The News – Bahawalpur: Tragedy as nearly 150 burnt alive in oil tanker explosion

Bahawalpur, 25 June 2017. At least 149 people were burnt alive and dozens injured when an oil tanker caught fire and exploded near Bahawalpur where a large number of people had gathered to collect petrol from the overturned tanker, rescue services said.

According to details, people from nearby areas were collecting fuel from the oil tanker which had skidded off the national highway and overturned in Ahmed Pur Sharqia on Sunday morning. A large number of motorcycles and vehicles can be seen burnt in the huge fire.

The injured were moved to Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital and other health facilities. The death toll may rise as the affected are said to be in critical condition.

The police said that oil tanker carrying 50,000 liters of oil was on its way from Karachi to Lahore when it slipped from the road and overturned in Kachi Pul area, some eight kilometers off Ahmedpur Sharqia city.

“People living in roadside villages, carrying domestic pots rushed to the scene to collect oil and they also made phone calls to their relatives living in other villages to immediate come to collect oil,” they said.

They said that Motorway Police reached the scene and urged the people to keep away from the tanker as fire could erupt in the vehicle, but people including women and children did not respond to the request and continue collecting oil into pots.

Hospitals on high alert

Emergency was declared in the hospitals and doctors and paramedical staff were called in from other districts to cope with the calamity.

Ahmedpur Sharqia Health Center and Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital have no burn wards while the injured have suffered burn injuries on 80 percent part of their bodies. A major such facility is available in Multan’s Nishtar Hospital.

“According to the initial reports, somebody tried to light a cigarette, and when the spilt fuel caught fire, leading to the tanker´s explosion,” Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman for the rescue workers service said.

Firefighters fought the flames for over two hours before extinguishing the fire.

Bodies were badly burnt and beyond identification. Punjab Minister Rana Sanullah said DNA tests are being conducted for identification.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed grief on the tragedy and sought immediate report into the incident. The CM directed officials concerned to make all the necessary arrangements for the treatment of the injured.

Punjab government spokesperson Malik Ahmed Khan said the chief minister have deputed his helicopter for rescue work.

Pakistan Army rescue

According to a statement from the ISPR, army’s military wing, COAS General Qamar Bajwa expressed grief on the losses in oil tanker incident and directed provision of full assistance to civil administration in rescue/relief effort.

Army Aviation helicopters have been sent for evacuation of casualties to hospitals and burn centres, while military hospitals were placed on high alert, it added.

Warnings ignored

Mohammad Shabbir, another villager, said the driver was shouting for people to stay away as the petrol could erupt at any time, but no one listened. “What is the use of this petrol, what will you do it with now?” he asked, pointing at a bucket in his other hand.

Pakistan Motorway Police spokesman Imran Shah told AFP residents also ignored police warnings to stay away.

Previous incident

Pakistan has an appalling record of fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

At least 62 people including women and children were killed in southern Pakistan in 2015 when their bus collided with an oil tanker, starting a fierce blaze that left victims burnt beyond recognition.

Leaders shocked

President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were shocked over the incident and directed government officials to help the victims in every possible way.

PM Nawaz expressed his grief and directed the government of Punjab to provide “full medical assistance”.

The News – Nawaz, Shahbaz staged ‘drama’ before JIT: Imran Khan

Islamabad, 17 June 2017. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said on Saturday that both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif had staged a drama before the JIT.

While referring to Shahbaz Sharif without taking his name, the PTI chief said, “Whom are they befooling by wearing hat and mafia suit”.

Speaking to the media, Imran said leaders are always held accountable in a democracy and with the Sharif family appearing before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), it does not mean they are being victimised.

He said that 12 corruption cases were pending against Nawaz Sharif. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has also been implicated in a case.

The Sharif family had not appeared before the court themselves but they had been called in to appear, the PTI chief said.

Imran reiterated that the entire nation stands by the Supreme Court and the JIT.

