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NIAS Pakistan Weekly
From Cargo to Canvas: The vibrant world of Pakistani Truck Art

  PR Team

PR Special Commentary
From Cargo to Canvas: The vibrant world of Pakistani Truck Art
By Sneha Surendran
Truck painting traces its roots to the colonial period when Bedford trucks were imported by the colonial rulers. Back then, visual imagery on vehicles were easier for the largely illiterate population to identify trucks and their owners. The practice of truck art began among common people and over time, it rose to become an endearing tradition that captivated the imagination of the people.

Pakistan has over 277,000 registered trucks that play a vital role in the transportation of goods across the country. However, unlike trucks in other regions, the ones that rumble through Pakistan’s roads are moving works of art with their extravagant embellishments, intricately coloured paintings, swaying bells, mirror works, and imposing size. Illustrations of birds, animals, flowers, and visages of actors, politicians, cricketers, and even army generals grace the outer walls of the trucks, alongside jokes, riddles, and poetry. The inside of the vehicles is no less decorated with hanging ornaments and embroidered drapes. Truck painting traces its roots to the colonial period when Bedford trucks were imported by the colonial rulers. Back then, visual imagery on vehicles were easier for the largely illiterate population to identify trucks and their owners. The practice of truck art began among common people and over time, it rose to become an endearing tradition that captivated the imagination of the people. While the production of Bedford trucks has long ceased, the ones remaining in Pakistan continue to be treasured by their owners. The sheer size and load-bearing capacity of these once-common vehicles, along with the deeply intertwined tradition of decorating them has made these trucks an indelible part of Pakistani culture. Apart from the vibrant decor, Bedford trucks are distinguishable by the imposing crown on the front rim, called the “taj.” The taj is also subject to beautification, which enhances the proportion of the already big trucks. Such is people’s dedication to truck decoration that owners of non-Bedford trucks often customize their vehicles to enable the outer surface suitable for painting and embellishments.

Truck drivers and artists:
There are two sections of people behind the beautification of these trucks: the truck drivers, and the truck painters. Drivers regard their vehicles as their pride and prestige for as people who spend months on the move, the truck is their home. Well-decorated trucks also attract clients and add value points in marketing. There is an almost unsaid competition among these drivers to showcase the most eye-catching truck on the road. As a Karachi-based driver stated: “Someone can say it’s a waste of money to decorate it, but when I buy a truck, it’s my truck. I want it to be more beautiful than any other truck on the road.” Drivers shell out over USD 2500 for the upkeep, with paintings and decorations receiving retouching and maintenance almost every five years.

Despite its prominence, truck painting has not been accorded a formal status in Pakistan. It is propagated by self-taught artists or those who pick up the skills from others. While truck drivers may approach artists with specific design requests, the latter often rely on their creativity and expression to determine a style that best fits the client truck’s model. Over time, truck painting has become localized with different regions of the country boasting a manner that is unique and distinguishable from others. For instance, trucks from Karachi display watercolour paintings, mirror works, and woodcarving whereas sticker art is favoured in Rawalpindi. Apart from the medium of expression, the style of depicting images also differs between regions and artists. It is noteworthy that truck art has not remained confined to trucks alone, neither is it an art form unique to Pakistan. Truck art designs have been and continue to be faithfully rendered on bullock carts, rickshaws, and other modes of transportation including airplanes in the country. Furthermore, embellishing vehicles is also a practice in neighbouring India and countries elsewhere, but Pakistan’s trucks take the cake for the magnitude of the decorations and the intensity of dedication from the actors involved.

Moving beyond individual expression:
The purpose of Pakistan’s truck art has travelled beyond the simple initial goals it fulfilled, that being identification and personal expression. Now, truck art plays a larger role:

1. Billboard on wheels: Painted trucks have come in handy as a tool to spread awareness on socially sensitive topics. For this, activists have teamed up with truck artists and drivers to use the vehicles as advertising mediums that carry messages on sexual abuse, child marriages, honour killings, and education to name a few. Samar Minallah Khan, an anthropologist and a documentary filmmaker who is involved in such project’s states how this form of advertising is compelling: “It’s important to use culturally sensitive tools that resonate with local audiences.” In another ongoing project, the faces of missing children are painted onto trucks along with helpline numbers. According to reports, five out of 20 missing children have been tracked down and rescued through these portraits.

