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”.
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.
hey have now spent 84 days in jail, their bail hearing postponed seven times, their families frantic and struggling to find the money for legal costs. Three Kashmiri engineering students in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, who put out WhatsApp messages congratulating the Pakistani team for its victory over India in a cricket game were arrested, charged with a series of crimes, including sedition, the latest example of the misuse by the UP government of the colonial-era sedition law in defiance of clear Supreme Court orders.
Chadoora, Budgam: In her single-room home in Chadoora, a village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, housewife and single mother Haneefa Bano, 40, is anxious about her son’s current situation and future prospects.
Arshid Yusuf, 21, her only son and one of three children, has been in jail for 84 days, facing criminal charges under four sections of two laws for congratulating a cricket team. Only, it was, in the eyes of the police and Hindu extremists, the wrong team.
Yusuf and the other two students, Inayat Altaf Sheikh, 20, and Showkat Ahmed Ganai, 21, are engineering students and were roomates at the Raja Balwant Singh Engineering Technical College (RBS) in Agra, western Uttar Pradesh (UP), where some students and Hindu extremists accused them of cheering for India’s arch-rival Pakistan during a T20 World Cup cricket match on 24 October 2021.
India lost the game that day and with it Yusuf, Sheikh and Ganai—who congratulated the Pakistani team amongst themselves over a Whatsapp chat and through WhatsApp statuses—their freedom.
Yusuf, Sheikh and Ganai, all described by college authorities as diligent students, were studying engineering under the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS), an 11-year-old scholarship programme started by former PM Manmohan Singh to widen job opportunities for hundreds of students from economically disadvantaged families from strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
A college spokesperson told Article 14 the students’ behaviour and overall performance had always been good. But they were suspended anyway after local Hindu extremists demanded their expulsion.
“But right now it’s a matter of police investigation,” said Ashish Shukla PhD, chief proctor of the RBS college. “We don’t want to talk about it.”
With the arrest of these students, the hopes their families had for them were shattered, the families told Article 14.
They face an uncertain legal battle in an alien city more than 1,000 km to the south, with lawyers there having passed a resolution against offering the three young men legal representation. Their bail applications have been postponed seven times, and a lawyer who agreed to represent them has moved the Allahabad High Court.
For poverty-ridden families, legal and travel costs are already in the thousands of rupees. They have raised money from sympathetic neighbors, taken loans from relatives, sold assets—such as a cow—and exhausted savings.
‘A Lighting Strike’
For Yusuf’s mother Haneefa Bano, who made ends meet as a housemaid and had brought up her son in poverty, his arrest felt like, as she put it, “a lightning strike”.
“I had high hopes and faith in him,” said Haneefa Bano. “I always tried to work extra hours, to give him a better education. I knew he was capable and could get a good job and also hoped that he would sponsor his sister’s education.”
During this time, she said her neighbours helped her financially. “We used some of it to go to Agra and see him,” said Haneefa Bano, whose husband, a labourer, died 12 years ago.
Another single parent, Waheeda Bano, 35, mother of Altaf, who lives a 10-minute-walk away in the same village said she was “devastated”.
She told Article 14 that no one from her family had ever had occasion to visit a police station before, but that had changed after her son’s arrest.
“After their arrest we were called to the police station to give our details. We felt like we were criminals,” said Waheeda Bano. “Everyday I struggle to manage my daily routine. I cannot eat or drink properly.”
About 51 km to the north in the sleepy hamlet of Shagund, in northern Kashmir’s Bandipora district, farmer Mohammed Shabaan Ganai, father of Ganai, had to sell their cow, their prime asset. It was the only way the family could contribute to the Rs 45,000 that they had to raise together to pay a lawyer.
They decided to sell their cow, Mohammed Ganai said, when the family realised Showkat would be barred from appearing in his last semester exams if was not released from jail soon.
“To save him and his career, we badly wanted to bail him out,” said Mohammed Ganai.
All three families know they will need more money, as the case drags on. They said they hoped to raise more money by taking loans from seeking donations from relatives.
The Dangers For Kashmiris From Cricket
Cricket matches between India and Pakistan are known for the passions they arouse. For many Kashmiri sports enthusiasts, these matches are fraught with the manifest threats, ranging from criminal cases to physical violence.
