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Pak Anti-graft Chief Refuses to Arrest PM

Pakistan’s anti-corruption chief refused an order by the country’s top court to arrest the Prime Minister in a graft case on Thursday, saying he did not have sufficient evidence.

The government and the Supreme Court have repeatedly clashed over the last year, and the Chief Justice’s demand on Tuesday that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf be arrested set the stage for a new round of political crisis in Pakistan.

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption chief refused an order by the country’s top court to arrest the Prime Minister in a graft case on Thursday, saying he did not have sufficient evidence.

The government and the Supreme Court have repeatedly clashed over the last year, and the Chief Justice’s demand on Tuesday that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf be arrested set the stage for a new round of political crisis in Pakistan.

Fasih Bokhari, chief of the National Accountability Bureau, told the Supreme Court that the initial investigation into the case was flawed and that he needed more time to determine whether the prime minister should be arrested.

The case involves kickbacks that Mr. Ashraf allegedly took during his time as minister of water and power that were related to private power stations built to provide electricity to energy-starved Pakistan.

The Prime Minister has denied the allegations.

The investigating officers “were not able to bring incriminating evidence but relied on oral statements which are not warranted in the court of law,” said Mr. Bokhari.

One of the judges, Sheikh Azmat Saeed, chided Mr. Bokhari, saying he was acting more like a defence lawyer than a government prosecutor.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry questioned why the anti-corruption chief needed more time since the case against the Prime Minister has been pending for about a year.

He ordered Mr. Bokhari to bring the case files back to the judges later in the day so they can determine whether there is incriminating evidence.

“There may be some who consider themselves above the law, but let me make it clear there is no one above the law,” said the Chief Justice.



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Maldives Crisis: A Brief Primer

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The declaration of a state of emergency in the Maldives and arrest of two senior judges prompted an exiled former president to ask India on Tuesday to send an envoy backed by the military to free political prisoners on the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago.

Here’s background information on the crisis engulfing the overwhelmingly Muslim nation of 400,000 people, whose faraway islands are best known as a luxury holiday destination.

The Main Protagonists

President Abdulla Yameen declared the state of emergency February 5. He defied a shock ruling from the Supreme Court that quashed convictions ranging from terrorism to corruption and ordered the release of nine leading opposition figures, on the ground that the cases against them were politically tainted.

Yameen came to power in 2013 after winning an election the opposition said was rigged. Critics accuse his government of imprisoning opponents, curbing free speech and pressuring the judiciary.

His rival Mohamed Nasheed became the Maldives’ first democratically elected president in 2009, but he was forced to resign amid a mutiny by police in 2012. After losing the election to Yameen the following year, Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2015 on charges that he said had been concocted by Yameen’s government.

Allowed to leave jail to seek medical treatment abroad, Nasheed was granted asylum by Britain in 2016. He has said he wants to contest a presidential election due later this year and was in Colombo when the Supreme Court decision precipitated the crisis. After Yameen declared a 15-day emergency on Tuesday, Nasheed called on India, the main regional power, to intervene.

Nasheed, a graduate of Britain’s Liverpool University, is well connected in the West and has been able to bring pressure against Yameen’s administration.

During his imprisonment, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney championed his cause and helped expose alleged human rights violations by Yameen’s administration.

During his presidency, Nasheed had drawn world attention to the Maldives by conducting an underwater cabinet meeting, with the ministers wearing scuba diving suits, to highlight the dangers posed by global warming to low-lying island nations like his own.

The Role of the Supreme Court

While quashing the convictions against Nasheed and eight other opposition leaders, and ordering the release of those in detention, the court said that they should be retried.

Maldivian opposition supporters shout slogans during a protest as they the urge the government to obey a Supreme Court order to release and retry political prisoners, in Male, Maldives, Feb. 4, 2018.
Maldivian opposition supporters shout slogans during a protest as they the urge the government to obey a Supreme Court order to release and retry political prisoners, in Male, Maldives, Feb. 4, 2018.
It also ordered the reinstatement of 12 lawmakers who had been stripped of their parliamentary seats by Yameen’s party for defecting last year. The removal was unconstitutional, the court said.

The reinstatement of the dozen legislators, who now belong to opposition parties, would cause Yameen’s party to lose its majority in the 85-member assembly.

Should the opposition reach a majority, it would be able to unseat the speaker, who is a member of the ruling party, and pass no-confidence motions against government officials.

The President’s Disregard for the Supreme Court Ruling

Declaring the emergency, Yameen’s office issued a statement saying the court order had disrupted functions of the executive and infringed national security and public interest. It also said the constitution could eventually be undermined if the court order was implemented.

The president’s office said some rights have been restricted under the emergency and some laws suspended, though no curfew has been ordered. It gave assurances for the safety of Maldivians and foreigners.

Having imposed the state of emergency, Yameen ordered the arrest of the country’s chief justice and another top judge, and security forces seized control of the Supreme Court.

In a televised address to the nation, Yameen said he had acted to prevent a coup and implied the judges had sided with his enemies as they were under investigation for corruption.

The president had earlier fired two police chiefs who said they would uphold the court order to release Yameen’s opponents.

The army appears to be supporting Yameen. On Sunday, state television showed several police and soldiers saying they were ready to sacrifice their lives “in the defence of the lawful government.”

Yameen’s supporters have shut down an independent television station.

Ex-President Nasheed’s Appeal to India¬†

In a Twitter post, Nasheed asked India to send an envoy, backed by its military, to release the judges and political detainees. He also urged the United States to block financial transactions of Yameen’s government.

New Delhi sent troops to the Maldives in 1988 to foil a coup, purportedly involving foreign mercenaries.

The International Reaction

The United States and India have urged Yameen to heed the court decision, but he has disregarded international calls to solve the crisis through dialogue.

China, which has boosted its investments in the Maldives, said the crisis should be settled internally.

The Maldives withdrew from the Commonwealth, the association of former British colonies and dominions, in 2016 after being threatened with suspension for failing to show progress on democracy.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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Ex-Maldives President Calls on India, US to Intervene in New Political Crisis

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The Maldives’ exiled former president is calling on India and the United States to intervene in his country’s political crisis.

Mohammed Nasheed issued a statement Tuesday urging India to send an envoy — backed by its military forces — to the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago to free imprisoned Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and court Judge Ali Hameed. Saeed and Hameed were arrested earlier Tuesday when security forces stormed the Supreme Court building in the capital, Male, just hours after President Abdulla Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency.

“President Yameen has illegally declared martial law and overrun the state. We must remove him from power,” Nasheed said in his statement. “We are asking for a physical presence.” He also called on Washington to impose a freeze on all financial transactions of government officials.

Nasheed was elected president in the Maldives’ first multi-party election in 2008, but he resigned in 2012 amid a military takeover. He lost the 2013 presidential race to Yameen, and was then tried and convicted of terrorism charges in a trial criticized by human rights activists. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, but later granted medical leave last year to travel to Britain, where he was granted asylum.

Police said in a Twitter message they had arrested Chief Justice Saeed and Judge Hameed “for an ongoing investigation.” They gave no details about the allegations or charges against the two judges.

In addition to the two jurors, security forces also arrested former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

President Yameen imposed the state of emergency after refusing to comply with a Supreme Court order to release detained political leaders.

“During this time, though certain rights will be restricted, general movements, services and businesses will not be affected,” a statement issued by the president’s office said.

Yameen’s administration defied the top court’s order last week to release the prisoners, and asked the court Monday to revoke it.

Democratic gains in the Maldives have eroded under the leadership of Yameen, who has conducted a crackdown on the opposition and the press.

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