Pakistan election: Nawaz Sharif 'set for victory'

Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif is celebrating with his supporters, amid early signs that his party will be the largest after parliamentary elections, according to BBC.

Media projections based on partial results suggest a big lead for Mr Sharif's Muslim League, and he has already claimed victory.

The election should lead to the country's first transition from one elected government to another.

The turnout was huge but the poll was marred by violence.

In Karachi, the Pakistan Taliban said they planted a bomb which killed 11 people and wounded 40 others.

The bomb was placed outside the office of the Awami National Party.

There were also attacks in Balochistan and the north-western city of Peshawar.

Of the many surprises thrown up by Pakistani elections, the most important is the possibility that twice Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could win a straight majority instead of having to cobble together a coalition, as was earlier expected. It will make the job of decision making simpler.

But it will also put Mr Sharif into a tough situation. As an opposition leader, he has distanced himself from the outgoing government's fight against militancy, and has generally leaned towards the religious right-wing. But with the looming Nato withdrawal from Afghanistan, he will be under pressure to revisit this policy.

Analysts attribute his victory largely to his promises of correcting Pakistan's energy supply and encouraging economic growth. Since the bulk of his support is confined to the province of Punjab, he will need to work for a broader consensus across the country if he is to succeed in meeting these challenges.

An election commission spokesman said they hoped for a turnout of 60-80%. In 2008 it was 44%.

No official results have yet been released, but unofficial partial results suggested that Mr Sharif's party was ahead in more than 100 of the 272 directly elected parliamentary seats.

It appears that Mr Sharif's party will fall short of a simple majority in the National Assembly.

But in a speech at his party headquarters in the north-eastern city of Lahore, Mr Sharif said that the Muslim League (PML-N) was sure to emerge as the largest party.


"We should thank Allah that he has given PML-N [Muslim League] another chance to serve you and Pakistan."

"I appeal for all parties to come to the table and sit with me and solve the country's problems."

Mr Sharif's apparent victory is largely confined to his native Punjab province, which has nearly 60% of the country's population, and so he will be compelled to look for support from the three smaller provinces for greater legitimacy.

But our correspondent says that even if he had got as few as 90 seats he would still have been able to put together a coalition.


Turkey car bombs plot to derail Syria conference – Pushkov

The Russian Lower House’s foreign affairs head Alexey Pushkov tweeted Saturday that blaming the Reyhanli bombings on the Syrian government betrays a design to derail the proposed international conference on Syria and justify foreign military intervention in this Middle Eastern country, according toVoice of Russia, RIA.

Meeting in Moscow Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry agreed to convene an international conference which would resume attempts taken at last June’s Geneva conference on Syria to persuade the Syrian government and the opposition to sit down for talks.

On Saturday morning, two car bombs exploding in the Turkish town of Reyhanlileft 40 people dead and dozens of others injured.


Russia, UK Have Common Interest in Stabilizing Syria - Putin


BOCHAROV RUCHEI,SOCHI(ST)-Russia and the United Kingdom have common interest in preserving Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron,according to RIA Novosti.

The UK premier arrived in Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi on Friday to discuss a wide range of issues, although it is expected that Syria is likely to top the agenda.

Putin said at talks, which were initiated by Cameron, the sides discussed the options for a positive development of a situation in Syria and also “a number of joint steps” to settle the ongoing crisis.

The Russian leader said Moscow and London have “common interest in a speedy end to the violence, the launch of a peace process and the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”


Lavrov,Judeh Emphasis Holding International Conference on Syria

MOSCOW(ST)- Russia and Jordan have called on all parties concerned to exert efforts for holding an international conference on Syria.

"high on the agenda of the meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Jordanian peer Nasser Joudeh was the situation in Syria," reads a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday.

Both diplomats exchanged  viewpoints during the meeting.

Lavrov and Judeh emphasized the need to stop violence and start talks between the government and all the opposition groups that should be united on the basis of willingness to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

" both sides highlighted the importance of effective efforts by all parties concerned to embody the Russian-American initiative for holding an international conference next June only to put  the Geneva statement into force, "added the statement.

The statement also mentioned that  Lavrov and Judeh discussed the best ways to find a solution to the problem of displaced Syrians that  directly linked to the political solution to the crisis in Syria as soon as possible .


Bangladesh's collapsed building death toll passes 1,000

DHAKA: The death toll in Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster on Friday soared past 1,000 after more bodies were found in the rubble of a collapsed nine-storey building outside the capital Dhaka,according to Channel NewsAsia,AFP.

Army spokesman Captain Shahnewaz Zakaria told AFP that the "death toll now stands at 1,006" as the recovery operation entered its 17th day since the building caved in at Savar town, 30 kilometres southwest of Dhaka.

Zakaria said recovery workers armed with "cranes, bulldozers and excavators" had pulled out 130 bodies from the rubble since 6am Thursday as more bodies were found in the pancaked lower floors.

