SC assails media, intelligence failures over sit-in
ISLAMABAD: A visibly disturbed Supreme Court bench on Thursday questioned why no one dared to talk about “the real Islam” in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a country that came into being in the name of religion.
“Only the real concept of Islam will prevail in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” observed Justice Qazi Faez Isa, and asked whether the leadership of the Faizabad protesters would teach us what Islam is about.
The court also asked the protesters to explain whether their acts were justified and whether they would help the glorification of Islam.
The observations came when a two-judge Supreme Court bench resumed hearing of a suo motu notice on the abusive language used during the 20-day Faizabad sit-in, which also caused immense traffic congestion and made life miserable for residents of the twin cities.
The bench lambasted the intelligence agencies, regretting the absence of senior officials and expressing disappointment with the reports they presented.
The court was also unhappy with the role of media houses during the sit-in, hinting that it could summon media owners if they did not redeem themselves. “Why is the media propagating ‘fitna’ (chaos) by intentionally inviting individuals who spew hatred and indulge in provocation?”
What are the intelligence agencies doing if tongues are used as a weapon, the court deplored, adding that society would be better off without the media if they did not correct themselves.
The court also made it clear that there was no distinction between the government and the armed forces, since both were part of the executive and were remunerated from the public exchequer.
On Thursday, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Sohail Mahmood presented two privileged reports by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB).
The DAG also cited an unsigned report to suggest that a loss of Rs146 million was suffered due to the damage caused to public properties, including the ransacking of metro bus stations, but no details were given regarding damage to private property.
“Who will bear the loss?” asked Justice Isa, recalling that not a single windowpane was shattered during the 2007 lawyers’ movement.
Justice Mushir Alam, who is also a member of the bench, questioned where the protesters obtained inflammable and explosive materials. “How is it possible to carry explosives in the capital city?” he wondered.
“Why has it become extremely difficult to talk about Islam in this country and why has it become necessary to speak the language of jalao gherao (arson and looting)?” Justice Isa wondered.
“Why shouldn’t the court take action against the media? They will only realise [their mistake] when they feel the pinch financially,” Justice Isa bemoaned, adding that under Article 19 of the Constitution, the media also had a responsibility to fulfil.
“Should we go into details if which channels are owned by whom and from where they get their funds?” Justice Isa asked, recalling that one of the reports specifically mentioned the role of a particular channel in inflaming the sit-in participants.
“Will we sell our soul only for ratings and for petty advertisements to sell a few biscuits?”
The court also inquired why no representative of the ISI was present in the court to comply with its last order.
“If the ISI is not providing information to the court, then the question arises why public money is being spent on them,” Justice Isa wondered, adding that everybody should be accountable.
“It is the fundamental duty of the intelligence agencies to protect the state of Pakistan but in your reports you are trying to make everything into a political issue,” the bench observed.
During proceedings, the court also asked the DAG to read out the oath of judges and then the oath for the armed forces from the Constitution. The bench observed that even ordinary citizens were bound under Article 5 of the Constitution, which demands loyalty to the state.
The court said it was ready to hear the media’s point of view through their counsel if they had any reservations about the court’s observations.
Advocate General Islamabad Mian Abdul Rauf explained that police had registered 27 FIRs, of which seven were under the Anti Terrorism Act.
However, Justice Isa said the court wanted to know the number of deaths and the quantum of destruction caused by the protest throughout the country and postponed further proceedings with the observation that it would issue an order later.