Posts Tagged ‘Sharif’

Cyril Almeida broke no law, says PPP chairman

September 26, 2018

Pakistan Peo­ples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has expressed surprise and dismay on the issuance of an arrest warrant against Dawn assistant editor Cyril Almeida by the Lahore High Court.

“Treating Mr Almeida like he is a criminal and trying him for treason no less is shocking! This adds on to the perception that media is under siege in Pakistan. Mr Almeida was doing his job — nothing less, nothing more,” said the PPP chairman in a statement.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that the Pakistani media was already facing the worst kind of censorship. “Dictators who have abrogated the Constitution and have actually committed treason are roaming free while journalists who are only doing their jobs are being tried for treason,” he regretted.

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Pakistan Peo­ples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari

The PPP chairman said that Mr Almeida broke no law by interviewing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “Why should a journalist not interview someone? What law stops a journalist from interviewing a politician?” he asked.

The PPP, he added, stood by freedom of expression and wanted a free media in Pakistan. “Democracy without a free media is a sham democracy,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also expressed concern over the issuance of a non-bailable arrest warrant against Mr Almeida and the placement of his name on the no-fly list, terming the decision “regrettable”.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, HRCP chairman Dr Mehdi Hasan stated: “The HRCP is greatly perturbed to learn that the LHC has issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for journalist Cyril Almeida, requiring him to appear at the next hearing of a case seeking action against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on charges of treason.”

The HRCP termed the court’s decision “regrettable”, adding that “Mr Almeida, a widely read and highly respected journalist, is being hounded for nothing more than doing his job — speaking on the record to a political figure and reporting the facts”. As a law-abiding citizen, it added, Mr Almeida had no reason not to appear before the court as directed. Placing him on the Exit Control List (ECL) and issuing a non-bailable warrant is an “excessive measure”, said the HRCP.

‘The ease with which Mr Almeida’s interview with the former Prime Minister was perceived as an attempt to allegedly defame state institutions, and the pace at which this has spiralled into charges of treason, only serve to further choke press freedom in Pakistan,” the statement read.

While remarking that “journalism — sensible, rational, independent journalism — is not a crime or treason”, the HRCP urged the court to give Mr Almeida the opportunity to appear at the scheduled hearing of his own volition and to have his name removed from the ECL immediately.

In Islamabad, addressing the inaugural meeting of a recently-established National Interfaith Working Group by the HRCP on Tuesday, Awami National Party (ANP) leader Bushra Gohar said that freedom of religion and speech was a fundamental right of every citizen of Pakistan, but unfortunately it was not being granted.

“As we see Cyril Almeda, a journalist working with Dawn, facing the court for reporting a story, which is his job but at the same time a dictator is being facilitated by the courts,” she said, adding that these were the ground realities about the state of freedom of expression in practice.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2018



Pakistan court issues arrest warrant for journalist amid press crackdown

September 26, 2018

A court in Pakistan has issued an arrest warrant for a prominent journalist over an article he wrote in May, stoking concerns about diminishing press freedoms following a military-led crackdown on the media during elections earlier this year.

