Imprisoned former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party on Sunday accused authorities of denying his legal team access to the leader to get his signatures on essential documents for court purposes.
Khan, 70, was arrested from his home in Lahore on Saturday shortly after an Islamabad trial court found him guilty of ‘corrupt practices’ in the Toshakhana corruption case and sentenced him to three-year imprisonment.
Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is lodged in the Attock Jail after being sentenced for concealing the sale of state gifts.
The case was adjudicated by a sessions court in Islamabad.
The PTI in a statement shared on a WhatsApp group termed Khan’s arrest as an ‘abduction’.
‘Chairman’s legal team is not being given access to him for getting legal documents signed, as per the prerequisite, despite appeals made to Superintendent Attock Prison and Additional Home Secretary Punjab,’ it said.
‘This doesn’t sound like an arrest at all, it sounds like an abduction.’
After his arrest, Khan was taken by road to Attock City, the last major town of Punjab on the boundary with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Initially, it was expected that he would be kept in the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, but, for security reasons, he was taken to Attock.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is leading the PTI in the absence of Khan, in a video message urged workers to take to the streets but remain peaceful.
“Peaceful protest is our right but no state asset is to be damaged. Don’t take the law in your hands,” he cautioned.
A similar message was given by Khan in a pre-recorded clip which was run by the party on social media platforms, but the supporters’ response was not electric.
However, his arrest failed to bring crowds of supporters on the streets, a stark contrast with his arrest on May 9 when thousands of them came out to protest against the detention.
The major reason for the lukewarm response is that the party has considerably shrivelled after the May 9 violence that saw organised attacks on military installations and other state properties.
Several top leaders left or were forced to quit the party when arrested after the protest.
Meanwhile, Qureshi chaired an emergency meeting of the core committee of PTI to chalk out a strategy to tackle the conviction of Khan.
The meeting deliberated on the court verdict in the Toshakhana case and the arrest of Khan and devise a future strategy for his release.
Rejecting the conviction of the former premier, it declared the arrest was a result of a biased and flawed judicial decision and called for a nationwide peaceful protest.
The committee also appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan for a swift hearing of the party’s review petition.
“Our appeal should be fixed for a hearing on a priority basis without considering holidays and other routines,” they demanded.
The meeting noted that the whole nation has rejected the wrong decision of a biased judge and claimed that ‘the whole facade of implicating Imran was a pre-arranged plan’.
The members of the party’s core committee further alleged that the decision was delivered through ‘a fake trial’.
They also pointed out that the Constitution gave them the right to hold a peaceful protest.
‘We would hold protests in the light of our chairman’s advice and instructions. We will be peacefully and within the framework of the Constitution and law,’ it added.
The committee expressed their unwavering determination to fight a comprehensive legal battle to secure the release of their leader and urged the party workers to hold peaceful protests within the bounds of the law.
Many believe that the decision by the sessions court was given in a hurry as an appeal against its decision to disallow witnesses is still pending in the Islamabad high court.
Second, the court decided the issue of the maintainability of the case without hearing PTI lawyers, who were absent.
Khan can challenge the verdict in the high court and then its outcome in the Supreme Court, where the session court’ verdict may face a strong challenge on both legal and technical grounds.
PTI has a strong following among the expats and protests by them in the major Western capitals may pressure the government, but it will take time.
The legal community has also alleged that hidden forces were at play in the hasty decision, seeking to undermine the strengthening of the democratic system in the country.
They warned the political leaders within the ruling alliance extolling the verdict to consider the consequences they may face tomorrow.
In a joint statement, Lahore High Court Bar Association President Chaudhry Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan, Vice President Rabia Bajwa and Finance Secretary Muhammad Shahrukh Warriach said it was very unfortunate that the PTI chairman was denied his right of self-defence.
They noted that it was also a matter of concern that political leaders in the ruling alliance were supporting the powers but they should keep in mind that they may have to face the same fate tomorrow .
The rejection of the court’s decision by both the PTI and the legal fraternity has heightened political tensions as the country gears up for the upcoming elections.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif last week told leaders of the allied parties that he would send advice to the president for the dissolution of the National Assembly on August 9.
Source: Read Full Article