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Malaysian PM Mahathir to land in Islamabad on Thursday

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad will reach Pakistan on Thursday (tomorrow) on a three-day visit to Pakistan.

According to state Radio report, PM Mahathir Mohammad is visiting Islamabad at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Malaysian premier Mahathir will be accompanied by a high-level delegation and he will attend Pakistan Day Parade on March 23rd as the Guest of Honor.

He will also hold bilateral engagements during his visit and will also call on President Arif Alvi, one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan followed by delegation level talks.

Foreign Office Spokesperson, Dr. Muhammad Faisal, in a statement today said the visit of Malaysian Prime Minister will further cement the existing brotherly and friendly relations between the two countries.

Mohamad was formally invited on Nov 29, 2018 by Pakistan to visit the country. Pakistani High Commissioner Nafees Zakaria met the dignitary and delivered an invitation to the Malaysian PM on behalf of the country.

The invitation was a follow up of a verbal invitation from the Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Malaysian counterpart during his two-day long visit to the Southeast Asian country in November.

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LHC issues notice to NAB on Aleem Khan’s bail petition

F.P. Report

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has issued a notice to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on a petition filed by former senior minister Aleem Khan seeking bail in assets beyond means case, on Wednesday.

According to reports, a bench of LHC directed the NAB to submit a reply until April 3 in the case.

Former Punjab senior minister Aleem Khan filed the petition through his lawyer, contending that the case against him was false and fabricated.

PTI leader added that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had arrested him over charges of his offshore companies and assets beyond known sources of income. He said that he had already declared his all assets and income details.

The petitioner argued that the bureau has failed to substantiate any allegations against him and pleaded to the court to grant him bail.

According to NAB, the PTI leader was a common man in year 2000 and suddenly became a millionaire as his assets now worth Rs 871 million. He remained Punjab minister from 2003 to 2007 and set up 35 companies, while his several bank accounts also surfaced, the anti-corruption watchdog claimed.

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Two prisoners injured as roof collapses at Karachi’s Central Jail

F.P. Report

KARACHI: As many two prisoners were injured on Wednesday when roof of a captives’ barrack collapsed at Karachi Central Jail.

According to reports, the incident took place at Security Ward No 1 of the Central Jail where high-profile prisoners were kept.

Jail officials told that at least captives have received injuries when the roof suddenly fell down which were immediately shifted to hospital.

However, no details were disclosed so far regarding the reasons behind roof collapse and identification of the injured persons.

Official statement of the incident is due to the jail authorities.

Central Jail is Karachi one of the two jails in the metropolis declared the most overcrowded among the 25 prisons across the Sindh province.

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Kaira demand release of arrested party workers

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Former federal minister and leader of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Qamar Zaman Kaira has demanded to immediately release the arrested party workers in Islamabad on Wednesday.

According to police, at least five policemen were injured when PPP workers pelted stones at them in a bid to enter the NAB office, subsequently, the police retaliated by baton-charging and arresting some rowdy workers.

Dozens of PPP workers were taken into custody by the police ahead of the appearance of party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari before the National Accountability Bureau headquarters.

Qamar Zaman Kaira demanded of the PTI government for the immediate release of the arrested party workers and urged the local administration to avoid baton charging the party workers.

Zardari and Bilawal were asked to appear before the NAB for questioning in connection with the Park Lane Estate probe.

Last week, a banking court in Karachi had ordered the transfer of the case to Islamabad and summoned Zardari and Bilawal on March 20.

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Model Town incident: JIT to record statement of Nawaz Sharif today

F.P. Report

LAHORE: The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) will record statement of former premier Nawaz Sharif in the Model Town incident on Wednesday in the Kot Lakhpat jail.

According to details, at least 14 members of Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI) were killed and dozens injured on June 17, 2014 in the Model Town tragedy.

JIT has already interrogated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif in the case.

Earlier on March 16, the provincial home department of Punjab permitted the JIT to proceed with the investigation into the case.

The JIT members, led by the JIT head AD Khwaja, will record the statements of the former PM at the Kot Lakhpat jail, where he is serving a seven-year prison sentence in Al-Azizia Reference case.

Besides, the investigation team has already recorded the statements of various PML-N leaders in the case.

On March 14, an accountability court permitted Punjab police to record the statement of Sharif in the Model Town case.

On March 7, the newly-formed JIT had summoned PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and party leaders Rana Sanaullah, Khawaja Asif and Pervaiz Rasheed to record their statements.

Judge Arshad Malik had presided over the hearing on a plea filed by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Muhammad Iqbal seeking court permission to interrogate Sharif in the jail.

However, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Mirza Usman opposed the request and pleaded that the accountability court was not the proper forum to seek such permission.

