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ISLAMABAD: Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday issued show cause notices for contempt of court to senior officials of the interior ministry, Islamabad administration and the capital police for not clearing the Faizabad Interchange, despite the court’s directions.

Notices were issued to Interior Secretary Arshad Mehmood Mirza, Joint Secretary (Interior) Salman Qayyum, Chief Commissioner Zulfiqar Ahmed, Deputy Commissioner Mushtaq Ahmed and Inspector General of Police Khalid Khattak.

Earlier in the day, the court summoned the interior minister and his federal secretary to appear in person. Subsequently, Ahsan Iqbal and Mr Mirza appeared before the court.

The minister said that all efforts were being made to implement the court’s order, adding that since the issue was very sensitive and there were genuine apprehensions that participants of the sit-in may resist the administration’s lawful efforts with hostility and arms, therefore, a number of efforts had been made to settle the issue peacefully.

Ahsan Iqbal asks for another 48 hours; judge says capital’s residents cannot be left at the mercy of protesters

“Unfortunately, none of these efforts proved successful,” he admitted, but was quick to add that the matter may be resolved in a couple of days and asked that the hearing be adjourned until Thursday.

“This is a very serious situation; despite requests to the leadership of sit-in and directions given to the district administration, no material progress has been shown except negotiations, negotiations and negotiations,” the court order read.

In his order, Justice Siddiqui said that the district administration found itself in an uncertain position due to the involvement of high-ups, especially Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, adding that no material efforts had been made, which was “not appreciable.”

Issuing show-cause notices, the court asked the respondents why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against them as they had failed to comply with its order of Nov 17.

Subsequently, Justice Siddiqui also directed the court office that the “file of contempt proceedings be prepared and numbered separately”.

“The IHC, being the custodian of the rights of more than 800,000 citizens dwelling inside the Islamabad Capital Territory cannot leave them at the mercy of those who have besieged the city at a place which is of most strategic in nature,” Justice Siddiqui stated.

Taking notice of the non-compliance with the court’s order, the judge said it was beyond comprehension how any person or group of persons can be allowed to frustrate an order passed by a constitutional court and “at their own extend [the] date of implementation”.

“This really is an effort to undermine the authority of the court, which cannot be taken lightly,” he observed.

During Monday’s proceedings, a copy of the judgement where certain guidelines and parameters for handling a protest/sit-in are mentioned was handed over to the interior minister. Among other things, the judgement had identified the ‘Democracy Park and Speech Corner’ in Shakarparian as the designated place for such activities.

Mr Iqbal undertook to take all necessary steps to implement the judgment in letter and spirit for the further and issue in hand.

Justice Siddiqui also sought a reply from Mr Iqbal over the government’s failure to implement IHC orders, to which the minister said that several religious parties and groups had approached the government, offering to resolve the issue peacefully.

When asked why were the protesters were not asked to move to the designated area, Mr Iqbal said that the groups behind the rally had assured government they would only record their protest in the capital and leave, but they had reneged and staged a sit-in.

When he requested the court to give them another 48 hours, Justice Siddiqui remarked: “Take two or three days, but you will be responsible for the consequences”.

Although Iqbal took responsibility for the respondents’ inaction against the protesters, the court issued show-cause notices to key government officials.

The court will now resume hearing on Nov 23.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2017