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General Elections 2024
Opinion Print 2024-03-03

‘A political cul-de-sac?’

Published 03 Mar, 2024 02:55am

This is apropos two back-to-back letters to Editor titled “A political cul-de-sac” carried by the newspaper the newspaper yesterday and day before. Ms Sheila Qassem Reza has concluded her argument by saying, among other things, that “to his detractors’ sheer chagrin, an incarcerated PTI chief is still not out of history”. She’s spot on, so to speak.

No doubt, the political situation in the country is far from satisfactory even after the elections of chief ministers of all the four provinces—Punjab, Sindh, KPK and Balochistan. In addition to the province of Sindh, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has successfully managed to have its chief minister in Balochistan as well with the election of Sarfaraz Bugti as chief minister.

Punjab and KPK, as we all know, are now being ruled by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N’s) Maryam Nawaz and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf’s (PTI’s) Ali Amin Gandapur, respectively. The election of prime minister is scheduled to take place today.

Shehbaz Sharif of PML-N, it increasingly appears, will be elected as prime minister. Having said that, our new governments at the Centre and in the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan must not be dismissive about the protest being launched by PTI across country against what it says vote rigging.

That PTI’s grievance is genuine and legitimate is a fact. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been saying that his party will be pursuing its political agenda strictly in accordance with the lofty ideals of “philosophy of reconciliation”.

Surely, he deserves praise for his pragmatic political outlook. He must, therefore, reach out to an embittered PTI leadership without any further loss of time for the greater good of democracy and its future in the country. He must walk the talk.

Meera Sultan Bajwa, Lahore

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Pakistan Print 2024-03-03

Presidential election: CM say he’s optimistic about Zardari’s prospects

Published 03 Mar, 2024 02:55am

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that Asif Ali Zardari would return with the highest votes as President of Pakistan for his second tenure.

Talking to media after submitting Zardari’s nomination papers to Chief Justice of Sindh High Court Justice Aqeel Ahmad Abbasi, he said that PPP has a good working relationship with the Muttehida Quami Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) as it had been their coalition partners. “We would seek their voter for Asif Ali Zardari (for his presidential election),” he said and added his party would visit all the political forces in the parliament to seek their vote for Zardari.

In response to a question, Murad stated that the local body system in Sindh was more effective, powerful, and efficient than the local body systems in other provinces. He added that the MQM-P should have taken up the issue of strengthening local bodies in Punjab. He said that the MQM wanted to replicate the good work of the Sindh government in the local bodies of the Punjab for which it has made an agreement with the PML-N.

When asked about Ali Amin Gandapur’s statements, Muard Shah stated that as an elected Chief Minister of KPK, he will be following the lead of his party’s leadership. He said that it is evident from Gandapur’s statements that he is in line with his party leader’s views.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Pakistan Print 2024-03-03

PTI protests in twin cities against vote ‘rigging’

Published 03 Mar, 2024 02:55am

ISLAMABAD: Like other parts of the country, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Saturday staged protest demonstrations in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi against rigging in the February 8 general elections.

A large number of PTI’s workers participated in the protest rally led by PTI leader Sher Afzal Marwat that started from Rawalpindi despite heavy rain and culminated at the National Press Club. Protesters were holding party flags, pictures of Imran Khan, and chanted slogans in favour of their demands.

Another rally of the PTI’s workers reached Pirwadhai, after passing through Raja Bazaar, Char Number Chungi, and other areas, and entered Islamabad.

Addressing the protest rally, Marwat said his party will continue protest till release of Imran Khan and return of its stolen mandate. He said that PTI will continue its struggle in courts, in parliament, and on the roads. PTI’s peaceful protests were interrupted by state machinery and law enforcement officials, he said, adding that public have taken to the streets to take back their stolen mandate.

Marwat said that creating obstacles in the way of PTI’s peaceful protest show fear of our opponents. His party will not accept the “rigged” elections through Form 47, he said, adding that PTI will continue its struggle to take its stolen mandate back.

He urged the Supreme Court to take notice of the violation of Pakistanis’ fundamental rights under the judiciary’s watch. The present government’s reality was “stealing Prisoner No: 804’s mandate”. “Imran Khan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Parvez Elahi, Bushra Bibi, Yasmin Rashid, Sanam Javed, and other PTI leaders have been unjustly jailed by the fascist regime imposed on us for the past two years,” he said.

The PTI leader said that Khan was innocent but has been in prison for the last seven months, his only sin was saying “absolutely not” and striving for “haqeeqi azaadi”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Opinion Print 2024-03-03

Shall we tell the politicians?

