In pictures: moon blots sun out of the sky in historic eclipse

Narrow corridor in US experiences full eclipse while rest of N. and S. America treated to partial eclipse.


Millions of Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the United States from coast to coast in nearly a century.

It promised to be the most observed and photographed eclipse in history, with many Americans staking out prime viewing spots and settling onto blankets and lawn chairs to watch, especially along the path of totality the line of deep shadow created when the sun is completely obscured except for the delicate ring of light known as the corona.

The shadow, a corridor just 96 to 113 kilometres wide, came ashore in Oregon and then began travelling diagonally across the heartland to South Carolina, with darkness from the totality lasting only around two to three minutes in any one spot.

The rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse, as were Central American and the top of South America.

The next total solar eclipse in the US will be in 2024. The next coast-to-coast one will not be until 2045.

The total solar eclipse is viewed from Charleston, South Carolina, on August 21, 2017. — AFP
The total solar eclipse is viewed from Charleston, South Carolina, on August 21, 2017. — AFP
The moon almost eclipses the sun during a near total solar eclipse as seen from Salem, Oregon. ─ AP
The moon almost eclipses the sun during a near total solar eclipse as seen from Salem, Oregon. ─ AP
The sun's corona is visible as the moon passes in front of the sun during a total solar eclipse at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon's Ochoco National Forest near the city of Mitchell, USA.—AFP
The sun’s corona is visible as the moon passes in front of the sun during a total solar eclipse at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest near the city of Mitchell, USA.—AFP
This NASA handout photo shows the Diamond Ring effect seen as the moon makes its final move over the sun during the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon. ─ AFP
This NASA handout photo shows the Diamond Ring effect seen as the moon makes its final move over the sun during the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon. ─ AFP
A view of the solar eclipse at the Solar Temples at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon's Ochoco National Forest.—AFP
A view of the solar eclipse at the Solar Temples at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest.—AFP
A Mexican woman looks through a telescope at the beginning of the solar eclipse, at the esplanade of the Museum of Natural History in Mexico City, Mexico.—AFP
A Mexican woman looks through a telescope at the beginning of the solar eclipse, at the esplanade of the Museum of Natural History in Mexico City, Mexico.—AFP
People make pinhole eclipse viewers in the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum on the National Mall before an eclipse August 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. — AFP
People make pinhole eclipse viewers in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum on the National Mall before an eclipse August 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. — AFP
People pose with special eclipse glasses outside the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum on the National Mall before an eclipse August 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. — AFP
People pose with special eclipse glasses outside the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum on the National Mall before an eclipse August 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. — AFP
People watch the start of the solar eclipse at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon's Ochoco National Forest.—AFP
People watch the start of the solar eclipse at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest.—AFP
Annie Gray Penuel and Lauren Peck, both of Dallas, wear their makeshift eclipse glasses at Nashville's eclipse viewing party ahead of the solar eclipse at First Tennessee Park.— AP
Annie Gray Penuel and Lauren Peck, both of Dallas, wear their makeshift eclipse glasses at Nashville’s eclipse viewing party ahead of the solar eclipse at First Tennessee Park.— AP
A crowd gathers in front of the Hollywood sign at the Griffith Observatory to watch the solar eclipse in Los Angeles. — AP
A crowd gathers in front of the Hollywood sign at the Griffith Observatory to watch the solar eclipse in Los Angeles. — AP
Dan Blanchette and his son, Sam, 6, watch the final phases of a total solar eclipse in Salem, Oregon, USA.—AP
Dan Blanchette and his son, Sam, 6, watch the final phases of a total solar eclipse in Salem, Oregon, USA.—AP

Clothing stalls in Islamabad’s ‘Sasta bazaar’ catch fire

ISLAMABAD: At least 10 clothing stalls in Islamabad’s ‘Sasta Bazaar’ caught fire on Wednesday morning, according to reports.

Five fire fighting vehicles are on site to bring the fire under control. At least two more are on their way.

