Former PM faces eight terror cases: Courts again give relief to Imran

Numan Wahab & Khalid Iqbal
Saturday, Mar 18, 2023

LAHORE/ ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister and Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan got big relief on Friday when the Islamabad High Court (IHC) again stopped the police and law-enforcers from arresting him in Toshakhana case.

Also, the Lahore High Court (LHC) granted protective bails to the PTI chairman in total nine cases – one civil and eight terrorism cases – after he appeared before the court in person. Five of those cases were registered in Islamabad, and four in Lahore. For the Islamabad cases, the court granted him bail till March 24, and for the Lahore cases, Khan secured bail for 10 days, till March 27.

The court was informed that a total of 94 cases had been registered against the PTI chief so far. The PTI chief had approached the LHC earlier in the day to seek protective bail in nine cases. A two-member bench comprising Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh and Justice Farooq Haider conducted hearing on the bail pleas, filed against cases that were lodged under terrorism charges.

The PTI chairman informed the bench members about his plight, saying that there were so many cases registered against him that he was unable to understand where to appear and where not. “When he gets bail in one case, another is registered against him,” he said. Imran said there are 94 [known] cases against him. “If six more are registered, it will make a century [of cases], and it will be my first non-cricketing century,” Imran said sarcastically.

About the police operation at Zaman Park, the PTI chief said it had never happened before. He thanked the LHC for stopping the police operation, saying that the court “saved him”.

To which, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh told the PTI chief “the solution to all problems is found within the law”. The judge told former premier that he had mishandled the situation, adding that it would be better for him [Imran] if he gets along the system. It would help solve several problems, the LHC judge told Khan. “There was no problem in this case. You mishandled it,” the judge remarked.

Imran said he faced an assassination attempt on him, saying that a suicide attack had previously occurred at the court in Islamabad where he was supposed to appear. He said he believed in the rule of law. “I cannot even imagine not appearing before courts,” Khan added.

The high court also granted police access to Zaman Park for investigating the incidents that took place on March 14-15, when clashes left several injured. The court also wrapped up Fawad’s plea against the operation at Zaman Park and ordered the party to ensure it cooperates with the authorities.

In Friday’s hearing, Khan’s counsel told the court that his client did not have details of all the cases.

In response, Justice Sheikh said that the LHC could not give Khan blanket bail, and it would only consider those cases against which the pleas had been filed. The lawyer then requested the court that no action should be taken against the PTI chief until he received the details of the cases registered against him.

The federal government’s lawyer told the court that he did not have details of the cases lodged against Khan in other provinces. “For this, the court will have to issue notices.” The Punjab government lawyer sought time for providing complete record of the cases, lodged against Khan. After the arguments, the high court sought the records of all the cases registered and restricted the authorities from taking action against Khan till Tuesday next week.

The PTI chief’s lawyer told the court that the police could come and investigate, but the SSP Zaman Park should not visit the place with a huge force.

Justice Sheikh asked the lawyer whether he could control the investigation. Khan’s counsel replied that the investigation officer might come to Zaman Park and investigate. The high court allowed the investigation officer to visit Zaman Park and hold a probe in line with the law.

During the hearing, Justice Sheikh said the court issued the summons in line with the law and a perception was being created that the state’s writ was being ignored. “Such problems should not arise again,” the judge said. Khan’s lawyer asked the judge about the status of a case that had been filed against Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah. Justice Sheikh said when the case would be presented before him, he would let him know.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court Friday stopped the police from arresting PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case. IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq heard Khan’s plea challenging the order of Islamabad’s district and sessions court that had issued the arrest warrants for the PTI chief. The high court said that the former prime minister should be given a chance to appear before the court.

The IHC registrar office had earlier raised objections to Khan’s petition, challenging his arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case. The PTI chief’s biometric verification was not available, the office noted. “How can the high court hear the same matter on which it has already made its decision?” the office also questioned. Later, the court decided to take up Khan’s plea with the registrar office’s objections. At Friday’s hearing, the IHC chief justice asked about the objections raised on the petition. Khan’s counsel, Khwaja Haris, informed him that the biometric verification issue had been addressed.

About the objections regarding the IHC’s decision on the previous petition, he said that the court had not given any ruling and had referred the matter to the trial court. “We had asked the court to look into the undertaking issue,” the chief justice said.

The court inquired on what basis the trial court rejected the undertaking, to which Khwaja Haris replied that the trial court said it could not cancel the non-bailable warrants. He said that he could not accept the request based on the situation that happened in Lahore. The incident that happened in Lahore was unfortunate and a case had been registered against him.

He noted that everyone was equal before the law. “Whether you want to appear before the court and give assurance in this regard?” he asked.

Khan’s counsel requested the bench to suspend the arrest warrants so that the PTI chief could appear before the court.

Justice Farooq warned the lawyer that there would be consequences if he did not fulfil the promise and contempt proceedings would be initiated if the accused failed to appear during the court timing. The court granted relief to Imran Khan and directed the police not to arrest him. The IHC also ordered the district administration and Islamabad police to provide security during Imran Khan’s appearance in court.

In the petition, the former prime minister had challenged the Islamabad court’s decision of rejecting his plea seeking suspension of arrest warrants, issued against him in the Toshakhana case.

Khan, who is holed up in his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, had filed the plea through his lawyer Kh Haris.

In his petition, the PTI chairman requested: “The undertaking should be accepted and the police should be stopped from arresting [him].”

The PTI chief also assured the court of his appearance before the Islamabad court on Saturday (today), requesting the court to hear his plea urgently.

“[...] non-bailable warrant of arrest has been issued by this court just for the appearance of the applicant. The applicant is ready and willing to appear before this court on the fixed date i.e. 18.03.2023, and he has given his undertaking in this regard,” the petition read.

“It is trite law that the purpose of issuance of a non-bailable warrant of arrest is to ensure attendance of the accused and the undertaking has fulfilled the purpose of the warrant. Arrest and detention of the applicant will serve no useful purpose and he will be humiliated just for nothing.”

Kh Haris Advocate said there were other cases registered against Imran Khan, among them security. The court later adjourned the hearing till March 21 by issuing a notice to the parties with the above measures. Meanwhile, Imran Khan’s lawyers also filed a request to get details of the cases registered against the former prime minister.

In line with PTI’s insistence that Khan’s life is in danger and he needs security, Islamabad Chief Commissioner Noorul Amin Mengal shifted the hearing from F-8 Court Complex to the Judicial Complex in G-11 as a “one-time dispensation”.