LHC summons Imran, seeks reply from centre, Punjab govt on 'Azadi March'

LAHORE – A larger bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday summoned Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and asked the federal and Punjab governments to submit responses over the steps taken with regard to the call for 'Azadi March' on independence day.

A three-member larger bench led by Justice Khalid Mehmood and comprising of Justice Shahid Hameed and Justice Anwarul Haq resumed the hearing over the petitions filed against the 'Azadi March,' announced by Imran Khan. During the hearing, Justice Khalid inquired as to what kind of justice was dispensed by the placement of containers to stop the 'Azadi March.'

He said that Pakistan’s integrity was at stake and the prime minister should not hesitate in reaching out to any one 10 times if needed. Punjab Advocate General Hanif Khatana told the bench that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had offered to pay a visit to the residences of his political opponents.

Additional Attorney General Naseer Bhutta told the court that the 'Azadi March' could lead to violence and bloodshed. Counsel for the petitioner, Advocate AK Dogar told the bench that if the court failed to stop the march then it would fail at delivering justice.

Justice Khalid replied that the court could not stop anyone from staging protests as it was the basic right of every citizen under the constitution of Pakistan. He said that the high courts were not authorised to issue instructions to the federal government, adding that under what authority could it issue directives to the prime minister and the parliament?

He further asked as to what could the courts do if political parties ignored the directives of the high courts. The court asked the representatives of the federal and Punjab governments, who were attending the hearing, to submit their replies over the actions taken by the respective governments and summoned Imran Khan on the next hearing of the case which was adjourned until Tuesday.

On the other hand, Justice Khalid also excused himself from the hearing of petitions filed against the closure of petrol pumps and blockage of roads by containers. Lawyers of the PTI told the court that the government was using dirty tactics to sabotage the Azadi March.

They further informed the court that the petrol pumps were being forcibly closed whereas the roads were being sealed by placing containers at the thoroughfares to which the court remarked that to gather and protest was the due right of the citizens but instilling aggression in the masses shall not be allowed no matter what.

Justice Khalid said that no sane person would appreciate Tahirul Qadri’s provocative speech. The way media gave coverage to Qadri’s speech was surprising, he said. “Our existence depends on the existence of Pakistan,” he said, and forwarded the petition to the chief justice of the Lahore High Court.

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