SC bench hearing Faizabad sit-in case says ‘although ISI is doing a lot, it is not doing anything for people of Pakistan’
Judges reject report submitted by Ministry of Defence regarding TLYR protesters, their chief
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of the country’s premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to monitor last year’s Faizabad protest sit-in by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR).
During a suo motu hearing of the Faizabad sit-in, the two-judge bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa also asked ISI whether a cell to monitor the activities of such protests existed in the agency or not, and if it did then was the top agency’s representative aware of who the protesters were, what the working of the group was like and the issues.
“You are a top agency, don’t make a joke out of the country,” remarked Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
The bench also inquired about the financial sources and income of protesters, further questioning the budget of the ISI.
“Should the top court summon the ISI chief to get answers? If you [the representative] don’t have a coherent answer?”
Justice Isa further remarked that while the ISI is doing a lot, it is doing nothing for the people of Pakistan. He said that Pakistan did not come into being due to the army, it was the struggle of the common people.
The bench directed the agencies, including the ISI, to brief Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf Ali over the queries raised by the bench.
The court further directed the AGP to submit a concise statement on the number of lives lost and the damage caused during the Faizabad protest.
“How much damage was caused by the protests?” Justice Isa asked the AGP. The judge was told that an estimated damage of Rs139.5 million was caused.
The attorney general also told the court that nine people in Punjab and three in Sindh lost their lives over the duration of the protests while 194 police officers were injured in Islamabad.
Justice Faiz asked whether all those who were killed were Muslims.
“This was an attack on Muslims by Muslims,” Justice Isa said as Ausuf told him hundreds of officers were injured in the protest. “It caused harm to the identity of Islam.”
“This is not the first incident, but we hope it is the last one where an attempt is made to paralyse the state,” Justice Faiz said.
The court also questioned the employment status of TLYR chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who was heading the protest. “What is his source of income and address?” Justice Isa asked.
A representative of the Ministry of Defence told the bench that all the information was provided in the reports submitted.
The bench, however, expressed its dissatisfaction with the reports submitted.
The court dismissed the report submitted by PEMRA, saying that “the lengthy report contained nothing of value”.
Justice Isa observed that the report does not answer the questions raised by the court and ordered PEMRA to submit another report to satisfy the bench.
The PEMRA chairman has the authority to take action against television channels, the bench noted.
Hundreds of TLYR supporters had been camping at the Faizabad Interchange since November 6, calling for the resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid who they blamed for a hastily-abandoned change in the oath of elected representatives.
The government was forced to accept the protesters’ demands after a government operation to break up the sit-in went awry and sparked violent protests across the country.
When the situation spiralled out of control, the government ordered police and paramilitary troops to stand down and called on the army to restore order in the federal capital.
Subsequently, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa went into a huddle with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi where they concurred that army troops would not use force against protesters and would only provide back-end support.
“On the assurance of the chief of the army staff, we are calling off the sit-in,” Tehreek-e-Labbaik leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi told a crowd of around 2,500 supporters who had occupied the Faizabad Interchange for three weeks, two days after the army intervention.
Gen Bajwa strongly denied any role of the army in recent issues that fomented political turmoil, including the Faizabad sit-in. “We had no role in the sit-in, Panama leaks, or Dawn leaks. We did not cause any of these issues,” a lawmaker quoted him as saying in reply to a question.
The blockade of the crucial intersection of the twin cities by a religious group paralysed traffic for three weeks before the government signed a deal with the protesters.