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.
- Staggered or Same-Day General Election?
- COAS briefs Parliament on Security Scenario
- Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Bill, 2023
- Amended NAB Law
- Fifty Years of the Constitution
- 41st Meeting of the National Security Committee
- CEC Letter complains of Judicial Overbearing
- Convening of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC)
- PTI lobbying for US Support
- AJK High Court disqualifies AJK Prime Minister
- Cases against PTI Chairman
- Arrests and Cases against PTI Officials
- Discord Leak: Pakistan distancing itself from the US?
- Pulwama attack revelations vindicate Pakistan’s stance: FO
- First Press Conference of the new DG ISPR
- “Armed Forces always did and will continue to keep their weapons, equipment and battle-hardened human resource ever ready:” ISPR
- Taliban Consulted Pakistan’s Army Chief before reaching out to India
- Terrorist attacks in April 2023
- Eid Felicitations from the Military
- 257th Corps Commanders Conference
- Speaker National Assembly’s Interactions with Foreign Dignitaries
- Chairman Senate meets Foreign Dignitaries
- Interactions of COAS with Foreign Dignitaries
- Prime Minister’s Interactions with COAS
- Crisis Erupts in Sudan
Staggered or Same-Day General Election?
On April 27, on a resolution, moved by Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, MNA and Minister for Foreign Affairs, reposing confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, MNA, 180 members of the National Assembly voted in its favour making the PM obtain a surprise vote of confidence from majority of MNAs.
The vote of confidence apparently came in response to an April 19 order of a three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Atta Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar which had warned the Federal Government and the Prime Minister of “a serious Constitutional implication” where the Government, and the Prime Minister [may] have lost the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly. In its written order, the bench devoted itself to draw upon a parliamentary convention (in place in countries without written constitution and rules) and pondered over whether rejection of the Federal government’s financial demand from the National Assembly to authorize the expenditure of Rs. 21 Billion from the Federal Consolidated Fund (FCF) to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding elections to Provincial Assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa created an implication of the PM to have lost the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly. 
To borrow a phrase used by the Supreme Court bench in its written order, the month of April saw a flurry of “to and fro .. between the executive and legislative branches” on the issue of the date of election to the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab. Towards the end of April, the deadlock appeared to be inching towards a possible resolution as the Court indicated favourably towards a political dialogue that may result in finding a consensus-based date for holding General Election to National and Provincial Assemblies on the same date.
On April 4, a 3-member SC bench headed by the CJP quashed the ECP’s March 22 order  to postpone the Punjab elections and not just fixed May 14 as the date for Punjab Assembly election but also went ahead and modified the entire election programme as announced by the ECP. The bench also directed the government to release to the ECP PKR 21 billion to hold elections to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies by April 10 and directed the ECP to file a report before the Court on April 11 explaining whether it has received the funds in full or in part. 
The bench termed the ECP order to be “unconstitutional, without lawful authority or jurisdiction, void ab-initio, of no legal effect,” and added that that “neither the Constitution nor the law” empowered the ECP to “extend the date of elections beyond the 90 days period as provided in Article 224(2) of the Constitution.” 
Interestingly while the bench went in great detail on the issue of the date and schedule of Punjab Assembly election, with regards to the date of election to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly, its order merely asked the petitioner to raise the issue before another appropriate forum, apparently meaning thereby the Peshawar High Court. The order stated that the petitioner on the issue has “permission granted…to file such petition and/or seek such relief before such forum as is deemed appropriate.” 
In its April 4 order, the bench also aimed to quell a lingering controversy on its March 1 verdict regarding suo motu on date of Punjab Assembly election, which the Court had maintained to be a 3-2 verdict with the CJP, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar in support and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah in dissent, while the Federal Government and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had termed it as a 4-3 majority verdict against the SC’s suo motu notice on the question.
A paragraph in the April 4 SC order stated that the decision of the five member Bench of the Court was by a majority of 3:2 (Umar Ata Bandial, CJ and Munib Akhtar and Muhammad Ali Mazhar, JJ in favour; and Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Jamal Khan Mandokhail, JJ dissenting), adding that “our attention has been drawn to the detailed reasons of the two learned Judges in minority (released on 27.03.2023), wherein it is, inter alia, stated that the said matters were decided (and dismissed) by a majority of 4:3. Respectfully, the position as claimed by the learned Judges in minority is erroneous and not sustainable in law.” 
The order also set aside another SC order of March 29 by Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Aminuddin Khan (with which Justice Shahid Waheed on the bench had dissented) where they had ruled that the Constitution did not grant unilateral and arbitrary power to the CJP to make special benches and said that all hearings based on suo motu notices and cases of constitutional significance under Article 184(3) should be postponed until they are legislated upon. The April 4 order stated that the “decision of this Bench is, wholly unaffected by any observations made in the aforesaid majority order.”
