Tuesday, January 18, 2022

2021 for Pakistan: The year’s major political developments

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Year 2021 remained a very divisive year for Pakistan’s politics and its democratic dispensation. The country experienced various developments having positive or negative impact on the nation as a whole.

Democracy respects diverse opinions, different visions and viewpoints in a polity. Thus tolerance to an opposite opinion is an inherent part of the democratic politics.  The government and the opposition both are expected to make a democratic system functional by remaining on a  common pitch to act in the best interest of the country.

Vote for ARY News Person Of The Year 2021 Poll Here

This year however in this respect remained wanting as point scoring on issues of public interest remained a common trend throughout the year. The welfare of the people and serious problems requiring policy decisions with a clear mindset kept on the backburner, while non-issues to target the opposite side made the central point of the national public debate.

Some highlights pointing out various political developments in the year have been given below.

Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi 2021 Pakistan

Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi arrested sentenced

A Court in January this year sentenced Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a senior leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, to five years in prison for terror financing.

Lakhvi has also been accused by India and the United States of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, in which at least 160 people were killed.

The court handed him three concurrent five-year sentences.

The court found Lakhvi guilty of collecting and dispersing money for terrorist attacks by Lashkar-e-Taiba.

He was arrested on Saturday in Punjab where he was running a medical dispensary, which the state’s counter-terrorism team said he used to collect funds.

Court acquits TLP workers, rioting case, ATC 2021 Pakistan

TLP PROTESTS

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in January warned of taking to the streets if the government does not fulfill its promise of expelling the French ambassador by February 17. The government then signed a new agreement in February agreeing to take the issue to the parliament.

In April the TLP called for the implementation of its November agreement and insisted on Pakistan downgrading ties with France. Protests erupted in several cities after Saad Rizvi, the leader of the TLP, was arrested in Lahore. As clashes between the law enforcement agencies and the TLP became violent, 16 policemen were taken hostage by the protesters.

When negotiations with the group broke down, the federal government banned the TLP under the anti-terrorism law taking Saad Rizvi into custody under administrative orders related to that legislation.

The TLP hit the streets again in October this year. Rangers were deployed in Punjab province to maintain law and order as negotiations failed with the group.

However, a high-powered government team held talks with the TLP once again and managed to reach an agreement.

Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman held a news conference to announce that talks with the banned TLP have been “successful” and that an “agreement” had been reached between both sides.

The deal comes after 10 days of violent protests that saw at least seven police officials killed and dozens wounded, as protesters blocked major roads and a highway in and around Lahore.

Mufti Muneeb said that details of the agreement will be revealed at a “suitable time”. He added that the positive outcomes of the agreement will be seen in the coming days.

Rehman shared that a steering committee has been constituted under the agreement which will be headed by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan.

While the agreement reached to end the latest round of protests was not made public, on November 7 the federal cabinet revoked the declaration of the TLP as a banned group and the provincial government moved to remove Rizvi’s name from an anti-terrorism watchlist.

The authorities released the chief of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan after weeks of negotiations that followed deadly protests.

ECP re polling NA-75 Daska 2021 Pakistan

Daska By Election

The controversial by-election on a National Assembly seat in Daska in February this year became a classic election cheat example. The election was marred by violence, rigging and the disappearance of over 20 presiding officers and subsequently, a fact-finding inquiry was launched to probe into the irregularities.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) decided to take judicial action against the officials involved in rigging in the NA-75 Daska (Sialkot-IV) by-elections after allegations of irregularities.

The NA-75 Daska seat was vacated due to the death of former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentarian Syed Iftikhar ul Hassan Shah. By-elections were contested between Iftikhar ul Hassan’s daughter Syeda Nosheen Iftikhar and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) candidate Ali Asjad Malhi.

The matter went to the Supreme Court on allegations of fraud and subsequently the election results were declared null and void. A re-election was held in which the PML-N candidate Nosheen Iftikhar defeated the PTI candidate.

