None of the terms can be legally justified: IHC questions legality of Faizabad agreement

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday questioned the legal standing of the agreement reached between the government and Faizabad protest leaders, saying that none of the terms could be legally justified.

“How can cases filed under the Terrorism Act be dismissed?” he asked during a hearing at the IHC regarding the recent sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange in the capital.

The judge also declared that the protest leaders were guilty of contempt of court.

After the weeks-long protest that had virtually paralysed the capital, the government and protesters reached an agreement on November 26 in which the former conceded to the latter’s demands — including dropping all the cases against the protesters. The IHC, however, had noted a “number of serious objections on the terms of agreement” and expressed its displeasure over the army’s alleged role in the settlement made with the protesters.

“Who is the army to adopt a mediator’s role?” Justice Siddiqui had inquired in the previous hearing. “Where does the law assign this role to a major general?”

The IHC recommended that the legal standing of the agreement be discussed in a joint session of the parliament,  NNP reported.

Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf, however, disagreed with the recommendation, saying that since the high court had taken suo motu notice of the matter, the judiciary should oversee it. He had appeared in court on Justice Siddiqui’s orders.

The AGP requested the court to grant him some time to determine the legal position of the army’s role as an arbitrator in the negotiations, saying that he was not in the country and needed time to prepare the report. In a written order on November 27, the IHC bench had directed the attorney general to help the court determine how the armed forces could act as an arbitrator.

The Intelligence Bureau also presented a report on the botched operation against the protesters by the police in court today while the chief commissioner of Islamabad submitted a detailed report on the protest.

Meanwhile, special assistant to the prime minister, Barrister Zafarullah Khan, excused himself from IHC’s order to prepare a report on the sit-in.

On November 27, the high court had tasked Zafarullah with filing a report on “what happened [during the sit-in] where and when” within 10 days.