Officials Warn South Kashmir Cops Not To Visit Their Homes For Their Safety

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Don’t go back home, officials tell south Kashmir cops after wave of attacks targeting policemen

Since January, 37 policemen have been killed by militants, many when they were off-duty.

INDIA Updated: Sep 23, 2018 07:07 IST

Mir Ehsan
Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Jammu and Kashmir,Cops in Jammu and Kashmir,J-K cops killed in
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range) Swayam Prakash Pani pays respect to colleagues who were killed by militants, during a wreath laying ceremony at a base camp at Shopian, near Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on September 21, 2018. (Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

The Jammu & Kashmir administration is telling policemen and Special Police Officers in South Kashmir, which is seeing a wave of attacks against both, to not visit their families or homes.

The advisory comes in the wake of the killings of three SPO’s on Friday, and unconfirmed resignations of several others following a warning on Wednesday by Hizbul Mujahedeen commander, Riyaz Naikoo. The killings were in part responsible for India reconsidering its decision to agree to the meeting of the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in New York later this month.

SPO’s, whose main role is in gathering intelligence, and local policemen are soft targets because they do not live in fortified camps like the ones housing members of the army and the Central Reserve Police Force.

On Friday , selection grade constable Nisar Ahmad, SPO Kuldeep Singh and follower, Firdous Kuchay were abducted by militants from Batagund and Kaparan villages early in the morning and killed within hours. Two other policemen in the same villages escaped because they weren’t home when the militants came visiting.

In the past too, there have been occasional advisories asking officers of the J&K police who reside in sensitive areas of south Kashmir to avoid visiting their homes.

“Keeping in view the sensitivity of threats and latest abduction and killings of three policemen, all SPO’s and policemen who are from south Kashmir are being told through telephone not to visit their homes,’’ said a police officer familiar with the advisory. “This is being done to save the lives of our men as militants have killed many of our men at their homes when they were not on duty. In the past, many have ignored similar warnings.’’

Since January, 37 policemen have been killed by militants, many when they were off-duty. Last month, on Eid ul Azha, three policemen including an officer, all of whom were on leave and celebrating Eid with their families were killed by militants.

The militants have been targeting SPO’s and local policemen whom they hold responsible for the killing of militants, especially in south Kashmir where so-called cordon and search operations are launched on specific information. Officials said that 28 militants were killed in Shopian district alone this year.

The four districts of south Kashmir have more than 3,000 SPO’s. Across the state, there are more than 30,000 SPO’s.

J&K Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh said soon after the killing of three policemen on Friday that action would be taken against all the militants involved in the killings, and also dismissed the resignations of special police officers as rumors.

So far, over two dozen SPO’s have resigned in different parts of south Kashmir.

On August 30, militants abducted 11 police personnel and their family members after the police detained the father of Riyaz Naikoo. However, they were released after the police released Naikoo Sr.

First Published: Sep 23, 2018 07:05 IST

5 Best places to visit in September in India

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Best places to visit in September in India, here are 5 spots that you can’t afford to miss

Travellers, keep in mind that September is one of the best months to take a trip across India. Here are 5 spots that are perfect options for you.

TRAVEL Updated: Sep 09, 2018 12:52 IST

Asian News International
Best destinations for travel,Travel,Jaipur
Best travel destinations for September include Manali, Leh, Diu, Ziro and Jaipur. (Shutterstock)

September is probably one of the best months to travel almost anywhere in India. The weather is pleasant with the monsoon slowly starting to subside by the end of August, and there is cool weather needed for leisurely travel.

Be it the mountains up north, the south, or even the deserts of Rajasthan, this month is a better time to visit tourist spots rather than going during the travel boom at the end of the year. Here are some recommendations for you from Confirmtkt and Travelyaari:

* Jaipur

Jaipur is a city in Rajasthan is a good place to visit for a fam jam where you can savour the local culture. There is chaotic traffic but also lots to shop, street food to enjoy and you can top off your stay at one of the numerous palace hotels in the region.

* Manali

The romantic city is surrounded by mountains and is a good place to travel to this September. It is a honeymoon destination, trekking paradise, a hippie hangout and even a quick getaway from your work commitments.

* Ziro

Honestly, anytime would be perfect if you are planning to visit this place among the hills. September is when you can glimpse the essence of the place and there is only mild rainfall. The remote hillock town offers a handful of activities, one of them being the acclaimed Ziro music festival which is a must-attend.

Go on a biking trip to Ladakh. (Unsplash)

* Leh: A trip to Leh by road is one of its kind and makes for a memorable experience. There are many surprises along the way.

* Diu

Diu is a small beach city in the union territory of Diu and Daman. It is a serene destination which is recommended as the best alternative to Goa. It boasts of cheap liquor, beachside shacks, and seafood. You can also indulge in sightseeing at the lesser-known Portuguese colony.

Follow @htlifeandstyle for more

First Published: Sep 09, 2018 11:01 IST

Stay calm and meditate, mindfulness can boost pain tolerance

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Stay calm and meditate, mindfulness can boost pain tolerance

A new study says that the meditative practice of mindfulness can increase tolerance to pain.

FITNESS Updated: Sep 09, 2018 12:38 IST

Press Trust of India
Health,Wellness,Fitness
The study shows that people who are more mindful than others feel less pain. (Shutterstock)

Mindfulness — a meditative practice that focusses on paying attention to the present moment — can increase person’s tolerance to pain, a study has found. Researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine in the US analysed data obtained from a study published in 2015 that compared mindfulness meditation to placebo analgesia.

They sought to determine if dispositional mindfulness, an individual’s innate or natural level of mindfulness, was associated with lower pain sensitivity, and to identify what brain mechanisms were involved. “Mindfulness is related to being aware of the present moment without too much emotional reaction or judgment,” said Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “We now know that some people are more mindful than others, and those people seemingly feel less pain,” said Zeidan, lead author of the study published in the journal Pain.

