The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday reserved its verdict on a petition filed by ex-premier Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi seeking her transfer form her Banigala residence — which had been declared a sub-jail — to Adiala Jail, where her husband is incarcerated.

Although the petition had been disposed of last month due to the former first lady’s lawyers failing to appear before the court, a plea was filed the same day seeking its restoration.

The former first lady was taken into custody on January 31 after an Islamabad accountability court sentenced her and Imran to 14 years in jail in the Toshakhana reference.

While the IHC had on April 1 suspended their sentences in the Toshakhana reference, she remains in custody in the Iddat case. Imran also remains incarcerated in other cases.

Following the Toshakhana verdict, Bushra had arrived at Adiala Jail, where the National Accountability Bureau’s team was already present, to surrender to the authorities. Subsequently, she was taken into custody by the anti-graft watchdog.

How­ever, she was moved to her Banigala home after it was declared a sub-jail in a late-night notification. Her shifting to the residence has been under discussion for weeks as she and her husband denied submitting any application to declare the residence a sub-jail.

Almost a week after her arrest, Bushra Bibi had challenged the residence’s status as a sub-jail, urging the IHC to let her complete her 14-year sentence in Adiala Jail.

In a subsequent hearing, the Adiala Jail administration had opposed moving her back to the prison, claiming that overcrowding posed security threats for the former first lady.

In March, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb had asked if the authorities sought permission from Imran before converting his Banigala residence into a sub-jail.

Justice Aurangzeb presided over the hearing today, during which lawyer Usman Gill appeared as Bushra Bibi’s counsel.

The hearing

At the outset of the hearing, Justice Aurangzeb asked Bushra Bibi’s counsel about what cases she had been indicted in and when.

Gill replied that his client was indicted in the Toshakhana and Iddat cases. “In both cases, the trial was carried out illegally,” Gill contended.

He noted that usually, an arrest warrant was issued after the conviction and was then sent to the jail superintendent. He highlighted that his client was not present in the court when the Toshakhana verdict was announced and had surrendered herself to the NAB.

After that, she was moved to Banigala on the orders of the chief commissioner, Gill recalled, adding that Banigala was declared a sub-jail under the Prison Act.

Here, Justice Aurangzeb asked Bushra’s counsel to read aloud the prison rules.

The counsel maintained that Bushra Bibi went to Adiala Jail as per the trial court order, which was forwarded to the Adiala jail superintendent. Later, on the orders of the interior ministry, the chief commissioner issued an “illegal notification for transfer”, Gill argued.

“There was no instruction from the authorities concerned regarding the transfer from Adiala Jail to Banigala,” the lawyer asserted, emphasising that the notification issued by the chief commissioner was not by an authority such as the jail superintendent.

“Neither the provincial government nor did the Punjab prisons inspector general issue any such directive [for transfer],” Gill said.

Addressing the counsel, Justice Aurangzeb asked what the process was for transferring prisoners from one province to another.

“The place of imprisonment was to be determined by the trial court and not the chief commissioner,” Gill replied, insisting that the imprisonment order was for Adiala Jail.

Gill requested that the chief commissioner’s notification to make the Banigala residence a subjail be declared unlawful.

The state counsel then presented his arguments.

At one point during the hearing, Gill highlighted that the entire process of shifting Bushra Bibi to Banigala was completed “in a single day within a matter of hours”.

Here, Justice Aurangzeb noted that according to the jail superintendent, there were more women in Adiala Jail than its capacity, which is why Bushra Bibi could not be accommodated there.

“I think it was decided beforehand that Bushra Bibi will be transferred to Banigala,” the judge remarked. “Does it seem to you that the notification was prepared in a minute? Do you not think that it had already been decided that Bushra Bibi has to be transferred?”

Addressing the state counsel, Justice Aurangzeb said, “on the one hand you say there is a security threat in the courts, and that the hearing will be held in jail. On the other hand, you say that there are security threats in jail [and let’s] transfer [her] to Banigala.”

The IHC judge asked how many women had been detained after incarcerating Bushra Bibi at her home. “Were the 141 women who were brought to Adiala after Bushra less privileged?” he asked, adding that they, too, should be imprisoned at their houses then.

At the state counsel reiterating that Bushra Bibi was sent to Banigala due to threats in jail, Justice Aurangzeb said, “You are still presenting a justification before the high court that you did the right thing and will also do the same in the future?”

“Fear the God; sometimes you say that [you] cannot present her in the court as there are threats and at times, you say that the jail is not secure. Are you secure?” the judge quipped.

“If I am confined in my home by my own will, I would be very happy,” Justice Aurangzeb remarked before wondering: “How can a prisoner’s property be turned into a sub-jail against his will?”

Subsequently, the IHC reserved its verdict on Bushra Bibi’s petition.

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