Friday, April 27, 2018

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#Pakistan - Khursheed Shah terms Article 62, 63 as black laws of Constitution

Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah has said that no politician is happy with the disqualification of Khawaja Asif and adding that Articles 62 and 63 are the black laws which were included by dictator in the constitution.
This he said while talking to media persons on Friday outside the National Assembly. Shah said that those who were favoring the policies of dictator Zia are now the victims of these laws which were included by their boss in the past.
He said that it would have been better if the matter was resolved in parliament but unfortunately some politicians and government drag the issue into court.
Earlier on Thursday, Khawaja Asif was disqualified by the Islamabad High Court under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution for failing to disclose his employment in a UAE company and the monthly salary he was receiving.
Regarding the budget for fiscal year 2018-19 which the government is set to present today, Shah said, “The government should not present a budget for more than four months.”
The opposition parties have decided to lodge a strong protest in the National Assembly during the budget session today.

#Pakistan - Solution to ending extremism is not military: Bilawal Bhutto

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Thursday an extensive strategy instead of military solution is essential for the elimination of extremism.
In an interview with BBC, he maintained that reforms in education, syllabus, police and judiciary are needed to end extremism.
"I think that Pakistan is only focusing on military solution against extremism but e need a broad strategy. Surely, people who challenge the state and raise weapons against it, they should be dealt on a military forefront. But to tackle terrorism, we need an overall approach which not only focus on terror activities but end extremism also,"  said the PPP chairman.
Criticizing former president Pervez Musharraf, Bilawal asserted that he threatened his mother Benazir Bhutto while the witnesses of the incident are also present.
"Seven judges were changed in the assasination case of Benazir Bhutto. The case could have solved in two weeks but ten years have passed and we have yet not received justice. This is the mockery of justice," he said.
He questioned why Musharraf do not face the accusations leveled against him in court.  The PPP chirman went on to say that PPP did not chose the way of family politics with its own will.
On the other hand, Bilawal will visit Keti Bunder where he will inaugurate planting campaign in the area.
The campaign will set new record to plant most trees in a single day. Sindh forest department will make the record by planting more than 10 lac trees.
It is pertinent to mention here that in 2013, Pakistan broke the record of India while planting 8,47,257 trees. Later in 2010, India managed to plant 6,11,000 plants in one day.

Full one year budget is illegal and pre-poll rigging: Bilawal Bhutto

 Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday vowed to “oppose” the move of the outgoing federal government to present a budget for the full one year, terming it “illegal and pre-poll rigging”.

Speaking at a press conference at the residence of the party’s secretary general Nayyar Bokhari, the PPP chairman urged the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government to present the budget only for three to four months, saying that the ruling party could not announce any new development schemes through the budget.

He said that by presenting the full one-year budget, the government would be snatching the democratic right of the next parliament and the elected government of future and advised the rulers to only arrange funds for ongoing development schemes.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari regretted that the chief ministers of three provinces had to jointly stage a walkout from a meeting of the National Economic Committee on Tuesday. He said that there were reports that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was also not present in the meeting, adding that “this is a message from all the provinces that the steps they (the federal government) are about to take are illegal and not allowed”.

“We will be opposing these steps in parliament. This is our democratic right and principled position,” he declared. Replying to a question, the PPP chairman explained that under the Constitution, a government could present only five budgets.

He said that the PPP-led provincial government in Sindh would only ensure provision of funds for ongoing schemes in the coming budget. “We are going to announce a budget which will include only the payments for ongoing schemes and will not include new schemes,” he said while giving the outline of the Sindh government’s last budget.

After coming to power, the PPP would strengthen the accountability laws, he said and insisted that the incumbent parliament had no right to change the laws.

He also advised PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif to avoid confrontation with the institutions and “step back” in the interest of the country and democracy.

He said that the talk about sanctity of ballots was only “rhetoric” and the rulers had no interest in strengthening institutions and democracy. He regretted that no one was doing “issue-based politics” in the country.

Responding to a question, the PPP chairman once again ruled out the possibility of having cooperation with the PML-N or the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf at any level or in any province.

