The current political state of affairs of Pakistan is in desperate demand of significant alterations. The conquest to achieving a fundamentally strong democratic sovereign country seems more like a dream. From its beginning in 1947, the country has had a turbulent life with political instability and ethnic disputes characterising its existence. 2021 was no exception.

Here are some highlights pointing out the fatal fault lines experienced by the political chessboard in Pakistan in 2021.

Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP):

Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is a far-right Islamic extremist political party in Pakistan. The party was founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi in August 2015 and is now led by his son Saad Hussain Rizvi. The party in January warned of taking to the streets if the government does not fulfill its promise of expelling the French ambassador by February 17. The government then signed a new agreement in February agreeing to take the issue to the parliament.

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In April, the TLP called for the implementation of its November agreement and insisted on Pakistan downgrading ties with France. Protests erupted in several cities after Saad Rizvi, the leader of the TLP, was arrested in Lahore. As clashes between the law enforcement agencies and the TLP became violent, 16 policemen were taken hostage by the protesters.

When negotiations with the group broke down, the federal government banned the TLP under the anti-terrorism law, taking Saad Rizvi into custody under administrative orders.

The TLP hit the streets again in October this year. Rangers were deployed in Punjab to maintain law and order as negotiations failed with the group.

However, a high-powered government team held talks with the TLP once again and managed to reach an agreement.

Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman held a news conference to announce that talks with the banned TLP have been “successful” and that an “agreement” had been reached between both sides.

The deal comes after 10 days of violent protests that saw at least seven police officials killed and dozens wounded, as protesters blocked major roads and a highway in and around Lahore.

The federal cabinet revoked the declaration of the TLP as a banned group and the provincial government moved to remove Rizvi’s name from an anti-terrorism watchlist.

The authorities released the chief of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan after weeks of negotiations that followed deadly protests, leaving many injured and dead.

Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP):

Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan in his October 1st interview with TRT World said that the government is in talks with some factions of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) adding that the negotiations were taking place in Afghanistan.

PM Khan said that if the TTP lay down their arms, “we can forgive them and they can become normal citizens.”

“Pakistani Taliban groups actually want to talk to our government for some peace, for some reconciliation and we are in talks with some of those groups,” added PM Khan.

The ceasefire came into effect on November 9, after the government announced the start of talks with the armed group, which is fighting with the state since 2007 and carried out dozens of attacks targeting civilians as well as security forces in the country.

On November 8, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed that the month-long ceasefire had been agreed upon between the government and the TTP.

In December, Fawad warned TTP and said that the government will only talk to those who respect the Constitution and law of Pakistan. Otherwise, the government has battled before and will do again.

The information minister said that the Taliban government had once again pressed the TTP to abide by the ceasefire agreement. “And I think their advice is sane,” he added.

Chaudhry’s remarks came after TTP’s announcement of ending a month-long ceasefire with Pakistan and the death of a policeman in an alleged armed attack on a polio vaccination team by TTP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

The establishment:

 “The army and government share an ideal relationship,” said Fawad Chaudhry. Why did the minister have to say the following words? 2021 was also the year where the relationship between the establishment and the ruling PTI felt some “strain”. What could have put pressure on this ideal relationship? To summarize, it was allegedly the ‘spymaster disaster’.

One fine crisp afternoon of October, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) announced a reshuffle in the army, in which Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum was to replace Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, who was to be posted as Commander of Peshawar-based Corps XI.

And then came the disaster which no one anticipated. The delay in the transfer of power. Soon all everyone could talk about was the postponement from the PM’s office in issuing the notification for the appointment of the incoming Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief.

We were reminded that PM Khan was the authority in appointing the Director General (DG) ISI. Fawad Chaudhry lamented that legal methods were being adopted in the appointment of the new DG.

It also emerged that PM Imran wanted Lt Gen Hameed to continue for some time due to the critical situation in neighbouring Afghanistan and he conveyed this to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa during a detailed meeting between the two.

The premier also decided he would like to interview the potential candidates, all that while assuring party leaders that the appointment issue had been settled with COAS Bajwa.

