TIME India

70 Dead in the Indian State of Gujarat After Heavy Monsoon Flooding

An aerial view shows flood victims standing atop their submerged houses in Amreli
Handout—Reuters An aerial view shows flood victims standing atop their submerged houses in Amreli district of Gujarat, India, in this June 24, 2015 handout provided by the Indian Air Force.

Food relief is being airlifted to the worst-hit areas

Torrential rains lashing the Indian state of Gujarat have so far killed at least 70 people, with thousands more forced to evacuate their homes after major damage to property from widespread flooding.

Around 1,000 people have been airlifted to safety among the more than 10,000 people who have been moved to higher ground, the BBC reports. Several helicopters from the Indian Air Force are also dropping food packages into the worst-affected areas.

A flood alert has also been issued in the disputed region of Kashmir, where hundreds were killed in similar floods last year, when they also hit India’s Northeast, claiming dozens of lives.

Although flooding in several parts of the country is common during India’s monsoon season, the developments in Gujarat come during a series of extreme weather patterns across South Asia. Over 1,000 people have now died in a heat wave sweeping southern Pakistan, not long after another heat wave that killed more than 2,000 across India earlier this month.

TIME Pakistan

Criticism of Pakistani Government Intensifies as Heat-Wave Death Toll Tops 1,000

Pakistan Heatstroke
Shakil Adil—AP A man with his daughter who suffers from dehydration due to extreme weather waits for a medical help outside a ward at a child hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 24, 2015.

Most of the deaths have occurred among the elderly and poor people without access to air-conditioning

The Pakistan government continued to face the nation’s ire Wednesday over what critics call its inadequate preparation for and response to a devastating heat wave sweeping the southern Sindh province.

Opposition lawmakers slammed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s ruling party in Parliament over the repeated power cuts and water shortages that have considerably worsened the crisis, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported. Many accused the government of “inaction” in the face of hundreds of deaths in the provincial capital, Karachi — the country’s largest city — and its surrounding areas.

“There is a problem of very poor governance, and in normal circumstances it is not so exposed,” Khalid Rahman, director general of the Institute of Policy Studies in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, says in an interview with TIME. “In this very extraordinary heat wave, it has exposed so many things.”

Over 1,000 people have now died from heatstroke or related medical problems, a majority of them poor and elderly people without access to air-conditioning. The escalating problems from the heat wave prompted the government to declare a public holiday on Wednesday so people could stay indoors, according to the New York Times, and though the resumption of sea breezes from the country’s southern coast contributed to a lowering of the overall temperature and a reduction in the number of fatalities, there are still thousands more undergoing treatment at various hospitals across the region.

The Pakistani army and a paramilitary force, the Rangers, have also stepped in, setting up relief camps for heatstroke patients, while various nongovernment and volunteer organizations have been distributing water and medicine outside hospitals.

“Today was a lot better,” Anwar Kazmi, a spokesman for the Edhi Foundation that runs Karachi’s largest morgue, told the Times on Wednesday. “We’ve had 58 deaths today, compared to yesterday when the death toll rose to 300.”

Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Pakistan’s Water and Power Minister, attempted to deflect the blame from his government and delink the power shortages, which Pakistan has long grappled with, from the heat wave.

“The federal government is not responsible if there is a water shortage in Karachi,” he said in Parliament. “We are ready for accountability, but it’s not appropriate to blame us for each and every thing.”

Rahman, however, says there is a lot the government could have and should have done differently.

“In these days of technology-driven information available well in advance, the government should have come up with an emergency plan as well as some kind of awareness campaign for the public and some emergency centers,” he says. “Unfortunately, despite so many deaths the governments, both provincial as well as federal, did not accept the responsibility. Instead they started blaming each other.”

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Hit by Worst Heat Wave in a Decade

More than 800 people have died

The death toll in Pakistan’s scorching heat wave, at least 838 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon, continues to rise.

