Nawaz Sharif retakes Pakistan ruling party’s presidency after six years

Nawaz Sharif, three-time former prime minister of Pakistan, gestures as he addresses PML-N’s general council meeting in Lahore, Pakistan on May 28, 2024. (@PML-N/X)
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Updated 28 May 2024
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Nawaz Sharif retakes Pakistan ruling party’s presidency after six years

  • Nawaz Sharif, who founded the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in 1993, stepped down as president in 2018
  • Following his election as PML-N president, Sharif urges PM Shehbaz to turn around Pakistan’s situation

ISLAMABAD: Nawaz Sharif, three-time former prime minister of Pakistan, was on Tuesday elected unopposed as the president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party after a hiatus of six years, the PML-N said.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif resigned as the PML-N president earlier this month saying it was time for his elder brother to “resume his rightful place” as the party’s leader.
Sharif, who founded the PML-N in 1993, stepped down as its president in 2018 after the Supreme Court ruled that an individual disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution, which outline the rules for qualification and disqualification for parliamentarians, could not serve as the head of a political party.
Around 3,500 members of the PML-N’s general council and senior leadership attended a party meeting in Lahore, at which the PML-N chief election commissioner, Rana Sanaullah, announced Sharif’s election as the party chief which was endorsed by the gathering.
“Call those who decided that Sharif was disqualified forever as today, I am standing before you again,” Sharif said, while addressing the PML-N general council meeting after his election. “These party general council members are our assets and remain steadfast during a difficult time.”
Sharif congratulated his party’s members and his younger brother for steadfastly holding onto the party banner through tribulations, and urged the prime minister to turn around Pakistan’s situation, noting that the PML-N had always delivered and brought the country out of troubled times.
“Inflation is coming down, the stock exchange is going up, and despite the current difficult 2-3 years, a prosperous time for Pakistan is on the horizon,” he said.
Addressing the general council meeting, PM Shehbaz felicitated his elder brother on reassuming the party presidency, saying the responsibility and trust given to him were returned to its “rightful owner” today.
“Allah has now restored your position and respect with this great majority,” the Pakistan premier said, adding that the “injustice committed in 2017” had been undone.
Sharif was disqualified as prime minister by the Supreme Court in July 2017, which declared him “dishonest” for not disclosing a separate monthly income from a company owned by his son. The court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to open a criminal trial into the ownership of London flats and several other revelations about the ex-PM’s family wealth disclosed in the Panama Papers’ leaks.
A year later, following the investigations ordered by the court, Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison for corrupt practices linked to his family’s purchase of the upscale London flats and subsequently to seven years in jail in a separate case for being unable to prove the source of income that had led to his ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia. Sharif has since been acquitted in both cases, which he always maintained were politically motivated.
As Sharif faced a slew of cases, Shehbaz Sharif, his younger brother, subsequently became president of the PML-N but had always maintained it was a temporary arrangement until his brother was exonerated by the courts.
After being jailed in 2018, Sharif flew to London in 2019 after a court allowed him to leave for medical treatment, on the condition he returned when fit. However, he went into exile and ran his party affairs from London, while former cricketer Imran Khan ruled as prime minister until April 2022, when he was ousted in a parliamentary vote of no confidence.
Shehbaz took over after Khan and became prime minister for 16 months ahead of general elections on Feb. 8, after which he once again came to power in March and became premier and is now ruling Pakistan through a fragile coalition with smaller parties.
Sharif returned from exile to Pakistan in October last year in a chartered jet, surrounded by supporters and journalists.
Speaking to Arab News, PML-N Secretary-General Ahsan Iqbal said Sharif’s election as the PML-N president would bring “new energy and life” to the party as his leadership had been instrumental in transforming the party into a “popular and dynamic political force” in the country.
“His election also reverses the injustice and wrong done to him in 2017 at the hands of the establishment of that time, when he was removed from the office of prime minister and president PMLN through false cases,” Iqbal said.
He said the “unconstitutional judgments” of the courts had recently vindicated Sharif’s innocence. “His stature and experience will be a big asset for the party and the country,” Iqbal added.
Political analysts termed Sharif’s election a “significant boost” to the ruling party and Sharif himself to engage actively in the country’s politics.
“It will be very significant as the elder Sharif finally has a formal role now,” Aasiya Riaz, a Pakistani political analyst, told Arab News.
She said Sharif remained a key leader of the party, who had “resonance with the public.” “He may use this office to distance himself from some of the unpopular decisions taken by elected office-holders of his party,” Riaz said.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president of Islamabad-based think tank PILDAT, said Sharif’s election would not have much impact as far as the country and the PML-N were concerned, but it was a significant move for Sharif personally.
“He [Sharif] will feel that his personal redemption has moved forward and he has reclaimed the position which he was removed from,” Mahboob told Arab News.
He said another aspect of Sharif’s election was that the “duality” in party leadership had been removed as it was always the elder brother who called the shots in the party.
Mahboob, however, said the separation of the positions of the party head and the head of government had not been very successful in Pakistan in the past.
“It is desirable but not practical in Pakistani culture of political parties, because it takes a lot of political maturity and democratic culture to live with multiple centers of power,” he added.


