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Monday May 20, 2024

Supreme Court nullifies Imran Khan’s arrest in Al-Qadir Trust case, orders his release

“It is good seeing you,” CJP tells Imran Khan after he was presented before three-member bench

By Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui
May 11, 2023

A car carries former prime minister Imran Khan, as he arrives to appear before the Supreme Court in Islamabad on May 11, 2023. — AFP
A car carries former prime minister Imran Khan, as he arrives to appear before the Supreme Court in Islamabad on May 11, 2023. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan Thursday declared Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's arrest "illegal" and ordered his release — a major relief for the deposed prime minister who was arrested two days back in a corruption case from the premises of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The apex court has sent the PTI chief to the Police Lines Guest House and ordered him to present himself before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) by tomorrow, the same court which declared his arrest legal, while also setting the precedence that no person will be arrested within the premises of a court.

When the authorities presented the PTI chief before the three-member bench at around 5:40pm — an hour later than ordered — the hearing resumed and there was a short exchange of words between Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and Khan and then the order was issued.

PTI — which has been on a rampage for the last two days and its protests have led to clashes with the police across the country, resulting in the death of several — welcomed the decision, with the government unhappy with the development.

The three-member bench — headed by CJP Bandial and comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar — issued the verdict on PTI's petition challenging Khan's arrest.

The petition was filed after the capital's high court declared his arrest legal on May 9 (the day he was arrested), despite expressing dissatisfaction over the manner of the arrest.

“It is good seeing you,” CJP Bandial told Khan when he was presented before the three-member bench, and also asked him to "condemn" the violent protests that took place as a result of the arrest.

Imran tells supporters to refrain from violence

In response, the PTI chief, through the media present in the courtroom, forwarded a message to his supporters that they should refrain from damaging public and private property.

“I don’t want any loss in the country nor do I wish for people to get incited. I just want free and fair elections,” the PTI chief told the court, pleading with the court that despite his responding to the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) notices, he was arrested.

In response to the court’s question about whether he knew what was going on in Pakistan, Khan — who became the first prime minister to be ousted from office through a no-confidence vote in April last year — said his mobile phone was taken away and he was unaware about what was happening in the country.

Then the PTI chief requested the CJP to send him home, but the top judge said he was not going to do that and assured him that he would "remain at peace at the Police Lines Guest House".

"You can stay there, talk, rest, and then present yourself before the Islamabad High Court tomorrow," CJP told Khan. The CJP then directed authorities to allow Khan to meet as many as 10 people — including his lawyers, friends, and family members.

Sit with political opponents even if 'you don't like them'

The CJP then told the deposed prime minister to begin a dialogue with his opponents, which will lead to “peace” in the society. “This will be a good move as you have been entrusted with the people’s rights.”

The chief justice noted that Khan should start talks with his political opponents even though he does not like them, adding that there is a need to do this as the narratives on both political ends have become “extreme”.

“230 million are awaiting for their leader to move the boat forward,” he said, also noting that the political divide has become so extreme that his friend informed him that during the ongoing protests, the next house that could be targeted could be of the CJP.

The CJP told Khan that numerous cases have been lodged against him, to which, the PTI chief that “there aren’t many”.

CJP Bandial, without naming anyone, also told the PTI chief that “they have registered many cases against you [...] you know who I am talking about”.

Again, without naming the individual or group, the CJP said: “Even they have rendered many sacrifices.”

In the backdrop of the chaos, Khan then told the bench that a reaction was bound to happen in response to the treatment meted out to him. At this, Justice Minallah asked him not to utter such words and be cautious about what he says in the presence of the media.

Al-Qadir Trust case

The former prime minister — along with his wife Bushra Bibi and other PTI leaders — is facing a NAB inquiry related to a settlement between the PTI government and a property tycoon, which reportedly caused a loss of 190 million pounds to the national exchequer.

As per the charges, Khan and other accused allegedly adjusted Rs50 billion — 190 million pounds at the time — sent by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to the Pakistani government as part of the agreement with the property tycoon.

They are also accused of getting undue benefit in the form of over 458 kanals of land at Mouza Bakrala, Sohawa, to establish Al Qadir University.

During the PTI government, United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) seized assets worth 190 million pounds from a property tycoon in Britain.

The agency said the assets would be passed to the government of Pakistan and the settlement with the Pakistani property tycoon was “a civil matter, and does not represent a finding of guilt”.

Subsequently, then prime minister Khan get approval of the settlement with the UK crime agency from his cabinet on December 3, 2019, without disclosing the details of the confidential agreement.

It was decided that the money would be submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of the tycoon.

Subsequently, Al-Qadir Trust was established in Islamabad a few weeks after the Imran-led government approved the agreement with the property tycoon.

PTI leaders Zulfi Bukhari, Babar Awan, Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi, and her close friend Farah Khan were appointed as members of the trust.

Two to three months after the cabinet’s approval, the property tycoon transferred 458 canals of land to Bukhari, a close aide of the PTI chief, which he later transferred to the trust.

Later, Bukhari and Awan opted out as the trustees. That trust is now registered in the name of Khan, Bushra Bibi and Farah.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials were earlier probing the alleged misuse of powers in the process of recovery of “dirty money” received from the UK crime agency.

Following the emergence of irrefutable evidence in the case, the inquiry against Imran, Bushra Bibi, Barrister Shahzad Akbar, and a real estate tycoon was converted into the investigation.

According to the NAB officials, Khan and his wife obtained land worth billions of rupees from the property tycoon, to build an educational institute, in return for striking a deal to give legal cover to the property tycoon’s black money received from the UK crime agency.