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Pak PM Shehbaz Sharif to meet Chief Justice over 'interference' in judicial affairs by intelligence agencies

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Islamabad, March 28 (IANS) Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has stepped into become a mediating partner between the judiciary and the powerful military establishment to avert a possible disastrous confrontation between the two.

Reliable sources have said that the open letter by at least six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges in relations to interference by intelligence agencies in judicial matters have the tendency to trigger a dangerous rift between the two institutions. This is why Sharif, who is known to be close to the military establishment has been assigned to intervene in the matter and put it to rest at the earliest.

Sharif is meeting with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJ) Qazi Faez Isa on Thursday (today) to not only discuss details of the open letter but also to come out with a face-saving conciliatory statement that talks more about value of coordinated working mechanism between parliament, judiciary and the establishment.

“The PM along with Minister of Law Azam Nazeer Tarar and Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awaz will meet with the CJ Qaxi Faez Isa and Senior Judge Syed Mansoor Ali Shah. Meeting will take place at the SC premises,” a senior government official said.

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Concerned speculations of a possible conflict between the two powerful institutions have become more evident after at least six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) wrote a letter to the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) seeking clarity on the interventions and interference of spy agencies and their operatives in judicial matter.

The open letter, written by six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) including Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani, Justive Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Justive Babar Sattar, Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz highlighted the blatant and disturbing interference of country’s intelligence agencies in the affairs of the court.

“We, therefore request that a judicial convention be called to consider the matter of interference of intelligence operatives with judicial functions and/or intimidation of judges in a manner that undermines the independence of the judiciary,” the open letter to the Supreme Court of Pakistan by the IHC judges stated.

Earlier, the Supreme Court held a full-court meeting to discuss the content of the IHC Judges’ letter, in which at least six of eight judges pointed direct fingers at the intelligence agencies for using coercive tactics to influence court proceedings, discussed the constitutional and judicial value of the letter and what action can be taken in this regard.

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Pertinent to mention here that the latest controversy of a letter by the IHC Judges’ is part of a newly found confidence to stand against the powerful military establishment and its institutions among the serving judges after the recent notification of the SJC was set aside by CJ Qazi Faez Isa which resulted in the dismissal of former senior puisne judge of the IHC Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

Justice Siddiqui had also accused the intelligence agencies of manipulating the proceedings of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) during a speech at Rawalpindi Bar in July 2018.

Now, with Sharif due to meet in a rare meeting with the CJ Isa, senior lawyers are concerned of a manipulation in the final response of the Supreme Court in response to the IHC Judges’ letter.

“CJ Isa should have sought endorsement from all the judges before the meetings; otherwise it will not send a good optic for the judiciary as an institution,” said a senior lawyer.

“IHC judges wrote a letter to the Supreme Court and not to the government. The response should be representative of the Judiciary’s position as an institution only,” he added.

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“There is no need for such meetings rite now when the country’s largest political party, the PTI, is claiming that they have been a victim of the manipulations of judicial proceedings in the past. Prime Minister Shehbaz should not have asked to meet the Chief Justice. Instead, he should have requested the chief justice to conduct an inquiry into the serious allegations made by the IHC judges,” another senior lawyer said.

The letter of IHC judges’ has certainly opened up a debate on the interference by intelligence agencies in judicial matter, decision and their timings of announcements.

Pakistan has a history of civil military divide and confrontations resulting in military takeovers. This time, it seems that a strong section of the judiciary has decided to take on the military establishment and its allied spy agencies to expose their forced maintenance of matters within the judiciary as well.

While the confrontation can have serious and dangerous consequences, PM Shehbaz seems to be on a damage control mission to have the apex court melt down the heat with its positioning on the critical matter.

–IANS

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2 killed, multiple injured in shooting in Texas

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San Francisco, June 16 (IANS) A shooting left two people dead and several wounded on Saturday night near the capital city of the US state of Texas, local police said.

The shooting took place before 11 p.m. Saturday (4 a.m. GMT Sunday) during a Juneteenth celebration at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, about 19 miles (30.4 km) north of Austin, reported Xinhua News Agency.

An altercation began between two groups during a concert at the event and resulted in the shooting, Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks said during a news conference at the scene. The two victims who died at the scene were not involved in the altercation, Allen said, adding that multiple wounded victims were transported to local hospitals.

An investigation was going on. Police did not know how many shooters were involved, and no suspect was yet in custody, he said.

–IANS

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Final document at Ukraine peace summit backed by 80 countries

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Vienna, June 16 (IANS/DPA) The final declaration of the Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland was approved by 80 of the 93 participating states at the close of the two-day event on Sunday.

Countries that did not sign include six states from the G20 group of the world’s most important economic powers — Brazil, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, India and Indonesia, according to a list published by the Swiss hosts.

Armenia, Bahrain, Thailand, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Colombia and the Vatican also did not back the document released at the Burgenstock mountain hotel resort near Lucerne.

Brazil, India, South Africa and the UAE are united with Russia in the so-called BRICS group and maintain a friendly relationship with Russia despite its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The draft of the final declaration took this into account and does not explicitly condemn Moscow for its actions.

Instead, it recalls the Charter of the United Nations: “In particular, we reaffirm our commitment to refraining from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” the text reads.

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The principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all states, including Ukraine, must be respected, it stated.

