Designer, ex-PM Khan supporter Khadijah Shah remanded in Quetta police custody in murder case 

An undated file photo of Khadijah Shah. (Photo courtesy: @javerias/X)
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Updated 11 December 2023
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Designer, ex-PM Khan supporter Khadijah Shah remanded in Quetta police custody in murder case 

  • Khadija Shah was among thousands of Khan supporters and key aides arrested after violent protests on May 9
  • The designer is accused in four cases connected to the events of May 9, which are all being heard in Lahore

ISLAMABAD: A prominent Pakistani-American fashion designer who was arrested in cases related to violent protests over the brief May 9 arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan was remanded in the custody of police in the southwestern city of Quetta on Monday, dashing the hopes of her lawyers and family that she would be released after six months behind bars. 

Khadijah Shah, the founder of the luxury fashion brand Elan, was among thousands of people, including grassroots supporters and key Khan aides, who were rounded up after Khan’s arrest in a land graft case on May 9 unleashed nationwide protests in which his followers attacked and damaged government and military properties, including Lahore’s Jinnah House, the residence of a top army commander.

The designer, a vocal Khan supporter, is accused in four cases connected to the events of May 9, which were all being heard in Lahore, where Shah is imprisoned at the Kot Lakhpat Jail. She has been granted bail in all cases but had thus far been unable to secure release. Many other Khan supporters also complain that despite being granted bail, they keep being implicated in new cases. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has repeatedly accused the state, particularly the army, of cracking down on its supporters and members after May 9. The army and government deny this.

“Today #KhadijahShah case was fixed for announcement of judgment by LHC [Lahore High Court],” Shah’s lawyer Sameer Khosa said on X on Monday morning. “The MPO [maintenance of public ] order has apparently been withdrawn. A team from Quetta is here to take #Khadijah.”

Pakistani media widely reported later in the day that an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore had granted Quetta police two-day transitory remand of Shah in a case in which she is accused of murder and attempted murder in connection to the May 9 riots.

Her mother in law Mehvash Amin, a journalist and poet, tweeted that Shah had “committed no crime.”

 

 

Shah’s mother Aneela Shah appealed to the Supreme Court to take notice of her daughter’s case.

 

 

Shah’s husband Jarrar Shah said his wife was being taken to Quetta in “another manufactured fake case.”

 

 

On Nov. 15, an anti-terrorism court had granted Shah bail in the fourth and last case involving the May 9 protests. However, she was re-arrested on Nov. 17 under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) ordinance for 30 days.

Shah had subsequently challenged the detention in the Lahore High Court as “unlawful and unconstitutional,” and on Monday, the government in Punjab province submitted a notification to the LHC saying it had withdrawn Shah’s detention orders “with immediate effect”.

However, before Shah could be released, Quetta police filed a request in the ATC seeking her transit remand, which was granted for two days. The court also directed Quetta police to present Shah in court on Dec. 13.

Shah was arrested on May 25 after being on the run for almost two weeks following the May 9 violence. She denies any wrongdoing and says she protested peacefully.

Shah is the daughter of Dr. Salman Shah, a member of the finance team of former military ruler General Parvez Musharraf. Her father had also served as an adviser in the Punjab government during Khan’s tenure as prime minister. She is the granddaughter of a former Pakistani army chief.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has faced a widening crackdown since May 9, with thousands of his followers arrested and dozens of members of his party, including some of his closest aides, deserting him.

Khan, who is serving a three-year jail sentence in a separate graft case, says a slew of legal cases against him since he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in 2022 are fabricated and politically motivated and that his associates are being forced out of the PTI under duress by the military in a maneuver to dismantle his party before elections scheduled early next year. The army denies this.


Pakistani security forces kill six militants in intelligence-based operation in northwest

Updated 29 February 2024
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Pakistani security forces kill six militants in intelligence-based operation in northwest

  • An official statement says the militants were involved in violent activities against North Waziristan’s residents
  • The Pakistani security forces also recovered weapons, ammunition and explosives from the dead militants

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces killed six militants in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in the country’s northwest on Wednesday, saying they were involved in violent activities against the civilian population in the area.

Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in militant activities since Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a proscribed conglomerate of armed factions, called off a fragile ceasefire with the government in November 2022.

The violence has largely been confined to the western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan that share frontier with the neighboring state of Afghanistan.

The country’s security forces and law enforcement agencies have carried out several operations in recent months to deal with militants in places like North Waziristan where the recent engagement with the militants took place.

“During the conduct of operation, intense fire exchange took place between own troops and the terrorists,” the military’s media wing, ISPR, said in a statement, adding that this led to the killing of six militants.

“Weapons, ammunition and explosives were also recovered from the killed terrorists, who remained actively involved in numerous terrorist activities including target killing as well as extortion & abduction of innocent civilians,” it added.

The ISPR said one of the Pakistani soldiers who participated in the operation also got injured.

It informed the Pakistani forces started a “sanitization operation” to find other militants who might have taken refuge in the area.

Pakistan’s North Waziristan district was once described as the hub of militancy before the government launched a clear-and-hold military operation to reclaim the territory.


US urges new Pakistan government to prioritize economy, continue working with IMF on reforms 

Updated 29 February 2024
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US urges new Pakistan government to prioritize economy, continue working with IMF on reforms 

  • The US says it supports Pakistan’s efforts to break free from the vicious cycle of debt and international financing
  • Analysts believe government will have to negotiate another IMF loan program amid continuing economic challenges

ISLAMABAD: The United States said on Wednesday Pakistan’s new government should address the economic situation facing the country on priority, emphasizing it was important for the emerging administration in Islamabad to continue engagements with international financial institutions.

