Pakistan Church Attacked by 2 Suicide Bombers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Photo

A family fleeing after a suicide bombers attacked Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan, on Sunday. Credit Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Two suicide bombers attacked a church packed with worshipers on Sunday in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least eight people and injuring at least 30 others, several critically, officials said.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack in Quetta, the capital of the restive Baluchistan Province, in the country’s southwest. The group’s Amaq News Agency posted a statement online Sunday that said attackers had stormed a church in Quetta, but gave no further details.

The assault raised concerns about the security of religious minorities, especially Christians, in a country with a dismal record when it comes to the treatment and protection of religious minorities, analysts say.

Pakistani officials denied that ISIS had an organized presence in the country, however, even though the terrorist group has claimed responsibility for several other attacks in Baluchistan in recent years.

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The main hall of the church in Quetta, Pakistan, after the deadly assault. ISIS claimed responsibility. CreditArshad Butt/Associated Press

“Law enforcement agencies have badly failed in protecting common citizens, and minorities in particular,” said Shamaun Alfred Gill, a Christian political and social activist based in Islamabad.

“December is a month of Christian religious rituals,” Mr. Gill said. “We had demanded the government beef up security for churches all over the country. But they have failed to do so.”

Christians make up at least 2 percent of the country’s population of about 198 million. Most of them are marginalized and perform menial jobs.

The attack, a week before the Christmas holiday, unfolded in the early morning hours at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church. About 400 people had gathered for Sunday service when an assailant detonated his explosives-laden vest near the door to the church’s main hall.

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A woman wounded in the attack. CreditBanaras Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Another attacker failed to detonate his suicide jacket and was shot by security forces after an intense firefight, officials said.

Sarfraz Bugti, the provincial home minister, said the death toll could have been higher had the attacker managed to reach the main hall of the church, which is on one of the busiest roads in the city and near several important public buildings.

Local television networks broadcast images of terrified worshipers running out of the church as the attack was underway. Several young girls, wearing white frocks and holding red bags, could be seen fleeing the compound. Witnesses told local news outlets that people, panicked and frightened, had rushed out after hearing a loud explosion, followed by the sound of gunfire outside.

As security forces moved inside the main hall after the attack, they were confronted by a scene of bloody destruction. Several benches and chairs were overturned. Musical instruments were turned upside down.

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Security forces at the site of the attack, which raised questions about Pakistan’s ability to protect religious minorities. CreditNaseer Ahmed/Reuters

A Christmas tree with decorative lights stood at one corner, and a pool of blood lay outside the door where the suicide bomber had detonated explosives.

Two women were among the dead, and 10 women and seven children were among the injured, hospital officials said. Most of the injured were taken to the Civil Hospital nearby.

Quetta has been the scene of violent terrorist attacks recently, and a large number of military and paramilitary troops, apart from the police, have been deployed to maintain security.

Officials have repeatedly claimed that they have reduced violence in Baluchistan, a rugged and resource-rich province bordering Afghanistan and Iran. But the ease with which the attackers managed to carry out their assault on Sunday seemed to belie those claims.

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About 400 people had gathered for Sunday service when a bomber detonated explosives, sending worshipers fleeing. CreditBanaras Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The army repeatedly claims that it has broken the backbone of terrorism in the country,” Mr. Gill said. “But terrorism is still very much present and destroying the lives of common people.”

An insurgency by Baluch separatists has long simmered in the province, and the Taliban and other militants maintain a presence in the region.

Some officials were quick to shift blame toward Afghanistan, pointing to the presence of havens there for militants.

“The terrorists have safe sanctuaries across the border in Afghanistan,” said Anwar-ul Haq Kakar, a spokesman for the Baluchistan government. “They have become a major source of terrorism inside Baluchistan.”

Many minority leaders, however, stressed that there was a bigger need to look inward to ensure security for religious minorities, especially Christians.

“This attack is a serious breach of security,” Mr. Gill said.

Sikhs In Pakistan Complain Of Pressure To Convert (To Islam)

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

 

Sikhs in Pakistan complain of pressure to convert

A complaint by a Sikh leader in Hangu district alleged an assistant commissioner had told members of the minority community to convert to Islam.

WORLD Updated: Dec 16, 2017 23:34 IST

Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
File photo of Sikhs walking through the narrow streets of Peshawar with Gorvindar Singh (centre), one of three Sikhs who was kidnapped for ransom, after his return home on March 1, 2010.
File photo of Sikhs walking through the narrow streets of Peshawar with Gorvindar Singh (centre), one of three Sikhs who was kidnapped for ransom, after his return home on March 1, 2010.(Reuters)

A representative of a Sikh body in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has complained that members of the minority are being asked to convert to Islam by officials in the local administration.