Published March 3, 2024 Updated March 3, 2024 02:57am

Pakistan continues to grapple with a multitude of complex challenges that threaten its national security, hinder its socio-economic progress and have been destabilizing the country in a perpetual manner. In addition, the poor economic performance, massive youth bulge, unemployment, drug problem, dysfunctional governance system, ethno-nationalist agendas, insurgencies, porous borders, radicalization, political instability and divisive rhetoric have put all and sundry at the altar.

Despite a high voter turnout in the recent elections, a hung parliament and protests claiming electoral fraud along with the confrontational “us vs them” mentality, makes the situation grave and volatile. The old political guards, despite decades of experience, repeatedly fail to lead us out of crisis and instead add to the complexity, mainly due to incapacity, vindictive, radical and outdated mindsets.

There is an urgency to realign Pakistan’s national trajectory and reconnect with the public pulse, especially the youth. Political stability and national cohesion are now more crucial than ever to overcome the polycrisis and toxic political environment.

The consolidation of democracy and a youth centric national dialogue is the only way forward, offering a pathway to progress, prosperity, stability, and cohesion in an unsettled Pakistan. This way forward is only possible via robust young leadership with a can-do attitude and a firm believer in Pakistan first. A leader who can work towards reconciliation and break the cycle of political vengeance and victimization.

The recent general election promised us stability; however, it has exacerbated the national crisis, requiring the urgent need to lower the political temperature, and overcome hyper polarization. With majority youth population, it is prudent to follow the global trend and empower the next generation of youthful, energetic, flexible, and adaptive leaders with new determinations and fresh perspectives to lead and rescue Pakistan from the rhetoric of hate and mend the social fabric torn by political opportunism.

This generation of leadership have been tested and have failed numerous times. They lack capacity to act as a unifying platform and to bridge, rather their continued extreme stances have resulted in a political deadlock and instability, hindering governance and development.

It is important to act now and the only desired balancing act or the healing touch is to constructively contribute to resolving the political impasse by mainstreaming youth leadership. This involves paving way for young leaders to take charge, reduce the political tensions, mainstream the youth fed on harmful narratives and project a positive and pluralistic image and prioritize socio-economic stability for a better future for Pakistan.

In deep-seated divisions, hate and conflicts within our social fabric, the constitutional and politically neutral positions of the Governors must act as a reconciliatory platform- a platform to amalgamate the state’s narrative and ethos with the young populace and play an effective role in bridging the narrative gap while acting as the representative of the federation.

Perhaps it is time to empower youth as Governors in all the four provinces to give a chance to young leaders to serve in the times of crisis and effectively engage, especially with the youth in the language of the youth.

A young Governor can efficiently utilise digital tools to promote national unity, manage public perception, counter misinformation, and mitigate anti-state and extremist ideologies. The Governor can engage with the breeding grounds of narratives, the educational institutions, including public and private sector universities, colleges and madaaris to expose the youth to diverse perspective and fostering critical thinking skills.

The Governor can collaborate with public and private sector to initiate programmes aimed at enhancing employability and technical skills among youth. Additionally, the Governor can complement agendas related to environmental conservation, tourism, art and culture, sports, gender mainstreaming, institutional oversight, public grievance redressal, public service delivery and reforms, welfare, civic education and conflict resolution. The Governor can integrate the populace through various intervention and introduce new heroes and role models from the society to reduce the idolisation and deflate the rise of cult culture.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Barrister Safi Ullah Ghauri

The writer is Barrister and political analyst based in Islamabad

Pakistan

Shehbaz Sharif, Omar Ayub file nomination papers for PM slot

  • Elections for the post will be held on Sunday
Published March 2, 2024

Former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and Omar Ayub filed on Saturday nomination papers for the elections for the office of prime minister.

Shehbaz is the joint candidate of PML-N and PPP, while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Ayub is the Sunni Ittehad Council's candidate.

The Secretary of the National Assembly has received the nomination papers.

Earlier this week, the National Assembly Secretariat issued the election schedule for the election of the PM, according to which the prime minister will be elected on Sunday, March 3.

The timing for the submission of the nomination papers for the post of prime minister ended on Saturday (today) at 2:00pm.

The prime minister is elected by Members of the National Assembly in accordance with the Second Schedule of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007.

According to Rule 32 of the National Assembly, “Election of the Prime Minister: - (1) After the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker following a general election or whenever the office of the Prime Minister falls vacant for any reason, the Assembly shall, to the exclusion of many other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the Prime Minster.”

Pakistan

Zardari, Achakzai submit nomination papers for president slot

Published March 2, 2024

Former president Asif Ali Zardari and Pashtun­khwa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai submitted on Saturday their nomination papers for the president post.

Zardari is the joint candidate of the PPP and the PML-N, while Achakzai is the Sunni Ittehad Council's candidate.

