Opposition tried to exploit govt over FATF legislation: Shibli

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz on Sunday posted on his official Twitter account the drafts of the proposals made by the opposition parties for bringing changes to the country’s accountability laws, terming them a “proof” of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claim that the opposition had tried to make a bargain with the government during negotiations on the FATF legislation.

On the other hand, the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) refuted the minister’s claim, stating that the changes in the accountability laws had come under discussion at a parliamentary committee constituted by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on the legislative business.

In his tweet, the minister said he was posting the documents as “the PML-N limited” had been asking the government to tell the nation as to who had sought an “NRO” — a term frequently used for “deal”.

Former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf had issued the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007 after an agreement with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to end all politically motivated cases against the politicians.

Mr Faraz posted three pages of the draft proposals submitted by the opposition seeking amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 through which, according to him, the opposition was actually seeking an end to the cases against its leadership, saying “these are the documents through which the opposition sought an NRO”.

PML-N says changes in laws discussed by panel formed by NA speaker

Through one of the amendments to Section 18, he said, the opposition had suggested a five-year time frame for the National Accounta­bility Bureau (NAB) to take cognisance of any wrongdoing.

The proposed amendment says: “NAB shall not conduct any inquiry or investigation or file any reference for an alleged offence after the passage of five years from the date of the transaction or act constituting the offence.”

The document shows that the opposition has also proposed a new sub-section suggesting that “NAB shall not initiate action on allegations contained in a complaint which is anonymous or pseudonymous”.

The opposition has also proposed, according to the documents, that NAB shall not tale action in cases which do not involve public money and where the “amount involved is less than Rs1 billion”.

Mr Faraz also posted an amendment to Section 25 suggested by the opposition, which says: “Where at any time during inquiry or after the authorisation of investigation, before or after the commencement of the trial or during the pendency of an appeal, the holder of public office or any other person offers to return to NAB the assets or gains acquired or made in the course, or as a consequence of any offence under this ordinance, the chairman NAB may in his discretion, after taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case, accept the offer on such terms and conditions as he may consider necessary, and if the holder of public office or any other person agrees to return to NAB the amount determined by the NAB chairman, who shall then refer the case for the approval of the court or the case may be, for the release of the holder of public office or any other person as well as his co-accused.”

Though Mr Faraz made these documents public on Sunday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is the head of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Legislative Business, had already disclosed most of the details of the opposition’s proposals on the floor of the National Assembly last month, declaring that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had rejected them.

It was after the foreign minister’s statement in the assembly that the opposition later boycotted the parliamentary committee which was basically reviewing the laws that had been introduced by the government to meet the conditions of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), alleging that the minister had made public the discussion which was held in an informal meeting at the residence of the speaker.

The opposition had also announced that it would not hold negotiations with the government if the foreign minister was present in it. Later, the government and the opposition agreed on the FATF laws in the talks in which the government side was represented by Law Minister Farogh Naseem.

Mr Qureshi in his fiery speech in the assembly had alleged that the opposition wanted to have a “package deal” whereas the government had requested it to delink the FATF legislation and the NAB issue in the larger national interest.

The foreign minister categorically announced that a majority of the 35 proposals jointly made by the PPP and PML-N regarding changes in the accountability laws were not acceptable to the PTI and Prime Minister Imran Khan as these were against the party’s core principle of eliminating corruption.

Highlighting the opposition’s proposals regarding changes in the NAO, the minister had said the opposition wanted applicability of the accountability law to start from 1999, reduction in NAB chairman’s tenure, removal of money laundering from the list of cognisable offences, allowing the convicted persons to remain members of parliament till disposal of appeals and confining the time of taking cognisance by NAB of any wrongdoing to five years.

He had ridiculed the opposition’s proposal that allegations of corruption of less than Rs1 billion should not come under the NAB’s scope.

Opposition’s response

Interestingly, no one from the PPP or the PML-N denied the government’s claim about their proposals.

A senior PPP leader told  media that these proposals had been under discussion at various levels among the parties for the last more than 10 years and that the party had only discussed the changes in the NAB laws in the parliamentary committee at the request of the government.

PML-N lawmaker Khwaja Asif responded to the foreign minister’s speech the following day in the National Assembly, but did not talk about their specific proposals which had been mentioned by the minister. He simply alleged that the minister had “crossed all the limits of propriety” by disclosing the details of an informal meeting that was held at the speaker’s residence. He was of the opinion that there was no need for bringing the informal discussion on record.

Meanwhile, in response to the information minister’s tweet, PML-N information secretary and MNA Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the “incompetent PTI government did not have a clue on how to go about the FATF-related legislation which is why the parliamentary committee was constituted by the speaker to review the legislation

She said the approval of the special committee had been given by parliament. “Did the speaker ask for an NRO or did the entire parliament?” she asked.

She reiterated the challenge to Prime Minister Khan and “his stooges” to name those who had asked for an NRO. She said “the selected prime minister” had no power or authority to grant an NRO.

Ms Aurangzeb, who had also served as the information minister in the previous PML-N government, said: “This document waving and tweeting by Shibli Faraz shows his clear absence of confidence in the speaker.”

