Update on The Performance of Democratic Institutions | May 2021

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This update is meant to identify key developments during the month on Performance of Democratic Institutions in Pakistan with selected high-profile international developments included occasionally.

In this Issue:

  1. Federal Cabinet allows senior bureaucrats to take contractual jobs
  2. LHC Chief warns Chief Secretary and Defence Ministry of serious consequences
  3. Jehangir Khan Tareen forms a group within the PTI
  4. NA 249 Karachi by elections
  5. The Elections (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 promulgated
  6. Shehbaz Sharif on ECL
  7. PM advises Ambassadors not to serve overseas Pakistanis with “indifferent attitude”
  8. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia call for Dialogue on Kashmir issue
  9. Dr. Moeed Yusuf appointed as the National Security Adviser
  10. Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR) Scandal
  11. Journalist Asad Toor attacked at his house
  12. SC Registrar returns Government pleas to review Justice Faez Isa verdict
  13. PIA assets unfreezed in Reko Diq case
  14. 241st Corps Commanders’ Conference
  15. Prime Minister visits ISI Headquarters
  16. US and Pakistan NSAs Meet in Geneva
  17. Prime Minister and COAS interactions
  18. FM says Pakistan shall not provide military bases to US
  19. Chairman Senate meets Foreign Dignitaries
  20. Speaker National Assembly meets Foreign Dignitaries
  21. Interactions of COAS with Foreign Dignitaries
  22. Bashar al-Assad re-elected President for a fourth term

Federal Cabinet allows senior bureaucrats to take contractual jobs

PM chairing meeting of the Federal Cabinet

On May 04, the Federal Cabinet decided to allow serving senior bureaucrats to take contractual jobs on Management Position scales (MP-I, MP-II and MP-III) without resigning from their posts. This also means that after leaving their MP-scale job, bureaucrats can rejoin their previous jobs at the end of their contract term. Earlier only retired officials and skilled professionals from the private sector could apply for MP-scale positions. The decision was taken in the light of the recommendation by the Special Committee on Institutions Reforms headed by Dr. Ishrat Husain. [1]

In June 2020, Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan had approved MP scales for hiring of professionals or technocrats in ministries, divisions and attached departments as well as autonomous bodies, and maximum age for MP-I, MP-II and MP-III scale jobs was also reduced to 62 years. Under the MP scales policy, the government appoints highly skilled, qualified professionals from open market on a tenure basis (contract) against MP-scale positions in ministries/divisions, attached departments, subordinate offices, autonomous or semi-autonomous bodies, regulatory authorities, etc., These are determined by the finance division from time to time with the Prime Minister’s approval.

The move gathered some criticism from senior bureaucrats with few bureaucrats saying that opening of MP scales would benefit well connected officers who are in good books of government, ministries or federal secretaries and could harm government’s effort to reform bureaucracy as they would be paid according to the market conditions of the private sector for a fixed term. On the other hand, Mr. Mohammad Shehzad Arbab, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Establishment, hailed the move saying this will allow serving civil servants to compete with outsiders for MP scales.[2]

LHC Chief warns Chief Secretary and Defence Ministry of serious consequences

Lahore High Court building

On May 04, Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC) Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan sought a written explanation from the Chief Secretary Punjab for not appearing in the Court on account of a meeting with the Corps Commander, which according to the Defence Ministry never took place. The Chief Justice observed that either Defence Ministry or the Chief Secretary appear to be misleading the Court and warned both of serious consequences if any of the two misrepresented facts. [3]

Chief Justice was hearing a petition by the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) seeking recovery of outstanding payment from the government which is causing financial problems for TV Channels.

The Court had summoned the Chief Secretary Punjab Mr. Jawad Rafique Malik at a previous hearing but was informed that Mr. Malik is in a meeting with the Corps Commander. The Chief Justice then issued a notice to Defence Ministry requiring record, minutes and date of this meeting. However, the Ministry of Defence informed the Court on May 4 that no such meeting took place between the Chief Secretary and the Corps Commander on the date of the previous hearing.

