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

Pakistan's former Prime Minister and graft convict Nawaz Sharif (L) waves as he arrives to appear before the High Court in Islamabad, Pakistan, on December 7, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 07 December 2023
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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 to seek at least $6 billion in new IMF Loan program

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Pakistan to seek at least $6 billion in new IMF Loan program

  • Country to negotiate an Extended Fund Facility, with talks with IMF expected to start in March or April
  • Pakistan averted default last summer thanks to a short-term International Monetary Fund bailout

Pakistan plans 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, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, citing a Pakistani official.

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

Pakistan averted default last summer thanks to a short-term International Monetary Fund 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.

The IMF staff continues a dialogue with authorities on needed longer-term reform efforts, a spokesperson for the fund said, adding that the fund is available, if requested, to support the post-election government through a new arrangement to address Pakistan’s ongoing challenges.

Pakistan’s caretaker finance minister did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the Bloomberg report.

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.

“A new deal is key to the country’s credit profile, and we assume one will be achieved within a few months, but an extended negotiation or failure to secure it would increase external liquidity stress and raise the probability of default,” it said.


Pakistan’s leading car assembler announces Rs3 billion investment in localization of parts

Updated 14 min 17 sec ago
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Pakistan’s leading car assembler announces Rs3 billion investment in localization of parts

  • Indus Motor’s investment aims to reduce company’s reliance on imports, support local auto industry
  • Pakistan’s auto sector has faced challenges due to slowing economic growth, high inflation and interest rates

KARACHI: Pakistan’s leading car assembler, Indus Motor Company (IMC), announced this week it would invest Rs3 billion ($10.7 million) to increase domestic production of parts and components of its Toyota-brand vehicles.

The investment plan aims to reduce the company’s reliance on imports and support the local auto industry, the joint venture between Toyota Motor Corporation and House of Habib said. 

“We are pleased to announce that the board of directors, in its meeting held on 21 February 2024, has approved an investment of around Rs3 billion to be made by the company for additional localization of parts and components of various existing vehicles,” the company said in a statement to the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) on Thursday, adding that the move would allow the company “to reduce outflow of foreign exchange and promote the local auto industry.”

“The announced investment shall be made toward expenditure in plant and machinery, molds, dies, equipment and related expenses for localization of parts and components to be manufactured locally for various existing vehicles.”

The planned investment will be completed by the third quarter of the calendar year 2025. 

Indus Motor has been increasing the localization of parts and components for its vehicles, which include popular models of the Corolla. Last year, the company launched its first hybrid electric vehicle, the Corolla Cross, which it said was 50 percent localized.

Pakistan’s auto sector has faced challenges, particularly since last year, due to slowing economic growth and high inflation and interest rates, which have dampened the demand for cars. The sector has also been hit by the depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar, which has spiked the cost of imports and forced automakers to significantly raise prices.


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

Updated 23 February 2024
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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 23 February 2024
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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.