Major newsmakers of 2019: Court cases, arrests, clashes, extensions, visits

2019 sure has been thrilling year for the local political scene. Here’s the round up of the major newsmakers of the year:

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COAS Bajwa extension:

The three-year term of Gen Bajwa, who is reaching the age of superannuation [60 years] next year, as Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) ended on November, 29th 2019 (today) as the previous summary of extension stands suspended.

On November 28, the top court, in its short order, had allowed the federal government to grant a six-month extension to COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Musharraf treason case:

On Dec 17, the special court had sentenced Musharraf to death for imposing a state of emergency on November 3, 2007, adding that it had found him guilty of high treason in accordance with Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Soon after the short order was issued, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor made a statement, saying that the death penalty verdict was received with a “lot of pain and anguish” by Pakistan Army.

The federal government, too, had expressed its reservations, saying the requirements for a fair trial under Article 10-A were not fulfilled in the case. Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan had made it clear that the government will not oppose an appeal against the special court’s verdict.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had filed the treason case against Musharraf in November 2007.

Nawaz Sharif illness, bail and flight to London:

The former prime minister was admitted to the Services Hospital in October, where he was diagnosed with an immune system disorder and was recommended by doctors to go abroad as his condition continued to deteriorate despite treatment.

Then came a lengthy tussle between PTI and PML-N, with leaders of both sides issuing statements on Nawaz’s health, and a number of medical reports testifying to the severity of the former premier’s health.

After much deliberation and meetings, the government agreed to allow Nawaz to travel abroad, with the condition that indemnity bonds amounting to Rs7-7.5 billion be furnished.

The PML-N, however, rejected the condition and took the matter to the LHC, which — in a blow to the Centre — ordered the federal government to remove his name from the ECL without any conditions. The verdict was issued after Nawaz signed a court-approved undertaking, saying that he would return to the country within four weeks.

PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, who accompanied Nawaz, also signed the undertaking, which stated he would “ensure return” of his brother.

Nawaz was allowed to leave the country for a period of four weeks, extendable on the basis of medical reports. The court will take up the matter in January.

After a few days of mulling, the interior ministry issued a notification allowing Nawaz to travel abroad, saying the decision was an “interim agreement” in the light of the LHC order.

Nawaz finally departed for UK on November 19.

Altaf Hussain hate speech case:

On June 11, MQM founder Altaf Hussain was arrested in London by Scotland Yard. The arrest is reportedly in relation to a hate speech made by Hussain on August 22, 2016. Hours after Hussain delivered the incendiary speech, MQM workers had attacked the ARY News office in Karachi. Shortly after, the Rangers had detained a handful of senior MQM leaders overnight. He was released on bail on June 12.

On Oct 10, A UK court banned Hussain from appearing on any form of media in the UK or Pakistan, after Scotland Yard charged him with a terrorism offence.

Judge video scandal:

On August 23, the apex wrapped up a set of petitions on a video leak scandal involving judge Malik. The top court had held that the video clip of Arshad Malik would only benefit the former premier if it was properly produced before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in a pending appeal against his conviction.

The video clip along with its transcripts, which was shown by PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz in her media interaction in Lahore, had never been duly proved in accordance with the law, the order had said.

In his review petition, filed in October, Nawaz had contended that the audio or video recording was admissible under Article 164 of the Qanun-i-Shahadat Order (QSO), 1984. Additionally, the law did not impose any conditions that only evidence obtained through modern devices would be admissible which were recorded by persons whose part of routine duties was to record audio or video.

The petition highlighted that the appeal against the conviction of Nawaz under the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, was pending before the IHC. Therefore, it added, the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction under any provision of the NAO or even otherwise to pre-empt the decision with respect to any manner that fell within the jurisdiction of the high court concerned in its appellate jurisdiction.

In an affidavit submitted to the IHC, Malik denied the contents of the video — which allegedly showed him admitting to a lack of evidence against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — and termed them edited, fabricated, and aimed to defame him.

The court had issued notices to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Raja Zafarul Haq, and others.

On a petition submitted by a citizen named Ishtiaq Ahmed, the top court took up the case. Ahmed appealed to the apex court for an independent judicial inquiry of the video scandal.

