India, Sept 29 (AP/UNB) — A heavy spell of retreating monsoon rains has flooded wide areas of northern India, killing dozens of people this past week, an official said Saturday.
Sandhaya Kureel, a spokeswoman of the Disaster Management and Relief Department, said most of the 59 fatalities were caused by house collapses, lightning and drowning in Uttar Pradesh state. They included at least five people dying of snake bites in flooded areas.
The temple city of Varanasi was lashed by 19 centimeters (7 inches) of rain on Thursday and Friday, flooding the bathing areas of the Ganges River used by thousands of Hindu pilgrims.
Schools were shut on Saturday as the downpour caused disruptions in the state capital, Lucknow, and several towns, including Amethi and Hardoi.
J.P. Gupta, director of the state Meteorological Department, said the rain is expected to ebb after Monday.
The Press Trust of India news agency said the western state of Maharashtra also was hit by heavy rain and nearly 3,000 people were moved to higher ground due to flooding in low-lying areas of Pune city and neighboring areas.
More than 350 people have been killed by rain-related causes in India, Nepal and Bangladesh this monsoon season, which runs from June through September.
Beijing, Sept 29 (AP/UNB) — At least 36 people were killed when a bus collided with a truck on an expressway in eastern China, authorities said Sunday.
A bus with 69 people on board crossed into the opposite lane and hit the truck on Saturday morning, the Yixing city information office said in a social media post. Initial investigation indicated a flat tire on the bus was the cause, the post said.
Another 36 people were injured, including nine seriously, the Yixing government said. Three people were riding in the truck.
Yixing city lies west of Shanghai in Jiangsu province, near China's east coast.
Quetta, Sep 28 (AP/UNB) — Pakistani police say a bomb has killed three people and wounded nine others in the southwestern town of Chaman near the Afghan border.
Officer Mohammad Iqbal says the bomb Saturday was planted in a motorcycle parked outside the office of a religious party.
He said the bomb detonated remotely when Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party's leader Maulana Mohammad Hanif was exiting the building, killing Hanif and two other men.
The blast took place amid heightened security in the town due to a presidential vote being held across the border in Afghanistan.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.
Chaman is in the province of Baluchistan, where there is a yearslong low-level insurgency by Baluch separatists. Islamic militants also operate there.
United Nations, Sep 28 (AP/UNB) — He spoke of Islam — his religion — but he used references like Charles Bronson's "Death Wish" movie, Monty Python and Japanese kamikaze pilots during World War II. He built linguistic and pop-culture bridges as he carefully made his points.
Pakistan's enigmatic Prime Minister Imran Khan effortlessly projected his East-meets-West brand from the podium of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, wearing a navy blazer over a traditional shalwar kameez as he attempted to explain the dangers of Islamophobia and why Muslims are sensitive to attacks on the Prophet Muhammad.
In the end, Khan's speech reached its destination — a political attack by a politician on India's crackdown in Muslim-majority Kashmir. En route, though, he delivered an appeal familiar to many Muslims but somewhat extraordinary for a global forum: a full-throated defense of Islam shaped for a Western audience's ears.
"It is important to understand this. The prophet (Muhammad) lives in our hearts," Khan said. "When he is ridiculed, when he's insulted, it hurts."
"We human beings understand one thing: The pain of the heart is far, far, far more hurtful than physical pain," he said in his speech, which pinballed between his dual identities — sports-star celebrity and his current role as head of state of the world's largest Islamic republic.
Similar to his life, much of it lived out in the tabloids through the 1990s, Khan's 45-minute-speech appeared to follow not a script but his own off-the-cuff stream of consciousness.
Even if the messenger was highly political, the message was a humanistic one. It said, in effect, that terrorism, radicalism and suicide bombings belong to no religion— or at least not to one religion exclusively.
During World War II, Khan said, Japan deployed kamikaze pilots as suicide bombers. "No one blamed the religion." But after 9/11, the world's Muslims — and particularly those in Pakistan and a few other nations — found themselves blamed for the hijackers who targeted the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93.
"Suicide attacks and Islam were equated," he said.
He said Muslim leaders had failed after the 9/11 attacks to explain that "no religion preaches radicalism." Instead, he said, Muslim leaders started wearing Western suits, and even those who didn't know English would speak English "because they were moderates."