Jehangir Khan Tareen forms a group within the PTI

Mr. Jehangir Tareen speaking to media outside the LHC

On May 18, Jehangir Tareen, Senior leader PTI, formed separate parliamentary groups of PTI both in the National and the Punjab Assembly. The announcement came at a dinner hosted by Mr. Tareen at his residence where (according to Raja Riaz) total strength of the group (MNAs and MPAs included) was close to 40.[4]

On May 19, Mr. Tareen, while addressing the media outside the Lahore High Court, said there is no split in PTI but admitted that he formed a parliamentary group which would be raising their voices in the Punjab Assembly against Punjab Government’s act of revenge. [5]

On May 21, the group members met with CM Punjab where matters pertaining to the constituencies of MPAs were discussed. [6]

On May 26, Raja Riaz claimed that Senator Barrister Ali Zafar’s analysis of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) cases against Mr. Tareen were completed and Mr. Tareen was given a ‘clean chit.’ Senator Zafar, however, refuted this claim and shared that he has not submitted any report to the PM. [7]

NA 249 Karachi by elections

Mr. Miftah Ismail addressing a press conference after a hearing at the ECP

On May 6, the PPP again emerged victorious through the recount process of NA-249 constituency by-poll held on April 29, 2021. However, the four main contesting parties, PML-N, PTI, MQMP and PSP boycotted the recount and alleged that returning officer (RO) did not provide them with forms 45 and 46 and refused to conduct a proper audit.[8]

On May 4, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had ordered recounting of votes in the by-poll as per petition request for recount filed by the PML-N candidate, Mr. Miftah Ismail. The PPP, whose candidate, Mr. Qadir Khan Mandokhail, was victorious with a small margin in the by-election, expressed its displeasure over the recount while their information secretary criticized PML-N for seeking Army’s intervention after losing the election. Mr. Shehbaz Sharif, Vice President, PML-N hailed the ECP’s decision and stressed that narrow difference in votes required the recount. It must be noted that earlier PPPP leaders, Mr. Nayyar Bukhari and Mr. Farhatullah Babar had welcomed ECP’s decision saying its PML-N’s right for the recount.[9]

The Elections (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 promulgated

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)

On May 08, the Elections (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 was promulgated asking the ECP, through technical assistance from NADRA or any other authority or agency, to enable overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote. The ordinance also asked the ECP to procure Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for casting of votes in general elections. [10]

Federal Minister for Information claimed that the ECP was on-board on both these amendments. The ECP, however, rejected the government claim that it was on board on the matter. [11]

Electoral reforms and use of EVMs has been a burning issue of late, as opposition parties including the PML-N and the PPP have opposed the use of EVMs in next general election.[12] Mr. Bilawal Bhutto, Chairman, PPP, has said that use of technology and electoral reforms are useless until establishment keeps on interfering with polls.[13]

On May 19, the federal government displayed EVMs at the Parliament House where a briefing was given to the media. [14]

Shehbaz Sharif on ECL

Mr. Shehbaz Sharif, Leader of the opposition in the National Assembly

On May 17, Mr. Shehbaz Sharif, President, PML-N was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) after the approval of the federal cabinet. Interior Minister, Sheikh Rashid was of the view that Mr. Sharif has been barred from travel due to non-submission of medical documents for travel abroad.[15]

On May 7, the Lahore High Court (LHC) had granted permission to Mr. Shehbaz Sharif to travel abroad once for medical treatment [16] but Mr. Sharif had been stopped by the FIA team at the airport from travelling to London on the ground that his name is on the list of people who are not allowed to leave the country.[17] On May 10, Mr. Sharif filed contempt of court petition against the FIA and the government for stopping him to travel abroad.[18]

On May 11, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the post-arrest bail granted to Mr. Sharif.[19] On May 24, Supreme Court issued notice to Mr. Sharif in the Lahore High Court travel permit case. Federal Government also filed a petition against LHC’s decision to allow Mr. Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment.[20]