Cyril Almeida, an editor and columnist at one of Pakistan’s most respected English-language dailies, is accused of treason for a story filed in May 11, 2018, in which former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was quoted speaking out against Pakistan’s handling of the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attack in India.
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Cyril Almeida
In a statement Monday the Lahore High Court said Almeida had been summoned three times to appear before the bench but had failed to make an appearance. As a result, it was “left with no option” other than to issue a non-bailable arrest warrant.
The court also ordered Almeida’s name to be placed on Pakistan’s Exit Control List (ECL), preventing him from leaving the country.
In Almeida’s May interview with Sharif, the former prime minister appeared to reinforce the claim that Pakistan was behind the 2008 Mumbai Attack due to the use of non-state actors, a claim made constantly by India but one which Pakistan’s military and government has vehemently denied.
More than 160 people were killed in the November 2008 attack on the Indian financial capital when 10 gunmen laid siege to several buildings including the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower and Oberoi-Trident hotels, the city’s historic Victoria Terminus train station, and the Jewish cultural center, Chabad House.
The quote by Sharif that led to the case being filed, stated that “militant organizations are active in the country (Pakistan). Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the borders and kill 150 people in Mumbai?”
The Lahore High Court also summoned Sharif and former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, for discussing with Sharif details of a National Security Council meeting held regarding the implications of the interview. Both have been summoned on charges of treason relating to the article.
Almeida’s newspaper Dawn stands by the story, and the accuracy of the quote. An editor’s note on the newspaper’s website Monday questioned the timing of the summons. “The notice served on Cyril Almeida was delivered at Dawn’s Islamabad bureau in the middle of last week, and journalists and officials at the bureau say the earlier two notices were never delivered.”
Almeida was previously placed on the ECL in 2016 for reporting on fraught civil military relations in Pakistan at the height of a dispute with India over militancy in the disputed region of Kashmir.
On Monday, Almeida took to Twitter posting: “Spoke to the lawyer, there is a warrant, am back on the ECL and will have to appear before the court on Oct 8… how’s your Monday been?”
CNN has been unable to contact Almeida in the days since.
Groups supporting press freedom have condemned the move, with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) labeling the court’s decision “regrettable” and an “excessive measure.”
“The ease with which Mr. Almeida’s interview with the former prime minister was perceived as an attempt to allegedly defame state institutions…only serve to further choke press freedoms in Pakistan,” said the organization in a statement Monday night, adding that journalism was not a crime, and was “most certainly not treason.”
Earlier this month in a highly critical report on press freedoms in Pakistan, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called out the growing infringement on civil liberties in Pakistan, which it blamed on the country’s military and other powerful institutions.
They have “established lines of control to stifle the press, by promoting people and issues considered favorable, and limiting the dissemination of content found objectionable,” said the CPJ of the military.
TV channels, newspapers and social media have faced increasing levels of censorship both in the run up to July’s general elections and in the months after.
During the elections, journalists from Dawn were routinely singled out for intimidation and harassment and vendors were banned from distributing the newspaper in some areas.
Almeida is expected to appear before court on October the 8th, 2018.
A statement in Dawn, Monday, said that Almeida had “no immediate plans to travel abroad” and would “attend the proceedings of the case whenever desired by the honorable court.”
The statement urged the court to withdraw the non-bailable warrants and the remove Almeida’s name from the no-fly list.

Pakistani Court Orders Former Prime Minister Sharif Freed on Bail

September 19, 2018

Nawaz Sharif, sentenced to 10 years in prison on corruption charges in July, is appealing his conviction

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in blue, at the funeral in Lahore of his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, who died earlier this month.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in blue, at the funeral in Lahore of his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, who died earlier this month.PHOTO: ARIF ALI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

ISLAMABAD—A Pakistani court suspended the corruption conviction of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ordered he be freed from jail.

The Islamabad High Court, hearing a petition from Mr. Sharif’s lawyers, said Wednesday he should be set free on bail pending his appeal, according to the court order. The two judges hearing the case have a reputation for being independent-minded, lawyers said.

An anticorruption court in July had sentenced Mr. Sharif to 10 years in prison in a case centered on four London apartments. Three weeks later Mr. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N party was defeated in an election that elevated his main challenger, Imran Khan, to prime minister.

Khawaja Haris, Mr. Sharif’s lawyer, said the High Court had found that corruption wasn’t proven against Mr. Sharif, who has always maintained that the London property is owned by his two sons, not him.

Muzaffar Abbasi, a prosecutor, said the anticorruption authorities would now consider a challenge to the outcome.

Mr. Sharif’s political party has said its election prospects were sunk by a campaign against him by the judiciary in concert with the military, which both the military and the judiciary deny.

Write to Saeed Shah at

Imran Khan: The biggest political storm of the year

August 16, 2018
Photo by AP

You could see him as the power-hungry man atop a container, operating at the behest of the military and out to undermine Pakistan’s democratic progression. Or you could cast him as the principled leader who stuck to his guns, and defied all those who had predicted that he would settle for a face-saver and go home — all for a fair electoral system, a prerequisite to the consolidation of democracy.

Ether way, Khan has influenced Pakistani politics – and indeed Pakistan’s future – in monument always in 2014. Between his famous Lahore jalsa in October 2011 and the May 2013 election, he had managed to change the tenor of Pakistani politics by rallying the middle-class urban youth. As a result, he forced his opponents to scamper for new wooing strategies to keep their bases energised and start paying attention to issues such as corruption and meritocracy during their election campaigns. Like him or not, you can’t take this away from him.


