LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) witnessed a day of high drama and prolonged wait on Monday, as PTI Chairman and former Prime Minister Imran Khan finally secured relief when he appeared before the court in two separate cases with thousands of supporters, after being given a “last chance” for an in-person appearance.
In a case filed under terrorism charges, a division bench of the LHC led by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi granted PTI chief protective bail.
Meanwhile, in a separate case involving protests outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), a single bench led by Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh dismissed another protective bail plea after the former ruling party withdrew it.
PTI chief apologized to the LHC, regretting that the court’s “precious time” had been squandered due to the delay in reaching the court. He later clarified that he had not filed any petitions or signed any documents.
In the first round of proceedings, Justice Sheikh gave the last chance to PTI chairman to appear before the court at 5 pm with directives that a notice would be issued to him “why the contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him”.
The judge issued the order after PTI counsel Khawaja Tariq Raheem explained why Imran did not appear at the LHC despite the assurance given to the court during the February 16 proceedings.
The lawyer also questioned the “inadequate” security arrangements provided to them, despite assurances from the Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP).
We were promised a signal-free Mall Road from Imran’s house to the court, but it is still congested, the counsel contended.
Concerning security at the LHC, he stated that PTI filed an application with the court’s relevant quarters seeking permission for Imran’s vehicle to enter the LHC grounds, but their application was denied.
However, when the court inquired about the difference in signatures on three documents – the petition, affidavit, and power of attorney – Imran’s counsel argued that this protective bail did not bear the signatures of PTI chief.
You mean Imran Khan did not file this petition; Justice Sheikh inquired.
Imran had not filed the petition, according to the counsel.
Then, Justice Sheikh inquired, who filed this petition.
Imran’s counsel responded that Advocate Azhar Siddique would explain it.
“I admit before the court that the said documents did not bear Imran Khan’s signature,” the counsel stated.
The judge began dictating his order to the court staffer three times, but PTI chief’s counsel continued to argue and asked the court not to issue notice to Imran, claiming that the matter did not fall under the purview of the contempt proceedings.
“You made a mockery of the Constitution. “Compromise on the dignity of the court cannot be tolerated,” Justice Sheikh stated.
Finally, after PTI’s counsel assured the court that PTI chairman would appear before it by 5 p.m., the LHC granted a last chance.
PTI chairman appeared before the division bench first.
As the hearing began, Justice Najafi inquired, “Where is the petitioner?”
Imran’s lawyers, Raheem and Siddique, stated that he was present at the court.
An irritated judge inquired as to why Imran was not present in court despite his presence.
The lawyers claimed that the police officials were not cooperating and that there was a crowd, making PTI chief’s presence difficult.
He will have to appear in court, said Justice Najafi.
The judge ordered that PTI chief be brought before the court by the concerned SP security.
The counsels complained about the police officials’ lack of cooperation, claiming that the IGP promised them that Imran would be brought into the LHC within 10 minutes.
When Imran was not produced in court, the court was harsh on the security officer in charge.
The court proceedings, however, were postponed until 7:30 p.m.
As the proceedings resumed, the judge was informed that the police officials had failed to make room for Imran in the courtroom.
Finally, PTI chief appeared in court.
The court granted him protective ad-interim anticipatory bail until March 3, allowing him to approach the appropriate court.
PTI chief told the division bench that he sat in his vehicle for a long time before appearing before the court.
Imran stated that he respected the courts and that his party’s name, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (movement for justice), was also based on justice.
He stated that his leg injury was improving and that he had been advised to rest for two weeks.
Imran appeared before Justice Sheikh’s court after appearing before the division bench.
Justice Sheikh presided over the hearing of PTI chief’s protective bail in the ECP protest case, where Imran appeared to have his signatures on three documents verified.
The judge inquired if he was aware of the petition filed in court, which contained different signatures in three documents.
PTI chief responded that he had neither filed nor signed any petitions or documents.
“You people should be careful about it,” Justice Sheikh said as Imran apologized.
However, after Imran explained his position and the counsel requested that the protective bail be withdrawn, the judge dismissed it.