Ishaq Dar declared absconder by accountability court

  • ,'Assets beyond known income',

An accountability court on Monday declared Ishaq Dar an absconder in a corruption reference after the former finance minister repeatedly failed to join the trial, remaining instead in London where he has reportedly been undergoing medical treatment.

The court also ordered Dar to submit surety bonds within three days, adding that in case of failure, the authorities would seize his assets.

As the corruption hearing resumed today, Dar's lawyer requested the court to refrain from declaring his client an absconder, and submitted a new medical report in court.

The court last week had ,reserved its verdict on declaring Dar an absconder,. The announcement of the verdict was delayed after the former minister's counsel requested the court to defer the matter until the PML-N leader's medical reports arrived from London.

Ishaq Dar has ,been in London for some time now,, where he is said to be undergoing medical treatment. He is accused of amassing assets beyond his known sources of income.

Defence lawyer Advocate Qausain Faisal Mufti told the court that Dar was suffering from chest pain and a minor issue in a coronary artery and, therefore, could not appear in court.

The prosecution rejected Mufti's claims and declared that the former minister was not suffering from any medical issues because all of his medical reports presented in court differed from the other.

Mufti responded, saying that the National Accountability Bureau had not yet verified the medical reports. He added that Dar was waiting for more reports.

Dar's lawyer also said that the ,non-bailable arrest warrants issued by NAB, were sent to the minister's Lahore residence where he is not living at the moment.

The prosecution team said that the former minister was aware of court proceedings and there was no need to send warrants to London.

The court also declined one Advocate Qazi Misbah's request to present arguments on Dar's behalf, whom he claimed to be representing today, saying that he could not be allowed to do so since he was not the PML-N leader's lawyer.

The court adjourned the hearing until Dec 14 as it ordered Dar's guarantor, Ahmed Ali Qudusi, to present the accused before the court in three days.

The court also ordered the guarantor to submit Rs500,000 for Dar's bail.

If the amount is not submitted and the accused is not presented in court, Dar's land papers will be seized.

'Assets beyond known income'

On July 28, a five-member Supreme Court bench had ordered NAB to file three references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and one against Dar, on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

In its reference against the finance minister, NAB alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name and/or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx)”.

The reference alleged that the assets were "disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for".

The government has since withdrawn the portfolio of finance minister from Ishaq Dar.

The noose seems to have been tightened around the former finance minister since NAB decided to reopen the Rs1.2 billion Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference against him.

In a previous hearing of the case, the ,court had declared Dar an absconder, and warned his guarantors of the confiscation of surety bonds worth Rs5 million if the accused did not join trial proceedings.

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Hudaibiya case: SC questions NAB lawyer on circumstances of Nawaz’s exile

  • ,Stay order,
  • ,NAB's application dismissed,
  • ,Documents submitted,
  • ,Hudaibiya Paper Mills case,

The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) lawyer regarding the circumstances under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif exiled himself to Saudi Arabia in 2000 ? the same year the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference was filed against Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif before an accountability court.

A three-judge SC bench ? comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel ? had resumed hearing a NAB appeal against a 2014 decision of the Lahore High Court to quash the Rs1.2 billion reference.

The bureau's lawyer, Advocate Imranul Haq, recalled that the case was first registered on March 27, 2000 and that the accused returned to Pakistan on November 25, 2007.

"Who exiled Nawaz Sharif? Why aren't we taking that person's name?" questioned Justice Isa, asking Advocate Haq whether the law has provisions for an individual to be forced into exile.

The lawyer replied that while there are no provisions in the law to this effect, an understanding was reached between the accused and the government at the time of Nawaz's exile. "At the time, the chief executive of the country was Pervez Musharraf," the lawyer added.

"What will the courts do if tomorrow the prosecution reaches an understanding with a murderer?" Justice Isa asked. "Nobody, including the Supreme Court, has the right to send an accused person into exile."

"Was the country being ruled in keeping with the law or on the whims of an individual?"

The lawyer told the court that under the agreement reached with the government, Nawaz went into exile himself.

"If he went into exile voluntarily, action should have been taken against him as an absconder," Justice Isa said.

"Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan on the Supreme Court's order," Advocate Haq said.

"If Nawaz had left the country voluntarily, he would not have had to file a petition before the court for his return," Justice Isa observed.

Justice Alam then questioned why the accused was not arrested upon his return, to which the lawyer replied, "Once the case was underway, only the court could have ordered the accused to be arrested."

Stay order

The advocate told the court that on July 17, 2011, the NAB chairman had filed a request for the case to be reopened.

On 17 October that year, the accused had filed a petition in the Lahore High Court and the day after, a stay order was issued by the court, the lawyer said.

