Nawaz Sharif resumes political activity after jail, chairs party CEC meeting

Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, center, arriving in court. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2018

Nawaz Sharif resumes political activity after jail, chairs party CEC meeting

  • Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders term party president Shehbaz Sharif’s arrest as political victimization.
  • Shehbaz Sharif was arrested on Oct. 5 in Ashiana Housing Scheme scam by the National Accountability Bureau.

ISLAMABAD: After spending several weeks in prison, Pakistan’s former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, presided over his party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting in Lahore on Monday.
Sharif has kept a low profile in the country’s politics ever since he was released from a prison facility in Rawalpindi last month after an Islamabad High Court bench suspended his sentence in a corruption reference.
The CEC meeting was called on Sunday to assess the country’s political situation and devise a strategy in the wake of the arrest of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif.
The convention brought together leading luminaries of the party who took stock of the situation and took some important decisions.
Briefing a group of journalists after the meeting, former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah described his party president’s arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as “contempt of parliament” and “undemocratic.”
He claimed that the anti-corruption watchdog had no evidence against Shehbaz Sharif, adding: “This was an act of vengeance and an attempt to influence the outcome of the upcoming by-elections, just as the July 25 polls were manipulated through similar tactics.”
Discussing PML-N’s game plan, Sanaullah said: “The opposition has already requisitioned the national and Punjab assembly sessions. If the two assemblies do not convene tomorrow, we will start holding these sessions outside the parliament and Punjab Assembly buildings from Wednesday.”
He also hinted at the possibility of spreading these protests and “exposing such acts of vengeance,” if the government does not take the opposition seriously.
The former Punjab law minister said the CEC had taken some significant decisions and constituted various committees, though he refused to provide details and said the PML-N wanted to share them with other opposition factions first.
The veteran PML-N leader Senator Mushahidullah Khan rejected the speculation that Nawaz Sharif had been released from jail as a result of a covert deal, saying the former premier would have kept his office if he believed in striking deals.
Shehbaz Sharif, former chief minister of Punjab and incumbent leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, was arrested on Oct. 5 in the Ashiana Housing Scheme case.
The scandal involves the unfair award of government contracts worth billions of rupees by the provincial government upon his instructions when he was serving as the chief minister of the province.
PML-N leaders demanded in their news conference on Monday that their party president be allowed to make an appearance in the National Assembly and present his case to the august house and the people of Pakistan.


EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

Updated 01 July 2020

EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

  • The step has been taken due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards
  • PIA expects the ‘earliest possible’ lifting of suspension after action by the government and the airline

ISLAMABAD: The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorization to fly to the bloc for six months, the airline said on Tuesday, in a major blow to the country’s flag carrier.
Separately, the safety agency said it took the action due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.
The suspension follows Pakistan’s grounding of 262 of the country’s 860 pilots — including 141 of PIA’s 434 — whose licenses the aviation minister termed “dubious.”
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal,” PIA said in a statement. It added it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe.
Confirming the move in an emailed statement, the EASA referred to a recent investigation by Pakistan which it said showed a “large share” of pilot licenses to be invalid.
Pakistan’s grounding of the pilots followed a preliminary report on a PIA crash in Karachi that killed 97 people last month.
PIA said it is in contact with the EASA to take corrective measures and appeal against the decision, adding that it expected the “earliest possible” lifting of the suspension after action by the government and the airline.
The EASA also suspended the authorization of another Pakistani airline, Vision Air International.
Vision Air International did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Following the EASA’s decision, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said it, too, was withdrawing PIA’s permit to operate from three of its airports, as required under law.
“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesman for the UK authority told Reuters.
The three were major flying destinations for the airline.
Meanwhile, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), say there are discrepancies in the government’s list of pilots with licenses deemed dubious and are demanding a judicial investigation.
PIA and private airline Air Blue have also queried the list with PIA saying 36 of its pilots mentioned had either retired or left the airline, while Air Blue said it no longer employed seven of nine pilots on the list.
“It contains names of highly educated and qualified pilots who have passed all the tests,” PALPA’s president, Chaudhry Salman, told Reuters. “We want a fair and impartial resolution to this matter.”
An official at Pakistan’s aviation ministry, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, said they did not have full details of the discrepancies. “The issue is being sorted out in consultation with airlines and civil aviation authorities.”