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Death toll climbs to 45 in Cuba hotel blast

Cuban hotel blast death toll hits 45 as last body is recovered

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Death toll climbs to 45 in Cuba hotel blast
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Havana: The death toll of a powerful explosion at Cuba’s luxury hotel increased to 45 as the body of a waitress who is believed to be the final victim of the deadly blast has been pulled from the rubble of the destroyed building. 

About 80% of Havana's Hotel Saratoga was destroyed after a gas leak caused a massive explosion last week. 

Two adjoining apartment buildings were seriously damaged in the blast including the historic Marti Theater and the Calvary Baptist Church, headquarters for the denomination in western Cuba, while, 17 structures within a two-block radius suffered lighter damage.

Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel has declared a national mourning period in honour of those who died. 

The iconic, 19th century building, was preparing to reopen after being closed for two years when an apparent gas leak ignited, blowing the outer walls into the busy, midmorning streets just a block from the country’s Capitol building on Friday. 

Reportedly, those who were killed included four minors, a pregnant woman and a Spanish tourist, whose companion was seriously injured. 

The incident comes as tourism in the country was re-emerging from two difficult years caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Hotel Saratoga, a five-star 96-room hotel, is synonymous in Havana with visiting celebrities—after stars such as Madonna and Beyonce stayed there during the thaw between Havana and Washington under President Barack Obama. 

Moreover, the Hotel Saratoga has been used frequently by visiting VIPs and political figures, including high-ranking U.S. government delegations. 

The hotel was first renovated in 2005 as part of the Cuban government's revival of Old Havana and is owned by the Cuban military's tourism business arm, Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA.

Mehak Javed

Mehak Javed is immensely creative and an enthusiastic journalist, contributing in the publication of timely and accurate news. She is a skilled writer along proven history of achievement in the field with several years of professional experience. Mehak is working with GNN since 2020.

Pakistan

NA passes election amendment bill; scraps electronic voting

Law Minister rejected the impression that the amendment is aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote.

Published by Mehak Javed

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NA passes election amendment bill; scraps electronic voting

Islamabad: The National Assembly on Thursday passed "The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022" to conduct pilot projects in bye-elections before using I-Voting and Electronic Voting Machines in the general elections.

Speaking on the occasion in the House, the Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar rejected the impression that the amendment is aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote.

He said overseas Pakistanis are precious asset of the country and the government does not believe in snatching their right to vote.

Regarding use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), the Law Minister said we are not against use of technology, but we have concerns about misuse of technology as Results Transmission System had failed in last general elections to favour a particular political party.

He said the Election Commission of Pakistan had also expressed its inability to hold elections through I-Voting and EVMs in a short span of time and without proper homework.

He said two amendments are being brought to revive the Elections Act 2017, enabling the ECP to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections.

Under the amendment in Section 94 of the Election Act, 2017, the Commission may conduct pilot projects for voting by Overseas Pakistanis in bye-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security, and financial feasibility of such voting and shall share the results with the government, which shall, within 15 days from the commencement of a session of a House after the receipt of the report, lay the same before both Houses of the Parliament.

Under Amendment in Section 103 of the Election Act, 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for utilization of EVMs and biometric verification system in the bye-elections.

Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, Raja Riaz Ahmed has said the Assembly should complete its tenure and elections should be held on time.

Responding to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's remarks, he assured that the opposition will play its positive and constructive role in running affairs of the House.

Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while speaking on the floor of the House, congratulated Raja Riaz Ahmed for becoming Leader of the Opposition.

He assured the Leader of the Opposition of his government's full cooperation in running business of the House in an amicable manner.

The Prime Minister said the treasury benches will pay utmost attention to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition by burying the bad traditions of the past.

Responding to a Calling Attention Notice, Minister of State for Interior, Abdul Rehman Khan Kanju assured the House to make every possible effort for the maintenance of government accommodations in Sector G-6 and F-6 of Islamabad.

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Pakistan

Will not bow before Imran’s dictation: PM Shehbaz Sharif

"If the PTI was merely concerned about the election, they should have come to the parliament."

Published by Siddra Sumreen

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Will not bow before Imran’s dictation: PM Shehbaz Sharif

Islamabad: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Thursday vowed not to bow before the dictations of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan and made it clear that the National Assembly would, not anyone else, would decide the timing of the election.

“I want to make it clear to the head of this gang that none of his dictation will be accepted. This House will decide when to hold fair election,” the prime minister said addressing the National Assembly hours after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan ended his long march here, giving the government a six-day deadline to announce a fresh election.

The prime minister said if the PTI was merely concerned about the election, they should have come to the parliament.

“Imran Niazi should not have any misunderstanding. There are 14 months (to complete the parliament’s term). We are open to talks. Dialogue is the trait of politicians. I can constitute a committee. But, if you think you will pressurize, blackmail or threaten us to leave the government, keep in mind, we will not bow before your pressure or dictation,” he reiterated.  

