Faizabad commission gives clean chit to Faiz Hameed, agencies

In Local
April 16, 2024



ISLAMABAD:

The Faizabad sit-in commission has given a clean chit to the country’s spy agencies as well as former spymaster Lt Gen (retd) Faiz Hameed, observing that former high-ups of provincial and federal governments did not accuse the agencies or any other officials for extending facilitation to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protestors, it emerged on Tuesday.

The commission further noted that no evidence was brought before the inquiry body.

However, the three-member inquiry commission has held the political leadership, including the then Punjab chief minister – incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif – among others, responsible for letting the TLP protestors enter the federal capital without any resistance due to fear of threats to their lives and “apprehension of losing their vote bank”.

“Since no one including the former Prime Minister, former Interior Minister, former law Minister, and former Chief Minister of Punjab, accused intelligence agencies or any other official of the agency for extending facilitation to the protestors nor other evidence was brought forward, therefore, the Commission could not connect any organization or state official in supporting TLP to organise the dharna.”

During the inquiry, the commission’s report read, Shahid Khaqan Abbassi, Ahsan Iqbal, Zahid Hamid, Shehbaz Sharif, and then Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Aftab Sultan were asked specifically about the alleged role of agencies in facilitating the march.

“They all denied the role of any organ or person of the state to have indulged in such an activity,” the report stated.

“Commission observed that Lt Gen (R) Faiz Hameed, the then Maj Gen DG (C) ISI, on the behalf of security establishment had to sign the agreement as a mediator between two parties which was with the permission of DG ISI and COAS,” the report read, adding this was also concurred by then-interior minister Ahsan Iqbal and PM Abbasi.

The report further stated that the then interior minister told the commission that having no other alternative; the federal government had used the services of ISI in order to reach out to the leadership of TLP and finally signed an agreement upon which the protestors dispersed.

Based on the available record, the commission said, it appeared that the Faizabad sit-in was more due to lack of courage of conviction of the leader handling the issue and in particular the Punjab government, saying it is the reason both the provincial and federal governments dithered in tackling the issue at the initial stage.

The report also said that the record suggested different stances of the federal government and Punjab government to deal with the issue.

While ex-PM Abbasi initially persuaded the Punjab government to contain the protest within the limits of Punjab, ex-Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif “advised to let them proceed to Islamabad”.

The commission was led by Syed Akhtar Ali Shah, a former civil servant, who also served as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s police chief. It included Tahir Alam Khan, a former IG of ICT, and Khushal Khan, an additional secretary at the Ministry of Interior.

The commission was tasked to identify those who planned, financed, and supported a sit-in at Islamabad’s Faizabad area six years ago—a dharna that had brought the little-known religious party TLP into the national spotlight.

Read Faizabad sit-in commission summons Shehbaz on Jan 3

The commission was also asked to recommend legal action against the planners and executors of the protest which disrupted lives in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad between November 6 and November 27, 2017. It was further asked to determine the role of the government high-ups.

In its report spread over 149 pages, 57 annexures & sub-annexures and one appendix, the commission has not only examined all relevant evidence related to the incident but described it to be an elaborate case study on the style of governance in Pakistan, mentioning the major fault lines and lack of courage of conviction of the leaders to deal with a major crisis in accordance with the rule of law.

The commission observed that the more one examined the crisis generated due to TLP’s sit-in, the clearer one can see how policy gaps propel such protests and how efficiency, effectiveness and rule of law, which are essential attributes of good governance, are missing from the scheme of things.

It noted that lack of coordination between Rawalpindi Police and Islamabad Capital City Police was observed and, as a result, 277 people including police and Frontier Constabulary officials were injured, while seven others were killed in Rawalpindi.

The report added that the commission of inquiry found unanimity among the statements of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ahsan Iqbal, Shehbaz Sharif, Zahid Hamid; the then law minister, Aftab Sultan; the then DG IB, Fuad Asadullah; Director General IB, Azam Suleiman; the then Additional Chief Secretary Home, emphasizing to resolve the matter through negotiations and avoidance of use of force.

“All of them,” it stated, “who could be considered aggrieved, did not blame any organ of the state or official for facilitating the march”.

In February, the inquiry commission was constituted to enforce the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Faizabad Dharna case and requested a three-week extension to finalise its comprehensive report.

A senior government official disclosed to The Express Tribune that the commission sought additional time from the apex court due to the unavailability of key individuals whose statements are crucial to the investigation.

This marked the second extension requested by the commission. Last month, a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, granted a one-month extension for the inquiry’s completion.

Faizabad sit-in

The Faizabad sit-in refers to the protest in Faizabad, Rawalpindi in November 2017 by the activists and supporters of the TLP. The Supreme Court had taken suo motu notice of the sit-in on November 21, 2017, and a division bench led by Justice Qazi Faez Isa on February 6, 2019, pronounced its verdict, criticising the role of intelligence agencies in the saga.

Soon after assuming the office of the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) in September this year, Justice Isa listed for hearing the petitions that had been filed against the February 2019 verdict. However, most of the petitioners withdrew their petitions as a three-member bench led by Justice Isa took up the case.

Later, the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) informed the bench that the government had established a three-member commission of inquiry. This commission is tasked with identifying individuals responsible for planning, financing, and supporting the sit-in. Furthermore, it will recommend legal actions against those who both planned and executed the protest.

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