“I do not want to work with Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan. They are different people but they have the same political philosophy and economic policy and I am contesting against them,” he said.


Afghanistan’s capital Kabul was rocked by a deadly blast earlier this week. According to the media sources, the suicide attack on the voter registration center in Kabul killed at least 60 and injured 120 more.
Kabul’s police chief Davoud Amin said that the victims went to the center to receive their identity cards for the ballot when a bomb ripped through the center in Dashte Barchi district.
Children were standing in line with their parents waiting to register when the bomb went off on Sunday morning. The dead include 21 women and five children.
ISIS terrorist group issued a short statement in which it claimed the responsibility for the carnage.
Religious divisions and elections: ISIS key targets
Despite the fact that the attack targeted a government center distributing voter registration papers, it should be taken into account that the targeted neighborhood is a region heavily populated by the Shiite Muslims, who have been targeted by ISIS for their religion in the past.
Since starting its operations in Afghanistan nearly two years ago, the terrorist group focused on the Shiite centers across the county comes with the aim of broadening the religious chasms in the war-ravaged state.
The attack on the registration center, opened this month for legislative elections which are due to take place in October, sent a clear message to the vote organizers in the county. Earlier, the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan had warned that insecurity will pose the greatest challenge to its duty of organizing the process, asking the government of President Ashraf Ghani to do its best to provide the best possible security climate for the elections.
The upcoming elections are the first in the county in eight years and are the first since Ghani, along with the Abdullah Abdullah, the nation’s chief executive, formed a national unity government in 2014. However, it seems that the elections will fall victim to security weakness, and the recent attack bears all the reasons for this claim.
With regard to the vital significance of the security for the successful organization of the October elections, will the government of President Ashraf show adequate will to secure the process and repel the terrorist plots?
How much is security provision important for Ghani’s administration?
As a living human being needs blood, Afghanistan needs security and without it the nation against the terror risks, the government cannot peruse the simplest plans, let alone such a demanding process as the parliamentary elections.
Afghanistan can achieve security only through putting an end to the civil war and decisively fighting terrorism, which is growing fast across the country as ISIS expands its spheres of influence and recruits further fighters. But how serious the Afghan government is to terminate the domestic conflict and battle growing terrorism risk remains a question.
The president regularly maneuvers with the so-called efforts of the government to end the home struggle through negotiation with the armed groups, on top of them Taliban. However, some contradictions in the approach of the government to the peace process raise serious questions about its true will to end the decades-long conflict.
In the case of the home peace efforts, one of the key parties is Taliban militant group, which holds vast tracts of the country’s territory. But Taliban were absent at least in the three peace talks rounds in Oman, and also recently in Uzbekistan despite the presence of the foreign actors as guarantors of the peace overtures.
Whereas the government regularly argues that it invites the Taliban to the dialogue sessions, Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman to the militant organization, denies that the government invitation was sent to them, even for Oman and Tashkent conferences. It appears that Kabul only reaches out to the smaller and less effective factions of Taliban to seal a peace deal with them. This means that the major a head of establishing security in the country is failure of peace talks.
But the deadlock is only a factor in a circle of factors distancing the county from enjoying peace. A larger part of security risks is posed by the freshly-rising terrorist groups like ISIS. The recent suicide bombing shows that ISIS is mobilizing its resources to disrupt the parliamentary elections.
The voter center attack, however, was not the first blast in the new year by the fundamentalist group. A month ago, an attack, also a suicide one, in the capital took lives of at least 40 people and injured 70. Before that in January, a suicide attack rocking a Shiite cultural center in Kabul killed at least 45. These assaults are aside from the clashes and advances of the group regularly reported about in various regions.
Despite ISIS expansion, news of the government security forces and the army’s military actions against the extremist group hardly come out. The last anti-ISIS move of the Afghan armed forces was in December last year when the troops clashed with militant fighters in Darzab district in Jowzjan province.
Questions are beginning to rise about why the government does not push against ISIS as much as it does against Taliban. Even the president in his speeches insists on dismissing the ISIS risks and deeming its progression as limited and far from being precarious. Addressing the “Heart of Asia” 6th foreign ministerial meeting in Baku on December 4, 2017, Ghani told the participants that ISIS had no weapons, facilities, and forces in Afghanistan and that only a small number of them are stuck in the mountains and “will die of hunger.”
Such postures exhibit Ghani’s negligence of the seriousness of ISIS perils for the county. But no matter how much the president turns a blind eye, the ISIS hostility against the people and government proves that it is out there and moving ahead.
When last week the Shiite passengers in Ghor province were massacred, the government officials rushed to hold Taliban accountable for the incident. But shortly after, ISIS claimed it was behind the attack. Taliban denied involvement at the same time. The government officials, showing consistency with Ghani’s mindset, are leaning towards highlighting the dangers of Taliban than those of ISIS as they attribute ISIS actions to Taliban.
The unity government’s disregard of ISIS jeopardy has roots in the internal political competition and its hope to impair Taliban exploiting a rival organization like ISIS.
Since its formation in 2014, the government pledged to bring peace back to the country, fight corruption, absorb foreign aids, and cultivate economic growth in the county which is the world’s largest refugee origin. But as of now, not only the economy saw no rejuvenation but also the security circumstances worsened compared to 2014.
According to the World Bank’s figures, Afghanistan’s economic growth in 2018 will not grow any better than the year before which was 2.2 percent. The World Bank’s Country Director for Afghanistan Shubham Chaudhuri has said that if the security conditions do not deteriorate, the growth can touch the 3.2 percent. So, although the economy begins to slowly recover, the growth rate remains way below that 2003-2012 period which was near 10 percent, hence providing no prospects for considerable improvement in the security situation. This largely drives Kabul government to downplay ISIS hazards to repel the rivals’ criticism as the elections draw close.
Still, from another perspective, ISIS is becoming a rival to Taliban in Afghanistan, managing over the past year to recruit members and attract resources. Therefore, Kabul finds interest in the vying of the two militant organizations that could erode the strength of Taliban whom the Afghan leaders regard as the main threat to the nation’s stability.

