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Blast Kills at Least 13, Injures 82 in Pakistan’s Lahore

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  • Blast Kills at Least 13, Injures 82 in Pakistan’s Lahore

At least 13 people were killed and 82 injured when an apparent Taliban suicide blast ripped through a protest in Lahore on Monday, Pakistani officials said, shattering the city’s growing sense of security.

Police cordoned off the area near the crowded Mall Road, one of the city’s main arteries, as witnesses fled in fear of a second explosion. Local media showed images of the injured being carried away.

The road had been packed with hundreds of people, mainly chemists, protesting provincial government plans to further regulate the medical sector. “The blast was so powerful. I saw the injured and bodies, saw flames surrounding the blast site, people were crying,” witness Muhammad Tariq told AFP.

Chief of police in Punjab province of which Lahore is capital, said at least 13 people including six policemen were killed in the attack. Rescue officials said that at least 82 wounded people had been rushed to city hospitals.

The attack “seems to be a suicide blast”, senior police official Amin Wains said, adding it had apparently targeted police trying to regulate the protest.

The Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the assault, which came three days after it announced it would carry out a series of attacks on government installations around the country.

A spokesman for the group warned in a statement that Monday’s blast was “just the start”.

Meanwhile, in the southwestern province of Balochistan, two members of a bomb disposal squad were killed in Quetta city when they were attempting to defuse an explosive.

“Commander of Quetta’s bomb disposal squad and his assistant were killed as a bomb went off when they tried to defuse it. At least 11 other people were wounded in this incident,” Abdul Razaq Cheema, a senior police official in Quetta, told AFP.

Lahore, the country’s cultural capital, suffered one of Pakistan’s deadliest attacks during 2016 — a Jamaat-ul-Ahrar suicide bomb in a park over Easter that killed more than 70 including many children.

But such incidents have been rare in the city in recent years, with security across Pakistan improving dramatically in 2015 and 2016 after the military launched a crackdown on extremism backed by a government-led National Action Plan.

– ‘Fight for Pakistan’s soul’ –

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the Lahore blast a “tragedy” on Monday.

“Terrorism isn’t a novelty for us. Our story has been one of constant struggle against its grasp, and a fight for the soul of Pakistan,” he said in a statement.

“We will not stop until we can call ourselves a free and secure people; that is a promise.”

More than 60,000 people have died and $111 billion has been spent in the “staggering” cost of Pakistan’s war on extremism, the Foreign Office said in a statement Monday.

The statement, hitting back at recent criticism out of the US of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, also vowed that emerging militant groups such as Islamic State in the region “will not deter Pakistan from continuing its valiant struggle against terrorism”.

Last month a Taliban-claimed bomb blast at a market in a mainly Shiite area of Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt killed at least 24 people, the first major militant attack in the country in 2017.

Cricket fans on social media voiced fears that Monday’s explosion could derail plans to hold the highly anticipated final of the Pakistan Super League in Lahore.

Pakistan’s international tournaments have been held abroad for years out of security fears, and the second year of the popular Twenty20 tournament is currently being held in the United Arab Emirates.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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SERAP Urges FG to Slash Politicians’ Allowances

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam, to urgently review upward the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for Nigerian Judges, and reduce the remuneration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other political office-holders in order to address the persistent poor treatment of Judges, and improve access of victims of corruption to justice.

The appeal came on the heels of a nationwide industrial action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government, and the federal government silence on the judiciary workers’ strike that has grounded court activities across the country.

In a letter dated April 10, 2021, which was signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said Judges should get all they are reasonably entitled to, and that it is unfair, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory to continue to treat Judges as second-class people, while high-ranking political office holders enjoy lavish salaries and allowances.

SERAP expressed concern that the remuneration and allowances of Judges have fallen substantially behind the average salaries and allowances of political office-holders such as president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as members of the National Assembly.

The letter read in part: “According to our information, the last review of the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for political, public and judicial office holders carried out by RMAFC in 2009 shows huge disparity between the remuneration and allowances of judges and those of political office holders.

“Judges’ work is very considerable but they cannot give their entire time to their judicial duties without the RMAFC reviewing upward their remuneration and allowances, and closing the gap and disparity between the salaries of judges and those of political office holders such as the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as lawmakers.

“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the RMAFC to comply with our requests.”

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COVAX Delivered 38m Vaccine Doses To Over 100 Countries, Says WHO

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday announced that more than 100 countries have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

It said the milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on February 24th.

In a statement, the United Nations’ Agency revealed that COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers – AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII).

Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

It, however, said despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimising their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.

According to the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Seth Berkley, “In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached 100 countries.

“COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”

The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet.

“If we are going to realise this great opportunity, countries, producers and the international system must come together to prioritise vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”

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Approved Ibom Deep Sea Port, Proposed $1.4B Fertilizer Plant Will Change Akwa Ibom’s Economic Status – Gov. Udom

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Akwa Ibom State Government has said the approved Ibom Deep Seaport and the proposed $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia Plant are expected to change the economic status of the state.

The State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, made the assertion in an Easter message to the people of the state.

He maintained that with the recent approval and take off of the federal government’s approved Oil and Gas Free Zone and the ongoing construction of the Sterling Petrochemical Plant at Eastern Obolo, the state would be ready to dump its status as a civil service state.

The governor said the fertilizer and ammonia plants should be supported by all indegenes and residents irrespective of political affiliation because of its capacity to change the economic fortunes of the state.

The governor who commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the industrial projects in the state said construction work on the Ibom Deep Seaport would commence very soon.

“In recent past, we have been blessed with life-changing projects such as Sterling Petrochemical Plant in Eastern Obolo, where construction is in an advanced stage.

“Two months ago, the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) approved the license for us to commence the construction of our long desired Ibom Deep Seaport. Work would soon commence on this gigantic project. These are huge achievements for our State and our people.

“Ibom Deep Seaport will open up our economic fortunes; create employment and wealth opportunities for our people and throw open our State as a major maritime hub in our nation.

“We thank the President and the Commander in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) for this kind approval,” he said.

Continuing, Emmanuel said: “About three weeks ago, we signed a $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia plant with our Moroccan counterparts. The plant will again create huge employment and other supply chain activities for our people, which will transform us from a civil service oriented state to a fast industrialising one.

“These are huge achievements that should gladden the hearts of every Akwa Ibomite irrespective of political affiliations.”

He reminded the people of the state that the essence of Easter would be lost if the resurrection of Christ is not allowed to illuminate their souls through love and sacrifice to one another.

“Let the fishermen in the ocean fronts of Mbo, Okobo, Eastern Obolo and Ibeno love one another. Let the farmers in the rice plantations at Ini, Ikono, Ika, Onna and Nsit Ibom love one another.

“Let the civil servants and public servants, politicians in all political parties, members of all denominations, preachers of all faiths, love one another.

“When we let love drive our every action and every thought, when we let it drip from our lips and from our hands, then shall the joy of Easter be complete, and our State shall surely attain the lofty height set for it by our ancestors when they named it Akwa Abasi Ibom State.” the Governor stated.

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