Posts Tagged ‘PML-N’

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


Imran Khan, His Party In Pakistan Under Fire from Opposition Over Diplomatic Debacle With India

September 23, 2018

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Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said the government was “not prepared” from day one, adding that “too much keenness being shown by the prime minister” showed “weakness on our part”.

The country’s two major opposition parties have held the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government responsible for the latest diplomatic debacle following New Delhi’s refusal to hold a meeting between the two foreign ministers in New York and questioned the “haste being shown by Prime Minister Imran Khan in making efforts to mend fences with India”.

The leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) allege that the government has not done its homework and assessed the situation before approaching India for a meeting, terming the talks offer through a letter written by Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Indian counterpart a “misstep”.

PML-N President and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif has called on the international community to take notice of the jingoistic statement of the Indian army chief, while stating that “Pakistan is more than capable of defending and responding to any aggression by New Delhi”.

Shahbaz calls on world community to take notice of Indian army chief’s jingoistic remarks

In a tweet, Mr Sharif wrote, “The bellicose & irresponsible statement by the Indian army chief exposes the Indian designs to the world that should immediately take note of New Delhi’s threatening posture. Pakistan extending an olive branch to India should never be misconstrued as weakness.”

“Pakistan’s unwavering patriotic soldiers stand steadfast to defend with might and fury against unprovoked aggression from any threat. While the nation stands united with their intrepid military and against the cowardly threats,” he added.

Talking to Dawn here on Saturday, former foreign minister and PML-N MNA from Sialkot Khawaja Mohammad Asif said it seemed the government was “not prepared” from day one, adding that “too much keenness being shown by the prime minister” showed “weakness on our part”.

“Giving them (India) too much reflects haste on our part to mend fences with India,” he said, adding that he was not against normalisation of relations between the two neighbouring nuclear states, but “dignity must be maintained”.

Mr Asif regretted that Prime Minister Imran Khan had written the letter in which he “talked about terrorism” without realising that the US and India had recently issued a joint statement after the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to New Delhi and Islamabad which was “dead against” Pakistan.

“They (US and India) raised all kinds of allegations against Pakistan and you are talking about terrorism (in the letter). This is a sign of weakness (on our part),” Mr Asif said, while criticising Mr Khan for stating in the letter that “Pakistan remains ready to discuss terrorism”.

Moreover, he said, Mr Khan had offered “olive branch” to India at a time, when it was committing serious human rights violations in India-held Kashmir.

The senior PML-N leader also criticised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that “he is playing to the gallery” as part of election campaign in his country. He said the PML-N government had always found India’s attitude “unrealistic and obstructive”.

Similarly, PPP Vice-President and the country’s former ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman said the government should have done its homework before approaching India for a meeting, especially after the initial response.

“Right now, however the Indian Govt and Army chief response is both immature and irresponsible. What are they threatening Pakistan about?” she questioned. “They have crossed all diplomatic norms and protocols to emerge as a belligerent nuclear power that is only looking to externalise its own extremisms,” writes Ms Rehman on her official social media page on Twitter.

“So (the) Modi government suddenly found Pakistan government evil over a stamp issued on 24th July, and a Kashmir killing ruse. Weak diversion from domestic crisis over #Hollande Bombshell and #RafaelDeal; anxiety over earlier UN report and session where Delhi may have to defend Kashmir atrocities,” she writes.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018


‘Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India, Imran Khan says

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Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday took to Twitter to respond to India’s cancellation of the meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), calling New Delhi’s response “arrogant and negative”.

“Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” said PM Khan. “However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government on Friday had called off the meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers — just a day after confirming the development.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had announced the cancellation in a strongly worded statement, saying: “It is obvious that behind Pakistan’s proposal for talks to make a fresh beginning, the evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed and the true face of the new Prime Minister Imran Khan has been revealed to the world in his first few months in office,” he said. “Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless.”

