Nawaz Sharif lands back in jail as six-week bail expires

Nawaz Sharif lands back in jail as six-week bail expires
Former Pakistani Prime minister Nawaz Sharif (centre L) sits in a car as he heads back to Kot Lakpat Jail in Lahore on May 7, 2019, following the expiry of his bail. Nawaz Sharif will return to jail later on May 6 following the expiry of his six-week bail in a corruption case. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2019

Nawaz Sharif lands back in jail as six-week bail expires

Nawaz Sharif lands back in jail as six-week bail expires
  • Surrenders before prison authorities around midnight
  • Thanks party leaders and supporters for leading ‘solidarity rally’ to escort him to jail

LAHORE: Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif surrendered before prison authorities in the eastern city of Lahore on Wednesday as the six-week bail granted to him on medical grounds expired at midnight.
On May 3, the Supreme Court rejected an application by the three-time prime minister for an extension in bail granted on March 26. At midnight, as the day turned from Tuesday to Wednesday, Sharif was taken into custody by the Deputy Superintendent of the jail and shifted to a room specially prepared for him.

A team of Kot Lakhpat Jail officials arrived at the residence of the former prime minister in the afternoon and asked him to surrender but party leaders rejected the demand, saying the bail period technically expired on May 7.
“Sharif’s narrative is becoming popular and remains unchanged,” senior vice president of the party and the former prime minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, told Arab News. “The masses have rejected the government version against Nawaz Sharif as they know the reality; that he is committed to the supremacy of institutions and is sacrificing for the better future of the nation.”
Earlier in the day, Attaullah Tarrar, PMLN deputy secretary general, told Arab News about the PMLN’s plans to escort Sharif to jail in a ‘solidarity rally.’
“Mian Sahib will leave for jail after iftar,” Tarrar said, referring to the sundown meal in which practicing Muslims break their fast in the month of Ramadan. The PML-N had set up ten welcome camps on the route to the jail and given a call to party workers and supporters to gather at the Sharif family’s residence to march toward the jail in solidarity with their leader, Tarrar said.

Sharif was handed a seven-year sentence last year for failing to reveal the source of income that allowed him to set up a steel factory in Saudi Arabia. He has appealed the sentence, which has also barred him for life from holding public office.
“I am thankful to the workers of my party who traveled with me till midnight,” Sharif told his supporters in a message recorded minutes before his surrender. “With the prayers of my workers the dark night of injustice will end soon. My workers know why I am being sent to jail.”
Sharif says all charges against him are politically motivated. In November last year, he returned to Pakistan from London to face trial in anti-corruption cases he calls political revenge but which opposition leaders have termed as accountability for the rich and powerful.
On Tuesday, Sharif party leaders and supporters gathered outside his Jati Umra residence and chanted slogans in his favor and against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. They then moved in the form of a ‘solidarity rally’ behind the car in which he was traveling with his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party.
The PML-N had requested Lahore authorities to make security arrangements for the rally but not received any response as yet, party leaders said, adding that would continue with plans for the rally.
In July 2017, the Supreme Court removed Sharif from office for not disclosing part of a salary drawn from his son’s company. He was later convicted in two separate cases of failing to disclose sources of income. In one of these cases revolving the ownership of upscale London properties, the high court suspended a 10-year sentence and granted bail last September until a final decision was made on his appeal application against the conviction. The appeal process in both cases is continuing.


Pakistan to seek Tehreek-e-Labaik party’s dissolution through Supreme Court — interior minister

Pakistan to seek Tehreek-e-Labaik party’s dissolution through Supreme Court — interior minister
Updated 15 April 2021

Pakistan to seek Tehreek-e-Labaik party’s dissolution through Supreme Court — interior minister

Pakistan to seek Tehreek-e-Labaik party’s dissolution through Supreme Court — interior minister
  • Muhammad Younus Soomro, a TLP lawmaker in Sindh Assembly, said he would use his legal options to retain his seat in parliament
  • TLP Karachi chief warns he will disown his party chief and members of central consultative body if they did not call off the protests

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Pakistan's federal cabinet has approved the interior ministry's recommendation to outlaw the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a religious party whose supporters have been holding nationwide protests since Monday, a senior government minister told a news conference on Thursday, adding that the government would take the case to the Supreme Court to ensure the dissolution of the religious party. 

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced on Wednesday that his ministry would send a proposal to the federal cabinet to impose a ban on TLP for killing two policemen, attacking law enforcement forces and disrupting public life through nationwide protests. 

