Posts Tagged ‘Panama Papers’

Former Pakistan PM Challenges Disqualification by Court

August 15, 2017

ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani official says former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has filed petitions with the Supreme Court to challenge his disqualification and removal from office.

Environment Minister Mushahidullah Khan, who is in Sharif’s party, said Tuesday that the former prime minister’s lawyers filed three petitions to review the verdict.

The court disqualified Sharif after documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm showed that his family held previously undisclosed overseas assets. A five-judge panel last month disqualified Sharif, accusing him of concealing assets.

Last week Sharif held a series of rallies across the country, criticizing the court ruling and seeking to whip up popular support.

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Ousted Pakistani prime minister starts defiant ‘caravan’ to hometown — “defiant show of political power” (Video)

August 9, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 9, 2017 / 4:53 AM

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif began a rally on Wednesday in a defiant show of political power after a Supreme Court decision disqualified him from office late last month over undeclared assets.

Sharif launched the “caravan” from Islamabad to his eastern hometown of Lahore, despite the concerns of close advisers about security for himself and the crowds he is expected to draw.

Thousands of Sharif party supporters thronged the capital to join in the rally, setting up camps along the route he is expected to take and address supporters.

“Nawaz Sharif is still our prime minister,” said worker Niaz Ahmad, who wore a lion look-alike costume, and chanted, “Lion, Lion!” referring to the election symbol of Sharif’s political party.

Sharif, 67, resigned during his third stint as prime minister after the Supreme Court ruled on July 28 that he should be disqualified. The court also ordered a criminal probe into his family over allegations stemming from the “Panama Papers” leaks of international offshore companies.

Pakistan’s new prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a close Sharif ally, said the former leader was alert to security threats.

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FILE PHOTO – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gestures as he speaks to media after appearing before a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in Islamabad, Pakistan June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood REUTERS

“The bigger a leader is, the bigger the threat is,” Abbasi told domestic Geo TV.

Sharif was seen off in Islamabad by Abbasi, the new cabinet and other party officials, Sharif’s political adviser Asif Kirmani said.

“We really don’t know how long it will take, how many days, we have no idea,” Kirmani told reporters.

He said a huge number of people were waiting for Sharif along the Grand Trunk Road linking the capital, Islamabad, with Lahore, which is about 380 km (237 miles) distant.

Sharif, in recent meetings with party leaders, lawyers and media, has expressed his displeasure over the court ruling.

He said no corruption charges had been proved, and it was unfair to disqualify him on the grounds of not having declared a salary from his son’s Dubai-based company among a list of assets submitted ahead of the 2013 elections that brought him to power.

Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, which has a solid majority in parliament, elected Abbasi as his replacement within four days.

Party leaders have recently suggested that Abbasi is expected to hold office until elections due next year, a reversal of earlier indications that Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz, would take over the office.

Shahbaz is now likely to replace his brother as party chief, since the ousted premier can no longer lead a political party, as Pakistani law bars such roles for any convicted or disqualified person.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Ally of Pakistan’s Ousted PM Nawaz Sharif Nominated to Replace Him

July 31, 2017

ISLAMABAD — A close ally of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday submitted papers in parliament to become the new premier, part of a two-part plan by the ruling party for a smooth transition that will see Sharif’s brother take the reins later.

Former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is expected to be elected the new prime minister on Tuesday by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party’s majority of lawmakers.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered Sharif disqualified from office last week over unreported income uncovered during a sweeping investigation of his finances.

The court also ordered a separate criminal investigation into Sharif and his family in its ruling, which Sharif’s allies have portrayed as political meddling but opposition leader Imran Khan has hailed as a victory for the rule of law.

Abassi on Monday stressed he would continue Sharif’s policies. His tenure is expected to last only about two months until Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz, becomes eligible to be prime minister by winning a parliamentary by-election.

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Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz. AFP photo

“Our party will succeed with our majority, God willing,” Abassi told reporters inside parliament after filing the official nomination papers.

“The policies we had until Friday, we will continue with that,” he added.

Sharif’s PML-N party won elections in 2013 and holds a majority of 188 seats in the 342-member parliament, so it should be able to swiftly install its choice of premier, barring defections from its own ranks.

