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Bomb attacks hit voters in Pakistan 

Violence has erupted as millions head to the polls in Pakistan, with the worst incident seeing at least 31 killed by a bomb in the city of Quetta. Elsewhere, minor blasts and clashes between party workers left several injured and two dead.

Voters are deciding between the parties of the former cricket star Imran Khan and the disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. But the campaign has been overshadowed by concerns of fraud and violence. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says there have been "blatant" attempts to manipulate the polls.

Despite tight security across the country, with more than 370,000 troops and hundreds of thousands more police officers deployed to secure the ballot, there have been incidents of violence.

Officials say the attack in Quetta, in Balochistan province, was the work of a suicide bomber targeting police at the gate of a polling station. The Islamic State (IS) group said it was behind the attack.

Source : BBC

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More than 100 die in bomb attacks on poll rallies in Pakistan

A suicide bomber has killed at least 128 people at a campaign rally in south-western Pakistan - the deadliest attack in the country since 2014. A local candidate was among the dead in the Mastung town, police say. So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed the attack.

Earlier, a bomb attack on a similar rally in the northern town of Bannu killed four people. The attacks come ahead of general elections on 25 July. 

More than 150 people were injured in Mastung, officials say.Among those killed was Baluchistan provincial assembly candidate Siraj Raisani, his family said. He was a candidate for the Balochistan Awami party. Local officials say the attacker detonated a bomb inside a crowded compound where the campaign rally was being held.

"Human remains and red bloody pieces of flesh were littered everywhere in the compound," local journalist Attah Ullah was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency. "Injured people were crying in pain and fear," the journalist said.

IS militants later used their news outlet to claim the group carried out the attack. IS has carried out a number of attacks in the region bordering Afghanistan in recent years. However, security has improved since the military managed to clear large swathes of territory.

Friday's bombing was the deadliest attack since militants from the Pakistani Taliban assaulted an army-run school in Peshawar in December 2014, killing 141 people, 132 of them children.

Earlier in the day, a campaign convoy of another candidate was attacked in Bannu. Akram Khan Durrani, who represents the MMA party, was unhurt, officials say. No group has so far claimed responsibility for that attack.

Source : BBC

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Asif Ali Zardari declared absconders in money laundering case

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had suffered a major setback before Pakistan’s general elections to be held on July 25. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FAI) on Saturday declared former President Asif Ali Zardari a fugitive for allegedly making a money laundering of Rs 35 billion. In this case, 20 other suspects, including Zardari’s sister, have also been declared absconders. Prior to the election, this kind of action against Zardari can lead to problems of Pakistan People’s Party chief and Zardari’s son Bilawal Bhutto. The FBI introduced invoice in court against a famous banker and close associate of Asif Ali Zardari, Hussein Lovie, and other suspects. Zardari has alleged that he had opened a fake account and used them to allegedly bribe and illegal money.

PPP is trying to make a full impact in these elections under Bilawal Bhutto’s leadership. Bilawal Bhutto has a totally aggressive attitude in this election, and in such a way, such action against Zardari may cause him a shock. On Friday, Bilawal had said that terrorism is the biggest threat to the country’s present situation and future and he needs people’s support to end this threat from the country.

Prior to this action on Zardari, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had given former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif 10 years and his daughter Mariam Sharif seven years’ imprisonment in the case of corruption. Nawaz Sharif and his daughter are currently lodged in Adiala prison in Rawalpindi.

This time the name of former cricketer and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan is the most discussed. Imran Khan, who has been the captain of Pakistan’s world champion cricket team, is considered the strongest in this general election this time. However, it took 22 years to reach this position. PTI Leader Imran Khan started a nation-wide movement against Nawaz Sharif after coming out in the name of Sharif’s family in ‘Panama Papers’ in 2013. Against Nawaz Sharif, he fought from road to court. After the same issue in 2017, Sharif was disqualified for the post of Prime Minister, after which Nawaz had resigned. Then Imran Khan’s political career started coming in the mainstream.

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Archbishop in Barbados rails against the death penalty

Catholic bishops in Barbados have thrown their weight behind a recent decision by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that ruled the government has breached its charter by mandating the death penalty for murder convicts.

Senior clergy praised the move this month but said more work is needed to eliminate “barbaric” capital punishment from this Caribbean island.

“The CCJ’s decision is a step in the right direction but does not remove the death penalty from the laws in Barbados, so there is still some work to be done,” Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon of Port of Spain and the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Bridgetown, said in a statement, The Daily Herald reports.

“Every life is a precious gift from God,” the statement read. “The taking of one life does not therefore justify the taking of another.”

The CCJ ruled in 2017 that imposing a mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional as it breaches Section 11 of the charter by depriving individuals of the right to have a court of law decide their fate.

In an earlier statement issued in 2016, Archbishop Gordon and other bishops from the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) urged politicians to adopt a “restorative” approach to crime and violence.

“[This] focuses on holding the offender accountable in a more meaningful way and helping to achieve a sense of healing for both victims and the community,” it read.

