ISLAMABAD - Reiterating its earlier order, Islamabad High Court yesterday allowed PTI to hold its Nov 2 sit-in at a designated place and restrained it from locking down the city.

A single bench comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui directed the district administration to permit the opposition party to assemble at Democracy Park and Speech Corner but take legal action if city is tried to be shut down and ensure public safety.

No one from the protesting parties should be taken into custody nor should anyone put a damper on Imran Khan’s sit-in programme, Justice Siddiqui said during the hearing.

The court also showed displeasure with the authorities over placing containers at major entry points of the capital city and in Punjab province.

After issuing these directions, the IHC bench disposed of the 13 writ petitions moved against Imran Khan’s Nov 2 protest plan.

Dissatisfied with the verdict, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf said it would challenge the decision at the Supreme Court.

Speaking to media after the hearing, PTI legal adviser Babar Awan said they would challenge the verdict because democratically, all parties had a right to stage protests anywhere in the capital. He said PTI workers also wanted to register a protest at D-Chowk and the Parliament House.

In his verdict, Justice Siddiqui noted, “In order to ensure protection of life, security, person, property and other fundamental rights of the citizens of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), the state is duty bound to protect these rights and take all remedial steps in accordance with law. And if any attempt is made to block or lock down the ICT or any effort is made to disrupt the normal life of the city, the administration has the authority to deal with the situation as per mandate of law”.

The bench added that freedom of assembly, movement and expression is right of every citizen guaranteed by the Constitution. But these rights are not unbridled.

During the hearing, PTI lawyers Naeem Bukhari and Babar Awan informed the court that their client Imran Khan has no confidence in this court and the judge should recues himself from hearing in this matter.

Petitioners, their counsels, deputy attorney generals and advocate general seriously opposed this request of PTI lawyers.

Justice Siddiqui said PTI lawyers could file as many applications as they want but he will not recues himself. He added he has taken oath to remain faithful to the country and fulfill his constitutional responsibilities.

In his judgment Justice Siddiqui said, “I am totally convinced that there is no reason for me to recues myself from hearing this case as being custodian of the fundamental rights of the people; it is my responsibility to dispense justice without fear and favour, affection or ill-will. I am answerable to Almighty Allah and my loyalty is with Pakistan and Constitution, not with any litigant”.

On the start of the hearing of the case, the court summoned PTI Chief Imran Khan to appear before the bench on Monday but he did not appear, upon which the justice asked “whether Imran Khan is above the law?” The court observed that the PTI chief must learn to respect the courts.

IHC bench also asked from Naeem Bukhari about the plan of protest at which he said as per instructions, people will be invited to assemble at the designated place but thereafter shall proceed toward Islamabad city. When court asked why not to remain at a designated place as offered by the district administration, the counsel sought time to make a statement.

Recordings of the PTI chairman’s speeches were then played in the courtroom. After listening to the speeches and going through the transcript produced by Pemra, IHC bench observed, the speeches of Imran Khan clearly suggest that intent and object is not merely lodging of protest but apparently a move to stop the elected government from functioning and also to keep away the citizens from enjoying their fundamental rights.

Dr Babar Awan urged the court to direct Pemra authorities to display recordings of the opposing parties in the court as well.

Then, the IHC bench asked from IG Islamabad and SSP operations whether any containers were placed on Islamabad roads. At which both police officials said there were no containers except those placed by CDA at Rawat-Islamabad express highway for some construction work.

Meanwhile, the petitioners alleged that PTI was bringing terrorists in the capital while drawing court’s attention towards the liquor and weapons seized from a PTI official’s vehicle. They apprehended that it would not be a peaceful protest. District Magistrate also pointed out the same incident.

The court said that it has not stopped the state from taking legal actions against those who violates the law.

PTI lawyers said they will challenge this order before Supreme Court. IHC bench remarked that it is your right to challenge it.