March 16th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
Senior lawyers were divided over whether courts could intervene to prevent any violent clash between government and opposition who have both announced the holding of massive public gatherings in Islamabad during proceedings of a no-trust in the National Assembly.
Former law minister Khalid Ranjha and Pakistan Bar Council former vice-chairman Abid Saqi said courts had no constitutional role to intervene in any political showdown between the federal government and opposition in Islamabad saying holding of demonstrations was a matter of law and order and required no adjudication. However, Supreme Court Bar Association former president Kamran Murtaza said the courts could issue a restraining order to state functionaries to work within constitutional boundaries.
The senior lawyers were responding to opinions expressed by leaders of two government coalition allies that courts could order the military to intervene in case of a violent showdown between the federal government and opposition over a parliamentary no-confidence vote.
“The courts can order the military to control any untoward situation in view of the simultaneous massive public demonstrations by the government and the opposition in Islamabad,” Khalid Hussain Magsi, member of the National Assembly from the Balochistan Awami Party, told host Munizae Jahangir in the Spotlight news programme on March 14. He said natural reflexes could kick in with a military intervention if the system was in a danger. “The courts will tell the military to take control saying they (the government) are unable to handle the system,” he explained.
Kamil Ali Agha from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, agreed with the opinion expressed by his fellow panelist on the show. “I think Khalid Magsi’s opinion has logic and understanding,” Agha said. Every citizen understands and expects that it is the responsibility of the military and the courts especially of the Supreme Court to issue an order in case the government fails to maintain law and order,” Agha said.
The PML-Q leader was of the opinion such political mistakes become a cause of derailing the system. He said political parties and leaders had the responsibility of not making such decisions that could deteriorate the law and order situation and foment violence in the country.
A power show not a matter of adjudication: Ranjha
“A show of power or a show of street power is a matter of law and order and administration, and it does not require any adjudication by a court,” former federal minister Khalid Ranjha said in response to a question about whether the courts could intervene and direct the military to avert any clash between the government and opposition in the federal capital as stated in the opinion of the coalition leaders.
“In my opinion, if the courts intervene in the political showdown it would not be correct,” Ranjha said, He said it was a non-justiciable subject and the court could not decide such matters. It was wrong to drag courts into such issues needlessly, the former law minister opined.
“This is a political issue and it is not appropriate for a prime minister to insist on holding a public gathering in view of no-trust vote by the opposition,” he said. The opposition has the right to hold a public demonstration but the prime minister should show his force in the National Assembly and not on the streets, Ranjha said.
State has responsibility in matters of law and order: Saqi
Abid Saqi, former vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, said the State and law enforcement agencies had the responsibility to handle matters of law and order like public demonstrations. “The courts should absolutely not intervene in any showdown,” Saqi said while expressing his opinion on whether the judiciary could order the military to prevent a violent clash in the federal capital.
In the past, politicians had pleaded with the Supreme Court to exercise its suo motu powers in such instances but that had weakened the judiciary, Saqi said.
However, Senator Kamran Murtaza from Jamiat Ulema Islam Fazl said apart from a directive to the military for intervention, the courts could also issue a restraining order to state functionaries to work within constitutional boundaries.
In August 2014, Kamran Murtaza had petitioned the Supreme Court as then-president of the Supreme Court Bar Association seeking a court direction to thwart any unconstitutional step in view of the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf sit-in in Islamabad.
A four-member bench, headed by then Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, had refrained the state institutions and officials from taking any extra-constitutional steps and instructed them to work under the constitution.
Opposition to move IHC over no-trust vote
In his opinion, the country was facing a situation similar to that of 2014 and the opposition has initially decided to approach the Islamabad High Court over government attempts to prevent members of the National Assembly from casting their votes in the no-confidence motion moved by the opposition.
The petition seeks a court direction to refrain the government from obstructing members of the National Assembly discharge their constitutional duty of voting in the no-confidence motion. The petition will be filed on Wednesday by opposition leaders Ahsan Iqbal and Abdul Ghafoor Haideri who went to Islamabad High Court for biometrics on Tuesday. Senator Murtaza said he would be counsel for the petitioners.