On Eid Al-Adha, animal accessories are all the rage 

Updated 17 June 2024
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On Eid Al-Adha, animal accessories are all the rage 

  • Animal traders decorate bulls, lambs and goats to make them stand out and fetch higher prices
  • Customers buy animals, then purchase anklets, bells and colorful collars from decoration stalls

ISLAMABAD: Ashraf Khan picked up a colorful anklet and showed it to a customer from a range of collars, beads, bells and other ornaments at his stall of animal accessories at the Sangjani cattle market on the outskirts of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

The 33-year-old, who sets up a makeshift stall at the market every year, said the demand for animal accessories went up just as the demand for animals and their prices surged ahead of the major Islamic festival, marked by devout Muslims by slaughtering animals and sharing the meat with family and the poor.

Khan, who has been selling animal accessories for the last several years, said his clients not only included members of the public, but also traders who wanted to adorn their cows, sheep and bulls before putting them up for sale in order to better attract customers and fetch higher prices.

“We receive goats, lambs and bulls [at our decoration stall],” Ashraf said. “It takes Rs1,000 to Rs1,500 ($3-5) to decorate a goat with different types of materials. Decorating bulls ranges from Rs2,000 to Rs2,500 ($7-8).”

The 33-year-old sources ornaments from Islamabad’s twin city of Rawalpindi and sets up his stall in the Sangjani capital market a week before Eid.

“The price tag depends on the number and quality of items,” Khan said. 

Naik Muhammad, who brought 50 lambs to sell at Sangjani market, said a lamb cost him around Rs25,000 ($90) this year and he was looking to sell it for between Rs85,000 to Rs95,000 ($305-$341).

“The purpose of decoration is that customers like them more and the rates get better,” Muhammad said. “When customers like the animal then we can ask rates of our choice.”

Alamgir Khan, a fruit vendor in Islamabad, purchased a lamb for Rs77,500 ($278) after haggling with sellers for around three hours and brought it to Khan’s stall to buy accessories for decoration.

“We have spent some money on its decoration to make it look beautiful and then the children at home will see it and be happy, and that is a rewarding thing,” Alamgir told Arab News. “This is an animal for sacrifice, it should be adorned.”


Pakistan among big nuclear arms spenders amid swelling global tensions — studies

Updated 17 June 2024
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Pakistan among big nuclear arms spenders amid swelling global tensions — studies

  • Spending for 2023 by the nuclear-armed states jumped more than 33 percent from the $68.2 billion spent in 2018
  • SIPRI says “we have not seen nuclear weapons playing such a prominent role in international relations since Cold War”

GENEVA: Nuclear-armed countries hiked spending on atomic weapons arsenals by a third in the past five years as they modernized their stockpiles amid growing geopolitical tensions, two reports showed on Monday.

