Pakistan takes Tehreek-e-Labbaik leader off terrorism list under deal to end protests

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party take part in a protest in Karachi on October 24, 2021. (AFP/File)
Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party take part in a protest in Karachi on October 24, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 12 November 2021

Pakistan takes Tehreek-e-Labbaik leader off terrorism list under deal to end protests

Pakistan takes Tehreek-e-Labbaik leader off terrorism list under deal to end protests
  • Experts say a removal from the watchlist can be a legal prerequisite for Saad Rizvi's release from prison
  • The TLP was born in 2015 out of a protest campaign to seek the release of a police guard who assassinated a provincial governor in 2011

LAHORE: Pakistan removed Islamist leader Saad Rizvi from its terrorism watchlist on Thursday, paving the way for his release from detention under a deal to end weeks of deadly protests by his followers over an alleged blasphemy.
The move came a week after the government agreed to free 2,000 detained members of his Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) movement, lifted a ban on the group and agreed to let it contest elections.
In return, the TLP has agreed to shun the politics of violence and withdraw a demand to have France's ambassador expelled over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by a French magazine, negotiators have said.
The TLP took to the streets in mid-October, kicking off weeks of protests and clashes that killed at least seven policemen, injured scores on both sides and blocked the country's busiest highway.
At the height of the violence, Prime Minister Imran Khan's government banned the TLP, designated it a terrorist group and arrested Rizvi.
A government notification seen by Reuters said the TLP chief Saad Rizvi's name was "hereby deleted" from the terrorism watchlist after authorities lifted the ban.
It did not go into further details and the government and the interior ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But legal experts said a removal from the watchlist would be a legal prerequisite for any release.
The TLP, which can mobilize thousands of supporters, was born in 2015 out of a protest campaign to seek the release of a police guard who assassinated a provincial governor in 2011 over his calls to reform blasphemy legislation.
It entered politics in 2017 and surprised the political elite by securing more than 2 million votes in the 2018 election.
The next national election is scheduled for 2023, and analysts expect political groups to start gearing up from early next year.


Pakistan introduces new rules for pilgrims traveling to Syria

Pakistan introduces new rules for pilgrims traveling to Syria
Updated 12 January 2022

Pakistan introduces new rules for pilgrims traveling to Syria

Pakistan introduces new rules for pilgrims traveling to Syria
  • Among the new rules are special approvals from the Pakistani and Syrian authorities
  • Every year, hundreds of Pakistanis travel to Iraq and Syria for pilgrimage

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government has issued new rules for pilgrims traveling to Syria, the Ministry of Religious Affairs announced on Thursday.

Every year, hundreds of Pakistanis visit Syria and Iraq for pilgrimage.

After months of travel suspensions over coronavirus fears, pilgrimage travel resumed in April last year. 

Among the new travel rules are special approvals from the Pakistani and Syrian authorities, including a no objection certificate (NOC).

“Before leaving for Syria, you must obtain a group visa from the Syrian Immigration Authority and obtain a NOC from the Pakistani Embassy in Damascus,” the ministry said in a notification.


Ayesha A Malik to become Pakistan's first-ever woman Supreme Court judge

Ayesha A Malik to become Pakistan's first-ever woman Supreme Court judge
Updated 07 January 2022

Ayesha A Malik to become Pakistan's first-ever woman Supreme Court judge

Ayesha A Malik to become Pakistan's first-ever woman Supreme Court judge
  • Judicial Com­mis­sion of Pakistan on Thursday approved elevation of Lahore High Court Justice Malik to the Supreme Court
  • Malik's elevation has been marred by controversy, with many within legal community arguing against her for reasons of seniority

ISLAMABAD: The Judicial Com­mis­sion of Pakistan (JCP) on Thursday approved the elevation of Lahore High Court Justice Ayesha A. Malik to the Supreme Court, making her the first woman judge in the country’s history to serve at the apex court.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed chaired the JCP meeting during which Malik's elevation was approved by a majority of five votes against four, Pakistani media reported. This is the second time that the JCP held a meeting to decide on Malik's elevation. A lack of consensus during a meeting last September had forced the commission to reject her elevation.

During that meeting, four members of the eight-member JCP had opposed the proposal to elevate Justice Malik – the fourth most senior judge of the LHC – while an equal number had supported the move. 

“At the time, the Supreme Court Bar Association President Abdul Latif Afridi had called a countrywide protest to express anger over, what the legal fraternity perceived was the disregard of the seniority principle in the appointment of judges to the apex court,” Dawn said. 

Indeed, Malik's elevation has been marred by controversy, with many within the legal community arguing against her promotion for reasons of seniority.

Earlier this week, the Women in Law Pakistan initiative issued a statement with respect to the seniority debate on Malik's appointment, saying the idea that seniority was a legal requirement was a “myth” and arguing that there was no such requirement in the law and constitution.

“At least 41 times judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court without them being most senior,” the initiative said. “There is, therefore, no such custom either. ‘Seniority’ is at best a mere demand of some members of the Bars at the moment and has no legal basis.”

The initiative made a reference to Article 175-A(3) of the Constitution which “speaks of seniority only in relation to the appointment of the Chief Justice of Pakistan,” adding that as per Article 177 (2) of the Constitution, to be eligible for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, a person must be a citizen of Pakistan and have been a judge of the high court for five years or an advocate of the high court for 15 years.

“Absence of the words, ‘the most senior’ in Article 177 for appointment of Judges of the SC shows that seniority of a Judge in the High Court is not an essential condition for their appointment as a Judge of the SC.”


IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s utilization of COVID-19 fund – finance ministry

IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s utilization of COVID-19 fund – finance ministry
Updated 28 November 2021

IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s utilization of COVID-19 fund – finance ministry

IMF satisfied with Pakistan’s utilization of COVID-19 fund – finance ministry
  • The global lending agency provided $1.4 billion to Pakistan last year to mitigate the negative economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak
  • The ministry says the IMF acknowledged there was no embezzlement in the utilization of the COVID-19 fund

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance ministry said on Saturday the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had expressed satisfaction over the country’s utilization of COVID-19 fund after an audit report of the urgently procured supplies related to the disease was shared with it.

Last year, the international financial institution provided $1.4 billion to Islamabad to meet its balance of payment requirements stemming from the coronavirus outbreak, though it also required the government to conduct an ex-post audit of its utilization.

The ministry published the audit report on its website on Friday to fulfil an IMF condition, making the local media say some Rs40 billion of irregularities had been found in the COVID-19 budget.

Responding to the claim, the ministry said the auditor general of Pakistan had discussed the report “in detail” with the IMF in June and during the recently concluded sixth review for a multibillion-dollar bailout package.

“The IMF was fully satisfied that there was no case of fraud and embezzlement,” it said in a statement.

The ministry informed a majority of paragraphs and observations included in the report related to procedural shortcomings due to emergency procurements.

“The IMF was further informed that divisions/organisations have noted those shortcomings and taken remedial measures,” it added.

The ministry admitted it had published the report on the website as a “prior action under the recently completed 6th review” of the IMF extended fund facility.

It said the report had already been presented to parliament and was therefore in public knowledge.

“The government strongly believes in and is committed to transparency and accountability,” it continued.


Karachi launches drive-in cinema to provide affordable entertainment

Karachi launches drive-in cinema to provide affordable entertainment
Updated 27 November 2021

Karachi launches drive-in cinema to provide affordable entertainment

Karachi launches drive-in cinema to provide affordable entertainment

ISLAMABAD: The city administrator of Karachi said on Friday the country's seaside metropolis needed entertainment while asking its residents to enjoy the experience of a new drive-in cinema that was launched later in the day.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has set up the Sunset Cinema near the Beach View Park where it plans to screen critically acclaimed movies on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

"Our #Karachi needs familiar entertainment," said Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui, the city administrator, in a Twitter post. "Keeping #COVID19 & [Karachi] weather in mind, KMC has initiated a Drive-In Cinema experience with #sunsetcinema. Starting from tonight. Do check it out!"

 

 

Karachi is frequently described as Pakistan's commercial capital and makes significant contribution to the national economy.

However, the provincial administration of Sindh imposed strict coronavirus restrictions in the city to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in recent months.

The lockdowns particularly affected businesses and shopping centers, bringing about significant disruption in the lives of Karachi's residents.

The Sunset Cinema is likely to provide some relief to the people of the city since its management seeks to provide entertainment at affordable rates by running the place on a no-profit-no-loss basis.


Parliament allows use of EVMs in next elections, grants voting rights to overseas Pakistanis

Parliament allows use of EVMs in next elections, grants voting rights to overseas Pakistanis
Updated 17 November 2021

Parliament allows use of EVMs in next elections, grants voting rights to overseas Pakistanis

Parliament allows use of EVMs in next elections, grants voting rights to overseas Pakistanis
  • The country’s foreign minister calls it a ‘historic day’ that will help ensure transparent elections in Pakistan
  • The opposition protests the passage of the law, vows to challenge it in the country’s top court

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government called it a “historic day” after a joint session of parliament on Wednesday allowed the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections in 2023 and granted the right to vote to overseas nationals amid uproar and protest by opposition parties.
The government convened a joint sitting of the Senate and National Assembly to get about 29 draft bills passed through majority vote. However, the opposition members ripped the copies of the agenda along with the proposed legislations before walking out of the session in protest.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has advocated the use of EVMs in the forthcoming general elections as part of its electoral reforms despite reservations by opposition factions and the country’s election regulatory authority.
While the Election Commission of Pakistan and the opposition believe a hasty use of these devices can undermine free and fair elections, the government maintains they can put an end to repeated rigging allegations in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan along with other treasury members welcomed the passage of the bill on Wednesday by thumping desks and chanting slogans in the house. The opposition members tried to move amendments which were rejected by the government through majority vote.
“Today is a historic day,” said foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi while delivering a speech on the floor of the house. “The EVMs are being introduced to bury evil and vicious designs.”
The opposition factions, however, vowed to challenge “the controversial and black law” at every forum including the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
“Today is the black day for parliament,” Shehbaz Sharif, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, said. “A rigged government is imposed on us, and now they want to impose the EVMs on us.”
The opposition leader termed the electronic voting machines as “evil and vicious” while accusing the government of trying to steal the next elections by deploying them at polling stations across the country.
He also urged the speaker to defer the joint session to build consensus of all parliamentary parties on electoral reforms by holding “comprehensive and meaningful” consultations with the opposition.
Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also asked the government to develop a consensus before passing the law related to changes in the electoral system to ensure that the next electoral contest did not become controversial.
He said the opposition would not accept the next election results if the government passed the law by bulldozing the regular proceedings of the house.
“I don’t accept these election reforms,” he said. “We will challenge this law at every forum including the Supreme Court.”
Foreign minister Qureshi, however, dismissed the opposition’s claims while addressing the joint parliamentary session.
“We don’t want to bulldoze the legislation process,” he said. “We had reached out to the opposition [for consultation on electoral reforms], but they didn’t pay any heed.”
He maintained the electronic voting machines would help make the next elections “more transparent” in a country where people often doubt election results.
He also added the overseas Pakistanis were an asset to the country and the government wanted to involve them in the “policy and decision-making processes” by granting them the right to vote.
The joint parliamentary session also granted the right to appeal to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and passed the Banking Services Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
The opposition claimed the latter piece of legislation was passed on the direction of the International Monetary Fund.