Monday, November 2, 2015

Indian Artist Pattnaik Creates Sand Sculpture in Tribute to A321 Victims

Indian artist Sudarsan Pattnaik created a sand sculpture on Odisha beach on Sunday in commemoration of the victims of the Kogalymavia airliner that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt on October 31.

The artist shared the photo of his work via his social media accounts.
The sculpture includes a crashed Metrojet plane and a figure of a child lying next to it, above a big question mark. Among 217 passengers of the Metrojet airliner there were 25 children.

Sudarsan Pattnaik
Artist15,792 Likes
Yesterday at 7:03am
My sand sculpture to pay tribute to the innocent people who lost their life in the ‪#‎AirbusA321‬ ‪#‎Russianplane‬ crash in ‪#‎Egypt‬ at Puri beach of Odisha on Sunday.

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"Tribute to innocent souls", the inscription on the sculpture reads.
By making the boy's figure bigger than it should be compared to the size of the plane, the sculptor emphasizes the scale of the tragedy.

The position of the boy's body resembles that of the Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi. Aylan's lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach after the boat on which his family was trying to flee Syriia with other refugees had capsized. Pattnaik's sculpture in tribute of Aylan Kurdi brought the entire world's attention to his work.

By positioning the bodies in a similar way Pattnaik probably wanted to underline that innocent children die all over the world.
The artist said that he was mourning for the victims with the rest of the world and expressed sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the crash victims.

Hillary Clinton raises money, meets with Trayvon Martin's family in Chicago

On a day packed with fundraising events, Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton also used a visit to Chicago on Monday to meet privately with parents of African-American children who have died from gun violence.
According to her campaign, among those Clinton met with were family members of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old killed in 2012 by George Zimmerman in Florida. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, later was acquitted in the death.
Clinton also met with the family of Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old who was killed in a 2012 shooting that involved complaints he was playing rap music too loud at a Florida gas station. The shooter, Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old white man, was sentenced to life in prison.
Clinton's private meeting at a city cafe underscores Democratic efforts to take on issues of racial justice, community policing and sentencing reform — concerns of African-American voters who are a vital demographic for the party's attempts to keep the White House.

Last week, Clinton rolled out her proposed changes in criminal justice sentencing laws, particularly involving incarceration of African-Americans for nonviolent crimes, in a speech at a historically black university in Atlanta and was interrupted by about 10 members of the Black Lives Matter protest organization.

In an interview with NBC News that aired Monday, President Barack Obama said he hoped his successor also would take up the cause of racial justice.
"I am very proud that my presidency can help to galvanize and mobilize America on behalf of issues of racial disparity and racial justice," he said.
"But, I do so hoping that my successor, who's not African-American, if he or she is not, that they'll be just as concerned as I am because this is part of what it means to perfect our union," he said.
Obama came to his hometown last week and discussed the subject before the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention at McCormick Place. On Monday, Obama was at Rutgers University in New Jersey to continue the discussion about re-integrating nonviolent offenders into society.
It also was a topic discussed Monday in Chicago with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro at a Northwestern University forum. Castro, who is backing Clinton, is a former mayor of San Antonio and has been frequently mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate.
Clinton's meeting with families came in the midst of a whirlwind Monday of fundraisers in the Chicago area that marked her fourth trip to her birth city to raise thousands of dollars for her campaign.
She began the day with a reception at the Gold Coast home of Invenergy LLC CEO Michael Polsky and his wife, Tanya, a couple who also have played a major role in Obama fundraising.
Clinton followed that event with a fundraising "conversation" with supportive members of Chicago's legal community at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. She was introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who endorsed her campaign in May before she even officially became a candidate.
She was scheduled to close out the fundraising in Evanston at the home of Eric Janssen, president of Chicago-based Chicago Real Estate Resources Inc. Janssen has been a reliable Democratic donor, giving $104,180 to federal candidates since 2007, when he gave Clinton $2,300 in her unsuccessful presidential bid against Obama.
Hosts of the event included longtime national Democratic donor Fred Eychaner, Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, according to an invitation.
Tickets for all events started at $2,700 with perks for those who bundle $27,000.

