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'Russian Facebook' founder says has left country after being pushed out

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:49

MOSCOW: The maverick founder of Russia’s top social network, Pavel Durov, said Tuesday he had left the country after being pushed from the company against his will.

Durov told US website TechCrunch that he was no longer in Russia and had “no plans to go back” after social network VKontakte (In Touch) announced Monday that he had left the company.

His dramatic announcement was the latest episode in an acrimonious wrangle between Durov and a major shareholder in VKontakte.

Durov said this month he had came under pressure from the Russian security services to reveal data on VKontakte users, and that his refusal led to his losing his stake in the company.

The 29-year-old, who is often compared to Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, told TechCrunch that “I’m out of Russia and have no plans to go back.”

“Unfortunately, the country is incompatible with the Internet business at the moment,” he said, adding he planned to create a new mobile social network.

With more than 100 million users concentrated in the ex-Soviet Union, VKontakte is Russia’s most popular social network, far outstripping Facebook.

Durov, who founded the company after leaving university, wrote on his VKontakte page on Monday evening that he heard he was leaving the company from news reports.

“The shareholders weren’t brave enough to say it directly and I find out about my mysterious dismissal from media.”

Durov had initially announced his resignation in a message on April 1 that many took for an April Fool’s joke. He later posted a message on VKontakte saying he had not been serious.

But VKontakte said Monday that he had not formally retracted his resignation handed in on March 21, and that since a month had passed, he was out of the company.

“Durov made a joke too far,” business daily Vedomosti wrote Tuesday.

Durov claimed the company had been effectively taken over by Kremlin allies.

He referred to Alisher Usmanov, Russia’s richest man, who partly controls the Mail.ru group, the majority shareholder in VKontakte, and also to the chief executive of Russia’s largest oil firm Rosneft, Igor Sechin, seen as one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest confidants.

“VKontakte is passing under the total control of Igor Sechin and Alisher Usmanov,” Durov wrote.

Durov had previously announced he had sold his stake, effectively giving control of the firm to Mail.ru, which now controls 52 percent.

The remaining 48 percent is controlled by investment group United Capital Partners, which Durov has accused of being tied to the security services and gaining the stake through a hostile takeover.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Oxford English Dictionary may go out of print

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:55

The world’s most extensive work on the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), may not appear in print form ever again according to The Telegraph.

Publishers of the renowned dictionary said that the print version of the book is extremely lengthy and argued that an online version would be more economical to scholars.

They also added that the third edition of the famous dictionary, which is estimated to fill 4o volumes, is 20 years behind schedule.

The OED’s first new chief editor for 20 years, Michael Proffitt, said the dictionary is facing delays due to an “information overload” from the internet, which is slowing his compilers.

His team of 70 philologists, including lexicographers, etymologists and pronunciation experts, has been working on the latest version, known as OED3, for the past 20 years.

Proffitt revealed to Country Life magazine that the next edition will not be completed until 2034, and likely only to be offered in an online form because of its large size.

“A lot of the first principles of the OED stand firm, but how it manifests has to change, and how it reaches people has to change,” said the 48-year-old editor.

The Oxford University Press stated that a print version will only be available for sale if there is enough demand for it at that time. It will comprise of 40 volumes, which is double the length of the second edition which came out in 1989.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Former IMF chief's ex 'didn't know' about his escapades

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:13

PARIS: The ex-wife of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn says she knew nothing about his penchant for sex parties which has left him facing a possible ten-year prison sentence for pimping.

Anne Sinclair, a wealthy heiress who was until recently one of France’s best-known television news anchors, left Strauss-Kahn after he was forced to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund following his 2011 arrest for an alleged sexual assault on a New York hotel maid.

Criminal charges in the case were dropped and at the end of 2012, Strauss-Kahn settled a civil suit brought by the maid by paying her undisclosed damages, which reportedly exceeded $1.5 million.

His former wife is thought to have helped him raise the funds for the damages payment and his legal bills.

Sinclair, who has rarely spoken publicly about the affair, has told France 2 television that she was unaware of the libertine side to the personality of a man who was, until his arrest, a strong contender to become president of France.

