Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

Emirati prince flees to Qatar seeking asylum, criticises Abu Dhabi

An Emirati prince is seeking asylum in Qatar after fleeing the UAE saying he feared for his life because of a dispute with the rulers of oil-rich Abu Dhabi, ,The New York Times reported, on Sunday.

Sheikh Rashid bin Hamad al-Sharqi, 31, is the second son of the emir of Fujairah, one of the seven monarchies making up the United Arab Emirates. He arrived in Doha on May 16, the report said.

Sheikh Rashid bin Hamad Al Sharqi, right, in Fujairah in March. — Photo courtesy AFP via NYT

Sheikh Rashid bin Hamad Al Sharqi, right, in Fujairah in March. — Photo courtesy AFP via NYT

Abu Dhabi is the capital and richest emirate of the UAE.

Speaking to the The New York Times, Sheikh Rashid accused Emirati rulers of blackmail and money laundering but did not offer evidence to back up his claims.

He also spoke of tensions within Emirati elites over the UAE’s commitment of troops in the war in Yemen.

Sheikh Rashid said there had been more UAE war deaths than the 100 that have been reported publicly and said “there have been more deaths from Fujairah than anywhere else”.

An Emirati official contacted by AFP declined to comment, but UAE minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash made a veiled reference on Twitter to “conspiracy against this or that ruling family by those who lack courage and instead resort to leaks and interviews”.

Along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates ,cut all ties with Qatar in June 2017,, accusing Doha of supporting Islamist groups and being too close to Gulf archrival Iran.

Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas, denies the accusations.

The New York Times report said that Sheikh Rashid appeared to be the first time in the UAE’s nearly 47-year history that a member of one of its seven royal families had publicly criticised its rulers.

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IHC allows interior ministry to proceed with placing Zulfi Bukhari’s name on ECL

ISLAMABAD: Although it removed Syed Zufikar Abbas Bukhari – ,better known as Zulfi Bukhari, – from the interior ministry’s blacklist, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has allowed the ministry to proceed with the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) request to place Mr Bukhari on the exit control list (ECL).

Mr Bukhari is a close aide to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, and is currently in charge of Mr Khan’s campaign in NA-53.

Mr Bukhari was stopped by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at Nur Khan Airbase while accompanying Mr Khan to Saudi Arabia because his name was on the interior ministry blacklist. However, the ministry allowed him to travel abroad minutes later.

Court removed Bukhari from ministry’s blacklist last week

Upon his return, Mr Bukhari filed a petition before the IHC seeking the removal of his name from the blacklist.

After hearing from NAB, the ministry and the FIA, the IHC accept Mr Bukhari’s petition and directed the ministry to remove him from the blacklist last week.

The court was informed by the ministry that Mr Bukhari was placed on the blacklist as a precautionary measure in response to a request from NAB to include his name on the ECL, because the subcommittee tasked with approving the inclusion of names in the ECL was dysfunctional at the time the request was sent.

The IHC order discussed in detail the concept of placing a citizen on the blacklist.

“The provision for placing the name of a person on the ‘blacklist’ is provided in the Passport and Visa Manual, 2006, which apparently, has no statutory backing and is a Manual created by the Executive Authority and operates as SOP for respondent No.2 (FIA),” the order stated.

“The bare perusal of referred clause shows that the decision to place the name of any citizen of Pakistan on ‘blacklist’ is taken by the passport issuing authority and it has to be provided full particulars of the referred person along with reasons for his blacklisting.”

The court observed that NAB is conducting an inquiry against Mr Bukhari due to allegations that he, in connivance with others, had established offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands.

It was on this basis that NAB asked the interior ministry to place his name on the ECL.

The court has allowed the ministry to take the necessary steps to place Mr Bukhari on the ECL, stating: “It is needless to observe that [the interior ministry] shall be at liberty to take appropriate action in accordance with law on the application of [NAB] for placing the name of petitioner on Exit Control List.”

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2018

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IHC orders removal of Zulfi Bukhari’s name from blacklist

ISLAMABAD: Justice Aamer Farooq of the Islamabad High Court on Friday ordered removal of the name of Zulfi Bukhari, a close friend of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, from the blacklist of the interior ministry, enabling him to travel abroad without any constraint.

The IHC judge ,accepted the petition, filed by Syed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari aka Zulfi Bukhari, following the June 11 incident when he was briefly stopped from boarding a chartered flight at the Noor Khan Airbase from where he wanted to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah along with Imran Khan, his wife, Aleem Khan and others.

Immigration officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had stopped Mr Bukhari from boarding the plane after detecting through the integrated border management system (IBMS) that his name was included in the interior ministry’s blacklist. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had requested the ministry to ,place his name on the no-fly list,.

Mr Bukhari, a British national, was later permitted to travel.

Matter made headlines last month when PTI chief’s friend was first stopped at airport and then allowed to fly abroad

Justice Farooq had on July 3 reserved the judgement on the petition after hearing arguments of Mr Bukhari’s counsel, Deputy Attorney General Khaliq Thind and Additional Deputy Prosecutor General of NAB Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi.

Arguing before the court, Mr Abbasi said the petition was not maintainable since Mr Bukhari was seeking relief against the directive of NAB. He said that NAB had asked the interior ministry to put Mr Bukhari’s name on the ECL (Exit Control List), but the ministry had put him on the blacklist instead.

The deputy attorney general argued that the interior ministry had evolved a mechanism for including names in the blacklist and that Mr Bukhari was allowed to travel on June 11 under the discretionary power.

At this, Justice Farooq asked how a discretionary power was exercised over a phone call. Did the interior ministry lay down the rules just to break them, he wondered.

Earlier on Monday, the defence ministry, in response to a petition filed by a citizen through his counsel retired Lt Col Inamur Rahim against the use of Noor Khan Airbase for private individuals, told the court that the airbase was used because there was no facility to operate chartered flights at the newly constructed Islamabad International Airport.

The petitioner adopted before the court that Mr Bukhari’s name was included in the blacklist, but he had been allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia on mere a phone call.

The petitioner asked whether the name of a person placed on the orders of the apex court on the blacklist could be removed by any subordinate officer of the FIA and whether the defence secretary was empowered to allow any civilian to use the military base without security clearance from the state secret agencies, especially when the name of that individual was included in the no-fly list.

