Pakistan ex-PM Khan’s legal challenges deepen as sedition, criminal conspiracy added to charges

Pakistan ex-PM Khan’s legal challenges deepen as sedition, criminal conspiracy added to charges
Pakistan's former prime minister, Imran Khan gestures after arriving at a registrar office in Lahore High court to sign surety bonds for bail in various cases, in Lahore on July 3, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 21 September 2023
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Pakistan ex-PM Khan’s legal challenges deepen as sedition, criminal conspiracy added to charges

Pakistan ex-PM Khan’s legal challenges deepen as sedition, criminal conspiracy added to charges
  • New charges added to cases related to violent protests on May 9 after Khan was briefly arrested in land graft case
  • Khan currently in jail in another corruption case after he was convicted last month and sentenced to three years prison

ISLAMABAD: Additional charges have been framed against former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and other suspects in a case related to violent protests in May and they now also stand accused of criminal conspiracy and sedition, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Investigation Dr. Anoosh Masood Chaudhry said on Wednesday.

Protests broke out across Pakistan after Khan’s brief arrest in a land graft case on May 9 in which his supporters ransacked and damaged military and other properties. Khan was released on bail then but is currently in jail after being convicted in another corruption case and has practically been disqualified from running for elections, due in March. Khan and other senior aides are accused of instigating the mob.

In a press conference, Chaudhry said nine additional sections pertaining to treason had been included in the cases related to the violence that erupted on May 9.

“When you incite someone against the interests of the country, we have added those sections [in the FIR], that show intention,” the police officer said, adding that evidence of inciting mutiny and planning vandalism had been found against Khan. 

“If you have been part of that conspiracy that means you are involved in the activity.”

“Section 120(B) [pertaining to punishment of criminal conspiracy] of the Pakistan Penal Code has been added to all the cases related to the May 9 incidents,” Chaudhry said.

Other sections of the PPC added include 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups, etc.), 153-B (inducing students, etc., to take part in political activity), 146 (rioting), 131 (abetting mutiny, or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty), 121 (waging or attempting to wage war or abetting the waging of war against Pakistan), 121-A (conspiracy to commit offenses punishable by Section 121), 120-A (definition of criminal conspiracy), 120-B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) and 107 (abetment).

Khan, who is currently jailed in Attock prison, faces a range of legal challenges, including a case related to leaking official secrets. The 70-year-old former cricket star has been at the center of a political crisis since he lost a confidence vote in parliament in April 2022.

In late August, a high court suspended Khan’s prison sentence for corruption just weeks after he was jailed, but a prior order for his remand in custody in the state secrets case prevented his release. The latest extension of the remand order, passed on September 13, will keep Khan in jail until September 26.

In the state secrets case, Khan is charged with making public the contents of a confidential cable sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States and using it for political gain, according to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Khan alleges that the cable proves the United States had pressed Pakistan’s military to orchestrate the fall of his government because he had visited Russia shortly before its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Washington and the Pakistani military have denied Khan’s accusations.

In the corruption case, Khan was sentenced to three years in jail for failing to declare assets earned from the sale of state gifts during his time as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. 

As a result, the election commission barred him from contesting elections for five years, and although the prison sentence was suspended last month, the conviction still stands.


Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport

Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport
Updated 22 April 2024
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Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport

Pakistani officials say Makkah Route initiative approved for Karachi airport
  • The initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure
  • Pakistani pilgrims performing Hajj under government scheme have already been availing facility in Islamabad

KARACHI: Saudi authorities have approved the expansion of the Makkah Route initiative, which is aimed at facilitating Pakistani Hajj pilgrims, to the Karachi airport, Pakistani officials said on Monday.

The statement came a day after a two-member delegation from Saudi Arabia visited the Jinnah International Airport in the southern Pakistani city to inspect facilities and discuss arrangements for the pilgrims.

Launched in 2019, the initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure. This makes it possible to bypass long immigration and customs checks upon reaching Saudi Arabia, which significantly reduces the waiting time and makes the entry process smoother and faster.

Pakistani pilgrims performing Hajj under the government scheme have been availing this facility at the airport in Islamabad for the last couple of years and the government wanted the initiative to be extended to other cities as well.

“The Saudis have okayed Jinnah International Airport Karachi,” Saifullah, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA), told Arab News.

Gulzar Soomro, director at the Hajj directorate in Karachi, confirmed the development, saying a contract had also been awarded to a company to design the project.

A spokesperson for Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Islamabad could not be immediately reached for confirmation.

