Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

10 September 2020, Thursday I Vol 1, No.129

Accountability Court declares Nawaz Sharif as an absconder

Initiates a process to confiscate his properties; asks for movable and immovable assets

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

On 9 September, Judge Mohammad Azam Khan of the Accountability Court of Islamabad declared Nawaz Sharif as an offender in the Toshakhana vehicles reference over his continued absence from the proceedings. The court also initiated the process to confiscate his properties and directed the investigation officers to submit details of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader’s moveable and immoveable properties within seven days. The court also directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to make his arrest through Interpol while dismissing his application seeking exemption from personal appearance. Further, the accountability court indicted Asif Ali Zardari and Yusuf Raza Gilani as well. The hearing has been adjourned until 24 September. (Malik Asad, “Nawaz declared proclaimed offender,” Dawn, 10 September 2020)

The court order stated, “Statement of the investigation officer clearly established that accused namely Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is intentionally avoiding, absconding and concealing himself from the process of law,” adding “hence, this case is hereby separated…and he is declared as a proclaimed offender.”

The context for the Toshakhana reference
In March, NAB had filed a reference with the accountability court against Nawaz on the alleged violation of the rules of the Toshakhana which it argued had caused a heavy loss to the national exchequer. Further, the anti-graft body stated that “through dishonest and illegal means for their personal benefit and interest” Nawaz and Zardari had retained the vehicles in question “against a nominal payment of 15 percent of their total value.”

Further, the charge sheet accused Gillani of issuing directions to the cabinet division secretary to forward a summary for relaxation of prescribed procedure in favour of accused Nawaz and Zardari for disposing of the luxury vehicles. (Obaid Abrar Khan, “Toshakhana case: Zardari, Yusuf Raza Gilani indicted, Nawaz Sharif declared absconder,” The News International, 10 September 2020)

 File Photo. Nawaz Sharif in London (Image Source: Daily Times)

Nawaz files a petition urging the IHC to ‘forgo’ the requirement of his surrender 
On 9 September, Nawaz filed a review petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) stating that it was not possible for him to surrender in the Al-Azizia reference by 10 September urging the court to forgo the requirement. The petition was filed by Nawaz's lawyer who also submitted the latest medical reports signed a London-based consultant cardiothoracic surgeon. The petition noted that Nawaz's return to Pakistan at this current time may prove to be “fatal” added that all the medical reports which have been submitted show his inability to return to Pakistan. The IHC division bench is to take up the application on 10 September (today). (“Nawaz tells IHC he cannot return and surrender,” The News International, 9 September 2020)

Further, Nawaz’s lawyer stated, “the fact of the matter is that [Nawaz] is still suffering from multiple co-morbities [and] his treatment in London has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic,” adding that “as a result, [Nawaz] has not been able to regain his health and all the doctors that have treated him in the past, as well as those who have been treating him since he arrived in London, have strongly advised him not to travel to Pakistan without getting his treatment done.” (Tahir Naseer, “Nawaz urges IHC to 'forgo' requirement for his surrender in Al-Azizia reference,” The News International, 9 September 2020)

The context for the Al-Azizia reference
On 1 September, IHC Nawaz “to surrender” and appear before the court by 10 September, if not he would have to face legal proceedings for absconding. During the hearing, Justice Farooq stated, “we are not declaring Nawaz an absconder at the moment. But how can the appeal be heard in his absence?” adding that the court was giving him “one more chance to surrender” adding, "We are not taking a final decision as yet.” Further, a division bench of the high court comprising Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Aamer Farooq directed the deputy attorney general to verify the medical condition of Sharif through the Pakistani High Commission in London. (Tahir Naseer, “IHC tells Nawaz to 'surrender', appear before court on Sept 10,” Dawn, 2 September 2020)

This order came as the bench was hearing the appeals of Nawaz, his daughter Maryam and her husband, Safdar, against their convictions in the Avenfield reference. The bench also heard an appeal filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against Sharif's acquittal in the Flagship reference as well as appeals against his conviction in the Al-Azizia reference. (Malik Asad, Atika Rehman, “Nawaz’s sojourn in London may end soon,” Dawn, 2 September 2020)

The Controversy
In 2019, Nawaz had left for London after the Lahore High Court permitted him to go abroad for his treatment and was to return within four weeks or as soon as he was declared healthy and fit to travel by doctors. He was also given bail in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case in which he was serving a seven-year prison sentence in Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore before he left for London.

However, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar stated that Nawaz's four-week bail on medical grounds expired in December 2019 and the government had already approached the UK government for his extradition. Further, earlier this year a picture of Nawaz having tea at a London cafe along with his family went viral on social media, sparking a debate on the seriousness of his health condition. Later, photos surfaced online, showing him strolling in a street causing the government to come under pressure with calls being instigated from within the ruling PTI to bring him back.

In this regard, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the use of all legal means to bring Nawaz back from the UK adding that it was the responsibility of the government to bring back all those wanted by the courts. He added that that allowing him to leave the country was a “mistake” and that his government “regretted” this decision. (“Allowing Nawaz to leave was a 'mistake', says PM Imran,” Dawn, 2 September 2020)

Gen Bajwa wants to enhance "combat readiness levels in the wake of evolving strategic and regional milieu" (Image Source: Dawn)

In Brief 
COAS calls for higher troop combat readiness
On 9 September, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa ordered troops to boost combat readiness. He said this was considering the regional security environment and to ensure closer ‘synchronisation’ with government policies to win the fifth-generation war being faced by Pakistan. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations’ (ISPR) statement the “COAS stressed upon the need to enhance combat readiness levels in the wake of evolving strategic and regional milieu”. The COAS was chairing the meeting the corps commanders’ conference held at the General Headquarters; a monthly meeting to review operational matters and the security situation. Principal staff officers and the corps commanders were in attendance. (“COAS orders troops to boost combat readiness,” Dawn, 10 September 2020)

Pakistan Railways will invite bids for a CPEC project. However, only Chinese firms would be eligible for the bidding, says Dawn
According to Dawn, Pakistan Railways is looking to invite bids to tender for the Pakistan’s first and biggest transport sector project —Main Line-1 (ML-1) — starting from 12 September. The article claims that bidding documents have been prepared and that the “completion of USD 6.8 billion project titled “Up-gradation of ML-1” has been divided into three separate packages —Nawabshah to Rohri / Sukkar, Multan to Lahore & Walton Academy and Lahore to Lalamusa & Kaluwal to Pindora sections”. Dawn says the “invitation for bids simply says the “project will be funded under CPEC financing arrangement through loan from Chinese Financial Institutions and partly funded by Government of Pakistan. Under the framework agreement signed between People’s Republic of China and the Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, only Chinese companies / consortia are eligible to participate in the bidding process, the invitation reads. The PR has also set a deadline of October 22 for submission of bids for the project”. (“Railways to invite bids for $6.8bn ML-1 CPEC project,” Dawn, 10 September 2020)

Pakistan continues to be a ‘challenging environment’ for foreign investors, says US-based report
According to the Investment Climate Statements for 2020, despite having a relatively open foreign investment regime, Pakistan remains a challenging environment for foreign investors. The report said that Pakistan had made “significant progress over the last year in transitioning to a market-determined exchange rate and reversing its large current account deficit, while inflation has decreased each month of 2020”. The report said that due to Pakistan’s payments crisis, the incumbent government had to focus on the immediate needs and acquire external financing through the International Monetary Fund’s Extended Fund Facility in July 2019, instead of working on long-term structural reforms. (“Pakistan remains ‘challenging environment’ for FDI,” The Express Tribune,10 September 2020)

