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Shahbaz Sharif is accused of misusing his authority as the chief minister of Punjab Province from 2013 to 2018. (file photo)

A Pakistani court has ordered that opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif be remanded in custody for 10 days after being arrested in a corruption case, meaning he will not be able to campaign for his party ahead of crucial by-elections next week.

The National Accountability Bureau said in a statement that it arrested Sharif on October 5 over corruption charges relating to a multimillion dollar housing scheme.

Sharif is accused of misusing his authority as the chief minister of Punjab Province from 2013 to 2018 by influencing authorities to award contracts for a government-run housing program for low-income citizens to a company with which he had political affiliations.

Sharif's lawyer Azam Nazir Tarar said on October 6 that the court ordered his client be remanded in custody for 10 days to be interrogated.

"They cannot arrest the leader of the opposition in this manner," Tarar said.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party, which Shahbaz Sharif heads, said the arrest was politically motivated and was intended to weaken the party before by-elections scheduled for October 14.

The by-elections are for 11 parliamentary seats and 19 provincial assembly seats.

Hundreds of PML-N supporters gathered outside the court, chanting pro-Sharif slogans as police and soldiers guarded the venue.

Sharif is the younger brother of former ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified from office by the Supreme Court last year over corruption allegations.

An accountability court in July sentenced the former leader and his daughter to 10-year and seven-year terms in prison, respectively, over the purchase of luxury apartments in London in the 1990s.

They have denied wrongdoing.

Nawaz Sharif was arrested 10 days before the July 25 general election, which was won by cricket star turned politician Imran Khan, who now leads the new government.

Nawaz Sharif was released from prison last month pending an appeal.

The PML-N came in second place in the election, but the party denounced the polls as rigged, alleging that the military and courts tipped the scale in favor of Khan's party, a charge the army and judiciary deny.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
Romanians Vote In Referendum To Define Marriage
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Romanians began voting on whether to change the constitution to strictly ban same-sex marriage in a two-day referendum in the conservative country.

The proposed amendment would change the constitutional definition of marriage from a union of "spouses," to one exclusively of a man and a woman to prevent any attempt to legalize same-sex marriage through legislation in the future.

A conservative group initiated the referendum, which is being held on October 6-7, and the influential Romanian Orthodox Church and all but one parliamentary party is backing the change.

Romania is one of the only members of the European Union to ban marriage or civil partnerships for same sex couples. Romania decriminalized homosexuality in 2001, but discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community is widespread.

"Many fear what has happened in other countries," the leader of the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, told television station Romania TV.

Opponents say the new constitutional language is an attempt to make LGBT people feel more like second-class citizens and warned that approval would push the country onto a populist, authoritarian track.

The government's decision to press ahead with the referendum has alarmed Brussels, with the EU Commission's deputy chief, Frans Timmermans, reminding Bucharest of its human rights commitments.

"I don't want family values to be transformed into arguments that encourage the darkest demons and hatred against sexual minorities," he said.

Hate And Debate Ahead Of Romania's Gay-Marriage Vote
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The referendum requires a 30 percent turnout of registered voters to be valid.

A poll released on October 5 by CURS estimated a turnout of 34 percent with 90 percent in favor of the change.

A group called the Coalition for the Family collected 3 million signatures to enable the amendment.

The lower house of parliament voted in favor last year and the senate followed in September, making the referendum the last needed stage.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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