Update on Inter-Institutional Relations in Pakistan | November 2020

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This update is meant to identify key developments during the month on Inter-Institutional Relations in Pakistan with selected high-profile international developments included occasionally. For the purpose of this update, the institutions are meant to be the Legislature, Judiciary and Executive.

In this Issue:

  1. Pakistan Democratic Movement Presents ‘Charter of Pakistan’
  2. Multan PDM Rally goes ahead despite ban
  3. PML-N Leaders Condemn leadership’s anti-state narrative
  4. ISI, Rangers Officials Suspended over Karachi Incident
  5. Former Army Chief asked for extension
  6. Possibility of an inter-institutional dialogue still exists
  7. Nawaz Sharif shocked me: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
  8. Prime Minister orders setting up of new border management body
  9. New body set up for intelligence coordination
  10. PILDAT hosts Virtual Forum on role of NSC
  11. Chief of Army Staff interactions with Foreign Dignitaries
  12. Corps Commanders’ Conference
  13. Prime Minister’s Interactions with Chief of Army Staff
  14. Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan meets Director General ISI
  15. Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan visits ISI Headquarters
  16. Honourable Speaker National Assembly meets Prime Minister
  17. Honourable Speaker National Assembly meets Foreign Dignitaries
  18. Supreme Court Issues Contempt Notice to Chief Minister Sindh
  19. PHC orders treatment of ailing military court convicts
  20. Supreme Court on Local Government Elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  21. New President of the Supreme Court Bar Association comments on state of affairs in the country
  22. Justice Qazi Faez Isa Case
  23. Afghan peace process
  24. Myanmar Opposition rejects election results

Pakistan Democratic Movement Presents ‘Charter of Pakistan’

PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman addresses a press conference with other PDM leaders

On November 17, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) announced a ‘Charter of Pakistan’ listing the main goals and principles of the 11-party opposition alliance.[1] Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (Fazl) Chief and PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced the 12 goals identified by the PDM after a meeting of the alliance in Islamabad. The goals listed by the PDM President include ensuring supremacy and protection of federal, democratic, parliamentary and Islamic constitution. Other goals highlighted by the PDM include the independence of Parliament, distancing establishment and intelligence agencies from politics, establishing an independent judiciary, reforms for free and fair elections, protection of the public’s basic and democratic rights, protection of provincial rights and the 18th amendment, establishment of an effective mechanism for local governments, protection of freedom of expression and independent media, elimination of extremism and terrorism, protection and implementation of Islamic sections of the Constitution and the introduction of an emergency package to eliminate poverty, inflation and unemployment.

Separately on November 22, the PDM held a rally in Peshawar despite a ban placed on gatherings by the government and warnings of a possible terrorist attack if the rally was held.[2] At the Peshawar rally, President PDM Maulana Fazlur Rehman also warned that any institution found interfering in the political set up of the country would be named openly.

“Hum fauj aur idaaron ka ehteraam karte hain agar woh humara difayi idaara hai. Agar difayi idaara hai, humaare sar aankhon pe. Lekin agar woh siyaasi idaara ban-ne ki koshish karre ga tou phir tanqeed bardasht karni ho gi. Phir yeh matt kahein ke humara naam na liya karro. Phir tumhara naam bhi liya jaye ga, phir tum pe tanqeed bhi ki jaye gi.”[3]

Multan PDM Rally goes ahead despite ban

Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari and Ms. Maryam Nawaz Sharif pictured at Multan PDM rally

In the backdrop of rising political temperature and increasing polarisation between government and opposition, on November 30, the Pakistan Democratic Movement managed to hold a rally in Multan despite the District Administration’s efforts to prevent it. Two requests were submitted by former Premier Mr. Yousaf Raza Gillani to the District Administration to hold the rally in Multan on November 24. The Deputy Commissioner refused to allow holding of the rally citing the ban on large gatherings imposed by the government to prevent spread of Covid-19.[4] The Deputy Commissioner also cited what he thought was the ban imposed by the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) on such occasions.

Several PDM leaders and workers were arrested in order to prevent the rally in Multan. Mr. Ali Musa Gillani, son of former Premier Mr. Yousaf Raza Gillani was also arrested on November 25 while protesting for the release of PDM workers.[5] Meanwhile police and District Authorities placed containers around the Qila Kohna Qasim Bagh Stadium to prevent PPP and PDM workers from reaching the venue of the planned rally.

