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SC directs to criminally prosecute those issuing fatwa.

ISLAMABAD -- Supreme Court, wrapping up Faizabad sit-in case, Wednesday directed the government to criminally prosecute those issuing an edict or Fatwa advocating hate and proceed against protestors who obstruct people's right to use roads and damage property.

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Musheer Alam heard the case pertaining to suo motu taken on the sit-in staged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan in 2017, directed the federal and provincial governments to monitor those advocating hate, extremism and terrorism and prosecute the perpetrators in accordance with the law.

In a 43-page verdict of the apex court directed that if a political party does not comply with the law governing political parties then the Election Commission of Pakistan must take action against it.

Supreme Court said; 'A person issuing an edict or Fatwa, which harms another or puts another in harm's way, must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.'

The court said each citizen and political party retains the right to peaceful assembly and protest, as long as it complies with the reasonable legal restrictions in the interest of public.

'Every citizen and political party has the right to assemble and protest provided such assembly and protest is peaceful and complies with the law imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order,' the judgement said.

Protestors who obstruct people's right to use roads and damage or destroy property must be proceeded against in accordance with the law and held accountable.

Giving background of the case, Supreme Court judgement said:

'The sit-in, colloquially referred to as 'dharna', at the Faizabad Interchange paralyzed the twin cities - Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The working of the courts, including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, was disrupted. Many litigants and their counsel could not attend to their cases.'

Supreme Court, referring to the Constitutional responsibilities of the Election Commission, said:

'If a political party does not comply with the law governing political parties then it must proceed against it in accordance with the law.'

'All political parties have to account for the source of their funds in accordance with the law,' the judgement said. 'Broadcasters messages advocating or inciting, the commission of an offence violate the PEMRA Ordinance and the terms of their licences and must be proceeded against by PEMRA in accordance with the law,' read the judgment. 'Cable operators who stopped or interrupted the broadcast of licenced broadcasters must be proceeded by PEMRA in accordance with the PEMRA Ordinance, and if this was done on the behest of others then PEMRA should report those so directing the cable operators to the concerned authorities,' the judgement said.

It said those spreading messages through electronic means which advocate or incite the commission of an offence are liable to be prosecuted under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

The State must always act impartially and fairly.

The law is applicable to all, including those who are in government and institutions must act independently of those in government.

It said, 'When the State failed to prosecute those at the highest echelons of government who were responsible for the murder and attempted murder of peaceful citizens on the streets of Karachi on May 12, 2007 it set a bad precedent and encouraged others to resort to violence to achieve their agendas.'

The judgement said, 'Intelligence agencies should monitor activities of all those who threaten the territorial integrity of the country and all those who undermine the security of the people and the State by resorting to or inciting violence.'

The judgement said, 'To ensure transparency and the rule of law, it would be appropriate to enact laws which clearly stipulate the respective mandates of the intelligence agencies.'

The police and other law enforcement agencies were directed to develop standard plans and procedure with regard to how best to handle rallies, protests and dharnas, and ensure that such plans and procedures were flexible enough to attend to different situations.

The Supreme Court clarified that though the making of such plans and procedures was not within the jurisdiction of this Court, however, it was expected that in the maintenance of law and order every effort would be taken to avoid causing injury and loss of life.

The judgment concluded by quoting Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, 'I consider it my duty to call upon the Muslims to temper their resentment with reason and to beware of the dangers which may well overwhelm their own State. Should they allow their feelings of the moment to gain mastery over their actions.

It is of utmost importance that Pakistan should be kept free from disorder, because the outbreak of lawlessness... is bound to shake... its foundation and cause irreparable damage to its future. I pray to God that

He who has bestowed on us this great boon of a sovereign State, may now give our people courage to... preserve intact the peace of Pakistan for the sake of Pakistan.'

In November 2017, the top court had taken suo motu notice of the three-week long sit-in, against what the protesters claimed was a purported change in the finality-of-Prophethood oath, termed by the government as a clerical error, when the government passed the Elections Act 2017. The sit-in was called off after the protesters reached an agreement with the government.
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Publication:Frontier Post (Peshawar, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Feb 7, 2019
Words:994
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