Tokyo, Jul 26 (AP/UNB) — The last six members of a Japanese doomsday cult who remained on death row were executed Thursday for a series of crimes in the 1990s including a sarin gas attack on Tokyo subways that killed 13 people.
Thirteen members of the group had received death sentences. The first seven, including cult leader Shoko Asahara, were hanged about three weeks ago.
The cult, which envisioned overthrowing the government, amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown. Its name Aum Shinrikyo means Supreme Truth.
The group's most notorious crime was the subway attack in 1995 that sickened 6,000 people and caused panic during the morning commute. The attack woke up a relatively safe country to the risk of urban terrorism.
Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa called it a terrorist attack that even terrified people overseas. She said at a news conference that the six executed Thursday had collaborated with Asahara and other cult members systematically to conduct an unprecedentedly heinous crime that should never be repeated.
The cult had claimed 10,000 members in Japan and 30,000 in Russia. It has disbanded, though nearly 2,000 people follow its rituals in three splinter groups, monitored by authorities.
Islamabad, Jul 26 (AP/UNB) — Vote counting in an election marred by allegations of fraud and militant violence has been tediously slow, yet from the outset cricket star Imran Khan and his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have maintained a commanding lead.
Election officials say it will be Thursday evening local time before an official count confirms Pakistan's next government. But before even half the votes were counted, Khan's leading rival, Shahbaz Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League, the party of jailed ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, rejected the vote, generating fears that disgruntled losers could delay the formation of the next government.
The winner will face a crumbling economy and bloodshed by militants. More than 11,000 candidates vied for 270 seats in the National Assembly, and 577 seats in four provincial assemblies.
Islamabad, Jul 26 (AP/UNB) — Cricket star turned politician Imran Khan has declared victory for his party in Pakistan's historic elections, promises a 'new' Pakistan.
Khan, who aspires to be the country's next prime minister, said in a televised address to the nation on Thursday that "thanks to God, we won and we were successful."
He added: "If God wills, we will set an example."
Pakistan's election commission has not yet released official, final results but Khan has maintained a commanding lead according to projections by many television stations, though it's unclear if he will have to form a collation government.
Khan's message of a "new" Pakistan resonated with young voters in a country where 64 per cent of its 200 million people are below the age of 30, according to a United Nations report.
More than a dozen TV channels in Pakistan, based on official but partial counts, are projecting — using their own, undisclosed methodologies — that Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is getting as many as 119 seats of the 270 National Assembly seats that were contested.
Islamabad, Jul 25 (AP/UNB) — After an acrimonious campaign, polls opened in Pakistan on Wednesday to elect the country's third straight civilian election __ a first for this majority Muslim nation that has been directly or indirectly ruled by its military for most of its 71-year history.
Rights groups have warned that the rancorous campaign and widespread allegations of manipulation imperil the wobbly transition to democratic rule and raise the spectre of bitter post-election challenges of fraud.
The unprecedented participation of radical religious groups, including those banned for terrorist links but resurrected and renamed, has also raised fears the space for moderate thought may shrink further in Pakistan.
Attacks against minorities have increased in recent years. One candidate, Jibran Nasir, an independent from Pakistan's financial hub of Karachi, received death threats and even had a fatwa or religious edict issued against him after he refused to condemn Ahmadis, who are reviled by mainstream Muslims as heretics because they believe the Messiah promised in Islam arrived over a century ago.
In Pakistan, it is a crime for an Ahmadi to call himself a Muslim after a 1974 constitutional amendment declared them non-Muslims.
"I am speaking for the millions of Pakistanis who are too afraid to confront religious bigotry," he said in a telephone interview. He also said that no arrests have been made of those who threatened him.
The leading contenders in Wednesday's polling are former cricket star Imran Khan and his right-of-center Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party or PTI and the right-of-center Pakistan Muslim League, the party of disgraced Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is in jail serving 10 years on corruption charges. His younger brother Shahbaz Sharif took control of the party. The third-largest party in the running is the left-leaning Pakistan People's Party, headed by Bilawal Bhutto, the son of late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, assassinated by Pakistan's Taliban militants, whom she had vowed to eradicate.
Election officials say more than 11,000 candidates are vying for 270 seats in Pakistan's law-making Lower House of Parliament and 577 seats in four provincial assemblies. The 85,307 polling stations opened at 8 a.m. and will continue for 10 hours, an hour longer than in the 2013 polls. Voting for two parliament seats and six seats in provincial assemblies has been postponed due to attacks on candidates or disqualifications.
There are 105.96 million eligible voters in Pakistan, with 59.22 million men and 46.73 million women.
