PM grilled at gruelling APS hearing

SC orders action against negligent officials; seeks report from govt in four weeks; questions talks with TTP


Hasnaat Malik November 10, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the federal government about its inaction against the then top security hierarchy of the country when militants attacked the Army Public School (APS) on December 16, 2014, in Peshawar in which more than 145 people, mostly schoolchildren, were martyred.

The Supreme Court grilled Prime Minister Imran Khan over the government’s ongoing talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Wondering that those in charge of the security at that time were now enjoying their lives after receiving guard of honour, and other perks and privileges upon retirement, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed ordered the federal government to take action against those who showed negligence in the APS tragedy.

The prime minister informed the apex court that the federal government would definitely take action on whatever order it was given by the apex court against the negligent officials. He said that he believed in rule of law and there was no sacred cow in the country.

However, the prime minister stressed that without any finding in the inquiry commission, the government could not take action against individuals, who were being nominated by the parents of deceased children.

Meanwhile, the apex court ordered the federal government to take action against top officials who had shown negligence in the APS tragedy.

A three-judge bench — headed by the chief justice of Pakistan, and comprising Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan -- instructed the government to submit a report – signed by the prime minister – in this regard in four weeks. The court further asked the government to conduct an inquiry after hearing the version of the parents of the martyred children.

On October 20, the same bench had said in a three-page order that the mothers of deceased children had complained that no first information report (FIR) of the case had been registered against the persons who were responsible to ensure security at the APS, Peshawar.

“They (mothers) state that persons sitting in high offices have not been taken to task nor they have been made responsible for neglecting their duty resulting into death of 147 innocent schoolchildren,” said that order.

“The mothers complain that the then Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, the then Interior Minister, Ch. Nisar Ali Khan, the then Chief Minister KP, Pervez Khattak, then Corps Commander, Peshawar Hidayat-ur-Rehman, the then Director General, ISI, Lt. General Zaheer-ul-Islam, the then Secretary Interior, Islamabad, Akhtar Ali Shah, are the people who were at the helm of the affairs ought to have known about the happening of the incident but they neglected in performance of their duty to extent that the school children carnage happened,” it added.

The order had further noted that if the state considered that those people were involved in dereliction of duty and failed in perform of their function, leading to the death of the schoolchildren at the hand of the terrorists, the state should take measures.

The order further said: “For that we understand that unless some drastic efforts are made, perhaps the want of the mothers and fathers of deceased schoolchildren will not be satisfied as what they say is that small officials have been dealt with but those occupying high posts have been allowed to go scot free whereas the basic responsibility was upon all those who were sitting at the helm of the affairs.”

The bench had asked Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan to obtain instructions in this regard and made the statement. In compliance of the order, the AGP appeared before the bench on Wednesday and stated that no criminal liability was fixed against the officials, mentioned in the last order.

Upon this, the court asked him as whether the prime minister read out the last order. The attorney general replied in the negative. On that the court asked the attorney general to call the prime minister on the issue.

Everyone was stunned to know the bench’s verbal direction regarding the prime minister’s appearance, as the incumbent chief justice never summoned top government’s functionaries in public interest matters.

When the TV channels flashed the news regarding the court direction of summoning the prime minister, media persons, PTI lawyers, government officials rushed to the Supreme Court premises.

The prime minister was the third prime minister, who was summoned by the apex court in the last one decade. Earlier, former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf were summoned in contempt matters.

It is learnt that when the attorney general informed the prime minister regarding the court order, he consulted some federal ministers, who recommended him not to appear before the bench because there was no written order.

However, the attorney general urged the prime minister to appear before the court. Later Imran himself took the decision and came to the court. He entered the building from the judges’ gate at 11:45 am. On the occasion, federal ministers Sheikh Rashid and Fawad Chaudhry were also present in the courtroom.

The prime minister came to the rostrum and his dialogue with the bench continued for more than 30 minutes, wherein some bitterness was also witnessed.

