SC rejects govt’s fact-finding committee on Faizabad sit-in

SC rejects govt's fact-finding committee on Faizabad sit-in

ISLAMABAD, NOV 1: The Supreme Court of Pakistan Wednesday rejected the government’s fact-finding committee, ordering the Attorney-General for Pakistan, Mansoor Usman Awan, to form a new inquiry commission soon pertaining to the implementation of the apex court verdict in the Faizabad sit-in case.

The fact-finding committee was constituted by the government, on Friday, to investigate the “role and directions” of all “concerned” officials in the management and handling of the sit-in in 2017 staged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan gainst the then-Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.

The orders for a new inquiry commission came during the hearing of a set of petitions against the February 6, 2019, judgement in the Faizabad dharna case.

On February 6, 2019, the SC bench comprising the now-Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mushir Alam, ruled that the intelligence agencies must not exceed their respective mandates.

Multiple pleas challenging the SC verdict on the Faizabad sit-in were filed by the federal government, Ministry of Defence, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf (PTI) and others.

However, most of the petitioners retracted their applications recently, prompting the CJP Isa to ask “why is everyone so afraid to speak the truth”.

“Is it a joke to file a revision petition and withdraw it?” CJP Isa remarked during the hearing.

The court dismissed review pleas filed by the IB, PTI, the defence ministry, MQM and Ijazul Haq for withdrawal. It also issued notices to Sheikh Rashid over failure to appear in court and adjourned the hearing till November 15.

Today’s hearing

A three-member SC bench comprising the CJP Isa, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah heard the petitions challenging the ruling.

During the hearing today, the top judge said the apex court wanted to know who was behind the Faizabad sit-in.

“We want to know who was the mastermind of the Faizabad sit-in,” he remarked, expressing annoyance over the decision not being implemented since its issuance in 2019.

The chief justice, during the hearing, questioned what the incumbent government was doing on the implementation of the SC’s decision in the sit-in case.

“No one cares about this country,” CJP Isa remarked, while Justice Minallah said that the county is only for the elites and has been occupied by them for the last 70 years.

Taking a jibe at the government’s non-seriousness towards the case, CJP Isa said the court will close the case if the government asks it to do so.

“We will again wait for another tragedy like Faizabad to take place. Are we threatened by external enemies or internal threats?” he questioned, rejecting the government’s fact-finding committee.

The chief justice said anyone here gets up and blocks the roads, then goes abroad after harming the country.

The chief justice’s remark hinted at Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri’s participation in the 2014 sit-in by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against the then-government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the centre.

“Was the purpose of importing a person to overthrow the government of that time?” CJP Isa asked, further questioning if the said person’s services will be sought again in the future.

“Did this person from Canada pay for his own ticket?” he questioned, further asking if it is possible to determine this by the investigation committee.

“[Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority] Pemra, the Election Commission of Pakistan was not independent at that time,” he remarked.

The court then immediately summoned Pemra Chairman Salim Baig to the rostrum.

During the hearing, Pemra’s counsel said he has only received ex-Pemra chairman Absar Alam’s affidavit.

In an affidavit submitted to the apex court on Tuesday, Alam had accused then-Director General of Counter Intelligence (DG-C) at the Inter-Services Intelligence Major General Faiz Hamid and his subordinates of controlling the “TV Channel policy” through “unlawful means”, in his affidavit

The SC had sought fresh disclosures on the last hearing, from anyone who was affected by the protest, to reveal new information in writing.

Absar Alam’s allegations 

During the hearing, Alam alleged the spy agencies’ interference in media affairs, claiming that the “people of intelligence agencies” used to call cable operators.

“A Pemra member had received a call which was recorded,” he said.

When asked about the caller’s name, Alam said he could not confirm it because there was no caller id or number on the call that was received.

Alam said that he received “verbal orders” for sacking journalist Najam Sethi, who used to host a programme on Geo News, and he was removed from the PEMRA chief’s post when he refused to comply to these orders.

“I was removed as Pemra chairman by the Lahore High Court on Dec 18. You said to bring the truth and so I did,” Alam said, adding that “it was known among journalists that whoever filed a petition against me in the LHC is a person of the agencies.” 

He also stated that different petitions were also filed against him in three high courts.

Earlier, Justice Minallah remarked during the hearing that the decision of the Faizabad sit-in case was landmark. The chief justice, however, disagreed saying that it was only according to the law and Constitution.