However, the reasons cited by India for cancelling the talks have raised questions as they are not recent developments. The MEA spokesperson referred to the “killing of Indian security forces” allegedly by “Pakistani entities” and Islamabad’s decision to release stamps allegedly “glorifying terrorists” as the reasons behind the cancellation of talks.

The Foreign Office, in a statement on Friday night, pointed out that the alleged killing of a Border Security Force (BSF) soldier took place two days prior to the Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.

“When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, the Pakistan Rangers clearly conveyed to BSF through official channels that Pakistan had nothing to do with it. Pakistan Rangers also extended help in efforts to locate the soldier’s body,” said the FO statement issued on Friday night. “These facts were known to the Indian authorities and a part of the Indian media also reported that Pakistan had refuted its involvement. Yet, this motivated and malicious propaganda continued.”

Islamabad also raised the point that the postage stamps mentioned in the Indian statement were issued before the July 25 elections, following which Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office.

FO had also taken exception to the language and tone of the Indian statement, saying: “Most unfortunate is the reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication.”

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.

Pakistan: Opposition parties meet to select presidential candidate

August 25, 2018

Representatives of the divided opposition have huddled together at incarcerated former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s opulent Muree residence today to hammer out an agreement over a joint candidate for the September 4 presidential election.

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and leaders Ayaz Sadiq, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Dr Tariq Fazl Chaudhry had arrived at the house earlier this morning for the meeting.

The PPP, represented by former opposition leader Khurshid Shah and leaders Sherry Rehman, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Qamar Zaman Kaira, arrived later in the afternoon.

The Awami National Party’s Ghulam Ahmed Bilour and Miyan Iftikhar and the National Party’s Hasil Bizenjo were also in attendance.

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Aitzaz Ahsan

The decision to call the meeting had been made by PML-N leaders after a PPP delegation visited the former’s secretariat in Lahore a day before Eidul Azha (Tuesday) to seek support for Aitzaz Ahsan, who has been nominated by the PPP to contest the presidential election to be held on Sept 4.

The PPP team, comprising former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani and Khursheed Shah, had met the PML-N leadership after the latter expressed reservations over the nomination of Ahsan, who had, in a TV interview, uttered uncharitable words about Nawaz and his wife Kulsoom’s ailment.

After their meeting, PML-N’s acting secretary general Ahsan Iqbal had quoted PPP General Secretary Farhatullah Babar as saying that Ahsan’s name for the president’s slot was “not final”.

However, Iqbal had feared that if the opposition remained divided on launching a joint candidate, it would give a free hand to the ruling PTI to install its nominee, Dr Arif Alvi, as president.

Differences remain

Sources in the PML-N had told Dawn that Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif had discussed the presidential election with his elder brother during a meeting at Adiala jail on Thursday.

On Friday, PML-N Senator Pervez Rashid had asked Ahsan to apologise to Nawaz Sharif for criticising the latter. Talking to reporters after meeting Nawaz in Rawalpindi, Rashid had said that the PML-N could consider Ahsan’s nomination only “if he visits Adiala jail and apologises to Nawaz Sharif”.

When contacted, PPP secretary general Babar had refused to comment on Pervez Rashid’s condition for Ahsan’s support and said that they were going to the MPC to hear the arguments of other parties.

He also confirmed that the PPP had not yet officially nominated Ahsan as a candidate for the coming presidential elections.

A marriage of (in)convenience

The grand opposition alliance formed by 11 parties soon after the July 25 elections had fallen apart within weeks following the PPP’s refusal to vote for Shahbaz Sharif in the election for the prime minister’s office despite it earlier agreeing on a formula that had authorised the PML-N to nominate any candidate for the PM’s office.

The rifts had only grown with the nomination of PPP’s legal wizard, Aitzaz Ahsan, as a candidate for the post of president.

PML-N leaders who came to know about Ahsan’s nomination through the media had reacted strongly and stated in categorical terms that Ahsan could not be considered a joint opposition candidate because the PPP had not consulted any of the opposition parties before making the decision.

