The right to protest: PTI challenges Section 144 in capital

ISLAMABAD, Nov 1: Prominent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) legislator Asad Umar filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court, challenging the imposition of Section 144 and the ban on loudspeakers in the federal capital. Simultaneously, he requested the court to remove police stationed outside the residence of Imran Khan.

He has made the federation a respondent through the Ministry of Interior, Islamabad Police inspector general, chief commissioner and deputy commissioner.

Umar said the respondents are forcing people to yield to government force and give up rights guaranteed by the Constitution. He said this was not only “illegal, but deprives citizens of the right to a free democracy and independent judiciary”.

He alleged notifications, just a few days prior to the protest, provided clear evidence of the politicisation of the respondents. Umar said that after government orders, the IGP passed verbal orders for the illegal arrest and detention of PTI workers, voters and supporters.

On October 27, the district magistrate issued two notifications, while exercising his powers under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, thereby imposing a prohibition on the gathering of five people or more. Also banned within the federal capital for two months was the use of loudspeakers within the federal capital.

Umer stated in the petition that under the guise of the impugned notifications and orders of respondents, the capital’s police started harassing and illegally arresting and detaining workers, members, affiliates and leadership of the PTI.

Umar stated hundreds of workers, members and affiliates of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf are currently in police custody following the notifications. He claimed fake FIRs were registered against them under Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code and other provisions of the law.

The PTI leader, through his counsel, maintained that a huge contingent of police and Frontier Constabulary were deployed at the residence of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s residence in Bani Gala. He claimed Imran had been put under an unannounced and illegal ‘house arrest’, which was a violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

He said the respondents are not dealing with the petitioner, party members and PTI leadership according to Article 4 (right of individuals to be dealt with in accordance with law) of the Constitution.

“Respondents are acting in excess of their lawful authority and causing unjustified, unreasonable agony to petitioner, workers, members, affiliates and leadership of the petitioner’s party,” he stated. He added these notifications were issued for politically-motivated purposes and the discretion afforded to the deputy commissioner was exercised wrongfully. He added workers, voters and supporters of PTI were being deliberately targeted and arrested from their homes, restaurants, hotels or while travelling to and from the PTI protest.

“In the present case, the attempt to arrest, harass and restrain [party] workers from attending the PTI protest amounts to the violation of the Constitution,” the petition read.

He asked the court to declare the notifications illegal and pass an order to quash all FIRs registered against the workers and others. Further, he requested the court to issue directions to remove the contingent of law enforcers from outside Imran’s residence.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2016.

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