands to create unrest in Pakistan: Khawaja Asif

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif alleged in the National Assembly on Monday that India and Afghanistan have joined hands to create unrest in Pakistan.

Fahad Chaudhry

Islamabad, 6 March 2017. Responding to opposition lawmakers’ point of objection, Asif in his reply said that Pakistan is trying to implement better and more complete border management with Afghanistan.

Until there is better border management with Afghanistan, he said, the scourge of terrorism will continue to exist.

The issue of border management is one of national security, Asif said, urging lawmakers not to play politics on the matter.

“We have the right to shut the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and protect our people,” Asif claimed.

He said that the border has 25 openings from where people travel between the two countries, but Pakistan cannot let terrorists to cross into the country.

“If there will be terrorist attacks in the country and people will die by the hundreds, we will shut the border down,” he asserted.

“We gave refuge to thousands of Afghans, but we will not keep housing terrorists,” he said, adding, “The killers of our sons are sitting on Afghan soil, the government needs to take action against them.”

Discussing the matter of discrimination against Pakhtuns in the recent operations all over the country, Asif claimed, “There is no discrimination against any one ethnicity. The operation is against terrorists and terrorists do not have any religion, caste or ethnicity.”

“A number of terrorists were caught from the south of Punjab, they were not Pathans,” he concluded.

About India, the defence minister said that there had been a constant rise in India’s alleged unprovoked firing and violation of the ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control.

Asif in a written reply to the NA claimed that in the past four years, India has violated the ceasefire agreement 1,170 times along the LoC and 257 times across the Working Boundary.

The civilian death toll in the past four years has been 111 people, he said.


Dawn – Afghanistan to airlift citizens if border is not reopened within two days: Ambassador

Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal on Saturday said Pakistan does not have a justification for the continued closure of crossing points on the Pakistan-Afghan border, and that his country might send in chartered flights to airlift stranded Afghans in case the border is not reopened soon.

Naveed Siddiqui

In a message posted to his Facebook page, Zakhilwal said he had talked with Pakistan’s de facto foreign minister, Sartaj Aziz, to convey that if an opening was not allowed for the return of stranded Afghans within two days, he would ask his government to send chartered flights to lift them.

“This, however, would reflect very poorly [on Pakistan],” he added.

Zakhilwal said the argument presented by Pakistan, that the border closure is intended to stop terrorists from crossing over, does not carry any weight, as “these points such as Torkham and Spin Boldak have been manned by hundreds of military and other security personnel” and have all the necessary equipment and infrastructure in place to prevent such a possibility.

“Continuous unreasonable closure of legal Pak-Afghan trade and transit routes cannot have any other explanation except to be aimed at hurting the common Afghan people,” the envoy said in his social media post, apparently in breach of diplomatic protocol.

The envoy emphasised that the closure of crossing points hurts bilateral trade between the two countries, with Pakistan losing more as a result of the closures.

“Pakistan’s declining export share in Afghanistan is indicative of that,” Zakhilwal said.

He also said the closure is in direct contradiction to the theme, objectives and messages of the recently-held Economic Cooperation Organisation summit in Islamabad.

Afghanistan’s top envoy said he had raised the issue of at least 25,000 Afghan nationals who had been unable to return to their country due to the closure, and have not been able to return despite repeated assurances in the past few weeks.

He elaborated that he had been given assurances that a partial opening of border crossings will be allowed to facilitate his countrymen, who he claimed had come to Pakistan either for medical treatment or personal visits.

The government had decided to seal the Torkham border crossing for an indefinite period on February 16, in the aftermath of a suicide attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar which killed 90.

The border was ordered closed for all kinds of communication due to ‘security concerns’.