Monday, July 10, 2017

Bomb kills police chief, 2 others in southwest Pakistan town

A suicide bomber riding on a motorcycle struck a vehicle carrying a police chief in the southwestern Pakistani town of Chaman near the Afghan border on Monday, killing the officer, his guard and a civilian, a government official said.
Eleven people were also wounded in the attack that targeted police chief Sajid Khan Mohmand’s vehicle in the main bazaar, said Shahzada Farhat, police spokesman in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province.
The wounded included three police officers and eight passers-by. Kashif Alam, an assistant commissioner in Chaman, said the suicide bombing also damaged nearby shops.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Chaman, which is near the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak.
Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups have claimed previous attacks in Chaman.
Also Monday, a roadside bomb struck a convoy of security forces in the northwestern Kurram tribal region, killing two officers and wounding five, according to government administrator Irfan Khan. He said a manhunt is underway to find and arrest the perpetrators.

Iran-Pakistan at the Crossroads?

Historically, Iran and Pakistan enjoyed friendly relations. Iran was quick to reach out to the newly created Pakistan in 1947, and in its early decades, senior Pakistani leadership – including founding father Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah – mostly came from the Shia sect of Islam. So although Iran was then neither sectarian nor at the vanguard of Shia Islam, the two countries remained close in many respects.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, was the first head of a foreign country to visit Pakistan. Officially adopted in 1954, Pakistan’s national anthem, Alex Vatanka points out, is almost entirely written not in Urdu but in the Persian language.
Meanwhile, Sunni Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, were themselves an underwhelming presence in those pre-oil years. Unsurprisingly, then, Pakistan saw its interests being served by close ties to Iran. The two countries were conspicuously cooperative from 1947 to 1979, particularly in Balochistan. That is important, because Balochistan occupies a pivotal position in bilateral relations, given the Baloch populations in both countries.
Much changed with the Iranian revolution in 1979. The secular, pro-West Shah was ousted, and the Ayatollah Khomeni became the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In Pakistan, meanwhile, General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88), a staunch follower of the Sunni sect of Islam, was dictator. Consequently, a divide between the countries emerged, particularly as Iran sought to spread its revolution to Pakistan, which although a Sunni majority country is still home to a large Shia population.
In those years, Pakistan began to drift away from Iran to the Sunni Arab countries of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, which by now were major oil exporters. Meanwhile, India was becoming an increasingly contentious factor in Iran-Pakistan ties.
Today, while the two countries try not to antagonize one another, they no longer enjoy the same level of cooperation they did in the past. Indeed, as far as Balochistan is concerned, it seems that cooperation is being replaced with competition.
Pakistan’s regional posture is India-centric, while Prime Minister Narenda Modi has also enunciated on several occasions a policy of encircling and isolating Pakistan regionally and internationally. Along those lines, India has substantially increased its influence in Afghanistan, and it has recently, too, started stepping up its engagement with Iran. Meanwhile, Pakistan, instead of countering Indian engagement in Iran, is directing its ire at Iran itself. This has further alienated Teheran, which has its own interests to pursue.
Rather than showing rage, it is in Pakistan’s best interests to engage Iran in trade and other fields. Indeed, it was doing this as recently as a few years ago, when the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) held power. One former PPP minister told this writer that during the tenure of former president Asif Ali Zardari, meetings of civil and military leaders from both countries were commonplace.
In 2013, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power, the attention to Iran fell away. Instead, Sharif’s focus has been very much on Saudi Arabia. This is not surprising. When Sharif was previously ousted from power by former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, he was forced into exile in Saudi Arabia for a number of years, where he established strong business and family links.
In May this year, Hassan Rouhani was elected for four more years as president of Iran. Fortunately, though he himself is not as conservative as the other presidential candidates, Rouhani does have the support of ethnic Sunni groups in Iran, who see him as a better choice than his more conservative competitors. By and large, Iran’s people want change, hence their support for the more moderate candidate.
During his previous term, Rouhani showed considerable interest in trade with Pakistan, particularly with its largest province Balochistan. Indeed, he visited Pakistan for that in mind. Because of the India factor, however, the Sharif government, under constant pressure from Pakistan’s military establishment, was unable to respond to the Iranian outreach. Although Iran and Pakistan did try to improve economic ties, the Saudi-Iran rivalry impeded their efforts on several occasions.
“On the one hand, Pakistan considers Iran a potential partner which can help overcome its dire energy needs, and on the other, it does not want to offend Saudi Arabia by getting too close to Tehran. Islamabad, therefore, is trying to balance things out by claiming it wants to bring the Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and the Shiite Iran closer, but experts say it is a tightrope walk, which could also prove to be dangerous,” wrote Shamil Shams in Deutsche Welle.
A Dramatic Turn
In 2016, Iran-Pakistan ties took a dramatic turn with the arrest of Indian agent Kulbhushan Jhahav in Balochistan. According to officials in Pakistan, Jhahav was arrested as he attempted to cross into the country’s Balochistan province from Iran.
After Jadhav’s arrest, and during Iranian president Hasan Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan, the former director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Lt Gen Asim Bajwa shared the text of General Raheel Sharif’s meeting with the Iranian president.
“There is one concern that RAW [India’s intelligence agency] is involved in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan, and sometimes it also uses the soil of our brother country Iran,” read the text.
