Posts Tagged ‘Nawaz Sharif’

Pakistan: Former President calls Imran Khan Government ‘Incompetent’

October 22, 2018

Terming the present government “incompetent”, former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has called upon all political parties to unite on one platform to declare that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government cannot run the country.

Govt ‘incompetent’ to run country, says Zardari. — Dawn

“Political forces will have to be united and pass a resolution that the present government cannot last long and is not capable of running the country,” Mr Zardari said in a vague term while speaking at a brief news conference after attending a lawyers’ convention organised by the Peoples Lawyers Forum (PLF) here on Sunday.

Responding to a question about the possibility of his meeting with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, he said that presently he was facing cases that had been initiated during the previous government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). However, he did not rule out the possibility of such a meeting. “The case which I am facing today was initiated by Nawaz Sharif. But it does not mean that a meeting cannot take place,” he said.

Mr Zardari, who did not appear to be in good health, evaded a response to the reported statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he had alleged that conspiracies were being hatched against his government. “Islamabad is always a centre of conspiracies,” he said with a meaningful smile.

Peoples Lawyers’ convention seeks right of appeal in suo motu cases, change in process for judges’ appointment; condemns NAB for ‘targeting’ opposition

Asked if the PPP would become part of any move to dislodge the government, he simply said: “We will decide when the time will come.”

The PPP leader said that when his party had acquired power in 2008, the country was facing a similar economic situation, but they neither depreciated the currency nor allowed price hike. He said the PPP government had introduced a number of “futuristic policies”, but these were stopped by the PML-N government. Calling Imran Khan “prime minister-select”, he said they had no expectations from the government.

Flanked by PPP secretary general Nayyar Bokhari and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Mr Zardari said talks about deals like the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which had been offered by then military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, were nothing but political stunt. Moreover, he said he had never benefited from any NRO and got himself acquitted after facing all the cases in courts.

In reply to a question, the PPP leader said he had never criticised National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal, though he objected to his policies and the manner of work. Agreeing that his party was involved in the appointment of the NAB chairman, he said: “Sometimes people with low mentality occupy big positions. When they get powers, they cannot handle it.”

Mr Zardari said that when he had become the country’s president, he transferred all the powers to parliament.

PLF resolution

Earlier, Nayyar Bokhari read out a 10-point resolution which was unanimously adopted by the participants of the lawyers convention presided over by PLF president Latif Khosa and attended by Asif Zardari as chief guest.

“The lawyers’ community as a whole and PLF feel that exercise of direct jurisdiction under Article 184(3) by the Supreme Court should be subjected to an appeal and, therefore, demands that the apex court in the Supreme Court Rules 1980 and the Parliament provide the right of appeal under Article 184(3) of the Constitution so as to comprehensively safeguard the rights of the people of Pakistan,” said the resolution.

Through the resolution, the PLF reiterated and reaffirmed “the principles of democracy, empowerment of the people of Pakistan through the provincial autonomy as enforced through the unanimously passed 18th Amendment in the Constitution and demands its implementation in letter and spirit”.

“Whereas justice delayed is justice denied it is a matter of grave concern that the pendency of cases for over decades has assumed an alarming proportion and hence the need of a regular judicial system in the hierarchy headed by the Supreme Court and a constitutional court has become imminent and appropriate legislation as envisaged by the PPP manifesto be promulgated to ensure expeditious justice to the people,” read the resolution.

It said: “The appointment in the judiciary has noticeably not brought about the desired results which requires a competitive and transparent induction of the best legal brains in the administration of justice and hence necessary amendments in law and Constitution be made by the appropriate authorities/legislatures to ensure a competitive, merit-based mechanism to ensure the best of the best judges are entrusted with the sacred duty of administering justice.”

The PLF convention expressed “grave concern” over the working of NAB, stating that “NAB has been acting in a very arbitrary, whimsical, capricious, discriminatory and autocratic manner. Even the Supreme Court time and again has noticed that NAB has no right to disgrace, humiliate and scandalise any person as compliant verification, inquiry or investigation and even trial don’t warrant any inference of guilt unless so judicially determined”.

The resolution said that “warrants of arrest by NAB are issued only against leaders of opposition while the ruling elite are exempted obviously leading to the inference that NAB is partisan which this house condemns”.