Some of the bodies, which are badly decomposed, could be identified by mobile phones in their pockets or factory identity cards around their neck, he said. "Of the total dead, most are female garment workers."

Of the bodies recovered so far, "at least 150 bodies were buried in unmarked graves in a state graveyard after they could not be identified," Zakaria added.

The authorities are taking DNA samples from all the victims for future compensation claims.

More than 3,000 garment workers were in the building's five garment factories which made clothing for Western retailers such as Benetton, Mango and Primark when the structure collapsed after a loud bang, trapping them.

At least 2,437 people have been rescued, around 1,000 suffering serious injuries, including scores whose limbs had to be cut off to free them from the rubble.

Efforts to identify the victims are being hampered by the decomposition of bodies. Recovery workers, who are drawn from the ranks of the army and fire service, are having to wear masks and use air freshener.

Preliminary findings of a government probe have blamed vibrations by four giant generators on the compound's upper floors for triggering the collapse.

The building's architect told AFP he designed the structure to house a shopping mall and offices, not factories.

Police have arrested twelve people including the plaza's owner and four garment factory owners for forcing people to work on April 24, even though cracks appeared in the structure the previous day.


Factory workers have held protests calling for tough punishment for those responsible for the disaster, and demanding improved safety regulations.

The April 24 collapse was the latest in a string of deadly accidents to hit the textile industry. A factory fire last November killed 111 garment workers.

On Thursday, disaster struck again as a fire in another garment factory in the Bangladeshi capital killed eight people including its owner.

The cause of the fire was not known, but authorities said it broke out during the night on the third floor of an 11-storey building housing garment factories of the Tung Hai group in Dhaka's Darussalam district.

Fire is a common problem in the 4,500 garment factories in Bangladesh, with many operations based in badly constructed buildings with sub-standard wiring.

Around 700 people have been killed in garment factory fires in the country since 2006, according to the Amsterdam-based Clean Clothes Campaign group.

Bangladesh is the world's second-largest apparel maker and the $20 billion industry accounted for up to 80 per cent of annual exports last year.

But it has a shocking safety record and Western retailers have been threatening to pull out unless authorities come up with a credible programme to raise standards. Disney has already done so.

Western firms have criticised the factories for not ensuring worker safety, but major brands continue to place orders and critics say they turn a blind eye to the endemic problems.

The government Wednesday announced the closure of 18 garment plants, days after it promised to give "the highest consideration" to safety after talks with the International Labour Organisation.


UN Head Thanks Russia, US for Syria Meeting Initiative




UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has thanked top Russian and US diplomats for their initiative to organize an international conference on Syria, his spokesman Martin Nesirky said,according toRIA Novosti.


The Secretary-General spoke by telephone separately with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.


“They discussed the recent statements on Syria made during the Secretary of State’s visit to Moscow.  The Secretary-General commended both men for their leadership and initiative,” Nesirky told reporters.


During US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Russia earlier this week, an agreement was reached to hold an international meeting on Syria that will include both representatives of the Syrian government and opposition. The conference, expected to be arranged by the end of this month, will be aimed at facilitating a solution to the Syrian crisis through political dialogue.


 “The United Nations stands ready to play its role in helping to bring about a peaceful settlement. The Secretary-General strongly encourages all parties to seize this opportunity,” the spokesman said.



Brazil for Peaceful Solution to Crisis in Syria

RIO DE JANEIRO, (ST)_ Brazil has renewed its permanent support for finding a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria.

"Brazil is ready to contribute and support efforts in this direction, " Xinhua news agency quoted Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota as saying in a press statement on Thursday.

"Brazil welcomes Russian-US accord regarding Syria and the proposal of holding an international conference to tackle this matter, "added  Patriota.

In a joint press conference with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in Brasilia held yesterday, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff voiced her country's support for a political solution to the crisis in Syria by the Syrians and supported by the international community.


Bomb in Pakistan tribal town kills four on eve of election: official

A motorbike bomb close to party political offices killed four people and wounded 15 in a town in Pakistan's restive tribal northwest Friday, on the eve of the country's general election, according to Voice of Russia.

The bomb went off in the main bazaar of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan district, a notorious hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants, a security official said.

Pakistan goes to the polls on Saturday to elect a new government, the first time in the country's turbulent history that one civilian administration has handed power to another through the ballot box.

But the campaign has been marred by violence, with more than 100 people killed in bombings and shootings in the month leading up to polling day, according to an AFP tally.

Witnesses and hospital officials said 15 people had been taken to the state-run Miranshah hospital, some of them in a serious condition. Another official in the northwestern city of Peshawar confirmed the blast and the casualties.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but the Taliban, have carried out numerous attacks to undermine the polls.

The Pakistani Taliban have directly threatened the outgoing Pakistan People's Party and its main coalition partners, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party.