Daily Briefs

Photo : Al Jazeera

22 July 2020, Wednesday, Vol 1, No.85

Another Journalist gets abducted in broad daylight in Islamabad

The abduction of a senior journalist in Islamabad, growing criticisms against the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Supreme Court's critical questions on the functioning of Civil Aviation Authority and NDMA

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
Another Journalist gets abducted in broad daylight in Islamabad
Returns after huge protests and video evidence in social media 

The abduction 
On 21 July Senior Journalist Matiullah Jan was released. The journalist was in the limelight with his 'contemptuous' tweet regarding Justice Isa case decision. ("Senior Journalist Matiullah Jan kidnapped, released"The News International, 21 July 2020)

Shahid Akbar Abbasi lodged an FIR against the unidentified persons under Section 365 of Pakistan Penal Code and Habeas corpus petition through Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon before Islamabad High Court. In the petition, he said, 'His brother was known as a critic of government establishment and was forcibly picked up by the unknown persons in broad daylight'.

With abduction caught in camera, concerns on the role of State
Political parties, lawyers, journalists' groups, human rights organisations, and diplomats expressed their concerns over the abduction.

The abduction was caught on CCTV camera in front of Government Girls School in Islamabad. The abduction had raised many questions over the security concerns among the legal, fraternity, political parties in diplomatic circles. However, he had returned home safe at night, after the outcry.

Court Intervenes
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, "keeping in view the gravity of the matter and its implication in the context of constitutionally guaranteed rights of the citizen" he had directed it to the interior secretary, chief commissioner and the inspector general of Islamabad to trace the 'missing' journalist by Wednesday. The Pakistan Bar Council has said, 'his abduction was a blatant attack on the right and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution'. Subsequently, on Wedensday (22 July 2020) upon the release, the Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court also raised serious questions. He was quoted to have asked: "The way a journalist was picked up in broad daylight, have all institutions been destroyed?... How did anyone, wearing a police uniform, dare to abduct a person?"

HRCP, Opposition and Media
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) demanded, immediate measure for the release.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari demanded, government to ensure his safe return. Also, another PPP leader Syed Naveed Qamar drew the attention amid "shame, shame" slogans in the house.

The series of tweets came out soon after the video viral on social media. Canada's High Commissioner to Pakistan Wendy Gilmour tweeted, "Very worrying development: the role of the media in a democracy is crucial, and must be protected. I trust that @Matiullahjan919 will be soon safely reunited with his family."

German Ambassador to Pakistan Bernhard Schlagheck tweeted, "Concerned to hear the news about the disappearance of @Matiullahjan919 today. Developments underline once again how dangerous the situation of journalists in #Pakistan is. Journalists' safety is key for media freedom." {"Journalist released after outcry over abduction", Dawn, 22 July 2020)

From the Courts to Media, all-round questioning over NAB's role 

On 21 July, senior leaders from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) called for the termination of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), stating that the NAB has become a means by which the government is targeting political opponents and has become a tool for political engineering. Further, while speaking at a press conference the PML-N party's senior vice president and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi went on to state that there was no justification for NAB to continue functioning after the verdict by the Supreme Court in the case of PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafiq and his brother Salman Rafiq. (Iftikhar A. Khan, "PML-N demands disbanding of NAB," Dawn, 22 July 2020)

On 20 July, the Supreme Court criticised the accountability laws of the country with its judgement stating that these accountability laws were being used as a tool to 'arm-twist and pressurise' political opponents into submission and 'fracturing political parties'. The latest ruling by a two-member bench of the apex court raised broad questions about the system that allows for such corrupted institutions. The court ruling pointed out that the "principle of trichotomy of power and the concept of devolution have been trampled with contempt". Further, reiterated that NAB's actions violate the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty.' Further, Justice Baqar stated, "The bureau seems reluctant in proceeding against people on one side of the political divide even in respect of financial scams of massive proportion." Further, the judiciary not only questioned the poor understanding of the NAB investigators but also questioned the decision making of the NAB chairman. (Ansar Abbasi, "Who will bell the cat?The News International, 22 July 2020)

The joint parliamentary party meeting adopted a resolution, commending the Supreme Court decision and noted that the NAB and the law under which it was formed had lost its credibility after findings of the apex court about the bureau's performance and functioning. The meeting said the NAB chairman should resign. The meeting noted that the NAB law must not be used for breaking political parties, switching loyalties and arm-twisting of political opponents.

