Wife of jailed ex-PM Nawaz Sharif dies in London

Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the wife of the ex-Premier of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, has died in London after losing her battle with cancer. (Reuters)
Updated 11 September 2018
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Wife of jailed ex-PM Nawaz Sharif dies in London

  • Sharif family has decided to bury Kulsoom Nawaz in Pakistan
  • She will be remembered for her struggle for democracy, says close aide

ISLAMABAD: Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, wife of ex-Premier Nawaz Sharif, died in London on Tuesday after losing her battle with cancer. Her body will be brought back to Pakistan on the first available flight for burial.

“My sister-in-law and wife of Mian Nawaz Sharif, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, has passed away. May the departed soul rest in peace,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and the deceased’s brother-in-law, Shehbaz Sharif, confirmed in a tweet.

The former first lady had been undergoing cancer treatment at a Harley Street clinic in London since August last year after she was diagnosed with early-stage lymphoma.

She underwent multiple surgeries and at least five chemotherapy sessions, but did not recover. She has been on life-support in the hospital since July this year.


“Shehbaz Sharif is leaving for London on the first available flight to bring back the body,” Sen. Mushahidullah Khan, secretary information PML-N, told Arab News. “The family has decided to bury Kulsoom Nawaz in Pakistan.”

Jailed ex-premier Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam Nawaz are currently in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, serving their sentences in the Avenfield corruption case; and were handed jail sentences of 10 years and seven years respectively.

Mushahidullah Khan said that they would apply for the release of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz from jail to attend the last rites of the deceased. “Our legal team will handle the matter,” he said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan sent his condolences on the death of Kulsoom Nawaz and assured the bereaved family of full legal support within the ambit of the law and constitution.

“We have conveyed to the Pakistan High Commission in London to fully cooperate with the (Sharif) family to bring back the body,” Iftikhar Durrani, media adviser to the prime minister, told Arab News.

“The (Sharif) family is in jail and if they apply to participate in the rituals as per law, we have no objection. Whatever the legal facilitation is available (for Nawaz Sharif and Maryam), we have conveyed to them (the family),” he said.

“We are sorry and express our condolences to the family. The government is ready to extend all our support within the legal boundaries,” he said.

Advocate Sharafat Ali, an assistant to the legal team of the Sharif family, said that it was the prerogative of the jail authorities to release Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz on parole and “we will apply soon for their release.”

“An application will be submitted to the jail authorities seeking the release of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt. (Retd.) Mohammed Safdar, and we are sure that they will attend the funeral of Kulsoom Nawaz,” he told Arab News.

Shortly after the news broke on media, condolence messages began pouring in.

Leaders of political parties and Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the chief of army staff, extended their condolences to the bereaved family.

“COAS expresses his grief and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family on the sad demise of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. May Allah bless the departed soul eternal peace at Heaven-Amen,” the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations said in a message.

Begum Kulsoom served as first lady of Pakistan for three non-consecutive terms from 1990-1993, 1997-1999 and 2013-2017. Born in 1950 in Lahore to a Kashmiri family, Begum Kulsoom married Nawaz Sharif in 1971 after completing her master’s degree in Urdu from Punjab University, Lahore.

She also served as the president of the PML-N from 1999 to 2002 after her husband’s government was dismissed by former President Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup in October 1999, and nearly all the Sharif men were jailed.

“She was a courageous lady, and will be remembered for her struggle for democracy and for her love for the people of Pakistan,” Mushahidullah Khan told Arab News.


