Pakistan brings home body of outspoken journalist Arshad Sharif killed in Kenya

The body of slain Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif arrives in Islamabad from Kenya on Oct. 26, 2022. (Social media)
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Updated 27 October 2022

Pakistan brings home body of outspoken journalist Arshad Sharif killed in Kenya

  • Interior ministry sets up two-member team to travel to Kenya to investigate Sharif’s killing
  • Slain journalist will undergo autopsy Wednesday, be buried Thursday: Family

ISLAMABAD: The body of Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif, who was shot and killed by Nairobi police on Sunday, arrived in Islamabad just after midnight Wednesday, as the Pakistan government dispatched a two-member team to Kenya to investigate the murder of the outspoken anchorman.

According to Kenyan police, Sharif was killed when the car he was in sped up and drove through a checkpoint outside the Kenyan capital, prompting police to open fire. Nairobi police say the shooting was being treated as a case of mistaken identity.

The circumstances of Sharif’s death have sparked widespread outrage in Pakistan and calls for an investigation.

Sharif, a hugely popular talk show host, was of late a harsh critic of the current ruling coalition and the army, and fled the country in August, citing threats to his life. He was also widely considered a staunch supporter of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf opposition party.

At the time he left Pakistan, he was facing a slew of court cases related to charges of sedition and others. He was believed to have been in the UAE since he left Pakistan and had recently traveled to Kenya.

In a notification issued on Tuesday night, the Pakistani ministry of interior said on the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office, a two-member team had been set up to “ascertain the facts related to the murder of senior journalist Arshad Sharif from Kenyan police and relevant authorities.”

The team includes the Federal Investigation Agency Director Athar Waheed and Intelligence Bureau Deputy Director General Omar Shahid Hamid.

“The team will travel to Kenya immediately,” the circular said, adding that the ministry of foreign affairs and Pakistan’s High Commission in Nairobi would facilitate the visit. It did not specify a timeframe for the team to complete the investigation.

Meanwhile, the slain journalist’s body was received at Islamabad Airport by his family, friends, and a crowd of hundreds of well-wishers early Wednesday morning before being shifted to the morgue at a private hospital in Rawalpindi.

Sharif’s family said he would undergo a post-mortem in Islamabad, and be laid to rest on Thursday at the H-11 cemetery after funeral prayers at 2 p.m. at Islamabad’s Shah Faisal Mosque.

Sharif left Pakistan in August after going into hiding in his own country in July to avoid arrest following a citizen’s complaint against him on allegations of maligning the country’s national institutions, a reference to the military. His whereabouts were not publicly known.

A month later, Sharif’s employer, the private ARY Television, fired him, saying he had violated the TV station’s social media policy. His talk show “Power Play,” which aired on Mondays and Thursdays, was discontinued.

The TV channel had earlier in the year remained critical of Pakistan’s prime minister Shehbaz Sharif following the ouster of his predecessor, Imran Khan, in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April. Khan claimed he was ousted as part of a US plot, a charge both Washington and the Pakistani government deny. Sharif the journalist, who is not related to the PM, had been a prominent critic of Khan’s ouster.

Khan on Tuesday told a gathering of lawyers in the city of Peshawar that he had asked the slain journalist to leave the country as his life was in danger in Pakistan. He paid glowing tribute to Sharif, saying he was among those journalists who never bowed to pressure.

Ukraine’s Zelensky visits Kherson region, vows to ‘restore everything’

Updated 52 min 44 sec ago

Ukraine’s Zelensky visits Kherson region, vows to ‘restore everything’

  • The visit was his second outside Kyiv this week
  • He earlier visited troops near the eastern frontline city of Bakhmut

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has visited the southern region of Kherson, where he toured local infrastructure and promised to “restore everything” following Russia’s invasion.
The visit, to a region where Ukraine staged a successful counteroffensive against Russian occupying forces late last year, was his second outside Kyiv this week. On Wednesday he visited troops near the eastern frontline city of Bakhmut. “I spoke with local residents about their current issues and needs,” Zelensky wrote on the Telegram messaging app under footage of his visit to Kherson region.
“We will restore everything, we will rebuild everything. Just like with every city and village that suffered because of the occupiers.”
The Ukrainian counteroffensive last year pushed Russian troops out of the regional capital Kherson after months of occupation. Workers in the region are now busy restoring power and the water supply.
“We have to ensure full restoration and protection of our energy sector!” Zelensky wrote in a separate post showing him inspecting energy infrastructure.
“I am grateful to everyone who works for this and returns the light to our people!“

UK to review security at Indian High Commission in London after protests

Updated 23 March 2023

UK to review security at Indian High Commission in London after protests

  • Protesters with "Khalistan" banners detached Indian flag from balcony of mission's building
  • Khalistan refers to independent Sikh state sought by some groups but which does not exist

British foreign minister James Cleverly on Wednesday said the country will review security at the Indian High Commission in London following “unacceptable acts of violence” toward the mission’s staff.