The prosecutor had pleaded that the petitioner should approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in this regard.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had ordered formation of a new joint investigation team (JIT) to find the facts that led to the killing of 14 supporters of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s during a police action in Lahore.

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Third generation of Bhutto family being trialed in forged cases: Bakhtawar

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Daughter of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, Bakhtawar Bhutto has said that the third generation of her family being trailed in fake cases.

According to details, Bakhtawar Bhutto took to Twitter on Wednesday and regretted over summoning of his brother Bilawal Bhutto and father Asif Ali Zardari by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in fake bank accounts.

She tweeted “On whose authority/what grounds does NAB (a body set up by a dictator to remove elected govs) summon @BBhuttoZardari? For criticising this Puppet gov? For speaking out against their supported banned organisations? For demanding pro extremist ministers from their gov be sacked?!”

She added that “Where are Zia’s sons and grandsons. Why is the runaway dictator Mush on golfcourts & PSL tournaments. There is no difference between this government set up and Zia’s. Both never enjoyed any legitimacy and think controlling media will change history. #Pakistan”

Bakhtawar further added that this is the third generation of my family being put on trial with fake cases whilst skeletons of dictators are still untouchable. We have no justice of our grandfather’s murder but this faulty justice system has the audacity to put his grandson on trial.

She added that there was no difference between this government and the dictatorship of general late Zia-ul-Haq.

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NZ PM announces to broadcast ‘Azaan’ nationally on Friday

Monitoring Desk

CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday said Azaan (the call to prayer) will be broadcast nationally along with a two minutes’ silence this Friday to show support to the Muslims community, RNZ reported.

Speaking to media on her second visit to Christchurch since the terror attack, she said there would be a memorial service on Friday.

“While it will be in Christchurch we want to involve the rest of New Zealand. There is a desire to show support to the Muslim community as they return to Mosques, particularly on Friday.”

“To acknowledge this there will be a two minutes’ silence on Friday. We will also broadcast nationally, via TVNZ and RNZ, the call to prayer.”

She said there were a “large number of loopholes” in New Zealand’s gun laws and there were a range of things to be fixed. “Many New Zealanders would be astounded to know that you can access military-style semi-automatics.”

She hoped New Zealand could now demonstrate what could be done with gun control.

She also said New Zealand was not free of white supremacist groups and ultra-right wing extremist groups.

Ms Ardern said policy makers had worked through the night since Friday’s attack, exploring changes to gun control for presentation to cabinet this week.

She said Australia, after the Port Arthur massacre, had changed its laws in 12 days, and New Zealand would do it in less.

Ms Ardern said she was not aware the NRA had been targetting and lobbying in New Zealand. She anticipated that the country’s gunholders and users would be with the government on the issue of regulation.

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Fake accounts case: Zardari, Bilawal record statements before NAB

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari recorded statements before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the fake accounts case, on Wednesday.

According to reports, Bilawal Bhutto, was questioned for 40 minutes in a case pertaining to the Park Lane Estate Company.

Sources said that the Bilawal told NAB officials he was unaware of the financial transactions of this company.

Similarly, former president Asif Ali Zardari was also questioned on the Zardari Group for approximately 50 minutes.

Bilawal and Zardari were separated at the NAB headquarters and are being questioned by two separate investigation teams led by DG NAB Rawalpindi Irfan Mangi.

Sources have informed that NAB recorded the questioning (video and audio) of Bilawal and Zardari and a questionnaire was also supposed to be given to Bilawal Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari.

Upon arriving at the headquarters, Asif Ali Zardari’s vehicle was allowed to enter the premises as he is the former president, while the Bilawal’s vehicle was stopped at the gate. NAB officials wanted Bilawal to walk inside but he refused. Later, the PPP chairman’s vehicle was allowed to enter the premises.  Aseefa Bhutto Zardari accompanied her brother.

PPP workers from across the country reached the federal capital to express solidarity with the party chairman. A large number of PPP workers were present outside the NAB headquarters, while several others were arrested by the police.

While talking to media after his appearance, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said NAB was created for political engineering and adding that it was our fault and weakness and we did not change this dark [NAB] law during our tenure in government.

The case for which I was summoned, I became a shareholder of that company when I was younger than one year old. These people are staring my accountability from that age.” 

Bilawal added that they would get notices after making speeches in the National Assembly but this did not scare them.“We will continue to raise our voices against outlawed organisations. We will continue to demand the resignation of those three federal cabinet ministers who are associated with banned organisations.”

Last week, a banking court in Karachi had ordered the transfer of the case to Islamabad and summoned Zardari and Bilawal on March 20.

Yesterday on Tuesday, the Sindh High Court (SHC) granted a 10-day protective bail to Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur but rejected their request to issue a stay order against a banking court’s decision allowing NAB to transfer the fake bank accounts case to Rawalpindi.