The site, situated in Sector H-9 near Peshawar is a relatively busy area of the city.

Further investigation is underway.

This is a developing story. 

In the heart of Rawalpindi, Indians and Pakistanis remember their pre-Partition homes

India and Pakistan again celebrate the end of the British Raj and the conception of independent homelands. With a difference of a mere 24 hours, millions in both the countries rejoice with fervour, pride, and nationalism.

However, to some, August, after 70 years, is a shadow of the nightmare that they lived through at the time of the great divide and reminds them of the dear ones they lost on the way to their new abodes, places they still can’t relate to as their homes.

On the corner of Sonehri Masjid, Mohallah Shah Chan Charagh, sits 86-year-old glasses repairman, Hameed Ali Shah, from Firozpur, India. He recalls Partition as it happened yesterday.

“I was born in Firozpur Cantonment. We were a middling family with a small house and were living well,” he told me, while showing old family photographs from his drawer.

“The striking brick streets, jamun tree in front of my house and the scent of tamarind in our veranda – I still can recall the flavour and how fulfilling it was,” he said with a smile.

Hameed Ali Shah looking at old family pictures. – All photos provided by the author
Hameed Ali Shah looking at old family pictures. – All photos provided by the author

Partition came unanticipated for the Muslims of Firozpur. “One night, our Hindu neighbours told us to leave the house to save ourselves from the mob. We left everything behind and embarked on the journey to Pakistan, a place we had heard of only in slogans.”

When asked about the journey, Ali Shah looked up with empty eyes and replied, “They killed my sister in front of my eyes. Our family had nine members; only two survived.”

However, it wasn’t just Hindus and Sikhs who committed atrocities and looting. Ali Shah saw carnage and prowlers on the way after crossing Wagah and even as far as Rawalpindi.

“The place we finally settled was Bhabra Bazaar and this is where I sit today. It was an affluent Hindu neighbourhood but the residents were forcibly moved to camps and their havelis were looted and burnt. It was heartrending, particularly seeing the elderly who spent generations at this very place, departing their homes and the shops they had built with their fathers and grandchildren.”

Puttar, purkhon ki nishanian aur qabrain chornay se behtar hai banda mar jae [Son, it is better to die than to leave the reminders and graves of your forefathers behind],” Ali Shah said with tearful eyes.

Less than a kilometre from Ali Shah’s business stands the desolate Soojhan Singh Haveli, lamenting the times when its residents were elites of the region. Built by Rai Bahadur Soojhan Singh, the magnificent structure was once the centre of politics and a monument to opulence of those who built it.

Partition wreaked havoc on its once-beautiful architecture that is now nothing but a decaying ruin. Renowned for its grandeur, darbar mehal(king’s court), and gold carvings, it was looted and burnt to erase the identity of its Sikh owners, whose links to Rawalpindi have been buried like they never existed.

Gulzar Ahmad sitting at his small shop in Saidpuri Mohallah.
Gulzar Ahmad sitting at his small shop in Saidpuri Mohallah.

The story of Gulzar Ahmad from Ambala is no different from Ali Shah’s. Now 84, he runs a shop in Saidpuri, Rawalpindi. Luckily, his family migrated early and were spared the agony of the loss of life. He has a faint memory of his old neighbourhood and friends

Ahmad and his brothers settled in Rawalpindi and started a new life; however, their parents could never recover from the tragedy of leaving their lives behind.

He said they would always be thinking of their house, the neighbourhood, the city, and their friends. “We all thought the bedlam would last a month or two and we would return to our city; however, every passing year made them bleak and ill, and they passed away after 10 years of Partition,” Ahmad told me.

For a millennium, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims lived side by side in Punjab. But The great divide made brothers thirst for each other’s blood.

Not many know that Rawalpindi was one of the starting points of the massacres. The first train that reached Amritsar with corpses from what became Pakistan was from Rawalpindi and its surroundings.

