Pakistan’s ex-president Asif Zardari named in money-laundering case

Pakistan’s ex-president Asif Zardari named in money-laundering case
Former Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari listens to his son and chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (unseen) during the party manifesto presentation for the forthcoming general election during a press conference in Islamabad on June 28, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 08 July 2018

Pakistan’s ex-president Asif Zardari named in money-laundering case

Pakistan’s ex-president Asif Zardari named in money-laundering case
  • The inclusion of former president’s name, Zardari, in the case signifies pre-poll rigging, says his spokesperson, Farhatullah Babar
  • Pakistan People’s Party’s election campaign has been spearheaded by Zardari’s son, Bilawal Bhutto

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday obtained the remand of Hussain Lawai, Chairman Central Depository Company (CDC) and a close aide of Pakistan’s former president, Asif Ali Zardari, after registering a case against him and others for using a fake account to launder Rs35 billion ($288 million).
According to a case registered by FIA’s Banking Circle Karachi, the former president and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, Asif Ali Zardari, and his sister, Faryal Talpur, are among 13 people who benefited from the arrangement.
The police first investigation report (FIR) says that M/S Zardari Group (Asif Ali Zardari, Faryal Talpur, etc) got Rs15,000,000 and were among the beneficiaries of the transaction trail of fake bank accounts maintained by Omni Group, owned by Anwar Majeed, another close aide of the former president.
Different entities owned by Majeed can be found in the list of depositors and beneficiaries of the fake bank account maintained in the name of a citizen without his approval.
The FIR found that one of the depositors in the fake account turned out to be M/S Bahria Town Karachi project and Zain Malik, who had deposited Rs750,000,000. Both Malik and the spokesperson of his Bahria Town Karachi project did not respond to Arab News’ requests for a comment.
Muhammad Ali Abro, assistant director of FIA’s Karachi Banking Circle, informed the local magistrate that during the inquiry into the suspicious transaction of 29 accounts, it was established that one of them was fraudulently opened in the name of Tariq Sultan by using his national identity card.
“This account was subsequently used to place illegitimate funds for purposes of money-laundering,” reads the FIR, a copy of which is available with Arab News.
According to the FIA, when Sultan denied he had opened the account, the agency started conducting its inquiry and the signatures on bank documents were found to be forged.
The FIA obtained the money trail and interviewed those involving the opening of a fake account, leading the agency to conclude that Hussain Lawai, the then chairman of Summit Bank, had ordered the opening of the fake account for money-laundering purposes. According to the agency, the investigation of another 28 accounts is under way.
Pleading not guilty out of the court of the local magistrate, Lawai told the media he did not know if he was arrested because of Asif Ali Zardari. “Only time will tell why I have been targeted,” he said.
An FIA spokesperson told Arab News that the offense had occurred between 2014 and 2015. However, the Pakistan People’s Party and independent analysts have been questioning the timings of the investigation and arrest for different reasons.
“Asif Ali Zardari has also been maligned in the past. I am really not surprised to see his name in the FIR,” Farhatullah Babar, former president’s spokesperson, told Arab News.
“To me, this seems to be part of pre-polls rigging. Zardari spent 11 years in jail without conviction. The present bubble will also burst into nothingness,” he added.
Senior analyst Mazhar Abbas claimed the appearance of Zardari’s name in the money-laundering case seemed to be an effort to dispel the impression that federal institutions such as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), had only singled out the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
“In the foreseeable future, we may also see action against the former president-general, Pervez Musharraf,” Abbas told Arab News.
Fazil Jamili, another Karachi-based political analyst, maintained that the FIR was part of the establishment’s minus-one formula, which, he said, was being applied to all major political parties. “After minus-Altaf and minus-Nawaz, it seems to be Asif Ali Zardari’s turn,” he said.
He added: “This is a significant development and may produce negative election results for PPP since it is likely to damage the party’s credibility.”
As the situation stands, the former president’s son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, is running his party’s election campaign and addressing public rallies in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab. 




