ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s legal team has been denied permission to meet the party chief ahead of the hearing on Al-Qadir Trust case — on the charges of which he was arrested a day earlier.
“We were stopped from meeting our client,” Babar Awan, a part of Khan’s legal team, told Geo News. He added that nobody is being allowed to meet the PTI chief which is against the Constitution.
The former prime minister was arrested on Tuesday by Rangers on the orders of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), an autonomous anti-graft agency, in relation to Al-Qadir Trust case — involving a land deal.
He was then moved to its headquarters in the garrison town of Rawalpindi for questioning.
Later, announcing the reserved verdict on Khan’s arrest, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) said that the arrest was legal; therefore, Khan’s legal team intends to challenge his arrest in the Supreme Court today.
Hearing to take place at location of Khan’s custody
It should be noted that Khan will not be brought to the court and his scheduled hearing will take place at the location where he was under custody, Islamabad chief commissioner said.
Khan, instead of being taken to F-8 Court Complex and Judicial Complex G 11/4, will be presented at New Police Guest House, Police Lines — which has been given one-time status of the court for this particular hearing, a notification issued by the Government of Pakistan read.
The decision to present Khan at a special court instead of a NAB court was taken in view of security threats to his life. According to sources, the PTI chief was also shifted to an unknown place late night from NAB’s office.
“[…] the Provincial Government, as a one-time dispensation, is pleased to declare New Police Guest House, Police Lines Headquarters H 11/1, Islamabad, the venue for hearing of case titled ‘District Election Commissioner Vs Imran Khan Niazi’ and for the appearance of Mr Imran Khan Niazi before Honorable Judge Accountability Court – I, Islamabad on 10th May 2023, instead of F-8 Court Complex, Islamabad and Judicial Complex G 11/4, Islamabad,” notification issued by the provincial government, ICT read.
Police officials have also clarified that entry access to special court will be granted to people according to the court list, while the permission for coverage depends on the judges.
Upon arrival PTI leaders Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Awan and others were denied permission to attend the hearing or meet Khan.
Confirming the news, Qureshi told Geo News that they were now heading towards IHC to update the judges about the ill-treatment.
Protests erupt across country
Khan’s arrest in a surprise move from the IHC premises sparked violent clashes across the country during which hundreds of party workers were detained including former federal minister Ali Zaidi.
His supporters in several cities took to the streets and clashed with security forces, who fired tear gas and tried to beat them back.
Videos circulated on social media — which was also down in several parts of the country — showed some supporters wielding sticks and face masks entering the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi and shouting angry slogans.
The cricketer-turned-politician faces a slew of court cases and is also set to be formally indicted today in a case that involved allegations he did not properly disclose earnings from the sale of state gifts from his time in office — Toshakhana case.
He will be presented before the accountability and magistrate court simultaneously and for the first time judges will go for the hearing at the guest house.
UK, US want to see ‘peaceful democracy’ in Pakistan
Stressing the adherence to rule of law in light of the current political situation in the country, the United States and United Kingdom have called for a democratic response to the protests against the arrest of the former prime minister.
“The authorities [in Pakistan] should also respond in accordance with the rights and democratic rules,” a US State Department spokesperson said while urging the former premier’s supporters to protest peacefully.
“All the protestors are urged to express their concerns peacefully,” the spokesperson told Geo News when requested for a comment on the prevailing political situation.
He said that the State Department was aware of the arrest but “US does not have a position” in regard with a specific political candidate or party.
“We demand respect for democratic values and the rule of law throughout the world,” the spokesman added.
In a separate statement, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that they want to see “peaceful democracy” in Pakistan
James Cleverly made these remarks while speaking during a visit to the United States.
“We want to see peaceful democracy in that country. We want to see the rule of law adhered to. I’m uncomfortable to speculate any further without having a detailed briefing on that,” he said when asked about the arrest of the former Pakistani prime minister.
What is Al-Qadir Trust case?
The former prime minister, along with his wife Bushra Bibi and other PTI leaders, is facing a NAB inquiry related to a settlement between the PTI government and a property tycoon, which reportedly caused a loss of 190 million pounds to the national exchequer.
As per the charges, Khan and other accused allegedly adjusted Rs50 billion — 190 million pounds at the time — sent by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to the government.
They are also accused of getting undue benefit in the form of over 458 kanals of land at Mouza Bakrala, Sohawa, to establish Al Qadir University.