Declaring arrest ‘unlawful’, SC orders Imran to appear before IHC today

  • Directs Imran be housed at Police Lines guesthouse, permits him to meet up to 10 individuals

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday declared former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest as illegal and ordered his immediate release in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

The apex court advised the PTI chief to approach the Islamabad High Court again in the matter on Friday (today).

The court further directed that Imran be housed at the Police Lines guesthouse until Friday (today), and during this time he will be permitted to meet with up to 10 individuals.

Imran, who was arrested from inside the high court in Islamabad on Tuesday, was present in the apex court when the order to provide relief to the former prime minister was issued by a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and also included Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah.

The hearing on Thursday was in response to Khan’s plea against his arrest in a land dispute involving a property tycoon. The former prime minister is facing allegations of using allegedly illegal funds to build a university on land belonging to the trust.

The case has been under investigation by the NAB, an anti-corruption watchdog agency.

Khan was taken into custody by paramilitary Rangers from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) where he was attending the hearing of his bail application. “He has been arrested after being manhandled,” his spokesman Iftikhar Durrani confirmed to Anadolu Agency.

The opposition party alleged the former cricket star turned politician was “abducted” from the court premises.

The development comes days after Khan accused a senior intelligence officer, Maj. Gen. Faisal Naseer, of conspiring with the government of Shehbaz Sharif to kill him.​​​​​​​

The security outside the Supreme Court has been strengthened, with the Rangers and police contingents, as well as bomb disposal squads, being summoned ahead of a hearing set to take place in courtroom number one.

Only lawyers and journalists who are already present in the room will be granted entry. An official of the Islamabad police has arrived at the court to assess the security situation.

Media outlets have also reported that the opposition party has urged its supporters to refrain from visiting the Supreme Court during the hearing.

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.

I just want free and fair elections: Imran tells court

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 damage to the country’s infrastructure nor do I wish for people to get arrested. I just want free and fair elections,” the PTI chief told the court, pleading with the court that despite his response made 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.

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 sides have taken to the “extreme ends”.

“230 million people 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 said that “there are 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 reminded him not to utter such words and be cautious about what he says in the presence of the media.

 

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