NewsGate Press Network

In major relief for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief and former prime minister Imran Khan, the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday declared his arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust case as “illegal” and directed the authorities to release him “immediately”.

The court also directed Imran Khan to approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC) once again.

News agency UNI is reporting that the order for Imran Khan  came shortly after the PTI chief was presented in the apex court. He was brought in a convoy of 15 vehicles amid strict security, Geo reported.

The apex court had directed the authorities to present Imran Khan — who was ousted as the prime minister last year in April — at 4:30pm, but he was produced at around 5:40pm, more than an hour later.

When the hearing resumed, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial told Khan, “it is good to see you.”

“We believe that Imran Khan’s arrest was illegal,” remarked the CJP.

CJP Bandial said that the IHC should hear the case tomorrow. “You will have to accept whatever the high court decides,” he added.

The CJP said that it is every politician’s responsibility to ensure law and order.

The directives to present Khan in the court came after the CJP termed the PTI leader’s arrest from the premises of Islamabad High Court (IHC) as a mighty disgrace to the country’s judicial establishment.

The CJP passed the remark while heading a three-member bench hearing PTI’s petition challenging Khan’s arrest. Apart from the CJP, the bench also includes Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar.

At the outset of the hearing, the former premier’s lawyer Hamid Khan informed the court that Imran Khan had come to IHC in order to secure an extension in his interim bail. When the PTI chief was getting his verification done, Pakistan Rangers personnel broke into the room.

“Rangers misbehaved with Imran Khan and arrested him,” he added.

At this, CJP Bandial inquired about the case in which Khan was seeking the bail extension.

“Why did NAB take the law in its hand? It would have been better for NAB to seek permission from the IHC registrar,” Justice Minallah asked.

He said that every citizen has the right to get justice and the apex court had to ensure its provision. The judge also regretted the current situation in the country.

“Where did the sanctity of the court go with the arrest from the court premises?” CJP Bandial remarked.

Meanwhile, the CJP asked the number of personnel who arrested Khan.

At this, another member of Khan’s legal team Salman Safdar informed the court that 80-100 men were there to arrest the PTI chief.

“What was left of the honour of the court when 90 people entered the court premises? NAB has disrespected the court,” CJP Bandial said, adding that no one would feel safe inside a court anymore.

“No one can be arrested from the high court, Supreme Court or accountability court. Khan’s arrest violated judicial sanctity,” he added.

Meanwhile, Justice Minallah remarked that no one would come to the court if such arrests are made a norm.

“A person who has surrendered before a court cannot be arrested,” he added.

CJP Bandial then remarked that the court will review the legality of the NAB warrant and compliance on it.

“The right to surrender before the court cannot be sabotaged,” CJP added.

Khan’s legal team Salman Safdar informed the court that Khan is on the “target list of terrorists” and his security was withdrawn. He also informed that NAB’s investigation officer wasn’t present at the time of arrest.

At this, Justice Minallah remarked that the anti-graft watchdog had been doing the same with different people for years.

The PTI had filed a petition in the Supreme Court a day earlier challenging the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) decision calling party chief Imran Khan’s arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) “legal”.

On Tuesday, the IHC termed the arrest of the PTI chairman “legal” in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

Imran Khan — who has been embroiled in dozens of cases pending since he was ousted last year — was arrested inside the premises of the high court when he appeared before the court in two cases.