Politics in Pakistan Army & Democracy

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The army generals are in charge of Pakistan; they have a firm grip over defense and security policies foreign affairs, and internal matters. There had been a struggle between the army and Nawaz Sharif for quite some time. During his second term as prime minister in the early 1990s, Sharif attempted to remove a military chief but instead had to resign himself. In 1999, Sharif replaced then army chief Pervez Musharraf,but army commanders launched a coup against Sharif, and Musharraf came to power. By 2016 Sharif faced much the same dilemma..

Pakistan’s political system is broken: its political parties are ineffective, functioning for decades as instruments of two families the Bhuttos and the Sharifs, two clans, both corrupt. The Bhutto-Zardari axis may be considered “left leaning,” while the Sharif brothers may be considered “right leaning.” The Sharifs are much closer to Pakistan’s military, and to Pakistan’s Muslim fundamentalists. Punjabi, the Sharifs represent Pakistan’s major ethnic bloc, and the devout Sunni Sharif has an advantage over the Bhuttos, who have Shiite ties.

Pakistan held successful elections in February 2008 and has a coalition goverment .Voting in Pakistan is intensely personal, with parties gathering votes primarily through allegiance to an individual candidate who is either a feudal or has a proven ability to deliver services. Pakistan is a developing country with some modern facilities in major cities but limited in outlying areas. The infrastructure of areas of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) regions were devastated by an October 8, 2005, earthquake and have not yet been fully rebuilt. Massive flooding in 2010 destroyed infrastructure throughout the Indus River valley.

Pakistan continues to face extraordinary challenges on the security and law enforcement front. The country has suffered greater military, law enforcement, and civilian casualties in fighting extremism and terrorism than almost any other country. In the midst of this difficult security situation, Pakistan’s civilian government remains weak, ineffectual, and corrupt.

Pakistan’s long term stability depends more and more upon the government’s willingness to confront difficult economic policy choices it has long sought to avoid. Pakistan must begin to address a breadth of economic challenges that would overwhelm many emerging economies: overhauling the tax infrastructure, eliminating over $4 billion in circular debt in its energy sector, altering revenue sharing agreements among the provinces and the Federal Government, reversing a contraction in consumer credit and expanding financial access, removing price controls in commodity markets, preventing a crisis in water distribution, and breaking Pakistan’s dependence on external financial support.

A number of extremist groups within Pakistan continue to target US citizens and other Western interests and Pakistani officials. Terrorists have demonstrated a willingness and capability to attack targets where U.S. citizens are known to congregate or visit. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings — including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices — assassinations, carjackings, assaults, and kidnappings. Pakistani military forces are currently engaged in a campaign against extremist elements across many areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province, formerly known as Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). In response to this campaign, militants have increased attacks against both civilian and goverment targets in Pakistan’s cities and in late 2010 launched several coordinated attacks against Pakistani government and civilian targets, especially in Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies.

By 2011 children of the country’s leading political figures were stepping out of their parents’ shadows and into the public realm. Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and wife of PML-N MNA Capt (Retd) Safdar, made her political debut in November 2011 while addressing a women’s convention. The 38-year-old defended her family against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan’s ‘asset declaration’ campaign. Defending her father, Maryam said had Nawaz completed his second term, he would have made Pakistan an economic power at par with Malaysia, Turkey and Singapore. Nawaz Sharif had groomed Member of the Provincial Assembly Hamza Shahbaz [Hamza Sharif], son of the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, for a future political role. Hamza, 40, was rocked by a succession of scandals. He was alleged to have amassed billions through speculative trading in the poultry industry. His problems were compounded when Ayesha Ahad Malik claimed she was Hamza’s legitimate wife. Maryam’s stepping out for her family and taking on a political role suggested Nawaz Sharif was not happy with the conduct and performance of Hamza Shahbaz. PML-N observers were of the view that Maryam was a far better option than Hamza Shahbaz.

The only son of assassinated former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto told hundreds of thousands of supporters on December 27, 2012, the fifth anniversary of his mother’s death, that he would carry forward her legacy, an appearance designed to anoint him as a political heir. “I am the heir to the martyr,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24, told the crowd in the southern province of Sindh, referring to his mother and to his grandfather, the founder of the current ruling party who was hanged by a former military ruler. “If you kill one Bhutto, there will be a Bhutto in every house Bhutto was joined by hundreds of high-ranking officials, including the current president, his father Asif Zardari, to commemorate his mother’s killing in a gun and suicide attack during a 2007 political campaign rally. He is still not old enough to contest the elections scheduled for spring 2013 – the minimum age is 25. Bhutto, who has his mother’s good looks, would only turn 25 in September 2013.

