Tag Archives: Pakistan

Usman Mirza, four others sentenced to life in Islamabad couple harassment case

A sessions court in Islamabad on Friday sentenced Usman Mirza to life imprisonment for holding a couple at gunpoint, forcing them to strip, beating them up, and filming the entire ordeal.

Four of Mirza’s accomplices and co-accused — Hafiz Ataur Rehman, Adaras Qayyum Butt, Mohib Bangash and Farhan Shaheen — have been sent to jail for life as well, while two other men, Umar Bilal and Rehan Hassan Mughal, have been acquitted.

Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani announced the verdict.

According to the court’s order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Usman and his accomplices have been sentenced to life imprisonment under Section 354-A (assault or use of criminal force to a woman and stripping her of her clothes) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The court has ordered them to pay a fine of Rs200,000 each. In case of non-payment, they would have to undergo six months of simple imprisonment.

The convicts have also been sentenced to seven years in prison for criminal intimidation (Section 506) and three years for intending to insult the modesty of a woman (Section 509(i)).

The sentences would run concurrently with the benefit of Section 382(B) (period of detention to be considered while awarding sentence of imprisonment) of the Criminal Procedure Code granted to the convicts.

The case surfaced when a video of four people harassing the couple at gunpoint went viral on social media in July 2021.

Initially, an FIR was registered under section 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 354A (assault or use of criminal force against woman and stripping her of her clothes), 506 (ii) (punishment for criminal intimidation) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of Pakistan Penal Code.

Later, sections pertaining to rape, sexual abuse, extortion, and wrongful confinement were also added to the FIR.

State takes up the case

The E-11 torture case, which lasted seven months, made headlines once again in January 2022 when the woman complainant retracted her statement against the accused and told a trial court that she did not want to pursue the case.

She said she never filed the complaint with the police, adding the investigation officer had taken her thumb impressions on blank papers. She also refused to identify the accused and said she saw them for the first time in the police station.

Immediately afterward, Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari said that the state would take up the case as it had “irrefutable video and forensic evidence on record”.

“The video of Usman Mirza (primary accused) has been verified by the Pakistan Science Foundation, and we have photogrammetry (pertaining to the technique for making measurements through photographs) evidence,” she had said in a statement.


NA session adjourned without tabling of no-trust motion against PM

The much-anticipated session of the National Assembly with a crucial no-confidence motion — filed by the opposition against Prime Minister Imran Khan — on the agenda was adjourned till March 28 (Monday) without tabling of the resolution.

The ruling PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Shireen Mazari, Asad Umar and Ali Muhammad Khan were among those attending the session, as well as Grand Democratic Alliance’s Dr Fehmida Mirza.

From the opposition ranks, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bilalwal Bhutto-Zardari and PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari, were also present.

The session began with the recitation of the Holy Quran and prayers for late MNA Khayal Zaman, former president Rafiq Tarar and Senator Rehman Malik. However, NA speaker Asad Qaiser announced that it would be adjourned in light of parliamentary convention.

It is parliamentary convention that the first sitting after the death of an MNA is limited to prayers for the soul of the departed and tributes fellow lawmakers wish to pay them.

Qaiser stated that according to tradition, the agenda is deferred to the next day when a member of the lower house passes. “This has happened for years,” he said, adding that this had happened a total of 24 times in the past.

He once again asserted that he would conduct proceedings “as per rules and procedures” after which he adjourned the session till 4pm on March 28.

The National Assembly Secretariat had on Thursday issued a 15-point ‘Orders of the Day’ for the NA session, which included the no-confidence resolution.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who had earlier told Media that there was no plan to adjourn the session, took to Twitter to state that “nothing would happen” during today’s sitting.

The opposition had submitted the motion and requisition for the session to the NA Secretariat on March 8. Under the Constitution, the speaker was bound to hold the session within 14 days. However, he did not summon the session until March 21 [the 14th day], which is now set to commence from today.

Voting on the resolution will be held at least three to seven days after it has been laid before the National Assembly.

