Saturday, June 30, 2012

SEOUL - After a decade of wrangling, South Korea is set to inaugurate a new mini-capital seen by supporters as a developmental triumph and by critics as a classic pork-barrel project.
Sejong City will by 2015 house 16 ministries or agencies and 20 central government offices currently located in or near Seoul. More than 10,000 civil servants will work there when construction is completed.
  • The stated aim is to rebalance national development, in a country where Seoul and its satellite cities house almost half the population and account for almost half national output.
  • The new city, 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Soul, will formally open Sunday, with an inauguration ceremony Monday to be led by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-Sik.
  • But some 10 state bodies including the president's office, the foreign ministry, the defence ministry and parliament will stay in Seoul.
Kim himself will commute from Seoul for a while even after his office relocates to Sejong City in September. Critics say the split government will lead to wasted travelling hours and inefficiency.
The new city covers 465 square kilometres (186 square miles). A total of 22.5 trillion won (S$24.5 billion) - including 8.5 trillion won in state funds - is being spent on infrastructure, government buildings and homes for incoming residents.
Source: AsiaOne....
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Saturday, June 30, 2012

The world's densest population of orangutans is set to be "extinguished" by a massive new wave of fires that is clearing large tracts of a peat swamp forest in the Indonesian island of Sumatra, conservationists have warned.
Environmentalists claim that satellite images show a huge surge in forest blazes across the Tripa peat swamp in order to create palm oil plantations, including areas that have not been permitted for clearing.
Tripa is home to a tight-knit enclave of around 200 critically endangered orangutans. However, this number has plummeted from an estimated population of 3,000.
  • Just 7,000 orangutans remain in Sumatra, with rampant forest clearing for palm oil cultivation blamed for their decline.
  • Ian Singleton, head of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), said that the Tripa orangutans are being "extinguished."
  • "The situation is indeed extremely dire," he said. "Every time I have visited Tripa in the last 12 months I have found several orangutans hanging on for their very survival, right at the forest edge."
The scale and speed of the current wave of destruction and the condition of the remaining forests, there can be no doubt whatsoever that many have already died in Tripa due to the fires themselves, or due to starvation as a result of the loss of their habitat and food resources.
Felling trees from Tripa's carbon-rich peat also triggers the release of large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Indonesia has been named as the third highest emitter of CO2 emissions in the world when deforestation is a factor, although the country disputes this.
  • Environmentalists have lodged a lawsuit against PT Kallista Alam, one of the five palm oil firms operating in Tripa, and Irwandi Yusuf, the former governor of Aceh, over the approval of a permit for the 1,600-hectare (3,950-acre) palm oil plantation.
  • Irawardi, previously styled as a "green" governor, says he granted the permit due to delays in the UN's Redd+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme, which has seen Norway pledge $US1bn to Indonesia to reduce deforestation.
"The international community think our forest is a free toilet for their carbon," Irawardi said in April. "Every day they are saying they want clean air and to protect forests, but they want to inhale our clean air without paying anything."
SOCP and lawyers representing Tripa's local communities have called upon the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to bypass an ongoing government investigation into the forest clearing and immediately halt the razing of the area.
Source:The Guardian
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Friday, June 29, 2012

