Court is­sues ar­rest ‘war­rant’ for fin­min

Pro­test­ers be­siege Is­lam­abad

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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

Dar

for com­ment.

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.

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