Nawaz Sharif was unanimously disqualified by five judges: Justice Khosa

Deposed Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. (Source: AP/File) Related News

A senior judge heading the panel hearing the review petitions of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday that the PML-N leader’s disqualification was based on unanimous decision by five-members of the bench.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who is heading the original five-member panel to review Sharif’s petitions, clarified that the final judgment was approved by all five judges. Confusion was created as the court gave two verdicts in the Sharif corruption case, a 3-2 judgement of April 20 and three-member unanimous judgement of July 28.

Justice Khosa and Justice Gulzar disqualified Sharif on April 20 while three fellow judges – Ejaz Afzal, Azmat Saeed and Ijazul Ahsan – demanded more probe and set up Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

They gave their disqualification verdict on July 28 after the JIT report was submitted and discussed. But the second verdict was also signed by Justice Khosa and Justice Gulzar, despite the fact they were not part of bench after April 20. Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Harris objected how they could have approved the verdict by three other fellow judges when they were not part of the bench.

Justice Khosa said that initially all five members of the bench had agreed on the disqualification of Sharif but three members wanted more probe to clarify certain points. He said the conclusion of all the judges were same that Sharif should be disqualified, therefore the final judgment was approved and signed by all five judges.

“None of the three judges (who ruled in favour of further investigation on April 20) had disagreed with the minority verdict (of disqualifying Sharif),” he said. He also rejected Sharif’s lawyer’s argument that the two judges after April 20 judgement could not have signed the verdict of July 28.

Haris said that Sharif was disqualified under Article 62 (1)(f), which deprived him of the right of appeal. “Sharif should have been given the chance of a fair trial,” he said. He also objected to the Supreme Court’s decision to appoint a supervisory judge to oversee proceedings of corruption cases against the Sharif family, which, he said, was against the fundamental rights.

“We don’t have any example from the past that a judge who was a part of the panel which issued the verdict was also made the supervisory judge,” said Harris. The counsel also raised objection to the formation of the JIT and its report. He was still arguing when the court adjourned the hearing until tomorrow.

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Pakistan‘s Habib Bank told to shut shop in US

span.p-content div[id^=div-gpt] { line-height: 0px; font-size: 0px;} New York’s banking regulator ordered Habib Bank to pay $225 million and surrender its licence to operate in the state, effectively removing Pakistan’s largest lender from the US financial system.
Managers in Habib’s branch office in Manhattan failed for more than a decade to shore up weak anti-money-laundering controls and sanctions compliance, New York’s Department of Financial Services said in orders issued Thursday. The bank put through thousands of poorly screened transactions, the DFS said, including for people on a “good guy” list at the bank that included an identified terrorist, an arms dealer and an Iranian oil shipper. 
“DFS will not tolerate inadequate risk and compliance functions that open the door to the financing of terrorist activities that pose a grave threat to the people of this state and the financial system as a whole,” said DFS Superintendent Maria Vullo. “The bank has repeatedly been given more than sufficient opportunity to correct its glaring deficiencies, yet it has failed to do so.”
Habib Bank repeatedly violated the terms of a 2006 agreement in which it promised to improve its internal controls, resulting in a 2015 order that called for the bank to hire an independent consultant to review its dollar-clearing activities, the regulator said. In a follow-up examination by DFS in 2016, Habib received the lowest rating.
The agreement calls for Habib Bank’s outside monitor to review its dollar-clearing transactions back to 2013, as part of an orderly wind-down of Habib’s New York branch. The bank announced on August 28 it was closing the branch.
Habib Bank “believes that the opportunity to resolve this matter consensually at this time is in the best interests of its investors, shareholders and customers,” Matthew Biben, a lawyer for the bank, said in a written statement.
Habib’s shares snapped seven-days of losses and rose by the 5 per cent limit, the most in more than two months. The bank agreed to pay the final penalty, which was lower than the maximum $630 million proposed by the New York regulator. The stock may rise by 15 per cent, said Faisal Bilwani, the head of equities at Karachi-based Elixir Securities.
DFS’s most recent investigation found that the bank handled billions of dollars in transactions with a Saudi private bank, the Al Rajhi Bank, which has reportedly been linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, without adequate anti-money laundering controls. It failed to adequately identify some of the Saudi bank’s customers, the department said.
The bank’s “good guy” list consisted of customers who the bank claimed presented a low risk of illicit transactions. It permitted at least $250 million in transfers to people on the list without screening, the New York regulator said.
Habib Bank, headquartered in Karachi, is the Pakistan’s largest bank, with $24 billion in total assets, according to DFS. The New York branch has been licensed by DFS since 1978.
The bank defended its conduct in a statement last week: “Despite HBL’s sincere and extensive remediation measures over the last two years, DFS is still not appreciating or recognising the significant progress that HBL has made at its New York branch.”
The statement said DFS had initially proposed a civil penalty of $630 million, which Habib described as “outrageous.” The statement noted that Habib had voluntarily decided to close its business in New York and that there would be “no material impact” on its business outside the US.
The bank’s largest shareholder is a fund owned by the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shiite Imam of Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan Development Network works in over 30 countries providing health and education facilities.