“How can you expect us to vote for the nominee of Asif Ali Zardari after refusal of the PPP to vote for our president [Shahbaz Sharif] in the National Assembly and our candidate [Hamza Shahbaz] for the office of chief minister) in the Punjab Assembly,” PML-N information secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan had stated while commenting on the PPP’s move.

He had even alleged that the PPP had nominated Ahsan intentionally in order to provide a walkover to the PTI in the presidential election.

Talking to Dawn on the condition of anonymity, a senior PPP leader said that they had refused to vote for the younger Sharif only because of his controversial statements against the PPP leadership in the past and conceded that the PML-N seemed also to be taking the same position.

“In my opinion, the PML-N seems to be justified in its position of not supporting Ahsan”, he added.

The PPP leader said his party was hoping that in Saturday’s meeting the PML-N would come up with some suggestions to provide “face-saving” to the PPP “if it is really sincere in keeping the opposition alliance intact”.

“The PML-N can ask us to suggest three or four names, including the name of Aitzaz Ahsan, so that we can say publicly that we have not withdrawn the name of Ahsan,” he said. Similarly, the PPP believes that the PML-N will not stick to its condition that Ahsan should physically seek an apology from Nawaz Sharif and that there could be some way out.

Liaqat Baloch of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal said that they would participate in the Murree meeting, but would not be in a position to endorse any decision as they had already convened a meeting of the MMA in Islamabad on August 26.

“Whatever be our decision, we will announce it after our own meeting on 26th,” he added.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has already announced the schedule for the presidential election, which are to be held on Sept 4 — five days before the expiry of the five-year term of the incumbent, President Mamnoon Hussain.

Imran Khan sworn in as Pakistan prime minister

August 18, 2018


Imran Khan at a session of the National assembly in Islamabad, Pakistan, 17 August 2018
Imran Khan has vowed to hold “corrupt” politicians to account. EPA photo

Former cricketer Imran Khan has been sworn-in as the new prime minister of Pakistan, more than two decades after he entered politics.

He was elected prime minister in a vote at the country’s National Assembly on Friday.

His PTI party won the most seats in July’s elections and Mr Khan has become PM with the help of small parties.

Correspondents say his priority will be to address a financial crisis, with the economy in need of a huge bailout.

On Saturday morning, Mr Khan was tearful and smiled as he stumbled over some of the words of his oath, led by the country’s President Mamnoon Hussain.

Members of the 1992 cricket World Cup winning team that Mr Khan captained to victory watched the ceremony alongside senior PTI figures and military officials.

A man looks at a television screen displaying cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan swearing in as Prime Minister of Pakistan
Mr Khan was sworn in as PM after more than 20 years on the political sidelines

In Friday’s vote, Mr Khan was backed by 176 members. His opponent, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif, received 96 votes.

In a speech to parliament, 65-year-old Mr Khan reiterated his campaign promise to hold “corrupt” politicians to account, and to improve opportunities for young people.

“First of all, we will start strict accountability. I promise to my God that everyone who looted this country will be made accountable,” he said.

“I did not climb on any dictator’s shoulders; I reached this place after struggling for 22 years.”

Opposition parties have claimed elements of last month’s elections were rigged. Despite this, they agreed to take their seats in the assembly.

In the lead-up to the election, Mr Khan was widely seen as the favoured candidate of the powerful military, which was accused of meddling to turn opinion against his rivals.

Before the election Mr Khan told the BBC that if he were to be elected, his initial focus would be on the economy. Pakistan’s currency, the rupee, has declined significantly in the last year. Inflation is on the rise and the country’s trade deficit is widening.

Exports such as textiles have taken a hit from cheaper products made by regional competitors, including China. Analysts say the new government may need to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the country’s second bailout since 2013, which could complicate efforts to boost welfare.

