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.
- NSC discusses Economic Situation and Terrorism
- ECP does not have the authority to proceed against officials: LHC Verdict
- The Saga of Local Government Elections in the ICT
- Terrorist Attack on Pakistan Embassy Kabul
- Did Army really stop interference in politics since February 2021?
- Additional Funds for Defence Ministry due to Inflation and Oil Process
- LHC suspends Governor Punjab’s order of de-notifying CM Punjab
- Shehbaz Sharif was offered to be PM prior to GE 2018: Khawaja Muhammad Asif
- 254th Corps Commanders Conference
- Speaker National Assembly meets Foreign Dignitaries
- Chairman Senate meets Foreign Dignitaries
- Interactions of COAS with Foreign Dignitaries
- Prime Minister’s Interactions with COAS
NSC discusses Economic Situation and Terrorism
A day before the end of 2022, Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif convened a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), his second since assuming office of PM in April 2022. Interestingly, the NSC meeting was first convened on Friday, December 30 and was adjourned for the weekend, only to resume its conclusion on Monday, January 2  . It , however, raises the question that why the government did not hold the NSC meeting on the critical subjects of economy and terrorism in the past eight (8) months.
The official press release issued from the PMO on January 2 after the conclusion of the NSC meeting said that the forum highlighted that ‘comprehensive ‘National Security’ revolves around economic security and that sovereignty or dignity comes under stress without self-sufficiency and economic independence.’ Without adding details on how to achieve this economic security, a paragraph was devoted in the PMO presser on the NSC taking a ‘comprehensive review’ of the economic challenges where the Finance Minister briefed the NSC on ‘economic stability roadmap’ including ‘relief measures for common people’ ‘imports rationalization’ improving ‘agricultural output and manufacturing sector’ ‘food security’ ‘imports substitution’ and ‘employment,’ etc. 
The second message emanating from the NSC was terrorism incidents facing Pakistan, especially in KP and Balochistan. Without naming the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the PMO press release shared that the NSC “concluded that no country will be allowed to provide sanctuaries and facilitation to terrorists and Pakistan reserves all rights in that respect to safeguard her people.” The NSC also ‘reiterated its resolve to have zero tolerance for terrorism and reaffirmed its determination to take on any and all entities that resort to violence. This will be dealt with full force of the state. Pakistan’s security is uncompromisable and the full writ of the state will be maintained on every inch of the Pakistan’s territory, stated the press release.
This was the first NSC meeting after General Syed Asim Munir assumed the charge of the Chief of Army Staff.
Two days later, the position taken by Pakistan was supported by the US which said that Pakistan has a right to defend itself from terrorism and reminded Afghan Taliban to uphold their commitment to not allow their soil to be used as a launchpad for international terrorist attacks. 
ECP does not have the authority to proceed against officials: LHC Verdict
In a curious development, the Lahore High Court declared invalid the action by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against officials allegedly involved in irregularities in the Daska by-election held on February 19, 2021. In a verdict by Justice Shujaat Ali Khan of the LHC setting aside proceedings against more than a dozen officials of the provincial departments initiated by the ECP for their role in the alleged rigging in the by-poll, the judge observed that the ECP does not have the authority to proceed as these officials do not fall within the definition of election officials. 
The ECP enquiry reports into the NA-75 Sialkot IV by-election held in February 2021 or the Daska by-election, as it is popularly known, was celebrated as a defining moment for the ECP on its way towards exercising its constitutional power and independence. The ECP inquiry resulted in suspension and transfer of district administration officials and its reports establishing misconduct of officials asked for both disciplinary and criminal proceedings against some for their misconduct.
The LHC verdict terming the ECP to not have the authority to proceed against these officials is neither supported by the Constitution nor the law. Article 218 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan confers upon the ECP as its duty to “organize and conduct the election and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, and that corrupt practices are guarded against.” Section 55 of the Elections Act, 2017 further elaborates the powers of the ECP in terms of Disciplinary proceedings where the Parliament has authorised the ECP to initiate and finalise proceedings against election officials and may impose any penalty provided under Efficiency and Disciplinary Rules or any penalty provided under the Act.
PILDAT believes that the LHC verdict against the ECP’s clear constitutional legal mandate to do so and in favour of officials who had brazenly breached law and tried to rig the election at the behest of the provincial and perhaps also of federal government at the time would have long-term huge and disastrous impact on the future prospects of holding free and fair election in Pakistan.