The court, however, dismissed the petition that sought action against the air force authorities for permitting the private chartered plane to use the airbase.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2018

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Accountability court terms Sharif family ‘monolith’ in verdict

(Left) Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan dance and celebrate the accountability court’s verdict on Friday in Karachi. (Right) Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supporters protest outside the court in Islamabad.—White Star

(Left) Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan dance and celebrate the accountability court’s verdict on Friday in Karachi. (Right) Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supporters protest outside the court in Islamabad.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court, ,which convicted, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members in the Avenfield properties reference on Friday, described the entire Sharif family — daughter Maryam and sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz and their father — as one “monolith”.

“Thus the accused Nawaz Sharif cannot disassociate by oral assertions that he has got no connection with the upscale London Avenfield flats,” observed accountability court Judge Mohammad Bashir in his 174-page damning verdict that sentenced Mr Sharif to 10 years, Maryam to seven years and her husband retired Capt Muhammad Safdar to one year in prison.

“It was difficult to dig out actual owner/beneficial of offshore companies formed in the tax heaven jurisdiction of the British Virgin Island (BVI) due to the rules and regulations prevailing there,” the verdict said, adding that Mr Sharif had distanced himself from any transaction in respect of the Avenfield properties by saying that he had no concern with it.

“But the fact suggests that Nawaz Sharif was the chairman of the Capital FZE — a firm owned by his son Hussain Nawaz. And as per the statement of PW16 Wajid Zia — the head of the six-man JIT — Deutche Bank provided a loan to Coomber Company which advanced the loan to Que Holding Limited owned by Hassan Nawaz which further provided the funding to the Quint Paddington during the year 2008. The same company Quint Paddington was also provided a loan of pounds 614,000 by Capital FZE in which the accused [Nawaz Sharif] was an employee.

Judgement says story of investment with Qatari royal family not convincing

“The ages of children namely Hussain, Mariam and Hassan in 1993 when the Avenfield apartments were purchased were about 20 years, 18 years and 16 years respectively and were studying in those days and were dependents financially and thus could not have purchased the Park Lane flats without financial assistance of their father,” Judge Bashir said.

The judgement also said that the story of investment with the Qatari royal family was not convincing, adding that Mr Sharif had remained holder of public offices as Punjab chief minister, finance minister and thrice prime minister and member of the National Assembly. Generally, children were considered dependent on their parents, it said.

Likewise, the sudden appearance of letters from the Al-Thani family was also managed, the judgement said, adding that the prosecution’s documents showed that Mariam was beneficial owner of the Avenfield apartments even prior to 2006.

The two letters of Hamid bin Jasim Al-Thani were hearsay, the judgement held, adding that in the letters the writer had used the word that “I was informed”, “I understand at that time” and “I can recall that”.

“These letters cannot give any benefit to the accused in view of these words without any supporting documents which could have been produced by the accused or Hamid bin Jasim,” the judgement said. Similarly, it added, the Joint Investigation Team constituted on the orders of the Supreme Court had tried to record the statement of Hamid bin Jasim, but he was not cooperative and was asking for a questionnaire when no questionnaire could have been prepared for the relevant material, record and documents because Hamid bin Jasim was the best person to enlist such documents. Dispatching such questionnaire would have meant confining the scope of JIT, the order said.

“The accused namely Hussain, Mariam and Hassan were not financially sound during the years 1993, 1995 and 1996 when the flats 16, 16A, 17 and 17A were purchased through offshore companies, the beneficial owner of which was Mariam Nawaz,” Judge Bashir wrote. Hence, he said, Mr Sharif was also responsible to account for the properties in the name of his son/daughter during their tender ages.

The verdict said that it was also in evidence that Mr Sharif used to reside in these apartments, adding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing the possession by the accused of Avenfield apartments even during the nineties and admittedly the accused and his family were in possession of the same at present.

It said the response of the money laundering reporting officer of Mossack Fonseca regarding offshore companies Nescoll Ltd and Nielson Enterprises which were duly certified by FIA stated that the beneficial owner of the company was Mariam Nawaz because it had the address of Saroor Palace, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where she used to reside.

“When the documents established that Mariam was the beneficial owner of the companies, she was also claiming herself to be the trustee of these companies,” Judge Bashir said, adding that she should have produced documents if any to prove to the contrary, meaning thereby that she had no such document and she in fact was the beneficial owner of the companies.

The judge said that a Dec 3, 2005 letter of the assistant general manager of the Samba financial group to Minerva Services Limited also showed that Mariam was one of their valued customers in Samba, besides her address of Saroor Palace, Jeddah, was also mentioned in that letter.

This letter indicated that accused Mariam was connected with Avenfield apartments before 2006, the judgement said, adding that to rebut this assertion Mariam should have placed detailed documents of both the companies.

Referring to the trust deed, Judge Bashir said it was sent to handwriting expert Robert Radley by the JIT and his report suggested that font “Calibri” was not commercially available until Jan 31, 2007. Therefore, the trust deed must have been prepared after this date.

Mariam in her reply to the question posed under section 342 of CrPC had held that it was a malicious opinion that Calibri font was not available even as early as 2005.

The judgement said Mr Radley had explained that Calibri was available for testing purposes, and not for commercial purposes. Thus it was clear that the trust deed was filed to mislead the court and was not prepared in February 2006 as noted on the trust deed, the verdict said.

Read the complete judgement

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2018

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UAE halts attack on Yemen port city to help UN negotiator

ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates on Sunday announced it had halted the offensive it was backing against Houthi rebels in Yemen’s port city of Hodeida to give a chance to UN diplomatic efforts.

In a series of tweets, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said the pause was aimed at pursuing negotiations for an unconditional rebel withdrawal from the port but warned that full military action could resume.

The weeks-long ,offensive on Hodeida, — Yemen’s main port — has raised fears of further suffering and deprivation in a country already deeply shaken by years of war between the Iran-backed Houthis and President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s Gulf-backed government.

Pointing to a renewed push for a negotiated settlement by UN envoy Martin Griffiths, Mr Gargash said: “We have paused our campaign to allow enough time for this option to be fully explored. We hope he will succeed.”

He said the pause had been in effect since June 23 and while there was continued “pressure on the parameter”, pro-government forces were awaiting the results of an upcoming visit by Mr Griffiths to the rebel-held capital Sanaa.

Mr Griffiths met Mr Hadi in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday and is reported to be pushing for the Houthis to cede control of Hodeida to the United Nations.

In a speech published by the state-run Saba news agency, Hadi on Sunday hailed the military for its “great victories” in the face of “the most dangerous project of Iranian expansion” Yemen faced.