The risk in Imran Khan’s Pakistan

August 14, 2018

His ambition to establish an Islamic welfare state might get muddled, and produce more religious agenda than welfare

Written by Ayesha Siddiqa | Updated: August 13, 2018 11:12:27 am
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Pakistan is on the verge of getting a new prime minister, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. Many of the social media accounts linked with the Pakistan Army are presenting the victory of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) as a new era in the country’s politics, outlined by the emergence of a non-dynastic leadership (similar to what was said about Narendra Modi’s election in 2014) and the breaking up of the clout of the Bhuttos’ Pakistan People’s party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).

Khan’s victory is certainly not decisive since the PTI has not swept elections in either the Centre or in Punjab province, which represents the core of Pakistan’s politics. The PTI has managed to get 116 seats in the National Assembly against 64 by PML-N and 43 by the PPP. In Punjab, the PTI is behind the PML-N (129) with 123 seats. Khan’s victory comes amidst the uproar by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the European Union election observers that the polls were less fair than in 2013. It is worth mentioning that Khan had acrimoniously contested the last elections as being rigged in favour of the PML-N. Even the PPP and PML-N had claimed in 2013 that elections were rigged.

Khan will be sworn in at the Centre this week and the chances of his party forming a government in two other provinces (Punjab and KP) are bright. This is primarily because the Opposition parties are divided and under pressure from unseen quarters to let Khan lead the country. The PML-N under its new de facto leader, Shahbaz Sharif, is too weak to take a stand. The younger Sharif doesn’t quite have the makings of a leader. He wouldn’t be able to get other parties to agree with him, especially the PPP. The Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari led PPP is not likely to cooperate with the PML-N to form a coalition government in either the Centre or Punjab. Its instinct will be to save its government in Sindh, where it has emerged as the largest party (74/130). A PTI government in Punjab would break the three-decade hold of the PML-N over the province. In many ways, history seems to be repeating itself. The evolving situation is a reminder of 1990 when the military’s intelligence agencies had used resources to form the Islami Jamhoori Ittihad (IJI) led by Nawaz Sharif to break the PPP’s hold over Punjab, the same way as may happen now.

Is this the beginning of a new Pakistan that has shunned dynastic politics? No, because the dynastic PPP has gained more seats than it did in 2013, and, as mentioned earlier, the PML-N has not been routed. This indicates that the problem lies less with dynastic politics but in the patronage structure of Pakistan’s political system, in which various parties and even non-parliamentary institutions represent patron groups with their specific clientèle.

The patronage structure tends to encourage corruption, which is what Imran Khan claims he wants to fight. However, the question is whether he will be able to embark on this task given that he won these elections by including the “electables” — a term used for candidates who have no ideology and keep shifting from one party to the other.

Despite the problems of the 2018 election, the results also offer the older parties an opportunity to re-think their political outreach strategy. The PML-N has suffered due to its decision-making and party political structure, which is centralised and revolves around the Sharif family. Its inability to reach the grass roots means that in the coming days, there will be less inclination of the lower and mid-level party management to protest in favour of Nawaz Sharif or challenge the government by coming out on the streets, especially if he is sentenced in other cases as well. The inability to demonstrate leadership could also result in the party losing supporters to the PTI that still has to build its organisation in Punjab. The PPP, which is currently operating in the largest province on the basis of strong electables, will have to find its feet, which includes grooming a younger and promising leadership.

Notwithstanding these issues, Khan has emerged as the hope for a younger Pakistan which believes that the country has a serious corruption and image problem. The popular narrative is that a more determined and patriotic leadership that will not secretly negotiate with foreign powers like the US and India would be able to deliver the country from under-development, poverty and global infamy. And a stronger leader could solve much of its geopolitical problems.

This perception follows the path of the acclaimed Bajwa doctrine, ascribed to the current army chief. Imran Khan’s offer to India in his victory speech to negotiate on Kashmir and willingness to trade is being seen in many quarters as a possible opening. But the door remains as shut, as it was in the past. Khan’s team will have to work out the contours of negotiations with the military establishment that was resentful of trade in the past on the grounds that Nawaz Sharif was more keen to discuss trade than resolving the Kashmir issue. The only difference is that unlike Sharif, Khan would not be in a position or inclined to establish an independent line of communication with New Delhi.

