FBI reportedly obtained secret order to monitor Trump adviser for Russia ties

Bureau said to have been allowed to monitor Pages communication during the election because it believed he was acting as a Kremlin agent

The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of Carter Page, an adviser to the then presidential candidate Donald Trump, over suspicions he was a Russian agent , the Washington Post has reported.

Page is among the Trump associates under scrutiny as the FBI and congressional committees investigate whether any of them colluded with Moscow to skew the 2016 election in Trumps favour. Both Page and Trump have denied any wrongdoing and portrayed the investigations as a witch-hunt. But the investigations continue to haunt the Trump administration.

The Post, citing unnamed law enforcement and other US officials, said on Tuesday that the government surveillance application laid out the basis for believing that Page had knowingly engaged in intelligence activities on Russias behalf. The newspaper said the application included contacts Page had with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013.

However the report noted that Page had not been charged with any crime, and that FBI counter-intelligence investigations frequently do not lead to criminal prosecutions.

Pages contacts with Moscow are detailed in a 2015 court filing involving a case against three men charged in connection with a cold war-style Russian spying ring. According to the filing, a man described as Male-1 provided one of the men documents about the energy industry. Earlier this month, Page confirmed to Buzzfeed he was the unnamed male. He said he had been approached by a man presenting himself as a diplomat at the UN and did not hand over sensitive documents. He was not charged as part of that case.

Trump surprised campaign observers in March when he named Page, a previously obscure businessman who had worked in the energy sector in Russia, as a foreign policy advisor to his campaign. However, after reports surfaced in September of his alleged contacts with senior Russian officials, the Trump team distanced itself from him.

Page, who has denied having improper ties to Russia, told the Associated Press on Tuesday he was happy that the court order had been revealed and blamed the Obama administration for trying to suppress dissidents who did not fully support their failed foreign policy.

It will be interesting to see what comes out when the unjustified basis for those Fisa requests are more fully disclosed over time, said Page, using an acronym to refer to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The Fisa court and its orders are highly secretive. Judges grant permission for surveillance if they agree theres probable cause that the target is an agent of a foreign power. Though the standard is a high bar to meet, applications are hardly ever denied.

The Post reported that a 90-day warrant was issued for Page and had been renewed more than once by the Fisa court.

Trump aides insist the president has no relationship with Page and did not have any dealings with him during the campaign.

Pages relationship with Russia began to draw scrutiny during the campaign after he visited Moscow in July 2016 for a speech at the New Economic School. While Page said he was traveling in a personal capacity, the school cited his role in the Trump campaign in advertising the speech.

Page was sharply critical of the US in his remarks, saying Washington had a hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.

Days later, Page talked with Russias ambassador to the US at an event on the sidelines of the Republican national convention. Jeff Sessions, now the US attorney general, spoke with the Russian envoy at the same event, a conversation he failed to reveal when asked about contacts with Russians during his Senate confirmation hearings.

The campaign began distancing itself from Page after his trip to Russia, saying he was only an informal adviser. By the fall, he appeared to have cut ties to the Republican campaign.

It is unclear how Page got connected with the Trump campaign. One campaign official said Page was recruited by Sam Clovis, an Iowa Republican operative who ran the Trump campaigns policy shop and is now a senior adviser at the agriculture department. Those who served on the campaigns foreign policy advisory committee also said they had limited contact with Page.

But in a letter Page sent to the Senate intelligence committee last month, he cast himself as a regular presence in Trump Tower, where the campaign was headquartered.

I have frequently dined in Trump Grill, had lunch in Trump Cafe, had coffee meetings in the Starbucks at Trump Tower, attended events and spent many hours in campaign headquarters on the fifth floor last year, Page wrote. He also noted that his office building in New York is literally connected to the Trump Tower building by an atrium.

