Posts Tagged ‘NATO’

ANP opposes deployment of army inside polling stations

PESHAWAR: Awami National Party has expressed reservations over the decision of Election Commission of Pakistan to deploy security personnel inside the polling stations, fearing it will strengthen doubts about poll rigging for bringing a certain party into the power.

Also read: ,The ECP has given magisterial powers to army officers on election duty, but what does that really mean?,

Addressing a press conference here on Monday, ANP former senator Ilyas Ahmed Bilour said that other political parties had objected to deployment of army personnel inside the polling stations and hurdles in their election campaign. He said that ECP should ensure free, fair and impartial elections.

On the occasion, PPP senior worker Mohammad Iqbal Khan along with his relatives quit his party and announced to join ANP. ANP district president Malik Mustafa, candidate for PK-76 Haji Hidayatullah and candidate for PK-77 Haji Umer Khan Mohmand were also present on the occasion.

Expressing his shock over the killing of his nephew Haroon Bilour and other workers in a suicide bombing in Peshawar, the ANP leader said that it was irreparable loss. He said that the tragedy disturbed the election campaign but his party was in the field to take part in the elections.

Seeks protection for workers; Ghulam Bilour backtracks from remarks about perpetrators of Peshawar blast

Regarding investigation into the suicide blast case, Mr Bilour said that nobody had approached his family members in connection with the probe. He said that his party believed in democracy and would bring reforms in government departments. He said that during the past five years, PTI had done nothing for public welfare in the province rather ruined infrastructure in Peshawar.

Speaking on the occasion, other ANP leaders alleged that only one political party was running election campaign freely while others were facing problems in the drive. They urged government to provide protection to political workers and candidates so that they could continue the campaign wholeheartedly.

Iqbal Khan said that the PPP leadership had forgotten the mission of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto to provide basic facilities to the people.

“I have served PPP for 45 years and endured a lot of troubles for its promotion but the party leaders are not ready to encourage sincere workers so I quit it,” he added.

Meanwhile, ANP senior vice president Ghulam Ahmad Bilour has said that Chief justice of Supreme Court Justice Saqib Nisar should not have ordered to withdraw security from politicians.

“I have respect for the chief justice. But he should not interfere in administrative affairs,” he told journalists at his residence here on Monday. He said that chief justice should not issue order to the executive to withdraw security from politicians.

The ANP leader backtracked from his statement in which he had stated that “our own people, who have benefited” from his nephew’s murder, not Taliban, were involved in the suicide attack occurred in Peshawar last week.

“I never said that Taliban did not kill Haroon. I stated that those people, who got most advantage from the killing of Haroon, were involved. I don’t understand as to why we are being targeted,” said Mr Bilour.

He said that they had collected some information and security agencies would also have collected evidence about the perpetrators, who had planned the suicide attack in Yakatoot.

Haroon Bilour, who was ANP candidate for PK-78, was killed along with 21 others when suicide bomber attacked the corner meeting of ANP in Yakatoot last week. Around 30 people were wounded in the blast. Proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr Bilour said that his slain nephew needed security. He said that terrorists could easily target politicians. “The chief justice should not withdraw security from politicians,” he said. He expressed dissatisfaction over security arrangements for the elections.

He said that terrorists could not scare ANP workers through such acts and the party would resume its election campaign on Tuesday. He added that he had no objection if Haroon’s widow was interested in contesting the elections. He said that he would support his nephew’s widow in the by-election on PK-78.

Meanwhile, former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik visited Bilour House on Monday to condole the death of Haroon Bilour.

Talking to media after condolence, he said that Daesh, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and TTP were involved in terrorism. He said that presence of Daesh in the country was a reality as it had joined hands with TTP and LJ to carry out activities.

Mr Malik said that political parties should chalk out joint strategy to thwart the threat. He said that caretaker government should convene all-party conference before elections and seek opinion of political parties on that vital issue.

Published in Dawn, July 17th , 2018

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‘Shameful’: US lawmakers blast Trump over Putin summit

Donald Trump returned late on Monday from his European tour to face ire in Washington, where US intelligence officials and senior Republicans were denouncing the president as “shameful” and “disgraceful” after he ,refused to challenge Russian leader, Vladimir Putin over interference in American elections.

Republican Senator John McCain said Trump’s seeming acceptance of Putin’s denial was a historical “low point” for the US presidency and the Helsinki summit between the two leaders a “tragic mistake.”

“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” McCain said in a blistering statement.

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”

Taking direct issue with the president who appointed him, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said US spy agencies have been “clear” and “fact-based” in their assessment that Moscow interfered in the presidential race two years ago — an assessment that Trump refused to endorse in Helsinki.

Coats added that Russia remains behind “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”

Denial comes after 12 Russians indicted

Trump stunned US political allies and foes alike with his answer to a question about Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 election which saw him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Putin “just said it is not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said.
That came three days after the US Justice Department indicted 12 Russians for hacking Democratic Party computers, the latest in a series of actions taken by the US government since late 2016 in retribution for what intelligence agencies say was a broad plan to support Trump’s election campaign directed by Putin himself.

Yet Trump appeared to take Putin’s word in dismissing that conclusion. “I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Trump also appeared to embrace Putin’s offer to have Russian investigators work together with US prosecutors on the case of the 12 just indicted. “I think that’s an incredible offer,” he added.

Astonished Republicans and Democrats uniformly condemned Trump, with harsh criticism coming even from hosts on Fox News — a network normally friendly to the president.

“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. “There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” he said.

Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Trump’s answer on meddling “will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness.”

Bent on forging a personal bond with the Kremlin chief, Trump headed into the summit blaming the “stupidity” of his predecessors for plunging ties to their present low.

“This is shameful,” said Senator Jeff Flake, a fellow Republican and staunch critic of the president. “I never thought I would see the day when our American president would stand on the stage with the Russian president and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression.”

‘Green light to interfere’

The language used by Democrats was much harsher, including accusations of “treason.”

“For the president of the United States to side with President Putin against American law enforcement, American defence officials, and American intelligence agencies is thoughtless, dangerous, and weak,” said Chuck Schumer, the senior Democrat in the Senate.

Democratic California Representative Jimmy Gomez charged: “To side with Putin over US intelligence is disgusting; to fail to defend the US is on the verge of treason.”

Congressman Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump had given Putin “a green light to interfere in 2018.”

