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Government Can Prepare for Long March within Law: CJP Bandial

Five-member bench says it cannot issue orders to prevent the PTI’s threatened long march when the party has yet to even announce a date for it

by Staff Report

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Thursday directed the federal government to use its authority “within law” to prepare for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s threatened long march on Islamabad, stressing no preventative orders can be issued when the party hasn’t even issued a date for its demonstration.

Last week, the government filed a petition before the apex court seeking contempt of court proceedings against Imran Khan under Article 204 of the Constitution for disregarding orders of May 25 to not march toward D-Chowk. In its plea, the government said the PTI chief was once again threatening to march toward Islamabad and urged the Supreme Court to direct him to ensure the implementation of its orders related to protests and sit-ins.

Heading a five-member bench—comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Sayyed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi—the CJP told Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf Ali that as the executive authority, the government was free to take any preventative measures it considered necessary. “You are telling us [PTI] aims to march towards Islamabad and stage a sit-in again,” he said. “You can handle the situation while staying within the confines of the law,” he said, adding that for now, without any date for the long march, Khan’s remarks were “just speeches.”

Noting that the court should be asked to stop any potentially restive crowd, the CJP reiterated that there was no demonstration right now. The bench then rejected the government’s request to issue an interim order against the PTI’s planned long march and directed the AGP to review security reports from the May 25 long march prior to the next hearing, set for Oct. 26, and called on the AGP to come to the next hearing after completing his homework. “If something comes up in the meanwhile, we will take needed measures,” he added.


During proceedings, the AGP commenced his arguments by recalling that under the court’s orders, law enforcement agencies had, on May 25, confined themselves to the Red Zone. As a result, he said, PTI supporters had pelted them with stones and resorted to violence in the federal capital. Summarizing the May proceedings, he said it had been decided that the PTI leadership would sit with the government and finalize a protest plan, including its venue. But despite these assurances in court, he said, the PTI chief had directed workers to reach D-Chowk.

The Srinagar Highway was opened for traffic on the court’s order, said AGP Ali, saying the PTI had asked for permission to remain at the Parade Ground but had encouraged workers to reach D-Chowk. “Protesters vandalized public and private properties,” he said, stressing that contrary to earlier claims, the PTI’s lawyers had been in contact with the party leadership during the May 25 proceedings.

The AGP also read out the Supreme Court’s May 25 order. “The order forestalled us from apprehending [PTI] workers. It directed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Inspector General Islamabad and the interior ministry to submit reports,” he said, adding that he had not been provided any copies of these reports.

To a question on what the government was specifically demanding, the AGP said that Khan was “inciting an attack on Islamabad” and describing it as jihad. “He is provoking people through his fiery speeches,” he said.

In response, the CJP said the court did not have any political role. He urged the AGP to read the intelligence reports of the May 25 march, adding that political wars should be fought but not on the streets. He recalled that 31 people had been injured in the “Azadi March” and public property was destroyed. “Imran Khan was gone the next morning,” he said, adding that the court, too, would study the intelligence reports prior to the next hearing.

“The reports indicate that PTI had violated the promises [made to court],” the AGP said. “You want to avoid a war in the streets, so do we,” the CJP added.

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