Besides the budgets in four provinces (Sindh, Punjab, KP and Balochistan) and two Kashmiri entities under Pakistan’s occupation (AJK and GB), during this week, the focus of attention in Pakistan was on the exit of BNP-M from the ruling PTI coalition, and two court verdicts – the first one by the Supreme Court on Justice Isa’s reference by the government, and the second by an ATC court on the murder of MQM leader Imran Farooq
D. Suba Chandran
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore
BNP-Mengal exits from the ruling coalition, as PTI fails its promises on the Baloch disappearances
Balochistan National Party (BNP) – Mengal is one of the leading political parties in Balochistan. Formed by Sardar Ataullah Mengal, now it is led by his son Sardar Akhtar Mengal. Ataullah Mengal, along with Sardar Khair Bakhsh Marri and Sardar Akbar Bugti were the leaders of the Baloch nation. The three leaders also represented three main Baloch tribes – Mengal, Marri and Bugti.
BNP-M is known for its strong political stand on Baloch rights. In 2018, when the PTI led government was formed in the Centre, the BNP joined. The party has four seats in the National Assembly, and ten seats in the Baloch provincial assembly.
Early this week, (17 June 2020, Wednesday) Sardar Akhtar Mengal announced in the Parliament, that his party would like to leave the PTI coalition. (Dawn, 18 June 2020). According to Mengal, there were two agreements between the PTI and the BNP, on which the latter agreed to be a part of the coalition. But none of the points agreed was implemented by the government so far. According to a news report by Dawn, both the parties had signed a six-point memorandum of understanding in August 2018. This would include the recovery of missing persons and the implementation of NAP, besides allotment of six per cent quota for Balochistan in federal government departments.
Recovery of disappeared persons has been an emotional issue for Balochistan. Sardar Akhtar’s case is, there has been no movement in tracing the missing Baloch, mostly youths, but also that there is a reactivation of death squads. His main question is, as he conveyed in the Parliament announcing his party’s exit is – if there could be so many committees on Kashmir, why cannot be there one on Balochistan.
The PTI has the necessary numbers in the national Parliament, despite the BNP-M walking out. Of the 342 seats, the PTI has 156 seats, and its other coalition members including the MQM-P (7), BAP (5), PML-Q (5), and GDA (3) make 177 seats. The PTI’s problem would be the problem with his coalition partners. Both the MQM-P and PML-Q has serious problems with the PTI early this year.
After the BNP-M’s exit, the PTI government has attempted to reconcile with its former Baloch partner. On 20 June, the PTI sent its Defence Minister (Pervez Khattak) and Federal Minister for Planning and Development (Asad Umar) to talk to Sardar Mengal. According to reports available, the meeting did not succeed, as Sardar Mengal announced that the decision to leave coalition was not his personal one, but of the party. (Dawn, 21 June 2020)
Meanwhile, the Nation has reported, that the BNP members would submit a note to the Assembly, to formally move them to the opposition benches within the Parliament.
Supreme Court’s short order on the Presidential Reference against Justice Isa
“The Order of the Court is that Reference No 1 of 2019 (against Justice Qazi Faez Isa) is declared to be of no legal effect whatsoever and stands quashed, and inconsequence thereof the proceedings pending in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) including the show-cause notice of 17 July, 2019 stand abated,” read the short order of the Supreme Court, announced on 19 June 2020.
After serving the Chief Justice of Balochistan, Justice Isa became a member of the Supreme Court in 2014. He became famous for his judgement in 2017 on the right-wing members' protest and subsequent blockade of the highway in Faizabad, linking Rawalpindi and Islamabad. In a hard-hitting verdict, Justice Isa had questioned the role played by the military and the intelligence agencies, in which the latter were seen placating the leaders of the Tehreek Labbaik Party (TLP). The TLP brought Islamabad and Rawalpindi to a standstill then, causing a serious setback to the Nawaz Sharif government. Subsequently, the ISI has challenged the Supreme Court order on the case. (The Express Tribune, 15 April 2019). According to the Express Tribune, “The ISI contends that the observation about the involvement of armed forces in politics is vague as there is no evidence as such in this regard. Likewise, there was no evidence to suggest that the ISI was involved with either sit-in/dharna or particular outcome of the 2018 general elections or the abridgment of free speech or intimidation of or censorship of the press.”
According to Justice Isa’s counsel, the primary reason for the case against Justice Isa was his judgement in the Faizabad case. (The Express Tribune, 14 October 2019) Ever since there has been numerous reports and analyses linking the reference against Justice Isa with his judgement.
According to available information, a case against Justice Isa was filed in April 2019 at the Prime Minister’s Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) for possessing properties abroad, and not divulging the source of the same. Based on the ARU investigation, the government has made a reference through the President, as is the case, against Judge Isa in the Supreme Judicial Council. (The News, 20 June 2020)
If the primary reason behind Justice Isa's reference is his verdict in Faizabad, then the issue is serious. First, the independence of the judiciary. Second, the PTI government bidding someone else's case.
One has to wait for the full verdict and look at the final judgement of the Supreme Court. Justice Isa is slated to become the Chief Justice of Supreme Court in 2023.
The long-awaited verdict on Imran Farooq's case: three accused sentenced for life. MQM will be a bigger loser
The Imran Farooq murder case has been one of the most discussed not only in Karachi, but also in the rest of Pakistan, and in London as well. Farooq, a leader of the MQM and a close associate of the party leader Altaf Hussain, was murdered in London in 2010. He had left Karachi in the early 1990s when there was a crackdown against the MQM; he has been living in London. Altaf Hussain was accused of ordering the murder of Imran Farooq.
On 18 June 2020, the anti-terrorism court gave its judgement: “It is proved that Altaf Hussain ordered the killing of Dr Imran Farooq.” (The Express Tribune, 18 June 2020). It also read: “The two executors were properly facilitated who went with a sole purpose to London for committing the murder and as per preplanned conspiracy, an innocent person was brutally murdered.”
According to an editorial in the News, Farooq was “reportedly trying to form his own faction with the MQM which some say was perhaps was a major reason for his murder.” (The News, 20 June 2020) Many agree with the above point. Evidence was collected by the British police; the same was submitted to the ATC, following an understanding between the two governments – UK and Pakistan. According to the judges, the evidence proves the case against the accused.
What does this verdict mean for the MQM and Altaf Hussain? The MQM and Altaf Hussain stand discredited in Karachi. The process started much earlier with a deliberate strategy by the Deep State much earlier. Both Altaf Hussain and the MQM fell into the trap; MQM today stands broken from within, lost its eminence in Karachi and its with London severed. The verdict should deepen the above further. Altaf Hussain should take the primary blame.