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SHAHID Aziz alias Gullu Butt,  the infamous baton-wielding man caught on camera vandalising cars during  violence in Model Town in 2014, outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday.—White Star
SHAHID Aziz alias Gullu Butt, the infamous baton-wielding man caught on camera vandalising cars during violence in Model Town in 2014, outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday disposed of a petition seeking to reinvestigate the 2014 Model Town incident after the Punjab government assured the court of appointing a fresh joint investigation team (JIT) for a third time for the purpose.

“During the course of hearing, Advocate General for Punjab Ahmed Awais in an unequivocal and unambiguous manner has assured the court that the provincial government has decided to constitute a JIT in terms of Section 19 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA),” observed Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar who headed the bench that had taken up a petition moved by Bisma Amjad, whose mother Tanzeela had been killed in the violence.

“In the light of the above, the petition has achieved the objective and therefore the petition is disposed of accordingly,” said the order dictated by the chief justice.

Petition disposed of after Punjab govt’s assurance; police to challenge move in LHC

Ten Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) supporters, including women, lost their lives and many others were injured in a violent clash between police and supporters and workers of the Minhaj-ul-Quran organisation on June 17, 2014, when the law enforcers attempted to remove pickets outside the residence of PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri in Model Town, Lahore.

“We will challenge the decision before the Lahore High Court whenever the government appoints a JIT,” senior counsel for police Zulfikar Abbas Bokhari told reporters after the hearing.

Senior lawyer Shabbar Raza Rizvi, who appeared on behalf of former police chief Mushtaq Sukhaira, argued that if the apex court decided to appoint a JIT for a third time then it should also order quashment of the proceedings pending before the trial court on a private complaint in which much progress had been made. The private complaint of Jawad Hamid had named former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, opposition leader in the provincial assembly Hamza Shahbaz, former law minister Rana Sanaullah among others.

Earlier during the proceedings, the CJP observed that the Model Town incident happened against the backdrop of the Islamabad long march and dharna (sit-in) when the entire country, particularly the Islamabad-Rawalpindi region, had been paralysed and even the way of Supreme Court judges was blocked by the protesters. “At that time you approached those who had nothing to do with the incident, disregarding the fact that the most powerful institution is the judiciary,” said the chief justice pointing at Dr Qadri.

Moreover, he said, PAT workers and supporters did not show due deference to the Supreme Court as they closed roads leading to the SC building and hung their washing outside its premises. “You did not approach the Supreme Court for the redressal of your grievance at that time,” he regretted.

While narrating the entire chain of events, the PAT chief earlier said the two previous JITs, which had been constituted by the government on the basis of the FIRs registered on a police complaint and a private complaint, recorded neither the statements of those being blamed for ‘hatching the conspiracy’ nor the legal heirs of those killed or injured in the incident.

Dr Qadri said police booked thousands of PAT supporters and workers by registering a total of 56 FIRs against them. He explained that the workers fled their homes to avoid arrests and therefore it was very difficult for them to join the investigations by the JIT.

“I have no enmity with police, still the police who used to guard the pickets outside my residence in Model Town in the wake of death threats I received in view of the fatwa he issued against terrorism fired straight bullets at his house,” alleged Dr Qadri, claiming that one of the bullets hit his bedroom.

Dr Qadri alleged the police removed the pickets outside his house to disrupt the PAT’s peaceful protest seeking reforms in election laws. The injured protesters were made accused in the case through the police complaint, he said, adding that the change of the government stirred a hope that an impartial inquiry was possible.

The chief justice observed whether the courts were so powerless to appoint any investigative agencies in case the state itself was facing allegations. Can the court not appoint a different investigative agency then? He asked the Punjab advocate general about the government stance when the lawyers representing the respondents objected to court’s willingness to appoint a probe body for fresh investigation. The AG said the government had no objection if the court ordered investigation de novo.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa reminded the bench that the apex court had issued similar orders in some other case as well.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018