Pakistan is holding the first National Assembly today, Thursday, in which the newly elected lawmakers will take oath. The country’s new government is expected to take the reins of power within the next few days after the in-house election of the next prime minister.

The issue of Pakistan’s economy came up for discussion during a regular State Department briefing after a journalist asked about a letter written by former premier Imran Khan’s party to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), asking it to link the next loan facility to “good governance” in the country.

“I’ll just say with respect to the IMF that we support Pakistan’s efforts to break free from the vicious cycle of debt and international financing,” Spokesperson Matthew Miller said. “The long-term health of Pakistan’s government – or economy is crucial to its stability.”

“Pakistan’s new government must immediately prioritize the economic situation because the policies over the next several months will be crucial to maintaining economic stability for Pakistanis,” he added. “And we urge Pakistan to continue working with the IMF and other international financial institutions toward macroeconomic reforms.”

Pakistan has been facing significant financial challenges in recent years, with dwindling foreign exchange reserves and declining value of its national currency.

The country’s caretaker administration negotiated a $3 billion, short-term loan facility with the IMF that is scheduled to expire in March.

Pakistan’s economic challenges persist, prompting many analysts to point out it will continue to need external financing from the international lending agency.
 


Pakistan’s National Assembly convenes as Imran Khan-backed MNAs protest vote result

Updated 1 min 38 sec ago
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Pakistan’s National Assembly convenes as Imran Khan-backed MNAs protest vote result

  • PML-N’s 79 and PPP’s 54 seats together make a simple majority in parliament to form a government
  • Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf won 93 seats but does not have the numbers to form a government

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Assembly convened for its first session on Thursday, with opposition lawmakers continuing to protest the results of a general election on Feb. 8 that has been widely marred by allegations of rigging. 

The agreement between Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif on Feb. 20 ended days of uncertainty and negotiations after an inconclusive election threw up a hung National Assembly. 

PML-N’s 79 and the PPP’s 54 seats together make a simple majority in parliament to form a government, and they have also roped in smaller parties in the coalition. Candidates backed by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) 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, which the election commission has denied.

Thursday’s session started with ruckus as soon as the national anthem ended and Khan-backed lawmakers, who have joined the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), surrounded the speaker’s podium.

“Who will save Pakistan? Imran Khan! Imran Khan!” PTI lawmakers chanted after the oath taking and as newly elected MNAs signed the NA register roll. 

The coalition alliance has announced Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as its PM candidate. Shehbaz is himself a former premier and replaced Khan when he was ousted through a no-confidence vote in parliament in 2022. Since then, Khan has been convicted of several offenses in what his supporters call politically motivated moves to keep him out of office. 

The coalition alliance is backing former President Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP as their joint candidate for president when the new parliament and all the four provincial legislatures elect the successor of the outgoing President Arif Ali, a close Khan ally, in the coming weeks.

Shehbaz will take over the country at the time when the new government would need to take tough decisions to steer the country out of financial crisis, including negotiating a new bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund/ The current IMF program expires in March. A new program will mean committing to steps needed to stay on a narrow path to recovery, but which will limit policy options to provide relief to a deeply frustrated population and cater to industries that are looking for government support to spur growth.

Other big moves include privatization of loss-making state owned enterprises such as the flagship carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

Pakistan is also facing a troubling rise in militancy, which any new government will have to tackle. Lowering political temperatures will also be a key challenge as Khan maintains mass popular support in Pakistan, and a continued crackdown on his party and his remaining in jail would likely stoke tensions at a time when stability is needed to attract foreign investment to shore up the economy.


Two Pakistanis charged over calls for Dutch far-right leader’s killing

Updated 29 February 2024
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Two Pakistanis charged over calls for Dutch far-right leader’s killing

  • The Netherlands and Pakistan do not have an extradition treaty, leaving prospects for a trial unclear
  • A Dutch court says the Pakistanis were suspected of publicly calling on people to kill Geert Wilders

AMSTERDAM: A Dutch court said it had charged two Pakistani nationals on Wednesday over public calls for the murder of far-right anti-Muslim leader Geert Wilders, who aims to lead a new government after his party won elections in November.

In a statement on Wednesday, the court said prosecutors had asked authorities in Pakistan to extradite the two suspects – aged 55 and 29 – to stand trial in the Netherlands.

It said the two Pakistanis were suspected of publicly calling on people to kill Wilders and promising them a reward in the afterlife if they did so. It did not say how those calls were made.

In September, a Dutch court sentenced a Pakistani former cricketer to 12 years in prison after he was tried in absentia for publicly urging people to kill Wilders.

“I hope they (two suspects) will be extradited, convicted and jailed!” Wilders wrote in a post on X.

The court scheduled its first hearing on the case for Sept. 2. The Netherlands and Pakistan do not have an extradition treaty, leaving prospects for a trial unclear.


Finance minister says China rolls over $2 billion loan to Pakistan

Updated 29 February 2024
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Finance minister says China rolls over $2 billion loan to Pakistan

  • The loan was due in March and has been extended by the Chinese authorities for one year
  • Securing external financing is one of the most urgent issues facing Pakistan’s next government

ISLAMABAD: China has rolled over a $2 billion loan to Pakistan, caretaker finance minister Shamshad Akhtar confirmed in a response to Reuters on Thursday.

The $2 billion loan was due in March and has been extended for one year, Geo News which first reported the news said, citing sources in the Pakistan finance ministry. Beijing had communicated the decision to Islamabad, it added.

Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy is struggling to stabilize from a financial crisis and secured a $3 billion standby arrangement from the International Monetary Fund last summer.

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 last week.