• Police, minister term warrant ‘procedural’
• PTI says move ‘unnecessary’ and ‘idiotic’; police deployed as supporters surround Banigala estate

ISLAMABAD: Capital police have obtained an arrest warrant for former prime minister Imran Khan in connection with a case regarding threats issued by the PTI chief to a sessions judge in August.

The warrant was issued by the court of Senior Civil Judge Rana Muj­ahid Rahim on Sept 30, the same day when Mr Khan appeared in the court of additional district and sessions judge Zeba Chaudhry to apologise, albeit in her absence.

On Friday, Mr Khan had asked the court’s reader to convey his apology to the judge.

According to the warrant, he is charged under sections 188, 189, 504, and 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

While the warrant seeks Mr Khan’s production before the court, the columns where the date, month and year when the accused should be produced in court were not filled.

The warrant was issued on the request of the police in connection with a case registered at Margalla police station. The FIR had earlier included terrorism charges under 7ATA, which were struck down by the Islamabad High Court on September 19.

Police officers told Dawn an arrest would only be made after they received a go-ahead from their higher-ups.

“It is a pressure game and police were using these tactics under orders to get a warrant issued and keep it secret until Saturday evening,” police officers told Dawn, adding that as a result, the former premier would have no chance to obtain bail until Monday, since Sunday was a weekend.

A post on Islamabad police’s official Twitter account, however, stated that the warrant was issued to ensure Mr Khan’s presence in court at the next hearing, as he had failed to turn up on the previous date.

The tweet recalled that after the IHC struck down the terror charge in the FIR, the case was transferred to a sessions court and Mr Khan had yet to appear before it, or secure bail.

“He can be arrested in case he does not appear in court,” the tweet said.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah also spoke along the same lines. When asked about the arrest warrants, APP quoted him as saying that Mr Khan would only be arrested if he continued to avoid court hearings.

But news of the issuance of arrest warrants spread like wildfire among Mr Khan’s supporters, and a sizeable contingent descended upon his residence in Banigala in a bid to block law enforcers from executing the warrants.

In preparation, police contingents were deployed along roads leading to Mr Khan’s resident, while intelligence personnel were also tasked to monitor local PTI leaders and check if they were trying to gather people for a march towards Banigala.

Reaction

The issuance of arrest warrants drew a sharp reaction from PTI leaders and supporters. Fawad Chaudhry said that issuing warrants on such a flimsy basis was “a pointless exercise”.

According to remarks shared by the party’s central media department, Mr Chaudhry – who served as information minister under the previous government – claimed that a media circus was being created on the basis of “bailable offenses and idiotic cases”, adding that this move was completely unnecessary.

Former KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak also warned the government that Mr Khan was a ‘red line’ for the party and if the “imported government” made any attempt to arrest him, they would not be able to find a place to hide.

Addressing the government, PTI leader Asad Umar simply tweeted: “Do not make the mistake of arresting Imran Khan, you will regret it.”

In a video shared on the party’s social media accounts, PTI leaders Shibli Faraz, Faisal Javed and others also slammed the government’s move to issue an arrest warrant for Mr Khan’s arrest and declared that the nation stood behind their leader, adding that if any attempt was made to lay a hand on him, their supporters would teach the government a lesson.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2022

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