Pakistan's Newsmakers in 2018

Updated 29 December 2018

Pakistan's Newsmakers in 2018

KARACHI: 2018 was the year of politics in Pakistan: a new political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, and a new leader, Imran Khan, came to power in a landmark general election that signalled victory against old-style dynastic politics. On the other hand, three-time prime minister and political survivor Nawaz Sharif was barred from politics over corruption by the country's top court and is currently in jail serving seven years for corrupt practices linked to the setting up of a steel mill. Ultra-right leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi, whose Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan became the sixth largest party at the polls, kept the country on its toes with mass protests but was finally arrested for challenging the writ of the state. Asia Bibi, a poor Christian woman acquitted in a landmark blasphemy case after eight years on death row, still remains in protective custody. Leg-spinner Yasir Shah won the title of the fastest cricketer to take 200 Test wickets and Meesha Shafi unleashed Pakistan’s own #MeToo moment with allegations of sexual harassment against singer and actor Ali Zafar.

Here are some of the people who mattered most in Pakistani politics, society and sports, in 2018:

Imran Khan – The Man Who Would Be King

Sportsman-turned-politician Imran Khan was sworn in as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan this August in what is the apogee of a 22-year-long political career spent prowling the margins of Pakistani politics and railing against the country’s corrupt, dynastic politicians. In the first four . months of his terms, he had made headlines for opening the Kartarpur border with India, a twitter war with U.S. President Donald Trump and bagging enough loans from Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and China.

Asia Bibi – Free, But In Chains

Asia Bibi, a poor Christian woman who was acquitted in October in a landmark blasphemy case, remains in "protective custody" of the state, unable to walk free because ultra-right extremists have threatened her life and mass protests across the country if she is released. Asia was the first Pakistani woman to be sentenced under the country's blasphemy laws in 2010. This year was her ninth Christmas unable to celebrate and worship as a free women.

Nawaz Sharif – The Perpetual Political Survivor

One of Pakistan's most high-profile politicians of the last four decades, Nawaz Sharif had a truly bad year. He was ousted from his third term as prime minister last year but this year was jailed for ten years in one case involving corrupt practices linked to the purchase of luxury London flats, and in another case related to the source of funds for setting up a steel mill. He has been prime minister three times and was unable to complete his term all three times, removed once by presidential order, then in a military coup, and finally by the country’s top court in July 2017. He is currently serving seven years in jail in the steel mills case.

Bushra Bibi – From Faith Healer To First Lady​

Bushra Bibi is the first lady of Pakistan and the third wife of Prime Minister Khan. She is a faith healer from the Pakpattan district of Pakistan's Punjab province and has five children from a previous marriage. She is considered a great influence on the prime minister. Little is known about her daily routine, except that she is deeply spiritual and spends most of her time in prayers.

Maryam Nawaz – Heir Apparent On The Edge Of Prison

Maryam Nawaz is the daughter of former PM Nawaz Sharif and was jailed along with her father earlier this year in the London apartments' money trail case, though she is now out on bail. She leapfrogged several influential relatives to emerge in recent years as a long-term heir of her father’s Pakistan Muslim League party. She has been known for years as one of her father’s closest advisers, but more recently took a much more public role in the party’s leadership. Since being convicted in July, she has shied away from public life.

Khadim Hussain Rizvi – The Star Of Pakistan’s Ultra-Right

Foul-mouthed, wheelchair-bound cleric Khadim Hussian Rizvi shot to fame during protests against the 2016 execution of Mumtaz Qadri, a police guard who murdered a popular governor who spoke up against the country’s draconian blasphemy laws. This year he was in the news for leading protests against the acquittal of Asia Bibi, after which he called for the murder of the judges who had ruled in her favour and incited rebellion against the army chief. He was finally booked under terrorism charges earlier this month and is now in police custody.

Young Tribesman Becomes Voice of Pashtuns​

Tens of thousands of Pashtuns have defied authorities to attend rallies let by Manzoor Pashteen this year, demanding an end to what they allege are extrajudicial killings and abductions of ethnic Pashtun people. The protests have mushroomed into a wider movement, and Pashteen has emerged as its unlikely spokesman, speaking for people brutalised during military operations in Pakistan's tribal regions and asking for the return of hundreds who have 'gone missing'. Last month, the military warned that it would take action against the movement if it crossed a red line.

Yasir Shah – Fastest To 200 Test Wickets

Pakistani leg-spinner Yasir Shah became the fastest cricketer to take 200 wickets in the history of Test cricket, breaking an 82-year-old record on the fourth day of the third Test against New Zealand earlier this month. Shah reached this milestone in his 33rd Test, beating Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett’s record of 36 Tests achieved against South Africa in 1936.

