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Imran Khan ducks indictment as IHC ‘satisfied’ with apology

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ISLAMABAD:

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday expressed satisfaction on former prime minister Imran Khan’s apology as the court decided against indicting the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief in the contempt of court case.

The deposed premier told the court that he was willing to apologise to Additional District and Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry for his remarks. The case had been registered against the ex-PM for threatening the judge at a rally last month, for approving PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s remand.

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A larger bench of five judges headed by IHC Chief Justice (CJ) Athar Minallah presided over the case. The bench also included Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Justice Mian Gul Hasan Aurangzeb, Justice Tariq Mahmood Jahangiri and Justice Babar Sattar.

“We are, prima facie, satisfied with the apology rendered by the respondent. Let him file an affidavit for consideration of this court before the next date fixed. Let the matter be adjourned to 03-10-2022 for framing of charge against the respondent. The proceedings will be taken up at 02:30pm on the date fixed”, the court’s written order stated.

Read Imran Khan’s political fortunes hinge on top court

The court was initially set to read the charges today. However, Imran’s counsel Hamid Khan repeated his request from the last hearing and the PTI chief was allowed to speak in court.

“Nobody speaks of rule of law apart from me in political rallies,” said Imran, stressing that he had dedicated the past 26 years to the cause.

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“If you want me to go to the female judge and apologise,” he said, “I am prepared to do it.” “What I said was unintentional,” pleaded the PTI chief.

“I assure the court that I will not do something like this in the future,” he said, adding that he was “sorry” for “crossing a red line.”

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Upon this, the court stated that the point had not been to begin a contempt of court case against the PTI head. “The case was under hearing, that is why we began the proceedings against contempt of court,” CJ Minallah added.

“We appreciate it [the apology],” the CJ said, adding ,“What happened should not have occurred”. “For us, [the only concern] is the lower courts,” the judge added as he directed Imran to submit an affidavit regarding the matter in a week.

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Read more SC backs IHC advice, urges PTI to return to parliament

“We are not directing you on what should and should not be said,” he continued. “That we leave up to you.”

However, the court also stated that “if you have recognised your mistake, then the court appreciates it”.

Earlier, the high court had declared both supplementary replies submitted by Imran in the reference to be unsatisfactory and set September 22 as the date to indict him.

On August 20, Imran had passed controversial remarks about the judge for approving his party leader Shahbaz Gill’s physical remand in a sedition case.

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Issuing a circular regarding the code of conduct for the court appearance of the PTI chief, the IHC had stated that a larger bench would hear the case on Thursday (today) at 2:30pm.

However, after Imran Khan’s statements in court on Thursday (today) CJ Minallah said that “it is not appropriate for us to take action against contempt of court”.

The IHC then directed Imran to submit an affidavit in light of his willingness to apologise to the concerned judge and decided to adjourn the proceedings until October 3.

Strict security in place

Strict security arrangements were made inside and around the court prior to the hearing, security was increased in various areas of the federal capital to deal with any potential untoward situation. The number of personnel deployed at sensitive places and important routes was increased.

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The entry of lawyers, law officers and journalists in the courtroom was subject to entry passes, while the registrar of the high court also provided the facility to listen to audio cases in the press room and bar room.

A 15-member legal team of Imran, 15 law officers from the attorney general and advocate general office, three court assistants and 15 court reporters were allowed to be present in the courtroom.

The circular stated that five lawyers each from the high court and district bar will be allowed in the courtroom.



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Sana says PTI protestors to be stopped from entering red-zone

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ISLAMABAD:

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Saturday that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf will only be allowed to protest at a place designated by the court, and that the protestors will be stopped if they tried entering the red zone.

Ahead of the PTI’s second Haqeeqi Azadi movement, set to kick start on September 24, the home minister in a press conference stated that those who show up to protests wielding weapons are the one’s who are responsible for law and order, and not those defending it.

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He accused the PTI chief and former prime minister of himself admitting the presence of a group that had weapons during the party’s previous ‘long march’, held on May 25 this year.

“If any group talks about attacking Islamabad, shall we lie down in front of them?” the minister questioned, reiterating that the PTI will be stopped if they came in the form of violent groups.

