ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a written verdict on a suo motu case of the sit-in staged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) at Faizabad Interchange in 2017 and ordered the state to prosecute those advocating hate, extremism and terrorism.
In November 2017, the top court had taken suo motu notice of the three-week long sit-in, which was held against a change in the finality-of-Prophethood oath, termed by the government as a clerical error, when the government passed the Elections Act 2017. The sit-in was called off after the protesters reached an agreement with the government.
On Nov 22, 2018 a two-judge bench of the apex court comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Musheer Alam had reserved their judgement on the case.
The 43-page verdict issued by the two-judge bench and published on the apex court’s website today read, “Every citizen and political party has the right to assemble and protest provided such assembly and protest is peaceful and complies with the law imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order. The right to assemble and protest is circumscribed only to the extent that it infringes on the fundamental rights of others, including their right to free movement and to hold and enjoy property.”
Protesters who obstruct people’s right to use roads and damage or destroy property must be proceeded against in accordance with the law and held accountable, it added.
“The Constitution earmarks the responsibilities of the Election Commission which it must fulfill. If a political party does not comply with the law governing political parties then the Election Commission must proceed against it in accordance with the law. The law is most certainly not cosmetic as contended on behalf of the Election Commission. All political parties have to account for the source of their funds in accordance with the law.”
The two-judge bench urged, “The State must always act impartially and fairly. The law is applicable to all, including those who are in government and institutions must act independently of those in government.”
When the State failed to prosecute those at the highest echelons of government who were responsible for the murder and attempted murder of peaceful citizens on the streets of SMC. No. 7/2017 40 Karachi on 12th May, 2007 it set a bad precedent and encouraged others to resort to violence to achieve their agendas, it further said.
“A person issuing an edict or fatwa, which harms another or puts another in harm’s way, must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.
Broadcasters who broadcast messages advocating or inciting the commission of an offence violate the PEMRA Ordinance and the terms of their licences and must be proceeded against by PEMRA in accordance with the law,” the judgment added.
“Those spreading messages through electronic means which advocate or incite the commission of an offence are liable to be prosecuted under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.”
The SC said, “Intelligence agencies should monitor activities of all those who threaten the territorial integrity of the country and all those who undermine the security of the people and the State by resorting to or inciting violence. To best ensure transparency and the rule of law it would be appropriate to enact laws which clearly stipulate the respective mandates of the intelligence agencies.”
“The Constitution emphatically prohibits members of the Armed Forces from engaging in any kind of political activity, which includes supporting a political party, faction or individual. The Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence and the respective Chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are directed to initiate action against the personnel under their command who are found to have violated their oath,” the judgment continued.
“The police and other law enforcement agencies are directed to develop standard plans and procedure with regard to how best to handle rallies, protests and dharnas, and ensure that such plans/procedures are flexible enough to attend to different situations. It is clarified that though the making of such plans/procedures is not within the jurisdiction of this Court however we expect that in the maintenance of law and SMC. No. 7/2017 42 order every effort will be taken to avoid causing injury and loss of life.”
The top court further directed the “federal and provincial governments to monitor those advocating hate, extremism and terrorism and prosecute the perpetrators in accordance with the law”.
The judgment concluded by quoting Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah: I consider it my duty to call upon the Muslims to temper their resentment with reason and to beware of the dangers which may well overwhelm their own State. Should they allow their feelings of the moment to gain mastery over their actions. It is of utmost importance that Pakistan should be kept free from disorder, because the outbreak of lawlessness… is bound to shake… its foundation and cause irreparable damage to its future. I pray to God that He who has bestowed on us this great boon of a sovereign State, may now give our people courage to… preserve intact the peace of Pakistan for the sake of Pakistan.
The apex court had earlier issued notices to the Attorney General of Pakistan, the Inspector General of Police for Islamabad, the secretary interior, the secretary defence as well as the secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).