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After changes to election law, CEC sees meeting with Alvi of ‘scant importance’



Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja on Thursday responded to the letter written to him by President Arif Alvi for meeting to “fix an appropriate date” for general elections, saying that participating in such a confab would be of “scant importance” after changes to the election law.

The president had written to Raja on Wednesday, inviting him for a meeting regarding holding general elections in the country.

In his letter, President Alvi quoted Article 244 of the Constitution, saying he was duty-bound to get the elections conducted in the 90 days’ prescribed period once the National Assembly is dissolved prematurely.

“Whereas, the National Assembly was dissolved on the advice of the prime minister by the president on August 9. Whereas by virtue of article 48 (5) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the president is obliged to appoint a date not later than ninety days from the date of dissolution for the holding of the general elections,” the president’s letter said.

He quoted clause 5 of Article 48 as follows, “Where the president dissolves the National Assembly, notwithstanding anything contained in clause (1), he shall, appoint a date, not later than ninety days from the date of the dissolution, for the holding of a general election to the assembly; and appoint a caretaker cabinet in accordance with the provisions of article 224 or, as the case may be, article 224A.”

On Feb 20, President Alvi had unilaterally announced April 9 as the date for elections to the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies as the PTI governments had dissolved the two legislatures before the expiry of their five-year term on the orders of party chairman Imran Khan. The president’s unilateral announcement had come after his invitation for consultations on dates for elections to the two assemblies had been turned down by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

However, the situation has changed now, as under recent amendments to election laws, the CEC has been empowered to fix the date for polls without the president’s input.

In the letter addressed to the president today, CEC Raja said it was “imperative” to point out that Section 57 of the Elections Act had been amended due to an act of Parliament, which had empowered the commission to “announce the date or dates for the general elections”.

“Where the president dissolves the National Assembly, in his discretion, as provided in Article 58(2) read with Article 48(5) of the Constitution then he has to appoint a date for the general elections. However, if the assembly is dissolved on the advice of the prime minister or by afflux of time as provided in Article 58(1) of the Constitution, then the commission understands and believes that power to appoint a date or dates for elections rests exclusively with the Commission.

“The commission believes with utmost respect that the reliance placed on the provisions of the Constitution mentioned on your subject letter are not applicable in this context,” Raja’s letter said.

The CEC said that the delimitation of constituencies, after the approval of the digital census, was one of the “foundational legal steps” towards holding polls.

Raja said that the ECP was taking its responsibility of holding general elections in the country “very seriously” and had also invited major political parties to give their views on the electoral map.

“Notwithstanding the declared position of the commission referred herein above. it is stated with all reverence that the commission holds the office of the president in high esteem and it has always been an honor to meet and seek your kind guidance on national issues at an opportune time.

“In view of the above, the commission is of the considered view that participation in the meeting would be of scant consequence,” Raja said.

Later, the Presidency said on X (formerly Twitter) that it had sought the law ministry’s advice on the CEC’s letter.

“The Presidency has asked for advice on the Election Commission of Pakistan’s stance that only it had the authority to decide the election date,” the statement on X said.

ruled out the possibility of elections within this timeframe following the notification of the 2023 digital census, citing the requirement for fresh delimitations of constituencies.

The ECP said last week the process of fresh delimitation of national and provincial assembly constituencies was expected to be completed by December 14 — over a month beyond the constitutionally mandated deadline for conducting general elections.

However, the PTI was of the view during today’s meeting that fresh delimitation was not a necessity, the ECP statement said, adding that the party “also emphasised the need for a level-playing field [for itself] in the electoral competition, similar to what other political parties are provided”.

It also called for the prompt release of incarcerated party leaders, the statement said.

For its part, the JUI-F advocated for the prioritisation of delimitation procedures, the statement added.

“The JUI-F delegation urged the ECP to complete the delimitation process ahead of advancing further, ensuring a seamless experience for all political parties, candidates, and voters in the forthcoming elections.”

The ECP stated that both delegations were given assurance that the commission was committed to ensuring that elections were held at the earliest possible time and a level-playing field for all political parties.

