Friday, March 17, 2023
LAHORE: In a major relief for Imran Khan, the Lahore High Court (LHC) Friday approved protective bails of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman in eight terrorism cases and one civil case — a total of nine — after he appeared before the court in person.
The PTI chief had approached the LHC earlier in the day to seek protective bail in nine cases. Five of those cases are registered in Islamabad and four in Lahore.
A two-member bench comprising Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh and Justice Farooq Haider conducted the hearing on bail pleas filed against the cases that are lodged under terrorism sections.
For the five cases in Islamabad, the court granted bail to Khan till March 24 and for the three cases in Lahore, he received bail for 10 days (March 27).
Justice Sheikh also heard the bail pleas that the former prime minister filed against the civil cases registered against him, in which he approved the PTI chief's protective bail till March 27.
The high court has also granted police access to Zaman Park, Khan's residence in Lahore, for investigating the incidents that transpired on March 14 and March 15 — when clashes left several injured.
The court also wrapped up PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry's plea against the operation at Zaman Park and ordered the party to ensure it cooperates with the authorities.
Hundreds of PTI supporters accompanied Imran Khan when he visited the high court, while authorities also allowed his bulletproof vehicle to enter the court premises.
At Khan's Zaman Park residence — which became a battleground on Tuesday — workers shielded the party chairman's home to thwart his possible arrest. Later, the situation was calm as the Islamabad High Court restricted police from arresting him in the Toshakhana case.
The legal proceedings against Khan began soon after he was ousted from Prime Minister's Office in a parliamentary vote early last year. Since then, he has been demanding a snap election and holding nationwide protests, and was shot and wounded in one of those rallies in Wazirabad on November 3.
Incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan's demands, saying the election would be held as scheduled later this year.
Khan’s counsel told the court that his client does not have the details of all the cases. In response, Justice Sheikh said that the LHC cannot give the PTI chief blanket bail and it will only consider those cases against which the pleas have been filed.
Khan intervened and said he was confused as numerous cases have been filed against him. "When I get bail in one case, another is there waiting for me." He added that an "unprecedented" attack was launched on his house.
Justice Saleem told Khan that he should have cooperated with the system and asked the PTI chief to review his actions.
Khan said that he wanted the case filed in the lower court against him to be shifted to another court as it was a "death trap". He said that he asked authorities for providing him with adequate security.
At this, Justice Saleem said: "Khan sahab, the case has been mishandled at your end."
The PTI chief then lamented that "94 cases" have been filed against him and if six more were to be lodged, then they would hit 100. "This will be a non-cricket century."
The court then granted bail to Khan in cases filed in Islamabad till March 24 and in the cases filed in Lahore, he received bail till March 27.
During the hearing, Khan's counsel Azhar Siddique asked the LHC to grant Khan protective bail so he can appear before relevant courts, while he noted the plea in the Toshakhana case is ineffective.
The lawyer noted that Khan needs a 10-day protective bail plea in the Zille Shah murder case which has been registered at Lahore's Sarwar Road Police Station.
At this, the court granted protective bail till March 27.
The lawyer then urged the court that no action should be taken against the PTI chief until he receives the details of the cases against him.
The federal government's lawyer told the court that he does not have details of the cases lodged against Khan in other provinces. "For this, the court will have to issue notices.
Then Punjab government's lawyer sought time for providing the complete records of the cases lodged against Khan.
After the arguments, the high court sought the records of all the cases registered and restricted authorities from taking disciplinary action against Khan till Tuesday next week.
The Punjab Police had also filed a plea in the high court for allowing the law enforcers to investigate the events that transpired on March 14 and 15 — when the authorities and PTI went face-to-face.
At the hearing, the PTI chief's lawyer told the court that the police can come and investigate, but SSP Zaman Park should not visit the place with a huge force.
Justice Sheikh asked the lawyer whether he could control the investigation. After this, Khan's counsel said that the investigation officer may come to Zaman Park and investigate.
The high court then allowed the investigation officer to visit Zaman Park and probe in line with the law.
During the case's hearing, Justice Sheikh said the court issued the summons in line with the law and a perception is being created that the state's writ is being ignored.
"Such problems should not arise again," the judge said.
In response, Khan told the judge that his party's name includes "insaf (justice)" and added that he was aware of March 18, but the police came prior to that date.
"Their force came in such huge numbers; there is no precedence to the attack that occurred at my house," the former prime minister said, claiming that he was sure that the police did not come to take him to Islamabad, but Balochistan.
Khan's lawyer asked the judge about the status of a case that has been filed against Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah. At this, Justice Sheikh said that when the case is presented before him, he will let him know.
The judge then wrapped up Fawad Chaudhry's plea against the police operation at Zaman Park and told the PTI to cooperate with the authorities.