Turning down Zardari’s request to issue a stay order against the banking court’s ruling, the SHC bench issued notices to the NAB prosecutor and director general of NAB Karachi office summoning a response from them within a week. The court further said a decision on the matter will be taken after listening to all parties in the case.

ISLAMABAD: Chairman Pakistan People Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his father and former president Asif Ali Zardari will appear before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the Park Lane Estate case on Wednesday (today).

According to reports, a NAB team will likely question the Bilawal and Zardari regarding the case. The PPP leadership has directed party leaders and workers to reach the federal capital to express solidarity with them.

Strict security arrangements have been made in and around the old NAB headquarters building to avoid any untoward incident.

Earlier, on March 19, the Sindh High Court (SHC) had granted protective bail for ten days to the former president in the fake bank accounts and Park Lane cases against a surety of Rs1 million each. It also accepted the bail plea from Faryal Talpur in the money laundering case for Rs1 million.

Former president and his sister Faryal Talpur along with their lawyer Farooq H Naek appeared in the court.

A banking court in Karachi had last week transferred the money laundering case against the former president, his sister and others to Rawalpindi on a request by NAB.

The court also cancelled the interim bail of the 19 suspects, including the PPP leaders in the case.  The court directed the authorities to return surety amount to the suspects.

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PM Imran Khan congratulates Hindu community on Holi

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has wishes the Hindu community on the festival of Holi, also known as the “Festival of Colours” on Wednesday.

Prime Minister tweeted this morning, “Wishing our Hindu community a very happy and peaceful Holi, the festival of colours”.

The Hindu citizens living across the country are celebrating the festival with traditional enthusiasm.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted, “Happy Holi to all my Hindu brothers & sisters. On the happy occasion of Holi, let us spread the wonderful massage of peace and happiness.”

Earlier, on March 10, Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) had decided to dedicate this year’s Holi festival to Pakistan.

It announced to hold a colorful mega event on March 20 (today) at the Shri Panchumukhi Hanuman Temple, Soldier Bazaar, Karachi in connection with Holi festival and Pakistan Day.

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What would happen if America left Europe to fend for itself?

Monitoring Desk

WHY, A STRATEGIST from Mars might wonder, do Europeans doubt their ability to defend themselves against Russia without American help? The total GDP of NATO’s European members is more than ten times that of Russia, which has an economy about the size of Spain’s. They spend three-and-a-half times as much on defence as Russia, which has lately had to cut its budget sharply because of a broader squeeze on its economy. True, Russia has 13 times as many nuclear warheads as western Europe has, but surely Britain and France, the two nuclear powers, have more than enough to deter an attack?

For decades Europeans did not need to worry about the Martian’s question, because America’s commitment to their defence was not in doubt. That has changed. “The times when we could unconditionally rely on others are past,” Angela Merkel told the European Parliament in November. She echoed the call of France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, for “a true European army”. In January the two leaders signed a treaty between France and Germany which includes a mutual-security pledge similar to NATO’s Article 5 (as well as Article 42.7 of the European Union’s Lisbon treaty).

This is sensitive territory. Mr Macron’s talk of a European army, and of “strategic autonomy”, irritates Americans. It is only prudent for Europeans to start hedging their bets against over-reliance on America, but hedging can be costly, and they have to be careful lest the hedge become a wedge, as François Heisbourg of the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, a think-tank, pithily puts it.

Still, Mr Trump’s ambivalence about allies is almost an invitation to think through the implications of an end to Pax Americana. Suppose one morning a tweet announces that the United States is leaving NATO. Under Article 13 of the alliance’s founding treaty, a country can cease to be a member one year after notifying the government of the United States. So, bizarrely, Mr Trump would be serving notice on himself. An optimistic version of what happens next, apart from howls of protest, is that Europe makes a concerted effort to organise its own defence. Call it Europe United.

The conventional wisdom on Europe’s ability to protect its interests may be too defeatist, suggests Kori Schake of the IISS. The middle powers, in which she includes countries like Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands, have been talking themselves into “exquisite uselessness”, but they have impressive capabilities. And, she argues, “the high-end American way of war is not the only way of war.”

A pale shadow

Yet the Europeans would immediately face institutional hurdles. Compared with Russia’s top-down system, command and control is hard enough in consensus-bound NATO. It would be a bigger challenge for Europeans alone, especially if they did not inherit NATO’s command structure. The EU may want to take the lead, but military thinking is not in its DNA. Besides, an EU-only alliance would be a pale shadow of NATO: after Brexit, non-EU countries will account for fully 80% of NATO defence spending.