The News – Sikhs stopped from coming to Pakistan

Samjhota Express returns empty

Islamabad, 13 June 2017. The Samjhota Express sent to Attari, Amritsar, for Sikh pilgrims was returned empty as Indian authorities stopped them from coming to Pakistan for the ‘Jor Mela’, according to the Foreign Office spokesperson.

A statement issued from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Indian authorities returned the train, saying Pakistan had agreed on sending a special one for the pilgrims not the Samjhota Express.

The Indian authorities intercepted the pilgrims at the Attari border in Amritsar, read the statement. They were coming to Pakistan for the ‘Jor Mela’ to observe the death anniversary of Guru Arjun Das for which around 100 pilgrims were issued visas by the High Commission for Pakistan, it added.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria stated Pakistan had made all the arrangements, keeping in consideration the religious values of Sikhs.

The statement further stated that India did not hold human values important. Even the medical visa process was troublesome for Pakistanis, it added. In held Kashmir human beings are used as shields, it read. India has also targeted civilians along the LoC and Working Boundary.

The News – Panama JIT probe extends to almost entire Sharif family including the dead

Islamabad, 11 June 2017. The JIT probe has been extended to almost entire Sharif family, including even the dead.

Official documents as available with The News show that besides others the JIT is scrutinizing the tax returns and wealth statements as far back as 1969-70 of even late Mian Muhammad Sharif and late Mian Abbas Sharif, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s deceased father and brother respectively.

Tax and wealth statements of the Sharif family women including mother of the prime minister are also being checked out by the JIT. The only exception in the Sharif family as yet is of Shahbaz Sharif and his sons, who are still out of the JIT’s radar. However, the chief minister’s first wife’s financial matters are also under JIT’s scrutiny.

Tax documents of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his daughter-in-law, who is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s younger daughter, are also being dug.

So far the JIT has obtained from FBR, the income tax and wealth statements of late Mian Muhammad Sharif, PM’s deceased father; Mrs Shamim Akhtar, PM’s mother; Mrs Kalsoom Nawaz, PM’s wife; late Mian Abbas Sharif, PM’s deceased brother; Ms Sabiha Abbas, widow of late Mian Abbas Sharif; Mrs Nusrat Shahbaz, wife of Shahbaz Sharif; Mrs Maryam Safdar, PM’s elder daughter; Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz, PM’s sons; Asma (Nawaz) Dar, PM’s younger daughter, wife of Ali Dar and daughter-in-law of Ishaq Dar; and Ishaq Dar, Finance Minister.

Besides the above individuals, the tax documents of M/s Hudabiya Engineering (Pvt) Ltd; M/s Hudabiya Paper Mills Ltd; Chaudhry Sugar Mills and M/s Ramazan Sugar Mills Ltd have also been obtained by the JIT from the FBR.

Official documents show that initially the FBR provided late Mian Muhammad Sharif’s Income Tax Return from assessment year 1995-96 to Tax year 2004 and Wealth Tax returns from assessment year 1969-70 to 2000-01.

Later on June 8, the JIT further sought from FBR late Mian Muhammad Sharif’s Wealth Statements from 1981 to 2004, Return of Wealth Tax for the years from 1974 to 1979; and Income Tax Return from 1981 to 1995.

In the case of PM’s mother, Mrs Shamim Akhtar, the FBR provided to JIT her Income Tax returns from assessment year 1995-96 to 2002-03 and Tax years 2003 to 2016; Wealth Tax returns from assessment year 1983-84 to 2000-2001; and Wealth Statement from Tax year 2003 to 2016.

In the case of late Mian Abbas Sharif, the JIT obtained from FBR Income Tax returns from assessment year 1995-96 to 2002-03 and tax year 2003 to 2012; Wealth Tax returns from assessment year 1983-84 to 2000-2001; and Wealth Statements for 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 and tax year 2003 to 2012.

