Pakistan court acquits ex-PM Sharif in corruption case involving luxury London apartments

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (R) stands beside his daughter Maryam Nawaz (L) as he waves to their supporters along with his brother and former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (back) gathered at a park during an event held to welcome him in Lahore on October 21, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 November 2023
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Pakistan court acquits ex-PM Sharif in corruption case involving luxury London apartments

  • Sharif was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2018 for corrupt practices in the purchase of Avenfield apartments
  • Sharif was also sentenced to seven years in prison the same year for failing to prove source of funds to set up steel mills

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday acquitted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over corrupt practices linked to his family’s purchase of upscale London flats in a case in which the three-time ex-premier was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018.

Sharif’s third term as prime minister ran from 2013 to 2017, when he was removed by the Supreme Court amid revelations over his personal wealth in the Panama Papers investigations, and subsequently convicted of corruption in two cases. 

The Avenfield case revolved around the purchase of the upscale Avenfield apartments in London by the Sharif family. In a second case, the Al-Azizia reference, Sharif was convicted for owning assets beyond means and being unable to justify the source of the funds to set up the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment (HME) in Saudi Arabia. In the second case, Sharif was sentenced to seven years in jail in 2018.

Sharif has consistently denied the accusations, claiming they were politically motivated and blaming the country’s generals for directing the judges to bring him down. The military denies interfering in politics.

“I had left things to Allah, Allah has made me triumphant today,” Sharif told reporters after his acquittal in the Avenfield reference.

Asked about what he expected in the Al-Azizia appeal, the ex-PM said: “I have left that to Allah also.”

Sharif returned to Pakistan after four years in self-exile on Oct. 21 to lead his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party in general elections, scheduled for February.

Ahead of his return, Sharif got protective bail against arrest from a court, and subsequently bail in both the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases. While he has now been acquitted in the former case, his sentence in the Al-Azizia corruption reference was suspended by the caretaker administration in the Punjab province last month, which is widely considered to be close to the military establishment. The army denies it has any political affiliations.

The suspension of the Al-Azizia sentence and Sharif’s acquittal today in the apartments’ reference has led to widespread speculation that the way is being paved for Sharif’s return to power for a fourth time. 

A number of major political parties, including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of ex-PM Imran Khan and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of the Bhutto dynasty, have openly complained of the lack of what has popularly come to be called a “level playing field” — a euphemism for fair competition in elections. Both parties say the PMLN has become a favorite of the powerful military establishment ahead of polls. 


Pakistan can save $10 billion yearly through agri exports to Gulf states, China — army

Updated 42 min 39 sec ago
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Pakistan can save $10 billion yearly through agri exports to Gulf states, China — army

  • Third annual Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology Cattle Show kicks off in Karachi 
  • Show aims to highlight investment opportunities and technology in dairy, livestock, agriculture, and fisheries sectors 

KARACHI: Pakistan can save $10 billion per year through import substitution in the agriculture sector and exporting commodities to Gulf states and China, a senior military official said on Thursday at the inauguration ceremony of the third annual cattle show in Karachi.

The Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology (DALFA) Cattle Show is held each year to highlight investment opportunities and advanced technology in the dairy, livestock, agriculture, and fisheries sectors of Pakistan.

Major General Shahid Nazir, Director General of Strategic Projects of the Pakistan Army, said the country imported more than $10 billion worth of agricultural products, calling for the production of exportable surplus to earn much needed foreign exchange.

“Pakistan can save about $10 billion per year through import substitution in the agriculture sector and exporting commodities to Gulf states and China,” Nazir told reporters after the inauguration of the cattle show.

A handler stands next to cattle at the Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology (DALFA) cattle show in Karachi, Pakistan on February 22, 2024

He said the recently launched Green Pakistan Initiative, a joint effort between the Pakistan government and the army, would help improve the country’s agricultural development and grant unutilized lands to farmers to produce better yields using advanced technology. 

“Under the initiative advanced technology will be incorporated and the actual potential of Pakistan’s agriculture sector will be explored to achieve self-reliance,” Nazir said.

