Imran Khan returns to Lahore after clashes force the court to record hurried attendance
An Islamabad district and sessions court recorded PTI Chief Imran Khan’s attendance at the doorstep of the court without a formal appearance shortly after the Islamabad police and PTI workers clashed outside the Judicial Complex.
After recording Imran Khan’s appearance, the court cancelled the non-bailable arrest warrants against the former prime minister in the Toshakhana case. Imran returned to Lahore.
“The court has cancelled the arrest warrant after marking Imran Khan’s attendance. The hearing has been adjourned till March 30,” one of Khan’s lawyers, Gohar Khan, told AFP.
After days of legal wrangling, Khan travelled more than 300 kilometres from Lahore to the Islamabad court complex, but was unable to get out of the car.
Around 4,000 supporters mobbed the complex, pelting stones and throwing bricks at police officers who fired back with tear gas. The court however accepted Khan’s attendance, his lawyers said.
PTI workers accompanying the former prime minister to Islamabad clashed with policemen at the Islamabad Judicial Complex briefly turning it into ‘a war zone’.
The clashes began when police tried to disperse PTI workers at G-11’s traffic signal near the judicial complex located in neighbouring G-10 sector. The police fired tear gas shells.
Imran Khan was scheduled to appear before a sessions court in the Toshakhana case.
PTI wanted its workers to accompany Khan to the court – a plan that police tried to thwart. At around 4pm, police fired tear gas shells to disperse political workers gathered at Islamabad’s G-11 Signal.
This marked the beginning of a larger showdown at the Judicial Complex in Sector G-10 where pitched battles soon followed.
PTI workers set fire to a police checkpost near the judicial complex. They were seen everywhere in the area while police personnel remain behind the shipping containers that police installed outside the judicial complex earlier today.
The PTI chief was almost 1km from the Judicial Complex at around 4pm. Clashes hampered his progress towards the court. On this, Judge Zafar Iqbal sent a court deputy to mark Imran Khan’s attendance outside the court complex.
The attendance was duly marked with the PTI chief leaving his vehicle. He was then allowed to leave.
The judge said that further proceedings will be conducted at the next hearing which will be held at the F-8 Ketchehri, the original seat of the court.
The session court issued an arrest warrant for him on Monday after Khan failed to show up despite repeated assurances. He is set to be indicted in the case.
On Saturday, Islamabad authorities were also trying to stop PTI workers from other cities to enter Islamabad. A massive traffic jam has been reported near the motorway toll plaza and the Islamabad airport.
PTI urges CJP to prevent arrest
Shortly before the escalation at the Judicial Complex, PTI’s Asad Umar urged Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial to take a suo motu notice of the developments on Saturday and prevent Imran Khan’s possible arrest.
Asad Umar made the request to CJP in a letter that was delivered to the Supreme Court of Pakistan for the top job by PTI leader Asad Qaiser in person. Separately, the PTI filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court against the possible arrest.
Police in Islamabad deployed a heavy contingent at the judicial complex where a large of shipping containers have been installed to block the entry of political workers.
Journalists were also denied entry to the court complex and Pemra, the broadcasting regulator, has banned live coverage.
This coincides with a police raid on Khan’s Lahore residence where police on Saturday found weapons.
Khan fears arrest
PTI Chairman Imran Khan claimed that his planned arrest was part of a “London plan” that he said was hatched by his archrival Nawaz Sharif to stop him from contesting general elections.
“Right now I am going to a court of Islamabad. … I want to tell you all that they have made a whole plan to arrest me and this proves their dishonesty,” he said in a video message.
Khan told the news agency Reuters that he had formed a committee to lead the party in the event he is arrested.
Khan led a cavalcade from Lahore to Islamabad comprising around 150 vehicles.
The PTI leader is scheduled to appear in the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Zafar Iqbal at the Judicial Complex in the federal capital to attend proceedings on the complaint filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for allegedly concealing details of gifts in his assets declarations.
