Wednesday May 25, 2022
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the federal government to provide the PTI with a ground between the H-9 and G-9 areas of Islamabad to hold its public gathering.
The directives came during a hearing of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association’s (IHCBA) plea against the government’s decision to block roads to stop PTI's "Azadi March" in the federal capital.
A three-member bench of the SC, headed by Justice Ahsan, was hearing the plea. Islamabad chief commissioner and Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Akbar Nasir Khan appeared before the court during the hearing.
Today's hearing saw two breaks before the apex court issued the final order of providing the space to the PTI for the jalsa.
When the hearing resumed after the second break, the Attorney-General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf Ali told the three-member bench that the ground, which will be given to the PTI, only had the capacity to accommodate 10,000 people.
He also added that a Sunday bazaar and the Sirinigar Highway were close to the venue.
However, the bench did not pay any heed to the advice of the attorney-general and directed the government to provide security to the PTI's gathering within three hours.
During the hearing, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan asked PTI’s lawyer Babar Awan when the gathering will be held.
“Till when will the gathering go on for?” asked Justice Ahsan.
To this Awan, replied that the decision is for the political leadership to take.
In response, Justice Ahsan remarked that the apex court can change its order, amend or take it back. He added that the bench will be monitoring the developments.
“Talks between the government committee and PTI committee should be held at 10pm tonight at the chief commissioner’s office,” said the court. It directed the deputy commissioner, interior secretary, and inspector-general Islamabad to make sure the meeting take place.
“Arrested political leadership and workers should be freed at once,” said the court. It also ordered the government to follow the point agreed between the JUI-F and PTI during the former’s 2019 long march.
“Any new clause should be included in the agreement through mutual consultation and the court should also be informed about it,” said the bench.
Before the break, the court had directed the authorities concerned to hold consultations over permission for the PTI rally on H9 ground and update the court on the outcome.
The bench then adjourned the hearing of the case till 9:30am tomorrow.
Once the court sat again after the first break, PTI’s counsel Babar Awan presented the party’s request for permission to hold a rally at the H9 ground.
Awan informed the court that Imran Khan has four demands which include the provision of H9 ground for the rally, the release of all the arrested party workers and leaders, and the removal of all the barricades that are blocking routes leading to Islamabad.
AGP Ausaf conveyed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's message that he believes in the rule of law. He said that the premier has formed a committee which will decide on the venue for the PTI rally and the use of words.
The AGP assured the court of protecting every citizen.
Earlier, the court had directed the authorities concerned to provide an alternative venue for the PTI to hold a rally.
Justice Ahsan directed the Islamabad chief commissioner to prepare a traffic plan for the PTI rally and submit a report after compliance with orders by 2:30pm.
"Make an offer of an alternative venue to the PTI and inform the court about the outcome after negotiations.
"The administration should present a complete plan of action which allows the protest, but keeps roads open so that the protesters can reach peacefully and go back home afterwards," Justice Ahsan said.
The judge sought assurance from the authorities that there won’t be any violence and that roads will not be closed.
Moreover, the court directed PTI's counsel to give names if the party fears arrest.
Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi remarked that the Islamabad IGP and Interior secretary should review their policies.
The judge warned the IGP to understand his responsibilities and fulfil them.
"You have been appointed four days ago. Stay within your limits as you already have enough burden of cases and allegations," Justice Naqvi said.
Justice Ahsan questioned if the entire country will be shut down whenever there was a protest.
"The government basically wants to disrupt routine life by blocking roads across the country," the judge remarked.
Earlier, the AGP had requested the court to give him time to take instructions from the government.
Accepting the request, the court allowed the AGP to take directives from the government during a break in the hearing till 12pm.
Justice Ahsan remarked that news reports show that all exams have been postponed and roads and businesses have been closed. He said that all schools and public transport services are shut, with an emergency imposed on the hospitals in the capital city.
Responding to the judge's remark, the AGP said that he is not aware of the details. He requested the court to give him time to gather information.
"Everyone knows what is happening in the country. Economically, the country is undergoing a critical phase and is on the verge of bankruptcy," he said.
At this, the AGP suggested the court avoid making remarks on the economy. He went on to say that he is fundamentally against blocking roads, but the PTI threatened a "bloody march".
"Taking steps had become inevitable for the protection of people and their property," the AGP said, adding that the court should keep the context behind the government's decision in view.
At this, Justice Ahsan remarked that the Constitution doesn't say anywhere to close the entire country down.
AGP Ausaf argued that the Constitution doesn't say anywhere that armed men shouldn't be stopped, either.
While referring to PTI's application for permission to stage a protest, Justice Ahsan inquired from the city administration about the decision on the request.
Replying to the court's query, AGP Ausaf informed the court that PTI sought permission for staging a sit-in at Srinagar Highway but the request was rejected.
He claimed that Imran Khan's life is in danger as intelligence agencies say there is a threat of a suicide attack on the ex-prime minister.
"You are going away from the actual issue. Why are Lahore, Sargodha and the rest of the country closed if the government has an issue with the sit-in at Srinagar Highway," Justice Ahsan remarked.
He asked who reported the security threat, to which the interior secretary said that two intelligence agencies and the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) reported it.
Meanwhile, IHCBA President Shoaib Shaheen claimed that the police are barging into lawyers' houses to arrest them. He referred to the raid at former judge Nasira Iqbal's house.
"Both the protesters and government are bound to follow the Constitution and law," he said.
At this, the attorney-general argued that how could armed men be allowed to protest. "Where did the armed men come from when the protest hasn't even started?" IHCBA president objected.
He said that JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has staged a sit-in at the Srinagar Highway twice and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has led a long march in the past, therefore a venue can be designated for the protesters to stage the protest.