China, Pakistan take swipes at Donald Trump’s Afghan policy

US President Donald Trump File/REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque Related News

The top diplomats from China and Pakistan took swipes at President Donald Trump’s newly unveiled Afghanistan policy on Friday as they called for new talks with the Taliban to resolve the 16-year conflict. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing stood firmly behind its “ironclad friend” Pakistan, even though “some countries” did not give Islamabad the credit it deserved in fighting terrorism, a pointed reference to the US.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s first trip abroad to Beijing this week appeared to highlight how ties between the two all-weather allies have grown even closer while Pakistan’s critical relationship with the U.S. is disintegrating amid mutual recriminations and distrust. Wang and Asif announced that China, Pakistan and Afghanistan will hold a new series of three-way talks later this year in China to push forward settlement negotiations with the Taliban while the U.S. doubles down on its military campaign.

Trump infuriated Pakistan last month when he accused Islamabad of providing extremists safe haven and threatened to withhold military aid. He further raised alarms in Pakistan when he raised the prospect of recruiting archrival India into the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. US officials said this week that $225 million in military aid for Pakistan have been suspended while about 3,500 additional troops will head to Afghanistan to reverse the Taliban’s battleground advances and gain leverage in negotiations.

“It’s our firm view that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, the focus should be on a politically negotiated settlement,” Asif told reporters in Beijing. “China is playing a very constructive role in this regard.” Pakistan has repeatedly rejected U.S. accusations that it is abetting groups like the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network, a position that China has backed.

“The government and people of Pakistan have made huge sacrifices in the fight against terror for everyone to see and the international community should recognize that,” Wang said. The two ministers presented a closely unified front just days after China handed Pakistan an unexpected diplomatic setback at the BRICS economic summit in Xiamen. On Monday, China joined several nations to declare the Pakistan-based militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad as terrorist organizations, in a move that was praised by India and the US.

Asif did not address the terror designation on Friday but was quoted by Pakistani media before arriving in Beijing as saying that it should not jeopardize bilateral ties. Rather, Pakistan should put its “house in order,” he said.

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China to play constructive role to bring together Pakistan, Afghanistan

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) and his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif. Related News

China on Friday said it will play a “constructive role” to bring Pakistan and Afghanistan on the same page as part of fresh efforts to resolve the 16-year conflict with the Taliban by hosting a trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of the three countries. The move by Beijing and Islamabad is seen as an apparent attempt to counter US President Donald Trump’s tough policy against the Taliban and Pakistan which was announced last month as part of America’s new Afghanistan and South Asia policy.

Unveiling the new China-driven Afghanistan policy, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that Beijing will play a “constructive role” to bring Islamabad and Kabul together.

“The participation of China in bringing together and finding a political solution to Afghan problem is very vital. To support the initiative, Pakistan has already undertaken many steps, and will pursue those steps of improving relationship with Kabul,” Asif said while addressing a joint press conference with Wang.

He said that before his visit to Beijing, he had held talks with his Afghanistan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani and they have agreed to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly which will be the first such meeting after Trump’s Afghanistan and South Asia policy speech wherein he announced deploying more troops in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, specially the Haqqani network based in Pakistan.

To keep Pakistan and Afghanistan engagement substantive and robust, Asif said Pakistan will take up confidence building measures and keep engaged with Kabul at all levels including political, military and intelligence.

