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PTI engages another lobbying firm in US

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  • PTI hires Praia Consultants to promote image in US.
  • Praia Consultants will be paid $8,333.00 per month.
  • US firm has been fired for six months.

WASHINGTON: Seeking to build good relations with the US decision-makers after accusing the country of toppling its government, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has hired another lobbying firm to promote the party’s image.

Documents that surfaced yesterday confirm that PTI USA signed a contract with a Washington-based lobbying firm, Praia Consultants LLC, to support the party’s goals for “good relations with the United States and the Pakistani diaspora in the US.”

The contract was signed on February 21 for six months, according to the documents filed with the US Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

PTI USA, which is based in New York, is the principal client of the lobbying firm which will be paid $8,333.00 per month.

“During the term of this agreement, the firm shall provide expert advice regarding the client’s relationship with the United States government and institutions.

Furthermore, the firm shall organise meetings with several key US decision-makers and will provide guidance in terms of the content of the meetings, the contract states.

Additionally, the agreement will continue for an additional six months till January 31, 2024, if both parties have no objections and provide written approval thereto by June 30, 2023.

Last year, the PTI hired a lobbying and PR firm, Fenton/Arlook, to provide public relations services, including but not limited to distributing information to and briefing journalists, placing articles and broadcasts, arranging interviews with representatives or supporters of PTI, advising on social media efforts and other such public relations services.

Fenton/Arlook was hired at the cost of $25,000 per month.

The News contacted PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry to seek his comment on the report but he did not respond.

In recent months a number of US lawmakers and influential figures had spoken in favour of former prime minister Imran Khan, asking the Pakistani authorities to follow the law of the land.

‘Foreign agent’

Meanwhile, the government has reacted strongly to the development and accused Imran Khan of working for those who wanted subversion in Pakistan.

Speaking to the Capital Talk show host Hamid Mir, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said these are the people who are issuing statements in Imran Khan’s support from outside the country.

Criticising American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, defence minister questioned why Zalmay does not speak on the atrocities committed against the people of Palestine and Kashmir.

He wondered why Khalilzad speaks only for Imran Khan. “It seemed Khalilzad was being fed by people from here.” 

Pakistan

Punjab polls case hearing adjourned indefinitely after suo motu review law ‘comes into effect’

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  • Larger bench to hear review plea under new law.
  • CJP Bandial says the situation is “interesting”.
  • Court indefinitely adjourns hearing on ECP plea.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Monday indefinitely adjourned the hearing on the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) petition against the top court’s order of holding Punjab’s general elections on May 14 after the court was apprised that a law for the review of suo motu judgements had come into effect.

The Supreme Court Review of Judgements and Orders Bill, 2023, came into force Friday after President Arif Alvi’s assent. The law states that for reviewing a suo motu judgement, a bigger bench — than the one that issued the order — will hear the case.

“In case of judgements and orders of the SC in exercise of its original jurisdiction under Article 184 of the Constitution, the scope of review on both facts and law, shall be the same as an appeal under Article 185 of the Constitution,” the law reads.

A three-member bench — headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar — heard the plea.

This is the same bench that issued the April 4 verdict — under Article 184 (3) or the suo motu law. It had directed the commission to hold elections in Punjab in the mid of May and ordered the federal and Punjab governments to provide assistance to the ECP.

Despite the top court’s order, the federal government expressed its inability to provide funds to the election commission and the armed forces had said they could not provide security due to the ongoing law and order situation.

So even with the presence of the order, the polls did not take place on May 14.

‘Happy’ CJP

At the outset of today’s hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan told the court that a law for challenging suo motu orders has come into effect.

He added that under the new law’s section 2, the orders issued under Article 184 (3) could be appealed against.

“This law will have retrospective effect,” he noted, at which Justice Akhtar said this is why ECP lawyer Sajeel Swati is smiling.

Responding to the AGP, CJP Bandial said the situation is interesting. He added that the court understands the need for reviewing suo motu orders.

Through the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023, the government created a new “judicial jurisdiction”, the CJP noted, adding that the rulers tried intervening with the court’s administrative matters.

“But I am happy that this law [the review act] is only related to Article 184(3).”

The CJP added that “everyone” should reconsider their stance.

“After the May 9 incidents, try to find a silver lining. Try to bridge the differences. Try to bring balance and peace to the system and hold elections through the right procedure.”

Court did not invalidate commission: CJP

Moving on, the CJP told the attorney-general that he must have read the court’s judgement in the audio leaks commission case. “Keep in mind that the court did not invalidate the commission,” CJP Banidal remarked.

It may be noted that the Supreme Court Friday stayed the proceedings of the high-powered judicial commission formed to probe the audio leaks related to the judiciary, as well as the federal government’s notification on the commission’s constitution.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa, when he resumed the proceedings of the audio leaks commission the next day, raised questions over the SC order stopping the judicial panel from working.

Today, CJP Bandial said that the court has to protect the independence of the judiciary.

The top judge remarked that things will not work when secret meetings take place.

“It is a historical accident that there is only one chief justice,” he added.

The CJP said that the court had seen the notifications for the Memogate Commission, Abbottabad Commission and the commissions set up in the Shahzad Saleem murder case. He said that all the judicial commissions are constituted at the will of the chief justice.

“If you want to investigate something, it should be done through proper procedures. I will not form a commission consisting myself,” he added.

The top judge also gave the option of investigations through another judge, saying that “this political temperature will not improve livelihood and law and order”.

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£190m settlement case: Imran Khan ‘placed on ECL’

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  • Sources say Imran Khan put on ECL on NAB’s suggestion. 
  • Say federal cabinet approved circular summary for move.
  • Say decision to add Bushra Bibi’s name to ECL also made. 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s name has been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) in the light of the £190 million settlement case, sources told Geo News Monday.