2. Alleviating Islamophobia and breaking stereotypes: In 2015, Chattanooga, a city in Tennessee saw a wave of anti- muslim hate following a shootout perpetrated by a naturalized US citizen born in Kuwait. With a desire to tackle this discrimination, Kate Warren, founder of a local NGO named Art 120, teamed up with Sadaf Khan, a Pakistani truck artist, to launch the Jingle Truck Program in 2019. Through this initiative, Warren hoped to open young minds to cultures beyond their own and to use art as an icebreaker to begin conversations around Muslim culture and traditions. Khan decorated four-wheelers with Pakistani truck art designs, and incorporated features distinct to Tennessee within the paintings, creating an amalgamation of different cultures. Samar Minallah Khan has also pointed out how driving decorated trucks has helped unravel stereotypes surrounding the Pashtun community. The Pashtuns have historically been categorized as a warring faction. However, when these sturdy men set off on trucks bearing illustrations of nature and poetry, it helps propagate their artistic side. Khan reiterates: “Truck art breaks the stigma of seeing Pashtuns as men holding rifles. Through truck art, you celebrate the imaginative nature of Pashtuns.”  

3. A medium of relief in trying times: Truck art again rolled onto the scene after the devastating floods of 2022, bringing cheer and hope to a battered population. Artist Ali Salman Anchan who works to promote Pakistani truck art worldwide was commissioned to decorate a van supplying medicines to flood-affected regions. Anchan and his team visited Sindh in May 2023 to interact with the survivors. Lending an ear to their stories of pain and resilience inspired the painters. Anchan described the project as fulfilling, stating: “...the villagers in the affected areas are suffering a lot of things. But when we parked the truck up, the villagers celebrated and were all so excited.” Art became a medium of alleviating pain, if only temporarily, and inspired bonhomie among the affected individuals.  

4. International recognition: Pakistan’s truck art has slowly found its way out of the dusty roads it traverses into the world beyond the country's borders. For one, the tourism industry has realized the marketability of this localized art form. Dolce and Gabbana, an Italian fashion house, made use of Pakistani truck art-inspired patterns during a promotional campaign of the brand in 2015. In 2022, Blitzers, a K-pop boy band featured buses decorated with truck art designs in a music video that they shot in Lahore. Pakistani truck artists have also been invited to countries like China and Canada to spread awareness regarding their work through exhibitions, workshops, and live painting events.While truck painting remains dear to the people, the arrival of transportation companies with modern truck fleets is slowly eroding this long-standing practice. Furthermore, the lack of incentives for artists is also forcing them to discontinue their trade and encourage their contemporaries to do the same. However, organizations and researchers dedicated to propagating truck art strive to advertise and preserve this tradition. As a Pakistani anthropologist quotes remarks on truck art: “It just celebrates their culture, their way of life. You see that they are artists. They are poets. They have a sense of humour. They are fond of nature. They are fond of, you know, so many things that need to be celebrated.”

(Nadia Ahmed, Art on the Move: Pakistani Truck Art and its Shift onto Modern Artefacts,” Tuwhera, 2022
Hannah Bloch,These eye-popping, hand-painted trucks rule Pakistan's roads,” NPR, 5 February 2022
Zinara Rathnayake,Pakistan’s Trucks Are Vibrant, Bedazzled Works of Art,” Atlas Obscura, 1 September 2022
After the floods, the future looks bright: truck art in Pakistan – a photo essay,” The Guardian, 17 July 2023
Dianna Wray, Pakistani Art Trucks on a Bridge of Culture,” AramcoWorld, November 2021)

PR Special Commentary
Pakistan’s Economy: Three questions
By Ankit Singh

It is quite evident in Pakistan, as the trade sentiment is down, advanced economies are looking inwards, the debt-trade linkage seems to be reducing for Pakistan

On 14 August, Nasir Jammal wrote a commentary in Dawn titled: ‘Will the next Aug 14 see a stable Pakistan?’ He highlighted on short and mid-term economic challenges for Pakistan on a few recent critical policy decisions. Nasir Jamal confesses a return to feel-good sentiment and consumption driven economy.
What does the analysis say?

