• LHC refuses to grant bail, asks PTI chief to appear in person today
• Islamabad ATC cancels interim bail
• IHC stops banking court from ‘adverse action’ against ex-PM

LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan failed to secure relief from the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday after an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad rejected his request for pre-arrest bail for skipping court hearings in a case pertaining to violence outside the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The PTI chief had approached the high court for interim protective bail, but the high court refused to grant the bail without his personal appearance and adjourned the petition till Thursday (today).

Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh first took up a hurriedly filed petition at around 5:30 pm and asked the lawyers of the PTI regarding the absence of the petitioner. A lawyer said doctors cautioned Mr Khan against walking for another three weeks in light of his leg injury. The judge observed that the court would not proceed without the appearance of the petitioner since the “law is equal for all”.

Justice Sheikh reminded the lawyer that principally the petition was supposed to be dismissed but the court took a “lenient view”. He asked the lawyer to produce Mr Khan by 8pm when the court would resume proceedings. However, the PTI lawyers came up with the same stance. The judge also restrained PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, also an advocate, from advancing arguments on behalf of the petitioner as he “was not in uniform”.

A lawyer apprised the court that Mr Khan could attend the proceedings through a video link and added that the Islamabad High Court also granted relief to Mr Khan on medical grounds. Justice Sheikh rejected the request and sought the former premier’s presence in court be it on a stretcher or in an ambulance. The lawyers sought time for consultation but returned with the same stance. The judge adjourned the hearing till Thursday morning giving.

ATC cancels bail

Earlier in the day, ATC judge Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan recalled the interim order for granting pre-arrest bail to the PTI chief after he skipped the hearing. The former PM was supposed to appear before the court on every date of hearing for being on a pre-arrest interim bail; however, his counsel repeatedly sought exemption from personal appearance owing to his injuries.

According to the court’s order, Mr Khan filed the application for pre-arrest bail on Oct 24 last year, but he did not appear on consecutive hearings on Oct 31 and after being injured on Nov 3.

Subsequently, the court held that the “accused/petitioner has failed to put up appearance before the court on the date when the matter was fixed for final order…therefore, the instant pre-arrest bail petition is dismissed due to non-appearance of petitioner Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi.” He also dismissed the application seeking exemption of Mr Khan for medical grounds for Feb 15.

After a brief hearing in the morning, the judge adjourned the hearing till the afternoon and directed Mr Khan to appear in person, but the plea was dismissed after his no-show.

Prohibited funding case

A special judge (Offences in Banks) also gave final chance to Mr Khan for an in-person appearance and after conducting proceedings in the prohibited funding case directed the PTI chief to appear by 3:30 pm.

Mr Khan was also on interim bail in the prohibited funding case and there was strong apprehension that this court may also recall the bail order. However, since the division bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued a stay order in this matter, judge Rukhshanda Shaheen deferred her decision on the confirmation of the pre-arrest bail till Feb 18.

The court also confirmed the bail requests of three accused while four have withdrawn their applications seeking pre-arrest bail. At the outset, the judge asked the lawyers and journalists to leave the courtroom and permitted the prosecution and defence counsel to stay in the court.

During the course of the hearing, Barrister Salman Safdar, counsel for Mr Khan, argued that the PTI chairman was an elderly person since he was over 70 years old and suffering from injuries for three months. He said that Mr Khan would need another three weeks rest for complete recovery and sought exemption from his personal appearance and extension in the bail order.

The special prosecutor argued that since Mr Khan went to Shaukat Khanum instead of a government-run hospital, the medical report was not sufficient to justify his exemption. He added that Imran Khan did not join the probe either. The judge warned the PTI chief to appear before the court by its closing hour.

However, in the meanwhile, the court was told that IHC has issued a stay in this matter.

In a plea against the banking court, the IHC bench comprising Justice Mohsin Akhter Kayani and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri advised the trial court not to take any adverse action against Imran Khan.

Mr Khan’s counsel argued before the court that the PTI chairman had already appeared in the court. The bench sought the fresh medical report of Mr Khan on February 22 and restrained the trial court from taking action.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2023

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