Update on Performance of Democratic Institutions | February 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. NA-75 and the ECP Actions
  2. Pakistan to remain on FATF Grey list till June, 2021: FATF
  3. Pakistan India DGMOs agree on Line of Control Ceasefire
  4. Justice Qazi Faez Isa case
  5. COAS calls on Prime Minister
  6. Speaker National Assembly meets Special Representative to Afghan President
  7. Ambassador of Nepal calls on Chairman Senate
  8. Corps Commanders Conference
  9. British High Commissioner calls on COAS
  10. Russian Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan calls on COAS
  11. Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar calls on COAS
  12. Incoming Commander US Centcom calls on COAS
  13. Collaboration between ISPR and MOIT on Animation Industry
  14. Keep Army out of Politics: DG ISPR
  15. Myanmar Military Coup

NA-75 and the ECP Actions

On February 24, the Election Commission of Pakistan ruled that the NA-75, Sialkot IV (Commonly known as Daska constituency) bye-election held on February 19 is null and void and a re-election will be held in the entire constituency after suspicions that the results may have been falsified. [1]

The Daska by-election was marred by violence as armed men on motorcycles were seen roaming in Daska city and resorting to aerial firing which scared away many voters. Two persons died and many were injured as a result of the firing at one location. Eyewitness reports indicate that the police did not make any serious effort to check this wanton vandalism. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) noted “…incidents of murders, firing and injuries, bad law-and-order situation in the subject constituency creating harassment for voters and other circumstances leading to make the process of result doubtful/ unascertainable.” [2]

According to the Election Rules 2017, the returning officer has to communicate the provisional results to the ECP electronically on or before 2 am the day immediately following polling day. It was probably at that time that the RO noticed that result of polling stations had not been received and their presiding officers had gone missing. Efforts to reach the missing POs were unsuccessful. The Chief Election Commissioner, who was present in his office at that time according to an ECP press release, apparently smelt a rat and contacted the chief secretary and the district police officer around 3 am. Both assured the commissioner that they would ensure the safe recovery of the POs and polling material but to no avail; the chief secretary, as the commission press release put it, had made himself unavailable.

The ECP also ordered the Establishment Division to suspend Sialkot’s deputy commissioner and district police officer as well as the Daska assistant commissioner. Federal and provincial governments have also been told to suspend the aforementioned three officials as well as Daska deputy superintendent of police and Sambrial DSP. They will also not be appointed for any election duty in future, the statement said. The ECP also directed the government that the Gujranwala Division commissioner and Gujranwala Range regional police officer be transferred from Gujranwala Division and their positions be changed.[3]

Pakistan to remain on FATF Grey list till June, 2021: FATF

On February 26, Dr Marcus Pleyer, President, FATF announced that Pakistan will continue to stay on the FATF grey list for another four months until June, 2021 for three unmet targets out of a total 27 action plan targets on anti-money laundering and combating financing terror (AML/CFT).

He said that “To date, Pakistan has made progress across all action plan items and has now largely addressed 24 of the 27 action items. As all action plan deadlines have expired, the FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan before June 2021.

In a statement, the Ministry of Finance said the “FATF has acknowledged the continued high-level political commitment of Pakistan to combat terrorist financing which, according to FATF statement, has led to significant progress across a comprehensive countering financing of terrorism plan”.[4]

Pakistan India DGMOs agree on Line of Control Ceasefire

Line of Control

With effect from midnight of 24/25 February 2021, directors general military operations (DGMOs) of Pakistan and India announced recommitting both countries to the 2003 ceasefire arrangement at the Line of Control (LoC) and agreed to address ‘core issues’ that could undermine peace and stability. The two DGMOs held discussions over the established mechanism of hotline contact, announced the ISPR. Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the LOC and all other sectors and reiterated utilizing hotline contact and border flag meetings to resolve any unforeseen situation or misunderstanding.” [5]

The conversation between Major General Nauman Zakaria, Pakistani DGMO and Lt General Paramjit Sangha, Indian DGMO was described as “free” and “frank” and held in a “cordial atmosphere.” [6]

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed the announcement terming it a positive development and said that progress on the issue of occupied Kashmir is possible only through a conducive environment.”

Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that “India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan. We have always maintained that we are committed to addressing issues, if any, in a peaceful bilateral manner.” [7]

The UN Secretary General and the United States of America both welcomed an understanding between India and Pakistan for reducing tensions, hoping that this would lead to further talks between the two countries. [8]

Justice Qazi Faez Isa case

Justice Qazi Faez Isa

On February 11, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed issued an order requiring Justice Isa not to hear matters involving the Prime Minister, considering that he had already filed a petition against the Prime minister in his personal capacity. The order had stated that to uphold the principle of un-biasness and impartiality, it would be in the interest of justice that Justice Isa should not hear matters involving the Prime Minister. [9]

The order had also recalled how Justice Isa during the hearing placed on record photocopies of certain documents statedly received by him from some anonymous source through a WhatsApp message, the copies of which were also handed over to other members of the bench as well as Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan.

Earlier, on February 2, Supreme Court’s Public Relations Office said that Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s mobile phone has been hacked. Communication purportedly made from [Justice Isa’s] cell phone, which his lordship had not sent, may be treated as fake and false,” said the press release by the Supreme Court, adding that that “cell phone of Justice Qazi Faez Isa has been hacked and there is suspicion that misguiding communication can be made from his lordship’s number to anyone with ulterior motives,” a press release by the Supreme Court said.

Questioning the CJP order barring him, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, through an official letter to Supreme Court’s Registrar Khawaja Daud Ahmed on February 13, asked why the CJP order was not sent to him and why the settled practice of sending it to the next senior judge was not followed and why was the order released to the media before he read it, let alone had the opportunity to sign it in agreement/disagreement. The letter was also copied to Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and all the judges of the Supreme Court. [10]

In another development on February 22, a six-member bench of the Supreme Court released its determination on a set of review petitions moved by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, his wife Sarina Isa and others and directed the court office to place them before the Chief Justice to issue directives for the constitution of a bench as deemed appropriate.

In a 28-page order, the apex court, which had reserved its ruling on December 10 to adjudicate if the present six-judge bench or a larger bench to determine the set of petitions seeking review in the Justice Isa case, held that its review jurisdiction could be invoked against majority and unanimous judgements only (and not against any dissenting notes).

Headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the six-judge bench referred the matter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed to determine the composition of a bench (in view of the settled practice) as he may constitute a larger bench for hearing the review petitions.

On February 23, it was decided that a 10-judge bench of the Supreme Court will formally commence hearing of a set of review petitions in the Justice Qazi Faez Isa case.

The composition of the previously constituted review bench had been challenged by the petitioners on the plea that all the three judges who had dissented from the majority decision in the case against Justice Isa were not made part of the review bench. Justice Baqar, Justice Shah and Justice Afridi had also quashed the presidential reference against Justice Isa, but had written dissenting notes against the majority decision, and held that the proceedings along with the show-cause notice issued by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against Justice Isa stood abated.[11]

On February 25, Justice Qazi Faez also filed an application seeking a directive that the Pakistan Television Corporation be directed to broadcast live proceedings of the hearings. [12]

COAS calls on Prime Minister

COAS and DG ISI calling on Prime Minister

On February 1, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff, called on Prime Minister Imran Khan alongside Lt. General Faiz Hamid, DG ISI. According to the PMO, matters relating to internal and external security were discussed during the meeting. [13]

Speaker National Assembly meets Special Representative to Afghan President

Honourable Speaker National Assembly

On February 25, Mr. Omar Daudzai, Special Representative to Afghan President, called on Honourable Speaker National Assembly, Mr. Asad Qaiser where both discussed regional economic development and connectivity.

