Former prime minister Imran Khan on Monday told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that the authorities had planned another operation at his residence in Zaman Park during the Eid holidays, and requested the court to halt any action against his party.
The PTI chief made this claim during the hearing of a plea filed by him seeking to halt “coercive government action” against PTI and quashment of multiple cases filed against him on identical charges.
A two-member bench headed by Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh conducted a hearing into the PTI chief’s petition.
Filed by the PTI on Saturday, the plea nominated nine authorities and individuals as respondents including the prime minister, interior minister, Punjab caretaker chief minister, inspector general of police Punjab, the National Accountability Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency.
At the outset of the hearing, Imran’s counsel Barrister Salman Safdar said that new cases were being filed against his client with each passing day. “The state’s machinery is being misused,” he claimed.
The counsel said more than 140 cases had been filed against the former premier, expressing concerns regarding Imran’s arrest. He demanded that the police high-ups should appear in court and explain whether the arrest was even necessary.
The lawyer said all the cases against Imran were filed by the police, who he claimed were using “police stations for political point-scoring”.
According to the law, it is necessary to explain the reasons for the arrest, the lawyer told the court.
He pointed out that it was not possible to pay fees for so many cases.
He cited reports claiming that an [police] operation might be launched at Imran’s Lahore residence at the culmination of Ramazan.
Imran testified in court that despite court orders, the police had previously damaged his home during the Zaman Park operation.
He also shared that he had received information about an upcoming operation at his residence during the Eid holidays, and expressed concerns about potential bloodshed.
He also accused the government of not only attempting to imprison him but also planning to cause him physical harm. “They want to eliminate me,” he claimed.
He emphasised the need for the court to intervene and issue strict directions to prevent the government from conducting any further operations.
Punjab government lawyer Ghulam Sarwar Nihang said a plea could not be filed on the basis of assumptions.
“It has been said in the plea that the petitioner should not be arrested, nor should an investigation be conducted.”
He contended that the investigative powers of police could not be obstructed.
The judge inquired if the government’s lawyer could assure that the authorities would refrain from taking action against the petitioner by filing a new FIR in the old case.
The lawyer responded that a question will also arise that the petitioner had come in person to seek relief in the case but he refrained from turning up before courts when summoned in the past.
He urged the court to reject the plea.
Imran Khan repeated his claim that he had credible information about the government’s plan to launch another operation. He expressed his lack of faith in the system and reiterated his concerns to the court.
After hearing arguments, the court referred the PTI chief’s plea to the full bench for further review, noting that similar cases were already being heard there.
In its note to the full bench, the LHC also stated that the petitioner had requested an urgent hearing for the petition.
The plea seeking court directions against the government’s action targeting the ex-PM pointed out that “more than 100 politically motivated and unlawful FIRs” had been lodged against Imran while “100s of fabricated FIRs” had been filed against the leaders and workers of the PTI.
The plea said thousands of workers had been picked up and illegally detained, while the whereabouts of many were unknown, noting that the action amounted to grave violations of the petitioner’s rights.
“The petitioner seeks the protection of this honourable court from the most audacious assault on fundamental rights launched by any executive of this country in furtherance of the most constitutionally abhorrent objective: to prevent or delay elections required by the Constitution in order to ensure that the largest ’ political party in Pakistan may be prevented from participating or winning such elections.”
The plea went on to say that the “extraordinary nature of the attack on fundamental rights of one of the largest political parties of the country involved violations of their rights to life and liberty, fair trial, dignity and privacy of home, movement, assembly, association, speech, and equal treatment guaranteed under Article 9, 10A, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, and 25 of the Constitution meant that the intervention of the court is required in order to protect and enforce the said fundamental rights and the rule of law”.
According to the petition, “Despite the fact that none of the tactics such as false criminal cases, edited and inauthentic audio leaks, custodial torture of Petitioner’s political associates, suppression of the coverage of the Petitioner and elimination of the voices in support, worked to diminish the popularity of the Petitioner, the Respondents did not end the matter there.”
Quoting an assassination attempt on the former premier in November last year, the plea pointed out that there was an attempt to assassinate the petitioner on Nov 3, 2022, during a political procession in Wazirabad.
“In the incident, the petitioner narrowly escaped the attempt on his life, although he received two firearm injuries and had to be rushed to the hospital. As many as 13 other individuals were injured and one innocent person lost his life. The incident resulted in the petitioner having severe mobility issues until he had fully recovered from the injuries.”
The plea urged the court to issue directions that the unprecedented repeated abuse and misuse of criminal law machinery of the state to register criminal cases against the PTI chief amounted to causing grave, and illegal violation of the Petitioner’s fundamental rights under Articles 10A, 15, 16, 17, 19, 19-A, and 25 of the Constitution.
It also sought the court’s directions that “the undue haste in seeking the apprehension and arrest of Imran is a grave violation of his right to life and liberty”.
The PTI chief also, in his plea, urged the court that the “practice of lodging different FIRs all over Pakistan over the same occurrence and practice of unnecessarily prolonging the incarceration of an accused by transferring them from one jurisdiction to another is a deliberate and male fide violation of fundamental rights and respondents be restrained from taking such steps.”
The plea said urged the court that no “coercive action” should be taken against the petitioner and his party in pursuance of all the FIRs /call-up notices.