Following the JUI-F’s meeting with the ECP, party leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said while speaking to the media that their emphasis was on timely elections but fresh delimitation was also necessary.

Meanwhile, PTI’s Barrister Ali Zafar told journalists that the meeting was held in an amicable atmosphere. He said his party conveyed its stance to the ECP that the commission lacked the authority to conduct delimitations without a constitutional amendment as two of the chief ministers who participated in the Council of Common Interests meeting that approved the new census were caretakers.

Moreover, he added, the PTI also raised the question of how would a level playing field be ensured in the elections when the party chief was in jail.

Later in a post on X (formerly Twitter), PTI leader Ali Muhammad Khan said that the party had brought up several matters during the meeting, foremost among them being their request for the elections to take place within the stipulated 90-day timeframe following the dissolution of the assemblies.

He further revealed that the PTI also strongly urged for permission to engage in political activities. Khan articulated, “It is vital that overseas Pakistanis are granted their rightful participation in the political process.”

He added that the party also called for an “enabling environment” to ensure free and fair elections.

The ECP is set to hold a meeting with the PML-N tomorrow and with PPP on August 29.


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China thrill in track and field but footballers flop again at Asiad



HANGZHOU: China swept four gold medals in track and field at the Asian Games on Sunday to celebrate national day, but their men’s football team failed to read the script and were dumped out by South Korea.

The hosts are running away at the top of the overall medals table in Hangzhou with 132 golds and still seven days of competition to go.

China is enjoying a long holiday for national day and patriotic fervour filled the 80,000-seater Olympic stadium in the eastern city for the evening’s athletics.

Waving mini flags and roaring on the home competitors, they were not to be disappointed.

Wang Jianan, nicknamed Ed­die, leapt an impressive 8.22m on his first attempt in the long jump. It proved enough to defend his title.

Discus thrower Feng Bin, who like Wang was dethroned as world champion in August, also bounced back in style to claim gold with a throw of 67.93m, a Games record.

“I’m really happy. After all, today is national day, a very special day for every Chinese person,” the 29-year-old Feng said.

“To win my first Asian Games medal on this day makes me extremely happy and excited.”

There was more home success through Lin Yuwei in the 100m hurdles and Zheng Ninali in the women’s heptathlon.

China’s men’s football team is often derided at home and they once again failed to get in the holiday mood.

They were outclassed and soundly beaten 2-0 by South Korea in the last eight to disappoint a bumper crowd of nearly 40,000.

The Koreans, who are chasing a third gold medal in a row in the under-23 competition, face Uzbekistan in the semi-finals.

Japan beat North Korea 2-1 and will play Hong Kong, surprise 1-0 victors over Iran, in the last four.

The North Koreans rounded on the Uzbek match officials at the final whistle and at least one furious player had to be held back by his team-mates.

China also suffered a comprehensive loss in the final of the women’s team badminton competition.

The South Korean squad raced onto the court and some players were in tears after a 3-0 win for their first gold in the event for nearly 30 years.

South Korea’s coach Kim Hak-kyun called the gold “precious” and said they were already targeting more success at next summer’s Paris Olympics.

“This is thanks to the determination, mindset, mentality and unity of our players,” said Kim.

China did however recover to win the final of the men’s team competition 3-2 after going behind to India.

The home nation also enjoyed double gold in table tennis, with Sun Yingsha winning women’s singles gold and the duo of Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin taking the men’s doubles title.

In some of the first action of the day, Thailand’s Arpichaya Yubol snatched women’s golf gold after India’s Aditi Ashok blew a seven-shot overnight lead.

In the men’s event, rising star Taichi Kho kept his nerve despite a charge by PGA Tour star Im Sung-jae for a one-stroke victory.

It was Hong Kong’s first gold in golf at the Asian Games.

At the shooting range the Chinese women’s trap team of Li Qingnian, 42, Wu Cuicui, 35, and Zhang Xinqiu, 29, set a new world record of 357 points on their way to winning gold, eclipsing the previous world best of 354 points set by the United States in 2018.

In trap competitors wield shotguns and aim at clay-based targets being fired rapidly away from the shooter at different angles.

