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Capital Administration Should Protect Rights Of Azadi March Protestors, Non-Protestors: IHC

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday disposed of petitions against the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) anti-government Azadi March and directed the local administration to decide on JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman’s application to hold the march at D-Chowk in the federal capital.

Earlier, the JUI-F had filed an application with the district administration to get permission for holding the Azadi March on October 27, which would be followed by a demonstration in the capital city. Later, the date for the march was changed to October 31.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, after hearing a petition against the march, instructed the administration of the federal capital to deal with the matter in accordance with the law. The petition was filed by a local lawyer, namely Riaz Hanif Rahi.

During the hearing, Justice Minallah asked the petitioner about his demand. In response, Rahi said that Rehman had announced to hold the march against the incumbent government.

“Do you mean to say that he does not have the right to protest?” enquired the chief justice. Rahi responded by saying: “You can protest against policy, not against a democratic government.”

The chief justice said that every citizen could use his fundamental right to hold a protest and this specific right could not be ignored.

The proceedings were briefly adjourned as the court ordered that all petitions against the protest should be combined into one and heard together.

After the break, Rahi and another petitioner against the march, namely Hafiz Ihtisham Ahmed, also appeared before the bench, where Justice Minallah reminded them that protecting the fundamental rights of citizens was the job of the state.

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In addition, he said that the state was also required to protect the rights of those who do not want to protest. He recalled that in 2014, the same court had allowed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to hold a protest against the then Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.

The chief justice also asked Rahi if he was there on behalf of the government, to which the petitioner said that he had approached the court as an ordinary citizen.

“From your statements, it seems like you are here on the government’s behalf,” remarked the chief justice, while noting that Rahi submits “so many petitions, he should one day submit one against corrupt people in the local judiciary as well”.

Later, the court instructed the local administration to protect the rights of the protesters and non-protestors alike.

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