“Listen, you can believe me or not believe me, but I did not know,” Sinclair says in an interview due to be broadcast on Tuesday evening.

“When I married Dominique, I knew he was a charmer, that he was a seducer. That much I knew,” she said.

Sinclair admitted that she heard rumours about what “DSK” might be up to, but claims she paid no heed.

“Rumours are made to destroy, to kill, to damage — so I ignored them,” she says.

“I had doubts, the doubts you can have within a couple and often, or sometimes, I would ask him if things were true or not. He knew how to deny them and how to reassure me.”

Sinclair also says that she does not believe for one minute the allegations made by the New York hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo.

Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in New York triggered a number of investigations into his sexual conduct, the most serious of which was known as the “Carlton Affair” and centred on sex parties he attended at the Carlton Hotel in the French city of Lille.

Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers insist he had no idea the women taking part were prostitutes. But the prosecution says he was central to the organisation of what amounted to orgies and, last August, a judge sent Strauss-Kahn and 12 others for trial on charges of aggravated pimping as part of an organised gang.

Whilst awaiting trial, Strauss-Kahn has found work as an advisor to the Serbian government and the story of his spectacular fall from grace has been made into a film, “Welcome to New York”, starring Gerard Depardieu.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Ukraine PM to meet Pope Francis amid crisis

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:00

VATICAN CITY: Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is to meet Pope Francis on Saturday amid tensions with pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine, the Vatican said.

Yatsenyuk will be one of dozens of world leaders attending a ceremony on Sunday that will confer sainthood on popes John Paul II and John XXIII.

Ukraine’s Christian believers are divided between Orthodox followers of the Kiev and Moscow patriarchates and a minority, mainly in western Ukraine, of Greek Catholics who recognise the authority of the Vatican.

Vatican has faced some criticism over its low-key reaction to the spiralling crisis in Ukraine.

Francis on Easter Sunday urged the international community to “prevent violence” in Ukraine after a gunfight threatened to unravel an accord struck in Geneva last week aimed at reducing tensions.

“We ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine,” Francis said.

The pope asked that “all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future”.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula last month after sending in troops and has massed a military force estimated at 40,000 soldiers on Ukraine’s eastern border.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

New Syria chemical claims emerge as election announced

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 06:53

BEIRUT: New claims have emerged that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime may have launched attacks with an industrial chemical earlier this month, despite an international agreement to eliminate Syria’s chemical arsenal.

The latest evidence, cited by the United States and France, comes as Syria plans to hold a June 3 presidential poll, which the United Nations and the Syrian opposition have slammed as a “farce” that flies in the face of efforts to end the country’s three-year war.

“We have indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical, probably chlorine, in Syria this month, in the opposition-dominated village of Kafr Zita,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.

“We are examining allegations that the government was responsible.”

The revelation follows Sunday’s announcement by French President Francois Hollande that his country had “information” — but no proof — that Assad’s regime was still using chemical weapons.

There have been conflicting accounts of an alleged chlorine gas attack in opposition-held Kafr Zita in the central Hama province earlier this month, with the government and the opposition trading blame.

Activists have also reported other chlorine gas attacks, most recently on Monday in the northwestern Idlib province.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and other experts have spent months working to remove Syria’s chemical stockpiles, following an agreement reached after deadly chemical attacks near Damascus last August that killed hundreds.

Western nations blamed those attacks on the Assad regime and the United States threatened military action before backing down and reaching a deal with Russia to eliminate the chemical weapons.

The OPCW said last week that 65 percent of Syria’s stated chemical weapons have been removed from the country.

Although chlorine is a toxic chemical, it is widely used for commercial and domestic purposes, so Syria was not required to submit its stockpiles to the OPCW, a chemical weapons expert told AFP.

“However, as a chemical weapon it is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention,” which Syria joined last year, said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, CEO of SecureBio, a British chemical weapons consultancy.

“The delivery method that we’ve seen — the use of helicopters — I am certain the opposition don’t have any helicopters.”

He also said that although chlorine is a weak agent, chemical weapons are “very effective in this kind of warfare, in urban, built-up areas, as chemical weapons find their ways into the nooks and crannies.”

Syria meanwhile announced Monday that it will hold a June 3 presidential election, expected to return Assad to office.

