If the Faizabad sit-in verdict was implemented, the Jaranwala incident could have been prevented, said Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa on Thursday as the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing on a set of pleas challenging the judgment till November 1.
A three-member bench led by CJP Isa and comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah was hearing a set of pleas challenging the top court’s judgment in the Faizabad sit-in case, wherein intelligence agencies were directed not to exceed their constitutional mandates.
As the outset of the hearing, the Ministry of Defence, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) filed applications to withdraw their pleas.
Similar, applications were earlier submitted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
The CJP wondered as to why the review petitions were being withdrawn. “It appears that an order was given to file review petitions,” he observed.
CJP Isa remarked that there will be no future for Pakistan without accountability. The truth will be set free, he said, asking “why is everyone scared of telling the truth about filing review petitions”.
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The petitioners should bear the cost of filing frivolous review petitions, said the CJP.
He asked whether constitutional bodies like the ECP and others were running independently or “being conducted” by someone? Was the filing of these petitions “orchestrated then” or is it being done now, he asked.
Questioning why the review petitions were being withdrawn, he wondered whether these seemingly independent institutions had always been orchestrated.
The CJP raised some crucial questions regarding the case, wondering whether now all institutions “are being run directly”, why these review petitions were not taken up in the past four years and whether “powerful circles were controlling the fixing of cases”.
“Everyone is accountable and we are also accountable to the people,” said CJP Isa.
He further asked who would be answerable about the killings that took place in Karachi on May 12, 2007.
During the hearing, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan assured the court that the Faizabad sit-in judgment would be implemented.
Later, the bench adjourned the proceedings till November 1.
At least eight review petitions were filed against the verdict, authored by CJP Isa on February 6, 2019, on a sit-in by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in Faizabad in 2017.
Authored by Justice Isa, the searing judgement had directed the country’s intelligence agencies, namely the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI), and the army’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) not to exceed their constitutional mandate.
The judgment dealt with the role of intelligence agencies in a 20-day sit-in staged by the ultra-orthodox Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party at the intersection of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad in November 2017.
The TLP had launched the protest against the alleged changes made in lawmakers’ oath avowing that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is the last messenger of Allah through the Elections Bill 2017. The protesters had demanded the resignation of the then law minister, Zahid Hamid.
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The protests had paralyzed daily life in the twin cities for 20 days. During that period, several rounds of bilateral talks were held between the government and protesters. Zahid Hamid had eventually stepped down on November 27, 2017, on the demand of the TLP.
On November 21, 2017, the Supreme Court had initiated a suo motu proceeding on the sit-in. On November 22, 2018, a two-judge bench comprising Justice Isa and Justice Mushir Alam reserved its ruling. The SC on February 6, 2019, unveiled its 43-page judgment authored by Justice Isa.
In his 2019 judgment, Justice Isa had written that the Constitution emphatically prohibited members of the armed forces from engaging in any kind of political activity, which included supporting a political party, faction or individual. “The government of Pakistan through the ministry of defence and the respective chiefs of the army, the navy and the air force are directed to initiate action against the personnel under their command who are found to have violated their oath,” read the 43-page verdict authored by incumbent CJP Isa.
It had also directed the federal government to monitor those advocating hate, extremism, and terrorism and prosecute them in accordance with the law. Adverse observations were also made against several government departments and other public sector entities as the 20-day sit-in paralysed life in both Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The judgment had held that no one, including any government, department or intelligence agency, could curtail the fundamental right of freedom of speech, expression and press beyond the parameters mentioned in Article 19 of the Constitution.
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Justice Isa had ruled that those who resorted to such tactics under the mistaken belief that they served some higher goal deluded themselves.
“Pakistan is governed by the Constitution…Obedience to the Constitution and the law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being in Pakistan,” he wrote in his verdict.
At least eight review petitions were filed against the judgment shortly after it was issued.
Among the petitioners were various political parties and organisations such as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid and Ejazul Haq, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and defence ministry (ISI).
Earlier this week, however, the IB and Pemra withdrew their petitions stating that they do not wish to pursue the matter anymore.
Meanwhile, Rashid, via Advocate Mehr Khan Malik, had also reportedly requested the apex court to adjourn the hearing.
The pleas were not taken up during the tenures of the last three chief justices, namely Asif Saeed Khosa, Gulzar Ahmed and Umar Ata Bandial.
Soon after the judgment, speculations were rife that the then PTI government was planning to file a presidential reference against Justice Isa. The reference was filed in the same year and later quashed by the apex court.