During the meeting with the Iranian president, Raheel reportedly asked Rouhani to tell them [RAW] that “they should stop these activities and allow Pakistan to achieve stability,” according to a tweet by Bajwa.
But Iran’s president rejected any claim that the question of the Indian spy agency’s involvement in Pakistan was discussed during his visit to Pakistan.
Whichever was the case, one thing is clear: Pakistan is unhappy about Iran’s growing ties with India.
Meanwhile, Raheel, Pakistan’s former Chief Of Army Staff, has been appointed commander-in-chief of the Islamic Military Alliance (IMA), a counter-terrorism alliance formed by 39 Muslim countries with its headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The IMA has been dubbed the Muslim world’s NATO, but it pointedly does not include Iran and other Muslim countries with Shia leaderships, like Iraq.
Iran views the IMA as a coalition of Sunni Muslim countries against Shia Iran and its other allies in the Middle East. It is unhappy that Raheel is at the head of the alliance, a sentiment it reportedly conveyed during meetings with Pakistan’s civil and military leaderships in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
This already tricky environment has been complicated further by the Saudi-Qatar standoff.
Should the split between Iran and Pakistan widen, there is a risk of an escalation of sectarianism in both countries, as well as instability on their borders. Independent security analysts also suggest that Baloch Sunni sectarian elements could receive aid from Saudi Arabia and its Middle Eastern Sunni allies, while Iran could support Baloch separatists, should it see Pakistan as joining the Saudi camp.
Gwadar vs Chabahar
Officially, Iran has made clear on several occasions that its Chabahar port is not meant to be a rival to Gwadar port, which lies just 72 kilometers away in the Pakistani province of Balochistan. Instead, the two neighboring facilities have been touted as sister ports that could remake the region. Indeed, Iranian authorities have reportedly shown extraordinary interest in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), stating that Iran wants to be part of it.
The reality on the ground tells a different story. “We can cut and slice it in any way we want but despite official denials these two ports are rivals and are being developed as part of a broader regional competition for influence,” said Alex Vatanka, author of Iran and Pakistan: Security, Diplomacy and American Influence.
Due to simmering ties with India, Pakistan has flatly denied its neighbor any routes to further its interests in the region, particularly with Afghanistan and Central Asian Countries. New Delhi is developing Chabahar port as an alternative.
Pakistan finds growing Indian interests in its neighboring countries intolerable, viewing them as an Indian plot to encircle and isolate Pakistan regionally. Hence, Pakistan views Indian involvement in Chabahar as a threat.
Well-known historian and Oxford University academic Peter Frankopan has a slightly more optimistic take, however, telling The Diplomat, “At the moment, there is talk of Chabahar and Gwadar complementing each other, and being peers rather than rivals. This scenario is entirely plausible and possible. Whether it is likely or not is another question.”
Continuing, he said, “If I was an optimist, I would hope that China, Pakistan, Iran and India all do well from these ambitious projects. If I was a betting man, I would put money on one project doing significantly better than the other. Much can go wrong with long-term plans such as these – not least keeping all those in the regions being able and willing to co-operate and communicate with each other. As a historian, I would note that the recent track record in this area is not very promising.”
Meanwhile, national interests will continue to clash. For Iran’s part, it is well acquainted with China’s ambitious plans, and it does not want Gwadar to be developed by China, the emerging power of Asia. For this reason, Iran sees it as in its own interests to reach out to India, as a balance to China in Asia.
According to South Asia analyst Michael Kugelman, “Iran may have concerns about Gwadar from a geopolitical standpoint, given that Gwadar and the broader pattern of Chinese investment in Pakistan is a competitor to the India-led transport infrastructure project that centers around the port of Chabahar in Iran. Based on scale and amount of investment, the Chinese investments in Pakistan are more formidable than India’s in Iran.”
Kugelman continues, “At the same time, Gwadar could have benefits for Iran. China has suggested its broader CPEC project in Pakistan could include financing the Pakistani side of a new gas pipeline from Iran. Also, China’s massive investments in Pakistan could merely be the precursor to broader Chinese regional infrastructure investments, including in Iran. Who knows – we could even see the Chinese making some contributions to Chabahar. Anything is possible.”
Other analysts are skeptical. They argue that Iran sees as India as standing with it at the time of the former’s nuclear standoff with the United States. Given that India has already opposed the CPEC projects on many occasions, how can they (India and Iran) join CPEC or think of Chabahar as a complement to the Gwadar port project?
In this context, Alex Vatanka observed, “Iran and Pakistan have for decades failed to cooperate for better economic integration in the region and have instead put their hopes in states such as India and China in the hope that each can gain the upper hand in west Asia and become the primary conduit to Afghanistan and Central Asia. But involving China and India has only exacerbated the zero-sum-game mentality and deepened suspicions between Iran and Pakistan.”
Vatanka added, “We can call this state of affairs inevitable or not dissimilar to other such competitions between nations around the world. But the simple truth is the trajectory of these two ports would have been very different if Islamabad and Tehran were less suspicious of each other and more forward-looking about the benefits of economic cooperation between two neighbors that actually have a lot to offer each other once they choose to do so.”
Following the lifting of sanctions on Iran that followed a deal struck between the big powers and Tehran to curb its nuclear program in 2015, India has reportedly committed $500 million to speed the development of Chabahar port.
However, new U.S. President Donald Trump has been scathing about Iran, and has denounced its nuclear program
According to a report by Reuters, “Swiss engineering group Liebherr and Finland’s Konecranes (KCRA.HE) and Cargotec (CGCBV.HE) have told India Ports Global Pvt Ltd, which is developing the deep water port, they were unable to take part in the bids as their banks were not ready to facilitate transactions involving Iran due to the uncertainty over U.S. policy.”
