Chief Secretary Nasir Mehmood Khosa on Friday admitted before the Lahore High Court that the government had failed to enforce the ban on taking out rallies and processions on The Mall.
Khosa told Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry that disagreement amongst the stakeholders, including traders and the media, was the main reason behind the government’s failure.
However, he said the government was trying to come up with practical suggestions acceptable to all stakeholders. He said everybody had the freedom of expression and the government did not want to make a law which may conflict with fundamental rights protected in the Constitution.
The Mall Road Traders had asked the court for an ordinance against rallies and processions on The Mall to be implemented immediately.
The chief secretary sought time from the court for the enforcement of the ban and the chief justice adjourned the hearing for six weeks. Lahore Commissioner Jawad Rafiq, DCO Ahad Cheema and Chief Traffic Officer Capt (retd) Ahmad Mobeen also appeared before the court.
The court was hearing a writ petition filed by Mall Road Traders’ Union Association seeking direction against the protest demonstrations on The Mall. On a previous hearing, the government had informed the court that a complete ban had been imposed on taking out rallies or processions on The Mall from July 1.
In a written reply the home secretary, said that an ordinance had been issued after the chief minister’s approval. Prohibition of Protest Demonstrations on The Mall, he said, was in force and the protest rallies had been shifted to Nasser Bagh and Attique Stadium. He pointed out that protestors would be allowed to hold demonstration at Nasser Bagh if their number was around 1,000 whereas in case the number exceeds 1,000 they would be allowed to hold demonstrations in Attique Stadium.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.