An Islamabad Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Wednesday rejected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s request for an extension in his interim bail in a case related to protests outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) following its ruling in the Toshakhana case.
Judge Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan announced the verdict, noting Khan had repeatedly failed to appear in court despite multiple summons. “It has transpired from the available record that multifarious opportunities have been provided to the present applicant to put up appearance before the court but to no avail,” read the short order issued by the ATC. Noting that the ousted prime minister had been granted pre-arrest bail on Oct. 24, it said he had subsequently failed to appear for proceedings on Oct. 31, Nov. 21, Nov. 28, Dec. 9, Dec. 19, Jan. 10, Jan. 31, Feb. 10 and twice today (Wednesday).
“Due to the protracted nature of the instant bail application, the matter cannot be stretched for an indefinite period, thus no further opportunity seeking dispensation from personal attendance shall be allowed,” it said. “Ergo, the instant application seeking dispensation from personal attendance in medical grounds for today is accordingly dismissed,” it said, adding that it is “sine qua non” (absolutely necessary) for the petitioner to appear in court when the case is fixed for the final order.
“Therefore, instant pre-arrest bail petition is dismissed due to non-appearance of petitioner Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi,” it added. The PTI has already announced that it would challenge this decision before the Lahore High Court and seek protective bail.
The case in question was filed against the PTI chief in October 2022 after his party workers staged demonstrations outside ECP offices across Pakistan over its disqualification of the former prime minister in the Toshakhana reference. During proceedings today, Khan’s lawyer, Babar Awan, sought additional exemption for his client on medical grounds, but the court rejected the request, saying he must appear in court today.
Earlier, Awan argued that as the case against his client was registered on the violation of Section 144, it did not fall under the ambit of the ATC. “The court has already approved bails of other persons named in the case,” he said and sought the removal of terrorism charges from the FIR. The judge, however, said the current matter before it was Khan’s bail plea. To this, Awan claimed his client had attempted to travel to Islamabad from Lahore—where he has been recovering since being injured in a shooting on his container last November—but was unable to do so and reiterated the request to extend bail.
Also on Wednesday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) stopped a banking court from passing any direction on Khan’s bail plea in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)’s prohibited funding case against the PTI after the lower court dismissed a request for proceedings via video link. In its ruling, the IHC directed Khan to submit fresh medical reports, and instructed the banking court against taking any further action until Feb. 22.
Earlier, Banking Court Special Judge Rakshanda Shaheen had directed Khan to appear in person at 3:30 p.m. or the “law will take its course.” During proceedings, Khan’s lawyer had sought to secure an exemption for his client, claiming Khan is elderly and is recovering slowly due to his advanced age.
“He is fit because of regular exercise but he is above 70 years,” he said. “Even if a youngster is shot, it takes them more than three months for recovery … Imran has even been exempted from biometric verification because of his age,” he argued, seeking a three-week exemption from an in-person appearance so Khan could “stand without any support.”
While this plea was not granted, the court subsequently adjourned the hearing till Feb. 18 in light of the IHC’s orders.