Update on The Performance of Democratic Institutions | September 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. Prime Minister’s Office refuses to share details of Gifts
  2. PM Visits ISI Headquarters
  3. Sindh ready to hold LG Election: Murtaza Wahab
  4. ECP Nominees by the Leader of the Opposition
  5. Punjab changes another IG, Chief Secretary
  6. Report highlights Internet freedom decreasing in Pakistan
  7. CM Sindh on SNC
  8. Attempted Elevation of Justice Ayesha Malik to SC
  9. Chairman Senate meets Foreign Dignitaries
  10. Speaker National Assembly meets Foreign Dignitaries
  11. Interactions of COAS with Foreign Dignitaries
  12. Corps Commanders Conference
  13. Prime Minister’s Interactions with COAS
  14. US Lawmakers Question Generals

Prime Minister’s Office refuses to share details of Gifts

Prime Minister of Pakistan

Prime Minister’s office has refused to publicly share details of the gifts given to him since he assumed office as the Cabinet Division approached the Islamabad High Court on September 20 challenging the order of the Pakistan Information Commission which, while hearing the complaint of a requester, had declared the request seeking details of gifts presented to PM since August 2018, in order and directed the concerned government entity to provide the information. The PMO had earlier turned down the request made under Pakistan Right of Access to Information Act, 2017. The government has maintained that public disclosure of gifts would jeopardise international relations and that the issue did not fall within the domain of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017. [1]

PM Visits ISI Headquarters

Prime Minister being briefed at the ISI headquarters

On September 24, Prime Minister visited the headquarters of the ISI where he was briefed on situation in Afghanistan. PM was accompanied by Chief Ministers of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, key federal ministers and three services chiefs. [2]

Sindh ready to hold LG Election: Murtaza Wahab

The Administrator of Karachi Mr. Murtaza Wahab said on September 15 that the Sindh government is ready to hold local government elections in February-March 2022 based on fresh delimitation of constituencies using the 2017 census. He also said that while the Sindh government has had serious reservations on the 2017 census, it is willing to accept delimitation based on it if the ECP wants to do so. [3]

Earlier on September 6, the issue of LG polls in Sindh was heard by a three-member committee headed by Chief Election Commissioner which noted that despite the requirement of holding LG elections within 120 days of completion of the term or dissolution of local governments according to the Sindh Local Governments Act 2013, the Sindh government had maintained that it did not want to hold LG elections for the next 18 months.

ECP Nominees by the Leader of the Opposition

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly

On September 17, Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Shehbaz Sharif, MNA sent names of six nominees to Prime Minister Imran Khan for filling vacant posts of EC members from Punjab and KP. These included Justice (Retd.) Tariq Iftikhar Ahmed, Mr. Muhammad Javed Anwar, Justice (Retd.) Mushtaq Ahmed, Mr. Khalid Masood Chaudhry, Mr. Irfan Qadir and Mr. Irfan Ali. In his letter, he also wrote that based on the judgement of the Supreme Court, effective, meaningful, purposive and consensus-oriented discussion is required to take place between Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition on appointment for posts in the EC that leave no room for complaint of arbitrariness or unfair play. However, the government has failed to do so, he maintained.[4]

Punjab changes another IG, Chief Secretary

Chief Minister Punjab

On September 7, the PTI-led Provincial Government of the Punjab once again changed the Inspector General (IG) of Police and the Provincial Chief Secretary by appointing Sardar Ali Khan as the 7th IG replacing Mr. Inam Ghani and Mr. Kamran Ali Afzal as the 5th Chief Secretary replacing Mr. Jawad Rafique Malik.

