The most dangerous time – 25 May 2022

THE Commons At Vintage Park in the Houston suburb of Spring, Texas, is the kind of apartment complex you can find all over the United States.

The sedate twoand three-storey apartment buildings are surrounded by trees and manicured bushes. There is plenty of parking for residents and a measure of extra security, in that the entire complex is gated. Only residents or those with the gate codecangain access.

None of this was enough to protect Sadia Manzoor. A Pakistani-American woman, Sadia worked as a teacher. On the morning of May 19, she was getting ready for work. Also in the apartment were her mother, Inayat Bibi, and her four-year-old daughter Khadija. Within minutes, all of them would be dead. That morning, Sadia`s estranged husband, also a Pakistani-American, barged into the apartment and opened fire, killing his ex-wife, his young daughter, and his ex-mother-in-law. Then he turned the gun on himself.

Since the murder, it has been revealed that Sadia had filed for divorce from her husband because he was abusive towards her and their daughter. The divorce had gone through, and Sadia was trying to build a new life for herself, her mother and her daughter. Having wrangled her way out of an abusive relationship, Sadia did not know that the time when an abused woman leaves a man is the most dangerous moment in her life. According to the US Department of Justice, the time when a couple separates is the most lethal moment. An abused woman is 500 times more at risk for violence, according to some estimates. Many abused women are hurt or killed during this window of time as the abuser begins to realise that he no longer controls them. In Sadia`s case, it seems that her former husband had decided that if he could not keep his family, then there would be no f amily.

Then there is the other story of two Pakistanorigin sisters from Spain. A day af ter Sadia Manzoor and her mother and daughter were slain, the two sisters Aneesa and Arooj Abbas were murdered in cold blood in Gujarat. According to reports, the sisters had been forcibly married to cousins in Pakistan a couple of years ago and were trying toget a divorce. When their in-laws and their own family learned of their intentions, they were tricked into returning to Pakistan. Here, they faced torture and abuse. The six men who have been arrested in connection with the murder include two of their brothers and an uncle, amongst others.

These are harrowing and tragic deaths. Both involve abused Pakistani women living in diaspora. Both involve men who, on finding out that they could not exert complete control over their victims, killed them. Sadia Manzoor`s murdererkilled himself, so he cannot be punished for the mayhem he unleashed. The suspected killers of the Abbas sisters have been arrested, but it`s unclear whether they will actually be punished. The general routine in cases involving the death of abused women is to make arrests while media attention is on these cases, and grant bail to the suspects as soon as the attention wanes.

The stories also illustrate how living in countries like the United States or Spain or any other Western nation exposes the masculinity crisis that confronts Pakistani men who migrate to other countries. In Pakistan, control over women is complete. Such is the normalisation of violence against women in the country that no one is bothered even when they know a woman is being abused.

Otherwise incessantly nosy Pakistanis are experts at looking the other way when it comes to abused women. One of the cruellest depredations of a hyper-patriarchal society is that even women, whom one would expect would support their own,smugly blame the victim.

Such all-encompassing dominion over women is not available to men in other countries. Pakistani men living in diaspora in this or that Western country suddenly discover that they can no longer exert complete control over the women in their family.

Relationship dynamics change when their wives discover that it is not very difficult to obtain a divorce. In Texas, as in other American states, a divorce is granted if either party wants it. Legally, at least, no one can force a woman to continue to stay married to a man. Unlike in Pakistan, a husband`s consent is simply not required to obtain a divorce. Some men, like Sadia Manzoor`s killer, cannot believe that they no longer command their f amilies in the way they used to.

It is important for all Pakistani women to learn from the stories of Sadia Manzoor and the Abbas sisters. The three women had been trying to live a life free of abuse; a life where they could make their own choices. Their lives were destroyed because of the male ego: their killers` insatiable desire to control transformed into a desire to kill.

Such was the bloodlust of Sadia Manzoor`s killer that even a four-year-old child was not spared.

According to their autopsy report, the Abbas sisters were severely tortured before they died.

Women leaving abusive relationships need to take the threat that they face very seriously. Sadia Manzoor may have been doing just that by living in a gated apartment complex. Unfortunately, it was not enough to save her and her small family. The lesson is clear: the raving and ranting abusive man can easily transform into a killer. Brothers and uncles can undergo similar transformations, egged on by their lurid desire for complete control.

