SC directs govt to allow PTI to hold rally at H-9 ground
ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court of Pakistan Wednesday directed the government to allow the PTI to organize its rally at a ground between H-9 and G-9 areas of the federal capital.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and comprising Justice Muneeb Akhtar and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi conducted hearing of the petitions of PTI and Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) regarding blockade of roads and highways and the obstacles in smooth flow of traffic.
The apex court also constituted a committee comprising members of government and PTI leaders to hold talks to resolve the current political crisis. The government side includes Yousaf Raza Gilani, Ayyaz Sadiq, Faisal Subzwari, Assad Mehmood, Azam Nazir Tarar, Agha Jan, Khalid Magsi and Ahsan Iqbal, while the PTI side comprises Babar Awan, Amir Kiyani, Faisal Fareed and Ali Awan.
The bench had directed the committee to hold talks Wednesday night (by 10pm) at the office of the Chief Commissioner Islamabad. Justice Ijaz asked the members that as a first step show the bona fide in resolving the looming political situation. He also asked the IGP and Chief Commissioner Islamabad to facilitate the meeting.
The court warned that the proceedings of the Court shall not be subject matter of the conference or talk shows of the political leaders. It said that the court expects that the top leadership of all the political parties will direct its workers and members to stay calm, de-escalate and disengage from hostility and not create any law and order situation. The court also expected that the top functionaries of the Islamabad and Ministry of Interior will not use excessive and disproportionate force against the political workers of the PTI.
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf informed that the government is fully committed to abide by the law and that the sanctity of the houses and offices will not be violated. The bench asked the AGP to share the copy of the code of conduct agreed between the PTI administration and the JUI-F for the later protest at Srinagar Highway.
The Court ordered the administration to release the buses and transport impounded during the last 24 hour due to PTI rally. It further directed them to restore their licenses, which the authorities had cancelled earlier. However, the court said that in the cases where the administration has valid reasons against the transporters for violating the law then the competent authority can issue them show cause notice, and issue fresh proceedings.
The SC said that since the protest cannot be held on the Srinagar Highway, the Islamabad chief commissioner should inform the bench about an alternate venue.
After the break, the PTI informed the court that it wanted to hold its protest at H-9 Ground – the same place where JUI-F was allowed to organize its rally against the then ruling PTI.
PTI lawyer Babar Awan said that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had four demands which include an end to road blockades, release of detained members, end to raids at houses and law chambers of PTI supporters, and upholding the sanctity of households by the government.
Then the apex court gave both sides another hour to decide on the venue for the hearing and adjourned the hearing for another hour.
Justice Naqvi asked from the attorney general whether the government had provided the PTI with alternative protest venues. The AGP said that the government offered Democracy Park and some other locations to PTI to hold its protest but it was insistent on organizing its rally on Srinagar Highway. He further said that the blockade at Srinagar Highway would impact the entire capital.
The bench asked the interior secretary to inform the court as to why the government had closed the roads and arrested PTI leaders. The secretary responded that the police chiefs and relevant officials would answer for these arrests.
As the hearing resumed after a break, AGP Ausaf said that the government did not allow Imran to hold a sit-in at Srinagar Highway because of security threats. He added that according to security agencies, Imran could become a target of suicide bombing.
The Attorney General for Pakistan objected to giving permission to the political gathering at Srinagar Highway. However, the top court directed the authorities to allow PTI to hold its gathering at the said venue and provide security for the same. The court also told the government to set free all arrested activists of the political party.
Earlier in the day, the bench summoned the interior secretary and the Islamabad police chief among others to submit a response. At the outset of the hearing, Justice Ijaz said that schools and transport have been shut down while all hospitals were on an emergency alert. He added that the country was going through a precarious economic condition and was on the brink of bankruptcy.
He continued that will the government bring the entire country to a standstill in response to every protest.” The Attorney General said that he did not know about the situation in detail and sought time to gather information about the blockades. Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi asked whether the AG did not know about the current situation.
IHCBA President Muhammad Shoaib Shaheen on Tuesday had filed the petition under Article 184(3) of Constitution and made Federal Secretary Ministry of Interior and the chief secretaries of all the provinces as respondents.
The petitioner submitted that the roads and highways are being blocked by different state institutions/executive authorities due to the fact that advocates, citizens, ambulances, doctors were prevented from reaching their destinations.
Later, the apex court deferred the hearing till today.