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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday remarked that it would hear the protective bail petition of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan only if he appears before the court in person, as per the law.
LHC’s Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh gave these remarks while hearing Imran Khan’s plea seeking protective bail in a case lodged against him for a protest outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) offices. The PTI chief moved the LHC after an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Islamabad rejected his bail in the same case earlier in the day after he failed to appear in person before it. The LHC said it would ensure Khan’s security and asked his counsel to ensure the PTI chief’s presence on Thursday (today), as the in-person appearance was the first rule in a protective bail case.
As the hearing commenced, counsel for Imran Khan argued that as per the medical report of his client, it was difficult for him to walk. He said that his client wanted to appear before the court concerned but according to the doctor, he would not be able to walk for the next three weeks. The counsel implored the court to grant his client protective bail on medical grounds.
The judge said, “Appearance of the suspect is necessary even in the case of a protective bail.” He said that the PTI chief could come to the court in an ambulance. Asserting that the law was the same for all regardless of power and prestige, the justice stated: “In principle, I should dismiss this petition, but I am making a concession.”
Khan’s lawyer then argued that there were “security concerns”. The court offered to send police to bring Khan to the court to ensure his safety. “The law is set,” the justice reiterated, “The suspect must appear before the court. If you so desire, I can ask the Punjab IGP to ensure Khan’s security.”
He then ordered that Khan should be brought before the court by 8 pm on Wednesday, adding that he was habitual of working late.
The court then adjourned the hearing for some time. Once the hearing resumed, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry appeared before the LHC and sought Justice Sheikh’s permission to speak.
In response, the judge said that since Fawad was not in the lawyer’s uniform, he cannot speak in the courtroom. Then, Khan’s lawyer began his arguments and told the court that the IHC had also granted relief to the PTI chief on medical grounds as the doctors had not yet allowed the ex-prime minister to travel. The judge said that the first rule for protective bail was that the suspect should be presented before the court for seeking bail. The lawyer said that he would present his client via video link.
“Implement the procedure. However, if you guarantee that you will present your client in the morning, then I will adjourn the hearing till tomorrow [Thursday],” the judge remarked. “Whether you bring him on a stretcher or in an ambulance, it doesn’t matter, but without his in-person appearance, I will not grant bail,” Justice Sheikh said.
Fawad Ch intervened and asked the court to set Thursday for hearing arguments. The LHC declined and said that if Khan’s in-person presence was guaranteed, only then the court will adjourn the hearing.
The lawyer then asked the court to allow him to consult his client. The court adjourned the hearing till 8:15 pm. Upon resumption of the hearing, as Khan was not present in the court, Justice Sheikh asked once again: “Why can’t he appear before the court?”
The lawyer told the court that doctors had prohibited his client from walking. The judge then asked the lawyer who had asked him to walk. The lawyer argued that there were not only medical restrictions but their security concerns also.
The judge said that he would ensure that Khan gets the required security. The court then adjourned the hearing till Thursday (today).
Meanwhile, not only the ATC Islamabad had summoned the PTI chief on Wednesday but a banking court also asked Khan to appear before it in the prohibited funding case. However, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ordered the banking court to hold its verdict on the bail plea till February 22, making the former premier heave a sigh of relief. In the anti-terrorism court, Khan’s lawyer Babar Awan highlighted that the additional sessions judge had granted interim bail to the PTI chief till February 27. He requested the court to extend the bail, adding that Khan had tried to come but could not travel. “Imran Khan neither tried running away from the country nor the court,” he said.
The judge said that other accused should also be given relief if Khan was given relief for a bullet injury. At this, Awan said that the court should give the last chance to his client. “I am willing to submit a surety bond of Rs10,000,” he added.
“Let me take instructions to withdraw the bail plea,” said the lawyer. The ATC judge remarked that the court would announce a verdict if the bail petition was not withdrawn.
Later, after waiting for the PTI chief, who was on interim bail, for more than an hour, Judge Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan of the ATC announced the verdict to cancel Khan’s bail.
On Wednesday, a banking court had also summoned Khan at 3:30 pm as his bail was about to expire in the prohibited funding case. But the PTI chief moved the IHC to seek the court from issuing a verdict.
The IHC ordered the banking court judge Rakhshanda Shaheen not to issue its verdict on the bail plea of PTI chief Khan till February 22.
The court had asked Khan to appear before it in the prohibited funding case by 3:30 pm at the expiry of his bail on Wednesday; however, the former prime minister challenged the order in the high court.
A two-member bench, comprising Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, heard the PTI chief’s plea.
During the hearing, Khan’s lawyer Barrister Salman Safdar told the bench that the banking court had granted interim bail on October 17. He added that on Nov 3, the PTI chief was shot at during the long march in Wazirabad.
“Exemption was requested six times after the incident and two times before the incident,” said Khan’s lawyer. He added that his client never shied away from appearing in court, adding that the medical grounds and facts were before everyone. The court, after hearing the arguments, issued a stay order and barred the banking court until February 22 from issuing a verdict in this regard. The bench also asked the counsel to submit a fresh medical report of the PTI chief at the next hearing. Once Khan’s lawyer wrapped up his arguments, co-accused Tariq Shafi’s lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq came to the rostrum.
Ashfaq contended that a criminal case cannot be filed in the prohibited funding case. “Even if the first information report (FIR) is admitted, there will be no conviction,” claimed Ashfaq. He also asked if there was any statement or document that pointed out that the funds were prohibited.
Earlier, Special Judge Banking Court Rakhshanda Shaheen expelled journalists from the courtroom during the hearing of the prohibited funding case against PTI Chairman Imran Khan. On the basis of a security threat as announced by the police authorities, Judge Rakhshanda Shaheen asked everyone to leave the courtroom, including journalists present for coverage of the important case.
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