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    Imran’s case sets the bar high for others, say analysts – Pakistan

    LAHORE: The Supreme Court’s decision in Jahangir Tareen case comes as a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of many politicians with suspicious financial matters.

    At the same time, Friday’s verdict in the case of Imran Khan may add to the worries of disqualified premier Nawaz Sharif because of the possibility of the PTI chief emerging as even stronger candidate for the slot of prime minister (in the 2018 election) after the apex court has given him a clean chit, say analysts.

    Editorial: Jahangir Tareen’s disqualification is a significant blow to PTI

    “Imran Khan has set a difficult precedent for politicians. If he, despite not being a businessman, can produce 7,000 pieces of evidence in his defence about his past 30-year financial transactions, there are worries for the people doing business and politics simultaneously to keep and produce their financial record if and when sought by courts,” says Dr Rasool Bakhsh Raees of the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

    “It will have far-reaching effects. Now any figure whether he or she belongs to the PPP, the ANP or any other party can be brought in the dock,” he says.

    His views are corroborated by Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, who heads Islamabad-based political think-tank Pildat, and Dr Rashid Ahmed Khan, former head of Punjab University’s political science department.

    “It may open more people to the accountability process as the judiciary will be emboldened after disqualifying two high-profile personalities (Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen) for their dubious financial matters. The only question will be if and when a plaintiff pursues a case steadfastly,” asserts Mr Mehboob, adding that the appearance of Chaudhrys of Gujrat before the National Accountability Bureau should be seen in the same perspective.

    Prof Rashid says the judiciary for the sake of its credibility may take big decisions like the ones it took in the cases of Mr Sharif and Mr Tareen.

    The analysts also think that the verdict would further damage politicians’ perception among the masses.

    “There’s general perception that the politicians are corrupt and engaged in shenanigans. And with this verdict the impression will deepen,” says Mr Mehboob.

    Mr Raees says this would lead to the thinking that leaders in all the parties are tainted and they should be held accountable in law courts and not just in the electoral field.

    The analysts are unanimous on the proposition that Imran Khan will emerge as a stronger and better candidate for the prime ministerial post or at least the PML-N will fail to get any mileage out of the apex court order against Mr Tareen.

    Imran Khan was already strong. Now he’ll appear as even stronger after getting a clean chit of (financial) health from the Supreme Court and will emerge as better claimant to the prime minister’s slot, says Mr Raees.

    The Pildat head says parties in Pakistan are knit around personalities and the PTI would have suffered a major setback only if Mr Khan had been disqualified. The wicket of Mr Tareen is valuable, for he’s the brain behind the party’s well organised secretariat, but not the real target, Mr Mehboob argues.

    Prof Rashid thinks the N League will get the chance of castigating the judiciary otherwise the verdict promises no political mileage for it. He argues that political disputes should be resolved in the political field instead of courts to save the judiciary from controversy and judges of higher courts should also not hear the cases that should be handled by the lower courts.

    Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2017

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    Shujaat, Elahi appear before NAB for questioning – Pakistan

    PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat and Pervaiz Elahi on Friday appeared before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore in connection with graft cases.

    According to sources in the NAB, the Chaudhry cousins were presented with questionnaires relating to their own assets, assets of family members, sources of income and expenditure on elections they contested in.

    While talking to the media after the visit, Elahi said that they were ready to face all cases against them just as they had faced them previously, DawnNews reported.

    The two leaders had been summoned by NAB for the second time regarding alleged misuse of authority and funds worth Rs2.43 billion after references against them were approved by newly-appointed NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal.

    The corruption case against the Chaudhrys of Gujrat is among the 179 mega corruption scandals currently outstanding, a list of which was compiled by NAB and submitted to the Supreme Court in July 2015.

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    Bilawal promises extensive agricultural reforms during rally in Multan – Pakistan

    PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto on Friday promised extensive agricultural reforms in the country while addressing a political convention in Multan.

    South Punjab is witnessing heightened political activity this December with three major political parties — the ruling PML-N, opposition PPP and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) – targeting voters of the region ahead of the general elections next year.

    PTI has already held political conventions in several districts of the region and the PML-N is going to hold public meetings in Multan and Rahim Yar Khan districts towards the end of this month. Similarly, the PPP is also aiming to hold more political gatherings in the region that used to be its stronghold.