Lurking beneath the thin veneer of normalcy, all abusive men are potential murderers of women; aided and abetted in their plans by conspiring f amily members, misogynistic laws and societies that choose to look the other way when men kill. • The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy

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If the law is against you – 25 May 2022

THE latter option has been in vogue lately. In a press conference held this month, the (now former) governor of Punjab announced his intent to file a reference in the Supreme Judicial Council against the Hon`ble Justice Jawad Hassan of the Lahore High Court.

Article 209 of the Constitution sets out that a decision by this councilis the only way a judge can be removed from office. It also explicitly states the circumstances in which a reference can be filed: if the judge is either `incapable of performing the duties of office` or found `guilty of misconduct`.

How gravely had the justice sinned to f all under the cross hairs of such a move, you may ask? Well, to put it simply, he wrote a judgement that the governor didn`t like. After Punjab had been without a chief minister for several weeks because of the governor`s refusal to administer the oath, Justice Jawad ordered for the National Assembly Speaker to do the deed and get things over with.

Now you might disagree with this decision, and you`re entitled to. The governor did, so before going on the offensive in his press conference, he laid out his interpretation of the Constitution: that only he could administer the oath. The next day, he proceeded to demonstrate his understanding of the said Constitution by writing a letter to the army chief expressing his `real anxiety` and requesting an `intervention`.

This was followed by the Rambo-esque demand for just four soldiers, with whose help Mr Governor was apparently to lead a heroic commando operation to arrest the chief minister, reclaim power, and save the day.

You really can`t make this stuff up, but you`d be mistaken to think it was an isolated incident. Power intoxicates, and the slightest sip can lead many to believe that theirs is eternal. This, coupled with the seemingly sincere belief that one`s opponents are a unique evil that ought to be eradicated at all costs, leads normal people to justify flagrant illegalities with the rationale that the ends justify the means.

This idea has recurred throughout Pakistan`s history, most notably under a label called `doctrine of necessity`. To put it lightly, it never ended well. What was otherwise unlawful (coups mostly) was tolerated as the last remaining option in the face of seemingly fatal alternatives. But even if your opponent is truly evil, is it worth ripping apart the law to spite them? The 1966 film A Man for All Seasonsaddresses this question. William Roper exclaims: `I`d cut down every law in England to [get the devil]!` Sir Thomas More responds: `Oh? And when the last law was down, and the devil turned `round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast … and if you cut them down, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I`d give the devil the benefit of the law, for my own safety`s sake.

This is easier said than done, and what it entails is swallowing your pride when things don`t go your way. For example, when a high court judgement is decided against you, there are legal means to appeal it.

Trying hopelessly to fire the judge is not one of them. Attempts to strong-arm the judiciary into doing one`s bidding deal a heavy blow to public trust and future precedent.

After all, power is a painfully transient thing, and once it`s gone, the new norms you create will inevitably be used against you.

To accept the legitimacy of state institutions when their decisions are in your f avour,to drag them through the mud when they`re not, and to publicly implore others to violate their oath and transgress their constitutional limits to save your own skin is an assault onthefoundadonsofone`s country. It`s to state that if the system isn`t working in your favour, you`d rather burn it down and rule over ash and rubble.

And perhaps the most unsettling feature of this recent trend is how consistently it comes wrapped in the language of loyalty and courage.Those at theforefront of constitutional transgressions aren`t just content with their actions. They`re taking victory laps, painting themselves as their leader`s most sincere followers, the ones willing to sacrifice everything at the altar of their loyalty.

To their supporters, narratives like these are powerful. Who cares if you`re cutting down the law? It`s to spite the devil (ie everyone who disagrees with us), and all is fair in love and Pakistani politics, right? But this ignores a simple truth.

Fighting till the very end to defend yourself might appear bold and defiant, but it`s not admirable. Animals do that too. You know what`s really brave? Putting yourself second. And fighting for something bigger.• The writer is a lawyer and columnist from Okara. The views expressed are his own.

Twitter: @hkwattoo1

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Exciting technologies – 25 May 2022

During the last few decades, we have witnessed amazing developments in various fields of science and technology. Some of the most remarkable developments are in the field of biological sciences.

