The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday granted former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan pre-arrest bail for 15 days in 14 cases registered against him following the party's 'Azadi March' on May 25.
After the PTI chairman ended his march, Imran and other leaders of his party were booked in 14 cases registered at multiple police stations across Islamabad over allegations of arson and vandalism in the capital.
Today, a petition was filed in the court by Imran's counsel Babar Awan, which was heard by PHC Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan. Dawn.com was able to confirm that the former premier attended the hearing in person.
The judge granted the PTI leader bail till June 25 and subsequently forwarded the orders to the additional sessions judge of Islamabad.
The bail was approved against surety bonds worth Rs50,000. Imran was instructed to appear before the Islamabad sessions court before June 25.
In the petition filed on Thursday, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the PTI chairman contended that the party's march on May 25 was a peaceful demonstration.
"The present illegitimate imported government used unreasonable and unlawful tactics along-with state machinery against the peaceful empty-handed protesters throughout the city," it said.
Imran contended that the Supreme Court (SC) had also taken notice of the "excessive use of force" by the government, including road blockades, chemical shells of tear gas, baton charge, firing, shelling, rubber bullets and shotguns which "tore apart" the fundamental rights of the people.
The SC, the petition continued, had also instructed the authorities to immediately released all the party members who were arrested.
"However, the police and state in derogation and utter violation of the decision of the Supreme Court did not act."
It further stated that the FIRs were registered in "pitched enmity" of the government/state against PTI.
The registration of FIR is "concocted and result of an afterthought, a conspiracy against fundamental rights under the freedom of association, movement and expression", it added.
Cases against Imran
On May 26, a first information report (FIR) was registered at 1:50am at the Kohsar police station at the complaint of Sub-Inspector (SI) Asif Raza under Sections 109 (abetment), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 186 (obstructing public service), 188 (disobedience), 353 (assault on public servant), 427 (causing damage) and 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
SI Raza, in the FIR, said he was on duty, along with other police personnel, at Jinnah Avenue's China Chowk when at 11pm, 100-150 people with PTI flags suddenly moved towards Express Chowk. He said the police tried to stop the PTI supporters due to the imposition of Section 144 in Islamabad but they did not listen and instead allegedly pelted stones at the police officers and also set fire to trees.
Raza said 36 individuals, who were acting at the "behest of Imran and other PTI leadership", were "brought under control".
Meanwhile, the second FIR was registered at 3:20am on the complaint of SI Ghulam Sarwar under the same sections as the prior FIR. Sarwar claimed that he and other police officers were on duty at Express Chowk when at 12:30am, 100-150 PTI protesters — allegedly equipped with rods and flammable materials — "chanted slogans, incited people and set fire to the trees and Metro Bus station" near Geo Chowk, along with smashing the windows of Geo News' office.
SI Sarwar alleged that as the police tried to disperse the crowd, the PTI workers resorted to pelting stones and also damaged a government bus. He added that 39 individuals were subsequently arrested.
Meanwhile, on the May 28, a Dawn report revealed that 11 more cases were registered against the PTI leadership, including Imran, and other PTI activists under difference sections of the PPC by the Loi Bher, Secretariat police, Aabapra police, Golra police, Bhara Kahu police, Tarnol police, and Koral police among others.
Imran Khan's march for "haqeeqi azadi" — true freedom — was preceded by the authorities invoking of Section 144, a measure used to curb gatherings. Shipping containers were put in place on major thoroughfares to block their path.
Undeterred by the moves, the marchers, who tried to force through the containers to make their way to Islamabad, were met with tear gas as police tried to disperse them. Police also charged at them with batons.
Television footage showed smoke rising from the ground and fires in the green belts adjacent to Islamabad's main roads. The government claimed that the PTI supporters had set the fires whereas the claim from the PTI camp was that the fires were a result of police shelling. Neither claim could be independently verified.