ISLAMABAD: “There are no holy cows in Pakistan, I believe in rule of law,” said Prime Minister Imran Khan to a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed Wednesday. 

The prime minister had appeared before the apex court after he was summoned earlier today by the chief justice in a case pertaining to the Army Public School (APS) massacre.

On December 16, 2014, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants stormed the Army Public School in Peshawar and martyred over 140 people, mostly schoolchildren.

In a plea to the SC, the parents of the children had demanded registration of the case against the top leadership of the country at the time and requested a transparent inquiry into the incident

The court had asked Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan to review the situation and take necessary steps–whether it be an investigation or filing cases against those responsible– and inform the court.

When the hearing resumed today, the CJP summoned PM Imran Khan to appear before the bench in his personal capacity.

As the PM reached the rostrum, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan said the parents of the martyred children are demanding action against the rulers of the time when the APS massacre took place. 

In response, the prime minister said when the massacre took place, his party was in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The prime minister said he had met the bereaved parents in hospitals when the terrorist incident took place but since they were struck by tragedy, it wasn’t possible to speak to them properly. 

The chief justice told the prime minister that the parents of the APS victims were not seeking compensation from the government. “Parents are asking where was the security system [that day]? Despite our comprehensive orders, nothing was done.”

The prime minister told the chief justice that a National Action Plan was introduced after the APS massacre, adding that there is “no holy cow” in Pakistan.

“We won the war against terrorism,” he said. “There were bomb blasts taking place at the time every single day.”

At this, the Supreme Court said the government should listen to the parents of the APS schoolchildren and take action against the culprits. “The government should take action against those involved in the Army Public School massacre.” 

The prime minister assured that the government will fulfil the requirements of justice. The apex court, in turn, directed the prime minister to ensure implementation on its October 20 verdict

“Hold on for a minute, judge sahab,” the prime minister responded. “Allah will give patience to the parents of the schoolchildren, what more could the government have done apart from giving compensation?”

‘As prime minister, you should have answers to these questions’

The prime minister told the bench that he had met the parents of the martyred children before, adding that he would meet them again. 

“Find out why 80,000 people were killed,” said PM Imran Khan. “Also find out who is responsible for 480 drone attacks taking place in Pakistan.”

“Finding out about these things is your job, you are the prime minister,” the chief justice responded. “As the prime minister, you should have the answer to these questions.”

The prime minister told the chief justice that the government was pained at the loss of lives in the APS attack, adding that it also felt the pain of 80,000 people that had been killed [in the war on terror]. 

“You can constitute a high-level commission on the APS tragedy,” said the prime minister. 

“We have already formed a commission and it has issued a report as well,” responded the chief justice. “Our order of October 20 states clearly that the government should find out who is responsible for the massacre and take action against them,” he added. 

The chief justice reminded the prime minister that seven years had passed since the tragedy took place. 

“Mr Prime Minister, we are not a small country,” said Justice Qazi Amin. “We have the sixth largest army in the world.”

Justice Amin told the prime minister that he had now brought the culprits [TTP] of the massacre to the negotiating table. 

“Are we about to sign a surrender document once again?” he asked.  

 SC summons PM Imran Khan 

Earlier today, the court had asked the attorney general for an update regarding the registration of the cases, who responded by saying that FIRs cannot be filed against the top officials.

At this, the bench angrily had told the government’s lawyer that the incident had taken place as a result of a “security lapse” which the government should accept, adding that the top civil and military leaders of the time should have known about the attack.

The chief justice then remarked that Pakistan’s agencies and institutions have access to all sorts of information but when it comes to the security of the people “our security agencies fail”.

While responding to a query, the AGP had told the court that the fact-finding report did not hold the former army chief and other senior government functionaries responsible [for the attack].

“We have such a huge intelligence network, billions of rupees are spent on it. We also claim to be the best intelligence agency in the world,” the CJP had observed. 

Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan had said the APS massacre had taken place in response to Operation Zarb-e-Azb, adding that state institutions should have taken effective steps against it.

During the hearing, the attorney general had sought time from the court to seek directives from the prime minister and other officials so he can respond to the court.

However, the bench had said this was a very serious case and that it would summon the prime minister and seek answers from him.

The issue of the government holding talks with the banned TTP also came up during the hearing.

Justice Qazi Amin had remarked that there are reports that the government is holding negotiations with a group and added, “Is it not the responsibility of the state to identify the real culprits [behind the APS tragedy] and nab them.”

Meanwhile, CJP Gulzar Ahmed had observed that action should have been taken against those at the top but low-level personnel were punished.

Justice Aijaz, another member of the bench, remarked that it was not possible that the terrorists didn’t get inside support.

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