LHC grants PTI chief Imran protective bail in 9 cases

Published March 17, 2023
PTI Chairman Imran Khan is seen entering the courtroom on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
PTI Chairman Imran Khan is seen entering the courtroom on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
PTI Chairman Imran Khan arrives at the Lahore High Court on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
PTI Chairman Imran Khan arrives at the Lahore High Court on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
PTI workers gather outside the former prime minister’s house in Lahore’s Zaman Park locality on Friday, ahead of his departure to the Lahore High Court.—PTI official
PTI workers gather outside the former prime minister’s house in Lahore’s Zaman Park locality on Friday, ahead of his departure to the Lahore High Court.—PTI official
Supporters of PTI Chairman Imran Khan chant slogans, as they gather at the entrance of Khan’s Zaman Park house, in Lahore on Friday. —Reuters/Akhtar Soomro
Supporters of PTI Chairman Imran Khan chant slogans, as they gather at the entrance of Khan’s Zaman Park house, in Lahore on Friday. —Reuters/Akhtar Soomro
Supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan, chant slogans as they stand on a barrier along a street leading to Khan’s house, in Lahore on Thursday.—Reuters
Supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan, chant slogans as they stand on a barrier along a street leading to Khan’s house, in Lahore on Thursday.—Reuters

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday granted PTI Chairman Imran Khan protective bail in nine cases registered against him in Lahore and Islamabad, eight of which were registered under terrorism charges.

Out of the eight terrorism cases, five were registered in Islamabad — including two for vandalism at the Islamabad Judicial Complex and high court — and three in Lahore — including two for violence on March 8 and obstructing police from arresting Imran in the Zaman Park operation.

A two-judge LHC bench granted Imran protective bail in the terrorism cases registered in Lahore till March 27. For the cases in Islamabad, he was granted protective bail till March 24.

PTI leader Farrukh Habib also tweeted the development.

Separately, a single LHC bench granted the PTI chief protective bail till March 27 in a case registered at the Sarwar Road police station following the death of PTI worker Ali Bilal. The court also sought a report on the cases registered against Imran in Punjab.

PTI workers and lawyers celebrated outside the LHC as the verdicts were announced.

Key developments:

  • LHC grants Imran protective bail in 9 cases
  • IHC suspends Imran arrest warrants till March 18
  • LHC extends bar on police action at Zaman Park till 3pm today
  • PTI supporters stand guard outside party chairman’s residence to prevent possible arrest
  • PTI chief says he will appear before Islamabad sessions court on March 18
  • Rana Sanaullah says the government will follow due legal process regarding Imran’s arrest

Imran arrived at the LHC in scenes reminiscent of his earlier appearance on February 20. The PTI chairman had made his way to the LHC after deciding to file separate petitions seeking protective bail in nine first information reports (FIRs) registered against him in Islamabad and Lahore.

Ahead of Imran’s arrival, the LHC had directed Punjab police chief Dr Usman Anwar to facilitate the PTI chief in reaching court. The court initially said that it would hear Imran’s pleas for protective bail at 5pm but later granted time till 5:30pm.

Imran arrived at the LHC a little after 5:30pm accompanied by droves of PTI supporters. His vehicle was allowed to enter the LHC premises after seeking permission from the registrar’s office.

Footage broadcast on TV showed his vehicle entering court premises while some of his caravan was stopped at the gate. A large number of lawyers were also seen inside the court premises.

However, Imran finally entered the courtroom nearly an hour after arriving at the court premises. Footage broadcast on TV showed police in anti-riot gear shielding the PTI chief as he entered the courtroom.

LHC hearing

As the hearing commenced before the two-judge bench, comprising Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh and Justice Farooq Haider, Imran’s lawyer Azhar Siddique said Imran had filed pleas for protective bail in order to appear before the relevant courts.

He further said that Imran had also not been informed of the details of some of the cases registered against him. At this, Justice Sheikh said that the court would only grant bail in the cases filed before it.

Taking the rostrum, Imran said that there were so many cases registered against him that when he was granted bail in one, yet another would be registered.

Referring to the police operation at Zaman Park, he said that it had never happened before. He thanked the LHC for stopping the police operation, saying that the court “saved him”.

Justice Sheikh told the PTI chief that “the solution for all problems is found within the law”. He said that it would be better if Imran “went with the system”.

“There was an assassination attempt on me,” Imran said, adding that a suicide attack had previously occurred at the court in Islamabad he was supposed to appear before.

“I believe in rule of law. I cannot even imagine not appearing before the courts,” Imran said.

“You have to bring yourself into the system,” Justice Sheikh said. “There was no problem in this case. You mishandled it,” the judge said.

“There are 94 cases against me. If six more are registered, it will make it a century,” Imran quipped. Subsequently, the two-judge LHC bench granted Imran protective bail in eight terrorism cases.