Mullah Fazlullah – Pakistan’s Most Wanted Terrorist

Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP), was the country’s most-wanted militant, notorious for attacks including a 2014 school massacre that killed 132 children and the 2012 shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was in hiding in Afghanistan since 2009 and was killed in a U.S.-Afghan airstrike in June this year.

Asma Jahangir – The Conscience of Pakistan

Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s leading rights activist, staunch defender of rule of law and a fearless critic of the all-powerful army’s interference in politics died In February this year. She was a a human rights lawyer who won international fame for being the conscience of a country where liberal, secular voices have been suppressed for decades and defending the weak and the marginalized in society, particularly women and minorities.

Meesha Shafi - The Face Of Pakistan’s #MeToo

Singer and actress Meesha Shafi launched Pakistan’s version of the viral #MeToo campaign that has exposed sexual harassment around the world and created a public platform for victims and their supporters. Shafi accused Pakistani superstar Ali Zafar of sexually harassing her, an allegation he denies. Though several Pakistani celebrities have come forward to reveal their personal experiences of child sexual abuse, Shafi’s statement against Zafar was the first instance of a Pakistani entertainer publicly calling out a peer for sexual misconduct and ignited a much needed public debate.

Bahrain-based global Islamic finance leader shows interest in developing Islamic capital market in Pakistan

Updated 6 sec ago

Bahrain-based global Islamic finance leader shows interest in developing Islamic capital market in Pakistan

  • Development comes day after Pakistan organized an inaugural Islamic Capital Markets Conference
  • The country has second-largest Muslim population in the world with very low banking penetration

ISLAMABAD: A leading Bahrain-based international non-profit, aimed at developing the global Islamic finance industry, has showed interest in enhancing collaboration with Pakistan on promoting the Islamic capital market in the South Asian country, the Pakistani finance ministry said on Tuesday, a day after the inaugural Islamic Capital Markets (ICM) Conference in Islamabad.

The conference was jointly organized by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the Accounting & Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), the Bahraini firm responsible for the development and issuance of standards in the areas of Shariah, accounting, auditing, ethics and governance for international Islamic finance globally.

On Tuesday, Sheikh Ebrahim Bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, who is the chairman of the AAOIFI Board of Trustees, held a meeting with Pakistan's Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the Pakistani capital and exchanged views with him on mutual collaboration in the field of Islamic finance.

The two figures discussed "enhancing mutual collaboration with Pakistan in social welfare, business & financial sectors," the Pakistani finance ministry said in a statement.

"And promoting Islamic finance industry and capital market in Pakistan."

Pakistan has the second-largest Muslim population in the world with very low banking penetration. The government seeks to increase financial inclusion through promoting Islamic finance, as part of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy. Only 21 percent of the adult population had a bank account in 2017, with 13 percent of adults citing religious reasons for not having them, according to the World Bank.

The SECP and AAOIFI also signed an agreement at the conference for joint cooperation in areas of “common interest” that would support the development of the Islamic banking and finance industry.

In 2021, the government set a target of increasing the share of Shariah-compliant instruments in government securities to at least 10 percent by the end of 2022-2023. There are 22 Islamic banking institutions currently operating across the country.

The assets of Pakistan’s Islamic banking industry had posted a year-on-year growth of 29 percent in fiscal year 2022, Dar said as he addressed the ICM Conference on Monday.

Ex-PM Khan sends defamation notice to health minister after being accused of substance use

Updated 30 May 2023

Ex-PM Khan sends defamation notice to health minister after being accused of substance use

  • The former prime minister demands unconditional apology in 15 days while serving a Rs10 billion legal notice
  • The health minister recently shared Khan’s medical report with journalists while questioning his mental stability

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan on Tuesday sent a Rs10 billion ($35.05 million) legal notice to Pakistan’s health minister Abdul Qadir Patel for making “false, disparaging and malicious” allegations in a recent news conference wherein he accused the ex-premier of substance use.

Last week, the health minister publicized Khan’s confidential medical report, allegedly prepared while he was taken into custody earlier this month, saying traces of alcohol and illegal drugs were found in the former PM’s urine sample. He also rebutted that Khan had endured a fracture to his leg after an apparent assassination attempt on him last November when he received gunshot wounds while leading an anti-government rally.

The minister shared Khan’s medical report while calling it a “public document” and maintained it also raised questions about the ex-premier’s mental stability.

