ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday observed that the first information report (FIR) registered against Baloch students and rights activist Imaan Zainab Mazari is “liable to be quashed” and asked the federal cabinet to redress grievances of the students.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah was hearing a petition filed by Ms Mazari against the FIR registered against her as well as Baloch students after their protest over disappearance of a student turned violent due to what the court observed excessive use of power by the police and the district administration.

At the outset of the hearing, Mohammad Shuaib Shaheen, president Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA), informed the court that he had visited the camp outside the National Press Club set up by the students from Balochistan.

He said the students felt that they were being subjected to surveillance and racial profiling besides being ignored by the federal government.

Chief justice asks govt to redress grievances of protesting students

Inamullah Khan, secretary Ministry of Human Rights, stated that a report had been sought from the local administration because the force used, prima facie, appeared to have been excessive.

Amir Ali Ahmed, chief commissioner Islamabad Capital Territory, appeared before the court along with Inspector General of Police Ahsan Younis. The chief commissioner assured the court that the matter would be probed and appropriate action would ensue.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan expressed regret over the incident and stated that he would personally look into the matter and advise the federal government and the capital administration accordingly.

The students belonging to Balochistan have been peacefully protesting in front of the press club for several days.

The court was informed that the camp was an attempt to draw the attention of the federal government to the alleged enforced disappearance of a student from Balochistan.

Justice Minallah noted: “It appears from the contents of the FIR that, prima facie, excessive force was used to disperse the students and uproot their camp despite peacefully protesting for several days.”

The attempt to remove their camp through the use of excessive and unwarranted force, followed by registration of a criminal case, was definitely abuse of state power contrary to public interest and the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution, he remarked.

The chief justice termed it ironic and disturbing to have been informed that the students from Balochistan feel that they were being ignored and subjected to racial profiling by public functionaries.

Justice Minallah observed that “prima facie the FIR is liable to be quashed.”

Moreover, the court was of the view that by ignoring the voice and grievances of the peacefully protesting students and treating them not in accordance with law the authorities had exposed themselves to be held accountable.

The court expected that the prime minister and members of the cabinet will reach out to the students to hear their grievances and take effective measures to address them.

They are also expected to take effective policy decisions and immediate actions to dispel the apprehension or perception of being racially profiled by the law enforcement agencies, the court order added.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2022

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