“These firms dominate the market for customized equipment to develop jetties and container terminals. One official said the first tender was floated in September, but attracted few bidders because of the fear of renewed sanctions. That fear has intensified since January,” the report added.
India, which has developed close ties with Washington, is also fearful of new sanctions on Iran. For this reason, India has reportedly slowed development work in Chabahar.
Border Politics
Mirjaveh is a town in Iran’s southeastern province that sits on the border with Pakistan. Historically, Mirjaveh was part of Pakistan, but General Ayub Khan handed it over to Iran during his dictatorship.
In recent times, the Jaish-ul-Adl, or the Army of Justice, has claimed responsibility via Twitter for an attacked on 10 Iranian border guards in Mirjaveh. Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bahram Qasemi summoned Pakistan’s Ambassador to Iran Asif Ali Khan Durrani to lodge a protest over the killings.
“Iranian police said the guards were killed by long range guns and ‘the Pakistani government bears the ultimate responsibility of the attack’,” Dawn reported.
“Our soil has never been used against Iran, and we vehemently deny these charges that militants had used our territory to attack Iranian security guards,” said a government official, who asked not to be named.
Zafar Kubdani, assistant commissioner of Taftan, told The Diplomat, “At the time of the incident, we had received a message from Iran that militants had come from our area. Later, a heavy contingent of our security forces led by a commandant and colonel thoroughly searched the area pinpointed by Iranian authorities. We found neither people nor signs of them. The claims could not be proven.”
He added, “After the incident, when we tried to negotiate with the Iranian authorities, they refused. Instead of negotiating, they further alleged that a border point was also used, and they also accused us of not cooperating with them following the attack. Their claims are baseless.”
After the incident, a local source claimed that Iranian border guards ventured several kilometers into Pakistan territory, violating its sovereignty. Apparently they were reluctant to leave, with the source telling The Diplomat, “They only went back to their side after few hours.” The Diplomat could not independently verify the claim, but according to Reuters, Iran has warned that it “will hit militant ‘safe havens’ inside Pakistan” if the attacks continue.
Iran has built a 10-feet high thick concrete wall reinforced with steel rods along its own shared border with Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Iranian authorities built the fence to prevent illegal border crossings, drug trafficking, terror attacks, and unlawful transportation into Iran.
Former Provincial Minister Kachkol Ali Baloch, who was the opposition leader in Balochistan Assembly at the time, claimed that the wall was built against the will of the Baloch people who populate both sides of the border. He tabled a bill in Balochistan Assembly about it.
Veteran journalist Siddique Baloch told The Diplomat, “This whole region is being used as a route in order to smuggle drugs out to Southern Europe using the land route of Pakistan and Iranian Balochistan, crossing the frontier of Turkey and delivering heroin consignments to buyers in Southern Europe.”
He added, “More than 90 percent of heroin is produced in Afghanistan, mainly in the Taliban-controlled areas and some areas controlled by the Afghan warlords. Local Baloch residents in the entire region are said to be carriers of drugs, while consignments belonged to the Afghan drug barons.”
As for the border, he said, it has basically become lawless in recent times.
Sweeping Changes
According to senior analyst and author Anwar Sajdi, the growing Saudi-Iran rivalry has seen major changes sweeping through the region. Meanwhile, the conflict in Syria is widening the division between the two sects of Islam, so much so that Sunni and Shia groups from Pakistan are taking part in the fighting in Syria. The Baloch Sunni militancy on the border area can be seen and understood within this context, he said.
“The Pakistan-Iran border region used to be peaceful. Now it is witnessing clashes. There are two reasons for this: One is the flow of drug trafficking; the other is the rise of the Sunni militancy.”
Local security analysts argue that the Baloch Sunni militancy on the border areas in not a new phenomenon. Instead, it has grown over the years following the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979.
According to Sajdi, Sunni Balochs’ interest in Shiite Iran dwindled following the revolution in Iran. Gradually, this evolved into the Sunni Baloch militancy in Iran, spilling over into Pakistan, too.
The phenomenon of Sunni militancy, according to an analyst who did not wish to be named, was first used in Mand town of Kech district, in the 1990s. He recalls, “Maula Bux Darakhshan, alias Mauluk, was an Iranian Baloch married to a girl in Turbat, where he lived. He founded his group called the Sipah-e-Rasoolallah. Under Mauluk’s command, Abdul Malik Reki was radicalized as a teenager. Later, in 2003, he formed his own group called Jundullah (soldiers of God).”
Jundullah was said to be responsible for the killing of Iranian security forces. However, according to some media reports, the group has expanded its target to include state installations in Iran.
“Reki changed his colors after interactions with the banned Pakistani group Sepah-e-Sahaba (SS) in Lyari Town of Karachi. His anti-Iranian stance as a Baloch shifted to one of being anti-Shia. Not too long afterwards, he joined with SS’s breakaway faction, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an anti-Shia al Qaeda linked militant outfit,” wrote slain journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad. “Through this connection, Reki went to the Afghan province of Zabul but the Taliban refused him entry into their ranks because of their suspicion that he had forged links with the U.S. intelligence.”
Following the execution of Reki by Iranian authorities in 2010, Jundullah is said to have splintered into three groups: the Jaish-ul-Adl, Jaish-ul-Nasr and Lashkar-e-Khorasan. Jaish-ul-Adl is said to be the strongest of these groups, and capable of carrying out attack on Iranian security forces with greater frequency.
“From Waziristan to Gwadar, Salafism is being promoted; for example, there are Saudi-funded madrassahs. On the other hand, Iran is also trying to exert its influence in its own backyard. As a result, the situation has become more complex in the border region,” noted Anwar Sajdi. He warned, “In the near future, what I fear is that Iran can also set up proxies in this region too, just like Hizbullah.”
At the time of the Shah, Iran and Pakistan enjoyed amicable relations, with cooperation across multiple issues. With so many points of contention emerging in recent years, it is a markedly more tense relationship today.