Syria’s first presidential election — after constitutional amendments scrapped a referendum system — is to go ahead despite violence which has killed more than 150,000 people since March 2011.

Syrians living outside the country will vote on May 28 and candidates can begin registering from today until May 1.

The United Nations condemned the announcement, warning it would torpedo efforts to reach a negotiated resolution of the conflict.

“Such elections are incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Geneva communique,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York, referring to an agreement on a transition to democracy.

Ahmed Jarba, head of the opposition National Coalition, rejected the planned election as a “farce.”

“With vast parts of Syria completely destroyed by Assad’s air force, army and militias over the last three years, and with a third of Syria’s population displaced internally or in refugee camps in the region, there is no electorate in Syria in a condition to exercise its right to vote,” his office said.

Syria’s conflict began as a peaceful protest movement demanding democratic reform, but descended into war after Assad’s regime unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent.

On Tuesday, fighting raged in flashpoints across the country, while the air force struck rebel areas of Aleppo city, keeping up an aerial offensive the regime launched in December.

Jihadist sources meanwhile said German rapper-turned-militant Denis Mamadou Cuspert, who performed under the name Deso Dogg but took on the name Abu Talha al-Almani in Syria, was killed in a suicide bombing on Sunday carried out by rival fighters.

He had joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and was reportedly killed by Al-Nusra Front, a rival jihadist group that is Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Militants kill three in Indian Kashmir in vote warning

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 06:43

SRINAGAR: Militants killed two local officials and another man in Indian Kashmir before issuing a warning to Kashmiris against voting this week in the country’s mammoth election, police and residents said Tuesday.

The militants targeted two village council heads in separate attacks late on Monday in Pulwana district south of the main city of Srinagar, a senior police officer said.

“Three people including two village heads were killed by local militants active in the area and the attack is aimed to keep the voters away from polling,” Inspector General of Police AG Mir said.

“The attackers belong to the local militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen, they were two in number and we have identified them,” Mir told AFP.

Police were hunting for the attackers, who entered the home of one village head and shot him dead in Tral area of Pulwana district. They killed another senior village official and his 24-year-old son about an hour later in the same area.

Separatists have called for a boycott of the general election which ends next month when hardline Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi and his party are expected to vault to power after a decade of Congress-party rule.

Posters warning residents of punishment if they went to the polls appeared early Tuesday morning in the Tral area where the attacks happened, according to residents who have seen them.

Voting in India’s only Muslim-majority state of Kashmir and Jammu is being staggered because of the tight security required. The Kashmir constituency which includes Pulwana district votes on Thursday.

The warnings, which say they are from the region’s biggest rebel group, the Hizbul Mujahideen, were posted outside several mosques and in the main bazaar of Tral town.

“Be warned, voting for tyrants will entail punishment,” the posters say.

The rebels say in the posters that they have been compelled to change their “freedom movement” strategy from “defensive” to “offensive” mode.

A local resident, who did not want to give his name, told AFP that “about four armed rebels appeared Sunday in the main bazaar of Tral threatening people to dissociate themselves from those fighting (in) the elections.”

In a similar attack on April 17, a village council head was shot dead elsewhere in the Himalayan region, which is disputed between rival neighbours India and Pakistan.

A dozen rebel groups have been fighting for years for Indian Kashmir’s independence or for merger of the territory with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, dead.

At least a dozen council members have been killed by suspected rebels since elections were held in 2010 for the region’s “panchayat” or village councils.

Village heads have demanded the government provide security for the more than 30,000 local council members in the wake of Monday night’s attacks.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

BJP blocks its website access in Pakistan

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 05:18

People in Pakistan cannot access the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) website as the party has blocked its internet page for visitors from Pakistan, Zee News reported on Tuesday.

“The owner of this website (www.bjp.org) has banned your IP address on the country or region you are accessing it from,” a message informs the visitor.

The ban comes a day after BJP leader LK Advani’s website was hacked allegedly by a Pakistani hacker who posted “free Kashmir” and “Pakistan zindabad” messages on the website.

The hacker had called for an end to the “militarised governance in Kashmir”.

However, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s website can still be accessed from within Pakistan.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

MERS death toll hits 81 in Saudi

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 04:16

RIYADH: The MERS death toll has climbed to 81 in Saudi Arabia, which sacked its health minister as cases of infection by the coronavirus mount in the country.

A 73-year-old Saudi who suffered from chronic illnesses died in Riyadh and a compatriot diagnosed with the virus, aged 54, died in the port city of Jeddah, the health ministry said late Monday.

The ministry said it has registered 261 cases of infection across the kingdom since the discovery of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in September 2012.

The World Health Organisation said on April 17 that it has been informed of 243 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS worldwide, including 93 deaths.

Saudi Arabia on Monday dismissed its health minister, Abdullah al-Rabiah, without any explanation.

Rabiah last week visited hospitals in Jeddah to calm a public hit by panic over the spread of the virus among medical staff that triggered the temporary closure of a hospital emergency room.

MERS was initially concentrated in eastern Saudi Arabia but now affects other areas.

The virus is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.

Experts are still struggling to understand MERS, for which there is no known vaccine.

A recent study said the virus has been “extraordinarily common” in camels for at least 20 years, and it may have been passed directly from the animals to humans.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Hindu leader urges Muslims’ eviction from homes

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 23:18

It is getting increasingly harder for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to convince sceptical voters that it poses no threat to Muslims, after Pravin Togadia, president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a sister organisation, was caught on camera talking about how to prevent Muslims from buying property in Hindu-dominated areas.

“Muslims have been buying Hindu properties at throwaway prices. How do you stop this?” As a solution, he offers, “You put pressure on the government to enforce the Disturbed Areas Act the way we have in cities like Ahmedabad.”

The circumstances in which he spoke are also controversial. Togadia had joined a group of Hindu activists outside the residence of a Muslim man in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, who were calling for the man’s eviction.

“If he does not relent, go with stones, tyres and tomatoes to his office. There is nothing wrong in it. Killers of Rajiv Gandhi have not been hanged … there is nothing to fear and the case will go on,” Togadia told the charged-up gathering, the Times of India reported.

While not a part of the BJP itself, the VHP and the BJP are both part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevakh Sang, a right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation formed in the early 20th century. There is significant overlap between the organisations, and their core political ideology remains the same.

It may also be troublesome for the BJP that the incident took place in the home state of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is already suspected by many for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots that killed at least a thousand people, mostly Muslims.

After the riots, Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s biggest city, was segregated along communal lines, with Muslims settling to poor, ghettoised shanty towns away from the Hindus.

India’s Election Commission took notice of the video, and demanded a copy before making a decision. Condemning Togadia’s statements, Congress leader Rashid Alvi said, “I think Togadia should be given treatment. He should be hospitalised.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Modi pitting Hindus against Muslims: Rahul Gandhi

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 23:14

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi alleged on Monday that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is leading the NDA, is trying to make “Hindus fight against Muslims” and also seeking to create two Indias, Indian media reported.

“The BJP people are trying [to] make Hindus fight Muslims,” Rahul said while addressing a rally in Telangana.

With reference to Narendra Modi, Rahul said, “Opposition parties want only chosen businessmen and chosen industrialists to become rich, with no benefits to the rest of the nation.

“They want to create two Indias — one for the rich and another for the poor. One India for chosen businessmen and another India for farmers, workers, dalits, adivasis and minorities,” he said. He added that Congress wants an India where everybody, including the poor, farmers, workers, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians benefit.

He said the country has witnessed maximum economic growth during the 10-year rule of the UPA and a total of 15 crore people were lifted from the BPL level. “We have achieved not just economic progress but have lifted 15 crore people out of poverty. How did they come out of poverty? We gave guaranteed job cards,” he said.

Recalling that the UPA government had initiated landmark poverty-alleviation and development programmes like Right to Education and Food Security, Rahul said, “If voted to power, the UPA would ensure housing for all and provide free medicines and operations at free-of-cost for the poor”.