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Four US Senators, Mayors and Cops 'Outed' as KKK by Anonymous

The mayor of Lexington, Ky., says he's not a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Anonymous postings saying otherwise are "false, insulting and ridiculous," Jim Gray said in a statement on Monday.
Gray, the city's Democratic mayor, was responding to the release of names of purported KKK members by someone claiming to be with the hacktivist group Anonymous.
"I have never had any relationship of any kind with the KKK. I am opposed to everything it stands for. I have no idea where this information came from, but wherever it came from, it is wrong," Gray said.
Others also named began to take to Twitter Monday to deny they were members. The postings came from someone using the Twitter handle TheAnonMessage who claimed to represent the group Anonymous. That global online activist network said last week it would expose Ku Klux Klan members and publish personal details about alleged KKK adherents.
The murky world of online activists was in full display later in Monday, when another person or group that says it's affiliated with Anonymous — Operation KKK — posted that it had not released any information and implied that to do so was reckless.
The data dump began to hit PasteBin, a site used to share and store text and computer code, on Sunday evening.
As of Monday morning there had been four listings, including 57 phone numbers and 23 email addresses. Some also included spouses of the supposed KKK members.
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., whose name appeared on one list, tweeted Monday that he was in no way involved with the KKK.
The Ku Klux Klan  was founded after the Civil War by former Confederate soldiers to fight against the reforms imposed by the North during Reconstruction. It had a huge national resurgence in the 1920s on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, largely fueled by bigotry against Jews, Catholics and blacks.
The Klan gained prominence again in the 1950s and 1960s, infamously employing murder and terror in its efforts to counter the Civil Rights movement. Since then, the KKK, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as as "American racist terrorist organization," has been weakened and now exists as a loose grouping of individual chapters, still espousing a doctrine of racial hatred.
Anonymous claimed it would reveal the identity of 1,000 KKK members after gaining the information through a compromised Twitter account associated with the group.
Anonymous also is promising to unleash a social media campaign against the KKK on Nov. 4, using the hashtag #HoodsOff.
As detailed in a news release from the group, the event is timed to the first anniversary of the grand jury decision not to prosecute Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014.
"This is just the beginning," read a news release issued by Anonymous Sunday.

More questions raised as US has boots on ground in Syria

By Liu Zhun 

After years of rejecting to put "boots on the ground" to combat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, US President Barack Obama compromised his commitment on Friday. The administration is set to deploy a small team of less than 50 special operations forces to the Kurdish-controlled region in northern Syria. Although White House officials have clarified that these troops are stationed in a "train, advise and assist mission," the presence of US ground forces in Syria is enough to raise many new questions.

Hardly making a real difference to the local quagmire, the deployment is widely believed in the US to be a major escalation of Washington's military strategy against the IS and the ruling Bashar al-Assad regime. Analysts and the public are worried that the small team might lead to a larger presence of US ground troops on the turbulent turf, where the White House hasn't been able to find a way to fix the previous strategy.

As for other stakeholder in the region, Russia soon expressed its discontent over Obama's decision.

The bone of contention rests on whether it will herald a greater involvement by the US in the Syrian crisis, intertwined by major-power rivalry, a civil war and terrorism. Since Moscow's military intervention against the IS in late September, the regional situation has met an obvious transformation, which is heading to a reshuffle of the power structure.

The US has found itself increasingly mired in a dilemma. On the one hand, Washington is relieved that Russia's air raids, accompanied by Syrian ground forces, have hammered the IS, a common enemy that still rose like wildfire when Washington led the campaign to wipe it out. On the other hand, with Russia's support, the Assad regime is gaining the upper hand in the long-standing civil war, and this is the least result the US expects.

Washington seems to be recalibrating its policy to find prospects for interaction with other stakeholders. For example, it finally nodded on Friday at Iran's involvement in the international talks on Syria, despite years of opposing Tehran's role in efforts to bring the Syrian civil war to an end. The small deployment of troops - not in a combat role - might be following the same trend to sound out other stakeholders' reaction.

Given Washington's failed mission previously, the effectiveness of the new military strategy is naturally in doubt, as well as its sincerity in reinstalling stability in Syria. In any event, Syria may continue to be a pit for activists, opportunists and major powers. A long-term feasible solution is still out of sight at the moment.

