— IHC CJ says abduction is a ‘test case’ for police, directs federal govt to ‘ensure freedom of expression’
–SC takes notice of Jan’s abduction, directs Islamabad police chief to submit report within two weeks
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday declared that the alleged abduction of journalist Matiullah Jan, who was released late on Tuesday night after brief captivity, was meant to “scare others” as it wrapped up a habeas corpus petition filed by the journalist’s brother.
Jan, who was due to appear before a Supreme Court (SC) bench on Wednesday in a suo motu case against him for posting a “contemptuous” tweet against the judiciary, was abducted on Tuesday by half a dozen plainclothes and police uniformed men from outside a government school in Islamabad’s G-6 Sector. He was released late night near Fateh Jang, some 48 kilometres from the federal capital.
While Jan was missing, a petition was filed by his brother Shahid Akbar Abbasi, through Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon, before the IHC. The high court had accepted the petition “keeping in view the gravity of the matter and its implication in the context of constitutionally guaranteed rights of the citizen”.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who heard the case on Wednesday, noted that alleged CCTV footage of the incident showed that those who picked him up were in police uniforms. “Someone has the nerve to do such a thing in police uniforms,” Justice Minallah remarked, observing that vehicles that had surrounded Jan’s car had police headlights as well.
“What impression will the public get that people are roaming around freely in police uniforms,” he said, adding that the episode was meant to “scare others” without elaborating further.
The chief justice said because footage showed men in police uniforms, Jan’s abduction would be a “test case” for the police.
“If there is no rule of law, there will be nothing here except chaos,” Justice Minallah said.
During the hearing, a representative of the Interior Ministry and Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Waqaruddin Syed appeared before the court in response to the high court’s notices to Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar, Chief Commissioner Amer Ali Ahmad and Islamabad Inspector General of Police (IGP) Amir Zulfiqar Khan.
Justice Minallah termed the incident as “alarming”, saying that such an act “cannot be tolerated”.
“It is our misfortune that such an event happened in Islamabad,” he lamented, adding that the federal government should “ensure the freedom of expression”.
DIG (Operation) Syed told the court that an FIR had been lodged, at which the chief justice asked why clauses related to terrorism had not been added. “Terror clauses are included in [the case of] any crime committed against a journalist,” he said.
The hearing was subsequently adjourned. A written verdict is yet to be issued.
SC TAKES NOTICE OF ABDUCTION:
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court also took notice of Matiullah Jan’s abduction and directed the Islamabad police chief to submit a report on the incident in two weeks.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, was hearing a suo motu case pertaining to alleged contemptuous tweets by Jan.
At the outset of the hearing, the bench inquired about Jan’s abduction from Islamabad’s sector G-6/1-3 the previous day.
The attorney general, who had appeared before court, said that “immediate proceedings” had been initiated in the matter.
Justice Gulzar summoned the Islamabad police chief in the next hearing and questioned why the police had not recorded the journalist’s statement till now.
“What are the institutions doing?” he asked the attorney general.
Representatives of Pakistan Bar Council and SC Bar Council also attended the hearing. During the proceedings, SCBC’s Latif Khosa, while observing that the journalist was “picked up in broad daylight”, said: “Is this a banana republic?”
Khosa demanded that the kidnappers be identified from the CCTV footage available with the police.
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists’ former president Afzal Butt insisted that those responsible for the act be brought to light at which the court assured him that “the case was not being wrapped up”.
Meanwhile, the bench granted Jan, who was present in court, two weeks to hire a legal representative and submit his reply on the SC’s notice for contempt.
The hearing was adjourned for two weeks.