The participants of the convention declared that “the present government resulting out of a dubious electoral process has in the very short span of time exposed its complete incapacity to regulate the affairs of the state. The policies so far initiated have resulted in a colossal mess up and aggravated the economic crises. The price spiral has unprecedentedly depreciated the currency and resulted in price hike inflicting a bombshell on the people of Pakistan throwing not only the have-nots but the people into the abysmal dismay of poverty”.

“It is high time that the government in power resorts to consultative process of the issues in the Parliament taking the entire nation into confidence and taking decisions with consensus instead of the blame-game and the immaturity reflected so far from top to bottom in the government hierarchy,” the resolution said.

The participants urged the chief justice of Pakistan to ensure early hearing of the reference filed by Mr Zardari seeking to revisit the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2018


Pakistan’s Imran Khan Sparked Arrest of Shahbaz Sharif in Political Victimisation of Opponents, Nawaz Sharif Says

October 9, 2018

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) central executive committee in an ‘emergency meeting’ on Monday decided to launch a protest movement against what it termed political victimisation of opponents by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led coalition government.

While resuming his political activity weeks after his release from jail, ousted prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif chaired the CEC meeting and directed the party’s parliamentary group (comprising senior members of both houses of parliament) to establish contacts with all opposition parties immediately to have them onboard for launch of a joint struggle.

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Nawaz Sharif — FILE photo

The PML-N had earlier said Mr Nawaz wouldn’t resume political activities till the Chehlum of his wife who died last month, but the ‘sudden and unexpected’ arrest of party president Shahbaz Sharif compelled him to get into action and deal with the challenges the party has been facing.

While presiding over the CEC meeting at PML-N’s Model Town secretariat, Mr Nawaz alleged that Mr Shahbaz had been arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

PML-N plans movement against ‘political victimisation’ of opposition members

The committee passed several resolutions condemning the arrest of its leadership days before the Oct 14 by-elections, huge increase in gas and electricity tariff that resulted in inflation, threatening tone used by the PTI leadership against its political opponents, and PTI’s intention to review China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

“After taking input from CEC members, Nawaz Sharif directed the party’s parliamentary group to establish contact with opposition parties in coming days to have them onboard for a joint struggle to deal with Imran Khan’s aggressive action plan to target opposition members,” said a CEC member after the meeting.

He said the CEC members were of the opinion that if the PML-N and other opposition parties did not resist the ‘political victimisation’ jointly, this would continue.

The meeting decided that in the first phase of the protest movement, the party would launch agitation against ‘political victimisation’ of the Sharif family and opposition members in and outside the parliament.

In one of its resolutions, the PML-N’s CEC termed the arrest of Mr Shahbaz a ‘political revenge’ and demanded his immediate release. “Before the Oct 14 by-polls the arrest of Shahbaz is part of a planned conspiracy to benefit the PTI. The mala fide intention of the government and NAB can be gauged from the fact that he has been arrested without a reference is filed against him in this (Ashiyana) case,” it said.

Another resolution condemned PM Khan’s threatening tone towards the PTI’s political opponents, bureaucracy and businessmen. “The language used by Imran Khan in a presser in Lahore is not worthy of a prime minister.” The resolution also chided the government for huge increase in gas and electricity tariff that resulted in inflation and increase in prices of commodities.

The meeting adopted another resolution against the PTI government’s intention to review CPEC projects, demanding it must carefully handle this matter as China was Pakistan’s time-tested friend. The PTI ministers’ controversial comments in this regard were against the national interest, it added.

Protests planned 

Talking to reporters after the meeting, PML-N’s MNA Rana Sanaullah said the party would stage protest demonstrations outside the National Assembly and Punjab Assembly on Wednesday if their sessions were not called by then.

“If you [the PM] did not pay attention to this protest, then this protest would not remain confined to the parliament,” he warned. He demanded Mr Shahbaz, who was leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, should be brought to the NA session.

“What message Imran Khan has given to the construction companies after the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif. Now a good construction firm will be reluctant to work on government projects,” he said, adding that NAB had always been used for political victimisation.

PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan said NAB should also lay hand on Prime Minister Imran Khan and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak for their alleged role in the Peshawar metro bus scandal if the bureau wanted to prove its impartiality.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the meeting was primarily called to discuss the situation after the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif and formulate the party’s strategy. “Shahbaz Sharif has been arrested as part of PTI’s policy of political victimisation of its opponents,” she said.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told the media that action against corrupt elements would continue and the government would not come under pressure from the opposition. “No matter how much you [opposition members] cry, the accountability process will not stop,” he declared.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2018

Pakistan opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif arrested ahead of polls

October 5, 2018

Pakistani opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif was arrested on Friday in a longstanding corruption case, the country’s anti-graft agency said, nine days before crucial by-elections are due to be held.

