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PTI, PAT protests hindering free movement on Constitution Avenue: SC

Updated August 25, 2014

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan.—File photo
The Supreme Court of Pakistan.—File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday ruled that protesters of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) are hindering people’s right to free movement on Constitution Avenue and access to the court.

A five-member bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk told the attorney general and lawyers representing both parties to work out modalities to ensure free movement of people in the area by Tuesday.

On Tuesday we want to be able to come to the Supreme Court through Constitution Avenue, TV channels earlier quoted the bench as saying.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Kamran Murtaza and other members of the legal fraternity. The petition argues that the protesters are breaching the rights of the common citizen as enshrined in articles 15 and 16 ensuring freedom of movement and right of assembly.

Protesters from both parties, camped out in the federal capital's Red Zone for almost a week, have been carrying out a protest sit-in against the government and alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections. Both sides have refused to leave before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation.

The protesters have been sitting in front of the Parliament House and the Supreme Court building since August 19, making the road impassable for the SC, PM and Secretariat employees.

In a verdict released later in the day, the bench observed that “free movement on the Constitution Avenue is being hindered and…access to this court is also not freely available on account of obstructions being raised by certain elements.”

The court noted that PTI counsel Hamid Khan, PAT counsel Ali Zafar and Attorney General Salman Butt have agreed to meet today “to sort out ways to ensure free movement on the Constitution Avenue by tomorrow [Tuesday] morning.”

The court further ordered that a report be submitted in the Supreme Court chambers regarding this matter.

Earlier, TV channels quoted Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) president Shafqat Chohan as saying that people are facing extreme problems in reaching the Supreme Court premises. He said that law enforcement personnel appear helpless in front of these political workers.

Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk said that demonstrators had occupied Constitution Avenue and that they were checking vehicles and passers-by, while this is the job of the security personnel.

He said that SC judges were coming to court through an alternate route due to the closure of Constitution Avenue, while the attendance of SC employees was also very low due to the situation.

He said that SC employees had also complained of being harassed by the protesters.

PTI counsel Hamid Khan said that the party was carrying out its protest in Parade Ground where there were no government offices.

PAT counsel Ali Zafar said that he will convey the court’s concerns to party chief Dr Tahirul Qadri.

Earlier, a reply from Qadri was submitted to the court which argued that the protest was a political matter and that the court had no authority to interfere in it. He said that his party’s supporters were peaceful and that they would not enter government offices at any cost.

Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali remarked that if protesters were peaceful, why were they carrying batons?

Attorney General Salman Butt said that the government was willing to shift the protesters to a sports complex, which would also allow the removal of several shipping containers placed at different points in the federal capital.

During the hearing, SCBA president Kamran Murtaza remarked that PTI chairman Imran Khan said in his speech that if the prime minister does not resign then things will be decided by the “third umpire”. On which Justice Jawad S Khawaja said that Imran Khan was probably referring to the army as the “third umpire”.

PTI lawyer Hamid Khan replied that Khan was metaphorically referring to God by “third umpire”.

The case was subsequently adjourned until August 27.