#LockHimUp - PPP asks Prime Ministe Nawaz Sharif to step down

The Pakistan People’s Party believes that the JIT report submitted before the Supreme Court today starkly concluding that the Prime Minister has failed to justify assets and the means of income is a stinging indictment after which Nawaz Sharif has totally lost moral and political authority to continue in office and must therefore resign, said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a statement issued by the party on Monday.
The PPP chairman said  two honorable judges of the initially formed 5-member bench of the SC has already pronounced guilty verdict against the prime minister.
The remaining three honorable judges did not disagree with the findings of the two honorable judges but only called for further investigations through a JIT, he said.
"As a result of the JIT’s confirmation of a vast and inexplicable gap between known sources of income and the wealth accumulated by the Sharifs there is no other option for the PM but to resign before he is formally convicted by the Supreme Court"
He said the PPP also rejects the notion that the current situation poses any threat to the democratic system.
"Demanding the prime minister to resign as a result of serious questions of propriety of conduct having been established beyond doubt does not pose any threat to the system. If anything, it indicates that the system has the strength and resilience to demand and withstand change of guard in accordance with democratic traditions and principles". 
 Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the time for taking correct political decisions is short and advised Nawaz Sharif to resign forthwith. “Decision delayed is not a problem avoided; it is a crisis invited”, he said.