Russian NATO envoy says there are conditions for close Russia-West cooperation in Syria

Relations between Russia and NATO will be among the focal points at NATO’s summit in Warsaw in July 2016.
The Vienna talks on Syria have created prerequisites for closer cooperation between Russia and the Western coalition on the ground, Russia’s Permanent Representative at NATO Alexander Grushko said on Monday.
"The meeting in Vienna was a very big step forward… I think today objective conditions are being formed to unite in some format on the ground," he said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 television channel.
He stressed that NATO was not involved in the Syrian conflict in any way. "All NATO countries are participating in the US-led coalition individually," Grushko said. "From the formal point of view, NATO’s role is to ensure additional protection to Turkey from the so-called missile threats from Syria." Apart from that, in his words, the alliance was training law enforces in a number of countries of the region.

Ties with Russia to be top focus at NATO summit in Warsaw

The diplomat said relations between Russia and NATO will be among the focal points at NATO’s summit in Warsaw in July 2016.
"Relations with Russia and the way NATO will be positioning itself towards out country will be among the focal points," he said, noting that NATO was not interested in finding itself "in a spiral that will lead to a new Cold War."
"The Alliance is far from homogeneous. It is absolutely obvious, and this can be seen in many speeches and media reports, in analytical materials - there is a number of countries that proceed from the fact that it is impossible to build a full-value security system that would be more adequate without having Russia as a partner," Grushko said.

Russia - Carrier’s blaming external influence for A321 crash premature — authority

A lot of work is in store to examine in detail airplane components, decode and analyze data of flight recorders, the head of the Rosaviatsia Federal Air Transport Agency says

Statements of Kogalymavia carrier about external influence on the Airbus A321 that crashed in Sinai on Saturday are premature and unfounded, the head of the Rosaviatsia Federal Air Transport Agency, Alexander Neradko, told Rossiya 24 television on Monday.

"This statement is premature and is not founded on any real facts," he said. "A lot of work is in store to examine in detail airplane components, decode and analyze data of flight recorders. It is premature and there are no grounds for drawing any conclusions about the reason of plane’s disintegrating in mid-air," he said.

Kogalymavia Flight 9268 came down about half-an-hour after leaving the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for the Russian city of St. Petersburg. The disaster site is 100 kilometres south of the administrative center of North Sinai Governorate, the city of Al-Arish. All 224 aboard the plane perished.

Video - Russia’s deadliest-ever air crash: Personal stories behind Metrojet 7K9268 tragedy

Video - EXCLUSIVE: RT crew at crash site in Sinai Peninsula w/ Russian, Egyptian investigators

Pashto Music Video - RASHA GULI RASHA

په خېبر کې له خېبر پښتونخوا سره د یوځای کېدو جرګه

د اتوار په ورځ د خېبر ایجنسۍ په جمرود شاه کس سیمه کې د ( قبایلو حقوق کانفرنس) جرګه کې له فاټا د قامي اسمبلۍ غړیو، د سیاسي ګوندونو استازیو، مشرانو او وکیلانو د پاکستان په قامي اسمبلۍ کې د فاټا ایني حیثت بدلولو لپاره د وړاندې کړل شوې مسودې ملاتړ او اېف سي ار نظام ختمولو غوښتنه وکړه. په جرګه کې دا اعلان هم وشو چې به د روانې میاشتې پر شپاړلسمه نېټه په اسلام اباد کې به هم د پارلیمان مخې ته د خپلو غوښتنو لپاره راټولېږي. یاده دې وی چې څه موده مخکې د قبایلی سیمو د پارلیمان غړو د پاکستان قامي اسمبلې په سیکریټرېټ کې د فاټا اییني حیثیت بدلولو لپاره یو بل وړاندې کړی چې موخه یې قبایلي سیمې په خېبر پښتونخوا صوبه کې ورګډول دي. خو بیا د قبایلی سیمو نور پخواني پارلماني غړي او قومي مشران د بل مخالفت کوي او ځان ته د یوې بېلې صوبې یا ازاد کونسل غوښتنه کوي. له خېبره د فرهاد شینواري ویډيو

