The Supreme Court on Thursday deplored “unfortunate” criticism aimed at it over a judgement ordering the release of a person accused of distributing supposedly proscribed religious literature.

Religious parties, social media users and the banned militant Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan group recently took exception to the SC decision, with the reaction coming almost two weeks after the apex court’s order on an appeal against a verdict of the Lahore High Court.

In a press release issued today, the apex court said misreporting of its verdict was creating “many misunderstandings” with the impression being created that the court had denied the Second Amendment (September 1974), designed to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims, or called for the elimination of relevant sections for crimes against religion in the country’s legal codes.

“This impression is completely wrong,” the SC stated.

The apex court’s press release said that even if the accusations in the first information report for the case were believed, they did not merit the application of the sections charged but rather Section 5 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932, related to dissemination of contents of prescribed documents.

The press release further stated that as per the abovementioned section, a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment could be given, of which the petitioner had already served a year, and thus, he was released on bail considering Islamic rulings, constitutional sections and principles of law and justice.

“It is sad that emotions flare up in such cases and Islamic rulings are forgotten,” the apex court said, adding that the written verdict quoted relevant verses of the Holy Quran.

It added that Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa strove to ensure that the court’s interpretation of the law aligned with Islamic sources of law as well as the country’s Constitution. It said if anyone felt there was a mistake by the court then avenues of legal recourse were always present, which the apex court or the chief justice would never stop anyone from approaching.

“Legal verdicts can be criticised within reason but orchestrated campaign in the name of criticism without adopting the constitutional path of a review is unfortunate,” the press release added.

Govt to take strict action against elements inciting violence: Solangi

Earlier in the day, caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi warned of “strict state” action against those using social media platforms for incitement of violence.

The statement came as Pakistan witnessed a disruption in the services of social media platform X (formerly Twitter) for the sixth consecutive day today. While rights bodies and journalists’ organisations have condemned the muzzling, officials are still reluctant to offer any clarity on the situation.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad alongside Special Representative to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, Solangi said: “Some people have been using social media platforms to incite violence. This activity is against the law and the government will take strict action against all such illegal activities in accordance with the law.”

 Special Representative to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Maulana Tahir Ashrafi and caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi address a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV
Special Representative to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Maulana Tahir Ashrafi and caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi address a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV

In a similar vein, he said social media companies earning billions were not absolved of the responsibility that their platforms were used to “disturb law and order or incite violence in a country”.

“Social media platforms … have been used for propaganda, lies, character assassination and harassment. The relevant companies will have to control this action. Pakistan will never allow that these platforms spread baseless, false and fabricated propaganda in the country.”

He said if the platforms did not stop the above, the state would take whatever strict measures it could.

“As far as the decisions of the judiciary are concerned, legal review recourses against them are possible. If someone has a complaint then a review application can be filed … decisions have also been changed in the past but no one has the permission to take the law into their own hands or disturb the country’s peace.”

Solangi said the spread of “lawlessness and anarchy” would not be allowed in the country. “All foreigners living in Pakistan must feel assured that they’re safe and nobody will be able to hurt them. They should feel safe and secure. The State of Pakistan will guarantee their safety and peace,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ashrafi requested the apex court to issue a clarification on the matter if there was any confusion or doubt and the Punjab government to file a review petition against the Supreme Court’s Feb 6 verdict so “those wanting to spread discord cannot do so”.

He said no one would be allowed to disturb law, order and peace or create the conditions for discord in the country in the name of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).

“To those who want to spread chaos or want to do politics on the issue, I want to tell them this is a legal matter … and its legal aspects will be determined in the courts, not the streets.”

Ashrafi said politicking in the name of the Holy Prophet was the “biggest crime”.

“As far as the rights of non-Muslims living in the country are concerned, we will not allow anyone to subtract from what has been decided by the law and the Constitution or any injustice. They are citizens and the way I as a Muslim have rights, similarly non-Muslims as citizens also have rights. Protection of both our rights is necessary.”

Later in the day, a statement from the Federal Investigation Agency said it obtained a two-day physical remand of the suspect behind the social media campaign against the chief justice.


Additional reporting by Tahir Naseer.

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