ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday suspended the arrest warrant issued against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan who has submitted a plea challenging a local court's decision against the suspension of his arrest warrant in the Toshakhana case.
IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq accepted the plea filed by the deposed prime minister requesting the suspension of his arrest warrant.
A day earlier, Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal rejected his request for the suspension of the non-bailable arrest warrant.
Justice Farooq, announcing the verdict reserved earlier today, directed the PTI chief to appear before sessions court on March 13.
Following the high court's decision, the sessions court, which was also hearing the Toshakhana case, ordered the former prime minister to appear before it, where he will be indicted.
On February 28, Additional Sessions Judge Iqbal issued the former prime minister's non-bailable arrest warrant for continuously failing to appear before the court in the Toshakhana case.
Islamabad police then raided Khan's residence in Lahore's Zaman Park but returned empty-handed as the law enforcers were informed that the former prime minister "wasn't present" there.
Khan had then approached the same court for suspending the orders, but Judge Iqbal rejected his plea — prompting the deposed prime minister to move the IHC.
At the outset of the hearing presided by CJ Farooq, Khan's lawyer Qaisar Imam started his arguments, saying that an attempt on the PTI chief's life was highly likely during his appearance at the local court.
CJ Farooq remarked that the arrest warrant had been issued to ensure Khan's presence, not for his arrest. "Imran Khan should have appeared before the court," the justice said.
He asked Khan's lawyers to suggest a way to summon the deposed premier to the court. Issuing arrest warrants is the only way in the law to ensure a suspect's appearance in court, he added
Meanwhile, Khan's lawyer requested the court to suspend the arrest warrant. At this, the CJ asked what would the suspension do.
"The court is summoning you to conduct a trial. I wouldn't issue any order that is out of common practice. Imran Khan would have to appear in person for indictment," he remarked.
CJ Farooq further stated that Khan should appear in the lower court as he has to appear in IHC on March 9.
Lawyer Imam maintained that Khan had serious security threats.
IHC CJ told the lawyers to consult with Khan about his appearance in court. At this, CJ Farooq referred to last week's appearance of Khan at the Lahore High Court.
"There was a huge crowd. Who knows who has come with what intention," the justice said, adding that bringing thousands of people would make things worse.
The CJ then asked the lawyer to consult with the PTI chief and adjourned the hearing for 30 minutes.
"Stay fair with the system, don't ridicule the system," he remarked while asking the lawyers if he should suspend the trial in the lower court by giving a two months date.
The lawyers appeared in court upon resumption of the hearing for the second time, after consulting with Khan as per IHC CJ Farooq's directive.
"Imran Khan should be given four weeks to appear in court," Khan's lawyer requested the court.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad advocate general contended that Khan doesn't want to face trial.
The court then reserved the verdict and announced it hours later.
Meanwhile, the deposed prime minister skipped the hearing in the Islamabad sessions court in the Toshakhana case despite a non-bailable arrest warrant against him.
At the outset of the hearing earlier in the day, Sardar Masroof Khan, a junior lawyer of Khan's legal team, appeared before the lower court. Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha and the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) lawyer Saad Hasan also appeared in court.
Additional sessions Judge Iqbal inquired whether Khan wouldn't appear in court again today. The lawyer said it was not known whether the PTI chief would appear or not and that a senior legal team of the PTI chair would appear before the court at 10am. The court then adjourned the hearing till 10am.
When the hearing resumed, ECP's lawyer Hasan requested the court to adjourn the hearing till March 9 as Khan is due in the IHC.
Ranjha supported the lawyer's request saying that the PTI chief would surely appear before the high court on March 9.
However, Khan's lawyer maintained that he had been informed that it would be easier for the former premier to appear in the lower court next week.
At this, the judge remarked that in other words, it meant Khan wouldn't appear in the sessions court on March 9.
The judge directed Khan's lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat to submit an affidavit. At this, the lawyer assured the court of submitting the document by 11am.
"It seems like Imran Khan won’t appear in court today again," the judge remarked.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing till 2pm at the request of Khan's lawyer.
As the hearing reconvened in the local court, Khan's lawyer informed the court about filing a plea challenging the arrest warrant issued against the former prime minister in IHC.
Khan's lawyer Marwat maintained that there were certain reasons behind the PTI chief skipping hearings. "Imran Khan said several times that he had threats to his life," the lawyer said.
He said that Khan had been attacked in the lower court in the past and it seems like another attack on him would be made.
He further stated that the PTI chief would appear in the judicial complex and high court. At this, the judge said that he is issuing orders for security arrangements at the court for a hearing on March 9.
Khan's lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat submitted the security report in court.
Khan has to come to Islamabad on March 9 as he has hearings on bail in the IHC and the judicial complex, said the judge.
He said that he will issue directives on security to the inspector general (IG) and the Interior Ministry.
"The Toshakhana case will be dealt with as per the law," remarked the judge. The lawyer said that the IHC would reserve and announce its verdict on the arrest warrant suspension after a while.
Lawyer Faisal Chaudhry said that the court should ask questions about the security of the relevant institutes. "The court should decide on what the security agencies say," he added.
The concerns over security conditions in court are something serious, he said.
The court then adjourned the hearing till the IHC's orders. Following the high court's order, the lower court ordered Khan to appear before it on March 13 for indictment.
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