Update on The Performance of Democratic Institutions | May 2022

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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. PM, Cabinet fly to London for advice from Party Leader
  2. Supreme Court Majority Verdict on Article 63-A
  3. SC restrains Government
  4. PTI’s Not so Long March
  5. ECP completed through appointment of 2 members
  6. New Punjab Governor
  7. LG Elections in Balochistan
  8. Intra-party Elections
  9. Speaker National Assembly meets Foreign Dignitaries
  10. Chairman Senate meets Foreign Dignitaries
  11. Interactions of COAS with Foreign Dignitaries
  12. Prime Minister’s Interactions with COAS
  13. Spain sacks Director of Intelligence Agency

PM, Cabinet fly to London for advice from Party Leader

Prime Minister Mr. Shehbaz Sharif with Quaid PML-N, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, in London

Just a month after taking oath of office as Prime Minister, Mr. Shehbaz Sharif, alongside key members of his cabinet and PML-N colleagues, flew to London to take advice from Quaid PML-N and elder brother Mr. Nawaz Sharif on holding the next general election. [1]

The move was severely criticised by many who believed that an already beleaguered PM and coalition government appeared much weaker by making a beeline to London for advice from Mr. Nawaz Sharif and couldn’t take decisions on its own.

In the meantime in a press conference on May 11, Co-chairperson PPP and oalition partner of the PML-N, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari announced that general election would only be held after the incumbent federal government has put in place legislative reforms in electoral laws as well as the NAB law. He also claimed that he consulted Mr. Nawaz Sharif and “made him understand that as soon as our reforms and low-hanging fruit targets are complete [we can go to polls].” [2]

Federal Minister for Information later announced that a decision was reached during the meeting with Mr. Nawaz Sharif that early election won’t be called despite demands by ousted PM Mr. Imran Khan.[3]

Supreme Court Majority Verdict on Article 63-A

Interpreting Article 63-A of the Constitution, Supreme Court gave a verdict on May 17 that votes cast by legislators in violation of their party’s stance must not be taken into account while determining the outcome of a motion. [4]

The bench was hearing the reference filed by President of Pakistan relating to the approach to be taken to the interpretation and application of Article 63A of the Constitution and was headed by the Chief Justice and comprised Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail. The verdict was given by a majority of 3 out of 5 judges while Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail dissented with the verdict. The majority verdict stated that “the vote of any member (including a deemed member) of a Parliamentary Party in a House that is cast contrary to any direction issued by the latter in terms of para (b) of clause (1) of Article 63A cannot be counted and must be disregarded, and this is so regardless of whether the Party Head, subsequent to such vote, proceeds to take, or refrains from taking, action that would result in a declaration of defection.”[5]

In their dissenting note, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail noted that Article 63A of the Constitution is a complete code in itself and provides a comprehensive procedure regarding defection of a member of the Parliament. They stated that “any further interpretation of Article 63A of the Constitution, in our view, would amount to re-writing or reading into the Constitution and will also affect the other provisions of the Constitution, which has not even been asked by the President through this Reference. Therefore, it is not our mandate. We see no force in the questions asked through this Presidential Reference, which are answered in the negative. However, if the Parliament deems fit or appropriate may impose further bar or restrictions upon the defectors. Similarly Constitution Petitions No. 2 and 9 of 2022 are dismissed.”

Earlier, on May 11, the ECP rejected PTI’s reference seeking disqualification of 20 dissident MNAs, as they did not vote on the no-confidence resolution against then PM Mr. Imran Khan. [6]

SC restrains Government

On a suo motu notice taken on May 18 by the Chief Justice of Pakistan on ‘perceived interference in the independence of the prosecution branch in the performance of its power and duties for investigation and prosecution of pending criminal matters involving persons in authority in government,’ [7] the Supreme Court restrained the government from transfers, postings or removals of those involved in the investigation or prosecution of high-profile cases against top government functionaries pending in the courts of special judge (central) and the accountability courts. The Supreme Court bench also comprised Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar. The order was sent to Interior Secretary, DG FIA, chair of NAB and advocates general in the provinces & ICT, among others.[8]

On May 27, Chief Justice also observed that Article 248 of the Constitution does not exempt ministers from appearing before courts in criminal cases, to which AGP Mr. Ashtar Ausaf informed the bench that top government functionaries including PM and CM were appearing before the courts. [9]