In the study, 76 healthy volunteers who had never meditated first completed the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory, a clinical measurement of mindfulness, to determine their baseline levels. While undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging, they were administered painful heat stimulation.

Whole brain analyses revealed that higher dispositional mindfulness during painful heat was associated with greater deactivation of a brain region called the posterior cingulate cortex, a central neural node of the default mode network. Further, in those that reported higher pain, there was greater activation of this critically important brain region.

“The results from our study showed that mindful individuals are seemingly less caught up in the experience of pain, which was associated with lower pain reports,” Zeidan said. “Now we have some new ammunition to target this brain region in the development of effective pain therapies,” he said.

Follow @htlifeandstyle for more

First Published: Sep 09, 2018 12:38 IST

Activists arrested in police raids in five states over alleged Maoist links

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Activists arrested in police raids in five states over alleged Maoist links

Lawyer and trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj, poet P Varavara Rao, activist Gautam Navlakha, and lawyers Arun Pereira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested.

INDIA Updated: Aug 28, 2018 22:15 IST

Yogesh Joshi and Nadeem Inamdar
Yogesh Joshi and Nadeem Inamdar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Maoist links,Activists arrested,Pune police
Arun Pereira (in grey), a human rights activist and lawyer, arrested by Pune Police on Tuesday. (Praful Gangurde/HT Photo)

Pune police raided the residences of prominent lawyers and activists across five states on Tuesday and arrested five people for alleged Maoist links.

Lawyer and trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj, poet P Varavara Rao, activist Gautam Navlakha, and lawyers Arun Pereira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy, creating fear and enmity between various groups, and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The arrests were part of an investigation into the violence that rocked Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra on January 1 during the bicentennial celebration of a British-era war.

The near-simultaneous police raids, led by Pune (urban) police, began at 6am in Hyderabad, Delhi, Faridabad, Mumbai, Thane and Ranchi and continued till afternoon. Police said the operation was part of a probe into an event called Elgar Parishad in Pune on December 31, 2017, when various activists and Dalit organisations came together.

The next day, violence broke out at Bhima Koregaon, about 40 km from Pune, as tens of thousands of Dalits celebrated the 200th anniversary of an 1818 war between the British army, manned mainly by Dalits, and the state’s Peshwa rulers, who were notorious for oppressive caste practices. Widespread stone pelting left one person dead and four injured. Protests swept Maharashtra over the next two days, bringing the state capital Mumbai to a virtual standstill.

“We have arrested five persons today for their association with the Maoist movement and support to Elgar Parishad, which triggered violence the next day,” said Pune Joint Commissioner of Police Shivaji Bodkhe.

The arrests were condemned by several opposition parties.

Writer P Varavara Rao after a medical check-up following his arrest by the Pune police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, in Hyderabad on Tuesday. (PTI)

“There is only place for one NGO in India and it’s called the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). Shut down all other NGOs. Jail all activists and shoot those that complain. Welcome to the new India. #BhimaKoregaon,” tweeted Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.

“No human rights activist should be arrested without a proper case. I defend the rights of everybody, more particularly human rights protestors. They are selfless NGOs, activists and obliged to fight in the enveloping darkness in dictatorial tendencies,” Congress spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy said. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said the police raids constituted “a brazen attack on democratic rights and civil liberties”.

In the evening, the Delhi high court stayed Navlakha’s transit remand for a day, ordering him to stay in his house with two guards posted outside. He is allowed to meet his lawyers. A bench of justice S Muralidhar and justice Vinod Goel stopped the police from taking Navlakha to Pune and said they would hear the matter first thing on Wednesday. One police team also searched the residence of Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi although Swamy was not arrested in the absence of “evidence,” a senior official said.

According to the police, the names of those arrested on Tuesday cropped up during the interrogation of five persons arrested in June for Maoist links as part of the same investigation. These five were activist Sudhir Dhawale, lawyer Surendra Gadling, activist Rona Wilson, former Prime Minister’s rural development fellow Mahesh Raut, and retired professor Shoma Sen. They were arrested for allegedly having close Maoist links.

Those arrested on Tuesday were being brought to Pune on transit remand to be produced in the court on Wednesday said Bodke. Rao was arrested from Hyderabad, Bhardwaj was held in Faridabad. Another team of Pune police arrested Gonsalves in Mumbai and Ferreira from Thane. “We have recovered some documents, laptop, pen drive, hard disk and other material. The scrutiny of the seized items is on,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity.

Interestingly, Pune (rural) police has charged two Hindu right-wing leaders, Milind Ekbote and Shambhaji Bhide, for the violence on January 1 in Bhima Koregaon. Ekbote is currently out on bail while Bhide has not yet been arrested. The investigation into the Elgar Parishad event on December 31, 2017 is being conducted by the Pune (urban) police.

The arrests were opposed by several activists. “The arrests are a dangerous sign of a government that fears it is losing its mandate and is falling into panic,” author Arundhati Roy told PTI. Historian Ramachandra Guha called the action “absolutely chilling” and demanded the intervention of the Supreme Court to stop this “persecution and harassment” of independent voices.

First Published: Aug 28, 2018 21:54 IST

India, China to explore ways to avoid Doklam-like standoffs

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India, China to explore ways to avoid Doklam-like standoffs

The Chinese defence minister met Modi during which the PM said both the countries are handling their differences with “sensitivity and maturity” by not allowing them to become disputes.

INDIA Updated: Aug 21, 2018 23:37 IST

India-China ties,Doklam,Nirmala Sitharaman
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with defence minister of China, General Wei Fenghe during a meeting in New Delhi on August 21.(PTI Photo)

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe will hold extensive talks on Thursday, focus of which will be to remove distrust and boost coordination between the armies of the two neighbours guarding their disputed border, official sources said.

Wei arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday on a four-day visit, nearly three-and-half months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that strategic communication between the two armies should be enhanced to avoid Doklam-like standoffs.

The Chinese defence minister met Modi during which the PM said both the countries are handling their differences with “sensitivity and maturity” by not allowing them to become disputes.