Migrant caravan blockade: US Army unfurls fencing along border with Mexico

Updated 19 November 2018
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Migrant caravan blockade: US Army unfurls fencing along border with Mexico

  • Some Laredo residents had voiced disquiet about the fencing and the presence of US troops
  • ‘It reminds me of Hitler and the concentration camps’

LAREDO, United State: They started work in the cool of the morning and moved quickly, uncoiling reel after reel of vicious-looking fencing and tying it with barbed wire to green poles hammered into the ground.
Over the course of three days, a gleaming, shoulders-high barrier of concertina-wire emerged like a silver snake along a lush riverbank, stretching as far as the eye could see.
This was the work of 100 or so American troops from the 19th Engineer Battalion, based in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Rather than finding themselves in a far-off warzone, the soldiers are in Laredo, a busy border town overlooking a stretch of the Rio Grande river in southwest Texas, carrying out controversial orders from President Donald Trump.
He has sent about 5,800 troops to the border to forestall the arrival of large groups of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico and toward the US, in a move critics decry as a costly political stunt to galvanize supporters ahead of midterm elections earlier this month.
Before the election Trump called the matter a “national emergency” and warned that so-called migrant caravans were an “invasion” with “some very bad thugs and gang members.”
So far at least, the most visible aspect of Trump’s deployment is the fence, a visible deterrent and physical obstacle to migrants, designed to corral would-be asylum seekers toward organized points of entry into the US.
Over the weekend, Lt. Alan Koepnick’s platoon could be seen stringing concertina wire, which is built to snag clothing, along one edge of a quiet riverside park near downtown Laredo.
As families walked dogs, grilled sausages and relaxed, the soldiers mounted the wire, occasionally ripping their camouflaged uniforms on its metal barbs.
Koepnick said some Laredo residents had voiced disquiet about the fencing and the presence of US troops.
“But there’s also been a lot of support, people coming in, vets shaking our hands, bringing us cakes, water, things like that,” Koepnick said.
About 100 yards (meters) behind him, a group of people on the Mexican side of the river could be seen standing on the bank.
“You’ll see people across the river cursing at us in Spanish, throwing bottles at us. But on this side it’s more positive,” Koepnick said.
He and his soldiers were unarmed, but a group of armed military police officers stood by to provide “force protection.”
Under US law, the military is not allowed to conduct domestic law enforcement in most cases, so soldiers here will not have any direct interactions with migrants.
Trump created a media whirlwind by sounding the alarm about the migrant caravans before the November 6 elections. He has mainly stopped raising it since, though last week he praised the military’s work.
“They built great fencing, they built a very powerful fence,” said Trump, who wants to build a hardened wall along the entire 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border.
Laura Pole, a British tourist visiting Laredo for the third time, was less enthusiastic.
“It reminds me of Hitler and the concentration camps,” she said, but added: “I really don’t know what’s the best thing to do.”
The border mission has put the supposedly non-political military in an uncomfortable spotlight.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has hit back at critics who say the Pentagon should not be doing Trump’s political bidding, saying “we don’t do stunts.”
He visited troops on the border last week and reiterated that their job in the short term was to assist under-resourced Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and put up physical obstacles.
But “longer term, it’s somewhat to be determined,” he said.
After some rank-and-file troops grumbled about the purpose of the mission to US media last week, they are now under strict instructions not to voice personal opinions to the press.
Several soldiers AFP spoke to said their time on the border provided valuable real-world training, albeit without the risks of combat.
“We have a very large group of brand-new soldiers and it’s really good for them,” Corporal Samuel Fletcher said, citing a chance for the green troops “to do real work and put their skills to use.”
In Laredo, large groups of migrants from the caravans in Mexico had not arrived.
Instead they were mainly headed to Tijuana, about 1,300 miles away in San Diego, where authorities say more than 3,000 have already arrived.
Still, a CBP agent, who was not authorized to give his name, said he was glad of the military assistance as each day, “hundreds” of migrants attempt to cross the approximately 30-mile stretch of border he patrols.
The military deployment is set to wrap up December 15 and it is not clear what will become of the wire fencing.
Already, the winds whistling down the Rio Grande valley are strewing trash, clothing and plastic bags along the jagged wire.
“Nobody seems to know when it’s coming down. It’s not really our decision,” said Koepnick.
“If we are told to take it down, we will take it down with a smile on our faces, like good soldiers.”