Let us first turn to the functioning of our own brain. With about 100 billion neurons, and with each neuron communicating with some 8,000 other neurons, it represents the most complex object of our universe, according to current knowledge. Thoughts are not ‘abstract’ as many would imagine but have a material existence. They are composed of various molecules that are stored in the brain. While much has been discovered about where the thoughts are stored in the brain (hypothalamus) but the precise mechanisms of thought storage and recall are little understood.

Our researches during the last two decades have revealed that the storage of thoughts may be in the form of patterns that are formed by the folding of glycoproteins, and logical processes may be considered as the inter-relationships of these patterns. These exciting discoveries are embodied in over 20 US patents and have led to the discovery of exciting potential drugs against epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease that are undergoing clinical trials.

With ageing populations, the prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases is increasing exponentially and there is urgent need to address this issue so that the elderly populations can live longer healthier lives. The understanding of how the human brain actually works and the genes responsible for the development of various parts of the brain will also allow the manipulation of human intelligence, improvement of personality traits and the control of criminal tendencies that are linked to certain genetic factors present in some individuals.

A fascinating area under development is that of electronic chips that can be interfaced with neurons. This can allow the transfer of information between chips and nerve cells through Brain-Chip-Interfaces (BCHIs) in one or both directions. Indeed, devices that can interface with the neural system have already been developed for therapeutic purposes. For instance, patients with Parkinson’s disease can have a device implanted in their brain that can send electrical impulses to control tremors and improve motor control. Brain implants are also under development to help persons suffering from paralysis to restore hand movements.

Thoughts of patients with severe spinal injury can be translated into text using a brain implant with a high degree of accuracy. Elon Musk has formed a company, Neuralink, to develop Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs). Such devices, once implanted in the human brain, will allow thoughts of completely paralysed persons to be converted into actions, such as typing, manipulating a joystick etc, just by thinking about the action.

Another area of biology that is undergoing rapid development is that of gene editing. This technique allows specific changes to be made in the DNA sequence of a living organism. Gene editing technologies can be used to modify the genetic structure of plants to increase yields, disease resistance and drought resistance. They are also being explored to address genetic diseases with limited success.

While new plant or animal species could take thousands of years to develop through the process of evolution, it is now possible to develop new species in the laboratory through targeted genetic interventions in a matter of months, if not weeks. This has opened up new horizons in agriculture and animal husbandry. The ethical and social implications of this rapidly evolving technology have been the subject of much discussion, as it has the potential to alter human intelligence as well as personalities.

Another rapidly developing area is that of 3D printing. Originally used for producing small plastic objects, it has now been developed to produce all sorts of materials including 3D printing of entire houses, metal objects including guns, food (chocolates, pizza etc), cars, drones, customized clothing exactly fitting body specifications, or a 3D printer itself. Even parts of living kidneys and livers can be printed by multiplying living cells in a tank and spraying them into the exact shape, layer by layer, through a 3D printer.

A major problem facing our planet is that of water for agriculture and for drinking. With global warming, there is now a severe stress in countries such as Pakistan that are predicted to be among the worst affected. The advent of nano technology, and the development of nanomembranes and various nanomaterials promise to provide cost effective solutions to global water shortages. Nanotechnology involves the preparation and study of materials that have a size of a billionth of a millimeter. At this size, the materials exhibit strange new properties, which are finding large scale applications in electronics, drugs and drug delivery, energy, environment, sensors, diagnostics, textiles and a whole range of other fields.

Pakistan’s first dedicated research center on nanotechnology, the Latif Ebrahim Jamal Nanotechnology Center, was established within the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) at the University of Karachi by Aziz Latif Jamal through a generous donation of the Husein Ebrahim Jamal Foundation. It is working on the development of various nano-pharmaceuticals in close collaboration with the Dr Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research, established by Ms Nadira Panjwani within (ICCBS) through the generous grant of the Dr Panjwani Foundation.

