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NAB recommends placing Hamza and Salman Shehbaz on ECL

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has recommended to the Ministry of Interior placing the names of Hamza Shehbaz Sharif and his brother Salman Shehbaz on the Exit Control List (ECL).

In a letter to the Ministry of Interior, NAB states that Hamza and Salman are under investigation.

Hamza and Salman are facing a NAB inquiry related to the construction of a bridge in Chiniot which allegedly facilitated Ramzan Sugar Mills owned by the Sharif family. NAB claims that Rs200 million were paid from the national exchequer for the construction of the bridge.

Last week, Hamza who is the leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly appeared before the accountability watchdog, however, Salman did not as he is in London.

According to sources, three deputy directors of NAB from the intelligence, prosecution and investigation wings questioned Hamza.

Hamza and Salman’s father and PML-N president, Shehbaz Sharif, has been in NAB’s custody since October 5 in connection to the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case.

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Rabbani says one-sided accountability will not work in Pakistan

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Senator Raza Rabbani speaking on the floor of the Upper House on Friday said one-sided accountability would not work.

“Are politicians the only corrupt people in society,” Rabbani asked as he reiterated his call for across the board the board accountability.

“One-sided accountability will not work in Pakistan. Politicians are not the only ones who are corrupt, unfortunately, everyone in society including myself is corrupt. If there is to be accountability let there be across the board accountability. Let the judiciary be accountable let the civil and military bureaucracy be accountable. But for this we are not ready,” Rabbani stressed.

The PPP leader also called for the formation of a federal accountability commission comprising all stakeholders.

“NAB would be a subordinate of this commission which would decide if a reference had to be filed,” he said.

Rabbani added that when it came to accountability politicians were easy prey. “If you want society to improve and eliminate corruption, the root cause needs to be addressed.”

Rabbani was critical of the standoff between the government and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sajrani over Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.

A day earlier, Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani placed a ban on Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry from attending the session until he apologised for his outburst against the opposition.

Following a cabinet meeting, Chaudhry quoted the prime minister saying: “Nobody has the right to disrespect any minister.” The minister added if the Senate chairman was unable to bring order to the House, then the government would have to think over its strategy. Chaudhry further said that he was voted in by the people of Pakistan while the Sanjrani was not elected.

Rabbani said in the past no dictator had the audacity to say anything against the Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker. “Today aspersions are raised on the Senate chairman,” Rabbani added.

Turing to the acting Senate Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla, Rabbani said: “The prime minister is elected to the office through indirect votes of National Assembly members.”

During his address, Rabbani emphasised that he could not accept that the statements about the Senate chairman were made by the prime minister or the cabinet. “I cannot accept this because they [prime minister, cabinet] would not destroy the constitution like this.”

The PPP leader said the government had come into power on the platform of rooting out corruption, questioning why under trial cases were being raised on the floor.

In response to Rabbani, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said there was no discussion of the Senate chairman’s conduct during the cabinet meeting.

“I am proud of Prime Minister Imran Khan who said in the cabinet meeting that he was willing to sacrifice his government but would not tolerate corrupt ministers,” Ali Muhammad Khan added.

The minister emphasised that they were on the same page with Rabbani and would work together against corruption. “We will not let any damage be done to Parliament.”

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YPG is ‘Syrian offshoot’ of PKK terror group: US envoy

WASHINGTON (AA): The PYD/YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK terror group, the American Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey said Thursday.

He spoke at a panel at the Defense One Summit, which brings top military, foreign policy and intelligence leaders to Washington to discuss American security throughout the world.

Jeffrey said U.S. operations in Syria could not be done without the “active participation, coordination, and cooperation of Turkey.”

The U.S. is not able to function in the northeastern region of Syria while fighting Daesh forces at the same time, and to do both a local partner is needed, according to Jeffrey.

“That local partner since 2014 has been the PYD, which is the Syrian offshoot of PKK, but we have not designated it as a terrorist organization which we did with the PKK,” said Jeffrey, referring to the political wing of the YPG.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people.

Turkey has repeatedly told Washington that the PYD/YPG is not any different from the PKK and partnering with one terrorist organization to defeat another would not yield any result.

He said that the U.S. is still in the northeast region of Syria to defeat Daesh terrorists, remove Iranians out of the area and ensure the political process in the country.

Turkey agrees with all three points but the U.S. added “some conditions” and did not do a proper job of explaining them to Ankara, he said without mentioning what those conditions were.

Jeffrey said without Turkey’s help, the U.S. mission in Syria would be over.

“Again, the mission will be finished,” he added.

“The mission of trying to bring peace to Syria, if you turn your back, even on the Turks, or on our allies in the northeast which is the SDF, which is an evolution of the PYD, which in its own sense, is an offshoot of the PKK,” said Jeffrey.

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Julian Assange charged in US: WikiLeaks

WASHINGTON (AFP): WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was behind a massive dump of classified US documents in 2010, has been charged in the United States, WikiLeaks said Thursday.

Prosecutors revealed the existence of the sealed indictment inadvertently in a court filing in an unrelated case, WikiLeaks said.