On 11 May 2013, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections, and Nawaz Sharif became prime minister for the third time. The election marked the first time since independence in 1947 that one elected goverment completed its term and peacefully transferred power to another. Independent observers and some political parties, however, raised concerns about election irregularities. Formal adjudication of challenges of disputed election results was weak and the high courts did not meet statutorily prescribed deadlines for adjudication in the majority of cases.

Violence, abuse, and social and religious intolerance by militant organizations and other nongovernmental actors contributed to a culture of lawlessness in some parts of the country, particularly the provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP, formerly known as the North West Frontier Province), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Militant and terrorist bombings in all four provinces and in the FATA resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, during the year 2013 terrorist and extremist attacks and operations to combat insurgency resulted in 4,369 deaths, of which nearly 2,413 were civilians, more than 544 were security forces, and more than 1,412 were terrorists or insurgents.

Discontent with the Sharif government grew in 2014 because of nationwide power shortages that have crippled economic activities in Pakistan. Moreover, critics said that a lack of clarity on how to tackle a deadly Islamist insurgency at home and reported differences with the military in terms of dealing with neighboring Afghanistan and India are primary sources of civil-military tensions.

In June 2014 prominent cleric-turned-politician Tahir-ul Qadri returned to Pakistan, vowing to organize anti-government protests. Canada-based Tahir-ul Qadri pledged a “peaceful revolution against a corrupt democracy.” But the sudden homecoming fueled speculation that Pakistan’s powerful military may be using him as a proxy in efforts to sideline the political goverment Widely known as a pro-army cleric, Qadri’s  Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) is one of the country’s best organized political parties. Its base of support is rooted in Qadri’s large following from the vast network of mosques and religious centers he set up across Pakistan. Qadri’s ability to quickly organize mass rallies and openly denounce the civilian Goverment has long been seen as evidence that he is backed by the army as a way of sidelining civilian leaders.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan demanded a full audit of the votes cast in the 2013 parliamentary elections, claiming that rigging was conducted to turn seven million votes into 15 million votes. He told a news conference on July 15 that ‘mid-term election wouldn’t derail democracy’. The PTI was pretty vague about what it would regard as victory — mid-term polls or a full audit of the May 2013 election results as was being done in Afghanistan. He called for a tsunami protest march on August 14, the Pakistan Independence Day. The Azad parade with regard to the Independence Day would be held in the morning whereas the ‘million march’ would reach Islamabad in the evening. Imran Khan knows that if Nawaz Sharif got his full term, it would be difficult for Khan and his PTI to win the next elections in 2018.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader, downplayed the impression that differences within the opposition might lead to mid-term Elections The PPP is the biggest opposition group in the National Assembly, followed by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Tahir-ul-Qadri, leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), rejected Imran Khan’s demand of mid-term elections. “I am against the system of which Imran Khan is also a part.” he said, adding that revolution was the only remedy of the problems of the country. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) decided not to become a part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) agitation campaign after differences emerged at the top level. Tahirul Qadri says he wants a complete end of this corrupt system and rulers. He will stop at nothing short of a revolution, even if it entails violence.

The PML-N camp did not appear to be in the mood to concede anything to the PTI unless forced to do otherwise by the army, which did not look likely. The Saudis appeared to be betting on Nawaz, while the Americans did not seem to have any favourites. One observer noted “Mid-term election is called when there is a serious crisis, which doesn’t exist right now except that one political party that failed to get vote as per its expectations wants it”. Even the PTI’s own coalition partner in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, Jamaat-e-Islami, is equally opposed to it.

Muhammad Ziauddin wrote 06 August 2014. that “the clash between Imran and Nawaz appears to be no more than a tussle between Punjab’s two right-of-centre political factions, one led by the Sharifs, masquerading as some kind of royalty, and the other by an autocratic Ultimatum Khan plus a couple of zeroes like the media-manufactured Maulana Inqilab Qadri, the two-some Chaudhries at the fag end of their political careers and the loudmouth- loser, Sheikh Rashid.”

