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Judge claims intel agency interfering in judiciary, army seeks probe

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Here’s what is happening across the border: Nawaz Sharif is said to have complained about the conditions in jail, and a minority sect is boycotting the election.

A high court judge has claimed intelligence agency interfering in judiciary

The Pakistan army has asked the Supreme Court to investigate a high court judge’s allegations that the country’s premier intelligence agency was interfering in the functioning of the higher judiciary to hurt the poll prospects of former PM Nawaz Sharif, reported The News.

The “veracity of the allegations against state institutions… including the honorable judiciary” needs to be ascertained, the army said without naming the judge in question, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court.

“In an address to the Rawalpindi Bar Association on Saturday, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, referring to the country’s intelligence agencies, had claimed that certain quarters were interfering in the working of the higher judiciary,”a report on the Geo TV website said.

A report in The Express Tribune added that, in the speech, Justice Siddiqui claimed “members of intelligence agencies had approached the Islamabad High Court chief justice seeking assurances that deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain Safdar (Retd) would remain behind the bars until the election day”.

Nawaz Sharif says denied access to pen, paper in jail

Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, lodged at Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail following a corruption conviction, is said to have complained that the prison authorities were denying him basic amenities, reported BBC Urdu.

Nawaz has reportedly told his close associates that he was not allowed to contact his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain Muhammad Safdar (Retd), lodged in the same jail and convicted in the same case as Sharif.

Geo TV quoted sources as saying that Sharif was battling multiple health issues stemming from dehydration. “Authorities will analyse the situation today (Monday) and decide whether to shift him to a hospital,” the report added.

Sharif is also said to have complained that prison officials had refused to give him pens and paper, despite the fact that political leaders like former PM Yousaf Raza Gilani and former parliamentarian Sheikh Rashid were allowed access to stationery during their term in the same prison.

The former prime minister is a class ‘B’ prisoner – a category of inmates who by social status, education or habit of life have been accustomed to a superior mode of living, and are thus guaranteed more facilities than other prisoners and not subjected to hard labour.

Though Nawaz has been given a colour TV, he alleged that it did not have more than two channels and that the bad screen had affected his eyes.

Indians will call Pakistanis their master, says Shehbaz Sharif   

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) chief and former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif vowed to take the country ahead of India if the party is voted back to office, The Express Tribune reported.

Addressing a rally at Sargodha district in Punjab, Shehbaz said, “They (Indians) will come to Wagah border and call Pakistanis their master.”

He also complained that his party was repeatedly targeted.  “We are being pushed against the wall. We will break down the wall. We will save Pakistan,” he added.

Alleging poll rigging, he said he will “not be able to control the masses” if the Election Commission of Pakistan was not able to check interference in the elections, reported Dawn.

His angry remarks come after PML(N) leader Hanif Abbasi was sentenced to life imprisonment in ephedrine quota case by a special anti-narcotics court a few days before elections. He alleged that the sentence was made to stop him from winning against PTI leader Sheikh Rasheed in NA-60 (Rawalpindi). The polling in this constituency however, has been postponed.

Now, PTI candidate killed in suicide bomb blast  

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) provincial assembly candidate Ikramullah Gandapur died Sunday in a suicide attack near his home in Dera Ismail Khan – the third contender killed in a terrorist strike in the bloody run-up to the country’s national and provincial assembly election scheduled for WednesdayDawn reported.

Earlier this month, a Balochistan Awami Party candidate, Siraj Raisani, was murdered in a suicide attack that killed nearly 150 people, three days after another strike killed Haroon Bilour of the Awami National Party and 19 others. They were in the running for seats in the provincial assemblies of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, respectively.

Gandapur served as the provincial agricultural minister in the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet until the caretaker government took over.

According to police, he was attacked near his residence while heading for a meeting. A police officer said at least eight to 10 kg of explosive material was used in the suicide attack, which left Gandapur’s driver and guard in a critical condition.

PTI chief Imran Khan took to Twitter to condemn the “cowardly terrorist attack”.

Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed his condolences.

Denied right to identify as Muslims, Ahmadis boycott the vote

Nearly 90 per cent of the residents of Rabwah, a town in the Pakistan province of Punjab dominated by the minority Ahmadi sect, do not vote in elections on account of discriminatory national laws, Reuters reported.

Pakistan law places Ahmadis on a separate voter registration list, categorising them as non-Muslims even though they identify themselves as the followers of Islam. “The Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslims but their recognition of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the sect in British-ruled India in 1889, as a “subordinate prophet within the fold of Islam” is viewed by many of the Sunni majority as a breach of the Islamic tenet that the Prophet Mohammad was God’s last direct messenger,” the report adds.

According to the report, even as a frenetic election campaign proceeds apace in the rest of the country, Rabwah, the hub of the community, stands out for the absence of campaign posters and election rallies. In fact, according to a report in Pakistan today, Ahmadis across Pakistan have vowed to boycott the election.

It is believed that if Pakistan’s 500,000 Ahmadis participated in the 25 July election, it could change the results in more than 20 closely contested seats in Punjab, where the country’s elections are won and lost.

Highway agency’s crisis leaves CPEC projects in doldrums

A financial crisis in Pakistan’s National Highway Authority (NHA) has left road projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) stranded, reported Dawn.

According to sources, several contractors had stopped working on the projects after cheques for payments totaling over Rs 5 billion bounced. The firms that were issued the cheques include SKB, ZKB, Noman Construction, ACGC Chinese, Sardar Ashraf D Baloch, China Railway 17 Group, and Matracon.

The initiatives affected include the Hakla-Dera Ismail Khan motorway, the western route of the CPEC, and all sections of the Karachi-Lahore Motorway (KLM).

NHA spokesperson Kashif Zaman told Dawn that the cheques were issued on 29 June, and an amount of Rs 1.5 billion “was cleared the same day”. “The remaining cheques that were deposited the next day could not be cleared,” he added.

However, he said this had not affected progress on the projects. “The matter has been taken to the government and hopefully will be resolved soon,” he added.

Contributors: Anagha Deshpande, Hansa Kapoor, Rupanwita Bhattacharjee, Sharanya Munsi, Alind Chauhan and Manisha Mondal

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