PTI’s Not so Long March

Former Prime Minister and Chairman PTI abruptly cut off his pre-planned long march on May 26 after his address to his supporters gathered at the D-Chowk Islamabad. Mr. Khan had earlier announced a long sit-in until the government announced a date for the next general election. He gave the Federal Government a 6-day ultimatum to announce the date for early general election failing which the PTI would march again to Islamabad.[10]

Earlier, the Supreme Court had instructed the party to hold its protest near Peshawar Mor between the H-9 and G-9 areas of Islamabad. The PML-N Government carried out severe crackdown against the PTI workers.[11]

On May 28, an audio recording of an alleged telephonic conversation between Co-Chair of PPP Mr. Asif Ali Zardari and property tycoon Mr. Malik Riaz surfaced where Mr. Riaz could be heard telling Mr. Zardari that Mr. Imran Khan was desperate for a “patch-up” with him. The PTI termed the audio as fake though the PPP leadership remained non-committal on its authenticity.[12]

ECP completed through appointment of 2 members

ECP to initiate departmental, criminal proceedings against officials  involved in Daska by-election debacle

On May 31, two new members of the Election Commission of Pakistan took oath of office completing the ECP after nearly a year. Mr. Babar Hassan Bharwana and Justice (Retd) Ikramullah Khan took oath as Election Commissioners from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa respectively. [13]

These two positions had been lying vacant since July 26, 2021 after the retirement of Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (Punjab) and Justice (Retd.) Irshad Qaiser (KP).

Justice Ikramullah has earlier served as Additional Advocate General and a judge of the Peshawar High Court while Mr. Babar Hassan Bharwana has served as Secretary of Forestry, Wildlife, Fisheries and Irrigation in Punjab. [14]

New Punjab Governor

New Governor Punjab taking oath of office

On May 30, former MNA and Federal Minister Mr. Muhammad Baligh ur Rehman took oath of the office of Governor Punjab as the Federal government finally notified that the Punjab Governor Mr. Omar Sarfraz Cheema has ceased to hold office of the Governor of the Punjab. [15]

Earlier, President Dr. Arif Alvi had rejected Prime Minister’s advice to remove the Punjab Governor using the language of Article 101(3) which says that Governor shall hold the office “during the pleasure” of the President.” [16]

In a tweet, the President’s Office stated that “President Dr. Arif Alvi has approved the appointment of Muhammad Baligur Rehman as Punjab governor based on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s advice in accordance with Article 101 (1) of the Constitution.” [17]

LG Elections in Balochistan

LG election vote counting in Balochistan

Local government elections were finally held in 32 districts of Balochistan on May 29. According to provisional results, independent candidates maintained their lead by winning at least 1,882 of the 4,456 seats, while Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and ruling Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) claimed victory on 469 and 303 seats, respectively. While official voter turnout is not available, voter turnout was reportedly good. [18]

Intra-party Elections

Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, President PML-N

On May 21, the ECP issued a show-cause notice to President PML-N and Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif for not holding intra-party elections in the PML-N. The PML-N was to hold intra-party elections latest by March 22. The date was extended by the ECP upon the request of the PML-N till May 14 ad the party was required to submit election results to the ECP by May 21.

The ECP has informed the PML-N that the party would not be allotted election symbol if the intra-party polls were not held.

The ECP has also extended the last date to hold intra-party election of the PTI till June 13 2022 on the party’s request. [19]

Speaker National Assembly meets Foreign Dignitaries

Raja Pervez Ashraf, Speaker, National Assembly of Pakistan

Following interactions were held by Raja Pervez Ashraf, Speaker, National Assembly of Pakistan during May:

  1. Acting Chinese Ambassador, Pang Chunxue, on May 1 at the Chinese Embassy, Islamabad [20]
  2. Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Pakistan Khazar Farhadov on May 12 [21]
  3. Speaker of the Azerbaijan Parliament (Milli Majlis), Ms. Sahiba Gafarova, on May 17 in Azerbaijan [22]
  4. Speaker of Oliy Majlis (Parliament)of Uzbekistan on May 18 in Azerbaijan [23]
  5. Ambassador of UAE to Pakistan, Mr. Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Al-Zaabi, on May 24 at the UAE Embassy, Islamabad [24]

Chairman Senate meets Foreign Dignitaries

Senator Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, Chairman Senate of Pakistan

On May 14, Senator Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, Chairman Senate, called on Ambassador of UAE to Pakistan, Mr. Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Al-Zaabi at the UAE Embassy, Islamabad to offer condolences on the sad demise of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. [25]

Interactions of COAS with Foreign Dignitaries

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff, held following interactions with foreign dignitaries during the month:

  1. On May 20, Minister of National Defence of the Republic of Turkey, General (retd) Hulusi Akar, at the GHQ [26]
  2. On May 23, Saudi Crown Prince, HRH Muhammad bin Salman, spoke with COAS via telephone [27]

Prime Minister’s Interactions with COAS

PM Shahbaz Sharif meets Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa

No meeting was reported to be held between Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa during the month of May 2022.

