Monday, November 2, 2009

Karzai declared elected president

Hamid Karzai has been declared president of Afghanistan, after election officials scrapped a planned second round of voting.

The announcement comes a day after Mr Karzai's sole challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, pulled out of the race.

Dr Abdullah, who had demanded the removal of key poll officials, said the vote would not have been fair. The first round had been marred by fraud.

Key Nato allies of Afghanistan have congratulated Mr Karzai.

On Monday a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission (IEC), Azizullah Lodin, declared that President Karzai, "the only candidate for the second round", had been "elected president of Afghanistan".

He said the second round on 7 November was being scrapped to save money, for security reasons and to prevent further setbacks that could damage Afghanistan politically and economically.

The Taliban, which carried out attacks across the country during the first round, had vowed to disrupt the polls again next Saturday.

President Karzai had been the favourite to win the run-off after gaining more votes in the first round on 20 August.

One of the reasons for holding a deciding vote had been to try to restore some legitimacy to the process after the discredited first round.

A number of international figures, including US Senator John Kerry, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, had been involved in persuading Mr Karzai to accept a run-off.

'Historic' election

However Mr Brown welcomed the commission's decision.

The Independent Election Commission announces Mr Karzai's election
A spokesman said the PM had "spoken to President Karzai to congratulate him on his re-election" and the two men had "discussed the importance of the president moving quickly to set out a unifying programme for the future of Afghanistan".

The US administration, though its embassy in Kabul, also hailed the commission's move which it said conformed to "its mandate under Afghan law".

The statement added: "We congratulate President Karzai on his victory in this historic election and look forward to working with him."

But Dr Abdullah had demanded key officials be removed from the IEC, which is widely regarded as pro-Karzai.

Earlier on Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Kabul and said Afghanistan's troubled election had been among "the most difficult the United Nations has ever supported".

The BBC's Lyse Doucet in Kabul says there has been intense discussion in recent days as to whether scrapping the second round would be constitutionally legal.

Some observers are saying Mr Karzai's legitimacy is also in question, and ask whether his government can be effective, adds our correspondent.

This would be a particular concern to US President Barack Obama as he considers whether to send up to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Hundreds of thousands of votes were discounted from August's first round, including almost a third of ballots cast for Mr Karzai.

The incumbent's share of the vote was cut to just under the crucial 50% plus one ballot threshold needed for outright victory, following an investigation by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission.

Dr Abdullah - a Tajik-Pashtun former eye surgeon and ex-foreign minister - was adjudged in the end to have won nearly a third of valid votes cast.

Rawalpindi blast death toll rises to 34: Rescue 1122

Updated at: 1335 PST, Monday, November 02, 2009
RAWALPINDI: At least 34 people have been killed and 32 others wounded in the alleged suicide explosion in Rawalpindi Cantonment area, said spokesman Rescue 1122.

President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani have strongly condemned the blast.

According to reports, the blast occurred at 10:40 am outside door of bank near Shalimar Hotel killing and wounded several persons present in the area and damaged mangy buildings and vehicles.

The sources said there was long queue of persons outside the bank who were gathered to collect the salaries and pension when an alleged suicide bomber blew up himself.

RPO Aslam Tarin said suicide bomber was riding on a motorbike. Some body parts of bomber and a suicide jacket have been recovered from the blast site. A head is also found from the scene. Police have cordoned off the area as rescue operation is underway. Thirteen bodies were shifted to DHQ and 16 in different hospitals whereas three bodies transferred to military hospital, rescue 1122 sources said. Emergency has been imposed in the hospitals.

Altaf advises President Zardari to resign

Updated at: 1523 PST, Monday, November 02, 2009

KARACHI: The chief of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain has decided to oppose NRO in the Parliament and advice President Asif Ali Zardari to quit as president.

The senior analyst of Geo News Dr.Shahid Masood said the top leadership of MQM had conveyed the message to President Zardari through Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr. Baber Awan to give sacrifice along with his companions and face courts.

Talking to Dr. Shahd Masood, MQM leader Altaf Hussain told the government that NRO is a black law and it should not be presented in the assembly but government had ignored the suggestion and presented it in the parliament. The MQM coordination committee will announce MQM's decision later.

President to take govt allies into confidence over NRO

Updated at: 1834 PST, Monday, November 02, 2009
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari will be chairing an important tonight where he will take coalition parties of the government in confidence over the issue of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

The meeting is scheduled at 8:00 pm at the Presidential House, however; ongoing National assembly session can cause a delay.