A complaint filed by Farid Chand Singh, who represents the Sikh community in Hangu district, alleged that the assistant commissioner of Tall tehsil, Yaqoob Khan, had told members of the Sikh community, who had paid him a visit, to convert to Islam if they wanted their problems solved.

An incensed Singh filed the official complaint against Khan with the district commissioner. Singh told The Express Tribune newspaper that he had expressed serious concern as some Sikhs were “being forced to convert to Islam” by the government official.

Singh also said in his complaint that the Pashto-speaking Sikh community had been living in Hangu since 1901 and had never offended by anyone, specifically for religious reasons. He said they had always lived peacefully with Muslims.

Despite Hangu having been a hotbed for sectarian conflict, residents of the district had never harmed Sikhs, who were never approached by anyone to convert to Islam, he said. Sikhs have friendly relations with Muslims, who have always stood up for the community in times of need, he added.

“Had it been from someone ordinary, it would have never felt so offending but when you hear such things from a government official, it becomes something really serious,” Singh told the newspaper.

“We the residents of Doaba area are being tortured religiously,” the complaint said.

“The Constitution empowers us to defend our religious beliefs against anyone and we want you to call (the assistant commissioner of) Tall, Yaqoob Khan, and inquire (about) the issue,” it said, adding the issue “should be investigated so that the community could live in Pakistan with love, peace and harmony”.

The district commissioner, Shahid Mehood, said members of the Sikh community were offended during their meeting with the assistant commissioner but had never meant to insult them.

“There was no such issue of converting someone forcefully to Islam. Rather, the district administration ensures religious freedom,” Mehmood said.

Earlier this year,a public prosecutor told a group of Christians facing trial that he would get them acquitted if they converted to Islam. Nearly 60 Christians were on trial for the mob killing of two men mistaken for militants shortly after two suicide bombers blew themselves up near St John’s Catholic Church and Christ ‎Church of the Church of Pakistan,‎ at Youhanabad in Lahore, on March 15, 2015.

There is a sizeable Sikh population in parts of northwest Pakistan, including the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Many of the Sikhs are petty traders and there have been instances of members of the community being kidnapped for ransom in recent years.

Honor killing in Pakistan: 19-year-old kills sister, brother-in-law

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

 

Honor killing in Pakistan: 19-year-old kills sister, brother-in-law in Rawalpindi

Activists say around a thousand Pakistani women fall victims to so-called honour killings every year.

WORLD Updated: Dec 11, 2017 21:22 IST

Press Trust of India, Islamabad
Pakistani civil society activists carry placards during a protest in Islamabad.
Pakistani civil society activists carry placards during a protest in Islamabad.(AFP File Photo)

An angry Pakistani youth has allegedly shot dead his sister and her husband for marrying without the family’s consent, in the latest incident of honour killing in the country, police said.

The accused, identified as 19-year-old Saeed Anwar, had been upset at his sister, Mismat Musarrat, 18, for marrying Qaiser, 25.

The incident took place in Nagyal in Rawalpindi’s Gujjar Khan tehsil and police described it as an ‘honour killing’, Dawn newspaper reported.

The Station House Officer Ishtiaq Masood Cheema said the suspect had been waiting for an opportunity to kill the couple ever since they married a few months ago without the consent of his family.

He said that when Anwar found the couple alone in their house, the accused fired at them with a pistol, killing them both on the spot.

He later tried to flee the scene, but was apprehended by the police along with the murder weapon.

Cheema said police have booked Anwar for a double murder. Police will present him in court tomorrow to seek physical remand. The bodies of the victims have been shifted to a local hospital for a postmortem.

Last month, a newly-wed couple in Sindh province who married without the consent of their elders were killed allegedly on the orders of a jirga (village elders).

In September, police had exhumed bodies of a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy, who had reportedly been electrocuted by their families on the orders of a jirga in Karachi.

Activists say around a thousand Pakistani women fall victims to so-called honour killings every year in which the victims, mostly a woman, are usually killed by a relative or on the orders of village elders for bringing dishonour to the family or the community.

LeT operative stayed with terrorists in Kashmir, filmed Indian army camps:

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

 

LeT operative stayed with terrorists in Kashmir, filmed Indian army camps: Officials

During interrogation, Sheikh disclosed that he had stayed in Pulwama, moved to various places with the help of Malik and even photographed some Army and para-military camps, the officials claimed.

