Pakistani real estate tycoon claims raid on company offices, alleges political pressure amid corruption probe

In this file photograph, taken on June 21, 2012, Pakistani real estate tycoon Malik Riaz gestures as he leaves the Supreme Court on his contempt of court case in Islamabad. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 May 2024
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Pakistani real estate tycoon claims raid on company offices, alleges political pressure amid corruption probe

  • Malik Riaz was declared a proclaimed offender in the Al Qadir Trust case against ex-PM Khan in January this year
  • He says he will not become ‘an approver’ and retain his ‘long-standing stance of neutrality’ in political matters

ISLAMABAD: A leading Pakistani real estate tycoon said on Tuesday the country’s anti-graft body raided his company offices in Rawalpindi, taking away cash, project files, computers, vehicles and nine employees, as he blamed state institutions for putting him under pressure to advance their “political agenda.”
Malik Riaz, the owner of Bahria Town, which has a presence in several Pakistani urban centers, shared video footage of the alleged raid on his social media account, though its authenticity could not be verified independently.
Riaz, known for his strong connections with influential politicians and officials across the country, is involved in the Al Qadir Trust case against former prime minister Imran Khan, centered around land transactions and the misuse of political authority. The case gained attention after the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency transferred £190 million to Pakistan, obtained from Riaz after investigating him for acquiring assets with illicit funds.
Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, were suspected of taking illicit benefits from Riaz after the money was sent to the Supreme Court accounts as a settlement in financial cases the tycoon faced in Pakistan and he donated a piece of land to the Al Qadir Trust, established by them to set up a university.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is actively investigating the matter against Khan, who has been in prison since last August on multiple charges.
“Malik Riaz will not become an approver,” he wrote in a post on platform X. “Do whatever oppression you want on me.”
“As Chairman of Bahria Town, I assure you, such bullying will not deter me from my stand I have already made public,” he continued. “This arm twisting isn’t hurting me only, it’s crippling the real estate investment in Pakistan. You’re not demolishing my business, your actions are locking up the economic growth of the country. If this is the real agenda behind this witch-hunt, let the people of Pakistan see for what this really is.”

 
He said he believed in Pakistani law was facing all cases on legal forums. Riaz also added he did not want to become part of any “power game” in the country, saying he was reiterating his “long-standing stance of neutrality” and resist pressure tactics to pick a side.
He did not name the Al Qadir Trust case in his social media post, though he was declared a proclaimed offender in it earlier this year in January and has been staying abroad.
So far, there has been no official statement from NAB in response to Riaz’s claims.


India beat Pakistan to clinch World Championship of Legends cricket tournament 

Updated 19 sec ago
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India beat Pakistan to clinch World Championship of Legends cricket tournament 

  • India chases Pakistan’s 157-run target with five wickets in hand, five balls to spare
  • Ambati Rayudu scores 30-ball fifty, Anureet Singh returns figures of 3-43 for India 

ISLAMABAD: India beat arch-rivals Pakistan in Birmingham on Sunday by five wickets to clinch the World Championship of Legends tournament inspired by impressive performances from Ambati Rayudu and Anureet Singh. 

The World Championship of Legends cricket tournament features retired cricketers taking part in a T20 cricket tournament. This year’s edition features teams from Pakistan, India, England, Australia, West Indies and South Africa. 

Batting first, Pakistan managed to put up 156/6 from their 20 overs. Former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik top-scored from his side by scoring 41 runs from 36 balls. The only other notable contribution came from Kamran Akmal, who scored 24 runs from 19 balls. 

In response, India achieved the target at the loss of five wickets and in the 20th over of the match, with five balls to spare. 

“Congratulations India Champions,” the WCL account posted on Instagram. “What a finish to the first season of World Championship of Legends.”

Singh kept the Pakistani batters at bay, returning figures of 3-43 while Rayudu top-scored with 50 runs from 30 balls. Pakistan’s Aamer Yamin returned figures of 2-29 while Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz and Malik each took a wicket. 

India Champions qualified for the final after defeating Australia Champions by 86 runs in the second semifinal which was played at the County Ground in Northampton on Friday.

Pakistan Champions, meanwhile, won the first semifinal against the West Indies Champions at the County Ground, Northampton on Friday. 