On September 11, 2018, 2 months after forming provincial government in the Punjab, the IG Punjab was changed from Mr. Kaleem Imam to Mr. Mohammad Tahir, who, after remaining IG for only about a month was replaced by Mr. Amjad Javed Saleemi on October 15, 2018. Mr. Saleemi remained in office till April 17, 2019, and was replaced by Captain (Retd.) Arif Nawaz who held the IG post for eight months. Mr. Shoaib Dastgir was appointed as IG Punjab in November 2019 and was only in office till September 9, 2020. He was removed from the post reportedly for opposing the appointment of Mr. Umer Sheikh as DPO Lahore. Mr. Inam Ghani was appointed IG on September 9, 2020, serving about a year before the latest replacement.[5]

Report highlights Internet freedom decreasing in Pakistan

A snapshot of Freedom on the Net 2021 around the World

Pakistan is categorised as “Not Free” in a Freedom House report Freedom on the Net 2021: The Global Drive to Control Big Tech and placed among top 10 countries in the world where internet freedom has been on the decline. Pakistan has received a score of 25 which is based on 9 categories including analysis of internet controls including blocking of social media and communication platforms, political, social or religious content, deliberate disruption of ICT networks, manipulation of online discussions by Pro-government commentators, New law or directive increasing censorship or punishment passed, new law or directive increasing surveillance or restricting anonymity passed, blogger or ICT user arrested, imprisoned, or in prolonged detention for political or social content, blogger or ICT user physically attacked or killed (including in custody) and Technical attacks against government critics or human rights organizations. [6]

In a related development on September 13, the Supreme Court has observed that provisions of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) cannot regulate or curtail fundamental rights such as the freedoms of expression and the press enshrined in the Constitution. This was observed during a up suo motu case of harassment of a journalist brought by the Press Association of the Supreme Court. [7]

CM Sindh on SNC

Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, MPA

Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, MPA has said Sindh has declined to adopt the Federal Government’s Single National Curriculum (SNC) as the province, under the 18th Amendment, has the authority to formulate its own curriculum, which is a provincial subject. He said that a majority of students in Sindh were receiving education in Sindhi medium and the Sindh government had already worked hard on overhauling the provincial curriculum. [8]

Attempted Elevation of Justice Ayesha Malik to SC

Justice Ayesha Malik

A decision could not be finalised on induction of Lahore High Court Judge, Justice Ayesha Malik to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. On September 9, a consensus could not be achieved in the Judicial Commission of Pakistan on her elevation as four out of eight members including Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Former Judge Dost Mohammad Khan and representative of Pakistan Bar Council opposed her elevation to the Supreme Court, a decision which was later lamented by the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Law Minister Barrister Dr. Farogh Naseem and Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan were in favour of her elevation. The voting record was made public as on September 14 Justice Umar Ata Bandial suggested that the names of those opposing her elevation should be made public as they, according to him, stand against women’s rights. [9]

Chairman Senate meets Foreign Dignitaries

Senator Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, Chairman Senate of Pakistan
  1. On September 22, Chairman Senate met with Dr. Palitha Mahipala, Head of WHO Mission Pakistan at the Parliament House, Islamabad.[10]
  2. On September 22, Ambassador of Azerbaijan, Mr. Khazar Farhadov, called on Chairman Senate.[11]
  3. On September 22, Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan met with Chairman Senate.[12]
  4. On September 27, Chairman Senate visited the residence of the Ambassador of Azerbaijan.[13]

Speaker National Assembly meets Foreign Dignitaries

Mr. Asad Qaiser, Speaker, National Assembly of Pakistan
  1. On September 29, Ambassador Of Azerbaijan called on Speaker National Assembly, Mr. Asad Qaiser.[14]

Interactions of COAS with Foreign Dignitaries

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff
  1. On September 6, Mr. Luigi Di Maio, Foreign Minister of Italy, called on Chief of the Army Staff at the GHQ.[15]
  2. On September 08, Mrs. Androulla Kaminara, Ambassador of European Union (EU), called on Chief of Army Staff at the GHQ.[16]
  3. On September 09, Mr. William Joseph Burns, Director Central Intelligence Agency USA, called on Chief of Army Staff at the GHQ.[17]
  4. On September 10, Mr Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, called on Chief of Army Staff at the GHQ.[18]
  5. On September 16, Mr. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), called on Chief of Army Staff at the GHQ.[19]
  6. On September 21, Mr. Andreas Papastavrou, Greek Ambassador to Pakistan, called on Chief of Army Staff at the GHQ.[20]