Meanwhile, on November 28, enthusiastic workers of the PPP removed barriers on the way to the Qila Kohna Qasim Bagh Stadium in order to make arrangements for holding of the PDM rally.[6] On November 29, the police and District Administration again managed to gain control of the venue by sending in heavy contingents of police and arresting several political workers of the PDM. Mr. Ali Qasim Gillani, another son of former Prime Minister Mr. Yousaf Raza Gillani was arrested on November 29 as well and shifted to Multan jail for a period of 30 days.[7]

It was the Multan bench of the Lahore High Court which directed the administration to remove all the obstacles placed around the public gathering venue and ordered the release all the arrested workers of PDM which paved the way for the PDM to hold the jalsa. [8]

Federal Minister for Water Resources Mr. Faisal Vawda and Federal Minister for Science and Technology Mr. Fawad Chaudhry criticised the Punjab Government on handling of the rally stating that the Government had given more hype to the PDM by arresting leaders and placing barricades and still allowing the rally to go forward.

PML-N Leaders Condemn leadership’s anti-State narrative

Former leaders of the PML-N Mr. Sanaullah Zehri and Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Abdul Qadir Baloch address a press conference in Quetta

On November 1, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders of Attock District distanced themselves from what they termed as the “leadership’s anti-state narrative,” citing the speeches of PML-N Quaid Mr. Nawaz Sharif and the speech of Mr. Ayaz Sadiq given at the floor of the National Assembly.[9] At separate press conferences held in different towns and cities of Attock, PML-N Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Mr. Jehangir Khanzada, former MPA Mr. Shahwaiz Khan and former Member of National Assembly (MNA) Malik Itabar Khan criticised the hard stance taken by the leadership against the Armed Forces. Malik Itabar Khan termed the narrative presented by Mr. Nawaz Sharif and Mr. Ayaz Sadiq as ‘anti-national.’

In a similar development, on November 7, senior leaders of the PML-N Balochistan Chapter quit the party over the leadership’s narrative against the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency Chiefs.[10] PML-N Balochistan President, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Abdul Qadir Baloch, formally resigned from the party. Former Chief Minister of Balochistan, Mr. Sanaullah Zehri, also announced quitting the PML-N’s Central Executive Committee.

General Secretary PML-N Mr. Ahsan Iqbal and Provincial General Secretary of Balochistan Mr. Jamal Shah Kakar said that the loss of the two leaders would not affect the party’s organisational structure in Balochistan.

ISI, Rangers Officials Suspended over Karachi Incident

Capt. (Retd.) Safdar

On November 10, the Pakistan Army removed members of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Agency and the Pakistan Rangers Sindh involved in the abduction of Sindh Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mushtaq Mahar. In a statement released by the ISPR, it was stated that the Officials of the ISI and Rangers Officials were experienced enough to have acted more prudently and based on the recommendations of the Court of Inquiry it was decided that the officers would be removed from their current posting for further departmental proceedings and disposal at the General Headquarters.

The ISPR explained that the Court of Inquiry had established that on the night of the incident, Officers from the Pakistan Rangers and the ISI sector headquarters Karachi were considerably seized with the fallout of the desecration of the Mausoleum of Quaid. Assessing the police response to be too slow, the Officers acted ‘over zealously.’[11]

The inquiry, that had been initiated after a telephonic conversation between Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Chairman PPP Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was welcomed by the PPP Chairman. Speaking at a jalsa in Gilgit, Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that such actions enhance the prestige of institutions.[12] However, PML-N Quaid Mr. Nawaz Sharif termed the inquiry a cover up shielding the real culprits and said that the report was “rejected.”[13]

Former Army Chief asked for extension

Former COAS General Raheel Sharif with Mr. Nawaz Sharif

On November 8, former PML-N leader Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Abdul Qadir Baloch revealed that former Chief of Army Staff, General (Retd.) Raheel Sharif, asked for an extension from former Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif three times.[14] The estranged PML-N leader made these comments on journalist Mr. Muhammad Malick’s show on Hum Tv. Responding to a question regarding extension of Gen. (Retd.) Raheel Sharif, Lt. Gen (Retd.) Abdul Qadir Baloch said:

