The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday ordered the release of PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar and other leaders and workers after they were detained during the party’s ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’ (court arrest movement).
Qureshi and Umar had presented themselves for arrest last week and the LHC was informed on Monday that they were being held in various jails across the Punjab province for 30 days. The movement was called off on Wednesday by PTI chief Imran Khan after the Supreme Court ordered that provincial elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa be held within 90 days.
Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh suspended the detention orders during an open court hearing today on a petition moved the same day by PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry.
The written order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said the respondents were directed to release the people mentioned in the list attached with Chaudhry’s petition “forthwith if they are not required in any criminal case”.
The petition requested that the respondents be ordered to release all political workers who courted arrest as part of the PTI campaign and that any preventive measure or order issued should be declared illegal and quashed.
During the hearing, the judge asked what was illegal about the detention of the PTI workers and leaders, adding that the party had started the court arrest movement itself. He questioned Chaudhry’s lawyer, Advocate Sikandar Zulqarnain, about the admissibility of the petition.
“They are all political prisoners. It is clearly explained in the rules about political prisoners,” Zulqarnain said, adding that the court arrest movement had started as a protest and the PTI leaders had presented themselves for arrest.
Meanwhile, the public prosecutor argued that there was no proof attached to the petition that PTI workers were in custody and said he would get instructions from the authorities concerned.
Justice Sheikh directed him to inform the court after taking instructions.
The government counsel said that the PTI’s leaders and workers had entered custody willingly.
Reconvening after a break, the judge suspended their detention orders and issued notices to the respondents for March 7.