Srinagar, Jun 10 (AP/UNB) — A court on Monday sentenced three Hindu men, including a police officer, to life imprisonment for kidnapping, raping and murdering an 8-year-old Muslim girl in Indian-controlled Kashmir, in a case that has exacerbated tensions in the disputed region.
Judge Tejwinder Singh sentenced three other policemen to five years in prison for destroying evidence, prosecutor Santokh Singh told reporters. The judge acquitted another defendant due to insufficient evidence.
An eighth suspect, a minor, will be tried separately by a juvenile court, Santokh Singh said.
The girl, who was a member of a nomadic tribe, was grazing her family's ponies in the forests of the Himalayan foothills when she was kidnapped in January 2018. Her mutilated body was found in the woods a week later.
The case sparked protests across Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region where rebels have been fighting for years for independence or unification with Pakistan and there is great distrust of the government.
Singh said prosecutors plan to appeal to a higher court and seek the death penalty for the three defendants who received life sentences.
Thousands of members of a radical Hindu group had demanded the release of the defendants, insisting they were innocent.
The trial was shifted to Pathankot, a town in neighboring Punjab state, following accusations that local Hindu leaders and politicians were trying to block the investigation.
The prosecution said the girl was raped in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been kept sedated for four days, and was then bludgeoned to death.
The girl's father, Mohammed Akhtar, told The Associated Press by phone that the men should be "punished speedily, not just convicted."
"Our family has gone through hell," he said. "Our hearts are bleeding. These beasts should be hanged."
India has been shaken by a series of sexual assaults in recent years, including the gang rape and murder of a student on a New Delhi bus in 2012. That attack galvanized a country where widespread violence against women had long been quietly accepted.
While the government has passed a series of laws increasing punishment for rape, it's rare for more than a few weeks to pass without another brutal sexual assault being reported.
Islamabad, Jun 10 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan's anti-graft body on Monday arrested former President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated ex-Premier Benazir Bhutto, in a multi-million dollar money laundering case that has shaken the country.
The development came hours after a court in Islamabad rejected a request by Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur for an extension of their bail that would have allow them to remain free pending trial in the case.
The court's decision paved the way for the National Accountability Bureau to arrest the two. However, the anti-graft body did not arrest Zardari's sister; no explanation was given.
Zardari, a lawmaker in the lower house of Parliament, and his sister, also a politician, have been accused of having dozens of bogus bank accounts. Earlier on Monday, the two attended the court hearing amid tight security where their bail extensions were denied.
Zardari, who appeared calm when officers came to his home shortly afterward to take him, speeding away in a convoy of vehicles, "did not resist arrest," said former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, a senior leader of Zardari's party.
TV footage showed Zardari hugging his tearful daughter Aseefa Bhutto Zardari before officers took him to the Islamabad office of the anti-graft body which will arraign him before a judge on Tuesday.
Supporters of Zardari, whose Pakistan People's Party has urged calm, blocked key roads and clashed with police in various parts of the country, disrupting normal traffic.
Zardari has previously been jailed for eight years after being found guilty of corruption.
His party at the time also said the charges against him were politically motivated.
In recent weeks, the party had accused Prime Minister Imran Khan's government of intentionally targeting political opponents.
"This is political victimization," said Shazia Marri, a lawmaker from Zardari's party.
The anti-graft body has arrested several politicians and businessmen on corruption charges since Khan took office last year after winning a narrow majority in parliamentary elections.
Khan's predecessor, Nawaz Sharif who was removed from office by the Supreme Court over corruption allegations, is currently in prison in the eastern city of Lahore after being sentenced to seven years in a corruption case.
Sharif and Zardari are longtime political rivals but their parties recently joined together, vowing to launch a protest campaign against Khan's government over increasing inflation and a spike in prices of essential food items.
Zardari became president in 2008 after Pakistan's former military dictator Pervez Musharraf was forced to resign. Zardari's wife Benazir Bhutto served twice as a prime minister before being killed by the Taliban in 2007.