In a written decision, the ECP informed that it has initiated judicial action on the NA-75 Daska (Sialkot-IV) by-elections inquiry report, starting by seeking drafts of criminal complaints from the concerned departments.

The ECP decision also said that it should be ensured that no officer involved in rigging is assigned any future election duty.

A report released recently by the Election Commission of Pakistan on the February by-poll in Daska’s NA-75 constituency has concluded that election officials, police and the local administration failed to play their “designated role in the requisite manner and were found [to be] puppets in the hands of their unlawful masters” during the by-election.

Subsequently, the ECP had withheld the results of the February 19 by-poll and ordered re-election in the entire constituency after suspicion that the results may have been falsified. The order was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

A by-poll was held in the constituency in April, with PML-N’s Syeda Nosheen Ifti­khar winning the contest by securing 110,075 votes against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Ali Asjad Malhi, who had bagged 93,433.

Senate election 2021 results 2021 Pakistan

Senate election

The Election commission of Pakistan announced the election schedule for the Senate on 11 February 2021 after 52 of the 104 house members retired on 7 February 2021.

Polling for 37 seats of the Senate concluded on March 03 2021. Ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf bagged 18 new seats of the upper house, including the five that had been elected unopposed, earlier in Punjab.

The party became the largest parliamentary group in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the PPP managed to have eight new senators elected against as many party senators who retired. The PML-N, as expected, lost ground and managed to clinch only the five new seats that it had earlier won uncontested in Punjab, against 17 of its senators who retired.

Another party that managed to gain ground was the Balochistan Awami Party — an ally of the ruling PTI, which secured six more seats against three of its senators who retired after completing their tenures, swelling its ranks to 13 in the upper house of the parliament.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) conducted the vote with 78 candidates contesting from Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Islamabad.

In an election debacle, the joint opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani won the hotly contested general seat from Islamabad, beating PTI’s Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. Gilani won 169 votes, while Shaikh bagged 164 votes. Seven votes cast for the general seat from Islamabad were rejected.

Before the Senate election, the Supreme Court on March 01, 2021 announced its opinion on the presidential reference regarding Senate elections, saying that polls for the upper house of parliament will be held through secret ballot, according to Article 226 of the Constitution.

The 4-1 majority opinion was announced by a five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and including Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi.

Justice Afridi in his note of dissent, disagreed with the majority opinion, while observing that “the opinion sought by the President of Pakistan in the Reference, is not a question of law within the contemplation of Article 186 of the Constitution”. He abstained from giving an opinion on the reference.

The Supreme Court in its judgment said that Senate elections are held in accordance with the law and the Constitution.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan had on Dec 23, 2020, moved the 11-page reference under Article 186 of the Constitution relating to the advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

The president had sought the answer to the question of whether or not the condition of secret ballot under Article 226 of the Constitution applied to the Senate elections. The hearing of the reference was started on January 04.

PDM Karachi protest rally inflation 2021 Pakistan

PPP’s role in PDM politics

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of opposition parties against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), was formed in September 2020.

Two major opposition parties in the parliament the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were among the members of the opposition alliance.

The alliance, failed to remain united for long and the PPP exited the coalition on April 12 this year over it being served a show-cause notice by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in his capacity as the alliance’s secretary general for nominating PPP leader Yousuf Raza Gilani as the opposition leader in the Senate “in violation of the alliance’s decisions”.

The Central Executive Committee of the PPP asked all the party members to resign from their positions in the PDM.

PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said no party “should try and impose its will and dictation on any other member party”.

PPP Badin by-poll 2021 Pakistan

He said the CEC had rejected the show-cause notice issued to the PPP by other PDM parties and “directed all its office-bearers in the PDM to submit their resignations from these offices with immediate effect in protest of the attitude, conduct and actions of other office-bearers of the PDM.

Before parting its ways from the PDM, the PPP had a different opinion with regard to the resignations from the assemblies, which was being touted by the PML-N and some other member parties.

Bilawal maintained that resignations from the assemblies should be a last resort option. Resigning from the parliament had been a serious bone of contention between the PPP and other PDM parties.

