Pakistan forms a new fact-finding commission to probe the 2017 Faizabad dharna, SC endorses it

Pakistan forms a new fact-finding commission to probe the 2017 Faizabad dharna, SC endorses it

Islamabad, Nov 15 (PTI) The Pakistan government on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that it has formed a new fact-finding commission, even more powerful than the earlier one, to probe the 2017 sit-in by a hardline religious group that has caused widespread disruption in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The apex court, which earlier this month rejected a committee set up to investigate the issue by terming it as “eyewash” endorsed the new commission and also said it will have powers to “call anyone for investigation ... no one is exempt.” The development was announced when a three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa took up for hearing a set of review petitions filed against the court’s 2019 judgement in what is now known as the Faizabad sit-in case.

On November 1 the apex court while hearing the case rejected the previous fact-finding commission to probe the 20-day sit-in by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) at Islamabad’s Faizabad interchange.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan informed the apex court that the government had formed a new fact-finding commission, comprising three members, to probe the sit-in.

The new fact-finding commission is tasked with probing and identifying persons responsible for the sit-in and recommending legal action against them. The new team will submit its findings in a report to the federal government within two months.

Chief Justice Isa remarked that the newly formed fact-finding commission was empowered to summon the former prime minister, ex-army chief, and then-chief justice for investigation. “The commission can call anyone for investigation … no one is exempt,” he stated.

Later the chief justice adjourned the hearing of the case by saying that it would be fixed for hearing after two months.

On November 1, the chief justice had termed the exercise as “eyewash” and said the “real thing” was missing from it. “This committee is illegal,” he stated and then asked why the inquiry was not conducted under the Inquiry Commission Act and directed the government to form another committee.

The TLP had alleged that changes had been in the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat (finality of prophethood) oath for lawmakers by the government, which claimed that the amendment to the oath was a “clerical error” and was subsequently rectified through an act of Parliament.

However, the group went ahead with the protest and its 20-day sit-in caused massive inconvenience to the public as it paralysed life in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and the issue landed in the top court.

The then Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who is now the chief justice, in his 2019 verdict in the sit-in case had ordered, among other steps, to form a probe committee to know the real reason behind the protest. The searing judgement had also instructed the defence ministry and the tri-services chiefs to penalise personnel under their command who were found to have violated their oath.

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

The decision had upset the government and the powerful establishment and a case of alleged corruption was filed against Isa in the Supreme Court, which after hearing, rejected the charges.

Several review petitions, including by the Ministry of Defence, the Intelligence Bureau, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, Election Commission of Pakistan, the Mutta­hida Qaumi Movement party as well by former minister Sheikh Rashid and Ijazul Haq (who is the son of former dictator Ziaul Haq), were also filed against the original judgment.

The review petitions remained in the cold storage but Isa, after becoming the chief justice, decided to hear. He formed a three-member bench — including himself and fellow judges, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah, which on September 28 heard a set of review petitions challenging the apex court’s verdict. PTI SH NPK NPK NPK

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