The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday accepted journalist Imran Riaz Khan's plea for protective bail after multiple sedition cases were registered against him.
Several cases have been lodged against senior journalists including Khan, Arshad Sharif and Sabir Shakir for allegedly spreading hate against army and state institutions.
Subsequently, Khan filed two petitions with the LHC through his lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq. He also posted on his Twitter account that he had been granted bail.
Justice Tariq Nadeem and Justice Chaudhry Abdul Aziz separately heard the petitions. The former granted the journalist protective bail of four days while the latter granted it till May 31.
In the petitions, the journalist said that he was currently residing in Lahore.
"The petitioner is apprehending his arrest while approaching the local District and Sessions Court of Thatha/Nawabshah for the purpose of surrendering before the court of law and seeking bail before arrest to defend the bogus, baseless allegation leveled against the petitioner and to join the investigation to prove his innocence during the course of investigation," they stated.
They said that Khan had approached the LHC for the grant of pre-arrest protective bail for "a reasonable time prior to reaching in Thatta/Nawabshah and to save himself from any irreparable loss in terms of his arrest despite that the case is absolutely false [...]."
They added that Khan was innocent and had committed no offence.
Speaking to the media outside the LHC, the journalist stated that under the law, only a single FIR can be registered against a single offence. "Register one case, I will face it. Add as many sections as you want to add to it," he said.
Khan noted that the motive behind registering cases at different police stations across the country was merely to ensure that the accused person is running around in circles.
Provinces barred from remanding Sharif, Ibrahim and Pirzada into custody
Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) barred provincial authorities from remanding Sharif, Sami Ibrahim and Moeed Pirzada in their custody without the court's permission.
The court issued notices to the interior secretary, Islamabad Inspector General of Police Dr Akbar Nasir Khan and Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz Memon to submit their responses. The latter two were also instructed to ensure that custody of the journalists was not handed over to a province without the court's permission.
Furthermore, the IHC summoned details of cases filed against journalists across the country and sought the opinion of the Islamabad High Court Journalists Association (IHCJA) and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.
The court also declared the two organisations as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the case
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah was presiding over a hearing for petitions filed by the trio of journalists in order to obtain protective bails. The chief justice remarked that journalists were being targeted in the country for the past three years.
"Things will get better by themselves when the institutions play their role according to the law. This court can only grant security bail," he said.
The chief justice asked Sharif to explain why cases were being registered against him. Sharif responded that he was being told he would be "taught a lesson", booked in cases all over the country, abducted and made "an example" in the country.
IHCJA President Saqib Bashir, when summoned to the rostrum, said that Sharif, Ibrahim and Khan were facing threats of a "serious nature".
Meanwhile, Advocate Faisal Chaudhry, the lawyer for the journalists, said that his clients were being booked across the country and asked the court how they could appear before the court to defend themselves.
He requested the court to transfer the various cases registered in the country to Islamabad, to which Justice Minallah said that it was not in the IHC's jurisdiction to decide on a case in another district.
Subsequently, Chaudhry pleaded that an order be passed to pre-empt Sharif's "illegal arrest". He also added cases were also being filed against lawyer Imaan Zainab Mazari — who had criticised the military leadership following her mother's arrest on Saturday — in other cities.
The court observed that the IHC was bound by its jurisdiction and only the Supreme Court could look into matters from all over the country.
The hearing was subsequently adjourned to May 30.
Senior journalists booked in sedition cases
It had emerged on Sunday that cases were registered against Khan, Shakir and Sharif for allegedly criticising state institutions and “abetting mutiny”.
The first information report (FIR) against Khan, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was registered in Thatta's Dhabeji police station under Sections 131 (incitement to mutiny), 153 (provoking to cause riot), 452 (trespassing) and 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
The FIR said that the complainant had heard Khan talking against the army and the institutions in a "derogatory and provocative language" on social media.