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Interpol removes Umar Farooq Zahoor from red notice list

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LONDON: Interpol has removed businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor from the list of internationally wanted persons (Red Notice) in a high-profile case started by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under former accountability adviser Shahzad Akbar.

The Interpol had added Dubai-based businessman Zahoor to the Red Notice database after an application moved by Zahoor’s former wife and actor Sophia Mirza (alias Khushbakhat Mirza) with help from Akbar who had tasked the FIA to go after the Dubai-based businessman at all costs.

The General Secretariat of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) in Lyon has confirmed that Zahoor is no longer subject to an Interpol Notice or diffusion.

Interpol has confirmed in a letter that “the Commission carried out the appropriate checks” in accordance with its functions and that the information concerning Zahoor provided by Pakistan has been deleted from the Interpol Information System at the request of its National Central Bureau on 28 September 2022.

Papers show that the Interpol Commission – made up of four members from US, UK, Lebanon, and Morocco –has deleted the Red Notice category for Zahoor after the FIA wrote to Interpol on September 26 confirming approval for the cancellation of the Red Notice, in a case started by FIA Punjab Zone-1.

Zahoor’s name was added to Interpol’s most wanted list after the FIA wrote to the international police making several allegations against Liberia’s Ambassador-At-Large for South East Asia, the Middle East, and Pakistan.

His name was removed from the Red List after the fresh investigation, conducted by the officers of FIA appointed by the new government, revealed that the allegations against Zahoor were frivolous and politically motivated.

Investigations established later on that the FIA was asked by Akbar to help Sophia Mirza, the former wife of Zahoor. The couple married in 2006, divorced within a year after the birth of twin daughters, and ever since they have fought a custody battle, while daughters Zainab and Zuneirah have publicly maintained they want to live with their father.

Umar Zahoor’s predicament started when the FIA Lahore Anti Human Trafficking Circle proceeded with the registration of a criminal case against Zahoor on the complaint of his ex-wife over allegations of kidnapping his own daughters. At the same time, the FIA Corporate Crime Circle Lahore also initiated an inquiry against Zahoor over allegations of fraud and money laundering of around Rs16 billion on the complaint of the same complainant Khushbakht Mirza. The complainant accused (Zahoor) of being involved in a fraud of $89.2 million in Oslo, Norway, in 2010 and another fraud involving an amount of $12 million in Bern, Switzerland, back in the year 2004.

The complaint made its way to the PTI government’s federal cabinet agenda via the Interior Ministry, being run by then Chairman of Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) Mirza Shehzad Akbar, and the federal government gave a go-ahead to the FIA to probe the alleged fraud of over Rs16 billion by Zahoor and his relative Saleem Ahmad.

In the pursuance of the false and frivolous criminal cases registered against Zahoor: his name was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL); non-bailable warrants in one of the FIRs were obtained from the Court without fulfilling the legal requirements and on the basis of said non-bailable warrants, his passport and CNIC were blacklisted and Red Warrants were issued through INTERPOL by National Crime Bureau (NCB) Pakistan for arresting Mr Zahoor. The Constitution of INTERPOL does not permit is the issuance of red notices in family and civil disputes, however; the FIA added heinous offences in the FIR registered against  Zahoor in order to apprehend him through Interpol.

Interpol confirmed that it had received requests from the government of Pakistan in the year 2020 to issue Yellow Notices against the minor daughters of actor Sophia Mirza and businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor.

The Interpol has further confirmed that international Yellow Notices for twins Zainab Umar and Zuneirah Umar were issued and their names were placed on the Interpol database for international tracing after two requests from the FIA were received on April 30, 2020 and then again in July 2020 on the request of Sophia Mirza who wanted her daughters to be traced by the Interpol and taken back to Pakistan.

Names of Zuneirah Umar and Zainab Umar were later deleted in July 2021 after an investigation by Interpol revealed that the legal custody of both the daughters had already been granted to Umar Farooq Zahoor being their father and legal guardian by the Shariah Court of Dubai.

The two letters issued by the Office of Legal Affairs General Secretariat of Interpol confirm that Zuneirah and Zainab, both of whom are 15 years old, are no longer “subject to an INTERPOL Notice or diffusion”.

In a statement, Zahoor welcomed the Interpol decision. He said: “I am glad the Interpol and the FIA have finally realised that the cases against me were cooked up by Sophia and Akbar. They used the money and resources of Pakistani taxpayers to target me in a family dispute case. For two years, they used the FIA and other institutions against me like a mafia. They used the media to run campaigns against me and did everything to destroy me but the Almighty Allah is there for all to protect.”

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government contests Imran Khan and Qureshi’s exoneration in the cipher case

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On Thursday, the federal government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court contesting the exoneration of former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the well-known cipher case.

