ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday slapped a penalty of half a million rupees on a petitioner, who sought to withdraw his petition against the Feb 8 general elections after he packed up and flew to Bahrain via Doha.

The copies of an e-ticket, a boarding pass and a passport with FIA immigration stamp of exit from Pakistan on Feb 17, emailed to the SC fixation branch by petitioner Ali Khan on Feb 19, showed that he bought the ticket on Feb 13, only a day after he had challenged the elections.

Ali Khan, who was stripped of brigadier rank for committing sedition, mutiny and insubordination in 2012 before being sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment, in the email wrote that he did not want to pursue the petition anymore and concluded that he deeply regretted any inconvenience he might have caused to the SC and sought their pardon for his inability to appear in person as he was currently out of Pakistan.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, a three-judge SC ben­ch dismissed the petition against the election as ‘withdrawn’ and imposed a fine of Rs500,000 on the petitioner for wasting court’s time.

SC imposes Rs0.5m penalty on Ali Khan for wasting court’s time over ‘ulterior motives’

According to the order, the petitioner is required to pay the penalty to Pakistan Bar Council and Supreme Court Bar Association in equal amounts within a period of one month, failing which the same will be recovered as arrears of land revenue.

The order further stated that the apex court trust that the government would ensure petitioner Ali Khan, who had been court-martialled more than a decade ago, must not use the rank of a brigadier, or ex-brigadier or former brigadier with his name.

The CJP regretted that the petitioner also used the media for “ulterior and nefarious” purposes before withdrawing the plea and leaving the country. The chief justice also believed that responsible media would undoubtedly want to expose the petitioner’s conduct along with this order to redress the damage done to the country.

At the hearing, Additional Attorney-General (AAG) for Pakistan Chaudhry Aamir Rehman apprised the court that a representative of the Ministry of Defence went to the petitioner’s address on Feb 20 to deliver the notice which was received by Mrs Amama Sohail, who said she was his family member.

A notice was also sent through the district and sessions judge of Islamabad, whose report stated the petitioner was not available at the given address, while police contended that the notice was pasted on the petitioner’s residence after nobody opened the door when the police visited the house.

At one point during the hearing, when PTI leader Shaukat Basra came to the rostrum and requested the court to allow him to say something on the case, the CJP ordered him to take his seat, reminding him he was neither the petitioner nor his counsel.

SCBA President Mohammad Shahzad Shaukat, who was asked to assist the court, contended that given facts and circumstances of the case constituted abuse of the court process and it should be ensured that this should not take place in future and therefore this petition should be dismissed with an exemplary cost of one million.

At the time of the filing of the petition and subsequent withdrawal, the petitioner concealed the fact that he had been court-martialled rather intentionally mentioned it to attract publicity and ensure the contents of his petition got wide media coverage, the court noted. And after having achieved such purpose, the petitioner immediately bought a ticket on Feb 13 to fly out of Pakistan and moved an application seeking to withdraw the case without elaborating reasons, it observed.

Unlike usual practice, the petitioner bought a one-way ticket instead of a return ticket and did not even disclose when he would return to Pakistan or the reason for his sudden departure to Bahrain, the SC bench noted.

The petitioner’s conduct demonstrated that he undermined the credibility of constitutional bodies, which was neither in the interest of the nation nor the country, the SC deplored.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2024

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