In 2014, Khan channelled the energies of his supporters in ways no one could have foreseen. He proved that he could keep them with him even when his politics seems suicidal to many. But, while his achievements in the outgoing year have been mostly positive for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), they have left Pakistan a worse place than what it was a year ago. For each positive development attributable to his container movement, there is a negative that overshadows it.

For starters, admittedly, it is not a trivial achievement for Khan to have kept his supporters mobilised. The victory of the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PMLN) in the 2013 election could easily have deflated the PTI rank and file, especially the younger ones, mainly because Khan’s party machine was fairly rudimentary at the grass-roots level. On the other hand, Khan may have done a great disservice by mobilising the energies of the youth around demands that reject the very norms of democracy. Simply put, his message from the container was that he would much rather let the system crash than be part of it: get Nawaz Sharif out unconstitutionally, bring in an interim set-up unconstitutionally, and fix the electoral system through new rules created by this unconstitutional set-up — rules that give him a better chance at winning. The key here is the unconstitutional part.

Everyone who has backed Khan over the past five months must have been convinced that all this is fair. They have bought into the argument that the rules for the democratic game are not sacrosanct— break them when they don’t suit you, especially if you can justify that as being good for democracy. This argument is dangerously close to the narratives which accompanied military takeovers in the past. Purists will, indeed, tell you that Khan’s approach to electoral reforms and consolidation of democracy are an oxymoron.

PTI supporters at a rally in Islamabad | Tanveer Shahzad
PTI supporters at a rally in Islamabad | Tanveer Shahzad

The next positive: Khan is the first leader since Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to have framed his popular discourse in the language of citizens’ rights. He hasn’t received the credit he deserves for this— in a society so despondent about its future and so skeptical about the state’s resolve to deliver on its social contract, this is an invaluable contribution. Decode what he has been saying and you will find that it is essentially the roti-kapra-makaanphilosophy repackaged for the modern era: justice is a right; a corruption-free government is a right; basic necessities of life are a right and Pakistanis must stand up for them.

But again, Khan has not said anything on how to achieve this. Throughout his time on the container, he seemed unprepared to talk substance. More tellingly, he seemed reluctant to share anything his team has achieved in PTI- ruled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for realising this rights-based agenda. His basic message can be reduced to this: I am your man; I’ll deliver. Period. This is more becoming of a cult leader than a democrat heading a party that is arguably Pakistan’s second-largest,and the one that claims to be different.

Next — and this is perhaps the most consequential. Khan ostensibly set out to strengthen Pakistan’s democracy by asking for electoral reforms. No quibbles with this: we need reforms and the status quo parties are too insecure to allow these reforms willingly. Khan has done fairly well on this front. He (thankfully) failed to force Prime Minister Sharif out of office but the government will not be able to getaway without addressing this issue in some form. He has generated too much hype, focus and momentum for it to let it fizzle out completely.Granted, a lot is still left to be desired but one can rest assured that the next election will be held under a fairer system than the one we have now.

The paradox here is that Khan has not only left the PMLN government weaker, but he may also have made Prime Minister Imran Khan a failure even before getting a sniff of the coveted office. The first effect is obvious: the PMLN seemed woefully short of creative ideas to deal with the man on the container. Every counter-move it conceived made it look worse and the government did take a fairly massive economic hit due to the dharnas even if not nearly as much as it claims.

Politically, this is great news for Khan. The government will take months to recover. Already struggling to perform due to its internal weaknesses and sure to be hurt by he incumbency factor in the next election in any case, the electoral challenge facing the PMLN whenever it comes, has become daunting. The PTI would want the government to continue spending its energy entirely on saving its skin rather than on delivering.

Photo by AFP
Photo by AFP

But what of Khan himself? He has set a precedent – a dangerous one –that will likely come back to haunt him.He has argued for four months that no electricity, no water and gas,skyrocketing prices, a government running around the world with a begging bowl and terrorist violence are enough reasons to bring down the government. Really! Exactly which one of these problems does he think he will be able to fix in the first year of his government? Does he really believe that he will be immune from Messrs Sharif and Asif Zardari plopping a container in Islamabad, separately or together, and readingback his own script to him?