The coalition parties in the government have been notified about the meeting and banquet to be hosted by the President, the sources told.

The president is likely to seek all out support of coalition partners on NRO by declaring it critical for inculcating culture of reconciliation in domestic politics.

The invitees of the meeting include various leaders of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) and Baloshistan National Party (BNP) along with few other leaders from FATA.

The sources said that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani along with federal ministers and all parliamentarians of PPP will also be participating in the meeting.

Five policemen injured in Lahore check post blast

Updated at: 1906 PST, Monday, November 02, 2009
LAHORE: Five policemen have been injured in a bomb blast at police check post near Babu Sabu Interchange, Geo News reported Monday.

The blast took place when a white Suzuki Mehran rammed into the police check post, sources said.

Rescue teams have reached the blast site.

The injured police personnel have been rushed to nearby hospital.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Clinton faces Pakistani anger at Predator attacks

Updated at: 2235 PST, Friday, October 30, 2009
ISLAMABAD: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came face-to-face Friday with Pakistani anger over U.S. aerial drone attacks in tribal areas along the Afghan border, a strategy that U.S. officials say has succeeded in killing key terrorist leaders.

In a series of public appearances on the final day of a three-day visit marked by blunt talk, Clinton refused to discuss the subject, which involves highly classified CIA operations. She would say only that "there is a war going on," and the Obama administration is committed to helping Pakistan defeat the insurgents and terrorists who threaten the stability of a nuclear-armed nation.

Clinton said she could not comment on "any particular tactic or technology" used in the war against extremist groups in the area.

The use of Predator drone aircraft, armed with guided missiles, is credited by U.S. officials with eliminating a growing number of senior terrorist group leaders this year who had used the tribal lands of Pakistan as a haven beyond the reach of U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan.

During an interview broadcast live in Pakistan with several prominent female TV anchors, before a predominantly female audience of several hundred, one member of the audience said the Predator attacks amount to "executions without trial" for those killed.

Another asked Clinton how she would define terrorism.

"Is it the killing of people in drone attacks?" she asked. That woman then asked if Clinton considers drone attacks and bombings like the one that killed more than 100 civilians in the city of Peshawar earlier this week to both be acts of terrorism.

"No, I do not," Clinton replied.

Earlier, in a give-and-take with about a dozen residents of the tribal region, one man alluded obliquely to the drone attacks, saying he had heard that in the United States, aircraft are not allowed to take off after 11 p.m., to avoid irritating the population.

"That is the sort of peace we want for our people," he said through an interpreter.

The same man told Clinton that the Obama administration should rely more on wisdom and less on firepower to achieve its aims in Pakistan.

"Your presence in the region is not good for peace," he said, referring to the U.S. military, "because it gives rise to frustration and irritation among the people of this region." At another point he told Clinton, "Please forgive me, but I would like to say we've been fighting your war."

A similar point was made by Sana Bucha of Geo TV during the live broadcast interview.

"It is not our war," she told Clinton. "It is your war." She drew a burst of applause when she added, "You had one 9/11. We are having daily 9/11s in Pakistan."

Capturing a feeling that Clinton heard expressed numerous times during her visit, one woman in the audience said, "The whole world thinks we are terrorists." The woman said she was from the South Waziristan area where the Pakistani army is engaged in pitched battles with Taliban and affiliated extremist elements — and where U.S. drones have struck with deadly effect many times.

The Pakistani army said Friday its forces had killed 14 militants in 24 hours and were closing in on a prominent insurgent stronghold as its offensive in the remote region continued.

Clinton's main message on Friday was that the U.S. wants to be a partner with Pakistan, not just on the military front but also on trade, education, energy and other sectors. She stressed, however, that Pakistan needs to do its part in demonstrating a real commitment to democracy.

Clinton also was asked about her remark on Thursday that she found it hard to believe that Pakistani officials don't know where leaders of terrorist groups are hiding in Pakistan.

On Friday she took a bit of the edge off that comment, saying, "I don't know if anyone knows, but we in the United States would very much like to see the end of the al-Qaida leadership, and our best information is that they are somewhere in Pakistan."

In an interview broadcast Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Clinton was asked about the bluntness of her remarks.