On July 12, judge Arshad Malik was relieved from his post by the federal government for his alleged involvement in the controversial video scandal.

Malik, in a letter written for IHC, claimed that Hussain Nawaz offered him a bribe, adding, “Nasir Janjua came to meet me and claimed that he had the cash equivalent of Rs 100 million in Euros for me immediately available out of which the Euro equivalent of Rs 20 million was laying in his car parked outside.”

He added, “I was told that Mian Sahib is willing to pay whatever I demand on acquitting him in both references. However, I declined the bribe offered to me while committing remains sticking to merits.”

Azadi March:

Thousands of protesters converged on the federal capital under the banner of the Azadi March led by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, seeking to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The ‘Azadi’ March caravan, which set off from Sindh on Oct 27, left Punjab’s city Lahore on Oct 30 and culminated its journey in Islamabad on Oct 31.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Nov 8 said that there was no need for negotiations with the Azadi Marchers if his resignation was their only demand.

Rehman did not achieve what it set out to do: Prime Minister Imran did not resign, the PTI government was not toppled. Shehbaz and PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto making a one-off appearance but otherwise staying far from the protest movement.

Kasur children sexual abuse cases:

In 2015, Kasur’s Hussain Khanwala village had attracted worldwide attention when a child pornography ring was busted. In January 2018, six-year-old Zainab Ansari was found dead in a trash heap near Shahbaz Khan Road, five days after she went missing. It emerged that hers was the 12th such incident to have occurred within a 10-kilometre radius in Kasur over a 12-month period.

The prime suspect, Imran Ali, was arrested on Jan 23, 2018, and executed in October.

This year, once again, the Punjab district came into the limelight after police found remains of three minor boys who they suspected were murdered being sexually assaulted.

As investigations unfolded, it was revealed that four children — aged between eight and 12 years — had gone missing in Chunian since in June with the latest, eight-year-old Faizan, disappearing on the night of September 16.

PM Khan’s visit to US:

But it wasn’t just the meeting with Trump — which went exceptionally well given the optics — that had everyone talking, but the entire whirlwind three-day tour that included everything from Imran holding a jalsa and meeting senior congressional leaders on Capitol Hill to taking centre stage at a top Washington think tank and speaking to US media.

“He came, he saw, he conquered,” wrote Michael Kugelman on Imran’s “pleasant and well-received visit”.

While nothing quantifiable came of the tour, it did well to boost Pakistan’s leadership and shake things up on the Kashmir front, with President Trump revealing to Prime Minister Imran and the press that he had been asked by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act as a ‘mediator or arbitrator’ on the Jammu & Kashmir issue.

Lawyers stormed in PIC:

A group of lawyers entered the emergency ward of PIC on Dec 11 afternoon and vandalised public property, set a police vehicle on fire and attacked provincial minister Fayyaz ul Hasan Chohan.

Videos of the incident shared on Twitter showed police officials, clad in riot gear, were rendered helpless as a swarm of lawyers, outnumbering the law enforcement personnel, broke the entrance of the hospital.

The lawyers were protesting against a video that went viral on social media yesterday, in which a doctor is seen narrating an encounter with some lawyers in front of a group. According to the doctor in the video, a group of lawyers had gone to the inspector general and told him to charge “two doctors” under Section 7 of ATA. He narrated that the IG had refused while the lawyers had urged him to press charges, saying “they could save face” that way.

The protesters also damaged equipment inside, and broke windows of the hospital as well as cars parked outside. Protesters smashed doors of emergency theatres and staff had to run out to save themselves, according to reports.

Patients, some in ambulances, were unable to reach the hospital while those receiving treatment were left unattended due to the chaos.

The lawyers also attacked media personnel on the site with stones.

Royal visit:

Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, arrived on their first visit to Pakistan.

It was the first royal tour to the country since 2006 when Prince Charles and Camilla, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, travelled to Pakistan.

The visit was described by Kate as “really special”, according to CNN and saw William pay tribute to Pakistanis who had endured much sacrifice and “helped to build the country that we see today”.

