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26 people, including 9 policemen martyred in Lahore blast

F.P. Report

LAHORE: 26 people have been martyred in a suspected suicide attack in the Ferozepur area of the provincial capital on Monday afternoon, confirmed DIG Operations Dr Haider Ashraf Speaking to media, DIG Operations confirmed nine policemen were martyred in the blast.

57 people were also injured in the explosion. Many of the injured are said to be in critical condition. DIG Operations Dr Haider Ashraf said a police picket was targeted in the attack. “We are collecting evidence and this could be a suicide bombing. The death toll includes police and civilians.”

Police sources said a suicide attacker targetted police personnel deployed at the site, media reported. The explosion took place near the Arfa Karim IT Tower. Several motorcycles and at least one vehicle were destroyed in the explosion.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, addressing a press conference, said terrorism can not be ruled out as the motive behind the explosion. He added that security forces are conducting their investigations.

Sanaullah further said that the government has started a security operation against terror organisations and the situation is much better when compared to 2011-12.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan confirmed that an anti-encroachment drive was being conducted at the time explosion. Anti-riot police personnel were deployed at the spot among others.

Rescue and relief efforts underway the area was cordoned off by a heavy contingent of security forces and the section of the road leading towards Lahore was sealed. Forensic experts are conducting investigation in to the attack.

The injured were shifted to Jinnah Hospital, Lahore General Hospital and Ittefaq Hospital. Several of the injured are in critical condition, Geo News reported. Police personnel are also among those injured. An emergency was imposed in the city’s hospitals.

Identity of those killed in the explosion has not yet been ascertained as of yet.  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the blast. He directed authorities to provide all possible medical assistance to wound of the suicide attack.

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has condemned the blast and has directed the Army to provide immediate relief and rescue. Army troops have also reached the site.

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Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan admires efforts of Pak Army

RAWALPINDI (APP): Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan and Resolute Support Mission (RSM), General John W. Nicholson, called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Monday where the two discussed terrorism and regional security situation.

According to Inter-Services Public Relations, the army chief raised concern over the blame game perpetrated by some quarters in Afghanistan and the United States to undermine the contribution of Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.

He said it’s not a coincidence that this theme is being played at a time when policy review is being undertaken in the US. He said Pakistan will continue to act positively despite provocations as the armed forces consider war on terror a part of national interest.

Important issues including border management, regional stability and peace came under discussion. General Nicholson has appreciation the professionalism of Pakistan Army and admired resilience of the people of Pakistan during war on terror.

The two agreed to enhance cooperation and highlighted the need for continuous engagement between forces in both countries.

COAS Bajwa and Gen Nicholson converged on the need to increase coordination for peace and stability in the region. Also, the meeting was also attended by the United States Ambassador David Hale.

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24 killed as car bomb explodes in western Kabul

KABUL (AFP): At least 24 people have been killed and 42 wounded after a Taliban car bomb struck a bus carrying government employees in western Kabul on Monday, officials said, in the latest attack to strike the Afghan capital.

“The car bomb hit a bus carrying employees of the ministry of mines during rush hour,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast that hit a busy neighbourhood of the Afghan capital just before 7am (0230 GMT).

The bombing comes as the resurgent militant group has stepped up attacks across the country in recent days, with several new districts falling to the Taliban over the weekend.

The blast hit an area of the capital that is home to many Shia Hazaras, a persecuted ethnic minority who have been targeted many times in the past.

It is also near the home of prominent politician and former warlord Mohammad Mohaqeq. Omid Maisom Mohaqiq, a spokesman for the politician, said the bomb had detonated near the first checkpoint approaching the house, “killing and wounding some civilians”.

An AFP photographer at the scene saw multiple bodies and wounded people in the street, surrounded by shattered glass as security forces cordoned off the area.

The charred remains of the bus stood in the middle of the road and a black column of smoke from the explosion hung in the air.

An army truck and forklifts were attempting to remove the carcass of the bus as ambulances as well as taxis and private cars ferried the injured to nearby hospitals, an AFP photographer said.

One-year anniversary

Kabul’s Hazara community, on Monday, were due to mark the one-year anniversary of an attack in the heart of the capital that killed 84 and wounded more than 300 people, mostly members of the ethnic minority.