“We act for and on behalf of Mr. Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi … who has instructed us to serve upon you the following legal notice under Section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance, 2002 … on account of dissemination and circulation of wrongful, baseless, false, misleading, erroneous, malicious and defamatory information/facts made against Our Client by you vide your Press Conference, dated 26.05.2023,” said the notice Khan’s legal team sent Patel.

The presser, as per the notice, was watched in Pakistan as well as all over the world through electronic media channels, YouTube, and various other social media platforms, while its details were also published in national and international newspapers.

The notice asked the health minister to retract his statements, tender unconditional apology, accept that he had misstated information, and pay Rs10 billion for defaming the former prime minister. It asked the minister to take these actions within 15 days, warning him that Khan would otherwise initiate legal proceedings against Patel.

It may be recalled that Khan was arrested by paramilitary Rangers on the instructions of Pakistan’s anti-graft body on May 9 in a corruption reference amounting to £190 million. He remained in the custody of authorities until his arrest and detention were declared “illegal” by the country’s judiciary that ordered his release.

Pakistan’s Khan gets bail on new charge of abetting violence — lawyer

Updated 30 May 2023

Pakistan’s Khan gets bail on new charge of abetting violence — lawyer

  • Ex-PM Khan’s May 9 arrest sparked violent protests, which saw military facilities ransacked
  • Khan has appealed for talks to end Pakistan’s political crisis, a demand rejected by the government

LAHORE: Pakistani former prime minister Imran Khan was on Tuesday granted bail on a new charge of abetting violence against the military by his protesting supporters after he was arrested and detained on May 9 in a corruption case, his lawyer said.

The embattled Khan, who says the corruption charges have been concocted, is embroiled in a confrontation with the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan directly or overseen civilian governments throughout its history.

His May 9 arrest sparked widespread protests by his supporters who ransacked various military facilities, raising new worries about the stability of the nuclear-armed country as it struggles with its worst economic crisis in decades.

Khan, 70, was later freed on the orders of a court.

His lawyer, Intezar Hussain Punjotha, said an anti-terrorism court confirmed the bail on the new charge after the former premier appeared before it and submitted surety bonds.

Khan has denied the charge saying he was in detention when the violence took place.

The bail until June 2 on the new charge means he will not be detained on that charge.

The former international cricket star became prime minister in 2018 with the tacit support of the military, though both sides denied it at the time.

He later fell out with generals and was ousted as prime minister after losing a confidence vote in 2022.

Khan has since then been campaigning for a snap election, with rallies with his supporters across the country, but the prime minister who replaced him, Shahbaz Sharif, has rejected the call for an election before it is due late this year.

The turmoil has exacerbated Pakistan’s economic crisis with inflation at record highs, growth is anaemic amid fears of a sovereign default on external debts unless the International Monetary Fund (IMF) unlocks delayed disbursements.

Dozens of Khan’s supporters have been handed over to army authorities for trial in military courts.

A team of investigators looking into the May 9 violence summoned Khan on Tuesday for questioning but Punjotha said a member of his legal team would go instead.

Khan has appealed for talks to end the crisis. The government has rejected his call.

‘Arsonists’ don’t qualify for dialogue, Pakistani PM says on Imran Khan talks’ offer

Updated 59 min 45 sec ago

‘Arsonists’ don’t qualify for dialogue, Pakistani PM says on Imran Khan talks’ offer

  • Sharif’s rejection of talks dashed hopes of lowering of political tensions amid stalled talks with IMF as Pakistan on brink of default
  • Embattled ex-PM Khan has dialed down his anti-government rhetoric since last week and called for talks in a rare overture

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday turned down an offer of talks by former premier Imran Khan, saying “anarchists and arsonists” who attacked symbols of the state did not qualify for dialogue.

In a rare overture last week, Khan said he was forming a committee for talks with the government to end the country’s lingering political turmoil, worsened this month by violent protests following the opposition politician’s arrest in a land fraud case.

Authorities began a crackdown on close associates and supporters of Khan after his followers attacked security forces and torched government and military properties, including the home of the Corps Commander in Lahore, following Khan’s detention on corruption charges on May 9.

Troops were deployed to contain the violence, which subsided only after Khan was released on bail on May 12. Thousands of supporters of the popular opposition politician have since been arrested, including the most senior leaders of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. The government and army have said those found to be behind the violence would be tried under relevant Pakistani laws, including the Army Act. Many top Khan aides have also since announced leaving the party.

Against this background, the embattled Khan dialed down his anti-government rhetoric and called for talks.