In a post on X, PTI's Ali Muhammad Khan confirmed the development and said that "having a candidate from Balochistan, a deprived province, was a very strong message” for national unity from PTI founder Imran Khan.

The presidential elections will be held on March 9 while the scrutiny of the nomination papers will be held on March 4 (Monday).

The president is elected by an electoral college comprising members of the Senate, the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies.

Voting is held through a secret ballot.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday appointed five presiding officers to conduct the election to the office of the President of Pakistan, in Islamabad and four provincial capitals.

Pakistan

PPP's Sarfraz Bugti elected Balochistan CM

  • Secures 41 votes
Published March 2, 2024

PPP’s candidate Sarfraz Bugti was officially elected on Saturday as the Balochistan chief minister after it emerged on Friday that he was elected unopposed.

Newly elected Balochistan Assembly Speaker Abdul Khaliq Achakzai chaired the session.

Bugti secured a total of 41 votes. He was later administered oath as the CM.

The PPP's candidate was elected as CM on Friday unopposed as no other candidate filed nomination papers against him.

The provincial assembly’s speaker Abdul Khaliq Khan Achakzai announced the development in a brief press talk on Friday.

He congratulated the newly-elected chief minister and added that a formal announcement would be made during a session of the Balochistan Assembly on Saturday (today).

Earlier, PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) jointly nominated Sarfraz Bugti as their candidate for the top slots in line with the formula decided to form government at the federal level and coalition government in Balochis­tan.

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-backed independent lawmaker Ali Amin Gandapur was elected as the 22nd Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister during voting in the provincial legislature on Friday.

Gandapur won the election by securing a total of 90 votes while his rival PML-N’s Ibadullah Khan got 16 votes. PTI founder Imran Khan had nominated Gandapur as his party’s candidate for KP’s leader of the house. Considering the numbers it is highly likely that he would clinch the slot.

Gandapur, addressing after electing as chief minister, demanded release of the PTI founder. The PTI leader demanded an open trial of the former prime minister.

At the outset of his address, Gandapur sought guidance from Allah. He thanked the PTI founder for reposing confidence in him. “I promise to live up to the trust of the PTI founder.”

He said his party knew how to get its rights. He said his party wanted to change the system which would ensure justice for everyone.

The PTI leader said his party’s mandate was stolen. “The chief election commissioner (CEC) failed to conduct free and free elections. He should tender his resignation over his failure to hold free, fair and transparent elections. The elections were rigged,” he said.

The KP chief minister-elect urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to hold a judicial inquiry into May 9 violence.

He set a one-week deadline to quash first information reports (FIRs) against PTI workers. “Be ready for punishment if the FIRs aren’t removed,” he added.

Gandapur decried the “injustice and cruelty” imposed on party leadership, including Imran Khan and party workers. “We need to change this precedent; today it happens with us, tomorrow it will happen with someone else. The nation will hold us accountable, and we will need to give answers,” he added.

Gandapur commended Imran Khan for giving Pakistan a better standing in the world and said the PTI founder chairman was correct in saying that Pakistan was not free but shackled in slavery.

He said he had been a worker of the PTI for 17 years. “But, today I became the chief minister as an independent. It is painful for me,” said the newly-elected chief minister.

The treatment meted out to the PTI has been unprecedented. There could be no precedent of such a treatment to a political party anywhere in the world, he added.

“Our leader has been jailed. There should be an open, fair and transparent trial of the PTI founder and he should be released immediately. Our women workers are still in prison. The injustice done to them should be addressed. We don’t want exact revenge.”

“Our leader spoke of Pakistan. He was right when he said we are not free but slaves. True freedom was, is and will always be our need.”

On Thursday, the KP Assembly had elected Sunni Ittehad Council candidates Babar Saleem Swati as the speaker and Suraiya Bibi as the deputy speaker.

The PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) candidate Babar Saleem Swati won the election against Ehsanullah Khan, the joint candidate of the PPP, ANP, PML-N, and the PTI-Parliamentarians.

In the 106-strong house, Swati bagged 89 votes whereas Khan got 17 votes. Mushtaq Ghani administered the oath to newly-elected speaker Swati, who announced voting for the deputy speaker slot.

Suraiya Bibi, who won the election from Chitral on a general seat, defeated PTI-P’s Arbab Muhammad Waseem by securing 87 votes against her rival’s 19 votes. The session was boycotted by the JUI-F.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Pakistan Print 2024-03-02

NA Speaker, Deputy Speaker elected amid uproar

Published March 2, 2024

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s new parliament elected a speaker on Friday, despite protests from lawmakers loyal to jailed ex-prime minister Imran Khan three weeks after an election they claim was brazenly rigged.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of the military-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party was elected by parliamentarians from his party and a handful of others in a coalition pact shutting Khan’s followers out of power. The 336-seat National Assembly convened yesterday for the first time since Pakistan’s February 8 elections, and the alliance is slated to vote in PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister on Sunday.

