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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
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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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Taliban And The U.S. Set To Meet in UAE

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

A Pakistan-arranged meeting between U.S. and Taliban officials will be held Monday in the United Arab Emirates to push a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan.

The special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will lead the U.S. team at the talks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the gulf state, a senior Pakistani official privy to the development confirmed to VOA on Sunday.

The official, requesting anonymity, said Islamabad has facilitated the dialogue after President Donald Trump wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month seeking his cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a brief statement sent to VOA, has confirmed participation of its political negotiators in Monday’s meeting with American officials, but said that representatives of the host country, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia will also be in attendance.

Imran Khan, Taliban
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2018. VOA

Initially, it was Khan who disclosed on Friday that Pakistan-aided talks between U.S. and Taliban officials would take place on December 17, though he would not say where.

The Pakistani prime minister, while speaking in the northwestern city of Peshawar, explained his country has agreed to assist in Afghan peace efforts because Washington has changed its position by requesting help, instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. leaders have previously insisted.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday hailed Khan’s remarks and support for a political reconciliation in the war-ravaged neighboring country.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” the spokesperson told VOA.

“Special Representative Khalilzad has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan,” noted the U.S. embassy official.

taliban, afghanistan
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

 

In his speech on Friday, Khan said that if peace were achieved in Afghanistan, his country will be the immediate beneficiary in terms of security, economic stability and regional connectivity.

Khalilzad, is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks. He is 14 days into an 18-day visit to the region and has already visited Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium.

Since taking office in September, the Afghan-born U.S. special envoy has held two meetings with the Taliban in Qatar, where the insurgent group operates its so-called “political office.”

But those talks have been for the sake of talks, say insurgent and Pakistani officials.

Demands, accusations

Pakistani officials privy to Khalilzad’s interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all U.S. and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Afghanistan, Taliban
Security forces inspect the site of a deadly blast in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

 

Washington has long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.

Also Read: U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians, security forces, insurgents and more than 2,400 American soldiers, according to an American University study released recently.

The longest war effort in U.S. history has also cost Washington nearly one trillion dollars. The Taliban has expanded its insurgent activities and currently controls or hotly contests about half of Afghanistan. The conflict is said to have killed more Afghan civilians and security forces in 2018 than in any other year. (VOA)