The exact nature of the charges against Assange was not immediately known.

“SCOOP: US Department of Justice ‘accidentally’ reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange in apparent cut-and-paste error in an unrelated case also at the Eastern District of Virginia,” Wikileaks wrote on Twitter.

The still unsealed charges against Assange were disclosed by Assistant US Attorney Kellen Dwyer as she made a filing in the unrelated case and urged a judge to keep that filing sealed.

Dwyer wrote, “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged,” according to The Washington Post.

Later, Dwyer wrote the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”

US media were alerted late Thursday to the inadvertent disclosure thanks to a tweet from Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. He is known to follow court filings closely.

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11 killed as Cyclone Gaja ravages Indian coast

CHENNAI (AFP): At least 11 people were reported dead Friday as a powerful cyclone battered India’s eastern coast, authorities said.

Thousands of trees were felled by winds that destroyed homes and vehicles as hundreds of thousands fled to shelter homes.

Cyclone Gaja packed winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour as it barrelled into Tamil Nadu state after hitting the coast near Nagapattinam early Friday bringing heavy rains, India’s weather office said.

The ruling party in the prosperous state said on Twitter that 11 people were killed in the powerful storm that has flooded several low-lying areas along the coastline on the Bay of Bengal.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party provided no further details about the victims.

The government has announced compensation of one million rupees ($14,000) to victims’ families as hundreds of emergency workers were trying to restore roads and electricity.

The storm was predicted to move westwards and gradually weaken before heading into the Arabian Sea, the India Meteorological Department said.

Torrential rain caused waterlogging and threatened landslides. There were widespread power outages in the region.

Authorities closed schools and colleges and thousands of emergency workers were on standby along with two naval ships with divers, helicopters and inflatable boats.

Authorities had warned fishermen since Sunday not to risk going out to sea.

Gaja is the second major storm to hit India’s east coast in recent weeks. Cyclone Titli battered Odisha state in October, killing at least two people.

Storms regularly hit southern India between April and December. Last year, Cyclone Ockhi left nearly 250 people dead in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

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Absentee funeral prayer held in Istanbul for Khashoggi

ANKARA (AA): A funeral prayer in absentia for slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was held in Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque on Friday.

The ceremony was widely attended by activists and political figures calling for unity and justice for the journalist.

Khashoggi, a frequent contributor to The Washington Post, was killed Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

After weeks of denying any involvement in the crime, Saudi Arabia later admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate but claimed the Saudi royal family had no prior knowledge of any plot to murder the journalist.

His body has yet to be returned to his family, which has been requesting its return, amid reports that it was chemically dissolved.

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Netanyahu battles to save weakened ruling coalition

JERUSALEM (AFP): Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was battling to keep his government afloat on Friday after Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman quit over a ceasefire deal for Gaza.

Left with a single seat majority in parliament after the walkout by Lieberman and his hawkish Yisrael Beitenu party, most media saw little way for Netanyahu to avoid calling a snap general election.

The veteran prime minister was expected to hold crunch talks later on Friday with his other main right-wing rival, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, whose religious nationalist Jewish Home party has threatened to quit unless he is given Lieberman’s job.

The Gaza ceasefire, which ended the worst flare-up between Israel and the territory’s rulers Hamas since a 2014 war, faced its first major test later on Friday as Palestinian demonstrators were expected to gather along the border for mass protests that have triggered deadly violence in previous weeks.

The deal has already drawn heavy criticism, however, in Israeli communities near the border that faced barrages of rockets earlier this week.

Hundreds joined a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Thursday despite a promise from Netanyahu of more public money for emergency services.

Pro-Netanyahu freesheet Yisrael Hayom daily predicted that the prime minister would do all he could to avoid a general election while his hard-won security credentials were at issue.

“Holding elections with the fiasco in Gaza in the background cracks the image of the ultimate leader that he has built over the course of years,” it said.

“The chances of stopping this speeding train appear impossible, but Netanyahu is still trying.”

The eight lawmakers of Bennett’s far-right Jewish Home party are not the only threat to Netaynahu’s razor-thin parliamentary majority.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose centre-right Kulanu party hold 10 seats, has reportedly told Netanyahu that a snap election is necessary to provide a stable government to keep the economy on track.

But Yisrael Hayom said Bennett was key to efforts to avoid an early election and could yet prove Netanyahu’s political salvation.
“Naftali Bennett as defence minister and Netanyahu as prime minister could together project stability and embark on a coordinated offensive against anyone who gets in the way,” it said.

In a speech on Thursday, Bennett did not reiterate the resignation threat but made his case for why he should get the defence post.
“The most dangerous thing for the state of Israel is that we begin to think that there is no solution to terrorism, to terrorists, to missiles,” he said.

“There is a solution. When Israel wants to win, we will win.”

There were no official details of when or where Bennett would meet Netanyahu on Friday or what public statements if any would be made.
Hundreds of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening calling for tougher action against Hamas which has portrayed the ceasefire and Lieberman’s resignation as a victory.