As lawmakers prepared to elect Sadiq, parliamentarians backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party berated the outgoing speaker overseeing the ballot.

“How can intruders take part in voting?” asked senior PTI politician Omar Ayub Khan. “How can you exclude Imran Khan’s party which has a real mandate?”

As he cast his vote, the PTI lawmaker raised his fist and shouted, “Who will save Pakistan?”

“Imran Khan!” replied a crowd of PTI-backed lawmakers from the debate floor.

PTI’s candidate for speaker was defeated, receiving 91 votes to Sadiq’s 199.

PTI claim last month’s election was rigged to prevent their landslide victory — citing a massive delay in results and a polling day mobile internet blackout as evidence.

In the lead-up to the election Khan was jailed, barred from standing for office and given lengthy sentences for treason, graft and an illegal marriage.

PTI was targeted by a campaign of arrests and censorship analysts say was orchestrated by the powerful military establishment.

Party members were forced to run as independents in the election.

They defied the odds to secure more seats than any other party but fell far short of the majority needed to form a government.

That cleared the way for PML-N to ally with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) run by the family of slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, as well as a smattering of smaller parties.

Sadiq, who will shepherd the new government’s legislative agenda, was also speaker in a similar PML-N and PPP coalition which ousted Khan back in 2022 and put Sharif in power for the first time.

Opinion Print 2024-03-02

‘A political cul-de-sac’

Published March 2, 2024

This is apropos a Letter to the Editor titled “A political cul-de-sac” carried by the newspaper yesterday. It is true that the nation is facing a deepening political turmoil in the country owing to a variety of reasons, including the highly controversial general election that took place on Feb 8.

There is little or no doubt about the fact that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been at the receiving end both during pre- and post-election periods. Even the elections of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly yesterday seem to have added to the plight of PTI whose candidates lost mainly because of the fact that their mandate, according to the party, has been stolen on a massive scale.

That the House is unprecedentedly polarized and charged is no secret, a fact that has been very well explained by veteran Pahstoon leader Mahmood Khan Achakzai in his speech yesterday, reinforcing PTI’s narrative.

PTI’s or Sunni Ittehad Council’s Amir Dogar who lost to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N’s) candidate Ayaz Sadiq in the election for the post of Speakership narrated his party’s ongoing ordeal in a highly impressive manner.

Interestingly, his body language did not show that he had lost the election. In my view, the party must not be subjected to any state-sponsored witch-hunt any further. Needless to say, it was deprived of a level-playing field from the day one.

Not allowing it to use its iconic electoral symbol bat, for example, was a step aimed at hurting party’s electoral prospects in a highly effective manner. But the party or the candidates backed by it fared extremely well despite all the odds. No doubt, PTI’s performance is a universal truth.

This is a fact which will never change over period, circumstance, location, and so on. To his detractors’ sheer chagrin, an incarcerated Imran Khan is still not out of history.

.

Sheila Qassem Reza (Dubai)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Pakistan Print 2024-03-02

Feb 8 elections: FO says Pakistan cannot be ‘instructed’ by any foreign country

Published March 2, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Friday that Pakistan, being an independent and sovereign country cannot be instructed by any foreign country on its domestic affairs and there are mechanisms in place where people can resolve any issue relating to elections or any issue relating to the democratic process in the country.

Responding to queries by journalists during her weekly media briefing regarding the US State Department’s repeated remarks with regard to the February 8 general elections, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch dispelled the impression of taking “instructions” from any foreign country with regard to Pakistan’s internal affairs – the general elections.

“Pakistan is an independent and sovereign country. We believe in our own sovereign right to make decisions about Pakistan’s internal affairs. Pakistan is a vibrant democracy and there are mechanisms in place inside Pakistan where Pakistani people can resolve any issue pertaining to questions relating to elections or any issue relating to the democratic process in Pakistan,” the spokesperson remarked.

When her comments were sought on the letter by some US lawmakers in which they have urged President Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken not to recognise Pakistan’s new government until the allegations of fraud in the recent elections are thoroughly investigated, the spokesperson declined to comment on the letter, saying it is a communication between public officials in the United States.

“Yes, we understand that such a letter has been sent by some Congressmen to the US Secretary of State. This is a communication between public officials in the United States and is not addressed to the Government of Pakistan. We, therefore, have no comments to offer on such letters,” she added.

To another query about four Pakistani nationals indicted in the US in connection with supplying armsto the Houthis, she said that Pakistan is aware of the development and is in contact with the US authorities in this regard.

