Major 7.2 earthquake hits SW Pakistan

A powerful earthquake hit southwest Pakistan on Wednesday, geologists said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties. (AFP/File/Nicolas Asfouri)

 

 

ISLAMABAD, Jan 19 (KATAKAMI / AP)  – A major 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked a remote area of southwestern Pakistan early Wednesday, shaking many parts of the country and causing tremors as far away as India and the United Arab Emirates.

The quake was centered in Baluchistan province, the country’s most sparsely populated area, said the United States Geological Service, occurring at 1:30 a.m. local time at a depth of some 50 miles (84 kilometers.

Its epicenter was in a remote area some 200 miles (320 kilometers) southwest of the Baluchistan capital of Quetta, said chief Pakistani meteorologist Arif Mahmood, not far from the Afghan border.

The closest town to the epicenter was Dalbandin, with a population around 15,000 people, and is so remote that the nearby Chagai hills were the site of Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests.

There was no word on damage in Dalbandin. But another town close to the epicenter, Karan, suffered no major damage, said Fateh Bangar, Karan’s deputy commissioner. The town was some 45 miles (70 kilometers) from the epicenter, he said.

Nasir Baluch, a police officer in Karan, said several mud houses collapsed or were damaged in an area outside the town called Mashkil. There was no immediate word on casualties, but the area is sparsely populated, he said.

There was no major damage in Quetta either, but the quake caused widespread panic in the city, said residents.

Local TV reports said the quake was felt throughout several other provinces as well. Many residents in the country’s largest city, Karachi, ran out into the streets once the quake started, said the reports.

Karachi resident Mohammad Zubair said he was watching a cricket match on TV when his bed began to shake.

“I jumped out of bed realizing it was an earthquake,” said the 28-year-old. “My mom started reciting verses from the Quran, and we rushed outside.”

Tremors lasting at least 20 seconds were also felt as far away as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and in India’s capital, New Delhi.

Earthquakes often rattle the region. A magnitude 7.6 quake on Oct. 8, 2005, killed about 80,000 people in northwestern Pakistan and Kashmir and left more than 3 million homeless. (*)

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Death in Islamabad: Pakistani Governor Killed by Own Bodyguard

FILE : In this picture dated on August 19, 2010 Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (L) walks with Pakistani Punjab governor Salman Taseer in Jampur. On January 4, 2011 Pakistan's governor of Punjab was shot dead near his Islamabad home in a political assassination that threatens to sink the nuclear-armed country ever deeper into chaos. (Photo by FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)

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January 05, 2011 (KATAKAMI / ABC NEWS) ) — When he got to work this morning, police officer Mumtaz Qadri asked to be assigned to theGovernor of Punjab‘s security detail. Qadri was a member of Punjab’s elite police force, he had guarded the Governor before, and he got the assignment he was looking for.

As Governor Salman Taseer made a morning visit to the popular and upscale Khosar Market in the capital, Islamabad, Qadri was the lead security guard. The governor had a meal at one of the market’s restaurants, and was getting into his car when Mumtaz Qadri turned and opened fire, at close range, on the man he was supposed to have been protecting.

Salman Taseer died almost instantly. Hospital officials say they found nine bullets in the Governor’s corpse.

The attack would have been a tragic and compelling story anywhere — but the dateline and motive for the killing could mean grave trouble for Pakistan, for moderation, and for the United States.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton today called his death “a great loss.” In a statement she said, “I had the opportunity to meet Governor Taseer in Pakistan and I admired his work to promote tolerance and the education of Pakistan’s future generations.”

The United States remains committed to helping the government and people of Pakistan as they persevere in their campaign to bring peace and stability to their country.

Salman Taseer was Governor of Pakistan’s most important province, a bold and controversial politician, and a voice for moderation in an increasingly militant and anti-American nation. Taseer was a senior leader of the late Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, and it appears he met the same fate as Ms. Bhutto for some of the same reasons.

Today’s killing, as ABC’s Nick Schifrin put it, “isn’t just a terrorist act or a political assassination. It is a violent proclamation by Pakistani radicals that they will kill anyone who argues Pakistan should become a more secular, progressive state.”

Gov. Taseer and his family lived a Western lifestyle, and he recently advocated changing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which call for a mandatory death sentence for anyone convicted of insulting Islam.

Today Qadri, Taseer’s killer, told police he had decided on the assassination three days ago, and was proud to have killed “a blasphemer,” according to investigators.

Some reports suggest that his fellow bodyguards congratulated the killer; others say none of the others raised a finger while the bullets flew. The other guards have all been taken into custody for questioning.