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed as wildfires are threatening the second biggest city in the US state of Colorado.
Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes as dozens of fires continue to burn elsewhere in the state.
Firefighters, however, say that conditions on Thursday gave them their first chance to get ahead of the fires and control them.
Source: Al Jazeera
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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa was a murder victim who was either murdered by C-4 explosives or was somehow killed first and her remains destroyed with C-4 on October 18, 2006 in a deserted area in Shah Alam, Malaysia near Kuala Lumpur.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Latest revelations to come out from the French investigation into the Scorpene submarine deal, particularly new facts surrounding murdered Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, have caused a little stir in Malaysian Parliament.
On Monday, Free Malaysia Today reported that French police investigation papers showed that a “Altantuya Shaariibuu” never entered France from 1999 to 2006.
  • This was revealed in confidential investigative documents submitted to the French judicial inquiry which is looking into alleged kickbacks in the Scorpene submarine deal between French firm DCNS and the Malaysian government.
  • The confidential documents also revealed that DCNS officials had also informed French police that they never met a person named Altantuya and do not know who she is in the course of their negotiations for the Scorpene deal.
  • The DCNS officials had also informed the French police that the negotiations for the submarines were done in Malaysia and not in France.
  • One official – DCNS’ former sales manager to Malaysia Fredric Faura – told the French investigators the negotiations were in English and not in French, so there is no need for an interpreter.
  • Furthermore, Altantuya did not speak French so she could not have acted as an English-French interpreter.
Suaram has successfully sought for a judicial inquiry at the Tribunal De Grande Instance in Paris to probe alleged corruption crimes and illegal bribes involving top officials from both Malaysia and France in the submarine deal.
Suaram claims that DCNS had paid bribery amounting to 114 million euros to Perimekar Sdn Bhd, with help from Altantuya, who was later gruesomely murdered for allegedly asking a part of the bribe.
Source: FMT..Read for more details
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012
VIENNA, Austria - Some 27 million people worldwide are problem drug users, with almost one per cent every year dying from narcotics abuse, while cannabis remains the most popular drug, a UN report showed on Tuesday.
Heroin, cocaine and other drugs continue to kill around 200,000 people a year, shattering families and bringing misery to thousands of other people, insecurity and the spread of HIV, director Yury Fedotov said as he presented the 2012 World Drug Report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Global production and use of illegal drugs remained relatively stable last year, the report found.
  • However, this masked shifts in trafficking and consumption that were “significant and also worrying... because they are proof of the resilience and adaptability of illicit drug suppliers and users, the UNODC warned.
  • Cannabis remained the most widely used drug with up to 224 million users worldwide, although production figures were hard to obtain, the agency said.
  • Europe was the biggest market for cannabis resin, most of it coming from Morocco, although Afghanistan is becoming a major supplier and domestic production in Europe is also rising, the UNODC said.
Most European Union member states are reporting the cultivation of cannabis herb to be a phenomenon that appears to be on the increase, the report added, noting the increasing involvement of organised crime.
Opium production in Afghanistan, the world’s biggest producer with 90 per cent of the global share, meanwhile jumped by 61 per cent in 2011 to 5,800 tonnes from 3,600 tonnes in 2010, when the crop was hit by disease.
  • In Southeast Asia as well, cultivating opium was increasingly popular, expanding by 16 per cent in 2011, with Myanmar still the second largest producer behind Afghanistan.
  • Only a small share of this made it to Europe and North America, where opiate use was stable or dropping. Instead, 70 per cent of users were in Africa and Asia, the report found.
  • Cocaine use too was stagnating or falling in Europe and North America, but this was offset by growing use in South America and Australia, as well as parts of Africa and Asia.
  • Synthetic drugs — including methamphetamine and “ecstasy” pills — were meanwhile on the increase, with a recent hike in seizures pointing to the drugs’ continued popularity, the UNODC said.
  • Some 230 million people, or five per cent of the global population aged 15-64, used illegal drugs at least once in 2010, the last year for which data was available, the report found.
  • As growth in use shifts increasingly from developed to developing countries, UNODC director Yuri Fedotov appealed for more help to newly-affected nations, ill-equipped to fight this problem.
Drug use has also been spilling more into countries along trafficking routes, such as Iran or parts of western and central Africa, the office noted.
Besides the health effects, the UNODC estimated the financial cost of drug use at about $200 billion (Dh734.40 billion) to $250 billion to cover drug treatment worldwide, a far cry from the sums currently provided.
Source: AFP
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thousands of Muslims have been escaping from Myanmar after dozens were killed in religious violence.
They are fleeing attacks in Rakhine state by the Buddhist majority. Many have tried to reach Bangladesh, where their ancestors are from.
However, some Rohingya who reached Bangladesh by boat were turned away by the border guards, who gave them a bottle of water and some food, and forced them back to sea, despite appeals from the UN.
Source: Al Jazeera
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ELLIOT LAKE, Ont, Canada - At least 30 people are unaccounted for after the roof caved-in at a northern Ontario mall, Ontario Provincial Police say.
The latest number is surprising considering authorities on Sunday had said they were trying to locate nine people after the roof collapsed at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake .
  • Prior to Sunday, officials had put the number of people missing at more than 30 when the the roof collapsed on Saturday afternoon. There was some confusion over whether a body had been spotted in the rubble. Police said Sunday they had a "visual" of a foot and a hand amongst the rubble, but no deaths have been confirmed.Link
  • Meanwhile, bystanders are keeping vigil outside the mall as they await word from rescue officials, who have now stabilized a section of the roof that collapsed on Saturday and have begun looking for survivors.
When the roof gave way, metal and concrete debris crashed through two floors of the shopping centre.
A source who has been briefed on the recovery effort said Monday morning that rescuers believe some people could be alive inside the mall's wreckage. Authorities don't know how many casualties there could be beyond the one person who may be dead.
Source: CBC...Read more..., video clips -Reuter
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Monday, June 25, 2012
ANKARA - Turkey accused Syria of shooting down one of its military reconnaissance jets in international airspace and summoned a NATO meeting to discuss a response.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the attack "brazen and unacceptable" and said Washington would cooperate closely with Ankara to promote a transition in strife-torn Syria.
  • China has noted the relevant reports and is paying close attention to developments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.
  • "At present, the regional situation is extremely complicated and sensitive. We hope that the parties concerned will exercise calm and restraint and adhere to diplomatic channels to reach an appropriate solution, so it does not escalate further", Hong said.
  • Turkish Foreign Ministry Ahmet Davutoglu said the jet had been clearly marked as Turkish and dismissed Syria's assertion it had not identified the aircraft before opening fire.
International efforts to halt the violence in Syria are deadlocked because Russia and China, which wield vetoes in the UN Security Council, have blocked tougher action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
They say the solution must come through political dialogue, an approach most of the Syrian opposition rejects.
Source: asiaone
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Pakistani government harassment and obstruction of U.S. diplomats is increasing dramatically, reaching the point where it is "significantly impairing" the work of the American embassy and consulates there, the State Department's internal watchdog said recently.
The department's inspector general report said official harassment "has reached new levels of intensity" since the May 2011 U.S. raid on a compound in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, and it rose further after November NATO airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, prompting Islamabad to suspend most military cooperation and look to fundamentally revise its relationship with the United States.
  • According to report, Official Pakistani obstructionism and harassment, an endemic problem in Pakistan, has increased to the point where it is significantly impairing mission operations and program implementation.
  • The 76-page report, labeled "sensitive but unclassified," described the harassment as "deliberate, willful and systematic" and said ending it should be a top priority in high-level discussions with Pakistani authorities.
  • The report said the harassment included delays in getting visas; blocked shipments for aid programs and construction projects; denials of in-country travel requests; and surveillance of and interference with mission employees and contractors. Extensive parts of report's section on harassment are blacked out, including all details of specific incidents as well as the State Department's response to the findings.
  • It noted that U.S. diplomats and other government workers "have long been subjected to unusual, government-initiated obstructionism and harassment" but that it had gotten far worse. And it maintained that the U.S. and its diplomats were being singled out.
  • While other diplomatic missions have experienced similar treatment, the United States is clearly the principal target, the report said.
In addition to the November airstrikes and Pakistan's ignorance of the bin Laden raid, which the report described in unusually blunt terms as evidence of "both Pakistani government incompetence and its inability to detect or defend against a military intervention," relations were harmed further by the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor in January 2011 and a September attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by extremists suspected of links with Pakistani intelligence, the report said.
Source: Agency
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Many backpackers and globetrotters have flocked to the fertile and culturally rich Southeast Asia. Known for its pristine beaches, incredible historical sights and a touch of adventurousness, this comparatively inexpensive travel option baits thousands amongst thousands of people every year with landmarks like Angkor Wat, Cambodia; the city of Bangkok, Thailand; and the picturesque views of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.
As much as we highly recommend you stay these seats, the prudent traveler will do his/her homework as to abide the traditions and laws of these very different countries, as well as be prepared to face the risks, both financial and otherwise that could wind up ruining your vacation.

