ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday criticised intelligence agencies for their failure to respond to vital queries regarding the Faizabad sit-in
Earlier, the Islamabad High Court had raised questions over the role of the armed forces in ending the protest. Now the top court expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) regarding monitoring of the sit-in.
During suo motu hearing on Wednesday, a bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa asked the country’s top spy agency whether a cell to monitor the activities of such protests existed in it. “Who were these protesters, what is the source of their earning and from where they were getting money during the sit-in”, Justice Isa asked a grade-18 officer who was representing the ISI before the bench. “You are an intelligence agency. What intelligence you have provided us regarding the case?” the judge asked.
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Justice Alam also expressed dissatisfaction over the agencies’ (ISI and Intelligence Bureau) reports, saying they had given general information. He said more information was available with media persons than the agencies regarding this matter. He also wondered why the agencies were claiming that these reports were privileged communication.
Justice Isa asked about the budget of the ISI. “You are the finest agency of the country. Don’t make a joke of the country,” he said, lamenting that the state’s authority was surrendered.
He said that if the agency’s representative did not have sufficient information then the court might ask its head. “Who is head of ISI?” Justice Isa asked. Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali told the bench that a serving lieutenant general was the director general. “Should we summon him?” the judge asked. He said it appeared that the agencies could do everything but not for the sake of the people.
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He said the headquarters of all armed forces were in the twin cities and the agencies should be ready to face such challenges. Justice Isa also said that Pakistan had not come into being due to the army but the struggle of the common people and it was a proven fact that the pen was mightier than the sword. He wondered where the country was heading to, saying that violence, hate and extremism were spreading day by day.
He also asked whether any agency contemplated why violence was spreading in the country. The judge said every pillar of the state was being attacked by the protesters.
The AGP said someone might not have convinced the court but a whole institution should not be blamed in the case.
However, the bench, while issuing its order, said the agency should be represented by an official not below the level of secretary. It asked the intelligence agencies, including the ISI, to brief the AGP regarding the queries raised by the bench. It asked the AGP to submit a concise statement on the issues within 15 days but observed that the agencies might request an in-camera briefing to the bench.
The court also expressed dissatisfaction with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) regarding its responsibility to curb hate speech on TV channels. It noted that majority of journalists were responsible but there were some black sheep in the media as well.
Pemra submitted a report informing the bench that one channel had violated the code of conduct during the sit-in. The court asked what action had been taken against the channel which violated the law. Justice Alam said Pemra was a regularity authority and it should act independently. “When Pemra is itself admitting that law was broken by a TV channel then what the regularity authority has done?” Justice Isa asked.
He said the right to protest should be exercised peacefully as thousands of people held peaceful protests in the West. The court asked Pemra to submit a revised report on the next date of hearing.
It asked the AGP to explain which authority regulated the social media because sometimes certain things on them affected national security. The hearing was adjourned till the first week of February.
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