Video - Report - Disturbing Footage Emerges Of 'Taliban' Stoning In Afghanistan

By Abdul Qadir Ghafoori and Frud Bezhan
RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan has obtained video footage from an eyewitness that appears to show the brutal stoning last week of a 19-year-old Afghan woman in the central province of Ghor.
The two-minute clip shows a group of men throwing stones with increasing intensity at a covered individual crammed in a hole in the ground. A crowd of onlookers are seen capturing the incident on their mobile phones and a woman's pitiful cries can plainly be heard.Local official Mohammad Zaman Azimi, in a previous report, blamed Taliban militants for the execution.
Azimi said the woman, identified as 19-year-old Rokhshana, was stoned to death after being accused of having premarital sex with her fiance, a 23-year-old man named Mohammad Gul, who was reportedly lashed.
It was unclear why the young woman would have received a more severe punishment, although Taliban and religious courts in the past have been more lenient toward men.Azimi added that the stoning took place in the village of Ghalmin on the outskirts of Firoz Koh, the provincial capital. The couple allegedly had fled their families in a bid to find a place to be married.Unmarried girls in Afghanistan are often restricted to their homes and banned from having contact with men outside their immediate families.
Brutal punishments often await Afghan women and girls who break the social norm.
Death by stoning for convicted adulterers is banned under Afghan law, although offenders face long prison terms. The penal code, originating in 1976, makes no provision for the use of stoning.
Afghanistan's Constitution prescribes that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam" and sometimes appears at odds with more liberal and democratic elements within it.
Capital punishment was widely practiced by the Taliban regime, which ruled much of the country from 1996-2001, when convicted adulterers were routinely shot or stoned in executions conducted in front of large crowds.
In rural areas, where Taliban militants exert considerable influence, some Afghans still turn to Taliban courts for settling disputes, as many view government bodies as corrupt or unreliable. The Taliban courts employ strict interpretations of Shari'a law, which prescribes punishments such as stoning and executions.
In many Taliban-controlled areas, men or women found guilty of having a relationship outside marriage or an extramarital affair are sentenced to death, or in other cases publicly flogged.
Afghan officials often blame the Taliban for such punishments.
Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, there have been sporadic reports of stonings. In 2012, a 22-year-old woman was shot dead for alleged adultery in Parwan Province, just north of the capital, Kabul. Later the same year, a 16-year-old girl in the western city of Herat was flogged and then killed along with her alleged boyfriend. In 2013, there was a government proposal to reintroduce public stoning as punishment for adultery. But the government backed away from the proposal after international condemnation. The abandoned legislation had set the punishment for extramarital sex between unmarried individuals at 100 lashes; sex outside marriage was punished by stoning to death if the adulterer or adulteress was married.
Masooma Anwari, the head of women's affairs in Ghor, expressed grave concern over the situation of women in the province.She said the "incompetence" of the local authorities in governance and security has paved the way for such incidents.The stoning is just the most recent in a string of public punishments in Ghor that have sparked outrage.On August 31, a young man and woman found guilty of adultery were lashed publicly.
Sima Joyenda, Ghor's embattled female governor, came under criticism from rights activists at home and abroad for supporting the sentence. Joyenda, who is under pressure to resign, added that the sentence, which was carried out based on the ruling of a primary court, was in keeping with the law.
"Afghanistan is an Islamic country and Ghor is one of the provinces of Afghanistan, and we cannot disobey what the law of Islam and our constitution says," Ariana News quoted her as saying last month.
Ghor, a mountainous and remote province in the central highlands, is one of the poorest and most unstable areas in the country.
The provincial government's power extends little beyond Firoz Koh. Dozens of illegal, armed groups run by former warlords and militia leaders are active in Ghor, a key transit route for arms and drugs, and the resulting clashes are seen to be the source of much of the violence in the province.

How Islamic State Got a Foothold in Eastern Afghanistan

Members of the Shinwari tribe in the Nangarhar province of Eastern Afghanistan — many of whom are now displaced — opened their homes earlier this year to people they thought were in need.
“At first they came as friends. They had their families and their belongings, and women with them,” said Malik Niyaz, a tribal elder. “They told us they were our brothers, and requested us to give them shelter.”
In local tribal tradition, Niyaz and his people welcomed them into their homes as guests. The Shinwaris also remembered how some of them had been given refuge on the other side of the mountain a couple of decades ago during the war with Russia, and were eager to return the favor.
The foreigners said they belonged to the Orakzai tribe from Tirah Valley and were displaced due to a military operation launched by neighboring Pakistan to clear out militants in the tribal areas of North Waziristan. Many spoke in the Orakzai dialect, according to locals who interacted with them.
Things turn sour 