Over the weekend Sharif said he was shocked by Friday’s Supreme Court ruling disqualifying him over unreported income from a company owned by his son in Dubai. Sharif said the monthly salary – equivalent to $2,722 – was nominal and he never actually received any of it.

Sharif’s two previous stints in power were also cut short, the second ending in a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

Initially placed under house arrest, Sharif went into exile before returning to win a resounding victory in 2013 elections.

The Supreme Court employed the little-used Article 62 of the Constitution, which calls for the dismissal of any lawmaker deemed dishonest, to remove Sharif.

His allies believe the verdict smacks of judicial overreach. Others say privately that elements of the military had a hand in the process.

(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Michael Perry and Clarence Fernandez)

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to be nominated as interim Pakistan PM, say reports

Shahbaz, however, cannot immediately replace Nawaz Sharif since he isn’t a member of the Parliament. In order for him to be elected as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, he will have to first get elected. In the meantime, an interim prime minister will have to be chosen who will eventually resign once Shehbaz becomes eligible for the post.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 29, 2017 6:19 pm

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan PM, New pakistan PM, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi , Shahbaz Sharif, Panama papers

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will likely be the interim Prime Minister of Pakistan. Shortly after Nawaz Sharif’s exit, the ruling party PML-N proposed his younger brother Shehbaz for the role of the prime minister. Shahbaz, however, cannot immediately replace Nawaz Sharif since he isn’t a member of the Parliament.

Just a day after Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court from the Prime Minister post, Shahid Khawan Abbasi will likely serve as the interim prime minister for 45 days till Nawaz’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif takes over as his eventual successor, reported Pakistan daily Dawn. Shortly after Nawaz Sharif’s exit, the ruling party PML-N proposed his younger brother Shehbaz for the role of the prime minister. Shahbaz, however, cannot immediately replace Nawaz Sharif since he isn’t a member of the Parliament. In order for him to be elected as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, he will have to first get elected. In the meantime, an interim prime minister will have to be chosen who will eventually resign once Shehbaz becomes eligible for the post.

Shahbaz’s eventual election as the Prime Minister seems to be a foregone conclusion as the ruling party (PML-N) holds a big majority in Parliament. The Supreme Court court on Friday disqualified Sharif and also ruled that graft cases be filed against the beleaguered leader and his children over the Panama Papers scandal. Senior Pakistan Muslim League leader and former railway minister Khawaja Saad Rafique while speaking to media said the party will be holding a meeting on Saturday to discuss on candidates appropriate for the post of prime minister, party’s new president and members of the Cabinet. He was quoted by PTI as saying: “Different options were discussed in a similar meeting yesterday but no decision was taken.” Also Read: Panama Papers: Nawaz Sharif’s children’s offshore firms own 6 homes in London

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Geo TV reported that the ruling party has decided to appoint Shahbaz Sharif as Prime Minister in an informal meeting which went on for three hours. Abbasi, who is a former petroleum minister, will be appointed as interim prime minister until Shahbaz is elected as member of parliament, the report said. Also Read: Scanning Pakistani newspaper front pages on Nawaz Sharif’s ouster as PM

The final outcome will be announced by Nawaz Sharif in the formal parliamentary party meeting of PML-N which is taking place in Islamabad a day after he was disqualified by the Supreme Court.

During former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf’s time, politician Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was appointed as an interim prime minister until Shaukat Aziz, who was nominated by Musharraf, got elected by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PMLQ).

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to be nominated as interim Pakistan PM, say reports

Pakistan’s ex-PM Sharif names brother Shahbaz as successor — Ruling against him slammed by the media as a “judicial coup”

July 29, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The announcement charts a way forward for Pakistan after the Supreme Court ousted Sharif Friday after an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif named his brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab province, as his successor and nominated ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an interim premier in a defiant speech Saturday.The announcement charts a way forward for Pakistan after the Supreme Court ousted Sharif Friday following an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, bringing to an unceremonious end his historic third term in power and briefly plunging the country into political uncertainty.

“I support Shahbaz Sharif after me but he will take time to contest elections so for the time being I nominate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi,” Sharif said in a televised speech to his party.

