Pakistan court reserves verdict on pleas against ruling Imran Khan, wife violated marriage law

Pakistan court reserves verdict on pleas against ruling Imran Khan, wife violated marriage law
Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Imran Khan (R) along with his wife Bushra Bibi (L) looks on as he signs surety bonds for bail in various cases, at a registrar office in the High court, in Lahore on July 17, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 May 2024
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Pakistan court reserves verdict on pleas against ruling Imran Khan, wife violated marriage law

Pakistan court reserves verdict on pleas against ruling Imran Khan, wife violated marriage law
  • Khan, wife Bushra sentenced to seven years in prison in February by court that ruled their 2018 marriage illegal 
  • Bushra is currently serving out two prison sentences at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail where Khan is also incarcerated

ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court in Islamabad on Thursday reserved its verdict on appeals challenging seven-year jail sentences each for former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Khan for violating the country’s marriage law. 

Khan and his wife were sentenced to seven years in prison and fined in February by a court that ruled their 2018 marriage broke the law. Bushra was accused of not completing the waiting period mandated by Islam, called “Iddat,” after divorcing her previous husband and marrying Khan.

The Khans signed their marriage contract, or “Nikkah,” in January 2018 in a secret ceremony seven months before the former cricket superstar became prime minister for the first time. There was controversy over whether they had wed before the Iddat period was complete. After initial denials of the marriage, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf confirmed it weeks later.

The Khans both deny wrongdoing.

“The court will announce the judgment on May 29 (Wednesday),” Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper reported. Other Pakistani media also widely reported that the judgment would be announced next week. 

Bushra is currently serving out two prison sentences at Adiala Jail where Khan is also incarcerated. In January, both were sentenced to 14 years in prison in a case that relates to accusations they undervalued gifts from a state repository and gained profits from selling them while Khan was prime minister from 2018-22. 

CASES

Khan was first jailed 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 Bushra were handed 14-year jail terms following a separate investigation by the country’s top anti-graft body, or NAB, 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. The ruling on his marriage to Bushra and a seven-year sentence each for both also came ahead of the polls.

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

SPIRITUAL LEADER

Bushra’s ex-husband, Khawar Maneka, to whom she was married for about 30 years, brought a criminal complaint against the Khans. 

Khan has often called Bushra his spiritual leader. She is known for her devotion to Sufism, a mystical form of Islam.

Born Bushra Riaz Watto, she changed her name to Khan after her marriage. Her husband and followers commonly refer to her as Bushra Bibi or Bushra Begum, titles that denote respect in Urdu.

Khan’s two previous marriages — to Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of tycoon James Goldsmith, and television journalist Reham Nayyar Khan — ended in divorce.


FlyDubai to launch flights to Pakistan’s Islamabad, Lahore cities from July 1

FlyDubai to launch flights to Pakistan’s Islamabad, Lahore cities from July 1
Updated 16 sec ago
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FlyDubai to launch flights to Pakistan’s Islamabad, Lahore cities from July 1

FlyDubai to launch flights to Pakistan’s Islamabad, Lahore cities from July 1
  • FlyDubai first started operating flights to Pakistan in 2010 with the launch of flights to Karachi 
  • Return Business class fares from Dubai to Islamabad start from $1497, Economy class fares from $353

ISLAMABAD: Dubai-based carrier flydubai this week announced it would launch flights to Pakistan’s capital Islamabad and its eastern city Lahore starting from July 1, saying the move would offer passengers from the UAE and the region “more convenient options” for travel. 

In a press release on Monday, flydubai said flights to the Islamabad International Airport (ISB) and Allama Iqbal International Airport (LHE) will operate daily from Terminal 2 at the Dubai International (DXB). 

Flydubai first started operating flights to Pakistan in 2010 with the launch of flights to the southern port city of Karachi. In addition to Islamabad and Lahore, the carrier also serves flights to Faisalabad, Karachi, Multan, Quetta and Sialkot cities of Pakistan.

