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President Arif Alvi approves dissolution of National Assembly on PM Imran Khan’s advice

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ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on the advice of Prime Minister Imran Khan as the PTI government evaded the no-confidence motion against the premier.

Just as the session of the National Assembly started, former law and information minister Fawad Chaudhry read out Article 5 of the Constitution and accused the Opposition of “disloyalty to the state.”

The former minister apprised the National Assembly about an “international conspiracy” to topple the democratically-elected government in Pakistan.

Fawad said in a normal situation, a no-confidence motion was moved under article 95 of the Constitution, but in this case, he requested the chair to invoke article 5(1) of the Constitution which stated “loyalty to the state is the basic duty of every citizen” while keeping in view the fact that it was being moved under an “international conspiracy”.

The minister told the house that on March 7, Pakistan’s ambassador was summoned to an official meeting by a country — which PM Imran Khan has said was the United States — with the team of note-takers and was informed that a no-trust motion would be moved against the prime minister.

On March 8, he said the motion was submitted against the prime minister to the National Assembly Secretariat.

The minister said it was unfortunate that the regime change plot was being carried out at the behest of foreign elements under a conspiracy, adding that some of the government allies and PTI members also joined the plan.

“It is not the matter of no-confidence, it is a blatant violation of Article 5(1) of the Constitution,” he said putting a question before the House on whether foreign assistance could be taken for regime change in Pakistan?

“There should be a ruling on Article 5 (1),” he requested the chair.

At this, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri termed the no-confidence motion against the premier “unconstitutional”, saying that it was backed by “foreign powers”.

The deputy speaker then quickly disallowed voting on the no-trust motion and adjourned the session for an indefinite time — inviting strong criticism from the Opposition.

Get ready for elections: PM Imran Khan

PM Imran Khan — addressing the nation shortly after the session’s adjournment — sought fresh elections and asked Pakistanis to gear up for the polls as the Opposition lashed out at the government’s act of dismissing the motion as “unconstitutional”.

PM Imran Khan’s brief public address was telecast live, where he said he was pleased with the NA deputy speaker’s ruling and congratulated the nation on the development.

“The NA speaker has rejected the move intended at changing the regime and I congratulate the entire nation on it […] Pakistan came into existence on 27th Ramzan, and this nation will not let such a conspiracy get successful.”

He said that the NA deputy speaker made the decision using his constitutional right. “In a democratic society, the democrats look towards people, elections are held, and people decide who they want as the ruler.”

The prime minister said that all the money spent on “buying loyalties” will get wasted. He told the masses that whoever has taken this money still has the chance to spend it on charity.

“No foreign power or any corrupt elements, but only you have to decide for this country.”

He said that as soon as assemblies will be dissolved, the process of a caretaker government will start.

Later, while addressing the former parliamentarians, the prime minister, who will continue to remain in office under Article 224 till the appointment of a caretaker PM, said: “I told you, people, last evening to not worry. The Opposition is still confused as to what has happened to them.”

Pakistan Army responds

In response to the political turmoil, Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar told Geo News the military has nothing to do with what happened today.

Replying to a question regarding the involvement of the Army in the political developments of the day, the DG ISPR bluntly denied any sort of involvement and said: “absolutely not”.

SC moved; Shabaz says PM committed ‘high treason’

As a result of the dissolution of the assembly, fresh elections will be held within 90 days in line with the Constitution of Pakistan. Not wasting time after the setback, the Opposition moved Supreme Court and the court itself took suo moto notice of the political crisis.

Opposition Leader in the NA and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, who was the front-runner to replace Imran Khan if he were removed, called the parliamentary block “nothing short of high treason”.

“There will be consequences for blatant & brazen violation of the Constitution,” Sharif said on Twitter, hoping the Supreme Court would play a role to uphold the Constitution.

Later, while speaking to Geo News, the Opposition leader said Imran Khan and his followers want to “distort” the face of democracy and the deputy speaker “tore apart” the constitution.

