Ex-PM Khan’s lawyers accuse officials of flouting court order, limiting media access at state secrets trial

Intazar Hussain Panjutha, the lawyer of jailed former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan, speaks with media representatives outside the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi on December 2, 2023. (AN Photo)
Short Url
Updated 02 December 2023
Follow

Ex-PM Khan’s lawyers accuse officials of flouting court order, limiting media access at state secrets trial

  • Khan’s lawyers say three journalists were allowed to witness the trial after the legal team boycotted the proceedings
  • The former prime minister was said to be in high spirits, waiting for the hearing to start and media to move in

RAWALPINDI: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s legal team on Saturday accused the officials of a high-security prison in Rawalpindi for flouting court orders by not ensuring adequate media presence during his jail trial on charges of divulging state secrets, saying today’s proceedings could not be called an “open trial.”

A special court established to hear what has popularly come to be called the cipher case has been conducting the trial inside the Adiala prison in Rawalpindi since Khan was indicted under the Official Secrets Act last month after the government said he could not be moved to a courtroom for security reasons.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruled last week, however, such hearings were illegal and ordered an open trial with media access.

A large number of journalists were present to attend the special court proceedings at the prison facility Saturday morning, though most of them were disappointed after the authorities only called three local journalists in to witness the trial.

“It was directed by the Islamabad High Court that an open trial in the cipher case will be given to Imran Khan,” the ex-PM’s lawyer, Intazar Hussain Panjutha, told Arab News. “But unfortunately, today’s hearing was in the violation of the order of IHC.”




A lawyer is seen walking out of the gate of Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on December 2, 2023. (AN Photo)

“The proceedings were held in a similar manner as they were being held prior to the declaration of IHC,” he continued. “We protested this, we resisted it before the court. It was not an open trial.”

Asked about Khan’s morale, he said the former prime minister was in high spirits and looked confident.

“He was waiting for the hearing to start and he was waiting for the media to come in,” he added.

Khan’s spokesperson on legal affairs, Naeem Haider Panjutha, also weighed in, saying the cipher case hearings could not be described as part of fair trial.

He informed the three journalists were allowed to witness the trial only after Khan’s legal team boycotted the hearing.

“Khan said this is not a fair trial,” he added. “Fair trial means giving access to the media. Media is public. Media should be given permission [to cover the proceedings].”

According to Yasir Hakeem, a journalist working for Samaa TV who was allowed to witness the trial, the ex-premier objected to his treatment, saying he was made to feel like an animal while his rival, Nawaz Sharif, was “brought back” from exile in London after being convicted in a corruption reference.

“We are not even allowed to speak,” Hakeem quoted him as saying.

The former prime minister, who is the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is being held at Adiala jail where he is serving a three-year sentence in a separate case in which he was convicted in August of failing to disclose assets earned from the sale of state gifts while he was PM from 2018-2022.

Khan is also accused in a number of other cases, including the cipher case, which relates to an alleged diplomatic correspondence between Washington and Islamabad that Khan says was proof that his ouster as PM in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in April 2022 was part of a US conspiracy to remove him. Washington has repeatedly denied Khan’s accusations.

Khan, arguably the most popular politician in the country, has not been seen in public since he was arrested in August. Prior to that, he regularly addressed his millions of followers via social media and held massive public rallies and protest marches.

The court adjourned its hearings until Monday.


Pakistani security forces kill six militants in intelligence-based operation in northwest

Updated 6 sec ago
Follow

Pakistani security forces kill six militants in intelligence-based operation in northwest

  • An official statement says the militants were involved in violent activities against North Waziristan’s residents
  • The Pakistani security forces also recovered weapons, ammunition and explosives from the dead militants

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces killed six militants in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in the country’s northwest on Wednesday, saying they were involved in violent activities against the civilian population in the area.

Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in militant activities since Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a proscribed conglomerate of armed factions, called off a fragile ceasefire with the government in November 2022.