In the letter, Page claimed that his mobile phone had been tapped. The former Merrill Lynch investment banker who worked out of its Moscow office for three years, now runs Global Energy Capital, a firm focused on energy sectors in emerging markets. According to the companys website, he has advised on transactions for Gazprom and RAO UES, a pair of Russian entities.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/11/donald-trump-carter-page-fbi-russia

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On the frontline with Karachis ambulance drivers

The long read: They pick up the dead and wounded from burning buildings, terrorist attacks and gun battles. And they get paid 1 a day

The impact of the explosion sent Muhammad Safdar flying backwards. He looked up from where he had landed and saw that the windows of his parked ambulance had shattered. As he tried to pick himself back up, fellow volunteer drivers working for the Edhi ambulance service gathered around him; it looked as if Safdar was bleeding. But he had not suffered any external injuries. Human flesh got stuck to me, he recalls now, as we sit in the ambulance control centre in downtown Karachi. My friends were checking me for injuries, but it was pieces of other people. I was trembling hard and I couldnt hear my own voice when I spoke. It sounded juddering. I could only hear whistles.

It was 5 February 2010 and Safdar had already dealt with the fallout of one explosion that day: an hour before, a motorbike laden with explosives had slammed into a bus carrying Shia Muslims to a religious procession. Safdar had raced to the scene to load the dead and injured into his ambulance and take them to the nearby Jinnah hospital. With more than people 30 injured and 12 dead, the emergency room was in a state of chaos, filled with crying and screaming as doctors struggled to cope. He was still inside the hospital when the second bomb exploded just outside the entrance.

Safdar did not realise until later that he had suffered head injuries. At the time, he followed his first instinct, which was to get up and continue to help. A further 13 people were dead, with scores more injured. Everything was a mess, there was blood everywhere, he remembers.

The hospital entrance was badly damaged and there were fears of a third bomb. Ambulance drivers took those with the worst wounds to other nearby hospitals for treatment. Three ambulances were destroyed in the explosion, so they worked with what they had.

Across the crowds of casualties, Safdar kept his eyes on his boss, Abdul Sattar Edhi, the founder of the service, who was sitting inside one of his own ambulances. As the head of a huge charitable organisation offering services to the poor, Edhi made a point of remaining at the frontline of rescue work. He had been collecting the dead and injured alongside his staff. Safdar ran over to him. I came to pick him up in case of a third blast, but he said, I am not going. Wherever I am, there isnt a blast, so I am not moving. Safdar continued to haul bodies to ambulances parked outside. Amid the dirt and blood, he spotted something suspicious: a very clean-looking motorbike in the car park with a TV set strapped to the back. Safdar ran back to Edhi to tell him what he had seen. Edhi alerted police and stayed put as experts defused what turned out to be a third bomb.

In 13 years as an Edhi ambulance driver, Safdar has lost count of the rescue jobs he has done. He has entered burning buildings, dived into water after shipwrecks, retrieved survivors after terror attacks and industrial accidents, and navigated running gun battles.

Sporting red T-shirts emblazoned with bold white letters reading EDHI, these workers are a familiar sight at Pakistans all-too-common disaster scenes. Here in Karachi, a megalopolis of around 20 million people, there is no state ambulance service.

Karachi has suffered through decades of violence. Ethnic tensions have been simmering since the 1950s, ramping up as conflict and natural disasters elsewhere in Pakistan pushed more and more people into the city. For years, gang war raged in the slum of Lyari, and as terrorism increased in Pakistan in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks and the declaration of the war on terror,Karachi became a key militant operating ground. Since 2014, a crackdown led by the army has brought a semblance of calm, but violence still simmers below the surface.

Safdar, in his rudimentary ambulance, has been at the frontline of the shifting conflicts consuming his city, placing himself at huge personal risk for very little money.

Safdar first stumbled into the Edhi Foundations main office in 2003, shouting that his brother had waited too long for an ambulance. Safdar was around 22 years old (it is common in Pakistan for people to be unsure of their exact birth date), and his brother Adil was roughly 20. The ambulance driver on duty, Muhammad Liaqat, remembers, Our reaction was not to reply in any aggressive way. He has a very good heart, but he is hot-headed.