These are our top .

1. Nearly everything is negotiable
Haggling can be more beneficial in Southeast Asia than in most seats in the world. Vendors at most malls and shops do not have fee tags and it is ordinary that when you question for one, the fee will be quite high because it looks like you have cash to burn. Don’t be worried to question for a lower fee since another vendor just a few feet way is sure to be selling the same business.

2. The food is fantastic, just be careful
Renowned for its incredible cuisine, both on the road and in the restaurants, eating in SE Asia is one of the most exciting parts of going, but be cautious before eating just anything. One tip is to check if you see other patrons dining at a location before you go in.
Also, many of these countries have free English-written dining guides. Check them out.

3. Watch your pockets.
Whether you are on the back of a motorbike or walking down the road, muggings take place everywhere. Keep your personal belongings near to you at all times, perhaps consider a fanny pack or only bringing along essentials where you’re out of the hotel.

4. There is more to life than ‘backpacker road’
SE Asian countries have become very excellent at making mini-visiting the attractions hubs of inexpensive hotels or hostels and surrounding them with vendors and bars and everything you need so that you don’t leave.
Granted, in seats like Saigon and Bangkok, they are a lot of fun, but make a top to get out and explore other seats. You’ll never know what’s waiting just around the corner.

5. Check the local rags and mags
As I mentioned before, most SE Asian countries have English-written guides. That’s because in a number of countries there, there is already an established community of expatriates. If you are looking to just find your bearings and want a safe bet on seats to go, pick one up.

