TIME Pakistan

Malala Attackers Jailed for Life

Nobel Peace Prize Press Conference 2014
Nigel Waldron—Getty Images OSLO, NORWAY - DECEMBER 09: Malala Yousafzai attends the Nobel Peace Prize press conference at the Norwegian Nobel Institute on December 9, 2014 in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Nigel Waldron/Getty Images)

Authorities are still searching for the man who fired the gun at Malala and those who ordered the shooting of the schoolgirl

A Pakistani court jailed 10 men for life on Thursday for their involvement in the 2012 assassination attempt on teenage education activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.

A public proscutor said the Pakistani Taliban militants were sentenced by an anti-terrorism court to 25 years in prison each, which is considered a life sentence in Pakistan, Reuters reports.

The 10 men are the first to be convicted for the attack, which left Yousafzai seriously wounded after she was shot in the head while returning from school.

Police believe the gunman who shot Malala escaped into Afghanistan, while other Pakitani Taliban leaders are wanted for their involvement in the shooting.


TIME Pakistan

Gunmen Kill Prominent Female Activist in Pakistan

Shakil Adil—AP People carry the casket of a prominent women's rights activist Sabeen Mahmud, who was killed by unknown gunmen during a funeral in Karachi, Pakistan on April 25, 2015.

Sabeen Mahmud was shot in what friends are calling an assassination

(KARACHI, Pakistan)—Gunmen on a motorcycle killed a prominent women’s rights activist in Pakistan just hours after she held a forum on the country’s restive Baluchistan region, home to a long-running insurgency, police said Saturday.

While investigators declined to speculate on a motive for the killing of Sabeen Mahmud, friends and colleagues immediately described her death as a targeted assassination in Pakistan, a country with a nascent democracy where the military and intelligence services still hold tremendous sway.

The gunmen shot both Mahmud and her mother, Mehnaz Mahmud, as they stopped at a traffic light Friday night in an upscale Karachi neighborhood, senior police officer Zafar Iqbal said. Later, Mahmud’s car was brought to a nearby police station; blood stained the car’s white exterior, the front driver’s side window was smashed and a pair of sandals sat on the floor, surrounded by broken glass.

“Two men riding a motorcycle opened fire on the car,” Iqbal said. Mahmud “died on her way to the hospital. Her mother was also wounded,” he said.

Alia Chughtai, a close friend of Mahmud, told The Associated Press that Mahmud was driving at the time of attack and her mother was sitting next to her. Chughtai said Mahmud’s driver, who escaped unharmed, was sitting in the back seat at the time of the attack. She said she did not know why the driver wasn’t driving the car.

Iqbal and other police officials declined to speculate on a motive for the slaying. However, earlier that night, Mahmud hosted an event at her organization called The Second Floor to discuss human rights in Baluchistan, an impoverished but resource-rich southwestern province bordering Iran.

Thousands of people have disappeared from Baluchistan province in recent years amid a government crackdown on nationalists and insurgent groups there. Activists blame the government and intelligence agencies for the disappearances, something authorities deny.

Qadeer Baluch, an activist who last year led a nearly 3,000-kilometer (1,900-mile) protest march across Pakistan to demand justice for the missing in Baluchistan, attended Mahmud’s event Friday night. Baluch, known widely as Mama or “Uncle” in Urdu, hinted that the government could be involved in Mahmud’s slaying.

“Everybody knows who killed her and why,” Baluch told Pakistan’s The Nation newspaper, without elaborating.

In a statement Saturday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned Mahmud’s killing and ordered an investigation into the attack. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad also condemned Mahmud’s slaying and offered condolences to her loved ones.

Mahmud was “a courageous voice of the Pakistani people and her death represents a great loss,” it said.

Mahmud, a well-known activist who also ran a small tech company, hosted poetry readings, computer workshops and other events at The Second Floor. She continued to live in Karachi, Pakistan’s southern port city, even while acknowledging the danger from insurgent groups and criminals operating there.

“Fear is just a line in your head,” Mahmud told Wired magazine in 2013. “You can choose what side of that line you want to be on.”

Also Saturday, Pakistan’s powerful army condemned the killing of Mahmud, pledging that the country’s intelligence agencies would assist in the investigation and that authorizes would “apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”

“We condemn the tragic and unfortunate killing of Ms. Sabeen Mahmud,” said Maj. Gen. Asim Salim Bajwa, the army spokesman, in a statement. “Our heart goes out to bereaved family at this sad moment.”

