Posts Tagged ‘Yousuf Raza Gilani’

Buyers must pay 20pc upfront to join PM housing scheme

ISLAMABAD: After making widespread publicity for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ambitious Naya Pakistan Housing Programme (NPHP), the government on Monday revealed that applicants will have to bear 20 per cent of the total cost of their dream house as down payment.

“Every person has to pay 20pc of the cost of the house. The remaining 80pc will be undertaken by the government,” said ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Syed Firdous Shamim Naqvi at a joint press conference with Task Force on Housing chairman Zaigham Rizvi and Punjab Minister for Housing, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Mehmoodur Rashid.

It is for the first time the government revealed that applicants will have to pay 20pc of the total cost as down payment. No such announcement had been made by any government quarter since the programme was unveiled by the prime minister soon after taking office.

Task force official says remaining 80 per cent will be undertaken by government

“If the cost of the lowest category house/apartment is Rs3 million, the applicant will have to pay Rs600,000 as down payment,” said Mr Naqvi.

A senior official of the housing ministry, who did not want to be named, told Dawn that 20pc cost of the house would be shared by the applicants.The remaining will be paid by the banks.

Mr Naqvi said that under the NPHP, 5m houses would be constructed — which means a million houses every year.

“According to a survey, 300,000 to 350,000 houses are being built every year in the country and we have to increase that number to 1m,” he said.

Mr Naqvi said the NPHP was based on the mortgage housing system, under which the owner of the house would return the entire cost in 20 years. He said the government had prepared a comprehensive strategy for accomplishing the goal, adding that the government would provide people their own shelter, helping them get rid of rental expenses.

He said that under the programme, new housing authorities would be established in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtun­khwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. “We know that housing is a provincial subject, but the Centre and the provincial governments will work together for the success of the programme.”

Answering a question about the return of mortgage money, he said housing finance was considered the safest form of loans all over the world.

Zaigham Rizvi said former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Yousuf Raza Gilani had also announced housing schemes during their governments, but their level of commitment could be assessed by the fact that they did not convene even a single meeting on the issue.

“On the other hand, Prime Minister Imran Khan has presided over 10 meetings on the housing programme in 60 days,” he added.

Responding to a question, he said that the media should not spread disappointing ideas that the 5m housing programme cannot become a successful endeavour, adding that India had already launched such a plan and it was going well. He said not only in urban centres but houses would also be constructed in rural areas.

In reply to a question, he said the government would also give some relaxation in taxes to the applicants so that they could pay the instalment of their houses more easily.

Speaking on the occasion, provincial minister Mehmoodur Rashid said that in the first phase in Punjab, the project would be implemented in Sialkot, Faisalabad, Lodhran, Chiniot, Baha­walna­gar and Jhelum districts as well as Muzaffarabad in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. “Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the first phase of the programme on Jan 1, 2019,” he added.

He said land was available for the project and private developers were taking a lot of interest in the scheme. Mr Rashid said the financial model of the project was currently being prepared.

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2018

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Gilani says NAB must work independently

ISLAMABAD: In a rare occurrence, two former prime ministers met each other in an accountability court here on Monday while appearing in different references filed against them by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Both former premiers — Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Nawaz Sharif — were sacked by the Supreme Court in 2012 and 2017, respectively.

Mr Gilani, who belongs to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was removed by the apex court in a contempt of court case as he was reluctant to write a letter to Swiss authorities for reopening of graft cases against then president Asif Ali Zardari.

Mr Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was removed from office for not declaring his un-withdrawn salary from his son’s foreign company in the nomination papers he submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Two former PMs facing accountability cases come across in court

During their brief interaction, both leaders shook hands and inquired about each other’s health. On a query of Mr Sharif, Mr Gilani told him that he was also facing a NAB reference in this court.

Mr Gilani termed it ironical that four elected prime ministers appeared in the accountability court. Without naming incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan, he predicted that the fifth would be facing these courts in future.

Reacting to a warning recently issued by PM Khan, Mr Gilani said the chief executive of the country should have not threatened the arrest of politicians. He said NAB must be an independent institution.

In the courtroom when accountability court judge Arshad Malik resumed the proceedings against Mr Gilani, the prosecutor was not in attendance. Mr Gilani offered the judge to take up Mr Sharif’s reference first.

The judge remarked that it would take the entire day to proceed in the Flagship Investment reference against Mr Sharif. He, however, adjourned the proceedings in the reference against Mr Gilani till Nov 23.

Proceedings against Sharif

The star prosecution witness, Wajid Zia, on Monday shared details of the salary Mr Sharif received from the company of his son, Capital FZE.

Mr Zia testified that two members of the SC-constituted Joint Investigation Team (JIT) had obtained the documents related to salary details, employment contract with Capital FZE, a firm owned by Mr Sharif’s son and a certificate of the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza) official.

Mr Zia conceded that the JIT members did not prepare a recovery memo and a possession memo of the documents when these were being handed over to them by Jafza.

The court adjourned the proceedings to Tuesday (today).

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2018

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NA set to amend rules to introduce PM’s Question Hour

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly is set to take up on Monday (today) an amendment to its rules making it mandatory for the prime minister to respond to questions of the members about government affairs on the floor of the house.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan will move an amendment to Rule 69 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business 2007 in the assembly, which suggests insertion of a sub-rule introducing “Prime Minister’s Question Hour”, according to an 11-point agenda issued by the NA Secretariat for Monday’s sitting.

Soon after winning the election of prime minister, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan had announced that he would make himself available on a fortnightly basis to the members of parliament to reply to their questions relating different matters on the floor of the house on the pattern of the British parliament.

Under the amendment, Imran will be bound to reply to questions on first Wednesday of each session and subject to his availability

However, the new rule suggests that the prime minster will be bound to reply to questions only on the first Wednesday of each session and subject to his availability.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in this Chapter, subject to availability of the prime minister, there shall be ‘Prime Minister’s Question Hour’ on the first Wednesday once in each session for answering questions on the matters relating to the overall substantive policy or the performance of government,” reads the new sub-rule (2) to be inserted in Rule 69 of the assembly rules.

Though the prime minister has a privilege of getting the floor of the National Assembly any time he wants to speak on any matter, Imran Khan wants to see the rules amended with a view to make it mandatory for future prime ministers as well to respond to the questions of MNAs.

Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani of the Pakistan Peoples Party was the only prime minister who was found to be present in the assembly during the question hour most of the time and even used to give replies to questions of the members, despite the fact that it was not mandatory for him. In 2012, the rules of the Senate were amended under which one hour was allocated for the prime minister to give reply to questions.

Rule 61 of the Senate says: “The prime minister shall whenever possible personally respond to points raised by members whenever he is present in the house. However, the prime minister shall attend the Prime Minister’s Zero Hour at least once in each week when the Senate is in session.”

However, this rule was never implemented as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif attended the Senate sessions only three to four times throughout his more than four-year rule.

Even former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani, who was otherwise known for strictly running the house under rules, never raised the issue of non-implementation of the rule. Similarly, though the senators usually complained about the absence of the prime minister and ministers from the house, they never called for implementation of the rule.

Debate on mini-budget

Besides taking up the proposed amendment, the members of the assembly are also expected to take part in a general debate on the mini-budget presented by Finance Minister Asad Umar last week.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry will lay the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 (No IX of 2018) and the minister of state for parliamentary affairs will present the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 (No XIII of 2018) in the assembly, which will be meeting after a five-day recess.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - September 24, 2018 at 4:25 am

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Draft law finalised to obtain financial crimes evidence from abroad

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Law and Justice has finalised the draft of much-awaited legislation meant to obtain evidence from foreign jurisdictions about financial crimes and mega corruption cases involving Pakistanis.

This was announced by Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Dr Farogh Naseem during a press conference on Friday.