PM advises Ambassadors not to serve overseas Pakistanis with “indifferent attitude”

PM Imran Khan

On May 5, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan, while speaking virtually with Pakistan’s Ambassadors and envoys posted around the world, highlighted the need for respect and care while serving overseas Pakistanis.[21]

PM’s briefing was particularly focused towards Pakistan’s mission in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) where several complaints have been received of late from overseas Pakistanis regarding staff attitude and complaint handling. Consistent complaints resulted in government recalling Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia and six diplomats back home on April 28 and also opened an inquiry against them. [22]

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia call for Dialogue on Kashmir issue

Saudi Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Salman greeting PM, Mr. Imran Khan

In a joint statement issued by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia upon conclusion of Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan’s three-day visit to KSA, the two countries expressed desire for resolution of Kashmir dispute through dialogue and Afghan conflict through political settlement.

The joint statement is considered quite a departure from the relations between the two countries last year when Pakistan expected KSA to support Pakistan over the Kashmir crisis through a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC. However, Saudi Arabia turned down the request and called for return of US $ 1 billion loan on Pakistan’s insistence to call the foreign ministers’ meeting. Consequently, Pakistan had to obtain loan from China to pay back the loan to the kingdom. [23]

Dr. Moeed Yusuf appointed as the National Security Adviser

Dr. Moeed Yusuf appointed as the National Security Adviser

On May 17, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan appointed Dr. Moeed Yusuf appointed as the National Security Adviser. Dr. Yusuf has also been serving as Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Security and Strategic Policy Planning since December 24, 2019.

Earlier, on September 25, 2019, Dr. Yusuf was appointed Chairperson, Strategic Policy Planning Cell (SPPC) under the National Security Division in SPPS-I for a period of two years from the date of assumption of charge of the post. [24]

It must be noted that no meeting of the National Security Committee, the premier decision-making body on national security, has taken place since March 13, 2020, over a year ago.

Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR) Scandal

On Directions of PM, Punjab government has launched two inquiries through the Punjab Audit Directorate and Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) into the Ring Road Scandal.

A scandal has emerged regarding alterations made in the routes of the Rawalpindi Ring Road to benefit real estate projects linking Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development, Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, and Federal Minister for Aviation, Mr. Ghulam Sarwar Khan. Following the breaking of the news of linking his name to the scandal, Mr. Bukhari has resigned from the post until his name is cleared while Mr. Ghulam Sarwar Khan remains in his post. [25]

On May 14, Prime Minister ordered an inquiry into the issue after which the Punjab government has launched two inquiries through the Punjab Audit Directorate and the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE). [26]

Journalist Asad Toor attacked at his house

Mr. Asad Ali Toor, journalist/youtuber

Another prominent journalist Mr. Asad Ali Toor was attacked and beaten up by unidentified assailants in his residence on May 25.

Mr. Toor has been accused of defaming military in 2020 and also faced a court case when an FIR was lodged against him for indulging in propaganda against Pakistan and its institutions on social media. However, the Lahore High Court had cleared Mr. Toor of charges after the FIA police told the court that no evidence was found to support the charges.[27]

Reportedly, a statement issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on May 29 said that a “high level contact” was established between the ministry and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over the incident and the ISI had stated that it had nothing to do with the incident. Earlier, journalist organisations including prominent talk-show hosts and journalists had held protest demonstrations against the growing incidents of attacks on journalists. .[28]

Earlier, in an interview to BBC’s Hard Talk aired on May 28, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Mr. Fawad Chaudhry said that he took notice of the incident of attack on Mr. Toor and police has found CCTV footage of the people involved in the attack. He also said that it has become “fashionable” for Western media to accuse the ISI every time an attack on a journalist takes place in Pakistan, adding that “I know there has been a history of people using and taking names of intelligence agencies to get immigration also.” [29]

SC Registrar returns Government pleas to review Justice Faez Isa verdict

Supreme Court registrar returns Government pleas to review Justice Faez Isa verdict

