ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday wondered which fundamental rights have been violated that necessitated the filing of a petition against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leadership for an alleged hate campaign targeting national institutions such as the armed forces, the Supreme Court as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan.

A two-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi took up a petition moved by Advocate Qausain Faisal through his counsel Hassan Raza Pasha pleading that the private respondents, their official spokesmen and other members of the PTI be restrained from making any public or private statement against the institutions.

The court also asked the counsel to convince it how the present matter was an issue of public importance and it could intervene under Article 184(3) against the private persons on the grounds of public interest. The court observed that it could invoke Article 204 (contempt of court) whenever it deemed appropriate by initiating a notice and taking action.

Earlier on July 18, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had in a chamber hearing ordered the fixing of the case before an SC bench after removing the objections raised by the registrar’s office while returning the petition.

Petitioner wants PTI leaders restrained from statements against judiciary, army, ECP

The respondents in the petition were the federation through the interior secretary, the PTI, party chairman Imran Khan, former information minister Fawad Chaudhry and former human rights minister Dr Shireen Mazari among others. It had sought a direction to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, Federal Investigation Agency and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to strictly control the publication of the allegedly organised hate campaign immediately and deal with the violators and contemnors.

The petition argued that it was in public knowledge that after his ouster as the prime minister, Imran Khan had been issuing unfounded, provocative, highly defamatory and derogatory statements in his interviews, political rallies, and in the print and electronic media, including social media.

This alleged campaign, the petition argued, was designed and calculated to tarnish the public image and severely harm the good reputation of institutions like the Supreme Court and high courts, the armed forces and the ECP.

Assisted by his political cohorts, the former prime minister was continuously running a malicious, derogatory and defamatory campaign against these national institutions in the media, especially social media, which was designed to bring the national institutions into public contempt and hatred.

This would destabilise and weaken these institutions and demoralise the individuals representing these institutions, the petition feared, adding these institutions were directly responsible for the vital task of national security, administration of justice, law and order and the protection of political rights of Pakistani people.

Mr Khan organised and planned the hate campaign with the alleged administrative and financial support of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and, therefore, the private and public elements involved in organisation, logistics and running of the impugned hate campaign were no more distinguishable.

The intended impact of the hate campaign was to destabilise, weaken the working of and demoralise the institutions and their personnel, which will lead to political, economic and security uncertainty, chaos, anarchy and degeneration.

This could result in political unrest and economic turmoil in the country, the petition feared, adding the respondents were allegedly recklessly and wantonly issuing statements that damaged and continue to damage and erode Pakistan’s good relations with the established security and economic partners in the international community.

This, in itself, was a cause of grave concern as destabilisation and imbalance in relations with the security and economic partners would lead to economic and security hazards and isolate Pakistan in the comity of nations.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2022

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