Pakistani protesters refuse to bury dead, demand protection

Updated 19 February 2013
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Pakistani protesters refuse to bury dead, demand protection

QUETTA, Pakistan: Thousands of Pakistani women refused for a second day yesterday to bury victims of a devastating bomb attack on their community, demanding protection against record levels of sectarian violence.
Demonstrators poured onto the streets across the country, shutting down the largest city Karachi and closing the road from the capital to Islamabad airport, in angry protest at Saturday’s bombing that killed at least 81 people in Quetta.
Up to 4,000 women blocked a road in the southwestern city, vowing to continue their sit-in that began late Sunday until the authorities take action against the extremists behind the attack which also wounded 178 people.
Two girls aged seven and nine were among the dead after the bomb, nearly a ton of explosives hidden in a water tanker, tore through a crowded market in a neighborhood dominated by ethnic Hazara Shiite Muslims.
The attack came just over a month after suicide bombers killed 92 people at a snooker hall in another Hazara neighborhood of Quetta. Protesters are furious at the authorities’ failure to tackle rising attacks on Shiites.
Volunteers armed with automatic rifles and pistols yesterday guarded the streets of Hazara town, the scene of Saturday’s attack, an AFP reporter saw.
Police said they were in talks to end the protest. But a local Shiite party leader, Qayyum Changezi, said they “will not bury the dead until a targeted operation is launched.”
After the Jan. 10 snooker hall attack, Shiite mourners staged a similar protest for four days. They only buried the dead after Islamabad sacked the provincial government and imposed governor’s rule in an apparent attempt to improve law and order.
The banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility both for Saturday’s attack and the snooker hall bombing, as well as a Feb. 1 attack on a Shiite mosque in northwest Pakistan that killed 24.
There is anger and frustration at the apparent inability or unwillingness of the authorities to tackle the LeJ.
In Quetta Amin Shaheedi, the vice-president of the Shiite Wahdatul Muslemeen party, demanded control of the city be handed over to the army.
“Terrorists are roaming freely and we are not given any protection. Our protest will continue till we get protection,” he told reporters.
Violence between Pakistan’s majority Sunni Muslims and Shiites, who account for around a fifth of the country’s 180 million people, has surged in recent years, with the southwestern province of Baluchistan a particular flashpoint.
Pakistan’s biggest city and commercial heart Karachi came to a halt as public transport workers and traders stopped work yesterday after a Shiite party called a protest strike, residents said.
Schools were closed, traffic was off the roads and attendance in offices was thin. Several political and religious parties have backed the strike call.
Protesters on the edge of the capital Islamabad also shut down the main road leading to the airport, witnesses told AFP.
In the second largest city Lahore, hundreds of Shiites including women and children demonstrated to press demands for military action against extremists in Quetta.
Attacks targeting Shiites in Pakistan have claimed almost 200 lives already this year, compared with more than 400 in the whole of 2012 — a year which Human Rights Watch described as the deadliest on record for Shiites.
Pakistan is due to hold a general election in coming months but there are fears that rising sectarian and Islamist violence could force the postponement of polls.
In the northwest, suicide bombers stormed the offices of a top Pakistani official yesterday and killed five people.
Mutahir Zeb, the government’s representative in the semi-autonomous tribal district of Khyber, was unhurt. But his deputy was seriously wounded in the attack as officials in the city of Peshawar discussed preparations for the elections.


Taiwan’s Tsai urges world to stand up to China

Updated 25 June 2018
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Taiwan’s Tsai urges world to stand up to China

  • Tsai Ing-wen urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values
  • Against Beijing’s growing global influence, the island’s desire to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia remains an uphill struggle

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen called on the international community to “constrain” China by standing up for freedoms, casting her island’s giant neighbor as a global threat to democracy.
Her comments in an exclusive interview with AFP on Monday come as Taiwan faces what Tsai called “immense pressure” from Beijing.
She urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values.
“This is not just Taiwan’s challenge, it is a challenge for the region and the world as a whole, because today it’s Taiwan, but tomorrow it may be any other country that will have to face the expansion of China’s influence,” Tsai said.
“Their democracy, freedom, and freedom to do business will one day be affected by China,” Tsai added.
“We need to work together to reaffirm our values of democracy and freedom in order to constrain China and also minimize the expansion of their hegemonic influence.”
Her comments come after a sustained period of aggression from China toward Taiwan, which Beijing believes is part of mainland territory, to be reunified by force if necessary.
Self-ruling Taiwan is a democracy and sees itself as a sovereign country, although it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
An increasingly hardline President Xi Jinping has made it clear that what he sees as threats to China’s territorial integrity will not be tolerated.
China is deeply suspicious of Tsai as her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is traditionally pro-independence.
Since she took office in 2016, Beijing has ramped up military drills near the island and has successfully pressured some major international companies to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites.
It has also exerted diplomatic pressure by ensuring Taiwan is excluded from major international forums and wooing away some of its few remaining official allies.
Tsai said China should “be aware of their own responsibility” in the region and “engage in conversation with Taiwan.”
Countries both around the region and further afield have expressed concern over China building military facilities on remote islands in the South China Sea.
Beijing has also been seeking to extend its power with its globe-spanning Belt and Road infrastructure project, which aims to connect the world’s second-largest economy with Africa, Asia and Europe through a vast network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.
But despite escalating tensions, Tsai said she would still “be willing” to meet with China’s President Xi Jinping.
“Of course, I hope that during my term as president, there is a chance for both sides to sit down and talk,” Tsai said.
She added she would meet Xi on an equal footing and with no political pre-conditions, a position she has long taken.
However, Beijing insists Tsai must agree that Taiwan is part of “one China” in order for any meeting to take place, which she has refused to do.
Tsai said the recent summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had “provided a lot to think about.”
“Their two countries are very far apart in terms of cultural values and other aspects, as well as the positions they hold,” said Tsai.
“But they were able to sit down and talk on the basis of reciprocity and mutual respect in Singapore. I think this was a positive development for the international community.
“It is also an encouragement for countries that are at odds with one another.”
With its number of official allies dwindling to 18 as Beijing lures them away, Taiwan is now trying to forge new friendships.
Its most powerful ally is the United States, which is its major arms supplier even though it does not have formal diplomatic relations with the island.
Tsai said Taiwan had seen growing support from the United States, where Congress recently passed bills paving the way for higher level official visits, and recommending greater US-Taiwan military exchanges. The US State Department also approved a preliminary license for sensitive submarine technology, riling Beijing.
The warming relationship comes as Taiwan tries to boost its homegrown defense force.
“In the face of China’s threats, we feel the need for us to improve self-defense capabilities,” she said.
Tsai said Taiwan is looking to bolster ties with “like-minded” countries.
But against Beijing’s growing global influence, the island’s desire to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia remains an uphill struggle.
“Of course, there are times when we feel frustrated, but the Taiwanese people do not have the option of giving up,” she said.