LAHORE: A Lahore High Court division bench on Thursday dismissed for non-prosecution a petition of PTI chairman Imran Khan seeking protective bail in a criminal case by the Islamabad police, whereas a single bench allowed him an opportunity to appear on Monday in another petition of bail in a similar case.

“The case was taken up at 5pm when the learned counsel for the petitioner sought an adjournment to present the petitioner. We adjourned the case at 6:30 pm, but at the time when the case was called neither Mr Azhar Siddique, the learned counsel for the petitioner, nor the petitioner was in attendance. In this view of the matter, we have no option but to dismiss the petition for non-prosecution,” said the order issued by the two-judge bench.

At the outset of the hearing, Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, who headed the bench, asked the lawyer of the PTI chairman about the non-attendance of the petitioner seeking protective bail in a case registered in Islamabad. Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi was the other member of the bench.

Advocate Azhar Siddique told the bench Imran Khan could not appear due to medical issues and presented medical reports before the court. The bench observed that the medical reports did not show any advice to Mr Khan against walking. The lawyer also cited security concerns for Mr Khan when the bench observed that the petitioner could have appeared in a wheelchair.

Another bench gives PTI chief fresh opportunity, asks him to appear on Monday

The counsel referred to bail granting orders to former chief minister Hamza Shehbaz and his brother Suleman Shehbaz. However, Justice Najafi observed that the Supreme Court’s judgements did not permit the relief of protective bail to an accused without a personal appearance. The counsel sought more time for consultation with the petitioner when the bench asked him to withdraw the petition or get it dismissed.

After a short break, Advocate Hassaan Niazi, also a nephew of Mr Khan, appeared before the bench and stated that the PTI chairman had threats to his life by the Taliban. He also sought time to come up with a clear response. However, no one appeared on behalf of the petitioner when the hearing resumed at 6pm.

In this petition, Mr Khan sought protective bail in a case registered with Sangjani police station, which also carries offence under section 7 ATA. The matter was taken to the high court after an anti-terrorism court of Islamabad had dismissed the pre-arrest bail of Mr Khan for constant non-appearance.

Single-bench proceedings

During proceedings of the other petition before Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, the PTI lawyers once again sought time to consult with the doctors about whether Mr Khan could appear before the court. The judge put off the hearing till 12:30pm when the lawyers made another request for more time.

Dr Faisal Sultan, personal physician of Mr Khan, appeared in the court when the judge resumed the hearing at 2pm. However, the judge refused to hear the doctor and asked the lawyer about the appearance of the petitioner. Advocate Siddique told the judge that the petitioner wanted to withdraw the petition as the Islamabad High Court granted him relief in the matter.

The judge also took notice of dissimilarity in the signatures of Imran Khan on his affidavit and the power of attorney attached to the petition. Justice Sheikh observed that the matter was serious and a contempt notice could be issued to the petitioner or the counsel. Advocate Ghulam Abbas Nassoana, another counsel, said Imran Khan owned his signatures. However, the judge said the court required a personal statement by the petitioner in this regard.

The judge adjourned the hearing till Feb 20 when senior lawyer Khwaja Tariq Rahim appeared on behalf of the PTI chairman to seek time. The judge directed the IGP Punjab to discuss security issues with the legal team of the PTI chief for his appearance at 2pm on Monday.

Justice Sheikh had taken up the petition of Khan on Wednesday and kept waiting till 8pm for the appearance of the petitioner. However, Khan had not appeared and the judge had given him another chance to appear by Thursday morning.

Outside the court, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said thousands of workers would join Imran Khan on his appearance before the court, which could lead to a law and order situation.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2023

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