Thursday May 30, 2024

SHC orders release of 37 more PTI activists detained under MPO law

By Jamal Khurshid
June 02, 2023

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday suspended the detention of over 37 members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), including a Saddar Town union committee councillor, under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO) by the home department, and ordered their release subject to executing PR bonds.

The interim order came on the petitions filed by the PTI members who had challenged their detention under the MPO law by the Sindh Home Department. Their counsel submitted that the provincial government had issued notifications with regard to the detention of activists and leaders of the PTI under the MPO for 30 days. They submitted that the impugned notifications had been issued on the request, consultations and recommendations of the provincial police chief, and the custody of all the detained persons had been placed in different prisons of the province.

They also submitted that the ruling party of Sindh was also an ally of the federal government, which did not want to conduct elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa even after the directions of the Supreme Court. They claimed that PTI workers had been protesting against the arrest of party chief Imran Khan on May 9 when some miscreants engaged in arson and riots, vandalising public and private properties for their ulterior motives.

They also claimed that Sindh government had started arresting and detaining a large number of PTI workers and leaders unlawfully, as these arrests and detentions were not properly explained, with no opportunity of fair representation provided to them before the competent authority to challenge their arrest or detention under the MPO. They submitted that the Government of Sindh on the one hand had imposed Section 144 in Karachi, but on the other hand, the ruling party had held a public rally in the Tower area and blocked MA Jinnah Road for traffic for the entire day, sabotaging the public order and violating Section 144. They submitted that the arrests and detentions of PTI leaders and workers under the MPO were unlawful and without due process of the law.

The court was requested to declare the MPO notification against PTI workers and leaders as unlawful, and stop the Sindh government from issuing any unlawful order pertaining to harassment in the name of the MPO. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Sheikh and Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed asked the provincial law officer for the material on the basis of which the impugned order was issued. The provincial law officer submitted that he did not have any material, and sought time to file para-wise comments on the petitions. He said alternative remedy was available to the petitioners by way of representation to the provincial government, and contended that such a remedy was efficacious, as representation was invariably decided in a single day.

The court observed that since the matter pertained to the liberty of citizens, the operation of the impugned notifications under the MPO were to be suspended. It also ordered the release of the petitioners subject to executing PR bonds in the sum of Rs10,000 each before the relevant jail superintendent or police station, as the case might be, if they were not required in any other cases.

The court directed the office to communicate the order of the court to the provincial police chief, the prisons chief and the home department for information and compliance.The court also directed the provincial law officer to file para-wise comments on behalf of the home department, along with the requisite material collected by the competent authority to issue the impugned notifications.

The police chief submitted that the home department had constituted a committee chaired by the home secretary to consider representation in the light of evidence on board, and to review and de-notify the orders of detaining the petitioners under the MPO.

He said the police had received information that PTI activists were instigating people and organising a sit-in, which night disturb the peace and tranquillity, and could create a serious law and order situation, and such an act on their part would be highly prejudicial to public safety, so the home department was requested to issue the petitioners’ detention orders.