“Mujhe bohat mayoosi hui jab baad mein Raheel Sharif Sahab ko extension bhi nai di gayi aur woh retire ho gaye tou phir Mian Nawaz Sharif Sahab ne mujhe kaha ke jee woh tou mera peecha chore nai rahe thay. Aur he was asking time and again. Balke yahan takk kaha ke General Sahab jab aapke logon ko aik martaba bataya jata hai dusri teesri martaba kyun kehte hain. Raheel Sharif Sahab tou mere peeche parr gaye thay extension ke liye. That was a great disappointment for me, Raheel Sharif mere Staff Officer rahe thay barri meri uss se umeedein theen mera barra aik expectation uss se yeh tha ke woh aik soldier hai aur aik soldieraana tareeke se woh challa jaye ga extension wagheira woh nahin maange ga.”[15]

Former Chief of Army Staff General (Retd.) Raheel Sharif said that no message was conveyed to Mr. Nawaz Sharif about an extension. Instead, some PML-N leaders wanted to give the extension, which the former COAS refused. Senior PML-N leaders also purportedly offered the former COAS the position of Field Marshall, which he again refused to accept.[16] Some PML-N leaders in the past had claimed that the refusal to grant an extension led to scandals such as the Dawn leaks and the Panama Papers, which eventually led to the ouster of former Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif from his position.

Possibility of an inter-institutional dialogue still exists

PML-N Vice President Ms. Maryam Nawaz Sharif

On November 12, Vice President of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Ms. Maryam Nawaz Sharif said that there was still a chance for the Pakistan Democratic Movement to hold talks with the security establishment. However, the talks would be predicated on the ouster of the ruling PTI Government.[17]

These comments were made by her in an interview to BBC Urdu. The PML-N Vice President also added that the talks would have to be in front of the public and not behind closed doors. Ms. Maryam Nawaz Sharif claimed that some members of the establishment were already in contact with senior PML-N leaders.

The statement by the PML-N leader was lent further credence in an interview by the PML-N leader, Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, to The News in which he said that PML-N Quaid Mr. Nawaz Sharif was not opposed to a dialogue with all relevant stakeholders, including the Chief of Army Staff and the DG ISI, despite the belligerent stance adopted by him in PDM rallies. Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that naming individuals was not meant to humiliate anyone but was done in an effort to identify the problems and fix them. Other PDM leaders such as Mr. Asif Ali Zardari are also reportedly not averse to possibility of talks with the security establishment, however President of the PDM Maulana Fazlur Rehman had spoken against the option of a dialogue with the establishment.[18] Reportedly the establishment too is willing to engage in a dialogue to address the wrongs committed by all sides in the past.[19]

Nawaz Sharif shocked me: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

Chairman PPP Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the BBC Urdu interview

On November 6, Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said he was shocked when PML-N Quaid named Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and DG ISI Lt. General Faiz Hameed directly at the first PDM rally in Gujranwala.[20]

In an interview given to BBC Urdu, the Chairman of the PPP said that the decision to name the top brass of the Army was taken by the PML-N Quaid independently and had not been discussed prior to the event.[21]

PPP Chairman Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also clarified that the resignation of the Army leadership was not amongst the demands of the PDM. He termed the statement by the PML-N Quaid Mr. Nawaz Sharif as a ‘personal and party’ decision of the PML-N. Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that at the All Parties Conference held prior to the Gujranwala rally, it was agreed that institutions would not be singled out and the term establishment will be used instead.

Meanwhile, on November 7, Vice President of the PML-N Ms. Maryam Nawaz said that the statement given by Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was deliberately being misconstrued and that the Government was trying to create cracks in the Pakistan Democratic Movement.[22]

Prime Minister orders setting up of new border management body

Prime Minister chairs a meeting on establishing new border management system

On November 30, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan ordered the setting up of a special division under the supervision of an Additional Secretary from the Interior Ministry to make the border management system more effective.[23]

Reportedly, no central body existed which gathered data regarding border management that could serve as a security threat. The meeting was attended by Federal Minister for Aviation, Federal Minister for Interior, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs and Director General ISI.

