Article 63-A: Legal experts rule out political implications of top court ruling on dissident lawmakers

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif (C) speaks flanked by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (3rdL) during a press conference with other parties leaders in Islamabad on April 7, 2022 after a Supreme Court verdict. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 May 2022

Article 63-A: Legal experts rule out political implications of top court ruling on dissident lawmakers

  • Experts say the judgment in response to the presidential reference cannot be applied retrospectively
  • Election of Punjab CM can be held again if election commission disqualifies PTI dissidents for voting

ISLAMABAD: Legal experts in Pakistan on Wednesday ruled out any immediate political implications for the new federal and Punjab governments after the Supreme Court issued a verdict on a presidential reference, saying that votes of dissident lawmakers would not be counted in case of defection from their respective political parties.

Last month, an opposition alliance succeeded in toppling Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration after moving a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly, making the former prime minister’s key coalition partners and over two dozen PTI lawmakers abandon him.

The opposition candidate, Shehbaz Sharif, became the new premier without requiring votes of dissident PTI legislators. However, his son, Hamza Shehbaz, had to rely on votes of 25 PTI dissident lawmakers for his election as Punjab chief minister.

President Dr. Arif Alvi, a close aide of ex-PM Khan, filed a reference in the Supreme Court in March, seeking interpretation of Article 63-A which sets down rules for the disqualification of lawmakers in the case of defection and violation of party policy. The top court said in its judgment on Tuesday the vote of any member of a parliamentary party in a house that is cast contrary to any direction issued by the party “cannot be counted and must be disregarded.”

Asked about its implication for the election of the prime minister and Punjab chief minister, Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said the judgment would not have any immediate repercussions for the federal and Punjab governments since it would only be applicable to such matters in the future.

“The elections of prime minister and chief minister Punjab are now past and closed transactions,” he told Arab News.

Bhoon said another round of election for chief minister Punjab could be held if the Election Commission of Pakistan decided to de-seat the 25 PTI legislators who voted for Hamza Shehbaz by going against their party policy.

“If the Punjab governor asks the chief minister to take a vote of confidence, then obviously another round of election will be held and a candidate who gets majority vote will be declared the chief minister,” he said.

Barrister Ahmed Pansota said the Supreme Court judgment was binding, but there was a confusion if its application would be done retrospectively.
“We believe the judges will state clearly in the detailed verdict if its application is retrospective,” he told Arab News.

Pansota ruled out any immediate implication of the judgment for federal government where Shehbaz Sharif was elected prime minister by taking votes of legislators belonging to PTI’s allied parties.

“The fate of chief minister Punjab Hamza Shehbaz may be on the line as he was elected through votes of PTI dissidents,” he said, adding the situation would become clear after the election commission’s verdict in the next couple of days.

“One thing is for sure that this is an unending constitutional crisis, and ultimately a fresh election will be called to get out of it,” he said.

Irfan Qadir, a former attorney-general of Pakistan, also ruled out any immediate political implications for the federal and Punjab governments, saying it was a “controversial opinion” of the Supreme Court on the presidential reference which would not have much legal significance.

“Even if the election commission de-seats PTI dissidents, the matter will then again go to the supreme court for adjudication,” he told Arab News.

“The number game in national and Punjab assemblies is a totally different thing and whoever commands majority will be elected prime minister and chief minister,” he said.

Qadir said it was also not clear at the moment if the court’s opinion was binding which needed to be implemented in letter and spirit. “There are so many ambiguities in this opinion which need to be sorted out before its implementation,” he added.

Other legal experts were also critical of the verdict, saying that it raised plenty of questions.

“SC [Supreme Court] interpretation means even in oppressive constitutional amendments like the 21st amendment establishing military courts, MNAs [Members of the National Assembly] will be bound to vote in their [party’s] favor or resign from their seats,” said Reema Omer in a string of Twitter posts. “How is such party dictatorship a victory for parliamentary democracy?”

Calling the apex court’s majority opinion “legally unsound” in her opinion, she maintained the text of Article 63-A was clear.

“Parliament, rightly or wrongly, did not say [the dissident lawmakers’] votes will be discarded,” Omer pointed out. “SC cannot re-write the Constitution.”


 

 


Flag sales drop as Pakistan celebrates independence amid soaring inflation 

Updated 11 sec ago

Flag sales drop as Pakistan celebrates independence amid soaring inflation 

  • Flag sellers say increasing prices, rupee depreciation have hurt people’s buying power 
  • National flags, other items being sold despite high prices but at low volumes, say traders 