‘Ready for everything’

“Neither will he play nor let anyone else play,” Shahbaz said on the prime minister’s act of getting the no-confidence motion against him dismissed.

But the PML-N president said the top court does not rule in their favour of declaring the government’s move unconstitutional, they would gear up for elections.

Similarly, former president Asif Ali Zardari termed the NA deputy speaker’s step “unconstitutional” and now, it was up to the courts to decide on the matter.

“If they want it so bad, then we are ready for elections, we are ready for everything,” the ex-president and PPP co-chairperson told journalists at the Parliament House.

No-confidence motion against NA speaker

Before the session took place, a delegation of Opposition lawmakers submitted a no-trust motion against National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser in the NA Secretariat.

More than 100 lawmakers from the Opposition parties signed the no-confidence motion, including PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq, PPP’s Khursheed Shah and Naveed Qamar, and JUI-F’s Shahida Akhtar Ali.

“[…] the resolution for removal from office of the Speaker, Mr Asad Qaiser under paragraph © of clause (7) of Article 53 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, read with Rule 12 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, 2077,” the document read.

Opposition has its own session

But despite the deputy speaker adjourning the proceedings, the Opposition sat in the National Assembly and debated over the no-confidence motion, with ex-speaker and PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq charing the session.

Another stunt that the government pulled off was switching off the lights of the lower house of parliament, which seemed like an attempt to either disrupt their political activity or to send them out of the premises.

A total of 197 Opposition members voted in favour of the no-confidence motion.

Legal experts term move illegal

Legal experts Muneeb Farooq, Salman Akram Raja, Salaar Khan, Reema Omar, and Saroop Ijaz termed the government’s move to use Article 5 for dismissing the no-confidence motion unconstitutional.

“When a [no trust] motion has been tabled and when the attorney general has told the court that voting will go through, then this [move] seems to be a disregard of constitutional provisions,” Ijaz told Geo.tv.

Advocate Khan said to address the rather “flaccid argument”, if votes were bought or sold, the remedy is in the Constitution — disqualification of the defecting member.

“Despite what overnight constitutional experts may say, it doesn’t give you license to chuck the Constitution out the window,” the legal expert added.

Pakistan

Funds invested in real estate used for cancer care: Shaukat Khanum Trust

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  • Invested $3m in endowment funds in real estate: SKMT. 
  • Endowment funds used to provide cancer care: spokesperson.
  • SKMT investments are audited by third parties, says spokesperson. 

LAHORE: Following controversy on Imran Khan’s comments in court, the management of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) clarified that they invested $3 million in an endowment fund in a real estate project in Oman so they can be used to provide quality cancer care, The News reported on Monday .

The clarification came in response to news items regarding the usage of SKMT funds in real estate by its founder Imran Khan. The SKMT said that its funds have never been misused or “diverted”, by its chairman, Imran Khan, or any other individual

An SKMT spokesperson said that all its funds, including those invested in its endowment fund, are used only to support its mission of providing world-class care to cancer patients.

“As is common for many charity organisations, SKMT created an endowment fund to provide financial security and to cater for expenses in the long term. This endowment fund is supervised by an investment committee, with all investments made by the fund upon the recommendations of this committee. The chairman does not, and has never, made investment decisions in isolation,” the spokesperson said. 

He added, “It is crucial to point out that only non-Zakat funds are invested in this manner, with all Zakat collected being utilised on direct patient care within the year in which it is collected.”

On investment in real estate, the spokesperson said: “In 2008, an amount of US$3 million was invested by the endowment fund in a real estate project in Oman. The investment allowed for an early exit, with a 100% capital guarantee on the investment. In 2015, SKMT exercised its early exit option and the entire amount of US$3 million was duly recovered.”

He added the trust has already shared details of this investment, and recovery of its funds with the public numerous times. Although the investment did not generate a profit in dollar terms, it certainly did in rupees, since the difference in exchange rate referred to in the article in question worked in favour of SKMT, he added.

