PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday reserved its order about around 240 petitions of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf activists against their detention under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance in different districts of the province.

The verdict will be announced today (Wednesday) by a bench comprising Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim and Justice Syed Arshad Ali.

The court heard the detailed arguments of the counsel for petitioners as well as provincial advocate general Aamir Javed in the case before reserving its judgement.

It had already granted an interim relief to most petitioners by suspending orders for their detention by the deputy commissioners and directed the authorities to free the petitioners on bail by the production of surety bonds of Rs100,000 each.

PHC reserves verdict on 240 petitions of PTI activists on matter

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

Hundreds of identical petitions have also been pending with PHC benches in Swat (Darul Qaza) and Abbottabad.

Noted among the petitioners are former deputy speaker of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi and former MPAs Asif Khan and Arbab Jehandad.

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

AG Aamir Javed insisted that the petitions were not maintainable, so they should be dismissed.

He contended that after violent demonstrations on May 9 and 10, the armed forces were called in aid of the civil administration at 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.

On the query of the bench, the AG said that Article 245 of the Constitution was invoked in the entire province and a notification for it was issued by the federal government at the request of the provincial government.

He added that while invoking Article 245 of the Constitution, the federal government didn’t specify the areas for it in the notification, it was up to the local administration to decide about the areas where the armed forces should be called.

When the bench wondered whether the detainees were released as directed by it earlier, the AG said that most of the petitioners had been freed.

The bench asked him about the evidence of crime collected against detainees.

The AG informed the court that around 2,000 detention orders were issued with inquiries under way into the cases of violence.

The bench observed that despite the passage of so many days, the government had not completed inquiries to collect evidence for connecting the petitioners with violence.

It also asked the AG about the number of former ministers in custody.

The AG said that FIRs had been registered against several former ministers and the police had been searching for them.

Lawyers Naumanul Haq Kakakhel, Qazi Mohammad Anwar, Muazzam Butt, Shabbir Hussain Gigyani, Shah Faisal Utmankhel, Shah Faisal Ilyas, 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.

Mr Kakakhel contended that there was a difference between “Calling up armed forces to act in aid of civil powers” and “Armed forces for the time being acting in aid of civil powers.”

He said in the current scenario, armed forces had not been conducting any operation in aid of civil power, so just calling up the army in aid of civil power won’t preclude the high court from exercising its powers under Article 199 of the Constitution.

Mr Butt contended that the caretaker provincial cabinet had no authority to request the invoking of Article 245 of the Constitution beyond 90 days of its formation as under the Constitution, general elections should have been held within 90 days of the dissolution of the KP Assembly on Jan 18.

He added that the situation had deteriorated as the Constitution was violated due to the delay in the provincial assembly polls.

The bench observed that the May 9 incidents could not be justified on any count.

Qazi Mohammad Anwar, who is also provincial organiser of the Insaf Lawyers Forum, told the court that the detention orders were issued by authorities to target a political party.

He added that he had been informed by former provincial minister and PTI leader Atif Khan that a letter from a federal minister was in circulation declaring that the PTI leaders, who announce exit from ex-PM Imran Khan’s party, should not be charged in any case.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2023

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