"The LHC did not issue a stay order,"Justice Isa snapped back, adding that NAB had the reference squashed.

"Even if we revoke the high court's decision, the references will not be restored," Justice Isa remarked.

The lawyer replied that an accountability court will hear the petition for the references to be restored.

The court then asked the lawyer to present NAB's arguments for the reopening of the Hudaibiya case.

"If it weren't for the Panama Papers case, you wouldn't do anything," Justice Isa remarked, instructing the lawyer to read the operative part of the SC's verdict in the said case.

"The verdict does not say anything about Hudaibiya," Justice Isa noted. "It says that when NAB files an appeal, it will be looked at."

The apex court adjourned the hearing until 11am tomorrow (Tuesday). It also issued a gag order for any discussions on the Hudaibiya reference on TV channels, saying only court reporting would be allowed on the proceedings of the case.

NAB's application dismissed

Earlier, the court had expressed its displeasure at the arguments presented by the lawyer in relation with an application filed by the bureau seeking an adjournment of today's proceedings until its new prosecutor general is appointed. The court had summarily dismissed the application.

"The office of the NAB prosecutor is vacant and it will be appropriate that a prosecutor appears in the court for such an important case," the bureau's lawyer had argued before the court.

"Do not ridicule the court," Justice Isa had responded. "Why shouldn't we initiate contempt of court proceedings against you? Every case is high-profile for us," the judge told the lawyer.

"We have nothing to do with the appointment of the prosecutor," Justice Alam said.

Justice Isa asked the lawyer on whose recommendation the application for adjournment had been filed.

The lawyer replied that the decision was taken during a meeting presided over by the bureau's chairman.

"Well in that case, why don't we just call the chairman to appear before the court?" Justice Isa asked, before adjourning the proceedings briefly.

Documents submitted

During today's hearing, the lawyer also told the court that on Saturday he had submitted before the SC documents that were sought by the bench on Nov 28. On that day, the bench had ,adjourned the hearing due to the NAB lawyer's lack of preparation,.

Copies of the interim and final references on the Hudaibiya case, and Volume 8A of the report of the Panama Papers joint investigation team, which also contains a copy of the Hudaibiya reference, were submitted before the bench on Saturday.

In addition, NAB had submitted the diary of the accountability court that had heard the Hudaibiya reference, as well as the procedure of appointment of the NAB chairman and the list of all chairmen of the bureau appointed so far since its inception in 1999.

NAB had also furnished before the court a timeline during which Nawaz Sharif served as prime minister as well as the period during which he was in exile after the ouster of his government by retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Hudaibiya Paper Mills case

The 2000 Hudaibiya Paper Mills money laundering reference was initiated on the basis of an April 25, 2000 confession statement from Ishaq Dar, wherein he admitted to his role in laundering money to the tune of $14.86 million on behalf of the Sharifs through fictitious accounts.

The witness was, however, pardoned by the then NAB chairman.

LHC referee judge Justice Sardar Shamim had quashed the reference on March 11, 2014 on the grounds that if a re-investigation was allowed against the Sharif family, it would provide an opportunity to investigators to pad up lacunas.

The LHC had quashed the case as the PML-N continued to claim that Dar's statement was taken under duress.

NAB had controversially decided not to challenge the high court’s decision.

While Nawaz was not named in the interim reference filed in March 2000, in the final reference against the Hudaibiya Paper Mills — approved by then chairman NAB Khalid Maqbool — the bureau had accused Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar, Sabiha Abbas and Maryam Nawaz.

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ATC refuses to transfer 2014 PTV attack case against Imran Khan to civil court

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Monday rejected Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's request to transfer the ongoing 2014 Pakistan Television (PTV) attack case to a civil court.

The court also extended Khan's interim bail in the case till December 14.

In 2014, Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek Chairman Tahirul Qadri staged a major rally in Islamabad against alleged rigging in the 2013 election and the Model Town tragedy, which had seen as many as 14 people killed and 100 others injured when police attacked Qadri's residence during an 'anti-encroachment' operation.

Khan had threatened to shut down the entire country in what was perceived as a bid to topple the government. The protest had continued for a record 104 days.

On Sept 1, 2014, while the sit-in was still ongoing, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Asmatullah Junejo had been beaten up by protesters on Constitution Avenue as they stormed the Pakistan Television (PTV) headquarters and the precincts of the Parliament.

A case had been registered against Khan, Qadri and others for torturing SSP Junejo and five other police officers. Arrest warrants had also been issued against the two leaders.

On December 7, the PTI chief requested that the cases regarding the storming of the PTV offices during the 2014 sit-in be transferred from an ATC to a civil court since it did not qualify as a terrorism case.

