Pakistan Ex-president Asif Zardari Faces Travel Ban Over Money Laundering Charges
Islamabad: Pakistan announced on Thursday it would ban former president Asif Ali Zardari from travelling abroad following allegations of money laundering, as the nation marked 11 years since his wife, prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated.
Information minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters in Islamabad that Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur were among 172 people involved in cases of money laundering and use of fake bank accounts.
"All the 172 names ... will be added to the ECL (Exit Control List)," he said.
Zardari, co-chairman of the opposition Pakistan People's Party and who was president from 2008 until 2013, has long been the subject of corruption allegations, and is widely known in Pakistan as "Mr Ten Percent".
The announcement coincided with the 11th death anniversary of his spouse and two-time former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack during an election rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.
Earlier this week Chaudhry said a joint investigation team (JIT) had found evidence of how Zardari allegedly laundered money through fake bank accounts and companies.
"I hope Zardari will now take the JIT seriously," he said Thursday, adding that his government would not spare anyone involved in plundering national wealth.
But Zardari dismissed the allegations, branding the government an instrument of the powerful military and calling Prime Minister Imran Khan the army's "blue-eyed boy" at a rally marking his wife's death in the Bhutto family's ancestral town of Larkana, in southern Sindh province.
"They know nothing but how to appear on TV channels and make absurd comments and speeches. They lack even basic intelligence," he said of Khan's government in unusually fiery comments.
Khan, who came to power in July, has vowed to squash rampant corruption and recover billions siphoned from the country as his government scrambles to shore up Pakistan's deteriorating finances and fast-depleting foreign exchange reserves.
Zardari's travel ban comes days after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption on Monday, the latest in a long string of court cases against him.
Pakistan's Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from politics for life over graft allegations in 2017, ousting him from power. His Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was defeated by Khan in the July polls.
A Pakistani court established a commission in September to investigate the scourge of corruption, finding that at least $400 million had passed through "thousands of false accounts", using the names of impoverished people.
The commission said some 600 companies and individuals "are associated with the scandal".
Saudi King Orders Major Cabinet Reshuffle After Global Outrage Over Khashoggi's Murder
Dubai: Saudi Arabia's King Salman has issued a wide-ranging overhaul of top government posts, including naming a new foreign minister, following international fallout from the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi nearly three months ago.
Adel al-Jubeir, the soft-spoken foreign minister since 2015, was replaced by Ibrahim al-Assaf, who was formerly a finance minister. Al-Jubeir was appointed to the post of minister of state for foreign affairs.
Al-Assaf had been serving as minister of state, and has held a seat on the boards of oil-giant Saudi Aramaco and the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.
The changes, which impact several key ministries, come as the king and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were looking to announce a major reshuffle following Khashoggi's killing by Saudi agents in Istanbul.
British-Pakistani Plots to Kill Theresa May as ‘Ticket’ to Islamic State, Arrested
London: A British-Pakistani man who made plans to join the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group is facing a lengthy jail term after he was convicted of preparing an act of terrorism by a court here on Thursday.
Mohammad Aqib Imran, a 22-year-old from Birmingham, was arrested after an investigation into his friend, 20-year-old British- Bangladeshi Naa'imur Rahman, who was earlier this year convicted of a plot to kill Prime Minister Theresa May.
While Imran was not charged in relation to that assassination plot, police identified that they had been interacting online and met on two occasions. Rahman recorded a "sponsor" video and sent it to Imran to show terrorists when he arrived in Libya.
"The idea was that Rahman would kill the Prime Minister and Imran would subsequently have a video from a martyr recommending he be accepted into the terrorist organisation. Such a video would have held weight with Daesh (ISIS)," said Acting Commander for the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, Alexis Boon.
"Of course, this was never going to happen because MI5 and the Counter Terrorism Command had been investigating the pair for some time and in fact a covert police officer had been meeting with Rahman to establish how serious his plans were," he said.
The Met Police detectives subsequently arrested both men in November last year. They seized Imran's phone and Kindle electronic reader, and forensic specialists sifted through the media files on the devices. They recovered Rahman's video message from a phone belonging to Imran, and from Imran's Kindle they recovered a terrorist guide book.
On July 18 this year, in a trial with Rahman, Imran was found guilty of collection of information useful to terrorism in relation to the eBook. The jury was unable to reach a verdict in relation to a charge of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts, which related to Imran's plan to travel to join ISIS, but he was found guilty this week of the offence following a retrial.
"I am pleased with this result. Our police investigation has stopped Imran from joining Daesh (ISIS) on the ground in Libya, where his subsequent actions could have assisted the terrorist organisation to further their aims," Boon added.
Rahman previously pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct in assisting the preparation of terrorist acts, for the sponsorship video he filmed for Imran. He was jailed for 30 years for this and the plot to kill Theresa May. Imran will be sentenced for his offences on January 25 next year.