The world’s nine nuclear-armed states jointly spent $91 billion on their arsenals last year, according to a new report from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

That report, and a separate one from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), indicated that nuclear weapons states are dramatically scaling up spending as they modernize and even deploy new nuclear-armed weapons.

“I think it is fair to say there is a nuclear arms race under way,” ICAN chief Melissa Parke told AFP.

Wilfred Wan, head of SIPRI’s weapons of mass destruction program, meanwhile warned in a statement that “we have not seen nuclear weapons playing such a prominent role in international relations since the Cold War.”

SIPRI’s report showed that the total estimated number of nuclear warheads in the world actually declined somewhat to 12,121 at the start of this year, from 12,512 a year earlier.

But while some of that included older warheads scheduled to be dismantled, it said 9,585 were in stockpiles for potential use — nine more than a year earlier.

And 2,100 were kept in a state of “high operational alert” on ballistic missiles.

Nearly all of those were held by the United States and Russia, but China was for the first time believed to also have some warheads on high operational alert, SIPRI said.

“While the global total of nuclear warheads continues to fall as Cold War-era weapons are gradually dismantled, regrettably we continue to see year-on-year increases in the number of operational nuclear warheads,” SIPRI director Dan Smith said.

The spending surge reported by ICAN appeared to back that up.

The report showed that in 2023 alone, nuclear weapons spending worldwide jumped by $10.8 billion from a year earlier, with the United States accounting for 80 percent of that increase.

The US share of total spending, $51.5 billion, “is more than all the other nuclear-armed countries put together,” said ICAN.

The next biggest spender was China, at $11.8 billion, followed by Russia, spending $8.3 billion.

Britain’s spending meanwhile rose significantly for the second year in a row, swelling 17 percent to $8.1 billion.

Spending for 2023 by the nuclear-armed states — which also include France, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea — jumped more than 33 percent from the $68.2 billion spent in 2018, when ICAN first began collecting this data, it said.

Since then, the nuclear armed states have spent an estimated total of $387 billion on the deadly weapons, the report showed.

Parke slammed “the billions of dollars being squandered on nuclear weapons” as “a profound and unacceptable misallocation of public funds.”

She highlighted that that money was more than what the World Food Programme estimates is needed to end world hunger.

“And you could plant a million trees for every minute of nuclear weapons spending,” she said.

“These numbers are obscene, and it is money that the state says is going toward weapons that... will never be used,” she said, pointing to the nuclear deterrence doctrine.

The investments are not only wasteful but also extremely dangerous, she warned.

“What happens when deterrence fails?“

Geneva-based ICAN won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its key role in drafting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which took effect in 2021.

Seventy countries have ratified it to date and more have signed it, although none of the nuclear weapons states have come on board.

“Instead of investing in Armageddon, the nine nuclear-armed states should follow the example of almost half the world’s countries and join the treaty... and make a real contribution to global security,” said Alicia Sanders-Zakre, a co-author of Monday’s ICAN report.


Karachi’s professional butchers are the real heroes of Eid Al-Adha 

Updated 17 June 2024
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Karachi’s professional butchers are the real heroes of Eid Al-Adha 

  • Butchers are booked in advance by customers ahead of Eid holiday 
  • Seasonal butchers also use the holiday to make some extra income 

KARACHI: Qayamuddin Qureshi, a 70-year-old butcher affectionately known as Qamo Bhai, works year-round near Jubilee Chowk in the Old City Area of Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi. 

But ahead of Eid Al-Adha each year, the third-generation butcher’s phone rings off the hook as customers call him for advance bookings to visit their homes and slaughter cows, sheep and goats to mark the annual religious holiday.

The demand for professional butchers surges on Eid Al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, traditionally marked by the slaughter of animals, whose meat is shared with family members and the poor, while amateur and seasonal butchers also try to make an extra buck during the holiday season.

