Pak Chief Justice slams commission set up to probe extremist religious group-led sit-in in 2017

Islamabad, May 6 (PTI) Pakistan’s Chief Justice Faez Isa on Monday slammed a fact-finding commission set up to investigate the extremist group Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s 2017 Faizabad sit-in, saying that apparently, the committee’s “mandate was to acquit” former ISI chief Faiz Hameed “by going out of the way”.

Isa’s remarks came as a three-member bench of the Supreme Court took up a set of review petitions filed against its 2019 judgement in the Faizabad sit-in case involving the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

The Faizabad Dharna Commission was formed in November last year to investigate the TLP’s 20-day sit-in, which paralysed life in both Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The extremist religious party was protesting alleged changes in the oath of lawmakers.

A Supreme Court panel led by Justice Isa, years before he took oath as the chief justice, in a landmark judgment in 2019 had ruled against the sit-in and directed action against those responsible for it. However, no action was taken to implement the judgment and instead, several review petitions were filed against it, while the then government led by jailed prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party filed a corruption case against Isa.

The case was rejected by the top court and the review petitions remained pending until Isa became the Chief Justice last year and took them up for hearing. Interestingly, the majority of the petitioners withdrew their review pleas.

However, the bench insisted on the implementation of the original verdict and the government set up a commission to suggest fixing the responsibility and hold officials accountable.

A bench headed by Justice Isa and comprising Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Naeem Akhtar Awan conducted the hearing on Monday after the report of the commission was submitted. The three-member commission was led by retired Inspector General Police Syed Akhtar Ali Shah with former Islamabad police chief Tahir Alam Khan and additional interior secretary Khushal Khan as its members.

Chief Justice Isa was not pleased with the report and said it was an effort to protect the former ISI chief, who had held talks with the protestors and also signed an agreement with them.

“Why is this gentleman (Faiz) being acquitted in the report by going out of the way? Apparently, the commission’s mandate was to acquit Faiz Hameed,” the chief justice remarked during the hearing.

He said it was very disappointing and a waste of the country’s time because the commission failed to call anyone on behalf of the TLP who could have helped the commission.

“Those from whom weapons were recovered were also not called. The intention of those who brought weapons was clear that they are not peaceful protesters,” the top judge remarked.

Castigating the report, the Chief Justice said, “This is something given to fifth-grade students…This appears to be a newspaper article…that was not the task given to the commission.”

He further said that the Commission in its report suggested that the Army should be kept away from these matters but why did they (army people) sign the agreement?

“What did the Commission do? It just wasted time. The Commission is just making speeches,” Isa said during the hearing, adding, “I am surprised to read the report, they should have constructed the sentence correctly as to who had committed the violation.”

He said the report “doesn’t seem to be serious” and the commission did not provide any “finding”.

The judge said if the verdict in the Faizabad sit-in case had been implemented, the May 9 incident last year involving attacks on army installations would not have taken place.

Later, the attorney general sought two weeks’ time to inform the court about the government’s response to the report. In the short order issued after the hearing, the court directed him to submit a report on the government’s behalf, stating if the government wanted to make this report public.

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