‘Speaker has become Imran Khan’s stooge’

Addressing a press conference outside Parliament House shortly after the session was adjourned, Shehbaz launched a scathing attacking on Qaiser, calling him a “stooge” of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The PML-N president said that Qaiser violated the rules of procedures by conducting proceedings as “a PTI worker”.

Opposition leaders address a press conference outside Parliament House. — DawnNewsTV
Opposition leaders address a press conference outside Parliament House. — DawnNewsTV

He stated that the motion and requisition for the session was submitted on March 8 and, under the rules, the NA speaker was supposed to summon the session within 14 days. “This was a constitutional obligation and he violated the Constitution by not doing this,” he said.

Shehbaz also called for the speaker to be tried under Article 6 of the Constitution, which deals with high treason.

“After the Fateha khwani, I stood up to speak on a point of order but my microphone was not turned on,” he claimed. He accepted that parliamentary convention dictated that the session would be limited to prayers for the departed, but added that today was “an important day”.

“The Constitution and the law is above tradition and voting should have been allowed […] tradition aside, the speaker should have taken up the motion [but] he did not listen and left.”

Shehbaz declared that if the same was done during the next session, the opposition would use all “constitutional, political and legal” options to take the no-trust move forward.

Bilawal claimed that the premier was “fleeing the pitch” and reiterated that Qaiser had violated the Constitution. However, the PPP chairman asserted that opposition parties were united and would not let the premier “run away”.

“The no-trust motion is going to be our democratic weapon. We will move towards free and fair elections,” he said, adding that the prime minister had lost “his majority and government”.

‘Ruckus if resolution is not tabled today’

Opposition leaders had also gathered for a meeting prior to the session during which, according to the PPP, “important instructions” were given to lawmakers.

Zardari, who was hounded by reporters as he made his way inside the Parliament House, had appeared to be confident.

“All eyes are on you. You have previous experience. How confident are you?” asked one reporter.

“God willing, if my Maula wants, 100 per cent,” he replied. He had added that the opposition would “create a ruckus” if the NA speaker did not allow the motion to be tabled.

He had also brushed aside concerns that “undemocratic powers” could take advantage of the situation. “We have a strategy for that: If you are so interested, then you are most welcome.”

His son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, was also all smiles and told reporters that the no-confidence motion had been included in today’s agenda.

“Going forward, the people will win and the ‘selected’ will face defeat. Winning and losing are in the hands of God [but] we are working hard,” he said.

Asked what would happen in case the motion is not taken up, he said: “See how we manage it […] we are completely prepared.”

Shehbaz said that the opposition would exercise its right to table the motion during today’s session. However, if the motion is not tabled, then we will consult among ourselves, he said.

Guidelines issued for MNAs

Meanwhile, the NA speaker had on Thursday issued guidelines for MNAs in view of strict security arrangements being made for the session.

According to the speaker’s notification: “No visitor/guest/security guard of the ministers/parliamentarians will be allowed in the precincts of Parliament House and it would be advisable to restrict them up to D-Chowk, in front of Parliament Lodges.”

To avoid traffic congestion, a shuttle service will operate between Parliament Lodges, government hostels and Parliament House to facilitate members of parliament, the order said.

It said personal drivers of parliamentarians were required to park their vehicles at the designated parking area and not to leave the vehicle unattended. Security agencies deputed at the Parliament House have also been instructed to make arrangements accordingly and ensure the implementation of the speaker’s instructions.

Larger SC bench to take up presidential reference on Article 63-A today

A five-member bench of the Supreme court will take up the presidential reference seeking opinion on Article 63-A of the Constitution – which deals with the disqualification of parliamentarians over defection – at 1pm on Thursday.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial will head the bench which also includes Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.

Notices for the hearing have been issued to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s lawyer Ali Zafar, PPP’s lawyer Farooq H Naek, PML-N’s lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s lawyer Kamran Murtaza, as well as the advocate general for Sindh, Islamabad inspector general of police, interior secretary and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), among others.

Earlier, on Monday, a two-member bench of the apex court comprising CJP Bandial and Justice Akhtar took up the presidential reference and declared that a larger bench would hear the case.