INDIA Updated: Dec 11, 2017 21:15 IST

Press Trust of India, New Delhi
Army soldiers share a lighter moment as they guard during a gunbattle at Pakharpore village, south of Srinagar, Kashmir, on Nov. 30, 2017.
Army soldiers share a lighter moment as they guard during a gunbattle at Pakharpore village, south of Srinagar, Kashmir, on Nov. 30, 2017. (AP)

Suspected Lashker-e-Taiba operative Abdul Nayeem Sheikh, who was arrested last month from Lucknow, had spent some time in trouble-torn south Kashmir and filmed some Army installations, officials said.

Sheikh, a resident of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, was on the radar of central intelligence agencies for quite sometime before he was nabbed with the help of Uttar Pradesh police in the last week of November.

The case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a central probe agency mandated to investigate all terror modules in the country.

The central security agencies, which interrogated Sheikh at length, had told the investigators about his accomplice, Tauseef Ahmed Malik, in Pulwama district of south Kashmir. He was placed under arrest by the NIA on December 9.

During interrogation, Sheikh disclosed that he had stayed in Pulwama, moved to various places with the help of Malik and even photographed some Army and para-military camps, the officials claimed.

Sheikh, who was wanted in connection with a 2014 terror case and was since on the run, told investigators that some important power projects and railway tracks in the Valley were surveyed, they said.

He had also visited some places in Himachal Pradesh, especially Kasol, which is frequented by Israeli nationals visiting India, according to the officials.

Security agencies have claimed that Sheikh was roped in for a recce mission similar to that undertaken by David Headley, a Pakistan-American, who is at present serving a prison sentence of 35 years at a US jail for his involvement in terror activities and the 26/11 Mumbai attacks of 2008.

They said Malik’s association with the Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba also came to light during Sheikh’s interrogation.

Malik had shown to probe officials the places where Sheikh had stayed with the terrorists for over three months, they added.

Manmohan Singh Defied National Line By Meeting Pakistan Diplomats

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

 

Manmohan Singh defied national line by meeting Pakistan diplomats: Arun Jaitley

Arun Jaitley wanted the former prime minister to explain what transpired at the meeting and went on to defend Modi government’s track record of fighting terror.

GUJARATELECTION2017 Updated: Dec 11, 2017 23:19 IST

Press Trust of India, New Delhi
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley addresses the media in New Delhi on Monday.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley addresses the media in New Delhi on Monday.(PTI)

Virtually ruling out an apology by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday charged former prime minister Manmohan Singh with defying the national line by meeting Pakistani diplomats and demanded to know the context, relevance and necessity of such a meet.

Terming the meeting as “political misadventure”, Jaitley wanted Singh and the Congress to explain the context of attending the dinner hosted by suspended party leader Mani Shankar Aiyar for Pakistani diplomats.

He said the main Opposition party is expected to follow the national policy, which states that terror and talks cannot go hand-in-hand.

“Is (the) main opposition party not part of the State?” he asked.

Jaitley said that if anyone defies the national line, he should be prepared to answer questions.

“It is a political misadventure, it has a political cost,” he said.

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Jaitley addressed a press conference hours after Singh asked the Prime Minister to apologise to the nation for setting a “dangerous precedent”.

He wanted the former prime minister to explain what transpired at the meeting and went on to defend his government’s track record of fighting terror, saying no government in the past has a track record this government has in fighting terrorism.

In response to Singh’s demand for apology, Jaitley further said people who have violated the national policy of talks and terror not going hand in hand should apologize.

China warns its nationals of imminent attacks by ‘terrorists’ in Pakistan

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

 

China warns its nationals of imminent attacks by ‘terrorists’ in Pakistan

The alert comes as thousands of Chinese are in Pakistan working on projects in President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road development plan, which aims to link China with the Middle East and Europe.

WORLD Updated: Dec 08, 2017 16:11 IST

Reuters, Beijing
File photo of Pakistan police officers in Islamabad. The Chinese embassy has warned all “Chinese-invested organisations and Chinese citizens to increase security awareness”.
File photo of Pakistan police officers in Islamabad. The Chinese embassy has warned all “Chinese-invested organisations and Chinese citizens to increase security awareness”.(AP)

China on Friday warned its nationals in Pakistan of plans for a series of imminent “terrorist attacks” on Chinese targets there, an unusual alert as it pours funds into infrastructure projects into a country plagued by militancy.