Pakistani religious scholars call for tolerance, interfaith harmony during Muharram

Updated 14 July 2024
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Pakistani religious scholars call for tolerance, interfaith harmony during Muharram

  • Pakistani religious scholars vow to cooperate with law enforcers to ensure peace in Muharram
  • Militant outfits have frequently targeted Muharram processions led by Shia Muslims in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani religious scholars this week called on the masses to implement the code of conduct of the “Paigham-e-Pakistan” decree to ensure tolerance and interfaith harmony during the Islamic month of Muharram. 

Islamic scholars from various denominations in Pakistan jointly drafted a condemnation of religious militancy and sectarian violence in the country over five years ago in January 2018.

The initiative, named “Paigham-e-Pakistan,” came amid rising attacks by the proscribed militant network, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which justified violence against civilians and security forces in the name of religion.

“Ulema-Masaykh of different religious schools of thought has stressed to ensure implementation on the Paigham-ePakistan Code of Conduct to ensure peace and religious harmony during the month of Muharram-ul-Harram and to eradicate the menace of extremism, terrorism and intolerance from the country,” a press release issued by the country’s leading scholars on Saturday said.

Scholars affiliated with various Islamic sects said the country’s religious leadership will “fully cooperate” with law enforcement agencies and ensure coordination not to support any scholar found violating this code of conduct.

“The religious scholars also vowed to cooperate with the government machinery and with the law enforcement agencies and resolved to fully endorse the code of conduct,” the statement said. 

Pakistan has historically experienced sectarian violence during Muharram, a significant month for Shia Muslims who observe mourning rituals to commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grandson in the Battle of Karbala.

Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, is the holiest event in the Shia Muslim calendar and sees hundreds of thousands of Shia Muslims take part in religious gatherings and processions to mourn the passing of Imam Hussain.

Attacks targeting these religious processions have taken place in the past, stoking sectarian tensions. 

The Paigham-e-Pakistan decree denounces sectarian violence and refutes an “extremist and fundamentalist mindset.” It calls upon religious scholars to educate people between what is right and wrong, and states that only the state has the jurisdiction to determine whether one is an infidel or not.


Pakistan PM condemns ‘shocking’ assassination attempt on Trump

Updated 32 min 6 sec ago
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Pakistan PM condemns ‘shocking’ assassination attempt on Trump

  • Trump shot in ear in apparent assassination attempt during Pennsylvania rally
  • PM Sharif hopes for Trump’s early recovery, expresses sympathies with injured

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday condemned the apparent assassination attempt on former US President Donald Trump during a campaign rally, describing it as a “shocking development.” 

Trump was immediately rushed off stage by security guards after being shot in the ear during a campaign rally in Butler, Pennsylvania. The shooter and a bystander were killed while two spectators were also injured in the incident, officials confirmed. 

Video footage showed Trump grimacing as the shots rang out and clutching a hand to his ear, with blood visible on his ear and cheek. The US Secret Service said Trump was “safe and being evaluated” after the incident occurred.

“Just learnt that former President Trump was shot at an election rally,” Sharif wrote on social media platform X. “This is a shocking development.” 

The Pakistani prime minister said he condemned violence in politics. 

“Wish the former President swift recovery and good health,” he added. 

Hours after the incident took place, Trump said it was “incredible” that the attack took place in the United States.

“I knew immediately that something was wrong in that I heard a whizzing sound, shots, and immediately felt the bullet ripping through the skin,” the former US president wrote on his TruthSocial network.

With the attack sending shock waves around the world, US President Joe Biden condemned the incident and said he hoped to speak to Trump soon.

Trump, who served as president from 2017-2021, easily bested his rivals for the Republican nomination early in the campaign and has largely unified around him the party that had briefly wavered in support after his supporters attacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, attempting to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

The businessman and former reality television star entered the year facing a raft of legal worries, including four separate criminal prosecutions. He was found guilty in late May of trying to cover up hush money payments to an adult actress, but the other three prosecutions he faces — including two for his attempts to overturn his defeat — have been ground to a halt by various factors including a Supreme Court decision early this month that found him to be partly immune to prosecution.


Pakistan flour mills to resume operations from today after postponing strike 

Updated 14 July 2024
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Pakistan flour mills to resume operations from today after postponing strike 

  • Government committee assures flours mills association of reaching “positive resolution” by July 22, says state media 
  • Hundreds of flour mills went on strike this week against new 5.5 percent withholding tax imposed on sales of flour mills

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of flour mills across the country will resume “normal” operations from today, Sunday, after postponing their nationwide strike over the imposition of withholding tax till July 22, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said, easing fears of a shortage of the commodity. 

