- Decision comes soon after Imran's appearance in apex court
The Supreme Court has declared Imran Khan’s arrest as illegal and ordered his “immediate release”, barely minutes after the former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman was presented for his hearing on Thursday.
The top court also directed the former prime minister to approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
It also ordered Imran be kept in Islamabad Police guest house and directed the IG Islamabad to ensure his safety.
The orders came as the top court resumed the hearing of a petition lodged by PTI challenging the arrest of party chairman Imran Khan.
The Supreme Court had earlier ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to present Imran by 4:30pm.
The petition was being heard by a three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Ali Mazhar.
Following the order, a police team, carrying Imran, left for Supreme Court.
The ‘Red Zone’ was already swarming with law-enforcement personnel before the security contingent arrived with Imran ahead of his court hearing.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Bandial criticised the manner in which Imran was arrested. He further said that the permission to arrest the former prime minister was not taken from Islamabad High Court.
“A verdict will be issued today,” he said earlier.
He also ordered that Imran be presented alone and no party worker should accompany him. He stated that IG Islamabad should present Imran.
Chief Justice Bandial also took “serious notice” of the chaos and destruction that took place in IHC on Tuesday.
“If 90 people enter a court’s room then what will happen to the court?” he questioned.
No one can sabotage a person’s right to surrender in front of the court, he said.
According to him, NAB officials should have taken permission to arrest from court’s registrar.
“Wanting justice is right of every citizen of Pakistan,” he said.
At the outset of the hearing, one of Imran’s counsels, Hamid Khan, appeared on the rostrum and informed the apex court that his client had come to the IHC seeking a pre-arrest bail.
CJP Bandial then inquired for what cases Imran was appearing at the IHC to which the lawyer answered that the PTI chief was present for his biometrics when he was arrested.
“Rangers misbehaved with Imran and arrested him,” the counsel said.
Imran to remain in custody: Babar Awan
PTI chief’s legal adviser and main counsel Babar Awan said Imran is under Supreme Court’s custody. The apex court has allowed Imran to keep people of his choice with him at the guest house. He will remain under the security of Islamabad Police.
“Up to 10 people, including his lawyers, or anyone Imran Khan wants to meet or consult, would be allowed stay at the guest house,” Awan said, adding that the top court has made it clear that no one in the future could be arrested from the premises of any court.
He said the PTI chief’s hearing at the IHC would resume from where he was arrested on Tuesday.
He said the PTI is a peaceful party and does not want anarchy in the country.
“The ones demanding elections would never want anarchy in the country,” he said, adding that only those who want to delay elections will create hostile environment.
PTI welcomes ruling
PTI welcomed Supreme Court’s decision to annul the arrest of Imran Khan.
“The nation of Pakistan welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court which annulled the arrest of Chairman Imran Khan,” the PTI said in a tweet.
The petition was filed on Wednesday following Imran’s arrest by NAB from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday in the Al-Qadir Trust case.
Earlier, the petition was returned due to a few objections but was accepted after PTI addressed the concerns.
Following Imran’s arrest, PTI leaders Asad Umar, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry, Ali Zaidi, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, Falaknaz Chitrali, Musarrat Jamshed Cheema and Maleeka Bokhari were also arrested.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the violent protests being led by PTI amounted to “unforgivable crimes” and are “acts of terrorism.”
He warned that strict action would be taken against “state’s enemies” who are ransacking public properties and state installations.