Nawaz Sharif reaches Lahore to serve jail term

Pakistani policemen escort a car transporting Pakistani former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as it arrives at Kot Lakhpat prison, a day after the anti-corruption court sentenced him to seven years in prison, in Lahore on Dec. 25, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 December 2018

Nawaz Sharif reaches Lahore to serve jail term

  • Has been sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case
  • Conviction is ‘politically-motivated’, ex-PM Abbasi tells Arab News

LAHORE: Three-time former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif was moved to the Kot Lakhpat Jail on Tuesday to begin his seven-year jail term in the high-security zone of the prison.
The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) supremo was awarded the sentence on charges of corruption and for setting up a steel mill in Saudi Arabia where he and his family had been residing in exile after being removed from office in a bloodless military coup.
Sharif was taken into custody on Monday evening after an accountability court’s judge announced the verdict. He was, however, acquitted in another corruption case filed against him in the same court
It is the second conviction handed down to Sharif in the past six months after he was sentenced to 10 years in jail in the Avenfield London flats corruption case.
His daughter, Maryam Nawaz, was also jailed for seven years in the same case while his son-in-law, Safdar Awan, was jailed for one year. The two are out on bail after the Islamabad High Court ordered their release after suspending the conviction.
Meanwhile, top PML-N leaders termed the convictions as a politically-motivated move to oust Sharif out of the active political arena.
“It is another dark decision against the politicians of Pakistan that will neither be endorsed by the masses nor history. The politicians are being victimized for the last 70 years. The PML-N is avoiding the politics of aggression for the longevity of the parliament and democracy but the system cannot afford such practices anymore,” former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told Arab News.
Sharif spent the night at Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail and was flown to Lahore on Tuesday morning after the court accepted his request to be moved to Lahore due to his medical condition.
Sharif suffers from a heart condition and it was easier for his doctors and family members to meet him in Lahore.
“The conviction is baseless as the prosecution did not have any documentary evidence against Nawaz Sharif. They even did not produce a single witness against him (Nawaz). It is a politically motivated decision,” Raja Zafarul Haq, PML-N Chairman, told Arab News.
Sharif has been moved to a high-security zone where he has been given a separate room with a small garden attached. 
The Punjab government also approved a request for a ‘better class’ in jail for Sharif making him eligible to get a mattress, a study table and chair, a TV set, and access to newspapers during his stay.
The aircraft which flew in the former premier landed at Lahore airport in the early hours of the day where a special team of law enforcement agencies took him to the Kot Lakhpat Jail amid tight security. 
A number of PML-N workers gathered at the PECO Railway Crossing, enroute to the jail, and chanted slogans in favor of their leader.
PML-N legislators and party workers also celebrated Sharif’s birthday on December 25 before leaving the venue. 
Jail sources, requesting anonymity, told Arab News that Sharif was taken to a hospital on the premises after being registered as a prisoner. The jail doctor conducted his medical examination before pronouncing him completely fit.
Sharif’s younger brother and PML-N president, Shehbaz Sharif, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, is also behind bars in the same facility.
Authorities have taken tight security measures by setting up a check post on the road leading to the prison where Sharif is lodged.


Fire on moving train kills 74 passengers in central Pakistan

Updated 31 October 2019

Fire on moving train kills 74 passengers in central Pakistan

  • PM Khan ordered an urgent investigation into the incident
  • Pakistan’s military said troops were also participating in the rescue operation

MULTAN, Pakistan: A massive fire caused by a cooking gas stove erupted Thursday on a train traveling in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, killing at least 74 passengers, officials said.
Flames roared through the train cars as the train approached the town of Liaquatpur in Punjab, they said, the latest tragedy to hit Pakistan’s dilapidated, poorly maintained and mismanaged rail system.
Survivors recounted horrific scenes of fellow passengers screaming as they jumped through the windows and off the train, flames billowing from the carriages.
“We could hear people crying and screaming for help,” said Chaudhry Shujaat who had boarded the train just a few hours earlier with his wife and two children. “I thought we would die. The next car was on fire. We felt so helpless.”