However, on April 08, in a judicial note Justice Qazi Faez Isa said that the bench that overruled his order regarding a freeze on suo motu proceedings did not “constitute a constitutional court nor possessed with any jurisdiction.” On April 19, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, while addressing the students and academicians at a local university, said that judges may differ on suo motu powers, but these differences can be settled through academic discussion as they are not sitting in an arena.
In a separate development, the CJP on April 10, reserved his ruling on the Federal Government’s request to withdraw the curative review petition that the PTI government had moved before the Supreme Court against Justice Qazi Faez Isa. In March 2023, Prime Minister Mr. Shehbaz Sharif had decided not to pursue the curative review and to withdraw the same from the SC.
While the ECP announced the election schedule for May 14 as per the Court order on April 5,  in its sealed report submitted to the Court on April 11, it reportedly shared the Federal Government’s reluctance to release funds for election. 
On April 13, the National Assembly rejected a government bill tabled on April 10 titled the Charged Sums for General Election (Provincial Assemblies of the Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) Bill 2023 with a majority vote. The bill was also not approved by the National Assembly Standing Committees on Finance. 
Earlier, on April 06, in a National Assembly resolution moved by Mr. Khalid Hussain Magsi, MNA, the House regretted that despite its earlier resolution accepting majority verdict of 4:3 and the demand from the SC not to unnecessarily interfere in the political and administrative affairs, the SC neither heeded the request for a full court nor heard any other political party except one. The National Assembly termed the April 4 SC order as a ‘minority’ verdict ‘imposed by the Supreme Court’s three-judge bench’ and rejected it. 
However, on April 14 the 3-member SC bench again stated in its order that in their assessment based on the presentations made by the State Bank (SBP) and the Finance Ministry, PKR 21 Billion can be made immediately available to the ECP. The order cited in detail the provisions of Article 84 of the Constitution through which the government is authorized to make expenditures from the FCF and obtain ex post facto approval and authorization from the National Assembly. The SC order also went ahead and asked the SBP to allocate PKR 21 billion from the FCF to the Commission through writing to the Finance Ministry and set the deadline of April 17 for doing so.  The Court’s direction to bypass the National Assembly was severely criticised by the Speaker National Assembly, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who wrote to the CJP expressing concerns about recent SC orders as an encroachment on Parliament’s domain. While urging the SC to avoid getting involved in political matters and legislative domain of the Parliament, he drew the CJP’s attention to money powers bestowed on the National Assembly and its authority to approve expenditure from the FCF. The Speaker also reminded the CJP that while the Court had the power to interpret the Constitution, it did not include rewriting of the Constitution or undermining the Parliament’s sovereignty.
In response to the SC order of April 14, a motion was moved in the National Assembly on April 17 by Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar, Minister for Finance and Revenue, for a supplementary sum of PKR 21 million to the Federal Government during the current financial year for the ECP. The motion, however, was rejected by the House. 
Reportedly, on April 18, the Ministry of Defence, alongside a report submitted to the Court, had given an in-chamber briefing to the CJP on security situation and logistical difficulties in repositioning security forces twice in a span of six months. While in its April 19 order the bench refused to allow the Federal Government to place on record a report prepared by the Ministry of Defence on its April 4 order adding that it cannot do so due to a final judgement having been issued on the subject and disallowed the ECP its petition to restore the date of October 8 for general elections “on essentially security grounds, which in large measure overlap the concerns expressed in the report of the Ministry of Defence,” the bench issued notices to several political parties on a petition by a citizen highlighting alternative means of political dialogue for ending the impasse on the election issue. 
The order issued by the bench on April 20 said that statements by political parties on holding simultaneous General Election of the National and four Provincial Assemblies “give cause for optimism” and that the Court has no reservations to “negotiations being centred solely on a one-point agenda” in an expeditious manner. It also reminded that the Court’s date of holding election to the Punjab Assembly has already been fixed for May 14 and remains binding. The Court asked the AGP to report progress on first meeting of the representatives of all political parties by 4:00 pm on April 20 but added that since the AGP requested a recess on account of Eid-ul-Fitr holidays, its report will be shared with the Court on April 27. 
Representing the PDM, however, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that they reject the Supreme Court asking the parties to hold dialogue “at gunpoint.” Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also criticised the Court order and said that talks with the PTI could not be held under the court’s supervision and that the PDM considers the order as conducting of talks with a gun to [our] heads.” 
While the Court’s order was seen as an indication towards finding a resolution, many others also criticised it saying that the Court’s job is to decide issues based on Constitution and law. On the issue of holding staggered elections, there are ample Constitutional provisions including the requirement of caretaker governments as well as the ongoing census and the Court can give a judgement without directing political consensus.
