Pakistan News

FAISALABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif has sought a "deal" for four members of his family, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill claimed on Sunday.

Addressing a media conference in the city, Gill said to the Sharifs: "However much of a deal and leeway you had to be provided, you have been."

Further addressing the Sharifs, he said that it is "not as if you are out on a shopping trip, that you are seeking a deal".

Gill said that the Sharif family will never be given a deal. "You have Imran Khan standing in your way," he said. "He did not let go of them when he was in the Opposition, how will he let go of them now?" he added.

Speaking of the particulars of the so-called "deal", Gill claimed that it is sought for Nawaz, "his daughter", Shahbaz, and "his son". He went on to claim that the request is for the latter three individuals to be allowed to leave the country, whereas "Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will stay".

"We won't even give you a boiled potato, and here you are asking for a chicken burger deal," he remarked, adding: "The Sharif family is asking for a burger deal which also includes a toy."

Gill claimed that he met Nawaz thrice while he was hospitalised in Pakistan, and that the PML-N supremo "would plead to be let go".

The premier's aide said that the government seeks to bring back Nawaz, who is currently residing in London after travelling there to seek medical treatment in November 2019. He claimed that Nawaz is "being put on a plane and sent here" and that he will "go to jail when he arrives".

He added: "Soon you will see Shahbaz Sharif behind bars."

Gill said that now, politics in Pakistan will see a clean competition between one vote and another, instead of the use of dirty tactics.

Meanwhile, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry in a separate media briefing also spoke about the Sharif family, claiming that there is a "race" underway among four leading members.

"When the four big leaders went to meet 'someone', they said that 'Nawaz Sharif did not do right by the country, why don't you consider us?'," the minister claimed further.

The two PTI leaders, however, have not been the first to recently speak of "four Sharifs". On Friday, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said that "all four members" of the Sharif family can consider themselves "subtracted" from Pakistan's politics.

Although the interior minister did not specify who exactly these four members are, he was likely referring to the four Sharifs who have remained active as politicians, namely, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz, of which the first two were disqualified to hold public office in 2017.

Ahmed said: "They want that the hand of mercy that was placed on the head of Prime Minister Imran Khan be placed on their heads. That hand may well end up on their necks, but never their heads."

In response to Gill's remarks, PML-N's Talal Chaudhry said that it is Nawaz Sharif who will "never give any breathing room to this fake government".

"Look at where the country stands. Neither does the poor man have bread to eat, nor does our nation have any honour," Chaudhry said.

"The hand of mercy that was on your head, is now at the feet of Nawaz Sharif," the PML-N leader claimed.

Chaudhry went on to remark: "They can scarcely run the government and yet have the gall to spin such tales."

Shaukat Ali Mukadam, the father of slain Noor Mukadam, recorded in an Islamabad court on Saturday his statement in the murder case of his daughter and demanded capital punishment for Zahir Jaffer — the primary accused.

Noor, 27, was found murdered at a residence in the capital's upscale Sector F-7/4 on July 20, 2021. A first information report was registered the same day against Zahir — who was arrested from the site of the murder — under Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on the complaint of the victim's father.

A trial court on October 14 had indicted Zahir along with 11 others — his parents, their three household staff including Iftikhar (watchman), Jan Muhammad (gardener) and Jameel (cook), Therapyworks CEO Tahir Zahoor and employees Amjad, Dilip Kumar, Abdul Haq, Wamiq and Samar Abbas — in the case. The murder trial formally began on Oct 20.

Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani presided over the hearing today during which Shaukat said that he did not have a "personal enmity" with anyone, adding that "my daughter was unjustly killed".

"Zahir Jaffer should be given a death sentence," he said.

At the hearing's outset, Shaukat requested the judge to overlook any lapses in protocol since it was his first time appearing in a courtroom. He proceeded to recount the day's events when Noor was murdered, saying he and his wife had left for some chores on July 19 and when he returned back to their house, Noor was not there.

The court was told in the testimony that Noor had still not returned when Shaukat's wife came back, which worried the two and prompted them to call her but Noor's mobile was turned off. Shaukat said it was then that he started searching for her and when Noor finally picked up her phone, she said she was going to Lahore with her friends for a few days and told her parents to not worry.

"[On] July 20 — I know Zahir's family — Zahir called me on two numbers in the afternoon and said Noor was not with him," he said, adding that later in the day at 10pm he got a call from Kohsar police station informing him that his daughter had been killed and asking him to visit the police station.

Shaukat said he reached the police station and was taken to a house that belonged to Zahir, adding that when he went inside he saw that Noor "was brutally murdered and decapitated".