The rebels, Shia tribes with ties to Iran, have said they may be willing to share control of Hodeida’s port with the UN but say their forces must remain in the docks and the rest of the Red Sea city.

The Houthis have controlled Hodeida and its port since 2014, when they also drove the Hadi government out of the capital and seized large swathes of northern Yemen. On June 13, the UAE and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, launched a massive military operation — dubbed “Golden Victory” — to drive the rebels out of the port.

Pro-government forces managed to seize control of Hodeida’s airport in mid-June after days of heavy fighting but did not immediately push forward into the city, home to some 600,000 people and about 150 kilometres west of Sanaa.

The fighting has claimed 429 lives, according to military and medical sources.

There are no confirmations of civilian casualties, although the UN has documented thousands of residents fleeing combat zones.

Mr Gargash said the operation had succeeded in “forcing the Houthis to make concessions”, but it remained to be seen “whether the Houthis are engaging seriously with this process or using it as a tactic to buy time”.

“Failing these patient efforts we believe that continued military pressure will ultimately bring the liberation of Hodeida and force the Houthis to engage seriously in negotiations.”

Analysts have ruled out major concessions by the rebels in Hodeida without talks on the rest of Yemen’s territory. “The Houthis will not make concessions unless they are guaranteed the upper hand in central and northern Yemen,” said Yemeni analyst Najib Ghallab.

The regional pro-government alliance on Sunday accused the Houthis of “holding hostage” ships docked in the Hodeida port.

Riyadh and its allies earlier imposed a major blockade on the port after a series of rebel missiles were fired from Yemen into Saudi Arabia.

The coalition accuses Iran of smuggling weapons to the Houthis through Hodeida port, a charge Tehran denies.

Oman talks

Mr Griffiths was in the Gulf sultanate of Oman on Thursday, where he met top rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam, UN radio reported.

Mr Griffiths spoke of progress on the radio and said a proposal to grant the UN a major role in managing the Hodeida port was being studied.

Both the UAE and the Hadi government have held firm to their refusal of anything short of a full withdrawal of the Houthi rebels from Hodeida.

The UN has not publicly commented on Mr Griffiths’ talks on the Hodeida conflict.

A source close to the Yemeni president said Mr Griffiths was expected to return to Aden, where the Hadi government is temporarily based, for another round of talks.

Some 70 per cent of imports to Yemen, where eight million people face imminent famine, flow through the port of Hodeida.

Nearly 10,000 people have died in the Yemen war since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government’s fight against the Houthis.

The United Nations has called Yemen the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2018

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US President Trump says Saudi king agrees to ramp up oil production

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had agreed to his request to ramp up oil production, a week after OPEC already announced an output rise.

The official Saudi Press Agency confirmed a phone call between the two leaders about oil, but mentioned no specifics.

“Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil and dysfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference,” Trump announced in an early morning tweet.

“Prices too high! He has agreed!” The Saudi Press Agency said Trump had called Salman and the two highlighted “the necessity of doing efforts in order to preserve the stability of the oil market and the global economic growth.” They also discussed “efforts of the producing countries to cover any possible shortage in supplies,” the agency said in its brief report.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest oil exporter and has usually kept at least 1.5 million to two million barrels per day of spare capacity, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.

‘Simply not doable’

But oil officials cited by The Wall Street Journal said it is debatable whether the kingdom would be able to raise output by the amount Trump suggested.

“This is just simply not doable,” said one senior Saudi oil official cited by the Journal.

Trump has repeatedly lashed out at OPEC on Twitter in recent months, piling pressure on Riyadh, a major ally, to boost output as he hopes for lower pump prices before midterm congressional elections in November.

His latest comments come a week after ministers from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — of which Saudi Arabia is the major member — had agreed to raise output from July.

Non-OPEC member Russia on June 23 also backed the effort, capping a week of tense diplomacy for the grouping that averted a damaging rift between arch-foes Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The ministers announced they would ramp up oil production by around one million barrels a day from July.
“I think it will contribute significantly to meet the extra demand that we see coming in the second half,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Faleh told reporters at the time.

A face-saving deal

The talks had centred on whether to amend an 18-month-old supply-cut deal between OPEC members and allied countries, including Russia, that has cleared a global oil glut and lifted crude prices.

The unprecedented supply-cut pact has lifted crude prices from below $30 a barrel in early 2016 to around
$70.

Saudi Arabia, backed by non-member Russia, had argued strongly in favour of increasing production as grumbles in major consumer countries like the United States, India and China have grown about higher prices.

Iran opposed any changes to the original production-cut deal at a time when its oil industry is facing renewed sanctions over Trump’s decision to quit the international nuclear deal with Tehran.

In the end, both sides were able to save face.

The current production curb pact calls for participating countries to trim output by 1.8 million barrels a day.
But production constraints and geopolitical factors have seen several nations exceed their restriction quotas, keeping about 2.8 million barrels off the market, according to OPEC.

By agreeing to collectively raise output by a million barrels, member countries are simply committing to comply fully with the deal struck in late 2016.

Iran has accused Trump of trying to politicise OPEC and said it was US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela that had helped push up prices.

Saudi Arabia was producing around 10 million barrels of crude a day in May, according to OPEC.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - June 30, 2018 at 7:25 pm

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Pakistan placed on FATF ‘grey list’ despite diplomatic efforts to avert decision

Pakistan was officially placed on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) ‘grey list’ on Wednesday, failing the country’s efforts to avoid the designation, ,diplomatic sources claimed,.

The sources said that a terrorism financing watchdog took the decision during a plenary meeting in Paris, arguing that Pakistan had failed to act against terror financing on its soil.

The FATF did not make an official announcement till late in the night.

Being placed on the ‘grey list’ means that Pakistan’s financial system will be designated as posing a risk to the international financial system because of “strategic deficiencies” in its ability to prevent terror financing and money laundering.

After being placed on the ‘grey list’, Pakistan will be directly scrutinised by the financial watchdog until it is satisfied by the measures taken to curb terror financing and money laundering.

Thanks to the opacity of FATF’s operations, it is uncertain what exactly Pakistan is expected to do, but what is clear is that the government has taken some steps to come into compliance with the global body’s requirements, such as proscribing key groups, whose open operations were a bone of contention, and seizing their assets.

The country spent three years on the ‘grey list’ between 2012 and 2015, without the designation affecting its ability to float international bonds, borrow from multilateral bodies, receive or send remittances or conduct international trade.

The status does little more than raising the compliance burden on counterparts, such as correspondent banks, dealing with entities within Pakistan’s financial system, and therefore attaches an additional cost to many external sector transactions.

