SC asks authorities to work within mandate

Islamabad: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday announced the detailed judgment in the suo motu case of Faizabad sit-in staged by the Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), and instructed the government, law enforcers and intelligence agencies to operate within their mandate. A two-member bench of the apex court comprising Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mushir Alam court reserved the verdict on November 22. Notices have been issued to attorney general of Pakistan (AGP), Islamabad Inspector General of Police (IGP), secretary interior, secretary defence, and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary. However, the bench did not read out the verdict and instead its written copy has been uploaded onto the Supreme Court’s website. The court has concluded the verdict as follows: (1) Subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law, citizens have the right to form and to be members of political parties. SMC. No. 7/2017 39 (2) Every citizen and political party has the right to assemble and protest provided such assembly and protest is peaceful and complies with the law imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order. The right to assemble and protest is circumscribed only to the extent that it infringes on the fundamental rights of others, including their right to free movement and to hold and enjoy property. (3) Protestors who obstruct people’s right to use roads and damage or destroy property must be proceeded against in accordance with the law and held accountable. (4) The Constitution earmarks the responsibilities of the Election Commission which it must fulfill. If a political party does not comply with the law governing political parties then the Election Commission must proceed against it in accordance with the law. The law is most certainly not cosmetic as contended on behalf of the Election Commission. (5) All political parties have to account for the source of their funds in accordance with the law. (6) The State must always act impartially and fairly. The law is applicable to all, including those who are in government and institutions must act independently of those in government. (7) When the State failed to prosecute those at the highest echelons of government who were responsible for the murder and attempted murder of peaceful citizens on the streets of SMC. No. 7/2017 40 Karachi on 12th May, 2007 it set a bad precedent and encouraged others to resort to violence to achieve their agendas. (8) A person issuing an edict or fatwa, which harms another or puts another in harm’s way, must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. (9) Broadcasters who broadcast messages advocating or inciting the commission of an offence violate the PEMRA Ordinance and the terms of their licences and must be proceeded against by PEMRA in accordance with the law. (10) Cable operators who stopped or interrupted the broadcast of licenced broadcasters must be proceeded against by PEMRA in accordance with the PEMRA Ordinance, and if this was done on the behest of others then PEMRA should report those so directing the cable operators to the concerned authorities. (11) Those spreading messages through electronic means which advocate or incite the commission of an offence are liable to be prosecuted under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. (12) All intelligence agencies (including ISI, IB and MI) and the ISPR must not exceed their respective mandates. They cannot curtail the freedom of speech and expression and do SMC. No. 7/2017 41 not have the authority to interfere with broadcasts and publications, in the management of broadcasters/publishers and in the distribution of newspapers. (13) Intelligence agencies should monitor activities of all those who threaten the territorial integrity of the country and all those who undermine the security of the people and the State by resorting to or inciting violence. (14) To best ensure transparency and the rule of law it would be appropriate to enact laws which clearly stipulate the respective mandates of the intelligence agencies. (15) The Constitution emphatically prohibits members of the Armed Forces from engaging in any kind of political activity, which includes 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. (16) The police and other law enforcement agencies are directed to develop standard plans and procedure with regard to how best to handle rallies, protests and dharnas, and ensure that such plans/procedures are flexible enough to attend to different situations. It is clarified that though the making of such plans/procedures is not within the jurisdiction of this Court however we expect that in the maintenance of law and SMC. No. 7/2017 42 order every effort will be taken to avoid causing injury and loss of life. (17) We direct the Federal and provincial governments to monitor those advocating hate, extremism and terrorism and prosecute the perpetrators in accordance with the law. Importantly, it said that it would be apt to conclude this judgment by quoting Quaide-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah: “I consider it my duty to call upon the Muslims to temper their resentment with reason and to beware of the dangers which may well overwhelm their own State. Should they allow their feelings of the moment to gain mastery over their actions. 121 It is of utmost importance that Pakistan should be kept free from disorder, because the outbreak of lawlessness… is bound to shake… its foundation and cause irreparable damage to its future. 122 I pray to God that He who has bestowed on us this great boon of a sovereign State, may now give our people courage to… preserve intact the peace of Pakistan for the sake of Pakistan.” The apex court had taken notice of the disruption of daily life in Islamabad and Rawalpindi due to a 20-day sit-in led by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik in Nov 2017. The protests ended after the government agreed to a list of demands by the agitators after a series of failed rounds of mediation and a botched operation to clear the Faizabad Interchange, where the sit-in was being held. Earlier, The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Islamabad police both submitted reports to court regarding the protest.