Corps Commanders Conference

COAS chairing Corps Commanders Conference

On September 10, in the corps commanders conference, Chief of Army Staff reportedly expressed satisfaction over efficacy of the comprehensive border management regime due to which Pakistan’s Borders and Internal Security remained intact amid a crisis situation in the region. [21]

Prime Minister’s Interactions with COAS

PM chairing the NCA meeting

In September 2021 Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa met thrice.

  1. On September 08, COAS was part of a meeting of National Command Authority (NCA) chaired by Prime Minister at Strategic Planning Division.[22]
  2. On September 09, PM and COAS met at Apex Committee to review National Action Plan (NAP).[23]
  3. On September 24, PM and COAS met during an intelligence briefing at the ISI headquarter. [24]

US Lawmakers Question Generals

(L-R) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US General Mark A. Milley, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, and General Kenneth McKenzie Jr., USMC Commander, US Central Command

US military commanders contradicted President Biden saying they urged the President not to withdraw from Afghanistan. [25]

In a congressional hearing on the US withdrawal in Afghanistan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, head of US Central Command Gen. Frank McKenzie and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin were grilled in the House Armed Services Committee about the decisions they made before, during and after the evacuation effort in Kabul. Gen. Milley said that US war in Afghanistan was at a stalemate 5 to 6 years ago. He also acknowledged that the US military did not predict that the Afghan government would collapse so quickly. He also said that he was not consulted on President Trump’s Nov. 11 order to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by mid-January. He also said that he was consulted “very very late in the game” and just before Doha agreement with Taliban. He also testified that there is “a real possibility” that al Qaeda or ISIS could reconstitute in Afghanistan in the next six to 36 months.[26]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was heavily criticized by some US lawmakers for playing to the media for his good image. “It seems to me that you put a high priority on making sure that you were favorably portrayed by the D.C. press corps,” said Sen. Josh Hawley. Gen. Milley said that “At no time was I attempting to change or influence the process, usurp authority or insert myself into the chain of command,” Milley said. “But I am expected to give my advice and ensure that the president is fully informed.” [27]

In a book titled ‘Peril’, the US journalists Bob Woodward and Roberta Costa have written that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, secretly called his Chinese counterpart to assure him twice over concerns that the then-President Trump could spark a war with China as his potential election loss loomed and in its aftermath. The US Chiefs of Staff assured Beijing that the US was stable and not going to attack and, if there were to be an attack, he would alert his counterpart ahead of time. The calls were made on October 30, 2020, four days before the US Presidential election, and on January 8, two days after Trump supporters led a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. Responding to the report published in Washington Post, former President Trump called the story “fabricated,” and said that if the story was true, Gen. Milley should be tried for treason. “For the record, I never even thought of attacking China,” said Mr. Trump. [28]

Responding to the story, Gen. Milley said that the calls were “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his job. As Mr. Trump and Republicans called for Gen. Milley’s removal, President Biden offered his public support to US Chief of Staff saying he has “great confidence” in him. [29]

During the Congressional hearing on US withdrawal from Afghanistan on September 28, Gen. Milley defended his calls to his Chinese counterpart and said that he had made the calls to inform him that there were no plans by the Trump administration to launch an attack on China. “The calls on 30 October and 8 January were coordinated before and after with [Defence] Secretary [Mark T.] Esper and acting secretary [Christopher C.] Miller’s staffs and the interagency,” he said. “I believe that was faithfully executing the intent of the president, the United States at the time, because I knew with certainty that President Trump was not going to attack the Chinese just out of the blue,” he said.[30]