The spokesperson added: “As with all other financial transactions, all investments made by SKMT and its Endowment Fund are duly audited and reported, with financial reports being made publicly available through the Shaukat Khanum website. Both the initial investment, and its subsequent return were reflected in the organisation’s financial reports, and continue to be publicly available.”

Complete data of all contributions are held and audited by autonomous third parties to guarantee compliance with all relevant laws, not only within Pakistan, but in all jurisdictions where funds are collected on behalf of the SKMT, or to support it.

The spokesperson said that over 30 years, the trust treated more than 45,000 to 50,000 cancer patients every year at SKMT hospitals in Lahore and Peshawar, most of whom would have been unable to access highly specialised cancer treatment elsewhere. It is strictly because of its strong clinical, administrative and governance systems that the SKMT became only the second institution in the world to gain Enterprise Accreditation from the US-based Joint Commission International in September 2022.

The spokesperson added that allegations aiming to sow doubt in their donor’s minds are equivalent to playing with patients’ lives.

The official added that the cost of providing cancer care is continuously on the rise, and despite brittle financial conditions, the management of SKMT is committed not only to providing state-of-the-art cancer treatment to all its patients but also to defending an excellent reputation for financial transparency.

The News reported on Sunday that the PTI Chairman Imran Khan admitted that he invested funds worth $3 million donated to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) in a housing project.

The revelation was made during a hearing of an Rs10 billion defamation case filed against Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Saturday. The former prime minister appeared in the court from his Lahore residence in Zaman Park via video link.

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Massive power breakdown hits Pakistan

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  • Minister says power generation units are temporarily shut in winter at night.
  • Says frequency variation in national grid triggered outage.
  • Says ministry trying to restore power in next 12 hours.

LAHORE/KARACHI/QUETTA/ISLAMABAD: A countrywide power breakdown, triggered by a “frequency variation” in the national grid early Monday morning, has left large parts of the country including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta without electricity. 

Power Minister Khurrum Dastagir, while talking to Geo News, said that the power generation units are temporarily shut down in winter at night as an economic measure to save fuel costs.

“When the systems were turned on at 7:30am this morning one by one, frequency variation was reported in the southern part of the country between Jamshoro and Dadu. There was a fluctuation in voltage and power generating units were shut down one by one due to cascading impact. This is not a major crisis,” said the federal minister as the country plunged into darkness for the second time in four months.

The minister said that his ministry has started restoring some grid stations in Tarbela and Warsak. 

“Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) and some grids of Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) have already been restored,” claimed the minister.  

Talking about the breakdown in Karachi, the minister said that the matter in the port city is complicated as it has a complete electric supply system.

A shopkeeper speaks with a customer (not pictured) at a medical store during a country-wide power breakdown in Karachi, Pakistan January 23, 2023. — Reuters
A shopkeeper speaks with a customer (not pictured) at a medical store during a country-wide power breakdown in Karachi, Pakistan January 23, 2023. — Reuters

“We provide K-Electric about 1,000-1,100 megawatts routinely, however, it will be restored within a few hours. It is not certain how long will it take to sort this issue. However, my target is to restore electricity in the country in the next 12 hours,” said the minister. 

Before the energy ministry’s announcement, different power distribution companies had confirmed the breakdown.

According to Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO), the two transmission lines have tripped leaving 22 districts of Balochistan, including Quetta without power.

Karachi power update

Meanwhile, K-Electric spokesperson Imran Rana said that at approximately 7:34am today, the national grid experienced a loss of frequency, affecting the power supply to multiple cities across Pakistan

“This has also cascaded to KE’s network affecting power supply to Karachi,” Rana said, adding the KE’s network is safe and protected.

“Our teams are actively monitoring the situation and enabling restoration efforts.”

An IESCO spokesperson said that its 117 grid stations were without electricity.

