By Afshain Afzal
Aftermath, the National Security Committee endorsed of 15th May Corps Commander Conference's decision to try the perpetrators of the violent attacks under the Army Act and Official Secrets Act, Islamabad actions are seen with concern as regard to upholding fundamental rights. If we recall, Special Corps Commanders’ Conference chaired by Chief of Army Staff General Syed Asim Munir firmly resolved to hold the abettors, planners, and miscreants involved in attacks on military and public property accountable under the Army Act and the Official Secret Act. It is not wise to comment on the current situation at this juncture as everyone knows the half-hidden – half-exposed hands are running the show and now bent upon to internationalize the issue to give favour to a particular political party and put all blame on Pakistan Armed Forces and Law enforcement agencies.
Earlier, in a dramatized script by handful of individuals to give an impression that whole nation is against Armed Forces of Pakistan and bent upon attacking military and law enforcement installations miserably failed. As the matter died down a new issue was raised on Imran Khan’s arrest. Many official statements did not match each other but why ignored? Who ordered Rangers to arrest Imran Khan has still been not made public, what to talk about giving free passage for trespassers in GHQ, Corps Commander’s residence and carrying out arson at various places. The intervention by Judiciary also could not help moving to next episode of the written script. Now no one in the “Civil Power” knows how Article 245 has been invoked and who requisitioned Armed Forces in aid to civil power. One wonders even if the Army has been called in by Federal Government under Article 245, which has not been claimed, how the letter issued by Ministry of Interior, Islamabad got approval requesting Armed Forces under Section 4 (3) ii) of Anti Terrorism Act, 1997? And how official letters by Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial governments along with two separate replies by Ministry of Interior have been leaked to media and made public on the same day?
The symbolic incidents of violence occurred throughout the country on 9th May but request for requisition of Armed Forces in aid to civil power by the Federal Government seems overdoing. One wonders when forces of Ministry of Interior including Frontier Constabulary and Rangers were already deployed in all the province and federal capital, why Armed Forces were requisitioned? Interestingly, letter from the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan are missing and so is the case of their replies, which apparently reflect that they have not requisitioned Armed Forces. It is quite disappointing that the constitutional provisions in Article 245, Rule of Business and other laws have not been followed in true letter and spirit. The makeshift measures and lack of coordination between various departments and Federal Government is highly disappointing. If the current violations are allowed to go unchecked, on foresee a potential war between Federal Government and Provinces over the issues how to requisition/ de-requisition forces in aid to civil power, strength/ deployment of these forces.
In a systematic move, arrests are being made to give further popularity to those who challenged the writ of government and pardoned on mere assurance without trial. First Information Report (FIR-708/23), lodged under 10 criminal sections including 7 ATA, 353/341/440/441 PPC with the Police station in Rawalpindi, Lahore etc have been ignored and in a unique way instead to punishing the culprits under prevailing law, they are pardoned after confessing their crimes and chanting slogan Pak Fauj Zindabad, Pakistan Paiendaabad. Interestingly itut still it is unclear under which law they are being released. One wonders why a separate yardstick is followed for people of Balochistan and erstwhile Tribal Area of Pakistan.
We cannot ignore that Fundamental Rights or Human Rights ensured in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and these must be extended to all citizens of Pakistan. However, criminals and terrorists must be dealt with an iron hand. What intentional flaw has been committed here that Pakistan’s Constitution is protecting terrorists and criminals in political parties, which would have dire repercussions in the future. More so, The Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 (XXVII of 1997) permits requisition by provincial Governments to secure the presence of armed forces and civil armed forces in any area for the prevention and punishment of terrorists and scheduled offences in accordance with the provisions of this Act. But everyone would appreciate that Anti-Terrorism Act does not fit in the 9 May case.
No doubt, it is not within the mandate of Law Enforcement agencies including Armed Forces as highlighted in the 15th May declaration; to develop national consensus amongst all stakeholders to address ongoing political instability and strengthen democratic process. Nor we should allow institutions to play the role of several Ministries at the same time as Ministry of Interior cannot allow Armed Forces to derequisition Armed Forces in aid to civil power after mutual consultation of both the Provincial Governments and MO Directorate of Pakistan Army, as highlighted in the authorization letter by Ministry of Interior dated 10 May 2023. It is high time to act constitutionally, preserve democracy and human rights but use an iron hand to defeat criminals and terrorists by bringing new amendments in the Constitution.