ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday granted bail to 23 workers of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Move­ment (PTM) and Awami Workers Party (AWP).

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) Mohammad Sohail “appears to have exceeded jurisdiction by making observations…without having regard for the recently enunciated law by the august Supreme Court regarding scope of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997”.

While dismissing the post-arrest bails of 23 workers, the ADSJ had 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.”

Judge Sohail had also noted that “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 amounts to threat to coerce and intimidate the government and the same has seemingly created a sense of fear and insecurity among the public”.

However, Justice Minal­lah admitted the appeal against the order of ADSJ Sohail on Feb 1. He also sought explanation from the deputy commissioner and the inspector general of the Islamabad police for invoking offence of sedition against the protesters.

The detained activists were protesting the arrest of PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen.

Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat and Deputy Inspector General Waqaruddin Syed appeared before the court and stated that Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), 1860 [related to sedition] had been deleted. However, they informed the court that Section 7 of the Anti- Terrorism Act, 1997 had been added to the FIR as per the observations of the ADSJ.

Justice Athar Minallah reminded them that Section 124-A was the legacy of the colonial era and this had never been invoked against any person ever since the federal capital’s establishment.

The district administration and Islamabad police acknowledged in the facts and circumstances of the case that the offence under Section 124-A was not attracted and, therefore, it had been deleted accordingly.

The court adjourned the hearing to Feb 11.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2020