The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday granted PTI chief Imran Khan protective bail until March 3 in a case related to PTI protestors’ alleged rioting and clashes with Islamabad police in October in the aftermath of his disqualification by the Election Commission of Pakistan in the Toshakhana reference.
His plea for bail in another case — which was also registered in Islamabad and pertained to protests outside the office of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) — was disposed of after the ex-premier withdrew his petition.
The proceedings in both the petitions culminated only after the high court had to wait for hours and set multiple deadlines for Imran to arrive. Once the PTI chief reached the court premises, a number of his supporters had gathered around him.
Earlier today, Imran had filed a plea seeking protective bail in the case registered at Islamabad’s Sangjani police station, which also carries offence under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, through Advocate Azhar Siddique. On Thursday, the LHC had dismissed a similar petition due to non-prosecution.
In the petition, Imran urged the court to grant him 15-day protective bail so that he could approach the relevant court for pre-arrest bail.
The petition was fixed for hearing before a two-judge bench led by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi. When the hearing began, the PTI chief was not present in the courtroom. At this, his lawyer Siddique argued that his client was present inside the LHC premises but could not be presented in the courtroom due to the security risk.
He said the party had not disclosed that the PTI chief would be appearing before the LHC. “Call it the people’s love or their madness that such a large crowd has gathered,” Siddique said.
The lawyer said that if Imran were to step out of his car in such a situation, he may risk getting injured.
However, Justice Najafi maintained that Imran would have to appear in the courtroom. He ordered that Imran’s physical presence be ensured by 7:30pm and adjourned the hearing.
When the hearing resumed, Imran had finally made his way inside the courtroom. Taking the rostrum, Imran said that his leg — which he had injured in Wazirabad attack on his convoy last year — had recovered to an extent but the doctors had still advised him two weeks’ rest, while his medical checkup was scheduled for February 28.
Subsequently, the court granted Imran protective bail till March 3 and directed him to approach the relevant court by then.
The written order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, noted that Imran’s counsel had argued that his client had been falsely implicated in the case. It further noted that Imran wanted to appear before the court with the relevant jurisdiction and needed time to do so.
“Under the law, the petitioner is required to approach the court of first instance but in the interest of justice, we are inclined to grant him ad-interim anticipatory bail protective in nature until March 3 to enable him to approach the court of first instance,” the order said.
Imran says bail petition in other case filed without his consent
After securing the bail in the first case, Imran appeared before a separate single-member LHC bench in a case pertaining to protests outside the ECP.
In the previous hearing, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh had 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.
In today’s hearing, Imran told the judge that the petition was filed without his consent. “As soon as I found out, I told Azhar Siddique to withdraw the petition.”
Following Imran’s remarks, the petition was disposed of.
Prior to Imran’s arrival in the evening, his lawyer Khawaja Tariq Rahim informed the court that Imran wanted to withdraw the bail petition.
“Present your arguments on the difference in the signatures,” the judge interjected.
Imran’s lawyer admitted that there was a difference in the signatures on the affidavit and the power of attorney. “Imran Khan has not filed the protective bail,” he said.
“Imran Khan can even submit this in writing to the court,” he added.
At this, the court remarked that it can issue a contempt notice to Imran and the PTI chief can submit his response on it within three weeks.
However, the ex-premier’s lawyer argued that contempt of court was not applicable on the matter.
“You’re making a joke out of the law,” the judge said here. “The way I have accommodated you … this [normally] doesn’t happen. Imran is a leader [and] a role model. He should remain a role model.”
When Imran’s convoy left Zaman Park — where the PTI chief has been convalescing since being wounded in an assassination attempt during a pitstop his caravan made in Wazirabad while they were marching on Islamabad — and arrived at the LHC premises, it was showered with rose petals. A large number of PTI supporters had also surrounded the convoy and chanted slogans in support of the ex-premier.
Prior to Imran entering the courtroom, Qureshi had told ARY News there were “thousands” of people present outside the court and security arrangements were almost “non-existent”. He said it was “impossible” for Imran to step out of his car in such a situation.
Ahead of today’s proceedings, a large contingent of police personnel was deployed at the main gate of the LHC.
Imran’s request for entrance into LHC via Mosque Gate rejected
Earlier today, the court rejected the PTI chairman’s request, submitted via Senator Shibli Faraz, to enter the LHC premises through the Mosque or Judges Gate.
The application, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, had stated that the petitioner was the former prime minister of Pakistan and was recently injured in an assassination attempt.
“The petitioner’s bullet injuries are still under healing process and he has not been allowed by doctors to walk or put pressure on the broken tibia,” it said.
It added that there was a “huge amount of risk and threat” to Imran’s life as the perpetrators and masterminds of the previous attack were still at large and “giving threats time and again”.
“It is hereby prayed that the petitioner, being the former prime minister, may kindly be allowed to enter the court premises through its Mosque Gate/Judges Gate due to medical reasons,” the petition pleaded.
Health issues, not a ‘matter of ego’: Asad Umar
Separately, in a media talk late today, PTI leader Asad Umar said that there were some “security requisites” regarding Imran’s appearance in court.
“Imran is not an ordinary Pakistani citizen [as] he’s the only leader among the few former prime ministers on whom an assassination attempt has been made,” he told reporters.
The PTI general secretary went on to say Imran could not “bear any shoving and pushing as per instructions from his doctors”, adding that it was “not a matter of ego”.
Umar added that the PTI chief’s bone, which was hit by a bullet, had not “healed completely yet” and that doctors had cautioned the recovery process could be hindered by “even a slight shake”.
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.
Section 144 imposed in Lahore District
Meanwhile, the Punjab Home Department imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which restricts the assembly of gatherings exceeding four persons, immediately for a week in the following areas:
- Main Mir Bridge to Istanbul Chowk on Lahore’s Mall Road, including its immediate vicinity
- Outside Punjab Civil Secretariat and its adjoining roads
- Main Gulberg Boulevard
The order said that the section was imposed “in the context of overall prevailing security milieu” to avert any untoward incident since Pakistan Super League’s eighth edition was going to start on February 26 in Lahore.
It added that it was “essential to ensure security of the people and installations/buildings against any potential terrorist threat or untoward activity, in the larger interest of public safety, security, peace and tranquillity.”