THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW
Ousted Pakistani prime minister formally indicted on corruption charges
Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will today be formally indicted on charges of corruption. The case began in April 2016, when the Panama Papers raised strong allegations of corruption against him and his family.
In July 2017, the Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Mr Nawaz from the prime ministership and ordered the National Accountability Bureau to file corruption and money laundering charges.
Arrest warrants were issued for three of Mr Nawaz’s children who are in London supporting his wife as she undergoes cancer treatment. The Nawaz family has consistently rejected the charges as politically motivated and used a recent by-election to rally public support.
The trial comes on the same day as the ruling PML-N introduces legislation that would allow disqualified legislators to head a political party. The bill will clear the way for Mr Nawaz to return as party president.
The National Accountability Bureau has 6 months to complete proceedings. If found guilty, Mr Nawaz faces a sentence of 14 years imprisonment and a lifetime ban on holding public office. If acquitted, however, expect Mr Nawaz to use his position as party president to become the puppet master of PML-N politics.
Prime minister to hold unity talks with Gazan rulers Hamas
Rami Hamdallah will travel to Gaza today to advance a fresh effort at reconciling Fatah and Hamas. The two rival administrations have been split since a civil war in 2007.
Mr Hamdallah’s trip to Gaza will be his first in two years. It follows Hamas’ surprising announcement by earlier this month that it will dissolve its administration and embrace fresh efforts at reunification with Fatah.
Hamas’ motivations for reconciliation are pragmatic; economic and social conditions in Gaza are abominable. Severe poverty, an unemployment rate over 40%, poor water quality and access, and limited electricity have caused a state of desperation in the territory. Restrictions imposed on Gaza by Fatah earlier this year, and blockades by Egypt and Israel, have contributed to these conditions.
Despite Hamas’ stated willingness to reconcile with Fatah, reunification remains difficult. Discussions between the two have broken down six times in the past decade, with Hamas’ unwillingness to concede its military control over Gaza a key sticking point. As Hamas’ position on the issue is unlikely to have changed, this olive branch is likely a ploy to relieve pressure.
Delve deeper: Palestine: A long road to unity
Donald Trump hosts Thai leader as relations improve
US President Donald Trump hosts Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in the White House today. The visit represents a warming of what has been a strained relationship between the two countries in recent years.
Following the 2014 military coup that installed Prayuth as Thailand’s authoritarian leader, the US suspended a third of its military aid—about $3.5 million—and imposed restrictions on the sale of arms to the country. To fill the void, Bangkok turned to China, inking millions worth of arms deals to procure main battle tanks and submarines.
Mr Prayuth will hope that Trump’s invitation will mark a reversal in US policy and help legitimise his government while leading opposition parties and human rights organisations warned that the visit will accelerate the removal of democracy and civil liberties in Thailand.
Trump, on the other hand, will likely prioritise the North Korea issue. The US has previously accused Thailand of allowing North Korean front companies to operate in the country, despite Prayuth’s regime claiming trade between the two states has fallen by 94% this year. Washington is expected to encourage regional states to further “freeze out” North Korea, an endeavour in which Trump will expect Thailand to play a leading role in.