Pakistan raids ‘fake degree factory’

The New York Times accuses a Pakistani firm of making millions by selling fake degrees

Pakistani investigators Tuesday carried out raids on a firm accused of running a global fake degree empire, officials said, confiscating computers and holding employees for questioning as the scandal deepened.

The firm Axact was accused by the New York Times of running a network of hundreds of websites for phoney universities complete with paid actors for promotional videos, as part of an elaborate scheme that generated tens of millions of dollars annually.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officers swooped on the Karachi headquarters of the company, seizing equipment and records and expelling employees from the building, a member of the raiding party told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile the company’s Rawalpindi office has been sealed and employees were being questioned at the site, an official said.

The same official had earlier said that two employees had been arrested, but later clarified they were being quizzed and had not been charged with a crime.

“The raid is still ongoing,” Mehmood ul Hassan, acting director of the FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing, told AFP.

“Our team is gathering evidence. Our director general will release all details about the raid once it’s completed.”

The move came shortly after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the agency to probe “if the said company is involved in any such illegal work which can tarnish the good image of the country in the world”.

The report by the New York Times, which quoted former employees and analysed more than 370 websites of fake universities, accreditation bodies and other purported institutions, sparked a wave of criticism on social media even as the company denied wrongdoing.

Axact’s media venture named Bol is set to launch a news channel, featuring leading TV anchors and journalists lured from previous employers by high salaries, heightening interest in the story.

The NYT article cited clients from the US, Britain and the United Arab Emirates who had paid sums ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars for their degrees — with some believing the universities were real and they would soon receive coursework.

The “university” websites mainly route their traffic through servers run by companies registered in Cyprus and Latvia, and employees would plant fictitious reports about Axact universities on CNN iReport, a website for citizen journalism.

Axact and its CEO, Shoaib Ahmad Shaikh, did not respond to requests from AFP for comment on Monday or Tuesday.

But a message on its website declared the story “baseless, substandard, maligning, defamatory, and based on false accusations” and added it would sue the New York Times.

The message did not directly address the allegations but accused domestic media rivals of colluding with the US newspaper to plant a slanderous story in order to harm its business interests.

According to an FIA official who did not wish to be named, the allegations raised by the newspaper would be a crime under Pakistan’s Electronic Transaction Ordinance, punishable by seven years in prison. Source

Take me back to Nagar

View of Nagar from Hunza at dusk.
View of Nagar from Hunza at dusk.

Some things are beautiful in their simplicity; others in their intricacy.

In the north of Pakistan lies an absolutely stunning district; Hunza Nagar, previously known as Brushal, this place is a lakeside paradise. Hunza and Nagar used to be separate princely states parted by the River Hunza which marked the border between the two states.

The small states of Hunza and Nagar were notorious for looting trader caravans that would come from China.

The British wanted to expand their trade to Russia from here, but the states wouldn’t allow them to. Thus in 1891, Nagar was invaded by the British Army led by Colonel Durand. British surrounded the Nagar’s Nalt Fort, and eventually seized it six months later.

Frame from Nagar.
Frame from Nagar.
A pathway in Nagar.
A pathway in Nagar.
A view of Nagar Khas.
A view of Nagar Khas.
A view of Nagar Khas.
A view of Nagar Khas.
A view of Nagar Khas.
A view of Nagar Khas.

Soon power was transferred from the British to the Maharaja of Kashmir, but owing to the long distance, locals continued to live freely. Dongs, the capital of Nagar, was in Nagar Khas where royal courts and palaces of marble still exist. It remained the capital till the last royal of Maghlot Dynasty, Mir Shaukat Ali Khan, was in power.

Hooper is the most beautiful place in Nagar, a land of snow-clad mountains, but the sheer power of glaciers to carve out new landscapes makes them intricately gorgeous too. In Gulmit valley lies Rakaposhi Mountain whereas the Diran Peak stands tall in Minapin.