Spain sacks Director of Intelligence Agency

Ms. Paz Esteban, former head of CNI

On May 10, Spain’s government fired the Director of Spain’s National Intelligence Centre (CNI) over two separate cases of hacking of politicians’ mobile phones using Pegasus spyware.

The sacking was seen as a move by the Spanish government to contain the fallout from a cyber-espionage scandal that has engulfed the ruling coalition and raised further questions about the use of controversial Pegasus spyware in Spain and elsewhere. The scandal is two years old that came to light after a joint investigation by UK’s Guardian and El País first revealed that senior pro-independence Catalan politicians were warned their mobile phones had been targeted using the spyware. It reportedly intensified recently after cybersecurity experts at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto said at least 63 people connected with the Catalan independence movement had been targeted or infected Pegasus software between 2017 and 2020.[28]

Ms. Paz Esteban as the Director of Spain’s National Intelligence Centre (CNI) had admitted in a closed door committee of Spain’s Parliament that the CNI had legally hacked the phones of several Catalan separatists after receiving judicial permission. The CNI is also under scrutiny for recent revelations by the government that the mobile phones of Spain’s Prime Minister, Defence Minister and Interior Minister were also infected with the Pegasus spyware by an “external” power.

The Israel-based NSO Group which owns Pegasus, claims the software is only sold to government agencies to target criminals and “terrorists”, with the green light of Israeli authorities. The company has been criticised by global rights groups for violating users’ privacy around the world and it faces lawsuits from major tech firms such as Apple and Microsoft. European Union’s data protection watchdog has called for a ban on Pegasus.[29]

References

  1. Javed Hussain, “PM Shehbaz-led delegation to leave for London tonight for meeting with Nawaz: information minister,” Dawn online, May 10, 2022, accessed June 16, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1688978.

  2. Elections only after electoral reforms, says Zardari,” Dawn online, May 11, 2022, accessed June 16, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1689138.

  3. Azeem Samar & Muhammad Anis & Murtaza Ali Shah, “No early elections, London huddle decides,” Dawn online, May 12, 2022, accessed June 09, 2022. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/956998-no-early-elections-london-huddle-decides.

  4. Nasir Iqbal, “Defectors’ votes on motion don’t count, SC holds,” Dawn online, May 18, 2022, accessed June 12, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1690249/defectors-votes-on-motion-dont-count-sc-holds.

  5. “CONSTITUTION PETITION NO.2 OF 2022 (Re: restraining Political Parties from holding Public Meetings in Islamabad before Voting on No-confidence Motion),” Supreme Court of Pakistan, May 17, 2022, accessed June 17, 2022. https://www.supremecourt.gov.pk/downloads_judgements/refernece_1_2022.pdf.

  6. Mumtaz Alvi, “ECP dismisses references against dissident PTI MNAs,” The News International online, May 12, 2022, accessed June 12, 2022. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/956999-ecp-dismisses-references-against-dissident-pti-mnas.

  7. Nasir Iqbal, “‘Fears of interference’ prompt suo motu on criminal investigations,” Dawn online, May 19, 2022, accessed June 16, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1690405.

  8. Nasir Iqbal, “Officers probing high-profile cases can’t be changed,” Dawn online, May 20, 2022, accessed June 09, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1690545/officers-probing-high-profile-cases-cant-be-changed.

  9. Nasir Iqbal, “Article 248 doesn’t exempt ministers from appearing in courts: CJP,” Dawn online, May 28, 2022, accessed June 09, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1691834/article-248-doesnt-exempt-ministers-from-appearing-in-courts-cjp.

  10. Ikram Junaidi, “Imran ends long march ‘short of D-Chowk’,” Dawn online, May 27, 2022, accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1691697/imran-ends-long-march-short-of-d-chowk.

  11. Muhammad Ishfaq, “Open to talks only after polls announced: Imran,” Dawn online, May 28, 2022, accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1691867/open-to-talks-only-after-polls-announced-imran.

