Chief Justice Athar Minallah
Chief Justice Athar Minallah

Islamabad: A Pakistani judge on Monday took a jibe at India while wrapping up a case against 23 people protesting against the arrest of a Pashtun activist known for criticising the country's powerful military.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) took up the bail petitions of 23 workers of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Move­ment (PTM) and Awami Workers Party (AWP), who were arrested by the Islamabad police last month for staging protest.

"Everyone's constitutional rights will be protected. This is Pakistan, not India," Chief Justice Minallah said.

During the hearing the chief justice said that "we don't expect that a democratic government will curb freedom of expression." "An elected democratic government cannot place curbs on freedom of expression. (We) shouldn't fear criticism," he remarked, adding that the courts will protect the constitutional rights of the people.

He asked the people to come to the court if they were not allowed by the government to hold protests. "If you want to protest, get permission. If you don't get permission, the court is here," he said.

When Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat told the court that all charges against the protesters had been dropped, the chief justice concluded that case, allowing all 23 activists to go free.

Last month, protesters were holding protests in front of the National Press Club here against the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen, the chief of the rights-based alliance PTM, when he was detained.

Pashteen attended a gathering on January 18 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Dera Ismail Khan city where he had allegedly said that the 1973 Constitution violated basic human rights.

The 27-year-old activist was arrested along with nine other PTM workers from Peshawar, police said.

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