The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday approved protective bails of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in nine cases—eight terror and one civil—as he appeared before the court in person after days of clashes between police and his supporters outside his Zaman Park residence.
The relief was granted by a two-member bench comprising Justices Tariq Saleem Sheikh and Farooq Haider on a plea filed by Khan earlier in the day. Of the nine cases he has been granted bail in, five were registered in Islamabad—technically out of the LHC’s jurisdiction—and four in Lahore. The protective bail in cases registered in Islamabad applied till March 24, while the bail for cases in Lahore will be in force until March 27.
Justice Sheikh also heard the petition against the police operation at Zaman Park, granting police access to Khan’s residence to investigate the events of March 14 and March 15 when clashes between law enforcers and PTI supporters left several people, mostly policemen, injured. Disposing of the petition, the judge directed the PTI to ensure it cooperates with authorities, who have maintained that members of banned outfits are present among the party supporters.
In the proceedings seeking bail, Justice Sheikh said the LHC cannot give the PTI chief blanket bail for any cases that might be registered against him, adding it would only consider cases against which pleas have been filed. At this Khan addressed the bench, saying it was confusing which cases to seek bail in, as new cases were filed against him as soon as he secured bail in one.
To this, Justice Sheikh advised Khan to cooperate with the system and asked the PTI chief to review his actions. He said he wanted the case filed against him at a trial court in Islamabad to be moved to another court, as the Katcheri was a “death trap.” This relief was also later granted to him by the Islamabad administration, which moved the case from Katcheri to the Judicial Complex.
Justice Sheikh, meanwhile, maintained that Khan had “mishandled” the case. The court then granted bail to Khan in cases filed in Islamabad till March 24 and till March 27 in cases filed in Lahore.
In a separate hearing concerning the alleged murder of PTI supporter Ali Bilal/Zille Shah, Khan’s counsel Azhar Siddique sought 10-day protective bail, which was summarily granted. The lawyer also urged the court to halt any action against the PTI chief until he received details of all cases against him. The court directed prosecutors to provide records of all the cases registered against Khan and restricted authorities from taking disciplinary action against Khan till March 21.
During the hearing on a petition filed by Punjab Police seeking access to Zaman Park to investigate the events of March 14 and 15, the PTI’s lawyer argued that an investigation did not require police to bring a huge force. Justice Sheikh asked the lawyer whether he could control the investigation. After this, Khan’s counsel said that the investigation officer could come without any support. The high court then allowed the investigation officer to visit Zaman Park and probe in line with the law.
The final hearing of the day, related to a petition filed by PTI’s Chaudhry Fawad Hussain against the Zaman Park operation, saw Justice Sheikh saying summons for Khan had been summoned in accordance with law and a perception was being created that the state’s writ was being ignored. “Such problems should not arise again,” he said.
Responding to the judge, Khan reiterated remarks of his party name including “justice,” adding that police should not have come to arrest him before March 18. “Their force came in such huge numbers; there is no precedence to the attack that occurred at my house,” he claimed, alleging that he believed police would take him to Balochistan and not Islamabad. The case was subsequently disposed of, with the judge directing the PTI to cooperate with the police.
Ahead of Khan’s court appearance, the PTI urged its supporters to gather at Zaman Park and “protect” their leader. Acceding to the PTI’s demands, the court allowed his bulletproof vehicle to enter the court premises—a facility not granted to common Pakistanis, reflecting the “two legal systems” that Khan often rails against.