The Lahore High Court on Friday granted protective bails to PTI Chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan in nine FIRs registered against him.
It also allowed the police to conduct an investigation in the FIRs registered against Imran and others over clashes between PTI activists and law enforcement agencies outside the former prime minister’s residence at Zaman Park in Lahore.
Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh directed the federation and provinces to furnish complete details of the FIRs against the PTI chief, restraining the authorities from taking any coercive measures against him till March 23.
First, an LHC division bench, headed by Justice Sheikh, heard the pleas filed for protective bails from eight FIRs registered against Imran on terrorism charges.
Of the eight, the bench granted him protective bails in three FIRs filed in Lahore till March 27 and in five FIRs registered in Islamabad till March 24.
Later, Justice Sheikh, in a single bench, granted protective bail to Imran in an FIR registered against him in the case of the alleged murder of a PTI activist, Ali Bilal alias Zillay Shah.
Justice Sheikh also disposed of another petition filed against the execution of non-bailable arrest warrants issued for the PTI chief by a sessions court in Islamabad with directions to the party to cooperate with the authorities in its execution in accordance with the law.
Another petition filed seeking video link proceedings was dismissed as “non-prosecution”.
Three writ petitions filed by the PTI were withdrawn after the party and quarters concerned reached an agreement.
As the court proceedings commenced, the PTI lawyers argued that they had not been provided any details of the FIRs registered against Imran and others so they had filed protective bails in a few of those available with them.
To this, Justice Sheikh remarked that the bench would only take up those FIRs which were placed before the court.
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry argued that the police wanted to arrest thousands of their party activists and leaders and that was why such FIRs were being registered against them.
Taking the rostrum, Imran complained that several FIRs had been registered against him and his party leaders as well as activists.
He added that most of their time was spent in courts rather than running their election campaigns.
The PTI chief claimed that his Zaman Park residence was attacked and the party would have lost everything if it were not for the LHC, which “rightly” intervened, protecting the lives of its activists.
The former prime minister has been resisting arrest while remaining at his Lahore’s Zaman Park residence, with a horde of party activists and supporters preventing police and Rangers from rounding him up – even resorting to violent tactics for this purpose – for the last few days.
The law enforcement agencies in response resorted to tear gas shelling, water cannons and baton-charging to disperse the tenacious PTI activists, but to no avail.
Justice Sheikh told Imran that he and his party activists should remain in the system.
The judge added that when the people left the system, matters grew worse.
Justice Sheikh further remarked that everything was available in the law.
In response, Imran said he had been informing the authorities about the attack threats he had received, but neither was this matter taken seriously, nor was he provided security.
He added that there were serious threats about the sessions court, where he did not visit.
After his continuous absences from the sessions court, its judge issued non-bailable arrest warrants for the PTI chief.
He continued that neither was the court changed, nor was he provided security.
“The PTI believes in the rule of law and we respect the courts but my reservations have not been addressed,” he maintained.
The lawyers present in the courtroom broke into a loud laughter when Imran said several cases had been registered against him and he was close to making a "non-cricketing" century.
Later, a single bench comprising Justice Sheikh granted protective bail to Imran till March 27 in an FIR registered against him for the alleged murder of PTI activist Ali Bilal alias Zillay Shah.
As the arguments started on the civil miscellaneous application of the police, Advocate Ishtiaq A Khan argued that the PTI activists had never stopped the police from entering Imran’s Zaman Park residence and conducting their investigation.
However, he claimed that the manner in which the police tried to arrest the PTI chief while executing the non-bailable warrants or the tactics they had adopted under the garb of the investigation of the FIRs – causing clashes between them and the party activists – was unacceptable.
He added that the investigation officer of the case and a few police officials could visit Imran’s residence, conduct a probe and even collect evidence.
However, he continued that reaching Imran’s residence along with police contingents was intolerable.
A lawyer representing the federation argued that they had written letters to the regional police officers of the provinces for collecting the details of the FIRs and after a few days, they would be submitted to the court.
The PTI chief again took the rostrum, maintaining that the police and local administration adopted “illegal” ways to arrest him.
He cited the examples of PTI leaders Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill wherein they were “kidnapped” and produced before the court after a few days.
Imran claimed that he was fully aware that the police would take him to Balochistan if they arrested him.
“They [police] attacked my Zaman Park residence as if it was a part of [Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and] Kashmir,” he added.
Earlier in the day, the Islamabad High Court suspended the non-bailable arrest warrants issued for the PTI chairman till Saturday (today), giving him the opportunity to voluntarily appear before the sessions court hearing the Toshakhana case against him.
The former prime minister filed another petition in the IHC challenging the order of the trial court after an earlier one was dismissed.
The PTI chief requested in the fresh plea that the sessions court’s order should be set aside and his arrest warrants be suspended till the final disposal of the petition so that he could appear before it on Saturday.
The PTI chairman's lawyer Khawaja Haris submitted an undertaking by his client, assuring the IHC that Imran would appear before the sessions court on Saturday.
A day earlier, the district and sessions court, based in Islamabad, had rejected Imran’s plea to suspend his non-bailable arrest warrants and refused to accept his undertaking.
As the hearing started, the IHC asked the PTI chief’s lawyer about the basis on which the trial court had rejected the undertaking given by his client.
Haris replied that the sessions court had informed him that non-bailable arrest warrants could not be cancelled.
He added that his client had security concerns.
IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq told the lawyer that he had been informed by the administration that security arrangements were under way.
He further noted that the trial court judge had also issued orders in connection with Imran’s security.
Justice Farooq added that he would personally ensure adequate security measures for the PTI chief.
The IHC CJ warned that contempt proceedings could be initiated against the PTI chief if he violated the undertaking he had submitted to the court.
Haris again assured him that his client would appear before the sessions court on Saturday no matter what.
Later, the IHC CJ suspended the PTI chief’s arrest warrants till the sessions court’s hearing on Saturday. He also ordered the Islamabad police not to “harass” Imran.
Justice Farooq directed the PTI chairman to appear before the sessions court on Saturday.
The court served notices to the respondents and adjourned the case till March 21.
An application seeking the details of the cases registered against Imran was also filed.
That matter would be heard by the IHC on the coming Monday.
“The petitioner [Imran] shall not be arrested pursuant to the warrants in question provided that he appears before the learned trial court on 18.03.2023 within the court hours,” a four-page order issued by the IHC CJ read.
“The petitioner shall also ensure the law and order situation is not disturbed in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) on his appearance before the learned trial court,” it added.
The IHC CJ in his order directed the district administration, ICT and Islamabad police chief to ensure the provision of proper and adequate security measures to the PTI chief and all others concerned.
“In this regard, the police as well as [the] district administration shall frame SOPs (standard operating procedures)/lay down parameters for allowing only [a] few persons to be present near the court premises/compound to avoid any untoward incident,” the order read.
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