KABUL/ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: In Pakistan, at least 228 people are confirmed dead in the aftermath of a massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake which hit northern Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) says at least 1,620 are injured across Pakistan.
Rescuers on Tuesday rushed to deliver relief aid to victims of the quake, which killed at least 291 people in the Pak-Afghan region over a wide swathe of mountainous terrain.
The initial quake — which struck the country at 2:09pm Monday — was followed by seven aftershocks, measuring as high as magnitude 4.8, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The latest aftershock came just before dawn on Tuesday.
“Many houses and buildings have collapsed in the city,” said Arbab Muhammad Asim, district mayor for the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Many people were trapped under piles of rubble, with officials warning that the toll was set to rise.
“The building was swinging like a pendulum, it felt as if the heavens would fall,” Peshawar shop owner Tufail Ahmed told AFP.
Thousands spent the night outdoors in near-freezing temperatures reluctant to go back inside for fear of aftershocks, Pakistani media reported.
"Rescue work is ongoing, and tents, blankets and sleeping mats are being provided," Latifur Rehman, a Pakistani disaster management official, told Reuters from Peshawar.
Pakistan's military and civilian authorities dispatched several helicopters to affected areas to assess damage and run rescue operations, the NDMA said.
However, eyewitnesses near Lower Dir's Khal area have a different story to tell.
One Syed Shah says, "No rescue teams have reached here yet. There is no power, no water and no roads are open."
His account is echoed by Irshadullah who says, "Our houses are not capable of living in. We spent the whole night under the open sky because we were afraid of the aftershocks. Everything we own is buried under the debris of our house."
Shah says his house, too, has been completely destroyed. "All our possessions and our money is buried under it," he says.
"We sent our children to relatives living 5km away. We are very scared."
At least 95 people, including women and children, are injured, with many admitted to District Headquarters Hospital Timergara.
At least 12 houses have been destroyed in a village near Khal, where over 50 per cent of houses have been damaged by the quake.
According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Provincial Disaster Management Authority, the highest number of confirmed deaths in the province is 38 in Shangla, while the highest number of injuries has been confirmed as 248 in Lower Dir.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said he would personally oversee the rescue efforts. "We will try our best to deal with this disaster using our own resources," he had said.
The toll is expected to rise as search teams reach remote areas that are cut off by the powerful 7.5 magnitude quake, which triggered landslides and stampedes as it toppled buildings and severed communication lines.
Landslides in Pakistan's northern areas over the weekend caused by heavy rain and snow had already left thousands of tourists stranded.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department measured the intensity of the quake as 8.1.
The US Geological Survey (USGS), however, estimated the quake’s intensity at 7.7, then revised it down to 7.5 on the Richter scale.
An official from the Met Office said that the USGS readings were different from PMD’s because they were monitoring the situation from mainland America, as USGS did not have a station in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
“On the other hand, PMD has bases to observe seismic activities in Cherat and Chitral. There is also an advanced station in the Pattan area of Swat, since these areas fall in the active seismic zone,” the official said.
The US and Iran were among countries that offered to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, which already depends heavily on foreign aid after decades of war that have wrecked its economy and infrastructure.
UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan told the United Nations General Assembly during a debate that “the unresolved Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains the root cause of tensions and instability” in South Asia.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi said that the longstanding dispute had to be addressed boldly and decisively if enduring peace and stability was to be established in the area.
She pointed out during a debate that for over half a century UN resolutions pledging a plebiscite to allow the Kashmiri people to exercise their right to self- determination had not been implemented.
“Instead the people of Kashmir have suffered brutal oppression,” she said, adding that the urgency of peacefully settling the dispute was even more compelling today.
She said that calling for termination of these consultations, as a precondition for dialogue, is unacceptable as well as counter-productive, referring to the Indian pre-condition for talks.
“Escalating tensions on the Line of Control in Kashmir and the Working Boundary also require Pakistan and India to take possible measures to avert further escalation.”
She said “it was against this backdrop that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a four-point peace initiative in this General Assembly on Sept 30.
“This should have evoked a positive response from India. But this has not been forthcoming.”
Nevertheless, she said, Pakistan stood ready to engage in a dialogue on all outstanding issues.
ISLAMABAD: China will build in Karachi four of eight submarines that it is selling to Pakistan.
Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain told at the inauguration of the Defence Export Promotion Organisation (DEPO) Display Centre in the federal capital that the deal for the acquisition of submarines from China had been finalised and four of them would be built here.
He further said that construction of the submarines would simultaneously begin in Pakistan and China.
China, he said, would transfer the technology to Pakistan for submarine construction.