The violence has largely been confined to the western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan that share frontier with the neighboring state of Afghanistan.

The country’s security forces and law enforcement agencies have carried out several operations in recent months to deal with militants in places like North Waziristan where the recent engagement with the militants took place.

“During the conduct of operation, intense fire exchange took place between own troops and the terrorists,” the military’s media wing, ISPR, said in a statement, adding that this led to the killing of six militants.

“Weapons, ammunition and explosives were also recovered from the killed terrorists, who remained actively involved in numerous terrorist activities including target killing as well as extortion & abduction of innocent civilians,” it added.

The ISPR said one of the Pakistani soldiers who participated in the operation also got injured.

It informed the Pakistani forces started a “sanitization operation” to find other militants who might have taken refuge in the area.

Pakistan’s North Waziristan district was once described as the hub of militancy before the government launched a clear-and-hold military operation to reclaim the territory.


US urges new Pakistan government to prioritize economy, continue working with IMF on reforms 

Updated 20 min 51 sec ago
Follow

US urges new Pakistan government to prioritize economy, continue working with IMF on reforms 

  • The US says it supports Pakistan’s efforts to break free from the vicious cycle of debt and international financing
  • Analysts believe government will have to negotiate another IMF loan program amid continuing economic challenges

ISLAMABAD: The United States said on Wednesday Pakistan’s new government should address the economic situation facing the country on priority, emphasizing it was important for the emerging administration in Islamabad to continue engagements with international financial institutions.

Pakistan is holding the first National Assembly today, Thursday, in which the newly elected lawmakers will take oath. The country’s new government is expected to take the reins of power within the next few days after the in-house election of the next prime minister.

The issue of Pakistan’s economy came up for discussion during a regular State Department briefing after a journalist asked about a letter written by former premier Imran Khan’s party to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), asking it to link the next loan facility to “good governance” in the country.

“I’ll just say with respect to the IMF that we support Pakistan’s efforts to break free from the vicious cycle of debt and international financing,” Spokesperson Matthew Miller said. “The long-term health of Pakistan’s government – or economy is crucial to its stability.”

“Pakistan’s new government must immediately prioritize the economic situation because the policies over the next several months will be crucial to maintaining economic stability for Pakistanis,” he added. “And we urge Pakistan to continue working with the IMF and other international financial institutions toward macroeconomic reforms.”

Pakistan has been facing significant financial challenges in recent years, with dwindling foreign exchange reserves and declining value of its national currency.

The country’s caretaker administration negotiated a $3 billion, short-term loan facility with the IMF that is scheduled to expire in March.

Pakistan’s economic challenges persist, prompting many analysts to point out it will continue to need external financing from the international lending agency.
 


Pakistan’s National Assembly to hold inaugural session today, following president’s late summon

Updated 56 min 25 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan’s National Assembly to hold inaugural session today, following president’s late summon

  • Arif Alvi once again pointed out the incomplete allocation of reserved seats in the lower house while calling the session
  • The president also took exception to the PM’s accusation of being in violating of constitution for not summoning the session

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly of Pakistan is set for its first meeting today, Thursday, following the general elections held earlier this month, after President Arif Alvi belatedly summoned its inaugural session late last night.

Alvi had previously objected to a request by the caretaker administration to call the session for the oath-taking of newly elected lawmakers on Feb. 29, indicating that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had not allocated all the reserved seats in the house, which he deemed currently incomplete.

His position was viewed as untenable by various politicians who pointed to the constitutional provision requiring the assembly session to be convened no later than 21 days after the national polls, which in this case fell on Feb. 29.

The constitutional requirement, enshrined in Article 91 (2), was widely interpreted to mean that the assembly’s session would be held automatically, even without the president’s decision to summon it, prompting the speaker of the outgoing assembly to call its first meeting.

