SC dismisses NAB’s appeal against ex-PM Sharif’s bail

The Sharif family had petitioned the Islamabad High Court against the Avenfield verdict on July 16. (AFP/File)
Updated 14 January 2019

SC dismisses NAB’s appeal against ex-PM Sharif’s bail

  • Anti-corruption watchdog fails to provide solid ground for cancelation of the bail
  • Lies and propaganda stand exposed, ex-premier’s close aide says

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) appeal against the suspension of sentences handed down to ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law Retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield corruption case.
A five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, upheld a verdict issued by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) which — in September last year — had ordered to suspend the trio’s prison sentences until a final judgment had been passed in the case.
“Person (Nawaz Sharif) is in prison and there is no allegation about the misuse of bail. We have a constitution to follow and we will make sure justice prevails,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, one of the bench members, said while hearing the petition.
In its ruling, the apex court said that the anti-corruption watchdog has failed to provide a “solid ground” for the cancelation of the bail; therefore its appeal stands rejected.
In July last year, an accountability court handed three-times premier Sharif a 10-year jail term for owning assets beyond declared sources of income, while Maryam was sentenced to seven years in jail for being “instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father”.
The convicts appealed against their jail sentences and the IHC issued orders for them to be released on bail. The NAB subsequently challenged the verdict in the apex court, but its appeal was rejected.
The apex court’s judgment brings a rare relief to the beleaguered Sharif family who has ruled the country for more than three decades, but currently both of its leaders – Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif – are currently lodged in jail for their involvement in multiple corruption cases.
Reacting to the verdict, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Mushahidullah Khan, who is also a close aide of the ex-premier, said that the truth has prevailed, hoping that Sharifs would stand vindicated in other “fabricated cases” too.
“Everybody knows that Nawaz Sharif and his daughter were framed in false cases ahead of last year’s general elections,” he told Arab News, adding that “the lies and propaganda against them stand exposed now and I am sure they will emerge victorious from this crisis.”
The apex court disqualified Nawaz from holding any public office for life after he was found guilty in a case instigated by the so-called “Panama Papers” leaks, related to alleged cases of corruption during his previous two terms in office.
The ex-premier is currently serving a seven-year jail term in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat prison in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference, one of the three references filed against him as a consequence of the Panama Papers leaks.
Sharafat Ali, a senior high court advocate and one of the legal team members representing the Sharif family, said that Nawaz and Maryam still have a long legal battle to fight to prove their innocence in the corruption cases
“The completion of the legal process in the cases may take years, but the IHC may grant interim relief to Nawaz Sharif by suspending his jail term like it did in the Avenfield case,” he told Arab News.


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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