The younger Sharif holds only a provincial seat, so must be elected to the national assembly before becoming the new prime minister.

Earlier Saturday the Election Commission of Pakistan confirmed fresh elections would be held in Nawaz Sharif’s former constituency.

Abbasi is set to be rubber-stamped as placeholder in a parliamentary vote, with Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz commanding a majority in the 342-seat house.

The opposition could also field a candidate for the premiership, though the nominee has little chance of getting sufficient votes.

Nawaz Sharif became the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history — roughly half of which was under military rule — to be ousted before completing a full term.

The decision sent his political opposition into the streets handing out sweets and beating drums in celebration.

But Pakistanis were divided on whether it set the country’s democratic progress back, with supporters, commentators and some corners of the country’s press slamming the ruling as a “judicial coup”.

– ‘Honest’ –

The court said in its judgement that it was disqualifying Sharif for failing to disclose his monthly salary of 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) from a company owned by his son in the United Arab Emirates.

Sharif did not withdraw the salary, court documents show, but the five-member bench ruled his failure to disclose its existence meant he was not “honest” — a requirement for Pakistani politicians under the country’s Constitution.

Opposition leader Imran Khan, who has spearheadead the push against Sharif, hailed the verdict as ushering in a new dawn for Pakistan.

But some observers slammed it as “political” and a “technicality”, with rights campaigner and lawyer Asma Jahangir telling private Geo television late Friday that the powerful military was using the courts to destabilise democracy.

The military had an antagonistic relationship with Sharif, who had made several overtures to improve relations with nuclear arch-rival India.

Sharif’s link to the UAE company was exposed as part of an investigation into corruption allegations against his family that erupted as a result of the Panama Papers leak last year.

The publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful implicated three of Sharif’s four children — daughter Maryam and sons Hasan and Hussein.

Claims about the lavish lifestyles and luxury London property portfolio of the Sharif dynasty played out for months in endless loops in the country’s raucous news media.

Bribery and other forms of graft are endemic in Pakistan. The PML-N has consistently and noisily denied the accusations, insisting that the dynasty’s wealth was acquired legally through Sharif family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.

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With Sharif Gone in Pakistan, What Happens To China’s Investments?

July 29, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

China has a lot riding on Pakistan, that’s where its showpiece Belt and Road project is located

BY TOM HUSSAIN

29 JUL 2017

China has been assured by Pakistan’s powerful military and politicians that its multibillion-dollar Belt and Road investments would not be disrupted by the landmark verdict on Friday that felled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, even though some of its investments could come under the widening corruption probe currently playing havoc with Pakistani politics.

Speaking at a July 12 conference, Pakistani Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said it was his “dream” to see Pakistan become a middle income economy at the conclusion of the US$62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (Cpec) programme in 2030.

“China would likely urge the government, and the military for that matter, to move as quickly as possible to effect a peaceful transfer of power. China has a strong incentive to see through a smooth transition, and Pakistan, because of the deep significance it ascribes to Cpec, does as well,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asian programme at The Woodrow Wilson Centre.

Sharif was disqualified after the court invoked character-related clauses in the constitution against him for lying about the source of finances channelled through offshore Panamanian companies into luxury apartments in the prestigious Mayfair area of London.

Panama papers: defiant Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif lashes out at ‘slander’ of family as panel probes wealth

The Sharif family’s offshore companies came to light after the leaking of Panama Papers documents in April 2016 from the legal firm Mossack Fonseca. The court ordered the government’s National Accountability Bureau to prepare charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud against Sharif and his three adult children. An accountability court will deliver its verdict on the charges by mid-October.

Finance minister Ishaq Dar, the architect of Pakistan’s economic recovery from a decade-long Taliban insurgency, was also disqualified from holding public office and faces separate corruption charges.

Friday’s verdict has raised the prospect of a broader judiciary-driven process of accountability against elected politicians, including Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of populous Punjab province, who has played a leading role in Cpec negotiations. As the brother of the dismissed prime minister, he is a leading contender to succeed him.

The Supreme Court is already hearing a petition under the constitution’s character-related clauses against opposition leader Imran Khan, one of three politicians to petition the court against Nawaz Sharif.

