ISLAMABAD: In a major relief for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust case has been declared “illegal” by the Supreme Court and authorities have been ordered to release him “immediately”.
The apex court has sent the PTI chief to the Police Lines Guest House and ordered him to present himself before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) by tomorrow, the same court which declared his arrest legal, while also setting the precedence that no person will be arrested within the premises of a court.
When the authorities presented the PTI chief before the three-member bench at around 5:40pm — an hour later than ordered — there was a short exchange of words between Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and Khan and then the order was issued.
PTI — which has been on a rampage for the last two days and its protests have led to clashes with the police across the country, resulting in the death of several — welcomed the decision, with the government unhappy with the development.
The three-member bench — headed by CJP Bandial and comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar — issued the verdict on PTI’s petition challenging Khan’s arrest.
The petition was filed after the capital’s high court declared his arrest legal on May 9 (the day he was arrested), despite expressing dissatisfaction over the manner of the arrest.
“It is good seeing you,” CJP Bandial told Khan when he was presented before the three-member bench, and also asked him to “condemn” the violent protests that took place as a result of the arrest.
‘I just want free and fair elections’
In response, the PTI chief, through the media present in the courtroom, forwarded a message to his supporters that they should refrain from damaging public and private property.
“I don’t want any loss in the country nor do I wish for people to get incited. I just want free and fair elections,” the PTI chief told the court, pleading with the court that despite his responding to the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) notices, he was arrested.
In response to the court’s question about whether he knew what was going on in Pakistan, Khan — who became the first prime minister to be ousted from office through a no-confidence vote in April last year — said his mobile phone was taken away and he was unaware about what was happening in the country.
Then the PTI chief requested the CJP to send him home, but the top judge said he was not going to do that and assured him that he would “remain at peace at the Police Lines Guest House”.
“You can stay there, talk, rest, and then present yourself before the Islamabad High Court tomorrow,” CJP told Khan. The CJP then directed authorities to allow Khan to meet as many as 10 people — including his lawyers, friends, and family members.