Gladiators eye Sultans’ scalp at start of Sharjah leg

SHARJAH: Unbeaten Quetta Gladiators will aim to keep an unblemished record when they meet Multan Sultans as the HBL Pakistan Super League action shifts to Sharjah from Wednesday.

The Sarfraz Ahmed-led Gladiators — twice runners-up in three PSL editions — are looking in no mood to relent as they target the elusive title with their never-say-die approach, under the astute coaching of former Pakistan captain Moin Khan.

It is remarkable how Moin has transformed a squad what does not have any iconic names but play with a winning spirit and determination as did professionally in Dubai. The Gladiators will definitely not let Sultans dominate them at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Gladiators thumped arch-rivals Peshawar Zalmi in their first match of PSL 4, keeping them to 155-4, courtesy some tight bowling led by left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, who finished with 2-25 in his four overs. Umar Akmal determined to regain his place in the national team, then batted in a punishing style as he took Gladiators over the line with an eye-catching 50-ball 75 not out.

Gladiators just steamrolled holders Islamabad United in a convincing seven-wicket wickets. This time left-arm paceman Sohail Tanvir rocked United with the prized wicket of Luke Ronchi off the very first ball of the match before finishing with 4-21. Pakistan origin Australian leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed chipped in with 3-15.

Although United managed to reach 157-8, it didn’t prove much for Gladiators who rode on Shane Watson’s 55-ball 81 not out and another knock from Umar (28-ball 44) to seal victory with 10 deliveries to spare.

Sultans had mixed fortunes in the first two games they have played to date, losing to Karachi Kings before staging recovery to defeat United.

Sultans did give Kings a scare before going down by seven runs in a match highlighted by a new record PSL partnership between Liam Livingstone (82) and Babar Azam (77).

Sultans fought hard in the chase of 184 with skipper Shoaib Malik (28-ball 52) and Laurie Evans (39-ball 49), but in the end a last over target of 16 proved beyond their reach.

And then against United, Sultans showed their bowling prowess to restrict the two-time champions to 125-7. Malik then anchored the chase with a solid 29-ball 31, but it was Shahid Afridi who sealed the win with two sixes.

Zalmi, meanwhile, will be hoping to maintain the momentum they emphatically regained on Sunday when Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz shared seven wickets to send Lahore Qalandars crashing to 78 all out before Umar Amin banged a 39-ball 61 to seal a crushing seven-wicket win.

Zalmi’s opponents on Thursday night are Karachi Kings, the franchise who are coached by Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur. The Kings are keen to bounce back from the 22-run loss against old foes Qalandars, who upfront totalled pnly 138-6.

The main worry for the Kings is their lack of power-hitters after the early dismissal of Liam Livingstone. Against Qalandars they fell behind an otherwise moderate asking-rate mainly because of Mohammad Rizwan getting bogged down when boundaries were required.

The heartening aspect of the Kings side is the form of their teenaged spinner Umar Khan, who had the honour of outfoxing the great A.B. de Villiers during a memorable spell of left-arm spin. On the traditionally slower pitches of Sharjah, Umar could the talisman for Arthur’s charges.

With eight fixtures scheduled here, the six-team standings could dramatically alter before the tournament returns to Dubai next week. At this point in time, both United and Qalandars are under pressure after both sides lost two of three matches each team played during the first leg in Dubai.

Sharjah leg fixtures (all times PST)

Feb 20: Multan Sultans vs Quetta Gladiators (9:00pm).

Feb 21: Karachi Kings vs Peshawar Zalmi (9:00pm).

Feb 22: Lahore Qalandars vs Multan Sultans (4:30pm).

Feb 22: Islamabad United vs Peshawar Zalmi (9:00pm).

Feb 23: Lahore Qalandars vs Quetta Gladiators (4:30pm).

Feb 23: Islamabad United vs Karachi Kings (9:00pm).

Feb 24: Peshawar Zalmi vs Multan Sultans (4:30pm).

Feb 24: Quetta Gladiators vs Karachi Kings (9:00pm).

Current standings

(Tabulated under played, won, lost, points, net run-rate):

Quetta Gladiators 2 2 0 4 +0.674

Peshawar Zalmi 2 1 1 2 +1.798

Multan Sultans 2 1 1 2 +0.110

Islamabad United 3 1 2 2 -0.299

Karachi Kings 2 1 1 2 -0.375

Lahore Qalandars 3 1 2 2 -1.106

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2019

Govt to provide Nawaz with medical care of his choice: Basharat

LAHORE: The Punjab government says it will provide medical care of his choice to incarcerated former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Nawaz Sharif will be taken to the hospital he will ask for except at private health facilities,” Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja said here on Tuesday.

Briefing reporters about the Punjab Assembly session starting from Wednesday (today), he said a convict could not be taken to any private hospital for security reasons.

He said when all medical facilities were being provided to Nawaz Sharif and he’s being extended the best care, there was no need for him to go abroad for the purpose.

Mr Sharif is serving a seven-year term in Kot Lakhpat jail in a corruption case.

Replying to a question about accepting opposition leader Hamza Shahbaz as Public Accounts Committee chairman, the minister said the PTI had a clear stance on the issue and that the government wished to take the opposition along in the province.

About forming the standing committees, he said recommendations in this regard had been prepared and elections to the bodies would be held after a consultation between the chief minister and the speaker.

He said the joint investigation team was looking into the forensic agency’s report on the Sahiwal tragedy, whereas a judicial commission had also begun its proceedings to search out the facts behinds the incident.

The minister said the PA session would take up Conflict of Interest Bill along with other legislative work while a resolution would also be moved on the successful visit of the Saudi crown prince.

