- Court says it was government’s responsibility to maintain law and order
- Stresses arrested persons must be made aware of charges so they can defend themselves
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday declared detention orders under Section 3 of Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) as “illegal” and ordered immediate release of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers detained in 11 districts of Punjab, including the provincial capital, after May 9 riots.
Justice Safdar Saleem Shahid issued a nine-page verdict on the petitions of Imran Abbas Bhatti and others wherein arrest orders for PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid and others were declared “illegal”.
The court observed that the shocking incident of May 9 presented a distorted image of a “peaceful and democratic country”. However, it maintained that it was the government’s responsibility to maintain law and order.
According to the LHC, the reaction at the PTI chief’s arrest on May 9 was regrettable. The high court stated that the incumbent government ‘blindly’ issued innumerable detention orders. “There was plenty of time to make arrests in criminal cases if it [the government] had evidence,” the court further observed.
The verdict stated that those who have been arrested should be made aware of the charges so they can defend themselves, emphasising that it was wrong to pick up citizens and put them in jails without a trial.
The judgment maintained that every notification submitted by the deputy commissioner stated that citizens were arrested on the report of the district police officer (DPO). It further stated that the deputy commissioner’s decision itself violated Section 3 of the Public Maintenance Ordinance, 1960.
In its verdict, the court quashed the detention orders of PTI workers in Lahore, Wazirabad, Jhang, Sheikhupura, Hafizabad, Sialkot, Mandi Bahauddin, Gujarat, Nankana Sahib, Gujranwala and Narowal.
The PTI finds itself in hot waters following the events of May 9, when in an unprecedented show of vandalism, protesters allegedly belonging to the PTI, vandalised public and state properties and even attacked the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the Lahore corps commander’s residence.
The attack occurred hours after the paramilitary Rangers arrested the PTI chief in the Al-Qadir Trust corruption case – later retitled as National Crime Agency £190 million scandal – on the orders of the National Accountability Bureau, from the Islamabad High Court premises.
The rioting was followed by a harsh crackdown against the former ruling party leaders and workers that still continues.
A day earlier, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) also declared the deputy commissioner’s orders to arrest those accused of involvement in May 9 protests under Maintenance of Public Order (3 MPO) as null and void.
The law of 3 MPO in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) had been challenged in the high court.