“We have had a very compressive discussion a while ago. China and Pakistan have agreed that the solution to Afghan problem is fundamentally a political solution and not a military solution. We three are neighbours. We have stakes in Afghanistan’s peace and we are already involved in a substantive way, creating atmosphere and culture of peace in the region.

“With China’s intervention and its role in bringing together Islamabad and Kabul, we will go a long way and will definitely pursue a policy of engagement with Kabul in bringing peace to our region,” Asif said.

Meanwhile, Wang, who has been trying to play a mediatory role between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the last few months following persistent criticism by Kabul accusing Islamabad of fostering terrorism by aiding and abetting the Haqqani network, said that both Pakistan and Afghanistan are important neighbours of China.

“A good relationship will serve both the countries otherwise it will hurt both the countries. So, we sincerely hope that both the countries will work in the same direction and work together for the well-being of Pakistan and Afghanistan and contribute peace in the region,” he said.

The Chinese side welcomes Pakistan’s attitude of improving relations with Afghanistan, Wang said.

As a close neighbour of Pakistan and Afghanistan, China values its relations with both the countries and will work to narrow the differences between them and help them build mutual trust, he said.

“In addition, we are exploring trilateral cooperation between the three countries. I want to let you know that with the communication between the three parties, there is initial progress in trilateral cooperation,” he said.

It is planned that before the end of this year, there will be the first China, Pakistan, Afghanistan foreign ministers meeting in China, Wang said without directly referring to Trump’s more pro-active engagement in Afghanistan wherein the US president also spoke of India’s active role in rebuilding the war-ravaged country.

“We have identified three priority areas which are strategic communication, security dialogue and practical cooperation. On that basis, we will work to advance on trilateral basis starting from easier matters with goal of establishing a new platform for regional cooperation.

“I am confident that with the consorted efforts from Pakistan and Afghanistan and with the active support from China and relations between the two countries and cooperation among the three countries will embrace a brighter future,” Wang said.

Observers say that Wang’s remarks indicate that China will re-activate its efforts to mediate between Pakistan and Afghanistan which till now were proved unsuccessful due to Islamabad’s unwillingness to withdraw its backing to the Taliban, blamed for creating havoc in Afghanistan.

China in the past also tried to engage the Taliban by inviting its representatives to Beijing.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani started his presidency in 2014 with a visit to China soon after his election hoping for a pro-active role by China to rein in Pakistan to control the Talban and bring it to the negotiating table in the backdrop of then US president ’s plans to withdraw US troops.

With unabated violence, Ghani’s government turned to India and the US, leading to the recent policy rejig by Trump to announce the new Afghan policy under which Washington will pursue more aggressive policy against the Taliban and Pakistan.

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Nawaz Sharif faces criminal charges

Deposed former premier Nawaz Sharif addresses a crowd during his visit to rge mausoleum of poet Mohammad Iqbal on Independence Day in Lahore on Aug 14. (AP Photo)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan‘s national anti-corruption body on Friday filed riminal charges against ousted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his children in an anti-corruption court as directed by the Supreme Court in its landmark July 28 decision.

Officials of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said the charges were filed against Sharif, his two sons Hassan and Hussain, daughter Maryam, and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar for illegal transfers of money abroad, purchase of real estate abroad and incorporating offshore companies, as disclosed in the leaked Panama Papers.

“The cases were filed in the accountability courts in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, prepared on the basis of material collected and referred to by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and other material collected by NAB during the course of the investigation,” a statement by the NAB said.

Sharif was forced to resign on July 28 after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding public office for being corrupt and dishonest. The court asked the NAB to file cases against him, his family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

The cases relate to the purchase of Avenfield Properties in London, the setting up of Al-Azizia Steel Mills in Saudi Arabia and the incorporation of as many as 16 companies abroad in violation of Pakistani tax and company laws.

According to the anti-corruption body, Maryam has been charged among other things for submitting forged documents to the Supreme Court, which could invoke imprisonment of up to three years.

Media reports quoting legal experts said that Sharif could face imprisonment of up to 13 years for the charges against him. His two sons are living abroad looking after real estate and other business interests.

Sharif went abroad on Aug 30 to visit his wife, who is in hospital in London. He was scheduled to return home on Friday evening.

A separate case of living beyond means was also filed against Dar.