A Pakistani court on Tuesday restored the bail of former prime minister Imran Khan in seven cases against him in connection with the May 9 violence on military installations.
However, the order of the Lahore High Court (LHC) may not bring any relief to the 71-year-old founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) ahead of the February 8 general polls in the country.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court on January 13 stripped the PTI of its iconic cricket ‘bat’ election symbol, a move after which those contesting in elections from the party will have to fight as independent candidates. The election commission of Pakistan has already rejected the nomination papers of Khan and several of his party colleagues.
LHC’s two-judge bench comprising Justice Aalia Neelum and Justice Farooq Haider heard Khan’s petition challenging a decision of Lahore’s Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) regarding the dismissal of his pre-arrest bail petitions in the May 9 cases after his arrest and conviction in Toshakhana (national treasury gifts) case.
During the hearing on Tuesday, Khan’s counsel Barrister Salman Safdar told the court that the trial court dismissed the bail petitions of his client “in violation of the law.”
He argued that the petitioner could not appear before the trial court to pursue his bail hearings because he was in jail.
“Imran Khan was in jail when the trial court dismissed the bail petitions for non-prosecution. The trial court should have summoned him from jail before deciding his bail petitions,” he contented.
Safdar requested the court to set aside the trial court’s order and direct it to decide the bail petition on merits.
Law officer Farhad Ali Shah opposed the petition and argued that the trial court rightly dismissed the bail of Imran Khan.
However, the bench announced the verdict restoring the pre-arrest bail petitions of Khan.
The LHC also directed the trial court to mark the attendance of the petitioner on a video link from jail and decide his bail petitions on merits.
The ATC on August 11, 2023, had dismissed the pre-arrest bail of Khan in seven cases in connection to the May 9 riots for his non-appearance. These cases included attacks on the Lahore Corps Commander’s House.
On May 9 last year, PTI workers vandalised a dozen military installations, including the Jinnah House (Lahore Corps Commander House), Mianwali Airbase, and the ISI building in Faisalabad. The Army headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi was also attacked by the mob for the first time.
However, Khan has maintained that his party was being targeted over May 9 violence and that the violent protests targeting the Corps Commander House and the GHQ of the Pakistan Army were a part of the ‘London agreement,’ in which, he alleges, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif is being favoured by the powerful Pakistan Army.