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy was blunter: “This entire trip has just been one giant middle finger from President Trump to his own country. Just jaw dropping,” he wrote on Twitter.

Coats’ statement was seen as an uncommonly brusque pushback by the US intelligence community against the White House.

Retired spy chiefs were more direct. Coat’s predecessor, James Clapper, called Trump’s acquiescence to Putin “an incredible capitulation,” while former CIA chief John Brennan labelled it “nothing short of treasonous.“

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Senators sound the alarm over banned outfits’ candidates contesting election

Members of the Senate on Monday lashed out at state authorities over their alleged failure to protect candidates and the public ahead of the July 25 elections, while taking aim at policies they said have “allowed” extremist ideologies to permeate society.

After the discussions concluded, the upper house prorogued its regular proceedings in view of the ,Mastung terrorist attack,, in which over 145 people were killed.

In a scathing speech, ex-chairman Senate and incumbent PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said the duty to protect citizens was the state’s while pointing out that the caretaker set-up was the existing state.

He also regretted that while the country’s economy and visa policy had been discussed in the last three meetings of the National Security Committee, the subject of law and order was never made part of the conversation.

“The interim prime minister and military leadership must have been aware of the ,National Counter Terrorism Authority’s (Nacta) report, that stated that leaders of all political parties face security threats,” he noted while wondering why the provinces were merely sent letters regarding the security situation.

He also criticised the absence of the caretaker interior minister from the session, and wondered whether the law minister would instead answer the house’s questions regarding the Mastung attack.

“Will the interior minister again say that those who were attacked were not on the list of those facing security threats?” he wondered.

Rabbani also complained that while orders to arrest political workers were “being implemented swiftly”, there was silence on the Mastung incident.

Referring to the participation of alleged members of banned outfits in the forthcoming elections, Rabbani said a new phenomenon was emerging on the model of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal.

Editorial: ,Silence on recent bloodbath shows that ‘mainstreaming’ of radicalised outfits is a doomed plan,

“The interior minister should reveal how [members of] banned organisations were allowed to contest the elections,” he said.

“How were the names of [members of] banned outfits ,removed from the Fourth Schedule,?”

In a reference to the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Rabbani observed that 150 members of the “party that staged the sit-in at Faizabad” are candidates for National Assembly seats. Members of Allahu Akbar Tehreek are also contesting, he noted.

“What will the atmosphere of the parliament look like if even 25 of such people are elected?” he questioned.

Rabbani also lamented that the state was still continuing on its past course, and warned that “engineered elections are ringing the alarm for the federation”.

Examine: ,Man of law: Raza Rabbani,

He complained that the PPP leadership is being hindered from campaigning.

“The Election Commission [of Pakistan] is sleeping,” he said, asking why no action was being taken even though the PPP had named the persons pressurising its candidates to switch allegiances.

‘Need to change priorities’

PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rasheed expressed similar concerns, saying candidates could not be expected to run peaceful election campaigns when “people from the Fourth Schedule are being allowed to contest the poll”.

“Be afraid of the day when those people will be present in this house” he warned.

Rasheed claimed that while 10,000 policemen were deployed for the arrest of Nawaz Sharif — “the man who had come to surrender with his daughter voluntarily” — those responsible for the Peshawar and Mastung attacks “are roaming freely”.

He claimed that 16,000 political workers were arrested during the crackdown ahead of Sharif’s arrival, 99 per cent of whom belong to the PML-N.

“What are the state’s priorities?” he asked, adding that the state has decided whom to suppress and whom to support.

“There is a need to change these priorities,” he warned.

“Where do our enemies find the person willing to wear a suicide jacket?” Rasheed asked. “Who has fostered this narrative? Was it Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto who made policies to bring such people into parliament?”

Addressing the state, he said enough blood has been spilt in the country and there was a need to “change your philosophy”.

“No citizen can claim to be safe even in their home. Perhaps the state’s priorities are somewhere and the people’s interests lie elsewhere.”

Senator Dr Ashok Kumar meanwhile criticised the interior minister and his ability to coordinate between the federal government and provinces.

“I have never seen the interior minsiter going to any of the provinces or meeting any of the provincial chief secretaries,” he claimed, adding that the minister is probably not even aware of who the home ministers of the provinces are.

“How will such an interior minister protect us?” he wondered.

‘Why are the suicide bombers not caught?’

Senator Kabeer Shahi in his remarks termed the Mastung attack the worst incident in Pakistan’s history.

Apparently criticising the lack of coverage given to it, he complained that the media in the country had been “sold off” to various parties.

Shahi also divulged that reports had been received of four suicide bombers who had entered Balochistan’s Kalat and Khuzdar areas.

“If there’s knowledge of the suicide bombers entering [the country], why are they not caught?” he asked.

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Zardari slams terrorism cases against PML-N members

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party leader and former president Asif Ali Zardari has condemned initiation of terrorism ,cases against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz workers, in Punjab, saying every citizen has the democratic right to hold rallies and public meetings.

“Political activists are the strength of democracy and democratic process,” Mr Zardari said in a statement issued by his party’s Central Media Office on Sunday.

The former president also expressed concerns over curbs on freedom of expression, saying his party would not tolerate such steps. He boasted that there was no political prisoner during the five years of the PPP government, from 2008 to 2013.

The top PPP leader issued the statement a day after it was reported that PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, his son Hamza Shahbaz, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and 50 other leaders of the party had been booked under terrorism and other charges for “inciting” the crowd to violate law in Lahore on Friday at the time of arrival of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz from London.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyam Aurangzeb, former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq and senior leader Javed Hashmi are among those booked.

PPP spokesman says only one party being allowed to run campaign smoothly

The FIR lodged with the Lohari police station accuses Shahbaz and former MNA Hamza of pelting the law enforcement agencies officials with stones allegedly with an intention to kill them. The main allegations against the PML-N leaders include damaging public buildings and properties, hurling threats and injuring the law enforcement agencies officials. They have also been accused of interfering in the official work, violating Section 144 of the PPC and the code of conduct issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the candidates, besides holding illegal assemblies and rallies.

According to Lahore police, a total of 12 FIRs have been lodged against the suspects, including the former prime minister and former Punjab chief minister.

Mr Zardari said it was the responsibility of the ECP to provide a conducive environment to all the political parties participating in the elections.

Without naming Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, who passed some objectionable remarks against the PML-N workers and leaders, Mr Zardari said that “bullet and bad-mouthing are the enemies of democracy”.