In today's hearing, the prosecution said that during that the 2014 protest by the PTI in the capital's Red Zone, the party's chief had incited violence and urged his supporters to attack police officials and state buildings in his speeches.

Khan's lawyer Babar Awan disagreed saying that the PTI chief had repeatedly told his followers to exercise restraint and refrain from harming other people.

"You brought people to the capital, told them to attack buildings and then brushed off responsibility by saying that you were not present at the time of the attack," the state lawyer responded.

Awan retorted saying that if cases were registered against people for giving speeches, the Sharif family would have been nominated in around 200 cases since the Supreme Court announced the Panamagate verdict.

The state prosecutor further said that Khan's supporters had injured 26 police officials and had gone on to attack the PTV's offices ? acts that qualify as acts of terrorism.

"According to the Anti-Terrorism Act, these acts are non-bailable and punishable," he said.

Awan then implied that the government had unjustly filed a case against the PTI chief by saying that the Sikh community had taken down a door of the Parliament building during a protest in 2014 but no legal action was taken by the state.

"My point is that, like the Sikh protesters, the purpose of people who gathered in D-Chowk was to register their protest," he said.

The prosecution also accused Khan of disrespecting the court by failing to appear for case hearings for more than three years, despite being in Islamabad.

The prosecuting lawyer ,referred to a phone conversation,, allegedly between Khan and PTI leader Arif Alvi in which the party chief appears to be happy about the attacks on PTV headquarters.

The PTI had claimed the tape was doctored. Today, however, Awan accused the government of recording his client's phone calls. Awan also demanded a copy of the tape so that the party could verify its authenticity.

The prosecution also alleged that PTI supporters had tried to snatch a police officer's gun and carried cutters, slingshots and sticks.

On his way to the ATC, the PTI chief accused the government of engaging in political revenge by filing cases against him.

"They just want to prove their claim that 'If we are thieves, the rest of the people are thieves too,'" Khan alleged, claiming that the state had failed to provide any proof against him.

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Industry raises red flag over imminent oil crisis

ISLAMABAD: The oil industry has raised the red flag over imminent closure of local refineries and related inability of the oil companies to provide enough fuels for smooth operations of aviation and security aircraft.

In an “SOS-Rush to Desk” to the petroleum division, the Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC) — an umbrella body of around three dozen refineries and oil marketing companies — said the refineries had been forced to continuously scale down production now reaching a point of a complete shutdown and impacting jet fuels.

The oil industry has been struggling for a sixth week to cope with setback caused by closure of oil-based power plants in October.

The jet fuels at almost all the airports had reached critical stage. The throughput reduction was “severely impacting the supply of all other petroleum products. The impact is especially pronounced on the availability of JP-1 for the airports and of JP-8 to the Air Force”, wrote the OCAC to petroleum secretary Sultan Sikandar Raja, who is on an extended joyride trip to Singapore and Dubai to attend board meetings of an oil company and a refinery.

Informed sources said the largest fuel supplier and state-run PSO was already advising its clients of aircraft operators to fly in with additional fuel and keep reliance for refuelling in Pakistan to a bare minimum. It has ordered two additional vessels of jet fuels on an urgent basis, but their arrival would be due by this weekend.

On the weekend, the OCAC reported that Pakistan Refinery Limited (PRL) had been forced to “recycle” furnace oil to keep its machines functioning but would be forced to shut down on Monday and impact jet fuel to Karachi airport. The country’s largest refinery – Byco – remains closed for a third week.

The PSO had last week told the government that its upcountry airports – Lahore, Islamabad, Sialkot, Multan, Faisalabad and Peshawar – were on a dry-out position and the aviation authorities could be compelled to declare NOTAM – a situation where a Notice to Airmen – is issued to alert aircraft pilots of potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the safety of the flight.

A senior official at the petroleum division said that despite its sincere efforts in consultation with the oil industry, the power division was not forthcoming with furnace oil consumptions. A power division official said the electricity demand had gone down in winter and was being met by cheaper plants on the economic merit order – hydro, natural gas, imported re-gasified liquid natural gas (RLNG), nuclear and coal.

The petroleum division official said the problem of very low or zero usage of local furnace oil persisted and, unless addressed, would lead to product shortfalls to the market.

“When a Refinery operates, it produces the whole range of product, from LPG, petrol, kerosene, diesel, Jet Fuels (JP-1 and JP-8) and residual furnace oil (RFO). With RFO not being used, storages have filled up, forcing the refineries to reduce throughput to the bare minimum. Critically needed volumes of Jet Fuel (JP-1 for the airports and JP-8 for the Air Force) are already under threat,” he said.

The OCAC deplored that despite best efforts and a series of meetings with senior officials of the power division, no respite is forthcoming to the refineries to keep them operational. The PRL reported that this low rate of furnace oil lifting of around only 400-500 tonnes per day had forced it to recycle RFO to crude tanks.