He said successive governments over the past nine years had failed to enact legislation for a mutual legal assistance regime. The law ministry, he added, had finalised the Mutual Legal Assistance Bill and shared its draft with the Ministry of Interior, Federal Inves­tigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

He said a meeting of all stakeholders would be held next week to review the draft and to ascertain their views on it.

Farogh Naseem says amendments to be introduced in civil law to provide speedy justice

He said the government had begun the process of drafting a new law despite the fact that a number of bills seeking amendments to the NAB Ordinance, 2002 had already been discussed by various committees of the Senate and the National Assembly over the past 10 years.

Barrister Naseem was of the view that there was a dire need of giving a holistic change to the accountability law for empowering NAB. He said the government would not introduce any amendment to the law which might create hurdles for NAB in dealing with corrupt elements.

The country’s two major parties — Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — through the famous Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in London in 2006 had agreed to abolish NAB and replace it with a new institution to be named National Accountability Commission (NAC). The two parties allege that NAB was established by former military dictator retired Gen Pervez Musharraf for arm-twisting of his political opponents.

The PPP government under former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had moved in parliament a bill seeking to establish NAC in 2009. But the bill could not be passed due to failure of the government and opposition parties to reach a consensus on its draft. Though the two parties had agreed on a majority of the clauses of the proposed bill, they had failed to resolve differences on petty issues.

Similarly, when the PML-N came into power in 2013, it also initiated the move to replace NAB with NAC, but again both the parties failed to fulfil their commitment under the CoD. During the previous government’s term, a number of private members bills seeking to change the NAB law were also introduced and a special committee was constituted to discuss those bills after clubbing them together, but the committee had failed to present its report to the National Assembly.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which was in the opposition in the previous parliament, had initially supported the initiative of the PML-N government, but later opposed the idea of creating a new accountability commission and called for empowering and improving the existing law.

Soon after assuming office, Prime Minister Imran Khan had declared his intention to empower NAB and even appointed a special assistant on accountability and later constituted a task force.

Amendments to civil law

The law minister also announced that in order to provide speedy justice, necessary amendments would be introduced in the civil law.

Giving details, he said that in first track main cases would be heard, in second track other matters pertaining to stay orders, receivership would be addressed and in the final stage evidence would be recorded.

Barrister Naseem said that a panel of well-reputed lawyers would be constituted which would collect evidence that could save time of courts.

He said the whole procedure — from filing of a civil case to giving defence — should be done within 75 days. The issue could be framed within 30 days and 15 to 20 days would be given for witnesses and evidence.

For saving the time of courts, he said, the commission would record mandatory evidence which would be recorded within 90 days. Soon after the passing of a judgement, it would be implemented without wasting any time, he added.

Giving reference of the Sup­reme Court, the minister said that if any judgement was reserved, it should be announced within three months and after the judgement it was not necessary to issue a decree.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018

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Kulsoom Nawaz laid to rest at Jati Umra in Lahore

Begum Kulsoom Nawaz was laid to rest at Jati Umra, the Sharif family residence in Lahore, near the graves of her father-in-law Mian Sharif and brother-in-law Abbas Sharif, on Friday.

Her funeral prayers, led by Maulana Tariq Jameel, were offered at a ground at Sharif Medical City around 5:30pm, after which her body was transported to Jati Umra.

Begum Kulsoom, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in August last year, had passed away in London on September 11.

Maulana Tariq Jameel leads Begum Kulsoom’s funeral prayers.

Thousands of PML-N supporters, well-wishers and politicians gathered to pay their respects to the three-time first lady and offer funeral prayers, which were held in the grounds of Sharif Medical City, adjacent to the Sharif family’s Jati Umra residence.

Security at the ground was high, and barbed wire was used to separate the high-profile attendees from ordinary citizens. Despite these measures, television footage showed politicians being jostled by the crowd as they were led to their places.

A protective human chain was formed around Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and Maulana Tariq Jameel once they arrived so that the funeral prayers could be offered.

Nawaz Sharif talks with Maulana Tariq Jameel as he arrives to attend the funeral. —AP

Nawaz Sharif talks with Maulana Tariq Jameel as he arrives to attend the funeral. —AP

Former president Mamnoon Hussain, former law minister Rana Sanaullah, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Javed Hashmi, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Punjab Housing Minister Mehmoodur Rasheed, former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Najam Sethi, MQM leaders Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Farooq Sattar, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, and Saudi officials were among the attendees.

Congregational prayers (Rasm-i-Qul) for Begum Kulsoom will be offered on Sunday between Asr and Maghreb, a spokesperson had said earlier.

Body repatriated

Begum Kulsoom’s casket reached the provincial capital this morning on PIA flight PK-758 from London. Her body was received by members of the Sharif family, including Hamza Shahbaz, and was later transported to Jati Umra via ambulance.

Explore: ,At Sharif home, an outpouring of sympathy,

Hundreds attend Kulsoom Nawaz’s funeral in London

Funeral prayers had previously been offered for Begum Kulsoom at London’s Regent Park mosque on Thursday, where hundreds of people had showed up to pay their respects. The funeral had been arranged since Kulsoom’s sons, Hasan and Hussain, decided against travelling to Pakistan.

Other members of the Sharif family, including Asma, Nawaz and Kulsoom’s daughter, Shahbaz Sharif, and Zikriya Sharif, were in attendance at the funeral in London, alongside others such as former finance minister Ishaq Dar and former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar.

Shahbaz Sharif arrives at London's Regent Park mosque for Begum Kulsoom's funeral prayers. — DawnNewsTV

Shahbaz Sharif arrives at London’s Regent Park mosque for Begum Kulsoom’s funeral prayers. — DawnNewsTV

Sources said the family had received a death certificate issued by the private hospital where Begum Kulsoom Nawaz breathed her last on Tuesday, and the “out-of-England” letter from the coroner’s court, paving the way for the departure of her body to Lahore this evening.

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Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Safdar, who were all sentenced to jail by an accountability court weeks before the July 25 polls in the Avenfield property reference, were granted parole by the Punjab government on an application moved by Shahbaz in order to attend Begum Kulsoom’s funeral.

The Punjab Home Department later announced an extension in the short 12-hour parole for an additional five days, from Sept 12 (4pm) to September 17 (4pm). The time does not include the time it takes to travel.

Nawaz oversees funeral arrangements in Lahore

Nawaz offers prayers at Sharif Medical City where he paid a visit on Thursday to oversee arrangements for his late wife's funeral. ? DawnNewsTV

Nawaz offers prayers at Sharif Medical City where he paid a visit on Thursday to oversee arrangements for his late wife’s funeral. ? DawnNewsTV

Also on Thursday, Nawaz Sharif paid a visit to Sharif Medical City to oversee arrangements for his deceased wife’s last rites.

The former prime minister directed that all arrangements for the funeral be complete so that everyone is able to comfortably offer the funeral prayers. “There should not be any kind of issue in Sharif Medical City,” he had said.

He was accompanied on the visit by his son-in-law retired captain Muhammad Safdar, grandson Junaid Safdar, and nephew Salman Shahbaz. During the course of this visit, Nawaz met some PML-N leaders at Sharif Medical City.

Condolences offered for Begum Kulsoom

To condole her demise, PML-N and other political party workers have been visiting the Sharif family residence at Avenfield House in London and Jati Umra in Lahore since Wednesday.

Former Balochistan chief minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri and Rasikh Elahi, son of Punjab Assembly speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, were prominent among the visitors in London.

PML-N leaders, supporters and well-wishers arrive at Jati Umra to offer their condolences to the Sharifs. ? Online/File

PML-N leaders, supporters and well-wishers arrive at Jati Umra to offer their condolences to the Sharifs. ? Online/File

In Lahore, political leaders and workers including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khurram Dastagir, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, Malik Pervaiz, Saad Rafique, Ameer Muqam, Ali Pervaiz, Uzma Bokhari and Rana Mohammad Iqbal visited Jati Umra to offer their condolences.