TIME India

India Bans al-Jazeera for 5 Days for Showing ‘Incorrect’ Maps of Kashmir

Protesters Demand Freedom For Jailed Journalists In Cairo
Adam Berry—Getty Images A logo is seen at the Al Jazeera bureau in Berlin on Feb. 27, 2014

Three wars have been fought between India and Pakistan over the historically contentious territory

Al-Jazeera English has had its broadcasts in India suspended for five days after the Indian government ruled that the Qatar-based international news channel had previously shown maps that misrepresented the disputed border region of Kashmir.

A blue screen reading, “As instructed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, this channel will not be available,” greeted al-Jazeera’s Indian viewers on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

An official told AFP the ban was ordered earlier this month after the channel was found to have used maps showing sections of Kashmir as part of neighboring Pakistan and China. “The ban has been imposed for five days and it was done on instructions of an inter-ministerial committee, who took cognizance of an incorrect map of India in which the channel showed parts of Kashmir in Pakistan and China,” he said.

The depiction of Kashmir, a historically contentious territory claimed by both India and Pakistan, is a highly sensitive issue for the oft-feuding South Asian neighbors.

The Surveyor General of India, to whom the matter was subsequently referred, found that the channel also failed to show the Indian islands of Andaman and Lakshadweep, the Times of India reported.

Al-Jazeera English issued a statement in response to the ban, condemning what it deemed “censorship” by the New Delhi government.

According to the statement, the suspension of its broadcast concerns maps of Pakistan used in 2013 and 2014 that did not demarcate the part of Kashmir under Pakistani control (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or PoK) as a separate territory. Once notified by Indian authorities, the channel said it ensured all maps from Sept. 22, 2014, onward used dotted lines and unique shading for the disputed portions.

“This ban is a disproportionate response to an issue that we fixed promptly after it was pointed out,” said Al Antsey, Managing Director of al-Jazeera English. “It needlessly deprives Indian viewers of our global news and programs.”

Representatives from the channel have reportedly reached out to India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to resolve the issue.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Plans 12,000-Strong Security Force to Safeguard Chinese Workers

A man hangs decorations on a pole next to a banner showing Pakistan's President Hussain, China's President Xi and Pakistan's PM Sharif, ahead of Xi's visit to Islamabad
Faisal Mahmood—Reuters A man hangs decorations on a pole next to a banner showing, clockwise from top left, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Jinping, on April 19, 2015, ahead of Xi's visit to Islamabad

"Pakistan considers China’s security as our own security"

Chinese engineers traveling to Pakistan to implement the $46 billion infrastructure program signed between the two countries this week will be protected by a special security force of 12,000 men, Pakistani officials said Tuesday.

The security troops will comprise nine battalions of the Pakistani military and six wings of civilian paramilitary forces like the Frontier Corps and Pakistan Rangers that currently guard the country’s borders, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a statement from Pakistani military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa.

The ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, announced during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day visit to Islamabad this week, includes $28 billion worth of roads, rail lines and power stations connecting the Pakistani port of Gwadar to Kashgar in China’s restive northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Islamic militant groups are a major threat along many parts of the proposed road link, and a military official said the special security forces will be deployed and distributed where they are needed the most.

“Let me assure you, Mr. President, Pakistan considers China’s security as our own security,” Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a speech in parliament on Tuesday.

TIME India

India Detains 8 Pakistanis on Boat Containing Heroin Worth $95 Million

Authorities believe the 232 packets of drugs seized are heroin worth more than $95 million

(NEW DELHI) — India’s navy and coast guard seized a suspicious boat from international waters off the western coast and detained eight Pakistanis after finding a huge drug shipment aboard, the defense ministry said Tuesday.

Authorities believe the 232 packets of drugs found aboard the boat are heroin worth more than $95 million, the ministry said in a statement.

Satellite phones and a GPS system were also seized in the joint operation Monday involving two navy ships and one coast guard vessel.

The ministry said the eight people detained would likely be interrogated by intelligence officials as well as authorities from the navy and coast guard.

TIME Pakistan

Chinese Leader in Pakistan to Unveil $45 Billion in Investments

Chinese President Jinping visits Pakistan
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Chinese President Xi Jinping is flanked by his Pakistani counterpart Mamnoon Hussain, left, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, right, upon arrival in Islamabad on April 20, 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping's two-day visit will feature an announcement of $45 billion in energy and infrastructure development in Pakistan

(ISLAMABAD) — Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a two-day visit in which he is expected to announce $45 billion worth of investment projects in energy and infrastructure development.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country’s top civilian and military leadership received Xi at an air force base near the capital, Islamabad, complete with a military honor guard and a fighter jet fly-by.

