SLAMABAD: The Supreme Court suspended on Wednesday a Nov 25 verdict of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) No. 1, convicting media tycoon and Geo TV owner Mir Shakeelur Rahman and sentencing him to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and Rs300,000 in fines.
A three-judge Supreme Court, bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, also asked Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt to assist the court on a question raised in the petition to determine the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over the territory of GB. The date of the next hearing will be decided later.
The ATC had sentenced Mr Rahman over the airing of the May 14 episode of Dr Shaista Lodhi’s morning show, Utho Jago Pakistan, where the allegedly inappropriate use of a piece of qawwali prompted rival media groups to initiate a smear campaign against the Geo network, accusing it of committing blasphemy.
The petition before the apex court, moved by senior counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed on behalf of Mr Rahman, asked the court to suspend the ATC’s conviction and stay any warrant of arrest, attachment or confiscation of passport in any territory that was part of the territory of Pakistan.
In the volatile environment after the programme aired, 71 FIRs were registered in nearly all major cities of Pakistan, including nine that were filed in GB, under blasphemy.
The latest petition contends that under Article 247(7) of the Constitution, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court was barred only in tribal areas, but not in respect to any part of Pakistan. In terms of Article 1(2d) of the Constitution and on the basis of the ratio laid down in the SC judgment in the 1999 Al-Jihad Trust case, GB was held to be part of Pakistan.
Thus, if GB was a part of Pakistan, then the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, especially under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, also extended to the territories, courts, authorities and persons functioning and/or residing in GB as well, the petition pleaded.
GB is considered to be a part of Pakistan even by the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan and that the courts in GB were considered as courts in Pakistan and the judgments passed by the apex court were also binding on all courts in the territory, the petition pleaded.
Moreover, the petition argued, the offences allegedly committed by Mr Rehman fell exclusively within the domain of the Pemra Ordinance 2002, by virtue of over-riding effect given to the provisions in the ordinance.