The focus of that questioning, no doubt, will be the possibility that radicals have infiltrated Pakistan’s security services. The killer was a trained commando — an elite officer. If he was able to get himself inside the commandos, there’s a fear that radicals can infect all levels of the police and, to a lesser extent, the Pakistani army.

The supposedly liberal and secularPakistan People’s Party — which President Zardari leads and Taseerbelonged to — had already cowed to religious parties’ requests and promised not to touch the blasphemy laws. Taseer’s death can therefore be seen as an even more brazen and appalling statement by the radicals that they will go to any extremes against a more secular, liberal, society.

The site of the assassination underscores the point: Khosar Market is associated strongly with Westerners and elite Pakistanis who enjoy Starbucks-style coffee shops. It’s as Western as it gets in Islamabad.

Finally, and perhaps most worrisome of all for the U.S., Governor Taseer’s killing comes as the government is fighting for its survival after two parties withdrew from the coalition.

Just today the main opposition party gave the government three days to present policy fixes for the nation — or face a no-confidence move in the parliament. Ironically, the assassination has provided the government a little breathing room; that three-day ultimatum has been postponed, until the 40-day mourning period for Governor Taseer is over.

For now, one of the United States’ most crucial allies — already plagued by corruption, grave economic problems and a powerful insurgency — must face the prospect of serious and long-term instability. And the possibility that moderation in Pakistan — in short supply already — may have been among the assassin’s victims.  (*)

Key witness in Benazir Bhutto assassination probe leaves Pak without prior permission

A man holds a picture of Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto with a candle and a flower as he participates in a vigil to commemorate her death anniversary in Islamabad December 27, 2010. Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack after an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, weeks after she returned to Pakistan after years in self-imposed exile. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

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December 28, 2010 (KATAKAMI / AlbuquerquEexpress.Com) — A key witness of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination probe left for the United States without taking permission from the Pakistan government.

Dr Musadiq Khan was the principal of Rawalpindi Medical College, and examined the wounds of Benazir when brought to the general hospital on Decemeber 27, 2007, the Dawn reported.

Secretary of the Punjab Health Department, Fawad Hassan said that the department received Musadiq’s leave application after his departure from the country, which was unacceptable.

The case had been forwarded to the Punjab chief minister, the paper said.

Dr Musadiq had claimed that the cause of Benazir’s death was the wound from the lever of vehicle’s sunroof rather than the bullet wound.

He was facing investigation from the Punjab Health Department for allegedly misusing authorities and indiscipline.  (*)

Photostream : Benazir Bhutto 3rd Death Anniversary

Pakistani people gather at the tomb of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on December 26, 2010, to commemorate the third anniversary of her death. Bhutto was assassinated almost exactly three years ago in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election campaign rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, on December 27, 2007. Pakistani police on December 22 arrested two senior police officers for alleged dereliction of duty over the Bhutto's assassination. In April, a UN panel accused the government of failing to provide Bhutto with adequate protection and said investigations were hampered by intelligence agencies and other officials who impeded "an unfettered search for the truth". (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)

Supporters of Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto gather around her grave to commemorate her death anniversary at the Bhutto family mausoleum in larkana, located in Sindh province, December 27, 2010. REUTERS/Nadeem Soomro

A man holds a picture of Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto with a candle and a flower as he participates in a vigil to commemorate her death anniversary in Islamabad December 27, 2010. Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack after an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, weeks after she returned to Pakistan after years in self-imposed exile. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

A Pakistani human rights activist lights candles in front of the pictures of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on her third death anniversary in Islamabad on December 27, 2010. Bhutto was assassinated almost exactly three years ago in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election campaign rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, on December 27, 2007. In April, a UN panel accused the government of failing to provide Bhutto with adequate protection and said investigations were hampered by intelligence agencies and other officials who impeded "an unfettered search for the truth". (Photo by BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A Pakistani woman cries at the mausoleum of martyrs of the Bhutto family in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on December 27, 2010, on the third anniversary of the death of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto was assassinated three years ago during a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election campaign rally in the city of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, on December 27, 2007. A UN panel accused the government of failing to provide Bhutto with adequate protection and said investigations were hampered by intelligence agencies and other officials who impeded "an unfettered search for the truth". (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)

Supporters of Pakistan's slain political leader Benazir Bhutto pray at the site of her assassination on her third anniversary in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on Monday, Dec. 27, 2010. The investigation about the killing of Bhutto who was killed in 2007 is still a mystery. (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)

Bombing of Anti-Taliban Tribe Kills 45 in Pakistan

U.S. President Barack Obama

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December 26, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned a suicide attack against members of an anti-Taliban tribe in northwestern Pakistan.

