ISLAMABAD - An anti-terrorism court Monday issued arrest warrants for Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah’s Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Afzal Qadri and others in the Faizabad sit-in case.

The Supreme Court, which is also hearing a suo moto on the sit-in, expressed dissatisfaction over a report submitted the same day by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on the financial details of TLYR leadership.

On November 6, the religious party staged a sit-in at Faizabad Interchange against amendment to the declaration of elected representatives, paralysing the twin cities for more than two weeks.

During ATC hearing, judge Shahrukh Arjumand expressed annoyance over non-appearance of Rizvi, Afzal Qadri, Maulana Inayat and Sheikh Izhar.

The police, which failed to submit final charge-sheet (challan), was directed to submit it by April 4. During the hearing, prosecutor Shafqaat Chaudhry said despite summons, the clerics did not appear in the court. He said that the police could not execute the arrest warrants since the whereabouts of those clerics were ‘not known’.

The court directed prosecution to issue proclamations for Rizvi and others and deferred the hearing by April 4. On March 6, the court declared Rizvi and others absconders and initiated the process to declare them proclaimed offenders over their continuous failure to appear in the court.

During the SC hearing, a two-judge bench, comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa, expressed dissatisfaction over the ISI report and observed it “feared for country if this was the report of state’s premier intelligence agency”.

Criticising ISI, Justice Isa said the agency too is answerable to taxpayers. The bench also slammed Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Sohail Mahmood for calling the report ‘satisfactory’.

The bench pointed out that the report had not answered specifically whether Rizvi had any bank account or he was a taxpayer.

“How they received the handsome funds has not been clearly mentioned,” the court observed and questioned the occupation of TLYR leaders. 

“Does he (Rizvi) pay income tax? Properties of billions of rupees have been destroyed and the premier agency doesn’t know. Don’t you know if he is a bank account holder or if he is a taxpayer? Are you not concerned about the state of Pakistan?” Justice Qazi asked the law officer and Defence Ministry Legal Director Col (r) Falak Naz.

The court witnessed a pin-drop silence when it asked if there was any representative of the ISI present in the court for direct questioning.

Expressing his annoyance, Justice Isa observed a journalist could have given more details than this report.

Regarding the occupation of Rizvi, Naz tried to convince the bench and explained that Rizvi was a prayer leader (Khateeb).

Justice Isa asked whether the prayer leader is a profession. Responding to this, Naz said that he was living on donations. Justice Alam asked if there was any mechanism to monitor such donations.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) counsel informed the bench about the progress of action taken against a TV channel for live telecast of sit-in.

However, the court expressed its dissatisfaction and directed Pemra to submit its reply within 10 days.  The court also ordered the Attorney General of Pakistan to appear in the court and put off the hearing for two weeks.

In its ‘comprehensive report’, the ISI said it had recommended that sit-in must be resolved peacefully and through negotiations.

The report read: “Rizvi was reportedly corrupt but he was living within his means. The sit-in was persistent due to generous funds by people from across the society especially the Barelvi sect. Rizvi raised Rs10 million before starting the march. He directed his followers either to accompany the march or donate Rs300 per person.

“During the sit-in, well-off persons from across the globe also contributed financially. Sit-in participants were provided food by Mian Abdul Rasheed, the owner of TV channel 92. TV commentator Orya Maqbool Jan, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, PML-Z chief Ejazul Haq, PTI Ulema Wing Islamabad and PPP leader Sheikh Hameed also supported the Faizabad sit-in.”

The report revealed that a diesel generator was installed on the main container, costing Rs80,000, and the rest of the power supply was managed using illegal connections while a CDA standby generator was also used.

The ISI told the top court that TLYR was a registered political party that had bagged a considerable number of votes in the recent by-elections.

“TLYR is neither a banned organisation nor on the watch list, hence it was not placed under surveillance earlier. The organisation, like others, is however monitored for any extremist tendencies,” the report said.