The JIT also obtained from FBR, Ms Sabiha Abbas’s Income Tax returns from assessment year 1983-84 to 2002-03 and tax year 2003 to 2016; Wealth Tax returns from assessment year 1980-81 to 2000-2001; and Wealth Statement for assessment years 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96 and tax year 2003, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s almost entire tax record provided to JIT, which on June 8th further sought NS’s reconciliation of wealth statement for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012; Wealth statement for the year ending 1995; Wealth Tax return for the assessment year 1997-98 and Income Tax return for the tax year 2006.

Mrs Nusrat Shahbaz’s Income Tax, Wealth Tax and Wealth statement record from 1983-84 onward has also been provided to the JIT by the FBR. Similarly Ishaq Dar’s tax documents from 1981-82 onward were provided to the JIT following JIT’s initial demand.

However, on June 8 the JIT demanded from FBR further record which include Ishaq Dar’s wealth statement from 1981 to 2009 and IT return from 1982 to 2006. FBR has also been told that Asma (Nawaz) Dar’s complete tax record of IT returns, Wealth Statement and Return of wealth tax be provided to JIT.

After initial provision of PM’s wife and children’s tax documents, the JIT through June 8th letter also asked for Mrs Kalsoom Nawaz’s Income Tax Return for the assessment years 1993-94, 1994-1995, 1996-1997, Tax year 2003, 2004 and 2007.

In case of Maryam Safdar, the JIT sought copy of her Wealth Statement for 1994-95 and Income Tax returns for 2001-02, 2002-03, Tax year 2003 and 2004.

In case of Hussain Nawaz, the June 8th letter demanded IT return for Tax years 2007 and 2011 whereas through the same letter, Hassan Nawaz’s IT return for the Tax years 2003, 2007 and 2011 have also been sought.

The News – Seven killed as terrorists hit London again

Fifty hurt; assailants crush people with hired van, stab revellers; British PM says terrorists use evil ideology; Pakistan strongly condemns attack

London, 5 June 2017. The United Kingdom’s capital once again came under terrorist attack on Sunday as three men riding a hired van and wearing fake suicide vests went on a rampage and rammed the passersby around London Bridge and then attacked the people with knives, killing seven and injuring at least 50 of them.

The assailants were wearing fake suicide vests in a bid to increase the sense of panic as they lunged seemingly at random at the crowd gathered around the London Bridge and Borough Market, which is full of restaurants and bars.

An eyewitness, Gerard Vowls, 47, said he saw a woman repeatedly stabbed, and threw chairs, glasses and bottles at the attackers in a bid to stop them. “They kept coming to try to stab me… they were stabbing everyone. Evil, evil people,” he told The Guardian newspaper.

Holly Jones, a BBC reporter, saw a white van speeding into crowds of people walking along the pavement on London Bridge, saying it hit about five or six people. Another witness called Eric told the BBC, he had seen three men getting out and thought they were going to help.

Instead, they “started kicking them, punching them and took out knives. It was a rampage really,” he said, adding that he heard a shout of: “This is for Allah”. An Australian and four French nationals were among those hospitalised, their governments said, while a Spaniard was slightly wounded.

Several people said they were ordered by the police to stay inside pubs and restaurants as the terror raged outside. Alex Shellum at the Mudlark pub said a woman had come into the bar “bleeding heavily from the neck”, telling the BBC: “It appeared that her throat had been cut”.

Italian photographer Gabriele Sciotto, who was watching the football at the Wheatsheaf pub in Borough Market, said he saw three men shot just outside the pub. In a picture he took, a man wearing combat trousers, with a shaved head and what looked like a belt with canisters attached to it could be seen on the ground with two more bodies behind him.

“In two or five seconds, they shot all the three men down,” Sciotto told the BBC.

Britain’s counter-terrorism police chief said that eight police officers fired an unprecedented number of bullets to stop three attackers in London who appeared to be suicide bombers wearing explosive vests, “Eight police firearms officers discharged their weapons.

Our initial assessment is in the region of 50 rounds, in the region of 50 bullets were fired by those eight officers. The three attackers were shot dead,” Mark Rowley said.

A member of the public received non-critical gunshot wounds during the incident. Rowley said police were making significant progress in identifying the three attackers, but gave no details.