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Shehbaz Sharif — FILE photo

His brother, ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was sentenced earlier this year to 10 years in prison by the same agency after the Supreme Court removed him from power.

Friday’s arrest, by agents of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Lahore, involved a case of alleged corruption in a low-cost housing scheme, called Aashyana (Shelter), when Shehbaz Sharif was chief minister of Punjab province.

“NAB Lahore has arrested former chief minister of Punjab Shehbaz Sharif in Aashyana company case. NAB will produce the former chief minister of Punjab in the honorable accountability court tomorrow,” a statement from the agency said.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry welcomed the arrest and offered the agency any help it needed.

“This step today is a big step,” he told reporters. New Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party campaigned on an anti-corruption platform.

Nawaz Sharif has denounced corruption cases against him and his party’s leaders as politically motivated, and both brothers deny any wrongdoing. Nawaz Sharif was released from prison last month pending an appeal against his conviction.

The former prime minister 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.

The Sharifs’ Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz came in second place in the election. Their party, along with all other major opposition parties, denounced the polls as rigged, alleging the military and courts of tipping the scale in favor of Khan’s party.

The Sharifs’ party accused the new government of using the anti-corruption agency for political victimization.

“The government is afraid that the PML-N isn’t broken despite all the cheap tactics,” party spokeswoman Maryam Aurangzeb said, adding: “It is an attempt to influence the by-election.”

By-elections to fill 11 parliamentary seats and 19 provincial assembly seats are scheduled for Oct. 14. Those seats remain empty because of court-ordered delays and the ability of leading candidates to run in several constituencies at once, but only represent one.

The by-elections could affect the slim majority Khan’s coalition government holds in parliament, though many of the constituencies are considered strongholds of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

The contests are considered to be closer in the provincial assemblies and could result in the PML-N winning back control of Punjab.


Additional Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore. Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Nick Macfie

Cyril Almeida broke no law, says PPP chairman

September 26, 2018

Pakistan Peo­ples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has expressed surprise and dismay on the issuance of an arrest warrant against Dawn assistant editor Cyril Almeida by the Lahore High Court.

“Treating Mr Almeida like he is a criminal and trying him for treason no less is shocking! This adds on to the perception that media is under siege in Pakistan. Mr Almeida was doing his job — nothing less, nothing more,” said the PPP chairman in a statement.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that the Pakistani media was already facing the worst kind of censorship. “Dictators who have abrogated the Constitution and have actually committed treason are roaming free while journalists who are only doing their jobs are being tried for treason,” he regretted.

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Pakistan Peo­ples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari

The PPP chairman said that Mr Almeida broke no law by interviewing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “Why should a journalist not interview someone? What law stops a journalist from interviewing a politician?” he asked.

The PPP, he added, stood by freedom of expression and wanted a free media in Pakistan. “Democracy without a free media is a sham democracy,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also expressed concern over the issuance of a non-bailable arrest warrant against Mr Almeida and the placement of his name on the no-fly list, terming the decision “regrettable”.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, HRCP chairman Dr Mehdi Hasan stated: “The HRCP is greatly perturbed to learn that the LHC has issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for journalist Cyril Almeida, requiring him to appear at the next hearing of a case seeking action against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on charges of treason.”

The HRCP termed the court’s decision “regrettable”, adding that “Mr Almeida, a widely read and highly respected journalist, is being hounded for nothing more than doing his job — speaking on the record to a political figure and reporting the facts”. As a law-abiding citizen, it added, Mr Almeida had no reason not to appear before the court as directed. Placing him on the Exit Control List (ECL) and issuing a non-bailable warrant is an “excessive measure”, said the HRCP.

‘The ease with which Mr Almeida’s interview with the former Prime Minister was perceived as an attempt to allegedly defame state institutions, and the pace at which this has spiralled into charges of treason, only serve to further choke press freedom in Pakistan,” the statement read.

While remarking that “journalism — sensible, rational, independent journalism — is not a crime or treason”, the HRCP urged the court to give Mr Almeida the opportunity to appear at the scheduled hearing of his own volition and to have his name removed from the ECL immediately.

