SC seeks reports from ISI, others on whether court orders were violated in Islamabad riots

"We are disappointed to note that bona fide effort made by Court was disrespected," says Supreme Court

Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui
People walk past motorbikes that were damaged during a clash between protestors and police in Rawalpindi on May 25, 2022, as all roads leading into Pakistans capital were blocked ahead of a major protest planned by ousted prime minister Imran Khan and his supporters. — AFP
People walk past motorbikes that were damaged during a clash between protestors and police in Rawalpindi on May 25, 2022, as all roads leading into Pakistan's capital were blocked ahead of a major protest planned by ousted prime minister Imran Khan and his supporters. — AFP

  • SC says "disappointed" that its efforts were disrespected.
  • It seeks answers from intelligence agencies and LEAs.
  • Court says evidence not enough to blame the PTI for riots.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) Wednesday directed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and other relevant authorities to submit a report before the court explaining whether the judiciary's orders were violated on May 25 Islamabad riots.

The Supreme Court's directives were issued in a written order on the plea filed by the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) against the government’s decision to block roads to stop PTI's "Azadi March".

The top court had earlier disposed of the IHCBA's petition and issued an order a day after PTI Chairman Imran Khan on May 26 had announced calling off the long march.

In the written order, the court also said it was "disappointed" to note that riots took place in the federal capital despite its order to create a balance between both sides — the PTI and the government.

"This balance was recorded in good faith by the Court whilst trusting the representations made on behalf of the two opposing parties before it. We are disappointed to note that the bona fide effort made by the Court was disrespected," the apex court said.

The court said by acting upon assurances given on behalf of the top leadership of PTI and issuing directions to the government, its order created a balance between the mutual rights and obligations of the protesting people, the ordinary public and the duties of the state.

The SC said it passed the order — by trusting the representations made and assurances given to the court — to create harmony between the two opposing sides for the sake of protecting the public interest and the constitutional rights of the people.

"In the present case, to say the least, the moral high ground held by the parties has diminished because public rights, interests, and property of the disinterested public have been breached and damaged badly," the SC said.

The SC said it expects that the high functionaries of the executive throughout the country and the top leadership of the PTI and other political parties shall abide and settle a fair code of securing free, fair, and peaceful political activity in the country leading to the holding of the national election.

'No evidence'

Nevertheless, there remains the lurking question of whether the responsibility for the events of yesterday evening comprising reckless acts of mob anger can be blamed upon the senior leadership of the PTI, the top court said.

"So far there is no evidence or allegation that such acts were committed on the instigation of any party or happened randomly. 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 court noted, that the attorney-general claims that the PTI workers and supporters moved forward to the D-Chowk area in response to the call made by their leader.

"Notwithstanding the said request by the AGP, we exercise restraint for the time being for a number of reasons," the court said.

"Firstly, Mr. Imran Khan has called off the rally/public meeting. That gives a recess to the charged mob witnessed last night. Secondly, 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, and the director-general ISI shall file reports answering, the following questions within a week:

  • At what time did Khan make the announcement for party workers to reach D-Chowk?
  • When, where and how did the crowd cross the barricade to enter a hitherto closed area?
  • Was the crowd entering the Red Zone organized or supervised or did it move randomly?
  • Were there any acts of provocation or breach of assurance by the Government?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • How many civilians were injured/killed/ hospitalized/arrested?

"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 ought to be initiated and against whom," it added.

Justice Yahya Afridi's disagreement

In a separate note, Justice Yahaya Afridi said he disagreed with Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial that there is no credible material before the SC for initiating independent contempt proceedings against Khan, who allegedly disobeyed the court's order.

The justice quoted Khan's statement after the court order: "Wherever Pakistanis are, there is good news: the Supreme Court has issued an order that there will be no hurdles and no one will be arrested. This is why I want all Pakistanis to come out of their homes today evening; people in Islamabad and Rawalpindi should try their best to reach D-Chowk because I will reach there within one-and-a-half-hour."

"The above statement of Khan, coupled with his conduct that followed thereafter in proceeding beyond the venue decided in the order for the political gathering, is in my opinion, sufficient to prima facie show that Khan disobeyed the order of this court," Justice Afridi said.

The justice said in light of Khan's statement, the court should issue a notice to the ousted prime minister seeking an explanation on why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him.