Constraints on women in the Pakistani workplace

Naima Ahmed

Constraints that hinder inclusion of women in the labor force are both social and cultural.

Gender disparity in any form stems from the patriarchal mindset which replicates in everyday scenarios and over the years is also seen to be systematically embedded in the law. This is glaringly seen more so in its imbalanced implementation. This fundamental flaw flourishes and is embraced shamelessly by our society in cases of violence against women.
Over the years, many international reports such as that of the ADB and World Bank have arduously outlined that a painful 40 percent of women having university degrees do not work as their male counterparts do not allow them to, while the rest either cannot find a suitable, secure job or willingly stay at home.
Constraints that hinder inclusion of women in the labour force are both social and cultural, which automatically decrease their participation. In my view, access to education for a girl child in rural and urban Pakistan is severely dependent upon the ‘yes’ of the man of the household. The result of lack of access to formal and informal education is a source of ailment and leads to a woman not having a voice.
This brings me to the point of having a ‘voice’ and, therefore, lack of it perpetuates this notion. Such cultural mindset plaguing our society needs be catered by the governmental-led initiatives, especially in rural Pakistan by leading capacity building programmes on providing awareness to parents of the girl child specifically.
Sexual harassment at workplace is another poignant issue. We have laws on paper; for example, Pakistan Criminal Penal Code and the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act of 2010 and we are even signatories of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and International Labour Organisation (ILO). However, to date, we still do not specifically have a law regarding discrimination against women in workplaces.
Having equality on paper does not secure equality in reality. The implementation of Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act of 2010 describes harassment and the process of reporting it. However, it forgets that not every harassment is sexual, hence is restrictive in nature of its enforcement. Furthermore, the law fails to address the issue of where the colleagues end up protecting male perpetrators during investigations — especially those in the position of power. This legal loophole makes it an automatic barrier and constraints for any means of redressal.
In my working career, I have observed that women from all works of life suffer from another major constraint: mobility — which is the lack of access to transportation. Many who reached offices were either chauffeur driven or chose not to drive themselves. Those who did not have the luxury of a car hesitantly used the public transport, which was and is still uncomfortable. As an enabler, we need to have a mobilising environment for women to have access to safe transportation. This applies to all types of the workforce working at the lower and higher posts. The private sector organisation scan aid this process by providing ‘inclusivity enablers’ such as pick and drop for women workforce, daycare and flexible working options.
Sexual harassment and rape are prevalent in South Asian society due to unequal gender roles, lack of support from men and women alike and an enabling environment
In this purview, the human resources need to be essential in enabling such reforms and policy rather than adopting an archaic paper-based, robotic approach. This fundamental factor will drastically boost the confidence of women waiting to pursue their careers passionately. In today’s time, a woman and even a girlchild’s mobility is under threat by harassers on the streets. While the government-led ‘safe cities’ pilot project under the UN initiative was a step in right direction, its proactive implementation is still not widespread.
