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from Photographers' Blog:

Lahore Inferno: Losing the battle with fire

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WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT

Lahore, Pakistan

By Damir Sagolj

A man wearing traditional white Pakistani clothes disappeared from the window back into the burning building. A minute later, a different man wearing black emerged from inside but it looked like someone was holding his lifeless body. The body was slowly pushed over the edge of the window and then released. Twenty seconds later the man in white came out again. He sat calmly for a few seconds in the open window with his back turned outwards and then just fell.

GALLERY: MEN FALL FROM BUILDING INFERNO

And that was it; both men were dead in less than a minute. After several long hours of fighting a raging fire (or were they short hours? Time gets twisted in extreme situations like this), this part of the story ended in the way I had feared from the beginning - the worst possible way. I shot pictures of people falling from the building to their deaths, of others crying on the ground, of desperate and helpless rescue workers.

It was supposed to be an easy pre-election day in Lahore. We did expect some heat as the campaign of the two main candidates was coming to an end but what happened that Thursday still haunts me without any signs of easing. What started as an easy day for me and poor government workers in their modern office building in Punjab’s capital ended with more deaths than in election violence across the country over the next few days.

Earlier in the day, just after arriving in Lahore I received a short text message saying that a fire had broke out on the seventh floor of a government building and that there could be some people trapped inside. I was on my way to the hospital where Imran Khan, the former Pakistani cricket player and rising star in politics, was recovering from an injury. He was big in the news and there was a possibility for journalists to see him but a building on fire, with people trapped inside, is always the priority. I put Imran aside for a while and headed toward the LDA Plaza.

from Gregg Easterbrook:

The spy novel-like case of Raymond Davis

PAKISTAN-US/SHOOTINGRaymond Davis, an American who shot and killed two men in Lahore, Pakistan, under disputed circumstances, has just been revealed to be a CIA contractor. What a mess. And it's a mess that makes me reflect on when I lived in Lahore, in the late 1980s.

Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan, home to writers, artists and intellectuals. Variously ruled in recent centuries by the Mughals, the Sikhs and the British during the Raj, Lahore is the great ancient city of the Punjab. There is magnificent old architecture, crazed and crowded marketplaces, sprawling slums. A sense of intrigue is part of the city's lore, as one would feel in Marrakesh or Kathmandu.

from Afghan Journal:

An American in Pakistani custody

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davis

Who exactly is Raymond Davis, the main at the centre of a flaming row between the United States and Pakistan that threatens to derail ties altogether ? It's an obvious question to ask given the lengths the Obama administration has gone to secure the release of Davis held in Pakistan for shooting and killing two men who he said were trying to rob him. As Reuters reported this week, Washington had put on hold some bilateral engagements, and even hinted that a $7.5  billion civillian aid package could be jeopardised if Islamabad continued to hold Davis disregarding his diplomatic immunity. The New York Times and the Washington Post said a much-sought after state visit by President Asif Ali Zardari planned for the end of March was on the line now. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cancelled a meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at an international security conference in Munich late last month, the Post said.

The Americans are saying Davis is a diplomat and hence arresting him is a violation of international norms and the Vienna Conventions.  The U.S. embassy had initially identified him as a staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Lahore where the incident occured.

from FaithWorld:

Q+A – Why are militants attacking Shi’ites, Pakistan now ?

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lahore 1 (Photo: Men gather near dead bodies after bomb attack on Shi'tes in Lahore, September 1, 2010/Mohsin Raza)

Suspected Islamist militants exploded three bombs at a Shi'ite procession in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing 33 people and piling pressure on the government already overwhelmed by floods.

Here are some questions and answers on implications of the attacks which came after a lull in violence during floods.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Insurgency in Pakistan: what next?

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After last weekend's attack on the headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi, one of the questions being asked with a rather troubling air of inevitability was: where next? That question was answered on Thursday with a string of attacks across the country, including three in Lahore.

So now, what next?

Many expect the attacks to continue, as militants based in the country's heartland Punjab province unleash a wave of violence ahead of a planned military offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in their stronghold in South Waziristan.  Few are prepared to predict either how much worse they could get, nor exactly how Pakistan will respond.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India: should it take a gamble on Pakistan?

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Some people in India are calling upon the new coalition government to make a series of bold moves towards Pakistan that will compel the neighbour to put its money where  the mouth is.

If Pakistan keeps saying that it cannot fully and single-mindedly go after militants on its northwest frontier and indeed increasingly within the heartland because of the threat it faces from India, then New Delhi must call its bluff, argued authors Nitin Pai and Sushant K. Singh in a recent piece for India's Mint newspaper.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Who controls Pakistan’s militants?

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The Pakistani state may be facing its most serious threat since its birth more than six decades ago, begging the question of who controls the militants who are expanding their influence across the country.

The question has arisen in the light of escalating violence inside Pakistan including the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team despite a call reported to have been made by the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, urging Pakistani militants to stop fighting at home and instead focus on Afghanistan.

from Left field:

Passionate crowds key to sport

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This week's attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team means Pakistan will be a no-go area for sports teams for years to come but the country will still be able to "host" matches elsewhere, with a "home" series already lined up against Australia in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

It's a good solution for the Pakistan Cricket Board, who will keep the team playing and generate much needed cash from the sale of the TV broadcasting rights, but I hope this is not the start of a trend.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Lahore conspiracy theories go beyond the boundary

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Conspiracy theories have filled a void in Pakistan that opened up as soon as the dozen gunmen who attacked the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team made a leisurely getaway  without any apparent casualties after a 25 minute gun battle.

Since the attack on Tuesday, Pakistani authorities have yet to reveal where the investigation was going,  despite Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi saying "important  leads" had been established.

from The Great Debate (India):

Is cricket in South Asia critically injured?

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This is not the first time cricket or cricketers were targeted in the subcontinent, especially Pakistan.

PAKISTAN-SRILANKA/SHOOTINGDespite the threat to players' security, something which has led to postponement or cancellations of many tours, the subcontinent has always presented a united front which many will say was instrumental in the centre of gravity of world cricket shifting from England to South Asia.

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