Islamabad , Dec 11 (AP/UNB) — A Pakistani court ordered on Wednesday that ailing former President Asif Ali Zardari be released on bail on medical grounds, so that he can seek medical treatment at a hospital of his choice in the country.
The development came about five months after Zardari, the widower of the country's assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was arrested by Pakistan's anti-graft body in a multi-million dollar money laundering case.
Shortly after the court order, Zardari's son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who heads the key opposition Pakistan People's Party, claimed that the days of the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan were numbered. He told reporters that once he recovers, his father will launch a campaign to oust Khan's government.
Former President Zardari, a lawmaker in the lower house of Parliament, has been accused of having dozens of bogus bank accounts, a charge he denies, saying he was being politically victimized by Khan's government. Since coming to power, Khan has pledged that his government would make good on his election campaign promise to fight corruption on all fronts.
Zardari, who was arrested in June, was expected to to be freed later on Wednesday.
Pakistan's anti-graft body has arrested several politicians and businessmen on corruption charges since Khan took office last year after winning a narrow majority in parliamentary elections.
Khan's predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, was removed from office by the country's Supreme Court over corruption allegations in 2017. Sharif is currently undergoing medical tests in London after being released on bail on medical grounds.
Sharif and Zardari are longtime political rivals but their parties have vowed to launch protests against Khan's government over increasing inflation and a spike in prices of essential foods.
Zardari became president in 2008, after Pakistan's former military dictator Pervez Musharraf was forced to resign. Zardari's wife Benazir Bhutto served twice as a prime minister before being killed by the Taliban in 2007. Zardari served as Pakistan's president until 2013.
Myanmar's former pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday denied that her country's armed forces committed genocide against the Rohingya minority, telling the U.N.'s top court that the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Muslims was the unfortunate result of a battle with insurgents.
In a measured tone, Suu Kyi calmly refuted allegations that the army had killed civilians, raped women and torched houses in 2017 in what Myanmar's accusers describe as a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide that saw more than 700,00 Rohingya flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
She said the allegations stem from "an internal armed conflict started by coordinated and comprehensive armed attacks ... to which Myanmar's defense services responded. Tragically, this armed conflict led to the exodus of several hundred thousand Muslims."
Her appearance at the International Court of Justice was striking in that Suu Kyi was defending the very armed forces that had kept her under house arrest for about 15 years. She was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in absentia for championing democracy and rights under Myanmar's then-ruling junta. A small group of her supporters gathered Wednesday outside The Hague-based court.
Suu Kyi told the court that the African nation of Gambia, which brought the legal action against Myanmar on behalf of the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation, had provided "an incomplete and misleading factual picture" of what happened in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state in August 2017.
Gambia alleges that genocide was committed and is still ongoing. It has asked the world court to take action to stop the violence, including "all measures within its power to prevent all acts that amount to or contribute to the crime of genocide" in Myanmar.
But Suu Kyi said developments in one of Myanmar's poorest regions are "complex and not easy to fathom." She detailed how the army responded on Aug. 25, 2017, to attacks by insurgents trained by Afghan and Pakistan extremists.
Addressing the court in her capacity as Myanmar's foreign minister, Suu Kyi insisted that the country's armed forces had tried "to reduce collateral damage" during fighting in 12 locations. While conceding that excessive force might have been used and that one helicopter may have killed "non-combatants," Suu Kyi said a Myanmar investigation is looking into what happened and should be allowed to finish its work.
"Can there be genocidal intent on the part of a state that actively investigates, prosecutes and punishes soldiers and officers who are accused of wrongdoing?" she asked the court.
Suu Kyi and Myanmar's legal team argued that the genocide convention does not apply to Myanmar. They invoked Croatia during the Balkans wars in the 1990s, saying that no genocide was deemed there when thousands of people were forced from their homes by fighting.
On Tuesday, Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou urged the International Court of Justice to "tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people."
Also Tuesday, the U.S. slapped economic sanctions on four Myanmar military officers suspected of human rights violations. It sanctioned Min Aung Hlaing, commander of Myanmar's armed forces, over allegations of serious rights abuses. Deputy commander Soe Win and two other military leaders, Than Oo and Aung Aung, were also targeted.
"There are credible claims of mass-scale rape and other forms of sexual violence committed by soldiers under Min Aung Hlaing's command," a U.S. statement said.
The court's hearings on Myanmar are scheduled to end Thursday.
Kosovo's outgoing parliament speaker says he was questioned at a Netherlands-based court investigating crimes against ethnic Serbs during and after the country's 1998-99 war.
Speaker Kadri Veseli said late Tuesday he was questioned for three hours at The Hague court without giving details, but only adding that "the Kosovo people's war was for justice, freedom and independence."
Veseli has been one of the senior commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army fighting for independence in 1998-1999, when it was a Serbian province, against the then-Serb regime of the autocratic leader Slobodan Milosevic.
"We opposed Serbia's ethnic cleansing, the genocide," he told journalists. "The KLA fight has been a confrontation with the ethnic cleansing."
It wasn't clear whether Veseli was questioned as a witness or as a suspect.
Scores of other former KLA fighters, now senior officials, have been questioned this year.
In July, outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj resigned when he was summoned for questioning by the court and an early election was held in October.
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and a separate Specialist Prosecutor's Office were established in 2015 to examine war crimes allegations against the separatist KLA in fighting against the bloody Serb crackdown that ended after NATO intervention in 1999.
The court, which is part of the Kosovo judicial system despite being based in the Netherlands, has raised no charges so far.
Many in Kosovo consider the court as unfair while Serbia committed hundreds of massacres during the 1998-99 war which ended with a 78-day NATO air campaign.
Kosovo's 2008 independence has not been recognized by Serbia.
Switzerland's Green party failed Wednesday in a bid to enter the country's government even after they made significant gains in an election in October.
The left-leaning party claimed the right to a seat on the seven-member governing Federal Council after concerns about climate change helped it win over 13% of the vote to become the fourth-biggest party in parliament.
Switzerland has an unusual, consensus-oriented political system. Four parties ranging from the center-left Social Democrats to the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party, the country's strongest, are represented on the Federal Council. Swiss voters also have a direct say on policy issues in referendums several times every year.
Green chairwoman Regula Rytz on Wednesday challenged Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, whose pro-business Liberals finished only slightly ahead of her party in the election but have two seats in the government. But she was defeated by a margin of 145 to 82 in a vote in parliament.
That wasn't a surprise, since only one of the governing parties, the Social Democrats, said ahead of Wednesday's parliamentary session that it would support her.
Political change tends to be gradual in Switzerland and it is very unusual, though not unheard of, for sitting ministers to be voted off the Federal Council.
All of the current ministers were re-elected on Wednesday. The country's presidency rotates between the seven members of the Federal Council on an annual basis.
Aleem Dar will break the record of most tests as an umpire in the first match of the series between Australia and New Zealand starting Thursday.
The 51-year-old from Pakistan will stand in his 129th test as an on-field umpire, surpassing the previous record of Steve Bucknor.
Dar has been umpiring in tests since 2003, his first coming in the match between Bangladesh and England in Dhaka.
"This is one milestone I had never thought of when I began my umpiring career," Dar said. "It is a truly amazing feeling and a high point of my life when I take the field here in Australia, thousands of miles from where I started my international career at home in Gujranwala."
Having officiated in 207 one-day internationals since 2000, he is only two matches short of the record in that format held by Rudi Koertzen of South Africa. He has also umpired in 46 Twenty20 internationals.