Adil had contracted polio as an infant, and the disease still endemic in Pakistan left him disabled. He needed a series of painful leg operations. With no car and limited funds, the family relied on the Edhi ambulances.

Despite Safdars anger, he was impressed by the operation. I saw other people waiting at the hospital for hours for transportation, he recalls. Edhi Sahib [a term of respect] alone was trying to help. Safdar had dreamed of joining the army, but needed to stay at home because of Adils illness. So, he got a driving licence and joined the ambulance service. Now he creates trouble for us every day, says Liaqat.


On his first day,Safdar went with another driver to collect one of the unclaimed bodies frequently found on the streets of Karachi. He couldnt look. The other driver slapped him in the face. What do you think this is? he said. Its a human being. What are you? A human being. Why are you behaving like this? Safdar picked up the corpse.

It takes time to get used to this work, he says. A lot of people leave after a week or so as they cant take it. They have fear in them.

Safdar is a thin man with a meticulously stylish haircut, equally quick to laugh as to fly into a rage. His boss, Anwar Kazmi, ironically introduces him to newcomers as our most polite driver. Safdar constantly chews a betel nut derivative, which has a stimulant effect a common habit among drivers in Pakistan. He is outspoken and talks a million miles a minute, his rapid hand movements expressing a range of emotions. He refuses to enter a government hospital where the boss was once rude to him. But he cannot stand to see suffering, sometimes getting in trouble for using his siren for non-emergency call-outs, and stopping to help if he spots anyone injured or lost on the road.

His usual base is the Edhi ambulance services main control centre in Kharadar in Karachis bustling old town. The office is open to the street, with a kiosk at the front for donations.

In a city where media companies and hospitals have armed guards, this accessibility is unusual. Inside, drivers sit and chat in between shifts, the overhead fan whirring and causing the dim electric light to flicker over their faces. Their standard work shifts are 18, 24 or 36 hours. At night, some nap on their stretchers. High up on a wall, stuck to peeling paintwork, are photographs of eight drivers killed in service. The bosses sit in this room too, behind two large desks. Kazmi, the general manager and spokesman, is always stationed at the right-hand desk, two phones and a mobile in front of him.


Safdar
Safdar lights a cigarette during a moment of downtime. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Abdul Sattar Edhi came to Karachi as a poor man from an Indian village in 1947. Starting with a small pharmacy tent, his work rapidly expanded, powered by donations from ordinary citizens. With the help of his wife Bilquis, he set up a maternal health clinic and a centre for abandoned children. A large donation allowed Edhi to buy a second-hand truck, which he put to use as his first ambulance.

Pakistan can sometimes be a cruel environment, its residents caught between the dual pressures of poverty and violence. Yet it is also a place of great kindness, with a strong culture of charitable giving. Donations from what Edhi called the common man still power the foundation. It refuses state money, and has politely turned down donations from businessmen that it considers unethical. The organisation fills many gaps left by the state, operating a dizzying array of services, including homes for victims of domestic violence, food banks and a shelter for stray animals.

Kazmi has a persistent cough and frequently quotes Karl Marx. Despite the heat, he wears a woolly hat and a waistcoat over his salwar kameez. Im leftist-minded. Edhi Sahib was too, he tells me. Some 40 years ago, he said to me, You cant say when the revolution will come, but this is a way to serve the common man. Come and work with me. So I joined.


Pakistan is a conservative, religious state. The Edhi Foundation is unusual in its ignoring of caste, creed, religion and sect. This strict stance has led to some criticism from religious groups. Edhi lived in a humble, ascetic way, even as his charity became a multimillion-pound enterprise. He refused exploit his growing celebrity for personal gain, never took a salary and even satoutside the office with a begging bowl.

