Julie McCarthy

Flags of the competing political parties whip in the wind of seaside Karachi. But little else is stirring in this city of 18 million this day.

The MQM, a leading political party in the megacity, has shut Karachi down with a general strike in response to a deadly bombing at its election office. But as soon as the strike ends, the streets spring to life as if nothing were amiss.

In Pakistan, police say two unidentified gunmen fatally shot the special prosecutor investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Friday's attack on Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali in Islamabad deepens the mystery surrounding one of the country's most politically charged cases, which remains open six years later.

"What has changed?" That is the question echoing through Delhi on Sunday. Public frustration over sexual crimes against women is erupting again, this time over a gruesome sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl.

The protests are smaller than those that swept over the capital in December with the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman, but the incident has revived debate over the startling state of sexual violence in India.

The culling of candidates in the run-up to Pakistan's May 11 election is providing the country some badly needed levity.

The "Pakistani Inquisition," as it's been dubbed, has election commission officials grilling office-seekers on their Islamic bona fides.

Many have stumbled badly, only to be disqualified.

But not Mussarat Shaheen, who performed impeccably. The former dancer — fabled for her Pushto films — was asked by an official in the city of Dera Ismail Khan to recite a verse of the Holy Quran, to test her mettle as a candidate for the National Assembly.

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf suffered only a blow to his dignity when a lawyer hurled a shoe at him Friday as he entered the High Court in the southern city of Karachi.

The shoe missed its target but made its point. Many in Pakistan's legal fraternity still harbor anger toward the former president for a number of actions he took against the judiciary during his military rule from 1999 to 2008.

Headlines in India's national newspapers tell the story of the state of women in the country. A sampling of what readers in New Delhi encounter makes for sober reading:

"Woman Alleges Gang Rape In Lawyer's Chamber."

"More Shame: Five Rapes In Two Days."

"Woman Resists Molestation, Shot Dead."

India's media have been zealous about exposing the pervasive sexual violence in the country since the gruesome gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old woman in December ignited an international outcry.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is International Women's Day. To mark that occasion, First Lady Michelle Obama joins of Secretary of State John Kerry to recognize women around the world who have shown exceptional courage, as they put it, in advancing women's rights. The nine honorees include the 23-year-old Indian woman whose brutal gang-rape last December inspired a movement to end violence against women in India.

From New Delhi, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

I first encountered Hugo Chavez in Caracas, starring in his own television show, Hello, Mr. President. I couldn't take my eyes of the program, which began at 11 a.m. and ended after 7 p.m.

It was an endurance test for even the most die-hard sycophants and terrific entertainment for a first-time viewer. While the camera would pan droopy-eyed Cabinet members seated in the front row, El Presidente showed no signs of flagging.

At the seven-hour mark, he chirped, "Bueno!" and declared, "It's early! Let's keep talking."

A wave of violence has rocked Bangladesh after a special war crimes tribunal Thursday imposed the death penalty on an Islamist leader for his role in the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Demonstrators for and against the convicted leader clashed with security forces, leaving dozens of people dead, including police.

The violence demonstrates the deep sensitivities that remain over the war of independence that played out more than 40 years ago.

Kurt Vonnegut once said, "What makes life worth living are the saints. ... They can be longtime friends or someone I meet on a street. They find a way to behave decently in an indecent society."

And so it is with Gyanesh Kamal, a man I met at India's Kumbh Mela, one of the oldest festivals on Earth. To the uninitiated, this spiritual spectacle is a discombobulating din of prayers, loudspeakers and pilgrims so ceaseless it disorients the senses.

The Hindu gathering known as Kumbh Mela is on a scale difficult to fathom: The world's largest religious festival is millions of feet shuffling, millions of mantras chanted, countless sales of firewood to ward off the night cold. Millions of incense sticks will be burned and bells rung in devotional rituals called aartis.

Jet-setting swamis, naked holy men and foreigners fascinated by Eastern mysticism joined tens of millions of pilgrims for a dip in river waters believed to be holy.

It began as an innocent Sunday outing to see the movie The Life of Pi. By the time the night was over, it had become a grisly gang rape that shocked the world.

Five men went on trial this week, charged with the rape and killing of a 23-year-old woman who died of the injuries she suffered when she was attacked on a bus as it moved through the streets of Delhi — an assault that ignited public outrage over the violence against women in the Indian capital.

India's Supreme Court will hear a petition Wednesday on behalf of one of the defendants in the New Delhi rape and murder case that has provoked mass protests in that nation. One of the accused, Mukesh Singh, has asked to remove the case from the capital on the grounds that the atmosphere is too charged to ensure a fair trial.

India reacted angrily today at what it called the "inhumane treatment" of one of two soldiers killed Tuesday in a skirmish along the de facto border with Pakistan.

Pakistan challenged the Indian army's allegations and said it is prepared to hold an investigation through the United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) into recent ceasefire violations along what is known as the Line of Control (LOC).

The five men accused in the rape case that has reverberated around the world were brought before a New Delhi magistrate for the first time today — but only after she sealed the proceedings.

In India today, the public prosecutor formally charged five men with murder and rape in the case of a 23-year-old student whose December assault and death has united the country in anger and sorrow.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In India, protestors are vowing to keep up their fight until there is justice for the young victim of a gang rape. The young woman died this weekend after injuries she suffered in the vicious attack. The incident has renewed demands for action against sexual violence. Delhi police say the accused will be formally charged with murder. From New Delhi, here's NPR's Julie McCarthy.

By Saturday evening, more than 1,000 candles glowed at a somber scene in a central Delhi park as India mourned the death of the young woman whose gang rape two weeks ago shocked the country.

What began 13 days ago with a handful of well-wishers holding a hospital vigil for the rape victim swelled into thousands as a young generation of Indians demanded an end to the culture of violence that produced more than 24,000 cases of rape last year alone.

Doctors in Singapore are battling to save the life of a 23-year-old Indian woman who sustained grievous injuries in a gang rape that has mobilized mass demonstrations in New Delhi.

Officials at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore said Friday that the condition of the patient who arrived Thursday morning is worsening, and that she is suffering organ failure.

India, the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, marks the birth of Jesus with a national holiday.

Indians call Christmas bara din, or the Big Day.

Chef Bhakshish Dean, a Punjabi Christian, traces the roots of Christianity in India through food.

The gang rape of a young woman on a bus in Delhi has touched off outrage and soul-searching in the increasingly unsafe Indian capital.

Spontaneous protests have erupted, while anguished members of Parliament decried the attack.

The world mourned the death this week of Indian maestro Ravi Shankar, whose name became synonymous with the sitar. Tributes eulogized Shankar as the great connector of the East and West who'd hobnobbed with The Beatles and collaborated with violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin. Less has been said about the roots of the music he spent a lifetime perfecting and innovating.

India's government has approved an inquiry into Wal-Mart's lobbying activities in the U.S. as a heated debate over the retail giant's plans for stores in India moves into a new phase, NPR's Julie McCarthy tells us from New Delhi.

(Reporting from New Delhi, NPR's Julie McCarthy sends along an update on a story that aired on Morning Edition Wednesday. Essentially, Indians were considering whether to allow big-box stores like Wal-Mart into the country.)

It looks like the case in India against two young female Facebook users has been dropped. But the debate over free speech in India is still heating up.

As we've reported, two young women were arrested last week for a Facebook comment that criticized the shutdown of the city of Mumbai for the cremation of a controversial political leader.

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