Nawaz Sharif’s Dilemma: On the Edge

Above: Nawaz Sharif and Maryam on an Etihad Airways flight on the way to Lahore/Photo: Twitter Pakistan’s forthcoming elections are, in essence, a political verdict where court decrees are being used as instruments to keep Sharif and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, out of power. The next fortnight could reset Pakistan’s future direction By Raza Rumi in Lahore PAKISTAN’S thrice-elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has entered a decisive and somewhat unexpected phase of his career. As a protégé of the Pakistani state, especially its powerful military establishment, Sharif enjoyed patronage and support for decades that enabled him to rule the country’s largest province as chief minister and later as PM. On July 5, Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison with a fine of eight million pounds. The verdict was not entirely unexpected. It was widely anticipated that he would be sentenced for corruption. Sharif ’s daughter and likely successor, Maryam, along with her husband, Muhammad Safdar, were also sentenced. The anti-corruption court has also ordered the confiscation of the Sharif family’s four apartments at Avenfield House, London. For Maryam, this verdict was a major blow as it ends her immediate chance of holding office. She was due to contest elections from a safe seat in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province and Sharif ’s stronghold.…
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Vijay Mallya’s UK Assets: Giving the Slip Again

Above: Mallya at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London Though a UK high court has said that Vijay Mallya’s belongings in Britain could be seized, he has manipulated his business transactions in such a way that Indian banks can’t recover much By Sajeda Momin in London There must have been a lot of jubilation in those banks that lent a whopping Rs 9,000 crore to industrialist Vijay Mallya when a UK high court judge said that they could seize his belongings in Britain. If they thought they could recoup all their money, they were wrong as the wily businessman has managed to remain one step ahead of his creditors. Mallya officially owns so little in the UK that it is not even worth bothering about. It would be a drop in the ocean of what he owes back home in India. The high court order granted enforcement officers permission to enter the former liquor baron’s properties in Hertfordshire, about 30 miles north of London, and recover up to £1.14 billion (Rs 10,499 crore) worth of assets on behalf of the consortium of 13 Indian banks. The officers can use force if needed to enter Mallya’s country mansions, but interestingly, the order does not mention his London townhouse at all, nor does it allow for seizing of the properties.…
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Maldives: Cocking a Snook at India

Above: Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen (centre) is opposing India and harming New Delhi’s interests/Photo: UNI Thanks to support and funding from China, Maldives is flexing its muscles at Delhi and jeopardising the security environment in the Indian Ocean ~By Seema Guha Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Neighbourhood First policy, announced soon after he took office in 2014, was widely praised as a step in the right direction. It was high time India shifted focus to its immediate neighbours, more so as China was spreading its footprints across South Asia. However, four years down the line, the policy is virtually in tatters. While Pakistan has always been a problem and China too is a difficult neighbour, now it is tiny Maldives, virtually a stone’s throw away from the Indian mainland, that is giving Indian officials sleepless nights. Cocking a snook at its towering neighbour, its strongman, President Abdulla Yameen, remains defiant and is ready to take India head-on. For one, the Maldives has asked India to take back two helicopters gifted to the Maldives National Defence Force in 2013 along with the personnel deployed. Delhi had tried to persuade Male to keep the two helicopters but the Yameen government was adamant. Simultaneously, Male is delaying processing work visas of Indian nationals who want to work in various resorts ahead of the tourist season.…
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US Immigration Policy: Eugenics and White Supremacy

Above: Protests against separating children from their families/Photo: UNI The history of the statute that can make it a felony to illegally enter the country involves some dark corners of US history ~By Ian MacDougall Amid a bipartisan backlash, President Trump has tried repeatedly to shift blame to Democrats for his own administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which has resulted in more than 2,300 migrant children being taken from their families along the US-Mexico border. “The Democrats have to change their law—that’s their law,” Trump told reporters. The president didn’t specify which law he was talking about. But the statute at the centre of his administration’s policy is the work of Republicans—with origins dating back all the way to World War I—albeit with substantial Democratic support along the way. Known originally as the “Undesirable Aliens Act,” the statute would not exist without support from, respectively, a eugenicist and a white supremacist. The law in question was the foundation of a memo Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued in early April that laid out the administration’s new, zero-tolerance policy. In the memo, Sessions instructed federal prosecutors in the southwestern United States to file criminal charges against any adults caught entering the country illegally. His order stripped officials of discretion over whether to place migrant families seeking asylum into civil proceedings, which allow families to stay together.…
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Indian “Overstayers”: A Lesson for India