New body set up for intelligence coordination

Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan with COAS and DG ISI

On November 23, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan approved the setting up of the National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICC) to coordinate all intelligence related activity in the country.[24] The NICC will coordinate the activities of the 26 intelligence agencies present in Pakistan currently and the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency will serve as the Chairman.

Reportedly, discussions about setting up of a forum to coordinate intelligence activities in the country have been going on for a long time and multiple meetings of all the intelligence agencies were held before the proposal was presented to the Prime Minister.

However, the decision that the coordination committee should be chaired by one of the heads of intelligence agencies has been criticised. Former Director General of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Mr. Shaukat Javed has said that while setting up of a national coordination body was needed for intelligence coordination, the head of one intelligence agency to chair the NICC would be problematic. Intelligence agencies by nature operate in a clandestine manner and do not want to share information with other agencies. In order for intelligence agencies to be effective, they could not share information since the risk of leaks taking place increased with the sharing of information. He expressed the fear that the NICC would fail because of this reason. The former DG IB proposed a system where the ISI and Military Intelligence (MI) were coordinated by the ISI, while all the civilian intelligence agencies would be coordinated by NACTA, as it was NACTA which was charged with intelligence coordination. These bodies should then report to the National Security Advisor (NSA) who should be a politician, a technocrat or a retired civilian or military official.

PILDAT has carried out analysis of coordination systems in some countries. In the case of the United States, the office of the Director of National Intelligence serves a similar role of coordinating intelligence agencies. The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is appointed by the President and may be a retired member of the Armed forces, or a retired technocrat. The DNI coordinates all the intelligence agencies in the United States.

Similarly in India, the two main intelligence agencies; the Research and Analysis Wing and the Intelligence Bureau are both headed by civilians. These two bodies report to the National Intelligence Coordination Committee, which is headed by a retired civilian officer and reports to the Prime Minister of India.

PILDAT hosts Virtual Forum on role of NSC

On November 24, PILDAT hosted a virtual forum on the role of the National Security Committee in Pakistan. President PILDAT Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, former National Security Advisor of Pakistan Mr. Sartaj Aziz and former National Security Advisor of Britain Sir Mark Lyall Grant addressed the forum. Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT moderated the forum.

Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob raised some important points regarding the National Security Committee (NSC) in Pakistan. Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob commented on how the NSC in Pakistan’s case could serve as an ideal forum for the top leaderships of the civilian government and the military to discuss the state of civil-military relations in Pakistan. Expressing his views, Mr Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said that: “In any society, in any country the National Security Committee or the National Security Council assumes a very important position in decision making. Despite the fact, even in Pakistan it’s a very important institution, we have seldom found this in our national policy discourse. The mention of national security committee and we have not seen this committee meeting as frequently as it should be meeting given the national security challenges Pakistan is facing, has been facing over the past many years. In the Pakistani context the National Security Committee is even more important than many other countries because we have a very peculiar kind of civil-military relations in Pakistan. And NSC provides us a platform where civil and military can sit together and discuss the issues, which had been probably faced by the country over the past many years. Where the top leadership of the civil and the top leadership of the military are present. And that was probably the idea when this institution was put together. ” “A unique feature of Pakistan’s NSC is that it’s a decision making body… if the NSC can make decisions independent of the decision making of the Federal Cabinet, then what would be the real value or legal value of the decision?, he questioned.

Mr. Sartaj Aziz, who was the architect of the National Security Committee in its current composition in Pakistan, raised several important points. He gave a brief historical background of the NSC in Pakistan, stating that he had given the proposal for such a body to multiple governments since 1999, but only got the opportunity to set it up in 2013. Mr. Sartaj Aziz, in his overview of the National Security Committee also said that the NSC had not been utilized as envisioned and expressed disappointment at the role the Committee was playing.

