IHC allows PTI’s Shehryar Afridi, Shandana Gulzar to go home; to indict DC, SSP for contempt

Published August 16, 2023
PTI’s Shehryar Afridi and Shandana Gulzar are presented at the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday. — Screengrab from video provided by author
PTI’s Shehryar Afridi and Shandana Gulzar are presented at the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday. — Screengrab from video provided by author

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday allowed PTI leaders Shehryar Afridi and Shandana Gulzar to go home as it heard their pleas against their prolonged detentions under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) ordinance.

It further said it will indict city Deputy Commissioner (DC) Irfan Nawaz Memon and a senior superintendent of police (SSP) for contempt of court.

The two were held by the police in connection with the May 9 violence.

The decision comes a day after the IHC had issued show-cause notices to DC Memon, Inspector General Dr Akbar Nasir Khan, the city chief commissioner and other police officials for “criminal contempt of court for abuse of authority to obstruct dispensation of justice and cause diversion to the course of justice”.

 Justice Babar Sattar.—IHC/file
Justice Babar Sattar.—IHC/file

It had sought written replies from the said officials “as to why they should not be punished by the court for obstruction of justice”.

Afridi was first arrested on May 16 from his Islamabad residence under Section 3 of the MPO Ordinance, 1960. He was rearrested on May 30 under the same section soon after his release from prison.

On August 3, Afridi was granted bail by the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench but was later picked up by the Rawalpindi police soon after his release from Adiala jail. A petition was subsequently filed by his lawyer in the IHC calling for Afridi’s release and for the MPO order to be set aside

Meanwhile, Gulzar was “allegedly” abducted by the Islamabad police on August 9. A petition was later filed by her mother in the IHC on the grounds of illegal arrest and violation of Articles 4, 9, 10A and 14 of the Constitution, calling for the police to produce her daughter in court.

IHC Justice Babar Sattar took up Afridi and Shandana’s pleas today and sought responses from the various officials who were summoned as per the court order from yesterday.

DC Memon appeared in the court today to represent the district magistrate while IG Khan and the chief commissioner were also present. The PTI leaders were presented in the court as well along with their counsel Sher Afzal Marwat.

After hearing the responses of the DC and the SSP, Justice Sattar deemed them “unsatisfactory” and decided to indict both officials for contempt of court in the next hearing.

He also asked IG Khan to submit the names of the station house officer (SHO) and the district police officer (DPO) concerned with Afridi’s case, ordering show-cause notices to be issued to both police officials.

Suspending the MPO orders issued against both PTI leaders, the court ordered their release but barred them from going outside the capital’s limits.

It also asked the PTI leaders to refrain from issuing statements on mainstream and social media till the case was going on.

“If anything happens to any of them (Afridi or Gulzar), then the IG and the chief commissioner will be responsible for it,” Justice Sattar observed.

Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned for two weeks later.

The hearing

At the outset of the hearing, the Islamabad DC mentioned the violent incidents of May 9 in various cities but was stopped by Justice Sattar, who directed him to “only talk about Islamabad and read out aloud your order”.

At this, the DC informed the court that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had alerted him that Afridi “could attack the district courts”.

The judge then asked, “How could Shehryar Afridi plot an attack on the court while he was in jail?” Did he have access to the media and a mobile phone?“

He further asked, “If Shehryar Afridi was plotting an attack on the court while being in jail then what action was taken against the jail administration?”

DC Memon replied, “According to intelligence reports, Shehryar Afridi spread incitement. There are also reports of him being involved in plans of attacking the district courts. His name also came up in the campaign against the judiciary.”

Here, Justice Sattar asked the DC how Afridi “incited people even though he was in jail”. To this, the DC answered, “My eyes and ears are just the intelligence reports.”

DC Memon proceeded to read out aloud the reports of the IB and the Special Branch (SB). The judge then asked if there was any MPO order issued in the past three months that a court had maintained.

