Hours after PTI chief Imran Khan was arrested in the capital from the court’s premises on Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) declared the move legal.
Imran’s lawyer Faisal Fareed Chaudhry also confirmed the court’s decision to Al Jazeera.
“The court declared the arrest legal. We are consulting with party leaders to decide the future course of action,” he said.
A short written order from the court is awaited on the decision, which was reserved earlier today, with IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq making the observation that if the PTI chief was arrested illegally, “he will have to be released”.
The former prime minister was arrested in the Al-Qadir Trust case after he had reached the IHC for two hearings today afternoon. The arrest took place around 2:15pm.
Inspector General (IG) Akbar Nasir said that Imran had been arrested in relation to the case which alleges that the PTI chief and his wife obtained billions of rupees from a real estate firm for legalising a laundered amount of Rs50 billion that was identified and returned to the country by the UK during the previous PTI government.
- Interior minister says Imran had failed to appear before the court despite being issued several notices
- PTI lawyer says Imran was hit in the head and in his injured leg, “tortured” during arrest
- Asad Umar says a six-member committee headed by Shah Mahmood Qureshi would determine the next course of action
- Protests reported in several cities
The police chief also said that the situation in Islamabad was “normal”, adding that Section 144 had been imposed in the city and action would be taken against violators.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that Imran had failed to appear before the court despite being issued several notices. “The arrest has been conducted by the National Accountability Bureau for causing losses to the national treasury,” he said, adding that Imran was not tortured.
Imran’s arrest warrant, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was dated May 1 and signed by NAB Chairman Lt-Gen Nazir Ahmed. It said that Imran was accused of corruption and corrupt practices under Section 9(a) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
The development comes on the heels of the military’s rejection of accusations Imran made against DG-C Maj Gen Faisal Naseer. Imran had accused the officer of involvement in the assassination attempt against him in Wazirabad. Imran doubled down on the allegations in a video message today.
The former premier’s detention also follows several unsuccessful attempts, including a police raid at his residence in Lahore’s Zaman Park, to arrest him which he had managed to evade.
According to the PTI chief, more than a hundred cases — ranging from sedition to corruption — have been registered against him.
Earlier in the day, the IHC had taken a notice of Imran’s arrest and directed the Islamabad police chief, the interior ministry secretary and the additional attorney general to appear before the court within 15 minutes.
The IHC CJ said that he was showing “restraint” and warned that he would “summon” the prime minister if the Islamabad police chief did not appear before the court.
“Come to court and tell us why Imran has been arrested and in which case,” Justice Farooq said.
When the hearing resumed, the Islamabad IG appeared before the court alongside the additional attorney general and the interior secretary.
“We told you to appear in court within 15 minutes but you came after 45 minutes,” the IHC CJ observed, expressing anger at the delay.
The Islamabad IG replied that he had found out about Imran’s arrest from the media. “He has been arrested in a case pertaining to corrupt practices,” he told the judge and submitted the PTI chief’s arrest warrant in court.
“But as far as I know and from what the court staff said, Imran was not arrested by the NAB,” Justice Farooq noted. “I will issue an appropriate order if the arrest was in violation of the law,” he added.
Subsequently, Barrister Gohar Khan — who was present at the time of the arrest — came to the rostrum. He said that he was with Imran when he was taken away by Rangers officials.
“They were trying to arrest the PTI chief before he even entered the biometric room,” the lawyer said, adding that Rangers personnel broke down the windows and used pepper spray.
“They hit Imran Khan sahib with a rod,” Gohar told the court and then went on to say that he was ready to record his statement with the court in this regard.
“I have seen all this from my own eyes,” he said. “They also struck his injured leg […] they have violated judicial independence and fundamental rights,” the lawyer said.
For his part, PTI lawyer Khawaja Haris said that justice was every citizen’s right. “Today’s arrest is nothing less than an attack on judicial independence,” he contended.
Haris further argued that the law did not allow the NAB to arrest a person while an inquiry was still underway.
“Imran Khan was in the process of getting his biometrics done […] I was there in the room,” Advocate Ali Bukhari, another PTI lawyer said.
“The Rangers told us to open the doors but the police objected,” he stated. “But then Rangers personnel broke the windows and entered the room. Rangers tortured everyone who was present in the room,” he added.
On the other hand, PTI lawyer Faisal Chaudhry said that the party wanted the IHC to form a full court to hear the case. “Your court was attacked, my court was attacked. We request you to restore the dignity of this court,” he added.
At one point during the hearing, Justice Farooq stated that the court had exercised “restraint” throughout the matter. “Do not test my patience.”
The IHC CJ stated that he never knew that the accountability watchdog could carry out an arrest in such a manner.
“Is this not an attack on judicial independence? Is this arrest not illegal? Everything is in front of you […] lawyers have been attacked […] my court has been attacked […] I have been attacked,” Justice Farooq remarked.
The judge took strong exception over the arrest taking place at the IHC premises.
At this point, the additional attorney general retorted whether the parking lot and other areas of the IHC should be considered the same as the courtroom.
