“Report is unsatisfactory, deeply unsettling” , a journalist could have given more details’’: Justice Qazi
Anti-Terrorism Court orders arrest of TLP chief Khadim Rizvi, others in Faizabad sit-in case
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has rejected the ISI report on Faizabad dharna calling it “unsatisfactory” and subsequently an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Islamabad on Monday ordered the arrests of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Pir Afzal Qadri and other absconding suspects in a case pertaining to the Faizabad sit-in held last year.
The ATC ordered their arrests after they failed to appear before the court despite being issued multiple summons. The ATC had previously issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Rizvi and other clerics after they did not respond to various summons. The police were separately ordered to submit their final challan in the next hearing of the case, which has been scheduled for April 4.
The Faizabad sit-in, organised by politico-religious parties in November 2017, had disrupted life in the twin cities for at least 20 days.
Earlier on Monday, the Supreme Court (SC) had rejected Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) report on the Faizabad sit-in, calling it “unsatisfactory”.
“This report is deeply unsettling: it has been prepared by one of the premier agencies of the country, yet a journalist could have given more details [about the protests] than this report,” Justice Qazi Faez Isa said after reviewing the document. Justice Isa is part of a two-member SC bench, along with Justice Musheer Alam, which has been hearing a suo motu case regarding the use of abusive language during the sit-in and the difficulties caused to residents of the capital by the roadblocks placed by the agitators.
In today’s hearing, Justice Isa said that the ISI — just like the judiciary — was “answerable to taxpayers”. The court asked the deputy attorney general, who submitted the report, if he was satisfied with it, to which the latter replied in the affirmative. The bench then pointed out that the report did not even specify the source of Rizvi’s income. When Justice Isa inquired further about Rizvi’s occupation, he was told that the TLP chief was a “religious lecturer”. The explanation was offered by Col Falak Naz, who was representing the Defence Ministry in the hearing.”Is ‘religious lecturer’ a profession?” Justice Isa asked, before turning to Rizvi’s tax status and bank account. Col Naz responded that Rizvi lived on donations.
“Then mention that he is being financially supported by others!” the judge exclaimed. The court also pointed out that the report did not answer the specific questions previously raised by the court before ordering the ISI to submit a new report within two weeks. The court also ordered the attorney general to be present for the next hearing. Islamabad protests Daily life in Islamabad was disrupted for 20 days in November 2017 by protesters belonging to religious parties, including TLY, the Tehreek-iKhatm-i-Nabuwwat, and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST). The agitators believed that during the passage of the Elections Act 2017, the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath was deliberately modified as part of some conspiracy. The amendment to the oath had been explained as a ‘clerical error’ by the government and subsequently rectified through an Act of Parliament.
Nonetheless, the protesters had occupied the Faizabad Interchange, which connects Rawalpindi and Islamabad through the Islamabad Expressway and Murree Road — both of which are the busiest roads in the twin cities. The government had initiated several rounds of negotiations with the protesters, but failed each time. The sit-in lasted nearly three weeks and culminated after an operation to end the protest by the government failed, following which the army brokered an ‘agreement’ between the state and the protesters, the terms of which included the resignation of former law minister Zahid Hamid. The agreement had been seen as a complete surrender by the state to the protesters.
ISI report on ‘dharna’
The ISI report states that the intelligence agency had recommended that the federal government avoid the use of force and resolve the issue peacefully through negotiations with TLYR.
However, despite the recommendation, the government launched an operation against the sit-in as per the Islamabad High Court’s orders which sparked countrywide protests. The complete profiles of the leadership of the protesters – Rizvi, Dr Muhammad Ashraf Asif Jalali, and Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri – have also been attached to the 46-page report.
It terms Rizvi “reportedly corrupt” when it comes to financial matters, but also that he appears to be living within his means. It also notes that he has shown an inclination towards misuse of power, the authorities, and resources. The report also terms Rizvi’s overall reputation “unsatisfactory”. He is also listed as being “arrogant” with his superiors, “harsh” with his subordinates, and “committed” to his cause. As per the report, Dr Jalali is “dubious”, an “opportunist”, and a “manipulator”. His overall general reputation is also “unsatisfactory”. It also notes he violated an agreement with the Punjab government for not holding a public meeting at Nasir Bagh Lahore in connection with the Mumtaz Qadri Rehai movement.
It also says he is actively involved in sectarian activities. No negative point has been found in the profile of Muhammad Afzal Qadri.
The report further says that the Punjab government made no attempt to obstruct or negotiate with the protesters due to which TLYR was able to gain public support and sustained the sit-in for 20 days. Regarding logistic supplies, the report mentions, the local police were neither capable nor willing to obstruct or prevent the logistic supplies.
The report blames lack of coordination between police forces of the twin cities, the inability of the Rawalpindi police to block reinforcements and live media coverage of the operation on TV as well as social media for the failure of the operation. It further says that TLYR exploited sentiments of police personnel through their continuous speeches on loudspeakers. As per the report, the representatives of ISI engaged both sides and asked them to sit together to resolve the issue after the federal government failed to independently contact TLYR leaders for negotiations when the dharna got prolonged. Expressing dissatisfaction over the performance of other agencies, the ISI report says the special branch of police covered the dharna but restricted themselves to providing tactical information, strength, participation and other logistic aspects.
Likewise, “Intelligence Bureau (IB) remained aloof, as no information or efforts were visible on the part of this agency”. During a high-level meeting at the PM office on November 22, ISI was given a lead role with complete authority to negotiate. Regarding support for protesters, the report says that generous donations by people from across society, especially the Barelvi sect, sustained the dharna. A large number of registered madaris affiliated with the group raised large sums in donations. During the dharna, many affluent persons from across the globe also contributed financially. The report also says that the owner of the TV station Channel 92, Mian Abdul Rasheed of Faisalabad, provided food. It also states that Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, PML-Z chief Ejazul Haq, PTI Ulema Wing Islamabad, and PPP leader Sheikh Hameed supported the Faizabad sit-in. Also included on the list of supporters was columnist and TV commentator Oriya Maqbool Jan. The report has also identified six lawyers and three trade union leaders as supporting the dharna without explaining how they supported the protesters.