In Islamabad, addressing the inaugural meeting of a recently-established National Interfaith Working Group by the HRCP on Tuesday, Awami National Party (ANP) leader Bushra Gohar said that freedom of religion and speech was a fundamental right of every citizen of Pakistan, but unfortunately it was not being granted.

“As we see Cyril Almeda, a journalist working with Dawn, facing the court for reporting a story, which is his job but at the same time a dictator is being facilitated by the courts,” she said, adding that these were the ground realities about the state of freedom of expression in practice.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2018


Pakistan court issues arrest warrant for journalist amid press crackdown

September 26, 2018

A court in Pakistan has issued an arrest warrant for a prominent journalist over an article he wrote in May, stoking concerns about diminishing press freedoms following a military-led crackdown on the media during elections earlier this year.

Cyril Almeida, an editor and columnist at one of Pakistan’s most respected English-language dailies, is accused of treason for a story filed in May 11, 2018, in which former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was quoted speaking out against Pakistan’s handling of the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attack in India.
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Cyril Almeida
In a statement Monday the Lahore High Court said Almeida had been summoned three times to appear before the bench but had failed to make an appearance. As a result, it was “left with no option” other than to issue a non-bailable arrest warrant.
The court also ordered Almeida’s name to be placed on Pakistan’s Exit Control List (ECL), preventing him from leaving the country.
In Almeida’s May interview with Sharif, the former prime minister appeared to reinforce the claim that Pakistan was behind the 2008 Mumbai Attack due to the use of non-state actors, a claim made constantly by India but one which Pakistan’s military and government has vehemently denied.
More than 160 people were killed in the November 2008 attack on the Indian financial capital when 10 gunmen laid siege to several buildings including the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower and Oberoi-Trident hotels, the city’s historic Victoria Terminus train station, and the Jewish cultural center, Chabad House.
The quote by Sharif that led to the case being filed, stated that “militant organizations are active in the country (Pakistan). Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the borders and kill 150 people in Mumbai?”
The Lahore High Court also summoned Sharif and former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, for discussing with Sharif details of a National Security Council meeting held regarding the implications of the interview. Both have been summoned on charges of treason relating to the article.
Almeida’s newspaper Dawn stands by the story, and the accuracy of the quote. An editor’s note on the newspaper’s website Monday questioned the timing of the summons. “The notice served on Cyril Almeida was delivered at Dawn’s Islamabad bureau in the middle of last week, and journalists and officials at the bureau say the earlier two notices were never delivered.”
Almeida was previously placed on the ECL in 2016 for reporting on fraught civil military relations in Pakistan at the height of a dispute with India over militancy in the disputed region of Kashmir.
On Monday, Almeida took to Twitter posting: “Spoke to the lawyer, there is a warrant, am back on the ECL and will have to appear before the court on Oct 8… how’s your Monday been?”
CNN has been unable to contact Almeida in the days since.
Groups supporting press freedom have condemned the move, with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) labeling the court’s decision “regrettable” and an “excessive measure.”
“The ease with which Mr. Almeida’s interview with the former prime minister was perceived as an attempt to allegedly defame state institutions…only serve to further choke press freedoms in Pakistan,” said the organization in a statement Monday night, adding that journalism was not a crime, and was “most certainly not treason.”
Earlier this month in a highly critical report on press freedoms in Pakistan, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called out the growing infringement on civil liberties in Pakistan, which it blamed on the country’s military and other powerful institutions.
They have “established lines of control to stifle the press, by promoting people and issues considered favorable, and limiting the dissemination of content found objectionable,” said the CPJ of the military.
TV channels, newspapers and social media have faced increasing levels of censorship both in the run up to July’s general elections and in the months after.
During the elections, journalists from Dawn were routinely singled out for intimidation and harassment and vendors were banned from distributing the newspaper in some areas.
Almeida is expected to appear before court on October the 8th, 2018.
A statement in Dawn, Monday, said that Almeida had “no immediate plans to travel abroad” and would “attend the proceedings of the case whenever desired by the honorable court.”
The statement urged the court to withdraw the non-bailable warrants and the remove Almeida’s name from the no-fly list.

Pakistani Court Orders Former Prime Minister Sharif Freed on Bail

September 19, 2018

Nawaz Sharif, sentenced to 10 years in prison on corruption charges in July, is appealing his conviction

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in blue, at the funeral in Lahore of his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, who died earlier this month.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in blue, at the funeral in Lahore of his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, who died earlier this month.PHOTO: ARIF ALI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

ISLAMABAD—A Pakistani court suspended the corruption conviction of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ordered he be freed from jail.