SCBA’s reply

On Thursday, the SCBA submitted a written reply to the apex court ahead of today’s hearing in accordance with the court’s directives.

In its reply, the SCBA said that the votes of MNAs “cannot possibly be construed as a collective right of a political party”, citing Article 95 of the Constitution, which deals with the procedure to bring in a no-confidence motion against the prime minister.

The association also said that Article 63-A, which deals with disqualification of a lawmaker over defection, cannot “control, restrict or limit the right of MNAs to participate in a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister”.

It added that Article 63-A also does not restrict the right of MNAs to freely participate in proceedings.

“Any limitation on the MNAs’ right to participate in proceedings under Article 95 of the Constitution, in addition to the consequences envisaged by Article 63-A of the Constitution, would be against the express constitutional command. Moreover, to restrict the right of MNAs to vote in proceedings under Article 95 of the Constitution would also amount to restriction on the citizens’ right to be governed by a truly representative government,” the SCBA said.

Outlining the procedure for voting on the no-trust move, the SCBA said that the rules showed that the Constitution and the Rules of Procedure “do not envisage a scenario whereby an MNA is restrained from casting his vote or where such a vote is not counted”.

“Therefore, the question of pre-emptive action under Article 63-A cannot arise,” the association said, adding that powers under Article 63-A could not be exercised by a party head under the “mere apprehension that a member may defect”.

The SCBA also noted that there was no basis to construe disqualification under Article 63-A as permanent, highlighting that the term “disqualification” had not been used. It said that the consequences of Article 63-A for a defecting member “must remain limited to his removal from office as a member of the relevant House”.

The reference

Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan had submitted the reference seeking the SC’s opinion on Article 63-A of the Constitution on March 21.

The reference, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, presents two interpretations of Article 63-A and requests the court to advise which of them should be followed.

According to the first interpretation, “khiyanat (dishonesty) by way of defections warrants no pre-emptive action save de-seating the member as per the prescribed procedure with no further restriction or curbs from seeking election afresh.”

While the second interpretation “visualises this provision as prophylactic, enshrining the constitutional goal of purifying the democratic process, inter alia, by rooting out the mischief of defection by creating deterrence, inter alia, by neutralising the effects of vitiated vote followed by lifelong disqualification for the member found involved in such constitutionally prohibited and morally reprehensible conduct.”

The development came days after several PTI lawmakers, who had been ‘in hiding’ at the Sindh House in Islamabad, revealed themselves — proving that the opposition’s claims of having “won over” members of the ruling coalition were indeed true.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and some cabinet ministers had earlier accused the opposition of indulging in horse-trading ahead of the crucial vote on the no-confidence resolution, disclosing that the capital’s Sindh House had become a centre for buying and purchasing members.

But while government members continued to claim that these dissidents had “sold their souls for money”, a number of TV channels that sent their teams into Sindh House to verify the claims were faced with nearly a dozen PTI members, who claimed that they had developed differences with the Imran Khan-led government and were going to vote in “accordance with their conscience”.

Subsequently, the government had decided to file a presidential reference for the interpretation of Article 63-A with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry saying the top court would be asked about the “legal status of the vote of party members when they are clearly involved in horse-trading and change their loyalties in exchange for money”.

The presidential reference was filed under Article 186 of the Constitution, which is related to the advisory jurisdiction of the SC.

In the reference, President Dr Arif Alvi asked the apex court whether a member who “engages in constitutionally prohibited and morally reprehensible act of defection” could claim the right to have his vote counted and given equal weightage or if there was a constitutional restriction to exclude such “tainted” votes.

He also asked the court to elaborate whether a parliamentarian, who had been declared to have committed defection, would be disqualified for life.

“What other measures and steps can be undertaken within the existing constitutional and legal framework to curb, deter and eradicate the cancerous practice of defection, floor crossing and vote-buying?” the reference further asks.

“As happened on many occasions in past, the stage is yet again set for switching of political loyalties for all sorts of illegal and mala fide considerations including vote-buying which by its very nature rarely leave admissible or traceable evidence,” the reference states.

