PM announces March 30 half working day

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza GilaniISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday announced Wednesday (March 30) half working day in lieu of Pakistan-India World Cup semi-final.

All the offices will close at 12:00 noon on Wednesday so that the people could watch Pakistan-India cricket match, said a press release issued here from Prime Minister House.

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani is visiting India on Wednesday at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh to watch the biggest clash of the ICC world cup at Mohali, between India and Pakistan.

All the things will come to a standstill at 2:30 pm in both the countries when the semi-final between the two arch rivals will start at Mohali.

Myanmar quake death toll hits 75

earthquake

The death toll from a strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake that jolted Myanmar has risen to 75 with one woman killed in neighboring Thailand.

Officials say there are fears that the death toll could further increase as remote areas remain cut off.

An area close to Myanmar’s borders with Thailand and Laos is believed to be the epicenter of the strong quake.

So far, six large aftershocks have been registered following the initial quake late on Thursday.

Dozens of people have been wounded and more than 200 buildings have collapsed.

The military and rescue teams are struggling to reach affected areas, but roads are still closed.

The quake was felt as far away as the Thai capital Bangkok, and in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi as well as southwest China.

Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs said in a statement Friday that the earthquake affected more than 6,500 people in southwest Yunnan Province.

Karzai details Afghans security takeover

President Karzai (L) presents a sword to a graduating officer at the National Military Academy in Kabul on March 22, 2011.

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai says Afghan soldiers and police will take over security from US-led foreign forces in several parts of the country in July.

In a speech in Kabul, Karzai said the provincial capitals of Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan, Herat in the west, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and Mehterlam in the east are considered for transition.

Karzai also added some parts of Kabul, Bamiyan and Panjshir provinces are also on the transition list.

“The people of Afghanistan don’t want that foreigners take responsibility for security any more,” Karzai told the National Military Academy in Kabul on Tuesday.

“Transition means taking responsibility for both security and development,” the president added.

The remarks come as insecurity is on the rise across the country despite the presence of over 150,000 US-led forces there.

NATO had earlier said it would start handing over security control to Afghan forces from the beginning of 2011. The Western military alliance said it planned to complete the transition by the end of 2014.

But senior US and NATO officials have signaled that foreign troops will remain in the country beyond 2014.

Washington says the transition does not mean that Afghan forces will be in charge everywhere.

US President Barack Obama has promised to keep American forces in Afghanistan even after other Western countries withdraw their troops.

This is while Obama had pledged a major drawdown from Afghanistan by July 2011. Experts have described the new contradictory transition dates as a devastating truth for Americans.

Thousands of Afghans have so far lost their lives due to military operations by foreign troops since the 2001 US-led invasion.

Three ‘target killers’ belong to Langra group held: CCPO

Saud Mirza-CCPO of KarachiKARACHI: Karachi police claimed to have arrested three target killers and recovered illegal weapons and drugs from their possession.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Saud Mirza addressing a press conference at CCPO Office here on Monday said that the police had given the task to Crime Investigation Department of Sindh police to arrest the target killers.

“SSP CID Sindh Mohammad Fayaz with a police party after encounter arrested three target killers belonged to Mudassir Langra alias Chief group, while their three others aides managed to escape”.

He said the accused were identified as Rao Mohammad Arasto alias Grenade son of Hyder, Muhammad Nadeem Khan alias Rickshaw son of Abdul Aziz Khan, and Baber Ali son of Sabir Ali.

Saud Mirzas said that the accused were involved in target killings, robberies, kidnapping for ransom, police encounters, drug peddling and in many blasts. They also confessed to rape women on gunpoint.

The police recovered two Kalashnikovs, two hand grenade and two rifles from the arrested accused.

CCPO informed that the accused were involved in more than 30 killings, including killings of political activists.

To a question CPO said that the police would continue to take action against the target killers and other criminals.

Japan death, missing toll over 12, 000

Rescue workers look for more bodies from the rubble from a village destroyed by the devastating earthquake, fires and tsunami in Miyagi Prefecture

Latest figures show that the official toll of the dead and missing from Japan’s devastating earthquake and Tsunami has exceeded 12,000.

Japan’s National Police Agency said Wednesday that 4,255 people have been killed in 12 prefectures while 8,194 people remain unaccounted for in six prefectures, Kyodo News reports.

Police say the death toll is expected to exceed 10, 000 in Miyagi Prefecture –one of the hardest-hit regions– alone.

Sources also say Friday’s Tsunami and earthquake wounded nearly 2,000 people.

Meanwhile, authorities are struggling to fix the damaged safety systems of several reactors at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant. Radiation levels around the site have risen considerably and are now reported as harmful to human health.

Another strong six-magnitude earthquake has struck in the pacific off Japan’s Chiba Prefecture, which is located east of the capital Tokyo, on Wednesday.

No tsunami warning has been issued but Japan’s Meteorological Agency has warned of a possible change in sea levels.

The quake shook buildings in Japan’s capital city. Strong aftershocks continue to rock Japan after Friday’s devastating nine-magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami.

Jailed CIA agent let go by Pakistan

CIA contractor Raymond Davis (R) surrounded by Pakistani policemen in Lahore

Reports say a court in Pakistan has freed a CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was charged with killing two Pakistani men in the eastern city of Lahore.

Davis has now left Lahore for the US with six other American officials on a special flight.

His release comes after he paid the blood money or compensation in line with Sharia law. Officials say family members of the slain men appeared in court and confirmed that they had pardoned Davis.

However, there are reports that they were pressured by police into signing the agreement, a Press TV correspondent says.

A lawyer representing the family of one of those killed says the “blood money” deal was made without his knowledge.

“I was not allowed to participate in the proceedings of the case… and could not see or approach my clients,” state-run BBC quoted Lawyer Asad Manzoor Butt as saying

“I and my associate were kept under forced detention for four hours,” he said.

“If my clients have indeed signed a blood money deal, then this has been done behind my back and I don’t know anything about it.”

The court had indicted Davis on two counts of murder.

In January, Davis shot dead two Pakistani men. Davis claims it was an act of self-defense, but he has failed to convince the court.

Investigators charge that the killings were deliberate.

A third Pakistani was killed when a US diplomatic vehicle ran him over while rushing to Davis’ aid.

The case has soured relations between Islamabad and Washington since January.

The death of the three Pakistanis has intensified anti-US sentiments in Pakistan.

North Korea agrees to six-party talks

Russia's chief nuclear envoy Alexei Borodavkin (L)

North Korea says it is willing to discuss its uranium enrichment program at nuclear disarmament talks that have been stalled for nearly two years.

The North’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Pyongyang was ready for the six-party negotiations with no preconditions, the official Korean Central News Agency reported

“(North Korea) is willing to come to the six-party talks unconditionally,” the statement read.

The developments come after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin recently held meetings with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun in Pyongyang.

North Korea left the talks in April 2009 after the United Nations imposed tougher sanctions for conducting nuclear and missile tests.

The six-way negotiations include Russia, China, the United States, Japan, South Korea and North Korea.

Both China and the US have said the first step toward the resumption of six-party talks must be inter-Korean dialog.

Tensions have been running high on the Korean Peninsula since November when an exchange of artillery fire left four South Koreans dead on a border island.

The North accuses US President Barack Obama of plotting with regional allies to topple the country’s government, insisting that its nuclear program is a deterrent against US forces in the region.

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