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Punjab govt moves LHC to set aside Yasmin Rashid’s discharge in Jinnah House attack case

Punjab govt moves LHC to set aside Yasmin Rashid’s discharge in Jinnah House attack case

The Punjab government moved the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday to set aside an anti-terrorism court’s (ATC) order that discharged PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid from the Jinnah House attack case, maintaining that the ATC order was “illegal” and “not sustainable in the eye of law”.

Rashid is among the several PTI leaders and workers who have been arrested amid a crackdown following protests over party chairman Imran Khan’s arrest at the Islamabad High Court in a corruption case on May 9.

While the protests were under way, social media was flooded with footage of mobs vandalising public and private properties, including the army’s head office, General Headquarters, in Rawalpindi and Lahore Corps Commander’s House, also called Jinnah House.

Rashid was initially detained in connection with the events of May 9 under the Maintenance of Public Order.

The LHC had ordered her release on May 13, but she was re-arrested merely hours later in three more cases pertaining to May 9, including the Jinnah House attack case.

On Saturday, an ATC had discharged her from the case along with 23 other suspects, with the judge observing that she was summoned in the case based on the disclosure of a co-suspect, which had no evidentiary value in the eyes of the law.

But only a day later, Punjab police said it would be approaching the high court against the ATC’s order of discharging Rashid in the case.

Subsequently, the Punjab government filed a plea in the LHC today, stating that North Cantonment Deputy Superintendent of Police Muhammad Ashfaq Rana got a first information report registered on May 9 after he received information that 1,400-1,500 PTI workers, led by Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed and Mian Aslam Iqbal, had “constituted an unlawful assembly and blocked the road [leading to] Jinnah House”. The plea added that party workers had “firearms and blunt weapons”.

It alleged that the said mob raised “slogans against the state institutions” and said the PTI chief and other party leaders had “directed us to attack the offices and buildings of the Pakistan Army”.

According to the plea, police officials asked the mob to disperse, but despite their repeated warnings, the suspects “attacked police officials and set police vehicles on fire”.

It further stated that 53 police officials were injured in the attack while the suspects “forcibly entered Jinnah House after breaking the main gate” and took away valuables worth Rs15 million. It also alleged that two persons died in firing by Rasheed and Iqbal.

Recounting that Rashid was arrested in the case and later discharged by an administrative judge, the plea termed the judge’s order “illegal, not sustainable in the eye of law and … liable to be set aside”.

The Punjab government made the request on grounds that the judge issued the order for Rashid’s discharge in a “hasty manner without giving any reasonable opportunity to the investigation agency for the collection of evidence”.

“Hence, the impugned order … is against the law,” the plea said.

Moreover, it added, while issuing the order, the ATC had not let the investigating officer collect forensic evidence, namely photogrammetry, voice matching and polygraph test results, “as well as any other evidence that is necessary in this case”.

The plea further said that a mobile phone, vehicle and megaphone was yet to be recovered from Rashid, who had “instigated the public/mob [using a] megaphone and asked the mob/public to move towards Jinnah House to attack it”.

It highlighted that every person charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 was “bound to disclose all information to the investigating officer” and as per Section 32 of the Act, its provisions “have an overriding effect over other laws”.

Moreover, the complainant contended, the ATC judge had “not given solid reasons” for rejecting the IO’s request for Rashid’s 14-day physical remand.

“The learned court has refused to grant physical remand for even a single day and hampered investigation,” the plea said, adding that there was no “efficacious remedy available [for the petitioner] but to invoke the constitutional jurisdiction” of the high court.

The plea sought the setting aside of the ATC order “in interest of justice”.

The petitioner also prayed that the application seeking Rashid’s physical remand by allowed and her custody be handed over to the IO for proper investigation.

Besides Rashid, the ATC judge who ordered that she be discharged from the case, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Investigation) Kamran Adil, who is also the convener of the joint investigation team formed to probe the case, and IO Inspector Muhammad Sarwar have been nominated as respondents in the plea.

The plea will be taken up by the LHC tomorrow.

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