“We have seen the press release issued by the US Department of Justice indicating the said charges. We are in touch with the US Embassy in Islamabad and our Mission in Washington to ascertain more facts regarding the incident and to provide consular access to the individuals following confirmation of their nationality,” she said.

To another question about former prime minister and PTI founding chairman Imran Khan’s letter to the IMF, the spokesperson said that the caretaker prime minister has already made a statement on this matter. “The Ministry of Finance takes a lead on IMF-related issues, so they will be in a better position to comment on this subject,” she said.

Responding to a recent statement by the Indian Minister for External Affairs that India sent a strong message to Pakistan when it did a “surgical” strike in Balakot, she said that it is a historical fact that whenever India has engaged in a belligerent act, Pakistan has responded in a befitting manner.

“Pakistan, we all remember, responded to Indian aggression in Balakot in a resolute manner. It not only downed two Indian fighter jets but also captured an Indian pilot. Pakistan’s response to any future aggression will also be similarly resolute,” she said.

She said that Pakistan believes that the maintenance of peace and stability is a shared responsibility of countries in the region and such remarks only vitiate the atmosphere in the region and should be avoided.

To another query about the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project, she said the Cabinet Committee on Energy has already made a decision regarding the IP gas pipeline project.

She said that Pakistan considers the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project as an important project that symbolizes friendship between the two countries. She said that ensuring energy security remains a top priority for the government of Pakistan and the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, among other projects, forms an important component of Pakistan’s future energy mix.

She said that the Cabinet Committee on Energy has approved the recommendations to resume work on the 80-kilometer section of the pipeline, which is inside Pakistani territory.

The spokesperson also expressed Pakistan’s strong condemnations of Thursday’s massacre by Israel’s occupation forces of unarmed Palestinians, who were awaiting life-saving aid and food delivery in Gaza.

“This massacre demonstrates a blatant disregard for civility and international humanitarian law and Israel’s deliberate and inhumane policy of mass starvation. Pakistan reiterates its call for an immediate and urgent ceasefire, lifting of the inhumane siege and unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Israel must also face justice for its crimes against humanity being perpetrated with impunity against the Palestinian people,” she added.

She also announced that Pakistan is hosting the 9th Pakistan-EU Political Dialogue on 06 March 2024 and Foreign Secretary Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi will lead the Pakistan delegation, while European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary GeneralEnrique Mora will lead the EU side.

She said that the two sides will discuss the implementation of the Pakistan-EU Strategic Engagement Plan, counter-terrorism, as well as important regional and global developments. The last Pakistan-EU Political Dialogue took place on 22 November 2022 in Brussels.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

With the unfolding of a new chapter in Pakistan’s checkered political history, the much turbulent and fought for milestone of holding the elections in the country with the formation of federal and provincial parliaments has been achieved, carrying forward a political uncertainty amidst vociferous chants of ‘vote rigging’ far more louder, wider and persistent than ever before.

The placement of the President and the governors is predetermined and an easy one - expected to be accomplished very soon.

The multiple milestones which lay beyond this are the difficult ones, notably, ensuring economic stability and growth amidst potential political uncertainty and post- election policy changes, managing and reducing the country’s fiscal deficit to maintain financial stability, controlling inflation rates and stabilizing prices to protect the purchasing power of citizens, mitigating country’s foreign debt burden and repayment schedules, addressing the issue of unemployment, managing the energy crisis and ensuring an affordable supply of electricity and other energy sources, combating corruption and incompetence in government institutions, which can impact economic development and investments, and above all managing the 40 percent of country’s population languishing below the poverty line.

In the absence of credible economic figures coming forth from the government sources, much of what is spelled out by the global rating agencies is taken as valid, although they derive their analysis largely from the sources within the country blended well with their arithmetic and projections. Their ratings influence the global lenders.

International ratings agency Moody’s has decided to keep Pakistan’s long-term credit rating unchanged at Caa3, with stable outlook.

The rating is reported to indicate a higher probability of default and a greater degree of investment risks amid weak debt affordability. It also takes into account Pakistan’s low growth rate and high exposure to extreme weather events, which can increase economic and social costs, with high debt-servicing requirements reducing the fiscal flexibility to undertake key expenditures on infrastructure and social initiatives.

Due to the current IMF facility and some other multilateral inflows, as well as strict controls on imports and profit repatriation in the last several months, Pakistan has successfully accumulated a small stock of foreign exchange. That means the new set-up will likely meet its remaining external debt obligations for the current fiscal year and have some time to set its house in order.

The challenge, which is around the corner, is the new government’s inclination and ability to quickly enter a new IMF Programme at better terms, which is needed to attract additional financing from other multilateral and bilateral partners in order to reduce default risks.