“The Chinese will be somewhat concerned at the moment. Although Beijing has a good working relationship with all the major political parties in Pakistan, they would prefer a degree of stability and continuity in order to make the execution of the Cpec projects as smooth a process as possible,” said Andrew Small, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund and author of the The China-Pakistan Axis.

Despite the assurances it has received, the court’s ruling has put China in a “peculiar position”, said Arif Rafiq, non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute, a US think tank.

Sharif was disqualified after the court invoked character-related clauses of Pakistan’s constitution against him for lying about the source of finances channelled through offshore Panamanian companies into luxury apartments in the prestigious Mayfair area of London. Photo: Reuters

“The Chinese are treading into new waters: this is the first civilian government in Islamabad Beijing has fully invested in. [But] while the Communist Party of China is deeply leveraged in the civilian government, military-to-military ties also continue to strengthen,” he said.

Nonetheless, some Cpec projects are bound to be investigated because of existing allegations of corruption linked to the Sharifs.

“Some projects, such as the Port Qasim Coal Power Project, could come under greater scrutiny given the involvement of power brokers allegedly connected to Sharif family financial improprieties,” Rafiq said.

Pakistan’s dependence on China for much of its defence needs against common rival India would reinforce its commitment to Cpec, which is forecast to drive GDP growth to 6 per cent by the completion of US$19 billion of projects by the end of fiscal year 2019-20.

“With the US-Pakistan relationship in decline, and with the PLA’s technological capabilities having improved so much, this now matters even more to Pakistan than it did when the US was seen as the critical supplier of high-end conventional equipment,” Small said.

Likewise, Pakistan is being upheld by Beijing as a model for the deeper, expanding security relationships China is seeking to establish around the world.

More than 20,000 rally in Islamabad, calling for Sharif to resign as PM

“Add to this the increasingly challenging Sino-Indian relationship and Chinese concerns about stabilising its western periphery in the context of the situation in Xinjiang and you have several reasons for the obvious deepening of Sino-Pakistani ties in the last couple of years – which I would expect to continue,” Small said.

Pakistan also needs China’s diplomatic support amid rising tensions with the US over Afghanistan, which has already seen Washington withdraw subsidies for American military hardware. The Pentagon last week withheld partial reimbursement for Pakistani counter-terrorist operations on the grounds that Islamabad had not acted to prevent cross-border terrorist attacks by the Taliban and other militant groups on Indian forces in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last month shuttled between Pakistan and Afghanistan to reduce tensions over the failure of both countries to prevent cross-border terrorist attacks from their respective territory. His efforts led to agreements on the verification of counter terrorism operations by China and the US.

China has repeatedly blocked Indian moves in the United Nations Security Council to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. It has also vetoed India’s US-backed attempts to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which would grant international legitimacy to its strategic weapons programme but withhold it from Pakistan.

“Beijing has come to bat for Islamabad in international forums many times in the past few years, even as Western and Indian observers had expected the Chinese to join in on a campaign to pressure Pakistan,” Rafiq said.

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Pakistan High Court Disqualifies PM From Serving

July 28, 2017

ISLAMABAD — The Latest on developments in Pakistan (all times local):

12:25 p.m.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from serving because of allegations of corruption.

Friday’s decision by a five-judge panel of the court was not surprising as many legal experts and opposition leaders were expecting punitive measures against Sharif and his family.

It is not the first time the judiciary has ordered dismissal of the elected prime minister. In 2012, the court convicted the then-Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to step down.

The current case against Sharif and his family dates back to 2016, when documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm indicated that Sharif’s sons owned several offshore companies.

Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz at the time acknowledged owning offshore companies but insisted they used legal money to set up businesses abroad.

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Pakistan Court Is Set to Rule on Political Fate of PM Sharif

July 28, 2017

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Supreme Court is set to announce its much-awaited decision on the political fate of beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after weighing whether adequate evidence existed to dismiss him from office on allegations of corruption against his family.

Fawad Chaudhry, a lawyer for petitioner Imran Khan, said Friday they will accept any decision by the court.

Sharif has been under pressure to resign since 2016 when leaked documents from a Panama-based law firm disclosed his family’s offshore accounts. In April, the court acting on petitions from the opposition set up a six-member team to probe the allegations.