Within a few months, as the number of displaced families increased, the guests started openly displaying weapons and interfering in the affairs of their hosts.
Niyaz said they started instructing the locals to marry off their young sisters and daughters, and told local women to cover their faces, stay inside the house, or to wear a burqa — a long robe that covers the whole body, including the face and head — in public.
Then one day, they pulled out black flags resembling ones Islamic State (IS) militants use in Iraq and Syria, and declared themselves to be "Islamic State in Khorasan" — a name IS uses for a geographical region that includes Afghanistan.
“They told people to take an oath of allegiance to them. They said they would pay $500-$600 per month as salary,” Niyaz said.
Haji Ghalib, the district governor of Achin, told VOA that captured IS fighters claimed they received anywhere between 30,000 to 100,000 Afghani (approximately $500-$1,700) as salaries and sometimes expenses for the fighters.
He also described some of the weapons captured during clashes with IS militants that included ZQ1s, 82 rockets, rifles, 75 model weapons, RPGs and BM1s.
Dissenters targeted

Locals who did not join them were told to leave the area. Anyone who opposed them was brutally killed.
A propaganda video uploaded on social media by IS Khorasan showed men who had their faces covered with black cloths forcing blindfolded people, including old men, to sit on the ground on top of holes filled with explosives. The video goes on to show the explosion and the aftermath, including ripped up body parts.
Local officials say hundreds of people, mostly tribal elders and members of the Afghan security forces, but also random civilians, have been beheaded by the group. The violence seemed to be aimed at intimidation. The propaganda video included an audio warning in Arabic that was repeated on screen in Urdu language script warning people that if they opposed the group, this would be the result.
Stories of IS brutality started circulating in the area, sometimes taking on mythical character. Hundreds of Shinwari families consisting of thousands of people, fled the area, leaving all of their belongings behind.
Since then, IS has expanded its influence to the surrounding districts and has started to clash with Taliban who previously controlled the areas.
Moves toward Pakistan 

Over the last couple of months, local shepherds, according to tribal elder Niyaz and others, have seen the group bring dozens of horses daily, loaded with weapons, from the Pakistani side of the border.
Zabihhullah Zmaray, a member of the Nangarhar Provincial Council, says foreign fighters, including Arabs and Chechens, also are part of the group.
Afghan security forces have carried out some operations against them and have managed to successfully clear out parts of some districts, but have so far not been able to uproot the group. Large areas of Achin district, particularly the Mamand and Pekha valleys, are still under IS control. The group has managed to use the areas as safe havens to plan and launch attacks elsewhere in the province.
The government has promised a full-scale operation against the violent group, but increased Taliban activities elsewhere in the country have so far kept it pre-occupied.

Watchdog: U.S. Military blew $43M on useless gas station in Afghanistan

U.S. taxpayers footed the bill for a $43 million natural-gas filling station in Afghanistan, a boondoggle that should have cost $500,000 and has virtually no value to average Afghans, the government watchdog for reconstruction in Afghanistan announced Monday.
A Pentagon task force awarded a $3 million contract to build the station in Sheberghan, Afghanistan, but ended up spending $12 million in construction costs and $30 million in "overhead" between 2011 and 2014, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found. Meanwhile, similar gas station was built in neighboring Pakistan cost $500,000.
"It's hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money than building an alternative fuel station in a war-torn country that costs 8,000% more than it should, and is too dangerous for a watchdog to verify whether it is even operational," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a statement. "Perhaps equally outrageous however, is that the Pentagon has apparently shirked its responsibility to fully account for the taxpayer money that's been wasted — an unacceptable lack of transparency that I'll be thoroughly investigating."
The compressed-natural gas station was designed to show the viability of tapping the country's natural gas reserves. But the inspector general determined that Pentagon's Task Force for Stability and Business Operations failed to conduct a feasibility study before launching the project.
If they had, the inspector general noted in his report, the Pentagon would have found that it would have little value for most Afghans. The Pentagon's own contractor stated that conversion to compressed natural gas costs $700 per car in Afghanistan. The average annual income there is $690.
In a letter to the inspector general, the Pentagon noted that it had shuttered the task force earlier this year and would try to find officials to answer questions. The task force had been given $800 million to help foster private investment in Afghanistan.
"As recently as October 13, 2015, SIGAR contacted (the Department of Defense) to speak to these unnamed employees, but DoD again failed to identify anyone," according to the inspector general's report.