An Aerial view.
An Aerial view.
On the way to Hooper
On the way to Hooper
Garden on the way to Hooper.
Garden on the way to Hooper.
On the way to Hooper.
On the way to Hooper.
Rakaposhi view from Nagar.
Rakaposhi view from Nagar.
Sunset on Altar peak from Nagar.
Sunset on Altar peak from Nagar.
A cattle is pictured grazing
A cattle is pictured grazing
A cattle is pictured grazing
A cattle is pictured grazing

Heading towards Hunza through the Karakoram Highway, I notice a long line of vehicles standing in queues due to a massive landslide blocking the road near Minapin. My driver takes an alternate route through the Minapin village, as I watch the stunning scenery race past. From the precariously narrow and bumpy route my driver takes, I lookout for the Karakoram Highway.

After a two-hour drive, we finally manage to get back on the Karakoram Highway. While the engine accelerates briskly on our way to Hunza, for the first time ever, I see Nagar.

Luscious green grassland with Golden Peak in the backdrop, I see happy faces peering out, local children playing, women stretching their backs into the sunshine amid work, and animals grazing fields — Nagar is known for its serene village life.

As soon as one leaves Hunza and crosses the river bridge after Ganesh village, a road turning right leads to Hooper. Before Hooper is Nagar Khas, which used to be the centre of Nagar. The area is flecked with fruit trees including cherries, apples, and apricots.

Nagar Khas is full of hard-working, soft-spoken people with small homes and shops. A road from the Nagar Khas Bazar leads to the last village of north, Hispar, and another towards Hooper, which houses glaciers and the Rush lake. There is no human settlement after Hooper.

A child in Nagar.
A child in Nagar.
A child in Nagar.
A child in Nagar.
Golden Peak.
Golden Peak.
Under the tree.
Under the tree.
View of Golden Peak.
View of Golden Peak.
Golden peak in background.
Golden peak in background.

Going to Hispar, I see open-air courtyards built around homes of stones where children and domesticated animals play and live together. Just staring at the bright courtyards makes me want to spend a night here.

A little after the settlement is a waterfall with water as pure and sweet as honey. The people here are heart-warming and like to offer walnuts, apricots and other delights to tourists.

Children play outside their homes as I photograph them. A huge pear tree stands tall in the courtyard, laden with pears. Crisp copper leaves tumble from the trees and sway gently in the Autumn wind.

“Hey, get me some pears, won’t you please?” I jokingly ask. Unaware that someone inside the house can possibly hear me.

Just a few minutes pass and a young woman appears from behind the door, hiding her face behind a red dupatta she hands me a basket full of pears. As I thank her, she laughingly points at a leaf in my hair and disappears behind the door.

The pears are extremely sweet, I must share them with my driver!

A local at Nagar.
A local at Nagar.
A child in Nagar.
A child in Nagar.
Woman from Nagar.
Woman from Nagar.
A child in Nagar.
A child in Nagar.
Autumn in Nagar khas.
Autumn in Nagar khas.

I reach Hispar at sunset. The village does not seem like it belongs here. It looks as if it’s cut off from the rest of the world. A strange silence and coolness surrounds the air. I decide to stay here for the night.

As I stand in the valley shaking with cold, I see a shooting star. Scared, I close my eyes as I sense it approaching towards me, as if it’s going to drop any second but the next moment, it’s gone. It was frightening, but I long to see it once again.

In the wilderness, close-calls to death are a thrilling experience too. These ditched lands are not only filled with beauty and serenity, but also with terror and fear.

It’s a chilly morning up in the north. To get to Gojal’s village Hussaini, I have to cross the Attabad Lake.

The bank of the lake is crowded and everyone seems to be in a hurry to get to the other side. One side of the bank plumbs a lake formed due to a landslide blockage that holds back the flow of the river. On the other side lie black mountains. But I’m curious about the depth of the lake.

As I see my jeep being loaded onto the boat, I take a seat. The ancient-looking boat makes me dread the voyage even before it began. The life jacket is of poor quality and looks scarier than the boat.

Enroute to Hisper.
Enroute to Hisper.
Enroute to Hisper.
Enroute to Hisper.
Enroute to Hisper
Enroute to Hisper
Autumn in Hisper.
Autumn in Hisper.

While reminiscing my childhood days, I zone out. Back in the day, on one of our family trips to River Jhelum, mother refused to let me go on a boat ride. I cried and cried, but there was no way she was going to let me sit on a worn-out boat. While I sat down by the river Jhelum and wept, the others enjoyed their ride.

I snap out of my bizarre memory as the journey comes to a halt. With children of the Hussaini village warmly waving at me, I leave behind my dejections, my fear of wrecked boats and the lifeless life vest.