  12. Amir Wasim,” Leaked tape hints at Imran’s ‘patch-up’ efforts with Zardari,” Dawn online, May 29, 2022, accessed June 14, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1692026/leaked-tape-hints-at-imrans-patch-up-efforts-with-zardari.

  13. Fahad Chaudhry, “ECP will always make decisions ‘fearlessly’, vows CEC Raja,” Dawn online, June 1, 2022, accessed June 16, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1692575/ecp-will-always-make-decisions-fearlessly-vows-cec-raja.

  14. Iftikhar A. Khan, “ECP regains full strength with appointment of two members,” Dawn online, May 31, 2022, accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1692394/ecp-regains-full-strength-with-appointment-of-two-members.

  15. “Punjab AGP Ahmad Awais resigns,” Dawn online, May 31, 2022, accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1692355/punjab-agp-ahmad-awais-resigns.

  16. Mansoor Malik, “Punjab governor removed despite president’s resistance,” Dawn online, May 10, 2022, accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1688918/punjab-governor-removed-despite-presidents-resistance.

  17. Zulqernain Tahir, “Alvi concedes, Baligh becomes Punjab governor,” Dawn online, May 31, 2022, accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1692387/alvi-concedes-baligh-becomes-punjab-governor.

  18. Saleem Shahid, “Independents maintain lead in Balochistan LG polls,” Dawn online, May 31, 2022, accessed June 10, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1692382/independents-maintain-lead-in-balochistan-lg-polls.

  19. Iftikhar A. Khan, “Shehbaz gets ECP notice for not holding intra-party polls,” Dawn online, May 22, 2022, accessed June 11, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1690891/shehbaz-gets-ecp-notice-for-not-holding-intra-party-polls.

  20. “Elements behind KU blast can’t tolerate Pakistan, China’s prosperity: NA speaker,” Dawn online, May 02, 2022, accessed June 12,2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1687760/elements-behind-ku-blast-cant-tolerate-pakistan-chinas-prosperity-na-speaker.

  21. Speaker-National Assembly of Pakistan @NASpeakerPK Twitter, May 12, 2022, 3: 48 pm, accessed June 12, 2022. https://twitter.com/NAofPakistan/status/1524703090322071552.

  22. Speaker-National Assembly of Pakistan @NASpeakerPK Twitter, May 17, 2022, 6:48 pm, accessed June 12, 2022. https://twitter.com/AzEmbPak/status/1526560340888240130

  23. Speaker-National Assembly of Pakistan @NASpeakerPK Twitter, May 18, 2022, 4:42 pm, accessed June 12, 2022. https://twitter.com/NAofPakistan/status/1526890881269305345.

  24. “Speaker-National Assembly of Pakistan @NASpeakerPK Twitter, May 24, 2022, 2:16 pm, accessed June 12, 2022. https://twitter.com/NAofPakistan/status/1529028485913755650.

  25. “Chairman Senate M Sadiq Sanjrani accompanied by Deputy Chairman, Mirza Muhammad Afridi, Senator Dr Shahzad Waseem, Senator Prince Umer, Moulana Haideri, Abdul Qadir, Dost Muhammad, Naseebullah Bazai arrived at the UAE embassy and offered condolences,” Senate of Pakistan online, May 14, 2022, accessed June 12, 2022. https://senate.gov.pk/en/news_content.php?id=4299.

  26. “COAS, Turkish defence minister discuss regional peace, stability,” Express Tribune online, May 21, 2022, accessed June 12, 2022. https://tribune.com.pk/story/2357640/coas-turkish-defence-minister-discuss-regional-peace-stability.

  27. “COAS Bajwa inquires after Saudi king’s health in call to prince,” Dawn online, May 24, 2022, accessed June 12, 2022. https://www.dawn.com/news/1691239/coas-bajwa-inquires-after-saudi-kings-health-in-call-to-prince.

  28. “Spain’s spy chief sacked after Pegasus spyware revelations,” The Guardian online, May 10, 2022, accessed June 17, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/10/spains-spy-chief-paz-esteban-sacked-after-pegasus-spyware-revelations.

  29. “Spain sacks spy chief over Pegasus spyware scandal,” Al Jazeera online, May 10, 2022, accessed June 14, 2022. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/10/spain-sacks-spy-chief-over-pegasus-spyware-scandal.