In my experience of work, I believe that every initiative needs to be met with gender sensitisation workshops and campaigns whereby the male drivers of buses/metros are aware of their roles and ensure the safety of women passengers so that our future generation of women are safe and secure in the environment.
Access to equal opportunities will sensitise the mindset and decrease the misogynist behaviour in the bus, car and on the street. When Careem was hit by allegations of harassments two years ago, the future recruitment of drivers in both Uber and Careem was done after sexual harassment seminars as part of a policy to sensitise them. At a large scale, a similar policy can be part of the government-led initiatives. Women lawyers can lead such training, as in my view, they can provide scenario-based practical examples for better implementation of the law.
For the law to act as a deterrent, it has to coincide with a change in social attitudes in Pakistan. Sexual harassment and rape are prevalent in the South Asian society due to unequal gender roles for generations, lack of support from men and women alike and an enabling environment.

Blog: Who killed Samina Sindhu? We did.

By Ramish Fatima

The murder of a Pakistani singer Samina Sindhu, 24, in Larkana isn’t just a murder. It is more than that. It is a reflection of our society. The same society that regards Sheema Kirmani’s dhamal at a Sufi shrine, damaged by a suicide bombing, not as a fiery symbol of protest but as a shameful mark of vulgarity.

A Pashto singer Sumbal Khan was shot dead outside her own home, for refusing to attend a private gathering. She dared to say ‘no’ to a man. Baraikhta, another singer, was killed by a suitor after her father refused his marriage proposal. In 2016, a theatre actress, Kismat Baig, was gunned down in Lahore. Later, the killer confessed that he was offended after Baig refused to perform at his stage production in Faisalabad.
This is a society that loves music, but despises singers, is disgusted by dancers and relegates artists to the lowest rung of the social ladder. How dare a lowly singer, and that too a woman, refuse a man?
The killer could have any name, Shahrukh Jatoi or Tariq Jatoi, who murdered Sindhu, and yet the story is the same. The motive is the same. Men, intoxicated with the power of their guns, drunk on the might of their own influence and high on their superiority, can easily take a life.
Sindhu was pregnant at the time of her killing. That makes it two murders, not one. Had she not been with a child in her womb, would we have shown her the same sympathy? Soon after the shooting, a news channel spoke to a young Sindhi boy about the heinous crime. He said, staring straight at the camera, “So, why did she choose to be a singer in the first place?” It is perhaps not possible to express cruelty, barbarity and hatred, all in one, short sentence. But he did it.
The ones worthiest of praise in this whole sordid tale, are the men who keep on insisting that their religion and culture teaches them to respect women. Yes, it does. But then again, which women are you talking about? The ones who fall within the boundaries that you have proscribed? The ones who dress as per your wishes and who live by your rules?
How brave was Sindhu’s killer that he had to take refuge behind the “it was a stray bullet” excuse?
The use of traditions, culture and norms as the reason for murdering a woman is not new either.
When we hear them sing, we get lost in their melodious voice, in their soulful words. But we refuse to give them the voice to say, ‘No’.
Samina Sindhu was the victim of a feudal lord’s superiority complex. Now she is gone. We will never know what she dreamed for her herself, her family or her unborn child. We will never know her story in her own words. If we want to punish the murderer, then we, as a society, should also be on trial. Is our collective conscience finally ready to appreciate art and artists for what they are? They are not lowly creatures worthy of scorn, but a gift from the heavens deserving of veneration.

