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Thursday June 30, 2022

Azadi March: SC orders to provide alternative place to PTI for public gathering

According to intelligence agencies, there is a danger of a suicide attack on Imran Khan, AGP Ashtar Ausaf tells SC

By Web Desk
May 25, 2022
The Supreme Court of Pakistan. Photo: file
The Supreme Court of Pakistan. Photo: file    

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on Wednesday ordered the chief commissioner to provide an alternative place to PTI for its "Azadi March" in Islamabad.

A three-member bench of the SC headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan  and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, took up the petition filed by the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA).

It is pertinent to mention here that Islamabad’s administration had earlier turned down the PTI’s request for holding a sit-in at the Srinagar Highway and has blocked all the routes leading to the federal capital.

During the course of the proceedings, Justice Ijazul Ahsan ordered the chief commissioner to offer the PTI an alternative place for its public gathering and submit a report to the apex court in this regard after holding negotiations with the party’s leadership.

Following a brief break, PTI’s counsel Babar Awan appeared before the court and apprised the judges that Imran Khan has nominated him, Aamer Kiani, Faisal Chaudhry, and Ali Nawaz Awan as negotiators from his side.

The attorney-general apprised the SC that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has also directed to form a negotiation team comprising ministers. He maintained that after getting the details about the team, he would apprise the court.

Justice Ahsan directed Babar Awan to inform the court how long the party’s protest will continue. The judge said the court will ensure the implementation of its verdict and will seek an affidavit in this regard.

Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing for one hour.

Earlier, Justice  Ahsan directed the Islamabad chief commissioner to devise a traffic plan for the PTI public meeting.

During the hearing, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi directed the interior secretary and the IG Islamabad to revise their policy. While addressing IG Islamabad, Justice Naqvi said that several cases and allegations have already been lodged against him.

“Stay within your limits,” the judge warned him and advised him to “realise and fulfil” his responsibilities.

“Give us names if PTI has fears of arrests,” Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked, adding that they will issue orders to stop the authorities from arresting them. “The SC has to protect everyone,” noted the judge.

The apex court directed the PTI’s counsel to inform them after consultations with the party leadership. Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the citizens should not be put in trouble due to internal fights.

Defending the government’s stance on rejecting the PTI’s request for a sit-in on the Srinagar Highway, the attorney general, while quoting the reports of intelligence agencies, said that there was a threat of a suicide attack on Imran Khan.

“Do the police taking the leaders and the workers into protective custody during the raids,” asked Justice Ahsan.

“If the government has any issue with the Srinagar Highway then why Lahore, Sargodha and the rest of the county is shut down?” asked the judge.

At this, the IHCBA president said that the entire country was closed to prevent one road from being closed.

The administration should present a complete plan so that roads are not closed due to protests Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan said.

Justice Ahsan directed the city administration to present a compressive plan for the protest.

Addressing the interior secretary, Justice Munib Akhtar said that if the political leadership has threats just on the Srinagar Highway, then will he take responsibility for whatever is going on in the country?

Provinces are responsible for maintaining the law and order situation, replied the interior secretary.

At this, Justice Ahsan asked who gave the report about the security threat?

“Two intelligence agencies and the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) submitted reports about the security threat,” the interior secretary apprised the court.

At the outset of today’s hearing, Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that an emergency has been imposed at all the hospitals in Islamabad while schools and transport have been closed in the capital.

“The country is on the verge of bankruptcy and going through a crucial phase in terms of economy,” noted the judge.

At this, Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf requested that the court should avoid giving observations on the economy.

“Will the entire country be shut down on every protest?” asked the judge.

The attorney general replied that he did not know about the details and sought time to get the information.

"Are you unaware of the country’s situation," the judge asked.

“You are quoting media reports about the closure of schools. The media’s every report is not correct,” argued Ashtar Ausaf.

Justice Mazahar Naqvi observed that the government had issued notifications about the postponement of examination papers and the closure of schools.

The attorney general said that he was against the blockage of roads but the steps were taken as a party had threatened to hold a “bloody march”.

Justice Ahsan directed that authorities devise a plan under which the protesters can come peacefully and return to their homes after recording their protest.

The judge sought assurance from the authorities that there would be no violence and the roads would also not be blocked.

The attorney general suggested that all the political parties should sit together and sign a charter of mutual respect.

At this, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi said that being rulers, it was your’s responsibility to break the ice.

“Conducting raids at people’s houses is against the law,” observed Justice Ahsan.

Meanwhile, the court adjourned that hearing till 2:30.

The petition 

The IHCBA, in its petition, told the court that the blockage of roads and highways by different state institutions and executive authorities was “preventing” advocates, citizens, including ambulances and doctors, from reaching their destinations.

The association, in its petition, stated that the lawyers were also stuck on the highways and roads for a long period which made them “unable to approach” the Supreme Court, thus, depriving citizens of their fundamental rights and hindering “access to justice".

“The freedom of movement is the fundamental right of every citizen of Pakistan and all the executive authorities, state agencies, state institutions, and the government and all the provinces and as well as the public functionaries are bound to obey the Constitution and exercise their powers within the four corners of the provisions of the Constitution and law,” read the petition.

The lawyers’ body also cited press reports that stated that lawyers, parliamentarians, and workers of one political party were being arrested and harassed without any reasonable and lawful justification. It stated that the violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens was “illegal, unlawful, and contrary to the provisions of the Constitution”.

The petition stated that the plea has been filed for the “protection of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution”.

The IHCBA has appealed to the apex court to direct the government to “unblock the roads and highways and not to create hindrance in the movements of the citizens”.

It also asked the Supreme court to direct the government to restrain from taking “any unconstitutional and illegal action or harass the citizens”.