Lahore: The Orange Line Project posing threat to property of Saint Andrew’s Church

The Orange Line, a transportation project in Lahore is posing threats to a church and heritage sites.
Lahore’s Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church which is beside the GPO in jeopardy because of the Orange Line Project. Government officials arrived at the church few days ago and began measuring the church without permission or prior information of the church administration.
Pastor Hanook Haque is in charge of the Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, even had no information about the measurements taken by the government officials. The officials arrived in his absence, one of the church official Jamshaid Rehmat Ullah said, “People came and marked the church in Haque’s absence. We do not even know which portion will be taken or which area they are considering. Our worship will be affected because the entire premises is used for church activities.”

As a result, when Pastor Hanook Haque approached the concerned authorities and tried to get some information regarding the markings done at the church site, however, Pastor Hanook was denied information of any sort.
The church is a private property, and is owned by the Presbyterian Church United States of America. The Presbyterian Church is also engaged in health and education projects in Pakistan. The church which is situated on Nabha Road, is entirely a private property and the church administartion is not willing to accept any compensation amount for the chruch property.

“It’s a private property; even if we are approached and offered compensation we don’t want it. Even if they offer us 50 billion Rupees we will still say no. We are only here to worship,” Jamshaid Rehmatullah said resolutely.

The church has been standing since 1860. Whereas, in accordance with the Antiquities Act, 1975, any building which predates May 1875 is referred to as ancient- seeing this church has the status of ancient and is a heritage of the city. Moreover, this project if completed according to its orif=ginal plan will pose a great threat to the security of the church. It is the church lawn, which might fall into the project’s line.

Pastor Hanook Haque says, “You have the AG office here and the Supreme Court is right next door and we get security because of them. But if they start constructions and break apart the entire front portion and our lawn, we will be completely exposed.

We have been maintaining this building, this heritage from our own personal donations. We get nothing from the government or anyone else. Our community donations from our members go into the maintenance of this place. When we run short of money we hold funfairs and activities, in the very lawn they have marked!”

Apart from Saint Andrew’s Church which is an ancient heritage, the ancient structures of the city like the Shalamar Garden, GOP, Chauburji,

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Pakistan earthquake causes cracks in World Heritage sites

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake that rocked Pakistan last week caused cracks in the country’s World Heritage sites of Takht-i-Bahi and Jaulian as well as in museums and artefacts of Gandhara Civilization, officials said. The Takht-i-Bahi, a Parthian archaeological site in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and Jaulian ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery in Haripur district developed cracks following the October 26 earthquake, Dawn online reported.
“The quake caused a lot of damage to the sites and artefacts. After assessment, we would compile a complete report about it,” said Abdul Samad, director of archaeology and museums of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The quake, which also hit India and Afghanistan, killed at least 250 people in Pakistan and damaged properties. ”In Takht-i-Bahi a wall has collapsed and cracks in structure are visible now,” said Samad.
“The inner chamber developed cracks. The wall of the main assembly hall has leaned on one side,” an eyewitness said. Jamal Garhi, a Buddhist site, which was on tentative list of World Heritage, was the worst affected as the walls have collapsed, Samad said. Sharing initial reports of the damage compiled by the archaeology department, he said teams were sent out to the sites to assess the damage after the quake. The site of Jamal Garhi, discovered by Sir Alexander Cunningham in 1848, is located in Mardan district. Jaulian, another World Heritage site in Khanpur city of Punjab province, was also affected by the quake. The tremor damaged a wall of the monastery and chapel.
“I know the damages are huge and even government would not be able to save these sites on its own,” Samad said, pointing out how little was spent on archaeology in Pakistan. Chitral museum was also affected by the earthquake as its showcases toppled over and antiques were broken. One of its walls also collapsed. The walls of Dir and Swat museums also developed cracks and the showcases broke.
“In historic Peshawar museum, a gallery has been affected by the tremor,” said Samad.  Peshawar museum, having a rich and rare collection of Gandhara Civilization, has been established in an old British-era Victorian style building. Despite having rich archeological sites and artefacts including rare statues of the Buddha, there is no earthquake resistant museum or gallery in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Gor Khattree, another important site in the middle of Peshawar city, has also been damaged.

Bangladesh: Bloggers' Murders Shaking Country’s Secular Foundation

The killing of bloggers and tourists in Dhaka — and the latest string of bombings — has instilled fear among young, progressive writers in Bangladesh.