The demonstrations erupted in major Pakistani cities and quickly turned violent after Saad Rizvi, the religious party’s head, was arrested on Monday after he threatened to launch a major campaign against the government if it did not expel France’s envoy to Islamabad over blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) printed in a French publication. 

"We have proscribed [the TLP] and the notification for that will be issued shortly," said federal interior minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed. "Tomorrow, we will send another summary to the cabinet to file a reference in the Supreme Court since we are moving toward [TLP's] dissolution." 

Muhammad Younus Soomro, a TLP lawmaker in the Sindh Assembly, said he would use his legal options to retain his seat in parliament. 

“We'll see our options once the notification [regarding the ban] is issued,” Soomro said while distancing himself from the TLP protests. 

On Thursday, the TLP chief in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi, Allama Razi Hussaini, also warned that he would disown his party chief and members of the central consultative body if they did not call off the protests.

“If the party’s central Shura and Saad Hussain Rizvi Sahib continue to show stubbornness and insist that they do not want to resolve this issue through talks, the nation will be disappointed and we will have no association with the TLP leadership,” he announced in a video message.

The TLP gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 federal elections, campaigning to defend the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for death penalty for anyone who insults Islam. The party also has a history of staging protests and sit-ins to pressure the government to accept its demands. 

In November 2017, Rizvi’s followers staged a 21-day protest and sit-in after a reference to the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was removed from the text of a government form. 

In the 2018 elections, the party managed to win two seats in the Sindh Assembly from Karachi and got a female member elected on a reserved seat of the assembly. 

Commenting on the government’s move to ban TLP, legal experts said the government was required to refer the matter to the Supreme Court within fifteen days of making a declaration to ban a political party while presenting its reasons for doing so.

“The Supreme Court may decide on the government’s reference in a week or ten days and its decision will be final,” Justice (retired) Shaiq Usmani told Arab News. 

He said the law regarding the dissolution of a political party was “very clear” and if the apex court upheld the government’s declaration against the TLP, “the party shall stand dissolved forthwith.” 

Legal experts said the three elected TLP members in the Sindh Assembly could retain their seats by resigning their party membership and publicly announcing their dissociation with the TLP before a final Supreme Court decision. 

“If the TLP lawmakers dissociate themselves from the party before the apex court’s verdict, they will be able to complete their constitutional term as independent members in the house,” Ashtar Ausaf Ali, a former attorney-general of Pakistan, told Arab News. 

He said if a member of the parliament or provincial assemblies was disqualified in case of the dissolution of a party, they could not run for electoral office or a legislative body for four years from the date of their disqualification from being a lawmaker. 

“There is no ambiguity in law,” Ali said, “and it’s up to the party lawmakers now as to what they choose in case of the dissolution of their party.”


Rights activists, opposition politicians demand apology from PM Khan over rape remarks

Rights activists, opposition politicians demand apology from PM Khan over rape remarks
Updated 09 April 2021

Rights activists, opposition politicians demand apology from PM Khan over rape remarks

Rights activists, opposition politicians demand apology from PM Khan over rape remarks
  • Khan said rising “vulgarity” was responsible for an increase in the number of cases of sexual violence, during a live broadcast last Sunday
  • Arslan Khalid, the prime minister’s focal person on digital media, told Arab News Khan "never engaged in victim blaming"

ISLAMABAD: Civil society activists organized a protest at the National Press Club on Thursday, demanding an apology from Prime Minister Imran Khan for a recent statement on sexual violence against women, where he said wearing the veil, the traditional Islamic head covering, would protect women from sexual assault and not lead men into temptation.
In a statement that has caused outrage among activists and opposition politicians, Khan said rising “vulgarity” was responsible for an increase in the number of cases of sexual violence.
Members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have said Khan’s statement was misinterpreted and misunderstood.
Arslan Khalid, the prime minister’s focal person on digital media, told Arab News the prime minister had “never engaged in victim blaming,” adding that certain segments of his interview were lumped together, causing “misunderstanding.”
“Initially, he spoke about how the government had put in place robust rape laws to deal with the rising cases of sexual assault,” Khalid said in a phone interview. “And then, in a different context, he spoke about society, mentioning pardah [veil] which is not just a piece of cloth for women but also [a symbol of] respect.”
“People understand it as being specific to women, but it applies to both genders,” Khalid said. “It is about respecting other people’s space, about yourself when you interact with others.”

