Imran’s failure to declare London flat as an asset can have legal consequences: SC

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, during Tuesday’s hearing of Imran Khan’s disqualification case, said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief’s failure to declare his London flat as an asset can have legal consequences.

The proceedings of the case, being heard by a three-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Nisar, resumed today after being suspended on September 7.

Explaining why Khan had not declared his London flat as an asset in his nomination papers, Khan’s lawyer Naeem Bokhari said that since the apartment was not in Pakistan and was bought from money he had earned abroad, the PTI chairman did not mention it in his papers.

In July, the PTI chief had told the court that while he hadn’t included his London flat in his tax returns, it was declared through a tax amnesty scheme in 2000 and subsequently, appeared in his election nomination papers for 2002.

During the hearing, the SC demanded that Khan’s counsel submit documents that prove he borrowed and returned £560,000 to his former wife Jemima. Bokhari told the court that the money was transferred to Jemima through an account in the Royal Bank.

He read out Khan’s statement that he gave under oath to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) where he said that he had borrowed money from Jemima to pay for the Bani Gala property in 2002 and repaid the loan in 2003.

The bench also asked for the account details of Niazi Services Limited (NSL), Khan’s offshore company. Khan’s accountant, who appeared in court today to provide details of the politician’s accounts from 2001-04, admitted that he did not have them.

Govt won’t import tomatoes from India, says minister

LAHORE: Federal Minister for Food Security Sikandar Hayat Bosan says tomato and onion crisis will be over within a few days after their crops ripen in Balochistan, making it clear that the government will not import vegetables from India.

The price of per kilo tomato has soared to Rs300 in parts of Lahore and elsewhere in Punjab.

Talking to reporters after attending a seminar at the Forman Christian College here on Monday, the minister said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had approved creation of the federal food security authority. He said packages were being given to small farmers to improve their financial condition, stressing that the use of biotechnology was necessary to improve the country’s economy.

To a question about the demand of early election by Imran Khan, Mr Bosan said general election would not be held before March (when the Senate election is due).

POLICY: The Forman Christian College and the Centre for Public Policy and Governance held a consultation dialogue to draft the social welfare policy.

The CPPG developed the draft policy at the behest of the social welfare and Baitul Maal departments. The policy is part of a larger project, titled ‘Social Welfare Department: The provincial face of regulation and interaction with the NGOs’ is being conducted by the CPPG with the support of the USAID Small Grants and Ambassador’s Fund Programme.

ICC allows umpires to send-off players from field over misconduct

The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday announced to have introduced a number of changes to its playing conditions which will be effective in all series starting 28 September or later, the first being Test series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The significant changes include a restriction on dimensions of the bat, the introduction of player send-offs for misconduct and changes to the Decision Review System.

The ICC playing conditions will now incorporate the relevant clauses from the MCC Laws of Cricket (2017 Code), meaning that all the playing regulations will be captured in one document for each format.

“Most of the changes to the ICC playing conditions are being made as a result of changes to the Laws of Cricket that have been announced by the MCC. We have just completed a workshop with the umpires to ensure they understand all of the changes and we are now ready to introduce the new playing conditions to international matches,” ICC General Manager – Cricket Geoff Allardice.

To maintain the balance between bat and ball, the playing conditions now restrict the size of the edges of the bats as well as their thickness. The restriction on the length and width of bats remain unchanged but the thickness of the edges can’t be more than 40mm and the overall depth can be 67 mm at the most. Umpires will be issued with a new bat gauge, which they can use to check a bat’s legality, the ICC announced.

China disrupts WhatsApp ahead of Communist Party meeting

Chinese authorities appear to have severely disrupted the WhatsApp messaging app in the latest step to tighten censorship as they prepare for a major Communist Party congress next month.

Users in China have reported widespread disruptions in recent days to the Facebook-owned service, which previously malfunctioned in the country over the summer.