Sources said the primary objective of Wei’s visit is to deliberate with Indian defence establishment on implementation of decisions taken by Modi and Xi during the informal summit in Wuhan in April.

In the delegation level talks, the Indian side is likely to raise the issue of presence of sizeable number of Chinese troops in North Doklam.

Doklam, in the Sikkim sector, is a strategically important area which is claimed by Bhutan. India has been acting as security guarantor to the tiny country in the sensitive region.

The two sides are likely to deliberate on a mechanism under which troops from both sides will inform each other before carrying out any patrolling on the disputed areas along the nearly 4,000-km border.

The sources said both sides will also attempt to resolve differences in setting up of a hotline between the armies of the two countries.

After the Wuhan summit, both sides revived the long-pending proposal to set up the hotline so as to avoid flare-ups along the disputed border. But, the initiative hit roadblocks over differences on issues relating to protocol and technical aspect of the hotline.

The Indian Army has been maintaining that the hotline should be between its Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) and his equivalent official in Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). However, Beijing proposed that the deputy commander of its Chengdu-based Western Theatre Command would engage with the Indian DGMO.

The Indian Army is opposed to the Chinese proposal, insisting that an officer equivalent to Indian DGMO at PLA’s headquarters should be deputed for the communication through the hotline.

Currently, India and Pakistan have a hotline between their DGMOs.The hotline between India and China was first mooted by the two countries in 2013.

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 22:23 IST

India unlikely to accept foreign financial assistance for flood-relief operations in Kerala

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India unlikely to accept foreign financial assistance for flood-relief operations in Kerala

Government has taken a considered decision to rely solely on domestic efforts to tide over the situation, an official source said.

INDIA Updated: Aug 21, 2018 23:45 IST

Kerala floods,Flood-relief operations,Kerala natural disaster
Flood victims unload food and relief material from an Indian Air force helicopter at Nelliyampathy Village, in Kerala, on Tuesday. (REUTERS)

The government is unlikely to accept any foreign financial assistance for flood-relief operations in Kerala, official sources said.

They said government has taken a considered decision to rely solely on domestic efforts to tide over the situation.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has offered $100 million (around Rs 700 crore) as financial assistance for flood relief operation in Kerala.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, called up Prime Minister Modi and made the offer for assistance, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in Thiruvananthapuram.

Around three million Indians live and work in the UAE out of which 80% are from Kerala.

The government of Maldives has also decided to donate $50,000 (Rs 35 lakh) for flood affected people in Kerala.

It is understood that the UN is also offering some assistance for Kerala.

However, sources said India is unlikely to accept the assistance.

The floods in Kerala, worst in a century, have claimed lives of 231 people besides rendering over 14 lakh people homeless.

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 23:21 IST

India Bids Farewell To Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Atal Bihari Vajpayee cremated in Delhi, nation bids farewell to poet prime minister

The last rites for former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee were performed by his foster daughter Namita Bhattarcharya at Smriti Sthal on the banks of the Yamuna with full state honours on Friday evening.

INDIA Updated: Aug 17, 2018 23:25 IST

Atal Bihari Vajpayee,Vajpayee funeral,Vajpayee cremation
Namita Kaul Bhattacharya, daughter of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and her daughter Niharika, family members and political leaders at the cremation of the former Prime Minister at Rashtriya Smriti Sthal in New Delhi on Friday.(Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)

India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was laid to rest, with full state honours, in a ceremony marked by emotion and ritual, preceded by a public procession through the heart of Delhi which was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Friday afternoon.

Namita Bhattacharya, Vajpayee’s foster daughter, lit the pyre, amid tears, as South Asia and India’s tallest political leaders grieved in silence, paying their tribute to the three-time former PM and an icon of modern India.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, PM Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, former PM Manmohan Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, senior BJP leader and one of Vajpayee’s oldest political colleagues, LK Advani, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat were among those present at the funeral.

Leaders from across South Asia were also present to bid farewell to Vajpayee, who had deep relationships with leaders in the region and had invested time and energy in improving relations with countries in the neighbourhood during his time as PM. Bhutan’s monarch Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, Nepal’s foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali, Bangladesh’s foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali, and Sri Lanka’s acting foreign minister Laxman Kiriella travelled to Delhi to pay their tributes on the occasion.

Vajpayee died on Thursday evening, after a prolonged period of illness. He had been inactive since a stroke in 2009. In June, he was admitted to the All India Institute for Medical Sciences with a kidney and urinary tract infection. His condition deteriorated over the last three days.

The former PM’s death led to an outpouring of condolence messages from across the political spectrum. The cabinet declared a seven-day state mourning and a state funeral at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal in Delhi.

On Friday morning, Vajpayee’s body was first brought from his residence on Krishna Menon Marg to the new Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters on the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg. Vajpayee was the founding president of the BJP in 1980, and played a critical role in bringing the BJP to power at the Centre. He however, never got a chance to visit the new headquarters.

PM Modi and Shah were waiting at the office, where they paid their respects to the later former PM. So did a range of cabinet ministers, chief ministers, BJP functionaries, opposition leaders, including former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, and Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja. Party workers had begun pouring in to office since 7 am.

In the afternoon, Vajpayee’s body was then taken to Smriti Sthal.

Leading thousands of workers, supporters, and those in mourning, Modi walked from the party HQ to the site, six kms away. It was a rare sight, for the PM, accompanied senior members of his cabinet, and Shah to march through the crowded streets of central Delhi, surrounded by visibly nervous security men.

Officials realised that Modi would walk with the procession only when he did not get into his car. An official of the Delhi Police, who asked not to be named, said they got a message from the Special Protection Group about Modi’s decision mere minutes before the procession left the BJP headquarters.

Modi subsequently tweeted, “People came from all parts of India, from all sections of society to pay tributes to an extraordinary personality who made an extraordinary contribution to the nation. India salutes you Atal Ji!” He added, “You will live on in the hearts and minds of every Indian. No words can ever do justice to your rich contribution towards the making of our country.”

