ISLAMABAD: It was a scene right out of a politician’s playbook. Ex-premier Yousaf Raza Gilani and his successor Raja Pervaiz Ashraf adopted the same posturing and antics – with disastrous consequences for at least one man.
A Toyota Land Cruiser pulled in at the Supreme Court gate at 9:20 am and Imran Khan, flanked by a dozen of his party MNAs and supporters, stepped out of the vehicle and onwards to the court buildings. Outside the Supreme Court stood a few Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters who had gathered in solidarity with Imran as he made an appearance before the top court’s judges on Friday.
Standing in a queue, Imran was busy on his BlackBerry reading important texts and messages when he was interrupted by a security official. “Sir, you have to deposit your phone here, you cannot carry it inside,” said the police official. Without arguing, the PTI chief handed over his phone and accepted a token number in its place.
The political drama, however, did not solely revolve around the cricket icon. It wasn’t long before the party’s spokesperson Dr Shireen Mazari, disgruntled by the security arrangements, exchanged hot words with the police officials at the main entrance.
Former chief minister of Balochistan Aslam Raisani, who had tagged long in a bid to boost the morale of Imran, was initially restrained from entering the court premises. For some time Raisani sat on the ground as a means to lodge his protest.
Following the incident Dr Mazari complained that a parliamentarian shouldn’t be treated that way. Once the police allowed her to enter upon Imran’s intervention, Dr Mazari busied herself in taking snapshots and tweeting about the PTI chief’s activities inside the court.
In the meantime, PTI heavyweights Javed Hashmi and Jehangir Tareen acted as Imran’s security staff, guarding him against anyone who tried getting too close to him.
Appearing calm and composed, the PTI chief sat in the front row of the courtroom.
There were no early fireworks as the proceedings opened. The tone was deliberately soft as the chief justice complimented Imran for his struggle for the judiciary’s independence. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry pointed out that the court had not asked Imran to tender an apology but had merely sought an explanation.
“We do not care about others who bash the courts on talk shows and other platforms but our concern is that Imran Khan, a person of national stature, who brandished the flag of an independent judiciary, was uttering such remarks that ridicule the judiciary and its judges,” the court observed.
The bench also clarified that the inquiry into PTI’s petition over poll rigging was delayed only because the party’s lawyer had taken a general adjournment from the court for his US trip.
Addressing the chief justice, Imran stated: “Sir, the person standing before you, is the one who for the first time included a clause in his party’s manifesto 16 years ago on the independence of the judiciary.”
“I sat eight days in jail for you,” Imran continued to which chief justice interrupted and asked the PTI chief to not embarrass him.
Imran was quick to explain that he meant his sacrifice was for the ‘institution’.
The chief justice pointed out that all media, lawyers, students, labourers and citizens had played a significant role for the judiciary’s independence.
At times, the CJ said, the umpire does not give an accurate decision during a match but it is mandatory for both teams to not question or berate the umpire concerned.
“My disappointment and criticism was aimed towards the presiding officers in the elections,” Imran said.
“If there is no contempt, what should I be apologising for?” he asked.
Imran said that he respected the judiciary and would soon bring forward a white-paper as evidence to show that rigging took place. “I have not done or said anything that is punishable by law, my statements were made in the interest of democracy in Pakistan,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2013.