“One should not resort to foul language in politics. The people who are always bad-mouthing others cannot serve the nation,” he said.

The former president said that despite security concerns, PPP chairman and his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari could not be kept away from the people.

Condemning firing on rally of a PPP candidate in Dadu, he asked the Sindh government to immediately arrest the culprits.

In a separate statement, PPP spokesman Senator Moula Bakhsh Chandio criticised the caretaker government and the ECP for not taking adequate measures to provide security to election candidates in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in the country.

He said it was surprising that instead of providing security the caretaker government was asking the parties under threat to stop their election campaigns. “Those who are being attacked by the terrorists are being asked to stop campaigning,” the senator said, adding: “When terrorists issue us threats, the government asks us to stay indoors.”

“The caretaker governments must tell the nation, who is to decide about the elections? People of Pakistan or the terrorists?” he asked.

Without naming the PTI, Mr Chandio alleged that only one party was being allowed to run its election campaign smoothly. The other politicians were being warned against possibility of terrorist attacks.

“How it is possible that a political leader has the permission to hold public meetings wherever he wants and others are stopped? There is some nexus. It is the duty of the ECP and the caretaker government to find out this nexus,” said the senator in an apparent reference to the claim of the PPP and the PML-N that the PTI was being supported by the establishment.

Mr Chandio said if the ECP remained silent over the situation then questions would be raised about election results. He, however, said the PPP would continue its election campaign despite all the negative tactics.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2018

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Bilawal rejects ‘ban’ on PPP campaign in KP

BATKHELA: PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has rejected ban on election-related activities of his party by the provincial caretaker government, saying as citizens of the country running election campaign is their constitutional right.

He was addressing a press conference at the residence of PPP provincial chief Humayan Khan in Jolagram here on Sunday on the second day of his two-day visit to Malakand division.

Bilawal said that Malakand rally was postponed as mark of solidarity with people of Balochistan after the Mustang blast that killed 132 people. He said that despite postponement of the rally, he visited the area. He said thanked the people of Malakand for welcoming him warmly.

Hopes polls will be held according to schedule

He was accompanied by former senator Farhatullah Babar, Humayun Khan, former MPAs Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha, Sartaj Dawrankhel, Dina Naz and district nazim Syed Ahmed Ali Shah Bacha.

Expressing concerns over the growing incidents of terrorism in the country, Bilawal said that only PPP could create atmosphere in the parliament for taking action against terrorism. He said that PPP from the day first was insisting on implementation of National Action Plan (NAP). He said that the PPP government prepared an economic plan for the affected areas to cope with militancy.

He said that the previous PML-N government failed to enforce the plan during the last five years. He stressed the need for focusing on the progress and prosperity of the people of Malakand and tribal districts. He said that under 18th Amendment, rights should be given to smaller provinces.

Bilawal said that during enforcement of Fata reforms, PPP had written a letter to the prime minister to ask him to exempt people of Malakand from taxes for five years. He said that provision of gas, electricity and water etc to the backward areas were his top priorities.

He said that economic stability was the achievement of PPP. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto laid foundation of economic stability and development while Benazir Bhutto struggled to fulfil that mission, he added.

The PPP chairman said that Asif Ali Zardari had taken measure for the progress of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and gave identity to Pakhtun by renaming the province. He said that terrorists wanted to highjack freedom and democracy but they would not succeed in their nefarious designs. Bilawal said that PPP wanted fair and transparent elections on time. He said that he hoped that elections would be held according to the schedule.

The PPP chairman said that some political parties expressed reservations over partiality of the caretaker government. He said that PPP had submitted a motion in that regard and it would be discussed in Senate.

Bilawal said that PPP would take up the issue of ban on its election campaign in the party meeting. “We will devise a strategy after checking that the reports are true or not. If there is any such order by the government, it is not acceptable to us,” he said. He alleged that he was stopped in Multan and Ouch as some hidden hands wanted to keep PPP away from election campaign.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2018

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Fafen to monitor polls in all 272 NA constituencies

ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) — a coalition of over 50 leading civil society organisations — will deploy 19,000 observers across 272 National Assembly constituencies to monitor voting and counting processes at 85 per cent of the total polling stations to be set up by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the July 25 elections.

According to a press release issued on Sunday, Fafen will deploy 9,884 observers in Punjab, 4,225 in Sindh, 3,549 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (including tribal districts), 1,117 in Balochistan and 225 in Islamabad Capital Territory.

Fafen’s accredited, non-partisan and trained observers will observe the election day environment outside polling stations, incidents of electoral and political violence, if any, pre-polling preparations at polling stations, voting, vote counting and ECP forms-filling processes and barriers to women voting.

Fafen observers will be trained to gather required data and documents from assigned polling stations to enable the network to conduct parallel vote tabulations (PVTs) in up to 272 National Assembly constituencies. The PVTs will provide a comparison of a statistically-valid sample of polling stations’ vote-tallies gathered by the observers against official copies of the election forms.

Fafen will also observe vote consolidation process at the offices of returning officers through 272 consistency coordinators. Based on its observation, it will release its preliminary report on July 27.

Fafen has already been observing the pre-election phase through 272 constituency coordinators and 130 district coordinators to provide an assessment of political environment and implementation of election-related laws, rules and regulations since January. The purpose of this observation is to contribute to the evolution of an election process that is free, fair, transparent, accountable and in accordance with the requirements laid out in the Elections Act 2017.

Based on its observation, Fafen has produced periodic updates, information briefs and reports in an effort to provide objective, unbiased and evidence-based information about the quality of electoral and political processes to the ECP, political parties, media, civil society organisations and the citizens.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2018

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Govt planning to arrest all PML-N ‘hooligans’

LAHORE: As the government is reportedly planning to arrest all those Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders and workers nominated in cases of ‘hooliganism’ during a rally staged to welcome Nawaz Sharif on his return here from London on July 13, the party is not interested in securing pre-arrest bails or getting the cases quashed.

“We believe that the cases are bogus and registered by the authorities after seeing the response the Lahorites gave on the return of the former prime minister. We won’t move courts for obtaining pre-arrest bails for the leadership to expose how far the caretakers can go in their bias against the PML-N,” party’s central media coordinator Mohammad Mehdi told Dawn by phone on Sunday.

“The response to the welcome rally panicked the powers that mattered and they took it as a harbinger of electoral success of the PML-N on July 25. Through the cases they wish to test our nerves and we’re determined to pass this test like our Quaid,” he asserts.

