Who used COAS’s name in agreement, IHC asks

Respondents again fail to submit Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee’s report

Rizwan Shehzad February 10, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court noted on Friday that the Ministry of Defence has so far failed to determine the person who used the name of the chief of army staff (COAS) in the agreement between the leadership of the Faizabad sit-in protesters and the federal government.

In addition, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui noted that the respondents have also failed to submit the report of the committee headed by Senator Raja Zafarul Haq on the controversy regarding the Khatm-e-Nabuwat clause in the Election Act, 2017, “despite availing sufficient time”.

Justice Siddiqui had directed the defence secretary to hold an inquiry in order to post liability on the person “who used the name of COAS in the impugned agreement between the Faizabad dharna leadership and federal government, facilitated by the army,” but he has yet to submit a report.

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“It is made clear that in case of failure to file the report, this court shall be constrained to initiate contempt proceedings against the delinquents in the next hearing,” Justice Siddiqui stated in the order.

In the order, the court observed that it was unfortunate that after availing almost one month’s time, “needful has not been done.” It added that this was an “intentional effort” to frustrate the order passed by the court directing to bring the report on judicial record.

On Friday, the report was not filed on the pretext that one of the members of the committee – Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal – is abroad. When asked, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Arshad Mehmood Kiani informed the court that the minister flew out around three days ago.

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Subsequently, Justice Siddiqui directed the respondents to “file the report, even if it does not bear the signatures of the interior minister.” As for the report sought from the defence secretary about the army chief’s name in the agreement, Justice Siddiqui noted that the “same attitude has been exhibited from his side and report has not been filed.”

The court has ordered the secretary to appear in person and submit the report on February 12.

During the hearing, an issue pertaining to an audio recording of a conversation between unknown people was highlighted after it was alleged that Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar was behind the sit-in.

The Intelligence Bureau DG Aftab Sultan submitted that the “Intelligence Bureau lacks the facility to identify the voice or carry out voice matching.” He claimed to be unaware of which institution in Pakistan has such capabilities.

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“If the head of an intelligence agency is not aware, who else can provide this information,” Justice Siddiqui stated in the order, adding that DG’s stance shows the unprofessional approach of the IB.

“Intelligence Bureau is directed to submit the report in writing on next date of hearing and also ascertain the information that which Institution or Department can perform function directed by this court,” the order read.

The seeds of the protest were allegedly sown when the National Assembly passed an amendment to the Election Act, 2017, which was aimed at changing the eligibility criteria of a political party head but ended up touching the subject of the finality of prophethood.

The 21-day-long sit-in by religious groups at Islamabad’s Faizabad Interchange forced the government to accept Tehreek-e-Labbaik’s demands after a government operation to break up the sit-in went awry and sparked violent protests across the country.

“Don’t compel the court, otherwise it can summon the prime minister,” Justice Siddiqui had remarked in a previous hearing. The court had expressed dissatisfaction over officials as neither the report nor para-wise comments were submitted in the case.

The court would resume hearing on February 12.