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What led to leader Imran Khan’s downfall in Pakistan? | Imran Khan News



Imran Khan’s tumultuous term as prime minister of Pakistan has ended, following weeks of high political drama and days of constitutional chaos.

The Supreme Court’s landmark verdict late on Thursday restored a parliament that Khan had sought to disband and mandated a vote of no confidence that he sought to avoid.

Khan was effectively left with a choice: resign or be voted out of office.

Pakistan political crisis
Imran Khan’s supporters chant slogans as they protest in Islamabad after he loses the vote of no-confidence in parliament [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

The former prime minister’s political demise was rooted in twin new realities. Inside parliament, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had lost the support of coalition allies, denying him the majority he needed to defeat the vote of no confidence.

Outside parliament, Khan appeared to lose the support of Pakistan’s powerful military, which the opposition alleged helped him win the 2018 general election, and had recently publicly fallen out with the prime minister over senior military appointments and policy decisions.

The PTI and the military have denied the allegations.

In recent weeks, as the principal opposition parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), ramped up their efforts to dislodge Khan, coalition allies became vocal in their dissatisfaction with him.

“As far as governance was concerned, the government had totally failed,” said Senator Anwaar ul Haq Kakar of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), a coalition ally that withdrew support for Khan in late March.

“There was disgruntlement for the past two years,” Kakar added. “The party [BAP] was not happy about its share in the federal government and the ministerial portfolio it has been allocated.”


The sour mood among Khan’s erstwhile allies was echoed by Nadeem Afzal Chan, a special assistant to the prime minister who resigned his position and rejoined the opposition PPP in early March.

“I was impressed by Khan’s anti-corruption platform and was tired of the status quo,” Chan said. “But then I saw that while Khan publicly talked about the poor, privately he surrounded himself with wealthy investors.”

Economic distress

A deepening economic crisis contributed to dissatisfaction with Khan with double-digit inflation dogging much of his term.

In February, as opposition momentum against Khan built, the prime minister announced a cut in domestic fuel and electricity prices despite a global rise, pledging to freeze prices until the end of the fiscal year in June.

The move piled further pressure on Pakistan’s chronic fiscal deficit and balance-of-payment troubles. This week, the rupee fell to historic lows against the US dollar and the State Bank of Pakistan sharply increased interest rates in an emergency meeting.

“Part of it was the situation they inherited from the previous government and part of it was of course COVID,” said Shahrukh Wani, an economist at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. “But the government fell quickly into firefighting and reforms were never taken up.”


For former Khan allies such as Chan, discontent among constituency voters had tipped over. “Inflation, fertiliser shortages, local government in Punjab, policing, it had all got too much,” Chan said.

Inside parliament, the loss of the allies’ support reversed the numbers for Khan. BAP, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) account for fewer than five percent of the seats in the 342-member National Assembly.

But by pledging to support the no-confidence vote against Khan, the coalition allies effectively ended Khan’s three and a half year spell as prime minister. The opposition parties also claimed to have the support of a number of dissident PTI parliamentarians.

Meanwhile, the economy remains in a parlous state. Miftah Ismail, a former PML-N finance minister tipped to resume the post he held in 2018, said: “The two biggest economic challenges facing Pakistan at the moment are high inflation and fast depleting foreign exchange reserves.

“The difficulty is that as the currency has been devaluing due to decreasing reserves, it gives rise to even more inflation.”

Military’s role

With Khan’s exit confirmed, former allies are increasingly candid about the third rail of Pakistani politics: civil-military relations.

The prime minister’s parliamentary support began to dissolve when the military signalled it would not side with Khan against the opposition, a policy of so-called neutrality.

“When the establishment became neutral, the allies saw that the government wouldn’t survive,” Senator Kakar of BAP said. “Once the view was entrenched that he can’t stay, it was only a matter of time.”

Khan is the latest in a long line of Pakistani prime ministers who have fallen out with the military over key appointments and foreign policy.