  1. Pakistan has a history of boom-and-bust cycles of economic growth. Adjustment with IMF loan program has been short sighted and usually ignored when there have been signs of -stabilization.
  2. To absorb the working employable population, Pakistan needs to grow at seven-eight per cent and hence there is critical need for investment.
  3. Pakistan has agreed to investment terms of Gulf allies which will improve balance of payment position which can as well enable ruling class to discontinue with IMF dictated fiscal discipline. And global investors need political certainty in Pakistan for short-term to mid-term recovery.

The above analysis raises the following three questions.
1. Why is Pakistan dependent on external investment?According to a news report by Dawn, Pakistan borrowed USD 5.115 billion in first five months of the current financial year (FY), Pakistan has borrowed USD 47.027 billion in loan money since 2018. The budget target for external inflow/support has been rising, for the current FY the expected borrowing is USD 23 billon. This might not change the characteristic of twin deficits which Pakistan faces in the short term, which means the expanded budget target for loans should be supplanted by increased government revenues, aid, and investments. A closer look at external aid data to Pakistan in the latest economic survey indicates that share of aid related to Balance of Payment (BOP) issue has increased project related has remained stagnant from 2000s up till 2022. This means that BOP related aid might as well increase but at the cost of a default, which will be more of a commercial default, one which Pakistan may not be able to afford right now. Hence investment remains a priority so that government can reprogram its balance sheet.

2. Will Pakistan remain a consumption-driven economy? Pakistan in its modern history has witnessed periods of boom-and-bust cycles. This means that economic sectors have catered to the domestic needs and have done lesser in terms of increasing their competition. On a comparative basis, according to General Statistics Office of Indonesia, the investment (also called Gross Fixed Capital Formation) in manufacturing have increased by 201 per cent from 2010 to 2018 and GFCF in retail sector increased by 250 per cent, while, according to General Statistics Office Vietnam, the GFCF in manufacturing has increased by 314 per cent, and GFCF in retail sector increased by 248 per cent from 2010 to 2020. However, in Pakistan, due to rebasing of the economy, the data from the previous economic survey can mislead. As per the latest survey published recently, GFCF in the large-scale manufacturing (LSM), and retail and wholesale trade sector by private sector has decreased by 0.78 per cent and increased by 165.3 per cent respectively from 2016 to 2022. According to Business Recorder, LSM growth rate in LSM has been in negative double digits in 2023, as was also evident from foreign manufacturers selling their subsidiaries in Pakistan.

Therefore, the LSM and other allied industries in Pakistan have not gone ahead with comparative intensity when compared to its counterparts, like Vietnam and Indonesia, while retail and whole sector continues to grow. This implies that trade is not much a big indicator of macroeconomic growth in Pakistan, as Nasir Jamal also hinted. His commentary in Dawn was candid in confessing that each period of boom was consumption driven followed by bust due to high fiscal and current account deficits.

3.Will IMF provide more than short-term stability to Pakistan? No. Multilateral financing in the post war period has enabled countries and their governments in supporting issue of deficits and maintaining reserves. The staff agreements with Pakistan and other countries have mainly focused on improving sentiment for the market, while methodologies and framework to assess has been biased. The neo-imperial nexus through financial interdependence has not bode for well long-term growth projections in global south countries. The problem in methodology, which is based on a rational individual consumer needs to be addressed, as decolonised countries have their own historical experiences mercantilism and trade.

