Corruption references against Sharifs retracted

Nawaz Sharif. (AFP)
Updated 14 September 2017
0

Corruption references against Sharifs retracted

ISLAMABAD: Four corruption references filed by the country’s anti-corruption bureau last week against the Sharifs and incumbent Federal Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, were returned on Tuesday from the office of the court’s registrar.
Following scrutiny of the submitted documents, the registrar found incomplete documentation and technical faults in the references.
Arab News has learned today from sources at the anti-graft bureau that they “have completed the documents which were missing and received certified copies from the Supreme Court today,” submitting them to the registrar of the Accountability Court. Sources added that the registrar “accepted one reference of Flagship” (Investment Ltd), an allegedly Sharif-owned offshore company under investigation, “whereas three references have been returned” after minor queries were raised.
The references, which were approved on Sept. 7 by the National Accountability Bureau Chairman, include the highly valued Avenfield properties (Flats No. 16, 16-A, 17, 17-A, Avenfield House, Park Lane) located in London, the establishment of Azizia Steel Company and Hill Metal Company in Jeddah, and 15 other companies along with Flagship Investment Ltd. The fourth reference, possessing assets beyond known sources of income, is against Dar.
Nawaz Sharif, his three children Hassan, Hussain, Maryam, his son-in-law Capt. (R) Safdar, and Ishaq Dar have refused to appear before the NAB court till their plea petitions, filed with the Apex court, are decided.
However, the former prime minister’s two sons, daughter and son-in-law filed a petition on Monday through their defense counsel pleading for a larger bench of judges to review their pleas as they were dissatisfied with the three-member panel.
“In terms of the legal and constitutional dispensation of the State of Pakistan, a Supreme Court bench of lesser strength cannot upset or pre-empt the decision of a larger bench," they contended.
Since Nawaz Sharif was deposed on July 28, declared “dishonest” by a five-member judicial bench, the applicants’ legal counsel have requested the same panel for their hearing. The plea for a larger bench has been admitted by the Supreme Court.
The Sharifs have questioned the legality of the Supreme Court’s directive to have a Supreme Court judge to supervise the trial court proceedings against the accused. They also filed a plea to have the final order of the court to open graft cases by the NAB suspended pending a final decision on their petitions.


Firefighters battle wildfire in Portugal, 32 people hurt

Updated 22 July 2019
0

Firefighters battle wildfire in Portugal, 32 people hurt

COLOS, Portugal: More than 1,000 firefighters battled a major wildfire Monday amid scorching temperatures in Portugal, where forest blazes wreak destruction every summer.
About 90% of the fire area in the Castelo Branco district, 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) northeast of the capital Lisbon, was brought under control during cooler overnight temperatures, according to local Civil Protection Agency commander Pedro Nunes.
But authorities said they expected heat in and winds to increase again in the afternoon, so all firefighting assets remained in place. Forests in the region are tinder-dry after weeks with little rain.
The Portuguese Civil Protection Agency said 321 vehicles and eight water-dumping aircraft were deployed to tackle the blaze, which has raced through thick woodlands.
Nunes told reporters that the fire, in its third day, has injured 32 people, one seriously.
Police said they were investigating what caused the fire amid suspicions it may have been started deliberately.
Temperatures were forecast to reach almost 40 C (104 F) Monday — prolonging a spell of blistering weather that is due to hit northern Europe late this week.
Recent weeks have also seen major wildfires in Spain, Greece and Germany. European Union authorities have warned that wildfires are “a growing menace” across the continent.
In May, forest fires also plagued Mexico and Russia.
Huge wildfires have long been a summer fixture in Portugal.
Residents of villages and hamlets in central Portugal have grown accustomed to the summer blazes, which destroy fruit trees, olive trees and crops in the fields.
In the hamlet of Colos, 50-year-old beekeeper Antonio Pires said he had lost half of his beehives in the current wildfire. Pires sells to mainly Portuguese and German clients, but also to Brazil and China.
“(I lost) 100 out of 230 (hives), so almost half,” Pires said. “A lot of damage.”
The country’s deadliest fire season came in 2017, when at least 106 people were killed.
The average annual area charred by wildfires in Portugal between 2010 and 2016 was just over 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres). That was more than in Spain, France, Italy or Greece — countries which are significantly bigger than Portugal.
Almost 11,500 firefighters are on standby this year, most of them volunteers. Volunteers are not uncommon in fire brigades in Europe, especially in Germany where more than 90% are volunteers.
Experts and authorities have identified several factors that make Portugal so particularly vulnerable to forest blazes. Addressing some of them is a long-term challenge.
The population of the Portuguese countryside has thinned as people have moved to cities in search of a better life. That means woodland has become neglected, especially as many of those left behind are elderly, and the forest debris is fuel for wildfires.
Large areas of central and northern Portugal are covered in dense, unbroken stretches of forest on hilly terrain. A lot of forest is pine and eucalyptus trees, both of which burn fiercely.
Environmentalists have urged the government to limit the area of eucalyptus, which burns like a torch. But it is a very valuable crop for Portugal’s important paper pulp industry, which last year posted sales worth 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion). The government says it is introducing restrictions gradually.
Experts say Portugal needs to develop a diversified patchwork of different tree species, some of them more fire-resistant and offering damper, shaded.
Climate change has become another challenge, bringing hotter, drier and longer summers. The peak fire season used to run from July 1 to Sept. 30. Now, it starts in June and ends in October.
After the 2017 deaths, the government introduced a raft of measures. They included using goats and bulldozers to clear woodland 10 meters (33 feet) either side of country roads. Property owners also have to clear a 50-meter (164-feet) radius around an isolated house, and 100 meters (328 feet) around a hamlet.
Emergency shelters and evacuation routes have been established at villages and hamlets. Their church bells aim to toll when a wildfire is approaching.
With 98% of blazes caused by human hand, either by accident or on purpose, officials have also been teaching people how to safely burn stubble and forest waste. Police, army and forest service patrols are also increased during the summer.