The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has decided to approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday against an Islamabad district and sessions court dismissing its chairman Imran Khan’s plea seeking the suspension of the non-bailable arrest warrants issued for him in the Toshakhana case.
The petition will be filed by Khawaja Haris advocate on behalf of Imran Khan. It is learnt that Imran’s legal team may move an application regarding transfer of the case to another judge.
Earlier, Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal noted that the warrants could not be suspended on the basis of an undertaking.
The order, which was reserved earlier in the day, was announced while hearing the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) reference, which sought criminal proceedings against deposed premier Imran for concealing the details of the Toshakhana gifts he and his wife had retained.
During the proceedings of the case earlier on Thursday, the judge had offered Imran that he would halt attempts by the Islamabad police to arrest him at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore if he surrendered before the court.
Read Toshakhana: Imran eyeing relief from SC
The offer came as skirmishes broke out between the Islamabad police and PTI activists when the former reached Imran’s residence.
Both sides battled for two days, with other law enforcement agencies joining the Islamabad police. Calm only returned after judicial intervention.
The written order, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, read that it was “quite obvious from the record that the applicant [Imran] has never appeared in the court on any date of hearing and his personal appearance has been exempted on four occasions”.
It added that many people had been injured and vehicles damaged in executing the arrest warrants and Imran had “challenged the dignity and writ of the state”.
The order noted that “brutal force” had been used to obstruct police officials from discharging their duty and after creating such a state of affairs, the applicant, Imran, might not claim the suspension of the warrants.
“Keeping in view [the] law and order situation created by the applicant [Imran], he has lost some of the normal rights granted by procedural as well as substantive laws and he has to actually surrender before the court due to his defiance of [the] court process. Such eventuality is never appreciated by the court and it is regarded as willful default,” the order stated.
The order continued that the law was equal for the powerful and weak segments of society and it was not “fun” to submit such an undertaking to the court after causing such a great loss to the public exchequer as well as damage to persons and property.
It added that a “poor nation” had spent millions of rupees for executing the warrants because of the PTI chief's conduct.
“The application is not justified by law as well as fact and hereby rejected,” the order concluded.
At the outset of the hearing at the sessions court, the judge questioned why the ex-prime minister was “resisting” the arrest.
Read more Uneasy calm prevails at Zaman Park
To this, Imran’s lawyer Khawaja Haris Ahmed Haris asked if it was necessary to “arrest Imran and then bring him before the court”.
The judge observed that he wanted the PTI chief to appear before the court, adding that according to the law, Imran had to assist the police instead of resisting them.
He remarked that if the warrants were bailable, there would have been no problems.
However, Haris informed the court that the warrants were non-bailable and read the Islamabad High Court’s order.
The IHC order had instructed Imran to sign an undertaking and appear before the sessions court on March 18.
The lawyer continued that the judge could accept the undertaking if he was “satisfied”, and the PTI chief would appear before the court on the given date.
Haris again asked the judge to suspend the warrants as the situation in Lahore was “terrible”.
To this, Judge Iqbal asked why Imran was refusing to cooperate with the police when the situation was worsening.
The lawyer argued that damage worth millions had occurred and blamed the incumbent government for it.
He then asked if the judge would continue to be strict in connection with the non-bailable arrest warrants, arguing a surety had been submitted to the court and the PTI chief was ready to give an undertaking as well.
The judge replied that the warrants were in place for Imran to appear before the court in person.
Haris said Imran “wanted” to come to the court and was not asking for an exception.
However, he asked if non-bailable warrants were mandatory for an arrest.
He continued that the court could either accept the undertaking and cancel the warrants. Otherwise, he added that the court could take the surety bond and issue bailable arrest warrants.
The judge commented that the warrants turned out to be among the “most expensive” ones in the world, with millions of rupees spent in attempts to execute them.
He added that the events at Zaman Park should not have occurred.
Imran’s lawyer continued to request that the court cancel the non-bailable arrest warrants issued for his client.
He added that the ECP lawyer be issued a notice and summoned to present their arguments.
The judge remarked that he would prevent the Islamabad police from arresting the PTI chairman if he surrendered in court.
He added that legally the former premier should have been brought to the court directly and it would not have been possible to harass him during his appearance.
Judge Iqbal also observed that Pakistan was a poor country, which should not have spent millions of rupees on arrest warrants.
He added that action should not have been taken till the date on the arrest warrants, rather the person should have been rounded up and presented in court.
The judge noted that the police could not sit and not do anything.
He again questioned why Imran was resisting legally issued warrants.
“In criminal proceedings, arrest warrants are typically issued and then cancelled after the accused is presented in court,” he added.
The judge issued notices to the secretariat police and ECP, calling them to the court. The hearing was then adjourned till 12 pm.
After the hearing resumed, Haris and Barrister Gohar came to the rostrum.
An officer of the Islamabad police legal department also appeared before the court.
The public prosecutor informed the court that the SHO, who was supposed to execute the warrants, was still in Lahore.
The government’s lawyer added that the ECP counsel was at the Peshawar High Court and would reach by 2:30pm, thus requesting that the hearing be adjourned till then.
Haris again said he was reassuring the court about Imran appearing in court, and repeated his request that the judge should review the arrest warrants. He gave an undertaking on behalf of the PTI chief and affirmed that Imran would indeed appear on March 18.
He added that the IHC had noted that the sessions court could accept the undertaking and surety bond.
Harris maintained that his team was satisfied with the judge’s orders but not with the dismissal of their petition.
He reiterated that he wanted the judge to temporarily suspend -- not withdraw -- the warrants and there was “no question” about Imran not appearing before the court in two days' time.
The court was then adjourned till 2:30pm.
After the hearing resumed for a second time, the ECP lawyer and police officials appeared before the judge.
Islamabad Inspector General Dr Akbar Nasir Khan said he was present in the court because the SHO was still in Lahore.
He continued that the police acted according to the law every time warrants were issued, adding that Imran had given surety the last time the SP visited him that he would appear before the court.
Nasir maintained that no police officers had weapons and that he was representing the 65 police officers, who were injured and admitted to hospitals.
He added that officers, who were deputy inspectors general, were hospitalised.
The Islamabad police chief claimed that the DIG operations had a fractured leg, while other officials had suffered broken arms.
Nasir asked the judge to give “the same relief to the 220 million people” that the suspect in this case was receiving and “left it to the court” to decide.
When asked how much property was damaged, the Islamabad IG replied that 10 vehicles and one water cannon were set ablaze.
He added that the Lahore police were reviewing the remaining damages.
The Lahore IG then proceeded to inform the court about the details of the damages.
The ECP lawyer said this was the third application filed by the PTI chief since the warrants were issued, adding that there was nothing illegal in the court order.
Imran’s lawyer said the manhandling and vandalism by the police or PTI activists should be remedied in Lahore itself as they were not directly related to this application and the case.
He continued that the matter before the court was referred by the IHC.
Haris further said that warrants were cancelled daily if the accused came to court.
To this, the judge noted that if there was a court appearance by the accused, the warrants were cancelled.
The lawyer argued that the IHC had not written that Imran had to appear before the court, but rather the undertaking had to be looked into by the trial court.
He reiterated that Imran would be present in court on the requisite date of March 18.
He urged the court to order stopping Imran’s arrest before March 18.
The court reserved its judgment after the parties’ arguments concluded.
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