Don’t be surprised if 2014 is remembered as a year when out-of-power parties deliberately created instability by bringing people on to the streets and paralysing the government.  Dharnas may well be here to stay; Khan may get a taste of his own medicine if and when he is in office. More importantly, the country shall bear the brunt for his protest and those his opponents hold in future.

Perhaps the most immediate effect Khan’s 2014 politics has had is to put the army back in the driver’s seat. I certainly don’t buy the argument that the whole container movement was scripted by the military, yet there is no doubt that the army wasn’t exactly silent observer.

Today, the army stands out as the clear winner. It won accolades for not intervening in politics, the government is no longer challenging the army top brass on key foreign policy and internal security issues and, ironically, with his reckless independence, Khan has proven himself, in the army’s eyes, as too risky an option for Pakistan. A pliant Sharif would be better any day than a Khan who doesn’t seem to listen to anyone.

All said, Khan’s political footprint has been both deep and wide in 2014. In as much as he has weakened the government, he has gained something for PTI. He,however, hasn’t done so in a way that ought to comfort Pakistanis committed to democratic consolidation. While he is likely to bethe default favourite choice of the people of Pakistan in the next national election, whether – after coming into power – he can get along with the powers that be is a bigger question than most are willing to accept at this point.

*Moeed Yusuf is the associate vice president of Asia Programs at the United States Institute of Peace. He is also the author of ‘Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environments: U.S. Crisis Management in South Asia’ (Stanford University Press, 2018).


Pakistan dynasties unite against triumphant Imran Khan — Forming “grand opposition alliance”

August 12, 2018

Sharif and Bhutto families form unlikely alliance against cricketer-turned-PM

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© AP

Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad and Kiran Stacey in New Delhi

The two dynasties that have battled for control of Pakistan for generations will join forces on Monday, promising to stage “noisy protests” inside parliament against the results of last month’s elections as new members take their oaths.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which is controlled by the Sharif family, and the Pakistan Peoples party, run by the Bhuttos, have formed an unlikely alliance against Imran Khan, the former cricketer whose party won most seats last month.

Analysts say that if the two parties manage to maintain their unity, they could present a significant obstacle for Mr Khan, who is due to take his oath as prime minister in the coming days.

One senior PML-N politician said: “Inside the house we are going to keep up the clamour that the elections were clearly rigged.” A leader of the PPP added that the two parties would combine forces inside parliament over the next few years “on important political and legislative issues”.

Mr Khan has spent the past few weeks composing a governing coalition, after his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party won 116 of the 272 contested parliamentary seats.

His negotiations have taken place, however, against a backdrop of protests by the opposition parties, which claim the PTI was helped by interference from the country’s powerful security services — something denied by both the PTI and the army.

The controversy has formed an unexpected bond between the PPP and the PML-N, whose ruling families have been in charge of Pakistan for about half of the past 50 years, and which jointly won 107 seats at the election.

The PPP is run by Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the husband and son respectively of the late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The head of the PML-N is Shehbaz Sharif, whose brother Nawaz Sharif was ousted as prime minister on corruption charges last year and is now serving a 10-year jail sentence.

Together with a group of smaller parties they announced they have formed a “grand opposition alliance”, which has plans to nominate alternative candidates for prime minister and speaker of the parliament.

Analysts say they do not expect the opposition parties to be able to form a government, not least because they fear a backlash from voters, among whom Mr Khan remains popular.

Ali Sarwar Naqvi, a political commentator, said: “Ever since the elections, opposition parties have been unable to show strength on the streets. Imran Khan is new and untested and therefore there is a lot of enthusiasm over his arrival.”

But many believe the alliance could make its presence felt in parliament over the next few years, especially as Mr Khan’s first job will be to repair the country’s balance sheet, possibly by enacting unpopular spending cuts or tax rises.

Asad Umar, Mr Khan’s proposed finance minister, has said the country has just weeks to secure extra financing to meet its external debt requirements.

Ghazi Salahuddin, a political commentator for The News newspaper, said: “As time goes by and the new government faces difficult choices, the opposition will gain strength — especially if Imran Khan himself becomes unpopular.”

Nawaz Sharif Returns To Pakistan

July 13, 2018

NAWAZ Sharif is set to return to Pakistan today. Other than the likelihood that officials of the National Accountability Bureau will arrest Mr Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz upon their arrival in Lahore, there is a great deal of political and legal uncertainty.

