LAHORE: An anti terrorism court (ATC) on Friday quashed terrorism charges against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders in the cases of vandalism and attacking policemen during the party’s Azadi March towards Islamabad on May 25.

ATC judge Abhar Gul Khan hearing the cases issued directions for transfer of the cases to the sessions court after police declared the PTI leaders innocent for further hearing.

The PTI leaders, including Hammad Azhar, Yasmin Rashid, Aslam Iqbal, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, Musarat Cheema, Shafqat Mahmood, Mehmoodur Rasheed, Andleeb Abbas, Murad Raas, Yasir Gilani and Zubair Niazi, appeared before the court.

Their counsel, Burhan Moazzam Malik, told the court that police had declared the PTI leaders and workers innocent in four cases registered by the last government on political grounds. He said that registering cases under terrorism charges against the political leaders was against democracy and the Constitution as the terrorism laws were devised to frame the terrorists, not political leaders.

Cases sent to sessions court

The investigating officer submitted before the court that terrorism charges were removed from the four cases registered with Gulberg, Bhati Gate, Shafiqabad and Shahdara police stations as the PTI leaders were found to be innocent. He said that PTI members booked in the four cases did not have any role in the charges levelled against them in the cases and none of them were required to be arrested in these cases. Subsequently, as many as 20 PTI leaders withdrew their bail petitions.

The court directed to remove the terrorism charges from the cases and transferred the cases to sessions court for further hearing.

Three days ago, Shafqat Mahmood had met Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Ghulam Mahmood Dogar to discuss the cases against the PTI workers and instances of illegal police action during the ‘Azadi March’.

He also tweeted “Had a meeting with CCPO Lahore yesterday to discuss the issue of fake cases against PTI workers and instances of illegal police action during Azadi march.”

The PTI had marched on Islamabad on May 25 for, what it called ‘haqeeqi azadi’ to demand new general election, following the party chief Imran Khan’s ouster as the prime minister through a no-confidence vote in April.

The march was preceded by the authorities invoking Section 144, a measure used to curb gatherings. Shipping containers were placed on the major thoroughfares to block their path.

The marchers, who tried to force through the containers to make their way to Islamabad, faced teargas as police tried to disperse them. Police had also charged at them with batons.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2022

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