IHC restrains police from harassing Baloch students of QAU

ISLAMABAD   –   The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Friday restrained the police from harassing Baloch students of Quaid-e-Azam University or any citizen or causing arrest pursuant to registration of an FIR registered in the federal capital for staging protest outside the National Press Club.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of a petition moved by Imaan Zainab Hazir, the daughter of Federal Minister Shireen Mazari and directed the Secretary Interior, Chief Commissioner, Islamabad, Inspector General of Police, Islamabad and Secretary Human Rights to appear before the court on the next hearing.

The IHC bench also directed them to justify the excessive force used against peaceful young citizens followed by the registration of a criminal case. “They are expected to satisfy the court, having regard to the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. In case they fail to satisfy the Court, then they are expected to identify the officials responsible for violating the rights of members of a peaceful assembly and the mode for ensuring their accountability,” added the bench.

It further said that acts of violence and amounting to sedition on part of State functionaries are unpardonable and intolerable.

In this matter, the petitioner, Iman Zainab Mazari invoked the jurisdiction of the court and asserted that the respondents had misused their powers in order to suppress voices of dissent and the right to hold peaceful protest.

She asserted that the QAU students, mostly belonging to Balochistan, had arranged a peaceful meeting near the Press Club to raise their voice and register their protest against the alleged enforced disappearance of one of the students, Hafeez Baloch.

She further asserted that the respondents had transgressed their powers by using excessive force to disperse the peaceful protestors. She alleged that several participants of the peaceful assembly had received injuries.

During the hearing, SSP Faisal Kamran was present in the court in relation to another case. In response to the court’s query, he confirmed that a criminal case i.e. FIR No.203/2022, dated 01-03- 2022, was registered and a copy of the FIR was also submitted.

The bench said that a plain reading of FIR No.203/2022, dated 01-03-2022, shows that, prima facie, the public functionaries have abused powers vested in them merely to disperse a peaceful assembly of young citizens, mostly students belonging to the province of Balochistan.

It observed that raising of slogans, no matter how harsh, by no stretch of the imagination, can be treated as a criminal conspiracy or an offence. The offences mentioned in the FIR also show that, prima facie, an attempt has been made to create a chilling effect to discourage dissent and expressing grievances stemming from the acts or inaction of the State.  Justice Athar said that such abuse of power is intolerable in a society governed under the Constitution.

He noted that it is seditious to suppress voices of dissent or to discourage raising grievances against the State, its institutions or the public functionaries.

Moreover, young citizens, particularly belonging to the province of Balochistan ought to be encouraged by the State and public functionaries to express themselves and create an enabling environment so that they may participate in political debates, uninhibited and without any fear.

He added, “The State and the institutions exist to serve and protect the citizens from harm and to enable them to exercise and enjoy their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.”

Later, the court also issued notices to the Attorney General for assistance and adjourned the hearing till March 7 for further proceedings.

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