As the royal couple toured Islamabad, Chitral, Lahore and Rawalpindi amid tight security, colourful and vibrant pictures of the duo visiting a girl’s school, dining with the prime minister, interacting with the Kalasha community, and playing cricket at the National Cricket Academy (among other engagements) made front page in newspapers in Pakistan as well as UK.

Besides putting Pakistani designers on the map, the couple’s visit helped travellers find Pakistan on the map. In December, Pakistan topped Condé Nast Traveller’s list of best holiday destinations for 2020 — a list not taken lightly by those planning their upcoming holidays.

“Thwarted by tales of terrorism and Taliban rule, Pakistan’s tourism industry has been stymied for the past two decades. But ancient valleys, relaxed visa restrictions and a high-profile royal visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the end of 2019 mean that at a start of a new decade this remarkable country is also entering a new era,” noted the article.

Balakot and Abhinandan

Relations between Pakistan and India turn sour in February when a Kashmiri youth blew up an Indian paramilitaries convoy in occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama district, killing more than 40 soldiers. The Indian government blamed Pakistan and vowed to “ensure [Islamabad’s] complete isolation from the international community”.

On February 26, an Indian aircraft trespassed into Pakistan’s airspace through the Muzaffarabad sector and dropped its payload in a forest near Balakot, felling a few trees, on its return after Pakistan’s armed forces responded.

The Indian army claimed to have “struck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Balakot” and killed “a large number of JeM terrorists”. The unsubstantiated claims were rejected by Pakistan and remain unproven.

The next day Pakistan Air Force undertook strikes across the LoC from Pakistani airspace, following which two Indian aircrafts violated Pakistani airspace once again. Both the planes were shot down and one pilot was arrested.

Politicians fell under the radar of NAB, ANF:

Below are the major arrests of the year and their current status:

  • Former president and PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari: arrested on June 10 in the fake bank accounts case (currently on bail on medical grounds)
  • PPP leader Faryal Talpur: arrested on June 14 in the fake bank accounts case (currently on bail granted by Islamabad High Court on December 17)
  • PPP stalwart Khursheed Shah: arrested on September 18 in a case regarding alleged assets beyond means (currently on judicial remand after Sindh High Court suspended bail orders)
  • Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani: arrested on February 20 in a case regarding alleged assets beyond means (currently on bail granted by the Sindh High Court)
  • PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif: arrested on October 11 in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case (currently in London for medical treatment — more on that below)
  • PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz: arrested on August 8 in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case (currently on bail granted by the Lahore High Court on November 4, name still on ECL)
  • Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz: arrested on June 11 in two cases — money laundering and holding assets beyond means (currently on judicial remand)
  • PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif: started 2019 under NAB custody in connection with the Ashiana Housing case (granted bail on February 14, currently in London)
  • Former prime minister and PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi: arrested on July 18 in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) case (currently on judicial remand)
  • Former finance minister and PML-N leader Miftah Ismail: arrested on August 7 in the LNG case (released on bail granted on December 23)
  • PML-N Punjab president Rana Sanaullah: arrested on July 1 in a drug case filed against him by the Anti-Narcotics Force (currently on bail granted by the LHC on December 24)
  • PML-N leader Capt Mohammad Safdar: arrested on October 21 in a case pertaining to inflammatory speeches against the government and state institutions (granted bail by a Lahore sessions court on October 30)
  • PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal: arrested on December 23 in a case regarding alleged corruption in the Narowal Sports City (currently in NAB custody on physical remand)
  • MNA Ali Wazir: arrested on May 26 during a clash between Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) workers and Army troops in North Waziristan tribal district (released from jail after being granted bail by the Peshawar High Court on September 18)
  • MNA Mohsin Dawar: arrested by law enforcement personnel from Miranshah on May 30 in connection with the Kharqamar incident (released from jail after being granted bail by the Peshawar High Court on September 18)
  • Punjab minister and senior PTI leader Aleem Khan: taken into NAB custody on February 6 for owning assets beyond known sources of income (currently on bail granted by the LHC on May 15)
  • Punjab Minister for Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries and PTI leader Sibtain Khan: arrested on June 14 in connection with a case pertaining to corruption and illegal award of contracts (granted bail on September 18)

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