Monday June 27, 2022

PTI seeks Supreme Court's protection for second long march

The PTI moved the apex court to restrain the federal and provincial governments from torturing or arresting or using any force or coercive measures on people supporting its upcoming second long march

By Our Correspondent
June 02, 2022
The PTI seeks the Supreme Courts protection for its second long march yet to be announced. Photo: The News/File
The PTI seeks the Supreme Court's protection for its second long march yet to be announced. Photo: The News/File 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Wednesday moved the Supreme Court to restrain the federal and provincial governments from torture or arrest or use of any force or coercive measures or intimidating tactics against supporters, workers, members and leaders who want to peacefully hold a protest or long march.

Asad Umer, Secretary-General of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, filed a petition in the apex court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution through Barrister Ali Zafar making the Federation of Pakistan through Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Islamabad Capital Territory through Chief Commissioner, ICT Islamabad, Inspector-General of Police, Islamabad, Home Secretary, Punjab, IGP Punjab, Secretary Home, Sindh, Inspector-General of Police, Sindh, Secretary Home, KPK, Inspector-General of Police, KPK, Inspector-General of Police, Balochistan, as respondents.

The PTI prayed for not creating any hindrance or obstacle whatsoever, including blocking access to or from any place or city in any manner (inter alia by putting up containers, etc.) or from restricting the movement of the people in any manner and through any means besides avoiding use of violence, including force or any strong arm tactics, against any citizen, supporter, worker, member or leader of the petitioner who chooses to participate in the upcoming peaceful assembly.

It questioned if the freedom of movement, and the right to peaceful protest and procession is a fundamental right of all the citizens of Pakistan under the Constitution and if constitutional rights, enshrined in articles 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 25 of the Constitution can be unreasonably curtailed by executive authorities through use of disproportionate and unlawful force on peaceful citizenry.

“Whether the fundamental rights, enshrined in articles 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 25 of the Constitution must be respected and protected from unconstitutional and illegal curtailment by the governmental authorities," the PTI questioned and asked if the state and government agencies can unlawfully deprive citizens of their liberty guaranteed under articles 9 and 10 of the Constitution, by arresting individuals who are participating in, or intend to participate in a peaceful protest for the attainment of their democratic rights.

It questioned if the government agencies can, without any cause or reason, browbeat, intimidate, or physically harm individuals and groups who gather for a peaceful procession thus violating their inviolable dignity and privacy of home as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution and whether the citizens of Pakistan have the right to peacefully enter, move around and remain in various territories of Pakistan in accordance with Article 15 of the Constitution.

And if the petitioner, a duly registered political party, has the fundamental right to organise, associate and conduct a nationwide political rally in accordance with Article 17 of the Constitution without unlawful interference by the federal and provincial government authorities.

Asad Umer submitted that on May 25, 2022, people were not allowed to go towards or reach Islamabad because of barbarity from the district administration and law enforcement agencies of the government of Punjab as well as the Ministry of Interior while access to Islamabad was totally blocked from all the cities.

He said that those citizens of Pakistan who tried to exercise their fundamental rights and proceed to Islamabad to join the rally were badly beaten up, tortured, tear-gassed and also arrested throughout the country. Owing to this unlawful and mala fide exercise of the state power, most of the members and supporters of the petitioner were unable to reach Islamabad.

“The use of teargas, raids, arrests, torture, roadblocks and the deployment of police across Pakistan stifled and virtually prohibited the citizens from exercising their fundamental rights,” the petition says and adds that the respondents, particularly officials of the Punjab as well as the Ministry of Interior, have violated mandatory provisions of the Constitution and acted in a manner that amounts to state terrorism.

The PTI pointed out that the actions taken by the Punjab Police were under directions from an illegally constituted Punjab CM, who has not been properly elected under Article 130(4) of the Constitution and as a result of the aforementioned grave political tension was witnessed across the country, which even led to the unfortunate deaths of five innocent citizens and peaceful workers of the petitioner.