The Islamabad High Court, hearing a petition from Mr. Sharif’s lawyers, said Wednesday he should be set free on bail pending his appeal, according to the court order. The two judges hearing the case have a reputation for being independent-minded, lawyers said.

An anticorruption court in July had sentenced Mr. Sharif to 10 years in prison in a case centered on four London apartments. Three weeks later Mr. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N party was defeated in an election that elevated his main challenger, Imran Khan, to prime minister.

Khawaja Haris, Mr. Sharif’s lawyer, said the High Court had found that corruption wasn’t proven against Mr. Sharif, who has always maintained that the London property is owned by his two sons, not him.

Muzaffar Abbasi, a prosecutor, said the anticorruption authorities would now consider a challenge to the outcome.

Mr. Sharif’s political party has said its election prospects were sunk by a campaign against him by the judiciary in concert with the military, which both the military and the judiciary deny.

Write to Saeed Shah at

China, Pakistan Pledge To Complete Economic Corridor

September 10, 2018

Wang Yi also conveyed the desire of Chinese leadership to work with the new government for further enhancing the strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.

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During the meeting, regional situation and global issues were also discussed

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China on Sunday pledged to complete the multi-billion dollars China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and expressed desire to further enhance the bilateral strategic partnership.

Mr Wang, who arrived on a three-day visit on Friday, met Mr Khan in Islamabad with a high-level delegation.

“Foreign Minister underscored the significance of the CPEC for the mutual benefit of the people of both countries,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Mr Wang also conveyed the desire of Chinese leadership to work with the new government for further enhancing the strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.

He underscored the significance of China-Pakistan relationship which served as a model of friendship in interstate relations.

Mr Wang also conveyed the invitation of Premier Li Keqiang for an official visit to Mr Khan.

Mr Khan reiterated that Pakistan’s friendship with China is a cornerstone of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy.

“The Prime Minister reiterated that the Government is committed to the implementation of the CPEC,” according to the statement.

During the meeting, regional situation and global issues were also discussed.

Earlier, he met his counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

He also attended the swearing in ceremony of new president, Arif Alvi.

Mr Wang’s visit came amidst reports of unease in Beijing over how the new PTI government would approach over USD 50 billion Chinese investments in various projects under the CPEC connecting China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang province with Gwadar port in Pakistan.

Mr Khan in the past had criticised former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for the lack of transparency and corruption in the CPEC projects.

Newly-appointed Finance Minister Asad Umar has promised to bring about transparency to the CPEC projects whose details remained closely guarded secrets.

India has protested to China over the CPEC, which is being built through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

The myth of austerity: Why PM Imran Khan’s populism won’t solve Pakistan’s woes

August 31, 2018

Moving into a small house instead of using the prime minister’s office, and spending less money on security — PM Khan’s measures are commendable. But economists say Pakistan needs serious efforts to improve the economy.

 Imran Khan (picture-alliance/dpa/T. Mughal)

Amid fears that the cash-strapped country could soon face a financial precipice, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s newly elected government has launched an austerity drive to avoid Pakistan going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a financial bailout.

The drive, which involves less government spending on VIP protocols, has created a ripple of excitement among the citizens, who have long criticized the past leaders’ lavish lifestyle.

But economists say the government’s austerity campaign is not more than a populist stunt that amounts to misleading people on how the government intends to deal with serious economic issues.

It is not the first time that a Pakistani head of government has launched an austerity drive. In the early 1980s, ex-military dictator General Zia promoted the idea of “Islamic simplicity” as opposed to liberal governance. Former premiers Mohammad Khan Junejo and Nawaz Sharif also publicized their austerity measures in the late 1980s and the 1990s, respectively. All these efforts did not yield any substantial result.

Read more: Imran Khan: A new hope or divisive force for Pakistan?

A severe economic crisis

Pakistan’s financial debt is currently estimated at $95.097 billion (€81.34 billion). The South Asian country needs $24 billion every year for debt servicing.

The country’s trade deficit is also skyrocketing — $37.7 billion in the 2018 fiscal year. In the same fiscal year, Pakistan spent a whopping $60.9 billion on imports, with a big chunk going to the import of machinery for the China-led multibillion-dollar Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure development initiative.

Pakistani businessmen complain that the government is giving preferential treatment to Chinese companies, whose cheaper products have flooded Pakistani markets and crippled their businesses.