“Subject to some reservations, President Dr. Arif Alvi has summoned to convene the National Assembly on 29th February in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 54(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” his office informed in a social media post in the early hours of the day.

“The President accorded his approval while keeping in view the mandate and implications of the timeline given in Article 91 (2) and subject to some reservations and expecting the resolution of the issue of the reserved seats before the 21st day,” it added.

Alvi also objected to the language of a summary sent to him by Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, saying it was “sad that the Chief Executive of the country addresses the Head of the State in the first form and resorts to unacceptable language and allegations without any substance.”

He particularly mentioned the accusation of constitutional violation attributed to him in the summary for not summoning the session, pointing out that he did not want to engage with it.

The president said he could not be oblivious to “some incongruities in the electoral process and the process of formation of the Government.”

“He further remarked that it was needless to remind that a Caretaker Prime Minister/set up was merely responsible to ensure conducive conditions for the peaceful, fair and transparent holding of the General elections, within the framework of the Constitution and the timeline on which many quarters had expressed reservations,” his office said in the social post.

It is pertinent to mention that there are 60 reserved seats for women and 10 for religious minorities in the 336-member National Assembly. So far, the ECP has only allocated 40 of them to various political parties.

The commission is not yet to decide if it wants the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), which includes independent candidates supported by former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, to get a share of reserved seats in the lower house of parliament.

The PTI-backed candidates won over 90 seats and emerged as the single largest bloc in the assembly.

However, they could not form their own government without joining a political party or lay claimed to the reserved seats that are distributed among different parliamentary factions on the basis of their representation in the house.

Alvi, who contested the 2018 elections on the PTI ticket and is considered Khan’s close aide, has also raised objection over the incomplete allocation of reserved seats.

The National Assembly’s inaugural session will scheduled to begin at 10am.


Two Pakistanis charged over calls for Dutch far-right leader’s killing

Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

Two Pakistanis charged over calls for Dutch far-right leader’s killing

  • The Netherlands and Pakistan do not have an extradition treaty, leaving prospects for a trial unclear
  • A Dutch court says the Pakistanis were suspected of publicly calling on people to kill Geert Wilders

AMSTERDAM: A Dutch court said it had charged two Pakistani nationals on Wednesday over public calls for the murder of far-right anti-Muslim leader Geert Wilders, who aims to lead a new government after his party won elections in November.

In a statement on Wednesday, the court said prosecutors had asked authorities in Pakistan to extradite the two suspects – aged 55 and 29 – to stand trial in the Netherlands.

It said the two Pakistanis were suspected of publicly calling on people to kill Wilders and promising them a reward in the afterlife if they did so. It did not say how those calls were made.

In September, a Dutch court sentenced a Pakistani former cricketer to 12 years in prison after he was tried in absentia for publicly urging people to kill Wilders.

“I hope they (two suspects) will be extradited, convicted and jailed!” Wilders wrote in a post on X.

The court scheduled its first hearing on the case for Sept. 2. The Netherlands and Pakistan do not have an extradition treaty, leaving prospects for a trial unclear.


Finance minister says China rolls over $2 billion loan to Pakistan

Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

Finance minister says China rolls over $2 billion loan to Pakistan

  • The loan was due in March and has been extended by the Chinese authorities for one year
  • Securing external financing is one of the most urgent issues facing Pakistan’s next government

ISLAMABAD: China has rolled over a $2 billion loan to Pakistan, caretaker finance minister Shamshad Akhtar confirmed in a response to Reuters on Thursday.

The $2 billion loan was due in March and has been extended for one year, Geo News which first reported the news said, citing sources in the Pakistan finance ministry. Beijing had communicated the decision to Islamabad, it added.

Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy is struggling to stabilize from a financial crisis and secured a $3 billion standby arrangement from the International Monetary Fund last summer.

Pakistan’s vulnerable external position means that securing financing from multilateral and bilateral partners will be one of the most urgent issues facing the next government, ratings agency Fitch said last week.