During the visit to the Karachi airport on Sunday, the two-member Saudi delegation showed particular interest in the entry process for intending pilgrims and the allocation of immigration space, according to the PCAA. It came weeks after Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry announced completion of a survey for the Makkah Route initiative at the Karachi airport.

The South Asian country expects more than 60 percent of pilgrims performing Hajj this year to benefit from the initiative. People opting for the private Hajj scheme can also avail the facility, given the tour operators providing them services have contacted the Pakistani religious ministry for the purpose.

Saudi Arabia last year restored Pakistan’s pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims and abolished the upper age limit of 65 years. More than 81,000 Pakistani pilgrims performed Hajj under the government scheme in 2023, while the rest used private tour operators.

This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14 till June 19.


Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi

Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi
Updated 22 April 2024
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Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi

Pakistan’s Sindh to step up efforts against street crime after dozens killed in Karachi
  • Karachi, the country’s commercial hub, has reported nearly one murder every other day since the start of this year
  • At least 18 killings, including that of an army major, occurred during muggings in the holy fasting month of Ramadan

KARACHI: The government in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province on Monday decided to intensify its efforts against rampant street crime, following the killing of dozens of people in muggings and other violent crimes in the provincial capital this year.

The decision was made at a law and order meeting held at the Chief Minister’s House, which was attended by members of the provincial cabinet, top bureaucrats, provincial and city police chiefs, Karachi Corps Commander Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar and Sindh Rangers Director-General Maj Gen Azhar Waqas.

The development comes after the killing of at least 57 people in Karachi, the country’s commercial hub and home to roughly 30 million people, averaging nearly one murder every other day since the start of this year, according to a tally collected from media reports.

At least 18 of the killings, including that of an army major who was assigned with the Coast Guard, occurred during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The officer was shot by muggers on March 30 and died after being hospitalized for a week.

“Meeting has decided to take measures to monitor the sale of stolen or snatched mobile phones and vehicles as spare parts or in their complete form in the markets of Karachi,” read a statement issued from the CM House after the huddle.

Officials informed the participants that the police had 467 encounters with criminals this year, in which 67 suspects were killed, 489 were injured and 1,766 were arrested.

Additionally, the police were directed to revamp Madadgar-15 service for reporting crimes.

“The Home Minister announced that an additional 168 vehicles, including 120 motorbikes, would be deployed to enhance the police force’s capabilities,” the statement read.

“The Chief Minister instructed the Inspector General (IG) of police to initiate the E-tagging of repeat offenders.”


Pakistan posts highest monthly current account surplus in nine years

Pakistan posts highest monthly current account surplus in nine years
Updated 22 April 2024
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Pakistan posts highest monthly current account surplus in nine years

Pakistan posts highest monthly current account surplus in nine years
  • Cumulatively, the current account balance improved from July till March, recording a deficit of only $0.5 billion
  • Karachi-based research firm Topline Securities says significant monthly surplus is due to higher remittances on Eid

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan recorded a current account surplus of $619 million in March, the central bank said on Monday, which was the highest in nine years.

Cumulatively, the country’s current account balance improved significantly from July 2023 till March 2024 and recorded a deficit of $0.5 billion only, compared to $4.1 billion during the same period in the previous year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

“Pakistan recorded Current Account Surplus of $619mn in Mar-2024 vs $537mn last year and $98mn in Feb-2024,” Topline Securities, a Karachi-based brokerage and research firm, said in its report.

“This is the highest monthly surplus after 9 years. We believe significant monthly surplus is due to higher remittances amid Eid inflows.”

The development comes amid hopes of the country’s successful talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a new bailout program, after Pakistan’s current $3 billion arrangement expires this month, as well as investment from friendly countries, including Saudi Arabia.

In March, remittances sent by Pakistani workers abroad increased by 31 percent on a month-on-month basis, with Saudi Arabia being the top contributor.

Pakistani expatriates remitted a total of $3 billion back home in the month of March, according to official figures shared by the SBP.

Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, has recently held meetings with official of the IMF, World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions.

During the meetings, the minister highlighted the government’s reforms and the country’s improved economic indicators for investment.


Ex-PM Khan’s party to launch Pakistan-wide agitation over by-poll ‘rigging’

Ex-PM Khan’s party to launch Pakistan-wide agitation over by-poll ‘rigging’
Updated 22 April 2024
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Ex-PM Khan’s party to launch Pakistan-wide agitation over by-poll ‘rigging’

Ex-PM Khan’s party to launch Pakistan-wide agitation over by-poll ‘rigging’
  • Pakistan conducted by-polls in 21 constituencies amid suspension of mobile networks
  • Unofficial results suggest PM Sharif’s party bagged most seats in Sunday’s by-elections

ISLAMABAD: Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party will hold nationwide rallies on April 26 to protest the results of Sunday’s by-elections in Pakistan, PTI members said on Monday.

