LAHORE: Defending a verdict by a single bench of the Lahore High Court regarding publication of Model Town inquiry report, Barrister Syed Ali Zafar told a full bench on Thursday that the government could not deny people the right to know truth as to who was responsible for the horrific killings.
“And if this is kept secret from the people then not only will this amount to constitutional violation but also the entire purpose for appointing the inquiry tribunal will be negated,” he said advancing arguments on behalf of heirs of those killed in the 2014 Model Town incident.
The three-judge full bench headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh is seized with an intra court appeal (ICA) moved by the provincial government challenging decision of a single bench to release the withheld report. Advocate Khwaja Harris concluded his arguments last week on behalf of the government.
Lawyer challenges govt plea against verdict on making MT killing report public
Barrister Zafar stated that the report was prepared by a judicial tribunal constituted by the government itself under Pakistan Commissions of Enquiry Act and the report accordingly was a public document as defined in Section 85 of the Qanoon-i-Shahadat Order, 1984.
He argued that under Article 19-A of the Constitution it was the fundamental right of every citizen to have access to and receive information on all matters of public importance and this right was to be read with the right of “freedom of speech.”
Referring to different judgments, the counsel said the results of various probes like the Model Town incident had been invariably withheld from the people or selectively disclosed, which resulted in distorted history of the country.
However, he said, Article 19-A of the Constitution changed the fate of the people and now they had a right to demand and the government had an obligation to give information to them.
Relying on the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Barrister Zafar argued that the “Najafi Report” was the property of the people and the government was only a custodian. He pointed out that the Model Town killings were recognised as “state terrorism” and the incident was watched by the entire country where unarmed men and women were killed and tortured in broad daylight by the police.
He said the judges of the high court had the privilege of ensuring that fundamental right to information was received by the people and this power was available under Article 199 of the Constitution. The counsel would resume his arguments on Nov 21.
Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2017