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February 8, 2019

PTI’s sit-in gets bad reflection in SC judgment


February 8, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Though for the Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party the 2014 sit-in was a great achievement, it is not so reflected in the latest Supreme Court’s judgment on Faizabad dharna.

Instead, the SC judgment has referred to May 12, 2007 massacre in Karachi and the PTI-PAT’s months long sit-in in 2014 to discuss what the TLP leadership had done in Faizabad, Rawalpindi.

The judgment said that though the findings of the inquiry commission had rebutted PTI’s allegations on election rigging, no adverse consequences followed. It added the PTI leadership neither did tender apology nor did clean up the Red Zone area (where sit-in was staged) or paid for cleaning and restoring it.

The relevant para of the judgment reads as: “The leadership of TLP must have noted that despite the daylight slaughter of innocents on the streets of Karachi on May 12, 2007, its principal conspirators and beneficiaries were not punished. They must also have noted when PTI-PAT had camped in the Red Zone for several months they had achieved the setting up of a judicial inquiry commission. Though the findings of the inquiry commission had rebutted PTI’s allegations, no adverse consequences followed. PTI’s leadership did not even tender an apology, let alone clean up the area or pay to clean and restore it. Instead PTI received a lot of free publicity….”

According to the judgment, “PTI, PAT and their supporters had alleged that the results of the general elections held on May 11, 2013 were rigged. They protested and camped outside the National Assembly, played loud music till late at night and disrupted the peace and sleep of those living in the area. Litigants, and even judges, had to find alternative routes to reach the Supreme Court. The PTI-PAT dharna took place on Constitution Avenue, but it did not paralyse the capital. The PML-N, as a consequence of the continuous pressure, agreed to the demand of PTI to promulgate a Presidential Ordinance to enable the setting up of a judicial commission to inquire into the conduct of the general elections of 2013.”

“The judicial commission was headed by Nasirul Mulk, the then Chief Justice of Pakistan. He and two senior judges were the three-member inquiry commission, which examined the allegations leveled by the PTI. The commission found, ‘the 2013 general elections were in large part organised and conducted fairly and in accordance with the law’. The commission’s findings were not disputed by PTI.”

The SC judgment said, “We have considered three different protests and the state’s handling of them. On May 12, 2007 unarmed citizens wanted to go to the airport to receive theChief Justice of Pakistan. The Constitution guarantees the freedom of movement, however, citizens were prevented from going to the airport. Large shipping containers were placed across roads by the state at public expense. The citizens were not deterred and proceeded on foot when they were fired upon and by day’s end fifty-five lay dead and hundreds more were injured. Seven years later came the PTI-PAT dharna…….. Then three years later the country was faced with the TLP dharna.”

The PTI and its leading minister Sheikh Rashid were again mentioned in the judgment, which, while discussing the TLP dharna, said, “The leaders of the dharna intimidated, hurled threats, abused, provoked and promoted hatred. The media provided unabated coverage to TLP. Anyone having a grouse against the government joined in. The report submitted by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) under the title “Public Support” and subtitle “Political Parties/Personalities” listed the following: “1) Sheikh Rashid Ahmed (Chairman AML), 2) Ejaz-ul-Haq (PML-Z), 3) PTI Ulema Wing Islamabad released audio message and 4) Sheikh Hameed (PPP)”. Inflammatory speeches were delivered by irresponsible politicians. Some unscrupulous talk-show hosts incited and provoked citizens. The free publicity made TLP, a little known political party, into a phenomenon.”

While discussing any individual or party’s right to protest, the judgment said, “The right of assembly, the freedom of association and the freedom of speech cannot be exercised by infringing upon the fundamental rights of others. Without obtaining permission public meetings cannot be held on roads. Nor can a road be used as a camping ground or to assemble on it indefinitely. Roads are for vehicular use and pavements are for the use of pedestrians to enable the travelling public to move freely, which is their fundamental right.”

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