ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a report prepared by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) about the Faizabad interchange sit-in and observed that even a journalist could provide more information than the premier spying agency did, while an antiterrorism court ordered the arrest of cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi on the complaint of a father whose child died while being shifted to hospital because roads remained blocked during the 20-day protest.
“Now I fear for the country,” regretted Justice Qazi Faez Isa while expressing dissatisfaction over the ISI’s 48-page report and also reminding that the agency, too, was accountable to taxpayers.
Justice Isa was a member of the two-judge SC bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam that had taken up a suo motu case on the abusive language used during the Faizabad sit-in held by the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) as well as massive traffic congestion caused by it.
“We will get more information than this if we ask a journalist,” Justice Isa regretted, adding that they (intelligence agency) had no idea who was who. The intelligence agency did not know the source of the huge money flow to the TLYRA leaders, bank account details of cleric Khadim Rizvi, his source of income and how he earned his living, he remarked.
Supreme Court judge rejects ISI report on dharna, assails performance of spy agency
When Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mehmood told the court that the report included antecedents of Khadim Rizvi, the court asked the law officer if he was satisfied with the report.
The court inquired if Mr Rizvi was a schoolteacher, a businessman, a professional and whether he paid tax. When informed that he was a khateeb, the court regretted that properties worth billions of rupees were damaged during the protest but the spy agency knew nothing about him.
The SC dismissed the content of the report suggesting that the cleric was “reportedly corrupt” and asked a counter question from deputy attorney general whether he was not concerned about the state of Pakistan. “Are you satisfied with the report?” Justice Isa asked again.
Retired Col Falak Naz, the director (legal) of the ministry of defence, explained that a khateeb was paid but the cleric launched a political party and collected donations before staging the sit-in.
“Was it not your duty to lay credible information before the court?” lamented Justice Alam.
When the Supreme Court inquired who represented the ISI in the case, no one turned up. The bench then went on to observe: “Whether Pakistan matters or not? Is it very easy to destroy properties worth billions of rupees?”
The court also rejected the ‘classified information’ submitted by Intelligence Bureau (IB) Joint Director Anwar Ali. The bench said it was based on news reports and not a secret report that could not be filed through deputy attorney general.
Appearing on behalf of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (Pemra), senior counsel Hafiz S.A. Rehman told the court that a decision was pending with the competent authority on a complaint moved before the council of complaints against a private TV channel for violating code of conduct during the protest.
The court, however, postponed further proceedings for a fortnight when it was told that Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf was abroad.
In its report, the ISI highlighted that TLYR’s 20-day sit-in had generous public support and rejected the claim that an organised logistic support was provided to TLYR activists occupying Faizabad interchange.
About the role of intelligence agencies, the ISI’s report said that the IB remained aloof and no information or efforts were visible on part of that agency.
The report said the ISI initially restricted itself to event reporting and forecasting its likely growth or impact since it was a “routine law and order issue” though it suggested engagement by political leadership to peacefully resolve the situation at the earliest.
Besides, it said, the special branch of police covered the dharnawhile restricting them to providing tactical information, strength, participation and other logistic aspects.
A high-level meeting at the Prime Minister’s office on Nov 22, 2017 unanimously decided to resolve the issue peacefully and the ISI was given a lead role with complete authority to negotiate. As the dharna prolonged, the ISI managed to engage TLYR leaders and brought them to negotiate with political leaders. Several such sessions were organised, which failed due to the uncompromising stance of the government on resignation of the law minister. All along, the ISI advised the political leadership to avoid use of force squeezing the logistics support including preventing reinforcement followed by negotiations, according to the ISI report.
The report explained that engagement with TLYR leaders in such an emotionally charged environment was extremely challenging as rumours were abound that the government was quietly burying the dead at undisclosed places to avoid public backlash after killing of protesters in a crackdown. The media blackout kept the rumour mill running with social media ruthlessly being employed to create chaos and confusion, the ISI stated in its report.
About Mumtaz Qadri Rehai Movement chairman Dr Mohammad Ashraf Asif Jalali, the ISI report categorised him as ‘financially sound’ but ‘opportunist’, ‘manipulator’ and ‘dubious on principled stance’. He also violates rules and regulations which restrict his movement and speeches, according to the report.
However, the report described Khadim Rizvi as a fiery speaker, who usually violates rules and regulations, with the capability to instigate or mobilize youth for a religious cause. Reportedly he was the mastermind behind torturing the participants in a ceremony held at Liberty Chowk Lahore to commemorate the death anniversary of Salman Taseer, it stated.
According to the ISI report, TLYR leaders had negotiated 11 demands with the Punjab government which encouraged them to negotiate for the resignation of law minister with the federal government. It said the federal government did not contact TLYR leaders for negotiations independently when dharna prolonged and inaction was observed. In this situation, ISI representatives engaged both sides asking them to resolve the issue. Despite ISI’s recommendations to resolve the issue politically and avoid use of force, the report regretted, an operation against protesters was launched on Nov 25, 2017 on the orders of the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The operation was an “utter failure” that triggered countrywide protests.
In a related development, an antiterrorism court in Islamabad ordered police to arrest cleric Khadim Rizvi and TLYR leaders and submit a final charge-sheet against them on April 4.
Earlier, the court had initiated the process of declaring Khadim Rizvi a proclaimed offender on March 5. Upon receipt of the report, the court may issue proclamation against Khadim Rizvi and others under Sections 87 and 88 of the criminal procedure code that lead to confiscation of the property of the absconding accused persons.
The ATC judge issued the order while conducting proceeding on three identical FIRs lodged against the clerics and protesters. The complainants in the FIRs include the father of a child who died since the protesters had blocked the roads leading to the hospital. Other complainants are media persons and area residents.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2018