The Saga of Local Government Elections in the ICT
A number of strange developments during December 2022 have impacted the holding of local government elections in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) that were scheduled by the ECP to be held on December 31, 2022.
Firstly, on December 22, the National Assembly hurriedly moved to amend the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act, 2015 and passed the amendment to the law by suspending the rules apparently only to delay the LG elections scheduled to be held in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) on December 31, 2022. The bill passed by the Assembly changed existing 101 Union Councils in the ICT to 125 Union Councils while also allowing for the Federal Government, upon the recommendations of the Ministry of Interior, to change this number from time to time. The passed bill also provided for direct election of mayor and deputy mayor. 
The ECP claimed the federal government moved to pass an amendment without its concurrence and that too just nine days before the polling day.  It rejected the move by the federal government and announced to hold the elections, as planned, on December 31. However, on December 23, the Islamabad High Court directed the ECP to decide the matter afresh after hearing all stakeholders on December 27.
On December 27, the ECP announced to postpone the LG elections in the ICT in view of the IHC judgement.  However, hearing yet another petition by the PTI, an IHC division bench comprising Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Arbab Mohammad Tahir directed the ECP on December 30 to hold the local government elections in ICT as planned on December 31.
The issue has remained suspended as the year ended with the fate of whether to hold LG elections in the ICT according to the previous or the amended law hanging in the Islamabad High Court.
Terrorist Attack on Pakistan Embassy Kabul
On December 2, Pakistan embassy’s compound in Kabul, Afghanistan was attacked, leaving one security guard critically injured.  The responsibility of the attack, which was directed at the head of the mission, Mr. Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani, was accepted by the IS-KP, as shared by Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, who tweeted that the Government would verify the veracity of the claim. 
The attack was described as a “serious security lapse” was strongly condemned by Pakistan’s Foreign Office, though it was announced that the Pakistan embassy would continue to function normally and that Pakistan did not plan to withdraw diplomats from Kabul.
The attack is seen as part of the increased terrorist activity after the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ended the ceasefire agreement with Pakistan in November. Since then, there have been multiple terrorist attacks across Pakistan resulting in precious loss of lives of personnel from Pakistan’s Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). A terrorist attack took place in Laki Marwat on November 16  which resulted in the martyrdom of six police and two Armed Forces personnel. Another suicide attack in Quetta on November 30 injured dozens of citizens and martyrdom of 4 persons including a police official.  Yet another suicide attack in Miranshah resulted in the loss of three lives and multiple injured. On December 18, detained militants inside a Bannu CTD facility took over its compound, held interrogators hostage and demanded safe evacuation to Afghanistan, while in a separate terrorist attack four policemen were martyred in Lakki Marwat.  In yet another militant suicide attack, this time in Islamabad on December 23, a policeman was martyred and at least six people including four police officers and two civilians were injured.  On December 25, five personnel from the Pakistan Army were martyred in an IED blast in Kahan, Balochistan. 
Earlier, on December 08, the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) blamed the ‘peace talks’ with the TTP for the increase in terror attacks in the country. In a report presented to the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, the NACTA said that the talks emboldened the TTP and increased their footprint and magnitude of activities in the country as withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan had given the group further impetus.
On December 1, when the Interior Minister claimed that the talks with the TTP were held after receiving authorisation from the Parliament, his claim was refuted publicly by MPs belonging to the PML-N and the PPP who maintained that no permission was ever sought from the Parliamentary committee which was only briefed. 
It must be noted that the Parliament was only briefed on talks with the banned TTP in June 2022, a few weeks after the TTP had publicly announced in early June to indefinitely extend a ceasefire agreed with Pakistan. A statement issued from the PMO after the briefing had said that while a civil and military committee from Pakistan had been engaged in negotiations with the banned TTP (through facilitation by ‘Afghanistan government’) under the ambit of Pakistan’s constitution, any agreement with the TTP will be subject to approval by the Parliament. 
It is however intriguing that while the parliament was briefed on the talks, the parliament or any of its committee neither debated the subject nor took a position on such a critical issue. The silence of the parliament, it seems, was construed by the government as approval to take the talks forward.
Did Army really stop interference in politics since February 2021?
