A full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday reserved judgement on identical petitions regarding the November 2 protest of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The bench, consisting of Justice Shahid Hameed Dar, Justice Muhammad Anwarul Haq and Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan, also heard petitions challenging the possible arrest of PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers in the province ahead of the November 2 protest.
The bench observed that overthrowing an elected government – either good or bad – was unconstitutional and tantamount to sedition under Article 5 of the constitution. It remarked, “Everyone, including the opposition, has to be loyal to the state.” In one of the petitions, a citizen named Atif Sattar requested the court to restrain Imran Khan from shutting Islamabad down and punish him for sedition under Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). He said that the PTI should be restrained from exciting hatred, contempt and disaffection against the lawfully elected government. Hearing the case, the bench sought reports from the government by today (Tuesday) on petitions against the arrest of workers belonging to the PTI and other political parties. It also directed Punjab Advocate General (AG) Shakilur Rehman to submit a separate report about an alleged midnight raid conducted at the residence of Walid Iqbal, the grandson of national poet Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal. The bench further directed the attorney general to submit transcripts of ‘objectionable’ speeches of Imran Khan.
During the hearing, Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf said that the apex court had already taken cognisance of the Panama leaks issue; therefore the PTI’s protest was nothing but parallel political proceedings. He alleged that the PTI’s ongoing protest was an attempt to influence the Supreme Court’s proceedings in the Panama leaks case. He said that the PTI wanted to influence the apex court on a sub judice matter through street protests, which was an unconstitutional act. He also showed the bench some videos of PTI Chairman Imran Khan wherein he had announced to paralyse the government and lockdown the federal capital. He said this protest was in violation of the constitution and other laws of the land. Meanwhile, PTI Lahore President Barrister Walid Iqbal and his counsel Ahmad Awais represented the PTI in a petition and undertook that the party’s protest would be peaceful.
They were reluctant to give an undertaking when repeatedly asked by the bench whether the protest would be an area-specific activity. They also failed to satisfy the bench on whether the federal capital would be sealed or locked by the party even if containers and all barricades put on the roads were removed. Awais insisted that the Islamabad ‘lockdown’ plan was a symbolic expression given by Imran Khan. AG Shakilur Rehman said the government closed no road in Punjab. He said that the government had information that arms were being transported to Islamabad, and police had been ordered to be vigilant with regard to the activities of the PTI workers. Ruling out the possibility of any unconstitutional move by the PTI, Advocate Awais said the party would not have approached the Supreme Court had it wanted to topple the government. -dailytimes