New fact-finding commission formed to probe Faizabad sit-in, govt tells SC 

New fact-finding commission formed to probe Faizabad sit-in, govt tells SC 

Islamabad (Web Desk): Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan on Wednesday informer the Supreme Court (SC) that the caretaker federal government has formed a three-member inquiry commission tasked with identifying persons responsible for Faizabad dharna 2017.
Earlier today, a three-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah resumed hearing a set of review petitions against the 2019 verdict.

According to details, the inquiry commission will be led by former IGP Syed Akhtar Hussain Shah and will propose legal action against those it finds responsible for the sit-in that crippled routine life in Islamabad in 2014.

The apex court was hearing a set of review pleas challenging the February 2019 Faizabad judgment authored by now Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa.

The court had earlier rejected a fact-finding committee formed by the interim government for this purpose after all eight petitioners sought to withdraw their review pleas.

During the hearing, CJP Faez Isa remarked that government’s newly formed fact-finding commission was empowered to summon the former prime minister, ex-army chief and then-CJP for investigation.

“The commission can call anyone for investigation … no one is exempt,” the CJP stated.

Authored by Justice Isa years before he took oath as the chief justice, the searing judgement had instructed the defence ministry and the tri-services chiefs to penalise personnel under their command who were found to have violated their oath.

It had also directed the federal government to monitor those advocating hate, extremism and terrorism and prosecute them in accordance with the law.

Pleas were subsequently moved against the verdict by the Ministry of Defence, the Intelligence Bureau, the PTI, Pemra, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the Mutta­hida Qaumi Movement (MQM), AML chief Sheikh Rashid and Ijazul Haq.

However, most of the petitioners withdrew their pleas, prompting the CJP to ask “why is everyone so afraid to speak the truth”.

During its previous hearing on November 1, the top rejected the fact-finding committee formed for the implementation of the apex court's February 6, 2019 verdict in the Faizabad sit-in case.

The fact-finding committee was constituted by the government earlier to investigate the "role and directions" of all "concerned" officials in the management and handling of the sit-in in 2017.

The top court ordered the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan to form a new inquiry commission.

Referring to former Pemra chief Absar Alam's statement on “media coercion” during the 2017 Faizabad sit-in, the CJP had observed that all institutions, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), were not independent.

The government had earlier constituted a fact-finding committee on Oct 19 and then read out the notification responsible for ensuring compliance with directions included in the 2019 judgement.

It had comprised additional secretaries of the ministries of defence, interior and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was expected to furnish its final report to the defence ministry by Dec 1.

However, CJP Isa had rejected the committee during the previous hearing, remarking that the exercise was an “eye wash”. He had also raised questions on the terms of reference (TORs) of the probe.

Speaking to newsmen outside the SC on Wednesday, the AGP said that the government had constituted a new three-member committee and a notification regarding the same would be submitted to the apex court.

The new commission has been formed under the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 2017. It comprises former KP inspector general of police Akhtar Ali Shah, ex-IGP Tahir Aslam Khan and Interior Ministry Additional Secretary Khushal Khan.

As per the notification’s TORs, the commission is tasked with inquiring into illegal financial or other support provided to TLP for undertaking the Faizabad dharna and the events that followed.

It is responsible to recommend actions against those who issued fatwas or edicts during or in relation with the sit-in, inquire into the inaction of Pemra against broadcasters and cable operators who violated the law, and examine the spread of hate and violence through social media and recommend measures to deal with it.

The commission will also “fix responsibility of any person and/or government officers including those working with intelligence agencies” and determine if any disciplinary proceedings or legal action was required to be taken against them.

Furthermore, it will suggest measures for police to handle such rallies and recommend a framework for the federal and provincial governments to effectively monitor and prosecute those who advocate hate and extremism.

The committee, after compiling all the record and evidence, will submit its report to the federal government within two months.

At the last hearing, the SC had sought fresh disclosures from anyone regarding the protest by a religious group that had brought the capital and the garrison city to a grinding halt for 20 days.

It is pertinent to mention that the apex court decided to revisit the Faizabad sit-in case on September 28 following a series of review petitions submitted against its previous ruling.

This development goes back to November 2017, when the SC took suo motu notice of the three-week-long sit-in by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Faizabad Interchange, which was held against a change in the finality-of-Prophethood oath, in the Elections Act 2017. The sit-in was called off after the protesters reached an agreement with the government.

A year later on November 22, 2018, a two-judge bench consisting of Justice Isa and Justice Mushir Alam reserved their ruling.

On February 6, 2019, the Supreme Court’s two-member bench of the apex court comprising the now-CJP Isa and Justice Mushir Alam issued a 43-page judgement.

The then-federal government, along with other petitioners, filed review pleas contesting the apex court's judgement delivered by the incumbent Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa regarding the Faizabad sit-in case.

The pleas were moved against the verdict by the Ministry of Defence, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), PEMRA, the ECP, the Mutta­hida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Sheikh Rashid and Ijazul Haq.

However, most of the petitioners, including the government, IB, Pemra and PTI, withdrew their pleas, prompting the CJP to ask “why is everyone so afraid to speak the truth”.