At that, lawyers inside the courtroom chanted “shame, shame”.
Meanwhile, IG Nasir said that he was not aware of the details of the arrest, to which Justice Farooq said that the entire ordeal had been narrated by the lawyers.
“If you give me a chance, I can look into the matter,” the police chief said.
Here, the IHC CJ pointed out: “My brothers are standing here in this condition today […] who is responsible for this?
“The damage to the windows and doors is not important. The damage to the dignity of this building is important.”
Justice Farooq added that the entire matter concerned the “system”. “Without the system, how will anything function?” he said and also sought answers from the authorities regarding these questions.
The judge also summoned the director general of NAB Rawalpindi and the watchdog’s prosecutor general, directing them to appear before the court within 30 minutes.
When the hearing resumed, a little after 6pm, NAB officials appeared in the court.
IHC CJ asked the director-general if Imran’s arrest warrants, which were earlier submitted in court by the Islamabad IG, were issued by NAB. “Yes, the warrant was issued on May 1,” NAB (Rawalpindi) DG Sardar Muzaffar replied.
He told the court that NAB had sought assistance from the Interior Ministry for the execution of the warrant.
“Was anyone from NAB present during the execution of the warrants,” Justice Farooq asked. Muzaffar replied that the investigating officer had reached Bela Road when the PTI chief was arrested.
The judge said that lawyers were attacked and the property of the court was damaged. “My concern is regarding the respect of the court. Whatever happened took place inside the court.”
He added that damages to the building could be taken up later, but the injuries to lawyers and court staff is an important matter. “We agree that you have issued a warrant, but is the way an arrest warrant is executed normally?”
At that, Muzaffar read out loud rules regarding the execution of arrest warrants.
However, the IHC CJ stated that his primary concern was whether what happened today was legal or not. “Is Imran Khan’s arrest legal or not?” he inquired.
Here, PTI lawyer Haris said that NAB had announced on April 30 that the inquiry against Imran was being turned into an investigation. “NAB is bound to give me a copy of this [investigation].
“I told them that I got to know about the development from newspapers and asked for a copy of the inquiry,” he said and presented the case record in court. “NAB’s ill-intention is evident from the record,” Haris added.
Justice Farooq then asked NAB is an arrest warrant could only be issued after an inquiry was turned into an investigation. “Absolutely, my argument is that an arrest warrant can only be issued when notices have been issued and a response has not been submitted,” the PTI lawyer said.
He added that Imran had appeared in court today for the same reason but he was arrested before the biometric could be conducted. Haris also submitted copies of the PTI chief’s petitions in court.
He went on to say that knocking on the doors of the courts was a fundamental right of every citizen. “They issued the warrant when I am sitting with three petitions,” Haris said, stressing that “this is an illegal act”.
The lawyer added that fearing such actions, Imran had failed to appear in court repeatedly.
On the other hand, Barrister Safdar contended that lawyers came to court to assist them but were instead beaten up. “During the entire ordeal today, lawyers were beaten up but NAB didn’t even once issued a condemnation.
“They could have arrested Imran Khan from his Zaman Park residence or anywhere else,” he said, adding that the court’s dignity had been attacked today.
Safdar also demanded that Imran should foremost be presented before the court.
For his part, NAB’s Muzaffar argued that the despite several notices Imran had not once appeared before the bureau, to which Justice Farooq said: “Should we not go on merit? This is a big issue. They have raised legal questions and you should answer them.
“Your case pertains to the NAB court go and file it there. This is not an accountability court and I won’t take up the matter,” the judge stated.
At one point during the hearing, the IHC CJ sought details of the NAB investigating officer, to which Muzaffar revealed that his name is Umar Nadeem.
Justice Farooq also inquired if the NAB had deployed Rangers to execute Imran’s arrest warrant. “If Rangers is deployed in the area, is the Islamabad police told about it?”
IG Nasir replied in the affirmative, saying that he was also aware about the arrest warrant. “Rangers deployed at the IHC fall under the police,” he explained.
During the hearing, the judge also inquired if similar arrest warrants had also been issued for Fawad Chaudhry and other PTI leaders, to which the NAB official said that he was unaware of any such warrants.
Justice Farooq asserted that if Imran’s arrest was illegal, “he will have to be released”. “If the arrest is not illegal, then the proceedings will continue as per the law,” he added.
Subsequently, Justice Farooq reserved the verdict, saying that an appropriate order will soon be issued.
The verdict was announced later at night, which declared Imran’s arrest legal.
The court also issued show-cause notices to the interior secretary and Islamabad IG and directed the court registrar to get a first information report registered over the circumstances of Imran’s arrest.
Imran ‘tortured’ during arrest
Barrister Gohar Khan, who was present at the IHC during the PTI chief’s arrest, alleged Imran was “tortured”.
“They hit Imran’s head and leg,” he told Dawn.com, claiming that Rangers had arrested the ex-premier. Gohar further stated that the PTI chairman’s wheelchair was also tossed aside during the arrest.
