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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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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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Russia denies inviting Imran Khan to Eastern Economic Forum

Russia has conveyed to India that it has not invited Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan/MOSCOW, Russia: Russia has denied inviting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) to be held in eastern Russian city of Vladivostok in September.

“We draw attention to the publications in a number of South Asian media that the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Imran Khan was invited to the events of the Eastern Economic Forum (WEF-5) in Vladivostok (September 4-6, this year) as the guest of honor. We would like to give some explanations in this regard… We expect that the President of Mongolia H. Battulga, Prime Minister of India N.Modi, Prime Minister of Malaysia M. Mohammad and the Prime Minister ofJapan S. Abe will arrive in the capital of Primorye,” stated Russian Foreign Ministry.

Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal on Tuesday also termed reports regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s participation in the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Russia as “speculative”.

Taking to Twitter, Dr Faisal said Pakistan and Russia remain in contact about engagement at the highest level.

“Any announcement in this regard would be made formally at [the] appropriate time,” he wrote.

Sources in the FO earlier told Pakistani media outlets that Prime Minister Imran Khan would join the EEF meeting in Russia on the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The invitation was extended by President Putin during the recently-held Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting that both leaders had attended, the sources had said.

Following the reports, however, Indian media outlets quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the Russian foreign ministry had dismissed reports that PM Imran had been invited for the forum in September, where The Economic Times said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the chief guest.

It was not clear whether the FO spokesperson was terming the reports in the Indian media as speculative or those published by the Pakistani media, or both.

His statement comes as Prime Minister Imran is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump on July 22 during an official working visit to Washington.

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