The ICCBS is a leading research center in the Afro-Asian region and has been designated as the UNESCO Center of Excellence, the WHO Center of Excellence, The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) (Italy) Center of Excellence and the OIC Center of Excellence. Over 100 German scientists have been trained in this institution over the last few years and it is the only research center in the developing world where advanced countries send their faculty and students for research. It is focusing on new and emerging technologies such as nano-pharmaceuticals, advanced genomics, gene editing, neurodegenerative diseases, antibiotics resistance, and regenerative medicine including stem cell technologies.

It is important for universities in Pakistan to focus on the new and emerging technologies so that they can prepare our youth for tomorrow’s world. An excellent beginning in this direction has been made with the establishment of the Pakistan Austrian University of Applied Science and Engineering in Haripur which will have five postgraduate research centers of excellence in fields such as Artificial Intelligence, Mineral Resource Engineering, High Speed Railways Technologies, and Advanced Agricultural Technologies. Eight foreign universities, three from Austria and five from China, will offer their courses in this unique university.

The writer is former minister, and former founding chairman of the HEC. He can be reached at:

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Punjab police slammed for failing to recover two `abducted` Karachi girls – 25 May 2022

KARACHI: A key member of the Sindh cabinet said on Tuesday that the Punjab police were not cooper ating with their coun-terparts in Sindh in the recovery of two teenage girls allegedly kidnapped in Karachi.

Sindh Minister for Women Development Syeda Shehla Raza told a press conference that she would go to every extent for their safe recovery both the kidnapped girls Dua Zehra and Nimra Kazmi who she said could not get married under law of the land.

Both the girls had gone missing in April to allegedly get married of men of their choice of their own free will.

`YouTubers had access to the two kid-napped girls, but Punjab police don`t know their whereabouts,` she deplored.

She said that the inspector general of the Punjab police had said that Dua Zehra`s last location was traced in Balakot through mobile phone, but her phone was switched of f on Monday.

`Today they [Punjab police] are saying that the kidnapped girl was located in KP, tomorrow they will say that she is in northern areas,` she added.

She said that the over 2,000 young girls had been kidnapped in Sindh during 2017 to 2022.The minister said an organised gang was behind the kidnapping of young girls in Karachi and other parts of the province.

`A family living in Liaqatabad have also identified the members of the kidnapping gang,` she added.

Ms Raza said that the parents of Dua Zehra had gone to Punjab. `We will also go to Punjab and sit there if the two kidnapped girls are not recovered,` she said.

The minister said that that a girl kidnapped in Lahore had been recovered within eight hours. `Why can`t the girls kidnapped in Sindh be recovered,` she asked.

She said that Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had spoken to Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz in this regard.

Police told to produce Dua in court on 30th The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday directed the interior secretary to ask all the relevant law enforcement agencies for extending cooperation to the Sindh police for the recovery of Dua Zehra, who had gone missing from her home in Karachi and later surfaced in Punjab.

A two-judge bench headed byJustice Mohammad Iqbal Memon again directed the IGP-Sindh to produce Dua Zehra on May 30.

When the bench took up for hearing the petition of the girl`s father seeking her recovery, it observed that despite directions issued earlier to produce her, nothing substantial had been done.

Acting IGP-Sindh Karman Afzal along with other senior police of ficers appearedincourtinthehghtofaprevious order and submitted that they were chasing the signal of a mobile phone being used by the alleged husband of the abductee and a technical team of the Sindh police had also been deployed in the relevant area.

He also said the information of the technical team at the same time was also being sent for locating the alleged abductee,buttono availsofar.However, the acting IGP undertook that within a period of one week, the girl would be traced out and brought before the court for further proceedings.

The bench observed that despite its repeated orders, compliance had not been made and as per police, sometimes the mobile signal was found in Punjab and then in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as in Azad Kashmir.

Thus, it said that directives were being issued to the interior secretary to ask all relevant authorities to extend cooperation.

Mehdi Ali Kazmi had approached the SHC stating that the age of his daughter was 13 and under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, marriage of a minor/underage person was illegal.

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Brother, two cousins held for killing woman – 25 May 2022

KOHAT: The Lachi police on Tuesday resolved a blind murder case of a woman by arresting her brother and two cousins, who had killed her for honour on May 17.

The suspects had buried the woman`s body inside her house after murdering her. However, her husband had recovered the body the same day.

DSP Lachi Nazir Hussain told mediapersons that the blind murder case was reported by the husband of the victim, 28, nominating his brother-in-law, and two cousins of the woman.