Pakistan's election commission reminded candidates their elections will be nullified if the female voter turnout does not reach 10 percent. The requirement was imposed after the 2013 elections when several areas banned voting by women, mostly in Pakistan's religiously conservative northwest. Some candidates were elected without a single woman marking a ballot.
The commission issued its reminder Tuesday after veteran rights activist, Tahira Abdullah, said local jirgas or councils of elders from 60 areas of the country, representing 16 different constituencies, had signed agreements banning women from voting.
Citing security worries, the election commission announced internet and mobile phone services in several districts in southwestern Baluchistan province has been suspended because of security issues. Some of the worst violence during campaigning occurred in Baluchistan, where earlier this month a suicide bomber devastated a political rally killing 149 people including the candidate, Siraj Raisani. Voting in that constituency is suspended.
Election commission secretary Babar Yaqub, told reporters late Tuesday that threats against polling stations, staff and even candidates have been received.
His statement came just hours after militants lobbed grenades and opened fire at a military convoy escorting election staffers and voting material in Baluchistan's district of Turbat, killing four troops. At the request of the election commission, Pakistan's military is deploying 350,000 troops countrywide outside and inside polling stations.
International and domestic election observers will monitor voting. The European Union Election Observation Mission has 120 monitors at polling stations in major centres across Pakistan, with the exception of southwestern Baluchistan province where a suicide bomber earlier this month killed 149 people, including a candidate.
Under Pakistani law, separate seats are reserved for women and for non-Muslim minorities, which comprise 4 percent of the population.
Voter turnout in 2013 was 54.8 percent.
Islamabad, Jul 25 (AP/UNB) — A Pakistan hospital official says an explosion outside crowded polling station in southwestern city of Quetta has killed 25 people and wounded 40. Jaffer Kakar, a doctor, says five policemen and two children are among the dead. He fears the death toll could rise as many of the wounded are in critical condition.
Wednesday's attack comes as Pakistanis vote in general elections for 270 members of the law-making National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, and 577 seats in four provincial assemblies.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion.
Abdur Razzaq Cheema, the police chief in Quetta, Baluchistan's provincial capital, says the explosion took place when near the city's eastern bypass.
Baluchistan also saw the deadliest suicide bombing in the run-up to election day, with 149 people, including a provincial assembly candidate, killed at a campaign this month.
Pakistani police say a shooting between supporters of two opposing political parties has left one person dead and wounded two people in a village near the northwestern city of Sawabi.
It is the first violence on election day in Pakistan. Ahead of Wednesday's balloting, over 170 people — including three candidates running in the elections — were killed in suicide bombings in southwestern Baluchistan and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
Police officer Khalid Hamdani says it's unclear what triggered the shootout between a group of supporters of the secular Awami National Party, which has often bbeen targeted by the Taliban, and the Tehrik-e-Insaf led by former cricket star Imran Khan, a center-right party.
Hamdani says the situation is now under control and voting is underway in Col Sher Khan village.
A hard-line Pakistani cleric who heads an alliance of religious parties and the country's parliament speaker have cast their ballots in the general elections underway in Pakistan.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman voted in the northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan soon after polls opened on Wednesday.
His Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal is a potential threat to opposition leader, former cricket star Imran Khan's party in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Khan's party has ruled the province for the last five years.
Rehman appealed to citizens after casting his ballot to cast their votes with the full sense of responsibility so capable hands could take over the country.
Ayaz Sadiq, speaker of the National Assembly, voted in the eastern city of Lahore.
Pakistan Muslim League chief Shahbaz Sharif cast his vote in the eastern city of Lahore soon after polls opened in national elections.
Sharif, the younger brother of disgraced ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, took over the ruling Pakistan Muslim League last year after his brother was found guilty of corruption. The ex-prime minister has since been sentenced to 10 years in jail, which he is serving while appealing the conviction.
The younger Sharif stood in line waiting his turn to enter the polling booth. In Pakistan, a candidate can run for elections in multiple seats. If the candidate wins more than one seat, a by-election will be held as a person can represent only one constituency.
Sharif marked his ballot for both the National and Punjab provincial Parliaments and is contesting elections in four National Assembly seats and in two Punjab provincial legislature seats.
Pakistanis began voting in a historic third straight election ending a campaign marred by widespread allegations of manipulation that local and international rights group say imperils the country's wobbly transition to democratic rule.
There are 85,307 polling stations across Pakistan and more than 11,000 candidates are vying for 270 seats in parliament and 570 seats in four provincial assemblies. Voting for two parliament seats and six seats in provincial assemblies has been postponed for a later date, due to attacks on candidates or disqualifications. One candidate in the Sindh provincial assembly was unopposed and has already secured that seat.
Under Pakistani law, separate seats are reserved for women and for non-Muslim minorities, who comprise 4 percent of the population.