ISLAMABAD: A decision on the appeals filed by former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi, which was expected to be announced on Wednesday, has been deferred after the presiding judge sought the transfer of the case to another court.

In his note, District and Sessions Judge Shahrukh Arjumand noted that the complainant Khawar Maneka, who is the ex-husband of the former first lady, had sought his recusal.

After the hearing, Mr Maneka was accosted by a number of men who appeared to be dressed as lawyers. In a video of the incident, Mr Maneka can be seen losing his footing as bystanders pulled the attackers off him.

Earlier, Judge Arjumand had reserved judgement on the appeals on May 23 and fixed May 29 for its announcement, but the decision was postponed following an outburst by Mr Maneka, who used expletives against Imran Khan and also misbehaved with the judge.

PTI claims judge ‘succumbed to pressure’; Maneka accosted by lawyers following pandemonium inside courtroom

The confrontational demeanour, however, landed him in trouble with the PTI supporters and lawyers present in the courtroom, who hurled water bottles at him and physically tried to assault him. The pandemonium led Judge Arjumand leave the courtroom instead of announcing the verdict.

At the outset, Mr Maneka’s counsel Raja Rizwan Abbasi was absent, however, he appeared in court after a few hours. He cited a few judgements of the Supreme Court to build his case for the transfer of the appeals from Judge Arjumand to another court. Mr Maneka also approached the rostrum, wishing to “express his sentiments” which, according to him, the lawyer could not possibly share.

The judge, however, asked him to let his lawyer speak, but Mr Maneka responded by saying that he knew “what the verdict would be”.

He alleged that he and his children had no idea that Imran Khan had solemnised Nikah with his ex-wife Bushra, further claiming that Mr Khan was being ‘facilitated’ since he was the former prime minister.

He claimed that he was “betrayed” as he was under the impression that Imran Khan used to visit his residence for spiritual guidance, but the ‘secret marriage’ revealed that the PTI leader had “deceived” him in the name of religion.

He also accused Mr Khan of being a ‘playboy’. This again provoked the PTI supporters who raised slogans in the courtroom against him. The judge also instructed Khawar Maneka to restrict his arguments to the case. Mr Maneka, however, expressed mistrust in the judge in the open court.

Verdict postponed

Subsequently, the judge sent a reference to the registrar of the Islamabad High Court “for the transfer of the appeal(s)”. He stated that the “two appeals are pending adjudication before the undersigned and complainant/respondent Khawar Farid Maneka has shown his mistrust on me today in open court”.

The judge stated that he had already dismissed an application seeking the transfer of the case to another court. Earlier this month, complainant Khawar Maneka had requested Judge Arjumand to recuse himself from hearing the appeals, accusing him of being biased and sympathetic towards the PTI.

The judge went on to state that “as arguments at length were heard in the matter, therefore, it is humbly submitted to transfer the two appeals to any other court of competent jurisdiction.”

The judge, however, suggested that a timeframe may be fixed for disposal of the appeals as the complainant and his counsel “always tried to frustrate and delay the proceedings on one pretext or other”.

‘Pressure on judge’

Later, in a press conference at the National Press Club in Islamabad, PTI information secretary Raoof Hasan alleged that the verdict was postponed because the judge was “pressurised” to put off the ruling. He claimed that the judge must have been “intimidated” into withholding judgement.

According to the PTI spokesperson, the cases against Imran Khan were “crashing” in superior courts and that’s why an alleged strategy was adopted to delay the verdicts in the listed cases.

Lawyer Naeem Panjutha said that cipher case against Imran Khan was scheduled for Tuesday (May 28) but it was postponed due to the abrupt announcement of a public holiday whereas in the Iddat case, the judge “succumbed to…pressure and transferred the case to another court instead of announcing the judgement, which was shocking”.

Ikram Junaidi in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2024

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