In a temporary relief to former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan, a special bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday granted him protective bail in a corruption case.
A division bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz heard the Al-Qadir trust corruption case, a day after the Supreme Court termed Khan's arrest from the IHC premises on Tuesday as “invalid and unlawful”.
The IHC's decision to grant Khan a two-week reprieve from arrest came hours after he warned of countrywide unrest if he was arrested again, Geo News reported.
Khan, 70, arrived at the court shortly after 11:30 am local time amid tight security and underwent the biometric identification process and other formalities.
The hearing was delayed for nearly two hours due to security reasons.
Earlier, the two judges left the courtroom amid pro-Khan slogan shouting by a lawyer. The upset judges later announced that the hearing will resume after Friday prayers.
Dawn News reported that Khan's lawyers had filed four additional requests which urged the IHC to club all the cases against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and to direct authorities to provide details of the cases registered against him.
Khan was arrested from the premises of the IHC on Tuesday in the Al-Qadir Trust case after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) issued an arrest warrant against him.
The Al-Qadir Trust corruption case is about the setting up of Al-Qadir University for Sufism in 2019 Sohawa area of Jhelum district of Punjab.
Khan is accused of looting Rs 50 billion from the national treasury in the case. The former prime minister, along with his wife Bushra Bibi and other PTI leaders, are facing a NAB inquiry related to a settlement between the PTI government and a property tycoon. They are also accused of getting undue benefit in the form of over 458 kanals (23.16 hectares) of land at Mouza Bakrala, Sohawa, to establish Al Qadir University.
Khan's arrest on Tuesday by paramilitary Rangers sparked widespread protests across Pakistan, prompting the deployment of the Army here as well as in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. The violent protests left at least eight people dead.
The IHC upheld his arrest but a three-member Supreme Court bench on Thursday declared his detention “illegal” and ordered his immediate release. The apex court directed police to keep him in the Supreme Court’s protection and produce him before the high court at 11 am.
At the onset of Friday's hearing, Khan’s lawyer Khawaja Haris presented the PTI chief’s pre-arrest and protective bail applications.
“We have asked for a copy of the inquiry report in another application”, he said, adding, that the NAB should be ordered to provide a copy of the inquiry report.
Haris said that they had found out about the anti-graft watchdog’s inquiry report from the newspaper, adding that the arrest warrants can be issued only if an inquiry turns into an investigation.
“The reason mentioned in the arrest warrants stated that Khan did not appear before NAB despite repeated notices; however, as soon as the investigation started, an attempt was made to arrest him,” he said.
However, the lawyer informed that the court that the inquiry had been converted into an investigation in April and that replies to two call-up notices had been submitted.
He then pointed out the legal flaws of the call-up notices and asked: “It is important to state in what capacity the concerned person has been called — as a witness or as an accused.” In response to a question by Justice Aurangzeb, Haris said he had not visited the NAB office because the call-up notice was “illegal”.
He then concluded his arguments, saying that he had raised objections in a detailed reply, subsequent to which no further notice was received.
In an informal discussion with journalists during the hearing break, Khan said that he will not resist if his bail plea is rejected.
Contacting his legal team amid fears of arrest, Khan — referring to the clashes — warned that a similar reaction would be seen if he is arrested again.
“I don’t want such a situation to arise again as this is my country and my army,” he said, revealing that the Punjab Police had arrived to him.
The PTI chief did not respond to a question about his experience of being arrested; however, in response to a question regarding claims that he was given “extraordinary relief” compared to other political leaders, Khan said: “Relief in this! I was sitting in the high court, they had no justification to arrest me.” Terming his arrest “abduction”, he said that the warrant was shown to him after he was taken to the jail. “This is the law of the jungle,” the PTI chief asserted.
“Where did the police and the law go? It looks like martial law has been declared here,” he said.
Speaking to media persons during the hearing break, Khan’s lawyer Babar Awan clarified that the lawyers who started chanting slogans were not related to PTI.” Separately, Khan’s supporters clashed with police which stopped them from going anywhere near the IHC building. Geo News reported that they set fire to a police vehicle while police fired tear-gas to disperse them.