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Pakistan top court rejects call to disqualify Prime Minister

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Supporters of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chant slogans following Pakistan’s Supreme Court’s decision on a case related to Panama Papers leaks, in Karachi, Pakistan April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday ruled there was insufficient evidence to order Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s removal from office over corruption allegations levelled by the opposition, but it ordered further investigations.

A verdict to dismiss Sharif would have left his party in power but would have brought turmoil at a time when Pakistan is experiencing modest growth and improved security, and the civilian government and powerful military have appeared to come to uneasy terms.

Two of five judges on the court bench recommended Sharif should step down, saying he was dishonest “to the nation as well as to the parliament”, but they were out voted.

Presenting its 549-page judgment amid tight security in the capital Islamabad, the court ordered a joint investigation team be formed to look into allegations around three of Sharif’s four children using offshore companies to buy properties in London.

The team has two months to complete its inquiry, after which a special bench will decide what action to take, the court said in a ruling that opens with the epigraph from Mario Puzo’s novel “The Godfather”: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime”.

The prime minister and his children deny any wrongdoing.

Pakistan’s stock market jumped after the court’s decision with the benchmark index .KSE closing up 2.39 percent. Sharif is seen as pro-business.

Supporters of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gesture following the Supreme Court decision, in Islamabad, Pakistan April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Analysts and opposition politicians said the ruling was a blow to Sharif’s credibility and the inquiry’s findings could yet weaken the prime minister as he heads into a general election, due by May 2018.

But for now, Sharif and his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, are celebrating.

Sharif’s daughter and his presumptive political heir, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, posted a photo on Twitter of the family welcoming the court’s decision.

“We are ready for all kinds of investigation,” Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters outside the court.

Protesters shout slogans outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad, Pakistan April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

The Supreme Court agreed last year to investigate the Sharif family’s offshore wealth after opposition leader Imran Khan threatened protests after the leaking of the “Panama Papers”.

“The prime minister should immediately resign at least for the 60 days until JIT completes its work,” Khan told reporters, referring to the joint investigation team. “What moral grounds does he have to continue in office?”

‘CLOSE CALL’

Documents leaked from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London.

The opposition accuses Sharif of failing to explain the source of offshore money and of lying to parliament.

Sharif, one of Pakistan’s richest men, told parliament last year that his family wealth was acquired legally in the decades before he entered politics.

The president of the Supreme Court Bar Association said the ruling showed that none of the judges had accepted the truthfulness of Sharif’s speech to parliament. “That is very damaging to the prime minister,” Rasheed Razvi said.

Farogh Naseem, a Supreme Court lawyer and sitting senator, said Sharif could breathe easy, for now.

“It was a close call for the prime minister,” he told Reuters. “There is no clean chit for the prime minister, but for the time being he has been saved from being disqualified.”

Naseem said with three of the institutions involved in the joint investigation under Sharif’s control, a decision against him was unlikely.

Khan’s party has indicated that it would not launch new street protests if it was disappointed by the judgement.

Pakistani politicians of all stripes have over the years been accused of corruption, which remains endemic.

Saadia Toor, associate professor at City University New York, said the scourge of corruption extended far beyond Sharif and offshore wealth.

“Definitely there should be accountability regardless of who is in power but it’s important to have governments that sit out their terms because there is so much instability,” Toor said.

Source : Reuters

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South Korean former PM Kim Jong-pil dies at 92

Before becoming Prime Minister for the first time, the retired military leader and father of two created and ran the Korean Intelligence Agency and later headed the then ruling Democratic Republican Party.

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PM Kim Jong-pil

Seoul, June 23 (IANS) Former South Korean Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil died here on Saturday at the age of 92 while being taken to a hospital.

Kim, considered among the most influential politicians in the country in previous decades, served as Prime Minister on two occasions, between 1971 and 1975, and between 1998 and 2000, Yonhap agency reported.

Born in 1926, Kim graduated from the Korea Military Academy and played an important role in the 1961 military coup led by former President Park Chung-hee, who ruled the country with an iron fist until his assassination in 1979.

Before becoming Prime Minister for the first time, the retired military leader and father of two created and ran the Korean Intelligence Agency and later headed the then ruling Democratic Republican Party.

Besides holding government posts, the influential and conservative politician served as lawmaker on nine occasions until his retirement in 2004.

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Grenade blast at Ethiopian PM rally kills 1, injures 154

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Grenade blast at Ethiopian PM rally

Addis Ababa, June 23 (IANS) A grenade blast at a crowded rally in support of Ethiopia’s new reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Saturday killed at least one person and injured over 154 others.

The explosion took place at the rally attended by thousands, shortly after Ahmed finished a speech at the capital’s Meskel Square. He soon took to public television to inform that the attack had killed people, though he did not specify the number, the BBC reported.

Ethiopia’s Health Minister Amir Aman tweeted that one person had died and 154 were injured, 10 of them critically.

Ahmed described it as an “unsuccessful attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united” and said attacks would not stop his ruling coalition from carrying out its reformist programme that seeks to increase democracy in the country.

He was whisked away immediately after the blast. According to local media, two women and a man were arrested from the scene.

Ahmed became Prime Minister after his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn unexpectedly resigned in February. He is also the country’s first leader from the ethnic Oromo group, which has been at the centre of nearly three years of anti-government protests that have left hundreds dead.

The government has been accused of human rights violations including torture and extrajudicial killing of political dissidents.

Since taking office, Ahmed has passed a series of reforms, including unblocking hundreds of websites and TV channels. He has also said he is ready to implement in full a peace deal with Eritrea that was signed in 2000 after a two-year war.

In a Twitter post, the EU mission to Ethiopia, expressed “heartfelt condolences” to the Ethiopian people and the government for the victims of the “cowardly attack”.

The US Embassy in Addis Ababa also condemned the blast, tweeting: “Violence has no place as Ethiopia pursues meaningful political and economic reforms.”

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Nawaz Sharif’s daughter to contest from two seats in Pakistan elections

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Maryam-Nawaz-Sharif

Islamabad, June 23: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz will contest from two seats in the upcoming general elections in the country on July 25.

Maryam has filed her candidature from the National Assembly (NA)-127 in Lahore and from Punjab assembly constituency PP-173 respectively for contesting in Pakistan general elections.

The returning officers (ROs) approved Maryam’s candidacies. However, she would be now contesting the polls from NA-127 and PP-173 seats.

Earlier, Maryam announced that she would contest elections from NA-120, which is considered as the bastion of the Sharif family and was represented by Nawaz himself, and later by his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz.

Nawaz’s brother Shahbaz Sharif formally took charge of the PML-N after an earlier court ruling banned the former premier from heading the party.Pakistan’s supreme court had in April banned former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from participating in elections for life.

Supreme Court Justice Umar Ata Bandial described the ban on Sharif as “permanent” in a judgement read to the court, clarifying the length of an earlier ruling that disqualified the former premier from office.

Sharifs and their supporters have repeatedly denied allegations of corruption, suggesting the former prime minister is the victim of a conspiracy by Pakistan’s powerful military establishment.

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