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Imran restricted by LHC from holding PTI ‘power show’

Despite security concerns, Imran Khan announced a "historic" jalsa at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore on Sunday.

Lahore 16 March 2023 (GNP): The Lahore High Court has prohibited Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan from staging his party’s “power show” this Sunday at Minar-e-Pakistan 

Despite security fears, Khan declared a “historic” jalsa on Sunday (March 19) at Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan. PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry had petitioned the high court the day before, requesting that the police operation in the Zaman Park area to arrest Khan in the Toshakhana case be halted in accordance with court instructions. 

During an initial hearing, the high court ordered police to delay the operation until 10 a.m. today, which helped to calm the situation at the former prime minister’s mansion, which had become a battleground. As the hearing continued today, Judge Tariq Saleem Sheikh reminded Fawad that his party was breaking the law and caused problems for the entire country. “For God’s sake, let people live,” he pleaded.  

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Prior to this, Justice Sheikh inquired about Fawad’s whereabouts, and his attorney responded that the PTI leader was en route. The court inquired as to why Fawad had not arrived at the appointed time of 10am. 

For more than 24 hours, there was a struggle between PTI members and law enforcement officers who were trying to apprehend Khan. This happened after he was removed from the position of prime minister in April. During this time, law enforcement used tear gas, while party supporters threw Molotov bombs, causing hundreds of people to be injured, most of whom were police officers. 

Khan’s legal action began after he was removed from office in a legislative vote early last year. He has since conducted countrywide protest demonstrations calling for a snap election, during which he was shot and injured. 

While the hearing was in progress, Justice Saleem stated that he did not see any problem with the situation at hand, but observed that both parties involved in the case seemed to be unfamiliar with the law. 

He stated that they would all read the law together during the hearing. Justice Saleem noted that both sides had caused issues and were jamming the system. He rebuked the PTI counsel and reminded him that the issue was related to Khan’s warrants, and the party kept appealing to both the IHC and LHC. The judge emphasized that they needed to follow the law in this case, and the PTI counsel seemed unaware of where to plead. 

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Upon Fawad’s arrival in the courtroom, the judge rebuked him for his party’s disregard for the law. “Your party has caused great suffering to the nation,” he stated. Fawad responded by explaining the difficulties Imran Khan faced when having to appear before multiple courts in succession. He added that the party had requested Imran Khan’s presence at the hearings via video link due to concerns about a potential attack on him, and they were certain about the possibility of such an attack. 

The judge advised the party to follow the proper procedure for requesting security and emphasized the importance of complying with the law. He criticized the party for not planning its public gathering in advance and stated that preparations should have been made 15 days prior if they wanted to hold a jalsa. He further expressed concern for the public’s daily routine and stressed that the party’s rally should not disrupt it. The judge concluded by saying that the rally scheduled for the upcoming Sunday would not take place and that planning ahead was necessary for any event, even a wedding. 

The judge then urged the party leader to hold talks with the authorities and resolve the matter. He expressed his concern about the situation, saying that it was a matter of national embarrassment. He also requested the PTI to reschedule its rally again. The Punjab Advocate General, Shan Gul, then informed the judge that the IHC had already issued an order, making the hearing unnecessary. 

Justice Saleem clarified that he has not addressed the arrest warrants issue and highlighted that neither the Lahore High Court nor the Islamabad High Court has prevented the execution of the arrest warrants. The hearing was then adjourned until 11 am the following day.