The PPP in a smart move convinced the opposition to take part in by elections, which were mostly won by the opposition parties.

The PPP leader said if his party had agreed with the view of the other PDM parties and boycotted the election then the PTI would have won those seats.

Before the PPP, the Awami National Party had also quit the PDM over its being “hijacked by some member parties”.

The PDM now comprised of five parties namely the PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), National Party (NP) and Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal).

Justice Qazi Faez Isa 2021 Pakistan

Supreme Court verdict on Qazi Faez Isa review petition

The Supreme Court of Pakistan in April accepted review petitions challenging the court’s verdict in the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

A 10-member bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, heard review petitions filed against the court’s June 19, 2020, judgement on the presidential reference in which the court had empowered the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to conduct an inquiry into offshore assets of Justice Isa’s spouse.

The apex court accepted the review petitions by a majority of 6-4. Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Mazhar Alam accepted the petitions.

The court declared legal actions taken by the FBR and all other forums related to the assets of Justice Isa’s wife and children as “unlawful”.

Presidential reference: Justice Isa was the subject of a presidential reference filed on May 2019 that alleged he had acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015 but did not disclose them in his wealth returns.

Justice Isa contested the allegation, saying he was not a beneficial owner of the flats — either directly or indirectly.

In June 2020, the top court threw out the reference, terming it “invalid”.
The reference is declared to be of no legal effect whatsoever and stands quashed with the majority (9-1) short verdict on a petition filed by Justice Isa and others seeking the reference’s dismissal.

However, seven of the 10 judges on the bench hearing the case ordered the Inland Revenue Department and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to seek explanations from the judge’s wife and children on the nature and source of funding for three properties in their names in the United Kingdom and submit a report to the SC registrar.

Justice Isa then approached the apex court, seeking a review of the decision. Bar associations, including the Sindh High Court Bar Association, also filed similar petitions.

On Feb 24, a 10-judge bench was constituted to hear the review petitions.

The bench in April accepted review petitions challenging the court’s verdict in the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

Jahangir Tareen 2021 Pakistan

Jahangir Tareen’s like-minded group

Jahangir Tareen’s like-minded group of PTI lawmakers went into obscurity after leaving its impact for founder of the faction.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s estranged leader Jahangir Tareen launched a group of like-minded parliamentarians in the lower house of parliament as well as the Punjab Assembly in May.

Raja Riaz was named the parliamentary leader of the Jahangir Tareen Like-minded group in the National Assembly, while Saeed Akbar Nawani as parliamentary leader of the group in the Punjab Assembly.

In an inaugural dinner of the group, hosted by Tarneen to his supporters, was attended by 31 members of assemblies.

The group surfaced amid inquiry and cases against Jahangir Tareen in the sugar scandal. It acted as a pressure group amid claims of victimization of Tareen, once blue-eyed boy of the party leadership.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, talking to a delegation of pro-Tareen lawmakers, had categorically said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) would not be influenced to give relief to the disgruntled leader in the sugar scam probe but he would personally look into the matter to avoid any political victimisation in the case.

The prime minister formed a one-man committee comprising his confidant, Senator Syed Ali Zafar, to ascertain whether the delegation’s concerns that some people in the government and the PTI were politically victimising Jahangir Tareen were genuine.

According to Tareen’s lawyer, there are three FIRs against Tareen and his son while the FIA had registered only two cases after a period of four-and-a-half months.

According to the FIRs dated March 22, two separate cases were registered under sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating of public shareholders) and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), read with sections 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, against Tareen and his son.

Jehangir Tareen is being singled out in Pakistan’s sugar crisis investigation, Senator Ali Zafar told Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In a meeting with the premier, he said that other people have been named in the scandal as well but it looks like only Tareen is being investigated in the case.

Investigations against other leaders and influential groups part of the sugar mafia are very slow.

Zafar said it was not just sugar mills in Punjab that were involved in corrupt practices, but those in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are doing the same.