Meanwhile, PESCO also confirmed the outage in areas where it supplies electricity. 

This is the second time within four months that a country was hit by a major power breakdown.

NEPRA takes notice

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), in a statement, said that it has taken “serious notice” of the power outage and directed the National Transmission & Despatch Company (NTDC) to submit a “detailed report”.

The statement also said that the regulator has previously imposed fines on similar outages in the 2021 and 2022. It also shared that NEPRA has consistently issued directives and recommendations on tackling such events in future.

Previous breakdown 

In October of last year, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Quetta, Multan, and Faisalabad were hit by a power outage.

At that time, the power minister said that nearly 8,000 megawatts of power went offline.

Back then, Dastagir had said that the simultaneous faults in two power lines, which had triggered the breakdown, at the same time was concerning for the government. He had also announced that an in-depth inquiry was ordered and promised action.

A timeline of power breakdowns in Pakistan

The country’s generation and distribution network has suffered eight major power breakdowns during the last nine years.

In 2014 and 2017, nationwide blackouts were caused by a fault in Tarbela Power Station while fog, frequency variation and the Guddu Power Plant fault were blamed for breakdowns in 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Every time the party in power announced to conduct a comprehensive probe and vowed to rectify the issues but nothing has happened despite multiple inquiries.

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Karachi weather update: What’s the latest forecast?

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Karachiites will have to bundle themselves up as the weather will be dry and cold at night in the next 24 hours, the weather department said Friday. 

According to the forecast by the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), the mercury in the port city is expected to hover around 10 to 12 degrees Celsius in the next 24 hours. 

The Met department said that the cool winds are blowing from the northeast at a speed of seven to 10 kilometres per hour. The level of humidity in the city is 48%.

During the last 24 hours, the lowest temperature in Karachi was recorded at 14°C.

Weather countrywide 

Meanwhile, in Balochistan, the intensity of the cold has increased due to snowfall in different areas. Consequently, a travel emergency has been imposed on Khojak Pass. 

A day earlier, the weather department predicted rain with snowfall in the upper parts of the country during the coming days.

“Met Office informed that a westerly wave affecting North Balochistan, is likely to grip upper parts on January 20 (night) and may persist till January 25 with occasional gaps,” the statement read. 

It further said that light to moderate rain-wind with snowfall over the hills (isolated hailstorm) is expected in Kashmir, Gilgit- Baltistan, Murree, Galliyat, Islamabad, Pothohar region, Kohistan, Swat, Dir, Chitral, Manshera, Haripur, Abbottabad, Karak, Charsada, Peshawar, Nowshera, Swabi, Buner, Bajaur, Kurram, Waziristan, Kohat, Bannu, Sargodha, Mianwali, Khushab, Bhakkar, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin, Lahore, Kasur, Sialkot, Narowal, Sheikhupura and Nankana Sahib from January 21 to January 24 with occasional gaps.

Light rain and drizzle is also expected in Multan, Sahiwal, Okara, Pakpattan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Layyah, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Rahimyar Khan, Sukkur and Dera Ismail Khan on January 20-21, the Met department said. 

Meanwhile, rain-wind — moderate to isolated heavy snowfall — is expected in Kashmir, Neelum valley, Muzaffarabad, Poonch, Hattian, Bagh, Haveli, Sudhanoti, Kotli, Bhimber, Mirpur), Murree, Galiyat, Chitral, Dir, Swat, Malakand, Kohistan, Mansehra and Abbottabad from January 23-25. 

What are the possible impacts?

Due to the heavy snowfall, there may be a closure of roads in Murree, Galiyat, Naran, Kaghan, Dir, Swat, Kohistan, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Shangla, Astore, Hunza, Skardu, Neelum valley, Bagh, Poonch and Haveli during the forecast period. 

“Landslides in Upper Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan may also occur during the forecast period,” it said. 

The office said that the tourists are advised to remain extra cautious during the spell, adding that temperatures are likely to fall significantly after the spell.

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