IHC to resume hearing Maryam Nawaz’s appeal against conviction in Avenfield reference today

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) will today (Tuesday) resume hearing the appeals of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired captain Mohammad Safdar against their conviction in the Avenfield reference, nearly a month after Maryam’s lawyer filed an application to adjourn the proceedings.

In the last hearing on November 24, the court had accepted the request filed by Maryam’s counsel, Advocate Irfan Qadir, to adjourn the hearing without any proceedings because of him being occupied with another case in the Supreme Court.

The court had subsequently adjourned the hearing on the appeals till Dec 21 (today).

It is a routine practice that when a lawyer is supposed to appear before the Supreme Court, he seeks adjournment in cases fixed for hearing before the high courts or trial courts on the same date.

However, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had blamed Maryam for seeking 16 adjournments since August 2018 when she filed an appeal before the IHC against her conviction in the Avenfield apartments reference.

“Sixteenth application to seek adjournment from Maryam Nawaz, and organized propaganda against the judiciary and armed forces, hence these people are not less than Sicilian Mafia,” the minister tweeted.

Conviction and appeal

On July 6, a few weeks before the elections in 2018, the accountability judge of Islamabad, who was working under the supervision of an apex court judge, convicted the Sharif family in the Avenfield apartment reference.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was handed 10 years as jail time for owning assets beyond known income and one year for not cooperating with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Meanwhile, Maryam was given 7 years for abetment after she was found “instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father” and one year for non-cooperation with the bureau.

The Sharif family had filed appeals against its conviction before the IHC in the second week of August 2018.

In October this year, Maryam filed a new application, along with “extremely relevant, simple and clear-cut facts”, with the IHC seeking annulment of that verdict.

In her application, Maryam stated that the entire proceedings that resulted in her conviction were a “classic example of outright violations of law and political engineering hitherto unheard of in the history of Pakistan”.

She also attached a reference to the speech made by former IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui at the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi on July 21, 2018, wherein he had claimed that the country’s top intelligence agency was involved in manipulating judicial proceedings.

“The ISI officials had approached the chief justice asking him to make sure Nawaz and his daughter should not be bailed before the elections,” read the petition, quoting an excerpt from ex-judge Siddiqui’s speech.

Casualties in Afghanistan, Iraq much higher than the US admitted: NYT

WASHINGTON: Data collected after years of litigation and months of investigation persuaded The New York Times to conclude that civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were much higher than the United States ever acknowledged.

Summing up its efforts to probe the US wars in the greater Middle East region, the newspaper wrote: “The promise was a war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.” But the documents NYT obtained showed “flawed intelligence, faulty targeting, years of civilian deaths — and scant accountability”.

The newspaper got access to the Pentagon documents about the war through Freedom of Information requests beginning in March 2017 and lawsuits filed against the US Defence Department and the Central Command.

NYT reporters also visited more than 100 casualty sites and interviewed scores of surviving residents and current and former American officials. The findings, published this week in a two-part report, revealed that the US air war was “deeply flawed” and the number of civilian deaths had been “drastically undercounted”, by at least several hundred, NYT reported.

The document contradicted the Pentagon’s claim that drone technology made it possible to destroy a part of a house filled with enemy fighters while leaving the rest of the structure standing. The NYT report revealed that over a five-year period, US forces executed more than 50,000 airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, with much less than the advertised precision.

Noting that before launching airstrikes the military must navigate elaborate protocols to estimate and minimise civilian deaths, the report acknowledged that often available intelligence “can mislead, fall short, or at times lead to disastrous errors”.

The newspaper pointed out that sometimes videos shot from the air did not show people in buildings, under foliage or under tarpaulins or aluminum covers. Besides, “available data can be misinterpreted, as when people running to a fresh bombing site are assumed to be militants, not would-be rescuers”, the report added.

“Sometimes men on motorcycles moving ‘in formation’, displaying the ‘signature’ of an imminent attack, were just men on motorcycles,” the report observed.

NYT cited three specific reports to prove this point. One such case was a July 19, 2016 bombing by US special forces of three presumed Islamic State militant groups’ staging areas in northern Syria. Initial reports were of 85 fighters killed. Instead, the dead were 120 farmers and other villagers.

Another example was a November 2015 attack in Ramadi, Iraq, caused by a man seen dragging “an unknown heavy object” into an Islamic State position. The “object”, a review found, was a child, who died in the strike.

