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Tuesday February 27, 2024

Situation may worsen by Oct 8, fears Imran

Imran Khan questioned if there was a guarantee that elections would be held in October at all

By News Desk & Numan Wahab
March 25, 2023
Ex-PM Imran Khan addressing through video link from his residence in Zaman Park, Lahore on March 24, 2023. Screengrab of a YouTube video.
Ex-PM Imran Khan addressing through video link from his residence in Zaman Park, Lahore on March 24, 2023. Screengrab of a YouTube video. 

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan Friday questioned if there was a guarantee that elections would be held in October at all. “Would the situation improve all of a sudden then?” he asked. “What would happen if the situation further worsened on Oct 8. Would the elections he held or linger on like those of Gen Ziaul Haq for eleven years.”

As he arrived outside the courtroom, Imran was asked by a reporter whether he thought the Election Commission of Pakistan’s deferral of the Punjab elections to October would be struck down by the Supreme Court. “If the ECP decision is not quashed, how will elections take place in October?” he responded. “In this way, they can say they don’t have any money.”

“The law of the jungle is prevailing here,” he added.

Earlier, Imran secured a three-day extension in protective bail till March 27 in five cases, registered against him in the federal capital after he personally appeared before the Lahore High Court (LHC). Khan arrived at the LHC under tight security as a two-member special bench, comprising Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh and Justice Anwaar Hussain, heard the plea regarding an extension in the protective bail.

Last week, Khan secured protective bail in eight terrorism cases and one civil case — a total of nine — after he appeared before the court in person. For the five cases in Islamabad, the court granted bail to Khan till March 24 and for the three cases in Lahore, he received bail for 10 days (March 27).

The verdict Friday was announced minutes after the PTI submitted an affidavit that a bail petition had been submitted in Islamabad. Following the court’s order, the PTI chief’s counsel submitted an affidavit stating that his client’s bail pleas had been submitted in the Islamabad courts. After the submission, the court asked the prosecutor whether he wanted to say something. The prosecutor said that he did not have anything to add.

Justice Sheikh said that the court was extending the relief granted to the petitioner as his cases were pending in the Islamabad courts. “If you [Khan] do not get bail there, then you will face the consequences of submitting a fake affidavit.” He also warned the PTI chief’s counsel that submitting a fake affidavit was tantamount to contempt of court.

Earlier on Friday, LHC Registrar’s Office had attached objections to the plea as the PTI chief had already obtained bail in the cases. As the hearing began, Khan’s counsel told the judges that the former premier was seeking protective bail in order to go to the federal capital where several political cases had been registered against him. At this, Justice Sheikh said that no such precedence could be pointed out when protective bail was extended. Khan’s lawyer argued that the legal team was also struggling to understand how to secure bail as so many cases had been registered against the deposed prime minister.

Justice Sheikh said that it would have been better had the petition been filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC). Arguing for himself, Khan said that the last time when he went to Islamabad, all roads were blocked, mentioning that even today he came in secretly. “In Islamabad, police used tear gas and baton-charged people due to which we had to return,” the cricketer-turned-politician said, claiming that he “ran from there” in order to save his life. Khan’s counsel told the court that they are only seeking a working day so that they could reach Islamabad; however, the government’s lawyer raised an objection to this.

After hearing the arguments, the two-member bench directed the office to fix Khan’s petition, adjourning the hearing till then. Once the hearing resumed following the court’s direction to fix the petition, Khan’s counsel acknowledged that they knew the plea was “extraordinary” as they were seeking an extension in the protective bail. “We have a strong ground,” the lawyers said, at which Justice Sheikh directed them to narrate the incidents that took place since the last hearing on March 17 when Imran was granted protective bail.

The counsel started narrating the incidents, telling the court that they went to Islamabad on March 18 to file a bail petition, adding they were not allowed to enter the federal capital. At this, the two-member bench asked the government’s lawyer to confirm whether bail petitions were filed or not. “We are unaware of this,” the government’s lawyer told the court. “Were these petitions fixed for hearing?” the judges cross-questioned. Khan’s counsel told the court the petitions were currently with the staff of the district and sessions court in Islamabad.

The LHC directed authorities to call the prosecutor-general within half an hour. At which, the court was informed that he was not there, adding that if the court was convinced that the petitions were filed in the Islamabad court, they would not oppose it. The court further added that the bail petition could not be fixed for hearing until the petitioner was himself present in the court. “This is why the case was not heard because Khan was unable to appear before the court,” the lawyer representing the PTI chief said, resuming his narration regarding the timeline of the incidents.

“March 19 was Sunday and then on March 21, we secured more bails as a total of 140 cases have been registered against Khan,” he said, continuing that no case was fixed for March 22 while March 23 was a public holiday.

The lawyers maintained that all cases were politically motivated and any relief granted so far has not been misused. “It is impossible to defend all these cases at different places as Khan is a 71-year-old person and is still recovering from the injuries which were sustained during the assassination attempt in November last year,” the lawyers argued, saying that it was difficult for Khan to visit Islamabad again and again.

The court asked the PTI chief to submit an affidavit that a bail petition had been submitted in Islamabad. “We don’t want to set any traditions as the judgment, in this case, will be quoted in future,” Justice Sheikh said. Khan’s lawyers assured the court that they would “try to” submit the affidavit by 4:45pm on which the judges adjourned that hearing for a brief time. After resuming the hearing, the court immediately announced its verdict granting an extension.

Meanwhile, a single bench of Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh also issued notices to Punjab chief secretary and the IGP for March 28 in a contempt petition, filed by Imran against breach of the terms of reference (ToRs) during the Zaman Park operation at his residence that the local police, provincial administration and PTI leadership had agreed upon. The counsel for the PTI chief said his client was unable to sleep as he feared the police might raid his residence once again.

Following brief arguments by his lawyer, Khan then came to the rostrum. The PTI chief told the LHC that despite its orders, the police conducted a raid at his house for two hours and “stole” his belongings.

He said the police followed “the law of the jungle” as the court orders were violated. “Even the police are frustrated with whatever is happening,” the former prime minister said.