The PM’s decision, a functionary said, was both a reflection of his personal debt to Vajpayee, his attachment with the former PM, and a recognition of what he meant for the BJP.

In a blog on Friday, Union Minister Arun Jaitley, credited Vajpayee with creating in an era dominated by the Nehruvian Congress, a political party that was an ideological alternative to the Congress, which disagreed on various issues with the Congress, which took the Congress head-on, which struggled for almost five decades and in the last two decades but eventually not only became an alternative to the Congress but overtook it. “Atalji ran a marathon,” Jaitley said. “He was a patient runner.”

But for him, LK Advani and others, Jaitley said, Indian democracy would have looked different – dominated by one party, one family with a lot of scattered smaller parties. “That did not happen. Atalji and his colleagues made the difference.”

At the Smriti Sthal, the cremation was accompanied with military honours, which included a gun salute by a 14-man army squad firing three volleys each. Six army drummers played the Dead March tune, with their instruments covered in black cloth, while six buglers sounded the Last Post and the Rouse.

The Army had, earlier, provided a gun carriage for the coffin, while six pall bearers of the rank of Major or lieutenant colonel or equivalent ranks, two each from the army, navy and the IAF bore the coffin, and a team of 24 military officers maintained round-the-clock vigil, in turns, over the mortal remains — eight each from the three services.

In keeping with the military honours, three service chiefs placed wreaths on the body of Vajpayee before leaders paid their floral tributes.

But as the ceremony ended, it was his foster family which returned to Vajpayee’s side in his final moment. The tricolour that was wrapped around Vajpayee’s body was removed and given to his foster granddaughter Niharika. His daughter Namita, son-in-law Ranjan and Niharika had taken care of the former PM as he was unwell over the past decade. Tales of his fondness and affection for his family abounded. And it was his daughter, who eventually performed the last rites, bringing an end to the life of one of country’s most remarkable men, as India grieved.

First Published: Aug 17, 2018 23:24 IST

India: Kerala floods: death toll rises above 324 as rescue effort intensifies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS AGENCY)

 

Kerala floods: death toll rises above 324 as rescue effort intensifies

220,000 people left homeless in southern Indian state after unusually heavy rain

Play Video
1:35
 ‘Please pray for us’: Kerala experiences worst monsoon in nearly a century – video report

More than 324 people have died in the worst flooding in nearly a century in the south Indian state of Kerala.

Roads are damaged, mobile phone networks are down, an international airport has been closed and more than 220,000 people have been left homeless after unusually heavy rain in the past nine days.

Officials repeatedly revised the death toll upwards from 86 people on Friday morning to more than 300 by the evening as a massive rescue operation reached more flood-hit regions. “Around 100 people died in the last 36 hours alone,” a state official said.

Casualty numbers are expected to increase further, with thousands more people still stranded and less intense though still heavy rain forecast for at least the next 24 hours. Many have died from being buried in hundreds of landslides set off by the flooding.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/08/kerala_floods/giv-3902lxSDbOfGLgX2/

The Kerala chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, said the state was experiencing an “extremely grave” crisis, with the highest flood warning in place in 12 of its 14 regions.

“We’re witnessing something that has never happened before in the history of Kerala,” he told reporters.

The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, was on his way to Kerala on Friday evening “to take stock of the flood situation in the state”, he said.

Kerala, famed for its tea plantations, beaches and tranquil backwaters, is frequently saturated during the annual monsoon. But this year’s deluge has swamped at least 20,000 homes and forced people into more than 1,500 relief camps.

People are airlifted to safety in Kerala floods, India.
Pinterest
 People are airlifted to safety. Photograph: Sivaram V/Reuters

The toll in Kerala contributed to more than 900 deaths recorded by the Indian home ministry this monsoon season from landslides, flooding and rain.

Rescue workers and members of India’s armed forces have been deployed across the state with fleets of ships and aircraft brought in to save the thousands of people still stranded, many sheltering on their roofs signalling to helicopters for help.

Play Video
0:23
 Aerial view shows scale of monsoon flooding in Kerala, India – video

Officials estimated about 6,000 miles (10,000km) of roads had been submerged or buried by landslides and a major international airport in Cochin has been shut until 26 August. Communications networks were also faltering, officials said, making rescue efforts harder to coordinate.

Residents of the state used social media to post desperate appeals for help, sometimes including their GPS coordinates to help guide rescuers.

“My family and neighbouring families are in trouble with flood in Pandanad nakkada area in Alappuzha,” Ajo Varghese said in a viral Facebook post. “No water and food. Not able to communicate from afternoon. Mobile phones are not reachable and switch off. Please help … No rescue is available.”

Another man in the central town of Chengannur posted a video of himself neck-deep in water in his home. “It looks like water is rising to the second floor,” he says. “I hope you can see this. Please pray for us.”

Play Video
0:39
 Kerala floods: man, neck-deep in water, appeals for help from inside his house – video

The fate of the man was still unclear on Friday. The state finance minister, Thomas Isaac, tweeted in the afternoon that the last road to Chengannur had washed away before his eyes and the town was cut off.

The water has claimed parts of Cochin, the state’s commercial capital, and was still rising in some areas of the city on Friday, with residents urged to evacuate and guide ropes strung across roads inundated by fast-moving currents.

