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Pakistan Army ‘aghast’ at Imran Khan’s ‘defamatory’ statement against military’s senior leadership

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  • Pakistan Army expresses displeasure over Imran Khan’s recent statement.
  • “Unfortunate, disappointing”, army says on making COAS appointment controversial.
  • ISPR says senior army leadership’s “patriotic credentials beyond any doubt”.

RAWALPINDI: The Pakistani Army Monday expressed displeasure over PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s recent statement against the military and said it was “aghast” over it.

In a public rally in Faisalabad, the PTI chairman called out the government, saying that it was delaying the elections to appoint an army chief of its own and that if a “patriotic chief of army staff comes in, he will not spare the incumbent rulers.”

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in a statement, said that the army was “aghast” at the defamatory and uncalled-for statements about the senior leadership of the military by the PTI chairman during a Faisalabad rally. 

The military’s media wing said that regrettably, an attempt was made to discredit and undermine the senior leadership of the army at a time when the institution was laying lives for the “security and safety of the people every day”.

The army said that senior politicians trying to stir controversies over the appointment of the COAS, the procedure for which is well-defined in the Constitution, is “most unfortunate and disappointing”.

The ISPR said the senior leadership of the army has decades-long impeccable and meritorious service to prove its “patriotic and professional credentials beyond any doubt”.

Politicising the senior leadership of the Pakistan Army and scandalising the process of selection of the COAS is neither in the interest of the state of Pakistan nor of the institution, it noted.

“Pakistan Army reiterates its commitment to uphold[ing] the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” the military’s media wing added.

Nawaz, Zardari ‘fear’ patriotic army chief

In his speech at a jalsa in Faisalabad this Sunday, the PTI chairman said the coalition government was stalling the elections as they wanted to “appoint an army chief of their own choice.”

The PTI chairman said that PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and former premier Nawaz Sharif “feared” a strong and patriotic army chief, who could hold them accountable for the looted money they had stashed abroad.

The former prime minister said a new army chief was going to be appointed in November this year, and they [Zaradri and Nawaz] jointly wanted to appoint a favourite [general] as the next army chief.

Both have committed corruption worth billions, and they wanted to appoint an army chief who could protect them and their corruption, Imran Khan alleged.

The PTI chair alleged that PM Shehbaz, his brother Nawaz, and Zardari had been involved in laundering the public money, and the two families had been looting the national exchequer for the last 30 years.

Ruling coalition castigates Imran

Hours before the military’s response, the ruling coalition had castigated the PTI chairman for his remarks at the Faisalabad jalsa.

In a joint statement, the ruling coalition condemned Khan’s public meeting for spreading hatred against the Pakistan Army and its leadership and making “sensitive professional matters” controversial.

The entire nation is battling floods, while the PTI chairman is consumed by a thirst for revenge and his pride, the statement said, noting that despite the cataclysmic floods, Khan is targetting the armed forces.

The ruling partners said that the serious allegations being levelled against the military are for three reasons: to disturb the country’s economy, to move Pakistan’s economy to a path that it becomes like that of Sri Lanka, and foster enmity between the nation and the armed forces.

“With the power of the Constitution and law, we will thwart this nefarious conspiracy and deal with the conspirators in line with the constitution and law,” the statement said.

IHC questions Khan’s intentions

In another related development earlier in the day, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah — during a hearing against PEMRA — asked whether Khan wanted to hurt the morale of the armed forces by delivering anti-military speeches.

“Did you hear Imran Khan’s speech from yesterday? Do political leaders deliver such speeches? Will everything be put at stake just for the sake of a ‘Game of Thrones’?” the IHC CJ asked Khan’s counsel, making a reference to the popular television drama in which nine noble families wage war against each other to gain control over a mythical land.

IHC CJ Minallah said that the armed forces lay their lives for the nation and in a case where someone is involved in illegal activity, everyone should not be criticised over it.

“Hold yourself accountable for your actions. You [Khan] want to issue statements as per your wishes and don’t want the regulator to do its job?”

Pakistan

PM Shehbaz directs redressal of MQM-P reservations over census

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  • Party shares concerns about ongoing census.
  • It also informs premier about Karachi’s issues.
  • MQM-P has demanded fresh, impartial census.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Wednesday issued directives to relevant authorities to resolve the concerns and issues of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) over the ongoing census.

In a statement released by the PM Office, the development came during a meeting between the premier and MQM-P delegation — comprising Convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Information Technology and Telecommunication Minister Syed Aminul Haque — while Minister for Economic Affairs Sardar Ayaz Sadiq was also present.