The Express Tribune cited 46-page ISI report as saying: “Rizvi is reportedly corrupt when it comes to financial matters, but also that he appears to be living within his means. It also notes that he has shown an inclination towards misuse of power, the authorities, and resources.

“Despite ISI’s recommendations to solve the issue politically and avoid the use of force, an operation against the dharna was launched on November 25, on the orders of the Islamabad High Court. The operation was an utter failure [and] triggered countrywide protests.”

The complete profiles of the leadership of the protesters – Rizvi, Dr Muhammad Ashraf Asif Jalali, and Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri – have also been attached to the report.

He [Rizvi] is also listed as being “arrogant” with his superiors, “harsh” with his subordinates, and “committed” to his cause. His overall reputation is “unsatisfactory”.

About Dr Jalali, the report describes him being dubious, an opportunist, and a manipulator. His overall general reputation is also “unsatisfactory”. It also notes he violated an agreement with the Punjab government for not holding a public meeting at Nasir Bagh Lahore in connection with the Mumtaz Qadri Rehai Movement. It also says he is actively involved in sectarian activities.

No negative point has been found in the profile of Muhammad Afzal Qadri.

The report reveals that the Punjab government did not make any attempt to obstruct or negotiate with protesters to stop them from reaching the federal capital last November.

“The protesters’ strength at Faizabad varied between 1,500 and 1,800, and locals occasionally joined them, especially on Friday. TLYR sustained the dharna for 20 days due to generous public support. [There were] rumours of organised logistic support to TLYR activists occupying Faizabad interchange in terms of food.”

The report added that local police were neither willing nor capable of obstructing or preventing the logistic supplies. It says that the operation failed due to lack of coordination between police forces of the twin cities and the inability of the Rawalpindi police to block reinforcements. Live media coverage of the operation on TV as well as social media resulted in mobilisation not only in Rawalpindi and Islamabad but across the country as well.

It said that religious sentiments of police personnel were exploited by TLYR leadership through their continuous speeches on loudspeakers.

The federal government did not independently contact TLYR leaders for negations when the dharna got prolonged and inaction was observed. The representatives of ISI engaged both sides and asked them to sit together to resolve the issue, it was reported.

The ISI has also expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of other agencies. The special branch of police covered the dharna but restricted themselves to providing tactical information, strength, participation and other logistic aspects. Likewise, “Intelligence Bureau (IB) remained aloof, as no information or efforts were visible on the part of this agency.”

A high-level meeting at the PM office on November 22 unanimously decided to resolve the issue peacefully. ISI was given a lead role with complete authority to negotiate. During the meeting, the DG ISI said that even though the sit-in at Faizabad was numerically small, the TLYR had pockets of dedicated and committed followers all over the country and that peaceful negotiations were the only way forward, according to the minutes of that meeting, which were also attached with the report.

According to the minutes, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanuallah informed the meeting that the Punjab government had followed a policy of restraint to avoid creating a law and order situation and that by November 22, negotiations were the only solution to the problem. The report has also identified six lawyers and three trade union leaders as supporting the dharna, but it has not explained how they supported the protesters.

It also reports on a meeting between a British Muslim delegation and diplomats, a Spanish Muslim delegation meeting dharna participants, and other attendees. The ISI has also furnished the details of 175 protests, which were held in 36 districts of Punjab after the operation.

The ISI added as per Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is authorised to monitor internet and social media activity. Some negative activities are, however, monitored by the ISI in the context of national security and necessary details are shared with the FIA as and when required.

 

REACTION

A spokesperson for the TLYR said jails could not stop their ‘struggle’ to impose Islamic laws in the country. Spokesperson Pir Ijaz Ashrafi said: “We are lovers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and jails and other difficulties do not matter to us.” Asked if his party was considering legal option, Ashrafi said it was yet to be decided. He also gave an option that leadership will also not apply for the bail.

 

 

ATC issues arrest warrants for Faizabad sit-in leadership

 

Shahid Rao