In his book Rape of Rawalpindi, notable scholar Prabodh Chandra gave a detailed account of the carnage in the villages around Rawalpindi, which later took over the urban areas and spread across NWFP and Indian Punjab, killing thousands of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.

Gurpreet Singh Anand, a resident of Delhi, has no memory of Partition but he proudly calls himself Pindi waal (hailing from Rawalpindi). His family had a thriving clothing business in Rawalpindi and Murree when suddenly, one day, they found themselves on the wrong side of the border and their business was looted and their shops burnt.

His family stayed in their home near Banni, Rawalpindi following Partition, believing the mayhem would end shortly. But they soon had to flee to avoid coming under attack. Moving from one city to another, they finally settled down in Delhi, where in claims they got only a fraction of what they had left behind.

A wedding picture of Gurpreet's father in his house in Rawalpindi.
A wedding picture of Gurpreet’s father in his house in Rawalpindi.

I interacted with Anand through social media in a heritage group. Now an established businessman, he has visited Rawalpindi twice, and the urge to see his ancestral home again is never sated.

To him, visiting his father’s house in Saidpuri was an emotional ride. The house was almost in the same condition as his family had left it in 1947.

“I kissed the door’s frame and the stairs when I entered the house. It was quite a poignant experience holding the banister leading to the room that was once my grandfather’s,” he recalled, emotionally.

“I am visiting Rawalpindi again soon with an old friend Kunwarjit Singh who wishes to see his native place before he dies,” he informed me in his last conversation.

They later visited the city and Singh, at 85, finally got to see his birthplace for the first time since Partition. He reminisced old times and revived his Pindi waal spirit.

Gurpreet's father's diary.
Gurpreet’s father’s diary.

Unfortunately, while I was writing this piece, I learned that Singh passed away after returning to India. Perhaps the thirst that made him restless across the border for decades was finally quenched after visiting his forefathers’ home and where he hailed from – the place where he took his first steps and where he uttered his first words.

It is this yearning that is presented as dina in every writing of famous poet and scriptwriter Sampooran Singh Kalra, popularly known as Gulzar. In every interview, he talks about his home in Dina, Jhelum, and the memories he had of his house. One of his verses goes like this:

Chand Pukhraj ka, raat pashemene ki
Zikr Jhelum ka, baat ho Dinay ki

Or the longing for Lahore that is evident in the literary works of Bapsi Sidhwa.

The original land papers (registry) of the Singh family house in Rawalpindi.
The original land papers (registry) of the Singh family house in Rawalpindi.

70 years on, both India and Pakistan, despite their daggers drawn, have people who continue to cling to their past, a whole generation carrying in their hearts the love of their birthplaces. People who were once told “You’re no longer wanted; go away before it’s too late.”

They wish for a thaw in the icy relations between the two countries so they could see their ancestral homes, pay respects at their forefathers’ graves and finally feel the joy their parents had felt in their once-idyllic neighbourhoods.

Today, regrettably, it seems like an ever-distant dream.

The letterheads of the Rawalpindi business belonging to Gurpreet's family.
The letterheads of the Rawalpindi business belonging to Gurpreet’s family.

DNA of headless torso found at sea matches missing Swedish journalist: Danish police

Danish police said on Wednesday that a DNA test from a headless torso found in the Baltic Sea matches with missing Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who is believed to have died on an amateur-built submarine that sank.

Wall, 30, was last seen alive on August 10 on Danish inventor Peter Madsen’s submarine, which sank off Denmark’s eastern coast the day after.

Madsen, who was arrested on preliminary manslaughter charges, denies having anything to do with Wall’s disappearance.

He initially told police that she disembarked from the submarine to a Copenhagen island several hours into their trip and that he did not know what happened to her afterward, but later told authorities “an accident occurred onboard that led to her death” and he “buried” her at sea.

The headless torso was found by a member of the public on August 21 near where she was believed to have died. Copenhagen police said on August 22 that the arms and legs had been “deliberately been cut off” the body.