Despite its significance, many contradictions have been offered publicly to refute the November 23rd statement of the outgoing Chief of Army Staff General (now retired) Bajwa  that the Pakistan Army realised its interference in politics had not been helpful and therefore it decided since February 2021 to never interfere in politics.
The first public contradiction refuting the claim of the outgoing COAS came from leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), Mr. Moonis Elahi, on December 2 when he claimed that it was in fact COAS Bajwa himself who advised the PML to support the PTI in the run-up to the vote of No Confidence in April 2022. 
Couple of days later, father of Mr. Moonis Elahi and Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi also said that it was Gen. Qamar Bajwa, COAS at the time, who had told the PML that the path towards Mr. Imran Khan was better for the party. “God changed our path in the last moments and sent Bajwa sahib to show us the way. When I expressed my concerns about the Sharifs and told him that I don’t trust them then Bajwa sahib said, ‘You should proceed carefully and the path going towards Imran is better for you and your friends,’” claimed Mr. Elahi during an interview with Bol News programme Tajzia on December 4. 
On December 18, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi again defended former COAS Bajwa against criticism by Mr. Imran Khan and said that the PML would no longer tolerate any remarks against former COAS Bajwa because he had been a ‘benefactor’ to both the PML and the PTI. Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, however, criticized former DG ISI Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed for causing problems for him and his family. Mr. Elahi also added that he, along with his son had met Mr. Imran Khan a day earlier and requested him not to speak against former COAS Bajwa. He disclosed that Mr. Khan had also shared with them that he had received such requests (to not criticise outgoing COAS) from other quarters also.
On December 16, Mr. Imran Khan claimed publicly that it was Army Chief Bajwa who dictated the NAB on who to arrest. 
Columnist and Anchor Javed Chaudhry’s columns published on December 27  and December 29  based on his 6-hour long interaction with former COAS Bajwa in the former’s home were used to convey former Gen. Bajwa’s response to the mounting criticism against him by Mr. Imran Khan. In effect, however, Gen. (Retd.) Bajwa appeared to implicate himself in some damning unconstitutional acts. Mr. Javed Chaudhry termed at least two such acts by Gen. Bajwa as giving NRO or undue political facilitation first to Mr. Imran Khan in 2017 and second to Mr. Asif Ali Zardari in 2021.
In the first instance, Mr. Javed Chaudhry claims that Gen. Bajwa, upon being approached by Mr. Jahangir Tareen on behalf of Mr. Imran Khan, asked the ISI DG (C) Faiz Hameed in 2017 to ask Chief Justice at the time, Justice Saqib Nisar, to not disqualify Mr. Imran Khan as a result of which Mr. Imran Khan was declared Sadiq and Ameen by the Supreme Court on December 15, 2007 and instead Mr. Jahangir Tareen was disqualified in his place.
The second illegal and unconstitutional political facilitation by Gen. Bajwa while serving as COAS is claimed to have been made in favour of Mr. Asif Ali Zardari by facilitating the shifting of hearing of NAB cases against him from Islamabad to Karachi in a bid to break-up the PDM on request of Prime Minister at the time, Mr. Imran Khan. The shifting of cases was facilitated by the ISI DG at the time Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, claims Mr. Chaudhry. The timeline of this from April 2021  onwards to when the NAB opposed shifting of Zardari cases from Islamabad to Karachi before a 3-judge bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial in June 2021  refutes the public claim by outgoing COAS Bajwa who said that the Army had decided to stop interfering in politics with effect from February 2021.
Additional Funds for Defence Ministry due to Inflation and Oil Process
In a meeting held between the Secretary Defence and Finance Minister on December 1, the Ministry of Defence sought additional funds from the federal budget to deal with rising fuel costs and overall inflation, Dawn reported.
The request for additional funds has been made a month after the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had approved a supplementary grant of PKR 31 billion for the Defence Ministry on October 28. 
LHC suspends Governor Punjab’s order of de-notifying CM Punjab
On December 23, a Lahore High Court bench headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh and comprising Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabir and Justice Asim Hafeez suspended the order by the Punjab Governor to de-notify Punjab CM Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, and restore his cabinet. 
On December 21, Governor Punjab had ordered CM Elahi to obtain a vote of confidence and had de-notified him on December 22 for failing to seek a vote of confidence from the house as directed by Governor under Article 130(7) of the Constitution.