The jury was told that Imran had learning difficulties and his college had provided him with a dedicated assistance teacher to help him complete a course which would lead to work in social care.
But after meeting Rahman online, Imran went on to reveal his plans to travel to Libya to fight but was unwittingly revealing his plot to undercover investigative officers from the FBI in the US and MI5 in the UK.
Death toll in Kabul attack rises to 43: Health Ministry
Kabul: An hours-long gun and suicide attack on a Kabul government compound killed at least 43 people, the health ministry said on Tuesday, making it one of the deadliest assaults on the Afghan capital this year. No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which caps a bloody year for Afghanistan as civilians and security forces are slaughtered in record numbers.
Another 10 people were wounded in Monday’s raid on a site where the Ministry of Public Works and other offices are located, spokesman Waheed Majroh said. Gunmen stormed the compound mid-afternoon after detonating a car bomb at the entrance, sending terrified government workers running for their lives. Some jumped from windows several floors high to escape the militants.
Hundreds more were trapped inside buildings as heavily armed security forces swarmed the area, engaging in a fierce gun battle with the attackers. At least four militants, including the suicide bomber, were killed and more than 350 people freed, officials said. Most of the victims were civilians, who have borne the brunt of the 17-year war. It was the deadliest assault in the Afghan capital since a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a religious gathering last month, killing at least 55 people.
The raid followed a tumultuous few days in Afghanistan where officials are reeling from US President Donald Trump’s plan to slash troop numbers, which many fear could harm efforts to end the conflict with the Taliban. It also comes after a major security shake-up in Kabul that has placed staunch anti-Taliban and Pakistan veterans in charge of the police and military. While there has been no official announcement of a US drawdown, the mere suggestion of the United States reducing its military presence has rattled the Afghan capital and potentially undermined peace efforts.
General Scott Miller, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Sunday he had not received orders to pull forces out of the country. Trump’s decision apparently came Tuesday as US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban in Abu Dhabi, part of efforts to bring the militants to the negotiating table with Kabul. Many Afghans are worried that President Ashraf Ghani’s fragile unity government would collapse if US troops pulled out, enabling the Taliban to return to power and potentially sparking another bloody civil war. Militants have previously attacked government ministries and departments because they are often poorly defended and seen as soft targets.
Indonesia Tsunami: Rain hinders search for survivors
Jakarta: Days of heavy rain on Indonesia’s Java coast was making it difficult on Tuesday for search and rescue teams looking for survivors of the Sunda Strait tsunami. The emergency teams were scouring about 100 kilometers of coastline in search of survivors trapped in the debris caused by Saturday’s tsunami, which killed at least 373 people, injured 1,459 and left 128 missing.
The most affected area is Pandeglang on the northwestern tip of Java, where 267 people lost their lives, 1,143 were injured and 38 remain missing, Efe reported. In this tourist area, many were celebrating the holiday period when they were hit by the waves in the absence of emergency warnings. Helped with dogs and heavy machinery, troops were combing through every pile of iron and wood that were once homes and market stalls of local residents before they were struck by waves 2 to 3 meters high.
In a video published on social media networks, a rescue group manages to find a five-year-old boy alive after being trapped for more than 12 hours. On Monday, two days after the tsunami, rescuers managed to gain access to the town of Sumur, where 36 dead and 476 wounded were reported. North of the Strait, the impact has also been significant with at least 75 people killed and 22 missing in the province of Lampung, south Sumatra.
The authorities blame the tsunami on the collapse of part of Anak Krakatau volcano after it erupted in the Sunda Strait. The National Agency for Disaster Management said Indonesia does not have tsunami warning systems that are triggered by volcanic activity, and that buoys in place to detect a sudden rise in wave height after earthquakes do not work due to vandalism, lack of maintenance and funding.
Wednesday marks the anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami that hit northern Sumatra and another 14 countries on December 26, 2004, leaving 226,500 dead and missing, mostly in Indonesia. Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of great seismic and volcanic activity that is shaken every year by some 7,000 earthquakes, most of them moderate.
Schools shut after heavy shelling by Pakastan along LoC
Rajouri: The Pakistan Army on Monday pounded residential areas and military positions along the Line of Control (LoC) in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, police and army said. In view of heavy shelling by Pakistan, all government and private schools located in five km radius near the Line of Control (LoC) in Keri and Pukherni sectors of Rajouri district were shut on Monday.
“Pakistan violated ceasefire in Keri and Pukherni sectors of Rajouri district today morning. Shelling is still underway. Our forces are retaliating appropriately,” Rajouri Senior Superintendent of Police, Yougal Manhas told ANI. No injury was reported in the shelling.
