NIAS Pakistan Weekly

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NIAS Pakistan Weekly
Imran Khan, Toshakhana Case, and Islamabad High Court

  PR Team

PR Short Notes
Imran Khan, Toshakhana Case, and Islamabad High Court
Dhriti Mukherjee

On 25 August, Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court (IHC), Justice Amir Farooq, stated that the decision on the plea against Imran Khan had been deferred to 28 August, despite protests by his party members. He further noted that the high court bench was "sandwiched" between the trial court and the Supreme Court (SC) while discussing PTI Chairman Imran Khan's applications for the right to defence in the Toshakhana case. This statement was made with reference to the court’s hearing of the Toshakhana case, and the IHC adjourned the hearing of the appeal until Friday. The counsel for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Amjaz Pervez, brought up the fact that the SC had taken up similar applications against the 4 August order of the IHC. Despite identifying procedural defects in the trial court’s decision, the court made the decision to intervene only after hearing what the IHC had to say. Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial, who headed a three-member bench for the case, emphasized that there would be no compromise on dispensation of justice and decisions would be made according to the law and Constitution. This statement was essential due to the growing number of claims that all the procedures regarding Khan’s case had been biased and unfair. The SC directed the attorney general to file a report by 28 August regarding the conditions under which Imran Khan was being held in jail, a matter which has been the centre of heated debate in the last few weeks.

Imran Khan's Conviction and Supreme Court's Acknowledgment
With reference to Khan’s conviction in the Toshakhana reference by a trial court on 5 August, “procedural defects” were recognised by the SC. However, despite this acknowledgment, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial stated that they would wait for the decision of the IHC on the plea seeking suspension of the three-year sentence before taking any action. The trial court was given the case back by the IHC for reconsideration. This was done not just as a result of the SC observing “serious defects,” but also due to questions regarding the trial court’s hurried decision that failed to consider statements by witnesses. Additionally, the trial court failed to follow the IHC’s directions. The court decided to let the IHC decide the matter first and then proceed accordingly.

IHC Chief Justice's Comments and Imran Khan's Allegations
IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq remarked during the hearing that the trial court "did wrong" in convicting Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case. He showcased hope towards the high court acting on the points that had been brought forward by the counsel.
Meanwhile, Imran Khan accused the IHC Chief Justice of harbouring a deep-rooted sense of bias, which led him to keep Khan in jail so he would not be able to stand in the upcoming elections. Khan’s petition thereby requested the SC to transfer his cases to either the Lahore High Court or Peshawar High Court, amid allegations by his lawyers and advocates that the IHC has displayed unfair bias and prolonged the hearings more than necessary. Combined with the public outcry and the conditions in which he is allegedly being held in, these new developments have complexified the legal proceedings, as more courts continue to get involved in the process.

References
Sohail Khan, “IHC gets sandwiched between SC, trial court: Justice Amir,” The News International, 25 August 2023;
Nasir Iqbal, “
Bushra apprehends ‘serious threats’ to Imran’s life in prison,” Dawn, 26 August 2023; Malik Asad, “Drama at IHC as Imran’s plea adjourned to next week,” Dawn, 26 August 2023; Shahid Rao, “Toshakhana trial verdict carried serious defects: Chief Justice,” The Nation, 24 August 2023;
Shahid Rao, “
IHC to announce decision on plea against PTI chief conviction on Monday,” The Nation, 26 August 2023;
Nasir Iqbal, “
SC spots ‘procedural defects’ in Imran’s conviction,” Dawn, 24 August 2023


 

PR Short Notes
Pakistan on Chandrayaan Mission: From appreciation to introspection
Rohini Reenum

On 23 August, India successfully completed Chandrayaan-3’s landing on the Moon. Its efforts were lauded across countries

Political and Governmental Responses
Responses from Pakistan – by the government, leaders and people were surprisingly positive. Fawad Chaudhry, former minister of Information and Broadcasting in the Imran Khan government, who had mocked India after Chandrayaan-2 failed to land successfully, described it as a “great moment.” He tweeted the following “What a great moment for #ISRO as #Chandrayaan3 lands on the Moon, I can see lots of young scientists celebrating this moment with Mr Somnat Chairman ISRO, only Younger generation with dreams can change the world … good luck,”. Hours before the Chandrayaan-3 landing, he had urged the Pakistani government to broadcast the event live on national television. This request triggered a debate on Pakistan's social media platforms, prompting a YouTuber to gather public opinion on whether India's big moon moment should be televised.
Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch during her briefing on Friday said: “I can only say that it is a great scientific achievement, for which ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) scientists deserve appreciation.”

Critical introspection
There were some hilarious responses from the Pakistani citizens on social media. One person compared Pakistan to moon as both of them lag behind in basic infrastructure, like water, gas and electricity. This response was picked-up and reported by several media outlets in India.