Experts said the problems began on Sunday, but text messaging, voice calls and video calls appeared to be working again on Tuesday, though voice messages and photos were not going through.

WhatsApp provides message encryption technology that likely does not please Chinese authorities, which closely monitor and restrict cyberspace through their “Great Firewall”.

Many Chinese activists favour WhatsApp over local messaging apps because of its end-to-end encryption function.

China has tightened online policing this year, enacting new rules that require tech companies to store user data inside the country as well as imposing restrictions on what is permissible content.

Chinese cyberspace regulators said Monday they slapped “maximum” fines on major Chinese tech firms Baidu and Tencent for allowing the publication of pornographic, violent and other sorts of banned material on their social media platforms. The amount of the fines was not disclosed.

Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a slew of foreign media have been blocked for years. The WhatsApp troubles emerged ahead of the Communist Party congress on October 18, when President Xi Jinping is expected to be given a second five-year term as the party’s general secretary.

“It smells like Party congress pre-emptive blocking,” said Jason Ng, who researches China’s internet at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.

China usually steps up surveillance around major events, Ng said.

‘Extreme censorship’

While the WeChat messaging app owned by China’s Tencent company is more widely used in the country, many WhatsApp users complained about the disruptions.

“As we get closer to the Party congress, I think authorities will use more extreme censorship measures. The public knows that WeChat isn’t safe,” prominent Beijing-based activist Hu Jia told AFP.

“Me and other dissidents use WhatsApp to communicate 70 per cent of the time. For the few days WhatsApp was completely inaccessible, we didn’t talk at all,” Hu said.

Earlier this month, WeChat informed its users in a new privacy policy that it would “retain, preserve or disclose” users’ data to “comply with applicable laws or regulations” — confirming long-held public assumptions about the company’s practices.

Other users in China noted that the WhatsApp disruptions would make it difficult to work with clients abroad.

“Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Viber were blocked before. Now even WhatsApp is blocked? Without good messaging tools, it will reduce the efficiency of the foreign trade industry,” wrote one person on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media website.

“I can live without the others (applications), but blocking WhatsApp is driving me crazy,” said another. WhatsApp declined to comment.

The Open Observatory of Network Interference, a global censorship detection group, said China started blocking WhatsApp on Sunday.

Growing firewall

To operate in China, some foreign tech companies have complied with local regulations. But others such as Google have chosen to pull out completely from mainland China.

In July, Apple removed software allowing internet users to skirt China’s “Great Firewall” from its app store in the country, drawing criticism that it was bowing to Beijing’s ever-growing web censorship.

Such software, called virtual private networks (VPN), allow people in China to access any website, even those that are blocked.

Beijing mandated in January that all developers must obtain government licences to offer VPNs and there has been concern that it might ban them outright.

Nawaz appears before NAB court; arrest warrants issued for Sharif children

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appeared before a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court on Tuesday in connection with the three corruption references, DawnNews reported.

The proceedings lasted for only a few minutes after the former premier was allowed to leave. Sharif reportedly informed the NAB court that his wife was not well and he needed to attend to her, following which Sharif was granted permission to leave.

The NAB court then adjourned for 10 minutes before continuing with the normal case proceedings.

The court has summoned Sharif again on October 2 for formally indicting him in the three separate references.

The court also issued bailable arrest warrants for Sharif’s children Hassan, Hussain, and Maryam, and for son-in-law Captain Safdar. The court directed them to submit surety bonds worth Rs 1 million each to secure bail.

Security vehicles escort a white car carrying Nawaz Sharif. —AFP
Security vehicles escort a white car carrying Nawaz Sharif. —AFP

NAB’s legal team also requested the court to order the interior ministry to place Sharif’s name on the exit control list.

A number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, including federal ministers, accompanied the former prime minister to his first appearance before the accountability court.

The court had summoned Sharif, who arrived Monday morning from London, after his failure to appear at an earlier hearing on Sept 19.

