Imran granted bail in one case, second still pending

-PTI Chairman appears before Justice Sheikh’s Court
-Khan’s protective bail plea till March 3 in a case pertaining to protests outside ECP approved

From Abid Usman

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) granted PTI chief Imran Khan protective bail in one case with the hearing of the second yet to commence.
Imran had finally made his way inside the courtroom after dawdling outside for nearly an hour-and-a-half despite entering the LHC premises around 6pm. His convoy faced difficulty in moving towards the courtroom due to the large number of lawyers and supporters gathered.
Senior PTI leaders Fawad Chaudhry, Asad Umar, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Azam Swati are also present alongside the former premier.
Footage aired on television showed Imran’s convoy being showered with rose petals as it made its way inside the LHC premises with a large number of PTI supporters surrounding the cars and chanting slogans in support of the former prime minister.
Talking to media, Qureshi had earlier claimed there were “thousands” of people present outside the court and security arrangements were almost “non-existent”. He said it was “impossible” for Imran to step out of his car in such a situation.
Imran has to attend two separate hearings. In the first, a two-judge LHC bench heard Imran’s plea for protective bail in a case registered against him in Islamabad. The court granted Imran protective bail till March 3.
Separately, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh had instructed the former prime minister to appear in court in person while hearing his protective bail petition in a case pertaining to protests outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Justice Sheikh passed these directives after Imran failed to meet the court’s order to appear in person by 2pm yesterday. The PTI chief has been convalescing in his Zaman Park residence in Lahore ever since he was wounded in an assassination attempt during a pitstop his caravan made in Wazirabad while they were marching on Islamabad.

Ahead of yesterday’s proceedings, a large contingent of police personnel was deployed at the main gate of the LHC. Imran’s legal team also arrived at the court to review the security arrangements.

Imran had filed a plea seeking protective bail in a case registered at Islamabad’s Sangjani police station, which also carries offence under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, through Advocate Azhar Siddique. On Thursday, the LHC had dismissed a similar petition due to non-prosecution.

In the petition filed yesterday, Imran urged the court to grant him 15-day protective bail so that he could approach the relevant court for pre-arrest bail.

The petition was fixed for hearing before a two-judge bench led by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi. The court staff informed Imran’s legal team about the judge’s instructions that the court personnel would wait for 10 more minutes to hear the plea, otherwise, the judges would leave the high court.

Imran’s legal team assured the court staff about the PTI chief’s presence. But when the hearing began, the PTI chief was not present in the courtroom. His lawyer Siddique argued that his client was present inside the LHC premises but could not be presented in the courtroom due to the current situation.

He said that the party’s senior leadership was present inside the courtroom, arguing that the party had not announced that the PTI chief would be appearing before the LHC.

“Call it the people’s love of their madness that such a large crowd has gathered,” Siddique said. He added that if Imran stepped out of his car in such a situation, he may risk breaking his leg.

“We have no reservations if the police can bring Imran to court under its security,” he said.

At this, Justice Najafi said that Imran would have to appear in the courtroom and asked who was stopping him from doing so. The lawyer replied that no one had stopped the PTI chairman but security officials were “not cooperating”.

The court ordered the security SP to immediately present Imran in the courtroom.

Imran’s counsel lamented that the Punjab police chief had promised that the PTI chief would be brought to the courtroom in 10 minutes.

The court expressed anger at the security head for not presenting Imran in the courtroom and asked about his presence. The security head replied that Imran was in his vehicle and the police superintendent had gone to fetch hi.

“You should go and bring him yourself,” Justice Najafi said. The judge said that it was “no hard task” to bring Imran to the courtroom.

The judge also grilled the security SP about Imran’s whereabouts to which he replied that the PTI chief was present outside Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh’s court. The SP argued that Imran’s lawyers were not allowing him to enter the courtroom.