Pakistan

IHC restrains police from lodging new cases against PTI leadership over Madina incident

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Thursday stopped the police from registering more cases against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leadership under the country’s blasphemy laws over the Masjid-i-Nabwi incident, stressing that “religion should not be dragged into politics”.

He made the remarks as the court resumed hearing the petition filed by PTI leader and former information minister Fawad Chaudhry calling for cases registered against the party’s members under the country’s blasphemy laws to be declared “illegal”.

The cases were registered against top figures of the previous regime — including Imran Khan, Sheikh Rashid, Fawad Chaudhry, Qasim Suri and Shahbaz Gill — after some Pakistani pilgrims chanted slogans at Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his delegation during their visit to the Masjid-i-Nabwi last month.

During the hearing today, Justice Minallah remarked: “Registering cases for your own benefit is a disrespect to one’s own self. It is a huge violation of human rights.”

He observed that it was the responsibility of the state to bring about an environment of patience and stability in the country. “If there is no patience, things like these (registering cases) will happen, which are wrong. Whatever happened was not right.”

“Apparently, it seems that the cases registered in Pakistan were not justified,” he said.

The IHC chief justice pointed out that religious sentiments were important but the state had a responsibility. Whether the state had done such things or not, the reality was that in the past, people’s lives had been endangered, he recalled, giving examples of the Sialkot incident — where a Sri Lankan national was lynched over blasphemy allegations — and the Mashal Khan case.

It was, the judge continued, the responsibility of the state to oversee these matters. Justice Minallah stressed that the state should gather the entire leadership and decide that religion should not be used as a “political tool”. “We have already suffered a lot,” he observed.

At this, PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry, who was present in the hearing, said that the cases should have first been presented before the federal cabinet. “It should be the government’s commitment to never use the religion card,” Chaudhry said. “This has happened for the first time in the history of Pakistan.”

But Justice Minallah interjected that such things had been happening in the past.

Meanwhile, the deputy attorney general pointed out that the requests were filed by “private citizens”, adding that it showcased the public sentiment on the Madina incident.

“Were they so overcome with emotion that all of them submitted the same request?” Fawad asked, adding that the law regarding the matter was “very clear”.

Subsequently, Justice Minallah said that the Constitution was clear too, stating that politics should have some principles and religion should never be used for it.

He also ordered the police to convince the court with regard to the validity of the previous cases that were filed and summoned the attorney general for assistance.

At the outset of the hearing today, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) clarified that it had not initiated any inquiry in its counter-terrorism or cybercrime wings against the PTI leadership in the case. “The local police has begun investigation into the cases,” its representative told the court.

Here, Faisal Chaudhry, PTI’s counsel, told the court that the Islamabad police have begun investigations into four such complaints.

Meanwhile, Fawad said that between 500 to 700 PTI leaders and supporters had been named in the cases. “We just want to cases against us be cancelled,” he added.

During the hearing, former deputy speaker Qasim Suri’s lawyer requested the court to club his petition against the attack on his client by PML-N workers last month, with Fawad’s application.


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