The former prime minister — who had been ousted via a vote of no-confidence last year — has been facing a slew of cases including the infamous £190 million settlement case related to the transfer of multi-million pounds from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), in which his wife Bushra Bibi is also an accused.

Khan had been arrested by the Rangers from Islamabad High Court (IHC) premises earlier this month in the same case, which triggered countrywide violent protests. 

The sources said that Khan’s name has been put on the no-fly list as per the recommendation of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Rawalpindi, after the federal cabinet’s approval for the circular summary.

They said that the decision to place the former first lady’s name on the ECL has been taken and the anti-graft watchdog will write to the Interior Ministry in this regard.

‘No plans to travel abroad’: Imran Khan

It may be noted that the names of Khan and Bushra Bibi, along with over 600 PTI leaders and former assembly members had been added to the no-fly list as per the Federal Investigation Authority’s (FIA) orders for alleged involvement in the May 9 violence.

However, the former premier, after being restricted from leaving the country thanked the government for doing so and said that he had no plans to travel abroad.

Citing reasons behind his plans, Khan said he neither has “any properties or businesses abroad nor even a bank account outside the country.”

However, if he does get an opportunity to go for a holiday, Khan said he will choose the country’s northern mountains terming the sites as his “favourite place on earth.”

Thousands of party workers and leaders were arrested during the crackdown on the PTI on May 9 for allegedly inciting the riots that claimed at least 8 lives and injured dozens of others.

The £190 million settlement case

The PTI chairman is facing charges of corruption of billions of rupees in a case involving a property tycoon.

Khan — along with his wife Bushra Bibi and other PTI leaders — is facing a NAB inquiry related to a settlement between the PTI government and the property tycoon, which reportedly caused a loss of £190 million to the national exchequer.

As per the charges, Khan and other accused allegedly adjusted Rs50 billion — £190 million at the time — sent by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to the Pakistani government as part of the agreement with the property tycoon.

They are also accused of getting undue benefit in the form of over 458 kanals of land at Mouza Bakrala, Sohawa, to establish Al Qadir University.

During the PTI government, United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) seized assets worth 190 million pounds from the property tycoon in Britain.

The agency said the assets would be passed to the government of Pakistan and the settlement with the Pakistani property tycoon was “a civil matter, and does not represent a finding of guilt”.

Subsequently, then-prime minister Khan got approval of the settlement with the UK crime agency from his cabinet on December 3, 2019, without disclosing the details of the confidential agreement.

It was decided that the money would be submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of the tycoon.

Subsequently, the Al-Qadir Trust was established in Islamabad a few weeks after the PTI-led government approved the agreement with the property tycoon.

PTI leaders Zulfi Bukhari, Babar Awan, Bushra Bibi, and her close friend Farah Khan were appointed as members of the trust.

Two to three months after the cabinet’s approval, the property tycoon transferred 458 canals of land to Bukhari, a close aide of the PTI chief, which he later transferred to the trust.

Later, Bukhari and Awan opted out as the trustees. That trust is now registered in the name of Khan, Bushra Bibi and Farah.

NAB officials were earlier probing the alleged misuse of powers in the process of recovery of “dirty money” received from the UK crime agency.

Following the emergence of “irrefutable evidence” in the case, the inquiry was converted into an investigation.

According to the NAB officials, Khan and his wife obtained land worth billions of rupees from the property tycoon, to build an educational institute, in return for striking a deal to give legal cover to the property tycoon’s black money received from the UK crime agency.

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Imran Khan fact-checked

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Social media users have schooled Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan for spreading misinformation after he tweeted an old video of a burning truck citing it belonged to his party’s lawmaker, Malik Shahzad Awan, from Karachi.

Both Khan and his party’s social media team, took to Twitter to share videos of burning trucks claiming that they belonged to the lawmaker. They also alleged that Awan was being pressured to quit the party and following his refusal to do so, his vehicles were burned.

However, the claims were soon refuted by social media users who called out the PTI chief for propagating lies and misinforming his followers.

They verified that the videos were, in fact, of trucks which were burned during a fire incident in Nowshera’s oil depot a year ago.

The cricketer-turned-politician and PTI eventually had to delete the tweets, which they earlier posted in haste without verifying the origins of the video.

In the now-deleted tweets, Khan wrote: “Our MPA from Sindh (Karachi) Malik Shahzad Awan was pressured to leave PTI. When refused, his fleet was put on fire and destroyed. All PTI ticket holders and aspirants today are facing this fascism, our fundamental rights are being openly violated while our judiciary helplessly watches on.”

Screenshot of Imran Khans deleted tweet.
Screenshot of Imran Khan’s deleted tweet.

The PTI, meanwhile, tweeted: “Our MPA from Sindh Malik Shahzad Awan’s trucks have been put on fire when he refused to leave PTI. His business has been completely destroyed.”

Screenshot of PTIs deleted tweet.
Screenshot of PTI’s deleted tweet.

After the civil and military leadership resolved to punish the rioters and instigators of the May 9 violent protests which erupted after the arrest of Khan — who faces a slew of cases ranging from corruption to terrorism — droves of PTI leaders have quit the party with some either shifting their allegiance to other parties and others bidding adieu to politics altogether.

The exodus confronting his party has been termed by Khan as ‘forced divorce’, particularly after prominent names including Shireen Mazari, Fawad Chaudhry, Imran Ismail and Ali Zaidi, among others, parted ways with PTI and Khan.

“We had all heard about forced marriages in Pakistan but for PTI a new phenomenon has emerged, forced divorces,” Khan — a former prime minister — said in a tweet.

The party’s leaders have been announcing their departure as not only public and private buildings but also military installations — including the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi — were attacked on May 9.

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