Pakistan’s ex-PM Sharif appears before anti-corruption court, set to be indicted

A supporter of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif holds his picture during his appearance at the accountability court in connection with the corruption references filed against him, in Islamabad, Pakistan, September 26, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 September 2017
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Pakistan’s ex-PM Sharif appears before anti-corruption court, set to be indicted

ISLAMABAD: Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appeared before an anti-corruption court on Tuesday, kicking off trial proceedings that he says are biased and which threaten to dent his party’s chances at the next general election due in mid-2018.
Sharif briefly appeared before a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court in Islamabad on three corruption charges. He did not enter a plea.
Local TV channels reported that Sharif is scheduled to be formally indicted on Oct. 2, about two months after his disqualification by the Supreme Court for not declaring a small source of income that he denied receiving.
A Supreme Court panel has also alleged Sharif family’s wealth far exceeds their legal income.
“He has appeared before the court and by appearing he has proved to be a lion,” said Marvi Memom, a lawmaker for Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)party.
Sharif, who returned from London on Monday after about a month in Britain, told the court his wife was being treated for cancer in London and needs his care.
He did not speak to the media after his court appearance but is due to hold a televised press conference at 3pm (1000 GMT).
Sharif has portrayed the corruption claims against him as politically motivated, while his allies, including daughter and heir-apparent Maryam, have hinted Pakistan’s powerful military had a hand in his toppling. The military denies any such action.
“It’s a good thing that finally NAB and such institutions are holding rich and powerful to the count,” said Shafqat Mahmood, a senior members of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
PTI, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan who doggedly pushed the Supreme Court into launching a corruption probe into Sharif, has called for an early election but it is unlikely the government will agree to that.
Sharif’s returned to Pakistan quashed growing speculation that his long absense was the start of another period in exile for the veteran leader whose three stints as prime minister were all cut short, including one by a military coup in 1999.
“What kind of justice is this, what kind of accountability is this?” Sharif told reporters outside his upscale London apartment in London before departing for Islamabad on Sunday.
Two of Sharif’s sons are also due to appear before a NAB court, as well as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, a long-time ally who is married into the Sharif family.
Analysts say Sharif’s return to Pakistan was in large part due to fears of defections within the PML-N, a common occurrence in a nation where politicians switch allegiances ahead of polls depending on which way the political winds are blowing.
Sharif kept control of PML-N after his ouster and installed loyalist Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister.
The Supreme Court has told the NAB courts that the trials into the Sharifs must be over within six months, with opponents betting that a flow of negative news from the trials will hurt PML-N’s popularity ahead at the next election.


“No-deal” Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

Updated 24 September 2018
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“No-deal” Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

LONDON: Leaving the European Union without a proper divorce deal could ground airlines, stop hauliers from lugging goods to the world’s biggest trading bloc and even make headaches for pet owners who want to take their dogs on holiday, according to government documents.
With just six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that negotiations are at an impasse and that the EU must come up with new proposals on how to craft a divorce settlement.
Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement, thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a “no-deal” Brexit that they say would spook financial markets and silt up the arteries of trade.
Britain, which has warned it could leave without a deal, published 25 technical notices on Monday covering everything from commercial road haulage and buying timber to airline regulations and taking pets abroad.
“If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission,” the government said.
Overall, the government has published more than 65 such notices giving a glimpse of what a no-deal Brexit — the nightmare scenario for chief executives of most multinationals operating in Britain — would look like.
Amid warnings that trucks could stack up on both sides of the English Channel in the confusion of a no deal, Britain said it would seek to strike bilateral agreements with European countries to ensure hauliers would retain access.
The notices covered a vast swathe of the British economy, warning, for example, that labels on packaged food would have to be changed.
“Use of the term ‘EU’ in origin labelling would no longer be correct for food or ingredients from the UK,” the government said.
Honey producers would have to change their labels while EU countries might not accept British mineral water, the government said.
In the worse case scenario for pet owners, dogs, cats and even ferrets might need health certificates and rabies jabs. Travel plans would have to be discussed with a vet at least four months in advance before traveling to the EU.
That would mean someone wanting to take their pet to the EU on March 30, 2019, the day after Britain leaves the bloc, would have to discuss the trip with a vet before the end of November.
Without a deal, the UK would move from seamless trade with the rest of the EU to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization for external states with no preferential deals.
Brexiteers accept there is likely to be some short-term economic pain but say the government is trying to scare voters about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Britain, many Brexiteers say, will thrive in the longer term if cut loose from what they see as a doomed experiment in German-dominated unity and excessive debt-funded welfare spending.