Under a split mandate the forthcoming coalition government’s decision-making capacity will be severely constrained as its electoral mandate may not be sufficiently strong to pursue difficult reforms that will likely be required by a new IMF programme. In question is the privatisation of loss-making public sector enterprises, notably, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Pakistan Steel Mills.

This matter constitutes a sore point and long pending demand of IMF. Under the new programme, IMF is not likely to condone it any further.

The main coalition partner, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), has opted to stay out of the of government, presumably under a strategy to come out clean while accumulating a political millage at each of government’s unfriendly public decisions. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), understandably, is conscious of it and would be reluctant to stick its neck out beyond certain limits, which at times would be inevitable.

In all probability the reform process would be measured. Much has gone wrong and anything short of dramatic economic and political reforms may not serve the purpose.

PPP has long opposed privatisation of PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills in particular. PML-N, however, supports privatization of loss-making public-sector entities, including PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills. In the last tenure of PML-N, the government was all set to privatise PIA.

But it could not achieve the objective because it had to backtrack following a violent protest launched by the politically-inspired airline workers’ union. Also, similar was the case regarding planned privatisation of state-owned power distribution companies (Discos) where, too, the PML-N government backtracked. There could be many key reforms where vote politics will override the state interest.

Much hopes are pinned on the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) established during the tenure of the then PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) government under the premiership of Shehbaz Sharif with the primary objective aimed at attracting foreign investments and stimulating the nation’s economic growth. Over time its role has been noticeable in structural reforms of the country.

SIFC is projected to be an entity of continuity to mobilize economic growth of the country while insulating itself from the politics of the country.

The questions how much non-political it can manage to remain and what weight it will carry under the new setup will certainly need plausible answers. One must not, however, lose sight of the fact that SIFC is headed by the Prime Minister, who is political and all decisions taken by SIFC are to be owned by him and his party, PML-N.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Farhat Ali

The writer is a former President, Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Print Print 2024-03-02

Sovereign dollar bonds rally ahead of PM’s election

Published March 2, 2024

LONDON: Pakistan’s sovereign dollar-denominated bonds rallied in advance of weekend elections for prime minister, Tradeweb data showed on Friday.

The 2027 maturity gained the most, rising around 1 cent to trade at 77.3 cents.

Pakistan’s newly-formed ruling alliance nominated Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister in an election scheduled for March 3, and his bid is expected to succeed.

The country’s embattled economy has a narrow path to recovery, and a crucial IMF agreement expires on April 11.

Pakistan sovereign dollar bonds drop as election results trickle in

The premium demanded by investors to hold Pakistan’s international bonds over safe-haven US Treasuries has tightened to 955 bps - its lowest level since May 2022 and dipping below the psychological 1,000 bps threshold, according to data from the JPMorgan EMBI Global Diversified Index.

Pakistan’s benchmark share index also rose 1% on Friday, according to the Karachi stock exchange website.

Pakistan

PTI’s Ali Amin Gandapur elected KPK chief minister

  • Secures 90 votes
Published March 1, 2024
PTI’s Ali Amin Gandapur elected KPK chief minister

The newly-elected members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly elected on Friday Pakistan Teheek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) nominee Ali Amin Gandapur as the chief minister of the province.

The PTI had nominated Gandapur for the coveted slot against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s candidate Ibadullah Khan.

He won by securing a total of 90 votes while Ibadullah got 16 votes.

In his speech, the newly elected CM gave a deadline of one week to quash first information reports (FIRs) against PTI workers.

He lamented the “injustice and cruelty” imposed on Imran and other party workers.

“Be ready for punishment if the FIRs aren’t removed,” he said.

Gandapur is a former federal minister who is also a Member National Assembly (MNA) and Provincial Assembly elect in the general elections of 2024.

Earlier in February, PTI founder Imran Khan had nominated the senior party leader for the post of CM.

The PTI leader is named in multiple assault and corruption cases registered by police stations in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala, reports said.

On February 19, during an informal chat with local journalists here Gandapur said that he would give top priority to the mineral sector. “The importance of the tourism sector can’t be negated either,” he opined.

“We will wield all those powers which have been granted to us under the 18th Amendment.”

Gandapur said that the PTI government in the province would make efforts to get the people of the province their rights.

“We are not begging. We are just asking for our rights,” he said, adding, “Even if we have to stage a long march for this purpose, we will not shy away from that.”

On February 28, Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani administered oath to the newly-elected members of the provincial assembly.