The problem of financing deficits has become so strong that more than the macroeconomic fundamentals, other factors like the role of geopolitics, debt-trade linkages, and finance-iability of debt rescheduling weighs more than the former. It is quite evident in Pakistan, as the trade sentiment is down, advanced economies are looking inwards, the debt-trade linkage seems to be reducing for Pakistan. As Naseer Jamal discussed that around USD 37 billion of worth of investment is being expected in Pakistan but at the cost of privatizing public sector enterprises and ports. The services share of government will decrease but it does not mean private sector will take over loss making enterprises, if not at throw away prices. Therefore, the short-term stability by institutions like IMF is more like a extending the lifetime of global south specific critical issues in macro-governance. Pakistan may see a stability in the narrative of short term but a lot needs to be done for it catch up with its peers.

PR Short Notes
President and the Controversy over his assent to two bills
Femy Francis
What has the President said?
On 20 August, President Arif Alvi denied that he assented the amendments to the Official Secrets Act and the Pakistan Army Act. He expressed his concerns on social media platform formerly known Twitter now X stating that he did not sign the bills as he disagreed with the laws and that he ordered his staff to return the bills unsigned within the 10-day stipulated period as to make them abortive. Additionally, he claimed that he repeatedly inquired whether they returned the bill and was assured by his staff that they were, contrary to his knowledge he found: “that my staff undermined my will and command.”
What has been the response from the caretaker government?
On 20 August, President Alvi’s claims were refuted by Interim Law Minister Ahmed Irfan Aslam and Information Minister Murtaza Solangi that he was unaware of status of the two bills and stated that he: “chosen to discredit his own officials” and he should “take responsibility for his own actions”. In a joint press conference to clear the ambiguity the legal and constitution interim heads informed that they had not received any of the bills within the 10-day time period and therefore the bills become law. In accordance with Article 75 of the Pakistan’s constitution when a bill reaches the president for approval, he can either assent or reject it by returning the bill unsigned and provide with suggested observations and the second time the bill reaches him he is obliged to sign it. Legal and constitution representatives Ahmed and Murtaza informed that president Alvi did not resort to any or the recourse and kept the bill pending therefore it automatically passed by assuming “Deemed Assent”.
What do the legal experts say and response by political parties?
The amendments made to the bill where in light of the prolonged political turmoil facing Pakistan, Since the attack on military establishment on 9 May by PTI members, there has been a crackdown against the party leaders and activists. The current changes in the bill stands to further facilitate and strengthen the army establishment and other security agencies of Pakistan like FIA. The reproduced “cipher” transcript influence can be reflected in the amendment, with the clause bringing in stringent measures against the actors who violate these laws. The discrepancy in the current issues lays that President Alvi claims to have ordered the return of the bill to his staff and in accordance to which it was supposed to be reconsidered by Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament). If the bill was again passed the parliament without any changes, president would either have to assent within 10 days or it would be deemed to be assented. Which means the “deemed to be assented” claims made by the current interim government is invalid as it only applies after the bill reaches the president for the second time.
After President Alvi’s post political chaos ensued Pakistan with former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar finding Alvi’s statements as “unbelievable” and urged him to resign posting on ‘X’: “Unbelievable —minimum morality warrants Alvi Sb to resign, having failed to run his office effectively, efficiently and as per Rules of Business — official work is conducted on files and implementation ensured — such statements only indicate playing with the gallery.” Sherry Rehman president of PPP questioned Alvi’s ability to hold office. That if someone signed the bill from under his nose and he has no control over his staff then he should resign owing to his incompetency. Several leaders expressed their dissatisfaction with President Alvi’s statement and questioned if his loyalties still laid with PTI.  PPP leader Raza Rabbani stated that the allegation made by president are very serious and the concerned players should appear before court. 

