Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Business Recorder editorial Dec 5, 2017

Ultra vires agreement During the hearing on December 4 of identical petitions filed by local residents and lawyers against the sit-in that paralysed routine life in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi from November 8 to November 27, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) termed the agreement between the government and the protestors a surrender and ultra vires of the constitution and law. He said the FIRs against the merciless beating of policemen could not be withdrawn by the state unless and until the victims chose to forgive their tormentors themselves. Had the victims been in khaki uniforms instead of blue, Justice Siddiqui remarked, the outcome would have been very different. He then offered the Attorney General (AG) two choices: either present the agreement in a joint session of parliament to assess its constitutional/legal validity or to the federal cabinet, including the mediator (the army). The AG plumped for the latter, leaving the bench to muse why a joint session of parliament was not the better choice. Justice Siddiqui asked the AG to stop mosques and seminaries from issuing fatwas declaring someone an apostate otherwise citizens’ lives would not be secure. He pointed out that the blasphemy committed by the protestors during their sit-in at Faizabad also needs to be probed. In response to a query from the bench, the AG deposed that a report of the losses and damage caused during the sit-in was being compiled and would be submitted at the next hearing. The bench directed the Secretary Defence to investigate how the name of COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa was dragged into the affair with both sides expressing their gratitude to him in the agreement, which embarrassed the COAS and the institution of the army. The Chief Commissioner Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and a Joint Director Intelligence Bureau (IB), as per the court’s order of November 27, submitted sealed reports on why the clearance operation failed and who provided lethal weapons, state-of-the-art teargas guns and gas masks to the protestors. The hearing was then deferred to January 12, 2018 to allow the suo motu proceedings in the Supreme Court in the same matter to conclude before the IHC issued any conclusive order. In contrast to the mood in the IHC, a disturbing report says the Punjab Home Department is preparing a list of Tehreek Labaik (TL) leaders whose names are to be removed from the Fourth Schedule of terrorism suspects. All those whose names are removed will be kept under surveillance but the police will not interfere in their affairs. Some 30 names of TL leaders are believed to be in the Fourth Schedule. A meeting is to take place in the next few days between the TL leaders and senior officials of the Punjab Home Department to ‘settle all the issues’. The 1,500 arrested workers of the TL are to be released. The government’s weakness and inability to implement the protocols of the Fourth Schedule has cost the country dearly, and now this new concession is likely to lead to fresh disasters. Khadim Hussain Rizvi of the TL has announced a Lahore-Islamabad march on January 4, the date of the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. Even before this new concession by the Punjab government, there appeared to be a divergence between the approach of the federal government and that of Punjab to the TL and its activities. Despite their names being in the Fourth Schedule, the TL leaders appear free to move around and conduct their activities although the Fourth Schedule empowers the government to restrict their travel, speech and activities. While those whose names are in the Fourth Schedule are free to wreak havoc, new names are constantly added to the Fourth Schedule list. If this continues, the 1,500 people in the list might as well not be on it. This, as other aspects of the National Action Plan’s implementation remain twisting in the wind, with serious consequences for state and society.

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