He said he identified Noor's body and gave his signed statement to Assistant Sub-Inspector Zubair Mazhar and later signed off on a report on the cause of death. Shaukat added he had handed over Noor's body for a postmortem on July 21.

He recalled that on July 23 he was called for an investigation and recovery of Noor's mobile and added that when he visited Kohsar police station the next day during Zahir's interrogation, the accused revealed that he had called Noor over on July 18 and confiscated her mobile prior to killing her. Upon visiting Zahir's residence, the phone was found in a closet, Shaukat said.

Basharatullah Khan, the counsel for Zahir's father and co-accused Zakir Jaffer, then conducted his cross-examination of Shaukat's account.

He asked Shaukat to confirm if it was usual for Noor to leave their house without informing them. He also questioned Shaukat about the placed he had searched Noor at and whether he had provided the names of her friends in the investigation.

"No I did not name any friend and I did not search [for Noor] after the phone call came," Shaukat replied.

Therapyworks owner Tahir Zahoor's lawyer Akram Qureshi conducted his cross-examination during which Shaukat mentioned a number of details that he had not mentioned before, including the contact numbers of Noor's friends and the timing of her call and the timing of Zahir's call.

"You misrepresented in court that she (Noor) called you," Qureshi said as Shaukat denied doing so.

Shaukat said he did not remember the name of the police officer who had called him. "I received such [horrifying] news that I don't remember the name," he said. He added that he did not remember the name of the officer he met at the police station and left without registering a case.

Shaukat said he had seen the CCTV footage on the night of July 20 and in the morning on July 21. He said he did not know any of the other accused apart from the Jaffer family and had not had their identification parade carried out.

Meanwhile, a junior lawyer for Sikandar Zulqarnain, Zahir's lawyer, presented a medical report in court. "Sikandar Zulqarnain is afflicted by Covid-19," he said.

Meanwhile, the court was informed that Zahir's lawyer was afflicted with Covid-19.

At this, the judge adjourned the hearing till January 17 after no objection from other lawyers following a short discussion on how a hearing with a Covid-positive lawyer would be possible.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid on Friday said that the remaining fencing of the Pak-Afghan border would be completed with the consent of the neighbouring country, stating that "they are our brothers".

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Rashid said that around 2,600 kilometres of the border had been fenced and expressed the hope that the remaining 21km would be completed "with the consent of our brothers".

Pakistan has fenced most of the border des­pite protestations from Kabul, which has contested the British-era boundary demarcation that splits families and tribes on either side.

Over the past few weeks, videos have surfaced on social media purportedly showing Taliban fighters uprooting a portion of the fence along the Pak-Afghan border, claiming that the fencing had been erected inside Afghan territory.

In a more recent video being shared on Twitter, Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khwarzmi was seen saying that Pakistan had no right to fence the border and create a divide, adding that such a move was "inappropriate and against the law".

On Jan 3, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, during a press conference in Islamabad, had acknowledged that there were "some complications" pertaining to the fencing of Pak-Afghan border but added that the matter was being discussed with the Afghan Taliban government as he blamed "certain miscreants" for blowing such incidents out of proportion.

A day later, the Taliban government in Afghanistan said that issues related to the fencing of the border would be addressed through diplomatic channels.

However, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar on Jan 5 categorically said that fencing of the border would continue as planned, adding that the blood of martyred soldiers was involved in erecting it.

During his press conference, Rashid also conceded that the people had expected Prime Minister Imran Khan to retrieve the country's looted wealth and put corrupt leaders behind bars, but "we did not succeed".

However, the minister insisted that the PTI-led government would complete its five-year tenure.

Commenting on the opposition, Rashid termed PML-N President Shehabaz Sharif "more corrupt" than his brother and former premier Nawaz Sharif, saying, "I am making this statement on the basis of my information."

The minister said he knew Nawaz was waiting for the "perfect weather" to return to the country, but claimed that the PML-N supremo no longer had a future in national politics.

