At least five dead as coaster meets accident in northern Pakistan

People gather near the wreckage of a burnt passenger van in northern Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan region on July 16, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Press Information Department)
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Updated 16 July 2023
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At least five dead as coaster meets accident in northern Pakistan

  • Carrying 33 passengers, tourist coaster fell into ravine in Diamer district
  • Twenty-eight people have been injured in the accident, says police official

KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: At least five people were killed and 28 injured on Sunday when a coaster carrying tourists fell into a ravine in northern Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region, officials said.

Fatal road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed and roads, particularly in many rural areas, are in poor condition.

In February, 18 people were killed when a tourist bus traveling from GB toward Rawalpindi collided with a car, leaving several injured. Sunday’s accident took place at Thalechi in Diamer district, an official confirmed.

“This coaster was coming from Rawalpindi to Gilgit,” Shaukat Riaz, district coordinator for the Rescue 1122 service, told Arab News. “At the Thalichi [of Diamer district], turning a bend, it fell into a ravine.”

Riaz said the accident occurred at 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon.

“At least five people including a child were killed while others were injured. All injured and dead bodies have been shifted to Gilgit’s hospitals, while the rescue operation from the site has been completed,” he added.

Speaking to Arab News, Muhammad Ayaz, senior superintendent of police (SSP) for Diamer district confirmed five deaths had taken place, adding that 28 were injured.

“There were 33 people including seven children on the coaster,” Ayaz told Arab News. “All of them were tourists from the Punjab side. Treatment is being provided to the injured in Gilgit city and preparations are being finalized to shift the deceased,” he added.

Meanwhile, an emergency has been declared in Gilgit’s hospitals to ensure provision of proper medical treatment to the victims.

“All injured and dead bodies have been shifted to two hospitals in Gilgit while an emergency has been declared in all hospitals,” Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, the director of health for Gilgit told Arab News.

“All doctors and staffs are on duty and on high alert.”

Ayaz urged tourists to follow traffic regulations to avoid accidents in future.

“[Nowadays], many tourists’ vehicles are meeting with accidents in GB,” Ayaz said. “There is a big difference between driving in cities and mountainous regions. All tourists should have followed the traffic rule and driven slowly,” he added.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed sorrow at the loss of lives in the accident, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement.

“The prime minister ordered an inquiry to ascertain the facts causing the fatal accident,” the PMO statement said. “He also directed the relevant authorities in Gilgit Baltistan for immediate relief activities, besides directing the federal departments to assist them.”


Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

Updated 25 May 2024
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Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

  • Skipper Jos Buttler, who smashed 84 off 51 balls, was the star of the England batting
  • Babar Azam praises Pakistani bowlers but says that the team could not finish well

BIRMINGHAM: Jofra Archer claimed two wickets on his long-awaited return to international cricket as England beat Pakistan by 23 runs at Edgbaston to move 1-0 up in the four-match T20 series.
England captain Jos Buttler won man-of-the-match after he smashed 84 off 51 balls to set the hosts a target of 184.
But it was Archer’s return that caught the eye as he made a case for selection in next month’s T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies no harm.
The fast bowler has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
On his first international appearance for 14 months, and first on home soil since 2020, Archer bounced back from an expensive first over, which went for 15 runs, to finish with two for 28.
“I thought Jofra Archer was brilliant,” said Buttler. “You could see his emotion taking wickets for England again but we need to temper those expectations because he’s not going to be the same straight away.
“I’m really pleased with the whole bowling group.”
Muhammad Rizwan was removed in the first over by Moeen Ali and Reece Topley took three wickets for 41.
Buttler was the star of the England batting with three sixes and eight fours.
He was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
Five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back with Shaheen Shah Afridi the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
“We got them to a par score, our bowlers bowled very well and we had our moments when we were batting,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam.
Fakhar Zaman’s 45 from 21 balls gave the Pakistan chase some impetus, but after he departed the pace of Archer, Topley and Chris Jordan ripped through the tourists’ tail with four balls to spare.
“We didn’t finish well. We had a small partnership, myself and Fakhar but we didn’t get any other 40 or 50 partnerships that England did,” added Azam.
England lead the four-match series 1-0 after the first match was washed out on Wednesday.


