Monday, February 20, 2023
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LHC approves Imran Khan’s protective bail plea after in-person appearance

Court disposes of PTI chief’s second petition in case regarding protests outside ECP after he withdraws plea

Pakistans ousted prime minister Imran Khan (C) arrives at Lahore High Court to appear before the court for protective bail in two cases in Lahore on February 20, 2023. — AFP
Pakistan's ousted prime minister Imran Khan (C) arrives at Lahore High Court to appear before the court for protective bail in two cases in Lahore on February 20, 2023. — AFP

  • Two-member bench grants protective bail time March 3.
  • Court disposes of PTI chief’s second petition.
  • Khan was booked in terror case in October last year.

Marking an end to the hours-long chaos created inside its premises, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday approved Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's protective bail plea till March 3 in a case pertaining to protests in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, the high court disposed of the PTI chief’s second petition in the case regarding protests outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after he withdrew his plea.

The ousted prime minister, who was removed from power via a no-confidence move in April, was booked in the terror case in October last year after the Toshakhana verdict was announced by the ECP, sparking countrywide protests.

On February 16, a two-member bench of the LHC threw out Khan’s plea seeking protective bail in a terror case registered against him over alleged vandalism during the protests in Islamabad against his disqualification by the ECP over his non-appearance.

The FIR stated that the PTI activists pelted stones at the police, FC, and administration officials, injuring several. It stated that the protesters tried to ram their cars into police with the intention of murder, set trees on fire in Faizabad and the surrounding areas and tried to harm government property. The terror case was lodged on the state's behalf at Islamabad’s Sangjani police station.

After Khan appeared before the court, the two-member bench granted him a protective bail till March 3.

"Under the law, the petitioner is required to approach the court of first instance but in the interest of justice, we are inclined to grant him ad-interim anticipatory bail protective in nature until 03.03.2023 to enable him to approach the court of first instance," the written order issued after a while mentioned.

The court, however, clarified that this order shall cease to have its legal effect after the said date.

How did the day fare?

The PTI chairman ‘finally’ appeared before the LHC today after several notices served to him in order to present himself in two separate hearings as the judges told his lawyers that his presence was mandatory in bail pleas.

Despite reaching LHC premises within the allotted time — 5pm — the disposed prime minister could not appear before the court till around 7:30pm as his convoy was surrounded by a massive number of party supporters.

Khan's convoy faced difficulty in moving towards the courtroom due to a large number of lawyers and supporters gathering outside to support their party leader. Amid the mismanagement, the cricketer-turned-politician remain seated inside his car as a massive number of people increased security risk.

Due to the delay, the LHC had granted the former prime minister the last few minutes to present himself before the court after the initial deadline of 5pm lapsed, warning lawyers that the judges would leave if the former prime minister won’t reach the courtroom in the given time.

The court ordered the security officials to immediately present the PTI chairman in the courtroom, following which Khan stepped out of his car amid tight security and limped towards the courtroom.

Today's hearing

After multiple adjournments, a two-member bench of the LHC — headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi — resumed hearing of Khan’s bail plea.

Advocate Khawaja Tariq Rahim — Khan’s counsel — apprised the bench that the former prime minister was present in the court’s premises and pleaded with the court to mark the attendance of the wounded leader in his vehicle.

At this, Justice Najafi directed the counsel to produce his client before the court as he has reached the court’s premises.

Referring to the rush inside the court’s premises, the lawyer said that Khan’s plaster would damage if someone pushes him.

“Suspect’s appearance in court is mandatory for interim bail,” remarked the judge.

Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing till 7:30pm.

Earlier today, Khan’s counsel, in view of the PTI workers' massive rush inside the court’s premises, pleaded with the court to mark the attendance of the injured leader in his vehicle but the court turned down the request.

Khan appeared before the court along with his counsel after the adjournment and sought a protective bail in the terror case.

Taking the rostrum at the outset of the hearing, Khan said that he has to undergo x-rays on February 28. He pleaded with the court to grant him a two-week protective bail.

The PTI leader also told the two-member judge that he respects the court as his party's name also refers to 'Insaf'. 

Khan withdraws another petition

Later, Khan appeared in Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh's court as the LHC had noted the discrepancy in the documents last week during the hearing of a protective bail plea of Khan, who was unwilling to appear in court due to security concerns.

During the course of proceedings, Justice Sheikh, in a bid to maintain the decorum of the court, directed to vacate half of the courtroom. The judge expressed his announcement and went back to his chamber when the lawyers turned a deaf ear to his direction.

On the occasion, Azhar Siddique offered selfies with Khan in return for vacating the courtroom.

Later, the judge returned to the courtroom and resumed the hearing of the case.

Justice Sheikh told Khan that he sighed different signatures on the bail plea.

Expressing his regret, the PTI chairman said that the first plea was filed without his approval and signature. “You should be careful about it,” remarked the judge.

The deposed prime minister replied that when he came to know about it, he directed his lawyer to withdraw the plea. Meanwhile, the court wrapped up the case as the PTI chairman withdrew his bail plea.

Khan had moved the high court after an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Islamabad cancelled his bail in the case over non-appearance on February 15. Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh is hearing the case.

During the previous hearing on February 16. The single-member bench of the LHC ordered the PTI chairman to appear before it on February 20 at 2pm.

Taking note of Khan’s absence despite orders at the outset of the hearing, Justice Sheikh inquired where the PTI chief was as he was asked to appear in court at 2pm.

Khan’s lawyer told the court that his client was on his way and was late due to security issues.

Justice Sheikh told the counsel that resolving the security issues was not his problem and then adjourned the hearing once again.

When the hearing resumed again, lawyer Khawaja Tariq Rahim said that there was traffic on Mall Road which is why the PTI chief was late. He added that the police had communicated to them that Mall Road would remain free from traffic but there was a traffic jam.

The lawyer then told the court that his client does not see himself as "bigger than the high court", adding that the PTI chief will come but arrangements need to be made.

When the judge pressed the counsel to explain the reasons why his client is not appearing, the lawyer said a perception is being created that Imran Khan doesn't want to appear before the court.

"Let me issue a show cause notice and fix a date after three weeks," the judge remarked. At this, the counsel said Khan will come tomorrow.

"Not this early," the judge responded, asking the counsel to let him write down the order as "you are making fun of law".

The LHC judge noted, "Imran Khan is a leader, a role model and should remain so."

At this, the counsel promised to produce Imran Khan by 5pm. The judge then said, “This is the last chance for Imran Khan as the court had already granted him concession”.