She said the information minister’s statements were an open indictment of the parliamentary committee which also included the government members wanted in the Mallam Jabba case, Peshawar BRT, Billion Tree Tsunami project, helicopter case, 23 secret accounts, foreign funding case, sugar and wheat theft and corruption.

Ms Aurangzeb said the opposition members had already braved “illegal custody and imprisonment” by NAB in death row cells and had been vindicated by the Supreme Court and high courts. Moreover, she said, the international rights bodies had already issued a charge sheet against “the NAB-Niazi alliance” for being an instrument of political engineering and victimisation.

“Will the opposition demand an NRO under all these circumstances or those who have been dodging NAB and the courts, including the president and the prime minister?” she asked.

Opposition parties slam Sindh govt’s denial of powers to LG set-up

KARACHI: While Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah conceded on Sunday that the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) lacked resources, major opposition parties criticised the Sindh government for not empowering the local government set-up and concentrating all powers at the provincial level.

CM Shah, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar, who is also a senior leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, leader of the opposition in the Sindh Assembly Firdous Shamim Naqvi of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pak Sarzameen Party chairman Syed Mustafa Kamal and Jamaat-i-Islami leader Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman with CM Shah participated in Geo News channel’s special transmission on Karachi.

While the CM defended his decision to create a seventh district in Karachi, the PSP and JI leaders opposed the creation of more districts and slammed the PPP for creating Keamari district just for its political gain.

Mayor Akhtar, Hafiz Naeem, Mr Kamal and Mr Naqvi expressed concerns over the accumulation of all powers by the Sindh government and observed that this would not help in resolving problems of Karachi.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

$10bn needed for Karachi: Murad

The CM said that at least $10 billion was required to modernise Karachi infrastructure but neither the federal government nor the provincial government had this kind of money.

He said he acknowledged that the KMC was short of funds. He said only Rs1.5bn was collected through property taxes in Karachi as opposed to Rs55bn in Mumbai in the same category.

“Garbage collection is a major problem in Karachi,” CM Shah said, adding that the city’s issues were not new as they had been here for some time.

CM Shah, Karachi mayor among participants in news channel’s special transmission

Speaking about the recently formed centre-Sindh coordination committee, he said it comprised federal and provincial ministers. “Such committees have been set up in the past as well. It will not bring administrative matters under discussions and not interfere in the administrative matters.”

About creating Keamari district, the CM said a discussion to make Keamari a district was going on for quite some time. “There is no issue in creating new districts in Karachi. We have reservations that the highest-earning districts have ended up on one side.”

Talking about the damage caused by rains to city’s infrastructure, he said his government worked a lot on cleaning storm-water drains in the city during the past four years. “In recent times, the responsibility to clean the drains lies with the KMC and the Sindh government has given fund to it,” he said.

“The problem is due to a major structure which has blocked all drains in Karachi which are the responsibility of the cantonments and district municipal corporations (DMCs).”

The chief minister said he had met National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal a few days ago. “The Supreme Court had ordered the NDMA to clear all the nullahs. When it rained, the Gujjar nullah overflowed once again,” he noted.

“Karachi was not like this [in the past] but then unplanned commercial construction occurred in the city,” said the chief minister, whose party has been ruling the province for the past 12 consecutive years. “Commercialising residential areas creates problems. It is not okay to expect that problems would be resolved by transforming residential areas into business zones.”

Mayor demands empowered LGs

Mayor Wasim Akhtar said the city did not fall under the domain of one man and issues stemmed from the fact that the powers were not with one person.

“Till the local governments are not given power, nothing can be done,” he said.

Responding to CM’s claim that the KMC was responsible for storm-water drain’s cleaning, he said: “Cleaning drains is my responsibility but I only did so until I had the resources.”

However, the drains would not be cleaned until the DMCs had funds and resources.

He said had Article 148 of the Constitution been imposed, the city would not have been facing these issues.

**City needs master plan: Naqvi

Leader of the Opposition Naqvi said everyone had been hearing for long that there would be a master plan for Karachi.

Criticising the PPP government for not making the city’s master plan in its 12-year rule, he said that the master plan should be prepared in proportion to the population growth of the metropolis.

Talking about the coordination committee, the PTI leader said its mandate was “for specific projects only”.

Create towns to decentralise Karachi: Kamal

PSP chairman Kamal opposed multiple districts in Karachi and said that the city should remain one district.

“If Karachi is to be decentralised, then create towns,” he suggested.

He said that all powers and resources had been parked in the CM House and there was a need to devolve powers at the grassroots level.

JI slams ‘division of Karachi’

JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem slammed the “division of Karachi” and said that the PPP was creating more districts for political purposes.

He said that the Sindh government destroyed the K-IV water project. “The sewerage system in Karachi is the worst and the transport system bad,” he said.

“Karachi should be empowered. Its local bodies should be empowered. It should get the status it deserves,” he said, demanding that the government immediately hold LG elections.

Wahab says no accountability in LGs

Sindh government’s spokesperson Barrister Murtaza Wahab said there was no system of accountability in the local government.

