Pakistan opposition parties hold protest rallies against PM Khan

A supporter of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) attends an anti-government protest in Karachi on July 25, 2019. Thousands of supporters of Pakistan’s opposition parties on July 25, took to the streets as they observed “Black Day,” one year after the election that brought cricket-turned politician Imran Khan into power. (AFP)
Updated 26 July 2019

Pakistan opposition parties hold protest rallies against PM Khan

  • Rallies, dubbed the "Black Day," marked the first anniversary of the parliamentary elections
  • Rallies came less than two weeks after Pakistani businesses observed a daylong strike against taxes

QUETTA: Pakistan’s main opposition parties held protest rallies in cities across the country on Thursday, accusing Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government of ruining the economy and seeking to intimidate and silence its opponents.
The so-called “Black Day” protests, a year after Khan’s PTI party swept to power following a bitterly contested election, come amid mounting economic problems for Pakistan and a political climate that has grown increasingly angry.
Surging prices of fuel and everyday staples, a plunging currency that has lost a quarter of its value since the election and allegations of media censorship and stifling opposition voices has fueled the protests.

Maryam Nawaz, daughter of jailed former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, addresses the gathering during an anti-Imran Khan protest rally in Quetta on July 25, 2019. (AFP)

“Every day in the presence of Imran Khan is a black day,” Maryam Nawaz, leader of the PML-N party that was ousted from power in last year’s election told a crowd of thousands of supporters in a football stadium in the western city of Quetta.
She accused Khan of accepting “dictation” from US President Donald Trump during his visit to Washington and proposed a march on the capital Islamabad but did not name a date.
In Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital, thousands of supporters of the PPP, Pakistan’s other main opposition party, gathered to hear party leader Bilawal Bhutto, son of the murdered former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (C), join hands with other opposition parties leaders during an anti-Imran Khan protest in Karachi on July 25, 2019. (AFP)

Banners reading “PTI brought price hikes, PTI brought joblessness, PTI brought economic terrorism” hung over the main stage. There were similar protests in other cities including Lahore and Peshawar.
Khan’s government came to power with Pakistan already nearing a balance of payments crisis, and this month agreed a $6 billion bailout with the International Monetary Fund that came with tough austerity conditions including more taxes and an agreement to let the rupee currency fall sharply.
It has dismissed the opposition protests and blamed the economic turmoil on massive corruption and economic mismanagement by previous governments, accusing their leaders of shifting millions of dollars out of the country illegally.
PML-N founder and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz’s father, is currently serving a 7-year sentence on corruption charges. His successor, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, has also been arrested on corruption charges. He denies wrongdoing.
The arrests have fed the anger of opposition parties, who say the government has manipulated the justice system to crush its adversaries.
Earlier this month, PML-N officials produced video evidence they said showed the judge responsible for sentencing Nawaz Sharif had been blackmailed into convicting him. The judge, who said the PML-N had also attempted to blackmail him, has since been sacked from the court that decided the Nawaz case.

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.”