An editorial in the Daily Times on 07 August 2014 noted that “The complexity of the political and economic situation has been completely ignored by politically immature figures such as Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri. The Azadi (independence) march and the Inqilab (revolution) march of both respectively, meant to derail the democratic process only to revive it later with a fresh mid-term election or with a new system are only muddying the water instead of helping to resolve problems…”

Political bickering over alleged rigging in the 2013 elections further eroded whatever economic stability the country was aspiring to. Investment, both domestic and foreign, dwindled due to terrorism and the energy crisis.

Wonders took place after two previous long marches, the one threatened by Benazir Bhutto in 1993 and the second sponsored by Nawaz Sharif in 2009 for restoration of dysfunctional superior court judges. At that time, the PPP-led federal government had conceded to Sharif’s demands as soon as the mammoth crowd had reached Gujranwala. That deal was struck through intervention of the top general of that time. Confusing signals came from the PTI that they wanted a million people to join its tsunami march. Simultaneously, the lack of preparations was too obvious and open.

Not long after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) pioneer launched his Azadi March from Zaman Park, Lahore towards the government capital some 375 kilometers away, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) pioneer Dr Tahirul Qadri likewise reported to dispatch ‘Inqilab March’ (insurgency walk) from Model Town. Khan and Qadri have vowed that their supporters will camp out in Islamabad until Sharif agreed to step down and new elections are held. The government quarters believed Imran Khan’s less field hardened, urban crowd of 200,000 comprising mostly youth, would get tired and bored within 24 to 36 hours of the sit-in despite all the political rhetoric and emotions being shown by his camp.

The presence of Chaudhrys of Gujrat in the Qadri camp was also a dividing factor, as Imran’s PTI did not wish to carry them along, even when the most important Sharif hater of present times, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, was hell-bent on doing so. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) decided not to join the PTI either on the way to Islamabad or after reaching there. Instead, the PAT planned to reach the federal capital on August 16, a day after the PTI.

Thousands of opposition protesters rallied in Pakistan’s capital 15 August 2014 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The protests in Islamabad, led by opposition leader Imran Khan and Muslim cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, constituted the biggest challenge yet to Sharif’s year-old government. Khan and Qadri vowed their supporters will camp out in Islamabad until Mr. Sharif agrees to step down and new elections are announced. The unrest raised questions about Pakistan’s stability at a time when the army was waging an offensive against Pakistani Taliban militants in the country’s lawless tribal areas and when the influence of sectarian militant groups was growing. The rally failed to attract the vast crowds Khan had promised, and other opposition parties on August 18 distanced themselves from his appeal for civil disobedience.

Members of Sharif’s party suggested the protests are secretly backed by elements in the military, which had a troubled relationship with Sharif. The military was frustrated with the government, especially over the prosecution of former army chief and President Pervez Musharraf for treason. There had also been differences between the government and the army on how to handle the Pakistani Taliban. The government had insisted on peace talks but eventually the army launched an offensive.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaaf (PTI) party announced 18 august 2014 that its lawmakers have all decided to resign from the 34 seats they control in the country’s National Assembly. The party also said its lawmakers would resign from all provincial parliaments with the exception of the legislature in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which the party controls. That announcement meant Pakistan would have to organize a raft of fresh elections.

Tens of thousands of protesters have forced their way past a barricade of shipping containers in the Pakistani capital as they marched on parliament to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Some 40,000 Pakistani riot police and paramilitaries had used the containers to seal the “Red Zone” — the diplomatic and political district of Islamabad — before the march began.

Police did not intervene 19 August 2014 when protesters broke down barricades and forced their way into the high-security “Red Zone.” The area houses the parliament and offices of the prime minister and president along with other key government buildings. In an unexpected reaction to the political tensions, Pakistan’s powerful military called for a “meaningful dialogue” to resolve the crisis. In a brief statement, it warned that the situation requires “patience, wisdom and sagacity from the all stakeholders to end the prevailing impasse.”

Pakistan’s powerful military stepped in on August 29, 2014 to act as “mediator and guarantor” to broker a deal between embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and two anti-government leaders calling for his ouster. While the army is unlikely to grab power at a time when chronic economic, security and energy challenges are facing Pakistan, some analysts did not rule out the possibility of the military’s involvement in encouraging the anti-government protests in order to retain its share in key national matters.