Resigning is a political act: Gen. Milley

When asked that he could have resigned when the US President decided to fully withdraw from Afghanistan against his advice, the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Ge. Mark Milley said that resigning in protest would have been a “political act.” [31]

As a senior military officer, resigning is a very serious thing; and it’s a political act if I’m resigning in protest. My job is to provide advice; my statutory responsibility is to provide legal advice or best military advice to the president. And that’s my legal requirement. That’s what the law is. The President doesn’t have to agree with that advice. He doesn’t have to make those decisions just because we are generals. And it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken. This country doesn’t want generals figuring out what orders we are going to accept and [what we] do or not. That’s not our job. The principle of civilian control of the military is absolute. It’s critical to this republic. In addition to that, just from a personal standpoint, you know, my dad didn’t get a choice to resign….. those kids [military staff] …..don’t get a choice to resign. And I’m not going to tun my back on them. They can’t resign so I’m not going to resign. There’s no way. If the orders are illegal, [then] we are in a different place. But if the orders are legal from civilian authority, I intend to carry them out,” [32] said Gen. Mark Milley in a detailed response.

References

  1. Malik Asad, “Govt reluctant to disclose details of gifts to PM,” Dawn online, September 21, 2021, accessed October 5, 2021. https://www.dawn.com/news/1647463.

  2. “Prime Minister Imran Khan along with Key Federal Ministers, Chief Minister of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa visited Inter-Services Intelligence Secretariat, PMO online, September 24, 2021, accessed October 3, 2021, https://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=3741.

  3. “Sindh govt ready to hold LG polls in Feb/March: Wahab,” Dawn online, September 16, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.dawn.com/news/1646601/sindh-govt-ready-to-hold-lg-polls-in-febmarch-wahab.

  4. “Shehbaz proposes six names for vacant ECP posts,” Dawn online, September 18, 2021, accessed October 5, 2021. https://www.dawn.com/news/1646933.

  5. Malik Asad, Imran Gabol, “Punjab gets seventh IG, fifth chief secretary in three years,” Dawn online, September 8, 2021, accessed October 5, 2021. https://www.dawn.com/news/1645093.

  6. Freedom House, “Freedom on the Net 2021,” Freedom House online, September 2021, accessed October 2, 2021, https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2021-09/FOTN_2021_Complete_Booklet_09162021_FINAL_UPDATED.pdf.

  7. “Law on electronic crimes cannot override Constitution, observes SC,” Dawn online, September 14, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.dawn.com/news/1646264.

  8. Tahir Siddiqui, “Sindh has rejected ‘unilateral’ imposition of Single National Curriculum: Murad,” Dawn online, September 23, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.dawn.com/news/1647882.

  9. Nasir Iqbal, “CJP rejects objections to judges’ elevation,” Dawn online, September 14, 2021, accessed October 7, 2021. https://www.dawn.com/news/1646241/cjp-rejects-objections-to-judges-elevation.

  10. “Chairman Senate, Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani exchanging views with Dr. Palitha Mahipala, Head of WHO Mission Pakistan at Parliament House,” Senate of Pakistan online, September 22, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. http://www.senate.gov.pk/en/news_content.php?id=4044&catid=6&subcatid=59&cattitle=Press%20Releases.

  11. “Chairman Senate, Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani Exchanging Views With Ambassador Of Azerbaijan, Mr. Khazar Farhadov At Parliament House,” Senate of Pakistan online, September 22, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. http://senate.gov.pk/en/news_content.php?id=4043&catid=6&subcatid=59&cattitle=Press%20Releases.

  12. “Chairman Senate, Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani exchanging views with Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf Bin Said Al-Malki at Parliament House Islamabad,” Senate of Pakistan online, September 22, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. http://www.senate.gov.pk/en/news_content.php?id=4042.

