Nawaz, Maryam will be arrested at Pakistan airport: NAB

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Supporters of PML-N in the streets of Karachi on Friday protesting the accountability court verdict that sentenced Sharif to prison for 10 years and his daughter Maryam Nawaz for seven years in a graft case against them. (AN Photo by M. F. Sabir)
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Supporters of PML-N in the streets of Karachi on Friday protesting the accountability court verdict that sentenced Sharif to prison for 10 years and his daughter Maryam Nawaz for seven years in a graft case against them. (AN Photo by M. F. Sabir)
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Supporters of PML-N in the streets of Karachi on Friday protesting the accountability court verdict that sentenced Sharif to prison for 10 years and his daughter Maryam Nawaz for seven years in a graft case against them. (AN Photo by M. F. Sabir)
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Supporters of PML-N in the streets of Karachi on Friday protesting the accountability court verdict that sentenced Sharif to prison for 10 years and his daughter Maryam Nawaz for seven years in a graft case against them. (AN Photo by M. F. Sabir)
Updated 07 July 2018
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Nawaz, Maryam will be arrested at Pakistan airport: NAB

  • Ex-premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz will be held at the airport as soon as they arrive in the country
  • Legal experts say the judgment is based on unproven facts and will be suspended by High Court

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s anti-graft body has announced it will arrest ex-premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz at the airport as soon as they arrive in the country from London.

“NAB has received arrest warrants from the accountability court and started the process of the arrest of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt. (retd) Mohammad Safdar as per the law in order to implement the judgment in letter and spirit,” the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said in a statement on Saturday.

The bureau said it would again ask the Interior Ministry to place the names of the members of the Sharif family who have been sentenced by the accountability court, on the Exit Control List to stop them from leaving Pakistan.

Ousted Prime Minister Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison by an accountability court in the Avenfield properties reference on Friday, while his daughter Maryam and her husband Safdar were sentenced to seven years and one year respectively. 

The court also ordered the forfeiture of their property in the Avenfield Apartments in London and imposed a £8 million ($10.5 million) fine on Sharif and £2 million on Maryam. The money will go into the state treasury.

Speaking to the media in London after the verdict was announced, Sharif said he would return to Pakistan to “face prison.” However, he gave no specific date to return to the country.

Sen. Mushahid Ullah Khan, secretary in Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, said the accountability court had exonerated Sharif of corruption in its verdict.

“This is our victory. We are convinced that the conviction on the charge of having assets beyond known sources of income will be suspended by the High Court,” he told Arab News.

He said the punishment was awarded on the assumption that Sharif must have given money to his children to buy Avenfield Apartments.

“It is a weak verdict and even legal experts have rejected it,” he said.

Khan said that imprisonment for Sharif and his daughter was part of a malicious campaign against them by his political rivals.

“We have been facing this campaign since 2013 and will continue contest it through logic and support of the people,” he said. 

Khan claimed the party’s vote bank is increasing across the country in the wake of Sharif’s trial in “bogus cases.”

“Mark my words, the PML-N is going to sweep the general elections despite all the high-handedness against the party,” he said. “People are with Nawaz Sharif and they will give their verdict in his favor on July 25.”

Some legal experts believe the NAB has “failed” to provide solid evidence of corruption or any corrupt practice on Sharif’s part in the accountability court during the trial.

“The judgment is based on unproven facts,” Supreme Court advocate Sharafat Ali told Arab News.

Ali said the Sharifs could file an appeal against the verdict in Islamabad High Court in the next 10 days. 

“It will be easy for Sharif’s lawyers now to just focus on the charge of assets beyond means and tear it down in the High Court through solid arguments,” he said.

The NAB filed three separate references against the Sharif family in September last year regarding the high-end properties in London on the Supreme Court’s directives in the Panamagate verdict that disqualified Nawaz Sharif as prime minister in July last year. The court has given a verdict in only one reference, Avenfield Apartments, while the trial in the two other cases is yet to be completed.

Political analysts say rigorous punishment for Sharif and his daughter just weeks before the general elections will deal a severe blow to PML-N.

“The majority of voters in Punjab think after the judgment that Nawaz Sharif and his party enjoy no more blessings of the powers-to-be, so they may not vote for the PML-N,” Professor Tahir Malik, political analyst and academic, told Arab News.

He said the perception of a political party matters a lot in Pakistani politics, especially before the general elections. “Now the perception is that Nawaz Sharif’s party is going to lose the upcoming general election,” he said.

Malik said it would be nothing less than a miracle if Nawaz Sharif and his other party leaders succeed in turning the tide in their favor before the July 25 polls.

“Nawaz Sharif’s party may not win the majority of seats but it can still emerge as a formidable force in the elections, if the leadership succeeds in selling its narrative ‘give respect to vote’ to the people,” he added.


Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

Updated 22 February 2019
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Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

  • Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama ‘Empire,’ went from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month
  • Smollett accused of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions

CHICAGO: An American TV actor was criminally charged Thursday for allegedly masterminding an elaborate “publicity stunt” that sought to exploit the “pain and anger of racism” with a staged assault on the streets of Chicago.

It was the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has seen 36-year-old Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama “Empire,” go from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month.

An incredulous Chicago police chief accused Smollett of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions, because he was allegedly “dissatisfied with his salary.”

In a sign of the national attention the case has drawn, President Donald Trump weighed in Thursday, taking issue with the fact Smollett claimed his assailants invoked the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan along with racist slurs during the purported attack.

“‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told an emotionally-charged news conference — during which he lashed out angrily at the actor for sullying the city’s image.

“Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” he said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”

Smollett turned himself in early Thursday morning, was arrested and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, and was granted $100,000 bond.

He was freed from jail late in the afternoon, and said nothing to the throng of media. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

His legal team pushed back hard later Thursday, claiming the police press conference had been prejudicial and “the presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon.”

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” attorney Jack Prior told AFP in a statement.

“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Smollett had claimed that two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck — but police grew suspicious of his account after they failed to corroborate it.

Trump took aim at the actor for having tarnished his supporters, tweeting: “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?“

Meanwhile, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which produce “Empire” and had stood by the actor, said “we understand the seriousness of this matter” and “are considering our options.”

Authorities said the two men who staged the attack with Smollett were brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who have both previously worked on “Empire,” and were acquaintances of the actor — while one provided him with drugs.

The brothers have cooperated with police since their arrest late last week and have not been charged with a crime.

Smollett allegedly first concocted a false threatening letter he had sent to himself — which is under a separate FBI investigation — and when that did not get enough attention, paid the brothers to have the assault staged.

Prosecutor Risa Lanier detailed an elaborate plot that Smollett allegedly orchestrated with exacting detail — telling the brothers when and how to attack him, including pointing out a street camera he assumed would capture the event, but was in fact pointing in a different direction.

The allegations were backed by a mountain of evidence, including a cashed check that Smollett wrote to pay for the stunt, authorities said.

Initial news of Smollett’s claims led to widespread condemnation and shock, and an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians alike, including Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris who denounced “an attempted modern day lynching.”

Trump initially described the alleged attack as “horrible.”

Since then, Smollett’s story has become a cautionary tale in an era where incomplete information is quickly spread via social media.

Opinion writers have complained about a rush to judgment, and politicians, celebrities and nonprofit groups have felt pressure to explain their initial reactions.

The president of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said the Smollett news was “both devastating and frustrating.”

“I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt and disappointed to channel that into productive activism — because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help,” Chad Griffin tweeted.