“People book us [professional butchers] in advance and those who book in advance get the benefit of this early reservation,” Qureshi, a self-described ‘man of his word’ who has been working as a butcher since the age of 10, told Arab News, as he cut up a piece of meat at a shop in Hassan Ali Hothi Market. 

“By the grace of Allah, I am a family butcher... and this is our second and third generation in the profession … I do a lot of work, execute the job in the best manner and make customers satisfied and that’s why they keep calling me back again.”

Last year, Pakistanis sacrificed over six million animals worth $1.9 billion during the three-day Eid Al-Adha festival, according to estimates shared by the Pakistan tanners’ association.

“What we earn during the three days [of Eid Al-Adha] is enough to eat for the six months,” Qureshi said.

Earlier this month, the Meat Merchants Association in Karachi announced the official rates for animal slaughtering services during Eid, with the price for cows set at around $70, for goats at $32 and camels at $144. Amateur butchers often charge as low as $18.

The service charges are highest on the first day of Eid.

“There is a lot of demand for the first day. For example, a cow that costs about a million rupees would be slaughtered for Rs50,000 on the first day,” Qureshi said, adding that the charges gradually decreased by the third day.

Muhammad Naseem Qureshi, another longtime butcher, said he had many returning customers. 

“You can’t find good butchers,” he said. “So the people catch us by themselves. They know that we are good butchers.”

Naseem said he was now refusing orders as his services were fully booked. 

“We have so much work that we have to refuse people,” he said. “We have a ‘Housefull’ sign displayed outside.”

SEASONAL BUTCHERS

Old hands like Qureshi said amateur butchers were easy to identify, particularly though their “tools and slaughtering skills.” 

“They slaughter and work on one animal with the help of four people, but a professional butcher works on the animal alone,” he said. 

But with butchers in such high demand over Eid, not everyone gets to book the craftsman of their choice, particularly as the professionals charge more. 

“The animals are also very expensive,” Karachi resident Hajji Noshad said. “We are [often] compelled to bring in unprofessional butchers who mostly ruin the meat and our sacrifice.”

But for seasonal butchers, Eid Al-Adha is too good an opportunity to let go to generate some extra income.

“We have a family business of sanitary hardware,” Saeed Akbar Ali, who works as a butcher over Eid, told Arab News.

“The job of butcher we do... we slaughter 10-12 animals a day... to meet the expenses for Eid.”


Pakistan joins Muslim world in celebrating Eid Al-Adha, the ‘Feast of Sacrifice’

Updated 17 June 2024
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Pakistan joins Muslim world in celebrating Eid Al-Adha, the ‘Feast of Sacrifice’

  • The Pakistan government has announced a three-day holiday for Eid, from Monday to Wednesday
  • Over six million animals valued at around $1.9 billion were sacrificed during the three-day holiday last year

ISLAMABAD: Muslims in Pakistan started celebrating Eid Al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, on Monday with food and prayers for the people of Gaza and Kashmir, facing “brutal foreign occupation” but fighting for their right to self-determination.

One of the most important Islamic holidays, Eid Al-Adha is a joyous occasion on which food is a hallmark and during which devout Muslims buy and slaughter animals and share the meat with family, friends and the poor. The revered observance coincides with the final rites of the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

As the day began, top leaders shared wishes with the Pakistani people, with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif both urging the nation to “reaffirm their commitment to the values of brotherhood, sacrifice, and selflessness on this occasion.”

“Sharif said the day serves as an occasion to unite the people and foster the bonds of brotherhood and fraternity as well as to look after the less fortunate among us and make them part of our collective celebration,” state broadcaster Radio Pakistan reported. 

“He said on this Eid day, we pray for our Palestinian and Kashmiri brothers and sisters who are bravely facing brutal foreign occupation but remain steadfast in their struggle to achieve their right of self-determination.”

A girl with henna patterns on her hand looks towards a sacrificial animal being slaughtered, as she accompanies her father during Eid al-Adha celebrations in Karachi, Pakistan on June 17, 2024. (REUTERS)

The Pakistani military and its top leaders also extended wishes to all Pakistanis on the occasion of Eid.