Copy of the FIR by the Federal Investigation Agency that names Pakistan’s former president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his sister in a fake account to launder Rs35 billion.




Copy of the FIR by the Federal Investigation Agency that names Pakistan’s former president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his sister in a fake account to launder Rs35 billion.




Copy of the FIR by the Federal Investigation Agency that names Pakistan’s former president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his sister in a fake account to launder Rs35 billion.

 


Malaysian PM digs in after royal rebuke sparks calls to quit

Malaysian PM digs in after royal rebuke sparks calls to quit
Updated 58 min 51 sec ago

Malaysian PM digs in after royal rebuke sparks calls to quit

Malaysian PM digs in after royal rebuke sparks calls to quit
  • It is unusual for Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, who is widely revered in the Muslim-majority country, to speak out so forcefully against the government

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s embattled leader defended his actions Thursday as he faced calls to quit after rare criticism from the king, who accused his government of misleading parliament over coronavirus laws.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin leads a scandal-plagued coalition that seized power last year without an election, but his government is on the verge of collapse after allies withdrew support.
Parliament convened this week after a months-long suspension under a state of emergency — ostensibly to fight the virus, but which critics said was a gambit by Muhyiddin to cling to power.
On Monday, the law minister told the legislature the emergency would end on August 1 and that several regulations enacted under it were being canceled.
But angry rival MPs claimed Muhyiddin was just seeking to dodge a vote that could test his support — and it was not clear the monarch had agreed to revoke the laws, as required under the constitution.
On Thursday the royal palace confirmed the king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, had not given his consent, and said that he expressed his “great disappointment.”
The announcement about canceling the regulations was “inaccurate and confused the members of parliament,” said a statement from the palace.
It “did not just fail to respect the principles of the sovereignty of the law.... but it undermined the functions and powers of his majesty as head of state,” it said.
It is unusual for Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, who is widely revered in the Muslim-majority country, to speak out so forcefully against the government.
Muhyiddin was accused of treason and faced calls from the opposition and some members of his own coalition to quit.
But his office released a statement outlining discussions between the government and the monarch over the regulations, and insisted there had been no need for a parliamentary vote on the laws.
“The government is of the view that all these actions taken are in order and in accordance with the provisions of the law and the federal constitution,” it said, adding people should “remain calm.”
A key ally of Muhyiddin, Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yakoob, also said the government still enjoyed the support of more than 110 MPs in the 222-seat lower house.
Muhyiddin has faced mounting pressure in recent weeks with the biggest party in his coalition, the United Malays National Organization, withdrawing support.
The regulations enacted under the emergency give authorities extra powers to punish virus rule breakers, as well as some other tools to fight the pandemic.
Even when the emergency ends, the country will remain under a strict lockdown as it faces a worsening outbreak.


International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module — NASA

International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module — NASA
Updated 30 July 2021