PTI expressed solidarity with President Arif Alvi who contested from PTI in 2018. They thanked him for “rising above fears and taking a stand for the Constitution and law, the fundamental rights of citizens and the survival and security of democracy and the Parliament.” General Omar Ayub Khan PTI secretary demanded legal actions against those who disobeyed president’s order.
What are the bills about?
The amendment to Official Secret Act includes a definition for “enemy” where one would be considered if: “Any person who is directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally working for or engaged with a foreign power, foreign agent, non-state actor, organization, entity, association or group guilty of a particular act… prejudicial to the safety and interest of Pakistan.” In addition to that 6-A amendment to the bill states that disclosure of identities of intelligence agency members, informant or source without authorization will be dealt with punitive actions with up to three years of jail and an additional fine of PKR 10 million. A clause has been added prohibiting access to military installations and office not only in time of war but during peace times.
The Pakistan Army Act amendment outline stricter punishable measures, where a suspect if found guilty of divulging any information that they acquired in official capacity and or the information will affect the security and interest of the country or arms forces will be facing five years of rigorous imprisonment. Furthermore, the act forbids a person subject to Army Act to engage in political activities for the period of five years since probed and that any individual who defames, ridicules or scandalize armed forces will face punitive actions in accordance with the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act and face up to two years of imprisonment. Both the bills have gained criticism as they empower the establishment more to further their influence.  

(“Caretakers rebuff claims,” Dawn, 21 August 2023;
What are the amendments made to Army Act and Official Secrets Act?” Dawn, 20 August 2023;
Nadir Guramani, “‘
As God is my witness’: President Alvi says he did not assent to bills amending Army Act, secrets law,” Dawn, 20 August 2023;
PTI Announces To Approach Supreme Court Over 'Unsigned' Official Secrets, Army Act Controversy,” The Friday Times, 20 August 2023)

PR Short Note 
Election Commission to undertake delimitation. Five things to know
Dhriti Mukherjee

On delimitation, what has the Election Commission decided?
On 17 August, the Election Commission of Pakistan announced that as per the delimitation that will be carried out, elections will now be delayed beyond 90 days despite the constitution’s provisions. The delimitation is being conducted in response to the findings of the 7th Population and Housing Census, 2023, as well as the legal provisions stipulated in Article 51 of the Constitution and Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, 2017. The projected timeline indicates that the delimitation process will conclude on 14 December, meaning the upcoming general elections are likely to experience a delay beyond the conventional 90-day constitutional limit.

What did the Council of Common Interests (CCI) say?
The decision to undertake the delimitation exercise was driven by the approval of the official results from the 7th Population and Housing Census, 2023, by the Council of Common Interests (CCI). The population census revealed certain changes in demographic data. This prompted questions over the necessity of recalibrating the electoral constituencies, so that the entire population could be represented efficiently and fairly. These reactions showcased the importance of the relationship between the country’s electoral framework and evolving demography. By sanctioning the census results and thereby prompting the delimitation process, the CCI has indirectly influenced the timeline of the upcoming general elections. It also explicitly proves Pakistan’s attempt to make such processes which are an integral part of a democratic set up, more transparent and accurate, by guaranteeing that citizens have an equal say.

The new Census: What does the data reveal?
The 7th Population and Housing Census, 2023, gave a comprehensive overview of the present-day demographic landscape of Pakistan, including information on distribution and urbanization. The data from this census can be compared to previous ones, to allow an understanding of the shifts Pakistan’s population has experienced within its constituencies. Based on this, the delimitation process is carried out in a data-driven manner, to ensure each constituency corresponds to a roughly equal number of citizens. The accuracy of this process is vital for upholding the principle of "one person, one vote," as it guarantees that citizens' voices are not diluted by unequal constituency sizes. This census holds historic significance as it marks the first time that Pakistan’s population was tracked digitally. However, there were calls for protests against the “fake census” by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which said that the digital census aimed at reducing the population of Karachi. More questions arose when there was a revision to the census made, which led to a decline in the population count from 250 to 241.5 million in three months. 
Who is opposed to delimitation? Why?
Although this decision has been opposed by various actors, the PTI has proven to be the most prominent critic. It regards the delimitation exercise which will lead to an election delay as a “ploy to delay polls.” A PTI spokesperson said that the decision is a malicious deviation from Article 224 of the Constitution which mandates organizing general elections within 90 days of delimitation. It has also announced that it will challenge the decision in the Supreme Court on 18 August. Aside from the PTI, the president of the think- tank PILDAT stated: “A law cannot overrule the constitution,” adding that despite the census results, “delimitation is not a constitutional requirement.” There are also remarks from contesting parties which believe that this is a tactic to give the caretaker government more power to convene on “urgent matters.” 
What does the above mean?
Primarily, the ECP’s decision to undertake the delimitation process means that Pakistan’s general elections will be delayed. The “cryptic” nature with which updates are being announced has become a cause of worry over whether the elections will be conducted at all. Although the census highlights the need for delimitation to maximise the democratic nature of the elections, the decision’s timing and resultant in elections have sparked debates and controversies. It has been predicted that the elections are likely to be held in February 2024, a month before the Senate elections. The Director Programs at the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) Muddassir Rizvi spoke in favour of this possibility, saying: “One of the upsides to this can be that one of the biggest aberrations in our constituencies — unequal constituency strengths — can also be fixed. The newly amended election law makes it easier to allow for equal constituencies.”
(Zebunnisa Burki, “Delimitation not a constitutional requirement,” The News International, 18 August 2023; Mumtaz Alvi, “Polls not being held in 90 days,” The News International, 18 August 2023; Iftikhar A Khan, “Polls not possible this year after ECP decision,” Dawn, 18 August 2023)

