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.

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.”