ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday appeared before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) here and submitted an application seeking withdrawal of his constitutional immunity, asking the judge to decide the case against him on merit.

During the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) months-long sit-in in 2014, police had invoked the Anti-Terrorism Act against PTI chief Imran Khan, who was then in the opposition, and his party leaders Dr Alvi, Asad Umar, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Shafqat Mehmood and Raja Khurram Nawaz for inciting violence.

President Alvi along with other PTI leaders faces trial for allegedly attacking the PTV building and Parliament House during the sit-in against the then PML-N government.

According to Article 248(2) of the Constitution: “No criminal proceeding whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or a Governor in any court during term of office.”

After the 2018 general elections, the president’s counsel had sought constitutional immunity for Mr Alvi, who on Friday tweeted he won’t avail this privilege.

However, the court separated his case from the others owing to the constitutional provision in Article 248 (2).

While the ATC is scheduled to announce the verdict on March 9, President Alvi along with Dr Babar Awan and his counsel Abdullah Babar Awan appeared before ATC judge Muhammad Ali Warraich. His security staff cordoned off the Federal Judicial Complex and barred the media from entering the courtroom.

After attending the proceedings, President Alvi told the media that he had decided to surrender his constitutional immunity since there is no such provision in Islamic injunctions. He said he may be bound under the Constitution, but the holy Quran is the supreme law of the land.

He further said the Constitution provided him immunity, but he had decided not to avail it.

“When I learned that the court is about to announce its verdict in the case, I decided to appear before it so there should be no talk that I did not appear,” he remarked. “All the caliphs appeared in courts with great dignity.”

The president also appealed to the court to dispose of pending cases to remove the backlog and ensure quick dispensation of justice. “I also understand that there is a burden on the judiciary.”

He said his father had filed a case in 1977, which was still sub judice. “I appeared before the court today as a common citizen and not as the president of Pakistan,” he said.

The ATC had last month reserved its verdict in the case.

On Aug 31, 2014, PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers marched towards the Parliament House and Prime Minister House and clashed with police deployed at Constitution Avenue. The protesters also attacked the PTV premises and briefly took control of the building.

As per the prosecution, three people were killed and 26 injured, while 60 were arrested. It had submitted 65 photographs, sticks, cutters, etc, to the court to establish its case. It also maintained the protest was not peaceful and the PTI leaders sought bail after three years.

In addition to the unidentified attackers, police had also nominated PM Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri as accused in the case. The ATC declared them proclaimed offenders in November 2014 as they did not appear before the court despite issuance of summons and arrest warrants.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2022

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