May 9 riots, Faizabad sit-in juxtaposed


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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has regretted that violence continued to be perceived as a permissible means to attain one’s goals as evident from May 9 mayhem, while comparing it to the Faizabad sit-in almost five years ago. “However, the concerns expressed by us almost [five] years ago were disregarded by successive governments.  Review petitions and applications were filed and these were not fixed for hearing, which hindered the judgment’s implementation. No responsibility was affixed, nor was anyone held accountable for the violence of the past,” read a four-page written order authored by the CJP issued on Thursday.

“It is not surprising that violence continued to be perceived as a permissible means to attain one’s goals. Victims of those striving for an independent judiciary, an inclusive and tolerant Pakistan were disregarded without justice; the nation suffered the consequences, as evident from the recent events of [May 9, 2023],” it added.

A day earlier, the court heard a review petition against the its earlier verdict on the Faizabad sit-in filed by Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid, whose lawyer told the court that his client did not to want press the application. “We repeatedly asked the learned counsel why the application was filed and then kept pending for four years and eight months, and were told that it was filed under a misapprehension,” the verdict added.

The court noted that it was surprising that the leader of a political party, a longstanding parliamentarian and one who in the past held the high office of a federal minister had filed the application on the basis of a misapprehension. “Therefore, we enquired whether he had filed the application [at] someone’s behest, but it was reiterated that it had been filed under a misapprehension,” the order read.

The court noted that a commission had been constituted by the federal government and its terms of reference are proposed to be expanded to include this aspect too. “We are confident that the commission will attend to the terms of reference. Accordingly, this CMA [civil miscellaneous application] is dismissed as not pressed.

The order read that the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) had stated that the federal government had formed a body to investigate into the Faizabad sit-in under the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, through a notification issued on Wednesday. It added that the AGP had read the notification and stated that one aspect had been missed from the terms of reference — aimed at considering whether or not all the review petitions and applications filed before this SC were coincidental or registered pursuant to instructions from the “same source”.

On October 3, 2022, the SC dismissed his appeal against his removal from the Pemra chairmanship on the first hearing. “From what we have been able to gather, Mr [Absar Alam] wants to restore the said petition, which had been dismissed. While he states that he is no longer interested in regaining the position of [the Pemra] chairman, he still wants to challenge the findings recorded against him, therefore, [he] wants to withdraw the instant application, which is dismissed as withdrawn,” the order stated.

The court noted that in the Faizabad sit-in case, review petitions and applications were filed in early 2019 but were not fixed for several years. It continued that the concerned officers of the SC were asked to submit a report on the lack of scheduling of these matters in the court. “The additional registrar (fixture) and additional registrar (judicial) have jointly reported as under: ‘It is pertinent to mention here that usually the review petitions are fixed on priority before the same Bench or in which at least the hon’ble author judge is a member.

Furthermore, previously important cases used to be fixed before the hon’ble court after approval of former HCJs. Record shows that CRP 266/2019 etc were added [to the] draft of [the] Final Cause List No17/2019 for the first time on 25.04.2019 at 1:12pm however, [they] were removed from the draft list on 25.04.2019 at 5:06pm as per direction given by the then HCJ.

It is also worth mentioning that the said cases were also repeatedly mentioned in [the] list of important cases presented to former HCJs from time to time, however, these cases remained pending in office due to the reason that there were no direction from the then HCJs for fixation of the cases’,” the order read. The SC in its order acknowledged the manipulation resorted to in the top court by not fixing the review petitions and applications in the Faizabad Dharna case.

“It should not need reminding that every decision of the Supreme Court is binding and must be implemented by all executive authorities as stipulated in Articles 189 and 190 of the Constitution. Implementation however may be forestalled when review petitions and other applications are pending. However, all review petitions and applications have now been disposed of. It now needs to be considered whether we should invoke the constitutional power of contempt under Article 204 of the Constitution in case the judgment is not implemented,” the order read.

“Those who were in government when the judgment was given are no longer in government and the composition of the Election Commission [of Pakistan] has also changed. Therefore, it would not be appropriate to hold the present incumbents responsible for the actions/inactions of their predecessors, particularly when they have demonstrated that they want to implement the decision of this court,” it added. The court noted that the federal government had also constituted a commission and given it two months to do its task. “We expect that [the commission] will do so within the allotted time,” it continued. It further noted that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had on the last date sought 30 days to do what it had undertaken and this period had not expired yet.

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