–Judge says army not separate from government; when writ of state ends decisions are made on the streets
–Bench asks how were protesters able to get teargas shells and sticks
–DAG tells court no deaths occurred during Faizabad operation; protesters caused losses worth Rs 146m
ISLAMABAD: A two-judge Supreme Court bench hearing a case on disturbance of public life due to the sit-in at the Faizabad interchange on Thursday came down hard on the country’s premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as it reviewed the nine-page report submitted to the apex court on Wednesday on behalf of Islamabad Inspector General Police (IGP) Khalid Khattak.
As the proceedings started, Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mahmood requested the court to adjourn hearing of the matter until Tuesday as the attorney general is out of the country. To this, Justice Isa said the hearing won’t be adjourned as the deputy attorney general is present.
Continuing with the hearing, Justice Isa criticised the role of intelligence agencies and questioned what they were up to when violent protests erupted across the country.
“Why is Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) silent over the matter?” asked Justice Isa, enquiring as to why the country’s agencies do not come forward.
Addressing the ISI representative in court, he observed that “everything is not part of a political agenda, [ISI] should think of the country sometimes too”.
The protest is not completely over and the sit-in is still ongoing, observed Justice Isa.
The judges, speaking about the role of the army which has come under scrutiny by the Islamabad High Court (IHC), observed that it was incorrect [to say] that the army is separate from the government.
“Army is not separate from the government,” observed the bench. “They should not be maligned — those doing so are working on personal agendas.”
During the last hearing, the court had rejected reports furnished by the intelligence agencies, saying there had been no depth in them and that their performance was not up to the mark.
“We are not satisfied with the ISI report,” Justice Isa said on Thursday, asking ISI to submit another report.
Justice Isa remarked: “When the writ of the state ends, decisions are made on streets,” adding that, “this dharna [sit-in] is all about one man’s ego and his quest to get fame.”
“WHO PROVIDED PROTESTERS WITH TEARGAS SHELLS, STICKS?”
Justice Mushir Alam enquired about the protesters possessing teargas shells and sticks. “How did the protesters get teargas shells and sticks?”
“If you cannot secure the federal capital, how will you secure the country?” Justice Mushir Alam asked the Islamabad advocate general.
The judge further enquired about the cases registered against protesters possessing explosive material.
The advocate general informed the court that 27 cases have been registered against the protesters.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa questioned whether people could “talk about Islam in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”?
Justice Isa asked the deputy attorney general how many people had died, how many were injured and how many public and private assets were damaged during the protest. To this, the deputy attorney general said that there were no deaths in the incident and 173 policemen were injured in the incident.
The deputy attorney general informed the bench that they have received unsigned documents from the Punjab government regarding the losses incurred during the sit-in. He shared that according to this report, the losses incurred stand at Rs146 million.
Justice Isa then remarked where Islam permits damaging public and private property?
“The people of Pakistan are ‘very naïve’ and get killed due to their naivete,” remarked Justice Isa.
ROLE OF MEDIA QUESTIONABLE:
Criticising the role of media for fanning the conflict, he asked, “Is it easy to say hateful things?” and questioned the government as to why no action had been taken against the media. “Should we close a few media channels?”
Is it the media’s job to defame people, the judge remarked, asking who owned each TV channel and where did they get their funding from.
“The ISI report also mentions a channel — should we take its name in open court?”
“We cannot look away from what is happening,” the bench said, asking, “Should we issue notices to channels? Where is PEMRA?”
The judges said that if the media does not agree with the court’s remarks, it could become a party to the case.
“It is our responsibility to hear every party.”
After hearing arguments, the bench adjourned the hearing, directing the respondents to submit the implementation report.
On November 21, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Isa had taken notice of the Islamabad protest sit-in while hearing a separate case.
A day before the hearing of the case, a report submitted to the apex court on behalf of the Islamabad IGP revealed that the police officials had been fatigued as a result of the deployment for the last 20 days or so, which affected their productivity.
Furthermore, the report attributed a mixed deployment of FC, police and Rangers as an ineffective strategy leading to a failed operation.
Moreover, the report also stated that protesters had aroused the religious sentiments of the deployed security personnel through their speeches which led to the security personnel sharing sympathies with the protesters who were subsequently reluctant to conduct action against the demonstrators as per the state orders.
As per the Islamabad police, the protesters were full-equipped and highly organised to deal with any action taken against them. Moreover, the protesters were “highly religiously motivated” and carried pistols, axes, rods, stones, shells and masks, the report revealed further.
“Initially, tear gas and water cannon were used but in response, the protesters resisted and assaulted the police with batons and axes, while pelting them with stones. They were also armed with tear gas and used it upon police force,” the report detailed. After four hours of efforts, nearly 80per cent of the area had been cleared off the protesters. However, in the meantime, workers of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) from adjoining areas of Rawalpindi carrying sticks and axes joined them and launched brutal attacks on the security personnel. Consequently, several officials of the police and other law enforcement agencies were wounded, according to the report.
“Due to severe resistance by the protesters, there was an apprehension of loss of lives so the operation was stopped for some time and force was reassembled to seal all incoming roads and streets so that another attempt could be made with full preparation,” it mentions.
In retaliation to the launched operation, nationwide protests initiated with major road blockage witnessed in major cities of the country. Eventually, the operation was postponed, the report said.
Subsequently, a request was made by the Islamabad district administration to the government to call in the army under Article 245 of the Constitution.
“The Interior Ministry assigned Rangers the role of clearing Faizabad from protesters, and requisite notification was issued. By midnight of November 26-27, the issue between the leadership of TLYR and the government was settled through negotiations and the protesters announced winding up of their sit-in,” said the report.
“The operation was carried out with proper preparation but due to the strong resistance by the protesters and reinforcements by the workers of TLYR from nearby areas of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the operation was stopped temporarily to avoid any causality.
“But upon receipt of information by the competent authority that the countrywide protests had started and problems were occurring in maintaining law and order throughout the country, the operation was stopped as in the developing situation, the government decided to resolve the issue through negotiations in the best interest of the country.
The negotiations were started at the highest level and by the midnight of 26/27.11.2017, the issue between leadership of TLYR and the government was settled,” the report concluded.