International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module — NASA

International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module — NASA

LOS ANGELES/MOSCOW: The International Space Station (ISS) was thrown briefly out of control on Thursday when jet thrusters of a newly arrived Russian research module inadvertently fired a few hours after it was docked to the orbiting outpost, NASA officials said.
The seven crew members aboard — two Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut and a European space agency astronaut from France — were never in any immediate danger, according to NASA and Russian state-owned news agency RIA.
But the malfunction prompted NASA to postpone until at least Aug. 3 its planned launch of Boeing's new CST-100 Starliner capsule on an uncrewed test flight to the space station. The Starliner had been set to blast off atop an Atlas V rocket on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Thursday's mishap began about three hours after the multipurpose Nauka module had latched onto the space station. The module's jets inexplicably restarted, causing the entire station to pitch out of its normal flight position some 250 miles above the Earth, US space agency officials said.
The "loss of attitudinal control" lasted for a little more than 45 minutes, until flight teams on the ground managed to restore the space station's orientation by activating thrusters on another module of the orbiting platform, according to Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA's space station program.
In its broadcast coverage of the incident, RIA cited NASA specialists at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as describing the struggle to regain control of the space station as a "tug of war" between the two modules.
At the height of the incident, the station was pitching out of alignment at the rate of about a half a degree per second, Montalbano said hours later in a NASA conference call with reporters.
The Nauka engines were ultimately switched off, the space station was stabilized and its orientation was restored to where it had begun, NASA said.
Communication with the crew was lost briefly twice during the disruption, but "there was no immediate danger at any time to the crew," Montalbano said.
A drift in the space station's normal orientation was first detected by automatic sensors on the ground, and "the crew really didn't feel any movement," he said.
What caused the malfunction of the thrusters on the Nauka module, delivered by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has yet to be determined, NASA officials said.
Montalbano said there was no immediate sign of any damage to the space station. The flight correction maneuvers used up more propellant reserves than desired, "but nothing I would worry about," he said.
After its launch last week from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome, the module experienced a series of glitches that raised concern about whether the docking procedure would go smoothly.
Roscosmos attributed Thursday's post-docking issue to Nauka's engines having to work with residual fuel in the craft, TASS news agency reported.
"The process of transferring the Nauka module from flight mode to 'docked with ISS' mode is underway. Work is being carried out on the remaining fuel in the module," Roscosmos was cited by TASS as saying.
The Nauka module is designed to serve as a research lab, storage unit and airlock that will upgrade Russia's capabilities aboard the ISS.
A live broadcast showed the module, named after the Russian word for "science," docking with the space station a few minutes later than scheduled.
"According to telemetry data and reports from the ISS crew, the onboard systems of the station and the Nauka module are operating normally," Roscosmos said in a statement.
"There is contact!!!" Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, wrote on Twitter moments after the docking. 


Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition

Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition
Updated 30 July 2021

Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition

Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition
  • It is a testament to the obnoxious practice of 'honor killing'
  • Kariyon ka Qabristan has around 400 graves, all belong to women killed in ‘honor killings,’ graveyard caretaker says

SINDH, Pakistan: In Fattu Shah, a small village in Ghotki district on the border of the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Punjab, a cemetery is reserved for women. Not just any women, locals say, but “condemned women,” or karis, killed over perceived offences to “honor.”

Hundreds of women are murdered each year in Pakistan, mostly by family members, in “honor killings” that punish women for eloping, fraternizing with men or other infractions in defiance of the conservative values that govern women’s modesty in the country.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 430 cases of honor killing were reported in 2020, involving 148 male and 363 female victims. Of these cases, 215 victims, 136 of them female, belonged to the southern Sindh province.

Though the law forbids honor killings, experts say the enforcement of justice is often lax in such cases, with proceedings at times being drawn out while the accused are freed on bail and cases fade away.

Kariyon ka Qabristan, or the cemetery for condemned women, as the graveyard is called, is a testament to the continuing practice.

“The administration ... does not take any action on this lawlessness. People are afraid to talk. The women are helpless. If one is a victim, others are silent mourners.”

Zarka Shar, Pakistani women advocate

At least half a dozen villagers interviewed by Arab News — who spoke on condition of anonymity — said they knew of women who had been killed in the name of honor and buried in the graveyard in Fattu Shah.

Ali Nawaz, the 67-year-old caretaker of the four-decade-old cemetery, said there were at least 400 graves there, all of which belonged to women killed in the name of honor.

“Burials have decreased over the past few years, but women are still being killed in the name of honor,” he said.

Among the “condemned women” is Naseeran Chanesar, the aunt of 21-year-old shepherd Ilah Bux. He was 10 when his mother’s sister disappeared from her village home in 2013. For days, Bux kept asking his mother where Chanesar was, he said. “It was on the third day that a villager whispered in my ear that she had been buried in Kariyon ka Qabristan.”

Bux said he did not know which grave in the cemetery was his aunt’s: “The only person I could ask is my mother, but she also doesn’t know the exact grave.”

The caretaker said no visitors come to the graveyard even on religious holidays such as the Eid festivals or in the holy month of Ramadan, when many Muslims visit the graves of their family members and friends.