That attack was the first in Afghanistan claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS) group, which has since carried out multiple attacks targeting the country’s Shia minority.

The Hazara community were due to hold a demonstration to mark the July 23, 2016 tragedy, but had agreed to postpone the march after meeting with President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday.

Kabul is regularly rocked by suicide bombs and attacks. A recent UN report showed that attacks on the capital accounted for nearly one-fifth of all civilian Afghan casualties in the first half of 2017.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which has been documenting civilian casualties since 2009, said in its recent report that 1,662 civilians were killed and more than 3,500 injured in the first six months of the year.

Many died in a single devastating attack in Kabul in late May when a truck bomb exploded, also during the morning rush hour, killing more than 150 people and injuring hundreds.

UNAMA put the civilian death toll at 92, saying it was the deadliest incident to hit the country since 2001. The bloody toll for the first six months of 2017 has unsettled the government and put increasing pressure on President Ghani.

Protests and deadly street clashes hit the Afghan capital in the wake of the May attack as people incensed by security failures called for his government’s resignation.

The UNAMA report also said that nearly half of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces have seen an increase in civilian deaths in the first six months of the year, mainly due to the rise in attacks by anti-government forces across the country.

Nato’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended three years ago, handing sole responsibility to the country’s security forces, which have also suffered spiralling casualties as they try to beat back the resurgent Taliban and contain the growing threat from IS.

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Nawaz Sharif rejects JIT charge he hid UAE employment

ISLAMABAD (Monitoring Desk): Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had declared his chairmanship of FZE Capital as well as his Iqama [employment contract] in the nomination papers he submitted prior to the last general elections.

This was stated in a 25-page reply submitted by the premier’s counsel to the apex court on Sunday.

The detailed response was submitted by the prime minister’s counsel, Khawaja Harris, in the chambers of the Supreme Court judges.

The reply states that Nawaz Sharif’s Iqama as well as his employment in UAE were shown in the copy of his passport which was attached to the nomination papers the premier submitted with the Election Commission of Pakistan in 2013. The premier’s counsel writes that as there was no separate column in the nomination papers, his employment and Iqama were not mentioned there directly.

It is also stated in the response that Nawaz Sharif is the chairman of FZE Capital, a Dubai-based company.
The reply also clarified that the premier was not the chairman of Chaudhry Sugar Mills, as stated in the Panama case Joint Investigation Team’s final report. It reveals that the prime minister, however, was a shareholder in the company till June 2016.

The reply states further that the prime minister never attempted to hide these facts, as declared by the JIT.

The seal of the Returning Officer for NA-120, Lahore, is also stamped on the nomination papers, proving that they are verified by election officials.

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My money trail is not ‘missing’, all documents submitted in court: Imran Khan’s rebuttal

ISLAMABAD (Monitoring Desk): A day after Imran Khan’s “lack of salary records” made headlines, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief held a press conference at Bani Gala to refute the allegations of money laundering and tax evasion levelled against him.

“Everyone knows that I earned money abroad and brought it back to Pakistan, and purchased Bani Gala from that money — I will show you those documents right now,” said Khan on Sunday. “How does that equate to money laundering?”

“I used to pay tax abroad, so if anyone should be worried, it should be them [the UK government]. As far as declaration of assets is concerned, everyone knows that I had an apartment in London,” said the PTI chief.

The first case filed against me by PML-N questioned how the money from my London flat’s sale came to Pakistan, said Khan. “It came through Jemimah; she sent all [the details of] her bank accounts, which have been submitted to the Supreme Court (SC),” he elaborated. “The money from the flat’s sale was given to Jemimah who then sent it to Pakistan — those transactions are in the statements that have been presented in the SC.”

He said that people donate money to his charities because they trust him. “They give me their money because they think I am an honest person who will not take advantage of their wealth. People give me donations for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH); two of which have been built [in Lahore and Peshawar], while a third is being built in Karachi.”

Lashing out at PML-N’s Khawaja Asif, who had accused Khan of investing charity money in France and Oman, he said that if the minister had any proof of discrepancies in SKMCH’s accounts, then he should take his objections to court. “It [the hospital] runs on donations and we have audit reports as proof.”

