Iddat case complainant Khawar Maneka assaulted outside Islamabad court

Published May 29, 2024
Men, appearing to be lawyers, attack Khawar Maneka, complainant in the iddat case, outside an Islamabad court on May 29. — DawnNewsTV
Men, appearing to be lawyers, attack Khawar Maneka, complainant in the iddat case, outside an Islamabad court on May 29. — DawnNewsTV

An Islamabad district and sessions court on Wednesday did not announce its already reserved verdict in the iddat case against former premier Imran Khan and his spouse Bushra Bibi while the complainant was assaulted outside the court.

The court had reserved the verdict last week on appeals filed by the PTI founder and his wife against their conviction in the iddat case — which was the third and last in a series of verdicts announced just a few days before the general elections.

While the verdict was expected to be pronounced today, District and Sessions Judge Shahrukh Arjumand sought transfer of the case and would not be announcing the judgment.

Earlier this month, complainant Khawar Fareed Man­eka, Bushra Bibi’s former husband, had requested Arjumand to rec­use himself from hearing the appeals, accusing him of being biased and sympathetic towards the PTI.

A video broadcast on television showed Maneka, dressed in a white shalwar kameez, walking outside court as men, who appeared to be lawyers, shoved him. He can be seen falling as people pull the attackers off of him.

Judge Arjumand had taken up the appeals on February 29. During the previous hearing, defence counsel Usman Gill and the prosecutor had concluded their arguments in the case.

As Raja Rizwan Abbasi, lead counsel for Man­eka, had failed to appear, the court had ordered his associate to contact and tell him he may conclude his arguments in person or via video link. However, when Abbasi failed to appear, the court reserved its decision.

On February 3 — days before the general elections — an Islamabad court had sentenced Imran and Bushra Bibi to seven years in jail in the case, which pertains to their marriage during the latter’s iddat period.

The verdict had come in the same week Imran and Bushra Bibi had been handed 14-year sentences in the Toshakhana case, and Imran and his foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had received a 10-year sentence in the cipher case.

The judgment was widely criticised by civil society, women activists and lawyers for being a “blow to women’s right to dignity and privacy”. Activists had protested in Islamabad against the verdict while a Karachi demonstration against the “state’s intrusion into people’s private lives” had also denounced it.

Imran Khan has said he would file references for misconduct against Senior Civil Judge Qudratullah, who convicted him in the iddat case, as well as District and Sessions Judge Abual Hasnat Mohammad Zulqarnain who heard the cipher case.

In a letter to the Islamabad High Court registrar today, judge Arjumand said the appeals were “pending adjudication” while Maneka had “shown his mistrust on me today in open court”.

The judge noted that while Maneka’s similar request earlier had been dismissed, he considered it would “not be appropriate to decide the lis when specific objection has been raised on the presiding officer”.

“As arguments at length were heard in the matter, therefore, it is humbly submitted to transfer the two appeals” under Section 528 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to any other court of competent jurisdiction, the letter added.

“It is further submitted that the complainant and his counsel always tried to frustrate and delay the proceedings on one pretext or other,” Arjumand highlighted, adding that a “time frame may be fixed for disposal of appeals”.

Addressing the media outside the court — flanked by PTI leaders Shibli Faraz, Ali Muhammad Khan and Omar Ayub — PTI MNA Gohar Ali Khan “condemned” the judge’s decision to seek transfer of the case.

He noted that Arjumand wrote a letter to the IHC, saying it would now decide whether he would hear the appeals or another judge. “We condemn this. We say that this is not justice but injustice. This is against fundamental rights [and] a murder of justice,” the PTI leader said.

Gohar recalled he urged the court to suspend the conviction in the “bogus case of political victimisation”. He said the party had “great hopes” from the judiciary.

Faraz, opposition leader in the Senate, said Maneka made disgraceful statements, which he said the judge should have stopped him from uttering. “The kind of conversation he was making and the kind of things he was saying about Khan sahib were extremely unethical,” he said.

PTI alleges ‘pressure, threats’ to judge to not announce verdict.

Meanwhile, PTI Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan alleged while addressing a press conference at the National Press Club that the announcement of the reserved verdict was put off because “enough pressure” was applied on the judge behind closed doors.

“Rather than giving the judgement today, he asked the other party to re-narrate their case and when an extension was asked by Maneka, it was granted immediately,” Hasan said.

“I think that even any blind person can see the kind of pressure that is being applied on the judges,” he said.

Hasan alleged that the judge must have been “threatened and intimidated” into not giving the judgement today. “Consequently, the case was handed over to a different judge who might schedule a hearing after the summer vacations,” he added.

The PTI spokesperson said that given that the cases against Imran were “Crashing”, the strategy of the “power-wielders” was to delay the judgment in the listed cases.

“Today’s case is a typical example of the fact that the establishment and the power wielders want to try and … ensure that Imran cannot come out of jail,” he said, adding that this was only possible if the judgements were delayed in Imran’s cases.

“We are watching the murder of justice. We are watching the establishment get weaker,” Hasan said.

“I always say that if there is a problem due to which this country could not prosper, it is the establishment’s direct intervention,” he added.

The hearing

At the outset of the hearing, Abbasi’s assistant lawyer Aimal Wali appeared before the court and informed the court that Maneka’s lead counsel would arrive by 10:30am.

The judge then accepted his request to give a break in the hearing till then.

When the hearing resumed, judge Arjumand noted that Abbasi had yet to present his arguments on “two points”.