Walking on the road.
Walking on the road.
Cherry blossom in Nagar khas.
Cherry blossom in Nagar khas.
Cherry blossom in Nagar Khas.
Cherry blossom in Nagar Khas.
Garden in Nagar.
Garden in Nagar.
Attabad lake.
Attabad lake.
source

ضلع دیامر میں تعصب اور ذات پرستی کی ایک جھلک

بلاشبہ ضلع دیامر پاکستان کے135 ضلعوں میں سب سے پسماندہ ضلع ہے۔اس ضلعے کی پسماندگی کے علل میں دیگر عوامل کے ساتھ یہاں کی سیاسی لیڈر شب کا حد درجہ تعصب پر مبنی رویہ ہے۔گلگت بلتستان کے کسی بھی ضلع سے زیادہ عصبیت ضلع دیامر میں پائی جاتی ہے بلکہ پالی جاتی ہے۔ضلع دیامر وہ واحد ضلع ہے جہاں سو فیصداہل سنت دیوبندی مکتبہ فکر کے لوگ بستے ہیں۔مگر انتہائی المناک بات یہ ہے کہ یہاں کے حفاظ و علمائ، یہاں کے تبلیغی و مجاہد، یہاں کے سیاسی لیڈر، سماجی ورکر، سرکاری ملازم،مزدور، جدید تعلیم یافتہ حضرات، اور عوام یہاں تک کہ خواتین بھی غالی درجے کے تعصب میں مبتلا ہیں۔اس عصبیت نے ضلع دیامر کے تمام طبقوں کا امیج بری طرح برباد

کررکھا ہے۔یہاں کی برادیوں کے تعصب سے گلگت بلتستان کے دوسرے اضلاع کے لوگ بھی متاثر ہوتے ہیں۔

جب برادریوں کے تعصب کی بات آتی ہے تودیامر کے لوگ مذہب و مسلک اور اسلام تک کو پاؤں تلے روندھتے ہیں۔اور وہاں جاگرتے ہیں جہاں صرف اور صرف گندا کیچڑ ہوتا ہے۔

اسی برادری تعصب(شین یشکن)کی وجہ سے کئی کئی خاندانیں صفحہء ہستی سے مٹ گئی ہیں۔ کئی دشمنیاں برادری تعصب کی وجہ سے سالوں چلتی رہیں۔جس میں سینکڑوں قیمتی جانیں ضائع ہوئی۔لوگ اپنی عزت اور حیاء تک کی قربانی دیتے ہیں مگربرادری تعصب کو ختم کرنے کے لیے تیار نہیں ہوتے۔دیامر کی برادریوں نے جو علماء پیدا کیے ہیں بدقسمتی سے ان میں بھی یہ بیماری بوجوہ تمام موجود ہے۔اگر سچ کہوں تو کئی جید علماء تعصب و عصبیت کے سرغنہ ہیں۔افسوس اس بات پر ہے کہ یہ حضرات تو امام اور رہنماء تھے مگر انہوں نے تقویٰ و پرہیز گاری کی بجائے تعصب بالخصوص شین یشکن کی تعصب سے اپنا وقار کھودیا اور اوج ثریا سے قعر مذلت میں گرتے جارہے ہیں۔

یا اسفا علی ذالک

Aga Khan shocked, saddened by attack on Ismailis in Karachi

Prince Karim Aga Khan. PHOTO: REUTERS

Prince Karim Aga Khan. PHOTO: REUTERS

GOUVIEUX, FRANCE: Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, expressed shock and sadness on Wednesday in the wake of an attack on a bus carrying members of the Ismaili community in Karachi that left 43 people dead.

“This attack represents a senseless act of violence against a peaceful community. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded in the attack,” the Aga Khan said in a statement.

The Aga Khan noted that Ismailis are a peaceful global community, living in harmony with other religious and ethnic groups in many countries across the world.

Ismaili leaders in Pakistan are currently involved in an emergency operation trying to help the survivors of the attack, according to the statement.

Read: LIVE: 43 dead, 24 injured in bus attack on Karachi’s Ismaili community

Initial reports said unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying more than 50 people in Karachi’s Safora Chowrangi area.

There were 16 women and 27 men among those killed.