Opinions from the Media
An opinion in the Dawn titled "A farce gone too far" by Zahid Hussain states this verdict is a devastating blow to the image of the organisation whose credibility on the line. Further, stating that since its formation the body has been a tool for political blackmailing and manipulation. The NAB which is in practice supposed to be an autonomous body has however in effect never been so. The controversial body has over the recent years derived its power from the encouragement of some other powerful institutions and this vested power such as that of the NAB chair has allowed for easy misuse. The opinion further states that the opposition parties have learnt their lessons the hard way. Adding that although it is necessary strong accountability process to tackle the issues of corruption, the NAB with its dubious practices cannot fulfil that objective. (Zahid Hussain, "A farce gone too far," Dawn, 22 July 2020)

Further, an editorial in the Dawn highlighted that the government come together with the opposition and to bring out new accountability legislation, one that would serve the ends of justice. ("SC's denunciation of NAB," Dawn, 22 July 2020)

Supreme Court says CAA has no system of security

The Supreme Court has made the following observations, the following are direct quotes from the Dawn on the same. (Nasir Iqbal, "Civil Aviation Authority is in shambles: SC," Dawn, 22 July 2020)

"The Supreme Court regretted on Tuesday that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is in a shambles, their computers that issued flying licences were not safe, their employees were compromised and there was no system of security." Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed, "therefore, the CAA director general is required to take immediate remedial action more particularly regarding the licensing scam strictly in accordance with the law and bring the culprits to book." 

"When the matter relating to the issuance of flying licences was taken up, the chief justice, while pointing towards the CAA director general, observed that the latter was not capable of handling the affairs of the authority. "You should be removed." "Your entire staff from A to Z is compromised and your computers through which licences were issued have been hacked. Fake licences are being issued — a state we should all be ashamed of," the chief justice bemoaned." "The authority, the job of which is to be extra careful and cautious in the issuance of flying licences, has put the lives of the passengers at stake." 

"CAA has gone reckless and berserk and they suspended only those who were responsible for the entire malady. The one who is suspended is still receiving monthly salary and enjoying all perks and privileges within the safe confines of his home." 

"There is no room for further indignity or shame since we are already at the bottom among all the nations and were labelled as if [we are] the most corrupt nations in the world. Is there anyone who can salvage this department?"

"The court also directed Pakistan International Air­lines (PIA) Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik as well as the heads of all private airlines to furnish reports on how to deal with the maladies their respective organisations are facing, including removal of the employees who have done serious damage to the airlines."

In Brief 
Supreme Court and NDMA
On the lack of transparency in the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and non-submission of detailed reports to the court, the chief justice questioned why contempt of court notice should be issued to its chairman and PM Imran Khan be asked to remove all staff of the authority. The court raised concerns over the details provided to identify who owned Messrs Al Hafeez, an organisation that was favoured by the NDMA to import machinery for making of N-95 masks through the chartered plane, question why cash payments were made to the companies that were not mentioned in the agreement. Further, the court stated that the NDMA is answerable to the people, especially to those who ha provided donations and funds to the authority. The NDMA is to furnish a comprehensive report, particularly regarding Ms Al-Hafeez. Further, the chief justice voiced concern over the manufacturing of fake medicines, import of unregistered medicines and hoarding of life-saving drugs and equipment stating that those involved such activities should be awarded exemplary punishment of death through drug courts. Further, the health secretary has been directed to appear before the apex court after two weeks at the next hearing. (Nasir Iqbal, "Civil Aviation Authority is in shambles: SC," Dawn, 22 July 2020)

PPP and PML-N post-Eid conference 
An editorial in the Dawn comments on the multiparty conference that is set to be held after Eidul Azha, bring out the politics in the opposition alliance. The editorial states that all talk of PPP and PML-N must start with a basic question: can they ever trust each other? Adding that PPP's Bhutto-Zardari is out to sell a messy option to a true connoisseur of drawing-room games stating that PLM-N's Mian Shahbaz Sharif may be a doubtful starter for the MPC. Further, the editorial that this MPC is too big an occasion to be marked by just mocking the government. The opposition alliance which s led by the PPP and PML-N would have to ensure that the presence of all-stars and formulate a plan appropriate for an Eid milan party. ("Post-Eid conference," Dawn, 22 July 2020)