Accusing the opposition parties of stalling the Women’s Reservation Bill when it was introduced by Congress in Lok Sabha, Rahul said, “The first task of the UPA government when it regains power this year is to pass this legislation”.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Tharparkar address: JuD chief hits out at Modi for inciting exodus of Hindus from Sindh

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 23:03

HYDERABAD: 

Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed vowed that Pakistan will not allow Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to encourage members of the Hindu community to migrate from Sindh.

Addressing a gathering in Tharparkar’s Mithi town on Monday, he criticised the BJP frontrunner Narendra Modi for his provocative statements inciting members of the Hindu community to migrate across the border.

“The BJP leader has incited members of the Hindu community in Sindh to migrate to India, but I want to remind him about the Ahmedabad and Gujarat carnage. Such orchestrated incidents have never taken place in Pakistan,” the JuD chief said.

While Tharparkar is known for harmonious coexistence of Hindu and Muslim communities, last month Hindu places of worship were subjected to a series of attacks in the area.

Reassuring the Hindu community, Saeed said that conspiracies aimed at stoking religious or ethnic disharmony will not be allowed.

The JuD chief blamed India for the water shortage in the country. The tail-end areas of Sindh are dealing with severe water scarcity as India is building dams in Kashmir, he added.

Saeed also said that the JuD does not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims while working for their relief.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Geometrical drawings: Painting the rhythms inherent in Bengali women

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 22:49

ISLAMABAD: An exhibition of art pieces by a Bengali artist Jahangir Hossain will open at the Jharoka Art Gallery on Tuesday.

Titled “The Colours of Mind,” the exhibition comprises a total of 25 art pieces, ranging from pencil drawings to paintings in oil and acrylic.

“I’m fascinated by Hossain’s work because of the flow of colours, the layering and the source of light in his paintings,” said the curator Nahida Raza. “Given his grip on the subject, his artwork is a valuable resource for young artists and art students who can learn a great deal from him.”

Staying close to his roots, Hossain’s canvases typically revolve around nature and human beings and their correlation. There is some element of mystique to his drawings and water colour paintings.

“At first glance, my work may seem a mundane reflection of mankind with his surrounding but it slowly unfolds the secrets of my subject,” said the artist. “While working with geometrical lines, I try to impart the feeling of space with subdued colour and white pigmentation,” he added.

He has been mostly preoccupied with women’s traditional figures of fetching water or tending to cattle in the villages. He has also experimented with the images of rickshaw in the old city with boy.

One of his paintings, “The Girl on the Road” shows three women working and fetching water. Shining brightly against the backdrop, their clothes are depicted with gentle swirls of a rich palette comprising tones of blue, red, yellow ochre, grey, umber and purple.

The artist finds solace in painting people from his land. “I believe that there is a lot of graceful poetry and rhythm in the manner in which women work in the villages of Bangladesh,” he further said.

Moreover, he also seems inclined to paint foliage. “I find solace in the wilderness, at the same time I’m attracted towards the white sun rays filtering through the dense green, sound of the tropical rain and the movement of rain drops of the green leaves,” he added.

Painter Mansur Rahi, who will inaugurate the exhibition, has also graduated from Hossain’s alma mater, Dhaka Art College.

According to Rahi, Hossain’s work is a realistic study that reveals the mysteries of nature. “You have to be a master of law to break the law and Hossain skillfully achieves that with his tricks which lend him an inimitable signature,” said Rahi.

The High Commissioner of Bangladesh Sohrab Hossain will be the chief guest at the event that will continue till April 30.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2014.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Delay in IP pipeline: PM Nawaz to try and win concessions in Tehran talks

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 16:11

ISLAMABAD: 

After failing to get Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline exempted from US sanctions, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is set to ask Tehran during an upcoming visit to waive penalty following delay in work and revise the agreed deal.

In case of disagreement, the two countries may land in the international court of arbitration to settle the matter, sources say.

In addition to this, Pakistan and Iran will sign a 3,000-megawatt power supply deal during the premier’s trip slated for May 11-12.

Pakistan is already importing 73MW from Iran to meet the needs of Gwadar, but has not been able to clear outstanding payments, a process impeded by US sanctions against Iran for its alleged nuclear programme, which Tehran vehemently denies, that blocks transactions through banks.

The US has already refused to exempt the IP pipeline from sanctions, triggering uncertainty about the future of the project.