"Trust is a two-way street. There is trust deficit," she said. "It will not be sufficient to achieve the level of security that Pakistanis deserve if we don't go after those who are still threatening not only Pakistan, but Afghanistan, and the rest of the world. And we wanted to put that on the table. And I think it was important that we did."

Asked if she thought Pakistan was harboring terrorists, Clinton replied, "I don't think they are. ... But I think it would be a missed opportunity and a lack of recognition of the full extent of the threat, if they did not realize that any safe haven anywhere for terrorists threatens them, threatens us, and has to be addressed."

Later Clinton was to fly to Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf for a meeting Saturday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Ogra proposes Rs2 hike in petroleum products

Updated at: 2029 PST, Friday, October 30, 2009
ISLAMABAD: Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) suggested 12 paisa to Rs2 to be added to the prices of petroleum products from November 1st to November 30, Geo News reported Friday.

The sources told Geo News that petrol price was proposed to go up by 50 paisa, hi-speed diesel by 12 paisa and kerosene oil was suggested to go up by 70 paisa.

According to the preliminary suggestion by the Ogra, the hike in price of light speed diesel has been shown to go up by Rs1.70/lit and hi-octane price has been shown to soar by Rs2/lit.

The Oil and Gas Ministry would send the summary of the Ogra to Finance Ministry. Then, the PM would be apprised of this summary.

The prices of petroleum products would be determined by October 31.

Maqam reveals NRO stipulated 5-year term for Musharraf

Updated at: 2253 PST, Friday, October 30, 2009
ISLAMABAD: Former state minister and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) president in NWFP Engineer Ameer Maqam Friday revealed that it was decided in a deal entered with Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) that former President Gen (rtd) Pervez Musharraf would remain president for the next five years and Benazir Bhutto would be the premier of the country.

Talking to Geo News, he said under the NRO deal, Musharraf will ascend to the presidency as the civilian president for the next five years and Benazir Bhutto was decided to become the Prime Minister.

Responding a question, Maqam said he made the reservations over the NRO known to the president, saying, ‘NRO would be your most grossest blunder.’

The PML-Q leader said the NRO was passed by overruling the proceedings in National Assembly’s Standing Committee; however, its apprehensions were not addressed and removed.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mona Lisa unveiled largest than ever

Updated at: 1704 PST, Thursday, October 29, 2009
LONDON: The world record-breaking attempt to produce the largest ever reproduction of the Mona Lisa went on display at Eagles Meadow shopping centre in Wrexham, Wales on Wednesday 28th October.

Members from the entire community have come together to create their own version of the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting that covers a massive 240 square metres: that’s the size of 24 double-decker buses! Hundreds of people were involved, including school children from Victoria Primary School and members of the Haulfan Centre, which offers a wide range of activities for people with disabilities, have given hours of their time to help artist Katy Webster complete the mammoth task.

The work will be on show at Eagles Meadow for one day only. Shoppers will not only have the chance to scrutinise every detail of Mona Lisa’s famous expression up close, but will also be able to touch the giant piece, made up of 82 different vinyl squares.

Hope House, a charity that provides for terminally ill children through specialist care, family support and fundraising events, will be benefiting from this labour of love, with those donating to the charity able to own their own small piece of record-breaking history. This is a great cause; with the money raised going straight back into the local community to improve the lives of both patients and their families at Hope House, which Holly Willoughby is patron of.

Eagles Meadow Manager Kevin Critchley came up with the idea to involve community groups in an exciting art project. “Our Mona Lisa has a lot of advantages over the original. It’s a lot bigger so she is much easier to see, admirers will not have to queue to make her acquaintance, there isn’t any entry charge to Eagles Meadow, and unlike the version in Paris you will be able to touch her!”

Nawaz for Pakistan’s help in terror war

Updated at: 1809 PST, Thursday, October 29, 2009
LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-N Chief Nawaz Sharif, during his meeting with visiting US secretary of state Hillary Clinton here on Thursday, urged the US to redress reservations of Pakistani people, as well as political parties and other sections of society.

Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan is in a state of war, so the entire world including the US should come forward in extending financial assistance.

During views were exchanged on matters including the country’s situation, the ongoing war on terror and Kerry-Lugar Bill.

The PML-N Chief said Pakistan nation has legitimate reservations on KL Bill. “Pakistan holds sovereignty and integrity as its dearest assets,” he added.

Hillary Clinton on the occasion said the US wants elimination of terrorism and in order achieve this goal it will extend all out support to Pakistan.

