Why pro-PTM protesters were booked for sedition, asks IHC

Published February 2, 2020
Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Saturday sought explanation from the capital police and the district administration for invoking offence of sedition against those who were protesting against the arrest of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen.  — AFP/File
Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Saturday sought explanation from the capital police and the district administration for invoking offence of sedition against those who were protesting against the arrest of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Saturday sought explanation from the capital police and the district administration for invoking offence of sedition against those who were protesting against the arrest of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen.

The court summoned the deputy commissioner and the inspector general of Islamabad police on a petition seeking post-arrest bail of 23 activists of the PTM and Awami Workers Party (AWP).

Justice Minallah heard the bail plea in his chamber. Advocates Babar Sattar, Nisar Shah and Sikandar Naeem represented the detained activists.

The court ordered the DC and the IGP to produce the record related to the arrest of activists.

“Both will appear in person along with the record on Feb 3, 2020 at 10am and explain under what authority of law the offence of sedition has been included in the FIR and why the petitioners who are stated to have exercised their right of assembly in a peaceful manner may not be released on bail.”

The counsel for the petitioners — Ammar Rashid and others — contended before the chief justice that “the case has been registered against the petitioners on the basis of mala fide”.

He also questioned the order issued by the additional district and sessions court dismissing the post-arrest bail petitions of the detained activists, saying it was “arbitrary and not in consonance with the settled principles of law”. He said it was a serious miscarriage of justice and invoking offence of sedition against unarmed peaceful citizens was misuse of authority.

On Jan 30, additional district and sessions judge of Islamabad Mohammad Sohail declined to grant bail to detained activists, saying that prima facie this was a case of terrorism since during protest the protesters had chanted slogans against the government and the army.

It was mentioned in the first information report (FIR) that scores of protesters managed to escape from the spot, but the complainant and the police officials would identify them when they appeared before them.

Interestingly, the police did not invoke any section of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997 in the FIR, but 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 the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) is attracted by all force, hence, this court lacks jurisdiction to entertain and decide the bail applications.”

The judge noted in the order sheet that “the allegations were raised and speeches were made against Pakistan and its army as [has been] 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”.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2020

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