At its epicenter is Karachi, home to 20 million people and the capital of the southern Sindh province. With temperatures reaching 113 degrees, hours-long power outages and insufficient running water contributed to make this heat wave the worst in a decade, the Associated Press reports.

The army has set up special heatstroke centers to help local officials deal with the situation, Maj. Gen. Asghar Nawaz, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said. But hospitals have struggled to help victims, as most of them were the elderly, women and children. “Unfortunately, many victims were already unconscious when they were brought to our hospital in the past three or four days,” said Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman for Karachi’s main Jinnah Hospital. “It was difficult to help them.”

Read next: Pakistan Declares a State of Emergency as Heat Wave Death Toll Soars to Nearly 800

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Declares a State of Emergency as Heat Wave Death Toll Soars to Nearly 800

Street protests have broken out at the government's handling of the crisis

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has declared a state of emergency, with nearly 800 people now having died from a heat wave sweeping Sindh province in the country’s south.

While acknowledging that periods of extreme heat were not uncommon, Farooq Dar of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, based in Islamabad, told TIME that the present heat wave was “unprecedented.” He said, “It has never been this bad.”

Officials placed the total death toll at 782 as of Wednesday morning, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported, with a majority of the deaths occurring in Karachi, the country’s largest city and the provincial capital of Sindh. The number of fatalities has been increasing despite a gradual drop in temperatures over the last three days — with 337 reported on Tuesday against 304 and 136 on Monday and Sunday, respectively.

“We are continuously receiving people in a critical condition or dead,” Dr. Seemin Jamali, director of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, told Dawn, adding that the hospital has thus far recorded 279 deaths. Morgues in the city are also filled to capacity.

The resumption of southwesterly winds into Karachi and surrounding areas on Tuesday will hopefully contribute to a further lowering of temperatures, Dar told TIME.

“The main cause [of the heat wave] is that the sea breeze was cut off, but the southwesterly wind has been flowing since yesterday afternoon and a bit of cloud cover has also come in. On Monday, the temperature was at 43 [degrees Celsius], Tuesday it went down to 41. Today we’re expecting a further drop of one or two degrees,” he said.

Anger against the provincial and central government at a perceived mismanagement of the crisis shows no sign of abating, however. Multiple daily power outages, preventing people from using fans and air-conditioning, coupled with water shortages during the holy month of Ramadan (or Ramzan), in which Muslims are required to fast until sundown, have seen street protests break out in multiple cities.

TIME Pakistan

The Death Toll From Pakistan’s Heat Wave Is Now Nearing 450

Outraged citizens have taken to the streets to protest the government's handling of the crisis

The heat wave sweeping Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh since Saturday has continued to claim lives, with hundreds more dying on Monday, taking the total death toll to 445.

Heatstroke claimed 309 lives, 301 of which were in the provincial capital and country’s largest city, Karachi, the Dawn newspaper reported. The city’s temperature on Monday remained high at 43°C, with light rain in some areas not enough to lessen the impact of the heat wave.

Hundreds of others remained under treatment in various hospitals across the city, with the government declaring a state of medical emergency. Dr. Salma Kauser, senior director for medical and health at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), told Dawn that more than 400 people were undergoing treatment at KMC-run hospitals.

The effect of the unbearable heat was worsened by repeated power outages, with infuriated citizens staging protests against the government in several parts of the city. Protesters clashed with police, burning tires and stoning police vehicles, according to local news outlet Pakistan Today. The outrage extended to Pakistani netizens as well, with Vocativ reporting that over 3,000 tweets went out on Monday with the hashtag #KarachiWeepsGovtSleeps.

A spokesman for the Edhi Foundation, a nonprofit focused on social welfare, said the organization’s morgue was struggling to accommodate all the heat-wave victims and had to deny many families because of lack of space.

