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Pakistan begins first census in 19 years amid massive military security

Pakistan has begun its first national census in 19 years amid tight security from around 200,000 military personnel. A 70-day data gathering operation, starting in 63 districts and protected by police and soldiers, is being carried out by 118,000 officials. The previous census was completed in 1998 and the long delay in updating it is down to a lack of funds, political disputes and insufficient troops to keep everybody involved safe. But in December the chief justice of Pakistan’s supreme court set a deadline of March or April, saying a census was essential to democracy. Seats in Pakistan’s parliament are allocated according to population density and without a census the number of seats cannot be decided. Rural populations in the world’s sixth-largest country frequently change as people try to escape poverty and ethnic or sectarian violence by moving to towns and cities. The security staff will protect census teams and ensure households can enter data without being intimidated by powerful feudal landlords and political families who fear losing influence.

“We made all the arrangements for a smooth, safe and transparent process of population census,” said census official Javed Iqbal in Peshawar, capital of the volatile Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

For the first time, transgender Pakistanis will be counted – although forms had already been printed when the decision was made. “We have been anxiously waiting for the process to begin but it hurt us as there is no separate column in the form,” said Farzana Riaz, president of Trans Action. Afghan refugees will also be included, despite opposition from the southwest province of Baluchistan on the border with Iran, where ethnic Baluchs fear becoming a minority. Other communities have criticised the decision to include only nine of the estimated 70 languages used in Pakistan. Households will also be asked how many toilets they have, as the United Nations estimates up to 40% of Pakistanis defecate in the open air with dramatic health consequences, especially for children.

In a sign of how much has changed since the previous census, Karachi’s population was put at 9.2 million in 1998, but current estimates now vary between 18 and 23 million, according to the National Database and Registration Authority.

Bomb explodes at home of Northern Ireland police officer

The scene at Ardanlee in the Culmore area of Derry where the discovery of a suspicious object was at the centre of a security alert . Several homes in the area were evacuated . Picture Martin McKeown . .


A bomb has exploded outside the home of a Northern Ireland police officer in the Culmore area of Londonderry. The device exploded as Army bomb squad officers moved in to defuse it just after 2pm on Wednesday.

PSNI and Army Technical Officers at the scene in Ardanlee, Derry, following the discovery of a suspect device. /Lorcan Doherty Press Eye Photography – 22nd February January 2017.

Police said it was fortunate there were no serious injuries or death. A security alert is underway in the area and the cordon extended following the explosion . Another security alert in Sion Mills in Strabane has now ended and Army technical officers have removed a suspicious object for further examination. Sycamore Avenue has now reopened to traffic and evacuated residents allowed to return to their homes. It is understood the Culmore device was planted under the officer’s car before it dropped off . It was then spotted by a neighbour. The device, described as “more intricate” than a basic pipe bomb, exploded as soon as the Army robot touched it.

District Commander Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said the device was designed to kill. He said: “We should be thankful that we are not talking about the death or serious injury of someone. “Shortly after 9.30am we were made aware of a suspect device at the home of one of my colleagues in Ardnalee, off the Culmore Road here in the city.

“We immediately took steps to ensure the safety of the community which resulted in 12 families being evacuated from their homes. “As Army Technical Officers were working on the device, it exploded . My colleague is someone who gets out of his bed every morning to go to work with the sole aim of ensuring the safety of the community and working to prevent harm in the community. “This is in sharp contrast to individuals who left a viable explosive device in a residential area with kids and families and the dangers don’t need to be explained in depth.

“It is our firm belief that violent dissident republicans are responsible for this attack.” The policeman is said to have been badly traumatised.

Superintendent McCalmont continued: “You can imagine the impact on someone who lives and works at the heart of our community and I am sure the trauma for him and his family is quite mammoth.”