He said suspects admitted to first strangulating her and then shooting her dead. They said they had buried the body inside her house. The suspects said they suspected the woman to have illicit relations with someone.

The Lachi DSP said the Kohat division police chief had announced cash award and commendation certificates for the team having arrested the accused.

POLIO DRIVE: The Hangu police on Tuesday enforced Section 144 and deployed Frontier Constabulary for the security of the health workers during the anti-polio drive.

The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by district police officer Asif Bahadar, according to a statement.

The DPO said hundreds of policemen and FC personnel had been assigned the task of providing security to the polio teams.

He said he himself would pay regular visits throughout the district to ensure foolproof security of the vaccinators.

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Influential gang likely enticing underage girls of Karachi into eloping, says Shehla – 25 May 2022

KARACHI: An organised criminal gang based in Punjab has likely been behind the recurring incidents of elopement of underage girls from Karachi.

Sindh Women Development Minister Syeda Shehla Raza said this on Tuesday while addressing a press conference. She remarked that despite several requests made by the Sindh government, the Punjab police had been avoiding action against the suspected gang because it had the backing of influential persons.

She also voice her suspicion that the criminal gang that had been luring the underage girls of Karachi into childhood marriage was involved in international human trafficking.

She said that her suspicion had become stronger after meeting a family from the C-1 area of Liaquatabad whose daughter had gone missing in 2002. “No way a thin, lean boy alone could make a girl elope with him as certainly influential persons have been involved in this activity to bring her to Punjab,” she said.

Lambasting the Punjab police, Shehla said that sheer indifference shown by them in recovering the two underage girls from Karachi — Dua Zehra and Nimra Kazmi — had made her think that police officials and IGP of the neighbouring province didn’t have their own daughters. “Therefore, they didn’t feel any urgency at all to come to the rescue of the concerned parents from Karachi who wanted the immediate recovery of their minor daughters.”

The women development minister said the inaction of the Punjab Police in these cases had been beyond comprehension as YouTubers and Tiktokers had easily accessed the two missing underage girls. “Now after the passage of so many days, they have informed that one of the missing girls has gone to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.”

She added that the Punjab IG had been completely indifferent to the sufferings of the parents of Nimra who had been in Punjab along with the investigation officer of the case but despite being driven from pillar to post, they did not get any relief.

She remarked that the lamentable role of the Punjab police in the two cases had made her realise that there were always valid reasons whenever an IGP was changed in the neighbouring province.

“Now we will see the action of the KP police in this case [as one of the girls has reportedly gone there from Punjab] as we earlier heard that many reforms have been adopted there to improve the working of police,” Shehla said.

She added that the Punjab police had no regard at all for the law of their own province where a girl should attain the minimum age of 16 before marriage. She also bemoaned the fact that the Punjab police did not spring into action to recover the two girls despite the Sindh chief minister and home secretary contacting their high-ups for the purpose.

She warned the authorities of Punjab and KP to ensure the safe recovery of the two girls by May 30, 2022, or else Sindh would come up with a firm strategy to do the needful. “We will go and sit on the roads of Punjab and KP or else go to any extent to make sure that these girls are recovered as being the relevant minister and a mother, I have to ensure the protection of all the underage girls in Sindh.”

She also appealed to the content creators associated with the social media platforms to avoid exploiting such sorrowful incidents for their own commercial gains, and contact the relevant authorities if they had any valuable information that could help resolve such cases.

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Youth recovered, six kidnapers arrested – 25 May 2022

NOWSHERA: The police claimed to have recovered a kidnapped youth and arrested six accused in the jurisdiction of Pabbi Police Station on Tuesday. Sajjad Ali Shah, a resident of Bab-e-Qadim in Pabbi, had reported to the police that his brother Jawad Ali was kidnapped by unknown kidnappers from Ali Baig area.

Soon after the incident, District Police Officer Muhammad Umar Khan Gandapur constituted a special team headed by Deputy Superintendent of Police Salim Khan and Station House Officer, Pabbi, Ismail Shah, launched investigation on scientific lines. The police said that they reached the accused through the close circuit television camera recording and arrested the alleged kidnappers identified as Hilal, Bilal, Noorullah, Safiullah, Hashim and Yaseen and recovered Jawad Ali safely. The police said that the accused had tortured the kidnapped youth.