Former finance minister Miftah Ismail, while addressing the National Assembly in March this year, had said that being placed on the grey list would not affect the economy and only cause “embarrassment” to the country.

Also read: ,Pakistan deserves international support, not a place on the FATF grey-list,

Earlier on Wednesday, caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar had ,urged the FATF to remove Pakistan, from its ‘grey list’. As the FATF plenary began its proceedings, the Pakistani delegation apprised the watchdog of steps Islamabad had taken to weed out money laundering and terror financing.

Take a look: ,SECP issues anti-money laundering regulations in compliance with FATF recommendations,

Earlier, reports from Paris had indicated that Pakistan may get more time to take measures to implement the FATF’s anti-money laundering and terrorist-financing regulations.

The Foreign Office (FO) had ,confirmed in February, that Pakistan would be placed on FATF’s ‘grey list’ in June if it did not take measures to curb terror financing.

However, FO Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal had assured that an action plan to eradicate terrorist financing was being prepared and would accordingly be shared with the international body.

“Pakistan will be assigned to the ‘grey list’ in June, once an action plan has been mutually negotiated,” the spokesman had said, adding that Pakistan will cooperate with FATF in every possible way.

The government was to work with the FATF to build the “action plan” to plug deficiencies identified by the watchdog, which was to be put up for approval by consensus in the June session. After that, implementation of the plan is to begin, with the Asia Pacific Group monitoring the process.

,Alone at FATF,

A 37-nation FATF plenary held its ,first meeting on Pakistan, in February where China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia opposed the United States-led move to place Pakistan on the watchlist. But the US pushed for an unprecedented second discussion on Pakistan, held on February 22.

By then, Washington had convinced Riyadh to give up its support to Pakistan in return for a full FATF membership. This left only two – China and Turkey – in the Pakistan camp, one less than the required number of three members to stall a move.

At this stage, the Chinese informed Islamabad that they were opting out as they did not want to “lose face by supporting a move that’s doomed to fail”, an official source had told Dawn.

Pakistan appreciated the Chinese position and conveyed its gratitude to Turkey for continuing to support Islamabad against all odds,” the source added.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - June 28, 2018 at 5:25 pm

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Pakistan placed on FATF ‘grey list’ despite diplomatic efforts to avert decision

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Wednesday officially placed Pakistan on its grey list after a plenary meeting in Paris.

The announcement was made late on Wednesday night. Despite Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts to avert the decision, the financial watchdog, in its meeting, argued that Pakistan had failed to curb terror financing on its soil.

Also read: ,Pakistan deserves international support, not a place on the FATF grey-list,

Earlier in the day, caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar had ,urged the FATF to remove Pakistan, from its grey list. As the FATF plenary began its proceedings, the Pakistani delegation apprised the watchdog of steps Islamabad had taken to weed out money laundering and terror financing.

Take a look: ,SECP issues anti-money laundering regulations in compliance with FATF recommendations,

Earlier, reports from Paris had indicated that Pakistan may get more time to take measures to implement the FATF’s anti-money laundering and terrorist-financing regulations.

The Foreign Office (FO) had ,confirmed in February, that Pakistan would be placed on FATF’s grey list in June if it did not take measures to curb terror financing.

However, FO spokesperson Mohammad Faisal had assured that an action plan to eradicate terrorist financing was being prepared and would accordingly be shared with the international body.

“Pakistan will be assigned to the ‘grey list’ in June, once an action plan has been mutually negotiated,” the spokesman had said, adding that Pakistan will cooperate with FATF in every possible way.

Explore: ,Alone at FATF,

A 37-nation FATF plenary held its ,first meeting on Pakistan, in February where China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia opposed the United States-led move to place Pakistan on the watchlist. But the US pushed for an unprecedented second discussion on Pakistan, held on February 22.

By then, Washington had convinced Riyadh to give up its support to Pakistan in return for a full FATF membership. This left only two – China and Turkey – in the Pakistan camp, one less than the required number of three members to stall a move.

At this stage, the Chinese informed Islamabad that they were opting out as they did not want to “lose face by supporting a move that’s doomed to fail”, an official source had told Dawn. “Pakistan appreciated the Chinese position and conveyed its gratitude to Turkey for continuing to support Islamabad against all odds,” the source added.

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PTI will use any strategy to defeat PML-N, win the elections: Imran on ‘electables’, seat adjustments

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan, during an interview aired on Tuesday night, made it clear that the party would use “any strategy” that would help it defeat PML-N and win the July 25 elections.

Khan, while ,speaking to Geo News’ Hamid Mir on the program ‘Capital Talk’,, said: “For elections 2018, we have just one strategy: defeat Noon [N] League.”

Mir questioned Khan about seat adjustments with parties — such as Awami Muslim League and PML-Q — that the leader had previously lambasted. “Perhaps I have the best training when it comes to competing since I have been a sportsman. The strategy is to win the match — and our [PTI's] match is against PML-N.”

“We will adopt every strategy that will help us defeat PML-N,” said the PTI chief, adding that including people from other parties to the PTI and seat adjustments were all part of the main goal: to win the elections.

“We will also do seat adjustments where we feel PTI doesn’t have a strong candidate against PML-N but some other anti-N League candidate can win the seat.”

Over the last few weeks, the selection of so-called electables in numerous constituencies across the country as PTI candidates has led to discontent and protest among the party’s older members.

Analysis: ,‘Electables’ jeopardising PTI’s slogan of change,

The PTI chief, however, during the interview stuck to his choice of candidates, saying there was a “misconception” that change wasn’t taking place because of the same old faces. “It’s not about the ‘electables’; it’s about the leaders at the top.”

“Even if you bring angels under Nawaz [Sharif] or [Asif Ali] Zardari, it won’t make a difference,” he said, going after the PML-N and PPP leaders. “It is the leader who gets rid of corruption. If the leader is strong, so will be the nation.”

Tareen vs Qureshi

When asked about PTI leaders Jahangir Tareen and Shah Mehmood Qureshi “publicly fighting”, Khan admitted that there are differences amid the party and “it is very difficult to stop them”.

In 2016, unfortunately, we tried conducting intra-party elections and two groups were formed — Tareen’s and Qureshi’s, said Khan. “This is the fallout from that,” he said, going on to downplay the conflict.”It’s not a big issue [...] it stops being an issue when you form the government.”

The anchor, however, pointed out that when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister, his government’s interior minister, Chauhdry Nisar, and defence minister at the time, Khawaja Asif, were at odds and their differences affected the country.