#LockHimUp - Pakistani Prime Minister and his family’s assets beyond their known means, observes JIT

Noting that the PM’s family’s assets do not match their known income, the joint investigation team (JIT) probing their offshore assets has recommended filing of reference against Nawaz Sharif and his sons with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Members of the high-powered JIT submitted on Monday its fourth and final, 256-page report to the apex court.
“Failure on the part of all Respondents to produce the requisite information confirming “known sources of income’ is prima facie tantamount to not being ablento justify assets and the means of income,” the report read.

After receiving the report, the top court allowed the petitioners and respondents in the case to obtain copy of the report from the apex court’s registrar office.

Directing the counsels of both sides to appear in the court on July 17 (Monday) for further hearing, the three-judge implementation bench directed the government to continue providing security to the JIT members until further orders.
During Monday’s hearing, the bench took strong exception over misreporting about the Panamagate JIT by the Jang Group.
Issuing contempt notices to the media group’s owner Mir Shakeelur Rehman, his brother Javedur Rehman and reporter Ahmad Noorani over false reporting, the court asked why it should not start proceedings against them under Article 204 of the Constitution.
“Misreporting is evident from the news,” Justice Ijazul Ahsen observed.
The bench has summoned the transcript of the speeches of Railways Minister Saad Rafiq, Senator Nihal Hashmi and Asif Karmani regarding the conduct of JIT. It also sought complete detail of advertisements given by the government to different media groups.
Top court orders registration of FIR against SECP chief
Meanwhile, the bench ordered registration of an FIR against Zafar Hijazi, chairman of the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), for his alleged involvement in tampering records of the companies owned by the ruling family.
Sharif family has submitted all evidence, claims Maryam
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz said her family submitted all evidence pertaining to the ruling family’s businesses since 1960 to the JIT.

The five-judge bench was split 3-2 while announcing the April 20 verdict, with head judge Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed ruling against the premier in their dissenting notes. Through its final decision, the top court formed a JIT and ordered it to investigate in depth the money trail for the ruling family’s contentious London flats at the heart of the case.
A three-judge bench of the apex court was formed to oversee the implementation of the April 20 verdict. The six-member JIT, headed by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Additional Director General Wajid Zia, was given two months to find out answers to some 13 questions – mainly related to the money trail for the Sharifs’ London properties – and a deadline of July 10 was set by the court. Apart from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the JIT interrogated some seven members of the Sharif family over the last two months. Nawaz’s elder son Hussain appeared before the panel six times. His younger brother appeared thrice. Other Sharif family members who testified before the JIT included Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, premier’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband Capt (retd) Safdar, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. However, the Sharif family’s prime defence in the case – Qatari Prince Hamad Bin Jassim bin Jaber al Thani who supported the Sharifs money trail through two separate letters – did not appear before the probe team. A more crucial question, therefore, is whether the top court will accept a report minus the prince’s testimony.
On Sunday, top heads in PML-N came together to map out a plan to wage a battle on both legal and political fronts against the probe panel in a bid to avert any adverse outcome. Low-key meetings between the prime minister and members of his legal team arrived at the decision to challenge the JIT report – in the top court as well as in public – sources in the ruling camp said.

#LockHimUp - Prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family accused of illegally profiting

Pakistan's Supreme Court has resumed deliberations in a corruption case that could unseat Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, after investigators tasked with probing the allegations submitted their findings to judges on Monday.
The Joint Investigative Team (JIT), consisting of investigators from Pakistan’s police, military and financial regulators spent 60 days gathering evidence and questioning witnesses regarding the prime minister’s family’s assets.
The investigators have recommended that a case be filed against Sharif in the a National Accountability Court, after concluding that there were "significant gap[s]" in Sharif's family's ability to account for their assets.
"Failure on the part of all respondents to produce the requisite information confirming 'known sources of income' is [...] tantamount to not being able to justify assets and the means of income," read the conclusion of the report, a partial copy of which was obtained by Al Jazeera.
Sharif himself appeared before the inquiry on June 15, while his sons Hassan and Hussain were questioned multiple times during the course of proceedings. Maryam Nawaz, Sharif's daughter and political heir apparent, was also questioned. 
The JIT submitted its report, along with two boxes of evidence, to the apex court on Monday morning amid tight security.
The court adjourned Monday’s proceedings until July 17, when lawyers for both sides will be given a chance to present their arguments on the investigating team's findings.

