Friday, August 26, 2011

12 August 2011 Last updated at 09:49 GMT Pakistani soldier faces death sentence for murdering the teenager

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier has been sentenced to death for killing an unarmed man in an incident caught on videotape and broadcast on TV.

Sarfaraz Shah, 18, was shot at point-blank range in Karachi in June.

The anti-terrorism court in Karachi found Shahid Zafar guilty of the killing and sentenced six other men to life imprisonment.

The killing sparked public anger and increased complaints of brutality by the security forces.

Judge Bashir Ahmed Khoso also fined Shahid Zafar 200,000 rupees ($2,300).

The judge ordered each of the other defendants - five paramilitaries and a civilian - to pay 100,000 rupees in compensation to Sarfaraz Shah's family.

The Sindh branch of the Pakistan Rangers paramilitary force had argued that he was caught trying to rob someone, a charge his family denied.

Prosecutor Muhammad Khan Buriro said: "We have found justice. The court has given the right decision."

A lawyer for the defendants said there would be an appeal.

Death sentences are rarely carried out in Pakistan.

Sarfaraz Shah's brother, Salik, said: "We are satisfied with the punishment and we hope that the higher courts will also keep them and overturn the appeals of the accused."

Officials removed

The disturbing video shows a young man in a black T-shirt being dragged by his hair in a public park by a man in plain clothes.

Sarfaraz Shah's brother and mother in Karachi, 1 July Sarfaraz Shah's brother consoles his mother at an earlier hearing in Karachi

He is pushed towards a group of Sindh Rangers, who are in uniform and armed. The young man pleads for his life as one of the Rangers points a gun at his neck.

A little later, a Ranger shoots him twice at close range, hitting him in the thigh. The young man is seen writhing on the ground, bleeding heavily and begging for help.

The paramilitaries remain close to the injured man but do nothing to help him. Sarfaraz Shah died from his injuries.

The public outcry led to the removal of the Sindh police chief and the director-general of the Sindh branch of the Rangers.

The Rangers are a paramilitary force under the interior ministry.

There are about 10,000 Rangers in Karachi but rights groups say they are not sufficiently trained to deal with keeping civilian order.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

12 August 2011 Last updated at 06:11 GMT A billboard for the Bollywood film Aarakshan (Reservation) in Delhi on Thursday, 11 August 2011 The film's posters have been vandalised by protesters Three Indian states have banned a new film on the controversial issue of education quotas for low-caste people.

Aarakshan (Reservation), directed by well-known Bollywood filmmaker Prakash Jha and starring acting legend Amitabh Bachchan, was released on Friday.

The northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, and Andhra Pradesh in the south, banned the film due to fears it may cause law and order problems.

Critics say the film uses objectionable terms to describe low-caste Hindus.

Mr Jha, who is known for making films on controversial social issues, denies the charge.

The ban in Uttar Pradesh will last two months, officials have said.

Authorities in Punjab said they would decide whether to show the film after a government panel reviewed it.

Posters of the film have been vandalised by protesters, who allege that the film makes derogatory references to low-caste Dalits (formerly untouchables).

Some Dalit groups have also objected to the casting of actor Saif Ali Khan, a Muslim royal, as a low-caste Hindu.

'Hard-hitting reality'

The film, however, has been passed by India's Censor Board and its director and actors have been defending the movie.

Mr Bachchan used his blog to question the ban on the film.

"Without any knowledge of what the film contains, without any desire to determine the trust and the most basic principles of law of democracy, it has merely strengthened my and many others' fear of the weakness it conveys of our belief in governance and its ethics," he wrote.

Mr Jha said last week: "In India there are people who benefit from this policy [of quotas] and there are those who have missed an opportunity because of the policy. Reservation and the quota system is a hard-hitting reality.

"It is almost an India-versus-India situation and by showing this in my movie, I am trying to bridge the gap."

Under the quota system, seats in colleges and government jobs are reserved for socially disadvantaged groups.

Backers of the affirmative action insist it helps open doors into highly-rated educational institutions to people who have long been denied access.

The system provides equal opportunities to the poorest and most marginalised in India, they say.

But critics of the system say reservation promotes mediocrity and divides people on the basis of caste or region.