Regarding reports that Nawaz Sharif did not see the visitors on Wednesday because he was unwell, Marriyum Aurangzeb said: “That was not the case. Mian sahib was shattered and tired but he met relatives. On Thursday, he will meet the political leaders and workers between 4pm and 6pm. Similarly, Maryam Bibi also met relatives.”

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman pays a condolence visit to Nawaz Sharif.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman pays a condolence visit to Nawaz Sharif.

Hamza Shahbaz met those arriving at Jati Umra to condole the death of the former first lady.

Former president Mamnoon Hussain also called on Nawaz on Thursday and offered his condolences to the PML-N quaid.

Former president Mamnoon Hussain also called on Nawaz and offered condolences on the demise of Begum Kulsoom.

Begum Kulsoom, a woman of substance

Begum Kulsoom served as first lady of Pakistan in her husband’s three non-consecutive terms as prime minister from 1990-1993, 1997-1999 and 2013-2017.

Born in 1950 in Lahore to a Kashmiri family, Begum Kulsoom attended Islamia College and graduated from the Forman Christian College in Lahore. She received a Master’s degree in Urdu from Punjab University in 1970.

She married Nawaz Sharif in 1971, and served as the president of the PML-N from 1999 to 2002, after her husband’s government was dismissed by former president Pervez Musharraf, and nearly all the Sharif family’s men were jailed.

Both mother and daughter were also placed under house arrest following Nawaz’s dismissal by Musharraf.

Begum Kulsoom led defiant, lonely protests against the Musharraf regime to get her husband freed from prison.

On July 9, 2000, she slipped through a police cordon that had been placed around her Model Town home the previous night to bar her from leading a protest rally against Gen Pervez Musharraf. Her ‘escape’ led to a car chase that ended when the police finally intercepted the car on Canal Road.

But the former first lady refused to leave the car. She locked it and made it known that she was going nowhere. Eventually, it was an overhead crane summoned to salvage the situation that bodily lifted the car and took it to a police compound nearby. The standoff lasted around 10 hours.

This moment when she sat suspended in midair was the high point in Begum Kulsoom’s short but eventful political career that started soon after Gen Musharraf, with the help of other generals close to him, ousted Nawaz Sharif.

That eventful day in 2000, she created an image of resistance, bringing the PML-N out of the shadow of the establishment.

“There are two chapters of resistance in the history of the PML-N. The second one is this period since Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court in July 2017. But the original one was written under the stewardship of Begum Kulsoom. Until she started challenging the military dictator, this aspect of the party was hidden from public view,” argued a political commentator who wishes to remain anonymous.

“I wonder if it would have been possible to write the second chapter of resistance if she hadn’t written the first,” said the commentator.

But once she had done her job, Begum Kulsoom slowly withdrew from public view. She was nowhere to be seen during Nawaz Sharif’s third term in office even though her assessment of political matters and people was considered flawless in the Sharif household. “She was a typical eastern woman who would do anything to protect her family,” says journalist Suhail Warraich.

She never, however, refused to play a role whenever she was called upon. Over the last 30 years, she had stood by her husband and advised him on various government affairs. Party leaders have also said that she occasionally wrote many of Nawaz’s speeches.

In a 2012 interview with Newsweek, Maryam had said her mother “dauntlessly challenged the usurper when a lot of men backed out… She’s contributed famously to my father’s life and to democracy in Pakistan.”

She is credited with convincing her husband to allow Maryam to enter politics.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - September 14, 2018 at 2:26 pm

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NAB files corruption reference against Yousuf Raza Gilani, others

The National Accountability Bureau’s Rawalpindi office on Thursday filed a corruption reference against former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani and others for “misuse of authority in illegal publicity campaign through M/S Midas Pvt Ltd and attempt to cause loss to the national exchequer.”

Midas is a Lahore-based advertising agency which handles the accounts of most major political parties.

According to a press release issued by NAB, the others named in the case include former principal information officer Muhammad Saleem, former Universal Services Fund (USF) chief executive officer (CEO) Riaz Asher Siddiqui, Midas CEO Inam Akbar, former USF company secretary Syed Hasan Shikoh, and former personal assistant to the public relations officer IT Muhammad Hanif.

The NAB handout said that Gilani in 2011, as minister of IT, ordered the running of a media campaign to highlight the achievements of the USF. Then Ministry of IT (MoIT) secretary Farooq Awan “misused his authority in award of illegal publicity campaign through M/S Midas Pvt Ltd against rules and attempted to cause loss to national exchequer.”

It went on to say that Midas CEO Inam Akbar “violated the Press Information Department instructions and prescribed procedures regarding media campaigns and undertook the entire electronic media campaign without getting any written orders (release order) neither from the MoIT nor from USF and served bill for payment.”

The media campaign was launched by Midas, which was not on the USF panel, “neither before, nor afterward”.

“However it was manipulated by accused Riaz Asher Siddiqui, CEO USF, to place it on th epanel in connivance with the accused Muhammad Saleem, PIO and PID, to legitimise the media campaign and to facilitate payment of Rs128 million.”

Additionally, the NAB statement said, there was no competition held to grant Midas the award “which is totally against the PPRA rules and policy guidelines by the Ministry of Information Broadcasting and the PID”.

NAB states that the suspects “in connivance with each other processed for an ex-post factor approval by the Board to legitimise the payment to M/S Midas Pvt Ltd and to cause loss to the national exchequer to the tune of Rs128m approximately.

However, due to timely cognisance by NAB, illegal payment was stopped to M/S Midas” and a reference was filed before an accountability court judge today.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - September 7, 2018 at 2:25 am

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PPP sticks with Aitzaz as candidate for president

ISLAMABAD: The Pak­istan Peoples Party (PPP) after a meeting here on Tuesday decided that it would not withdraw its presidential candidate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and that it would continue its efforts to persuade Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to withdraw from the race for the sake of unity and to save the opposition from “total embarrassment”.

Soon after the meeting presided over by former president Asif Ali Zardari, a PPP delegation met the JUI-F chief at the latter’s residence to convey to him the party’s decision and to make another request to him to withdraw his candidature.

Those present in the meeting included Syed Khur­sheed Shah, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Sherry Rehman, Farh­atullah Babar, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Raza Rabbani.

“It is not possible for us to withdraw Aitzaz Ahsan at this stage,” declared PPP Secretary General Farh­atullah Khan Babar in categorical terms while talking to Dawn after his party delegation had met the JUI-F chief.

Mr Babar said by nominating Maulana Fazlur Rehman as the presidential candidate, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and other parties had put the PPP in a difficult situation because his party had special relationship with him. He said the Maulana had also reciprocated the same feelings, but told the PPP delegation that he could not take the decision on his own since he had been nominated by all the other opposition parties. Despite this, he said, the JUI-F chief had agreed to consider the PPP’s request and would apprise the party in a day or two.

Talking to the reporters after his meeting with the PPP team, Maulana Fazlur Rehman also said that they still had “two nights” to find the solution as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had set August 30 as the date for issuing the final list of the candidates for the Sept 4 presidential elections.

Mr Babar said the party had requested the Maulana in a polite manner to “reconsider” his decision to bring the opposition parties out of the present difficult situation and to see the whole scenario on merit of their arguments and the candidate.

“We will wait for his response now,” he said.

Sources in the PPP said the issue of removing Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani through a no-trust move had also come under discussion during the internal party meetings and the combined meetings of the opposition parties. The sources said that the proposal to remove the Senate chairman, who had been elected in March when the PPP had joined hands with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) during the elections of Senate chairman and deputy chairman. However, the issue was put on the backburner for the time being because of the elections of the speaker, deputy speaker and the prime minister and now the upcoming presidential election.