Pakistan: Declining Terror, Rising Instability – Analysis

By Ajit Kumar Singh
10 people, including six Policemen, were killed and another 35 were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a check post outside the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz in Raiwind town of Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, on March 14, 2018.
11 Pakistani Army soldiers were killed and 13 were wounded in a suicide bombing near a Pakistani Army camp in the Kabal area of Swat District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on February 3, 2018.
Seven people, including five Policemen, were killed and another 16, including eight Policemen, were injured in a suicide blast at Zarghoon Road in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, on January 9, 2018.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since the beginning of 2018, at least 150 terrorism-related fatalities [46 civilians, 51 Security Force (SF) personnel and 53 terrorists] have been recorded across Pakistan (data till April 8, 2018). In the corresponding period of 2017, the country recorded 449 terrorism-related fatalities (184 civilians, 55 SF personnel, and 210 terrorists).
Through 2017, Pakistan had recorded a total of 1,260 fatalities, including 540 civilians, 208 SF personnel, and 512 terrorists in 2017; as against 1,803 fatalities, including 612 civilians, 293 SF personnel, and 898 terrorists in 2016.
The number of major attacks (involving three or more fatalities) and the resultant fatalities, fell from 172 and 1,369, respectively in 2016, to 132 and 1,047, respectively, in 2017. In the current year, 17 major incidents have already been recorded, resulting 90 fatalities.
The number of sectarian attacks also declined from 35 in 2016 to 16 in 2017. However, the related deaths from such incidents marked a 68.61 per cent increase, from 137 in 2016 to 231 in 2017. The most deadly sectarian attack in 2018 came on February 16, when a suicide bomber attacked the crowded Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan Sharif town of Jamshoro District in Sindh, killing at least 88 people and injuring 343 others. It was the worst attack, in terms of fatalities, recorded in Pakistan since the December 16, 2014, Army Public School (APS), Peshawar, attack, which had claimed 150 fatalities, including 143 civilians.
Meanwhile, the number of suicide attacks increased from 19 in 2016 to 22 in 2017. However, the resultant toll decreased from 401 fatalities in 2016, to 369 in 2017.
The relative respite from terror through 2017 was primarily due to Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad (Elimination of Discord), launched by the Pakistan Army across the country on February 22, 2017. On December 18, 2018, Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), briefing the Senate on action taken by SFs under Operation Radd-ul-Fassad, disclosed that 17,685 operations had been conducted across Pakistan: 13,011 in Punjab; 2,015 in Sindh; 1,410 in Balochistan; and 1,249 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
However, Islamabad’s continuing policy of supporting ‘state-owned’ terrorist formations has created an environment where numerous individuals and groups engage in terrorism, even as terror outfits operating out of Pakistan thrive. As on April 7, 2018, at least 134 individuals and 23 entities with Pakistani connections were included in the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List. These included at least 83 individuals who were believed to be in Pakistan or in areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan. Another 29 of these individuals were Pakistani nationals. All the 23 entities listed were operating from Pakistani soil.
Many of these individuals and entities continue to enjoy a free run in Pakistan. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who masterminded the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks and carries a bounty of USD 10 million on his head, is the most ‘prominent’ among them. Saeed heads both the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) (both listed entities), but continues to enjoy open support from all sections of the Pakistani establishment. For instance, in a statement released on December 30, 2017, the Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) justified Hafiz Saeed’s participation in a pro-Palestine rally, also attended by the Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali, in Rawalpindi on December 29, 2017, declaring,
This public rally was attended by thousands of people from all walks of life. More than 50 speakers addressed the rally, including Hafiz Saeed. Contrary to the impression being created, UN proscription does not place any restrictions on the freedom of expression.
Interestingly, the Lahore High Court on April 3, 2018, ordered the Governments – Provincial and Federal – not to ‘harass’ Hafiz Saeed and to allow him to continue his ‘social welfare activities’ until further orders. The Court was hearing a petition filed by JuD against Governmental obstructions curtailing JuD’s ‘social welfare activities’.
According to media reports, the Punjab Government had started taking over all the moveable and immovable assets of JuD and its front, the Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), in the Province on February 14, 2018. The action was being taken in pursuance of an ordinance issued by President Mamnoon Hussain on February 12, 2018, amending the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, and allowing the state to take action against individuals and organizations proscribed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).However, an unnamed Punjab Government official was later quoted as stating, on March 6, 2018,