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18 August 2011 Last updated at 15:05 GMT A Pakistani relative (2L) comforts a mourner after the killing of a victim of the shooting, inside a morgue at a local hospital in Karachi on August 18, 2011. The killings across Karachi are now increasingly indiscriminate At least 39 people have been killed in two days of political and gang violence in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi.

Following Wednesday's killing of 13 people including ex-MP Waja Karim Dad, violence escalated and officials say more bodies were recovered overnight.

Police say many of those killed were kidnapped first and that some victims appear to have been tortured.

The attacks unfolded as Karachi's main MQM political party announced it will rejoin Pakistan's coalition government.

The party had left the PPP-led coalition after accusing its majority partner of not doing enough to stop the violence.

Police say that 315 people were killed in such attacks in Karachi in July 2011.

'Extreme torture'

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says that the bodies are appearing all over the city stuffed in jute bags.

Our correspondent says that while initially politically motivated, the killings are now increasingly indiscriminate. Women, children and teenage footballers are amongst those gunned down.

Police say that the bodies bear the marks of extreme torture: some have even had their eyes gouged out. They said that it appears as if almost all the victims were kidnapped before being tortured only to be shot dead and deposited on the city streets.

Police surgeon Hamid Parihar told the BBC that he "had been collecting bodies since midnight and they are still coming in".

Analysts say that the latest spate of violence appears to have taken place between criminal gangs in the city's deprived Lyari neighbourhood. The area has a reputation of armed gangs dealing in drugs and extortion rackets.

This is where former parliamentarian Waja Karim Dad was gunned down.

Our correspondent reports that a sense of fear prevails throughout the city and that public transport has been suspended.

Killings in Karachi have continued despite efforts to reconcile its warring political factions.

Security officials say this is because the killers are being protected by senior politicians.

They say the violence is being used to stoke recently ignited ethnic passions both for political gains and as a means by criminal gangs to fight turf wars behind the facade of political activism.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

12 August 2011 Last updated at 13:36 GMT By Charles Haviland BBC News, Colombo An elephant walks past a temple in the Sri Lankan city of Kandy, some 116kms from Colombo, on 8 August 2011 Sri Lanka is home to thousands of elephants Sri Lanka has started the first nationwide survey of its elephant population, aimed at better protecting the animals and their habitat.

The survey, which started late on Thursday, lasts until Saturday evening.

The results will be published in a few weeks.

A government wildlife official has tried to allay concern from conservationists that the census will be used to bring more animals into captivity.

Some 3,500 people are counting the elephants from watchtowers at 1,500 watering holes and ancient irrigation lakes.

They are classifying the animals by age and sex, and trying to get an idea of their movements and distribution.

This is the driest time of year, and animals are at their most thirsty, so come to drink in large numbers. An eyewitness in one of the main parks, Minneriya, said however that Friday was very hot and few showed up early in the day.

The people of this mainly Buddhist country revere elephants as sacred. Since ancient times, captive elephants have fulfilled ceremonial roles for priests and kings.

Yet there is also a modern conflict between farmers and free-ranging wild elephants - a clash that results in dozens of human and elephant deaths each year.

A senior wildlife official, RB Dissanayake, told the BBC they want to use the survey results to minimise these ongoing clashes and declare new protected areas.

The official strongly denied reports that it will also serve to find strong young elephants to be captured and donated to temples.

He said tame elephants would instead be bred from the existing domesticated or captive population.

Earlier this week, environmental groups pulled out of the elephant survey after a minister said it would be used to tame more of the animals.

He is reported to have withdrawn these remarks.

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11 August 2011 Last updated at 08:29 GMT Police at the scene of the Peshawar bombing

At least seven people have been killed in twin bombings in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar, police say.

In the first incident, four police officers and a child were killed when a remote-controlled bomb exploded near a police vehicle in the Lahori Gate area.

Later, a woman suicide bomber killed herself and another woman, possibly her companion, by detonating her jacket.

She was trying to target the police checkpoint about 400m from the spot where the police vehicle was hit.

Militant attacks in Pakistan have risen sharply since May, when US commandos killed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Since then, a paramilitary academy, a naval base, government buildings, a police station and a US consulate convoy have been attacked.

