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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 564, 6 March 2023

Testing judicial limits



Imran Khan evades non-bailable arrest

Femy Francis

What happened?
On 05 March, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan evaded being arrested by the Islamabad Police against the court-issued non-bailable arrest warrant owing to his continued absence in court for the Toshakhana case. The police were prevented from entering his Zaman Park residence sighting the “Unavailability “of the chairman, the residence was packed with PTI workers outnumbering the police hindering the police to perform the court mandated order. He soon was discovered addressing on television locating right in Infront of his Zaman Park residence saying, that he “never bowed before any man or institution, and will never let you do so as well.” He announced that he came to pay tribute to his supporters for the success of ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’ and criticized the government for the “worst” time the country was facing with high inflation and people being crushed by the economy.
 
On 6 March, following the failed arrest attempt by the Islamabad Police, the PTI chairman wrote to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to consider “threats to his life” and the need for adequate security before his court appearance.  He mentioned the critical circumstances stating the assassination attempt he faced and requested to opt for video conference for his court appearance.
His letter to the court mentioned the history of a significant politician being assassinated amid lack of security. And reiterated that it was to him indicative that the court premise was neither safe nor made secure for his appearance, who is already vulnerable and in a state of persistent danger.
Another move by the judiciary on 6 March came as bad news for Imran, as the Islamabad sessions court upheld the non-bailable arrest warrant against the PTI chairman even after he sought the cancellation of the warrant. Sighting that the withdrawal of the warrant would allow him a fair opportunity to appear and defend himself. The court dismissed this plea and reserved its verdict demanding his presence in court.
The spewing chaos came to another hit for Imran Khan when the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) imposed a ‘blanket ban’ on him from broadcasting live or recorded speeches on all satellite TV channels. The media regulatory authority stated that the PTI Chairman's speeches and statements are continuously levelling baseless allegations and are found of spreading hate speech by making provocative statements against state institutions and officers causing the disturb public peace and tranquility. PEMRA said that airing slanderous statements is in sheer violation of Article 19 of the Constitution.
 
What is the Toshakhana case?
In August 2022 Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government filed a case against Imran Khan for not disclosing information on gifts presented to Toshakhana which is a government department that keeps depository gifts given to Pakistan officials where if the gift cost less than PKR 30,000 can be kept with themselves but if they are more expensive, they must be deposited in Toshakhana by law. If the official wishes to keep the gift, they can after paying a certain percentage of the gift value. Imran Khan accused of mismanaging the Toshakhana gift and was barred from holding public office for the next five years. The ECP was informed of the selling of four such presents which he brought by paying the percentage value, whereas the selling wasn’t essentially illegal but he was found guilty of engaging in unethical behavior of false assertions and incorrect declarations.
 
What next?
The situation at current is facing high drama, with Imran Khan and his supporters working on all possible ways to dodge the arrest warrant. PTI leader Fawad Chaudhary stated that Imran Khan always respected the court but this time they want him to be arrested so that he could be targeted by the terrorists. He called on his party worker stating, “If they cross the red line, there will be a protest that Pakistan has never seen before.” Pakistan is witnessing a historical political development where the strength of the judiciary competes with political parties engaging in strategic maneuvering. Imran Khan now would be relying on showmanship, where his move is to garner sympathy and plea to the court, party workers and civilians will be ongoing move. His party has been consistently trying to get him out of the “arrest warrant” lock hold though reaching to no avail, while the Judiciary refuses to shift its stance and demand his presence.
 
Reference
Umer Farooq, Ali Waqar, Rana Bilal,“ Imran dodges arrest after Islamabad Police show up at Lahore residence with a court summons,” Dawn, 5 March 2023.
(Rana Bilal; Umer Burney, “Islamabad court upholds Imran’s arrest warrants in Toshakhana case,” Dawn, 6 March 2023)
(Mansoor Malik, “ PTI chief urges CJP to take notice of threat to his life,” Dawn, 6 March 2023)
(“PEMRA bans airing of Imran Khan’s speeches,” The Express Tribune, 5 March 2023)

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