The implementation of the agreement would augment the existing submarine related capacity. One of the three Agosta 90-B submarines in Navy’s fleet — PNS Hamza commissioned in 2008 — was assembled at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works. The other two Agosta 90-B submarines — PNS Khalid and PNS Saad — were also indigenously overhauled and retrofitted with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems in 2011.
The three Agosta 90-B submarines of French design form the core of Pakistan’s current submarine fleet that also includes two ageing Agosta-70 submarines.
Mr Hussain did not specify when the construction would begin, but said it would be happening soon. A training centre would be set up in Karachi for this purpose.
The minister did not either say which type of submarines were being purchased from China. It is, however, speculated that the deal was for Yuan-class Type-041 diesel-electric submarines equipped with AIP systems.
Navy has been pursuing different options for expanding its submarine fleet. Naval officials say that more submarines were needed to address force imbalance with India, which too is increasing and modernising its fleet of submarines.
Pakistan had earlier explored the options of buying submarines from France and Germany, but those deals did not materialise.
PRIVATE-PUBLIC PARTNERSHIP: Mr Hussain said the government would encourage private-public partnership in defence production to improve the efficiency of the sector.
“We can compete with the best in the world only through a national effort,” he said, adding that the government would extend all possible cooperation to private sector in this regard.
He said that this was “the beginning of a new approach”.
The minister said the country needed indigenously developed hardware, which was also technologically innovative.
NEW NAVAL SHIPYARD: The minister expected progress on the proposal for a new deep-sea shipyard planned in Gawadar.
“The summary for the new shipyard is with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his approval is expected,” he said.
The shipyard is planned to be constructed by foreign investors on build-operate-transfer basis.
“We have already earmarked land for this purpose,” the minister said.
Mr Hussain hoped that the new shipyard would be able to get substantial maritime related business from Gulf and Arab countries.
ISLAMABAD: A 16-member delegation of Pakistan Rangers, headed by Rangers (Punjab) Director General Maj Gen Umar Farooq Barki, arrived in New Delhi Wednesday for routine annual talks with Border Security Force (BSF) officials.
The delegation comprises officials from Pakistan Rangers (Punjab and Sindh), Ministry of Interior, Survey of Pakistan and the Anti-Narcotics Force.
BSF Director-General Devendra Kumar Pathak will represent India at the meeting, which will last for four days (Sept 9-12).
A Rangers spokesman told DawnNews that the Rangers-BSF talks are held alternatively in India and Pakistan.
The spokesman said both border guarding forces will discuss professional matters in relation to border management.
In order to avoid losses of innocent civilian lives and property, the delegation will discuss issues pertaining to ceasefire violations, smuggling and the safe return of inadvertent border crossers, the spokesman said.
Independent observers rate this interaction highly significant against the backdrop of the recent heavy exchange of artillery fire.
RAWALPINDI: General Lloyd J. Austin Commander United States Central Command (Centcom) on Wednesday called on Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, according to a tweet by Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations Major General Asim Bajwa.
ISLAMABAD: Top Commanders of Pakistan Rangers and Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) are scheduled to meet in New Delhi from September 9 to 13, sources in Pakistan's paramilitary force told DawnNews.
"As per border ground rules 1961, a routine, biannual meeting of Inspector General BSF and Director General Pakistan Rangers is scheduled to take place in New Delhi starting September 9, 2015," a spokesman for Pakistan Rangers told DawnNews.
Pakistan would take up the matter of 'unprovoked' Indian firing along the Line of Control (Loc) and Working Boundary, and the killing of its civilians, the spokesman said.
He added that matters related to smuggling and other border issues are also likely to be discussed in the meeting.
A meeting was earlier held between representatives of Rangers and BSF at Wagah border to coordinate modalities of the September meeting and to finalise the meeting's agenda, the Rangers spokesman said.
The meeting will follow days of bickering between India and Pakistan, as the Pakistani government on Saturday decided to cancel the planned meeting of national security advisers with India, citing New Delhi’s refusal to allow an expanded agenda and a meeting with Kashmiri leaders.
The Indian external affairs ministry immediately termed the decision “unfortunate” and tried to wash its hands of the controversy that led to the cancellation of the meeting by saying that it “did not set any preconditions".
Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz was to have travelled to the Indian capital on Sunday for the Aug 24 meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.
Besides a discussion on terrorism, Pakistan had sought inclusion of two additional points in the agenda -- a review of the progress on decisions taken in Ufa regarding release of fishermen, facilitating religious tourism and restoring peace along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary; and exploration of the modalities for discussions on other outstanding issues, including Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen.
Rejecting Indian pressure for cancelling Mr Aziz’s planned the meeting with Hurriyat leaders, the Foreign Office reiterated that it could not change the longstanding practice of holding meetings with the Kashmiri leadership during visits of Pakistani leaders to India.