On April 27, the SC bench said in its order that it appreciates political parties’ ‘voluntary agreement’ to enter into negotiations to choose a single date for holding general elections but underscored that these talks were conducted “without any direction or order of the Court.” The bench also wrote in the order that “it was also made clear [to the parties] that the order of 04.04.2023 in Const. P. 5. Of 2023 remained unchanged.”
COAS briefs Parliament on Security Scenario
On April 14, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Syed Asim Munir, was part of the group of Army commanders who delivered a two-hour long security briefing to the Parliament in the National Assembly hall.
While the briefing was held in-camera, Dawn has reported that the MPs were briefed on the country’s current security issues and anti-terror operations in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan and other parts of the country. Reportedly, the Parliament was told that a three-pronged plan of deter, dialogue and development to root out terrorism was already underway. There was an acknowledgement also that an earlier policy devised and followed by the military and political leadership under the PTI regime to engage with terrorists had allowed them to re-group in the tribal areas leading to the new surge in terrorism across Pakistan. Reportedly, Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), also briefed MPs.
Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Bill, 2023
Taking up three petitions under Article 184(3) on April 13, an 8-members Supreme Court bench under the CJP comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha A Malik, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shahid Waheed issued an interim order barring the Federal Government from enforcing the Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Bill, 2023. 
Commenting that the bill ‘raises issues of a serious nature in relation to the independence of the judiciary,’ the order stated that “The moment that the Bill receives the assent of the President or (as the case may be) it is deemed that such assent has been given, then from that very moment onwards and till further orders, the Act that comes into being shall not have, take or be given any effect nor be acted upon in any manner.”
The Pakistan Bar Council expressed its opposition to the formation of a ‘one-sided and controversial bench’ to take up the issue prematurely, and called on lawyers across the country to boycott courts in protest. 
Earlier on April 08, President Dr. Arif Alvi had returned the bill saying that it “travels beyond the competence of Parliament.” He cited Article 191 of the Constitution and said that the Supreme Court Rules 1980 have been in force and followed since 1980, and any tinkering with them could interfere with the internal working, autonomy, and independence of the SC. Prime Minister repeated his criticism of the President alleging that the President’s conduct is more like that of a worker of the PTI. 
The bill was passed by a joint session of the Parliament on April 10. However, on April 19 again, the President refused his assent to the bill for a second time.  The Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 became an act of Parliament on April 21 under Article 75(2) of the Constitution and the National Assembly Secretariat formally asked the Printing Corporation of Pakistan to publish the act in the official gazette. 
Amended NAB Law
On April 19, a bill to amend the National Accountability Ordinance was passed by the Senate of Pakistan, after its approval by the National Assembly. The statement of objects and reasons of the bill stated that certain amendments were required urgently to provide legal cover to the accountability courts for the transfer of cases from the accountability courts to other courts, tribunals, and forums which do not fall within the domain or jurisdiction of the NAB Ordinance.
However, on April 30, President Arif Alvi sent the bill back to the Parliament for reconsideration due to the amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) being sub judice before the Supreme Court.
Fifty Years of the Constitution
Commemorating the Golden Jubilee Convention of the 1973 Constitution on April 10, Prime Minister Mr. Shehbaz Sharif presented four (4) resolutions, including declaring April 10 as a national day and the old hall of the National Assembly as a national heritage.
During a celebration in the National Assembly hall, Justice Qazi Faez Isa was also present and made a speech on the occasion emphasizing the Supreme Court’s commitment to the Constitution. However, he distanced himself from the political remarks made during the ceremony. 
Following the ceremony, some questions were raised about participation of Justice Isa in the event. Surprised at the reaction, Justice Qazi Faez Isa said that the golden jubilee was an occasion for all citizens to celebrate, not just for a particular political party or an institution. He said that all SC judges were invited to celebrate the golden jubilee and that prior to accepting the invitation, inquiries were made as to whether there would be political speeches, and assurances were extended that only the Constitution and its making would be spoken about based on which he accepted the invitation as he wanted to show solidarity with the Constitution.
In a letter written to the Speaker National Assembly after the ceremony, CJP Justice Umar Atta Bandial offered heartfelt congratulations on the Constitution’s 50th anniversary and noted that the Constitution’s design makes Parliament the highest repository of legislative authority in the nation. He also regretted not being unable to attend the occasion due to court obligations but expressed his hope that the Parliament would keep guiding the nation toward progress through sound legislation. 
41st Meeting of the National Security Committee
On April 07, Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif convened and chaired a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC).
According to the PMO, the NSC underscored the need for comprehensive national security with key emphasis on relief of the people. The meeting was held as a continuation of the earlier NSC meeting held after the January 2 terrorist attack in Peshawar. The PMO also reported that the NSC also approved the initiation of a new and comprehensive security operation alongside the people and the government to eradicate terrorism from the country. 
