Chief Justice Bandial says political wars should be fought but on the streets

Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial on Thursday asked the political leadership to refrain from violating the law and the constitution, or else there would be consequences.

“Ours is not a political role,” CJP Bandial said while heading the five-member bench hearing the government’s contempt petition against PTI Chairman Imran Khan. Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Sayyed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi are also part of the bench.

The government through the petition is seeking orders restraining Khan from creating a law-and-order situation in line with the party’s proposed long march to Islamabad.

The Supreme Court gave a “free hand” to the federal government to tackle the law and order situation during the PTI’s planned second long march. However, the court refused to pass any anticipatory order to stop the marchers.

Advising the Attorney General to read the reports of the security agencies, the CJP said political wars should be fought but on the streets.

“The reports indicate that PTI had violated the promises [made to the court],” the AGP said, informing the court he was not provided with the copies of the reports to which the bench said the court would give him the reports.

“You want to avoid a war in the streets, so de we,” the CJP said adjourning the court till October 26, adding, “If something comes up in the meanwhile, we will take needed measures”.

The petition was filed by the Interior Ministry on October 13, requesting contempt of court proceedings against the former PM, under Article 204 of the Constitution for flouting and disregarding the orders of the apex court passed on May 25, 2022, on the petition filed by the Islamabad High Court Bar Association.

In its petition, the federal government told the apex court that the PTI chief is making announcements of marching towards Islamabad, which was a violation of a court order.

“Imran Khan is making announcements to attack Islamabad,” says the plea. It urged the Supreme Court to direct the PTI chief to ensure the implementation of its orders related to protests and sit-ins.

A five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial with Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Sayyed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi as members took up the plea for hearing.

At the outset of the hearing Attorney General of Pakistan, Ashtar Ausaf Ali presented his arguments in the case.

The government’s lawyer told the court that on its May 25 order, the law enforcement agencies had confined themselves to the Red Zone after which PTI supporters started pelting stones at the law enforcers and resorted to violence in the federal capital.

Recalling the events, the AGP said that it was decided that the PTI leadership would sit with the government and finalise the protest plan. But despite assurances from the party, Imran Khan directed workers to reach D-Chowk, he added.

Khan called his workers to converge on D-Chowk despite assuring the court he would not do so during the proceedings, the AGP recalled. The Srinagar Highway was opened for traffic on the court’s order. The PTI had asked for the Parade Ground but the workers thronged the D-Chowk on the contrary, the AGP added.

“…workers headed towards the Red Zone and then clashes broke out with law enforcement agencies. Protesters vandalised public and private properties,” the AGP said adding that the PTI’s lawyers were in contact with the party leadership during the proceedings that led to the Supreme Court’s May 25 order.

Ausaf also read out the Supreme Court’s May 25 order before the five-member bench. “The order forestalled us from apprehending [PTI] workers. It directed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Inspector General Islamabad and the interior ministry to submit reports.

The AGP urged the Supreme Court to issue an interim order to stop Imran Khan’s planned long march to the federal capital. When asked what did he want, the AGP said, “Imran is inciting an attack on Islamabad and calling it jihad. He is provoking people through his fiery speeches.

“Protect citizens’ fundamental rights is the It is the state’s responsibility.”

“According to you (AGP), the court order had already been breached. You were the executive authority and following the court order. Now, you have the freedom to take preventative measures,” Chief Justice Bandial observed.

He noted that 31 people had been injured in the “Azadi March” and public property was destroyed. “Imran Khan was gone the next morning.”

“We will study reports in this matter. You should gear up for the situation as per the law,” the CJP directed the attorney general with regard to the security measures during the PTI’s march that Imran Khan said would not be delayed past October.

“You are telling us [the PTI] aims to march towards Islamabad and stage a sit-in again. You can handle the situation, while staying within the confines of the law,” Justice Bandial said adding, “As of now, it’s just speeches”.

The CJP said the government should be able to manage the law-and-order situation wherever there were threats in the urban areas of the country.

“We [the court] should be asked to stop the crowd, but there is none right now,” the chief justice observed.

The court however rejected the government’s request to issue an interim order for stopping the PTI’s planned long march and called on the AGP to come to the next hearing after completing his homework.

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