The court had also summoned Sharif’s sons — Hussain and Hassan — but they are not appearing today as they are still in London tending to their mother, who is undergoing cancer treatment.

During the court appearance, some PMN-L followers started chanting slogans in Sharif’s support inside the courtroom, annoying the judge Mohammad Bashir, who then asked the former premier to leave as his lawyers were there to represent him.

Sharif has now returned to Punjab House in the federal capital, where he is expected to chair a meeting of senior PML-N officials later in the day.

Extraordinary security arrangements

According to a report published by BBC Urdu, extraordinary security arrangements were made on the occasion and the general public was not allowed even within a kilometre radius area near the judicial complex.

Security was so tight that the NAB prosecutors following the case were also not allowed inside the courtroom.

The incumbent government probably didn’t trust anyone with the security arrangements, as instead of Islamabad police chief the state minister for interior, Talal Chaudhry, was supervising the security.

In addition to the extensive on-ground arrangements, two helicopters also kept circling the area throughout the time Nawaz Sharif was there.

Nawaz Sharif leaves after appearing before the anti-corruption court in Islamabad. —AP
Nawaz Sharif leaves after appearing before the anti-corruption court in Islamabad. —AP

Earlier, sources in the PML-N told Dawn that the counsel for Sharif’s sons would ask the court to exempt his clients from personal appearance since they were looking after Kulsoom Nawaz.

Sharif’s political secretary Asif Kirmani told reporters outside Punjab House that the former prime minister would hold a press conference today (Tuesday) after appearing before the NAB court.

On Monday, the former prime minister was received by a number of party leaders, including National Assembly Spe­aker Ayaz Sadiq and cabinet ministers, at the airport and was whisked to Punjab House amid tight security.

Kirmani said that the former PM held a number of informal meetings and consulted senior party leaders, as well as members of his legal team, to devise strategies to deal with the legal and political challenges facing the party.

PML-N supporters shout slogans to cheer Nawaz Sharif outside the NAB court in Islamabad. —AP
PML-N supporters shout slogans to cheer Nawaz Sharif outside the NAB court in Islamabad. —AP

Ex-PM confers with PML-N leaders

The most significant development of Monday was Sharif’s meeting with the former interior minister and estranged PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. The latter spent a considerable amount of time at Punjab House after holding a one-on-one meeting with the former prime minister.

Chaudhry Nisar has been openly criticising PML-N’s strategy in dealing with the issues related to the military and judiciary and was critical of the party’s policy after the July 28 verdict of the apex court in the Panama Papers case.

A senior PML-N leader and party office-bearers told Dawn that the Nawaz-Nisar meeting materialised due to the efforts of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is still in London and expected to return in the next few days.

The sources said that the former prime minister was not feeling comfortable due to a knee ailment, and was seen sitting in an unusual posture since he was unable to bend his legs.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also visited Punjab House on Monday evening and held consultations with his predecessor on issues related to governance.

Others who called on Sharif included PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Punjab Governor Rafiq Rajwana, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jha­gra, ministers Zahid Hamid, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Abdul Qadir Baloch, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Daniyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry.

Speaking to reporters in London before leaving for Islamabad, the former prime minister had said that he had come to the UK only to inquire after the health of his wife and had no plans to stay for a long time.

The Sharif family had earlier opted to boycott court proceedings. However, the sources said they changed their mind and decided to appear before the courts on the advice of a number of senior party leaders, including Shahbaz Sharif, and their lawyers.

Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir had earlier summoned Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar on Sept 19 in connection with three corruption references filed by NAB under Supreme Court orders.

Though Mr Sharif and his children have publicly expressed concerns over the SC judgement and had filed review petitions before the same bench, the petitions were all dismissed on Sept 15.

NAB had filed three references against the Sharif family in connection with the London properties, the establishment of 16 companies, including Flagship Investment Ltd in the UK and Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment in Jeddah.

The former premier and his sons have been named in all three references, while Maryam and Capt Safdar have only been named in the Avenfield reference.