Attacks on Kashmiri students, who may cheer Pakistan or merely offer congratulations—as the three Agra engineering students did—are common. Some escape with beatings, others face criminal cases, including sedition.
These dangers to Kashmiri cricket fans tend to escalate after an escalation in hostilities between India and Pakistan, militant attacks on security forces or other political developments.
After the 24 October India-Pakistan game, the J&K police registered two first information reports (FIRs) against medical students, alleging offences under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967, after they allegedly shouted pro-Pakistan slogans in the wake of India’s defeat that day, as Article 14 reported.
In February 2020, three civil engineering students from in the northeastern Karnataka town of Hubballi were arrested under similar circumstances and publicly heckled by lawyers and Hindu extremists after accusations of sharing pro-Pakistan content on social media. They were released after 109 days of internment at Hindalga Central Jail in Belgaum.
It has been more than two months since the Indian and Pakistan teams returned to their homes after the October T-20 game.
But the students continue in jail because their bail plea has not yet been heard by a court in Agra.
Bail Application Postponed 7 Times
The case against the three students was first listed in the Agra Central Jail Agra court for hearing on 15 December. On 11 January, the court postponed the bail hearing for the seventh time.
Advocate Madhuvan Chaturvedi, the lawyer who represents the three students, said that it was common procedure for the court to postpone bail proceedings, and that the pandemic was making matters worse.
Besides filing a bail application, Chaturvedi has also filed a petition on December 10, to move the case to the Allahabad High court in December.
Chaturvedi offered to represent the students after an Agra lawyers association said they would not.
“We will not provide any legal help to those who are involved in an anti national activity or anti-social activity,” Nitin Verma, president of the Young Lawyers’ Association, Agra, told the Press Trust of India (PTI) on 30 October.
Chaturvedi told Article 14 he believed “no one should be punished without a trial”.
On 25 December, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) police sent a letter to court seeking remand for the three students who are currently lodged in the Central Jail, Agra. Police have sent students’ mobile phone details to the lab for forensic examination but that report is not yet in, prolonging the case that, experts said, should never have been filed.
A Clear Violation Of Supreme Court Orders
In UP, 77% of 115 sedition cases between 2010 and 2021 were registered since Yogi Adityanath became the chief minister in 2017, according to an Article 14 sedition database. More than half of these were around issues of “nationalism”, including sloganeering and social-media posts.
Lubhyathi Rangarajan, research director at Article 14 and a lawyer who heads the sedition database project, said the colonial-era sedition law was easy to misuse because it was broadly worded.
“Anything can be offensive unless the intent is to incite violence,” said Rangarajan. “In this case, the police have to prove that. Someone can feel bad but that does not mean you will arrest them (alleged perpetrators) and put them in jail.”
“Hurting the feelings of the group is a very difficult thing to determine,” said Rangarajan. “How do you assess it? These kinds of cases are simply an abuse of the law.”
The trouble for Yusuf, Sheikh and Showkat began right after the game concluded on 24 October. Rightwing Hindu extremists assembled outside the RBS college campus demanding action against them, said a Kashmiri student who was a witness. He spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisal if his identity was known.
“Someone within the college had sent screen grabs of their WhatsApp status and of a whatsapp chat in which the congratulatory messages celebrating Pakistan’s victory were can be seen,” the student said.
The Agra police on 24 December sought sanction from the UP government to prosecute the three Kashmiri students. On 27 December they were arrested from their hostel, two days after college authorities suspended them, after protests by Hindu extremists.
A day later on 28 October Adityanath tweeted: “The sedition law will be invoked against those celebrating Pakistan’s victory against India in the recent T20 World Cup match.”
“After the T-20 World Cup match played between India and Pakistan on October 24, some anti-social elements used indecent words against the Indian team and there was a disruption of peace through anti-national remarks,” said the Hindi tweet from Adityanath’s office.
Chatturvedi, the lawyer, said it was only after Adityanath put out that tweet that the sedition charge was added to the FIR against the students.
Decision By Lawyers ‘Unconstitutional’: Experts
Experts described the decision to deny legal representation to the embattled students as “unconstitutional.”
“Saying that a lawyer won’t defend somebody is wrong,” said Rangarajan. “They cannot do that as lawyers. That is unconstitutional.”
