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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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Pakistan’s Supreme Court to announce a much-awaited judgment that can Unseat Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over Corruption allegations

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Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif, center, arrives to attend a military parade to mark Pakistan's Republic Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, March 23, 2017. President Mamnoon Hussain says Pakistan is ready to hold talks with India on all issues, including Kashmir, as he opened an annual military parade. During the parade, attended by several thousand people, Pakistan displayed nuclear-capable weapons, tanks, jets, drones and other weapons systems. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed) VOA

Pakistan’s Supreme Court will announce a much-awaited judgment Thursday that could either politically boost Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, or unseat him over corruption allegations.

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court concluded long-drawn hearings in the case on February 23 and reserved the final judgment.

The corruption charges against the prime minister stem from leaked financial documents known as the Panama Papers. They listed Sharif’s two sons and a daughter, along with hundreds of other Pakistanis, as holders of offshore bank accounts.

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Sharif denied any wrongdoing, but the court agreed to investigate his family’s offshore wealth late last year after opposition leader Imran Khan threatened street protests.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf — or PTI party — along with several other politicians, had separately petitioned the court to disqualify the prime minister.

They argued that since the emergence of the Panama Papers, Sharif has concealed and misstated facts in speeches to parliament and to the nation about property his children own in London through offshore companies.

Khan alleges that Sharif established the assets through tax evasion, money-laundering and corruption during his previous two stints as prime minister of Pakistan in the 1990s.

“It is a defining moment in the history of Pakistan because this verdict will change the way the ruling elite govern in Pakistan,” Khan told a public gathering in Islamabad ahead of Thursday’s court decision. He said that the judicial system in the past “unfortunately” had always sided with the powerful in the country.

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“What should happen first time in our history is that a powerful person in Pakistan should be convicted of corruption and money laundering,” Khan said when asked about the coming court ruling.

Corruption is rampant in Pakistan. The country ranks 116th out of 176 in Transparency International’s annual index of the world’s most corrupt nations.

Government ministers and Sharif’s ruling party aides appeared confident, however, that the verdict will be in favor of the prime minister.

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Federal Information Minster Marriyam Aurengzeb told reporters the court decision will bring an end to “all rumor-mongering and speculation.” She said those leveling “false accusations” against Sharif would get nothing.

Pakistani political circles and media are rife with speculation about possible outcomes after the Supreme Court announced on Tuesday it would hand down the verdict on Thursday.

Leaders of mainstream Pakistani political parties have converged on Islamabad and are holding internal meetings to discuss future plans if the Supreme Court verdict leads to the disqualification of Prime Minister Sharif.

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American lawmakers move act to designate Pakistan a Terror State

Two American lawmakers pursue legislation to designate Pakistan a State Sponsor of terrorism

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Pakistani suspects allegedly associated with the Islamic State group wait to appear in an anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala, Pakistan, Dec. 29, 2015. VOA

Washington, 22 Sept, 2016: Two American lawmakers pursue legislation to designate Pakistan a State Sponsor of terrorism. The legislation is introduced by Republican Representatives Ted Poe of Texas and Dana Rohrabacher of California. They accused Pakistan of harboring global terrorist leaders and supporting terror groups. Among those is the Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist entity that opposes the Afghanistan government and the U.S.-led NATO forces in the country.
“Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the United States for years,” the proposed legislation said. “From harboring Osama bin Laden to its cozy relationship with the Haqqani network, there is more than enough evidence to determine whose side Pakistan is on in the war on terror. And it’s not America’s.”

Women chant slogans condemning Islamist terrorism during an anti-terror rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015, VOA
Women chant slogans condemning Islamist terrorism during an anti-terror rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015, VOA

Pakistan plays the victim

Pakistan accuses U.S. lawmakers, saying the harsh anti-Pakistani gives a false idea about the government’s efforts to root out extremism. Pakistani officials further claim that thousands of Pakistani lives have been lost in terror attacks.
“Pakistan is not supporting terrorism, it is rather a victim,” Rohail Dar, a leading member of the ruling Muslim League party, told VOA’s Urdu service. “Pakistan has suffered the most in the war against terrorism.”

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On Wednesday, in his speech before UN, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while talking about his government said it has, ” comprehensive strategy of law enforcement and targeted military operations that have produced remarkable results and enabled Pakistan to turn the tide against terrorism.”
He did not address the problem of terrorist groups targeting neighboring countries from Pakistan.
U.S lawmakers recently urged the U.S. government to cut off the financial and military aid to Pakistan because its “military and intelligence services are still linked to terrorist groups.”
Isolation
U.S. bill has a long way to go before becoming it becomes a law — as a version of it must be passed by both the houses of Congress and has to be signed by the President — “Washington’s tough stance shows the level of global and regional isolation that Islamabad is facing,” analysts said.
“Pakistan has not satisfied the U.S. on the question of its alleged supporfor the Haqqani network, and that is deteriorating the relations with the U.S.,” Peshawar University professor Ijaz Khattak told VOA’s Deewa service. “Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan also are not good. It has tensions with India.”
This week, the deadly attack on Indian soldiers in Kashmir has increased the tension between Pakistan and India to the levels that have not been seen since the terror attack on Mumbai in 2008.

A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday's attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir's Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016. VOA
A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday’s attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir’s Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016. VOA

India blames Pakistan for allowing the attack to happen. Indian Home Minister, Rajnath Singh claimed Pakistan to be a terrorist state and further added that it “should be identified and isolated as such.”
The Pakistan government rejected all the allegations and accuses of India of oppressing Kashmiris and violating the human rights.
U.S., Afghan opposition
Islamabad is also at odds with Washington and Kabul over Pakistan’s support of Afghan militant groups.
During a meeting, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Nawaz Sharif, on the side-lines of the U.N. General Assembly, to prevent Pakistan from being used as a shelter for terrorists.
“We have repeatedly asked our neighboring country Pakistan to destroy the known terrorist safe havens, but we, unfortunately, are yet to witness any change in the situation,” Afghan Vice President Sarwar Danesh said Wednesday at the United Nations. “Terrorist attacks are being planned on Pakistani territory.” Days after bombings in New York and New Jersey Danesh’s commented these.

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The bombing suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan, traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan years ago. When he was in Pakistan, he spent time in Quetta and Karachi, the considered hubs for the Taliban and many other militant groups.
The two American lawmakers are pushing the bill, “because of the recent Kashmir attack, though perhaps also coupled with the fact that the man accused of staging the recent New York City blasts had spent time in Pakistan,” said Michael Kugelman, an analyst at Washington’s Wilson Center, a global policy research group. “For these two congressmen, this man’s connections to Pakistan likely reinforced the fact that terrorism has many links to Pakistan.”

by NewsGram with inputs from VOA