PHC Strikes Down Controversial ‘Action In Aid Of Civil Power’ Ordinance
The Peshawar High Court on Thursday struck down the controversial ‘Action in Aid of Civil Power 2019’ ordinance, which gave blanket powers to the military and security agencies, including the power to run internment centers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
A two-member bench headed by Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Ahmad Ali issued a short judgement declaring the ordinance null and void.
The ordinance, which curtailed the jurisdiction of the High Court in the province, was quietly issued on August 5, 2019, ironically on the same day when the Indian government abrogated Article 370 in Indian-held Kashmir through an ordinance.
The ordinance came to light when a two-member Peshawar High Court bench was hearing a petition against two pieces of legislation made by the KP Assembly to protect laws which were enforced in the erstwhile FATA and PATA before their merger with KP, including the one pertaining to the establishment of internment centers.
Advocate Shabbir Hussain Gigyani, who challenged the ordinance, told media that the court declared the ordinance null and void and ordered the government to hand over internment centers to KP inspector general of police to investigate the people held in these internment centers.
“The IG Police has been ordered to take charge of the internment centers and decide, using the available evidence, which detainee needs to be prosecuted or otherwise. Those who the IG believes to be prosecuted should be presented before the relevant courts,” Mr. Gigyani added.
A senior government official from KP, in his comments to Naya Daur, questioned the court order regarding the handing over of internment centers to the police instead of the KP Home department.
Moroever, Advocate Sangeen Khan told Naya Daur, “Police, and the prosecution service, have the authority to decide whether any accused person should be prosecuted or not on the basis of available material against the internee. Prison authorities figure nowhere in all this.”
Rights activists and members from the opposition benches had termed the ordinance a ‘martial law’ and a clear violation of human rights.
The author is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist and contributes to different national and international papers and journals.