The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday emphasised the need for PTI Chairman Imran Khan to appear in court as it took up the ex-premier’s plea seeking protective bail in two terrorism cases registered against him in Islamabad following clashes at the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) on Saturday.

The first information reports (FIRs) registered at the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and the Golra police stations in the capital accused the PTI chief and party workers of being involved in attacking police and creating unrest outside the FJC in Islamabad during the hearing of the Toshakhana case on Saturday.

The FIR invokes sections 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 380 (theft in dwelling house, etc), 395 (punishment for dacoity), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage to amount of one hundred rupees or [in case of agricultural produce] ten rupees), 440 (mischief committed after preparation made for causing death or hurt), and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The complaints alleged that PTI workers set vehicles on fire, and stole weapons and a wireless set from a police vehicle.

PTI leaders Asad Umar, Asad Qaiser, Hammad Azhar, Ali Amin Gandapur, Ali Nawaz Awan, Murad Saeed, Shibli Faraz, Hassaan Khan Niazi, Omer Ayub Khan, Amjad Khan Niazi, Khurram Nawaz, Jamshed Mughal, Aamir Kiyani, Farrukh Habib, Dr Shehzad Waseem, Umer Sultan, and Imran Khan’s Chief Security Officer Muhammad Asim were among those nominated in the cases.

In the petitions filed through Barrister Salman Safdar on Monday, the PTI chief sought protective bail to “enable him to surrender and approach the competent court having jurisdiction to entertain the bail petition”.

“The petitioner is currently residing at his Zaman Park residence which is surrounded by police to effect the unlawful arrest. It is petitioner’s fundamental right that he be allowed to approach and personally appear before this court and a strict direction be issued to authorities to enable the petitioner to approach without any mischief by the police,” the plea added.

The hearing

Taking up the pleas, a two-member bench of the LHC comprising Justice Shehbaz Rizvi and Justice Farooq Haider inquired whether the signatures on petitions were of Imran. “They look like scanned documents,” the judge remarked.

Imran’s lawyer told the court that both the signatures were in fact Imran’s, however, they were scanned. He said that two new FIRs had been registered against the former premier when he visited Islamabad to attend a court hearing.

“Why don’t you stop your people [from accompanying you]? Why do 1,000 people go,” Justice Rizvi asked.

The PTI chief’s counsel requested the court to adjourn the hearing until tomorrow as his client was not present in the court.

“Make sure that the petitioner is present in the court by 2:15 pm tomorrow if you are looking to get relief,” Justice Rizvi observed. A reply stating that ‘the petitioner is on the way’ will not be admissible, the judge added.

The court adjourned the hearing until tomorrow.

Imran files contempt plea against police operation at Zaman Park

Separately, Imran filed a contempt petition with the LHC against the police operation at his Zaman Park residence on March 18. The LHC will take up the plea tomorrow (Tuesday).

The petition, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, named Punjab Chief Secretary Zahid Akhtar Zaman, Ministry of Interior Additional Secretary Ahmad Shakeel Mian, Punjab police chief Usman Anwar, Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Bilal Siddique Kamyana, Punjab police DIG (Operations) Kamran Afzal and Punjab police SSP (Discipline) Imran Kishwar.

The petition said that a “brutal and illegal police operation by use of force and heavy artillery, arms and ammunition” took place at Imran’s residence.

It said the operation “seems to have been evilly designed to be run” as soon as the PTI chief left to appear before a court in Islamabad.

It contended that police had damaged Imran’s personal property and had “broken into his house” by dismantling the main entrance gate using a crane. It further said that the respondents had not acted fairly, reasonably or justly.

Imran said the contempt petition was a “very important case because on the decision that comes will rest the future of respect for court decisions by the powerful.”

Imran’s plea against disqualification, removal as party head fixed for hearing

Meanwhile, the LHC fixed for hearing Imran’s petition challenging his disqualification in the Toshakhana case and the subsequent notice from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to remove him as chairman of the PTI.

Last year in December, the ECP had initiated the process to remove Imran as the PTI chairman in the light of its verdict in the Toshakhana case. He was disqualified under Article 63(1p) of the Constitution for making “false statements and incorrect declaration”.

Imran’s plea challenging the ECP’s notice had been in stay since Jan 11 when Justice Jawad Hassan of the LHC [observed][3] that the stay granted to Imran would continue until further proceedings by a larger bench were resumed.

Today, the LHC fixed Imran’s plea to be heard by a five-member larger bench on March 21 (tomorrow).

The bench — headed by Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan — includes Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza, Justice Jawad Hassan, Justice Shahid Karim and Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhary.

In the petition filed by Imran through Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, the former premier requested the LHC to declare ECP’s “assumption of jurisdiction” in the matter of removing him from his party role as “illegal, without lawful authority, without jurisdiction, ultra vires the powers of ECP, corum non judice, mala fide in fact and law, contrary to the Constitution”.

It further requested that the notice issued by the ECP on the matter on Dec 7, 2022 be declared the same and be set aside.

Challenging the ECP’s disqualification verdict against Imran, the plea requested the LHC that the “finding of ECP of any disqualification of the petitioner under the Constitution or the Election Act 2017, ECP’s order dated Oct 21, 2022 and any and all actions in pursuance thereof” be declared “unlawful, illegal [and] contrary to the Constitution” as well and be set aside.

As Imran had been disqualified under Article 63(1)(p), the petition argued that “Article 63(1)(p) cannot be invoked by the [NA] speaker under Article 63(1) nor can ECP disqualify a person on the basis of a reference under Article 63(2) if the disqualification of Article 63(1)(p) does not exist”.

The plea further argued that “in the absence of any ground for disqualification under Article 63(1), there is no jurisdiction with ECP to disqualify the petitioner under Article 63(1)”.

The petition said that when a member has not been disqualified under Article 62(1)(f), “any question of holding political party office is a matter within the indoor management of the political party”.

“Hence, Election Act 2017 does not envisage any suo motu power of ECP in the matter of offices bearers of the political parties,” it stated.

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