More than a week after the attack on Lahore's Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) by a group of lawyers, Prime Minister Imran Khan's nephew Hassaan Niazi obtained interim bail in the case on Friday from an anti-terrorism court and denied his involvement in any offence at a press conference.
Niazi was among more than 200 lawyers who had gone underground to avoid arrest. Police had conducted multiple raids to arrest him in the attack case but were unable to catch him.
Addressing a presser after obtaining bail, Niazi claimed that he was the first lawyer in the country who had expressed regret on Twitter over the attack on the hospital.
The premier's nephew, however, demanded across-the-board accountability and said that he was unfairly singled out. He urged the media to play its role with responsibility.
"For the past seven to eight days, I have received abuse from across the world. I want to explain my viewpoint over the issue as I am answerable to the nation," he said, adding that on the day of the attack he was at the PIC because it was a "peaceful" protest and police had granted permission for it.
"If it wasn't a peaceful protest, the question is that why did the police not intercept it. I had come to participate in a peaceful protest as I hadn't foreseen what would occur there.
"Show me if I have torched the [police] vehicle, show me if I was holding a stick, show me if I have attacked the PIC, give me some proof if I have incited someone or led the crowd," said a teary-eyed Niazi.
He claimed that he was targeted and singled out only because he was the nephew of the prime minister. He also criticised the media for highlighting his face while covering the issue as a result of which, he said, the entire world was hating him. "You people have tried to end my career," he said while addressing reporters.
"The most brutal part of the story was that the media's coverage of me overshadowed the mishandling on part of the government and the administration," he said, adding that prior to the incident he had approached Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar as well as the provincial law and health ministers, asking them to resolve the issue between the lawyers and doctors. He regretted that he was given the cold shoulder and warned that he will give a detailed report to the prime minister on the role of the provincial government in the matter.
Clarifying his position, the lawyer said that he hadn't torched the police van; instead, he said he had approached the vehicle and opened its door to ensure that no one inside was in need of help.
Earlier in the day, an anti-terrorism court accepted Niazi's plea to grant him bail until December 24 against two surety bonds worth Rs100,000 each. The court also directed the Shadman police to submit a detailed report of the incident.
Following the incident that claimed three lives, police authorities had faced severe criticism for not nominating Niazi in the cases registered against the lawyers who attacked the hospital.
Two FIRs were lodged against 250 lawyers after they stormed the state-run cardiac hospital, damaged public property and beat government employees. Police framed terrorism, murder and street crime charges in the cases lodged on the complaint of the PIC chief executive and the Shadman SHO.
After going through several CCTV/mobile phone footages and obtaining credible information from other sources, police higher-ups nominated 21 lawyers in the FIRs which were lodged last week.
An official had said mobile phone footage that surfaced on the day of the attack caught Niazi throwing stones on police on Jail Road. The footage went viral on social media, he said at the time, adding that police neither nominated him in the FIRs nor did they arrest him.
Niazi is the son of Hafeezullah Niazi, a columnist who is a strong critic of the ruling PTI since his falling out with Prime Minister Imran a few years ago.
A senior police officer had denied the allegation of favouring Niazi, saying all the lawyers who participated in the violent protest would be treated equally.