Mr Babar also confirmed that the issue did come up under discussions, but no final decision was made.

“The opposition parties are conscious of the possibilities in the Senate. No concrete decision has been taken by any party or by the opposition,” Mr Babar said when asked, if the issue of the Senate chairman’s removal was under their consideration.

Similarly, when contacted, Opposition Leader in the Senate and PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq also confirmed that they had discussed the option of removing the Senate chairman, but they would do it only after discussing as to who would assume the office after Mr Sanjrani’s removal.

Responding to a question, Mr Haq said that the PML-N was not in direct contact with the PPP on the issue of the presidential candidate and Maulana Fazl had been negotiating with the PPP on behalf of the whole opposition.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2018

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Opposition ready to back PPP nominee other than Aitzaz

MURREE: Almost all the parties in the recently-formed grand opposition alliance rejected Pakistan Peoples Party’s ,nominee Aitzaz Ahsan, as their joint candidate for the office of president but agreed to support another person from the party, sources said.

During the multi-party conference hosted by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif at the family’s majestic residence in the picturesque Murree on Saturday, all the opposition parties protested over the unilateral nomination of Mr Ahsan by the PPP and refused to support him in the next month presidential election from the platform of the joint opposition, the sources told Dawn.

They said the PPP team, headed by former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, made all-out efforts to woo other opposition parties to agree on Mr Ahsan’s nomination but their efforts bore no fruit.

After four-hour-long talks, the opposition leaders came out only to tell the media that they had agreed to field a joint candidate from the platform of Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections for the Sept 4 presidential election, but the candidate’s name would be announced by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Sunday (today).

Shahbaz to announce name of joint candidate today for presidential election

Sources in the PML-N told Dawn that all the parties, except the PPP, had authorised Shahbaz Sharif to negotiate with the PPP and nominate any person as the presidential candidate. The sources said the PML-N had also suggested a few names, including that of former minister Abdul Qadir Baloch, from the party.

“The matter is between Shahbaz Sharif and the PPP now,” said a senior PML-N leader who attended the multi-party conference. He said the PML-N and other opposition parties were ready to support the PPP nominee other than Aitzaz Ahsan, but it did not mean that the candidate would be from the PPP only.

The PML-N leader said since leaders of all the parties also had separate meetings with Mr Sharif during the multi-party conference, therefore, it was not clear if they had discussed the name of any other candidate. He said even Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in a lighter vein had offered his own candidature for the post.

“All the parties have agreed to bring a joint presidential candidate. Many viable suggestions have been made. The PPP [delegation] has sought some more time for a discussion with its leadership,” said PML-N’s acting secretary general Ahsan Iqbal while terming the development a “breakthrough”.

“All these parties are required to be on one platform for the sake of the country.

“Wait and see, and avoid speculations,” Mr Iqbal, who was accompanied by members of other opposition parties, advised the reporters when they insisted he disclose the names which had come under discussion.

In reply to another question, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira came forward and said Mr Ahsan was still the party’s nominee for the president’s office.

The sources said that participants in the multi-party conference had asked the PPP to suggest three names, including that of Mr Ahsan, as a face-saving move, giving them the choice to choose one name.

According to the sources, the PPP leaders also sought a clarification over a recent statement of PML-N Senator Pervez Rashid. Mr Rashid had asked Mr Ahsan to apologise to the PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif over his ‘controversial’ statement. The PML-N leaders, however, told the PPP delegation that it was Mr Rashid’s ‘personal’ statement and the party had nothing to do with it.

Referring to the Election Commission of Pakistan move to go for electronic polling process in the upcoming by-elections, Mr Iqbal said the opposition parties supported the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis but the ECP was trying to implement the system “in haste”. The ECP’s online system had already failed during the general elections, he said. He explained that information technology experts had already warned that the system could be hacked.

The PML-N leader also expressed concern over the “threats” being received by leaders of opposition parties.

“It is the duty of the government to provide security to opposition leaders, and the incumbent government should take notice of the threatening calls being made to certain leaders of opposition parties,” he added.

Mr Iqbal criticised the PTI-led coalition government for putting the names of ousted premier and his daughter Maryam Nawaz on the Exit Control List. The decision was taken by the federal cabinet in its first meeting, he said while terming the move “vindictive”.

Earlier during the day, former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, former information minister Marriyam Aurangzeb and former minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry received leaders of the opposition parties on behalf of the PML-N before the start of the multi-party conference.

While waiting for them, the PML-N leaders earlier during an informal talk with reporters expressed their off-the-record views about the country’s political situation, the future of the PTI-led coalition governments at the Centre and in Punjab and about their possible strategies in the parliament.

The reporters were served food and refreshments at the adjacent lawn of the room while the opposition leaders discussed their strategy for the presidential election.

On several occasions, the PPP and the PML-N leaders were seen separately coming to the terrace to hold consultations, prompting the reporters to draw their own inferences.

PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif and former minister Khawaja Asif were seen on the terrace discussing some important matters for nearly 20 minutes and then former premiers Yusuf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervez Ashraf were seen holding consultations with Senator Sherry Rehman and former minister Syed Naveed Qamar.

Others who attended the meeting included Syed Khursheed Shah and Qamar Zaman Kaira (PPP); Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and Akram Durrani (JUI-F); Liaquat Baloch of the Jamaat-i-Islami; Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party; Ghulam Ahmed Bilour and Mian Iftikhar Hussain of the Awami National Party and Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party.

According to the ECP, the presidential election will be held on Sept 4 — five days before the expiry of the five-year term of the incumbent, President Mamnoon Hussain. The last date for submission of the nominations papers is Aug 27 (tomorrow).

The PTI has nominated MNA from Karachi Dr Arif Alvi as the candidate of the ruling alliance.

The decision to hold the multi-party conference had been made by the PML-N leaders after a PPP delegation comprising former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani and Syed Khursheed Shah visited the former’s secretariat in Lahore on Aug 21 to seek support for Mr Ahsan.

The grand alliance, which was formed by 11 opposition parties soon after the July 25 elections, suffered a blow within weeks after its formation. The controversy erupted following the PPP’s refusal to vote for PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif as a joint opposition candidate for the PM office despite agreeing on a formula during the previous multi-party conference that had authorised the PML-N to nominate its candidate for PM’s election.

The PML-N leaders, who claimed that they had come to know about Mr Ahsan’s nomination through the media, stated in categorical terms that Mr Ahsan could not be considered a joint opposition candidate for presidential election because the PPP had not consulted any of the opposition parties before making the decision.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2018

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Opposition parties to announce joint candidate for presidential election tomorrow

Representatives of the divided opposition met on Saturday at incarcerated former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s opulent Murree residence to hammer out an agreement over a joint candidate for the September 4 presidential election.

PML-N’s acting Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal, addressing the media after the huddle, said the opposition would announce its joint candidate for the head of state’s office tomorrow (Sunday).

“It is important for Pakistan that the opposition come together and nominate a joint candidate for the office,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the opposition parties, Iqbal, while supporting the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis, nonetheless criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan for trying to implement the electronic polling process ‘in haste’ before the upcoming by-polls.

“The election commission’s online system already failed during the general elections. We therefore disagree with the hasty implementation of the [electronic] system of voting for overseas Pakistanis,” Iqbal said.

Touching upon alleged “threats” received by opposition leaders, Iqbal said: “ It is the duty of the government to provide security to opposition leaders, and the incumbent government should take notice of the threatening calls made to certain leaders of opposition parties.”

Opposition huddle

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and leaders Ayaz Sadiq, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Dr Tariq Fazl Chaudhry had arrived at the house earlier this morning for the meeting.

The PPP, represented by former opposition leader Khurshid Shah and leaders Sherry Rehman, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Qamar Zaman Kaira, arrived later in the afternoon.

