Pakistanis stage protests against US drone strikes

Updated 09 November 2013
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Pakistanis stage protests against US drone strikes

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Activists from right-wing religious parties led protests in Pakistan Friday to denounce a US drone strike that killed the leader of the country’s Taleban, after the movement named a notorious hard-liner as his successor.
Pakistan last week reacted angrily to the drone attack that killed Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud in the North Waziristan tribal area.
The government said it destroyed efforts to begin talks to end the TTP’s bloody six-year insurgency that has left thousands of soldiers, police and civilians dead.
The interior minister accused Washington of sabotaging peace efforts ,and former cricketer Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, called for a blockade of NATO convoys to Afghanistan.
Around 1,200 supporters of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) religious party staged a protest sit-in on Friday, blocking a NATO supply route in the northwestern city of Peshawar, police and an AFP reporter said.
Mohammad Ismail, a senior police officer in Peshawar said the road would reopen soon.
“It is temporary due to the protest rally, supplies will re-open on Saturday,” Ismail told AFP.
Pakistan is a key transit route for the US-led mission in landlocked Afghanistan, particularly as NATO forces withdraw by the end of next year. Many of the trucks now are actually removing NATO equipment after 12 years of war.
“Block NATO supply, stop drone attack,” read one banner at the rally. Protesters carrying placards and party flags were shouting anti-US slogans, an AFP reporter said.
In Pakistan’s cultural capital Lahore, more than 200 activists of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), blacklisted as a terror organization by the United Nations and United States, gathered outside the press club and chanted slogans against the US.
JuD also held a small rally in Karachi.
“America does not want a peaceful Pakistan, it is against peace talks, government should shoot down US drones,” Shabeer Ahmad Khan, a JI leader told the gathering in Peshawar.
Khan has set a November 20 deadline for the halting of drone strikes and threatened to block NATO convoys in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where PTI leads the coalition government.
But it is not clear how he would carry out such a blockade as authority over highways lies with the federal government.
Islamabad condemns drone strikes as a violation of sovereignty, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged President Barack Obama to end them during White House talks last week.
But analysts say Sharif’s ability to issue demands to Washington are constrained by the fact the US last month agreed to release around $1.6 billion in aid.
In addition, Pakistan has just embarked on a new $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan package with support from Washington.
Mehsud’s death last Friday was the third major blow struck against the TTP by the US this year, following the killing of number two Waliur Rehman in a drone strike in May and the capture of another senior lieutenant in Afghanistan last month.
On Thursday, the TTP named its new leader as hard-line cleric Maulana Fazlullah, known for leading the Taleban’s bloody two-year rule in Swat Valley and for links to the shooting of schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.


Malaysia court sentences Australian woman to death for drug-trafficking

Prosecutors had sought the appeals court conviction, which overturned the earlier acquittal of Maria Exposto, 54, of charges of smuggling the drugs in a backpack in Dec. 2014. (Reuters)
Updated 1 min 12 sec ago
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Malaysia court sentences Australian woman to death for drug-trafficking

  • Tania Scivetti, a lawyer representing Exposto, who hails from Sydney, said her team had filed an appeal in a federal court
  • Malaysia, like other countries in Southeast Asia, imposes harsh penalties for drug offenses

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian court on Thursday sentenced to death by hanging an Australian mother of three, for trafficking more than a kilogram of crystal methamphetamine into the Southeast Asian nation, but her lawyer said she was appealing.
Prosecutors had sought the appeals court conviction, which overturned the earlier acquittal of Maria Exposto, 54, of charges of smuggling the drugs in a backpack in Dec. 2014, after she said she was duped in an online scam.
Tania Scivetti, a lawyer representing Exposto, who hails from Sydney, said her team had filed an appeal in a federal court.
“We are extremely disappointed,” Scivetti told Reuters by text message. “Maria is a victim of an Internet romance scam. She is not a drug trafficker.”
Exposto, arrested in Kuala Lumpur while in transit to Melbourne from Shanghai, has said she was decoyed into carrying the bag with the drugs by a friend of her online boyfriend, who claimed to be a US soldier serving in Afghanistan.
Malaysia, like other countries in Southeast Asia, imposes harsh penalties for drug offenses. Late last year, parliament voted to remove the death penalty as mandatory punishment for drug trafficking, and leave it to judges’ discretion instead.
Malaysia has executed three Australian nationals for drug trafficking in the past 30 years, leading to brief strains in diplomatic ties between the two countries.