LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Friday turned down a request by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and others to restrain the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from holding its public rally in the National Hockey Stadium on Aug 13.

Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabbir disposed of the petitions with an observation that the court could not intervene in such matters.

The judge also directed the deputy commissioner to decide the applications of the petitioners for a change of the rally’s venue strictly in accordance with the law.

The judge observed that the city administration had the authority to allow or disallow public meetings.

City administration can allow or disallow public meetings, observes Justice Shabbir

At the outset of the hearing, the counsel for the PML-N argued that the hockey stadium could not be used for purposes other than sports. He said that the Punjab Sports Board, without holding its meeting, permitted the PTI to hold a public rally in violation of the law. The astroturf of the hockey stadium had been removed to accommodate the PTI rally, he said, adding that the hockey stadium was a national asset and it should not be allowed to be used for political purposes.

At this, Justice Shabbir observed that Mall Road was also a national asset and it was frequently used for public rallies.

A provincial law officer opposed the petitions, saying that the rally was a peaceful political gathering which was also permitted under the Constitution. He said the government had lawfully allowed the PTI rally.

The law officer further said that the stadium had been selected by the respondent party as there was a ban on such activities at Greater Iqbal Park.

Justice Shabbir asked the law officer about the government’s plan for restoration of the hockey stadium.

The law officer claimed that the astroturf removed by the hockey stadium management would be used for another ground and the National Hockey Stadium would get a new astroturf.

Asked about the time frame for the new astroturf for the hockey stadium, the law officer said he needed to seek instructions from the government on this point.

During the hearing, the judge also asked the PML-N’s counsel about the position of the Pakistan hockey team in an ongoing tournament in Birmingham. The counsel said the Pakistan team probably stood at number eight.

The judge observed that the national hockey team used to stand first when he was a student.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2022

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