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SC Verdict Blames Media For Being Complicit In Promoting TLP Dharna

The Supreme Court on Wednesday concluded 2017 Faizabad sit-in suo motu case and directed the government, law enforces, intelligence agencies and the army’s media wing to operate ‘within their mandate’.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Musheer Alam had reserved its judgement.

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The SC bench directed federal and provincial governments to monitor and prosecute all those involved in promoting hate or extremism. It also directed the government to take action against armed forces’ personnel who were found to have violated their oath by participating in political matters.

Here are some pointers from SC’s verdict

TLP provoked religious sentiment, hatred and abuse, were allowed to participate in elections despite not providing any financial accounts

The SC verdict criticized Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan saying that “the ambitious leadership of a fledgling political party projected itself as the defender of the Muslim faith. They provoked religious sentiment, stoked the flames of hatred, abused, resorted to violence and destroyed property worth Rs163.6m.”

The apex court also criticized the state for failing to counter TLP threats and asked for better planning to tackle such matters.

“The TLP and its followers, from all accounts, were determined to disrupt civic life. But, to meet this challenge there was little preparation or preplanning by the government, the police and other law enforcement agencies. No plan was apparently prepared to attend to the different eventualities likely to emerge.”

To this end, the SC added that freedom of speech cannot be exercised by infringing rights of others.

“The right of assembly, the freedom of association and the freedom of speech cannot be exercised by infringing the fundamental rights of others. Without obtaining permission public meetings cannot be held on roads. ”

Moreover, it said that nobody can curtail a citizen’s right to freedom of expression and speech.

“No one, incl any govt, dept or intelligence agency can curtail the fundamental right of freedom of speech,expression and press beyond [Article 19].Those who resort to such tactics under the mistaken belief that they serve some higher goal delude themselves.”

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Also, on the issuance on Fatwas by some of the TLP leader against government and army officials, SC directed to prosecute Fatwas that put others in harm.

“A person issuing an edict or fatwa, which harms another or puts another in harm’s way, must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.”

Intelligence agencies must not exceed their mandate. Armed forces must refrain from indulging in political matters.

The SC said that “all intelligence agencies (including ISI, IB and MI) and the ISPR must not exceed their respective mandates. They cannot curtail the freedom of speech and expression and do social media campaigning.”

The ISI’s report over the matter was also deemed insufficient by the SC.

The report submitted by ISI did not disclose the “source of livelihood, place of work, address, funding of their organizations, et cetera” 99 of the TLP leadership. Subsequently, we had inquired whether they paid income tax or had bank accounts. ISI responded by stating that it did not have the mandate to gather such information and therefore was unable to provide answers to our queries.”

It was also said that the Armed forces must refrain from getting involved into political matters. “The Constitution emphatically prohibits members of the Armed Forces from engaging in any kind of political activity, which includes supporting a political party, faction or individual.”

DG Rangers distributes cash among TLP workers to go back gome

ECP took no action against TLP despite no transparent financial accounts

The SC also commented on the role of ECP saying that the ECP allowed TLP to contest elections despite the fact that “TLP did not provide information about its funding despite repeatedly directing it to do so,” and also disrupted peace within the country.

During the general elections 2018, the Senate alarmed that as many as 200 banned outfits were contesting elections using different and covert names.

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On Media Censorship and coverage of TLP

SC also commented on PEMRA’s role in censoring media as it did not do anything for its licensees and did not take action against cable operators.

“PEMRA abdicated its statutory duty, a duty which it was legally obliged to fulfil. It also failed to protect the legitimate rights of its licensed broadcasters. Broadcasts by Dawn & Geo TV channels were stopped/interrupted; complaints stating this were acknowledged by PEMRA.”

“Dawn and Geo were particularly targeted in the Cantonment and Defence Housing Authority areas of the country, which too was confirmed by PEMRA. But, sadly, PEMRA looked the other way.”

Last year in August, DHA residents had complained about no circulation of Dawn newspaper. Also in April that year, cable operators took Geo TV off air which was restored after orders from PEMRA.

The verdict also mentioned that the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (“CPNE”) has alleged 93 “media repression”, “that editors and journalists are forced to self-censor their work amid pressure from certain quarters” and it “appealed to all state and non-state actors to refrain from such unconstitutional practices”.

The SC also criticized the media for covering the TLP dharnas. “The leaders of the dharna intimidated, hurled threats, abused, provoked and promoted hatred. The media provided unabated coverage to TLP. Anyone having a grouse against the government joined in.”

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