Protestors gather at the National Press Club in Islamabad to demand an apology from Prime Minister Imran Khan for his controversial remarks regarding rising sex crime cases in the country on April 8, 2021. (AN photo)

Asked what the prime minister meant when he spoke about “vulgarity” giving rise to sexual assault cases, ruling party senator Faisal Javed Khan said the PM could not be accused of victim-blaming.
“He did not put the responsibility on the victims [of sexual violence] or what they were wearing when he used that word,” Khan said in a phone interview. “Nowhere did he explicitly say that. He said that the root cause was the presence of such media being readily available on phones which everyone has, and we need to fight this together as a society.”
The government issued an official statement on Wednesday saying Khan’s comments had been “distorted to mean something that he never intended.”
“The Prime Minister said that our strict anti-rape laws alone will not be able to stem the rise in sex crime,” the statement said. “The whole society has to fight it together.”
Major clerics and religious bodies also announced their support on Thursday for PM Khan’s statement, saying “obscenity and nudity played a key role behind instances of molestation and abuse” and the prime minister’s stance would be “lauded” at Friday congregation prayers around the country.
But women’s rights activists say they were dismayed.
“The prime minister needs to have some gender awareness,” said Farzana Bari, an organizer of Thursday’s protest. “How can a head of a government make such irresponsible statements which are indirectly creating sympathy for rapists? This is why we are here since we demand something better from him and the state.”
Bari said Khan’s comments reflected a lack of understanding about crimes of sexual violence.

Protestors gather at the National Press Club in Islamabad to demand an apology from Prime Minister Imran Khan for his controversial remarks regarding rising sex crime cases in the country on April 8, 2021. (AN photo)

Renowned women’s rights activist Tahira Abdullah said the prime minister’s statement betrayed a “misogynistic” mindset.
“He has gone beyond the pale, absolutely, of what is acceptable,” she told Arab News.
Abdullah said Khan not only owed an apology to women but also to Pakistani men.
“To say that men cannot control themselves and resist the temptation of women without a veil in the public is to imply that men cannot control their ‘rapist tendencies,’” she said.
The demands made by activists for an apology in Thursday’s protest were also mirrored by opposition leaders like Senator Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
“Blaming vulgarity for the rise in rape cases is ridiculous as this removes the onus of responsibility from the rapist,” she said in a written message. “Rape is an act of violence where the rapist wants to establish his power and authority. A person’s body and autonomy are violated. Is the PM telling the women of this country that it is their fault if they get raped?“
Muhammad Zubair, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) politician, had the same query.
“His analysis is not just completely wrong, but it is dangerous for the prime minister of a country to suggest that the blame [for sexual assaults] falls on women and the way they dress up,” he told Arab News over the phone. “Victims of rape can be as young as 5 or 6 years of age … How can you blame them or imply that they somehow provoked men into committing such act of violence?“
“Without question, there must be an apology,” Zubair added.


Northwestern Pakistan apologizes as families of COVID-19 doctors still uncompensated

Northwestern Pakistan apologizes as families of COVID-19 doctors still uncompensated
Updated 22 March 2021

Northwestern Pakistan apologizes as families of COVID-19 doctors still uncompensated

Northwestern Pakistan apologizes as families of COVID-19 doctors still uncompensated
  • In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 79 health workers have died while saving others from COVID-19
  • Provincial government approved a compensation fund for medics in April last year

PESHAWAR: The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa apologized on Sunday for delaying compensation to families of health workers who lost their lives while saving others from COVID-19. 

With 79,245 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,208 related deaths, the northwestern province of Pakistan has one of the highest coronavirus mortality rates in the country.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government approved a compensation fund in April last year, but families of 78 health workers, including 48 doctors, who died of COVID-19 while on duty have not been compensated yet, according to Provincial Doctors Association (PDA) data.

"We apologize for any delay. All (families of) frontline health workers who died of COVID-19 on the line of duty will be compensated with their pension issues resolved," Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra told Arab News. 

PDA president Dr. Ameer Taj told Arab News said he had sent two letters to the provincial health secretary and director general of health "months ago" to expedite the disbursement of compensation fund, but there has been no progress.

"We're left with no option but to go to court of law to get our legitimate right," he said, adding that the health department was "inefficient and dysfunctional" at a time when the country is struggling with the pandemic.  

"The deceased health workers have many issues such as schooling of their children. Delay in the financial package is really a source of concern for us all."

