Pakistan’s political heavyweights take their street battles to the courts — as a weary nation looks on
Pakistan’s leaders and the man who wants to unseat them are engaged in high stakes political brinkmanship that is taking a toll on the collective psyche of the nation’s people – and many are exhausted.
As their politicians argue, citizens struggle with soaring inflation against an uptick in militant attacks. In major cities, residents regularly navigate police roadblocks for protests, school closures and internet shutdowns. And in the northern province of Kyber Pakhtunkhua, three people died last Thursday in a stampede to get subsidized bags of flour.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government is attempting to unlock billions of dollars in emergency financing from the International Monetary Fund, a process delayed since last November – but some people aren’t prepared to wait.
Government statistics show a surge in the number of citizens leaving Pakistan – up almost threefold in 2022 compared to previous years.
Zainab Abidi, who works in tech, left Pakistan for Dubai last August and says her “main worry” is for her family, who she “really hopes can get out.”
Others, like Fauzia Rashif, a cleaner in Islamabad, don’t have the option to leave.
“I don’t have a passport, I’ve never left the country. These days the biggest concern is the constant expenses. I worry about my children but there really isn’t anywhere to go,” she said.
Experts say the pessimism about the Pakistan’s stability in the months ahead is not misplaced, as the country’s political heavyweights tussle for power.
Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistan ambassador to the United Nations, Britain and the United States, told CNN the “prolonged and intense nature” of the confrontation between Pakistan’s government and former Prime Minister Imran Khan is “unprecedented.”
She said the only way forward is for “all sides to step aside and call for a ceasefire through interlocutors to agree on a consensus for simultaneous provincial and national elections.”
That solution, however, is not something that can easily be achieved as both sides fight in the street – and in court.
How did we get here?
The current wave of chaos can be traced back to April 2022, when Khan, a former cricket star who founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI), was ousted from office in a vote of no confidence on grounds of mismanaging the economy.
In response, Khan rallied his supporters in street protests, accusing the current government of colluding with the military and the United States in a conspiracy to remove him from office, claims both parties rejected.
Khan survived an assassination attempt last November during one of his rallies and has since been beset with legal troubles spearheaded by Sharif’s government. As of March 21, Khan was facing six charges, while 84 have been registered against other PTI workers, according to the central police office in Lahore. However, Khan’s party claims that 127 cases have been lodged against him alone.
Earlier this month, attempts to arrest Khan from his residence in Lahore led to violent clashes with the police and Khan’s supporters camped outside. Khan told CNN the government was attempting to arrest him as a “pretext for them to get out of (holding) elections,” a claim rejected by information minister Mariyam Aurangzeb.
Days later, more clashes erupted when police arrived with bulldozers to clear the supporters from Khan’s home, and again outside Islamabad High Court as the former leader finally complied with an order to attend court.
Interior minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters that the police operation intended to “clear no-go areas” and “arrest miscreants hiding inside.” Human Rights Watch accused the police of using “abusive measures” and urged all sides to show restraint.
What is happening with elections?
General elections are due to be held this October, but Khan has been pushing for elections months earlier. However, it’s not even clear if he’ll be able to contest the vote due to the push by the government to disqualify him.
Disqualification will mean that Khan can’t hold any parliamentary position, become involved in election campaigns, or lead his party.
Khan has already been disqualified by Pakistan’s Election Commission for making “false statements” regarding the sale of gifts sent to him while in office – an offense under the country’s constitution – but it will take the courts to cement the disqualification into law. A court date is still to be set for that hearing.
Yasser Kureshi, author of the book “Seeking Supremacy: The Pursuit of Judicial Power in Pakistan,” says Khan’s “ability to mobilize support” will “help raise the costs of any attempt to disqualify him.”
However, he said if Pakistan’s powerful military – led by government-appointed former spy chief Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir, who Khan once fired – is determined to expel the former leader, it could pressure the judiciary to rule him out, no matter how much it inflames Khan’s supporters.
“If the military leadership is united against Khan and committed to disqualifying and purging him, the pressure from the military may compel enough judges to relent and disqualify Khan, should that be the consensus within the military top brass,” said Kureshi, a lecturer in South Asian Studies at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
Qaiser Imam, president of the Islamabad Bar Association, disagreed with this statement. “Political parties, to save their politics, link themselves with certain narratives or perceptions which generally are never found correct,” he told CNN.
The Pakistan Armed Forces has often been blamed for meddling in the democratic process to maintain its authority, but in a statement last November outgoing army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, said a decision had been made in February that the military would not interfere in politics.