“When the PTI saw that there would be a violent confrontation between the public and law enforcement agencies, because of the actions and barbarity of the latter, the petitioner decided to end its peaceful rally so as to avoid further confrontation,” Asad Umer submitted, adding that to thwart the public will, which is clamoring for political fresh mandate of governance in Pakistan, ever since the petitioner has called for peaceful assemblies throughout the country, beginning in the fourth week of May 2022, the incumbent illegal government has been using different tactics to harass the citizens, the petitioner, its leadership, workers, supporters and journalists by using its State machinery, registering fake FIRs, and arresting people from different places through illegal use of state’s law enforcement machinery.

The PTI secretary-general submitted that the government is trying to use different illegal tactics to squash and suppress the petitioner and its party leadership/workers and the people of Pakistan who want to record their peaceful protest in Islamabad and by way of arrest and raiding their houses.

“In series of these illegal acts/misuse of power the government has hence raided even the residence of the petitioner’s chairman and his workers’ houses and arrested many of the petitioner’s leadership and workers,” Umer contended, adding that the government has lodged many fake FIRs against free-minded journalists also who aired public sentiments through broadcasting across electronic and digital media on which this honourable court has also shown serious concern about freedom of speech and expression.

“Such attempts to crush people’s rights and freedom, through unconstitutional and illegal actions, including harassing, threatening, use of force by illegal means, registering fake FIRs against petitioner’s members and workers, putting up road blocks, tear-gassing, closing routes etc., and other ancillary acts are illegal, unconstitutional, discriminatory, a violation of the due process of law and against, inter alia, the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution,” the petitioner submitted. He submitted that these illegal actions against the peaceful protesters, especially by the government of Punjab and the Ministry of Interior, were witnessed around the globe, through the electronic and digital media platforms.

“Recently, the Minister for Interior, Government of Pakistan, has announced on public and state television that the petitioner will not be allowed to hold its lawful protests and assembly,” says the petition, adding that such a statement is a clear declaration of intent from the government, in violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. Similar statements have been repeated by other officials of the federal and Punjab government. He contended that the mala fide of all the above tactics is to create so much fear in the public-at-large that no one dares to participate in the planned protests of the petitioner.

“If the respondents succeed in their illegal tactics, the same will destroy the spirit of the Constitution and the public’s trust in our Constitution and the project of democracy,” he submitted. He submitted that the court is the guardian and protector of the fundamental rights in Pakistan, and has a duty to enforce the same in exercise of its powers under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

He said that the party has hence approached this Honourable Court for definite determination on the relevant questions of public importance, with reference to the enforcement of fundamental rights and seeking kind indulgence of this august court, to conclusively determine the contours and substance of the questions raised in the instant petition

Asad Umer submitted that it is a settled law of the apex court that jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution can be invoked when the impugned action involves a matter of public importance, arising from the breach of a fundamental right, affecting the public-at-large.

"In order to ensure that in the matters of public importance, the citizens are not deprived of their fundamental rights, is the underlying objective of Article 184(3) of the Constitution,” the petitioner submitted adding that as such the issues raised in the instant petition falls squarely within the ambit of Article 184(3) of the Constitution requiring adjudication from this court. He submitted that the actions of the government with regards to registering illegal FIRs against those supporting the cause of the petitioner across the electronic and digital media platforms amounts to illegal infringement of the right to freedom of speech and expression, guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.

Asad Umer informed the court that during the previous rallies of the petitioner and, in particular, during the march on May 25, 2022, when the supports, workers and leaders of the petitioner marched towards Islamabad from various parts of the country, in a peaceful manner, the law enforcement agencies resorted to tear gas shelling to disperse the peaceful protesters.

"This caused multiple injuries, and even the death of five innocent workers of the petitioner," Asad Umer said, adding that the petitioner has already held out an assurance to this honorable court in C.P No. 19/2022 that the entire rally would not cause any inconvenience or blockage to the public and citizens at large, and that it shall ensure that the rally is conducted in a peaceful and lawful manner, without causing any damage to public or private property. Similarly, he said that this court has already held that the collective fundamental rights of a political party shall prevail over those of any particular individual. Thus, it stems from the same that the rights of the petitioner must be upheld and protected by the state institutions.