Activists of Jammu and Kashmir Students Association (JKSA), which often works on behalf of Kashmiri students who may get into trouble anywhere outside the former state, said that they sought help from the local administration, but there was none forthcoming.
“JKSA also sent an apology letter to chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, requesting him to withdraw the FIR against the three students,” Nasir Kheuhami, national spokesperson of the JKSA. “But nothing worked.”
Another student activist, Manzoor Wani, 25 confirmed that no local lawyer was willing to represent the students. They contacted Chaturvedi, who agreed to represent them for a fee, through the Delhi-based Association for Protection of Civil Rights, an advocacy.
On 28 December, when students were first presented in the court, they were heckled by the youth wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and lawyers from Agra.
“The behavior of the lawyers is unacceptable & the role of the police is deeply suspect,” former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted on October 29. “With polls around the corner rather than make friends with Kashmiri students the powers that be are happier using them as political cannon fodder.”
Verma, of the Agra lawyers’ association that refused the student’s representation, denied members of his association were involved in heckling the students outside the court.
“The day students came to the court; there was no protest from our side,” Verma told Article 14. “We only said that we won’t be defending these students.” However, a video of the protest makes it clear lawyers did heckle the students.
Verma said his “only issue” with the case was that the students were involved in “anti-national” slogans and “activities.”
Asked if he believed that every citizen deserved legal counsel, he said: “Ajmal Kasab (a reference to the Pakistani terrorist convicted after the attack on Mumbai 26 November 2008) also had a government lawyer and should have got one,” said Verma. “But this issue was related to an antinational thing, that is why the advocates had refused to fight the case.”
“Neither do we have any personal enmity with those students nor have we met them personally,” said Verma. “We are not from any political party, so no one should feel that we have taken such a step due to political motivation.”
Syed Safdar Ali Kazmi, an Allahabad lawyer, said a lawyer could not choose cases because “the aggrieved party was from a different religion”.
He said the WhatsApp messages and statuses of the students could have been ignored. “You have a right to speak,” he said. “Even our own Indian captain congratulated the team after they lost the match.”
‘My Son’s Career Is Ruined’
Back in Chadoora, Budgam, Haneefa Bano said that she could not initially talk to her son in jail because jail officials did not allow him to speak in Kashmiri, the only language that she knows.
Chaturvedi, their lawyer said the matter was “now sorted after he talked to jail authorities ” and the students could talk to their families once a week.
Bano said that she never imagined that her life’s “miseries”, such as not having land or property and living on the border of penury, would escalate, but that is what had happened after Yusuf’s arrest.
“He was a hardworking student who would always focus on his studies because he knew the financial problems we have been going through,” she said, adding how she had “huge hopes” of her son.
“I would think, once he completes his studies and begins a job, our miseries would end,” said Bano. “But now his career is ruined.”
The petitioners in the Haridwar Dharam Sansad hearing said no nodal officer had been appointed in the case and that the Supreme Court’s orders were not being followed. Hence, the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Uttarakhand government.
The petitioners in the case pointed out that orders had been passed in earlier judgments to appoint nodal officers to take action against such gatherings. In this case, the petitioners said, no nodal officer has been appointed. They said that the Supreme Court’s orders were not being followed.
At the gathering, Yati Narsinghanand reportedly said that “arming the Hindu brigade with bigger and better weapons” would be the “solution” against the “threat of Muslims.
As many as 76 lawyers of the Supreme Court had earlier written to Chief Justice of India NV Ramana to seek suo motu cognizance to be taken of the ‘hate speech and calls for ‘ethnic cleansing’ at two religious events held recently in Delhi and Haridwar.
Sibal on Wednesday told the court: “This matter needs to be heard urgently. More Dharam Sansads have been announced in Una, Dasna, Aligarh at a time when the elections are going on in the state. This will vitiate the atmosphere. This is incitement of violence.”
“Preventive detention law is there to prevent exactly such a thing,” he added.
A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli heard the matter as public interest litigation (PIL), demanding an investigation into the hate speeches targeting Muslims at the Haridwar Dharam Sansad.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Friday insisted that Pakistan was heading in the “right direction” and that the country’s economy will be “far better” by August 2022.
Speaking to reporters in Lahore, Chaudhry said a phase was being commenced in Pakistan in which the social protection programs will take effect, paving the way for the improvement of the overall economic situation of the country.