What is clear is that all sides — the caretaker governments in Punjab and at the centre; the PML-N and its supporters; and NAB and the judiciary — must act lawfully and responsibly.

The PML-N has alleged that an undeclared crackdown by the caretaker Punjab government is already under way against its leaders and supporters, and that measures will be taken to prevent the party from marching or gathering in Lahore today.

— July 13, 2018

It is not clear to what extent the PML-N’s allegations are accurate, but there do appear to be ill-advised and unacceptable attempts by authorities in Punjab to curb the PML-N’s political activities ahead of Mr Sharif’s return.

Certainly, the caretaker administrations at the centre and particularly in Punjab have a duty to maintain law and order.

But pre-emptive measures taken against a political party at what ought to be the height of a general election campaign suggest a degree of partisanship and politicisation that a caretaker administration cannot indulge in.

Indeed, the constitutional requirement for and the whole exercise of selecting a caretaker chief minister is to prevent the provincial apparatus from being used by powerful political elements against their opponents.

The caretaker Punjab chief minister, Hasan Askari, ought to immediately clarify his administration’s position on the allegations of the PML-N and issue an order that any steps designed to curb peaceful political activities that have already been taken are to be reversed.

Mr Askari’s stint as chief minister began in controversy, but it had been hoped that as a known public figure and academic, he would exercise his authority carefully and impartially.

Now is the time for Mr Askari to demonstrate that he truly is independent and non-partisan.

There is also a need for the PML-N to guarantee that its political activities today and in the days ahead will remain peaceful.

Mr Sharif is returning to Pakistan after publicly pledging to come back before his last departure to visit his ailing wife in the UK.

While Mr Sharif has been convicted by a NAB court in one accountability reference against him, there is still a lengthy multi-stage appeals process ahead.

Meanwhile, the NAB trial is set to continue. The PML-N must respect the law and not attempt in any way to use street power to try and put pressure on the courts and the state.

It is welcome that Shahbaz Sharif has called for all PML-N supporters to remain peaceful, and it is hoped that Nawaz Sharif will reiterate that message.

Cooler heads and better sense must prevail, especially with a general election to be held days from now.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018

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Nawaz and Maryam will be arrested on their arrival at Lahore airport from where they will be taken to Islamabad by helicopter so that they can be sent to Adiala jail for imprisonment.

The two PML-N leaders are returning to Pakistan to face a prison sentence handed out on July 6 by an accountability court in the Avenfield reference case, in which the judge ruled that Nawaz, Maryam and her husband Captain Safdar own assets beyond known income. They were respectively handed jail sentences of 10, seven and one year each.

Maryam was given 7 years for abetment after she was found “instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father” and 1 year for non-cooperation with the bureau. These sentences will also run concurrently; she will serve 7 years in total.

According to the verdict, she “aided, assisted, abetted, attempted and acted in conspiracy with her father”. “The trust deeds produced by the accused Maryam Nawaz were also found bogus,” read the judgement.

Nawaz, who was in London with his wife and children when the verdict was announced, said he is returning to Pakistan from London to fulfil his pledge to “honour the vote”.

Addressing a party conference in London with Maryam by his side, Sharif said he has decided to return to the country “despite seeing the bars of prison in front of my eyes”.

“Is there any Pakistani who has had three generations of his family go through an accountability process only to find out that no corruption was ever done?” he asked during the presser that was broadcast live on Facebook.

Sharif also criticised the court’s decision to sentence his daughter to a seven-year term in jail, saying those who did so “did not even remember in their hate what stature daughters have in Pakistan”.

Situation tense in Lahore

Amid reports of a province-wide crackdown, the provincial capital police detained nearly 200 workers and local party leaders ahead of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam’s return.

A majority of the detainees were the union council chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors of the party.

On Friday, the Lahore High Court ordered authorities to release all detained leaders and workers of the PML-N. During the hearing of a petition moved by a lawyer, the provincial police chief told the high court that 141 people had been taken into custody due to threats of terrorism.

Shahbaz Sharif is supposed to lead the main rally from Lohari Gate to the airport to accord a warm welcome to Nawaz Sharif.

