TIME Pakistan

Bomb Blast in Southern Pakistan Kills 56 at Shi’ite Mosque

Rescue workers and a policeman stand at the site of an explosion in a Shi'ite mosque in Shikarpur, located in Pakistan's Sindh province, Jan. 30, 2015.
Rescue workers and a policeman stand at the site of an explosion in a Shi'ite mosque in Shikarpur, located in Pakistan's Sindh province, Jan. 30, 2015. Amir Hussain—Reuters

Hospitals are appealing to residents to donate blood for the wounded

KARACHI, Pakistan — A bomb blast ripped through a mosque in Pakistan belonging to members of the Shiite minority sect of Islam just as worshippers were gathering for Friday prayers, killing 56 people and wounding dozens more, officials said.

Dr. Shaukat Ali Memon, who heads the hospital in Shikarpur where the dead and wounded were brought, gave the death toll to Pakistan’s state television. He said that 50 people, many severely wounded, were also brought to the hospital. Patients have also been shifted to nearby hospitals in the cities of Larkana and Sukkur, he said.

In a sign of how serious the explosion was, Memon appealed to residents to donate blood for the wounded.

Pakistani television showed area residents and worshippers frantically ferrying the dead and wounded to the hospital.

Initial reports suggest that it was a bomb planted in the area, Sain Rakhio Mirani, the top police official in the district told Pakistan’s Geo TV.

Shikarpur is in Sindh province, roughly 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of the port city of Karachi.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Sunni Muslim extremists have often targeted religious institutions of Shiites, whom they do not consider to be true Muslims.

While Karachi has been the site of repeated bombings blamed on militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban, the northern part of Sindh province has generally been much more peaceful.

But recent years have seen a trend of extremist organizations increasingly active in the central and northern part of the province, according to a new report by the United States Institute of Peace.

TIME Pakistan

5,000 Rally Against Charlie Hebdo in Pakistan

Pakistan's President previously called on Charlie Hebdo to apologize

Around 5,000 people gathered in Lahore, Pakistan, on Sunday for the latest rally against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo‘s depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

Protesters held posters that read, “This is not freedom of expression, it is open aggression against Islam,” while a terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is linked to attacks in India, encouraged a boycott of French products, Reuters reported.

Charlie Hebdo published a cover image last week of the Prophet Muhammad holding a sign reading “Je Suis Charlie,” after a brutal attack by gunmen who ambushed the newspaper’s offices and killed 12 people. The attack was linked to the magazine’s critiques of Islam, for which it had drawn controversy in the past.

Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain had previously called on Charlie Hebdo to issue an apology for its “insulting the faith of others,” as protesters demonstrated in Karachi last week, according to Bloomberg. Anti–Charlie Hebdo riots have also taken place in Turkey and the Philippines. Pope Francis has also expressed his disapproval of mocking religions, but condemned the brutal attacks.


TIME Pakistan

Pakistanis Protest Charlie Hebdo Cover

Magazine printed a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on its post-terror attack cover

Demonstrators took to the streets in cities across Pakistan to protest the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo on Friday, two days after the newspaper published its first issue since the massacre at its offices by Islamist extremists.

Protesters clashed with police in Karachi, according to Reuters, and a photographer for the AFP was wounded amid the violence.

Charlie Hebdo, which has drawn the ire of some Muslims in the past for lampooning Islam among other subjects, published an issue on Wednesday less than a week after terror attacks across Paris left 17 dead, including eight of its journalists.

The cover of the issue, which has been criticized by Muslim leaders as a provocation, features a tearful Prophet Mohammed. Muslims consider any visual representation of the prophet to be blasphemous.

Sometimes violent protests have broken out in countries around the world, including in Niger and Sudan. But Muslim leaders elsewhere have appealed for restraint.

“Most Muslims will inevitably be hurt, offended and upset by the republication of the cartoons,” reads a statement on the Muslim Council of Britain’s website. “But our reaction must be a reflection of the teachings of the gentle and merciful character of the prophet (peace be upon him).”

Read next: Pope Francis Speaks Out on Charlie Hebdo: ‘One Cannot Make Fun of Faith’

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan’s anti-Charlie Hebdo Protests Lead to Clashes

Pakistani protesters shout slogans against the printing of satirical sketches of the Prophet Muhammad by French magazine Charlie Hebdo during a demonstration in Lahore, Pakistan on Jan. 16, 2015. Arif Ali—AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also condemned the cartoons as offensive to Muslims

At least two people have been injured in clashes between protestors and police in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, AFP reports.

Police fired bullets and water cannons into the air during protests led by the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami religious party. These activists are holding countrywide rallies against the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris offices were attacked on Jan.7 leaving 12 people dead.

AFP also reported that one of their photographers was wounded after being shot by armed protestors while covering the rally outside the French Consulate in Karachi. Following surgery, he is reportedly out of immediate danger.

The Karachi protests come one day after Pakistan’s parliament unanimously adopted a resolution against the Charlie Hebdo caricatures, saying they are a deliberate attempt to incite violence and to “widen misunderstandings among civilisations.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also condemned the cartoons as blasphemous, saying that “freedom of speech should not be used to hurt the religious sentiments of any community.”