In a brief statement on Wednesday, police said tests found the torso matched with Wall, and a news conference was scheduled for later in the day.

Wall, a Sweden-born freelance journalist, studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris, the London School of Economics and at Columbia University in New York, where she graduated with a master’s degree in journalism in 2013.

She lived in New York and Beijing, her family said, and had written for The New York TimesThe GuardianThe South China Morning Postand Vice Magazine, among other publications.

NAB probing 1,500 Sindh functionaries for graft

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday was informed that as many as 15 politicians in Sindh — a former caretaker chief minister, former Karachi mayor, current and former provincial ministers — are among over 1,500 persons facing proceedings by the National Accountability Bureau for their alleged involvement in corruption.

Headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Sheikh, a two-judge bench was hearing a set of constitutional petitions of three opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf — social welfare organisation Pasban and two civil rights campaigners against a new provincial law that repealed the applicability of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), better known as NAB law, in the province.

NAB on the court’s order submitted a detailed list of former and sitting members of Sindh Assembly facing NAB proceedings. They were Gian Chand Israni, Ghulam Gadir Palijo, Dost Muhammad, Muhammad Ali Malkani, Ejaz Shah Shirazi, Rauf Siddiqui, Adil Siddique, former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal, Nawab Taimoor Talpur, Law Minister Zia-ul-Hasan Lanjar, Abdul Sattar Rajpar, Haji Abdul Rauf Khoso, Nasrullah Baloch, Dr Asim Hussian, Sharjeel Inam Memon.

A list of over 800 provincial government’s former and current officials who were being investigated by NAB was also filed in court. Prominent among them are retired justice and former caretaker Sindh CM Zahid Kurban Alvi, former chief of the Sindh Building Control Authority Manzoor Qadir Kaka.

While NAB also asked the SHC to strike down the provincial law, the Sindh government requested the court to review its earlier order that allowed the country’s top anti-graft institution to continue with the pending inquiries and investigation in the province.

According to the petitioners, the NAO 1999 Sindh Repeal Act, 2017 is an attempt by the PPP to protect its corruption. They claimed that the law was against the basic scheme of the Constitution.

Defending the NAO, NAB in its comments stated that the Supreme Court in Asfandyar Wali Case (PLD 2001 SC 607) had held that “the NAB ordinance has been competently promulgated and is neither ultra vires the Constitution nor does it invade the provincial autonomy in any manner”.

NAB submitted that Article 143 of the Constitution was very much clear about applicability of the laws enacted by parliament and the provincial assembly.

The Article reads: “..if any provision of an Act of Provincial Assembly is repugnant to any provision of an Act of Parliament, which Parliament is competent to enact, then the Act of Parliament, whether passed before or after the Act of the Provincial Assembly, shall prevail and the Act of Provincial Assembly shall, to the extent of repugnancy, be void”.

Besides, NAB said, Article 142 (c) gave ample powers to parliament to enact legislation with respect to the criminal law, criminal procedure and evidence.

It said that the NAO was distinct from the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 and the FIA Act, 1947 in which there was no mechanism of recovery of swindled money. “But the provisions of NAO provide categorically a mechanism to recover the amount through Voluntary Return (VR) and Plea Bargain (PB).”

The Sindh advocate general also filed an application asking the court to review its order that directed NAB to continue with the pending inquiries and investigations.

The two-judge bench issued notices to the petitioners and NAB on the provincial government’s application and put off the hearing to Sept 12.

Meanwhile, the court ordered that the NAB could continue its operation in the province till next date of hearing.

The AG also filed para-wise comments and preliminary objections to the matter.

He also questioned the jurisdiction of the SHC to proceed with the matter and submitted that the competency of lawmakers to legislate on a provincial or federal subject was a matter between federation and the provinces and the jurisdiction of this court was barred under Article 184 of the Constitution.

The AG said that the matter fell under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 184.

Moreover, he argued, the provincial assembly proceedings had immunity under Article 69 and 127 of the Constitution.