The interior minister said that the federal government will try to minimize the use of force, but if Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – provinces where the PTI is in power – did not provide the requested forces then the interior ministry has the paramilitary forces to support it.

He warned that in the case of refusal to send additional force Punjab and K-P governments will be hearing from the Federal Ministry of Interior.

Speaking of the May 25 march, Rana said that he was of the opinion that Imran should have been arrested with the permission of the cabinet. However, that did not happen, he said.

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The minister further blamed the PTI for destroying the career the Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO), Ghulam Mahmood Dogar, adding that the CCPO should report to the federal government.

Three days ago, in a surprising move, the centre had withdrawn the CCPO’s services and directed him to report to the Establishment Division for further order.

Read Sana will find no place to hide: Imran

Further commenting on the PTI chief, the interior minister said that Imran was neither popular, nor did he have any narrative. He maintained that there was inflation under the PTI government, but the blame was on the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

“Now we are in government and there is inflation, of course. However, the premier is determined to give relief to the people,” Rana said.

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He said that Imran had made the wrong agreement with the IMF and then violated the agreement by reducing prices, which would have caused compensatory damages.

Nawaz, Dar’s return

The interior minister said that former finance minister Ishaq Dar was returning to Pakistan next week, and will be leading the economic team.

He added that the PML-N cannot impose a decision on Nawaz Sharif, adding that the party supremo accepted the PML-N’s request, and will lead the party in the upcoming elections.

Army chief appointment

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The interior minister, discussing the appointment of the next chief of army staff, said that if they ceded to Imran’s pressure, the organisation would be “destroyed”.

He held that the appointment of the COAS would be conducted on time and as per procedure and that any delays or premature decisions could lead to the destruction of the institution and the country.

He maintained that Imran Khan has “confounded” the issue so much that if the trend was not questioned today, it will continue to create difficulties every three years.



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Russia holds votes in occupied parts of Ukraine

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KYIV:

Russia launched referendums on Friday aimed at annexing four occupied regions of Ukraine, drawing condemnation from Kyiv and Western nations who dismissed the votes as a sham and pledged not to recognise their results.

Ukrainian officials said people were banned from leaving some occupied areas until the four-day vote was over, armed groups were going into homes, and employees were threatened with the sack if they did not participate.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a nightly address that the votes would be “unequivocally condemned” by the world, along with the mobilisation Russia began this week, including in Crimea and other areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia.

“These are not just crimes against international law and Ukrainian law, these are crimes against specific people, against a nation,” Zelenskiy said.

The votes on becoming part of Russia were hastily-organised after Ukraine recaptured large swathes of the northeast in a counter-offensive earlier this month.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin also announcing a military draft this week to enlist 300,000 troops to fight in Ukraine, the Kremlin appears to be trying to regain the upper hand in the grinding conflict since its Feb 24 invasion.

Zelenskiy also addressed people in parts of Ukraine occupied by Russia, and said they should resist efforts to mobilise them to fight.

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“Hide from Russian mobilisation in any way you can. Avoid draft orders. Try to move to the territory of free Ukraine,” he said, urging those who did end up in the Russian armed forces to “sabotage,” “interfere” and pass on intelligence to Ukraine.

By incorporating the four areas, Moscow could portray attacks to retake them as an attack on Russia itself – potentially using that to justify even a nuclear response.

Putin and other Russian officials have mentioned nuclear weapons as an option in extremis: a terrifying prospect in a war that has already killed tens of thousands of people, uprooted millions and pummelled the global economy.

Voting in the provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the east and southeast, representing about 15% of Ukrainian territory, was due to run from Friday to Tuesday.

“Today, the best thing for the people of Kherson would be not to open their doors,” said Yuriy Sobolevsky, the displaced first deputy council chairman of Kherson region.

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In the Donetsk region, the turnout on Friday was 23.6%, Tass cited a local official as saying. Over 20.5% of voters eligible to vote in the Zaporizhzhia region and 15% of those in the Kherson region voted on Friday, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported, citing local electoral officials.

“In our view, that’s enough for the first day of voting,” the head of Kherson’s Russian-installed election commission, Marina Zakharova, was quoted as saying.