Jahangir Tareen Group’s members claimed that the report of Senator Ali Zafar has vindicated their stance.

According to media reports, all the federal and Punjab legislators of the PTI, once associated with the Jahangir Tareen group, have either openly slipped away or quietly distanced themselves from the group thus the entity has been defanged to have any impact over the fate of the governments in Centre as well as in Punjab.

Jahangir Tareen’s like-minded group of PTI lawmakers went into obscurity after leaving its impact for the founder of the faction.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s estranged leader Jahangir Tareen launched a group of like-minded parliamentarians in the lower house of parliament as well as the Punjab Assembly in May.

Raja Riaz was named the parliamentary leader of the Jahangir Tareen Like-minded group in the National Assembly, while Saeed Akbar Nawani as parliamentary leader of the group in the Punjab Assembly.

In an inaugural dinner of the group, hosted by Tarneen to his supporters, was attended by 31 members of assemblies.

The group surfaced amid inquiry and cases against Jahangir Tareen in the sugar scandal. It acted as a pressure group amid claims of victimization of Tareen, once blue-eyed boy of the party leadership.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, talking to a delegation of pro-Tareen lawmakers, had categorically said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) would not be influenced to give relief to the disgruntled leader in the sugar scam probe but he would personally look into the matter to avoid any political victimisation in the case.

The prime minister formed a one-man committee comprising his confidant, Senator Syed Ali Zafar, to ascertain whether the delegation’s concerns that some people in the government and the PTI were politically victimising Jahangir Tareen were genuine.

According to Tareen’s lawyer, there are three FIRs against Tareen and his son while the FIA had registered only two cases after a period of four-and-a-half months.

According to the FIRs dated March 22, two separate cases were registered under sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating of public shareholders) and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), read with sections 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, against Tareen and his son.

Jehangir Tareen is being singled out in Pakistan’s sugar crisis investigation, Senator Ali Zafar told Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In a meeting with the premier, he said that other people have been named in the scandal as well but it looks like only Tareen is being investigated in the case.

Investigations against other leaders and influential groups part of the sugar mafia are very slow.

Zafar said it was not just sugar mills in Punjab that were involved in corrupt practices, but those in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are doing the same.

Jahangir Tareen Group’s members claimed that the report of Senator Ali Zafar has vindicated their stance.

According to media reports, all the federal and Punjab legislators of the PTI, once associated with the Jahangir Tareen group, have either openly slipped away or quietly distanced themselves from the group thus the entity has been defanged to have any impact over the fate of the governments in Centre as well as in Punjab.

sindh, delimitation, ecp, local bodies election ,

Cantonment Boards election

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won most of the seats in local government elections in the country’s 41 cantonment boards in September polls.

PTI won 63 seats, followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with 59 seats and independent candidates won 52 seats so far.

Ruling PTI won the most number of seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — 18 — followed by 28 in Punjab, 14 in Sindh and three in Balochistan.

PML-N won big in Punjab, winning 51 seats, while managed only five in KP and three in Sindh.

PPP had won overall 17 seats in elections. It was tied with PTI in Sindh, with 14 seats. The party won the remaining three seats in KP and none in either Punjab or Balochistan.

Independent candidates scored big in Punjab, bagging 32 seats. They secured nine seats in KP, seven in Sindh and four in Balochistan.

MQM won all of its 10 seats in Sindh, whereas JI won five in Sindh and two in Punjab.

Polling was carried out for election on 206 general seats in as many wards of 39 cantonment boards across the country.

There are 219 wards in 42 cantonment boards all over the country, but no polling was held in any of the nine wards of Kamra, Cherat and Murree cantonments, where either the candidates were elected unopposed or polling was put off.

fawad chaudhry, ttp, ceasefire 2021 Pakistan

Talks with Pakistani Taliban

An initiative for peace talks and deal came to a halt after the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) decided to pullout of a ceasefire with Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in his October 1st interview with TRT World said that the government is in talks with some factions of the outlawed TTP adding that the negotiations were taking place in Afghanistan.