The foreign policy contours under Khan will denote the status-quo — greater inclination towards China than the US, except that the country’s financial needs may make him want to open some door towards Washington unless someone offers a financial lease of life. A major issue in this regard will be dealing with terrorism and extremism, for which there are limited plans. Although the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)-related Allah-u-Akbar Tehreek (AAT) party did not win any seats, such mainstreaming of violent extremists is a contentious issue as far as the US is concerned.

Khan will be inclined to present the AAT’s defeat as a victory for peace and democracy. But would he be able to convince an equally egoist leader like Donald Trump? In any case, the fact that the various religious parties put together managed to bag about 4.6 million votes, the largest number yet in Punjab (1.8 million), says something about issues that the prime minister must concentrate on. The risk is that Khan’s ambition to establish an Islamic welfare state might get muddled somewhere, like Bhutto’s, and produce more religious agenda than welfare.

The risk in Imran Khan’s Pakistan

Pakistan dynasties unite against triumphant Imran Khan — Forming “grand opposition alliance”

August 12, 2018

Sharif and Bhutto families form unlikely alliance against cricketer-turned-PM

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© AP

Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad and Kiran Stacey in New Delhi

The two dynasties that have battled for control of Pakistan for generations will join forces on Monday, promising to stage “noisy protests” inside parliament against the results of last month’s elections as new members take their oaths.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which is controlled by the Sharif family, and the Pakistan Peoples party, run by the Bhuttos, have formed an unlikely alliance against Imran Khan, the former cricketer whose party won most seats last month.

Analysts say that if the two parties manage to maintain their unity, they could present a significant obstacle for Mr Khan, who is due to take his oath as prime minister in the coming days.

One senior PML-N politician said: “Inside the house we are going to keep up the clamour that the elections were clearly rigged.” A leader of the PPP added that the two parties would combine forces inside parliament over the next few years “on important political and legislative issues”.

Mr Khan has spent the past few weeks composing a governing coalition, after his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party won 116 of the 272 contested parliamentary seats.

His negotiations have taken place, however, against a backdrop of protests by the opposition parties, which claim the PTI was helped by interference from the country’s powerful security services — something denied by both the PTI and the army.

The controversy has formed an unexpected bond between the PPP and the PML-N, whose ruling families have been in charge of Pakistan for about half of the past 50 years, and which jointly won 107 seats at the election.

The PPP is run by Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the husband and son respectively of the late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The head of the PML-N is Shehbaz Sharif, whose brother Nawaz Sharif was ousted as prime minister on corruption charges last year and is now serving a 10-year jail sentence.

Together with a group of smaller parties they announced they have formed a “grand opposition alliance”, which has plans to nominate alternative candidates for prime minister and speaker of the parliament.

Analysts say they do not expect the opposition parties to be able to form a government, not least because they fear a backlash from voters, among whom Mr Khan remains popular.

Ali Sarwar Naqvi, a political commentator, said: “Ever since the elections, opposition parties have been unable to show strength on the streets. Imran Khan is new and untested and therefore there is a lot of enthusiasm over his arrival.”

But many believe the alliance could make its presence felt in parliament over the next few years, especially as Mr Khan’s first job will be to repair the country’s balance sheet, possibly by enacting unpopular spending cuts or tax rises.

Asad Umar, Mr Khan’s proposed finance minister, has said the country has just weeks to secure extra financing to meet its external debt requirements.

Ghazi Salahuddin, a political commentator for The News newspaper, said: “As time goes by and the new government faces difficult choices, the opposition will gain strength — especially if Imran Khan himself becomes unpopular.”

Mike Pompeo Comments on IMF, China and Pakistan Reeks of U.S. Arrogance — Pakistan Dawn Editorial

August 3, 2018

AN incoming government faced with a familiar economic crisis on the external-account and budget-deficit fronts will also have to contend with arguably new but predictable global politics.

