The Sindh High Court on Tuesday conditionally allowed the provincial government to impose ban on use of motorcycle on the 9th and 10th of Muharram “as an extreme measure of last resort” in the public interest if there were “serious security concerns”.A division bench headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam gave this direction on an application of the provincial government seeking a seven-day ban on motorbike riding in the city due to security concerns.
However, the bench ordered: “Under the circumstances, if at all there are serious and credible information and serious security concerns as an extreme measure of last resort, ban or restriction on the use of pillion/motorcycle, in the public interest may be imposed on the 9th and 10th of Muharram-ul-Harram 1434AH only for such period of time and area as may be notified well in advance by the Government of Sindh and wide publicity is given for the information of general public.”
Advocate General Abdul Fateh Malik submitted that the home department received credible information that terrorist groups had planned attacks on the Majalis and Jaloos (mourning meetings and processions) during the month.
He quoted ‘sources’ as saying that the terrorists would use motorcycles as remote control bombs and carry out suicide blasts to target important personalities.
The advocate general referred to the recent Abbas Town motorcycle bombing that left two people dead and 19 others wounded.
He submitted that the provincial government was authorised to place a ban on the use of motorcycle for one week in order to protect social rights of society as there was imminent and grave danger to human lives and properties.
The provincial chief law officer prayed to the court that the government be allowed to ban the use of motorcycle till Nov 25 in the interest of public and to safeguard people from terror attacks.
He stated that the provincial government was taking all measures to control law and order in the city and imposition of ban for 10 days was imperative to protect life and property of citizens in highly volatile and charged environment during Muharram.
The advocate general also assured the court on the instructions of Additional Chief Secretary (home) Waseem Ahmed that the ban would be imposed if at all as a last and extreme measure and not otherwise.
Sindh High court Bar Association General Secretary Advocate Shahab Sarki vehemently opposed the contentions of the provincial chief law officer, arguing that the 10-day ban on the use of motorcycles would be in violation of the people’s constitutional right of movement.
He, however, submitted that the restriction on the use of motorcycle could be imposed in a reasonable manner under the law.
Advocate Sarki contended that if the suggested restriction was so imperative at all, it may be imposed on a public holiday so that the commuters may not be deprived of their constitutional right to earn their livelihood and carry out their day-to-day chores.
The advocate general also placed the home department’s order of Nov 19 imposing ban on certain other activities in addition to use of motorcycle.
The bench termed the ban on parking near and around Imambargahs as reasonable measure and put off the hearing and directed the office to fix the matter after two weeks.
Ashura organising committee case
The same bench issued notices to the commissioner, additional commissioner, deputy commissioner of district east and advocate general in a petition against the constitution of an ad hoc organising committee for holding ‘Markazi Majalis-i-Aza’ or main Ashura procession on the 9th and 10th of Muharram.
The petition was filed by Advocate Kazim Abidi, president of the Pak Muharram Association (PMA), the organiser of the Ashura procession, and other related mourning meetings, against the formation of a five-member organising committee by the commissioner.
The petitioner submitted that the commissioner constituted the committee comprising former and present secretaries of the Pak Muharram Association and two other members with deputy commissioner of east as its head. He stated that the commissioner formed the committee in contravention of the court’s earlier order on the matter.
He recalled that the SHC had earlier disposed of his petition against the non-issuance of a no-objection certificate for reservation of Nishtar Park for ‘Markazi Majalis-i-Aza’ or main Ashura procession after the additional inspector-general of police had informed the court that the necessary orders would be passed within two days.
The petitioner stated that earlier also he had sought court direction to the commissioner and other respondents to issue permission for Majalis (mourning meetings) from the 29th of Zilhaj (Nov 15) to the 10th of Muharram under Article 120(3) of the Police Order 2002.
He stated that the SHC had disposed of his petition after the police and other authorities assured the court that the permission would be granted within two days after examining the modalities and getting clearance from all other allied and relevant law-enforcement agencies.
The bench issued notices to the respondents and put off the matter to Nov 22.