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Faizabad Protest Judgment: Is PTI’s position justified?


News Analysis |

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has resubmitted a review petition against the verdict in the Faizabad sit-in case. The Supreme Court in February had issued a written verdict on a Suo Motu case of the sit-in staged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) at Faizabad Interchange in 2017 and ordered the state to prosecute those advocating hate, extremism, and terrorism.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Review Petition

A few days ago, the PTI had submitted a review petition, alleging misconduct from Justice Qazi Faez Esa, which was returned from the registrar’s office on the basis of objections. “The learned author judge has had such an extreme conviction about the 2014 PTI-PAT dharna at Islamabad and the role of the petitioner and its members that he dragged in the reference of the 2014 sit-in into the matter,” says a petition moved by the PTI Secretary General, Arshad Dad, through his counsel Barrister Syed Ali Zafar.

Roads in all major cities of Pakistan were immediately blocked, residences of politicians were attacked, and anti-government slogans were raised by the protestors.

“Thus the petitioner has a reasonable apprehension that the author judge was allegedly biased,” the petition contended.

According to the plea, the verdict gave observations on the PTI sit-in and the party was not given a chance to present its side of the story. Therefore, the PTI requests the court to remove whatever has been stated about it without being offered a chance to defend itself. “The reference to the PTI-PAT dharna was made in paragraphs 17, 22, 23, 24 and 52 of the judgment under review. The impression gained from the aforesaid is that as if the petitioner conducted an illegal protest for publicity and deliberately made wrong allegations,” states the petition.

ECP Petition

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has also submitted a review petition against the case’s verdict after removing objections.

Read more: PTI government contests SC judgment on TLP Dharna

TLP’s Faizabad Protest Sit-in

In 2017, the government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was accused of having drafted some objectionable changes to Khatam-e-Nabuwat clause in the Election Act 2017. The TLP Chairman, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, not only condemned it but also organized a sit-in in Faizabad to demand the resignation of the law minister Zahid Hamid. The government initially ignored the protest but later on, it had to deal with it since the protestors paralyzed day to day activities in the federal capital.

As the government launched an operation against the TLP members nationwide protests erupted. Roads in all major cities of Pakistan were immediately blocked, residences of politicians were attacked, and anti-government slogans were raised by the protestors. Finally, the Pakistan Army played the role of a mediator and as a result, an agreement was signed between the government and the TLP. The SC judgment slammed the ISI, the FIA, and other agencies and directed them to play their due roles according to their given constitutional jurisdiction.

Pakistan Army was ordered by the civilian government to come in and help reach a peaceful settlement of the issue. For many experts, it cannot and should not be taken as the army’s hand behind the protest.

‘Over Legalistic’ Judgment, say Analysts   

Analysts believe that the lexical texture of the SC judgment reflected a prejudice towards PTI and some other individuals. Some legal experts view the judgment of the court as “over-legalistic” which has failed to take into consideration the existing socio-political realities. For instance, the PML-N committed a mistake by omitting an important clause from the nomination form and it was taken up by the religious parties. Pakistan is a religiously conservative society where people in rural as well as urban areas revere religious leaders.

Role of Pakistan Army

Therefore, a charged group of people in Islamabad that was ready to die in the name of the Prophet (PBUH) needed to be treated with great care. Pakistan Army was ordered by the civilian government to come in and help reach a peaceful settlement of the issue. For many experts, it cannot and should not be taken as the army’s hand behind the protest. Later, the TLP leadership in Lahore issued fatwas against the army chief and spoke critically of the armed forces.

Read more: Government signs an agreement with TLP: State surrender or political necessity?

Political analysts opine that both the PTI and other concerned parties should have been given a chance to clarify their position or the court must have not dragged them into the present case. It is yet to be seen what steps the SC under the headship of Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa would take to ensure equality before the law.

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