At least 20 FIRs have been registered against the PML-N leadership. Prominent among them are former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, ex-prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-chief minister and party president Shahbaz Sharif, party chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, ex-ministers Amir Muqam, Saira Afzal Tarar, Pervaiz Malik, Rana Sanaullah, Rana Mashhood, Hamza Shahbaz, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Uzma Bukhari, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Kamran Michael, former lord mayor retired Col Mubashir, Bilal Yasin, Mujtaba Shujaur Rahman, Javed Hashmi, Tallal Chaudhry and Waheed Alam Khan.

There are more than 6,000 leaders and ‘unknown’ activists named in the FIRs.

PML-N Lawyers Forum senior vice-president Khawar Ikram Bhatti says they haven’t yet received any instructions from the party to apply for pre-arrest bails of the main leadership.

Terming the caretaker set-up’s Friday action worse than what had been seen under any martial law, he laments that a non-violent person like Raja Zafarul Haq has also been booked under terrorism charges.

In reply to a question, Mr Bhatti says that of 460 union council level leaders and active workers detained before the rally under MPO-3, possessing “illegal” arms, and other laws, at least 141 have been released on the Lahore High Court orders, while the rest will hopefully be set free in a couple of days.

Punjab Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam said indiscriminate action was taken against the people for violating the code of conduct issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) across the province.

He said police had registered 130 cases against 17,606 persons in the province during the last four days and 270 of them had been arrested. Lahore police vowed to take across-the-board action against the nominated and unidentified people involved in attacking security officials and damaging public and private properties.

The government had lodged 12 FIRs with different police stations of the city under terrorism and other charges, including inciting PML-N workers, pelting stones, violating Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the ECP code of conduct, besides holding illegal assemblies and rallies.

Out of the 12 FIRs, three each were registered in the Civil Lines and Cantonment divisions and two each in City, Saddar and Iqbal Town divisions. Senior Superintendent of Police (investigation) Awais Malik told Dawn that they had earlier arrested 11 suspects and produced them before the court to get their remand.

He said they had contacted the Safe City Authority to get CCTV footage of all the spots where PML-N workers had attacked police officials. He said the CCTV footage would be sent to the National Database and Registration Authority to identify the attackers.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2018

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Leaders of all major parties under threat, Nacta tells ECP

ISLAMABAD: National Coun­ter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) chief Dr Suleman Ahmad on Saturday informed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that there were serious security threats to political leaders and electoral candidates and revealed that the leaders of almost all major political parties faced the risk of being attacked.

Briefing the ECP about security threats to the political leadership and candidates and the overall security situation across the country, he said suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) might be used by terrorists, informed sources told Dawn.

Editorial: ,Security, intelligence gathering must improve to avoid more campaign carnage,

The briefing took place days after a senior official named six politicians under threat, followed by three back-to-back terrorist attacks in four days — two in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one in Balochistan. What surprised many was the fact that the name of former KP chief minister Akram Durrani (of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl), who survived an attack on his convoy on Friday, had been on the list of leaders under threat. Nacta had also issued a specific terror alert.

Election commission says poll process will continue

The other leaders under threat include Pak­istan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan, Awami National Party leaders Asfandyar Wali Khan and Ameer Haider Hoti, Qaumi Watan Party head Aftab Sherpao and banned outfit Jamaatud Dawa (Jud) chief Hafiz Saeed’s son Talha Saeed. Separately, the Senate’s standing committee on interior affairs had also been told that the senior leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was also under threat.

The briefing session was held in the chambers of Chief Election Commissioner Justice retired Sardar Muhammad Raza and was attended by other members and senior officials of the commission. The national coordinator of Nacta also explained how the authority gathered information on threats and the mechanism to promptly disseminate the information to the federal and provincial governments and law enforcement agencies.

The ECP vowed to hold elections on time and declared that the electoral process will continue despite terror threats. It made it clear that it would neither let the polls be delayed, nor would brook any hindrance in its way.

The ECP underlined the need to tighten security across the country and create a peaceful environment for the elections. He said the provincial governments must act swiftly to provide security to political leaders and candidates. It directed the provincial governments to review the security situation in coordination with relevant institutions to obviate the recurrence of terrorist incidents in future.

It also advised political parties and candidates to cooperate with the administration and timely share information about their activities in the interest of their own security.

A senior ECP official told Dawn that based on past experiences the ECP had already been taking up the issue of security at the highest level. He referred to a meeting held early last month where the ECP’s secretary had given a briefing at a meeting held with caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk in the chair, which was also attended by all four chief ministers, chief secretaries and inspectors general of police.

Power supply on 25th Separately, the ECP has also directed the Ministry of Energy to ensure uninterrupted supply of power on election day till completion of the vote count process (July 25 and night between July 25 and 26).

A letter written to the energy secretary on behalf of the Commission pointed out that under the schedule for polls to the National and Provincial Assemblies were to take place on July 25 and the polling will continue from 8am to 6pm. Immediately after polling will end, the process of counting votes will be held in the presence of the candidates or their authorised polling agents. “For accomplishment of this task satisfactorily, uninterrupted power supply is essential till the completion of the counting process on the polling day,” the letter reads.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2018

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Shahbaz, Abbasi among top PML-N leaders booked

LAHORE: The Punjab government has booked PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, his son Hamza, former prime minister Khaqan Abbasi and 50 other leaders of the party under terrorism and other charges ,for “inciting” the crowd to violate law,.

PML-N spokesperson Ms Marriyum Aurangzeb, former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq and senior leader Javed Hashmi are also among those booked.

The FIR lodged with Lohari police station accuses Shahbaz and former MNA Hamza of pelting the law enforcement agencies officials with stones allegedly with an intention to kill them and hurling life threats.

Cases also against Hamza, Hashmi

The main allegations against the PML-N leaders include damaging public buildings and properties, hurling threats and injuring the law enforcement agencies officials.

They were also accused of interfering in the official work, violating Section 144 of PPC and the code of conduct issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the candidates, besides holding illegal assemblies and rallies.

Lahore police operations wing DIG Shahzad Akbar confirmed to Dawn that a total of 12 FIRs had been lodged against the suspects, including the former prime minister and former Punjab chief minister.