In the first attack on Thursday morning, the explosive device was hidden in a handcart parked at the roadside and detonated remotely when police approached, police officer Ijaz Khan told reporters.

Their vehicle was transporting over two dozen policemen from Kotwali police station in the eastern part of the city to the Police Lines near the city centre, he said.

The vehicle was wrecked in the blast and a group of schoolboys were at the site when the bomb exploded.

A 12-year-old boy was among those killed. At least 21 people, including 17 policemen, were injured in the blast.

In the second attack, police said the bomber appeared to be a woman about 16 or 17 years old. Her clothes suggested she could have been from the tribal region.

The other woman appeared to be over 50, they said.

The woman's explosives-laden jacket failed to detonate properly, reports said.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says the attacks are the first in Peshawar in recent weeks, and come a day after a deadly drone strike that killed at least 18 fighters of the Haqqani network in North Waziristan.

Our correspondent says that it is only the second known attack to have been carried out by a female suicide bomber in north-western Pakistan.

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11 August 2011 Last updated at 15:53 GMT By Charles Haviland BBC News, Colombo Protest on 11 August in Sri Lanka The families demanded that more should be done to find their loved ones Weeping parents have been demonstrating in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, asking what has become of close family members who have disappeared.

The protesters gathered on a hot street corner near the town hall.

Most of those grieving were Tamil and from the former war areas of north and east Sri Lanka. They solemnly held pictures of their missing loved ones.

The issue of disappearances still causes agony for many Sri Lankans, who do not know where to get help.

"We want our children," the protesters chanted. "Where are our children? Dear president, please listen."

The war has been over two years, they said, but their children remain missing.

About 100 family members of disappeared people demonstrated, supported by a student organisation.

Many broke down as they spoke.


Maneswari Chandrarasa said her 19-year-old son, Prabhakaran, had no political connections but was taken away three years ago by men claiming to be from the Criminal Investigation Department.

But the CID subsequently denied any knowledge of it, she said.

Mayurathan (third from the left in the black and white photo) Missing person Mayurathan is believed to be third from the left

"They came inside the house and took my child who was asleep," she said, weeping. "I'm still looking for him. So far there's no reply from the officials. Please give me my child."

Neranjini Nirmalanathan, who had earlier lost her husband to the Tamil Tigers, said soldiers took her son, Mayurathan, in 2007. He was an altar boy at church in Jaffna.

Her enquiries to the authorities since then had gone unanswered. But in June a Tamil newspaper published a photograph of him and five other youths that it says it found on the internet.

She clutches the photograph, which she thinks shows the six in a prison.

"I want my son," she said, sobbing, in English. "Please try and understand, I want my son, without my son I will commit suicide."

Large numbers flocked to testify before the government's own war inquiry commission during its public hearings late last year, though relatively few could be heard.

During the war many saw their children forcibly conscripted by the Tamil Tigers, only to be later detained by the government side and never seen again.

A recent police announcement that families could now seek news of their loved ones at police stations seems to have made little difference.

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3 August 2011 Last updated at 18:09 GMT Standard Chartered, Shanghai Standard Chartered said trading had made a strong start to the second half of the year London-based, Asia-focused Standard Chartered Bank has reported an increase in half-year profits.

Pre-tax profits for the first six months of the year were $3.6bn (£2.2bn), up 17% from last year.

Operating profits by region rose in all territories except Standard Chartered's biggest market, India, which fell 39%, and Africa, down 6%.

It blamed rising interest rates, growing competition and regulatory changes for falling profits in India.

Profits grew by 55% in Hong Kong, 11% in Singapore, 30% in South Korea, and 98% in the Americas, UK and Europe.

Income from its businesses in the Middle East and South Africa rose 6%, the rest of Africa rose 5%, and in the Americas and Europe it was up 12%.

"The group's strong performance in the first half of 2011 should be seen in the context of the ongoing economic uncertainties, particularly in the West, and the sustained global regulatory upheaval," said Standard Chartered chairman Sir John Peace.

"Standard Chartered has had a strong start to 2011 and this momentum has continued into the second half."

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