Co-author defends UN migration pact as opposition swells

Migrants from poor Central American countries -mostly Hondurans- moving towards the United States in hopes of a better life. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Co-author defends UN migration pact as opposition swells

ZURICH: The Swiss diplomat who helped negotiate a United Nations migration pact has defended the accord against mounting criticism, saying it helps small countries like Switzerland defend their interests.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was instigated after the migration crisis in Europe in 2015, which saw the biggest influx of refugees and migrants since World War II. The crisis strained resources and triggered fear of foreigners and nationalist tensions.

It was approved in July by all 193 member nations except the US, which backed out last year.

The comments from Pietro Mona, Swiss ambassador in charge of development and migration policy, come amid growing opposition to the accord, with Hungary’s right-wing government saying it will not sign the final document at a ceremony in Morocco in December.

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Austria pulled out too last month, and the prime ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic have cast doubt on their countries’ joining.

Mona said Swiss negotiators deserved credit for having the pact become the first international document to set out states’ obligation to cooperate in taking back citizens.

“The migration pact gives us an additional instrument that helps us negotiate repatriation agreements, for instance with countries like Eritrea,” he said in an interview with the Blick tabloid, published on Monday.

After some hesitation, the Swiss government said last month it would sign the compact while clarifying its position on detaining minors from the age of 15 pending deportation, which Swiss law allows but the non-binding UN pact discourages.

Since then, committees in both houses of Parliament have called for delaying the Swiss signature and giving Parliament — and perhaps voters in a referendum — the chance to decide the matter.

Some politicians, especially from the right, complain that the pact could blur the line between legal and illegal migration and undermine countries’ sovereignty.

UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour has called moves to shun the accord regrettable and mistaken and said the compact simply aimed to improve the management of cross-border movements of people.

The UN pact addresses issues such as how to protect people who migrate, how to integrate them into new countries and how to return them to their home countries. The UN has hailed it as a historic and comprehensive pact that could serve as a basis for future policies. 


Pakistan ex-PM in custody of anti-graft body amid Qatar LNG case

Updated 19 July 2019
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Pakistan ex-PM in custody of anti-graft body amid Qatar LNG case

  • Last year, the NAB ordered an inquiry into Abbasi over the alleged misappropriation of funds
  • Pakistan is currently receiving a supply of 500 million cubic feet per day of LNG from Qatar

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was remanded in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for 13 days, a day after he was arrested in a case involving a multibillion-rupee liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract to Qatar.
Abbasi, who is also the vice president of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) party, was presented before Judge Bashir Ahmed of an accountability court on Friday morning. The case has been adjourned until Aug. 1.
Speaking to journalists before his appearance at the court, Abbasi called his arrest “an attack on democracy.”
Last year, the NAB ordered an inquiry into Abbasi over the alleged misappropriation of funds in the import of LNG that the agency says caused a loss of about $2 billion to the national exchequer. He is also being investigated for allegedly granting a 15-year contract for an LNG terminal to a “favored” company. Abbasi rejects the allegations.
PML-N Sen. Mushahid Ullah Khan said Pakistan was facing “the worst energy crisis of its kind” when his party came to power after the 2013 general election, and the LNG deal was quickly finalized with Qatar to overcome it.
“The industry was shutting down with thousands of people getting unemployed, but this LNG supply helped us reverse the tide,” he told Arab News.
Khan said Pakistan’s LNG contract with Qatar was “the cheapest possible deal” the country could have gotten, and rubbished allegations of corruption and kickbacks.
“If there is something wrong in the contract, why is this government not reviewing it?” Khan asked.
Pakistan is currently receiving a supply of 500 million cubic feet per day of LNG from Qatar under a 15-year agreement at 13.37 percent of Brent crude price. It is a government-to-government agreement and the price can only be reviewed after 10 years of the contract.
“It is the worst example of political victimization by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government,” PML-N Chairman Raja Zafrul Haq said on Friday after the accountability court remanded Abbasi in NAB custody. “Shahid Khaqan served the nation with dignity and did not commit any wrongdoings,” Haq added.
Abbasi was arrested on his way to Lahore to address a news conference along with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday.
He served as federal minister for petroleum in the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he finalized an LNG import deal with Qatar. Abbasi then served for less than a year as prime minister following the resignation of Sharif in 2017.
On Thursday, Pakistan opened technical bids of four international companies for the supply of 400 million cubic feet per day of LNG for a period of 10 years to fulfil the country’s rising energy requirements.
Officials told Arab News that a Qatari delegation, led by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in June, resented that Islamabad had ignored its lowest offer of 11.05 percent of Brent for the fresh deal, and instead floated tenders seeking provision of LNG for 10 years from international companies.
The secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of Energy said: “Yes, this is true. Qatar expressed its annoyance, but we are following our rules. Qatar has not submitted its bid to participate in the process.”
Khan won power last year vowing to root out corruption among what he describes as a venal political elite, and views the probes into veteran politicians — including Sharif and former President Asif Ali Zardari — as long overdue.
The NAB’s campaign has become a topic of fierce political debate in Pakistan, and its focus on the new government’s political foes has prompted accusations of a one-sided purge. The government denies targeting political opponents.
Commenting on Abbasi’s case, former NAB prosecutor Munir Sadiq said the anti-corruption watchdog would file a reference against Abbasi in an accountability court for prosecution, but only if it found irrefutable evidence against him.
“This case is now at the evidence-collection stage, and the NAB will file a reference in the court if it finds irrefutable corruption evidence against Abbasi during the investigation,” Sadiq said.
He added that any inquiry against Abbasi would be shelved after 90 days if corroborating evidence of corruption was not found.
“If a weak case will be filed against the accused, then he will surely receive support from the court,” Sadiq said.