“Pakistan has long been an important market for flydubai,” Hamad Obaidalla, chief commercial officer at flydubai, was quoted as saying in the press release. “Since 2010 when we first started operations to the market, we have seen sustained demand for travel and with the start of our daily services to Islamabad and Lahore, we look forward to offering passengers more opportunities to explore Dubai, the GCC region and beyond on the flydubai network.”

“As our flights will be operated by our fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, we are confident that passengers will enjoy an enhanced travel experience with our onboard product,” Sudhir Sreedharan, senior vice president of commercial operations (UAE, GCC, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent) at flydubai, said. 
 
The press release said passengers traveling with flydubai can enjoy “internationally-inspired menus” and hours of immersive entertainment in the Business class while passengers in the Economy class can enjoy optimized space and comfort.
As per the airline, the return Business class fares from DXB to ISB start from AED 5,500 ($1497) and Economy class fares start from AED 1,300 ($353). Return Business class fares from ISB to DXB start from Rs400,000 ($1436) and Economy class fares start from Rs120,000 ($430). 
Return Business class fares from DXB to LHE start from AED 5,500 (1497) and Economy class fares start from AED 1,200 ($326), the airline said. It added that return Business class fares from LHE to DXB start from Rs400,000 ($1436) and Economy class fares start from Rs 120,000 ($430). 
 


Pakistan’s KP province has repatriated over 300,000 foreigners since deportation drive last year— CM

Pakistan’s KP province has repatriated over 300,000 foreigners since deportation drive last year— CM
Updated 40 min 57 sec ago
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Pakistan’s KP province has repatriated over 300,000 foreigners since deportation drive last year— CM

Pakistan’s KP province has repatriated over 300,000 foreigners since deportation drive last year— CM
  • KP government providing all possible facilities to foreigners leaving Pakistan voluntarily, says CM Ali Amin Gandapur
  • Pakistan launched deportation drive last year after spike in bombings it blamed on Afghan nationals without evidence

ISLAMABAD: The government in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province has repatriated over 300,000 foreign nationals since last year, Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur said this week according to state media, as Pakistan continues its deportation drive that it says is aimed at expelling “illegal immigrants” from the country. 

The government launched a deportation drive last year after a spike in suicide bombings which the Pakistan government, without providing evidence, has blamed on Afghan nationals. Islamabad also says Afghans are involved in smuggling, militant violence and other crimes. 

A cash-strapped Pakistan navigating record inflation, alongside a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program last year, had also said undocumented migrants had drained its resources for decades.

Pakistan’s state broadcaster Radio Pakistan confirmed last week Islamabad had deported over 620,000 Afghan nationals in total since last year’s deportation drive. 

“More than three hundred thousand foreigners from the province have been repatriated to their native countries,” Gandapur told a delegation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday, according to Radio Pakistan. 

The KP chief minister assured the delegation that the provincial government was providing all possible facilities to foreigners who are voluntarily leaving for their countries. He said the KP government is willing to provide health care facilities to Afghan nationals if the UNHCR issues health cards for them. 

Until the government initiated the expulsion drive last year, Pakistan was home to over four million Afghan migrants and refugees, of which around 1.7 million were undocumented, as per government figures. 

Afghans make up the largest portion of migrants, many of whom came after the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Islamabad insists the deportation drive is not aimed specifically at Afghans but at all those living illegally in Pakistan.

In October 2023, Pakistan announced phase one of the “Illegal Foreigners’ Repatriation Plan” with a 30-day deadline for “undocumented” aliens to leave the country or be subject to deportation, putting 1.4 million Afghan refugees at risk.

In phase two of the “repatriation plan,” around 600,00 Afghans who held Pakistan-issued Afghan citizenship cards (ACCs) will be expelled while phase three is expected to target those with UNHCR-issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.

Earlier in April, the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) issued a notification validating the extension of the PoR card till June 30 this year.

Before the deportation drive, people used to daily cross the Pak-Afghan border back and forth for business and personal purposes.

