Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa Wednesday said the new inquiry commission constituted by the federal government to investigate the 2017 sit-in by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) at Faizabad was empowered to summon the-then prime minister, army chief and chief justice for investigation.

A three-member bench of the apex court — headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan and Justice Athar Minallah — heard the review petitions against the court’s 2019 judgment on the sit-in.The judgment, authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, had recommended that persons issuing an edict or fatwa to harm another person or put another person in the harm’s way must be dealt with an iron hand and prosecuted under the relevant laws.The court had also held that the intelligence agencies must not exceed their respective mandates. Later, the bench disposed of the suo motu case regarding the sit-in.Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), 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) had filed review petitions against the apex court judgment.When the court fixed the instant review petitions for hearing almost four years after they were filed, all the petitioners approached the court, seeking their withdrawal.On Wednesday, Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan informed the apex court that the federal government had constituted a new three-member inquiry commission under the Commission of Inquiry Act 2017 for probing the sit-in adding that former IGP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Akhtar Ali Shah would be the chairman of the commission, while former IGP Tahir Alam Khan and Additional Secretary Interior Khushal Khan would be the commission members.The AG read out the federal government’s notification for constitution of the commission, giving the Terms of References (TORs) saying the commission secretariat would be established at Islamabad and it would submit its findings to the federal government within two months.The AG submitted that the commission was tasked with inquiring into the illegal financial or other support provided to the TLP for the sit-in and the events that followed.He further submitted that the TORs mentioned that the commission will recommend actions against those who issued fatwas or edicts during or in relation to the sit-in, inquire into the inaction of Pemra against the broadcasters and cable operators who violated the law, and examine the spread of hate and violence through the social media and recommend measures to deal with it.He further submitted that the commission will also fix responsibility for any person and or government officers, including those working with the intelligence agencies, and determine if any disciplinary proceedings or legal action was required to be taken against them.The chief justice asked the attorney general as to why a representative from the Ministry of Defence was not included in the commission.The chief justice observed that one aspect was missed by the federal government in the TORs. He said since several review petitions were filed with the court, therefore, it should be mentioned in the TORs as to whether these review petitions were filed coincidentally or instructed from the said source.The attorney general assured the court that the amendment would be made to the TORs within a week and on his request, the court adjourned the matter until January 22.During the hearing, Absar Alam Haider, former chairman Pemra, submitted that he could appear before the commission. However, he asked whether the two retired officers would be able to summon the former army chief, former prime minister and former chief justice of Pakistan.The chief justice replied that the commission would be empowered to summon anyone for investigation.The chief justice further said that the commission was empowered to call the names taken by Absar Alam, ex-prime minister, ex-army chief and former chief justice.“The commission can be an eyewash or it will prove as a trendsetter; therefore, don’t doubt it and wait for two months,” the CJP remarked. He said at least the government had taken a big step and everything will be clear after 60 days.“When four years have gone by, then these two months will also be completed, therefore, keep your apprehensions with yourself and wait for 60 days,” the CJP told Absar Alam.“Maybe your apprehensions come true after 60 days but at least you should wait and don’t make criticism before something not happened yet,” he told Absar adding that the court won’t go into apprehensions.“Let’s every institution do its work itself. Hence don’t ask us to do the work as earlier during the past while exercising jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution,” Justice Athar Minallah told Absar Alam.Justice Minallah further told Absar that the Commission for Inquiry Act 2017 had certain powers adding that it was for the federal government to bring about the truth.Absar, however, submitted that whatever was done to him, he won’t want anybody else to go through adding that he didn’t want to be reinstated but had concerns over the nexus between the judicial system, media coercion and intelligence agencies, which weaken the parliament, media freedom and democracy.Dictating order of the court, the chief justice noted down that Absar had filed a CMA wherein the order of this court dated October 3, 2022 was attached, dismissing his appeal. The court, while disposing of his CMA, directed him to seek legal remedy in accordance with the law.Earlier, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed appeared before the court along with his counsel and repeated his request to withdraw his review petition.When the chief justice asked the counsel for Sheikh Rashid on whose instructions they had filed the review petition, the counsel replied that some misunderstanding was created on the reports of agencies and that’s why they filed the review petition.“This is not a joke. Do you think Pakistan is a joke,” the CJP told the counsel. He observed that the review petitions filed four years back were not fixed for which they were accountable for.‘You think this court will be abused for ulterior motives,” the CJP told the counsel.“By filing review petition and then withdrawing it, you cannot manipulate the system,” the CJP said, adding that there was an impression that the Supreme Court was being controlled from outside.“Earlier you made statements in favor of sit-in and now you have come to the court for withdrawing the review petition,” the CJP continued saying, “First create hatred among the society and then get back.”“Will you serve the country again if given an opportunity?” the CJP asked.When Sheikh Rashid tried to come to the rostrum, the CJP told him that he was addressing his counsel. The chief justice observed that everybody knew who was doing all this but nobody dared to speak the truth in the court.Justice Athar Minallah observed that Sheikh Rashid was a known politician and his name was mentioned in the ISI report and the court did not pass any remarks about him. Meanwhile, the court dismissed as withdrawn the review petition of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

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2023-11-16

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