But instead of chalking out a comprehensive economic plan, the cricketer-turned-politician Khan said in his first speech to the nation as PM that he would force government officials to spend less. After becoming prime minister, Khan said he would be moving into a three bed-room house instead of the large prime minister secretariat, and would also cut down other official expenses.

Former Finance Secretary Waqar Masood believes these measures won’t solve Pakistan’s economic problems.

But Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, Movement for Justice) party says that the premier has sent a strong message to government officials and bureaucrats that their “luxurious lifestyle” will not be tolerated by the new leadership.

“The main thing is to restore people’s confidence in the government. The Pakistanis are generous people and they gave a lot of donations to Imran Khan [for his cancer hospital]. They did so because they trust him. And because they have faith in their prime minister, I’m sure they will also pay taxes,” Senator Faisal Javed Khan, Khan’s close aide, told DW.

Read more: Opinion: Imran Khan’s dangerous victory

The elephant in the room

Interestingly enough, Khan did not say anything in his speech about the military budget — the second-largest government expense.

Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, Iran, China and India, spends massively on defense. The military cites external and internal security threats as reasons for this expenditure. The country’s defense budget is now close to $12 billion per year and many experts believe it is disproportionate to the size of Pakistan’s economy.

“Pakistan is a security state whose parliament never debates the defense budget. The military’s expenditure does not even go through a parliamentary audit,” Muhammad Ziauddin, former editor of the Express Tribune English newspaper, told DW.

“The military generals are running hundreds of businesses in the country, yet they pay very little tax. Understandably, Khan’s austerity drive does not cover the generals’ luxurious lifestyle. If the new government really wants to turn things around and improve the economy, then it should reduce the mammoth military budget and impose taxes on the military’s economic empire,” Ziauddin added.

Economist Azra Talat Saeed is of the view that no civilian government is powerful enough to confront the military on the defense budget.

“It is even difficult to get the exact defense budget figures because there is an official defense budget and then there are also ‘undisclosed’ expenses,” Saeed told DW.

PTI’s Senator Faisal Javed Khan disagrees that the government is reluctant to take on the army. He says that PM Khan’s austerity drive will gradually cover all state institutions.

Read more: Pakistan facing multiple crises as PM Imran Khan takes over

Can China help Pakistan?

Some economists and political analysts suggest that while Pakistan’s ties with the United States have been tense for quite some time, the country’s regional ally China could come to the help of the new government.

But economist Saeed says it would be unwise to rely on China. “China may bail us out but the help won’t come without conditions. We have already taken huge loans from China. And trust me that Beijing knows how to take back these loans. For example, Sri Lanka was not able to pay back its loan, so China negotiated a long-term land lease with Colombo, which amounts to arm-twisting,” she said.

There is a near-consensus among economists that the Pakistani government will have to approach the IMF for an economic bailout. But the Trump administration’s stance toward Pakistan could make the loan difficult. Washington, which has the biggest share in the IMF, has warned that Islamabad must not use Western money to repay its Chinese loans.

Terrorism and aid

The question of Western financial aid is also linked to the Trump administration’s demand that Islamabad reins in jihadist organizations that are active on Pakistani soil. But Imran Khan has been explicit about his position on Afghanistan and the Taliban. The newly elected premier blames the US intervention in Afghanistan for the rise of extremism in the region and demands that international troops must exit the war-torn country. He also advocates a political solution to the Afghan conflict.

Khan and the Pakistani military generals are on the same page about the terrorism issue — that Pakistan is not responsible for the problem. Since coming to power, Khan has not spoken about the issue of home-grown jihadism and how he plans to deal with it.

Keeping in mind these conflicting approaches toward the terrorism issue, it is unlikely that the US would ease economic restrictions on Pakistan anytime soon.

Read more: US, Pakistan dispute whether Mike Pompeo talked terror with Imran Khan


Pakistan: Aitzaz Ahsan and Maulana Fazlur Rehman emerge as nominees for president after consensus eludes opposition alliance

August 27, 2018

With the grand opposition alliance failing to reach consensus on a single nominee, the PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Monday emerged as the two candidates who will challenge Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) candidate Dr Arif Alvi in the September 4 presidential election.

The failure of the opposition parties to field a joint candidate is expected to provide a virtual walkover to Dr Alvi, an MNA from Karachi, for the president’s office.