When asked if the Afghan Taliban were helping in the reconciliation process, he said: “Talks are taking place in Afghanistan. In that sense, Yes.”

To another question, he said the government can pardon TTP members and they can become normal citizens if they lay down their arms.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban outfit unilaterally announced an end to a month-long truce with Pakistan, accusing authorities of reneging on promises made in the initial stages of peace talks.

The ceasefire came into effect on November 9, after the government announced the start of talks with the armed group, which is fighting with the state since 2007 and carried out dozens of attacks targeting civilians as well as security forces in the country.

On November 8, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed that the month-long ceasefire had been agreed upon between the government and the TTP.

“The state’s sovereignty, national security, peace in relevant areas and social and economic stability will be considered during the talks,” he was quoted by Pakistan Television as saying.

The announcement came a month after Prime Minister Imran Khan first announced that talks between the two sides were ongoing, following the fall of the Afghan government to the Afghan Taliban on August 15.

Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Amir Khan Muttaqi had confirmed in November that the Afghan Taliban were acting as mediators in the talks.

Scores of previous agreements between the government and the TTP have collapsed since

Security analysts have been skeptical of the peace talks process, citing previous such agreements between the TTP or its allies and the Pakistani government that collapsed since 2007.

The TTP since its inception in 2007, has carried out some of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan, targeting civilians, political leaders and security forces with suicide bombings, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks and targeted killings.

The group also claimed responsibility of an attack on a school in Peshawar, killing over 140 people, including 132 school-children.

The attacks were dropped since a military operation in 2014 that pushed the group out of its North Waziristan stronghold, stil attacks have continued to take place.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said the government would be “open to giving” a pardon to Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members if they pledge not to get involved in terrorist activities.

In an interview, he expressed concerns over the reports of TTP men being released from prisons in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

nab chairman appear against PAC 2021 Pakistan

Presidential Ordinance to extend NAB Chairman’s tenure

President Arif Alvi in October signed an ordinance that enabled the president to reappoint the incumbent National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman or extend his tenure.

The National Accountability Second Amendment Ordinance 2021 amplified the opposition’s role in the appointment of NAB chairman.

A salient feature of the ordinance was exclusion of the federal and provincial cabinets, business community and collective decisions of the committees or sub-committees, Council of Common Interests, National Economic Council, National Finance Commission, Executive Committee of National Economic Council, Central Development Working Party, Provincial Development Working Party, Departmental Development Working Party and State Bank of Pakistan from the ambit of NAB.

According to the ordinance, “all matters pertaining to Federal, Provincial or Local taxation, other levies or imposts, including refunds, or loss of exchequer pertaining to taxation” will be dealt with in accordance with the revenue or banking laws and will be transferred from the accountability courts to the courts of competent jurisdiction.

The ordinance amended Sub-section b of Section 6 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) to grant extension in the tenure of the NAB chairman by excluding the word “non-extendable” from the law.

However, it has retained the proviso that makes consultation between the opposition leader and the leader of the house in the National Assembly on the appointment of NAB chairman, stating that the president would consult both of them.

It has increased the role of the opposition and enhanced the parliamentary oversight as it has provided a forum of a 12-member parliamentary committee in case the consultation between the PM and the opposition leader proves futile.

The ordinance has enhanced the authority of prosecutor general of NAB empowering him to play a crucial role in advising the chairman to file or withdraw any reference from the court.

It has also allowed the accountability court to grant bail to any accused.

Earlier under the NAB law, there was no provision of granting bail to the accused as an under custody suspect could only apply for bail after expiry of his 90-day remand and that too under the extraordinary jurisdiction of the high court under Article 199 of the Constitution that empowers the high court to enforce fundamental rights.

The ordinance allows the appointment of retired judges of high courts as accountability judges. In addition, it provides that a district and sessions judge and an additional district and session judge may also be designated as the judge of accountability court with the consent of the chief justice of the high court concerned.