Of them, he said, three each were registered in Civil Lines and Cantonment divisions and two each in City, Saddar and Iqbal Town divisions. All the FIRs carried terrorism charges against the PML-N senior leadership and workers, he added.

“The suspects attacked the police personnel who were present there to provide them security, injured our 20 cops, four Rangers personnel, damaged public property and hurled serious threats at the officials of the law enforcement agencies”, the DIG said.

Denying the allegations of abuse of powers, Mr Shahzad said, the police remained largely on defence line when the suspects, who were equipped with clubs, attacked them in groups at various places in the city.

In an FIR registered with Lohari police station, the government nominated Shahbaz Sharif, his son Hamza and Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, besides 16 other senior leaders, including some former federal ministers. They included Saira Afzal Tarrar, Azma Bukhari, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Raja Zafarul Haq, Kamran Michael, former lord mayor retired Col Mubashir, Bilal Yasin, Mujtaba Shujaur Rahman, Javed Hashmi, Talal Chaudhry, Waheed Alam Khan, etc.

Besides terrorism charges, the police also included 10 sections of the PPC in the FIRs, including section 324, for injuring the policemen.

As per the FIR, these suspects resorted to violence and damaged the containers placed on the road by the law enforcement agencies. It says Mr Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza while leading the rallies hurled serious threats at the policemen and other government employees when they tried to stop them.

In Sherakot police station, the FIR was lodged against PML-N leader Rana Mashhood Ahmad, his brother Rana Asad Ahmad and 15 local leaders of the party, besides 150 unidentified men.

An FIR was also lodged with Nawab Town police station against the party leaders including Saifullah Khokhar, Malik Shafi Khokhar, Malik Afzal Khokhar, Irfan Khokhar and 500 party workers and supporters.

Township police nominated 19 party leaders, including PML-N candidate for NA-133 Pervez Malik, besides 250 party workers for damaging public properties and taking out a rally without seeking permission from the relevant authorities.

The PML-N former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa MNA Amir Muqam, ex-MPAs from Punjab Yasin Sohal, Mian Naseer and many other leaders were booked by the South Cantonment police, besides over 200 party workers.

FAISALABAD: Hundreds of workers and leaders of the PML-N, including former law minister Rana Sanaullah and ex-state minister for textile industry Akram Ansari, were booked on charges of clashing with police, threatening them and violating Section 144.

Cases were registered with nine police stations including Sahianwala, Chak Jhumra, Nishatabad, Samanabad, Civil Lines, Raza Abad, Ghulam Mohammadabad, Mansoorabad and Sargodha Road, under 16-MPO and sections 186, 188, 341 and 353 of the PPC with no arrest.

Those booked also included PML-N local leader and former vice-chairman of the Faisalabad Water and Sanitation Agency Mian Irfan Mannan, Hamid Rasheed, Munne Khan, Ahsan Afzal (son of former MNA Rana Afzal), former MPAs Faqir Hussain Dogar, Malik Mohammad Nawaz and Azaad Ali Tabassum.

Some union council chairmen were also booked by the police.

The police also impounded the vehicles left on roads by the drivers to avoid arrest.

Similarly, Sahianwala police also booked Mian Irfan Mannan and more than 130 others under 16-MPO, and various sections of the PPC with no arrest.

Police said the suspects had been warned of threats to the life of political leadership and violation of election code of conduct, but they ignored such warnings.

SAHIWAL: All arrested workers and office-bearers of the PML-N were granted bails, while four ex-parliamentarian of the party secured interim bails from the court of Civil Judge Ijaz Ahmed.

As many as 50 office-bearers, ex-parliamentarians and activists were booked by Ghala Mandi police under 16 MPO and PPC’s sections 506, 186, 341, 147, 148 and 149 on Friday night for creating law and order situation.

Those booked included Malik Nadeem Kamran, Malik Arshad, Pir Imran Shah, Tufail Jutt, the PML-N candidates for PP-197, PP-198, NA-147 and NA-149, respectively.

Party’s district secretary general Rao Nazir Farid was also arrested, along with 36 workers during the Friday crackdown.

The Ghala Mandi police could not arrest any of the PML-N parliamentarians and candidates against whom cases were registered.

As per police sources, PML-N candidate Tufail Jutt, after being injured in baton charge returned to Chichawatni, while Malik Arshad, Nadeem Kamran and Pir Imran Shah managed to escape and reached Lahore to join party rallies there.

The police, however, arrested Rao Nazir Farid and 36 others and kept them in the lock-up.

Mr Faird later confirmed that all the arrested party workers and office-bearers were granted bails.

(Muhammad Saleem from Faisalabad and Shafiq Butt from Sahiwal also contributed)

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2018

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MQM-P unveils election manifesto, proposes creation of new provinces

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui on Saturday announced the party’s manifesto for the upcoming general elections.

The manifesto titled “Empowered Pakistan” focuses on the devolution of power from central level to local bodies and proposes the creation of new provinces.

The complete version can be read ,here,.

Key points:

  • Devolution of power

  • Empowerment of local bodies

  • Creation of new administrative units

  • Transforming traditional democracy into participatory democracy

  • Establishing unity of command

  • Curbing money laundering and adopting realistic economic goals

  • Easy access to basic facilities

New administrative units within provinces

MQM-P proposes the creation of new provinces or “administration units” within Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan “for delivery of effective services to the people and more importantly for a balance[d] growth of all regions simultaneously”.

The newly released manifesto also repeats the party’s core demand for the empowerment of local body governments.

While announcing the key points of the manifesto, Siddiqui said Pakistan was in dire need of good governance and claimed that decentralisation of power will improve the country’s system.

“The demand [for devolution of power] is in accordance with the Constitution,” Siddiqui said and referred to ,Article 140 of the Constitution,, that concerns the local government. According to Article 140, all “political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority” must be devolved to elected representatives of local governments.

MQM-P proposes “full empowerment” of representatives of local bodies and to abolish the “unnatural six districts of Karachi” thus restoring the city to its “fully autonomous metropolitan corporation” status.

Change in traditional democracy

The party expresses its belief that the country’s “traditional democracy” should be transformed into “participatory democracy”, in order to end discriminatory allocation of distribution funds, recruitment of candidates without merit, postings and transfers of “blue-eyed boys [of those in power] against key jobs” etc.

To ensure that power is more evenly distributed, the party proposes a change in electoral laws to make them more inclusive, elimination of quota system, increase in forums for youth and women at tehsil level to ensure their participation etc.

