Schoolchildren cross the cordoned-off Faizabad Interchange on foot. — Online
Schoolchildren cross the cordoned-off Faizabad Interchange on foot. — Online

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday accused protesters from religious parties – who have paralysed the twin cities for two weeks – of sowing divisions and differences in society, in spite of clear divine instructions not to take the law into one’s own hands.

The apex court also regretted that leaders of the sit-in were reportedly using abusive and filthy language, which was provocative and promoted enmity.

Subsequently, the Supreme Court summoned Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf, the secretaries for interior and defence, as well as the Punjab advocate general on Thursday, Nov 23. The court also ordered Mr Ausaf to explain the measures taken to ensure the constitutional rights of the citizens.

Bench warns protesters against taking law into their own hands; regrets their use of inappropriate language

These comments have to be submitted on behalf of the ministries of interior and defence, and the intelligence agencies under their control, i.e. the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), respectively.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had earlier directed the local administration to clear Faizabad Interchange – the primary interchange connecting the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad – and has already initiated contempt of the court proceedings against senior officials of the interior ministry, the Islamabad Capital Territory administration and the capital police over their perceived reluctance in implementing the court’s orders.

The issue surfaced before the Supreme Court on Tuesday when, during the hearing of a routine case, a two-judge bench consisting of Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa noticed an application seeking an adjournment, filed on behalf of senior counsel Mohammad Ibrahim Satti, who was representing petitioner Sher Jamal.

The application was moved by Advocate on Record Syed Rifaqat Hussain Shah on the grounds that the counsel could not reach the court because he lived within the vicinity that was sealed off due to the sit-in.

The court then sought the assistance of Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Sohail Mehmood, who was in attendance, asking him whether public highways and roads can be blocked in such a manner. The DAG stated that he too faced tremendous impediments and difficulties in getting to court because of the sit-in, and surprised the court by revealing that he had to leave his home at 6:30am in order to reach the Supreme Court in time.

“It appears that at the hands of a few miscreants [the] capital city of Islamabad and its twin city Rawalpindi are being held hostage whilst state functionaries appear to be parleying with [the protesters] rather than clearing the way for the public who are being denied access to courts, schools, place[s] of work etc,” a three-page order issued by the said.

“It has also been reported,” the order went on to say, “that ambulances and sick persons’ access to hospitals was being impeded and children cannot reach schools while students cannot reach their colleges and universities.”

“The prevailing situation demonstrates that the matter is one of public interest and a number of fundamental rights of the citizens enshrined in the Constitution, including right to life (Article 9), freedom of movement (Article 15), and right to education (Article 25A) are prima facie being infringed, which enables this court to take notice under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.”

In its order, the court also regretted that those who were part of the sit-in were ostensibly advocating a religious cause without recourse to courts, including the Federal Shariat Court (FSC), and by taking the law into their own hands were sowing divisions and differences “against the clear proscription by Almighty Allah in Surah Ash-Shura (42) Ayat 13 and Surah Al-Imran (3) Ayat 103 and Ayat 105”.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) expanded on the divine message, warning: “Do not engage in disagreement thereby causing discord among your hearts.”

“When two Muslims were loudly arguing in disagreement about the meaning of a Quranic verse, he said: ‘People before you perished only because of their disagreement about the scripture’,” the order read.

It recounted the famous sermon of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), delivered at Mount Arafat, where he said: “Every Muslim is a Muslim’s brother, and that Muslims are brethren.”

“He abhorred dissension (fitnah). Shortly before his death, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘O people the fire has been kindled, and dissension has set in like segments of a dark night,” the order said.

The question therefore arises, the order observed, whether those voicing such views in the sit-in were attempting to undermine the glory of Islam (Article 19) and acting contrary to Article 227 of the Constitution – a provision that suggests that all existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2017

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