“It embraces socialization, rehabilitation and reconciliation, rather than retribution and vengeance.”

Pope Francis has described the death penalty as being “contrary to the Gospel,” echoing similar sentiments by his predecessors including St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Gordon said it synchronizes with a “diminishing respect for life” in society and has been met with a spike in violent crimes rather than a reduction.

“The mandatory death penalty [leaves] no room for a judge to consider mitigating circumstances [like] conversion, mercy or forgiveness,” he said.

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Bangladesh drug war death toll hits 200: Rights group

The death toll from Bangladesh's contentious Philippines-style war on drugs since May has hit 200, a local rights group said Tuesday (Jul 17), with some 25,000 others imprisoned.

Bangladesh launched the crackdown to smash the surging trade in "yaba", a cheap methamphetamine and caffeine pill, which authorities say has spread to almost every village and town.

 Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has said the "war" will last until the narcotics trade is brought under control, saying those killed are all involved in at least 10 drugs crimes. But rights groups say that many of the victims are shot by police in cold blood and that the onslaught was in part being used as a cover to settle scores.

 In June the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said he was "gravely concerned" that "such a large number of people" had died. Official declarations that none of the victims was innocent were "dangerous ... and indicative of a total disregard for the rule of law," a UN statement said. Bangladesh's state-run National Human Rights Commission has also expressed alarm.

"It is unprecedented in Bangladesh. So many people have been killed in such a short period of time," Sheepa Hafiza, executive director of Ain o Salish Kendra rights group, told AFP. "This is very unfortunate. We condemn these extrajudicial killings and want fair investigations into each of these killings," she said. Around 25,000 alleged drug dealers have been arrested, home ministry spokesman Sharif Mahmud Apu told AFP. The prison population has shot up to 89,589 people, almost two and a half times higher than the system's capacity, he said. 

Last month the killing of a border town councillor in an anti-drug raid sparked outcry when his wife went public with tapes that she says prove her husband was murdered in a set-up. Ayesha Begum says phone conversations she recorded with Akramul Haque on the night he died contradict the official narrative that he was armed and shot at police who returned fire in self-defence. "They killed him in cold blood," Begum told AFP from Teknaf in southeast Bangladesh, where her husband was gunned down May 27. 

Bangladesh has struggled to contain the trade in "yaba", with hundreds of millions of pills entering the country from Myanmar.Authorities last year seized a record 40 million pills but said an estimated 250 million to 300 million more entered the market. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs since coming to power in 2016 has left thousands of people dead and prompted allegations of crimes against humanity.

Sri Lanka has also expressed interest in emulating Duterte, announcing plans to deploy the army and start hanging drug criminals, ending a near-half century moratorium on capital punishment.

Source : Channel News Asia

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Boris Johnson quits adding to pressure on May over Brexit

Boris Johnson has resigned as Foreign Secretary amid a growing political crisis over the UK's Brexit strategy.

He is the second senior cabinet minister to quit within hours following Brexit Secretary David Davis's exit.

His departure came shortly before Theresa May is due to address Parliament about her new Brexit plan, which has angered many Tory MPs.

In a statement, No 10 thanked Mr Johnson for his work and said a replacement would be announced shortly.

The BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Mr Johnson's exit had turned an "embarrassing and difficult situation for the PM into

potentially a full-blown crisis".

She said he was not any ordinary cabinet minister but was the "face" of the Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum and his departure would fuel speculation about a leadership challenge.

Labour said his exit - on top of Mr Davis's departure - left Theresa May with "zero authority".

Source : BBC

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Pakistan mourns 149 dead in country's second-deadliest terror attack

Pakistan is mourning the deaths of 149 people, including nine children, in the country's second deadliest militant attack since its independence.

A suicide bomber hit a campaign rally in Mastung, in the south-western province of Balochistan, on Friday. More than 180 were injured.

A local candidate was among the dead, police say. So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed the attack.

The attack comes ahead of a general election on 25 July.

The poll has been marred by violence and what observers say is a crackdown on political activists, journalists and critics of the powerful military. Earlier on Friday, a bomb attack on a similar rally in the northern town of Bannu killed at least four people.

Some 70 people are still in hospital following the attacks, government officials said on Sunday.
After Friday's bombings, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was arrested after flying home from the UK.The three-term prime minister was ousted last year after a corruption investigation. Earlier this month, he was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison.

Political leaders observed a day of mourning on Sunday for those killed, including nine children aged between six and 11, and Balochistan provincial assembly candidate Siraj Raisani, who was targeted in the attack.

Source : BBC

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India to live steam Supreme Court proceedings 

An Indian Supreme Court Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said they favoured live-streaming of court proceedings.

The Bench asked Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, who also agreed with the prospects of airing court proceedings for global viewing, to make his submissions on the issue on July 23, the next date of hearing.