The drive has led to a spike in tensions between Pakistan and the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan. The Taliban deny militants are using Afghan soil to launch attacks, calling Pakistan’s security challenges a domestic issue.


Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism

Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism
Updated 59 min 56 sec ago
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Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism

Azm-e-Istehkam not a ‘large-scale military operation,’ clarifies PM Sharif amid growing criticism
  • PM Sharif says new military operation to instill new spirit and drive in implementation of National Action Plan
  • Calls on stakeholders to appreciate “positive step,” demands end to “unnecessary debate” over the issue 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif this week clarified that the government’s new anti-terrorism operation will not be a large-scale military operation that would cause people to be displaced, amid growing opposition by Pakistani political parties who accuse authorities of not taking them into confidence on the matter. 

Pakistan’s top national security forum on Saturday announced the Operation Azm-e-Istehkam, or Resolve for Stability, campaign after a meeting of the Central Apex Committee on the National Action Plan (NAP) that was attended by senior military leaders and top government officials from all provinces, including the PTI-backed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur.

However, the PTI and Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), two key political parties in the militancy-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, have rejected the military operation. Leaders of both parties have called on the government to take lawmakers into confidence about the new operation. 

In a statement released by his office on Monday night, Sharif said Operation Azm-e-Istehkam is being “misunderstood” and compared to previous military operations such as Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Operation Rah-e-Nijat. He said militants in these operations were killed for creating “no-go areas” in the country and for challenging the writ of the state, adding that they caused massive displacement of the population. 

“There are currently no such no-go areas in the country as the ability of terrorist organizations to carry out large-scale organized operations inside Pakistan has been decisively defeated by past armed operations,” Sharif was quoted as saying. 

“Therefore, no large-scale military operation which would require population displacement is being contemplated,” he added. 

The statement clarified that Operation Azm-e-Istekam is a multi-domain, multi-agency and national vision to bring about sustainable peace and stability in the country. 

“Its objective is to instill a new spirit and drive in the ongoing implementation of the revised National Action Plan, which was launched after a national consensus in the political arena,” the statement added. 

The PMO said the operation would mobilize military operations that have already been launched against militants and aim to eliminate them out of the country for good. It said this would ensure a secure environment for the country’s economic progress and prosperity. 

Sharif said everyone should welcome this “positive step” by the government, saying it had been taken with collective wisdom and after forming a political consensus among various stakeholders. He called for putting an end to “unnecessary debate” on the issue. 

Speaking to a private news channel on Sunday, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said a consensus was reached on the new military operation between all stakeholders during the apex committee’s meeting last week. He said the decision to launch Operation Azm-e-Istehkam had not been “finalized.”

“It will go through the process,” Asif said. “It will go to the cabinet [for approval] then it will be presented in the house and the house will be briefed on it.”

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in recent months, many of them claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which pledges allegiance to, and gets its name from, the Afghan Taliban, but is not directly a part of the group that now rules Afghanistan. Its stated aim is to impose Islamic religious law in Pakistan, as the Taliban have done in Afghanistan.

Islamabad blames the recent uptick in attacks on Afghanistan, saying TTP leaders have taken refuge there and run camps to train militants to launch attacks inside Pakistan. Kabul says rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad and it does not allow militants to operate on its territory.


PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 

PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 
Updated 24 June 2024
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PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 

PM Sharif reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate polio in meeting with Bill Gates 
  • Says will utilize all state resources to protect polio workers taking part in vaccine campaigns
  • Pakistan reported fifth polio case of this year in the southwestern city of Quetta

