Pak SC instructs govt
to give ground to
PTI for demonstration,
not to arrest Imran Khan

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday instructed the government to provide former prime minister Imran Khan’s political party a ground between Islamabad’s H-9 and G-9 sectors to hold a protest demonstration while hearing a petition for the removal of road blocks in the federal capital.

The petition was filed by the Islamabad High Court Bar Association after the government blocked several roads in and around the capital to prevent the anti-government march initiated by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party which has been seeking dissolution of assemblies along with a date for fresh elections in the country.

Pakistan Supreme Court

The government also detained several PTI leaders and supporters in different Pakistani cities ahead of their scheduled march to Islamabad, making the court prevent the relevant authorities from making excessive use of force.

“The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the PTI to hold its Azadi March protest in the H-9 area of Islamabad and restrained the government from arresting party chairman Imran Khan,” reported Dawn newspaper.

It quoted the court as saying that it was “playing the role of the arbitrator,” adding the judges said no raids should be conducted on the homes of PTI workers.”

The three-member bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan demanded a plan that would allow PTI workers and followers to peacefully converge in the capital to register their protest before returning home. The bench said it did not want the protesters to shut down places like Faizabad and the Motorway like in the past.

The court also instructed the government and PTI representatives to hold a meeting at the chief commissioner’s office tonight to work out the modalities of the protest demonstrations.

The court instructed the authorities to not make “unnecessary use of force” and not raid the homes and offices of or arrest other PTI leaders and workers. It also ordered the immediate release of detained lawyers as well as those arrested under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance 1960. Furthermore, it ordered that the automobiles confiscated within the last 48 hours be returned to their owners.

The SC bench, in its order, said it hoped that the top PTI leadership would also tell the party supporters to not take the law in their hands.

The SC issued the orders after the PTI assured that its workers would not cause damage to public and private properties. While the court allowed the protest to continue on Srinagar Highway, it also said that “the flow of traffic must not be affected, the citizens must not be bothered, and the protestors should remain peaceful.”

Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf opposed the court’s decision to allow the PTI to hold its protest in the designated area. “[Their] request to hold the protest in G-9 area has already been rejected.”

The attorney general said the “PTI workers will be [numbered] in hundreds of thousands,” adding that “[the site] where the JUI-F held its rally had the capacity of only 15,000.”

At this, PTI counsel Awan quipped: “I am grateful [to you] for acknowledging that the number will be in hundreds of thousands.”

Meanwhile, Islamabad Chief Commissioner Amer Ali Ahmed assured the court that its orders will be followed whatever they may be. The attorney general informed the court that an eight-member committee comprising four members each from the PTI and the government has been formed.

Awan, Faisal Chaudhry, Amir Kiyani and Ali Nawaz will be representing the PTI on the committee, whereas the government has nominated Yousuf Raza Gilani, Ahsan Iqbal, Ayaz Sadiq and Azam Nazeer Tarar.

The apex court ordered for the committee to hold a meeting at 10pm tonight as it adjourned the hearing till tomorrow (Thursday).