“Its not been used for the kind of functions that in essence the Security Committee would have had…. It continues to be dormant in terms of achieving its basic objective. When I overview this subject, I am disappointed in a way that my very long-standing mission to create an effective National Security Committee has not been fulfilled… The research capacity, which it needed has not come about. The processing of options, and you see the result of this less effectiveness in the security system is before us. And the basic flaw is that there is a very wide gap on security issues; in threat perceptions, in policy options and what we need to do. And this gap between military and civilian elected set up has been one of the causes of political instability in the country.”[25]

In his talk, Sir Mark Lyall Grant highlighted some key features of the National Security Council in Britain and talked about how it had helped formalize decision-making. Sir Mark Lyall Grant mentioned that the National Security Council’s creation came about as a result of intelligence failure.

“The National Security Council in the UK was born out of failure. It was established by David Cameron when he became Prime Minister in 2010, in a deliberate attempt to signal a move away from so called sofa government practiced by his predecessor Tony Blair. During his time as Prime Minister, Tony Blair had engaged the United Kingdom in a series of overseas interventions.”

Further on, Sir Mark Lyall Grant said that it was yet to be seen if the NSC was a successful organization. However, the NSC had served as an effective tool for decision making.

“In terms of substance or outcomes, has the quality of the decisions (by the NSC) improved as a result. And I think frankly, time would tell. Is it true that the decisions taken on British military intervention in say Libya and Syria, which were taken by the National Security Council have they led to any better outcomes than those taken on Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq which were before the National Security Council? Certainly, the process has been better, the audit trail is better, but in terms of outcomes of course that is a question that can be debated.”

A video account of the complete forum is available at PILDAT website.

COAS interactions with Foreign Dignitaries

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad meets Chief of Army Staff

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, called on the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarter on November 2.[26] The meeting focused on pushing for a reduction in violence and expediting the Doha peace process between the Afghan Government and the Taliban. Pakistan’s efforts at facilitating the peace process were lauded by the visiting dignitary.[27]

Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina lays floral wreath at Yadgar-e-Shuhada to pay homage to martyrs

The Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mr. Sefik Dzaferovic met Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters on November 5.[28] Matters of mutual interest, regional security and Pak-Bosnia and Herzegovina relations were discussed at the meeting. The possibility of enhancing defence cooperation between the two countries was also discussed at the meeting.

Chinese Ambassador Mr. Nong Rong meets COAS at the GHQ

On November 9, incoming Chinese Ambassador, Mr. Nong Rong, called on the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters.[29] The Chinese Ambassador appreciated Pakistan’s role in preventing conflicts in the region. Both sides expressed a desire to further improve bilateral relations.

Foreign Minister of Iran Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif meets COAS at GHQ

On November 11, Foreign Minister of Iran Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif met Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters.[30] Pak-Iran border management and border markets were discussed at the meeting.[31] The visiting dignitary also appreciated Pakistan’s role in maintaining regional security especially in assisting the Afghan peace process.

Afghanistan Ambassador Mr. Najibullah Alikhil meets COAS

On November 12, the new Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan, Mr. Najibullah Alikhil, called on the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters.[32] Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed hopes for better relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The regional security situation, on-going Afghan peace process, border management and defence and security cooperation were also discussed in the meeting.[33]

Mr. Bill Gates and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa

On November 12, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke telephonically to co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Bill Gates. The conversation revolved around Pakistan’s Covid-19 response and resumption of the polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan.[34] According to a press release by the ISPR, Mr. Bill Gates conveyed his appreciation for the Pakistan Army for supporting the national polio drive. Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that credit for the effective response went to the grassroots workers, law enforcement agencies and health representatives.

United States Charge d’ Affaires to Pakistan Ms. Angela Aggeler meets COAS

On November 19, US Charge d’ Affaires to Pakistan Ms. Angela Aggeler met Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters.[35] US Charge d’ Affaires to Pakistan Ms. Angela Aggeler appreciated Pakistan’s relentless support for the Afghan peace process and assured of continued assistance for the common cause of peace in Afghanistan.

mage
Egyptian Ambassador Mr. Tarek Mohamed Dahroug meets COAS

On November 20, Egyptian Ambassador Mr. Tarek Mohamed Dahroug called on COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters.[36] Ambassador Mr. Tarek Mohamed Dahroug appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for regional peace and stability. COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Pakistan and Egypt enjoyed brotherly relations and stressed on the need to enhance bilateral cooperation in all spheres.[37]

Corps Commanders’ Conference

General Qamar Javed Bajwa chairs 237th Corps Commanders Conference

The 237th Corps Commanders’ Conference was held at the General Headquarters on November 24. The Corps Commanders’ Conference reviewed the geostrategic, regional and national security environment of the country.[38]

The Corps Commanders’ Conference expressed concern about Indian sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan. Discussion was held on internal security of the country, situation along borders, Line of Control (LOC), atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir and the positive progress in the Afghan peace process.[39] The forum also discussed the COVID-19 situation and the Chief of Army Staff directed all commanders to ensure measures to support the national effort.