First, the bench referred its last order. Upon that Imran tried to explain the background of this incident. He stated that when this tragic incident occurred, the PTI was in government in the province and that he visited Peshawar immediately and met with the parents of the children.

Then provincial government compensated the aggrieved families as much as it could have done, Imran told the bench. However, the chief justice said that the families were not interested in the compensation; rather, they wanted actions against officials, whose negligence was found in this matter.

Prime Minister replied that he was not in power at the Centre at that time. The chief justice told the prime minister that now he [Imran] was in power, so what could do [in that matter].

Sitting on the bench, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin said that Pakistan was not a small state as its army was the sixth largest in the world. He asked what steps had been taken against the culprits. He said it was being reported in the media that one group of people [TTP] was being invited for negotiations.

“Are we again going to surrender,” Justice Qazi asked. He also asked the prime minister whether the culprits, who killed 9 police officials in the Punjab, had been arrested. However, the prime minister did not respond to the judge’s queries.

The chief justice said that the court had nothing to do with the prime minister’s policy decisions, and the bench would like to know why the culprits of the massacre could not be traced even years after the attack.

He also raised questions about the country’s top agency failure in this matter. The CJP wondered that those who were in charge of security, got retired after getting all perks and privileges and receiving guard of honour and now they are enjoying their lives. “Where was our premier agency at that time, he further asked.

Also sitting on the bench, Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that according to the earlier report, no special measures had been taken to ensure security. Justice Gulzar added that according to the Constitution, the protection of the people was the responsibility of the state.

Justice Ahsan noted that it was important to satisfy the parents, who had lost their children to such a barbaric act. “The parents demand that the leadership of the time be prosecuted,” he said. He added that three kinds of elements were involved in this case, culprits, facilitators and the officials, whose negligence caused this incident to happen.

The prime minister responded that 80,000 people were martyred in the war against terrorism, which was America’s war, adding that Pakistan should not have involved in it. He further said that former military ruler Pervez Musharraf involved the country in the war against terror due to US’s pressure.

The prime minister also informed the court that it was on record that he [Imran Khan] had maintained that Pakistan should “remain neutral” as none of Pakistani individual was involved in the 9/11 attacks on the US soil in 2001.

“We made a National Action Plan after the tragedy. We won the war because the whole nation stood with the Pakistan Army. We have formed the National Intelligence Coordination Committee which is looking into the matter,” Imran said.

Upon this, Justice Qazi urged the prime minister to “be specific” as you are our prime minister as well.
Imran said that after the change of regime in Afghanistan, the country was facing many challenges on different fronts, as 250,000 individuals crossed from the Pakistan, while a number of anti-state elements had also come and around 100 soldiers had martyred.

The prime minister said that he got advice from the attorney general who said that there was no criminal liability against officials, who are being accused by the parents. If the court ordered, he added, then the government would take action against them.

However, the bench noted that it was not interested in the registration of FIR rather it wanted that responsibility should be determined and disciplinary action should be initiated against them.
Likewise, the attorney general told the bench that the inquiry commission did not give any finding against those senior officials nominated by the parents. He also offered a briefing on this incident.

The bench ordered the federal government to take action against officials, who showed negligence in the APS tragedy. The bench instructed the government to submit a report – signed by the prime minister – in this regard in four weeks.

The court further asked the government to conduct an inquiry after hearing the version of the parents. At the end, Justice Ahsan urged the prime minister to meet with the parents of these children.

However, the prime minister said that if they wanted favour to this nation then another inquiry should be ordered to determine those responsible for involving the country in the global war on terror, which led to the deaths of at least 80,000 Pakistani civilians and security personnel.

“Those 80,000 martyrs also had parents, their grief is the same,” the prime minister told the bench, pointing out that 480 drones strikes occurred in the country. The hearing of the case was adjourned for four weeks.

 

 

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