Lahore court to hear petition for lifting Sharif’s travel ban

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Nawaz Sharif looks out the window of his plane after attending a ceremony to inaugurate the M9 motorway between Karachi and Hyderabad, Pakistan February 3, 2017. (Reuters)
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Pakistani policemen stand guard on the gate of a hospital before shifting jailed Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (unseen), in Lahore on November 6, 2019. (AFP)
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Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gestures as he boards a Lahore-bound flight due for departure, at Abu Dhabi International Airport, UAE July 13, 2018. (REUTERS/ File Photo)
Updated 15 November 2019

Lahore court to hear petition for lifting Sharif’s travel ban

  • Petition filed in Lahore High Court to remove Sharif’s name from the no-fly list
  • Government had earlier offered a one-time travel waiver to Sharif against Rs.7 bn surety bond to avail treatment abroad

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president, Shahbaz Sharif, said on Thursday that a petition had been filed in the Lahore High Court to remove the name of his brother and ailing former premier Nawaz Sharif from the no-fly list. 

He said that Sharif, who was serving his sentence on corruption charges, had been granted bail on health grounds and that the government’s conditional approval for his travel abroad for medical treatment was a “terrible demand” with “no legal, constitutional or judicial basis.” 

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Shahbaz Sharif said that the government’s “intentional delay” could be life-threatening to the 69-year old thrice former premier.

The country’s law minister, Farogh Naseem, told a news conference in Islamabad on Wednesday that a sub-committee looking into the issue had decided to allow the former prime minister to leave the country for medical treatment.

“However, this will be one-time permission that will be subject to the provision of indemnity bonds worth Rs7 billion rupee,” he told the media. “Sharif will be allowed to go anywhere in the world but will have to return in four weeks.”

Naseem said the permission was granted to fulfill the government’s obligation in view of the former prime minister’s “critical medical condition.”

Reacting to the conditional permission, Haq told Arab News that the government was admitting that Sharif was seriously ill but was also creating hurdles in his way to travel abroad for medical treatment.

“The court has granted him an eight-week bail,” he added, “but the government is reducing that to four weeks and imposing an irrational condition. It is highly condemnable and we strongly protest this decision.”

However, he added the decision to accept or reject the government’s offer “solely rested with Nawaz Sharif and his family.”

Pakistan interior minister orders ‘strict’ action against spread of COVID-19 'fake news'

Updated 28 min 54 sec ago

Pakistan interior minister orders ‘strict’ action against spread of COVID-19 'fake news'

  • Says all available resources would be used to identify people who spread misinformation
  • Rights activists fear new laws to curb coronavirus fake news could be used to clamp down on freedom of speech

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s minister for interior, Ijaz Ahmad Shah, on Thursday directed authorities to take “strict and immediate” action against those involved in spreading coronavirus misinformation, a week after the government announced plans to introduce new laws to curb COVID-19 “fake news” on social media.
Last week, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), a top federal body set up to oversee the government’s coronavirus mitigation efforts, set up a committee under the chairmanship of the interior minister to prepare a legal framework to help the government deal with coronavirus-related “fake news” on social media platforms.
“The Federal Minister for Interior, Ijaz Ahmad Shah directed the Director Cyber Wing, FIA to closely monitor and hold the responsible ones accountable for their actions,” the Ministry of Interior said in a statement released after Shah presided over a meeting on formulating a “COVID-19 Disinformation Prevention Mechanism.”
“He reinforced the point that strict and immediate action should be taken against these people. The Minister further said that people who are involved in such actions are not pro-country or its people.”
Shah said the primary purpose of the new committee was to ensure that “correct and credible information” was disseminated, adding that all available resources would be used to identify people who spread disinformation.
He also directed the head of Pakistan’s electronic media regulator not to allow “fake news” to run on TV channels.
Islamabad has previously struggled to regulate online content mostly by blocking or asking social media companies to remove blasphemous material and other posts that violate the country’s religious and cultural norms and laws, or hurt national security interests.
In February, the government approved, and then rolled back, new rules to regulate cyberspace after opponents said they could be used to stifle dissent. Social media companies have also largely shunned obliging to help law enforcement agencies access data and remove online content deemed unlawful.
Rights activists and free media campaigners fear the government’s new coronavirus “fake news” mechanism could be used to clamp down on freedom of speech.
“This shady mechanism is going to have serious implications for the already squeezed freedom of press and expression in Pakistan,” Haroon Baloch, researcher and program manage at Bytes for All, told Arab News.
Baloch said disinformation on social media was a challenge but not a crime, unless it turned into “deep-fake” news that harmed individuals and groups.
“The government must ensure transparency in the so-called mechanism,” he said, “along with ensuring an oversight of civil society and free speech campaigners to prevent abuse.”