Meanwhile the Jamat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban praised the Kouachi brothers who carried out the Paris attacks, commending them for freeing “the earth from the existence of filthy blashphemers.”


TIME Pakistan

Quick Study

Bachal pauses outside her school in the settlement of Moach Goth, where she lives Photograph by Insiya Syed for TIME

Humaira Bachal is giving many
 Pakistani children the gift of education

Humaira Bachal always dreamed of flaunting her stellar report cards to her father. “All I wanted was to show him that I was top in mathematics,” says the Pakistani women’s-education activist, her dark brown eyes brimming for a few seconds. “But I never could.”

Bachal’s father, a devout Muslim, came from a family in which women were rarely allowed outside the home, even when seriously unwell. An illiterate lorry driver, he abhorred the fact that his eldest daughter attended school, thinking she’d never find a husband, and expressed his feelings through his fists. “My father was my greatest opponent,” she says. But Bachal, now 26, did go to school and much more besides. Today, she runs the Dream Foundation’s Model Street School for the boys and girls of Moach Goth, the impoverished settlement where she still lives, at the edge of Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city.

At first Bachal and her three cousins taught local waifs in her cramped living room. Step by step, they upgraded facilities and premises by entreating local philanthropists for donations and urging former pupils to serve as teachers. The school now boasts 34 staff and 1,200 pupils in a gleaming $25,000 three-story building that opened in August, funded partly through pop megastar Madonna’s Ray of Light Foundation. Students learn math, Urdu and English. There are spanking­-new computer and science labs plus a spacious art studio. Children are charged 1¢ per day.

Moach Goth residents eke out a hardscrabble existence. The main access road is flanked by the gang-riven ghetto of Lyari on one side and the ramshackle “mosquito colony” on crudely reclaimed mangrove on the other. Rubble fills the street, an acrid pall of dust and jet-black smoke charring the lungs. The foremost trade is hauling goods by donkey cart. A good day may proffer a few dollars; a bad, nothing. Education is a luxury few can afford.

Bachal has changed that, although simply educating herself was a momentous achievement. To escape her father’s ire, she would stash her school uniform at a friend’s house. When he went to work, she would nip over, get changed and sprint to class. School was paid for with pennies earned helping her mother collect and bundle firewood.

Then tragedy struck. Bachal’s 1-year-old cousin died minutes after being given out-of-date medicine­—his mother couldn’t read the expiry date on the bottle. Illiteracy cost Bachal’s cousin his life, but the tragedy was an epiphany for her: “I made up my mind the children of the area must be educated.”

Bachal began haunting the squat, concrete houses of Moach Goth, working to coax parents to let their children—and especially their daughters—go to school. Many­ deemed her a troublemaker and demanded she be banished. Bachal tuned out their threats and just kept talking and teaching. Public opinion eventually turned—even Bachal’s father became a convert. “Who would not praise her efforts?” says Nishar Ahmed Khuhro, Sindh province’s minister of education. “We need people coming forward to do this work.”

Pakistan is a desert when it comes to female education. Literacy for women stands at just 26%. (If you use a stricter criterion than just being able to write one’s name, divide that figure in half.) Only 13 million of 32 million girls under 14 are formally enrolled in school. In addition, the Taliban frequently target schools, as illustrated by the horrific attack on a military-run campus in the northern city of Peshawar on Dec. 16, which claimed at least 147 lives, mostly children.

Pakistan’s education system feeds Islamization, as the poorest turn to madrasahs. These institutions are comparatively wealthy, typically funded via Saudi or other overseas benefactors, with free facilities. But the curriculum is largely religious, and a parochial worldview dominates. It’s a vicious cycle in which poverty and zealotry feed each other.

Bachal knows this only too well. After completing high school she studied at a madrasah for a degree in Islamic studies, donning a “head to heel” burqa and gloves for classes. But she was unable to reconcile her teachers preaching for the subjugation of women with what she read in the scriptures—tales of the Prophet Muhammad’s wives who would compose poetry and conduct business. She quit six months before graduation. “Women don’t need burqas,” says Bachal, who married a childhood friend in late 2014. “If a man looks at me with bad intentions, I can smash him in the face—let him know I’m equal to men.”

The perils of espousing such views in Pakistan are starkly illustrated by Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old female-education advocate and Nobel Peace Prize winner who miraculously survived getting shot in the head by the Taliban in October 2012. Like Malala, Bachal isn’t afraid. “If they kill me, I would have sacrificed for my people,” she says. “They will have achieved nothing as there are now many like me.”

