SC raps inept agencies, hatemongering media

ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court on Thursday reprimanded intelligence agencies for poor performance regarding Faizabad sit-in and resultant countywide chaos, and also blasted media for spreading hatred.

The court rejected ISI and IB reports on the Islamabad dharna and again directed for a detailed report on the 22-day-long crippling protest, which also resulted in casualties and damage to public and private property.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa heard the suo moto on the sit-in, staged by the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah over a controversial amendment in election laws about the finality of prophethood.

The court reprimand government officials as well as the media for their questionable role in the sit-in at Faizabad and the botched operation carried out to disperse the protesters.

The advocate general of the Islamabad jurisdiction submitted a report from Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) about the countrywide mobbing over the issue.

Justice Mushir Alam asked why the intelligence agencies failed to submit a specific report on the Islamabad sit-in. He said why such a huge amount of public funds was being spent on agencies if they could not give information. Everyone including judges should be held accountable, he added.

It has not been revealed by the intelligence agencies that from where the protesters got teargas shells and sticks, he said to Islamabad advocate general.

“If you cannot secure the federal capital, how will you secure the country?” he asked, addressing the government.

The court expressed anger as no ISI official was present during the hearing. Justice Faez Isa asked why the country’s agencies do not come forward. “Why is the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) representative not here?” he asked. He added that it was the ISI’s responsibility to protect the state. “The poor of this country provide the funds for ISI,” he said.

An official of defence ministry, who was present, said that he was also representing the ISI. He said that the court order issued in the previous hearing did not specifically say that a senior official of the agency must appear before the bench.

Justice Mushir Alam said that agencies have their presence all across the country and it was strange that even they did not know who provided batons and other stuff to the protesters.

Addressing the representatives of the intelligence agencies, the bench head remarked that they must not turn every issue into a political agenda. “Sometimes the national interest must also be served [on priority].”

On the role of the army in the matter, which previously came under scrutiny in the Islamabad High Court, the judges said that it was incorrect to say that the army is separate from the government.

“The army is not separate from the government… They [army] should not be maligned — those doing so are working on personal agendas.”

If the army has played a role in ending a crisis, it has done a good thing, the court noted, adding that both the army and the civilian government feed on public money.

Negative media role

Justice Faez Isa censured the media for fanning the conflict. Why do media spread false news, he asked, adding that media people are ignoring the teachings of the Holy Quran.

“Is it so easy to say hateful things?” he wondered, asking the government why no action had been taken against the unruly media channels and anchors. Nobody is above the law, he added.

The judge said it has become a trend that the people stage a sit-in for the acceptance of their demands. He said that the media should play a positive role and if it cannot do that, better shut the channels.

He said that media people were always worried about ratings. “Should we close a few media channels ourselves?” he asked, adding that media owners would suffer losses in that case.

It seems to be the media’s job to defame people, the judge further remarked, asking who owned each TV channel and where they got their funding from.

“The ISI report also mentions a channel — should we take its name in open court?” he asked.

“We cannot look away from what is happening,” the bench said, asking, “Should we issue notices to channels? Where is the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra)?”

The judges said that if the media does not agree with the court’s remarks, it could become a party to the case.

“It is our responsibility to hear every party,” one of the justices remarked.

“It is the responsibility of TV channels not to fan violence,” said Justice Isa, warning that the judiciary would keep an on eye whether the media “corrects its direction or not”.

Acknowledging that an independent media was important for the country’s development, the court said that verbal abuse was not allowed [to be aired] in any country.

The bench asked how many TV channels were operating in the country. The deputy attorney general told the court that more than 89 channels were operating in Pakistan.

“Did any TV channel tell what Islam is?” the bench asked. “The media does not tell us who the enemy is. Should we summon all TV channel owners?” the judges wondered.

Damages during sit-in

Justice Faez said that at the last hearing they had ordered the Intelligence Bureau and the Inter-Services Intelligence to file reports and tell the court how much money was spent on the dharna.

He said that according to a report it seemed no casualty happened during the sit-in or the police operation to disperse protesters.

Islamabad advocate general said that no one died in the area of the federal capital but 172 persons got injured during the operation.

Justice Faez said that one child had died due to the sit-in as the protesters had blocked the roads and the ambulance could not take the child to hospital. The AG said that FIR had been registered about it and nine persons were arrested.

The judge questioned whether TV channels were airing wrong news, or “you don’t want to inform the court about the deaths?”

He observed it meant that Islamabad police chief wanted to say he could not talk to the Rawalpindi police head, therefore, he did not give tell about any death toll in Rawalpindi area. He also inquired how much [material] losses incurred due to the sit-in and where were its details.

The AG said the Attorney General for Pakistan office has a report on it but since no institution has signed it, therefore, he did not submit a report to the court. He however said that three prison vans were set on fire by protesters.

Justice Faez Isa said the court should be informed how many people died and injured and how many properties were damaged during the Faizabad protest.

Justice Mushir Alam asked whether cases have been registered against protesters possessing explosive material.

The advocate general informed the court that 27 cases have been registered against the protesters.

About the government expense on the protest sit-in, the AG said that according to one estimate, Rs146 million was spent on Faizabad dharna.

Justice Faez asked him “why he was hesitantly telling this, this is public money and the people of Pakistan should know about it”.

The AG said that no report had been received from the Punjab government as no direction was issued to it.

People’s naiveté and culture of violence

Justice Faez said that Pakistan has to follow the Islamic ideology. But he asked, “Is it difficult to talk about Islam in Pakistan? Does religion teaches damaging the properties and killing people?”

Now the situation has become so worse that those groups who bring greater destruction are heard the most [by the authorities], he added.

Justice Faez Isa said Islam had spread in the region due to the strength of Muslims’ character, not war.

“Can people even talk about Islam in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?” he wondered.

He remarked that the people of Pakistan are “very naive” and get killed due to their naiveté.

“Is bloodshed a part of our religion? The tongue is being used as a weapon,” the judges noted.

The case was adjourned for an indefinite period.

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