Corruption allegations

The allegations focus on Sharif's previous two terms as prime minister in the 1990s, with opposition politician Imran Khan and others alleging that Sharif and his family illegally profited from his position.
The 2016 leak of 11.5 million documents from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca – dubbed the Panama Papers – showed that three of Sharif's children were listed as beneficiaries for three offshore companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.
The documents showed these companies were involved in a 2007 loan of $13.8m, made using high-value Sharif-owned properties in the United Kingdom as collateral, and a separate 2007 transaction amounting to $11.2m.
Owning off-shore companies is not illegal in Pakistan, but Sharif's political opponents allege the Sharif properties in London were obtained through corrupt means and that he did not fully declare his assets to tax authorities.
The probe has expanded to include corruption allegations regarding the sale and purchase of various industrial units in Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Khan, the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, lauded the report as a vindication of his years-long campaign to unseat the prime minister.
"Nawaz Sharif has no moral standing left," Khan told reporters at a press conference on Monday.
Sharif's party leaders, meanwhile, said that the report did not prove any specific wrongdoing on the part of the prime minister. 
Sharif denies any wrongdoing, saying the sources all of his family’s assets can be legally accounted for.

Political career in balance

On Saturday, Sharif appeared to take a defensive stance prior to the inquiry report’s submission, with leaders from his PML-N party vowing to reject the report as it did not include testimony from former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani.
Sharif contends that the former Qatari prime minister's father was a business partner, and that the apartments in London were bought using funds transferred from Qatar.
Sheikh Al Thani was invited to testify before the inquiry, or to record his testimony at the Pakistani embassy in Qatar.
He rejected the invitation, saying he was not subject to Pakistani law, but invited investigators to visit him in the Qatari capital Doha to record a statement. The investigators did not do so.
In a related development, a case was registered on Monday against the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) chief Zafar Hijazi for tampering with records of Sharif-owned business while the investigating team was completing its inquiry.
With the Supreme Court now taking up the case once more, Sharif’s political career hangs in the balance. If the court deems him to have hidden assets or not satisfactorily explained the source of his funds, it could disqualify him from holding public office.
In such a case, he would be removed from office, with members of parliament tasked with electing a new prime minister.
Sharif’s PML-N party holds a comfortable majority in parliament and in Punjab, the country’s most populous province, but any disqualification of the party chief would be a huge blow to the party ahead of a scheduled general election next year.

Journalism Under Attack In Pakistan - ''The Nation reporter picked up by ‘guardian angels’'

A reporter of The Nation was forcefully taken away from his house Saturday night by a team of over a dozen men, who the family believes were personnel of some security agency.
Police and Rangers have denied any role in the abduction of Abdullah Zafar, whose father Zaferullah however suspects the illegal raid was made with their knowledge and cooperation.
The father also alleged that police was not even registering the FIR of Abdullah’s abduction, though the high ups gave verbal assurances about safe recovery of Abdullah after the journalist community protested.
Abdullah was residing with his family at Lawyers Society, Scheme 33, in Sacchal Police percents. They had moved recently from Shah Faisal Colony, where they were living with Abdullah’s uncle Ibratullah’s family.
The raiding party first went to the house of Ibratullah, blindfolded him and took him along to guide them to Abdullah’s new address.
“Over a dozen men in civvies, most of them clad in Shalwar Kameez, and all of them with their faces covered, arrived at our home Saturday night. My younger brother was also accompanying them,” said Zaferullah, the father of the journalist.
He said the raiders arrived in at least three vehicles, two of those mobile vans. He said he believed that police and Rangers personnel were also around his home when the men in the plainclothes raided his house.
“The security personnel talked with Abdullah for a couple of minutes and checked his identity cards before taking him along with them,” the father said.
Talking to The Nation, Abdullah’s uncle Ibratullah said that when they arrived at his house, the leader of the raiding team said to him that “your Rs50 million cheques have had bounced.
“He [then] asked who was living at the ground floor of this two-storey house. Where they [Abdullah’s family] have shifted to now? You must be having the address?
“As I gave them the address, they blindfolded me and took me towards Safora Chowrangi where they removed the mask from my face and took me to Abdullah’s house.
“They went into Abdullah’s room and after a brief talk with him, they took him away with them.”
Abdullah’s father said that while leaving the home, the raiders initially also took him and another of his son along them “but then they dropped us at the main gate of the house. They did not give us the reason of the raid.”
The family accused the police of non-cooperation. “I visited [Sacchal police station] multiple times but they did not register my complaint,” said the father of the journalist. “On my third visit, the officials just took my application and even did not give me a receipt of the application,” he added. But the law enforcement agencies including police and Rangers have denied their involvement in the raid. “I have checked out, he is not with police,” said Sindh IGP Allah Dino Khowaja. Counter Terrorism Department (DIG) DIG Dr Sanaullah Abbasi declined Abdullah’s arrest by CTD. A Rangers official also said the paramilitary force did not have any role in Abdullah’s abduction. “We have inquired and our troops did not detain or arrest him,” the officer claimed. Sindh Home Minister Sohial Anwar Sayal took notice of the incident and directed DIG East to make the recovery of the missing journalist possible.
The traumatised mother of the abducted journalist has appealed the kidnappers to not harm his son. She said Abdullah has sinus problem.
Karachi Union of Journalist (KUJ) strongly condemned the incident. “We strongly condemned Abdullah’s illegal detention and we demand his immediate release,” said KUJ General Secretary Fahim Siddiqui. “This is not the way to deal with a journalist. The law enforcers should approach the journalist body first if they suspected him of involvement in any criminal or illegal activity,” he said.
Fahim demanded the prime minister and the chief minister to ensure immediate and safe recovery of Abdullah. Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ) General Secretary Ayub Jan Sarhandi also condemned the abduction and illegal detention of the journalist. Talking to The Nation, he urged authorities to safely recover the journalist as soon as possible.