“It was not immediately clear what the perpetrators’ motives’ were. They may have been political or sectarian in nature,” the statement concluded. source

Ismailis are peaceful and patriotic people who have worked for Pakistan’s wellbeing: PM

    • PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI/EXPRESS

      PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI/EXPRESS

      PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI/EXPRESS

      As the country came to a standstill following the brutal attack on the Ismaili community passenger bus, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed sadness over the attack, saying the attack is an attempt to spread divisions in the country.

      “Ismailis are a very patriotic and peaceful people who have always worked for the wellbeing of Pakistan,” the premier said.

      At least six gunmen on motorcycles boarded a bus and opened fire on commuters belonging to the Ismaili community in Karachi’s Safoore Chowk area, killing at least 43 people.

      Read: 43 dead, 24 injured in bus attack on Karachi’s Ismaili community

      Following the attack, Army chief General Raheel Sharif arrived in Karachi, cancelling a pre-scheduled three-day trip to Sri Lanka.

      “COAS cancelled his pre schedule three day visit to Sri Lanka due to Karachi terrorist bus attack,” Director General (DG) Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Asim Bajwa.

      The prime minister is also scheduled to travel to Karachi Wednesday evening where he will be visiting the victims of the attack.

      The army chief, along with corps commander and DG Rangers, is likely to visit the injured at Aga Khan University (AKU) hospital. Security has been beefed up at the hospital’s vicinity following General Raheel’s visit.

      Militant group Jundullah, which has attacked Muslim minorities before, claimed responsibility. The group has links with the Pakistani Taliban and pledged allegiance to Islamic State in November.

      The United Nations also strongly condemned the attack carried out in Karachi. In a statement, Resident UN Coordinator in Pakistan Dr Jacqui Badcock said they were horrified by this act of brutality.

      High level security meeting

      Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is chairing a high level meeting at Governor House in Karachi to assess the security situation following the grisly attack on Ismaili community earlier in the day, Radio Pakistanreported.

      Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chairing a high level security meeting at Governor House in Karachi. PHOTO: PID

      Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Governor Sindh Ishratul Ebad Khan, Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah, DG Rangers Major General Bilal Akbar, Corps Commander Karachi and secretary interior are present at the meeting.

      During the meeting DG Rangers and IG Sindh briefed the premier on the situation.

      Expressing his grief and sorrow over the firing incident, the prime minister said innocent people including women were targeted in the attack.

      While issuing directions for the apprehension of the culprits involved in Wednesday incident, the premier directed the law enforcement agencies to keep a close eye on anti-state and anti-social elements.

      MQM leaders Farooq Sattar, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Rasheed Godel are also present at the meeting,Express News reported.

      After the meeting, the prime minister accompanied by the Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, former president Asif Ali Zardari and Farooq Sattar visited the residence of Ismaili community leader Sultan Ali Allana and offered their condolences. Source

43 killed in attack on bus carrying Ismailis in Karachi

Ismailis mourn following an attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Ismailis outside a hospital in Karachi on May 13, 2015. —AFP
Ismailis mourn following an attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Ismailis outside a hospital in Karachi on May 13, 2015. —AFP
Pakistani residents gather at the scene of an attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Ismailis in Karachi on May 13, 2015. — AFP
Pakistani residents gather at the scene of an attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Ismailis in Karachi on May 13, 2015. — AFP
Police cordon off the site of an attack by gunmen in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. — AP
Police cordon off the site of an attack by gunmen in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. — AP
Paramilitary troops stand guard outside a local hospital following an attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13, 2015.— AP
Paramilitary troops stand guard outside a local hospital following an attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13, 2015.— AP
A plain-clothes police official collects evidence at the scene of the attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Ismailis in Karachi on May 13, 2015. —AFP
A plain-clothes police official collects evidence at the scene of the attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Ismailis in Karachi on May 13, 2015. —AFP
Ambulances and people gather gather outside a hospital after an attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, May 13, 2015. — Reuters
Ambulances and people gather gather outside a hospital after an attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, May 13, 2015. — Reuters
A paramilitary solder stands guard on a van outside a hospital after an attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, May 13, 2015. — Reuters
A paramilitary solder stands guard on a van outside a hospital after an attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, May 13, 2015. — Reuters
Security officials cordon off the area at the scene of an attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, May 13, 2015. — Reuters
Security officials cordon off the area at the scene of an attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, May 13, 2015. — Reuters
People visit a local hospital following an attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. — AP
People visit a local hospital following an attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. — AP

KARACHI: At least 43 people were killed and 13 others wounded on Wednesday when armed men opened fire inside a bus carrying members of the Ismaili community near Safoora Chowk in Karachi.