6. Be prepared to be approached by strangers
Locals in Southeast Asia are often very nice toward westerners and truthfully delight in telling you how nice you look. Whether it is coming from a man or female, get equipped for a swarm of compliments on your appearance. It may seem a small weird at first, but you will get used to it. I promise.

7. This scotch does not taste like scotch
Drinks are a quarter of the fee than what you’d find in Europe or in the US, the reason life that many of the predictable name brands are regionally produced and use local ingredients, so don’t be shocked when your beloved Grey Goose on ice tastes a small different from what you are used to. Use the opportunity to try some very fascinating locally produced spirits.

8. Take the tour deals seriously
Pretty much anywhere you go (of the major tourist destinations) there are sure to be tour pamphlets sitting around with fantastic deals. From boat rides to day trips, there are fantastic tours around that will get you where you need to go.

9. Hire local transport for the day
One fantastic way to get around is to hire a tuk tuk or a moto-driver for the whole day to take you everywhere you want to go for a very nominal fee. Your driver can also work as a de facto tour guide, getting you around to the spots you may not have though of and that you would regret not seeing.

10. When you can, take a bus or train
When it comes to budget traveling, this is the way. Night buses get you from one country to the next for next to nothing, although they do take longer, no doubt about that. Roads between many destinations are well enough to travel, although there are going to be bumpy rides. None the less, when you need to do it on the cheap, this is the best option.
Source: Holiday Tips
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Retirement in the United States is nice and all, until they ask you to actually pay for stuff.
When retirees' nest eggs are a finite and dwindling resource, rising local and federal taxes can put even the staunchest, flag-draped patriotism to the test. If retirees are willing to leave the states behind, the savings can be substantial.
The folks at International Living crunched the numbers and looked at the price of simple staples, assimilation and staying in touch with family left behind. The following countries scored high marks not only for their inexpensive living, but for overall friendliness toward American retirees:


A retiree has it pretty sweet in Panama, where a program commonly known as pensionado help retirees settle in quickly. International Living says retirees can live like kings here for $1,500 to $2,000 a month and score apartments for less than $500 a month or buy waterfront condos for less than $200,000.
Pensionado, meanwhile, gives users 15% off fast food, 15% off at hospitals and clinics, 20% off professional services used in Panama, 25% off the price of food eaten in a sit-down restaurant; 25% off domestic flights on Copa Airlines, a 30% discount on public transport and 50% off movies, theater tickets and sporting events. There's no age limit for the service, either, so help yourself.

Considering the tensions over the state of Mexico/U.S. immigration law, it's at the very least amusing to consider American workers streaming south to chase their retirement dreams.
But great homes on Mexico's Caribbean coast go for less than $170,000 while places such as Lake Chapala are home to dozens of expat communities.
It's not such a bad place for snowbirds, either. It's the only retirement destination on this list withing driving distance, and retirees can rent out their properties in the off months to cover costs.

The country's My Second Home retirement benefits program for all foreigners is a great draw, but so is the quality Internet access, cellphone coverage and roads.
It also helps that it's dirt cheap. A sea-view apartment with a pool and gym on Penang Island goes for $1,000 a month, and big-budget movies usually premiere here, are shown in English and go for about $4. Oh, and there's plenty of English being spoken as well.

Medellin has a notorious reputation among Americans who know it mostly for its drug-laden past, but that hasn't prevented a huge expat population from springing up within city limits.
Medellin's El Poblado district has Japanese, French, seafood and Italian restaurants within a block of each other. Its health care system ranks atop any other stop on this list, while the cost of everything from housing to entertainment are a great fit for a fixed income.
5)New Zealand

The English speaking certainly helps, but so do the winters that come during an American summer. That's some pretty costly snowbirding, so maybe the proliferation and low cost of every day amenities as well as more frivolous items should be seen as long-term investments. New Zealand's reputation for healthy living and near-absent pollution should also appeal to those who want to extend retirement as long as possible.

A visit to the doctor is $15. Overall health care can cost as much as 60% less than the U.S., while U.S.-trained doctors speak English and will make house calls.
A huge expat population in the colonial city of Granada spends about around $1,200 a month to live there, considering a small house can be $500 to $1,000 a month to rent.
The best steak dinner in town runs about $13, while regular meals go for half that and "local meals" are $2 to $3. Local beer, meanwhile, runs between 75 cents and $1.50. This makes Florida's cost of living look like Manhattan's.

Wait, the same Spain that just dodged a bailout and is still dealing with crushing debt? Yep, that's the one, but austerity measures haven't bitten into the best of what Spain has to offer.
This is by no means the cheapest option on the list and, in fact, has the most expensive real estate of any country listed. That said, it's really easy to fit in, with near-ubiquitous English, three-course meals for less than $20 and modern infrastructure that places high value on convenient, punctual rail service. Combine that with teeming culture and tons of ways to pass the time and Spain can be a great fit for retirees who've already weathered a shaky economy.

