–SC contemplates issuing contempt of court notice to AGP for preferring PM’s orders over court’s
–AGP says Tehreek-e-Labbaik could be stripped of its election symbol, judge questions far-right party’s registration with ECP by NICOP holder
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday reserved its verdict in a suo motu case pertaining to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) sit-in at Faizabad Interchange in 2017.
The case referred to TLP’s protest last year, its party registration, political legitimacy and the role of state institutions in the face of violence and threats on the day and in the aftermath of the protest.
The protests and sit-in at Faizabad Interchange by TLP workers lasted for three weeks until an agreement was reached with the government on November 27, 2017.
At the outset of the hearing, the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan failed to appear as a two-member bench of the top court chaired by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa resumed hearing the case.
“The AGP is attending a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC),” the deputy attorney general informed the top court as proceedings began.
“Is the AGP an economic expert? What work does he have in an ECC meeting? Is the AGP the biggest law officer of the state or the prime minister’s personal servant?” Justice Isa inquired.
“We are issuing a contempt of court notice,” he remarked.
“The attorney general and all judges are the servants of the state. Even the Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) chief. Is the prime minister above the SC?” he pointedly questioned.
“The prime minister asked him and he went off. The AGP should have excused himself and informed the premier that he has to appear before the court,” Justice Isa remarked further.
“Pakistan is not enough for the AGP.”
‘TLP CAN BE STRIPPED OF ELECTION SYMBOL’:
Later, when the AGP appeared in court, he informed the bench that the far-right political party could be stripped of its election symbol, without which it cannot contest for any seat.
Justice Isa pitched in that TLP is registered in the name of a Dubai national, wondering if a case can be registered against the party under the dual nationality rule.
AGP replied: “NICOP (National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis) is for Pakistanis living abroad. By that reasoning, a person holding a NICOP cannot be considered a dual national.”
Then, the judge inquired if a NICOP holder shouldn’t have been asked about his dual nationality.
“In my opinion, he should have been questioned,” the attorney general replied.
The attorney general added that while “peaceful protest is a democratic right”, corrective action can be taken against protesters who threaten and provoke state institutions.
The AGP had also failed to appear before the SC during the hearing on Nov 16. Justice Isa had expressed annoyance at the time and questioned if the government was serious in pursuing the case.
COURT REJECTS PEMRA’S REPORT:
In the same hearing, ISI and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (PEMRA) submitted reports on the media blackout that occurred during the sit-in last year.
As PEMRA’s lawyer Hafiz Ahsan appeared in court, he denied that the regulatory authority had issued any directions to cable operators to shut down Geo, a private media outlet.
“The cable operators were simply told to follow the law,” he added.
“What disciplinary measures were then taken to correct the cable operators?” the judge inquired.
The counsel replied that the cable operators could be charged with fines up to Rs1 million.
Expressing his dissatisfaction, Justice Isa replied: “I will write that no corrective action was taken.”
He further reprimanded: Channels were shut from morning till evening, yet PEMRA feigns ignorance. We seem to be living in the age of a state-censored media. How is it that we’ve become a nation of liars?”
Rejecting PEMRA’s report, the judge questioned its credibility and jibed that it seems to be another “honour” for the authority.
“You want to shut down channels that do not bow down to you. Is that freedom of speech? Is this the Pakistan we gained independence for?”
He concluded that PEMRA chairman does not have the courage to enforce the rule of law.
On Tuesday, the top court had ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the federal government to explain why TLP continues to remain a registered political party, as it issued a detailed interim order in the suo motu case.
The apex court had directed the AGP and the ECP secretary to appear for the hearing on Thursday.