So scared of being labeled radical, Muslim leaders became moderates rather than stand firm in saying that "there is no such thing as radical Islam," he asserted.
As Khan stood before world leaders, now one himself, he said that he knows "how the Western mind works and how (the) West views religion." He spoke as a Pakistani Muslim — saturated in Western culture and whose children are half British — who is now married to his spiritual guide and has ascended to prime minister.
Khan said he could understand why "a person in New York, in the Midwest in the U.S., in a European capital" might equate Islam with radicalism and be stunned by the impassioned reaction of Muslims to ridicule of the Prophet Muhammad.
He recalled, with astonishment, the first time he went to England and heard about a movie that poked fun at Jesus Christ's life — an apparent reference to the 1979 comedy "Monty Python's Life of Brian," beloved by many Britons and Americans.
"It's unthinkable in Muslim societies," he said, to lampoon any prophet. Some in the West who have done so have been targeted by Islamic attackers, most notably the Charlie Hebdo satirical publication in France.
To Khan, it comes down to sensitivity — and being "sensitive to what causes pain to other human beings."
To drive home his message, he drew a parallel to one of the West's few red lines, saying the Holocaust is treated "quite rightly" with sensitivity because it causes the Jewish community pain.
"Do not use freedom of speech to cause us pain by insulting our holy prophet. That's all we want," he said.
Khan took office last year, and this was his first address to the General Assembly. He reached across the gulf to be a translating dictionary for two cultures that find themselves at odds. For many generations, most Western views of the Islamic world were broad and even lampoonish. Think "Aladdin" or "Ali Baba" — from the misinformed to the downright insulting. But globally, what got amplified was the Western view.
The politician in Khan did what was expected during his address: He used his platform to segue into warnings to India for its policies in Kashmir.
But in standing Friday at the United Nations with a foot in two worlds, he also raised questions that are more than relevant at this moment in humanity's journey. So many of us are sure how we feel about those different from us. The message from Friday — intended or not — is that pain and confusion is universal, but interpreters are standing by.
Kabul, Sep 28 (AP/UNB) — A provincial official in Afghanistan's north says insurgents firing mortars on the city of Kunduz are attempting to stop voting in national elections.
Ghulam Rabani Rabani, a council member for Kunduz province, says Saturday that Taliban also are attacking Afghan security forces in two locations outside the city, in running gun battles.
He confirms civilian casualties, but couldn't immediately provide a number as the telecommunication networks are disrupted or even at times completely downed.
Rabbani said the attacks are to "frighten people and force them to stay in their home and not participate in the election."
He added that voter turnout in Kunduz would likely be low with the threat of further violence so high.
Pakistan has reversed its order to close its western border with Afghanistan after getting a request from the Afghan ministry of defense to re-open it to allow Afghans to return home to vote in Saturday's presidential polls.
Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement that the border would be re-opened despite security concerns, so that Afghans can "exercise their right to vote during the presidential election."
Pakistan had previously announced it would close its borders Saturday and Sunday in an effort to prevent cross border incursions during presidential elections in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan routinely accuses Pakistan of harboring Taliban insurgents on its side of the border, a charge Pakistan denies.
A hospital in the southern city of Kandahar says that it is treating at least 15 wounded after a bomb attack on a local mosque where a polling station is located.
The doctor with the Southern Kandahar Hospital said the wounded included one police, several election officials, and Afghans who came to cast their ballots in the national elections on Saturday.
The doctor spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media.
He added that three of the wounded are in critical condition.
Threats of violence from Taliban insurgents have rattled Afghanistan as it holds presidential elections, weeks after the U.S.-led peace process collapsed.
Afghans head to the polls to elect a new president amid high security as the Taliban vow to disrupt elections, warning citizens to stay home or risk being hurt.
The leading contenders are incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his partner in the 5-year-old unity government, Abdullah Abdullah, who already alleges power abuse by his opponent.
Fear and frustration at the relentless corruption that has characterized successive governments rank high among Afghan concerns.
Tens of thousands of police, intelligence officials and Afghan National Army personnel have been deployed throughout the country to protect nearly 5,000 election centers.
In Kabul, traffic is light with police and army scattered throughout the city, stopping cars and looking for anything out of the ordinary.
The Taliban say they will take particular aim at Afghanistan's cities.