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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday directed the deputy commissioner and the inspector general of police Islamabad not to “unnecessarily harass” the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders and workers.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the directions while hearing the PTI’s petition filed through its Additional General Secretary Amir Mehmood Kiyani against the government’s alleged actions to harass its workers to stop the party’s long march.

The same bench also restrained the police and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from arresting Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the head of Awami Muslim League (AML) and directed him to appear before the court on Wednesday (today).

In the matter related to the PTI workers and leaders, the IHC bench issued notices to the inspector general of police, chief commissioner and deputy commissioner, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and directed them to ensure that application filed by the PTI is processed inter alia, having regard to the principles and law laid down by the august Supreme Court in the aforementioned judgment.

Justice Minallah said, “The deputy commissioner and the inspector general of police are further directed not to unnecessarily harass nor deprive citizens of their right to liberty. They are also directed to submit the plan prepared in the light of the directions given by the august Supreme Court.”

The bench stated that the grievance of the PTI is regarding the abuse of power by public functionaries. The PTI’s counsel contended that the PTI has submitted an application to the District Magistrate seeking permission to hold a peaceful assembly within the ICT.

The counsel stated that while the request is being considered, the respondents are abusing powers by illegally harassing leaders and workers of the PTI.

The bench noted that the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the case titled, Suo Motu Case No 7 of 2017, PLD 2019 Supreme Court 318 has laid down the principles and law regulating peaceful protests/assemblies.

The court mentioned the relevant portion of this judgment, “The Police and other law enforcement agencies are directed to develop standard plans and procedure with regard to how best to handle rallies, protests and dharnas, and ensure that such plans/procedures are flexible enough to attend to different situations.

It is clarified that though the making of such plans/procedures is not within the jurisdiction of this Court however we expect that in the maintenance of law and order every effort will be taken to avoid causing injury and loss of life.”

Later, the IHC bench deferred the hearing in this matter till May 27 for further proceedings. In its petition, the PTI cited the federation of Pakistan through the secretary Ministry of Interior, Inspector General of Police, Islamabad Capital, Chief Commissioner ICT and Deputy Commissioner, Islamabad as respondents.

It stated that in order to educate the people of Pakistan, PTI has been holding many rallies and gatherings all over the country and the rallies have been held peacefully and in the exercise of its political and fundamental constitutional rights.

The petitioner further said that now, the public at large in the leadership of PTI has decided peacefully to hold a public march/rally starting from 25th May 2022 and go to Islamabad to record their peaceful protest for real freedom. It added that the purpose of the gathering is to address the people of Pakistan and draw the attention of the government towards public sentiments and their constitutional demands to save parliamentary norms/customs/ practices, rule of law and elimination of corruption.

“However unfortunately contrary to the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution particularly relating to freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, holding of gatherings marches public rallies, freedom of expression, freedom of information and due process, the respondents are illegally trying to stop the march/rally/gathering in from taking place through harassment, intimidation, arrests and torture of the leaders and members of PTI putting in roadblocks containers etc, everywhere, closing the routes into Islamabad and outside in other cities, arresting the families of leaders and members of PII, restricting movement of people, putting them under illegal house arrests etc, the impugned actions,” maintained the PTI.

It continued that in this connection Dr Shireen Mazari, ex-minister of Human Rights and leader of the PTI was illegally detained on 22nd May 2022 and was only released on the intervention of this Court. It further said that the ministers including Minister of Interior have been making statements and undertaking hatching plans for taking the impugned actions and inter-alia indulging illegal arrests throughout Pakistan to ensure that the March does not take place.

The PTI adopted the stance that the public wish for a fresh mandate for ruling the country, and since the petitioner’s call for peaceful marches and rallies throughout the country beginning in the 4th week of May 2022, the present government is using different tactics to harass the petitioner, its leader, PTI workers and journalists by using its government machinery, arresting people from different places and registering fake FIRs and using law & enforcement machinery in illegal manner/methods/tactics which are not permissible in the eye of the constitution and the law.

It added, “To stop the people of Pakistan who want to record their peaceful protest in Islamabad, Government is trying to use different illegal tactics to squash and suppress the petitioner and his party leadership/workers by way of arrest and raiding their homes. In series of these illegal/misuse of power Government raided twice even the residence of the petitioner’s Chairman and his workers residences and arrested many of PTI’s leadership and workers.”

The party also said that during this process of crushing people’s right to assemble peacefully, Government has lodged many fake FIRs against free, minded journalists also who aired public sentiments through broadcasting on which this court has also shown serious concerns for freedom of expression.

Therefore, the PTI prayed before the court to direct the respondents to refrain from implementing and enforcing the Impugned Actions and illegal designs to harass including registering fake FIRs, arresting and threatening the PI leaders and workers and the respondents be directed to refrain from misusing the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960 to detain, arrest or in any other manner, create obstacles for the public.

It also requested the court that the respondents be stopped from-in any manner restricting the assembly of the people organized by the petitioners in Islamabad through the impugned actions including by creating of roadblocks putting up containers, restricting the movement of the people by blocking entry points into Islamabad.

The party further requested the court that respondents are directed to allow the public to enter and hold peaceful tally/ gathering and not to interfere in the march/rally by any means whatsoever including through the impugned actions and give all necessary permissions for such gatherings in the best interest of justice and during the pendency of the instant petition, the respondents are restrained from in any manner hindering the holding of the peaceful gathering/march/rally in Pakistan and taking any impugned action or any other measure against this political activity.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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