Shehbaz Sharif elected president of Pakistan’s ruling party

Pakistani ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, right, claps after his younger brother and Chief Minister of Punjab province Shahbaz Sharif, center, is elected as President of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party at the General Workers Council in Islamabad on March 13, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 13 March 2018

Shehbaz Sharif elected president of Pakistan’s ruling party

ISLAMABAD: The younger brother of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been elected as the new president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
The PML-N General Council on Tuesday elected Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, who contested for the slot unopposed.
He was nominated as the acting president of PML-N in February by Nawaz Sharif who was barred from serving as PML-N’s president following a Supreme Court verdict.
“It is an honor for me to be elected as president of the party,” Shehbaz said. “I am thankful to Mian Nawaz Sharif and all the party workers for trusting me and providing me with this opportunity.”
Shehbaz said that he has been serving Pakistan for the past 30 years under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif and would continue his journey with the support of the people. “We will win the upcoming general election despite all conspiracies,” he said.
“Nawaz Sharif is still our leader and will remain so in the future as well,” he said.
The PML-N president said that Nawaz Sharif was denied justice in the recent cases against him, but expressed the hope that he would “get justice one day.”
Addressing the General Council meeting, Nawaz Sharif said that his party had elected Shehbaz Sharif as new president of the party under compulsion.
“We have to elect Shehbaz Sharif as the party president for this situation was created for us,” he said, listing numerous development projects that were initiated across Pakistan when he was the prime minister.
“I will not back down from the mission that I have chosen. It is part of my belief now,” he said.
Nawaz Sharif said that he would keep struggling to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the country despite the challenges.
Sharif said that “respect the sanctity of the vote” would be the only manifesto of his party in the general elections. “It means respect the mandate of the people. And I’ll keep struggling for it.”
The former prime minister said that he was fighting for the betterment of the country and the people and that was why he was being punished through fabricated cases of corruption. He urged party workers to convert the general election into a referendum.
The PML-N has been facing a leadership crisis since the apex court, in its July 28 Panama Papers judgment, ordered Nawaz’s disqualification from public office and he was removed as party head.
Talking to Arab News, political analyst Tahir Malik said that Nawaz Sharif had been trying to build a narrative for the general elections by criticizing judiciary and other state institutions.
“Shehbaz Sharif should try to come out of the shadow of his elder brother if he wants to steer the party out of crisis,” he said.
“The PML-N won’t be able to win the general election if its leaders continue attacking the state institutions in their speeches,” he said. “Pakistanis won’t like politicians who target the armed forces and judiciary for political purposes,” Malik said.

Philippines may become region’s ‘defense industry hub’

Updated 3 min 34 sec ago

Philippines may become region’s ‘defense industry hub’

  • Israel wants to manufacture UAVs in the Philippines
  • Russia and South Korea looking for arms and defense manufacturing facilities

MANILA: The Philippines may become the region’s defense industry hub after several countries expressed an interest in basing their arms and defense manufacturing facilities in the country.

Among the facilities are firearms and force protection plants, as well as ones for aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul.

Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson, Arsenio Andolong, cited at least three countries — Israel, Russia and South Korea — as among those with a keen interest to undertake such projects.

However no agreement has been signed yet and proposals are still in the exploratory stage, Andolong said.

There are plans, however, to create a zone processing defense material at the 370-hectare Government Arsenal (GA) in Limay, Bataan. It will be called the Government Arsenal Defense Industrial Economic Zone (GADIEZ), which will accommodate foreign defense firms that want to establish their manufacturing plants in the Philippines.

With Israel, negotiations have been ongoing. “It all began when we purchased our latest acquisitions from them, the force protection equipment during the time of (then Defense Secretary Voltaire) Gazmin,” Andolong said.

“They became more aggressive when we started doing market research for the many things that we wanted. In one of our meetings the plan to put up an export processing zone for war materiel was discussed and that’s when they expressed interest,” he said.

But Israel now changed its focus; they now want to enter into partnership with Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation.

An agreement has yet to be signed however between the Philippine government and an Israeli firm for its entry through aircraft repair.

“I think eventually it will lead to setting up a UAV manufacturing facility,” a highly placed source said.

Russia, meanwhile, is more likely to have a firearms factory in Bataan province, in central Lozun region.

That is despite the ceremonial signing of a Letter of Intent (LoI) of Silver Shadow Advanced Security Systems (SASS) and Rayo Illuminar Corporation (RIC) to “explore opportunities in the manufacturing and refurbishment of small arms and ammunition,” during Duterte’s recent visit to Israel. The project is estimated to be worth $50 million.

Russia, according to Andolong, has been sending representatives to the country to discuss their offer for a joint production facility to produce Russian assault rifles, or AK47s.

“The Russians verbally communicated that they would like to go into a partnership with the GA to manufacture AK47 rifles in the Philippines. But at this time it’s still a verbal proposal. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has required them to submit a feasibility study.”

A proposal by a South Korean firm that also wanted to set up a firearms factory in the Philippines was put on hold after they gave terms and conditions that were not acceptable — such as “there will be capitalization from the government.”

“So everything is still fluid but Russia is in the running because they are offering many nice goodies,” the DND spokesperson said. “Like the submarines, for example; they said if the Philippines can’t afford to purchase then they can give a soft loan to finance it. And they also mentioned about packages they can use to start up the business.”

Andolong said that the reason that these countries chose the Philippines to set up their facilities was mainly because “they want to create a hub here in the Southeast since they don’t have a presence here yet.”

“It may also be “because of our location. Aside from that we are I think the first Southeast Asian country who offered this,” he said.

“The Philippines is close to many potential markets of Russia and Israel, because these two countries, their main exports really are armaments and they have no footprint in this region,” he said.