The Awami National Party’s Ghulam Ahmed Bilour and Miyan Iftikhar and the National Party’s Hasil Bizenjo were also in attendance.

The decision to call the meeting had been made by PML-N leaders after a PPP delegation visited the former’s secretariat in Lahore a day before Eidul Azha (Tuesday) to seek support for Aitzaz Ahsan, who has been nominated by the PPP to contest the presidential election to be held on Sept 4.

The PPP team, comprising former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani and Khursheed Shah, had met the PML-N leadership after the latter expressed reservations over the nomination of Ahsan, who had, in a TV interview, uttered uncharitable words about Nawaz and his wife Kulsoom’s ailment.

After their meeting, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal had quoted PPP General Secretary Farhatullah Babar as saying that Ahsan’s name for the president’s slot was “not final”.

However, Iqbal had feared that if the opposition remained divided on launching a joint candidate, it would give a free hand to the ruling PTI to install its nominee, Dr Arif Alvi, as president.

Differences remain

Sources in the PML-N had told Dawn that Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif had discussed the presidential election with his elder brother during a meeting at Adiala jail on Thursday.

On Friday, PML-N Senator Pervez Rashid had asked Ahsan to apologise to Nawaz Sharif for criticising the latter. Talking to reporters after meeting Nawaz in Rawalpindi, Rashid had said that the PML-N could consider Ahsan’s nomination only “if he visits Adiala jail and apologises to Nawaz Sharif”.

When contacted, PPP secretary general Babar had refused to comment on Pervez Rashid’s condition for Ahsan’s support and said that they were going to the MPC to hear the arguments of other parties.

He also confirmed that the PPP had not yet officially nominated Ahsan as a candidate for the coming presidential elections.

A marriage of (in)convenience

The grand opposition alliance formed by 11 parties soon after the July 25 elections had fallen apart within weeks following the PPP’s refusal to vote for Shahbaz Sharif in the election for the prime minister’s office despite it earlier agreeing on a formula that had authorised the PML-N to nominate any candidate for the PM’s office.

The rifts had only grown with the nomination of PPP’s legal wizard, Aitzaz Ahsan, as a candidate for the post of president.

PML-N leaders who came to know about Ahsan’s nomination through the media had reacted strongly and stated in categorical terms that Ahsan could not be considered a joint opposition candidate because the PPP had not consulted any of the opposition parties before making the decision.

“How can you expect us to vote for the nominee of Asif Ali Zardari after refusal of the PPP to vote for our president [Shahbaz Sharif] in the National Assembly and our candidate [Hamza Shahbaz] for the office of chief minister) in the Punjab Assembly,” PML-N information secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan had stated while commenting on the PPP’s move.

He had even alleged that the PPP had nominated Ahsan intentionally in order to provide a walkover to the PTI in the presidential election.

Talking to Dawn on the condition of anonymity, a senior PPP leader said that they had refused to vote for the younger Sharif only because of his controversial statements against the PPP leadership in the past and conceded that the PML-N seemed also to be taking the same position.

“In my opinion, the PML-N seems to be justified in its position of not supporting Ahsan”, he added.

The PPP leader said his party was hoping that in Saturday’s meeting the PML-N would come up with some suggestions to provide “face-saving” to the PPP “if it is really sincere in keeping the opposition alliance intact”.

“The PML-N can ask us to suggest three or four names, including the name of Aitzaz Ahsan, so that we can say publicly that we have not withdrawn the name of Ahsan,” he said. Similarly, the PPP believes that the PML-N will not stick to its condition that Ahsan should physically seek an apology from Nawaz Sharif and that there could be some way out.

Liaqat Baloch of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal said that they would participate in the Murree meeting, but would not be in a position to endorse any decision as they had already convened a meeting of the MMA in Islamabad on August 26.

“Whatever be our decision, we will announce it after our own meeting on 26th,” he added.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has already announced the schedule for the presidential election, which are to be held on Sept 4 — five days before the expiry of the five-year term of the incumbent, President Mamnoon Hussain.

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Opposition meets today to find consensus presidential candidate

ISLAMABAD: A divided opposition is meeting on Saturday (today) in an effort to evolve consensus on a joint candidate for the office of the country’s president as the deadlock between the two major parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — over unilateral nomination of Aitzaz Ahsan by the former still persists.

A multi-party conference (MPC) of 11 opposition parties is being hosted by the PML-N at the Kashmir Point residence of the party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif in Murree.

The decision to hold the MPC was made by the PML-N leaders after a PPP delegation visited the former’s secretariat in Lahore a day before Eidul Azha (Tuesday) to seek support for Mr Ahsan, who has been nominated by the PPP to contest the presidential election to be held on Sept 4.

The PPP team comprising former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani and former opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah met the PML-N leadership after it expressed reservations over the nomination of Mr Ahsan, who had, in a TV interview, uttered uncharitable words about Mr Sharif and his wife Kulsoom’s ailment.

PML-N leader says party will support PPP aspirant Aitzaz Ahsan only if he apologises to Nawaz Sharif over derogatory remarks

The PML-N is also unhappy with the PPP for its act of choosing not to vote for N-League president Shahbaz Sharif in the race for prime minister’s office, and instead voting for the rival Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)’s chairman Imran Khan, on Aug 17, despite having an agreement with the opposition parties during an MPC held Islamabad earlier this month.

After their meeting with the PPP leaders, PML-N’s acting secretary general Ahsan Iqbal had quoted PPP general secretary Farhatullah Babar as saying that Mr Ahsan’s name was not final. Mr Iqbal had feared that if the opposition remained divided on launching a joint candidate, it would give free hand to the ruling PTI to install its nominee Dr Arif Alvi as the president.

Sources in the PML-N told Dawn that Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif had already discussed the matter with his elder brother Nawaz Sharif during a meeting with him at Adiala jail on Thursday.

A statement by PML-N Senator Pervez Rashid on Friday asking Mr Ahsan to apologise to Nawaz Sharif over his controversial statement has almost made it clear that the N-League is not ready at all to support Mr Ahsan as the joint candidate of the opposition for the office of the president.

Talking to reporters after meeting Mr Sharif at the jail in Rawalpindi, Mr Rashid said that the PML-N could consider Mr Ahsan’s nomination only “if he visits Adiala jail and apologises to Nawaz Sharif”.

When contacted, PPP secretary general Babar confirmed that the party had officially received an invitation for Murree’s MPC and that a delegation led by former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani would participate in it.

Mr Babar, however, refused to comment on Pervez Rashid’s condition for Mr Ahsan’s support and said that they were going to the MPC to hear the arguments of other parties. He also confirmed that the PPP had not yet officially nominated Mr Ahsan as a candidate for the coming presidential elections.

The grand opposition alliance formed by 11 parties having representation in the parliament, soon after the July 25 elections, had fallen apart within weeks following the PPP’s refusal to vote for Shahbaz Sharif despite agreeing on a formula during the earlier MPC that authorised the PML-N to nominate any candidate for the PM office, and then nominating its legal wizard Aitzaz Ahsan as its candidate for the post of the president.

The PML-N leaders, who came to know about Mr Ahsan’s nomination through media, reacted very strongly and stated in categorical terms that Mr Ahsan could not be considered joint opposition candidate because the PPP had not consulted any of the opposition parties before making the decision.

“How can you expect us to vote for the nominee of Asif Ali Zardari after refusal of the PPP to vote for our president [Shahbaz Sharif] in the National Assembly and our candidate [Hamza Shahbaz] for the office of chief minister) in the Punjab Assembly,” PML-N information secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan had stated while commenting on the PPP’s move. He had even alleged that the PPP had nominated Mr Ahsan intentionally in order to provide a walkover to the PTI in the presidential election.

Talking to Dawn on the condition of anonymity, a senior PPP leader said that they had refused to vote for the younger Sharif only because of his controversial statements against the PPP leadership in the past and now the PML-N had also taken the same position.