Pakistan conducted by-polls in 21 national and provincial constituencies on Sunday amid a partial suspension of mobile phone networks in parts of Punjab and Balochistan provinces. The polls were the first major electoral exercise since the Feb. 8 national election, marred by a nationwide mobile Internet shutdown on election day, arrests and violence in its build-up and unusually delayed results, leading to accusations that the vote was rigged.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, which formed a coalition in the center after Feb. 8 polls, won two out of the five national seats and 10 out of 16 provincial seats, according to unofficial results reported widely by local media.

Speaking at a press conference, members of Khan’s PTI said the by-polls were “blatantly rigged” in Gujrat, Sheikhupura, Lahore and elsewhere in the country, and announced a series of demonstrations to protest the results.

“This Friday... we call for a protest in all four provinces,” said Omar Ayub, opposition leader in the National Assembly, adding that protests would follow in Faisalabad, Karachi and others parts of the country soon.

PTI Chairman Gohar Khan said April 21 was a “black day for democracy” in the country.

“I have neither seen such blatant and open violation of law, nor have I heard of it,” he said. “We demand the election commission that those who rigged [the polls] in Punjab, their notification be withheld.”

Khan, who was PM from 2018-2022, remains jailed in multiple cases, including a 14-year jail sentence for him and his wife for the illegal sale of state gifts. Khan was first imprisoned after being handed a three-year prison sentence in August 2023 by the Election Commission for not declaring assets earned from selling gifts worth more than 140 million rupees ($501,000) in state possession and received during his premiership. In January, Khan and wife Bushra Bibi were handed 14-year jail terms following a separate investigation by the country’s top anti-graft body into the same charges involving state gifts.

An anti-graft court in Islamabad also handed Khan a 10-year jail term in January for revealing state secrets, a week before national elections on Feb. 8. In February, Khan and his wife were also sentenced to seven years on charges they violated the country’s marriage law when they wed in 2018 — the fourth sentence so far for Khan and the second for his wife.

Khan has also been indicted under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law in connection with violence against the military that erupted following his brief arrest related to the Al-Qadir case on May 9. A section of Pakistan’s 1997 anti-terrorism act prescribes the death penalty as maximum punishment. Khan has denied the charges under the anti-terrorism law, saying he was in detention when the violence took place.

Khan’s convictions mean he is banned from holding public office and ruled the 71-year-old out of general elections earlier this year. Arguably Pakistan’s most popular politician, Khan says all cases against him are motivated to keep him out of politics.


Pakistan army says 11 militants killed in two operations in country’s northwest

Pakistan army says 11 militants killed in two operations in country’s northwest
Updated 22 April 2024
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Pakistan army says 11 militants killed in two operations in country’s northwest

Pakistan army says 11 militants killed in two operations in country’s northwest
  • Security in regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan has deteriorated in recent months
  • Five Japanese nationals narrowly escaped a suicide bombimg on their vehicle last week

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army said on Monday it had killed eleven militants in two different operations in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, amid a surge in terror attacks in the South Asian country. 

Security in areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan has deteriorated in recent months. Attacks, some claimed by the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) Islamist militant group, have risen, mostly targeting police and security officials, while separatist groups have also launched attacks in the country’s southern and southwestern regions.

Five Japanese nationals narrowly escaped a suicide bombing on their vehicle last week, while unknown gunmen killed two customs officers on Sunday, following the killing of five other customs officials in the area in recent days.

“An intelligence-based operation was conducted in Dera Ismail Khan District on reported presence of terrorists. During conduct of the operation, after an intense fire exchange, ten terrorists were successfully neutralized and sent to hell,” the military’s media wing said

“In another encounter in North Waziristan District, own troops effectively engaged the terrorists’ location as a result of which one more terrorist was sent to hell.”

The army said the militants had been involved in “numerous terrorist activities in the area against security forces as well as the innocent civilians.” The two operations took place on April 21-22. 

The current rise in attacks has escalated tensions between Pakistan and the Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban administration. Pakistan, saying militants have been using Afghan territory to launch attacks, has called on the Taliban to take action and carried out an airstrike last month on Afghan territory.

The Taliban have denied allowing the use of Afghan soil for militancy and said Pakistan’s security issues are a domestic issue for Islamabad.