Suicide attack kills 9 in Syria’s Golan Heights (Druze) village

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

A suicide car bomb attack killed nine people in a government-held village in Syria’s Golan Heights on Friday, state media said, reporting clashes between government forces and militants afterward.

State news agency SANA said the car bomb hit the outskirts of the village of Hader, which lies near the disengagement line that divides the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan from that occupied by Israel.

“A suicide bomber from Al-Nusra Front detonated a car bomb in the midst of the village, located on the outskirts of Hader, killing nine people and injuring at least 23,” the agency said.

Al-Nusra Front is the old name for a militant group that was formerly Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and is now known as the Fateh al-Sham Front.

“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, terrorist groups carried out a heavy attack on Hader, and army units and the Popular Defence units [pro-government militants] clashed with the attackers,” SANA added.

The agency said the toll was expected to rise because a number of those wounded in the bombing were in serious condition and the ongoing assault on the town made it difficult to remove the injured to a safe place.

Hader is a majority-Druze village and has been attacked in the past by rebel and militant groups.

It lies in southwestern Syria’s Quneitra province, around 70 per cent of which is held by either rebel or militant groups, with the government controlling the other 30pc, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it, a move never recognised by the international community.

The Israeli army said on Friday that a civilian in the town of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan was lightly wounded as a result of “shots fired from Syria”.

It said the shots were “stray fire resulting from the intense fighting on the Syrian Golan Heights”.

Israeli army spokesman, Brigadier General Ronen Manelis, said the military was ready to “prevent Hader from being harmed or occupied, as part of our commitment to the Druze population”.

Nearly 140,000 members of the Druze minority, which follows a secretive offshoot of Shia sect, live in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan.

In Majdal Shams, residents approached the disengagement line but were prevented from crossing to support villagers in Hader by the Israeli army, which closed off the area.

Some Syrian Druze have expressed sympathy for the opposition since the start of the civil war but the community has largely been loyal to the regime.

Russia accuses US of blocking humanitarian aid in Syria

Russia on Friday accused the United States of committing a “war crime” in Syria, saying its army had denied Syrian refugees access to humanitarian aid.

“The most severe humanitarian situation remains in the Al-Tanf region,” the Russian defence ministry’s Syria reconciliation centre said, referring to a garrison where US and other foreign troops train anti-Islamic State group fighters.

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees from the Al-Rukban refugee camp on the Jordanian border are deprived of humanitarian aid because of the United States, which “illegally placed their military base there and forbids approach within 55 kilometres under the threat of death,” the centre said.

“The actions of the US military and the so-called international coalition in Al-Tanf are a gross violation of the international humanitarian law and could qualify as a war crime,” it said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.

Earlier this month Moscow accused the US of supporting IS militants and enabling them to mount counter-offensive attacks in eastern Syria from near the Al-Tanf garrison.

Al-Tanf, on the key highway connecting Damascus with Baghdad, has been repeatedly menaced by a surge of Iran-backed troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Washington says the garrison is used by US and British special forces to train rebel Syrian groups fighting IS militants.

Russia has been flying a bombing campaign in Syria since 2015 when it stepped in to support the Assad regime and tipped the conflict in his favour.

Pakistan: 95% Of Women Didn’t Get To Vote In 17 Districts

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF PAKISTAN’S DAWN NEWS AGENCY)

ISLAMABAD: Over 95 per cent of registered women voters in at least 17 National Assembly constituencies did not cast their votes in the 2013 general elections.

A document prepared by the Election Commission of Pakistan, available with Dawn, reveals that turnout of women voters was less than one per cent in five of these constituencies.

According to disaggregated voters’ data, only one woman out of the total 138,910 registered in NA-33 (Upper Dir) had exercised her right to vote.

In the constituency adjacent to it, NA-34 (Lower Dir), women’s turnout was 0.11pc as only 231 out of 206,566 women voters had cast their ballots. In NA-37 (Kurram Agency), 459 out of 156,811 women voters had cast their votes or 0.29pc of the total registered women voters. However, the constituency registered an overall low turnout as 2,072 men out of 230,107 male registered voters had cast their ballots.