PR Short Note
Composition of Pakistan’s new Cabinet
By Shamini Velayutham

On 18 August, a 24-member cabinet made up of politicians was installed by interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar. The newly nominated interim ministers were sworn in on 17 August by President Arif Alvi. Four advisers to the prime minister, three special assistants to the prime minister (SAPMs), and five federal ministers make up cabinet. The members and their designations are as follows.

  • The former Governer of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Shamshad Akhtar, has been given the portfolios of Finance and Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics, and Privatization.
  • Former Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani has been named foreign minister.
  • Former Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti has been appointed federal minister for interior, overseas Pakistanis, and drug control.
  • Senior journalist Murtaza Solangi, who previously held the position of the Director General of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, has been appointed to the Ministry of Information.
  • Senior attorney and former member of the Supreme Court's International Arbitration Cell, Ahmed Irfan Aslam, was handed the ministries of law and justice, climate change, and water resources.
  • Former SECP chairman Muhammad Ali has been handed the ministries of petroleum and power.
  • Gohar Ejaz, a well-known industrialist, has been given the portfolios of trade, industry, and production.
  • Former PITB director Dr Umar Saif has been assigned two portfolios: science and technology, and information technology and telecom.
  • Former federal secretary Muhammad Sami Saeed has been given the job of planning, development, and special initiatives.
  • Jamal Shah, a well-known TV entertainer, has been appointed as the federal minister of national heritage and culture.
  • The government education and professional training portfolio has been given to well-known Pakistani author, pundit, and journalist, Madad Ali Sindhi.
  • Dr. Nadeem Jan, a renowned health specialist, has been given the portfolio of national health services, regulations, and coordination.
  • The human rights minister has been given to Khalil George of the Balochistan Awami Party.
  • Minister for religious affairs and interfaith harmony Aniq Ahmed is a scholar of religion.
  • A retired captain named Shahid Ashraf Tarar has been handed three portfolios: communications, maritime affairs, and railways.

The caretaker ministers, advisers, and special advisers received their portfolio assignments from the interim premier shortly after the oath-taking ceremony.

(Syed Irfan Ashraf “Kakar inducts two dozen into cabinet” Dawn, 18 August 2023; Muhammad Anis “Kakar picks 24-member caretaker cabinet” The News International 18 August 2023)

PR Short Note
Pakistan: Following blasphemy allegations, mobs torch churches and Christian homes in Faisalabad. Caretaker PM promise action
Genesy Balasingam

On 17 August, following an alleged instance of blasphemy in Jaranwala town of Faisalabad district in Punjab province, a violent crowd of hundreds trashed and torched five churches, attacked the homes of members of the Christian community and robbed items from residences abandoned by their owners due to fear of violence. The violence began after some residents claimed that numerous desecrated pages of the Holy Quran had been discovered outside a house, where two Christian brothers lived.

The vandalism and the attack on the minority community was condemned. Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has promised stern action against those responsible for the desecration and burning of several churches and houses belonging to the Christian community. PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated that this kind of animosity and religious intolerance has no place in Islam or national values. Additionally, The United States and the European Union condemned the violence and demanded a fair investigation into the riots.