“Many graves have decayed over the years and are no longer visible,” he said, “and if someone even tries to come here, they cannot identify their loved ones.”

Another lost grave is of Gul Bano, who was killed by her elder brother in 2014, Bano’s cousin Murad Mehar said.

“On every Shab-e-Barat (major event in the Islamic calendar) when people go to graveyards to offer fateha (prayers) at the graves of their loved ones, we see Bano’s mother weeping in a corner of her house, remembering the daughter she can’t visit,” Mehar said.

Zarka Shar, an activist from Beruth, another village in Ghotki, said a graveyard had been reserved for victims of honor killings “because even after death, these ‘karis’ are not considered worthy to be buried in normal graveyards.”

“No rituals are performed for those killed and they are buried without being bathed,” she added. “This graveyard was built to spread fear.”

Shar said that even though the number of honor killings and subsequent burials in the graveyard had declined after the media had shone a spotlight on the practice in recent years, “there is still fear.”

“Even now if someone is buried, no one reveals it,” Shar said. “The administration ... does not take any action on this lawlessness. People are afraid to talk. The women are helpless. If one is a victim, others are silent mourners.”

Usman Abdullah, the deputy commissioner of Gotkhi, denied that the graveyard in question was reserved for karis.

Murtaza Wahab, a spokesperson for the Sindh government, acknowledged that incidents of honor killing occurred in the province but said he was not aware of a graveyard specifically for karis.

“I will summon a report from the local administration,” he said.

Mehnaz Rehman, the executive director of the Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights organization based in Islamabad, said the graveyard existed and that she had visited it several years ago as part of a fact-finding mission.

“There are painful stories,” she said. “We saw the grave of a mother who we were told was killed and buried there because she had dared to challenge customs.”


Duterte tells unvaccinated Filipinos to stay home, prevent spread of delta variant

Duterte tells unvaccinated Filipinos to stay home, prevent spread of delta variant
Updated 30 July 2021

Duterte tells unvaccinated Filipinos to stay home, prevent spread of delta variant

Duterte tells unvaccinated Filipinos to stay home, prevent spread of delta variant
  • Only 6 percent of the Philippines’ 110 million people are fully inoculated against COVID-19

MANILA: In attempt to impede the spread of the contagious delta variant of COVID-19 Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has told unvaccinated Filipinos to not leave their homes.

The country last week confirmed the presence of the delta strain, prompting the government to reinstate strict coronavirus measures in the metropolitan Manila area — the capital region with more than 13 million inhabitants — and four other provinces until Aug. 15. The Philippines has so far recorded 119 delta cases.

With nearly 1.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 27,000 deaths, the Philippines has the second-worst outbreak in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

“To those who do not want to get vaccinated, I’m telling you, do not leave your house — if you do, I will tell the police to escort you back because you are a walking spreader,” Duterte said in a televised address on Wednesday night.

He added that the unvaccinated should not go out as “they are throwing viruses left and right. We’re talking about our nation here, so if you don’t want to help by having the vaccines, then you should just stay at home.”

While the Philippine leader admitted there was no law restricting the movement of unvaccinated people, he said he is ready to face legal complaints against his directives.

“Should I wait for it when many people are dying already? That’s the problem. There is no law, but the law of necessity is there,” he said.

The order, however, is seen as problematic and not legally binding.

Attorney Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said there was no legal basis to restrict the movement of those who had not been vaccinated.

“The fact is, this again cannot be legally justified in the absence of a valid law or ordinance specifically governing such a situation. There is no legal basis to arrest, much less detain, an unvaccinated person because it is not a crime nor a misdemeanor penalized by any law or ordinance,” he said on Thursday.

Duterte has directed his government to give coronavirus shots to anyone who wants it, but long queues at vaccination centers show demand is high and health authorities are struggling to meet it.

On Tuesday, the Philippines recorded its highest daily vaccination rate, with 659,029 jabs administered nationwide, but with only 6 percent of the country’s 110 million people fully inoculated against COVID-19, millions remain vulnerable to infection. The government is aiming to fully vaccinate 70 percent of the population before the year ends.

