ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court will finally pronounce on Feb 6 its verdict on the November 2017 Faizabad sit-in organised by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) that had paralysed life in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad for 20 days.

On Nov 22, 2018 a two-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa reserved the judgement and closed the hearing of the case that was initiated on a suo motu on Nov 21, 2017.

The court took up the case after taking notice of the traffic congestion arising out of the sit-in and summoned a report from the ministries of interior and defence, Intelligence Bureau and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

While initiating the case, the court regretted the use of abusive, filthy and provocative language by the leaders of the sit-in and held that this tended to promote enmity.

ECP will take up case about TLP’s registration

The legal observers believe that in its judgement the bench may come up with certain guidelines for ensuring that normal life of citizens was not disrupted due to such protests and about the role of the law enforcement agencies and the media.

The issue cropped up when during the hearing of a case in 2017 the same bench noticed an application seeking adjournment on behalf of senior counsel Mohammad Ibrahim Satti, who was representing petitioner Sher Jamal.

The application for adjournment was moved by Advocate on Record Syed Rifaqat Hussain Shah on the grounds that the counsel could not reach the courthouse because he lived in the area that had been blocked off due to the sit-in.

At this, the court sought the assistance of Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mehmood, who was in attendance, and asked him whether highways and roads could be blocked.

Mr Mehmood replied that he himself was facing tremendous difficulties in reaching the court. He had left his home early in the morning (at about 6.30am) to reach the court in time, he added.

In the order that followed, the apex court regretted that Islamabad and Rawalpindi were being held hostage by a few ‘miscreants’ while the state functionaries appeared to be negotiating with them rather than clearing the way for the public who were being denied access to courts, schools, and places of work, etc.

The court said that people taking part in the sit-in and their leaders were ostensibly advocating a religious cause but had not moved the courts, including the Federal Shariat Court. They were taking the law into their hands and were sowing divisions (‘tafarruqu’) and differences (‘ikhtalafu’) against the clear proclamations by Almighty Allah in Surah Ash-Shura (42) ayat 13 and Surah Al-Imran (3) ayat 103 and ayat 105.

Before reserving its ruling for a final judgement, the Supreme Court had also asked Attorney General Anwar Mansoor to furnish a report on behalf of the federal government about the mandate of ISI.

The directives were issued when a sealed envelope was produced before the court, the contents of which were not even shared with DAG Mehmood.

Justice Isa then regretted that the premier spying agency had only enclosed a copy of one of the apex court’s orders in the sealed envelope.

The attorney general, however, said he would furnish the reply in writing, which should be treated as classified. That report was later submitted to the court.

Later the leaders of TLP were taken into custody by the authorities after they launched another sit-in, this time against the backdrop of Oct 31, 2018, Supreme Court judgement of acquitting blasphemy accused Aasia Bibi.

An anti-terrorism court in Lahore has already extended till Feb 8 the judicial remand of TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who is facing several charges for damaging public property and vandalism during violent protests staged after the apex court’s judgement in the blasphemy case.

TLP’s registration

A three-member bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will take up for hearing a case pertaining to registration and funding of TLP on Wednesday (tomorrow).

The bench will be headed by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza and also comprise retired Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (member from Punjab) and retired Justice Irshad Qaiser (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). That would be the full available strength of the commission as members from Sindh and Balochistan retired last month.

During the hearing of the case in December, Khadim Rizvi had said in a written reply that he would address the commission’s reservations about his party’s funding and registration after his release.

In the first week of January, the case was taken up again but Mr Rizvi’s counsel sought more time.

The case against TLP was initiated after the Supreme Court slammed the ECP for registering a party that obstructed routine life in the twin cities in 2017.

The apex court was surprised to learn that the rightwing party had been registered with a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis of a UAE-based Pakistani.

The court was amazed that the ECP’s director general for law could not confirm the nationality of the person who had applied for TLP’s registration as a political party.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2019