The army has previously rejected Khan’s claims it had anything to do with purported attempts on his life.
Some say the government’s recent actions have added to perceptions that it’s trying to stack the legal cards against Khan.
This week, the government introduced a bill to limit the power of the Chief Justice, who had agreed to hear a claim by the PTI against a move to delay an important by-election in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populated province, and one considered a marker for the party most likely to win national leadership.
It had been due to be held on April 30, but Pakistan’s Election Commission pushed it to October 8, citing security concerns.
In a briefing to international media last Friday, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the security and economic situation had deteriorated in the past two months, and it was more cost effective to hold the vote at the same time as the general election.
The decision was immediately condemned by Khan as an act that “violated the constitution.”
Lodhi, the former ambassador, has criticized the delay, tweeting that a security threat had been “invoked to justify whatever is politically expedient.”
The PTI took the matter to the Supreme Court, where it’s still being heard.
Some have accused Khan of also trying to manipulate the court system in his favor.
Kureshi said the judiciary is fragmented, allowing Khan to “venue-shop” – taking charges against him from one judge to seek a more sympathetic hearing with another.
“At this time it seems that even the Supreme Court itself is split on how to deal with Imran Khan, which helps him maneuver within this fragmented institutional landscape,” Kureshi said.
What happens now?
The increasing acrimony at the highest level of politics shows no sign of ending – and in fact could prolong the uncertainty for Pakistan’s long-suffering people.
Khan is adamant the current government wants him dead without offering much tangible evidence. And in comments made to local media on Sunday, Sanaullah said the government once viewed Khan as a political opponent but now sees him as the “enemy.”
“(Khan) has in a straightforward way brought this country’s politics to a point where either only one can exist, either him or us. If we feel our existence is being negated, then we will go to whatever lengths needed and, in that situation, we will not see what is democratic or undemocratic, what is right and what is wrong,” he added.
PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said the comments were “offensive” and threatened to take legal action. “The statement … goes against all norms of civilized world,” he said.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the director the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, says Khan’s popularity gave him “the power to cripple the country,” should he push supporters to show their anger in the street.
However, Mehboob said Khan’s repeated attempts to call for an early election could create even more instability by provoking the government to impose article 232 of the constitution.
That would place the country under a state of emergency, delaying elections for a year.
And that would not be welcomed by a weary public already tired of living in uncertain times.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the former army chief.
Letters to the editor: 'Many … are so concerned about the state of affairs in my province, yet they don't even live here … – The Globe and Mail
Re “With Danielle Smith’s win, the Wildrose Party has firm control of Alberta” (May 31): The real question, and challenge, should be whether or not Ottawa will have firm control over Alberta.
Douglas Cornish Ottawa
Re “Majority rules” (Letters, May 31): Many letter-writers are so concerned about the state of affairs in my province, yet they don’t even live here.
We have businesses here. If the NDP had won, we would’ve had to pay higher taxes and utility rates and likely another record debt.
Ontarians should worry about the politics in their own province – that’s where they can have a voice for change.
Erica Forrest Red Deer, Alta.
Re “Inquiry or not, foreign interference in Canada’s elections is part of a new Cold War that we cannot hide from” (Opinion, May 27): I think contributor Brian Lee Crowley is absolutely correct that our political leaders are out of date and naive regarding their views of authoritarian leaders.
After all, China created the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution and Russia the Holodomor and Great Terror. Multiple millions of citizens died by their own leaders’ making.
I don’t think Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin would have any compunction to do to us what they would do to their own citizens. Alas, humankind hasn’t progressed very far.
Stephen Gill East Gwillimbury, Ont.
Rise and fall?
Re “Inflation is changing the way Canadians are spending” (Report on Business, May 27): No wonder so many Canadians are railing against apparent corporate greed and seemingly superfluous profit, at the expense of so many people’s basic nutritional necessities.
We see this appalling reality through the proliferating overreliance on food banks, as even the giant grocers become unaffordable to a growing populace. There’s unrelenting price inflation while corporate salaries and bonuses correspondingly inflate, yet it appears to never be enough.
There must be an imminent point at which the status quo will end up hurting big business’s monetary interests. One can imagine that a healthy, strong and large consumer base, and not just wealthy consumers, is needed, which would mean livable wages.
Or could it be that the unlimited-profit objective is somehow irresistible? It brings to mind the fox stung by the instinct-abiding scorpion while ferrying it across the river, leaving both to drown.