In October, simmering civil-military tensions exploded in public view when Khan tried to retain Lieutenant-General Faiz Hameed as the military spy chief, rejecting the nominee of army chief General Qamar Bajwa.

General Bajwa’s nominee, Lieutenant-General Nadeem Anjum, was eventually appointed as the new director general of Inter-Services Intelligence, but the weeks-long standoff was bruising and ominous.

General Bajwa’s second term as army chief will end in November, with General Hameed one of the senior-most generals eligible to replace him. The Pakistani prime minister appoints the army chief.

Extraordinary, too, was Khan’s attempt to recast ties with the US, Pakistan’s largest trading partner and a fractious ally that the military has sought to maintain as an important partner.

In February, in pursuit of what Khan described as a neutral foreign policy, Khan travelled to Russia seeking trade deals on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He left with only a handshake from Russian President Vladimir Putin hours after the attack began on February 24.

While the Pakistani military backed Khan’s Moscow trip, differences intensified after Khan made a high-stakes domestic pivot. Faced with defeat in the no-confidence vote in parliament, Khan alleged a US-led plot to remove him as punishment for his Russia trip and neutral foreign policy.

As evidence of the plot, Khan waved a letter in a public rally in Islamabad on March 27, claiming the US had delivered a diplomatic warning to Pakistan to remove him as prime minister.

The diplomatic missive, the alleged US threat, and Khan’s claim that the no-confidence was part of a US-led conspiracy roiled Pakistani politics and civil-military relations.

Retired Major-General Athar Abbas, a former military spokesperson and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Ukraine from 2015 to 2018, said: “The letter warranted a strong response and corrective measures. Response [in the military] is mixed on whether it should have been used to meddle with the vote of no confidence.”

General Abbas also described a number of differences between Khan and the military leadership that had accumulated over Khan’s time in office, including poor political and economic management by Khan that was acting as a drag on the military’s public image.

On Khan’s opposition to military operations inside Pakistan and US-led wars internationally since the September 11 attacks, General Abbas said: “PM’s position on war on terror is that we fought America’s war and suffered loss of men and material. Military’s view was that it was the fallout of the Afghan war and we had no choice.

“Pressure on military leadership is if it was America’s war, then all the sacrifices of young officers and soldiers were a waste,” Abbas said.

Another retired military official, Air Vice-Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry, suggested the tensions with the military also concerned Khan’s style of governing.

“On policy matters, Khan could be mercurial. There was no predictability or stability. Imran Khan is a populist, that’s his vulnerability too.”

Defeated inside parliament and undone outside, Khan though is unlikely to be a spent force politically. The cyclical nature of Pakistani politics has seen former prime ministers rebound before.

Khan also has the advantage of clawing his way back to power from a fertile political base.

Chan, the former special assistant to the prime minister, said, “A month ago, people were abusing [Khan and the PTI government] for inflation.

“Now, they say he’s stood up for a proud and independent Pakistan.”

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Jailed Kashmir rights activist Khurram Parvez in Time’s 100 list | Human Rights News



Kashmiri rights activist Khurram Parvez, jailed by India since November last year on “terrorism” charges, has been named as one of the 100 most influential people of 2022 by the United States-based Time magazine.

Parvez, 44, is chairman of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a prominent rights group in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan who govern over parts of it but claim it in its entirety. Most residents on the Indian side either want an independent state or a merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan.

An armed rebellion against New Delhi’s rule began in Indian-administered Kashmir in the late 1980s. To suppress the revolt, India deployed nearly half a million troops in the valley, making it one of the most militarised conflict zones in the world.

Global rights groups have accused the Indian forces of large-scale human rights abuses in the region, including killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests, and the suppression of media and other fundamental rights.

For the last two decades, Parvez had been highlighting such abuses by the Indian forces and seeking accountability from the government.

One of the major disclosures made by the JKCCS, led by Parvez, was the presence of more than 2,000 unmarked graves in the northern part of Indian-administered Kashmir in 2008. The report shook the region.