Khan, however, remained adamant that as long as the leader at the top is “strong”, it would not become an issue.

‘PTI supports PTM’

Bringing up the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), Khan said that most of what the movement was demanding, was correct. “I’ve been talking about the same things as the PTM,” he said, stressing the need to streamline the tribal areas.

“The best way is the ,Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)-Fata merger,, so that development is fast. If the merger is delayed, then unrest will spread again.”

Khan then came back to the PTM, saying that the PTI has tried to solve the community’s problems with its leaders. He also said that PTI will not field a candidate against PTM’s South Waziristan candidate Ali Wazir as “a goodwill gesture”.

Sita White

Mir also asked Khan about the reports regarding his relationship with Sita White, asking the leader what can be done to quash the controversy that keeps resurfacing.

Earlier this month, Abdul Wahab Baluch, a candidate of the Justice and Democratic Party (JDP) headed by former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, ,filed a petition against Khan’s eligibility to contest the elections,, saying the PTI chief’s nomination papers should be rejected because he did not disclose he had a daughter as a result of his “relations with Ana-Luisa (Sita) White”.

In a written reply, Khan had dismissed the allegations. “All the objections are false, fabricated and based on unverified documents.”

During the interview, Khan alleged that the Sharif brothers go after his personal life as they have nothing against him when it comes to corruption.

“Nobody is an angel and everyone has flaws. I have been in politics for 22 years now and they [Sharifs and opponents] keep attacking my personal life. Either they come after the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital or they talk about Sita White and Jemima [Goldsmith].” He alleged that the PML-N leaders were behind JDP’s petition and his ,former wife’s upcoming book,.

When asked about addressing the controversy with a simple yes or no answer, Khan said: “It’s a non issue. Why would I answer this? Is Imran Khan being honest with the country’s money? That’s the only issue at the moment.”

Touching briefly upon the departure of PTI supporter Zulfiqar Hussain Bukhari aka ,Zulfi Bukhari to Saudi Arabia earlier this month on a one-time “permission”,, Khan said he could not understand why the incident was made into an issue.

“He was born and brought up in the United Kingdom (UK), runs a business in UK. I don’t understand why the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is trying a person who has no ties with Pakistan. If anyone, it should be the UK government questioning him.”

According to sources in NAB, ,Bukhari is accused of owning an offshore company, and having assets beyond his known sources of income.

They said following directions of the Supreme Court to take action against all those who owned offshore firms, NAB had served three notices to Bukhari to appear before it.

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Amid Arab boycott, Qatar’s new friends find rich openings

DOHA: Six months ago Serkan Ucar arrived in Doha to scope out business opportunities — away from his usual patch. The mission looks set to pay off handsomely, as the Turkish entrepreneur expects to win a first contract to help build an iconic 2022 World Cup stadium.

Since several Arab countries launched an economic boycott of Qatar a year ago, the tiny Gulf state has had to find alternative partners for trade and investment. Aided by its massive natural gas wealth, it has rapidly made new friends.

A year ago Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt ,cut transport and trade links with Doha,, accusing it of backing terrorism — a charge it strongly denies.

The boycott disrupted Qatar’s shipping routes through the Gulf and blocked imports across its only land border with Saudi Arabia, previously the route for its perishable food supplies and construction materials.

In the bitter diplomatic and economic chill, Ankara sided with Qatar. Ucar, 28, saw openings.

“They’ve been extremely welcoming for Turkish companies after the blockade,” Ucar told Reuters at a hotel where he was about to interview engineers for jobs at his new office in Doha.

His family business Referans Holding expects to sign a contract soon to supply scaffolding and aluminium and fit out Lusail Stadium, where the 2022 World Cup final will take place.

Many Turkish contractors are bidding for projects as Qatar pushes ahead with infrastructure for the tournament, said Joseph Abraham, chief executive of Commercial Bank of Qatar.

Huge construction projects are under way for the World Cup. Seven new stadiums are being built, along with other infrastructure, sucking in building materials from far afield.

Gypsum, used to make drywall, is being newly imported from Iran, said a construction manager who declined to be named. Gabbro, used to make asphalt and concrete, was now being imported from Oman instead of the UAE.

While the World Cup means sporting drama and global prestige, the early stages of the boycott were all about urgent shortages of basic products.

When dairy, fresh milk and eggs disappeared from stores, Doha airlifted in more than 3,000 cows on state airline Qatar Airways and imported eggs from Oman, which kept its shipping route with Qatar open when Dubai halted shipments to Doha.

In Qatar’s supermarkets, Turkish brands like lker and Pinar soft cream cheeses are doing well.

“The Turkish market is very important to us,” said Saleh bin Hamad al-Sharqi, director general at the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “It’s geographically close logistically, high quality and has competitive prices.”

Imports from Turkey between June and December 2017 grew to $523 million, 48.2pc higher than in the same period the previous year. From Oman they jumped 150pc to $575m, according to International Monetary Fund data.

Imports from India rose 54.6pc to $1.06 billion, and from Iran 63pc to $69m.

Some of Doha’s businesses took a battering when the boycott was launched. Qatar Airways lost money in 2017 after losing access to airspace over boycotting states.

Yet the economy has weathered the protracted dispute and is expected to grow 2.6pc this year and closer to 3pc in 2019, according to the finance ministry.

The world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter quickly deployed its massive sovereign wealth fund, estimated to have about $320bn of assets, to protect its banks and currency after the boycotting states withdrew deposits.

“Our biggest mission as Qataris during the blockade was to maintain the economy,” Yousuf Al Jaida, chief executive of the Qatar Financial Centre, told Reuters.

“A lot of focus was not about growth, it was about physically withstanding the blockade and whatever damage that may occur, because essentials, whether it’s food or logistics, were not being made available.”

Qatari officials say the crisis was a wake-up call for the country of 2.7 million to become more self-reliant and diversify. “We want the world to see what this relatively small country can do with resilience and commitment,” Energy Minister Mohammed al-Sada told Reuters. “The only worry I have is that our team may not win the (2022) World Cup.”

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2018

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How the Interior Ministry’s promptness, indecision was exposed in the Zulfi Bukhari case

ISLAMABAD: While the interior ministry took less than three hours to process and approve an application allowing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s close friend Zulfi Bukhari whose name was on a ‘blacklist’ to proceed abroad, the ministry will wait until the next meeting of the cabinet’s sub-committee to get his name placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

An obvious contrast between the haste to remove his name from the blacklist and the lethargy being shown by the interior ministry to get his name placed on the ECL came to light in two reports submitted to the Islamabad High Court on Friday and Saturday.