Thousands of Chinese workers have gone to Pakistan following Beijing’s pledge to spend $57 billion there on projects in President Xi Jinping’s signature “Belt and Road” development plan, which aims to link China with the Middle East and Europe.

Protecting employees of Chinese companies, as well as individual entrepreneurs who have followed the investment wave along what is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, has been a concern for Chinese officials.

“It is understood that terrorists plan in the near term to launch a series of attacks against Chinese organisations and personnel in Pakistan,” the Chinese embassy in Pakistan said in a statement on its website.

The embassy warned all “Chinese-invested organisations and Chinese citizens to increase security awareness, strengthen internal precautions, reduce trips outside as much as possible, and avoid crowded public spaces”.

It also asked Chinese nationals to cooperate with Pakistan’s police and the military, and to alert the embassy in the event of an emergency.

It did not give any further details.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry could not be reached immediately for comment.

China has long worried about disaffected members of its Uighur Muslim minority in its far western region of Xinjiang linking up with militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

At the same time, violence in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province has fuelled concern about security for planned transport and energy links from western China to Pakistan’s deepwater port of Gwadar.

The Taliban, sectarian groups linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State all operate in Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan and is at the centre of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

In addition, separatists there have long battled the government for a greater share of gas and mineral resources, and have a long record of attacking energy and other infrastructure projects.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for killing two kidnapped Chinese teachers in Baluchistan in June, prompting the government in Islamabad to pledge to beef up security for Chinese nationals.

It had already promised a 15,000-strong army division to safeguard projects along the economic corridor.

China’s security concerns abroad have grown along with its global commercial footprint.

In 2016, a suspected suicide car bomber rammed the gates of the Chinese embassy in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, killing the attacker and wounding at least three people.

PM Modi says Mani Shankar Aiyar gave ‘supari’ in Pakistan,

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

 

Gujarat elections: PM Modi says Mani Shankar Aiyar gave ‘supari’ in Pakistan, Rahul Gandhi targets BJP on manifesto

The BJP and Congress targetted each other ahead of the first phase of Gujarat elections, in which 89 of 182 seats go to polls on Saturday.

GUJARATELECTION2017 Updated: Dec 09, 2017 07:42 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A life-size digital cutout of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was set up at Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad.
A life-size digital cutout of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was set up at Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

The campaign trail in Gujarat heated up on Friday ahead of the first phase of polling in the state with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP’s star campaigner accusing Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar of issuing a “supari” (contract) in Pakistan to have him “removed”, even as Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi criticised the BJP for waiting till the 11th hour to release its manifesto.

The first phase of elections to the Gujarat assembly is scheduled for Saturday, as 89 of 182 seats go to the polls, in what is perhaps the most watched and closely contested election in the state in two decades.

The BJP has ruled the state for 22 years, but the Congress has always had a significant presence in the state, with its vote share never going below a third, and it is expected to do better this time. In the 2012 assembly elections, the BJP won 119 seats and the Congress 57. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won all 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

This time, opinion polls give the Congress anything between 37 and 85 seats, and the BJP 92-141. Modi, the former chief minister of Gujarat, has been leading the campaign from the front. He has spent much of the past week in the state, and is expected to spend the first part of the coming week (campaigning for the second phase, scheduled for December 14, ends on December 12) here too. BJP president Amit Shah has also camped in the state.

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The Congress campaign, overseen by veteran Ashok Gehlot, has had Rahul Gandhi, who will be announced as the party’s next president on December 11, as its face. The Congress has been supported by the Patidars, led by Hardik Patel, some backward classes, led by Alpesh Thakor, and the Dalits, led by Jignesh Mewani.

All three are young and charismatic leaders, and strong orators, with a significant following among the young people of their respective communities. These young people want jobs, and better education that leads to such jobs.

The Congress is hoping that its partnership with the three – Patel is supporting it but not contesting the election himself; Thakor has joined the Congress and is a candidate; and Mewani’s candidature is supported by the Congress – will help.

As will angst over the fallout of last year’s demonetisation and this year’s Goods and Services Tax on small traders in the state who have traditionally voted for the BJP.

The BJP is hoping its focus on Other Backward Classes (OBCs) who are worried that any quota for the Patidars will come at their expense, its track record in the state, superior planning and constituency management, and the Modi magic will see it through. Modi and the BJP have also been quick to latch on to missteps by the Congress. Earlier this week, Congress leader Kapil Sibal, appearing in the Ram Janambhoomi case in the Supreme Court asked for the hearing to be deferred till after the 2019 polls claiming that the outcome of the case could have significant implications on the 2019 parliamentary polls.

