Apex court requested to set aside the explicit or
implicit observations about the armed forces, ISI and IB
ISLAMABAD: Pandora Box has been opened in Pakistan over the Supreme Court’s verdict of Feb 6 against the Nov 2017 sit-in by members and supporters of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) at Faizabad has irked many as a number of petitions have been filed in the court, all seeking its revision.
According to informed sources and a Dawn report, by Wednesday, eight review petitions had been filed or re-filed in the court by various entities or individuals — namely, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Ministry of Defence, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Ejaz-ul-Haq.
Some of the petitions were filed earlier as well but were either returned with objections or withdrawn; now they have been submitted to the apex court again.
Authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a strongly worded judgement had instructed the defence ministry and chiefs of the army, navy and air force to penalise personnel under their command who were found to have violated their oath.
Likewise, the federal government was asked to monitor those advocating hate, extremism and terrorism and prosecute them in accordance with the law. Adverse observations were also made against a number of government departments for causing inconvenience to the public as the 20-day sit-in paralysed routine life in both Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
In response, the defence ministry has requested the court to set aside the explicit or implicit observations about the armed forces and/or the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The ministry’s petition contends that the armed forces can survive a lack of supplies, failures of strategy and reverses, as losses can be compensated and wars won after battles are lost. However, what the armed forces cannot survive is a loss of morale, says the petition drafted by Attorney General Anwar Mansoor.
A host of factors may affect morale, says the petition. However what is fatal is the belief amongst the rank and file that their officers while acting like “self-proclaimed saviours” are violating the fundamental rights of citizens and instead of serving “Pakistan and thus all its citizens” supporting a “particular political party, faction or politician”.
The petition says that nothing demoralises a soldier more than being told that his officers are involved in “matters” with which they “should not be concerned with”, were doling out cash to extremists and pampering those who “resort to abuse, hate and violence. In short, they were violating their oath of office and working against the national interest.”
“…When the source of such remarks is the highest court in the land, it can promote fissiparous tendencies and has the capacity to destroy the ability of the armed forces to act as a cohesive fighting force,” the review petition argues.
It goes on to say there was no evidence before the court to suggest that the armed forces or ISI were, in any manner, involved with either the sit-in or a particular outcome of the general elections of 2018 or the abridgment of free speech or intimidation or censorship of the press.
The petition contends that to further their designs several hostile foreign intelligence agencies have created a false perception against Pakistan and its armed forces, that they aid and support extremist organisations in the region.
This false narrative has always been contradicted by Pakistan and its armed forces, says the petition. But the impugned judgement, when read as a whole, unfortunately lends credence to this false narrative and has adverse implications for the security of Pakistan.
The plea argues that the jurisdiction of the apex court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution should be exercised sparingly, but the conditions precedent for the exercise of this original jurisdiction were not fulfilled in this case.
The review petition moved by IB also urges the court to set aside the adverse observations made against the department, adding that it is a premier civilian intelligence agency which is responsible for state security. It contends that the impugned order creates the “bad impression” on the public that IB is involved in unlawful activities and politics, after transgressing constitutional boundaries.
The petition says the observations made in the verdict were based on “vague facts” and adds that during the sit-in the department was in close contact with the federal and Punjab governments and forewarned them about the plans and intentions of TLP, with a view to foiling their attempt to storm/lockdown Islamabad.
In its petition, the ECP contends that it had comprehensively applied and enforced the Constitution, law and the code of conduct by issuing a letter to the TLP on Aug 16, 2017, asking the party to provide details of its bank account and even had issued notices to it with a warning to cancel its registration.
The PTI, through its Secretary General Arshad Dad, has questioned the mention in the verdict of the 2014 joint sit-in organised by the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Islamabad, and says the impression one gets from it was that the party conducted an illegal protest for publicity and deliberately made wrong allegations.
The review petition is being filed to expunge the remarks because the 2014 sit-in was conducted for genuine reasons and was in accordance with the fundamental rights of the people and stood for the civil rights of the citizens, adds the ruling party.
The petition goes on to argue that the party had nothing to do with the Faizabad sit-in and therefore the remarks should be expunged.