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“Constitution prohibits Armed Forces from engaging in political activities which includes supporting a political party, faction or individual. Action should be taken against violators of oath”. Also warns against issuing hatred edicts

Nation special report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday wrapped up a suo motu case of the 2017 Faizabad sit-in staged by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and directed the government, law enforcers, intelligence agencies and the army’s media wing to operate within their mandate.

A two-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa reserved its verdict on Nov 22, 2018 after hearing Attorney General, secretary Election Commission of Pakistan and chairman Pemra.

On November 16, a two-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa while hearing the instant case had expressed dissatisfaction over the reports, furnished by an intelligence agency, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and directed all the departments to submit fresh reports in the matter in hand.

The 43-page order is authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa. The order stated that subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law, citizens have the right to form and to be members of political parties.

“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. The right to assemble and protest is circumscribed only to the extent that it infringes on the fundamental rights of others, including their right to free movement and to hold and enjoy property.”

 “The Constitution earmarks the responsibilities of the Election Commission which it must fulfill. If a political party does not comply with the law governing political parties then the Election Commission must proceed against it in accordance with the law. The law is most certainly not cosmetic as contended on behalf of the Election Commission.”

“All political parties have to account for the source of their funds in accordance with the law.” “The State must always act impartially and fairly. The law is applicable to all, including those who are in government and institutions must act independently of those in government.” “When the State failed to prosecute those at the highest echelons of government who were responsible for the murder and attempted murder of peaceful citizens on the streets of Karachi on 12th May, 2007 it set a bad precedent and encouraged others to resort to violence to achieve their agendas.”

“A person issuing an edict or fatwa, which harms another or puts another in harm’s way, must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.”

Intelligence agencies

The judgment directed all the intelligence agencies to not exceed their respective mandates. “They cannot curtail the freedom of speech and expression and do not have the authority to interfere with broadcasts and publications, in the management of broadcasters/publishers and in the distribution of newspapers.” “Intelligence agencies should monitor activities of all those who threaten the territorial integrity of the country and all those who undermine the security of the people and the State by resorting to or inciting violence.”

“To best ensure transparency and the rule of law it would be appropriate to enact laws which clearly stipulate the respective mandates of the intelligence agencies.”

“The Constitution emphatically prohibits members of the Armed Forces from engaging in any kind of political activity, which includes supporting a political party, faction or individual. The Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence and the respective Chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are directed to initiate action against the personnel under their command who are found to have violated their oath.”

“The police and other law enforcement agencies are directed to develop standard plans and procedure with regard to how best to handle rallies, protests and dharnas, and ensure that such plans/procedures are flexible enough to attend to different situations. It is clarified that though the making of such plans/procedures is not within the jurisdiction of this Court however we expect that in the maintenance of law and order every effort will be taken to avoid causing injury and loss of life.”

“We direct the Federal and provincial governments to monitor those advocating hate, extremism and terrorism and prosecute the perpetrators in accordance with the law.”