The law minister said as per tradition pre-budget discussion would also be undertaken in the current session of the House.

He told a questioner that the local bodies bill prepared by former minister Aleem Khan would be sent to the law department soon.

Shahbaz: PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif has asked the government to implement the recommendations of the Jinnah Hospital’s medical board that examined former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Talking to the reporters after meeting with his elder brother at the Jinnah Hospital here on Tuesday, the former chief minister said there should not be any delay in treatment of Nawaz.

“We have concerns for the health of Nawaz,” he added.

To a question about the Indian propaganda in the wake of Pulwama attack, Shahbaz said Indian premier Narendra Modi was responsible for what was happening in India.

Maryam also met her father in the hospital.

Nawaz, who is serving a seven-year imprisonment in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case, was shifted to the hospital on Friday from Kot Lakhpat Jail for cardiac treatment.

The five-member special medical board that examined Mr Sharif reportedly submitted its report to the Punjab government.

Earlier board head Prof Dr Arif Tajamal said according to the results of his tests, Nawaz’s condition was stable.

According to a source, the board suggested angiography of Nawaz.

“In its report to the Punjab government, the board recommended that angiography of Mr Sharif should be carried out,” the source said.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2019

Abbasi records statement in LNG import scam

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday appeared before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and recorded his statement in the Rs220 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) import scam.

According to NAB, Mr Abbasi remained in the bureau’s Rawalpindi regional headquarters for over two hours where he was asked 70 questions by the members of a combined investigation team (CIT) of the anti-graft watchdog.

Also read: Let’s ask questions about our LNG deals

The CIT also gave a questionnaire to the former prime minister and asked him to respond by Feb 29 so that NAB could review his replies in the light of accountability laws.

The inquiry against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader is being conducted directly under the supervision of NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal.

On Jan 2, the NAB Executive Board had authorised two investigations against Mr Abbasi, being former minister for petroleum and natural resources — one for his alleged involvement in irregularities in LNG import and the other related to the appointment of Naeemuddin Khan as president of the Bank of Punjab.

The former prime minister had said several times in the recent past that he had not committed any illegality in the award of contracts for LNG import and, therefore, he could prove his innocence at any forum.

He was of the view that the import of LNG was the need of the hour in 2013 when the country was facing an acute shortage of gas.

In the case, not only Mr Abbasi but former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was also accused of misusing authority by awarding the contract of LNG terminal to 15 companies of their choice.

It is the first NAB case against Mr Abbasi, who had served as prime minister for almost a year after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court on July 28, 2017.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had raised the issue at different forums, including parliament, but not moved NAB in this regard.

Interestingly, during the previous PML-N government, the Karachi NAB in its regional board meeting had closed the inquiry against Khaqan Abbasi in December 2016. But the PTI opposed the decision and claimed that “the inquiry was stopped despite the fact that it had been proved that the contract had been awarded in a non-transparent manner”.

The then Karachi NAB director general had remarked in a meeting: “After exhaustive discussion it has been decided that it is an ongoing project and any intervention by NAB at this juncture will jeopardise the efforts of provision of LNG from the project of public/national importance. It is, therefore, decided [to close the] inquiry [at] our end.”

However, the NAB inquiry had revealed that the management of Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS) and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) selected M/s Engro as a successful bidder for LNG terminal at Karachi Port in a non-transparent manner.

The NAB inquiry found that the SSGCL signed a 15-year contract with a subsidiary company of Engro for re-gasification of LNG at fixed daily processing charges.

The government authorised the Pakistan State Oil to procure LNG on behalf of the SSGCL.

At the time of closure of the inquiry, incumbent Finance Minster Asad Umar had said: “NAB closed down inquiry against Khaqan Abbasi, though it was confirmed that irregularities had been committed in the award of the LNG contract.”

However, NAB reopened the inquiry against Mr Abbasi in October 2018 and summoned him on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2019

‘It would be wonderful if India, Pakistan get along’: Trump on Pulwama attack

United States President Donald Trump has said that his country will comment on last week’s suicide bombing in Pulwama — that killed more than 40 Indian troops — at “an appropriate time”.

Trump, while answering a question from the media regarding the attack, said: “I have watched; I have got a lot of reports on it. We will have comment [on it] at an appropriate time. It would be wonderful if they [Pakistan and India] get along.”

He called the attack “a horrible situation”. Trump’s comments came during an Oval Office signing ceremony on Tuesday.

Shortly after the Pulwama attack, the US had singled out Pakistan in its statement condemning the incident.

“The United States calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil, whose only goal is to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region,” the statement from the White House press secretary’s office had said, adding that “the attack strengthened US resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation with India”.

Pakistan and India’s relations have been tense since the suicide bombing, with the latter blaming the former of being complicit in the attack — a charge Pakistan has continued to deny from the get-go.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said Islamabad would take action if Delhi shares any actionable evidence concerning last week’s suicide bombing.

While offering cooperation and another chance at a dialogue over the Kashmir issue, the premier also warned India against any act of aggression, saying Pakistan will not hesitate in retaliating to a provocation.

India, however, responded to Prime Minister Khan’s offer with further vitriol, describing the premier’s statement that Pakistan itself has been the biggest victim of terrorism as “far from the truth”.

“We are not surprised that the prime minister of Pakistan refuses to acknowledge the attack on our security forces in Pulwama as an act of terrorism. Prime minister of Pakistan has neither chosen to condemn this heinous act nor condoled with the bereaved families,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) complained.

It is pertinent to mention that the Foreign Office had immediatelytermed the attack a matter of grave concern.

According to media reports, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) — which is banned in Pakistan and listed as a terrorist organisation — has claimed responsibility for the attack.