Faizabad Sit-in Probe – The Supreme Court summoned Shahid Khaqan Abbasi & Ahsan Iqbal

Faizabad Sit-in Probe

Probe and Summons by Supreme Court of Pakistan

In a completely surprising manner in Faizabad Sit-in Probe , the Judicial Commission appointed with the approval of the Sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Qazi Faez Isa,  investigating the 2017 Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan sit-in at Faizabad and the role of former Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa throughout sit in, has called ex-Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi due on Wednesday i.e. 29.11.2023 and Ahsan Iqbal to appear on Thursday i.e. 30.11.2023.

Formation of the Commission and Members

While forming the commission, the federal government came up with a combination of former police officials the likes of Akhtar Shah and Tahir Alam, and an additional secretary Khushal Khan. The commission was constituted on November 15, 2023, in light of directions passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan and names were presented before the Supreme Court of Pakistan for approval. The Hon’ble Chief Justice of Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa later went on to approve the commission’s formation and directed them to submit their reports accordingly.

Faizabad Sit-in Probe Investigation Scope and Summoned Individuals

The sitting commission would thoroughly investigate sit-ins and their relationship with officials from the intelligence agencies. This is not the first time that it has engaged former police chiefs and people associated with protests with serious inquiries before anything else. Concerningly, one of the commission’s interrogations had been aimed at investigating the identities of facilitators and assessing coordination among policemen during those disturbances. Extensive questioning by Abbasi was a turning point in understanding why police played key roles in managing the sit-in, which had become an issue during that time.

Supreme Court of Pakistan

Supreme Court’s Response and AGP’s Proposal

The government had set up a fact-finding committee but the Supreme Court decisively rejected it asking for an inquiry commission in accordance with the provisions of the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 2017. It goes hand in hand with the position that the court expressed while giving a verdict on the Faizabad sit-in in 2019. This type of inquiry commission emphasizes it is an effort by the court to bring in a professional investigation committee that will provide an in-depth and legally based analysis of the proceedings around the sit-in at Faizabad. To this end, the court seeks to bolster the authenticity and rigorousness of the investigation through congruence with prevailing statutes.

Commission’s Terms of Reference and Public Disclosure

With these proceedings underway, Mr. Absar Alam, the ex-chairperson of Pemra demanded direct streaming of its activities. The court recognized its significance and suggested sending this request to Pakistan’s Attorney General and the government. As such, this suggestion seeks to propose that live streaming may be included as an integral component of the commissions’ Terms of Reference. The court suggests that it is necessary to include this issue in order to reveal all the facts of the process at once because it has the same value as others, namely transparency and access to society at large. It could be an important step toward more open investigation making possible witnessing and participation of people involved in the process.

AGP’s Suggestion and Committee’s Criticism

The court severely condemned the first fact-finding commission stating that the Terms of Reference were designed to save those responsible for the Faizabad sit-in. This criticism pointed out that the committee did not clearly define its roles on an individual basis. The committee received no official notice of being published in the gazette and this triggered more questions. However, the Court was also reserved about it because some key points were unclear as regards the committee’s powers and lack of publicly available investigation procedures. Such examination shows the court’s concern with impartial investigation regarding the demonstration. In these questions, justice must be done on an appropriate process.

Testimonies and Allegations

According to Absar Alam, there were indications that some members of the armed forces could have been inciting violence in connection with the TLP sit-in. His questioning went as far as querying motives for filing review petitions after the 2019 judgment. On the other hand, the court was displeased with the current Pemra’s chairperson, mentioning deceptive remarks made to them alongside failure to adhere to the regulatory laws of the land. To this end, critics also assailed the Election Commission for apparently unnoticed and deficient measures with respect to the conduct of the TLP. This brought about a number of revelations and critical observations concerning this issue, highlighting the requirement for effective openness and answerability policy when dealing with such issues in regulatory bodies and in crime probes.

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