The investigation concluded a “significant disparity” existed between Sharif family’s declared wealth and its known sources of income.

Under Pakistani law, the Supreme Court has the authority to dismiss the prime minister.

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Opposition Hopes To Remove Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — Forensic experts close in

July 16, 2017

LAHORE, Pakistan — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing increasingly loud calls to resign as an official investigation into allegations of corruption by him and his family continues to unfold.

And now, the fate of the political dominance of the Sharif family may hinge on a Microsoft font: Calibri.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court set up a five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in April to investigate allegations of financial corruption that surfaced following the release of the infamous Panama Papers.

Image: Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Shari
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaks to media after appearing before an anti-corruption commission in Islamabad on June 15, 2017. Aamir Qureshi / AFP – Getty Images

Sharif was not named in the Panama Papers leak, but his three adult children were linked to numerous offshore accounts that also owned luxury apartments in London’s exclusive Mayfair area. In a months long trial, opposition leaders alleged that the money used to buy the real estate was earned through corruption.

The JIT finally presented their scathing 275-page report looking into the allegations to the Supreme Court on July 10. It charged that Sharif, his sons and daughter had engaged in irregular finances, forgery and perjury.

“There exists a significant disparity between the wealth declared by the respondents and the means through which the respondents had generated income from known or declared sources,” the report said, according to a partial copy released to reporters.

Related: Panama Papers: Offshore Assets of World Leaders Revealed by Leak

It also recommended to the court the Sharifs be tried for corruption through Pakistan’s anti-graft authority. The Supreme Court will take up the case on Monday.

As parts of the massive report slowly leaked to the press, the stock market tanked by more than 4 percent, the military declared its intention to stand by the country’s courts and Pakistan’s raucous media went into hyperdrive — predicting the end for Sharif, who is serving his third term as prime minister.

The opposition has seized on the allegations with Imran Khan, the cricket-legend-turned- opposition leader calling on Sharif to “immediately step down.” Other mainstream political parties have backed Khan’s demands for Sharif’s resignation and fresh elections.

Sharif explicitly dismissed the report for the first time on Thursday.

“The JIT report about our family businesses is the sum of hypotheses, accusations and slander,” Sharif said in a statement after meeting his cabinet meeting.

Image: Maryam Nawaz
Maryam Nawaz, daughter of the prime minister, arrives to appear before an anti-corruption commission in Islamabad on July 5, 2017. Aamir Qureshi / AFP – Getty Images

The extremely detailed report was drafted by five investigators, including representatives from the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and the Corps of Military Intelligence (MI), with the support of foreign lawyers, forensic experts and international financial authorities.

Pakistan’s rowdy social media was particularly galvanized by the findings against Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, who is reportedly being groomed to take over Pakistan’s largest political party.

In an attempt to establish a complicated money trail to show that she is not real owner of the London real estate, but rather just a “trustee” of the properties, Maryam submitted a document dated 2006. The document was typed in Microsoft’s Calibri font.

The problem is, as the investigators noted in their lengthy report, forensic experts and even the creator of Calibri font say it was not commercially available as part of Microsoft Office until 2007.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/pakistan-prime-minister-nawaz-sharif-s-fate-hangs-fontgate-n782966

Pakistan PM hits out at ‘slandering’ of his family over wealth

June 15, 2017

Reuters

By Drazen Jorgic and Saad Sayeed | ISLAMABAD

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday lashed out at what he called the “slandering” of his family in connection with an investigation of their wealth, and said unidentified people with agendas against him posed a danger to the country.

Sharif was speaking after being grilled by a powerful panel investigating him and his family in an inquiry ordered by the Supreme Court that has gripped Pakistan and become increasingly politicized.

“What is happening here is not about corruption allegations against me, it is about slandering the businesses and accounts of my family,” a defiant Sharif, clad in traditional shalwar kameez tunic and trousers, said as he read from a statement.

Sharif, 67, spent about three hours at the offices of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the capital, Islamabad, becoming the first Pakistani prime minister to be questioned by an investigative agency.

“No corruption charges have been proven against me in the past and, inshallah (God willing), it will not be so once again,” he said.