    As the southern region of Punjab is considered an agricultural belt, the PPP supremo made several promises to the agricultural community. He pledged that if the PPP is elected to power next year, it will wave off the General Sales Tax (GST) from agricultural income.

    The PPP leader’s promises on agricultural reforms come at a time when sugarcane growers in Sindh are protesting against delays in the crushing of harvested sugarcane by millers and corruption in the fixing of the official price of sugarcane in the province.

    “We want to strengthen the rural economy,” said Bilawal after promising to devise a mechanism under which support price would be fixed for standing crops and water would be provided to all the growers in a just manner.

    He vowed to formulate farmer friendly policies, saying it was his belief that prosperity of farmers ensures the prosperity of the country. He said that the PPP would shift the governmental approach from “corporate farming” to “cooperative farming”, vowing to “free farmers from the clutches of the middleman”.

    The PPP chairman presented a comparison of his party’s progress in Sindh to that of PML-N and PTI’s in other provinces. He claimed that Sindh had made significant developments in the health sector. He alleged that the PML-N governments in centre and Punjab were pushing small-scale growers to the wall. He held the PML-N leadership responsible for what he called “weakened democracy” and a “dismal situation” in the region.

    Turning to the PTI, he said that Imran Khan’s party only cashed in on the youth slogan but did nothing to support youngsters.

    He said that the PPP rejects the mixing of religion and politics. Criticising “hardcore religious elements”, he claimed they want to have “Islamabad and not Islam”.

    Earlier, PPP Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari targeted the federal government and predicted that it would collapse soon. He, however, denied his involvement in any attempt to expel the PML-N government.

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    PM accepts PPP’s demands, Senate to pass delimitation bill on Dec 19: reports – Pakistan

    The deadlock over a constitutional amendment on delimitation appears to have ended as Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday reportedly accepted the PPP’s demand for a third-party audit of five per cent of the census blocks in Sindh.

    The PPP was of the view that if the “faulty” methodology used in the census were to be repeated in the post enumeration survey (PES) of the selected blocks by the same organisation which had carried out the census, the results would once again become controversial.

    In a meeting attended by PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq, Taj Haider, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Ilyas Bilour and others, PM Abbasi conceded to the demand. It was also decided to form a committee comprising Senators Taj Haider, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Hasil Bizenjo and Mushahidullah Khan to oversee the process.

    It was subsequently decided that the constitutional amendment would be tabled in Senate on December 19.

    “All political parties want elections to be held on time,” Senator Ahsan said after the meeting.

    There is a consensus among political parties that for the purposes of the next general elections and by-polls, the allocation of National Assembly seats should be made on the basis of provisional results of the census without changing the existing total number of general seats (272) and women’s seats (60) and retaining the the current share of Fata (12).

    According to the proposed reallocation, the seats will increase for Balochistan (2 general seats + 1 woman seat), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (4+1) and the federal capital (1+0), but these increases will be adjusted with the seats for Punjab (-7 and -2). The seats for Sindh will remain the same.

    The Council of Common Interests (CCI) had at a meeting on Nov 13 approved the publication of provisional results of the census. The CCI had also decided initially that a third-party validation would be carried out in 1pc census blocks. The proportion of census blocks where the re-verification exercise was to be carried out was changed to 5pc on the MQM’s demand when the bill was passed by the National Assembly.

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    Shujaat, Elahi appear before NAB in corruption reference – Pakistan

    PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat and Pervaiz Elahi on Friday appeared before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore in connection with graft cases.

    According to sources in the NAB, the Chaudhry cousins were presented with questionnaires relating to their own assets, assets of family members, sources of income and expenditure on elections they contested in.

    While talking to the media after the visit, Elahi said that they were ready to face all cases against them just as they had faced them previously, DawnNews reported.

    The two leaders had been summoned by NAB for the second time regarding alleged misuse of authority and funds worth Rs2.43 billion after references against them were approved by newly-appointed NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal.

    The corruption case against the Chaudhrys of Gujrat is among the 179 mega corruption scandals currently outstanding, a list of which was compiled by NAB and submitted to the Supreme Court in July 2015.

