SC turns down govt’s request to stop PTI’s long march

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Seeks Imran’s response on Centre’s plea for contempt of court proceedings

Ijaz Kakakhel
Islamabad

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday rejected the government’s request to stop Imran Khan’s long march and advised the government to hold talks with the former Prime Minister.

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial, heard the government’s contempt of court petition against Imran Khan. The bench comprised Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Mazahar Akbar Naqvi. Among them, Justice Afridi disagreed with the majority decision.

During the hearing, the chief justice remarked that the courts must not interfere in the political discourse and ‘should only ensure rule of law’. “We cannot use the pen as a stick,” he highlighted. Though, he warned people against damaging public or private assets during the protests.

Demonstrations are a political strategy of the PTI to push forward their agenda, the CJ said adding that he cannot comment on whether it is good or bad but parliament is the real forum for political discourse. Commenting on the call for Long March, the additional attorney general said, “It is being held because the general elections have not been announced.”

Speaking on the issue, the CJ suggested the federal government hold consultations with the PTI chief to find an amicable solution to the deadlock. “Talk to those out to protest,” he recommended. CJ Umar Ata Bandial said the government can make arrangements other than imposing section 144 to deal with demonstrators.

The court then asked Babar Awan and Faisal Chaudhry to submit a reply on behalf of the PTI chief by Monday to gauge if contempt of court is applicable. Furthermore, the court also refrained from issuing a contempt of court or show cause notice to Imran Khan.

A day earlier, Khan said PTI will kick off its long march on October 28 (Friday) from Lahore.The former prime minister said that all party workers, supporters and leaders will gather at Lahore’s Liberty Chowk at 11am from where they will march towards Islamabad.

Earlier during the hearing, AAG Rehman informed the court that there is a miscellaneous plea seeking orders for PTI to immediately stop the long march. At this, CJP Bandial observed that the plea has now become effective as he has given the call to march.

However, Justice Afridi remarked that it would be better if the government takes back the plea for orders to stop the long march or it will have legal effects.

Meanwhile, CJP Bandial remarked that the SC is “not an executive nor it wants to be one”. No one can be deprived of the right to protest, he added. However, he stressed that the protest should be within the limits of laws.

“In the context of the facts, the violation of the affidavit needs to be looked at prima facie,” the CJP observed, adding that the events of May 26 are not clear.

At this, the additional attorney general sought time to take new directives from the government regarding the plea, seeking orders to stop PTI’s long march. The court accepted the request, assuring the government that the court can be approached if any issue occurred before October 31.

 

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