ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court asked the two protesting parties — Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) — on Monday what proposals they had in their mind about the role the court should play in ending the current political impasse.

But when reporters misconstrued it as an offer on part of the court to arbitrate, Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk himself dispelled the impression and explained that the court was not going to mediate or arbitrate in the standoff.

“The Supreme Court is a court of law and adjudicates when something is brought before it and when it gives an order on an issue it is binding on everyone,” he observed.

The chief justice, who heads a five-judge bench hearing a set of petitions against sit-ins by the PTI and the PAT on the Constitution Avenue, made the observation against the backdrop of PTI’s counsel Hamid Khan’s earlier request to the court to take a suo motu cognisance for resolution of the crisis, but was told to highlight issues through a petition.

Both Hamid Khan and Ali Zafar, representing the PAT, who were absent on Monday are required to appear before the court on Tuesday with suggestions after consulting heads of the two parties.

The order was issued after Ahmed Awais, another PTI lawyer, said he needed time because he could not contact the party leadership.

Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt requested the court to invoke Article 190 of the Constitution – a provision which empowers the Supreme Court to summon any executive authority to its aid – but the court explained that the article was used when its directives were not complied with.

The AG then requested the court to at least order the protesters to restrain from attacking public buildings, but the court asked him who had the power to stop the protesters from indulging in unlawful acts.

Referring to the violent protests on the Constitution Avenue, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja said he wondered how these were different from an insurgency in Fata. He then cited the written commitments made by the protesting parties that they would abide by the Constitution and said time had come when “we have to come out in the open and let the people say that they are against the country, the Constitution and the entire system. There should be no double face. Let them say they are revolutionaries.”

Justice Khawaja said the discord on the Constitution Avenue could not be accepted as if it were in accord with the Constitution. “Whatever is being said today is becoming a part of history and a day will come soon when historians will tell who was telling the truth and who was lying.”

He also took exception to the violence against media personnel and asked whether “we are living in a civilised society or not”.

At the outset of the proceedings, the attorney general informed the court the PTI and the PAT had accepted 24 conditions in agreements with the Islamabad administration, but they violated these.

He read out the conditions in the form of non-objection certificate under which the protesters would not enter the red zone, not storm or damage any private or public property, not bring any infant to the protest, will remain confined to the Parade Ground, not litter the area, restrict the volume of the sound system and avoid sectarian or objectionable speeches.

But, the AG regretted, the protesters came with batons, cutters, hammers, daggers and slingshots and used trucks to damage entrance gates of the Parliament House and even tried to uproot the gates of the Presidency. On Monday, they raided the Pakistan Television building and switched off its transmission for half an hour, he recalled.

Balochistan High Court Bar Association President Sajid Tarin informed the court about a reported statement of Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah that the protesters had shown them the easiest way of making Islamabad hostage.

He asked why the three federating units – Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh – were being punished when they were not complaining of poll rigging. He regretted that an impression was being created as if the real power lay with the gun and not with the Constitution. He cited the use of a term, “third umpire”, by PTI chief Imran Khan.

“The only neutral umpire under the Constitution is the Supreme Court,” Justice Saqib Nisar said, adding that the court was the only forum for getting political justice because it was the custodian of fundamental rights.

“Tell us how can the court resolve the issue when it is seized with seven petitions highlighting breach of fundamental rights and when the very constitution is under threat,” he said, referring to last night’s attack on his car and his escort.

Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali wondered why there was a complete failure on part of the government and why the law was not taking its course.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2014

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