=> LAHORE / ISLAMABAD, Feb 2: The Punjab government p
LAHORE / ISLAMABAD, Feb 2: The Punjab government put president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan under detention for a period of 30 days on Saturday, after he was stopped from flying out to Sukkur at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, under an order of the Sindh government, issued earlier in the day.
Also on Saturday, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood was put under “preventive custody” by the Islamabad administration to pre-empt what it called his plans to create unrest in the capital.
Both Mr Ahsan and Justice Mehmood have been leading the legal fraternity’s ongoing campaign against the Musharraf government. And both were set free by the authorities only in recent days – Mr Ahsan on Thursday night and Justice Mehmood on Friday evening.
Mr Ahsan spoke with media personnel, addressed lawyers and met PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif on Friday. He had been put under solitary confinement in Adiyala jail, Rawalpindi, on Nov 3 and later placed under house arrest at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
Talking to reporters at the airport on Saturday, Mr Ahsan said the authorities had stopped him from boarding a Sukkur-bound aircraft. He was given a restraining order.
He was of the opinion that he should not have been stopped from proceeding to Sukkur because the restraining order should have been enforced if he had actually reached Sindh.
When Mr Ahsan got to his home from the airport, he was handed over a fresh detention order under Section 5(1) of the Maintenance of Public Order, according to his associate Arshad Tarar. The MPO deals with preventive detentions and under it the government may direct any person to remain at a specific place for a specified period.
However, Mr Ahsan says neither the federal nor the provincial government can keep him under detention beyond a period of 90 days, under Article 10(4) of the Constitution. After the expiry of such a period, the government is bound to seek the formation of a review board, comprising judges of the higher judiciary, to regulate any detention.
Meanwhile, the order served on Justice Mehmood – issued under Section 3(1) of the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Ordinance 1960 – was signed by the district magistrate of the Islamabad Capital Territory. The order cited the Special Branch’s report on “Justice Mehmood’s plans to create unrest in Islamabad”.
It claimed that he had established contacts with individuals who intended to hold public gatherings in violation of applicable laws. “Your speeches, presence or other activities may promote feeling of hatred and ill will among general public, though, and thus posing problem of maintenance of law and order,” said the notice.
The order was served on Justice Mehmood soon after he had reached his home after consulting his doctors at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.
Assailing the government’s move, senior advocate Athar Minallah said: “Even the (earlier) 90-day detention was illegal as there were no grounds (for it). But since there is no independent judiciary, no relief can either be claimed nor fundamental rights protected.”