Islamabad admin, police ‘in the dark’ over Rangers’ deployment at court

Published October 3, 2017
PML-N supporters raise slogans as they protest outside the National Accountability Court in Islamabad on Monday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
PML-N supporters raise slogans as they protest outside the National Accountability Court in Islamabad on Monday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: All visitors – be they ministers, senior politicians, mediapersons, lawyers or litigants – were barred from entering the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) by Rangers officials on Monday, but confusion prevailed over who had deployed the paramilitary force on court premises in the first place.

Though a large number of PML-N supporters turned out to greet former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, they were stopped at the outer cordon, about a kilometre from the FJC.

The ICT administration insisted that it had not requested Rangers deployment at the court, and that capital police, which had around 1,500 personnel at the scene, was responsible for security.

According to a statement issued by the deputy commissioner’s office: “Rangers was not requisitioned by the ICT Administration for any kind of deployment in the premises of court on [Oct 2, 2017].”

Ministers, politicians, mediapersons, lawyers and litigants barred from court premises; ex-PM only accompanied by one aide during hearing

However, paramilitary officials arrived at the scene shortly after police officials and began taking over security arrangements, even blocking traffic at the G-11 checkpost, which is only a stone’s throw from the court.

The FJC houses 13 different courts including the accountability court, the Islamabad Bar Council head office and the Federal Insurance Ombudsman. But on Monday, Rangers officials did not even let litigants and court staff enter the FJC compound.

Raja Zafarul Haq, who is also a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, arrived just after 8am and managed to make his way inside the main gate. Rangers officials, however, did not allow him access to the accountability court and expelled him from the premises.

Others, such as Saad Rafique, Pervaiz Rashid, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and Malik Abrar, kept waiting outside waiting for an opportune moment to get inside. Some of them even asked police officials at the scene to let them in, but to no avail.

Earlier, the accountability court registrar and district administration had finalised the standard operating procedure (SOP) that would allow journalists entry into the courtroom. But Rangers did not allow reporters to perform their duties in accordance with the SOP.

Everyone was discussing the situation when Mr Sharif arrived along with his security protocol. Rangers personnel stopped his security guards outside and only allowed the deposed PM’s vehicle inside the complex.

The only politician accompanying Mr Sharif inside the courtroom was Senator Asif Kirmani, since he was in the same vehicle as the ex-PM.

The politicians waiting outside the courts tried to make their way inside alongside Mr Sharif’s vehicle, but were repelled by the Rangers and police personnel on hand.

This provided mediapersons an opportunity to engage the PML-N leaders, who complained bitterly about the ‘unfair treatment’ being meted out to them.

Mediapersons complained about being denied access to the courtroom, and the judge assured them that he would look into the matter and try to facilitate the media to witness future proceedings.

The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) condemned the Rangers’ refusal to allow reporters access to the courtroom, and warned of a countrywide protest in case the media was not allowed to cover proceedings.

Rangers’ mysterious orders

It emerged on Monday that the Islamabad senior superintendent of police (SSP) had written to the deputy commissioner on Oct 1, seeking the deployment of Rangers personnel “around the premises of Judicial Complex, Sector G-11/1, Islamabad” to “avoid any untoward incident”.

“Pakistan Rangers officials will not be directly involved [in dealing with the] public during their duties along with police,” the letter said.

Police and ICT officials told Dawn that the SSP discussed the issue with the deputy commissioner, and both reached the conclusion that there was no need for Rangers’ presence, since the capital was already on high alert due to Ashura.

An additional superintendent of police (ASP) was given charge of the 1,500 strong force deployed at the court, which arrived at their duty stations around 6am, officials said. But around 45 minutes later, they said, Rangers personnel arrived and started taking control of the area.

This caused confusion in the chain of command; the ASP approached his seniors, who in turn went back to the district administration to confirm if anyone had asked for Rangers deployment.

After it was established that none of the concerned authorities had called for the paramilitary force, the police contingent was told to avoid a standoff with the Rangers.

Meanwhile, the administration was seeking answers from the Rangers as to who ordered their deployment. This question remained unanswered until the conclusion of Monday’s hearing.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2017

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