ISLAMABAD—The Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan as unlawful and directed him to approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Umar Ata Bandial, issued the directives during the hearing of Imran Khan’s plea against his arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust case.
Earlier in the day, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, comprising the CJP, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, and Justice Athar Minallah, directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to present Imran Khan before the court.
Tight security measures were implemented outside the apex court, with the presence of Rangers, police, and bomb disposal squads. Only lawyers and journalists already present in the courtroom were allowed inside.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Bandial addressed Imran Khan and expressed his desire for peace in the country. The Chief Justice mentioned the incidents of violence that occurred after Imran’s arrest and emphasised that the court wanted to hear Imran Khan’s statement.
Chief Justice Bandial highlighted that Imran Khan had appeared before the IHC’s biometric courtroom on May 9, indicating his surrender to the court. He emphasised that individuals should feel safe and have access to the courts for justice.
Imran Khan’s lawyer, Hamid Khan, informed the court that his client had approached the Islamabad High Court for pre-arrest bail. He argued that Imran Khan was in the process of completing his biometrics when he was arrested, and accused the Rangers of misbehavior during the arrest.
The Chief Justice questioned the number of Rangers personnel involved in the arrest and expressed concern over the dignity of the court. He stated that no individual should be arrested from the court premises and criticised the lack of permission from the court’s registrar for the arrest.
Imran Khan’s lawyers argued that the arrest was made without an investigation officer present and accused the National Accountability Bureau of committing contempt of court. They demanded Imran Khan’s release from the National Accountability Bureau’s custody.
The Chief Justice highlighted the need for an appropriate verdict that applies to all and reaffirmed that no one should be arrested from the Supreme Court, a high court, or an accountability court.
Justice Mazhar questioned Imran Khan’s response to the National Accountability Bureau notice, while Imran’s lawyer confirmed that he had indeed responded to the notice.
Justice Minallah criticised the National Accountability Bureau for its actions and emphasised the importance of access to justice. He questioned the National Accountability Bureau’s failure to follow the proper procedure for the arrest and stated that NAB talks about implementing the law but does not act upon it.
The court also inquired about the number of notices issued to Imran Khan and the reasons behind the delay in arresting him after the warrant was issued. The prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau confirmed that only one notice had been issued and that the arrest was overseen by the police according to the IHC order.
The Chief Justice questioned the National Accountability Bureau’s actions and asked why NAB did not attempt to arrest Imran Khan itself for eight days. He criticised the National Accountability Bureau’s approach and expressed concerns about the impact on the public’s trust in the judiciary.
The Attorney General of Pakistan appeared before the court and stated that the National Accountability Bureau’s actions had become a norm. He defended the National Accountability Bureau as an independent institution but acknowledged that the National Accountability Bureau had requested Rangers’ presence at the scene, not their involvement in the arrest.
Justice Minallah called for restoring the public’s trust in the judiciary and proposed that the court decide on Imran Khan’s bail petition. He stressed the need for establishing the rule of law in the country and called for reversing the arrest from where it was made.