Netanyahu — flanked by Kahlon, Interior Minister Arie Deri and army top brass — met with the leaders of Israeli border communities.

He briefed them on military efforts to quell Hamas attacks and also announced a 500 million shekel ($139 million, 119 million euro) two-year package to improve emergency medical and social services, a government statement said.

With a major domestic political battle on his hands, Netanyahu cancelled a planned two-day visit to Austria next week for a conference on anti-semitism and anti-Zionism.

There has long been speculation that Netanyahu would call a general election before its scheduled date of November 2019.

Police have recommended he be charged in two separate corruption cases and the attorney general is expected to announce in the coming months whether to put him on trial.

Analysts say the prime minister would be better positioned to fight any charges with a fresh mandate from the voters.

But he would not have chosen to go the polls with voters’ attention focused on the Gaza ceasefire and his rivals’ efforts to outbid his security credentials.

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Suspected gas cylinder blast kills 42 on Zimbabwe bus

HARARE (AFP): At least 42 passengers were killed, Zimbabwe police said on Friday, after a suspected gas cylinder exploded on a bus, with pictures showing the burnt-out wreckage of the vehicle.

“At the moment we know that more than 42 people died,” police spokesperson Charity Charamba told AFP after the accident late on Thursday, with state media reporting that a cooking gas cylinder belonging to a passenger was believed to have exploded igniting a fire.

“Our police officers are at the scene,” Charamba added.

The state-owned Herald newspaper said on its Twitter feed that “it is suspected a gas tank belonging to one of the passengers caused the inferno in the bus.”

“Dozens have been confirmed dead and several others injured through burns.”

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation published photographs showing the destroyed vehicle on a highway between the South African border and the second city Bulawayo. ZBC reported that injured survivors being treated at Gwanda town hospital alleged that a gas smell engulfed the bus after dark before the conductor switched on the lights and the bus caught fire.

It said about 30 people were injured, adding the vehicle was travelling from Zvishavane to the Beitbridge crossing via the town of Filabusi when the explosion happened.

Last week, 50 people were killed when two buses collided on a road between the capital Harare and the eastern town of Rusape.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said road safety had to be improved after that crash.

Traffic accidents are common in Zimbabwe, where roads are riddled with potholes due to years of underfunding and neglect, and driving standards can be poor.

In June last year, 43 people were killed in a bus crash in the north, along the highway leading to neighbouring Zambia.

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PM shares concerns with Sanjrani over barring Fawad Chaudhry from Senate

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his concerns over an entry ban on Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry from Senate sessions, during a telephonic conversation with Upper House Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

According to details, PM Khan urged Senate chairman to resolve the matter with mutual understanding. On which, Sanjrani told the premier that he did not have any personal conflict with the federal minister, “however, his aggressive style of speech makes it difficult to run the session smoothly.” he added.

In an unprecedented move, Sadiq Sanjrani imposed a bar yesterday on Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry from attending Senate session over his failure to tender apology to the upper house of Parliament.

As the proceeding of Senate session began, the opposition reiterated their demand for Fawad Chaudhry to apologise.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and leader of the opposition in the upper house, Raja Zafarul Haq said: “There has been a lot of bad blood in the house and it is affecting the house’s pride. We do not have any other solution to this than just walk out. Until an apology is tendered, the rest is all meaningless.”

“Until this person comes here and asks the entire parliament for an apology, the opposition will not (attend),” said Hasil Bizenjo.

Whereas leader of the house Shibli Faraz suggested that the record of Fawad Chaudhry and PML-N senator Mushahidullah Khan’s statements be analysed by a committee, and offered an apology on the behalf of Fawad Chaudhry.

Subsequently, the opposition staged a walkout, following which Chairman Sanjrani gave a ruling, directing Fawad Chaudhry to tender an apology.

Sadiq Sanjrani ordered the information minister to come to the house and tender his apology, making it clear that failure to do so on the minister’s part will get him banned from attending the session.

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Era of progress begins in Balochistan, says Lt Gen Asim Bajwa

F.P. Report

CHAMAN: Commander Southern Command, Lieutenant General Asim Saleem Bajwa on Friday inaugurated Pakistan’s first ever Astro Turf cricket stadium in Chaman, Balochistan.

Lt Gen Bajwa inaugurated the stadium by playing a shot, before handing it over to the cricket association.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony, the commander southern command said that the time of progress has begun in Balochistan and many other development projects are in the pipeline for the uplift of the province.

The armed forces and the masses have worked for peace and development, “we [Armed forces] will continue to support the Balochistan government”, he maintained.

Pakistan came up with a unique form of a stadium. Back in June this year, it was learned that Pakistan was going to set up a new Astro Turf Stadium at Chaman in Balochistan, the southwestern province of the country.

The AstroTurf is a renowned brand of an artificial playing surface. These turfs are generally used to avoid the cost of laying grass and ground maintenance.

Cricket in Pakistan has been in the doldrums for the last one decade after an attack in Lahore on visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009. Teams like Zimbabwe, World XI and Windies have visited Pakistan but a lot of the cricket teams still don’t agree to play in the country citing security concerns.