She said peace in South Asia is essential for the entire world.

US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, US ambassador Anne W. Patterson, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar were present on the occasion.

US economy is growing once again

The US economy grew at an annual pace of 3.5% between July and September, its first expansion in more than a year, official data has shown.
Analysts say the growth was helped by the "cash for clunkers" car scrappage scheme, and the fear is growth will now fall after this ended in August.
The US economy was also lifted by President Obama's $787bn (£480bn) economic stimulus plan.
But with unemployment still high, the ongoing recovery is set to be slow.
Global good news
The economic growth between July and September indicates that the US has likely exited a recession that first started in December 2007.
However, the official confirmation still has to come from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the agency which considers a number of factors in coming to its decision.
The US economy last expanded in the second quarter of 2008, when it grew 2.4%.
BBC chief economics correspondent Hugh Pym said the 3.5% annualised growth rate was more than the 3.3% expected by most commentators.
"The sheer scale of the stimulus in the US has made a big difference, it was much bigger in percentage terms than that in the UK," he said.
"That the US, the powerhouse of the world economy is growing once again, is good news for the global economy has a whole."
Numerous boosts
The figures from the Commerce Department showed that a number of factors helped to lift the economy during the third quarter.
Spending on durable manufactured products soared at an annualised rate of 22.3%, the highest quarterly amount since 2001, led primarily by the impact of the cash for clunkers scheme lifting car sales.
The housing market also improved, with spending on housing products up 23.4%, its largest quarterly jump in 23 years.
Analysts said this big leap was sparked by the government's $8,000 tax credit for first-time house buyers.
Meanwhile, total government spending was up 7.9%, as the wider stimulus spending continued to take effect.
In addition, exports were also up strongly, increasing 21.4%, the biggest rise since 1996.
"It's good to have the economy growing again," said Brian Bethune, economist at IHS Global Insight.
"But we don't think that rate of growth is sustainable because it is distorted by all the government stimulus.
"The challenge here is to get organic growth - growth that isn't helped by fiscal steroids."
Analysts cautious about the slow nature of the US economic recovery point to the fact that the unemployment rate currently stands at 9.8%, and that the labour market traditionally lags behind any wider economic recovery.
They also highlight the fact that the big car firms have already reported a sharp fall in September sales following the conclusion of the popular $3bn cash for clunkers scheme at the end of August.
"You can say that the recession is over, but it sure won't feel like that," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Centre for Economic Policy Research.
"There is a lot of downward momentum that isn't going to go."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

UN chief condemns Kabul killings

N Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned as "shocking and shameless" a Taliban raid which killed at least five UN workers in the Afghan capital Kabul.
But Mr Ban said the UN would not be deterred from its mission there.
Three Afghans also died when suicide bombers stormed a UN guesthouse in the city. The three attackers were killed in a long battle with security forces.
The Taliban said the attack was the first step in its bid to disrupt next week's presidential run-off election.
In a separate attack, rockets were fired at the city's five-star Serena Hotel, but no-one was injured.

25 more extremists killed: ISPR

SLAMABAD: Pakistani troops massed outside a key Taliban base and killed 25 militants, fighting back in a major tribal belt offensive after a devastating market bomb attack, the military said Wednesday.

The latest death toll brings to 264 the total number of insurgents reported to have been killed since the operation was launched in the rugged tribal terrain of South Waziristan on October 17.

No information provided by the army can be verified, however, as communication lines are down and access to the area on the wild Afghan border is banned to journalists and aid workers.

"Security forces have surrounded Kanigurram from three sides," military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told a news conference.

The town was considered the "operational centre" of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he said. It was a major terror stronghold and an important base for Uzbek fighters in the area, he added.

Abbas also said troops were within four kilometres (2.5 miles) of another major Taliban hub, Sararogha, which lies to the east.

The military spokesman condemned Wednesday's carnage in the northwestern city of Peshawar where a bomb killed 92 people in a crowded market frequented mostly by women. "This cowardly act shows their desperation," he said.

Despite the attack, which was apparently calculated to exact maximum casualties, Abbas insisted the militants were on the defensive as troops were making steady gains into TTP territory.

"Their leadership is on the run," he said, claiming that 25 training centres and nine caves had been recently destroyed.

Around 30,000 troops are taking part in the offensive against an estimated 10-12,000 militants in the semi-autonomous and lawless tribal belt. Relief workers say more than 200,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.

