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Toshakhana case: Police can’t sit idle if warrants are issued, says judge

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An Islamabad court said on Thursday that police cannot sit idle when warrants were issued for March 18 — as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) moved the trial court seeking relief for the party’s chairman, Imran Khan.

The party approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday requesting it to suspend Khan’s non-bailable arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case, but the high court directed the deposed prime minister’s counsel to provide the undertaking to the trial court as the order for his arrest was “in line with the law”.

Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal presided over today’s hearing where Khan’s counsel provided the court with two options — either suspend the issued warrants or issue bailable arrest warrants.

Meanwhile, the situation at Khan’s Zaman Park residence is seemingly calm following the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) orders of stopping the police operation till 10:30am today.

PTI workers and police clashed for nearly 24 hours as Zaman Park virtually became a battleground, with the law enforcers trying to get through supporters and arrest Khan, who was voted out as the prime minister last April.

Scores of people — including police personnel and PTI workers — were injured in the process as the law enforcers fired teargas and party supporters resorted to throwing Molotov cocktails.

Legal proceedings against Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. Since then, he has held nationwide protest rallies demanding a snap election, during one of which he was shot and wounded.

At the outset of the hearing, the PTI chief’s lawyer Khawaja Harris read out the IHC’s order on the party’s petition against the arrest warrants, according to Geo news.

In response, the judge said that the trial court has not received the IHC’s order through the official process, but noted that the issue can be resolved within a second and asked where is Khan.

“Has Imran Khan presented himself before the court?” the judge asked. At this, Harris asked the judge whether it was important for the former prime minister to appear before the court in person.

“We want Imran Khan to appear before the court. Why isn’t he presenting himself before us? What’s the reason behind it?” he asked, noting that in line with the law, Khan should assist the police and not resists it.

“Imran Khan made a scene by resisting [arrest],” the judge said, adding that the IHC’s order also mentions that the lower court’s order should not be affected through “illegal actions”.

The judge also remarked that there “would be no issue” if the warrants were bailable, but the warrants issued against Khan were non-bailable. “The arguments you have presented are related to bailable arrest warrants,” the judge told the lawyer.

Harris then asked the judge whether he wanted to remain stern and keep Khan’s arrest warrants active. At this, the judge added that the warrants were issued to ensure Khan’s in-person presence.

The lawyer then added Khan himself has said that he wants to appear before the court and he is not seeking any exemptions.

You have two options, Harris said, adding that the first option is to suspend the non-bailable warrant by accepting the undertaking request, and the second is to accept the surety and issue a bailable arrest warrant.

The PTI’s lawyers, requesting to suspend the arrest warrants, said that Khan wants to give an undertaking to the court that he will appear in the session court on March 18.

The judge then said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should also be issued a notice. At this, the lawyer said that the court should issue the notice and summon the election commission today.

Judge Iqbal also asked Khan’s counsel why the situation in Lahore’s Zaman Park was so “bad”. “This warrant has become not only the most expensive in Pakistan but the world. The government has spent millions of rupees to follow through on this warrant.”

Khan’s counsel lamented that whatever is happening at Zaman Park should not have taken place, and at this, the judge said that Khan should have been brought straight to the court.

“It is not possible that Imran Khan is harassed when he appears before the court. We are a poor country and it is not feasible to spend millions of rupees on a warrant.”

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