Responses in Media
Dawn in an article titled “India becomes first nation to land spacecraft near Moon’s South Pole,” stated that India is closing in on milestones set by global powers such as the United States and Russia, conducting many of its missions at much lower price. It also mentioned that India has been able to do that by adapting existing technology and using an abundance of highly skilled engineers who earn a fraction of their foreign counterparts’ wages.

Introspection on Pakistan’s Space Programme
The success of the mission has also brought into focus Pakistan’s own space programme and its achievements and pitfalls. In an article titled, “India’s space quest,” Dawn while lauding India’s achievement, cited reasons for the earth-bound nature of the Pakistani space programme. It stated that this is since Pakistan has become a consumer of science and technology rather that a producer of knowledge. It further argued that Pakistan’s space agency has been helped by retired military men and not experts in the field and that their education system is not producing required manpower to give Pakistan a qualitative edge in Science and Technology.

 


PR Short Note
President invites Chief Election Commissioners to set general elections date
Femy Francis

On 24 August, President Arif Alvi in a letter requested to invite Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja to decide on an “appropriate date” to hold the upcoming general elections for Pakistan. He pointed out that the National Assembly was dissolved on 9 August on the advice of Prime Minister and according to Article 48 clause 5 of the constitution, it is the President’s responsibility to allocate the date for the upcoming polls within the stipulated 90 days period from dissolution.

The News International, was informed by an anonyms source that CEC Raja may not accept the invitation stating that the CEC held a meeting to discuss the matter as ECP does not require to have any consultation with the President expressing: “The law is very clear about it. President has cited the wrong article for this purpose.” He clarified Article 48 clause 5 stands when the ‘President’ dissolves the National Assembly then he shall appoint a date. Contrary to the situation here the National Assembly was dissolved at the recommendation of the Prime Minister and therefore provides no jurisdiction to the President to make the decision

Regardless even if the President does dissolve the assembly, the recent amendments to elections law Article 57 clause 1 by PDM clearly stripped of the Presidential power to fix election date. The amendment states that: “The commission shall announce the date or dates of the general elections by notification in the official gazette and shall call upon the constituencies to elect their representatives,” which gave the power to set poll date to ECP as originally in the constitution that was taken away by General Ziaul Haq and relocate to the President during his tenure.

Additionally, US Ambassador Donald Bloom reasserted their support to CEC Sikander Sultan Raja for conducting free and fair elections, conducted in following the constitution and law. Bloom expressed that ambiguity lays over the upcoming elections and that US will remain committed to deepen their relationship whomsoever the leader or party may be.

References
Asim Yasin, Mumtaz Alvi & M Saleh Zaafir,President Arif Alvi invites CEC for meeting to fix polls date,” The News International, 24 August 2023;
Umar Cheema, “CEC may not meet president for consultation on election date,” The News International, 24 August 2023;
In meeting with CEC, US envoy Donald Blome urges Pakistan to move ahead with free, and fair elections,” Daily Pakistan, 24 August 2023


PR Short Note
Continuing controversy over President’s assent
Femy Francis

 

Petitioned filed against suspensions of controversial bills
On 22 August, Advocate Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta filed a petition to suspend both controversial legislations, the Official Secrets Act and the Army Act amendments. He urged the apex court to review the two bills under Article 186 of Advisory Jurisdiction, where at any time, the president can infer Supreme Courts opinions on law’s that stand for public importance. The petitioner mentioned President Arif Alvi’s recent “deemed assent” controversy and expressed that the discrepancies would influence both the accused and the general public. He called the legislations that were passed as “dubious in nature” and that it violated Article 4 on the rights of the individual to be dealt in accordance with law and Article 5, which iterates obedience towards the constitution.
 
Letter by Principal Secretary Waqar Ahmed
On 21 August, after the startling revelation, President’s Secretariat informed the Principal Secretary, Waqar Ahmed, that his services would not be required by the President. Waqar requested the withdrawal of his removal and refuted the allegation purported against him. President Arif Alvi claimed that he directed his staff to return the bill as he did not agree with the legislations and stated that his staff undermined his authority and did not follow suit. Waqar refuted these allegations levied against him in a letter stating that the two controversial bill Army Act and Official Secrets Act reached the president’s office on 2 August and 8 August respectively and the deadline were specifically mentioned as 11 August and 17 August. Waqar asserted that neither the President assented nor gave any written order to return the bill and that both bills remained within the President’s office till 21 August. Refuting the allegations, he iterated that he neither made a mistake nor delayed the proceedings and that his removal was unjustified, demanding to be reinstated to Establishments Division.

Adding to the controversy, a conversation also surfaced between President Arif Alvi and Secretary Waqar Ahmed, where the former agreed that Waqar was not involved in the bill approval process and that he was facing pressure from PTI party. Amid the altercation Presidential Secretariat issued notice for the appointment for new Principal Secretary of a grade 22 DMG officer Humaria Ahmad, Humaria has refused to take on the offer expressing her concerns against being included in the ongoing controversy.
 