“We are facing the big challenge of foreign exchange and so there are two ways to earn the foreign exchange by saving $10 billion plus which are being spent on the import of agriculture products.”

He said collaborations in the agriculture sector had already started with Gulf countries.

Cattle displayed at the Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology (DALFA) cattle show in Karachi, Pakistan on February 22, 2024

“We have cultivated wheat on about 100,000 acres of land and are preparing for cotton and sunflower. In Sindh [province], for the first time, more than 4 million bales have been produced,” Nazir said. 

A new Special Investment Facilitation Council was set up in July last year to serve as a “one window operation” for foreign investors, with a special focus on attracting funds from Gulf nations. The initiative is a collaboration between the Pakistan army and government, with military officials including the arm chief holding key positions. 


Newly elected MPs to take oath today at legislative assembly in Pakistan’s key Punjab province 

Updated 7 min 29 sec ago
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Newly elected MPs to take oath today at legislative assembly in Pakistan’s key Punjab province 

  • Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N emerged as largest party in Punjab Assembly in elections held earlier this month
  • Imran Khan and his PTI party have rejected the results of the elections, alleging widespread rigging

LAHORE: Newly elected representatives from Pakistan’s most politically important province of Punjab will take oath today, Friday, at the provincial legislative assembly’s inaugural session, as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan announced protests outside the building against what it calls the ‘rigging’ of Feb. 8 general elections.

An agreement to form a coalition government between Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif late Tuesday night ended days of uncertainty and negotiations after an inconclusive Feb. 8 election produced a hung national assembly. 

PML-N’s 79 and the PPP’s 54 seats in the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, together make a simple majority to form a government, though the two parties will also rope in smaller parties in the coalition. Independent candidates backed by Imran Khan won 93 seats, but do not have the numbers to form a government. He and his party have rejected the results of the elections, alleging widespread rigging.

“Those Tehreek-e-Insaf candidates who won the Punjab Provincial Assembly election but have been defeated due to the forgery of Form 47 should protest peacefully in front of the Punjab Provincial Assembly tomorrow at 10 am along with supporters,” Hammad Azhar, PTI’s general secretary for central Punjab, said on X. “Everyone should join this protest.”

A party requires 186 members to form the government in Punjab. The PML-N won the greatest number of seats in the province, 137, has been joined by about two dozen independent members and is also likely to bag a significant number of reserved seats for women and minorities which are allocated based on the number of seats won in polls. 

Outgoing Punjab Assembly spea­ker, Sibtain Khan, will administer the oath to the members of the new assembly. The session will then be prorogued to be summoned anew for the election of the new speaker and deputy speaker of the house, to be followed by the election of the leader of the house, that is the chief minister.

The Punjab Assembly is the largest elected house in the country, with 371 seats, comprising 297 general seats and 74 reserved seats, including 66 for women and eight for minorities.

The province of more than 127 million people, over half of Pakistan’s population, is known as the country’s most heated battleground, contributing 173 of the 326 seats in Pakistan’s Parliament and is the heartland of the nation’s political, military and industrial elite.

Historically, the party that secures a stronghold in Punjab often manages to form the government at the center. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of three-time former PM Nawaz Sharif, is poised to make history as the first woman chief minister of a Pakistani province. The PML-N’s candidate for prime minister is Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s brother.


Pakistan to present legal position on Israeli policies in Palestine at ICJ hearing today

Updated 23 February 2024
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Pakistan to present legal position on Israeli policies in Palestine at ICJ hearing today

  • Case is on ‘Legal Consequences arising from Policies and Practices of Israel in Occupied Palestinian Territory”
  • Palestinian representatives on Monday accused Israel of colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and genocide

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will present its legal position today, Friday, at ongoing advisory proceedings of the International Court of Justice on the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry said. 

The International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, is holding the public hearings from February 19-26 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court. 

“Tomorrow [Friday] evening, Minister for Law and Justice, Ahmed Irfan Aslam, will present Pakistan’s position at the ongoing advisory proceedings of the International Court of Justice in the case on ‘Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem’,” the foreign office said.