“The other refineries also are looking at very low ullages in their RFO storages, and operating at sub-optimal throughput including NRL which, too, will not be able to meet its jet fuel commitments to both Karachi airport as well as to the Air Force. ARL too will not be able to supply the additional jet volumes demanded by the airports and the Air Force and Parco”, the OCAC noted.

It deplored that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had ordered during a meeting on Wednesday for close coordination between power and petroleum divisions to find a solution. “Despite regular attempts and meetings with the power division by (OCAC and petroleum division), we see no understanding of the situation by the concerned nor an appreciation of the fact that shortage of petroleum supplies to the market are imminent.”

Officials explained that refineries together were responsible for 30 per cent of the furnace oil supplies or around 300,000 tonnes per month while PSO is responsible for around 66pc of the total furnace oil supplies, with other importers catering for the remainder.

The oil industry also advised creation of a proper forum for planning of energy supplies to the power sector given the fact that this was the second time this year that supply crisis had occurred “purely because of the lack of planning and coordination on the part of the national power control centre and the power sector” that put the entire country’s oil supply chain at risk.

The OCAC argued that the forum should comprise the representatives of the NPCC, Wapda, the ministry of energy, power division and petroleum division and PSO and be tasked with the planning for energy supply of the country for the next three months. “This will remove the ad hoc decision-making which is currently taking place and will protect the supply chain.

The permanent solution, said an official, lied with understanding of the problem by all concerned, including the ministries and divisions that could work out a proper plan for RFO use to ensure that the already imported RFO volumes were utilised along with production from local refineries for their optimal capacity utilisation.

The sources said the defence authorities had written a series of letters to the quarters concerned to keep a close watch on fuel supplies required for the Air Force in view of depleting stocks. Defence authorities are reported to have expressed serious concerns over the situation at a last week product review meeting and warned of serious consequences.

The problem emerged after the authorities concerned were directed by the prime minister office on Oct 27 to shut down furnace oil-based plants even though the power sector authorities had ordered fresh imports on Oct 25. As a result, the furnace oil storages were topped up, affecting production of other petroleum products.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2017

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Six ‘terrorists’ linked to Peshawar ATI attack arrested in KP: sources

  • ,Peshawar: a victim of militancy,

Six 'terrorists' suspected of involvement in the Peshawar Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) attack which took place earlier this month were arrested during raids in the areas bordering Charsadda and Mohmand Agency, according to official sources.

Suicide jackets and explosive material were recovered from the possession of the six 'terrorists', who are said to have links to a sub-group of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Swat faction, the sources said.

The main culprit behind the attack remains absconding despite raids being conducted by security forces in Bajaur Agency, where he was reported to have been present. Efforts are underway to arrest him.

Three terrorists dressed in burqas stormed the ATI hostel situated near Peshawar's University Road on Dec 1, killing nine people and injuring 37 others.

The attack was claimed by the TTP. Both police and military officials said the attackers had been coordinating with handlers based in Afghanistan.

At least nine suspects were arrested during a pre-dawn search operation carried out by law-enforcement agencies on the outskirts of Peshawar the day after the attack.

KP Police’s Counter-Terrorism Department also registered an FIR of the deadly ATI attack against unknown persons on the complaint of Station House Officer (SHO) Town Ahmedullah Khan on charges including terrorism, murder, attempted murder and encounter.

Police have extended the investigation and sent body parts of the militants involved in the attack for forensic testing.

Peshawar: a victim of militancy

Peshawar has for decades been a victim of militancy due to its status as a front line region in the ongoing war against militancy as well as its proximity to the restless tribal areas and the lawless Pak-Afghan border.

Pakistan Army had launched Operation Raddul Fasaad earlier this year in the aftermath of a fresh resurgence in terror attacks in the country.

The operation seeks to eliminate the "residual/latent threat of terrorism", consolidating the gains made in other military operations, and further ensuring the security of Pakistan's borders.

Hundreds of suspected terrorists have reportedly either been killed or arrested in raids carried out by security personnel since the start of the operation.

The number of attacks in the country has fallen around 70 per cent over the past year, due to a combination of the military offensive against Taliban bases along the Afghan border and government initiatives to tackle militancy, but attacks on security and civilian targets continue to occur.

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Witnesses complete recording statements in NAB’s Avenfield reference

  • ,NAB references,

The witnesses testifying against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members before an accountability court in Islamabad completed recording their statements on Monday.

The former premier's son-in-law, retired Capt Safdar, appeared before the court today as a hearing into the Avenfield Flats reference ? one of the three filed against members of the Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ? resumed.