On the grounds that a second review petition could not be filed to challenge a decision that had come on a review petition, Registrar Supreme Court, on May 26, returned petitions filed by the Federal Government to challenge Supreme Court verdict on review petitions in Justice Qazi Faez Isa case.[30]

PIA assets unfreezed in Reko Diq case

PIA owned Roosevelt Hotel in New York

On May 25, in the Reko Diq international arbitration, British Virgin Islands High Court ruled in favour of Pakistan de-freezing Pakistan’s assets including two PIA hotels in New York and Paris. [31]

The Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan as well as the Scribe Hotel in Paris, both iconic landmarks in their respective cities and prized assets of the PIA, were seized (or ‘charged’ in legal language) by a court order in the British Virgin Islands as settlement of the liability to the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) to whom Pakistan lost an international arbitration case after cancelling the contract that awarded them the Reko Diq gold and copper mines. [32]

In December 2020, the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) had approached the High Court of Justice in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for enforcement of the July 12, 2019 US $ 5.97 billion award against Pakistan by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in the Reko Diq case. [33] In July 2019, the World Bank tribunal called the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) had slapped a whopping US $ 5.97 billion award against Pakistan that included US $ 4.08 billion as penalty as well as US $ 1.87 billion in interest. [34]

241st Corps Commanders’ Conference

Corps Commanders Conference (File photo)

Chaired by the Chief of Army Staff, the 241st Corps Commanders Conference was held on May 25. According to the ISPR, the situation along the Pak-Afghan border was extensively discussed in addition to review of the global, regional and domestic security environment with particular focus on situation along borders, especially LoC / Working Boundary and Pak-Afghan Border. [35]

Prime Minister visits ISI Headquarters

PM, COAS visits ISI headquarters

On May 24, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan was given a briefing on the security situation in the country and the region during a visit to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Secretariat.

According to the press release of prime minister office, PM along with the delegation were given comprehensive briefing on the regional and national security situation. PM was received by Lt General Faiz Hameed, Director General, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Other delegates included Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Information Minister, Chaudhry Fawad Ahmed, Interior Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Nadeem Raza, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral, Mohammad Amjad Khan Niazi and Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal, Zaheer Ahmed Babar Sidhu[36]. PM also appreciated ISI’s effort for national security.

US and Pakistan NSAs Meet in Geneva

National Security Advisors of US and Pakistan meet in Geneva

On May 23, National Security Advisor of Pakistan, Dr. Moeed Yusuf, and the US National Security Advisor, Mr. Jake Sullian, met in Geneva in a first highest level physical contact between the two countries since President Biden’s administration took office in the US. According to a statement jointly issued both sides agreed to advance practical cooperation.[37]

Prime Minister and COAS interactions

 
COAS with PM

During May 2021, Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, have met twice. These include meeting at the ISI headquarters on May 24, 2021 where the Defence Minister, Mr. Pervez Khattak, was also present. Another meeting took place on May 7, 2021 where the two joined in talks with Saudi Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia.

FM says Pakistan shall not provide military bases to US

Shah Mahmood Qureshi says Pakistan shall not provide military bases to US

On May 25, Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that government would never provide military bases to the US for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, nor would allow drone attacks inside Pakistan.

The remarks came following US administration’s acknowledgement that it was in talks with several Central Asian neighbours of Afghanistan to examine where it can reposition troops to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a terrorist base for groups like Al Qaeda. On May 22, Mr. David F. Helvey, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Affairs, had told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that the US would continue its conversation with Pakistan because it had a critical role in restoring peace to Afghanistan.[38]

Chairman Senate meets Foreign Dignitaries

Senator Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, Chairman Senate of Pakistan
  1. On May 15, Chairman, Senate of Pakistan, Senator Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani attended the Swearing in and Investiture Ceremony of newly-elected President Ismaeel of Djibouti.[39]
  2. On May 26, Mr. Ikramn Mohammad Ibrahim, High Commissioner of Malaysia to Pakistan, paid a farewell call to Chairman Senate.[40]
  3. On May 27, Ms. Khadija Mohammad El Makhzoumi, Ambassador of Federal Republic of Somalia to Pakistan, called on Chairman Senate.[41]
  4. On May 27, Mr. Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Al-Zaabi, Ambassador of United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Pakistan called on Chairman Senate. [42]

