Saudi Military Alliance Not Against Any State Or Sect: Raheel Sharif

ICMD, Dec 20, 2018 Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) Commander General Raheel Sharif in a meeting with Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani in Riyadh has brushed aside the impression that the coalition has been created to take action against any state, nation or a particular sect. He told the Senate chairman that the basic aim of this institution was to counter-terrorism and eliminate it. Sanjrani was accompanied by a Senate delegation during the visit to the IMCTC headquarters. The delegation was accorded a warm welcome by General Raheel Sharif and Deputy Commander General Abdur Rehman. The delegation was given a detailed briefing about the role and purpose of IMCTC. Senate Chairman and members of the delegation praised King Suleman Bin Abdul Aziz and the Saudi government for eliminating terrorism. Later, the Senate Chairman visited MISK Foundation along with the members of his delegation. Head of MISK Foundation Badar ud Din Qaheel welcomed the chairman and briefed the delegation about the roles and functions of the foundation. It was told that the foundation was founded by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and the rationale was to prepare young Saudi population to deal with the challenges of the future. “The foundation offers training to the youth in the areas of education, culture, and media.” The delegation was given a tour of different sections of the foundation and was briefed on their working. Sanjrani lauded the initiative of vision 2030 under which the youth was being trained on the standards of the developed world. He appreciated the work of MISK Foundation and expressed his dream of inclusion of Pakistani youth in the foundation. The delegation headed by Chairman Senate included senators Ahmed Khan, Mirza Muhammad Afridi, Naseebullah Bazai, Fida Muhammad Khan, Talha Mehmood, Dilawar Khan, Khanzada Khan, Ghous Muhammad Khan Niazi, and Additional Secretary Senate Hsfeezullah Sheikh. -- MD

NAB court verdict in Sharif cases on Dec 24

ICMD, Dec 20, 2018 The accountability court hearing Al Azizia and Flagship references against deposed premier Nawaz Sharif reserved its verdict on Wednesday. The judgment will be announced on December 24. Defense counsel Khawaja Haris presented a rebuttal to statements made by the prosecution. The counsel for Nawaz also petitioned the court for additional time to submit some more documents, the court, however, rejected the request. The judge told the parties that any additional documents may be submitted in the court by Friday, December 21. In the Al Azizia reference, 22 witnesses recorded their statements, while 16 recorded their statements in the Flagship reference. Former premier Nawaz decided not to offer any defense in both cases. Haris, while presenting his final argument, told the judge that “Nawaz Sharif has never admitted that he received a salary from Capital FZE”, adding that his client’s position in the said company was “honorary”. The Supreme Court (SC) extended the deadline for the eighth time earlier this month. The apex court also instructed the lower court to wrap up proceedings and announce the verdict by December 24. Throughout the course of the trial, the former premier has defended the accusation of being the real owner and beneficiary of offshore companies, which he claims belong to his sons Hasan and Hussain Nawaz. Nawaz had maintained that the case against him was initiated on the basis of allegations leveled by his political rivals and the report of a joint investigation team (JIT) in Panama Papers case, which he said was biased. Following the hearing, Nawaz had a brief chat with media representatives outside the court, during which he claimed that “not a penny of corruption was proven against me”. Thanking the party members and leaders for coming to the court with him, the former premier noted that it was his 78th court appearance in the case. Recounting his government’s achievements, Nawaz said he served the public for 35 years – twice as chief minister and thrice as prime minister. “I never misused my powers. I served the nation and the public with true dedication,” he said. “[We] eliminated terrorism, inflation from the country, revived the economy, made Pakistan a nuclear power.” Nawaz lamented that the cases were based on mere “speculation and rumors”. “Is this [what I deserve] for serving this country?” he questioned. The trial against the Sharif family commenced on September 14, 2017. Nawaz and his sons, Hussain and Hasan, are accused in all three references whereas Maryam and Safdar were accused in the Avenfield reference only. The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court. -- DT

