Islamabad court rejects Zahir Jaffer’s applications in Noor Mukadam case

Policemen escort Zahir Jaffer (2L), a Pakistani-American man who went on trial accused of raping and beheading his girlfriend, the daughter of a former ambassador, after his court hearing in Islamabad on October 20, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 07 February 2022
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Islamabad court rejects Zahir Jaffer’s applications in Noor Mukadam case

  • The prosecution urged the court to dismiss applications, calling them tactics to delay the case
  • Noor Mukadam, daughter of a former diplomat, was found beheaded in Islamabad on July 20 last year

ISLAMABAD: A local court in Islamabad on Monday issued a short order and rejected three separate applications filed by prime suspect Zahir Jaffer in the Noor Mukadam murder case, as the prosecution described his written submissions as delaying tactics.  
Filed by Jaffer’s counsel during the last hearing, the first application demanded action against the Islamabad police chief for issuing a press release about one of the previous court hearings. The second application sought action against the investigation officer for allegedly drawing a flawed map of the crime scene, and the third one wanted to determine the ownership of a mobile phone SIM used by the victim’s mother. 
Mukadam, a former Pakistani diplomat’s daughter, was found beheaded in Islamabad’s upscale F-7/4 neighborhood on July 20 last year. Her murder sparked public outrage and grabbed media attention unlike any other recent crime against women. Jaffer, the key suspect, was arrested from the crime scene on the day of the murder and has since been in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail. 
Others charged in the case include Jaffer’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, their three household staff, Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, and six employees of Therapy Works, a counseling center from where Jaffer had received certification to become a therapist and where he had been receiving treatment in the weeks leading up to the murder. 
The case is now in the concluding stage in Islamabad’s district court, where additional sessions judge Atta Rabbani has been conducting its hearings. Eyewitnesses have recorded their statements in the case and defense attorneys have cross-examined them. 
During Monday’s hearing, advocate Nisar Asghar, a counsel for the plaintiff, Shaukat Mukadam, urged the court to dismiss all three applications filed by Jaffer. 
“Such applications at this stage seem to be a tactic [on part of the accused] to delay the case,” he pleaded to the court. 
The counsel informed the court the mobile number the suspect’s lawyer had pointed out was under the use of the victim’s mother, Kausar Mukadam. 
Regarding the application against the investigation officer Inspector Abdul Sattar, the counsel defended the site plan prepared by the prosecution after the murder, saying the green area and jungle across Jaffer’s house had been fully incorporated in it. 
He said that reports prepared on July 24 and 27 fully contained the green area of the house. 
On the third application against the Islamabad police chief, public prosecutor Hassan Abbas said that police had not addressed any press conference as mentioned in the suspect’s application. 
“The IG [Inspector General of Police] did not try to interfere in the court proceedings,” he said. 
However, he admitted the Islamabad administration had released an explanation on Twitter, adding: “We cannot even think of any interference in the court proceedings.” 
Zahir Jaffer’s state counsel Shaharyar Nawaz urged the court to seek the ownership record of mobile SIM that Shaukat Mukadam claimed was in the name of her wife Kausar. 
“The court should check the record to determine the number’s ownership because as per our information this number is registered in someone else’s name,” he said. 
He also raised questions over the police clarification issued on January 25 on Twitter regarding a court hearing. 
The state counsel argued the basement of the house and jungle side were not mentioned in the site plan of the crime scen and the court should look into it. 
After hearing arguments from both sides, the court rejected all three applications and deferred the hearing till Wednesday. 


Imran Khan’s party asks IMF to consider Pakistan’s political stability in bailout talks, sources say

Updated 12 sec ago
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Imran Khan’s party asks IMF to consider Pakistan’s political stability in bailout talks, sources say

  • Cash-strapped Pakistan secured a $3 billion bailout from the IMF last summer
  • A new Pakistani government may need to seek more funds from the global lender

ISLAMABAD: The party of Pakistan’s former prime minister, Imran Khan, has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to factor in the country’s political stability in any further bailout talks, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Khan’s party has sent a letter to the IMF detailing its position, two senior sources in Khan’s party with knowledge of the letter said.
Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy is struggling to recover from an economic crisis and secured a $3 billion bailout from the IMF last summer. Analysts say that a new government — which Khan’s opponents are expected to form after this month’s national election — may need to seek more funds from the global lender.