After a prolonged three weeks, the impasse was finally resolved on October 26, after the premier finally notified the appointment of Lt Gen Anjum.

The curious case of audio-video leaks and the mighty affidavit:

Saqib Nisar audio leak:

Leaked audio of a conversation, allegedly involving the former CJP Saqib Nisar, suggested that the former Chief Justice was the person who passed on the directions of handing down convictions to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz. According to the leaked audio, Nisar did this only because the “institutions” wanted the former prime minister penalised in order to bring ahead Imran Khan, reports Ahmed Noorani for Fact Focus.

As per the leaked audio, Chief Justice Nisar instructed that Mian Sahib (Nawaz Sharif) and his daughter (Maryam Nawaz) must be sentenced ‘even though it is unfair’.

“Whether it is fair or not, it has to be done,” he conveyed to the person on the other end.

“Regardless of the merit, we will have to do it (sentence Nawaz Sharif), and even his daughter,” said Justice Nisar.

When the person he was conversing with objected that a sentence cannot be passed against the daughter, Chief Justice Nisar replied, “You are absolutely correct. I did talk to ‘friends’ that something should be done about this but they did not agree.”

He went on to say, “there will remain no independence of the judiciary, so let it be”.

The affidavit against Saqib Nisar:

The leaked audio wasn’t enough, it seems and along came an affidavit rolling onto the political chessboard, changing the game once again for Saqib Nisar.

In November, The News journalist Ansar Abbasi published an investigative report which quoted former top judge of Gilgit-Baltistan, Rana Shamim, who has given an alleged affidavit, that Nisar colluded to deny bails to former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz before the 2018 general elections.

After allegations come the denial and CJP Nisar’s case was no different. Nisar vehemently denied all allegations leveled against him.

Islamabad High Court comes calling:

In a recent turn of events, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday set January 7, 2022, as the day for framing charges against former Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Judge Rana Shamim and others in a case related to an affidavit that accuses former Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar of colluding to deny bails to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership prior to the 2018 elections.

Audio leak of Maryam Nawaz:

An alleged audio clip of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz was leaked on social media in which she could be heard talking to someone on the phone. During the telephonic conversation, the PML-N Vice President said, “I talked to Mir Shakeel Sb [owner of Geo News] personally, I told him that are showing facts from both sides, instead you should tell people Imran Khan lied without any verification, and Imran Khan not only repeated this lie but also made ten other things.”

She further said that she told Mir Shakeel that he has to do it [to push her narrative], and he [Mir Shakeel] did it.

Maryam further said that she told Mian Amir Mahmood [owner of Dunya News] the same, and he replied “Aap Dekhein me krta kia hun iske saath” [Now see what I do with him.]

Earlier, another audio clip of Maryam went viral on social media in which Maryam Nawaz can be heard saying, “We have given many chances to Samaa News. The kind of news Samaa [airs] and the way its anchor Nadeem Malik is, we can no longer work with the channel. So we are not giving any ads to Samaa.” ”Samaa News, Channel 92, ARY News, and Channel 24 will not get any ads from us [PML-N],” said Maryam

Maryam on November 25, confirmed the authenticity of her viral audio clip but the date of the clip is still not known, whether it was when the PML-N was in government or opposition.

Leaked video scandal of Muhammad Zubair:

PML-N’s Muhammad Zubair’s leaked video, where he was allegedly seen in compromising acts with women, went viral on social media.

The former governor of Sindh categorically denied the video and termed it to be a “new low in politics” along with claiming that the video is “fake and doctored”.

The mobile footage, which allegedly showed the PML-N leader in bedrooms with women is blurred and the women cannot be identified.

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM):

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of Opposition parties against the ruling PTI was formed in September 2020.

The alliance failed to remain united for long and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) exited the coalition on April 12 this year over it being served a show-cause notice by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in his capacity as the alliance’s secretary-general. The notice was sent after the PPP nominated PPP leader Yousuf Raza Gilani as the opposition leader in the Senate “in violation of the alliance’s decisions”.