Since the Government has taken over the control of JuD headquarters in Lahore in mid last month [February], Saeed delivered three Friday sermons in three successive weeks there in the presence of a large number of his supporters. The Government could only deploy its administrator at Al Qadsia while the JuD men are operating from there the way they used to… A similar arrangement was made at JuD’s Muridke headquarters. The Government has not barred Saeed and activists of his charities from using the JuD headquarters in Lahore and Muridke, and other offices of the two organizations [the other being FiF, Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation].
Since his release from ‘house arrest, in November 2017, Saeed has held at least two major rallies in Pakistan, in addition to a large number of other public appearances. Apart from the December 29 pro-Palestine rally, he also held a rally in Lahore (Punjab) on the occasion of ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ on February 5, 2018.
Another individual in the list and one of world’s most wanted terrorist, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, a person of Indian origin, enjoys Pakistani state immunity and has resided in Pakistan since 1993. His Pakistani addresses have been confirmed by the United Kingdom as well. The revelations were made in a latest report released by UK Treasury department’s Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in the UK. An interview with Dawood Ibrahim and his aide published in Firstpost on August 11, 2017, also confirmed his presence in Pakistan.
Radicalized groups across Pakistan have received further encouragement from recent events, when the Federal Government bowed down before violent Islamist protesters. On October 2, 2017, the National Assembly passed the ‘Election Bill 2017’, making changes in the Khatm-e-Nabuwat [finality of Prophet-hood] clause of its earlier Bill. Soon after, countrywide protests led by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik ya Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLP), an Islamist party, erupted against the change. Other pro-Muslim parties, such as the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek and Tehreek-e-Khatme Nabuwwat (Movement for the Finality of Prophet-hood) also lent their support, demanding the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid and the removal of the offending clause which, according to these groups undermined Islamic beliefs and amounted to blasphemy. Mounting pressure, the protestors began camping at Islamabad’s Faizabad Traffic Interchange from November 6, 2017. The Government restored the original clause on November 17, 2017, but the Islamists continued with their protest. Eventually, on November 25, 2017, bloody clashes took place just outside Islamabad in which at least six people were killed and another 200 were injured. Speaking from the site of the clashes, TLP ‘spokesman’ Ejaz Ashrafi declared, “We are in our thousands. We will not leave. We will fight until end.” Clashes also took place elsewhere in the country and continued on November 26 as well.
On November 29, 2017, the Islamabad Police told Pakistan’s Supreme Court that the November 25 clashes were primarily caused because “they had hurt the religious sentiments of security forces with their inflammatory speeches.” A nine-page report submitted by the Islamabad Police stated that the protesters were religiously motivated and that their speeches were targeted at hurting religious sentiments of SFs keeping vigil. It also said that close to 2,000 protesters, mostly armed with stones, pistols, axes, and rods, were present at the protest site.
The protests came to an end after the Army mediated between the protestors and the Government, and the Law Minister Zahid Hamid was forced to resign on November 27, 2017. Hamid stated, “The decision to resign was taken in a bid to steer the country out of the prevailing critical situation.” The resignation was part of an agreement reached between the Government and the protesters.
Pakistan’s export of terrorism continued, primarily targeting its neighbours, India and Afghanistan. Mini Devi Kumam, a Second Secretary in the Permanent Mission of India to United Nations (Geneva), speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), noted, on March 8, 2018, “We urge the Council to call on Pakistan to end cross border infiltration; to dismantle special terrorist zones, safe havens and sanctuaries, to take verifiable actions, including on terror financing.” Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on February 2, 2018, similarly accused Pakistan of failing to move against the Afghan Taliban declaring, “We are waiting for Pakistan to act”.
Corroborating India’s and Afghanistan’s concern, Daniel R. Coats, Director of US National Intelligence, categorically stated on February 13, 2018,
Militant groups supported by Islamabad will continue to take advantage of their safe haven in Pakistan to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, including against US interests.
Meanwhile, there appears to be little prospect of political stabilization in the country, corruption remains all-pervasive, and has afflicted the highest offices of the land. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), continues to face serious problems in the aftermath of the ouster of Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Panama Papers case. The seat he vacated was won by his wife and PML-N candidate Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, who secured 61,745, ahead of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) candidate Yasmeen Rashid, who bagged 47,099 votes in a total of 126,46 votes cast (including 1,717 votes which were declared invalid), in what has long been the Sharif’s family burough. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of PML-N replaced Sharif as Prime Minister, but is widely viewed as a puppet of the Sharifs. With a General Election just around the corner (scheduled for July 2018), and patterns of political disruption escalating, the Army continues to push the boundaries of its authority, and particularly to dominate the export of terrorism into the neighbourhood. Inevitably, this creates some spaces for the continuation of domestic terrorism as well, including sectarian terrorism, which often receives implicit support from the state establishment.

