IHC stops govt from acting against PTI leaders

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday directed the authorities concerned not to harass Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fawad Chaudhry and others in connection with several blasphemy cases filed against them by the government following hooliganism by unknown individuals at Masjid-e-Nabwi last week.

The IHC told the interior secretary to make sure that the PTI leader was not harassed by the police or any other investigation agency. It also stopped the government from taking further action against the PTI leader till the next hearing of the case. The court also sent a copy of the orders to the National Assembly Secretariat.

During the hearing, Justice Athar Minallah asked whether Fawad was still a member of the National Assembly. His counsel Faisal Chaudhry said Fawad had resigned from the assembly but he had not been denotified.

IHC CJ Minallah said the police could not arrest a lawmaker without the permission of the speaker.

Read: Govt holds Imran responsible for Masjid-e-Nabawi incident

In a comment on several cases against the PTI leaders, Chaudhry said as per a ruling by a seven-member bench the police could not register multiple FIRs regarding a single incident. He said the incident happened at Masjid-e-Nabwi, Saudi Arabia, while FIRs were registered in Pakistan.

The CJ said the court would issue directives to the Islamabad police that came under the jurisdiction of this court.

Meanwhile, the IHC also stopped the government from arresting Shahbaz Gill on his return from the United States. Gill is likely to return to Pakistan on May 4 as per his lawyer.

The counsel representing Gill said that the government had filed cases against his client to settle political scores. In his plea, Gill had said he was “falsely implicated in the FIR in order to harass, pressurize, blackmail, and humiliate” him.

Earlier in the day, the PTI filed a petition in the IHC seeking the intervention of the court to end "harassment" by the state authorities after the registration of multiple cases against PTI leadership, including Chairman Imran Khan.

The FIRs were lodged on Sunday against former premier Imran and other top leaders of the party in Faisalabad and other cities of Punjab over their alleged involvement in the incident in Masjid-e-Nabwi, where some Pakistani pilgrims shouted slogans against the new government and ridiculed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the federal ministers.

The petition filed by PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry requested the high court to issue directions to the state authorities, including the police and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), to “immediately stop the unlawful and illegal harassment of the petitioner and his colleagues”.

Read More: Imran distances himself from Masjid-e-Nabwi incident

It also sought the placement on record of all the FIRs registered in the various parts of the country against the petitioner and others on the issue of alleged blasphemy at Masjid-e-Nabwi. It requested the high court to stop the police and FIA from “violating and disrespecting the privacy, honour of the families, and households of the petitioner and preserve the sanctity thereof”.

The authorities should inform “the petitioner of the grounds and reasons for the registration of criminal cases against them, to ensure his fundamental rights to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice. And further to satisfy this august court before lodging any action against the petitioner”.

In his plea, Fawad said the FIRs against the PTI leadership violated Article 4 (Right of Individuals to be dealt with in accordance with law), Article 5 (loyalty to the state), Article 17 (freedom of association), Article 19, 19-A (right to information), and Article 68 of the Constitution.

The interior secretary, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, the police chiefs of all provinces and the FIA director general were made respondents in the petition that termed the action against PTI leaders “mala fide”.

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