Frank Sterle Jr. White Rock, B.C.
Re “Equinor delays Bay du Nord project by at least three years” and “Worldwide additions to renewable energy capacity set to surge in 2023″ (Report on Business, June 1): A tipping point? We can only hope.
This news is good for those of us who see a dark future if we do not move away from fossil fuels. We may be seeing the beginnings of a path to a sustainable future for our energy-intensive civilization.
Now let’s keep the momentum. Take a closer look at investment policies for our funds and pension plans. Focus on derisking and avoiding stranded assets by investing in a green future.
Sharon Bider Toronto
Re “U.S.-style book bans could happen in Canada too, if we’re not careful” (Opinion, May 27): As a former teacher-librarian and school principal, I am appalled, but mostly saddened, by the frenzy to ban books.
The school library was the one place where students could wander freely. They were encouraged to pull books from the shelves to explore which ones to sign out. The freedom to choose from a vast variety of topics was one of the joys of being in the library.
Reading was a way to explore historical events and different cultures, identities and points of view. The exploration of new ideas was encouraged. Parents always had the right to decide which books their child should or should not read, but could not make the choice for other parents.
I worry about the future in which my grandchildren will live. How narrow-thinking will the populace become if only one point of view is allowed to prevail? This kind of narrow-mindedness frightens me.
Phyllis Levin Toronto
Freedom of thought is the last freedom. Banning books will likely make the public want to read them more.
Banning a book because an author is Black or queer is a suppression of a person’s right to free expression as a human being. I believe Florida’s directive to ban books and worried parents’ attempts to mould their children’s minds is futile.
Curious minds inevitably want to know more, and rightfully so.
Diane Sullivan Toronto
Before retirement, I was a teacher-librarian.
One day, an outraged mother marched in with a non-fiction book on the Salem witch trials and demanded to know why it was on the shelves, and why her Grade 8 son had been allowed to sign it out. I remained calm and explained to her that books on the shelves were all well-reviewed and appropriate for students.
I told her that this book was a carefully researched account of an episode of mass hysteria in history. I also encouraged her to fill out a form to request reconsideration of library materials.
She harrumphed her way out the door. I displayed the book on the recommended-reading table. The form was never returned.
It seems that we are in the midst of another frightening outbreak of mass hysteria. And, yes, it is time to “make a fuss.”
Dianne Harke Edmonton
Re “Our innate urge to own beautiful objects doesn’t make us shallow” (Opinion, May 27): Contributor Phoebe Maltz Bovy writes that she is “never sure what to do” with, for example, information about the food industry: “Factory farming is bad, but so, too, is food production of all kinds, rife with toxins and exploitation … everything is terrible, and yet we all need to eat.” But everything is not equally bad.
If I choose lentils or tofu rather than chicken or beef as a protein additive for my curry or spaghetti sauce, they may be associated with some harms. But those pale by comparison with the harms produced by the factory farming of animals.
Exploitation is typically worse in slaughterhouses than on soybean or lentil farms, and the environmental and climate change impacts of animal agriculture are far greater. Plus, if I choose lentils or tofu, what I’m eating will not have required the deliberate killing of birds or mammals.
The choices we make really do make a difference.
Mauree Okun Nanaimo, B.C.
Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Keep letters to 150 words or fewer. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnston hired crisis communications firm as he prepared report on foreign interference
David Johnston, Canada’s special rapporteur on foreign interference, has hired a firm known for its crisis communications to support him — and taxpayers are footing the bill, CBC News has learned.
Valérie Gervais, a spokesperson for Johnston, confirmed that the former governor general, appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to investigate foreign interference in Canadian politics, first retained Navigator at the start of his mandate as special rapporteur to provide “communications advice and support.”
Navigator calls itself a “high-stakes strategic advisory and communications firm” that offers a range of services. Its slogan is, “When you can’t afford to lose.”
Hockey Canada hired the firm to help it through the fallout from its handling of sexual abuse allegations and use of players’ registration fees to quietly pay out settlements. A Hockey Canada executive confirmed the organization paid Navigator more than $1.6 million to guide it through its public relations nightmare.
Before resigning his position, Ottawa’s police chief Peter Sloly hired Navigator to help with communications during the convoy protest in Ottawa that shut down the downtown core of the capital for more than three weeks.
Navigator’s work for Johnston has included drafting press releases, preparing him for interviews, analyzing news media reports and social media and providing logistical support for the release of his first report on foreign interference, Gervais said in a written statement sent to CBC News.