According to PDA information secretary Dr. Salim Yousafzai, only one family, of Dr. Muhammad Javed who died of COVID-19 in Peshawar in April last year, had been redressed for the loss.

Dr. Nasir Inayat, a medical practitioner at Khyber Teaching Hospital’s nephrology department, said his uncle Dr. Hidayat Ullah Khan died of the virus in July last year but no help for his family had arrived from the government.

"We're hearing of a financial package, but we haven’t received any aid. My late uncle has two sons who study in university and I’ve to bear their expenses," he said.

According to Minister Jhagra, all the paperwork needed to compensate the deceased doctors' families would be ready next week. 

Provincial Health Secretary Imtiaz Hussain Shah told Arab News that those "qualified" for compensation would be paid Rs7 million ($45,000). He did not specify, however, who would qualify and how many families would receive the funds.


Pakistan couple expelled by university after public proposal

Pakistan couple expelled by university after public proposal
Updated 13 March 2021

Pakistan couple expelled by university after public proposal

Pakistan couple expelled by university after public proposal
  • The University of Lahore said the pair had acted 'in violation of university rules'
  • The couple has refused to apologize, saying they have done nothing wrong

LAHORE: A university in deeply conservative Pakistan expelled two students who embraced after getting engaged on campus, after a video of the incident spread on social media this week.

In the clip, a female university student gets down on one knee and proposes to her boyfriend; the couple can then be seen hugging and holding bouquets of flowers as onlookers cheer them on and film the scene.

The University of Lahore said the pair had acted "in violation of university rules."

It added in a statement on Friday that they had failed to appear before a disciplinary hearing and were later expelled for "serious infraction of the code of conduct."

Public displays of affection between couples -- whether married or not -- are viewed as culturally and religiously unacceptable.

Many women in patriarchal Pakistan find it hard to defy tradition, with much of the society still operating under a strict code of honor.

The couple has refused to apologize.

"We did nothing wrong, and we are not sorry for this," Hadiqa Javaid tweeted.

"Can anyone explain to us what wrong we did by proposal in public in University of Lahore?," her fiance Shehryar Ahmed said, adding that couples had previously proposed to each other on campus.

They said they had received online threats for the show of affection.

Condemning the university's decision, the Progressive Students' Collective union on Saturday tweeted that "moral policing in universities has become a norm lately."

Some universities in Pakistan have barred female students from wearing jeans, tank-tops or makeup, while others regulate interactions between male and female students.

Earlier this week, the organizers of Pakistan's International Women's Day rallies said they had received death threats after a "vicious smear campaign" saw doctored images of the event circulate online.

The annual rallies calling for women's rights have received a fierce backlash since they first began in Karachi in 2018, including legal challenges to have them banned.


FM Qureshi, US Secretary discuss Daniel Pearl Case

FM Qureshi, US Secretary discuss Daniel Pearl Case
Updated 30 January 2021

FM Qureshi, US Secretary discuss Daniel Pearl Case

FM Qureshi, US Secretary discuss Daniel Pearl Case
  • The Pakistani foreign minister says his country wants economic partnership, regional connectivity
  • The two officials discuss Afghanistan, other areas of bilateral interest during a phone call on Friday

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Friday it was important and in the mutual interest of the two countries that justice was served in the Daniel Pearl case through legal means. 

According to an official handout circulated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Qureshi had a telephone conversation with the American official in which he congratulated the new US state secretary on assuming his office and highlighted the steps the government had taken in the kidnapping and murder case of the Wall Street Journal reporter. 

The foreign minister told the American official that Prime Minister Imran Khan was pursuing a new vision for his country that placed premium on forging economic partnership, building a peaceful neighborhood, and enhancing regional connectivity. 

He also underscored Pakistan’s commitment to a comprehensive partnership with the United States based on convergence of interests on a wide range of issues. 

“Foreign Minister Qureshi told Secretary Blinken that peace in Afghanistan through a negotiated political settlement was one of the fundamental convergences between the two countries,” the official handout said. “It was essential to have reduction in violence leading to ceasefire and to work towards securing an inclusive political solution in Afghanistan. Pakistan had facilitated the Afghan peace process and remained committed to working with the United States as a partner for peace.” 

The foreign ministry’s statement added that Secretary Blinken recalled US-Pakistan cooperation over the years and noted that the two countries had a range of areas to engage on. He also acknowledged the sacrifices of the people of Pakistan in the fight against terrorism. 

The two officials agreed to remain engaged and work together on advancing their bilateral agenda and promoting common interests in the region and beyond.