The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday returned a petition filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) seeking a ruling on protection from government action for the participants of the party’s planned march on Islamabad.
The PTI moved the court a day ago seeking directions to bar the federal government and other relevant authorities from using “coercive measures or intimidating tactics”, violence or creating hindrances for party activists and leaders who intend to participate in the party’s second march on Islamabad, which they describe as an “upcoming peaceful assembly”.
Responding to the PTI’s plea, the registrar said the Supreme Court had already decided on an “almost similar issue vide Constitution petition 19/2022”.
In that petition, the Supreme Court had on May 25 — when the PTI held its first march to Islamabad — allowed the party to hold its protest rally near Peshawar Mor between the H-9 and G-9 and restrained the government from arresting its leaders and workers in connection with the march.
The court in its verdict noted that “the top functionaries of the government including the Interior Ministry shall ensure that excessive or disproportionate use of force against the political workers is discontinued immediately.”
In his note, the registrar said the petitioner had not approached “any other appropriate forum available under the law for the same relief and has also not provided any justification for not doing so”.
The court also pointed out that the petitioner had raised a “scandalous matter in paragraphs number 4, 5, 12, and 14”, which it said does not comply with the apex court rules for petitions.
In these “scandalous” paragraphs, the PTI had said Imran Khan was removed from office “through a murky and illegally orchestrated vote of no confidence”. The party also said: “… In order to galvanise the people of Pakistan against this illegally orchestrated regime change, the Petitioner has been holding several rallies and gatherings all across the country.”
It further said that “Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi was illegally ousted from the Prime Minister’s office through an orchestrated vote of no confidence in Majlis-e-Shoora on April 10, the people of Pakistan, in hundreds of thousands, came out (unplanned) into the street to register their protest against the illegal removal of the Petitioner from the government.”
PTI Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan had on Wednesday said he would announce the date for the next march to Islamabad as soon as the apex court ruled on the petition filed by his party. In a rally held in Shangla today, Imran said he would give his next plan of action in a rally in Dir two days from now after “studying the Supreme Court decision”.
THE PETITION: Barrister Ali Zafar filed the petition on behalf of PTI secretary general Asad Umar.
The petition posed a number of questions to the SC, asking whether freedom of movement and right to peaceful protest and procession is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution.
It also asks whether rights granted under Articles 4 (right to be dealt with in accordance with law), 5 (loyalty to state and obedience to the Constitution and the law), 8 (laws inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights to be void), 9 (security of person), 10 (safeguards as to arrest and detention), 14 (inviolability of dignity of man), 15 (freedom of movement), 16 (freedom of assembly), 17 (freedom of association), 19 (freedom of speech) and 25 (equality of citizens) can be “unreasonably curtailed by executive authorities through use of disproportionate and unlawful force on peaceful citizenry”.
Another question it asks is whether the state and governmental agencies can unlawfully deprive citizens of their liberty, guaranteed under Articles 9 and 10, by arresting individuals who are participating in, or intend to participate in a peaceful protest for attaining their democratic rights.
It further asks whether the PTI has the “fundamental right to organise, associate and conduct a nationwide political rally, in accordance with Article 17 of the Constitution, without unlawful interference by the federal and provincial government authorities”.
The petition requests the court to direct the federal and Punjab governments to “not torture or arrest or use any force or coercive measures or intimidating tactics (including, without limitation, conducting of illegal raids in their houses)” against people who want to attend a rally organised by PTI.
It also requested the court to stop the authorities from putting obstacles or blocking access to places or restricting people’s movement.