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November 23, 2018

Who’s responsible for holding nation hostage for 22 days?

Top Story

November 23, 2018

Sohail Khan *** Rana Masood Hasan

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday reserved the judgment in a suo moto matter pertaining to sit-in staged by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) at Faizabad Interchange held last year by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, chief of Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) who had paralysed the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad for over two weeks. A two-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa reserved its verdict after hearing Attorney General, secretary Election Commission of Pakistan and chairman Pemra.

On November 16, a two-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa while hearing the instant case had expressed dissatisfaction over the reports, furnished by an intelligence agency, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and directed all the departments to submit fresh reports in the matter in hand.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa had questioned as to whether the country will be run under the Constitution or through street power. He said that peaceful protest is right of every citizen but violence will not be allowed.

On Thursday, counsel for chairman Pemra told the bench that they had not issued instructions to cable operators to shut down Geo but were simply told to follow the law. Justice Isa then asked as to what disciplinary measures were taken against the cable operators?" the counsel replied that fines up to Rs1 million could be imposed. "I am writing that nothing was done," Justice Isa added.

He observed that they are now living in a controlled media state. 'Shut this channel, shut that channel' have we now become a nation of liars? Channels were shut from morning till evening, yet the Pemra did not know. No one felt any remorse."

The judge said that the Pemra chairman did not have the courage to enforce the law. Meanwhile, secretary Ministry of Defence through attorney general, in a sealed envelope, submitted the statement about the intelligence agency functions.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor told the court that he would brief about the agency in chambers as this is very sensitive issue. But the court asked him to submit his views in written form.

Referring to the issue of protests, the attorney general said as far 12th May Karachi incident is concerned it is in the trial court. "By repeating nothing new would come out of it," he said and added the then chief justice of Pakistan was not allowed to enter Karachi. He blamed Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) for causing the problem and setting up barricade in the whole city.

The Article 5 reads that loyalty to the state is the basic duty of every citizen and obedience to the Constitution and law is the [inviolable] obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.

Justice Isa remarked that the Parliament's supremacy and sovereignty was being continuously undermined. He questioned whether the country's future will be determined by the Parliament or insidious forces. Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor admitted that the TLP had violated Article 212 of Elections Act, 2017. "All the authorities in Pakistan are subservient to the Constitution, if they not then I would go further and say they are traitors in view of Article 5 of Constitution," he added.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa inquired as to whether a political party or the State can came in the way of peaceful protest. The AGP replied this has to be determined? The judge then sought attorney general's opinion regarding Faizabad dharna and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek sit-in at Constitutional Avenue where the protesters became violent.

He said in PTI dharna the protesters' demand was that commission be constituted to investigate the allegation of rigged elections. The commission was set up, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, to probe the charges, which gave finding that the general elections 2013 were not rigged.

Justice Isa asked attorney general as to whether the protesters accepted the findings of the Commission and apologised to the people of Pakistan for damaging the properties and injuring people including the law enforcement agencies personnel.

When the learned AG remained quiet, Justice Isa said when the AG can't say anything about it then why can't we discuss it." There is no judgment on this aspect, he said. During the hearing, Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad informed the court that they have written to the Ministry of Interior about the issue of TLP that some of its members are working against the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan. He said direction in Article 211 of Election Act, 2017 are of the nature of directory and not mandatory.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa however rejecting his submission observed that like good bureaucrat he has twisted the provision, adding first the ECP had complained that the TLP has not filed the statement of expenses incurred in election as per the Article of 211 of Election Act, and now they are defending a political party which is acting in violation of law.

The attorney general said action could be taken against a party who is receiving foreign funding under Article 212 of the Act, which says; "Where the Federal Government is satisfied on the basis of a reference from the Commission or information received from any other source that a political party is a foreign-aided political party or has been formed or is operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan or is indulging in terrorism, the Government shall, by a notification in the official Gazette, make such declaration."

Earlier, during the course of hearing, the court took exception of non-appearance of Attorney General Anwar Mansoor. When in the morning the bench took up the case the attorney general requested the court to hear it after break at 11:30 am. The bench therefore heard it 12:00 pm at that time Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mehmood informed that the AGP is in the ECC meeting.

"What business does the attorney general have with economics?" Justice Isa asked. "Is this a joke? Is the attorney general a servant of the prime minister? "If the prime minister had called him, he could have declined. Did the prime minister ask to adjourn the hearing? Is the prime minister above the Supreme Court?" "For the attorney general, Pakistan is not important enough."

Later, while appearing before the court the learned AG told the court that TLP could be deprived of its election symbol". "Without the symbol they will not be able to contest elections," he said.

As the court considered to issue him contempt notice for avoiding the court in the meanwhile he appeared before the bench. Justice Isa told the attorney general that the TLP is registered in the name of a Dubai-based person, possibly wondering if the case could fall under the dual nationality rule.

AG however, contended that "Nicop (National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis) is for Pakistanis living abroad, explaining that a person holding a Nicop is not a dual national." Justice Isa asked "Should a Nicop holder not have been questioned about dual nationalities?

"In my opinion, he should have been questioned.", the AG replied, adding that while "peaceful protests is everyone's right, action can be taken where threats are issued and provocations are made".

Earlier, the court hinted for issuing a contempt of court notice to the attorney general for not appearing before the court. " Justice Qazi Faez Isa said that they will give an observation against him. Let's see what the role of an attorney general is in the Constitution."

It is pertinent to mention here that the court while issuing its detailed verdict the other day had directed the Attorney General to appear before it prepared to attend to the matters noted herein as well those in earlier orders.

"We would want to hear the ECP and the learned AGP on the question whether a party that brought the country to a standstill, caused massive economic loss, the loss of life, injured law enforcement personnel and cause destruction of public and private property can be registered as a political party or be allowed to continue as such," the court had ruled in its detailed order.

Similarly, the court had also expressed the need to determine the parameters of protests and how these have to be handed by the state. Rana Masood Hasan adds: The Pemra chairman replied in the negative when Justice Mushir Alam asked him whether the authority cancelled licence of any cable operator for shutting down TV channels or or shuffling their slots. He remarked it was a pick-and-choose style of work, adding channels are being given slots on likes and dislikes.

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