Pakistan

Ayaz Sadiq elected speaker, Ghulam Mustafa deputy speaker of National Assembly

  • Ayaz Sadiq secures 199, while Syed Ghulam Mustafa receives 197 out of 291 votes
Published March 1, 2024

The National Assembly (NA) elected on Friday Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Ayaz Sadiq as its speaker, and Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Syed Ghulam Mustafa as deputy speaker.

Sadiq was up against Sunni Ittehad Council’s (SIC) Malik Aamir Dogar for NA speaker. He received 199 votes while his opponent got 91.

Meanwhile, Syed Ghulam Mustafa received 197 votes, while his opponent, SIC’s Junaid Akbar, received 92 votes.

This is not Sadiq’s first time in this role. He served as the 17th Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan from June 2013 to August 2015 and again from November 2015 to August 2018.

Earlier in the day, voting for the role of speaker was held after outgoing Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf directed newly elected lawmakers to begin casting their votes in alphabetical order. After being elected, Sadiq was administered the oath by Ashraf.

After taking oath as the speaker, Sadiq urged both the government and the opposition to work together for the betterment of Pakistan.

He urged both sides to have differences but “for the betterment of the country” instead of on a personal basis.

Earlier in a post on X, the newly elected speaker said, “Pakistan comes first! We encourage all Pakistanis to come together to improve.”

“Let’s remove the barriers for Pakistan’s sake. Pakistanis of different views should come together to advise how we to strengthen the nation,” he further wrote.

MNAs to elect PM on Sunday

The National Assembly Secretariat had on Thursday issued the schedule for the election of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The prime minister will be elected on Sunday, March 3, 2024.

Nomination papers for the post of prime minister can be submitted on Saturday, March 2, 2024 till at 2:00pm. Nomination papers can be obtained from the Legislative Department of the National Assembly.

JUI-F protests

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday announced the boycott of the election process for the National Assembly speaker, deputy speaker, prime minister, and president.

Talking to journalists at the Parliament House after the inaugural session of the NA, the JUI-F chief categorically stated that the JUI-F will sit on the opposition benches in the parliament.

“We will not be part of the election of speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly and prime minister,” he announced.

To a question about JUI-F’s strategy for a protest movement, he indicated that he would soon give a call. “Wait for it. We will represent the nation soon,” he added.

On Thursday, the 16th National Assembly came into effect as 302 members took oath following the February 8 elections.

NA Speaker Ashraf administered the oath to the 302 MNAs in the 336-member house delayed by more than an hour due ruckus in the house by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers.

Pakistan Print 2024-03-01

JI chief says concerned at future of democracy

Published March 1, 2024

LAHORE: Chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Sirajul Haq has expressed concerns about the future of democracy, urging a national dialogue among political stakeholders to establish a transparent election mechanism in Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference at Mansoorah on Thursday, he said the JI’s Working Committee, which met on Wednesday, has unanimously deemed the Election 2024 as rigged and controversial, vowing to expose it democratically.

Haq had presided over the session of the JI’s Majlise Aamal which discussed election and post-election’s situation and future strategy.

The JI, he said, has already started efforts for holding of national dialogue to save the democracy and in this regard, it hosted a session of the observers and members of civil society.

Haq emphasized the importance of announcing results based on Form 45, asserting that any government formed on a fake mandate would fail to address the country’s crises. The nation demanded the poll results should be announced on the basis of Form 45, he said. He criticized institutions for falling short of the nation’s expectations regarding election impartiality.

Haq called for the resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner, saying the latter has failed to protect the democratic rights of the people of Pakistan. The JI demanded a transparent audit of the 2024 elections through an independent judicial commission inclusive of political party representations, he said.

Haq asserted that the JI’s mandate was stolen in Karachi and results tampered with in other parts of the country, declaring the party’s commitment to never remain silent on the theft of public mandate.

Haq urged the government to provide emergency relief to the rain-affected people of Gwadar.

Appealing to Muslim world leaders, Haq called for tangible steps to aid the people of Gaza, condemning the prolonged Israeli bombings that resulted in a significant death toll. He stressed that only a strong stance from the Muslim world could bring an end to the atrocities committed by Zionist forces.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Pakistan Print 2024-03-01

Elections on 11 vacant Senate seats: PPP writes letter to CEC

Published March 1, 2024

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has written a letter to the chief election commissioner to hold elections on the 11 vacant seats of the Senate as soon as possible.

Senator Taj Haider, in-charge of Central Election Cell PPP has written a letter to the chief election commissioner to hold elections on the 11 vacant seats of the Senate as soon as possible.

According to the letter, “We have the honour to bring to your kind attention that 11 (eleven) seats of the Senate of Pakistan are vacant at present. The Senate is therefore incomplete and the shortage in numbers is very high at almost 10 percent.”

