Opposition parties kick off anti-government drive by uniting to remove Senate chairman

JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazaulr Rehman along with other political party leaders addressing a press conference after attending All Parties Conference arranged by JUI-F - APP
Updated 26 June 2019

Opposition parties kick off anti-government drive by uniting to remove Senate chairman

  • Announce mass contact campaign from July 25, the date of last year’s general elections
  • Demand that new economic body formed by government with army chief as a member be dissolved

Islamabad: A meeting of opposition party leaders in Islamabad on Wednesday decided to unite to remove the chairman of the upper house of parliament through “constitutional means” as the beginning of a movement against the incumbent government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The Senate is the upper legislative house of the bicameral legislature of the country, with equal representation from all four provinces. In March last year, Sanjrani, a little-known opposition candidate, was elected chairman of the Senate with the support of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and a block of independent Senators from Balochistan.
According to the party position in the 104-member house, opposition parties have the required strength to remove Sanjrani from his position by moving a no-confidence motion against him. Laws in Pakistan need ratification from both the Senate and the National Assembly and having a chairman of their choice would grant the opposition great leverage in politics. 
In a day-long multiparty conference held here in Islamabad, members of opposition parties including the PPP, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP) and others mulled ways to launch a movement against the PTI-led government.
“It is decided in the meeting that Chairman Senate will be removed through constitutional and legal means,” JUI-F chief Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman told reporters after the conference, flanked by Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Rehman said a ‘Rehbar Committee’ had been constituted to “propose a unanimous nomination” for the new chairman of the Senate and said any such move would be done while upholding the supremacy of parliament, the constitution, rule of law and civilian rule.
Opposition parties also announced that they would launch a mass contact campaign against the government from July 25, the date of last year’s general elections.
“The meeting has demanded that institutions should not interfere in politics,” Rehman said in a veiled reference to the country’s security institutions, namely the army and its spy agencies, accused of supporting the PTI government in the pre and post election phase. The institutions vehemently deny the charge. 
Rehman also demanded that the National Development Council (NDC), an economic body formed by the government this month with the army chief as a member, be dissolved. 
“There is no need for it in the presence of the constitutional body, the National Economic Council,” he said.
“The need for struggle for the democratic rights of the people has been reiterated in the meeting,” Rehman said, demanding that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) withdraw its notification that empowers the deployment of army troops inside polling stations during elections in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal districts on July 20. 
Rehman said attendees of Wednesday’s meeting demanded an immediate end to the ongoing “revengeful accountability” going on in the country, in a veiled reference to cases against opposition politicians, and demanded a new law under which the accountability of all “who draw salaries from the national exchequer” be held.
The multiparty conference also unanimously rejected the government’s proposed ‘Debt Inquiry Commission’ and called it unconstitutional and an attack on parliament.


EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

Updated 01 July 2020

EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

  • The step has been taken due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards
  • PIA expects the ‘earliest possible’ lifting of suspension after action by the government and the airline

ISLAMABAD: The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorization to fly to the bloc for six months, the airline said on Tuesday, in a major blow to the country’s flag carrier.
Separately, the safety agency said it took the action due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.
The suspension follows Pakistan’s grounding of 262 of the country’s 860 pilots — including 141 of PIA’s 434 — whose licenses the aviation minister termed “dubious.”
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal,” PIA said in a statement. It added it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe.
Confirming the move in an emailed statement, the EASA referred to a recent investigation by Pakistan which it said showed a “large share” of pilot licenses to be invalid.
Pakistan’s grounding of the pilots followed a preliminary report on a PIA crash in Karachi that killed 97 people last month.
PIA said it is in contact with the EASA to take corrective measures and appeal against the decision, adding that it expected the “earliest possible” lifting of the suspension after action by the government and the airline.
The EASA also suspended the authorization of another Pakistani airline, Vision Air International.
Vision Air International did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Following the EASA’s decision, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said it, too, was withdrawing PIA’s permit to operate from three of its airports, as required under law.
“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesman for the UK authority told Reuters.
The three were major flying destinations for the airline.
Meanwhile, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), say there are discrepancies in the government’s list of pilots with licenses deemed dubious and are demanding a judicial investigation.
PIA and private airline Air Blue have also queried the list with PIA saying 36 of its pilots mentioned had either retired or left the airline, while Air Blue said it no longer employed seven of nine pilots on the list.
“It contains names of highly educated and qualified pilots who have passed all the tests,” PALPA’s president, Chaudhry Salman, told Reuters. “We want a fair and impartial resolution to this matter.”
An official at Pakistan’s aviation ministry, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, said they did not have full details of the discrepancies. “The issue is being sorted out in consultation with airlines and civil aviation authorities.”