ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan directed the government on Monday to ensure free movement of people on the Constitution Avenue of the capital within 24 hours by having it vacated by the protest marchers.
The court advised the lawyers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to sit with Attorney General of Pakistan (AAG) Salman Aslam Butt and resolve the issue regarding the sit-ins and protesters. On Monday, a five-member larger bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Nasirul Mulk resumed the hearing of petitions filed by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and other bar councils, which prayed the apex court to restrain any authority or institution from any extra-constitutional act.
Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk remarked during the proceedings, “All top court judges would travel through the Constitution Avenue on Tuesday (today).” The apex court observed that the protest and sit-inns at the Constitution Avenue have completely blocked the free movement of commuters, and the people coming to the top court were facing hardships due to the tent village established on the road by the protesters. The court termed it suspension of a fundamental right of the capital’s residents.
Justice Jawwad S Khawaja asked the PTI counsel, Hamid Khan, to explain the statement of Imran Khan related to the “third umpire” and whether PTI chairman was “pointing towards the army as the third umpire”. Hamid Khan informed the court that Imran Khan pointed towards “God Almighty” as the umpire. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja noted, “No authority can take an extra-constitutional step” as the top court had given its judgement against any such step. Justice Khawaja remarked that the “protesters have no right to block a road”.
PTI counsel Hamid Khan submitted to the top court that the PTI was holding its sit-in at the parade ground and was not blocking the Constitution Avenue. Meanwhile, AAG Salman Aslam Butt told the court that the government was ready to provide Sports Complex, Islamabad, to both the protesting parties and suggested if the PTI and PAT shift their sit-in to the proposed venue the government would remove all the containers placed on the roads leading to the capital. The top court took notice of a picture which portrayed protesters clothes hanging on the apex court’s signboard.
PAT counsel Ali Zafar told the top court that the PAT workers would remain peaceful and will not block the Constitution Avenue. However, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that despite tall claims of accepting the constitution, the road is still blocked by the protesters. Justice Saqib Nisar said that the top court has no concern with the political demands and termed the protest a constitutional right, but emphasised that the “rest of the people also have the right to move freely”. The PAT counsel told the court that he will convey the apex court’s directions to party leader Tahirul Qadri and assured the court that PAT workers will not enter government buildings.
SCBA President Kamran Murtaza complained to the apex court that some PAT workers carrying batons were checking vehicles in violation of the law. Justice Saqib Nisar remarked the top court employees had complained about harassment by the protesters and observed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Supreme Court and the Federal Shariat Court entrances were blocked by the protesters. After hearing the argument the court adjourned the hearing till August 27.
Kamran Murtaza told the court that the SCBA had no objection to the protesters’ demands, however, it was examining if they were legal or not. Justice Khawaja remarked that no institution could take any unconstitutional step and asked how could protesters block a road which was a public property.
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