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KARACHI, June 1: A seven-member bench of the Sindh High Court issued notices to Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain, Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Home Adviser Waseem Akhtar and seven other ‘alleged contemners’ in two new contempt applications that came up before it on Friday.

The notice to the MQM chief and the CM’s adviser for home was issued in an application moved by Advocate Iqbal Kazmi and transferred to the full bench conducting suo motu proceedings by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed and Justice Gulzar Ahmed.

Advocate Naheed Afzal adopted Kazmi’s petition on behalf of Insaf Lawyers Forum. The notice to the CM was issued in this and another application moved by Karachi Bar Association President Iftikhar Javed Kazi. Other respondents in the two applications are: Federal Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah, Chief Secretary Shakeel Durrani, Home Secretary Ghulam M. Muhatram Naqvi, Provincial Police Officer Niaz A. Siddiqui, Capital City Police Officer Azhar A. Farooqui, the Jamshed Town police officer, the SHO of the City Courts police station, and the SHO of Jamshed Quarters. The first-mentioned five officers and the Saddar Town police officer are already on notice in the suo motu proceedings and two petitions moved by bar representatives and the International Human Rights Organization.

The allegation against the chief minister, home adviser and civil and police officers is that they failed to provide ‘foolproof’ security to Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on the route of his choice from the Karachi airport to the SHC building on May 12. The MQM chief has been accused of master-minding the operation that caused the mayhem.

As the interior secretary took a seat in the front row of the courtroom along with acting Advocate-General Masood A. Noorani and his counsel, A.Q. Halepota, he was told by a lawyer to sit on the rear bench. The secretary shifted to the back bench amidst applause by lawyers present in Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany’s courtroom. The judge, who is hearing the contempt case along with Justice Ali Sain Dino Metlo, called the petitioners, the respondent officers and their counsel to his chamber to conduct proceedings.

The secretary was exempted from personal appearance in view of his preoccupation with official business in Islamabad while an identical concession to other officers was refused by the division bench. Further proceedings were adjourned to July 3.

FULL BENCH: Earlier in the morning the full bench heard Advocate Khalid Anwer on the role of the police force in a civilized society. Qazi Faez Isa, the other amicus curiae, also submitted a paper. Federal government standing counsel Mahmood Alam Rizvi filed comments on behalf of the Pakistan Rangers, who are also on notice in suo motu proceedings.

Advocate Anwer said the independence of police was as important as the independence of the judiciary. Referring to the British, Canadian and Indian police systems, he said an impartial enforcement of law was crucial to a fair administration of justice. The police should be free to enforce the command of the law under powers derived by it from the law. It should not wait for superior orders to maintain law and order and if superior orders clash with the command of the law, the latter should prevail.

Advocate Faez Isa said the provincial and federal governments should be arrayed as respondents. The proposed respondents should be directed to submit information with regard to the number and location of containers to block roads and all other relevant facts in respect of the May 12 occurrences. Why, for instance, firing on Aaj television channel was allowed to continue for hours? Justice Osmany remarked that the bench was not conducting an inquiry as such. It wanted to ascertain the responsibility for violation of law on May 12 without going into ‘the nitty-gritty’ of number of containers. The purpose was to suggest ‘remedial measures’ for the future, Justices Osmany and Anwar Zaheer Jamali said.

The Pakistan Rangers, in their comments, said they are a back-up para-military force deployed in case of large-scale disorder and rioting. They were inducted at 5pm on May 12 when the situation was considered to have gone out of police control and there were fears of large-scale ethnic riots. They were assigned specific tasks, such as protection of sensitive installations and prevention of a terrorist threat, in accordance with their conventional role when employed in aid of civil power.

They were not assigned any task regarding the protection of high court judges and advocates, access to the court premises or removal of blockade of roads leading to the airport.

The bench consists of, besides Justices Osmany and Jamali, Justices Mushir Alam, Azizullah M. Memon, Khilji Arif Hussain, Maqbool Baqar and Ali Sain Dino Metlo. It will resume its proceedings on July 3.