Men look at a burning train after a gas canister passengers were using to cook breakfast exploded, near the town of Rahim Yar Khan in the south of Punjab province, Pakistan October 31, 2019, in this still image taken from video obtained from social media. (REUTERS)

Deputy Commissioner Jamil Ahmed said the fire broke out when a gas stove exploded as breakfast was being prepared on board. He added that the death toll had risen steadily since the early morning.
Kaleem Ullah, an official with the district emergency services, says of the 43 people injured, 11 were still in critical condition.
Several of the injured had jumped off the train — many to their deaths — after the fire broke out and before it eventually screeched to a halt, said Ahmed.

Firefighters work to cool down the burnt-out train carriages after a passenger train caught on fire near Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province on October 31, 2019. (AFP)

Survivors said it took the train nearly 20 minutes to come to a halt after the fire broke out and passengers began screaming for help. Some pulled at emergency cords that weave through the train to notify the conductor.
Ghulam Abbas, a passenger who had gotten on the train in the town of Nawabshah in neighboring Sindh province with his wife and two children, recounted watching panicked passengers jumping off.
“We learned afterward that most of them had died,” he said.
His wife, Sulai Khan Bibi, said she was horrified about what would happen to their two small children. “We were so close to death, but Allah saved us,” she said, clutching the children.
In Pakistan, poor passengers often bring their own small gas stoves on the trains to cook their meals, despite rules to the contrary, according to Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. Safety regulations are often ignored in the overcrowded trains.
Ahmed said in Thursday’s tragedy, it was cooking oil carried on the train by a group of Islamic missionaries known as Tableeqi-e-Jamaat that had caught fire after the initial cooking stove exploded, contributing to the extent of the blaze and its speedy progress.
Railway official Shabir Ahmed said bodies of passengers were scattered over a 2 kilometer (mile) -wide area around the site.
People from nearby villages rushed to the train, carrying buckets of water and shovels to help douse the flames. “But it was impossible,” said Ahmed.
Through the morning hours, rescue workers and inspectors sifted through the charred wreckage, looking for survivors and aiding the injured. Local Pakistani TV footage from the scene showed a huge blaze raging as firefighters struggled to get it under control.

Rescue workers gather beside the burnt-out train carriages after the passenger train caught on fire near Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province on October 31, 2019. At least 65 people were killed and dozens wounded after a passenger train erupted in flames in central Pakistan on October 31, a provincial minister said. (AFP)

Officials said they were still trying to identify the victims and that the lists of fatalities and those injured were not ready yet. Another train was dispatched to bring the survivors to the city of Rawalpindi, they said.
Yasmin Rashid, a provincial minister in Punjab, told reporters that the medical staff was providing the best possible treatment for the injured at a hospital in Liaquatpur. Those critically injured were taken by ambulances to the city of Multan, the largest city nearest to the site of the accident.
The train was on its way from the southern port city of Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province, to the garrison city of Rawalpindi when the blaze erupted, said Ahmed, the deputy commissioner.
Pakistan’s military said troops were also participating in the rescue operation. President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan issued statements expressing their sorrow over the tragedy.

Firefighters work to cool down the burnt-out train carriages after a passenger train caught on fire near Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province on October 31, 2019. (AFP)

Khan took to Twitter to offer his condolences to the families of those killed and say he was praying for the speedy recovery of the injured. He also ordered an urgent investigation into the incident.
Train accidents in Pakistan are often the result of poor railway infrastructure and official negligence. Media reports on Thursday suggest that railways officials did not notice when passengers boarded the train, carrying individual gas stoves.
In July, a passenger train rammed into a pared freight train at the Walhar Railway Station in the district of Rahim Yar Khan, killing at least 20 people and injuring 74.
A month earlier, a passenger train traveling to the eastern city of Lahore from the port city of Karachi collided with a freight train in the southern city of Hyderabad, killing three people.

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