In NA-34, located in the troubled Bajaur Agency, women’s turnout was at 0.02pc and in NA-46, Khyber Agency, 0.2pc.

The trend wasn’t only limited to the tribal areas where certain cultural norms and the law and order situation could play a prohibitive role in this regard. Low women’s turnout was also reported in some constituencies of large cities in Punjab.

In NA-152 (Multan), the turnout of women voters was as low as 1.92pc as only 75,422 out of 3.9 million women voters had cast their ballots. The turnout for male voters in the constituency was 2.13pc.

The turnout of women voters was 2.13pc in NA-178 (Muzaffargarh), 2.24pc in the adjacent NA-177, 2.34pc in NA-175 (Rajanpur), 2.71pc in NA-174 (Rajanpur), and 2.82pc in NA-145 (Okara). The turnout recorded in NA-61 (Chakwal) was 4.42pc and 9.52pc in NA-64 (Sargodha).

The turnout of women voters in NA-271 (Kharan, Balochistan) was 3.51pc, but higher than the turnout for men, 3.04pc. In NA-31 (Shangla), 4.59pc of registered women voters had cast their ballots.

Interestingly enough, the turnout figures for women outstripped those of men in some constituencies, including NA-48 (Islamabad) where the women voters’ turnout was 61.75pc, compared to 61.01pc of male voters.

Similarly, in NA-51 (Rawalpindi) 53.24pc of registered women voters had cast their ballots compared to 52.31pc men. The difference in Attock’s NA-58 was even higher — the women’s turnout was 64.35pc while 61.81pc of registered male voters had cast their votes.

In NA-62 (Jhelum) 17.71pc women had voted, compared to 16.67pc men. Constituencies where the percentage of women voters was higher than that of male voters included NA-74 (Bhakkar), NA-93 (Toba Tek Singh), NA-101 (Gujranwala), NA-103 (Hafizabad), NA-111 and 112 (Sialkot), NA-115 and 116 (Narowal) and NA-180 (Muzaffargarh).

Areas with low female voters’ registration

The election commission has identified over 26,000 census blocks where the ratio of registered women voters is below 40pc of the total enrolled electorate.

The ECP’s gender affairs wing has shared the data with district election commissioners so that they could send it to district election commissioners. The district election commissioners will be asked to focus on the registration of women voters on priority and submit a progress report in four months.

According to another ECP document available with Dawn, 10,440 of these census blocks are in Punjab alone. Lahore tops in terms of the number of census blocks with low enrollment of women voters. The number of such blocks in provincial capital is 872, followed by Sialkot (755), Rahim Yar Khan (743), Sheikhupura (733), Narowal (620), Kasur (509), Bahawalnagar (501) and Jhang (490).

Sindh has 5,779 census blocks, including 1,575 in Karachi West, 629 in Karachi Central, 560 in Malir, 509 in Karachi East 401 in Korangi, 258 in Ghotki, 204 in Hyderabad, 131 in Khairpur and 117 in Kashmore.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the number of census blocks with less than 40pc registered women voters is 3,782, including 601 in Lower Dir, 600 in Kohistan, 469 in Upper Dir, 343 in Peshawar, 250 in Mardan, 147 in Mansehra, 138 in Chitral, 132 in Charsadda, 127 in Batagram and 103 in Bannu.

Balochistan has 3,539 such blocks, including 554 in Khuzdar, 315 in Kalat, 223 in Quetta, 208 in Dera Bugti, 196 in Killa Abdullah, 188 in Kohlu, 162 in Pishin, 143 in Awaran, 137 in Matung, 132 in Lehri, 125 in Loralai, 121 in Labella, 114 in Kachhi and 105 in Jhal Magsi.

In Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the number of census blocks is 2,410. They include 736 clocks in North Waziristan, 350 in Bajaur, 337 in Mohmand, 266 in South Waziristan, 240 in Khyber agency, 141 in FR Bannu and 121 in Kurram agency. The Federal Capital has 53 such constituencies.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2017