Above: The dream of many Indian students who want to study in the UK lies shattered, as of now The cancellation of an MoU with Britain has backfired on Indian students who want to study in universities there as they continue to be called “high risk” and face tough documentary checks ~By Sajeda Momin in London Indian students who were looking forward to a more relaxed visa process for coming to the United Kingdom (UK) for higher studies will be disappointed as they continue to be dubbed “high risk” and face rigorous checks and documentary requirements. They can blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi for their plight as he had at the last minute decided not to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the return of Indian “overstayers” in Britain during his visit to London in mid-April. In retaliation, the British government decided to keep India out of its new expanded list of “low risk” countries. The Home Office on June 16 announced a relaxation of the Tier 4 visa category for overseas students from another 11 countries—taking the total up to 25—that it considers “low risk”. However, it left India out of it, causing outrage in New Delhi and to some NRIs in London.…
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UAE Visas: A Fresh Wind is Blowing

Above: Those overstaying in the UAE have been given many concessions by the government Sweeping changes in labour and visa rules recently by this country have come as a boon to Indian workers and will also spur tourism, retail and the property market ~By Bikram Vohra in Dubai Every now and then, UAE authorities launch an initiative to clear the country of illegals. Most of them are from the subcontinent and Africa and spend their lives looking over their shoulders and avoiding being caught. Some have managed to sneak past the system for years and not gone home in a decade. Once caught without papers, they are kept in custody for a few days and then deported with a stamp on the passport and an iris scan that ensures they don’t re-enter the country. These illegals know that, so they test their luck and hang in there to send mo­ney home. Year after year. This despair to maintain the family is something that the Emiratis understand and empathise with, but the law has to be maintained. Even before new rules came into existence, the authorities would swiftly let an absconder get on a plane if he has not committed a crime and has walked into Immigration or a police station and surrendered voluntarily.…
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Indo-US-Russia Ties: Uneasy Tango

Above: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi recently/Photo: PIB India is caught between the US and Russia, its old ally, and despite American pressure, is unlikely to jeopardise this time-tested relationship and its own core interests ~By Seema Guha The growing warmth in Indo-US ties may take a hit over sanctions the US administration has slapped on Russia and Iran. The US has warned countries doing business with Moscow and Tehran that they would face consequences if they did not heed the American diktat. Fears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was plunging India into the US camp have subsided as Delhi has refrained from putting all its eggs into the American basket. Russia and Iran serve India’s core interests and Modi is not about to turn his back on either. In fact, on June 4, even as sanctions were on, India received its first consignment of gas from Russia’s state-owned Gazprom, one of the world’s major gas companies. The agreement signed by GAIL and Gazprom in 2012 envisages the import of liquefied natural gas worth $1.5 billion annually for 20 years. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan was effusive in his praise of Russia as he received the first consignment: “Today will be remembered as a golden day for India’s energy security road map.’’ He said this was in keeping with Prime Minister Modi and President Vladimir Putin’s vision of forging closer strategic economic cooperation between India and Russia.…
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Google, Facebook, Beware!

Above: FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra has issued a warning to corporate recidivists Citing lax treatment of corporate malefactors, the new Federal Trade Commissioner calls for the body to impose more significant penalties when companies violate its orders ~By Jesse Eisinger Declaring that “the credibility of law enforcement and regulatory agencies has been undermined by the real or perceived lax treatment of repeat offenders”, newly installed Democratic Federal Trade Commissioner Rohit Chopra is calling for much more serious penalties for repeat corporate offenders. “FTC orders are not suggestions,” he wrote in his first official statement, which was released on May 14. Many giant companies, including Facebook and Google, are under FTC consent orders for various alleged transgressions (such as, in Facebook’s case, not keeping its promises to protect the privacy of its users’ data). Typically, a first FTC action essentially amounts to a warning not to do it again. The second carries potential penalties that are more serious. Some critics charge that approach has encouraged companies to treat FTC and other regulatory orders casually, often violating their terms. They also say the FTC and other regulators and law enforcers have gone easy on corporate recidivists. In 2012, a Republican FTC Commis-sioner, J Thomas Rosch, dissented from an agency agreement with Google that fined the company $22.5 million for violations of a previous order even as it denied liability.…
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UK Visas: Ruddy Mess!