An arrogant warning by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that an IMF bailout of Pakistan must not be used to help repay Chinese debts that Pakistan has incurred under CPEC has made clear that the incoming PTI government will have little time to adjust to the realities of power at the national and international levels.

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Three points need to be made here. First, the US ought to reconsider the naked politicisation of assistance by the IMF and other Bretton Woods financial institutions. Pakistan and dozens of other countries have engaged with the IMF and the World Bank for purely economic reasons over the decades.

To now explicitly suggest that IMF and World Bank assistance for developing countries is linked to how those countries may engage with other regional and global powers that the US may have difficult relations with is preposterous.

Such tactics reek of bullying and could further undermine the so-called rules-based post-Second World War international order led by the US.

Second, Pakistanis need greater clarity and transparency on CPEC. The last PML-N government boasted of vast investments by China, but until the very end declined to share the true financial picture with the nation. That can no longer be countenanced, and the incoming PTI government should make public the necessary details of CPEC-related investments and fiscal responsibilities.

CPEC is a historic opportunity recognised by one and all for its potential to help Pakistan revamp its woeful infrastructure networks and improve economic productivity and export potential. Pakistan should engage boldly and creatively with China in all areas that are beneficial to this country.

Goodwill between China and Pakistan already exists and can be further increased to mutual benefit. But the last PML-N government often appeared to view CPEC through a domestic political lens and short-term fiscal breathing space.

China’s own phenomenal economic rise in recent decades ought to be the template followed by Pakistan when it comes to negotiating bilateral investments and financial arrangements. CPEC can go on to become an unprecedented national success, but first its terms must be shown to be transparent and fair.

Third, the incoming PTI government should consider the factors that appear to inevitably return Pakistan to the IMF embrace government after government.

At present, there may be an argument that problems on the current account side are inexorably pushing Pakistan’s towards a bailout scenario, but problems on the budget deficit side are also significant.

It has long been apparent that fundamental tax reforms and restructuring of the public sector are needed, along with increasing economic productivity and exports. If a few years from now another bailout is to be avoided, meaningful economic reforms must be enacted.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2018

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Pakistan: Imran Khan could be China’s biggest ally or headache; Beijing shows rare nervousness

July 30, 2018

Bollywood movies are popular in China. Aamir Khan flicks even more so. That could explain why Chinese media has been crying “all is well” and advising Imran Khan, Pakistan PM-designate, to ignore what “western media” is saying on China-Pakistan ties. To make up for its lack of political legitimacy, authoritarian regimes such as China often run a strategy of misinformation, propaganda and denial to control flow of information and retain command.

For instance, when a vaccine scandal recently broke out in China as it emerged that millions of babies were administered ‘faulty’ vaccines, authorities moved quickly to censor references to the controversy on social media and employed state-controlled media to suggest that the issue was “overblown”.

By Sreemoy Talukdar 

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We should therefore perk up our ears when a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece decries coverage in western media of a possible strain in bilateral ties that may emerge with the formation of a new civilian government under Imran’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, given the fact that China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects have in the past fallen prey to vituperative political campaign in Pakistan — some of it led by Imran.

Chinese state-run Global Times insists that “conditions that help foster this special relationship have not changed with the rise of Imran and his party”. It maintains that “China-Pakistan relations always transcend political changes within Pakistan” and points out that “there have never been any political trials against it (CPEC) in Pakistan”. All valid points.

Strategic expert Gao Zhikai of the Centre for China and Globalisation in Beijing was quoted as saying in DailyO that the new prime minister “will be treated as a best friend”, while Chinese foreign ministry official said, “We are glad to see the election in Pakistan went through smoothly. We sincerely hope Pakistan can maintain political social stability and focus on development.” Not a word, expectedly, on the widespread rigging, army interference and subversion of the democratic process that took place during Pakistan’s “dirtiest election in years.”