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    PTI’s Chaudhry blames NAB for SC decision to not reopen Hudaibiya reference – Pakistan

    Reacting to the Supreme Court’s (SC) verdict on a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) appeal to reopen the Hudaibiya Mills reference, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Fawad Chaudhry accused the accountability body of being unprepared to tackle the case.

    A three-judge Supreme Court bench on Friday had rejected NAB’s appeal to reopen the Rs1.2 billion Hudaibya Paper Mills reference saying it was unswayed by the prosecution’s arguments.

    Talking to the media, Chaudhry alleged that NAB had been trying to avoid reopening the reference. He said that there was no need for NAB to file an appeal in the SC as it could have reopened the case without seeking a verdict from the apex court.

    “The Hudaibiya case is about a billion rupees stolen by Sharif. They [the money] belong to the people of Pakistan,” he said, adding that no one can declare that money to be exempted from investigation.

    He further said that NAB’s preparation for the appeal was poor and accused the body of failing to thoroughly investigate the matter.

    “NAB was extremely non-serious,” he said. He, however, exempted retired Justice Javed Iqbal — the current chief of the watchdog — from criticism, saying that it would take the new NAB chairman some time to “get things in order”.

    Chaudhry also promised that his party would continue to pursue the case till it reaches a “logical conclusion”.

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    Pakistan could lose territory to terrorists: US – Pakistan

    WASHINGTON: Shifting between soft persuasions and tough advice, the United States is now saying that Pakistan could lose control of its territory if it does not sever ties with the Haqqanis and other terrorists.

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who issued the advice at a Washington think-tank earlier this week — also said the militants who were focusing on Kabul might one day decide that Islamabad was a better target.

    The warning followed a Pentagon statement, which said the new US strategy for Afghanistan had “fundamentally changed the battlefield in favour of Afghan national security forces” and the Taliban militants were now on the retreat.

    And this change happened because the new strategy made it clear that US forces would stay in Afghanistan for as long as it took to stabilise the country and also because it gave American troops more power to confront the enemy, the Pentagon added.

    The two statements follow the Trump administration’s repeated calls to Pakistan to do more to destroy the alleged safe havens that Afghan militants still retain in parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), a charge Islamabad strongly denies.

    “Pakistan has allowed so many terrorist organisations to find safe haven within its territories, and these organisations are growing in size and influence, that at some point I have said to the leadership of Pakistan, you may be the target, and they turn their attention from Kabul and decide they like Islamabad as a target better,” Secretary Tillerson said.

    In his remarks on “Meeting the foreign policy challenges of 2017 and beyond” organised by the 2017 Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum, Mr Tillerson said that Pakistan’s relationship with the Haqqani network needed to be altered. “I understand that this is a relationship that has emerged probably for, in their view, good reasons a decade ago, but now that relationship has to be altered because if they’re not careful, Pakistan is going to lose control of their own country,” he said.

    The top US diplomat assured Pakistan that Washington wanted to work with Islamabad to “stamp out terrorism within their boundaries”, but Pakistan had to “begin the process” by changing its relationship with the Haqqani network and with others.

    Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2017

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    Govt deliberates on UN request to limit military’s role in civil spheres – Pakistan

    The federal government asked the concerned ministries and departments to take “requisite legislative, policy and administrative measures” in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations (UN), calling for the termination of military courts and limiting the role of the army in civil spheres, DawnNews reported on Thursday.

    The UN had urged Islamabad to ensure the implementation of 111 recommendations in accordance with its human rights conventions. The Ministry of Human Rights forwarded the recommendations to the relevant departments and ministries for further action.

    According to an “office memorandum” issued by the human rights ministry, a copy of which is available with DawnNews, Pakistan has ratified seven “core human rights conventions”. Subsequently, four progress reports were prepared and submitted before the relevant UN bodies through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    A high-level delegation led by the human rights minister presented and defended these reports before the concerned UN committees in the review meetings, held during 2016 and 2017. The UN committees, while reviewing the obligatory reports, had made concluding observations and recommendations.

    Based on the recommendations put forward by the UN committees in this regard, the human rights ministry compiled a matrix and forwarded it to all concerned ministries and departments, asking them to take “requisite legislative, policy and administrative measures”.

    According to the document, the UN asked Islamabad to immediately put a moratorium on the capital punishment and eventually “consider abolishing the death penalty”. In addition to this, if ineluctable, the death penalties should not be imposed by the military courts — particularly in cases involving civilians.

