Lahore protesters urge top politicians to step down over deadly 2014 clashes

Supporters of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) carry their party flags during an anti-government protest rally in Lahore on January 17, 2018. (AFP / ARIF ALI)
Updated 17 January 2018
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Lahore protesters urge top politicians to step down over deadly 2014 clashes

ISLAMABAD: Thousands of protesters took part in a mass rally in Lahore on Wednesday to demand the resignation of Punjab’s Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.

The demonstrators and opposition politicians hold the two men responsible for the deaths of 14 people in clashes with police outside the home of Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) leader Muhammed Tahir-ul-Qadri in the Model Town suburb of the city in June 2014.

Tahir-ul-Qadri led Wednesday’s protest, supported by Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), former President Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and leaders from the Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid-e-Azam, Majlis Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen and Awami Muslim League.

Protesters began gathering at noon in the city’s busy Mall Road, and 6,000 police were on duty to maintain security.

Addressing the crowd from a temporary stage on top of a container near the Punjab Assembly building, Tahir-ul-Qadri said: “The entire political leadership is here to honor humanity, to empower the weak, to give voice to the voiceless. We have gathered to wake up the nation against the suppression of human rights.”

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is the brother of Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister who was ordered to step down and disqualified from office by the Supreme Court last June. The Sharif family cared only about their own dynasty, the former president told the rally.

“We can oust them from power anytime and they are forcing us to do so,” Zardari said, while urging the continuity of the democratic process.

National Assembly opposition leader Khursheed Shah of the PPP told the crowd: “We are here to seek justice. We are all one to show solidarity with those killed in 2014 in Model Town.”

Although Imran Khan and Zardari both took part in the rally, they did not appear on the stage together because of political differences. PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said to do so would damage the PTI’s movement against corruption.

Wednesday’s rally was expected to conclude by midnight at the request of the High Court in Lahore, but further protests are expected.

Minister of State for Information Maryam Aurangzeb said: “We should keep in mind why they are protesting. Just months before general elections, Nawaz Sharif’s popularity pushed these parties together against the government.”


Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises

India residents stand on the shore as Periyar river flooded following monsoon rains at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 51 min 22 sec ago
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Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises

  • More than 10,000 kilometers of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state
  • A heavy rainfall “red-alert” has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people

KOCHI: Helicopters airlifted stranded families from rooftops and dam gates were thrown open as incessant torrential rain brought fresh havoc Thursday to the Indian state of Kerala where about 100 people are feared dead.
Hundreds of extra troops were deployed in the southern state, a major tourist hotspot, as the government issued a “red alert” over the region’s worst floods in decades.
State authorities said the confirmed death toll was 72 but officials and media reports said up to 30 more people were feared dead Thursday in landslides and as rivers burst their banks, flooding scores of villages.
At least eight people were reported dead and 15 others, including a three-month-old infant, were trapped inside three houses hit by a landslide near an irrigation dam in Malappuram district, the Hindu newspaper said.
Authorities said many people were trapped inside their houses. More than 60,000 people have sought refuge in relief camps.
“At least 6,500 people are stranded in different parts of Kerala and the situation in three districts is particularly grim,” a Kerala state disaster management official told AFP.
Kerala, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is battered by the monsoon every year but this year’s damage has been particularly severe. Floods have also caused havoc in other states, including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Some 540 army, navy and air forces reinforcements were sent to Kerala on Thursday to join the rescue effort.
The army said it had rescued scores of people with helicopters sent to the region. Defense forces and government boats were also used in an increasingly desperate rescue operation.
Authorities appealed for victims to stand in open fields or on rooftops away from trees so helicopters were not damaged during rescue efforts.

People could be seen paddling lifeboats provided by the military, while in some areas families commandeered local wooden boats to ferry themselves to safety.
Army helicopters rescued families but also dropped food packets and drinking water to some of the worst-affected districts.
The government says 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged and hundreds of homes lost.
It has ordered the opening of gates at 34 dams and reservoirs where water levels had reached danger levels.
Cars and livestock washed away in the floods were seen on Indian television, and men and women wading through chest-high waters that had gushed into their homes.
Many used social media to send rooftop distress calls, some with video.
Greeta Mathew pleaded for help for her family in a Twitter message.
“Anybody reading this,PLZ HELP. My relatives are stuck on the upper floor of house with an 8 months pregnant lady, in Edayaranmula, Pathanamthitta dist. All rescue control rooms’ numbers busy. No rescue team reached yet. No contact with family since last evening,” she said.
North and central Kerala has been worst hit by the floods but all 14 of the state’s districts have been put on alert as heavy rain is predicted for several days.
In the main city of Kochi, the international airport was closed until at least Saturday because of flooding. Departures were canceled while incoming flights have been diverted to other airports in India.
All public transport has been stopped with many buses left abandoned in the road.
Elsewhere, eight people were swept away on Wednesday after a sudden water surge hit a popular picnic in Madhya Pradesh state. Another 45 stranded were rescued on Thursday by police.