Sharif and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, were not present in the court today as ,the two had left for London on Dec 5, after they were exempted from appearing before the court.

During the hearing, Sharif's lawyer cross-examined Malik Tayyab, a witness presented by the prosecution who in a previous hearing had provided details of cheques issued to Maryam and others from the former premier's bank account.

Advocate Khawaja Harris asked the witness if he personally knew those to whom Sharif had allegedly issued cheques to. Tayyab responded that he did not, adding that he had presented his statement based on the records that were available with him.

The lawyer requested that a copy of prosecution witness Afaq Ahmad's testimony recorded before the Supreme Court-mandated Panama Papers joint investigation team be provided to him. In a written response to the request, NAB said that the statement has been recorded before the apex court and time will be needed to acquire it.

The statement of NAB's Assistant Director Adeel Akhtar, another prosecution witness, was also recorded today.

The court summoned two more NAB witnesses as the hearing was adjourned until Dec 19.

NAB references

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court on July 28 had directed NAB to file references against Sharif and his children in six weeks in the accountability court and directed the trial court to decide the references within six months.

The Supreme Court also assigned Justice Ijazul Ahsan a supervisory role to monitor the progress of the accountability court proceedings.

NAB had filed three references on Sept 8 against Sharif and his family, and another reference against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. The three references against the Sharif family are related to the Flagship Investment Ltd, the Avenfield (London) properties and Jeddah-based Al-Azizia Company and Hill Metal Establishment.

The former premier and his sons, Hassan and Hussain, have been named in all three NAB references, while Maryam and husband Safdar have been named only in the Avenfield reference.

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19-year-old kills sister, brother-in-law for contracting free will marriage

A 19-year-old resident of Nagyal in Rawalpindi's Gujjar Khan tehsil on Monday allegedly shot dead his sister and and her husband in what police described as an 'honour killing'.

The accused, identified as Saeed Anwar, had been upset at his sister — Mismat Musarrat, 18— for marrying Qaiser, 25 after finding out that his victims had been romantically involved prior to their marriage.

SHO Ishtiaq Masood Cheema told DawnNews that the suspect had been waiting for an opportunity to kill the husband and wife ever since they married a few months ago.

The SHO said that, upon finding the couple alone in their house, the accused fired at them with a pistol, killing them both on the spot. He later tried to flee the scene, but was apprehended by the police along with the murder weapon.

SHO Cheema said police have booked Anwar for a double murder. Police will present him in court tomorrow to seek physical remand. The bodies of the victims have been shifted to a local hospital for a post mortem examination.

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India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate: FO responds to Modi’s allegations

India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate and win victories on [its] own strength rather than [on] fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible, said Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal on Monday.

,,

His comments, shared on Twitter, come a day after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that Congress leaders had held a secret meeting with a "Pakistani envoy and foreign minister of the neighbouring country" before ,Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar had called him a “neech aadmi”, (vile man).

"You people must have read the newspaper about the incident at Mani Shankar Aiyar's house. It was an issue of hot debate in newspapers and media yesterday that a meeting between former Pakistan high commissioner, former minister of external affairs of Pakistan, former vice president Hamid Ansari and former PM Manmohan Singh was held at Mani Shankar Aiyar's house. The meeting had run for three hours and the next day he called me "neech" (low-born)," ,Times of India quoted the prime minister as saying, during a poll campaign in Palanpur on Sunday.

"This is an issue of serious concern that when Pakistan has become a sensitive issue for the country, then what was the reason to hold a secret meeting with Pakistan when the polls are being held in Gujarat?" asked Modi.

According to Times of India, Modi had also questioned why a former Pakistan army director general "insisted on making Ahmed Patel, political advisor of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the chief minister of Gujarat".

"Former director general of Pakistan army Arshad Rafiq has insisted that Ahmed Patel should be made CM of Gujarat. Former army director general intervenes in Gujarat election," Modi alleged, according to Times of India. "They held meeting with Pakistanis at Mani Shankar's house and on the very next day of that meeting, Gujarat, backward community of Gujarat, Modi and poor people of Gujarat were insulted. Is it not an issue of concern for the country?"

Last week, Mani Shankar Aiyar was suspended from the primary membership of the party for calling Modi a “neech aadmi”, a remark that the PM claimed was aimed at his humble origins.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had asked Aiyar to apologise, a move that was seen as an attempt to cap the political fallout of the controversial remarks in the first phase of Assembly elections in Gujarat.

Aiyar did apologise for what he called his poor command of Hindi. “I meant low level when I said ‘neech’, I don’t think he is low born…if it has some other meaning then I apologise,” he had said.

Ahead of the 2014 national election also, Aiyar had derided Narendra Modi as a tea seller who could never be Prime Minister.

