PMLN awaits full court ruling before moving on legislation for army chief extension

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Shahbaz Sharif (R), brother of Pakistani former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif talks with media representatives as he leaves from the High court, in Lahore on October 25, 2019. (AFP)
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In this file photo, Ahsan Iqbal speaks with Reuters in Islamabad on June 12, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 09 December 2019

PMLN awaits full court ruling before moving on legislation for army chief extension

  • In short order last month, Supreme Court gave the government six months to legally justify a three-year extension
  • Ruling has given rise to debate about whether the government needs to pass an act of parliament or a constitutional amendment

KARACHI: A senior member of Pakistan’s main opposition party said on Sunday the party would wait for a detailed court ruling before deciding on its plan of action with regards to legislation that would allow the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan to grant another term of office to the army chief.
Khan had said in August that he needed General Qamar Javed Bajwa to stay on for another three years because of ongoing security concerns, including heightened tensions with India over the disputed Kashmir region.
But last month, Pakistan’s Supreme Court suspended the extension, citing a series of irregularities and ordering the government and the army to produce legal provisions to support the reasoning behind the move.
After days of legal wrangling, the top court conditionally extended the army chief’s term on November 28 but ruled that the government had six months to justify why it granted the controversial extension and to clarify the section of Pakistan’s constitution governing the armed forces.
The ruling came as a short order. A full verdict is still awaited and has given rise to debate about whether the government would be able to grant the extension by passing an act of parliament or be required to push through a constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority in parliament. 
On Saturday, a group of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leaders held a meeting with party president Shehbaz Sharif in London to discuss the party’s plan of action following the Supreme court’s order.
“The PML-N leadership [has] decided to wait for [the] detailed judgment of the Supreme Court and to consult other opposition parties for a joint opposition position on this issue,” PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal, who was part of the huddle, told Arab News.
PML-N senator Mushahidullah Khan said he believed the Supreme Court’s detailed judgment would make it clear that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was required to pass a constitutional amendment rather than simply an act of parliament.
“In the case of the constitutional amendment, the PTI will not be in a position to pass the bill as it requires two-thirds majority from both houses of the parliament,” Khan said. Even in the case of an act, he said the ruling party lacked simple majority in the upper house, or Senate.
Hassaan Sabir, a Karachi based constitutional lawyer, also said the PTI government lacked the required strength to amend the constitution without the support of the opposition.
“If the government fails to get a two-thirds majority in any of the houses... the amendment will fail,” he said, adding that opposition support in the Senate would be necessary even to pass a simple act.
Meanwhile, participants of the London meeting also paid a visit to PML-N party supremo Nawaz Sharif at his London apartment. 
Sharif is in the UK for medical treatment after getting bail in a corruption conviction for which he was serving seven years in a Pakistani jail. 
PML-N party chairman Raja Zafrul Haq said it was highly likely that Sharif would have to be taken to the US for treatment.


Pakistan to establish 18 markets on Afghanistan, Iran borders to boost trade, curb smuggling

Updated 18 September 2020

Pakistan to establish 18 markets on Afghanistan, Iran borders to boost trade, curb smuggling

  • Under the plan, the government will set up 12 markets along the border with Afghanistan and six along the Iran frontier
  • Prime minister approves setting up two border markets in Balochistan and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by February next year

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has decided to set up markets along its borders with neighboring Afghanistan and Iran to boost trade opportunities, foster peace and check smuggling, the commerce ministry said on Friday.
Main crossing point into Pakistan for both goods and people from Iran and Afghan also serve as major smuggling routes.
“The border markets will help create job opportunities and establish a peaceful relationship with the neighboring countries,” Aisha Humera Moriani, joint-secretary at the Ministry of Commerce, told Arab News.
Under the plan, the government is establishing 18 markets: 12 along the border with Afghanistan and six along the Iran frontier.
In a meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan approved setting up two border markets in Balochistan and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province as a pilot project, to be functional by February next year.
Moriani said the markets would contribute to local development and help the government address “smuggling and boost legal trade across the border.”
Pakistan is fencing its borders with Afghanistan and Iran to check cross-border militancy, illegal movement of people and smuggling, which is a major source of income for people living along border towns and villages.
Sardar Shoukat Popalzai, President Balochistan Economic Forum, said the government should have built “common markets” along the Afghanistan and Iran borders with the mutual consent of the neighboring governments to maximize benefits for people on both sides of the borders.
“The government has not released a feasibility report, if there is any, of these markets as to how are they going to help the local population,” he told Arab News.
Popalzai said Balochistan border areas were sparsely populated and establishment of a few shopping terminals would “hardly make any difference in the lives of the people.”
He said cross-border smuggling was a major source of income for people living in the frontier areas of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, so “this requires a lot more effort than mere setting up of markets to check this undocumented economy.”
Zubair Motiwala, chairman of the Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the government should establish cold storages and warehouses in the border markets to boost the export of perishable and other items to the neighboring countries.
“The taxation system on the exports and imports of different items through the land routes should be well defined to encourage businessmen and locals to boost the legal trade with Afghanistan and Iran,” he said.