Opposition parties PML-N, PPP, ANP and others criticised the amended ordinance and criticized extension to the NAB Chairman and called it tantamount to distorting the constitution and law of the country.

balochistan cm estranged lawmakers no-confidence motion jam kamal khan committee

BALOCHISTAN NO-TRUST MOTION

After a month-long political turmoil Jam Kamal Khan stepped down as the Balochistan chief minister on October 20. “Jam Kamal Khan has submitted his resignation to the Governor of Balochistan Syed Zahoor Ahmad Agha,” a statement issued by the governor’s spokesperson said.

The resignation was accepted by the Governor Agha and subsequently notified by Balochistan Chief Secretary, saying the resignation had been accepted and the cabinet dissolved.

In a tweet earlier, Jam Kamal said he had given his time and energy for Balochistan’s governance and development despite “many deliberate political hindrances”.

“I would rather leave respectfully and not be part of their monetary agenda and bad governance formulation,” he said, apparently referring to the disgruntled group comprising members of his own Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and allies that had been demanding his resignation.

Earlier in June this year, when opposition members had camped outside the provincial assembly’s building for days protesting against the Alyani led government for its refusal to allocate development funds for their constituencies in the budget.

The protest had led to mayhem and police had later booked 17 opposition lawmakers in connection with the incident.

Sixteen members of the opposition parties later filed a no-trust motion against the chief minister. However, the Governor House Secretariat had returned the motion to the Balochistan Assembly on technical grounds.

A no-confidence motion, signed by 14 lawmakers, had been submitted to the secretariat of the Balochistan Assembly, as Alyani continued to face criticism from the disgruntled members of his party over what they termed his failure to consult them in running the affairs of the province.

The opposition members had claimed that three female and one male MPAs had gone missing because they had signed the no-confidence motion against Jam Kamal.

qudoos bizenjo, cm balochistan 2021 Pakistan

The four MPAs had gone missing on the day when the angry group with the support of the opposition parties tabled the no-confidence motion in the Balochistan Assembly on Oct 20.

The missing members later surfaced in Islamabad. The MPAs, Akbar Askani, Bushra Rind, Laila Tareen and Mahjabeen Sheran, returned to Quetta in the official plane of the Balochistan government. With the return of four ‘missing’ MPAs and announced support for the no-confidence move.

Ishratul ibad, MQM, Imran Farooq, Baldia factory, Governor Sindh, Scotland Yard

Ebad in limelight amid rumours of his return

This October witnessed the beginning of another initiative to convince different factions of the MQM to agree on a ceasefire of constant war of words among rival leaders.

The initiative has a focal point, which is Dubai-based former Sindh governor Dr Ishratul Ebad.

Two key meetings took place with Ebad in October and November. Sindh’s Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah met with former governor of Sindh, Dr Ishratul Ibad in October in Dubai.

Taking to Twitter, the minister said he met with the former Sindh governor in Dubai and requested him to return to Pakistan. The minister also urged Ishratul Ebad to play his political role.

He assured Ebad of full cooperation of the Sindh government upon his return to the country.

What actual message Shah conveyed the former governor yet to come surface.

Another and more substantial visit to him was from his former party colleague and the MQM’s ex-convener Dr Farooq Sattar.

In their meeting, they agreed to play a constructive role in the politics of the country, particularly in Karachi, besides forming a political front, according to a media report.

A political front or uniting the factions will likely to have opposition in the opposite groups as certain leaders enjoying senior positions in their respective parties do not want to give up their power positions.

In the meeting, issues related to Sindh’s urban centers, and the upcoming local government and general elections came under discussion, sources said.

The meeting was held days after widespread rumours in Karachi that Ebad was planning to return to Karachi to unite the splinter groups of MQM.

overseas-Pakistanis-right-to-vote-fm-qureshi

EVM Law, voting right to overseas Pakistanis 

The government passed 33 bills in a joint sitting of the Parliament on November 17, with the Opposition parties rejecting the legislation, saying that the treasury benches had bulldozed the bills.