He informed that the PTI-led government had to return $55 billion in its next two years in debt payment, adding that a sum of $32bn had already been paid under debts in the last three years.
“We are paying the price for the legacy left by Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif,” the minister said, in reference to the last two governments of the PPP and PML-N.
Dispelling the impression given by the opposition about the country failing at the economic front, Chaudhry said Shehbaz Sharif and other opposition leaders should not worry about the country as “it is heading in the right direction, and people are witnessing it”.
‘Our politics, defence and economy are all stable’
The minister stressed that Pakistan’s politics, defense, and economy were all quite stable.
He said the national economy was growing at five percent and it will further stabilize in time to come.
“Also, take an example of the coronavirus pandemic as such calamities occur once in 100 years, and Pakistan’s strategy to tackle it is being praised worldwide,” he added.
‘LHC must move to bring Nawaz back’
Chaudhry, while continuing with his criticism of rival parties, said the opposition leaders were all panicked after the government expressed its intent to bring Nawaz Sharif back to Pakistan.
“We want the Lahore High Court to move on his case and Nawaz should be brought back at the earliest,” he said.
He added that the government also wanted that cases involving Shehbaz Sharif should be taken up on a day-to-day basis.
The minister stonewalled a query when asked about the political implications of the “most important” appointment the prime minister was set to make in 2022 and wrapped his answer by succinctly saying “for God’s sake”.
‘Pakistan’s films will now tell its story to the world’
The minister, while highlighting the importance of the film and drama industry, rued that the country had not been able to utilize the potential of the vital industry for its image-building.
“Our stories have to be told through films and the way we ended our film industry was really unfortunate. We will now revive the medium to tell the story of Pakistan to the world.”
‘Dollar depreciated after the introduction of finance bill’
Chaudhry said he was pleased that the dollar depreciated against the rupee after the introduction of the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021 in the National Assembly on Thursday.
“This inflation cycle will break in three to four months, while the prices of vegetables will also decline in a couple of months,” he added.
The information minister said Pakistan would have gone bankrupt had Imran not been the prime minister of the country.
“If Pakistan is floating today, it’s because of Imran Khan and the PTI’s economic team,” claimed the minister.
He said the system through which Pakistan had been governed for the past several years was no more in practice. “Now, for the first time, a people-centric government is working in Pakistan”.
NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir Hurriyat Party and other opposition groups on Tuesday slammed India’s recent move to allow non-Kashmiris to buy land, saying New Delhi had put up Jammu and Kashmir on sale.
In a statement, Kashmir’s All Parties Hurriyat Conference headed by incarcerated Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said it has “strongly appealed to the international community to take cognizance of the systemic demographic change being foisted upon Muslim majority Jammu & Kashmir, by settling outsiders here including through a new policy of sale of land and natural resources to them.”
APHC said that of Government of India wants to change the demographic character of the Muslim majority J&K and disempower its residents through such diktats. It said the measures were aimed at scuttling “the final resolution of the long-standing international political dispute of Kashmir in accordance with the will and aspirations of its people as promised by the international community, based on principles of justice and international law.”
Since August 2019, in succession one after another authoritarian laws and diktats are being implemented in the state towards this end and “to facilitate the electoral prospects of the ruling party in India as J&K has become its favorite whipping boy.”
The Indian administration was pursuing a divide and rule policy by splitting the population of J&K “on the basis of religions, regions, ethnicities and political interests to fracture political aspirations and voices,” the Hurriyat statement said.
Last week the J&K administration, headed by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, changed land use laws and allowed re-classifying agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.
The decision triggered strong criticism from regional parties, who said the land would be used to settle non-locals.
Recently the government told parliament that only seven plots of land had been purchased in J&K following the scrapping of special status.
Allowing people from outside J&K to buy land in the UT was one of the major talking points for the BJP and the centre, but so far that doesn’t seem to be the case.
APHC said that the situation in J&K is “deeply disconcerting and highly repressive as people are the receiving end of this colonial mindset.”
It asked people not to lose hope but stay vigilant and alert “and safeguard their right over their land and resources as much as possible.”
The Indian government and its handpicked administration have held a real estate summit in Jammu (the first of its kind) to encourage people from across the country to buy land, or a second home, in Jammu and Kashmir.