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Unequal citizens – 25 May 2022

INDIFFERENCE would have been bad enough, but the state`s attitude towards non-Muslims falls squarely in the category of religious discrimination to the extent of considering them as being less than human. It is a shameful indictment of the promise upon which this country came into being nearly 75 years ago, when it pledged to protect its minorities and treat them on a par with the rest of its citizenry. According to a report compiled by the National Commission for Human Rights, with support from the EU, nearly half the posts reserved for religious minorities in government jobs are vacant and to add insult to injury 80pc of the non-Muslims who have been appointed under the 5pc quota for them are working in low-paid sanitation jobs. The document, titled Unequal Citizens: Ending Systemic Discrimination Against Minorities, highlights a slew of other problems that many non-Muslims in government jobs related to garbage disposal and sewerage management face every time they show up for work in return for a pittance. These include hazardous working conditions, inadequate safety gear and equipment, lack of job security and low compensation to those injured or the families of those who die in the course of their work.

The report should be a much-needed wakeup call for a state that is failing spectacularly in its constitutional and international obligations towards an entire section of the citizenry. According to the NCHR, between 2011 and 2021, more than 65pc of sanitary workers who died while unclogging gutters belonged to minority communities.

Repeatedly, concerned citizens have pointed out that notices advertising government posts for sanitation workers display blatant faith-based discrimination by clearly stating that only non-Muslims need apply as though these tasks essential for keeping our environs clean and disease-free are beneath Muslims. In September last year, the Supreme Court had asked the government why 30,000 jobs set aside for non-Muslims were still vacant. And yet, this institutionalised discrimination persists in our society, furthering a majoritarian mindset that then becomes a breeding ground for other problems.

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Interpreting Article 63A: impact on our political system – 25 May 2022

Constitution being a law organic in nature continues to evolve according to the dictates of times

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Pakistan while interpreting Article 63A created history in the constitutional development of Pakistan. The decision will have far-reaching effect on the evolution of the political system towards elimination of politics of opportunism sine quo non for the smooth functioning of democracy.

Article 63A was inserted into the Constitution with an intention of the authors to prevent horse trading thorough the exercise of party discipline.

Article 63A places an embargo on a member of National Assembly or Provincial Assembly to go against the party and can be declared disqualified, if he or she being a member of a Parliamentary Party composed of a single political party in a House resigns from membership of his political party or joins another Parliamentary Party. Most significantly, in case of a vote of no-confidence, votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs, in relations to — (i) election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister; or (ii) a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or (iii) a Money Bill or a Constitution (Amendment) Bill; he may be declared in writing by the Party Head to have defected from the political party, and the Head of the Parliamentary Party may forward a copy of the declaration to the Presiding Officer. However, under proviso before making the declaration, the Party Head shall provide such member with an opportunity to show cause as to why such declaration may not be made against him.

Upon receipt of the declaration, the Presiding Officer of the House is under an obligation to refer, within two days, the declaration to the Chief Election Commissioner who is then required to lay the declaration before the Election Commission for its decision thereon confirming the declaration or otherwise within thirty days of its receipt by the Chief Election Commissioner.

In case the Election Commission confirms the declaration, the member shall cease to be a member of the House and his seat shall become vacant. But, after the decision, any party aggrieved by the decision of the Election Commission may, within thirty days, prefer an appeal to the Supreme Court which shall decide the matter within ninety days from the date of the filing of the appeal.

The issue of floor crossing cropped during the vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan amidst anticipated fear of defection from the ruling party. The reference was filed by the President of Pakistan asking the question: Can defected parliamentarians be allowed to vote? Will defected MPs’ vote be given equal weightage? Can defected MPs be disqualified for life? Other measures that can be taken to curb vote-buying?

