An Islamabad district and sessions court on Friday converted former prime minister Imran Khan’s non-bailable arrest warrants in a case related to alleged threats made to a judge into a bailable warrant till April 18.

On March 13, a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued for the PTI chairman after he failed to appear in court in the same case. The next day an Islamabad district and sessions court suspended the same warrant.

On March 24, another Islamabad lower court converted the non-bailable arrest warrant into a bailable warrant. It had also dismissed the former premier’s plea to extend the suspension of the said arrest warrant. Subsequently, on March 29 an Islamabad court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran in the case as he failed to appear before the court.

Additional Sessions Judge Sikandar Khan converted the non-bailable arrest warrants into bailable ones while hearing a review petition today against the issuance of the non-bailable arrest warrants.

He also ordered the PTI chairman to furnish surety bonds worth Rs20,000.

Imran was represented by lawyer Zakarya Arif. Sub-Inspector Sagheer Ali appeared before the court with the case record instead of Margalla Police Station’s investigation officer.

Prosecutor Adnan Ali was unable to appear before the court because he was busy in an Anti-Terrorism Court.

The hearing

At the hearing’s outset, Imran’s lawyer contended that his client’s senior counsel could not appear in court because he was being treated in the hospital for his heart disease. “The hearing should be adjourned till Tuesday,” Arif appealed.

The court directed any senior counsel of Imran to appear in person.

Subsequently, the court took a break till 10:30 am. When the hearing resumed, the prosecutor’s junior lawyer and PTI chief’s junior counsel Qamar Inayat appeared in court.

The government’s junior lawyer informed the court that the public prosecutor in the case was Rizwan Abbasi but he was busy in the Supreme Court. “Prosecutor Rizwan Abbasi is coming,” he said, adding that “there should be a break in the hearing till 11:30am.”

At this, the judge said Imran’s power of attorney had the names of Qaiser Imam and Ali Bukhari. To which, Imran’s junior counsel again told the court that Ali Bukhari was in the hospital and urged the court to adjourn the hearing till Tuesday.

“Imran’s power of attorney also includes the name of Qaiser Imam. Where is he?” the judge said. “Then we should restore the warrants again if no lawyer is coming from your side”.

The judge subsequently adjourned the hearing till 11:30am.

When the hearing resumed for the second time, Imran’s lawyer Faisal Chaudhry appeared in court.

“I’m here at a risk,” he said, highlighting that he left the Supreme Court to appear in a sessions court. At this, the judge remarked saying: “Be it a session or high court. A court is a court”.

“Imran is due to appear in court on April 18. What is the situation regarding his arrest?” Chaudhry asked the judge to which he replied the matter could be looked at when the special prosecutor arrived.

At this, Chaudhry said: “Imran appears before every court before getting murdered,” to which the judge asked him to clarify his remarks.

“We want every court to be safe for every accused person,” the judge said. At this, Chaudhry reminded the court that if there wasn’t an assassination attempt on Imran, there would be no security threats.

Imran’s lawyer repeatedly urged the judge to adjourn the hearing to which he said: “If the hearing is adjourned then the non-bailable warrants will be restored”.

Chaudhry replied by saying that the judicial magistrate’s decision was illegal. “It is not a crime to be named Imran Khan. Adjourn the hearing till Monday and keep the warrants suspended.”

Prosecutor Abbasi finally appeared in court and opposed Imran’s review appeal against the arrest warrant.

“First bailable arrest warrants were issued,” he said. “Now non-bailable arrest warrants had to be issued. Have you ever heard that the decision regarding the non-bailable warrant of arrest for non-appearance was in favour of the accused?” the prosecutor added.

He said that Imran’s lawyers themselves had first asked for bailable and then non-bailable arrest warrants to be issued and the court had done just that, adding that the judicial magistrate had issued non-bailable arrest warrants based on the arguments forwarded by the PTI chief’s lawyers.

Abbasi further highlighted that the sessions court had ordered that first bailable and then non-bailable arrest warrants should be issued and that is what had happened.

As the hearing continued, Chaudhry told the court that Imran was only charged with bailable sections in the case.

“The sessions court had first directed the judicial magistrate to issue bailable arrest warrants,” he said. “When bailable arrest warrants were not issued then how can non-bailable arrest warrants be brought into action?”

He reminded the court that Imran was subject to the same legal procedure as any other accused person.

“Were bailable warrants issued after the session’s court verdict? No, they weren’t.”

At this, Prosecutor Abbasi said an accused person is summoned to court through a notice or warrant. “Imran Khan was told to appear before the court through a warrant. Why didn’t he appear?

“When warrants are issued for an ordinary person then the decision over the warrant is taken when the accused appears in court,” he said. “Judicial Magistrate Malik Awan issued the non-bailable warrants according to the verdict of Additional Sessions Judge Faizan Haider”.

The prosecutor maintained that Imran knew about every court date but still did not appear. “What Imran Khan wants is that he doesn’t even appear in court nor should any warrants be issued against him”.

He appealed to the court to dismiss Imran’s appeal against his non-bailable arrest warrants.

“Did the court bailiff get Imran’s warrant implemented?” the judge asked. At this, the prosecutor replied by saying: “Ask the investigation officer. If an investigation officer goes to Zaman Park, he will be tortured”.

Case

The PTI chairman had on August 20, 2022 condemned the police as well as the judiciary over the alleged custodial torture of Shahbaz Gill and announced that his party would file cases against then-Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr Akbar Nasir Khan, the DIG and Additional District and Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry.

Initially, Imran was booked under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Besides, Islamabad High Court (IHC) also initiated contempt of court proceedings against him.

A month later, the IHC removed the terrorism charges against Imran and also pardoned him after he tendered an apology in the contempt case.

However, a similar case, filed after the registration of a first information report (FIR) against him for threatening the judge, is pending before the sessions court.

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