PM Imran, as well as other party leaders, including Alvi, Umar, and Qureshi, were booked by police under the Anti-Terrorism Act after being accused of attacking the Parliament House and the office of the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) during a sit-in staged by the PTI and PAT — under Dr Qadri — in Islamabad in August 2014.
The politicians had marched towards the Parliament and PM House in an attempt to topple the then PML-N government after the Model Town incident. Clashes with the authorities were reported as they made their way towards the destination. The protest had gone on for more than 100 days.
During the sit-in, protesters beat up SSP Asmatullah Junejo at Constitution Avenue when they attacked the PTV headquarters and parts of the Parliament. A case was then filed against PM Imran, Qadri, and others for torturing the SSP and five other police officers.
In September 2018, the ATC had granted Prime Minister Imran Khan a permanent exemption from appearing before it in the cases.
ATC grants acquittal: PM Khan a free man
An anti-terrorism court on Thursday acquitted Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Parliament attack case days after the ruling PTI’s chief petitioned for the same. ATC judge Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan, announced the ruling today.
The petition for PM Imran’s acquittal was submitted by a lawyer for the federal government, with the prosecutor arguing at the last hearing that the case was made on political grounds and that it would be “a waste of the court’s time”. “The prosecution has no objection if Imran Khan is acquitted,” they had said.
The court also decided to halt proceedings against President Dr Arif Alvi owing to the PTI leader holding the presidential office. The court, however, decided to indict others named in the case, including Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood, and Planning Minister Asad Umar, as well as prominent party leader Aleem Khan and a former close aide of PM Imran, Jahangir Khan Tareen.
Dr Tahirul Qadri, the chief of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), has been declared a fugitive in the case. The aforementioned have been summoned at the next hearing.
Decision to set aside case against Nawaz reserved
Separately, the ATC reserved its decision on whether or not to set aside a case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, with FM Qureshi’s lawyer opposing the petition. The foreign minister had filed a case against the PML-N supremo over the death of party workers during the 2014 sit-in.
During the hearing today, the ATC judge remarked that it was not a court order, not an administrative one, and that the court heard the arguments of Qureshi’s counsel, Advocate Shahid Naseem Gondal. “We will decide next week” on the petition, the judge noted.
Advocate Gondal told the court the police had not met the legal requirements while preparing the report to set aside the case. They did not even send a notice to the plaintiff while filing it, he stated.
Why the court chose to side with the PM
Earlier this week, Dawn confirmed that the premier had urged the court to acquit him as the prosecution was no longer interested in pursuing the case. Through his lawyer, Abdullah Babar Awan, the son of Adviser to the PM on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, he had informed the court that the “prosecution stands in favour of [his] acquittal”.
Prosecution lawyers are appointed by and take instructions from the sitting government. The then prosecution team under the PML-N government had fought the Parliament House attack case but with a new team under the PTI government, the situation has changed.
The application stated that “the prosecution was not interested in prosecuting the applicant [Imran Khan]”. “The learned prosecutor appearing for the other side is heard and the learned prosecutor candidly conceded that in this false case the charge against the petitioner is groundless and there is no probability of the conviction and therefore, the learned prosecutor agreed that this is a fit case for acquittal.”
It further stated: “The applicant is maliciously implicated and dragged in this false case. Further proceedings shall cause harassment and political victimisation. Particularly, after the prosecution stands in favour of the acquittal of the applicant.”
According to the counsel, not a single witness of the prosecution had linked Imran Khan with the offence, adding that there was no direct or indirect evidence available on record against the prime minister.
Police on Aug 31, 2014 had invoked sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act against Imran and other leaders including the incumbent president Dr Arif Alvi, federal ministers Asad Umar, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Shafqat Mahmood for inciting violence during the sit-in.
As per the earlier stance of the prosecution, three people were killed and 26 injured while 60 were arrested. The prosecution had submitted 65 photos, sticks and cutters to the court to establish its case.