The Honourable Speaker said that Pakistan strongly desires a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan and that Pakistan has consistently supported an inclusive, broad-based and political peace effort in Afghanistan. [14]

Ambassador of Nepal calls on Chairman Senate

Ambassador of Nepal with Chairman Senate of Pakistan

Mr. Tapas Adhikari, Ambassador of Nepal to Pakistan, called on Honourable Chairman Senate, Senator Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, at Parliament House Islamabad to exchange diverse views. [15]

Corps Commanders Conference

Corps Commanders Conference

The DG ISPR reported on February 9 that the Corps Commanders Conference undertook a comprehensive review of regional & domestic security environment with special focus on situation along borders, internal security & other professional matters of the Army. [16]

General Qamar Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), while chairing the conference emphasised the need for giving precedence to national interest while tackling the challenges facing the country and putting up a united front. “The forum also expressed complete satisfaction over countering hostile intelligence agencies’ design to disrupt peace and progress, particularly in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.” [17]

British High Commissioner calls on COAS

British High Commissioner calls on COAS

On February 12, Dr. Christian Turner, British High Commissioner to Pakistan, called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff, at GHQ. According to the ISPR, matters of mutual interest, overall regional security and Afghan Peace process were discussed during the meeting.[18]

Russian Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan calls on COAS

Russian Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan calls on COAS

On February 19, Mr. Zamir Kabulov, Russian Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan, called on the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at the GHQ where matters of mutual interest, regional security situation, particularly developments in the Afghan peace process were discussed.[19]

Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar calls on COAS

Special Envoy of Qatar with COAS

On February 22, Dr. Mutlaq Bin Majed Al Qahtani, Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff. Lt General Faiz Hameed, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was also present in the meeting. [20]

Incoming Commander US Centcom calls on COAS

Commander US CENTCOM General Kenneth F. Mc Kenzie Jr. at the GHQ

On February 19, General Kenneth F. Mc Kenzie Jr, Incoming Commander US CENTCOM, called on the Chief of Army Staff at the GHQ. According to the ISPR, both expressed unanimity of views on importance of political resolution of Afghan situation.[21]

Collaboration between ISPR and MOIT on Animation Industry

IT Ministry and ISPR to collaborate for promotion of Animation Industry

The ISPR has reported that Ministry of Information Technology & ISPR have begun collaborating for development and promotion of Animation Industry in Pakistan. Federal Minister for IT & Telecom, Syed Amin Ul Haque, Secretary IT & Telecom, Mr. Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, DG ISPR, Major General Babar Iftikhar were present on the occasion held in ISPR headquarters. [22]

A dedicated Animation Incubation Centre has been proposed in the chalked-out plan to hold short courses on animation, gaming and designing. The ISPR statement also said that the global market size of animation industry is around US $ 270 billion and expected to grow to US $ 415 billion by 2025 and Pakistan has a huge potential to become a part of this growing industry. [23]

Keep Army out of Politics: DG ISPR

DG ISPR

In a statement to various private TV channels, DG ISPR Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar has said that the “Army does not need backdoor contacts with anyone and is doing its job.” Challenging those behind the rumours he said that “Tell publicly who was contacted by whom and who spoke to whom instead of levelling allegations. There is no such thing going on. Please keep us out of it, this is not good for anyone”

Reportedly, his statement remarks came against the backdrop of renewed rumours about contacts between the opposition and the military. [24]

In another statement, at a media briefing on February 22, the DG ISPR dispelled the impression that Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, DG ISI was being changed in the near future. He said that “appointments at the senior level are not short-lived.” [25]

Myanmar Military Coup

Demonstrators protest against the Military coup in Yangon, Myanmar

On February 1, just as the newly-elected Parliament was to meet, Myanmar military imposed martial law, detained Aung San Suu Kyi whose National League for Democracy (NLD) swept the election, and other democratically elected leaders. General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar commander-in-chief led the military coup, [26] proclaiming one-year state of emergency, promising to hold fresh elections after that without offering any precise timeframe.

