Pakistan PM says Sikh separatist leader’s killing, linked to India, ‘jolted’ West

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar speaks during a media briefing at the Prime Minister's House in Islamabad on August 31, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Government of Pakistan/File)
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Updated 23 September 2023

Pakistan PM says Sikh separatist leader’s killing, linked to India, ‘jolted’ West

  • Canada’s PM said last week his government has ‘credible intelligence’ Indian agents were involved in Sikh activist’s killing
  • Pakistan’s Caretaker PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar says an alliance should be formed to check India’s ‘rough behavior’

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said the “gruesome murder” of a Sikh separatist leader in Canada months ago had jolted the West, which was now questioning the involvement of the Indian state in the incident, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report on Saturday.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last Monday infuriated New Delhi when he said his country had “credible intelligence” Indian agents were involved in Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing in June this year.
Trudeau’s comments sparked off a diplomatic row between Ottawa and New Delhi, with both states expelling senior diplomats from each other’s countries following the accusations. Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Nijjar’s killing was a violation of international law and showed New Delhi’s “network of extra-territorial killings” had gone global.
“Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Friday said that the gruesome murder of Khalistan Movement Sikh leader in Canada had jolted the West that raised serious questions about the role of Indian state,” the APP said, adding that the prime minister was speaking at the Pakistan Mission in New York.
Kakar said Pakistan had been a victim of such “state-sponsored terrorism” and that he had shared evidence of the same at different global and multilateral fora. The Pakistani prime minister said it was probably the first incident of its kind after World War I in which an Asian country had staged a “physical murder” on European soil.
The Pakistani premier said the killing’s impact was being felt across Western countries which were now realizing the extent to which India targets its minorities.
“The prime minister opined that an alliance should be formed to check such ‘rough behavior’ of India,” APP said.
During his address to the UN General Assembly on Friday, Kakar spoke about Pakistan’s relations with its nuclear-armed neighbor, saying that his country desired “peaceful and productive” relations with all neighbors including India.
“Global powers should convince New Delhi to accept Pakistan’s offer of mutual restraint on strategic and conventional weapons,” he said, adding that the disputed Kashmir region provided the key to peace between the two neighboring states.
He also spoke about the rising threat posed by “far-right extremist and fascist groups such as Hindutva inspired extremists threatening genocide against Indian Muslims and Christians alike.”

Pakistani court hands over prominent Pashtun rights activist to police on 7-day remand

Updated 07 December 2023

Pakistani court hands over prominent Pashtun rights activist to police on 7-day remand

  • Manzoor Pashteen was arrested on Monday in southwestern Pakistan for an alleged gun attack on law enforcers
  • Pashteen’s lawyer, however, says he was sent on a seven-day remand in a case registered by police in August

PESHAWAR: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Islamabad on Thursday handed over the leader of an ethnic Pashtun rights group to police on a seven-day physical remand, on charges of inciting people against state institutions in a case registered against him earlier this year, his lawyer said. 

Police in Pakistan’s southwestern Chaman border town arrested Manzoor Pashteen on Monday over a disputed gun attack on law enforcers near the country’s border with Afghanistan. Pashteen’s arrest came after he addressed protesters who were camped near the border to protest Pakistan’s new visa policy and passport regime at the border crossing. 

However, his lawyer Musadiq Aziz said Pashteen was produced before ATC judge Abul Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain in Islamabad on Thursday, in a complaint registered against his client and other leaders of his Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) group for a protest rally they held in Islamabad in August. 

As per a copy of the FIR against Pashteen shared by his lawyer, the PTM leader was charged with inciting people against state institutions in speeches made at the rally. 

“We contested the Pashteen case aggressively before the ATC judge who, after hearing arguments, handed my client over to police on seven days’ physical remand,” Aziz told Arab News. 

Aziz pointed out that others nominated with Pashteen in the case had secured bail from the court, with his client being the exception. 

Ali Wazir, a senior PTM leader and Pashtun rights activist, also confirmed Pashteen had been presented before the ATC judge for the complaint registered by Islamabad Police in August. 

He added the PTM had planned a series of protests next week against Pashteen’s arrest in several parts of the country. 

“A final public rally against Pashteen’s arrest will be held in Karachi,” he said. 

Pashteen, 30, has emerged as a prominent advocate of the rights of ethnic Pashtuns who have allegedly faced rights abuses during Pakistan’s war against militants, mainly in its northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. He heads the PTM group in Pakistan. 

WHO says contaminated medicines manufactured by Pakistani pharma identified in some regions

Updated 07 December 2023

WHO says contaminated medicines manufactured by Pakistani pharma identified in some regions

  • WHO says medicines contained ‘unacceptable levels’ of contaminant ethylene glycol
  • Affected products identified in Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, South East Asia, Western Pacific

The World Health Organization on Thursday said several contaminated syrups and suspension medicines had been identified in countries in the WHO regions of the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific.