The Lahore High Court restored CM Punjab on the assurance that the provincial assembly will not be dissolved, at least until the next date of hearing.
Chairman PTI Mr. Imran Khan has publicly maintained that he plans to dissolve the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies if general elections are not held soon.
Shehbaz Sharif was offered to be PM prior to GE 2018: Khawaja Muhammad Asif
On December 26, Federal Minister for Defence, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, MNA said that the military establishment had tried to cut a deal with the PML-N before the 2018 election on “certain matters,” but Mr. Nawaz Sharif, Quaid PML-N did not agree, which resulted in the establishment facilitating Mr. Imran Khan in power.
Khawaja Muhammad Asif also claimed that an offer of Prime Ministership was also made to Mr. Shehbaz Sharif but he had chosen to side with the party leader. 
254th Corps Commanders Conference
The 254th Corps Commanders Conference (CCC) was held on December 27-28, 2022 at the GHQ. 
It was tweeted from the official account of the DG ISPR that the CCC presided over by Gen. Syed Asim Munir took a “comprehensive review of professional & organisational matters of Army,” and “it was resolved to fight against terrorists without any distinction & eliminate this menace as per aspirations of people of Pakistan.”
Even though no official press release was issued on the change in appointment to the office of DG ISPR, the official twitter account of DG ISPR states that Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry is serving as the DG ISPR ‘since 6 December 2022.’ 
Speaker National Assembly meets Foreign Dignitaries
Raja Pervez Ashraf, Speaker, National Assembly of Pakistan, interacted with following foreign dignitaries during December 2022:
- On December 12, H.E. Yerlan Koshanov, Chairman Lower House of Parliament of Kazakhstan, called on Speaker, National Assembly at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
- On December 16, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Islamic republic of Pakistan, Mr. Yerzhan Kistafin, met with Speaker, National Assembly at the Consulate General of Kazakhstan in Lahore.
- On December 21, Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Neil Hawkins, called on National Assembly at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
- On December 22, Ambassador of Belgium, H.E. Mr. Charles Delogne, called on Speaker, National Assembly at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
- On December 23, Somalia’s Interior Minister, Mr. Ahmed Fiqi and delegation of Parliamentarians from Somalia called on Speaker, National Assembly at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
Chairman Senate meets Foreign Dignitaries
Senator Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, Chairman Senate of Pakistan, held following interactions with foreign dignitaries during December 2022:
- On December 02, a delegation of Qatar led by member of the Qatar’s Royal Family, Sheikh Falah Bin Jassim called on the Chairman Senate at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
- On December 13, Mr. Yerlan Koshanov, Chairman of Mazhilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan called on Chairman Senate at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
- On December 14, Mr. Fawzi Al-Taher Al-Nuwairi, First Deputy Speaker of the Libyan House of Representative, called on Chairman Senate at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
- On December 15, President Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon, called on Chairman Senate at the Parliament House, Islamabad.
Interactions of COAS with Foreign Dignitaries
- On December 1, Ambassador of United Arab Emirates to Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salem Alzaabi, called on Gen. Syed Asim Munir, Chief of Army Staff at the GHQ. According to the ISPR, “matters of bilateral interest came under discussion” during the meeting. 
- Ambassador of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, also called on Gen. Syed Asim Munir at the GHQ on December 1 to discuss “matters of bilateral interest.” 
- Reportedly, General Syed Asim Munir, Chief of Army Staff held a Video Teleconference with the US Centcom Commander, General Michael Erik Kurilla on December 2.  Later, on December 15, the US Centcom Commander called on General Syed Asim Munir at the GHQ, Rawalpindi.
Prime Minister’s Interactions with COAS
Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, and Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Syed Asim Munir met each other as part of the two-day NSC meeting that was convened and chaired by Prime Minister on Friday, December 30 and on Monday, January 2, 2023.  Minister of Defence, alongside other members of the NSC from the Federal Cabinet, were part of the meeting.
Earlier, on December 22, the Army Chief accompanied the PM on visit to CMH Rawalpindi to meet officers and soldiers who got injured during the CTD complex Bannu Operation. Minister of Defence also accompanied the Prime Minister. 
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“His Excellency Mr Nawaf Saeed A. Al Milkiy, Ambassador of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to Pakistan called on General Syed Asim Munir, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ,” ISPR online, December 01, 2022, accessed January 09, 2023, https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail?id=6456. ↑
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