Opinions and Response to the controversy
On 22 August, Awami National Party (ANP) vice president Ameer Haider Khan Hoti accused President Arif Alvi of playing a “double game” and that he did not want to offend the state institutions and the PTI party owing to his loyalties. He accused the president for: “intentionally created this controversy.” The discrepancies in the facts have created a vacuum of doubt where an editorial in Dawn, Persisting doubtsstated whatever may be Alvi’s position on the bills, he did not ascribe a position as to why he did not assent to bills in writing and that his half baked apology and laid back approach and firing of his staff without assigning a reason is perplexing.

Another editorial in Dawn, ‘Presidential indiscretionby Zahid Hussain analyzed the controversy. Where he made note that while the constitutional proceeding was at question with the validity of the claims made by the president. What needs to be investigated is the fact that the two bills were pushed through the parliament for approval, just days before the dissolution of the previous PDM government. The urgency with which the bill was passed shows the ruling coalition’s alliance towards providing more powers to the security and military agencies over civilian rights. Where the draconian laws the coalitions pushed for to reprimand its opponents will haunt the democratic process of the country. The editorial stress on the repercussions and the alleged targeting of the opposition party PTI, where the accused members will face court under both controversial amended acts.

References
Sohail Khan, SC moved for suspending bills not signed by President Arif Alvi,” The News International, 23 August 2023;
Bills controversy: Alvi admitted 'party pressure',The Express Tribune, 23 August 2023;
Alvi removes presidential secretary over bills controversy,” The Express Tribune, 21 August 2023;
ANP accuses Alvi of playing double game,The News International, 23 August 2023;
Syed Irfan Raza, “Bureaucrats refuse posting to Presidency after bills saga,” Dawn, 23 August 2023

 


PR Short Notes
Violence against Christians: Update
Genesy Balasingam

What happened?
On 17 August, following an alleged case of blasphemy in Jaranwala, in the Faisalabad district of the Punjab province, a violent crowd of hundreds damaged and torched five churches, attacking the homes of Christian community members. Rioting broke out after some neighbours claimed that desecrated Holy Quran pages had been uncovered outside the home of two Christian brothers.

Public response
A middle-aged woman who is the neighbour to the victims remarked “I simply want to make sure their church is burned to the ground.” Despite living next door for years, the aggression is being met with a lack of understanding and humanity. During the rampage, victims claimed that police officers did nothing but watch the mayhem, failing to restrain the crowd from harming minorities. It is also in direct opposition to the vision of Pakistan's founder. It also breaches the qualities of objective resolution, which grant minorities the right to freely proclaim, practice, and develop their religions and cultures. This is the fast- emerging new Pakistan which contrasts with Jinnah's vision for Pakistan, which claimed that whoever was in Pakistan and pledged loyalty to it was an equal Pakistani, regardless of their religious affiliation.

History
In Pakistan, Christians have always been a minority. Even though the bulk of Hindus in Pakistan separated with the founding of Bangladesh in 1971, Hindus continue to be the country's largest minority. In terms of Christian educational institutions and hospitals, Christian minorities have left a lasting effect on both the state and society. Despite their prominence and common religious components, they were denied equal rights and liberties, contrary to the constitution. Following the partition, a few hundred Christian families relocated and many Christian upper and middle-class people left the country, resulting in the retention of poor, illiterate, and primarily rural minorities, who were subject to religious and caste prejudice. These Christians then attempted to reinvent themselves by doing additional things in order to be accepted as Pakistanis. The outcome of all this patriotism is Shantinagar in 1997, Gojra in 2009, Joseph Colony in 2013, and Jaranwala in 2015. They are not only discriminated against at the state level, particularly in education, but are also social outcasts in most places. The government failed to provide equality amongst its citizens irrespective of their religious beliefs. 

Government Response
In contrast to previous situations, the caretaker administration has demonstrated fresh compassionate support for the victims of the rampage. Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar and caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi visited the area and distributed compensation cheques to families whose homes and belongings had been burned down. They also attended Sunday services in the area, sitting among the rubble of a ransacked church. The district administration has also requested immediate repairs. This public display of solidarity has instilled in the victims a sense that the state of Pakistan has their back.

In perspective
This violence will end only if the underlying causes of these situations are addressed. Minorities will continue to walk on eggshells, unsure what misspoken remark or misconstrued notion will bring the mob to their door. Changing the result of decades of state-sanctioned indulgence of ultra-right pressure organisations for political goals is the only way of undoing the harm inflicted. The state's new response of solidarity, as well as their arduous aim to punish violators and intolerance to such activities, may mark the beginning of a new Pakistan with new norms. Only time will tell why the government's response has shifted so dramatically. Will the caretaker government earn a permanent seat in Pakistan politics by reducing communal divisions amid political instability, or will it face severe criticism from the majority and fail as a caretaker government, exacerbating political upheaval in the region?

References
Yaqoob Khan Bangash, From Shantinagar to Jaranwala,” The News International, 23 August 2023;
Show of solidarity,” Dawn, 23 August 2023

 

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