Pakistan’s military rejected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s claims he did not ask the army to play a role in defusing the of crippling anti-government demonstrations in the capital. Sharif came under severe criticism from pro-democracy forces in the country, largely for turning to the army in his bid to resolve what analysts saw as a crisis that needed political means to settle. Pakistan’s powerful military held an unprecedented Sunday meeting of its top commanders who said the government should immediately end the standoff peacefully.

Pakistani security forces cleared hundreds of anti-government protesters from the state television studio after they seized the building on 01 September 2014 and briefly took the channel off the air. The protesters stormed into Pakistani Television, or PTV, as it carried live coverage of the demonstrators in its offices in the capital, Islamabad. Later in the day, crowds of protesters armed with wooden clubs tried to break through police lines to push their way to the prime minister’s residence in Islamabad. Police responded by firing tear gas.

Khan and Qadri’s supporters waged months of protests calling for Sharif to step down over alleged rigging of the 2013 elections that brought him to power. Sharif refused to step down, and by mid-November 2014 protesters remained camped out around the country’s parliament. Qadri gave up and left the country, although Khan was still in Pakistan and addressing his supporters.

By December 2014 even Khan’s audience in Islamabad had dwindled to a few hundred loyalists. Khan pledged to ‘shut down’ several Pakistani cities in his campaign to force the premier to step down over claims he rigged last year’s election. Khan’s campaign was due to culminate in moves to ‘close’ the whole of Pakistan later in December.

Information Minister Pervez Rasheed said 08 December 2014 that Imran Khan’s ‘Plan C’ aimed at creating chaos had begun from Faisalabad. Imran’s ‘Plan A’ was to attack democracy, ‘Plan B’ to besiege the democracy, ‘Plan C’ to create anarchy while his ‘Plan D’ is aimed at destroying democracy. But none of the plans conceived by Imran will ever succeed, he said while addressing a press conference.

Sharif spent most of 2014 locked in disputes with the powerful military, with tens of thousands of protesters camped near the prime minister’s residence demanding that he resign. During those protests, speculation mounted that the military was considering a coup to oust Sharif. In order to keep his job, Sharif reportedly conceded foreign-policy decisions to the military.

The United Nations, the European Union, and human rights groups have deplored the government’s heavy-handed measures taken following the Pakistani Taliban’s gruesome ambush of a military-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in December 2014 that left 147 people dead, the deadliest ever attack in Pakistan. Pakistan hanged more than 300 people since lifting a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014. Many were convicted in closed military courts, which critics say fail to meet fair trial standards.

Mumtaz Qadri was executed in February 2016 at the order of the Islamabad High Court five years after he assassinated a liberal Punjab governor over his calls to reform the country’s blasphemy laws. Thousands of hard-line Islamists rallied in the heart of the Pakistani capital for four days to denounce Qadri’s execution and to call for the introduction of strict Shari’a law in Pakistan. The sit-in protest ended on 31 March 2016 after protest leaders said they were given assurances that controversial blasphemy laws would not be amended and more than 1,000 Islamists detained by police during the protest would be released. The government, however, denied it had acceded to any of the protesters’ demands.

The PM has found himself in a difficult situation following the April 2016 “revelations” made by the so-called Panama Papers. Leaked documents show that three of the prime minister’s children had links with offshore companies that owned properties in London. One clear sign of the political pressure felt by the Sharif family from the Panama Paper scandal was that the family reportedly discussed the possibility of the prime minister stepping down for two three months while an independent commission conducted an inquiry. One possible replacement could be Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar. In case the PM’s post needs to be filled until the 2018 elections then getting Shahbaz Sharif or Ishaq Dar elected as members of the National Assembly and then getting them elected PM was also considered by the family.

 

PTI to unveil white paper on 21st

KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan said on Saturday his party would unveil on Aug 21 what he called a “white paper on the rigging during general elections.

“Our party has prepared a detailed and evidence-based white paper showing how the elections were stolen through widespread rigging on May 11, which will be made public on Aug 21,” he remarked at a press conference held at residence of a PTI leader.

He called for deployment of military personnel both inside and outside the polling stations during elections in 42 constituencies on Aug 22.

The press conference ended chaotically because the journalists present disagreed with Mr Khan’s response to a question about the attitude of his party’s workers at the airport earlier

Imran urges introspection over D.I. Khan jailbreak

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan raised serious questions on Sunday over last week’s jailbreak in Dera Ismail Khan and called for introspection by all institutions of the state.