Numerous previous offensives in the tribal belt have had limited success, costing the lives of 2,000 troops and ending generally with peace agreements that critics say gave the insurgents a chance to re-arm.

Clinton Pak visit not vital: Elahi

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi Wednesday said the meeting between the two big personalities were held to please US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was meant to give message that they have turned into ‘tame kids’.

Talking to media after offering condolences to former Cricket team captain Wasim Akram on the demise of his wife, he said he sees no importance for Hillary Clinton’s Pakistan visit.

Condemning the Peshawar blast which claimed over 85 lives, he said it is inefficient of the rulers that schools have to be closed down today.

Peshawar blast toll mounts to 94

PESHAWAR: The total death toll from Peshawar blast has mounted to 90 while rescue sources say that more people could still be buried under the debris. Over 150 people sustained injuries in the blast.

Hospital sources have confirmed that 160 were brought there, and a list of 136 of these injured has been made visible inside the hospital premises.

According to details, the powerful blast occurred at Peepal Mandi ripped near Meena Bazar, Peshawar. The explosion triggered fire in nearby shops while an old building came to ground with the heavy impact which also caused damage to other surrounding buildings.

Most of the buildings in the area had already been declared to be in poor condition.

AIG Bomb Disposal Unit Shafqatullah Malik said that explosives, weighing 150 kilograms, were planted in a vehicle.

DCO Peshawar Sahibzada Anees has confirmed 87 deaths in the tragic incident while the hospital sources confirmed 89 people dead, majority of them are women and children.

Condition of many injured is said to be serious and the toll is feared to rise further.

Senior NWFP Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour reiterated the commitment to bringing the terrorists to justice.

President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed profound grief over the loss of innocent lives in Peshawar bomb blast, while denouncing the incident, Prime Minister (PM) Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani directed concerned officials to provide the injured with all the possible medical relief. NWFP Chief Minister (CM), Amir Hyder Khan Hoti has ordered inquiry of the blast.

Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif, CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Quaid Altaf Hussain, Governor Punjab Salman Taseer, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Qamar Zaman Kaira, NWFP CM Amir Hyder Hoti, Governor NWFP Owais Ahmed Ghani, CM Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Governor Sindh Dr Ishrat-ul-Ibad, CM Balochistan Aslam Raisani, Governor Balochistan Zulfiqar Magsi, Federal Ministers Farooq Sattar and Babar Ghauri, Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Syed Munawar Hassan and Qazi Husain Ahmed strongly condemned the blast.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pakistan 'takes key Taliban town'

akistani troops have captured the key Taliban town of Kotkai in South Waziristan, security officials say.
Troops took the town after days of bombardments, officials said. Three soldiers and four Taliban were reported killed in the fighting overnight.
Kotkai, home to top Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, has seen fierce fighting since Pakistan launched its South Waziristan offensive last week.
Journalists are being denied access to the area and cannot verify the reports.
Up to 100,000 civilians have fled the conflict zone, the army says.South Waziristan is considered to be the main sanctuary for Islamic militants outside Afghanistan.
Pakistan launched its offensive after a wave of militant attacks, believed to have been orchestrated from South Waziristan, killed more than 150 people.
Pakistani troops - backed by artillery, helicopters and fighter jets - were reported to have briefly taken control of Kotkai in the course of fighting earlier this week.
But on Tuesday morning the Taliban hit back, destroying army checkpoints and killing seven soldiers, local officials said.However Pakistan's army subsequently said it had secured the tactically important heights around Kotkai.
On Saturday, AFP quoted an official as saying: "Security forces took control of Kotkai overnight and a clearance operation is in progress.
"It is a major breakthrough because it was the stronghold of Taliban and hometown of Hakimullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain," he added, referring to a reputed trainer of suicide bombers.
The BBC's Mark Dummett, in Islamabad, says the fighting is now expected to move into more remote and mountainous areas, as the army continues its drive deeper into this militant stronghold.
Meanwhile, at least 13 people were reported to have been killed by a US drone missile strike targeting a Taliban commander's house in the tribal region of Bajaur.
Officials said the strike had hit the house of Maulvi Faqir in Damadola village.