The MQM-P’s manifesto also proposes provision and easy access to basic facilities like health and education for the masses.

Economic challenges and proposals

The manifesto also addresses the economic challenges being faced by the country, including Pakistan’s placement on Financial Action Task Force’s ‘grey list’.

It proposes measures to ensure an improvement in the economy in coming years, including increased checks and balances on “agents who are helping the unscrupulous big businesses to indulge in money laundering”. It urges future authorities to stop setting “artificial targets ” for growth and instead adopt a “pragmatic approach” to “ease the situation”.

The party also calls for a reduction in federal government’s spending, “drastic cuts” in the import of non-essential or luxury goods. Strengthening public sector enterprises like PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills etc. is also included in the party’s recommendations.

Peace and policing

In order to avoid confusion and strengthen the policing system, MQM-P manifesto proposes that the state establishes a “unity of command”, under which the police and Sindh Rangers will be answerable to the provincial government.

The manifesto also calls for prison reforms and an upgrade in police infrastructure.

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Bilawal suspends his countrywide political activities

After his party was forced to scrap its planned rallies in Peshawar and Malakand due to mounting security threats, and in solidarity with the victims of Mastung, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Saturday suspended his party’s political activities all over Pakistan.

With Bilawal in KP on a two-day visit, the PPP had planned to stage public gatherings in Peshawar but especially Malakand — a district it has ,historically done well in, and whose NA-9 constituency the Bhutto scion will be contesting the July 25 polls on.

Bilawal was ,scheduled to leave Peshawar for Malakand, this morning, and lead a rally from Sakhakot to Batkhela before addressing a public meeting at Zafar Park in the evening.

However, KP and the neighbouring Balochistan have been hit by three major terrorist attacks this week, together claiming the lives of around 150 people.

As a result, KP’s district administration today refused to grant PPP permission to go ahead with its planned events, and advised Bilawal to remain within cantonment areas.

The party’s KP chapter secretary information, Senator Rubina Khalid, told DawnNewsTV that marathon discussions were held with the local administration and police but the permission was not granted.

Bilawal then suspended his political activities, although he said he would still go to his constituencies and meet his party’s local leadership.

Devastated by continued attacks on innocent Pakistanis. loss of shaheed Siraj Raisani & 120 innocent people in Mastung cannot be in vain must insure this mindset is defeated. Have suspended my political activities in solidarity.

— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) ,July 14, 2018,

Later on, in a press conference, announcing his decision to suspend political activities, Bilawal expressed grief over the Mastung tragedy and said he could not expose his party’s workers to a similar threat.

“120 people are dead in Balochistan; each one of them have families. What would they think when they see me chanting slogans in rallies. I could never do that,” he said.

Bilawal also complained of not getting a level playing field, saying: “ANP and BAP can’t engage freely in political activities. The PPP is not getting a level playing field either. Not only have we been impeded at various places but my workers have also been pressurised into switching loyalties.

“I have not been given proper media coverage, and I have been repeatedly told to remain within the cantonment areas. How can I campaign in this situation?” he asked.

“This is pre-poll rigging and it would make the results of the elections controversial. But despite all this, we are in the electoral race and will contest the polls.”

Regarding the recent terror attacks, Bilawal urged all the stakeholders to “be on the same page” to implement the National Action Plan.

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Barbs fly in Senate over Imran’s remarks

ISLAMABAD: Lawma­kers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) traded barbs in the Senate as members of various political parties continued to speak up against what they described as the denial of a level playing field for all candidates and the absence of adequate security for political leaders and candidates who faced threats to their lives.

Senator Saadia Abbasi, sister of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, took strong exception to PTI chief ,Imran Khan’s remarks,: “those greeting Nawaz Sharif are donkeys”.

She said that she would be shortly leaving for Lahore to greet PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, and added that 36 senators of the PML-N had already left for Lahore. “Are there 37 donkeys sitting in this House?” she asked, adding: “Is this the language of politicians?”

PTI’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Nauman Wazir retorted saying, what else should those greeting a convicted criminal be called. “Only corrupt people will support corrupt leaders,” he remarked.

He said it was inappropriate to glorify criminal behaviour in Pakistan. “This is what you are teaching to the young generations of Pakistan,” he remarked.

Mr Wazir also criticised Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPP) chief Asif Ali Zardari for stating in a TV show that the National Accountability Bureau could not dare hold an inquiry against him. Insisting that NAB had evidence of money laundering against Mr Zardari, he asked the Supreme Court registrar to explain why the investigation process against him had been stopped.

He deplored the surge in terrorism ahead of general elections and said it would continue to happen unless a plan was chalked out and implemented. “For now apparently there is no plan,” he remarked.

He said members of proscribed organisations were contesting elections and noted that those who had cleared them should be taken to task.

Leader of the opposition in the Senate Sherry Rehman criticised both the PTI and PML-N, saying that one party abused parliament while the other belittled it. She, however, spoke up against the arrests of PML-N activists ahead of Mr Sharif’s return to Pakistan.

She said Najaf Mirza who had tortured Asif Ali Zardari in jail was heading a joint investigation team against him. She sought an apology from caretaker Information Minister Barrister Ali Zafar for his remarks that the Senate had no mandate to oversee the Election Commission. She insisted that the Senate had the powers to oversee elections, election processes and the ECP, and asked the minister to take back his words.

Chief of the National Party Mir Hasil Bizenjo in his speech alleged that the caretakers had come with an agenda to rig the elections. “They are part and parcel of the crime being committed,” he said.

He added that those who had refused to accept dictates had to face NAB, while a certain political party had been given a complete walkover. He said there was a plan to sideline the entire political leadership to pave the way for the creation of a government of their choice.

Barrister Saif of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, while referring to a series of terrorist attacks, said that such incidents took place prior to elections held in the country every time, and added that no lessons had been learnt from this history. He regretted that an institutional mechanism for agencies could not be developed.

Former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani regretted that 500 activists of a party had been arrested overnight and 150 containers had been placed at various points, but nothing effective could be done to improve the security environment.

He said some 200 people belonging to banned outfits were contesting elections. He said these outlawed organisations had not changed their stance with regard to violence and preservation of democracy.