CEC Letter complains of Judicial Overbearing
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has written letters to the Speaker National Assembly and Chairman Senate in order to propose amendments to the Elections Act, 2017 while complaining of various instances of what he termed as “judicial overbearing” that have systematically diluted the writ of the ECP. 
While the communique has asked the Parliament to consider amending the Elections Act to do away with the President’s role in determining date for general elections, a major portion of the letter vents the ECP’s perspective on violation of the ECP writ through various judgements of the Supreme Court.
“In practice, ECP’s authority has been eroded,” wrote the CEC, citing March 1 and April 5 judgements of the SC that have divested the ECP of its constitutional powers to determine as to whether conducive environment in fact and circumstances, existed for the conduct of elections in a given time, to meet the standards mentioned in Article 218(3) in letter and spirit.
The CEC also lamented that the writ of the ECP had systematically been challenged on several occasions by citing examples of the Daska by-polls in February 2021 and the contempt proceedings initiated by the ECP against PTI leaders and suspension of its orders by high courts, effectively binding the ECP’s hands in the face of brazen attacks.
In such a situation where the ECP writ has been time and again perceptibly compromised, the question arises whether the ECP can perform its bedrock duty to conduct free, fair, and transparent elections to the best of its ability in the given environment,” wrote the CEC.
Convening of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC)
On April 3, on filing of the fifth complaint against Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi by the Balochistan Bar Council (BBC), Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood of the Supreme Court wrote to the CJP to convene a meeting of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to determine any substance in any of the complaints filed against the judge. The letter by the two Judges was addressed alongside the CJP to the Sindh High Court Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Sheikh and Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mohammad Ameer Bhatti where the judges argued that after receiving complaints on the conduct of a sitting judge, it was constitutional duty of the SJC to inquire into the allegations and that leaving the matter under a cloud of uncertainty undermines the judiciary’s repute.
On April 14, a lawyer, Sardar Salman Ahmad Dogar moved a reference before the SJC against the CJP and three other judges of the SC including Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, alleging judicial misconduct on their part.
Several other leaks have allegedly implicated former and current justices of the Supreme Court in April.
On April 29, a clip emerged allegedly featuring the voice of the son of former CJP Saqib Nisar demanding a reward for a job done for a PTI ticket candidate.
Another audio clip emerged earlier on April 24 of a conversation between two women, purportedly discussing a sub judice matter related to the suo motu notice by the CJP Bandial on the delay of election to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies. One of the women was said to be the mother-in-law of the CJP, while the other was the spouse of one of the PTI’s legal advisers, Khawaja Tariq Rahim. Reacting to the leaked calls, Prime Minister demanded the resignation of the CJP and a suo motu notice. 
PTI lobbying for US Support
Nearly a year after he accidentally let slip that United States was behind a ‘foreign conspiracy’ to ouster his/PTI Federal government and the PTI’s constant mantra, it has become public that the PTI has now sought the support of United States in a bid to support PTI chairman’s election back to power in Pakistan.
According to the PTI’s United States chapter, Mr. Imran Khan has personally spoken to four (4) US lawmakers including Mr. Ted Lieu, Mr. Eric Swalwell, Mr. Brad Sherman, and Mr. Mike Levin in less than a month.
Adviser to the PTI Chairman for Overseas Affairs, Mr. Atif Khan, told media that the talks focused on “the need to hold only free and fair elections can stabilise Pakistan, as only elections can stabilise the country.”
AJK High Court disqualifies AJK Prime Minister
On April 11, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) High Court disqualified the AJK Prime Minister on charges of contempt that resulted in Sardar Tanveer Ilyas being disqualified from holding any public office for two years. A full court bench of the AJK High Court unanimously found him guilty of contempt after he made derogatory remarks about the superior judiciary in his speeches at public meetings. On April 13, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Supreme Court dismissed his plea for suspension of the high court’s judgement. His disqualification has been criticised by legal experts who believe the court could have asked the PTI leader for an explanation through a show-cause notice first. 
On April 19, Chaudhry Anwarul Haq, previously the Speaker of the AJK Legislative Assembly, was elected as the 15th Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
Cases against PTI Chairman
- With regards to piling up cases against the PTI chairman, Mr. Imran Khan, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on April 27 directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to continue its investigation into Mr. Imran Khan and his spouse’s alleged corruption related to retaining state gifts. The court disposed of a petition filed by Khan and his spouse against NAB’s notices stating that it cannot interfere in the course of the investigation.
- Earlier on April 05, the IHC dismissed a petition by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) seeking the cancellation of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s pre-arrest bail in a case related to prohibited funding of his party. The court observed that the FIA failed to provide sufficient evidence to connect Mr. Khan with the alleged illegal transfer of US $ 2.12 million to a United Bank Limited (UBL) account from a company owned by Arif Masood Naqvi, founder-owner of Abraaj Group, UAE. 