That comment was seen to have contributed significantly to Mr Modi’s sweep of the general election, NDTV said.

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Two admit involvement in jirga-sanctioned murder of Karachi couple

Two suspects have admitted their involvement in the murder of a ,newly-married couple residing in Karachi allegedly on the orders of a jirga,, DawnNews reported on Monday.

The accused, Ziaul Haq and Ghulam Rasool, stated to a judicial magistrate that a jirga had ordered the torture and murder of Abdul Hadi and Hussaini Bibi for contracting a free-will marriage.

Haq and Rasool told the court that their orders were to hide the victims' bodies in the Qaimkhani graveyard after they were killed by the head of the jirga, Miskeen, and his sons on the night of November 22.

They admitted that, acting on the orders, they had dug holes to hide the bodies while they waited for co-accused Abdur Rashid, Mirza and Azam to bring them the remains of the victims. The bodies were recovered after they led the police to the graves, the suspects stated.

After recording their statement, the court sent the two to jail.

Abdul Hadi and Hussaini Bibi, who hailed from Kohistan, had married without permission from their family elders a few months earlier, Mominabad police had previously told DawnNews.

They had rented a house within the jurisdiction of the Mominabad Police Station in November while they hid from their families.

On November 24, residents of the area had spotted blood around the house and reported it to the police.

As police began investigating the case, the victims' bodies were discovered in the Qaimkhani graveyard in Ittehad Town.

The remains were sent to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for a post-mortem examination.

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Abducted MES employee found murdered in Pindi

A Military Engineering Service (MES) employee reportedly abducted earlier this month was found dead near Rawalpindi's Adiala Road area on Monday.

MES Superintendent Aftab was kidnapped by unidentified individuals on Dec 7 on the way back from Bahria Town, City Police Officer (CPO) Israr Ahmed Khan Abbasi told DawnNews.

After Aftab went missing, a kidnapping case was registered with the Saddar Police. An employee at Aftab's house, Nadeem, came under suspicion and was taken into custody, police said.

The station house officer said that during investigation, Nadeem revealed that after Aftab was kidnapped, he was killed and his body was dumped in a gutter belonging to a house on Adiala Road.

Following Nadeem's tip-off, the police were able to recover Aftab's body from the specified location.

The SHO said that the kidnapping case against unknown persons will have murder charges added to it, and that police are investigating the possible motive behind the murder.

Aftab's body was sent to a hospital for a post-mortem examination.

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Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

Saudi Arabia on Monday lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas, part of a series of social reforms by the powerful crown prince that are shaking up the ultra-conservative kingdom.

“Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years,” the culture and information ministry said in a statement, adding that the government will begin licensing cinemas immediately.

Reviving cinemas would represent a paradigm shift in the kingdom, which is promoting entertainment as part of a sweeping reform plan dubbed ,“Vision 2030”,, despite opposition from conservatives.

“This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom,” information minister Awwad Alawwad said in the statement.

Hardliners, who see cinemas as a threat to cultural and religious identity, were instrumental in shutting them down in the 1980s.

Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking cleric warned in January of the “depravity” of cinemas, saying they would corrupt morals. But authorities appear to be shrugging off the threat.

Saudi filmmakers have long argued that a ban on cinemas does not make sense in the age of YouTube.

Saudi films have been making waves abroad, using the internet to circumvent distribution channels and sometimes the stern gaze of state censors.

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Recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ‘makes peace possible’: Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that recognising Jerusalem as his country's capital "makes peace possible", after widespread international criticism of the US decision to do so.

US President Donald Trump's ,announcement last week, has been followed by days of protests and clashes in the Palestinian territories as well as ,demonstrations across the Islamic world,.

The EU expressed alarm at the decision, which upends seven decades of US policy on the disputed holy city, and the bloc's foreign ministers are set to urge Netanyahu to resume dialogue with the Palestinians as he meets them over breakfast in Brussels.

Read: ,This will not bring peace to Israel — quite the opposite,

The Israeli premier said what Trump had done was to "put facts squarely on the table" by acknowledging Jerusalem had been the capital of the Israeli state for 70 years and of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.

"It doesn't obviate peace, it makes peace possible, because recognising reality is the substance of peace, it's the foundation of peace," he said in a statement alongside EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.

Mogherini, who last week warned the Jerusalem decision could take the situation "backwards to even darker times", restated the EU's position that a two-state solution with Jerusalem as capital for both Israelis and Palestinians was the only sustainable way to resolve the conflict.

Netanyahu pointed to a new US peace initiative as a possible way forward.

Explore: ,Why Trump, unlike the presidents before him, went through with his promise on Jerusalem,

"There is now an effort underway to bring forward a new peace proposal by the American administration. I think we should give peace a chance. I think we should see what is presented and see if we can advance this peace," he said.

Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has been working with a small team to develop a new US proposal to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but it is not clear what progress he is making.

Netanyahu's visit to Brussels comes after he met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Sunday. Macron called on him to freeze settlement building and to re-engage with Palestinians.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and previous peace plans have stumbled over debates on whether and how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites.

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PSL spot-fixing case: Nasir Jamshed handed 1 year ban by PCB

Tainted opener Nasir Jamshed, believed to be a prime suspect in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) spot-fixing case, has been handed a one-year ban by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), a top PCB official told DawnNews on Monday.

The ACU decided to ban Jamshed for obstruction of investigation and non-cooperation with the PCB. The main charges will be brought against him soon by the ACU, according to PCB sources.

The PSL spot-fixing scandal surfaced earlier this year, on the opening day of the second PSL Twenty20 series held in Dubai, with the final staged in Lahore.

Sharjeel Khan was the first cricketer in the spot-fixing case, who was banned for five years last month.

However, after a suspension period of two and a half years and with the addition of seven months, which the left-handed opener had already passed as a result of the case proceedings, the remaining period of his punishment was reduced to just one year and 11 months when it was announced in August 2017.

In September, the ACU handed batsman Khalid Latif a five-year ban and Rs1 million fine for involvement in the spot-fixing case.

He was charged on six counts, including persuading or attempting to persuade three other cricketers — Mohammad Irfan, Shahzaib Hasan and Sharjeel Khan — to get involved in spot-fixing.

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1,000 primary schools shut down in KP over low enrolment

PESHAWAR: The elementary and secondary education department has closed down around 1,000 government primary schools across the province owing to low enrolment and shifted their students to the nearest schools, according to sources.

They said that the abandoned school buildings, which had cost billions of rupees, were constructed by the education department at unfeasible places and in violation of criteria merely on the directives of the then rulers to oblige their voters.

“Despite the closure of 1,000 schools, the PTI government has been following the past practice to construct schools at the behest of rulers. As in the past, currently the government schools are constructed on the directives of Chief Minister Pervez Khattak,” said sources.

A senior official told Dawn that education department was helpless in that regard as it only followed the directives of the chief minister. “We have no power to decide about the construction of a school on need basis, rather we have to wait for the directives of the chief minister,” he added.

No decision has been made so far about use of vacated school buildings

Sources said that chief minister was approving schools in the constituencies of lawmakers to oblige them. “Not only the chief minister decides the construction of the new primary school but he also decides upgradation of primary schools to middle, high or higher secondary level,” said the official.

He said that each year, the provincial government reflected in the budget the establishment of schools in bulk that was approved by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. “After the passage of the budget, the chief minister issues directives to the education department from time to time regarding construction of each school,” he said.

The official said that opinion of education department about construction of new schools was often rejected rather schools were set up wherever the chief minister and MPAs wanted.

A district education officer said that education department closed those schools where enrolled students were less than 40. He added that most of the closed schools were located in the rural areas.

The number of closed schools in Peshawar is 45, in Mansehra 100, in Abbottabad 65, in Bannu 60, in Battagram 90, in Kohistan 87, in Charsadda 58, in Chitral 55, in Mardan 60, in Haripur 60, in Swabi 55, in Lakki Marwat 60, in Dera Ismail Khan 12, in Malakand 15, in Swat 10, in Tank 10, in Torghar seven and in Nowshera is four.

Sources said that most of the closed schools were established around two decades ago. “If at present the enrolment in such schools is below 40, how much it would have been at time of their establishment years ago,” they questioned.

According to the criteria, a new school is to be constructed in the area having 1,000 population in the surrounding which will ensure admission of 160 students in the school. Under the criteria, a primary school should not exist within the radius of 1.5 kilometre in the proposed site for the new school.

Sources said that the criterion was rarely followed as the district education offices couldn’t resist the directives of the chief minister and MPAs concerned.

“If the education department resists construction of school at a proposed site for not fulfilling the criteria, on the next day it receives instructions from the chief minister that criteria shall be relaxed,” an official of the education department said.

He said that education department opposed establishment of a primary school in Bahadarkhel area in Manki Sharif ward of Nowshera as a primary school with 146 students was already functioning in a distance of 800 metres. However, the chief minister relaxed the criteria and directed the education department to construct the school, he said.

Minister for Education Mohammad Atif Khan was not available for comments.

Asked what the education department would do with the abandoned buildings, a senior official of the education department said that the department was yet to make a decision what to do with the buildings.

He said that several proposals were under consideration for the usage of the abandoned buildings. He said that non-formal schools could be launched in abandoned buildings that would be run by the Elementary Education Foundation.

