Nawaz Sharif and daughter arrive in Lahore after court suspends jail sentence

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Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif sits in a vehicle alongside his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif (R) following his release from Adiala prison in Rawalpindi on September 19, 2018. (AFP / AAMIR QURESHI)
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A vehicle carrying former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is surrounded by his supporters following his release from prison in Rawalpindi on Sept. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
Updated 19 September 2018

Nawaz Sharif and daughter arrive in Lahore after court suspends jail sentence

  • Islamabad High Court suspended the verdict of an accountability court in a corruption case that had put former PM, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Safdar Awan behind bars
  • Security agencies prevented PML-N leaders and supporters from gathering in large numbers to welcome the Sharifs home

LAHORE: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif receives a subdued welcome from close relatives when he arrived home in Lahore on September 19, along with his daughter and son-in-law, following their release from jail. Security agencies had banned leaders and workers from his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party and other supporters from gathering at the airport to greet him. citing to security concerns.
Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Safdar Awan flew to Lahore from Islamabad after Islamabad High Court, as part of their appeal, suspended the verdict of an accountability court that in July convicted them in a corruption case and jailed them for 10 years, seven years and one year respectively. They were accompanied on the flight by the former PM’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.
The court ordered the trio to submit bail bonds worth PKR 500,000 ($4,000) each as a pre-bail condition.
News of their release was received with jubilation among PML-N leaders and workers across the country, especially his hometown of Lahore. Supporters started arriving at the party’s Model Town office in Lahore city at noon. where Sharif’s nephew, Hamza Shahbaz, greeted the rejoicing crowd. The workers chanted slogans in support of the deposed premier and the Sharif family. Many handed out sweets across the city in the spirit of celebration.
“It is great day that the court has directed to release our leader who always fought for the country and his countrymen,” said Shahbaz as he addressed party workers. “Mian Nawaz Sharif is a clean man and will face the cases courageously.” He added that it was deplorable that Sharif was prevented from being at the side of his wife, Kulsoom, when she died in London on September 11 after a battle with cancer.
Local party chiefs in a number of cities gave passionate speeches in support of their leader.
Imran Nazir, PML-N’s general secretary for Lahore city, said: “Nawaz Sharif’s release brings fright for his opponents.”
Shaiesta Malik, the president of PML-N’s women’s wing, told workers at the party’s Naseerabad area office: “It is time to fight for what is just, what is right.”
In Gawalmandi area of Lahore, Sharif’s ancestral home, PML-N supporters took to the streets to celebrate his release and congratulate each other, distributing sweets and chanting slogans hailing him, many with banners in their hands.
“Kulsoom left for a heavenly abode waiting for her husband and the court realized now that there is no proof against him, said Bilqees Pervaiz, a staunch supporter of Sharif, with tears in her eyes. “Those who unjustly put Nawaz Sharif through this turmoil will have to be answerable for their actions.”
The police made special security arrangements for the arrival of the Sharifs in Lahore and their journey to the family home in Jati Umra. The flight carrying them landed at Allama Iqbal International Airport, where Sharif and his aides were taken to Hajj Terminal instead of the regular exit gates. They were welcomed there by Hamza Shahbaz and other relatives, then taken to Jati Umra in bullet-proof vehicles.
Several hundred party workers gathered at the Hajj terminal gates but were not allowed to stage a procession or rally. They shouted slogans when the vehicles carrying Sharif and the others appeared, and showered them with flower petals.
While most people were banned from entering the Hajj Terminal for security reasons, PML-N leaders Pervaiz Malik, Shaiesta Malik, Khawaja Iman Nazir, City Mayor Mubashar Javed, Khawaja Salman, Mian Naseer and a few others were allowed in.
The Sharifs were driven to Jati Umra on the Ring Road, rather than interior city roads. A few hundred party workers had gathered at the residence but were prevented from greeting their leader.


India’s Magsaysay award winner says ‘democracy is in danger’

Updated 07 October 2019

India’s Magsaysay award winner says ‘democracy is in danger’

  • Kumar is pained by the decline of independent institutions that have upheld the flags of democracy for more than seven decades

NEW DELHI: Ravish Kumar is nervous about the “danger that Indian democracy is facing today” and how “a systematic attempt is being made by the ruling establishment in Delhi to suppress all the dissenting voices in the country.

“Journalism prepares you to face the unknown everyday, so I was not really surprised when I got the call from the (Magsaysay) award committee,” Kumar said.

“The problem was that I was asked to keep it a secret until they had made a public announcement. It was painful to keep quiet for almost a month,” he told Arab News with a smile.

“When the news became public, I realized what I had been bestowed with. I feel the award is a vindication of trust in good journalism. People felt as if the award had been bestowed on them,” he added.

It is this concern for democracy and its institutions that earned Kumar the prestigious Magsaysay award for 2019.

Instituted in 1957, it is awarded every year by the Philippine government in memory of its former president Ramon Magsaysay for “integrity in governance, courageous service to the people and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.”

Kumar, who works as a managing editor of India’s leading bilingual TV channel, NDTV, has created a niche for himself in the world of journalism with his daily primetime show, which draws huge audiences from across India. 

At a time when most mainstream TV channels and newspapers have stopped questioning the government and challenging its narrative, Kumar’s reporting takes a critical approach to the lawmakers.

For this constant critique of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the government does not send any of its spokespersons on his show or the channel.

He laments that a large section of the Indian media has become “an extended arm of the government and the mouthpiece of the establishment.”

For his outspoken attitude, Kumar and his family have received threats from “people who are subsidized by the ruling party.”

“I don’t have any hope for the media. It is dead in the country. Just a few are holding the placard of fearless journalism,” he said, adding that “the death of independent media has affected true reporting from Jammu and Kashmir.

“The situation in the region is so bad that after the abrogation of its special status, even the significant moderate voices in India have been pushed to the militant camps,” he said.

Describing the government’s policy on Kashmir as “brazen,” he questioned the “audacity of the government to hold local body elections in the valley when there is a complete lockdown.

Kumar is pained by the decline of independent institutions that have upheld the flags of democracy for more than seven decades, adding that he was aghast at the Supreme Court’s silence on the abrogation.

“Why is it taking so long for the apex court to intervene on the issue of the internet lockdown in the Kashmir valley? Can you imagine the American Supreme Court behaving the way the Indian judiciary is acting on such a crucial issue?” He asked.

He said that the decline of independent institutions such as the media, judiciary and election commission is gradually creating a democratic imbalance.

Kumar understands the award has given an extra responsibility on him and that he felt “burdened with expectations.” So great are those expectations, he has not ruled out entering politics.

“Politics is a good thing. I tell everyone to join politics,” he said, adding that his current responsibility is to “warn people about the danger that is lurking in Indian society.”