ISLAMABAD: Additional District and Sessions Judge Mohammad Sohail declined to grant post-arrest bail to activists of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) saying prima facie it was a terrorism case since the activists during a protest had chanted slogans against the government and the army.
A judicial magistrate on Jan 29 sent 23 PTM activists to jail after a case was registered against them under several charges, including sedition, following a protest they held in Islamabad against the arrest of their leader Manzoor Pashteen.
According to the First Information Report (FIR), scores of protesters managed to escape from the spot but the complainant and the police officials would identify them when they appeared before them.
Though police did not invoke any section of Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 in the FIR, the judge in the concluding paragraph of his decision on the bail plea observed: “I have no hesitation to hold that it is a case in which Section 7 of ATA is attracted by all force, hence, this court lacks jurisdiction to entertain and decide the bail applications.”
Counsel for the petitioners argued before the judge that all the detained activists were well educated and had exercised their right to freedom of speech.
But Special Public Prosecutor Syed Salman Aziz while referring to the contents of the FIR as well as other material collected during the investigation said all allegations coupled with the facts and circumstances were sufficient to hold that the case fell within the ambit of the ATA.
Judge Sohail noted: “The allegations were raised and speeches were made against Pakistan and its army as sufficiently revealed in the subject FIR and as per my perception it definitely amount to threat to coerce and intimidate the government, and the same has seemingly created a sense of fear and insecurity among the public.”
The order sheet added: “It is clear that because of the acts committed by the petitioners/accused, there was an imminent risk to the safety of the general public and that the civil life was also disrupted owing to such acts. It is also evident from the record that complainant magistrate as well as other police officers available at site warned petitioners/accused and disclosed them about a notification promulgated under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) whereby any such gathering of five or more than five persons cannot be made.”
However, the petitioners “did not pay heed to such warning, and instead of getting dispersed they started raising slogans and made anti-state speeches and then proceeded towards the road and blocked it,” the judge noted.
Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2020