South Asians for Human Rights, a regional network of Human Rights Defenders is keenly observing the political scenario unraveling in Pakistan. Pakistan has chosen a new prime minister. Imran Khan, the previous prime minister was ousted through a vote of no confidence which received 174 votes supporting it in the 342 seat parliament.
The passing of the motion came after the country’s Supreme Court in a landmark verdict late on 7 April 2022, restored the house that was dissolved by President Arif Alvi on Khan’s recommendation. The court ruled that the speaker of the National Assembly belonging to Khan’s party acted unconstitutionally in previously blocking the process to avoid losing power. SAHR commends the Supreme Court of Pakistan for timely and appropriate action in solving a constitutional crisis and upholding the legislature.
SAHR learns that since independence in 1947, no Pakistani prime minister has completed a five-year term in office in the country. It is also reported that the election in 2018 which elected Khan as the premier was manipulated to his advantage by the military.
Meanwhile, a deepening economic crisis contributed to dissatisfaction with Khan with double-digit inflation dogging much of his term. The annual inflation rate in Pakistan increased to 12.7% in March of 2022 from 12.2% in the previous month. In January it was 13% which was considered the highest rate in two years. The 2018 bailout package by the IMF came at a huge cost for Pakistan. In fact, apart from failing to curb corruption and financial mismanagement, Imran Khan’s government has also failed to meet a major portion of IMF requirements such as reducing budget deficit, improving banking and tax legislation, strengthening the social safety net for poor households phasing out electricity subsidies, and reducing foreign exchange market intervention by the federal bank. Enforced disappearances continued under Khan’s government, opposition leaders were arrested on corruption charges which are yet to be proven in court, the media was muzzled through ordinances and intimidation and social media activists and student activists were arrested on sedition charges.
Considering the above context, SAHR urges the new premier to lead the government to take effective measures for well-being of the people of Pakistan who have been suffering from the political and economic crises, according to its obligations towards the rights enshrined in the constitution; and pave the way for democratic values to benefit the public without preserving positive results of this political change only among the elite political class which governs the country. Consequently, SAHR also strongly recommends that the Sharif government must recover all missing people and present them in court and immediately lift all restrictions on media to ensure freedom of expression.
On behalf of the members of the South Asians for Human Rights
Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy
Dr. Roshmi Goswami
Image Copyright: EPA/ Shahzaib Akber