The Central Executive Committee of the PPP asked all the party members to resign from their positions in the PDM.

PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said no party “should try and impose its will and dictation on any other member party”.

Before parting its ways from the PDM, the PPP had a different opinion with regard to the resignations from the assemblies, which was being touted by the PML-N and some other member parties.

Before the PPP, the Awami National Party had also quit the PDM over its being “hijacked by some member parties”.

The PDM is now comprised of five parties namely the PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), National Party (NP), and Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal).

However, the Opposition alliance has pledged to reach Islamabad on March 23, 2022, and warned the authorities against any attempt to use force to prevent the marchers from entering the federal capital.

“So far, we have decided to reach Islamabad. The duration of the stay will be decided [by the leadership] after reaching the capital,” said PDM spokesman Hafiz Hamdullah.

Pandora Papers:

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), investigating international finance and tax havens, released a detailed list of public figures with offshore companies called the ‘Pandora Papers’ as part of their new investigation.

Nearly 700 Pakistanis were named in the report including Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, PPP leader Sharjeel Memon, Pakistan Muslim League -Nawaz’s (PML-N) Senator Ishaq Dar’s son Ali Dar, Punjab provincial minister Aleem Khan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Faisal Vawda, Pakistan Muslim League- Quaid (PML-Q) leader and Federal Minister for Water Resources Monis Elahi.

 PM Khan vowed to investigate all those Pakistanis mentioned in the Pandora Papers, and tweeted: “If any wrongdoing is established we will take appropriate action.”

“We welcome the Pandora Papers exposing the ill-gotten wealth of elites, accumulated through tax evasion & corruption & laundered out to financial ‘havens’. The UN SG’s Panel FACTI calculated a staggering $7 trillion in stolen assets parked in largely offshore tax havens,” he tweeted.

“The Pandora Papers”, is said to be the result of 600 journalists in 117 countries studying for months roughly 11.9 million documents that leaked from the offshore environment.

Senate Elections:

The year 2021 marked elections for the upper house of Parliament. The PTI went all-in with its juggernaut politics being directly supervised by PM Khan.

Last year, the president had approached the apex court to seek its opinion on whether or not the condition of the secret ballot under Article 226 of the Constitution applied to the Senate elections.

The president also promulgated a premature ordinance in February after attempts by the government to pass the 26th Constitution Amendment Bill in the National Assembly failed to make headway.

However, this was in vain as the apex court announced in its verdict in March and said the polls would be held through secret ballot. The reason for the push behind using open ballots was to eliminate the practice of horse-trading.

Hours before the polls were set to begin, a video surfaced showing the son of former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, explaining to lawmakers how to cancel their votes. Gilani was fielded as a joint candidate of the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement from Islamabad and was the lone competitor for the now-former finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh.

Despite the PTI’s objections, the Senate election was held on March 3. In a major upset for the government, Gilani managed to defeat Sheikh, forcing the prime minister to seek a vote of confidence from the NA.

Presidential Ordinance to extend NAB Chairman’s tenure:

President Arif Alvi in October signed an ordinance that enabled the president to reappoint the incumbent National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman or extend his tenure.

The National Accountability Second Amendment Ordinance 2021 amplified the opposition’s role in the appointment of the NAB chairman.

The ordinance amended Sub-section b of Section 6 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) to grant extension in the tenure of the NAB chairman by excluding the word “non-extendable” from the law.

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However, it has retained the provision that makes consultation between the Opposition leader and the leader of the house in the National Assembly on the appointment of NAB chairman, stating that the president would consult both of them.

It has increased the role of the Opposition and enhanced the parliamentary oversight as it has provided a forum of a 12-member parliamentary committee in case the consultation between the PM and the opposition leader proves futile.

The ordinance has enhanced the authority of the prosecutor general of NAB empowering him to play a crucial role in advising the chairman to file or withdraw any reference from the court.

It has also allowed the accountability court to grant bail to any accused.

Opposition parties criticised the amended ordinance and criticized extension to the NAB Chairman and called it tantamount to distorting the constitution and law of the country.