British Prime Minister Theresa May blamed “evil” ideology for an attack by knife-wielding men who mowed down and stabbed revelers in London, killing seven, as police said they had arrested 12 suspects.

Saturday night´s rampage at the popular nightlife hub around London Bridge, by three men arriving in a van and wearing fake suicide vests, was the third deadly terror attack in Britain in three months and came only days before snap elections.

National campaigning for Thursday´s general election was suspended for the day out of respect for the victims, who included 48 people treated in hospital, some of them in life-threatening conditions.

No details have been released about the suspects, who were shot dead within minutes by police, and detectives are still investigating whether they acted alone. The 12 arrests were made in the ethnically diverse east London suburb of Barking, with Sky News reporting that a property raided by police belonged to one of the killers.

May said the attack was driven by the same “evil ideology of Islamist extremism” behind last week´s Manchester suicide bombing that left 22 people dead, and the Westminster attack in March, which killed five.

“The recent attacks are not connected but we believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face,” she said after chairing a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee. She warned that perpetrators are inspired to attack “by copying one another”.

Britain was already on high alert following the attack on a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande in Manchester, northwest England, in which seven children were among the dead.

Grande, who will headline a benefit concert in Manchester later Sunday alongside stars including Pharrell Williams and Justin Bieber, tweeted that she was “Praying for London.”

May also warned there was “far too much tolerance of extremism in our country”, promising to review counter-terrorism efforts, including possibly increasing the jail terms handed out in terror cases.

The ruling Conservatives and the main opposition Labour party suspended national campaign events for the day, although local campaigning will continue.

“But violence can never be allowed to disrupt the democratic process, so those campaigns will resume in full tomorrow and the general election will go ahead as planned on Thursday,” the prime minister said.

US President Donald Trump offered his help, tweeting “We are with you. God bless !” and highlighting his thwarted ban on travelers from six mainly Muslim countries.

Reuters adds: Prime Minister May said, “It is time to say enough is enough.” The Conservative leader said in a televised statement outside her Downing Street office, where flags a flew at half-mast.

“We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are,” May said, calling for a beefed-up counter-terrorism strategy that could include longer jail sentences for some offences and new cyberspace regulations.

APP adds: Pakistan on Sunday strongly condemned a terrorist attack in United Kingdom, which resulted in killing of seven people and injuries to dozen others.

These terrorist attacks are against human values and deserve utmost condemnation in every possible way, said a Foreign Office statement. It said, “The government and the people of the Islamic Republic Pakistan express their heartfelt sympathies and deepest condolences to the government and the people of United Kingdom.

Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks, we pray for the speedy recovery of the injured and we stand in solidarity with them in their hour of grief”, it added. It said, “Terrorism is a global menace and as a common challenge that it needs to be tackled with collective effort and cooperation”.

The News – Panama Leaks case: Joint Investigation Team (JIT) grills Hussain Nawaz

Islamabad, 29 May 2017. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing offshore properties of the Sharif family in line with the verdict of the Supreme Court (SC) in the PanamaLeaks case interrogated Hussain Nawaz, the son of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at the Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) on Sunday.

The JIT, during the course of hearing, observed that the probing team was legal until the Supreme Court (SC) gives verdict on the objections raised by Hussain Nawaz on the two JIT members.

Hussain Nawaz appeared before the JIT and recorded his statement. He said that the JIT neither provided any questionnaire nor laid down any procedure of interrogation. However, the JIT summoned Hussain Nawaz for further interrogation today (Monday).

Hussain Nawaz, who appeared before the JIT with his lawyer Fazal Ghani, did not submit any documents and recorded his statement over the questions raised by the JIT members.

When the JIT will formally provide him with the questionnaire, he will submit documentary evidence and other related material along with a written reply carrying details about property and business affairs, the sources said.

