PHC puts govt on notice over road closure by protesters

Published September 7, 2021
A file photo of the Peshawar High Court. — PPI/File
A file photo of the Peshawar High Court. — PPI/File

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Monday issued notices to the provincial government, Peshawar’s deputy commissioner and capital city police officer seeking their written replies to a petition against the frequent blocking of the Khyber Road near the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly building by protesters.

A bench consisting of Justice Syed M Attique Shah and Justice Syed Arshad Ali admitted to regular hearing a pro bono petition filed by senior journalist Mohammad Jamshed Baghwan for the court’s directives for the respondents, including the provincial government,to allot a suitable place or ground for the holding of rallies by political parties, associations, unions and other groups without disrupting the people’s right to free road movement.

After preliminary hearing, it issued notices to the government, DC and CCPO asking them to separately respond to the petition.

Petitioner seeks specific place in Peshawar for rallies

The petitioner requested the court to restrain the district administration of Peshawar from granting the no objection certificate (NOC) to any political party, associations and organisations to block roads or hold rallies that result in the disruption of free public movement.

He also sought the court’s orders to declare that the holding of any rally or protest on roads in front of the provincial assembly building is illegal and representatives of the protesters should be allowed to submit their protest note or charter of demand to the government’s representatives without disrupting the flow of traffic on the roads.

The petitioner also requested the court to direct the police to use ‘reasonable restraint’ against protesters when necessary to ensure free flow of traffic on that road.

Lawyer Ali Gohar Durrani appeared for the petitioner and contended that under Article 15 of the Constitution, the right to freedom of the people’s movement couldn’t be brought to an end with the protest of a handful of the people, who block the road near the provincial assembly, creating chaos for patients, elderly, children and woman.

He contended that the GT Road served as the main artery of Peshawar, whereas Suri Pul on the GT Road was a critical junction linking it to Khyber Road, Bacha Khan Chowk, Jail Road, and Peshawar city.

Mr Durrani said the area outside the provincial assembly on Khyber Road was frequently ‘misused’ and often attracted street protesters caused massive traffic jams.

He contended that the protest rallies on that key artery not only caused hardship for the commuters and patients travelling in ambulances but also resulted in increased pressure on feeding roads in the old city of Peshawar and thus, paralysing the entire city.

The lawyer added that the situation had become the order of the day.

He contended that over the past many years it had often been seen that two dozen protesters block the Suri Pul for hours but the police, instead of clearing the road to ensure smooth flow of traffic, watched rallies as bystanders that questioned the existence of law and order.

Mr Durrani referred to several judgments of the superior courts of Pakistan, India and United Kingdom in support of his contentions. He pointed out that right of a person to use roads had been judicially recognised as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in 2005.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2021

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