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Friday June 21, 2024

High-powered JIT formed to probe campaign targeting top judges

Lawyer organisations demand action against elements running social media campaigns targeting CJP Isa

By Asif Bashir Chaudhry & Maryam Nawaz
January 16, 2024
This image shows a number of social media platforms on a phone screen. — X/@AFP
This image shows a number of social media platforms on a phone screen. — X/@AFP

ISLAMABAD: A high-powered joint investigation team (JIT) has been formed to probe social media campaign targeting judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the caretaker federal government announced Tuesday.

“The federal government has been pleased to constitute a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in terms of Section 30 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016,” the notification from the Ministry of Interior read.

The notification said that the six-member inter-institution probe team will be headed by the Federal Investigation Agency’s Additional Director General (Cyber Crime Wing).

Moreover, it will include senior officials from the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), DIG Islamabad Capital Territory Police, and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. A co-opted official will also be a member.

The team comprising senior officials has been tasked to ascertain facts behind malicious social media campaigns attempting to “malign the image of honourable judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan”, the notification said.

“To identify and bring the culprits to book in accordance with relevant laws and cause presentation of challans in the concerned courts,” the official document stated.

The team has also been asked to recommend measures for prevention against the occurrence of such incidents in the future and submit a preliminary report to the Ministry of Interior within a fortnight (14 days).

The decision comes after the top court passed a verdict that wasn’t in favour of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The order of the top court was severely criticised.

While addressing a press conference earlier in the day in Islamabad, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and Supreme Court Bar Council (SCBA) officeholders demanded action against those responsible for running a campaign targeting Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa.

The officer bearers of the bodies said the PTA and FIA should take “strict action” against such elements.

SCBA President Shahzad Shaukat said his body stands with the apex court’s judges, noting that their decisions could be criticised, but shouldn’t be personally maligned. “Lawyers will not tolerate criticism of judges. When the order mentions that it [PTI] did not hold elections, then [why the hue and cry].”

PBC Vice President Haroon Ur Rasheed said if there was a flaw in the apex court’s decision, then it should be brought forward. “The PTI barred its own members from participating in intra-party elections; I plead with lawyers and the nation to criticise the verdict but not to ridicule the judges.”

Hasan Raza Pasha, the chairman of the PBC’s Executive Committee, said PTI’s lawyers were not prepared for the nine-hour-long hearing. He, however, noted that it was the party’s right to file an appeal against the decision.

“One side of this decision is moral and the other legal: morally, the PTI should have been given the bat symbol; however, legally it was not possible to get relief without holding intra-party elections.”