The Saturday attack in Pakistan’s Bajur district killed at least 45 people and wounded more than 100 others. Children were among the victims.

A woman dressed in a burqa lobbed a grenade at a World Food Program distribution center, charged into the crowd and blew herself up.

Mr. Obama said the deadly attack at the food distribution center is an affront to the people of Pakistan, and to all humanity. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, as well as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have also condemned the attack.

Officials said most of the victims at the center in the town of Khar were members of the Salarzai tribe. The tribe has backed military action against the Taliban and even formed its own militia to help force them from the area.

Officials say many of the victims had been displaced by the second of two military campaigns against the Taliban.

There had been conflicting reports about the sex of the bomber. Male suicide bombers have used burqas in the past to hide their explosives, but local officials said they had confirmed this attacker was a woman.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The World Food Program said none of its staff was wounded.

Bajur district is close to the Afghan border in a region U.S. officials say is a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

Meanwhile, government officials said Saturday 40 militants were killed during a Pakistani military air raid in the Mohmand tribal region. (*)

Photostream : Dozens killed in Pakistan bombing

Injured victims of suicide bombing are treated at a local hospital in Khar, the main town of Pakistan’s Bajur tribal region along Afghan border, Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010. A female suicide bomber detonated her explosives-laden vest killing scores of people at an aid distribution center in northwestern Pakistan while army helicopter gunships and artillery killed a similar number of Islamic militants in neighboring tribal regions near the Afghan border, officials said. As reported by VOA, Authorities in northwestern Pakistan say a suspected suicide blast has killed at least 43 people and wounded scores. The attack comes a day after Taliban insurgents launched coordinated assaults on security forces in a neighboring district that left 11 soldiers and 24 militants dead. Ayaz Gul has the details from Islamabad.  The suicide bombing occurred in the town of Khar, the administrative center of Pakistan’s insurgency-hit Bajaur district on the Afghan border.
Witnesses say the powerful explosion instantly killed more than 30 people while others died of their wounds in a government-run hospital.  The bomber targeted a crowd of people receiving aid from a distribution facility the World Food Program set up to help families displaced by fighting. (AP Photo/Anwarullah Khan)

Wali Khan, 8, who was critically injured in a suicide bomb attack in Pakistan's northwest Bajaur region, receives treatment at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar December 25, 2010. A burqa-clad suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people waiting for aid in Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 40 of them, officials said, showing militants' ability to strike despite army offensives. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A nurse attends to a man who was injured in a suicide bomb attack in Pakistan's northwest Bajaur region, at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar on December 25, 2010. A burqa-clad suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people waiting for aid in Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 40 of them, officials said, showing militants' ability to strike despite army offensives. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Men injured in a suicide bomb attack in Pakistan's northwest Bajaur region are brought to Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar for treatment December 25, 2010. A burqa-clad suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people waiting for aid in Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 40 of them, officials said, showing militants' ability to strike despite army offensives. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz

A woman sits next to her brother who was injured in a suicide bomb attack in Pakistan's northwest Bajaur region, as they await treatment at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar December 25, 2010. A burqa-clad suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people waiting for aid in Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 40 of them, officials said, showing militants' ability to strike despite army offensives. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A young man injured in a suicide bomb attack in Pakistan's northwest Bajaur region lies next to an X-ray while receiving blood for his injuries, at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar December 25, 2010. A burqa-clad suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people waiting for aid in Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 40 of them, officials said, showing militants' ability to strike despite army offensives. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A man stands next to a relative who was injured in a suicide bomb attack in Pakistan's northwest Bajaur region, as they await treatment at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar December 25, 2010. A burqa-clad suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people waiting for aid in Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 40 of them, officials said, showing militants' ability to strike despite army offensives. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

 

Chinese Premier Ends Pakistan Visit

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) is flanked by his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani (R) as he waves to Pakistan-China businessmen as they arrive to attend Pakistan-China Business Cooperation Summit in Islamabad on December 18, 2010. China and Pakistan concluded another 10 billion dollars' worth of deals on December 18, as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Beijing would "never give up" on the troubled nuclear-armed Muslim country. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

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December 19, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao ended a 3-day visit to Pakistan Sunday.

Mr. Wen addressed a joint session of parliament, telling the lawmakers China’s stance is “firm and clear” that it is willing to work with Pakistan and the international community to make an “unremitting effort to combat terrorism.”

The premier said in his parliament address the “symptoms and root cause” of terrorism need to be eliminated.

Pakistan’s porous border with Afghanistan is widely seen as a haven for militants.