“PML-N will start its historic rally from the historic point of Muslim Mosque, Lohari Gate. A large number of PML-N workers and people will gather there and march toward the airport to receive their beloved leader,” PML-N media coordinator Muhammad Mehdi told Dawn on Thursday.

He said the Lohari Gate was a central point of three constituencies — NA-124, NA-123 and NA-125. “In the political history of the city, rallies that began from the spot assumed historic value and this would also prove to be a historic one,” he claimed.

Heavy contingents of police have been deployed at all entry points to the city. Containers have been readied to block off main roads, but as of now, entry routes are open to all. A police official claimed that the arrangements were made to avoid any terrorism-related incidents. He added that no orders have been passed to arrest political workers or to block the motorway.

Traffic plan

The caretaker government devised an alternate traffic plan on the eve of the arrival of Nawaz Sharif at Lahore airport on Friday.

Traffic coming from Islamabad will enter Lahore via motorway through Thokar Niaz Beg, Qazilbash Chowk and Shaukat Khanum Chowk. Traffic from GT Road will enter the city via Kala Shah Kaku through Thokar. Traffic from Kala Khatai Road will enter via Shahdara Chowk, Begum Kot and Faizpur Interchange through motorway. Traffic from Multan Road will enter via Bund Road and Mohlanwal Road. To exit Lahore, use Maulana Shaukat Ali Road, Johar Town Main Boulevard, Shaukat Khanum, Qazilbash Chowk, Motorway Interchange or Multan Road.

The international travellers have been asked to reach at least six hours prior to the departure time at designated areas in Lahore. They will be transported to airport via a shuttle service which will be provided from Bhatta Chowk, Chungi Dogaij, Gajjumata, Mehfooz Park and Niazi Shaheed Park.

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Pakistan ex-PM Sharif sentenced to 10 years for corruption

July 6, 2018

Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison by a corruption court in Islamabad Friday, lawyers said, dealing a serious blow to his party’s troubled campaign ahead of July 25 elections.

“(Sharif) has been awarded 10 years imprisonment and an eight million pound ($10 million) fine” over the purchase of high-end properties in London, defence lawyer Mohammad Aurangzeb told AFP.

Prosecution lawyer Sardar Muzaffar Abbas also said that the court had ordered the properties, in London’s exclusive Mayfair, be confiscated by the federal government.

© AFP/File | Nawaz Sharif was ousted as prime minister by the Supreme Court last year following a corruption investigation

Sharif is currently in London, where his wife is receiving medical treatment for cancer. The verdict immediately raised questions over whether he would return to Pakistan.

He was ousted as prime minister by the Supreme Court last year following a corruption investigation.

He was also banned from politics for life, handing the presidency of his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party over to his brother, Shahbaz, who is leading the party’s campaign ahead of Pakistan’s second-ever democratic transition of power.

The Sharif clan and their supporters have repeatedly denied the allegations of corruption, suggesting Nawaz is the victim of a conspiracy driven by the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for roughly half of its 70-year history.

He has since repeatedly accused the military of wanton political interference, while journalists and activists have spoken of pressure by the military to censor positive coverage of the PML-N campaign amid allegations of a “silent coup”.


Pakistan to hold general election in July amid deteriorating civilian-military ties

May 27, 2018

Pakistan’s president has set July 25 as the date for the general election, state media say. The vote will be a test of popularity for former PM Sharif, who challenged the military’s dominance in the political sphere.

Supporters of Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif during a rally in Lahore (picture-alliance/AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

The polling for the National Assembly (lower house of parliament) and provincial assemblies will be held on the same day – July 25, 2018 – state-run Radio Pakistan announced Saturday.

Earlier this week, the Election Commission of Pakistan proposed to President Mamnoon Hussain that the 2018 general elections be held between July 25 and 27.

The incumbent government’s five-year constitutional term ends on May 31.

Zahid Gishkori, an Islamabad-based journalist, told DW that “all speculations and rumors about a delay in general election have been proven incorrect.”

“The elections will strengthen democracy in Pakistan,” he said.

Read more:

Pakistan: Will general elections be held on time?

US watches Pakistan’s democratic transition with caution

Poor civilian-military relations

But the growing rift between ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan’s powerful army has cast a dark pall over the upcoming elections.