The affected products were manufactured by Pharmix Laboratories in Pakistan, the WHO said, and were first identified in the Maldives and Pakistan. Some of the tainted products have also been found in Belize, Fiji and Laos. Pharmix was not immediately available for comment.

The medicines, liquids containing active ingredients to treat various conditions, contained unacceptable levels of the contaminant ethylene glycol, WHO said.

The alert is the latest in a line of warnings from WHO about similarly contaminated medicines made in India and Indonesia, which were linked to the deaths of around 300 children worldwide last year.

No adverse events have been reported to the WHO regarding the Pakistan-made syrups, the agency’s statement said, but it urged countries to step up vigilance and test products made by the company between December 2021 and December 2022.

The contamination was found in Alergo syrup in a routine examination by the Maldives Food and Drug Authority in November, and confirmed by the Australian regulator.

A follow-up inspection at Pharmix manufacturing facilities, conducted by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, found that a number of other products were also contaminated. It has ordered the company to stop making all oral liquid medicines and issued a recall alert in November.

A total of 23 batches of Alergo syrup, Emidone suspension, Mucorid syrup, Ulcofin suspension and Zincell syrup are affected, the WHO said. Only Alergo so far has been found outside Pakistan.

The contamination levels ranged from 0.62 percent to 0.82 percent, compared to the accepted level of not more than 0.10 percent, according to the alert. The products are variously designed to treat allergies, coughs and other health issues.

“The substandard products referenced in this alert are unsafe and their use, especially in children, may result in serious injury or death,” the WHO warned.

At Islamabad church conference, Muslim and Christian religious leaders condemn Israeli ‘brutality’ in Gaza

Updated 07 December 2023

At Islamabad church conference, Muslim and Christian religious leaders condemn Israeli ‘brutality’ in Gaza

  • Prime minister’s envoy on Middle East, Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, demands Israel be tried for war crimes in Gaza 
  • Pakistani Christian reverend, Father Sarfraz Simon, condemns Israel for killing innocent Palestinians 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Christian and Muslim religious leaders on Thursday condemned Israel for its “brutal” massacre in Gaza, accusing the Jewish state of shedding the blood of innocent Palestinians on land deemed holy by Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. 

More than a million Palestinians have been displaced from northern Gaza since Oct. 13, when the Israeli military ordered residents to evacuate to the south on 24 hours’ notice. 

Israeli warplanes have targeted densely populated areas in Gaza, saying it is retaliating to a full-pronged attack launched by Hamas’ military wing on Oct. 7. Israel’s war over the past two months has killed over 15,000 Palestinians and injured scores of others, as international aid agencies raise alarm over the deteriorating human rights violations in Palestine. 

“Today, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinians, voicing our opposition to the brutality inflicted upon humanity in Gaza,” Father Sarfraz Simon, a reverend of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rawalpindi, told participants of a Palestine Solidarity Conference in Islamabad. 

The conference was attended by a host of Muslim leaders, including Hafiz Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, the prime minister’s special envoy to the Middle East, to express solidarity with Palestinians. 

Simon pointed out that Pope Francis had also condemned Israeli atrocities in Gaza, adding that cruelty toward innocents is not permitted by any religion. 

“Israel is committing atrocities by shedding the blood of innocent people on the holy land,” he said. Simon said Israeli atrocities were targeting the innocent irrespective of their religion in Gaza.

In October, Israeli warplanes targeted the Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza, one of the oldest in the city. 

“One of the oldest churches was destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza where around 25 Christians were also killed,” he said. 

“Similar to Islam, Christianity and Judaism both declare the killing of an innocent person to be illegal.” 

Addressing the conference, Ashrafi demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be tried by the International Court of Justice for war crimes in Gaza. 

“A special tribunal should be established under the United Nations to investigate Israel for its war crimes in Gaza,” Ashrafi said. 

He said Pakistan had raised the plight of Gaza on every global platform, saying that everyone in Pakistan wanted Israel’s war to end. 

“Along with Muslims, the Christian community is also raising its voice against Israeli atrocities,” Ashrafi said. 

Allama Arif Hussain Wahidi, central vice president of the Shia Ulema Council of Pakistan, urged Israel’s supporters to introspect at the killings in Gaza. 

“Supporters of Israel should introspect and question whether it is justified to indiscriminately kill innocent people, including women and children,” he said. 

Pakistani court to hear evidence on Dec. 12 in ex-PM Sharif’s appeal against corruption conviction

Updated 07 December 2023

Pakistani court to hear evidence on Dec. 12 in ex-PM Sharif’s appeal against corruption conviction

  • Ex-PM Sharif was handed a seven-year imprisonment sentence in the Al-Azizia corruption case in December 2018 
  • Islamabad High Court rejects anti-graft body’s request to transfer case to accountability court, increase Sharif’s sentence

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruled on Thursday it would hear evidence on Dec. 12 in an appeal by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif against his conviction in the Al-Azizia reference, rejecting a request by the national anti-graft body to enhance his sentence and remand the case before an accountability court. 