When Edhi died on 8 July 2016, Pakistan entered a period of national mourning. He was hailed internationally as the worlds greatest humanitarian. Leadership of the organisation passed to his eldest son, Faisal.Criticism from religious conservatives about the familys beliefs ramped up. Donations dropped. Pakistan is now watching to see if Edhis legacy can be continued.

Like other Edhi ambulance drivers, Safdar is technically a volunteer and works for a basic salary of 4,300 Pakistani rupees a month (33). A private driver would earn 10,00015,000 rupees. This basic salary covers the high-risk rescue work; the easier patient services jobs moving people between hospitals and transporting corpses incur a small fee, so drivers receive a commission of around 100 rupees (76p) per trip. Sometimes patients tip. But clearly, money is not the motivating factor.

When Safdar talks about his medical knowledge, his face lights up. Edhi drivers receive a few days of basic instruction, and those who display an aptitude later get more specialised training on an ad hoc basis. Safdar can rattle through the correct procedure in the event of a heart attack, electrocution, broken bones, fire, bombs. He has tricks for picking up heavy people, and uses the grubby cushion in his ambulance to prop up the unconscious to keep their airways open. Doctors giving me these trainings would ask me how long I have studied for, and I would show them my thumb, he says proudly. This signifies illiteracy: those who cannot sign their name use a thumbprint for official documents. Theyd say, You seem like youve studied for a long time, because you know the right questions to ask.

Safdar and other workers care passionately about continuing Abdul Sattar Edhis legacy. Edhi was staunchly non-hierarchical, and had a personal relationship with even his most junior staff. Safdar keeps in his ambulance a dog-eared newspaper obituary, which quotes him saying that Edhi was like a father.

Between jobs, Safdar can usually be found in one of the small shops near the Kharadar base. The biryani stall dishes up heaps of steaming rice and meat to drivers on their breaks. A juice bar, with white walls and bright orange plastic seats, sells fried chicken and canned drinks. The tea shop nearby brews vats of traditional masala chai; milky, sweet, spiced tea that fuels everyone at the Kharadar office through their long shifts.

Sitting in the tea shop, Safdar pours a small amount of his tea into the saucer so it will cool quicker, slurping it up from the plate. I am always on call even though Im free right now, he says. A call comes through. In an instant, Safdar is in his ambulance. There has been an explosion in the Defence Housing Authority, an upmarket suburb of Karachi.

Safdar drives at alarming speed, weaving between lanes of traffic, careering down alleyways, his siren blaring. Edhi ambulances small Suzuki Bolan minivans equipped with a single stretcher and oxygen canister are not set up for pre-hospital care. But their small size means they can zip through the citys five lanes of frequently gridlocked traffic at high speed. Safdar shouts through his loudspeaker for people to move. Hey Muslim! Go quicker! he calls to a man with a long beard wearing a prayer hat. Rickshaw driver, get out of the way! Old lady, move it! Son of a bitch, are you drunk? He screeches to a halt outside the flats where the explosion has taken place.


The Edhi Foundationhas around 500 ambulances in Karachi, out of a fleet of more than 1,500 across Pakistan. This makes it the worlds largest voluntary ambulance service. The Chhipa ambulance service is also run as a charity, on a similar model to Edhi. Founded in 2007, it is Karachis second-largest ambulance fleet.

Safdar considers Chhipa as a rival to Edhi. I dont consider them ambulances, he mutters. As far as ambulances go, we are the dons and these guys are just kids. Once, he got into a physical fight with some Chhipa drivers. Edhi was still alive then and made sure Safdar was arrested. He wanted to teach me a lesson, Safdar says.

The Defence Housing Authority explosion was caused by a domestic gas cylinder, and four people were badly injured. The rate of injury and death in Karachi resulting from poor health and safety standards is particularly noticeable now that tightened security has reduced violent crime.

