Imran's warrants in Toshakhana case cancelled

Judge puts off PTI chief's indictment as police and party activists clash

Saqib Bashir March 18, 2023
Police, PTI workers clash outside judicial complex ahead of Imran's hearing. Photo: Screengrab


Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal on Saturday cancelled the arrest warrants issued against PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the Toshakhana (gift depository) case and allowed him to leave after marking his attendance without being indicted because of clashes between police and party activists outside the Islamabad Judicial Complex.

The hearing was adjourned till March 30 (Thursday) as the judge observed that the situation was not conducive for holding the hearing and appearance amid the turbulence and chaos outside the complex because of the intense fighting between the two sides.

Intense clashes broke out between the police and PTI activists as Imran’s convoy reached the judicial complex ahead of his appearance before the district and sessions court in the Toshakhana case.

The PTI chairman’s vehicle was stopped merely 100 metres from the gate of the judicial complex as the police blamed party activists for blocking the route, while the PTI claimed the law enforcers were restricting Imran’s movement.

Despite the end of court hours, the PTI chief could not appear in front of the judge.

Judge Iqbal advised all those present outside the complex to disperse peacefully, without resorting to any form of violence including shelling or pelting stones after the marking of Imran’s attendance.

The PTI chief left for Lahore without stepping out of his bullet-proof vehicle at the gate of the judicial complex.

In an audio message issued to the media, the PTI chief said that he was waiting outside the judicial complex’s gate for 15 minutes and trying his best to enter it but the police had resorted to teargas shelling and set up checkpoints.

“It appears that they don’t want me to reach here,” he added.

However, he repeated that he was outside the complex and trying to enter it.

Around 4,000 party activists, who were accompanying the PTI chief, were trying to escort him onto the court premises, but they were not being permitted to do so because of the security arrangements.

The activists mobbed the complex, pelting stones and throwing bricks at police officers who fired back with tear gas.

Imran was scheduled to appear before the sessions court to attend proceedings on a complaint filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for allegedly concealing details of the gifts he had acquired from the Toshakhana in his asset declarations.

As the court resumed the proceedings, the PTI chairman’s lawyer, Khawaja Haris, informed the judge that Imran had arrived at the gate but was being stopped from entering the premises.

Judge Iqbal inquired why the PTI chief was being barred from entering the court premises.

The ECP lawyer remarked that Imran ‘should have been here as the court started at 8:30am’.

The judge maintained that the ousted premier was “facing hardship”, adding that the court should wait for him.

PTI lawyer Awan also prepared a new application on behalf of the party chief. “I am at the gate of the judicial complex and I’m being denied entry,” read the application.

The former premier requested the court to send its staff to mark his attendance and “initiate contempt of court proceedings against the police”.

After a short recess, Judge Iqbal directed the court staff to take a police officer along with them and present Imran before him.

To this, the PTI lawyer requested the judge to send party representatives with the court staff, to which the judge agreed.

Judge Iqbal then directed a court representative to mark Imran’s attendance outside the court premises. “Imran can go back once the attendance is marked,” the judge added.

Complying with the judge's orders, the court staff and Babar Awan left the courtroom to mark the PTI chief’s attendance.

Haris also informed the court that senior PTI leader Shibli Faraz was being “tortured” by the police.

To this, the judge remarked that he wanted to end the current unrest.

The venue of the hearing was changed to the G-11 Judicial Complex instead of the F-8 Katcheri because of the security concerns raised by the former premier.

PTI Secretary General Asad Umar condemned the police for “preventing Imran from going to court”.

He added that the former prime minister was near the court premises and claimed the police were blocking his path.

Umar also maintained that instead of allowing Imran to go to court, the police started tear gas shelling.

“The police are showing [one of] their worst brutalities,” he added.

Imran tried to appear before the sessions court for the first time on Saturday after repeated summons.

A day earlier, the Islamabad High Court suspended the non-bailable arrest warrants issued for the PTI chairman till Saturday, giving him the opportunity to voluntarily appear before the sessions court.

Imran, in a video message earlier in the afternoon, said the incumbent government intended to arrest him as he made his way to the sessions court in Islamabad.

Issuing a special statement while en route to Islamabad, the PTI chairman said he knew that he would be arrested but was still making his way to the court because he believed in the rule of law.

“I want to tell you all that these people [government] have made a plan to arrest me,” he claimed, adding that he was ready to appear before the Islamabad court before as well.

“The Zaman Park operation was not carried out to make me appear before the court, it was conducted to put me in jail…because it is part of the London plan to put me in jail,” he added.

He maintained that this was the “demand” of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in order to prevent him from taking part in the upcoming elections.

The PTI chief also repeated this message on Twitter.

“It is also obvious now that the entire siege of Lahore was not about ensuring I appear before the court in a case but was intended to take me away to prison so that I am unable to lead our election campaign,” he wrote.

“It is now clear that, despite my having gotten bail in all my cases, the PDM [Pakistan Democratic Movement] govt intends to arrest me. Despite knowing their malafide intentions, I am proceeding to Islamabad & the court because I believe in [the] rule of law. But [the] ill-intent of this cabal of crooks should be clear to all,” he added.

Imran’s convoy earlier reached the Islamabad toll plaza with reports of the route being blocked.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry demanded that the Islamabad authorities should open the internal roads of the federal capital.