The National Assembly on Thursday pass the controversial Finance (Supplementary) Bill, generally known as the "mini-budget", and the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021 during an hours-long session amid fierce objection from the opposition benches. The finance bill and the SBP bill, both tabled on Dec 30, are necessary to ensure that Pakistan’s sixth review of the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility gets cleared by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) executive board. The session, which began shortly after 4pm, resumed under the chairmanship of NA Speaker Asad Qaiser. Prime Minister Imran Khan, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were also in attendance. PM Imran was welcomed by loud sloganeering from the opposition benches as treasury lawmakers thumped their desks to drown them out. The government's amendments to the proposed bill were approved by the NA. In addition, amendments to the finance bill were also moved by MQM MNA Kishwar Zahra, to which the finance minister replied that most of the demands had been accommodated. In response, the MQM MNA thanked the premier and the foreign minister and withdrew the amendments. The government introduced changes to Clause 3 of the bill, under which small shops will not be taxed on bread, chapattis, sheermal, naans, vermicelli, buns and rusk. Tier one retailers, restaurants, food chains and sweet shops will be taxed on the sale of these items. A sales tax of 8.5 per cent will be imposed on 1,800 cc domestic and hybrid and domestic cars. A tax of 12.75pc will be imposed on 1,801 to 2,500 cc hybrid vehicles while imported electric vehicles will be taxed at 12.5pc. No general sales tax will be imposed on a 200g carton of milk, while a 17pc GST will be imposed on formula milk worth more than Rs500. Tax on imported vehicles was also increased under the changes, from five per cent to 12.5pc. The federal excise duty on all imported vehicles will remain the same. There will be a duty of 2.5pc on locally manufactured 1,300 cc vehicles, down from the 5pc proposed earlier. The duty on locally manufactured 1,300 to 2,000 cc cars was also reduced to 5pc from 10pc. A 10pc duty will be imposed on locally manufactured cars greater than 2,100 cc. The government's amendments to Clause 5 and Clause 6 were also approved during the session. Shortly after the session began, PPP's Shazia Marri moved a motion recommending that the finance bill be circulated for public opinion under Rule 124 of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly so that it could be proven how "anti-people" it was. However, the motion was opposed by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin. The opposition lawmakers also called for the House to debate the recommendations put forth by the Senate. PML-N's Ahsan Iqbal said that the recommendations put forth by the Senate regarding the mini-budget had not been discussed and called it an insult to the upper house of Parliament. Voting also took place on several amendments moved by the opposition to the finance bill that were subsequently rejected through a voice vote. The opposition demanded that a physical count be conducted for some of the amendments tabled by the opposition, including those by Mohsin Dawar and PML-N's Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. However, the NA speaker refused under Rule 29 of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly. A physical count was later conducted on the amendments moved by PPP's Marri, with 168 lawmakers against it and 150 in favour of it. Later, a physical count was conducted for a second time. The government was once again in majority and the amendments were rejected. The opposition's amendments to Clause 3 of the finance bill were rejected with 163 votes against it and 143 in favour. During the session, Abbasi questioned why it was necessary for the government to introduce a mini-budget and said that such a massive tax burden had never before been presented in the country's history. "It has been six months since you passed the finance bill. Have your revenues declines or expenses increased since then?" he asked. He also questioned why the people were being burdened with additional taxes of Rs350 billion. In response, Tarin said that the IMF had called for imposing a value-added tax when he had previously served as the finance minister. He also emphasised the need for documenting the economy, stating that people's incomes were not being taxed because they didn't fall under the tax net. He added that some of the taxes in the mini-budget had been removed, informing the opposition that this was about "documentation not taxes". PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the amendment he introduced concerned taxes on crude oil and imported items. "My question to the finance minister is whether they have accepted this. He himself said that they are withdrawing some of the taxes." He questioned whether the finance minister had an issue with the fact that it mentioned his name and those of Shazia Marri and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. "What was the harm in it being accepted?" Referring to the finance minister, Bilawal said that Tarin stated that past governments had made matters worse even though he had previously served as the country's finance minster. "Tarin said he did not know why there was hue and cry [over the mini-budget]. We request him to visit the streets of Karachi and ask the people about their economic situation." The PPP chairman said that some Karachi lawmakers had moved amendments and had also expressed their reservations regarding the mini-budget. He called on them to reject the finance bill and work with the opposition to steer the country out of the economic situation. Responding to the PPP chairman, the finance minister said the opposition had claimed that the government was sacrificing the country's economic sovereignty and national security. "But they went to the IMF approximately 13 times. Did they forfeit our economic sovereignty each time?" he asked. Taking the floor once again, Bilawal said that the finance minister had claimed that he did not renege on the promises he had made. "But neither the finance minister nor the prime minister stick to their promises." He said that this was the time to show the people the government's success in running the country before the next elections. "But what is your success? The Economist says that Pakistan is the fourth most expensive country in the world, the most expensive in the region." He said that the inflation had risen to double digits and while the debt to GDP ratio had also soared. This is the what Naya Pakistan has delivered, he said.

Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari on Wednesday said the state would pursue the Islamabad couple harassment case "irrespective of recent developments relating to victim's testimony".

"Irrefutable video and forensic evidence on record; anyone harassing and stripping a woman must face full force of the law," she tweeted.

Bokari's statement comes a day after the female victim in the case retracted her statement against the accused and told a trial court the she did not want to pursue the case, which had surfaced when a video of four persons holding a couple at gunpoint, forcing them to strip and then beating them up had gone viral on social media in July last year.

"We will make all-out efforts to take the culprits in the case to task, and have undeniable and solid evidence that will be presented before the court at the next hearing," Bokhari reiterated in a statement issued after a high-level meeting of the Ministry of Law and Justice.

"Taking this case to its logical conclusion is the responsibility of the government and police," she added.

"The video of Usman Mirza (primary accused) has been verified by the Pakistan Science Foundation, and we have photogrammetry (pertaining to the technique for making measurements through photographs) evidence, which will be presented to the court at the next hearing."

According to the statement, the meeting was called on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan and chaired by Law Minister Farogh Naseem.

The Islamabad couple harassment case was discussed in detail in the meeting attended by Bokhari, Islamabad inspector general of police, operations deputy inspector general of police and investigation senior superintendent of police, the statement said.

It quoted Bokhari as saying that the authorities would try their best to ensure the delivery of justice to the victims, who would also be provided "comprehensive security".

Besides Mirza, six others were indicted in the case, namely Hafiz Ataur Rehman, Adaras Qayyum Butt, Rehan, Umar Bilal Marwat, Mohib Bangash and Farhan Shaheen.

The suspects were initially booked under sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 354A (assault or use of criminal force against woman and stripping her of her clothes), 506 (ii) (punishment for criminal intimidation) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Later, sections pertaining to rape, sexual abuse, extortion, and wrongful confinement were also included in the first information report.

Bokhari further said in the statement that Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed that the state should pursue cases of violence and harassment against women and children.

"The state is standing with the affected women and children", and those guilty of abusing women and children could not escape the grip of law in any case, she added.

Earlier today, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the Usman Mirza case, the 2020 Lahore motorway gang-rape case and the Shahrukh Jatoi case were a challenge for the country's judicial system.

"The question which arises is why are these cases not moving forward on a daily basis? The prosecution and the courts need to fulfil their responsibility," he said, adding that it was the state's responsibility to bring these cases to a logical end.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed fears on Tuesday that the government would have to go to the Interna­tional Monetary Fund (IMF) again if the country’s exports did not increase sharply.

He said exports and tax collection were main driving agents to boost the country’s economy on which the government was focused.

The prime minister presented a rosy picture of what he called “improving economy” and said all economic indicators were showing upward trends despite inherited economic crunch, impact of Covid-19 and “imported inflation” (due to price hike of food items in international market).

“Will have to go to the IMF again if we do not enhance our exports,” he said while addressing the inaugural ceremony of 14th International Chambers Summit 2022 organised by the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The prime minister claimed that the steps taken by his government to combat coronavirus and keep businesses open were being followed by United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “We did not let people die due to Covid-19 and lockdowns,” he added.

He said the government was making strenuous efforts to remove hurdles and bottlenecks faced by exporters, investors and businessmen and to give a spur to the exports industry. “In the past, no attention was paid to these sectors of the economy which are vital for wealth creation. The exports sector was stagnant in the past, but the incumbent government is providing all facilitation to the exporters,” he said.

The summit is being attended by presidents of more than 54 regular chambers, 10 small chambers, 13 women’s chambers and representatives of the development partners, international business community, ministries, government institutions and political parties.

Advocating the government’s decision to present the “mini budget”, the prime minister termed the introduction of mini-budget an effort to document the economy. Out of the total estimated Rs11 trillion retail market, only Rs3 trillion market was registered, he said, adding that the government was also working on tax automation.

The prime minister stressed on developing a tax culture like the Scandinavian countries that had the highest tax ratio and said record tax revenues of Rs6,000 billion had been collected in Pakistan this year.

He referred to the health card initiative under which each family could get free medical treatment worth Rs1 million. Such a health insurance was never thought of in the world, Mr Khan said.

To lift living standards of poor segments of society, the government had also launched Ehsaas programme, he said.

The prime minister recounted that the country’s exports had reached $31bn for the first time in history and foreign remittances had gone up to $32bn.