Soldiers evacuate local residents in Ernakulam.
Pinterest
 Soldiers evacuate local residents in Ernakulam. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

Meteorologists said Kerala had received an average 37.5% more rainfall than usual. The hardest-hit districts such as Idukki in the north received 83.5% excess rain. More than 80 dams across the state had opened their gates to try to ease the crisis, the chief minister said.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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Nepal: Truth Knowledge And History Of This Asian Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Nepal

Introduction In 1951, the Nepalese monarch ended the century-old system of rule by hereditary premiers and instituted a cabinet system of government. Reforms in 1990 established a multiparty democracy within the framework of a constitutional monarchy. A Maoist insurgency, launched in 1996, gained traction and threatened to bring down the regime, especially after a negotiated cease-fire between the Maoists and government forces broke down in August 2003. In 2001, the crown prince massacred ten members of the royal family, including the king and queen, and then took his own life. In October 2002, the new king dismissed the prime minister and his cabinet for “incompetence” after they dissolved the parliament and were subsequently unable to hold elections because of the ongoing insurgency. While stopping short of reestablishing parliament, the king in June 2004 reinstated the most recently elected prime minister who formed a four-party coalition government. Citing dissatisfaction with the government’s lack of progress in addressing the Maoist insurgency and corruption, the king in February 2005 dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency, imprisoned party leaders, and assumed power. The king’s government subsequently released party leaders and officially ended the state of emergency in May 2005, but the monarch retained absolute power until April 2006. After nearly three weeks of mass protests organized by the seven-party opposition and the Maoists, the king allowed parliament to reconvene in April 2006. Following a November 2006 peace accord between the government and the Maoists, an interim constitution was promulgated and the Maoists were allowed to enter parliament in January 2007. The peace accord calls for the creation of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. The Constituent Assembly elections, already twice delayed, are set for April 2008.
History Prehistory

Neolithic tools found in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that people have been living in the Himalayan region for at least 9,000 years. It appears that people who were probably of Kirant ethnicity lived in Nepal 2,500 years ago.

Ancient

Nepal is mentioned in Hindu scriptures such as the Narayana Puja[17] and the Atharva Siras (800-600 BC).[18]Around 1000 BC, small kingdoms and confederations of clans arose in the region. From one of these, the Shakya confederation, arose a prince named Siddharta Gautama (563–483 BC), who later renounced his royalty to lead an ascetic life and came to be known as the Buddha (“the enlightened one”). By 250 BCE, the region came under the influence of the Mauryan empire of northern India, and later became a vassal state under the Gupta Dynasty in the fourth century CE. From the late fifth century CE, rulers called the Licchavis governed the area. There is a good and quite detailed description of the kingdom of Nepal in the account of the renowned Chinese Buddhist pilgrim monk, Xuanzang, dating from c. 645 CE.[19][20]

The Licchavi dynasty went into decline in the late eighth century and was followed by a Newari era, from 879, although the extent of their control over the entire country is uncertain. By the late 11th century, southern Nepal came under the influence of the Chalukaya Empire of southern India. Under the Chalukayas, Nepal’s religious establishment changed as the kings patronised Hinduism instead of the prevailing Buddhism.

Medieval

By the early 12th century, leaders were emerging whose names ended with the Sanskrit suffix malla (“wrestler”). Initially their reign was marked by upheaval, but the kings consolidated their power and ruled over the next 200 years; by the late 14th century, much of the country began to come under a unified rule. This unity was short-lived; in 1482 the region was carved into three kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhadgaon.

Hindu temples in Patan, capital of one of the three medieval Newar kingdoms

After centuries of petty rivalry between the three kingdoms, in the mid-18th century Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha King set out to unify the kingdoms. Seeking arms and aid from India, and buying the neutrality of bordering Indian kingdoms, he embarked on his mission in 1765. After several bloody battles and sieges, he managed to unify Kathmandu Valley three years later in 1768. However, an actual battle never took place to conquer the Kathmandu valley; it was taken over by Prithvi Narayan and his troops without any effort, during Indra Jatra, a festival of Newars, when all the valley’s citizens were celebrating the festival. This event marked the birth of the modern nation of Nepal.

Modern

There is historical evidence that, at one time, the boundary of Greater Nepal extended from Tista River on the East to Kangara, across Sutlej River, in the west. A dispute and subsequently war with Tibet over the control of mountain passes forced the Nepalese to retreat and pay heavy reparations. Rivalry between Nepal and the British East India Company over the annexation of minor states bordering Nepal eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1815–16). The valor displayed by the Nepalese during the war astounded their enemies and earned them their image of fierce and ruthless “Gurkhas”. The war ended with a treaty, the Treaty of Sugauli. This treaty ceded Sikkim and lands in Terai to the Company.

Factionalism inside the royal family had led to a period of instability. In 1846 a plot was discovered, revealing that the reigning queen had planned to overthrow Jung Bahadur Rana, a fast-rising military leader. This led to the Kot Massacre; armed clashes between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen led to the execution of several hundred princes and chieftains around the country. Jung Bahadur Rana emerged victorious and founded the Rana lineage. The king was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary. The Ranas were staunchly pro-British, and assisted them during the Indian Sepoy Rebellion in 1857 (and later in both World Wars). The decision to help British East India Company was taken by the Rana Regime, then led by Jang Bahadur Rana. Some parts of Terai Region were given back to Nepal by the British as a friendly gesture, because of her military help to sustain British control in India during the Sepoy Rebellion. In 1923, the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal’s independence was recognized by the UK.

Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1924.

In the late 1940s, newly emerging pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana autocracy. Meanwhile, with the annexation of Tibet by the Chinese in 1950, India viewed the possibility of her big Northern neighbour’s further military expansion in Nepal and took preemptive steps to addressed her security concerns: India sponsored both King Tribhuvan as Nepal’s new ruler in 1951, and a new government, mostly comprising the Nepali Congress Party, thus terminating Rana hegemony in the kingdom. After years of power wrangling between the king and the government, the monarch scrapped the democratic experiment in 1959, and a “partyless” panchayat system was made to govern Nepal until 1989, when the “Jan Andolan” (People’s Movement) forced the monarchy to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty parliament that took seat in May 1991.

In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) started a bid to replace the royal parliamentary system with a people’s socialist republic. This led to the long Nepal Civil War and more than 12,000 deaths. On June 1, 2001, there was a massacre in the royal palace; it left the King, the Queen and the Heir Apparent Crown Prince Dipendra among the dead. Prince Dipendra was accused of patricide and of committing suicide thereafter, alleged to be a violent response to his parents’ refusal to accept his choice of wife. However, there are lots of speculations and doubts among Nepalese citizens about the person(s) responsible for the Royal Massacre. Following the carnage, the throne was inherited by King Birendra’s brother Gyanendra. On February 1, 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers to quash the violent Maoist movement. In September 2005, the Maoists declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire to negotiate their demands.