The silver medal went to India, whose team included Rajeshwari Kumari, 31, daughter of acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia and former Asian Games champion in shooting, Randhir Singh.

In the men’s U23 3×3 basketball, Mongolia won their first ever Asian Games bronze medal in a team event, before Taiwan pipped Qatar 18-16 to win gold and trigger elation on the court and a huge roar from Taiwan journalists in the media centre.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023


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Pakistanis among 40 nations facing backlash for reporting rights abuses



ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is among the 40 countries across the world where over 220 individuals and 25 organisations faced threats and retaliation from the state and non-state actors for cooperating with the United Nations on human rights, reveals a new report of the UN Secretary-General.

The report titled, ‘Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights’ covering the period from May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023, was recently presented at the Human Rights Council (HRC) session in Geneva. The session will continue till Oct 6.

The report says human rights defenders and other civil society activists are increasingly under surveillance and continued to face legal proceedings, travel bans and threats and they are given prison sentences for cooperating with UN’s human mechanisms.

The UN secretary-general said that the organisation has a collective responsibility to prevent and address intimidation and reprisals, guided by the principle of “do no harm” and a victim- and survivor-oriented approach.

Civil society activists face legal proceedings, jail sentence, travel bans and threats for cooperating with UN’s rights mechanism, says report

“Considerable progress has been made in shedding light on and addressing the issue, including through initiatives on civic space under ‘Call to Action for Human Rights’, the UN chief said.

“The UN is committed to strengthening its efforts to prevent reprisals, including through clear zero-tolerance messages and by awareness-raising among staff, member states and civil society interlocutors. We will further strengthen our response to reprisal cases and ensure appropriate systems are in place to identify, document and report on incidents, including those in the annual reports. We will reinforce the dissemination of information on what reprisals are and how to report incidents, in particular for UN bodies where reprisals are repeatedly reported,” he added.

“A global context of shrinking civic space is making it increasingly difficult to properly document, report and respond to cases of reprisals, which means that the number is likely much higher,” said Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, in her presentation to the HRC on Thursday.

“Despite ongoing efforts, regrettably, the number of reported acts of intimidation and reprisal by state and non-state actors remains high and their severity is very concerning,” she said.

“The global trends documented this year are also similar to those identified in previous reports, but with new emerging tendencies,” the UN official said.

Among the growing trends noted in the report is the increase in the number of people either choosing not to cooperate with the UN due to concerns for their safety, or only doing so if their identities remain anonymous.

Victims and witnesses in two-thirds of the countries listed in the report requested anonymous reporting of reprisals, compared with one-third in the last year’s report.

Most of the people who reported facing reprisals for their cooperation with the Security Council and its peace operations, as well as with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues did so on the condition of anonymity.

Algeria, Afghanistan, Andorra, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, France, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Qatar, the Russian Federation, South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Yemen, and the State of Palestine are also on the list alongside Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023


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Trump business empire under threat as New York fraud trial opens



Former US president Donald Trump will appear in a New York court on Monday as a civil fraud trial against him and two of his sons kicks off, with the case threatening the Republican’s business empire as he campaigns to retake the White House.

In Monday’s case, Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his sons Eric and Don Jr committed fraud by inflating the value of the real estate and financial assets of the Trump Organization for years.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is now seeking $250 million in penalties and the removal of Trump and his sons from management of the family empire.

Trump said late Sunday he planned to be present for the start of the trial on Monday morning.

“I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation,” the 77-year-old wrote on his Truth Social platform. “This whole case is a sham!!!”

In addition to this civil case, Trump also faces several major criminal proceedings in the months ahead.

He is scheduled to appear before a federal judge in Washington on March 4 on charges of trying to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden.

Trump will then be back in New York state court, this time on criminal hush money charges, and later in a Florida federal court, where he is accused of mishandling classified documents after leaving office.

Finally, he will also have to answer to state charges in Georgia, where prosecutors say Trump illegally tried to get the southern state’s 2020 election results changed in his favor.

In the New York civil case, Engoron ruled that Trump, his two eldest sons, and other Trump Organisation executives lied to tax collectors, lenders, and insurers for years in a scheme that exaggerated the value of their properties by $812 million to $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.


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