“Navigator has had no involvement in [Johnston’s] investigation or the development of his conclusions, and has not been privy to any classified materials,” she wrote.
Johnston is set to appear for three hours before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday to discuss his report on foreign interference by China’s government.
The House of Commons passed an NDP motion earlier this week, with Conservative and Bloc Québécois support, calling on Johnston to step down from his high-profile role.
CBC News asked for an estimate of how much taxpayers are paying for Navigator’s services to Johnston. His office said Johnston’s “work is ongoing and as such final costs are not available at this time.”
“In accordance with the Terms of Reference and Treasury Board policies, the Independent Special Rapporteur is authorized to incur necessary expenses to conduct an independent review,” Gervais wrote.
“These services were retained in accordance with Treasury Board policies, and are subject to any necessary disclosures.”
Along with Navigator, Johnston also hired the Ottawa-based communications company RKESTRA to provide “media relations support” related to the release of his first report.
RKESTRA’s website currently lists Gervais as the founder and CEO of the company.
Her LinkedIn profile says she has a “decade and a half of experience advising high-profile employers.” She worked as a spokesperson at Rideau Hall in 2019 when Julie Payette was governor general — before Payette resigned in 2021 in the wake of a report that found she presided over a toxic workplace.
Gervais was also press secretary to then-justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould in 2016.
Johnston also hired the international law firm Torys LLP to provide “legal, investigative and drafting support,” wrote Gervais.
In a media statement, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the “Liberals have missed the mark and consistently failed to reassure Canadians that their elections are free of interference.”
“Hiring a crisis communications firm suggests to Canadians the Liberals’ main concern is how this looks — not getting to the bottom of a very serious issue.”
Singh said that if the Liberals had launched a public inquiry, “taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for another crisis management service.”
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner tweeted that she’s “scratching her head” at this move to hire Navigator and said the firm has “exposed itself to potential weeks” of “questioning by all opposition parties.”
A spokesperson for the Conservatives, Sebastian Skamski, said hiring Navigator has “given Canadians yet another reason to demand an open and independent inquiry.” He said Johnston is wasting Canadians’ “hard earned tax dollars”.
Filing an Order Paper Question immediately to see if taxpayers are paying for this. <a href=”https://t.co/VVGiSllX2Q”>https://t.co/VVGiSllX2Q</a>
CBC News asked Navigator for comment. The firm said “it is Navigator’s policy not to comment on our client engagements.”
Opposition critics have claimed Johnston’s appointment is tainted due to his connections to the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation and the prime minister’s family. Johnston has said the family connection is overstated, while the Conservatives have called him a “ski buddy” and “personal friend” of Trudeau.
Trudeau said Friday he’s committed to keeping Johnston in his role and looks forward to public hearings Johnston is expected to hold in the coming months before releasing his final report this fall.
South America: A hard road to unity – Al Jazeera English
Unlike other parts of the world, Latin America is free of war. Yet it is a region plagued by inequality, crime, corruption, drug trafficking and social upheaval. Political stability and strong democratic institutions are more the exception than the rule.
South America, in particular, never seems to stop moving from one extreme to the other, shifting from the political left to the right and back again, without addressing the social and economic demands responsible for moving the pendulum.
Such instability has made it difficult for the continent to form an influential bloc, despite estimates that it collectively represents the fifth-largest global economy.
Earlier this week, all 12 South American countries, represented by 11 presidents and Peru’s prime minister, gathered in Brasilia to give another crack at the elusive goal of continental integration. Spearheading the effort was Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
“What he is trying to achieve is the unity of South America,” Lula’s chief adviser, former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, told me.
“I think it’s always been important, but it’s now even more important in a world which is progressively divided in blocs. I think, in a world like that, even a country like Brazil — which is very populous and has a huge economy — is not big enough alone.”
But while Lula is still considered the region’s most influential leader, many at Tuesday’s summit were not willing to follow his advice.
Lula had hoped to revive UNASUR, the South American bloc that he had helped create 15 years earlier during his first two terms as president. But ideological disputes eventually convinced more than half of its member countries to abandon the organisation.
“It’s better not to start from zero,” Lula said at this week’s summit, as he pitched reconvening UNASUR.
But he was unable to convince all of his peers who, in the end, chose to assemble a group with members from each country to work on a plan for regional integration over the next 120 days.
Lula had appealed to South American leaders to put aside their ideological differences and concentrate on common interests, including economic growth, energy production and environmental protection.
