LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Saturday decided to hear the petitions of incarcerated Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan for pre-arrest bail in seven cases pertaining to the May 9 riots and others without his virtual attendance from jail.

Judge Arshad Javed resumed the hearing on the petitions, however, the Adiala jail superintendent once again failed to ensure the attendance of Imran Khan through a WhatsApp video call or video link.

The judge observed that the conduct of the jail’s superintendent amounted to contempt of court. However, he noted that a decision on the bail petitions would be delayed if the court decided to start contempt proceedings against the superintendent.

Judge Javed asked the prosecution and the defence for their opinion on the matter of the petitioner’s online attendance.

Deputy Prosecutor Abdul Jabbar Dogar did not oppose the court decision, saying it was a known fact that the petitioner was in jail. He said it would be better if the court hears the arguments without waiting for the petitioner’s attendance.

Barrister Salman Safdar, the counsel for Mr Khan, also agreed to the judge’s decision and requested him to decide the petitions without any delay.

However, Prosecutor Dogar said he could present his arguments only in two cases as other cases had been assigned to another prosecutor.

Barrister Safdar said the prosecution was trying to delay the decision on the petitions.

The judge adjourned the hearing till March 1 with a direction to the prosecution and the defence to come up with final arguments.

An ATC had on Aug 11, 2023, dismissed the pre-arrest bails of Mr Khan over his non-appearance as he was jailed following his conviction in Toshakhana case.

Later, the Lahore High Court, on a petition by Mr Khan, set aside the decision of the ATC and restored his bail petitions. The high court also directed the trial court to decide the bail petitions afresh on merits.

The bail petitions were filed in cases of attacks on the Jinnah House, Askari Tower, Shadman police station, burning of PML-N offices in Model Town and a container at Kalma Chowk, murder of PTI activist Zile Shah and attack on police outside Zaman Park.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2024

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