A Friday rundown of Pakistan’s top policy headlines on JI’s radar this week
Lakhvi and Indo-Pak Ties
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and commander and alleged planner of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was released from AdialaJail last week on the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC) after furnishing Rs.2 million in surety bonds. In December 2014, Lakhvi was granted bail by the Anti-Terrorism Court, but kept in detention under a Maintenance of Public Order in light of sharp criticism from New Delhi against Islamabad. The legal counsel for defense has maintained that there was insufficient evidence against Lakhvi to warrant his continued detention.
Lakhvi is currently among seven accused being tried by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindifor involvement in the Mumbai attacks. According to jail authorities, after he was released he was collected by JuD members amid tight security and shifted to an unverified location. However, a case against Lakhvi in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) is still pending after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) filed an appeal in January seeking cancellation of the bail granted to him by the ATC. Should the IHC cancel his bail, Lakhvi may be rearrested.
Lakhvi’s release has drawn strong reaction from India, with Home Minister Rajnath Singh calling the move ‘deeply disappointing’. While India claims it has given Pakistan enough evidence for Lakhvi’s prosecution, the Pakistani Foreign Office has responded to Delhi’s latest statement by claiming that the ‘inordinate delay’ in extending cooperation by India complicated legal proceedings and weakened the prosecution’s case. Now with US Secretary of State John Kerry adding his name to the list of concerned voices, the issue of Lakhvi’s freedom is likely to remain a pressure point in a struggling Indo-Pak peace process that remains hostage to progress in the Mumbai trials.
The Supreme Court on Thursday threw a spanner in the works when it stayed the execution of six terrorists convicted by military courts. The judicial order, given by Chief Justice Nasir ul Mulk after hearing of a petition filed by the Supreme Court Bas Association (SCBA), hints at the impending constitutional challenge that military courts are likely to face when a full bench of the apex court starts proceedings of petitions filed against the 21st Amendment on April 22.
The petition, which was filed by senior lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jehangir, argued that execution of convicts awarded the death penalty by military courts should be stayed until the Supreme Court adjudicates on pending petitions against the establishment of military courts. Senior lawyers and human rights activists have criticized the establishment of a parallel judicial system under military courts, emphasizing that such a step trespasses constitutional guarantees.
Military courts were set-up to fast-track convictions of terrorists and were signed into law on January 7, 2015 by President Mamnoon Hussain. Under the new system, terrorists would be tried by the Judge Advocate General branch of the Army and not by the mainstream judicial branch of government.
Pak-Iran: Rebalancing Economic Ties
Following Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s visit to Islamabad last week that marked heightened diplomacy with regard to Pakistan’s position on the ongoing Gulf crisis, it was reported that Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan will be leading a joint economic ministerial meeting to Tehran next week. While the Foreign Minister’s meeting was unquestionably focused on matters of regional security, it seems to have paved way for the Commerce block in Pak Secretariat to capitalize on prospects of regional trade as Iran is relieved of economic sanctions following its nuclear deal.
There is little that both the countries have so far achieved in terms of trade despite being signatories to a preferential trade agreement signed almost a decade back. Trade has actually taken a dip over the last few years, while energy pipeline projects have been difficult to pursue, particularly because of pressure from the United States. However, Iran remains an influential energy supplier in the region, and Delhi has been particularly receptive to prospects of regaining its lost oil imports since the imposition of sanctions on Tehran last year.
At the same time, Islamabad has found itself to be in a difficult position vis-à-vis its relationship with GCC by choosing not to intervene in the Yemen crisis. Admittedly, this difficulty is rooted in years of Gulf patronage, but also signifies how Pakistan’s economy continues to get played into diplomatic pressure internationally. With emerging economies increasingly looking forward to easing of sanctions from Iran to meet their growing energy needs, Islamabad will also have to reconsider prospective energy supplies from its immediate Western neighbour.
A view of the scenic Shangrila resorts in Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan.
Image Courtesy: Syed Mehdi Bukhari
Renowned Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie has been short-listed for the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her latest work ‘A God in Every Stone’. Shamsie has earlier also been short-listed for the coveted DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.