Polling stations were also set up in Moscow, for residents of those regions now living in Russia. Flag-waving government supporters attended rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg in favour of the referendums and the war effort.



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US sending ‘dangerous signals’ on Taiwan, China tells Blinken

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NEW YORK:

China has accused the United States of sending “very wrong, dangerous signals” on Taiwan after the U.S. secretary of state told his Chinese counterpart on Friday that the maintenance of peace and stability over Taiwan was vitally important.

Taiwan was the focus of the 90-minute, “direct and honest” talks between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, a U.S official told reporters.

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“For our part, the secretary made crystal clear that, in accordance with our long-standing one-China policy, which again has not changed, the maintenance of peace and stability across the Strait is absolutely, vitally important,” the senior U.S. administration official said.

China’s foreign ministry, in a statement on the meeting, said the United States was sending “very wrong, dangerous signals” on Taiwan, and the more rampant Taiwan’s independence activity, the less likely there would be a peaceful settlement.

“The Taiwan issue is an internal Chinese matter, and the United States has no right to interfere in what method will be used to resolve it,” the ministry cited Wang as saying.

Tensions over Taiwan have soared after a visit there in August by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi – which was followed by large-scale Chinese military drills – as well as a pledge by U.S. President Joe Biden to defend the democratically governed island.

Biden’s statement was his most explicit to date about committing U.S. troops to the defend the island. It was also the latest instance of his appearing to go beyond a long-standing U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity,” which does not make it clear whether the United States would respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan. 

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The White House has insisted its Taiwan policy has not changed, but China said Biden’s remarks sent the wrong signal to those seeking an independent Taiwan. 

In a phone call with Biden in July, Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned about Taiwan, saying “those who play with fire will perish by it.”

China sees Taiwan as one of its provinces and has long vowed to bring the island under its control and has not ruled out the use of force to do so.

Taiwan’s government strongly objects to China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s 23 million people can decide its future.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry, responding to the meeting between Blinken and Wang, said China’s “recent provocative actions” had made the Taiwan Strait a focus of discussion, and China was trying to “confuse the international audience with arguments and criticisms that contradict reality.”

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The State Department had said earlier that Blinken’s meeting with Wang was part of a U.S. effort to “maintain open lines of communication and manage competition responsibly,” and the senior official said Blinken had reiterated U.S. openness to “cooperating with China on matters of global concern.”

Blinken also “highlighted the implications” if China were to provide material support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or engage in wholesale sanctions evasion, the official added.

U.S. officials have in the past said they had seen no evidence of China providing such support.

Blinken “underscored that the United States and China and the international community have an obligation to work to counter the effects of that invasion and also to deter Russia from taking further provocative actions,” the official said.

‘DEVASTATE OUR BILATERAL TIES’

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Blinken’s meeting with Wang was preceded by one between the foreign ministers of the Quad grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the United States, which issued a statement, referring to the Indo-Pacific, saying that “we strongly oppose any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo or increase tensions in the region.”

Since Pelosi’s visit “China has taken a number of provocative steps that have by design acted to change the status quo”, the U.S. official said.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will discuss Taiwan security during bilateral meetings with the leaders of U.S. allies Japan and South Korea when she visits them next week, another U.S. official said.

Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia under President Barack Obama, said the fact Blinken and Wang had met was important after the turbulence brought by Pelosi’s visit, and hopefully some progress would have been made towards arranging a meeting between Xi and Biden on the sidelines of a G-20 meeting in November, which would be their first in-person as leaders.

“Wang and Blinken’s decision to meet in New York does not guarantee the November summit will go smoothly or that it will even occur. But had they been unable to meet, it would have meant the prospects for a summit in November were poor,” said Russel, now with the Asia Society.

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In a speech to the Asia Society in New York on Thursday, Wang said the Taiwan question was growing into the biggest risk in China-U.S. relations.

“Should it be mishandled, it is most likely to devastate our bilateral ties,” Wang said, according to a transcript from the Chinese embassy.

Likewise, the decades-old U.S. law outlining Washington’s unofficial relations with Taiwan – which Beijing considers null – makes clear that Washington’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in 1979 “rests upon the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means.”



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