“Are there enough vaccines? Is the rollout efficient and distributed correctly? And is there still significant (COVID-19 vaccine) hesitancy up to now? Because there are long queues,” Olalia said.

“While we agree that firm, not strongarm, measures must be employed to arrest the pandemic, invoking the ‘law of necessity’ is dangerous as it is nebulous and can be subjective and arbitrary, and therefore, open to abuse and misuse.”

 

 


Jordan, Greece, and Cyprus send firm message to Ankara over actions in the Med

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L), King Abdullah II of Jordan (C) and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades issued a joint statement aimed at Turkey. (Reuters/File Photos)
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L), King Abdullah II of Jordan (C) and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades issued a joint statement aimed at Turkey. (Reuters/File Photos)
Updated 30 July 2021

Jordan, Greece, and Cyprus send firm message to Ankara over actions in the Med

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L), King Abdullah II of Jordan (C) and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades issued a joint statement aimed at Turkey. (Reuters/File Photos)
  • Leaders call for respect to the sovereignty and jurisdiction each state has over its maritime zones in accordance with international law
  • Joint statement was issued following a trilateral summit in Athens as leaders also call for a solution to Turkey-Cyprus border tensions

ATHENS: The leaders of Cyprus, Greece, and Jordan sent Turkey a firm message that all unilateral measures or actions in Cyprus that are not in line with relevant UN resolutions and international law or undermine efforts for a peaceful solution through negotiations, must cease.

They also emphasized that “a peaceful, stable and prosperous Mediterranean is a strategic priority of the region.”

The joint statement was issued late on Wednesday following a trilateral summit in Athens between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

They called for respect to the sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction each state has over its maritime zones in accordance with international law.

The three leaders focused on the Cyprus problem, including the latest developments in Varosha, the fenced-off area of Famagusta, as well as the presidential statement issued by the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the provocative partial opening of the abandoned suburb by the Turkish side.

The three leaders stressed their support for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, based on the relevant UNSC resolutions and international law. They underlined that a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem will not only benefit the people of Cyprus but also contribute significantly to peace and stability in the region.

Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974. Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, announced in July a partial lifting of the military status in Varosha during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On Oct. 8, 2020, the Turkish side initially opened part of the fenced area of Varosha, following an announcement made in Ankara two days prior. 

Both the UN secretary-general and the EU expressed concern, while the UNSC called for the reversal of this course of action. UNSC resolution 550 (1984) considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN.

The trilateral meeting among Greece, Cyprus, and Jordan was one more piece in the puzzle of regional integration among like-minded countries in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Diplomatic sources told Arab News that this trilateral scheme could, in the future, expand to include Egypt and Iraq. This was part of a wider regional strategy followed by Athens.

“Greece’s foreign policy aims at fostering regional cooperation through multilateral schemes. Meetings with Jordan and Cyprus are placed in this context. Jordan is a longstanding partner of Greece and friendship is based on historical ties,” said George Tzogopoulos, a senior research fellow at the Center international de formation européenne (CIFE).

“The participation of all three countries in the East Med Gas Forum also outlines a new perspective on energy synergies. Greece values Jordan’s role for relevant stability in the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off and pays close attention to recent high-level meetings between Jordanian and Israeli officials. Turkish-Jordanian relations are also in Athens’ microscope as long as US president Joe Biden’s administration is recalibrating American foreign policy in the Middle East.”

In other developments during the trilateral summit, the three leaders discussed how to further enhance their cooperation in sectors including politics, economy, security, and other fields of mutual interest in the post coronavirus (COVID-19) era. They agreed to resume the sectoral meetings that were suspended due to the pandemic, in order to identify specific plans that could offer opportunities in the framework of the three countries’ strategic partnership. 

Mitsotakis, Anastasiadis, and King Abdullah reiterated a strong commitment to counter the common threat of terrorism and violent extremism. They also expressed support to the government in Iraq along with the country’s territorial integrity, stability, and security. They also expressed their commitment to a political solution in Libya and in Syria.