Pakistani principal shot dead by student over blasphemy dispute

Pakistani police officers with riot gear stand guard at the University of Punjab following clashes between two student groups, in Lahore, Pakistan, on Monday. (AP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Pakistani principal shot dead by student over blasphemy dispute

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani student shot and killed his school principal on Monday, in a dispute over the student skipping classes to attend rallies supporting the country’s strict blasphemy laws, a police official said. Sareer Ahmed, principal of the private Islamia College in the northern town of Charsadda, had an argument with one of his students for missing a number of classes. The student then shot the principal on campus, local police chief Zahoor Afridi told Reuters.
He said the unnamed student had attended a sit-in staged by a new ultra-religious political party, Tehreek-e-Labaik, late last year to oppose a small change in wording to an electoral law, which it said amounted to blasphemy.
The protest, which brought the capital Islamabad to a standstill, ended in clashes between police and demonstrators that killed seven people and injured over 200. It also led the government to back down and accept the resignation of a minister accused of blasphemy.
“Obviously now he is going to say that he (the principal) committed blasphemy. This is a very unfortunate incident,” Afridi added.
Insulting Islam’s prophet is punishable by death under Pakistani law, and blasphemy accusations stir such emotions that they are difficult to defend against. Even a rumor of blasphemy can spark mob violence.
Police have taken the student, who appeared in photographs and video to be 16 or 17 years old, into custody and filed a first information report against him.
In a video recorded during the arrest, the student can be heard defending his actions in Pashto, a regional language.
“I committed this murder and I accepted it. It was ordered by God,” he proclaimed.
There was widespread outrage across Pakistan last April when student Mashal Khan was beaten to death at his university in Mardan following a dormitory debate about religion.
Police arrested 57 people, including students and some faculty members, in connection with the killing.
There have been at least 67 murders over unproven allegations of blasphemy since 1990, according to figures from a research center and independent records kept by Reuters.
In 2011, a bodyguard assassinated Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer after he called for the blasphemy laws to be reformed. Taseer’s killer, executed last year, has been hailed as a martyr by religious hard-liners.


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 49 min 45 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.