Prime Minister’s Interactions with Chief of Army Staff

Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan chairs meeting

During October 2020, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan met and interacted with Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa twice:

  1. On November 26, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan chaired a meeting on the Karachi Transformation Plan (KTP) where it was informed that over 100 projects were planned under the KTP on which over 1.1 trillion rupees would be spent. The meeting was attended by the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Railways Minister Mr. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Mr. Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Water Resources Mr. Faisal Vawda and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.[40]
  2. On November 29, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan visited the headquarters of Inter-Services Intelligence Agency and expressed his satisfaction at the professional preparedness of the agency.[41]

Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan meets Director General ISI

PM Mr. Imran Khan in a meeting with DG ISI

On November 19, Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency Lt. General Faiz Hameed met Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan at the Prime Minister Office.[42] Reportedly, matters pertaining to national security were discussed at the meeting.

Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan visits ISI Headquarters

Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting at the ISI Headquarters

On November 29, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan visited the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Headquarters. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Foreign Minister and Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives. Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee, Services Chiefs and Chief of General Staff also attended the meeting.[43] This was Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan’s fourth visit to the Directorate General of the ISI since assuming office. Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan appreciated the tireless efforts of the ISI for national security and expressed his satisfaction at the professional preparedness of the intelligence agency.[44]

Honourable Speaker National Assembly meets Prime Minister

Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly with the Prime Minister

On November 12, Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Asad Qaiser, met Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan at the Prime Minister’s Office. The meeting took place two days after the Honourable Speaker cancelled a parliamentary leaders’ meeting, he had convened for November 11 for a briefing by military officials regarding current issues of national security.

The opposition parties had announced a boycott of all meeting under the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly due to his alleged biased conduct during a joint sitting of parliament held on September 16.[45]

Honourable Speaker National Assembly meets Foreign Dignitaries

Honourable Speaker NA meets Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina

On November 5, Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Asad Qaiser, met with the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mr. Sefic Dzaferovic.

Mr. Asad Qaiser proposed the establishment of a parliamentary moot in Islamabad to discuss areas of possible cooperation. Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mr. Sefic Dzaferovic said his country attached importance to its relationship with Pakistan and agreed that there was a need to further boost trade activities between the two countries.[46]

Chinese Ambassador Mr. Nong Rong meets Honourable Speaker NA

On November 11, Chinese Ambassador Mr. Nong Rong called on the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly Mr. Asad Qaiser.[47] Mr. Asad Qaiser said that Pakistan was proud of its close relationship with China and that the present government was committed to taking that relationship to exemplary heights. Chinese Ambassador Mr. Nong Rong said that completion of the first phase of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would open new avenues for development for the people of the region.

Saudi Ambassador meets Honourable Speaker National Assembly

On November 26, the Ambassador for Saudi Arabia Mr. Nawaf bin Saad Al-Maliki, called on Honourable Speaker National Assembly Mr. Asad Qaiser at the Parliament House. In the meeting, it was decided that a joint parliamentary committee would be set up between the two countries to resolve issues faced by Pakistani expatriates in Saudi Arabia.[48] Mr. Asad Qaiser said that the two countries shared historic bonds of religion, culture and history. The Saudi Ambassador said that Pakistani expatriates in Saudi Arabia were playing a vital part in the development of Saudi Arabia.

Supreme Court Issues Contempt Notice to Chief Minister Sindh

Chief Minister Sindh Mr. Murad Ali Shah

On November 26, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Honourable Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed issued a contempt notice to Sindh Chief Minister Mr. Murad Ali Shah.[49]

The court was hearing a suo moto case relating to the delays in the construction of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR). The contempt notice was issued to the Chief Minister of Sindh for delays in approving the design of development work for the KCR project.

