Imran Khan picture while appearing via video link goes viral as SC decides against live broadcast of hearing

The Supreme Court has resumed hearing a case about changes in the accountability laws as former prime minister Imran Khan appeared before it via video link as a petitioner in the matter.

The anticipated development comes after the Supreme Court on Tuesday, hearing the case about the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws, had ordered the federal and Punjab governments to facilitate Imran’s appearance on Thursday via video link from Adiala jail.

Justice Athar Minallah — part of the five-member bench hearing the case — had stated that the top court could not deny an audience to the ex-premier if he wished to appear before it for the case.

Today, the bench — headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and also including Justices Aminuddin Khan, Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Athar Minallah and Hasan Azhar Rizvi — resumed hearing the case.

Imran appeared via video call dressed in blue.

Founder PTI Imran Khan testifying via video link

While the previous hearing was broadcast live, today’s hearing is not.

If live-streamed, this was expected to be Imran’s first public appearance since his arrest from Zaman Park in August last year in the Toshakhana case despite reservations expressed by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar about the SC’s directives.

A day ago, a division bench of the Islamabad High Court granted the former premier bail in the £190 million case on “reasonable ground” while an Islamabad session court acquitted him in a 2022 case in connection with the Azadi March.

On the other hand, the PTI had expressed apprehensions about a visitors’ ban in Adiala jail, saying the move was implemented to keep the party chief away from the SC proceedings.

Speaking at a press conference, PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan had claimed that over the past two days, Imran’s security guards were suddenly changed at midnight and the hearings in the Al-Qadir Trust, cipher, and Toshakhana cases were postponed under various excuses, while the government’s counsel in the Iddat case suddenly left the country.

The apex court is seized with a number of intra-court appeals (ICAs) moved by the federal government as well as by a private citizen Zuhair Ahmed Siddiqui, who was an accused in a corruption case but not a party to the challenges to the NAB amendments case.

During today’s hearing, senior counsel Khawaja Haris, who earlier represented Imran Khan in the first round of litigation, appeared before the court for legal assistance while Makhdoom Ali Khan was present on behalf of the federal government.

The hearing At the outset of the hearing, Haris came to the rostrum, at which the chief justice said the former was a counsel in the “original case”, hence his absence was upsetting. “We would also want to hear your stance,” the CJP said.

Justice Isa then asked, “Did you submit the bill for the fee as a lawyer?”, to which Haris replied that he did not need a fee. “You are a senior to all lawyers,” the CJP remarked.

When asked, Haris confirmed to CJP Isa that he would assist the court in the matter. Justice Isa then directed the lawyer to present his arguments loudly so that Imran could also hear on the video call.

Here, the federal government’s lawyer began presenting his arguments in the case, informing the apex court that the NAB amendment case was sub judice before the IHC.

“Was the petition pending before the high court accepted for hearing?” Justice Minallah asked, to which Makhdoom replied in the positive.

The chief justice then sought the complete records of the case in the IHC, including the order.

The NAB laws case In 2022, amendments were made to the country’s accountability laws by the then-Pakistan Democratic Movement-led government.

The amendments made several changes to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, including reducing the term of the NAB chairman and prosecutor general to three years, limiting NAB’s jurisdiction to cases involving over Rs500 million, and transferring all pending inquiries, investigations, and trials to the relevant authorities.

Subsequently, Imran had moved the apex court against the amendments, claiming that the changes to the NAB law were made to benefit the influential accused persons and legitimise corruption.

The petition had pleaded that the fresh amendments tend to scrap corruption cases against the president, prime minister, chief ministers and ministers and provide an opportunity to the convicted public office-holders to get their convictions undone.

In September last year, after 53 hearings, the SC announced its 2-1 verdict, ordering the restoration of corruption cases against public office holders that were withdrawn due to the amendments and declaring Imran’s plea to be maintainable.

The next month, a five-judge SC bench took up intra-court appeals (ICAs) against its Sept 15 judgment and stopped accountability courts from issuing a final verdict in graft cases.

In a subsequent hearing, CJP Isa had hinted that the proceedings could be started afresh if the counsel managed to “make a solid case” for the same, as earlier proceedings did not satisfy the requirements of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023.

It then resumed hearing the ICAs on Tuesday, ordering authorities to ensure Imran’s presence before the apex court via video link as he was a petitioner in the case.

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