He also referred to reports of a meeting between intelligence chiefs of Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran reportedly held in Islamabad and said the foreign office had expressed its ignorance over the meeting. “Where is the civilian government,” he asked.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2018

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378 people arrested in Lahore in run-up to Nawaz, Maryam’s return

Police said 378 people were arrested in Lahore on Friday as the city braces for the arrival of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who are returning to Pakistan to face jail time and file an appeal against the Avenfield corruption reference verdict which sentenced the father-daughter duo to 10 years and seven years in prison respectively.

Even as PML-N workers, responding to their leaders’ calls to show up and demonstrate their support for Nawaz and Maryam, have started assembling near Lahore’s Lohari Gate and Allama Iqbal International Airport, 141 people have been arrested under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance 1960, whereas 237 have been arrested under the Elections Act 2017.

No well-known political figure has been arrested. A number of the detainees are reportedly union council chairman, vice chairmen and PML-N councillors.

However, Punjab’s caretaker ministers, accompanied by Home Minister Shaukat Javed, stated that none of the 124 people arrested in Lahore are political leaders or officials.

According to IG Punjab Kaleem Imam “the police will not be detaining the arrested party workers”.

“We have no intention of holding anyone in custody. Senior party leaders including Shahbaz Sharif had serious threats of potential terrorism against them,” he said.

The senior official said that in a meeting it had been decided that the workers would been taken into custody to maintain law and order. “Shahbaz Sharif is in constant touch with me,” he added.

The Lahore High Court today 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 reaches Lohari Gate

Supporters of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif hold posters of him and chant slogans as they gather at Lohari Gate, where Shahbaz Sharif will lead a rally towards the airport ahead of the Nawaz's arrival. ? AFP

Supporters of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif hold posters of him and chant slogans as they gather at Lohari Gate, where Shahbaz Sharif will lead a rally towards the airport ahead of the Nawaz’s arrival. ? AFP

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif’s caravan is now at Lohari Gate, where his son Hamza had reached earlier today, and is expected to lead the main rally to the airport to accord his brother and PML-N supremo Nawaz a warm welcome.

“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.

On-ground reports suggest that roads leading to the Motorway, Babu Sabu toll plaza, Raiwind, Ravi toll plaza and Thokar Niaz Baig have been blocked by the police.

Heavy contingents of police have been deployed at all entry points to the city.

Police officers are deployed at Lahore airport. ? AP

Police officers are deployed at Lahore airport. ? AP

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.

During today’s press conference, the caretaker ministers said that roads in the city had been blocked because of Jumma prayers and everything had returned to normalcy soon thereafter.

“Containers will be placed to block roads only if the rally turns violent,” Home Minister Javed had said, adding that cellphone services had been suspended because of the threat of a terrorist attack.

“Threat alerts are being brought to the notice of political leaders and they are being asked to be careful about the routes they take,” the home minister said.

Traffic plan for Lahore

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.

Unrest in other cities

Police have arrested former MPA Jaffer Ali and NA-103 candidate Ali Gohar and nearly 50 other PML-N workers from Faisalabad.

Faisalabad’s Kamalpur Interchange, Sargodha Road, Deputy Wala interchange, Sahianwala Interchange,
Aminpur Interchange and the Canal Road Expressway have all been blocked and there is no way for commuters to move in and out of the city.

Containers are blocking off roads and police have been deployed at all exits from the city.

Separately, law enforcement personnel have dispersed a PML-N protest demonstration and arrested around 35 PML-N workers in Sahiwal.

District president PML-N Malik Nadeem Kamran and various local party leaders were baton-charged by the police at Supreme House near the Lahore-Sahiwal motorway. Former MPA Muhammad Tufail Jutt was also beaten up by the police.

Sahiwal’s PML-N leadership and election candidates have reached Lahore after they managed to dodge the police, who have blocked roads surrounding the Sahiwal by-pass. The candidates that have reached Lahore include Malik Nadeem Kamran, Pir Imran Shah Wali, Malik Arshad and Shah Muneer Azhar.

All roads leading in and out of Sialkot have been blocked. Police and Rangers diverted Khawaja Asif’s convoy out of Sialkot. On-ground reports suggest that the PML-N leader then took a route through rural areas to reach Lahore for the planned rally.

DawnNewsTV reported that PML-N workers in Gujrat were baton-charged by police.

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As election violence rises, ECP seeks answers from Nacta

With terrorist incidents ,experiencing an upsurge, ahead of the July 25 countrywide polls, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday summoned officials of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) to deliver a briefing over the security threats faced by election candidates.

The commission directed Nacta’s national coordinator to appear before it on Saturday and provide a detailed briefing to the chief election commissioner (CEC) over security threats being faced by politicians and candidates, an ECP spokesman said.

Issuing the order, CEC Sardar Muhammad Raza strongly condemned an ,attack, near the convoy of former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Akram Khan Durrani in Bannu earlier in the day. He sought a report into the incident from the caretaker chief minister, inspector general of police and chief secretary of KP.

Hours after the Nacta briefing was called, a suicide bomber ,targeted a political gathering organised by Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, in Balochistan’s Mastung district.

As per latest reports, at least 85 people, including Raisani, were killed in the attack. More than 150 were injured. The militant Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Editorial: ,Violence on the campaign trail,

According to the ECP spokesman, the CEC has directed all federal and provincial governments to take steps to create a peaceful and favourable atmosphere for the elections and provide security to all candidates without any discrimination.

Referring to the Bannu incident, the CEC was quoted as saying: “The KP government should explain why adequate security steps were not taken despite repeated instructions from the ECP to ensure candidates’ security.”

The blast targeting Durrani was the third major attack in KP during electioneering, just days ahead of the general election 2018. On Monday, Awami National Party (ANP) candidate from Peshawar’s PK-78 Haroon Bilour, and 19 others, were ,killed in a suicide blast,.

The attack was claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which had also claimed responsibility for 2012 attack that killed Haroon’s father, Bashir Bilour.

Last night (Thusday), at least two people were ,injured in a blast, near the election office of Balochistan Awami Party in Khuzdar

Earlier this month, an attack on a PTI candidate’s office in North Waziristan’s Razmak tehsil had injured 10.

Meanwhile, the commission has declared more than 17,000 polling stations in the country as extremely sensitive.

According to the ECP, a total of 5,487 polling stations have been declared in Punjab and Islamabad, 5,878 polling stations in Sindh, 3,874 in KP and 1,768 in Balochistan.

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Nawaz, Maryam reach Abu Dhabi, urge followers to show support

Former prime minister and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz stopped over in Abu Dhabi on Friday on their way to Pakistan from London.

