SC takes up review pleas against Faizabad sit-in verdict

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ISLAMABAD: A three-member bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa took up a set of pleas on Thursday challenging the top court’s judgment in the Faizabad sit-in case, wherein intelligence agencies were directed not to exceed their constitutional mandates.

At least eight review petitions were filed against the verdict, authored by CJP Isa on February 6, 2019, on a sit-in by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in Faizabad in 2017.

Authored by Justice Isa, the searing judgement had directed the country’s intelligence agencies, namely the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI), and the army’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) not to exceed their constitutional mandate.

The CJP along with Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah — have taken up the pleas today.

It had also directed the federal government to monitor those advocating hate, extremism, and terrorism and prosecute them in accordance with the law. Adverse observations were also made against several government departments and other public sector entities as the 20-day sit-in paralysed life in both Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Petitioners

Among the petitioners are various political parties and organisations such as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid and Ejazul Haq, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and defence ministry (ISI).

Earlier this week, however, the IB and Pemra withdrew their petitions stating that they do not wish to pursue the matter anymore.

Meanwhile, Rashid, via Advocate Mehr Khan Malik, had also reportedly requested the apex court to adjourn the hearing.

The judgment

Justice Isa, in his 2019 Faizabad judgment, had written that the Constitution emphatically prohibited members of the armed forces from engaging in any kind of political activity, which included 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,” read the 43-page verdict authored by incumbent CJP Isa.

CJP Isa in his judgment had held that no one, including any government, department or intelligence agency, could curtail the fundamental right of freedom of speech, expression and press beyond the parameters mentioned in Article 19 of the Constitution.

He ruled that those who resorted to such tactics under the mistaken belief that they served some higher goal deluded themselves.

“Pakistan is governed by the Constitution…Obedience to the Constitution and the law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being in Pakistan,” he wrote in his verdict.

Soon after the judgment, speculations were rife that the then PTI government was planning to file a presidential reference against Justice Isa.

Soon after the judgment, speculations were rife that the then PTI government was planning to file a presidential reference against Justice Isa. The reference was filed in the same year and later quashed by the apex court.

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