They said Hussain Nawaz gave verbal answers to the questions raised by the JIT members, mostly regarding tax returns of the London flats. The sources said, “After spending almost two hours before the JIT, Hussain Nawaz left in his car from the rear gate of the Federal Judicial Academy.”

Hussain Nawaz in his petition filed with the Supreme Court (SC) had already cast doubts on impartiality of two of the JIT members, Bilal Rasool (SECP) and Amir Aziz (SBP) and the apex court is set to hear this petition today (Monday).

The sources said the JIT members placed no restriction on the entry of the lawyer of Hussain Nawaz, who continued to write down points during the ‘question-answer session’ that was held for almost two hours.

It is pertinent to mention here that senior members of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) along with dozens of emotional workers were anxiously waiting outside the Federal Judicial Academy but only Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz managed to have a brief chat with Hussain Nawaz before his departure from the Federal Judicial Academy.

The sources said Hussain Nawaz also spent some time with other senior lawyers at the Prime Minister’s House where they discussed various aspects of the investigation being held in line with the directives of the three-member bench of the Supreme Court.

The News – Anti-state content: Government launches crack-down on social media activists

Islamabad, 21 May 2017. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said on Sunday that 41 suspects were being investigated for uploading anti-state content on social media.

A senior official said that some two dozen suspects were in FIA custody.

He said out of the two dozen suspects eight belonged to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Meanwhile, PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday visited his party activists being detained at the FIA headquarters, Geo News reported.

Speaking to media, Qureshi said his party stands by the workers and added that they had not been nominated in any specific case.

The News – Saving Pakistan´s lost city of Mohenjo Daro

Larkana, 16 May 2017. The centre of a powerful ancient civilisation, Mohenjo Daro was one of the world´s earliest cities, a Bronze Age metropolis boasting flush toilets and a water and waste system to rival many in modern Pakistan.

Some 5,000 years on archaeologists believe the ruins could unlock the secrets of the Indus Valley people, who flourished around 3,000 BC in what is now India and Pakistan before mysteriously disappearing.

But they warn, if nothing is done to protect the ruins, already neglected and worn by time, it will fade to dust and obscurity, never taking its rightful place in history.

“Everybody knows Egypt, nobody knows Mohenjo Daro, this has to be changed,” says Dr Michael Jansen, a German researcher working at the sun-baked site on the banks of the Indus river in Pakistan´s southern Sindh province.

Jansen is at the forefront of a new effort to promote the site internationally while finding ways to protect what is left.

In summer temperatures can soar above 46 degrees Celsius (115 Fahrenheit). “There is enormous thermo-stress,” says Jansen, adding that salt from the underground water table is also damaging the ruins.

But it´s more than just the weather and time. Pakistan´s bloody fight against militancy has also raised the spectre of destruction by militant group, much like Daesh destroyed the ruins in Syria´s Palmyra.

Most horrifying, however, is the wanton disregard for Mohenjo Daro, or “mound of the dead”, by ordinary citizens.

In 2014 police stood atop the main stupa as hundreds of people swarmed the site to, ironically, commemorate Pakistan’s cultural heritage, complete with scaffolding, dancing, fireworks, heavy spotlights and lasers.

Sardar Ali Shah, cultural minister in Sindh province, vowed never to let such a thing happen again.

“It’s like you are jumping on the bed, bed of a 5,000-year-old ailing patient,” he tells AFP.

Yet today curious visitors still roam the remains with impunity, many leaving rubbish in the once pristine-streets and wells.

‘Foreigners are afraid’

Jansen and his Friends of Mohenjo Daro society aim to promote the site internationally, with plans to recruit Pakistanis around the world for conferences, seminars and debates.

Dr Kaleem Lashari, chief consultant to the Pakistani government over Mohenjo Daro, said they will also digitally archive the Indus script, which has never been deciphered, in hopes that making it accessible will increase the site’s profile.

At the site itself, he said, technical reviews are being held to examine the water logging issue and other ways to shore up the ruins, while exploring new, modern technology that allows researchers to ascertain what lies beneath the surface in the portions of the city not yet excavated.