Punjab Cabinet approved resolution in confidence for Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar
On 21 July 2020, Punjab Cabinet approved a resolution presented by Law Minister Raja Basharat, over complete confidence in the leadership of Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar. The resolution also added, 'The journey of development would be continued under his leadership and no one would be allowed to hamper this journey'. The meeting condemned any element engaged against Usman Buzdar. ("Punjab cabinet resposes trust in Buzdar", The News International, 21 July 2020)

Motorcycle blast in Turbat kills one and injured seven 
On 22 July, a motorcycle bomb blast in the main bazaar of Turbat killed one man and left seven others injured. Further, at least three shops were destroyed by the explosion. PM Imran Khan has issued a statement condemned the blast, expressed grief over the loss of life and ordered the relevant authorities to provide best medical treatment to the injured. The target of the blast is still unknown so far, however, the police have stated that the explosive device might have been detonated by remote control. The investigation is underway with no group claiming responsibility for the explosion yet. (Behram Baloch, "One killed, seven hurt in Turbat blast," Dawn, 22 July 2020)

Corps Commanders Conference held
On 21 July 2020, 233rd Corps Commanders' Conference presided by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) complimented efforts put in to maintain a high level of combat readiness particularly in the wake of the evolving regional security situations. The top military leader expressed their resolve to stop a threat to the security of the country. ("Any threat to country shall be thwarted"The Nation, 22 July 2020)

Guidelines to bring out of FATF grey-list
FATF extension, a chance for government review resolution to complete the remaining 13 points to come out of the grey list. As there is an urgent need to look in Rs 2.2 trillion circular debt. Parliamentary committees exist to give politicians a platform through which they can foster discourse and pass effective legislation. Basic guidelines such as attendance, patience, and respect to become permanent features to achieve the agenda and agreements can be reached to a solution. ("Inaction regarding FATF"The Nation, 22 July 2020)

78 per cent shrink in current account deficit

Data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) showed that the current account deficit in the FY2019-20 fell by 78 per cent. This drop has been a result of the significant decline in imports, record-high remittances and foreign direct investment during the period under review. According to SBP data, the current account deficit in FY20 fell to 1.1 per cent of GDP compared to 4.8 per cent in FY19. The current account deficit narrowed to $2.966 billion in FY20, down 78.6 per cent compared to $13.434 billion in the previous fiscal year. Further, this decline has helped the government improve its foreign exchange reserves through a sharp reduction in the import bill. Besides, the record $23 billion remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis in FY20 has also helped reduce the current account deficit. (Shahid Iqbal, "CAD shrinks 78pc in 2019-20," Dawn, 22 July 2020)

The large-scale manufacturing (LSM) output fell by 24.8 per cent in May
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) reported that the large-scale manufacturing (LSM) output has dropped by 24.8 per cent year-on-year in May. During July-May, the LSM shrank by 10.32 per cent. This fall is said to be caused by the exchange rate depreciation, contractionary monetary and fiscal policies that plunged the LSM in the FY20. Further, the contraction in textile and food, beverages and tobacco, iron and steel, coke and petroleum products reduced the overall manufacturing in the country. LSM constitutes 80 per cent of the country's total manufacturing and accounts for nearly 10.7per cent of the national output. (Mubarak Zeb Khan, "Big industry output plunges 25pc in May," Dawn, 22 July 2020)

Analysis on India's role in Asia
According to the Editorial, India has been consistently destabilising the Asian region. He further states that China was trying to hold an annual meeting with agenda of economy, Covid-19, Hong Kong and BRI issues when the PM Modi administration started border conflict. China has been following a policy of restraint in the region but since the change in the status of Ladakh, China is now more concerned about India's expansionist policies. The editor finally said, 'India continues to stoke enmity with all its neighbours to achieve its inglorious ambition to act as an American stooge in Asia which is bringing instability in the region which is not only interrupting the rise of China but of the whole of Asia. ("India's inglorious ambitions"The News International, 22 July 2020)



"Where was Islamabad Police? How could this happen in the federal capital?... The way a journalist was picked up in broad daylight, have all institutions been destroyed?... How did anyone, wearing a police uniform, dare to abduct a person?"

-  Islamabad High Court Chief IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah on the abduction of journalist Matiullah Jan (Geo TV)

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