–IHC disposes of petitions against JUI-F’s anti-government march set to be held on October 31
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday disposed of petitions against the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) ‘Azadi March’ and instructed the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICT) to decide on the party’s application which sought permission to hold the march at D-Chowk square.
The JUI-F had earlier filed an application with the ICT seeking permission for the anti-government rally on Oct 27, and a protest demonstration in Islamabad. However, the date was later changed to Oct 31.
After hearing a petition against the march, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah instructed the district administration to look into the matter “as per the law”.
During the proceedings, Justice Minallah asked the petitioner what his demand was? To which, Rahi recalled that Fazal had announced a march against the government.
“Do you mean he does not have the right to protest?” inquired the chief justice. “You can protest against [a] policy, not against a democratic government,” Rahi responded.
The chief justice said that protesting was a fundamental right of every citizen and could not be ignored.
The proceedings were briefly adjourned as the court ordered that all petitions against the protest be combined and heard together.
Following the break, along with Rahi, another petitioner against the march, Hafiz Ihtisham Ahmed, also appeared in court.
Justice Minallah reminded them that protecting the fundamental rights of citizens was the job of the state.
He said that the state should protect the rights of protesters; additionally, he said, the state was also required to protect the rights of those who do not want to protest.
Justice Minallah recalled that in 2014, the same court had allowed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to conduct a dharna – which went on for 126 days.
He asked one of the petitioners, Rahi, if he was there on behalf of the government, to which the petitioner said he was only there as an ordinary citizen.
“From your statements, it seems like you are here on the government’s behalf,” remarked the chief justice, noting that Rahi submits “so many petitions, he should one day submit one against corrupt people in the local judiciary [as well]”.
Wrapping up the hearing, the court instructed the local administration to protect the rights of the protesters as well those of those who weren’t protesting.