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Maulana Fazlur Rehman

Ahsan and Alvi filed his papers for the presidential election hours before the 12-noon deadline on Monday. Meanwhile, a JUI-F spokesperson stated that Fazl would be the ‘single nominee’ of the opposition parties, to the exclusion of the PPP.

The JUI-F chief then submitted his nomination papers as the candidate fielded by the PML-N, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), Awami National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and National Party.

PML-N leader Ameer Muqam will be Fazl’s covering candidate.

Ahsan addresses objections against his nomination

Speaking to reporters after submitting his nomination papers, Ahsan said the only objection raised against his candidature had been that the PPP did not consult other opposition parties before nominating him, a claim he said was false.

Aitzaz Ahsan talks to reporters.

The senior lawyer said his name was agreed upon at an internal party meeting, and before it could be proposed before the multi-party conference, the nomination started doing rounds on media as PPP’s unilateral choice.

He said the demand put forward by PML-N leader Pervez Rashid that he (Ahsan) should apologise to Nawaz Sharif for unbecoming remarks — that he had allegedly uttered in the past — in exchange for the PML-N’s possible support was his “personal opinion”, and that it was not the party position.

Ahsan said he was surprised to hear such a demand coming from Rashid, whom he respects as a “progressive intellectual”.

Sources in the opposition had earlier told Dawn that PPP and PML-N representatives directly and with the help of mediators remained in touch throughout Sunday in their bid to reach an understanding, but all their efforts failed due to the PPP’s refusal to withdraw Ahsan’s name.

A PPP delegation comprising Khursheed Shah, Naveed Qamar, Chaudhry Manzoor and Qamar Zaman Kaira had met PML-N leaders at the Parliament Lodges residence of former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq late on Sunday night, but left without talking to reporters who were waiting outside.

PML-N’s acting secretary general Ahsan Iqbal, however, had told media that they had been making “all-out efforts” to bring a joint opposition candidate and expressed hope that the PPP might show “flexibility”.

Iqbal had said if the opposition failed to agree on a consensus candidate, it would be a “setback” and a bad omen for democracy.

Opposition in disarray

The grand alliance, which was formed by 11 opposition parties soon after the July 25 elections, had suffered a blow within weeks after its formation. The controversy had erupted following the PPP’s refusal to vote for PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif as a joint opposition candidate for the Prime Minister’s Office despite agreeing on a formula during the previous multi-party conference that had authorised the PML-N to nominate its candidate for the PM’s election.

Later, the PPP nominated Ahsan as its candidate for the president. The PML-N leaders, who claimed that they had come to know about Ahsan’s nomination through the media, stated in categorical terms that Ahsan’s name could not be considered as the PPP had not consulted any of the opposition parties before making the decision and also because of his ‘nasty remarks’ over the illness of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his wife Kulsoom Nawaz.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the presidential election will be held on Sept 4 — five days before the expiry of the five-year term of President Mamnoon Hussain.

Imran Khan in the chakravyuha

August 22, 2018

Imran Khan took his oath of office as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan after 22 years of struggle as a politician. Khan won 176 seats in the Assembly vote, defeating Pakistan Muslin League (PML-N) candidate, Shahbaz Sharif (brother of jailed former PM Nawaz Sharif) who bagged 96 seats, after a raucous debate. While there was some talk of Opposition parties closing ranks, that did not happen. The Zardari-Bilawal Bhutto led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) broke ranks and abstained.

For discerning observers of the swearing-in ceremony, there were several significant takeaways. The first striking one was Imran’s current wife, a soothsayer, arriving resplendent in a cream dress and a full-face burkha, with a slit for her eyes only. The Wahaabi tradition of Pakistan’s benefactor and so-called godfather, Saudi Arabia, has now reached the PM’s household.

The second was the rather grim visage of the Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, who thought it fit not to smile, perhaps in deference to the ceremony. But why he chose to scowl is anyone’s guess. Perhaps Khan did not meet with his approval as PM. Hussain’s otherwise genial and smiling photos on the internet are a complete contrast.

Image result for Pakistan PM Imran Khan addressing the nation, photos

Pakistan PM Imran Khan addressing the nation.  Source: PTI Official/Twitter

The third significant takeaway was Imran’s mispronouncing certain words in the oath of the text. The text of the oath was heavily infiltrated by Arabic words and loaded with Islamic phrases. The Oxford-educated Imran fumbled in pronouncing several Arabised words. This shows how far Pakistan has travelled in creating an identity which can be positioned as far away as possible from South Asia, particularly India.