Earlier this week, India summoned the most senior British diplomat in New Delhi to protest at the actions taken by “separatist and extremist elements” against the country’s mission in London.

The BBC and Indian media reported that protesters with “Khalistan” banners detached the Indian flag from the first-floor balcony of the diplomatic mission’s building earlier, to protest against the recent police action in India’s Punjab state. Khalistan refers to an independent Sikh state sought by some groups but which does not exist.

According to the BBC, crowds had gathered outside the high commission’s building on Sunday and windows were broken, after which India demanded an explanation for the “complete absence of the British security” around the premises.

On Wednesday, Indian daily The Hindu reported that at least a hundred police officers were standing guard on both sides of the road outside the High Commission in London on Wednesday.

Cleverly said that police investigation was ongoing after the acts of violence and that the country will make the necessary changes to ensure the safety of the Indian mission’s staff as it did for demonstrations on Wednesday.

Indian court orders Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail for Modi comment

Updated 23 March 2023

Indian court orders Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail for Modi comment

  • Gandhi mentioned two fugitive Indian businessmen with the surname Modi in a speech ahead of 2019 elections
  • The Congress leader plan to appeal the verdict, as Narendra Modi’s party seeks his disqualification from parliament

AHMEDABAD, India: A court in India found opposition leader Rahul Gandhi guilty of defamation on Thursday for a speech he made in 2019 in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi, and sentenced him to two years in prison.

Gandhi, a senior leader of the Congress party and the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, will appeal against the order in a higher court, his party said. The judgment was passed by a court in the city of Surat, located in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

An adviser to the federal government, Kanchan Gupta, said Gandhi, a member of the lower house of parliament, could face immediate disqualification as a member of parliament following the conviction in line with a 2013 order of the country’s highest court.

“The court has found Rahul Gandhi’s comment to be defamatory,” said Ketan Reshamwala, an advocate for complainant Purnesh Modi, a Gujarat lawmaker from the prime minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “He has been sentenced to two years in jail.”

Gandhi was present at the Surat court, which gave him bail immediately and suspended the sentence for a month.

In the speech ahead of the last general election in 2019, Gandhi referred to the prime minister and two fugitive Indian businessmen, all with the Modi surname, while talking about alleged high-level corruption in the country.

On Thursday, Gandhi told the court that his comment was not against any community.

Gandhi’s party said the case against him was brought by a “cowardly and dictatorial” BJP government because he was “exposing their dark deeds.”

“The Modi government is a victim of political bankruptcy,” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said on Twitter. “We will appeal in the higher court.”

Gupta, a senior adviser to the federal Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, said that Gandhi faced immediate disqualification as a lawmaker.

“In a democracy, nobody, absolutely nobody is above the law,” Gupta said on Twitter. “All are equal. The law, therefore, equally applies to Rahul Gandhi.”

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said the party had “all legal recourse available to us and we will use them.”

“Hopefully, the law of the land will prevail,” she said.

Gandhi, one of Modi’s main rivals ahead of the 2024 general election, won support from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that rules Delhi and two of whose top leaders are in jail on what they call trumped-up charges.

“A conspiracy is being hatched to eliminate non-BJP leaders and parties by prosecuting them,” AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote on Twitter.

“We have differences with the Congress, but it is not right to implicate Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case like this. It is the job of the public and the opposition to ask questions. We respect the court but disagree with the decision.”

Gandhi’s once-dominant Congress controls less than 10 percent of the elected seats in parliament’s lower house and lost badly to the BJP in the last two general elections.

Modi remains India’s most popular politician by a substantial margin and is widely expected to win a third victory at the next general election in 2024.