KARACHI: Each year in August, Pakistan’s national flag sees a boom in sales as the nation celebrates its independence from British colonial India on August 14. However, this time around, traders say flag sales have declined in the face of soaring inflation and torrential rains. 
As Pakistan celebrates its Diamond Jubilee this year, the government’s recent hike in prices of energy products, such as petrol and diesel, has also caused inflation to surge. Pakistan’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased to 24.9 percent in July this year, compared to 8.4 percent last year. 
A few days before Independence Day each year, one comes across many stalls in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, selling the country’s national flags and green-and-white themed buntings, bangles and T-shirts. 
Other items that also sell a lot are badges, caps, lockets, stickers, bracelets, headbands and various other decorative items. 
While the enthusiasm to celebrate Pakistan’s Diamond Jubilee remains the same, sellers say rising inflation has decreased people’s purchasing power while the recent torrential rains across Pakistan have also put a damper on the festivities. 
 “Cost of inputs are increasing, including electricity, petrol and labor charges so the impact is on everything,” Sheikh Nisar Ahmed Perchamwala, CEO of VIP Flags, a manufacturer of national flags, told Arab News. 
He added that the business of selling flags was also not immune to inflation. 
“Prices of many items have increased by over 20-25 percent when we compare them to last year,” he lamented. “For instance, last year, the flag that was available for Rs 100 is being sold now for Rs 125-150.” 
Independence Day festivities also offer earning opportunities for hundreds of low-wage earners, irrespective of their age and gender, as they set up stalls in markets and on Karachi’s roads to cope with the rising inflationary pressure. 
“For the last 12 years, I have been coming here to sell flags, buntings, badges and other things that are used for Pakistan’s Independence Day celebrations,” Noor Jehan, an 85-year-old vendor at Hassan Ali Effendi Road in Karachi, told Arab News. 
The octogenarian, who migrated from India at the time of migration in 1947, said rising inflation had compelled her to earn so that she could support her family. 
“In recent years, the prices of essential goods have increased manifold. A 10-kilogram bag of flour was available for Rs 300 in the past,” she said. “Now,flour is being sold for Rs100 per kilogram,” Jehan said. 
She said in the past, the entire household could live off the earnings of a single person in a family. However, nowadays, all members of a household earn yet their combined income isn’t enough to meet rising expenses. 
Another vendor, Muhammad Imran, told Arab News that low trading activities and the recent spell of rains in Karachi disrupted his business this year. 
“We have been setting up a stall from August 1, every year for the last nine years but this year, it was set up on the second week of August due to rains and slow trading activities,” Imran said. 
“Business is moving on now, though sales are not as high as compared to the previous years because [people’s] purchasing power is falling due to high prices,” Imran said. 
He said people are visiting stalls but selecting only a few items necessary for celebrations. 
Shaheer Khan, another vendor, said the rising prices of flags have reduced his turnover as the declining value of the rupee against the US dollar is making things costlier. 
“The price of a flag that was sold last year for Rs 200 has now increased [in selling price] toover Rs 400 because the cost of everything has increased in the market due to the dollar’s appreciation and other factors,” he added. 
However, flag manufacturers and sellers acknowledged that though in limited numbers, people are still buying items from their stalls according to their purchasing power to partake in the celebrations. 
“Buying [flags and other items] to celebrate ‘Freedom Day’ is a welcoming gesture, especially from the younger generation, who express their love for the country,” Perchamwala said. 
A buyer at a stall expressed his resolve to keep the spirit of Independence Day alive. 
 “I have bought a flag and a bugle for the August 14 celebrations,” Muhammad Assadullah, a teenager, told Arab News. “We celebrate Independence Day by cutting a cake and expressing our happiness. We will continue to celebrate,” he added. 


PM proposes ‘national dialogue’ to reform Pakistan’s state of affairs 

Updated 38 min 51 sec ago

PM proposes ‘national dialogue’ to reform Pakistan’s state of affairs 

  • PM Shehbaz Sharif warns against ‘internal division’, calls for unity 
  • Starting point for national dialogue can be ‘charter of economy’— Sharif 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday urged all stakeholders in the country to move toward a “national dialogue” to resolve Pakistan’s complex issues, on the occasion of Pakistan’s 76th Independence Day. 

Pakistan is celebrating 75 years of freedom from British rule in the subcontinent. On August 14, 1947, British India was divided into the two states of India and Pakistan. 

The political temperature in Pakistan is on the rise, with former prime minister Imran Khan levelling allegations against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the coalition government of being part of a US-backed conspiracy to oust him from power earlier this year. 

“We need to have a national dialogue so that the mistakes of the past can be clearly identified,” Sharif said during a flag hoisting ceremony in Islamabad. “We need to start a sincere struggle to reform [Pakistan’s] state of affairs,” Sharif said. 

He said that starting point for national dialogue can be the “charter of economy.” 

“If we [Pakistan] can become a nuclear power, why can’t we become an economic power,” he asked. 

In his written message earlier, the prime minister said Pakistan’s creation was an outcome of its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s single-minded devotion, unflinching resolve and unwavering struggle. 

“Nothing is more dangerous for a nation than internal division; disruption and chaos, for such negative forces undermine the solidarity and integrity of the country and rob societies of their national purpose,” he stated. 

“We can push back the divisive and nihilistic forces with the power of the people and protect our freedom and identity. I have my full faith in their capabilities to chart a way forward,” Sharif stated. 


