Freedom of movement, etc.
Every citizen shall have the right to remain in, and, subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the public interest, enter and move freely throughout Pakistan and to reside and settle in any part thereof.
The Constitution of Pakistan - Article 15
The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the provincial government on Wednesday not to affect the citizens’ right of freedom of movement in the name of providing security to state dignitaries and foreign diplomats.
The directive came at a hearing of a petition challenging the closure of Court Road and Kamal Ata Turk Road to the public.
The petitioner, Amir Aziz, informed that the SHC had directed the authorities on March 9, 1992 to ensure that the road in front of the Sindh Assembly remained open to traffic even during sessions of the assembly.
However, he said, the court order was not complied with in letter and spirit though the government had given the undertaking that the road would not be closed to traffic even during assembly sessions.
The petitioner submitted that the closure of the two roads had caused inconvenience to the people, especially those approaching the high court.
A division bench, headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam, had directed SSP South Nasir Aftab at a previous hearing to submit a report describing how many streets and roads had been blocked in the city and under whose directions.
In compliance with the court directive, the SSP filed a report on the closure of roads or the placement of barricades at different places of the city.
According to the police officer, many consulates are located in residential areas as there is no separate place or a diplomatic enclave for the foreign missions.
He said many consulates were under threat from various terrorist organisations, and bomb blasts and other terrorist activities had been carried out in the past.
Giving details of the blockade and closure of roads near consulates and the president’s residence, known as the Bilawal House, he said the street adjacent to the British deputy high commission that led to Shahra-e-Iran had been blocked in consultation with residents of the areae. He claimed that the road closure did not affect the public.
The report says the street leading to the Chinese and Kuwait consulates was blocked after consultation with residents of the area following bomb blasts.
According to the report, the street on which the French consulate is located has been blocked but its closure does not affect the public.
It says a 7-A Badar commercial street has been blocked as the residence of the incumbent president is located on it; however, it claims, alternate ways and routes have been provided to the public.
The police officer further claimed that all measures had been taken to avoid any terrorist activity so that the life and property of the president, foreign diplomats and the public could be saved.
The court observed that streets near the Badar commercial area had been blocked to the public and affected the lawful right of free movement from one place to another.
It said it was mindful of the security hazards as well as of the responsibility of the government to provide safety to dignitaries, but the rights of the citizens, including the right of freedom of movement in terms of Article 15 of the constitution, could not be overlooked.
The bench further observed that if at all any restriction was imposed it should be reasonable and imposed under the law and not through an administrative order.
It said that according to the SSP’s comments it seemed that such measures had been taken in consultation with the administration, but not under laws guaranteed under the constitution.
The bench observed that protection for the consulates or residences of government functionaries should be considered on a priority basis by building up concrete barriers on the premises of the residences, and that no street, by-lane or road should be encroached.
The court also observed that higher public and constitutional office holders should show more responsibility and abide by the constitution.
It said many people and local authorities had already complained in person but they were not prepared to give anything in writing for fear of retaliation and action. It said their concern could not be ignored in view of the present law and order situation and at a time when serious allegations were levelled against law enforcement agencies over their inappropriate conduct and actions.
The court directed the SSP to bring those concerns to the notice of the local administration or the government.
The court observed that it was expected that the local administration or the provincial government, in consideration of its constitutional duty in terms of Article 15, would take measures, while providing security to the dignitaries at the same time, to protect the right of freedom of movement of the citizens.
It directed the advocate general to look into the matter and provide proper assistance not only to the local administration but also to the court in addressing the important and sensitive issue.
The court also issued notices to the president and the secretary of the Sindh High Court Bar Association secretary as well as the Sindh Bar Council’s vice chairman to assist the court.