Though Tehran has signed a preliminary nuclear deal with the US and other western powers, Washington insists that it has not changed its stance on the IP pipeline.

Pakistani authorities had taken up the project with US officials in a meeting on the sidelines of the bilateral strategic dialogue in Washington in November 2013. However, the US did not give assurances that the project would not invite any sanctions.

The US has been pushing Pakistan to shelve the IP project and opt for Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline and Central Asia-South Asia (CASA) 1,000MW power import project to meet its energy needs. It has also offered assistance in liquefied natural gas (LNG) import, but is not willing to commit its own LNG supplies.

A month later, Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi visited Iran on December 9 and told officials there that Pakistan could not begin work on the IP pipeline until US sanctions were lifted.

Be soft

According to officials, the prime minister will again try to convince the top leadership of Iran’s new government that US restrictions are a major stumbling block in the way of the pipeline. Therefore, Tehran should be soft and waive penalty as well as extend the project completion deadline from the current December 2014.

Officials point out that Pakistan would have to face a penalty of $3 million per day if it dithers and fails to put the required project infrastructure in place on time. They suggest that the dispute may also take the two sides to the international court of arbitration if the penalty is not waived.

Officials argue that the standoff between the US and Iran has stalled the project and Pakistan could not be blamed for the delay, which is very much likely in such circumstances.

Tehran would also be informed that Islamabad had also tried to secure financing for building its part of the pipeline, but even China, a close friend of Islamabad, backed out in the face of the sanctions threat.

Even the new government of Iran also withdrew a $500-million financing offer given by the previous government, which led to termination of the contract awarded to Iran’s Tadbir Energy for pipeline construction.

According to a report prepared by the petroleum ministry, if furnace oil is replaced with imported gas, it will result in annual savings of $2.4 billion.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2014.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

BJP leader LK Advani's website hacked

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 12:12

The official website of veteran BJP leader LK Advani was hacked on Monday, allegedly by Pakistani hackers who posted “free-Kashmir” messages on the website, NDTV reported.

The hacker, who called himself Muhammad Bilal, wrote “Pakistan Zindabad” messages on the site and called for an end to the “militarised governance in Kashmir”.

The hacker began his message by saying, “Good Morning Narendra Modi” and went on to raise the Kashmir issue.

The message posted on the site terms freedom of Kashmir as the goal of those who hacked Advani’s website www.lkadvani.in. When The Express Tribune tried to access the website, it returned an invalid result.

At the time of reporting, Advani, who was in Tamil Nadu campaigning for the party, was not aware of the hacking.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Pakistan's ambassador becomes Assistant Secretary General of OIC

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 05:12

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ambassador Muhammad Naeem Khan to Saudi Arabia has been appointed Assistant Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Express News reported on Monday.

His candidature for the position was endorsed by Saudi Arabia and he won the elections, which took place in the second week of December, 2013, by receiving 10 out of the 18 votes.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had nominated Khan to be Pakistan’s top representative to the OIC in Jeddah.

Candidates from Afghanistan, Malaysia and Indonesia were also in the running for the position.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

British teenager killed in Syrian battle: father

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 09:57

LONDON: A British teenager was killed in a battle in Syria, his father said on Friday, as he revealed that two of his other sons have also gone to fight in the conflict.

Abdullah Deghayes, 18, whose uncle is a former detainee of the Guantanamo Bay camp, died earlier this month after leaving Britain in January.

Abubaker Deghayes, who learned of his son’s death via Facebook on Monday, said 20-year-old Amer suffered a bullet wound to his stomach in the battle in which his brother was killed.

He said he had travelled to Turkey earlier this year to meet two of his sons, Abdullah and 16-year-old Jafar, in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to stop them going to Syria to fight.

Speaking to reporters outside his home in Brighton, southeast England, Deghayes said: “As far as I know, Abdullah went to Syria – without my consent or his mother’s consent – to fight in Syria against the dictator (Bashar al-Assad).

“He was killed in a battle, as far as I know.

“His brother, who is also there, is injured. The third brother who is also there is OK. He is fine.”

“I never encouraged them, nor anybody, as far as I know, who is around them encouraged them. They went of their own free will.