TIME Pakistan

A Heat Wave in Pakistan Has Killed Around 140 People

PAKISTAN-WEATHER-HEAT-WAVE
Asif Hassan—AFP/Getty Images Relatives shift the dead body of a heatwave victim into an ambulance at the EDHI morgue in Karachi on June 21, 2015.

Temperatures as high as 48°C have been recorded

Around 140 people died in a sudden heat wave over the weekend in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi and surrounding Sindh province — the latest incidence of lethally hot weather to have affected the subcontinent over the past month.

While most of the victims were men above 50, the heat wave also killed six women and five children, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported, placing the total death toll at 136. Pakistani news channel Geo TV reported a death toll of 140, citing provincial health secretary Saeed Mangnejo.

Around 130 of the fatalities were recorded since Saturday in Karachi, which has experienced temperatures of 45°C — the hottest this year. More lives were lost in the rest of Sindh province, where temperatures hit 48°C.

Dr. Seemin Jamali, head of the state-run Jinnah Medical Centre, told reporters that over 100 people had died at the hospital. “They all died of heat stroke,” she said.

The adverse effects of the heat wave have been exacerbated by frequent power outages and the fact that most Pakistanis are fasting from dawn to dusk for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A similar heat wave swept Pakistan’s neighbor India less than a month ago, with more than 2,000 people across several Indian states dying from unusually high temperatures in late May.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Backtracks on Decision to Shutter Save the Children

A sealed lock is seen at the gate of Save the Children charity's office in Islamabad
Faisal Mahmood—Reuters A sealed lock is seen at the gate of Save the Children charity's office in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 12, 2015

Islamabad had alleged the charity is a stooge of foreign governments

Pakistan on Sunday suspended an order to shut down the Islamabad offices of Save the Children, the BBC reports.

The move by the Interior Ministry comes days after authorities halted the charity’s operations in the Pakistani capital and asked its foreign staff to leave the country.

While the aid group welcomed the government’s apparent reversal, employees say they have received no official word on the decision. “We would appreciate relevant government authorities to communicate to us officially,” a representative told the Associated Press.

Last week, Pakistani authorities locked the gates of Save the Children’s local premises without any formal announcement, but officials had previously accused the charity of “anti-Pakistan” activities.

Save the Children voiced strong objections and vowed to fight the move at the highest levels. The U.S. State Department also expressed concern over the closure.

In 2012, Pakistani authorities accused the NGO of conducting fake vaccination programs that were used by the CIA to track down al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who had been killed by U.S. Special Forces in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad the previous year. Save the Children denied the allegations, saying it was not involved with the programs or Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, who ran them.

Pakistan has increasingly accused international NGOs of overstepping their boundaries and carrying out the agendas of foreign governments.

TIME Pakistan

Officials: Pakistan Shuts Down Offices of Save the Children

PAKISTAN-UNREST-NGOS
Aamir Qureshi—AFP/Getty Images A policeman stands guard outside the office of the international charity Save the Children sealed by order of Pakistani authorities in Islamabad on June 11, 2015

Pakistani officials placed a lock on the gate of the group's offices on Thursday night and asked employees to leave

(ISLAMABAD) — The Pakistani government shut down the offices of the international aid group Save the Children in the capital, Islamabad, without giving any reason, officials said on Friday.

Pakistani officials placed a lock on the gate of the group’s offices Thursday night and asked employees to leave.

The officials also told Pakistani employees that the government wanted all foreign nationals working with the charity to leave the country within 15 days. It was unclear how many foreigners were currently working with Save the Children in Pakistan.

Two government officials said the action was taken on orders from the Ministry of Interior.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Qazi Khalilullah, refused to comment and referred all questions on the issue to the Ministry of Interior.

“I will not be commenting on a decision that has been taken by the government. Our decisions are always well considered,” he said during a weekly news briefing on Friday.

Save the Children has previously been accused by Pakistani intelligence agencies of facilitating a Pakistani doctor’s vaccinations program in the city of Abbottabad as cover for the CIA to obtain DNA samples at a compound where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was later killed by U.S. commandos.