Money from Sussex

Showing another document at the press conference, Khan said that he played for Sussex for 11 years. “The Sussex County Cricket Club gave me a certificate and this is the club’s official letter, stating that I played for them from 1977-1988 — it also says that a 33 per cent at-source tax was deducted.”

Since the club does not have the record of the money paid to me, I submitted Mushtaq Ahmed’s contract who played for Sussex 18 years after me, justified Khan. “He is also a Pakistani cricketer and his contract says that he earned 70,000 pounds per year. The reason I presented Ahmed’s contract was to give the court an idea of how much I would have earned as a [renowned] all-rounder of my time if he earned 70,000 pounds a year.”

Calling out English daily The News and Jang Group’s Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on the publication’s Sunday story about Khan’s ‘Qatari’ letter, the PTI chief said, “The News wrote that Austin Robert’s letter [submitted by Khan’s lawyer in court] is equivalent to the ‘Qatari’ letter produced by the Sharif family.”

“Robert wrote in his letter that he signed me in 1977. He didn’t only sign me; Zaheer Abbas, Asif Iqbal, Majid Khan, Javed Miandad, and 50 other cricketers from all over the world were also signed. It was a standard annual contract of $25,000,” said Khan.

“If you believe you are an investigative journalist, call Austin Robert, check his background, and you will realise that his letter is not [like the] Qatari letter. He will have all the documents in his archives — not just mine, but of 50 other cricketers — proving that we had a standard contract.”

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Withheld coalition funds were reimbursement not assistance, says ambassador to US

WASHINGTON (AFP): Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Aizaz Chaudhry on Friday clarified that the funds withheld by the US Department of Defence were reimbursement for expenses incurred by Pakistan towards achieving “our common objectives in the fight against terrorism’ and were not assistance.

The Pentagon has withheld $50 million to be paid under the CSF to Pakistan.

The ambassador said that Pakistan had paid a staggering human and financial cost in the fight against terrorism.

“It is a well-known fact that Pakistan’s counter terrorism efforts have resulted in a significant decline in terrorist attacks,” said Chaudhry.

He further said that Pakistan has spearheaded the fight against terrorism and had achieved significant successes.

“Pakistan is maintaining the momentum in fighting terrorism as is evident through Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad and the recently launched Operation Khyber-IV,” said the ambassador.

The US had allotted $900 million to Pakistan under CSF, out of which $550 million has already been reimbursed.

Out of it, $300 million was withdrawn by Congress as part of a broader appropriations act.

The report, quoting a Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump, said however that the withholding of funds did not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military had undertaken over previous years.

According to the report, the funds were held back after US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said he could not verify that Pakistan had made enough efforts against the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani group, during a US Congress defense committee hearing.

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Friendly fire by US missile kills 16 Afghan policemen

KANDAHAR (AFP) – A US airstrike killed 16 Afghan police and wounded two others in Helmand province, officials said Saturday.

The incident took place Friday 5 pm as Afghan security forces were clearing a village of Taliban elements, Salam Afghan, Helmand police spokesman, told AFP.

“In the strike, 16 Afghan policemen were killed including two commanders. Two other policemen were wounded,” he said.

Omar Zwak, Helmand provincial governor spokesman, confirmed the strike and gave the same account.

It occurred in Gereshk district in Helmand, large parts of which are under Taliban control.

NATO’s mission in Afghanistan issued a statement.

“During a US-supported (Afghan security) operation, aerial fires resulted in the deaths of the friendly Afghan forces who were gathered in a compound,” it said.

“We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families affected by this unfortunate incident,” the statement said, adding there would be a probe into what happened.

The US is the only foreign force in the coalition conducting airstrikes in Afghanistan.

Acting interior ministry spokesman Najeeb Danish gave a lower death toll than the provincial officials.

“The toll we have received is that unfortunately as a result of the strike, we have 12 police forces martyred and no one wounded,” Danish told AFP.

He said a ministry delegation had been sent to the area to investigate the incident and help families of the victims.

There have been a series of incidents involving US airstrikes and Afghans.

In February, a US airstrike in Sangin killed at least 18 civilians, mostly women and children.

Last November 32 Afghan civilians were killed in a US airstrike in the northeastern province of Kunduz.

In October 2015, a US air strike during fighting hit a hospital operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres, killing 42 people and sparking international outrage.

