Islamabad; 30 May 2024: On the subject issue, the daily Dawn published the following report:

SC reserves verdict on Punjab`s plea in religious freedoms case

By Nasir Iqbal  2024-05-30

ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, on Wednesday reserved its decision on a Punjab government petition seeking review of its Feb 6 judgement that overturned appellant Mubarak Ahmad Sani`s conviction on charges of distributing `proscribed literature`.

At the last hearing of the government`s review petition, the SC had sought assistance of the Council of Islamic Ideology, religious scholars and institutions on the matter after the decision of overturning the Lahore High Court verdict in the case stirred a controversy and malicious campaign against CJP Isa.

A heavy contingent of anti-riot police was deputed outside the apex court building, where a number of clerics and their supporters gathered and chanted religious slogans after their appearance before the court.

The court had earlier issued notices to CII, Jamia Darululoom, Karachi; Jamia Imdadia, Faisalabad; Jamia Naeemia, Karachi; Jamia Muhammadia Ghousia, Bhera; Jamia Salafia, Faisalabad; Jamia Tul Muntazir, Lahore, Jamia Urwat-ul-Wusqa, Lahore; Quran Academy, Lahore; and Al-Mawrid, Lahore, with direction to furnish concise statements on the SC verdict in the Mubarak Ahmad Sani case.

Objections to individuals` audience Inside the courtroom, the three member bench asked representatives of different institutions to present their points of view one by one.

However, several religious scholars objected to the appearance of Dr Ammar Khan Nasir from Al-Mawrid, Lahore, on the grounds that he was appearing on his own without any authorisation from the institution.

After seeking consensus among themselves, the court decided that the right of audience would not be granted to individuals, except those representing and having authorisa-tion of their institutions.

Interestingly, Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, one of the three bench members, at one point during the hearing recited Kalma and observed that all three judges sitting on the bench were Muslims and believe in the oneness of Allah Almighty and the finality of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

The CJP also mentioned the arson attack on a girls` middle school in the Shakhimar village, Razmak tehsil of North Waziristan, on Tuesday.

At this, a Jamia Naeemia representative clarified that no religious scholar would ever approve of setting fire to girls` school, rather seminaries inculcate religious education among girls.

Mr Sani, the appellant, faced charges of distributing literature that could `hurt religious sentiments`.

He was named as an accused in an FIR registered under Sections 295-B (Defiling, etc., of Holy Quran) and 298-C (Person of Quadiani group, etc., calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith) of the Pakistan Penal Code, as well as Section 9(1A) of the Punjab Holy Quran (Printing and Recording) Act, 2011, in Chiniot on Dec 6, 2022.

On June 24, 2023, the trial court framed charges against him. He filed an application for deletion of the charge before the trial court, but it was dismissed on Sept 25. He then challenged the order before the Lahore High Court, but the LHC also dismissed his plea on Oct 16.

Later, he challenged the high court`s order through a criminal petition before the Supreme Court, which was allowed on Feb 6.

However, the SC order stirred a controversy as not only it drew a strong reaction from religious circles, but also resulted in the filing of a review petition by the Punjab government that sought certain modifications in the judgement.

The provincial government in its review petition, moved through Additional Prosecutor General Ahmad Raza Gilani, argued that it was aggrieved by the SC judgement since the conclusions were based on an `erroneous assumption of the material facts`. While closing the daylong proceedings on Wednesday, the CJP observed: `We will decide the case after deliberations and if need be, we may assemble again to seek further explanation and assistance.

Our Comment: We would like to clarify that the Supreme Court bench on 6 February 2024, had given the following verdict:

“Therefore, Criminal Petition for Leave to Appeal No. 1344-L of 2023 is converted into an appeal and allowed by setting aside the impugned orders and it is ordered that the petitioner be immediately released upon provision of a personal bond in the sum of five thousand rupees in respect of the case arising out of the above-mentioned FIR No. 661/22.”

Mr. Mubarik A. Sani, the accused, was thereafter released on bail.

The Dawn has correctly reported that a number of clerics and their supporters gathered and chanted religious slogans after their appearance before the court. It is noteworthy that M. Farid Paracha (JI) and Captain (R) Safdar of PML-N were present in the court in support of the clerics.

The Dawn also reported that Justice Saadat Khan recited the Kalima and observed that all three judges of the bench were Muslims and believed in the oneness of Allah Almighty and the finality of the Prophethood of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Mr. Sani’s advocate pointed out that the ‘complainant’ goes all around the country to have criminal cases registered against Ahmadis. Mr. Justice Khan remarked that this activity of the complainant was praiseworthy as it serves the cause of Islam and the tenet of Khatme Nabuwwat (End of Prophethood).

Upon completion of the hearing, clerics made aggressive statements to the media outside the courtroom. Maulvi Allah Wasaya declared that in case of an adverse decision, “Yeh ghora aur yeh ghoray ka maidan” (We’ll fight it out), and “We’ll do what we can,” etc.

Social media subsequently carried negative propaganda and threats in case of an unfavorable verdict.