Pakistans security crackdown was triggered by two major incidents in 2014. The most shocking was a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, one of the countrys northern cities, on 16 December, in which more than 150 people, mostly children, were slaughtered. The other, which happened six months earlier, on 8 June, was a brazen assault on Jinnah international airport in Karachi. Around 11pm, 10 heavily armed militants entered the airport and launched an assault. Heavy fighting with the Airports Security Force ensued.

A group of Edhi workers arrived at the airport soon after the first blast and provided medical back-up to the security forces. Clad in bulletproof vests, Safdar and his colleagues were inside the airport for 16 hours as the gun battle raged. During the active fighting, our job was to keep in a corner and watch for injuries and see if someone was shot, says Safdar. Workers darted out with their stretchers to pick up the wounded. Of the 28 who died, 14 were security officials.

In Karachi, a number of people were killed in the crackdown that followed. Sometimes, ambulances are called to clear up the mess.On this subject, Safdar is uncharacteristically reticent. Whether it is a big raid or a small one, back-up is needed. Sometimes we arrive and find police in masks. It is our job to check if anyone is alive, not to ask any questions.

Edhi workers have not always had an easy relationship with the police. In April 2012, the streets of Lyari broke into a new iteration of an old gang war. The police staged a crackdown, shutting down electricity and water. Police and gangsters battled in the streets. Thousands of people were trapped inside without basic supplies, so Abdul Sattar Edhi announced that his ambulances would deliver water, rice and powdered milk door to door. This allegedly angered police, and led to widespread conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated allegations that ambulance drivers distributed arms to gangsters.

My job was to take groceries to homes, says Safdar. We couldnt do much for the injured as the government was involved. But lots of families had other emergencies heart attacks, going into labour. We catered for that despite the police operation.

One day, Safdar claims, he and a colleague were apprehended by Chaudhry Aslam, who was then the police superintendent. He cut open the sacks of rice, looking for weapons, and took them into custody. The incident demonstrates the dangers of operating an ideologically independent organisation in a corrupt and unpredictable state. Safdar is sanguine: My only regret is that I was not able to slap Chaudhry Aslam in the face as he arrested us.


The call comes in the early afternoon. A dead body has been spotted in the sea, near the port. Siren blaring, Safdar weaves between cars. It is not common for us to have accidents, and when we do, it is usually the publics fault, he says. A large truck fails to give way. I dont think you can even hear the horn! he shouts, glaring at the driver.

At the port, Safdar picks up the sheet from his stretcher. Bodies are harder to lift when they are waterlogged: limbs are fragile and parts can come away. When the wooden rescue boat comes in, he and a colleague climb nimbly down the rocks and onto the boat. They roll the corpse onto the sheet, wrap it around, and carry it up to the waiting stretcher. It is fresh, a few hours old, and has not started to smell. The man was in his 60s.

When a body is found, a strict procedure follows. The ambulance takes it to a government hospital, where the death is logged and if possible, relatives contacted. If no ID is found, the body goes to a police station. From there, it is taken to the Edhi mortuary, where further efforts are made to track its identity. If this proves impossible, the body ends up in the Edhi graveyard.

The Edhi mortuary is in Sohrab Goth, an impoverished area that until recently was a hotbed of urban militancy. The mortuary is set back from the road, with a large open waiting area lined with benches, where relatives can sit. To the left are rooms where the bodies are washed. To the right is the cold storage facility. This is the only functional mortuary in Karachi, a city of more than 27.5 million people.


Safdar
Safdar chats with a colleague at the Edhi Foundation office in Karachi. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Although state hospitals are equipped with cold storage facilities, most are not operational. Funds earmarked for their maintenance are frequently diverted elsewhere. The mortuary deals with unidentified bodies and the aftermath of disasters, but families can also pay for deceased relatives to be stored while they await burial, or for their bodies to be washed in the traditional Islamic way.