Director General of the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) Major General Kamal Azfar informed the Court that the delay in constructing under passes for the project were caused due to delays in awarding the contract by the Sindh Government.[50] Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed also observed that the FWO was not a private organization and should not be concerned about making profits and therefore the project cost should be brought down.

In a previous hearing of the case on November 10, the three-member bench of the Supreme Court had already issued contempt notices to Federal Railways Secretary Mr. Habibur Rehman Gillani and Chief Secretary Sindh Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah. On November 26, the Honourable Chief Justice said that the project should have only taken two months to complete, since only some underpasses and bridges needed to be completed.

The KCR, which started operations in 1964, was shut down in 1999 due to massive losses incurred by the organization. In February 2020, the Supreme Court had taken notice of the project and directed that it should be made operational within six months. The Court directed Sindh Chief Minister Mr. Murad Ali Shah to submit a reply within two weeks to the contempt of Court notice.

PHC orders treatment of ailing military court convicts

Peshawar High Court building

On November 26, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) accepted a petition jointly filed by 25 military court convicts kept in Mardan Central Jail, asking for provision of proper medical treatment for convicts suffering from chronic diseases. A two-member bench of the PHC headed by acting Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Mohammad Nasir Mahfooz directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Home Department and Prison authorities to provide treatment to the convicts and also to provide them with visitation rights to meet their family members after every fortnight.[51]

The lawyer for the petitioners, Mr. Shabbir Hussain Gigyani informed the Court that the prisoners in question had been convicted by military courts but were later acquitted by the High Court. They continued to be behind bars because of a stay order issued by the Supreme Court against the acquittal. The petition also asked for the installation of a public call office in their barrack for communication with families.

Supreme Court on Local Government Elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Supreme Court of Pakistan

On November 18, a two-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa warned the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government of initiating contempt of court proceedings if Local Government elections were not held in the province.[52] Hearing a petition moved by the administrator of a municipal corporation, the Court regretted that neither the Chief Minister nor his cabinet members were abiding by the KP Local Government Act 2013.[53]

During the course of the hearing, it transpired that Local Government elections had not taken place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since August 29 2019. Despite a delay of 14 months, the provincial government had not held elections.

In its four-page order issued on November 24, the Court noted that to abide by the Constitution was ‘not optional but obligatory’. Justice Qazi Faez Isa also expressed annoyance at the absence of the Advocate General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, stating that law officers were paid by the taxpayers’ money but they did not feel that it was their responsibility to appear before the Court. The Supreme Court issued notices to the Advocate General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Attorney General of Pakistan to advise their respective governments to abide by the law and to stop depriving people of their democratic right to elect local government representatives.

New President of the Supreme Court Bar Association comments on state of affairs in the country

President of the Supreme Court Bar Association Mr. Abdul Latif Afridi

On November 1, the newly elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Mr. Abdul Latif Afridi, said that in the past all political parties had looked to the army for power and should apologize to the nation. Mr. Abdul Latif Afridi also termed the practice of declaring politicians as traitors deplorable and said that this practice needed to end.[54] The SCBA President also said that Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan was helpless, powerless and due to inexperienced handling of the government, the masses were suffering.

To a question regarding the political crisis in the country, Mr. Abdul Latif Afridi said that the SCBA was willing to act as a mediator between the opposition parties and the government, provided both sides agreed to the mediation. Mr. Abdul Latif Afridi also said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had been declared an institution of political engineering by the Supreme Court and it was the job of the Government to amend the NAB Law. He also stressed on the need for the Army to abide by its Constitutional role in order to avoid a negative image being formed of the institution. The SCBA President made these comments in an interview with Jang Panel for the Sunday Magazine.

Later, speaking at journalist Mr. Saleem Safi’s show on Geo Tv, Mr. Abdul Latif Afridi also said that he was not surprised about the belligerent stance taken by Mr. Nawaz Sharif in his speeches. In the past the Muslim League had called other leaders traitors and was now facing the same situation. Mr. Abdul Latif also said that he had been termed as a traitor in the run up to the SCBA elections and that Law Minister Dr. Farogh Naseem had done illegal things to try to stop his election.