Reiterating the spirit of Article 63A of the Constitution, Supreme Court held that the dissident members of a parliamentary party cannot cast votes against their party’s directives. While deliberating on the issue the court also interpreted that Article 63A of the Constitution could not be interpreted alone. Therefore, this was taken in juxtaposition with Article 17 of the Constitution providing right to every citizen to form associations or unions, and the right to form or be a member of a political party. Elaborating this right, the Supreme Court declared: “The pith and substance of Article 63A is to enforce the fundamental right of political parties under Article 17 that, in particular in the legislative arena, their cohesion be respected, and protected from unconstitutional and unlawful assaults, encroachments and erosions. It must therefore be interpreted and applied in a broad manner, consistent with fundamental rights of the collectivity (i.e. the political party) and an individual member thereof it is the former that must prevail. The first question is answered accordingly.”

In response to the first and second questions raised in the reference, the top court’s majority judgment said the votes of the defected parliamentarians would not be counted.

In response to the third question regarding the disqualification of members, the top court rejected the PTI’s plea, saving the lawmakers from permanently being barred from the Parliament. This was left to the parliament to legislate, if need be.

In this judgment emphasising the importance of political parties, the apex court considered it to be imperative for democracy, just as fundamental rights are to be protected.

The immediate impact of the judgment has been the de-seating of the 25 members of the Punjab Assembly putting the office of Hamza Shehbaz as Chief Minister in limbo by declaring that “the casting of votes by the respondent in favour of opposition candidate is a serious issue and worst form of betraying the electorate and party’s policy.”

Looking from the perspective of a firmly rooted democracy, political parties are the nucleus around which other institutions revolve, providing strength and vigour to the political system. Political parties, being at centre stage of a political system, represent the hopes and aspirations of the people. Besides in a democracy sovereignty belongs to the people solidified in the political parties.

These political parties being repository of the will of the people, not only provides blue prints for governance but also threads diverse sections of population into a single whole called nationhood. Thus political parties in national parties are the steel frame of the foundation of a modern state. In the context of Pakistan, through this medium, the people from Karachi to Khyber have been bonded together by agreeing to the progmrames of the political parties in pursuit of political power.

Unfortunately, our country remained riddled with malaise of floor crossing, weakening political parties and undermining democracy in the process. This opportunism also encouraged horse trading, adversely affecting the sanctity of the ballot. This process of abandoning political parties, reflecting politics of opportunism has also been a big obstacle in establishing genuine democracy.

No doubt, Constitution being a law organic in nature therefore continues to evolve according to the dictates of times. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has interpreted those articles by strengthening the institutions and adding morality to politics, thus dispelling the impression: end justifies the means.

This can now safely be said that the judgment will go a long way in stabilising democracy by preventing politics of opportunism in the country.

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Spirit of the law – 23 May 2022

WOMEN`S right to inheritance is often galling for their male relatives in our patriarchal society. However, with cultural practices favouring them in every sphere, men can and do find a way around this `hurdle` without much difficulty. One tactic is to take advantage of many women`s lack of exposure to the world of business and their dependence on male relatives to interpret its fine print for them. Many a woman has thus been duped into signing away her property, only to realise too late that her trust has been betrayed. The Supreme Court has in a recent verdict addressed this loophole by ruling that to deprive an illiterate, purdah-observing woman of her property without professional or independent advice provided to her, or without making her understand the consequences of her action, was not sustainable in law. Consent, therefore, is not worth the paper it is written on until it is given freely with full awareness of its implications, which is how it should be. The case in question involved a gift deed of properties inherited by two sisters, both illiterate and purdah-observing, prepared fraudulently on blank paper through misrepresentation by their brother.

Legal protections do not amount to much without the will to apply them in the true spirit. The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act, 2011 added Section 498A to the Penal Code to criminalise the act of depriving women of their right to inheritance. Anyone found guilty of this crime is liable to imprisonment of between five to 10 years and/ or a Rslm fine. The apex court`s recent verdict takes into account the lived reality of many women who sign contracts involving their property. Further, it puts the onus of proof where it belongs on the individual who enters into a transaction with the purdah-observing or illiterate woman; it is for him `to establish that the said document was executed by her after mindfulness of the transaction`. However, there are other ways that women are deprived of their property.

These involve the full spectrum of family and communal pressures, underpinned by archaic notions of honour, to surrender what is theirs, or should rightfully be theirs, in favour of male relatives.

Resistance can invite physical violence, even a risk to life. For this to change, society needs to undergo a change in mindset whereby women are not mere appendages to the men in their family, but complete individuals in their own right.

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