There would be gaps in capabilities, too. How bad these were would depend on the mission, and how many operations were under way at the same time. The European-led interventions in Libya and Mali exposed dependence on America in vital areas such as air-to-air refuelling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. A detailed look at the sort of scenarios Europe might face would help to identify other gaps, and what it would take to fill them. Bastian Giegerich of the IISS, who is starting to work on such assessments, reckons that realistically the gap-filling could take 15 years or so. That is a long time for places like Poland and the Baltic countries that feel under threat. Fear and mistrust could quickly conspire to make narrow national interests trump efforts to maintain European unity. Hence a second, perhaps likelier, version of what might follow an American withdrawal: Europe Divided.

Jonathan Eyal of the Royal United Services Institute in London imagines a frenzy of activity, a cacophony of summits—and a renationalisation of defence strategies. Lots of countries would seek bilateral deals. In central Europe he would expect an alliance between Poland and Romania to guarantee the eastern border. The Russians and Chinese would not sit idly by, he says, but would play their own games with the Greeks, Hungarians and others.

It is these games of mistrust that the American security guarantee has largely helped to avoid. They could all too easily resurface. “Establishing a purely European defence”, warns Michael Rühle, a long-time NATO official, “would overwhelm the Europeans politically, financially and militarily.”

That is why a third way forward for Europe looks more attractive: what might be called Europe Upgraded. This would involve the Europeans doing a lot more to improve their capacity in defence, but in ways that would help persuade the Americans to stay in: less loose talk about a European army, more effort to develop capabilities currently lacking.

Europe Upgraded sounds like an easy option, but it is not. It would demand cash, creativity and care. A serious push to plug the gaps in Europe’s capabilities would not be cheap. European governments, especially the big ones, would have to find a way to sell far larger defence budgets to their voters.

As for creativity, the European Intervention Initiative, championed by Mr Macron and launched last year, is an example of the sort of innovation that could help. It is inclusive: its ten members include Finland, not part of NATO, and Britain, soon to be out of the EU. The aim is to foster a common strategic culture that will help Europe respond more nimbly to crises in its neighbourhood without calling for American help.

The care is needed to make sure a more robust Europe is seen as supporting NATO rather than undermining it. America is suspicious of any duplication of NATO’s efforts, such as the creation of rival headquarters. And bigger spending on defence could trigger disputes over industrial protectionism, especially if broader trade rows between Europe and America rumble on.

Even as the allies grapple with different visions of the future, a nuclear elephant has entered the room. Last October America declared (without warning the Europeans) that it was leaving the INF treaty, claiming a blatant violation by Russia, and served formal notice in February. Russia has since responded by pulling out too, threatening to develop new missiles. To make matters worse, the New START treaty, which limits strategic nuclear warheads and has strong verification provisions, is up for renewal in 2021.

A new nuclear-arms race would be a nightmare for NATO. In Berlin, Claudia Major is “enormously worried” that arguments over INF could divide Germany, Europe and the transatlantic alliance. Radek Sikorski fears that Russia’s missiles will leave Europe “defenceless” if it lacks a proportionate response to a first use of nuclear weapons by Russia, giving the Russians time to get where they want to by using conventional forces.

NATO has been here before. In the 1980s concern that Russian SS-20 intermediate-range missiles would “decouple” the European allies from America led to a dual-track approach: pursuit of arms control along with deployment of American cruise and Pershing II missiles in several European countries. The deployment went ahead despite mass protests, but the INF treaty signed in 1987 resulted in their removal and a long period of relative nuclear calm.

America is keen to maintain alliance solidarity, and officials say there are no plans to deploy intermediate-range missiles. There are other tools in the kit to keep Europe coupled. These include submarine-launched nuclear cruise missiles, currently in development, and new low-yield warheads for existing Trident missiles. A strengthening of missile defences would ramp up tensions with Russia.

The abandonment of the INF treaty is the most urgent reason to ask questions about the nuclear future. But the broader doubts about the strength of America’s commitment to defend Europe are also stirring things up. Like it or not, for the first time this century Europeans are having to brace themselves for a serious debate about the role of nuclear weapons on their continent.

Taboos could tumble. In a paper last November for the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, a French expert, Bruno Tertrais, suggested a range of “realistic” scenarios for expanding French and British nuclear protection, with or without NATO. Maximilian Terhalle, of the University of Winchester, and Mr Heisbourg recently argued that France should extend its nuclear umbrella to its European partners, including Germany. They acknowledge that “great leadership skills” would be needed to win support for this at home while not “prompting the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from Europe”.

The context for this debate extends far beyond Europe. Russia’s deployment of its 9M729 missiles is in part a response to the growing muscle of other countries, notably China, which is not bound by the INF treaty. President Trump has floated the idea of broader arms-control efforts also involving China and others, though there is little sign of Chinese interest. The INF question is an early indicator of how China’s rise might affect the future of the alliance.

Courtesy: (economist.com)