Turned down: CJ says it is govt’s job to handle red zone protesters

Top court refuses to hear government plea seeking restraining order against protesters

Hasnaat Malik August 19, 2014


The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a government plea seeking a restraining order against protesters who enter the red zone in the federal capital.

With the standoff worsening between the government and opposition parties – in particular the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), whose leaders have threatened to march into the red zone – fears of an imminent clash are growing.

Heading a five-member bench, Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk said, “This is for the government to handle the situation,” when he was asked to give a restraining order in a verbal plea by the attorney general during the hearing of a petition filed by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Kamran Murtaza.

The petitioner had sought an order against state functionaries, restraining them from taking any extra-constitutional steps in light of the present situation of the country.

Presenting his arguments before the court, Attorney General (AG) Salman Aslam Butt said that PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) supporters had threatened to enter the fortified red zone area, which houses key government installations, including the diplomatic enclave.

The AG also expressed concern that the protesters might enter the diplomatic enclave, after they moved closer to its vicinity on Sunday. Butt requested the bench to stop protesters from entering the area.

Meanwhile, the bench also sought a written reply from the government over SCBA president Kamran Murtaza’s plea. The AG assured the court that the government would submit a reply within 24 hours.

Referring to Article 5 and 6 of the Constitution, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar observed that the top court would not allow anyone to deviate from it. He also said that every citizen is bound to protect the Constitution under Article 5.

During the proceedings, the AG said that members of parliament were violating their oath, whereby they are bound to defend the sanctity of the house.

Responding to the AG’s statement, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said that if any parliamentarian violates his oath, parliament must take notice of it, adding that the judiciary cannot intervene in every matter.

The SCBA president also informed the court that he has moved another plea, and had submitted press clippings, regarding PTI chairman Imran Khan’s announcement of civil disobedience campaign.

The chief justice, however, said that they would take up the issue later.

The bench also directed its office to fix the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) petition against the ‘Inqilab’ and ‘Azadi’ marches during the next hearing.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2014.


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