Pakistani anti-corruption court indicts ousted PM Sharif and his daughter

Pakistan's ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaks during a news conference in Islamabad, in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 19 October 2017
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Pakistani anti-corruption court indicts ousted PM Sharif and his daughter

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court indicted ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on corruption charges spiraling from the Panama Papers leak, a senior government official said Thursday, in a case that could ultimately see the former leader jailed.
The indictment presents a fresh challenge to Sharif’s beleaguered, ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party ahead of next year’s general elections, which the former premier is barred from contesting.
A Sharif representative entered a not guilty plea for the sacked premier, who is currently in London with his wife Kulsum as she undergoes cancer treatment. There was no immediate confirmation that he would return to Pakistan to fight the charges.
The court also indicted his daughter Maryam and her husband in the case, which relates to the family’s luxury London properties. Maryam, who attended the hearing in Islamabad, pleaded not guilty and blasted the court’s decision afterward.
“(The) charges are not only groundless, baseless (...) unfounded also frivolous and on top of that we are being denied our right to fair trial,” she said in a statement to the court seen by AFP.
In late July the Supreme Court sacked Sharif following an investigation into corruption allegations against his family, making him the 15th premier in Pakistan’s 70-year history to be ousted before completing a full term.
The allegations against the prime minister stemmed from the Panama Papers leak last year, which sparked a media frenzy over the luxurious lifestyles and high-end London property portfolio owned by his family.
Following the indictment, Sharif’s archrival Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan celebrated the decision.
“In another phenomenal victory for the people of Pakistan, disqualified Nawaz Sharif and family indicted,” read a statement tweeted by the party.
“Accountability across the board imperative for development of Pakistan.”
Political analyst Hasan Askari said the Sharifs were left with few immediate options except to fight back against the charges by marshaling their political power and delaying any court sentence.
“Their policy will be either to prolong the case by agitation, which is not likely, and the other is to change the law to avoid the conviction,” Askari told AFP.
He said the PML-N would “definitely lose seats” in the upcoming election, adding “this situation has definitely increased chances for Imran Khan.”
Sharif’s political fortunes would depend on his ability to convince voters that he is a victim of an unjust campaign by the powerful military to undermine him, Askari explained.
Sharif, who last appeared before the anti-corruption court on Oct. 2, has faced similar challenges in the past.
In 1993 he was sacked from his first term as premier for corruption, while in 1999 he was sentenced to life in prison after his second term in office ended with a military putsch.
Following the coup he was allowed to go into exile in Saudi Arabia, returning in 2007 before becoming prime minister for a third time in 2013.
Last month his wife Kalsum won his former parliamentary seat during a heated by-election in Lahore, in a poll seen as a key test of the ruling party’s popularity after Sharif’s sacking.
After his ouster, Sharif led supporters from the capital Islamabad to his hometown Lahore in a days-long procession that brought thousands into the streets.
During the rally Sharif repeatedly blasted the court’s move to oust him, saying the decision was an “insult” to Pakistanis.


India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

Updated 24 min 56 sec ago
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India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

  • Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition
  • Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party could lose power in three key states, four TV networks said on Tuesday, citing votecount leads, potentially handing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014, and months ahead of a general election.
The main opposition Congress party could form governments in the central states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the western state of Rajasthan, all big heartland states that powered Modi to a landslide win in the 2014 general election.
Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition, despite his high personal popularity in the face of criticism that he did not deliver on promises of jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
“We’ve all voted for Congress this time and our candidate is winning here,” said Bishnu Prasad Jalodia, a wheat grower in Madhya Pradesh, where it appears as if Congress might have to woo smaller parties to keep out Modi’s party.
“BJP ignored us farmers, they ignored those of us at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The elections are also a test for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and face Modi with his most serious challenge yet, in the election that must be held by May.
In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress was ahead in 59 of the 90 seats at stake, with the BJP at 24. In Madhya Pradesh, the most important of the five states that held assembly elections over the past few weeks, Congress was ahead, with 112 of 230 seats. The Hindu nationalist BJP was at 103, the network said.
Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters.
Local issues usually dominate state polls, but politicians are seeing the elections as a pointer to the national vote just months away.
Indian markets recovered some ground after an early fall as the central bank governor’s unexpected resignation the previous day shocked investors.
The rupee currency dropped as much as 1.5 percent to 72.465 per dollar, while bond yields rose 12 basis points to 7.71 percent after the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel.
The broader NSE share index was down 1.3 percent, with investors cautious ahead of the election results.
“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real,” Nomura said in a research note before the results.
“A rout of the BJP on its homeground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”
Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has sought to build a coalition of regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.
Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate.
“When one and one become eleven, even the mighty can be dethroned,” opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav said of the prospect of growing opposition unity.