- On April 04, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) extended interim pre-arrest bail of PTI Chairman in three criminal cases. Mr. Khan appeared before the court amid strict security arrangements as police covered him with bulletproof shields. 
- On April 06, a division bench of the IHC extended pre-arrest interim bail of Mr. Imran Khan in 8 different cases till April 18 and exempted him from personal appearance as well. The IHC extended the pre-arrest interim bail on April 18 till May 3. An IHC division bench also exempted Mr. Khan from personal appearance for April 18.
- On April 10, PTI chief Imran Khan filed a petition asking the IHC to quash the mutiny case registered against him at Ramna police station. Separately, he also demanded an inquiry into the death of a police officer on whose complaint a case was registered for assassination attempt on his life. On April 28, the IHC granted him pre-arrest interim bail in the mutiny case. The IHC Chief Justice directed Mr Khan to join the investigation and granted him an interim bail till May 3, 2023. 
- On April 14, the LHC granted interim protective bail to PTI Chairman in a case of inciting people against the Army. Mr. Khan appeared before the LHC.
- On April 18, the LHC restrained police from “harassing” PTI Chairman a day after he expressed apprehensions about another operation at his Zaman Park residence during Eid-ul-Fitr holidays. Mr. Khan personally appeared before the Court.
Arrests and Cases against PTI Officials
On April 29, a case was registered by the Punjab Police against Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who was appointed as President of the PTI recently on March 07, on terrorism charges for allegedly attacking officials of the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE). The ACE also conducted a raid at Mr. Elahi’s residence on April 28, but were unable to locate him. Later, Punjab’s Caretaker Chief Minister, Mohsin Naqvi, expressed regret over the police team’s actions.
On April 15, President of the PTI’s Sindh chapter, Mr. Ali Haider Zaidi, was arrested from the party’s office on allegations of fraud dating back to a decade ago. He was granted bail on April 20. 
Earlier on April 06, Mr. Ali Amin Gandapur, another former Federal Minister, was arrested outside the Peshawar High Court’s Dera Ismail Khan bench. The arrest was related to an audio leak in which Mr. Gandapur was purportedly heard using derogatory language against the federal coalition and threatening government officials. 
Discord Leak: Pakistan distancing itself from the US?
The recently leaked classified US documents known as Discord Leak have shown that Pakistan is one of several countries that have been distancing themselves from the United States on key issues like the conflict in Ukraine. 
The leaked documents, published by The Washington Post and other US media outlets, include two Pakistani memos. In one of the leaked memo, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, argued in March that Pakistan can “no longer try to maintain a middle ground between China and the United States” and should avoid giving the appearance of appeasing the West. She also wrote that the instinct to preserve Pakistan’s partnership with the United States would ultimately sacrifice the full benefits of what she deemed the country’s “real strategic” partnership with China. 
According to the Washington Post, the undated intelligence document does not detail how the United States gained access to Khar’s memo.
The paper has quoted another leaked document dated February 17 about Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Shehbaz Sharif’s deliberations with a subordinate about an upcoming UN vote on the Ukraine conflict, and what the government anticipated would be renewed Western pressure to back a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion. The aide advised Mr. Sharif that support for the measure would signal a shift in Pakistan’s position following its earlier abstention on a similar resolution. Pakistan had the ability to negotiate trade and energy deals with Russia, and backing the Western-backed resolution could jeopardize those ties, the aide noted. 
Pulwama attack revelations vindicate Pakistan’s stance: FO
On April 15, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) said that disclosures on the Pulwama attack by former governor of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir vindicate Pakistan’s stance and demonstrate how the Indian leadership has habitually used the bogey of terrorism from Pakistan to advance its “sham victimhood narrative” and “Hindutva agenda” for domestic political gains. The FO also urged the international community to take note of the BJP government’s actions that could have led to disastrous consequences for the region. 
In an interview to Indian journalist Mr. Karan Thapar aired on April 14, Mr. Satya Pal Malik, who was governor of the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir at the time of scrapping of Article 370 in August 2019 as well as during the Pulwama terrorist attack of February 2019, claimed that the Pulwama attack on a convoy of 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel had occurred due to “our [Indian Home Ministry’s] fault” and that the “Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] told me that I should keep quiet now,” when Mr. Malik told Mr. Modi. 
Mr. Thapar asked Mr. Malik that “there were adverse intelligence reports right through January and … despite those reports, a thousand CRPF soldiers travelled by a huge convoy; you were sitting governor at the time, how was it that this was permitted to happen? It was clearly asking for trouble.” To this Mr. Malik responded that “CRPF people asked [Indian Home Ministry] for aircrafts to ferry their people because such a big convoy never goes by road but they [Indian Home Ministry] refused” to give the CRPF “five aircrafts.”
