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Pak court reserves verdict on ex-PM Imran's exemption plea

Khan's lawyer Sardar Masroof Khan appeared before the court


An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Islamabad on Tuesday reserved the decision on ousted premier Imran Khan's plea for an exemption from hearing in a case registered against him under the provisions of terrorism.

Khan's lawyer Sardar Masroof Khan appeared before the court. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief's legal team filed a request for exemption from Tuesday's attendance on his behalf.

The lawyer appeared before the ATC Judge Raja Jawad Abbas and stated that 70-year-old Khan's previous appearance at the judicial complex in Islamabad was available for all to see, adding that he would have been assassinated at the complex.

The lawyer said Khan himself wanted to go to the judicial complex, however, the current situation did not permit it.

Intense clashes erupted outside the Islamabad Judicial Complex on Saturday when Khan arrived in Islamabad from Lahore to attend a much-awaited hearing in the Toshakhana case.

During the confrontation between PTI workers and police, over 25 security personnel were injured, prompting Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal to defer the court hearing till March 30.

The whole nation saw the action taken by the police against Imran Khan," his lawyer stated before the ATC.

The judge remarked that the whole nation saw but the 'court could not because its cable was not working', the Express Tribune newspaper reported.

The lawyer said Khan has to appear before the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday.

"As soon as he leaves, thousands of workers come out with him. Imran Khan wants to come, but every time people come out and attack and then cases are registered against him," the lawyer was quoted as saying by The News.

Khan had moved the LHC for contempt of court proceedings against the police operation at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore on March 18. The plea will be taken up on Tuesday.

Soon after Khan departed for Islamabad to attend the hearing in the Toshakhana case on Saturday, over 10,000 armed Punjab police personnel stormed his Zaman Park residence in Lahore and arrested dozens of his party workers.

The police personnel, using a power shovel, removed the barricades and tents at the entrance of the PTI chief's residence and evicted hundreds of his supporters camping there to prevent Khan's arrest in the Toshakhana case.

They conducted a search at the house after demolishing its main gate and walls. Punjab Police, whose action ended later, were reportedly met with resistance from PTI workers from inside, resulting in violence. About 10 workers were reportedly injured in the police operation in Lahore.

Noting that the LHC was at least 400 kilometres away from Islamabad, ATC Judge Abbas inquired how would Khan appear before the court.

"If Imran Khan appears before the LHC by 3:30 pm, then fine, otherwise a decision will be taken," the judge remarked and asked if there was any guarantee that Khan would appear in court at the next hearing if the request for exemption from attendance is approved on Tuesday.

The lawyer responded that Khan follows the law, and would surely appear in court "if he is alive".

A terrorism case was lodged against the PTI chief in October last year at Islamabad's Sangjani police station after PTI workers held protests and demonstrations outside ECP offices across the country after it disqualified Khan in the Toshakhana case.

Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.

Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician, was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan in October last year for not sharing details of the sales.

The top electoral body later filed a complaint with the district court to punish him, under criminal laws, for selling the gifts he had received as prime minister of the country.

Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, becoming the first Pakistani prime minister to be voted out by the National Assembly. 

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