DHAKA — Sitting outside a tea shop in Dhaka on a recent evening, Baki Billah, a soft-spoken 36-year-old blogger, glanced from table to table to see if anyone was watching him. “Most of the time now, I stay at home,” he said.

In February, his friend and fellow blogger Avijit Roy, a U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin, was hacked to death by Islamist extremists a few blocks away. Roy and his wife were riding home from a book fair when men pulled them out of their rickshaw. Roy was slashed three times on the side of his head. His wife, who survived, was left covered in blood.

Since the start of the year, Islamist fundamentalists have killed at least four secular bloggers in Bangladesh. They have also issued death threats to other bloggers. Dozens more have been named on “hit lists” circulated by extremist groups feared to be gaining ground. So, Billah has been taking different routes to work. Some of his friends have even bought guard dogs.

Since the murders started, many have left the country, or stopped writing. “Everybody got scared: What should I write? What should I not?” he said.

Even as bloggers like Billah continue to battle extremism online, a new series of targeted murders — including the bombings this past weekend in Dhaka — has threatened to upset Bangladesh’s delicate balance between religion and secularism.

Details were emerging Saturday of another attack on a publisher and two writers at a publishing house in Dhaka. Three of them were rushed to hospital with stab wounds, but details of their conditions were not immediately available. Local media identified one of the victims as Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, a close friend of slain blogger Avijit Roy. In a separate incident on Saturday, Dhaka Tribune reported that Faisal Arefin Dipan, the publisher of Roy’s book, was also slaughtered to death.

Last week, three bombs ripped through Dhaka’s old quarter during a procession marking the Shiite holiday of Ashura. A 14-year-old boy was killed and more than 100 wounded. Another man died in hospital on Thursday. It’s the first time that Shiite Muslims have been targeted in Bangladesh.

The attack, which ISIS claimed responsibility for, comes almost exactly a month after a string of attacks on foreign nationals.

On Sept. 28, an Italian aid worker was shot dead while jogging in the diplomatic area of Dhaka. A few days later, a Japanese man was killed in Rangpur district, in northern Bangladesh. Groups affiliated with ISIS claimed responsibility for both attacks, saying “citizens of crusader nations” would not be safe in Muslim lands.

Dhaka has responded with panic. Western embassies have warned of further threats to foreigners. U.S. diplomats have been banned from attending gatherings at international hotels. Most recently, the Australian cricket team pulled out of a planned tour.

While the Bangladeshi government has sought to play down international terror links, experts on the country’s politics say the string of killings indicates a growing extremist threat.

“These attacks on foreign nationals are really ominous and disconcerting, to say the least,” Ali Riaz, a Bangladesh-born political scientist and writer, said in an email.

“We have been witnessing the deterioration of law and order and regrouping of local militant groups for quite some time. These incidents have demonstrated that it has reached a serious level.”

In recent years, Islamist militancy has been relatively well-contained in Bangladesh, the world’s third-largest Muslim-majority nation. Between 2009 and 2013, the government detained hundreds of militant leaders and their foot soldiers, even executing some of them.

In fact, Bangladesh’s anti-terrorism efforts have been seen as so effective that the U.S. State Department has released reports congratulating the government on its efforts. But security analysts say growing intolerance on both sides of the political divide has failed to stamp out extremism, instead pushing fringe organizations to the fore.

“It is difficult to pigeonhole the group that the perpetrators belong to but the ideological narrative is clear, which is both violently anti-secular and anti-Western,” said Saijan M. Gohel, international security director for the Asia-Pacific Foundation, in an email.

The overcrowded list of extremist entities in Bangladesh includes al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent, which was launched last year by the group’s new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and has claimed responsibility for some of the bloggers’ murders and identified Bangladesh as a major center for its activities.

And, despite the government’s insistence that ISIS doesn’t exist in Bangladesh, police this year detained several suspected sympathizers.

“ISIS is as much a brand as it is a terrorist group,” said Gohel. “In the last 15 months, there have been a number of lone-wolf plots globally orchestrated by people who have no direct connection to ISIS but are bonded by the ideology and doctrine.”

The once-little-known local outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which is now linked to the killing of the bloggers, is reported to have ties to both ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Last week, ABT sent threatening emails to news outlets in Dhaka instructing editors to fire their female staffers — under some strict interpretations of Islam, women are not allowed to work — and forbid reporting on atheist bloggers.