There has been confusion over who he appeared for. And on Thursday, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar called Modi “neech” or low class, prompting the Congress to suspend him from the primary membership of the party. The BJP has milked both to its advantage.

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Modi continued to do so on Friday, recalling a 2015 visit by Aiyar to Pakistan during which he had said in a talk show that relations between India and Pakistan would not improve until Modi was removed from the way.

On Friday, the BJP released its so-called vision document or manifesto, promising a better deal for farmers, sops for people belonging to the Other Backward Classes, and better housing, health, and education for all, although it stopped well short of promising the quotas in jobs and educational institutions that the Congress has promised the Patidars.

The BJP maintains that the Congress formula isn’t legally tenable (a Supreme Court judgment mandates that quotas must not cross the 50% mark).

Some Of China’s Neighbors Are Saying No Thanks To China’s Money

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘QUARTZ’ AND THE WEBSITE OF ANDY TAI)

((oped) TO SAY YES TO CHINA’S MONEY IS TO GIVE AWAY YOUR COUNTRY’S SOVEREIGNTY AND THE FREEDOM OF ALL OF YOUR PEOPLE!)(trs)

DAMMED IF YOU DO

More neighbors are saying “no thanks” to Chinese money—for now

December 04, 2017

There’s a learning curve to becoming a superpower, as China, having recently suffered setbacks with two of its neighbors, is learning.

Pakistan and Nepal, each involved in China’s Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure push, announced last month they would no longer seek Chinese funding for two large-scale developments. In mid-November, Pakistan said that China’s conditions for financing the long-delayed $14 billion Diamer-Basha dam on the Indus River—part of the roughly $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor—”were not doable and against our interest,” including as it did China taking ownership of the entire project. Pakistan decided to go ahead with the dam, but to build it by itself.

Around the same time, Nepal decided to stop the $2.5 billion Budhi Gandaki hydropower plant from going forward in the hands of China Gezhouba Group, citing irregularities and the lack of a competitive bidding process. Last week, Nepal said that it would go ahead and build the dam itself, handing the 1,200-megawatt project over to the state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority.

“Very early on the countries along the Belt and Road initiative were at first very excited and happy about Chinese investment,” said Christopher Balding, professor of economics at Peking University HSBC Business School. “But there have been significant changes: Countries now look at how China has behaved with Sri Lanka or with Mexico.”

China, with about 60 other nations, pursue ambitious plans to connect three continents with infrastructure investments.
An ambitious Belt and Road initiative. (Source: The Economist)

In Sri Lanka, the Hambantota port is now on a 99-year lease to China Merchants Port Holdings, which has a 70% stake in the venture. In 2015, Sri Lanka sought a review of how construction of the port had been awarded and halted its development. But in the face of economic and financing difficulties, it backtracked. With some $8 billion owed to China, thanks to loans taken to rebuild after its civil war, Colombo agreed to convert some of this debt into equity in projects.

Further afield, China has asked Mexico for a $600 million refund (link in Spanish) for the scrapping of a railway project.

While most countries along the Belt and Road initiative welcome foreign investment and assistance in building modern infrastructure, the pressure being exercised by Beijing doesn’t always go down well. Countries on the receiving end of Chinese cash are starting to realize that when all is done and dusted, the infrastructure that is built is likely to end up controlled by China.

A common pattern has been for China to sign controversial projects when a pro-China government is in place—as was the case with Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Hambantota port deal—only to see them revisited once less receptive administrations are in power. In Nepal, outgoing prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), signed a preliminary agreement for the dam in June, just days before he relinquished his post to the rival Nepali Congress as part of a pre-existing power-sharing agreement. Current deputy prime minister Kamal Thapa criticized and scrapped the project for not having gone through open bidding as required by law.

That said, China’s rise in Asia and the world is beyond dispute—and its might is likely to grow as it proceeds firmly with its Belt and Road initiative. And in several countries in Asia and elsewhere, particularly those facing global criticism on human rights or other issues, China’s infrastructure spending plans and hands-off stance on such touchy topics are likely to overcome any reservations toward the country.

