ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court dropped hints on Thursday that it would take cognisance of the unfortunate situation that emerged the previous night during the PTI’s march, but observed it would wait for the right time as tempers were running high at the moment.

“But our ‘reaction’ (inqu­iry) will set a precedent for the future,” observed Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, who headed a five-judge bench.

He said the leadership of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf should realise the importance of showing restraint and becoming a role model for the nation.

Other judges on the bench were Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Yahya Afridi.

The bench had taken up a hurriedly-moved one-page application by Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf inviting the Supreme Court’s attention towards violations of the apex court’s directives, especially PTI chief Imran Khan’s call to his party members to march on Islamabad and assemble at D-Chowk.

“What happened last night is sad,” the CJP regretted, adding the court had tried to develop a consensus, but that process broke down.

“The situation had gone out of hand. We will ponder over it and, if necessary, take cogn­isance,” the CJP obse­rved. “We will confer about the nature of the congregation on May 25 of ordinary people who usually act at the behest of their leadership.”

The AGP’s application highlighted that after Wednesday’s (May 25) court proceedings, security arran­gements were relaxed and roads were reopened. But PTI workers tried to take advantage of the relaxation and started destroying state property, setting on fire vehicles belonging to police and the fire brigade, Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf said.

An estimated value of the destroyed vehicles was Rs30-50 million, the AGP added.

“The PTI workers were armed with automatic weapons and a former minister was intimidating police personnel,” the application alleged.

There was a danger the situation might go out of control not only in Islamabad but that violence might spread to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the AGP’s application observed.

The application accused the PTI leadership of violating the apex court’s directives by going ahead with their march on the capital.

At the outset, the CJP invited the AGP to the rostrum, even though Shoaib Shaheen, who heads the Islamabad High Court Bar Association, was at the podium. When the AGP reminded the court that Imran Khan had asked his supporters to reach D-Chowk, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that he may have been misinformed.

The CJP said, however, it was unfortunate that the arrangements spelt out in the May 25 court order were not followed, leading to incidents of arson and injuries to people.

The Supreme Court is the guardian of the Constitution and protector of fundamental rights like freedom of movement and freedom of association, but these rights were not unlimited, he said.

“The executive has the authority to ensure that one should not transgress or take law into their hands.”

Chief Justice Bandial said the court order tried to create a balance by asking the executive not to opt for arbitrary use of force, reminding it the PTI had held 33 rallies without any untoward incident.

The AGP quipped it was because of restraint shown by the executive, recalling 31 policemen received injuries on Wednesday night.

Referring to the situation in Islamabad on Wednesday night, the CJP observed “people were just walking about”, asking the AGP whether the ground between Sectors H-9 and G-9 was still available.

A bewildered AGP replied it would be made available “if the court so desires”.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2022

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