“The internal roads of Islamabad should be opened immediately. Let the Constitution and law remain in the country,” he wrote in a tweet.

The former federal information minister added that the party was filing an urgent writ in the Islamabad High Court, adding that “police terrorism is not acceptable in the name of administrative arrangements”.

PTI’s Umar also took to Twitter to criticise the capital administration for “blocking roads”.

“[The] roads to [the] court are blocked from all sides. Those whose names are on the court list are also not allowed to pass. It seems as if notorious terrorists are arriving,” he added.

A spokesperson for the Islamabad police said all routes in the city were open, adding that special security measures had been implemented around the judicial complex.

The Islamabad police added that court orders and code of conduct were being followed, adding that 12 journalists, including three women, included in the court-issued list were currently inside the judicial complex.

Moreover, in the wake of the current situation in the federal capital, an emergency has been imposed in the hospitals of Islamabad.

The police added that Imran’s convoy was arriving from the wrong way on Islamabad-Srinagar Highway, because of which there haf been a disruption in the outgoing traffic.

The police further requested the PTI chief’s convoy to change direction at the nearest U-turn.

The PTI chairman’s lawyer, Babar Awan, filed a written application in the court against the barring of party lawyers, officials and media from entering the judicial complex.

“The entire area has been cordoned off in the name of security by the police and administration,” Awan stated in the application.

The PTI counsel added that despite clear orders from the high court, the situation was very serious and alarming.

“There is no legal justification for banning the entry of lawyers and media in the open court,” Awan continued.

He requested the court to take notice of the “poor and unjustifiable policy of the administration” and issue orders for the entry of important persons including lawyers and media into the complex.

A large police contingent was present on the Lahore-Islamabad M-2 Motorway near the Islamabad Toll Plaza.

Rawalpindi police personnel, led by CPO Khalid Hamdani and the SP Potohar, were deployed and equipped with riot gear as well as tear gas. A large number of PTI activists also reached the Islamabad Motorway Toll Plaza.

The toll plaza was partially sealed by authorities and traffic was channeled into two lanes.

It was also reported that tear gas shelling took place at the toll plaza with Section 144 imposed in the capital.

The police reportedly baton-charged PTI activists on Islamabad Srinagar Highway where a large number of them had gathered.

The law enforcers were on high alert stating that the party activists were attempting to block the highway.

They said as per orders, nobody would be allowed to carry arms.

The law enforcers added that weapons would be taken from the people accompanying the rally before entering Islamabad.

A case has been registered at the Ramna police station in Islamabad against Imran and his party activists under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act for allegedly damaging public property and attacking cops while leading the convoy.

A report on the damage to public property and police vehicles has also been prepared that would be sent to the interior ministry.

In reaction, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the PTI chairman's  “antics” in the last past few days had “laid bare his fascist and militant tendencies” if anybody had doubts about them.

“From using people as human shields to throwing petrol bombs at police to leading ‘jathas’ [mobs] to intimidate judiciary, he [Imran] has taken a leaf out of the RSS’ (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) book,” he tweeted.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, while addressing a news conference, said all state institutions were responsible for the establishment of the writ of the government.

“Allowing the accused to come to courts with crowds would give a message that the justice system and law in Pakistan were afraid of terrorists, thugs, goons, threats and abuses,” she added.

The minister claimed that Imran was not afraid of toying with national interests, hatching conspiracies and blatantly violating the law and the Constitution of Pakistan.

The federal government also hinted at initiating a legal procedure to ban the former ruling party.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, while addressing a news conference at the PML-N Secretariat in Lahore’s Model Town, said enough material had come to light to file a reference against the PTI -- an option that his party’s legal team was now considering.

He added that a party could only be banned through the courts.

He said the Punjab police had acted in a “no-go area” with the help of other law enforcement agencies.

“A so-called political leader had created an atmosphere of fear,” he said, taking a jibe at Imran.

He continued that when there was “resistance” to the compliance with the court’s order, the impression wasn't strengthened that there might be a terrorist organisation there.

He added that 65 people had been arrested from outside the former prime minister’s house, most of whom did not belong to Punjab and their role was “suspicious”

Sanaullah maintained that weapons, grenades, and petrol bomb-making equipment were also recovered from there.

The minister claimed that Imran’s aim was to spread sedition and anarchy in the country, and he had been “pursuing his agenda for the last 10 years”.

He added that the PTI chief was “ready to riot” even when he was in the government.

The PML-N leader claimed that Imran reached the court premises with a group of at least 300 to 400 armed men.

He added that the police had to use force to remove those people.

He alleged that the former premier used the notion of threat to life as an excuse.

“They [PTI] know they are lying because they want to avoid legal action, so they talk about security threats,” he added.

Maryam Nawaz, the senior vice president and chief organiser of PML-N, said brave politicians did not fear arrest and accountability. “Only thieves, bandits, and terrorists fear arrest and accountability,” she tweeted.

Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, while addressing a news conference, maintained that after the former premier appeared outside the judicial complex in the Toshakhana case and his arrest warrants were cancelled, the courts should dispel the “false” impression that justice was the same for all.

He added that a court opened in the evening and granted bail in nine cases.

“It is expected from the supreme judiciary that the behaviour of the petitioner must be seen before giving such facilities,” he added.

(With input from our correspondent in Lahore and agencies)


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