Sindh Police Inspector General Ghulam Haider Jamali said that 60 people were on board the bus when six gunmen entered and executed 43 passengers.

He added that the armed men used 9mm pistols in the massacre. The attackers managed to flee after the attack.

Hospital sources have so far confirmed that the dead include 25 men and 16 women. Police officials said that there were no children among the casualties.

All victims were shot from a close-range.

Rana M Razzaq, a security coordinator at the Memon Medical Center, told Dawn that, “One young girl hid and survived. Three or four others who were brought to the hospital have survived…the rest are all dead.”

Map showing the site of the attack. ─ Dawn GIS
Map showing the site of the attack. ─ Dawn GIS

Jundullah claims attack

Ahmed Marwat, a spokesman for Jundullah which is a splinter group of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), talking to Reuters claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Al Qaeda affiliated group that started off from South Waziristan has targetted Shia minorities and foreign tourists in the past as well. In November last year, the group had pledged support to Islamic State (IS).

A view of a pamphlet left by the attackers at the scene of attack.
A view of a pamphlet left by the attackers at the scene of attack.

In the past, the proscribed group has claimed several attacks including a blast near the Wagah border in November 2014 and the July 2013 attack on the compound of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in Sukkur. It has also claimed the several attacks on polio workers across the country.

Attackers entered bus and fired

A survivor of the attack recorded her statement before the police and said that the attackers entered the bus from the rear portion a few minutes after its departure.

She added that the occupants of the bus thought that robbers had embarked on the vehicle.

The assailants subdued the driver and separated (two) children from the others, the victims said and added that, “They told the passengers to keep their head low. One of the attackers situated in the rear side of the bus then ordered his associates to ‘shoot every one’ after which they indiscriminately targeted all passengers of the bus.”

All attackers were speaking fluent Urdu according to the survivor.

Secretary Al Azhar Garden said that the bus leaves daily at 9am and has been operating for the past 10 years. Today it was attacked around 9:30 am, he said.

A rescue official quoted a victim as saying that the attackers were dressed in police uniforms.

A rescue official displays casings collected from the scene of an attack on a bus, in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. — AP
A rescue official displays casings collected from the scene of an attack on a bus, in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. — AP

Investigation Officer Tariq Jadoon told Dawn that some blue caps, which are used by security guards, have also been recovered from the crime scene along with 9mm casings.

A plain-clothes police official holds up evidence collected from the scene of an attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Ismailis in Karachi on May 13, 2015.— AFP
A plain-clothes police official holds up evidence collected from the scene of an attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Ismailis in Karachi on May 13, 2015.— AFP

A senior police official, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media, told Dawn that the attackers entered the bus and shot the passengers in the head.

“The gunmen stopped the bus and first fired at it from outside,” a policeman told AFP. “Then they entered inside the bus and open fire indiscriminately. After that they checked to see if anyone was left uninjured.”

“The bus had a capacity of 52 passengers but it was overloaded and dozens of people were boarding it. Most of them were from (the) Ismaili community,” he added.

Names of Safoora massacre victims

The Sindh government has released the list comprising names of those killed in the bus firing incident, within the jurisdiction of Sachal Police Station.

The unfortunate victims included Shireen, wife of Faqdar; Zahida, wife Syed; Arifa, daughter of Ameer Ali; Aneela, wife of Zulfiqar; Yasmim, wife of Nazar Ali; Shamim, wife of Shaukat; Saiedh, daughter of Peer Mohammad; Wali, wife of Qasim; Zubaida, wife of Akbar; Shamim, wife of Ameer Ali; Zubaida, wife of Nazar Ali; Ameena, wife of Nazar; Neelam, wife of Rizwan; Asmeera, wife of Saleem; Sonia, wife of Ranish; Areesha, wife of Zulfiqar and Laila, wife of Sultan.

All these ladies were stated to be aged between 20 to 50 years.

