‘Victorious’ Imran returns home after blanket relief

Published May 13, 2023
ISLAMABAD: PTI chief Imran Khan is being escorted by security officials as he arrives at the Islamabad High Court, on Friday.—Mohammad Asim / White Star
ISLAMABAD: PTI chief Imran Khan is being escorted by security officials as he arrives at the Islamabad High Court, on Friday.—Mohammad Asim / White Star

• Told to take action against PTI workers involved in protests
• Gunshots heard when ex-PM was still in IHC building

ISLAMABAD: Having locked himself in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) premises for hours for fear of arrest despite being granted bail on Friday, a triumphant Imran Khan left for Lahore late in the night without addressing the charged party workers who had been earlier directed by him to be ready for a possible protest.

The PTI chairman was granted a blanket relief from different benches of IHC that not only barred the authorities from arresting him but also stayed his trial in the Toshakhana case until the second week of June.

Before leaving for his Lahore residence, Mr Khan, in a video message, appealed to the nation “to be ready for a massive protest” and lashed out at the “imported government for kidnapping” him despite the bail granted to him by the IHC in all cases.

Clad in a sky blue shalwar kameez and a dark blue waistcoat, he said: “They have kidnapped me and forcibly kept me here. I want to tell the whole nation that it is their bad intention, they want to do something again and the whole nation should ready itself to protest”.

After spending nearly 11 hours on the IHC premises, the ex-premier finally left the federal capital without addressing charged PTI workers who remained on the streets throughout the day.

However, gunshots were heard when he was still inside the court building.

In another video message, while on way to Lahore, Mr Khan said that Islamabad IGP Akbar Nasir had left no stone unturned to retain him at the IHC but his protest threat worked and he was able to leave the place.

Earlier, at one point in time, Mr Khan put his finger on his lips when journalists bombarded him with questions and on another occasion, he was seen waving a fist in front of TV cameras as a mark of victory.

Friday was the day of Mr Khan when four different IHC benches granted his over a dozen petitions by barring the authorities from arresting him in different cases.

Under the blanket relief, the authorities have been restrained from taking him into custody at least till May 15, while in some cases till the last week of this month.

In the Al Qadir Trust case, in which NAB arrested him on May 9, the IHC division bench, comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz, granted him pre-arrest interim bail for two weeks.

The Supreme Court had a day earlier declared Mr Khan’s arrest from the IHC premises illegal and referred the matter to the IHC.

Merits of arrest

Khawaja Haris Ahmed, counsel for Mr Khan, argued before the division bench that NAB could not arrest a suspect during the course of inquiry under the amended National Accountability Ordinance.

The arrest could only be made during the investigation, that too for non-cooperation by a suspect, he said, adding that the inquiry was upgraded into investigation on April 27 and Mr Khan learnt this through a newspaper on April 30.

He argued that NAB had issued only one call-up notice in this case to which the former premier had replied.

“The petitioner was under an impression that the case has been closed,” argued Advocate Ahmed.

Bail plea opposed

Advocate General, Islamabad, Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon, opposed the bail plea arguing that the court could not take up such petition under Article 199 since the army has been deployed in the capital under Article 245. He then suggested that Mr Khan approach the accountability court to seek bail.

Justice Aurangzeb, however, intervened sarcastically: “Mr Advocate General, you should advise your government to close down the courts.” He then asked if martial law had been imposed in Pakistan.

NAB’s deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Khan Abbasi argued that other accused in the same case, including property tycoon Malik Riaz, Zulfi Bukhari, Mian Mohammad Soomro and some members of Mr Khan’s cabinet, had joined the investigation, but neither Mr Khan nor his former aide Shahzad Akbar joined it.

Justice Aurangzeb, however, noted that NAB had not followed the law laid down by superior courts in issuing the call up notices. Subsequently, the court granted Mr Khan interim bail for two weeks.

In another case seeking protection in the cases registered against Mr Khan while he was in custody, the court sought details of FIRs and restrained police from arresting him.

Toshakhana reference

Earlier, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq stayed trial proceeding in the Toshakhana case till June 8. He was hearing three identical petitions related to the said case against Mr Khan’s indictment and one seeking transfer of his case to another judge.

Another division bench comprising Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri and Justice Arbab Mohammad Tahir granted transitory bail to Mr Khan in six FIRs registered against him at different police stations in Punjab.

The division bench also restrained the police from arresting Mr Khan under Maintenance of Public Order or any other law, while directing the PTI chief to join the investigation and approach the Lahore High Court for further relief.

In his petition, the former prime minister challenged the police protection and said that despite the clear Supreme Court orders, he had been kept in the police guest house and the police curtailed his liberty in disguise of the so-called protection.

While granting relief to Mr Khan, Justice Aurangzeb requested him to disassociate himself from recent violence in the country and condemn it.

He also asked him to take strict action against those party workers who were involved in damaging public and private properties.

Earlier, PTI’s information secretary Farrukh Habib in a statement alleged that Mr Khan’s personal security and car were not being allowed to reach the IHC building as the “fascist government” was delaying his departure unnecessarily in the name of security clearance.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2023

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