“Of course I think, as a Muslim, that my son is a martyr. Anyone who dies for a just cause is a martyr.”

Deghayes insisted his three sons were not “terrorists” but had travelled to Syria to defend “those who are weak”.

He said they had been “stubborn” about travelling to Syria after viewing videos of the atrocities online.

The dead man’s uncle is Omar Deghayes who was held by the United States as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo between 2002 and 2007 after he was arrested in Pakistan.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are aware of the death of a British national and are urgently looking into it.”

Abdullah was due to begin studying at the University of Brighton.

He has a twin brother, Abdur-Rahman, who is in Britain. His father said Abdur-Rahman had taken the news of the death hardest. “He has been crying so much… and it’s not like him to isolate himself and cry,” he said.

Around 400 Britons are believed to have gone to Syria over the last two years, authorities believe. Around 20 have died.

It is believed around 250 have now returned to Britain.

British intelligence services have expressed concern about the risk of aspiring jihadis going to Syria to learn how to fire guns and build bombs before using their training to launch attacks on Britain.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Rescued South Korean school vice-principal in apparent suicide

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 08:08

JINDO: A high school vice-principal rescued from a sinking South Korean ferry that sank with hundreds of his students on board was found dead Friday, police said, in an apparent suicide.

Local police on Jindo island said the body of vice-principal Kang Min-Kyu, 52, was found near the gymnasium where relatives of the 268 people still missing from the ferry disaster have been staying.

Police said the cause of death was still under investigation, but multiple local media reports said he had been found hanging by his belt from a tree.

Yonhap news agency said police found a suicide note in Kang’s wallet that cited his sense of guilt at having survived the disaster.

“Surviving alone is too painful… I take full responsibility. I pushed ahead with the school trip,” Yonhap quoted the note as saying.

Of the 475 people on board the ferry when it capsized Wednesday morning, 352 were students from Danwon High School in Ansan city just south of Seoul.

They were taking the ferry for a school excursion to the popular southern resort island of Jeju.

The vice-principal was among 179 people who managed to escape the ferry in the few hours before it capsized and sank.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

Four Taliban prisoners escape Afghan jail: officials

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 08:05

MAZAR-I-SHARIF: Four Taliban prisoners escaped from a northern Afghanistan jail and killed two guards using weapons that had been smuggled inside, officials said Friday.

The incident occurred in the relatively peaceful Faryab province on Thursday night, provincial spokesperson Ahmad Jawed Deedar told AFP.

The inmates used smuggled tools to break through their cell wall, later attacking a security watch tower with at least two grenades and a pistol, he said.

“Unfortunately two members of our security forces were killed and one injured, while one of the attackers was also killed trying to escape,” Deedar said.

The account was confirmed by the provincial deputy police chief Mohammad Naeem Andarabi, who said they suspected the weapons and tools were provided through visitors.

He added that a manhunt was underway.

“This is unacceptable to see the prisoners manage to attack our security men from within the prison, we will get to the bottom of this and hunt the fugitives down,” he said.

Prison breaks are not uncommon in Afghanistan.

In March, a dozen Taliban fighters managed to walk free out of the main jail in Kandahar after forging a letter from Afghanistan’s Attorney General ordering their release.

In April 2011, around 500 prisoners, most of them Taliban inmates, tunnelled for a quarter-of-a-mile under the walls of fortified prison in southern Kandahar province.

It was the biggest prison break in Afghanistan since a US-led invasion in late 2001 toppled the hardline Taliban regime following 9/11 attacks in US.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

India lifts campaign ban on scandal-hit Modi aide

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 06:58

NEW DELHI: Authorities have lifted a campaigning ban imposed on a key aide to India’s likely next prime minister Narendra Modi after he allegedly told Hindu community leaders to seek “revenge” in the country’s elections.

Amit Shah, who has been running the campaign for Modi’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the pivotal Uttar Pradesh state, has been in the eye of a public storm after allegedly making the comments in an area where Hindu-Muslim clashes left some 50 people dead in September.

India’s powerful Election Commission on Friday barred Shah from holding public rallies, meetings and road shows, but decided late Thursday to lift the ban after he promised not to “use abusive or derogatory language in the campaign”.

