ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has his hands full, with several cases pending against him at different legal forums.
Imran is perhaps facing the highest number of damages suits as compared to any other politician, keeping his legal team occupied, since the last general elections in 2013.
The legal team was previously trying to prove how the elections were rigged, but to no avail as they could not substantiate their claims in front of an inquiry commission comprising three Supreme Court judges.
PTI’s legal wing next took on the task to depose former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, which they succeeded at with the apex court offering a verdict in their favour.
In response to the litigations against the PML-N leadership, the ruling party is adopting a similar strategy, dragging PTI and Imran to the courts.
Currently, the top court is adjudicating PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi’s plea seeking Imran and PTI general secretary Jahangir Tareen’s disqualification. Apparently, both leaders are struggling to convince the court with their stance.
The party’s legal wing is also handling the issue of non-bailable arrest warrants in Imran’s name from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in wake of mounting tension in the matter of contempt. He has been summoned on October 26.
Another serious matter related to the PTI chairperson is being adjudicated by the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATA), Islamabad, wherein proceedings have been initiated to attach his property for not appearing before the court.
A senior PTI legal team member said it might be time to give up the ‘agitated prosecution approach’ against opponents in the courts. He said it would be better for the party leadership to devise a strategy for the next general elections instead.
One of the lawyers on the team revealed that the senior leaders of the party were taking note of the current situation and coming to a consensus about not taking the route of the courts for political matters.
It has also been learnt that one of Imran’s lawyers misguided him by advising him to not appear before the ECP on the last date of the hearing, which in turn complicated a simple issue.
Imran’s legal battles
Former caretaker Punjab chief minister Najam Sethi filed a damages suit against Imran over the allegations of rigging the 2013 elections.
Former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry also filed a defamation case against him, which is still pending. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his son have moved a damage suit against Imran for levelling allegations of corruption. Recently, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has also filed a defamation case at the Lahore sessions court against the PTI chief.
PTI lawyer Babar Awan is representing Imran in all the cases of defamation. Interestingly, there has been no decision so far in any of the cases. A lawyer, who is assisting Awan, claimed that it was the complainants who were not pleading their cases in the courts. He, however, also said that they had challenged a court’s jurisdiction last week on Imran’s behalf. On the other hand, a member of the CM’s legal team claimed that Imran was using delaying tactics.
Legal experts believe that defamation laws are ineffective in the country as there are hardly any cases where there is a verdict against politicians who have levelled baseless allegations against their opponents.
Former Pakistan Bar Council vice chairperson Farogh Nasim believes that defamation laws exist but the courts do not give priority to defamation lawsuits, as there are so many cases of all kinds already pending at the courts. He added that special judges should be appointed to decide such matters.
A PBC executive committee member, Raheel Kamran Sheikh, believes that plaintiffs do not take the proceedings seriously after filing their cases. He said the petitioners used damages suits as ‘deterrence’ so that their opponents would be careful in future while passing remarks against them.
Likewise, he said that courts in Pakistan showed restraint in such cases. Sheikh said that if courts passed verdicts against politicians in defamation cases, the implications might also include disqualifications on the basis of court findings. He further said that by law, courts were bound to handle damages suits within six months but unfortunately this was not happening.
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