PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday suspended the orders of authorities to detain around 150 leaders and workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the province under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance.

A bench consisting of Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim and Justice Sahibzada Asadullah declared that the petitioners, who had been kept in different prisons, should be freed if they’re not required in any other cases and that each of them should produce two surety bonds each of Rs200,000 for their release.

Most petitioners belong to Peshawar, Swabi, Kohat, Mardan and Nowshera districts.

The bench fixed May 30 for hearing into around 150 petitions filed by local PTI leaders and workers, including former deputy speaker of the provincial assembly Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi, against the issuance of orders for their detention by the respective deputy commissioners under Section 3 of the MPO.

Decision about maintainability of their petitions on May 30

It also issued a notice to the attorney general for Pakistan seeking his response to the petitions.

The court will later decide about the maintainability of the petitions as the armed forces were called in aid of the civil administration under Article 245 of the Constitution.

The deputy commissioners had ordered the detention of petitioners for a period of 30 days for “disturbing the peace and tranquility” of the respective districts.

Provincial advocate general Aamir Javed contended that the petitions were not maintainable and therefore, they should be rejected.

He contended that after violent demonstrations on May 9 and 10, the armed forces were called in aid of the civil administration on the request of the provincial government under Article 245 of the Constitution.

Mr Javed contended that Article 245(3) of the Constitution declared that a high court should not exercise any jurisdiction under Article 199 in relation to any area in which the armed forces acted in aid of civil power.

He said that scores of videos were available showing most petitioners involved in ruthless ransacking and damaging public property.

Lawyers Shabbirt Hussain Gigyani, Mohammad Muazzam Butt, Naumanul Haq Kakakhel, Shah Faisal Utmankhel, Ali Zaman, Taif Khan, Imran Khan, Aman Khan Bangash, Shoukat Khan Safi and others appeared for the petitioners and contended that the deputy commissioners had acted in arbitrary manner by issuing “stereotype” orders under the MPO for the detention of their clients.

They requested the court to grant an interim relief to the detainees by ordering their release on bail until the final disposal of petitions.

The counsel argued that their clients, mostly teenagers and students, were arrested on political grounds.

They contended that several petitioners had also been charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act and that they were either in custody of the police or behind bars in those cases and therefore, DCs couldn’t issue any further orders for their detention.

The lawyers said that some of their clients were arrested in connection with some FIRs registered after protests in different cities and that when they were released on bail, they were booked under the MPO.

They said several detainees were students and had missed their ongoing secondary school board examinations.

Shabbir Gigyani said that blank proforma were available with different deputy commissioners having identical contents and they only wrote the name of a detainee after he was arrested. He said that the DCs had not been applying their independent mind to these cases and in a mechanical manner had been churning out these controversial orders.

Mr Gigyani said that no proper grounds were mentioned in most detention orders.

He argued that when the detainees were already charged with committing different offences in scores of FIRs in different districts, they could not be kept in jail under the MPO.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2023

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