In response to the 2006 democracy movement, the king agreed to relinquish the sovereign power back to the people and reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives on April 24, 2006. Using its newly acquired sovereign authority, on May 18, 2006, the newly resumed House of Representatives unanimously passed a motion to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state, abolishing its time honoured official status as a Hindu Kingdom. On December 28, 2007, a bill was passed in parliament, to amend Article 159 of the constitution – replacing “Provisions regarding the King” by “Provisions of the Head of the State” – declaring Nepal a federal republic, and thereby abolishing the monarchy. The bill, however, is slated to come into force after the elections of April 2008.

Present political status

The country is presently in the middle of a major political transition. The Maoists have won the Constituent Assembly election held on 10 April 2008. This raises the prospect of the current king, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev giving up the title and throne, making him the last ruling monarch. Nepal would then be a federal democratic state with an elected head of state. The Assembly will also decide the format of the next elected government

Geography Location: Southern Asia, between China and India
Geographic coordinates: 28 00 N, 84 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 147,181 sq km
land: 143,181 sq km
water: 4,000 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Arkansas
Land boundaries: total: 2,926 km
border countries: China 1,236 km, India 1,690 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: varies from cool summers and severe winters in north to subtropical summers and mild winters in south
Terrain: Tarai or flat river plain of the Ganges in south, central hill region, rugged Himalayas in north
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Kanchan Kalan 70 m
highest point: Mount Everest 8,850 m
Natural resources: quartz, water, timber, hydropower, scenic beauty, small deposits of lignite, copper, cobalt, iron ore
Land use: arable land: 16.07%
permanent crops: 0.85%
other: 83.08% (2005)
Irrigated land: 11,700 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 210.2 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 10.18 cu km/yr (3%/1%/96%)
per capita: 375 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: severe thunderstorms, flooding, landslides, drought, and famine depending on the timing, intensity, and duration of the summer monsoons
Environment – current issues: deforestation (overuse of wood for fuel and lack of alternatives); contaminated water (with human and animal wastes, agricultural runoff, and industrial effluents); wildlife conservation; vehicular emissions
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: landlocked; strategic location between China and India; contains eight of world’s 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga – the world’s tallest and third tallest – on the borders with China and India respectively
Politics Nepal has seen rapid political changes during the last two decades. Until 1990, Nepal was an absolute monarchy running under the executive control of the king. Faced with a people’s movement against the absolute monarchy, King Birendra, in 1990, agreed to large-scale political reforms by creating a parliamentary monarchy with the king as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of the government.

Nepal’s legislature was bicameral, consisting of a House of Representatives called the Pratinidhi Sabha and a National Council called the Rastriya Sabha. The House of Representatives consisted of 205 members directly elected by the people. The National Council had sixty members: ten nominated by the king, thirty-five elected by the House of Representatives and the remaining fifteen elected by an electoral college made up of chairs of villages and towns. The legislature had a five-year term, but was dissolvable by the king before its term could end. All Nepali citizens 18 years and older became eligible to vote.

The executive comprised the King and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet). The leader of the coalition or party securing the maximum seats in an election was appointed as the Prime Minister. The Cabinet was appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Governments in Nepal have tended to be highly unstable, falling either through internal collapse or parliamentary dissolution by the monarch, on the recommendation of prime minister, according to the constitution; no government has survived for more than two years since 1991.

The movement in April, 2006, brought about a change in the nation’s governance: an interim constitution was promulgated, with the King giving up power, and an interim House of Representatives was formed with Maoist members after the new government held peace talks with the Maoist rebels. The number of parliamentary seats was also increased to 330. In April, 2007, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) joined the interim government of Nepal.

On December 28, 2007, the interim parliament passed a bill that would make Nepal a federal republic, with the Prime Minister becoming head of state. The bill is yet to be passed by the Constituent Assembly.[4]

On April 10, 2008, there was the first election in Nepal for the constitution assembly. The Maoist party led the poll results, but failed to gain a simple majority in the parliament.

People Population: 29,519,114 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 38% (male 5,792,042/female 5,427,370)
15-64 years: 58.2% (male 8,832,488/female 8,345,724)
65 years and over: 3.8% (male 542,192/female 579,298) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 20.7 years
male: 20.5 years
female: 20.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.095% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 29.92 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 8.97 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.94 male(s)/female
total population: 1.06 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 62 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 60.18 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 63.91 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 60.94 years
male: 61.12 years
female: 60.75 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.91 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Pakistan: This Is The History And The Truth Of Their Nation And Their People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Pakistan

Introduction The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world and dating back at least 5,000 years, spread over much of what is presently Pakistan. During the second millennium B.C., remnants of this culture fused with the migrating Indo-Aryan peoples. The area underwent successive invasions in subsequent centuries from the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs (who brought Islam), Afghans, and Turks. The Mughal Empire flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries; the British came to dominate the region in the 18th century. The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with West and East sections) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved, and India and Pakistan fought two wars – in 1947-48 and 1965 – over the disputed Kashmir territory. A third war between these countries in 1971 – in which India capitalized on Islamabad’s marginalization of Bengalis in Pakistani politics – resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. In response to Indian nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in 1998. The dispute over the state of Kashmir is ongoing, but discussions and confidence-building measures have led to decreased tensions since 2002. Mounting public dissatisfaction with President MUSHARRAF, coupled with the assassination of the prominent and popular political leader, Benazir BHUTTO, in late 2007, and MUSHARRAF?s resignation in August 2008, led to the September presidential election of Asif ZARDARI, BHUTTO?s widower. Pakistani government and military leaders are struggling to control Islamist militants, many of whom are located in the tribal areas adjacent to the border with Afghanistan.
History From the earliest period of pre-history and recorded history of the region, modern Pakistan formed the heart-land of a larger territory, extending beyond its present eastern and western borders and receiving momentous and mighty impacts from both the directions.