Pakistan’s minister for planning and development, Ahsan Iqbal, said the Chinese leader’s expected announcement on the projects is “proof of our great bond with China.”

Around $37 billion of the $45 billion would be invested in energy, Iqbal said. Work on $28 billion worth of projects can begin immediately, he said, with work on the remainder starting in the next three to five years. Iqbal called the agreements a “milestone in our history.”

Sharif said the visit will open a new chapter in bilateral relations. “We will work hand in hand with you to remove any obstacle in your way to ensure timely completion of the planned projects,” he said in a meeting with the heads of three Chinese companies.

“I hope, through my visit, the two countries can consolidate the traditional friendship, deepen practical cooperation in all areas, push the strategic cooperative partnership to a new high,” Xi said, according to the China’s Xinhua news agency.

Xi also hailed Pakistan’s contribution to the international counter-terrorism efforts and expressed support for Pakistan’s own campaign against militants at home.

Sharif thanked Xi and said their countries’ relations are “sweeter than honey and stronger than steel.”

“I assured President Xi that Pakistan considers China’s security as important as its own,” Sharif said, adding that the two countries signed 51 agreements on Monday alone. “Today, we have planned for the future.”

China and Pakistan have long maintained close political and military relations, based partly on mutual antipathy toward neighbor India. However, stronger China-India ties have challenged that perception and Xi’s visit seems intended to reassure Pakistan that relations remain robust.

Xi postponed a visit to Islamabad last year due to anti-government protests and went ahead with a visit to India. China is also eager to boost trade and investment with New Delhi, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Beijing in the coming weeks.

China is a leading arms supplier to Pakistan and has sought its help in combating anti-Chinese Islamic separatists reportedly hiding in the country’s lawless tribal areas. China is also eager to enlist Pakistan’s help in stabilizing Afghanistan as U.S. and international troops wind down their presence there.

Xi is traveling with a large business delegation and is expected to oversee the signing of investment agreements in the energy and transportation industries, part of Beijing’s plan for a China-Pakistan “economic corridor.”

“This is very important for our economic stability and development,” said political science professor Raul Bakhsh Rais.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Could End Up Charging CIA Officials With Murder Over Drone Strikes

A landmark case may open the door for a possible multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit launched by relatives of the alleged 960 civilian victims of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan

A senior judge in Pakistan has ordered police to formally investigate former CIA agents for allegedly authorizing a 2009 drone strike.

If the case moves forward, it may subject the U.S. embassy in Islamabad to sensitive police investigations and even result in U.S. citizens for the first time being charged with murder for covert drone strikes in the South Asian nation.

Last Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court ordered police to open a criminal case against former CIA Islamabad Station Chief Jonathan Bank and ex-CIA legal counsel John A. Rizzo for murder, conspiracy, terrorism and waging war against Pakistan.

The complainant is Kareem Khan, whose son Zahin Ullah Khan and brother Asif Iqbal were killed in an alleged December 2009 CIA drone strike in the mountainous Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan.

The case was lauded as the “first of its kind for directly implicating and naming a CIA official” by University of Hull international legal expert Niaz Shah.

However, the Pakistani police appear unlikely to comply with the judge’s order, having already refused on two previous occasions. “[We] are appealing the case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” Islamabad police superintendent Mirvais Niaz told TIME on Wednesday, citing jurisdictional disputes.

Mirvais maintains that the local Waziristan authorities should investigate the incident as that’s where the deaths occurred; Khan, a journalist, argues that an Islamabad bench should try the case as that’s where he contends the decision to launch the strikes was made.

However, the case appears to rest on whether Pakistan’s political apparatus is willing to pursue a sensitive legal action that police say may imperil U.S.-Pakistan relations.

According to court documents seen by TIME, not only does Khan’s case implicate ex-CIA officials, it also calls for an investigation into the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, where Khan believes the drone strike was ordered.

“The Pakistani government has questions to answer about why they have fought the filing of this criminal complaint if they are indeed opposed to the drone strikes,” said Jennifer Gibson, an attorney with international legal aid charity Reprieve. “They’ve been fighting it in court at every level.”

Even if the investigation receives the green light, bringing ex-CIA officials to trial will be an onerous battle in Pakistan. Should Bank and Rizzo fail to appear, one recourse is the international police body Interpol, which can extradite former CIA officials to stand trial, says Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the Pakistani attorney leading case. However, cases against CIA officials seldom succeed, even when Interpol is invoked, for reasons of diplomatic sensitivity. (In 2005, Italy unsuccessfully forwarded a request to extradite CIA agents to Interpol, an action repeated by Germany in 2007 with a similar result.)

“It’s very difficult to get the CIA to come to court in Pakistan,” Akbar told TIME in March.

