Pak SC declares Imran Khan’s arrest ‘illegal’, orders his immediate release
Islamabad: In a major relief for Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared the former prime minister’s arrest “illegal” and ordered his immediate release after he was produced before a bench on its orders.
A three-member bench, comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah, issued the verdict while hearing a petition against his arrest from the Islamabad High Court premises on Tuesday.
The bench, while hearing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman’s plea against his arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust case, expressed anger at the way he was taken into custody by paramilitary Rangers and ordered authorities to produce him before it.
The bench had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to produce the 70-year-old leader Khan by 4:30 pm (local time) when the court would reconvene.
Khan was brought to the court in heavy security. As he entered the courtroom, it was closed, and subsequently, the bench resumed the hearing of the case.
“It is good to see you,” Chief Justice Bandial told Khan.
After a brief hearing, the court declared that Khan’s arrest was “illegal” and of no consequence and ordered that he should be set free.
The court also directed him to go to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday and seek further legal recourse.
“You will have to accept whatever the high court decides,” the top judge said.
Bandial also said that it is every politician’s responsibility to ensure law and order.
During the hearing, Khan told the court that he was “kidnapped from the court” when he was preparing for the biometric attendance before filing an appeal in a case. Khan claimed he was subjected to violence, saying that he had been beaten with clubs and that such brutality was not even inflicted on criminals.
When the chief justice asked him to condemn violence by protestors, Khan distanced himself from the bloody protests by saying that he was in custody. “How am I responsible for the bloody protests?” he said.
He also said that he never supported violence. “I urge everyone to avoid damaging public properties,” he said, adding that he was just pushing for elections.
His lawyers later said outside the court that Khan also called off all protests.
At the start of the hearing earlier in the day, Chief Justice Bandial asked how an individual could be arrested from the court premises. Justice Minallah observed that Khan had indeed entered court premises. “How can anyone be denied the right to justice?” he asked.
The court also observed that no one could be arrested from the court without permission of the court’s registrar. It observed that the arrest tantamount to denying access to justice without fear and intimation, which was the right of every citizen.
It also said that by entering the premises of a court means surrendering to the court and how a person could be arrested after surrender. “If an individual surrendered to the court, then what does arresting them mean?” the chief justice said.
Khan’s counsel Hamid Khan informed that court that his client had approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking a pre-arrest bail but was arrested by paramilitary Rangers. “Rangers misbehaved with Imran Khan and arrested him,” the lawyer said.
The court also took note of about 90 to 100 Rangers personnel entering the court to arrest Khan. “What dignity remains of the court if 90 people entered its premises? How can any individual be arrested from court premises?” the chief Justice asked.
Chief Justice Bandial also at point observed that the National Accountability Bureau had committed “contempt of court”. “They should have taken permission from the court’s registrar before the arrest. Court staffers were also subjected to abuse,” he said.
Khan was arrested on Tuesday from the Islamabad High Court and an accountability court on Wednesday handed him over to the National Accountability Bureau for eight days in connection with the Al-Qadir Trust case.
The former premier on Wednesday approached the apex court to set aside the warrants of NAB of May 1 for his arrest and to challenge the Islamabad High Court’s decision to declare the arrest “unlawful”.
Earlier, the IHC expressing anger at the way Khan was nabbed upheld his arrest hours after he was whisked away.