Court issues arrest ‘warrant’ for finmin
Protesters besiege Islamabad
ISLAMABAD, Nov 14, (Agencies): An anti-corruption court in Pakistan on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant for Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, media reported, after the veteran politician failed to turn up for several court hearings.
The warrant comes at an awkward time for Pakistan, which wants to raise in excess of $1 billion on international debt markets through a Sukuk and a Eurobond in coming months and wants to woo international investors.
Dar, who has been charged with amassing wealth beyond his known sources of income, has for three weeks missed court hearings conducted by the antigraft agency the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), prompting a judge to issue a non-bailable arrest warrant, the English-language Dawn newspaper and other media reported.
Dar, who is receiving medical treatment in London and now faces arrest upon his return to Pakistan, has pleaded not guilty.
A spokesman for the NAB was not immediately available
The charges against Dar followed an investigation into the finances of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted in July after the Supreme Court disqualified him for not declaring a small salary from his son’s off-shore company.
The finance minister is one of Sharif’s closest political allies and Dar’s son has married Sharif’s daughter. Both men deny any wrongdoing.
Dar has rejected growing calls to resign amid a worsening economic outlook for Pakistan, which is battling to stave off a balance of payments crisis amid dwindling foreign currency reserve and a widening current account deficit.
Protesters besiege Pakistan’s capital:
Protesters from a hardline religious group blocked the main highway into Islamabad for the sixth day running Monday, virtually locking down the Pakistani capital and causing commuter fury as authorities hesitated to act.
The roughly 2,000 protesters are demanding the resignation of the federal law minister over a hastilyabandoned amendment to the oath election candidates must swear, a change the demonstrators have linked to blasphemy.
The protesters have camped for nearly a week on a flyover connecting Islamabad with the neighbouring garrison city of Rawalpindi, along which thousands of people commute every day to work in the capital.
Young men armed with clubs are searching anyone approaching the protest site and refusing to let vehicles pass, pelting those who come near with stones.
“I have been stuck up on the road for (the) last one and a half hours because of this mess,” said Adnan Iqbal, an employee of a pharmaceutical firm who spoke to AFP from the traffic jam where he was late for work.
The protesters, members of the Tehreek-i-Labaik Yah Rasool Allah Pakistan religious group, acted after the government introduced an amendment which altered some wording in the oath where candidates avow that the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) was the last prophet.
The change was made inadvertently, said the government, which quickly reversed it through another amendment.
But the rightwing group insisted it softened that part of the oath and so would allow Ahmadis, a long persecuted Islamic minority sect, to take it.
Ahmadis were legally declared non-Muslims in Pakistan decades ago for their belief in a prophet after Mohammed. They are denounced as heretics by hardliners who describe their beliefs as blasphemy.
“The protesters have baseless demands. Authorities should deal (with) them with force and move them away from the road,” said Fayyaz Hussain, another commuter who had been struggling to reach his office for two hours Monday.
Authorities were shying away from employing force despite the palpable anger of commuters and days of traffic delays.
“Use of force is no option at the moment,” senior Islamabad official Shoaib Ali told AFP, adding that the priority was negotiations. Protesters, meanwhile, vowed to stay put. “Either the minister resigns or we are killed or arrested: we will not leave this place,” Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri, one of the group’s leaders, told AFP at the protest site.
Blasphemy is a highly contentious issue in deeply Muslim Pakistan, where it carries the death penalty, and even unproven allegations have prompted mob lynchings and other murders.
Militants kill two Pakistani soldiers:
Militants have crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan and killed a Pakistani army officer and a soldier, the Pakistani military said on Monday.
The uneasy neighbours, both of which are important US allies, accuse each other of harbouring militants on either side of the border, and their two armies have exchanged fire across it during periods of tension over recent years.
Four Pakistani soldiers were wounded in the attack on a military post in the northwestern region of Bajaur, the army said.
It did not say when the raid took place but said up to 10 of the attackers were believed to have been killed in Pakistani retaliatory fire.
Independent verification was not possible as the area is largely closed off to reporters.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a rugged, porous border of 2,500 kms (1,500 miles).
Afghanistan, which does not recognise the border, has lately been angry over a Pakistani plan to build a fence along most of it.
The Pakistani army said the absence of Afghan central government’s writ on its side of the border facilitated such militant attacks.
There was no immediate response from the Afghan government.
The attack came a week after unidentified gunmen shot and killed a Pakistani diplomat near his residence in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.