“This sacred event embodies the spirit of sacrifice for the greater good. On this auspicious day, we are indebted to our martyrs and ghazis [warriors] for the independence and peace which prevail in the country, and pay tribute to their ultimate sacrifices,” the army’s media wing said. 

“May Allah Almighty continue to bestow His blessings upon Pakistan and protect it from the nefarious designs of its adversaries, Ameen.”

Muslim devotees offer Eid al-Adha prayers at the Eidgah ground in Rawalpindi on June 17, 2024. (AFP)

The Pakistan government has announced a three-day holiday for Eid, from Monday to Wednesday.

According to tanners associations, over six million animals valued at approximately Rs531 billion ($1.9 billion) were sacrificed during the three-day Eid festival in 2023. As many, if not more, animals are expected to be sacrificed this year.

Muslims greet each other after offering Eid al-Adha prayers at the Eidgah ground in Rawalpindi on June 17, 2024. (AFP)

 


Government accuses ex-PM Khan party of sponsoring resolutions in US to halt Pakistan military aid

Updated 16 June 2024
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Government accuses ex-PM Khan party of sponsoring resolutions in US to halt Pakistan military aid

  • Spokesman says Khan’s party began a ‘concentrated smear campaign’ against Pakistan in foreign countries following his ouster in 2022
  • The House Rules committee declared the resolutions against the facts and set them aside after Foreign Office intervention, Aqeel Malik adds

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Sunday accused former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of hiring lobbyist firms in the United States (US) to move resolutions in the Congress that sought to halt Pakistan’s military aid.
The PTI began a “concentrated smear campaign” against Pakistan in foreign countries after the ouster of Khan in a parliamentary no-trust vote in 2022, according to Aqeel Malik, a Pakistani government spokesman.
The resolutions tabled last year urged Washington to limit US military assistance to Pakistan until the South Asian country ensured free and fair elections, and independent judiciary and reasserted separation of powers.
Speaking at a press conference, Malik said these resolutions had been sponsored by Khan’s party to promote “anti-Pakistan agenda and narrative,” but the US House of Representatives rejected them.
“In the amendments submitted, they [PTI] said that Pakistan’s security and other assistance should be stopped and requested the secretary of state to submit a report in which human rights violations in Pakistan, other assessments and any irregularities should also be reported,” he said.
“Our Foreign Office had this campaign neutralized, set aside and defeated it. These three amendments were dropped because the House Rules committee declared them against the facts.”
He criticized the PTI for shaping an anti-US narrative in Pakistan following the ouster of Khan from the PM’s office and yet hiring lobbyist firms to promote “anti-Pakistan agenda and narrative” in the US.
In a post on X, the PTI said Congressman Ro Khanna’s call for the US to sanction Pakistan’s army chief, Asim Munir, and other military leaders over transnational repression marked a “crucial turning point.”
“The international community can no longer ignore the blatant human rights abuses and systemic corruption that plague Pakistan. The recent rigged election, with Imran Khan still unjustly imprisoned, is a testament to the military’s stranglehold on the country,” it said.
In the last several months, the PTI has sought support from US lawmakers in investigating alleged rights abuses and crackdown on its supporters in the wake of Khan’s unprecedented campaign of defiance against Pakistan’s powerful military.
In May 2023, 65 congressmen wrote a letter to the US Secretary of Defense to prioritize the promotion of protection of human rights and democracy in Pakistan, according to Malik.
Eleven congressmen wrote a letter to US Secretary of State in November last year to suspend US assistance to Pakistan, while 31 others wrote to the US secretary of state and the president to not recognize the Pakistani government formed after February 2024 election.
Khan’s PTI was severely hamstrung ahead of the February 8 polls, with rallies banned, its party symbol taken away, and dozens of its candidates rejected from eligibility to stand. Arguably Pakistan’s most popular politician, Khan, who has been in jail since last August, says all cases against him are politically motivated to keep him out of politics.