During the meeting, the MQM-P delegation congratulated the prime minister for the legislation of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, the statement read.

The delegation shared their reservations with the prime minister regarding the ongoing digital census in Pakistan and also informed him about the issues in Karachi.

A day earlier, MQM-P senior leader Farooq Sattar rejected the ongoing first-ever digital census — which is the seventh national census in the country — being conducted by the Sindh government employees.

The party’s decision came days after Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) chief statistician Dr Naeem Uz Zafar said that “it is not necessary that Karachi’s population will show as 30 million” after the census.

Sattar expressed fears that a plan has been devised to show less population than the actual headcount of Sindh’s urban areas.

“46% of the population in Karachi has been counted,” he said, adding that it seemed that the total population of the metropolis would be shown around 20 million in the census.

The MQM-P leader also demanded a fresh census conducted by an impartial and private sector company. He also asked for access to the census data.

According to PBS chief statistician, about 60% of Pakistan has been enumerated in the ongoing country’s seventh population and house count.

This is the first time the country’s population is being counted digitally. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and MQM-P have time and again raised concerns over the population count in the port city.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, a part of the incumbent government himself, had threatened to quit the ruling alliance and said that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had grave concerns over the ongoing census.

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Record number of emigrants registered for overseas employment in 2022

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  • Number is reported to be highest since last five years.
  • Declining trend observed in years 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.
  • Pakistan signed 12 manpower export MoUs with different nations.

ISLAMABAD: As many as 829,549 emigrants were registered for overseas employment through the Bureau of Immigration and Overseas Employment (BE&OE) in 2022 — the highest in the last five years.

The statistics regarding emigrants were shared by the Parliamentary Secretary for Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development Syed Agha Rafiullah at the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Responding to questions, Rafiullah said that 12.45 million Pakistani workers, since 1971, had been registered with the bureau for employment abroad till 2022. 

However, a declining trend was observed in the years 2020 and 2021, as only 224,705 and 286,648 emigrants were registered by BE&OE respectively due to COVID-19 restrictions, he said.

He said that the ministry has taken several measures to explore and tap into the international job markets for intending emigrants.

A diversification strategy was adopted to shift focus to new labour markets and the declaration of intent on migration and mobility has already been signed with Greece and the UK and soon would be signed with Germany.

Rafiullah said 12 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on manpower export with different countries including Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Iran, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Portugal, Romania and Uzbekistan were under bilateral discussion. 

The overseas minister visited Romania and Portugal to explore new regular labour migration avenues, he said.

He added that the government had appointed 24 community welfare attachés in 16 different countries to explore new avenues for Pakistani manpower through Labour Market Analysis (LMA) of the host country so that skilled Pakistani intending emigrants could be imparted required training as per labour market requirements of the host country.

He said approximately nine million Pakistanis were working/residing in different countries around the world and contributing towards the socio-economic development of the country.

However, the parliamentary secretary said that there was no dedicated mechanism for providing solutions to the protection of their properties. In order to address the issue, the ministry/Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) undertook the initiative of proposing a bill that would address their grievances and provide protection to overseas Pakistanis with regard to their properties.

To another question, he said all the regular employees of OPF schools and colleges were getting minimum remuneration as prescribed by the government. Furthermore, contract employees were being paid a salary as per the terms and conditions of contractual employment rules/polices and as per advertisements published in newspapers at the time of hiring, he said.

However, he said, the remuneration of some contract employees was still less than the minimum wages as declared by the Federal government. Furthermore, up to a 10% annual increment was also granted to the contractual employees upon renewal of their annual contracts, he said.

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Supreme Court sends notice to ECP over delay in Punjab polls

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Issuing notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for dragging feet on polls in Punjab, the Supreme Court of Pakistan Monday sought guarantees from the government and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to bury the hatchet for free, fair, and transparent elections. 

These developments came to the fore during the hearing of the plea regarding the date for general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa today (Monday). 

A five-member larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, heard the plea. The court also issued notices to governors of two provinces through the chief secretary.

“The court only needs assurance from both sides. The elections should be peaceful, transparent, and fair. If the government and PTI want elections, they have to give assurances,” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said.

He added the parties would decide what those assurances would be like not the court.

“The parties should evaluate what is and what isn’t good for the public. Pakistan’s Constitution was not made for only setting up or toppling the governments,” he remarked suggesting it was more than that.

