April 17th,2021 

By Ahmed Saeed & Hamid Riaz 


LAHORE

Leading lawyers and rights activists in Pakistan are concerned that the government’s recent move to ban the TLP will pave the way for placing restrictions on any other political party that opposes them.
 

Yasin Azad, former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association says that a group cannot be termed terrorists just because the government says so. If anyone is accused of terrorism, and there is evidence that they are involved in terrorist activities, then they will be caught and produced before a court. And when it is proven that the accused are indeed terrorists, then they will be handed the relevant sentence.

“No political party condones terrorism! It is important to refer to the Constitution before launching any inquiry into a political party: they are guaranteed freedom of association, the right to protest,” he asserted.

Yasin Azad said that the “government acted in haste with this decision, when they in fact are why this situation came about in the first place. They should have thought about it a hundred times over whether or not they are in any position to expel the French Ambassador. Why even strike a deal with the TLP in the first place?”

He further added that the government has gone on a limb to disqualify the TLP as a political party, and that such a tactic may be used against other opposing political groups, such as the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), whenever a scuffle may occur during their innumerable rallies.

“Article 17 of the constitution of Pakistan gives every Pakistani the right to join any political activity in accordance with their orientation. I think a ban on a political organization of any type is unconstitutional in my opinion,” explains Kamran Murtaza, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). “And if any organization has become such a big threat that banning it seems to be the only option then it should be banned through the constitutionally mandated process which is the supreme court.
Dissolution of political parties is governed by the article 212 of the election act and the government should have taken this route instead of unilaterally banning an organization under the anti-terrorism act,” continues Kamran Murtaza.

GOVT BANS TLP

On April 14, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid announced that upon the request of the Punjab Government, the Federal Government had decided to ban the rightwing religious party the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) under section 11B(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997.

The following day, after the Federal Cabinet approved its summary, the Ministry of Interior issued a notification formally proscribing the TLP. The order stated the the Federal Government had reasonable grounds to believe that the TLP is engaged in terrorism, and that it acted in a manner prejudicial to the peace and security of the country during the three-days of sustained violent protests against the detention of their Chief Saad Rizvi.

The notification also stated that the state believes the party is involved in creating anarchy in the country by intimidating the public; attacking and causing grievous bodily harm, hurt and death to civilians and law enforcement personnel; promoting hatred; vandalizing public and government properties; and blocking essential supplies to hospitals among other acts.

In a press conference in Islamabad on April 15, Sheikh Rashid announced that the Ministry of Interior will forward a separate summary to the cabinet today ( April 16) for the dissolution of the TLP. Following approval by the cabinet (which is expected either tomorrow or the day after) a reference in this regard will be filed in the Supreme Court.

THE LEGAL PROCESS

If the Supreme Court chooses to admit the reference, then the apex court will issue directives to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to disqualify all members of the provincial and national assemblies affiliated with the TLP and bar party members from contesting future elections under section 212 (dissolution of a political party) of the Election Act of 2017. At the moment the TLP has 3 lawmakers in the Sindh provincial assembly.

11B(1)-ATA empowers the Federal Government to list an organization as a proscribed organization in the First Schedule on an ex parte basis, if there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is:

  • concerned with terrorism

  • owned or controlled, directly or indirectly by an individual or organization proscribed under the ATA

  • acting on behalf or on the directives of an individual or organization proscribed under the ATA

The Federal Government may take certain measures where a party is proscribed, including sealing the organization’s offices, seizing all content and material, and banning the publication and dissemination of any press statements, press conferences or public utterances by or on behalf of or in support of the organization in question under 11E-ATA.

If office bearers, activists, members or associates of the banned outfit are found to be continuing party activities, they will not be issued passports or allowed to leave the country, and they will not be able to acquire loans, financial support, or be issued credit cards via a bank or other such financial institution. Furthermore, their arms licenses (if they have been issued) will be cancelled, their arms confiscated and no fresh arms licenses will be issued to such persons.

However legal experts say that the banned party also has a right to approach the Supreme Court to prevent the ban.

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