EDITORIAL: PTI Chairman Imran Khan seems to have been misled by ignorant and foolhardy partymen and friends when he submitted his written reply to Islamabad High Court’s (IHC’s) contempt notice pertaining to his threat at a rally to sort out a judicial magistrate. Not realising the gravity of what was at issue, the dignity and prestige of the judiciary, instead of offering an apology he said he was ready to take back his words, ‘if’ they were regarded as inappropriate. As a former prime minister he should have known better than that.
For, there is a world of difference between criticising a judicial verdict and threatening a judicial officer with dire consequence for it. As expected, a five-member bench of the IHC, headed by Justice Athar Minallah, found Imran Khan’s plea as unsatisfactory. Few can disagree with Justice Minallah’s observation that it was not a reply of a leader of his stature. Or that district courts are no less important than the high courts or the apex court as they are the first important forum for the people to seek legal redress.
The court has graciously provided Imran Khan with an opportunity to ‘rethink’ and furnish an appropriate and well thought-out reply by September 8, when the case is to be taken up again. Lest anyone had any doubts about the fairness of proceedings they are to be held in a transparent manner in the presence of a representative of Amnesty International. Senior lawyers, Munir A. Malik and Makhdoom Ali Khan, have been appointed as amici curiae to assist the court, with the direction that the defence counsel provide them as well as the Attorney General for Pakistan, Ashtar Ausaf Ali, advance copies of the supplementary reply. The importance of what Khan says at the next hearing was indicated by Justice Babar Sattar as he advised Hamid Khan to be mindful while drafting the reply as the High Court was bound by the apex court decisions in the 2018 contempt cases involving three PML-N leaders.
In giving the former premier another chance to ‘rethink’ the court though appears to have considered his request to examine the content of his speech in the context of his intention. His lengthy explanation suggested that the cognizable remark was made under a misconception regarding the magistrate’s decision to remand his chief of staff Shahbaz Gill to police custody where, he claimed, Gill had already been tortured in violation of his fundamental rights.
Furthermore, he had stated that he did not mean to threaten the judicial officer or say anything which brings the administration of law into disrepute. Now that he is where he is, the PTI supremo would be well-advised to tender an unqualified apology, placing himself at the mercy of the court. Offering a sincere apology should not be difficult considering his reasoning that the intimidating remark arose from a misconception and was unintentional. Saying sorry for a wrong is always an honourable thing to do.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022