Hundreds of mills across Pakistan went on strike on Thursday on the Pakistan Flour Mills Association’s (PFMA) call which represents over 900 mills, against a new 5.5 percent withholding tax imposed on the sales of flour mills in the federal budget for the fiscal year 2024-25, which came into effect on July 1.

The PFMA says the government has also directed flour mills to collect another 2.5 percent withholding tax on the sale of essential commodities to retailers (non-filers) and 2 percent from wholesalers (non-filers). The association says millers also now have to collect 0.5 percent withholding tax on the sale of flour from retailers (filers) and 0.10 percent tax from wholesalers (filers).

A PFMA delegation met a high-level government committee formed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday to discuss the strike, following which the PFMA announced postponing their strike till July 22. 

“The flour milling industry will resume normal operations nationwide from tomorrow (Sunday) and ensure the supply of wheat products to the market,” Radio Pakistan reported on Saturday. 

The PFMA delegation apprised the committee about the ongoing strike, the imposition of withholding tax, and its repercussions on the industry and the public, Radio Pakistan said. Meanwhile the government committee included Minister of State for Finance Ali Pervaiz, Economic Affairs Minister Ahad Cheema, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Amjad Zubair Tiwana. 

“The committee listened to their concerns and assured them of achieving a positive resolution by 22nd of this month,” the state broadcaster said. 
The strike takes place as Pakistan navigates a tricky path to economic recovery amid double-digit inflation and a deepening macroeconomic crisis. The South Asian country has been scrambling to secure foreign investment from friendly nations in a bid to keep its fragile $350 billion economy afloat.
The tax-laden budget with a tax revenue target of Rs13 trillion ($46.66 billion) for the current fiscal year, up about 40 percent from the previous one, has been rejected by almost all major trade bodies and opposition parties. Pakistan’s government has taken unpopular measures amid negotiations with the IMF, which has made tax reforms and increasing revenue a major precondition for a fresh loan program.

There are 1,725 flour mills in Pakistan and the daily national flour consumption stands at around 45,000 tons, according to the PFMA.

The strike this week halted flour supply to grocery stores across Punjab, the country’s most populous province, while market stocks were expected to last only one week.


US and Pakistan plan law enforcement dialogue in October

Updated 30 min 3 sec ago
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US and Pakistan plan law enforcement dialogue in October

  • Mohsin Naqvi and Donald Blome discuss cooperation in the fields of counterterrorism, counternarcotics
  • They also mention plans to organize a trilateral cricket series featuring their teams along with Canada

ISLAMABAD: The United States and Pakistan plan to hold a law enforcement dialogue in October, as announced by an official statement on Saturday, following a meeting between Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi and American Ambassador Donald Blome to discuss enhanced cooperation in combating crime and strengthening security.

The US and Pakistan were close partners during the Cold War, united by their mutual interest in countering Soviet influence, but their relationship later drifted due to differing regional priorities and policy interests.

Despite this shift, Pakistan tried to maintain strong defense ties with the US, and more recently, has sought to extend the bilateral cooperation from military engagements to policing efforts as well.

“US support in enhancing the capabilities of law enforcement agencies is of great importance,” Naqvi was quoted as saying by a statement circulated by the interior ministry after the meeting.

“A law enforcement dialogue will be held in October with mutual cooperation,” it continued.

The statement highlighted specific areas of cooperation, including counterterrorism and counternarcotics, saying the ministry was prepared to strengthen bilateral ties.

It reiterated that a delegation of the Islamabad Police would soon visit the US to explore opportunities for mutual cooperation.

“Islamabad Police officers are keen to receive training from the New York Police Department,” it added.

Naqvi also told the American envoy the Pakistani administration had taken measures to protect its non-Muslim citizens.

“All culprits involved in the Jaranwala incident have been arrested and brought before the law,” he said, referring to violent mob attacks against Christians and their churches in the small town in eastern Punjab province last year.

The Pakistani minister also praised the US for hosting the Twenty20 World Cup, pointing out it had become a new destination for the sport.

He also said Pakistan, US and Canada were working together to organize a trilateral cricket series.