CJP Isa questions intent behind withdrawal of review pleas in Faizabad sit-in case

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ISLAMABAD: According to the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Qazi Faez, the authorities have not implemented the Supreme Court’s order regarding the 2017 Faizabad sit-in. Review pleas in Faizabad sit-in case withdrawn by CJP Isa.

In hearing the review petitions on Thursday, a three-member bench – Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aminuddin Khan and the chief justice – asked, “Why are we all so scared?”

A number of pleas were filed challenging the verdict on the Faizabad sit-in staged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) against the then Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in 2017.

He also expressed frustration over the failure to implement the years-old order issued by the three-member bench in 2019.

The chief justice instructed the federal government, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, Election Commission of Pakistan, and others seeking to withdraw their pleas to submit their responses in writing.

As he adjourned the hearing until November 1, the CJP commented: “I am surprised that petitioners have requested a callback of their petitions.”

After adjourning the hearing, the CJP informed the parties that they had accepted the SC’s order as true by withdrawing their pleas. “This is your chance to stand up for what’s right.”

Additionally, the AGP read out the decision of the SC regarding the Faizabad sit-in.

The CJP said, “Following the Faizabad sit-in, many other similar incidents emerged,” adding that if the court’s verdict had been implemented at the time, other incidents would not have happened.

By implementing the 17 directions highlighted in the judgment, we will move in the right direction,” the AGP assured.

Court adjourned the hearing for two months at the request of the attorney general. According to CJP, two months are a long time.

The government will inform you of its progress in a month, AGP Awan replied.

Petitioners seek withdrawal

According to Attorney General of Pakistan (AJP) Mansoor Awan, this case is not a priority for the federal government.

Inquiring about the reason behind the withdrawal, the CJP asked the AGP.

There was a claim that the previous verdict was flawed. Now provide a reason for withdrawing the case,” he said.

In response to a review petition filed by the ruling party, AGP Awan said that the ruling party was different.

The CJP asked the attorney general, “Why did you not file a written plea?”. The latter replied that he was giving his statement.

In the same vein, Pemra’s lawyer Hafiz Ahsan asked for the plea to be withdrawn, stating that the media regulator did not wish to pursue the case.

CJP Isa then asked on whose instructions the plea was being withdrawn.

Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed was also allowed to hire new counsel after the court learned that his lawyer had been appointed as a provincial minister.

In addition, PTI lawyer Ali Zafar informed the court that the party did not intend to pursue the case further.

CJP Isa asked, “Do you have the authority to take back the petition?”. The court will allow you to become a respondent if you wish.”

Zafar responded, “No, we do not want to be a respondent.”

Moreover, the court directed petitioner Ejazul Haq to submit an affidavit stating that he has reservations about the Faizabad report prepared by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

“I was described as an irresponsible politician in the judgment. I did not support the sit-in,” Haq said.

As CJP Isa observed: “Your name was mentioned in the ISI report. No one’s name was written as an irresponsible political leader.”

Haq’s lawyer was instructed by the court to submit his affidavit.

A petition for withdrawal of the case against the verdict was filed in the Supreme Court earlier today by the federal government.

The federal government, which filed the petition through the Ministry of Defence, has withdrawn the appeal, according to AGP Awan.

Both the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) filed similar petitions earlier this week.

In response to a series of review petitions filed against its previous ruling, the apex court announced last week that it would revisit the Faizabad sit-in case on September 28.

It was filed by the Ministry of Defence, the IB, the PTI, the Pemra, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, and Ejazul Haq.

Additionally, Rasheed’s lawyer had requested an adjournment of today’s hearing because his client was not in custody and could not be reached.

Faizabad sit-in legal saga

This legal saga began on April 15, 2019, when the then-federal government, along with entities such as the Defence Ministry, Intelligence Bureau, PTI government, AML chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, MQM-P, and the Pemra, among others, filed review petitions disputing the apex court’s ruling regarding the Faizabad sit-in case delivered by the incumbent Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

The apex court had earlier recommended that persons issuing edicts or fatwas to harm another individual or put another person in harm’s way should be dealt with with iron hand and prosecuted under relevant laws, including the now-CJP Isa and Justice Mushir Alam.

The court ruled that the intelligence agencies must not go beyond their mandates. A suo moto case regarding the TLP’s sit-in in 2017 was disposed of by the bench later.

“Every citizen and political party has the right to assemble and protest provided such assembly and protest is peaceful and complies with the law imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order,” according to the 43-page verdict issued by the two-judge bench and published on the apex court’s website.

A person’s right to protest and assemble is restricted only to the extent that it interferes with other people’s fundamental rights, such as their freedom of movement and their right to property ownership.”

The top court took suo motu notice of the three-week sit-in in November 2017, which was held against a change in the purpose-of-Prophethood oath that was terminated by the government due to a clerical error when the government passed the Elections Act 2017.

After reaching an agreement with the government, the protesters ended their sit-in.

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