Here, he warned the DC: “Keep this in mind that [one] can be sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of court.”

Justice Sattar then asked, “On whose information was Shehryar Afridi arrested?” Subsequently, the SHO was called to the rostrum.

The judge asked him as well about the information that he had about Afridi’s alleged “planning”. The police official informed the court: “Sir, I was not the SHO there at that time. Someone else was the SHO back then.”

Justice Sattar observed that the police official was then free to go and asked who was the DPO there, at which he came to the rostrum.

The judge again inquired the same — what information did the official have regarding Afridi’s alleged plan — to which the DPO answered that he had gone on holiday back then.

Here, Justice Sattar asked, “What was happening on May 8 in Islamabad? Did you ask about this?” “In light of these [intelligence] reports, you have to apply your mind as well,” he remarked.

He again sought answers from the police officials about the “situation in Islamabad on May 8” — a day before PTI chairman Imran Khan was arrested, which led to violent incidents countrywide.

At this point during the hearing, IG Dr Khan appeared in the court and informed it, “Action is taken based on the risks before the incident takes place. We took these actions to maintain the law and order situation.”

Justice Sattar then remarked, “The Special Branch’s report is merely a joke.”

He asked the IG if any of those who Afridi was allegedly inciting had been arrested. Dr Khan replied, “We will pursue the mastermind.”

The judge stated, “Whatever was read out (the intelligence reports) is making a mockery of the police system. Make the decision if you have to run the country as per the Constitution or in another manner.

He then ordered the IG to submit a detailed report about the matter to the court.

Justice Sattar then proceeded to ask DC Memon if he had submitted his reply to the contempt of court notice issued yesterday, to which he responded in the affirmative.

The court observed that the DC had mentioned the “same reasons in the May 16 MPO order as in the August 8” MPO order. “And the court had declared that [May 16] order of yours as illegal,” it added.

Deeming the responses of DC Memon to the notice as “unsatisfactory”, the court said he was to be indicted for contempt of court in the next hearing.

At this point during the hearing, the SSP was called to the rostrum. The SSP’s counsel, Tahir Kazim, argued, “The reasons for declaring the first MPO order as illegal were different. The court had said that the detention orders were issued later while the arrest was made prior to it.”

He insisted, “Action is taken on threat alerts on the basis of risks.”

Here, Justice Sattar remarked, “You all have made a farce out of this. The court declares an MPO order illegal and then another order is issued.”

Subsequently, the judge deemed his response unsatisfactory and decided to indict him as well in the next hearing.

The IHC also issued a notice to IG Khan, ordering him to provide the names of the SHO and the DPO concerned with Afridi’s case. It further ordered that show-cause notices be issued to both police officials.

“You think we are blind?” the judge asked.

The court also asked the jail superintendent to submit the record of the meetings that Afridi held while he was incarcerated in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.

It also sought the notification that empowered DC Memon to issue the MPO order.

“Where is the notification wherein the deputy commissioner was given this authority? Is there any notification of the government delegating this authority?” Justice Sattar asked.

“If that notification is not present, then there is no need to argue this much either,” he noted.

Here, the judge asked Afridi if he had a home in Islamabad, to which the PTI leader replied in the affirmative.

Subsequently, the court suspended the district magistrate’s MPO order against Afridi and allowed him to return to his home in the capital.

Meanwhile, the IHC also took up a petition filed by PTI’s Gulzar against her detention under the MPO.

Justice Sattar presided over this hearing as well while Gulzar was presented in the court.

The judge asked both, Afridi and Gulzar, to refrain from issuing statements on mainstream and social media till the case was going on and also barred them from going outside the capital’s limits.

“I expect you to not give a statement till this case is being heard,” the judge said, adding that nothing from Afridi’s side should come on any media channels or social media.

“If anything happens to any of them, then the IG and the chief commissioner will be responsible for it,” Justice Sattar observed.

Subsequently, the court also suspended the detention order against Gulzar and ordered her to be released.

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