SC not to intervene in PTI’s long march unless law is violated, CJP tells AGP
Asks government to take steps for security in cities ahead of march
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Stressing that the talk of PTI’s long march was presently restricted to speeches only, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Thursday said the federal government could tackle the march by taking measures in the urban areas where there were security threats, ahead of the march, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
During the hearing of the contempt of court petition filed by the Ministry of Interior against former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan, the CJP asked Attorney-General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf Ali whether he wanted to say that the PTI was planning yet another march and a sit-in in Islamabad. “Whether you mean that the party is going against the assurance it had given to the court earlier,” he said, and questioned, “Do you want us to seek yet another assurance from the PTI?”
A five-member bench of the SC, headed by CJP Bandial, heard the petition.
“Islamabad’s administration must keep itself ready to face any situation. The court will only intervene in the event of any violation of a law,” Justice Bandial remarked.
“Bring solid proofs that the march will lead to a confrontation in the federal capital,” he asked the AGP, and added, “If we deem it necessary, we will come to the court even on a holiday.”
The AGP told the court that Imran was visiting colleges and universities and inciting people against the state. “It is true that registering one’s protest is a fundamental right of every citizen,” Ashtar said, “But the point is that the PTI chairman is urging people to participate in the march by calling it a ‘Jihad’.”
He reminded the SC that last time the former prime minister had given an assurance to the Islamabad High Court that the PTI workers would not enter Islamabad’s D-Chowk. “Still, he failed to keep the promise and directed the workers to storm the chowk,” the AGP said, adding, “The government had even opened the routes leading to the Srinagar Highway’s ground. But still PTI workers entered the Red Zone. Consequently there were clashes between them and the personnel of the law enforcement agencies. The protestors even damaged public and private properties.”
Later, he went on to add, on the same day an application was filed in the SC, in which action was sought against those responsible for the mayhem.
The AGP then read out the apex court order, dated May 25, 2022, in which the court not only barred the authorities from arresting the marchers, but also urged the PTI leadership to ask its workers to exercise restraint and refrain from taking law into their own hands.
The court, the attorney general recalled, had also directed the ISI, IB, IGP, Islamabad, Ministry of Interior and chief commissioner to submit to it reports so that it could be ascertained whether the PTI had gone against the assurance. “And the concerned departments did submit their reports,” Ashtar said, adding, “However, I have not received copies of these reports as yet.”
Therefore, he added, it was prayed to the court to give an order for an interim time period.
Justice Bandial, however, stopping short of give an interim order, assured the AGP that he would be provided copies of these reports, and the hearing would resume afterwards.
Justice Bandial said 31 people had been injured in clashes with the personnel of law-enforcement agencies on May 25, 2022; last time the PTI had set out on a long march towards Islamabad. “But the very next morning, Imran had called off the march,” the CJP said.
He also made it clear that the right to protest by any individual or a political party was conditional and that any political leader violating the apex court orders will invite serious consequences.
Later, the court adjourned hearing of the case until October 26, 2022, adding that the government could approach the apex court in case any illegal activity was reported in the interim period. “We will take action immediately,” Justice Bandial assured.
Reporter: Rozeena Ali