In a tweet on April 17, Prime Minister Mr. Shehbaz Sharif said that “Revelations by ex-Governor of IIOJK about reality of Pulwama incident & how Indian govt exploited situation for political gains vindicates Pakistan’s position. World should take note of India’s dangerous brinkmanship that could have led to disastrous consequences for the region.” 
First Press Conference of the new DG ISPR
In his first press conference after appointment as Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on April 25, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry shared key statistics and strategies in place to stem the tide of recent increase in terrorism in Pakistan.
Giving details of intelligence-based operations being carried out by civil and military agencies and other Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), he declared that due to these operations against terrorism, especially in Balochistan and KP, today there are no ‘no-go-areas’ in Pakistan. “Aaj Alhamdolillah awaam aur Afwaj-e-Pakistan ki la-zawal qurbanion ki badaulat there is no “No-Go Area” in Pakistan.” 
DG ISPR also reiterated the message on behalf of the Armed Forces that Pakistan military should not be dragged into politics. “Afwaj-e-Pakistan, Mulk aur Awam ke mafaad mein nahi hai ke Afwaj-e-Pakistan to siasat mein dala jaye,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry that as Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Syed Asim Munir, believes that people are the real centre of power in Pakistan. Pakistan Army is a national Army that respects all politicians and political parties. He emphasised that a military that leans towards or against a particular ideology, religion or sect in a society can only be a cause of disorder. “Jo afwaaj kisi khaas maslak, kisi mazhab ya kisi firkey ki taraf mutawajah ho jaen, ya khilaf ho jaen, tau wahan inteshar hi pehlta hai.”
Nobody wants that our military should favour a particular political dispensation, he added. He also emphasised that the Armed Forces have representation from all across Pakistan including every region, religion and sect but Pakistan Armed Forces do not represent a particular political ideology. “Pakistan ki jau Faoj hai woh aik Qaumi Fauj hai; Hamaray liay tamaam siasat-daan aur tamaam siysi jamaatain qaabil-e-ehtaram hain. Aap bhee yeh nahee chahain gey, Afwaj-e-Pakistan bhi nahin chahain gi, ke wo kisi khaas siasi soch aur kisi khaas siasi zawiyay, nazriay ya jamaat ki taraf raghib hon. Jis tarha Afwaj-e-Pakistan main har maslak, har ilaqay aur pooray Pakistan ki numaindagi hay iss tarha aik khaas siyasi soch ki numaindagi nahi kerti.”
Responding to a question about the DG ISI and other senior Army officials who met the CJP recently to give a briefing on the security situation with regards to election, he said that details of security briefing cannot be made public. “Supreme Court mein jo baat-cheet hui hai agar woh open honi hoti tou us ko open hi kia jaata; wahan pe jau baat-cheet hui hai woh kisi wajah se muaziz Judge aur humaray idaron ke darmian hui hai.” Responding to another question about deployment of the Army personnel during election, he said that deployment is to be made by the Federal Government though the SC has been informed of the situation on the ground. “Jo tayinati hoti hai, woh Article 245 ke tehet Federal Government karti hai. Jo iss silselay mein input hai woh Wazarat-e-Difa Election Commission kau aur Supreme Court kau de chuki hai, jo ke zameeni haqaiq pe mabni hai, aur input jaa chuka hai.”
Responding to another question about social media propaganda against State institutions, he said that despite negative propaganda, Armed Forces are not cowed down by that. The only available option being utilised by the military is to invoke the Constitution and the law of the land.
