• LHC says issue of warrants was ‘mishandled’ by PTI chief
• IHC suspends warrants for ex-premier’s arrest
• Imran says govt wants to make a ‘century’ of cases against him
LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday granted interim protective bail to PTI Chairman Imran Khan in nine cases hours after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) restrained the police from arresting him as he is scheduled to appear before a lower court in the federal capital in the Toshakhana case on Saturday (today).
The former prime minister reached the LHC with hundreds of his charged party workers at around 6:30pm, almost one-hour late to the time when he was directed to appear for the hearing of his bail petitions.
The LHC administration permitted the bulletproof vehicle of Imran Khan to enter the court premises amid strict security arrangements.
Initially, the PTI chief appeared before a two-judge bench comprising Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh and Justice Farooq Haider, which was specially constituted by the chief justice to hear his bail petitions in cases, including an offence under Section 7 of ATA.
At the outset of hearing in a packed courtroom, Azhar Siddique, the counsel for Mr Khan, told the bench that at least six cases had been registered against his client in Islamabad and three in Lahore.
He said the government had registered many other cases against the petitioner. He asked the court to grant a “blanket protective bail” to Mr Khan since he had no knowledge of all the cases registered against him.
Justice Sheikh, however, made it clear that the court could only grant bail in the cases wherein petitions had been filed by Mr Khan.
With the court permission, the former PM also spoke and said the government was implicating him in numerous cases. He said the government was set to make a century of cases against him as at least 94 FIRs had already been lodged against him so far.
Mr Khan said his residence was attacked by the police as if it was the house of a terrorist.
“I want to thank this court for saving me from the attack,” he said to the judge.
Justice Sheikh observed that the issue of the execution of the arrest warrants had been mishandled by Imran Khan.
He said law had a solution to all issues.
“You just need to follow the system,” the judge advised Mr Khan.
The PTI chief said he survived a murder attack and still had security threats.
Justifying his act of skipping hearings in the Toshakhana case, he said the judicial complex that housed the trial court had been bombed in the past. He said appearing in that court would be a “death trap”.
The bench granted the protective bail to Mr Khan in five cases of Islamabad till March 24 and in three of Lahore till March 27.
On the request of the counsel, the bench also directed the police to submit a record of the cases registered against Mr Khan on March 21 and restrained them from taking any adverse action against him.
Later, Justice Sheikh heard another petition of Mr Khan as a single bench and granted him protective bail till March 27 in a case registered with the Sarwar Road police, carrying charges of hiding facts about the death of a PTI worker, Ali Bilal also known as Zille Shah.
The PTI workers, on the premises of the court, changed slogans to celebrate the bail granted to the PTI chief.
Earlier in the day, Justice Sheikh had extended the stay order against the police operation outside the Zaman Park residence of Imran Khan for his arrest in the Toshakhana case. Later, the judge disposed of the petition of PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry against the police operation.
Earlier, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) restrained the capital police from arresting Mr Khan.
The PTI leader is scheduled to appear before the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Zafar Iqbal on Saturday (today) to attend proceedings on the complaint filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for concealing details of gifts in his assets declarations.
IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq was hearing Mr Khan’s petition seeking suspension of arrest warrants issued by the court of ADSJ.
A day earlier, the ADSJ had rejected Mr Khan’s request for suspension of warrants observing that he was not entitled to any concession because of his conduct.
At the outset, the IHC registrar’s office raised objections on the petition noting that Mr Khan had not done the biometric verification and the petition was not maintainable, but it placed the matter before the chief justice.
Khawaja Haris Ahmed, counsel for Mr Khan, pointed out that biometric has been undertaken and the receipt would be provided shortly.
It was contended that the objection about maintainability is of such nature which can be decided on the judicial side. It was submitted that the matter is of urgent nature, hence it should be taken up immediately.
Justice Farooq removed the objections.
Khawaja Haris argued that the trial court had turned down the request, seeking suspension of warrants for “erroneous reasons”. He submitted that the undertaking as earlier shown to the IHC was filed before the trial court along with an affidavit to the effect that the undertaking is genuine and authentic, but the same could not persuade the trial court in recalling the warrants of arrest.
Advocate Haris was asked about the status of the undertaking and affidavit whether Mr Khan was still committed to them, to which he responded that the undertaking tantamount to a statement before the court that he would attend the court on March 18.
The court asked that in case of violation of the said statement what would be the effect and whether this would amount to misstatement warranting contempt of court.
All the lawyers representing Mr Khan conceded to the position that the law shall take its course accordingly.
At this point, Advocate Haris was directed to implead the Inspector General of Police, Islamabad and the state which was accordingly done.
The IHC chief justice then restrained the police from arresting Mr Khan during his appearance before the trial court, but also instructed the PTI chief that he “shall also ensure [that] the law and order situation is not disturbed in Islamabad Capital Territory on his appearance before the learned trial court”.
He directed the Islamabad district administration as well as the capital police chief to ensure provision of proper and adequate security to the petitioner and all concerned. In this regard, the police as well as district administration shall frame standard operating procedure and lay down parameters to restrict entry to limited persons.
The court also issued notices to the Islamabad police chief on the plea seeking details of cases registered against Mr Khan in the federal capital.
Further hearing was adjourned till March 21.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2023
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