“He had to be silenced, for his was a voice that resounded around the globe for his fierce fight against human-rights violations and injustices in the Kashmir region,” Time magazine said, calling Parvez a “modern-day David who gave a voice to families that lost their children to enforced disappearances, allegedly by the Indian state”.

“The attacks against him speak volumes of the truth he represents at a time when the world’s largest democracy is being called out for its persecution of the more than 200 million Indian Muslims,” said the citation, written by leading Indian journalist Rana Ayyub.

“Khurram is the story and the storyteller of the insurgency and the betrayal of the people of Kashmir.”

By “betrayal”, the magazine meant Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripping Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status guaranteed by the Indian constitution in a controversial move in 2019.

Parvez was arrested in November last year under a stringent terrorism law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), for “criminal conspiracy and waging war against the government”.

The UAPA is vaguely worded legislation that effectively allows people to be held without trial indefinitely. Convictions under the law are rare.

The United Nations has issued multiple statements since Parvez’s arrest, demanding his release and amendments to the UAPA to bring it in line with the international human rights law and standards.

Parvez’s family said his appearance in the Time list “is a moment of pride for them” and “means a lot” to them.

“We are really proud of him. It shows his contribution in the two decades and the body of work that he created. These are the platforms that are acknowledging his work and offering us solidarity in such hard times,” one of Parvez’s family members told Al Jazeera, requesting anonymity over fears of reprisal by the Indian government.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera “it is extremely unfortunate that Indian authorities are jailing human rights defenders or peaceful protesters”.

“Parvez has worked to draw attention to human rights violations in Kashmir, and instead of addressing those allegations, the government is punishing him,” she said.

The Time 2022 list also includes Indian lawyer Karuna Nundy, business tycoon Gautam Adani, and Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial.

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Sri Lanka hikes fuel prices, hires financial and legal advisers | Business and Economy News



Sri Lanka has increased fuel and transport prices, a long-flagged move to combat its debilitating economic crisis, but the hikes are bound to exacerbate galloping inflation, at least in the short term.

Power and energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera said in a message on Twitter on Tuesday that petrol prices would increase by 20-24 percent while diesel prices would rise by 35-38 percent with immediate effect.

“Cabinet also approved the revision of transportation and other service charges accordingly,” he said.

Wijesekera said also that people would be encouraged to work from home “to minimize the use of fuel and to manage the energy crisis” and that public sector officials would work from office only when instructed by the head of the institution.

Food and transport price increases will flow through to food and other goods, economists said.

Annual inflation in the island nation rose to a record 33.8 percent in April compared with 21.5 percent in March, according to government data released on Monday.

Sri Lanka is in the throes of its worst economic crisis since independence, as a dire shortage of foreign exchange has stalled imports and left the country short of fuel, medicines and hit by rolling power cuts.

The financial trouble has come from the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic battering the tourism-reliant economy, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Mahinda, who resigned as prime minister this month.

Economists have said fuel and power price hikes will be necessary to plug a massive gap in government revenues, but agree that it will lead to short-term pain.

Dhananath Fernando, an analyst for Colombo based think-tank Advocata Institute, said prices of petrol have soared 259 percent since October last year and diesel by 231 percent. Prices of food and other essential goods have surged, he said.

“Poor people will be the most affected by this. The solution is to establish a cash transfer system to support the poor and increase efficiency as much as possible.”

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, appointed in place of Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier this month after violence broke out between government supporters and protesters, said last week: “In the short term we will have to face an even more difficult time period. There is a possibility that inflation will increase further.”


Renegotiate debt

The price hike comes at a time when Sri Lanka has hired heavyweight financial and legal advisers Lazard and Clifford Chance as it prepares for the difficult task of renegotiating its debts, Reuters reported, citing three unnamed sources as the talks are still private.

Spokespeople from Sri Lanka’s cabinet and Lazard, which has handled debt talks for dozens of crisis-strained countries in recent years, did not immediately reply to requests for comment while law firm Clifford Chance declined to comment.

