ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court, yesterday, indicated that it will considerably ‘soften’ certain findings of the Justice Qazi Faez Isa commission report, provided the Balochistan High Court Bar Associations (BHCBAR) will agree to the proposal and there was nothing on record to suggest anything to the contrary.

“Whatever the objections are can be diluted subject to the record and [provided] Hamid Khan (representing BHCBAR) agrees,” observed Justice Amir Hani Muslim, who heads the three-judge Supreme Court bench that has taken up the report of the commission formed on the Quetta Civil Hospital bombing.       

The report regretted in harsh terms the Oct 21, 2016, meeting between Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Mau­lana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, head of the three banned organisations — Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Millat-i-Islamia and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ).

In response, the interior ministry has submitted its objections, describing the findings as unnecessary, uncalled for, infringing natural justice and without any evidentiary basis. 

Senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, who represents the interior ministry, told the court that though his instructions were to press for the omission of certain ‘objectionable’ findings, he should be allowed to consult his client before proceeding further.

BHCBAR counsel Hamid Khan also sought at least two weeks to furnish comments on the ministry’s rejoinder. 

Makhdoom Ali Khan says ministry only objects to singling out of interior minister, use of ‘harsh’ language

Makhdoom Ali Khan suggested that in several cases the apex court obliterated adverse remarks against certain individuals, though the findings or the recommendations remained the same. He insisted that his clients were not trying to assuage banned outfits, rather they only opposed observations such as the reference to the interior minister “cavorting” with members of the proscribed organisations.

When the court inquired the counsel whether he objected to the commission’s authority, Makhdoom Ali Khan said his client only objected to certain observations in the report, such as its singling out of the interior minister rather than the ministry.

Clarifying the context of the Oct 21, 2016 meeting, the counsel said the interior minister was not scheduled to meet an ASWJ delegation led by Maulana Ludhianvi, as claimed by the commission’s report. 

The minister was to meet a delegation from the Difa-i-Pakistan Council (DPC) — an umbrella group of 35 religious and political parties such as the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Sami), Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, Jamaatud Dawa, Pakistan Muslim League (Zia) and Awami Muslim League — which is not a proscribed organisation.

The counsel emphasised that the minister was unaware that Maulana Ludhianvi would be accompanying JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq, since he had no prior notice of the former’s arrival.

The meeting was requested to discuss the suspension/blocking of the CNICs of individuals listed under the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, a request the minister did not entertain, he emphasised.

The court directed its office to provide Makhdoom Ali Khan with the copies of only those annexures and documents — attached with the commission report — where the intelligence agencies had not claimed privilege.

The court turned down a request from activist Mohammad Jibran Nasir to become party in the case to highlight certain facts that came to light during a research he had conducted. It, however, allowed him 12 days to submit his suggestions in writing.

Anger over ban delay

The court was bitter over a delay in proscription of certain organisations, despite the fact that the provinces had provided a list of these organisations to the interior ministry. The counsel for the interior ministry, however, maintained that the ministry responded to such requests only after receiving input from the intelligence agencies.

“Then we will have to ask you when the ministry received the requests from provinces and when the intelligence agencies submitted their reports,” Justice Muslim observed, wondering why the commission’s efforts — which had done the job state institutions were supposed to do — should not be appreciated.

But the judge emphasised that the observations of the commission were only findings that had yet to receive judicial endorsement. 

Certain pockets of Punjab have escaped the attention of the government, Justice Muslim expressed his disappointment, adding that the court did not want to comment or interfere in the functions of the federal government but was only concerned with improvements that were in the country’s greater interest.

“The judges on this bench do not have preconceived [notions], otherwise severe observations in the harshest possible terms may [flow] if the court decides to go through the available record and the evidence before it.”

General adjournment

During the court proceedings, Makhdoom Ali Khan earnestly suggested that the court to adjourn the matter until Feb 28, since he was on a general adjournment from Feb 13 to 26. Implying to the fact that Justice Muslim would reach superannuation by the end of March, the court inquired whether the counsel wanted to see the bench reconstituted.