After 11-day blockade, Pakistani users report being able to use X without VPN

Updated 28 February 2024
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After 11-day blockade, Pakistani users report being able to use X without VPN

  • X first went down on Feb. 17 when a government official confessed to manipulating votes in Feb. 8 elections
  • X’s prolonged disruption has raised widespread concerns about state of democratic freedoms

ISLAMABAD: After being inaccessible for millions of Pakistanis for 11 consecutive days, many users reported they were able to use the social media platform X without enabling a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on Wednesday morning. 

X first went down on Feb. 17 when a government official confessed to manipulating votes in Pakistan’s Feb. 8 general election. The admission came as former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and other political parties staged protests countrywide, alleging the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had rigged elections, which it denies. Mobile phone services were also shut down on polling day over security threats. 

X’s prolonged disruption has raised widespread concerns about the state of democratic freedoms in the country, with the United States and several international organizations urging Pakistan to provide unhindered Internet access and leading digital rights activists calling the blockade a “blatant violation” of civil liberties. 

On Wednesday afternoon, multiple Arab News staffers were able to access X without a VPN, which can mask the identity and location of users to help access websites and services that may be blocked in a certain region. 

VPNs have become increasingly popular in the days since access to X was cut off for much of the country but software application Surfshark reported this week the Pakistan government was working to restrict VPN as well, which the company’s engineers were working to bypass. 

“Twitter (X) is working without VPN in #Pakistan,” journalist Shiraz Hassan said on X. 

A day earlier on Tuesday, Internet observatory group Netblocks said metrics showed X had remained restricted in Pakistan into a tenth day, “as the nation joins an exclusive set of countries that have imposed extended or permanent bans on international social media platforms.” 

Before the latest blockade, Pakistan experienced multiple Internet disruptions in recent weeks that made social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, X and Instagram inaccessible. Recent occurrences were on Jan. 20, Jan. 7 and Dec. 17, when Khan’s PTI party was holding virtual events. The government had blamed those disruptions on “technical glitches.” 

Such shutdowns have previously had a devastating impact on Pakistan’s economy. The day after Khan’s arrest in May last year, Reuters reported that point-of-sale transactions routed through Pakistan’s main digital payment systems fell by around 50 percent according to the region’s two largest payments system operators, 1LINK and Habib Bank Limited.

According to the Internet Society’s monitor Pulse, it is becoming an increasingly common tactic for governments to shut down the Internet on a national or sub-national level to either control civil unrest, stem the flow of misinformation, sway the results of general elections or to gain strategic advantages in territories with ongoing wars.
 


PM denies state responsibility for Baloch missing persons during Islamabad court appearance 

Updated 28 February 2024
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PM denies state responsibility for Baloch missing persons during Islamabad court appearance 

  • Pakistan’s army, intelligence agencies deny carrying out enforced disappearances
  • Balochistan province is the site of a decades long low-level separatist insurgency 

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said on Wednesday the Pakistani state was not responsible for enforced disappearances, a recurring problem that is often blamed on security agencies in the country’s impoverished southwestern Balochistan province.

The prime minister issued the statement during an appearance before the Islamabad High Court in connection with a case regarding Baloch missing students.

Balochistan has long been plagued by enforced disappearances, with families saying men are picked up by security forces, disappear often for years, and are sometimes found dead, with no official explanation. Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies deny they carry out enforced disappearances.

Separatist groups like the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups operating Balochistan, have been fighting a decades long insurgency for independence for mountainous and mineral-rich Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by territory but the smallest in terms of population. Rights activists, political leaders and families say the insurgency has been used as a pretext to pick up innocent civilians, which the state denies. 

“It is not correct to consider the entire state guilty [for enforced disappearances in Balochistan],” Kakar was widely quoted by local media as telling the court, castigating state critics for not holding separatists and militants responsible when they killed innocent civilians and security officials. 