“The proceedings stem from a December 2022 request by the United Nations General Assembly for an advisory opinion by the Court on the legal consequences of Israel’s policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

During the course of Monday’s three-hour session at the court, seven representatives for the Palestinians said Israel’s rule in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was illegal, and accused the country of a litany of crimes, including colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and genocide.

Similar accusations were leveled against Israel by the South African delegation in court on Tuesday.

Jerusalem’s stance is that the ICJ advisory opinion sought by the UN General Assembly is illegitimate since numerous UN resolutions as well as bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreements have established that the correct framework for resolving the conflict should be political, not legal.

Israel has not sent a delegation to the ongoing proceedings. 


IMF says won’t comment on ‘political developments’ after Imran Khan urges Pakistan election audit

Updated 19 min 48 sec ago
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IMF says won’t comment on ‘political developments’ after Imran Khan urges Pakistan election audit

  • IMF says will work with new government to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all Pakistanis
  • Khan plans to write to IMF urging audit of controversial Feb. 8 elections before it continues talks with Islamabad

KARACHI: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday it would not comment on “ongoing political developments” in Pakistan after lawyers for former Prime Minister Imran Khan said he would write to the global lender urging it to call for an independent audit of controversial Feb. 8 national elections before continuing bailout talks with Islamabad.

Pakistan averted default last summer due to a short-term IMF bailout, but the program expires next month and a new government will have to negotiate a long-term arrangement to keep the $350-billion economy stable.

Ahead of the bailout, the South Asian nation had to undertake a slew of measures demanded by the IMF, including revising its budget, a hike in its benchmark interest rate, and increases in electricity and natural gas prices.

Pakistan’s vulnerable external position means that securing financing from multilateral and bilateral partners will be one of the most urgent issues facing the next government, ratings agency Fitch said on Monday.

“I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments. So, I don’t have anything else to add to what I just said,” IMF Spokesperson Julie Kozack told reporters when asked to respond to reports of Khan’s letter.

“We look forward to working with the new government on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens.”

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Pakistan planned to seek a new loan of at least $6 billion from the International Monetary Fund to help the incoming government repay billions in debt due this year. 

The country would seek to negotiate an Extended Fund Facility with the IMF, the report said, and talks with the global lender were expected to start in March or April.


Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory

Updated 22 February 2024
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Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory

  • In low-scoring match, Rilee Rossouw holds his nerve with 34-run inning to guide Quetta to victory
  • Gladiators’ Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Wasim take three wickets each to keep Islamabad at bay

Islamabad: Despite a valiant fightback by Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators continued their impressive run of the tournament by beating the former by three wickets at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Thursday. 

“Continuing our winning streak,” the Gladiators wrote on social media platform X after the match ended. 

Batting first, United scored a lackluster 138/9 at the end of their 20 overs courtesy of a stellar bowling performance from the Gladiators. Spinner Abrar Ahmed returned figures of 3/18 while Mohammad Wasim finished with 3/20. Akeil Hosein finished with 2/32 while pacer Mohammad Hasnain returned figures of 1/35. 

United’s only resistance in the batting department came from Agha Salman, who top-scored with a decent 33-run knock from 23 balls while opener Alex Hales scored 21 from nine deliveries. 

What should have been an easy chase for the Gladiators turned into a difficult one when United took quick wickets to put the pressure back on Rossouw’s squad. United skipper Shadab Khan returned figures of 2/24 while pacer Naseem Shah finished with 2/34. 

Rumman Raees and Hunain Shah took a single wicket each before Rossouw guided United to victory with a composed 34-run innings that came off 38 balls and featured only three boundaries. 

Opener Jason Roy provided the Gladiators an impressive start to the game by smashing 37 runs off 18 balls while Sherfane Rutherford held his nerves to score 29 runs from 23 balls before Naseem rattled his stumps.

The Gladiators and table-toppers Multan Sultans both have three wins from the tournament so far. Islamabad, with a single win and two losses, is at number three on the PSL points table.