Saudi king, crown prince congratulate Pakistan on Independence Day 

Updated 14 August 2022

Saudi king, crown prince congratulate Pakistan on Independence Day 

  • Saudi leadership wishes “steady progress and prosperity” for Pakistanis 
  • Islamabad, Riyadh enjoy deep-rooted, cordial ties with one another 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman congratulated President Arif Alvi on Saturday on the occasion of Pakistan’s 76th Independence Day, the Saudi State News Agency (SPA) said. 
On August 14, 1947, British India was divided into two countries, India and Pakistan. Every year, Pakistanis celebrate their independence from British rule with fanfare and festivities throughout the day. 
Islamabad and Riyadh have always cherished close diplomatic relations and are collaborating in various sectors. 
In their messages, the Saudi leadership wished President Alvi health and happiness and hoped Pakistan’s masses enjoy steady progress and prosperity. 
“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has sent a cable of congratulation to President Dr. Arif Alvi, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, on the anniversary of his country’s Independence Day,” the SPA said. 
In his message, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “wished the President constant good health and happiness and the government and friendly people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan steady progress and prosperity.” 
Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis and has been the top source of workers’ remittances to the South Asian nation. 


Military says reports of TTP's large presence in northwestern Pakistan ‘grossly exaggerated’ 

Updated 14 August 2022

Military says reports of TTP's large presence in northwestern Pakistan ‘grossly exaggerated’ 

  • Militants will be dealt with full use of force if required, says Pakistan Army 
  • Thousands protested in Swat on Friday over reports of TTP militants’ presence in area 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s military said on Saturday that reports of a large presence of Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat Valley are “exaggerated and misleading.” 

Thousands protested in two main towns of Pakistan’s Swat valley in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Friday. Protestors took to the streets to denounce violence after reports that said Pakistani militants had increased their presence in the area. 

The TTP have carried out some of the bloodiest attacks inside Pakistan since 2007, including a 2014 assault on a school in which 134 students were killed. The group is not directly affiliated with the Afghan Taliban, but pledges allegiance to them. 

Pakistan military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that a misperception about the alleged presence of a large number of TTP’s armed members has been created on social media over the past couple of days.  

“After confirmation on ground, these reports have been found as grossly exaggerated and misleading,” the ISPR said. “Presence of a small number of armed men on a few mountain tops between Swat and Dir has been observed, located far away from the population,” it added.  

The military said that these individuals “sneaked in” from Afghanistan to resettle in their native areas, adding that security forces are keeping a close watch on their limited presence and movement in mountains.  

“Required measures are in place by all LEAs (law enforcement agencies) for the safety and security of the people of the adjoining areas,” it said.  

“Presence of militants anywhere will not be tolerated and they will be dealt with full use of force if required.” 

Swat Valley used to be a TTP bastion in 2009 before a military operation by Pakistan’s army drove them out, causing thousands of families in the region to be displaced.  


Monsoon death toll climbs to 188 in flood-ravaged southwestern Pakistan

Updated 13 August 2022

Monsoon death toll climbs to 188 in flood-ravaged southwestern Pakistan

  • Provincial disaster management authority reports six new deaths over last 24 hours
  • 582 people have died in rain-related incidents across Pakistan since mid-June

QUETTA: The death toll from rain-related incidents since the onset of monsoon season has killed at least 188 in Balochistan, authorities said on Saturday, as rains continue to lash the southwestern Pakistani province, triggering flash floods.

Monsoon rains have wreaked havoc in Pakistan since mid-June, killing at least 582 people. Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by size and its most impoverished one, has reported the highest number of casualties.  

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) recorded six new deaths in rain-relates incidents in the past 24 hours.

“Six more bodies were recovered in the last 24 hours in Balochistan’s Killa Abdullah and Lasbela districts who were swept away in flash floods due to heavy rains on Friday,” Meer Zia Langove, advisor to the chief minister on disaster management, told reporters in the provincial capital, Quetta.

PDMA Balochistan director general Naseer Khan Nasir said four out of Friday’s six deaths were recorded in Killa Abdullah district, where the victims were trying to cross a flooded road.

Many roads are impassable, and traffic has been suspended also on the Quetta-Karachi highway due to the overflowing of the Lunda River in the Lasbela district.

“Our teams are fully engaged with the National Highway Authority (NHA) to clear the roads. It will be opened for traffic in the next 24 hours,” Langove said.

“Twenty-six out of 34 districts in Balochistan are badly affected by monsoon rains and floods which destroyed 40,000 homes and crops cultivated on 500,000 acres of agricultural land.”

Last month, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited the province’s worst hit areas, ordered immediate aid for their residents, and set up a relief fund for flood victims.

According to Pakistan’s Meteorological Department (PMD), the coming week may bring even more torrential rains to the region.

“Flash floods are expected in Killa Saifullah, Loralai, Barkhan, Kohlu, Mosa Khel, Sherani, Sibbi, Bolan, Kalat Khuzdar Awaran, Turbat Panjgur and other cities of Balochistan,” the PMD said in a notification on Saturday.

Downpours are also forecast for the provinces of Punjab and Sindh province.