“In my opinion, the PML-N seems to be justified in its position of not supporting Mr Ahsan”, he added.

The PPP leader said his party was hoping that in the Saturday’s meeting the PML-N would come up with some suggestions to provide “face-saving” to the PPP “if it is really sincere in keeping the opposition alliance intact”.

“The PML-N can ask us to suggest three or four names, including the name of Aitzaz Ahsan, so that we can say publicly that we have not withdrawn the name of Mr Ahsan,” he said. Similarly, the PPP believes that the PML-N would not stick to its condition that Mr Ahsan should physically seek an apology from Nawaz Sharif and that there could be some way out.

Liaqat Baloch of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal said that they would participate in the Murree meeting, but would not be in a position to endorse any decision as they had already convened a meeting of the MMA in Islamabad on July 26.

“Whatever be our decision, we will announce it after our own meeting on 26th,” he added.

The PTI has approved the nomination of Dr Arif Alvi as the party’s candidate for the post of president.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has already announced the schedule for the presidential election which will be held on Sept 4 — five days before the expiry of the five-year term of incumbent president Mamnoon Hussain.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2018

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16 ministers from PM Imran Khan’s cabinet sworn in

Sixteen members of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s 21-strong cabinet took oath at a ceremony held at the President House in Islamabad on Monday morning.

President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath to the nominated federal ministers. Newly sworn-in Prime Minister Khan was by his side.

The ceremony commenced with the national anthem. This was followed by recitation of verses from the Holy Quran. The cabinet members then rose to take the oath of office.

The new cabinet includes 16 federal ministers and five advisers.

PTI’s vice chairman Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi will be the country’s new foreign minister, a position where he had previously served during the last PPP government between 2008-13 under the then president Asif Zardari and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Qureshi had resigned from the cabinet after developing differences with the party leadership during a reshuffle in the cabinet.

Editorial: ,PM Khan can and should choose more boldly and imaginatively for his cabinet than he has so far,

President Mamnoon and PM Khan. — DawnNewsTV

President Mamnoon and PM Khan. — DawnNewsTV

Qureshi had also once served as provincial finance minister in the cabinet of Nawaz Sharif when he was the chief minister of the Punjab during the military rule of Gen Ziaul Haq.

With no surprise, Asad Umar has been made minister for finance and revenue whereas the portfolio of the information and broadcasting has been given to PTI’s information secretary Fawad Chaudhry, who had also previously served as spokesman for Gen Musharraf’s All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML) and remained part of the media team of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari before joining the PTI.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who defeated PML-N’s estranged leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the July 25 elections in two constituencies, has been allocated the portfolio of petroleum ministry. Nisar had also served as petroleum minister in the first two governments of Nawaz Sharif.

Dr Shireen Mazari has been given the portfolio of human rights, whereas former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervez Khattak is the country’s new defence minister.

Former PTI information secretary Shafqat Mehmood has been given the portfolio of federal education and professional training with the additional charge of national history and literary heritage division. Having Masters’ degree from Harvard University, Mehmood had served as senator in the 1990s. He also served as Punjab information minister in the PML-N government in 1999.

Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar, who had previously served as minister of state for foreign affairs during the military regime of Gen Musharraf, has been made the minister for water resources.

PTI MNA from Rawalpindi Aamir Mehmood Kiyani is the minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination.

Among those who have been given representation in the federal cabinet for being leaders of the PTI’s allies are Senator Farogh Naseem of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (law and justice); Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema of the PML-Q (states and frontier regions); Zubaida Jalal of the Balochistan Awami Party (defence production); Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed (railways); Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of the MQM-P (information technology and telecommunication); Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance (inter-provincial coordination) and an independent MNA from Fata Noorul Haq Qadri (religious affairs and interfaith harmony).

Senator Naseem, who had served as the youngest advocate general of Sindh, also represented former military ruler Gen Musharraf in a court hearing the high treason case under Article 6 of the Constitution.

Zubaida Jalal, too, was an active member of the cabinet as education minister during the regime of Gen Musharraf.

AML chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has managed to get back the portfolio of railways, the position he had previously enjoyed during the rule of Gen Musharraf. Previously, he had served as a cabinet member under former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Dr Fehmida Mirza, who had enjoyed the honour of the first woman speaker of the National Assembly during the PPP government from 2008 to 2013, contested the July 25 elections from the platform of the GDA after her spouse Dr Zulfiqar Mirza had developed differences with the government.

PM Khan has retained the vast interior portfolio, for at least the time being.

Advisers

Those who have been appointed as advisers to the prime minister are former law minister in the PPP government Babar Awan (parliamentary affairs); former KP chief secretary Shehzad Arbab (establishment division); former minister in the regime of Gen Musharraf Abdul Razzak Dawood (commerce, textile, industry & production and investment); Dr Ishrat Husain (institutional reforms and austerity) who had served as State Bank governor during the military rule of Gen Musharraf and another former minister of state in the Gen Musharraf regime Amin Aslam (climate change).

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‘Pakistan first’ at the core of new foreign policy, asserts Shah Mahmood Qureshi

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in his first press conference as the foreign minister, asserted that Pakistan’s new foreign policy would “begin and end at Pakistan”.

He was speaking at the Foreign Office (FO) in Islamabad hours after being sworn in as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ,21-member cabinet, on Monday.

“Pakistan’s interest is at our very centre of foreign policy. Wherever we need to fix our foreign policy we will fix it,” Qureshi said.

“Some forces have been trying to run Pakistan into isolation and marginalisation. And why wouldn’t they do it? Your country didn’t have a foreign minister ? who is meant to be your chief diplomat. This gives your opponents open playing fields,” he said.

Responding to a question about the alleged interference of the establishment in the July 25 General Election and his political party’s freedom to exercise its own policy, Qureshi said: “There are pre-conceived notions about where the foreign policy of Pakistan was formulated. Let me be clear: the foreign policy will be made here ? at the Foreign Office of Pakistan.”

“I will engage with all the institutions for the betterment of the country,” he said, adding: “It is the policy across the world. Feedback is sought from national security institutions.”

Qureshi, emphasising the importance of fostering better relations with neighbouring countries, said: “I will try to bridge the trust deficit between Pakistan and other regional countries.”

‘Will move forward on bilateral agreement with Afghanistan’

The foreign minister began his press conference with Afghanistan, addressing the people of the neighbouring country and their leader Ashraf Ghani.

He spoke of his intention to contact his Afghan counterpart and pay a visit to Kabul. “I want to bring a solid message to the people of Afghanistan. The two countries share a future and geography, and we have to work together and begin our long journey.”

“I want to tell the people of Afghanistan we need to become each other’s support base. And we have the capability to become a good support mechanism for each other. I have heard that we have a bilateral agreement in place which has five tracks and we want to move forward with those,” he announced.

‘Need continued, uninterrupted dialogue with India’

“My second message is for the Government of India. I want to tell the Indian foreign minister that we are not just neighbours; we are atomic powers. We have a lot of common resources.”

“Us coming to the table and talking peace is our only option. We need to stop the adventurism and come together. We know the issues are tough and will not be solved overnight, but we have to engage,” Qureshi said. “We cannot turn our cheek. Yes we have outstanding issues. Kashmir is a reality; it is an issue that both our nations acknowledge.”

“We need a continued and uninterrupted dialogue. This is our only way forward,” he stressed.

“We may have a different approach and line of thinking, but I want to see a change in how we behave,” he said.

“India and Pakistan have to move forward keeping realities before them,” he asserted, adding that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written a letter to PM Imran Khan, in which he has indicated the beginning of talks between the two countries.

Pakistani missions there to serve, not rule

The foreign minister urged Pakistani missions abroad to remember that they are “not rulers”.