Experts and economists have been waiting for the appointment as the country looks to restructure more than $12bn of overseas debt that had been building up for years but become unsustainable when COVID-19 hammered the economy.


“By far the most important thing is to what extent the government will have the political will, and the ability, to deliver on the pre-conditions for the IMF programme,” said Gramercy’s co-head of sovereign research & strategy, Petar Atanasov.

“Governments are often willing to do the things that are required when their backs are completely against the wall.”

While there are hopes a deal can be struck to ease the economic crisis, it is unlikely to be straightforward.

A mix of loans from China, India and Japan, as well as all the bonds held by private investment funds mean long-resisted but now embraced talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) could be complex, especially if social unrest worsens.

A group of Sri Lanka’s largest sovereign dollar bondholders has hired Rothschild as its financial adviser and another legal firm, White & Case, as its legal adviser.

“I think the new cabinet would really have to show quick solutions to really pressing problems such as electricity and importation of goods to pacify the people,” said Carlos de Sousa, an emerging market strategist at Vontobel Asset Management which holds Sri Lanka’s bonds.

“They will try, but it is not clear to me whether they will be sufficiently successful. We will see.”

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Executions surge 20 percent in 2021 led by China, Iran: Amnesty | Death Penalty News



Human rights group also notes continued secrecy in China, North Korea and Vietnam, and ‘alarming rise’ in use of death sentences in Myanmar.

The number of executions globally rose 20 percent in 2021, while the number of death sentences handed down increased by 40 percent, rights group Amnesty International has said.

Its annual report, Death Sentences and Executions, said at least 579 people were killed by states that retain capital punishment while at least 2,052 had a death sentence passed against them.

“The increase in executions was primarily driven by rises in the yearly figure for Iran (from at least 246 in 2020 to at least 314 in 2021, a 28% increase), which was the highest figure on record since 2017,” the report said. “The spike in Iran appeared particularly for executions of people convicted of drug-related offences (132), which represented 42% of the total and constituted a more than five-fold rise from 2020.”

The figures do not include China, where thousands are thought to be executed or sentenced to death each year in a system shrouded in secrecy. Amnesty said secrecy in North Korea and Vietnam, as well as the difficulty in accessing information on the use of the death penalty “continued to impair a full assessment of global trends”.

The rights group noted that executions in Saudi Arabia in 2021 were also more than double the number recorded in 2020, while countries including Bangladesh, India and Pakistan passed more death sentences.

Amnesty also noted that retentionist states had “resorted to the death penalty as a weapon in the armoury of state repression against protestors and minorities”.

In Myanmar, where the military seized power from the elected government in a coup in February 2021, the report noted an “alarming increase in the resort to the death penalty under martial law, where the military transferred the authority to try cases of civilians to special or existing military tribunals, through summary proceedings and without the right to appeal”.

Nearly 90 people were arbitrarily sentenced to death, it added, and some of those sentenced were not even present to hear the sentence.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam seated at a table and with activists and legislators standing behind him signs the law abolishing the death penalty
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signs a bill abolishing the death penalty surrounded by legislators and activists at Greensville Correctional Center last March [Steve Helber/AP Photo]

Despite the rising toll, Amnesty said the global trend remained in favour of the abolition of the death penalty, noting that just 18  countries were known to have carried out executions last year, the lowest since it began keeping records.

“It is an isolated minority of countries that still chose to resort to executions,” the report said.

In the United States, executions dropped to the lowest since 1988 while the federal administration adopted a temporary moratorium on executions. Virginia became the country’s 23rd state to abolish the death penalty in its entirety.

A number of countries continued to take steps to abolish the use of capital punishment or limit its use.

In July, Sierra Leone’s parliament voted unanimously to adopt a bill that would fully abolish the death penalty, while similar legislation became law in Kazakhstan in December.

Malaysia also continued with a moratorium on executions and the government said it would prepare legislative changes on the use of the death penalty by the third quarter of this year. Most people on death row in Malaysia have been convicted of drugs crimes.

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