    The UN also recommended that the death penalty should only be awarded for the most serious crimes, involving intentional killings.

    The UN committees also recommended to “repeal or amend Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulations 2011 in order to abolish the military’s power to establish internment centres in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata) and Provincially Administrated Tribal Areas (Pata)”. It also urged Islamabad to ensure that no one is held in secret or incommunicado detention anywhere in the country.

    The UN has suggested making amendments in the Army Act 2015 in order to eliminate retrospective immunity and clarify that anyone committing acts of torture will be subjected to criminal prosecutions.

    The committees also recommended to strengthen the powers of the National Commission and ensure that it is able to investigate all cases or torture and ill-treatment committed by any entity carrying out arrest and detentions in the country, including intelligence agencies and armed forces.

    According to the document, the global rights body recommended taking effective measures to mitigate the “intensified hostility towards Afghan refugees by police and security forces”. The government was also asked to “expedite the adoption of national refugee law and a voluntary repatriation policy on Afghan refugees”.

    The UN body also recommended to abolish the role of military courts or at least limit their role. Those who are convicted by a military court should be provided with a right to appeal against the sentence before a civil court, it was recommended.

    The body also recommended granting permission to local and international non-governmental organisations to make official and unannounced visits to all detention centres. According to the document, it was also recommended to “end the use of paramilitary forces to carry out law enforcement tasks”.

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    Govt orders 21 international NGOs to wrap up operations in Pakistan – Home

    The federal government has ordered 21 foreign-aid groups to wrap up their activities and prepare to leave after they failed to re-register under tough regulations introduced two years ago, officials said on Thursday.

    The officials said Open Society Foundations, the charity founded by George Soros, and the South Africa-based ActionAid were among the groups informed of the decision this week, without providing a complete list.

    The international non-governmental organisations (INGO) have been given two months to close their offices and vacate the country.

    The government has been scrutinising the documents of another 19 foreign-aid groups to determine whether they should be allowed to work in the country or not.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief reporters.

    The government has long treated the foreign-aid groups in the country with suspicion, fearing they could mask efforts to spy on the country.

    Islamabad stepped up its monitoring after the CIA used a vaccination campaign as a front to gather information on Osama bin Laden ahead of the United States raid that killed him in 2011.

    Jonathan Birchall, the spokesman for Open Society Foundations, confirmed receiving a letter from the Interior Ministry rejecting the group’s re-registration. He declined to provide further details.

    The group said on Monday it was seeking clarification after the interior ministry told it and other organisations that they must halt operations in Pakistan within 60 days. It said that in 2015 Pakistan ordered all INGOs already operating in the country to register with the ministry, a process that entailed submitting detailed accounts of their funding.

    “At the end of November, the interior ministry issued letters advising more than a dozen INGOs that their applications to register had been rejected but gave no reasons. The affected organisations may lodge an appeal within 90 days, but it is not clear how this process will be managed,” Open Society Foundations said.

    Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, which represents scores of foreign aid groups, says their work directly benefits about 29 million people in Pakistan. Foreign-aid groups contributed some $285 million in funding for development and emergency relief in 2016, and employ over 5,000 local staff, it said.

    The Open Society Foundations first started working in Pakistan in 2005, providing $3 million of emergency relief for victims of a devastating earthquake. It provided another $6mn in emergency funds after severe flooding in 2010.

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    Four children killed in France after train mows into school bus – World

    At least four children were killed and seven people were seriously injured on Thursday after a train crashed into a school bus at a level crossing in southern France, police sources said.

    The bus, which was carrying mainly junior high school students, was struck by the train in Millas about 18 kilometres west of the city of Perpignan, close to the Spanish border.

    A rescue operation was underway.

    The head of security for the Pyrenees area, where the collision took place, confirmed the accident involving a train travelling west from Perpignan to the town of Villefranche de Conflent.

    The bus was transporting mainly junior high-school students.

    The BFMTV channel said it was struck in the rear.

    President Emmanuel Macron in a tweet wrote: “All my thoughts for the victims of this terrible accident involving a school bus, as well as their families. The state is fully mobilised to help them.”

    Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne were on their way to the scene from a meeting in the south-central city of Cahors.

    “It’s a terrible event,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said, expressing “profound sadness”.

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