The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday directed PTI chief Imran Khan to appear before the court on February 20 while hearing the PTI chief’s protective bail in a case pertaining to protests outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
During today’s hearing, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh warned of issuing a contempt notice after noting that Imran’s signatures on the affidavit — attached with the petition — and the power of attorney were different.
Yesterday, an Islamabad anti-terrorism court — on grounds of non-appearance — rejected Imran’s request for an extension in his interim bail in a case pertaining to violent protests outside the ECP after it disqualified him in the Toshakhana case.
The PTI chief has been convalescing in his Zaman Park residence in Lahore ever since he was wounded in an assassination attempt during a pitstop his caravan made in Wazirabad while they were marching on Islamabad.
Subsequently, the PTI chief had approached the LHC for interim protective bail, but the high court refused to grant the bail without his personal appearance and adjourned the petition till today.
“Bring him on a stretcher or in an ambulance. Bail will not be granted without him being present in court,” Justice Sheikh had said.
Earlier today, Imran submitted a power of attorney in court declaring Advocate Azhar Siddique as his counsel for the case.
As the proceedings commenced today, Imran’s lawyer Azhar Siddique requested the court for some time, saying that the PTI chairman was meeting doctors and the party had some security concerns.
He, however, assured the court that Imran would be in court. At that, Justice Sheikh adjourned the hearing till 12:30pm.
When the hearing resumed, Siddique once against sought more time. “Consultations are still under way… we need more time,” he said.
Here, Justice Sheikh asked if Imran would appear before the court at all, to which the lawyer said: “Consultations on this [matter] are under way.”
Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned for another hour.
At 2pm, Imran’s lawyer appeared in court along with Dr Faisal Sultan — the PTI chief’s surgeon. Dr Sultan wanted to brief the judge regarding the ex-premier’s medical condition but was not allowed to do so.
Meanwhile, Siddique told Justice Sheikh that his client wanted to withdraw the bail application as the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had already granted relief to Imran in a similar case.
Here, the judge observed that the PTI chief’s signatures on the affidavit and power of attorney were different. “This is a very important matter … I will issue contempt of court notice to you or your client,” he said.
At that, Siddique stated that he will assist the court on the matter and sought some time.
“I’m not returning your application. I’m keeping it on pending,” the judge said and then adjourned the hearing till 4pm.
When the hearing resumed, Imran’s counsel said that the PTI chief was taking ownership of both the signatures. At this, Justice Sheikh demanded that Imran “own up to them in front of me or else I will issue a contempt of court notice to the counsel and the petitioner”.
The lawyer said that if it deemed it appropriate, the court could question Imran about the signatures through video link. “Doctors have advised Imran Khan to refrain from walking,” he said.
He further contended that the court could appoint a bailiff so that the matter could be clarified.
Justice Sheikh, however, said that the court had to function in accordance with the law. “Imran Khan will give a statement about the signatures after taking an oath.”
The Lahore High Court rejected Siddique’s clarification regarding the signatures, upon which the counsel asked for more time for “consultation”.
The counsel insisted that Imran had admitted both the signatures were his, considering which, the LHC adjourned the hearing till 6:30pm with Justice Sheikh demanding that Imran “verify the signature in front of him”.
Shortly before the hearing was scheduled to resume, PTI Farrukh Habib said that Imran had been advised by his doctors to limit his movement and that there were also security threats.
He noted that the court had been informed of these facts. “[But] the court has directed Imran to appear in person for [obtaining] protective bail, therefore, he will appear before the LHC.”
When the hearing resumed, Khawaja Tariq Rahim appeared in the court on Imran’s behalf.
“Imran Khan respects the courts,” Rahim said. He called on the court to make the necessary arrangements, saying that Imran would appear in the courtroom tomorrow.
He further contended that the court could “punish” the lawyer responsible for the issue regarding the signatures. “A decision has to be made after looking at the security arrangements. We can sit down with the high court security to finalise [arrangements].”
At this, Justice Sheikh said that a meeting could be arranged with the Punjab IG. He directed the provincial police chief to sit down with Imran’s legal team and finalise security arrangements.
The court also directed Imran’s counsel to present the ex-premier in court on Monday (February 19) at 2:00pm.
The PTI chairman’s petition was submitted by his counsels Advocates Malik Ghulam Abbas Nissoana, Muhammad Farooq Khokhar, Rashid Gill, Muhammad Aadil Khan and Ch Asghar Ali.
In the petition, Imran said that the Islamabad anti-terrorism court did not grant him an exemption from appearance on the basis of medical grounds, and rejected his request for an extension in his interim bail.
“I have to submit a bail petition again in the Islamabad ATC,” he stated in the petition and prayed to the Lahore High Court to “approve the protective bail for the surrender to take place in the concerned court.”
LHC bench dismisses Imran’s plea
Meanwhile, a separate LHC bench heard the PTI chief’s bail plea filed against the FIR registered against him at Islamabad’s Sangjani police station. A two-judge bench comprising Justice Ali Baqir Najafi and Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi presided over the hearing.
At the outset of the hearing, Justice Najafi inquired about Imran’s whereabouts.
At that, Imran’s counsel Siddique read Imran’s medical reports out loud. He said that the doctors had advised Imran to rest for three weeks.
However, the court noted that the medical reports did not state that Imran could not walk.
“I have had a detailed discussions with the doctors. According to them, it is not okay for Imran Khan to walk [at the moment],” the lawyer replied.
Justice Najafi noted that Imran could also appear before the court in a wheelchair but Siddique pointed out that his client also faced security threats. “The party leadership is also not ready to allow Imran to appear,” he told the court.
He further argued that PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz was granted protective bail without having to appear before the court. “Obtaining bail is a fundamental right,” he said.
However, Justice Najafi pointed out that the apex court had ruled that protective bail could not be provided without the suspect appearing before the court. “We have to work within the ambit of the law and the law says that bail cannot be granted without appearing before the court,” he remarked.
The lawyer then contended that the court could mark Imran’s attendance via video link or through a “commission”.
However, Justice Najafi said that there were two options currently on the table. “Either we dismiss the application or you withdraw it,” he said.
Imran’s lawyer then asked for some time to consult with his client. The hearing was subsequently adjourned for a brief period.
When the hearing resumed, neither Imran nor his lawyer were present in court. Therefore, the court dismissed Imran’s plea.
A written order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, stated: “The case was taken up at 5:00pm when the learned counsel for the petitioner sought an adjournment to present the petitioner.
“We adjourned the case at 6:30pm but at the time when the case was called neither Mr Azhar Siddique, the learned counsel for the petitioner, nor the petitioner [were] in attendance.
“In this view of the matter, we have no option but to dismiss the petition for non-prosecution,” the order stated.
The terrorism case in Islamabad was filed against Imran in Oct 2022 after PTI workers took to the streets and held demonstrations outside ECP offices across the country after it disqualified the former prime minister in the Toshakhana reference.
Soon after the verdict was announced, the PTI leadership asked people to take to the streets. Clashes were also reported between the police and protesters in Islamabad, Peshawar and Karachi.
The ATC had granted Imran a pre-arrest bail in the case in October last year and summoned him on multiple occasions but the ex-premier failed to appear in court. His lawyer had been seeking an exemption from in-person appearance on medical grounds.
Previously, Imran also petitioned the court for a virtual hearing but the request was rejected.
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