The Supreme Court agreed last year to investigate the Sharif family’s offshore wealth after the opposition threatened protests after the leaking of the “Panama Papers”.

Documents leaked from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy luxury properties in London.

The Supreme Court ruled in April there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office over corruption allegations leveled by the opposition, but it ordered further investigations.

Sharif, whose father was a prominent industrialist, has said his family wealth was acquired legally.

A three-time prime minister, Sharif was ousted twice in the 1990s, including in a 1999 military coup. He later lived in exile, mostly in Saudi Arabia.

He swept back to power in an election in 2013 but rumors of tension between his government and the powerful military, which oversees the foreign relations and national security, occasionally circulate.

‘SUSPICIOUS’

Sharif suggested that unidentified enemies acting behind the scenes should be stopped from trying to subvert the wishes of the electorate that handed his party victory in a 2013 general election.

“If the factories that produce agendas and silence the decisions of the people are not closed, then not only the law and constitution, but the safety of this country will also be jeopardized,” he said.

Pakistan has been plagued by pervasive corruption for decades, with politicians often accusing rivals of underhand dealings.

The Supreme Court has given the panel two months to investigate the family and then deliver its findings.

The six-man panel, made up of members of civilian investigative agencies and military intelligence officers, are examining three generations of Sharif family wealth.

The team has accused government departments of tampering with old records, but Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday rejected such allegations, adding that the team’s claims meant the process was becoming “suspicious”, media reported.

Sharif’s camp has sought to remove two members of the investigation team and his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party voiced outrage over a leaked photograph taken from security camera footage showing Sharif’s son, Hussain, appearing before the panel.

Opinion polls suggest Sharif’s party is likely to win the next election, due next year.

A senior PML-N official told Reuters the party was unlikely to call an early election if Sharif was ousted by a Supreme Court ruling, and would select a new prime minister to take over until the general election.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Pakistani Police Detain 1,500 in Crackdown on Opposition

October 31, 2016

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani police launched a nation-wide crackdown overnight, arresting at least 1,500 supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan ahead of an opposition rally planned later this week in Islamabad, officials said Monday.

The arrests followed intermittent clashes over the weekend between Khan’s supporters and riot police in the capital that saw police using tear gas and batons to fight stone-throwing activists.

The violence erupted again Monday when police fired tear gas on nearly 3,000 supporters on a main highway some 80 kilometer northwest of Islamabad. Khan’s party rules in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and its chief minister, Pervez Khattak, and some cabinet ministers led the protesters.

Police official Hussain Awan said the protesters pelted police with stones and bricks and chanted slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had warned Sunday that the government would extend protocol to Khattak if he arrived in the capital formally but that he would be dealt with strictly if he led the protesters.

On Monday, a Pakistani court barred Khan’s followers from demonstrating on Islamabad streets, restricting the rally to within the limits of a city park, said government prosecutor Saddique Awan. As of last week, the government has already enforced a two-month ban on street rallies in the capital.

Khan’s attorney Babar Awan said the party would appeal. The party has called for massive street demonstrations for Wednesday, threatening to lock down Islamabad in a bid to force Sharif to resign.

Sharif has been under pressure after his family members were named as holders of offshore bank accounts in leaked financial documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Police have conducted raids based on tips and information about planned violence, said government spokesman Zaeem Qadri. Those who pledge not to take part in violent actions are released, while those considered a threat remain in custody pending charges, he said.

Two security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said the number of those arrested overnight ranges between 1,500 and 1,800. Punjab provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah said 838 supporters were arrested.

Police have placed shipping containers on key highways leading to Islamabad to stop Khan’s party’s convoys from across Pakistan from reaching the capital.

The interior minister said Khan’s followers had violent plans, which included the storming of government offices.

Khan’s close aide Shah Mahmood Qureshi alleged that the police were manhandling and roughing up the family members of the workers. “The police are also trespassing on the houses of our leaders and activists,” he said. He said two senior leaders of the party were forcibly bundled in a police van. Both were later released on orders from the interior minister.

Sanaullah denied any manhandling.

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Associated Press Writer Zaheer Babar in Lahore, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

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