Justice Aamer Farooq of the IHC, who is hearing the petition of Zulfi Bukhari seeking removal of his name from the blacklist and a petition that sought action against the officials of the interior ministry and the Noor Khan airbase from where he was allowed to take the special flight to Saudi Arabia, will take up both reports on Wednesday.

According to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) report, the immigration staff at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad, caught Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari aka Zulfi Bukhari with the help of Integrated Border Management System (IBMS) on June 11 at around 1pm when he was about to board the chartered flight along with PTI chief Imran Khan, his spouse Bushra Manika, Aleem Khan, Aun Chaudhry and another person.

“The IBMS scrutiny showed that one of the passengers namely Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, British passport No 518157071 was placed on blacklist by the Ministry of Interior,” the report stated.

It said Aun Chaudhry expressed his displeasure when the FIA staff caught and briefly detained Zulfi Bukhari. His name had been blacklisted on a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) request to the interior ministry after he had avoided to join investigations into his offshore companies mentioned in the Panama Papers.

Two and a half hours later (around 3.30pm), the FIA staff received a letter (No 12/127/2018-ECL) from the ECL section officer regarding “One-Time Permission for Performance of Umrah” in his [Zulfi Bukhari’s] favour. “Accordingly, he was allowed to travel abroad,” the FIA report added.

In its report, the interior ministry explained as to why Zulfi Bukhari’s name had been blacklisted instead of being placed on the ECL. It stated: “When the case [of Zulfi Bukhari] was received from NAB on May 10, 2018 for placement on ECL, the matter regarding constitution of the sub-committee of the cabinet was under consideration and the sub-committee was not functional. Therefore, as a precautionary measure a direction was passed on to director general (immigration and passports) on May 15 for placement of the name of the petitioner on the blacklist so that he may not abscond.”

About allowing Zulfi Bukhari to proceed to Saudi Arabia, the interior ministry’s report stated that his application was received on June 11 seeking permission to travel abroad for Umrah with an undertaking that he would return on June 13. The request was granted keeping in view the fact that he was proceeding abroad for religious purpose. He was allowed “one-time permission” to travel abroad, according to the report.

The interior ministry in its report further said: “Since the cabinet sub-committee has now been constituted, the request for placing the name of the petitioner on ECL will be put up before the sub-committee at its next meeting.”

Justice Aamer Farooq of the IHC has expressed displeasure over the haste in the case of Zulfi Bukhari and pointed out that the interior ministry in other cases showed lethargy and did not even implement the court’s direction for removal of someone’s name from the ECL. He, however, remarked that he could only wish such a swift action in the cases of common citizens.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2018

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Saudi women take the wheel as the Kingdom lifts the world’s last remaining ban on females driving

Saudi women are in the driver’s seat for the first time in their country and steering their way through busy city streets just minutes after the world’s last remaining ban on women driving was lifted on Sunday.

It’s a euphoric and historic moment for women who have had to rely on their husbands, fathers, brothers and drivers to run basic errands, get to work, visit friends or even drop kids off at school. The ban had relegated women to the backseat, restricting when and how they move around.

But after midnight Sunday, Saudi women finally joined women around the world in being able to get behind the wheel of a car and simply drive.

“I’m speechless. I’m so excited it’s actually happening,” said Hessah al-Ajaji, who drove her family’s Lexus down the capital’s busy Tahlia Street after midnight.

Al-Ajaji had a US driver’s license before obtaining a Saudi one and appeared comfortable at the wheel as she pulled up and parked. As for the male drivers on the road, “they were really supportive and cheering and smiling”, she said.

In a few hours, she says she’ll drive herself to work for the first time in Saudi Arabia.

For nearly three decades, outspoken Saudi women and the men who supported them had called for women to have the right to drive. They faced arrest for defying the ban as women in other Muslim countries drove freely.

In 1990, during the first driving campaign by activists, women who got behind the wheels of their cars in the capital, Riyadh, lost their jobs, faced severe stigmatization and were barred from travel abroad for a year.

Ultraconservatives in Saudi Arabia had long warned that allowing women to drive would lead to sin and expose women to harassment. Ahead of allowing women to drive, the Kingdom passed a law against sexual harassment with up to five years prison for the most severe cases.

Criticism against women driving has largely been muted since since ,King Salman announced last year that they would be allowed to drive,.

Simultaneously, however, at least 10 of the most outspoken ,supporters of women’s rights were arrested just weeks, before the ban was lifted, signaling that only the king and his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will decide the pace of change.

With state-backed support for the move, many Saudis now say they support the decision allowing women to drive and see it as long overdue.

Not all women are driving at once, though. The overwhelming majority of women in Saudi Arabia still don’t have licenses. Many haven’t had a chance to take the gender-segregated driving courses that were first offered to women only three months ago. There’s also a waiting list of several months for the classes on offer in major cities. And the classes can be costly, running several hundred dollars.

Other women already own cars driven by chauffeurs and are in no rush to drive themselves. In many cases, women say they’ll wait before rushing to drive to see how the situation on the streets pans out and how male drivers react.

“I will get my driver’s license, but I won’t drive because I have a driver. I am going to leave it for an emergency. It is one of my rights and I will keep it in my purse,” said 60 year-old Lulwa al-Fireiji.

While some still quietly oppose the change, there are men openly embracing it.

“I see that this decision will make women equal to men and this will show us that women are capable of doing anything a man can do,” said Fawaz al-Harbi. “I am very supportive and in fact I have been waiting for this decision so that my mother, my sisters will drive.”

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‘How was Zulfi Bukhari allowed to travel abroad so easily?’ asks IHC

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday expressed displeasure over how the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief’s associate Zulfi Bukhari managed to travel abroad earlier this month while his name was on the no-fly list.

Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari, a British national, was on June 11 informed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) that his name was on the blacklist, according to a petition filed by his lawyer, Sikandar Bashir Mohmand.

Bukhari was briefly stopped from boarding a special flight on a private plane bound for Saudi Arabia from Noor Khan Airbase to perform Umrah with Imran Khan on June 11, but later permitted to travel when Khan spoke directly to the “concerned quarters”.

According to the petition, Bukhari is facing an inquiry and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has issued multiple notices to him since February this year. However, Bukhari has not joined the inquiry, and ? upon receiving a third notice ? stated that since he is a British national, NAB lacks the jurisdiction to investigate him.

