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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday suspended the non-bailable arrest warrants of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan issued by a district and sessions court in the Toshakhana reference till March 13.

A single bench of Chief Justice Aamer Farooq heard Imran Khan’s petition challenging the issuance of his non-bailable arrest warrants by Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal in the Toshakhana case and accepted the same, directing the PTI chairman to ensure that he appears before the lower court on March 13.

The chief justice late in the evening announced its reserved verdict.

The IHC order said; “Even though, no illegality, as such, has been pointed out by the petitioner’s lawyer in the impugned orders; it is only appropriate in the interest of justice that an opportunity is allowed to the petitioner for making appearance without the hanging sword of relevant police officer arresting him to produce before the court or initiation of procedure under sections 87 & 88 of the Code.”

The chief justice noted that non-bailable warrants of arrest issued to procure attendance of the petitioner shall remain suspended until 13.03.2023, on which date, the petitioner shall positively appear before the trial court to face the proceedings. “In case, the petitioner does not tender appearance on the date in question, suspension shall cease to have effect and the trial court shall be at liberty to proceed in accordance with law,” wrote Justice Aamer.

He further said in the backdrop of the events and the law on the subject, the petitioner had to tender an appearance before the trial court today (March 7), when the case was fixed for framing of the charge, however, security reasons were quoted as the basis for non-appearance, which in the facts and circumstances, are not relevant inasmuch as the country is facing wave of terrorist attacks and in such state of affairs, the threat exists for every citizen of Pakistan and on account of the same, entire system cannot come to halt.

The IHC bench added as is obvious from the order dated 06.03.2023 by the trial court and even at Bar willingness was shown on behalf of the petitioner regarding entering appearance before the trial court provided four-week time is allowed; the time offered on behalf of the petitioner to enter appearance before the trial court is unreasonable. The order said that in order to meet the ends of justice, it is only appropriate that some time is allowed to the petitioner to enter appearance before the trial court before proceedings are initiated to declare him as a “proclaimed offender”.

The sessions court was set to indict Imran in the Toshakhana reference on February 28 but his lawyer had requested the judge that he be exempted from the hearing because he had to appear in several other courts. His indictment was deferred twice before. Then, the judge had issued arrest warrants for Imran and adjourned the hearing till March 7.

In the petition filed in the IHC, Khan prayed that the sessions court’s February 28 and March 6 orders be set aside so that he could have a “fair opportunity” to appear in court and defend himself.

During the hearing, Imran’s lawyers including Ali Bukhari and Qaiser Imam urged the court to cancel the PTI chief’s arrest warrants. Imam said in his arguments that an attempt on the PTI chief’s life was highly likely during his appearance at the local court.

The IHC chief justice remarked that the arrest warrant had been issued to ensure Khan’s presence and not for his arrest. He added that Imran should have appeared before the court. He asked Khan’s lawyers to suggest a way to summon the deposed premier to the court. Issuing arrest warrants is the only way in the law to ensure a suspect’s appearance in court, he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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