About $500 a month is enough to score a nice new home just about anywhere in Thailand. One of International Living's contributors pays just $222 a month for a beachside bungalow with air conditioning, hot water, Wi-Fi and a refrigerator.
Altogether, the cost of living in Thailand sets retirees back only about $1,000 a month while giving them great amenities and vibrant cultural and entertainment options. Bangkok still gets pretty wild, but loads of expats and lots of English speakers help ease the transition.

The benefits offered to retirees beyond the three-hour flights back to see the kids are fairly substantial, especially considering that expats living on beachfront property can do well here on less than $1,500 a month.
The scuba diving, fishing, sailing, kayaking, snorkeling and surfing are lovely too. But even Honduras can't top the last entry on our list:

This basically is Florida or Arizona for the expat community. The country's retirement benefits package includes 50% off transportation, utility bills, international round-trip flights originating in Ecuador and tickets for cultural and sporting events. Foreigners can also enroll in Ecuador's Social Security medical program for $57 a month. Those over 65 also pay lower income tax. Penthouse suites and beachfront condos go for $50,000, while beachfront rentals hover around $500 a month.
A retiree's entire cost of living rounds out to roughly $800 to $1,500 a month, and the neighbors more often than not are either A) other expats or B) English-speaking locals.
We'll warn that this isn't exactly undiscovered country among retirees, but it's several steps up from the costly retirement kennels and golf carts of more costly American hot spots.

Source: Yahoo Travel
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Friday, June 22, 2012

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - Two Malaysians detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Kamunting have resumed their hunger strike in protest against the lack of progress over their release.
Although the ISA has been repealed and replaced with the Security Offences Act, there is still no update on the fate of those detained under the ISA.
This has been a major source of frustration to the detainees, their families and anti-ISA pressure groups.
  • The two, Mohd Fadzullah Abdul Razak and Razali Kasan have resumed their hunger strike yesterday. Fadzullah was detained in 2010 while Razali in 2011.
  • One of the lawyers representing all the detainees, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, said the authorities prevented them from meeting Fadzullah this morning as he had broken prison rules by conducting the hunger strike.
  • Because of this, they said that Fadzullah had no access to the lawyers but we argued and met with him eventually,Fadiah Nadwa said, adding that they met 10 detainees today, including two from Iran and Indonesia.
  • Asked if more detainees will join in the fast, Fadiah Nadwa said that according to Indonesian detainee, Mustawan Ahbab, all the detainees were ready to join the strike until they are freed.
There was a lot of frustration today because they [detainees] said that Suhakam had visited them several times but there was no news of their release from the Home Ministry.
Mustawan said that all the detainees agreed to continue the fast, she told FMT.
In mid-May, seven detainees, mostly foreigners, staged a week-long hunger strike due to the lack of news over their release. Fadzullah was the only Malaysian who participated in it.
Source: FMT
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

MANILA, Philippines - The 2012 Global Peace Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has cited the Philippines improving efforts towards the achievement of peace.
According to the IEP, the country went up in rank from a list of 158 countries from 135 in 2011 to 133 in 2012. The other countries in the top five improvement ranking are Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bhutan and Guyana.
  • According to its website, the IEP “is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organisation dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being and progress.”
  • “IEP achieves its goals by developing new conceptual frameworks to define peacefulness; providing metrics for measurement; uncovering the relationship between peace, business and prosperity; and by promoting a better understanding of the cultural, economic and political factors that drive peacefulness,” the organisation said.
  • In comparison to the top five peace risers, the IEP cited the top five fallers as: Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Oman and Malawi — countries where there are ongoing political strife.
  • Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said the improving peace index ranking, means that the government’s efforts towards peace is being recognised by the international community.
She said, these will further raise the public’s hopes for a just and lasting peace.
The 2012 Global Peace Index report also stated that the Philippines’ high score was a result of improvements in the indicators which are homicide rate; number of deaths from internal conflict; likelihood of violent demonstrations; and incidence of terrorist acts.
Source: Agency
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Famous Pashto singer Ghazala Javed and her father were shot dead by gunmen riding a motorcycle in Pakistan’s Peshawar city, police said.
The attack took place in Dabgari area when Javed went to a beauty parlour along with her father Mohammad Javed on Monday night, the Dawn News reported on Tuesday.
Hailing from Swat valley, Javed was married around two years ago, but fowing differences with her husband, she started living with her father.

Source: Pakistan Update
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