SC rejects govt's request to immediately stop PTI's long march, advises talks with Imran Khan

Maryam Nawaz
PTI Chairman Imran Khan (c-top) waves to supporters from atop a bus as he leads a rally in Islamabad early on May 26, 2022. — AFP
PTI Chairman Imran Khan (c-top) waves to supporters from atop a bus as he leads a rally in Islamabad early on May 26, 2022. — AFP   

  • CJP heads 5-member bench to hear govt's contempt plea against Khan.
  • No one can be deprived of the right to protest, chief justice says.
  • SC orders PTI chief, his lawyers to submit answers by October 31.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the federal government's request to immediately stop PTI chief Imran Khan's long march to Islamabad, with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial advising the government to hold talks with the former prime minister. 

The federal government filed a contempt of court plea against the PTI chairman in the Supreme Court over his long march to the federal capital. 

In its petition, the government said, "Imran Khan is making announcements to attack Islamabad", which it claimed was a violation of a court order. It urged the apex court to direct the PTI chief to ensure the implementation of its orders related to protests and sit-ins.

A five-member bench, headed by CJP Bandial, comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Sayyed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi heard the plea today. 

A day earlier, Khan said PTI will kick off its long march on October 28 (Friday) from Lahore.

The former prime minister said that all party workers, supporters and leaders will gather at Lahore's Liberty Chowk at 11am from where they will march towards Islamabad.

Today's hearing

In his arguments during the hearing, Additional Attorney General Aamir Rahman said that the reports of police and intelligence institutions have been reviewed.

The additional attorney general said that the court had first asked when did the PTI chief give a call for the long march.

He said that the court order came on May 25 at 6pm, while the announcement was made by Khan at 6:50pm and he made the second announcement at 9:54pm.

"The PTI had requested to stage a sit-in at the Srinagar Highway," he said. "Khan had also announced to go to D-Chowk even before the court order."

Rahman said that later PTI leaders Shireen Mazari, Fawad Chaudhary, Sadaqat Ali Abbasi, Usman Dar, Shahbaz Gill, and Saifullah Niazi also gave a call to party workers to arrive at D chowk.

Meanwhile, the court sought a response from Khan over the plea seeking contempt proceedings against him.

"From Khan's statement, it seems like he was informed about the court's orders as he said that the SC ordered removing barricades," the CJP remarked as he summoned the PTI chairman to clarify before the court who said what.

Rehman contended that Khan's latest call to reach D-chowk is a contempt of court, he said, while referring to the end of PTI's long march at Jinnah Avenue on May 26.

"Khan crossed the restricted area H9 and reached Blue Area where he ended the rally," he said.

The additional attorney general further stated that PTI lawyers Babar Awan and Faisal Chaudhry assured the court that they would not cross the restricted area.

At this, CJP Bandial said that Rehman's argument has some weight therefore it would be better to seek a response from those who assured.

'Not necessary'

During the hearing, Justice Bandial said that the reports have enough justification that Khan should submit an answer.

"Even if a notice is served, it is not necessary for Khan to appear," he said.

The chief justice added that the court doesn't want to make the headlines, it only wants the rule of law to prevail. "One has to show up when a show-cause notice in the contempt case of civil nature is served," he added.

Justice Yahya said that the court cannot seek an answer from anyone without notice.

The court also directed to provide the police, ISI, and IB reports to Khan and said that the PTI chief should provide an answer in light of these reports.

The Supreme Court also sought answers from former premier's lawyers Babar Awan and Faisal Chaudhary.

"We are not issuing notice as of yet," said the CJP, adding that a notice would give an impression that the proceedings have started.

Meanwhile, Justice Yahya issued a show-cause notice to Khan according to the previous differing note.

The court ordered that the PTI chairman and his lawyers should submit an answer by October 31.

The court adjourned the hearing till October 31.

SC is 'not an executive'

Earlier during the hearing, AAG Rehman informed the court that there is a miscellaneous plea seeking orders for PTI to immediately stop the long march.

At this, CJP Bandial observed that the plea has now become effective as he has given the call to march.

However, Justice Afridi remarked that it would be better if the government takes back the plea for orders to stop the long march or it will have legal effects.

Meanwhile, CJP Bandial remarked that the SC is "not an executive nor it wants to be one". No one can be deprived of the right to protest, he added.

However, he stressed that the protest should be within the limits of laws.

"In the context of the facts, the violation of the affidavit needs to be looked at prima facie," the CJP observed, adding that the events of May 26 are not clear.

At this, the additional attorney general sought time to take new directives from the government regarding the plea, seeking orders to stop PTI's long march.

The court accepted the request, assuring the government that the court can be approached if any issue occurred before October 31.