• Maryam arrives in capital for protest outside SC building
• Registrar briefed on security arrangements

ISLAMABAD: As the ruling coalition goes ahead with its plan to stage a sit-in against the judiciary for allegedly favouring PTI chief Imran Khan, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has urged political parties to refrain from such a move.

And to pre-empt any untoward incident, the Supreme Court’s registrar, Ishrat Ali, on Saturday called a meeting of the Islamabad administration and police for a briefing on security arrangements.

The protest was announced by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Reh­man, who also heads the Pak­istan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance, on Friday. The sit-in has been planned at Constitution Avenue in Islamabad, outside the Supreme Court building, on Monday, when the top court is set to start hearing an Election Commission’s petition seeking to revisit its verdict on the Punjab polls date.

The PML-N has announced that its chief organiser, Mar­yam Nawaz, has already arri­ved in Islamabad to take part in the sit-in.

In a statement, SCBA Presi­dent Abid S. Zuberi and Secr­e­tary Muqtedir Akhtar Shab­bir requested the ruling political parties not to hold the pro­test or take action that may undermine the integrity and functioning of the judiciary.

They also called upon the political stakeholders to reduce the political temperature in the best interest of the country’s progress.

The statement said the bar stood with the rule of law, supremacy of the Constitution and the independence of judiciary and had extended their unwavering support and solidarity in protecting the Supreme Court against the announced protest on Monday by political parties.

The statement also expressed their strong disapproval of any attempt to undermine the sanctity and integrity of the apex court.

It said that violence in any form would be in violation of law and would amount to a thr­eat to peace and public order, especially when Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure — an emergency law that prohibits gatherings — and Article 245 of the Constitution, under which the army is called in to help the civil administration, had already been invoked in the federal capital.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon the federal government, law enforcement agencies and its relevant subsidiaries to make foolproof security arrangements to ensure the safety and protection of the Supreme Court, it said.

It said the SCBA was deeply committed to upholding the Constitution, the principles of the rule of law and the integrity of judicial institutions. “While we recognise and respect the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, we firmly believe that any attempt to undermine or challenge the authority of the Supreme Court is detrimental to the foundations of democracy,” it said.

The statement said that engaging in protests against the Supreme Court, particularly those aimed at eroding public trust in its decisions, compromised the essence of the rule of law. It said the SCBA in particular and the entire legal fraternity in general stood united in their commitment to protect the Supreme Court, the Constitution and the rule of law.

Security briefing

The briefing to the Supreme Court’s registrar was attended by Islamabad’s deputy commissioner, Irfan Nawaz Memon. However, informed sources said Islamabad’s AIG of the special branch and SSPs for operations, security and traffic could not reach the court premises.

During the meeting, instructions were also issued to ensure appropriate arrangements to avoid any untoward incident and to ensure foolproof security.

If no security was provided by the Islamabad police, sources said, the deployment of armed forces outside the apex court might also be considered.

However, it is expected that a heavy contingent of the Rangers paramilitary may be deployed at the Supreme Court to protect its premises.

The security has been tightened to such an extent that no one would be allowed to enter the apex court’s premises except reporters who cover court proceedings daily.

Maryam in Islamabad

Meanwhile, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz arrived in Islamabad on Saturday to participate in the PDM sit-in.

“On the instructions of [PML-N] Quaid Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz will represent the PML-N in the sit-in,” said Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a statement.

Separately, when asked about the ruling coalition’s Monday sit-in, Interior Minister Sanaullah said at a press conference that protests in the red zone had taken place in the past as well. He said permission would be sought from the district administration.

Similarly, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters in Sialkot that the ruling alliance was staging the sit-in to press the judiciary to play its actual role instead of “acting as a facilitator of an individual”.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2023

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