The Al-Azizia Steel Mills case became a high-profile corruption case that centered on allegations of financial irregularities and money laundering linked to the establishment of the facility in Saudi Arabia by Sharif and his family.

A local accountability court in the federal capital sentenced him to seven years in December 2018 and imposed a fine of £2.5 million in the case. The verdict also disqualified the ex-premier from holding any public office for 10 years and ordered him to forfeit all his properties. 

“We have two options, the first is that we call for evidence and decide the appeal on merit, and the second is that we remand the reference back to the accountability court [for fresh hearing],” IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq said, who was heading a division bench hearing Sharif’s appeal against the conviction. 

Deciding a case on merit means the court will consider the evidence in the case, including the charges and defense as opposed to matters of jurisdiction or procedure. 

Following the Al-Azizia verdict, Sharif was arrested from the court premises and remained in prison for about seven months before he left for London in November 2019 for medical treatment after securing bail from a Pakistani court. 

Sharif returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile after nearly four years in October and filed appeals against his convictions in two separate corruption references, Al-Azizia and Avenfield. The IHC acquitted the former prime minister in the Avenfield reference last month. 

Pakistan’s anti-graft body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had requested the court to increase Sharif’s sentence in the Al-Azizia reference and remand the case back to an accountability court. 

Sharif’s counsel and ex-federal law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar urged the court to decide the matter on merit as “a lot of excesses have already been committed against Nawaz Sharif.” 

Amjad Pervaiz, another legal counsel of the former prime minister, informed the court that three references were filed against his client on the Supreme Court’s directions in the Panama Papers case. 

He said Sharif was acquitted in the Flagship reference and convicted in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases. 

“A single reference should have been filed [against Sharif] as all three references accused him of having assets beyond means,” Pervaiz told the court. 

Pervaiz said Al-Azizia Steel Company Private Limited was registered in Saudi Arabia in 2001 while the Hill Metal Establishment was set up in Jeddah in 2005-2006 by Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz, after he sold the Al-Azizia mill. 

“Nawaz Sharif had nothing to do with bank accounts or operations of these companies,” Pervaiz said, highlighting that Sharif had also not held any public office from October 1999 to May 2013. 

He said the NAB had accused Sharif of owning these companies without any solid evidence at its disposal. 

At one point during the hearing, NAB’s prosecutor urged the court to first look into petitions regarding a video scandal of the late accountability court judge Arshad Malik. 

Malik had handed Sharif the seven-year sentence in the Al-Azizia case but Sharif’s counsel contended that they did not want to discuss the issue as Malik had passed away. 

Sharif’s party had released a video of the late judge in which he could be heard saying he was blackmailed to issue a verdict against the former prime minister. 

After hearing both parties to the case, the court ruled it would hear the case on merit and adjourned proceedings till Tuesday. 

Pakistan government says no ‘second thoughts’ on holding general elections on Feb. 8

Updated 07 December 2023

Pakistan government says no ‘second thoughts’ on holding general elections on Feb. 8

  • Information Minister Murtaza Solangi says Pakistan conducted elections in 2008, 2013 despite severe security issues
  • His statement follows speculation in local media about national elections being delayed beyond February 8

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said on Wednesday that the federal cabinet did not have any “second thoughts” about holding polls in Pakistan on Feb. 8, categorically rejecting speculation that elections would be delayed due to security or weather concerns. 

Elections were originally expected to take place in November after Pakistan’s national and two provincial assemblies were dissolved in August before reaching the end of their tenure. However, Pakistan’s election regulator decided to redraw hundreds of national and provincial constituencies based on a digital census carried out in April before arranging the electoral contest. 

The Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) officials later scheduled the voting process for the last week of January, before announcing Feb. 8 as the final date after consultations with the country’s President Dr. Arif Alvi on the Supreme Court’s instructions.

Given Pakistan’s uncertain political environment, however, local media outlets have continued to speculate about the possibility of elections being delayed beyond Feb. 8. 

“The thing is, problems of security and the weather will always remain,” Solangi told a private news channel. “But in the federal cabinet, there is no doubt, neither is there any worry nor any second thoughts that we would not hold elections on Feb. 8.”

Pakistan has seen a surge in militant attacks across the country’s western regions bordering Afghanistan ever since a fragile truce between Islamabad and the Pakistani Taliban broke down in November 2022. 

Prominent religious party, the Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam Pakistan (JUI-F) urged the ECP last month to delay polls till the security situation in the country improves and the cold in Pakistan’s northern areas dissipates. 

Solangi said Pakistan had held elections in the past despite the threat of militancy when the security situation was far worse. 

“Maybe our memories are a bit weak,” he said. “What was the security situation in 2008 and 2013? If we compare it [to now] then it is nothing. 

Yes, I can’t say what the circumstances will be in the future but right now, the situation has not worsened to the point that we experience any difficulty in holding elections.

Pakistan’s media regulator also issued a directive earlier this week for satellite television channels, warning them that airing speculative news about a delay in elections would be deemed a violation of its laws.