The Islamabad High Court disposed of all cases against 23 workers of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement and Awami Workers Party on Monday.
The development came after Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafaat withdrew the case he had filed against the workers of the two parties. They were arrested last month for protesting against the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen.
They were charged with sedition under the anti-terrorism law.
AWP’s Ammar Rashid took to Twitter and shared that the FIR and charges against them have been withdrawn by the state.
The state has withdrawn the FIR and all charges against us. Thank you to all who stood with us in solidarity. Hope this sets a lasting precedent against the criminalization of dissent, peaceful protest & freedom of expression in our country. pic.twitter.com/5hh2W3sE5i— Ammar Rashid ☭ (@AmmarRashidT) February 17, 2020
The activists were granted bail by the court earlier and an explanation was sought as to why cases of terrorism and sedition were registered against them.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who was hearing the case, assured the workers that if they’re stopped from protesting, they should come to the court.
“We hope the government will not prohibit freedom of expression in the future,” he said. “The judiciary will protect the constitutional rights of all the citizens of Pakistan,” the chief justice remarked.
Advocate General Tariq Mehmood Jahangir requested the bench to prevent protesters from indulging in hate speech. “The secret agenda of protesters are a concern for us,” he added.
On this, Justice Minallah said that a little criticism is never harmful and that freedom of speech is the fundamental right of the citizens.
The chief justice also recalled that in 2014, ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had challenged Section 144 (joining unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapon) in the high court and they should not curb this right now.