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Pakistan Army kills Mastung attack mastermind

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QUETTA, Pakistan: Pakistani security forces on Friday (Jul 20) killed the mastermind of the country’s worst ever suicide bombing in an early morning shootout in the southwest province of Balochistan, officials said.

The operation was carried out on a intelligence tip off about the presence of an Islamic State (IS) operative identified as Hidayat Ullah in a house in Darenjo village of Qalat district in the restive province.

“The Frontier Corps (FC) raided the house and killed Hidayat Ullah after a strong resistance from him,” Qaisar Khan, a senior administration official in Qalat, told AFP.

A senior FC official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP Ullah was facilitator of Hafeez Nawaz, who carried out the suicide bombing last week which killed at least 149 people.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack at an election rally in Balochistan’s Mastung district.

Provincial authorities identified the bomber as Nawaz, a Pakistani national who stayed in Afghanistan and “waged jihad” against international troops before carrying out the suicide attack in Mastung.

A senior administration official in Mastung district Qaim Lashari also confirmed the Qalat raid.

“Hidayat Ullah led a group of IS operatives, who are present in different areas of Balochistan, and we hope to track them down pretty soon,” the official added.

News of Ullah’s death coincided with a small explosion in Chaman district bordering Afghanistan which wounded four people.

The bomb planted on a motorbike apparently targeted an FC vehicle and went off seconds after it passed by.

Oil and gas-rich Balochistan is regularly hit by homegrown militancy and sectarian violence.

Violence in Pakistan has however dropped significantly since the country’s deadliest-ever militant attack, an assault on a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2014 that killed more than 150 people, most of them children.

Pakistan’s military intensified operations against militants in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan in the wake of that attack, leading to dramatic security improvements.

But analysts have long warned that Pakistan is not tackling the root causes of extremism, and that militants retain the ability to carry out spectacular attacks like the Mastung blast.

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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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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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