Take the example of nearby Myanmar, which in 2011 saw the cancellation (paywall) of a major Chinese hydroelectric project in the face of environmental concerns. In the years since then, Myanmar has been on the receiving end of increasing international criticism due to its purges of the Muslim Rohingya minority. Criticism deepened this year after a particularly harsh pogrom in August saw more than half a million flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

In the same month that the nonprofit Fortify Rights and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum released a major report documenting killings and rape of Rohingya, and the US made the determination that the Myanmar military is carrying out “ethnic cleansing,” China proposed a Pakistan-like economic corridor crossing the country. China is already helping to build a $7 billion port in Rakhine, the western Myanmar state that has seen the worst of the violence. Last week, as Myanmar continued to face criticism over what many see as a flawed agreement with Bangladesh to accept the return of the Rohingya—one that China may have played a role in brokering—Aung San Suu Kyi was in Beijing for a conference of international political parties, and for more discussion on investment.

China can also take heart that the vagaries of electoral fortune in democracies can sometimes revive projects China wants to back. The fate of the Nepali dam, for example, could change yet again as the country holds parliamentary polls for the first time since the end of its civil war just over a decade ago. The final stage of voting will take place Dec. 7. The two main blocks contesting the elections represent a conflicting set of alliances, with one of them saying that it will, should it win, hand the project back to China.

16 Dead, 100 Missing As Cyclone Hits India, Sri Lanka

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

 

Indian pedestrians walk on the road after copious rains in Bangalore on December 1, 2017. —AFP
Indian pedestrians walk on the road after copious rains in Bangalore on December 1, 2017. —AFP

A powerful cyclone has killed at least 16 people across India and Sri Lanka, uprooting trees and cutting power for millions amid warnings on Friday that the storm would intensify.

Disaster officials said nine people were killed in India and seven in neighbouring Sri Lanka, most crushed by trees ripped up by destructive winds raging at 130 kilometres per hour.

Warships have been deployed to comb the southeastern coast for fishing boats missing in wild seas, India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

Another official said an estimated 100 crew were aboard the missing vessels, with fears held for their safety.

Torrential wind and rain unleashed by Cyclone Ockhi has shut down schools in Chennai, a coastal Indian city of seven million where conditions are set to worsen.

Images broadcast from southern India showed the scale of the destruction as the cyclone reached the shore, with electricity poles toppled and trees torn asunder.

Tourists in Kochi, a coastal city in the southern Kerala state, have been told to stay away from popular beaches where huge waves are pounding the shore.

Power was cut for millions in Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu state as the storm made its way from Sri Lanka, with India’s meteorological department warning of worse to come.

“The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours,” the department said in its update.

India’s eastern coast — including state capitals like Chennai and Bhubaneswar that are home to millions — is prone to seasonal storms that wreak immense damage between April and December.

In 1999, more than 8,000 people were killed when a cyclone battered the eastern state of Orissa.

88 schoolgirls in India forced to strip as punishment by teachers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWSPAPER ‘DAWN’ WHO IS OBTAINING INFORMATION FROM THE INDIAN NEWSPAPER THE ‘HINDUSTAN TIMES’)

 

Scores of schoolgirls in India were allegedly abused earlier this month as they were forced to strip in front of other schoolfellows at a girls’ school in India’s Arunachal Pradesh state, Hindustan Times reported on Thursday.

Around 88 students studying in class VI and VII were subjected to the worst humiliation as a punishment for allegedly writing vulgar remarks against the head teacher.

According to Hindustan Times, it was assumed that the remarks were written by an unidentified student and that she was present among those students who were forced to strip in front of other schoolfellows.

The news report further added that three teachers of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Tani Happa (New Sagalee) in Papum Pare district forced the girls to undress on November 23.

Police officials said that the matter came to light four days later when a student body approached the police and filed a First Information Report in this regard, it added.

The complaint alleged that two assistant teachers and a junior teacher subjected the students to humiliation after the teachers recovered a piece of paper with vulgar remarks on it about the head teacher and a girl student.

Tumme Amo, a Superintendent of Police, confirmed the FIR and said that the case had been forwarded to the women police station. “The officer-in-charge of the [women] police station said the victims and their parents along with the teachers will be interrogated before registering a case,” Amo said.

All Papum Pare District Students Union (APPDSU) said in a press release that a team of the union had met the students and teachers on Tuesday, and found that an unidentified student had used vulgar words in a piece of paper mentioning the name of the head teacher and a student.

Subsequently, the teachers demanded an explanation from all the students of the two classes and later made them undress, it added.

“The school authorities did not speak to the parents of the students before punishing them,” APPDSU president Nabam Tado was quoted as saying.