Imran khan reaches Lahore High Court seeks protective bail.
LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan arrived at the Lahore High Court (LHC) after his bulletproof car was permitted entry.
The PTI head, who has already departed for court, had gone to the LHC earlier in the day to request precautionary bail in nine instances. Five of such cases have been recorded in Islamabad, while four have been registered in Lahore.
The hearing on bail petitions submitted against terrorism-related matters would be conducted by a two-member panel comprised of Judge Tariq Saleem Sheikh and Justice Farooq Haider. Meanwhile, Justice Saleem will consider Khan’s bail applications in connection with the civil proceedings brought against him.
Meanwhile, hundreds of PTI supporters surrounded the party chairman’s residence to prevent his arrest, as the former prime minister awaited a judgement on whether security agents could pursue him again for failing to appear in court.
A tense calm prevailed in Lahore Zaman Park ahead of the court decision, which was the scene of hostilities earlier this week between PTI workers and Punjab Police who were advancing on Khan’s house to produce him before the court in a case in which he is accused of selling state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries without due legal process while he was prime minister.
Khan disputes the allegations.
In the absence of police on Friday, witnesses said Khan’s supporters kept guard outside his residence, armed with sticks and iron rods.
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The hearing today
The inspector-general of Punjab (IG), the advocate general, and Fawad appeared in court today during the hearing against the operation at Zaman Park, which was resumed by Judge Tariq Saleem Sheikh.
Fawad praised Justice Saleem’s judgement, saying, “The lives of the people of Lahore have been saved due of you.”
He stated that the police had informed him that the PTI chief will be safe. “We have postponed a public assembly in Lahore, but we will host one on Monday,” he continued.
Judge Saleem mentioned that he had proposed delaying the public gathering. “Imran Khan’s surety bonds have been lodged,” PTI leader remarked.
The judge stated that everyone must follow the law and that the wrongdoers would not be spared. “We have installed cameras, and I will not stop taking action against law and order violators,” he stated.
IG Punjab claimed that he had asked the political party to not make any part of the city into a “no-go area”.
Fawad was ordered by Judge Saleem to file an application before holding a public rally. The court further stated that containers should not be utilised to obstruct traffic.
According to the advocate general, they required access to the Zaman Park area.
At this, Fawad said that they (the government) wanted access to arrest the people. “Arrest people after nominating them,” he added.
Meanwhile, Khan’s lawyer Khawaja Tariq Rahim assured the court of PTI chief’s appearance.
IG Punjab asked the court if the police were allowed to go in if they were pelted with stones or Molotov cocktails were hurled at them. The top Punjab cop requested the court for access. Fawad replied: “We give them access”.
At this, the court directed the parties to come up with a solution.
The IG said that they would not allow anyone to become a target of retaliatory action. “We have technology and witnesses, not just pictures,” he added.
He also assured the court that no harm would be done to anyone.
“How will the transparency be ensured?” the court asked the IG.
At this, the IG said that everything would be done fairly. “If we have proof, we will not ask for permission to arrest someone,” he said.
Justice Saleem said that an application should be filed for Imran Khan’s security.
The judge will also decide on the method to implement the warrant, it was observed.
Later, Justice Saleem adjourned the hearing till 3pm and asked the parties involved in the case to reach an agreement and present it before the court.
When the hearing resumed, Khan’s counsel Ishtiaq Chaudhry read out the terms of reference (TORs) agreed upon between the PTI and the police.
He informed the court that PTI leader Senator Shibli Faraz would contact the police to provide security to the PTI chief.
The agreement also states that PTI’s Minar-e-Pakistan public gathering will be held on Monday instead of Sunday. It has also been agreed a fresh request for the public gathering will be filed.
As per the agreement, the PTI would nominate two people to assist the people involved in the incidents that occurred on March 14 and 15.
However, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh said that the language of the agreement needs to be fixed and drafted again.
“The TOR word is not right, fix the language again,” remarked the judge. He added that the court could not stop police from holding investigations.
Meanwhile, Fawad told the court that the party does not want to be a target of revenge.
Then, Khan’s counsel told the court that they have submitted pleas for the protective bail of the PTI chief. He added that Khan is willing to appear in court.
“Imran Khan is also ready to attend the court proceedings on March 18,” said the lawyer.
However, Advocate General Punjab Jahangir Jadoon told the court that the arrest warrant should be implemented.
The judge responded that he never stopped the implementation of the warrant.
Riots and retreat
The violence on Tuesday and Wednesday, in which protesters hurled petrol bombs and security forces used tear gas and water cannon, had raised fears of a new political stand-off in nuclear-armed Pakistan, which is already grappling with an economic crisis.
The arrest warrant was issued by a court in Islamabad when Khan, 70, failed to appear before it over charges that he unlawfully sold state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries when he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022.
The Election Commission of Pakistan found him guilty and barred Khan from holding public office for one parliamentary term.
Khan has said he was willing to submit a written undertaking that he would voluntarily appear before the court on Saturday, but the court said such an undertaking was insufficient. It was unclear whether the court hearing on Friday would take this undertaking into consideration.
The legal proceedings against Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. Since then, he has been demanding a snap election and holding nationwide protests, and was shot and wounded in one of those rallies.
Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan’s demands, saying an election would be held as scheduled later this year.