Citing procedural and jurisdictional issues, the Ministry of Interior has appealed the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) ruling.

In hearing the cipher case, the High Court allegedly overreached its power, arguing that judges cannot change laws where Parliament has not expressly passed legislation.

Despite receiving government-funded legal representation, the petition emphasized Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s lack of cooperation during the trial, submitting 65 separate motions and neglecting to cross-examine witnesses.

The petition contended that in order for a retrial to satisfy legal standards, the High Court should have ignored important evidence that was given during the trial. It requests that the appeals contesting the IHC’s June 3 acquittal be given a hearing date by the Supreme Court.

Case history

The cipher issue concerns a supposed diplomatic document that disappeared from Imran Khan’s custody. The cipher allegedly contained threats from the US to remove Khan from office, according to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Shah Mehmood Qureshi and several aides, including Asad Umar, are named in the First Information Report (FIR) submitted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in accordance with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act.

The then-foreign secretary received a diplomatic cipher from Washington on March 7, 2022, according to the FIR. The lawsuit claims that by manipulating the data for their own benefit, Khan and Qureshi put the safety of the country at risk. It alleges that on March 28, 2022, Khan secretly met at his Bani Gala home and gave his Principal Secretary, Muhammad Azam Khan, instructions to change the content of the cipher to his advantage, jeopardizing national security.

The document asserts that Khan still has custody of the cipher, jeopardizing Pakistan’s encrypted messaging systems and possibly helping foreign forces, which would be detrimental to the nation. A complaint has been filed by the FIA’s Anti-Terrorism Wing against Khan, Qureshi, and other individuals for improper use of state secrets and unapproved possession of the cipher.

Acquittal by the Islamabad High Court

In the cipher case, on June 3, the IHC cleared Khan and Qureshi when Justice Aamir Farooq issued a succinct ruling in their favor. Their sentences were appealed in the case, which has since been a source of political and legal controversy, leading to their acquittal.

This acquittal and the ongoing legal and political struggles surrounding the cipher case are highlighted by the government’s subsequent move to contest it.

With potentially huge ramifications for the parties involved and the larger political scene, the Supreme Court’s decision over whether to hear the appeal will be keenly scrutinized.

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi urges political stability in order to accelerate economic expansion.

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the former prime minister, emphasized on Thursday how important political stability is to Pakistan’s economic development and how the nation cannot prosper without it.

His concern was that export growth had not progressed, and he emphasized that stability in the current climate is vital to draw investments and carry out the necessary reforms.

In his criticism of the tax system, Abbasi brought up the erratic nature of tax laws and the transient nature of the most recent tax slab implementation. Insisting that difficult choices are unavoidable for economic recovery, he emphasized the necessity of designing a tax system that is equitable and does not burden the people.

Furthermore, arguing that the effectiveness of organizations like the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is essential for economic governance and transparency, Abbasi urged for changes within these and other organizations.

Abbasi, in his discussion of more comprehensive fiscal plans, suggested that the National Finance Commission (NFC) award be reviewed again and that power distribution companies (DISCOs) be decentralized to the provinces.

In order to reduce inefficiencies and corruption at the provincial level, he recommended looking into ways to share the cost of defense spending and decentralize the management of energy resources.

In closing, Abbasi emphasized that Pakistan’s economic trajectory will stay stagnant unless comprehensive changes are implemented immediately. To move the nation towards sustainable progress, he urged policymakers to give stability and structural reforms first priority.

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Through in-app QR payments, Zindigi and SBP streamline transactions involving sacrificial animals.

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With its in-app QR code payment system based on Raast, Zindigi—powered by JS Bank—has elevated the convenience of cashless payments for the procurement of sacrificial animals to a whole new level for Eid ul Adha.

This program uses QR code payments to streamline transactions for sacrificed animals for the general public and traders. It is a component of the State Bank of Pakistan’s Raast quick payment service.

This feature enables users of Zindigi and users of any digital banking apps or wallets to safely and easily make payments at certain cattle markets throughout Pakistan using Zindigi QR. The consumer must scan the QR code of the livestock merchant and pay the transaction amount in order to complete the payment.

In order to further financial inclusion and digital innovation in Pakistan’s developing economy, Zindigi and the State Bank of Pakistan have partnered. Both organizations are committed to improving the efficiency and accessibility of financial services, especially on holidays such as Eid ul Adha, by utilizing the most recent developments in fintech.

One of the most important steps toward promoting financial inclusion and economic empowerment at the local level is the integration of livestock markets into the digital economy. Farmers and retailers may take charge of their financial operations and help realize the larger goal of an inclusive digital Pakistan by adopting digital payments.

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