Balochistan borders Afghanistan to the north, Iran to the west and has a long coastline on the Arabian Sea. It has Pakistan’s largest natural gas field and is believed to hold many more undiscovered reserves. It is also rich in precious metals including gold, the production of which has grown over recent years.

Balochistan is a key location in China’s huge multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of President Xi Jinping’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Though separatists mostly target Pakistani security forces and state installations in Balochistan, they have also attacked Chinese workers and projects. 

In a rare statement on the issue in 2019, the military sympathized with families of missing Balochs but said some may have joined militant groups and “not every person missing is attributable to the state.”

Pakistan has repeatedly blamed India for fanning militancy in Balochistan, a charge New Delhi denies. 


Ex-PM Khan calls for nationwide election protests over alleged vote counting fraud on Saturday

Updated 28 February 2024
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Ex-PM Khan calls for nationwide election protests over alleged vote counting fraud on Saturday

  • Khan’s PTI party claims it won from 179 national constituencies, though it was deprived of nearly 85 seats
  • The party has asked its followers and supporters to take to the streets in large number to protect its mandate

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party issued a protest call to its supporters on Tuesday, urging them to take to the streets and demonstrate against the alleged election manipulation following the February 8 polls.

Pakistan’s national polls were marred by a countrywide outage of cellphone networks and delays in the announcement of results by election authorities, leading to widespread suspicions of fraud during the vote counting process.

Several political parties, including the PTI, have been protesting against election irregularities, claiming the results were altered in favor of their opponents.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) denies these allegations.

“Imran Khan has given a message to all of Pakistan today from jail that there will be a protest against the theft of our mandate between 11 and 12am on Saturday,” PTI leader Sher Afzal Marwat said during a news conference.

“I have been assigned the responsibility of the protest in Islamabad,” he added. “We will start the demonstration from F9 Park and it will conclude at the Press Club. We will remain completely peaceful.”

Marwat maintained people had come out to vote for his party at a time when its candidates were not even allowed to run their campaign.

He said it was now everyone’s responsibility to protect that mandate by taking to the streets in large numbers.

The PTI leader claimed the politicians who were taking over power in Punjab and at the National Assembly had not even been elected on their seats.

Independent candidates supported by Khan’s party won over 90 seats and emerged as the single largest bloc in the National Assembly.

It says it can prove its victory from 179 national constituencies, though it was deprived of nearly 85 seats during the vote counting process.


On anniversary of shooting down Indian warplane, Pakistan says will ‘forcefully respond to aggression’

Updated 28 February 2024
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On anniversary of shooting down Indian warplane, Pakistan says will ‘forcefully respond to aggression’

  • Pakistan downed Indian MiG-21 aircraft and captured its pilot after New Delhi ordered airstrikes in Balakot in 2019
  • Caretaker PM Kakar says his country is capable of protecting its territorial integrity against external aggression

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar praised the armed forces of Pakistan on the fifth anniversary of the downing of an Indian fighter jet in Kashmir on Tuesday, saying the incident demonstrated that his country was capable of protecting its territorial integrity in the face of any external aggression.

“Operation Swift Retort” was a military operation conducted by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on February 27, 2019, in response to the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) airstrike in Balakot a day earlier.

The Indian attack was said to be in response to an attack in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, on February 14 which killed 40 of its paramilitary personnel.

The Indian authorities blamed the attack on its soldiers on a Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, leading to heightened tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors and the attack in Balakot.

“Today marks the completion of five years of ‘Operation Swift Retort,’” the PM office circulated Kakar’s message. “We pay tribute to the professional skill and determination of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, who on this day debunked India’s claims, falsely and wrongly, by practically demonstrating their operational superiority.”

“There should be no doubt that Pakistan is a peace-loving country, committed to protecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added. “We will robustly respond to any aggression.”

During the operation, the PAF conducted airstrikes across the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Kashmir region, targeting non-military sites to demonstrate its capability and resolve while avoiding human loss and escalation to a full-scale war.

The operation included an aerial engagement between Indian and Pakistani fighter jets, resulting in the downing of an Indian MiG-21 aircraft and the capture of its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, by Pakistani forces.

The pilot was later released as a gesture of peace by the administration in Islamabad.