Following the coup, Myanmar citizens have begun to carry largest protests against the coup with young demonstrators spilling on to the streets to denounce the country’s new military regime, despite a nationwide internet blackout. The military crackdown has led to the killing of 21 protests during February 2021. [27]

  1. Dawn (2021) ECP declares Daska by-poll null and void, orders re-election on March 18. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1609342 (Accessed March 01, 2021).
  2. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob (2021) By-election fiasco. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1609888 (Accessed March 01, 2021).
  3. Dawn (2021) ECP declares Daska by-poll null and void, orders re-election on March 18. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1609342 (Accessed March 01, 2021).
  4. ISPR (2021) Pakistan no longer facing FATF backlist threat: minister. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1609617 (Accessed February 26, 2021).
  5. ISPR (2021) The Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan held discussions over the established mechanism of hotline contact. Available at: https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6068 (Accessed February 26, 2021).
  6. Dawn (2021) Pakistan, India agree on LoC ceasefire. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1609468 (Accessed February 26, 2021).
  7. Dawn (2021) Pakistan, India agree on LoC ceasefire. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1609468 (Accessed February 26, 2021).
  8. Dawn (2021) UN, US ask India to stay engaged. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1609609/un-us-ask-india-and-pakistan-to-stay-engaged (Accessed February 27, 2021).
  9. Dawn (2021) Isa asks why CJP order shared with media, not him. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1607234 (Accessed February 14, 2021).
  10. Dawn (2021) CJP to decide composition of bench in Isa case. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1608862 (Accessed February 23, 2021).
  11. Dawn (2021) 10 judge bench constituted to review Isa case. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1609054/10-judge-bench-constituted-to-review-isa-case (Accessed February 24, 2021).
  12. Dawn (2021) Justice Isa seeks live telecast of hearings on review petitions. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1609481 (Accessed February 26, 2021).
  13. PMO (2021): Chief of Army Staff calls on the Prime Minister. Available at: https://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=3180 (Accessed February 1, 2021).
  14. The News (2021) Peace in Afghanistan must for regional economic uplift: Asad Qaiser. Available at: https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/795982-asad-meets-afghan-president-s-representative-peace-in-afghanistan-must-for-regional-economic-uplift (Accessed February 26, 2021).
  15. Senate of Pakistan (2021) Chairman Senate, Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani exchanging views with Mr. Tapas Adhikari, Ambassador of Nepal. Available at: http://www.senate.gov.pk/en/news_content.php?id=3807 (Accessed February 10, 2021).
  16. DG ISPR (2021) 09 February. Available at: https://twitter.com/OfficialDGISPR/status/1359127518738014208 (Accessed February 25, 2021).
  17. Dawn (2021) National interest must be above everything else: commanders. Available at (https://www.dawn.com/news/1606491). (Accessed February 10, 2021).
  18. ISPR (2021): H.E Dr. Christian Turner, British High Commissioner called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ, today. Available at: (https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6046) (Accessed February 12, 2021).
  19. ISPR (2021): H.E. Mr Zamir Kabulov, Russian Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ, today. Available at (https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6059) (Accessed February 19, 2021).
  20. Express Tribune (2021): General Qamar, Qatari envoy discuss Afghan reconciliation process. Available at (https://tribune.com.pk/story/2285543/gen-qamar-qatari-envoy-discuss-afghan-reconciliation-process) (Accessed February 22, 20210).
  21. ISPR (2021) General Kenneth F. Mc Kenzie Jr, Incoming Commander US CENTCOM, called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ today. Available at (https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6060) (Accessed February 19, 2021).
  22. ISPR (2021) Revolutionizing Animation industry of Pakistan – Ministry of Information Technology & ISPR collaborate for development and promotion of Animation Industry in Pakistan. Available at: https://ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=6037 (Accessed March 11, 2021).
  23. Express Tribune (2021) IT Ministry, ISPR join hands to ‘revolutionize’ IT industry. Available at: https://tribune.com.pk/story/2282972/it-ministry-ispr-join-hands-to-revolutionise-animation-industry (Accessed February 7, 2021).
  24. Dawn (2021) Army denies ‘backdoor contacts’ with opposition. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1606272 (Accessed February 9, 2021)).
  25. Dawn (2021) Military rejects speculation about ISI chief. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1608853/military-rejects-speculation-about-isi-chief. (Accessed February 23, 2021).
  26. BBC (2021) Myanmar coup: Aung San Suu Kyi detained as military seizes control. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-55882489 (Accessed February 15, 2021).
  27. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-55902070 (Accessed March 10, 2021).

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