“Farogh Naseem Sb ne sab kuch kiya woh wazeer-e-qanoon thay aur humara supreme court bhi qanoon se wabasta hai, isliye mein yeh samajhta hun ke jo kuch ghair qanooni woh kar sakta tha usne kiya. Kyunke qanoon se mutaliq baat thi. Yahan tou rasm yehi challi hai ke qanooni kaam ko rukwaane ke liye ghair-qanooni hathkande istimaal kiye jaayein.”[55]

On November 2, the newly elected SCBA President addressed a press conference after his visit to the Lahore High Court Bar Association. Mr. Abdul Latif Afridi urged the judiciary to stay away from political matters and stick to its role of protecting the Constitution.[56] Commenting on the Justice Qazi Faez Isa case, Mr. Abdul Latif Afridi said that Justice Qazi Faez Isa was known for being an upright and independent judge and his integrity was beyond doubt.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa Case

Justice Qazi Faez Isa

On November 4, the dissenting note regarding the Justice Qazi Faez Isa case was released by Honourable Supreme Court Judge, Justice Maqbool Baqar. The detailed dissenting note deplores that the Prime Minister bypassed the Cabinet in sending the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).[57]

Justice Baqar observes that turning the Cabinet into a mere rubber stamp in pursuit of decision-making by the Prime Minister to the exclusion of his cabinet would violate the spirit of the constitution of Pakistan.

“If we treat the office of the Prime Minister as being equivalent to that of the Cabinet, it would follow that the Prime Minister, by himself, as a single individual, becomes the Federal Government. This is simply inconceivable.it is the antithesis of a constitutional democracy and would amount to a reversion to a monarchical form of Government reminiscent of King Louis XIV’s famous claim that “I am the State” (literally “L’etat, c’est moi”). It is most emphatically not the function of this Court to surrender the hard won liberties of the people of Pakistan to such a fanciful interpretation of the Constitution which would be destructive of all democratic principles.”[58]

In the dissenting note, Justice Maqbool Baqar also states that Law Minister Dr. Farogh Naseem and Assets Recovery Unit Chairman Mirza Shahzad Akbar are liable under the Income Tax Ordinance (ITO) 2001 as well as the NADRA ordinance for the hasty institution of the Presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.[59] Justice Maqbool Baqar also observed that Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, Former Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information was liable for contempt of court for her uncalled for and disrespectful comments made at a press conference.

Separately, Honourable Supreme Court Judge, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah noted in his dissenting note that unlawful procurement of information about three London properties of Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s family was a matter of concern. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah states in his dissenting note that the unlawful surveillance was deeply worrying and shakes the foundation of a democratic society based on rule of law.[60] The dissenting note also expresses consternation at the constitutional violation committed by the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) and its head Mirza Shahzad Akbar. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah also notes that Law Minister Dr. Farogh Naseem and Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan were responsible for undue haste in processing the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, and as the Prime Minister in a constitutional parliamentary democracy, the major burden of the malicious actions falls on Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan.

Afghan Peace Process

Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan with Afghan President Mr. Ashraf Ghani

On November 20, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan visited Afghan President Mr. Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. At the meeting, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for the Afghan peace process and urged both sides to take necessary steps to reduce violence in the region.[61]

The Prime Minister also said that a drop in violence in Afghanistan would benefit the tribal areas of Pakistan. He also said that he had always believed that a political dialogue was needed to resolve the Afghanistan issue and had campaigned against a military solution in the past.[62]

Myanmar Opposition rejects election results

Opposition leader Mr. Nyan Win Htike addresses a press conference

On November 11, Myanmar’s military-backed opposition party, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), rejected the results of the general elections in Myanmar. Unofficial results showed that Ms. Aang San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had won 361 seats in the combined upper and lower house, exceeding the 322 seats needed for control.[63]

Addressing a press conference in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, USDP leaders demanded that the Union Election Commission hold another vote and work with the military so that the election can be free and unbiased. Commenting on the elections, the non-partisan global election watchdog, the Carter Centre, said that while voters were able to freely express their will and choose their elected representatives, the quality of democracy in Myanmar continued to suffer from deficiencies in the legal framework including the reserved seats for military appointees, and by exclusion of more than 2 million people from the voting process due to violence or discrimination.

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