“We don’t mind local government being empowered. A lot of people were hired in the local government in the past and those appointees are nowhere to be found today,” he said.

He said the lack of resources in the KMC was due to the large number of recruitments in the past.

ANP demands special package

“Karachi has no heir but there are too many who lay claim to it,” said Awami National Party leader Shahi Syed. “Karachi is the city that runs the whole country, it feeds the entire nation.

“Let’s pay attention to Karachi. It should be given a special package,” he said.

He said whatever was in the interest of the people should be done, whether it be the formation of new districts or the creation of a separate province.

New Zealand shooter emotionless as victims’ families address sentencing hearing

A white supremacist who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand last year watched without emotion on Monday as relatives of his victims recounted the horror of a massacre which prosecutors said he carefully planned to cause maximum carnage.

Australian national Brenton Tarrant, 29, has pleaded guilty to 51 murders, 40 attempted murders and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the shooting rampage in the city of Christchurch which he livestreamed on Facebook.

He could be the first person in New Zealand to receive a term of life in prison without parole, when a High Court judge sentences him later this week for carrying out the deadliest shooting in the country’s history on March 15 last year.

Dressed in grey prison clothes, Tarrant looked at those delivering victim impact statements including the mother of Ata Elayyan, the 33-year-old goalkeeper for the New Zealand futsal team who was slain in the Al Noor mosque..

Maysoon Salama said she constantly wondered what her son was thinking in his last moments “armed only with his courage”.

“I can’t forgive you […] you gave yourself the authority to take the souls of 51 people. Our only crime in your eyes is that we are Muslims,” she said.

“You killed your own humanity and I don’t think the world will forgive you for your horrible crime. May you get the severest punishment for your evil act in this life, and hereafter.”

Elayyan was near the back of the mosque while his father, near the front, survived the attack despite being shot in the head and shoulder.

Gamal Fouda, imam of Al Noor mosque, told Tarrant that he was “misguided and misled”.

“I can say to the family of the terrorist that they have lost a son and we have lost many from our community too,” Fouda said.

“I respect them because they are suffering as we are.”

Tarrant will be allowed to speak at some point during the hearings, although Justice Cameron Mander has powers to ensure the High Court is not used as a platform for extremist ideology.

Meticulous planning

The attacks prompted a global outpouring of grief as well as scrutiny of social media platforms after the then 28-year-old live-streamed the shootings shortly after uploading a manifesto.

Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes said Tarrant told police that he wanted to create fear among the small Muslim minority in New Zealand.

Tarrant had also expressed regret for not taking more lives and revealed that he had intended to burn down the Al Noor mosque after the shootings, Hawes said.

“He intended to instill fear into those he described as invaders, including the Muslim population or more generally non-European immigrants,” Hawes said.

Tarrant fired “two precisely aimed shots” at three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim who was clinging to his father’s leg, Hawes said. Ibrahim was the youngest victim of the shootings.

The shooter spent years purchasing high-powered firearms, researched mosque layouts by flying a drone over his primary target, and timed his attacks to maximise casualties, the prosecutor said.

While most of Tarrant’s victims were at Al Noor mosque, he killed seven people at a second mosque before being detained en route to a third.

Security was tight outside the court, with police dogs pacing the streets and snipers on rooftops, television footage showed.

With social distancing measures in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, some survivors and victims’ relatives had to view the proceedings in overflow court rooms.

Live reporting from the courtroom was banned, and other restrictions were put in place on what the media could report.

Justice Mander said he would not sentence Tarrant before Thursday so that survivors and family members of victims had an opportunity to address the court.

A murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The judge can impose a life term without parole, a sentence that has never been used in New Zealand.

The hearings were adjourned until Tuesday morning.

Economy on right track, says Imran as he reveals current account surplus of $424m in July

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said the country’s current account balance had recorded a surplus of $424 million in July, signalling that the economy was “on the right track”.

Hailing the development in a message on Twitter, the premier noted that in July last year, Pakistan had a current account deficit (CAD) of $613 million while last month the deficit stood at $100m.

He attributed the “strong turnaround” in the current account balance to “record remittances” and “continuing recovery in exports, which rose [by] 20 per cent compared to June 2020”.

According to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) last week, the country received record-high remittances of $2.768 billion in the first month of the new fiscal year, following the record $23bn received during the outgoing financial year.

“This ($2.768bn) is the highest-ever level of remittances in a single month in Pakistan,” SBP had said.

“More good news for Pakistan economy,” Prime Minister Imran Khan had tweeted last week. “Remittances from overseas Pakistanis reached $2768 million in July 2020, highest ever amount in one month in the history of Pakistan.”

Separately, Planning Minister Asad Umar also [lauded the current account surplus3 for July 2020 in a tweet today, recalling that the PTI government had “inherited” a deficit of $2 billion “as a legacy of PML-N”, which was in power until 2018.

“Remember the current account deficits have led to massive external debt and compromises our independence and security,” he added

Earlier this month, while quoting data released by the Finance Ministry, Media had reported that since the PTI came to power, CAD had been brought down from $20bn to $3bn while exports were up despite Covid-19 demand stagnation while cost of borrowing had been brought down due to better debt management.