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Imran Khan submits his money trail of London flats

ISLAMABAD (Online): Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan told the SC that English counties he had played for did not maintain records older than 20 years, Imran Khan responded to the Supreme Court’s queries over a petition seeking his disqualification alleging non-disclosure of assets, ownership of offshore companies and receipt of foreign funds for the party.

The counsels of Imran Khan has submitted Imran rejoinder consisting of 24 pages to the court on Saturday.  In line with documents presented to the apex court, Imran started earning money abroad when he started playing cricked during his days as a student at University of Oxford, England.

The details state that Imran was selected to play cricket for Pakistan, also for Worcestershire from 1971. He played for Sussex County from 1977 to 1988. All the payments Imran received had income tax deducted from them at source, the documents state.

Since Imran had to spend his days outside Pakistan to fulfil his commitment to Sussex Country Cricket and to participate in other international cricketing events between 1977 and 1988, he was a non-resident, the statement reads. Therefore, it added, the Pakistani income tax law did not apply to him.

He also played for the Kerry Packer series, a cricket competition between 1977 and 1979, for US$ 25,000 per year. Additional to the earning were airfare, boarding, lodging and prize money. But by 1980 he was the highest paid overseas player in the United Kingdom.

Moreover, Imran also played in Australia for New South Wales between 1984 and 1985, earning Australian Dollar 50,000. In 1984, the documents read, Imran mortgaged a one-bedroom apartment in London through Royal Trust in the name of Niazi Services Limited.

The apartment was purchased for GBP 117,500 on mortgage on 20 years and initial down payment of GBP 61,000 to Royal Trust. As per the statement, Imran made the payment from his savings and earnings he got while playing for Sussex Country Cricket and Kerry Packer series.

According to the documents submitted to the Supreme Court, Imran managed to pay off the mortgage well before its due date as he had a benefit year in 1987 when he earned GBP 190,000 and his savings.

Since Imran made all the money while playing as a professional cricketer, the statement reads. The counsel of Imran Khan said that Imran Khan was not involved in any money laundering.

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Operation Khyber 4: Terrorist hideouts near Pak-Afghan border cleared

PESHAWAR (Monitoring Desk): Several terrorists were killed and their hideouts decimated as the Pakistan Army, along with Special Services Group (SSG), successfully cleared the highest mountain top, Brekh Muhammad Kandao, near the Pak-Afghan border.

“Terrorist hideouts were dismantled, and cache of IEDs, arms and ammunition were seized,” said the ISPR, military’s media wing, on Saturday in updates on the operation code-named Khyber-4.

At least 13 terrorists were killed and six others injured in targeted strikes by PAF jets, Army Aviation and artillery, said the ISPR on Thursday.

Operation Khyber-4 is part of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad or Elimination of Discord, and was launched in February after a sharp uptick in terrorist attacks in the country. It is aimed at “indiscriminately eliminating the residual/latent threat of terrorism”, consolidating the gains made in other military operations.

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Shahbaz to be PM if Nawaz disqualified

ISLAMABAD – Amidst political upheaval, top brass of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s (PML-N) have pigeonholed Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif as replacement if SC disqualifies Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers Case, sources told Dunya News.

Ruling party has also opted to accept whatever verdict apex court puts forward in Panamagate implementation case to evade any possible confrontation with legal and constitutional bodies.

PML-N arrived at the decision during a sitting of party’s top leadership chaired by Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif in the aftermath of Panamagate. Nawaz Shairf’s legal team also briefed him on the developments following reservation of judgment by apex court.

As per details garnered, ruling party contemplated on possible names as replacement if Supreme Court (SC) disqualifies premier. Well-informed inside aware revealed that replacement is aimed at completing five-year constitutional tenure so that all ongoing mega-projects would be completed.

Then, the party would put forth completed projects before masses during electoral campaign in bid to take credit and secure victory in 2018 polls. Second big motif behind completion of tenure is to acquire two-third majority in senate.

PM’s legal team prophesied it is highly unlikely that SC would disqualify him directly. It further narrated that SC would forward the reference to National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq who would have to make judgment within span of 30 days otherwise, the case would fall in jurisdiction of Election Commission of Pakistan.

On the other hand, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar skipped the sitting as rumors of rift surged.