LAHORE - Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmad of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday praised army’s role in controlling the situation after the Faizabad sit-in. He observed, “Had the military not ensured agreement between the government and the protesters, there would have been massive killings due to police operation.”

Justice Ahmad lauded army’s role while hearing a habeas corpus petition moved by Ali Abbass seeking recovery of his brother Nasir Abbass Sherazi who is general secretary of Majlis Wahdate Muslimeen (MWM). During the proceedings on Tuesday, a senior officer from the Military Intelligence (MI) was present in the court besides the law officers, including Advocate General of Punjab Shakil-ur-Rehman.

“Everyone knows it is the army, which saved the country from a disaster,” Justice Ahmad observed. The judge referred to the recent martyrdom of Major Ishaq and observed, “I couldn’t sleep after seeing picture of the young martyred officer’s wife sitting beside her husband’s coffin. The Pakistan Army has rendered huge sacrifices to counter terrorism.”  The judge expressed dismay at the contemptuous language being used by politicians against the judiciary. He addressed the AGP and said that ministers should respect the courts. However, the judge did not mention any party or politician.

The MI official told the court that his agency did not know anything about the alleged abduction of the Majlis Wahdate Muslimeen (MWM) leader. Officials from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) were due to appear before the court, but they did not. This irked the judge who directed the Punjab police and intelligence agencies to ensure recovery of the petitioner’s brother.

Ali Abbass had submitted that police abducted his brother Sherazi in Wapda Town. He alleged that Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan were behind his brother’s abduction. He argued that his brother had filed a petition in the high court for disqualification of the law minister for issuing ‘contemptuous’ remarks against a sitting judge who conducted an inquiry into the 2014 Model Town incident.

The petitioner asked the court to order the police to recover his brother. The court adjourned the hearing until Dec 4.

On Monday, an Islamabad High Court judge took exception to army’s role as mediator between the government and the protesters.

Hearing two petitions seeking action against the protesters, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui raised serious questions about ‘mediator’ role assigned to the military to end Faizabad sit-in.

Justice Siddiqui noted in his order: “Besides a number of serious objections to the terms of agreement, most alarming is that Major-Gen Faiz Hameed put a signature as one through whom the agreement reached. It is also very strange that efforts of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff, have been acknowledged.” The bench observed: “At the very outset, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal submits that an agreement has reached between the federal government and the protesters of the sit-in at Faizabad Interchange on the call of Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR).” The federal minister sought time when the court summoned the copy of agreement. However, the Islamabad chief commissioner read out the accord as he received on WhatsApp on the court’s directives.

Justice Shaukat observed: “Prima facie, the role assumed by the top leadership of army is beyond the Constitution and the law of land. Armed forces being part of the executive of the country cannot travel beyond its mandate bestowed upon it by the organic law of the country — the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is a matter of record that most abusive and filthy language was used against the honourable judges of the Supreme Court, but the federal government and the arbitrator did not bother to persuade the leadership of TLYRA to even tender an apology in this regard.”

The judge said: “This court has serious reservations about the terms of the agreement and the mannerism in which it arrived, however, the federal government has to satisfy the court about the constitutional role of armed forces and an acknowledgment by the federal government/executive of the country regarding the role of armed forces as an arbitrator”. The judge directed the attorney general of Pakistan to appear in person to assist the court on this point at the next hearing on December 4.

The verdict further said: “The chief commissioner, ICT, will submit his report about the conduct of clearance operation and reasons of its failure while Anwar Ali, Joint Director General, Intelligence Bureau, is directed to submit a report that from where the protesters of the sit-in brought guns to fire, shells of teargas, masks to protect themselves from teargas, grenades, weapons and other instruments. He will also submit a report showing reasons for the failure of the operation and the aid provided to protesters when the ICT police had almost cleared Faizabad Interchange.” It further said: “The report may also be submitted about the viral audio, wherein some high ranked army officer explaining the army’s point of view on sit-in to a personality by the name of Saqib.”

The IHC bench said that “It is made clear that the question raised by this court shall not be used as an excuse to dislodge/disperse the protesters of the sit-in as an order to clear Faizabad Interchange and if protesters are bent upon to carry on sit-in, the federal government and the ICT administration are required to persuade them to shift the sit-in to ‘Parade Ground’ as an alternative to proceed in terms of Sections 4&5 of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.”

During the hearing, Justice Siddiqui remarked that the army chief instead of following the orders of the chief executive became a mediator. “Who is the army chief to adopt a mediator's role?” asked the judge. “Where does the law assign this role to a general?”

Advocate Inamul Rahiem, the counsel for petitioner Rana Abdul Qayyum, adopted that under the Army Act, there is no provision that any army person can become a negotiator, a facilitator or a guarantor in any case what to talk of the case of terrorism between protesters and the state.

The document of the agreement — submitted before the court — bore the signatures of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Interior Secretary Arshad Mirza, TLYR leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi, two other protesting leaders and Maj-Gen Faiz Hameed, who facilitated the agreement.

During the hearing, Justice Siddiqui also remarked that soldiers who were inclined towards politics should turn in their weapons and join politics.

“Where is their Raddul Fasaad now? Did they not see any Fasaad (anarchy) in this protest?" Justice Siddiqui asked. The judge remarked that this was the proof of the ‘military’s involvement’.

He told the interior minister that the administration had the right to call in the army to control an emergency situation and that the military was bound to comply.

The minister replied that during the protest and operation in Islamabad, the country’s internal security was at risk. “There was a conspiracy to show that a nuclear-state was failing. The agreement was reached with the protesters to bring the country out of those circumstances,” said the interior minister.

The judge asked why the agreement did not carry the signatures of the chief commissioner and the IG. “Mr Iqbal, you have embarrassed the police and the administration,” Justice Siddiqui said. “You [the institutions] are destroying the state in your bid to make each other look bad,” said the judge.

The bench remarked: “You are supporting the impression that the army is the cure for all ills.” The judge said that he knew that these remarks could cost him his life or add him to the list of missing persons.

He said: “The army’s role as a mediator between the law violators and law enforcing agencies is unacceptable”. He advised the army to remain within its constitutional ambit.

The judge tasked Barrister Zafarullah with filing a report on the incident. “He will tell us in 10 days what happened, where and when,” the judge said.

He also remarked that the government was using Zahid Hamid as a scapegoat to protect PML-N leader Anusha Rehman, State Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication. “In order to protect one person, the minister is being sacrificed,” he said.

Earlier, the court expressed its annoyance when the interior minister failed to appear. The court adjourned for a break, ordering the interior minister to show up within 15 minutes.

Ahsan Iqbal arrived at the court. Inspector General Islamabad Police Khalid Khattak, Chief Commissioner Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta and Deputy Commissioner Mushtaq were also present in the court.