As Shehbaz Sharif shortlists his Cabinet, Pakistan Army downplays 'foreign conspiracy' angle

PM Sharif became the Prime minister on April 11, following the ouster of Imran Khan through a no-confidence motion, with this Khan became the first PM to be removed through the democratic process.

Published: 15th April 2022 10:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th April 2022 10:33 AM   |  A+A-

Pakistan's opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif speaks during a press conference after the Supreme Court decision, in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 7, 2022. (Photo | AP)


ISLAMABAD: The newly-elected Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has decided to add 12 National Assembly members of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and seven members of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to his federal cabinet, a local media reported citing sources.

PPP member Raja Pervez Ashraf is the candidate for National Assembly Speaker after the Speaker Asad Qaiser decided to resign from his post on late Saturday while someone from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) might become the Deputy Speaker as Qasim Suri is currently facing no-confidence motion, Geo News reported citing sources.

PM Sharif became the Prime minister on April 11, following the ouster of Imran Khan through a no-confidence motion, with this Khan became the first PM to be removed through the democratic process.

According to sources, JUI-F will get three ministries and a state minister portfolio while, Muttahida Qaumi Movement - Pakistan (MQM-P) will get the governorship of Sindh, PPP will get Punjab and JUI-F will get Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and BNP-M will get the governorship of Balochistan, Geo News reported.

Meanwhile, PM Sharif has sought the support of MQM-P in the National Assembly (NA) speaker election.

According to Ary News, a meeting was held by Sharif with MQM-P leaders during his visit to Karachi. It was attended by Amir Khan, Aminul Haque, Farogh Naseem, Nasreen Jalil and others.

MQM-P was a key ally of the alliance led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and its switching sides to the opposition parties led to the fall of the Imran Khan government.

Sharif vowed that the promises made to the MQM-P leaders will be fulfilled. He urged coordinated efforts between the Centre and the province for the development of Sindh. Sharif also assured MQM-P of its inclusion in the consultative process for the development of Sindh.

Sharif thanked the MQM-P for supporting the opposition parties in the no-trust motion against the former premier. He individually thanked the lawmakers who cast their votes in the NA, said the sources.

He also expressed hope that MQM-P would continue to support the government in the upcoming elections for the NA speaker, reported Ary News.

Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, leader of MQM-P and a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan said he hopes for a resolution of issues in Karachi and urban parts of the Sindh.

Pakistan High Court on Thursday ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to decide on the foreign funding case against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) within a month.

The Islamabad High Court Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani directed the ECP to decide the pending complaint within a "period of next 30 days by all means, after hearing the parties in accordance with the law," Dawn newspaper reported.

Justice Kayani said that if PTI received the funding from any prohibited sources then it would affect its status, including the chairman so it becomes important to dig out the truth.

"If any foreign funding has been received contrary to law and mandate of the Constitution, the petitioner has to face the music," the court judgement said.

It pointed out that the Supreme Court had not restricted the ECP in adopting any method to find out the truth regarding the foreign funding case, according to Dawn.

The foreign funding case is pending since November 14, 2014, and it was filed by PTI founding member Akbar S Babar who had alleged that there are some financial irregularities in the PTI's funding from Pakistan and abroad.

On January 4 this year, the ECP's scrutiny committee submitted its report on the PTI's foreign funding case after 95 hearings. The ECP's committee was formed in March 2018.

The report was based on eight volumes of records collected through the State Bank of Pakistan, proved that the PTI leaders had committed the violations of funding laws by allowing the collection of millions of dollars and billions of Pakistani Rupees without any source and details from foreigners, as per reported by Dawn.

Other than this, Justice Kayani also rejected the request to prevent giving access to case records to PTI's Babar and a request to remove him from the case proceedings.

This comes after PTI filed the petition in Islamabad High Court, challenging the ECP's decision of rejecting the above-mentioned plea of the party which was filed on January 25 and 31.

"The claim submitted by the petitioner (PTI) is not maintainable as petitioner itself is not able to demonstrate any of his legitimate rights when [it] itself is in agreement that respondent No 2 (Babar) can participate in the proceedings to the extent of information which he has provided to the scrutiny committee or the ECP, therefore, this petition is not based upon bona fide, rather filed with specific motive, just to stop respondent No 2 Akbar Sher Babar to participate in the proceedings, which has already been settled by this court in the previous proceedings," the court order was quoted as saying by Dawn.

"No restriction could be imposed upon ECP to adopt any process of inquiry, investigation, scrutiny to reach out the mandate of assigned duty in terms of Article 17(3)," the order added.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Army said on Thursday that the word "conspiracy" was not used in a statement issued after a high-level meeting of the National Security Committee convened last month to discuss a controversial letter, which according to then prime minister Imran Khan threatened to topple his government.

Khan, 69, became the first prime minister in Pakistan who was removed through a no-trust vote on April 9 - a move he alleged was the outcome of a 'foreign conspiracy' orchestrated by the US.

In order to prove this, Khan quoted an internal communication by the Pakistan ambassador in the US who in a cable sent to the Foreign Office mentioned his meeting with a US official who allegedly said that Khan was a hurdle in ties with Pakistan.

Khan used a high-level National Security Committee (NSC), attended by the high command of armed forces, to peddle the theory that the letter was authentic and its content approved by the army chief and others.

Military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar in a press conference said on Thursday that the word "conspiracy" was not used in the statement issued after the NSC meeting.

"As far as military response about the NSC meeting is considered, that stance in that meeting was fully given, and then a statement was issued, which clearly says what was concluded in that meeting," he said.

"The words used are in front of you, as I said the words used are clear. Is there any word such as conspiracy used in it? I think not," he said.

The spokesman added that the cipher from the Pakistan ambassador to the US was also received by the spy agency ISI and it briefed the NSC based on that cable.

He said that the minutes of the NSC meeting can be declassified if the government decides.

Talking about the demarche issued to the US, Maj Gen Iftikhar said that such protests were launched not just on conspiracies but for many reasons.

"In this case it was given for undiplomatic language and is equal to interference," he said.

The clarification came as Khan has been trying to build a narrative that he was a victim of international conspiracy and his party has demanded a probe by the Supreme Court.

The remarks by the army spokesman may be a setback for Khan and company as he is going around the country to address rallies to force the government to hold fresh elections.

Already, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has announced that a committee of the parliament would be briefed by the army and other officials about the letter, and also committed to resign if proved that the US conspired to remove Khan.

(With PTI Inputs)


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