Editorial - ''PARACHINAR''

Looking at the woes of Kurram Agency that continue to torment the people of Parachinar...
Just days before Eid, Parachinar, the headquarter of Kurram Agency, came under another deadly terrorist attack, killing about 70 people and injuring two hundred. This was the third major attack on the city in this year alone.
The agency is administratively divided into three parts, Upper, Central and Lower Kurram. Parachinar, part of Upper Kurram, is a Shia majority city and, therefore, the terrorist attacks here have a distinct sectarian dimension. It has a unique geography jutting into Paktia province of Afghanistan and bordering two other Afghan provinces.
This time, the people of Parachinar brought their dead bodies on the road and refused to bury them, till their demands were met. They wanted no less than the army chief and the interior minister to come and listen to their demands. During the protest, the security forces opened fire on the protestors, killing four more people. This exacerbated the tempers even further. On the eighth day of the sit-in, the army chief went to Parachinar, heard the elders, made a few commitments and convinced them to call off their protest.
The latest terrorist incident in Parachinar happened along with a couple of other attacks in the country and a deadly oil tanker tragedy killing more than 150 people. The attention of the media remained divided and Parachinar was kind of ignored by the mainstream media and kept more alive by the social media in the initial few days.
Likewise, the politicians belonging to the government, especially the prime minister managed to reach the site of the tragedy in Bahawalpur but not Parachinar; not even the governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who technically heads the Fata. To their defence, the PML-N ministers said in television programmes that the prime minister and governor could not reach Parachinar because they did not get security clearance, implying that Fata was being directly controlled by the country’s security forces and not them.
Apart from being a human tragedy inflicted on a minority sect, the killings in Parachinar expose the different fault lines of our polity that are a looming threat, that keep creating vulnerabilities and punishing innocent people. In our Special Report today, we have tried to look at the woes of Kurram Agency in detail that so peculiarly torment the people of Parachinar.