Dawn’s Red Zone Files offers ten quick takeaways
The article by Fahd Husain offers ten takeaways: the PTI’s confidence due to the ‘same page’ cliché with the Establishment; the failure of PML-N, PPP and JUI-F to form ties with the Establishment however in vain; the quiet understanding within the system regarding the need to respect the five-year term of the incumbent government for economic revival; the All Parties’ Conference’s struggle for purpose; the relentless pressure on ‘accountability’ will continue; the FATF-related talks would resume soon; the problem of PTI’s continued mishandling of the Punjab province; PTI and PML-Q strife; Prime Minister Imran Khan’s distractions due to unnecessary micro-management; and finally, the continued simmering of the internal debates on the 18thAmendment. PTI’s relationship with the Establishment is safe, hence PTI’s confidence. However, the other parties are attempting to reach an understanding with the Establishment which is yet to happen. (“RED ZONE FILES: State of the union,” Dawn, 10 September 2020)

Asad Umar calls asks Sindh government to submit updated feasibility study
On 9 September, the Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar directed Sindh’s provincial government to submit an updated feasibility report of the Greater Karachi Water Supply Project (K-IV) in order to immediately proceed. He opined that the on-going Center-Sindh blame game would only worsen the struggles of the victims in Karachi; which would further lead to Karachi’s citizens thrashing both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). During a press meeting, he said “This politics will not work, these dramas, press conferences, and counter press conferences; if both PTI and PPP will continue like this, the people of Karachi are going to hurl shoes at both of us”. (“Minister says work on Karachi plan should start without delay,” Dawn, 10 September 2020)

Editorial says Pakistan is gaining momentum within SCO
The Editorial says the opportunity to convene meetings with regional counterparts on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting would be one of the more fruitful outcomes of the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s visit to Moscow. it opines that US-China trade wars, tariffs and threats of sanctions have pushed Beijing further into Moscow’s side over the last four years. It says that with the increasing inefficiency of organisations like the United Nations, the SCO gains more relevance. The editorial also argues that recently Pakistan has been gaining respect and importance within the SCO. (“FM in Moscow,” Daily Times,10 September 2020)

Pakistan and UAE sign MoU to curb money laundering and financial crimes
On 9 September, Pakistan and the UAE concluded an agreement to combat money laundering and terror financing. As per the memorandum of understanding (MoU), the UAE’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and Pakistan’s Financial Monitoring Unit would exchange information to enhance cooperation. Pakistani Ambassador to the UAE Ghulam Dastagir and Ali Faisal Ba’Alawi, the acting chief of the UAE’s FIU were signatories to the MoU. Speaking at the occasion, Dastagir said the development would help curb money laundering and other financial crimes. He said “The signing the MoU reflects the strong commitment of the Pakistani government to enhance cooperation with the international community to combat money laundering and terrorism financing”. Ba’Alawi described the agreement as a reflection of "the strong and deep relations between the UAE and Pakistan". (“Pakistan, UAE sign anti-money laundering pact,” The Express Tribune,10 September 2020)

Despite scholarship 132 Pakistani students sent abroad did not return and 106 HEC research projects remained incomplete, says PAC
The Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) sub-committee learnt that despite funding by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), close to 106 research projects across various universities remained incomplete after over a decade. Alam Khan, the committee’s convener directed HEC to submit records of the incomplete research projects to the audit officials. The HEC Chairman Tariq Banuri from absent from the meeting. Khan enquired about his absence with the HEC Executive Director (ED) Lt Gen (retd) Muhammad Asghar. According to the audit report, the committee reviewed the audit paras of HEC. As per the audit report, of the different funds issued to various universities by the HEC, 106 projects of 583 remained incomplete after 14 years. (“132 Pakistani students sent abroad on scholarship didn't return,” The Express Tribune,10 September 2020)


"Statement of the investigation officer clearly established that accused namely Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is intentionally avoiding, absconding and concealing himself from the process of law...hence, this case is hereby separated…and he is declared as a proclaimed offender"

-  An accountability court on the Toshakhana vehicles reference


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