Friday, October 06, 2017

Iran slaps ban on hookahs in holy city of Qom

     Tehran, Oct 5 - Iranian courts banned the use of hookah water pipes in public in the holy city of Qom and northern province of Alborz, in a fresh crackdown on smokers, media reported today.

    "Consuming tobacco or using hookah pipes are forbidden in coffee houses, traditional eateries, restaurants, cafes, hotels, hostels, parks and all other public places," prosecutor Mehedi Kahe said.

    Kahe said the ban -- set to be made public in the next few days -- was taken on health grounds and warned that any establishments breaking the rules will be shuttered.

    In the northern province of Alborz that neighbours Tehran, the public prosecutor said: "The police will close all establishments that serve hookahs."

    Haji-Reza Shakarmi said smoking in all its forms was prohibited in public places in the province.
    "The law is in force and all institutions have to comply," he said, quoted by the Mehr and Tasnim news agencies.

    Smoking tobacco in public places, except for in the street, has been officially forbidden in Iran since 2006, but the measure is often violated.

    In 2008, the government reversed a plan to ban hugely popular hookah pipes in traditional coffeehouses after protests by owners who complained it would deprive them of the vast bulk of their income.

    The city of Qom, some 120 kilometers south of Tehran, is a major Shiite theological centre and one of the most conservative cities in Iran.

    According to the latest World Health Organisation figures, some 20 per cent of men and 0.6 per cent of women among Iran's population of 80 million smoke every day.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

18 killed in suicide attack at Shia shrine in Pakistan


    Karachi, Oct 5 - A suicide bomber today blew himself up at a Shia shrine packed with devotees in Pakistan's troubled Balochistan province, killing at least 18 people and injuring 25 others, police officials said.

    The attacker tried to enter the Dargah Fatehpur in the Jhal Magsi district of Balochistan and detonated his explosives vest when he was stopped by the police at the main entrance, Deputy Commissioner Asadullah Kakar told the media.

                                                       




    Kakar said an assistant sub-inspector of police was killed while attempting to stop the suicide bomber from entering the shrine. Two other policemen were also injured.

    No group claimed responsibility for the attack but the Taliban usually target shrines as they consider it un-Islamic.

    Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti told the media that 18 people including a police constable and three children were killed in the blast.

    "The brave police constable stopped the suicide bomber from entering the shrine after which he blew himself up. If he had managed to enter the shrine there would be have been greater casualties," Bugti said.

    The minister said that around 25 people were injured in the blast and they were shifted to different hospitals.
    Dr Rukhsana Magsi at the Gandawah hospital in Jhal Magsi, about 400 kms east of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, confirmed 15 bodies were brought to the hospital.

    Rescue officials fear that the death toll could rise as the blast took place when there was a heavy rush of devotees who had gathered at the shrine to pay their respect.

    Devotees gather at the shrine of the revered Sufi saint every Thursday to participate in a sufi dance called 'dhamaal' and prayers.

    Bugti said the shrine was holding its annual Urs and hundreds of devotees from all over the country had come to the place to pay their respects.

    A bomb attack on the same shrine killed 35 people in 2005.

    The local administration declared an emergency at hospitals in Sibbi and Dera Murad Jamali.
    Earlier, Balochistan government spokesperson Anwarul Haq Kakar said 13 people had been killed. "We have confirmed reports it was a suicide attack," he said.

    Initial probe showed that the blast occurred when 'dhamal' was going in the premises of the shrine.
    Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi condemned the attack and vowed that his government will act against militants with full might.

    Today's attack is the second major strike at a shrine in Balochistan where in November 2016, at least 52 people were killed and 102 injured in a blast at the shrine of Shah Norani in Khuzdar district.