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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan may face another charge in the SSP torture case after he moved an application in the Anti-Terrorism Court seeking acquittal.

ATC Judge Shahrukh Arjumand, however, reserved verdict on Mr Khan’s acquittal plea on Tuesday.

During the sit-in in the capital, the then SSP Islamabad Asmatullah Junejo was severely beaten up by the violent participants on September 1, 2014.

Clad in white shalwar suit and Peshawari chapel, Mr Khan continued fingering beads in the courtroom.

He entered the courtroom at 1pm and the hearing started at 1:30pm. Mr Khan kept looking at the wall clock hanging in his back. At 2:20pm he looked at the clock and was seen shaking his head and murmuring 2:20.

Dr Babar Awan, the counsel for the PTI chief, filed an application under Section 265-K of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) stating the evidence against his client was weak and the continuation of the trial would be a futile exercise.

In such a situation, courts in order to save precious time generally acquit the accused persons, he contended.

But Judge Arjumand reminded him that since Mr Khan remained an absconder for a long period, the absconsion had its own consequences.

Mr Awan claimed that the PML-N government had registered the FIR under various sections of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) in order to dub his client as a terrorist.

But in a lighter mood Mr Awan added:

“His name is Khan and he is not a terrorist.”

He then read out statements of the prosecution witnesses, including the star witness SSP Junejo, and pointed out that the PTI chief was not nominated by the witnesses themselves, adding the witnesses had said a mob beat up the SSP and others.

The counsel said if all the witnesses were called again they would say the same.

Mr Awan said the PTI chairman’s proverbial provocation did not attract terrorism or death penalty, adding: “I rely on the testimonies of the witnesses for acquittal as there is nothing against my client.”

The judge asked if the evidence which earlier had led to the declaration of the accused as a proclaimed offender could be used for acquittal. The counsel replied in affirmative, adding the court had already released Mr Khan on bail when he finally appeared before it.

In response to the arguments, Special Public Prosecutor Chaudhry Shafqaat said as per Section 21-L (punishment for an absconder) of the ATA, the PTI chief may be sentenced from five to 10 years imprisonment for absconding three and a half years.

According to him, Section 21-L of the ATA may be included in the challan. He said the prosecution had submitted an incomplete challan to the ATC alleging Mr Khan and Tahirul Qadri, the chairman of Pakistan Awami Tehreek, as the main accused in the torture case.

He pointed out that under Section 149 of the PPC, all participants of an unlawful assembly shared equal responsibility for an act of crime. Mr Khan was heading the sit-in which was also unlawful, he claimed.

He requested the court to give the prosecution an opportunity to establish its case.

He termed the acquittal plea premature at a stage where the court was yet to indict the accused persons. The ATC judge reserved the judgment for April 23.

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2018