PSNI and Army Technical Officers at the scene in Ardanlee, Derry, following the discovery of a suspect device. /Lorcan Doherty Press Eye Photography – 22nd February January 2017

“This was not a basic pipe bomb but something more intricate but more detail will be provided in time . It was planted there to kill and cause harm and this was an attempt one of my colleagues.” Residents have told the Belfast Telegraph they are angry a police officer living in their community cannot do so in peace. The Policing Board said the officer involved had a “lucky escape”. The organisation’s vice chair Debbie Watters said: I am grateful that the evil intent of those responsible for leaving this device did not succeed. “This officer has had a very lucky escape but such activity reinforces the continuing threat that exists for our police officers both on and off duty. “As a community it is our responsibility to ensure those behind such activity are brought to justice and I would urge anyone with information to bring it to the police or anonymously through Crimestoppers.

PSNI and Army Technical Officers at the scene in Ardanlee, Derry, following the discovery of a suspect device. /Lorcan Doherty Press Eye Photography – 22nd February January 2017 .

Superintendent Gordon McCalmont, District Commander, Foyle, speaking at the PSNI press conference following the discovery of a bomb under the car of a serving policeman. /Lorcan Doherty Press Eye Photography – 22nd February January 2017.

Chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland Mark Lindsay said: “This was a lethal device, capable of killing or maiming the Officer who was targeted, or anyone else who might have come into contact with it. “This was an act of cowardice . It was reckless and wanton, and displayed utter disregard for life . People who target and attempt to murder Officers have nothing to offer their communities or society at large other than misery and destruction. “The people who planned and carried out this attack should be ostracised by their own communities and by people who support the democratic path.

“It s worth remembering that this Officer was singled out because of the job he does, which is to protect the entire community and rid us of this terrorist scourge.” SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said the “cowards” responsible were “enemies of the Irish people.”

“They are enemies of the Irish people . Their malicious and murderous attempt to bring violence back to our streets has failed before and it will fail again.

My thoughts are with the police officer and their family at what will undoubtedly be a difficult time . No one in this city or in this society should be threatened for the public service they provide.

If anyone has any information about this attempt to murder a citizen of our city and destroy the hard won peace we enjoy, I would appeal to them to bring it forward. The DUP’s Gary Middleton condemned those responsible. He said: I utterly condemn the irresponsible actions of those who saw fit to leave these devices at the home of a police officer and in Sion Mills . These are despicable acts which endangered the lives of innocent people who simply go about their everyday routine.

“The intentions are to drag Northern Ireland back into the past by instilling fear and intimidation . Our community do not want to see this type of evil activity and this deeply disturbing incident should be unequivocally condemned. “Republicans will seek to use any political vacuum for their own agenda but they will not succeed .

Political stability in Northern Ireland is important .

Today we must all stand together to send out a message that it is unacceptable to endanger life in this way and we will continue to work to move Northern Ireland forward.

“As a community there is a duty to ensure this type of activity does not continue and I would urge anyone with information to contact the Police.

Online Editors

Remand prisoner (44) dies at top security Maghaberry jail

Brian Hutton, Press Association

06 November, 2016 18:32

A PRISONER has died while in custody at Maghaberry jail in Co Antrim. A number of investigations have been launched into the death of the 44-year-old man, a remand inmate at the facility near Lisburn. The complex houses long-term sentenced and remand prisoners, in both separated and integrated conditions.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) confirmed that a prisoner died on Saturday night. Acting prison service director general Phil Wragg said: “I would like to extend my sympathy and that of the Northern Ireland Prison Service to the family of the prisoner who has died in Maghaberry.

“My thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”

A NIPS spokesman said the man’s next of kin have been informed.

“As with standard procedure, the PSNI, Coroner and Prisoner Ombudsman have launched investigations into the death,” he added. Prison authorities have not released any details about the man’s identity or how he died.

It is at least the fourth death at the complex since a damning official report last year branded the prison “unsafe and unstable”. A joint assessment by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) said Maghaberry was “a prison in crisis.”

Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons in England and Wales, who was part of the inspection team, said at the time he had never seen a more dangerous prison environment.

“This is one of the worst prisons I’ve ever seen and the most dangerous prison I’ve been to,” he said. Maghaberry houses almost 1,000 prisoners, including around 50 with loyalist and republican paramilitary affiliations who are held in separated accommodation.

Dissident republicans have issued death threats against prison staff in recent years and in 2012 long-serving officer David Black was shot dead by dissidents as he drove to work.