For his part, the PTI chief, whose demonstrations in Islamabad against the Nawaz Sharif government in 2014 forced Xi Jinping to abort his Pakistan visit and delayed the inauguration of a project, was careful to make all the right noises on CPEC and Chinese investments during his victory speech on 26 July.

There is no doubt that a strong, bipartisan consensus exists in Pakistan in favour of CPEC as a key driver of economic stability and strategic advantage. The most important entity in Pakistan, its powerful military, is solidly behind Xi’s flagship project and ensures its centrality in China-Pakistan ties.

If these fundamentals are constant, what explains China’s nervousness in harping on the stability of China-Pakistan ties and sanctity of CPEC projects? A few articles in western media “hyping” up a “change in Pakistan’s China policy” should hardly be of concern. But it clearly was. Why?

China is keen to ensure the stability of the $62 billion CPEC, the crown jewel of Xi’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Security of its monetary and political investments is a pressing concern but equally so is the successful rendition of its flagship project that may blunt the debt-trap criticisms that surround the BRI, aid China’s geopolitical ambition, link Eurasian arm of ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ with Southeast Asian ‘Maritime Silk Road’ and may even address China’s “Malacca dilemma” via overland access to Arabian Sea through Pakistan, as Daniel S Markey and James West point out in their article for Council on Foreign Relations.

It is also expected to upgrade the China-Pakistan bilateral relationship from its moorings in security relationship to a strategic embrace and deepening of socio-economic ties. The success of CPEC, therefore, is as important to China as it is to investment-hungry Pakistan. Given this context, China would love nothing more than to see political continuity in Pakistan so that the CPEC projects are insured against and immune from political interference.

It isn’t surprising to note that back in 2016, China was banking on Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N government to retain power and smoothen the road for a bunch of projects that were signed in 2015 and involved a network of ports, highways, energy projects and other infrastructures at an investment of billions of dollars spread over a decade and more.

Chinese investors, according to an article in Wall Street Journal by Jeremy Page and Saeed Shah, “were promised annual returns on investment of up to 34 per cent, guaranteed by the Pakistan government, in (US) dollars, for 30 years.”

The promise of such high and unreasonable returns may have led more Chinese investors to pump in money but delays, systemic corruption and behavioural issues turned many of these projects unviable. For instance, as the WSJarticle elaborates, Pakistani authorities were struggling to secure payments for new Chinese power projects “because of longstanding problems getting Pakistanis to pay their bills”.

Meanwhile, the import of machinery and transport equipment for CPEC projects were wreaking havoc on Pakistan’s economy. “In the first two years of the CPEC project, up to June 2017, Pakistan’s imports of machinery and transport equipment jumped 51 per cent to $15.5 billion,” points out Tom Hussain in South China Morning Post.

Coupled with a widening trade deficit (imports at 10 times the volume of exports), profit repatriations and external debt obligations, Pakistan’s economy was left with a balance of payment of crisis where it had barely enough forex reserves to cover two months of imports. The State Bank of Pakistan declared in June that forex reserves have declined by over $600 million during the week ending 22 June and left it with $9.663 billion in reserves.

Emergency injection of Chinese funds to the tune of $3 billion at market rates have provided temporary relief but Pakistan may soon need a bailout package from IMF that is likely to result in scanning of the CPEC portfolio and may lead to closure of some projects for unviability, say analysts.

China was under the impression that the Nawaz government would be in a better position to negotiate the political trouble arising out of the economic crisis. In an internal assessment, reports India Today, China had in 2016 speculated that “a government under him would best ensure the project’s progress, expressing concern about his weakening domestic position after the Panama Papers revelations.”

In 2016, Nawaz told the media that China “were waiting for the time when our government would be in power so that they could make this investment,” referring to the $46 billion investment made by Xi under CPEC projects. The Chinese had words of praise last year for Nawaz’s brother Shehbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, for speedy execution of projects.

On the contrary, Imran’s political posturing over CPEC projects had resulted in skepticism in China over his intentions. In 2016, the PTI chief, then in charge of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, had “conveyed his reservations to Chinese Ambassador”.