The Indus region, which covers much of Pakistan, was the site of several ancient cultures including the Neolithic era Mehrgarh and the Bronze era Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC – 1500 BC) at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.

Waves of conquerors and migrants from the west — including Harappan, Indo-Aryan, Persian, Greek, Saka, Parthian, Kushan, Hephthalite, Afghan, Arab, Turkics, and Mughal — settled in the region through out the centuries, influencing the locals and being absorbed among them. Great ancient empires of the east — such as Nandas, Mauryas, and Guptas — ruled these territories at different times. However, in the medieval period, while the eastern provinces of Punjab and Sindh became aligned with Indo-Islamic civilisation, the western areas became culturally allied with the Iranic civilisation of Afghanistan and Iran. The region served as crossroads of historic trade routes, including the Silk Road, and as a maritime entreport, for the coastal trade between Mesopotamia and beyond up to Rome in the west and Malabar and beyond up to China in the east.

The Indus Valley Civilization collapsed in the middle of the second millennium BC and was followed by the Vedic Civilization, which also extended over much of the Indo-Gangetic plains. Successive ancient empires and kingdoms ruled the region: the Achaemenid Persian empire around 543 BC, Greek empire founded by Alexander the Great in 326 BC and the Mauryan empire there after. The Indo-Greek Kingdom founded by Demetrius of Bactria included Gandhara and Punjab from 184 BC, and reached its greatest extent under Menander, establishing the Greco-Buddhist period with advances in trade and culture. The city of Taxila (Takshashila) became a major center of learning in ancient times — the remains of the city, located to the west of Islamabad, are one of the country’s major archaeological sites. The Rai Dynasty (c.489–632) of Sindh, at its zenith, ruled this region and the surrounding territories.

In 712 AD, the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan in southern Punjab. The Pakistan government’s official chronology states that “its foundation was laid” as a result of this conquest. This Arab and Islamic victory would set the stage for several successive Muslim empires in South Asia, including the Ghaznavid Empire, the Ghorid Kingdom, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. During this period, Sufi missionaries played a pivotal role in converting a majority of the regional Buddhist and Hindu population to Islam. The gradual decline of the Mughal Empire in the early eighteenth century provided opportunities for the Afghans, Balochis and Sikhs to exercise control over large areas until the British East India Company gained ascendancy over South Asia.

The War of Independence 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny, was the region’s last major armed struggle against the foreign British Raj and it laid the foundations for the generally unarmed freedom struggle, led by the Hindu dominated Indian National Congress, in the twentieth century. The All India Muslim League rose to popularity in the late 1930s amid fears of under-representation and neglect of Muslims in politics. On 29 December 1930, Allama Iqbal’s presidential address called for an autonomous “state in northwestern India for Indian Muslims, within the body politic of India.” Muhammad Ali Jinnah espoused the Two Nation Theory and led the Muslim League to adopt the Lahore Resolution of 1940 (popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution), which ultimately led to the formation of an independent Pakistan. The Indian independence movement, led by Mahatma Gandhi, demanded freedom from British rule. In early 1947, Britain, coming under strong pressure from other Western nations to end its violent suppression of the freedom movement, decided to end its rule of India.

In June 1947, the nationalist leaders of British India — including Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad on behalf of the Congress, Jinnah representing the Muslim League, B. R. Ambedkar representing the Untouchable community, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs — agreed to the proposed terms of transfer of power and independence. The modern state of Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947 (27 Ramadan 1366 in the Islamic Calendar), carved out of the two Muslim-majority wings in the eastern and northwestern regions of British India and comprising the provinces of Balochistan, East Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, West Punjab and Sindh. The controversial division of the provinces of Punjab and Bengal set the stage for communal riots across India and Pakistan — millions of Muslims moved to Pakistan and millions of Hindus and Sikhs moved to India. Disputes arose over several princely states including Muslim-majority Kashmir and Jammu, whose ruler had acceded to India following an invasion by Pashtun warriors, leading to the First Kashmir War in 1948.

From 1947 to 1956, Pakistan was a Dominion in the Commonwealth of Nations. It became a Republic in 1956, but the civilian rule was stalled by a coup d’état by General Ayub Khan, who was president during 1958–69, a period of internal instability and a second war with India in 1965. His successor, Yahya Khan (1969–71) had to deal with a devastating cyclone — which caused 500,000 deaths in East Pakistan — and also face a civil war in 1971.

Economic greivances and political dissent in East Pakistan led to violent political tension and military repression that escalated into a civil war, which invited covert and later overt Indian intervention that escalated into the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, and ultimately to the secession of East Pakistan as the independent state of Bangladesh. Estimates of the number of people killed during this episode vary greatly, from ~30,000 to over 2 million, depending on the source.

Civilian rule resumed in Pakistan from 1972 to 1977, under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, until he was deposed and later sentenced to death, (in what his followers claimed was a judicial murder), in 1979 by General Zia-ul-Haq, who became the country’s third military president. Pakistan’s secular policies were replaced by Zia’s introduction of the Islamic Shariah legal code, which increased religious influences on the civil service and the military. With the death of President Zia in a plane crash in 1988, Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan. Over the next decade, she alternated power with Nawaz Sharif, as the country’s political and economic situation worsened. Pakistan got invoved in the 1991 Gulf War and sent 5,000 troops as part of a US led coalition, specifically for the defence of Saudi Arabia. Military tensions in the Kargil conflict with India were followed by a Pakistani military coup d’état in 1999 in which General Pervez Musharraf assumed executive powers. In 2001, Musharraf became President after the controversial resignation of Rafiq Tarar. After the 2002 parliamentary elections, Musharraf transferred executive powers to newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who was succeeded in the 2004 Prime-Ministerial election by Shaukat Aziz and was followed, for a temporary period in office, by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. On 15 November 2007 the National Assembly completed its tenure and so, pending elections, a caretaker government was appointed with the former Chairman of the Senate, Muhammad Mian Soomro as caretaker Prime Minister. However, the December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto during election campaign led to postponement of elections and also underscored the then prevailing instability of Pakistan’s political system. After the parliamentary elections held in march, Yousaf Raza Gillani was sworn in as Prime Minister .

