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Imran Khan appears before Pakistan's top court via video link; hearing ends without him speaking

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NewsDrum Desk
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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 but did not get to speak as a petitioner in the matter.

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However, a leaked image of the 71-year-old founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party’s image showing him attending the court hearing has prompted the Supreme Court administration to initiate a probe to find out the source for the leak, The News International reported citing sources.

Khan appearing via the video link was possible 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 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 Khan’s arch rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif.

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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.

During the hearing, senior counsel Khawaja Haris, who earlier represented Imran Khan in the first round of litigation, appeared before the court for legal assistance while Makhdoom Ali Khan was present on behalf of the federal government, Dawn.com reported.

The SC, noting that the bench was unavailable next week, adjourned the hearing indefinitely, it said.

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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. Even the previous proceedings of the case were broadcast live by the SC but not Thursday’s hearing.

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

According to Dawn.com, speaking with media persons outside the Supreme Court, PTI’s senator Ali Zafar said, the case is in its “very early stages” and added, it was the Bench’s jurisdiction whether or not Khan’s statement is broadcast live.

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However, his party shared the image of the purported video call on a laptop screen showing Khan seated in the e-court room wearing a light-blue shirt.

The News International quoted sources to report that the SC authorities have started the investigations to ascertain how the image was leaked and added that the police will take action against whoever is found involved in this “as this was done in violation of the courtroom rules.” “Directions have been issued to review the CCTV footage and identify the person who captured the image. After this, the frame size of the video link was minimised,” it said.

Khan’s party said in a statement that there was no live streaming from the apex court as the registrar maintained that it was the prerogative of the bench to decide.

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“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,” it 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.

He 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.

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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.

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 NPK NPK

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