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Survivors blame weak security for Mastung attack

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MASTUNG, Pakistan: A suicide attack on an election rally in southwestern city of Mastung, Balochistan, has taken 129 lives, government officials have confirmed, as Over 200 people still fight for their lives.

A suicide attakcer struck an election rally of Nawabzada Siraj Raisani of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP,) a newly formed political group, in the southwestern town of Drigarh, about 35km south of Balochistan’s provincial capital Quetta, on Friday afternoon. The explosion hit a packed crowd only moments after the Raisani was taking the stage.

Raisani, who was running for a provincial assembly seat in Pakistan’s general election later this month, was killed, his brother Lashkari Raisani told reporters.

At Quetta’s main civil hospital, where at least 73 bodies of those killed were transported after the attack, a crowd of people at the morgue waited to receive the bodies of relatives killed in the blast.

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Survivors mourned the death of relatives who were killed in the attack [Naseer Ahmed/Reuters]

“We are still treating 110 of the wounded who were brought here,” said hospital official Shamim Akhtar. “Those who were seriously wounded have already been operated upon.”

Both the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also knows as Islamic State, ISIS, and Da’ish) and a faction of Pakistan Taliban have claimed responsibility of the deadly attack in separate statements to the press.

Survivors of the devastating attack blame the security authorities for failing to provide adequate security. Many survivors and next to kin have come forward to announce their dissatisfaction with the security agencies.

One survivor Bangul Khan, who is being treated for his injuries in Quetta’s Civil Hospital, was meters away when the explosion occurred. “I was standing on the stage,” he said, “Siraj came on stage … and when he started speaking, the explosion occurred. I don’t know what happened after that.”

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Supporters of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa Islamic organisation offered funeral prayers in absentia for the victims of Friday’s suicide attack [Faisal Mahmood/Reuters]

Khan had shrapnel from the suicide blast lodged in his leg and shoulder. At least six of his relatives were killed in the attack.

“There was no security from the government there. There were roughly 60 or 70 of [Siraj Raisani’s] personal security, one of them you can see lying here,” he says as he gestures to a nearby bed.

There was no security, no checking. People were coming and going as they pleased … there were security personnel there, but they were not checking anyone.

Another survivor Israrullah, wounded in the neck and on his arms, says he was dragged to the political rally by his uncle. “I was right at the back, and the explosion took place in the centre,” he told the media. “There were a lot of people wounded, and I ran away. There were a lot of people killed, too, [because] the blast occurred right in the middle of the crowd.”

Jameel Ahmed, Israrullah’s uncle, was among the scores of people killed.

“There was no security, no checking. People were coming and going as they pleased … there were security personnel there, but they were not checking anyone,” Israrullah added.

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Independence Day: Sale of Kashmiri flags on the rise

Sale of Kashmiri flags, badges and other decoration items have gained impetus ahead of Independence Day after the federal government had announced to observe August 14 as Kashmir Solidarity Day.

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MUZAFFARABAD, Azad Kashmir/KARACHI, Pakistan: Sale of Kashmiri flags, badges and other decoration items have gained impetus ahead of Independence Day after the federal government had announced to observe August 14 as Kashmir Solidarity Day, ARY News reported on Thursday.

As marking of 73rd Independence Day is right around the corner, the preparations have gained momentum as a huge rush of people were seen at different stalls of Kashmiri flags, national flags buntings, badges, set up by vendors in different areas of Karachi.

READ MORE: Top 10 schools of Pakistan (2018-19)

All Karachi Tajir Ittehad Chairman Ateeq Meer said that people are very enthusiastic and passionate for purchasing celebratory items to mark Independence Day.

It must be noted that government has decided to observe Independence Day; 14 August, as Kashmir Solidarity Day and 15th of this month as Black Day to express harmony and solidarity with Kashmiris in their recent plight caused by the Indian government.

The national flag will fly half-mast on 15th of this month. A notification to this effect has been issued by the Ministry of Interior.

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Pakistan News

Maryam’s interview “stopped forcefully:” Nadeem Malik

An interview of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a vice president of the PML-N, was “forcefully” taken off air soon after it was run, it was reported on Thursday.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: An interview of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif was taken off air forcefully seconds after it started.

“Just came to know Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s interview has been stopped forcefully just [a] few minutes after it started live,” tweeted show host Nadeem Malik.

Hum News, the channel on which the interview was aired for a few brief moments, released a statement shortly after the incident, saying: “Hum News believes in a free and responsible media. Protecting freedom of expression is one of our core values. At the same time, we stand for the respect and dignity of [the] judiciary in line with our ethical values and the Constitution.”

The development comes days after AbbTakk TV24 News, and Capital TV all had their broadcasts cut after screening a press conference by Maryam Nawaz.

Authorities say the three channels were unavailable due to “technical issues”, but Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a global media watchdog, described the outage as an act of “brazen censorship”.

It slammed the local authorities over the removal of three television channels from the country’s airwaves, saying the move was “indicative of disturbing dictatorial tendencies” as pressure mounts on journalists in Pakistan.

READ MORE: Arrest me if you want to, I won’t run away like your master Musharraf: Hamid Mir

Maryam is the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — who is currently behind bars for corruption — and a recent press conference she hosted featured a judge reportedly claiming he had been blackmailed into convicting the former premier.

The move came as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration vowed to block any media coverage and interviews of politicians “who are convicts and under trial”.

Earlier this month, Geo News TV abruptly took an interview with former president Asif Ali Zardari off air shortly after it began.

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Several dead and dozens injured in Pakistan train collision

A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.

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RAHIM YAR KHAN, Pakistan: A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.

The incident on Thursday took place at the Walhar railway station, located about 35km south of Rahim Yar Khan.

“The Akbar Express [passenger train] going from Bahawalpur to Quetta hit a freight train that was parked there at 7.40am,” a local police official told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

Senior police official Umar Salamat told local media the collision took place because the passenger train was diverted onto the incorrect track at the station, hitting the parked freight train.

Rescue operations were under way at the collision site, with workers using equipment to get to some of those trapped in the train wreckage, local media reported.

The injured were taken to a nearby government hospital and to a more advanced facility in Rahim Yar Khan, hospital officials said.

Nine of the dead were taken to the government hospital, with more than 60 people injured in the wreck also treated there, Liaquat Chohan, a senior hospital official, told Al Jazeera.

“The injuries were of multiple types – many had fractures, others had bleeding wounds. Some were crushed under objects,” he said.

At least one dead body was also taken to the Sheikh Zayed hospital in Rahim Yar Khan, where 11 of those wounded in the accident were being treated, hospital official Ilyas Ahmer told Al Jazeera.

“One person’s leg was cut off [in the collision], and another is having serious chest surgery,” he said.

‘Emergency steps’

Pakistan’s aging railway network carries both passengers and goods across the country, but suffers periodic derailments and other accidents due to aging infrastructure.

A major Chinese investment in the country is seeking to upgrade the main railway line that connects the length of the country, raising speeds and safety standards.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his condolences for those who were killed and injured, and ordered Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad to speed up work on the country’s rail infrastructure.

“Have asked Railways Minister to take emergency steps to counter decades of neglect of railway infrastructure & ensure safety standards,” Khan tweeted after the accident.

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