Imran’s court image triggers online frenzy

SC investigates leak of PTI founder’s screenshots from first public appearance in nine months


The Supreme Court initiated an investigation on Thursday after pictures of incarcerated Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan went viral on social media, showing him attending the apex court proceedings from the Adiala Jail via a video link.

Imran appeared before a five-member larger bench, led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, when it resumed hearing the government’s intra-court appeal against the apex court’s decision to nullify the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law amendments in which Imran was the original petitioner.

A number of pro-PTI lawyers were present in the courtroom, when the hearing of the intra-court appeals began. Wearing a light blue T-shirt, the PTI founder looked anxious during the proceedings that continued for more than two hours. He frequently sipped water and kept on changing sides in his chair.

In the courtroom, screens were installed on both sides of the bench. Imran’s microphone was turned off during the proceedings. On one occasion, he was also seen smiling at an observation of Justice Athar Minallah, which meant that he was listening to the proceedings.

At one point during the court appearance, the PTI founder engaged in a pleasant conversation with someone seated beside him. He was also observed adjusting the lighting in the room. Additionally, there was a brief interruption of approximately five minutes in the video link, possibly due to a technical glitch.

Upon the news spreading that the PTI founder's image had gone viral on social media, an investigation was initiated to ascertain the identity of the individual who leaked the picture, as per sources. It was suspected that screenshots were captured by an individual seated on the left side within the courtroom.

The police deputed for the apex court’s security questioned individuals and also intensified security checks for the people entering the courtroom. The court had decided not to broadcast Thursday’s proceedings, despite live streaming the previous hearing of the case via the SC’s website and Youtube.

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The sources said that the PTI founder might have expected that he would be allowed to speak in the court. However, they explained, it was a settled rule that the petitioner would be the first to place the case before the court through arguments, and then the turn of other parties would come.

As soon as the image of Imran was shared by the PTI’s official handle and other accounts, it quickly spread across various social media platforms and news websites, becoming a top trend on microblogging site X, formerly Twitter.

On the official PTI handle, the image was posted with the caption: “Illegally incarcerated former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s pictures appear on social media after 285 days from a court hearing today.” Several PTI leaders also commented on the picture.

“After 285 days of unjust imprisonment, the nation’s unprecedented reaction to the glimpse that appeared in court today shows that founder chairman Imran Khan was the most popular and reliable leader of the nation,” commented PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Khan.

Barrister Gohar hoped that Imran would “soon emerge from jail and lead his nation towards the development and prosperity it deserves”. PTI Central Information Secretary Raoof Hassan commented that the picture “has sent seismic shivers through a host of spines”.

“The smile on @ImranKhanPTI’s face will haunt the Qazi who tried his best to block it until the last moment. He did not, however, allow live streaming of the proceedings. Just imagine the day Khan steps out of prison! The likes of Qazi will be scampering all over. Pity!”

PTI Punjab leader Hammad Azhar shared a zoomed-in version of the picture with the caption: “Every event he predicted has come true. From his jail cell, he is witnessing them unravel…” In various cities, PTI leaders and workers celebrated the glimpse of Imran by distributing sweets among friends.

Turgay Evren, a Turkish author, thinker and songwriter, also shared the photograph of Imran with the caption: “The giant in the jail…” Numerous YouTube channels also uploaded video thumbnails, featuring the same picture of the PTI founder.

Imran is currently serving multiple sentences in Adiala Jail and appeared in the case after the bench approved his plea to present arguments himself. This marks the first time that Imran Khan has appeared in the apex court for a hearing since his arrest last year in the Zaman Park in Toshakhana reference.

Previously, the proceedings of the case were broadcast live by the Supreme Court, but today’s hearing was not. PTI leaders have demanded that the authorities resume the live broadcast of the case proceedings.


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