ISLAMABAD: The PTI on Monday approached the Supreme Court against the federal government’s decision to prosecute civilians under the Army Act, carry out crackdown on supporters over violence on May 9, and summoning of the military under Article 245 of the Constitution.

The former ruling party urged the court to declare the government’s decision to try civilians in military courts as well as the crackdown on the party and its supporters as illegal and unlawful.

Moved through Advocate Gohar Khan, the PTI also challenged the deployment of the armed forces in aid of civil powers in Islamabad, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan. The trial of civilians through military courts, the petition argued, was a clear violation of constitutional guarantees of due process and fair trial. Such trials are highly deprecated internationally and widely considered as falling short of providing a fair trial, it added.

“They constitute a violation of Pakistan’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been ratified by the country,” the petition said.

Petition says crackdown on party violates constitutional rights

Even domestically, the petition argued, the Supreme Court has repeatedly deprecated such practice. The trial of thousands of workers of a political party or a leader through such courts is unheard of in the history of this country, the petition argued.

It added the limited circumstances in which military courts for civilians were utilised needed constitutional amendment which was done earlier in relation to the hardcore terrorists only. The workers and supporters now being sought to be tried through military courts were not part of any terrorist organisation and pose no threat to national security, the petition stressed.

Deployment of army

Under Articles 9, 14, 17, 19 and 23, the government’s decision to deploy the army was aimed at depriving the citizens of Pakistan of access to their constitutional right to life, dignity, association, equality and protection of property. The political parties that have the support of and alliance with the federal government were allowed to hold a public gathering at the gate of the Supreme Court despite the imposition of Article 245 and Section 144 and other legal prohibitions.

“Thus clearly there is a discriminatory attitude in violation of Article 25 which ensures equality of citizens,” the petition said.

It said the Constitution envisaged the right to social, economic and political justice, but this right too, in effect, stands denied to the people of Pakistan because of the severity of actions and immunities afforded in a mala fide manner and in excess of jurisdiction through the guise of Article 245.

The petition alleged that the power of Article 245 was not rightly exercised by the cabinet which has to approve the request made by the provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The constitutional authority of the KP and Punjab governments was questionable following the lapse of the time period allocated to the caretaker government, it added.

The petition alleged that the present political propaganda campaign of labelling PTI as a terrorist organisation was also another tactic to deny the holding of the elections and eventually oust party chairman Imran Khan and the petitioner party from the electoral process.

Moreover, there is a clear contradiction between holding the petitioner political party responsible for carrying out terrorist acts against the military installations and the stance of the government in invoking Article 245 to allow armed forces to act in aid of civil power for the entire province.

The invocation of Article 245 in an arbitrary manner was also violative of Section 131 and sections 4 and 5 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 which provides that the armed forces will use the necessary force to prevent an offence.

The crackdown against the political party by means of using excessive force under the garb of Article 245 is arbitrary, disproportionate and unreasonable, the petition said.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2023

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