Rally at the mazaar: Imran due today, court order adds to confusion over venue

PTI lawyer­s to decide strate­gy once detail­ed ruling is out.

Saba Imtiaz/zeeshan Mujahid December 21, 2011

KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan is arriving in Karachi this evening but as of Wednesday evening it was unclear whether his December 25 rally would go ahead near Mazaar-e-Quaid.

The confusion emerged in the hours after the Sindh High Court wrapped up a petition filed by ten people who want permission cancelled for the rally.

The court disposed of the petition but a detailed order has yet to be released. During the hearing, the judges said, however, that they didn’t want to interfere in the matter as the authority lies with the mazaar’s board. They did suggest, however, that an alternative venue be found.

The petition

The petitioners argue that if the rally is allowed to go ahead, violence could erupt. Their lawyer, Mustafa Lakhani, brought up the Quaid-e-Azam Mazaar Maintenance and Protection Ordinance 1971, which says that no public meeting or rally can be held on the premises or even in the peripheral area. A rally would also create difficulties for schoolchildren, ordinary people and dignitaries who are likely to visit the mazar to pay homage.

The Sindh government was represented by Advocate General Abdul Fattah Malik who said that neither the provincial nor the federal government granted permission. The resident engineer of the Quaid-e-Azam Mazaar Management Board added that they had already rejected a request for permission to hold the rally.

Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Imam Bux Baloch asked whether arrangements have been made. “We expect that chairs have been arranged and the stage constructed,” the judges asked.

“No sir,” Mustafa Lakhani immediately pitched in. “Nothing of the sort is in place.”

The judges observed that rallies have been often held in the mazaar’s neighbourhood but no one had gone to court.

They felt that as it was the birth anniversary of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, which holds a particular sanctity and reverence, the historic Nishter Park could be used as an alternative venue.

“We will be passing a reasonable and sensible order,” the bench told an anxious PTI lawyer Maula Bux Khatian. “PTI is a national party or is going to be one. As your party advocates the rule of law, you should care for these things.”

The other side pointed out that the mazaar’s board was the sole authority to allow or reject a request. The mazaar is spread over 61 acres and the peripheral area is out of bounds for any public meeting or rally, they said.

“Can the court permit or allow a public meeting in prohibited areas,” asked the judges, but noted that the public did not need permission to enter a public place such as a park.

“The land belongs to the federal government and not the provincial government,” reiterated the government’s lawyer. “In the case of the mazaar, the board is the deciding authority.” He denied that the home minister had granted permission.

The judges then said that given this, the court cannot interfere in the matter as the mazaar’s board had the power to make any decision according to its rules. The bench then disposed of the petition, saying that a detailed order would be passed in the course of the day.

After the hearing

For its part, the PTI blames the Sindh government for intentionally submitting “incorrect information” in the petition. “As you can see, this is incorrect information and there’s a 50-foot road dividing the tomb and the venue,” said Naeemul Haque and Arif Alvi at a press conference in the afternoon.

The party’s lawyers did not want to comment on the ruling, however, as they had not seen the order by the time the press conference was held. Haque was unable to give Imran Khan’s reaction as he was tied up at the time.

At the press conference, Haque showed journalists an email from Faridullah Khan, the secretary of the ministry of national heritage and integration, which controls the Quaid-e-Azam Trust. It said: “As per the permission granted by the competent authority, the PTI may hold its rally...”

When asked if the party would consider an alternative venue if the court did not rule in its favour, Haque said, “We have several venues in mind but we will decide once we know what the court says.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2011.


Unbiased | 11 years ago | Reply

"As your party advocates the rule of law, you should care for these things.” there there! PTI if ya really deliver what ya preach, then go along with that suggestion and snap outta this venue conundrum for ya guys are only embarrassing yourselves. Peace out!

Chilli | 11 years ago | Reply

Imran's followers use bands and guitar in his rally which is really bad for mazar atmosphere..but who cares about these things today??

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