The IHC today, hearing Bukhari’s petition seeking removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL), ordered Bukhari to join the NAB inquiry against him ‘in good faith’, upon NAB Additional Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi’s request.

Abbasi told the court that NAB had moved a request for placing Bukhari’s name on the ECL, but at that time the relevant subcommittee was dysfunctional so his name had been added to the blacklist.

He said that Bukhari was issued repeated notices but did not cooperate with NAB, so NAB had moved a request with the Interior Ministry to place him on the ECL.

Justice Farooq observed that the blacklist was meant to restrict movements of a person involved in anti-state activities, and wondered how Bukhari was allowed to “leave in such haste without informing NAB”.

Justice Farooq asked the Interior Ministry section officer how and why Bukhari was allowed to proceed for Umrah while his name had already been placed on a no-fly list.

He remarked that the Interior Ministry ordinarily displayed reluctance to remove names from the ECL despite the orders of superior courts but in this case, they showed remarkable efficiency.

He further said, “I wish such efficiency was displayed in cases pertaining to the general public.”

Subsequently, the court directed the Interior Ministry and NAB to submit written replies on the matter.

The judge also took up another petition that requested the court to initiate proceedings against the officials of the defence and interior ministries for allowing Bukhari to depart from Noor Khan Airbase.

The court directed the Defence Ministry to depute an official to brief the court on the issue and put off the matter till next Wednesday.

“Zulfi Bukhari vowed to return,” interim interior minister tells Senate

In a briefing to Senate Standing Committee for Interior, caretaker Interior Minister Azam Khan said that he was told that Bukhari had “vowed to return [to Pakistan]” after which he had allowed the latter to leave the country for six days.

Azam told the committee that the interior secretary had handed him a file and told him that a man named Zulfi Bukhari, who is on the “blacklist”, was stopped from leaving for Umrah with Imran.

Bukhari had requested that his name be taken off the blacklist and asked for a “one-time permission” to travel abroad.

“I saw Bukhari’s file and gave him permission to leave the country for six days and wrote that he must return,” Azam told the standing committee.

He further said that he had not received a call from the PTI chief or anyone else.

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Mohamed Salah’s World Cup bid ends with a whimper

Mohamed Salah’s World Cup campaign arguably ended when Egypt’s talisman tumbled to the turf in the Champions League final in Kiev on May 26.

Uruguay administered the last rites on Wednesday but the Pharaohs already knew the writing was on the wall.

Salah returned to action for the first time in three weeks for his side’s do-or-die clash with hosts Russia in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday but was a pale imitation of the player who dazzled for Liverpool last season, scoring 44 goals.

He did get on the scoresheet late on from the penalty spot in Saint Petersburg but it was too little, too late, with Russia already 3-0 up and steaming towards the last 16.

The hosts and Uruguay, both in Group A, became the first two sides into the knockout round on Wednesday after the South Americans beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 in Rostov-on-Don.

Salah carried his country to their first World Cup since 1990, scoring five of his side’s eight goals in the third qualifying round.

But Egyptian excitement that he was appearing on the biggest stage in club football last month turned to fear when he trudged off the field in tears after being hauled to the ground by Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.

“This is very bad for Mo, very bad for us, very bad for Egypt,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, minutes after seeing his side lose 3-1 in the Ukrainian capital.

The Spanish captain quickly became a hate figure for furious Egyptian fans on social media, but there was no quick remedy for the damage Ramos inflicted.

Salah risk

Salah could only watch from the bench as Egypt conceded late to lose 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game, leaving coach Hector Cuper little choice but to risk his best talent for the must-win game against Russia.

He manfully tried to carry the expectations of a nation on one good shoulder but Stanislav Cherchesov’s men were in no mood to play the role of accommodating hosts.

On the eve of the match, Cherchesov said he saw nothing wrong in Ramos’s challenge, insisting he only saw the Real skipper “holding the cup of the Champions League” at the end of an action-packed night in Kiev.

One Russia fan even attended the game with Ramos’s name and number on the back of a Real shirt. After the game Cherchesov said his mission to stop Salah had been successful.

“If he was not injured, it is very difficult to know what would have happened but we know the quality he has,” lamented Cuper, who admitted at the very least Salah’s match sharpness had been blunted.

“He wasn’t in all the preparation with us and that cost him a little bit of his physical ability. He would have worked almost three weeks with us before the first game, with the same intensity as the rest of the team.”

Salah, whose team still have a dead rubber to play against the Saudis, celebrated his 26th birthday on the day of the Uruguay defeat, meaning time is still on his side for him to return to the World Cup stage.

But injury at the most inopportune time has soured the season that made him a worldwide phenomenon.

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Shawwal moon not sighted, Pakistan to celebrate Eidul Fitr on Saturday

Chairman Ruet-i-Hilal Committee Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman announced that the moon for the month of Shawwal was not sighted on Thursday, and that Eidul Fitr will be celebrated across Pakistan on Saturday.

Since the crescent moon which marks the new lunar month was not sighted today, Friday will be the 30th and final day of Ramazan.

The announcement was made by Mufti Muneeb after chairing a meeting of the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee. He said evidences of moon-sighting were not received from anywhere in the country.

The Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee had convened the meeting to sight the moon for Eidul Fitr in Karachi, whereas zonal bodies of the committee also met in Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore.

The Shawwal moon has been sighted in several other countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Oman, where the first day of Eid will fall on Friday. India, where the crescent was not sighted, will celebrate Eid on Saturday as well.

Eid in KP tomorrow

In what has become an annual custom, many residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and recently-merged Fata will celebrate Eid on Friday after an unofficial moon-sighting committee in Peshawar headed by Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai announced that the moon has been sighted in various parts of the province.

See: ,190 years of controversy: The Qasim Ali mosque and moon sighting elitism,

Every year, the controversial moon-sighting committee led by its self-appointed head holds its meeting at the Masjid Qasim Ali Khan in Peshawar on 29th Ramazan welcoming witnesses from all over the province.

This year too, the committee claimed to have received 45 evidences from across the province and announced Eid on Friday after verification.

A large number of people from different parts of the city were present at the mosque for the announcement.

“We have received 45 evidences, including 10 from women,” Mufti Popalzai said while speaking to reporters.

Eidul Fitr celebrations mark the culmination of the Holy month of Ramazan during which Muslims all over the world observe 30 days of fasting.

In Pakistan, Eid festivities are marked by last-minute late night shopping with shopping malls and markets bursting at the seams with energetic crowds.

