ISLAMABAD: A local court on Monday acquitted former prime minister Imran Khan and other Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders in the cases nearly two years after they were registered for alleged violence, riots, obstructing public service and mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage during the May 25 Azadi March.

Besides the ex-premier, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Qasim Suri, Zartaj Gul, Ali Nawaz Awan, Faisal Javed, Shireen Mazari, Saifullah Niazi, Asad Umar and Awami Muslim League chairman Sheikh Rashid were acquitted.

Judicial magistrates Mureed Abbas and Shahzad Khan pronounced the verdicts, which had been reserved after arguments, in the cases registered at Karachi Company and Kohsar police stations in 2022.

The Karachi Company police had booked Imran Khan, Mr Qureshi, Ms Mazari, Mr Niazi, Mr Umar, Ms Gul, Mr Awan and Mr Javed under Sections 109 (abetment), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 186 (obstructing public service), 188 (disobedience), 353 (assault on public servant), 427 (causing damage) and 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

An identical FIR was registered at the Kohsar police station against Mr Khan, Mr Qureshi, Mr Rashid, Mr Awan and Mr Suri on the complaint of Sub-Inspector (SI) Asif Raza on May 26, at 1.50am.

During the proceedings before judicial magistrate Abbas, the counsel for the PTI, Naeem Panjotha, argued that the case could not proceed as the FIR had been filed by an “unauthorised person” as the authority to lodge the case rested only with the one who had imposed Section 144. Besides, the lawyer argued that no video evidence could be presented against the ex-premier in the case.

The defence counsel requested the court to acquit the PTI founder since the allegations made against him were baseless. He also informed the court that the cases instituted against Imran Khan were all politically motivated.

He insisted that the PTI protest was peaceful, claiming that trees were not torched by any protester. He was of the opinion that the trees had caught fire due to police shelling. He requested the court to honorably acquit the PTI founding chairman and other accused.

Imran Khan’s march for “Haqeeqi Azadi” (real freedom) on May 25, 2022 was preceded by the authorities invoking Section 144, a measure used to curb gatherings. Shipping containers were placed on major thoroughfares to block their path.

Undeterred by the moves, the marchers, who tried to force through the containers to make their way to Islamabad, were met with tear gas as police tried to disperse them. Police also charged at them with batons.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

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