The CIA removed Bank from Pakistan after he received death threats following his public identification in Khan’s initial $500 million civil lawsuit in 2010. He became chief of Iran operations but was removed for creating a “hostile work environment” and now works in intelligence for the Pentagon, the Associated Press reports. Rizzo, who Khan alleges authorized the strike that killed his family members, worked in Pakistan as a CIA lawyer and has since retired. Both are currently living in the U.S. and appear unlikely to return to Pakistan to stand trial.

CIA spokesman Christopher White declined TIME’s request for a comment on the case involving Bank and Rizzo.

As the case moves ahead, some see it paving the way for a possible multibillion-dollar class-action suit against U.S. officials. The U.S. has carried out more than 400 covert drone strikes in Pakistan, with the most recent on Sunday, according to data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Since 2004, drone strikes in Pakistan have allegedly killed up to 3,945 people, including some 960 civilians. The U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Pakistan focuses on drones to uproot the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other militants in Pakistan’s fractious tribal areas.

In 2013, the Peshawar High Court, whose rulings apply nationwide, declared U.S. drone strikes illegal in Pakistan and demanded compensation for civilian victims. Likewise, in April 2012, Pakistan’s Parliament issued a resolution that “no overt or covert operations inside Pakistan shall be permitted.” Neither the 2013 Peshawar court ruling nor the 2012 parliamentary resolution seems to have halted the U.S. drone campaign inside Pakistan.

Should the former CIA officials prove difficult to prosecute, civilians harmed by drones may pursue other legal channels. “The [drone victims] may also be able to sue the state of Pakistan for failing to protect them from harm caused by someone else. The state is responsible for protecting people and their lives,” said the academic Shah, who also serves as an advocate of the High Court in Pakistan.

Nonetheless, the political will to pursue drone-related litigation remains shaky in Pakistan, where many believe “tacit consent” allows U.S. drone operations to continue. In 2012, U.S. officials familiar with the drone program told the Wall Street Journal that Pakistan clears airspace and sends acknowledgment receipts after the CIA faxes upcoming drone-strike alerts to Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI.

In an interview with TIME, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam rejected the principle of tacit consent as a “rumor” and said Pakistan was continuing to pressure the U.S., both in private and public meetings, to end the drone program, given the success of its own counterterrorism operation in Waziristan, Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

“Drone operations without our permission are violating our sovereignty, and they result in collateral damage — killing off large numbers of innocent civilians — which creates more resentment,” she said.

Nevertheless, in the leaked 2013 Abbottabad Commission report, the former head of the ISI appeared to publicly acknowledge Pakistan signing off on U.S. drone strikes: “It was easier to say no to them in the beginning, but ‘now it was more difficult’ to do so,” said the ISI’s former director general Ahmed Shuja Pasha. The classified document reported that “The DG [director general] said there were no written agreements. There was a political understanding.”

The veracity of the report was confirmed by the Foreign Ministry, but suppressed inside Pakistan, prompting an inquiry into how information was leaked.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said that the U.S. operates drones with the cooperation of foreign governments, in part to protect strategic alliances. In a 2013 speech at the National Defense University, which remains the Administration’s most comprehensive and recent public statement on drone policy, Obama said “America cannot take [drone] strikes wherever we choose; our actions are bound by consultations with partners and respect for state sovereignty.”

Still, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rebutted Obama’s speech a few months later, saying, “The government of Pakistan has made its position clear that drone strikes constituted a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, violative of international humanitarian laws, besides being counterproductive to our efforts for bringing peace and stability in Pakistan and the region.”

Ultimately, the Islamabad High Court’s action may reveal more details of how the drone program operates in Pakistan and which state agencies, if any, interface with U.S. officials in the decisionmaking process. Pakistan’s courts, increasingly powerful and independent, have emerged as an important arena to wrestle for these answers.

For Khan, who is still desperate to learn who ordered the death of his brother and son, culpability is less important than accountability.

“The Pakistani government owes it to Kareem Khan, and the many other civilian victims of U.S. drone strikes, to honor the judgment. Justice and an end to drone strikes are long overdue,” said Gibson, the Reprieve lawyer.

In a statement after the judge’s order last week, Khan said, “I sincerely hope that authorities now will do their job and proceed against the culprits.”

TIME Pakistan

Teen Activist Malala Yousafzai Gets Her Own Asteroid

Malala Yousafzai after being announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in Birmingham, England on October 10, 2014.
Christopher Furlong—Getty Images Malala Yousafzai after being announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in Birmingham, England on Oct. 10, 2014.