While the men who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident included Nazar Ali: Noor Mohammad Kadiwal; Sayed Nazar Manpura; Jawaid Dilawa Manpura; Liaquat Noorji Ladjipura; Nazar Miyaji Sunesra; Rajab Ali Kuwara; Rizwan Raheem Badarpura; Raheem Mianji Sherwa; NoorAli Bhai; Abdul Wale; Ramzan Wali; Sultan Qasim Varsilla and others.

Ismaili community attacked: police

Pakistan has seen a rising tide of sectarian violence in recent years, particularly against Shias — of which the Ismaili community is a sub-sect — who make up around 20 per cent of the country’s predominantly Muslim population.

“The dead and injured have been shifted to the private Memon Medical Center nearby,” an official of the Ismaili National Council, a group which represents the community said.

The bus belongs to the Al-Azhar Garden Colony, which is an Ismaili community housing project in Karachi. It was on its regular route headed towards Federal B Area of Karachi.

CM Sindh, CCPO take notice

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah strongly condemned the firing incident and condoled with the victims.

He ordered immediate suspension of the area’s Station House Officer (SHO) and District Superintendent of Police (DSP).

“The SHO, DSP have been suspended, we will find out whether the bus had security, whether they had asked for it or not,” the provincial chief minister said. “If there is a security lapse, it will be investigated.”

He announced a compensation of Rs500,000 for the heirs of those killed in the massacre and a Rs200,000 compensation for those wounded in the attack.

Shah also announced that the government will bear all expenses incurred for the treatment of the victims.

Taking notice of the firing incident, Sindh IG Ghulam Haider Jamali directed Additional IG Ghulam Qadir Thebo to immediately submit a preliminary report in this regard, according to a press release.

He also directed security forces to facilitate emergency rescue services in shifting of injured to hospitals for treatment. He ordered the early arrest of criminals involved.

Sindh Inspector General Ghulam Haider Jamali speaking to media representatives after the deadly attack on a bus carrying Ismaili passengers. — DawnNews screengrab
Sindh Inspector General Ghulam Haider Jamali speaking to media representatives after the deadly attack on a bus carrying Ismaili passengers. — DawnNews screengrab

COAS cancels Sri Lanka visit

Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif cancelled his visit to Sri Lanka and departed for Karachi following the attack on Ismaili community members in the city.

In a tweet posted on Twitter, Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Asim Bajwa said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Wednesday cancelled his pre-scheduled three-day visit to Sri Lanka in light of the attack in Karachi.

Condemnations pour in

Condemnations poured in soon after today’s deadly attack on the bus. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the incident. He sought a report into the incident and extended condolences over the loss of lives.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also strongly condemned the attack, according to a statement. Bilawal sympathised with the victims and urged for stern action against the terrorists.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan also strongly condemned the attack and expressed grief over the murder of citizens.

He added that this incident raises questions over the provincial government’s performance pertaining to peace in the province. The government must provide complete medical facilities to the injured and take strict action against those responsible for this attack, he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned “in the strongest possible terms” Wednesday’s terrorist attack on a bus in Karachi and called on Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of this “despicable act”.

He urged the Government of Pakistan to take swift measures aimed at effective protection of minorities in the country, a statement by Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The secretary-general extended his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Pakistan.

He wished a speedy recovery to those injured in the attack.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain expressed deep grief and sorrow over the attack. He said this attack is the worst form of terrorism and those behind the attack are savages.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condemned the attack.

Others also took to Twitter to express their grief and condemn the brutal attack.

A community under threat

The Ismailis in Pakistan are a peaceful, progressive and largely apolitical community predominantly working in the health and education sectors.

Read: Pakistani Taliban threaten Kalash tribe, Ismailis in Chitral

In the past there has been anti-Ismaili violence in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan, mostly in the form of communal flare-ups.

In 2013, a bomb attack at Karachi’s Aisha Manzil killed four and injured 42 others. The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had claimed responsibility for the earlier attacks.

Today’s massacre was the worst anti-Shia attack since January 30, when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in the southern Shikarpur district, killing 61.

Anti-Shia attacks have been increasing in recent years in Karachi and also in Quetta, the northwestern area of Parachinar and the far northeastern town of Gilgit.

Around 1,000 Shias have been killed in the past two years in Pakistan, with many of the attacks claimed by the hardline Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) who view them as heretics.