“You are meant to serve,” he said. “The intent with which PM Imran Khan addressed the nation, our attitudes will have to change towards our people.”

“A good nature, courtesy never make you lose anything. You gain friends. Treat our Overseas Pakistanis with respect. This is the duty of all our embassies abroad now,” he ordered.

He added that he would continue to work with the “very competent officers” posted at the FO.

“I will consult them, I will approach former officials, academia, others for guidance,” he said.

“It will be my effort and wish to have a national consensus on foreign policy; a bipartisan approach. And today, bringing forward that approach, I invite our opposition Hina Rabbani Khar, Khawaja Asif, and representation from the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal to come and join us at the table to think on foreign policy.”

“We will have to set our priorities and then move forward,” he said.

“An important event is coming up; the United Nations General Assembly, where I will be representing Pakistan and where we have to present Pakistan’s case to the world. I invite them to join us.”

“I have worked with the US in the past,” he said. “I have worked with [Richard] Holbrooke, Hillary [Clinton] and [Condoleezza] Rice. I know about their concerns and their priorities. I will speak to them in a straight forward manner, I will tell them that we too have our priorities, our nation has some aspirations. I will tell them that bilateral relations will operate on the basis of equality.”

“We know that there will be obstructions and hurdles in our way, but we are determined,” he said.

“I will announce my first steps after a meeting with our team and consult with those who have been working in the foreign policy arena,” he said.

Answering a question about austerity measures championed by PM Khan, he said he would keep in line with the government’s policies. “We are not above the government policy.”

“Appointments will be made on the basis of performance. No one should take them for granted. I don’t like reshuffling without purpose,” he explained, when questioned about appointments and reshuffles in the ministry.

When questioned about the party’s stance on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the foreign minister said that his party “supports CPEC”.

“CPEC is a long-term project, it is a game changer,” he said, adding: “Our party supported it while in opposition too. The Chinese ambassador was in touch with me and I will be meeting him soon to get an overview on progress.”

“There has been a stress on infrastructure, but we want to talk about when we enter the speech of socio-economic development for the betterment of our people.”

Qureshi, who addressed today’s press conference just an hour after being sworn into the ministry, previously served as foreign minister during the last PPP government between 2008-13 under then president Asif Zardari and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Qureshi had resigned from the cabinet after developing differences with the party leadership during a reshuffle in the cabinet.

Qureshi had also once served as provincial finance minister in the cabinet of Nawaz Sharif when he was the chief minister of the Punjab during the military rule of Gen Ziaul Haq.

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Members of 21-strong new cabinet administered oath by president

The ceremony for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet members to take oath is taking place at the President House in Islamabad.

President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath to the nominated cabinet members. Newly sworn in Prime Minister Imran Khan was by his side.

The ceremony commenced with the national anthem. This was followed by recitation of verses from the Holy Quran.

The new cabinet members include 16 federal ministers and five advisers.

PTI’s vice chairman Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi will be the country’s new foreign minister, a position where he had previously served during the last PPP government between 2008-13 under the then president Asif Zardari and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Qureshi had resigned from the cabinet after developing differences with the party leadership during a reshuffle in the cabinet.

Qureshi had also once served as provincial finance minister in the cabinet of Nawaz Sharif when he was the chief minister of the Punjab during the military rule of Gen Ziaul Haq.

With no surprise, Asad Umar has been made minister for finance and revenue whereas the portfolio of the information and broadcasting has been given to PTI’s information secretary Fawad Chaudhry, who had also previously served as spokesman for Gen Musharraf’s All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML) and remained part of the media team of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari before joining the PTI.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who defeated PML-N’s estranged leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the July 25 elections in two constituencies, has been allocated the portfolio of petroleum ministry. Nisar had also served as petroleum minister in the first two governments of Nawaz Sharif.

Dr Shireen Mazari has been given the portfolio of human rights, whereas former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervez Khattak is the country’s new defence minister.

Former PTI information secretary Shafqat Mehmood has been given the portfolio of federal education and professional training with the additional charge of national history and literary heritage division. Having Masters’ degree from Harvard University, Mehmood had served as senator in the 1990s. He also served as Punjab information minister in the PML-N government in 1999.

Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar, who had previously served as minister of state for foreign affairs during the military regime of Gen Musharraf, has been made the minister for water resources.

PTI MNA from Rawalpindi Aamir Mehmood Kiyani is the minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination.

Among those who have been given representation in the federal cabinet for being leaders of the PTI’s allies are Senator Farogh Naseem of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (law and justice); Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema of the PML-Q (states and frontier regions); Zubaida Jalal of the Balochistan Awami Party (defence production); Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed (railways); Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of the MQM-P (information technology and telecommunication); Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance (inter-provincial coordination) and an independent MNA from Fata Noorul Haq Qadri (religious affairs and interfaith harmony).

Senator Naseem, who had served as the youngest advocate general of Sindh, also represented former military ruler Gen Musharraf in a court hearing the high treason case under Article 6 of the Constitution.

Zubaida Jalal, too, was an active member of the cabinet as education minister during the regime of Gen Musharraf.

AML chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has managed to get back the portfolio of railways, the position he had previously enjoyed during the rule of Gen Musharraf. Previously, he had served as a cabinet member under former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Dr Fehmida Mirza, who had enjoyed the honour of the first woman speaker of the National Assembly during the PPP government from 2008 to 2013, contested the July 25 elections from the platform of the GDA after her spouse Dr Zulfiqar Mirza had developed differences with the government.

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PPP, PML-N finalise strategy for PM’s election

LAHORE: The top leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Saturday finalised a joint strategy to be followed during the election of the prime minister as well as the National Assembly’s speaker and deputy speaker.

The PPP delegation comprising former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and former opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah called on PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif at his residence here in Model Town.

Take a look: ,Imran to take oath as PM on August 18: PTI,

PML-N’s Khawaja Asif, former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Rana Tanvir Hussain and Khawaja Saad Rafique were also present in the meeting which lasted more than two hours.

The PPP reportedly remained non-committal about its support for the PML-N in the election of chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker in Punjab.

Punjab Assembly speaker Rana Mohammad Iqbal has emerged as the PML-N’s likely candidate for the slot of chief minister here. Hamza Shahbaz is being tipped as the possible candidate for the opposition leader in Punjab.

After the meeting, Rana Tanvir told reporters that the PML-N and PPP had worked out a joint action plan with regards to election of the prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker in the National Assembly. “The opposition is united and we will go along together both in the Centre and Punjab. We have decided to form groups that will ensure presence of MNAs-elect in the National Assembly’s first session (on Aug 13),” he said.

In reply to a question about reaching a consensus on pitching joint candidates for the slots of chief minister, speaker and deputy speakers in Punjab, Mr Hussain said: “We — the PML-N and PPP — will go together and our efforts to form government in Punjab and the numbers game is in front of everyone.”

However, a source privy to the meeting told Dawn that the two parties had finalised a joint strategy in the Centre, but could not reach a consensus in Punjab.

“The PPP, which has six MPAs-elect in Punjab, is in two minds over voting for PML-N candidates for chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker or abstain from voting at all. Shahbaz Sharif requested the PPP leaders to vote for his candidates and also do aggressive politics along with it. The PPP leaders remained non-committal,” he added.

Shahbaz Sharif is the joint candidate of the PML-N, PPP, ANP and MMA against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan for the slot of prime minister. In Punjab, neither the PTI nor PML-N has revealed its candidates for the slots of chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker.

“Shahbaz Sharif today discussed the names of Rana Iqbal and his son Hamza for the slots of chief minister and opposition leader, respectively, with other party leaders. And it is likely that both of them will be the final PML-N candidates for the top offices,” he said.