He said it was high time to determine why in the presence of an army division in and around D.I. Khan, elite force, police and special jail police, the attackers had managed to get hundreds of their accomplices freed.

“Because of the timely intelligence reports, all necessary preparations were made to thwart the attack. There were three security cordons set up around the jail. Machine gunners were also posted at strategic positions, but no body put up a fight,” Mr Khan said while talking to reporters at his party’s central secretariat.

“If nobody on ground is willing to fight then what can the provincial government do in such circumstances,” he said.

Over the past couple of months, Mr Khan has repeatedly demanded a meeting with the army chief and the prime minister before an all-parties conference proposed by the government for coping with terrorism.

Mr Khan said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had initiated a high-level inquiry into the incident and its findings would be shared with the nation.

He reiterated that this was a national issue which needed a corresponding response.

Nobody from the ISPR was available for comments.

Mr Khan said he had told US Secretary of State John Kerry during their recent meeting that since the US drones strikes had killed about 1,500 innocent people so far, whereas only 45 terrorists had been targeted. The strikes were directly affecting efforts of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to curb militancy.

He reiterated that the federal government and the military establishment had to come clean on ‘hidden facts’ before calling an APC.

Last week, over 100 militants whom the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed to have sent freed 248 prisoners from the D.I. Khan jail. According to media reports the attack lasted three to four hours.

PRICE HIKE: Mr Khan severely criticised the government for steps which have triggered a record price hike.

He said the PML-N, instead of giving any new direction to the government as had been expected from it, had taken the easy route of taxing the already taxed middle and salaried classes instead of improving governance.

This, he said, was just the beginning of the results of the increase in general sales tax and other indirect taxation which the government had imposed in the budget. Soon a new wave of backbreaking inflation will be hitting people as a result of increase in the electricity tariff.

PTI leader Asad Umar, who advises Mr Khan on economic issues, said the government planned to increase the electricity tariff by 30 to 65 per cent for domestic consumers and 25 to 95pc for industries which would have a serious impact on the prices of commodities of everyday use. As a result of the increase in electricity tariff, people would have to bear an additional burden of Rs144 billion, he said.

WHITE PAPER: Mr Khan said the PTI would release on Aug 16 a white paper on rigging in the general elections. The party possesses evidence to show how returning officers rigged the May 11 elections.

He said the PTI had already approached the courts and after issuing the white paper would once again pray to them to order a biometric-based counting of votes in four constituencies.

“If found wrong in my argument for investigation, I will be the first one to offer a public apology for highlighting the issue,” he said.

LIBEL: The PTI chairman said he would file a libel lawsuit against JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for accusing him in a TV talk show of acting on ‘Zionist agenda’.

Imran khan to take Fazlur Rehman to court

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has stated that he will take Maulana Fazlur Rehman to court for calling him an agent of the Jews.

Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad, he said that Maulana Fazlur Rehman should tell the people as to who secretly met with the US Amabassador and expressed his wish to become the prime minister.

Imran Khan said that a legal notice will soon be sent to the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief.

The JUI-F chief has made statements in the past attacking Imran Khan. Tensions between the two political leaders reached a new level after the May 11 General Elections.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman had denounced the PTI win in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and stated that the polls were rigged.

He also said that he did not accept the PTI’s mandate in the province.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman has also called Imran khan a “western agent” and claimed that Khan wants to destroy Pakistani society by injecting his ‘western thoughts’ in it,

Imran Khan on the other hand has also returned criticism at the JUI-F chief stating that Fazlur Rehman had been using religion for political gains.

The PTI chief has also said that people like his JUI-F counterpart have given Islam a bad name.

Imran contempt case: SC orders PTI chief to resubmit explanation

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday ordered Imran Khan to resubmit his reply before August 28 in a case pertaining to the contempt of court notice issued to the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) chief and adjourned the hearing to the said date.

Pakistan’s top court had issued a notice to the PTI chief over his “critical and derogatory” remarks against the judiciary and judges of the apex court. It said that Mr Khan apparently had tried to incite hatred against the apex court in one of his interactions with the media.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was hearing the case today.

During the hearing, Hamid Khan, the counsel for Imran, told the apex court that his client could not even think of committing contempt of court.