“Dialogue is deeply embedded in the political process, which helps democracy mature & evolve. Many political & constitutional breakthroughs occurred when political leaders sat across the table to craft a consensus,” Sharif said on Twitter.

“However, there is a major difference here, the anarchists & arsonists who wear the garb of politicians and attack the symbols of the State do not qualify for a dialogue. They should rather be held to account for their militant actions.”

Sharif’s rejection of the talks’ offer dashed hopes of the lowering of political tensions amid stalled talks between the International Monetary Fund and cash-strapped Pakistan, which is currently trying to avoid a default.

Khan was ousted from the office of the PM by an alliance of opposition parties headed by Sharif in a no-confidence vote last year, and has since been calling for new elections. He alleged, without providing evidence, that Sharif, the US and the Pakistani military conspired to remove him from office — allegations they deny. Khan later backtracked saying only the military and Sharif were behind his ouster.

Under the constitution, the next vote is due in October when the parliament completes its term.

First group of 773 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims reaches Makkah from Madinah

Updated 30 May 2023

First group of 773 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims reaches Makkah from Madinah

  • Hajj flights from Pakistan commenced on May 21, final flight will depart for Saudi Arabia on June 21
  • Religious affairs ministry says all Hajj pilgrims who landed in Madinah would reach Makkah in eight days

ISLAMABAD: The first group of 773 Pakistani pilgrims had reached Makkah from Madinah ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, the Pakistani religious affairs ministry said on Tuesday.

This year, Saudi Arabia has restored Pakistan’s pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims and waved off the upper age limit of 65. Around 80,000 Pakistani pilgrims are performing the pilgrimage this year under the government scheme, while over 91,000 will use private tour operators.

As per the Pakistani religious affairs ministry, Hajj flights from the country commenced on May 21, with the final flight departing for Saudi Arabia on June 21.

“DG Hajj Mission in Makkah Abdul Wahab Soomro welcomed the pilgrims who were served dates, coffee and juice in the traditional manner on their arrival at Makkah,” the ministry said.

Accommodation arrangements for the pilgrims had been made in the Azizia and Bitha Quraish areas of Makkah.

Director of Hajj Makkah Faheem Afridi said that a special bus service would be available to take pilgrims from Azizia to Haram.

“All the Pakistani Hajj pilgrims are well catered for, will be provided three meals including breakfast in Makkah,” the statement said. “The health of pilgrims will be taken care of. To meet the complete nutritional needs of the pilgrims, fruits are being served in the afternoon and sweets in the night.”

The ministry said all Hajj pilgrims who landed in Madinah would reach Makkah after eight days.

For the Hajj pilgrimage, pilgrims perform the welcome tawaf after entering Makkah, circling the Kaaba seven times in a counterclockwise direction, starting at the Black Stone. They then head to the hills of Safa and Marwa, where they perform saee, which is the act of going back and forth between the two hills seven times. 

Pilgrims then travel to Mina, an area of 20 square kilometers nearly five kilometers away from the Grand Mosque in Makkah, on the eighth day of Dhul Hijjah, also known as Yom Al-Tarwiyah, where they will stay and fill their day and evening with prayers and supplications, resting and consuming water ahead of their long, perilous journey. 

On the second day of Hajj, pilgrims travel to Mt. Arafat, 20 kilometers away. The day is devoted to prayer and supplications as they observe duhr (noon) combined with asr (afternoon) prayers until sunset. 

The Day of Arafat is considered the most critical day for pilgrims and the millions not performing. It is the day that, “atones for the sins of the preceding and coming (Muslim) year” and is the best day for worship and supplication in the entire year. 

After sunset, pilgrims descend from Mount Arafat and make their way to Muzdalifah for isha (night) prayers, collect pebbles no larger than the size of a fingertip ahead of the stoning ritual on the next day, and rest until midnight or dawn, when they will make the long journey back to Mina for the final steps of Hajj, the stoning ritual at Jamarat Al-Aqabah. 

On the third day of Hajj, Eid Al-Adha, pilgrims stone the Jamarat Al-Aqabah, or the big pillar, a place where the Prophet Ibrahim threw seven pebbles at the devil. After doing so, pilgrims change from their Ihram; sacrificial animals are slaughtered, and men cut or shave their heads while women cut a fingertip’s length of hair to commemorate the end of the Hajj pilgrimage. 

For three days, known as Ayyam Al-Tashreeq, pilgrims stay in Mina and perform the stoning of the other two pillars, Al-Jamarah Al-Wusta and Al-Jamarah Al-Sughra.