• Justice Sheikh disposes of second bail petition after PTI withdraws plea
• Govt unhappy with ‘preferential’ treatment for former PM
LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: As he finally appeared before a two-member bench after a day-long drama and multiple sessions of the court, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday granted interim protective bail to PTI Chairman Imran Khan till March 3 in a case pertaining to an ‘attack’ on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) building.
After an ultimatum by the high court to appear before the bench by 5pm, the PTI chairman left his Zaman Park residence and took at least one hour to reach LHC. Accompanied by hundreds of supporters gathered on the party’s call, Imran Khan reached the high court amid strict security arrangements made by the police.
As he continued to stay inside his vehicle on the LHC premises, Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, who headed the division bench, had to order the SP Security to escort Mr Khan to the courtroom. The PTI lawyers said the petitioner was unable to come out of his vehicle parked inside the LHC due to massive crowd and security concerns. Subsequently, Mr Khan entered the courtroom at around 7:30pm.
The petition before the division bench sought protective bail in the FIR registered at police station Sangjanee of Islamabad under sections 341, 427, 353, 186, 147, 149, 188, 506, 109 of PPC read with section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. The petition was filed afresh on Monday as the bench had previously dismissed the same after Imran Khan failed to appear before it despite repeated opportunities given to him on Feb 16.
During the hearing, the courtroom was jam-packed. Imran Khan informed the judges that his leg injury was better but the doctors advised him to rest till his final X-ray report which would be taken after two weeks. The PTI chief said he stayed in the vehicle for an hour to appear before the court. “I fully respect the courts, as my party’s name is also based on justice,” he said before the court.
Advocates Azhar Siddique and Khwaja Tariq Rahim argued on behalf of the PTI chairman, saying the petitioner had falsely been implicated in the case and was assigned the role of abetment. They said Mr Khan was injured in an attack and could not appear on subsequent hearings before the trial court and the bail was dismissed for non-prosecution.
The lawyers said the PTI chief wanted to appear before the court of competent jurisdiction for the relief and needed some time from this court in order to approach the court of first instance. They asked the court to allow a protective bail for two weeks. Justice Najafi, however, granted bail till March 3 allowing him to appear before the relevant court in Islamabad. The bench also restrained the police from arresting Mr Khan.
Petition disposed of
Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, who resumed the hearing on another petition of Imran Khan at 2pm, had to wait till 8:30pm for the PTI chairman to make an appearance in his courtroom.
The judge had asked him to appear at 5pm — this ultimatum probably prompted Mr Khan to leave Zaman Park for the high court. After spending an hour on the premises of the court among his supporters and attending the division bench hearing, Mr Khan entered the courtroom of Justice Sheikh after 8pm.
He was asked to appear before the bench to explain a discrepancy in his signatures after Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh questioned his lawyers about the difference in his signatures on an affidavit and power of attorney attached to the bail petition.
During an earlier hearing, Advocate Rahim admitted before the court that Khan did not sign the documents. Justice Sheikh hinted at issuing a show notice for contempt to Mr Khan or the lawyer. However, Imran Khan sought an apology from the judge and said the petition was filed without his prior permission. He also requested the judge to allow the lawyer to withdraw the petition. The judge allowed the request and disposed of the petition.
The treatment meted out to Mr Khan by the Lahore High Court did not please the government at all, as its ministers claimed that the relaxation given to Mr Khan by the court was not available to everyone.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said, “He is an imposter. Today he appeared before the court on a wheelchair amid private security and created a drama [in court].”
The minister hinted that something big will happen on the day after tomorrow, but he did not go into details. “Just wait for Wednesday,” the minister said. Similarly, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb slammed Imran Khan for “creating a drama” before his court appearance.
She alleged Mr Khan provoked his followers to attack the court in case he would be arrested. “Why the relaxation being given to him (Imran) is not available to the other accused,” she questioned.
“Today people witnessed, on their TV screens, the humiliation of the Constitution, law and judicial system,” she added.
She said Imran’s followers thronged LHC premises on his call but later he denied that he had made such a call.
“Imran Khan is wanted in many court cases, but for provoking an attack on the Lahore High Court today, he must be arrested immediately,” she said.
Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2023
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