Imran’s law

Editorial Board
March 19, 2023

Pakistan has seen ugly moments in its history. Yesterday was another unfortunate one, with scenes of violence, mayhem, chaos and gross violation of the law seen all the way from Lahore to Islamabad....

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Pakistan has seen ugly moments in its history. Yesterday was another unfortunate one, with scenes of violence, mayhem, chaos and gross violation of the law seen all the way from Lahore to Islamabad. In what has now become almost routine, PTI Chairman Imran Khan once again could not make it to the sessions court hearing his false declaration case. However, as is also routine now, his non-appearance was treated kindly and he was allowed to ‘mark his appearance’ from the car. As things would have it, the file he was supposed to sign seems to have gotten lost somewhere amidst the mayhem on the streets. Meanwhile, Imran’s non-bailable arrest warrants have been cancelled by the court and he has been summoned now on March 30. This new sort of ‘appearance’ was granted to the former prime minister apparently because PTI supporters and workers were pelting stones at the police inside the judicial complex. This was followed by police action on the protesters involving batons and tear gas. Previously, the PTI had gotten a one-time dispensation where Imran’s hearing was moved from the F-8 court complex to the G-11 judicial complex due to security concerns expressed by the PTI leadership.

The spate of generosity accorded to the former prime minister has not gone unnoticed – whether the exemptions from personal appearance in court he has received every single time in this false declaration case or the warrants against him that are issued and then somehow suspended or cancelled. The perception of judicial leniency has led to legal experts and political opponents saying that the PTI chief seems to think the justice system is supposed to accommodate his every whim. For now, it is obvious that as far as the case goes, Imran is reluctant to physically appear in court – an odd stance from someone who says the whole case is politically motivated and his declaration is not false at all. The justification offered by Imran’s side is that, per the PTI and its leader, the PDM government’s plan was to arrest him yesterday and this was all part of a sinister London Plan, allegedly hatched between Nawaz Sharif and the establishment. While he was not arrested, the police did conduct a search operation at his residence in Zaman Park. The police claim they have recovered weapons, glass bottles used for Molotov cocktails, assault rifles, bullets and other ammunition from his house. As images came in of Imran’s residence’s gates being brought down by an excavator, more questions were raised on why such use of force was needed for a simple search operation. The PTI has announced to move the court for contempt proceedings against the police for violation of the sanctity of Imran’s home and alleged violence against his workers and domestic staff.

Imran Khan and his cases will likely continue but one is forced to ask whether each time the whole country will have to go through crippling anxiety over violence on the roads. Law-enforcement forces have said that PTI protesters injured policemen, burnt police cars and damaged property. Regardless of the who, why and what of what has been going on for the past 4-5 days, the optics of such violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement will not help ease anyone’s worries. That protest is a democratic right is a given – but violence is and should be unacceptable. If the police claim is true about the weapons recovered from Zaman Park, things have come to a pass where any step further can ignite a situation from which it may be impossible to pull back. A mainstream political party like the PTI must understand that the power of protest comes with the responsibility to ensure safety – of the individual and the state. The state and its law enforcement too need to understand that the entire nation is watching – bulldozers and mauled paintings from someone’s home do not inspire confidence or trust. In both instances, the state looks weak. As Ramazan almost knocks at our door, a politically weary and tired nation must wonder whether anyone fighting this battle for power is really in its corner. The country is on a precipice and anyone trying to turn citizens into rioters is not doing them a favour, especially given Pakistan’s young demographics. There is still time to take a step back on all sides. Grace would demand the PTI chief to appear in court and for the government to instruct its enforcement arm to conduct searches and raids without resorting to violence. Democracy and law would demand an end to parties trampling over the state’s writ. The PTI and the government may not realize it but it is in everyone’s interest to resolve this matter now. Before it’s too late.

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