India-Pakistan relations are at their lowest point in over a decade, with the two regularly trading fire over the disputed de facto border of Kashmir in recent months.
ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz on Saturday said that he was saddened that the Indo-Pak security adviser level talks had been virtually cancelled and added he is 'still willing to visit New Delhi without preconditions'.
Talks between India and Pakistan, scheduled for August 23 and 24, fell into trouble as both nations reached a deadlock over Pakistan's insistence to ignore Indian ‘advice’ against holding a meeting with Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi on August 23.
Addressing a press conference in the federal capital city, Sartaj Aziz said that India had imposed new conditions on the security adviser level talks and added that, "We haven’t formally canceled the talks. We will see what comes out of the situation. We are still ready to hold the talks. But without any preconditions."
Talking about the 'virtual cancellation of talks from the Indian side' Aziz said, "India does not want the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan is concerned about the detention and arrests of Hurriyat leaders which is a violation of fundamental human rights."
Aziz also urged the international community to ponder over India’s attitude and decision to cancel the talks "on such flimsy grounds, especially when the main purpose of the meeting was to reduce tensions on the Line of Control and restore trust by addressing each other’s concerns regarding terrorist activities sitting across the table rather than through the media."
Responding to a question he said, "Pakistan wishes to resolve all issues with India on the negotiating table, but no serious talks with India are possible without discussion on the core issue of Kashmir."
"We had agreed to discuss all outstanding issues and Kashmir is definitely a part of it."
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security said that, "Indian claims that Pakistan was trying to distort the agenda agreed at Ufa and was imposing 'new conditions' for the talks could not be farther from the truth."
Aziz said that the three-point agenda proposed by Pakistan was fully in line with the Ufa statement.
Giving details of Pakistan's proposals he said, "The first point called for discussion on all issues related to terrorism."
"The second point calls for reviewing progress on actual decisions made at Ufa which included prompt release of fishermen, better arrangements for religious tourism, and activation of mechanisms for restoring peace across the LoC and the Working Boundary," he added.
"The third point was intended to explore the modalities for discussions on all other outstanding issues including Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen," Aziz said.
The most important sentence of the Ufa agreement according to Aziz was, “India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues”.
He said that India seems reluctant to recognise that the most important outstanding issue between the two countries is the future of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the UN resolutions.
Sartaj Aziz said that India had introduced a new condition, which was never mentioned in the Ufa agreement, "through its 'advice' that Pakistan should not meet Hurriyat leaders, thus assuming the right to determine the guest list for the High Commissioner’s reception."
Aziz dispelled ‘India’s wishful narrative’ according to which ‘only Pakistan’s military establishment is pushing the agenda towards the Kashmir issue’ saying that the Indian foreign policy establishment has failed to realise that the entire Pakistani nation stands united and fully committed to provide political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris struggling for their right of self-determination.
He claimed that India has been conducting a part of its diplomacy through its media which had been saying that Pakistan was looking for an exit due to apprehensions over the dossier which India's ex-spymaster and incumbent national security adviser Ajit Doval has prepared for presentation during the talks.
Aziz countered the Indian media's claim by saying, "In fact I will also be carrying three dossiers on RAW’s involvement in promoting terrorism in Pakistan. If I do not get this opportunity on 24 August, I hope I will get a chance to hand them over to Mr Doval in New York next month, if he accompanies Prime Minister Modi for the UN General Assembly."
He added that, "After handing over these dossiers to Mr. Doval, I can then also share them with the UN Secretary General."
Sartaj Aziz concluded his speech urging Indian Premier Modi to ponder over the most important part of the Ufa Statement (that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues) and think of ways and means of initiating serious dialogue on these outstanding issues.
India will talk on all outstanding issues when terror and violence end: Swaraj
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj admitted that though the 'resolution of all outstanding issues' was preamble to the Ufa agreement, India had made it clear on August 18 that the scheduled meeting between national security advisers will only discuss issues related to terrorism.
"No other topic will come under discussion," she said.
The Indian foreign minister said that outstanding issues including Kashmir are part of the composite dialogue between the two countries but the composite dialogue has not yet resumed.
Referring to the invitation, extended to Hurriyat leaders from India-held Kashmir for a reception hosted by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, Swaraj said India has always maintained that there will be no third-party in Indo-Pak talks. "Hurriyat cannot be a party," she added.
The Indian foreign minister said that the incumbent ruling government had come under immense internal pressure after repeated attacks and exchanges of fire between Indo-Pak troops along the Line of Control and Working Boundary but the government had still decided to go ahead with the talks.
"Terror and talks not possible but talks on terror desirable," she added.
Swaraj said that Sartaj Aziz was more than welcome to visit New Delhi as long as no other issue apart from terrorism is discussed and no third party is included in the talks between the two countries.