–IHC judge criticises Army chief Gen Bajwa for proposing mediation instead of following PM’s orders
–Ask why army did not see any ‘Fasaad’ in TLYR protest, says it shows ‘military’s active involvement’
–Slams Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal for ‘embarrassing’ Islamabad police and administration
–Justice Siddiqui says Law Minister Zahid Hamid made scapegoat to protect IT Minister Anushay Rehman
ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on Monday lashed out at the federal government as well as Pakistan Army for the role assigned to the military “as the mediator” in the agreement to end the protest sit-in at Islamabad’s Faizabad Interchange by a few hundred zealots.
The army chief instead of following the orders of the chief executive became a mediator, pointed out Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.
Security forces had launched an operation against protesters camped out at the Faizabad Interchange on Saturday after the high court had ordered the clearance of the bridge that connects the federal capital with Rawalpindi. The same day, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had advised Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to “handle the Islamabad dharna peacefully”.
The day-long operation had culminated with the government seeking the military’s assistance to disperse the participants who had put up fierce resistance to the security personnel’s action.
However, the army had said in its response to the government’s call for assistance that while it was “fully ready” to take action, a “few points need deliberation”. Subsequently, no troops were deployed in the city.
“Where is their Radd-ul-Fasaad now? Did they not see any Fasaad (anarchy) in this protest?” Justice Siddiqui asked as a hearing into the Faizabad protest was underway at the high court on Monday. The judge was referring to a military operation that was launched in February.
The judge remarked that this was proof of the ‘military’s involvement’.
“Who is the army to adopt a mediator’s role?” enquired the judge. “Where does the law assign this role to a major general?”
“It appears as though the army was actively involved with the sit-in,” he stated. “How long can we allow this to happen with the government?”
Soldiers who are inclined towards politics should turn in their weapons, Justice Siddiqui said, asking if the protests would have continued as they did if the army’s General Headquarters had been located near the Faizabad Interchange.
Justice Siddiqui said, “The government has been made into a joke of sorts,” adding that the army needs to stay within its constitutional role.
Justice Siddiqui also disapproved the way in which the protesters were dealt with.
“Why is it not on the negotiation agreement that all those who spoke against the government and its constitution should apologise to the relevant authorities?”
However, an ISI official present during the hearing gave his statement that the agencies were completely uninvolved in the protest.
Justice Siddiqui also asked for the report from the committee headed by Raja Zafarul Haq pertaining to the changes in Khatm-e-Nabuwwat clause in Election Act, 2017. He commented the report was in its final stages and awaiting the signature of Ahsan Iqbal.
Justice Siddiqui asked the interior minister to submit a detailed report of the operation conducted on Saturday with reasons for its failure.
Chief Commissioner Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta read out the agreement between the government and the protesters to Justice Shaukat. He responded stating the government was directed to clear the Faizabad interchange and not to conduct talks or negotiation.
‘GOVT EMBARRASSED POLICE, ADMINSTRATION’:
During the hearing, Justice Siddiqui told Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal that the administration has the right to call in the army to control an emergency situation and that the military is bound to comply.
The minister told the court that during the protests and the operation in Islamabad, the country’s internal security was at risk.
“Security officials were being attacked every day. Motorways, railways and cities were being closed.”
“There was a conspiracy to show that a nuclear-state was failing. The agreement was reached with the protesters to bring the country out of those circumstances,” said Iqbal, referring to the ‘successful negotiations’ with leaders of the demonstration late Sunday night.
The judge asked why the agreement did not carry the signatures of the Islamabad chief commissioner and the inspector general of police.
The document of the agreement reached between the protest leaders and government bears the signatures of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Interior Secretary Arshad Mirza, Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi, two other protest leaders and Punjab Rangers Director General Maj Gen Faiz Hameed, who facilitated the agreement.
“We are thankful to him [Gen Bajwa] for saving the nation from a big catastrophe,” the agreement document concludes, crediting the army chief and his representative team for their “special efforts”.
“Iqbal sahab, you have embarrassed the police and the administration,” Justice Siddiqui said. “You [the institutions] are destroying the state in your bid to make each other look bad.”
To this the minister retorted, “It is not I who embarrassed them, there was head money worth 10,000,000 on me.”
“What role did the Rangers fulfill?” Justice Siddiqui asked. “You are supporting the impression that Pakistan Army is the cure for all illnesses.”
“This is not just an issue of Khadim Hussain Rizvi,” the judge said, referring to the religious leader spearheading the TLY sit-in.
The IHC judge, while declaring his love for the Holy Prophet (PBUH), said that these remarks could cost him his life or add him to the list of missing persons.
The judge tasked Barrister Zafarullah with filing a report on the incident. “He will tell us in 10 days what happened, where and when,” the judge said.
‘ZAHID HAMID USED AS SCAPEGOAT’:
Speaking on Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid’s resignation ─ the main demand put forward by the protesters ─ the judge accused the government of using him as a scapegoat to protect Anusha Rehman, state minister for IT and Telecommunication. Rehman was also named in the Khatme-Nabuwwat controversy.
“In order to protect one person, the minister is being sacrificed,” said Justice Siddiqui.
The IHC was conducting hearings on two applications that were filed by residents about the disturbances caused by the protracted sit-in.
“The petitioner has asked for a lot of things in the application,” the judge observed, “This will only be made apparent when the project is over and the [protesters] have left.”
“Where did the protesters get tear gas and gas masks from?” the judge asked, ordering the Intelligence Bureau to submit a report in this regard before the court.
The hearing was adjourned until next Monday.
Earlier, the high court had expressed its displeasure when the interior minister had failed to appear for the hearing. The minister had been ordered to appear before the court within 15 minutes before the hearing was adjourned for a break.
Ahsan Iqbal arrived at the court soon after. Islamabad Inspector General Khalid Khattak, Chief Commissioner Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta and Deputy Commissioner Captain (r) Mushtaq were also present in court.
The high court had also summoned Director General Intelligence Bureau Aftab Sultan and sector commander of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The Faizabad protests had paralysed life in the twin cities for three weeks before an operation of security forces was finally launched on Saturday in keeping with the court’s orders.
The operation had continued all day on Saturday. Tensions had remained high in the federal capital on Sunday when the Rangers were handed over charge of the operation.
After negotiations late Sunday night, the government gave in to the protesters’ demand for the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid, among other conditions. Subsequently, the TLYR chief on Monday ordered his followers to end sit-ins across the country.