But his decision to welcome Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro the day before the summit led to open criticism. In his remarks, Lula had dismissed the image of an “anti-democratic” Venezuela as a “narrative” promoted by Western countries and the media.
But Chilean President Gabriel Boric said that, as a left-wing president, he disagreed.
“It’s not a narrative construction. It is a reality. It is serious,” Boric said. He added that respect for human rights was “basic and important” for Chile, no matter the ideology of those who violate them.
Milestone for Maduro
For President Maduro, the meeting was an important milestone. For years, he had been isolated from his South American peers — Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina, for example — after many chose not to recognise his re-election in 2018, opting instead to support an opposition government.
During hours of closed-door meetings at this week’s summit, Maduro faced direct criticism of his human rights record from at least two presidents, but he did not take up the glove.
“We have no problem sitting down to talk with any political force or president in a respectful, tolerant dialogue of unity in diversity. That is what we had here,” Maduro said when the meeting ended.
Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernandez and Chile’s Boric — all left-wing figures — were among the majority who agreed that at no time in history has South America shown such economic potential.
It is home to the largest reserves of copper and the highly sought-after lithium used in rechargeable batteries. The region also has the potential to become the largest producer of green hydrogen and other sources of sustainable energy. And it has huge reserves of freshwater, rainforests and an increasingly — though not sufficiently — educated population.
But South America’s economic and political disparities have frustrated decades of attempts to create regional unions. UNASUR has not been the only bloc to flounder. MERCOSUR — a union between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay — has also struggled amid internal disputes.
What is needed is more pragmatism, according to some experts. And the current immigration crisis in South America could help spur it.
More than seven million Venezuelans have left their homeland since 2015, according to the United Nations. If countries like Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia want to repatriate undocumented Venezuelans and institute an orderly system of legal migration, some observers believe they will need Maduro’s cooperation.
Boric referred to cooperation with Venezuela to resolve the crisis at the Chile-Peruvian border.
“Together, with the governments of Peru and Venezuela, through a dialogue with Venezuela’s foreign minister, we were able to resolve this crisis and allow a Venezuelan aeroplane to return citizens of that country to their homeland,” said Boric.
Following the EU model?
Amorim, Lula’s adviser, pointed to the European Union as a model for how South American nations can proceed to build a new bloc, even with a diversity of political opinions.
“You have several political positions In Europe. You have governments of the centre-right. You have governments which one might say are even more right than centre-right. And you have the centre-left governments,” Amorim said. “And still, on some subjects at least, they are able to speak — if not with one single voice — at least in a coherent way.”
Lula’s dream of a united South America, however, is still a long way from success. But politicians like Amorim see hope in Europe’s example. The 12 countries of South America, after all, are much more culturally and linguistically similar than the members of the European Union.
“Of course, there will be different views,” Amorim said of a possible South American bloc. “But we have common interests in many respects. We have to work for our interests in a unified way. Because like that, we have more strength.”
There is a lot to be gained and no time to lose, Lula explained at the summit, as he referenced South America’s long history of being under the shadow of powerful economic and political powers, stretching back to the earliest days of colonialism.
“We cannot wait another 500 years in the margins,” he warned.
Why 20-year-olds should live with their parents, and a real estate recovery: This week's top real estate stories – The Globe and Mail
Letters to the editor: 'Many … are so concerned about the state of affairs in my province, yet they don't even live here … – The Globe and Mail
Charge laid after multi-vehicle collision caused by geese crossing E.C. Row expressway – CBC.ca
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet’s surface
Tech23 hours ago
Apple's AR/VR Headset Expected to Enter Mass Production in October Ahead of Late 2023 Launch – MacRumors
News23 hours ago
Man charged after allegedly threatening to shoot Toronto mayoral candidates, police say – CBC.ca
News22 hours ago
Housing affordability in Canada just saw the biggest improvement in almost 4 years – Global News
Real eState10 hours ago
‘All hell is going to break loose’: Property titan and Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran says Elon Musk is right about commercial office space
Tech22 hours ago
Meta reveals the new Quest 3 VR headset with a $499.99 price tag – Space.com
Science23 hours ago
Scientists discover mysterious cosmic threads in Milky Way – The Guardian
Economy23 hours ago
Equities may rally since the U.S. economy remains strong: Dennis Mitchell – BNN Bloomberg
Media10 hours ago
OPEC denies media access to Reuters, Bloomberg, WSJ for weekend policy meets