She means girls like Bakhtawar Muhammad Hanif, 16, who wants to join Pakistan’s elite Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after she graduates from the Dream Foundation school. “There’s lots of crime in our society, so if I become CID I can do a little bit to address that,” says Bakhtawar. Yet another young Pakistani woman fighting for her dream.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Executes Seven Militants During John Kerry’s Visit

John Kerry Sartaj Aziz
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks as Pakistani Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz looks on during their joint press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan on Jan. 13, 2015. Anjum Naveed — AP

The secretary of state’s trip to the country comes a month after the Peshawar school massacre

Pakistani officials oversaw the execution of seven convicted militants across the country on Tuesday morning, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry began the second day of his trip to the South Asian nation aimed at ramping up security and intelligence cooperation.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rescinded the country’s moratorium on capital punishment in the wake of the Taliban’s savage assault on a school in Peshawar last month, which left at least 147 dead, including 130 children.

Those executed Tuesday included militants convicted of launching deadly sectarian assaults and foiled assassination plots, according to AFP. Kerry has yet to comment publicly on their fate.

Earlier this week, Kerry unveiled a plan to provide $250 million in emergency aid to Pakistanis displaced by Islamabad’s ongoing military operations targeting Islamic militants by the country’s restive northwest frontier, according to the New York Times.


TIME Pakistan

Peshawar School Reopens for the First Time Since Taliban Massacre

Pakistani soldiers stand guard as parents arrive with their children at the Army Public School in Peshawar on Jan. 12, 2015. A Majeed—AFP/Getty Images

Schools across Pakistan were on an extended break following the Dec. 16 attack, which claimed the lives of more than 140 people

Schools across Pakistan, including the one attacked by militants in the northwestern city of Peshawar, are reopening this week as they try and put a horrific month behind them.

The schools were on an extended break following the Dec. 16 attack on the Army Public School, which killed over 140 people and injured 120 others, the BBC reports.

Staff and students at the army-run school, where seven gunmen from the Pakistani Taliban massacred 132 students and several staff members, will hold a ceremony to commemorate the victims before classes resume in the coming days.

The attack, an apparent retaliation for army operations against the Taliban, was the worst-ever terrorist atrocity in Pakistan.


TIME Nepal

Nepalese Passports Are Going to Feature a Third Gender Option

Nepalese transgendered performers pose for photographs backstage in Kathmandu on November 2, 2013. Prakash Mathema — AFP/Getty Images

The long-awaited move follows a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 recognizing a third gender

Nepal announced plans this week to issue passports that will allow citizens of the Himalayan nation to identify as a member of a third gender on their travel documents if they wish.

“We have changed the passport regulations and will add a third category of gender for those people who do not want to be identified as male or female,” Lok Bahadur Thapa, chief of the government’s passport department, told Reuters.

The decision comes after a 2007 Supreme Court ruling in the country ordered authorities to amend legislation to include a third gender.

South Asia nations appear to be ahead of the curve regarding the right to identify as third gender on official documents. Court decisions in Pakistan in 2009 and India in 2014 both cleared the way for people who identify as being of indeterminate gender to do so formally.


TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Jan. 7, 2015

A compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Adam Dean‘s work on opium poppy farming in the valleys of eastern Burma. The country, which used to be the world’s largest supplier of heroin until the 1980s, is experiencing a resurgence in cultivation. Conflict, corruption and poverty have driven an increasing number of farmers back to growing the plants’ opium sap, the key ingredient of the drug. The United Nations is trying to persuade them to switch their focus to other crops such as coffee, but it faces a difficult task: opium is far more profitable and an easier way for smalltime farmers to pad their incomes. Dean’s photographs offer a poignant glimpse to the boom that gives so many of Burma’s poor a hard fought livelihood, one that they know isn’t good for society but one that they aren’t eager to give up.

Adam Dean: Poppies Bloom Again in Myanmar (The New York Times)

Timothy Fadek: Rebuilding Haiti (Bloomberg Businessweek) These pictures take a different look at Haiti by showing how five years after the massive earthquake, businesses are working to rebuild the country

Muhammed Muheisen: Young Survivors of the Peshawar School Attack (TIME LightBox) Portraits and words of the students who survived

Glenna Gordon (BBC Radio 4 World at One) Gordon talks about photographing the clothes of missing Nigerian school girls.

Jane Bown obituary (The Guardian) The English photographer known for her portraits, died in December 2014 aged 89

TIME India

Thousands Flee Homes as Clashes by India-Pakistan Border Escalate

India Kashmir Violence
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers pay homage to their colleague who was killed in an India-Pakistan cross-border firing, in Jammu, India, Jan. 6, 2015. Channi Anand—AP

Local official says around 10,000 people have abandoned their homes in the past week

Thousands of people living on the border between Indian and Pakistan have fled their homes in the past week, as clashes between the two countries continue to escalate.

About 6,000 people in the disputed region of Kashmir abandoned their homes late Monday, joining approximately 4,000 others who had fled when skirmishes began last week, a local official told Reuters.

Border clashes between the two regional rivals have intensified this year, with firefights and cross-border shelling taking place intermittently since October.

“We had a narrow escape and there is a warlike situation,” said 54-year-old Sham Kumar, a resident of Sherpur village. Kumar said he left his village following the shelling of a nearby school, about 2 miles (3 km) from the frontier.

This week’s fighting has seen at least 10 casualties, including soldiers and civilians on both sides.


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