Ismailis are known for their progressive Islamic views. Their spiritual leader Prince Karim Aga Khan is a globally renowned philanthropist and business magnate.

— Mateen Haider contributed to the reporting of this story. source

Gilgit-Baltistan the Paradise-Some Pics

Road to Astore from Chillam. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Road to Astore from Chillam. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari

Earlier in my writeup on Deosai, I mentioned a grave of a young man. The valley is enveloped in darkness as I leave the place, my next destination being Astore.

Several trees grow along the trail with large shrubs running along each side of the route from Chillam to Astore. The course is just like any other mountainous route — uneven and bumpy. Passing through small towns and villages on the flank of the mountain, one can see a stream of ice-cold water gushing out from Deosai.

Road to Astore from Chillam. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Road to Astore from Chillam. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Nangaparbath South Ridge. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Nangaparbath South Ridge. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Astore. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Astore. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Sunset on Nangaparbat in Rama. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Sunset on Nangaparbat in Rama. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari

Ever since the dawn of civilization, humans have not only preferred living close to water but have also preferred travelling parallel to it for easier access. Walking through these vacant lands I can see dozens of villages and communities situated next to water springs, and then no settlements for long stretches.

Walking in the wilderness through small landslides along the Southern ridges of Nanga Parbat, there is no sight or sound of human beings for miles. Local men seldom show up with their herd of sheep and goats.

Going straight on Ratu is Astore, a small city and the central location of the district.

It is said that a mountaineer named Ghazi Makhpun arrived in the area and married a girl from Skardu’s royal family. His four sons became rulers of Skardu, Astore, Rondu, and Kharmang, and eventually the Dogras became powerful.

The Astore Bazaar brims with life. It is a town filled with noise and excitement and feels just like Peshawar. The sounds of jeeps, barbers, workshops, fruit and vegetable vendors and others surrounded the life around Astore.

But as soon as the sun hides behind the mountains, it gets so quiet, it is as if no human has ever been here before. A road from the bazaar takes you to Rama village, and right after this village is a beautiful and serene plain called Rama Meadow.

If you ever happen to find yourself in plain, ice-cold and milk-white water flowing in streams, sheep and cows grazing in peace, pine trees, Chongra’s ice-covered peak in background, and Nanga Parbat’s southern ridge is in view, then you are probably in Rama Meadow.

Just a little ahead of Rama Village, which is 11 kilometers from Astore, is Rama Meadow.

Since it had higher ridges than Astore, the jeep takes more than an hour to reach here, although there’s not much distance between the two. Women working in potato fields, happy children, and a scented atmosphere are the characteristics that define what we call, Rama village.

From Rama Meadow, a jeep road turns to Rama lake. You may miss the lake at first sight, but it is a fun ride up till here with Nanga Parbat in front and the forests alongside creating a strange sensation.

I decided to stay in the rest house of the forest. It is so cold here even in the summers. As the sun sets, I pick up a lantern and hit the meadow. There is no one there, except for a few people. The memories from the night are fresh in my mind to date.

Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama village and Nangaparbat. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama village and Nangaparbat. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Night in Rama meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Night in Rama meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Night in Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Night in Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Night in Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Night in Rama Meadows. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari

There are only two motels in Rama Meadow; one is the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) and the other, the Forest department.

One evening while sitting in the lawn of the Forest department’s rest house, a group of female students of a Peshawar university decide to come and set camp.

The group of about 200 girls set their camps in no time, but forget to make an arrangement for washrooms. Since some military men are staying in the PTDC motel, it is inaccessible to anyone. Now there is only one washroom available, and that is in my rest house, next to my room.

The group manager, who is a doctor himself, and a very nice person, asks my permission to use the washroom. There isn’tANY OPTION but to say yes. Now I have to sit in the lawn the whole night; I am shivering and cursing myself.

The next morning there is a knock on my door again, and I get the silent message and decide to leave Rama.

Campsite in Rama. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Campsite in Rama. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Towards Naltar lake. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Towards Naltar lake. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Towards Naltar lake. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Towards Naltar lake. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Naltar lake. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Naltar lake. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Naltar lake. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Naltar lake. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
River Naltar. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
River Naltar. — Syed Mehdi Bukhari
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