Toshakhana case: Court says ready to halt Imran's arrest if he surrenders

Toshakhana case: Court says ready to halt Imran's arrest if he surrenders

Islamabad (Web Desk): A local court in Islamabad on Thursday said that it would stop Islamabad police from arresting Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman ande former premier Imran Khan if he surrenders before the court.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal passed these remarks while hearing the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) reference seeking criminal proceedings against the former premier for concealing details of Toshakhana gifts.

On March 13, the court had re-issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran earlier this week and directed the capital city police to bring him to court by March 18.

Later, clashes started between law enforcers and PTI supporters when the Islamabad police reached Imran Khan's Zaman Park residence in Lahore to arrest him.

However, the Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered to halt police operation till 10am on Thursday to arrest the former prime minister Imran Khan.

Earlier today, the district and sessions court resumed hearing the case. Imran’s lawyers Khawaja Haris Ahmed and Faisal Chaudhry were present in court.

At the outset of the hearing, the judge questioned why the former premier was “resisting” to which Haris asked if it was necessary to “arrest Imran and then bring him before the court”.

The judge maintained that he wanted Imran to appear before the court, and added that the PTI chief has to assist the police according to the law, not resist them. He remarked that if the warrants were bailable, there would have been no problems.

PTI's lawyer informed the court that the warrants were non-bailable and read the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) order before the court which had instructed Imran to sign an undertaking and appear before the court on March 18.

Haris continued that if the judge was “satisfied”, he could accept the undertaking and the PTI chief would appear before the court on March 18.

The PTI counsel again asked the judge to suspend the warrant as the situation in Lahore was “bad”, to which Iqbal asked why Imran refused to cooperate when the situation was worsening.

The lawyer argued that damage worth millions had occurred and blamed the incumbent government. He then questioned if the court would continue to be strict regarding the non-bailable arrest warrant, arguing a surety had been submitted in court and the PTI chief was ready to give an undertaking.

The judge maintained that the warrant was in place for Imran to appear before the court in person.

Haris stated that Imran “wanted” to come to the court and was not asking for an exception, however, he questioned if non-bailable warrants were mandatory for an arrest.

The lawyer said that the court could either accept the undertaking and cancel the warrants, or take a surety bond and issue bailable arrest warrants.

Khawaja Haris added that Imran wanted to give an undertaking and would appear before the court on March 18.

The judge commented that the warrant turned out to be the “most expensive” arrest warrant in the world, with millions of rupees spent in attempts to execute it. He maintained that the events at Zaman Park should not have transpired.

The PTI's lawyer continued to request that the court cancel the non-bailable arrest warrant and that the ECP lawyer be issued notices and summoned for arguments.

The judge stated that he would prevent the Islamabad police from arresting the PTI chairman if he surrendered in court, adding that legally the former premier should have been brought to the court directly and it would not have been possible to harass him during his court appearance.

"Pakistan was a poor country that should not spend millions on an arrest warrant," Judge Zafar Iqbal remarked, adding that action should not have been taken till the date on the arrest warrant, rather the person should have been arrested and presented in court.

He added that the police could not sit and not do anything. He questioned why Imran resisted legally issued warrants, stating that the PTI chief could have held a peaceful protest.

“In criminal proceedings, arrest warrants are typically issued and then cancelled after the accused is presented in court,” he said.

The judge issued notices to the secretariat police and ECP, calling them to the court. The hearing was then adjourned till 12 pm.

After the hearing resumed, Khawaja Harris and Barrister Gohar came to the rostrum and an officer of the Islamabad police law appeared before the court.

The public prosecutor informed the court that the SHO who was supposed to execute the warrant was still in Lahore.

The government’s lawyer added that the ECP counsel was at Peshawar High Court (PHC) and would reach by 2:30 pm, thus requesting that the hearing be adjourned till then.

Khawaja Haris stated that he was reassuring the court regarding Imran appearing in court, and once again requested the court to review the arrest warrant. He gave an undertaking on behalf of the PTI chief and affirmed that Imran would indeed appear on March 18.

He added that the IHC had said the sessions court could accept the undertaking and a surety bond. Haris maintained that his team was okay with the judge’s orders but not with the dismissal of their petition.

The PTI lawyer reiterated that he wanted the judge to temporarily suspend, not withdraw, the warrant and that there was “no question” that Imran would not appear before the court in two days.

The court adjourned the hearing till 2:30 pm after the ECP lawyer requested it.