  13. “A ceremony to pay homage to the sacrifices of the martyrs of the Azeri War of Independence was held at the residence of the Ambassador of Azerbaijan,” Senate of Pakistan online, September 27, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. http://www.senate.gov.pk/en/news_content.php?id=4047

  14. “People To People Contact Vital For Strengthening Relations Between Azerbaijan And Pakistan: NA Speaker – September 29, 2021,” National Assembly of Pakistan online, September 29, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. http://na.gov.pk/en/pressrelease.php?content=101#4550.

  15. “His Excellency Mr Luigi Di Maio, Foreign Minister of Italy called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), today.,” ISPR online, September 6, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6271.

  16. “Her Excellency Mrs Androulla Kaminara, Ambassador of European Union (EU) called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), today,” ISPR online, September 08, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6272.

  17. “Mr William Joseph Burns, Director Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), USA called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) & Lieutenant General Faiz Hamid, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),” ISPR online, September 09, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6273.

  18. “His Excellency, Mr Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the state of Qatar called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS),” ISPR online, September 10, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6274.

  19. “His Excellency Mr Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ, today,” ISPR online, September 16, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6275.”

  20. “His Excellency Mr Andreas Papastavrou, Greek Ambassador to Pakistan called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), at GHQ, today,” ISPR online, September 21, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6278.

  21. DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR), Twitter, September 10, 2021, 3:58 pm, accessed October 3, 2021, https://twitter.com/OfficialDGISPR/status/1436282856154796032.

  22. “NCA hints at upgrade of strategic capabilities,” Dawn online, September 9, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.dawn.com/news/1645312.

  23. Syed Irfan Raza, “Civil, military leaders vow to meet all security challenges,” Dawn online, September 10, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.dawn.com/news/1645531.

  24. “Prime Minister Imran Khan along with Key Federal Ministers, Chief Minister of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa visited Inter-Services Intelligence Secretariat, PMO online, September 24, 2021, accessed October 3, 2021, https://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=3741.

  25. Lara Seligman, “Top generals contradict Biden, say they urged him not to withdraw from Afghanistan,” Politico online, September 28, 2021, accessed October 2, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/28/top-generals-afghanistan-withdrawal-congress-hearing-514491.

  26. Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha and Mike Hays, “Top military leaders testify on Afghanistan withdrawal,” CNN online, September 29, 2021, accessed October 2, 2021, https://edition.cnn.com/politics/live-news/afghanistan-withdrawal-house-hearing-09-29-21/index.html.

  27. Alex Horton, Karoun Demirjian and John Wagner, “Milley defends calls made to his Chinese counterpart, saying they were sanctioned and briefed across the administration,” Washington Post online, September 28, 2021, accessed October 1, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/general-milley-china-calls/2021/09/28/2b319e44-2099-11ec-8200-5e3fd4c49f5e_story.html

  28. “U.S. top general secretly called China over fears Trump could spark war -report,” Reuters online, September 15, 2021, accessed October 1, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-top-general-secretly-called-china-twice-trump-term-ended-report-2021-09-14/.

  29. John Wagner, “Milley says calls to his Chinese military counterpart were ‘perfectly within the duties and responsibilities’ of his job,” Washington Post online, September 17, 2021, accessed October 1, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/milley-defense-china-calls/2021/09/17/05e7e59c-17ae-11ec-a5e5-ceecb895922f_story.html.

  30. Alex Horton, Karoun Demirjian and John Wagner, “Milley defends calls made to his Chinese counterpart, saying they were sanctioned and briefed across the administration,” Washington Post online, September 28, 2021, accessed October 1, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/general-milley-china-calls/2021/09/28/2b319e44-2099-11ec-8200-5e3fd4c49f5e_story.html.

  31. Lara Seligman, “Top generals contradict Biden, say they urged him not to withdraw from Afghanistan,” Politico online, September 28, 2021, accessed October 2, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/28/top-generals-afghanistan-withdrawal-congress-hearing-514491.

  32. “Republican Senator to Gen. Milley: ‘Why Haven’t You Resigned?” YouTube, September 29, 2021, accessed October 3, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4cbMoxDVTU.