Most crucial among the bills passed, were amendments to the Elections Act 2017, allowing the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and giving overseas Pakistanis the right to vote in general elections.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan tabled the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 to bring about the  amendments.

The motion to consider the bill was passed with a narrow margin as a total of 221 lawmakers voted in favour of the motion while 203 members opposed it.

Parliament rejected the amendments moved by Opposition lawmakers including MNA Mohsin Dawar, Senator Taj Haider and Mushtaq Ahmed.

Now, after the passage of the Elections Second Amendment Bill, 2021, the Election Commission of Pakistan shall, with the technical assistance of National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), enable overseas Pakistanis in the prescribed manner, subject to secrecy and security, to exercise their right to vote during the general elections.

The bill also authorizes the ECP to procure electronic voting machines for casting of votes in general elections.

Following the passing of the bill, the Opposition staged a walkout, saying that National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser was not paying heed to their reservations regarding the government possessing fewer than the required numbers to get the bills passed.

 

PML-N victory in NA 133 by-election

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in December 6 by election in NA-133 of Lahore, which was hotly contested by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) while a PTI candidate was knocked out on technical ground.

PML-N’s Shaista Pervaiz Malik bagged 46,811 votes while PPP’s Chaudhry Aslam Gill could secure 32,313 ballots in a race that remained largely peaceful.

However, the voter turnout remained 18.59 per cent as out of total 440,845 voters, only 80,022 used their right to vote.

People’s Party’s Aslam Gill had bagged only 5,500 votes in the 2018 general election for the same seat that fell vacant after the demise of PML-N MNA Pervaiz Malik, who had grabbed over 90,000 votes then.

In an apparent bid to revive itself in the province, the PPP invested immense political and financial capital in the by-election, in deviation of its past practice at least in the Punjab capital is considered as a citadel of the PML-N.

Asif Ali Zardari, despite his health issues, remained camped in Lahore for days to boost morale of party activists and help in strategizing the election campaign of the PPP candidate from a lower middle class family.

Cabinet members of Sindh government, made a beeline to the corner meetings of the party candidate to give the message to the local workers that the party leadership was taking the by election very seriously.

Incumbent and former office-bearers from Punjab also joined the election campaign when and where needed.

This vigorous campaign from the PPP paid off the party well as it increased manifold its votes making many to wonder if the party has put itself on the revival path in Punjab, particularly in Lahore.

Gwadar protesters, protesting fishermen, successful talks, govt

Gwadar Protest for Rights

The protest in Gwadar, which began more than a month ago, saw tens of thousands of people, including women and children, march on the main roads and streets of the port city in support of their demands.

They were demanding ban on large fishing trawlers encroaching on their livelihood along with lack of health facilities and drinking water in the city.

The residents of Gwadar called off their sit-in after successful negotiations with the government.

PM Imran took notice of the “very legitimate demands” of the “fishermen of Gwadar” as the protest in the port city for basic rights entered its 28th day.

The premier had said that the authorities would take “strong action against illegal fishing by trawlers”, adding that he would also speak to the provincial chief executive over the matter.

Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar had paid a visit to Gwadar on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan alongside Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority chief Khalid Mansoor.

Speaking to the media after attending a meeting chaired by Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo, Umar said that it was his understanding that the protests would finish soon.

Provincial Minister for Planning and Development Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi announced on Twitter shortly after negotiations with Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, the leader of the Gwadar protest movement, that the talks had been successful. Meanwhile, Rehman took to the stage at the site of the protest to call off the sit-in.

“The government has accepted all the demands of Maulana sahib and the dharna is to be called off,” Buledi said.

Balochistan chief minister visited the site of the protest and informed protesters that their demands had been accepted. Addressing the protesters, Bizenjo said that a complete ban had been imposed on illegal fishing and directions had been issued to the departments concerned.

Protest leader Rehman said he signed the agreement with Biznejo in front of the protesters and expressed the hope that it would be implemented.

“The struggle for the rights of the people of Gwadar and Balochistan will continue under the platform of the Haq Do Tehreek,” he said on Twitter where he also shared a copy of the agreement between the two sides.