Chief Justice Iftikhar asked Hamid whether he had prepared a written response to the contempt of court notice issued against his client.

Hamid submitted a short reply, which said that Khan’s remarks were aimed at the Election Commission of Pakistan and not the Supreme Court.

The bench had termed the counsel’s reply as unsatisfactory and adjourned the hearing to 11:30 am.

Later, in a one-page written response submitted to the apex court, Khan reiterated his earlier stance that his remarks were targeting the ECP and not the judiciary.

The PTI chief, in his reply, stated that 45 days had passed since the May 11 elections and no one from the Election Commission of Pakistan was paying any heed to his complaints regarding failure to conduct free and fair elections.

Khan also mentioned the various struggles he had undertaken during the movement for the restoration of the judiciary.

PTI to fight terrorism with cricket

PESHAWAR: Pakistani cricket hero Imran Khan is launching a hunt for sporting talent as a flagship counter-terrorism policy in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province governed by his political party, an aide said Friday.

“Terrorism has been very destructive for sports… that is why we are aiming at sports activities to end terrorism in the province,” said Iftikhar Elahi, sports and culture coordinator for the party.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) won a breakthrough at May 11 general elections, becoming the country’s third largest party and forming a government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, hard hit by Taliban attacks.

Khan has courted controversy in the West for advocating peace talks with the Taliban and there have been growing questions about how his inexperienced party will tackle the scourge of violence.

On July 26 suicide bombers killed 57 people in the tribal town of Parachinar, and on Monday Taliban fighters stormed a prison in Dera Ismail Khan, freeing more than 250 inmates, including militants.

Elahi said he hoped cricket, which is a national obsession in Pakistan, can bring peace. Khan is Pakistan’s greatest all rounder and captained the country to its only World Cup victory in 1992.

“Our party gives special stress on youth and sports and with Khan as leader and initiator of the programme we hope that it can help bring peace in the province,” Elahi told reporters.

He said the scout for talent was part of the party’s programme to develop what is one of the most deprived parts of Pakistan.

“The programme is aimed at spotting talent in cricket from the province,” he told reporters. “Khan has taken the initiative as part of his development programmes in KP.”

The province has produced greats like Younis Khan and Umar Gul in recent years, but militant bomb attacks and shootings have destroyed aspects of daily life.

“Khan will give as much time as possible and we have also hired a few coaches (former players) who will help spot talent and then groom them,” said Elahi.

He also said talks were underway to help build and renovate proper cricket grounds in the province.

The hunt will also be extended to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s neighbouring semi-autonomous tribal belt.

Imran Khan refuses to apologise in contempt of court case

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan has refused to tender an apology in the contempt of court case.

“I am ready to go to the jail but I will not apologise,” khan said.

Khan has said that he will not back down from his stance till his last breath and will not apologise even if he is declared ‘ineligible’ and sent to jail.

He said that the Supreme Court made a big mistake by taking notice of ‘contempt of court’.

“If the need arises, I will take up Aitzaz Ahsan’s offer,” he commented.

He further said that Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had become controversial after the Arsalan Ifitikhar case.

The Supreme Court, in the notice issued to the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief, has said that Khan apparently had tried to incite hatred against the apex court in one of his interactions with the media.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, will hear the case on Friday.

Khan meets Kerry

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday met with Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan during which the latter raised the issue of drone attacks.

In a statement a PTI spokesman said Imran Khan told John Kerry that the drone strikes are not only a violation of the country’s sovereignty and international law but also are counter-productive.

The PTI chief also urged the United States to take all stakeholders including Pakistan into confidence on the issue of withdrawing from Afghanistan.

In this connection Imran Khan said the United States should halt hostilities in that country.

During the meeting, the PTI chief also spoke with US Secretary of State about the situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the difficulties being faced by the provincial government.

Khan has been a vocal critic of US drone policy in Pakistan and has repeatedly demanded an end to done strikes.

In a television interview later, Kerry said of the drone strikes: “I think the program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it.”

“I think the president has a very real timeline and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon,” he told Pakistan Television, when asked whether the US had a timeline for ending drone strikes, aimed at militants in Pakistan.

US drone missiles have targeted areas near the Afghan border including North Waziristan, the main stronghold for various militant groups aligned with al Qaeda and the Taliban, since 2004.

Pakistanis have been angered by reports of civilian casualties and what they see as an abuse of their sovereignty.