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.


Recording of crying children at US border adds to outrage

Updated 12 min 46 sec ago
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Recording of crying children at US border adds to outrage

  • Human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury said she received the tape from a whistleblower and told ProPublica it was recorded in the last week.
  • Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not heard the audio but said children taken into custody by the government are being treated humanely.

BROWNSVILLE, Texas: An audio recording that appears to capture the heartbreaking voices of small Spanish-speaking children crying out for their parents at a US immigration facility took center stage Monday in the growing uproar over the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.
“Papa! Papa!” one child is heard weeping in the audio file that was first reported by the nonprofit ProPublica and later provide to The Associated Press.
Human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury said she received the tape from a whistleblower and told ProPublica it was recorded in the last week. She did not provide details about where exactly it was recorded.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not heard the audio but said children taken into custody by the government are being treated humanely. She said the government has high standards for detention centers and the children are well cared for, stressing that Congress needs to plug loopholes in the law so families can stay together.
The audio surfaced as politicians and advocates flocked to the US-Mexico border to visit US immigration detention centers and turn up the pressure on the Trump administration.
And the backlash over the policy widened. The Mormon church said it is “deeply troubled” by the separation of families at the border and urged national leaders to find compassionate solutions. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, reversed a decision to send a National Guard helicopter from his state to the Mexican border to assist in a deployment, citing the administration’s “cruel and inhumane” policy.
At the border, an estimated 80 people pleaded guilty Monday to immigration charges, including some who asked the judge questions such as “What’s going to happen to my daughter?” and “What will happen to my son?“
Attorneys at the hearings said the immigrants had brought two dozen boys and girls with them to the US, and the judge replied that he didn’t know what would happen to their children.

Several groups of lawmakers toured a nearby facility in Brownsville, Texas, that houses hundreds of immigrant children.
Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico said the location was a former hospital converted into living quarters for children, with rooms divided by age group. There was even a small room for infants, complete with two high chairs, where two baby boys wore matching rugby style shirts with orange and white stripes.

Another group of lawmakers on Sunday visited an old warehouse in McAllen, Texas, where hundreds of children are being held in cages created by metal fencing. One cage held 20 youngsters.
More than 1,100 people were inside the large, dark facility, which is divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and mothers and fathers with children.
In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for people trying to enter the US, Border Patrol officials say they must crack down on migrants and separate adults from children as a deterrent to others trying to get into the US illegally.
“When you exempt a group of people from the law ... that creates a draw,” said Manuel Padilla, the Border Patrol’s chief agent there.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, speaking to reporters during a tour of San Diego immigration detention facilities with Rep. Juan Vargas and other House Democrats, said family separation is a “heartbreaking, barbarian issue that could be changed in a moment by the president of the United States rescinding his action.”
“It so challenges the conscience of our country that it must be changed and must be changed immediately,” she said during a news conference at a San Diego terminal that is connected to the airport in Tijuana, Mexico by a bridge.  
US Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced late Monday that he was introducing emergency legislation intended to keep immigrant families together.
“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers,” Cruz said. “This must stop.”
President Donald Trump emphatically defended his administration’s policy Monday, again falsely blaming Democrats.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” he declared. “Not on my watch.”
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Snow reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Mike Melia in Boston contributed to this report.