Ghulam Hussain, the senior clerk, has worked at the mortuary for 12 years. After his first day, he walked out. There were so many bodies, in all conditions, fully mutilated, so there were just parts of them. When I saw that, it was like the ground was pulled from under me. It is impossible to forget. It stays with me, it never fades, he says. Two months later, he returned, and stayed. Slowly, I got used to it. Human beings tend to manage things. He says that on average, between four and six unidentified bodies come in each day, rising to between 10 and 12 in the summer.

It is difficult work, and Hussain takes refuge in systems. He describes the details of procedures for treating and identifying the bodies. Until a few years ago, bodies were buried within three days, in keeping with Islamic tradition. Now that Pakistans ID card system is biometric, fingerprints are taken from corpses and sent to the central authority to check for a database match. This can take anything from 24 hours to several weeks.

Two men arrive, looking for a relative who went missing eight years ago. Hussain gives them the catalogue a macabre photo album. When an unclaimed body arrives, staff take three photographs of the face: one from the front and one from each side. These are filed along with a serial number that marks the shroud and then the grave, so that even after burial relatives can find their loved ones.

The cold storage facility is a metal room with its own diesel generator to ensure that the temperature remains at zero degrees, despite Karachis frequent power cuts. The bodies are laid out on metal grilles, on three levels. There are two halls. Both smell overpoweringly of disinfectant, but this does not entirely cover the cloying smell of the corpses. In the first room are bodies brought in by families, entirely covered by white shrouds, with labels stating their name, age and religion. In the second are the unidentified bodies. Their faces are left uncovered, in order to ease identification. A stray hand or foot sticks out in places.

When there is a major disaster a terror attack, a fire, a floodor heatwave there are times when due process cannot be followed. On 11 September 2012, there was a huge fire at a textile factory in the district of Baldia Town. The fire broke out near the compounds locked gates: there was no escape. More than 600 people were injured and more than 200 died.

Safdar and his fellow ambulance drivers worked solidly for four days to rescue survivors and retrieve the dead. The bodies were so badly burnt that if you tried to hold them, they would crumble, he says.

Most of the bodies went to the hospital and then, too charred to be readily identified, to the mortuary. For Hussain, the textile factory fire stands out not because of the overwhelming volume of bodies to process, wash and identify, but because of the stress the team was placed under to work quickly. Karachi is a highly politicised environment. After major disasters, pressure is often exerted by one interested faction or another to release the bodies quickly. That is what happened in this case. We couldnt follow our procedures, says Hussain. We couldnt test the bodies. He is sure that some went to the wrong families, and it still distresses him.


On 12 December 2016, scores of ambulances are lined up opposite the Kharadar base. Today is a public holiday the prophet Muhammads birthday and a conservative Sunni group is holding its annual procession. Overnight, blockades have gone up around the planned route, with paramilitary forces standing guard. The Edhi Foundations logistical machine has kicked into action.

Safdar is late for work; he spent the morning preparing celebrations at home, ordering food and planning a Quran recital for the evening. Instead of his usual cargo trousers, he is wearing a blue salwar kameez. Ignoring his bosss sarcastic comment about his excellent timekeeping, Safdar pulls his red Edhi T-shirt over the top.

Vehicles are stationed along the parade route, and Safdar drives to his spot. The rally fills up in the early afternoon. Trucks with loudspeakers blast out religious music and prayers, and distribute free snacks. Sitting in his ambulance, looking at the crowds, Safdar remembers the same event, exactly 10 years before. In the evening, a massive bomb exploded, so loud that Safdar couldnt hear for a few minutes. His ambulance filled with the injured and he tried to drive to the nearest hospital. When a blast happens, people leave their cars, their bikes, their bags, everything. I drove my ambulance over all this debris. I was trembling and there was a major problem with the vehicle. Only I can ever know how I was able to drive my ambulance that day. A total of 57 people died.

