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Terrorism inquiry opened against Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N

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LAHORE, Pakistan: A criminal investigation has been opened against leaders of the disgruntled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders under an anti-terrorism law. The case was opened only 10 days before the country’s general election, police official documents say.

PML-N staged a rally on July 13, when party supremo Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan, which defied a ban on holding public rallies on a Friday. Nawaz was handed a 11-year prison term by an accountability court on July in Avenfield reference on July 6. He returned to the country on July 13 to face prison term.

Two separate First Information Reports (FIR) named PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif, brother of Nawaz Sharif, and a number of other key figures. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has also been named in the FIRs.

The FIRs cite section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which has broad provisions defining terrorism to include creating public fear, and lists 10 alleged violations of ordinary criminal law including unlawful assembly.

“We are taking action against PML-N leaders,” the caretaker home minister of Punjab, Shaukat Javed, told Reuters on Sunday. “But no one will be arrested before the elections.”

He said that including the terrorism charges was a “mistake” that would be corrected later.

Shehbaz Sharif led Friday’s march across the city of Lahore, in which tens of thousands of people took part, intending to send a message to rivals that the popular vote is still with the PML-N ahead of the July 25 election.

National polls indicate a close race between the ruling PML-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, or Pakistan Justice Movement) led by former cricket star Imran Khan, with the Pakistan Peoples Party in third place.

Sharif, who was removed from office by the Supreme Court last year and sentenced this month to 10 years in prison for corruption, alleges the military is aiding a “judicial witch-hunt” to prevent the PML-N from winning a second term.

The party’s past five years in government have been characterized by discord with the military, which has ruled Pakistan for nearly half its 71-year history.

The Sharifs’ return could shake up an election riven by accusations the military is working behind the scenes to skew the contest in favor of Khan, who describes Sharif as a “criminal” deserving no support.

Musadik Malik, a senior PML-N official and member of the Senate, said the FIRs were part of a pattern that included pressuring candidates to change to PTI and corruption cases against other party leaders.

“This FIR is just another attempt of intimidation and political victimization,” Malik said.

Malik said the PML-N rally was overwhelmingly peaceful and any ban on gatherings so close to the election was unfair.

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Independence Day: Sale of Kashmiri flags on the rise

Sale of Kashmiri flags, badges and other decoration items have gained impetus ahead of Independence Day after the federal government had announced to observe August 14 as Kashmir Solidarity Day.

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MUZAFFARABAD, Azad Kashmir/KARACHI, Pakistan: Sale of Kashmiri flags, badges and other decoration items have gained impetus ahead of Independence Day after the federal government had announced to observe August 14 as Kashmir Solidarity Day, ARY News reported on Thursday.

As marking of 73rd Independence Day is right around the corner, the preparations have gained momentum as a huge rush of people were seen at different stalls of Kashmiri flags, national flags buntings, badges, set up by vendors in different areas of Karachi.

READ MORE: Top 10 schools of Pakistan (2018-19)

All Karachi Tajir Ittehad Chairman Ateeq Meer said that people are very enthusiastic and passionate for purchasing celebratory items to mark Independence Day.

It must be noted that government has decided to observe Independence Day; 14 August, as Kashmir Solidarity Day and 15th of this month as Black Day to express harmony and solidarity with Kashmiris in their recent plight caused by the Indian government.

The national flag will fly half-mast on 15th of this month. A notification to this effect has been issued by the Ministry of Interior.

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Pakistan News

Maryam’s interview “stopped forcefully:” Nadeem Malik

An interview of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a vice president of the PML-N, was “forcefully” taken off air soon after it was run, it was reported on Thursday.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: An interview of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif was taken off air forcefully seconds after it started.

“Just came to know Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s interview has been stopped forcefully just [a] few minutes after it started live,” tweeted show host Nadeem Malik.

Hum News, the channel on which the interview was aired for a few brief moments, released a statement shortly after the incident, saying: “Hum News believes in a free and responsible media. Protecting freedom of expression is one of our core values. At the same time, we stand for the respect and dignity of [the] judiciary in line with our ethical values and the Constitution.”

The development comes days after AbbTakk TV24 News, and Capital TV all had their broadcasts cut after screening a press conference by Maryam Nawaz.

Authorities say the three channels were unavailable due to “technical issues”, but Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a global media watchdog, described the outage as an act of “brazen censorship”.

It slammed the local authorities over the removal of three television channels from the country’s airwaves, saying the move was “indicative of disturbing dictatorial tendencies” as pressure mounts on journalists in Pakistan.

READ MORE: Arrest me if you want to, I won’t run away like your master Musharraf: Hamid Mir

Maryam is the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — who is currently behind bars for corruption — and a recent press conference she hosted featured a judge reportedly claiming he had been blackmailed into convicting the former premier.

The move came as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration vowed to block any media coverage and interviews of politicians “who are convicts and under trial”.

Earlier this month, Geo News TV abruptly took an interview with former president Asif Ali Zardari off air shortly after it began.

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Several dead and dozens injured in Pakistan train collision

A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.

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RAHIM YAR KHAN, Pakistan: A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.

The incident on Thursday took place at the Walhar railway station, located about 35km south of Rahim Yar Khan.

“The Akbar Express [passenger train] going from Bahawalpur to Quetta hit a freight train that was parked there at 7.40am,” a local police official told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

Senior police official Umar Salamat told local media the collision took place because the passenger train was diverted onto the incorrect track at the station, hitting the parked freight train.

Rescue operations were under way at the collision site, with workers using equipment to get to some of those trapped in the train wreckage, local media reported.

The injured were taken to a nearby government hospital and to a more advanced facility in Rahim Yar Khan, hospital officials said.

Nine of the dead were taken to the government hospital, with more than 60 people injured in the wreck also treated there, Liaquat Chohan, a senior hospital official, told Al Jazeera.

“The injuries were of multiple types – many had fractures, others had bleeding wounds. Some were crushed under objects,” he said.

At least one dead body was also taken to the Sheikh Zayed hospital in Rahim Yar Khan, where 11 of those wounded in the accident were being treated, hospital official Ilyas Ahmer told Al Jazeera.

“One person’s leg was cut off [in the collision], and another is having serious chest surgery,” he said.

‘Emergency steps’

Pakistan’s aging railway network carries both passengers and goods across the country, but suffers periodic derailments and other accidents due to aging infrastructure.

A major Chinese investment in the country is seeking to upgrade the main railway line that connects the length of the country, raising speeds and safety standards.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his condolences for those who were killed and injured, and ordered Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad to speed up work on the country’s rail infrastructure.

“Have asked Railways Minister to take emergency steps to counter decades of neglect of railway infrastructure & ensure safety standards,” Khan tweeted after the accident.

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