ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah has summoned Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar, along with high level police and capital administration officials, over the deteriorating law and order in the city.
During the hearing of a case related to the abduction of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) official Sajid Gondal, Justice Minallah said Mr Akbar is also a member of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA), and his responsibilities obviously include advising the prime minister on the abysmal governance and criminal justice system within the 1,400 square miles that make up the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
Justice Minallah subsequently issued on order stating: “Mr Shahzad Akbar, advisor to prime minister on matters relating to Ministry of Interior is directed to appear at 1p.m. on Sept 21 and explain whether any advice has been tendered to the prime minister regarding the deplorable law and order situation in the capital of Pakistan and security of ordinary citizens.”
The inspector general of police and chief commissioner or deputy commissioner were also directed to appear in court, which has sought assistance from the Islamabad Bar Council and the IHCBA.
Additional Attorney General Tariq Mehmood Khokhar told the court that Mr Gondal has returned and investigations are ongoing.
CJ says fundamental rights of ordinary citizens are being violated
He said pursuant to an order dated Sept 7, a detailed briefing was given to the prime minister and cabinet members in a meeting on Sept 8.
The cabinet decided at the meeting to investigate alleged abductions in the capital territory.
According to Mr Khokhar, a committee on enforced disappearances has been notified by the cabinet.
“The abysmal law and order situation in the capital of Pakistan is intolerable,” Justice Minallah observed, adding: “As noted by this court in its order dated Sept 7, 2020, that fundamental rights of the ordinary citizens are being violated and their confidence in the criminal justice system is being eroded. Land related crimes, such as land grabbing, have become an unchecked widespread phenomenon and shockingly ministries/departments and state entities are allegedly involved.
“They are engaged in the illegal real estate business. This raises a serious question of conflict of interest. The powerful elites are responsible for erosion of rule of law. Those public functionaries who have been entrusted with the onerous task of protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, in breach of their fiduciary duty that they owe to the people, are themselves allegedly, directly or indirectly, involved in perpetration of crime and erosion of rule of law.”
The court order added: “This obviously has a profound effect and appears to be a major factor in erosion of rule of law and failure of the state to protect its citizens. This impunity against crime and violation of fundamental rights is intolerable in a state governed under the Constitution.”
The court observed: “The state machinery has failed to protect the ordinary citizens while the public functionaries appear to be helpless before the elite and the privileged. It is the duty of the state to restore the confidence of the ordinary citizens by restoring rule of law and treating every citizen equally.”
Justice Minallah noted that the report submitted by the IGP in connected petitions is an unambiguous acknowledgement of the state’s lack of ability to apprehend, investigate and prosecute alleged criminals.
He said deterrence against crime in society is not because of the form or severity of the sentence but ensured by the effectiveness of policing, investigation and prosecution.
The rule of law is the only deterrence against crime, he said, and trial courts are dependent solely on the quality of investigations and prosecutions.
Justice Minallah expressed concerns that the reports placed on the record speak volumes about a system that has been corrupted and is on the brink of collapse. The Police Order 2002 has been enforced but appears to be resisted by some quarters, while the Islamabad chief commissioner has been directed repeatedly to set up a prosecution branch, to no avail. Ordinary citizens - the actual stakeholders - are suffering and their constitutional rights are being flagrantly violated.
He said the court could not turn a blind eye to the failure of public functionaries to protect citizens.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2020