SC terms ‘organised’ campaign against judges unfortunate

Sohail Khan & Maryam Nawaz
Friday, Feb 23, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court said in a statement on Thursday that an “organised campaign” against judges was “unfortunate”, noting that directly attacking the jurors was against freedom of expression. The statement was issued in response to “misreporting” on social, electronic and print media about a case whose judgment was issued on February 6, 2024.

CJP Qazi Faez Isa — heading a two-member bench including Justice Musarat Hilali — had issued the order on a set of appeals filed by petitioner Mubarik Ahmad Sani against an order of the Lahore High Court.

Sani was accused of distributing/disseminating a proscribed book, Tafseer-e-Sagheer, which as per the prosecution was an offence under the Punjab Holy Quran (Printing and Recording) (Amendment) Act enforced in 2021. However, the FIR alleged that he had done the act in 2019 when it was not an offence.

Referring to the verdict, the top court lamented that in dealing with cases pertaining to offences against religion facts give way to emotions and Islamic commands are not heeded.

“Confusion is spreading due to the erroneous reporting on print, social, and electronic media about an order. An impression is being given that the Supreme Court has deviated from the Constitution’s definition of a Muslim and also called for ending the punishments for religious offences under the Pakistan Penal Code,” it added. “This impression is totally wrong.”

The statement mentioned that the top court had noted in the aforementioned case, the judges had noted that even if all the offences included in the FIR were accepted as they were, they were not applicable to the petitioner.

“In the case, the court said, Criminal Amendment Act 1932 would be applicable under which the maximum prison sentence was six months. Since the petitioner was already jailed for a year, therefore, in line with the law and Islamic teachings, the suspect was released on bail.”

The court’s statement noted that “unfortunately, people get emotional and forget Islamic teachings in such cases”.

Earlier, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Qazi Faiz Isa, on Thursday remarked that all prophets followed the teachings of Last Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) and prayed behind him, which meant that prophethood had ended after him.

During the course of hearing the case related to the dispute between the CDA and the Wildlife Board in the National Park area of Islamabad, the CJP, while addressing the CDA counsel, said that Prophet Akharuz-Zaman [The Last Prophet PBUH] had been called Rahmatulil-Alamin and what did that mean.

The CDA counsel replied that that means he is mercy for all the worlds. The chief justice said “We have to take guidance from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace,” adding that Allah gave our beloved Prophet (PBUH) the title of Habibullah [The Friend of Allah]. The chief justice questioned the CDA counsel as to what was written first in the Constitution of Pakistan? The lawyer replied that it was written in the beginning of the Constitution that “Sovereignty belongs to Allah”.

The CJP said that means that no land belongs to anyone, the sovereignty belongs to Allah, which is written in the Constitution.

The Chief Justice said that on the night of Al-Isra’ wal-Mi’raj [the Night Journey & Ascension], all the prophets offered prayers behind Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him). Why that honour was not given to any other prophet, he asked and then explained that “because prophethood ended after Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)”.

The CJ remarked that the word “Khalifah fil-Arz” is used in the Holy Quran for human beings, adding that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is the last prophet, the source of mercy and guidance and we as human beings have to take care of animals and birds also.

Separately, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) strongly condemned the “malicious and slanderous campaign” against CJP Qazi Faez Isa.

In a statement issued on Thursday, PBC Vice Chairman Riazat Ali Sahar and Chairman Executive Committee Farooq Hamid Naik said the campaign was designed to bring the Supreme Court into disrepute and make the CJP vulnerable by deliberately attempting to distort a decision of the Supreme Court. “The court’s decision can’t be allowed to be used for political gains and some elements have used completely false and forged information to incite violence and hatred,” the top lawyers body said.

Also, the Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a statement on Thursday it was deeply concerned over the ongoing campaign on social media targeting Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa for a judgment that protects the constitutional right of all religious minorities to freedom of religion or belief. “The government must prevent such allegations from being weaponised in this manner, mindful of the risk this can create. Those political leaders and sections of the media that are responsible for this campaign must be restrained,” added the statement.

Meanwhile, a social media user suspected of being involved in a threatening campaign against CJP Qazi Faez Isa had been arrested. Sources said the suspect had been identified as Abdul Wasay, a resident of Rawalpindi. They said the suspect ran a “threatening campaign” against CJP Isa on social media. He threatened the chief justice and tried to tarnish his image, they added. “The rest of the people involved in the campaign will be identified and legal action will be taken against them,” they said.

APP adds: Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi and PM’s Special Representative for Religious Affairs Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Ashrafi said on Thursday the government would not allow the social media use for negative propaganda against judiciary and other institutions at any cost. Addressing a joint press conference in Islamabad, they denounced attempts by certain individuals to exploit ambiguities arising from an SC verdict in the Mubarak Ahmed Sani case for political purposes.

Tahir Ashrafi asked the detractors of verdict to use legal avenues to address issues, rather than opting for street protests or violence. “This is particularly crucial, considering the impossibility of allowing the use of banned material in Pakistan,” he added.

Urging the Punjab government to submit a review petition to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, he emphasized the fundamental belief in the finality of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the last Prophet of Allah, which was an integral part of the Muslim faith.

According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, this matter is settled. “Every Muslim is entrusted with safeguarding the sanctity of the finality of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” he added. He appealed to everyone to foster an environment that ensures that stability and peace of the country remains undisturbed. The religious freedom of every Pakistani, including non-Muslims, is enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Similarly, the rights of non-Muslim Pakistanis are safeguarded in the Constitution, he added.

Praising the efforts of law-enforcement agencies for ensuring peaceful elections nationwide, he called upon YouTubers and social media activists to refrain from causing disturbances, emphasising that Pakistani Muslims unanimously uphold the sanctity of the finality of the Holy Prophet.

News Desk adds: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to return all three offices of Wildlife including Information Centre situated at Trail five and six of Daman-e-Koh, Islamabad. A three-member SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarat Hilali, also directed the civic body to return the goods taken from the Wildlife Department offices besides seeking complete details of all the lands acquired by the CDA in the National Park and issued notices to the Attorney General and Advocate General regarding the private restaurant dispute on the military grass land. The court also asked for all details including photos of the CDA rest house located in Daman-e-Koh.

The chief justice said there was a risk of fire in the National Park; therefore, the Wildlife Board should reinstall its equipment to deal with the dangers.

During the hearing, the court was told that without any notice, the CDA got vacated the premises from the Wildlife and removed all the equipment from its offices. While the counsel for CDA requested the court that the Wildlife Department should share the said offices with it.

The counsel for Wildlife, however, contended that the CDA had its own rest houses. The chief justice said the CDA rest houses should be used for the public.

Adjourning the hearing until March 11, the court directed the CDA that it should disclose whatever property it had in Margalla Hills. The court noted down in its order that the fundamental rights of citizens include a dignified life, adding that the behaviour shown by the CDA was inappropriate.