Pakistani victims of Madinah bus crash identified — foreign office

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Madinah highway Jan 19, 2018 ( Courtesy social media)
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A handout picture from the Saudi Red Crescent shows a pilgrims' bus in flames on the road near the town of Medina, 840 kms north-west of the Saudi capital Riyadh, late on Oct. 16, 2019. (Saudi Red Crescent via AFP/File)
Updated 15 November 2019

Pakistani victims of Madinah bus crash identified — foreign office

  • Bodies of 10 Pakistani nationals recognized through DNA samples gathered by Saudi authorities
  • Charred remains of the deceased Pakistani pilgrims buried in the Kingdom

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Thursday that the DNA verification process for all of the country’s pilgrims killed in last month’s fatal road crash while they were traveling from Riyadh to Makkah was done and their bodies had been buried in Saudi Arabia.
“Ten Pakistanis have been identified” after a rigorous process of trying to ascertain identities through “DNA matching,” the foreign office spokesman, Dr. Muhammed Faisal, told Arab News.
Explaining the hardships involved in the process, he said: “The bus driver who had a list also died and the passengers’ record was burnt.”
Investigators “traced a copy of the passengers’ list” from the relevant bus company which helped collect the data on the number of passengers, including all Pakistanis onboard, “but they were still unable to identify the corpses and required families of the deceased to help identify the victims.”
The foreign office has not revealed the identities of the Pakistanis until now, though it says “details will soon be released.”
It may be recalled that the bus caught fire after the accident and the charred bodies of passengers were found to be beyond recognition.
A team of Pakistani officials with the help of Saudi authorities worked tirelessly to identify all the victims, collecting DNA samples of the deceased pilgrims to ascertain their exact identities.
“None of the bodies of the Pakistani victims were brought back to the country. It’s likely that all of them were buried there [in Saudi Arabia],” the spokesman said.


Pakistan interior minister orders ‘strict’ action against spread of COVID-19 'fake news'

Updated 37 min 47 sec ago

Pakistan interior minister orders ‘strict’ action against spread of COVID-19 'fake news'

  • Says all available resources would be used to identify people who spread misinformation
  • Rights activists fear new laws to curb coronavirus fake news could be used to clamp down on freedom of speech

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s minister for interior, Ijaz Ahmad Shah, on Thursday directed authorities to take “strict and immediate” action against those involved in spreading coronavirus misinformation, a week after the government announced plans to introduce new laws to curb COVID-19 “fake news” on social media.
Last week, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), a top federal body set up to oversee the government’s coronavirus mitigation efforts, set up a committee under the chairmanship of the interior minister to prepare a legal framework to help the government deal with coronavirus-related “fake news” on social media platforms.
“The Federal Minister for Interior, Ijaz Ahmad Shah directed the Director Cyber Wing, FIA to closely monitor and hold the responsible ones accountable for their actions,” the Ministry of Interior said in a statement released after Shah presided over a meeting on formulating a “COVID-19 Disinformation Prevention Mechanism.”
“He reinforced the point that strict and immediate action should be taken against these people. The Minister further said that people who are involved in such actions are not pro-country or its people.”
Shah said the primary purpose of the new committee was to ensure that “correct and credible information” was disseminated, adding that all available resources would be used to identify people who spread disinformation.
He also directed the head of Pakistan’s electronic media regulator not to allow “fake news” to run on TV channels.
Islamabad has previously struggled to regulate online content mostly by blocking or asking social media companies to remove blasphemous material and other posts that violate the country’s religious and cultural norms and laws, or hurt national security interests.
In February, the government approved, and then rolled back, new rules to regulate cyberspace after opponents said they could be used to stifle dissent. Social media companies have also largely shunned obliging to help law enforcement agencies access data and remove online content deemed unlawful.
Rights activists and free media campaigners fear the government’s new coronavirus “fake news” mechanism could be used to clamp down on freedom of speech.
“This shady mechanism is going to have serious implications for the already squeezed freedom of press and expression in Pakistan,” Haroon Baloch, researcher and program manage at Bytes for All, told Arab News.
Baloch said disinformation on social media was a challenge but not a crime, unless it turned into “deep-fake” news that harmed individuals and groups.
“The government must ensure transparency in the so-called mechanism,” he said, “along with ensuring an oversight of civil society and free speech campaigners to prevent abuse.”