LHC rejects Imran’s plea for protective bail in ECP protest case

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LHC rejects Imran's plea for protective bail in ECP protest case

Imran Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was ordered by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday to appear before the court on February 20 as it considered his protective bail in a case involving rallies outside the Pakistan Election Commission (ECP).

Judge Tariq Saleem Sheikh raised the possibility of issuing a contempt notice during the hearing today after pointing out that Imran’s signatures on the petition’s attached affidavit and the power of attorney were different.

After disqualifying Imran in the Toshakhana case, an Islamabad anti-terrorism court yesterday denied his request for an extension of his interim release in a case involving violent protests outside the ECP because he had not appeared.

The PTI chairman has been recovering in his Zaman Park home in Lahore since he was hurt in an attempted assassination while his caravan was making a pit stop there while they were marching on Islamabad. The PTI leader then went to the LHC to get an interim protective bail, but the high court rejected his request and continued the plea until today.

“Transfer him in an ambulance or on a stretcher. Without his presence in court, bail would not be granted, according to Justice Sheikh.

Imran appointed Lawyer Azhar Siddique as his legal representative earlier today by submitting a power of attorney to the court.

The hearing

Azhar Siddique, Imran’s lawyer, asked the court for some extra time as the hearings got underway today, claiming that the PTI chairman was consulting with physicians and the party was concerned about security.

Imran will, however, be present, he informed the court. The hearing was then postponed till 12:30 p.m. by Judge Sheikh.

Siddique once again asked for additional time when the hearing restarted. We need more time, he remarked, adding that consultations were still ongoing.

In response to Justice Sheikh’s question on whether Imran will show up in court at all, the attorney responded, “Consultations on this [issue] are happening.”

The hearing was then put off for another hour.

At 2:00 pm, Dr Faisal Sultan, the PTI leader’s physician, and Imran’s attorney both entered the courtroom. Dr Sultan intended to inform the judge about the ex-health, premier but he was unable to do so. Siddique told Justice Sheikh that his client wished to withdraw the bail plea because Imran had already received relief from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in a related case.

The PTI chief’s signatures on the affidavit and power of attorney were different in this case, the judge noted. “This is an extremely crucial issue… You or your client will receive a notice of contempt of court from me, he warned.

At that point, Siddique asked for some time and said he would help the court with the situation.

“I’m not returning your application. The judge announced, “I’m keeping it pending,” and then postponed the hearing until 4 p.m.

Imran’s lawyer announced that the PTI leader was taking ownership of both signatures when the session resumed. Imran was then ordered by Justice Sheikh to “own up to them in front of me or else I will issue a contempt of court notice to the council and the petitioner.”

According to the lawyer, the court may interview Imran about the autographs through a video link if it is judged suitable. He remarked, “Doctors have recommended Imran Khan to avoid walking.

He added that a bailiff could be appointed by the court to help clarify the situation.

Yet, according to Justice Sheikh, the court must adhere to the law. Imran Khan will declare the signatures following the taking of an oath.

Siddique’s explanation of the signatures was rejected by the Lahore High Court, and the attorney then requested further time for “consulting.”

The LHC extended the hearing until 6:30 p.m. with Judge Sheikh requesting that Imran “check the signature in front of him” because the counsel argued that Imran had acknowledged that both signatures were his.

PTI Farrukh Habib stated that Imran had been told by his physicians to limit his movement and that there were also security threats shortly before the hearing was set to restart.

He stated that the court was aware of these details. Imran will appear before the LHC, but the court has ordered that he appear in person to secure precautionary bail.

Khawaja Tariq Rahim arrived in court for Imran as the hearing picked back up. Rahim said, “Imran Khan respects the courts. Imran will show up in court tomorrow, so he urged the court to make the necessary arrangements.

He added that the lawyer at fault for the problem with the signatures could be “punished” by the court. “A choice must be made after considering the security measures. The high court security can sit down with us to complete [arrangements].”

Judge Sheikh responded by saying that a meeting with the Punjab IG may be scheduled. He gave the provincial police head instructions to meet with Imran’s legal counsel and decide on security measures.

The judge further ordered Imran’s attorney to appear in court on Monday, February 19, at 2:00 p.m.

His attorneys, Attorneys Malik Ghulam Abbas Nissoana, Muhammad Farooq Khokhar, Rashid Gill, Muhammad Aadil Khan, and Ch Asghar Ali, submitted the PTI chairman’s plea.

Imran said in the appeal that the Islamabad anti-terrorism court denied his request for an extension of his interim bail as well as his request for a medical exemption from appearing

He appealed with the Lahore High Court to “grant the protected bail for the surrender to take place before the pertinent court” and noted in the petition that he had to “file a bail petition again in the Islamabad ATC.”

The LHC bench rejects Imran’s plea

A separate LHC panel was hearing the PTI leader’s bail request against the FIR that had been lodged against him at the Sangjani police station in Islamabad. The hearing was presided over by a two-judge panel that included Justices Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi and Ali Baqir Najafi.

Mr Justice Najafi enquired about Imran’s whereabouts at the start of the session.

Imran’s lawyer Siddique then read Imran’s medical records aloud. He claimed that Imran had been instructed to take three weeks off the physicians.

The court did point out that Imran was not listed as being unable to walk in the medical records.

“I have had in-depth discussions with the doctors. They claim that Imran Khan should not be allowed to walk,” the lawyer responded.

Siddique underlined that his client also faced security risks while Justice Najafi highlighted that Imran may even show up in a wheelchair before the court. He informed the court, “The party leadership is also not ready to permit Imran to appear.”

He added that Hamza Shehbaz, the PML-N leader, was given protective bail without having to appear in court. Bail is a fundamental right, he declared.

However, Justice Najafi emphasized that the supreme court had decided that protective bail could not be granted absent the suspect showing up in court.

He said, “We have to work within the bounds of the law and the law says that bail cannot be given without coming before the court.” The lawyer then argued that the court might record Imran’s attendance either by a “commission” or a video hookup.

Yet according to Justice Najafi, there are currently two possibilities available. He said, “Either we reject the application or you withdraw it. Imran’s lawyer immediately requested some time to speak with his client. After that, the hearing was temporarily put on hold.

Imran and his attorney were not in the courtroom when the session picked back up. As a result, the court rejected Imran’s argument. The following was stated in a written order, a copy of which can be found at Dawn.com: “The case was taken up at 5:00 pm when the learned counsel for the petitioner requested an adjournment to introduce the petitioner.

“We adjourned the matter at 6:30 p.m., but neither Mr Azhar Siddique, the petitioner’s knowledgeable attorney, nor the petitioner [were] present when the case was summoned.

The order stated, “In this view of the situation, we have no choice but to dismiss the petition for non-prosecution

The case

Imran was charged with terrorism in Islamabad in October 2022 after PTI activists protested outside ECP offices across the nation after it disqualified the former prime minister in the Toshakhana issue.

The PTI leadership urged people to protest as soon as the judgement was made public. Police and protestors reportedly clashed in Islamabad, Peshawar, and Karachi as well. Imran had been summoned numerous times by the ATC and given a pre-arrest bail in the case in October of last year, but he did not show up in court. His attorney had requested a medical exemption from the requirement to appear in person. Imran has previously asked the court for a virtual hearing, but that request was rejected.

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