The PTI is expected to finalise its candidate for chief minister within the next 48 hours. Among others, the names of Mian Aslam Iqbal, Sibtain Khan and Hussain Dareshak are doing the rounds. Former chief minister Pervaiz Elahi has been nominated as the joint PTI-PML-Q candidate for the Punjab Assembly speaker’s slot.

Later in the day, Shahbaz Sharif presided over a meeting of PML-N’s women MPAs-elect on reserved seats and directed them to do aggressive politics from opposition benches in the Punjab Assembly. This direction has confirmed that the party has lost hope of forming the government in Punjab.

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, PML-N MPA-elect Uzma Bokhari said: “Shahbaz Sharif has directed all women MPAs-elect to come to the House with full preparation and give a tough time to the PTI in Punjab. He told them to bring forth the real face of the PTI before the people and keep an eye on every step it takes in Punjab where the PML-N carried out unprecedented development during the last 10 years,” she said.

Ms Bokhari further said the PML-N president told the women lawmakers that their vote should go to the party candidates for chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker positions.

According to a party insider, Shahbaz Sharif wanted to nominate Hamza for the slot of opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly and had sought Nawaz Sharif’s approval during his meeting with the incarcerated former premier at Adiala jail on Thursday.

“There has been a debate in the party, especially the Nawaz camp which is not in favour of Hamza being nominated for the opposition leader slot since his father has already been nominated as the joint candidate of opposition for the post of prime minister. The father in the Centre and son in Punjab will earn a lot of flak within and outside the party.
But Shahbaz Sharif does not want to leave the party reins in Punjab to someone else,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2018

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PPP baulks at backing PML-N ‘hardliner’ as Punjab CM

LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz claims that the Pakistan Peoples Party has declined to support it in the race for forming its government in Punjab if the former ruling party pitched any ‘hawk’ for the slot of chief minister.

“We were told by the former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani-led PPP committee that the party will not support our candidate if he happens to be a hawk,” a PML-N leader privy to the development told Dawn.

Requesting not to be named, he said that they were advised to field a candidate acceptable to ‘all’ and suggested naming a person like outgoing Punjab Assembly speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal instead of Hamza Shahbaz or any other hardliner for the coveted slot of provincial chief executive.

“We were tempted by hinting that Rana Iqbal may also attract some votes of Rajput clan from the rival parties.”

A PPP leader from southern Punjab admits that they had given the suggestion but only in good faith.

The PPP has six MPAs-elect in Punjab and PML-N 130. The latter says many of the 28 independents elected to the Punjab Assembly would have joined the PML-N had the PPP assured of its help in time improving the numbers in favour of the N League.

Before joining of the independents, the PTI had 122 representatives in the Punjab Assembly.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2018

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Opposition leaders sans Shahbaz Sharif lead protest against ‘rigging’ in Islamabad

Opposition parties held a protest demonstration outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in Islamabad on Wednesday against alleged rigging in the July 25 general elections. PML-N Chairman Shahbaz Sharif, however, was not in attendance.

The PML-N chairman could not fly to Islamabad from Lahore due to bad weather, said party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb.

The decision to hold the protest was made by the newly formed 11-party grand opposition alliance, named ‘Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections’, at a multi-party conference held in Islamabad on Friday.

Apart from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the opposition alliance comprises Awami National Party (ANP), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), National Party (NP) and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA).

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and president of the MMA, who arrived after the protest had been going on for a few hours, said: “The only reason why all political parties have joined hands today is because the ECP failed to conduct free and fair elections.”

Leaders of the PML-N, according to reports, refused to address the gathering when they were invited to do so.

Khursheed Shah and Farhatullah Babar arrive at the protest outside ECP. — Photo courtesy author

Khursheed Shah and Farhatullah Babar arrive at the protest outside ECP. — Photo courtesy author

PPP’s Sherry Rehman, Khursheed Shah and Farhatullah Babar, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal were among the leaders who took part in the protest.

Workers numbering in hundreds gathered in the capital. Participants chanted slogans about their respective political parties as well as the alleged rigging. Security officials were deployed in the area to maintain law and order.

The opposition leaders have also decided to register a strong protest inside and outside parliament during the first sitting of the National Assembly, which according to Caretaker Information Minister Barrister Ali Zafar on Wednesday would be called between August 12-14.

Protest to continue

Earlier, ,sources in the opposition had said, that the parties have asked all their elected members and ticket-holders to reach Islamabad to participate in the demonstration. They said that the workers had not been asked to attend Wednesday’s event and they would soon be given a call for such protests across the country.

The opposition alliance has also given a call for holding protests outside the offices of the provincial election commissions on Thursday. They also have a plan to hold a public meeting in Islamabad soon after Eidul Azha.

The opposition parties plan to organise a “national conference on rigging” in which not only political parties but members from civil society, lawyers and journalists would also be invited.

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PML-N finds it hard to win PPP support for forming Punjab govt

LAHORE: The PML-N which has taken PPP on board for fielding joint candidates for the slots of prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker in the Centre (the National Assembly) is finding it hard to cut the same arrangement with the party in Punjab.

“We are in talks with the PML-N, but we have decided in principle to sit in the opposition in the Punjab Assembly,” former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of the PPP told Dawn on Saturday.

Mr Gilani is heading a six-member PPP committee formed to contact the other parties for formation of governments in the Centre and Punjab.

He said the PPP succeeded in persuading other parties to join to the parliament as its prime objective was to strengthen democracy. “We are not keen to form the government. Despite concerns over the transparency of the polls, we do not want to let democracy weaken. During talks with other parties like the PML-N we did not demand anything. In the Punjab Assembly, where the PPP has six seats, we did not prefer to go in some kind of arrangement with any party and decided to sit in the opposition,” the former premier said.

Interestingly in the Centre, the PPP, the PML-N, the MMA, the ANP and other parties have decided to field candidates jointly for the slots of prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly. According to the decision unanimously taken by these parties, the candidate for prime minister office will be from the PML-N, speaker from the PPP and deputy speaker from the MMA.

The PML-N, which is facing disappointment in wooing the independent MPAs-elect in Punjab, with no support of the PPP, has virtually bleak chances to compete with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf backed candidates for top slots of chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker. The PTI claims to have achieved the required number to form the government in Punjab.

Shahbaz Sharif, who over a week ago had called on the PPP’s senior leader and former governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood to seek his party’s support in formation of government in Punjab, seems to have quit efforts in this regard. So far not a single independent MPA-elect out of 28 announced joining the PML-N, showing its complete failure in this respect.

Even the PML-N could not woo MPA-elect Jugnu Mohsin, wife of the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Mr Najam Sethi, who was considered close to the Sharifs. In spite of Shahbaz Sharif holding a meeting with her last week to convince her to join his oarty, Ms Mohsin has preferred to stay independent.

The PML-Q on the other hand claims it is in contact with both the PPP and PML-N MPAs-elect to get vote for speaker and other slots. Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi will be a joint PTI-PML-Q candidate for the slot of speaker in Punjab Assembly after Imran Khan asked him to stay in the province to handle the PML-N-led opposition.

“We will seek vote from both the PPP and the PML-N members for our speaker and other candidates. We are getting good response from them,” PML-Q central information secretary Kamil Ali Agha told Dawn.

The PML-N also fears that Pervaiz Elahi may cause fissures in the party. Apparently in this backdrop Shahbaz had recently taken pledge from the PML-N MPAs-elect to stay united.

The PML-N still insists that it is not out of the race for Punjab. “We are in contact with many independents and the PPP members and have got good response from them. Our efforts are on to form government in Punjab,” PML-N MPA-elect and former Punjab government spokesman, Malik Muhammad Ahmad said.

The PML-N emerged as the largest party in Punjab with 129 seats, followed by the PTI’s 123, PML-Q eight, PPP six and 28 independents in the directly elected house of 297. With the addition of 66 women on reserved seats and eight of minorities, at least 185 members are required to form government in the province.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2018

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