Shortly after, a single LHC bench heard Imran’s plea against the case registered against him regarding the death of PTI worker Ali Bilal. His lawyer called on the court to grant his client protective bail so that he could appear before the relevant court.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said that a “FIR was filed against everyone, including Imran Khan, in two hours” following Bilal’s death.

Imran’s lawyer said that a case was registered at the Sarwar Road police station and urged the court to grant his client 10-day protective bail. “This is the Zille Shah case,” he added.

Granting the request, the court granted protective bail till March 27.

Imran’s lawyer also contended that authorities were not informing the PTI chief about the details of the cases registered against him. He said that no disciplinary action should be taken against Imran until the details of the cases were disclosed.

At this, the lawyer for the federal government said that he was not aware of how many cases there were and in which provinces. He contended that he was representing the federal government.

Subsequently, the LHC sought a report on the details of the cases registered against Imran across Punjab by Tuesday and also stopped any disciplinary action against the PTI chief.

IHC suspends Imran’s arrest warrants

Earlier today, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended non-bailable arrest warrants issued for Imran till March 18, providing him with a chance to appear before the trial court hearing the Toshakhana reference against the former premier.

Embroiled in legal complexities, Imran has been resisting arrest in the Toshakhana case and is holed up inside his Zaman Park residence surrounded by hundreds of supporters, who have fought “pitched battles” with the police and Rangers over the past few days.

The Islamabad police, backed up by their Punjab Police compatriots and the Rangers, arrived at the ex-premier’s house on Tuesday to execute non-bailable arrest warrants issued by an Islamabad sessions court for him in the Toshakhana reference — in which he has skipped several hearings.

However, the law enforcement agencies retreated on Wednesday evening, saying that the operation had been paused during the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL). Separately, the LHC had also intervened and postponed the operation.

On Thursday, an Islamabad sessions court — where PTI had gone for the suspension of Imran’s arrest warrants — upheld the warrants that it issued, observing that the PTI chief had “challenged the dignity and writ of the state”. It also maintained its order to arrest the ex-premier and present him in court by March 18.

Earlier today, the former prime minister filed yet another petition in the IHC challenging the verdict of the trial court. In the plea, Imran prayed that the trial court’s order be set aside and his arrest warrants be suspended “till the final disposal of the petition” so that the PTI chief could appear in court on March 18.

During the hearing, Imran’s lawyer Khawaja Haris submitted an undertaking by his client, assuring that the PTI chief would appear in court on March 18.

At the outset of the hearing, the court inquired about the basis on which the trial court rejected the undertaking provided by Imran to which Haris said the trial court stated that non-bailable warrants could not be cancelled.

The lawyer also stated that Imran had security concerns.

“I have been informed by the administration that security arrangements were being made. The trial court judge has also issued orders in this regard and I will ensure this as well,” Justice Farooq said.

He also warned that contempt of court proceedings could be initiated against Imran if he violated the undertaking submitted.

“My client will appear in court tomorrow no matter what happens,” Imran’s lawyer replied.

Subsequently, Justice Farooq suspended Imran’s arrest warrants till the sessions court’s hearing tomorrow and stopped Islamabad police from “harassing” him.

He also instructed Imran to appear in the trial court on March 18.

“The petitioner shall also ensure the law and order situation is not disturbed in Islamabad Capital Territory on his appearance before the learned trial court,” the written verdict reads, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.

It also added that the Islamabad police will ensure “providing of proper and adequate security measures to the petitioner and all concerned”.

Habib later tweeted that the location for tomorrow’s hearing was shifted from F-8 Court Complex to the Islamabad Judicial Complex due to “security concerns”.

LHC bars police action at Zaman Park

Earlier today, while hearing Chaudhry’s plea against police action at Zaman Park, the LHC extended its bar on the police operation for Imran’s arrest.

The court previously twice stopped the police operation outside the ex-premier’s residence and instructed the Punjab police and PTI to sit together and resolve the matter after consultation.

Ahead of the hearing today, Chaudhry tweeted that both parties have “agreed to resolve the issues” and the agreed solution will be presented in court today.

As the hearing commenced, Chaudhry praised the judge, saying “you have saved Pakistan and Lahore in the last two days.”

“You have saved lives with your intervention,” he added.

The PTI leader stated that his party delegation had a meeting with the Punjab police chief and chief secretary to discuss matters related to PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s security.

Chaudhry stated that the Punjab government had assured the delegation that due security would be provided to the PTI chief. He also informed the court that the PTI’s public gathering at the Minar-e-Pakistan, originally planned for Sunday, would be held on Monday instead.

Furthermore, he told the court that a plea for protective bail for the party chief had been filed.