He accepted that the country was faced with numerous challenges but the coalition government would try its utmost to steer the country out of the issues it had inherited from the previous government.

Lamenting the riots and destruction caused by the participants of the PTI long march, the prime minister said the House should choose between the course of development or destruction.

Drawing a comparison between the economic growth of the two neighboring countries, he said in 1990s India copied Pakistan’s economic strategy and excelled with its IT exports touching $200 billion against $1.5 billion of Pakistan.

He said the protestors who also carried weapons to bring to the federal capital, also damaged infrastructure here and burnt down the trees despite the party claiming to be the champion of 10 Billion Tree Tsunami.

He also condemned the killing of a police constable in Lahore, sympathized with the grieved family and also announced an assistance package for the policemen who were martyred or injured in the line of their duty.

He said instead of showing some compassion to the widow or orphaned children of the martyred police constable, the PTI leader taunted him.

Calling it a 126-day theatre, the prime minister said the PTI’s sit-in in 2014 had not only impacted the national economy but also claimed the lives of the security personnel.

He told the House that the law enforcement agencies showed maximum restraint to control the situation only by using teargas or rubber bullet. The government also called in the army troops to aid the civilian setup, he added.

He also lauded the performance of the Islamabad Police, Rangers, FC, Islamabad Traffic Police and other departments concerned to protect the lives and properties of the people.

The prime minister said the PTI long march, which was led by Imran Khan from Peshawar and accompanied by KPK chief minister, was in fact an attack at the federation which could not be allowed in any civilized society.

The prime minister said after the nation sacrificed thousands of lives and left many others disabled, the slogan of jihad was raised in Peshawar by the PTI.

“Today, the slogans of jihad were raised in Peshawar. Jihad against whom? The nation needs an answer. They used the religion for personal gains which the House should condemn through a resolution to avert the recurrence of such incidents” he commented.

He said despite the dearth of resources, the previous government reduced the oil prices, leaving behind a “landmine” for the incumbent government.   

The prime minister said during the last three and half years, the PTI leadership did nothing to support the poor, closed PKLI, and ended free medical treatment of hepatitis patients.  

“Does it require any more evidence to believe that he is an enemy of Pakistan,” he remarked.

The prime minister also questioned the PTI leader as to why he announced a long march on May 25 despite knowing that it coincided with the sentencing of Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik by an Indian court.

He said the House was unanimous to condemn the sentence to Yasin Malik and shared the grief of his family, besides reiterating Pakistan’s stance to continue supporting the people of Kashmir for their right to self-determination.

He recalled the PTI’s sit-in of 2014 when the institutions including Pakistan Television was attacked and caused the postponement of Chinese President Xi Jinping which also delayed the signing of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor for seven months.

He said the Chinese firm executing Karot Hydropower project had agreed to provide free electricity to the national grid till the finalization of the Commercial Operations Date which would save Rs4 billion to the national kitty.

He said the previous government wasted three and half years in mere attacking the national institutions including the judiciary and hurling allegations ignoring the sufferings of the people.

“How long this drama will continue? How long this disturbed nation will tolerate it,” he questioned adding the country could not afford the history of the 2014 sit-in to be repeated.

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Pakistan

SC dismisses govt’s contempt of court plea against Imran Khan

The government filed the plea against PTI this morning

Published by Siddra Sumreen

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SC dismisses govt’s contempt of court plea against Imran Khan

Islamabad: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has refused to take contempt of court action against PTI Chairman Imran Khan for violating the apex court’s orders during ‘Azadi March’.

The government filed the plea this morning after the PTI openly defied the apex court’s directives, announcing to hold a rally at D-Chowk in Islamabad’s prohibited Red Zone.

The SC formed a five-member larger bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, to hear the contempt of court plea At the outset of the hearing, Attorney-General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf read out the SC verdict before the court.

The court dismissed a petition filed by the federal government, saying that activists were not responsible as they act on the directives of party leadership. It also ordered the release of 20 activists who were booked for rioting and violence.

However, following the reports of violence and mayhem during the protest brought before the Court, the Court has now decided to issue a comprehensive order after pondering over the matter keeping in view the nature of assembly and association so that it can serve as a guideline to the practice of constitutional rights in future.

The Court observed that fundamental rights of assembly, association, and movement are not unlimited, but there are certain limits to them.     

At the outset of the hearing today, Attorney-General of Pakistan, Ashtar Ausaf Ali presented his submissions before the Court pointing out the violations of the Court's order by PTI.

He also mentioned before the court the breach of allowed venue and entering the D-Chowk by PTI workers, burning public property and trees, injuring the security forces personnel, and creating turmoil in the federal capital.

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