Religious minorities account for around 5 per cent of Pakistan'. 2023 saw a significant increase in attacks against minorities facing unprecedented insecurity and persecution in the country. Religious persecution initially targeted Ahmadis but has increased significantly over the course of decades to various other minority groups. Most of the accused in all these violence has openly disputed the blasphemy claims levelled against them, questioning the police's legitimacy as well as the allegation into question. Vested interests have used the blasphemy laws with impunity. 

The recent Quran burning in Sweden, as well as the disarray that surrounded it, has increased sensitivity to blasphemy violence. As the Taliban gets a greater footing in Pakistan, increasing brutal attacks on religious minorities demonstrate the organisation's growing power and influence. These acts exacerbate the volatility of an already volatile country and demonstrate how Pakistan is now increasingly threatened by extremists. These attacks have escalated year after year, regardless of the regime in power. The occurrence of this attack during the caretaker government - a highly volatile political context amidst the delimitation process poses serious domestic security threat. Following the delimitation, one major fear is that these attacks may escalate from religious blasphemy to full-fledged minority conflicts.

(Kalbe Ali, “At ‘mob’s mercy’, Christians cry out for justice,” Dawn,  17 August 2023; Sif Chaudhry,Tariq Saeed, “5 churches, many homes ransacked in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala,’’Dawn,  17 August 2023; Ahmad Fraz Khan, “PM promises ‘stern action’ against mob,” Dawn,  17 August 2023; “Faisalabad rampage,” Dawn,  17 August 2023)


PR Short Note
President returns bills; will have to wait for the next Parliament
Genesy Balasingam

On 16 August, President Arif Alvi returned over a dozen bills for the reconsideration of the parliament. These bills will be considered and agreed upon following the general elections and the formation of a new National Assembly. With the dissolution of the National Assembly, the uncertainties surrounding general elections, and the new NA, this evaluation has been postponed indefinitely. The returning laws were passed by both houses of parliament towards the tail end of the PML-N-led government's term without due review and in the presence of only 15 governing coalition lawmakers. The President has returned these legislation as they do not comply with the constitution's requirements or with the standards of parliamentary processes. These bills on the agendas were also not referred to the appropriate committees. The bills did not come from the NA and were sent directly to the Senate without any analysis or comprehensive deliberation, which will be problematic in the future. Within an hour of the session, which was presided over by the Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf, the house had approved 29 of the 36 proposals. This has been interpreted as a ploy to avoid the responsibility of enacting such laws. 

Among these proposals is a bill to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to enhance the penalty for disrespecting the Holy Prophet (PBUH), his companions, and other religious leaders, from three to at least ten years in prison. This appeared to benefit some specific personalities. Other returned bills include the Press, Newspapers, News Agencies, and Books Registration Amendment Bill, which attempts to replace the word "federal government" with "Prime Minister" wherever it appears in the law. Given the region's current political insecurity, this substitution gives the caretaker Prime Minister more power. This further translates to an advantage to other parties in being able to blame the caretaker government for tighter laws and their repercussions, which will aid contesting parties in securing votes in the next elections which have been delayed.

The collapse of the political establishment, along with the climate catastrophe, currency depreciation, inflation, and the lack of a solid administration, has raised the likelihood of people opposing the return of certain political regimes. As a result, hastily enacting these laws has allowed political parties to purchase more time in order to re-establish themselves as an avenue through which the region might rebuild stability. Restrictions on the fourth pillar of democracy is a tactic for limiting public opinion and restricting government criticism, resulting in a lack of accountability between the government and the people. President Alvi has also returned the Higher Education Commission (HEC) measure, which sought to extend the term of the HEC chairman to four years. Other legislations that have been returned include the public sector commission amendment bill.

(Iftikhar A. Khan, “President Alvi returns over a dozen bills,” Dawn, 16 August 2023; Waqas Ahmed, “President returns 13 bills unsigned ,” The Express Tribune, 16 August 2023)


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