Speaker National Assembly meets Foreign Dignitaries

Mr. Asad Qaiser, Speaker, National Assembly of Pakistan
  1. On May 12, Mr. Nong Rong, Ambassador of China to Pakistan, called on Honourable Speaker National Assembly, Mr. Asad Qaiser.[43]
  2. On May 26, Mr. Ikramn Mohammad Ibrahim, High Commissioner of Malaysia to Pakistan, paid a farewell call to Honourable Speaker.[44]

Interactions of COAS with Foreign Dignitaries

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS)
  1. On May 03, Mr. Nong Rong, Ambassador of China to Pakistan, called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff at the GHQ.[45]
  2. On May 7, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff called on the Crown Prince of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Mr. Mohammed Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, first Deputy Prime Minster & Defence Minister and Prince Khalid Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Deputy Defence Minister at Jeddah. [46]
  3. On May 17, Ms. Androulla Kaminara, Ambassador of European Union, called on the COAS.[47]
  4. On May 20, while on official visit to Ukraine, Chief of Army Staff visited Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine where he held separate meetings with Mr. Shmyhal Denys, Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mr. Uruskyi Oleh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Industries of Ukraine.[48]
  5. On May 24, Mr. Lloys J. Austin, US Defence Secretary, in a tweet, said that he spoke telephonically with Chief of Army Staff and discussed matters of mutual interest, regional security situation, Afghan peace process and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed.[49]
  6. On May 27, Chief of Army Staff held a telephone conversation with Co-Chair Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Bill Gates.[50]
  7. On May 28, Ms. Angela Aggeler, US Charge d’ Affairs to Pakistan, called on COAS at the GHQ.[51]

Bashar al-Assad re-elected President for a fourth term

Bashar al-Assad re-elected for a fourth term as the president of Syria

On May 27, Mr. Bashar al-Assad was re-elected President of Syria for a fourth term. The controversial vote extending Mr. Assad’s stranglehold on power was the second since the start of a decade long civil conflict that has killed and displaced millions and battered the country’s infrastructure. The parliamentary speaker announced that Mr. Assad garnered 95.1 per cent of the votes cast. On the eve of the election, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy said the poll was neither free nor fair, and Syria’s fragmented opposition has called it a “farce.” [52]

References

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  45. ISPR (2021) His Excellency Mr. Nong Rong, Ambassador of China to Pakistan called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ, today. Available at https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6148. (Accessed 03 May 2021)
  46. Dawn (2021) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) called on His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince, 1st Deputy Prime Minster & Defence Minister and His Royal Highness Prince Khalid Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Deputy Defence Minister at Jeddah, today. Available at https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6155. (Accessed 07 May, 2021)
  47. ISPR (2021) Androulla Kaminara, Ambassador of European Union called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ, today. Available at https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6161. (Accessed 17 May, 2021)
  48. ISPR (2021) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) while on official visit to Ukraine, visited Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine where he held separate meetings with H.E. Available athttps://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6163. (Accessed 20 May, 2021)
  49. Dawn (2021) COAS Bajwa, US defence secretary discuss regional security, Afghan peace process. Available at https://www.brecorder.com/news/40095015. (Accessed 25 May, 2021)
  50. ARY News (2021) COAS, Bill Gates discuss COVID-19, polio situation in Pakistan. Available at https://arynews.tv/en/coas-bill-gates-polio-pakistan/. (Accessed 27 May, 2021)
  51. Dawn (2021) Ms Angela Aggeler, US Charge d’ Affairs to Pakistan called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ, today. Available at https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6167. (Accessed 28 May, 2021)
  52. Dawn (2021) Syria’s Assad re-elected for 4th term with 95pc vote. Available at https://www.dawn.com/news/1626177?ref=notification. (Accessed 28 May, 2021)