By giving PTI chief Imran Khan relief from arrest and ordering that the Islamabad High Court should hear whether the arrest on May 9 was legal or not. The Supreme Court had thus stepped into area of remand, where it is more usual to leave the subordinate courts to issue warrants, grant or deny remands or bail, and to supervise arrests. This is an area where, as any criminal defence lawyer will testify, the police and other arresting or investigating agencies exploit the law the most. However, the Supreme Court seems to have realised that an appeal from the decision of the court granting remand did not lie straight to the Supreme Court, but should go to a lower forum, so that there would be a forum where an appeal could lie. The Supreme Court may take up the matter again, but this time as an appeal from whatever decision the IHC makes. The IHC had already ruled the arrest legal, and thus was virtually being asked to revisit its judgement.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan also asked Mr Khan to condemn the violence which had been committed by PTI supporters protesting Mr Khan’s arrest on Tuesday and Wednesday, but he did not do so, while one of his lawyers said that the PTI was not a violent party. If the IHC does not spring Mr Khan, PTI supporters will gather on Friday, and protests are anticipated. If it does, the workers will celebrate. The way has been opened for Mr Khan to build a narrative claiming any number of attempts on his life, using the most extravagant means, which he miraculously survived. While his fate is clearly important, it should not conceal that his release by the IHC would signal a further turn in the confrontation between the judiciary and the executive which has caused so much instability. That confrontation will merely intensify, and it is possible that the establishment’s dim view of the recent mayhem, which was expressed in the last ISPR press statement, will remain changed.
If, as is being widely anticipated, the IHC does release Mr Khan, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he might be re-arrested in some other case. Any re-arrest would indicate how unforgiving the executive can be. Whatever happens, the only safe prediction is that there will only be further confusion, and that a solution is not yet in sight.