The signatories also favour protecting the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya, which is occupied by Russia, and agree that any threat to use nuclear weapons should be condemned.

They also call for unhindered grain exports from Ukraine, which are particularly important for impoverished countries in Africa and other parts of the world.

The declaration also advocates the exchange of prisoners of war and the return of children and other civilians abducted from Ukraine to Russia.

Earlier in the day, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer anticipated an incomplete backing of the document, while downplaying the significance of this.

This was only because of its exact wording, according to Nehammer, rather than reflecting a lack of support for efforts to broker peace in Ukraine.

The basic common position would not be affected, he said: “That’s why I’m not so worried if not everyone signs now.”

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The question of the scope of a follow-up conference was also still difficult to answer. Before Russia also takes a seat at the negotiating table, another conference in a different format is conceivable, Nehammer added.

“You really have to see it as a process,” he said.

According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, the conference as such brought significant progress.

Kuleba said that all countries that were not present were also aware of the impetus provided by the meeting. Overall, the process that has been initiated is very welcome. He said: “We are on the right track.”

Kuleba again stressed the need to support Ukraine militarily with the highest quality weapons possible. The stronger Ukraine is, the more willing Moscow will be to negotiate peace, according to him.

The aim of the event was to initiate a peace process in which Russia would also be involved in the long term. Officials from Moscow were not invited on this occasion and did not express a wish to attend.

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–IANS/DPA

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India among 12 countries that avoid signing final communique of Ukraine Peace Summit

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) India on Sunday said that it has decided to “avoid association with the joint communique or any other document” emerging from the two-day ‘Summit on Peace in Ukraine’ being held at Burgenstock near Lucerne in Switzerland.

“Our participation in this summit and continued engagement with all stakeholders is with a view to understanding different perspectives, approaches and options to find a way forward for a sustainable resolution of the conflict,” said Pavan Kapoor, Secretary, West, at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) who led the Indian delegation at the event.

“In our view, only those options acceptable to both parties can lead to abiding peace,” Kapoor, India’s former Ambassador to Russia, added.

Around 100 delegations, including 57 heads of state and government, attended the summit which aimed at initiating the process for a lasting and just peace in Ukraine. Eighty countries and four European institutions signed the final joint communique.

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Besides India, several other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Armenia, Libya, Indonesia, Bahrain, Colombia and the United Arab Emirates, have also refrained from signing the final communique of the Peace Summit.

In his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held on the sidelines of the 50th G7 Summit in Italy’s Apulia on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reiterated that New Delhi continues to encourage peaceful resolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict through dialogue and diplomacy.

“Had a very productive meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky. India is eager to further cement bilateral relations with Ukraine. Regarding the ongoing hostilities, reiterated that India believes in a human-centric approach and believes that the way to peace is through dialogue and diplomacy,” PM Modi posted on X after meeting Zelensky.

Last year, India had abstained from a vote at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on a resolution titled ‘Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine’, citing that it “lacked basic concepts” for achieving a sustainable peace in the region.

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PM Modi has also consistently advocated that no solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives and that escalation of hostilities and violence is in no one’s interest. “India shares the global concerns over the situation in Ukraine and supports any collective desire to facilitate peaceful resolution of the conflict,” the MEA Secretary said in Switzerland on Sunday.

The countries and organisations which supported the joint communique include Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, the Council of Europe, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor Leste, Turkiye, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay.

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–IANS

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Jordan says 14 pilgrims dead, 17 missing during Haj in Saudi Arabia

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Amman, June 16 (IANS) Jordan on Sunday confirmed the deaths of 14 citizens and the missing of 17 others who were performing Haj rituals in Saudi Arabia.

Sufian Qudah, the spokesperson for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, said in a statement that the Jordanian side is following up with concerned Saudi authorities on burials or home returns of the deceased at their families’ request, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Saudi authorities were also continuing the search for the 17 missing pilgrims, according to the statement.

The statement did not detail further nor disclose the cause of the tragedy, but the Jordanian Foreign Ministry reported a day earlier that six Jordanians had died of heat stroke during the Haj pilgrimage.

–IANS

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Iran, UAE urge effective measures to stop Israeli attacks in Gaza

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Tehran, June 16 (IANS) Iran and the UAE on Sunday highlighted the necessity of effective measures to stop the ongoing Israeli attacks against the Gaza Strip and ensure the entry of humanitarian aid into the enclave.

In a phone call, Iranian Caretaker Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan discussed the latest developments in Gaza and issues of common interest, according to a statement released by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

Bagheri Kani pointed to Israel’s “brutal crimes” against Palestinians, stressing the need for Muslim states to “use all available tools” to stop the Israeli attacks in Gaza as soon as possible and deliver sufficient aid to its long-suffering people, Xinhua news agency reported.

The UAE Foreign Minister, for his part, stressed the urgency to send humanitarian aid to Gazans and implement effective measures to stop the Israeli offensive, adding that the UAE was making all-out efforts to those ends.

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The Israeli army has been conducting a large-scale offensive on Gaza since October 7, 2023, after Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on the Israeli towns adjacent to the strip, killing nearly 1,200 people.

The Palestinian death toll from the ongoing Israeli attacks in the enclave has surpassed 37,000, with more than 85,000 people injured, according to the health authorities in Gaza.

–IANS

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