In press conference, Pakistan’s information minister claims any new Afghan refugees will not be permitted to enter cities
Senior government leaders on Monday urged Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed to allow the live coverage of high-profile corruption cases, so the public can be fully aware of the charges framed and arguments being forwarded in court.
“I appeal to the Chief Justice of Pakistan for an open trial of high-profile cases, as it will help restore people’s confidence in the justice system,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, flanked by Energy Minister Hammad Azhar and Adviser to the P.M. on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, told a press conference in Islamabad. He claimed that opposition leaders often gave statements contrary to their public statements during proceedings and the public should be aware of this.
This is not the first time Pakistani politicians have sought live coverage of court proceedings. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has been particularly vocal about wanting his cases being broadcast nationwide. Contrary to the government’s claims, he has alleged that the live coverage would reveal the flimsy pretexts the government builds its cases on, and prove to the public that its intent is political victimization, rather than justice.
During the press conference, Akbar maintained that the government would not allow PMLN President Shahbaz Sharif to leave the country. He dismissed Sharif’s claims of being harassed and humiliated by the Federal Investigation Agency as part of its ongoing probe of Rs. 25 billion corruption against the opposition leader. “Hamza Sharif, son of Shahbaz Sharif, has threatened FIA officials with dire consequences. Some of the properties of former rulers were exposed through the Panama Papers scandal, and many more are yet to be unearthed,” Akbar claimed.
Referring to Sharif’s press conference from earlier in the day, Chaudhry claimed the PMLN leader had opted to “play up” electricity and gas issues under the incumbent government instead of explaining the allegations of corruption against him. “Shahbaz should answer questions about [allegedly] laundering Rs. 25 billion abroad on forged documents, but he narrates he built Metro bus service in Punjab. When he is asked that his sons have transferred billions of rupees abroad, he says he worked on water supply schemes. When Shahbaz is questioned about billions of rupees transferred to his accounts, he says he served the Punjab province,” he said, claiming the opposition leader often relied on distraction tactics.
To a question on the government’s spotty record of securing convictions in the many corruption cases it has initiated since coming into power in 2018, Chaudhry claimed the ratio of recovery had actually increased. “The National Accountability Bureau has recovered Rs. 427 billion over the past three years,” he claimed.
Addressing the ongoing Afghanistan peace process and the growing concerns of a potential civil war in the war-torn state if a peaceful settlement cannot be negotiated between Kabul and the Taliban, Chaudhry said Islamabad was monitoring the rapidly evolving situation and working to broker peace.
He reiterated that if there were a new surge of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, the government would not permit them to “sneak” into cities as they had in the past, adding that they would be confined to refugee camps along the Pak-Afghan border. “In the past, Pakistan had an open 2,700km border with Afghanistan, which has now been fenced, and in case of new refugees, appropriate steps would be initiated to handle them in a systematic manner,” he said.
The information minister claimed the global community had lauded Pakistan’s efforts for durable peace in Afghanistan and reaffirmed that, in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision, Pakistan would only partner with the U.S. for peace, not conflict.
Pakistan-administered Kashmir elections
On the ongoing election campaign in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Chaudhry claimed that “frustrated” Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had abandoned his involvement midway, and predicted PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz would soon do likewise. “PPP has only eight candidates in AJK while PMLN has failed to field candidates in all the constituencies,” he said.
“Out of frustration the PMLN is already making a hue and cry over what they called rigging in the AJK Legislative Assembly polls,” he said. The PMLN’s allegations stem from a viral video of federal minister Ali Gandapur handing out cash to constituents during the campaign, and promising additional funds to them if the PTI comes into power.
Chaudhry claimed the PTI’s election campaign would help it emerge victorious in the polls.
Meanwhile, the energy minister claimed that even though the government had increased power production from 20,000MW to 40,000MW, loadshedding could not be curtailed due to a weak transmission system. He, however, vowed that efforts were underway to reduce it. Azhar also claimed that the government had reduced its circular debt from Rs. 450 billion to Rs. 177 billion.