The discontents of Parachinar

Parachinar now resembles a city under siege. The big question is whether it could be secured from future attacks.
Jummatul Wida is one of the holiest days in the holy month of Ramzan, but the Friday falling on June 23 turned out to be the day when the biggest-ever tragedy hit Parachinar.
Eidul Fitr is a day of rejoicing for the fasting Muslims, but this Eid was spent mourning the dead, nursing the injured and consoling the bereaved.
One tragedy has followed another in this remote corner of Pakistan. Kurram Agency, surrounded on three sides by Afghanistan and bordering the restless, conflict-hit provinces of Khost, Paktia and Nangarhar, was once again in mourning. Unarmed civilians in bazaars have been targeted time and again.
It was a familiar story as the residents of Parachinar and the rest of Kurram Agency complained of neglect not only by the government of Pakistan, but also by the media, civil society, parliament and other institutions of the state.
The suicide bombing in Turi Bazaar, named after the biggest Pakhtun tribe living in Parachinar and most of Upper Kurram Valley, was followed by another bomb explosion when rescuers ran towards the site of the first explosion to help the injured and retrieve bodies. This caused more deaths and fatal injuries to the rescuers and survivors.
As if this wasn’t enough, the protestors who spontaneously took to the streets to demand better security were fired at by the soldiers from the Kurram Militia, part of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, apparently to stop them from marching towards the so-called “red zone” where the political administration, government departments, and the security forces have their offices. Four more deaths were caused and several others were wounded. The death toll quickly rose to 75 while another 261 suffered injuries.
The patience of the Parachinar residents finally ran out. It was the third big terrorist attack in Parachinar, stated to be the biggest city in Fata, in 2017. There was one in January claimed by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami and a splinter TTP faction led by Shahryar Mehsud and another in March for which the responsibility claim was made by the Jamaatul Ahrar.
The responsibility for the third one on June 23 was again claimed by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami, which is virulently anti-Shia and has been targeting the Shias whether in Quetta, Karachi or Parachinar. The total death toll in the three bombings was about 133 while the injured numbered 555. These figures are high considering the population of Parachinar.
Every effort is now geared to prevent further terrorist attacks in Parachinar, but the militant group Islamic State and its allies, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami and Jamaatul Ahrar also appear determined to inflict more harm.
On June 30, which was the eighth day of the incident, Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, finally flew to Parachinar. The army officials said the delay was caused by bad weather and also by the fact that General Bajwa was abroad. He met the local elders, accepted some demands and gave certain assurances, mostly concerning security matters.
Every effort is now geared to prevent further terrorist attacks in Parachinar, but the militant group Islamic State and its allies, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami and Jamaatul Ahrar also appear determined to inflict more harm.
The protestors, dominated by the youth and including relatives of the victims of the bombings, finally ended the eight-day protest sit-in, or dharna as it is known in local languages, at the Shaheed Park. The youngsters had come of age as the army chief gave them special time and listened to their animated talk.
By just paying the visit, the army chief accepted one of the main demands of the protestors, who wanted him and the federal Interior Minister to come to Parachinar, witness their plight and personally hear their 11 demands. He agreed to set up a trauma centre in Parachinar to save lives in the event of such brutal bombings, removed the Kurram Militia commandant, Colonel Omar Malik, and ordered investigation into the firing by his men on the protestors and announced deployment of additional troops in Parachinar and on the border with Afghanistan.
He said the Frontier Corps had separately compensated the families of the four protestors killed by the Kurram Militia personnel. He also approved renaming of the Army Public School in Parachinar after a local hero, Major Gulfam Hussain, who died fighting the militants in Orakzai Agency and upgrading it into a cadet college.
The safe city project for Parachinar was also announced to secure the city from future attacks. He promised to assign the local Turi Razakars, who volunteer for security duty, to accompany the troops during patrolling and for deployment at the roadside checkpoints.
The demand concerning doubling the compensation package announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and making it equal to the amount paid to the victims of the oil tanker blaze in Ahmadpur Sharqia was left for the federal government to decide. The Prime Minister had announced Rs1 million each for the dead and half a million for the injured.
By saying that all Pakistanis would be treated equal, the army chief sent a clear message that the compensation package for every citizen should be uniform. Punjab and Sindh presently offer higher compensation and Shaheed (martyrs) packages.
Rather belatedly, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, reached Parachinar on June 4 on a two-day visit. It is no secret that members of the civilian set-up, including the President, Prime Minister and Governor, need security clearance from the military before undertaking a trip to the conflict-hit areas, such as Fata. The Governor met the elders and the relatives of the victims, visited the hospital to enquire after the health of the injured, and handed over compensation cheques to the heirs of those killed and injured.

Pakistan - PPP’s Saeed Ghani wins PS-114 by-election, Muttahida runner-up

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidate Saeed Ghani has emerged victorious in PS-114 Karachi by-polls, by bagging 23,840 votes, unofficial and unconfirmed results from all 92 polling stations suggested.
The party supporters resorted to celebrations and congratulations poured in as the unofficial results were announced.

Ghani was followed by Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Kamran Tessori, who secured 18,106 votes.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Ali Akbar Gujjar stood third in the run with 5,353 votes to his credit, while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Najeeb Haroon bagged 5,098 votes.
For the first time, Result Management System and Result Transmission System were introduced as a pilot project in PS-114 by-polls for efficient result-making.
Apart from the police, around 2,000 Rangers personnel had been deployed in and around the polling stations to ensure the voting process went smoothly.
Earlier on Sunday, voting for by-election in the Sindh Assembly constituency PS-114 has ended amid allegations of rigging and scattered incidents of chaos in different polling stations.
The polling began at 8am without any delay. All polling stations in the constituency have been declared sensitive.
The polling process was suspended for half an hour at Chanesar Goth polling station after clashes erupted between the activists of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).
The polling was resumed after authorities intervened in the matter and additional Rangers contingent was called in. The activists chanted slogans against each other. Acting swiftly, Rangers personnel intervened in the matter and arrested 11 activists causing disruption in the polling process.
However, no major incident of violence was reported in first three hours.
At least 21 candidates are contesting the by-poll including Pakistan Peoples Party’s Senator Saeed Ghani, Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan’s Kamran Tesori, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Engineer Najeeb Haroon, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Zahoor Ahmed Jadoon and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Ali Akbar Gujjar.