But, Lashari says, perhaps the biggest challenge remains Pakistan´s international image, tarnished by extremism, corruption, poverty, and insecurity.

“Foreigners are afraid to visit Pakistan and the site because of the chronic issue of law and order,” he warns.

All roads lead to equality? [bold]

The issues he cites underscore unsettling differences between modern day Pakistan and the civilisation found among the ruins.

At their peak during the Bronze Age, the Indus Valley people are believed to have numbered up to five million, with Mohenjo Daro their largest and most advanced settlement.

Clay and metallic seals, coins, standardised weighing stones, gold and bronze ornaments, toys and whistles, the bric-a-brac of ancient lives have revealed volumes about thriving Indus trade and commerce.

The layout of the city itself suggests an egalitarian people more concerned with cleanliness than hierarchy, says Dr Jonathan Mark Kenoyer of the University of Wisconsin.

“In Mesopotamia, the streets went from the city to the palace, whereas in (Indus) cities all the streets were organised to allow access to the whole city,” he says.

Mohenjo Daro had a complex water and waste management system which observers have wryly noted was better than in many parts of Pakistan today.

Only a small portion of the site has been excavated properly, but the most important building appears not to have been a palace or a place of worship, but a massive public bath.

Houses had tiled bathrooms and their own cylindrical brick wells, sometimes raised to the second floor to allow for a flush system.

None of this, however, has yet explained why such a powerful, advanced and flourishing civilisation disappeared so abruptly around 1900 BC.

Currently, there is no bid to excavate further among the plans being laid by Lashari and Jansen. “It is actually preserved when it is buried,” explains Harvard University´s Dr Richard Meadow.

Despite their access to new technologies, that puts researchers in a quandary, especially as they try to understand what happened to the Indus people. As Jansen says, the “best way to learn information is to excavate”.

But mysteries take time to solve: for now, the researchers say, they will settle for ensuring that Mohenjo Daro endures for a few centuries more.

The News – Chaman cross border killings

Sartaj Aziz terms Chaman incident as unfortunate

Islamabad, 8 May 2017. Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has said that the Chaman incident was an unfortunate event.

He stated this while addressing a news conference at the Foreign Office here on Monday.

The adviser also remarked that Pakistan responded to the firing from across the border.

On 5 May at least 11 people were martyred and 46 injured when Afghan border forces opened fire on Frontier Corps Balochistan soldiers deployed for security of census team near the Chaman border.

Census activities resumed; Bab-e-Dosti gate remained closed

Chaman, 8 May 2017. Census activities, which were halted following Friday’s attack, have resumed on Monday. However, the Bab-e-Dosti gate is remained closed for the fourth consecutive day.

Security officials said that the Pakistan-Afghan geological survey teams would resume their activities today.

All trade activities and visa section were also remained closed on Monday.

Earlier, Pakistan and Afghan military authorities agreed on Sunday to determine the geographical border limits during a flag meeting at the Bab-e-Dosti gate.

The News – FO welcomes Turkey’s offer of mediation between Pakistan, India on Kashmir issue

Islamabad, 2 May 2017. Pakistan has welcomed the Turkish president’s offer to strengthen the dialogue process among the stakeholders for resolving the Kashmir issue.

Ahead of his arrival in New Delhi, President Erdogan remarked: ‘India and Pakistan were both friends of Turkey and he wanted to help strengthen the dialogue process among the stakeholders for resolving the Kashmir issue,’ the Foreign Office said in a statement issued here.

“The Turkish president has also called for a multilateral approach to settle the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, while calling for an immediate end to bloodshed in Indian occupied Kashmir, which we welcome,” the statement added.

It said, the situation in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, especially in terms of human rights violations and implications for the regional and global security, due to the unresolved dispute have raised serious concerns across the globe.

Recently, the UN, the OIC and International Community, including the US, have urged the early resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute given the perils for the regional peace and security.

Pakistan has always welcomed the statements and endeavours aimed at addressing the human rights issues in IoK and the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, the statement concluded.