Imran Khan appears before Pakistan's top court via video link

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Islamabad, May 16 (PTI) Incarcerated former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan on Thursday appeared before the Supreme Court via a video link in a case about changes in the anti-corruption laws.

The development comes after Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Tuesday while hearing an appeal by the government against annulment of certain changes in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws by the previous government had ordered the authorities to present Khan virtually for his statement.

Khan, 71, had challenged the tweaks in the NAB laws and the top court in September last year had accepted his plea which reopened dozens of cases of alleged corruption against some leading politicians, including Nawaz Sharif.

A five-member Supreme Court larger bench, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi heard the case.

Khan appeared as a petitioner through video link in the case, but the hearing was not live streamed unlike the current practice, which had been in vogue since the top judge started it last year after becoming the chief justice.

Consequently, Khan's followers could not see him live for the first time since he was arrested in August last year.

However, his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) shared a picture of the purported video call, with a laptop screen showing Khan seated in a room wearing a light-blue shirt, and seemingly uninterested as he rested his face on his hand.

The party in a statement said that there was no live stream from the apex court as the registrar maintained that it was the prerogative of the bench to decide if or not the hearing is to be broadcasted live.

"Judicial process demands fairness and openness, (and) transparency can only be ensured through public view of proceedings. Refusal to stream proceedings advances unfairness and non-transparency and must be condemned. CJ has changed the process unilaterally and has discredited his own decision that brought him fame soon after he took over,” Khan's party said.

Khan has been charged in several cases, including cypher and unlawful marriage, and has remained imprisoned even though he had obtained bail in some other cases.

"Earlier today, on the orders of the Supreme Court, arrangements were completed at the Adiala Jail for the appearance of the PTI founder,” a jail source said.

Khan was arrested in August last year and since then has been incarcerated, first in the Attock Jai and now in Adiala Jail and out of sight.

His appearance in court comes a day after two courts granted him relief in separate cases, including the Al-Qadir Trust matter. A division of the high court led by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mahmood Jahangiri granted him bail in the RS 60 billion case, while Judicial Magistrate Suhaib Bilal Ranjha also acquitted him in a case registered against him at the Khanna police station in connection with the Azadi March in 2022.

The cases against Khan and other party leaders were registered over violation of Section 144.

Despite the relief, his party showed apprehensions about a ban on visitors in the Adiala jail, saying the move aimed to keep Khan away from the apex court proceedings.

A three-member bench of the apex court in September 2023 had approved Khan’s petition challenging amendments made to the country's accountability laws during the tenure of the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government. PTI SH/NPK ZH NPK NPK

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