In an earlier hearing, the Bench, also comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, asked the Attorney General to assist the court on a plea to live-stream Constitution Bench proceedings in nationally important cases such as Aadhaar and decriminalisation of gay sex in the Supreme Court.

The petition was filed by senior advocate Indira Jaising in her personal capacity. Jaising had said courts around the world allowed their proceedings to be recorded, though they differed in their ways.

She had said that some judges in constitutional court in India have historically been reluctant about the idea of recording court proceedings because it would “capture every sentence” in the banter between judges and lawyers which are merely a way to elicit responses and not a sign of how the judge would finally decide the case.

Jaising however said there were different methods to resolve such reluctance and illustrated means adopted by courts globally.

“Some courts allow publication after a gap of 30 minutes, some ban recording of proceedings only in trial courts as that would compromise witnesses, some give edited versions of the proceedings, some record the proceedings but do not air it in public, some give out transcripts of proceedings,” Jaising had explained.

She had said such apprehensions should not create a roadblock in the public’s right to information.

The Supreme Court, in a bid to usher in transparency, had earlier allowed the installation of CCTV video recording with audio in trial courts and tribunals.

Jaising said citizens have the right to information and matters of constitutional and national importance can be live-streamed. If live streaming of top court’s proceedings is not possible, then alternately the video recording should be allowed, she had argued.

“This Writ Petition is filed as Pro Bono for enforcement of public interest, to advance the rule of law and bring accessibility and transparency in the administration of justice,” her plea said.
“The petitioner submits that the live streaming and videography of the proceedings of the Supreme Court in matters of great public importance will be in keeping with the principle of open access to justice and will ensure justice is not only done but it is seen to be done,”  Jaising’s petition said.

Source : The Hindu

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Civilian deaths hit record high in Afghanistan, says UN

The number of civilians killed in the long-running war in Afghanistan reached a record high in the first six months of this year, the UN says.
Some 1,692 fatalities were recorded, with militant attacks and suicide bombs said to be the leading causes of death.

The report comes as at at least seven people were killed in an attack on the rural development ministry in Kabul.

Recent attacks claimed by Taliban and Islamic State group militants have killed scores across the country.

The figures for the conflict, which began in 2001, are the highest since the UN started keeping records in 2009.

The report, by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), says the number of recorded deaths rose by 1% compared with the same period last year.

However, the report adds, injuries fell by 5% to 3,430, and the total number of civilian casualties - accounting for deaths and injuries - dropped by 3% to 5,122.

The record high death toll came despite an unprecedented ceasefire by Afghan security forces and the Taliban last month, which was largely respected by both sides, Unama said.

Earlier this month, Nato leaders gathered at a summit in Brussels to discuss the conflict in Afghanistan.

The US has said it is planning a strategic review a year after President Donald Trump agreed to remain involved in the 17-year conflict.

The US-led invasion drove the hardline Taliban from power in 2001, as part of a crackdown on Islamist militants after the 9/11 attacks in the US.

Source : BBC

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Cave rescue in Thailand : Operation resumes to bring out boys

Cave divers in Thailand have resumed the high-risk operation to extract the remaining eight boys and their football coach from a vast flooded cave system, reports say.

Four boys were brought safely out of the cave on Sunday.

But the mission was paused overnight for air tanks to be replaced.

The boys became trapped in the cave on 23 June after heavy rains caused flooding, but were found alive last week by divers. Rescuers decided to go ahead with the hazardous operation to free them because of fears that waters would rise again. The operation is going ahead amid concerns that heavy rain on Sunday and overnight may have raised water levels making the rescue more difficult.

Source : BBC

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Cuba to reshape government with new constitution

Cuba has revealed new details about plans to reshape its government, courts and economy with a constitutional reform set to be approved by the national assembly this month.

The reform of the 1976 constitution would create the position of prime minister alongside the president, splitting the roles of head of government and head of state. The constitution keeps the Communist Party as the sole political force in the country and says the communist state will remain the dominant economic force.

The constitution does, however, create new recognition of the free market and private property in Cuban society, and creates a new presumption of innocence in the justice system. The proposed constitutional reform described in the main state paper is also expected to be approved in a later national referendum.

Officials say the 1976 charter does not reflect changes made in Cuba in recent years. “The experiences gained in these years of Revolution” and “the new paths mapped out” by the Communist Party are some of the reasons for reforming the constitution, the official Granma newspaper said.

The new constitution will maintain rights such as religious freedom but will also make explicit the principle of non-discrimination due to gender identity.
The text released in Granma did not specify to what extent the state would recognise same-sex marriages.

Source : Press Association

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Thailand cave rescue: Mission to save boys under way

Rescuers in Thailand have begun a hazardous operation to lead 12 boys and one adult out of a cave where they have been trapped for two weeks.

The group are stranded on a ledge 4km inside the Tham Luang cave but amid fears of rising waters, officials have decided they cannot wait any longer.

Expert divers who have been keeping the group supplied since they were found last week will guide them out.

Officials have called it D-Day, saying the boys are fit and ready to move.

Source : BBC

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