PM Imran pins blame of PTI’s lackluster performance in KP LG polls on ‘wrong candidate selection’

A day after the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was upset on multiple seats in the first phase of local government elections held in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said his party “made mistakes” as he pinned the blame of a lackluster poll performance on “wrong candidate selection”.

To make sure the mistakes are not repeated, the prime minister said, he would “personally oversee” the party strategy for the second phase of the elections scheduled to be held next month.

“PTI made mistakes in [the] first phase of KP LG elections and paid the price,” he tweeted. “Wrong candidate selection was a major cause.

“From now on I will personally be overseeing PTI’s LG election strategy in [the] second phase of KP LG elections & LG elections across Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has urged PTI leadership and workers to set aside their differences and unite under PM Imran’s leadership.

“If the PTI is weakened at this time then the country will fall to the wolves,” Chaudhry tweeted

On the other hand, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif termed the PTI’s poor performance “an expression of people’s anger over the back-breaking inflation, crushing price hike and the meltdown of governance”.

“The people of KP have rejected the PTI […] It is the beginning of the end of an experiment that has cost the nation dearly.

PM Imran and Chaudhry’s remarks came on the heels of a dismal performance by the PTI in KP polls that saw it concede ground to the opposition, and especially rival party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F).

The JUI-F managed to grab the highest number of mayor/chairman seats in the elections for 39 tehsils of KP held on Sunday.

According to the provisional results of 39 of the 63 tehsils declared by the Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday, the JUI-F not only won 15 seats of mayor/chairman but also gave a tough fight in many other tehsils where its candidates stood as runners-up.

In the provincial capital, the JUI-F stunned the PTI and has a definitive lead in the contest for the mayor of Peshawar city. JUI-F candidate Haji Zubair Ali secured 62,388 votes against 50,659 votes secured by PTI’s Rizwan Bangash.

Of the remaining six tehsil chairman seats of Peshawar, the JUI-F managed to clinch four while the PTI could get one seat of tehsil chairman from the provincial capital.

It is for the first time that the JUI-F made its mark in the provincial capital, far from its traditional power base of southern KP. Interestingly, the JUI-F also emerged victorious in Charsadda, beating the Awami National Party (ANP) at the home turf. Also, the JUI-F emerged powerful in Mardan, where its candidate lost the mayor seat to the ANP with a margin of 6,000 votes.

In Mardan, the JUI-F secured three seats and the ANP emerged victorious on two of the five tehsil seats.

In Nowshera, the PTI and ANP grabbed one seat of tehsil chairman each, while the result from the third tehsil was awaited. PTI candidate Ishaq Khattak, son of Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, won the seat by securing over 49,000 votes against the JUI-F candidate who secured over 40,000 votes.

In Swabi, the JUI-F, PML-N and the ANP and the PTI won a tehsil chairman seat each.

Of the three Kohat tehsils, the JUI-F candidate and an independent secured one chairman seat each, while the results of third tehsil were awaited.

In Bannu, the JUI-F emerged victorious in one of the six tehsils, while results of the five remaining tehsils were awaited.

Also, both tehsils of Tank were won by the JUI-F.

However, in Dera Ismail Khan — the hometown of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman — provisional results of four of the six tehsils showed the PTI, Jamaat-i-Islami, PPP and an independent secured one tehsil chairman seat each.

In Buner district, the ruling PTI showed strength by winning four of the six chairman seats. The result of one tehsil was still awaited, while another went to the ANP.

In Haripur, the PML-N got two seats, while the third seat went to an independent.

While results of the remaining tehsils have not been declared, the JUI-F was said to be leading in six tehsils, the PTI in four, independent three, the ANP in two and the PPP in one tehsil.

Reasons for unexpected performances

It is too early to pinpoint the exact reasons for the sudden rise of the JUI-F at this moment. However, political observers believe many factors, including geopolitical shifts battering the region, failures of the ruling PTI and Rehman’s more than three years of efforts to mobilise his electoral base led to this outcome.

Analysts and the inner circle of the JUI-F believe that Rehman’s steady campaign against the prime minister was one of the factors that inspired the people to cast vote in favour of the JUI-F.

“There are several factors, which could be attributed to the better performance of JUI-F, but people fully expressed their lack of trust in the PTI due to its poor governance, inflation and delivery of services,” said Professor Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi, who teaches international relations in the University of Peshawar.

In the first phase, the local bodies’ elections were held in 17 districts of the province on Sunday, while local government polls in the remaining districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be conducted on January 16, 2022.