In a video posted on the PTI’s official Twitter account, Gohar said that Rangers officials broke down the high court’s main gate and windows before “tearing apart” the area where biometric verification is carried out.
He said Rangers officials used pepper spray and tear gas shells, alleging that Imran was hit on the head and his injured leg with “hard objects”. He further alleged that Imran’s wheelchair, in which he had arrived at the court, was also tossed aside.
He said that all the officials at the scene belonged to the Rangers and that there were “no police at the scene”.
A Reuters witness said shortly after Imran entered the gate of the IHC, contingents of paramilitary forces and armoured personnel carriers entered after him.
The gate was blocked by the armoured vehicles while Imran was whisked away shortly after under heavy security, the witness added.
Qureshi vows to fight legal battle for Imran’s ‘safe release’
PTI Secretary General Asad Umar tweeted that a six-member committee, headed by PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, would determine the next course of action.
“Pakistan’s biggest political leader has been arrested,” Umar said. “The whole world is being shown that there is no law in the country.”
Qureshi, meanwhile, vowed to fight a political and legal war for the “safe recovery” and “release” of the party chief. In a statement, he “strongly condemned” Imran’s arrest, saying that it was unjustified and unacceptable.
Qureshi said that before departing for the IHC, Imran had said that he was ready to be arrested. “But storming the high court and disrespecting lawyers is fascist and condemnable,” he said.
He also called on the IHC CJ to immediately take notice of the arrest and requested him to issue Imran’s release orders.
“The entire nation is extremely concerned over Imran Khan’s well-being,” Qureshi said, adding that the PTI would hold peaceful protests against this move across the country today.
He added that a meeting of the party’s central leadership, which was established by Imran previously, was held earlier today. “We will soon announce a comprehensive plan of action.”
Separately, in a video message on Twitter, Qureshi also urged people across the country to take to the streets with their families and protest against the arrest of the PTI chairman.
‘Imran abducted, scores tortured’
PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that the IHC has been “occupied by the Rangers” and lawyers “are being subjected to torture”.
“Imran Khan’s car has been surrounded,” he added.
In another tweet, Fawad alleged that Imran had been “abducted” from the court premises while score of lawyers and general people had been “tortured”.
“Imran Khan has been whisked away by unknown people to an unknown location,” he said.
PTI leader Hammad Azhar said that Imran’s arrest was “not acceptable” and asserted that the PTI chief “is our red line”. He called on the nation to take to the streets against Imran’s arrest.
PTI’s Shafqat Mahmood said that he strongly condemned Imran’s arrest, alleging that the PTI chief was also “manhandled and mistreated”.
“This is height of fascism and totally unacceptable. Rule of law in the country is over,” he said.
PTI’s Azhar Mashwani alleged that Imran had been “abducted” from inside the court by Rangers. He said that the party had given an immediate call for staging protests in the country.
PTI leader Musarrat Cheema, in a video message on Twitter, said: “They are torturing Imran Khan right now […] they are beating Khan sahib. They have done something with Khan sahib.”
PTI’s official Twitter account also shared the video of Imran’s lawyer, saying that he was “badly injured” outside the IHC.
It also shared a video of visuals from Imran’s alleged arrest. “Pakistan’s brave people must come out and defend their country,” the party said.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad police said that Section 144 had been imposed in the capital city. It also rejected the PTI’s allegations that people were tortured, adding that police had encircled Imran’s car.
Protests reported in several cities
Meanwhile, protests were reported in several cities across the country.
In Lahore, PTI supporters led by Senator Ejaz Chaudhry gathered at the Liberty Chowk. Dawn.com’s correspondent at the scene said party workers had also closed down Akbar Chowk, Peco Road, Main Canal Road and Faisal Town. The demonstrators burnt tyres and chanted slogans against the coalition government.
He also said that a water cannon was being used against protesters that had gathered outside Imran’s Zaman Park residence.
Meanwhile, police were put on high alert in Lahore. A statement issued by Lahore police said security across the city had been beefed up on the instructions of Lahore Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Syed Ali Nasir Rizvi.
The statement said the DIG had directed to increase checking at the city’s entry and exit points and ordered officials to stay in the field. He further directed police to increase patrolling in the city and ensure peace in the city.
“Nobody can be allowed to destroy peace in the city. Those spreading anarchy and disorder should be brought to justice,” the statement quoted him as saying.
In Karachi, both lanes of the Sharea Faisal were blocked after PTI MNAs and MPAs blocked the roads. Demonstrations were also reported at the main University Road, near the Old Sabzi Mandi, Banaras Chowk and Al-Asif Square.
Separately, PTI’s Sindh chapter issued a protest call, asking supporters to gather outside the Insaf House at 4pm.
Demonstrations were also reported in Peshawar’s Hashtnagri and GT Road, Bannu, and Charsadda.
This is a developing story that is being updated as the situation evolves. Initial reports in the media can sometimes be inaccurate. We will strive to ensure timeliness and accuracy by relying on credible sources, such as concerned, qualified authorities and our staff reporters.
Additional input from Imtiaz Ali, Umar Farooq, Wasim Riaz and Zahid Imdad.