“Aik Haijaan aur Iztaraab ki kaifiyat taari hui hui hay… Aain-e-Pakistan har shehri ko azadi-e-izhar ka haq daita hay, bilkul daita hai laikin yehi Aain iss azadi-e-rai ko chand qawaneen aur bandishon mein qayoud kerta hai. Social media aur media mein bhi Afwaj-e-Pakistan aur idaron, un kay ohde-daron kay khilaaf jo baat-cheet kee ja rahi hai ham samajhtay hain ke woh na-siraf gheir-zimadarana aur gheir danishmandana hay balkay gheir-Aaini bhi hay. Aur hamain iss baat ka bhi adraak hay ke ho sakta hay kuch log ye zaati haisiat mein ker rahay hon; laikin iss kay peechay kuch zaati aur siyasi maqasid bhi hain aur kuch cases main bairoon-e-mulk jo aap ki agencies hain jo hostile intelligence agencies hain un kay agenda ko bhee aagay barhaya jaa raha hay, jin kay yai aala-e-kaar bhi banay huay hain. Afwaj-e-Pakistan kay jo qawaneen hain, jo hamari training hay, jo hamara discipline hay wo hamain iss baat ki ijazat nahi daita ke ham har bai-bunyaad ilzam ya tajziyay ka turki-ba-turki jawaab dain. Aap log bhi yeh nahin chahain geh, Awam bhi yey nahin chahain geh ke unn ki Afwaaj aik laa-hasil behass mein parh jayen, aur apna focus apnay operational matters sey, jo ke huqoomat aur Aaien ney humain tafweez kiaya hain unn zima-darion sey hata ker iss laa-hasil behass mein par jaayen. Hum taameeri tanqeed ko ehmiat daitay hain lekin yeh baat ham batana zaroori samajhtay hain kay dunya ki kisi aur fauj ki tarha Afwaj-e-Pakistan ko bhi dhauns aur fareb say dabao mein nahee daala ja sakta. Jahan tak sarkobi ka muamla hai jo keh aap nai kaha agar yehee baat cheet aap kay baray mein, sahafioun kay baray mein ya siasi leaders aur unn ki parties kay baaray mein ki jayay tau aap ko poora haq haasil hai kay ussi medium mein reh ker aap unn ko jawaab dain. Ager yay kissi mohazzab Judge kay baray mein ki jayay tou hataq-e-izzat ka qanoon harkat main laya ja sakta hay. Ager yeh baat cheet idaroon aur un kay ohde-daron ke baray mein ki jayay tou ham bhee qanoon ko haath main liyay baghair siraf qanoo- e-Pakistan ko hew harkat main laa saktay hein jiss ki kuch misaalain aap ko kuch cases kay silsalay main milti bhee hein,”he said.
Responding to a question about the GHQ’s agreement with the Punjab government to allot acres of land to the Army for corporate farming which has been stayed by the LHC, DG ISPR said that food security was a challenge and governments in many developing countries were utilising the armed forces’ strength to improve the agriculture sector. He claimed that some people with “vested interests” and at the behest of hostile intelligence agencies were involved in a propaganda campaign against the Army.
On April 19, the Punjab Caretaker government had filed an appeal in the LHC challenging the Court’s stay order against handing over of 45,267 acres of land on a lease to the Pakistan Army for corporate farming. In its appeal, the government argued that the land lease was duly approved by the Provincial Cabinet with the objective to protect food and the environment. The LHC had stopped the handover of the land on March 31, noting that the Pakistan Army had neither the jurisdiction to directly or indirectly engage in business ventures outside its scope nor could it claim any state land for corporate agriculture farming.
“Food security hai ye Pakistan ke liye challenge hai. Barhti hui aabadi ke sath, climatic changes ke sath yeh hum sub ke liye challenge hai, Pakistan zarai mulk hai aur agar aap dekhein tau taraqi-yafta aur tararqi-pazeer mumalik mein bhi un ki afwaj ko un ki hakumaton ne kisi na kisi tarike se zaraat ke shaubay mein improvement laaney ke liye istemal kia hai. Afwaj-e-Pakistan kia role ada kar sakti hain behtri laaney ke liye zaraat mein production barhaney ke liye, ziadaa zameen ko qabl-e-kasht karne ke liye, kia woh takniyati madad ho gi, ya management ki madad ho gayi, ye faisla subai aur federal government ne hi karna hai,” he said.
“Armed Forces always did and will continue to keep their weapons, equipment and battle-hardened human resource ever ready:” ISPR
In a press release on April 28, the ISPR, while commenting on views of former COAS Bajwa with media persons, the ISPR said that these views about “Pakistan Army’s combat worthiness in view of the condition of certain weapon systems on its inventory” “have been quoted out of the context.” “Pakistan’s Armed Forces always did and will continue to keep their weapons, equipment and battle hardened human resource ever ready for the defence of motherland,” the press release concluded. 
The press release was issued apparently in response to claims made by journalist Mr. Hamid Mir in a televised interview with Ms. Nasim Zehra that in a meeting with around 20 to 25 journalists at the Foreign Office in 2021, the former COAS had said that Pakistan Army’s tanks were unable to move as there was no fuel for the movement and since the Army was not capable of fighting with India, therefore, Pakistan should normalise relations with the neighbouring country. Mr. Mir also blamed Gen Bajwa for “striking a deal on Kashmir”
The PTI’s senior vice president Dr Shireen Mazari disagreed with the ISPR’s clarification, stating that General Bajwa’s remarks were not taken out of context, and demanded that he be held accountable for his comments.
Taliban Consulted Pakistan’s Army Chief before reaching out to India
Mr. Hassan Abbas, the author of a new book titled “The Return of the Taliban,” has claimed that the Taliban Foreign Minister, Mr. Amir Khan Muttaqi, held a detailed meeting with Pakistan’s Army Chief at the time, General (now Retd.) Qamar Javed Bajwa, before the Taliban asked India to send back its diplomats and technical staff to Kabul.