He said the expansion of industry was vital for a country’s economy. “In Pakistan, large-scale manufacturing has witnessed a growth of 15 per cent. The corporate profits have reached Rs930bn while private sector offtake has touched Rs1,138bn. The IT sector exports have recorded 70pc increase while rising to about $3bn,” the prime minister said while enumerating the growth of the economy due to the government’s business-friendly policies.

The construction sector, he said, was also on the boom while the rural agriculture-based economy had earned Rs1,100bn where 60 to 65pc population of the country was residing. “The change in their economic condition could be gauged from the increased sale of motorcycles,” he added.

Prime Minister Khan claimed that Pakistan was still a cheaper country when compared with petroleum product prices in India and others in the region.

The prime minister said that rule of law in a society was critical as in its absence, corruption would assume the role of cancer. “Corruption is a symptom of lack of rule of law in a society. Our fight is for the rule of law in Pakistan. It is a difficult one because of different cartels and mafias which do not want the rule of law,” he said, terming it a jihad against the mafias to secure future of the country.

He assured the participants that all facilities and utilities would be provided for setting up industrial zones along the Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR), adding that the RRR project had been delayed due to corruption that changed its alignment.

The prime minister also assured that government would ensure provision of land on lease at affordable prices to set up economic zones.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has once again said that his government’s relationship with the military was ‘exceptional’ and the opposition’s narrative regarding a rift between the government and the military was ‘dead and buried’.

In an apparent response to his detractors, the PM told a meeting of party spok­e­spersons on Monday that “civil-military relations are unprecedented these days”.

The prime minister had shared similar views during a meeting with a journalist last week.

When asked — in the context of rumours of a possible deal between the PML-N and military to send his government packing — whether he felt threatened from any quarters, the PM said he personally was not under any kind of pressure. He added that he enjoyed the support of government allies and exp­ressed the confidence that his government would complete its mandated five years.

Talking about the tragic incidents that occurred in Murree over the weekend, the PM was of the opinion that timely arrangements could have averted the deaths of 22 people.

A close aide to the PM told Dawn after attending the meeting that he praised the military for swiftly rushing to the aid of those stranded in Murree and carrying out a rescue operation in the calamity–hit hill station.

PM Khan said the number of tourists in the country had increased while the infrastructure was the same as it was several decades ago, stressing the need for improving facilities and constructing new hotels in tourist spots.

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin also told the meeting about agreements made by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He also claimed that prices of food items were on the decline.

Earlier, PM Khan called the extremist agenda of the Narendra Modi-led government “a real and present threat to peace in the region”, saying that all minorities in India were in the crosshairs of extremist groups operating under the patronage of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In a series of tweets, the prime minister lambasted Mr Modi for his “continuing silence” and inaction against extremist Hindutva groups that were calling for genocide of minorities in the country.

Mr Khan said the extremist ideology of the ruling BJP was behind the provocations against India’s minorities.

“Under the extremist ideology of the BJP Modi govt, all religious minorities in India have been targeted with impunity by Hindutva groups,” he said and urged the international community to take notice of the calls and act against it.

Last month, leaders from several far-right groups in India had called for the ethnic cleansing of minorities in the country, especially targeting its 200 million-strong Muslim population.

The “hate speech conclave” was reportedly organised by Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanand from Dec 17 to 19 in the city of Haridwar, where multiple calls to kill minorities and attack their religious spaces were made.

It has also been reported that Hindu leader Narsinghanand has been accused of inciting communal tension against the Muslim community on several occasions.

Similarly, Sadhvi Annapurna, the general secretary of the political party Hindu Mahasabha, also gave a call to arms and incitement to genocide.

“Nothing is possible without weapons. If you want to eliminate their population, then kill them. Be ready to kill and be ready to go to jail. Even if 100 of us are ready to kill 20 lakhs of them (Muslims), then we will be victorious, and go to jail,” he had said.

On Monday, PM Khan also chaired a meeting of senior PTI leaders, directing them to take effective steps to further strengthen the PTI’s organisational structure across the country.

He also called for activating PTI workers for success in the upcoming local government elections.

Newly-appointed general secretary Asad Umar briefed the meeting on the plans for party reorganisation.

Following their unexpected defeat in the recent local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — considered a PTI stronghold, the prime minister had dissolved the organisational structure of the party across the country and formed a committee consisting of senior party leaders to oversee the reorganisation of party cadres.

The meeting was attended by PTI Khyber Pakhtunkhwa President Pervaiz Khattak, Punjab President Shafqat Mahmood, South Punjab President Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar, Sindh President Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Balochistan President Muhammad Qasim Khan Suri and Additional General Secretary Aamir Mahmood Kiyani.

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