Pakistan has, as a matter of State policy, systematically eliminated Hindi words from its version of Urdu, its national language, as Islamisation of politics, society, education and other aspects of life has been enforced, ever since Gen Zia ul Huq began the Islamisation programme. The irony is worth noting. Urdu was born in India and was never spoken in Pakistan. Urdu retains its Hindi grammar, which Pakistan cannot expunge. A principal reason why Urdu has slipped into relative obscurity in India is because it was seen as a language of Muslims, which Islamic Pakistan adopted as its national language.

The fourth important takeaway was former cricketer and current minister in the Congress government in Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu’s presence at the ceremony. His sitting next to the so-called president of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and his “jhappi” with a fellow Punjabi speaker, none other than Pak Army chief General Qamar Bajwa. Sidhu was conspicuously visible on TV screens, wearing a pink turban and chatting with other guests. His presence and hobnobbing with Bajwa was bound to raise hackles in India.

The BJP has attacked him for his behaviour and demanded that the Congress get him to resign. An unfazed Sidhu went on to praise Imran and hoped that the new government will work for peace with India. The seat can’t not be a random decision. A ceremonial occasion does not lend itself to such whimsical decisions on seating arrangements. The decision to seat Sidhu next to the so-called president of PoK was deliberate and designed to provoke India. If goodwill has to be generated then this was not the right move. Sidhu, meanwhile, has been mildly censured by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

PM Khan’s 21-member Cabinet comprises many who have held positions in the regime of former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf. The new Foreign Minister (FM) will be Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a former FM in the PPP government when the Mumbai terrorist attack occurred in 2008.

Qureshi was visiting India when the Pakistani terrorists were attacking in Bombay. He had to return home to escape the inevitable embarrassment of having been undercut by his country’s Army, the chief coordinator of the Bombay terrorist outrage. Qureshi later quit the PPP and joined Imran Khan’s party.

Shirin Mazari, an adviser to Khan has been appointed as Minister for Human Rights. She once advocated nuclear strikes against India’s population centres in one of her papers on Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine. She will have her task cut out dealing with Pakistan’s dismal human rights record, particularly in Balochistan, where the Army has been violating human rights with impunity and unfailing regularity, attempting for decades to cow down and eliminate freedom fighters. The Army will surely ring-fence any effort to make it accountable for human rights violations and it is unlikely that Mazari, a right-wing hard-liner will cross swords with the Army.

Notwithstanding widespread allegations of a “fixed” election, it is still noteworthy that Pakistan has had its third election and democratic transfer of power. A significant factor in this election has been the participation of candidates backed by terrorist organisations who have been nurtured by the Army/ISI. This has often been called the “mainstreaming” of terrorists in an attempt to giving them legitimacy and deflecting international pressure. This effort has not succeeded since all such candidates lost.

The jihadi organisations have to realise that they have no future in Pakistan’s electoral politics. For the Army/ISI the collateral advantage is that they will remain subservient to their diktats. Nevertheless, the people of Pakistan have again shown that they may be religious and even ultra-religious but they will not hand over the reins of governance to jihadis and religious radicals. This is a silver lining in Pakistan’s polity.

There is another important underlying change in the dynamics of Pakistan’s polity. The real power centre, the Army, today is reasonably confident of ensuring that its writ runs on what it regards as crucial aspects of State policy, without interference from civilian elected leaders. The earlier option of ejecting an elected government via military coups is now redundant.

Hence civilian leaders will be restricted to their own space in State policy as decided by the Army. Khan’s electoral slogan of building a “Naya” Pakistan and seeking peace with India will be tested on the hard realities of who controls Pakistan’s India policy. Whether Imran can build a new or “Naya” Pakistan, as per his electoral slogan, is an open question.

PM Modi has congratulated PM Khan on his electoral victory. India is likely to keep the door open for engagement. However, if PM Khan wants to normalise relations with India he will have to avoid approaching ties through the prism of Kashmir.

Imran’s career as PM will follow the trajectory decided by the Army/ISI. He may get some leeway but on “core” external issues, the leash will be firmly held by his Army/ISI benefactors. Imran has complex challenges on the domestic front with multiple deep-rooted internal problems, including the parlous state of the Pakistan economy. There is no merit in pre-judging what he can achieve as PM.

The most important challenge for Imran will be the sensitive civilian-military relations and the “Lakshman Rekha” drawn by the Army/ISI. If Imran chooses to cross it, then he will end up as another Nawaz Sharif.