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Pakistan ex-president Zardari faces travel ban over corruption | News

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Pakistan’s former president Asif Ali Zardari will be banned from travelling abroad following allegations of money laundering, according to the country’s information minister.

Fawad Chaudhry told reporters in Islamabad that Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur were among 172 people involved in cases of money laundering and use of fake bank accounts.

“All the 172 names … will be added to the ECL [Exit Control List],” he said.

Zardari, co-chairman of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party and president from 2008 to 2013, has long been the subject of corruption allegations and is widely known in Pakistan as “Mr Ten Percent”.

The announcement coincided with the 11th anniversary of the death of his spouse and two-time former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack during an election rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.

Earlier this week, Chaudhry said a joint investigation team (JIT) had found evidence of how Zardari allegedly laundered money through fake bank accounts and companies.

“I hope Zardari will now take the JIT seriously,” he said on Thursday, adding that his government would not spare anyone involved in plundering national wealth.

But Zardari dismissed the allegations, branding the government an instrument of the powerful military and calling Prime Minister Imran Khan the army’s “blue-eyed boy” at a rally marking his wife’s death in the Bhutto family’s ancestral town of Larkana, in southern Sindh province.

“They know nothing but how to appear on TV channels and make absurd comments and speeches.

They lack even basic intelligence,” he said of Khan’s government in unusually fiery comments.

Khan, who came to power in July, has vowed to end rampant corruption and recover billions syphoned from the country as his government scrambles to shore up Pakistan’s deteriorating finances and fast-depleting foreign exchange reserves.

Sharif’s sentence

Zardari’s travel ban comes days after former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption on Monday, the latest in a long string of court cases against him.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from politics for life over corruption allegations in 2017, ousting him from power. His Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was defeated by Khan in the July polls.

A Pakistani court established a commission in September to investigate corruption, finding that at least $400m had passed through “thousands of false accounts”, using the names of impoverished people.

The commission said about 600 companies and individuals “are associated with the scandal”.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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