Pakistani Court Bans Lawmaker in Latest Blow to Governing Party

By Salman Masood
A Pakistani court on Thursday disqualified the country’s foreign minister from Parliament for concealing foreign assets, a setback to the governing party just months before the country heads to general elections.
The official, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who also received a lifetime ban from holding public office, is a close ally and confidant of the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party. Its main rival is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which is led by Imran Khan, a former cricketer.
The Muslim League has suffered a series of recent blows, including Mr. Sharif’s own dismissal from office last year and corruption inquiries into several of Mr. Sharif’s close aides. Mr. Sharif has accused the judiciary of bias, saying that while the courts have actively pursued cases against his loyalists, they have been lenient toward his political rivals.
The charges against Mr. Asif originated with a political rival from Mr. Asif’s home constituency in a district in eastern Pakistan. The rival, Usman Dar, filed a petition alleging that Mr. Asif possessed a work permit for the United Arab Emirates and had not disclosed it in election nomination papers. Under Pakistani law, a candidate has to disclose all foreign and local assets to be able to run for Parliament.
Justice Athar Minallah, who led a three-member panel of the Islamabad High Court, said in his decision that Mr. Asif was ineligible to hold public office because he had not fully disclosed his employment and salary with a firm in the Middle East. The court also relied on a controversial article of the Constitution requiring lawmakers to be “honest and righteous.”
Mr. Asif, a veteran politician who strongly favors civilian supremacy over the military’s traditional dominance in the country, promised an appeal to the Supreme Court. But political observers said it was unlikely to succeed.
The Supreme Court ousted Mr. Sharif in a controversial decision last year after a corruption investigation involving him and his two sons and daughter. The inquiry was initiated after disclosures made in the Panama Papers pointed to expensive residential properties in London owned by the Sharif family.
Mr. Sharif and his children deny any wrongdoing. In recent months, the judiciary, spearheaded by the chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar, has also taken an increasingly assertive role, which Mr. Sharif and his allies say is politically motivated. The elections are on July 15.
Mr. Sharif has also accused the country’s powerful military and judiciary of working together to have him ousted. Both the military and the judiciary deny the allegations. Mr. Sharif had tried unsuccessfully to impose civilian supremacy in areas long run by the powerful military, including foreign and defense policies.
Mr. Dar, the petitioner against Mr. Asif, belongs to Mr. Khan’s political party.
Mr. Khan has emerged as the biggest challenger to Mr. Sharif, especially in Punjab, the country’s most populous and prosperous province, which decides the fate of political parties during elections.