SC adjourns hearing of APS case after PM Imran briefs bench

Is it not the job of the state to find and catch the real culprits, asks Justice Qazi Amin

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived at the Supreme Court on Wednesday after being summoned by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed in the Peshawar Army Public School suo motu case.

The attack on the Army Public School in 2014 shook the nation to its core. The militant assault on December 16, 2014, martyred more than 145, most of them school students.

Soon after the attack, a national consensus was achieved and the National Action Plan (NAP) was drafted to curb the rampant spread of terrorism in the country. The military, in successive campaigns, wrestled back control of areas in erstwhile Fata which had become a hotbed of militant activity.

During the last hearing of the case, the apex court had asked the attorney general to inform the bench regarding steps taken by the government to redress the grievances of the martyred children’s parents.

The premier was accompanied by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.

At the rostrum, the premier stated that he reached Peshawar as soon as he could after the attack took place. The chief justice then asked the premier regarding the steps taken by the state to provide justice to the parents of APS martyrs.

When the prime minister replied that he was not in power at the time, the CJP countered and asked what has the incumbent government done to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“According to media reports, you are negotiating with these people,” Justice Qazi Amin remarked. The prime minister then stated that he should be given a chance to speak and he can explain the points raised “one by one”.

Justice Gulzar added that the court has nothing to do with the prime minister’s policy decisions and the bench would like to know why the culprits of the massacre could not be traced even after years of the attack.

At the time of the tragedy, our party was in power in K-P and we had taken all possible steps, the premier replied.

According to the report, no special measures have been taken, remarked Justice Ijazul Ahsan. In the constitution of Pakistan, the protection of the people is the responsibility of the state, the chief justice added.

“80,000 people were martyred in the war against terror,” PM Imran said. “I said at the time that this is America’s war, we should not interfere.” He added that he had said Pakistan should “remain neutral” as the country was not involved in the 9/11 attacks.

To this, Justice Qazi Amin replied that there is no need to go back in time.

“We made a National Action Plan after the tragedy,” the PM replied. “We won the war because the whole nation stood with Pakistan Army. We have formed the National Intelligence Coordination Committee which is looking into the matter.”

You are in the government, it is your responsibility to take care of the parents of the children, Justice Ijazul Ahsan told the prime minister.

“I have met the parents of the children many times”, Imran replied. “I request the court to determine those responsible for the 80,000 martyrs of the war on terror,” the PM said. “The 80,000 martyrs also had parents, their grief will be the same.”

The premier mentioned that the country’s ally at the time was also carrying out drone attacks. The bench replied that the government can take action and will not be stopped by anyone.

The PM, appearing before the bench, assured that the state shall ensure proper justice and those who are responsible or failed the fulfilment of their duties would be taken to task. 

The apex court then ordered the federal government to take action against officials who had shown negligence in the incident, with the three-member bench directing the government to submit a report signed by PM Imran.

The hearing was then adjourned and Imran left the court premises.

Court summons PM Imran

Earlier today, the chief justice had asked Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan whether the premier had read the last order issued by the bench in the case.

Apex bench member Justice Qazi Amin remarked that there were reports of the state negotiating with the banned group.

“Is it not the job of the state to find and catch the real culprits?” the justice asked.

The CJP also questioned the working of the country’s intelligence apparatus and wondered why the people are not protected. He further said that children can not be left to die in schools.

“Action was taken against the watchmen and soldiers. Action should have been taken from the top against those who left taking salaries and privileges,” the CJP observed. Justice Ijazul Ahsan further remarked that it was not possible that the terrorists were not aided from within.

During the hearing, Justice Gulzar inquired from the attorney general whether a case had been registered against the then army chief and other officials.

“There is no finding in the inquiry report against the former army chief and DG ISI,” the attorney general replied.

The country has a large intelligence apparatus and billions are spent on the agency which is claimed to be the best in the world, said the CJP.

Counsel of the martyred children’s parents, Amanullah Kanrani, said the “right of Qisas belongs to parents and not the state” and further pleaded that the state cannot compromise in the current scenario.

The CJP then observed that the court had given a clear order in the case and asked the attorney general to “listen to his conscience”.

The attorney general replied that the orders of the court are “acceptable” and added that he will “not defend anyone”.

Earlier, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary announced that the interim Afghan government-backed talks between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with both sides agreeing to a complete ceasefire.

The ceasefire began on November 9 and will run until December 9, unless both sides agreed to an extension.