His party functionaries were either comparing CPEC as “modern-day equivalent of East India Company” or slamming “wasteful political projects” such as the Orange Line metro. Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, spokesman PTI, had told WSJ that his party “backed CPEC but wanted all agreements put before the parliament for review.”

China had to spend political capital in lobbying Imran  though the PTI chief had made it clear that the dispute lay with Nawaz government’s handling of CPEC projects, not the projects per se.

Be that as it may, this provides the context of skepticism in Chinese ranks over Imran’s trajectory. Pakistan’s prime minister-designate has reaffirmed his faith in CPEC as an “employment generator” but his status as a rookie administrator and doubts over his political acumen have persisted — given the fact that Imran is yet to show that he fully understands the dimensions of the problems that face him. His ticket to prime minister-dom was secured through a route of populist angst against corruption, and his simplistic ideas about Pakistan’s ailments could add to his challenges.

Critics may point out that he had to adopt many dubious ‘electables’ in his party to ratchet up seat numbers, and that may tie his hands as a corruption crusader. In any case, the economy of Pakistan cannot be fixed by fixing corruption alone.

To quote author and senior transatlantic fellow with Washington-based think tank German Marshall Fund Andrew Small in War on the Rocks, “Beijing will therefore be watching closely to see whether a government led by Imran and his PTI party has the capacity, the will, and the political space to deal with the growing list of economic challenges that affect China’s most prominent connectivity project.”

Of immediate interest will be the political challenges facing Imran, given the polarising campaign that he ran. It has resulted in the creation of bad blood. Add to that is the belief of nearly all Opposition parties in Pakistan that the army engineered Imran’s win, therefore they may be unwilling to cooperate with the government in areas where the PTI chief might need consensus.

The Chinese will hope that the spillover effect of this political animosity does not affect its grand plan. Herein lies the genesis of Chinese nervousness.

Updated Date: Jul 29, 2018 12:17 PM

Pakistan: Imran Khan’s party begins coalition talks as rivals plan protests — “The election was stolen”

July 28, 2018


Imran Khan’s party said it has begun talks with independents and small parties to form a coalition government after a resounding triumph in Pakistan’s general election, as rival parties planned protests over alleged vote rigging.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) won 115 seats in Wednesday’s ballot, short of the 137 needed for a simple majority but a surprisingly strong showing that helped fuel suspicion of rigging.

The party has begun reaching out to potential coalition partners to form a government, according to spokesman Fawad Chaudhry, a task that analysts said should be straightforward.

© AFP | Former cricket star Imran Khan will face myriad problems, including militant extremism, an economic crisis and water shortages

“We have contacted small parties and independent members, they will soon meet party leaders in Islamabad,” Chaudhry announced late Friday, adding that the process was likely to take about 10 days.

Chaudhry’s comments followed an announcement by rival parties vowing to launch a protest “movement”, after foreign observers voiced concerns about the contest.

More than a dozen parties calling themselves the All Parties Conference (APC) promised to protest over the results.

However the group remained divided with some parties pledging to boycott joining the National Assembly and others calling for a new vote.

The outgoing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party announced its support for the group but stopped short of saying it would boycott the new parliament.

And the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which was notably absent from the APC, said in a separate announcement that it rejected the results, but vowed to try to convince the other parties to participate in the parliamentary process.

The protests announcement late Friday came as the United States, the European Union and other observers voiced concerns over widespread claims that the powerful military had tried to fix the playing field in Khan’s favour.

Khan’s victory represents an end to decades of rotating leadership between the PML-N and the Pakistan PPP that was punctuated by periods of military rule.

The vote was meant to be a rare democratic transition in the Muslim country, which has been ruled by the powerful army for roughly half its history.

But it was marred by violence and allegations of military interference in the months leading up to the vote, with Khan seen as the beneficiary.

The former cricket star will face myriad challenges, including militant extremism, an economic crisis with speculation that Pakistan will have to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, water shortages and a booming population.