RAWALPINDI: The Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday allowed the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to hold a public meeting at Liaquat Bagh to observe the 12th death anniversary of former premier Benazir Bhutto.

Taking up the petition filed by the PPP legal team, Justice Malik Shehzad Ahmed Gheba granted the party permission for organising the public meeting at Liaquat Bagh on Friday (today).

The apex court also directed the district administration and police to provide PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari with adequate security upon his arrival in the city.

The PPP leadership had earlier announced a public meeting at Liaquat Bagh — the place where the two-time elected prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a gun-and-bomb attack on Dec 27, 2007, when she was leaving the venue after addressing a mammoth public gathering in connection with her electioneering.

However, the district administration refused to give the PPP permission, citing security threats to Mr Bhutto-Zardari.

Law enforcement agencies asked to ensure foolproof security

PPP city president Babar Sultan Jadoon immediately filed a petition in the LHC through his legal team, led by Saeed Yousaf Khan Advocate, challenging the decision of the district government.

Deputy Commissioner Saifullah Dogar also appeared before the court and submitted his written reply in response to the petition filed by the PPP.

When Justice Gheba took up the petition, the PPP’s legal team argued that the party’s city chapter had been observing the death anniversary at the Benazir monument for the past 11 years with the permission of the district government.

They informed the court that the district government was violating the Constitution by usurping the right of a major political party to hold a public gathering.

They requested the court to order the district government to allow the party to organise the public gathering as per its schedule.

After hearing arguments of the PPP legal team, Justice Gheba observed that in the recent past, the PTI and PAT held sit-ins and public meetings in the red zone of Islamabad and foolproof security was provided by the quarters/agencies concerned. “The PPP is a duly registered political party with Election Commission of Pakistan and it cannot be singled out and refused to hold a jalsa (public meeting) at Liaquat Bagh ground on the pretext of security threats,” he said.

In his written order, Justice Gheba said: “I am of the view that to provide security to the leadership of PPP as well as to the leadership of other political parties and the public, is the duty of the district administration and police and other security agencies. It appears that in order to get rid of their responsibilities, different security agencies have prepared reports regarding the security threats to the leadership of PPP so that if (God forbid), any untoward situation takes place then they may shift their responsibility to other departments/institutions.”

The judge observed that providing security to PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was the responsibility of all the law enforcement agencies, while shielding the planned venue was the responsibility of police.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2019