Safdars worst memory is of the procession on the Shia holy day of Ashura in December 2009. Safdar and his colleague Farrukh were stationed near an entrance. They left their vehicles to buy a drink from a roadside stall. A man in a bulky, heavy jacket entered. He detonated his suicide vest metres away from the ambulances. Safdar, stunned by the impact but not injured, snapped into action. He realised quickly that both ambulances were badly damaged, so he lifted the injured up, away from the crowd, awaiting back-up. Through all this, I saw the top half of Farrukhs body lying there. More than 30 people died and dozens were injured. Farrukhs picture is displayed on the honour wall of dead ambulance drivers at the Kharadar office.

This year, the procession passes without incident. I havent spent an Eid night at home since I started this job, says Safdar. Always I am driving, hoping nothing happens, wearing these fancy clothes.


On an average day, a steady stream of people come into the Kharadar office to give small donations or to seek help. One day, a man brings in his four-year-old daughter. She cannot walk, he says. Staff pull out a dusty childs wheelchair and the family leaves with it. Another day, a young woman with a black eye walks in and declares she is running away from home. Within half an hour, an ambulance driver has fetched a female case worker from the womens shelter.

The ambulance is the backbone of everything,says Faisal Edhi.Shelter homes and adoption centres run because of the ambulances. The babies are found in the bushes, ambulances go and collect them. People are lying on the street, ambulances get them.

The final stage of the journey that a body can make is to the cemetery. The day after the procession, Safdar drives to the Edhi graveyard, a huge, flat expanse. Graves are demarcated with wooden signs bearing a number, which are stuck into the earth. This number has followed each body from the mortuary to its final resting place. It corresponds to the number of bodies buried here. On this day, the latest number is 83,390.


A
A wooden marker at the Edhi Foundation graveyard on the outskirts of Karach. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Each of these 83,390 bodies was given a full funeral service, with four or five Edhi staff present. In Islam, it is believed that you must join funeral prayers if you can, as it eases the persons journey to the next world. Sometimes, other mourners join the prayers, and passersby stop their motorbikes to join in. Safdar, who has led the ceremony on many occasions, remembers times when 30 or 40 people have attended.

Some sections of the graveyard correspond to major disasters; there is a whole section for bodies still unidentified after the Baldia fire, and a long trench where victims of the 2015 heatwave lie. Some graves are no longer unmarked; families who have later tracked down a dead relative have paid to erect proper gravestones, which stand out against the endless lines of wooden sticks.

Most cemeteries in Pakistan are strictly divided along religious lines. Here, because the identity of the corpses is unknown, people of different faiths lie side by side. Safdar points to a grave marked with a wooden cross. Edhi Sahib thought that all humans are equal, he says. Look at that Christian grave, whose relatives left the body here, even though it is a Muslim majority. This is a very beautiful thing to see in Pakistan.

He gets back into his ambulance to drive back to the base. On the way, he passes the scene of an accident. An old man has been knocked off his motorbike and Safdar stops to help, administering first aid at the side of the road, expertly checking for broken bones. As the man leaves, he grips Safdars hand. May you always be happy, he says. Safdar gets back into his ambulance and drives on. If you see someone drowning and you can be of use, why wouldnt you help? Its about help, not money, he says.

Since Abdul Sattar Edhi died, many observers in Pakistan have questioned whether the organisation can continue. Safdar is adamant that things will not change. On his rare days off, he sometimes drives to Edhis grave in Hyderabad, where he speaks to his mentor and promises to continue his legacy. Faisal admits that donations are down 30 per cent since his fathers death, but he is determined to keep the foundations work going. When my father was alive and people would criticise him, he used to say, We do not need to respond, our response is our work. So thats what I say now. Our response is our work.