Pakistan and China signed a number of business deals worth billions of dollars during Mr. Wen’s visit.

Officials say the deals aim to promote cooperation in the energy sector.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said Islamabad is extending China incentives to promote investment and development in the South Asian nation.

Pakistan says China has also agreed to provide $229 million to Pakistan to rebuild from floods that devastated much of the county, and another $400 million in loans.

Bomb Blast Hits School Bus in Pakistan

A Pakistani police officer and a rescue worker examine a damaged school bus at the site of bomb blast in Peshawar, Pakistan on Monday, Dec. 13, 2010. A roadside bomb exploded near a school bus in northwest Pakistan's main city, killing the driver and wounding at least two children, police said. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

 

December 13, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) —- Officials in Pakistan say a roadside bomb struck a school bus in northwest Pakistan, killing one person and injuring four others, including two children.

Monday’s blast occurred on the outskirts of Peshawar, which lies near the tribal regions of Pakistan and the Afghan border.

Police initially said the driver of the bus was killed, but later identified the dead man as a passerby. Officials say the driver, two girl students and another passerby were injured in the explosion.

Pakistani security personnel collect evidence at a bomb blast site in Peshawar on December 13, 2010. A bomb struck a Pakistani school bus, killing a mechanic and wounding two children as they were being dropped home after class in the northwestern city of Peshawar, police said. It was the fifth bombing in Pakistan since December 6 as the nuclear-armed country steps up security for the holy month of Muharram, which typically sees a rise in sectarian tensions and attacks on Shiite Muslim religious parades. (Photo by A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities says the bomb may have been intended for police patrols which frequent the area.

Pakistan authorities are on alert for sectarian violence during Moharram, the holiest month for Shi’ite Muslims, which is under way. Sunni militant groups often attack Shi’ite gatherings during this period.  (*)

Photostream : Cargo Plane Crashes in Pakistan

Pakistani officials examine the wreckage at the site of a plane crash in Karachi, Pakistan on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. A cargo plane crashed in flames into a residential area in Pakistan's largest city soon after takeoff Sunday, killing all eight Russian crew and at least one person on the ground, officials said. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Pakistani officials examine the wreckage at the site of a plane crash in Karachi, Pakistan on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. A cargo plane crashed in flames into a residential area in Pakistan's largest city soon after takeoff Sunday, killing all eight Russian crew and at least one person on the ground, officials said. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

An overview of the wreckage of an airplane crash is seen early morning in Karachi November 28, 2010. A plane carrying eight people crashed early on Sunday in a residential area of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, setting buildings on fire. Police chief Fayyaz Leghari said five people were killed. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Athar Hussain )

Rescue workers stand at the site of a plane crash in Karachi November 28, 2010. A plane carrying eight people crashed early on Sunday in a residential area of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, setting buildings on fire. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Athar Hussain )

Pakistani firefighters extinguish fire caused by a Russian-made cargo plane that crashed in a fireball seconds after taking off from the Karachi's airport early November 28, 2010. The crash caused a massive blaze in the Dalmai neighbourhood, where the Pakistan Air Force and Navy have residential apartments and sensitive installations close to Jinnah International airport. The Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft had been bound for the Sudanese capital Khartoum, Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said. Police said there were injuries, but there was no immediate confirmation on casualty numbers or whether people had been hurt on the ground. (Photo by ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Rescue workers stand over bodies, retrieved from the wreckage of an airplane crash, after they were brought to a hospital morgue in Karachi November 28, 2010. A plane carrying eight people crashed early on Sunday in a residential area of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, setting buildings on fire. Police chief Fayyaz Leghari said five people were killed. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Athar Hussain )

 

Death toll in Pakistan plane crash rises to 20 people – TV

Pakistan plane crash

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November 28, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — The death toll in Sunday’s plane crash in Pakistan has risen to 20 people, Pakistani TV channels reported.

Earlier reports said that a Russian-made Il-76 cargo plane had crashed early on Sunday in Karachi in Pakistan, killing all eight crewmembers. The plane burst in flames shortly after a takeoff from the Karachi International Airport heading for Khartoum, Sudan, and went down in an upscale housing complex for naval officers.

According to Pakistani TV channels, at least 12 people were killed on the ground, apart from the eight crewmembers. This information has not yet been officially confirmed.

Rescue workers said they had recovered the bodies of two construction workers who had been inside the building, on which the plane had crashed.

A spokesman for Russia’s consulate general in Karachi said on Sunday that one of the crewmembers killed in the air crash was a Russian national while the other crewmembers were presumably Ukrainians.

The plane belonged to the air company Sunway. (*)

NEW DELHI, November 28

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