The book also claims that General (Retd.) Bajwa’s influence in Afghanistan as Pakistan’s COAS allowed Taliban Finance Minister Hidayatullah Badri to become the country’s Finance Minister. The book also discusses that visuals of Pakistan’s former DG ISI Lt. Gen. (now Retd.) Faiz Hamid sipping tea in the Serena Hotel Kabul soon after the Taliban takeover had gone viral providing evidence of Pakistan’s huge influence over Taliban which hurt both the countries.
Terrorist attacks in April 2023
According to PILDAT data collected from different media sources, during April 2023, 27 attacks occurred across Pakistan which resulted in the loss of lives of 106 people including 10 civilians, 35 security forces personnel and 61 militants.
Eid Felicitations from the Military
On April 22, in a press release, the ISPR conveyed that the “Armed Forces of Pakistan, CJCSC and Services Chiefs wish a very happy Eid to fellow Pakistanis.” The press release went on to quote that “We owe this festivity in a peaceful environment to all our Martyrs & Ghazis. Salute to them. May Allah continue His blessings upon Pakistan. Amen.” 
257th Corps Commanders Conference
The 257th Corps Commanders’ Conference was presided over by General Syed Asim Munir at the GHQ on April 14. According to the ISPR, “the forum reviewed domestic and regional environment including external and internal security challenges Pakistan confronts.”
The ISPR press release also stated that the “military leadership is cognizant of the full spectrum of the challenges and it resolves to shoulder its constitutionally mandated responsibilities with support of the resilient people of Pakistan.”
In the intelligence-based operations ‘being conducted by the security forces in areas along the western border of Pakistan, the forum emphasized the need for a “whole-of-the-nation and whole-of-the-government approach to eradicate the menace of terrorism on [a] long-term basis.”
Referring to the 41st meeting of the NSC that was convened by the Prime Minister on April 08, the press release said that the CCC “expressed its assurance to pursue the goals set by NSC to turn the tide against terrorism through the coordinated application of all elements of national power.” 
Speaker National Assembly’s Interactions with Foreign Dignitaries
- On April 04, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Mr. Nawaf bin Saeed Ahmad Al-Malki, called on Speaker National Assembly at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
- On April 22, Raja Parvez Ashraf, Speaker, National Assembly had telephonic conversation with Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mr Mustafa Sentop.
Chairman Senate meets Foreign Dignitaries
- On April 04, Qatar’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, called on Chairman Senate at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
- On April 06, Mr. Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salem Al-Zaabi, Ambassador of United Arab Emirates to Pakistan, called on Chairman Senate at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
- On April 12, Chinese Charge D’ Affairs, Ms. Pang Chunxue, called on Chairman Senate at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
- On April 18, Mr. Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan, led a delegation of Senators to meet with Sheikh Dr. Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, in Saudi Arabia.
Interactions of COAS with Foreign Dignitaries
On April 26, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Syed Asim Munir met with commanders of Chinese Army and Peoples Liberation Army Commander at the PLA Headquarters, Beijing, China.
The COAS was on a 4-day official visit to China that began on April 26. According to the ISPR, “matters of mutual security interests and military cooperation were discussed” during the meeting between both military commanders as they “reiterated the need for maintaining peace and stability in the region and enhancing military to military cooperation.” 
Prime Minister’s Interactions with COAS
Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, and Chief of the Army Staff, General Syed Asim Munir have met and interacted four times during April 2023:
- On April 05, the COAS called on the PM at the PM House. 
- On April 07, the COAS called on the PM at the PM House. 
- On April 08, the COAS joined the NSC meeting convened and chaired by the PM.  Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif was present in the meeting.
- On April 14, the COAS addressed an in-camera security briefing at the Parliament House, Islamabad where the PM was also present. Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif was present in the meeting 
Crisis Erupts in Sudan
On April 15, heavy clashes erupted in Sudan between the military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary force aligned with the government. The military and the RSF, which analysts say is 100,000 strong, have been competing for power as political factions negotiate to form a transitional government after a 2021 military coup in Sudan. The military launched air strikes on an the RSF base near Khartoum in an attempt to assert control. The RSF claimed to have seized several key locations in the capital but the military has rejected those claims. The clashes follow rising tensions over the RSF’s integration into the military, which has delayed the signing of an internationally backed agreement with political parties on a transition to democracy.
Since the beginning of the crisis, an estimated 100,000 people have fled Sudan according to the UN. Despite various promises, temporary ceasefires efforts have failed as the military has continued to pound Khartoum with air strikes in a bid to weaken the RSF. 
A coalition of civilian groups that signed a draft of that agreement in December 2022 called for an immediate halt to hostilities to prevent Sudan from sliding towards “the precipice of total collapse.” 
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