In the latter, it was requested the chief election commissioner to order that elections on the above mentioned vacant seats of the Senate should be held as early as possible.

The letter describes as “Section 127 of the Election Act deals with by-elections on vacant seats of the Senate while Section 107 of the same Act laying down the procedure of all elections to the Senate does not allow more than one day for completing each step of the election schedule.”

According to the list released by the PPP, one seat of the Senate has been vacant due to the passing away of Senator late Rana Maqbool while the other 10 Senators tendered resignation after they were elected in the general elections 2024.

The seats that have fallen vacant include those held by; (1) Senator Yousuf Raza Gilani, (2) Senator Jam Mehtab, (3) Senator Nisar Khuhro, (4) Senator Gafoor Haideri, (5) Senator Sarfraz Bugti, (6) Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, (7) Senator Sadiq Sanjrani, (8) Senator Prince Umar, (9) Senator late Rana Maqbool, (10) Senator Shaukat Tareen, and (11) Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Pakistan

ECP appoints five presiding officers for presidential election

  • Officers will receive nomination papers from candidates and chair meetings of the Parliament at the Parliament House
Published February 29, 2024

The Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday appointed five presiding officers to conduct the election to the office of the President of Pakistan, in Islamabad and four provincial capitals, Radio Pakistan reported.

According to the Spokesperson of the ECP, these officers will receive nomination papers from candidates and chair meetings of the Parliament at the Parliament House, Islamabad, and the Provincial Assembly of the respective province during the scheduled polling for the Presidential Election.

According to the notification, the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court will oversee the elections in the Senate and National Assembly in Islamabad.

A Member of the Election Commission of Pakistan, Election Commission-1, will supervise polling in the Provincial Assembly of Punjab.

The Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court will supervise the Presidential Elections in the Provincial Assembly of Sindh.

Similarly, the Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court will supervise the polls in the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court will conduct the presidential polls in the Provincial Assembly in Quetta.

In a related development, the newly elected members took oath on Thursday in the maiden session of the 16th National Assembly.

Outgoing NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf presided over the session and also administered oaths to the members.

Former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shehbaz were also present in the session.

Pakistan

KPK, Balochistan Assemblies elect speakers

  • Sunni Ittehad Council’s Babar Salim Swati elected as the new KPK speaker, while PML-N's Abdul Khaliq Achakzai was elected speaker of the Balochistan Assembly
Published February 29, 2024

Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Assemblies elected on Thursday their respective speakers and deputy speakers, Aaj News reported.

KPK Assembly

Sunni Ittehad Council’s (SIC) candidate Babar Salim Swati backed by the PTI, was elected as the new KPK speaker after securing 89 votes while PPP’s Ehsanullah Miankhel secured 17 votes.

Swati was administered oath by outgoing Speaker Mushtaq Ghani.

Moreover, MPA Suraiya Bibi from Chitral was elected as deputy speaker.

Balochistan Assembly

Meanwhile, PML-N’s Abdul Khaliq Achakzai was elected speaker of the Balochistan Assembly, while PPP’s Ghazala Gola was elected deputy speaker.

Both won their respective positions unopposed as no other candidates submitted nomination papers.

On Wednesday, senior member of the assembly, Zamrak Khan Piralizai, administered oath to the Balochistan lawmakers in the absence of outgoing speaker Mir Muhammad Khan Jamali.

The 51 members, elected on general seats, who took oath include members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmakers who have emerged as the largest parties in the 65-member House.

Balochistan Assembly’s inaugural session was held on the same day newly-elected members of the KPK Assembly took oath.

The oath was administered by Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani.

Pakistan

Newly elected MNAs take oath in 16th National Assembly maiden session

  • Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf adjourns session till 10am Friday following ruckus
Published February 29, 2024
Newly-elected NA members set to take oath in inaugural session today

The newly elected members took oath on Thursday in the maiden session of the 16th National Assembly.

Outgoing NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf presided over the session and also administered oath to the members.

Earlier, MNAs-elect were spotted arriving at Parliament House for the oath-taking. Former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shehbaz were also present in the session.

Amid the signing by the newly elected members, the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), who the PTI independent candidates joined, started chanting slogans.

Later, Speaker Ashraf adjourned the session till 10am tomorrow (Friday) following a ruckus.

The session was being held today under Article 91 (2) of the Constitution with President Arif Alvi refusing to sign an earlier summary for summoning the session on the reported grounds of non-allocation of reserved seats to SIC.

According to the Constitution, President Alvi was obligated to call an inaugural session of the NA within 21 days of the February 8 general elections, which marks February 29 as the deadline to do so.

However, given his reluctance, NA Speaker Raja took matters into his own hands and summoned the session on the deadline day today.

Moreover, in a late night development the president too convened a session today.