TIME India

India Is Using Its Military Incursions Into Burma to Send a Message to Other Countries

New Delhi wants its neighbors to know it can no longer be pushed around, analysts say

The Indian army’s recent operations against militants along its eastern borders remains largely shrouded in mystery and continued to cause controversy on Thursday, two days after special forces crossed the border into Burma (officially known as Myanmar) and inflicted “significant casualties” at two bases belonging to insurgents there.

The Burmese government denied the operation completely, with a Facebook post from the director of the president’s office reportedly saying that according to their information the operation was performed only on the Indian side of the border.

“Myanmar will not accept any foreigner who attacks neighboring countries in the back and creates problems by using our own territory,” he said, according to Indian local media.

It is still unclear how much of the Indian operation Burma was privy to, but a senior Indian military official had said on Wednesday that authorities from both countries had been in contact about the strikes. The back-and-forth allegations and denials, however, have created a degree of friction between two countries and armies that have generally been on good terms with each other.

“It creates a problem for the Myanmar government,” Rumel Dahiya, deputy director-general of New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, and a former brigadier in the Indian army, said in an interview with TIME.

Dahiya says India’s trumpeting of the operation’s success — a swift retaliation for a militant attack that killed 20 Indian soldiers in the northeastern state of Manipur last week — places the Burmese between a rock and a hard place, no matter whether they admit knowledge of the Indian operation or not. “What do they say?” he said, pointing out that 2015 is also an election year for Burma. “In both cases it creates a bit of a complication for them.”

Instead, Dahiya advocates greater coordination with the Burmese government, with the sharing of military intelligence and the planning of joint operations. “Doing these kinds of things repeatedly would become a problem unless they are on board,” he said.

The indication from the Indian government seems to be that such operations will continue to take place, with Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar saying on Thursday that the Burma operation represents a change in India’s mindset.

“Those who fear India’s new posture have already started reacting,” he said, according to the Times of India, in a pointed dig at the South Asian nation’s contentious neighbor Pakistan. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the 1950s, and the disputed region of Kashmir remains a thorn in both their sides and a hotbed for regional terrorism.

“Pakistan is not Myanmar, and India should not think of repeating such an exercise inside Pakistani territory,” Pakistani interior minister Nisar Ali Khan had warned after the attack.

Many have criticized the Indian government’s “chest-thumping” over the successful covert operation, and although Dahiya also feels it is “definitely not required” he adds that it is part of a larger point that the Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi wishes to drive home.

“The government is trying to convey a message that you can’t push India around, it’s a big country and it’s a country which can take care of its national interests,” he says, citing the reduction in ceasefire violations on the India-Pakistan border and Modi’s strong response to border infractions by China during Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit last year as examples.

The Burma operation probably doesn’t represent the new norm in Indian foreign policy, Dahiya adds, but it does send the signal that “should an eventuality arise where the cost-benefit analysis suggests it is better to do that than being subjected to a major act of terror, then as the Americans say, all options are on the table.”

TIME Pakistan

Malala Gunmen Secretly Set Free in Pakistan

Previous reports had indicated all 10 were sentenced to life in prison

News reports in April indicated that 10 men had been convicted and sentenced to life in prison in connection with the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in 2012. But now, it seems eight of those men were actually acquitted.

Several Pakistani officials confirmed to the BBC that only two men had been sentenced, with one blaming misreporting for the confusion. But one public prosecutor had specifically told the Associated Press after the trial (which was held in secret), “It is life in prison for the 10 militants who were tried by an anti-terrorist court.”

The discrepancy emerged when reporters tried to locate all 10 men; the whereabouts of the eight who were acquitted are now unknown.

Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban at age 15 after becoming an advocate for girls’ education. She and her family now live in the U.K. to escape death threats in their native Pakistan. She was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

[BBC]

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