LAHORE - A Lahore High Court full bench on Wednesday restrained PTI and PAT from holding marches in any unconstitutional way, keeping in view the sanctity of the Independence Day and the current chaotic situation prevailing in the country.
A three-member bench headed by Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan and including Justice Shahid Hameed Dar and Justice Anwarul Haq passed the order after hearing hours-long arguments by various petitioners and law officers.
“PTI and PAT (Pakistan Awami Tehreek) are restrained meanwhile from launching Azadi March, Inqlab March or holding Dharna at Islamabad, in any unconstitutional way,” the judgment stated. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), Barrister Javed Iqbal Jafree and others had filed petitions seeking directions for holding the long marches.
On Wednesday, the court was shown the video clips of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Tuesday’s address to the nation and PTI chief Imran Khan’s interview to a private TV channel that he gave last month (July).
The PM was shown asking the Supreme Court to constitute a three-member inquiry commission and give their final recommendations about four controversial constituencies. Imran in his interview had demanded the same thing, saying that he would cancel his march if this demand is met.
But the PM’s offer came at the eleventh hour when preparations for ‘Azadi March’ had almost been already completed and PTI workers had started gathering outside PTI chief’s Lahore residence. Imran had sought the proposed commission to give its verdict within two weeks i.e. at least a couple of weeks before August 14, the date of the ‘Azadi March’.
At the outset of the proceedings, representing PAT Aftab Iqbal advocate said that ‘Inqilab March’ should be allowed as it was their constitutional right. He assured the bench that PAT was peaceful and the allegations being leveled against it were untrue.
Attorney General of Pakistan Salman Butt, however, opposed the arguments pointing out that the demands of the parties were yet to be determined that whether they were constitutional or unconstitutional. The attorney general said any long march or sit-in aimed at creating chaos and anarchy in the country was unconstitutional.
PTI counsel Ahmad Awais advocate contended that his party should be allowed to hold long march because it was constitutional. He also assured the bench that the Azadi March would be peaceful and there would be no unconstitutional demand. Justice Shahid Hameed Dar asked the PTI counsel what the age of the parliament was, and if PTI claimed that the parliament was product of rigged elections then what the legal status was of all those privileges and perks which PTI MNAs and MPAs too had been benefiting from.
The PTI counsel could not give any satisfactory answer to the bench. When Justice Dar asked him how the demand of prime minister’s resignation was constitutional, PTI counsel failed to answer it too. He just said that impartial inquiry was not possible unless and until the prime minister tendered his resignation and it was ultimate demand of the PTI.
The attorney general opposed the position of Ahmad Awais pointing out that SC was independent and no permission can be given for such unconstitutional demands. Ahmad maintained that there were many cases wherein regarding had been proved while cases of many constituencies were still pending. He held that present apparently democratic dispensation was not based on transparent elections. When he referred to the Tahrir Square of Egypt, the judges and other petitioners asked to refrain from using that misplaced reference. Justice Dar observed that Tahrir Square was a symbol of bloodbath. He also observed that they should adopt the constitutional way if they wanted to get their demands fulfilled. “We may (even) order the government that the entire crowed should be feasted”.
Imran Khan’s counsel, however, ended his argumentation by stating that Azadi March and the demand of PM’s resignation was legal and constitutional. After hearing the arguments of the petitioners, the bench reserved the verdict which was announced in the evening.