The government has ,announced a four-day holiday, for Eid this year, which will run from June 15 to June 18 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday).

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PM wants to know how PTI’s Zulfi Bukhari flew abroad despite ban

ZULFI Bukhari is being investigated by NAB for owning an off-shore firm that was revealed in the Panama  Papers.

ZULFI Bukhari is being investigated by NAB for owning an off-shore firm that was revealed in the Panama Papers.

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk on Wednesday sought a report from the interior ministry on how Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan’s close aide Zulfiqar Hussain Bukhari, aka Zulfi Bukhari, ,managed to leave, for Saudi Arabia even though his name had been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

The Prime Minister Office (PMO) informed journalists that the caretaker prime minister had taken notice of Mr Bukhari’s flight out of the country on Monday, on which he was joined by his party chief.

According to some private TV channels, the interior ministry has submitted a report claiming that Mr Bukhari’s name was not on the ECL.

Explanation sought from interior ministry that gave ‘one-time permission’

According to sources, the matter was also taken up by the federal cabinet on Wednesday. The notice taken by the prime minister suggests that he had not been in the loop about the grant of a one-time permission to Mr Bukhari to perform Umrah.

Mr Bukhari is being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for owning an off-shore firm that was revealed in the Panama Papers. Subsequently, his name was placed on the ECL on NAB’s request. However, NAB was not taken into confidence when Mr Bukhari was granted permission to leave the country.

According to a letter issued by the interior ministry, a one-time “permission” was given to Mr Bukhari for six days so he could perform Umrah.

On Monday, a special flight flew PTI chairman Imran Khan, his wife Bushra Imran, PTI leader Aleem Khan and his wife, and Mr Bukhari to Madina. The flight had been delayed for an hour after officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and immigration staff at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) refused to allow Mr Bukhari on the plane because his name was on the ECL. The plane took off after an hour with Mr Bukhari on board.

Talking to Dawn, former information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb criticised the caretaker set up for lack of vigilance in the matter. “I think Zulfi has a magic stick and the companionship of ladla (blue-eyed) Imran Khan, which is why he got permission to leave the country in an hour’s time,” she said.

She added that there was a committee of the interior ministry which decided such cases, but Mr Bukhari’s request was not taken to that committee.

“On one hand, Imran Khan’s close friend is allowed to leave even though his name was on ECL, while on the other, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has attended 100 hearings in his case in an accountability court but he was not allowed to leave for Umrah,” she said. Responding to a question regarding former dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, she said: “Musharraf will not return to the country.”

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2018

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Removal of PTI leader Zulfi Bukhari’s name from ECL irks NAB

ISLAMABAD: The departure of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader ,Zulfiqar Hussain Bukhari, aka Zulfi Bukhari to Saudi Arabia on Monday was a shocking development for the National Accountability Bureau as the anti-corruption watchdog was not informed why an accused on the Exit Control List (ECL) was allowed to leave the country.

Sources told Dawn on Tuesday that NAB was taking the issue seriously and was looking to respond to the matter.

NAB was also surprised whether the interior ministry had referred the case of Zulfi Bukhari to a special committee of the ministry which decided the cases of ECL.

Controversy erupts over Imran’s visit to Saudi Arabia in chartered aircraft

According to a letter issued by the interior ministry, one-time “permission” was given to Mr Bukhari for six days for performing Umra.

The letter sent to the director general of immigration and passports said: “It has been decided to grant one-time permission to Mr Syed Zulfiqar Hussain Bukhari son of Syed Wajid Hussain Bukhari [...] for a period of six days. The DG immigration and passports is requested to take further necessary action accordingly under intimation to this ministry and FIA.”

On Monday, a special flight to Madina — in which PTI chairman Imran Khan, his wife Bushra, PTI’s another leader Aleem Khan and his wife and Zulfiqar Bukhari were travelling — was delayed by an hour because Mr Bukhari’s name was on the ECL, and he was not initially allowed to travel by the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) and immigration staff at Benazir Bhutto International Airport, which has recently been closed down after new Islamabad International Airport became functional.

Later the flight was allowed to leave with Mr Bukhari on board.

Imran Khan walks barefooted when he landed Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦 to perform Umra. ,pic.twitter.com/SuMqY1G4ap,

— Fazil Jamili (@faziljamili) ,June 12, 2018,

Interestingly, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry condemned FIA’s action and said: “The incident was all due to a misunderstanding by the FIA immigration staff as they had confused Mr Bukhari with someone on the ECL with a similar name.”

He said Zulfiqar Bukhari was not a Pakistani citizen and had nothing to do with local laws.

But the FIA director told Dawn that Zulfiqar Bukhari was in fact on the ECL and that he was allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia when he sought permission from the interior ministry for travelling for “one time”.

Sources in NAB said Mr Bukhari was accused of owning an offshore company and having assets beyond his known sources of income.

They said following directions of the Supreme Court to take action against all those who owned offshore firms, NAB had served three notices to Mr Bukhari to appear before it.

“However, Mr Bukhari ignored the notices and did not appear before NAB,” they added.

The sources said if Mr Bukhari did not return to the country and escaped from NAB the bureau would take necessary action and would tell the Supreme Court that he was allowed to leave for Saudi Arabia by the interior ministry.

NAB is also considering issuing arrest warrant for Mr Bukhari as the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, empowers it to do so if the accused does not appear before it after receiving three notices.

The sources said under the law if the interior ministry wanted to remove anyone from the ECL it had to consult the relevant organisation under whose application the accused had been placed on the ECL.

They said an inquiry against Mr Zulfi was under way and it would be mentioned in the inquiry that he had been permitted to leave by the interior ministry without prior intimation to NAB.

Chartered flight costs Rs10 million

Mr Khan went to Saudi Arabia in a chartered aircraft that cost Rs800,000 per hour, according to Geo News.

The PTI chief chartered a 10-seater aircraft, Challenger 604, of private aviation firm Princely Jet. The plane first flew to Lahore from Islamabad to bring Mr Khan’s family to Islamabad.

Quoting Civil Aviation sources, the channel said that the total duration of Mr Khan’s flight was 13 hours with an estimated expense of around Rs10 million. The expenses include the fare of the aircraft as well as fuel charges, etc.

However, in a talk-show on ARY News, PTI leader Faisal Vawda claimed that the jet was chartered by the party for the entire election campaign.

His remarks irked PTI supporters who took to social media and tweeted against Mr Vawda whose statement they believed went against the PTI chairman.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2018

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