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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court called reports from the IGP ICT, the secretary Ministry of Interior, the DGs IB and the ISI on the factual aspects of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) long march on May 25, wherein properties were damaged and trees set on fire.

A five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, on Wednesday, issued an order on the petition of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association, filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, and the federal government’s Civil Miscellaneous Application (CMA).

Justice Yahya Afridi, in his separate note, stated; “Instead of calling for reports from the named officials of the State Agencies/Departments, as directed by my learned brother (CJP), I am of the opinion that there is sufficient material before this Court to proceed against Imran Khan for the alleged disobeyance of the court order dated 25.05.2022.” “It also warrants the issuance of notice by the SC to Imran Khan to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him,” he added.

He disagreed with the chief justice’s order that there is no credible material before the apex court for initiating independent contempt proceedings against [PTI Chairman] Imran Khan, who allegedly disobeyed the SC 25.05.2022 order. He stated; “The video-recording of Imran Khan’s, coupled with his conduct that followed thereafter in proceeding beyond the venue decided in the order dated 25.05.2022 for the political gathering, is in my opinion, sufficient to prima facie show that Imran Khan disobeyed the order of this Court dated 25.05.2022.”

The Court order stated that it is apparent that the assurances conveyed to the Court by the counsel for the top leadership of the PTI may have been dishonoured by the workers/supporters/sympathizers of the party by proceeding to the D-Chowk in the Red Zone area and by allegedly committing acts of arson and destruction of public and private properties on the way.

“However, we note that in the early morning [of] May 26 Imran Khan reached Jinnah Avenue leading to D-Chowk and announced the postponement of his sit-in at Islamabad for six days. As a result, further damage to property or injury to human life has been averted.”

“Nevertheless, there remains the lurking question whether the responsibility for the events of yesterday evening (May 25) comprising reckless acts of mob anger can be blamed upon the senior leadership of the PTI. So far there is no evidence or allegation that such acts were committed on the instigation of any party leader or happened randomly.

The Court noted that at its most elementary level the PTI leader appears to have assured the holding of a political rally at the G-9/H-9 ground and therefore not to assemble and sit in another venue including at D-Chowk in G-5 Islamabad.

However, the AGP claims that the PTI workers and supporters moved forward to the D-Chowk area in response to the call made by their leader. The court exercised restraint to the request of the AGP, to take action against Imran Khan for breach of his assurances given to the Court, for the time being for a number of reasons;First, Imran Khan has called off the rally/public meeting. That gives a recess to the charged mob witnessed last night. Second, prudence advises that time be given for sanity to prevail among the stakeholders.

In any event, facts and materials need to be collected to establish the sequence of events, the identity of the perpetrators and of the instigators, if any.

At this stage therefore it is directed that the IGP ICT, the chief commissioner ICT, the secretary Ministry of Interior, the director-general Intelligence Bureau, the director-general ISI shall file reports answering, inter alia, the following questions:

At what time did Imran Khan make the announcement for party workers to reach D-Chowk? b) When, where and how did the crowd cross the barricade to enter a hitherto closed area? c) Was the crowd entering the Red Zone organized or supervised or did it move randomly? d) Were there any acts of provocation or breach of assurance by the Government? e) Was any action or treatment meted out by the ICT police against the protesters disproportionate to the actual or perceived wrong committed by the protesters? f) How many protesters managed to enter the Red Zone?

Which security arrangements, if any, were relaxed by the Executive authorities? Whether any security barrier cordons were broken or breached by protestors? Did any protestor/party worker reach the G-9/ H-9 ground? g) How many civilians were injured/killed/ hospitalized/arrested? The said reports shall be filed within one week for perusal in chambers by the learned members of this larger Bench.

There is need for verification of, inter alia, factual aspects of the events that occurred in order for the Court to evaluate and decide whether action for violation of assurances/undertaking given to the Court and recorded in our order dated 25.05.2022 ought to be initiated and against whom.

It may be observed that the disregard of assurances/ undertakings given to the Court involves separate proceedings from the present one. Therefore, the prayer made by the learned AGP in these proceedings is misconceived. It therefore dismissed the federal government CMA No3447 of 2022.

For independent proceedings to be maintained, relevant and credible material must be presented to the Court for it to assess whether there are valid grounds to justify appropriate action against the offending persons, if any.

Be that as it may, our order dated 25.05.2022 issues directions to the Government authorities to protect the constitutional rights of the people of Pakistan as guaranteed in Article 15, which secures the right of free movement, and Article 16, which protects their right of freedom of assembly.

Justice Yahya also expressed grave concern over the prayer made by Attorney-General for Pakistan in CMA, for asking the Court to pass “prohibitory and regulatory orders” to maintain the law and order situation in Pakistan.

The prayer made is against the very principle of trichotomy of powers enshrined in our Constitution, which has assigned separate roles to the three organs of the State: the legislature, the executive and the judicature. To maintain law and order in the country is the domain and mandate of the executive. Thus, the very prayer is contrary to the constitutional mandate and is, therefore, not legally entertainable.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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