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Another day, another reprieve: Court cancels Imran's arrest warrants, defers indictment

Islamabad: Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal on Saturday canceled Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's non-bailable arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case after high drama and chaos at the Federal Judicial Complex here.

The former premier signed his attendance sheet while sitting in his vehicle after he failed to reach the courtroom due to clashes between the police and PTI workers, which turned the Federal Judicial Complex into a battlefield, The reported. The judge postponed Imran Khan's indictment in the Toshakhana case, which was scheduled for Saturday, and adjourned the hearing till March 30.

He told the parties that arguments would take place during the next hearing and also ordered Khan to ensure his presence. Coming to know about the situation on the Judicial Complex premises, the judge remarked that case proceedings were not possible in such a situation, The reported.
Election Commission lawyers Amjad Parvez, Saad Hasan and others, as well as Imran Khan's lawyers Khawaja Haris, Babar Awan and others, appeared in the court. PTI leaders, including Shahzad, Ali Nawaz Awan, Raja Khurram Nawaz and others, were also present.

In line with PTI's insistence that Khan's life is in danger and he needed security, Islamabad Chief Commissioner Noorul Amin Mengal had shifted the hearing from the F-8 Court Complex to the Judicial Complex in G-11 as a "one-time dispensation", The reported.
Ahead of Khan's arrival at Islamabad's Judicial Complex, the area was put on high security. Apart from any unrelated persons, the media was also initially barred from entering the Judicial Complex but later limited media persons were allowed inside.

But the situation turned volatile when PTI workers suddenly began pelting the authorities with stones present in the Judicial Complex premises, resulting in teargas being spread to the courtroom where the hearing was to be conducted.
For the second time in a row, the charged PTI workers broke the security barrier of the complex to enter its premises to express solidarity with their party chief. In an alarming twist of events, police sources said the workers started firing tear gas at the law enforcers. IGP Islamabad later said it was a new thing for them that the police were being shelled [by the political activists].

The PTI workers also heavily damaged three police mobiles and used slingshots to injure law enforcers, which forced police to fire tear gas at them. The PTI chief was scheduled to appear before the court at 3:30pm, but he ran into back-to-back hurdles -- from vehicles overturning to police and party workers clashing on several spots -- in reaching the capital.

Once he arrived at the Judicial Complex after the stipulated time, the clashes forced him to leave the complex premises. Due to the violence that erupted inside the complex, the judge allowed the former prime minister to mark his attendance from his car and exempted him from attending the hearing in the courtroom. While PTI workers clashed with police and caused damage to public property, law enforcers briefly detained Imran Khan's chief of staff, Shibli Faraz.

Police alleged that a violent mob set fire to three police vehicles and 12 bikes and damaged a police bus and a police 15 vehicle. Over 25 police personnel including four police officers sustained serious injuries and were shifted to hospitals, police said, adding that most of the aggressive activists belonged to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa districts of Peshawar, Bannu, North Waziristan and Dera Ismail Khan.
The police alleged that Ali Amin Gandapur was supervising them. Police sources alleged that PTI workers set fire to a police post, two police mobile vans and 10 police motorcycles outside the Judicial Complex and overturned a police officer's car.

When Judge Zafar Iqbal arrived in the courtroom, Khan's lawyer, Gohar Ali, informed him that the PTI chief had arrived at the Judicial Complex, but was facing hurdles in coming to the courtroom. "No issues, let him come if he wants to. May God have mercy, if he is unable to reach [here]," the judge said, and noted he would wait for the PTI chief to appear. The lawyer also told the judge that it was not Khan's fault that workers turned out to support him. Judge Zafar Iqbal said the election commission's lawyers should take notice of what was happening in the Judicial Complex premises. The judge said the hearing would begin once Khan arrived and left for his chambers.

When he returned to the courtroom, PTI's counsel Babar Awan told the judge that Khan's attendance should be marked in his car as the situation was tense outside. Lawyer Intizar Panjotha told the court, "We are being attacked and harassed; Shibli Faraz has been arrested by SP Naushirwan".

The court ordered for production of Shibli Faraz and it was done. The judge said if the attendance was marked in that manner, then what would happen during the hearing. As the PTI pressed for it, the judge allowed Khan's attendance to be marked in his car.

Shibli Faraz and SP went to get Imran Khan's signature with the court orders. Due to the turmoil, the court sought suggestions from the parties on whether the hearing should be adjourned. Khan's lawyer Haris said the PTI chief could not be indicted today. The election commission's lawyer said that the time of the hearing should also be decided.

Judge Zafar Iqbal said he hoped the next hearing would be held at the F-8 courts. He then adjourned the hearing for a while.
When the hearing resumed, SP Dr Sami Malik reached the courtroom and, in response to the judge's query about the court's order sheet, said he was unaware if the PTI chief had signed it or not. Haris told the court that the SP took the file from him. At this, the SP said the signed document was given to Shibli Faraz.

He added that he was hurt and did not have the signed document. The judge then said that it was a very important document and directed the police officer to find it. This prompted PTI's counsel Haris to charge that the SP was lying before the court.
At this, the judge said he does not want acrimony in the court and directed the parties to take things forward smoothly. Then, the judge adjourned the hearing briefly as the SP left the courtroom to find the document. (ANI)

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