The SC’s top judge said that the Constitution was interpreted while keeping the life and happiness of people in mind.

“The current situation is alarming. Elections can only be held when the conditions are favourable,” he said and insisted that one could not run away from the facts.

The chief justice maintained that the country’s atmosphere had turned poisonous due to political intolerance. “The present political situation is terrible. Politicians are at each other’s throats,” he said.

Justice Bandial asked both the government and the Imran Khan-led party to decide what is best for Pakistan.

Sharing his remarks regarding the ECP, the top judge said that it was merely an institution. “The election commission requires facilitation and support for [conducting] polls.”

Apart from sending notices to all parties mentioned in the PTI’s plea, the apex court has also sent a notice to the governors of both provinces through chief secretaries.

The chief justice remarked that polls were essential for the functioning of the country’s governance system. “The election process should be transparent and peaceful. Article 218 calls for transparency of elections.”

Justice Bandial also questioned the performance of leaders in the country. “What have our leaders done so far?”

PTI’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar, during his arguments, said that the objective of the caretaker government was to hold elections within 90 days. “The polls cannot be delayed for five months after the deadline.”

Apart from the CJP, the bench included Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Amin-Ud-Din Khan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.

The PTI moved the apex court following the ECP decision to postpone the Punjab polls from April 30 to October 8 after financial and security authorities expressed their inability to support the electoral process.

In light of the Supreme Court’s split ruling last month, President Arif Alvi announced the date for the Punjab polls after consulting with the ECP.

Weighing in, Justice Ijazul Hassan said the ECP first said it was unable to fix a date for elections and later it postponed the date (given by the president) in total contradiction to its earlier position. 

Justice Munib Akhtar said the Supreme Court’s decision was undersigned by all five judges.  “It is not like that there are two Supreme Court decisions. Dissenting notes in judgements are not out of ordinary.”

Meanwhile, the additional attorney-general of Pakistan requested the court to adjourn the case for two to three days. However, the request was rejected by the court.

The additional attorney-general said that attorney-general Barrister Shehzad Elahi had resigned from the post. He pleaded with the court to adjourn the case until the appointment of a new attorney-general.

Responding to this, the Chief Justice said that the nominated attorney-general had visited him earlier today and would join by tomorrow.

Justice Bandial also spoke about the ECP seeking Article 254’s support for postponing the elections. “Can Article 254 be invoked in such a scenario? The Article 254 does not allow violation of the Constitution,” he remarked.

The top judge added that the court was determined to “dispose of this case as soon as possible”.

“The Election Commission should answer the questions raised in PTI’s petition,” he said while addressing the electoral authority.

Following the ECP’s announcement, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali also urged the electoral body to also hold the general elections on the same date (October 8) as the Punjab polls given the growing security threats from terror groups operating from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions.

Hearing

At the outset of the hearing, PTI’s lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar said that contempt of court has been committed thrice.

“When was the election schedule issued?” questioned CJP Bandial.

The PTI’s counsel replied that the schedule was issued on March 8. “The Election Commission did not have the authority to give a date for the elections,” he added.

Barrister Zafar said that the KP governor failed to give a date for the polls in the province despite the Supreme Court’s orders.

He added that the president, after consultation with the ECP, gave April 30 as the date for polls.

Barrister Zafar said that the apex court had ordered the ECP to fix the earliest date for elections after the completion of the 90-day period.

“Fixing a date for the polls far later after the 90-day deadline was also contempt of court,” he said, adding that the ECP has either changed or suspended the Constitution.

The Ministry of Interior and Defence refused to provide security personnel, he added.

Zafar said that the Constitution does not allow the postponement of elections on the basis of the administration’s non-cooperation.

“What guarantee is there that the situation will be better in October?” he questioned,

“What do you want from Supreme Court?” Justice Mandokhail asked the PTI lawyer.

At this, the PTI’s counsel said that the top court should ensure the implementation of the Constitution and its order.

Justice Mandokhail remarked it was the high court’s job to ensure the implementation of the orders.

“Elections will never be held if the reason for lack of funds is accepted,” said Zafar, adding that the matter was just not confined to the execution of the court orders.

“One high court cannot hear the matter of elections in two provinces,” said Barrister Zafar.

He added that the Supreme Court had announced its decision using its authority, which still prevailed.

“ECP’s decision became a hurdle in the way of the Supreme Court ruling.”

The PTI’s counsel said that only Supreme Court could decide better whether the orders were violated or not. “It is a matter of fundamental rights of the people of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he added.

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