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Pakistan PM to visit Belarus on Monday

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Islamabad: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be leaving for Minsk on Monday, in the first ever visit by a Pakistani head of state to Belarus, officials said on Sunday.

During the visit, Sharif will hold delegation-level talks with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. He will also meet Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov, Xinhua reported citing Pakistan’s foreign ministry.

A number of important agreements are expected to be signed during this visit.

Sharif will also participate at the Pakistan-Belarus Business and Investment Forum.

He will also be conferred the title of honorary professor of the Belarus State University, and is expected to visit top Belarusian industrial units.

The Pakistani Mango and Film Festivals will also be held during the visit.

The Belarusian president visited Pakistan in May.

(IANS)

 

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Ex-Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif Indicted on Corruption Charges

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Muhammad Safdar
Muhammad Safdar, husband of Maryam Nawaz, daughter of ousted Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif, waves from a a vehicle as he arrives at an accountability court in Islamabad. VOA

Islamabad, October 19: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been indicted on corruption charges stemming from information taken from the so-called “Panama Papers.”

The country’s anti-corruption court indicted the 67-year-old Sharif during a hearing Thursday in Islamabad. His daughter Maryam and son-in-law Mohammed Safdar were also indicted. Maryam Sharif and Mohammed Safdar appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A lawyer for the elder Sharif, who is in London with his wife as she undergoes cancer treatment, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Maryam Sharif angrily dismissed the allegations as “baseless.”

Sharif was disqualified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court and removed from office in July after leaked documents last year from a Panama-based law firm revealed the family held a number of unreported overseas assets.(VOA)

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NAB Court Issues Arrest warrants for Nawaz Sharif’s Children, Son in Law on Corruption Charges

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Nawaz Sharif
Nawaz Sharif. wikimedia

Islamabad, Sep 26: The National Accountability Bureau court in Pakistan issued arrest warrants for the children and son-in-law of the former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The arrest warrants were issued after they failed to appear for a hearing in the court on Tuesday.

The court also announced that it would indict next week Nawaz Sharif for corruption, reports Efe news.

“Judge Mohammed Bashir issued arrest warrants with the possibility of bail against his children Hasan, Husain and Maryam and her (Maryam’s) husband Mohamed Safdar Awan because they did not appear before the court and ordered them to do so on October 2,” the court’s spokesperson Mohamed Irfan said.

The bail amount was fixed at 1 million rupees ($9,490) for each.

Khawaja Haris, the lawyer of the Sharifs, argued that Sharif’s children could not appear before the court as they were in London with their mother Kulsoom, who is undergoing treatment for throat cancer.

The former Prime Minister, after missing the first hearing on September 19 because he was in London, attended Tuesday’s hearing to request permission to miss the next hearing due to his wife’s illness.

The judge said the court would indict him on corruption charges on October 2, for which his presence would be necessary. After that, it would decide if he was required to continue to appear for the hearings.

The Sharifs had been summoned before the court on September 15 after the National Accountability Bureau, an anti-corruption body, opened three cases against them following an order by the Supreme Court on July 28.

The three cases are related to ownership of the property at an exclusive zone in London, the creation of the firms Azizia Steel and Hill Metal and the Flagship investment firm as well as another 15 companies.

On July 28, Sharif was disqualified from serving as Prime Minister for not declaring income from his son’s company, following investigations into the so-called Panama Papers.

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Pakistan “Cracks” down on Social Media, Government takes stern actions

The current crackdown has revived memories of the disappearances this year of at least five bloggers

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Pakistani youth is protesting against government. Wikimedia

Islamabad, May 26, 2017: Taha Siddiqui was relaxing in his living room with his son after work when he received a telephone call. On the other end of the line was a man claiming to be with the counterterrorism department of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. The man, who Siddiqui said identified himself as Nadeem Bodla, a deputy director of the counterterrorism wing in the FIA, told Siddiqui to “drop everything” and immediately report to his office.

“It wasn’t a courteous call,” Siddiqui recalled. “It was actually a call where he was talking from a point of authority. The tone was intimidating.”

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As a freelance journalist working with several international outlets, Siddiqui had been covering military affairs.

His work had drawn attention in the past. Journalists who did not know him would sometimes call and urge him to rethink what he was filing, telling him authorities thought he was overstepping a boundary.

This was the first time, though, that a government entity had officially approached him. The move concerned Siddiqui, who feared an arrest over “illegal charges” or the seizure of his equipment that could compromise his work and sources.

Others questioned, too

Others, namely political activists and opposition figures, had been called in for questioning based solely on their social media activity.

FILE - Pakistani students of Islamic seminaries chant slogans during a rally in support of blasphemy laws, in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 8, 2017. Hundreds of students rallied in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, urging government to remove blasphemous content from social media and take stern action against those who posted blasphemous content on social media.
FILE – Pakistani students of Islamic seminaries chant slogans during a rally in support of blasphemy laws, in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 8, 2017. Hundreds of students rallied in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, urging government to remove blasphemous content from social media and take stern action against those who posted blasphemous content on social media. VOA

One of them, Salar Sultanzai, tweeted from his handle @MeFixer that the FIA had told him to submit his cellphone and laptop for inspection.

Siddiqui decided to file a petition of harassment in the Islamabad High Court.

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Interior Minister Ali Khan, in a news conference this week, maintained that the steps taken by the FIA were legal. The constitution, Khan said, barred anyone from demeaning the country’s armed forces, its judiciary or its national religion, Islam.

“I assure you no one is putting any restrictions on social media,” Khan said, “but a free-for-all social media is also unacceptable for a democracy.”

He also said that only 27 social media identities and eight individuals had been identified for questioning and that no one had been arrested or harassed.

Party activists feel targeted

Opposition leader Imran Khan, whose PTI party held protests across the country this week, disagreed. He said the government was using excuses to crack down against activists from his party. Others from the party concurred.

“This is all political,” said Faisal Javed Khan of PTI. “It’s political victimization. They’re picking our guys because they have been highlighting [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif’s corruption.”

Another PTI activist, Shahzad Waseem, said the crackdown went against the norms of freedom of expression. “Unfortunately, the government in Pakistan is trying to curb the voice of civil society of Pakistan,” he added.

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The current crackdown has revived memories of the disappearances this year of at least five bloggers. Many in the country blamed the intelligence agency ISI for picking them up for having criticized the military in their social media posts.

A countrywide uproar led to their return, but they were afraid to speak up about what happened. Most of them and their families reportedly left the country soon afterward. At least one of them told the BBC he had been tortured for pleasure by a government institution linked to the military.

Rules for social media use

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Khan directed the relevant government departments to formulate a framework “which ensures that social media is used as a medium to facilitate positive, constructive and healthy interactions … and not as a tool to propagate false information, pass defamatory comments, ridicule or humiliate sacred personalities, national institutions or jeopardizing social, religious and cultural values of any community.”

He has also requested that the national assembly speaker reach out to all political parties over this issue.

Meanwhile, Siddiqui is waiting for his hearing next week to find out why he was approached over his journalistic work. (VOA)

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