The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday barred the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from staging a rally at Minar-e-Pakistan this Sunday (March 19), while stating that there is no restriction on law enforcement personnel executing the arrest warrant against Imran Khan.
Earlier this week, the PTI announced it would hold an “historic” public rally at Minar-e-Pakistan under the leadership of party chairman Imran Khan. Announcing the event, Khan claimed it was being held in the afternoon to avoid conflict with the Pakistan Super League cricket tournament and so “people could see the size of the crowd that gathers.”
During today’s proceedings, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh—who had directed police to suspend an operation to arrest Khan at Zaman Park until 10 a.m. today on a plea filed by PTI Senior Vice President Chaudhry Fawad Hussain—remarked that neither the LHC, nor the Islamabad High Court (IHC), had stopped law enforcers from executing the arrest warrant for the PTI chief.
Maintaining that he found “no issues” with the warrant, the judge said it appeared none of the parties in the case had read the law. “All of these issues have arisen because the law was not read,” he said, adding “all of us will read the law together” today. Regretting that both sides had “jammed the system,” he reprimanded the PTI counsel, noting that the issue was merely of warrants for Khan’s arrest, which the party kept trying to have vacated in various forums. “You are unaware of where you have to plead. We just have to follow the law in this case,” he said.
At this point, plaintiff Fawad entered the courtroom, with the judge telling him the PTI was not following the law. “You [PTI] have pushed the nation into suffering,” he said. To this, the PTI leader reiterated that the former prime minister had to appear in four courts the same day, which had proven difficult. “We were 100% sure about an attack on Imran Khan and that is why we had requested his presence at hearings via video link,” he claimed.
To this, the judge said there were procedures in place to seek security for individuals and advised the party to enter “the system’s ambit.” He then also criticized the party for not pre-planning its rallies, saying if they wanted to hold a public event, it should start preparing at least 15 days earlier. “For God’s sake, let the people live their routine lives. Your rally will not take place this Sunday. Even if a person gets married, they plan ahead,” he said, directing Fawad to sit with authorities and resolve the situation.
“We are being embarrassed as a nation,” the judge remarked, reiterating directions to the PTI to reschedule its rally.
At this point, Punjab Advocate General Shan Gul informed the judge that the IHC’s order on the arrest warrant against Khan had now been issued and there was no longer any need for this hearing. Judge Sheikh said he had not touched the arrest warrant. “Neither the Lahore High Court nor the Islamabad High Court stopped from executing the arrest warrants,” he said, adjourning the hearing until 11 a.m. tomorrow (Friday). In its order, the LHC also restrained police from any operation at Zaman Park until tomorrow morning.
On Wednesday, Fawad filed a plea seeking LHC directions to prevent police from executing court orders to arrest Khan and produce him for hearings in the Toshakhana reference, which Khan has repeatedly skipped. A day earlier, Islamabad and Punjab police had attempted to arrest Khan, triggering a face-off with PTI workers who pelted cops with stones, petrol bombs and sticks on the PTI’s call to “protect Khan.” At least 60 police personnel were injured in the clashes.