An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Monday rejected Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s request to transfer the ongoing 2014 Pakistan Television (PTV) attack case to a civil court.
The court also extended Khan’s interim bail in the case till December 14.
In 2014, Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek Chairman Tahirul Qadri staged a major rally in Islamabad against alleged rigging in the 2013 election and the Model Town tragedy, which had seen as many as 14 people killed and 100 others injured when police attacked Qadri’s residence during an ‘anti-encroachment’ operation.
Khan had threatened to shut down the entire country in what was perceived as a bid to topple the government. The protest had continued for a record 104 days.
On Sept 1, 2014, while the sit-in was still ongoing, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Asmatullah Junejo had been beaten up by protesters on Constitution Avenue as they stormed the Pakistan Television (PTV) headquarters and the precincts of the Parliament.
A case had been registered against Khan, Qadri and others for torturing SSP Junejo and five other police officers. Arrest warrants had also been issued against the two leaders.
On December 7, the PTI chief requested that the cases regarding the storming of the PTV offices during the 2014 sit-in be transferred from an ATC to a civil court since it did not qualify as a terrorism case.
In today’s hearing, the prosecution said that during that the 2014 protest by the PTI in the capital’s Red Zone, the party’s chief had incited violence and urged his supporters to attack police officials and state buildings in his speeches.
Khan’s lawyer Babar Awan disagreed saying that the PTI chief had repeatedly told his followers to exercise restraint and refrain from harming other people.
“You brought people to the capital, told them to attack buildings and then brushed off responsibility by saying that you were not present at the time of the attack,” the state lawyer responded.
Awan retorted saying that if cases were registered against people for giving speeches, the Sharif family would have been nominated in around 200 cases since the Supreme Court announced the Panamagate verdict.
The state prosecutor further said that Khan’s supporters had injured 26 police officials and had gone on to attack the PTV’s offices ─ acts that qualify as acts of terrorism.
“According to the Anti-Terrorism Act, these acts are non-bailable and punishable,” he said.
Awan then implied that the government had unjustly filed a case against the PTI chief by saying that the Sikh community had taken down a door of the Parliament building during a protest in 2014 but no legal action was taken by the state.
“My point is that, like the Sikh protesters, the purpose of people who gathered in D-Chowk was to register their protest,” he said.
The prosecution also accused Khan of disrespecting the court by failing to appear for case hearings for more than three years, despite being in Islamabad.
The prosecuting lawyer referred to a phone conversation, allegedly between Khan and PTI leader Arif Alvi in which the party chief appears to be happy about the attacks on PTV headquarters.
The PTI had claimed the tape was doctored. Today, however, Awan accused the government of recording his client’s phone calls. Awan also demanded a copy of the tape so that the party could verify its authenticity.
The prosecution also alleged that PTI supporters had tried to snatch a police officer’s gun and carried cutters, slingshots and sticks.
On his way to the ATC, the PTI chief accused the government of engaging in political revenge by filing cases against him.
“They just want to prove their claim that ‘If we are thieves, the rest of the people are thieves too,'” Khan alleged, claiming that the state had failed to provide any proof against him.