The judge then pointed out that there were two separate matters. “One of them is being heard in the Islamabad High Court and the other in a trial court,” he said, questioning how his court could hear the matter.

“We request that the police not arrest our workers,” he added, addressing the IG.

The judge remarked that those who committed “injustice,” regardless of their affiliation, must be dealt with according to the law. “We have cameras everywhere, and the faces of those who commit wrongdoing can be easily identified,” Justice Sheikh added.

The PTI lawyer told the judge: “We want our client to visit you for the hearing of his plea.”

“It is possible that the case may not be assigned to me,” the judge responded.

The provincial police chief told the court that the PTI had agreed to nominate a focal person, adding the police also told them that no area would be allowed to be turned into a “no-go” zone.

The judge asked the PTI leader to follow proper legal procedures if their legitimate demands were not met.

The IGP requested the court to issue directions on how to execute search warrants.

The advocate general of Punjab informed the court that the police did not have access to Zaman Park to carry out legal formalities.

Chaudhry argued that the police were seeking permission to arrest people. “They [law enforcers] have filed one FIR against 2,500 people,” he said.

PTI lawyer Khawaja Tariq Rahim informed the court that two warrants had been issued, one against Imran and the other against Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.

He then asked the police chief to update the court on the non-implementation of the warrant issued for Sanaullah. The lawyer assured the court that his client would appear before it.

The IGP reiterated his request to visit Zaman Park.

“How will you satisfy them?” Justice Sheikh asked the IG and then instructed all parties concerned to sit together and find a solution.

After hearing arguments, Justice Sheikh said that the case would be heard again at 3pm. As a result, the bar on police action in Zaman Park was extended for another three hours.

When the hearing resumed, the advocate general told the court that PTI and Punjab government reached an arrangement and read out the terms of reference in court.

The document, that Dawn.com has seen, listed the following agreements:

  1. Guidelines approved by the provincial cabinet on July 31, 2020, for the provision of security would be followed.
  2. PTI nominates Shibli Faraz as the party’s focal person to liaise with the security agencies. He will present an application for the “provision of adequate security” to the competent authorities.
  3. PTI agrees to carry out an internal security audit at their end, in which the Punjab deputy inspector general (security) could also be taken on board.
  4. PTI agrees to “facilitate the execution of warrants/search warrants/making of site plan [and] all aspects of the investigative process” related to the cases registered on March 14 and 15.
  5. PTI’s March 19 rally at Minar-e-Pakistan is to now be held on March 20.

Will appear in court in person on March 18: Imran

In an interview with France 24 on Thursday night, Imran asserted that he would appear before the Islamabad sessions court in person on March 18.

“Yes, of course I’m going to court on the 18th,” Imran said when the host asked him if would be going to court tomorrow. “And they knew it.”

The PTI chief described the events outside his residence in the last few days as a “battle”, saying that “nearly 5,000 police and Rangers” personnel had arrived at Zaman Park to arrest him “without any reason”.

“I have obtained protective bail, which means that the police cannot arrest me before March 18, yet they came to arrest me … I felt like I was a terrorist,” he said. “So a clash erupted between my supporters and the police.

“I decided to give them [the police] a surety bond that I will appear in court on March 18 but they refused to take it because they were determined to arrest me and it was for the wrong cause,” Imran claimed.

He went on to say that the incumbent government wanted him to get arrested because they were scared of the upcoming elections in Punjab on April 30 and “wanted to put me in jail before that”.

“My house was a battle zone … they used tear gas, rubber bullets and bullets, water cannons … this has never happened in Pakistan before … no political leader has suffered such an attack.

“The level of victimisation going on in this country is unprecedented,” Imran added, reiterating that the main reason behind the arrest attempts was that “they don’t want me to compete in the elections”.

On Friday, Dawn.com’s correspondent present outside Zaman Park said that police were not present in the vicinity, but hordes of PTI supporters outside Imran’s house were armed with sticks and stones, prepared for any police operation.

Govt to follow due judicial process: Sanaullah

Meanwhile, explaining the government’s thought process behind the recent events, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the “strategy employed” was aimed at creating an “environment” in which the PTI chief would be induced to appear in court.

Talking to Geo News on Friday morning, he said: “More than aiming for [Imran’s] arrest, we have to create an environment in which it would be made clear that the court has called you (Imran) and [then] you appear there.”

He predicted that the PTI will appear in court on March 18. “If he does not appear [in court], then it is possible that we might have to change our strategy a bit.”

Sanaullah also said that in such a case, the PML-N would take Imran to court itself and “from there, the court will punish him”.

“We will also make sure that the judicial process is fair,” he added.

Later in a tweet, he said that Imran did not feel any danger while holding a rally and warned that if the PTI chief didn’t appear in court on March 18, the government will have to become strict.



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