Published On: Sun, Mar 19th, 2023
Published in Category: Lahore

Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal allows Imran Khan to leave after marking attendance outside judicial complex in Toshakhana case

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ISLAMABAD: Additional District and Sessions Judge Islamabad Zafar Iqbal Waraich on Saturday allowed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan to leave after his attendance was marked outside the G-11 Judicial Complex amid unrest between police and party supporters. The court has suspended the non-bailable arrests warrants of Imran Khan. The court has adjourned the further hearing of the case till 30th March. At the next hearing of the case the court will hear arguments on the application filed by Imran Khan’s counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmad against the maintainability of the Toshakhana case. The court said that the attendance of Imran Khan will also be marked at the next hearing of the case on 30th March.

Intense clashes broke out between the two sides as Imran Khan's convoy reached the judicial complex ahead of the party chairman's appearance before a district and sessions court in the Toshakhana (gift depository) case.

The PTI chairman's vehicle was stopped merely 100 metres from the gate of the judicial complex as the police blamed party workers for blocking the route while the PTI claimed the law enforcers were restricting Imran's movement.

Despite the end of court hours, Imran Khan could not appear in front of the judge.

Judge Zafar Iqbal stated that due to the ongoing hostilities between Islamabad Police and PTI workers outside the Judicial Complex, the hearing and appearance cannot take place in the current situation.

He advised all those present to disperse peacefully, without resorting to any form of violence such as shelling or pelting stones after marking of Imran Khan’s attendance.

He also mentioned that the hearing cannot be conducted today, and the next date for the hearing can only be decided after obtaining the PTI chief's signatures.

The PTI chief left for Lahore without stepping out of his bullet-proof vehicle at the gate of Judicial Complex.

Earlier, Imran Khan filed an application in the court, stating that he was present at the gate outside the complex, and his presence should be recorded at the gate.

As the court resumed the proceedings on Saturday, the PTI chairman’s counsel, Khawaja Haris Ahmed, informed Judge Iqbal that Imran Khan has come to the gate but is being stopped from entering the premises.

Judge Iqbal inquired why was the PTI chief being barred from entering the premises. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) lawyer Muhammad Amjad Parvez Advocate remarked that Imran Khan 'should have been here as the court started at 8:30am'.

The judge maintained that the ousted premier is “facing hardship”, adding that the court should wait for him.

PTI lawyer Dr. Babar Awan also prepared a new application on behalf of the party chief. “I am at the gate of the judicial complex and I’m being denied entry,” stated the application.

The former premier requested the court to send its staff to mark his attendance and “initiate contempt of court proceedings against the police”.

After a short recess, Judge Iqbal directed court staff to take a police officer along and present Imran Khan before the court.

To this, PTI counsel requested the judge to send PTI representatives with the court staff, to which the judge agreed.

Judge Iqbal then directed a court representative to mark Imran’s attendance outside the court premises. “Imran can go back once the attendance is marked,” stated the judge.

Complying with the court orders, court staff and Babar Awan left the courtroom to mark the PTI chief’s attendance.

Khawaja Haris also informed the court that senior leader Shibli Faraz is being 'tortured' by the police. To this, the judge stated that he wants to end the current unrest.

The venue of the hearing was changed to the G-11 Judicial Complex instead of the F-8 Katcheri due to security concerns raised by the former premier. Judge Zafar Iqbal will preside over the hearing.

PTI Secretary General Asad Umar strongly condemned the police for “preventing Imran from going to court”. He added that the former prime minister is near the court premises and claimed police was standing in the way.

Umar also said that instead of allowing Imran to go to court, the police started tear gas shelling. “The worst brutality is being shown by the police."

Imran appeared in court for the first time on Saturday after repeated summons for seven hearings. A day earlier, the Islamabad High Court suspended the non-bailable arrest warrants issued for the PTI chairman till today, giving him the opportunity to voluntarily appear before the sessions court.

Imran's convoy earlier reached the Islamabad toll plaza with reports of the route being blocked.

Imran, in a video message earlier in the afternoon, said the incumbent government intended to arrest him as he made his way to a district and sessions court in Islamabad.

Issuing a special statement while en route to Islamabad, the PTI chairman said he “knows that he will be arrested but is still making his way to the court because he 'believes rule of law'".

“I want to tell you all that these people [government] have made a plan to arrest me,” he said, adding that he was ready to go the Islamabad court before as well.

“The Zaman park operation was not done to make me appear before the court, it was done to put me in jail…because it is part of the London plan to put me in jail,” he added.

He stated that this is the “demand” of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif in order to prevent him from taking part in the upcoming elections.

The former premier reiterated that he knows that he will be arrested, adding that he believes in rule of law.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson of the capital police said that all routes in the city are open, adding that special security measures have been implemented around the judicial complex.

The Islamabad police also stated that court orders and code of conduct are being followed, adding that 12 journalists, including three women journalists, included in the court-issued list are currently inside the judicial complex.

Moreover, in wake of the current situation in the federal capital, an emergency has been imposed in the hospitals of Islamabad.

The police added that Imran’s convoy is coming the wrong way on the Islamabad-Srinagar highway, due to which there has been a disruption in the outgoing traffic. The police further requested the PTI chief’s convoy to change direction at the nearest U-turn.

Earlier on Friday night, the Islamabad police's spokesperson said that Section 144 (ban on public gatherings and display of weapons) has been imposed in the federal capital.

Private companies, security guards, and individuals have been prohibited from carrying weapons, the spokesperson said, asking the citizens to carry necessary documents — including car proof of ownership — while traveling.

For the traffic plan, the police asked the citizens to avoid unnecessary travel from Sector G-11/1 and G-10/1, the spokesperson, said, adding that citizens should also cooperate with police during checking.

To ensure security, the police have also placed containers around the judicial complex.

It is worth mentioning here that under the rules governing "Toshakhana" — a Persian word meaning "treasure house" — government officials can keep gifts if they have a low worth, while they must pay a dramatically reduced fee to the government for extravagant items.

The Toshakhana is under the microscope ever since the emergence of the allegations that Imran Khan purchased the gifts he received as prime minister at throwaway rates and sold them off in the open market for staggering profits.

In October last year, the former prime minister was barred from holding public office after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) found him guilty of unlawfully selling gifts from foreign dignitaries and heads of state.

The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was accused of misusing his 2018 to 2022 premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than Rs140 million ($635,000).

The gifts included watches given by a royal family, according to government officials, who have alleged previously that Khan's aides sold them in Dubai.

The gifts included seven wristwatches, six made by watchmaker Rolex, and the most expensive a "Master Graff limited edition" valued at 85 million Pakistani rupees ($385,000).

The election commission's order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.

Following the order, the election watchdog moved the Islamabad sessions court and sought criminal proceedings against him — and the PTI chief has missed several hearings.