Above: A protest march by Indian-origin British citizens/Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@HighlySkilledUK The UK is once again facing an immigration scandal due to a reckless policy put in place by its prime minister which has also hit many Indian doctors ~By Sajeda Momin in London Anjali Sharma (name changed on request of anonymity) is a nervous wreck. She jumps every time there is a knock on her door. She is fully packed and waiting for British Home Office officials to come calling anyday and deport her back to India. Sharma has been living and working legally in London for the last six years as an administrator in a National Health Service Trust hospital, but due to one small error in her visa application she has been declared a criminal who should be sent back home. Sharma is one of about 1,000 highly skilled migrants from South Asia who are wrongly facing deportation due to the ‘‘abuse” of a section of the Immi­gration Act designed to tackle terrorism. Using the controversial Section 322(5) of the Act, which is meant to deal with terrorists or individuals judged to be a threat to national security, the Home Office is refusing Indefi­nite Leave to Remain (ILR) visas to teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and IT professionals, accusing them of lying in their applications either by making minor amendments to their tax records or having discrepancies in the declared income.…
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UK Visas: Ruddy Mess!

Above: A protest march by Indian-origin British citizens/Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@HighlySkilledUK The UK is once again facing an immigration scandal due to a reckless policy put in place by its prime minister which has also hit many Indian doctors ~By Sajeda Momin in London Anjali Sharma (name changed on request of anonymity) is a nervous wreck. She jumps every time there is a knock on her door. She is fully packed and waiting for British Home Office officials to come calling anyday and deport her back to India. Sharma has been living and working legally in London for the last six years as an administrator in a National Health Service Trust hospital, but due to one small error in her visa application she has been declared a criminal who should be sent back home. Sharma is one of about 1,000 highly skilled migrants from South Asia who are wrongly facing deportation due to the ‘‘abuse” of a section of the Immi­gration Act designed to tackle terrorism. Using the controversial Section 322(5) of the Act, which is meant to deal with terrorists or individuals judged to be a threat to national security, the Home Office is refusing Indefi­nite Leave to Remain (ILR) visas to teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and IT professionals, accusing them of lying in their applications either by making minor amendments to their tax records or having discrepancies in the declared income.…
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Sino-Indian Ties: A Change of Heart

Above: PM Modi meeting President Xi Jinping in Wuhan, China, on his recent visit/Photo: PIB There is a renewed bid to bring relations between India and China back on track so that past uncertainty and tensions do not derail the future   ~By Seema Guha Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s meeting this weekend in Wuhan, China, has helped clear the air between the two major Asian powers after a period of tense relations. Moreover, the 73-day military stand-off in Doklam showed how easily ties could take a dangerous turn, adding to the uncertainty in a volatile region. The big takeaway from Wuhan is the new political thrust to relations at the highest level. Unresolved problems will not disappear. But there will be a more measured response from both sides to these irritants. The exchange has helped both Modi and Xi get a perspective of each country’s strategic view for the next decade and more and could ensure that both are aware of each other’s sensitivity on issues impinging their country’s core interests. Moreover, the flux in the international order, the new cold war between the West and Russia, climate change and terrorism will be on the table. Though Doklam will not come up specifically, the need to preserve peace and tranquility on the disputed border will be part of the conversation.…
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Indo-Pak Stalemate: Testy Ties

Above: Sikh pilgrims at the Maharaja Ranjit Singh mausoleum in Lahore/Photo: UNI India and Pakistan continue to have frosty relations as visiting Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan are denied access to the high commissioner ~By Seema Guha Despite efforts last year to bring about warmth in Indo-Pak ties, the narrative remains unchanged. And it will continue to be so unless each country has stakes in the other. With no business or direct trade ties at present, there can be little hope of any breakthrough, more so because the peace constituency in both countries has considerably shrunk in the last year or more. The volley of accusations and countercharges by politicians and foreign officers of both countries continues. All this despite secret meetings between India’s National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, and his Pakistani counterpart, General (Retd) Nasser Khan Janjua, in Thailand last year and their frequent telephonic conversations. One wonders what they talk about when nothing changes on the ground. Hopes raised after the two sides agreed to follow the Geneva Protocol guidelines for diplomats in letter and spirit were soon belied with the latest round of intimidation of Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan. It is difficult to comprehend who is right and who is wrong with the nationalist press on both sides taking the cue from their respective foreign offices.…
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