Shah, 50, is a key confidant to hardline Hindu nationalist Modi, the frontrunner in mammoth multi-stage elections that are set to vault the BJP to power, ousting the ruling Congress party. Results are due May 16.

Shah has been dogged by scandals — facing murder and extortion charges which date back to his time serving under Modi in Gujarat state — and is seen as a potential liability to the party leader, who is running on a platform of clean government.

The aide’s alleged comments had been seen as an attempt to polarise voters on the religious lines for electoral gains, with critics worried that the BJP’s Hindu nationalist rhetoric could stoke religious tensions in a country where 13 percent of the 1.2-billion population is Muslim.

Shah — one of the most important campaign players for the BJP — has maintained a low profile since the controversy over his alleged remarks, and told the media it was never his intention to violate the electoral code of conduct.

He is not the only politician to have landed in hot water over campaign speeches.

The Electoral Commission has also ordered a probe into statements by Azam Khan, a prominent Muslim leader of the regional Samajwadi Party which is the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh.


Categories: Pakistan & World News

12 killed in worst-ever Everest accident: officials

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 06:17

KATHMANDU: At least 12 Nepalese guides preparing routes up Mount Everest for commercial climbers were killed Friday by an avalanche in the most deadly mountaineering accident ever on the world’s highest peak, officials and rescuers say.

The men were among a large party of Sherpas carrying tents, food and ropes who headed out in bright sunshine in an early morning expedition ahead of the main climbing season starting later this month.

The avalanche occurred at around 6:45 am at an altitude of about 5,800 metres in an area known as the “popcorn field” which lies on the route into the treacherous Khumbu icefall.

“We have retrieved 12 bodies from the snow, we don’t know how many more are trapped underneath,” Nepal tourism ministry official Dipendra Paudel told AFP in Kathmandu.

Assisted by rescue helicopters, teams of climbers are still searching for survivors with at least seven people plucked alive from the ice and snow, Paudel told AFP.

A rescue team official working at the base camp of the 8,848-metre peak, Lakpa Sherpa, told AFP that the death toll could rise as high as 14.

“I have seen 11 bodies brought to the base camp, we have been told to expect three more,” the member of non-profit Himalayan Rescue Association said by telephone.

Kathmandu-based expert Elizabeth Hawley, considered the world’s leading authority on Himalayan climbing, said the avalanche was the most deadly single accident in the history of mountaineering on the peak.

The previous worst accident occurred in 1996 when eight people were killed over a two-day period during a rogue storm while attempting to climb the mountain.

That tragedy was immortalised in the best-selling book “Into Thin Air” written by US mountaineering journalist Jon Krakauer.

“This is the absolutely the worst disaster on Everest, no question,” Hawley told AFP.

Kathmandu-based climbing company Himalayan Climbing Guides Nepal confirmed that two of their guides were among the dead and four were missing.

“When our guides left base camp, there was no snowfall, the weather was just fantastic,” operations manager Bhim Paudel told AFP.

Dozens of guides from other companies crossed the icefall safely before the avalanche struck, Paudel said.

“We expected to follow them, we had no warning at all,” he said.

Every summer, hundreds of climbers from around the world attempt to scale peaks in the Himalayas when weather conditions are at their best.

The accident underscores the huge risks taken by sherpa guides, who carry tents, bring food supplies, repair ladders and fix ropes to help foreign climbers who pay tens of thousands of dollars to summit the peak.

More than 300 people have died on Everest since the first successful summit by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

Nepal’s worst-ever climbing disaster happened in 1995 when a huge avalanche struck the camp of a Japanese trekking group near Mount Everest, killing 42 people including 13 Japanese.

The impoverished Himalayan country is home to eight of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 metres.

Nepal’s government has issued permits to 734 people, including 400 guides, to climb Everest this summer.

In a bid to address concerns of overcrowding on the “roof of the world”, the government earlier announced plans to double the number of climbing ropes on congested ice walls near the summit of Everest to reduce congestion and risks for climbers.

Authorities have also stationed soldiers and police at Everest base camp starting this month so climbers can approach officers in case of any trouble following a brawl between commercial climbers and Nepalese guides last year.


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