Pakistan’s investment body to set up six country-specific desks, including one for Saudi Arabia

Updated 6 min 12 sec ago
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Pakistan’s investment body to set up six country-specific desks, including one for Saudi Arabia

  • SIFC reviews progress related to trade and investment with friendly nations in a meeting presided by PM Sharif
  • The meeting also evaluates progress on the privatization of state-owned entities, instructs timely implementation

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif instructed Pakistan’s top investment facilitation body to set up six country- and region-specific desks, including one solely focused on Saudi Arabia, while presiding over a meeting on Saturday that concentrated on progress related to economic collaboration with friendly nations.
Last year, the country established the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid body designed to oversee foreign financing, to help overcome its prolonged economic turmoil that has forced successive administrations to seek financial assistance from global lenders and close allies.
Pakistani officials have primarily focused on Gulf countries since the inception of SIFC, briefing governments and businesses about investment opportunities available across various economic sectors in their country, including areas like agriculture, mining and information technology.
Following the announcement of a $10 billion investment from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during Sharif’s daylong visit to Abu Dhabi on Thursday, Pakistan expects to receive substantial investments from the region.
“The prime minister has announced that the SIFC will have a China desk, a UAE desk, a Saudi desk, a Qatar desk, a European Union desk and a United States of America desk,” Federal Minister for Information Attaullah Tarar told the media after the meeting.
“The prime minister has formally announced these six desks to promote trade and investment,” he added. “It was a historic meeting whose fruits will become visible in the coming days.”
An official statement issued after the meeting said the SIFC appreciated the recent upsurge in trade and investment related engagements under government-to-government and business-to-business frameworks, directing concerned ministries for efficient follow-ups.
It instructed the participants to make every effort to transform the commitments received from friendly countries into tangible projects and economic dividends at a fast pace.
The meeting reviewed progress on the privatization of state-owned enterprises, expressing satisfaction over the ongoing process and urging the timely accomplishment of various milestones in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.


British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

Updated 25 May 2024
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British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

  • Saira Peter says she is privileged to contribute her voice to British government’s public events, citizenship ceremonies
  • She also recorded ‘God Save the Queen’ in 2018 and received acknowledgement and gratitude of Queen Elizabeth II

ISLAMABAD: A British-Pakistani Sufi Opera singer, Saira Peter, announced in a video message circulated on Saturday she received a letter of appreciation from Buckingham Palace for recording the British national anthem, “God Save the King,” following the coronation of King Charles III.
The British king’s coronation took place last May at Westminster Abbey in London. The event brought leaders and high-profile personalities from around the world and marked his official accession to the throne after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022.
Upon receiving the recording, performed in the soprano vocal range, the highest of the female voice types in classical singing, the king sent Peter a letter conveying his good wishes and sincere thanks for her public services.
She also received a signed photo card from him and Queen Camilla.
“I want to share with all my followers how excited I am to receive a letter and card of appreciation and gratitude from His Majesty King Charles the Third,” Peter said in the video, where she mentioned she was Pakistan’s first opera singer. “This arrived in response to my civic service of recording the British national anthem, ‘God Save the King.’”
“Being British-Pakistani, I feel so privileged to contribute my skill and voice to the British government’s public events and citizenship ceremonies,” she added.
Peter informed the British national anthem was recorded at the request of UK Government offices at Hastings Town Hall in East Sussex. The recording is now used across her adopted country for official government events.
Previously, she recorded “God Save the Queen” in 2018, making her the first Asian and the only Pakistani officially invited to undertake the task. Peter also received acknowledgment and gratitude from the late queen.
Born in Karachi, the opera singer told Arab News during her visit to Pakistan last year she used to sing in church choirs and began her Western classical journey, learning from Paul Knight, a disciple of Benjamin Britten, in London in the early 2000s after her family moved there.
Peter’s father, Zafar Francis, pioneered the Noor Jehan Arts Center in London, which was opened by British superstar Sir Cliff Richard in 1998.
She is the director of the performing arts center and teaches both Western and Pakistani classical music there.
She said her work in Britain was projecting “a positive image of Pakistan.”


Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

Updated 25 May 2024
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Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

  • Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls, but his team failed to build on that and lost 5 wickets for 25 runs
  • Shaheen Shah Afridi took 3-36, as Pakistan try to build on their 2-1 win against Ireland this month

BIRMINGHAM: England captain Jos Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls as the hosts set Pakistan a target of 184 to win the second T20 international at Edgbaston on Saturday.
Buttler was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
England were 144-2 with five overs to spare before Bairstow departed.
But five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back to give the tourists a chance of chasing down the target.
Shaheen Shah Afridi was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
Jofra Archer will form part of the England bowling attack in his first home international appearance since 2020.
Fast bowler Archer has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
However, the 29-year-old’s return could be a timely boost ahead of the T20 World Cup in the United States next month.
“Excited for Jofra, long road for him but looks great and looks fit,” Buttler said before the match.
Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan have been included for Pakistan, who are looking to build on a 2-1 series win over Ireland earlier this month.
The first T20 of the four-match series was washed out on Wednesday.
England: 1 Jos Buttler (capt/wk), 2 Phil Salt, 3 Will Jacks, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Liam Livingstone, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Reece Topley
Pakistan: 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Saim Ayub, 3 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Shadab Khan, 6 Azam Khan, 7 Iftikhar Ahmed, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Amir


Mob attack on Christians leaves man in critical condition, spurs calls to end ‘vigilante justice’ in Pakistan

Updated 43 min 32 sec ago
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Mob attack on Christians leaves man in critical condition, spurs calls to end ‘vigilante justice’ in Pakistan

  • Incident occurred in Sargodha where people accused their Christian neighbor of desecrating the Holy Qur’an
  • Police say they rescued 10 members of two Christian families in the area and transported them to a safe place

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Police in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province dispersed a furious mob that targeted members of the Christian community on Saturday, leaving one man in critical condition following allegations of desecration of the Muslim scripture, as civil society activists called for an end to “vigilante justice” in the country.
The incident occurred in Sargodha district after some people accused their Christian neighbor of defiling the pages of the Holy Qur’an. The house and a small shoemaking factory owned and operated by the man were burned down in the ensuing rampage, which was followed by police action that led to clashes with the angry protesters.
The incident came within a year after another attack on the Christian community in August last year, when a mob in Jaranwala city burned churches and targeted several houses in a similar incident involving blasphemy allegations.
Speaking to Arab News over the phone, police official Inspector Azar Nadeem confirmed the incident and said the situation was now under control.
“A man named Nazir Masih was injured by the violent mob and is currently in a hospital in critical condition,” he said.
“The police have rescued 10 members of two Christian families in the area who were accused of blasphemy and transported them to a safe place,” he continued. “The police have also arrested 15 people from the area for their involvement in the incident and for pelting stones at the police officials after our teams reached the spot.”
Nadeem informed police contingents had been deployed across the city after the situation was pacified to keep things under control.
Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in Pakistan, where just an accusation can lead to mob lynchings.
Reacting to the development, Peter Jacob, Executive Director of the Center for Social Justice, said such incidents must be brought to an end.
“The Sargodha incident is yet another example of vigilante justice in our society that needs to be discouraged at all levels,” he told Arab News.
“Five extrajudicial killings were reported last year in Pakistan on blasphemy charges, and 552 people were accused of blasphemy only in Punjab last year,” he continued, adding that 94 people had been killed since 1994 across the country by violent mobs following blasphemy allegations.
“There is an urgent need to constitute a commission of inquiry to review the blasphemy laws and recurrent incidents, and parliament should play a role in stopping this madness through mass awareness campaigns,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Christian community in Karachi held a protest demonstration in front of the city’s press club, demanding an inquiry into the incident and expressing their concern over the mob attack.
“As a 27-year-old Pakistani Christian who has never been abroad since the day I was born to the moment I’m standing here, I and every Christian who calls themselves Pakistani live under fear, under pressure and under the constant threat of being, God forbid, accused of committing blasphemy,” Luke Victor, a rights activist and one of the organizers of the Karachi demonstration, told Arab News.
“This is not the first incident, as we saw last year in Jaranwala, which I believe is the world’s largest such incident in which 28 churches and over 100 Christian houses were burned in a single day,” he continued, adding that what had happened in Sargodha was an “extension of what has been happening in Punjab and across Pakistan for the past several years and decades.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also voiced concern over the safety of the Christian community in Sargodha following the mob violence.

So far, neither the federal nor the Punjab administration has issued a statement about the incident..