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.

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

Updated 12 January 2020

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

  • Work on foreign minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States being done
  • Pakistan’s strong relations with regional countries has made it an important player

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated on Thursday that the country was going to play its role in restoring peace in the Middle East by working with other international stakeholders in the region.

“Pakistan welcomes de-escalation and wants to play its role in ensuring peace and stability in the region. We have seen that indication in United States President [Donald] Trump’s speech and are evaluating its contours,” the country’s foreign office spokesperson, Aisha Farooqui, said in her weekly media briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

She said that Pakistan’s geographical position, along with its strong relations with regional countries and the United States, had made it a significant player in the Middle East.

“Pakistan has maintained that war is not the solution to any issue and made it clear that it will not become part of any regional conflict,” she said.

The spokesperson noted that Islamabad had enhanced its efforts to defuse tensions in the region and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had contacted his counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and many other important states in this connection.

“All the international players, including Saudi Arabia, have said that the region cannot afford another war and asked for restraint from both parties [the US and Iran]. It’s a collective objective of all countries to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East,” she said.

Commenting on the foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the US, she said that “work on these tours has already started and they will take place as soon as dates are finalized with the respective countries.”

“We are very mindful for our brotherly and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other regional countries. Pakistan and the US also enjoy longstanding relations and have contacts with each other through multiple forums including political and military leadership,” Farooqui said, adding that the foreign office had established a task force to continuously monitor the situation in the Middle East and inform the government about it along with its suggestions on a daily basis.

The spokesperson expressed hope that recent developments in the Middle East would not affect the ongoing Afghan peace process.

“Pakistan hopes that progress made on Afghan peace process will not come to a halt and the world community will not lose its focus as a result of the ongoing tensions in the Middle East,” she said.

Asked about the safety of Pakistani nationals in Iraq, she said the country’s embassy in Baghdad was on the alert to deal with any emergency situation.

“We are concerned about the safety of Pakistani citizens in Iraq and have issued an advisory in this regard. We have also instructed our mission in Baghdad to remain vigilant to deal with any emergency,” Farooqui said.