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reiterated his government’s resolve to eradicate polio in Pakistan in a meeting with philanthropist Bill Gates, the PM Office said on Monday, assuring the utilization of all state resources to protect polio workers carrying out vaccine campaigns.
Pakistan reported its fifth polio case this June. The infectious disease has been eliminated in developed nations but persists in parts of India, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. At least 11 policemen have been killed this year while on security duty during vaccination campaigns which are frequently targeted by militants. 
“The prime minister briefed on a strong and focused strategy to address the rising threat of polio virus infections and the necessary steps to completely eradicate the disease from Pakistan,” the PM Office said in a press release on Monday. “He reiterated the government’s firm commitment to polio eradication, stressing that it is a top priority.”
The statement said the prime minister would personally oversee national efforts being carried out for the eradication of polio.
“Mr Gates also expressed confidence that with continuous vaccination and the government’s strong commitment, there would be significant progress in the polio eradication campaign,” the PM Office added. “Both parties agreed to continue working together not only on polio eradication but also on strengthening the health system across all provinces.”
PM Sharif also accompanied Gates to the National Emergencies Operations Center (NEOC) which monitors the polio eradication campaign.
Many Pakistanis, particularly those residing in the conservative tribal areas, consider the polio vaccination a Western campaign aimed at sterilizing the country’s population. In 2012, the local Taliban had ordered a ban on immunization against polio in some tribal districts. Dozens of polio workers have been killed in the country in the line of duty.


Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat

Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat
Updated 24 June 2024
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Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat

Pakistani grain exporters seek government permission to export 3.9 million tons surplus wheat
  • Pakistan’s wheat production during 2023-24 stood at 31.4 million tons compared to 28.2 million tons last year
  • National Food Security and Research Ministry official says no decision had yet been taken to allow wheat export

KARACHI: Exporters have sought permission from the government this week to export surplus wheat to neighboring and Gulf countries to stabilize local markets following a bumper crop in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s wheat production during 2023-24 stood at 31.4 million tons compared to 28.2 million tons last year, posting a growth of 11.6 percent. According to official data, the country has over 36 million tons of wheat stock including carry-forward stock. The local consumption of wheat is estimated to be around 32.2 million tons this year. 

“We have sought permission to export a million tons in the first phase including half a million tons un-milled and half a million tons in the form of by-products,” Muzammil Chappal, Chairman of the Cereal Association of Pakistan (CAP), told Arab News on Monday.

“Our members are ready to commence exports of wheat products through land and sea routes immediately and ensure no shortage locally.”

The CAP chairman, who also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in this regard earlier this month, said due to surplus production, Pakistan had the capacity to export 250,000 tons of flour and fine flour each and 500,000 tons of wheat.

“Currently, there are 3.92 million tons of surplus wheat in the country and that is why the farmers are not getting good prices,” Chappal said, adding that the move would help stabilize the local wheat market and also alleviate the suffering of farmers due to a high yield and low prices. 

Chappal said exporters were engaged in talks with the government, highlighting that exporting surplus wheat would give a chance to farmers to sell at good prices and also earn foreign exchange for the country. He listed all Middle Eastern countries including the United Arab Emirates as potential markets for Pakistani wheat.
 
An official of the National Food Security and Research Ministry said no decision had yet been taken to allow wheat exports as a committee formed by the government was still assessing wheat stock levels in the country.
 
“No decision has been taken to allow the export of wheat from Pakistan,” he said. “A committee has been formed to assess the stock situation of the country.” 
 
The South Asian nation has not allowed exports of wheat from Pakistan since the financial year 2019-2020 due to domestic supply concerns to ensure stable supply as wheat is crucial for national food security.
 
Earlier in May, peasant unions in Pakistan had strongly protested against the wheat crisis, which they say has been deliberately created by the former caretaker prime minister Anwaarul Haq Kakr and some bureaucrats.

Pakistani farmers had announced a nationwide protest over the wheat import crisis, demanding the government stop wheat imports that had flooded the market at a time when they expected bumper crops.

They had said the import of wheat in the second half of 2023 and the first three months of this year had resulted in excess amounts of the commodity in the country, leading to reduced prices. 

Later, PM Sharif also took notice of the matter and formed a committee under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to address farmer grievances.
 
Official data shows that Pakistan spent over $1 billion to import 3.5 million tons of wheat during the July-May period of the current fiscal year.
 
Wheat has a 9 percent share in agriculture and 2.2 percent of the GDP is harvested in Pakistan from April to June, with peak vegetation development occurring between late March and early February.