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.


As panic reaches fever pitch, Pakistan envoy in China urges calm over coronavirus

Updated 37 min 53 sec ago

As panic reaches fever pitch, Pakistan envoy in China urges calm over coronavirus

  • Says no Pakistanis in China infected with disease so far
  • Over 28,000 Pakistani students and over 2,000 traders frequent cities across China

ISLAMABAD: Amid heightened panic among thousands of Pakistanis in China during the early days of a deadly coronavirus outbreak, Pakistan’s envoy to Beijing said on Sunday no Pakistanis in the country had been affected by the disease so far, while urging calm.
There are over 28,000 Pakistani students studying all over China, 800 resident traders and 1,500 Pakistani traders who travel to China frequently. In Wuhan alone, the epicentre of the outbreak, there are at least 500 Pakistani students present, according to foreign office figures released on Saturday.
But in a video statement circulated to the Pakistani community and students in China, Pakistani ambassador Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi called for restraint in spreading false information on social media.
“No Pakistani in China has been affected by coronavirus so far. Please avoid sharing any unconfirmed reports or rumors on social media as this can create panic in the families back in Pakistan,” Hashmi said, and added that the Chinese government had announced it would automatically renew all visas that expired after Jan. 23 without any charges.
“The Pakistan mission is fully aware of the problems faced by Pakistanis in China due to coronavirus outbreak and trying its best to facilitate its nationals,” she said.
She also asked all Pakistanis to avoid going out in public, to wear face masks, practice improved hygiene and to avoid the consumption of meat, eggs and milk. 
The Pakistan Embassy also urged Pakistani students to remain vigilant while adopting good preventive measures in its latest advisory issued on Sunday.
“Pakistani community members and students in Wuhan are advised to cooperate with Chinese health authorities for curbing the spread of virus; understand the prevention and control measures taken and comply with official instructions,” the Pakistani mission in Beijing said.
The embassy also asked all Pakistanis to register with the mission to get timely updates and so they could be easily facilitated in case of an emergency evacuation.
But families back home in Pakistan have expressed grave concern for the well-being of their loved ones in China.
“We are worried about the health of our daughter who is studying at Xiamen University since 2018,” Rawalpindi-based Zahoor Ahmad, father of Maham Zahoor who is pursuing her Master’s degree in international relations, told Arab News on Saturday. “I talked to her this morning and advised her to remain indoors and avoid unnecessary movement, especially to markets and other public places.”
The coronavirus, which emerged in December, has now spread to other countries, but the majority of the 2,000 cases and all 56 deaths, have been reported in China.
Earlier this week, Chinese authorities shut down transportation from Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, hoping to contain the spread of virus, and have since expanded the lockdown to other cities, covering a total population of about 35 million people.
The World Health Organization described the outbreak as an emergency for China, though it stopped short of declaring it a public health emergency of international concern just yet.
“We are facing problems as we have been asked to remain in our hostels. We are facing an acute shortage of food as shops and restaurants are closed due to the blockade of the city,” Muhammad Atiq, a PhD student of Public Administration at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, told Arab News by telephone from China.
Atiq added that his family in Pakistan were getting increasingly worried.
“The university promised to provide us with special masks, but we haven’t received them yet as air traffic, railways and even taxi services are closed in the city. We could not even offer Friday prayers since all sorts of gatherings have been banned in the city,” he said.
Mumtaz Begum, a school principal from southern Punjab whose daughter is a student at Peking University in Beijing, expressed serious concerns for the health of her daughter while speaking to Arab News.
“I want her to come back to Pakistan, but she has her exams in a couple of months. I have asked her to remain inside her apartment, wear a mask and avoid going to public places. We all are praying for her health as the virus is spreading to the whole of China,” she said.
On Saturday, at least two people suspected of contracting coronavirus were admitted to Nishtar hospital in Multan, southern Punjab. The government has so far denied reports of any confirmed case of the disease in Pakistan.