"If anyone deserves to have an asteroid named after them, she does!"

Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Prize-winning teenage activist, now has an asteroid named in her honor.

The more-than-2-mile-wide asteroid—officially now known as “316201 Malala”—orbits the sun every five-and-a-half years in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Amy Mainzer, the NASA astronomer who discovered the rock, was the one who named it after Yousafzai.

“If anyone deserves to have an asteroid named after them, she does!” Mainzer wrote on Malala Fund Blog.

“My postdoctoral fellow Dr. Carrie Nugent brought to my attention the fact that although many asteroids have been named, very few have been named to honor the contributions of women (and particularly women of color),” Mainzer added.

In October 2012, after Yousafzai blogged about her determination to become a doctor, a Taliban gunman shot her as she boarded a school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Yousafzai, 17, now works with her foundation to empower girls through education.

TIME Pakistan

Gunmen Kill 20 Workers at Pakistan Dam Construction Site

A laborer who was injured by Taliban militants, receives medical treatment at a local hospital in Turbat, Balochistan province, Pakistan, April 11, 2015.
EPA A laborer who was injured by Taliban militants, receives medical treatment at a local hospital in Turbat, Balochistan province, Pakistan, April 11, 2015.

Many were shot dead while they slept

(QUETTA, Pakistan)—Gunmen in restive southwestern Pakistan shot and killed at least 20 workers early Saturday at a dam construction site, the deadliest recent attack targeting civilians in a region facing a low-level insurgency, authorities said.

The violence targeted the Gobdan area of the Turbat district in southwestern Baluchistan province, a region where nationalist and separatist Baluch groups have fought against the Islamabad-based government for years. However, no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Pakistan, a country that faces a deadly Taliban insurgency and threats from other Islamic extremists.

A large group of gunmen attacked a labor camp near the dam construction site, overpowering eight security guards on the site and shooting dead sleeping laborers before fleeing, government commissioner Pasand Khan Buledi of the Makran division said. Buledi gave the casualty figure and said the attack wounded three people.

Buledi said 16 of the dead were from Pakistan’s Punjab province and four were from Sindh province. He said the eight guards, all from Baluchistan, were unharmed in the attack.

Previous separatist attacks saw gunmen kill people from Punjab province, Pakistan’s most populous province, over what they describe as its exploitation of their region. Those from Baluchistan often are let go.

Baluchistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti told private satellite news channel Geo TV that Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps was searching in the nearby mountains for the attackers.

“We will chase them down and brought them to justice,” Bugti said. “We need help in this war against terrorists. Alone, we cannot fight.”

Baluchistan government spokesman Jan Mohammad Buledi said the government would offer the families of the deceased 1 million rupees (nearly $10,000) each.

Baluchistan is the scene of a low-intensity insurgency by separatists who want substantial share of revenue from gas and mineral resources and complete autonomy from Islamabad. Islamic militants also operate in the area.

Baluch and human rights activists say Pakistani forces detained their people for years without bringing them to court, sometimes killing them and dumping their bodies in the desert. Three years ago, the Voice for Baluch Missing Persons organization handed the United Nations a list of 12,000 names they said belonged to people missing in the conflict.

The disappearances in southwestern Baluchistan province began swelling in the mid-2000s, when Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s government cracked down on insurgents there. The government repeatedly has denied the allegations, with some saying many of the missing were criminals in hiding, had joined militant groups or had been abducted by others.

Saturday’s violence was the deadliest recent attack to target civilians in the region. In September 2012, 10 laborers and five tribesmen in a labor camp were gunned down in the province’s Khuzdar district.

TIME Pakistan

Alleged Mastermind Behind Mumbai Attacks Leaves Pakistan Jail

Pakistani security personnel escort Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi (C), alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, after a court hearing in Islamabad on Jan. 1, 2015.
Aamir Qureshi—AFP/Getty Images Pakistani security personnel escort Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi (C), alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, after a court hearing in Islamabad on Jan. 1, 2015.

The attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 left 166 people dead and injured more than 600

ISLAMABAD — A lawyer says the suspected Pakistani mastermind in the 2008 Mumbai attacks has left a jail near Islamabad following a court order that he be set free pending trial.

Attorney Rizwan Abbasi says his client, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, was out of detention on Friday and described it as a “triumph for law and justice.”

A Pakistani court first ordered Lakhvi’s release March 13 but he remained in detention amid mounting pressure on Pakistan to more actively confront Islamic militants. He was ordered released for a second time on Thursday.

Lakhvi, who was first granted bail last December, is one of seven suspects on trial in Pakistan in connection with the attacks that killed 166 people. He was arrested in 2009.

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