In a video message, tweeted by Maryam, the former premier urged his followers to stand with him and “change the fate of the country”.

“The country is at a critical juncture right now,” said Nawaz. “I have done what I could. I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years [in prison] and I will be taken to a jail cell straight away. But I want the Pakistani nation to know that I am doing this for you.”

نواز شریف نے اپنا فرض نبھا دیا۔ اب آپ کی باری ہے ! ,pic.twitter.com/TqG2evM0wn,

— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) ,July 13, 2018,

Nawaz and Maryam are expected to land at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport at 6.15 PM on Friday via Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways flight EY243.

Mayam took to Twitter to post pictures of the scenes in London before their departure. In one picture, the father and daughter are seen bidding a teary farewell to Kulsoom Nawaz, who is said to be comatose and admitted at a London hospital.

Told my kids to be brave in the face of oppression. But kids will still be kids. Goodbyes are hard, even for the grownups. ,pic.twitter.com/ge17Al5gfY,

— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) ,July 12, 2018,

.

بہادر باپ کی بہادر بیٹی اس قوم کے مستقبل ک جنگ لڑنے آرہی ہے ,#حاضر_وطن_کی_خاطر, ,pic.twitter.com/LN6hnbPh2d,

— ZM (@ZeshanMalick) ,July 12, 2018,

LION HEART !!! ,pic.twitter.com/KFLb2B9VAo,

— Suleman Sharif (@SulemanSharif82) ,July 12, 2018,

,#حاضر_وطن_کی_خاطر, ,pic.twitter.com/uH1SrAzzJn,

— Faisal Ranjha (@ranjha001) ,July 12, 2018,

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.

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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PML-N main rally to start from Lohari Gate

LAHORE: The PML-N has chosen the Lohari Gate to kick off its rally to the airport to accord a warm welcome to the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam who are ,returning from London, on Friday (today) because of its historic importance.

PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif has reportedly finalised the venue after consulting the party Quaid (Nawaz Shairf) and other leaders.

“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.

Mr Mehdi expressed the hope that police would not pounce on the rally on someone’s order as the participants would remain peaceful. “Why Section 144 has been imposed in Lahore. PTI chairman on Thursday held a public meeting in Lahore. Was it not a violation of Section 144. It appears that the ban applies only to those raising the slogan of ‘give respect to the vote’,” he said.

The PML-N has chalked out a thorough plan in anticipation of police action against the rally. According to a party insider, all party ticket holders in Lahore had been directed to join in the rally at different points along with the workers from their constituencies.

“Most of the workers have gone underground who will appear on the city roads on Friday. In case police stop the rally at Lohari the workers from other parts of Lahore are directed to reach the airport at any cost,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018

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PPP, PML-N come closer on issue of ‘interference’ in polls

ISLAMABAD: The two major political parties and arch-rivals of the past — Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) — seem to be coming closer on some issues ahead of the general elections as they lashed out at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the caretaker government on Thursday for their alleged failure to provide a level playing field to the parties.

Also read: ,Elections already stand rigged, alleges PPP’s ex-senator,

Speaking on “matters of public importance” in the Senate, a majority of the members questioned the “larger role” given to the army in the conduct of elections and asked Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to summon the chief election commissioner and the ECP secretary before the Committee of the Whole House to seek an explanation over the commission’s “failure” to play its constitutional role in ensuring the elections in a transparent manner.

Earlier, the former ruling PML-N had been making a hue and cry over the role of the institutions, particularly the judiciary, ECP and National Accountability Bureau (NAB), but now the PPP has also joined its voice with the former on the floor of the Senate, only days after the Federal Investigation Agency summoned former president Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in a “fake bank accounts” case.

The PPP senators were enraged over the decision of the caretaker government to place the names of Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur on the Exit Control List (ECL). They said caretaker Interior Minister Muhammad Azam Khan had stated on the floor of the house that the names of the PPP leaders had been placed on the ECL on the orders of the Supreme Court whereas the apex court had clarified that it had not issued any such directive. Former interior minister Rehman Malik demanded an apology from those who had “defamed” the party leadership.

Senators lambaste ECP, caretaker govt for not playing constitutional role

The senators also expressed concern over the deteriorating law and order situation and criticised the caretaker government for “not providing security to the election candidates”.

The senators also accused NAB of becoming a tool in the hands of the “establishment”.

PPP stalwart and former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani said the July 25 elections had already become “controversial due to meddling” by an institution and “failure” of the ECP to play its constitutional role. He said the PPP had even named the army’s colonels and majors interfering in the poll process. He alleged that the candidates were being pressurised to either change their parties or withdraw from the race.

“Where is the defence minister? He should come and explain this interference,” he said, adding that ECP officials should be called before the house to explain as to what role it had assigned to the army and what powers it had given to the troops.

“NAB can only see two parties. The third one is invisible to it. Are the lotas (turncoats) who had switched allegiance and joined a different party above blame now? Why are they not being held accountable?” he asked.

Leader of the Opposition Sherry Rehman alleged that the PPP was being stopped from running its election campaign. She regretted that the party was facing a complete media blackout. The media was facing the worst kind of censorship and they had earlier seen such tactics only during the military rule of Gen Ziaul Haq, she added.

Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party termed the July 25 elections “a fight between the political parties and the establishment”.

“The ECP and all other institutions have become dysfunctional. Practically, there is a martial law in the country. Media is facing worst censorship. All the institutions are being forced to seek direction from the GHQ,” he said, adding that the country was being treated like an “occupied state”.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Shibli Faraz rejected the allegations that his party was being supported by the establishment and said that an impression was being created that the ECP was not providing a level playing field. He said the two parties [PML-N and PPP] had once again joined hands as they knew that their era was about to be over.

Mr Faraz claimed that the PTI would form the government after the July 25 elections and said that if the state institutions were not functioning properly then these two parties were responsible for it as they had been in power for the last 10 years.

PML-N’s Mussadiq Malik expressed concern over the reports of a large number of arrests of the party workers in various parts of the country. He alleged that a new alliance had been formed in Sindh.

“There are ‘jeeps’ in the elections which are hitting democracy”, he said in an apparent reference to the reports that a number of independents contesting the election on the symbol of “jeep” are backed by the establishment.

Prof Sajid Mir of the Jamiat Ahle Hadith, who had been elected senator on a PML-N ticket, asked the parties to unite against interference of one “institution”.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018

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