The ceasefire violation of Monday by the Pakistani army came a day after the Pakistani troops resorted to similar action in the Karmara area of Poonch district. The intermittent firing continued for hours. On December 21, two Army personnel lost their lives during a ceasefire violation by Pakistan in the Keran sector of Kupwara.
Washington DC’s top prosecutor sues Facebook over Cambridge Analytica data scandal
Washington: Washington DC’s top prosecutor is suing Facebook in the first significant US move to punish the firm for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine filed the lawsuit on Wednesday, said the Washington Post.
It accused Facebook of allowing the wholesale scraping of personal data on tens of millions of users. The action adds to a number of regulatory investigations, following a year of privacy and security missteps, the BBC reported. A Facebook spokesperson told the BBC: “We’re reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere.”
As well as this lawsuit, Facebook is being probed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. In the UK, the company was fined 500,000 pounds over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the maximum fine the British data regulator can impose. Bigger trouble may arise from the Irish data protection regulator, which is investigating Facebook for multiple admissions of security flaws, in what is being seen as the first major test of Europe’s new privacy rules as dictated by the General Data Protection Regulation. According to the Post, the Washington DC attorney general’s action could be amended to include more recent data security admissions, including more revelations published on Wednesday by the New York Times.
3 injured in stabbing at London health centre
London: Three people were stabbed in a machete attack at a health centre in east London on Wednesday, the police said. Armed police officers were called to St. Stephen’s Road in Tower Hamlets around 11 a.m, the Metropolitan Police said, adding that three people were found suffering from stab wounds and were taken to hospital.
A man was detained near the health centre and was also taken to hospital due to an injury. The incident was not terror related, the police was cited as saying by the Telegraph. A video posted to social media showed a male with long hair, dressed only in underwear, being led in handcuffs in to the back of a police van. Cordons remained in place while an investigation into the incident was ongoing.
Late US President George HW Bush secretly sponsored Filipino child for 10 years
Washington: Former US President George H.W. Bush, who passed away in November, has sponsored a seven-year-old boy in the Philippines for 10 years under a pseudonym, a non profit who connected them has revealed. Through Compassion International that uses churches to help children in poor communities around the world, Bush sponsored Timothy for a decade, the CNN reported. The 41st US President, who passed away at the age of 94 years on November 30, sent funds that went toward Timothy’s education, extracurricular activities and some of his meals. The organisation has shared some of Bush’s letters with CNN. The Bush family was not available to comment on the letters, but Jim McGrath, a spokesperson for the Office of George H.W. Bush, confirmed the letters’ authenticity. Once the sponsorship began, Bush began writing to the boy right away. He said in his first letter, send on January 24, 2002, that he loved Timothy from the get-go.
“Dear Timothy, I want to be your new pen pal. I am an old man, 77 years old, but I love kids; and though we have not met I love you already. I live in Texas – I will write you from time to time – Good Luck. G. Walker”, a letter that perhaps was the first, read. Despite concerns over his security breach, Bush continued his philanthropic mission and his letters to the child were some of the most endearing ones, Wess Stafford, the former president of Compassion International told CNN. Timothy never caught on to the hints in Bush’s letters, and did not find out who his sponsor was until he had graduated from the program.
“After a while, my executive assistant, Angie Lathrop, took over the sponsorship, and after Timothy graduated at 17, she flew to the Philippines to meet him,” Stafford said. “That’s when she told him who his sponsor really was.” Timothy was stunned, Stafford said. He really could not believe the man he had been writing letters to was once the President of the US. Stafford said that Timothy told Lathrop he had no idea, and that the revelation was life-changing. That was the last time the non-profit heard from Timothy, despite efforts to locate him, Stafford said. Compassion International works through partnerships with over 7,000 churches in 25 countries around the world.
written by IANS
FIR against Nawaz Sharif’s security guards for assaulting cameraman of news channel
Islamabad [Pakistan]: A first information report (FIR) was lodged by the local police against five people, including two security guards of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif here on Tuesday for allegedly assaulting a cameraman of Samaa TV.
Television footage on Monday had shown a security guard assaulting the cameraman, Syed Wajid Ali, outside the Parliament building for allegedly coming in the way of Sharif while recording him. Another guard came into the picture and brutally kicked the cameraman on his face, before fleeing from the scene, The Dawn reported. Two of Sharif’s security guards-Mansub and Mohsin-were arrested.
The cameraman was shifted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) after sustaining injuries in his lips and head. “I became unconscious as a result of the torture,” Ali was quoted as saying in the FIR. The FIR was registered against three of Sharif’s guards and two unknown assailants. A case was registered under Sections 355 and 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code. As per the FIR, Ali was allegedly attacked by the security guards after he tried to click photos of Sharif, leaving the Parliament. The two arrested guards were presented before a civil judge, who remanded them to judicial custody for 14 days.