Geography Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea, between India on the east and Iran and Afghanistan on the west and China in the north
Geographic coordinates: 30 00 N, 70 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 803,940 sq km
land: 778,720 sq km
water: 25,220 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of California
Land boundaries: total: 6,774 km
border countries: Afghanistan 2,430 km, China 523 km, India 2,912 km, Iran 909 km
Coastline: 1,046 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north
Terrain: flat Indus plain in east; mountains in north and northwest; Balochistan plateau in west
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: K2 (Mt. Godwin-Austen) 8,611 m
Natural resources: land, extensive natural gas reserves, limited petroleum, poor quality coal, iron ore, copper, salt, limestone
Land use: arable land: 24.44%
permanent crops: 0.84%
other: 74.72% (2005)
Irrigated land: 182,300 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 233.8 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 169.39 cu km/yr (2%/2%/96%)
per capita: 1,072 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe especially in north and west; flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August)
Environment – current issues: water pollution from raw sewage, industrial wastes, and agricultural runoff; limited natural fresh water resources; most of the population does not have access to potable water; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: controls Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass, traditional invasion routes between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent
Politics The government of Pakistan was based on the Government of India Act (1935) for the first nine years after independence. The first Constitution of Pakistan was adopted in 1956, but was suspended in 1958 by General Ayub Khan. The Constitution of 1973 – suspended in 1977, by Zia-ul-Haq, but re-instated in 1991 – is the country’s most important document, laying the foundations of government. Pakistan is a semi-presidential federal democratic republic with Islam as the state religion. The bicameral legislature comprises a 100-member Senate and a 342-member National Assembly. The President is the Head of State and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and is elected by an electoral college. The prime minister is usually the leader of the largest party in the National Assembly. Each province has a similar system of government with a directly elected Provincial Assembly in which the leader of the largest party or alliance becomes Chief Minister. Provincial Governors are appointed by the President.

The Pakistani military has played an influential role in mainstream politics throughout Pakistan’s history, with military presidents ruling from 1958–71, 1977–88 and from 1999 onwards. The leftist Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, emerged as a major political player during the 1970s. Under the military rule of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan began a marked shift from the British-era secular politics and policies, to the adoption of Shariat and other laws based on Islam. During the 1980s, the anti-feudal, pro-Muhajir Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was started by unorthodox and educated urban dwellers of Sindh and particularly Karachi. The 1990s were characterized by coalition politics dominated by the Pakistan Peoples Party and a rejuvenated Muslim League.

In the October 2002 general elections, the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML-Q) won a plurality of National Assembly seats with the second-largest group being the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), a sub-party of the PPP. Zafarullah Khan Jamali of PML-Q emerged as Prime Minister but resigned on 26 June 2004 and was replaced by PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as interim Prime Minister. On 28 August 2004 the National Assembly voted 191 to 151 to elect the Finance Minister and former Citibank Vice President Shaukat Aziz as Prime Minister. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of Islamic religious parties, won elections in North-West Frontier Province, and increased their representation in the National Assembly – until their defeat in the 2008 elections.

Pakistan is an active member of the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the latter of which Pakistan has used as a forum for Enlightened Moderation, a plan to promote a renaissance and enlightenment in the Muslim world. Pakistan is also a member of the major regional organisations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO). In the past, Pakistan has had mixed relations with the United States; in the early 1950s, Pakistan was the United States’ “most allied ally in Asia” and a member of both the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO). Also, during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s Pakistan was a crucial US ally. But relations soured in the 1990s, when sanctions were applied by the US over suspicions of Pakistan’s nuclear activities. However, the 11 September 2001 attacks and the subsequent War on Terrorism have seen an improvement in US–Pakistan ties, especially after Pakistan ended its support of the Taliban regime in Kabul. This was evidenced by a drastic increase in American military aid, which saw Pakistan take in $4 billion more in three years after the 9/11 attacks than in the three years before.

On 18 February 2008, Pakistan held its general elections after being postponed from 8 January 2008. The Pakistan Peoples Party won the majority of the votes and formed an alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League (N). They nominated and elected Yousaf Raza Gilani as Prime Minister of Pakistan

On 18 August 2008, when the ballooning impeachment scandal threatened his power, President Musharraf resigned as President of Pakistan, claiming it was a “difficult decision”.

In the presidential election that followed, Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan People’s Party won by a landslide majority and became President of Pakistan.

People Population: 172,800,048 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.8% (male 33,617,953/female 31,741,258)
15-64 years: 58% (male 51,292,535/female 48,921,023)
65 years and over: 4.2% (male 3,408,749/female 3,818,533) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 20.5 years
male: 20.3 years
female: 20.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.999% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 28.35 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.85 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.51 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 66.94 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 67.04 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 66.84 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 64.13 years
male: 63.07 years
female: 65.25 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.73 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 74,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 4,900 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
animal contact disease: rabies
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Pakistani(s)
adjective: Pakistani
Ethnic groups: Punjabi 44.68%, Pashtun (Pathan) 15.42%, Sindhi 14.1%, Sariaki 8.38%, Muhagirs 7.57%, Balochi 3.57%, other 6.28%
Religions: Muslim 95% (Sunni 75%, Shi’a 20%), other (includes Christian and Hindu) 5%
Languages: Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English (official; lingua franca of Pakistani elite and most government ministries), Burushaski and other 8%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 49.9%
male: 63%
female: 36% (2005 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 7 years
male: 7 years
female: 6 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 2.6% of GDP (2006)