The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the authorities concerned to provide an alternative venue to the PTI to hold a rally.
The directive came during a hearing of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association’s (IHCBA) plea against the government’s decision to block roads to stop PTI’s “Azadi March” taking place on Wednesday in the federal capital.
A three-member bench of the SC, headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, was hearing the plea. Islamabad chief commissioner and Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Akbar Nasir Khan appeared before the court during the hearing.
Justice Ahsan directed the Islamabad chief commissioner to prepare a traffic plan for the PTI rally and submit a report after compliance with orders by 2:30 pm.
“Make an offer of an alternative venue to the PTI and inform the court about the outcome after negotiations,” Justice Ahsan said.
Moreover, the court directed PTI’s counsel to give names if the party fears arrests.
Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi remarked that the Islamabad IGP and Interior secretary should review their policies.
The judge warned the IGP to understand his responsibilities and fulfil them.
“You have been appointed four days ago. Stay within your limits as you already have enough burden of cases and allegations,” Justice Naqvi said.
Justice Ahsan questioned if the entire country will be shut down whenever there is a protest.
“The government basically wants to disrupt routine life by blocking roads across the country,” the judge remarked.
Earlier, Attorney-General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf requested the court to give him time to take instructions from the government.
Accepting the request, the court allowed AGP Ausaf to take directives from the government during a break in the hearing till 12 pm.
Justice Ahsan remarked that news reports show that all exams have been postponed and roads and businesses have been closed.
He said that all schools and public transport services are shut, with an emergency imposed in the hospitals in the capital city.
Responding to the judge’s remark, AGP Ausaf said that he is not aware of the details. He requested the court to give him time to gather information.
“Everyone knows what is happening in the country. Economically, the country is undergoing a critical phase and is on the verge of bankruptcy,” he said.
At this, AGP Ausaf suggested the court avoid making remarks on the economy. He went on to say that he is fundamentally against blocking roads, but the PTI threatened of a “bloody march”.
“Taking steps had become inevitable for the protection of people and their property,” AGP said, adding that the court should keep the context behind the government’s decision in view.
At this, Justice Ahsan remarked that the Constitution doesn’t say anywhere to close the entire country down.
AGP Ausaf argued that the Constitution doesn’t say anywhere that armed men shouldn’t be stopped, either.
While referring to PTI’s application for permission to stage a protest, Justice Ahsan inquired from the city administration about the decision on the request.
Meanwhile, IHCBA President Shoaib Shaheen claimed that the police are barging into lawyers’ houses to arrest them. He referred to the raid at former judge Nasira Javed’s house.
“Both the protesters and government are bound to follow the constitution and law,” he said.
At this, AGP Ausaf argued that how could armed men be allowed to protest. “Where did the armed men come from when the protest hasn’t even started?” IHCBA president objected.
He said that JUI-F chief Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman has staged a sit-in at the Srinagar Highway twice and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has led a long march in the past, therefore a venue can be designated for the protestors to stage the protest.