• Photos of incarcerated ex-PM go viral, prompt hunt for ‘leakers’; Aleema to file plea seeking live telecast of proceedings
• Justice Minallah takes exception to ‘threats by proxies’, says judges will not be intimidated

ISLAMABAD: A visibly bored Imran Khan, who appeared in front of a five-member Supreme Court bench in the NAB amendments case via video link, could not get an opportunity to speak throughout the hearing, but the arrangement which facilitated his virtual appearance in the top court will continue and may allow him a chance to share his concerns at future hearings.

The date for the next hearing will be announced later as Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa is going abroad in the next few days, but he ordered that the arrangement of virtually linking the PTI leader to the court from Adiala jail should continue.

On May 14, the Supreme Court had ordered the federal government to ensure the presence of the former premier via video link since he was a respondent in the government-instituted intra-court appeal (ICA) against the Sept 15 majority judgement that ruled amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) illegal. The Sept 15 order was delivered on the petition moved by Imran Khan against the amendments in the NAB law made by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government.

Inside the Courtroom No.1, Imran Khan was visible on a large television screen, but his microphone remained mute throughout the hearing, putting a damper on the jubilant mood of PTI supporters, particularly his sisters Aleema Khan and Uzma Khan, who were in attendance inside the courtroom along with PTI lawyers and lawmakers, hoping to get a glimpse of their leader.

“At least I have seen my ‘Murshid’ (spiritual guide) after such a long time and it seems as if the moon has descended onto the courtroom,” commented Senator Falak Naz Chitrali while talking to Dawn. It may be noted she was detained in connection with the May 9, 2023 violence.

The PTI leader, who is incarcerated in multiple cases, wore a sky-blue full-sleeved polo shirt and listened to more than two hours of arguments by senior lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan, who represented the federal government. On mute, he remained seated on a chair with hands placed on his chin and repeatedly changed posture while sipping mineral water.

Though he could not be heard inside the courtroom, his gestures suggested that he was bored and wondering why he had been called to the proceedings when he was not allowed to speak.

Moreover, the hearing was not live-streamed on the Supreme Court’s YouTube channel. As Advocate General Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tried to bring that to the notice of the court, he was told to remain seated in his chair. Later, Aleema Khan told reporters that she would be filing a petition seeking live broadcast of the proceedings next time.

Photos stir controversy

Though a damp squib, the hearing did generate some controversy when someone from inside the courtroom took several pictures of Imran Khan and uploaded them on social media, where they went instantly viral.

This prompted an immediate inquiry by the police deputed outside the courtroom.

They called a number of people from the courtroom after going through the footage of CCTV cameras installed inside the courtroom.

Subsequently, the footage of Mr Khan on the television screen was replaced with Makhdoom Ali Khan arguing the case standing at the rostrum. But after a while, his picture was restored.

Minallah takes exception

At the last leg of the hearing, Justice Athar Minallah while pointing towards Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Man­soor Usman Awan regretted that judges were being threatened through “proxies” by stating that the “turbans of the judges will be made into a football”.

“This does not and will not intimidate or influence the judges,” Justice Minallah observed, adding that the AGP should think about this. Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail also pointed out that even one of the senators from the treasury benches had also uttered something.

Justice Minallah also regretted that when politicians approach the Supreme Court through petitions, they in fact aim to prevail over parliament — a practice which has weakened the legislature.

Earlier, Makhdoom Ali Khan also challenged the locus standi of Mr Khan to file the petition, stating the case entirely was a political matter since it was filed for political reasons. He added political differences were agitated in the court rather than raising the same on the floor of parliament.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2024

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