Earlier this month, Sharif’s statement on the involvement of Pakistan in the 2008 terror attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai strained the already poor civilian-military relations in the South Asian country even further. Despite widespread criticism, Sharif has stuck to his guns and refused to retract his contentious remarks.

The comments put the former PM in the crosshairs of pro-military politicians and television commentators, with most of them calling for Sharif to be charged with treason.

The issue reveals the serious friction and deep-seated distrust between those that support the Muslim-majority country’s democratically elected civilian government and others that side with the army.

But the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Group, PML-N) is hopeful that its rift with the military won’t affect its performance in the July 25 vote.

“PML-N will emerge as a majority party [in the upcoming election] and form the next government, given that elections are held in a fair, free and transparent manner,” Senator Asif Kirmani, told DW.

But many in Pakistan believe the military would not like Sharif’s party to emerge victorious in the next election.

“It is very good news for all Pakistanis and democrats that elections will be held in July,” I. A. Rehman, a prominent human rights activist, told DW. “But now a huge responsibility has been assigned to the election commission to organize free and fair elections, which is pivotal for true democracy,” he added.

Read more:

Pakistan Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal injured in gun attack

Pakistan court disqualifies Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif for breaking election laws

Ruling from the shadows

In 2013, for the first time in its history, the country witnessed a smooth transition of power from one civilian government to another. This triggered hopes that the country had managed to put an end to its military coup-filled past, and was on track to becoming a true democracy.

But the manner in which Sharif was recently expelled from his premiership sparked suspicion that the army was behind his ouster. Sharif, who has been Pakistan’s prime minister three times, had to step down ostensibly because his family was implicated in a corruption case. However, many believe he has been targeted because of his willingness to lock horns with the army, and assert civilian authority over the military.

In addition to losing his position as premier, Sharif has been barred from leading his party and also from contesting any election ever. Their attempt to banish Sharif from Pakistani politics, some observers say, shows the institutional power of the nation’s military, indicating how the generals no longer need to undertake a coup d’etat and impose martial law in order to exercise power. Instead, they have mastered the art of ruling the country from the shadows.

Read more: Opinion: Pakistan needs ex-PM Sharif’s political role now more than ever

Against this backdrop, experts point out that there are fears over whether the upcoming elections will be free and fair. “If the elections are not free and fair then it would not be accepted as an election because it should be transparent,” said PML-N’s Zafar ul Haq.

The elections will be crucial in determining Pakistan’s future trajectory, as the country finds itself confronting a challenging security landscape. The United States, under President Donald Trump, has also been tough on Islamabad, expressing its frustration over Pakistan’s failure to target terrorist networks in the region.

Seeking China’s support

At the start of this year, Washington also decided to suspend security assistance to Islamabad. This has pushed Pakistan to increasingly turn toward China for much-needed financial and diplomatic support.

China, on the other hand, has been Pakistan’s close regional ally for decades and has invested heavily in the country in recent years. Currently, Beijing is spearheading a nearly $60 billion (€50 billion) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of its gigantic Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China also wants to minimize India’s influence in the region by supporting Pakistan, a policy that analysts don’t think will drastically change in the near future.

However, experts argue that economic prosperity requires political stability. And increased political tensions mean more political instability, which would increase interference from the military establishment in political and election-related matters, Senator Akram Dashti told DW.

“The army would not leave any stone unturned to keep Sharif out. In short, the military establishment does not accept the supremacy of the civilian political parties in Pakistan because they want to call the shots in the country,” said Dashti.


Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif facing probe for laundering $4.9 billion to India: Report

May 8, 2018

Pakistan’s top anti-corruption body on Tuesday ordered a probe against the embattled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and others for allegedly laundering $4.9 billion to India, media reports said.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a press release said its Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal took notice of reports making rounds on news channels claiming that Sharif allegedly laundered $4.9 billion to India, the Express Tribune reported.

Corruption cases against me are “baseless”: Nawaz Sharif

According to the media report, this incident is mentioned in the World Bank’s Migration and Remittance Book 2016, the release said.

However, details of the media report in question have not been mentioned in the brief statement issued in Urdu, Geo Tv reported.

Pakistan SC disqualifies ex-PM Nawaz Sharif from politics for life

The statement claims that the amount was laundered to the Indian finance ministry after which Indian foreign exchange reserves witnessed an increase and Pakistan suffered as a result.

