ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday ordered Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) supporters protesting in front of the apex court to clear Constitution Avenue within the next 24 hours.
A five-member apex court bench – led by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk – told the attorney general and lawyers representing both the parties to work out modalities to clear the area by Tuesday. “On Tuesday, we want to be able to come to the Supreme Court through Constitution Avenue,” the court said.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Kamran Murtaza and other members of the legal fraternity. The petition argues that the protesters are breaching rights of the common citizen as enshrined in articles 15 and 16 ensuring freedom of movement and right of assembly.
The protesters from both the parties, camped out in the federal capital's red zone for almost a week, have been carrying out a protest sit-in against the government and alleged rigging in the 2013 general election. Both the sides have refused to leave before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation.
The protesters have been sitting in front of the Parliament House and the Supreme Court building since August 19, making the road impassable for the employees. Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) president Shafqat Chohan said that people were facing extreme problems in reaching the Supreme Court premises.
He said that law enforcement personnel appear helpless in front of these political workers. Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk said that demonstrators had occupied Constitution Avenue and that they were checking vehicles and passers-by, while this was the job of the security personnel.
He said that the judges were coming to court through an alternate route due to the closure of the Constitution Avenue, while the attendance of the court employees was also low due to the situation. He said that the court employees had also complained of being harassed by the protesters.
PTI counsel Hamid Khan said that the party was carrying out its protest in the Parade Ground where there were no government offices. PAT counsel Ali Zafar said that he would convey the court's concerns to party chief Dr Tahirul Qadri. Earlier, a reply from Qadri was submitted to the court which argued that the protest was a political matter and that the court had no authority to interfere in it.
He said that his party's supporters were peaceful and that they would not enter government offices at any cost. Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali remarked that if protesters were peaceful, why were they carrying batons? Attorney General Salman Butt said that the government was willing to shift the protesters to a Sports Complex, which would also allow the removal of several shipping containers placed at different points in the federal capital.
During the hearing, Kamran Murtaza remarked that PTI chairman Imran Khan said in his speech that if the prime minister does not resign then things would be decided by the ‘third umpire.’ On which, Justice Jawad S Khawaja said that Imran Khan was probably referring to the army as the ‘third umpire.’ Hamid Khan replied that Imran Khan was metaphorically referring to God by the ‘third umpire.’ The case was subsequently adjourned until August 27.