A video uploaded by the PTI on its Twitter account showed that the former prime minister leaving for Islamabad to attend the hearing.
Supporters of PTI showered flower petals on Imran’s vehicle when it, along with the cavalcade, reached Gate number 2 of Zaman Park at 8:20am.
Imran in his last media interaction had confirmed that he would appear in court on March 18.
The Islamabad authorities have moved the court from F8 Katcheri to the Judicial Complex to alleviate Khan’s security concerns. A similar request by the PTI was denied on Monday but on Friday the authorities appeared to give in.
The legal proceedings against Imran began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year.
Since then, the 70-year-old politican has been demanding a snap election and holding protests across the country. He was shot and wounded at one of those rallies.
Incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Imran’s demands, saying an election would be held as scheduled later this year.
The political infighting comes as nuclear-armed Pakistan struggles with an economic crisis. It is awaiting a bailout package of $1.1 billion from the IMF.
Earlier this week, Imran told supporters that he had not attended the hearings because he feared for his safety.
As many as 4,000 personnel of law enforcement agencies – including Frontier Corps, Punjab police, and Islamabad capital police – have been deployed around the judicial complex in G11.
They are equipped with safety kits, sources said, adding that as many as 250 containers were placed in the area. Concrete step barriers have also been placed for the “tight security” and only “persons concerned were allowed to enter”.
Aaj News correspondent Usman Muzaffar said that he has never seen such kind of security arrangements before as around 1,100 to 1,200 police personnel were deployed when politicians like Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto, Yousuf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf appeared in the judicial complex.
The government made lists of political leaders, media persons, lawyers from the Islamabad high court bar, and entry points, for entry into the complex, sources said. Only a few cars would be allowed to enter the capital territory as per plans, they added.
“Political workers are requested to avoid excessive sensationalism and fear mongering,” the police said in a series of tweets.
PTI workers arrested
At least five supporters of PTI were arrested when they tried to enter the judicial complex, the party claimed.
“This is cruelty. One by one our workers are being picked up,” PTI leader Imran Ismail said. He alleged that even Imran’s lawyers were not allowed to enter the premises.
He went on to add that workers would be released after Imran arrives.
Who can enter judicial complex
The administration has released a list of people who will enter the court premises.
Legal teams of Imran Khan, the election commission, Shibli Faraz, Shahzad Waseem, Asad Qaiser, Amir Kayani, Pervez Khattak, and Mehmood Khan would be allowed to enter court.
A legal panel of Imran Khan includes Gohar Khan, Khawaja Haris, Sher Afzal Marwat and the legal Amjad Pervez, Nawaz Chaudhry, and Hamza Altaf are part of the ECP panel.
“We are bound to obey the court orders,” Islamabad IGP Akbar Nasir told reporters in Islamabad.
“We are trying our best to regulate security. Islamabad has already seen a terror incident, that is why we have imposed Section 144,” he added.
An Islamabad district and sessions court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran Khan over persistent absences in the Toshakhana case on February 28. Earlier, the court had twice deferred the former premier’s indictment on medical grounds.
Additional District and Sessions Court judge Zafar Iqbal had adjourned the hearing of the case till March 7.
The reference was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition, Pakistan Democratic Movement, last year. It alleges that Imran had not shared details of the state gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana (during his time as the prime minister) and proceeds from their reported sales.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) concluded on October 21 that ex-PM Imran had made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.
The Toshakhana is a department under the Cabinet Division that stores gifts given to rulers and government officials by heads of other governments and foreign dignitaries. According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
The country’s top electoral authority’s order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
“He is for the time being disqualified from being elected or chosen as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) or of a Provincial Assembly under any law for the time being in force,” said the law which falls under the Disqualifications for membership of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).
Later, the ECP approached the Islamabad district and sessions the court with a copy of the reference. It sought proceedings against Imran under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the state gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his time as the prime minister.
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