OIC agrees on setting up humanitarian trust fund for Afghanistan

OIC moot on Afghanistan

Convened by Saudi Arabia as OIC chair and hosted by Pakistan with 20 foreign ministers, 10 deputy FMs and 437 delegates in attendance, the OIC’s December 19 moot in Islamabad on Afghanistan decided to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund under Islamic Development Bank and launch discussions with UN agencies for actions to unlock financial and banking channels for flow of liquidity and assistance to Afghanistan.

The world leaders, government functionaries, diplomats and analysts termed the meeting of the 57-member OIC, as a milestone achievement for Pakistan which also manifested its commitment for a stable Afghanistan.

After fall of Kabul to Taliban on August 15 Afghanistan was heading fast towards a humanitarian crisis.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in his keynote address at the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) highlighted the dismal state of affairs in Afghanistan, saying the situation could lead towards the biggest “man-made disaster” if the government fails to act in a timely manner.

“Unless action is taken immediately, Afghanistan is heading for chaos. Any government when it cannot pay salaries to public servants, doctors and nurses is going to collapse. But chaos suits no one. It certainly does not suit the United States,” the prime minister added.

The PM said owing to a dearth of resources, if the Afghan government remained unable to counter-terrorism, other countries may also face a spillover impact.

PM Imran urged the world not to link their support to the Afghan people with the Taliban, but they should think of 40 million Afghans heading towards disaster.

However, he also said that the Taliban will also have to understand that the formation of an inclusive government, respect for human rights, particularly women’s rights, and disallowing the use of Afghan soil for terrorism in other countries, will pave way for international aid to Afghanistan.

Pakistan also shared a six-point strategy to address Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, food security, and economic revival besides its institutional capacity building to counter the threat of terrorism. This was proposed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his opening address.

Qureshi, who is also the chair of the session, also proposed creating a mechanism within the OIC countries for sustainable humanitarian and financial support to the Afghanistan government.

Qureshi also called for enhanced engagement with Afghanistan for political and social inclusivity besides ensuring respect for fundamental rights, particularly women’s rights.

Calling it a matter of survival, the foreign minister said over half of the Afghan population faced food shortage, which made the population of two-thirds UN member states.

The Muslim world leaders attending the session of foreign ministers called for an immediate and unified action to avert the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which otherwise could impact world peace.

In his address, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said that the economic difficulties could trigger a humanitarian crisis and lead to further instability, impacting regional and international peace.

He told the gathering that Saudi Arabia had recently airlifted food supplies on the directives of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and also condemned terrorist actions targeting minorities in Afghanistan.

The OIC Secretary General, in his remarks, said that the OIC meeting would have given hope to the Afghan people for a better future.

The extraordinary session of the OIC holds great significance as part of the growing international concern about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the urgent need to address it.

Besides OIC members and observers, the UN system, International Financial Institutions (IFIs), international and regional organisations, and non-OIC members, including the P-5, EU, and major countries like Germany and Japan, are among the other invitees.

Opposition party wins first phase of LG Polls in PTI-led KP

In a major political development in the end days of year 2021 ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lost ground to opposition’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) in the first phase of local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It was an unexpected development in the PTI stronghold province indicating towards a possible change in political paradigm in the country in the fourth year of the Tehreek-i-Insaf government.

The opposition parties generally and the JUI specially won key seats up for grab in the local government election including the Mayor of Peshawar.

A PTI session chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan while mulling over debacle in local bodies elections formulated a phase-wise strategy for the upcoming next phase of polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab and the next general elections in the country.

The party session decided that the prime minister will personally monitor ticket distribution among the aspiring candidates.

According to sources privy to the discussions during the political committee meeting headed by PM Imran Khan, the participants agreed that the strategy for elections should be in phases, and in the first phase, the political committee should be empowered.

The session decided to dissolve all organizational setup a  supreme committee of the party was formed under a new political plan comprising of 21 members with representation from provinces.

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