Indian court rules Rahul Gandhi guilty of defamation over Modi remark

Updated 23 March 2023

Indian court rules Rahul Gandhi guilty of defamation over Modi remark

  • Narendra Modi’s government has been widely accused of using the law to target and silence critics
  • Case stems from a remark the opposition leader made during the 2019 election campaign

AHMEDABAD, India: An Indian court Thursday found opposition leader Rahul Gandhi guilty of defamation for a 2019 campaign trail remark implying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a criminal.
Modi’s government has been widely accused of using the law to target and silence critics, and the case in the premier’s home state of Gujarat is one of several lodged against his chief opponent in recent years.
Gandhi, the leading face of the opposition Congress party, was sentenced to two years imprisonment but immediately granted bail after his lawyers announced their intention to appeal.
The case stemmed from a remark made during the 2019 election campaign in which the 52-year-old had asked why “all thieves have Modi as (their) common surname.”
His comments were seen as a slur against the prime minister, who went on to win the election in a landslide.
Members of the government also said the remark was a smear against all those sharing the Modi surname, which is associated with the lower rungs of India’s traditional caste hierarchy.
“If you are going to insult the entire Modi surname, this is completely defamatory,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, a lawmaker for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told reporters.
“There was a proper hearing. He got an opportunity to present his side of things,” he added. “The decision has been taken according to the due judicial process.”
Gandhi’s lawyer B. M. Mangukiya said his client had not meant to insult anyone.
“When the magistrate asked Gandhi what he had to say in his defense, the Congress leader said that he was fighting to expose corruption in the country,” Mangukiya told reporters outside the court.
“His comments were not meant to hurt or insult any community.”
Gandhi is the son, grandson and great-grandson of a dynasty of former Indian prime ministers, beginning with independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru.
But the scion of India’s most famous political dynasty has struggled to challenge the electoral juggernaut of Modi and its nationalist appeals to the country’s Hindu majority.
Gandhi, who was present in court in Surat for the verdict, was greeted by supporters on his arrival.
He faces at least two other defamation cases elsewhere in the country.
Gandhi is also on bail in another money laundering case that has been snaking its way through India’s glacial legal system for more than a decade. He denies any financial impropriety.

Nationwide protests in France after Emmanuel Macron doubles down on pension bill

Updated 23 March 2023

Nationwide protests in France after Emmanuel Macron doubles down on pension bill

  • ‘The best response we can give the president is that there are millions of people on strike and in the streets’
  • Protests against the policy changes have drawn huge crowds in rallies organized by unions since January

PARIS: Train services were disrupted and some schools shut while garbage piled up on the streets of France on Thursday as part of a ninth nationwide day of strikes against a deeply unpopular bill to raise the pension age.
Protesters blocked a highway near Toulouse in southwestern France in the early morning and a bus depot in the west, in Rennes, Le Parisien newspaper said. Protest rallies were scheduled across the country later in the day.
President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said the legislation — which his government pushed through parliament without a vote last week — would come into force by year-end despite escalating anger across the country.
“The best response we can give the president is that there are millions of people on strike and in the streets,” said Philippe Martinez, who leads the hardline CGT union.
Protests against the policy changes, which lift the retirement age by two years to 64 and accelerate an increase in the number of years one must work to draw a full pension, have drawn huge crowds in rallies organized by unions since January.
Most protests have been peaceful, but anger has mounted since the government pushed the bill through parliament without a vote last week.
The past seven nights have seen spontaneous demonstrations in Paris and other cities with rubbish bins set ablaze and scuffles with police.
Labor unions said Thursday’s day of strikes and protests would draw huge crowds against what they described as Macron’s “scorn” and “lies.”
Laurent Berger, the head of France’s biggest union, the moderate CFDT, told BFM TV the government must withdraw the pension law.
The latest wave of protests represents the most serious challenge to the president’s authority since the “Yellow Vest” revolt four years ago. Polls show a wide majority of French opposed to the pension legislation as well as the government’s decision to push it through parliament without a vote.
Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt said the government was not in denial about the tensions but wanted to move on.
“There is a disagreement that will persist on the retirement age. On the other hand, there are many subjects which make it possible to renew a dialogue,” he said, including how companies share their profits with workers.
“Things will be done gradually,” he said.
Electricity power supply was reduced on Thursday as part of rolling strikes in the sector.
The government has renewed a requisition order requiring some employees to return to work at the Fos-sur-Mer fuel depot in southern France to secure petrol supplies for the region.