Govt, opp reach consensus on standing committees

ICMD, Dec 20, 2018 The government and the opposition have reportedly reached a consensus on the number of standing committees and the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), media reported on Wednesday. The session of the parliamentary leaders was held under Asad Qaiser, where Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pervez Khattak, Farogh Naseem attended from the government side while Rana Tanveer, Naveed Qamar and others attended from the Opposition’s side. The issue of standing committees was discussed during the session and it was decided that PAC chairmanship would be awarded to the opposition. Government member Rana Tanveer said that in the first phase, two committees would be formed including PAC and Law and Justice Committee. He further said that the committees would be formed by Friday and the opposition would get its share. Meanwhile, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) politician Naveed Qamar remarked that the opposition had a right to form up to 19 committees while the government was saying it would review the situation. PPP lawmaker Shazia Mari said that the government wanted to give opposition 17 committees.

Taliban, US agree to continue negotiations

ICMD, Dec 2018 Afghan Taliban said on Wednesday they had wrapped up two-day talks with American officials led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where both sides agreed to continue talks to end the conflict in Afghanistan. The Taliban and Khalilzad did not talk about any decision in the Dec 17-18 talks; however, the US envoy said he had “productive meetings in UAE with the Afghan and international partners to promote intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict in Afghanistan.” Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan hours after he concluded talks with the Taliban leaders and met the Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Khalilzad said on twitter he met Pakistan leaders to “update them on the state of play following our meetings in UAE”. The UAE talks were also attended by senior security officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. A Taliban statement said that the “focal point of discussion was the withdrawal of foreign troops as it was the root cause of all problems and biggest obstacle to peace was the occupation of Afghanistan and bringing it to an end”. The statement said that the future negotiation meetings shall continue after deliberations and consultations by both sides with their respective leaderships. UAE says ‘positive’ results from US-Taliban talks The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that reconciliation talks it hosted between the United States and Taliban officials from Afghanistan produced tangible and positive results. The two days of meetings aimed at ending Afghanistan’s 17-year conflict were held in Abu Dhabi, with the attendance of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The “US-Taliban reconciliation talks” produced “tangible results that are positive for all parties concerned”, state-run WAM news agency said. A new round of talks would be held in Abu Dhabi “to complete the Afghanistan reconciliation process,” WAM said without providing further details. The meetings are the latest in a flurry of diplomatic efforts as Washington seeks a way out of the Afghan conflict, which began with the US invasion in 2001. An Afghan negotiating team travelled to Abu Dhabi for “proximity dialogue” with the Taliban in preparation for face-to-face meetings, presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said Tuesday.

'Saudi prince has asked to meet Erdogan at G20'

ICMD, Nov 27, 2018 Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview published on Tuesday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had asked for a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and that there was currently no reason not to meet him. “Yes, he has asked Erdogan on the phone, whether they could meet in Buenos Aires. Erdogan’s answer was ‘Let’s see’,” Cavusoglu told Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. Erdogan and Prince Mohammed will attend the G20 meeting in Argentina later this week. “At the moment there is no reason not to meet with the crown prince,” Cavusoglu said. Saudi-Turkish relations have been strained by the killing last month of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said the prince had no knowledge of the killing, which Turkey says was carried out at the Saudi consulate by a squad of 15 Saudi agents which included a member of Prince Mohammed’s security team. Erdogan has said the killing was ordered by the highest level of Saudi leadership but ruled out that it had come from King Salman, putting the spotlight instead on the 33-year-old crown prince. US President Donald Trump said last week Washington would remain a “steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia despite saying that Prince Mohammed may have known about the plan to murder Khashoggi. Asked if he knew for sure who in Riyadh gave the order to kill Khashoggi, Cavusoglu said that the team would not have acted on its own, but could not say anything else without proof. Cavusoglu said Riyadh had offered to send identikit photos of local helpers who assisted in the cover-up. “Why identikit pictures? The Saudis know the names,” he said. Turkey says it has recordings related to the killing which it shared with Western allies. Cavusoglu said he had listened to the recordings and that Khashoggi was killed within seven minutes. “It was premeditated murder,” he told the German newspaper, rather than a last resort after they failed to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia. “It can be heard how the forensics expert instructs the others: they should listen to music while he cuts up the body. One notices how he enjoys it.” -- Intl Agencies