The Bhutto family has been dogged by tragedy. The party's founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was ousted in a military coup and hanged by dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq. Both his sons were killed by unknown assailants. Benazir Bhutto's only surviving sibling, her sister Sanam, lives in Britain and has stayed out of politics.
Zardari served as Pakistan's president for five years, until 2013.
Islamabad, June 10 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan's prime minister says tax evaders who fail to declare their wealth and pay taxes will face legal action.
Imran Khan delivered his message in a televised speech on Monday, vowing punitive measures for Pakistanis who won't disclose the property they own or the amount of money they keep in banks at home and abroad.
Khan's actions are part of a recently announced program to get tax evaders to mend their ways by June 30. The government is allowing them to legalize their wealth by paying 4% taxes on previously undisclosed assets.
Most high-income earners in Pakistan avoid paying taxes altogether.
Since coming to power in 2018, Khan's government has faced significant economic challenges. Pakistan recently reached a preliminary agreement with the IMF for a $6 billion bailout.
Dhaka, June 10 (UNB) - A woman passenger, aboard a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight, sparked panic after she mistakenly opened the emergency exit door of the aircraft thinking it was the toilet, repots Hindustan Times.
The national carrier said the plane was on the runaway of the Manchester airport early Saturday when the woman pressed the button, opening the emergency exit door.
“The PIA flight, PK 702, from Manchester to Islamabad was delayed by seven hours. The departure was delayed on Friday night when a passenger erroneously opened the emergency exit causing the emergency chute to activate,” said a PIA spokesperson.
After the incident, about 40 passengers were offloaded along with their luggage as per standard operating procedure.
The PIA said that the passengers were provided transportation and hotel accommodation and later on adjusted on other flight.
PIA chief executive Air Marshal Arshad Malik ordered an inquiry into the incident.
The national flag carrier has been running into losses for years and the government is trying to improve it.
Syria, June 10 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Syrian army is regaining control over areas that fell to the rebels in an attack which started three days ago, a military source told Xinhua on Sunday.
The Syrian officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, made the remarks from the town of Kafr Houd, which was captured by the army twice within days.
The officer said that the army recaptured Kafr Houd and is moving forward to retake more towns that fell to the rebels since Friday.
"We are in the northern countryside of Hama in the village of Kafr Houd and we are heading to the towns of Tal Balah, Jalameh, and Jubain," he said.
"Our forces are advancing toward Tal Balah and Jubain to restore all areas that have been taken by the rebels over the past three days and the field situation is perfect," he added.
The officer said that the army is also moving to secure the road between the town of Mhardeh and Sqailbiyeh after it got closed as a result of the recent rebels' attack.
The road is strategic for the Syrian army as it constitutes a supply route for the Syrian army units in the area.
"Now, we are working to open the road between the town of Mhardeh and Sqailbiyeh ... and our forces are great and we are moving forward to restore the violated areas," the officer said.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Ibrahim, head of the Kafr Houd town, told Xinhua that people who fled when the town fell to the rebels started returning.
"With the efforts of the Syrian army, people have returned to the town of Kafr Houd and now they are in their homes despite the fact that many of the houses have been damaged as a result of the rebels' mortar shells," he said.
Ibrahim, however, said that fire broke out in farmlands and people couldn't put the fire down "but we thank the Syrian army for capturing the town again."
Earlier in the day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that battles continued to rage in the central province of Hama on Sunday between the Syrian army and the rebel groups amid progress of the Syrian army.
The battles, which have been raging since late April, continued to flare up in the northern countryside of Hama province between an array of rebel groups and the Syrian army, the observatory said.
The Britain-based watchdog group said that the army managed to capture a town in northern Hama on Sunday with the backing of ground shelling and airstrikes.
This comes as the rebels have unleashed a counter-offensive on Friday on the Syrian sites in northern Hama, killing nine soldiers on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the observatory said that over the past three days of battles, a total of 126 government forces and 102 rebels were killed in three towns.
Areas of the countryside of Hama, Idlib and the Aleppo provinces are included in a de-escalation zones' deal established in September 2018 by Russia and Turkey.
The deal didn't materialize as battles have escalated since late April.