Sharif is facing three corruption cases at the accountability court following the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case. A NAB inquiry is also under way against him for alleged illegal expansion of a road leading to his estate in Lahore’s Jati Umra locality.

Once formulated, this will be the fifth case against the ousted premier by the NAB.

Earlier today, the accountability court sought more time from the top court to end the trial on references filed by the NAB against members of the Sharif family.

Accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir, who presides over the hearings, has written a letter to the top court requesting for a second extension in the trial.

Earlier in March, the Supreme Court had granted a two-month extension to the accountability court to wrap the proceedings.

However, as the two-month deadline expires, the case is nowhere near its end, with the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments still untouched, the country’s top anti-graft body is running out of time.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan had disqualified Sharif last year, forcing the three-time prime minister to resign. Sharif has dismissed the corruption charges as politically motivated.

The political future of Sharif, who leads the country’s most powerful political family and his party, has been hanging in the balance since then. If convicted, he can be jailed.

Pakistani court disqualifies foreign minister in new blow to ruling party

April 26, 2018

A Pakistani court disqualified Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif from parliament on Thursday, striking another blow to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party ahead of a general election due in a few months.

Image result for Khawaja Asif, photos

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif

The Islamabad High Court verdict against Asif is one of several judicial setbacks for the PML-N since the Supreme Court removed party founder Nawaz Sharif as prime minister in July.

Asif told Geo TV he would challenge the decision in the Supreme Court. It was not clear if he would have to relinquish control of the foreign ministry, since he could remain in charge as an adviser to the prime minister.

Asif, a close ally of Sharif, is one of the most high-profile PML-N figures in government and was among names tipped to replace Sharif when the three-time prime minister was disqualified by the Supreme Court over some undeclared income.

Sharif and other top PML-N officials have complained that the judiciary is targeting the party ahead of the general election, which is expected in July.

Usman Dar, a rival politician from Asif’s constituency in the town of Sialkot, near the Indian border, filed a petition against Asif to have him disqualified over the possession of an “iqama”, a work permit for the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The court ruled Asif did not fully disclose his status as an employee of a UAE company and therefore was “not qualified” to be in parliament.

The court removed him using Article 62 of the constitution, which stipulates parliamentarians must be “honest and righteous” and which was also used to oust Sharif.

“We have handed down this judgment with a heavy heart,” the Islamabad High Court said in its verdict.

“Not only because a seasoned and accomplished political figure stands disqualified but more so because the dreams and aspirations of 342,125 registered voters have suffered a setback,” the court added, referring to Sialkot voters.

Sharif, speaking shortly after the verdict against Asif was announced, urged party workers to mobilize ahead of the elections no matter what happens in the courts.

Sharif and some family members are facing a Supreme Court-ordered trial in an anti-corruption court, which is expected to make a ruling as early as next month. Sharif could face prison if convicted.

Sharif denies wrongdoing.

“Even if I go to jail, no one should lose heart,” he said.

Additional reporting by Asif Shahzad; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie



From Dawn

Addressing the argument by Asif’s legal team that “since copies of the passport attached with the nomination paper also contained a copy of the ‘iqama‘, therefore there was no misrepresentation or concealment”, the judgement days: “Iqama is merely a residence visa issued by the immigration officials. In the instant case, the non-disclosure was that of the employment as an occupation and the salary per month received there under.”

Read: Disqualification under Article 62 (1)(f) is for life, SC rules in historic verdict

The judgement also makes a reference to the Panama Papers case, saying: “Supreme Court has not disqualified the former prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] merely for holding an ‘Iqama’ but rather his disqualification was due to non-disclosure of assets; holding an ‘Iqama’ cannot be made the basis for attracting Article 62(1)(f).”

  • PTI’s Usman Dar files petition against Asif in 2017
  • Says Asif did not declare his job in UAE, salary in the 2013 nomination papers
  • Asif contends before court that he declared AED50,000 as foreign income in papers
  • IHC reserves verdict in the case on April 10

“We declare that the Respondent [Khawaja Asif] was not qualified to contest the General Election of 2013 from NA-110 as he did not fulfill the conditions described under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution,read with section 99(1)(f) of the Representation of Peoples Act 1976,” reads the judgment.