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Wednesday Nov 27 2019

The curious case of serial petitioner Riaz Rahi

COAS General Bajwa. Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: A pattern has emerged in recent years wherein a low-key individual files a petition with the top courts over a burning political or constitutional issue, triggering a debate on the issue nationwide and sparking fears of judicial activism, before suddenly disappearing. 

The same pattern was repeated yesterday in a case against the extension in the tenure of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The petitioner who challenged the extension in the Supreme Court, named Riaz Rahi, wished to withdraw his motion. 

The top judge, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, however, rejected the plea, observing it fell into the domain of public interest under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution. The petition of Rahi was converted into a suo-moto, and the notification of the extension of COAS was suspended. 

Nobody would have been more surprised with the outcome than Riaz Rahi, who is a serial petitioner. Over the years, Rahi has filed several petitions with the top courts over matters of political and constitutional importance, with varying degrees of success.

The timing and ground of the petition against the Chief of Army Staff was very important as General Qamar Javed Bajwa was set to retire on November 28. As the court rules on the legality of the tenure extension, the retirement date looms large over the verdict. 

In April 2018, Riaz Rahi had also challenged the appointment of Justice Qazi Faez Isa as a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The petition seemed like an effort to undermine the credibility of a jurist who otherwise was known to be as an upright man among the legal fraternity.

In March 2018, Riaz Rahi had filed two contempt of court petitions against former premeir Nawaz Sharif. In December 2013, the Islamabad High Court had rejected his petition challenging the constitution of a special court for the trial of former president General Pervez Musharraf. 

In July 2017, Riaz Rahi had filed a petition seeking a halt on transfers and postings of all public servants on the directions of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif until a final decision of the Panama case involving Sharif was announced in the apex court. 

Although the list goes on, an important fact that should not be overlooked is that all petitions filed by Rahi were dismissed. In the Justice Faez Isa’s case, a fine of Rs10, 000 imposed on Rahi by a court on August 13, 2015. 

IHC Justice Shaukat Siddiqui had imposed a fine of Rs100,000 on Riaz Rahi in 2014 for another case, and after a few months, Justice Athar Minallah of the IHC fined him Rs10,000 on filing frivolous petitions challenging the judicial policy and electoral system of the country 

Justice Sheikh Hakim Ali of the Lahore High Court had jailed Riaz Rahi for one month for contempt of court and also fined Rs30,000 in 2005 when he, during a hearing of his case, misbehaved with the judge. 

In March 2010, Riaz Rahi had challenged reinstatement and appointment of the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Justices Ghulam Rabbani and Khalilur Rehman Ramday, but later his entry into SC premises was temporarily blocked. 

Despite repeated attempts made by Geo News to take his viewpoint, Riaz Rahi did not respond to requests for comment