Islamabad, May 26 (PTI) Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a petition filed by the government seeking contempt proceedings against former prime minister Imran Khan for “violating” the apex court’s directive regarding his party’s “Azadi march”.
A five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, dismissed the petition filed by Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf on the behalf of the government that accused the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supremo of violating the apex court’s order of holding a peaceful march at H-9 sector in the national capital. The bench comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi heard the petition that said the 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician asked his supporters to go to the D-Chowk where protestors clashed with the police.
The D-Chowk in Islamabad is located close to several important government buildings: the Presidency, the Prime Minister’s office, the Parliament, and the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the apex court had ordered that the ground between G-9 and H-9 Sectors of the national capital should be provided for the purpose of a rally by Khan’s party.
The bench said the apex court’s Wednesday order would remain in place that asked the government and the PTI to sit together to finalise modalities for a peaceful and safe conduct of the ousted party’s long march to Islamabad to press the government for announcement of fresh polls within next six days. The negotiations were not held as both sides claimed the other had not shown up at the Islamabad chief commissioner’s office at the appointed hour.
The court said that the reason for dismissing the petition would be announced later on as part of its written judgment. Khan had entered Islamabad in the early hours of Thursday and marched towards D-Chowk, while the federal government deployed the army in the Red Zone to “protect important government buildings”.
Interior minister Rana Sanaullah said Khan’s decision to hold the rally at the D-Chowk was a violation of the Supreme Court which asked his party to organise the rally at a ground in H-9 Sector of the capital adjacent to the Srinagar Highway. Sanaullah said Khan had “misled” the apex court by taking permission for holding the rally at a specific place in the capital (sector H-9) but later announcing it would be held at D-Chowk.
Meanwhile, the chief justice directed the government to do its work in view of Wednesday’s orders and said the apex court would issue a judgement regarding the case, which would be an “example for the future”. “Political conflict always harms the country,” Chief Justice Bandial observed. “The court will intervene in any matter of a political nature only if there is a solid reason,” the CJP added.
The former premier on Thursday warned that if the “imported government” failed to announce elections within six days, he would return to the capital with the “entire nation”. Addressing a rally of thousands of protesters of the “Azadi March” at Jinnah Avenue here on Thursday morning, Khan lashed out at the government for using “tactics” like raids and arrests to stop his party’s march, even as he thanked the Supreme Court for taking notice of the matter.
Khan, who was ousted from power last month through a no-trust vote, has been claiming that the no-trust motion against him was the result of a “foreign conspiracy” because his independent foreign policy and funds were being channelled from abroad to oust him from power. He has named the US as the country behind the conspiracy, a charge denied by Washington.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s coalition government initially allowed the protest, but on Tuesday refused to give permission, fearing violence and lawlessness in the wake of the march. On Wednesday, police fired tear gas and chased Khan’s supporters who hurled stones near Punjab’s capital Lahore, leaving several persons from sides injured.
The clashes between the police and Khan’s supporters were also reported at several places. The government had imposed Section 144 to ban big gatherings in Punjab’s capital Lahore, the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, and Karachi, as well as other major cities.
However, hundreds of supporters of Khan reached D-Chowk where police used tear-gas to disperse them but without any success. The angry workers retaliated by putting on fire several trees and shrubs along the Jinnah Avenue leading to the D-Chowk.