Here, Maneka said he wished to make a few submissions before the court: “My lawyers cannot tell what I have endured; I will speak myself.”

The judge responded, “Let the lawyer conclude his arguments first, then we’ll give you a chance [to speak].”

Bushra Bibi’s counsel Usman Gill then urged the court to issue contempt notices to Maneka for “affecting the court proceedings”.

Maneka repeatedly sought “10 minutes” of speaking time from the court, saying he belonged to a village. He claimed that forged divorce papers of his daughter were circulated on social media.

At this point, heated verbal exchanges were seen between the PTI lawyers and Maneka, at which judge Arjumand asked the lawyers, “Do you want to create a scene?”

Maneka alleged that Imran was being treated with leniency as he was a former prime minister. “Listen to the poor as well,” he said. He argued that his children were not aware of the first nikah between Imran and Bushra.

“I told the children that the iddat [period] is ending on February 14, after which the [news of] nikah will be disclosed. After that, the nikah was disclosed on February 18,” Bushra’s ex-husband said.

Here, the judge stopped Maneka from using inappropriate language for Imran. The complainant then lamented, “The PTI’s army came and kept hurling abuses at me. Advocate Usman Riaz Gill told me in court that he would throw me out.”

Maneka criticised Imran for being “willing to swear on the Holy Quran on minor affairs”, adding, “I did not even know what he kept doing in my house.”

He went on to claim he had messages from former PTI leader Jehangir Tareen stating that “everything will end now”. Asserting that he could show all messages in the court, he reiterated he was unaware of the alleged “secret nikah” between Imran and Bushra Bibi.

“I was deceived. Are God’s servants like the PTI founder?”

At this point, when PTI lawyers used foul language, Maneka responded: “Stay within your limits. You are the same.”

“I was mistaken to think that the PTI founder is coming for religious purposes. When he performed the nikah, then I found out that the PT founder has deceived me on the name of God,” Maneka said.

At Maneka further assailing the former premier, PTI lawyers and supporters present there chanted slogans, leading to the judge ordering Maneka to focus back on his arguments.

“The PTI founder deceived [Bushra’s] children and did nothing except create incitement,” Maneka said. Judge Arjumand then remarked, “I have written your points. Tell me a few more points.”

At this, Maneka continued his criticism of Imran for “destroying the society and turning sisters and daughters against their parents”. “When I told my children that I have been divorced, they cried a lot. My mother passed away due to the grief,” he added while visibly emotional.

Maneka then said multiple people contacted him for their tasks, including now PTI leader Parvez Elahi who he said had a task relating to his son. He further said a daughter of his had been divorced, claiming that Bushra Bibi had disassociated herself with her children.

Maneka’s lawyer Wali then requested the judge that the appeal be transferred to another court, to which Arjumand replied that a similar request of lack of confidence had already been dismissed.

“I do not want you to decide the verdict,” Maneka said while addressing Arjumand, who then asked the reason behind it. “I don’t know. The PTI founder did the same in previous courts,” Maneka replied.

The judge again asked the complainant if there was a “solid reason” but Maneka only replied that Imran “played with people’s minds on social media”. “Not every person sees social media [posts],” the judge noted.

“One judge or the other has to decide in the end,” Arjumand remarked, directing Maneka to consult his counsel and then inform the court about what request he wished to make.

At this point, Bushra’s counsel Usman Gill said Maneka had “only made emotional statements, no legal arguments”. Maneka then told the PTI lawyers to “fear God”.

PTI lawyer Naeem Haider Panjutha then alleged that Maneka “was planted” and that the court “understood what he wanted”. Judge Arjumand then observed that Maneka was repeatedly expressing a lack of confidence.

Here, Gohar highlighted that the arguments had been concluded, urging the court to pronounce the verdict. “We have full trust in the court. Whatever the verdict will be, we will accept it,” lawyer Gill said.

Advocate Panjutha alleged that Maneka was “kidnapped after which the complaint in the iddat case was filed.

Judge Arjumand remarked, “Now, whatever the verdict would be, it will be controversial.”

The PTI workers then raised slogans of “shame, shame” as the judge returned to his chambers.

The case

According to the court’s written order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Imran and Bushra Bibi were found guilty under Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) Section 496 (marriage ceremony fraudulently gone through without lawful marriage).

According to legal precedence, Section 496 is considered an offence completely distinct from zina, an offence that ensues from not having a contracted marriage.

The order further said that the two would be imprisoned for a further four months if they failed to pay the fines.

As per Pakistan’s superior courts, formalising nikah during iddat does not entail annulment of marriage as that requires a separate declaration; it will be treated as irregular but not void, in terms of legal fiction.

The charges against the couple had been framed by Judge Qudratullah on a complaint filed in November by Maneka under PPC Sections 34 (common intention), 496 and 496-B (fornication).

However, the 496-B charge had been dropped by the IHC later.

Days after Imran and Bushra had been indicted in the case, the IHC on January 19 had stopped the proceedings against the couple and restrained the prosecution from producing the evidence in the case.

The IHC then refused to quash proceedings in the case, saying the charge had already been framed by the trial court. It, however, gave the couple some relief by dropping the “illegitimate relations” charge of section 496-B of the PPC, which had not been framed by the trial court.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq had disposed of Bushra Bibi’s petition, observing that the “req­u­­ired procedure was not ado­pted” for invoking sec­tion 496-B.

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