• Humours and honours ex-PM; declares arrest unlawful
• Court ‘requests’ PTI chief to condemn violence
• Former prime minister to appear before IHC today, reiterates call for elections

ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court on Thursday extended ‘extraordinary’ relief to PTI chief Imran Khan as a three-member bench termed his arrest on the premises of the Islamabad High Court “invalid and unlawful”.

The court directed that NAB and police would ensure “foolproof” security to Mr Khan until his production before the high court in connection with his petition against NAB in the Al Qadir Trust case.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, made it clear to Imran Khan, who was produced on the apex court’s directions, that this was an extraordinary relief, never extended to other political leaders though they also suffered ordeal worse than this.

The court added it took up the case since the right to access to justice was denied and the sanctity and safety of the court were violated. The court observed that the arrest was illegal and said the entire process needed to be backtracked since a citizen enjoyed certain guarantees, particularly access to justice, on the court premises.

The CJP asked Imran Khan that being a senior leader he should consider opening up a dialogue channel with his political opponents “whom he may not like but they are a reality” as this would restore confidence among people.

A heavy contingent of the police, as well as the Rangers, was deployed outside the court on Constitution Avenue at the time of the hearing. In a blue dress and a dark blue waistcoat, Mr Khan entered Courtroom No. 1 two days after his arrest under a tight security cordon. At the outset when the ex-PM came to the rostrum, he was greeted by the CJP who welcomed him saying “Good to see you”.

Mr Khan informed the court that he had no idea what happened after his arrest, though he stated he believed whatever happened should not have happened.

‘Invalid and unlawful’

Later in a three-page order, the detailed reasons of which will come later, the apex court said the manner of execution of the arrest warrant issued by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman in the Al Qadir Trust case on the IHC premises against Imran Khan was invalid and unlawful.

 ISLAMABAD: Security personnel stand alert during PTI chief Imran Khan’s appearance before the Supreme Court, on Thursday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: Security personnel stand alert during PTI chief Imran Khan’s appearance before the Supreme Court, on Thursday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

“The execution of the warrant violated Khan’s right of access to justice and the sanctity and safety of the court as he had already surrendered to the court for seeking judicial relief against the action taken by NAB in the Al Qadir Trust case.”

In this regard, the fundamental rights of the petitioner under Articles 4, 9, 10-A and 14 of the constitution have been infringed, the order said, adding the petitioner was directed to be produced before IHC on May 12 at 11am for hearing of his case filed to challenge the NAB action in the Al Qadir Trust case.

The NAB authorities and the police will ensure foolproof security to the petitioner until his production in the high court, the order said, adding the IHC registrar will place the matter before the IHC CJ for constituting a bench for hearing the case.

The court said the PTI chairman would remain at Police Lines Headquarters under the protection of the police.

It also allowed him to meet 10 guests, whose particulars will be provided by Imran Khan to the police officer concerned and subject to security check. The order will remain valid until the production of the petitioner before IHC. The apex court also made it clear that this order would not prejudice the NAB investigation in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

‘Abduction’

Mr Khan described his arrest as “abduction” stating that the shocking event was executed in a “commando style as if he was a terrorist”.

According to the ex-premier, he had no idea what had happened after his arrest since no one communicated with him. He said he met his lawyers on Wednesday who told him about the chaos. The PTI chairman said the arrest warrant was shown to him after the arrest.

“We don’t want anarchy in the country since we are a [political] party which believes in the Constitution; [we] want immediate elections,” Mr Khan said, also reminding that he called off earlier protests all the time whenever he heard about disturbances.

After the hearing, Imran Khan took a moment inside the courtroom on a sofa to meet lawyers and those who encircled him. The court declined his request to allow him to stay at his Banigala residence or to order his appearance before the high court after a few days.

Request to condemn violence

Explaining the reason behind his production order, the CJP observed that it was the “request and desire” of the court that he should condemn violence taken place after his arrest.

“We need to restore peace and calm in the country to let the constitutional machinery function smoothly,” the CJP observed, adding that being a political leader and the former prime minister, he has huge responsibility upon his shoulders to placate the charged political atmosphere.

Justice Minallah said Pakistan needed “a statesman who should rise above hate and political differences” to unite the nation for its stability. He regretted the release of a video clip soon after his arrest, inciting political workers to undermine the rule of law.

“We feel you were denied justice but more needs to be done,” Justice Minallah observed and added that Imran Khan should understand that “this was an extraordinary relief being extended to him”.

Justice Minallah also cautioned that the law will take its own course against those who had caused huge damage to the image of the country. Leaders always lead and not be led,“ Justice Minallah said, adding it was his responsibility as well that he should have some introspection.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar reminded Khan that whatever he will say would be communicated to his supporters and workers due to the heavy presence of the representatives of the media and social media and recalled how a contempt case was also pending before the court due to non-adherence to court direction to hold the May 25, 2022 protest in the ground near G-9/H-9 ground.

When Justice Mazhar stressed that Imran Khan should have responded to the call-up notice of NAB, Mr Khan said his Khawaja Haris has answered the bureau about everything but hastened to add that Mr Khan will still join the inquiry.

During the hearing, Justice Bandial recalled he received a threatening message from a journalist stating that ‘just wait until his own house will be set on fire’. “This is being done because we do justice,” the CJP regretted.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2023

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