The second proposal was to hand over the vacated buildings for establishing schools under the public private partnership, the official said.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2017

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US, Pakistan engage in quiet diplomacy to improve ties

WASHINGTON: US- Pakistan talks for finding a common ground in Afghanistan have moved away from exchanging allegations into a phase of quiet diplomacy aimed at resolving differences, claim Pakistani and US officials.

The officials confirmed that the two countries had held a series of meetings before and after ,US Defence Secretary James Mattis’s Dec 4 visit to Islamabad,, reflecting the mutual desire to improve ties. Talking to the Pakistani media in Washing­ton, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary said that Secretary Mattis’s visit had a positive impact on efforts to rebuild the relationship.

And Pentagon’s chief spokesperson Dana White said at a news briefing last week that Mr Mattis visited Islamabad to find a common ground with Pakistan.

“It’s in the interests of Pakistan, the US and the region to ensure that we can encourage that Afghanistan has a political reconciliation. So we’ll look for ways to work with Pakistanis to find that common ground and move forward,” she said.

Reports in the US media also noted that during the visit the United States did not repeat its ,allegation that Pakistan was providing safe havens to the Haqqani network, for carrying out attacks into Afghanistan.

Pakistanis also did not say that the United States was trying to ,hide its failures in Afghanistan by blaming Pakistan,, the media added.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that this change is quite noticeable, when compared with the rhetoric that followed President Donald Trump’s Aug 21 announcement of his new strategy for Afghanis­tan. A military defeat that forces the Taliban to cooperate with Kabul is the key component of this strategy.

While Pakistan supports reconciliation between the Afghan government and Taliban, it warns that there’s no military solution to the Afghan conflict.

Soon after President Trump’s speech, the US media reported that his administration was considering proposals to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, to expand drone attacks into Pakistan’s settled areas and to expunge Pakistan from its list of major non-NATO allies.

Secretary Mattis, however, did not repeat any of these threats before, during or after his visit to Islamabad. In fact, he refused to do so even when prodded by the media.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2017

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5 PML-N lawmakers announce resignation protesting inaction against Rana Sanaullah

Five PML-N lawmakers announced their resignations from public office during a Khatm-i-Nabuwwat conference organised by Pir Sialvi in Faisalabad on Sunday.

The lawmakers belonging to Punjab's Jhang, Chiniot, Faisalabad and Sargodha districts, include MNAs Dr Nisar Ahmad Jutt and Ghulam Bibi Bharwana; Punjab MPAs Maulana Rehmatullah, Nizam-ud-Din Sialvi — Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi's son — and Khan Muhammad Baloch.

They said they would step down from their positions in the assemblies due to government inaction against Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.

The Punjab law minister came under fire from various quarters for his ,remarks regarding the status of Ahmadis, in the country in a TV show, which he said, had been “distorted and twisted by some rivals to take political advantage”.

Pir Sialvi, who is also a former senator, earlier claimed ,at least 15 parliamentarians “spiritually associated” with the Sial Sharif shrine, would tender their resignations at the public meeting in Faisalabad today.

Earlier this week, the Punjab Chief Minister ,Shahbaz Sharif had assured the Pir, that he would visit him shortly and clarify the position and remarks of Rana Sanaullah.

Punjab’s Religious Affairs Minister ,Zaeem Hussain Qadri and standing committee chairman Malik Waris Kallu had also given a similar assurance, to the spiritual leader that Sanaullah would appear before him to clarify his remarks and would resign as minister if he “fails to satisfy” the Pir Sahib.

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Indian forces using ‘chemical weapons’ in held Kashmir: AJK president

Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Masood Khan on Sunday claimed that Indian security forces are using "chemical weapons" against civilians in India-held Kashmir (IHK).

The AJK president, delivering a speech in Islamabad to mark International Human Rights Day, said that there have been a number of deaths due to the use of chemical weapons in IHK.

Earlier this year, the Foreign Office also tried to draw attention towards the use of chemical munitions against civilians in IHK. It was the first time that such a serious allegation had been levelled by Pakistan against India.

A series of international treaties, specifically the Chemical Weapons Convention, prohibits the use of chemical weapons not only in international armed conflicts but also non-international armed conflicts rather in all circumstances.

Sardar Khan also claimed that attempts are being made to change the population ratio in Kashmir.

Earlier this week, ,the AJK president had claimed, that the demographics in IHK are being manipulated with an ulterior motive to harm Kashmiris’ freedom struggle.

In addition to the violation of the rights of Kashmiris in IHK, Khan said that crimes against humanity are also being committed there.

"The international community has not played its role in solving the Kashmir dispute," he said, adding that during his recent trip to Brussels and Washington he emphasised the need for a solution to the Kashmir dispute.

Khan said that in order to find the solution, Pakistan must remain strong.

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