Main photograph by Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

This is an edited version of an article that appears on Mosaic. It is republished here under a Creative Commons licence

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/06/on-the-frontline-with-karachis-ambulance-drivers

Why Silicon Valley wants to thwart the grim reaper | John Naughton

Dean Charlton’s #FTHM Amazing Photography Competition is still open for entries

Googles billion-dollar belief that it can crack the DNA code to immortality reveals a dangerous mindset

In this world, wrote Benjamin Franklin, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. This proposition doesnt cut much ice in Silicon Valley, where they take a poor view of paying taxes. Whats interesting is that they are also coming to the view that perhaps death is optional too, at least for the very rich.

You think I jest? Well, meet Bill Maris, the founder and former CEO of Google Ventures, the investment arm of Alphabet, Googles owners. Three years ago, Maris decided to create a company that will solve death. He pitched the idea to Googles co-founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page and, according to a lovely piece by Tad Friend in the New Yorker, Brin, who has a gene variant that predisposes him to Parkinsons disease, loved the idea and Page declared that Google should do it.

Thus was born Calico, which is short for the California Life Company, in 2013. It started with a billion dollars in the bank and is extremely secretive. All thats known, Friend writes, is that its tracking 1,000 mice from birth to death to try to determine biomarkers of ageing biochemical substances whose levels predict morbidity; that it has a colony of naked mole rats, which live for 30 years and are amazingly ugly; and that it has invested in drugs that may prove helpful with diabetes and Alzheimers.

Calico is a typical product of the reality distortion field that is Silicon Valley. Its a salutary illustration of how sudden and unimaginable wealth can warp minds. There are people in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino who truly believe they are living in the Florence of Renaissance 2.0. Their religion is what Neil Postman called Technopoly and their prevailing mindset is what the technology critic Evgeny Morozov describes as solutionism, the belief that all problems have technological solutions.

It turns out that death is now perceived as just such a problem. Friend quotes a hedge-fund manager waxing lyrical on this. I have the idea, he burbles, that ageing is plastic, that its encoded. If something is encoded, you can crack the code. If you can crack the code, you can hack the code! Cue loud applause from the elite audience gathered in a Californian drawing room to discuss the secrets of longevity.

Thats not to say that longevity isnt important or relevant. In most societies, people are living longer and thats now giving rise to acute social, psychological and economic stress. Just ask anyone who works in the NHS. Dementia and Parkinsons disease are laying waste to an increasing number of human minds, while heart disease, cancer and diabetes are making our bodies progressively enfeebled. We live longer but our closing years can be miserable, lonely and largely pointless.

So its worth pouring resources into understanding and eventually curing these diseases. But the point of that is not to abolish death but to make the natural process of ageing more tolerable towards the end. And thats what the majority of scientists and doctors are trying to achieve. They want us to have healthier lives and compressed morbidity, which is a polite term for a quick and painless death at the end.

The Silicon Valley crowd want something else, though: they seek to make death optional. And they think it can be done. After all, as some wag put it decades ago: Death is natures way of telling you youre fired. Once we have mated and brought up some children, evolution regards us as disposable, past our sell-by date. So it has arranged that somewhere in our DNA are genes that will progressively trigger ageing processes, eventually causing our bodies to fail. To computer people, DNA is just code and code can always be hacked. So all we have to do is find the offending genes, edit them using Crispr and bingo! immortality beckons.

You have to marvel at the one-dimensionality of minds that can think like this. Apart from anything else, death is what gives meaning to life. Its also the process that ensures human vitality: young people arrive with ideas that their elders never had and death makes room for them to grow, thrive and die in their turn. Thats why elite US universities, which do not have a retirement age for tenured professors, are increasingly desperate to find ways to incentivise them to quit.

Given that Silicon Valley billionaires are smart, they must know all this. So could it be that what underpins this strange new obsession with ensuring immortality is something more straightforward? Could it be that they all became wealthy at such a young age? So they have these unimaginable riches and have suddenly realised that they dont have an infinite time to enjoy them. Ones heart bleeds for the poor lambs. Not.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/09/silicon-valley-wants-to-cheat-grim-reaper-google