Afghan bombs kill eight US troops

Eight US soldiers have been killed in bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan, say Nato-led forces.
An Afghan civilian was also killed in what were called "multiple complex IED attacks" - or improvised bombs.
The deaths make October the deadliest month for American forces in the eight-year war in Afghanistan.
On Monday 11 soldiers were among 14 Americans killed in multiple air crashes. In total 55 US troops have died in October, the Pentagon says.
Like many deaths in Afghanistan, Tuesday's bloodshed was blamed on the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that pose the biggest threat to foreign forces operating in the country.

Adam Brookes, BBC News, Washington

The news of eight more casualties in Afghanistan comes at a time when President Obama is pondering what to do next in Afghanistan.
Americans are still waiting to hear whether the president is planning to increase troop levels. And this incident will contribute to the perception that the situation there is deteriorating, not improving.
The use of improvised explosive devices in these attacks seems to be part of a trend towards fewer conventional direct-fire engagements and more guerrilla-style attacks. It looks like these tactics are migrating from Iraq to Afghanistan, where we are seeing the Taliban increasingly using roadside bombs to attack coalition forces.
"Additionally, several service members were wounded in these incidents and were transported to a regional medical facility for treatment," said a statement from the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).
Military spokesmen said there had been two attacks in the south of the country - one which killed seven soldiers and the civilian, and a second attack that killed one soldier.
But few other details were given, pending the notification of the soldiers' next of kin.
The sharp increase in the US death toll in Afghanistan comes amid a review of policy in Afghanistan by US President Barack Obama.
He is under pressure to reinforce the US military presence by tens of thousands of US troops - but many Americans are likely to oppose such a course in light of October's succession of deadly incidents, says the BBC's Andrew North, in Afghanistan.
The attacks also come amid heightened tension in Afghanistan in the run-up to the second round of a presidential election marred by widespread fraud in favour of incumbent President Hamid Karzai.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Five die as Majorca block tumbles

At least five people died when a residential building collapsed overnight in Majorca's capital Palma, in the Spanish Balearic Islands.
The three-storey structure, said to be at least 50 years old, collapsed at about 0030 (2230 GMT on Sunday).
Rescuers are searching for more people who are unaccounted for, and believed to be in the rubble. Four others were injured in the collapse, two seriously.
The local gas supplier has ruled out a gas leak as a possible cause.
There is nothing to indicate that Britons or other foreigners are among the dead.

Saudi sex TV producer spared lash

The Saudi king has waived a sentence of flogging on a female journalist working for a TV channel which aired graphic accounts of sex in the kingdom.
King Abdullah cancelled the sentence of 60 lashes against Rozanna al-Yami, after being briefed on the case.
The programme broadcast by Saudi-owned Lebanese channel LBC caused a huge scandal in the conservative kingdom.
Three men who bragged about their sexual adventures in the show, as well as the cameraman, have been jailed.
No reason has been given for the king's decision. It is the second time he has intervened in a high-profile flogging sentence in two years.
The original programme was part of a series called Red Lines, examining taboos in the Arab world, including extra-marital sex in Saudi Arabia.
Mazen Abdul Jawad provoked outrage by describing his techniques for meeting and having sex with Saudi women.
He has apologised and claimed LBC tricked him, but he was jailed for five years and sentenced to 1,000 lashes.
Three of his friends who appeared on the show got two years each and the cameraman was jailed for two months.
The station's offices in Saudi Arabia were closed down and two of its producers - both female - put on trial.
LBC has made no comment about the cases.

Turkish PM for joint struggle to stamp out terrorism

Updated at: 1723 PST, Monday, October 26, 2009
ISLAMABAD: Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday stressed the need for putting up a joint struggle against the scourge of terrorism and extremism.

Delivering a historic address to the joint session of Pakistani Parliament, the Turkish PM said Turkey understands the challenges and problems being faced by the people of Pakistan. “Turkey stands with Pakistan in the war against terror,” the Turkish PM said.

The Turkish PM’s speech at the joint session of the Parliament is a first ever address made by any foreign diplomat.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, senior military officials including Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and members of parliament attended today’s session.

The first lady of Turkey was also present along with the Turkish diplomats.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was not only the great leader of Pakistan but also of the entire world. When Ms Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007, the members of Turkish parliament representing all the political parties of the country expressed grief, he added.

He described the relations shared between Pakistan and Turkey as extraordinary.

“Pakistan holds a special place in the hearts of Turkish people right from the day the former became independent 62 years ago,” the Turkish PM said, adding “the Turkish people still remember the freedom movement spearheaded by Jauhar brothers.”