It adds that some of the “presently defecting [MNAs] have even publicly admitted to defection in interviews to the media with evident pride and further commitment to stay engaged in this immoral trade”.

It cautions that unless horse-trading is eliminated, “a truly democratic polity shall forever remain an unfilled distant dream and ambition”.

“Owing to the weak interpretation of Article 63-A entailing no prolonged disqualification, such members first enrich themselves and then come back to remain available to the highest bidder in the next round perpetuating this cancer.”

Article 63-A

According to Article 63-A of the Constitution, a parliamentarian can be disqualified on grounds of defection if he “votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs, in relation to the election of the prime minister or chief minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a money bill or a Constitution (amendment) bill”.

The article says that the party head has to declare in writing that the MNA concerned has defected but before making the declaration, the party head will “provide such member with an opportunity to show cause as to why such declaration may not be made against him”.

After giving the member a chance to explain their reasons, the party head will forward the declaration to the speaker, who will forward it to the chief election commissioner (CEC). The CEC will then have 30 days to confirm the declaration. If confirmed by the CEC, the member “shall cease to be a member of the House and his seat shall become vacant”.

Troops in Mariupol reject Russian surrender terms

KYIV/MARIUPOL: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that his country could not fulfill “Russian ultimatums”, claiming Moscow was seeking to “destroy” his country.

He said Moscow wanted Ukraine to “hand over” Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kyiv, adding that neither the people of those cities “or me, as president, can do this”.

Ukrainian officials defiantly rejected a Russian demand that their forces in Mariupol lay down arms and raise white flags on Monday in exchange for safe passage out of the besieged strategic port city.

Ukrainian officials rejected the Russian proposal for safe passage out of Mariupol even before Russia’s 0200 GMT deadline for a response came and went.

Shopping mall bombed in Kyiv

“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.

Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev had offered two corridors one heading east toward Russia and the other west to other parts of Ukraine. He did not say what Russia planned to do if the offer was rejected.

The Russian Ministry of Defence said authorities in Mariupol could face a military tribunal if they sided with what it described as bandits, the Russian state news agency reported.

Meanwhile, people fleeing the besieged port of Mariupol say they are leaving behind a city that has been almost entirely destroyed by Russian bombardment and heavy fighting.

Video captured by The Associated Press showed residents pushing carts and carrying bags of food and supplies along debris-ridden streets and passages. The siege has caused shortages of food, water, and energy supplies, according to city officials who say at least 2,300 civilians have been killed thus far in Mariupol.

In Kyiv, shelling has devastated a shopping center, leaving a flattened ruin still smoldering on Monday morning in the midst of high-rise towers.

Overnight shelling near the city centre left at least eight dead, emergency officials said. The force of the explosion shattered every window in the high-rise next door and twisted their metal frames.

A cluster of villages on Kyiv’s northwest edge is on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe, regional officials said Monday.

Bucha and other nearby villages have been all but cut off by Russian forces.

At the same time, authorities in Odessa have accused Russian forces of damaging civilian houses in a strike on the Black Sea port city on Monday.

Democratic Pakistan critical to America’s interests: US official

WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Monday that a prosperous and democratic Pakistan was critical to US interests.

Responding to queries about the current political situation in the country, a spokesperson for the State Department also underlined America’s support for the constitutional process in Pakistan.

“We are closely following developments in Pakistan. We respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law,” the spokesperson told media.

“The United States values our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan and has always viewed a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as critical to US interests.”

Some circles in Pakistan blame the United States for stirring up troubles in the country for supporting the elements that want to unseat the current government.

Official and diplomatic circles in Washington, however, reject all such speculations as incorrect, pointing out that there were internal causes for the ongoing political crisis.

At a Friday afternoon news briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki underlined the Biden administration’s desire to continue a careful engagement with Pakistan without committing to either improving or degrading ties with a country that was once a close ally.

“We have a long relationship with Pakistan, and that is a relationship we’ll continue through diplomatic channels,” she said.