Media is not free: Justice Faez Isa

ISLAMABAD: The country is being destroyed in a systematic manner, Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked during a Supreme Court hearing on local government elections on Thursday. He said he won’t shy away from saying that the media is not free and that it is being controlled. The Supreme Court observed that dissolving local bodies without any reason was not only a crime but it also falls in category of high treason.

A two-member bench of the apex court comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Maqbool Baqir heard a case pertaining to local bodies elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Justice Maqbool Baqir observed that ensuring local bodies polls was a constitutional requirement, adding that depriving the people of having local government system is like depriving them of their democratic right.

Justice Maqbool Baqir observed that dissolving local bodies without any reasons was not only a crime, but tantamount to high treason. Justice Qazi Faez Isa observed that it is violation of Article 6 of the Constitution, adding that local governments were dissolved in the martial law era, but it is unheard of in a democracy.

Justice Maqbool Baqir observed that public representatives make promises with the public of serving them, but they could not fulfil their commitments when there is no local government system. The judge said that local bodies elections in Sindh were delayed because half of the population of Karachi was shown in the census.

Justice Baqir further observed that they have also raised the issue of delay of local bodies elections, adding that they have to point out this as there is no ideal situation in the country. “For how long we could remain silent,” Justice Maqbool Baqir said, adding that a war is continuing, but against the public.”

Justice Qazi Faez Isa noted that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) says that there will be huge cost of Rs18 billion on local bodies elections. “But huge development funds are being released for politicians,” Justice Faez Isa remarked.

Attorney General Khalid Javed submitted that a nationwide census was conducted in 2017, but a final notification has yet to be issued on it. The AG informed the court that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) is required to look into the matter of census, adding that the federal government had constituted a committee in response to the objections raised on it and the committee had decided that the present census will be considered final. The AG said that the provinces had raised some objections on the recommendations of the said committee. He further informed the court that the matter had been referred to the Parliament.

The AG said that MQM had also raised objections on the census, adding that once the notification was issued pertaining to census then the process of delimitation will commence.

He said the CCI will decide about the new census. Justice Baqir said that when an ordinance on matters of interest can be issued within two to six days, the lack of a decision on the census so far signals that this is not an issue of state priorities but a deliberate delaying tactic.

To a question, the attorney general said the prime minister is chairman of CCI to which Justice Faez Isa asked if any meeting had been convened by the prime minister? The AG said the meeting of the CCI was convened, but it could not take place for some reasons.

During the hearing, counsel for the ECP told the court that a stay order was in the field against holding of local bodies elections in Balochistan. Similarly, a lawyer told the court that around two million people of Gilgit Baltistan also want to become a party in this case, adding that the people had been deprived of this right. The court asked the counsel to file an application before the court in this regard.

At the outset of hearing, Justice Qazi Faiz Isa observed that said that Ziaul Haq also used to hold local body elections, and said that it was not acceptable until the results were positive.

“Where are we going as a nation and country?” Justice Faez Isa asked, adding that conducting local bodies elections is a constitutional requirement.

According to Geo News, during the proceedings, Justice Faiz Isa said he won’t shy away from saying that the media is not free and that it is being controlled, with real journalists being thrown out of the country. He said every opposition leader is being described as a traitor and every supporter of the government is being described as a patriot. The top court judge said those who have deprived the media of its freedoms must go to jail.

He asked the attorney general about the state of freedom of the media. The attorney general remained silent, but when the court again asked him, he replied there is a third option also. This led to a laughter in the courtroom.

Meanwhile, Justice Faez Isa said that a referendum could be held with the journalists present in the court room. The judge asked the journalists who think that media is free in Pakistan should raise their hands. No reporter in the court raised a hand on this. Justice Faez Isa then asked that those who think the media is not free to raise their hands to which all the journalists present in the courtroom raised their hands.

Justice Maqbool Baqir said that this was the first time that the results of the referendum were 100 percent. The judge observed that restrictions were also being imposed on social media. He said that when one speaks of implementation of the Constitution, one is declared a traitor. Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing until March 1.

Source: The News

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